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[Pages 162-163]

The Personalities
of our Town

 

Rabbi Yaakov “Kavi” Schein,
Of Blessed Memory

Naftali Schein, Ramat Gan

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

My grandfather Rabbi Yaakov “Kavi” Schein, Of Blessed Memory, a full fledged scholar in Torah and “Poskim” (religious legal decisions) served as Dayan and Teacher before Rabbi Avraham David Shpiegel, Of Blessed Memory and had many students who followed his path in Torah and Halacha, and even cited his halachic decisions many of which I still have in my possession. Included among them were my father Reb Yitzchak Schein, Of Blessed Memory, and Rabbi Avraham David Shpiegel, Of Blessed Memory. (later the Rabbi of the town).

[Photo p. 162 Caption states: Handwriting and signature of Our Rabbi the Dayan, Rabbi Yaakov “Kavi” Schein, Of Blessed Memory.]

I have been given an opportunity by means of this publication to preserve a representative example for the former residents of Rohatyn of a document by Rabbi Yaakov “Kavi” Schein, Of Blessed Memory, establishing a partnership that was written and signed in his clear script. He passed away in 1906. It therefore stands to reason that his brilliant student our townsman, Rabbi A. D. Shpiegel, Of Blessed Memory, would follow in his halachic footsteps. After all grandfather was his teacher down to the time he was ordained by the great rabbis Rabbi Meir Arik, Chief Dayan of Tarnów and the Great Gaon Rabbi Shalom Mordechai, Chief Dayan of Brzezany.

It was because of the encouragement that Rabbi Shpiegel received from my father, Reb Yitzchak Schein, Of Blessed Memory, that he persisted in his rabbinic studies which qualified him to occupy the position of my dear grandfather, Of-Blessed- Memory, and my father was able to realize the dream in which his friend and the student of Rabbi “Kavi” would fill the position of Rabbi “Kavi”.

[2 photos p. 163, one at top of page and one at bottom)

Caption photo at top of page states: Two of the sons and daughter, daughter-in-law and father-in-law of Reb Yehuda Tzvi Weiss, Of Blessed Memory. In the second row, on the right: Moshe Schein, grandson of Rabbi Yaakov “Kavi” Schein, Of Blessed Memory]

At this point it behooves us to remember his descendents who were murdered and slaughtered. These included his daughters, Mrs. Chana Jupiter and her husband Reb David Jupiter, their daughter Soshe Kaveh (their son died before the war), Manye, Leah and Avraham. I also wish to commemorate other close members of my family, my dear father Reb Yitzchak Schein, my dear mother Rivke Schein, my sister Manye Schein, my two brothers Moshe and Kavi Schein – May their souls rest in peace – as well as my uncle Reb Yehuda Zvi Weiss (the Reader of the Torah in the Main Synagogue and scholar in his own right), Leah, Elsa, Rivke, Meir (who died right before Rosh Hashana 5718 in London – leaving a wife and daughter), Nachum and Joseph Weiss, May they all be eternally remembered and rest in peace.

[Caption photo at bottom of page states: Pessia Holler, Manye Jupiter and Leah Holler – the grandchildren of Reb Chaim Jupiter; Yafa Reichbach and her friend]


[Pages 164-165]

Rabbi Avraham David Shpiegel,
Of Blessed Memory

Rabbi Alter Meir, Tel Aviv

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

[(1 photo p. 164) (Picture of Rabbi Shpiegel, No caption)]

Our sages, Of Blessed Memory, state that when one is a “talmid chochom” (a serious student of the Torah) and his son learns the Torah, and his grandson does the same, then “the Torah returns to its inn,” i.e., the Torah remains within the family.

There was a great gap in time between Rabbi Spiegel and his ancestor four generations removed, the Gaon, Tzaddik and author of the “Mirkevet Hamishne[1], Rabbi “Adam,” Of Blessed Memory. The rabbinic line in between was interrupted and the descendents of the Gaon and Tzaddik, to whom the Besht[2] came in order to fulfill the requirement of “shimush talmid chochom” (serving a sage), did not maintain the rabbinic line, preferring to remain simple “ba-ale batim” (respectable and learned members of the community). This was so until the appearance of the Rabbi of Rohatyn, Rabbi Avraham David Spiegel, who placed an “olah (sacrifice) on the altar”of public religious service, devoting himself completely to his calling and setting up his rabbinate at the level at which it had been during the time of his holy grandfather, Of Blessed Memory, the author of the “Mirkevet Hamishne.

In addition to his greatness in Torah, he was very exacting in his personal behavior, a “Hassid”, as befits the descendents of the (author of ) “Mirkevet Hamishne”, and he therefore merited seeing his eldest son, Rabbi Yisrael, Of Blessed Memory, may his blood be avenged, being ordained a rabbi. He received his “smichot” (ordinations) from Rabbi Steinberg of Przemyslany, Rabbi Tziff of Lwów, and Rabbi Horowitz, the Chief Dayan of Stanislawów. His diligence in the study of the Torah was a password (model) among the rabbis of Galicia and, when he visited the Admor (the renowned rabbi) of Czortków on the holy days, he was greatly honored by the assembly and the Admor. He stood out with his fine manners and proper bearing never displaying his great knowledge ostentatiously or parading his pride in his family and its standing. He and his family perished in the Holocaust except for one son, Yehoshua Spiegel, who joined a halutz (pioneering) youth group and immigrated to Israel. His life, literally was saved by Israel.

The great scholars of the time of the author of “Mirkevet Hamishne” called him Rabbi “Adam”, because of his name, Avraham David Moshe, the acronym of which is A.D.M.[Tr1] As can be seen from his introduction to his book, he also refers to himself as “Adam,” and these are his words:

From the beginning of His daily loving work, when He established the foundations of the universe and the earth. [Compare Proverbs 8:29] Then He saw and He told it – count, book and story [a play on words using the Hebrew root “sfr” --Compare Sefer Yetzira, the first chapter which deals with the creation of the universe]. He prepared it and examined it and brought it to Adam! [Adaptation of “He brought her (Eve) to Adam”, Genesis 2:22] For every man [from Kohelet 12; man = Adam] was created to accompaniment to this world. [Adapted from the interpretation of Kohelet in Talmud Brachot 6b: “The entire world was created only as an accompaniment of this person”] Is there among them one to recite this Torah [see Talmud Avodah Zara 2b].”[Tr2]

He waged an ever increasing battle against those who followed Jacob Frank (Shri -The name of the wicked shall rot!), overcame them and drove them out of Rohatyn. This high level of zealousness also applied to his grandson, who was zealous for the Creator - to keep every custom, every “tag”, i.e. every iota of tradition, (“tag” is the term for the required decorations of the letters in the Torah). Under his direction the town served as an example to the rest of the world. “May his memory be inscribed forever together with those of all the holy men and women who were murdered, slaughtered and strangled” for the sanctity of Israel and the Land.

