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[Page 409]

In the Bonds of Life

 

[Page 411]
by K. H.

Translated by Jerrold Landau


To those of our city and its district who have passed away, of blessed memory, who merited and did not merit. They merited making aliya to the Land, living in it, building it and being built up through it. Some of them succeeded in witnessing the birth of the state and living as citizens of the state; but they did not merit to live and see the continuation of the struggles of the state for its life and development; they did not merit to see and rejoice in its political successes and military victories, and in its economic development. To our great sorrow and bad luck, they did not witness the publication of this book.

Let us hereby light a candle in memory of their souls. Let us engrave a marker to their souls. Let us erect a monument in their memory, some with a short biography, some with a brief epitaph, and others by only mentioning their name. Everything in accordance with what is possible with the material and information collected. Here are words of memorial to them, organized by the time of their passing from our midst, or according to the time of receipt of materials.

May their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life in our eternal homeland!

Aharon Kramer

He was one of the first pioneers to make aliya. He was young when he made aliya, only 19 years old. After four years of labor and toil, with dedication and loyalty to his work, he fell in the line of duty, as a victim of his work.

He did not merit to build a house and establish a family, for he only lived 23 years. Therefore, it was impossible for us to get to know him, to discover details about him and present them in his memory. Indeed, we did know his parents Reb Mordechai and his wife of blessed memory, and his brother David of blessed memory, one of the activists of Mizrachi in our city. Nevertheless, we did not get to know Aharon, neither in Sanok because of his early aliya at a young age, nor here in the Land, because of his premature, tragic death. Therefore, we have very few details about him, his way of life, and how he made aliya. The facts we know about him are not what was told orally, but rather what was written about him in the newspapers of the Land of that time, particularly in “Kuntrus,” the weekly of the Achdut HaAvoda Socialist-Zionist union of workers of the Land of Israel, dated 13 Elul 5684 (1924). We are presenting here the obituary, exactly as it was published in that edition of “Kuntrus.” Aside from this, the newspapers, including “Kuntrus” wrote about the accidental death of Aharon Kramer, whether because of

[Page 412]

the general problems exposed by his accidental death as the fourth victim in his workplace, the issues of responsibility toward a worker in the Land, and, in the wake of the problems of responsibility and security – the issue of restitution, as is written there “In accordance with the tragedy… even in this particular case, for… the late Kramer was survived by a family in Galicia…”; and perhaps due to the communal participation in the sorrow caused by the plethora of mourning announcements. For we have found these mourning announcements (which certainly represent only a portion of all those published) in various trade organizations (The Meretz Builders group, the chislers' organization, Builders' Group A of Haifa), the Council of Haifa Workers, and others. Aharon Kramer and the circumstances of his death were also mentioned at a meeting of the Council of Haifa Workers that took place on 26 of Elul of that year, more than three weeks after the day of the tragedy.

The first and primary words regarding Aharon Kramer and his death were published, as has been said, in “Kuntrus,” which we will bring down here in their original.

{Photo page 412: Uncaptioned. Aharon Kramer's passport photo.}


Aharon Kramer

In the afternoon of the 4th of Elul, the members of “Kvutzat Yitzchak Levi” finished the quarrying that had lasted for three weeks. Suddenly, an explosion was heard in one of the excavation pits. When the members of the group approached the location, they found Aharon Kramer wounded in his head, and Shmuel Friedman wounded in his shoulder. Aharon struggled with his wounds for three days, and then died.

Kramer had made aliya from quiet Sanok in Western Galicia four years ago, and dedicated himself to his work with his full heart. At first he worked on the Tiberias-Tzemach Road, and excelled as a good worker. Then he entered the “Yitzchak Levi” group, in which he worked until his last day.

The hand of destruction afflicted “Kvutzat Levi”, and chose a victim each year. The fourth victim was dear Aharon.

Aharon was 23 years old at his death.

K. H.


 

[Page 413]

With Yacov Rosenfeld

by Professor Dov Sadan

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 413: Yacov Rosenfeld. Died in Sarid, 5695-1935.}

If I mention the name of Yacov Rosenfeld, to most people it would be as if I had mentioned an unknown name; and to the minority, a forgotten name. The minority refers to the many hundreds of workers scattered through all corners of our Land, who would react at first with regret and hesitation: Who indeed is being referred to? Until they would remember, and say to themselves with a mixture of surprise and reproof: Indeed, how could we have forgotten? They would certainly think about it, whether a little or a lot, and their thoughts would certainly hearken back to more than 20 years ago, when the man, or more literally, the youth-man, served them faithfully, diligently, and with dedication. They would recall one meeting or another with the youth, whose short stature was accentuated by his hunched back, whose thin face accentuated his sunken cheekbone, whose deliberate manner of speech interjected pauses between one word and the next; all in reverse proportion to his force of action, that united together energetic, diligent and orderly activity, and especially his ability to bear a burden. These thoughts would have the power to shake off to some extent the dust of forgetfulness that obscures the memory, and he

[Page 414]

is now like a Bar Mitzvah -- for ten years have now passed from that journey that overtook him in the midst of his work, in the midst of the rains of wrath that fell in the Jezreel Valley in which he caught a cold that developed into the illness that cut him off in his prime.

Twenty-one years ago, this group of a half a dozen youths in Lwow, sitting in alternating fashion in the small cheder on Bernstein Street and the headquarters of the pioneering movement, as people whose prayers had been fulfilled, and whose dreams that seemed so murky at the outset were close to realization. The youths of the Jewish people waited patiently for a long time to see whether they would be answered, how they would be answered, and especially how many of them would be answered. Tens turned to hundreds, and hundreds to thousands. When the thousands of aspirations came, breaking through like a storm, those who possessed them did not know what to do first. Even if they had the full means, it would not have been sufficient, and even more so that they did not have such throughout the time – they also felt the urgent need to be among those making aliya. They therefore lifted up their sketchy eyes to the stychic[1] situation – perhaps the power will arise of itself, overcoming the situation and presenting the path to the task and its actualization. For the new powers that were now bursting forth required different guides, people who would sprout up from the thickness of their essence.

