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Personalities and Characters

 

Personalities in Rzeszow

by Dr. Moshe Yaari (Wald)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

A. Yaakov Alter

{Photo page 264, top: Yaakov Alter}

{Photo page 264, bottom: Professor Meir Balaban with his wife Gisela (nee Alter).}

Prior to the outbreak of the war of annihilation in 1939, Yaakov Alter had a respected position in the Jewish and Polish public affairs in our city. He was one of the chief spokesmen and activists in all important public institutions. The Poles liked him because of his exceptional qualities. He was graced with all that was good. He was intelligent, sober, and tolerant in his opinions. His actions were full of wisdom and love for his fellow man. He was a practical idealist. Everyone respected him, for he worked for the good of his people on the communal council, on the city council, and as a director of the “National Savings Bank”. As the sole Jew on the appeals committee of the tax office of the Lvov Wojewoda (province), he guarded the interest of his charges with respect to the government apparatus. He spent the bulk of his time on Zionist activities. He was a member of the leadership council of Keren Hayesod, Keren Kayemet, etc.

Yaakov Alter was born in 1896 to his father Reb Shmuel (Shmelke) and to his mother Helena. His father owned a flour and sugar storehouse, and was the Gabbai (trustee) of the old synagogue in the New City (Woli). He was a Jew with a splendid countenance. During my youth, I saw him as he was walking to the synagogue dressed in black and wearing a top hat, for he lived in our neighborhood. Yaakov was eleven when his father died. Already at that age he assisted his widowed mother in running the large business. He finished his High School education as an external student [1].

Yaakov was a good friend of mine. We worked together until 1914 in the Zionist movement, particularly in the “Jordania” organization of Gymnasia students; and the chapter of the national organization “Tzeirei Zion” whose aim was to educate the youth in the spirit of Zionism by teaching the Hebrew language, studying history, the literature of our people, and delving into general education. Twice, in 1913 and 1914, we participated together with our friend Shlomo Horowitz (today the vice-principal of the Reali High School in Haifa) in the Poale Zion convention in Lvov. The house of his mother, the widow Helena Alter, was full of warmth. She was of the Verstandig family. Her brother Reb Zalman Verstandig was a learned Jew. He used to worship in the large Beis Midrash, where my father also worshipped. He sat behind the podium, adjacent to the Holy Ark. He wore a silk cloak and a top hat, after he had already abandoned his Streimel for tens of years. During services, the old man was always looking into books of commentators. I never saw him reading from the prayer book. On his lectern there were always books of the Rambam (Maimonides), such as “The Guide of the Perplexed”, and “Yad Hachazakah”. Gizela, Yaakov's oldest sister, was married to Professor Meir Balaban, the well-known historian who perished with his family during the Holocaust. Yaakov's brother was Dr. Moshe Alter, a graduate of the rabbinical seminary of Vienna, and later the principal of the “Tachkemoni” school in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. He was killed in Bergen Belsen along with his family. His other sister married off her daughter to Dr. Rimalt, a rabbi in Innsbruck of the Tyrol region of Austria (today he is a member of Knesset – the Israeli parliament) [2].

During the years 1914-1918 he studied at the university in Vienna. After that, we both returned to Rzeszow. We parted at the end of 1919. I departed for Vienna, and from there to the Land of Israel, while Yaakov settled in Rzeszow and began

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successful activity in the field of Jewish communal service. He married Rachel the daughter of Asher Silber in 1927. Asher Silber was a wealthy man, a Rymanow Hassid, who served as the head of the community in our city for many years. A good name and fine oil were the lot of Yaakov. The sun of happiness and righteousness shone on his path in life, until his world was darkened with the German invasion in 1939. He fled with his family to Lvov along with a portion of the Jews of Rzeszow, and from there he was transferred by the Russian government to Sverdlovsk in the Urals, where he was employed as a woodcutter under difficult conditions. When the Germans invaded Russia, the Jews had to choose places to live, and he settled in Bukhara. Even in this city in Uzbekistan, he gave himself over to communal service. He lived for an entire year in Bukhara. At Passover time, he attempted along with Rabbi Wyndbaum of Osweicim to obtain a permit for the baking of matzos. I recall the thrilling story about his efforts to obtain this permit. One day, he was invited to the N.K.V.D. offices at 12 midnight. He was very perplexed, for he knew the meaning of such an invitation at night. The refugees lived in constant fear of the secret police. When he arrived there at midnight, he was interrogated by one official in the front room, and was then turned over to a second official. He passed through ten stages until he reached the tenth room. There sat a commissar who asked him various details. Finally he said to him that he would allocate to him a certain amount of flour, with an additional special portion of flour for his own elderly father, so that he would also to be able to make the blessing on eating matzo. The Jewish commissar warned him before parting that he should not reveal to anyone the content of the conversation…

In 1942, he received a permit from the Polish army commander to join a convoy that was setting out for Teheran. Prior to leaving, tragedy struck his family: his eldest son Shmuel died of typhus, a common disease among the refugees during those days.

From Teheran, he arrived with his wife Rachel and son Efraim to the Land of Israel. The death of his eldest son affected his state of health. He took ill with a heart condition, and he died in Tel Aviv on September 14, 1951. During the years that he lived in Tel Aviv, he did not forget his brethren, the Jews of Rzeszow and Poland who remained in Russia. He organized the sending of packages to Russia, an activity that his widow Rachel continues to this day.

B. Meshulam Davidson

As a native of my hometown, the city of Rzeszow in Galicia, I will dedicate something to the blessed memory of Reb Meshulam Davidson. Meshulam spent 18 years working in this city, in which he raised his three sons, may they live, and his daughter who died in Beit Alfa, where she worked in teaching and in art. Meshulam was worthy, for he died at an old age, with a good conscience, and with the knowledge that he fulfilled the objective of his life, and completed the circle of his world with love and will.

The story of his life was rich and colorful, with many ups and downs. He suffered pain and anguish, and also tasted comfort, happiness and joy. He went through difficult times during his youth in Berdichev in the kingdom of Czar Nikolai, and a stormy period full of pressure during the time that he resided in our city as a Russian citizen in a city under Hapsburg rule. He went through times of pioneering struggle in the Land of Israel under Ottoman rule; and years of tribulations in Rzeszow during the First World War, the breakup of the Hapsburg monarchy, the change of government, and the rise of the State of Poland. Finally, he returned to the Land of Israel under Mandate rule and settled in Tel Aviv, where he worked in the city council for more than thirty years, he raised his family until he reached old age. Then he lived in Nir David (Tel Amal) near his son, who was one of the founders of that Kibbutz. He lived with his wife, may she live, until old age, and worked as the librarian of the Kibbutz. The symphony of his life concluded in Nir David, a life full of changes.

I will not dwell upon all of the stops on the route of his life. The stage of Berdichev, where he spent his childhood and youth, is not known to me. I only remember his stories of this city. In my imagination, I walked in this city following the stories of Mendele, Shalom Aleichem, and the Haskalah literature. Fishka the lame, Menachem Mendel, Reb Binyamin the third, people full of imagination, fantasies and dreams, walked there and in the other cities of Ukraine, Podolia and Volhynia. In the streets of Kasrielivka and Yehopitz the winds of spring began to blow, and the streams of Haskalah, national and social awakening began to flow through their alleyways. Through the influence of the Haskalah movement, the revolutionary currents within the peoples of Russia, eastern and western literature, the Jewish street also awakened. Movements for national and social independence arose. A portion of the youth went forth and assimilated into the circles of the modern Russian intelligentsia which was rebelling against Czarist rule. However Meshulam Davidson remained faithful to his nation and culture. He was among the first to join the Poale Zion movement, whose founder was Borochov. The Russian climate was dangerous for a young Jewish revolutionary. The Czarist government filled such young men with dread. When the Russian-Japanese war broke out, these youths refused to serve in the Russian Czarist army and began to flee westward. During those years, Y. Ch. Brener, Gershon Shupman, and Yosef Aharonovitch arrived in Galicia. Meshulam Davidson appeared in our city of Rzeszow. We saw before us a young man dressed in a black “Rubashka” with untidy locks of hair. His appearance and temperament were so different from the young men and youths of our city. The appearance of his Russian face with his prominent cheeks reminded us of the image of Maxim Gorky. I was then a nine-year-old child, a student in the public school and the Modern Cheder. I accompanied my father of blessed memory to a meeting of the Chovevei Zion movement, which gathered together the best of the Maskilim, academic intelligentsia, and youths who were studying Talmud and Halacha. The arrival of Meshulam Davidson caused a stir in our quiet city. He spoke during the meetings in Hebrew with a Sephardic accent, as he preached with enthusiasm and zeal about Socialist Zionism. His speeches poured fire and brimstone on the heads of the community, householders and employers. The words revolution, bourgeoisie, exploitation, expropriation, flew like arrows onto the heads of the community, and hit the leaders like catapult stones. Merchants, factory owners, wealthy people, be they Orthodox, Zionist or assimilationists, were struck by surprise. They had never heard such brazen language with revolutionary fire. They kept away from him and regarded him as an enemy of the people. On the other hand, day workers, shopkeepers, liberals, bookkeepers, and the first members of Poale Zion who split off from Chovevei Zion, all congregated around him. Meshulam Davidson worked for proletariat Zionism along with Naftali Glucksmann (Ashriel), a Hebrew teacher who had sent his three sons to the Land of Israel with the Second Aliya before the First World War. When he arrived in the Land of Israel at the end of the war, he joined Mizrachi, and continued working in teaching in Petach Tikva, where he died. His third accomplice in the spreading the vision of Poalei Zion was Ben-Zion Fett, who is known here in our Land as an activist in Maccabee and a writer on sports.