[(2 photo, p. 165)

(Top photo) Caption states: Yisrael Shpiegel, Of Blessed Memory

(Bottom photo) Caption states: Reb Itche Shpiegel and his family who were taken into captivity by the Russians in World War I and they are from the right: Pinye Shpiegel, Zushe Holtz, Nafatali Shpiegel, next to him the grand-daughter Ryfke Roter (the wife of Yehoshua Landoi), Reb Itche (Yitzchak) Shpiegel and the oldest son of Naftali, Moshe Shpiegel, who is presently in the U.S.]


Footnotes

1 See History of Rohatyn by Dr. N.M. Gelber, footnote No. 65 back
2 Abbreviation of Ba'al Shem Tov (literally “Master of the Good Name”), Israel B'al Shem Tov (1700-1760), founder of Hassidism. back
Tr1 Adam is spelled ADM in Hebrew. back
Tr2 This is a metaphoric text, which relies on a variety of religious texts for quotations, a not uncommon procedure, which is intended to indicate that the author, who terms himself Adam, considers his book to be an important contribution in the study of Torah, the text of which he was born to write. (All bracketed material in citation inserted by translator.) back


[Pages 166-169]

“The Young Dayan”*

Ben Avraham-David, Tel Aviv

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

During World War I the town was burned down. All the men were taken to the front, went to prison or ran away and went into hiding. To this there should be added the outbreak of plague in the town. My father was almost the only male left in town. Our house was not overlooked by the plague and it took my oldest brother Moshe. My father was forced to attend to his own son's burial because the town was left without a grave digger. The funeral had only women who listened to the pearls that came out of my father's mouth when he brought his son to burial on a wheelbarrow.

The war dragged on for a long time and left its effects. One of those effects was that my father, the Rabbi, was drafted into the Austrian army. While he was in Vienna he went to see the Czortkówer Rebbe, the holy Rabbi Yisrael the son of Rabbi David Moshe Friedman, Of Blessed Memory, to obtain his advice on whether to desert from the army or not. The Rebbe suggested that he exchange his uniform for a silk capote to which he complied successfully. Before leaving Vienna he saw the Rebbe again and gave him a “kvitel” in which were included all of his children. When the Rebbe came to my name he stopped and said, “Der Eibershter zul helfen” - May it be the will of the One Above that Yehoshua Pinchas remain well”. On the way back my father stopped in Stryj. Since their official rabbi was drafted the community implored my father to remain as their rabbi until their rabbi returned and so it came about that a long friendship was established between the two rabbis. From Stryj my father came home to Rohatyn and the first thing that he heard was that his son Yehoshua Pinchas had returned, as from the grave. My father asked me as to when this took place - when did I receive this special dispensation - and it turned out that it occurred while my father was visiting the Czortkówer Rebbe in Vienna. There is no question in my mind that this information gave added impetus to my father's becoming an even stronger Czortkówer hassid even though his father - my grandfather - Reb Itche Shpiegel, was a Boyaner hassid (also of the Ruzhiner dynasty).

He used to visit the Rebbe very often who would come yearly from Vienna to Czortków for Shavuos. Once he took me along so that the Rebbe could bless me before my bar-mitzvah.

When he returned to our charred town he had his work cut out for him. He had to raise the town from the rubble. The central synagogue had to be rebuilt since the walls were all that remained of the old one. He instituted lessons in Torah, established a “Talmud-Torah” for poor children, opened a subsidized kitchen and taught many children of meager means. When Rabbi Meir Shapira began his program of the “Daf-Yomi” (learning one sheet of Talmud a day) he instituted it in our town. He ordained many shochtim, gave money to Maot Hittim and Kimcha D'Pischa for Pesach, cleansed and made kosher the kitchen and its ovens for baking matzos, lectured on the Shabbos before Yom Kippur (Shabbos Shuva) on the importance of repentance, on Shabbos B'Reishis on the importance of learning Torah and on Polish Independence Day, he spoke in Polish, etc.

Father, father – my teacher, my rabbi – words fail me to describe you. You were beloved by all of your children for your pleasant manner and delicate approach to every young person. There wasn't a Shabbos or Holy Day or simply a joyous occasion that I do not remember your face appearing in the middle of our large family to celebrate and entertain in the proper fashion – an example to all who saw us.

“Shalosh Seudos” (The Third Meal of the Shabbos)

Shalosh Seudos – you went home after the prayers of Mincha (the second set of prayers during the afternoon of the Shabbos) together with your children and friends. The sun was setting. You washed your hands and sat down to the table. My father, the Rabbi, would serve everyone his portion and then begin to sing, “Az b'yom ha-shevi-i nachtoh”. Then he would sing “Askina Seudosa” according to the Stratyn melody after which he would ask those assembled to join in the singing of one of the “zmiros”. Mr. Welke Allerand would sing “Dror Yikra”. Reb Naftali Shpiegel (my father's brother) would sing “Tzur Mishelo”. My brother would sing, “Yom zeh m'chubad” and I sang “Kel Mis-tater”. When I reached the portion supplicating for redemption, my father would join me with greater emotion and repeat the words over and over until you could feel that tomorrow the prayer would be answered, and then it was all over. The lights came back on. The Shabbos was set away and we would leave with a “Gutte Voch” and we returned to the dark weekdays. If the end of Shabbos was like this can you imagine what the Shabbos and the oHHH

Holy Days were like…

But the Life of Job Did Not Stop.

I was about seven years old when, as I remember, the Bolsheviks occupied Rohatyn. At that time we lived in the house that belonged to Turtletaub that was still left over after the war and was now housing several tens of people: Shimon and Tzipora Windrich and their children; Reb Alter Foist and his family; Avraham Yosef Ehrenberg and his family; Moshe Hochman with his family-they came to Israel (he is no longer alive); Rabbi Tzvi Katzman and my father and his family – May they all rest in peace.

