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[Page 207]

Chapter Five


The Jewish Population – Constituents and Economy


The Population


During the period between 1918 and 1939 there were two censuses of the population, in 1921 and in 1931.

In 1921 the number of Jews in town was approximately 18,360, some 38% out of the total population of 51,038.

In 1931 the number of Jews in town had dropped to 17,326, which was 34% of the population.

According to the report made by the community board on June 15, 1939, the number of Jews that year reached 19,400. (It is likely that this count included Jewish residents of surrounding villages who belonged to the community).

In comparison to other large towns in Galicia:


1921 1931
No. Town No. of Jews % of
Population
No. of Jews % of
Population
1 Lvov 76,800 35.0 99,600 31.9
2 Krakow 45,200 24.6 56,500 25.8
3 Przemysl 18,360 38.3 17,300 34.0
4 Stanislawow 15,900 56.2 24,800 41.4
5 Tarnow 15,600 44.2 19,300 42.0
 

From the above table, it is evident that with respect to the Jewish population, Przemysl dropped from the third place [in 1921] to the fifth place [in 1931], among the Galician towns. The causes for this were: the worsening economic situation, immigration to other countries in Europe and to America, and the aliya to Eretz Yisrael, which had begun as early as 1920. In 1939 there was another increase in the Jewish population, due to the re-emigration and expulsion from Germany and Austria 1 .


The Social Composition

The Jewish population's social composition during 1918-1939 was stable, with minimal deviations.

Although we do not have official statistics regarding the occupations of the Jewish population in town, it can be closely approximated according to the data in the reports prepared by the Hebrew gimnazjum, which specified the professions of the students' parents. According to those data, the parents had the following professions:

Trade 52.2%
Crafts 10.8%
Industry 6.5%
Clerical 14.1%
Liberal professions and teachers 6.2%
Agriculture 2.5%
Homeowners 2.4%
Miscellaneous 1.3%
Unemployed 4.0%
Total 100  %

[Page 208]

Personalities of the City in Caricature


[caricature]
Dr. Leib Landau

[caricature]
S. Akser [sic], music teacher

[caricature]
Dr. E. Eisner

[caricature]
Dr. Herman Lieberman


[Page 209]

[caricature]
Arnold Gahlberg, author

[caricature]
Dr. S. Grabscheid

[caricature]
Dr. Michal Schwartz

[caricature]
Dr. A. Rosenzweig, registrar of births, advocate of Hebrew names

[caricature]
Mateusz Mieses

[caricature]
Dr. Isac [sic] Sohn

[Page 210]


A significant proportion of people with academic education among the Jewish population, left its stamp on the social and cultural state of Jewish Przemysl and determined its character.

There were some one hundred Jewish lawyers in the town. Among them were first-rate legalists, the foremost of whom was Dr. Leib Landau, who was famous throughout Poland. In addition to their professional work, many were engaged in public and cultural affairs.

There were approximately a hundred Jewish physicians in town. A number of them worked for free in the Jewish hospital clinics, which provided a high level of service.

The pharmaceutical profession: seven pharmacies, out of the nine, which existed in town, were owned by Jewish pharmacists. Dozens of teachers and educators, both in Jewish schools and in public schools in town and in the towns of Wielkopolska  2 , taught the youth. Some served as headmasters of high schools (Dr. Axer 3 in Czestochowa). Jewish engineers, both independent and publicly employed, designed and built modern Jewish houses throughout the town. Among the engineers we should mention Selo Schaffer 4 , who drew up plans for public institutions for free. Jewish Przemysl also supplied rabbis with academic degrees. The head rabbi of the Polish army was General Dr. Josef Mieses, the son of a prominent family in town. Dr. Haim Astel, a member of Hashomer movement, served as a rabbi in the town of Kromeriz in Czechoslovakia. Aguddath Herzl member, Michal Patron, chose to become a rabbi, and Dr. Shmuel Hirschfeld served as rabbi in Biala 5 .

The Jews were also represented in the senior government official positions: Dr. Gans and Mr. Honig 6 in the Ministry of the Treasury. Among the judges in town were four Jews: Lowenthal 7 , Hornik, Schwartz and Eisner.

Jewish Przemysl was also blessed with artists and writers. The painters M. Feuring 8 and Otto Axer were well known throughout Poland. The latter was the scenery painter in the great theatre in Lvov. Adolf Bienenstock, an art teacher in the gimnazjum, painted the stained glass window pictures in the new synagogue on Slowackiego St., with great talent. Another artist of note was the excellent caricaturist Arthur Oller (see pp. 208-209).

Arnold Gahlberg, Henryk Saltz, and Emil Henner were among the authors in town. The well-known Matityahu 9 Mieses, and the prolific journalist Abraham Kahane (an avrech 10 ) are mentioned in this book (see the chapter on personalities).

The art of music was also nurtured in Jewish Przemysl. Apart from “Yuval”, the society for music and drama, we should also mention the well-known personality in town, owner of the music school, Shaul Axer; the music teachers in the schools, the pianist Jakob Koritan, the fine violinist Klemens Silber, the piano teacher Ms. Teich, wife of public gimnazjum teacher and public figure Gabriel Teich, violinist Ms. Meltz 11 , nee Weissberg, wife of engineer Meltz, violinist Yosef Kronberg, a clerk at the city hall.

There were dozens of cultural, social and welfare organizations in town, including many activists and youth movements with hundreds of members. There are separate chapters dedicated to them in this book.

The town had a library called “Czytelnia Naukowa 12 , which housed 40,000 volumes in Polish and other languages. Once a week there were lectures on literary and scientific topics in the library. The last chairman of this institution was the Jewish public gimnazjum teacher, Brandler.

These few lines cannot suffice to describe the vibrant and fruitful life of Jewish Przemysl, which is forever silenced. We are unable to mention all the people who deserve mention. We have devoted a special chapter to the prominent ones among them.

[Page 211]

Economic Life During 1918-1939


When the Polish state was established in 1918, a drastic change occurred in the lives of Przemysl Jews. The town ceased being a military town, with all the implications of such a place. The military supply industry, which was mostly run by Jews, was greatly decreased in size, and the Jews were systematically dispossessed of it, over the course of time, by the new regime. There was less construction of military buildings, which meant a smaller need for the supply of construction materials and contractors, a Jewish profession in town.

