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Culture, Education and Haskalah

 

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Sanctuaries
Synagogues, Beis Midrashes, Kloizes and Houses of Worship

san045.jpg [53 KB] - The Large Beis Midrash
The Large Beis Midrash


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Houses of Worship

by Rabbi Alter Maier (of blessed memory)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Great Synagogue

The three word inscription, inscribed in large letters on the western wall, is still etched in my memory: “Renovated in the Year 5539” (1879). I recall that whenever I came across this inscription, I calculated the number of years that passed since the renovation of the synagogue. According to my calculations, it did not even reach the age of sixty. However, I believe that the building itself was not renovated; but just the inside, including the interior design and the laver. The synagogue building was ancient, perhaps dating even from the days of Queen Buna, whose palace remains in its place to this day opposite the synagogue and the Beis Midrash. According to this, it is possible that the synagogue existed for nearly 500 years. A sign of the age of this sanctuary can be seen in the stake that was driven into the southern wall of the “plush” (corridor). When the iron gate of the entrance to the synagogue was opened, the latch would be placed in that stake. During my childhood, I was told by Rabbi Yacov Shamash, who served as the chief shamash (beadle) of this synagogue until ripe old age, that the latch was once used to lock in those who had been punished by the community with the penalty of standing in the “kin”[1] – a relic from the early days. The internal structure of the synagogue, the beautiful artistic wood carvings, the Holy Ark and the bima imbued the worshippers of the synagogue with a spirit of holiness and sublime spirituality. Among the holy objects in the synagogue and the fixed artistic works such as the chandeliers, candelabras, and other such things, some exuded clear signs of antiquity.

There were dozens of Torah scrolls in the Holy Ark. Most were only used once a year, for the Hakafot on Simchat Torah. Among those were many ancient Torah scrolls.

The synagogue was used only for worship and special national or Jewish communal ceremonies. The restricted usage of the synagogue was due to the awe that was associated with this sanctuary as a tradition from parents to children, and the diligence of the synagogue trustees and city leaders to ensure the continuation of this behavior toward this synagogue. All of this displayed its signs in the relationship of all classes of the community to the synagogue, irrespective of age. This was a relationship based on deep internal conscience, almost legendary and mystical.

The prayer services and Torah reading were conducted with a diligent concern for quiet and concentration. Indeed, we should point out that among the prime causes that assisted in this were the synagogue clergy, including the cantors, the Torah readers and others engaged in holy work. First and foremost there was the chief cantor, Reb Davidl Cukerman of blessed memory who attracted the attention and esteem of all synagogue attendees due to his consistent lofty behavior both inside and outside the synagogue, his conduct between man and G-d and between man and his fellow man, and the professional musical level of his prayers and melodies, both in his solo recitals and together with his choir of singers. From this, special deep feelings of holiness flowed from the broad community to the synagogue and everything connected to it.

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The “Small” Synagogues Next to the Central Synagogue

There were two small halls on both sides of the “plush” (corridor) of the central Great Synagogue, one on the right and one on the left, which served as places of worship on Sabbaths and festivals. On the right side was the “Beit Knesset Poale Tzedek” in which most of the porters and other simple workers worshipped. In the afternoons after the Sabbath nap, Reb Leibele Messer gave a class on homiletics. It always had a large attendance from those porters and others who worshipped at this small synagogue. On the hall on the left hand side was the Talmud Torah synagogue. Householders from all of the houses of worship and regions of the city were invited to come to this synagogue on a rotational basis, where they were called up to an aliya to the Torah. Their donations and vows were designated to the needs of the Talmud Torah and the Yeshiva.

