« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 96]

Kolomea – Capital of Pokutia

by Dr. Avraham Yakov Braver (Jerusalem)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Pokutia in Ukrainian (until the beginning of the 20th century, we would say Russian or Ruthenian [Ukrainian]) and Pokucie in Polish, designated a province in the form of a triangle in the southern part of Poland (from 1370 until 1772 and from 1919 to 1939) and – Galicia (1772-1918). The area is in large part hilly and stands like a pole between several borders. The Cheremosh River, a tributary of the Prut, which divided the former Poland from the Principality of Moldova and at the time when the area was Galicia – from Bukovina, flows on the southeastern side. The mountainous Czornahora (Black Mountain) begins on the southeastern side and to the east the mountainous Garnani which divided the former Poland, later Galicia, from Hungary and in a certain era – from Transylvania and in the time of the revived Poland, between the two World Wars – from Romanian-occupied Bukovina. The north side has no firm boundary, unless the intersection between the Prut and the Dniester, since many believe that Pokutia ends at the Dnieper.

Pokutia was a natural province with its own managing committee. The capital city, Kolomea, which had existed for years, already in the 16th century, later became the seat of the county court and the tax collector for all of Pokutia, or as Jews referred to it – the Kolomear area. The name Pokutia evidently had a connection to the city, Kuti (Kutev) and means: the environment, the region of Kuti. It is possible that Pokutia is called “corner region.” The area of Pokutia is 5,000 kilometers, which includes the counties (Polish: Powiat) of the cities: Kolomea, Pechenizhyn, Kosev, Sniatyn, the western part of Horodenka county and on the west, part of Nadvirna county.

[Page 97]

Kolomea was the principal Jewish city of the Pokutia triangle; it was the administrative, military and cultural center; during Austrian times it was the fourth largest city in Galicia and the third largest Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community], after Lemberg and Krakow, at any rate, the third largest in the area of general cultural life.

The mountainous character (Carpathian Mountains) of Pokutia gave rise to its poverty and backwardness. In this respect, neither the Polish nor the Austrian rule changed anything. The Pokutia earth did not produce enough grain to feed its population. Wheat, rye for flour, barley for the cattle and for beer brewing had to be brought in from other places. Almost the entire wheat trade was found in Jewish hands. At the time of Austrian rule, the wheat trade was with Romania; during the Polish rule – with Podolia.

During the old times, rye was ground in the private watermills. Later, in the second half of the 19th century, rich Jews (Litman Brettler and Moshe Gartenberg) erected new, modern mills with turbines and provided first class packaged flour for Pokutia.

Thanks to the warm summer climate in the lower parts of the region, maize (corn), the bread of the poor in the cities and villages, which was widespread only in Romania, grew in Pokutia. But the maize did not cover the entire need of the dense population and in Austrian times, maize had to be brought from Romania. The maize was ground in small mills. Bread was baked from the maize that is called malai in Ukrainian and Yiddish. Kasha[1*] is also made of it (in Romanian – mamaliga and polenta in Italian). Potatoes that grow in the entire area, except on mountains higher than 800 meters, are just enough for the population, including for the manufacture of alcohol, as in other Polish areas.

The Ukrainians and the Jews here call the potatoes mandeburke. Studying the Yiddish dialect of Pokutia, we find the designation mandeburke for potatoes and mandeburtshenik for potato bread in the entire area; in Stanislav and farther on the western side, potatoes are called bulbe and potato bread – bulbovenik[2*] The harvest of various pod foods [such as beans] was, it appears,

[Page 98]

in a sufficient amount because it was even possible to export it. Some Kolomea Jews were exporters of beans.

The region also had its own oil [pressed] from the nuts (tshontshenik in Yiddish) and watermelon produced in primitive oil presses that were called olinitses. The Jews seldom used this oil. The forest was a source of livelihood in Pokutia. The Kolomea market was flooded with all kinds of forest fruits with the arrival of summer – wild raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and other fruits, particularly goguetzis [berry similar to a blueberry] – which were not available in the western Carpathian forests. Homemakers would make syrups and preserves from them for the entire year. The Carpathian forests also provided an abundance of mushrooms, so that they could even be exported from Pokutia.

There were no valuable fruit trees during the Austrian times, except for good plum trees in several villages, particularly in Klyuchov, south of Kolomea. Plum jam was made from them in autumn. Good housekeepers would cook the plum jam themselves.[2*] But it could be bought at the market. These goods were also exported.

Animal breeding was not very developed in Pokutia. Only the Hutsuls [residents of the Hutsul region in the Carpathian Mountains] in the mountains had good horses to ride and carry loads on the mountain roads. However, livestock was brought from Pokutia to the west, particularly to Vienna, mainly pigs. There was a pig market every day and one after the other the pigs were taken to the railroad. The odor and the shrieking of the pigs filled the entire city. Jews had some share in the export of pigs.

Jewish furriers sewed furs, vests and fur caps for the peasants out of the prepared sheep skins. The cow and horse hides were prepared in the Kolomea tanneries which were in Jewish hands.

The trees in the forest were an important source of income for the city. The bark of the spruce tree [which contained tannin] was used to tan the hides [to make leather.]

Salt served as the main source of trade for the necessary wheat – for bread – for hundreds of years. Sources of salt are found in several places at the foot of the Pokutia Carpathians. The richest of them are in Lanchyn and in Delatyn [Dilyatyn]. The water is cooked until it evaporates and the salt remains. The

[Page 99]

salt would be sent to Podolia on the other side of the Dniester. Wheat would be brought back from there in the same wagons. The connection between Kolomea and Podolia is mirrored in the life of the Baal Shem Tov,[4*] who lived for several years in Pokutia from where he returned to Podolia, before he was revealed in Tluste (Tovste).

Salt was a government monopoly during Austrian times and the sale in bulk and retail was in Jewish hands. During the last quarter of the 19th century kerosene began to be drawn from the sources in Sloboda-Rungurska in the southwest mountains of Kolomea. A railroad line was built that connected the city train station with the kerosene sources. The kerosene was refined in Petchinizhin [Pechenizhyn], the city nearest to Sloboda-Rungurska and also in Kolomea. In the village of Mishin, about eight kilometers south of Kolomea, a brown coal mine was discovered at the end of the 19th century. After it was exploited for a time, it was abandoned because of the small quantity of coal.

 

The Name Kolomea

The Polish designation for the city is Kolomyja and it is the same in Ukrainian[5*]. Evidently, according to old sources, the Russians write Kolomaya. In Hebrew sources from the Haskalah [Enlightenment] and under the influence of the new Yiddish alef-bet [alphabet], it was written: Kolymei, Kolomey, Kolymeia and later, as the letter ayin [e] began to be used for a vowel sound, it was written: Kolomye. Since the Haskalah era and onward, the new generation writes: Kolomye, as in German. There is a hypothesis about the source and meaning of the name, that the founder of the city was the Hungarian King Koloman, who came in 1099 to help the Russian duke. He suffered defeat in Przemysl and returned to his country. It is improbable that a foreign king would found a city in the time of war. But it is possible that he had his camp on the spot and the name remained for generations. Several locations in Poland carry names from the Turks and Tatars who only passed through, or camped there. A second hypothesis relates to the Roman name, “Kolonya.” But no trace of the old Romans was found here. It could be the name is not The Polish designation for the city is Kolomyja and it is the same in Ukrainian[3*]. Evidently, according to old sources, the Russians write Kolomaya. In Hebrew sources from the Haskalah [Enlightenment] and under the influence of the new Yiddish alef-bet [alphabet], it was written: Kolymei, Kolomey, Kolymeia and later, as the letter ayin [e] began to be used for a vowel sound, it was written: Kolomye. Since the Haskalah era and onward, the new generation writes: Kolomye, as in German. There is a hypothesis about the source and meaning of the name, that the founder of the city was the Hungarian King Koloman, who came in 1099 to help the Russian duke. He suffered defeat in Przemysl and returned to his country. It is improbable that a foreign king would found a city in the time of war. But it is possible that he had his camp on the spot and the name remained for generations. Several locations in Poland carry names from the Turks and Tatars who only passed through, or camped there. A second hypothesis relates to the Roman name, “Kolonya.” But no trace of the old Romans was found here. It could be the name is not

[Page 100]

Slavic and not Romanian, but comes from one of the nations that passed through here at the time of the wandering of populations. The name of the neighboring city, Pechenezhin [Pechenizhyn], without doubt recalls the Pecheninim, an Argo-Finnish tribe that fought a war with the Byzantines and Rusens in the 9-11 centuries. The name Prut also is not Slavic, just as the name Carpathian is not Slavic. In each case the names were fixed much before the Jews appeared in the area, so that the Jews took the names from the Slavs. The Jews did not have any meaning or spelling for Kolomea.

 

The Geographical Position of the City, its Terrain, Climate and [Bodies of] Water

Kolomea is one of the large number of cities that lie at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, near the roads and valleys that lead out of the mountains. In the area of economic and municipal development, the Jews played the main role over the course of hundreds of years as trade intermediaries between the mountains and the southern lowlands.

The geographical position of Kolomea is: 48 degrees 31 minutes, north latitude and 25 degrees east longitude from Greenwich. It lies on a line of latitude that is 16 degrees and 45 minutes from Jerusalem and on the line of longitude 10 degrees and 45 minutes that is to the west. Noon in relation to Jerusalem is 45 minutes later. The altitude of the city is between 285 meters above sea level in the mountains of Prut, on the border between the city and the village of Verbizh and about 300 meters north of the railroad line.

The city was built on the eastern side of the Prut River which here flows in the southeastern direction. The city houses do not reach to the river itself, only to the Prut Canal which was built in order to drive the wheels of the large mill that for years belonged to Jews (Moshe Gartenberg and his heirs). The canal was named after the mill – Mill Canal. Jews, making noise and making a racket, would come to bathe on its shores on summer days, and on Rosh Hashanah they came here for tashlikh [casting of bread crumbs into a moving body of water as a symbol of casting off one's sins]. A wide area with small stones, covered here and there with shrubs and all kinds of swamp and river plants and grasses, spread out between the canal and the river. This area was called Zarinek – outside the city area and the swamp plants are called lengi in Polish.