Our town Rohatyn was still showing the ravages of the last war. It had not yet taken stock of its losses both in people and property when the Bolsheviks burst in with a threat that, if by a certain day they did not receive a supply of tobacco, the rest of the town would go up in flames. The town was still charred by the previous fires. Panic seized the town - more evil times. The refugees had just returned from Vienna and other places of refuge and behold one problem leaves and another arrives in its place. The heads of the community came to my father and it was decided to turn for help to the residents already groaning under the effects of the times. The decision was that the demand would be fulfilled and tobacco brought directly to the Rabbi. My father dressed in his rabbinic robes and gathered up all of the children. Together with my father we dragged the tobacco. My father walked at the head to the home of Yulik Weidman in Babince. Upon approaching my father hid his long beard in his coat for fear they might cut it off as had already happened to him once before during World War I. We came and stationed ourselves in front of the gate. The area was covered with Bolsheviks lying on the grass barefoot and tattered who did not seem to possess anything other than rifles and bayonets. The gatekeeper looked at us in surprise –a large assembly of young children dragging sacks – and asked my father in Ukrainian, “Where are you going?” “We brought the tobacco to the commander”, was the answer. The gate was opened wide and the soldiers became happy. “Enter! Come in!”, the commander received my father graciously and gave him a chair next to him and pulled out my father's beard and stroked it. “Wonderful, wonderful. Thank you for the tobacco”. In the end he concluded, “It's true that I frightened you so that you would fulfill my request, but I definitely did not intend to burn down this town. I am a Jew just like you and my heart is with you” And so they separated politely. This pleasant surprise was a topic for repeated discussion among all the Jews of the town.

We had no sooner recovered from the first surprise and a second surprise of a very different nature took place. My mother died. Her name was Chana Toibe, Of Blessed Memory , the daughter of Reb Elisha Aharon Klarnet, a wholesale dealer of flour in his day, a full fledged scholar and a G-d fearing man - the pride of the family. And then my father's youngest child passed away, my brother Tzvi (named after my grandfather on my father's side) (Reb Hirsh Liebreich, Of Blessed Memory, who lived a long life, 92 years, ramrod straight and healthy to his last day).

My father was then forced to marry again. This time he married Chaytche (Chaya), my stepmother), the daughter of Rabbi Reuven Ginzburg, the rabbi of Chodorow, Of Blessed Memory, and the granddaughter of the illustrious Rabbi Yitzchak Meshulam, the Chief Rabbi of Lwow. Then six more children were born, one of whom died during the period of quiet and my father rebuilt his home and family. He filled his courtroom with books and his library made a fine impression on people who saw it, but this put him into debt over his head and he still had the expenses of raising nine young children.

The children grew up and arranged their lives according to their own views. My brother Yisrael, brilliant in halacha, was ordained a rabbi. My sister Chaytche wanted to go to Israel and started to make preparations to do so (something that was very difficult at the time to accomplish legally and therefore she planned to go illegally). My father forbade her to go illegally. I made plans to go to Israel and for this reason I learned printing which appealed to my father as it fulfilled in his eyes the maxim that a person should teach his children a trade. As a result, I am still tied to the Hebrew word. In February, 1938 I immigrated to Israel and was still able to ship a shipment of Etrogim during the period of peace and again under the Russian occupation. If my father, Of Blessed Memory, had remained alive, he would have discerned in this the finger of G-d - that I alone of all the members of our family should remain alive could only have been a result of the blessing of the Czortkówer Rebbe. And then there were my brothers and sisters who were younger than me - my sister Yuta, Of Blessed Memory , my brother Yaakov Meshulam (named after the Chief Rabbi of Lwów, Rabbi Yaakov Meshulam, Of Blessed Memory,) a very sharp and learned student of the Torah, my four sisters, Yente, Chana-Toibe, Reizel, Vitze-Ryfke – all of whom met an untimely death. May their souls be gathered together in the treasury of life and their memories be blessed forever.

And I bereaved remain bereaved. (Genesis 43:14)

[(4 photos, p. 168)

(Upper right)(Caption states) Yitzchak (Izzie) and Tussia Shpiegel, the children of Malche and Pinye Shpiegel.

(Upper left)(Caption states) Rabbi Avraham David Shpiegel with his youngest son Yaakov Meshulam returning from the Mikve.

(Middle right)(Caption states) Attorney Shmuel Shpiegel with Paula (Schwartz)

(Bottom)(Caption states) Yuta, Chaytche, Yisrael and Yehoshua Shpiegel]


Footnotes

* Rabbi Avraham David Shpiegel, as opposed to Rabbi Shmuel Henna who was known as “The Old Dayan” back


[Pages 170-171]

Two Letters of Rabbi Avraham David Shpiegel
to his Son Yehoshua Shpiegel

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

[1 photo p. 170 Caption states: On the day I left for Israel, 20 Adar 5698 (February 1938) – My father the Rabbi, Of Blessed Memory, accompanied me to the train station and handed me a letter of farewell in his beautiful handwriting and rich style of Hebrew.]

With the Aid of the Alm-ty

The Second Day of the Week of the Portion of the Torah, “These are the words which the Alm-ty commanded to perform…” (Va'Yakhel, Exodus 35:1), 20 Adar

Filled with blessings of the Alm-ty…And Abraham is still standing before the Alm-ty to pour out his words…standing and praying for his sons and daughters to merit “raising the glory” with satisfaction and honor…and David commanded Yehoshua Pinchas his son on the day of his emigration to the Holy Land saying,

My dearest son! Behold you leave today to travel to the Land of the Deer (poetic term for Israel). Please remember your Creator and accept the responsibility of the Worship of the Heavenly Kingdom. Be sure to remember what I am commanding you today to follow the proper path and the way of the righteous. Be careful to guard yourself and be very careful to guard your soul, that your heart, will not, G-d forbid, be led astray from following the straight path. Remember your mother, the Rebbetzen, the lady Chana Toive, Of Blessed Memory, who gave her life to raise you for the sole purpose of following the Torah and doing good deeds. And when you will take it upon yourself to guard the Torah and the commandments and to carry out the commandment “in all your ways know Him”, you will enable her soul to rise (to the upper spiritual spheres) and commend you to The One Who Rests In The Heavens, and the Creator will then command a blessing of life that is true life upon you, and you will become strong and mature, rise upward and succeed wherever you turn and merit to bringing and receiving good tidings. From your father who prays and sighs from the wounds of time but looks forward to Heavenly pity and deliverance in the near future - a complete deliverance in which we will all soon merit going up to Zion in song.

From the one who loves you greatly and closes with all blessings and the blessing, “May the angels be commanded to guard you in all your ways”.

Rabbi and Dayan – Avraham David Shpiegel

Avraham David Shpiegel

Blessed Be the Name, The Day Before the Holy Shabbos, Portion of the Torah (Pinchas, Numbers 26:55), “According to the names of the tribes of their fathers shall they inhereit”..5698, Our Community Rohatyn, May it be rebuilt.

My beloved and dear son the joy of my life complete with virtues and fine traits, Yehoshua Pinchas, May his light shine, and to my future daughter-in-law, the important and honored Miss Hadassa, Tichye (May she be inscribed for life) - complete with virtues and fine traits, from a fine family.

