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Translated by Jerrold Landau

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{Photo page 204: Baldachowka Street}

The Character and Composition of the Community Regarding Attitudes to Jewish Tradition and Culture

Jews of all types lived and worked in our city, from the extreme Orthodox such as Neturei Karta [1] to the extreme assimilationists who stood at the threshold of assimilation and apostasy. During the period of my youth, the Orthodox Jews – Hassidim and Misnagdim who were G-d fearing and observant of the commandments – placed their stamp upon the community. Most of the adults were bearded and wore felt hats, some with wide brims and some with narrow brims. They wore long cloaks (called a kaftan in the vernacular, and known as a kapote, bekishe, chalat or yupitza), and fur coats in the winters (tilif or radzibilki). On the Sabbath, they wore a hat made of animal tails called a streimel or kolpak. They wore robes of black or checkered silk, and sandals. The winds of western culture that blew in from Vienna, the military service in the Austrian army, the difficult struggle for livelihood, the train trips for the purpose of business or communication, and the pressure of the gentile state and area – all of these exerted no small amount of influence, and caused slow but sure changes in the way of life. The Orthodox held their own due to the strengthening that they received from the immigration of hundreds of families from the villages. These people, in their own villages and later in our city, observed the customs and observed the way of life in the same manner as their ancestors in the 18th century. The winds of progressiveness struggled with the spirit of tradition. The numbers of merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans continued to increase.

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Both Orthodoxy and secularism influenced these people, and they began to become heretical [2]. They simply became used to wearing European clothing on weekdays, however they did not cut their beards, and on the Sabbath they went to the synagogue dressed in their streimels and traditional garb. Year by year, the numbers of the new type of Jew increased, Jews who discarded the kapote and dressed as a German in European clothing: a jacket with a collar and a tie, in the fashion that the Jews of Germany dressed in after the emancipation and the Haskalah. I remember the “Koriuzim”: fine young men dressed in modern garb, but who wore their streimel when they went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. There were Hassidic youths in traditional garb who trimmed their beards and decorated the collar of their cloaks with a silk necktie. There were Orthodox youths who shortened their jackets below, and their beards and mustaches above. They did this slowly but surely, until one fine day you would be surprised to see a veritable “German” in front of you.

Youths and fine young men, with the influence of their wives, whom I recognized in their traditional garb, attempted to make themselves externally similar to the gentiles of the area. However all of these changes did not help to mitigate the hatred of the gentiles, who would recognize them by their faces, their jargon and their natures. I mentioned above that many did this under the influence of their wives, for the 613 commandments did not apply to them [3] and their parents were not particular with them. As well, women generally desire beauty and ornamentation in their manner, and they did not study in cheders but rather in public schools. They were the first to change their names. They began to become embarrassed with the names of their grandmothers and mothers – Sheindele, Perele, Sara, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah, and in their place came the names Bronka, Stapa, Klara, Regina, Zofia, and Helena. With the change from the traditional garb, Hebrew and Jewish names began to disappear from the public schools. During my youth, they still used their Jewish names, the names of the Ushpizin [4], and exilic names such as Berl, Leibel, Hirsch, Mendel, etc. [5]. Only a few Jews bore names that were common among the Jews of Germany, such as Adolf [6], Moritz, Norbert, Hermann, Wilhelm and Max. Even rarer were pure Slavic Polish names such as Miecslaw and Bronislaw. These names were only used by the assimlationists. These names grated on the ears of the Jews, and also on the ears of the Polish Christians who could not tolerate such a strange combination of names as Miecslaw Cohen. Assimilation also affected the language of speech. The older generation spoke Yiddish, and the assimilationists spoke Polish. The German language, which was popular with the Maskilim in the 18th century, departed from the stage of life. Gone were the times when a young Maskil would recite the poetry of Schiller and study the “Gluka” (Bell) by heart. Our Maskil parents still read the German newspapers that came from Vienna, the capital of the monarchy. Many would read the “Neie Freie Presse” in the reading hall of Chovevei Zion, and our fathers enjoyed the feuillitons of Dr. Theodore Herzl and Felix Saltan, and the main articles of Moritz Benedict. Issues of the “Neie Freie Presse” that included a survey of events of the passing year by Dr. Max Nordau [7] in the Silvester issue were snatched up from the train from Vienna while it was still in the railway station. The Maskilim would stand in line there, for the number of copies was limited. The Maskilim also read “Hamitzpeh”, which was edited by Reb Menachem Lazar, the father of Dr. David Lazar who is the editor of the literary column in the “Maariv” newspaper [8]); the Yiddish daily “Lemberger Tagblatt” edited by Moshe Kleinman (later the editor of “Haolam”) and later by Moshe Frustig. The Zionist Maskilim read “Velt”, the official mouthpiece of the World Zionist Organization, and “Haloam” in Hebrew. There were also a few subscribers of “Hashiloach” and “Zukunft”. Berel Luker edited the “Yiddishe Arbeiter Zeitung”. The numbers of Yiddish and Hebrew readers continually diminished, for the Jewish assimilationists and Maskilim began to read Polish newspapers, and the nationalist and Zionist movements were forced to take this fact into account and publish during the 1920s two daily newspapers in the Polish language, “Nowy Dziennik” in Krakow and “Cwyla” in Lvov, as well as the monthly “Moriah”. The nationalist circles in Rzeszow, in their fierce battle with the assimilationists and their Hassidic confederates [9], published a Yiddish weekly in the years before the war called “Yiddishe Folks Zeitung”, edited by Reb Naftali Glucksmann, Reb Abba Apflebaum, and my father of blessed memory. My brother Meir and Yehoshua the son of Naftali Glucksmann delivered the paper to the subscribers. For a brief period, there were two Yiddish weeklies published by factions that were competitors of nationalism, called “Neie Folkszeitung”, and “Gerechtikeit”. They were edited by Leon Weisenfeld (today a newspaper editor in Cleveland, U.S.A.)

In general, there was a religious imprint upon Judaism in Rzeszow. The Sabbaths and Jewish festivals changed the appearance of the city. All work stopped, and all business and commerce ceased. From the time of candle lighting until the stars came out the next night, no Jewish stores were open. Only one clothing store, a branch of a Jewish firm in Vienna (Hilman Cohen and sons) was opened on the Sabbath, and we regarded this Sabbath violator as a sinner of Israel.

The assimilationists, who desired to imitate the Polish community in all matters, especially in religious matters, had little influence upon communal matters. They were Poles of the Mosaic faith, and it was interesting that they had no connection to religion. Were it not for the Jew hatred of the gentiles, many of them would have become apostates. However, because of the aloofness of the gentiles, a few astute ones succeeded in penetrating into Christian circles and converting their religion. These were members of the intelligentsia – doctors, lawyers, and government officials – who distanced themselves from their own people, language and religion. A few of them still maintained a thin connection to their people with regards to honor of their ancestors, Yizkor [10], and attending the synagogue once a year on Kol Nidre night. These assimilationists required the support of the community during elections as “Jewish representatives” in the city council and the communal council, with the help of the Polish commissioner and his officials. The Orthodox and Hassidim, under the guidance of the Admorim, were on their side and joined together in cooperation with the government representatives and the Polish-Austrian apparatus. This was in order to crush the nationalist and Zionist desires of the Jewish communities, and to oppose Zionism, which wished to hasten the redemption [11]. Between the two extremes, the Orthodox and Hassidim on one side, and the assimilationists on the other side – there were the masses of people, who were faithful to tradition and customs. These were the “masses of people” from all strata, in whom secularism and religion merged together.