[Page 101]

The place for military instruction, which drew onlookers, gangs of young boys and plain idlers, was on the Zarinek. Students would stroll along it. Discussions were also organized there, such as in the time of illegal organizations of Jewish students at the beginning of the 20th century.

Three small rivers flow in the city. The largest of them flows west from the city on the border of the village of Dyatkovtsy (Gyetkovits) and is named Kolomeyke. The second is named – Kyernitsa, that is, Brunem [well] River because if flows by the wells that have the best drinking water, which is used by the entire city. This is a low river, but after a summer downpour or in the spring when the snow melts, it grows, flows over the shores and rips away many houses. The Jews called the third river, east of the city, Klebanya, that is, the courtyard of the city priest because it flows by the Romanian Catholic church, to the east. The river was low and marshy and did not even grow much during the times of heavy rain.

The earth of the city is an accumulation from Prut and its rivers. Digging wells, one finds a yellow and blue-grey earth and under it, flint. This earth is used for the manufacture of earthenware pots and bricks. The blue earth is used for caulking or to mix with lime. The Jews called it “blue earth” and would sell it at the market. Water was found not too deeply all around the city, but the water contained coarse salt and other salts and it was not for drinking and it was not good for washing, either. Water carriers would provide the Jewish homes with water in barrels that they carried from the only good well that was located near the hill of the Greek church (during Austrian Poland, it was Catholic, later – Orthodox). According to a Ukrainian legend, the holy mother appeared and in her merit there was good water here. Once a year a pilgrimage was made to this church. The Jews knew of this holiday by the Ukrainian name: Bogoroditsa (God's mother). The holiday brought prosperity to the stores. Carrying water was a Jewish occupation There were also water carriers for the closest streets. Brick production lay in Jewish hands. But they did not take part in the manufacture of earthenware pots. A factory for good earthenware pots existed in the city. Jews

[Page 102]

were not employed in this trade, they only were involved with simple earthenware pots.

The climate of Kolomea is comparable to Krakow or even with Lemberg, a dry one. The contrast between winter and summer is greater here than there. The maize ripens during the second half of the summer thanks to the warmth and the moderation of the rains. During the growing season in places that are protected against strong winds, apricots turn out well. Tomatoes were known in the vegetables markets at the end of the 19th century, but only the landowners bought them then, that is, the well-to-do Christians.

 

The Veins of Communication of the City

Kolomea as a Jewish city was a city of commerce with great connections and important roads for contacts. The most important of them were the highway and the railroad line (from 1866?), which stretched from Chernowitz and Moldavia and from the Black Sea. They led to Stanislaw and Lemberg and from there to the west to Krakow and Vienna to the most western part of the European continent or from Lemberg to the north, to Warsaw and to the Baltic Sea. That is: Kolomea lay in the very center of the industrial communication veins. Pokutia was the gate to the larger world.

The Kolomea merchants actually had international contacts. And it was not only small town boasting when those from Kolomea told themselves that the events in Belgrade at the beginning of the 20th century – events of great economic and political significance – were known much earlier in the Kolomea trade circles, even before the Lemberg press. The connections with Romania and, even, with Turkey, which ruled in Romania until the middle of the 19th century, were apparent even in the Kolomea market. There were olives in Kolomea when not so often in the Balkans. Many had to become accustomed to the fruit after conquering their first nausea. Red watermelons were brought from Romania and they were sold in market booths. During the Austrian times, Galatser [town in Romania] fish would not leave the table during the winter Shabbosim [Sabbaths]. Cooling wagons were not then known in Galicia. A catch-all store, which existed at the end of the 19th century, was called by the eastern name, “Bazaar,”

[Page 103]

and those from Kolomea would go to shop in the bazaar as if in Constantinople (the name means market in Turkish). Those from Kolomea bought Turkish sweets in a shop from the “Turk,” who wore a turban. Half Turk, half Sephardic Jew, he converted to Judaism and married a Kolomea Jewish girl. The Turk was very old at the end of the 19th century. He did not live to see the 20th century. The last trace of Turkishness, which was a tradition for generations when Bukovina was a Turkish province, disappeared with the Turk.

Limited trade and family connections were permitted between Kolomea and Yas [Iasi], the metropolis of Romanian Jewry, and, consequently, there was reciprocal spiritual influence. Reb Aryeh Leib Toybish, founder of the Hovevi Zion [Lovers of Zion] movement and one of the first followers of Herzl, was descended from Iasi rebbes. He was born in Bender, Bessarabia, and while still a child came to Pokutia with his parents. Without a doubt he was under the influence of the Romanian founder of Rosh Pina and Zichron Yaakov.

The Chernowitz-Lemberg line leaves Kolomea via the Prut Valley, through which it passes Bukovina and Galicia to Kolomea and turns and then goes northwest across the Dniester. A second old road goes in the Prut Valley near its sources. It also has an international significance, but a smaller one than mentioned above.

A highway was already built here at the end of the 18th century, but a train line was first built in the last years of the 19th century. Stanislav had a train line to Hungary before Kolomea, but earlier the traffic between Hungary and Pokutia went through Kolomea. Wandering tribes and merchants went through during the Middle Ages on the road from the Prut Valley to the Tisa Valley, across Delatyn [Dilyatyn]-Mikulichin [Mykulchyn]-Iasi-Sziget. The traditional trade in Hungarian wines began in Kolomea probably after the Middle Ages.

Kolomea on one side and Sziget on the other were the Jerusalems of Poland and Hungary in the matter of commerce and spiritual influence. Maramorsher [Maramues, Romania] Jews, dressed in shorter kaftans than the Galicianer kaftans and in flat velvet hats, would on the eve of the holidays after bathing, come in wagons or riding to Kolomea to their rebbes, the Galicianer and Bukoviner tzadekim [righteous men].

[Page 104]

Moldova and Hungary were richer than Galicia in general and, in particular, Pokutia. And many Kolomea Jews emigrated temporarily or forever to those countries. Ukrainian field and forest workers through the intervention of a Jewish broker left for work in Romania.[1])

In addition to the two international lines, Kolomea also served as a crossroads for roads of the second and third rank to the Pokutia mountain south and to Podolia north. Three rivers pour into Prut south of the city: 1) Sapuavka, 2) Pistinka, 3) Lutshke. A highway runs in the first river basin and a railroad to Petshinizshin and Slobokda Rungurska. The road goes uphill, but it does not go over the river crossing and the border to the Maramosh Province.

The second, small river, as its name says – comes from Pistyn (the city of Reb Leib Pistyner, the school friend of the Baal Shem Tov, who was brought for burial to Kolomea). The road to this shtetl lies more in the valley of Lutshka, because the valley of the Pistynke is narrow in the topmost part. The above-mentioned Mishin is located in the Lutshka Valley, and after Mishin – the town Stoptshet-Jablonow. From the Lutshka Valley we come over the mountain to Pistyn, which lies in a valley and carries the same name. From Pistyn the mountain divides there and leads to Kosow. This is the largest city in the heart of the mountain and is the county seat of the Hutsul Region. This mountain tribe speaks Ukrainian with a particular dialect. Rasish is differentiated from the Slavic and is closer to Romanian.

This city lived mainly by raising cattle and forest work. Kosow is a market place for these two economic branches. This was an important Jewish center and a residence for tzadekim from the dynasties of the Baal Shem Tov's bel-tefilah [prayer leader], Kopl Hasid. The road through

[Page 105]

the mountain connects Kosov with Kitev which lies in the Cheremosh Valley between Poland and Romania. On each side of the Cheremosh lies Vizshnits [Vyzhnytisa] (in Bukovina) that was also a real Jewish city, the residence of a rabbinical dynasty of the same Kopl Hasid's line. Kitev is known to Jews as the city of Rebbe Gershon, the brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov, who was the pioneer of Hasidic emigration to Eretz-Yisroel. In the autumn of 1939, Kitev was the witness to a great Jewish tragedy: here the Polish government crossed the border with a great mass of state workers, running from the Germans. But the Poles held back the Jews from saving themselves. With this began the deliverance of Jews into the hands of the Germans by the Poles, which lasted for almost six years.

There was heavy traffic of timber rafts on the Cheremosh; logs were lowered from the high mountain forests. The Jews took an active part in the wood industry and in the wood trade. They also were employed in the difficult work of connecting timber rafts and in their transport.

The most important roads are to the north: the highway to the Gvorzdets-Horodenka-Chortkiv railway line - and from there across the Dniester Bridge to Tluste [Tovste]-Jagielnica-Chortkiv. This is the main connection with Podolia. The railway line to Zalishchiki [Zalishchyky], which was built during the Austrian period, passes several kilometers in the Bukovina area. And when Bukovina was joined to Romania, the connection depended on the requirements of Romania.

Austria built a railway line for strategic reasons that connected Podolia with Pokutia and with Hungary.

Kolomea was an important strategic center during the Austrian era, from which the Jews drew their income both directly and indirectly. They were building contractors and military contractors. Soldiers and officers filled Jewish shops and restaurants and were an economic factor in the city.

Kolomea was, like other Polish cities, built according to the standard plan that was brought from Germany: in the center a four-corned ring-platz [circular place] with shops around it for a market. In each corner two roads lead out from the circle. Such a four-cornered [place] is also called a ring-platz in German, in Polish – rynek, and rynek in Ukrainian. In Kolomea, in the center of the ring-platz stands a group of houses on two streets. This group was called hintern rothoyz [behind the city hall] in Yiddish (in Polish: ratusz). In our generation, the city hall was located in a southwestern corner of the marketplace and also was called the ratusz in Polish. But the Jews for a not too clear reason called it the komune [Commune] as in Paris in 1871. In other cities in Galicia, the house of the city managing committee was called rothoyz and the communal council – magistrat [city hall], just as in Polish.