I felt this reality of the newness that simultaneously attracts and repels during my travels over cities and towns. It seems, however, that I clearly sensed it in the city of Sanok, which stands out as a midpoint between eastern and western Galicia on a map. On our unique map that is our chapter, its impact was not great. When I arrived there in the grayness of dawn, the association dawned on me, imposed on its slight Zionist tradition as a grotesque chiaroscuro – that then, before that world war, the Yiddish “Volksfreund,” – that is: friend of the people – publication was issued, and its editor was Adelbert Shanbach. A curse: Yiddish, and the friend of the people, and Adelbert! Certainly, the melancholy spirit that came over me also affected the weather – gloomy clouds and rainy. As well, the atmosphere of the hotel in which I stayed – the odor of cold acidity that pervaded the space – was also noticeable in the footsteps of the hunchbacked lad who went through the rooms, silent, shriveled, with his face toward the ground. This was evident even from the words of her mother the innkeeper, who inquired about my purpose in the city, as she pointed to her son and said: “Look at him, who was in your Land of Israel, he went with blood and fat, and returned as a broken vessel.” She concluded, “Slow, Chalutz, Chalaputz [2].” However, greater than the effect of the air and the atmosphere, was the effect of the evening in the large assembly hall, in which there was a mixture of faces and voices, a bustling hive of people. It was like a mighty wave, standing with faces of despair, as people who could not absorb the situation and could not bear it. If you stuck your hand above this rumble, you might find some with linked hands, stamping this bustling circle with the stamp of authority, a plan, and a course of action. The next day, as I was strolling along the gentle upward slope of the boulevard, it was as if I was inspecting the quorum at a funeral, to see who could overcome this ragout[3] It seems that this was nothing but a futile investigation.

Later I learned that several things escaped my notice in that city; in particular, a diligent, broad-scale Hebrew activity, the fruits of which were also known to the public. From this circle of activity, several powers emerged, whom you can find today assisting our literary and journalistic pursuits – some in the translation of classics, some in articles, and some in research. However, I did not know of them in those days, and even had I known, it would not have helped me, for their productivity was outside the mass of people that I saw in that assembly hall. However, with the passage of time, I also realized that among those few youths who strolled with me on the hill of the boulevard, there was someone worthy of attention. He was someone who seemed to me as not totally connected with me. I found out on that day of Tisha BeAv that his essence became known during the convention of chalutzim from all the cities and towns of the district. At the break of dawn, groups of people started to stream from the Istrik “lower” train station through the large forest, a distance of several parasangs[4]. Many were walking barefoot through the small brook that led to the path that leads to the mountain village of Tilisnyca. On the long route, I heard many of their discussions and became involved in them. The conversants were

[Page 415]

people who were active in the chapters. They talked with an air of self understanding. A minority of them spoke with an air of bashfulness and hesitation. Among them was a lad who appeared to me there, in his city, in the boulevard of the garden, as partly accompanying me. However here, in the midst of the forest, with his dry words – or perhaps it can be said: dark words that came out of his mouth with difficulty – I saw them as a hard shell covering internals of substance. I said to myself, “Here is someone who understands the essence of the matter.”

After that conversation, I saw the name of Yacov Rosenfeld, a bit here and a bit there, in letters to the headquarters, whether in a report about a regional meeting, or a letter about a hachshara depot. Therefore, I was certain that I would find him in the large hall of the Krakow youth center, where a convention of chalutzim from western Galicia and Silesia was taking place. However, someone else came in his stead from his city; someone with an angry temperament, who banged his fist and shouted: I want this stage to be a confessional podium. He, Yacov, who conducted most of his work within the confines of his chapter, did not come to the convention. However, he did make the rounds to hachshara depots – at first in the village of Kidalowice, and then, a bit further out, to the village of Widelka near Rzeszow, where youths from various towns gathered and worked with gentile farmers 13 hours a day for the salary of a liter of milk, bread made from coarse flour, and potatoes. A man of burdens by nature, he burdened himself with the concern for those far and near, as he walked dozens of kilometers on foot to visit isolated groups of chalutzim, to connect them with the general community of chalutzim, to their movement and headquarters.

The work of the young Jews who hired themselves as workers, or, as might be said, as slaves, was difficult. Their work in the Jewish city, in the suburb of Kolbuszowa, was no easier. Its residents were Hassidic zealots, known to us as fanatics, and would relate to them with a combination of disparagement and hatred. Their work in the fields of the Jewish landowners did not earn a salary greater than dry bread. These difficult external factors also served as a lens to the internal values of the soul – as difficult as thorns in the pits that require uprooting, even more difficult are the educational strands that require guidance and nurturing. However, more difficult than all was the bent posture of the comrades who were prepared to obey and take direction rather than think for themselves, to fulfill commands rather than decide with their own power. Despite all these difficulties he worked to increase their understanding and diligence, as one who saw himself within this large nation as a bone of his own bones. Since he saw himself as requiring their guidance, he also found within himself the power and talent for this.

Just as I was surprised that I did not find this man in the convention of chalutzim of Krakow, I was not surprised when I saw him after some years signing the letters coming from the chalutzim headquarters, and when I heard that he excelled in his power of activity, that knew no rest or recoil. From all of this I learned that he knew what his predecessors did not know – they could not conduct themselves on a weekday without dragging along the borrowed luster of the Sabbath, whether literal or figurative; whereas for him, the weekdays were his life. They were unable to exist without the amusements of imagination, whereas he saw their amusements as a vexation. However, both he and they were like comrades aspiring for a common ideal, but to them, he was like the halo of the moon rather than a ring of iron. Simply, a partition of generations separated between he and they – they and their friends, children of the wealthy people of the nation, were yet able to actualize their dream with an abundance of good (or at least, with ink); whereas he and his friends, the best of the sons of the nation, already forged their essence with many tribulations (or at least, so it seemed).

I learnt a great deal from the exchange of letters that reached me when I was already living in our Land. I learned this when I went abroad, spent about two weeks at hachshara points in Galicia, and finally sat in that small room on Bernstein Street in Lwow where I understood the great changes that had taken place to him and his routines, the different spirit that blew within him, a spirit of practicality and action. He, the youth who had become a man, was one of the chief actualizers, whose landscape was based on stychism on a horizon that was close to the ground.