I hereby agree in consonance with my dear and honored forthcoming relative of elevated family and of learned background, his honor Rabbi Avraham Bard, May his light shine, to set your wedding day, in a good and successful time, at the home of your uncle, the very important Rabbi Y. A. Birnbaum of Haifa, the 6th day of the week, on the Torah portion, (VaEtchanan) which says, “..that we will be careful to keep all of these commandments” on the 15th of the month of Menachem Av, May it come to us for good.

Behold, I hereby welcome you with heartfelt blessings. May it be the will of the Creator that the marriage take place at a good and successful time. And you my children, take to heart what is written in the portion of the Torah, “according to the names of their fathers shall they inherit”, that as you enter your marriage accept upon yourselves the responsibility of the Torah and the fine details of its commandments as forever practiced by your illustrious ancestors, Of Blessed Memory, and especially you my dear son please remember how many prayers your mother, the Rebbetzin prayed when you were a child that she would be worthy of having children who followed the proper path and is still standing before the Creator in Gan Eden where she rests and pours forth her prayers before the Creator that at least this be her consolation for the loss of her best years, that her dear son who is marrying a daughter of a talmid chochom will take upon himself to follow all the fine details of the Torah and tradition. Therefore, make all efforts to eat kosher food, not to violate the Shabbos and the Yom Tov (Holy Days) and to immerse in a kosher mikve as is customary among religious Jewish women. And you Hadassa should make a point of reading the Korban Mincha siddur in the section called “Mayan Tahor” and other similar books. Everything you need to know about this matter is clearly and logically to be found there. And if you follow this path properly you will receive what is written in the portion of the week (Deuteronomy 5, 25) at the time of your marriage, which states, “that we will be careful to keep all of these commandments” “according to the names of the tribes of their fathers” – which means, that you should take upon yourselves the responsibility of the Torah and the commandments according to the custom of your fathers and the custom of our holy and pure ancestors; then will you inherit in the end. Then you will inherit everything that is good, you will have a happy marriage and you will be blessed from the Source of All Blessings in everything, from everything, with everything for many long years to come; the marital union will be successful; your banner will rise; you will build a home faithful to the Creator and His Torah; and you will merit seeing fine generations that will bring joy to you, to your parents and to the whole family forever.

So says your father who blesses you with the blessing of Mazal Tov from the depths of his heart and concludes with much love and eternal love.

Avraham David Shpiegel


[Pages 172-175]

Our Rabbi and Teacher Rabbi Mordechai Lipa Teumim,
Of Blessed Memory, May his blood be avenged
Pseudonym (Unclear)

For about 25 years – a generation - there was no official chief rabbi in Rohatyn - since Rabbi Aharon Levin, Of Blessed Memory, left to assume the position of Rabbi of Rzeszow. Just as a widow who loses her illustrious husband cannot easily find a second his equal and whose pride will not permit her to take just anyone, so too did the Jewish community of Rohatyn have difficulty in finding an acceptable new rabbi. Of course Rohatyn did not lose everything. It had two Dayanim: Rabbi Meir Shmuel Henna, Of Blessed Memory, known as the “Old Dayan”, and Rabbi Avraham David Shpiegel, Of Blessed Memory, known as the “Young Dayan” who provided most of its religious needs so that the lack of an official presiding chief rabbi was not particularly felt. The activities of the “Young Dayan” were particularly significant. Nevertheless, since the community had grown and replenished itself after the destruction of World War I the Jewish Community Council decided in 1932 to reinstate the glory of the rabbinate and when the candidacy of Rabbi Teumim for this position was presented it was seriously considered.

Why was he such an attractive candidate? Was it his name? His ancestry? They were no mean considerations - rabbis reaching back to the author of the “Pri Megadim” on “Orach Chaim” and “Yoreh Deah” on his father's side and on his mother's side Rabbi Yeshaye Horowitz, the Holy Sheloh. This alone was enough lineage that would suffice to elevate the standing of the community both to the outer world and to itself - a worthy compensation for fallen prestige.

However, that alone did not decide the choosing of Rabbi Teumim, Of Blessed Memory, as town rabbi. His sermon before a large crowd of admirers including his extended family made a very fine impression. There was a young rabbi, a second candidate, who spoke after him but only succeeded in emphasizing Rabbi Teumim's superior qualities. However, even this was not the deciding factor in the choice that was made.

He had a charismatic personality and a noble appearance comparable to an elegant etrog. A round full face was encircled by a short full blond beard. His appearance and speech reflected the certainty he felt about his purpose in life and his high forehead reflected the weightiness of his thought. He accompanied his speech with a winning smile and expressive graceful movement of his hands. He would look directly into your eyes and with his penetrating glance break down any barrier within your heart. His speech was a bit breathless yet he loved to talk and smile warmly and lovingly. If he felt that he had won you over to his views on the holy Torah or his ideas on the secular subjects that he was presenting he would smile broadly or laugh heartily if breathlessly, and gently take your hand and draw you close to him. However, once he stood up to leave these mannerisms would disappear and he would walk away dignified and tall with steps that were slow and majestic reflecting in his bearing Jewish internal and external authority.

When he dressed in a “spodek” (a round fur hat with a velvet center), “bekeshe” (light black coat) and shining boots, he reflected in his appearance a touch of the Polish aristocracy that had long since passed combined with the spirits of the generations of rabbinic leadership that went back to the Holy Sheloh and even further. On the other hand, when on Shabbos he drew his talis over his head covered by a kippa or walked out in his “shtreimel”, he seemed to have removed this outside glory and reflected inner greatness, as did the High Priest when he exchanged his golden garments for the white, wholly reflecting his inner personality.

It was his inner personality – rich, deep and broad – that was particularly attractive. There are people who make you aware of their greatness unexpectedly – and thus capture your heart while there are others whose greatness you become aware of intuitively but cannot comprehend, and in order to verify your beliefs you draw close and quietly acquire some of their light and warmth. When this occurs you become aware of the fact that your earlier impressions were correct and in this way your soul is captured. Rabbi Teumim was charismatic in both senses; the more you demanded from his greatness the more it surprised you.

He was only 27 years old when he competed for the position of rabbi of the community in 1932 against his two competitors who were older than him. However, in view of his reputation the townspeople streamed to the synagogue to hear him speak. These included many who were not of the kind that frequented a synagogue; and it was this first sermon that concluded the decision. His sharp talmudic argument expressed clearly with quiet self confidence caused raised eyebrows among the scholars but left them with a feeling of satisfaction –this was what they had hoped for but they were surprised when it actually appeared before them. (Later some of these scholars were proud to acknowledge the fact that they had not been able to follow all of what had been said). However, this same broad knowledge which expressed itself in the subject and structure of the sermon, also appeared in his use of scientific concepts and foreign expressions, surprising the academics in the audience by their unexpected accuracy. His later sermons continued to justify our expectations and we would leave the synagogue after a sermon proud of his greatness and pleasantly surprised by the constant new ways in which it was revealed to us.