The “Commune” had a lookout tower with a balcony around it. A watchman walked around it day and night and blew a trumpet at the outbreak of a fire. The firemen's station was in the courtyard of the “Commune.” The center for the city police was also there. New shops with shop windows were located on the third side of the ring-platz, among them three bookstores, one owned by a Pole who sold Polish belle-lettres; the second was owned by a Jew who dealt with textbooks. The Jew, Orenshtein, later became a publisher of Ukrainian books. The third was owned by a former servant at the Baron Hirsh School. He mostly sold textbooks for the folks-shul [public school]. South of the group of houses, hintern rothoyz on the ring-platz, during the Austrian era, there was a market with vegetables, poultry, eggs, which the peasants brought to Pokutia to sell. Potters displayed their goods here – earthen crockery.

The flour shops and shops with various foods were located on the eastern side. During the Austrian time, one-story houses also stood on this site; they were built of bricks like the other houses on the ring-platz.

On the northwestern side, mainly on the streets that go to the north, Jewish luft-mentschn [people of no specific occupation] were concentrated. Here stood brokers of wheat, of cattle, of field lessees and

[Page 107]

middlemen between lenders and loan takers. The loan middlemen were called hishtararim [mediators in financial matters].

There were esteemed, trustworthy men among them who would receive large sums from the lenders and have a free hand from the loan-brokers to give loans at their discretion to dependable people. One of the loan-brokers whom I knew was a former estate owner. He squandered his wealth on charity, descended from his higher status and became a hishtaran. Day and night he would sit in the beis-hamedrash [synagogue or house of prayer] and stuff the charity boxes with his last pennies. A second loan-broker was an esteemed man, a Jew, a clever man with an open hand for the needy. His conscience awoke in his old age that he had devoted himself to the business of interest, although he was always careful not to violate the trade document making the taking of interest possible, and he fell into melancholy.

For the Days of Awe, a market also stood in these surroundings for beli-tefilus [men who recite the prayers in the synagogue] for the villages.

On the eastern side stood new, beautifully finished businesses. The sidewalk on this side served as a corso – a place for strolling in Italy – for the city's “golden young” – students, officers, young office employees and, it should be understood – also the city's young girls of the best society, candidates for proper matches.

Between these sides in the garden in the center stood fiacres [small four-wheeled horse carriages] to rent, mostly to travel to the train station and for the doctors who went on visits to the sick. There was a rule in Kolomea: if you ordered a doctor, you also had to arrange for a fiacre, even when the residence was not farther than a several minute walk. A memorial for the Polish poet Franciszek Karpinski stood after the fiacres. The Jews thought little of this scene and would call it “Karpinski the goat.”

The central area was a conglomeration of various wholesale and retail stores. Here the peasants and Hutsuls bought everything their hearts desired: fabrics, colorful ribbons, house utensils and work tools and horse implements for wagons and riding. Here on the market one could still a thirst with colorful lemonade and soda water and eat gigantic peppered knishes with onions, greased with oil. Noise was also not absent here

[Page 108]

from those hawking their goods, but the racket of the Arabian Yaffa or of another Arabian city did not reach hintern rothoys in Kolomea.

The main street led down from the “Commune” to the other side of the Prut. During the times of the Austrians and the Poles, the street was called Sobieski. At the beginning of the street stood the Greek Catholic (Ukrainian) church and, from there, down hill to the south, the road led to the city wells and to the large Jewish bathhouse, which was distinguished by its good water. On the other side of the wells flows the River Kierncia and behind it the neighborhood, the neye velt [new world]. Here lived the poorest population. Many of them emigrated to America at the end of the 19th century leaving their families on the Neye Velt in Kolomea. Many of their families left to join them in the new world on the other side of the ocean. A number of them returned to the Neye Velt in Kolomea.

The train line, which leads down to the southwestern shtetl Sloboda-Rungurska and to the northwestern village of Sheparavitz, runs along the length of Sobieski Street. In the lowest part of Sobieski Street and in its nearby alleys on the road to the villages, Gyetkevitz, Verbizh and farther to the shtetl Petchinizhin [Pechenizhyn] – also lived a poor population stratum. Here lived tanners, hat makers and other tradesmen who worked for [the patronage of] the peasants and Hutsuls who came to the city through the suburb that was named Nadvirna Forstot [suburb]. In Yiddish the road to Verbizh to the Prut Bridge, which was the boundary of the city – was called: “The Rogatke [city gate] Street.” At the end of the city the money was collected for the city gate. At night, the city gate lessee, a Jew, it should be understood, locked the street for the complete width of the city gate. There was competition among many people interested in renting the gate and charging the fee. The income from the city gates was a difficult one. No Jew became rich from a city gate. But in the eyes of the non-Jews he was one of those who “sucked the blood from the Christians.”

At the rear of Sobieski Street stood a small synagogue built of brick that was named “Dos Ellever Shulekhl” [the eleventh small synagogue]. If it really was the 11th small synagogue in number or if it was named that according to the number of its founders is not known. Located near the small synagogue was the bathhouse, built by Reb Yakov Brettler, the wealthy man, in

[Page 109]

which he had a separate room. He would come riding to his bathhouse in his fiacre every erev Shabbos [eve of Shabbos – Friday]. The water from this bath was red; it contained iron. No other millionaire in Kolomea had such a bathroom and bathtub in his house.

In the rear of the western side of the ring-platz was a street of warehouses. After this street was the “hey-platz” [hay square]. This was the center for the wagon-drivers before the era of the train and it also remained so later. Most of the houses here were one-story. In the middle of the square stood a low synagogue, built of wood, that was called royt-shulekhl [small red synagogue] – where the “ordinary Jews” prayed.

A small room in this synagogue for a separate minyan [10 men required for prayer] was called “di kelnye [the tiny synagogue or minyan].” Di kelnye was in relation to the synagogue in the same way as the synagogue was in relation to the city synagogue. Not far from here was a synagogue for the well-to-do businessmen. It was called – “the synagogue from Jerusalem.” The majority of the synagogues in the city were concentrated around the “great synagogue.” There was also a bathhouse from before the expansion of the city to the Neye Velt on the streets that lead out from the northeast of the ring-platz. According to Kolomea tradition, the Baal Shem Tov [founder of Hasidism] immersed himself in the mikvah [ritual bath] of this bathhouse.

A road to the north to the county office runs from the middle of the north side of the ring-platz. Therefore, the road was called the City Hall Road. This was one of the real streets in the city. From this street, a street, which was named after Kaiser Franz Josef during the Austrian times, divides the north and south. Here were the residences of the nobles and here lived several rich, educated Jews. The city garden was also here. There was an oil refinery, a mill and other small factories in the area.

The Roman Catholic church stands on the southeast corner of the ring-platz and is the most beautiful of all of the buildings on the ring-platz. On the top of the church shone the name of God in Hebrew letters. According to Jewish legend, the name of God was written by a Jewish convert. The building continually sank and the gentiles looked for a remedy so that the house would not sink farther. After the convert finished writing the name of God, he fell from the top of the church onto the ground and turned into a stone. And this is truly the most beautiful threshold at the gate of the church. It was also said that there was a Hebrew inscription on the bottom of the gate, not with such clear golden

[Page 110]

letters as on the top of the church, only with black writing which were erased over the years.

From the church, east of the street, passes Klebania Street on the road to Zablotov-Sniantyn-Chernovitz. The Polish and Ukrainian gymnasium [secondary school] is located near the church. The road to Koroluavka descends south of the church. The Jewish cemetery, which had been in use from the 16th century until 5545 (1785), is located on Kaminker Street, the street parallel to the “Commune.” A second cemetery dating from the years 5545-5653 (1893) is located on the north side of the city, at the entrance to the German village of Baginsberg. The third and last cemetery is located north of the Klebania Street, between it and the train line.

The confines of Kolomea spread across a wide area and also encompass villages and half-agricultural sections. The boundaries of Kolomea were “scientifically” combined in what is called: “electoral geometry.” In the last third of the 19th century until the year 1914, the actual city of Kolomea was 80 percent Jewish. In order to prevent the Jews from becoming a decisive power in the city government and in the elections to Parliament and to the Galician Sejm [parliament] – the city annexed two German villages as well as Polish and Ukrainian neighborhoods. The Jews were concentrated in a thickly populated area of the city and along the main highway. Ukrainians lived mainly in the southern suburbs, in the northern and northwestern – Poles and Germans, who in the Austrian and Polish times were servile and obedient to the orders of the regime and voted according to its will. The Germans all were more assimilated than the Poles, but when the Nazis entered, they instantly became Volks-Deutchn [ethnic Germans], followers of Hitler.

 

The Number of Jews in Kolomea and Kolomea County

Before 1914 there were 41,000 souls in Kolomea, half of them Jews. Three national minorities lived with them: Ukrainians, Poles and Germans. Since the census of 1890, a percentage of Jews had begun to leave Kolomea The reason was that in general, as in every Galician city, the influence of Poles and Ukrainians in the city had grown. Their

[Page 111]

striving to be free from Jewish power grew with their increasing and more widely spread education.. Private Christian businesses and cooperatives were created and the number of Christian artisans grew. Jews emigrated to the West, to America, Germany, to Vienna and even to Budapest. During the First World War many escaped to Austria, particularly to Vienna, and many did not return to Kolomea.

In August 1939 there were about 35,500 souls: 15,100 Jews, 11,000 Poles, 6,600 Ukrainians, 1,800 Germans (in the villages that were annexed to the city) and 1,500 half Polish-half Ukrainians – Ukrainian speaking members of the Roman Catholic church. In the 25 years since 1914, 6,000 Jews left Kolomea, above and beyond the natural increase of at least one percent a year. There actually were much fewer of the old residents from 1914 remaining in the city. Of the 15,000, perhaps a third of those were from the villages and shtetlekh [towns] of Pokutia and beyond it, who during and after the First World War left their homes and flocked to the “big” city, to Kolomea.

