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[Page 122]

Chapter 4

Religious Life

by D.N

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Houses of Worship and Prayer Leaders

(Memories from before and after the First World War)

A. The old shul.

The main part of the old shul which we remember from childhood was originally built in stone, and was erected in the year 5354 (1594), according to what is stated on the former iron gate. (Details of this, as well as information on hardships that had to be overcome in order to build the synagogue and on what used to be there before it was erected are given in the historical section of this book.) Later, additional rooms were built to the north and west of the main section, which in their times housed the local yeshiva, and had a passageway to women's section, consultation rooms and the Tailors' Minyan. The date that these additions were made is not known. It is also not clear in which period the small house was built in the yard to the left of the gate. It had two prayer rooms, one downstairs where any time of the day minyanim could worship in the Nusach Sephard Eastern-European tradition, and the second room upstairs for quieter minyanim that worshipped in Ashkenazic tradition. The services in the shul itself were always in Ashkenazic tradition. The first gabbai in the second half of the 19th century was Reb Chaim Icchak Blumenfeld, a respected and educated Jew who did not allow those who said Kaddish to say Veyatzmakh Purkanei[1]. Reb Chaim Icchak was a practical Jew – his son studied law (and became a competent specialist in the civil law). His daughter's son was Dr. Ludwig Grossfeld, a lawyer who became a deputy of Dr. Liebermann of the leadership of PPSD [Polska Partia Socjal-Demokratyczna – Polish Social-Democratic Party – ed.] and after the Second War a minister in the Polish government.

We remember the “plusz[2] in the rear western part of the shul hall where there were no benches along tables. In times of need one could participate in the services, mostly by standing. Sessions of one of the two rabbinical courts of the community took place here during the Polish period, prior to the partition.

From the paved yard that descended towards the building from the side of Jewish Street behind the shul, one would go down a few stairs and enter a small room. There was a sink there, and in our times some people still remembered the “kuna[3] where once (probably not during Austrian period) Jews who brought disgrace to the community were put to shame. They would be tied to the pole at the neck and the legs. (Reb Samuel Knoller remembers the “kuna”.) From this it follows that the floor level of the shul's hall was lower than the street behind the building. There were always some scholars in the congregation, even if they did not study at the shul. As such we remember Reb Icchak Teomim, his brother Moshe and the man with great knowledge of the Torah, Jehoshua Mieses.

During the year Rabbi Gedalia Schmelkes worshipped in a private minyan at his home, but during holidays he worshipped in the shul. Here he would deliver the two customary sermons a year[4], as well as others on various occasions such state or royal anniversaries, the Kaiser's birthday etc, and sometimes also on Jewish events. On the eve of Rosh Chodesh Nisan they used to recite Slicha (penitential prayer) in the memory of Moshe Szmuckler[*1], may G-d avenge his blood, who was burnt in Przemysl in Sanctification of the Divine Name in the year 5390 [1630]. (The author of the Slicha

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was Reb Shabtai Hasofer (the Scribe) of Przemysl[*2]. It was also recited in the two Beis Midrashes (study halls). At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century the shul was governed by a member of the Gans family who worshipped primarily in the shul with their sons-in-law on condition they were not Hassidim. Participation of simple folks was noticeable in the shul. They also participated in the battle of Cantor Strucki; at the time of “cantors war” and were ready to donate money for his benefit. The fact that two powerful propinatorim[*3], (Chaim Wolf and Kalman Freudenheim) worshipped in the shul possibly influenced the final position of the community council in the “cantors war”. The former was a head of the community council for several years. Regarding the second it is said that he used to throw large sums of money into the community when the collection plates were put out at Mincha on the eve of Yom Kippur.

There is a separate chapter in this book about the architecture of the shul, written by Prof. Dr. Schneid who dealt with repairs of the inner hall prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. It mentions the colored wall paintings that were made in 1840 in a disparaging manner. The windows were also very simple. Wooden tablets with engraved prayers hung on the walls. Also the outside look was not particularly nice, especially on the eastern side (Jagiellonska Street), apparently due to ban by the Catholic Church on decorating synagogues. Changes in this direction took place in 1911 when government restorers from Lvov decided not only to protect the valuable building itself but also to ensure that the beauty of the inside will show on the outside. Through their efforts, an attic in the Polish Renaissance style was built on the eastern side (Jagiellonska) where the roofline was not perfect, and the old gate on the western side was removed.

{Photo page 123: The facade of the old synagogue on Jagiellonska Street before 1912.}

Only after the First World War did the first gabbai Chaim Klagsbald of blessed memory, start to take care of changing the inside appearance of the shul. First of all they took care of the artistic paintings, the windows were replaced and engravings on wooden tablets were restored (letters were replaced as needed etc.). An artistic contest was declared to renovate the internal design of the shul. The judgment of the contest was submitted to a board of experts. The plan of the Przemysl artist Feuering, first submitted anonymously, was chosen and carried out. (He now lives in Australia.) Renovations, which were almost finished when the Second World War broke out, cost a lot of money. The major portion was donated by Klagsbald who also invested a lot of effort into organizing and supervising the renovations. The Nazis

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destroyed the shul. Only three burnt walls remained (see picture in this book). After the fall of the Nazis, these ruins were torn down with bulldozers by a Przemysl bureaucrat's private decision. (Also see photos of the shul in its glory.)

A cantor called Strucki led services at the shul for quite a long time, until the 1890s. The people liked his prayers and were very attached to him. After his death at the beginning of the 1890s his son served as a cantor in a Hungarian town. A cantor from Russia, called Schechter, a man with a musical talent and very strong and beautiful voice took the place of the elder Strucki. The people who liked the elder Strucki pressed the community council to fire Schechter and to take the young Strucki instead. When the community refused, a fierce struggle began between the simple folk and Schechter's people (Schechterists). With their own money Strucki's supporters brought the young Strucki from Hungary to Przemysl and hired him as a cantor in a synagogue in Zasanie that was erected at the time. He led services there for several months. Meanwhile the fierce struggle went on until the community council finally agreed to fire Schechter and to take Strucki the son as a cantor of the shul. Then Cantor Schechter's supporters left the shul and established a synagogue at the house of Mrs. [Scheindel, Charlotta - ed.] Lipper the daughter of [Mojzesz - ed.] Schiffer. (Later this house became known as House of Mieses.) After the Nazis left Przemysl, the Jews again started to worship at this house (see the photo). Mojzesz Scheinbach, Berisch Kerner, Leizor Grossman and others were some of the prominent Schechterists. For a while there was no cantor in this synagogue. Finally they hired a cantor called Frachtenberg who also came from Russia and had musical education. Later, before the First World War, some of the people who worshipped at this synagogue established new and beautiful synagogue on Slowackiego Street.

{Photo page 124– In the small Beis Midrash}

B. The small Beis Midrash ( by D.N.)

We do not know even in approximation of the year it was built, but we do know the years the large synagogue – 5354 (1594) – and the large Beis Midrash – 5460 (1700) – were built.

According to a tradition from

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the Holocaust survivor Dr. Sohn who now lives in Przemysl, the faithful guardian of the graves of the city who stems from the Todt family whose members were gabbaim of the small Beis Midrash for generations, – this house of worship was almost as old as the large synagogue. Nevertheless, we do not think this tradition is valid, since at the time the large synagogue was built the number of Jews in Przemysl and few neighboring villages was very sparse at that time – too small to fill the big hall of the synagogue even on the High Holy Days and even if all men were to worship only at that place. A Beis Midrash as the word suggests, is also used to study the Torah, but surely there was a major yeshiva in Przemysl at least since the middle on the 16th century, so the full time students had a place to study Torah. Also one should not forget that, with time, there also were some study rooms were added to the main hall of the synagogue, and there were also rooms for a yeshiva.