In Rzeszow, Jewish life spanned a rich spectrum of the human landscape. When I read “Hachnasat Kallah” or “Oreach Nata Lalun” of Sh”Y Agnon and “Magal Neurim” [12] of Dov Sadan, I recognize people from my cities in those books. With love and compassion, I see the beauty and virtues, and also the blemishes and perverseness. The gentiles tormented them, afflicted them, and disturbed their lives with bizarre decrees. Despite the difficult battle for existence, the community excelled in its character traits, in the purity of its family life,

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personal and communal morality, and served as an example for the masses of gentiles who lived on their land and occupied the seats of government.

As a child and a youth, I was able to walk on the Jewish street during the daytime and nighttime with complete security, without stumbling upon a Jewish thief, drunkard, or hooligan. I do not remember any bloody quarrel between Jews due to differences of opinion in matters of work or commerce. When all ends were exhausted, when they fell from their status, when they lost their rights, privileges and livelihoods, when taxes that were impossible to bear were imposed upon them, the masses of enlightened people found their way out of the city and streamed westward. At that time, before 1914, the times were good with regard to relations with the nations. The restrictions were lessening, and it was possible to reach all areas of the earth without a passport. I recall the anguish of a child when he woke up in the morning and did not find his friends for play and study, for he found out that they traveled with their families to freedom, to seek out a livelihood overseas.

The Environs

A short distance of about 100 meters from our home, there were wheat fields that extended until the Wislok River. On Sabbath and festival afternoons, the youth walked along the river until Lysa Gora (Bald Mountain) On Saturday nights and gentile holidays, young families would travel to the neighboring villages. Outside the city, Jews had agricultural business and inns. On Lag Baomer [13] we children would go to the Jewish farms in Wyzne, Maceiowka (owned by the Weisenfeld family), or Glebokie accompanied by our teacher and his assistant in order to enjoy buttermilk and black bread spread with aromatic butter. The parents enjoyed a cup of Ocieszyn or Pilsen beer. We were not brave enough to go out very far for fear of the “shkotzim” [14] who would throw stones or set dogs upon us. The entire area was scattered with small towns and villages with populations of 100 to 1,000 families. In the nearby town of Tyczyn lived Reb Shlomo Leibele, a “good Jew” a popular Tzadik in his own right, not due to his lineage. He was not from a distinguished family. Simple folk streamed to him to find comfort, support, advice and healing. In Blazowa, Sokolow, Czudec, Dinow, Kanczuga, Rozwadow, Ropczyce, Glogow, Ranizow there were communities with their well-known Admorim. These communities lived through Torah, Divine service, charity and good deeds. These towns were like an overflowing spring, and from them, families who had difficulty earning their livelihood streamed to Rzeszow, from where those lacking livelihood continued to travel abroad. There were isolated families in the villages of the area. If the number of families in a village reached ten, they would arrange a prayer quorum (minyan) for Sabbaths; and the Jews of the village would only go to the larger city or town for the High Holy Days, to stay with relatives, to bask in the Jewish environment, and to unite with their Creator in communal prayer. The situation of the village Jews was difficult because of the isolation, lack of Jewish environment, hatred by the gentiles – especially the priests and the teachers, and danger to family purity if a son of a farmer fell in love with a Jewish girl. On more than one occasion, a Jewish girl left her parents' home, her people and her religion and went to live with the son of a farmer. Libels and sporadic instances of pillaging would force a Jewish villager to abandon his farm or inn and move to the city. Not infrequently, there would be true friendship between a Jewish villager and a Polish farmer, who found in the Jew an advisor, intercessor and assistant in times of tribulation. I recall a Polish farmer from the village of Biala near Rzeszow who used to bring his products to our home during the days of grandmother, mother and also during wartime. Even though middlemen turned to him during wartime and offered him double or more for his products, he remained faithful to our family, claiming that to him, friendship and faithfulness are more valuable than any inflated price.

Education

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were already breeches in the wall of religious life on the Jewish street. The Hassidim and Misnagdim were still the majority, but secularism, Haskalah and a tendency to assimilation began to slowly to gnaw away at the foundations of pure Jewish life. Most of the people spoke Yiddish. However the children of the well off secularists began to replace Yiddish with Polish from the beginning of the 20th century. The older generation of Maskilim abandoned the German language. German signs disappeared from the Jewish businesses. I remember that during the time of my childhood, there were two stores that still had signs in German. The local Polish newspaper wrote articles attacking and threatening the Germanists, so new signs were produced in Polish. In the business of my friend Yaakov Alter of blessed memory, the sign used to say “Samuel Alter's Witwe” (i.e. the Widow of Shmuel Alter), and after the publication of the article, this sign was changed to Polish. During the days of my father, the children of the Maskilim would study Bible with the translation of Mendelsohn [15] and read the newspapers from Vienna. However with the passage of time, the German culture and language was slowly pushed aside, and in its place came the great Polish poets: Mickiewicz, Slowacki, etc. The Polish language could be heard primarily on the lips of the Jewish girls. They were the first to abandon the shackles of tradition. During my youth, there were only a very few who did not send their children to cheder. Only the children of the extreme assimilationists passed up on Jewish education. Some of these assimilationists would even hire a private teacher to teach their children the Hebrew letters, so that they would be able to recite Kaddish [16] after their death.

The children of the Hassidic families were educated in the cheders and Yeshivas, where they studied for all the years of their childhood and youth. There were families who kept their children in cheder until the age of 10. In the morning the child would go to a Polish public school and in the afternoon to the cheder. Hundreds of children began their studies in cheder at the age of 3. I studied the Hebrew alphabet and reading in the cheder of Reb Chaiml on Baldachowka, and at the age of five, I began to study the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) from the Torah. A festive meal took place in our house to mark that occasion. I was wrapped in a tallis on a Saturday night, the teacher opened the book, and I began to read the Torah portion in Hebrew with Yiddish translation. The level of my studies increased until the age of 10. I moved from Chumash (Pentateuch) and Rashi [17], to Bible, and then to Talmud. We studied chapters from the tractates of Berachot, Kiddushin, Baba Kama, Baba Metzia, and Pesachim [18]. I recall the following teachers: Reb Noach the shamash of the Beis Midrash, Pini Hilman, Reb Tanchum Melamed, who was well-known for his teaching of Mishna, and Talmud with the commentary of Rashi. I studied Bible with the well-known Zionist Maskil and writer Reb Abba Apfelbaum, the author of monographs on Reb Aryeh Leon di Modina, Reb Avraham Zakuta, Shadal, Reb Azaria Pigo, etc. We students helped him bind the monographs and send them abroad to his friends Rabbi Gidman, the chief rabbi of Vienna, Dr. Shimon Bernfeld, Professor Kaufman in Budapest, Professor Berliner, etc.

