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[Page 98]

The Time of My Service in Stanislawow

by Dr. Mordechai Zeev Braude

Translated by Jerrold Landau

There is a footnote in the text here, as follows:
Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Zeev Braude was born on the 10th of Tevet 5630 (1870 in Brest Litovsk. He was the son of Rabbi Aryeh Leib Braude the rabbi of Lwow and Chana the daughter of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Orenstein, the rabbi of Brest Litovsk, Rzeszow and Lwow. He was one of the leaders of his generation, one of the first of those who became awakened to the Zionist movement and the renaissance of the nation. He was a delegate to the First Zionist Congress. He was a rabbi and preacher in the communities of Stanislawow and Lodz, a fighter for religious and national rights of the Jews in Austria and Poland, their representative in legal bodies, and a member of the Polish Senate. In matters of faith, he tended toward a way of life based on tradition. He was a teacher, a guide and the father of educational activists. He merited to live in our Land and make his home in Jerusalem. He lived through the days of siege and liberation. He died at an old age in Israel on the 25th of Tishrei 5710 (October 18, 1949), and asked that he be interred on the Mount of Olives.

The editors


A.

Around the time of Purim 5660 (1900), I found out that the directors of the new progressive synagogue that was established by the leaders of the intelligentsia in the city of Stanislav (Polish: Stanislawow) decided to invite a rabbi and preacher to their synagogue, and they set their eyes upon me. I had family ties to only one family in that city. This was the well-known family that branched out from the sons of the wealthy Avraham Halpern, who in his time was considered to be one of the greatest wealthy men in Galicia. Aside from being himself of good lineage (he was the son-in-law of the well-known Gaon Rabbi Enzil Zoimer of Stryj), he made “big” matches. His 12 children were married to well-known, wealthy and well-pedigreed families of Polish and Russian Jewry. The Halpern family of Stanislawow was considered to be one of the most famous families of Galicia. My family connection to them was based on the fact that Avraham Halpern was the brother-in-law of my uncle Rabbi Meir Kristianpoler of Brody. Furthermore, one of his daughters-in-law was the sister of my aunt, the second wife of the aforementioned Rabbi Meir. Furthermore again, Reb Avraham Halpern was a double in-law with Reb Hertz Bernstein of Lwow. Even though the relations between the Orenstein and Bernstein families were not close during the latter years, this family was considered as being relatives of mine. The Haplern family conducted itself more or less as an Orthodox family, and they had no connections to the progressive synagogue. However, members of the family took great interest in my candidacy, and several of them urged me to write a letter to the synagogue committee and submit my candidacy.

At that time, the publication of my dissertation was not yet finished, and I did not have the certificate of doctorate in my hand. I also did not yet have a certificate of rabbinical ordination. Therefore, my letter of application to the synagogue was not accompanied by the usual documents, and I could only depend on my name, for I already had some fame in the interested circles of Galicia. As a response to my letter, the synagogue committee invited me to come to preach before them twice as a trial, in Polish and German, on the latter days of Passover. These sermons were my first public sermons, after I had already become used to political and academic speeches, and had already become known as a reasonable orator.

In truth, I had not yet made up my mind completely to make the rabbinate my profession, and I was standing at the crossroads. My goal was to give myself over to academic and philosophic work, and to complete my book on the sensation of pure cognition, the first chapters of which were the topic of my dissertation. However, I was unsure if the state of my health would allow me to immerse myself in deep work for years that weakens one's strength, as does philosophical work of that nature. As well, the material situation of my family did not permit me to burden myself with this for many years. Therefore, I accepted the Stanislawow invitation and prepared to preach. Our family's tailor, who had sewn my fine bekishes[1] took it upon himself to sew my first robe, for there was no tailor in Galicia who was expert in this. I gave him this job after I found out that he was also the regular tailor of the Armenian Archbishop Isak Isakowicz, who was known as a liberal man who liked Jews, and to whom many Jews visited.