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{Photo page 266 memorial gathering of Rzeszow natives in Tel Aviv, 1954. Meshulam Davidson is speaking.}

The first Hebrew school of that time was founded in our city in 1904. Abba Apfelbaum, a Hebrew Maskil, historian, and author of monographs on the rabbis of Italy during the 17th century, was the founder of this school. He was impressed by the pedagogic abilities and clear Hebrew speeches of Davidson, so he invited him to serve as a teacher in the “Safa Brura” school. He did not remain in that post for very long, for Meshulam was not a man of routine. He was a man with a stormy personality, and he had no toleration for the comfortable apathy of the householders, which he attacked at every opportunity. Reb Abba Apfelbaum was not pleased with this teacher and revolutionary, who raised the ire of householders, parents of students, and those who pay fees for higher education. The name of Meshulam went before him. The Orthodox saw him as an apostate and Sabbath violator, and the Maskilim were afraid of his destructive influence upon the youth. The regional governor (Starosta) also kept an eye on him. Meshulam felt the ground slipping from under his feet. Despite the fact that he knew that the government was preparing a writ of expulsion for him as an undesirable alien, he continued preaching revolutionary Socialism. He was not afraid, for he knew that Rzeszow was not his place. Galicia was merely a stop on his journey to the Land of Israel. One day, we found out that Meshulam left the city on the way to the Homeland. This was in 1905.

I know only a little about his activities on the next stop of the journey of his life, in the Land of Israel under Turkish rule. We heard only that he worked in straightening out the sand dunes in Tel Aviv, and in digging out the foundations of the Herzliya High School. Meshulam joined Poale Zion in Jaffa. His friends included Avraham Krinitzi, today the mayor of Ramat Gan; and Meir Bilof, today an activist in the householders union in Tel Aviv. Word reached our city that Meshulam organized strikes against the farmers in the Moshavot, and against the officials of the Baron. Apparently, also in the Land of Israel, the ground burned under his feet. In addition, illness, tribulations and hunger caused him to leave the land. One day in 1911, Meshulam Davidson appeared in our town. He did not arrive alone, for when he was in the Land, he felt very well the meaning of the verse, “For it is not good that man remain alone”. He arrived along with his wife Esther of the Gordon family, an activist in the Second Aliya, and with his daughter Dvora who was born in the land.

Meshulam settled in our town a second time, and began a new chapter in his life. He began to earn his living from teaching. However, he did not see any contentment, for the profession of a teacher was at that time very lowly.

It was 1914. Austria was at war with Russia. The source of livelihood of Hebrew teachers was sealed off, and Meshulam was left without a livelihood. In the meantime, his wife gave birth to sons, and he devoted all of his energies to the struggle for bread. For lack of means, he went along the path of most of our townsfolk, and opened a store. This was a unique store, a combination of a grocery store, confectionery and ice-cream parlor. Meshulam's ice creams won fame in the city and the region. The youth lapped up the ice creams of Meshulam Davidson. I did not see him during the time of the Russian occupation. He spent the entire time struggling strongly to earn bread for the children. Esther stood at his side. She was a woman of valor with all of the traits of a Jewish mother. She was an intelligent housewife, quiet and diligent as she supported the sensitive and emotional Meshulam, through all his trials and tribulations. Then a new Meshulam arose. The storminess of his nature disappeared and quieted slowly but surely. He abandoned the path of confrontation and went along the path of peace with people. He also made peace with his Creator. Meshulam the apostate, who rebelled against the Master of the World made peace with Him, and made a covenant with the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He called his children Avraham and Yitzchak, and for some reason did not call his third child Yaakov but rather Meir. We would see Meshulam walk with a Tallis under his arm to the synagogue with his children on Sabbaths and festivals. This was a different Meshulam. He related well to people, and earned the love of every person who was bitter of heart.

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In particular, youth who were in difficulty found advice, assistance, support and comfort in him and his home. His conscience and concern for the underprivileged moved him toward good deeds and daring steps. He even dared admonish the rabbi for the sin of neglecting his flock. For the rabbi confined himself within the four ells of the Halacha, not noticing the poverty and suffering of his people.

The war ended in 1918. The Austro-Hungarian Empire broke up, and the subjugated states arose as independent countries. Poland came to life. Meshulam, as a foreign citizen in Austria, was also considered as a Russian citizen in Poland. The Polish authorities tried for some time to revoke his rights of residency, however the citizens of the city, both Christians and Jews together, worked against this, for Meshulam had won their hearts with his honesty. When the way to the Land of Israel opened up, Meshulam, the man of the Second Aliya, decided to make aliya along with the Third Aliya. The will and decision were there, but the money was insufficient. When he succeeded in saving the required amount of money, he made aliya in 1924 and settled in Tel Aviv.

Meshulam built himself a wooden hut on the seashore next to Ahavat Zion Street at that time. Through the influence of three families, the mayor Meir Dizengoff allowed him to set up a table in the waiting room of the office of permits. Thus, Meshulam opened up “the office of a private advisor”, and earned his livelihood as a writer of petitions. Meshulam gave advice to new immigrants who had difficulties dealing with the bureaucracy. He wrote their requests, advised, assisted, and raised complaints. This was the office of a “righteous intercessor against those who talk of iniquity” [3]. He continued this way for many years, writing petitions and assuaging the anger and ire of those who turned to him. He knew how to explain the needs of the masses to the officials. At times, he would bang on the table of the person in charge, who made decisions at his own whim and hardened his heart. I saw Meshulam as a sort of “secret advisor” of the masses, the tribunal of the simple man.

His house on the seashore of Tel Aviv was a house that welcomed guests. Every new immigrant from Rzeszow found help, assistance, and a good meal in this good and warm house. Years passed, and the Davidsons reached the threshold of old age. We often ate in the house of Grandfather and Grandmother [4] on festivals. Grandmother Esther prepared dishes according to the finest of the recipes of our mothers in Poland and Russia. This was a patriarchal home, Jewish, Hebrew, with the purity and beauty of the traditions of our people from generation to generation.

This took place before his retirement as a writer of petitions. He was at the time approximately seventy. We met during the Ten Days of Penitence. Meshulam hummed “Shma Koleinu” [5]. His hair was all white, and his eyes filled with tears as he said to me: It says “Don't cast us away during the time of our old age”. I merited, and I have reached old age, and I earn my bread with the work of my hands.” However, the main point is not old age alone, the main point of this heartwarming prayer is the continuation, “And Your Holy Spirit do not take from us. There is no benefit to being old without the Holy spirit, without understanding, without wisdom, an old man, weak, withering, and wilting. Old age of this nature is a curse. May it be His will that I will merit the blessing of old age with a clear knowledge, mature wisdom. This is the meaning of the words, “And Your Holy Spirit do not take from us.” Indeed, Meshulam was blessed with this blessing. He merited in his old age to have contentment from his sons, to live in Nir David in the fields of the valley. A good spirit, clear, and generous dwelt within him until his last breath. There, in Nir David he went to his eternal rest, and there the story of his honest, fine life ended.

C. Dr. Felix Hopfen

{Photo page 267 - Dr. Felix Hopfen.}

At the beginning of the 20th century until the conclusion of the First World War, a group of communal activists stood out prominently. It is impossible to describe the life of the Jewish community without mentioning them and describing their personalities.