Teaching was a free profession. Sometimes the teacher would be a scholar, a good educator and a man of character; and on other occasions, the teacher would be a stumbler who caused his students to stumble, who only joined the profession and became a teacher due to his failures in all other professions. The teachers earned their livelihoods with difficulty, and conducted their cheder in their one-room dwellings. The wife of the Rebbe who was the teacher was called the Rebbetzin [19]. She cooked in that same room, and her children were in the same room in a corner covered with a curtain. It is no wonder that the doctor of sanitation

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forbade the conducting of lessons in such a dwelling. When that happened, the teacher moved his classes to the Beis Midrash or the Kloiz. Reb Noach the shamash of the Beis Midrash conducted his classes in the women's gallery. On occasion we stopped our lessons because screams broke out, and a women burst out in weeping near the open Holy ark, as she begged Divine mercy for her seriously ill husband. The wailing of the distraught women moved the heart of the child. We also had occasion to witness and be affected by the Chalitza ceremony, when a women throws a shoe and spits before the brother-in-law who does not wish to redeem her after the death of her husband [20]. After the teacher Pinile Hilman received an order from the police to close his cheder, he moved his cheder to the Kloiz of the Hassidim of Rymanow. This Kloiz was established by Reb Asher Silber, a very wealthy man who owned a monopoly for wine and spirits and served as the head of the community. I remember the winter nights. The distance from the Kloiz to our house was not small in accordance with a child's measure. The winter was difficult and a great deal of snow fell. The entire route was white, and the kerosene torch barely lit the street. The route through the deep snow was difficult. I was equipped with a small pocket torch in order to steer my way through the route in the dark. We studied in the afternoon from 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. During the hour between Mincha and Maariv, we warmed our bones with a glass of aromatic hot tea that was served by the shamash of the Kloiz for half a cent. On occasion during the days of a gentile holiday we children would gather a small sum of money in order to purchase a cup of beer for the Rebbe. We would then merit an hour of freedom, and we would be able to go home at an earlier hour.

{Photo page 207 – Berek Josselewicz Street corner of Mickiewicz Street}

When Adar approached, with the adage “When Adar begins, joy increases” [21], as the winter departed and the smells of spring were carried through the air, we felt joy in our hearts, for the difficult winter was concluding. We reached the Torah portion of Vayakhel-Pekude [22], and we sang the Yiddish ditty “Teruma-Tetzaveh" we will drink coffee, Vayakhel-Pekude we will make a feast. At that time, the lessons would conclude prior to the Mincha service [23].

In our days, the Rebbe in the cheder for young children would hit the children with a strap, however at a higher level, the “kantszok” fell into disuse. The yoke of studies started for a Jewish child such as myself and others from the age of three, and continued until the end of studies at university.

Now, as I remember these difficult childhood years of a Jewish child, as he was entered into the yoke of Torah and commandments at the dawn of his childhood, I cannot forget the bright, joyous hours and days. We were always happy when the teacher of children gathered us all together to take us to the parents of one of our friends to visit the mother who had just given birth, in order to celebrate the “male” that was just born into the family. We blessed the child with “G-d is the L-rd”, and we were treated to sweets and presents [24].

Certain weekly Torah portions were dear to us. We loved our forefather Abraham, and we trembled in pity for the father who had to take his only child to Mount Moriah for the binding [25]. The fear of Isaac shook our hearts, and we rejoiced at the last moment when the redeeming angel stopped the knife and showed Abraham the ram in the thicket. The statement “Let there be light” and the creation of the word in the Torah portion of Bereshit was awaited by us, even though to us students, this was the beginning of the heavy yoke, for this portion concluded the holidays, and the heart of winter was about to begin, where the classes would continue until 8:00 p.m. [26]. “Let there be light” did not light up our heart, for along with Adam, we left the Garden of Eden, the summertime and the festival season, and we entered into the season of rain, snow, mud, cold and ice. The stories of Jacob and Esau, the astuteness of Jacob and the tricks that he played upon

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his coarse brother Esau and his father-in-law Laban the Aramean gave us great satisfaction. With all this, our hearts melted when we met the two brothers after a long separation, and Esau fell on Jacob's neck and wept. The pinnacle of soulful tension and stormy emotions for a child was reached in the stories of Jacob and his sons, the sale of Joseph and the blessings of Jacob. I recall the wonderful melody of the Rebbe as he taught us these portions. The tune of “And the Jews had light, joy, gladness and honor” in the Scroll of Esther still echoes in my memory today; as does the hearty tune of the Song of Songs, heralding the advent of spring, and in which we can taste the spices and smell the flowers of the meadows [27]. The time of spring and song had arrived. Prior to Passover, we studied the explanations of the Haggadah. The pictures of the Exodus from Egypt and the homily of the four sons caused our heart to sing. With the reading of the Book of Ruth [28], we sensed the aroma of the harvested fields in Judea. After the tribulations of Machlon and Kilion came the salvation and redemption of Naomi, and in the horizon, we saw the sun shining with the crown of David inside of it.

The summer was very difficult for a student. We studied until the time of Mincha, 8:00 p.m. The heat and the sweat tormented the child who was pining for freedom, greenery, and play. The Torah portions of Leviticus, with the sacrifices and the chastisement, did not whisper to our hearts [29]. The days of the counting of the Omer, and the three weeks from the 17th of Tammuz until the 9th of Av tormented us, and covered over the blue sky of our childhood [30], until we came to the Torah portions of Nitzavim and Haazinu, the month of the festivals, for these were the vacation time for the child, between semesters, when the yoke of Torah was lifted from us. We were able to rest a bit, to go out, and to enjoy childhood games.

From the age of 6 or 7, the Jewish child (except for the children of the Orthodox [31] and the Hassidim) went to public school, where the language of education was Polish. From grade 3, we studied German.

The public-elementary school had 4 grades. After the conclusion of the 4 grades, it was possible to study in 3 additional grades in the Citizen's School, or to transfer to the Gymnasia which had 8 grades. The first days in grade 1 hit us hard. The large room was clean, the floor was polished with oil, the desks were clean, and the teacher in splendid clothing stood at the front; however the picture of Jesus and the Holy Virgin, and the standing up daily for Catholic prayer at the beginning and end of class hurt our feelings. We felt as if we were in exile among unfriendly strangers. The teachers also did not particularly like us. There were those who curbed their tendency to hatred, and there were also those who were humane, but there were also those who hated Jews, particularly during the years of Gymnasia. In public school classes, school attendance on the Sabbath was not obligatory. Most of the Jewish students sanctified the Sabbath in the synagogue and in their homes. Only the children of the assimilationists attended school on Sabbaths and festivals, and they angered us with their disdain for the customs and holy things of the Jews, when we saw how they purchased sandwiches with sausages in the school cafeteria [32]. Our anger towards the unbelievers and “sinners of Israel” caused our blood to boil, for we were educated in the generations old tradition. I recall how I once avenged the disdain for the religion of Israel, and – I was nine years old at the time – I jumped on one of those who ate non-Kosher food, took the pork sandwich out of his mouth, threw it to the ground, and trampled on the disgusting meat. This classmate of mine was the son of the assimilationist doctor, Dr. Herman Kraus. As a result, his father took him out of that school and transferred him to a preparatory school next to the teachers' seminary, where only Christian students and a small number of Jewish students who were children of assimilationists studied. We transferred to the Gymnasia at the end of grade 4. There were two Gymnasias in our city – one in the building of the Pierrian Monastery, and a new Gymnasia on Krakow Street, far from our neighborhood. In those days, the Gymnasia student had to wear a uniform that was similar to that of an officer cadet. The school was run in military style. The teachers instilled fear in us, and we regarded them as government officials rather than educators. The Jews were approximately 20% in a class of approximately 40 students. In the first grade of Gymnasia we studied Polish, German, and Latin, and starting from the third grade, ancient Greek. We were not exempt from studies on the Sabbath. Instead of going to the morning prayers, we went to study among the gentiles, and we returned home at 1:00 p.m., after the Sabbath meal. We were not able to enjoy the Sabbath meal together with the Sabbath hymns. We ate our Sabbath delicacies alone, without the inspiration from the family Sabbath table.