[Page 416]

Landscape and Man
(In the company of Yacov Rosenfeld)

by Azriel Ochmani

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I no longer recall how he joined our group of friends. First and foremost was his place of living, which was apparently only a distance of a quarter of an hour, but in reality, the distance grew greatly during the journey itself, for his home was located at the entrance to the town, on the threshold between the city and its suburb of Posada. Only a small yard separated between that house and the house of the rabbi of Dinow. Near it was an icon of saints, to which gentiles would take off their hats and pious villagers would bow down on their knees. At its side was a twisted road between the fences that lead to the river, to the area between the fields, and out of the city.

His parental home was also far from us – the house of the town shochet (ritual slaughterer), which was always filled with groups of Hassidim. Each group had its own stringencies. This house also stood on the inter-period threshold – on the one side, ritual slaughter as a holy profession with all the aspects of piety associated with it; and on the other hand, the export of merchandise, seemingly also abroad; and primarily, the sending of sons and daughters over the border, some to the capital of Germany, which was overtaking the progressively declining attraction of Vienna.

Tatters, tatters of memories.

The following memory now comes to mind:

… The large, splendid garden giving forth all of its aromas. There, far from the foothills of the mountains, behind the barracks, the San River sparkles with its eternal curve, as a silver adornment decorating an ancient book.
A book of legends, or of terrors?

At that time, they did not yet ask. When they listened to themselves, they already felt the unease secretly welling up inside of themselves. Nevertheless, in those days, these 13 and 14 year old children who were walking through the deep fields, with the cold rustling through the tops of the linden trees, with these imaginations hiding between the leaves of the old chestnut trees. On the one hand, this sweet, pleasant Polish landscape was theirs, and for them. They walked around free from commandments, with their songbooks under their shoulders, and life beating through their hearts with barely any partitions. The school as Polish, the language was Polish, and the reading was primarily Polish.

He never spoke Polish. I do not recall if he already spoke Hebrew by then. In any case, he did not speak within our group. Speaking – is the language of divisiveness. For the most part, he was quiet. His silence was also different. It was not oppressive, even though it seemed that he was conducting something on the side, somewhat distant from those who were with him.

His silence was the good silence of attentiveness, the silence that was the partner of speaking, which complements it. Only on occasion would he burst out in a broad smile, with a low voice, a laugh that does not come from the throat or the vocal cords, but rather deeper from them, from somewhere behind the heart.

Was it because of this that there was always some sort of sadness within his laugh?

Or another memory:

… It was the Sabbath, before evening. Crowds of people were strolling on the main street, Jagiellonian Street, on the 500-600 meter long section between the head of the street, as it descends down a slope leading to the other side of the city, until the square marketplace paved with shiny stones. On one side of the market
[Page 417]

was the Franciscan Church, and opposite was the Kloiz of the Hassidim of Tzanz. On one side was the town hall, and opposite it was the bath house. In the middle was a deep, frightening well, whose pail was broken on most days. The water drawer, half crazy, would draw cold water, that sets the teeth on edge, from the depths of the well, with a leaky pail, with holes.

A group of boys and girls would be walking in a group, discussing, as was their custom, in loud, self-assured voices. They would discuss a Polish book or some other topic. As they were walking, he was quiet, as was his manner, with his non-oppressive silence. Suddenly, “It is okay, but what shall one do in, let us say, three to five years?”

The question was asked in a low voice, in an incidental fashion, almost as if it was not related to the topic of conversation – and how surprising was this?

The person walking beside him looked at him, the questioner, seeming as if he had just seen him for the first time. “What shall one do?” that is the question in its essence. What shall one do, not what do you think, or what are you discussing.

Even though it was not easy to admit it, the truth was that I was then connected to the essence of the youth, to his self assuredness, his silence, which was beyond all calculations.

And I recall further:

It was in the Hechalutz hall. A large map of the Land of Israel was hanging on one of the walls. The map was made by an unsteady hand on blue and white paper. Opposite it was the perplexed look of Y. Ch. Brenner, its motto, and some picture. There was a blackboard in the corner, with several Hebrew words written upon it. You may want to say: engraved on it with the same childlike handwriting, with a surprising fashion, that can only be written by the hands of adults who are first learning how to write.

Now, you again do not recall what he was telling then. This is the first time that you hear him speak at length. However, you preserve in your heart the light of his eyes that was collected and hanging on his lips.

Outside were the idlers of the town – large, full, complete. Whereas in the room the children of the tradesmen, apprentices, and shop assistants were crowded – the dwellers of the “Jewish Lane,” the residents of the suburbs and outskirts of the city.

In the light of the silence of the idlers, their eyes sparkled with the light of aspirations.

And further:
The dust raised up from beneath their feet exuded the sharp smell of the heat of summer. Tall houses. The river. Low houses covered with wooden shingles. Pastures for grazing. Young shepherds raise up clods of earth and place them on the passers by. Thickets covered with roofs of straw. The forest. Far off is the blue and brown, but as the walkers approach, the blue changes to light, cool, cordial green.

Later, there is a deep valley. It seems like it is inside a well. The sky is spread over the treetops, and the river washes over the exposed roots and pours over the smooth stones with its sparkling waters.

There is conversation. Someone starts, and others continue on. The questions outnumber the answers. Presently, only one thing is clear and certain: the language is Hebrew (“The Pioneers of the Hebrew Language!”). This is the revolution. This is the refuge. This is the different life.

He is standing on the side. One foot is on a lone stone, and the other is as if planted in the earth. Will he also ask for permission to speak? Among the tall trees, he appears taller than usual, more lumpy than usual. He also said a few things – heavily, and mumbling.

At first, you do not pay much attention to them, but later, when you return home alongside him, you suddenly set your eyes upon him – with gratitude and deep friendship.

From afar, at the peak of the mountain, the city is lit up with the light of sunset. This is the first time that the essence of the choices becomes clear – with the light of departure.