Of the list of 84 settlements in Kolomea county that during Polish times again included Petchinizhin [Pechenizhyn], it is apparent that the number of Jews in the villages had diminished. In addition to Kolomea, there were Jewish communities in Petchinizhin, Nwozdziec and Jablonow. There was only an absolute Jewish majority in the last two communities. The Ukrainians had the absolute majority in Petchinizhin. In all, there were 19,500 Jew in the municipal communities.


Footnote

  1. Complements from Lou Grebler: The chief-broker for forest workers to Romania was Shimshon Konits, a brother-in-law of Peysi Zinger and of Avraham Ashkhenazi. Konits ran a large office with employees, among them his own daughter. He would receive blank passports from the county office and write the names in himself. Konits' house at the corner of Shevchenko and Mnichovska Street was besieged summer and winter by peasants from all over Pokutia who were looking for work in Romania. Return

Translator & Coordinator's footnotes

  1. Kasha is traditionally made from buckwheat. [Tr.]Return
  2. In America, bulbovenik was often called “potatonik” [Co.]Return
  3. My father once rode his bike south all the way over the Romanian border to buy plums for his mother to cook- the jam was called “podl.” [Co.] Return
  4. Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, founder of Hasidism. [Tr.]Return
  5. Kolomyya is the Ukrainian spelling. [Tr.] The more recent transliteraton of the Ukrainian spelling on their websites is Kolomyia. [Co.] Return


[Page 112]

Rabbis, Synagogues and Jewish Life in Kolomea

by Moshe Rat (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

There are many indisputable sources about the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community] in Kolomea. The old pinkasim [registration books] were burned during the second great fire in 5587 – 1827, when the large synagogue was burned, and in 5625 – 1865, when all of the Kolomea synagogues and houses of prayers were destroyed by the fire. Therefore, I must pilfer the subsequent sources:

The book, Zikhron Rishonim[1] [Memory of the Rishomim – leading sages of the 11th to 15th centuries] of the Rabbi, Reb Chaim-Tzvi Teomim, of blessed memory, religious judge and rabbi in Kolomea, 5674 [1914]; Anshei Shem [Notable Men] and Kiryah Nisgavah [Exalted City] of Reb Shlomo Buber and Shem haGedolim [The Names of the Great Ones] and Shem Hagedolim HeHadash [The Names of the New Great Ones] of Reb Chaim Azulai, Warsaw; Shivchei haBaal Shem Tov [a collection of stories of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism]; manuscript and family tree and mainly a manuscript of my great grandfather, the Rabbi Pinkhas Epshtein, of blessed memory, chairman of the rabbinical court in Kitev [Kuty], of blessed memory, and which is now with my brother, the Rabbi Reb Meshulam Rath, previously chairman of the rabbinical court in Chernovitz [Chernivitsi] and today a member of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem. I also am making use of facts that were given as word of mouth and of my own memories of that which I heard and saw in my childhood and early years at the time when I was studying in a small synagogue and I was a student of rabbis and sages.

 

1.

The rabbis who sat on the rabbinical throne of our kehile during the course of 300 years as chairmen of the religious court, rabbis and heads of the religious court, judges and heads of yeshivus:

1. The first of the rabbis who was known to us as the chairman of the rabbinical court and head of the rabbinical college in Kolomea was one of the sons or sons-in-law

[Page 113]

of the gaon [sage], the author of Mas'at Benyamin [The Aim of Benyamin], of blessed memory from before the year 5400 [1640] as is mentioned in the book, Shevile Olam [Pathways of the World]. Many years ago his headstone was found sunken into the earth. But the entire inscription on it could not be deciphered.

2. The Rabbi, Reb Avraham Zav (Avraham son of Wolf) of blessed memory, of Kolomea, is remembered in the pinkas of the kehile of the holy community of Zsholkowa (Zsholkev) in connection with the acknowledgement of the kehile rules that were set in the year 5424 – 1664, and signed by: the Reb Shimeon Ginzburg of Przemysl, the Rabbi Josef Ayzyk of Javoriv, the Reb Shmuel Zaynvl Segal of Lemberg, the Reb Dovid Preger of Buczacz, as well as the Gaon, author of Turei Zahav [Rows of Gold, authored by David HaLevi Segal] signed there (see: Kiryah Nisgavah [History of the Jews of Zolkiew]).

3. The Rabbi Reb Avraham bar [son of] Josef Kohen Tzedek [priest of righteousness], of blessed memory, was the head of the rabbinical panel in Kolomea. There were pogroms in Lemberg in 5424 [1664]. This was on the day of the holy Shabbos [Sabbath], the 2nd of Iyyar, where more than 120 souls were murdered, including distinguished rabbis and religious judges. Among the hundreds was also the above-mentioned Gaon, Reb Avraham K”Tz [abbreviation for Kohen Tzedek that means “righteous Kohen” and is the origin of the surname “Katz.”], who was in Lemberg by chance (according to his headstone at the Lemberg cemetery). The inscription of the headstone of the Rabbi Avraham K”Tz, of blessed memory appears in the book, Notable Men, and, incidentally, it says: The great scholar, our teacher and rabbi, Reb Avraham, son of our teacher and rabbi, Yosef K”Tz, head of the yeshiva in the holy community of Kolomea.

4. Reb Chaim ben [son of] Reb Yehoshaya (chairman of the rabbinical court in the community of Krakow) was the chairman of the rabbinical court in the community of Kolomea; later he was head of the rabbinical panel in Lemberg and he died there on the 9th of Adar 5433 [1673]; he was the son of the Gaon, the author of Maginei Shlomo [Shlomo's Sorrow], of blessed memory and a son-in-law of the Gaon, Reb Tzvi Hirsh, of blessed memory, the chairman of the rabbinical panel of the Mezrich kehile (see Responsa in Emunat Shmuel [Faith of Samuel] of the Gaon, Reb Ahron Shmuel bar Yisroel Keidanover, Frankfurt-on-Main, 5443 [1683]). On his headstone is etched the words: On 9 Adar 5433 [25 February 1673], passed away the holy man of life, who is buried here. He was a teacher in yeshivas in several places, in particular, in the great and important old Jewish community of Kolomea; he was the rabbi and great scholar, our teacher, Rabbi Chaim, son of the great scholar, our teacher and rabbi, Reb Yehoshua, head of the religious court in Krakow. In his merit, may his soul be bound in the bond of the living.[2]

5. The Rabbi, Reb Efraim Fishel ber Chaim, of blessed memory, the son of the above mentioned. He also was the chairman of the rabbinical court in Kolomea. He was the brother of the Gaon, Reb Tzvi Hirsh, of blessed memory, chairman of the rabbinical court in Berezhany, Drohobych, Brod, Lisk (see Anshei Shem).

[Page 114]

6. It is mentioned in a manuscript that is located in the library at Oxford that the Rabbi, Reb Dovid Kohen, of blessed memory, of Kolomea, was chairman of the rabbinical court in Kolomea in 5470 [1710] (see Zikhron Rishonim under the name of the Rabbi, the sage, Reb Yekutiel Yuda Grinwald).

7. Reb Yisroel Baal Shem Tov,[3] may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, came to Kolomea from the village of Kshilovic and was revealed here. His apartment was – as is accepted – in the house, which later became a synagogue, “the small Kosever synagogue.”

The old bathhouse was called the Mikhvah funem Besh't [the Baal Shem Tov's ritual bath – Besh't is an acronym for the Baal Shem Tov], because according to tradition, he immersed himself there. From here, the Besh't went to Tlost (Tioust) and from there in 5500 [1740] to Medzhybizh and died on the 7th of Sivan 5514 [28 May 1754].

8. The Rabbi Dovid Shlomo, of blessed memory, one of the students of the Besh't, was Magid Meisharim [one who gives sermons in the synagogue] in our city; he died in the community of Skolye, near the city of Stry. On his headstone is engraved: Died Tuesday, 16 Shevat 5492 [12 February 1732]; here is buried the pure and holy man, our teacher and Rabbi David[4], son of our teacher Shlomo, of blessed memory, the preacher in the Holy Community Kolomea (see: Shem Hagedolim HeHadash).

9. The Rabbi, Reb Leib Pistener, of blessed memory, rabbi, Hasid and holy man, one of the students of the Baal Shem Tov, is mentioned several times in the book Toldos Yakob Yosef [History of Jakob Josef], as well as in the book, Degel Makhneh Ephraim [Banner of the Camp of Ephraim]. He lived in Kolomea and spread Torah in our city and he died here on the 3rd of Iyyar 5505 [May 5, 1745]. On his headstone in the very old cemetery in Kamionka Street – which was damaged and was restored in 5633 [1873] – is carved his name and the date of his death.

10. The Rabbi Menakhem Mendl, of blessed memory, of Kolomea, rabbi, gaon and holy man, a friend and a student of the Besh't. According to the hypothesis of the author of Zikhron Rishonim, he was a brother-in-law of the Rabbi, the pious man, Reb Moshe of Kitev, of blessed memory.

11. The Rabbi, Reb Meshulam bar Yeshayahu, of blessed memory, is remembered in the book of the kehile of the holy community of Lemberg, page 100, in a judgment of Rosh Kodesh [start of the month] Iyyar 5487 [22 April 1727]. He was the head of the rabbinical court in Kolomea He was the son-in-law of the Gaon, Reb Efraim Fishl bar Chaim, of blessed memory, head of the rabbinical court and kehile in Kolomea (see above number 5) and his successor on the rabbinical seat in our city. His son-in-law was the Rabbi, Reb Shimshon of Buczacz, of blessed memory, the father of the Gaon, Reb Meshulam Freshburger, of blessed memory (according to the pedigree of my great grandfather, the rabbi and pious man, Reb Pinkhas Epshtein), who was the father-in-law of my grandfather, Reb Josi Rath, of blessed memory; his second son-in-law was the Gaon Reb, Noakh Efraim Fishl bar Moshe,

[Page 115]

of blessed memory, who was his successor on the rabbinical seat as leader of the religious court and head of the rabbinical academy in Kolomea; his third son-in-law was the Gaon , my great grandfather, Reb Yitzhak, of blessed memory, the father of the Gaon, Reb Nakhman Epshtein, of blessed memory, both heads of the rabbinical court in Kolomea. The father of the Rabbi, Reb Meshulam, the Gaon Reb Yeshayahu, was the head of the rabbinical court in Lemberg. The Rabbi, Reb Meshulam bar Yeshayahu died on the Monday of Khol HaMoed [intermediary days of a religious holiday] in 5506 [1746] according to what is inscribed on his headstone at the very old cemetery on Kamionka Street.