 

The Large Beis Midrash

Sanok was known throughout all of Galicia as a city of scholars and Hassidim. There were barely any Misnagdim there. The Tzadik Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev spent a Sabbath there approximately 160 years ago. The prayer podium in the Large Beis Midrash from which this Tzadik served as the prayer leader was guarded until the outbreak of the Second World War. This podium was still whole 40 years ago. When it broke due to its age, it was not removed, due to its connection to holiness. Rather, they built it into the new one. The gabbaim (trustees) of this Beis Midrash ensured that only someone who had immersed himself in a ritual bath (mikva) could serve as a prayer leader. Whoever was in need of salvation would approach this prayer podium and pour out his heart with chapters of Psalms or other petitions and requests. It would seem to him as if the Tzadik of Berdichev of blessed memory was standing before him and listening to his prayers. Any stranger who came to the city would first go to the Large Beis Midrash to unite himself with this holy prayer podium. Many hesitated to touch it due to the fear of its holiness. There was a legend in the city that once the police were pursuing a deserter, who entered the Beis Midrash, grabbed onto the edges of this prayer podium with his hands, and turned into someone “who could see but was not seen” for the policemen who pursued him into this Beis Midrash did not find him.

The walls of this Beis Midrash were decked up to the ceiling with closets filled with many books, including many incunables. Not all of those students of the Beis Midrash and the Yeshiva knew how to relate to the importance of these ancient books, and therefore did not use them at all. The rabbi of the city, the Gaon Rabbi Natan-Nota Dym of blessed memory, would use them from time to time. The students did not understand why the rabbi of the city would use an old Gemara that has no commentaries at a time when the Vilna edition of the Talmud included everything. Once, a book merchant came to the city. He saw the find and fell upon it. He offered complete sets of Talmud in exchange for single ancient tractates. The students of the Beis Midrash were surprised to hear this and said: Indeed we have such a precious legacy, and we did not know. They refused the proposition and began to relate to the ancient books with respect. From that time, a spirit of intellectualism[2] began to blow through the walls of the Beis Midrash, and people would occupy themselves more with the history of learning than in learning itself. The elders would groan and say, “Oh would it be that they would swap the old tractates with new Talmuds; then we would not have come to this point.”

The very elderly Reb Yankel Baruch was the shamash of the Beis Midrash. He was a pleasant, good hearted man. He did not earn his livelihood from serving as the shamash. He set up a small corner for himself in the western side of the Beis Midrash where he sold drinks and baked goods to those who attended the Beis Midrash. He would designate some of his income to the provision of food for free for the impoverished students. As he served the food he would say, “I received a command from the rabbi to serve you this, so if I forget, please remind me.” It was known that he did this on his own initiative. Despite his great old age, he would arise at midnight to light the oven to warm up the Beis Midrash for

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those who would arrive early. When somebody offered to do this work for him, he refused and said, “If I do not have Torah, at least I have the service…”

Reb Notale of Midinice of blessed memory “lived” in that Beis Midrash for many years. He was enveloped in mystery. He sat all day in Torah and Divine service. He did not demand or ask anything of anyone. He spent most of his days in fasting, and his face was always beaming. He never engaged in secular conversation and he never reproved anyone. He would draw close to children and tell them stories of morality, love of G-d and love of the fellowman. The youngsters were greatly attached to him, and they would follow after him all the time. Once he became dangerously ill. The children were at a loss of what to do. One of them said, “My friends, once one of the elders became ill. His friends gathered together and every one of them vowed some years of their lives to him out of brotherly love. Reb Notale himself told us this, so let us do this to him. We will collect a number of years from among us and offer them to him.” Immediately the young group offered a portion of their years to Reb Notale and offered him the present verbally. They told him, “We recite in the blessings of the Torah 'and eternal life He implanted in us'. Through the life of this small world, eternity will be implanted in us.” However Reb Notale refused to accept their gift and told them, “You are still under the power of your parents. I am certain that G-d will see your good deeds, will have mercy on me, and this will be attributed to you.” When he regained his health they would call him, “Reb Notale of the Children”.

 

The Synagogue in the Pusada Quarter

This Beis Midrash was the third in size of the houses of worship of the city with respect to the size of the congregation of worshippers. Since it was located in a suburb distant from the center of the city, a large number of worshippers and students of diverse backgrounds gathered there. Hassidim, scholars, and even Maskilim and enlightened people found their place there for Torah and prayer. Since this house of worship was originally founded by an unrestricted group to serve their needs, without any significant desire of one faction to push any other faction or Hassidic group to the side, internal peace always prevailed, and there was never any dispute or debate regarding the customs, rituals, mode of prayer, Torah reading, aliyas or any other honor.

