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Leon and Esther Wiesenfeld

by Michael Walzer-Fass

Translated by Aliya Middleton (nee Senensieb)

Pages 253-256 taken from the English section and modified to reflect the content of the Hebrew article

When we still lived in Reisha, Leon Wiesenfeld seemed to be one of the prominent personalities in our town. As long as fifty years ago his Yiddish plays were presented on the stage. Large posters on the walls in huge type announced that "at the request of the public" such and such a drama by Wiesenfeld was to be performed for the third time by an amateur group

In the half century that has gone by since those days, Leon Wiesenfeld has had a rich and varied career as a writer, journalist, editor and a public figure in Jewish life far beyond his native Galicia. Now, that he is well past his eightieth birthday, he has graduated from the daily Yiddish press, whose steady decline set in some years ago, and is active as the publisher and editor of an Anglo-Jewish magazine, which from its first page to its last, breathes of the soil of Israel and is pervaded by the spirit of Zionism. He is still active in communal affairs, still the warmhearted and sensitive Reisha Jew. His closely typed Yiddish letters are the impressive testimony of an undaunted soul. He has adapted himself, it is true, to the English language as his vehicle and he publishes an American style illustrated magazine; but he does it with good taste and his heart still is with the old type scholarly Jews who faithfully engage in their community's affairs.

Now, that his life has reached its eventide, it is refreshing to read not only his numerous journalistic and literary productions but also his stimulating private correspondence, in which he refers to his lifelong dream of settling in Israel. But his self-respect and his established stature as a public spokesman make him hesitate to become a citizen or a resident of a country without full mastery of its language. His letters to his townspeople are permeated with the charming and subtle humor of a Jewish scholar.

A fleeting glance at a special collection of Yiddish and Anglo-Jewish periodicals in the United States and the general press in Cleveland is enough to give us an idea of the high regard and admiration American Jewry has for Leon and Esther Wiesenfeld. One finds special issues devoted to them, and reports of anniversary celebrations of Leon Wiesenfeld's journalistic, literary and communal activities. Thus, in 1931, a banquet was arranged for him by the most prominent people in Cleveland, to mark his 25th year as a writer. Again, in 1937 a banquet was organized for him in Cleveland for a double celebration: his 50th birthday and the Silver Wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Wiesenfeld. A special committee organized the celebration. It was headed by many prominent members of the Jewish Community, including the late Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, a very close friend of the Wiesenfelds. 50 Zionist organizations and 600 guests participated in this celebration, which was reported in many newspapers accompanied by a photograph of the couple. His seventieth birthday was another great public event for the Wiesenfelds. But all this was finally more than enough for them. On their 50th marriage anniversary they quietly celebrated only with their relatives and close friends.

Two years ago a book by Leon Wiesenfeld appeared in English, telling the story of Cleveland's Jewry in the 1920s and 1930s. It is an outstanding little volume which gives the history of the Cleveland Jewish community. Many events and momentous developments are discussed succinctly and lucidly, with a critical eye that is not devoid of humor and irony. At the same time the author's warm Jewishness and humanity are reflected in that book.

His wife, Esther, nee Amsterdam, has been Leon's faithful and stimulating companion throughout his life, and is a fitting and complementary influence to his own dynamic personality. To this day she is involved in all his activities and his aspirations. Esther is an active public figure in her own right. While still in Reisha she served as chairman of the local Hakoah Sports Club and as Vice-Chairman of the "Poalei Zion" organization. She was active in every organization where she could be of assistance to the poor, and especially to children and workers. The Jews of Reisha showed their appreciation, when prior to her departure abroad, they elected her a Life Honorary Chairman of the organization helping “The Workers' Children”. And indeed the ties with her continued even when she lived in the United States.

Long before she left, however, she did a great deal for newly born children of poor parents. Esther Wiesenfeld has shown a remarkable knack of getting others to help her in her activities, and managed to enlist the support of many women of the educated circles for the organizations in which she was interested. Many of the Jewish women in Reisha were particularly impressed with all she did on behalf of poor women in confinement and their newborn infants, for whose benefit she initiated a campaign for clothes.

As chairman of the Hakoah Sports Club she succeeded, in cooperation with Dr. Samuel Reich, in securing official recognition for that body by the Polish League for Sport, resulting in allocations of sports clothes and funds. This helped to put HaKoah on the map in Poland.

On settling in Cleveland, Esther Wiesenfeld, together with her husband, organized the United Galician Jews of

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Cleveland, whose purpose was to help needy Galician Jews. Soon afterwards this local Association became affiliated with the all-American body, of which Leon Wiesenfeld is still Honorary Vice-President. At that time the money raised by the Associations of Galician Jews in the United States was applied in the main for helping Jewish artisans in Galicia and training their apprentices. But Esther's special concern was the remittance of funds to the Jewish Hospital and the Children's Home in Reisha. After the annihilation of the Jews of Reisha and Galicia in the Holocaust, the funds were diverted to Israel.

Esther Wiesenfeld is, indeed, an exemplary type of a public-spirited Jewess.

Wiesenfeld's Jewish Voice Pictorial has become the vehicle of his journalistic endeavors. It is tastefully put together, it is beautiful in appearance; the photographs are large and impressive and tell a story by themselves. That is the story of Jewish struggle for survival and dignity and of the building of Israel and its pulsating, exciting life. It is also the story of an untiring concern for the welfare of Israel.

While Israel comes first in the Jewish Voice Pictorial, American Jewry is either interwoven or receives a special treatment which is both illuminating and inspiring. One learns of American Jews in the past and in the present; one sees their portraits, one reads a great deal of pleasingly presented information about Jews in American life--in its arts and crafts, in its literature, sciences, business and economic activities. Leon Wiesenfeld's felicitous pen reaches into every nook and corner of Jewish life and Jewish destiny.

But while he knew how to adapt himself to the present day reality and in the spirit of America, Wiesenfeld remains at heart an incurable romantic, full of nostalgia for the years when modern ideas of Jewish renaissance first began to shape in his native Galicia. That was an atmosphere far removed from the practical business environment in which he now has to move. It is a world gone by, with only here and there a memory or a remnant which he seeks to keep alive by his warm correspondence with his old friends or in his writing about the old days in Galicia. He is distressed at the indifference he finds in respect to the history of his home-town Reisha and is seeking to remedy the situation.