12. The Rabbi Noakh Efraim Fishl bar Moshe, of blessed memory, head of the religious court and head of the yeshiva in Kolomea, was the successor to his father-in-law, the Gaon Reb Meshulam, of blessed memory who is mentioned above. He died on Shabbos, the 13th of Tishrei 5542 [1782], and lies in the very old cemetery on Kamionka Street.

13. The Rabbi, Reb Yakov Kopl bar Nekhemiah Feyvl, of blessed memory, rabbi, Hasid and holy man of the members of the holy temple of our teacher, the Besh't, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, who was called Reb Kopl Hasid and he was the father of the holy man, our leader, teacher and master, Reb Menakhem Mendl of Kosov, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, author of the book, Ahavat Shalom [Lover of Peace], the father of Kosover and Vizhnitzer dynasties. The Rabbi, Reb Yakov Kopl lived in our city for many years. He later moved to Mismenic, where he died on the 16th Elul 5547 [1787], as is inscribed on his headstone.

His wife, haRabnit [the rabbi's wife], Chaya bas [daughter of] Reb Zalman, of blessed memory, of Kolomea, was a granddaughter of the Rabbi, Reb Yakov Kopl Kamiel, of blessed memory, born of the Schnaittach [family] in Germany, a granddaughter of the rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura. A very rich man, he came to Kolomea from the city of Chechnovtse [Ciechanowiec] and used his money to build a synagogue, a house of study and a bathhouse; he took the sister of the Gaon, the author of Tosfos Yom Tov, Madam Perl, may she rest in peace, as a wife. His son, the Rabbi, Reb Zalman, who was also the uncle and father-in-law of the above mentioned Rabbi, Reb Kopl Hasid, married the Rebbitzin [wife of rabbi] Bluma bas [daughter of] Reb Shlomo, of blessed memory, the son of the Gaon, the author of Turei Zahav [Rows of Gold], of blessed memory. Reb Shlomo, of blessed memory, was murdered in Lemberg in 5424 [1664]. The above-mentioned Rebbitzen Chaya died in Kolomea on 13 Iyyar 5535 [13 May 1775] and she lies in the very old cemetery on Kamionka Street.

14. The Rabbi, Reb Shaltial Eyzyk haLevi Shternhel, of blessed memory, of Kolomea, a giant of Torah, a righteous man, a very rich man, the brother-in-law of the above-mentioned, the Rabbi, Reb Kopl Hasid, a grandson of the Rabbi, Reb Adam the baal hashem [miracle worker], of blessed memory. He was also a merchant and a liberal donor. He emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel in his old age and died in Jerusalem.

[Page 116]

15. My great grandfather, the Rabbi, Reb Yitzhak bar Nakhman Tzvi haLevi Epshtein, of blessed memory, head of the rabbinical court in Bar, known by the name, Reb Nakhman Barer, was the chairman of the rabbinical court in our city. The Rabbi, Reb Nakhman Tzvi Epshtein of Bar, Podolia, belonged to the followers of the Magid [preacher], Reb Dov Ber of Mezritch; he was considered a miracle worker and as a holy man. He died in the year 5495 [1735]. His father, Reb Avraham Segal Epshtein, was the rabbi in Rowna and later in Recnitz [Rahonc), Hungary. He was one of the three rabbis who chose Reb Shimshon Wertheimer as a teacher in his House of Study in Vienna. This Reb Avraham was a grandson of Reb Avraham bar Meir haLevi Epshtein; he was descended from the Rabbi Nusan Epshtein, of blessed memory, of Frankfurt on Main, who was rabbi in Horodna, later rabbi in Brisk, Lithuania and in Lublin.

Some of his answers on Halakhah [Jewish religious law] are found in Shalus vaTeshuvas [Reponsa] as well as in a book of responsa, Penei Yehoshua, Even Ha'ezer [a section of Rabbi Jakob Asher's compilation of Jewish Law], Arba'ah Turim], chapter 9 and in Responses of the Latter Geonim [spiritual leaders of Jewish community], paragraph 23. Another grandson was Reb Arieh Leib, Rabbi in Konigsberg during the years 5505-5535 [1745-1775]. There he spread the Torah, improved on precepts and wrote 10 books about the mitzvahs [commandments] in Halakhah, Kabbalah and Muser. The most important of them: Sefer haPardes [Book of the Orchard] which takes in commentaries to the commandments of the Krias Shema [Shema Yisroel prayer – Hear O Israel – opening words of the central prayer in Judaism] and of Shemiras Shabbos [guarding or keeping the Shabbat], sermons, innovations in Halakhah, the majority about annotated order, eulogies, commentaries to Moed Kattan [Little Festival – tractate of the Talmud], Taanis [Fasting – tractate of the Talmud] and others, published in Konigsberg 5519 [1759]; Or Hashanim – Kavanot LeTaryag Mitzvot [Light of the Years – Meaning and Intention of the 613 Commandments], published in Frankfurt on the Oder, 5514 [1754]; Mishnat Gur-Arie [The Study of Gur Arie] – a commentary on the order of the prayers according to the Kabbalah, published only in part in Konigsberg in 5525 [1765]; Teshuvot Mahal [Answers of Mahal], a collection of his answers in Halakhah, there, 5529 [1769]; Shulkhan Orekh chapter 10 and innovations to the Talmud and Shulkhan Orekh, chapter 10 with the innovations of his son Reb Avraham Meir, of blessed memory, was published in Vilna in 5643 [1883].

The Rabbi Reb Yitzhak Epshtein was the son-in-law of the above-mentioned Gaon Reb Mesholem, chairman of the religious court of our kehile and after the death of his brother-in-law, the above-mentioned gaon Reb Noakh Efraim Fishl, of blessed memory, he took his place on the rabbinical seat in Kolomea. He died on the 3rd of Adar 5555 [22 February, 1795] and was buried in the very old cemetery on Kamionka Street.

16. My great grandfather, the Rabbi, Reb Nakhman Tzvi Epshtein, of blessed memory, the son of the above-mentioned Rabbi, Reb Yitzhak haLevi Epshtein, of blessed memory, was taken as rabbi and chairman of the rabbinical court in our city after the death of his father, of blessed memory.

[Page 117]

He was the friend of the gaon, the author of Ketsot haKhoshen [Ends of the Breastplate], of blessed memory, and he studied with him in the yeshiva. He died at a very old age, 28 Tishrei 5590 [25 October 1829] and was buried at the old cemetery (not at the very old cemetery of Kamionka Street). His son, the Rabbi, Reb Meshulam, of blessed memory was raised in Kolomea and later he was the rabbi and chairman of the rabbinical court in Pistyn. He died when young in Kolomea, 7 Tevet 5580 [25 December 1819] and was buried in the old cemetery near the grave of his father, the above-mentioned gaon, Reb Nakhman Tzvi, of blessed memory.

17. My great grandfather, the Rabbi, Reb Yitzhak Zev bar Nakhman Tzvi haLevi Epshtein, of blessed memory, was the successor to his father, the chairman of the rabbinical court in Kolomea. He died on the 15 Heshvan 5609 [11 November 1848] and was buried in the old cemetery near the grave of his father, the gaon, Reb Nakhman Tzvi, of blessed memory. His son, the Rabbi, Reb Meir Shimkha haLevi Epshtein, of blessed memory, Rabbi, giant of the Torah (see the eulogy about him the book Revid haZahav [The Golden Necklace] of the rabbi and righteous man, Reb Yisroel Dov Gelernter, of blessed memory, chairman of the rabbinical court in Jablonov, near Kolomea), died in our city, 24 Elul 5605 [26 September 1845] and was buried in the old cemetery.

18. The Rabbi, Reb Khiskie Nukhem bar Yitzhak Toybish, of blessed memory, was taken on as the head of the rabbinical court in Kolomea and the province after the death of the above-mentioned Gaon, Rabbi Yitzhak Zev, of blessed memory. He was a giant of Torah and also educated in worldly subjects. Previously he was a religious judge and Moyre-Tzedek [one who knows justice, rabbinical title] with the gaon, the author of Yeshuot Yakob [The Salvation of Jakob], of blessed memory, in Lemberg.

19. The Rabbi, Reb Mordekhai Ziskind bar Yehuda Leibush, of blessed memory: his father was the chairman of the rabbinical court in Levertov, and he, himself, sat on the rabbinical seat of the community of Burshtyn. He settled in Kolomea in his older years and spread Torah. He died in our city on 27 Shevat 5620 [20 February 1860] and was buried in the old cemetery.

20. My great grandfather the Rabbi Reb Pinkhas bar Josef Epshtein, of blessed memory, chairman of the rabbinical court of Kitev, the father-in-law of my grandfather, Reb Josef Rat, of blessed memory. His father, the gaon Reb Josef Epshtein, of blessed memory, also the chairman of the rabbinical court in Kitev, was the son-in-law of the above-mentioned gaon Reb Nakhman Epshtein, of blessed memory, chairman of the rabbinical court in Kolomea. Reb Pinkhas, the father of my grandmother, Dvora Rath, may she rest in peace, died in Kolomea on the 21 Iyyar 5621 [1 May 1861] and was buried in the old cemetery near the grave of the Rabbi, Reb Tzvi, of blessed memory, the chairman of the rabbinical court of Delatyn. My above-mentioned grandfather, Reb Josye Rath [diminutive of Josef], of blessed memory, of Kolomea, was one of the most important Hasidim of

[Page 118]

our teacher, our rabbi from Rizhin [town in Ukraine]. He was the author of the book, Yeshuat Yisroel [Salvation of Israel], which contains religious laws from the Rizhiner and short stories about the righteous man, Reb Yisroel (Fridman) from Rizhin. My grandfather, Reb Josye Rath, left for Eretz-Yisroel in his old age, lived there in Tsfat for several years, died and was buried there. The second son-in-law of Rabbi, Reb Pinkhas Epshtein, of blessed memory, was Reb Dovid Melzer, of blessed memory, the father of Reb Josl Melzer of Kolomea, who died in 5710 [1950] in Tel Aviv and of Reb Sholem Melzer of Rohatyn, one of the first Zionists and intimates of Dr. Herzl, the father of Dr. Nusan Melzer, of blessed memory – one of the first [members] of Poalei Zion [Workers of Zion – Marxist Zionists].