[Page 418]

The Maeir Family of Sanok in the Land

by Azriel Ochmani

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Reb Yisraelche Maier and his wife Velkili of blessed memory

Rabbi Yisraelche was a well-known scholar, an enthusiastic Hassid of the Admor of Czortkow, and a well-known personality in the city and region. He excelled with his communal work in all civic affairs and problems – especially the problems of the Jews of the city. He was a dynamic personality, with a strong character. Since he was in constant contact and discussions with the officials of the local government, given that he was a member of the city council in the “Magistrate” from the age of 21, his words were always heeded. Many needed his services for their contacts with the authorities, and he responded positively to all who turned to him, and was willing to help at all hours. His warm home always had visitors – some who came with their request that he speak to the government, and others who came to his wife Velkili as they needed help with their rent, to make a wedding, or because they found themselves in a difficult economic situation and were close to losing their livelihood. They would always find in Velkili an attentive ear. She was a generous, kindhearted woman, who greeted every person pleasantly and participated in the tribulations of her fellow with her entire soul and means. Everyone who entered her home knew that they would find a merciful woman there. She spent the entire day collecting money to distribute to the needy people of whom she was aware – to those who turned to her as well as to those who did not turn to her. Aside from this, she was busy throughout the entire day with sewing for toiling women, not for a fee. Velkili was expert in cutting and sewing. She understood everything that she saw at first sight. As she walked through the city, when she saw poor people walking around in torn clothing, she brought them into her house and stood them behind the curtain. They would remove their torn clothing and they would wait in her house until she fixed them. She would take care of poor children who would accompany their parents as they went from door to door and try to influence them to study a trade so that they too would not be forced to enter the “profession” of begging. There were some for whom she found places of work, and even provided their needs during their period of study.

The love of this couple for the Land of Israel was vey great. Velkili had broad knowledge in general, and was knowledgeable about Jewish matters in particular. This erudite woman once asked one of the rabbis, Rabbi Yacov Yosef Gelernter of Jasienica, who had come to bid farewell to her family before making aliya to the Land and went to spend the night with Reb Yisraelche, from whom he had also received funding for the journey: Our sages extol and glorify the tests of Abraham our Forefather, to whom the Holy One Blessed Be He promised the entire Land. However, when he required four cubits of land to bury his wife Sarah, he was forced to pay good money. Therefore, why do our eyes witness this same severe test in our generation, after the prophet prophesied, “You have been sold for free, and you will be redeemed without money.” Today, we have to pay for each piece of earth that we purchase, and we must support them with myriads upon myriads of liras, and there are still those who oppose this. The things that occurred with our forefathers are also happening to us…?

Representatives of the Land of Israel who visited our city would always be the guests of Reb Yisraelche Maier, for they knew that they would not leave empty-handed. These people from the Land of Israel knew well how to tell stories and legends of the Land of Israel and its fine qualities. These stories penetrated deeply into the hearts of the family members, and encouraged them toward the love of the Land. It is therefore no wonder that the family of Rabbi Yisraelche and his wife Velkili were among the first of our town to make aliya to the Land and settle there.

[Page 419]

{Photos page 419: Reb Yisraelche Maier. Velkili Maier.}

Their eldest son Rabbi Shalom Shachna, and their daughters Chava of blessed memory, and, may she live, Miriam, preceded them and made aliya to the Land in the year 5680 (1920). Their sister Bat-Sheva followed in 5685 (1925). Velkili of blessed memory made aliya in the year 5686 (1926) with her daughter Yocheved, and Reb Yisraelche followed one year later, in the year 5687 (1927) after he concluded his job as supervisor of the construction of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin[5] – a task to which he was summoned by its founder Rabbi Meir Shapiro of blessed memory, while he was still the rabbi in Sanok. Their son Alter and his family made aliya in 5692 (1932). Their eldest daughter Keile Zwerdling, who had many children, did not succeed in making aliya. Her husband and family perished in the Holocaust. Their names are perpetuated on the memorial tablet that was erected by the family in the Shaarei Torah Talmud Torah in Tel Aviv, along with the youngest member of the family Avraham Chaim who passed away in The Hague, Holland.

The communal work of Rabbi Yisrael Maier did not stop in the Land. The large-scale enterprises of his grandchildren “The Meir Brothers”(Moshe, Mordechai and Menachem) earned them renown even abroad. The Heichal Shalom Synagogue in Tel Shalom – a Moshav named after the eldest of the sons – is known, as well as the synagogue in Pardes Hanna and the Shalom Meir Tower[6] in Tel Aviv: all of these became famous in the Land as well as beyond the bounds of the Land.

Rabbi Alter Maier of blessed memory

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The term “stychic” means natural, objective, or dynamic, and is part of Jewish Socialist terminology.
    See http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Eretz_Yisrael_in_our_Program_and_Tactics return
  2. Evidently a play on the word “chalutz” – pioneer. return
  3. A culinary term for a stew, here used rather colorfully as a description of an interestingly mixed crowd. return
  4. A middle-eastern unit of distance, with Talmudic sources. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasang return
  5. A very famous Yeshiva: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chachmei_Lublin_Yeshiva.
    See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meir_Shapiro return
  6. A well-known landmark in Tel Aviv:
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shalom_Meir_Tower return


[Page 420]

Reb Shalom-Shachna Meir of blessed memory

by Ascher Bit

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 420: Reb Shalom-Shachna Meir, the son of Reb Yisrael and Velka Meir, and the father of the “Meir Brothers” who perpetuated their father's name by naming the building that they erected in Tel Aviv “The Shalom Meir Tower.”[1]}