Leon Wiesenfeld began his journalistic career in 1907 in Der Yiddisher Journal published in London, while he resided in Berlin. Soon afterwards he once again returned to Reisha and there he published a bi-weekly called Gerechtigkeit. At the same time he was the local correspondent of Der Tog, a Yiddish daily published in Krakow and edited by the late Yona Krepel. During the First World War, when he was in Prague, together with many other refugees, he published a bi-weekly Yiddish-German newspaper called Prager Yiddishe Zeitung. He also wrote for the local Jewish organ Selbstwehr (Self Defense) and later also for the German daily Prager

Note: On page 254 there is a copy of a poster in Polish and Yiddish advertising an amateur production in Reisha of Leon Wiesenfeld's play Cerissene Neshumes. The dates of the performance are Saturday and Sunday 23rd and 24th of August. No year given. It states that the income from the play will go to the unemployed.
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Tageblatt. Back in Reisha in 1918 he published a Yiddish weekly Di Yiddishe Folkszeitung. At the same time he contributed to the daily Jewish Polish language Nowy Dziennik and to the Wiener Morgen Zeitung in Vienna.

In 1920 he left Reisha for the United States. On arriving there, he began contributing to the Jewish Daily Forward in New York, but did not find the atmosphere there to his liking and moved to Philadelphia, where he worked on the Jewish Daily World. Then he returned to New York, where he became the editor of the Brooklyn Neie Zeitung, which was published in Yiddish and English. His next and final destination was--Cleveland. There he worked first as Associate Editor and in due course as Editor-in-Chief of the Yiddishe Welt (The Jewish World). From 1936 he published the Die Yiddishe Shtime, which started in Yiddish and continued in English. In Cleveland, Wiesenfeld became a leading figure not only in the field of Jewish journalism but in communal, cultural and Zionist affairs. He is still a member of the Zionist Organization, the Jewish Congress and several other local and national organizations. A heart attack put him out of circulation for a while, but as soon as he recovered, he resumed his activities at full blast. Printer's ink and communal work are in his blood, and he cannot get them out of his system.

Among his literary works, one should note the novel The Rabbi's Daughter, based on the legend of the beautiful daughter of the Rabbi of Tyrnau in Hungary, for whose sake the local prince adopted Judaism. Five periodicals in the United States, Canada and Argentina bought the rights to publish this work. When I asked my friend Leon Wiesenfeld to send me a copy of his novel, he could not oblige because the book was out of print and he did not even have a copy left in his house. He also wrote a few plays, mostly based on reality, on everyday life. His first play deals with the conversion to Christianity of an owner of a drinking tavern from Reisha called Zwergel. This play was performed in New York and then in provincial towns in the United States.

His second play Cerissene Neshumes, was first performed in Reisha and then in Tarnow, in my home town of Lancut, Lwow and later in Krakow. In one of his letters my friend Leon Wiesenfeld told me that his first play brought him an income of two thousand dollars. The second play brought no income what so ever.

His play Cerrissene Neshumes was performed in Reisha in 1919. From a review of this play written by Dr. Ezekiel Levin in the paper Nowy Dziennik, we learn a few details about the production. The directors were Leon Wiesenfeld, Pinchas Elenbogen, and Josef Storch. Although the actors were amateurs, the performance was received enthusiastically by the audience. The playwright Leon Wiesenfeld was very moved and warmly thanked the large and enthusiastic audience. The critic Dr. Ezekiel Levin notes that the play takes us out of our daily lives, showing us a wide canvass from the turbulent era of the rise of Poland. The reviewer predicts a brilliant future for the playwright. “Already today in 1919 he is one of few playwrights with a rare talent” – he writes.

Leon Wiesenfeld was known for his fight against anti-Semitism. With the Nazi's rise to power he organized protest meetings against the persecution of Jews in Germany. He did this in a town with many German inhabitants. However, he was not satisfied with words only. He organized a boycott against Germany and persuaded his friend Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver to head this boycott.

Wiesenfeld is always eager to embrace new and challenging activities. That is why we found in him a devoted friend regarding the publication which is now before the reader. He has taken a strong interest in this project, supplied material, and has found ways of enlisting the active support of several Reisha Jews in the United States.

{Photograph on page 255 - The performance of Cerrissene Neshume in 1919.
From the right first row, sitting: Elian, Esther Wiesenfeld, Wadler. From the right , second row sitting: Jerzi Elian, Mrs Rosenbaum, the playwright Leon Wiesenfeld, Mrs Herl, Joseph Storch. From the right, standing: Lausberg, Lausberg's sister, Avraham Kurtz, Retig. Tuchman, Aharon Presser.


{Page 256}

Berish Weinstein

by Professor Dov Sadan, Jerusalem

From the introduction to the book “Reisha”, pages 23-24.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 256: Berish Weinstein.}

Berish the son of Eliezer Yaakov HaKohen Weinstein. He was born on March 18, 1905 in Rzeszow. He was related to the author of Birchat Yaakov, His grandfather's father Rabbi Shlomo Schlossman, who was a sharp Kabbalist, one of the “Ghetto dreamers”, disappeared without leaving a trace. His father, a scholar from the stock of Sanz, immigrated to America and left his wife and two young children in Rzeszow. He was educated by his grandmother Chanale, and was influenced by her son-in-law Reb Zvulun, the son of the rabbinical judge Rabbi Yidele Orshiczer of Tarnow. He studied in cheders, in the Polish public school, and also in a German school in Reichenberg, Czechoslovakia, where he lived as a refugee during the First World War. In his youth, he was a witness to the pogrom of the Hallercziks in Poland. He moved to Vienna in 1923, where he got to know his cousin Malka (his wife of blessed memory). He arrived in the United States in 1925, studied English at night school and then studied at the Hebrew teacher's seminary. In 1927, the first fruits of his pen appeared in the Tzuzamen periodical. He also participated in Leim und Tzigel, Tzukunft, Globos (Warsaw), Literarishe Bleter (Warsaw), Unzer Tog (Vilna), Yiddish Tag (New York), and Opatoszo Lewik Zamlbicher. He edited the Hemshech publication (1939, along with Demblin and Moshe Starkman).