The raging inflation impoverished all the old trade industries, with years of commerce behind them. The field of colonial goods, of which Przemysl was the center, gradually became less lucrative. From time to time new companies sprung up, attempting to exploit the inflation by speculation, but they quickly disappeared.

The stabilizing of the currency in 1925 did not have much affect on the economic situation of Przemysl Jews, as a result of the government policy whose purpose was to disenfranchise the Jews from the economic positions they occupied. The high taxes which were mercilessly levied on the Jewish population, prevented any possible economic rehabilitation after the inflation.

One of the most important areas occupied by the Jews of Przemysl was the manufacturing and trade of wood. This collapsed in 1930, as a result of the Russian “dumping.” The industry recovered slightly for a short period during the last years before World War II broke out. Among the wholesalers in this area were Engel-Hotrer Goliger and Gottfried.

Some rays of light in the town economy were the industrial factories which existed during this period. Among these were the “Polna” factory for agricultural machinery, sewing machines and bicycles, owned by the great Zionist activist, Mr. Haim Klagsbald and his son Szymon (currently activists in the “Association of Industrialists in Israel”). The factory employed 400 people, mostly Jewish laborers, a revolutionary change in the Jewish life in town.

Other factories included the metal factory “Cyklop,” founded by attorney Dr. L. Peiper and managed by Mr. Klinger; a factory for mechanical toys, “Minerwa,” belonging to the family of Yosef Rinde, a Zionist activist and city councilman; the factory for agricultural machinery belonging to the Honigwachs family; the Pipe family's button factory; the Langsam family's furniture and carpentry tools factory; the pharmacist Laufer's cosmetics factory, “Aya” 13 ; the Poller family's cigarette holder factory; the candle factory established by prolific Zionist activist Mordechai Hacke; a modern cotton gin for linen, belonging to Zionist activist Lipa Galler; the Rebhan family's “Victoria” beer brewery. There were also dozens of workshops and small factories which operated in the town.

Przemysl was known as a town with a tradition of Jewish craftsmanship. According to the report issued by the society of Jewish craftsmen, Yad Charutzim, from 1938, the number of Jewish craftsmen in town was 1,500. The fields in which Jews were occupied were: metal workers (tinsmiths and locksmiths), carpentry, painting and tailoring (250 people – according to the report from the society of Jewish tailors from 1938), shoemakers, bakers, hat makers, furriers, barbers and others.

The same report describes the harsh state of the Jewish craftsmen in the town: “due to the dispossession policy, the Jewish craftsmen are not given any work from governmental or municipal institutions. The government banks do not give them credit. Various decrees intended to harass the Jewish craftsmen are periodically instated. The burden of taxes in all forms is destroying their livelihood.”

[Page 212]

“Yad Charutzim”

The organization of craftsmen, “Yad Charutzim,” played a respectable role in defending the Jewish craftsmen's rights. Jewish craftsmen from all fields of work were represented in it. The society was established in 1868, along with similar organizations in other Galician towns. Its purpose was to defend the professional rights of its members, particularly in times of trouble. Although the Jews were the majority among them, the Christian members discriminated against them, by failing candidates in their exams, and so forth. In the years before 1900 the society was chaired by tailor Henryk Blatt, an educated man. Mr. Blatt was elected during the last years before the destruction [Shoah] as an honorary chairman of the society for the remainder of his days. Henryk Blatt was also a tireless activist in other institutions in the town, and also served as a board member for the Keren Hayesod in town, representing the non-Zionists. He died in Siberia, where he had been exiled after the Soviets occupied the town. After Henryk Blatt, from 1905 14 , the chairman was attorney Bertold Herzog.

[photograph of Henryk Blatt]

When the socialist idea began to become prevalent among the craftsmen ranks, the influence of the activists connected with the P.P.S. 15 increased in the organization: Leon Nessenfeld and Michal Estreicher, and later the “Bund” activists, Yosef Strudler and Dr. Gottdank. The society participated in the political life of the town and the community, and its representatives were chosen as members of the community board.

Among the fruitful and important acts for the benefit of the craftsmen and for the education of the younger generation, we should give honorable mention to the craftsmen's “Cooperative Fund,” which provided affordable credit to its members. The institution began operating in 1925.

In 1938 there were 150 fund members. The fund was managed by Dr. Gottdank, Dr. Sohn, Leib Pillersdorf and Herman Rubin. An exemplary institution of the society was the Noar Haoved boarding school. Active members of Yad Charutzim included welder Yitzhak Izik Schlusselberg 16 , a member of the boarding school committee and the representative of the craftsmen in the government bureau for craftsmen in Lvov. He received a commendation for his activities in developing artisanship. Other activists were Messrs Kreinczas, Probstein, Oberlander and F. Bien.

Commerce

The success of Jewish commerce decreased during the period between the two world wars, following the drop in the farmers' buying power, the economic crises which the state periodically experienced, and the government's fiscal policy and the boycott against Jewish businesses. The situation became so bad that many business closed down because of the burden of taxes, of various types. They were unable to pay even the “patent tax” (business tax) without the assistance of the organization.

Two merchants' organizations were founded in the town, in order to protect Jewish merchants' interests: “The Organization of Merchants” and “The Organization of Small Merchants.” The Organization of Merchants had some 750 members. It assisted its members, both by defending them from unjust taxation, and by extending credit, which a Jewish tradesman could not obtain from any governmental source. For this purpose, a cooperative bank for merchants and industrialists was formed. It was jokingly called “Die Reichsbank,” after the name of its manager, Mr. Alojzy Reich. The bank entrepreneurs were public activists Maurycy Richter and Lipa Galler, who directed the institution for a long time. The bank's balance in 1932, according to the report published in Chwila, reached a total of 428,471 zloty and 30,056 dollars; the profit was 15,526 zloty. In 1928 the profit was 18,000 zloty. The bank allocated funds to institutions such as the Hebrew gimnazjum, Keren Hayesod and welfare institutions.

