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{Page 476}

The Tailors' Synagogue

by Dr. Aharon Rosenbaum

Translated and donated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

“Beis Kneses Hachayat” [1] is what was written on a small house in Rzeszow that people called the “Tailors' Synagogue”. The Tailors' Synagogue was located next to the Beis Midrash and it was even connected to it with a corridor. My father, Yitzchak Rosenbaum was the gabbai for a long time and I prayed there with my father every day. The synagogue was beautifully painted (by Meilech Platzer and Wolf Silberrman). The Holy Ark was beautifully illuminated. In front of the pulpit was a “shiviti” [2] that I had written. Every year during the intermediate days of Passover there was an election to choose three gabaim (synagogue trustees). The majority of those who prayed there were tailors, but there were also some merchants such as Schmelke and Moshe Frankel, Naftali Garber, Pinchas Lifschutz and others. During the Days of Awe the cantors who prayed there were: Mendel Aryehs who was a shamash in the kloiz; his brother Moshe Aryehs, Mechele the Judge, Yechezkel Kraut and others. - Located near the Tailors' synagogue, on Mikoszki Street, was the “Tzanzer Kloiz” where the Hasidim always studied.

The Tailors' Synagogue was an old building and the Rzeszow municipal government always wanted it to be torn down because it obstructed traffic. But my father was successful in protecting the synagogue until the Nazi regime arrived. When I arrived in Rzeszow in 1944, I could not find the synagogue where I had prayed and studied.

The synagogue was also a place of refuge for persecuted melamdim who did not have a charter to teach. My melamed (teacher) was Moshe Sheinman from Sokolow. The Porters' Synagogue near the Woljer school was also a place of refuge.


Translator's Footnotes

1. Chayat in Hebrew is tailor, and the 'ha' is the definite article. Back

2. A sign with the verse 'Shiviti Hashem Lenegdi Tamid' (I place G-d before me at all times), that is often put up as a synagogue decoration, and is often drawn in an artistic fashion. Back


{Page 478}

Memories of the Past

by Dr. Aharon Rosenbaum of Haifa

Translated by Jerrold Landau

My father, Yitzhak Rosenbaum, was a tailor. Reb Itche, my father, was gabbai (trustee) of the Tailors' Synagogue and president of “Yad Kharutzim”. We lived on Koszciuski Street in Gerson Zinnamon's house. Our apartment consisted of a kitchen and one room. Dr. Teller lived in the same house with his parents Zindel and Sima. Dr. Teller was the city doctor, which was uncommon at that time. Simcha Buchbinder, whose son Mordechai became the founder of Poalei Zion in Rzeszow, also lived in the house.

{Photo page 478: The Tailors' Synagogue}

The majority of the tailors lived on Rojzen Street: Leser, Sommer, Kelman Hausner, Berish Schwartz (black Berish), Natan Schwartzbard (small Natan) and the well-known women's tailor Wolf “Rushwalb” (Red Wolf). Also living there were second class tailors, for example: Gabriel Edelzweig who was nicknamed Gabrilish. His dear friend was Sholem Litwak, also a tailor who lived at Reb Chaim Wald's. Moshe Jezower was also a well-known tailor famous for his fantasies. He always boasted that Dr. Jablonski, who was the mayor and Starosta, had been stitched up by him. That week, for instance, he finished a tuxedo for the court president who literally kissed his hands to thank him for his beautiful craftsmanship… in truth Moshe Jezower scarcely made a living. Therefore as the city elections were approaching, he threw himself into the campaign as an agitator with fervor. It was said that when his wife complained about his income, he answered: “What do you think, because of your bastards I will let a city go under?”

CRAZY REGALE

The above mentioned synagogue was a place of refuge and so it was for a man called “Regale” who came to Rzeszow from some unknown place. He would walk around the entire day, back and forth in front of the synagogue, and talk out loud to himself. Small children would run after him and throw stones. At first nobody knew where he came from or who he was. During the First World War, I accidentally became acquainted with an Austrian writer Yosef Roth. When he found out I was from Rzeszow, he asked me about “Regale”. It turned out that “Regale” was his father. Immediately after World War I, Yosef Roth came to Rzeszow to search for his poor father's grave. Yosef Roth was a well-known writer and his works “Radetzki Marsh”, “Hotel Savoy”, “Oyb” and others are well known to this day.

THE YARDENIA STUDENT UNION

Together with Moshe Grinbaum (his father Yehuda Grinbaum was a shoemaker on “Tepper Lane”) and other students, we gave evening classes for the members of Poalei Zion in Rzeszow. Once we lectured in Yiddish together with Meir Wald (Yaari). I read from Sholem Aleichem's work and Meir Wald read an extract from Mendele Mocher Sforim's “Dos Klein Mentschele”. A student reading a Yiddish work publicly was quite a sensation!

In 1907, a union for Jewish students was founded in Rzeszow and joined the “Yardenia” union. The first members were: Mendel Fett, Moshe Grinbaum, Benek Gleicher, Shmuel Lobash, Yosef Storch, Chaim Drucker, myself and others. Then we created an opposition to the Student Union “Yarednia” and demanded that people should learn Israeli geography, Zionist history, and Yiddish literature, with the study language being completely in Yiddish. Those belonging to the opposition were Moshe Grinbaum, Mendel Fett and others. We were victorious. Moshe Wald taught Yiddish literature once a week, Benek Gleicher taught Israeli geography, etc. National life in our union was passionate. We opened a library, organized evening classes and founded an amateur theater. One of those evenings that created a stir was with Nachum Sokolow and another Adolf Stand.