All that he taught was G-d's Torah and the Torah was all that he taught. In his learned discourses on Shabbos Hagadol (the Shabbat before Pesach) and in the chastisements of Shabbos Shuva (the Shabbat before Yom Kippur), in the study of Talmud and in the explanations of the Torah, in religious law and story, and even in day to day conversation on philosophical or political matters, or on ceremonial national occasions when he spoke in brilliant Polish and expressed a wealth of ideas which even penetrated the closed hearts of the Polish officials – in every way he lifted you into the aristocratic sphere from which he drew inspiration for his daily activities. His stability in the stormy reality in which we found ourselves was broader and more enlightening because it was based in the bright heavens of our eternal Torah, holy optimism which guides towards security on earth. The Torah which he studied and in which he was immersed became a total part of his being. This was felt in every word he uttered.

He was not a Zionist but nationalistic feelings were part of his religious thought. There were those who thought that this was because of his hassidic family background. Others felt that this was part of the neutral attitude cultivated historically by the rabbinate of Galicia. And there were those who felt that this was a sign of personal greatness which was not restrained by social convention. Shortly after he was accepted as rabbi, Reb Yosef Laks (the luminary of our community who was renowned for his discourses, poetry and prayer and who had spoken before the Community Council not long before that in favor of the “Mizrachi”) made a remark that, “A Rabbi does not have to be a Zionist!”, although he might be one, and he had no obligation to explicitly declare himself a Zionist whatever his feelings on the subject might be – the feeling was that he was referring to our rabbi, that is to say that the rabbi should be judged on his own merits. If there had been any hesitations among the Zionists who comprised a majority of the community as to the choice of rabbi before the election, they were clearly shown to have been dissipated when they voted for him enthusiastically (even against his competitor who was a declared Zionist). After the election the Zionists continued to accept him as their rabbi, just as the various hassidim had accepted him as their rabbi.

Moreover, members of the intelligentsia who had strayed from tradition, could also view him as their rabbi. This is illustrated by a story that is told about a lawyer who smoked in public on Shabbat. When his son became engaged and the engagement contract was being drawn up, he acquiesced to the modest request of the father of the bride that he stop smoking in public on Shabbat, only out of respect for the Rabbi who had said that this was his wish as well. Even non-Jewish intelligentsia, priests, judges and other academics stood in respect before him and listened carefully to his words when he spoke in their circles – they too could find a way to call him “rabbi”.

Not only was he great but he was simple and modest. The Dayan Rabbi Shpiegel, who was much older than him and had been acting rabbi before him, served under him and was treated with friendship and great respect. The two honored Admorim (Rebbes) Rabbi Eliezer'l and Rabbi Shloimele were treated with veneration. In general, he behaved respectfully toward every person in our town. His home was a gathering place for sages and notables of the community, but it was also open wide to every townsman, and the flow of guests to his home became a new custom in the community. Just as the town was proud of its rabbi, so the rabbi was proud of his town. This can be shown by the fact that when he was offered a position as rabbi of Stryj, a much larger town which was able to offer a higher salary, he preferred to remain in our community, where his predecessors “were rabbis of more worthy lineage and great renown in Torah”. His salary was modest and even that could not always be paid at one time because of the constant shortage of money in the communal treasury. The Rebbetzin sometimes had the undignified task of returning again and again to collect parts of the Rabbi's salary. The Rabbi himself refused to accept money. The first time that someone offered him a gift in honor of a family occasion, as was customary, he explained that this was an unwitting offense to the Torah, although he personally was not offended, and it would be better if the gift were given to a charity fund to which they both agreed.

His words expressed his great love for all Jews and feeling of obligation towards them. They were not mere empty sayings but carefully and deeply thought out. One that I cannot forget took place when the new cemetery was opened that was located at a long distance from the town. The community had been forced by “goyeshe” trickery to close the old cemetery which was closer and there were those who suggested discontinuing the custom of carrying the litter on the shoulders, as practiced in the large cities. He said, “If it is difficult to carry a litter, then it will be difficult to die!” and they did not discontinue the custom. The cemetery was inaugurated with the burial of remnants of Torah scrolls that had been destroyed in World War I and that had been waiting for burial at the proper time. The rabbi was greatly upset during the proceedings and he called to his “Holy Flock” in heavy tones lamenting the fate of the destroyed Torah scrolls as well and his own fate to be the one to bury them. “If I had known that I was destined to bury the Torah, I would not have presented myself to be the rabbi of your congregation”. His purpose he felt was to increase and magnify Torah and not to bury it, G-d forbid.

The second shock was greater than the first. After seven years of fruitful activity in the town, World War II broke out with the contaminated witches' dance that completely uprooted all holiness. The defiled nails of Nazi bestiality, as well as its Ukrainian incarnation, had nothing to do with anything human. They trampled all that was holy and pure in our community as well as the saintly ones – those who symbolized holiness. When he saw the abominable deeds of the collaborators among our brethren, G-d forbid, his spirit broke completely. The last words he uttered that were heard by survivors were: “If G-d wills me to live after this holocaust, I will never again be a rabbi”.

And there was no other rabbi…

May their souls be gathered together in the treasury of life.


[Page 176]

A Selection from the Letters of Rabbi Teumim

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

To a Former Inhabitant of our City

Rohatyn, Wednesday, Portion of the Torah Va'era, 25 Shvat, 5695 (January, 1935)

On this occasion it gives me great pleasure to express my congratulations and heartfelt wishes to you on your receiving a doctorate from Heidelberg College. May you rise and succeed in these endeavors on the altar of Torah scholarship. Your seat of honor will be established with the banner of achievement in the most important place in town, the place of Torah and recognition, and seeing this your parents will be happy.

Can I hide from you my friend that I have always held you in high esteem and now I would like you to do something for me. We have decided to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the birth of the Rambam, Of Blessed Memory. Therefore, towards this goal we chose a committee that would arrange all details of the celebration according to subject matter. Due to the fact that we are lacking in literary background and competent lecturers we are facing many difficulties and impediments in formulating our plans. Therefore, we would be interested and happy to have you appear before us in person because you have amassed a great amount of Jewish knowledge. However, since ability and wishes sometimes conflict with each other we would therefore appreciate your sending us a copy of an interesting lecture on the topic of the jubilee that you have written as a religious philosopher, or as a teacher, or on topics dealing with ethics or the like. Do I need to suggest topics to you? Think the matter over carefully and I will rely on your judgment. Unless I am mistaken there should be no problem in this since you have all the literary material necessary and I am quite certain that your lecture will be presented on a high level as is becoming to a man who combines both Torah and knowledge within himself. This will find high favor in the eyes of your father who is a member of the celebration committee and in the eyes of the Creator Above.