The activists in the “Organization of Merchants” were: Matityahu Mieses, who served as chairman of the organization for a long time; Lipa Galler, pharmacist Karol Wiesel, Leon Amster, Lipa Diamant, Alfred Frankel (owner of a large flour mill), Markus Guttman, Efraim Katz, Zygmunt Heiman, Emil Klausner, Abraham Laufer, Yosef Rinde, Szymon Morgenroth, Hirsch Miltau, Moshe Perlroth, Shmuel Rosenfeld, Maurycy Schatzker, and Adolf Neubort.

The “Organization of Small Merchants” included some 500 members, and was very active for the benefit of “the small man.” Among the activists of note were: Abraham Poller, Eichenbaum, Penner, Kasselman and Tafet.

The “Credit Union” (Zwiazek kredytowy) was very active for the benefit of small merchants. It was also known as “JCA Bank,” since the JCA supported it. The institution was founded in 1910. The activists in the society were: Rabbi Gedalia Schmelkes, Dr. Bernard Gans, Efraim Knoller and Judge Izydor Lande. Its purpose was constructive aid for the small merchants and small artisans. Long-term loans were given to the needy, which could be paid back in small weekly installments.

From 1921 the institution operated as a cooperative and it expanded its activity among all ranks of the Jewish population. It acquired the trust of the wide public and every year the number of deposits and the turnover grew. The cooperative also had credit in national banks.

Henryk Blatt, Max Oksenberg, Dr. Leon Probstein and Dr. Kalman Reich managed the institution, in the last years before the destruction, with dedication and without purpose of reward.

Among the Jewish professional societies which were active in town, we should mention the professional society of private clerks, which numbered some 200 members, and was lead by the activists: Dr. Krongold, Edmund Landau and Mrs. Raab, Mrs. Stagman and Mrs. Gans.



[Page 214]

Chapter Six

Institutions of Education and Culture

Y. A.

The Hebrew Gimnazjum

A group of public activists, led by S. Fritzhand (a teacher at the public gimnazjum), Shmuel Rosenfeld and Dr. Efraim Schutzman, decided in 1919 to establish a bilingual Jewish educational institute, in which the languages of instruction would be Hebrew and Polish. The initiative was manifested in the regulation of “The Society for a Jewish Elementary and Secondary School in Przemysl.”

According to the regulation, the purpose of the Society was to disseminate general and Jewish education among the Jewish population in town, and particularly to impart education to the Jewish youth in the subjects studied at elementary and secondary schools and in all scholastic areas of Judaism and the Jewish religion.

At first, a kindergarten was opened, directed by Henia Krochmal, who also organized a training course for kindergarten teachers. (Among the trainees were two kindergarten teachers who continued their work in Israel – Ada Blum and Esther Silfen). There were also Hebrew lessons for all sectors of the Jewish population.

[photograph of the first Hebrew kindergarten of Miss. H. Krochmal]

The first chairman of the Society, Dr. Efraim Schutzman, initiated the opening of the two first classes in the elementary school, in 1920, and a year later there were already four classes.

The management of the Society aspired to establish a Jewish gimnazjum where a national Jewish atmosphere and a supportive relationship between the teachers and their pupils would prevail.

[Page 215]


[photograph of the first Hebrew elementary school class]

In 1927 the first gimnazjum class opened. The school was not yet recognized by the governmental education authorities. Its name was “Gimnazjum Courses.” Each year, another class was added. At first the institute was housed in a rented building at 4 Gorna St. The first headmaster of the “Gimnazjum Courses” was Gabriel Teich, a teacher at the public gimnazjum. The headmistress of the elementary school was Julia Mayer. At the same time, a branch of the elementary school was opened in the suburb of Zasanie, thanks to the energy and initiative of Mr. Mordechai Hacke, a Zionist activist in town, the moving spirit behind the institution. Ms. Pnina Frankfurter (later an official at the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem) was a teacher at the school in Zasanie.

In 1925 the direction of the “Gimnazjum Courses” was handed over to S. Fritzhand for a short while, and later to Stanislaw Bialewski, a veteran teacher at the Polish public gimnazjum, who continued his work until 1928.

The lack of a suitable facility impeded the development of the institution somewhat. Thanks to the Society's energy and the generosity of the Jewish public in Przemysl, the situation was corrected. In 1928 the first floor of the school building was erected at 15 Tarnawskiego St. (the house-warming was held on October 14, 1928, with the presence of Rabbi Dr. Levi Freund from Lvov, representatives of the government, the city, the Jewish community and public Jewish institutions). In 1934 an additional floor was constructed.

The construction of the building and the reorganization of the school by its new headmaster, Dr. David Einhorn, was a momentous period in the development of the institute, which was officially recognized by the government authorities in Lvov.

On December 4, 1929, the institute was approved as a humanities gimnazjum of 8 classes for boys and girls. From then on, the gimnazjum developed in giant leaps. The first matriculation [matura] exam was held in 1930. The chairman of the examination committee appointed by the government was Mr. Zygmunt Skorski 17 , headmaster of the Przemysl public gimnazjum. The examiner for Jewish Studies was Dr. Levi Freund from Lvov. All the candidates passed the examination. After a short period during which the headmistress of the gimnazjum was Ms. Betty Feuerman 18 , the headmistress of a Jewish gimnazjum in Lvov, and Witold Nowak from the public gimnazjum, the management was transferred in 1932 to the capable hands of Dr. Yosef Ostern, who directed the institution until the destruction of Jewish Przemysl.

[photograph of the Kindergarten Teachers Course. Sitting from left: A. Reisner, Goldberg, Lisikiewicz, G. Teich, K. Reiss, S. Fritzhand, Haendler, J. Eisen, G. Salzberg.]

In its day, the gimnazjum reached a respectable standard in both general and Jewish subjects.

The gimnazjum had its own physics, chemistry and biology laboratories, as well as a collection of geographical and historical maps. The institution housed craft rooms, a bookbindery, and workshops for carpentry, sewing and locksmithing. In 1937, the library housed 4,406 books of all types in Polish, Hebrew, German and English. The number of Hebrew books reached 498.