In the margins of the pages and folios of the books in the Sadagora kloiz in Sanok, the students at the kloiz would encounter the notes, novel Torah ideas, criticisms, and error corrections that were recorded in a cramped fashion and in terse language by Reb Shalom Meir, or, as he was called by the townsfolk - Shalomonia. The youths and students of the kloiz benefited from these notes, for some of them had known him or had heard of him from the time that he was still a youth in Sanok, as a child of his parents and in the home of his parents, where he excelled in his talents, understanding spirit, intelligence and love of Zion. He was ordained as a rabbi by the rabbinical greats of Galicia during his early youth. When he was 18 years old, he married the daughter of a large-scale manufacturer in Romania who was great in Torah. Only then, in Romania, did he expose what he had hidden to this point on account of the pious zealots of his hometown of Sanok - his extensive secular knowledge. Apparently, he read and studied these things “at a time that was neither day nor night,” as he hid the matter from everyone. It is clear that he absorbed and ingested a great deal, and reached a high level in this area as well. He was offered rabbinical positions, but he refused to accept them. He devoted himself to business, in which he displayed a great deal of talent and saw success. With his great love of Zion, he volunteered for Zionist activity in Romania. He displayed a great deal of talent in organizational and publicity activities. Along with this, he also excelled as a talented speaker who could enthrall the masses. After a brief time, he was chosen as the chairman of the Zionist organization of Moldova, which at that time was a large district in Romania. In that role, he even “merited” to sit in jail for a certain time when Romania joined Russia during the First World War. He made aliya in 1920, and set up a private farm in Pardes Chana. There, he also built his house and his family. His three sons Moshe, Mordechai and Menachem are the “Meir Bothers,” who were known for their broad-based commercial activities throughout Israel and the Diaspora, which reached a very wide and broad level. After a very short time, he acclimatized to life in the city of Tel Aviv and the community. He was elected as a member of the first city council of Tel Aviv. He was a civic judge, a member of the language committee, a member of the supervisory committee of the Herzliya high school, and a member of the Haganah. He was one of the founders of Ramat Gan, and was a partner in the purchase of those lands. He was elected as a member of its first council. With his great private and communal activism, he stood out as one of the leaders of the Geula and Raanania organizations.

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shalom_Meir_Tower return


[Page 421]

Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory

by E. Sharbit

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 421: Rabbi Alter Meir.}

The hand trembles and the heart pulsates with any attempt to sit and write things about Rabbi Alter Meir for this Yizkor Book - the book to which the great and illustrious deceased man gave and prepared to give more of the fruits of his pen and the best of his vast memory, and wanted so much to enrich its content and adorn its form, as he waited so strongly for its publication.

What was Reb Alter for us, for all the natives of Sanok, and for all who knew him - his acquaintances who held him in esteem? The folios are too small in the realm of this book, if we should have enough room to give detail about his readiness to help fellow natives, for his efforts in the area of hosting guests both of his fellow townsfolk and of others, about his strong desire to help with work arrangements for new immigrants from our city, and about his interest - no less than that of his wife Frumchia may she live long - in every native of our town as he made aliya, who rightly saw and knew that his home on 58 Ahad Haam Street in Tel Aviv served as an appropriate “embassy.”

With this, we still did not at all touch his spiritual image and scholarly and intellectual personality. It is not sufficient for us in this area to expand the statements with detailed, unique and exacting descriptions of his diligence in Torah during his youth, and his persistence in study and writing at the twilight of his life, when his days were filled with illness and suffering, but along with this - with alertness to everything that was taking place with us, the natives of Sanok. He was interested in all the events and happenings, with books and publication, with the world at large and the country, with general life in Israel and life of the individual and family. We, the natives of Sanok and the surrounding cities, rejoiced with his joys and gladness and participated in his pain. We saw his agony and pain, and suffered along with him. We blessed our hearts regarding our fellow native, one of the greats and prominent personalities of our city, who was with us here in Israel and continued to live his fine life here, a life of splendor, a life that was an example to us, a life that was suffused with lessons, influence, support, and guidance to all of us. We always found advice and help from him. We always received needed knowledge and proper information. We heard thoughts, ideas, teaching and explanations in a practical manner to any question or problem that was bothering us. It is not to be considered disclosing secrets or publicizing news if we state here that the impetus to found the “Organization of Natives of Sanok and the Region,” the town from which he stemmed, was from him. He was the initiator, and he also carried through with the actual founding and establishment of the organization, with action, dedication, and enthusiasm.

He was also alert and attentive to matters of our book, the Yizkor Book for the Jewry of Sanok and the region. He was one of the first to be enthused with this matter, and was one of the first to support it. He recalled details and events, and wrote them down as material in this book. He reminded himself and others of images and personages from our city, and ensured that their names not be omitted from the book. We never thought that he would not merit seeing the fruits of his labor for the book. We did not imagine that

[Page 422]

he would not see the publication of the book. To our sorrow, he left us in the midst of the work and activity. Indeed, fate was cruel to us, and we have to include him as well among those images, as one of the personalities. This image was a great and prominent image to us, and this personality was a bright, shining personality for all of us.

*

We deliberated and we decided: it is best that the words about Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory be expressed here in the fashion that they were expressed at their time, or more precisely - not be written for the purpose of being published in this book. It is best that the details find their expression in the fashion and in the words in which they were written at their time. It is best that the things be reflected and expressed for us in their most primary, fundamental, and spontaneous manner. It is best that we read the words here today as we read them at that time with their publication at various opportunities and from various platforms.


Rabbi Alter Meir at Seventy

by E. Sharbit

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The writings of Rabbi Alter Meir do not lend themselves to restricted literary analysis. The realms of his efforts were many and variegated, and his expertise in them was great. From his earliest years, he was comfortable in every area, with his deep knowledge of the material in all of its detail. From this perspective, Rabbi Meir was the counterexample to the theory that states that the breadth of topics of a writer affects his fundamental abilities, just as his prolific writing through two decades, years of suffering and illness, is a counterexample to the principle of “a healthy soul in a healthy body” with the meaning of only a healthy body.

He began with historical research, not particularly academic, on the city of Mechuza as it is expressed in Talmudic literature. This monograph was published at the beginning of the First World War, when he was just 20 years old. However, in the continuation of his writing, he did not see himself as a dry historian. For Rabbi Meir had a poetic soul that did not require any other factor to overcome itself, to embarrass itself from its sweetness and to empty itself of its overflowing emotions. Later, he passed through several phases of literary attempts, sometimes even too difficult, but always with consistent effort and diligence, and always with striving toward results, fruitfulness, and practicality; for Rabbi Meir did not suffice himself with writing for its own sake, for abstract folklorist purposes.