Mordechai Lippa Teumim

Chairman of the Committee

Needless to say the text of your lecture must be strictly in keeping with high religious standards.


[Page 177]

In Memory of Yosef Hakohen Laks,
Of Blessed Memory

Y. P. S

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

Who was worthy to be in his presence
Who heard his voice and saw his person
How could one forget him
His sweet voice that reverberated in prayer
When he sang his musical compositions
And when he noted his deep comments on the margins of Talmudic volumes
And in his business dealings his knowledge floated
His writing ability could be discerned from letters to his colleagues
And his signature testified to his writing
That expressed friendship in the effectiveness of his poetry:

To a former resident of our town

I will sing to my friend in my name and yours
And at the beginning of the verse set your eyes
Please see the joy of my heart

[In Hebrew the initial letters of the next three stanzas form an acrostic of the name Yosef Laks HaKohen]

For a wise man is greater than a prophet
And a student such as you brings joy to his teacher
And in my eyes is filled with favor.

My heart rejoices in your raised prestige
And my bones rejoice in the happiness of your parents
The Primal Cause was in your behalf
Honor is placed upon your head.

You are worthy of honor and greatness
You my dear friend a man of excellence
The rays of your splendor will shine as fine porcelain
Your fate is to grow tall as the date palm and cedar.

Turn and listen and receive my blessing

For it stems from the depths of my heart
May He Who Resides in the Heavens bring success to your path
Satisfaction and pleasure will sate your ancestors.

Yosef Hakohen Laks
(Signature)


[Page 178]

Reb Yosef Yehuda ben Reb Michel Sofer (Blattner)
Of Blessed Memory

Y.P.S

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

Reb Yehuda “Sofer” was a poor man who was born in Rohatyn, a hassid of the Bursztyner (from the Stratyn dynasty) and a father of five daughters, who followed the well known Reb Michel Sofer (scribe) and continued in his path. He was unable to support himself at his profession because many scribes such as he were forced to travel with their holy wares from town to town and were his serious competitors. Then too his customers had became fewer and fewer. As a result his wife, Freia, had to join him in earning a livelihood by baking her special home made bread that certain people liked and he was forced to join her in this task lessening his time in his regular profession. Gradually his hands became heavier and he could no longer continue as a full time sofer about which it is written, “With his soul he brings his bread”. However, he did not drop his profession completely and the townsmen used to invite “Reb Yudel Sofer” to check their tefillin and mezuzot. When his daughters grew up they helped to augment the income of the house. Unfortunately, when the time finally came to have a little satisfaction from them and they got married and bore children, the terrible war came and set an end to everything. He was killed by the German murderers together with his wife Freia, his son-in-law Aaron Gutman and Brunia and Motel their grandchildren, his married daughter Sarah with her two daughters, Tovah and Chava. Two married daughters, Esther and Gitel, are now in our country together with their children - the grandchildren of Reb Yosef Yehuda ben Michel Sofer.

[(2 photos. P. 178)

(Top Photo) Caption states: Yosef-Yehuda ben Michel (Sofer) and his family: Gitel and Moshe Mandelberg, Chava Blattner

(Lower photo) Caption states: Mordechai (Motel) Gutman (grandson), Esther Bloistein (Blattner), Tova Blattner and David Bloistein.]


[Page 179]

Yerachmiel Schwartz,
Of Blessed Memory

Y. P. S.

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

Yerachmiel Schwartz was a maskil (member of the Enlightenment) that is, he spoke accurate Polish and had ties with the town authorities. Nevertheless, he could boast, “I live with the goyim but I keep the Jewish commandments”. He was quite a rich man from his sales of liquor and he had a monopoly on the sale of mead. I still remember when on the Seventh Day of Pesach if there was a lack of liquor at the gatherings by the Rebbe Reb Eliezer'l some of us boys would go to the house of Yerachmiel Schwartz, Of Blessed Memory, to obtain what was missing. He personally would come out into the yard, step into a structure that served as a small winery to the north of the Sokol and draw from whatever came to hand. He would also present a “l'chaim” to the boys smiling all the while his sweet smile that would spread across his Viennese white “kaiser” beard. His home was traditional and he was blessed with refined children who mingled with Jewish scholars and eventually married into their families. Yerachmiel Schwartz, Of Blessed Memory, was not a person who waited for people to come to him. On the contrary, he would take the initiative and joined those who were trying to help the community. He was one of the builders of the Czortkower Kloiz, a member of the town council as well as of the Jewish community council and an honorary member of the official judiciary. He served in these three capacities until the day he died. May his memory be blessed.

One of his descendents, his eldest daughter Ronia, survived and is now living in Israel. Her only son, Dr. Ezra Zohar, is a physician in the Israel Defense Forces.

[(1 photo, p. 179 Y.B.) (Picture of Yerachmiel Schwartz, No caption)]


[Pages 180-182]

Yaakov Leiter and his Wife Sarah,
Of Blessed Memory

Y. P. S.

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

Is it possible to forget this couple, Yaakov and Sarah “who were beloved and pleasant in their lifetime and in their death were not parted”. They do not allow themselves to be forgotten. A youthful rhythm always beat within them; even in small day-to-day matters. This Jew who lived far from the Main Synagogue, in the neighborhood known as “the new town”, was accustomed to appear early in the morning every day in order to prepare whatever was needed for the worshippers at the Main Synagogue.

Yahrzeit

He remembered and carefully noted every “Yahrzeit” that had to be kept and reminded people of its date. He saw to it that there was liquor and pastries to eat with it on a table in the synagogue and he would always leave something over in the closed section of the Reader's table thus helping out anyone who had a yahrzeit but who might not have been able to prepare for it for any reason. I am not exaggerating when I say that the aroma coming from the Reader's table when Reb Yaakov Leiter, Of Blessed Memory, opened its door, tempted the lovers of liquor to draw closer to the person having a yahrzeit. At that time there was still no printing press in Rohatyn (Reb Chaim Shkolnik, Of-Blessed- Memory, opened his small press next to David Jupiter, Of Blessed Memory, in 1922). And who could print notices and announcements that had to be written? Reb Yaakov Leiter would print them in Assyrian script, the print of Torah scribes. His cleanliness and the cleanliness of his home was exemplary, and was symbolic of his inner self, neat and clean outwardly and inwardly.

He was a man who loved to talk and he spoke rapidly. If anyone made an announcement before kiddush Friday night or before reading the Torah Shabbos morning, only those who stood nearby could hear what was said and they would explain to the others that “mimachenmodia” (we are making an announcement) which sounded like one word but was meant to be the phrase “mir machen modia” etc.