HEDERIM AND MELAMDIM

A large number of chederim were in Budner's house, in the “Budnerke” as it was called in Rzeszow. The house, that was located near “Tepper Street” was long and had a lot of balconies. Moshe Aryehs the melamed, lived there, with whom the children studied Chumash with Rashi and Gemara. Mendel Fogel also had a cheder there. He was a progressive melamed whom the students called “teacher” rather than “rabbi”. I learned to write Yiddish with him. Behind, on the ground floor, Mendel Shapiro had his “grammar cheder”. (Moshe Mashelik the bodkhen (jester) and Mottel Krebs the Klezmer with his fiddle also lived in that house.)

The other melamdim who were on “Tepper Street” were: Abraham Wasser, Anshel melamed, Chaim'l melamed, and Hirsch Melech. On Wolja in Ruska-Wies there were also a substantial number of melamdim and chederim. These were melamdim who taught in Reb Eliezer's Kloiz and in the Sokolower Kloiz. After grammar cheder one would move up to the higher melamdim who taught the children Gemara and Tanakh. They taught Gymnasia students in the evening. At that time, there were two Gymnasia in Rzeszow, but there were only a few Jewish students studying in them.

DOCTORS

Among the prominent doctors in my time was Dr. Jablonski who also became mayor and director of the Christian hospital. Dr. Jablonski was a good surgeon. Dr. Kepel was popular and well liked, a pediatrician, a man of fine character who did not take any fees from the poor. Just the opposite, he would give them money to purchase medicine. Dr. Strasser (his father was a dentist of the old kind) helped the Jews in World War I. He died during a typhus epidemic. Also well loved was Dr. Dornfest. He had a fat cigar in his mouth and his face was perpetually red.

He belonged to the good, old doctors. He would come to the patients cheerful and lively and always spoke a kind of German Yiddish. He lived on Wolja and therefore he was the “the Wolja's doctor”. Dr. Kornfeld, a small Jew, a good healer, was very active in Hassidic circles. There were other doctors, mainly migrants.

MARKET PLACE

I would like to the mention the Rzeszow market place with its characteristic image, Jewish businesses, extremely busy merchants, and stalls erected on the market days, which were Tuesday and Friday. The female hawkers, the Jewish porters, shippers, clerks and Kosziuszko's monument… all the houses around belong to Jews except Karpinski's house with the pharmacy.

It was not only the merchants' lives that were played out here on the market place. On Shabbes morning or in the evening one would see groups of Jews from different parties standing and discussing the election to the municipal government or the kehilla (community). There I see Abba Apfelbaum with his beard, Chaim Wald, and Naftali Glucksman going back and forth engaging in a long talk about a timely question. And there are the Fett sons with their father Shmuel Fett, with Mendel Neugroschel, a scholarly Jew, who lived on Mukuszke. His wife had a stall that sold dry goods. In other corners are Jewish artisans who rush around and around as in a beehive. Let us also mention the female hawkers at the market. In the winter they would sit and keep warm with warming pans. My mother Fruma would very often bring them a hot cup tea for them and they would shower her with blessings.

The Jewish stalls ran a long way, as far as Matejko Street and lengthwise to Grunwald Street and spread around the square. There were the stalls of the Fashion, soap, dry goods and fruit merchants that were all in Jewish hands. The butcher shops for non-kosher meat were the suppliers for Jewish butchers who supplied the military.

RZESZOW TAVERNS

There were a lot of taverns in Rzeszow. One could surmise from this that Rzeszow Jews were drunks, G-d forbid! The Jews simply liked to sample a good glass of beer or mead on Friday evening or Shabbes at their tavern. Given the opportunity, men would sit down and discuss politics or municipal affairs.

The best known tavern with the best mead belonged to Yechiel Tenenbaum whose wife Chana would serve her tasty kigels and cholent to the guests. Also very popular was Yankele's mead tavern. There were also wine taverns (Tuchfeld, Moses, Hirschhorn, and Freund) and Jewish restaurants that were all concentrated in the market place. But there were also Jewish taverns in other parts of the city. On Chmielowka, not far from the train station, there was a tavern at the Wistula where the Rzeszow maskilim such as Wald, Gliksman, the Fetts and others would gather during the summer in the large garden.

“TEPPER STREET”

It was called “Tepper” Street because Jews sold clay pots. Most of them lived on the hill near Gershon Zinnamon's house, where he also had his soap factory. We cheder youngsters used to use the hill as a slide during the winter, and summer we would run to the Wistula. In “Tepper Street” lived mainly poor people – porters, and their apartments were in the basements. Shmuel Fett's house was on the same street. He was a well-known wealthy merchant. All of his sons: Adolf, Ben-Zion, Hirsch and Mendel were Zionists and played a large role in the Zionist movement in Rzeszow. We held meetings in their fruit garden.

Besides the above-mentioned tailors there were also bakers, metal workers, locksmiths, turners, etc. in Rzeszow.

METAL WORKERS: Jakob Helfer and Keitelman were specialists in their trade, particularly in new, large houses.

LOCKSMITHS: The Adler brothers, Leib and Pinchus, live on Wolja and were known for their machoism; Zelig Grad (his son is in Israel).

TURNERS: Shlissel, Klinger and others.

GOLDSMITHS AND JEWELLERS: Schiff and his son; Naftali Graber; the Erlich brothers who were watchmakers; Zucker.

CARPENTERS: Chaim and Mordechai Kalfan were specialists in building new houses. Among the Jewish builders, Shragel and Mendel Trink were well known.

SHOEMAKERS Simcha Buchbinder, Yankel Epstein, Gliklach, Linder.

DROSHSKY DRIVERS: Their center was Wolja at Brune: Maltasch, Mantel and many others. In winter they would drive to the station in beautiful sleighs.

CAFES: The “Europaike” on Hieren Street belonged to Glicklach. The meeting of the Jewish intelligentsia and workers was in the peoples' cafe house at Finkel's, where Jewish students would play chess.

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