His books include: "Bruchwarg" (1936); "Reisha", an epic poem 1947; "Leider und Poems" (Songs and Poems), 1949, "America", an epic poem , 1955; "In David Hamelech's Giter" (In King David's Guitar), an epic poem, 1960; "Homeryade" (Yiddish and Hebrew), 1964; "Basherte Lider" (Designated Songs) (for his 60th birthday), 1965; "Malka's Ballad" (Yiddish and Hebrew), 1967; Berish Weinstein Book (for his 60th birthday), 1967. He was given prizes in the name of: Moshe Leib Halpern, Lana Bimako (twice), Mordechai Staller, and Tzvi Kessel.

The poet Berish Weinstein displays clearly for us the typology of the community of Rzeszow. Groups and individuals, various classes, the trades, the mentalities, the style, etc. – however if we wish to see the foundations of the various cultural streams that penetrated the community and flowed through it, we see Hassidism with all of its branches as the greatest organic unit, as contrasted to the other streams opposite it. In truth, the poetry before us demonstrates to us that aside from the community of Hassidim in the city, there were also common folk, many of whose children had already uprooted themselves in the wave of immigration abroad, whether due to shame or poverty. There were craftsmen organized into Yad Charutzim, and there were workers organized into the Socialist organizations. There were those who violated the Sabbath and ate non-kosher food, just as there were those who watched detective movies at the movie theaters. There were disputes between the Zionists and Socialists. After the First World War, the youth joined them, thirsty for change and action, some attracted to Hachsharah and pioneering aliya, and others attracted to underground revolutionary activities. With all this, even though the matters stand out clearly, with respect to Hassidic life in the city they were like marginal visions, and the poet does not invite us into their centers in the homes, as he invites us into the centers of Hassidism – his family members, the kloizes, the tables of the rebbes. He does not present before us images that will reveal other streams as he presents Hassidism. He, the poet, succeeded in astonishing us with his images from the realm of Hassidism – first of all, from those who were very close to him, and members of his family. Next there were personalities who were outstanding in their description, such as Reb Hirsch Yaakov who recited Kaddish with the orphans of the Kloiz, or Reb Motish Ekstein the wealthy Hassid and his wife, and especially the rebbes, whether they lived there permanently or came to visit. A historian, even if he was fortunate and was able to describe these images in the manner that our poet does, would not succeed in covering over the lack of other personalities who established scholarship in the city. His critic would ask him: where, for example, is there a personality of the type of the rabbi of the city, known to the entire region, Rabbi Nathan Lewin, or the type of the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yekutiel Kamelhar, and other such people. It goes without saying that the historian would be asked to complete the gallery with those personalities who opposed Hassidim in the city, people of the Haskalah who were indeed the minority in this community – however its extensive legacy was widely spread and even reached the national movement. His critic would ask him: where for example are those personalities who are etched in the memory of the community – its head, my paternal grandfather Maczner and his two sons-in-law Yitzchak Holtzer and especially Moshe David Geshwind, whose writings, signed with his name and his nickname Meged, were published in most of the newspapers of the Maskilim. Among the figures who were known to the community there were side figures such as Reb Yisrael Zalman Bierman, the writer in Machzikei Hadat. There were central figures such as Reb Abba Apfelbaum, the writer and scholar, who was known for his research into the scholars of Italy, who was a connecting line between the Haskalah and Zionism – his personality is that of a wealthy Haskalah leader, an antithesis to the image of the wealthy Hassid Reb Motish Ekstein. He, the historian, would be requested to write about the changes that took place with the wave of national awakening, whether in the spirit of tradition or the spirit of modernity, or an intermediate spirit. He would be asked to paint an image of the type of the generation of the fathers such as Reb Chaim Wald, and the generation of the sons such as Moshe Weisenfeld, the father of the Hashachar organization of Beis Midrash students, or his assistant Mendel Karp whose correspondence in newspapers described the life in the city and its events. He would certainly have to describe people such as Reb Naftali Glicksman, a speaker and a writer, the bearer of popular Hebrew and Zionism

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who wrote about the history of vegetarianism in Israel, or types such as the Hebrew teacher from across the border Meshulam Davidson, and other such people. With all this, he would be especially expected to illuminate the popular folklore, which was exuberant here in the houses of the Jews and forced its way into the verses of songs. He would be asked to describe the troubadour whose poems and hymns were carried over regions and countries until they reached our country – that is Nachum Sternheim, who made a living as a packer of boxes but whose art made him a popular poet, the author of “Tiere Malka” (Dear Queen), “Hobn Mir a Nigundl” (Here we have a Melody), whose songs tell of their writer.

Thus the historian, the writer of annals, and the poet, the writer of verse, are different. – For the poet is the one who presents to us the core of his own home environment from within the city and its area, in an encompassing fashion.


Berish Weinstein

(The roots of his poetry)

by Moshe Starkman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Dov Berish Weinstein was born on March 18, 1905 in the city of Rzeszow, a principal city in Galicia, to a family that was related to the Rebbe of Sanz, the author of Birchat Yaakov and Divrei Chaim – who served as a central personality in the dispute that broke out between the Hassidic courts of Sanz and Sadagora. The wide-branched Weinstein family would constantly wonder about the family mystery that was never solved: his grandfather's father Reb Shlomo Schlossman, who occupied himself with Kabbalah, disappeared suddenly, and nobody knows what became of him. Did he go out into “exile” in the world? Perhaps he made aliya to the Land of Israel, to spend his final years with the Kabbalists of Tzfat. This mystery has not been solved to this day.