One of the top activists in the Zionist movement, in municipal and communal affairs was the young lawyer Dr. Felix Hopfen. He dedicated the majority of his time to the movement, and the struggle against the assimilationists and their ultra-Orthodox partners, as well as to the protecting of Jewish rights that were limited by the government and civic administrations. His roots were in a liberal home, his education was Polish, and he spoke that language like a native Pole. His external appearance was also Slavic – he was thin with a blonde moustache, his hair was somewhat reddish, and his eyes were greenish-gray. He was a confirmed bachelor. His entire love, devotion and dedication were toward the movement. He spoke in vivid Polish to gatherings of students. His modest dwelling on Mickiewicz Street served him also as an office. There he met his clients, mainly from the poorer people, and arranged memorandums for the authorities or complaints to the courts against officials who oppressed the storekeepers and artisans for various imagined iniquities against the city and the state. Dr. Hopfen appeared also as a defense lawyer in the courts when the officials of the government smeared an innocent Jew and issued a complaint against him for an iniquity against the region laws, the merchant's charter, health, permits, etc. For the most part, complaints were issued against Jews for political reasons, to dissuade them from Zionist activity, and to oppress anyone who turned toward the nationalist or Zionist parties. They did not turn against the Orthodox and the Hassidim who were protected by the Admorim, for the head of the community, the ultra-assimilationist Wilhelm Hochfeld who also served as vice mayor, stood at their side and granted them favors in matters of economy, finance, etc. The Polish judges treated Dr. Hopfen with respect and enjoyed his fine Polish manner of speaking. There were also many from among the Polish intelligentsia who looked positively upon the Zionist movement that desired to found a national home for the Jews, for they hoped that through its agency, Jews would leave Poland and go to Palestine.

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The Polish anti-Semites treated the assimilationists in a disparaging manner. They made use of them for their own political benefit, but they did not enter into their circle of friends. Even the apostates were a closed circle, and did not intermix with the Polish-Christian community, that refused to absorb them and looked upon them as a foreign element. I stumbled into this relationship between Poles and assimilationists when I was in high school. The teachers mocked the names of the student Bronyslaw Kahane or Stanislaw Klapholc. A student who bore the name Moshe, Aharon, or Shlomo was more honorable to them than a Jewish student who called himself by a Polish name based on the ancient mythology or history of their nation.

The attempts of the Zionist movement to spread out their net over the community, to be represented in its institutions, or to elect their members to the city council failed time after time. Among others, an important place in this struggle was taken by Dr. Hopfen and his friends Dr. Lecker, Leopold Sternlicht, and the young academics such as Dr. Arthur (Aharon) Wang and Dr. Henryk Reichman. The Polish authorities thwarted any activity of this nature in a repressive manner, with forgeries supported by the police, the regional council, etc. They supported the small number of assimilationists who stood together with the many Hassidim, for they served the Polish interest. Only with the passage of time, and particularly, close to the war of 1914-1918, the Jewish national and Zionist movement was able to earn standing in the community and city council. The chief activists were Dr Hopfen, Dr. Adolf Schnee, Dr. Wang, Kuba Alter, and others.

I left Rzeszow in 1919. I stopped in Vienna on my way to the land of Israel, and my connection with Rzeszow was severed forever.

Before the Second World War, I received a letter from Dr. Hopfen in which he asked me – knowing that I was playing a role in the Tel Aviv city council – if he would be able to get a job for the city as a sanitary worker, for he would certainly not be able to continue on as an advocate due to his lack of knowledge of the Hebrew language. If he could not pick up a pen, he would be able to pick up a broom, and thereby actualize his dream of many years, to live and die on the earth of the old-new Land.

Rzeszow was conquered by the armies of Hitler in September 1939. Dr. Hopfen succeeded in fleeing from the invasion. He arrived in the Russian occupation zone and was exiled to Siberia, where he worked at cutting down trees in the forests. Later on, he received office work on account of his age and intelligence. He returned to Rzeszow at the end of the war, where he tried to renew the communal life in Rzeszow along with a group of his friends – the lawyer Moshe Reich, Yehoshua Rosner, and others. Survivors who came back from the forests and bunkers, or who returned from the Russian areas, returned to Rzeszow. An aid committee for Jewish refugees was established. It was helped by grants from the Polish government, as well as the diligent aid received from the Rzeszow Jews in America and the Joint. The committee found dwellings and employment for the refugees. However, the community did not last long. The hatred of the gentiles and blood libels put an end to it. All of the members of the community (several hundred Jews) fled westward, some to Germany, some to Austria, and from there to the Land of Israel and America. Some remained in Germany.

One bright day, in July 1950, I received the news that Dr. P. Hopfen was in Tel Aviv and staying at the Monopol Hotel next to the sea, where the Jewish agency was housing the intelligentsia and Zionist activists who made aliya to the Land from the camps. I hurried to the hotel along with my friend Yaakov Alter, who was still living at the time. We found Dr. Hopfen lying in a bed, ill with a high fever. He told us that he became ill with dysentery a few days after his arrival. This illness was draining his strength. He was no longer the same young, blond lawyer. He lay in bed as an old man, with a white beard and a pale face – because of his wanderings, tribulations and current illness. We comforted him and promised to concern ourselves with his needs. We visited him every day. He discussed his memories of the early Zionists, and of his long-standing friendship with my father of blessed memory. I reminded him that it was my duty to pay him an old debt that cannot be paid with money. I reminded him that one afternoon in the month of Elul, he went to father's store and requested that he go for a walk with him in the city to discuss an important communal matter. Father left the store, and I, a child, grabbed on to his coattails and followed along, for I enjoyed very much listening to Father's conversations on Zionism, the Land of Israel, etc. We passed the “Kocziol Farny” (A Catholic Church) as the evening shadows were falling, where there was an avenue of trees, where there were stalls filled with tropical fruit. I was not so brazen as to ask father to purchase me a bag of fruit, for I knew of father's difficult situation. However, Dr. Hopfen, as if he guessed what was going on in the heart of the child, bought me a large bag of chestnuts. I never forgot the taste of those chestnuts until this day. When I told him this, tears welled up in his eyes.

With the assistance of my brother Meir, I succeeded in arranging for him a monthly stipend from the Jewish agency, as was customarily granted to veteran activists. Kuba Alter and I hurried to the Monopol hotel to inform him of this. To our dismay, we did not find him in the hotel. The owner of the hotel told us that Dr. Hopfen's cousin arrived from Paris and returned with him to Germany, where he received work as a clerk in a refugee camp near Munich that was run by the Joint. Dr. Hopfen left the land with the claim that the sub-tropical heat was draining his strength, and he could not tolerate it. He did not realize that we had brought him the first check that would have ensured his existence. Dr. Hopfen died in Germany about one year after he left the Land.

D. Dr. Aharon Artur Wang

Dr. Aharon Wang, who served as the last head of the community in our town before the Nazi invasion, was born in the year 1888. Tradition was observed to a certain level in the home of his parents, who were occupied in business. Aharon did not attend cheder. He completed the Polish gymnasia with distinction, and studied sociology for a time in the University of Vienna. He was drafted to the army in 1913, and served as a soldier and captain until the end of the world war. He participated in the Zionist youth circles while he was a student at the gymnasia. There he learned to appreciate the history of his people, and absorbed the spirit of national Zionism. Like his friends who were educated in the Polish schools, he was educated in Polish culture. He was a handsome young man, intelligent, smart, and happy, with a sense of humor. He excelled particularly in fine speaking, and appeared as an excellent speaker during debating evenings of the youth movements of the various ideological streams. He was always the victor.

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At the end of the war, he continued to study in the faculty of law of the University of Krakow. When he finished his course of studies, he began to work in a law office, and later opened his own office, which he directed with great success. He was blessed with rhetorical skill. He did very well in the ladder of public service, and ascended from rung to rung. However, his heart was particularly turned to social activity for the disadvantaged, and to assisting orphans and widows. He was chosen on behalf of the Zionist federation to the communal council and later to the city council, to the directorship of banks (he was appointed as an advisor to the national bank). Finally, he was chosen as the head of the community and head of the Zionist federation in Rzeszow.

{Photo page 269 left: Dr. Artur (Aron) Wang.}

He succeeded in leaving Rzeszow on the eve of the Nazi invasion. He arrived by car with his wife Lola to a city some distance from the Romanian border. From there he continued his route on wagon and by foot. He arrived in Romania after many tribulations. He met other refugees when he arrived in Bucharest, including the head of the Zionist federation of Western Galicia, Dr. Yitzchak Schwarzbart of Krakow, who had in his hand a certain number of certificates for the Land of Israel. Dr. Wang, as a veteran Zionist with rights, received a certificate for his family, and arrived in the Land in 1940. His state of health was poor already in Poland, and the tribulations of the journey weakened him further. Despite this, Dr. Wang prepared for the law exams, and studied day and night. He took ill with a heart ailment prior to the conclusion of his exams. He died in the Hadassah Hospital in Tel Aviv in 1944, after much suffering.