This Beis Midrash served as the forging house for many students, who emerged from it complete in Torah, as expert scholars, with ordination for teaching and serving in the rabbinate. From among the veteran, active householders we should mention Reb Zelig Felder, whose children were among the most active and excellent youths in the study and knowledge of Torah. Some of them made aliya to the Land, either earlier or later, and they enlighten the life of the Land and the State and bear the yoke of its upbuilding. The eldest son, Yacov of blessed memory, a great scholar, perished in the Holocaust.

 

The Bliachowka House of Worship

For some reason, this was called the Berditchever Kloiz. However it seems that the reason for the founding of this small kloiz was to ease the situation of the residents of that area – that is to say, on account of the distance of the houses of worship in the center of town from their homes. From this we see that the worshippers of this small kloiz were variegated, without a specific social class. Simple householders, Torah scholars, craftsmen, zealous Hassidim as well as “enlightened' people in the sense of the term from that time[3] all worshipped there.

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It is self evident that the Jewish community of our town felt no influence from this house of worship, for even internally to itself, it was impossible to attribute to it any special characteristic. The entire existence and function of that synagogue was restricted to the few hours of the Shacharit service in the morning, and Mincha and Maariv in the evening, on weekdays as well as on Sabbaths and festivals. The prayer rite was the same as that of all the synagogues in our town – the Sephardic rite of general Hassidim[4]. In the city, there was never any hint of controversy or debate about the topic of prayer rites, reading the Torah, or any other such problems that exist in other synagogues. Reb Itzikel Babad, a personality unknown to the broader community, worshiped at this small kloiz. We will discuss him in the appropriate section of this book.

 

The Kloiz in the Przdamajczia Quarter

The reason for the founding of this house of worship was also the distance of the homes of the Jewish residents of this side of the city from the central synagogues of the city. Here too the congregation of worshippers was variegated. Since not one resident of this area was prominent in communal activism or leadership, this place did not receive an official authorization, and it remained with a general characteristic, and without any specific crystallization.

The area was renovated at the beginning of the 1920s, and various technical improvements were made through the efforts of Tzvi Jonas with the financial support of his philanthropic brother in America. He was inspired to charitable and benevolent deeds through a variety of means and purposes in the city, including the renovation of this synagogue in which Mr. Tzvi Jonas was one of the regular worshippers.

 

The Sanzer Kloiz

As opposed to the three aforementioned houses of worship where the worshippers were variegated – Hassidim of the various Admorim, scholars, practicing diverse prayer rites, and householders with various customs – the Sanzer Kloiz had a unified spirit, a distinct, set atmosphere, and followed a fixed regimen and prayer rite. The building itself also belonged to one specific owner. It was located in the yard of the Kanner family and was under its exclusive ownership. Furthermore, the Kloiz was founded by the Sanzer Hassid Reb Abischel Kanner, a great scholar, one of the wealthy men of the city and the region. It is self evident that this alone gave the Kloiz the clear imprimatur of Sanzer Hassidism for generation following generation, with all of the unique threads of Hassidim in general as well as this Hassidic faction in particular.

The head of the Kanner family exerted singular and decisive leadership in this Kloiz, starting from the founder of the Kloiz Rabbi Abischel of blessed memory, followed by his son Reb Moshele of blessed memory who was a sublime personality and splendid character who mastered both Torah and Hassidism. He was followed by Reb Menachem Mendele Kanner of blessed memory who continued in the splendid traditions of the Kanner, outside in general and inside in particular, including in the Kloiz and its governance.

Here too, albeit for the opposite reason, there was no room for the outbreak of any argument, debate or even discussion about matters of rite, custom and the like, for here everything was conducted according to the firm set zealous customs that were crystallized among the Sanzer Hassidim. The vast majority of the founders of this Kloiz and their descendents as well as the worshippers of the Kloiz and their descendents were Sanzer Hassidism, and there was no room for differences of opinion in any area that could be expressed in prayer rite or custom.