21. The Rabbi, Reb Eliezer bar Shlomo of Doline, of blessed memory, know by the name, Reb Eliezer haGodel [the great one], a student and Hasid of the Rabbi, the Khozeh [Seer] of Lublin [Jakob Yitzhak Horowitz], may the name of a righteous man be blessed, and of the righteous man, Reb Tzvi of Zirimshov, may the name of a righteous man be blessed. He lived in Kolomea where he died on the 13th of Shevat 5622 [14 January 1862] and was buried in the old cemetery.

22. The Rabbi, Reb Gershon bar Yehuda, of blessed memory, author of the book, Avodat haGershoni [Gershon's Service], chairman of the rabbinical court in Kolomea, a grandson of the righteous man, Reb Gershon, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, chairman of the rabbinical court in Rozli, a son of the gaon and righteous man, Reb Menakhem Mendl, may the name of a righteous man be blessed, of Kolomea and the brother-in-law of the righteous man, Reb Chaim, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, of Kosev. At first he was the rabbi and chairman of the rabbinical court in Rozli, from 5581 [1821] to 5589 [1829]; later he was chosen as the chairman of the rabbinical court in Tolmitsh (Tlumotsh); from there he moved to Horodenke, later he was received as the chairman of the rabbinical court in Kolomea.

The Rabbi, Reb Gershon, created many useful precepts and founded institutions of learning, charity and mercy that existed there until right up to the Holocaust. This great rabbi died in our city on the eve of Shavous [the holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah], 5623 [1863], after he had been the rabbi in several communities for 46 years. He was buried in the old cemetery.

23. The Rabbi, Reb Zev Wolf bar Efraim, of blessed memory, a student of the gaon, Jakob Teomim of Lita [Lithuania], of blessed memory, was a judge in the religious court of the mentioned Rabbi, Reb Gershon; he died on erev Shabbos [on the eve of the holy Shabbos] 28 Sivan 5625 [22 June 1865] and was buried in the old cemetery near the grave of the Rabbi, chairman of the rabbinical court, Reb Gershon, of blessed memory.

24. The Rabbi, Reb Eliezer bar Meir, of blessed memory. He also was a rabbinical judge in Reb Gershon's rabbinical court; he died on the 21st of Shvat 5627 [27 January 1867] and he is also buried near the grave of the Rabbi, Reb Gershon in the old cemetery.

[Page 119]

25. The Rabbi, Reb Hillel bar Borukh Bendit Lichtenshtein (Lash), of blessed memory, chairman of the religious court in Kolomea. He was born in Veca, Hungary (Slovakia) in 5574 [1814], a student of the gaon, Reb Moshe Sofer, of blessed memory, author of the book, Khasam Sofer [Seal of the Scribe]. He was the rabbi and chairman of the rabbinical court in the Hungarian communities: Marghita (Margaretin), Klozenburg, Szikszo (Siks). Later, he became chairman of the rabbinical court in the community of Kolomea in 5627 [1867] and he was the rabbi of our city during the course of 24 years. The religious judges serving in his religious court were: the Rabbi Reb Zechariah Mendl Zilber bar Avraham Pesakh, of blessed memory, and the Rabbi, Reb Moshe Yehoshua bar Avraham Yehuda, the above-mentioned head of the yeshiva.

The Rabbi Hillel L”Sh was famous as a righteous man and a Torah giant. He was a fanatical opponent of every religious reform, particularly against Rabbi Ezriel Hildesheimer, chairman of the rabbinical court in Eizenshtat (who later was the founder and leader of the Rabbinical Seminar in Berlin) for his endeavors to bring education into the circles of Talmud sages. He took part in the rabbinical conference in Nyíregyháza, in 1864 that sent a delegation to the Austro-Hungarian Kaizer Franz-Joseph I to intercede against the founders of the Rabbinical Seminar in Budapest. He was also one of the main speakers at the Rabbinical Conference in Michalovce in 5624 (1864) that banned the giving of German sermons in the synagogues.

The Rabbi Hillel L”Sh was a strong person in his convictions and would give in to no one. He would publicly berate the transgressors. My father, of blessed memory, told me: When the Rabbi, Reb Hillel learned that a grandson of Reb Itsikl Sheykes (Fridfertig), of blessed memory, a Hasid and fiery bel-tefilah [reader of prayers on holidays] in the synagogue named for Reb Itsikl Rozshivilner, studied dancing in the Young Men's Society – he came to the mentioned synagogue on Shabbos, interrupted the prayers and protested against this “dreadful sin” with flaming-fiery words.

He was not a misnagid [opponent of the Hasidim]. He himself would even travel to the tzadek [righteous man], the gaon, Reb Chaim Halbershtam, the head of the rabbinical court in Tsanz (Sandz). But he did not agree that the rebbes should mix in matters such as hiring shoykhetim [religious slaughterers] and religious judges. The quarrels that broke out between him and Vizhnitz [Vyzhnytsia, Ukraine] at the time of the Admor [our teacher and our rabbi - rebbe], Reb Menakhem Mendl (Hager), the son of the tzadek, Reb Chaim Kosever, come from this because a shoykhet, who received ordination from the Rebbe, Reb Mendl of Vizhnitz, was later prohibited by the Rabbi, Reb Hillel.

[Page 120]

In his Shabbos sermons during the third and final meal he said about the Vizhnitzer tzadek that he behaves like Jeraboam the son of Nebat: he sinned and caused others to sin – he sinned and caused the community to sin. Reb Itsi Brettler, one of the first Vizhnitz Hasidim, who was present at this sermon, stood and with anger left the house of the rabbi. The fanatical Vizhnitzer Hasidim took revenge on the old rabbi; they attacked him in the street.

The Rabbi, Reb Hillel was a distinguished speaker and sermonizer. He would travel from place to place with his moralizing sermons. His strength was great in Mile da-agadeta [Words of Legends]. He delivered his sermons in a popular manner.

On Yom Kippur in the year 5641 (1880), the Austro-Hungarian Kaiser, Franz Josef the First, came to Kolomea for a visit. The Jews prayed the morning prayers very early and with the Rabbi, Reb Hillel, of blessed memory, at the head, went to welcome the Kaiser. The Rabbi blessed the Kaiser according to religious law.

The treatises by the Rabbi, Reb Hillel are: Maskil el Dal [Considers the Poor] – sermons in four volumes; Avkat Rokhel [Powers of a Peddler] – talks on moral conduct in two volumes; Et La'asot [It Is Time to Act] - in Yiddish – in two volumes; Mikrei Dardeki [Examples for Small Children] - a commentary in the manner of sermons on Khumish [the Torah]; in letters.

The Rabbi, Reb Hillel Lichtenshtein (L'Sh) died at the age of 77 on the 10th Iyyar 5651 [15 May 1856] and was buried in the old cemetery.

His sons, Reb Borukh Bendit and Reb Zalman lived in Kolomea and Reb Zalman occupied the office of the secretary of the kehile. His youngest son (from his second wife), Reb Ben-Tzion, lives today in Jerusalem. His son-in-law, the Rabbi, Reb Anshl was a distinguished scholar, spread Torah and had a synagogue in the suburb of Kolomea, in Werbiaze.

26. The Rabbi, Reb Zechariah Mendel Zilber, of blessed memory, bar Avraham Pesakh, of blessed memory, was the chief religious judge in our city for many years. He was a Torah giant, a distinguished master of religious practices and people would come to him from afar for religious cases; he died on the 14th of Iyyar 5652 ([11 May] 1892) and his son, our master, our teacher, Reb Yehoshaya Heshl, of blessed memory became his successor as the religious judge on the high court.

27. The Rabbi, Reb Moshe Yehoshaya, of blesses memory, bar Avraham Yehuda, of blessed memory, the so called Rosh haYeshiva [head of the yeshiva], came to our kehile from Hungary. He was the Rosh haYeshiva there. As an ordained rabbi, he occupied the office of religious judge in Kolomea for many years along with the above-mentioned Rabbi, Reb Zechariah

[Page 121]

Mendl in the Beis-Din of Rabbi, Reb Hillel Lash, of blessed memory, of the Rabbi Reb Jakob Teomim, of blessed memory, and also of the Rabbi, Reb Gedalia Shmelkis, of blessed memory. He was a holy man and his admirers were drawn to him as to a Hasidic rebbe although he did not belong to the Hasidic world. He died on the eve of Rosh Khodesh [the new month] of Adar in the year 5664 [14 February 1904]. In my youth I was at his agonizing death, which lasted an entire day, while around his bed stood his students and Hasidim and the worshippers from the old synagogue, among them Reb Shaul Knepfer, of blessed memory. His son, the Rabbi, Reb Alter was his successor as an ordained rabbi and religious judge.

28. The Rabbi, Reb Yehoshaya Eliezer, of blessed memory, bar Moshe Josef Chodorov, a holy man and a Torah giant and sage, a son-in-law of the Rabbi and righteous man, Reb Chaim of Kosov, our rabbi, our teacher, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, lived in Kolomea for many years. He died on the first day of Khol Hamoed Sukkos [intermediate days of Feast of Tabernacles] 5655 [18 October 1894] and was buried in the new cemetery. His wife, the rebbitzin [rabbi's wife], Sheyndl, may she rest in peace, the daughter of the rabbi and teacher, Reb Chaim of Kosov, of blessed memory, who died on the seventh day of Passover 5664 [30 March 1904], is also buried there.