There were courses in Hebrew and Polish language and literature for the students. The Hebrew course offered lectures about Jewish life in the town and in Eretz Yisrael. There were courses in linguistics, geography, nature, sports and physical education, in cooperation with the military authorities.

Some 70 students belonged to the school choir. The students were given a certain degree of autonomy in the institution. The student council published a newspaper called “Hayeinu 19 in Polish and Hebrew.

There was also a parents' committee, headed by Captain M. Asher (1936) and members Dr. A. Kronberg, Prof. Rauch, Bakon and Mr. Neubort. The parents' committee assisted the gimnazjum management in the educational work and provided additional nourishment for the students. Breakfasts were provided for 200 students, 60% of them for no fee. The committee boarded some 20 poor students in summer camps and sanatoriums.

Thanks to the fine standards of the institute, in 1937 the authorities permitted the opening of a liceum 20 , which offered concentrations in the humanities and the sciences.

[Page 217]


[photograph of the first teachers. Standing from left: Dr. M. Weisinger, J. Ortner, S. Wurm, B. Brettholz, Dr. M. Altbauer, J. Eisen, M. Sobel. Sitting from left: D. Kawe, G. Teich, Z. Friedmann, F. Haber, S. Bielawski, J. Mayer, C. Hecht, S. Fritzhand.]

As the institute developed, it became too small to contain all of the students, and the Society purchased a lot nearby the school in 1936. In May 1937 a committee was chosen to oversee the construction of an additional building, headed by engineer S. Schaffer 21 , who prepared – for no fee – the plans for the expansion of the institution. A second committee, managed by Mr. Haim Klagsbald, the Society chairman, was responsible for collecting funds. However, the task was never accomplished. During the Second World War, the Jewish gimnazjum was demolished, as were the Jews of Przemysl. Today, a Polish educational institution operates in the building.

The number of students in the academic year of 1936-37 reached 527, including 333 in the gimnazjum and 194 in the elementary school.

Some 1.6% of the school students were orphans.

The number of teachers in 1936-37 was 21 at the gimnazjum and 5 at the elementary school.

The school secretaries were Deborah Kawe and Klara Leuchter. 22
The first teachers at the institution were: Dr. Moshe Altbauer (now the director of the historical museum in Tel Aviv and a professor of Slavic languages at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Jacob Eisen, Joseph Ortner, Benjamin Brettholz, Feiga Haber, Cesia Hecht, Shmuel Wurm, Dr. Michael Weisinger (Ziv) (now the director of the department for secondary education at the Ministry of Education and Culture in Jerusalem), Gabriel Teich, Julia Mayer, Mordechai Sobel, Zussia Friedmann, S. Fritzhand.

In 1936-37 the teachers at the gimnazjum were the following: Dr. Joseph Ostern as headmaster, Jacob Eisen 23 , Adolf Breit, Asher Eisenstein, Dr. Regina Eisner, Basia Freyer, Salomea Gelbart, Feiga Haber, Mgr. Norbert Halpern, Dr. Leon Ingber, Jacob Koritan, Dr. Nella Margulies, Joseph Ortner-Forst, Sara Ohlenberg 24 , Mgr. Shabbatai [Szabse] Rappoport, Haim Shapira (a military rabbi), Ozjasz Schlesinger, Maks Stahl, Mgr. Zisie Taub, Mgr. Basia Taub, Samuel Wurm. The teachers in 1931-34 included Dr. Nathan Kudisch and his wife (now the headmaster of a Tel Aviv school).

[photograph of Matriculation [matura] in Hebrew 1934. Sitting from left: F. Haber, M. Perlroth, Rabbi L. Freund, J. Ostern, J. Eisen, Dr. N. Kudisch.]

The teachers at the elementary school were: Maria Feld, Julia Mayer, Roza Nagler, Anna Reben, Mgr. Leon Salzman. The institute physicians were: Dr. Marcin Aberdam and Dr. Bertha Mermelstein.

The management Society for the elementary and secondary schools included Dr. Efraim Schutzman as chairman, Moshe Perlroth, and from 1936 – Mr. Haim Klagsbald.

The management members from 1919 until 1939 were: Shmuel Rosenfeld, Eliyahu Schweber, Dr. Nathan Halpern, Baruch Blumenfeld, Leon Amster, Shlomo Brenner, Abraham Kahane (avrech) (died in Tel Aviv), Yehoshua Engelhardt 25 , engineer Emanuel Guttman, Efraim Katz, Pappi Mermelstein, David Katz, Shimon Mieses, Captain Morys Rauch, Dr. Michal Buksbaum, Dr. Baruch Fried, Asher Tuchman, Dr. Dov Knopf (Nitzani), Dr. Zvi Reichman (died in Tel Aviv), Melech Zucker, Yehoshua Landman, Lipa Galler, engineer Mendel Jawetz, Dr. Benjamin Teich, Shimon Morgenroth, Moshe Rinde.

In 1936 there were 171 Society members.

The budget in 1936 was 168,293 zloty (equivalent to approximately 34,000 dollars at the time). The City of Przemysl contributed 2,000 zloty a year, and the Jewish community contributed 2,400 zloty. The community also contributed 10,000 zloty for the construction of the building.


[Page 219]

[photograph of the management of the Society for the school. Standing from left: D. Katz, S. Engelhardt, Blumenfeld, Amster, S. Fritzhand, A. Kahane, - - -, E. Katz. Sitting from left: S. Rosenfeld, M. Katz, M. Perlroth, S. Mieses, P. Mermelstein.]

[photograph of the high school building]

[Page 220]

The “Eden” Kindergarten

The town also had a private bilingual kindergarten (Polish and Hebrew), named “Eden,” managed by Ms. Genia Bien (now a teacher at an ulpan in Tel Aviv), where small children were educated in the spirit of national Judaism. The Hebrew songs which the infants learned in the kindergarten, and the celebrations held at Jewish holidays, imbibed the homes of the children's parents with a Jewish, Zionist atmosphere.