The Jewish students excelled in their sharp grasp of literature, language and mathematics moreso than their gentile friends who made up 80% of the class. This aroused their bitter spirit. We did not become close friends with them. They were either indifferent to us or hated us. There were very few of them who admired us. This was the way with the teachers as well. There were some anti-Semites among them, who displayed zoological hatred to us [33]. I recall Professor Jan Dembski, the teacher of Greek, who would intersperse his reading of Homer and Xenophon with barbs and mocking towards the Jews. Despite this, he often told the gentile students that they could learn about diligence in their studies from the Jews. He called us by our first names in a mocking fashion. He did not refer to my friend Shlomo Horowitz by his name, but rather he would say, “Let the rabbi stand”, for he excelled in Greek. Despite his Jew hatred, he would always give us an excellent grade without any exam. When a teacher of Polish literature was forced to “overcome his inclination” and to give a grade of “very good” to a Jewish student whose mother tongue was Yiddish, and who did not know Polish when he entered school – this fact was pointed out by the teachers in public to a gathering of parents and students in the class.

The Polish students in the higher grades belonged to underground organizations. The progressive youth streamed to the Socialist camp, founded by Ignacy Daszinski, and to various military “legions” that aspired to break the yoke of occupation and to set up an independent Poland headed by Josef Pilsudski. Only a few lone Jews belonged to these Polish organizations. For the most part, there was not a great social contact between the Jewish and Polish students. Polish families did not invite Jews to their homes for family celebrations. There was a sort of an iron curtain separating between the two nationalities. However, it was not an infrequent occurrence that a Polish youth fell in love with a Jewish girl. We had a good feeling when members of the ruling nationality “tolerated” us. In the afternoons, after doing homework, the Jewish student would be involved with sports and Zionist or social activity. Many of them, particularly children of the wealthy people, idled their time away, played cards, and danced salon dances. With the “awakening of spring”, the older ones pursued amorous pleasures. In the garden pathways, one could hear sighs of love, or serenades in front of the windows of the beloved. Those of lesser means were forced to dedicate their free time to giving lessons in order to assist their parents.

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During my youth, prior to the establishment of a high school for girls, the daughters of well off people studied in the Lyceum school in Lvov. Those who desired education, studied and took their matriculation exams as external candidates..

Graduates of the Gymnasia enrolled in universities, in the faculties of law or medicine, or in academies for economic sciences in Lvov, Krakow, Vienna, and Prague. The two Gymnasiums in our town had a tendency toward the humanities, and the level of mathematics and physics was poor. Therefore, there were few Jewish engineers. On the other hand, there were plenty of lawyers, and especially doctors, until the government began to impose quotas that restricted the percentage of Jews in the faculty of medicine.

On the eve of the world war, the majority of the university graduates belonged to the nationalist camp as Zionists in Poale Zion. There were also many who were indifferent, who were simply careerists. There were very few who were brazen enough to state that they were Poles of the Mosaic faith. A Jewish imprint was upon the hearts of almost all of them, whether they had gained their Jewish knowledge and feelings from their homes or from the cheder in which they studied during their childhood, or from a Hebrew school, or from a private tutor who taught them Judaism. In the public schools, there was an hour of Jewish religious study conducted by an official government teacher of religion. This hour was an hour of mockery and derision, since for the most part this teacher was a complete ignoramus in matters of Judaism. The government appointed to this position an ordinary teacher who happened to be Jewish, without checking qualifications. If he happened to know a bit of Hebrew language or Jewish books, he would be weak in the vernacular, so these hours were times of joking and ridicule.

We remember two religion teachers. One was Zigmund Kamerling, who as an elderly Hebrew Maskil of the German school, who botched the Polish language during the hours of “religion”; and Meciek Szlesinger, who told us Bible stories from a Polish workbook, even though almost all of us – with the exception of the children of the assimilationists – knew Torah and the bible with Rashi's commentary, and we did not like this bit of ground up straw. On the other hand, the Poles had weekly religion classes that were given by a priest who was a theologian, who was ordained and had influence on the entire manner of education in the educational institution. The Catholic church spread its patronage, and its influence was strong upon all government educational institutions. Most of the students of the Gymnasiums were of the middle class, and with the advance of secularism, their parents made peace with the fact that their children would be studying with the gentiles even on the Sabbath, provided that they did not write on the Sabbath. We all obeyed this out of national solidarity. This was not the situation in the 19th century. Then, the number of those who studied in Gymnasiums was small, and the Jewish doctors of our city were children of the parents of the established trades (tailors and shoemakers who were holders of diplomas), children of parents who were Maskilim, Liberals, assimilationists, or were themselves among the very few heretics [34] in the city. However, in the 20th century, the stream of students from traditional homes who flocked to the Gymnasiums increased. The Jewish Gymnasia students filled the ranks of the youth movements on the Jewish street. The studying youth gathered around Haskalah circles, and in Zionist groups for the study of Judaism, the nurturing of the Zionist idea, and the playing of nationalistic sports. The government school shied away from all Jewish topics, and the Polish sports organizations did not willingly accept Jews.

University graduate Groups

The number of university graduates grew each year. I remember the Maccabia group and the first of the graduates during the time of their studies, and after they graduated with the degree of doctor. These groups were part of the Zionist movement, and dedicated themselves to political and cultural activities. I remember the first activists who stood out at the time: Leopold Sternlicht, Dr. Avraham Freulich, Dr. Felix Hopfen, Dr. Aharon Wang, Shmuel Laufbahn, Dr. Henryk Kanarek, Dr. Henryk Reichman, and Dr. Herman Lecker. The indifferent graduates, who were not interested in factions, as well as the assimilationists, organized around “Kazino” the social hall that had a library, newspapers, a cafeteria, and card games.

Religious Education

I am not qualified to write a chapter on religious life and traditional education. Nevertheless, in my survey of the image of the city, I must mention the “Talmud Torah” for the poor, which charged no tuition. I should mention the head of the Yeshiva Reb Yekutiel Kamelhar, a brilliant scholar and writer of Torah topics, who was commissioned to teach in the city by the city notables, who were known for their wealth and their Torah. The children of the Hassidic aristocracy studied with him. These were people who had money and property that they lent out for interest or for pledges, or founded discount banks. The following are the names of the pedigreed families: Reb Yosele Sheinblum, Reb Wolf Sheinblum, Reb Noach Shapira, Reb Yaakov Natan Kanner, Reb Motish Eckstein, Reb Hersh Stryzower, Reb Mendel Wechsler, Reb Shlomtze Teitelbaum, Halberstam, Mintz, etc.