For generations, the small synagogue was used as an inn for Jews coming to town from afar with carts loaded with goods for sale and for those who came here to purchase goods and take them afar. Usually they entered the town at sunrise or even earlier, especially in winter, and needed a warm inn. This function became particularly important after 1916 when the synagogue was lit throughout the night and open for such wayfarers. The wayfarers would receive for free a glass of hot tea with sugar, though the latter was given sparingly. Another community service, this time for the town residents was given by the “Lina” [Hebrew: lodging, accommodation, overnight stay] society that provided the town's sick with free lodging by members of the society or their delegates. The management was apparently located primarily in the small synagogue Beis Midrash. Here the society had the privilege that one Sabbath a year, the charitable pledges made by those given an aliya [Torah honor] would be designated first and foremost for the benefit of the society.

Since its establishment, this house of prayer followed the Ashkenazic prayer rite. Among the number of important scholars were Reb Aron Zvi Duldig who died at the beginning of the 20th century; from the period before the Holocaust we remember Reb Ascher Meisels from Husiatyn Hassidic elders. Among the merchants that did not belong to a particular group one should mention Reb Salomon Morgenroth; among the gabbaim – Reb Uscher Todt and Reb Majer Buchholz, the former mainly participated in the affairs of the Lina society, and the latter in the nightly tea service. One should also remember the diligent and popular activist Reb Mojzesz Goldfarb, a carpenter by trade, who was the living spirit of the house of worship during the early years.

Reb Abraham Kahana wrote in his article in the “Hatzofeh leChochmat Yisrael” periodical, Budapest 5688 (1928) that in this house of worship he had found a record book of the “Mikraei Kodesh” (Biblical Scriptures) society which was kept since 5584 (1824). In his opinion it is a very interesting book not only because of content and essence, but also because of style.

C. The large Beis Midrash (by D.N.)

The evidence that this institution was built at about 5460 (about 1700) is found in the book “Shmena Lachmo” printed in Dessau, Germany one year later. This is an important book, and contains several approbations from great rabbis of various cities, members of the Council of the Four Lands. The book was reprinted in 1897 at Deutscher printing house in Krakow. The founders of the large Beis Midrash were Reb Icchak his father, and Reb Nathan the brother of Reb Anshel Asher, author of “Shmena Lachmo”. The latter had been a rabbi in a Volhynian city of Zaslaw, and later returned to his hometown where worked as a preacher and sermonizer at the Beis Midrash that was founded by his father. The building had several floors: stores downstairs, a house of worship on the next floor, and private apartments on the top. The building stood for 206 years, until it was demolished in 5666 (1906). “It was smashed to ruins and its foundations were destroyed”, that is to say, it was completely destroyed. It was rebuilt after some four years (5670, 1910) and on the 3rd of Kislev of that year a large crowd celebrated the laying of its cornerstone. A glass container with a document certifying this event was immured into the foundation. A Jew who returned to Przemysl after the Holocaust, when the Beis Midrash was destroyed again, found this container with its parchment amidst the ruins. He has brought the document to Israel and gave it to Abraham Kahana.

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Reb Joel Nacht enumerated the following prominent laymen of the Beis Midrash during the 1890s: in addition to his father Reb Rubin Nacht, there were also Reb Jakob Hirschfeld the preacher, Reb Mordechai Grûnstein, the Hamerschmid brothers, one of whom, Reb Israel, was in his time a partner in the “Zupnik, Knoller and Hamerschmid” printing house, and members of Sacher family.

In later times, the Mizrachi activist Dr. Samuel Hirschfeld, came from the large Beis Midrash. He was the Rabbi of Biala, who is discussed in this book. Until as late as 5695 (1935) the services were conducted in the Ashkenazic rite. After that, most of people started to switch to what is known in Eastern Europe as Nusach Sephard. With this change a group of the synagogue elders was sent to the old cemetery to “beg forgiveness” from the synagogue's founders that were buried there.

{Photocopy: The foundation parchment of the great Beis Midrash, discovered amidst its ruins. – the text is as follows.}


[Upper right column]
In G-d's name
It came to pass in the year five thousand six hundred and seventy [1910] from the creation of the world.
During the reign of our leader Kaiser Franz Jozef I the First, the Emperor of Austria
And in time when Rabbi, Gaon, splendor of Israel, Rabbi Gedalia son of Rabbi Mordechai Schmelkes, may he live long, occupied the rabbinic seat of our community.

G-d aroused the hearts of those who serve the community faithful, and they are:
The Rabbi, master, director, supervisor, speaker of just words,
Who always studies the lessons in the large Beis Midrash,
And a friend of the Jewish communal leadership in our city
Reb Jakob Mordechai son of Abraham the Levite Hirschfeld

[Upper left column]

And the scholar, leader, and master of holy work
Reb Rubin the son of Joel Nacht

And our teacher and leader, singer of melodies in the G-d's honor in this house
Reb Chaim Cwi son of Josef Icchak Teitelbaum
In the company of young, G-d fearing man who guards the holy treasury
Reb Abraham Dawid son of Yeshayahu [Schaje] Engelberg

To rebuild the destroyed House of G-d that stood for three hundred years
That stood on its foundations and was known as the Large Beis Midrash founded by the father
Of the late author of the book “ Shmena Lachmo”
The Great Rabbi Asher Anshel the son of Icchak, of holy blessed memory
Who lived during the 5400s [translator: the period starting from 1640]. This house
Was destroyed in the year five 5666 [1906]

[Lower double width column – the line numbers are added to match the original lines]

  1. And was reduced to small pieces; and on Tuesday morning of the week of the Torah portion of Vayeitzei, the third day of Kislev of this year [November 16, 1909], a large crowd of men and women gathered, every person who
  2. Had generosity in his heart and whose heart urged him to the task. They gathered on the street in front of the construction square, led by the members of the construction committee whose names were mentioned above, together with
  3. The wealthy people Herr Moses the son of Jakob Hirt, the founder of the old age home in our city, and Herr Simson son of Arie Leib Bernstein; when the head of the committee
  4. Rabbi the Gaon the head of the rabbinical court and the master, the aforementioned Herr Jakob Mordechai Hirschfeld blessed the gathering with pleasant words and beautiful speeches mixed with reading the Torah explanations
  5. Pleasant and sweet from the podium that was prepared for this case; and the hearts were filled with holy sentiment when the cornerstone was laid under foundations of our Beis Midrash at the southeastern wall;
  6. At a good and fortuitous time, they silently prayed to be able to conclude the construction of this synagogue quickly and to decorate it with splendor and beauty to the glory of G-d who resides in this house and to glorification of our community; and G-d called them
  7. for the good; and their full recompense from G-d Lord of Israel will be - to be blessed at the source of blessings every man in all good wishes of his heart AMEN
  8. And so that these righteous people among us will not be forgotten until the final generation and that they may be remembered positively – we inscribed these matters in a scroll so that
  9. these lines will be a testimony that their memory will not be forgotten from our progeny; and in the tenth day of Adar II of this year [March 19, 1910] we brought this book and read from it,
  10. signed it and inserted it into a glass container and put it into a cylinder for the future in the foundation of this Beis Midrash in the eastern wall under the place where holy ark will be in this house of G-d, so that the future generations will remember
  11. So it will exist for a long time until the coming of our Redeemer and the rebuilding of our splendorous Holy Temple, may it be speedily in our days, and may our righteous Messiah rule over us. AMEN
  12. Przemysl, the tenth day of Adar II , 5670 [March 19, 1910]

The building committee.


D. The large Kloiz[5] and small Kloizes. (mostly according to Mr. Chanan Trau).

  1. Hassidim of Belz and Blazowa and Bukowsko concentrated in the large kloiz that was built in the 19th century. At that time Hassidim of Sanz [Nowy Sacz – ed.] and Sieniawa also worshipped there.

  2. Hassidim of Sieniawa left the kloiz since they did not feel comfortable under the domination of the Hassidim of Belz. They established their own “klezl” (small kloiz) in the home of Nute [Natan] Teich on Serbanska Street. Among activists of Sieniawer “klezl” were Reb Chaim Knoller, author of “Pri Chaim” (Fruit of Life), “Dvar Yom Beyomo” (Matters of each Day by its Day) and other books; Reb Eliezer Goldklang; Re Sender Itzi Horowitz and his son; Reb Wolfish Poppers; The rabbi of Zamosc; Reb Saul Perlstein, the father of the Member of Knesset Shlomo Perlstein, and also Reb Nute Teich himself.