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The majority of the worshippers of this Kloiz were not only Hassidim but also scholars who were diligent in the study of Torah. The sounds of Torah emanated forth from the Kloiz at almost all the hours of the day. Among the worshippers there were prayer leaders with fine voices and musical talent, including Reb Ascher Barber with a deep tenor voice. He reached a high level in his vocalization as well as in his emotion (read about him on page 279) without deviating from the Sanzer Hassidic tradition in this area. We should point out that Hassidim of other Admorim related to Sanz (Bobov, Zidiczow, Kolaczyce and others) found their place in this Kloiz for Torah and prayer. With the passage of time, the Belz Hassidim of Sanok did so as well.

 

The Yad Charutzim Synagogue

The union of tradesmen in our city, founded for various professional and social reasons, was called Yad Charutzim. This union dislayed its initiative through its various activities. From the beginning of its existence, it developed with sure, forward steps. It reached the pinnacle of its development with the erection of a splendid edifice in the center of the city that accommodated all of its institutions. All of the activities of the union, as well as various social activities of the Jewish community of the city, took place in its large hall.

The primary honorable center and most beautiful part of this building was the fine synagogue built therein, called “The Yad Charutzim Synagogue”. It served as the house of worship for the tradesmen who were members of the union. Due to the outstanding communal-religious character of this synagogue, which did not display any leaning toward any faction or party, and due to its internal stability with regard to the members of the union and the congregation who worshiped there, and externally with respect to the communal council, the rabbinate, etc. -- this synagogue received official and practical recognition for any communal matter stemming from the Jewish community of our city.

This synagogue was the expression of one function in the arena of various activities of the Yad Charutzim organization that was conducted within this edifice. Therefore, the remainder of the matters relating to this house of worship will be detailed in the chapter dedicated to Yad Charutzim as an institution and a union (see page 235). Nevertheless, it is appropriate for this synagogue to be noted separately in this chapter, as one of the exceptionally beautiful ones within the ranks of houses of prayer in the city.

Photograph
The Yad Charutzim building -- the wall facing Franciszkanski Street

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The Hassidic Sadagora Kloiz

Until the final decade of the 18th century, only one Kloiz existed in Sanok over and above the central synagogue. This Kloiz served as a house of worship for Hassidim of all dynasties. Hassidim of Dynow, all branches of Ruzhin, Sanz, Rymanow and others worshiped together in that Kloiz. The situation was disrupted when the well-known schism broke out between Sanz and Ruzhin. The first to leave this Kloiz were the Hassidim of Sanz, who moved to their own Kloiz that will be discussed later. Then the Hassidim of the dynasties of Ruzhin - Sadagora, Czortkow and Boyan moved out and set up their Kloiz at the northern side of the central synagogue.

This Kloiz served these Hassidim not only as a house of prayer, but also as a place of Hassidic gatherings at various times. Many discussions took place there which delved deeply into the sea of Hassidic thought. One must remember that the Admorim of these Hassidim lived some distance from Sanok, and a “trip to the Rebbe” -- as was customary amongst the other Hassidim of the city -- took place only rarely. It is known that such gatherings were very important as a substitute for visiting the Rebbe. These gatherings would take place on the yahrzeit days of the Admor of that dynasty, or -- as a shorter Hassidic discussion -- after the shacharit service of the second minyan, especially on Rosh Chodesh. During the celebrations with a drink of lechayim, the head speaker was Reb Yossele Horowitz of blessed memory, an enthusiastic Czortkow Hassid, a great scholar, and a wonderful orator. Later, he was accepted as a rabbinical judge and teacher in this city, which added no small weight to the Hassidim and the Kloiz.

Indeed, the Sadagora Kloiz served as a place of worship during prayer times, but even more so -- as a place of Torah study for youths and householders throughout all the hours of the day. Due to the quiet that pervaded there since it was on a side route, and the bustle of the street did not reach it, youths who worshipped along with their parents in other houses of worship, including the Sanz Kloiz, chose it as a place of study. The women's gallery on the second floor also served as the lecture hall of the Bnei Torah Yeshiva. This yeshiva served as a kernel for the Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, which was founded by the Gaon Rabbi Meier Schapira of blessed memory during the time that he served as a rabbi in our city. For a brief period prior to this, this hall served as the classroom for the highest grade of the Talmud Torah, and for the classes of Reb Yitzchok Weill, about whom we will speak separately.