Those purposes, that were fundamental to him as a natural tendency in his practical life, also served as the primary theme for the “practical purposes” in his literary pursuits. However, these purposes had various aspects: if for historical research, they stood out from the research perspective as a fact, as a reality that existed and must logically exist even today; if in the field of folklore, the result tends to serve as an example of the custom of the masses, of the behavior of the individual, as an example of the deeds of the fathers serving as a sign to the children; if in halachic debates, in Talmudic questions and answers, from the outset, he saw his purpose as “elucidating the statement in accordance with the law”; if it was in literalist writings - it would certainly be a moral lesson that penetrates and flows forth from it as a fundamental principle, as the primary impetus for the essence of the writing. Thus, for example, he forged his way in his short article, one of his articles in “Haaretz”, as a fundamental, firmly based idea, logical and accepted, in the field of Biblical commentary. This was an idea that had a bright novel thought of his own, and an important contribution toward elucidating an obscure verse over which both the early and late Biblical commentators deliberated[1]. Several

[Page 423]

of his articles that were published in the pages of the newspapers, especially in this newspaper, found their way into literary anthologies such as “Sefer Hamoadim” and others, and, similarly, they even earned their place in the new, revised text books. This alone is a clear sign of practicality, and clear proof of the value and realities of these purposes.

This grasp of seeing the purposes and practical lessons is a continuation of the general grasp of Judaism in relation to the study of Torah. With all his holy traits of study of Torah for its own sake, the great aspect of study itself for no ulterior motive is connected to the idea in Judaism that there is no story of the Torah that was written without a special purpose, and to give no specific lesson. It is natural and understood that Rabbi Meir conducted himself in this manner also in his book on the Torah[2], the first volume of which, on the Book of Genesis, was published only a short time ago. In this book, Rabbi Meir delves into the content of each Biblical story and utilizes it for general educational purposes, for the purposes of expressing the values and educational lessons in our editorial realities.

The traits of diligence and persistence wonderfully characterize the personality of Rabbi Meir already from his youth. They remained with him throughout all periods of his life, from the period where he served as a diligent and successful merchant, as a dedicated activist (a non-factional Jewish activist), until the time that he lived among us in Israel for these past three decades, where he lived a life of work and toil, of physical labor. In all eras and situations, his diligence in study, in depth of thought, and in writing did not weaken one iota. He saw the book as ruling over him. The book would march at the front, the fertile foundation, both in his material pursuits and his spiritual and literary endeavors. In his style, the style of a historical and literary folklorist, first the existence of the book is exposed to us in the Torah, and only afterward - the story, the arena, and even the writer.

An ongoing fruitful continuation of his work, with continued spiritual refreshment as he experienced to this point, and with continued good physical health - this is the most important blessing that we wish him as he turns 70.

E. Sharbit (Haaretz, August 20, 1961)

About Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory

Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory Has Passed Away

Rabbi Alter Meir, one of the veteran rabbis of Tel Aviv, who took hold of the writer's pen, died today in Tel Aviv at the age of 74 after a difficult illness, and was buried in the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery.

A large crowd participated in his funeral, including Admorim, rabbis, the Gaon Rabbi Shlomo Goren the chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, heads of rabbinical courts, members of the street and religious council, and others. The funeral procession left his home on 48 Ahad Haam and halted next to the Chatam Sofer Synagogue in the neighborhood. His two sons recited kaddish next to the Yavneh Synagogue, of which the late rabbi was a founder and one of the forgers of its image. From there, the funeral procession proceeded to the cemetery in Kiryat Shaul. There were no eulogies due to the holiday of Chanuka.

Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory stood out with his wonderful memory and his great breadth of expertise in traditional customs. In his regular articles in the daily newspapers, he would explain the essence of the Jewish holidays and festivals with their laws and customs, in accordance with tradition. While on his sickbed, he still managed to publish an article in the Sabbath pamphlet of Hatzofeh on the topic of the commandment of making aliya to the Land of Israel.

Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory, who was the uncle of the millionaire Meir brothers, made aliya 35 years ago from Poland and spent most of his years in Tel Aviv. His home was a gathering place for scholars. As a native of Sanok in Galicia, he affiliated

[Page 424]

with Czortkow Hassidism, from which he absorbed a love of Zion and Jerusalem. In his discussions and articles, he frequently mentions the miracle of the founding of the State. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.

(Hatzofeh, 26 Kislev, 5626 / December 20, 1965)

Rabbi Alter Meir is Brought to Rest

Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory, one of the known rabbinic figures in Tel Aviv, a Torah researcher, author and writer who also published articles in Haaretz, died on Saturday night in the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv at the age of 74. He was brought to burial in the hospital in Kiryat Shaul, with a crowd of thousands accompanying his coffin along its final route. On account of Chanukah, no eulogies were delivered.

The departed, a native of Sanok in Galicia, first came to the Land in 1931. He finally made aliya in 1933, and settled in Tel Aviv along with his father Rabbi Yisrael Meir and his elder brother Shalom, whose name was given to the Shalom Tower that was built on the site of the Herzliya Gymnasium.

He was a prominent Czortkow Hassid, and he worshipped in the Yavneh Synagogue. Many people in the city knew him as an activist who would offer his assistance to anyone in need. He was known as a scholar while still in the Diaspora, and he authored homiletical books on Torah. While living in Israel, he published Torah compositions, and his articles on issues of the holidays and festivals were regularly published in Haaretz in recent years. His article on Chanuka was published in Haaretz on the final day before his death.

(Haaretz, December 12, 1965)

A Popular Personality

Rabbi Alter Meir of blessed memory, a scholar and author who appreciated rabbis and loved his fellowman, became known for his many articles that were published in various newspapers. He would write articles daily on Torah books and personalities who had attained jubilees or passed away, on holidays and festivals, or points of folklore of a specific researcher. He also authored an anthology on the weekly Torah portions. His sections on the customs of communities on festivals, notes on the holiday liturgical hymns, and brief stories of events that took place would be published in the holiday editions of the daily and weekly newspapers.

He was an expert in books on Torah topics, especially with regard to customs. Even thirty years ago, when he was occupied with the livelihood of his household, he would write stories of things that had taken place, and interpretations and notes on the sources of the liturgical hymns. He would write his words on paper, in succinct form and common language for the most part, and send them to the editors. During his old age, when he was no longer involved with his work, he would write more compositions, and his articles on various topics would arrive at the editorial committees almost daily. He was alert to special jubilees and memorial days. He wrote notes about new books with a quick pen. He searched for and found obscure liturgical hymns, and, from time to time, he described the veteran worshippers of the Yavneh Synagogue.