Here, I will recall other Rzeszow natives of the Wang family: Reb Elya Wang, the brother of Dr. Aharon Wang, who was a famous personality in the city. He was a faithful Zionist and delivered lectures about any and all communal matters. He owned the largest furniture store in the city. His son young Aharon was a member of Hashomer Hatzair. However he joined the Communist movement after some time, and as the years went on, he took his place in the upper crust of that movement in Warsaw. Yechezkel Wang should be remembered for the good. He owned the largest textile store in the city. He was a veteran Hassid, the son-in-law of Chaim Eisenberg, who was from a small town, and was chosen as the head of the Rzeszow community during the war.

E. Asher Yehuda Silber

{Photo page 269, left: Asher Silber.}

Reb Asher Yehuda the son of Yisrael and Dvora (nee Brust) served as the head of our community for many years. He was born in Ropczyce (in the area of Rzeszow) in 1865, and died in Chernovitz in 1953 (1 Adar). From the days of my childhood, I remember the name Asher Silber as a Hassid of the Rebbe of Rymanow, for I studied in the Rymanow Kloiz as a young child with the teacher Pinile Hellman. The Kloiz was established by Reb Asher Silber in his own courtyard. I would go to his storehouse every Friday afternoon to purchase liquor for the Sabbath, for he held the monopoly for the sale of alcoholic drinks in Rzeszow and vicinity still from the Austrian era.

As I was a child of a Zionist family that was inspired with the love of Zion, I saw Asher Silber as an opponent. I knew that he served as the head of the community as the representative of the Hassidim, who had forged a political agreement with the assimilationists in order to prevent the Zionists from obtaining a foothold. My father Reb Chaim fought against this unholy alliance at meetings and in the newspapers. He was unsuccessful, because the Austrian-Polish authorities supported them and employed all means, including oppression and violence, in order to keep the Zionists out of any official position. The Admorim helped them and declared that the Zionists were sinners, for they wanted to force the End of Days. Reb Asher Silber served the community, and also was the Jewish representative to the city council (magistrate) along with the head of the assimilationists Dr. Wilhelm Hochfeld. Immediately after his marriage, he was appointed as sworn representative to the regional court, and from then he went from strength to strength in communal work. As the owner of the government monopoly for drinks, he also became wealthy. He was literally a powerful, wealthy man. He owned thousands of acres [6] of properties in the areas of Blazowa, Sokolow and also in Bukovina around Chernovitz. It is appropriate to note that he was pious in his ways and deeds. There was no charitable institution that he did not support. He supported various organizations, such as “Hachnasas Kala”, “Linat Tzedek” and others. He opened a teahouse and kitchen for the poor people during the winter months, and was active with the orphanage. He also distributed coal, firewood and potatoes to the needy during the winter months, and helped set up summer camps for the poor. When young refugees from Ukraine, fleeing from the pogroms

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of Petlyura's gangs, arrived in Rzeszow, he established a hachsharah point for them on his farm in Blazowa to assist their aliya to the Land of Israel. He gave over a 20-room house to the refugees of Zboszyn who were expelled from Germany, and took care of their needs. He also supported the hostel for poor Jewish transients.

During the days of the reactionary Polish government, someone slandered him, claiming that he supported the Communists. A court case took place against him. It went on for a year, obviously without results.

His brother Zecharia Silber lived in Baldachowka. He was beloved by people.

Reb Asher had many children: three sons and seven daughters, who were very beautiful. They were among the most beautiful girls in the city. Rachel was the widow of Yaakov Alter, the head of the Zionist organization in our city (today in Tel Aviv). His oldest daughter Bella was married to the wealthy man Dr. Feinstein of Stanislawow, today one of the wealthy people in New York. His daughters Frania, Tzip, and Basha Anglo [7], as well as his son Samuel and his grandchildren were killed during the Holocaust.

Reb Asher Silber fled from the Germans to his property in Bukovina. When Chernovitz was conquered and his property was confiscated, he continued living in Russian Chernovitz, and died there at an old age, cut off from his family, and filled with anger.

F. Levi (Leon) Chaim

{Photo page 270, right: Leon Chaim.}

Levi (Leon) Chaim was born to his father the tavern keeper, who owned an inn in Busznia, a farm in the region of Rzeszow, not far from the new cemetery. He later left Busznia and opened a hotel and tavern in the new city square. I was close to this family, for I helped Lazer, Levi's younger brother, prepare for his external exam (he made aliya to the Land before the war, worked at first as a builder, and later as a contractor. He died in Tel Aviv. His widow, nee Friedman, is of the Kahane family who were well-known furriers, lives in Tel Aviv.)

Leon managed the money changing office of Alois Freulich, and dedicated all of his free time to the Zionist movement. Every day at the same time, it was possible to see him “walking discretely” in measured steps to the office, as he was talking in a whisper to the person accompanying him as if he was sharing a secret with him. He influenced all communal matters with his quiet and logical words. He always wished to pacify, mediate, and encourage ways of peace. In many cases he prevented struggle, strife, jealousy and hatred. His memory in all matters of historical Zionism, as well as the history of the town and its families was wonderful, as if he was a walking encyclopedia. He loved his fellow men, and was beloved by them. He was the founder of Poale Zion in our city together with his close friend Bernard Fish, from he whom he did not part until the bitter end. However, he separated from the movement with the passage of time. He was the living spirit in the cultural life of the Zionist organizations in Rzeszow. He founded the merry group “Pi Tamid” that centered itself around Melave Malka parties on Saturday nights. This group included about twenty faithful Zionists, including Nachum Sternheim, Pinchas Elenbogen, Yaakov Alter, my father Reb Chaim Wald, Yisrael Duker and others. This was similar to a Hassidic gathering. It was interspersed with song, jokes, humor, and the joy of camaraderie. Levi Chaim was generous. He discretely supported his friends who were in straits. He comforted mourners, encouraged the downtrodden, visited the sick, etc.

G. Dr. Henryk Tzvi Kanarek

{Photo page 270 left: Dr. Henry Kanarek.}

He was the son of a wealthy family. From his early youth, he was attracted to the Zionist idea. He studied law in Vienna. There, he was one of the active members of the well-known Bar Kochba academic union. After he finished his studies, he dedicated his time to matters of “Hechalutz” and aliya, in the office of the Land of Israel in Vienna (I worked there at the time as coordinator, assisting those who make aliya). Yehuda Chorin, of Kolomyya, also worked there (today he is the general principal of the “Yachin” group and the chairman of the committee of the Bank of Israel).

Afterwards, Dr. Kanarek returned to Rzeszow and opened up a law office. His Zionist activity was mainly centered on Hechalutz, aliya, Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemet. Kanarek was not a gifted speaker. His best speeches were his good deeds on behalf of the Land of Israel. I continued to remain in contact with him after I made aliya to the land. He prepared to make aliya, and purchased a small orchard in the area of Tel Mond. Despite his Polish-German education, he made efforts to gain knowledge of the Hebrew language and its literature.

He had a fine personality. He was noble, beloved by his fellowman, and always prepared to help his fellow men. Dr. Kanarek, like Levi Chaim, was one of the 36 hidden ones [8], whose purpose of existence is to make life pleasant for their acquaintances. Both of them perished in the Holocaust.


{Page 271}

Meshulam Davidson

by Tovia Yaari of Kibbutz Merchavia

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Reb Meshulam, the last of the Mohawks of the dear ones of our city Rzeszow, was a prominent personality and a turbulent soul. He was an activist who inspired others to activity, who was among the first of the dreamers and fighters for Zion in our city. He was the first of the teachers in the renewed Hebrew language, who brought with him a pleasant breeze when he appeared in our city even before the First World War.

I was a young boy during those long gone days, when Reb Meshulam was a close friend and frequent houseguest of my father of blessed memory. I often paid attention to the dialogue that went on between the two. The words that were absorbed into my ears, such as Rishon Letzion, Mikve Yisrael, and Ben Yehuda – were enchanting to me. At that time, Reb Meshulam was seen by us as a sort of “emissary” from the modern Land of Israel. The Davidson House in Rzeszow was a sort of Israeli territory. Everyone who was concerned about Zion came to his door, and breathed of the air of the enchanted Land. The sounds of the Hebrew language rang through his house. Some sort of ancient glory was with us as we sat in his house and listened to his stories about the settlements and personalities of the Land of Israel from those days. More than one of us left those meetings with some sort of internal discomfort beating inside, which was not rectified until he found his way to Hashomer Hatzair or Hechalutz. Indeed, thanks to him, many of us found our way to the Land of Israel.