[photograph of Genia Bien's Kindergarten]


Vocational School for Girls


In 1920 Deborah 26 Citron initiated the establishment of a society for encouraging vocational education among Jewish youth: “Towarzystwo warsztatow dla mlodziezy zydowskiej.” The Society's first activity was an educational workshop, which was opened in a rented apartment on Dworskiego St. The fist students, mostly young women who had been orphaned during the Fist World War, studied sewing and embroidery, taught by professional teachers, and were paid for their work. The girls' level of education was extremely poor, because they had barely had any schooling, due to the war. Deborah Citron's daughter, Dr. Olga Citron 27 , devoted her spare time – at the time she was a teacher at the gimnazjum for girls – to improving the girls' education, and she taught them general knowledge in the framework of an elementary school.

This educational workshop served as the basis for a proper vocational school, which was established in 1924, under the direction of Dr. Olga Citron, who devoted all her energy, education, and admirable qualities to the development of the institution. It was not by any means an easy task during those times, to impart to certain strata of the Jews of Przemysl the recognition that girls must also be given a respectable vocational training, and that vocational school was not intended only for the ungifted. By means of systematic publicity, Dr. Citron managed to earn the trust of the parents, and the number of girls registered for the school increased each year.


[Page 221]

[photograph of the school laboratory]
[photograph of the art & craft school building for Jewish girls]

The school had a three-year curriculum, and met the requirements of the Ministry of Education and Culture. Hebrew studies were compulsory. Apart from scholastics, the girls studied sewing, embroidery, weaving and carpet-making. Classes in home economics were added in 1931, and a learning kitchen was opened. The school held evening classes in sewing and cooking, for adult students.

During its first years, the school operated in a rented apartment, in the house owned by Y. Thumim. Later, it moved to a building at 12 Lukasinskiego St., built in 1929 with the financial support of the J.C.A company (“Ika”), and with contributions from various public groups and private individuals. J.C.A also provided the equipment, such as sewing machines, looms, etc.

The school budget was partially covered by the tuition and the workshop income. J.C.A and the Ministry of Education and Culture gave a fixed annual support to the school. The school also had a committee of 7 members, chosen from among Przemysl public figures, which served as an advisory board for the school management in organizational and budgetary problems. The committee included: Dr. Jacob Glanz, Shmuel Babad, Prof. G. Teich, Dr. A. Schutzman, Dr. I. Sohn. The secretary was Chana Seldowitz-Epstein (now in Jerusalem).

In 1938 there were 170 students in the school.

The composition of teachers in the institution was as follows: Dr. Olga Citron, Ms. Karua 28 , Ms. Rosa, the Seldowitz sisters, Ms. Hecht, Mgr. Schwadron, Zisie Taub, Jacob Koritan.

[photograph of the teachers at the arts & crafts school for girls, 1934. In the middle, Dr. Olga Citron.]

[Page 223]

Boarding School for Apprentices


One of the institutions which was the pride of the Jewish community in Przemysl was the Noar Haoved “Bursa” boarding school, “Bursa zydowskiej mlodziezy rekodzielniczej.”

The initiators of the boarding school were craftsmen from the “Yad Charutzim” society. In 1926, when the economic crisis severely damaged the Jewish workshops, they were unable to keep and pay for apprentices. The number of people training in crafts was decreasing, and at the same time the options for productive education of large sectors of the youth, were diminishing. The activists believed that the establishment of a boarding school, where the trainees would live and also acquire a profession, under the guidance of experienced craftsmen, would solve the problem.

The boarding school was built on a lot dedicated for this purpose by the City of Przemysl in 1927, on King Leszczynski St. “Yad Charutzim” set up the building committee, which was comprised of the engineers: S. Schaffer 29 , M. Jawetz, H. Bazar, A. Guttman, Dr. Scheinbach and M. Schatzker. A special society by the name of “Friends of the Jewish Working Youth School” was established, led by: Leon Nessenfeld, Dr. Gottdank, Josef Strudler, Friedmann, Leib Pillersdorf, Reinhartz and Dr. Izaak Sohn. It began to raise the necessary funds.

The City of Przemysl gave 25,000 for this purpose. The municipal savings fund contributed 5,000 zloty, the Jewish community gave 20,000 zloty, and the Jewish public contributed 45,000. The cornerstone of the building was erected on April 17, 1935.

The planning and supervision were carried out by engineer Slo Schaffer 30 . The building had two stories, and was equipped with all conveniences, able to house up to 100 students. A spacious dining room was built, as well as a library room, showers, study rooms and housing.

The house-warming was held on February 2, 1937, with the presence of the city dignitaries. The following words were engraved on the memorial plaque which was set in the entrance to the building:

The Society of Jewish Craftsmen, “Yad Charutzim,” dedicates this temple to the Jewish Noar Haoved, to be a place for the formation of character, the molding of fine character, the nurturing of love for the crafts, and education towards good citizenship.

[photograph of the Jewish Boarding School]


[Page 224]

Religious Educational Institutions


1. Talmud Torah
The institute was housed in its own building by the “Beit Talmud” society, headed by Abraham Diller, a religious activist in town.

The number of students in 1938 was 150. Most of them were children of poor families who were unable to afford tuition. They studied Torah, according to the traditional cheder curriculum. The teaching staff included a headmaster and four teachers. The annual budget was small, roughly 9,000 zloty (1,800 dollars). The community contributed a sum of 1,200 zloty, and the rest was covered by membership fees and by collections taken from time to time.

2. “Bais Yakov” School for Girls
The religious school for girls, “Bais Yakov,” was maintained by a society of the same name. There were approximately 120 students there, some 40% of whom paid no tuition. The students received a religious education acceptable for religious women, and general education at the level of an elementary school. The institution was mainly supported by donations from the kahal and from a small contribution from the community, in the amount of 600 zloty a year (120 dollar).

The institution was directed by Abraham Diller.

[A group photograph with no caption. The sign held by one of group members says: “Beit Talmut Society. Przemysl”. (ed.)]

3. “Eitz Haim” Yeshiva
The yeshiva was comprised of three classes, and some 200 students. It had no building of its own, and was spread over three locations – in the klois, in the minyan of the Vassyatin Chassidim, and at Rabbi Itzeleh 31 . Each class had an educational supervisor, whose duty was to teach the children Torah and good manners.

The first class was a kind of preparatory class for the study of Gemara, and was managed by the melamed 32 Rabbi Itscheleh 33 .