In order to get out of army service in the Austrian Army, Reb Berish Weinstein's father immigrated to America before the First World War, leaving his wife and two young children in Rzeszow. Young Berish was educated in the home of his grandmother Chanale whom Weinstein mentions in his poems – on the knees of her son-in-law, his uncle Zvulun, or as he was known “Zvulun from the seashore”[1]

– the son of the rabbinical judge of Tarnow. Berish studied in cheder and in the Polish public school. In the home of his grandmother, Berish's ears and spirit absorbed the words and melodies of the techinot[2] of his grandmother Chanale, as well as books of Hebrew with Yiddish translation. He paid great attention to the discussions of his uncle on the topics of Torah and Hassiidism. During the First World War, the Weinstein family fled Rzeszow, like many others, in order to save themselves from the tribulations of the invasion of the Russian army. They lived a life of wandering in Reichenberg, Bohemia. They later returned home, when the Hallercziks cut off the beards of Jews in the renewed Poland, and the masses of Jews suffered from a variety of decrees. Nevertheless, Rzeszow continued to serve as a center of Hassidism and scholarship, and the youths of the proper families of the householders were very jealous of the “free and healthy youths of the wolia”. The stormy Jewish life of the city became even more vibrant, and the minds and hearts of many youths became attached to Zionism, Bundism, or Communism. Berish listened to numerous the debates and complaints of the disputing factions – and was silent. He was not particularly impressed with the ideological struggles. In his soul, there moved and arose a clear synthesis of a strong longing for the Land of Israel, and a yearning for a world of justice and righteousness. In Jewish books, he discovered that there were many people, even great and important ones, who yearn, feel and think like him.

When he was 18, Berish Weinstein set out for Vienna, the “enchanting city” in the eyes of any native of Galicia, who has been fortunate enough to taste the taste of Austrian rule. He lived there for about two years, hiding from the eyes of the police. With the assistance of his cousin Malka, he succeeded in arriving in America in the year 1925. The reality in the East Side of New York reminded him very much of the way of life in his hometown. During the day, he worked in stifling shops, and in the evenings he studied English in courses for new immigrants. The city of Rzeszow now seemed finer and brighter to him. Berish longed for home. He tried to assuage his longing by reading poems written by Jewish poets. However, their creations aroused his longings even more, and the desire flamed in his soul to pour out his spirit in verses and poems. When he studied in the Jewish Teacher's Seminary in New York, he found the keys to the treasures of the Jewish spirit, and in 1927, he was already bold enough to publish his own poems. His first steps in the field of poetic creativity in the publications of “Young Talent” attracted public attention, and his poems began to be publicized on the most important literary stages in New York, Warsaw and Vilna. His first book, “Bruchwarg” was published in 1936 by his friends. Three years later, in 1939, Berish Weinstein was one of the initiators and publishers of Hemshech. (Four volumes appeared until 1943.) He began to write the epic poem about the his destroyed hometown. When the David Ignatov Literary Fund was founded, it began its publication activity with the publication of Weinstein's “Reisha” – “In memory of the thousands of Jews who perished in sanctification of the Divine Name in my hometown”. The five black lines in the preface testify to the same feeling as the aforementioned simple words of the author.

To you, Reisha, the first page,
The letters from the manuscript of lamentation
That a native of yours has written:
That, aside from martyrdom – for a memory
Nothing of you remains.
In 1949, Weinstein's book “Songs and Poems” was published in New York. It included all of his poetic creations from 1929. In 1925, he won the first Moshe Leib Halpern prize for his book “Reisha”. This book was translated into Hebrew by the poet Tzvi Shtok in New York, with a preface written by Dov Sadan.

(“Golden Chain”, 8)


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Berish Weinstein and his Rzeszow

by Nathan Yonatan of Kibbutz Sarid

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Berish came from Rzeszow. Now all that is left of it is his book of poetry “Reisha” and strong longings. In his own dwelling, in one of the tall, dark apartments in the Flushing region, he maintains his Jewish world, surrounded by old portraits, books and drawings from Jewish friends.

He has lived more than half of his life in New York, but all that is fine about his soul looks to the past. America is like the dark side of the moon, and the light side turns toward Rzeszow, his hometown. You do not know what is more active – the power of the Jewish memory that does not lose a drop, or the vitality of the Jewish city; that even were all of the winds of the world and all of the enemies in the world to come, they would not be able to wipe it out from the book of life. Jewish Rzeszow no longer is in the world. Its children – some are buried in the land of Galicia in rivers of blood, and others survived and are scattered throughout the seventy nations. However, every Jew has his own Rzeszow. We will glance into his album and see:

– – – Gloomy mothers and sit
Congealed and venous

Next to snowy baskets
With frozen fruit
Blowing pleasantly and enthusiastically from fiery pots
White snow flows over their hands
That are blue – – –

– – – On the Street of the Lords
the wealthy ones, to and fro – – –

From the voice of the virgins raised up in a ringing fashion
The streets are adorned with the grace of nobility, Polish.
Jewish mothers with light snow falling on their blue hands, and on the other side – the world of the lords, the virgins of Poland, and the arrogant noble grace. Later, the image of Shabtai, the noble beggar, the jocular poet, whom all the drinking parlors in the world await him and his songs. As for him – he only gives his voice to Rzeszow, and he only displays his torn top hat to its poor people to collect coins for his livelihood.

From the foggy recesses of memory, the setting of Rzeszow looks upon us, the hour when “the city is painted between heaven and earth / in deep cold and covered with the shadows of the fields -- / the pillows are grieving deeply and completely”. And the Wislok, the river of ages, flows along beneath the Lvov Bridge. Women and children come to bathe in the river. The sound of joy and gladness.

Time passes, and the sound of the turtle is heard in the land[3]. There is a new masculine sound, of the “Drikrowka Youth”, the children of parents who make bricks and tiles, bringing clay from the Wislok for the Druker's brick kiln.