 

The Beis Midrash of the Admor of Dynow

This house of worship, within the realm of the court of the Admor of Dynow, had a distinctive Hassidic character, with the imprint of the Admor of Dynow upon it, and the customs of the Hassidism of the leader of that Hassidic court flowing through all corners of Hassidic Jewish life therein. However, the congregants of that synagogue, both daily attendees and even those who only came on Sabbaths and Festivals, were not of a single Hassidic root. There were some whose family roots, and even whose personal custom, was not Hassidic at all. Rather, they were attracted to that place due to the personal charm of that Admor, the pleasantness of his prayers, the beauty of his singing, and the grace of his hymns (see page 116). Those characteristics united the congregation of worshippers and rendered them into a single, united communal body with a consolidated communal outlook that at times was expressed in communal affairs.

Most of the attendees of that synagogue were scholars, including expert scholars. As well, young people and expert Torah-oriented youths found this place to be suited for studying Torah at set times or at any available time.

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This house of worship, which was apparently founded as a Hassidic shtibel in the court of the Admor, developed for the aforementioned reasons into a larger, general Kloiz, more like a Beis Midrash. It was justly called the “Dynow Beis Midrash” by the broader community.

 

The House of Worship of the Admor of Bukowsk

The conditions and circumstances that were mentioned above with respect to the Beis Midrash of the Admor of Dynow, and which were the factors in its development and consolidation, also existed in part with respect to this house of worship, that was first founded as a place of worship, or “minyan”, in the realm of the court of the Admor of Bukowsk. There was no regional or any other external reason for the existence of this house of worship. Therefore, it barely served as a place for regular Torah study, for there were other houses of worship, two kloizes (Sanz and Sadagora) and the large Beis Midrash all in close proximity, each of which separately and all together serving as long standing places of Torah.

On the other hand, it should be noted that this place was known and recognized by the residents of Sanok as a regular and official house of prayer, for it served as a place of gathering of a large congregation of that Admor on Sabbaths and festivals. From the perspective of the large number of Hassidim that came there even from outside of Sanok, and even came from outside the country, this Admor was unique in our city, and in the area, with none like him. Since the number of Hassidim of the Admor of Bukowsk in Sanok and the region was not insignificant, the congregation of worshippers in that kloiz attained significant influence in the life of the city and in the politics of the Jewish population in the city.

 

The Mizrachi House of Worship

As the religious Zionist organization continued to grow in our city from the perspective of educational Zionist activity as well as membership, the number of worshippers in its house of worship increased. The number of worshippers particularly increased when the Mizrachi organization moved to the large hall in the Wiener Building in the center of the city, which had previously served as the hall of the General Zionist Organization.

Several factors converged leading to the rapid development of this large house of worship, and to its attaining a firm and recognized status as one of the important houses of worship whose existence and activities were felt prominently in the city. The two prime factors were: 1) the large number of religious-nationalistic youth who found their social place there -- aside from their regular place in the Beis Midrash or kloiz of their parents; 2) the religious-nationalistic consciousness that penetrated into the hearts and souls of many Jews of our town of all strata and classes. Both factors joined together and crystallized into a significant communal body, as well as an honorable congregation of worshippers that were noted in the city.

 

The Minyan in the Home of Reb Shalom Katz

This minyan did not have any unique character, either Hassidic or class based. The modest number of worshippers was composed of various types of local Jews, without any specific tendency or definition. On the one hand, there was its general homelike character without any sectarian or Hassidic factionalism and its independence from any other house of worship. On the other hand, there was the overt as well as covert feelings of appreciation for Reb Shalom Katz who was lame due to paralysis in a leg, the memories of the grace of his youth as the son of Rabbi Yehuda Katz (see page 90), the rabbinical judge and rabbi

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of our city, the fact that he himself was a great scholar as well as a Hassid who in the past had placed himself under the wings of the first Admor of Bobov, and the Hassidic signs and tendencies buried within him that never ceased to express themselves in various ways throughout his life. Echoes and memories that showed that he had once been immersed in the spiritual world of spirituality and Torah, and that at that time he had studied Torah for its own sake, as well as to clarify Halachic matters, can be seen by leafing through the book of his father, “Responsa of Kol Yehuda”. He, Reb Shalom, appears as one of the questioners. As told, he played a role in the preparation of that book from a variety of perspectives.