He educated his children as Sabras in all matters. For him, Rzeszow was a stop on his way to return to the native Land. Despite being busy with earning a livelihood, he did not withhold himself from any communal activity in the city. He spoke favorably and preached. He showed no favoritism to the strong people and trustees – to the point of endangering his livelihood. Furthermore, as a Russian citizen, his political activity often endangered his existence in the city. When his close friends advised him to act with more discretion, he answered them with one of his “Davidsonian” answers: “On behalf of Zion I shall not rest!” To my father of blessed memory he would say, “They will expel me, that is fine, for even without this, I am on my way home…”

Teaching Hebrew was not sufficient for his livelihood (He taught Hebrew to many young people without expecting anything in return). He started a store for confections and ice cream. In the evenings, the youth of the Zionist youth movements would enter this store and drink his words on the Land and its personalities with thirst as they licked an ice cream. He spoke about Ber Borochov with reverence, and spread his ideas in public.

At the end of the world war, when the wave of pogroms enveloped Ukraine, and streams of Jewish refugees and orphans arrived in Poland, Davidson was one of the founders of the orphanage for the Ukrainian children, which was a crowning achievement in his deeds. These children later formed the basis of the Hebrew school, in which he placed all of the enthusiasm of his efforts. The words of Hebrew song and speech broke forth from the walls of that building.

Reb Meshulam returned with his entire family to his Land, the native Land, sometime during the Third Aliya. At first he lived in Tel Aviv, and in his final years in Tel Amal with his children and grandchildren. Meshulam was privileged, as was Kibbutz Tel Amal, that this very active Jew gave the Kibbutz of his spirit to it during his final years.


Naftali Tuchfeld

Born in Rzeszow, 5651 (1891). Died in Tel Aviv on 27 Tishrei, 5714 (1953).

From the Encyclopedia of Religious Zionism, Part II, page 413.

{Photo page 271: Naftali Tuchfeld.}

He was one of the Parnassim of the city of Rzeszow, and very close to its rabbi, Rabbi Nathan Lewin. He was one of the first people who struggled for religious Zionism in his region, and was numbered among the important Mizrachi activists in Western Galicia. He participated as a delegate to several Zionist Congresses, and to the world convention of Mizrachi.

He was exiled to Siberia during the Second World War, and lived there with wandering and tribulation until the end of the war. Even in the most remote places, he concerned himself with public worship, and helped his fellow men as much as possible. Despite all of the tribulations that the government placed before him when he wanted to return to Poland, he succeeded in leaving Russia and arriving in Warsaw. There, he renewed his communal Zionist activity, and became one of the communal leaders, as well as a member of the active community of the union of communities of Poland.

He left Poland in 5709 (1949) and lived for a time in Paris. He was offered the leadership of the French Mizrachi organization, but he declined this offer, as well as an offer to emmigrate to the United States. He made aliya to the Land of Israel in 5710 (1950). He settled in Holon, and was immediately elected as a member of the religious council there. He started to work in the Ministry of Religion. Part of his duty was to arrange religious services for the religious settlements. He did what he could to encourage harmony between the residents from various communities.

He became seriously ill. When he recovered, his friends arranged for him a thanksgiving meal, at which he suddenly dropped dead.


{Page 272}

Anna Kahane

by Leon Weisenfeld

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 272: Anna Kahane.}

There were always several women in Rzeszow of whom Rzeszow Jewry could be proud. These women, whether they were part of the Hassidic circles or the progressives, or even of the assimilationists, were always prepared – particularly during times of danger – to give themselves over to assisting the Jewish community. They helped the sick or the poor, and in particular excelled in helping the charitable organizations. They even founded new ones when there was a need for such.

Anna Kahane was one of these women. She was the wife of Avraham Kahane, a well-known textile merchant in Rzeszow. There was not one communal or social institution in Rzeszow in which this woman did not take part, and give of her strength and energy. When a poor Jew was imprisoned by the police for any violation of the law, Mrs. Kahane immediately ran to the authorities and interceded on his behalf. Sometimes, she would herself pay the fine that was imposed upon him.

Mrs. Kahane served for many years as the chairwoman of the Jewish orphanage of Rzeszow. She treated the Jewish orphans like a loving and dedicated mother. When the children grew up, she found them employment in accordance with their aptitudes. She gave them over as apprentices to the various craftsmen in the city. She concerned herself with guaranteeing the future of the most talented of them. It is no wonder that these children literally revered her.

Aside from her work in the orphanage, she also supported the old age home. When my wife Esther Weisenfeld and Bernard Fish, as well as my friends from Poale Zion founded the first Jewish children's home in Rzeszow immediately after the war, Mrs. Kahane assisted them, even though she had no connection with Poale Zion.

I remember after the pogrom that the Poles perpetrated against the Jews of Rzeszow on May 3, 1919, several Jews in the city lost their livelihoods. Their stores and houses were pillaged, and they were left with nothing. Some of them indeed received support from the Jewish community, but its resources were not sufficient for the many in need. In the newspaper that I published at the time in Rzeszow, I requested that the Jews of the city, who did not suffer from the tribulations, assist the victims. However, my request did not receive a serious response. We therefore turned to Mrs. Kahane. She along with Bracha Karp founded an aid committee for the victims of the pogrom. Here I will only mention a few of the women who participated in this committee (the rest escape my memory): the aforementioned Berta Karp who was always active in communal affairs; the wife of Yisrael Haar; Mrs. Esther Wiesenfeld; Dr. Kraus, the wife of Berthold Erlich who owned a restaurant next to the train station; the wife of Dr. Teller, and the wife of Milton Elbaum. They immediately began to collect money and commence with their assistance works. A kitchen was opened, in which the aforementioned women cooked and even distributed food to the homes of the victims of the pogroms. They even sent doctors to the injured. They continued on with these efforts until the majority of the victims regained their former strength.

It is worthwhile to point out here that this committee of generous women later received support from the “Jungmans-Farein” (Young People's Organization) of Rzeszow in New York, which has also set up in the United States an assistance committee for the pogrom victims of Rzeszow.

Mrs. Kahane and her husband died many years before the Second World War. Honor to their memories!


Elimelech Katz

by M. Sh. Geshuri

Translated by Jerrold Landau

From Hator, 7 Av, 5683 (1923)

Rzeszow, 5650, 1890, New York, Nisan 5683, 1923

He was the son of Reb Eliahu Wolf. He arrived in America at a young age. He was active among the religious youth of the place while he was still studying at the Beis Midrash. He was one of the founders of “Tiferet Mizrachi” in New York, and one of the chief founders of “Bnei Zion”. He participated in organizing classes for the study of Torah, Hebrew, and Jewish thought for the youth, and in establishing a Hebrew library. He married Leah the daughter of Reb Yitzchak Feller, one of the Mizrachi veterans of America. He visited the Land of Israel with his father-in-law in 5681 (1921) and purchased land in the Mountains of Judea to found the Nachalat Yitzchak neighborhood (next to Kiryat Anavim). He returned to America with the hope of later going back to the Land, a hope that was not actualized on account of his sudden death. After his death, Mizrachi decided to establish a pioneering house in his name. A wing of the Poel Hamizrachi building in Tel Aviv and other institutions in Israel are named after him.


{Page 273}

Irving Low

by David Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 273: Irving Low.}

Irving Low is a personality of stature, not only from a financial and social perspective – he is stamped with the seal of a leader of both the Jewish and non-Jewish community in his community in New Jersey, America, where he faithfully dedicates himself to communal needs. Everything that wells up from the Jewish wellspring is close to his heart, especially with matters that relate to his native town of Rzeszow.

Irving Low's father was Eliezer, and his mother was Tzipora, or, as she was called in Rzeszow, Tzipa, of the Krieger family. His father, who was born in Frysztak, was a Hassid of Rymanow, and excelled in hosting guests. When a Rebbe came to town from Rymanow, Czortkow , Boyan or Sadigora, he would stay with Reb Leizer Low.

Yitzchak (Irving) was the eldest child of the Low family. Even though young Yitzchak was educated in the most Orthodox fashion, he set his eyes toward the wide world. In those days, the Zionist idea was penetrating even into the Hassidic city of Rzeszow. Yitzchak was swept up into this movement, and became involved in practical work, such as the distribution of Shekalim to Jews whom he met as he was selling milk – for young Yitzchak already assisted his parents a bit in helping to support the household.

He was already appointed as the trustee of “Tikun Sfarim” (The repair of books) in the Rymanow Kloiz. He concerned himself that those who receive an aliya to the Torah donate to “Tikun Sfarim”.

When Poland was revived after the First World War, the Poles perpetrated a pogrom upon the Jews of Rzeszow on May 3, 1918 [other sources cite the year as 1919]. Yitzchak Low was near the train station at that time. A band of hooligans fell upon him and beat him savagely. The marks from that attack remain on his body to this day.