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  1. Of the other small kloizes, the following should be mentioned:
    1. Sasower [from Sasow – ed.] Klezl, with main activists: Reb Moshe Rebhun, the father of Abraham Rebhun, and the flour merchant Reb Mojzesz Klang.
    2. Boyaner [from Bojanow – ed.] Kloiz, where members of the Nussbaum and Rand families and Reb Abraham Ehrenfreund were prominent.
    3. Hushatiner [from Husiatyn – ed.] Kloizl, where Pinkas Bauer was prominent.
    4. Chortkower [from Czortkow – ed.] Kloizl, where the head of the rabbinical court of that time, Rabbi Wiederkehr and community council member Itzik Herzig worshipped after the First World War.

  2. Some of the Admorim who were connected to these aforementioned houses of worship visited Przemysl from time to time. Before the First War, the Admor from Sasow and the Admor from Bukowsko visited the city at least once every two years. The former would receive Hassidim in one of the houses on the Zydowska (Jewish) Street. During the winter, during his visits to Przemysl, his Hassidim would gather at his Klezl once a week two hours before dawn. The Rebbe would recite all of the chapters of Psalms for two hours while standing and the public would follow (each verse read responsively by him and repeated by the congregation, as was traditional). When The rabbi of Bukowsko came to visit he worshipped at the large kloiz where the people from both the near and farther away regions gathered in order to participate in the Sabbath services and filled the kloiz completely. It was necessary to install special bars on the windows since there was a danger that the crowd in the kloiz would break the windowpanes.

{Photo page 127: The new synagogue, now a warehouse.}

E. The new shul (by D.N.)

Many people called it “The Scheinbach Shul”. This was not justified, since Galician Jews used to name a house of worship after the person who has built it with his own money or who was a big scholar who regularly worshipped there, taught and advised the worshippers. Scheinbach had a great influence in building

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this shul and has done a lot for it. He was the leader of the group of Schechterists that left the “old shul” after losing in the Schechter-Strucki battle of cantors. He also turned the house of worship at the Schiffer-Lipper house (later Mieses) into shul that even had a full time cantor (Frachtenberg) for a number of years (until about 1903).

{Photo page 128: The stained glasses in the new (Scheinbach) Synagogue.}

Scheinbach's efforts to build a fine shul instead of House of Mieses house of worship started several years before the First World War. A plot on Slowackiego Street (not far from “the square near the gate” [Plac Na Bramie – ed.]) was found. Scheinbach had significant influence in the financial department of the City Hall and a decisive opinion in the cooperatives – Jewish banks – “the old bank”. One could get not only credit but also financial help from this bank. Scheinbach was even more daring: he asked his Polish partners from the city government or donations for this shul and received a number of allocations from the city budget. Scheinbach's opinion was that a simple building would not be appropriate here and promoted the idea to hire an architect with known good taste for this job. Pilecki, a Pole, a professional who had already built many fine homes in the city was selected. Despite this the synagogue built in the “tall” style, some even said it resembled a railway station, but when after the World War the stained glasses and beautiful paintings were finished, a magnificent synagogue was erected. Only the construction of synagogue's frame was completed prior to First World War. During the Polish period constructors profited from the deflation of the value of the currency, which decreased their debts and made it possible to design the interior in an ample fashion., From stained-glass windows to artistic painting

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on large areas of walls and ceiling. The task was given to the artist Professor Bienenstock, an artist and brother of Dr. Max Bienenstock from Tarnow who taught at a gymnasium in Przemysl. The job was done in fine fashion.

The “New Shul”, which worshipped in the Ashkenazic rite, was not destroyed during Nazis' rule, apparently because it was used as a stable for army horses. After the war it was turned into fabrics warehouse. Dr. Sohn undertook a legal action to oppose this but failed in his attempt to save “the shul”. They say that now the City Hall has a plan to use the building for educational purposes.

{Photo page 129: Cantor Rosenberg with the chorus of the temple.}

F. The Temple ( by H.K.)

The “Temple” had a special place among the town's houses of worship. It's official name was: “Agudat Tfila leYisrael” (“Israelitischer Bethaus Farain”) [Hebrew name: “Israel Prayer Association”]. It was established some time around 5646-5650 (1886-1890) by a group of enlightened Jews that wanted – without any leaning to reformed religion and without any desire to harm accepted traditions – to set up a modern house of worship according to new trends represented by official synagogues in Austrian and Western European communities. It was also intended to give Jewish army officers who mostly came from the West possibility to visit a house of worship according to their style. Following these guidelines the order and the prayers (that followed Ashkenazic rite) were usual and only the external appearance of the temple was somewhat different.

The beautiful square-shaped building, covered with red bricks, with wide stairs leading to entrance door was located in the Jewish quarter not far from the large synagogue. It faced the San River.

The main difference between the temple and the old synagogue was the lack of traditional “almemar” (that we called “blimer”) in the temple. No curtains were installed at women's section, the chazzan (that we called “cantor”) and his choir wore black robes and velvet hats, Ashkenazic pronunciation of the service was “decorated” according to Viennese style. Everything in the temple was aimed at keeping order, quiet and external splendor.

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Only after many years when Rabbi Gedalia Schmelkes was chosen as the rabbi of the city, did the Temple members try to make it possible for him to visit their house of worship. For this they put up a bima-shaped almemar for reading the Torah by tearing down the eastern wall and building it anew farther back – the undertaking that took a great deal of effort and expenses.

The temple was managed by the board with Leon Schwartzthal as a long-time chairman and religion teacher Jakob Baumgarten as a secretary. One of the gabbaim was Henryk Blatt. Among other members one should mention are the judge Schwartz, the lawyer Dr. Schwartz, the merchant Kalman Gottlieb (father of the lawyer Dr. Gottlieb and father-in-law of the lawyer Dr. Tauber). In fact most things were decided by a “shadow chairman” Jakob Reisner who without a doubt was a main activist of the institution. He collected the necessary sums money from his partners in propinacja [business][*4]: Kalman Freudenheim, Chaim Wolf and Saul Herzig.

The pillar of the temple was the beadle (shamash) Reb Eliyahu [Eliasz] Singer whose father-in-law Icchak Fogel served as the Torah reader and whose son was a long-time cantor. Mr. Rosenberg served as cantor between the two world wars. Pinkas Lauterbach used to serve as the prayer leader on the High Holydays (Shacharit and Neilah) and on festivals (prayer for dew and rain[6]). His traditional form of worship attracted a large crowd of worshippers. For a long time the known teacher in the city, Awigdor Marmelstein served as the shofar blower. Songs and melodies that were characteristic for the synagogues of Western Europe as well as compositions of Zultzer, Levandowski were used in fine fashion in the temple.

{Photo page 130: The East wall of the Temple}

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The Hakafot [Torah processions] on Simchat Torah stood out in the yearly cycle of events. It was organized on a grand scale, and many of the residents of the city participated.

The end of the temple was the same as that of most synagogues in the city. It was destroyed in 1939 at the start of the Second World War by the evil armies of Germany.

G. The shul in Zasanie (by D.N.)

For hundreds of years Zasanie was a suburb of the city, so the number of its Jewish residents was relatively small. Even though the Jewish population began to rise at the end of the 19th century it did not lead to establishment a central synagogue locally. The main difficulty was that houses were spread along roads. The two major roads, to Jaroslaw and Hungary, started out from the bridge and separated immediately without any interconnecting roads between them. The plan to build a shul for the residents of the suburb was hatched in 1894. Members of the board were Moses Warth [Wirth], Sender Sohn (father of the doctor), Michal Weiner, Jehoshua Schneider, Mosze Joel Fass, Pinkas Tenenbaum (the teller of the old bank) and Henryk Wiesel. Wiesel lived in the Rynek, that is on the other side of San, but not far from the bridge over the San.

{Photo page 131: “The Synagogue at Zasanie, now a bus garage”.}

With the monetary contributions of many Jews of Zasanie, construction of the synagogue started on a plot near the bridge across the San, not far from the junction of two major roads. Mr. Sender Sohn donated the plot for this purpose. The building was half-ready by the autumn of 1895, prior to the High Holydays. Temporary tables and benches were constructed from damaged boards.