He wore a “Deitsche Kapel” (a modern hat) and his curly silver “peyot” (side-locks) waved in the wind like “little bottles”. His suit of lustrous material was made to order and he wore short boots. You could depend on his watch like the clock in the train station. I remember when we used to take a break on Yom Kippur between the prayers of Mincha and Ne'ila which was the last opportunity to chat on the topics of the day, such as opinions of the various baalei-tefilot (the beginning chazan, the chazan for shacharis and the chazan for musaf) and the latest events. When it started to get dark they used to call out, “Her Leiter, s'iz shpeit?” (Mr Leiter, is it becoming late?) But Mr. Leiter would continue to talk. He would pull out his chain and gold watch and announce with finality: “We still have two minutes”. After one minute, he would walk over in his exact steps to the hall. Everyone knew that it was his watch that would decide and there was no argument about it. If the chazan for ne'ila appeared to be drawing out his melodies too long according to his taste, he would place his watch in front of the chazan and urge him to complete the prayers at the right moment with the saying “L'shona ha-bo-oh b'Yerushalayim” (Next year in Jerusalem).

[1 photo, p. 181Caption states: Yaakov and his wife Sara, in their old age, standing at the gate in Gan Shmuel.]

There was no happy occasion where he did not take part as one of the officials of the synagogue - the “shames” of the community. He would call out – “so-and-so the son of so-and-so has become engaged to so-and-so the daughter of so-and-so”; and when the time of the wedding came the poles of the chupa (canopy) were waiting in his hands. He encouraged and carefully advised the parents of the bride and groom as to the proper procedures and the fine details to be followed at the chupa. He was the master of ceremonies at the chupa and he called out those who were be honored with making the various blessings. He brought the Ketuba (marriage contract) and accompanied the rabbis home after the ceremony. At a brit (circumcision) he would carefully watch the mohel, and if something seemed to be improper in his opinion he would quote the passage of the Sacrifice of Isaac, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad nor do anything to him”.

I am reminded of a joke (that Leiter told) – Reb Yosef Hakohen Laks, Of-Blessed- Memory, was a well known Ba'al Tefila (non-professional chazan) who was very popular in the community for his pleasant and strong voice and also because he was very learned and “sharp” in his studies. When he studied the Talmud or while he was teaching the Talmud and came to a fine point he more than once stopped to write a commentary in the margins with his particular interpretation of a passage that they were studying.

When he finished the prayers on Yom Kippur, a discussion would ensue in which there were differences of opinion as to who was the better chazan and the “authorities” would express their views. Some would say that Reb Moshe-Zushe, Of Blessed Memory, (a composer and chazan of Rohatyn) was the better chazan. Others would say it was Reb Mordechai-Shmuel Horshofsky, Of Blessed Memory, and still others liked Reb Yonatan Rappoport or someone else. Then Reb Yaakov Leiter would conclude: “As far as I am concerned, Reb Yossel is a difficult ba'al tefilla and why? Because it is difficult to pick him up when he falls to the floor in the “Avoda” (the description of the role of High Priest on Yom Kippur during the Musaf prayers) .

After the High Holidays – no one could replace him at plaiting palm leaves to house the myrtle and willow twigs. He was unequalled in this skill. And who would receive the etrogim from Israel? He did. He would merit his friends with the blessing “upon the taking of a palm branch” when he personally took out the choice etrog

Reb Yaakov and his wife were privileged in their later years to settle in the Land of Israel and to enjoy the fruits of our land. They made a fresh start in Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, where a new task awaited them: Reb Yaakov would print the names of the cows in the barn and his wife Sarah, Of Blessed Memory, would do embroidery and knit.

About such as they it is said: “Beloved and pleasant in their lifetime and in their death they were not parted”. They are buried in the cemetery of Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. May their souls be gathered together in the treasury of life.


[Page 182]

“Tall Moshe”

(Moshe Roher, of blessed memory)

By Y.P.S.

A very tall man with a long white beard, dressed in traditional Hasidic clothing, he was pious and honest his entire life. I no longer remember where his wife was. She had probably died years before. But he had children by her, each one living in foreign parts. As soon as he received notice from them, he would share the news with everyone in the Beit Midrash.

Always joyful, his face always radiated goodness. We, the young men of the house of study, knew him when he was already on in years and did not know what his business had been earlier. I remember him as the drummer in the Faust family band. His fingers struck the beat nimbly at weddings and other festive Jewish occasions. His drum was the cause of great joy.

He prayed in the new Beit Midrash where he used to favor all with a good pinch of snuff. As soon as he heard that someone wanted to recite a chapter of Psalms, he immediately made known his readiness to participate in the mitzvah. His hand would rise to his breast pocket from which he would remove his thick glasses with black frames and golden shafts. And he would murmur, “What have I told you, Shieleh? 'Happy is the man that has not walked'…if a man neither comes nor goes, he has no regrets. No?”

“Tall Moshe” never walked the paths of the wicked. He was a good Jew.


[Pages 183-184]

Some of the Town's Personalities

Y.P.S.

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

Reb Yudel Weidhof, Of Blessed Memory was an ordained rabbi who was among those who restored our city in the 1870's. He was a man who excelled in giving donations secretly. His store was well known throughout Galicia as a place that engaged in the import and export of sugar, tea, coffee etc. There was a time when his son Yaakov Weidhof was one of the largest merchants in Rohatyn. Yaakov was killed in the Holocaust together with his youngest son who was 31 years old when he died. His son Yitzchak is an engineer with “Mekorot” (Israel Water Company).

Avramche Horowitz Of Blessed Memory lived on the way down to the monastery. He was a loud and bitter Jew who sold lime. Due to his occupation his face was always pale, shriveled and wrinkled; the hair of his short beard appeared plucked because of it. Only once did I ever see his face light up. Reb Avramche, Of Blessed Memory, was childless and his wife was barren. When they grew older they decided to donate a “Sefer Torah” to the small synagogue in which they prayed and in this way establish an everlasting memorial to themselves. When the writing of the Torah was completed, it was carried in a grand procession through the town to the new synagogue accompanied by a band with dancing and singing of “Give honor to the Torah”. Avramche Horowitz and his wife, Of Blessed Memory, were honored by having him carrying the Torah. For the first time I saw his face light up with joy and become young again. May his memory be blessed.

Reb Ze'ev Steinmetz, Of Blessed Memory, was thick-bearded and heavy. He would hold a box of snuff in one hand and a heavy cane in the other. His concern was to provide the inhabitants of Rohatyn with fish for Shabbat. He had difficulty in supporting his family – lovely sons and daughters most of whom succeeded in reaching the United States while he and two of his daughters were killed. May their souls be gathered together in the treasury of life.