After his wounds slowly healed, he resolved to leave Poland. He joined “Hechalutz” and went on Hachsharah. Afterward, he fled to Pressburg, with the goal of making aliya to the Land of Israel. However he waited for a long time in vain for a certificate. After some wandering, he arrived in the United States.

Due to his talents, Yitzchak succeeded in becoming rooted in American life. Within a short time, he ascended the financial rungs. At the same, time, he dedicated himself to communal work.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Yitzchak Low felt that a danger was lurking over Jewish Rzeszow, just as it was lurking over Polish Jewry. He was running around New York and Washington, seeking assistance. He talked with congressmen and senators, but the gates of aid were sealed.

The Nazi invasion of Poland destroyed the house of the Low family. His father, mother, and younger sister Lea with her children were murdered in sanctification of the Divine name. The Germans murdered Reb Leizer Low in Rzeszow on Iyar 3, 5702.

Most of Yitzchak Low's friends, who were Torah students, perished in the Holocaust. I will mention a few of them here: Rabbi Dr. Yechezkel Lewin (the son of the rabbi of Rzeszow, who was a rabbi in Lvov), Itza Silber, Moshe Frankel, Nachum Beck, Leibish Beck, Nachum Alster, Henich Kalter, Yechezkel Zimmerman, Itza Kisilewicz.

When the war ended, Irving Low made contact with the few survivors of Rzeszow, who were at first centered in the city of Wroclaw. As is told by the survivors of Rzeszow, among them Yisrael Beck, the first 10,000 dollars was received from him. He also sent packages of food and clothing. The survivors wished to leave Poland, and Low did all that was in his power to assist them in this.

Mr. Irving Low knew how to work for Israel. As the president of Israel Bonds in North Hudson, New Jersey, he succeeded in influencing the millionaire Israel Rogozin to invest a great deal of money in the Israeli economy.

Aside from his activities on behalf of the State of Israel (Mr. Yitzchak Low already visited the State of Israel seven times, and met the leaders of the country—President Ben-Tzvi, Ben Gurion, Eshkol, and other people), Mr. Low worked a great deal for the Jewish cultural institutions in America, in West New York, where he lived since he arrived in America.

Mr. Low served for a few years as the president of The United Appeal of North Hudson, the president of Israel Bonds, the president of the Yeshiva in Hudson, the president of the Shaarei Zedek synagogue, the president of the Rzeszow Committee, a member of the Zionist directorate in America, a member of Bnai Brith, a member of the committee for the North Hudson hospital, a member of the planning committee of West New York, and many others.

The charitable fund of Irving Low was established as an adjunct of the Organization of Rzeszow Natives in Israel. Irving Low today stands at the helm of the Organization of Rzeszow Natives in America, and has done a great deal of activity for the publication of the Yizkor Book of the Community of Rzeszow.


{Page 274}

My Father Shlomo Munzberg

by Klara Maayan (Munzberg)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 274: Salomon Munzberg.}

The life of my father Reb Shlomo Munzberg was not marked with fanfare and not with glory, but rather with good deeds, modesty, and cultural activity.

Long winter nights. My father returned from work, and we would all sit around the table, the children awaiting explanations of the Bible and books of legends… It was necessary to complement the Polish secular studies with the knowledge of Judaism. That is how our father taught us the language of our people. To him, the treasure of Judaism was like a deep well of Hebrew literature. The Talmud, Gemara, and Mishna were in the house, as well as encyclopedias and medical books.

There was no Hebrew school in Rzeszow at the time. We studied in Polish schools that instilled within us the Polish culture that was saturated with no small measure of anti-Semitism. My father then began to organize “culture”. He brought Hebrew teachers, and often visited the classes. Slowly but surely, the Hebrew language penetrated into the Jewish home, especially among the organized pioneering youth.

My father prepared lectures on personalities such as Herzl, Bialik and others, as well as lectures on Zionism. He lectured to a large audience of people from our city and the region.

My father was also active in social organizations, and the organization to assist the orphanage. He would go to summer camp with the orphans, and collect money and clothing for them.

My father of blessed memory also brought me to the youth movements. When he saw that the gymnasia studies were distancing us completely from Judaism, he visited the “Beit Haam” several times for various meetings with the pioneering youth. One bright day, he brought me there. It was very difficult for me to refuse my father, who wanted me to start working with the group. However, on the other hand, I was afraid of the headmaster of the Polish school who strongly forbade any membership in youth movements. However, the persistent request of my father overcame my fear, and I entered the movement.

I will not forget those days when my father prepared discussions for the group with me. He did not want that I should present material that was not worked over sufficiently. He sat with me and read the work “Moshe” of Ahad Haam. How well did he explain to me the differences between a Priest and a prophet. To this day, his explanations serve to enlighten my work in teaching.

He would visit the summer and winter camps without tiring and without despair. He once slept with us upon mattresses in the simplest of conditions immediately after a “Day of Work” in the camp of the leaders. He was always alert to all of the problems that occupied the youth, and often criticized the emptiness and lack of knowledge of the language among our leaders.

Every new Hebrew book that was published during those years was found in our library within a week. Often, when I read the poem of Bialik, “My Father”, and I see the martyr behind the table in the tavern – I think about my father who was also a “martyr” in his store. He always sat behind the table, reading and writing. I often entered, took something from him, and left without my father realizing it – that was how immersed he was in his books.

People loved and respected him. His exceptional qualities were most apparent during the war. During that era, when men turned into beasts of prey, it was possible to appreciate his fine traits.

My father reacted strongly to the arrival of the Germans. He always repeated: “He will not destroy us, and will not lord over all of the Jews. The Jewish people is eternal and will live forever!”

His final words were on the 23rd of Av, 5701 (1941), when he closed his eyes after suffering from dysentery. He said, “We will yet have a country. Bring me to it.”

His request was fulfilled 22 years later. On Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) of the year 5722 (1962), his remains were disinterred from the cemetery in Rzeszow and brought to the Land. On account of his fine and splendid qualities, the following is written upon his tombstone in Kiryat Shaul: “An upright man with a refined soul”. Can one express more than this with such short words?

Your image shall serve as a sign and portent for your children and grandchildren – as a pure and upright man who never for a moment forgot his nation and its language.


{Page 275}

Rabbi Dr. Zvi Koretz

by Simcha Seiden

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 275: Rabbi Dr. Zvi Koretz.}

As has already been announced in the Jewish newspapers, Rabbi Dr. Zvi Koretz of Rzeszow was accepted as the general rabbi of Salonika.

Rabbi Koretz was originally from Rzeszow, where he studied and was educated as the son of respectable parents. He occupied himself with communal needs in general, and Zionism in particular. He obtained a high position in our city and in the Zionist organization of Western Galicia.

At the conclusion of his studies in the Gymnasia in Rzeszow, he traveled to Vienna and studied in the Faculty of Philosophy. He delved deeply into Talmudic studies at the rabbinical seminary, under the guidance of famous Jewish professors such as Gejer, Schwartz and Aptowitzer. He also dedicated himself to Eastern Studies and received his doctorate. At that time he published his book “The Description of Hell According to the Koran” in German. Rabbi Zvi Koretz received his rabbinical ordination after spending the brief period of three semesters in the Judaic High School of Berlin. He was immediately appointed as a rabbi and lecturer in various schools in Berlin.

When he was appointed as the general rabbi of the city of Salonika, Rabbi Dr. Koretz visited his parents in his native city of Rzeszow in order to take leave of them before going to accept the rabbinical seat in Salonika.

Among the large gathering who came to visit him, the veteran Zionist writer Reb Abba Apfelbaum was present. He enjoyed great satisfaction from his former student.

When I asked him to tell me about his appointment as general rabbi of Salonika for the benefit of my readers in the Jewish Galician newspaper “Der Morgen”, Rabbi Koretz responded and gave me the following details: “I was active as a rabbi and lecturer in Berlin. In the middle of the summer, the old, large community of Salonika approached the High School of Judaica in Berlin with a request to recommend a suitable candidate to serve as chief rabbi of their community, for they have not had a general rabbi for eight years, from the day that Rabbi Ouziel left Salonika to serve in Tel Aviv. Other rabbis attempted to obtain this post, but were not accepted due to their poor knowledge of the Hebrew language. The Hebrew language is given significant importance in Jewish communal life in Salonika.”

“Indeed, this was the first time that an Ashkenazic rabbi was accepted as the rabbi in Salonika, which is a place that has approximately 20 rabbis who are Sephardic 'Hahahmim'. Salonika, as is well known, is one of the oldest Jewish communities. Masses of refugees arrived there in the year 1492 as a result of the expulsion from Spain. Many Jewish historical names are tied to Salonika, such as Shabtai Zvi and Yosef Karo. At the beginning of the 20th century, Salonika had a population of 100,000, of which 90,000 were Jews. [9]. They had 20 synagogues and 40 Beis Midrashes. In 1917, after the large fires that wreaked havoc upon the city, many Jews suffered and were forced to wander to other countries, particularly to the Land of Israel. Today, the number of Jews in Salonika is about 50,000. There is a strong Zionist movement there that is expecting to see the establishment of our home in the Land of Israel.