Reb Mosze Joel Fass, a member of the board, led the main services. His manner of praying excited the crowd. But immediately after Yom Kippur one of the walls of the building became unstable, and it was necessary

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to rebuild that wall and to reinforce other parts of the building, which led to additional expenses and made it impossible to use the house of worship, even on a temporary basis. This also caused the board, especially the members that dealt with construction., serious concerns There were rumors that that errors were made in the plan of the building, and indeed one of the workers got killed, a tragedy that was naturally also considered to be a serious judicial crime. If found guilty several board members were liable to pay damages, if one of them were proven guilty. In this situation Mosze Joel Fass accepted the entire responsibility and was sentenced to 3 years in prison. It took a great deal of effort and difficulty to achieve his release after about one year of imprisonment. Of course, the cost of defending him was very high.

During the High Holydays of the following year (1896), the Jews of Zasanie refused to worship at any other shul except their own. Another collection was taken, and the construction was finally completed in the summer 1896. At this time the young Strucki who was brought to Przemysl by his supporters, had the opportunity to conduct services here on the High Holydays. After Shechter left the old shul because of the pressure of Strucki's supporters, the young Strucki moved from the shul in Zasanie to the old shul.

The small synagogue in Zasanie was fortunate not to have been destroyed during the time of the Nazis, and it is standing today, like the new synagogue (Scheinbach). However it no longer serves Jewish prayer needs.

H. Minyanim inside town borders (D.N.)

Aside from the central shul, the new shul and the one in Zasanie, the Beis Midrashes, the temple, the kloiz and the klezlech that were mentioned, there were also minyanim (prayer quorums) or “shulkhlech” (small, informal synagogues). Even at the big kloiz there were minyanim in special rooms for the Hassidim of Belz, Blazowa and Bukowsko. Moses Hirt's minyan (“at the square near the gate”) was unique because the services started at sunrise and lasted until the afternoon. There were several minyanim outside the town center: at the Blech and Bernstein families on Mickiewicza Street; at Teich and Rabbi Schmelkes on Slowackiego Street; Pfeffer's minyan in Basztowa Street; Fiszel [Fischel] Nagel's minyan in Targowica; the minyan at Wygoda that first was located in the house of Abisch Dampf, and later in the cottage of Dawid Goliger; and the merchants' minyan at Shapira School. Surely there were other minyanim in the town center and in the suburbs.

I. The Life and the People at the Large Kloiz (Hanan Trau).

The members of the kloiz would not tolerate it when their members did not behave properly and in an appropriate manner in their private life outside the kloiz. If one of them stepped out of bounds, it would arouse the ire up to the point when the leaders and the congregation would force the offender to leave the kloiz. They would even eject him in a dramatic fashion. A large group of youngsters carrying candlesticks would approach the offender and shout: “Out! Out!” (arois), and the accused Jew would have no choice but to get out and leave the kloiz for good.

The following were among the prominent members of the Kloiz:

Samson Ratz, a small-scale building contractor in the city, a Belz Hassid who used to supervise the kloiz members and aggressively enforced the punctilious observance of the commandments.

Mosze Broder, a forceful Jew who took it on himself to look after righteousness of the Jews and their leaders. He acted with a high hand that scared many people. In the end of the 19th century he decided to make aliya to the Land of Israel, but he returned some two years later. Obviously he could not find a place for himself in the Land of Israel. He was almost a different person when he returned, all his aggressiveness was gone.

Reb Sender Itzi Horowitz from Lithuania, a pious Jew, excellent scholar. (After a while he began worshipping at Sienawer klezl).

Reb Wolfisch Poppers, the husband of the only sister of the Gans family, a pious Jew and a scholar.

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Hershele Ester Jente's, a Belz Hassid worshipped in the special Belz style and melody. He was a Hassid in the full sense of the word. He always was in a good humor, satisfied with his lot, and loved his fellowman. He used to say he was no less wealthy than Rothschild because when he opened his wallet he saw a guilder and when Rothschild opened his own wallet he also see only one guilder. But what is the difference – Rothschild knew under this one there were also other guilders, “but me, Hershele, I do not search”. He lived in Zasanie. On the Sabbath eve, he used to celebrate at home with other Hassidim, a beer mug in hand. They would drink and sing until midnight. on Saturday morning Hershele would show up at the kloiz to pray. He often served as the prayer leader, and chanted the Shacharit service with great fervor.

Reb Dawid Neumann, a quiet and righteous man used to worship in his own way pronouncing the prayers word by word, and every word was as a pearl in his mouth. He died at age 40.

Reb Schalom Blaser, a descendant of Belz Admorim. His group of Hassidim was rather small, and he lived a modest life. Many Belz Hassidim and women visited him since his was considered to be a tzaddik.

Reb Wolf Sofer, an enthusiastic, faithful Jew, a scribe, who had two important functions at the kloiz: on the High Holy Days he led the Psukei Dezimra (during the Shacharit service) and blew the shofar.

A man nicknamed “the small cantor” served as a cantor at the kloiz for decades.

Reb Michle Malach was a communal kashrut inspector at the slaughterhouse. He lived on Serbanska Street. He was very modest, his eyes always turned down, never staring into person's face. He considered to be a holy person.

{Photo page 133: “The synagogue on Mnisza Street, the only synagogue still in use by the Holocaust survivors.”}

His home was wonderfully calm, no one raised a voice. During the Hakafot (Torah circuits) on Simchat Torah, the image of Michle Malach stood out among those dancing. Erect, with his eyes almost shut he danced non-stop. His dance expressed boundless faith and devotion. The following story shows his modesty: one Saturday night, when he returned from his work

[Page 134]

at the slaughterhouse at midnight, he found the gate locked. He rang and the housekeeper came out. He did not enter (afraid of finding himself alone with her). She closed the gate and he rang for the second time. The housekeeper appeared again, but again he did not come in, so she locked the gate again. When he rang for the third time the housekeeper went to his wife and declared: “Your husband has gone crazy”.

As far as the author of these lines remembers at his time (the beginning of the 20th century) there were three outstanding young scholars at the kloiz: a) Jakob Bauman, a son of the small merchant Pinkas Bauman; b) Meni (Mendel) Eiles, Abraham Trau's brother-in-law; c) Chanania Lipa Meisels, Rabbi Mosze Meisels's grandson.

J. Cantor Izrael Fellig (H.T.)

Reb Izrael was the son-in-law of the known building contractor Jasha [Jozef] Teich who build most of the houses in Slowackiego Street in Przemysl. Srul (Izrael) Fellig stayed at home and studied the Torah as long as his wealthy father-in-law provided for the family. When Jasha Teich came upon hard times, Srul Fellig had to search for sources of income. He started travelling from town to town as insurance agent. At that time his talent for conducting services and his beautiful lyrical voice came to the fore, so he also to appear as cantor from time to time. He did it at different places, including Scheinbach's synagogue which generally had no regular cantor at the time. The author of these lines remembers Srul Fellig's prayers at the first day of the Slichot, at four in the morning at the completely filled up kloiz. By his prayer he shook listeners to the core of their souls.