These are the youths of the Bund and Poale Zion. These are new times – the paths leading to the treasures of the abandoned synagogue are closed. New books instill hopes and draw the youth of Rzeszow to their end. –

The time of departure arrived.
Oh, how did the melancholy of Kislev[4] descend
In the days of Poland, in the nights of Rzeszow?
The field is dried up and parched,
Chunks of ice arise in the Wislok
Its stream is impeded from the great cold. – – –
The time of departure was very long, and before Jewish Rzeszow disappeared, several pages of martyrology and sublime bravery were written. One of these wonders is the story of the life and death of the youth Simcha the Bolshevik, who bore Lenin at his death, and Shalom Aleichem and Gorki in his heart, and more than anything, he revered Maurice Winczewsky the poet of the workers. Dark and thin, dreaming, denying the tears of Mother who was afraid for the life of her son. Until his November arrived:
– – – Winds bore dry leaves to here
Cold hail struck the parched face
As is usual on days of gloomy heavy rain
The autumn mud washes away the paths
When they led Simcha from the cruel judgment
To the field, to shoot him behind the bridge
He walked upright, as a Bolshevik
        Who has no fear – – –
There is the page of self defense of the youths of Rzeszow. Those who had intended to become chalutzim (Zionist pioneers) took the defense upon themselves. In cellars, they prepared the gun pwder and lead.
Why did they blossom, why did they bud in May
The buds of the chilly chestnuts?
With the spring blooming, Jewish blood washed the paving stones. However, there was a battle. Small Rzeszow repelled the enemy.
Cities were astonished about the holy war
In every place, they spoke about the defense of Rzeszow
This was the first city that was so brazen
To stand up to the axe with Israelite force !
We are approaching the end. Rzeszow stands empty without youth. Some went to the land of the forefathers, and others, almost all the others, to America.

Here ends the album. The end of Rzeszow took place at a different time and is recorded in other scrolls of the Jews of Galicia. In this album, the face of Rzeszow still looks toward the sunset, but it is still bright and fine as its day declines. It is standing at the crossroads. All the storms of the north and the storms of the south pass over it, and it stands in its pride.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A reference to the blessings that Jacob gave to his sons at the end of Genesis. Return
  2. Prayers especially designed for women. Return
  3. A cryptic reference from Song of Songs to the passage of time and rebirth in different forms. Return
  4. Kislev in the Jewish month that falls in November – December. Return

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Dr. Henry Yitzchak Wachtel

by A. P. of Ein Hachoresh

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He was a dentist in New York from 1913. He was interested in preventative dentistry for children. He founded a dental clinic for children in the Strauss health clinic in Jerusalem in 1929 (named after Clara Wachtel). He assisted dental researchers from America and Europe to visit Israel so that they pass on their dental experience to the dentists in the Land. He assisted in the translation of articles on dentistry into Hebrew. He received letters of appreciation from the mayor of New York for his work in this area during the depression years. He published a book “Security for Everyone and Independent Effort”, an extract of the popular philosophy of Yosef Poporlinkaus, as well as a biography of Albert Einstein with an introduction, 1955. He, along with others, began to publish “Torah Sheleima”, edited by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher. He translated from German the book of Amelia Meir-Galin, “Sigmund Freud – a Treatise on Psychoanalysis, Notes on the Theory of the Principle of Pleasure, Childhood Sexuality and the Oedipus Complex”. The book first appeared in 1952, published by the University of Vienna.

He was one of the founders of “Zvulun” in 1933, and served as vice president of that organization. In 1938, he participated in the founding of “Selah”, an organization for the assistance of refugees who came to America. In 1947, he organized a group which founded a mobile dentistry clinic in Israel, with the assistance of the members of Histadrut from Cleveland, Ohio. This clinic was completely equipped for dentistry, including a roentgen machine. This clinic would travel to far off points in the Land.

He completed his course of studies in the “Henry George School” in the area of social sciences in 1916. He was a collector of books, and donated 5,000 books to the library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was a collector of pictures and works of art, and an expert on the works of Kita Kolbitz.

He was a member of the American Organization for the Advancement of Science, the committee of the American Museum of Nature, the committee of the Metropolitan Art Museum, the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue in New York, and an honorary member of the Israeli Dental Society, etc.

He was born in Rzeszow on December 6, 1881 to Yosef and Tauba. He arrived in the United Stated in 1898. He studied in the dental school of Columbia University in 1913. He married Clara Sperling in 1914. She died in 1929. His second wife was Elizabeth Simon (they married in October 1933). His children were Emil and Dr. Paula Zeiler.


Dr. Binyamin Schlager

by Simcha Seiden

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Dr. Binyamin Schlager, a lawyer by profession, was a philosopher and poet who published several books in the Polish language. Dr. Binyamin Schlager participated in Zionist life in Rzeszow, and served as the head of the community for a brief period.

A friendly smile was always on his face. He had a large “philosophical” forehead, and penetrating, enchanting eyes. He was a sort of modern Spinoza.

I had occasion to talk with him about his monograph “Spinoza”, which made a great impression upon philosophers. He was invited to the large Spinoza festival that took place in The Hague in 1927. The author proved in his aforementioned monograph that the “substantiality” of Spinoza was nothing other than the “Infinite of Kabbalah”. Spinoza would have strongly disagreed with anyone who believed that Judaism ends in the synagogue, the synagogue which excommunicated him…. The synagogue is not only the Western Wall at which Jews pray with weeping – the synagogue is our home, the land of our fathers, that wandered together with our nation in all corners of exile.

His second book ”Twilight of the Heart” is based on the legend of King David, Batsheva and her friends. This is a small book, less than 100 pages, divided into chapters, each one of which is revealing and flaming with a holy fire. You do not know if the flame is rooted in the heart or the brain. Every chapter is a burst of splendor and glory, depth of the mind and love of the heart.

The Polish critics regarded this book as a literary sensation. The author showed me a letter from the writer Stanislaw Przybzewski, expressing his appreciation of this book. Przybzewski wrote this three months before his death.

Dr. Binyamin Schlager published several other books, such as “The Master in Gloves”, and “The Hangman”. The censor banned the latter. This book describes how a poor, unemployed person sold his body to a laboratory for scientific purposes while still alive. His books were written in an original and artistic Polish.

Tagblatt, January 28th, 1931.