His partner in the fish business, Yehoshua-Falik Shtraulicht, a Jew who was tall and heavyset, not only engaged in selling but also cared for the deceased – he was an engraver of tombstones and was an assistant to Kopel Teich and his son Hirsh in this capacity. This was a profitable business since in the end everyone is in need of a gravestone. We also wish to remember their family: Yaakov and Uri Shtraulicht, Of Blessed Memory.

Akiva Wagschal and Elisha Teichman were very close friends and partners from the beginning, a “gabai” (synagogue manager) - he had all the problems of the synagogue on his shoulders. He was the one who prepared the barrel of beer for Simchas Torah at the rabbi's home and cheered everyone with his pleasant smile. He succeeded in visiting Israel during his lifetime when he went to see his two daughters who had settled there. The older one Mrs. Zuch, who is living here with her husband, is constantly active in the organization of the former inhabitants of Rohatyn. In this she is so like her mother, Tzirel Wagschal, Of Blessed Memory, a capable woman who devoted herself to the Zionistic activities sponsored by WIZO in Rohatyn. The younger daughter Salke recently passed away.

His partner, Elisha, used to finger his mustache while humming the melodies of Reb Moshe-Zushe. He was a ba'al tefila in the main synagogue every Shabbat. They and their families were refined people and they were killed in the Holocaust. May they rest in peace.

Reb Mordechai Kreizler was well to do, knowledgeable in Torah and general subjects, of tall and dignified appearance. He engaged in the sale of tobacco of all kinds. His son Shlomo had a stationery store that had a board on its front door on which the daily newspapers were displayed. Many of the inhabitants of Rohatyn would crowd around the board and its newspapers in order to read the daily news and his shop became a meeting place for those who were involved in communal matters and came up with ideas.

His second son continued his education and his daughter Chayke Kreisler became a doctor in our town. She was a good hearted woman.

Their memories have been kept in the hearts of all the former inhabitants of Rohatyn. May their souls be gathered together in the treasury of life.

Lipa Mandel was a cloth merchant. He was well to do, a General Zionist, and the Reader in the main synagogue. While vocalizing his readings of the Torah he would at times glance up at the ladies' balcony. He was a good parlor speaker, educated, a maskil but traditional in practices. He had a respectable position in the town and he and his family were active in Zionistic fund raising. May their memories forever remain.

Reb Yoel Fisher was a nice Jew, sensitive and active in all public affairs in our town. He was a strong Zionist but was careful to keep Jewish tradition. He was the Reader in the new synagogue and was careful to follow the “Ta'amei Hamikra” (notation) when he read the Torah. He supported himself by selling shoes. He was fair minded and a man of ideals who tried to get along with people. (Incidentally, his son Dr. Ben-Nun lives in Israel and is a member of the Hebrew Language Committee while his sister, Dr. Golda Fisher, visited Israel recently.

[Photo p. 184 Caption states: Reb Yoel Fisher, Ania (his daughter) and Esther (his wife)]


[Pages 185-186]

Raphael Soferman,
Of Blessed Memory

(The First Hebrew Teacher of Rohatyn)

by Y.P. S. as told by his wife Matilda Soferman

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

The plaques engraved with the names of Raphael and Matilda Soferman still remain in their place. There is quiet all around and the apartment seems to be mourning Soferman the educator who passed away.

I called - and there was Matilda the wife of the deceased – standing before me herself. She invited me in without knowing who I was and without asking what brought me here. Before me stood a woman of about 80 years old. Her face bespoke dignity and she addressed me in a polished Hebrew.

“Yes, what did you want?” I answered, “I am sorry to trouble you. I came with a twofold task – one, to recall the memories of your husband as the first Hebrew teacher in Rohatyn and two, to describe the town itself of those days. We wish to memorialize them in the Yizkor Book of Rohatyn and its Surrounding Areas. We would be very interested to share your memories with the survivors of the town in Israel and the Diaspora. “Gladly, I will try”, Matilda answered and immediately came to the point and this is the essence of what she said:

“We arrived in Rohatyn in 1906 where my deceased husband, Raphael Soferman, became the first Hebrew teacher in the first Hebrew school in Rohatyn. The school opened with only two classes and an enrollment of 100 students in all. My husband taught there 4-1/2 years and I taught about half a year – less. In this school students reached a high level of achievement not only in Hebrew but also in Bible, History, Grammar and Literature as well.

In time it also presented plays that were spoken in Hebrew of nationalistic and Zionistic content. You mustn't forget that the Zionists were already a majority in the community. The members of the Jewish community council were Shalom Meltzer, Sender Margolis, Yerachmiel Schwartz, Alter Weidman, and others. Rohatyn had a Zionist union, “Hatechia” whose outstanding participants included: Chuna Wachman, Pinye Shpiegel, the son of Rudy the Watchmaker (I can't remember his name), Dolar, Drucks, Wagschal, Mandel, Zlateks, Leiter and others.

Most of the people of that generation were very religious but you could already feel the effect of the generation of “maskilim” arising and becoming stronger. The youth went to Polish school in the morning and in the afternoon to the Jewish school maintained by the community that was Zionistically inclined and from whom the Hebrew teacher received his salary. Those who wanted to complete their high school education had to go to Lwów, Stanislawów or Sambor.

Soferman's helper was the teacher Reiter, and when they added another class, they added another teacher, Rochenboim. The teacher Hirsch was once a student in that school (and now lives in the U.S.).

[1 photo, p. 186 Caption states: Raphael Soferman (the first Hebrew teacher)]

The deserters from the army who escaped from Russia and crossed the border illegally came to live in our town where they learned Hebrew very well and became teachers. After Rohatyn we went to Brody where we stayed for 1-1/2 years. We came to Israel in 1912. Then my husband founded a Hebrew school in Tzfat where he was the principal for two years. Afterwards the family moved to Jerusalem where my husband become a teacher in the Seminary for Kindergarten Teachers and in a Girls' School. Four years later we moved to Tel Aviv where he became a teacher of History and Tanach in the upper grades of the Herzlia Gymnasium. He taught there until he reached the age of 70.”

His oldest daughter, Dr. Sharona Soferman-Binyamini, is now a teacher of History and Tanach in the Herzlia Gymnasium. His son, Dr. Nadav Soferman, became a well known gynecologist in Tel Aviv. Another son, Amnon Soferman, is a cartographer.

Dr. Gelber commemorated the deceased educator Soferman in his book Mothers of Israel and there you will find his picture. Dr Gelber also commemorated him in his Book of Brody. Soferman passed away of cancer on 13 Iyar 5716 (1956) at the age of 77. May his memory be blessed!

[2 photos, p. 187

(Top photos)Caption states: Kindergarten in Rohatyn

(Bottom photo)Caption states: The Hebrew teacher Edelstein with his students in the Hebrew school of Rohatyn]

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