Translator's notes
  1. The Ashkenazic rite of worship is the general European mode, as opposed to the Sephardic rite which is Spanish, Middle Eastern and North African. Nusach Sephard (Sephardic style) is a mode of worship that blends the two, that originated in Eastern Europe with the founding of the Hassidic movement. The prayer style was based on the 'Nusach Ari' of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of the Land of Israel, which explains how the Sephardic style entered into Ashkenazic usage. I term this style Nusach Sephard as opposed to the true Sephardic mode. Nusach Sephard has an additional four words in the Kaddish 'veyatzmach purkanei veyekareiv meshichei', which is not included in the Ashkenazic style. Obviously the Ashkenazic minyan was very particular about not mixing the two styles of worship. Back

  2. Plusz, pulish or polisch is hallway, vestibule in the synagogue, in Yiddish. Back

  3. Pillory in Polish; “a pole with metal hoop that is used to hold person's neck; a tool of torture”. Back

  4. The two major sermons a year are delivered on Shabbat Hagadol (the Sabbath preceding Passover), and Shabbat Shuva (the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Back

  5. A Kloiz is a small, informal, Hassidic house of worship. Back

  6. The prayer for dew is recited at Musaf on the First day of Passover, and the prayer for rain is recited at Musaf on Shmini Atzeret. Back

Editor's footnotes
(Denoted in text as [*1], etc.)
*1.The name Moshe Schmukler in some Polish sources is given as Mojzesz Szmukler or Moszko Szmuklerz [pron. “Moshko Shmuklezh”]; the Slicha was published by S. Lazar in Haasif yearly, vol. IV. Back
*2.The name of the author - Shabatai ben Yitzchak can be guessed from the acrostic in last verses of the Slicha; however, prof. Mojzesz Schorr gives another name – Mojzesz Gramatyk, as the author. And gives the source: Kaufmanns article in Haasif yearly, vol. V. Although, it could be the same person. Back
*3.Hebrew plural made from Polish “propinator” - owner of a licence to produce and sell liquor, liquor merchant. Back
*4.“propinacja” – licence to produce and sell liquor” Back


[Page 135]

Rabbi Gedalia (Gedalche) Schmelkes

by Chanan Trau and Dov Nitzani (Knopf)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 135: Rabbi Gedaliah Schmelkes}

On the threshold of the new era in Jewish life in Galicia, with the strengthening of their legal status, and with the rise of the Jewish national movement in that land, the Jewish population in Przemysl was fortunate to have a spiritual leader and guide in all areas of religion and morality – Rabbi Gedalia Schmelkes.

Rabbi Gedalia stemmed from a famous line of rabbis. He was born in the year 5617 (1857) to his father Rabbi Mordechai, the son of Rabbi Chaim Shmuel Schmelka and the brother of the author of the “Beit Yitzchak”, Rabbi Icchak Schmelkes, who occupied the rabbinic seat of Przemysl for 24 years, and later was a rabbi in Lvov. Rabbi Gedalia received an expert traditional education, as was the custom, and joined the students of his uncle Rabbi Icchak. He excelled in his quick grasp and memory, in the spirit of “a pitched pit that does not lose a drop”[1]. He inherited the wonderful combination of Torah study and worldly pursuits in his father's home, for his father earned a livelihood in a secular fashion. Reb Mordechai, whose appearance was that of an Orthodox Jew, was also modern, and he did not hesitate to be among the first to join the Zionist supporters in Przemysl. The son Gedalia was of course influenced by this home and communal environment. Signs of genius already became apparent in his personality from his youth. His friends from his youth included, among others, Reb Leibish Mendel Landau, who later became the communal activist, Zionist preacher, and Rabbi of Botosani in Romania, Reb Samuel Knoller, Aharon Landau, and Mordechai Shpitz.

His uncle, Rabbi Icchak Schmelkes, knew how to appropriately appreciate the expertise and diligence of Gedalia. After he concluded his order of studies, he ordained him as a rabbi. However, the youth did not want to make the Torah his source of livelihood, and he thought he would choose business as his source of livelihood, as did his father in his time. When he was 18 years old, he married Estera Silber, the daughter of Reb Berisz Silber of Tarnow, and he moved to that town, where he was supported at the table of his father-in-law for several years as was customary in those days. During that time, he studies in the Kloiz of the Hassidm of Sanz (Nowy Sacz) in Tarnow.

At the end of the period of support (known as “kest” in Yiddish), Rabbi Gedalia returned to Przemysl. He entered the circle of business life and suffered a serious failure. Therefore, he was forced to return to his primary calling. However, according to the new law in Galicia

[Page 136]

the rabbi of big cities had to pass government matriculation exams. Rabbi Gedalia did not hesitate for long. He prepared appropriately, overcame the difficulties of secular studies, and passed the exams with flying colors. His path to a rabbinic seat in one of the big cities of the country was open before him.

During those days, in the year 5653 (1893), his uncle Rabbi Icchak was chosen as the rabbi of Lvov, so the rabbinate of Przemysl became available. Rabbi Gedalia submitted his candidacy, but Rabbi Nathan Lewin, the son-in-law and student of Rabbi Icchak Schmelkes was competing with him. However, the large group of Hassidim and other Orthodox people in the city for the most part opposed both candidates on account of their secular knowledge, which was a stumbling block for them.

Rabbi Gedalia was indeed appointed to the rabbinate, but not as head of the rabbinical court, which troubled him. After a few years (5658 – 1898) he succeeded in being selected as the head of the rabbinical court in Kolomyja. This gave him great satisfaction. He moved to Kolomyja, but the anger of the various factions and disputes that prevailed among the Jewish population of that town at that time caught up with him. Some of the Hassidim of the city accused the rabbi of showing favoritism toward various groups of Hassidim; the Zionists were surprised that the rabbi, when he participated in the celebration of the unveiling of the statue of the great Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz in Lvov, allowed a national Polish band to be affixed to his collar during the celebration; and the Jewish Socialists castigated him for standing, so to speak, to the right hand of their political enemies among the Jews of the city, even though there was no legitimacy at all to these accusations[2]. Of course, all of this did not contribute to the personal satisfaction of Rabbi Gedalia as the rabbi of Kolomyja. Therefore, the rabbi dreamed of returning to his city, and his friends in Przemysl pushed him in this direction.

In the meantime, a completely unfavorable situation had been created in Przemysl. The story was as follows: After Rabbi Gedaliah left Przemysl for Kolomyja, groups of Hassidim and other Orthodox people attempted to take advantage of the situation by bringing Rabbi Moshe Meisels from Mosciska, and declaring him as the rabbi without receiving the agreement of the community council for this. He was the son of Rabbi Josef Chanania Lipa Meisels, who had previously been the rabbi of Przemysl. Rabbi Moshe Meisels did not request and did not receive a salary from the communal coffers. His supporters took their cases only to him, and not before the rabbinical court of the community whose members included the judges Rabbi Nathan Hebenstreit known as the Rabbi of Zamosc, Rabbi Moshe Yaakov Feldstein and Rabbi Leib Meisels, the brother of Rabbi Moshe.

It was clear to everyone that this situation could not continue. Within a short time, the faithful friends of Rabbi Gedalia – with the help of city notables from among both the Orthodox and enlightened circles – turned to him with the invitation to accept the rabbinical seat in the community of Przemysl. He was selected as the rabbi and the head of the rabbinical court in the year 5664 (1904), and was received with great honor and splendor that befitted him when he returned from Kolomyja.

After a short period, Rabbi Moshe Meisels overcame his internal opposition and, following an official visit with his supporters to the newly selected rabbi, joined the rabbinical court of the community.

The tenure of Rabbi Gedalia's service opened up a new chapter in the annals of the community, for he served as its spiritual and moral leader during the difficult days that were to come.

A.

The moral level of the rabbi was very high. In complete opposition to what was customary among the rabbinical circles, the rabbi refused to benefit from gifts from the participants of various family events. He saw this as degrading to the honor of his stature as a rabbi.

The stance of the rabbi in the founding convention of Agudas Yisroel in Katowice in 1912 was characteristic. He was among the supporters of the proposal to abandon the “rachash” (acronym for rabbi, chazzan / cantor, shamash / beadle) to such a degree that the rabbi would be paid directly

[Page 137]

by the celebrant of the festive occasion. In his opinion, the entire fee should come from the communal coffers and not from individual members of the community.[3]

His scholarly genius was famous among Jewry. Those in the know knew that Rabbi Gedalia had attained the level of a great scholar, even though he had devoted several years of his life to business.

In consonance with his communal and political outlook, from the outset and without reservation, the rabbi avoided strengthening the position of the communal strongmen who served the interests of Polish politics in all their deeds and at all times, including during elections. In contrast to other rabbis, he distanced himself from this type of activity and knew how to maintain his independent opinion, without being swayed by communal affairs and questions of the state and the nation.