{Page 260}

Tzvi Simcha Leder

by Leon Weisenfeld

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Coordinator's note: The English version of the article about Tzvi Simcha Leder, which appears on page 128 of the English section of the book, is substituted here for the Hebrew version on page 260.}

Tzvi Simcha Leder's book, "Reisher Yidden" (Jews of Rzeszow), roused considerable echoes among Jewish readers in America. This work was a faithful description of the life of Rzeszow Jews until the beginning of the First World War and was the first book of interest about Rzeszow. Critics in the Yiddish Press of the U.S.A., Argentina, Brazil, etc., hailed it and considered it an important contribution to historical Jewish literature. Zvi Simha Leder became famous overnight in the Jewish world.

I would like to add a few particulars on his background and personality.

When I first met him in 1908, Zvi Simha Leder was already a young man seeking his way in the world. He had just left the "Kloiz" (Hassidic conventicle) and the Talmud. He had thrown off the yoke of Hassidim, and like other Jewish youths began getting acquainted with "non-Jewish" literature. This, however, was not enough for him, and he strove for something moreexalted.

That year there appeared in Rzeszow a Jewish Weekly by the name of "Die Reisher Volks-Zeitung", which we both found unsatisfactory. At about the same time a bi-weekly publication by the name of "Die Gerechtigkeit"
first appeared. It was edited by Mendel Karp, who died as a young man. Both Leder and I wrote for this paper--I wrote articles and he wrote the literary page. Even in those days he was noted for his literary talent. When Mendel Karp was "removed" from editorship and I was appointed this "lofty" position, Leder went on writing until the money ran out and the paper ceased to appear.

Leder was a Yiddishist and a follower of the National political line of Dr. Birnbaum. He helped to establish a Yiddish Society in Rzeszow, and was an enthusiastic propagandist of Yiddish among the educated youth who spoke Polish. He was also active in various public affairs. Public affairs were simply in his blood, and remain his main occupation to this very day.

In 1913 he emigrated to the United States, where he met with all the physical and mental hardships facing new immigrants. But even in this difficult phase he was active in public affairs. He joined the Zionist Austro-Hungarian Society, where he soon became one the prominent figures. He also joined the "Rzeszower Young Men's Social and Benevolent Society", in which he was very active and which he helped to put on its legs.

At about this period Leder married the daughter of a Rabbi and started out in commerce. A son and daughter were born to him, but unfortunately his wife died while a young woman. He never remarried and raised his children in the best possible fashion, being both mother and father to them.

One day he became tired of New York and settled in Washington. It appears that his prospects, both ersonal and social, were better there. He became the representative of a Viennese News Agency. At about the same time he became the correspondent for the "Illustrierte Zeitung" in Vienna.

Some time later he went on a long trip to Europe and his impressions of the countries he visited were published in one of the largest newspapers in Washington. Thus his desire for writing, which had absorbed him since his days in the "Gerechtigkeit" in Rzeszow, were satisfied. Eventually, he turned to commerce once again and opened a large store in Washington, but the itch for writing never left him. Once his son was old enough to take over the management of the business he settled down to write his famous "Rzeszower Yidden".

Today the name of Zvi Simha Leder is familiar to Jews in Buenos Aires, South Africa, Israel and wherever Jewish publications appear. He is a regular contributor to these newspapers, and also contributes to the Anglo-Jewish newspaper appearing in Washington, where he resides.


On Professor Shmuel Yeshayahu Penueli

by G. Kressel of Holon

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Sh. Y. Penueli died in his home in Holon a few days after his 61st birthday (17th Adar II, 5725 / 1965). He was born in Majdan near Rzeszow, but he always regarded himself as a native of Rzeszow. He lived in the Land for half of his life (exactly, from 1935). However, he spent most of his teaching life in Galicia and Vilna. From the time of his aliya, he worked in Nahalal. He was the principal of the teacher's seminary in Givat Hashlosha, and from 1955, he was the principal of New Hebrew Literature at Tel Aviv University. Later, he became the head of the Department of Literature at that university. He received the title of professor a few days before his death.

This lifestyle intertwined two circles that fit together: the teaching of literature on one hand, and literary research on the other hand. For many years, he stood on guard for the phenomenon of our literature, and reacted to it with a series of reviews, whose main content was the desire to revive the creative nation and to comment on it in great depths, without resorting to common esthetic slang. He included some of these reviews in his books, and the rest still await their redeemer. His books include: “Characters in our New Literature” (5706 / 1946); “Links in New Hebrew Literature” (5713 / 1953); “Literature in Schools” (5713 / 1953); “Haim Hazaz” (5717 / 1957); “The Creativity of Sh. Y. Agnon” (5720 / 1960); “Literature in its Plain Meaning” (5723 / 1963); “An Essay on the Beauty of the Literary Craft” (5725 / 1965); “Brenner and Gensin in the Hebrew Story of the Beginning of the 20th Century” (5725 / 1965). His last book was published a few days before his death.

He willingly answered the invitation to participate in the book of Rzeszow, the city to which his childhood memories are bound. It is most unfortunate that he did not live to see the book published.


{Page 261}

Simcha Seiden

by Zvi Simcha Leder – Washington

Translated by Aliya Middleton (nee Senensieb)

Simcha Seiden occupied an honored position among the Jewish dignitaries in Miami, Florida. Miami is one of the biggest Jewish communities in America, where Jewish life flourishes. It boasts several Jewish writers, one of which was Simcha Seiden, a Jew from Reisha, who emigrated to America in 1936.

Simcha Seiden was born in Ropshitz (Ropczyce), near Reisha. His father, Rabbi Aharon Seiden, was the head of the Jewish community in Ropczyce. In 1910 Simcha married in Reisha the daughter of Rabbi Pinhas Grauner [correct name is Grauer].

In Reisha, Seiden was very involved with social issues. He was appointed a Gabai in the town's Beth Midrash, where Rabbi Aharon Levin used to pray. He was also a leader of the Reisha Zionist Organization and in 1923, was selected to be the delegate to the Zionist Congress. In 1925, he was elected to the council of the Jewish community, as well as, to the Reisha City Council. In his role as a Zionist leader he welcomed Dr. Chaim Weitzman, when the latter visited Reisha.