Youth Movements

The “Tzeirei Zion” youth movement for working youth was the youth movement of the Gymnasia students. They organized into a “Yardenia” group. Gymnasia students from the third grade and above would be accepted into this group. The group operated underground, for the government educational officials forbade the existence of any student groups not under their auspices, especially a group of nationalistic-Zionist Jewish students. There were approximately 100 members in this group. During discussions, the older students lectured on topics that covered all areas of social science and nature, especially about the history of Zionism and the Jewish people. We set up interest groups to study the Land, literature, Hebrew language, and philosophy. The young members prepared lectures and organized discussion and evening debates. We maintained a library covering all Haskalah topics and areas of Jewish wisdom. We set up classes for Hebrew. In those days, prior to 1914, it was literally an obligation for each member to read “The Jewish State” and “Altneuland” of Herzl, “Auto-emancipation” of Leon Pinsker, “The National Existence of the Jews” (in Polish) by Shlomo Schiller, whom we saw as our spiritual guide. We studied Jewish history from the works of Heinrich Graetz and Dubnow [35].

We also debated general topics, based on the reading of the books of Bukel (History of Civilization in England), the “Foundations of the 19th Century” by Chamberlain, “Secrets of the World” by Ernest Hickel, the theory of aesthetics of Hyppolyte Taine [36], “Flames” by the Polish revolutionary Brzozowski, etc. In the Zionist circle, we read the books of Achad Haam, Klausner, Nordau, Pinsker, etc. The youths volunteered for every

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Zionist activity, collected money for the Keren Kayemet, and distributed Zionist newspapers: “Moriah”, a publicist literary monthly, “Haolam”, and “Di Velt”. When I joined the group, Shmuel Laufbahn (the cousin of Yitzchak Laufbahn, the editor of “Hapoel Hatzair”), a student of the upper school, was the head of the group. This Shmuel, a student of the eighth grade, left the city one bright day and disappeared. His savings enabled him to reach Alexandria on the way to the Land of Israel, from where he was returned by the Austrian consul at the request of his parents. He immigrated to America when he finished his university studies during the First World War. Afterwards, the heads of this group were Henryk Reichman, Benny Gleicher, Tzvi Koretz (who was later the Chief Rabbi of Salonika), Shlomo Horowitz, the writer of these lines, and Yechezkel Lewin (a rabbi in Katowice, later in Lvov).

{Photo page 210: Jordania Young Zion Student Organization in 1912. First row from right, seated: Chaim Leser, Puretz, Avraham Tantz, Kalman Birman, Avraham Teller. Second row seated from right: Kuba Glasberg, Shimon Karpf, Aharon Rosenbaum, Shlomo Horowitz, Druker, Tzvi Koretz, Kuba Alter, Moshe Wald (Yaari), Benek Kahane, Shaufel. Third row standing from right: Frederick Elfenbein, Bradech, Grinspan, Meir Wald (Yaari) Kuperman, --, --, --, --, --, A. Druker, Fishman, Yosef Druker, Hauser. Fourth row standing from right: Lieberman, Elbaum, Kaplaner, Koretz, Schneeweiss, --, --, --, Koretz.}


In the years 1913-1914, I participated with my friends Shlomo Horowitz and Yaakov Alter in the national convention in Lvov of all of the Zionist student organizations that were affiliated with the “Tzeirei Zion” movement (not to be confused with “Tzeirei Zion”, a political movement in Poland and Russian during the 1920s). The chief speakers were our friends Sh. Elenberg, Eliezer Rager, and Yaakov Freund (Yedidya). In July 1914, a few weeks prior to the outbreak of the war, the last convention took place. During the debate in the academics house, we were informed of the arrival of the secret police. To our good fortune, we succeeded in escaping by jumping out of the windows, for were we to be caught, we would have been banned from all Gymnasiums in the country without recourse.

The war broke out in August 1914. The Russians conquered most of Galicia, and we dispersed as refugees in the western area of the monarchy. Most of us met in Vienna. The older ones were drafted in the army, and the younger ones continued to study in the Polish Gymnasiums that were set up for the refugees in Vienna. Members from all cities of Galicia gathered, and renewed the Tzeirei Zion organization. The location of the movement was on Sarviten Gasse (Street) in the Ninth Quarter.

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The best of the counselors from all settlements of Galicia worked for Zionist education. I found there Eliezer Rager, Zygmunt (Shmaryahu) Elenberg, Shlomo Horowitz, Shimon Shmorak, Naftali Nussenblatt, Eliahu Rosenbaum (Meroz), Aryeh Tartakower, Aryeh Krempner (Amir), Yaakov Perelberg (Peleg), Dolek Horowitz, and Yaakov Horowitz – all of them today in Israel. The following did not succeed to make aliya: Tolu Nussenblatt, Yechezkel Wahl (murdered while he was the director of the hospital in the Warsaw Ghetto), the brothers David and Yehuda Cohen (Tarnow), the brother Reiss, etc. My brother Meir was enlisted in the army, and fought as a captain on the Russian front and later in Albania. In 1917, our organization participated in the preparation of “Judentag” in the Zohl Concert House in Vienna, under the direction of Martin Buber and Ziegfried Berenfeld. During these war years, in 1916, there was a unification of “Tzeirei Zion” and the scouting organization “Hashomer”, and thus was founded the united youth movement “Hashomer Hatzair”.

Hashomer Hatzair

{Photo page 211: Hashomer Hatzair in 1916. Seated from right: Frederick Elfenbein, Leon Kupferman, Meir Wald (Yaari) [37], Bardach. Standing from right Lieberman, Freulich, Puretz, Braun, Schneeweiss.}

I participated as a member in the first leadership committee of the Hashomer Hatzair movement, which was established in Vienna in 1916 by a merger of the Hashomer scouting organization with Tzeirei Zion. Members of the movement, who returned to the cities of Galicia after the Russian invasion, energetically began to establish new branches. Representatives went out from Vienna to the cities of Poland, to the area of Austrian occupation, and from there to Lithuania. I founded the branch in Rzeszow myself. In 1917, a convention of Hashomer Hatzair took place in Tarnow, where representatives of the movement from Vienna, Galicia, and the cities of occupied Poland took part. This convention provided a stimulus to the spread of the Hashomer Hatzair idea. The dogma of the movement can be summed up in one sentence: Go forth to your homeland, build up the new homeland on the old homeland, on the foundation of personal morality and social justice, to live in accordance to the example of the most distinguished members of the Second Aliya such as A. D. Gordon and Vitkin and protect the homeland like the members of Hashomer, like the brave men of Tel Chai with Josef Trumpeldor and his comrades.