Despite his official position, the Rabbi Schmelkes did not hesitate to join the national Zionist camp already during the first days of the movement and the Zionist organization of Galicia. With the founding of Mizrachi, he took part in the activities of the organization and in setting the spiritual goals of this new stream of Zionism. His faithfulness to the entire Zionist organization prevented the danger of the secession of the Mizrachi from it, a danger that hovered over the national camp in the last years before the First World War. The rabbi participated in the 9th Zionist Congress in Hamburg in 1909 and the 10th in Basel in 1911. In his speech which he delivered at the latter conference in fluent Hebrew and German, he stressed in particular the role of religious faith in Zionist thought and practice.

Despite all his dedication to the Zionist idea, Rabbi Gedalia stood above all internal disputes and knew how to preserve the unity within the Zionist ranks.

His rare personal qualities, dedication and uprightness of his heart earned him authority within his community. The enlightened people attempted to bring the rabbi close to their Temple, and therefore agreed to his demands and built the traditional “almemar” podium. To accomplish this, they had to expand and renovate the building, which cost a great deal of money.

B.

The first years of Rabbi Schmelkes' tenure in Przemysl fell during the time of vibrant national awakening, political and social, unique in its kinds throughout the entire expanse of the Austrian Empire. This spirit seemingly influenced the way affairs were conducted in Galicia as well, in which the political interests of the Austrian government clashed with the national desire of the nations of the empire – the Poles and Ukrainians – who fomented trouble among themselves.

In this political whirlwind, Rabbi Gedalia demonstrated the greatness of his spirit and strength of heart. When the Zionists of Galicia first registered their own candidate for the elections to the Austrian parliament in 1906 – the well-known Adolf Stand – as a representative for the region of Brody-Zloczow, the rabbi did not hesitate to become involved personally and actively in this national-political struggle. Of course there is reason to assume that the rabbi well understood the dangers of becoming himself involved in public activity against the assimilationist who was supported by the national government. However, a man such as Rabbi Gedalia Schmelkes did not pay attention to this.

This was not enough, and the continuation of events was even more serious. When general elections to the Austrian parliament took place in 1907 in accordance with the general right of suffrage, Rabbi Schmelkes was offered the Zionist candidacy in the region of Buczacz-Tlumacz. However he forewent his right in favor of Dr. Natan Birnbaum, who held out hope for himself for a position in parliament. In return for this, the rabbi agreed to be a candidate in the Mielec-Tarnobrzeg region, even though there was no chance of his being elected there, since his opponent was the official candidate Professor Dr. Michal Bobrzynski, who a short time later was appointed as the representative of the Kaiser in Galicia (stadthalter) and on whose behalf the government was prepared to pay any price to have him elected. With the agreement of his family members, the rabbi did not pass up this candidacy, even though there were clear hints that this was liable to endanger his position as rabbi.

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In Przemysl, a committee for supporting the election campaign of the rabbi in that region was formed. The members of the committee, including students from the Herzl Organization, organized the activities from afar. The appearance of the rabbi in Mielec and in other towns of the electoral region gave rise to strong and unforgettable enthusiasm. Obviously, not he, but the official Polish candidate was elected due to the terrorism and fraud that were common in those days during elections in Galicia. However the willingness of the rabbi to place himself in a political contest against a Polish official of such a level, a contest that was seen as important from the national Jewish viewpoint in the country, was seen as an act of national bravery and a personal sacrifice of great value.

C.

Przemysl suffered greatly during the time of the First World War, since it was placed under siege as an important fortified city. With the approach of the Russian army to the gates of the city, most of the population, including Jews, left. Once again, the dedication of Rabbi Gedalia to his flock became apparent. He refused to leave the members of his community, and remained with them in the besieged city despite the great personal and communal suffering that was associated with this decision, and was expressed in its fullness primarily after the Russians took over the city. Often, the new authorities held the rabbi directly responsible for the behavior of the Jews. He was sometimes forced to appear before the Russian command in the middle of the night in order to defend the members of his community. To his great sorrow and despite his valiant efforts, he did not succeed in preventing the expulsion of the Jews of Przemysl. He supervised their orderly exit, remained among his people, and left the city on the Sabbath along with the last of them.

The rabbi's two sons were deported to Siberia. His younger son Moshe died of typhus there. The suffering of the rabbi during this period weakened the state of his health for the rest of his life. When the cities of Lvov and Przemysl were liberated, the rabbi and his family returned to his city that was bereft of its inhabitants. From there he went to Vienna for recuperation. Many of the Jewish residents of Galicia had fled to there. The residents of the capital suffered from a food shortage, and the refugees, including the rabbi and his family, probably also suffered from this. The rabbi often participated in meetings of the Zionist committee in Vienna. The rabbi returned to Przemysl in 1917.

At the end of the war, Rabbi Gedalia was appointed as a member of the popular Jewish council (folksrat), which consisted of 19 members and was founded by a committee of nationalist Jewish captains. This council replaced the communal council that was disbanded by that new committee, and acted as a decision making body in all former communal affairs, over and above and above the new tasks that were required in light of the struggle between the Poles and Ukrainians.

In those days, the Jewish shopkeepers and merchants in Przemysl were accused of raising the prices of food and other necessities, which caused accusations against the Jews in general. Therefore, it was advised that those raising the prices should be excommunicated. At first, the rabbi opposed this harsh advice for pure religious reasons; however he was forced to agree to it in light of the unstable political situation.

It was a dramatic and tragic moment when the rabbi, accompanied by Reb Samuel Knoller, ascended the pulpit of the synagogue that was filled to the brim, and in an unforgettable ceremony, proclaimed the ban of excommunication, accompanied by the blowing of shofars. For him, this was a great personal effort.

Rabbi Gedalia wished to fulfill the desire of his soul and make aliya to the land a few years before his death, despite his old age, his weak health, and his lack of resources, so that he could fulfill a purpose there, not necessarily rabbinic. However, his efforts to this effect resulted in naught. The rabbi remained on his guard of Przemysl and suffered greatly from the Jew hatred that spread throughout the country.

His interest in Zionist activity and Zionist leaders before the war is known. For example, in 1910, he went to the large lecture hall in the city in order to listen to the words of Adolf Stand. He sat in the upper gallery, opposite the speaker. This was an unusual step for a traditional rabbi, and also demonstrated

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his strength of spirit. When David Wolfson, the president of the Zionist organization after Herzl's death, passed through Przemysl, Rabbi Gedalia Schmelkes was among those who greeted him at the train station.

The rabbi passed away on the 28th of Tevet 5688 (January 21, 1929) and was brought to rest in the cemetery of Przemysl. The head of the community, the well-known Dr. Leib Landau, eulogized him with a major eulogy.

{Photo page 139: The funeral of Rabbi Gedaliah Schmelkes.}

D.

The legacy of the rabbi was expressed through the establishment of many important students, and especially through his compositions on Torah literature[4]. These included glosses on the Mishnaic orders of Zeraim and Taharot, notes on the traditions of the Talmud, response, statements on morality, research into the Twelve Minor Prophets, and works of didactics[5].

Despite his wide branched scholarly and rabbinical work, the rabbi found free time to concern himself with social assistance for the members of his community, as well as to arrange examinations in Jewish history for the students who wished to be accepted into Agudat Herzl.

It is worthwhile to note that the generous traits of the rabbi were expressed especially in his purity of character. We know that he placed himself, without being asked, at the disposal of people in their time of need, including people who were known as his adversaries. He was always prepared to make sacrifices when he saw the need to fulfill a moral obligation.


[Page 140]

Religions Functionaries of the Community
During the Last Half Century of Austrian Rule

by D. N.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

  1. The Rabbinic court. After the selection of Rabbi Gedaliah Schmelkes as the rabbinical leader (without appointing him as the head of the religious court) in 1894, the members of the rabbinical court were: Rabbi Nathan Hebenstreit, Rabbi Leib Meisels, and perhaps Rabbi Moshe Jakob Feldstein, who was in any case a member of the court until the return of Rabbi Gedalia from Kolomyja to Przemysl in 1904. Then, Rabbi Moshe Meisels, the elder brother of Rabbi Leib Meisels, also joined the rabbinical court as a rabbinical decisor, and became the deputy head of the rabbinical court. Details on the development of matters with respect to Rabbi Moshe Meisels can be found in the article on Rabbi Gedalia Schmelkes.