The second class taught more intensive knowledge of the Gemara and introduced the world of the poskim 34 . Its teacher was Der Istriker 35 . The third class prepared the students for their own mastery of the Shas 36 and the poskim, as well as introducing them to the broad world of Din Yisrael 37 . The teacher of the third class was Der Birtscher 38 . After finishing the third class, the students could elect to study at the high yeshiva, to obtain Rabbinical ordination.

The yeshiva was directed by Yisrael Siedwartz and Shlomo Hister.

[Page 225]

[photocopy of the report card of a student at the “Eitz Haim” Yeshiva.

4. The High Yeshiva
The Yeshiva was established in 1924 by the Council of Gdolei Hatorah in Poland, belonging to “Aggudath Yisrael,” under the leadership of Rabbi Meir Shapira from Lublin. Some 200 young men from Przemysl and the environs studied in it. The studies were held in the “ezrat hanashim 39 in the klois, and in the great Beit Midrash. The curriculum included shas and poskim.

The Yeshiva directors were Rabbi Shimshon Fogelman and Rabbi Shabtai Segal. The committee in support of the Yeshiva, which was supported by the “Aggudah,” included: Rabbi Efraim Nussbaum, Rabbi Hershele Steiner, Rabbi Jacob Hirschfeld, Rabbi Shmuel Babad, the head of the community, and Rabbi Yehoshua Wiederkehr, the presiding judge in the town, Meir Liebreich 40 , Abraham Diller, Feibel Jolles and Motel Laub.

From among the students of the Yeshiva, the following are in Israel: Rabbi Efraim Weinberger * , rabbi of the “Yad Eliyahu” neighborhood in Tel Aviv, Shalom Rokeach, Shlomo Tuchman (Sollel Boneh 41 ) , Moshe Schwartz (Kupat-Am 42 ) , and Moshe Wilner.

[photograph of the high Yeshiva. Sitting from left, second row: F. Silfen, A. Diller, M.L. Reich, M. Laub, Y. Hirschfeld, Rabbi Wiederkehr, S. Babad, H. Steiner, S. Langsam, A. Nussbaum.]

[Page 226]

Jewish Cultural Institutions in Przemysl

Y. A. 

“Yuval,” Jewish Society of Music and Theatre Lovers in Przemysl


One of the institutions for the dissemination of culture, music and Jewish theatre arts, whose influence extended beyond the borders of the town, was the “Yuval” society. It attracted all the Jewish intelligenzia in town, as well as popular strata of all kinds – Zionists, Yiddishists and even assimilated Jews who were affiliated with the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S). The purpose of the society was to impart to the youth a culture of music, with an emphasis on Jewish music, as well as to distribute the art of Jewish and general theatre by means of presenting Jewish plays and poetry evenings where Jewish poets' works were read.

The society also acted as impresario, and coordinated visiting theatre troupes, such as “Habima” and “Ohel” from Eretz Yisrael, and “HaWilner Truppe 43 , which performed their famous plays for the Jewish audience.

The society was formed in 1919, the first general meeting was held on September 13, 1919, and the first chairman to be elected was the attorney Dr. Joseph Axer (who died in Tel Aviv in 1957). The society operated until 1937, at which point most of the activists left the town and some immigrated to Israel. The activists of “Yuval” included Dr. Benjamin Weintraub (now an attorney in Haifa), Leon Goldfarb – the secretary and moving spirit of the society, poet Rachel Korn, Dr. Maurycy Eisner, Dr. Leib Landau, Joseph Strudler, Jack Spiegel, Dr. Ekiert, Genia Bien. The society had two sections: the music section, led by musician Joseph Neger, and the theatrical arts section, led by Dr. Joseph Axer.

[photograph of “Yuval” – assembly after Goldfaden show]

[Page 227]


The music section operated a music school, where the youth acquired musical knowledge. The orchestra and choir belonging to the society performed at public concerts and recitals of a very high standard. Among the outstanding performers in the section were pianists Johanna Axer and Rina Axer, female singers Mildorf and Berger, male singers Felsen and Orenstein, violinists Eng. Schlisselberg (now at Mekorot, Tel Aviv), Rosenberg and Goldberg.

The section gave a very successful performance, by its own means, of the musical play “Druciarz, Der Rastelbinder”, conducted by Dr. Joseph Axer. The concert was performed several times in the town and beyond it, in nearby Jaroslaw and Rzeszow. In December of 1924, “Yuval” hosted a conference of Jewish societies for singing and music, and the representative of “Yuval” was chosen as assistant chairman for the League of Societies for Singing in Galicia. In honor of the conference, an evening of Jewish song was held, conducted by Joseph Neger, and lectures were delivered on Jewish song and music.

Alfred Plon, the music critic of the newspaper “Chwila” and chairman of the league of societies, wrote in his report on the conference: “The 'Yuval' Society performs its duties excellently and occupies a respectable position among the Jewish musical societies which operate in Malopolska 44 (Galicia)” (“Chwila”, December 19, 1924).

[photograph of the “Yuval” music school. Sitting from left: Ekiert, Dr. Eisner, Spiegel, Goldfarb.]

The theatrical arts section reached valuable accomplishments. Among the more notable plays they performed was S. Anski's “The Dybbuk,” directed by the head of the community, Dr. Leib Landau, who also played the part of the Rabbi from
Miropol 45 . In order to lend originality to the play, the director incorporated young men who were former residents of the klois, and were not members of the Society. The play went beyond the limits of amateurism, and was exceptionally successful, and was performed in the surrounding townships and admired by all.

[Page 228]

Among the plays preformed in Yiddish, the following are worthy of mention: “Der Stiemer”, by Pinski, directed by Dr. Leib Landau; Gogol's “The Inspector General”; and a number of plays by A. Goldfadden. The section also performed plays in Polish. The most well-known among them was “Dr. Stieglitz”, directed by Dr. Axer, which had the longest run of any play in Przemysl and the surrounding area.