29. The Rabbi, Reb Uri Feyvl Schreier, of blessed memory, bar Moshe haLevi, of blessed memory. He was considered as one of the gaonim among the Galicianer rabbis of his time. He was the author of the sforim: Aseifet Zekenim [Assembly of Elders], Mikdash Me'at [A Small Temple] and Da'at Kedoshim [Wisdom of the Holy Man] of his Rabbi, the Gaon, Reb Avraham Dovid, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, the chairman of the community court of Buczacz. The Rabbi, Reb Feyvl Schreier was chairman of the community court of Brodshyn; he was later taken on as the head of the rabbinical court in Kolomea. In old age he returned to the rabbinical seat of the holy community of Brodshyn and he died there on the 5th of Kislev 5689 [18 November 1928,]. The Rabbi and Gaon, Reb Nakhum Burshtein, the chairman of the community of Nadverne and Dr. Shmuel Schur, the president of the Eretz-Yisroel society in Stanislav eulogized him. His son, the Rabbi Reb Ahron, of blessed memory, became chairman of the community of Botoshan [Botosani], Romania. He died prematurely.

The Rabbi, Reb Feyvl Scheier, of blessed memory, was an enthusiastic Zionist even before Dr. Herzl. He was active in the Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] movement in the 1890's and, later, also in the Zionist political movement. He tested me in the Gemara when I was a small boy during his visit to Kolomea. I still remember his stately appearance and the high fur hat that he wore. My friend, Reb Yehoshaya Horovitz, a grandson of the Rabbi and Gaon, Reb Mesholam, the chairman of the community of Stanislav, wrote about Rabbi, Reb Feyvl of Brodshyn in the monthly journal Hahed [The Echo], Jerusalem, Notebook B, year of publication 28 Cheshvan 5710 [20 November 1949].

[Page 122]

Reb Shraga Feyvl Scheier, of blessed memory, was famous in his generation as a Torah giant and those from near and far turned to him for answers to their questions because of his sharpness in the discussions on the commentaries of the Torah as well as an authority on the right to make decisions concerning Halacha [Jewish law]. He distinguished himself with his beautiful Hebrew style and he was also considered a great scholar and wonderful orator and interpreter among the greatest rabbis. As the idea of the community of Eretz-Yisroel and of Hovevei Zion began to spread, Reb Shraga Feyvl, of blessed memory, was one of the first who supported it and when Dr. Herzl also appeared and the rise of political Zionism began, the Rabbi Reb Shraga Feyvl was among the first followers of this movement and even was a courageous fighter for the Zionist idea. A public polemic developed between Reb Shraga Fewyl, of blessed memory, and the rabbi and teacher, Reb Yehezkiel Halbershtam of Shineva (Sieniawa, Poland), over the split between the Lemberg newspaper, Makhzikei Hadat [The Upholders of Religion] on the side of the Shinever, and the Krakower HaMagid taking the side of the rabbi from Brodszyn on the question of esrogim [citron, a fruit used in the celebration of Sukkos – the Feast of Tabernacles] in Eretz-Yisroel. Until his deep old age, already an octegenarian, he still bravely fought for his convictions and for Hovevei Zion.

H. Sekler[5], a grandchild of Reb Shraga Feyvl Scheier is the well-known Hebrew-Yiddish-English dramaturge and storyteller in New York.

Reb Yeshaya Horovitz tells in the earlier mentioned tract about Rabbi, Reb Shraga Feyvl taking part in the Zionist national conference of Stanislav, Galicia in the spring of 5658 [1898]. His appearance was the sensation of the conference. The Zionists of that time were almost all young people, students and doctors and here appeared a worthy old man of 81, a well-known rabbi and gaon, famous as an authoritative personality among the rabbis of the country. He listened attentively to the discussions and before the end of the conference he was asked to speak to the gathering. After he praised the holy idea of Zionism and encouraged its activists, he clarified the motivation that had pushed him to join the movement, that is, because of the sanctity of the idea and because he saw in it the beginning of the redemption and the beginning of the rebirth of Israel and the survival of his land.

30. The Rabbi, Reb Asher Anshel, of blessed memory, bar Mordekhai Aszkenazi, of blessed memory, the author of Shalus vaTeshuvas Shemen Rosh [Anointing Oil]. His father, the Gaon, Reb Mordekhai, of blessed memory,

[Page 123]

was chairman of the religious court in Pistyn, a grandson of the Gaon, Reb Moshe Dovid, of blessed memory, chairman of the religious court in Molgshowa and also in old age in the holy community of Sfat. In Kolomea, the Rabbi Anshel married the daughter of a rich man, Reb Litman Brettler, the father of the millionaire, Reb Jekl Brettler and lived for several years in our city and spread Torah. He was then the leader of the holy community of Stanislav and died there on the 3rd of Shvat 5662. [1902] His son-in-law was Reb Ahron Kohen, of blessed memory, parnes [elected leader of the religious community] of the kehile in Kolomea, a Vizhnitzer Hasid.

31. Our venerable teacher, Jakob bar Efraim Teomim, of blessed memory, the chief judge of the rabbinical court of our kehile, a grandson of the Gaon, Reb Jakob of Lisa, the author of Khavat Da'at, of blessed memory and a great grandson of the Gaon and author of Hakham Tzvi [Rabbi Tzvi – Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Ashkenazi – it is customary to refer to an author by the name of his book], of blessed memory. His father, the Rabbi, Reb Efraim Teomim, of blessed memory, was the chief judge of the rabbinical court in Krasnipolle [Belarus]; all of his brothers and brothers-in-law were great rabbis: the Rabbi, Reb Moshe Teomim, of blessed memory, chief rabbi of the rabbinical court in Horodenka, the Rabbi, Reb Yitzhak Teomim, of blessed memory, chief rabbi of the rabbinical court in Krasnipolle, his brother-in-law was the Rabbi, Reb Yitzhak Horovitz, of blessed memory, the chief rabbi of the rabbinical court in Stanislav, his uncle was the Gaon author of Khesed le Avraham [Mercy of Abraham], the chief rabbi of Buczacz.

The Rabbi, Reb Jakob Teomim first was the rabbi in Wilkocz, then he was received as the chief judge of the rabbinical court in Tarnogrod, Russian Poland, and from there he was received in our kehile as chairman of the rabbinical court and he remained in this office for 18 years. In my youth I was a student of this esteemed rabbi and respected him as a distinguished rebbe. The judges of the religious court were Reb Moshe Yehoshaya, of blessed memory (the so-called Rosh Yeshiva [head of the religious school]), and Reb Yehoshaya Heshl Zilber, of blessed memory, as well as Reb Alter, of blessed memory, the son of the Rosh Yeshiva, who was the successor to his father. His son-in-law was the Rabbi, Reb Dovid'l Teomim, of blessed memory, the son of Rabbi, Reb Moshe Teomim, of blessed memory, chairman of the rabbinical court in Horodenka who was also my teacher and rebbe.

The Rabbi, Reb Jakob Teomim, of blessed memory, died on the 1st of Iyyar 5668 [2 May 1908] in old age and was buried in the new cemetery. He left several works in manuscript form that were not published.

32. His son, the Rabbi Reb Chaim Tzvi Teomim, of blessed memory, author of the book, Zikaron LaRishonim [A Memorial for the Early Scholars] (in which I found many facts about rabbis in our city and I have used them in my treatise), was a scholar and a follower of the Enlightenment; his wife was a granddaughter of the Rabbi and Gaon, Reb Berish Meizlish, of blessed memory, chief judge of the rabbinical court in Warsaw. After the death of

[Page 124]

his father, Reb Chaim Tzvi was chosen as the judge and rabbi in our kehile.

33. Our venerable teacher, the Rabbi, Reb Yehoshua Heshl Zilber, of blessed memory, was the religious judge of the high court in our kehile for many years, as a successor to his father, the religious judge, Reb Zechariah Mendl, of blessed memory. He was a superlative teacher, a sharp intellect in the most complicated matters, taken into commercial circles as a religious judge and arbitrator in monetary cases; he was a Chortkower [Czortkow] Hasid; he prayed in the small Chortkower synagogue, where he would study a page of gemara with the young boys in the wintertime – “and I was among them.”

34. Teacher and Rabbi, Reb Yitzhak Weber, of blessed memory, was during the course of 50 years preacher in our community. He came from Russia, was a Czortkover Hasid, with a stately appearance, a scholar and wonderful preacher; he recited the prayers well, could sing and was the author of nigunim [religious melodies]; he was a communal and sympathetic man with lively humor. He was very beloved.

The number of his followers and those who listened to his sermons was large and his house over-flowed with people on Friday nights and on holidays. He was a man of liberal beliefs and, therefore, he had opponents among the Vizhnitzer and Boyaner Hasidim. He was a nationalist and a Zionist for many years and did not hold back from publicly disclosing his beliefs in his sermons, speeches and in his actions. However, in the 1920's, after he returned from the Zionist Congress in Switzerland, his beliefs changed and he was an extreme opponent of nationalism and Zionism and he moved entirely towards the assimilated at the time of the parliamentary elections. Many of his intimates saw in this a deviation and even a betrayal and were entirely estranged from him. In my youth I studied with him, was a visitor in his house and truly loved him.

35. The Rabbi, Reb Gedalia Shmelkish, of blessed memory, head of the religious court in Kolomea, a nephew and shining student of the Gaon, the Rabbi of all the Jews in the Diaspora, Reb Yitzhak Shmelkish, of blessed memory, head of the rabbinical court of Lemberg, the author of Beit Yitzhak [House of Isaac]. He was a child prodigy in his youth and also took the baccalaureate exam in the Humanistic Gymnazie [secondary school]. First he became the rabbi and head of the religious court of Premishla (Przemysl), then after his father left [Kolomea] in order to take on

[Page 125]

the rabbinical seat as the head of the religious court in Lemberg, in 5658 [1897], he became the head of the religious court in Kolomea and after six years he was called back as the head of the religious court in Przemysl.