    Additional details about members of the rabbinical court:

    1. Rabbi Nathan Hebenstreit was known as the Rabbi from Zamosc, since in his time he was a rabbi in that city in Congress Poland. He was forced by the Russian authorities to leave his post since he was an Austrian citizen. He was known as being lenient about questions of housewives regarding issues of kashruth in the kitchen, and therefore, they approached only him with such questions. Those who knew the matters would say that he was one of the unique people in his generation in this realm. His grandson, Rabbi Babad, a judge in the rabbinical court during the new Polish era, followed in his footsteps.

    2. Rabbi Leib Meisels was the son of Rabbi Josef Chanania Lipa Meisels, the famous rabbi of Przemysl, the predecessor of the Beit Yitzchak.

    3. Rabbi Moshe Yaakov Feldstein enjoyed general esteem in the city thanks to his scholarship and sharpness as well as his modesty. His former student, Professor Dr. Manes Kartagener, describes him in the following words: “Despite his sharpness, his method of study was remote from didactics, and he was very particular about sticking to the text. His clarity of thought was exemplary, and it was impossible to lead him to paths of nothingness.” His son-in-law was Rabbi Shimon, the shamash (beadle) of the synagogue, who was greatly revered in the city.

  2. The shochtim (ritual slaughterers) and kashruth supervisors. From among them, the elders of our city remember the following.

    1. Reb Shalom the Shochet. Not much is known about him.

    2. Reb Chaim Ezra Blum. He was a very honorable man. When he reached the age of 70, the following took his place.

    3. His son-in-law Reb Ascher Kawe, the father of 12 children, all of whom perished in the Holocaust except his son Aharon, who is a teacher in Israel.

    4. And his son Reb Jonas Blum, who taught Mishnah for many years between Mincha and Maariv in the minyan of the shul in the courtyard, who was known as an artist who drew drawings for the needs of the houses of worship (especially the tablets on the eastern wall). He perished along with his wife during the Holocaust era. His two daughters, son and granddaughter made aliya to Israel.

    5. Reb Mechel Hister, a very intelligent man. His son Shlomo was a member of the rabbinical court during the new Polish era, and ran a small Yeshiva.

    6. Reb Nisan Mann, a serious scholar and beloved prayer leader in the kloiz during his time. He was the father of the renowned scribes Jakob and Izaak Mann, who studied most of their Torah from their father. He was forced to leave the kloiz because of them. After he left the kloiz, he lead the Shacharit service on the High Holy Days in the old shul and served as the Torah reader.

    7. Reb Michal Friedman, the kashruth supervisor in the slaughterhouse (see Michal Malach in the article on Houses of Worship).

  3. From among the shamashim (beadles) we should note: Aside from the aforementioned Reb Shimon of the shul – also Reb Wolf of the kloiz, Reb Avraham Itzi of the large Beis Midrash, Reb Eli Singer of the Temple, and Reb Jozef Ascher of the Hirt Minyan.


[Page 141]

Well Known Admorim Connected to Przemysl

by D. N.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

  1. The first of the Admorim connected to the city was Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, known as “the Berdichever”, who was born in the year 5500 (1740) in the town of Husakow near Przemysl. He was the son of the local rabbi, Rabbi Meir, and was educated there. After he got married, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak served as rabbi in the cities of Reczpol, Zelichow and Pinsk. Then he arrived in Berdyczow, and became famous for all generations on account of his unique character. The Rebbe was considered to be one of the greatest Admorim of the first generation. He died in the year 5671 (1811)[6].

  2. The famous rabbi and Admor Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, who was known by the name of his books as “Yismach Moshe” was born in Przemysl in the year 5519 (1759). He studied Torah from his mother's brother, Rabbi Avraham Aryeh, the head of the rabbinical court of Strzyzow (the author of the book “Drishat HaAri”). Rabbi Moshe was one of the students of the Chozeh of Lublin. According to local tradition, Rabbi Moshe was also a rabbinical judge in Przemysl and later occupied the rabbinical seat of the town of Sieniawa. He then moved to the city of Uhel in Hungary, where he acted as a rabbi and Admor. He died in Tammuz, 5601 (1841). Aside from “Yismach Moshe”, his famous publications were the books “Tefilla Lemoshe”, “Maayan Tahor”, and novellae on Yoreh Deah. Rabbi Moshe was the father of two dynasties of Admorim in Maramures, Hungary – Sziget and Szatmar.

  3. Among the students of the Chozeh of Lublin was also Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech the son of Pesach Schapira, who came from the town of Rybotycze (between Dobromil and Bircza in the vicinity of Przemysl). He settled as the Admor of Dynow on the San River, a town that is located approximately in the center of the Przemysl-Rzeszow-Sanok triangle. During his time, he was one of the greatest Admorim of central Galicia. He authored many books, including “Bnei Yissachar” (he himself was called by the masses according to that name), “Reiach Dudadim”, “Vehaya Beracha”, “Beracha Meshuleshet”, “Derech Pikudaich”, “Igra DePirkei”, “Igra DeKala”, “Magid Taaluma”, and “Kli HaRoim” on the Book of Obadiah. Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech died in the year 5601 (1841) at the age of 52 ½. The scribe Reb Yonah Rosenfeld, “The Shochet of Sosnice”, the student of Nachman Krochmal, received in his time his permit for shechita from the Bnei Yissachar. His eldest son Reb David, the author of the book “Tzemach David” took his place in Dynow after his death. He participated in the dedication of the kloiz in Przemysl, in which his Hassidim had great influence. After the death of Rabbi David, the dynasty was divided up. Some of the divisions remained in the Przemysl-Rzeszow-Sanok triangle – the Hassidim of Blazowa and Bukowsko.

  4. The father of the famous Admor, especially in Galicia and Hungary, Rabbi Chaim Halberstam. He served for a number of years a judge in the rabbinical court of Przemysl during the time that Rabbi Shmuel Heller was the head of the rabbinical court. During that period, Rabbi Chaim Halberstam studied for a number of years in the Yeshiva of the aforementioned rabbi. (See the article on the rabbis of Przemysl.) He later became known as a rabbinical decisor of great importance. Rabbi Chaim used to disburse money among the needy. He also lived a modest life. He is also known for his sharp battle with the grandchildren of Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin that began in the middle of the 1860s.

  5. During the First World War, Rabbi Pinchas Tabarski, a scion of a Ukrainian family of Admorim that originated from the town of Ustilug in Volhynia, settled in Przemysl. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yissachar Dov of Belz. He was a great scholar with general character traits, and he was greatly appreciated in Przemysl.

    [Page 142]

    The Hassidim of Belz regarded him as the representative of their Rebbe. His five sons were great scholars, just like their father. Rabbi Pinchas died a martyr's death outside of Przemysl (apparently in Sambor) during the Holocaust.


  6. In the year 5692 (1932), the Admor of Sadagora Rabbi Mordechai Shalom Jozef Friedman (a descendent of Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin) settled in Przemysl. Due to the great solidarity of the Hassidim of Rizhin, he established his “table” in an important city for the benefit of all the Hassidim that lived in the city and its environs. Nevertheless, the Admor left Przemysl a year or two before the outbreak of the Second World War for Israel, where he lives today.

    {Photo page 142, top: The Rabbi of Sadagora.}

    {Photo page 142, bottom: The Rabbi of Blazowa.}

  7. During and after the First World War, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech, the son of Rabbi David and the grandson of the Bnei Yissachar, lived in Przemysl for a few years. He was known as the Blazower, since he was the head of the rabbinical court of Blazowa. He was known as a great scholar and pleasant prayer leader. He died in Rzeszow during the period between the two world wars. His many students in Przemysl would come to hear his prayers on the High Holy Days. Several members of the intelligentsia, who did not observe tradition at all, were among those who came to his house. The lawyer Dr. Leib Landau, who also came from Dynow, was among those who visited his home in Przemysl.