Members of Hashomer Hatzair from the towns of Galicia, Poland and Lithuania absorbed in their homes the values of traditional Judaism, the ideas of the visions of Isaiah, the emotions and elegies of Jeremiah, the pining of the mourners of Zion from the Zion poems of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi [38], the influences of the Haskalah literature, the depth of the satirical stories of Mendele [39], the lachrymose humor of Shalom Aleichem, the Hassidic enthusiasm of Reb Nachman of Bratzlov, the stories of Y. L. Peretz, the love of Zion in the renaissance literature (“Ahavat Zion” of Mapu), the poems of Bialik (“El Hatzipor” and “Techezakna”), the Jewish history and thought from the history of Graetz, the works of Achad Haam and the “Autoemancipation” of Pinsker, the Jewish State and “Altneuland” of Herzl. The meditative works regarding our national existence by Shlomo Schiller and Martin Buber nourished our spirit. With this spiritual baggage, we organized youth groups for Hachshara. At the end of the war, and with the authorization of the Mandate based on the Balfour declaration in San Remo, the aliya began.

The youth decided to cast off the yoke of exile, just as the small nations cast off the yoke of Austrian rule. The young people left

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to establish the national home of our scattered and dispersed people, and to free them from the hatred of the gentiles.

The pioneers of the movement went to Zion with banners and flags. The first groups reached there in 1919, and found the land sown with rocks, desolation and malarial bogs. Along with the youth movements of Hapoel Hatzair, Tzeirei Zion, Poale Zion, and the nationalist religious youth, they continued the activities of building up the settlement on the foundations that were established by the people of Bilu [40] and the Second aliya. The community of Rzeszow also played its part among the building and fighting youth movements, and sent the best of its sons and daughters to the Land of Israel. Rzeszow natives are found in Kibbutzim, groups and Moshavim in all corners of the Land. From among the natives of Rzeszow who played a role in the Kibbutz movement, we should point out Meir Yaari the son of Reb Chaim Wald, one of the first members of Chovevei Zion in our city. However, I am not qualified to discuss at length in the memorial pages of the book of Rzeszow the merits and role of Meir Yaari in the annals of the settlement and the workers movement.

The Survivors of the Haskalah

In the 19th century, the rays of Haskalah penetrated the ranks of the Hassidic and religious youth and Yeshiva students. There were a few Maskilim left in the city, who were already old during my childhood. I recall Reb Moshe David Geshwind, who wrote poems, and translated the poems of Slowacki from Polish. I recall the publication of the poem “The Father of the Afflicted”. My father told me of young people who secretly read Peretz Smolenskin, the books of Ranak, Shir, Y. Arter, Y. H. Shore, and Reuven Asher Broides. During my youth, hundreds of the youth of Rzeszow and the other cities of Galicia gathered at a convention in the city of Debica and founded the “Hashachar” youth movement, a Zionist group for religious youth. The founders included Reb Moshe Weisenfeld of our city, Yitzchak Laufbahn (later the editor of “Hapoel Hatzair”); Daniel Leibel, a linguist (today a member of the Language Committee); and Dov Kimchi, a writer and pedagogue in Jerusalem.

Young intelligent women formed the “Miriam” group, which worked to cultivate the Haskalah and general culture, later in the spirit of Hebrew and Zionism. The first members of this movement included Rachel Hochman, Sheinka Chaim (the sister of Levi Chaim, a well-known Zionist activist), Rachel Tenenbaum, Dvora Abramowitz, and others. The Zionist women were organized into the “Shulamit” group that worked diligently on behalf of Jewish education.

Civic Organizations, Unions and Groups

The Zionist Movement

I recall the organizations that existed at the beginning of the century, prior to the outbreak of the World War. I will first mention the “Ahavat Zion” group. My father Reb Chaim Wald was one of the founders of this group, and he dedicated the best of his powers and ideas to it. The members of this group were Zionists even before the First Zionist congress. This organization was like a branch of “Chovevei Zion” of Odessa. The first activists in this organization were Reb Abba Apfelbaum the author of monographs on the rabbis of Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries; Reb Naftali Glucksman, Kalman Kurtzman, Shlomo the son of Berel Cohen, and others. With the appearance of Herzl, youth from all circles streamed to the movement, and a strong Zionist organization arose that took upon itself a leadership role in the world movement, the protection of the rights of the national minorities, and the standing of candidates for public elections for all national representative bodies. It battled with the rightist circles, that is the masses of Orthodox and Hassidim, under the leadership of the Admorim and their gabbaim who guarded their domination over the communal council and town council and supported the assimilationists who were connected to the government, for they regarded the Zionist movement as a power within the Jewish community that must be crushed by all means. The Zionist power grew stronger, and they succeeded in having their candidates elected to the community and the town council. Throughout many years, assimilationists stood at the head of the community, such as Dr. Fechtdegan, Dr. Wilhelm Hochfeld, and Dr. Shmuel Reich. Later, a Hassid of Rymanow served as the head, Mr. Asher Silber, a very wealthy man who owned the government monopoly for liquor. He was supported by the head of the Dzikow Hassidim, Reb Motish Eckstein, who owned a flourmill. The struggle lasted for many years, until the Zionists succeeded in entering their representatives to the communal and town councils. They increased their representation until they took over completely during the First World War, with the collapse of the Hapsburg monarchy. The first Zionist head of the community was Dr. Adolf Schnee. The Zionist movement gained strength in the professional intelligentsia, especially among the lawyers. I recall that they stood out in their dedication to the Zionist idea, and they fought with the assimilationists as well as with the Orthodox and Hassidic camps, who were influenced by the Admorim, the polemical newspaper “Kol Machzikei Hadas” of Lvov, The “Shlomei Emunei Yisrael” Orthodox movement, and “Agudas Yisrael”. The Zionist movement held its stand against the Orthodox and Hassidic powers who joined forces with the assimilationists and the Polish government in Galicia. They formed a strong national religious Zionist organization that was part of the “Mizrachi” movement. The heads of this movement were Naftali Tuchfeld, Hersh Moshe Eisen and others. They spread the Zionist idea in orthodox circles, and contributed to the “Hamitzpe” weekly that was published in Krakow under the editorship of Reb Menachem Leser. A Yiddish Zionist weekly was also published in Rzeszow. It was called “Yiddishe Folkszeitung”, and edited jointly by Abba Apfelbaum, Naftali Glucksman, and Chaim Wald. The battle with the assimilationists on the pages of the newspaper was bitter. The assimilationists, assisted by the government, afflicted the editors and persecuted them with an outpouring of wrath. I recall how one clear day, the town engineer, the town doctor, and the police chief appeared at the house of father of blessed memory in the name of the town council (magistrate), and issued a protocol that the house was in danger of collapse, and must be torn down. After some time, father answered the pleas of mother to cease his attacks, in order to save our household and family from hunger. Fines were imposed on the chief polemicists for sanitary violations, as it were. It was forbidden to declare Yiddish as the “mother tongue” during the census, and there were show trials for those who declared Yiddish as their spoken language. All of this was to no avail. The Zionists Dr. Adolf Schnee, Dr. Felix Hopfen, Dr. Aharon Wang and others became representatives of the Jewish population.

Poale Zion

The Zionist movement, which was at first monolithic, broke up into factions. In addition to “Mizrachi”, during my youth, the “Poale Zion” movement arose, which was a socialist Zionist movement, whose leaders appeared in meetings of salesmen, officials, apprentices, and artisans, and won over people to the ideals of Borochov and Sirkin. The first members of Poale Zion included the “revolutionary” founders Naftali Glucksman, Ben-Zion Fett, Levi Chaim, Bernard Fisch, Meshulam Davidson (who made aliya with his wife during the Second Aliya), and Mordechai Buchbinder. We should note that the members of this movement were officials, bookkeepers and store salesmen. The number of tailors and shoemakers was small. Jewish workers were members of the Jewish section of the Polish socialist movement.