Shortly after his arrival in New York in 1936 he immersed himself in activities connected with Reisha. After the Second World War he devoted much effort, time and money to help 1200 concentration camp survivors from Reisha. He enables many of them to make contact with their relatives in America. This work helped him to deal with the loss of his wife, two sons Dr Moshe and Ezekiel, and daughter Bella, who were killed by the Nazis.

During his work for the Reisher Benevolent Society in America, he edited two pamphlets which were published in New York in Yiddish and English, called “Der Reisher Americaner” (The American from Reisha). These publications were a great help to Reisha Jews in America, who were trying to find their surviving relatives in Europe after the holocaust. While he was living in New York he helped to organized the Galizian Union.
When Simcha Seiden moved to Miami, he very quickly became known there as a public figure, actively involved with Jewish organizations. He was often invited as a guest speaker to Jewish conventions, taking place in Miami.

Seiden established and directed the well-known radio program “The Jewish Program” broadcast by one of the largest radio stations in Miami. This one-hour program was broadcast every Sunday in three languages: Hebrew, Yiddish and English. Well known Jewish writers and singers took part in this program, which was very popular with Jewish listeners in Florida. I visited Miami in 1954, and met several Jewish writers. All of them spoke very highly of Simcha Seiden.

In Miami, Seiden married Miriam Jacobi, a Reisha girl and a fine woman. They had a son, which he named Moshe Ezekiel, and they lived a happy life. In 196O Simcha Seiden became ill. He died on the 9th day of the month of Elul in the year Tav Shin Chaf (5720).

{Photograph on Page 261
Simon Seiden (in English) Simcha Seiden (in Hebrew)}

{Note: Simon Seiden's surviving son from his first marriage, Paul (Pinchas) Seiden, died in southern California,
July 2004. Marian Rubin, coordinator, Rzeszow Yizkor Book translation project. }


{Page 261}

Ben-Zion Fett

by Yitzchak Estreicher of Tel Aviv

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Ben-Zion Fett was a wonderful personality in Galician Zionism in general, and among the natives of the city of Rzeszow in particular. When he was young, he desired to unite physical culture with national education. He founded the first Maccabee Sport Organization in his hometown of Rzeszow. At that time, he spread the national idea among the Jewish youth, knowing very well what type of national “provisions” were required by our youth in their lives in the lands of the Diaspora. He imbued the Jewish youth with physical strength and spiritual might, so that they would be able to stand up to the world of assimilation and zealous opposition to the modern national Jewish movement.

In 1907, the Zionist Council of Galicia decided to run nationalist Jewish candidates in the elections to the Austrian parliament. (Galicia belonged to Austria at the time.) Ben-Zion Fett, a young 22 year old man, dedicated himself to this campaign with all his soul and might.

As an activist for the candidacy of Rabbi Gedalyahu Shmelkes of blessed memory from Lemberg (a rabbi in Przemysl), Ben-Zion Fett traveled from town to town, speaking before the Jewish masses on the importance of having nationalist Jewish representatives in the Austrian parliament. In those days, it was not easy for a Zionist speaker to appear in a synagogue or a kloiz to conduct publicity for a nationalist Jewish candidate. One had to fight against a fortress of stubborn opponents, including Poles, assimilationists “fine Jews”, as well as a large portion of

{Page 262}

the rabbis. However, Ben-Zion Fett was not afraid or confounded. With his enthusiasm, he won over the Jewish masses to the nationalist Jewish candidate.

Ben-Zion Fett was one of about 30 delegates from Galicia who were elected to the 9th Zionist Congress in 1909. Ben-Zion Fett was also selected as a delegate to the 10th Zionist Congress in 1911. Ben-Zion Fett was active in the Committee of the Banks at this congress.

Ben-Zion Fett was like a fountainhead – he was active in the field of sport, in the spreading of the Zionist idea, and in organizing courses for the youth.

Ben-Zion Fett was drafted into the army at the outbreak of the First World War. At that time, contact between my unforgettable friend and I was ruptured. Only after the war did I meet Ben-Zion Fett in Berlin, to my great joy. There, he produced successful movies for the “Opa” company.
Marlena Dietrich appeared in one of these films.

Despite his manifold activities, the Zionist ember was not extinguished from Ben-Zion Fett. He was active with dedication in the Eastern Europe Jewish Organization (Ost-Yidn). There as well, it fell upon him to conduct a difficult struggle with the Jewish community in Germany regarding the election rights of the “Ost-Yidn” who had immigrated to Germany. Thanks to him, this right was granted. However, according to his words, his entire residency in Germany was for no other reason than to be able to go to Israel with a small fortune, so that he would not be a burden upon any person. Already before the First World War, he visited the Land of Israel already together with the well-known Zionist activist Dr. Adolph Stand. He spent a brief period of time there and then returned to Galicia, where he told of his travels in the Land in the Zionist newspaper “Lemberger Tagblatt”.

Ben-Zion Fett was able to actualize his dream and to settle in Israel. He lived in Tel Aviv and worked tirelessly in the field of sport. For a few years, he was the editor of the sports section in the Haaretz newspaper. He also accompanied the Israeli Maccabee football team to the United States.

At the age of 74, in the midst of his wide-ranging work, he died. His death was the cause of deep mourning for this friends and acquaintances.


{Page 262}

The Violin of Nachum Sternheim

by Manes Frommer

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 262: Nachum Sternheim and his wife.}
The poet Nachum Sternheim was born in Rzeszow in 1879 and died in the Holocaust.

He studied in Yeshiva until the age of seventeen. He was active in the professional union of workers and officials from 1897. He was one of the activists of Poale Zion in Rzeszow in 1904. His first songs were published in the “Wachenblatt” newspaper of Leibel Taubisz. He left Rzeszow in 1908 and moved to the United States. He earned his livelihood from factory work in America, and published Yiddish songs. He returned to Rzeszow in 1912. He toured the Jewish communities of Galicia. He lectured on Jewish national poetry and performed his songs. He became famous as one of the national Yiddish songwriters.