The reward for his writing - was writing. He wanted to bestow the multitudes with fine statements, explanations of customs, and unusual sources. He wanted to bestow an author with appreciation for his book, and for great praise when he attained the age of 70 or 80. He always had a positive outlook. He looked for merits and distanced himself from controversy. In the latter years, he was housebound, for a severe illness overtook him. With his last strength, he continued to transcribe his writings and send them to the newspapers. At times, he telephoned and asked that what he had written about a rabbi who attained a jubilee or an author who published his works should be published. He was interested in bringing pleasure to people.,

In his book of popular compositions whose essence were distributed outside, he unified with his linkages the various ways of life with their different customs, especially regarding the Sabbaths and festivals, the liturgical hymns and prayers. He would always recognize events, jubilees, or

[Page 425]

the memory of Torah and Hassidic personalities. The choicest of his articles include variegated content on these topics.

He was a good man who did good, and possessed the trait of kindness with which he graced the landscape of Tel Aviv.

(The lead article of Hatzofeh, 26 Kislev 5626 / December 20, 1965)

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. There is a footnote in the text here as follows: The Latter Prophets, commentary by Dov Kimchi, published by Massada, 5719 / 1959, Book of Ezekiel, and page 138. A note is included: “Rabbi Alter Meir in the Rosh Hashanah edition of Haaretz, 5716 / 1956.” return
  2. There is a footnote in the text here: Discussions of Ra”m [Rabbi Alter Meir] on the Torah and Haftaros, Bereshit, 5720 / 1960. return

[Page 445]

Professor BenZion Katz

{Photo page 445: Uncaptioned: Professor BenZion Katz.}

A great tragedy came over all of us with the passing of BenZion Katz. The family members suffer the tribulations of orphanhood and the sorrow over the loss of their head and splendor in the prime of his days, blessed with achievements and successes, uplifting occasions and longing. The sorrow and agony is also great for his friends and acquaintances, his colleagues in writing and spiritual kin -- for this tree, with splendid branches and plethora of fruits, was cut off in the prime of its growth and ripening. BenZion Katz was like a tree that sprouts continuously, grows steadily, and ripens constantly. He gave forth an unceasing bounty, with the grafting and shedding taking place simultaneously[1]. This comparison is due to the continual giving of fruit, as well to the wide variety of fruit. The source of both is the same - constant excitement. Its cause - an internal push to creativity, expression, and bringing ideas to fruition. From this, the boundaries of time and eras blend, whether for poetic creativity, literary research, or research in the realm of prosody. They came together, one after another and one next to the other.

[Page 446]

And over and above all this - widespread, practical, systematic and consistent activities, with great responsibility to our education in the present realities and the future, with great benefit to the education of our generation and generations to come.

And over and above all this - an interest in what was taking place in preparing this Yizkor Book. He remained in contact with its editor and discussed his participation in the book through the inclusion of the fruits of his pen.

And over and above all of this - death, which came suddenly and unexpectedly, destroyed and wreaked devastation.

How can we be comforted, and with what can we be comforted? How can we express the magnitude of our loss? How can this book, the memorial book of the natives of our town, perpetuate our fellow townsfolk, expressing full and appropriate appreciation?

We will conduct ourselves appropriately here as is the custom with other great people who have been taken from us. We will allot space for words that were said about BenZion Katz at that time, on the day of his death and funeral, as well as during the days of mourning and sorrow. We will bring them down as they were written at that time.

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Continuing the tree analogy. return


The Town Prodigy

by Rivka Gorfein

Translated by Jerrold Landau

There was no address to the dreams, and the disquiet had no solution. We did not really know what to do about the voices that were calling to us from several vantage points, and regarding which we were torn - among them: the Polish culture and landscape in which we were immersed - along with the continually crystallizing knowledge that we belonged to a different place. Was this a schism in the soul? We were unable to pinpoint exactly the place that sent pains into all aspects of our lives.

He, the prodigy of the town, was among the first of us who knew how to delineate the direction of these amorphous forces that were moving us.

BenZion's friends knew him as a man of words. We girls regarded him first of all with some hesitancy, as he peered at us from some distance through his thick glasses. He quickly became a central point. His name was BenZion from the time that I first remember him. He had no leanings toward the Polish side, or toward self-indulgence along the narrow path that was so enthralled with Yiddish, as happened to most of our people of reputation. I am searching in my mind for another such notable person in our charming town - but in vain. He was unique with the strands of his proud, ringing name that declared belonging, and adorned his tall, thin image in a special manner.

His eyes were generally red due to a lack of sleep. He controlled his time in accordance with his decisions. He was an authority among his friends not only due to his achievements that stood out in many areas, but also thanks to the legend that spread around him in the city that very quickly and early on became a source of pride. How and in what manner did he join the ranks of those who knew Hebrew? How and in what manner did he come to be one of the select few who could recite entire works in Greek and Latin? We accepted these as facts. Stories circulated among us about nights without sleep, and an iron will. However, before our eyes, he was seen as refined and soft. He participated in youth camps with us. He poured forth a bounty of Hebrew poems. He, like most of our youth, went out afar to study, and would bring the songs back from afar during the Christmas, Passover, and summer vacations - the three times which were dedicated to gatherings and creativity.

He had a circular, colorful way of speech. His soft, caressing voice would impart a suggestive tone to his words; or perhaps this was an honor that we gave to him, even though he was one of us. He would frequently be the main speaker at the celebrations that we would arrange for the entire city. This was self-understood. He accepted our decisions in a straightforward manner. Later came the lectures on literature - by him and by others. Without a specific order, it seems to me that I remember: on Weiseberg, on Nomberg, and on Feierberg[1]. The common ending of these wonderful names is amazing, and is etched in the memory.

[Page 447]

BenZion asserted that they were important - and we accepted his opinion. Later, newspapers edited by him, as well as his articles and poems, began to arrive in town.

*

He directed the steps of many of us - with a restrained smile, with approval that was important and decisive, with a blue gaze directly though his black eyelids. He even knew how to perpetrate tricks between himself and his friends - which apparently caused no small amount of suffering. Perhaps this is what he intended in his poem that he wrote after many years, about the past of the town, and the time of our youth.