The plays sometimes included guest professional actors, such as Ignacy Berski from the theatre in Krakow. Among the amateur actors we find the ladies: Johanna Axer, Roberta Schutzman, Anda Weintraub, Olga Grossfeld, Ida Stegman, Genia Pillersdorf, Tosia Cohen, Blanka Pillersdorf, Klara Aleksandrowicz-Gottfried, and the gentlemen: Julian Goldfarb, Paltiel Brannka 46 , Joseph Strudler, Dr. A. Margalit 47 , Eliyahu Pillersdorf, Norbert Briefer, Wilhelm Tuchman, Joseph Weissman, Fabian Bienenstock (now in the Israeli Police), Beno Freifeld, Shlomo Nussbaum.

The plays performed included H. Berger's “The Deluge,” Schnitzler's “The Lovers,” and Hennequin's “Florette and Patapon.”

[photocopy of playbill for “Florette and Patapon”. Translated by Barbara U. Yeager]

Jew[ish] Society of Music and Theatre Lovers “Juwal”
in Przemysl


Saturday, December 12, 1925

The Dom Robotniczy [The Workers' House] Hall

GUEST APPEARANCE
of
IGNACY BERSKI
THE ARTIST FROM THE BAGATELA THEATER IN KRAKOW

FLORETTE AND PATAPON

a farse in 3 acts by M. Hennequin, more than 60 performances in the Krakow “Bagatela”

Cast:

Florette Julian Goldfarb
Patapon Ignacy Berski
Riquette, Florette's wife Anda Weintraubowa
Blanka, Patapon's wife Olga Taubenfeldowa
Juliusz Barbet Paltiel Bernanke
Pontay Sal. Nussbaum
Ms. Mazanbran Ida Stegmanowa



[Page 229]

The Esther Rachel Kaminska Society for Theatrical Arts


The grand tradition of “Yuval” which fell apart, was renewed by the establishment of a new society in 1937, directed by Dr. B. Ekiert and later by Dr. Adolf Krys. This society was in existence until the destruction, and managed to do its part in rejuvenating the Jewish theatrical culture in the town. Its activists included Klemens Silber, a music teacher who composed a musical play, “Shadchenes Manover”, which was performed successfully by an amateur group, directed and conducted by him. The well-known actor Joseph Kamen participated in one of the plays as a guest actor.

From among the activists, we should mention Metzger and Member.

[photograph of the “Canzonetta” Music Club.]


“Canzonetta” Music Club

A group of youth, initiated by Klemens Cohen 48 (later a doctor at the Jewish hospital) organized and operated a music club, during the period following World War One. Over the course of time, a mandolin orchestra was established, which reached great acclaim and was very successful due to its perseverance and efforts. After a short time they even dared to give public concerts, and were positively reviewed. The club contributed significantly to disseminating music among the gimnazjum students and graduates.

The “Canzonetta” also toured in the towns of Drohobycz, Stary 49 , Truskawiec, and Skole, and the concerts, directed by Klemens Cohen, were extremely successful. Among the young activists we should mention Yitzhak Licht, the club chairman, A. Brodner (now a doctor in Tel Aviv), Joseph Reben 50 , Bronek Torba.

[Page 230]

Social Institutes in the Town

     
  1. The Jewish Social Club, “Zydowski klub towarzyski
    After an anti-Semitic incident in a café where the Jewish intelligenzia used to meet, in 1919 a number of members initiated an intimate Jewish meeting place, where it would be possible to develop a social life with no disturbances. The club was first located at 6 Dworskiego St., in the former Austrian officers' club, “Schlaraffia 51 .” At first it was an exclusive club for the Jewish intelligenzia and a number of affluent guests. Fine social and cultural life were nurtured there. Among the cultural activities were lectures on literary and scientific topics, and music evenings. Outside guests found a stage for their performances in the club. Over time, the club opened up to the wide ranks of the Jewish public in town, and the number of members reached 400, at which time welfare activities were also added to the social and cultural activities.

    In 1934 the club moved to its new residence in Mickiewicza Street, to an apartment which was the “Court” of the Admor from Sedigura 52 . The club was grandly outfitted. It included a library, halls for lectures and banquets, and more. The club left its stamp on the Jewish social life in town. Dr. Michael Schwartz and Dr. Joseph Axer were the club presidents. A prominent activist in the club was Mr. Shmuel Rebhan.


  2. The “HumanitasBnei-Brith Chamber.
    Among the social institutions, special mention must be given to the Bnei-Brith chamber, “Humanitas,” which was a respectable center of social and welfare activity in the town, for a long time. The chamber president for many years was the respectable attorney, Dr. Daniel Hass.

    The sisterhood which operated in “Humanist” engaged in social work, collecting clothing for the needy, helping the Noar Halomed. Among the activists were Ms. Lidia Teich and Ms. Johanna Axer. The chamber was dramatically closed in 1939 by the Polish authorities. At midnight, a song evening was still going on in the chamber, “the Swan Song,” and at three AM the police showed up with the closing order.


  3. The youth had its own club, the Jewish Youth Club – Zydowski klub mlodziezy, which was established in 1924, to nurture the cultural and social life among the youth. Its president for many years was Dr. Malber.

[photograph of the chess club]



Footnotes:

* Died in 1963. Back
Translatorís and Editorís notes:

1. In October 1938, Germany expelled about 15,000 Polish Jews who had been living in Germany. Initially, Poland would not allow them in and many of them were held in the Polish border town of Zbaszyn. After a public outcry, the deportees were allowed to enter Poland (ed.) Back
2. Roughly speaking, South-Western Poland (ed.) Back
3. The Yizkor Book transliterates this name as Akser. However, this name is commonly spelled as Axer. (ed.) Back
4. Schaffer, spelled with an "a umlaut". (ed). Back
5. Biala (or Bila, Bile) There are a few towns in present day Ukraine that fit this spelling. Hebrew spelling "bet, yod, alef, lamed,
hey". (ed.) Back
6. Honig, spelled with an "o umlaut". (ed.) Back
7. Lowenthal, spelled with an "o umlaut" (ed.). Back
8. Feuring. Spelled "phe, vav, yod, resh, yod, nun, gimmel". Possible spelling alternative: Feiring. (ed.) Back
9. Matityahu is the Hebrew rendition of the Polish name Mateusz (ed.) Back
10. A young Torah scholar. (tr.) Back
11. Meltz. Spelled "mem, lamed, tsadi". Alternative spelling: Maltz (ed.) Back
12. Polish for Scientific Reading Room (ed.). Back
13. The Polish spelling: "Aja" (ed.). Back
14. Most likely, this is a typographical error. (ed.). Back
15. Polish Socialist Party (ed.). Back
16. Schlusselberg, spelled with an "u umlaut" (ed.). Back
17. Skorski or Sikorski (ed.). Back
18. Feuerman. Spelled "phe, yod, yod, resh, mem, nun". Possible spelling alternative: Feyerman, Feierman (ed.). Back
19. Hebrew for "our life." (tr.) Back
20. Liceum -- in the period immediately preceding World War II – the last two grades of highschool (ed.) Back
21. Schaffer – spelled with an "a umlaut". (ed.) Back
22. Leuchter [?]. Spelled "lamed, vav, yod, khaf, tet, resh". Possible alternatives??? Back
23. Eisen. Alternate spelling: Ajzen (ed.). Back
24. Ohlenberg. Spelled with an "o umlaut". (ed.) Back
25. Engelhardt. Alternative spelling: Engelhert (ed.). Back
26. Deborah Citron. First name spelled "dalet, bet, vav, resh, hey". Dorota Leviner wrote to the editor: "Aunt Cirtonowa, nee Ehrlich, was my Grandfather's sister. Her first name was DORA. It is possible that Deborah is how the name is [spelled] in Hebrew but she was always known in Przemysl as Dora Citron, and in the family as Auntie Dora." (ed.) Back
27. Dorota Leviner wrote to the editor: " I was very touched by the paragraph about the Vocational School for Girls. I remember well the development of the Vocational School – the dedicated work of Pani Doktor – Olga Citron. Her extermination was an immeasurable loss for the sciences. She [held] a PhD in chemistry, physics and philosophy and was respected within the scientific comminity" (ed.) Back
28. Karua [?]. Spelling: qof, resh, vav (shuruk), hey" (ed.). Back
29. Schaffer. Spelled with an "a umlaut" (ed.). Back
30. Schaffer. Spelled with an "a umlaut" (ed.). Back
31. Itzeleh, spelled "alef, yod, tsadi, lamed, hey". A diminutive for Izaak/ Itshak. The last name not known. However, the name index has a listing of a rabbi Itschele (sic!) Melamed for this page. Also see footnote 33 and 34 (ed.) Back
32. Hebrew for 'teacher', or 'tutor' – usually refers to a cheder teacher. (tr.) Back
33. Itscheleh, spelled "alef, yod, tsadi, apostrophe, lamed, hey. The text suggests that this person's position was melamed (teacher). However, the name index has a listing of a rabbi Itschele (sic!) Melamed for this page (ed.). Back
34. Lit. 'deciders' (Hebrew) – refers to the literature containing the Rabbinic authorities' pronouncements on halachic
questions. (tr.) Back
35. Der Istriker (spelled "dalet, ayin, resh, (new word) alef, yod, samekh, tet, resh, yod, qof, ayin, resh"). Suzan Wynne has provided the editor with an explanation that this name refers to The Istriker. This is a nickname meant for someone who was from the town of Istrik, Ustrzyki Dolne (ed.) Back
36. Hebrew acronym shin-sin, which stands for "shisha sdarim" – the six Orders of the Mishnah. (tr.) Back
37. Jewish Law. (tr.) Back
38. Der Birtscher, spelled "dalet, ayin, resh, (new word) bet/vet, ayin, resh, tsadi, apostrophe, ayin, resh". Because of the "ayin" following the "bet", this word may have been mistakenly transliterated as "Der Bertscher". Thank you to Suzan Wynne for providing the following explanation: "I suspect that the name is Birtscher for the town of Bircza. Bircza was nearby, though not in the same district. The ayin is somewhat convertible for the sound of "i", "e" and even sometimes, "a". Much depends on the way people pronounce words since there is no flat rule on the conversion of the Roman alphabet to Yiddish." (ed.) Back
39. The women's gallery in a synagogue. (tr.) Back
40. Liebreich. Spelled "lamed, yod, yod, bet, resh, yod, kaph". Possible alternative spelling: Liebrach (ed.). Back
41. A large construction company in Israel. (tr.) Back
42. An Israeli bank. (tr.) Back
43. HaWilner Truppe – seems like this name is a combination of Yiddish and Hebrew (ed.) Back
44. Generally speaking, South-Eastern Poland (ed.). Back
45. Spelled "mem, yod, resh, vav, pe, yod, lamed". According to Waclaw Wierzbieniec's book, Spolecznosc zydowska Przemysla w latach 1918-1939, p. 248, the town in the play was called Mirofin (ed.). Back
46. Brannka. Spelled: "bet, resh, nun, nun, qof, hey". Possible alternative: Branek (ed.). Back
47. Margalit or Margolit (ed.). Back
48. According to Waclaw Wierzbieniec's book, p. 250, the name was spelled Klemens Kohn (ed.). Back
49. Stary – spelled "samekh, tet, resh, yod". This probably refers to the town of Stary Sacz (ed.) Back
50. Reben. Spelled: "resh, bet/vet, nun". (ed.) Back
51. Spelled "shin/sin, lamed, resh, pe /phe, yod, hey". This word is unclear. It word may have been a derivative of "Schlaraffenland" which, according to the Webster's New World Dictionary, means "Land of milk and honey". Another possibility is that the word may have been "szliferia", for "szlify oficerskie", the officer's epaulettes. Thank you to George Rosenfeld and Dorota Leviner for these suggestions. (ed.) Back
52. Thank you to Rivka Schiller for providing the following comment: "ADMO"R from Sadegora means 'Our Lord and Teacher' (ADMO"R is an acronym for 'Adoneinu Moreinu v'Rabbein') from Sadegora. Sadegora, according to the Columbia-Lippincot Gazeteer and the Encyclopaedia Judaica, is a town in Chernovtsy oblast, [former] Ukrainian S.S.R. within Moldavia. The town had quite a few Chasidim who followed the rabbi of Ruzhin – so the ADMO"R mentioned here, may very well have been a Chasidic rabbi." (ed.) Back
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