The enemy pillaged our city, took the city from us, grabbed away the cradles of our children, took our lives, and destroyed our graves. Nothing remains from those days, only the violin and songs of Nachum Sternheim.

“Das Lidele, Das Fidele
Un Oich Das Alte Yidele” [1]

(“The Little song, the violin,
And also the old Jew”.)

The popular songs of Nachum Sternheim remain. Those they could not take from us, for the song, in accordance with the words of the poet, does not know borders, and death has no power over it.

Nachum continues to live on in his songs, even though he often went around penniless during his life. Despite the want and straits, he was happy with his lot and gladdened his nation with his songs. The property and wealth of the Jews of Rzeszow sunk into the depths. Wealthy and famous people, who fled from the city to safety, died in strange places, without Kaddish and without a monument. However, the songs of Sternheim accompany us, the survivors and remnants. His songs continue to embroider the life above the dust and ashes of our murdered community.

Here, pages are laid open before me. These are yellowed, faded notebooks, annotated with the songs of Nachum, that were published by the Goldberg printing press of Rzeszow:

{Page 263}

“Malkale”, “Shlomole”, “Yosele”, “Sarale”, and dozens of other songs that were played in Rzeszow before the deluge. These songs were played into the heart, and awaken in us memories of our childhood years, with bright smiles and happiness. These songs did not die. They wandered with the remnants of the Jews of Rzeszow, Galicia and Poland to all places that fate took them – to the Diaspora in America, Argentina and Australia.

In my youth, when I saw him for the first time, he would always say, “So what that I go around without a cent, do you want me to return to the egg business? It is true that I have no wealth, but I am filled with happiness [2]. I would not switch places with the greatest wealthy people of our city. I am happy with my lot; I sing and make my friends happy, young and old. I sing and am happy when there is no coin in my pocket. 'The pocketbook does not care about poverty'”.

Thus did I see him during the 1920s in the room behind the restaurant of Red Shmilka, in the company of the joyous people of Rzeszow “Chevra Pi Tamid”. Thus is he etched in my memory, when I saw him for the last time, in 1938, in Warsaw, in the office of Slapak, the manager of the film studio. There, Nachum performed popular songs for a Jewish film that portrayed a tragedy of a pair of lovers in a Jewish town. This Yiddish film was not completed, and was never performed before the Holocaust.

The “Chevra Pi Tamid”, around the table sits Pinchas Elenbogen, Mendel Fett, Yosef Storch, Yaakov Alter, Yissachar Friedman, Simcha Trink, the banker Levi, and the youths Debel, Silber, Rebhun, and others. Approximately twenty members of “Chevrat Pi Tamid” poured glasses of wine and rejoiced in accordance with the adage “wine causes the heart of man to rejoice”. The members raise their cups, and Nachum started singing the hymn of the group:

“The Chevra Tamid-Pi
Indeed goes through the trouble
And sets up one cup after another
One lifts the cups high
One sings, one sings with power
Lechayim! With spirit.”
After each “Lechayim”, they drink and pour the cups again, lift the cups and sing.

The hymn is by Nachum, the tune is from Nachum, the joy is from Nachum, and they are all happy and rejoicing with Nachum and his songs.

Nachum was the composer of joy, and the happy friends broke into a Hassidic dance. Suddenly Nachum ascended the chair, took off his shirt and tie, and sang his hymn:

“Don't Grab”… “Dance, Jew, Dance…”, “The Rebbe's sign”, etcetera. Until dawn, Nachum sang in a satirical vein about Admorim, rabbis, Parnasim (communal administrators), governors and judges, about matters of the day, and lashed into the issues of the community. Nachum bore a torch of joy that illuminated the darkness of the town.

Suddenly Yissachar Friedman was silent. Nachum encouraged him and requested that he tell jokes regarding his grandfather, Yissachar Glazer, who was nicknamed “Hershele Osterpoler of the community of Rzeszow”. Yissachar Friedman takes a drink and says: Once grandfather was in the town square, and looked upon the silver moon. Jews gathered around him and did as he did. Afterward they asked him why he concentrated so hard on the moon. Yissachar answered: This moon has it good, for it wanders by itself through the sky and has no yoke of livelihood for its wife tied around its neck. The gathering laughed. Thus passed hours of laughter, jokes and song. This was the “Pi Tamid” group. Its composer was Sternheim. Thus at one time did the Jews of Rzeszow rejoice and make merry.

But the merry Jews drank like Jews, they never got drunk. The drinking was, as customary, accompanied by stories, jokes, and biting and telling satire. These jokes traveled through the roads of Rzeszow and the region, and Nachum made use of the satirical comment from the national stage. A Zionist Jew, he created songs and gave them melodies. The songs of Sternheim remain as a memorial to the city of our mothers and fathers, who perished so tragically. These songs gave expression to their lives, their dreams, their lot, their joy and their agony.

Here is one of the songs from the world of yesterday that was engulfed in the depths of the Holocaust:

“My home from my childhood, my home
How sincerely does the tune of the familiar place still sound to me
That Father and Mother used to sing as they rocked me there,
My home from my childhood, my home
Friday evening, how splendid and beautiful
Do Grandfather and Father appear.
Grandmother and Mother supplicate near the lit candles.
In the dream of my heart, my pain burns away
I see my ancestors as if in a dream, I see
Those who lived and still live in me,
In a strange place, no more than a picture on paper.
Therefore I weep, that I may still have the luck
And pine for a day that will return
I shed a tear on the holy place,
At the graves of my parents there,
My home from my childhood, my home.”
During the years before and between the two world wars, for thirty years until August 1939, Nachum Sternheim created songs and hymns, full of Zionist and social content. There were songs of freedom and peace, songs against “wonderworkers” and clergy who hated and persecuted the Zionist movement. When we sing the songs of Sternheim even today, we shed a tear as we remember our fathers and mothers. We have no other place to shed our tears, for even the graves of our parents have disappeared in the cities of Poland.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Lyrics are in Yiddish. Return
  2. The words for wealth and happiness in Hebrew are homonyms (both Osher). Return
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