  8. The residency of the aforementioned important Admorim in Przemysl did not have a decisive influence upon the relations between the Hassidic factions in the city. The Blazowa faction became stronger than originally. However, on the other hand, despite the hegemony of the large factions, in Przemysl their remained room for the action of a modest and populist Admor during the days prior to the First World War. This was the Admor who was called by the people “The Grebzer

    [Page 143]

    Rabbi”. His modesty and discreteness were well known. A wealthy Polish Christian, Emil Piskorz, saw it as his duty to provide a dwelling for him in on of his houses without rent. He was a faithful Catholic, and his generosity should be remembered positively. This took place before the First World War.


  9. The popular Rebbe of Grebza was, so to speak, the first of this new type of Admor in the city during the new Polish era, that is after the First World War. We will list them according to the details given by Mr. Shlomo Tuchman, as follows:

    – Originally from Belz: Rabbi Baruch Rokach, whose Beis Midrash was on Basztowa Street; Rabbi Moshe Rokach who was known as “Der Wladyczer Rebbe”; Reb Chanoch Landman, whose Beis Midrash was in Zasanie.

    – Originally from Sieniawa: Rabbi Shmuel Simcha Lazar and Rabbi Shmuel Gewirzman.

    – Originally from Komarno: Rabbi Zeida Safrin, who was known in the city as the Rebbe from Komarno.

    – Descended from Rabbi Uri (Rabbi Urle) of Sambor: Rabbi Eliahu Jolles, the grandson of Rabbi Urle of Sambor and son-in-law of Rabbi Shalom Jolles of Stryj.

    During the 1930s, there was almost a minyan of Admorim in the city. We should note that even then, the Blazowa group was the largest in the city. They sent two delegates to the communal council. According to the law of Polish communities, the right of voting was given to all Jews over 25 years of age, and was no longer connected to the payment of communal taxes.

{Photo page 143: The chair of the Rabbi of Blazowa. The Admor of Blazowa was greatly revered and appreciated by his Hassidim. One of his Hassidim, Reb Dov Berish Schwarz, did a wonderful deed in donating a splendid chair to his Rebbe, covered in silver, plated in gold, and decorated with three crowns. In its time, this deed left a great echo in the Orthodox community of the city and outside.}


[Page 144]

Personalities from the Large Kloiz in Przemysl

  1. Rabbi Michaeli [Mechel] Malach

    When I got to know him during my childhood I did not understand why they called him Malach[7]. (I believe his surname was Friedmann …) An angel without wings, in flesh and blood, walking on earth like each of us – this was beyond the comprehension of a child such as I. Only after growing up did I understand that he was crowned with this name because he was “holy” and pure in his character just like heavenly angels. His soul was noble and refined. He was tall and thin, with a pale face, his dreamy and thoughtful eyes showed that he was immersed in a pure and sublime world, and his only connection to our reality was that he earned his living as kashruth inspector at the slaughterhouse. This was a profession that was on the border between holy and worldly. The man was quiet, and spoke very little about secular matters. His seat at the kloiz was not at the eastern wall among the wealthy and respected people of the town, but next to the northern wall, under the wall clock. But somehow flow of time and changes did not affect him since he seemed to exist outside the bounds of time and place... The clock above his head did not symbolize his life at all.

    The main burden of supporting the family rested upon his wife – like on most Jewish women. She sold fabrics to peasants from one of the stalls on the street, among the rows of tables selling such merchandise. (She did not have a store.)


  2. Rabbi Hershele Esther Jente's[8]

    Rabbi Hershele was poor but always satisfied with his lot – “a lustiger dales”[9]. He was similar to Hershele Osterpoler and Efraim Greidiger of Galicia. Like them, he was known for his joyful optimism and sharp-witted sayings replete with great intelligence and sense of humor.

    One of these remains in my memory till this day:

    Rabbi Hershele Esther Jente's used to say: “ I do not envy the rich, since what is it that they have and I do not? Say silver and gold vessels – and what benefit do they get out of such vessels? They can only look at them, and if I want – I also can go to their homes and also look. But what, they have a right to mortgage these and I do not have this right, correct! But if they come to such a situation where they are forced to mortgage them – then I have no reason to envy them!”

    Thus did Reb Hershele used to mock at wealth and property of the wealthy.

    Rabbi Hershele was friendly and good-hearted. He subsists from one Sabbath to the next on just one measure of carobs[10], and obtained his livelihood from discrete donations of generous people and support from his only son.


  3. Reb Wolf, the Scribe

    I knew Reb Wolf the scribe well as his son Anshel went to cheder with me and was my friend. I often visited his parents' house. Reb Wolf was the most popular of the scribes in our city at that time, since he performed his job not only with faith and for the sake of his livelihood, but as a holy task. I often helped him with the proofreading of the tefillin and mezuzah scripts. We would meet at Belz shtibel whose

    [Page 145]

    entrance was in the corridor leading to the Large Kloiz. There he spelled texts letter by letter and I checked the copy to make sure that, G-d forbid, no letter was omitted or added.

    Rabbi Wolf and his family lived far from the noise and the tumult of Jewish street. His apartment was in the Rynek, in a building with non-Jewish tenants. He lived in a dark room in the attic and had no neighbors. It was quiet, silent street. Apparently he needed the quiet and seclusion to concentrate on his work. This quiet was not disturbed by soldiers in the barracks that faced his window and not by bells from the nearby church. They said about him – if my memory serves me well – that before writing the Holy Name he immersed himself in a mikveh. I recall that Rev Wolf refrained from drinking water that had not been boiled for fear of swallowing living creatures living in the drops of water, for he considered this to be like eating a limb from a living animal[11]. His home had a feel of traditional nobleness and purity as Reb Wolf's wife also excelled in her piety and good-heartedness.


  4. Avrahamche Schor

    There many typical characters in our kloiz, reminding one of “Hamatmid” [“The Regular”] by Bialik, but few of them were real geniuses. During the period we are describing here Avrahamche[12] Schor was such a genius to whom turned for all matters. Avrahamche's father had died and his mother supported the family. He was tall, his pale face framed by his peyos and small beard. He was like a beacon of light for all those sailing in the sea of the Talmud and it commentators. Everyone who had difficulty understanding a complicated or unclear matter turned to him, and he would answer questions, solve problems, and shine light upon any matter requiring clarification.

    Usually there was a difference between Hasidism and scholarship. Those who delved deeply in Hasidism preferred to read the books on fear of Heaven of Admorim, sublime holy ones. Some among them turned the study of Gemara into a kind of prayer and Divine service. On the other hand, the scholars who knew how to navigate the sea of the Talmud and dealt less with Hasidism – and it was them that Avrahamche Schor belonged to.

{Photo page 145: Hassidic celebration at the cemetery, in Hebrew: “The Hassidim of the kloiz at a celebration at the cemetery.”}

Translator's notes
  1. This reference is from the Mishna of Pirkei Avot, and refers to a person who retains everything he learns, without losing anything. Back

  2. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: “Details about this can be found in the article by Moshe Roth on the rabbis of Kolomyja in the Book of Kolomyja, 1957.” Back

  3. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: “According to information that was given by Avraham Kahana in one of his articles about the rabbi.” Back

  4. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: “Avraham Kahana lists these compositions”. Back

  5. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: “A selection of these works were gathered in the Imrei Regesh anthology and were published by his widow, the Rebbetzin Esther, in the city of Piotrokow in the year 5691 (1931). Back

  6. In most histories, he is said to have died in 1810, the latter part of which would correspond to 5671. Back

  7. Malach means “angel” in Hebrew. Back

  8. Jewish men were often nicknamed after their mothers in order to identify them. Reb Hershele Esther Yente's means: Reb Hershele, the son of Esther Yente. Back

  9. In Yiddish, this means “A merry poor fellow”. Back

  10. A Talmudic reference to Rabbi Chanina, who was very poor and survived on meager amounts of food, yet the whole world is sustained for his sake. Back

  11. The Torah forbids the eating of animals while they are still alive. In general, microscopic animals are not considered to fall under this prohibition. Back

  12. This diminutive comes from Polish Abrahamcio pron. like Abrahamcho – ed. Back

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