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The head of the socialist faction was an assimilationist Jew Dr. Marek Pelzling, the son of a shoemaker. There were also supporters of “Bund”, Jewish socialists without their own organization. I knew needle workers who read “Di Zukunft”, the poems of Reisen, Maurice Rosenfeld, Maurice Winchevsky, Leisin, and others.

Jewish craftsmen – tinsmiths, locksmiths, dyers, engravers, glaziers, carpenters, tailors and goldsmiths – were organized into the “Yad Charutzim” organization headed by Reb Shmuel Fett, a merchant and manufacturer of building materials. Members of the Fett family played a role in all branches of Zionist activity. Ben-Zion was involved in Poale Zion and later in the General Zionists. Hersh was a graduate who was involved in the Poale Zion movement. Mendel Fett organized Jewish sporting events in soccer (football) and athletics.

Cultural and Social Life

At the beginning of the century, Jewish cultural life was still mainly traditionally religious. The youth studied in cheders. Older youths attended the Beis Midrashes and Kloizes, where they debated and delved into Talmud and its commentaries. During the evening and night hours, the Beis Midrashes hummed with the splendid chant of Abaye and Rabba: “Reb Papa said, Reb Ashi said” [41]. My father told me that he only rested from his studies and slept in his own bed on Sabbath eves. On the rest of the weekdays, they studied until the wee hours prior to dawn, just as the “diligent student” in the poem of Ch. N. Bialik. Craftsmen and ordinary Jews attended classes on Ein Yaakov. Between Mincha and Maariv (the afternoon and evening services), they listened to preachers and sermonizers who came from the cities of Lithuania and Poland. Their lectures were spiced with verses and rabbinic statements regarding the time of year, the issues of the day, and exuded a love of Zion.

On Shabbat Hagadol and Shabbat Shuva [42], the rabbi of the city delivered a lecture, and the synagogue was full to the brim.

I will not pass over an important event in our city. Reb Abba Apfelbaum opened the first Hebrew school, called “Safah Berura”, which conducted its curriculum with the Sephardic Hebrew pronunciation by the teacher Meshulam Davidson of blessed memory, who came from Russia. Reb Abba himself taught Bible with the German translation and the commentary of Reb Moshe Mendelsohn [43]. I thereby learned the classic German language, and when I entered the public school, the German teacher asked me from where I obtained my knowledge of German literature. During my childhood, before the Maskilim and their children spoke, wrote and lectured in Polish, only the young generation who studied in Gymnasiums obtained a knowledge of Polish language and literature. At that point, the influence of German culture declined, and the ringing of the Polish language echoed on the promenades among the studying youth. Their language of love was already Polish.

The Zionist circles of the older people, of the students and university graduates, organized study days and discussions on topics of literature and science. Writers and lecturers from the capital cities of Vienna, Lvov and Krakow came to our city to lecture, as did leaders of the Zionist movement. We hosted Chaim Weizmann, Nachum Sokolow, Dr. Yehoshua Thon, Dr. Nathan Birenbaum, and others. Reb Nachum Sokolow was happy to be able to chat with a scholar such as Reb Abba Apfelbaum, who invited him to visit the synagogue and old cemetery, where he showed him the tombstones of Parnassim from the 17th century who were representatives of the Council of the Four Lands. The Zionist organized an annual Chanukah celebration called “The Celebration of the Maccabees”, where Adolf Shtand, Dr. Leon Reich, Dr. Gershon Zipper and others prime Zionist speakers lectured on the strength of Israel and the renaissance of the nation. I organized film days under the auspices of the Keren Kayemet, and during the holiday season, I organized “Hebrew Post” to distribute Rosh Hashanah greetings, which were sent to thousands and distributed by students. The fee for the stamp was dedicated to the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund). We distributed shares in “Otzar Hityashvut” (The Treasury of Settlement) and “Hachsharat Hayishuv” (Preparation of the Settlement). On the eve of Yom Kippur, we organized a collection of donations in the “plates” in the Beis Midrash prior to Mincha [44]. Our representative sat in the vestibule, and we collected donations. Our city excelled in competition with other cities, for we were often the leaders in the collection of donations.

The language struggle between Hebrew and Yiddish did not pass over our city. Poale Zion bore the banner of Yiddish. The Zionist Maskilim who were knowledgeable in Torah recognized Hebrew as the national language; however they saw Yiddish as a sister to Hebrew and respected the “mother tongue”. The greatest writers wrote in both languages. The Zionists who had their roots in assimilationism and knew only Polish, saw Yiddish as a lowly language and termed it as “jargon”, became proponents of Hebrew. They had not studied it and were therefore exempt from lecturing in Hebrew, and they spoke only in Polish and broken German before the masses who did not know Polish. My father of blessed memory knew Hebrew and Yiddish, and studied German during the time of the Haskalah. He was able to converse in Polish only with difficulty, and Poles were forced to talk to him in German. With regard to business matters with gentiles, the responsibility for negotiation fell upon mother of blessed memory, for she knew how to speak in the dialect of the Polish farmers.

A special birthday was celebrated by all segments of the community. This was the 18th of August, the birthday of Kaiser Franz Josef. On that day, the synagogues were decorated as on a festival. The Jews, and the rabbi who was dressed in linen clothing, a black silk cloak and a “kolpak” on his head, gathered in the synagogue. There, the minister of the city and army officials were seated on chairs. An army delegation composed of Jewish soldiers in splendid clothing with captain's caps on their heads sat in the front rows. The rabbi delivered a patriotic sermon in praise of the Kaiser, and the cantor recited chapters of Psalms accompanied by the choir. The synagogue was filled with celebrants who revered the Kaiser. A permanent division of three brigades, brigade # 40, brigade # 17 of the defense forces, and a cavalry brigade, was stationed in our city. Many Jews served in all of the brigades, except for the cavalry brigade. Captains of the cavalry brigade came only from the nobility, the Rothschild family, and the wealthy families of Vienna.

Jewish musical groups visited our city. I remember during my youth that the “Broder Zinger”, singers from the city of Brody, among the most famous in Galicia, were put up in the Lieberman hotel. I am not sure if these were the original players. Yiddish theatrical groups from Romania, trained by Avraham Goldfaden, came at set times to our city. I saw performances of “Herzele Meyuchas”, “Chinka Pinka”, and the Plays of Yaakov Gordin “God, Man and Devil” – a sort of Jewish “Faust”, “Mirele Efrat”, and others. With the spread of the Zionist idea, the Jewish students began to enjoy reading Yiddish literature, and set up a group of aficionados headed by Yosef Storch of blessed memory. I recall the performance of the “Vilner Householder”, that was performed in Yiddish by the Gymnasia students. The youth who were educated in Polish culture streamed to the guest performances of the Polish theater of Krakow and Lvov, and the opera “Halka” by Moniuszko, and they revered the greats of Polish theater Karol Edwantowicz, Solski, and others.