On a path, on a rug in the afternoon
Spread out like a royal carpet
Light of step, and playing
My childhood calls out to me.

Before me, stops a bit
Her eyes, my eyes are bright;
And suddenly her face darkens
And cries out bitterly.

The Hebrew and Zionistic tendencies were clear, and expressed simultaneously. Therefore, we had our own corner at the back of the large Zionist hall where we gathered on rainy or cold days. However, the true house in which our youthfulness was expressed was the flowering garden in the summer, or sparkling with light in the winter, with its winding paths through which winter sleds glided. From where, if not from that garden, did one of these images burst forth after many years and bring him back as a youth among the group of youths?

And from over and above the youths
Bright and airy
Glorious rays flutter -

Great things, for which he was created, awaited him. His abilities were still concealed, and we did not sense them. We knew that he was a renaissance man with a strong will, but we did not know that he was also an organizational man with an imagination and the power of execution. Later, we came to the crossroads.

Years passed until we met again, already here in Israel - with his thoughtful glance, he would elucidate something, and he would keep something framed in as if he was guarding secrets. The more adult, more experienced BenZion, would be confused with some sort of constant, clear pining, as he forged his place among us in a rightful, natural manner, imbued with good deeds. He took advantage of every opportunity to prove that those days, that that town, with the song and the garden - were not worthwhile.

He would talk often, indeed too often, so as to arouse suspicion - about death, with irony and mocking. With mocking - as with self-protection. “Soon it will be an academy,” he would say. He was referring to the memorial evening with the Galician slang of those days.

*

Several days after we accompanied him to his final resting place in the cemetery in the middle of the large city, I passed that small street one evening where only a stone wall separates the street from the dwelling place of the dead. I saw the lights of the houses shining into the cemetery, chasing away the shadows. I heard the chords of noisy music from the radio, the rattle of the cars and buses, all the bustle and aroma of the city that wafts over the low stone wall and lunge over the most recent of graves, the grave of my friend buried on the other side of the wall.

I was very grieved, as I recalled the words of his poem:

How can I bear the loneliness
From mighty, heavy rocks
As its parable I will not know, I will not know?

_________

Translator's Footnote

  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Meir_Weissenberg , http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Nomberg_Hersh_Dovid , http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Feierberg_Mordekhai_Zeev return


[Page 448]

Professor BenZion Katz (Benshalom)

by Yisrael Cohen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He was great in erudition and action. He was straightforward in his importance and straight in his path. These came to great expression in many realms: in the university of Krakow where he earned his Ph.D.; he later taught himself the Hebrew Language; he would lecture on Hebrew Literature in the Institute of Jewish Science in Warsaw; when he made aliya, he became the director of the youth division of Hechalutz Youth of the Jewish Agency; after he was invited to the University of Tel Aviv, he lectured there on classical literature and was chosen as the dean of the Faculty of Science and the vice rector. He served as the rector from 1964, and was the head of the circle for the study of classics and Hebrew Literature. He was active in the Hebrew Writers Union and in the Israeli chapter of PEN[1], in the capacity of which he undertook various missions. However, the chief of his activities was for the University of Tel Aviv. He gave all his energy to its upbuilding, and he worked day and night without tiring, and with great success, for its academic development. Through his efforts, as well as the efforts of his colleagues and the Tel Aviv City Hall, this university broadened and branched to a high level within a brief period.

His communal activities in the realm of the Workers Movement, to which he was faithful, as well as his academic work, prevented him from expending his creative effort on literature. He felt regret about this, and expressed his pain to his friends. However, whenever he could, he occupied himself in three areas: poetry, criticism, and translation. It is possible to reverse the order: translation, criticism, and poetry, for this order is more correct both from an actual perspective as well as from a quality perspective. He participated in various publications in Hebrew and Yiddish. His books included: “Uri Nisan Gansin” (Krakow, 5695 / 1935), “Horatius in our Literature” (Krakow, 5696 / 1936), The Importance of Ch. N. Bialik (Tel Aviv, 5702 / 1942), “Hebrew Literature Between the Two World Wars” ( 5703 / 1943), “In the Storm on a Stormy Day - Chapters of Poland” (5704 / 1944), “Paths of Creativity” (5706 / 1946), and the book of poetry “Shkiot Yerushalayim” (Jerusalem Sunsets) (5727 / 1967).

His role in translations was vast and important. He was among the few translators who not only knew classical languages and Hebrew well, but also found (like his colleagues Shpan and Dykman[2] of blessed memory) the path toward Hebrew translation that merges the Greek and Roman prosody with the rhythm and structure of the Hebrew Language. In this manner, he translated “The Love of Zal and Rudabeh” from “Shanameh” of Ferdowsi[3] (5703 / 1943), and “The Birth of Zal” (5719 / 1959), “Squares” of Omar Al-Khayyam (5712 / 1952), two tragedies of Aeschylos: “Prometheus Bound” and “The Persians”, “The Battle of Eros”, a work of “Iphigenia Bablis”[4] (5713 / 1953), and poems of Catullus (5725 / 1965). There is no doubt that this list is not complete.

BenZion Katz was from a family of builders. Throughout his life, he built, created, and erected new enterprises, or was involved with the creativity of existing enterprises. The architectural foundation was important to him in every matter, even in translation and poetry. He held as important not only the creation in its complete form after it already stands before our eyes in all its colors and stature, but he also wanted to know the secret of the “mortar and bricks,” that is the foundations upon which it was composed. Therefore, he dedicated time, energy and his heart to research the rhythms and meters, the foundations and thematics of the poetry and prose. This quality was felt very well also in his own writings. He composed his poems with exact rhythm and formal style. According to the opinion of experts, his translations from Greek and Latin were exacting from this perspective, without flaw, even if a critic could find poetic weaknesses here and there.

His life was cut off in the middle, in a literal fashion. He set himself up for literary work and would often mention that he hoped that after his term of rector would end, he would be free to actualize his plans. However, two operations on his eyes and the sudden complications of his illness ended his life, and the grief is great.

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PEN_International return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shlomo_Dykman return
  3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdosi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zal return
  4. I could not identify this one. return

 

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