 

The Minyan in the House of Rabbi Dym

Photograph
The arrow denotes the place of the Minyan in the house of Rabbi Dym
This house of worship remained in the same proportions as it was during the final days of Rabbi Nathan-Nota

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Yaakov Dym of blessed memory, the chief rabbi of our city, who could not go to the synagogue due to illness and weakness. This minyan was in a large hall in the home of the rabbi in the building behind Yad Charutzim. Several of the long-standing admirers and friends of the rabbi worshipped there, especially on Sabbaths and festivals. The memory of the sublime, honorable and prominent personality of the rabbi of blessed memory, the fine atmosphere that pervaded in this house, and the spirit of the rabbi that imbued that house, attracted people as if with hidden bonds, and continually strengthened those bonds. It seems that the attractiveness of this house of worship was also due to the personality of Reb Simcha Dym, the son of the rabbi, who was sublime and a great scholar, even though he did not serve and had no desire to serve as a rabbi, rather occupying himself with business and banking. Nevertheless, he retained the charm and refined spirit of his father of blessed memory. Something of this also existed in this house of worship.

 

The Houses of Worship of the Hassidim of Belz and Bobov

There were two other houses of worship in Sanok, one of the Hassidim of Belz and one of the Hassidim of Bobov. These ceased to exist during the time of the First World War. Members of the last generation in our city did not know them, and nobody is able to give over any details about them. We do know that the house of worship of the Hassidim of Bobov was reconstituted near the time of the Second World War. It served as a place of gathering and study for the Yeshiva students who affiliated with the Hassidim of Bobov.

The common factor between these two houses of worship was that neither had a large number of worshipers, either permanent or temporary. In size, these two houses of worship were considered to be minyans. They did not reach the status or size of the kloizes that were mentioned in this chapter. On the other hand, they were both noted for their vibrancy as Hassidic places of gathering. The customs of the Admorim were actualized there, and they served as venues for various Hassidic activities such as gatherings, dinners and yahrzeit observances for the Admorim, etc.

To complete this picture, we must note the minyan of Reb Mendel Steinberg, which was also located in the Przdamajczia quarter. It was founded during the 1930s, and did not attain is full definition of purpose and role due to its brief period of existence.

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Translator's Footnotes

  1. There is a footnote in the text here, stating: “A form of stocks, in which the legs of the person punished are bound.” Return
  2. The word here is Haskalah, but I believe it refers more to intellectualism than the Haskalah movement. Return
  3. The term 'enlightened' here would mean people with modern outlooks who still retained their religious Orthodoxy. Return
  4. This does not refer to the true Sephardic practices of Oriental and North African Jewry, but rather to the 'Sephardic rite' that was adopted by the Ashkenazic Hassidim. Return

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Sanok with its Assembly Halls[1]

by Shalom Kramer

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Fate had it that the establishment of our state, which ensured our right and ability to exist and live in honor, was connected with the terrible Holocaust that was perpetrated against European Jewry. This terrible juxtaposition places an obligation upon us, both in our national life and in our social and personal lives. It is incumbent upon us to direct all of our steps with the awareness of this fateful juxtaposition.

The State of Israel was given to us at such a cruel price. No other nation paid such a cruel price for its national establishment. It was not such during the times of the destruction of the first and second temples. According to legend, G-d wanted to destroy His people also at that time, but He poured out His wrath upon the wood and the stones – that is to say on the temple itself. It is hard to plumb into the depths of the threshold of annihilation that was decreed against us. Despite this, the Hebrew nation was protected more than any other nation.