As a child, the superb and solemn welcome by the city at his arrival in our kehile made a strong impression on me. Thousands of people stood on the sidewalks, from the main street to the train station. All businesses were closed; all of the elected members of the kehile and representatives of the city and state officials waited for him at the train station. Several came to the meeting from Stanislav and arrived together with him. Thousands of people greeted him with an enthusiastic “Barukh haba” [welcome] as he passed in the carriage with the kehile representative, Josef Funkenshtein. He immediately traveled to the Great Synagogue and gave a sermon on halakhah [Jewish law] and agadah [legends] and ended his speech in German.

On the first day, the Otynier Hasidim came nearer to him, wanting to receive his approval for the hiring of a shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] the one that they desired. Every Friday night they would come to the rabbi, where they sang and danced in the Hasidic manner, although the rabbi was not a “Hasid” and he was not accustomed to this.

But when the Otynier Rebbe came to Kolomea for a visit as he would habitually every year, the Hasidim asked of the Rabbi, Reb Gedalia Shmelkish that he come to receive greetings from the Otynier Rebbe, the Rabbi, Reb Jakob Teomim, of blessed memory, as was done. The Rabbi, Reb Gedalia Shmelkish refused with the contention that he is the rabbi in the town and the rebbe first should visit him because if he acted otherwise, he would have to do this week after week because another rebbe came to Kolomea almost every Shabbos and there was no distinction as to whether he was a “great” rebbe or a minor one. And from then on the Otynier Hasidim left. The intimates were the Hasidim of the Rabbi, Reb Hillel Lichtenshtein, of blessed memory, and, mainly, Reb Isser Kirs, Shaul Knepfer, Mekhl Hammer and others. In 1899 elections to the Austrian parliament took place in Kolomea. The socialists placed Dr. Shor against the official candidate of the Poles and the assimilated Jews – who also was a Jew – Dr. Zeinfeld, railroad director

[Page 126]

in Stanislav (a son-in-law of the millionaire Gartenberg of Drohobych) and scheduled a public gathering for Shabbos in the Great Synagogue where Dr. Shor was to speak. However, one of the chief gabbaim [singular gabbai – synagogue sexton], Yosye Marmorosh, disrupted the plan; immediately after the end of prayer, gentiles, on Shabbos! – set a fire in the woman's section. A thick smoke filled the synagogue and the meeting could not take place. This happened on Shabbos Meworkhim [the Sabbath on which the new moon is blessed] in the month of Adar. The Rabbi Shmelkish, as was his wont, would pray at home on Shabbos, where he had a customary minyon, but on Shabbos Meworkhim and during the Days of Awe he would come to the Great Synagogue. And just on this Shabbos Meworkhim the rabbi did not come to the Great Synagogue. The gabbaim probably reported to him earlier about the scandal that awaited him because of the socialistic assembly that was scheduled in the synagogue against the will of the gabbaim. However, the socialists blamed the rabbi that he knew about the plan of Yosye Marmorosh to desecrate the Shabbos and, therefore, he did not come to pray. And as they understood it, the rabbi certainly needed to come in order to avoid such an act of sabotage. The party, for which one of the main spokesmen was Naftali Kesten, a worker in the talis [prayer shawl] factory owned by the Heller family, a religious Jew and a learned man, a frequent visitor to the Rabbi, Reb Jakob Teomim, of blessed memory, but a fervid socialist who also organized large strikes in the above-mentioned talis factory – a rare phenomenon at that time – decided to take revenge on the rabbi during his sermon on Shabbos haGadol [the Shabbos before Passover]. Hundreds of workers did assemble in the afternoon in the Great Synagogue on Shabbos haGadol and when the rabbi went up to the Torah during Minkhah [the afternoon prayer] for his sermon, they all began to “cough” and disturbed him when he recited the blessing.

Nevertheless, the rabbi wrapped himself in his talis and began his sermon. At first, there were no disturbances, but a quarter of an hour later, in the middle of his speaking, insulting calls began and the rabbi could not continue. He descended after the priestly benediction and angry and embittered, he left the synagogue. On the way home he was accompanied by his friends and the workers chased after him along with the street urchins and idlers and the rabbi was attacked with insults. There was excitement in the city for several days. The representatives of the kehile and the government officials met and searched

[Page 127]

for ways with which to punish the demonstrators without success. Street people ran after Yosye Marmorosh for an entire year with insulting calls and the police had to protect him against the demonstrators. He would not leave his house without the accompaniment of the police.

At first, the Rabbi, Reb Gedalia Shmelkish, did not reveal any connection to Zionism and to the national movement. And then the Poles celebrated the 100th birthday of the great Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz, in December 1898, and organized a solemn meeting in Lemberg, where the new Mickiewicz monument was unveiled. The representatives of the assimilated [Jews] took part in this celebration and the Rabbi, Reb Gedelia Shmelkish, was the only rabbi from the large cities who officially appeared there, dressed in a high, sable hat and with a red-white badge (the national colors of the Poles). The Zionists and national Jews behaved neutrally then in the struggle between the Poles and the Ukrainians (Rutener), but only fought against the assimilated who then had power in most of the kehilus. When the photograph of the respected Kolomea rabbi was published in the Polish newspapers among the elite taking part in the Mickiewicz celebration, the Zionists at first appeared in the Lemberg Yiddish Tagblat [Daily Newspaper] against this action. There were many complaints against him in our city and after that the relations between the Zionists and the rabbi were strained. Many of the learned men and followers of the Enlightenment from our city also were disappointed in him because of the lack of activity in the area of education and the spreading of Torah.

However, later, the rabbi grew closer to the Zionist movement, particularly to the Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] and returning to Przemysl in 1904, he publicly joined Mizrakhi and was one of its leaders. And in 1906, Adolf Shtand was a candidate to the Austrian parliament in the city of Brod and the Rabbi, Reb Gedelia Shmelkish came to Brod and spoke in the Great Synagogue on Shtand's behalf and against the assimilated. This step made a great impression on all of Galicianer Jewry. In 1907 the Rabbi Shmelkish was the Zionist candidate to the Austrian Parliament in Tarnobrzeg County and his opponent was the Minister Bobczinsky, was governor for many years

[Page 128]

in Galicia. The Rabbi Shmelkish spoke mainly in the meetings of Mizrakhi as one of the main leaders of the movement. At the time of the First World War, the rabbi lived in Vienna (in 1915-1917) and there he was active in the national movement. We met at several gatherings and meetings as well as at the Zionist Congress in Carlsbad in 1921. He was not active in his old age because of illness.

His oldest son, my dear friend, the Rabbi, Reb Shmuel Shmelkish, of blessed memory, was the son-in-law of Reb Alter Knepfer of Kolomea and was religion teacher in the state gymnazie [secondary school] in Krakow from 1906 to 1940 and from 1921 to 1940 also as the second rabbi in the temple, in the time of the chief-rabbi, Dr. Yehoshaya Ton, of blessed memory and, also after the death of Rabbi Ton. He and his wife Janete, the woman of valor, born a Knepfer, their two sons and daughters and their families all perished in the Holocaust.

36. The Rabbi, Reb Dovid Reis, of blessed memory, rabbi and head of the religious court in Kolomea. After the death of the Rabbi, Reb Teomim, of blessed memory, the Rabbi, Reb Dovid Reis, of blessed memory (until then he was the head of the religious court in Sahl) was taken as rabbi and head of the religious court in our kehile. He was not descended from a rabbinical line, but he reached the high position of a respected rabbi, Torah giant and was loved by the people through his great ability and diligence.

He headed the yeshiva in Kolomea in his house, where he taught only a small number of students. He was a Chortkower [Czortkow] Hasid. He perished in the Holocaust, 5701 [1941].

37. The last rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in Kolomea was the Rabbi, Reb Josef Lau, of blessed memory, a son-in-law of Reb Jakob Baidaf, of blessed memory. Rabbi Lau studied with rabbis and received ordination, but he did not dress as a rabbi, but spent many years in commerce and was the representative of Agudas Yisroel [religious political organization] in Kolomea. In 1930 the Vaad haKehile [Council of the Organized Communities], of which the majority consisted of members of Agudas Yisroel, nominated him as head of the rabbinical court in the community and this caused a sensation in rabbinical and scholarly circles in Galicia. But, when he appeared in his office as Rabbi and head of the rabbinical court, he interrupted his political activities and dedicated himself to the remaining circles in the city and nearly won their trust.

His younger brother, the Rabbi Moshe Lau, of blessed memory, was the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in

[Page 129]

(Photos, captions:

Top: the tall synagogue

Middle: Boyaner synagogue

Bottom: Azipolier Synagogue)

[Page 130]

Piotrkow [Trybunalski]. Both perished in the Holocaust in the years 5701-5702 [1941-1942].

These are the 37 rabbis and righteous men who sat on the rabbinical throne in our community and spread Torah. Several of them were giants of their generation.


Translator & Coordinator's footnotes

  1. Zichron Rishonim, a Hebrew book used as a reference was published in Kolomea in 1913 and reprinted in Israel in 1968. It can be found in major libraries catalogued as Zikaron Larishonim or Zikhron Larishonim. The original 1912 edition transliterates the Hebrew title into the Germanic Sichron Larischonim and the author name as Chaim H. Thumim. [Co.]Return
  2. “the holy man of life” is a word play on his name Chaim, which means “life” in Hebrew.] [Tr.]Return
  3. Yisroel Baal Shem Tov is the founder of Hasidism [Tr.] Return
  4. See pp. 22-23 of this Pinkas Kolomea translation for a story of Rabbi David's experience at the home of the Baal Shem Tov [Co.] Return
  5. H. Sekler, who came to America in 1902, was known as Harry Sackler (1883-1974) and wrote many plays performed in the Yiddish Theater. A brief biography, Harry (Tsvi Hersh) Sackler, which mentions his great-grandfather, can be found at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/yt/lex/S/sackler-harry.htm [Co.] Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Kolomyya, Ukraine    Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max G. Heffler

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 2 Mar 2013 by MGH