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{Photo page 214: “Yad Charutzim” Craftsmen's Organization. First row from right: Axt, Goldreich, Nussbaum, --, Proper. Second row from right. Seler, Elbaum, Goldstein, Israel, Yisrael Ducker, Shmuel Oberlander, Max Diamant, Nadel. Third row from right: Feller, Avraham Rubin, Goldman, Emir, Rosenbaum, -- Singer, Steinwasser, Aaron Kalifan.}


Translator's Footnotes

1. A Hassidic sect that rejects any form of Zionism, and considers the re-establishment of Jewish nationhood on the Land of Israel prior to the advent of the Messiah to be blasphemous. Back

2. The term used in Hebrew is 'kitzezu benetiot', literally 'cutting down of plants', a Talmudic euphemism for becoming involved in heresy. Back

3. Women are exempt from a select number of time bound commandments, including the following of the daily prayer cycle, the wearing of tallis and tefillin, etc. It is unfair to state that they are exempt from the commandments in general, as this author implies. However the statements that at the time, the parents were less strict with girls, and that girls generally studied in public schools with greater frequency than the boys, are known historical facts. Back

4. The Ushpizin (guests in Aramaic) are the seven Biblical, spiritual guests who are symbolically invited into the Sukka during the holiday of Sukkot. The seven Ushpizin are Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, and David (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon). Here, the term is used to describe Biblical names in general. Back

5. The latter four names are of Yiddish rather than Hebrew origin. Back

6. The irony here need not be pointed out. I suspect that this choice of the first of the list of names is deliberate. Back

7. An early leader of the Zionist movement. Back

8. Maariv is one of the leading newspapers of Israel. Back

9. Even though the assimilationists and Hassidim were at opposite ends of the religious spectrum, they were united in their antipathy to Zionism. Back

10. Yizkor is a prayer in memory of departed relatives recited in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret (the 8th day of Sukkot), the last day of Passover, and the last day of Shavuot. Back

11. See footnote 1. According to the religious opponents of Zionism, it is forbidden to take any action to hasten the Messianic redemption, which must come solely at G-d's appointed time. Back

12. “Hachnasat Kallah” refers to providing for a bride, and “Oreach Nata Lalun” means “A guest has come to sleep”. “Maagal Neurim” refers to “Circle of Youth” or “Circle of Enlightened Ones” (both being homonyms). Back

13. A minor holiday approximately one month after Passover, when it is customary to go on hikes in the country and to shoot bows and arrows. Back

14. A derogatory term for gentiles. Back

15. Moses Mendelsohn was considered to be the father of the Haskalah. He translated the Bible into German. Back

16. Kaddish is the prayer that is recited by a son in the synagogue for eleven months following the death of a parent. Back

17. Rashi is the most prominent commentary on the Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses). He is also the most prominent commentary on the Talmud. Back

18. These are five of the tractates of the Talmud. Berachot deals with the laws of prayers and blessings, Kiddushin deals with the laws of marriage, Baba Kama and Baba Metzia deal with civil law, and Pesachim deals with the laws of Passover. Back

19. A generic term for the wife of a rabbi. Back

20. According to Jewish law as outlined in Deuteronomy 25 5-6, if a man dies childless, one of his brothers is to take the woman for a wife (known as Yibbum or Levirate Marriage), and the first child born is called after the name of the dead man. If none of the man's brothers wishes to take the woman as a wife (it should be remembered that according to the Torah, a man may have more than one wife – this was banned for Ashkenazic Jewry only about 1,000 years ago) the Chalitza ceremony must be performed as outlined in Deuteronomy 25, 7-10 prior to the woman being able to remarry. The Chalitza ceremony involves the brother-in-law making a declaration before the court that he does not wish to marry the woman, the woman then removing the shoe of the brother-in-law, and spitting before him, and the court declaring “Thus is to be done to the man who does not wish to build up the household of his brother”. The early rabbis removed the option of Yibbum, and from then on, only Chalitza is practiced. The law is still in force today if a man dies childless. Back

21. An adage based on Jewish law, due to the advent of the joyous holiday of Purim in Adar. Back

22. The Torah is divided up into 54 weekly portions. On occasion (to accommodate for the fact that sometimes holidays fall out on Sabbaths, and that one leap years that add an extra month, there is a need for at least 4 extra portions), some Torah portions are doubled up. Vayakhel Pekude is generally doubled up in a non leap year, and falls right at the end of Adar, a few weeks before Passover. Terumah and Tetzaveh are always separate, and fall a few weeks before. Back

23. As the days get longer, the time for Mincha and Maariv (the afternoon and evening service) becomes later. In March or April, the time would be late enough that the studies would conclude before the prayer time. Back

24. The night before the bris (circumcision) of a male child, it is customary for young children to gather in the house and recite the “Shema” prayer together. Back

25. A reference to the near sacrifice of Isaac, known as the Binding of Isaac. Back

26. Bereshit, the first Torah portion of Genesis, is read immediately following the conclusion of the fall holiday cycle of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Back

27. Song of Songs is read on Passover, and would have been studies in the cheder shortly before Passover. Back

28. Read on the holiday of Shavuot, in late May or early June. Back

29. The Torah portions of Leviticus start around Passover time, and extend to late spring. Back

30. These two time frames (the counting of the Omer is the period from Passover to Shavuot, and the Three Weeks fall between the two summer fast days in July / August) are semi-mourning periods of the Jewish calendar. Back

31. The term here has more of the connotation of ultra-Orthodox. Back

32. A violation of the kashruth laws. Back

33. I am not sure of the meaning of this strange expression – perhaps it means that they treated the Jews as a different species. Back

34. Hebrew term for heretic used here is 'apikorus', which does not translate very well into English. It comes from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, and is a term used for a Jewish unbeliever, or someone who has thrust off the trappings of traditional Judaism. Back

35. Heinrich Graetz and Simon Dubnow wrote two of the major surveys of Jewish history. Back

36. A professor of esthetics in Paris in the 19th century. Back

37. Meir Yaari was a very prominent figure on the left of the Zionist movement. He was one of the founders of Hashomer Hatzair in 1915. Later, in 1948, he was one of the founders of the left wing party Mapam (United party of Workers). After the establishment of the state of Israel, he was a member of the Knesset and an important political figure on the left of Israeli politics for many years. He wrote articles in this Yizkor book on pages 228 and 292. Back

38. Referring to the poetry dirges recited on the fast of Tisha Beov. Back

39. Mendele Mocher Sefarim. Back

40. An early aliya movement, Bilu is the acronym for “Beit Yisrael Lechu Venelcha”, “House of Israel, Arise and Go Up”. Back

41. Rabba, Abaye, Reb Papa, and Reb Ashi are all Talmudic sages. Back

42. Shabbat Hagadol is the Sabbath prior to Passover, and Shabbat Shuva is the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is customary for the rabbi to deliver a major lecture on these two Sabbaths. Back

43. The text itself says Reb Moshe Medesau, and I expect that this is a typographical error, and Moses Mendelsohn is intended. Back

44. It is customary to donate to charity on the eve of Yom Kippur, and for that purpose, plates are put out in the synagogue at the time of the Mincha (afternoon) service. Back

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