However for us, gathered here, this is not a question about the fate of our nation or a historical question. For all of us this was a family tragedy, a day of lamentation and weeping for our dear ones, for each of us have lost our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, and our near and distant relatives who were murdered and strangled in cruelty – elders with the youth, men and women, parents with their children. For them we raise up a dirge and lament, and we are not able to find comfort.

Indeed, every year we are busy and preoccupied with the business of our lives. However, even then, the memory of this great tragedy exists in the inner recesses of our hearts, and subconsciously directs our entire life. It is possible to say that our reason for life has been lost to us, for we have been orphaned and uprooted from our homes. It is incumbent upon us to dedicate one day a year to remember our families and hometown with our full consciousness and soul. This memorial is not incidental, but rather an important layer in the foundation of our lives, and perhaps even a small source of comfort to ourselves as mourners. Let us remember the town which nurtured us, to which we are connected with thousands of strands from the days of our childhood, our youth, and our early adulthood. This unites us and makes us into one community.

Let us remember the city of Sanok with its bustling Jewish life. Sanok with its Beis Midrashes on the one hand, and its Zionist organizations on the other hand. It is a wonder how such a small town had such a variegated communal and factional affiliation; how such a small town found the resources in its soul and the physical ability to establish meeting places for all of the diverse religious and secular factions of its population.

At this time I wish to present the image and character of the Sanzer Kloiz, to which I am deeply connected from the time of my childhood. That house of prayer was also the spiritual home of the well-known Kanner family, which possessed Torah and wisdom, as well as wealth in the past. Scholarly Jews sat shoulder to shoulder with simple Jews, rich and poor, in the Sanzer Kloiz, as they spent their time not only in daily prayer each morning and evening, but also in study and general conversation. Hassidim of Bobov and Belz sat in friendship and affection alongside the veteran Hassidim of Sanz. The disputes between the Hassidim no longer existed in the era about which I am discussing. Jews who had begun to shorten their clothing and cut their peyos sat alongside Jews who kept all aspects of tradition. Mizrachi people sat alongside Agudas Yisrael people. A singular feeling of

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Jewish unity enveloped them all. This was democracy expressed in the full sense of the term, not just in formal rights, but also in daily experience; not just through regulations, but also through human relations.

Zionist excitement was already noticeable in that Sanzer Kloiz, and debates took place between the doubters and the faithful. The shekel[2] plates appeared on the Eve of Yom Kippur on the long tables covered with white tablecloths. The Jews would pass by and donate their money to the Zionist organization. On occasion the situation would come to the point of a vocal argument, but in general there was mutual understanding between the supporters and opponents of the Zionist organization.

As I come to present the details and memories of all the synagogues and Zionist halls in our town, I cannot perform the task fully. Nevertheless, I will mention in a few words the house of worship of the Sadagora-Czortkow-Boyan Hassidim (the Sadigorer Kloiz). As I have been told, a harsh battle still raged between it and the Sanzer Kloiz before the First World War. However, the dispute was forgotten after the war. Both kloizes, which were located near to each other, lived in peace and calm. The Sadagorer Kloiz also had its unique personally. Refined Jews, who were particular about their garb and behaved with polite manners, worshipped there. These were large-scale merchants and people of wealth according to the scale of a small town.

I will present the image of the Beis Midrash in which ordinary Jewish householders worshipped. Some were wealthy merchants, some were scholars, some were Hassidim, and some had no connection to Tzadikim of the past or the present. The Beis Midrash was a large synagogue, splendid in appearance with its high ceiling and bright artwork. Aside from services, large nationalistic meetings, Jewish communal gatherings, and especially Zionist gatherings took place there. On the two sides of its vestibule, there were two small halls. The porters worshipped in one of them. These were strong, powerful Jews, who served as a living contradiction to what our Mendele Mocher Sforim[3] wrote about Diaspora Jews. Yad Charutzim was on the other side of the yard. It was also splendid in both its external and internal appearance. The honorable tradesmen of the city worshipped there.