I was received with great ceremony and had discussions with Jewish personalities, such as, for example, the president of the Zionist Union David Florentin and others such as Molcho, Recanti, Morforgo, and Modiano.

In the school for poor Jewish children, the students study four languages: Hebrew, Greek, French and Spanish. They sing the songs of the Land of Israel. I saw with my own eyes a Christian teacher conducting a performance of Hebrew songs in school with the children. In general, very good relationships exist in the schools between the Jews and Christians.

I will accept the rabbinic seat in Salonika on Lag Baomer of 5683 (1923), and I hope to be a rabbi who will arrange a marriage between the Jews of the east and the Jews of the west, to unite them in the rubric of the complete nation of Israel, for the benefit of its spiritual existence and productivity in the exile and in the Land of Israel.”


{Page 276}

Yaakov Elimelech Knecht and his wife Malka

by Yitzchak Oestreicher of Tel Aviv

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 276 right: Yaakov Elimelech Knecht.}

{Photo page 276 left: Malka Knecht.}

Reb Yaakov Elimelech Knecht, or as he was called Reb Yaakov Melech, was known as a merchant of tallises of all sorts. He sold silver coated and pure silver tallis decorations, and streimels from martens all the way to expensive deer hides. Thanks to his uprightness in day to day life, he won the confidence not only of the Jewish residents of his city of Rzeszow, but also of the far off regions.

The aim of his life was not business. He spent most of his time studying Torah. The purpose of his life was “to delve into it day and night”. Not a day passed in which Reb Yaakov Melech did not sit and study a page of Gemara, Rambam or other holy book. During the times that the Hassidim rejoiced or went out in dance, Reb Yaakov Melech sat hunched over in a corner in the large Kloiz, and delved into a book to the light of a lantern. Reb Yaakov Melech was not a member of a Hassidic group. Despite this, he was one of those who frequented the home of the rabbi of the city Reb Heshel Wallerstein of holy blessed memory, who was known as great in Torah. Reb Yaakov Melech listened to his sermons on Torah during the Third Sabbath meal with great enthusiasm.

Reb Yaakov Melech also conducted himself discretely, as was his manner, as a Torah reader. Despite the request of the Gabbai of the large Kloiz that he serve as their Torah reader, something that was considered as a great honor, he continued to read in the small shtibel of the “Nosei Hamata” group. The Gabbaim Reb Aharon Koretz and Reb Yonah Alweis considered it a great honor that Reb Yaakov Melech served as their Torah reader and spiritual leader in the shtibel.

He conducted himself during his classes before the congregation in the same way that he conducted himself in his daily life. Every Sabbath afternoon prior to the Mincha service, he sat with a large group of people, particularly from among the masses, and he explained the weekly portion to them in a simple, understandable manner. It is self-evident that the many of the masses were drawn to his classes and enjoyed his learning.

His wife Malkale was a faithful righteous woman. Who did not know Malkale and her good deeds? Every Sabbath after the prayers, she ate her own meal quickly, and then immediately cut up her special oil cake that she prepared, and took it along with 2 liters of sweet wine to the old hospital for the poor on the Green Street. She herself distributed it to the chronically ill. The seriously ill patients paid her back with boundless blessings.

Her daily routine included the Beis Midrash. Even after she reached the age of 70, she would continue to get up in the morning at 4:00, and go – even in the winter, in the rain, cold and snow – to open up the Women's Gallery with her large, special key. After reciting Psalms and the Yiddish translation of Chumash, she remained until the end of the morning service. She then recited Ani Maamin [10], and went home to go about her daily activities.

The descendents of Reb Yaakov Melech and his wife Malkale of blessed memory who are alive today include their grandchildren Yisrael and Avraham Shleider in Paris, and Reb Yitzchak Oestreicher in Tel Aviv, who served for many years as head of the Organization of Rzeszow Natives in Israel.


{Page 277}

Yaakov Sheinblum

by Zeev Zohar

Translated by Jerrold Landau

When I knew him, he was already very elderly, however his spiritual and physical strength were still living within him. His countenance exuded nobility, and his clothing exuded splendor and glory. One would meet him on the road with a smiling face, a slow gait, and splendid manners.

He was born in Rzeszow to an illustrious, wealthy family. His father, Rabbi Shmuel Sheinblum, was the chairman of the Jewish community of Rzeszow. He was a great scholar, and a first-degree communal activist in his city. He owned many estates. There was Torah and greatness in one person.

Reb Yosele, as he was known fondly, received his comprehensive Torah education in this house. His name already went out during his youth as an illustrious genius, expert in Talmud and Jewish law. He also was educated in secular knowledge. He spoke six languages and was familiar with classical literature.

He entered into his father's business when he was still young, and excelled in generosity, as he discretely supported a large number of needy families.

At age 22, Reb Yosele Sheinblum married the daughter of Shalom Kagan, a well-known, wealthy scholar from Kamenetz Podolski, a grandson of the Gaon of Dubnic and a descendent of the Maharsha and Reb Pinchas of Koretz of holy blessed memory. He moved from there to Odessa and opened a bank there. After about a year, he was forced to leave Odessa, because of his Austrian citizenship. He returned to his city of Rzeszow, where he continued working in banking and managing properties. He also invested a significant sum of money to develop the sale of kerosene in Boryslaw.

Reb Yosele Sheinblum succeeded in his business and in communal service in Rzeszow, and established one of the fine houses in Israel. His house was a gathering house for scholars, open to all in need, and known throughout the region of Western Galicia.

Suddenly, something happened. His eldest son Shalom, the son-in-law of Reb Yitzchak Yaakov Teomim, died suddenly at the young age of 28. Reb Shalom was a well-known genius. His rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Yekutiel Aryeh Kamelhar dedicated his book on Rabbi Yehuda Hechasid to his memory. This incident had an effect on Reb Yosele, and he decided to leave Rzeszow.

Reb Yosele Sheinblum opened up a bank in Lvov, and his business developed well. Within a short period of time, he attained great fame in the city due to his generous character, and his distributions to charitable organizations. He excelled particularly in maintaining needy scholars. Everything was given discretely. He supported Yeshivas and charitable organizations in Galicia with a wide-open hand. He especially donated a great deal to institutions in the Land of Israel. He took interest in the founding of Agudas Yisroel, and participated as a delegate to the founding convention of the worldwide organization of Agudas Yisroel in Katowice in the year 5672 (1912).

Reb Yosele Sheinblum participated in an active fashion in the leadership of Agudas Yisroel in Galicia, starting in the year 5674 (1914).

At the time of the first elections to the Polish Sejm, he dedicated himself to this work despite his age. As a man with higher education, personal connections and pleasant manners, he befriended the rest of the leaders of the factions, who respected him greatly. Dr Leon Reich, the head of the Zionist organization Eastern Galicia, asked him to join with him on a list and be assured a spot. However, he refused to be a candidate for parliament, and dedicated himself primarily to local matters.

Reb Yosef Sheinblum was a grandson and descendent of the Gaon Reb Yosef of Posner, who preceded Rabbi Akive Eiger and was crowned as the head Gaon of the Gaonim of the time by his father-in-law the Noda BiYehuda. No book remains from Reb Yosef Posner, for his collection of manuscripts was burnt in Dubno. However Reb Shmuel's father published remnants of his writings in a book called “Zichron Sheerit Yosef” (“A memorial to what remained from Yosef”).

Reb Yosele Sheinblum died on the 27th of Kislev 5688 (1928), as he was giving the opening speech at the dedication of a wing of the old age home in Lvov.


Moshe Wang

by Avraham Wang of Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

My father Moshe Wang was born in Rakszawa near Lancut in 1882, and died on March 15, 1964 in Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz. He spent most of his life in Rzeszow. The Wang family was large, consisting of five brothers and two sisters. They all died or were murdered in the Second World War. Father was Orthodox. He conducted himself discretely, and donated generously to communal institutions in Rzeszow, as well as to Zionist funds.

Despite the fact that he was an Orthodox Jew who kept tradition, he attempted to understand the spirit of the children, each one of whom went on their own path. As a Shomer Hatzair member, I went to an agricultural Hachsharah. Father always took interest in my activities, and even made peace with the fact that his son made aliya to the land as a Chalutz to a Kibbutz. In his letters to us, he took interest in the development of the Kibbutz and the farm, and was proud that his son was building up the land.