Alongside the large and small synagogues and houses of worship, the Zionist and youth organizations maintained their own meeting places, each organization with its own hall. These halls bustled with people, especially the youth. Here I will especially mention the Mizrachi organization which bustled with life in its own hall and house of worship. It was not only the Zionist organizations that maintained their own halls, but also the merchants and sporting organizations. We in our own state have attained a situation of economic satiety and material flourishing that we did not experience in our small town. However we have not reached the state of that enthusiasm, awakening, and feelings of camaraderie and friendship of a small town.

Not everything was bright in our town. I remember well the poverty and distress on the “Jewish Street”, and even that of the honorable Jews who lived on the main streets. I also know very well that the entire life was built upon sand, with the economic foundations being very weak. The youth did not know with what to occupy themselves. However, the social organization of the town was a great human achievement, which is a source of wonder to this day. In any case, from a small town we can still learn how to live a societal life, where a person will not be isolated, where he will find support and assistance by belonging to his organization. That sense of belonging gave a flavor and reason to our entire life.

This societal organization was built upon several fine human traits – distancing oneself from hatred and denigration of persons, mutual assistance built on the principle that all of the Jewish people are intertwined with each other, the study of Torah at all ages and by all social classes, and finally, the commandment of tending to guests which everyone performed actively. I will never forget how the Jews of the Sanzer Kloiz fulfilled this commandment in body and soul; how they ensured that every Jew who visited that house of worship would have a table at which to eat on the Sabbath or weekday.

[Page 57]

When a large cohort of Jewish beggars once arrived in the city, they immediately spread out to all the houses. A simple Jew, Reb Melechl Krimelkimacher, oversaw the effort. He was a poor Jew who earned his livelihood in a very meager fashion from two jobs – from making long colorful candies and from selling an arsenic poison for the killing of mice which was spread on pieces of bread. He was assisted by my father Reb Shlomo Kramer, who was a wealthy Jew whose opinion was sought after. There was not one householder who did not host a guest for the Sabbath, and there were some householders who hosted several.

Were these Jews indeed wiped out completely from the face of the earth? How can we understand the situation that these Jews are no longer? The poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg, in his book “Rechovot Hanahar” states the following about this:

Indeed they are no longer in the world, for the gentiles murdered them for me.
The bodies of our dear ones were given a dog's burial;
With sun-ripened wheat atop them until the harvest and colorful butterflies…
And in the broad meadows, flocks pasture – – –
The most irritating thing was that life there in Poland continues on as if nothing ever happened. The streets and the houses bustle with the hum of new life. For us however, Poland does not exist. We cannot even go to visit the graves of our parents.

Why and for what? Were we indeed worse than all other nations? Did we sin more than all other nations? Perhaps the opposite is true, that it is because we are better than all other nations, because we believed in man, in mercy, and in the power of the spirit.

For we were better than them all: the Jew of the Talmud and Psalms,
With holy bodies, with the secrets of harps and flutes;
With beauty of all types and from all ages;
The only ones in the world of nations that were noble –
Therefore we were murdered… and our enemies pass judgment!!

All of these Jews ascended heavenward and exist there in full form and character. Perhaps their existence depends on us, if we know how to preserve their form and character in our hearts.

For the entire time that they existed, they saw the far off places before them.
The far off place is the world of G-d… their end was silence
However at the time of murder they saw that they were at the edge of the world,
As they were standing ready to be slaughtered…
And behold the entrance to heaven comes down a – – –
And the fields in heaven are blue and loosened
As after the plough…
They go in a group, the children of the holy communities
To the Jewish towns that ascended heavenward
With the image and the form that they had on earth,
Among them were musicians who were prepared to play music
To great G-d, as if at the marriage canopy in heaven,
But there were no musical instruments in their good hands,
Perhaps we can give them these instruments, through keeping them alive in our hearts in their form and image. We will forge their image – by living according to the traditions that they bequeathed to us!

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: Words that were said at the annual memorial for the martyrs of Sanok on 12 Kislev 5624 (November 17, 1964) presented by the Organization of Natives of Sanok and its Region in Israel. Return
  2. On the even of Yom Kippur, charity for a variety of organizations is collected in the synagogues through charity plates. The shekel refers to the token of membership in the Zionist organization. Return
  3. A well-known Yiddish writer. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendele_Mocher_Sforim Return

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