The storm of war carried him far away from his home, that was destroyed along with the rest of European Jewry. Our entire family was murdered. After much wandering, Father came to us at the Kibbutz in 1947. He got used to the new way of life without difficulty. He lived with us for 17 years. He was a man of agriculture, and took great interest in the development of our Kibbutz. He worked in the general warehouse throughout the years, and was always happy to answer people and assist us all. He went to his eternal world sated with years, as well as with physical suffering and spiritual torment. However, he also saw comfort and contentment – a grandchild and two great-grandchildren.


{Page 278}

Yitzchak Oestreicher

by Leon Weisenfeld, United States

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 278: Yitzchak Oestreicher.}

The Rzeszow natives in Israel never, G-d forbid, forgot their relatives, neighbors and friends who perished at the hands of Hitler, may his name be blotted out. Not only did they mourn their deaths day and night, but they decided to establish an eternal monument of testimony for their souls in the form of a book that would perpetuate the memory of the martyrs. It is particularly appropriate to point out the dedication of our fellow native Yitzchak Oestreicher, the son of Moshe Avraham and Chana Oestreicher, toward this holy aim. It can be said without exaggeration that Yitzchak Oestreicher is the “father of the book”, and without him, it is doubtful if this book would have seen the light of day. It is fitting to dedicate space here to a description of the personality of Yitzchak Oestreicher, in whom is encapsulated the development and essence of the Jewish youth of Rzeszow at the beginning of the 20th century. Therefore, I will start out with a few words about the Jewish youth of Rzeszow of those days.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, there were two groups of youth in Rzeszow: Hassidic or other Orthodox youth on the one hand, and assimilated youth on the other hand. However, the situation changed with the founding of the first Chovevei Zion organization in Rzeszow by the Maskilim and progressives, such as Kalman Kurtzman, Moshe David Geshwind, Abba Apfelbaum, Chaim Wald, Naftali Glucksman, and others. Very quickly, the first Jewish newspaper in Rzeszow, “Di Reisher Folkszeitung” was founded. These two events attracted the attention of the Hassidic youth. They began to look into the “profane” Haskalah books, which opened up a new world to them. They were attracted to Zionism as well with the passage of time, and founded their own organization called Hashachar. At almost the same time, Meshulam Davidson organized the working youth, and founded the Poale Zion organization. Yitzchak Oestreicher, who was a young accountant in those days, was influenced by socialist Zionist principals, and was chosen as secretary of this new organization. Already at that time, he stood out for his organizational abilities.

When I got together with him in those days, Yitzchak Oestreicher was a charming young man who was pleasant to his fellow man. He was three years younger than me. I remember how we walked along Gentlemen Street in Rzeszow, or sat down for a cup of coffee in café Europa. Yitzchak Oestreicher attempted to convince me to become a Zionist. At that time, I was one of the faithful disciples of Dr. Nathan Birnbaum, but I enjoyed the style of Yitzchak Oestreicher's propaganda.

He was a happy young man, filled with jokes. However, even his jokes were propaganda. I prophesied to him that, in the future, he would play a prominent role in any movement or faction that he joined, for he was a campaigner by birth. However, suddenly, in 1912, he disappeared from the horizon. When I met his father Moshe Avraham by chance, he told me that Yitzchak Oestreicher moved to Germany. From then, I never heard anything about him.

Only after he had been in Israel for a period did I find out that he married his cousin in Wiesbaden, Germany, who bore him five children. His economic position there was good, but he was not satisfied with such, for his heart was filled with longings and desires for his old culture that he has absorbed during his youth in Rzeszow. As he said, “it is a pillar of fire upon a great treasure”. He joined the local Zionist organization in Wiesbaden. He played there an important role, and was its director for many years. He was sent as a delegate to the Zionist Congress in Vienna. Yitzchak Oestreicher played a role in spreading Hebrew culture and literature in Wiesbaden. For example, he organized a splendid celebration of Y. L. Peretz, to which he invited Sholem Asch and Dr. Elyashiv (“Bal Machsavot”), who were in Wiesbaden by chance at the time. Jewish representatives of the “Deutsche Staatsburger” also participated.

After he organized the Jews of Eastern Europe who lived in Wiesbaden, and served as the chairman for many years, he also began to struggle for a union of the Jews of Eastern Europe in Germany (“Ost Judischer Farband”) to obtain equal rights for them in the Jewish communities of Germany. This struggle, which was hard and stubborn, ended in victory. Active and passive rights were granted to the communal elections to the eastern Jews (“Ost Juden”). However, at that time, Nazism was already on the rise. Oestreicher was attacked for this activity in Hitler's newspaper “Der Nasoer Bavachter”. His life was in danger, and he decided to leave Germany while there was still time. He liquidated his business in 1931 and moved to France with his family. He settled in Forbach in Lotringia (Lorraine), a border city between France and Germany. After a short time, Oestreicher again became involved in communal activity. Together with the pharmacist Noach Kahane and Robert Levi, he organized the first Zionist organization in Forbach. They succeeded in signing up Felix Bart, the mayor and head of the community to the organization. Yitzchak Oestreicher began a wide range of Zionist activities in this city. After a while, he was chosen as a delegate to the Zionist convention in the city of Metz. Oneg Shabbat celebrations took place in his house for the local youth, conducted by

{Page 279}

his eldest son Yaakov. Later, he was elected to the active committee of the Zionist organization in eastern France (Alsace-Lorraine) that was headquartered in Strassbourg.

In 1933, when Hitler took over the German government, Oestreicher along with several other Jewish activists in Forbach set up an assistance committee for the Jewish refugees from Germany. In 1939, at the outset of the war, the Oestreicher family, along with the rest of the residents, was evacuated to central France. Even though the policies of Hitler, after he conquered France, were at first more “lenient” toward the Jews, Oestreicher was not content. He ordered his children to flee. They went to Spain and from there to Portugal. Oestreicher left France in July 1945 and set sail for the Land of Israel on a British ship. He made aliya along with his wife and two young daughters, who until then had lived in a small French village. His oldest son Yaakov made aliya shortly thereafter. He had served in the French army, and was captured by the Germans. The Oestreicher family was again reunited.

The organization of Rzeszow Natives was set up in Israel in 1951. Yaakov Alter served as the first chairman of the organization, followed by Yosef Storch. Sometime in 1952, it fell upon Oestreicher to serve as chairman of that organization. After that, he decided, along with Ben-Zion Fett and other members to publish the Yizkor Book for the Martyrs of Rzeszow.

It is self evident that this enterprise was fraught with deep difficulties, both financial and other. However, Yitzchak Oestreicher was not deterred, and he turned to natives of our city in the United States with countless letters. He sent circulars asking people to help him establish a memorial on the graves that no longer exist. Despite the many difficulties, he did not give up, and began to collect material for the book, about which nobody was able to prophesy that it would see the light of day. His motto was, “The book of Rzeszow must appear”.

His hopes began to materialize when his old friend from that time, Zvi Simcha Leder, the author of the book “Jews of Rzeszow”, visited Israel in 1955. Oestreicher's plans found favor with of Zvi Simcha Leder, and he promised to help. He granted him on the spot a check for a significant sum. This encouraged Oestreicher and he started working. In the interim, another native of our city, an activist and philanthropist from the New York area, Irving Low, became involved, and also donated a significant sum. Oestreicher also collected smaller sums from the Rzeszow Jews in Israel, until he had the necessary means to put the plans into action.

For all of your efforts – may you be blessed, to you, my dear friend Yitzchak Oestreicher!

{Photo page 279: At the gathering in honor of Zvi Simcha Leder, in 1955.
From the right: Ben-Zion Fett, Zvi Simcha Leder, Yitzchak Oestreicher, Alexander Rosner-Keller (speaker).}


Translator's Footnotes

  1. An external student was someone who took the High School exams, without attending regular school. Such a student would perhaps attend evening classes, study at home by himself/herself or with the help of a tutor or a relative. Return
  2. Elimelech Rimalt (1907-1987). Return
  3. A quote from the High Holy Day services. Return
  4. My suspicion is that these words are not meant to be taken literally here. Return
  5. A prayer from the High Holy Day liturgy. The quote in the next sentence is a quote from this prayer. Return
  6. The word here is 'thousands of morags'. Return
  7. It seems as if the word 'Anglo' here is the last name of one of the daughters. Return
  8. Based on a tradition that there are always 36 hidden righteous people in the world at any given time. Return
  9. This number, indicating that the Jewish population was 90% of the general population, is suspect. See the database of Jewish communities http://www.bh.org.il/Communities/Archive/Salonika.asp, which places the Jewish population in 1900 at 80,000 out of 173,000. Return
  10. A formulation of the thirteen principals of Jewish dogmatic belief that some people recite on a daily basis. Return
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