As a topic of my sermon for the seventh day of Passover I chose the verse: And G-d went before them with a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and at night a pillar of fire to provide light for them (Exodus 13, 21). For the last day, I choose the verse from the Haftarah: And Joshua spoke to the priests saying, carry the Ark of the Covenant and pass before the people (Joshua 3, 6)[2]. I traveled to Stanislawow on the intermediate days of Passover and was greeted at the station with great honor by the members of the synagogue committee, who of course provided me with appropriate lodging in the main hotel of the city. This was a pleasant surprise, for there were several members of the Halpern family at this reception, even though, as I had said, they were among the Orthodox who disapproved of the modern synagogue. Apparently, they came for my honor and the honor of my family. They also knew that, aside from the detail of the lack of a Bima in the center of the synagogue, there was nothing in the synagogue itself that was not in accordance with Jewish law. They apparently placed their faith in me that I would not break down barriers in my new position.

My sermons were conducted with sufficiently great success, and the people of the synagogue informed me immediately after the festival that I had been selected as their rabbi and preacher. They invited me to begin my new tenure on the upcoming festival of Shavuot. Thus was my fate sealed, in the direction that I had charted for myself at the beginning of my studies in Berlin. I forewent my academic desires and decided to cut my ties with the professors who had received my work with great appreciation and also encouraged me to continue with it. This interruption of ties was with the intention to burn the bridge behind me that was liable to entice me from the path that I had chosen.

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B.

The city of Stanislawow that was to become my city of residence and my new place of work was considered to be one of the important cities of Galicia. It had only grown during the last decades of Austrian rule. Previously it was known as: Stanislawow that is near Tysmienica. It expanded with the construction of the Lwow-Chernovits-Iasi railway line that opened the trade routes to Romania, the lands of the Danube and the Black Sea to Southwestern Galicia. Through the Carpathain passes, it also opened the routes to Northeastern Hungary and Western Europe. By virtue of its geographic location, Stanislawow developed more than other stops along the railway line, and became the central location for the running of the railway.

This new, rapid development placed its stamp on the spiritual and cultural state of the city. One the one hand, it was noted for its large, beautiful buildings, wide marketplaces and also it external cleanliness and order. On the other hand, it had not yet developed a serious spiritual movement, and it remained at the level of regional culture that lacked depth and vision. The national changes of the region also influenced the cultural state of the city, for the government officials and large estate owners were primarily Polish, while the population of the region and the religious leaders were Ruthenians. The Political leadership, which was in the hands of the Poles but was dependent on the will of the Austrian government in Vienna, was not able to delve deeply into cultural matters, and was forced to suffice itself with educational administration and organization of the religious communities. However the power of the government administration was sufficient to stifle all streams of thought that had any revolutionary ideas. Thus, the ruler of the region placed his stamp not only on the administration angle but also on the spiritual angle of the life of the city.

The life of the Jews, who had settled the city rapidly to the point that they became the majority of the population, was also marked by that cultural regionalism. The remnants of the older generation were correct when they stated that the city of Stanislawow inherited the central position of Tysmienica, but did not receive its Torah and erudition from it. This situation was expressed both in the study of Torah as well as general and Jewish knowledge. For several years, the rabbinate was led by a noted scholar, Rabbi Meshulam Horowitz, who was the scion of a great dynasty of rabbis who ruled over the rabbinical seats of the entire region. However, he did not succeed in disseminating Torah to his flock, and there was almost know scholar whose level of knowledge was above mediocre. From among his children and grandchildren, only one, Rabbi Aryeh Leibush, attained renown as a great Gaon. At first he was the rabbi in Stryj, and at the end (in 1904) he ascended the seat of his fathers in Stanislawow. However, he too did not succeed in founding an important center of Torah study there. His renown as one of the greatest rabbis was assisted to no small degree by his matriculation certification from the gymnasium. He was one of the first Torah scholars in Galicia to obtain such.

A large number of people who had professional skills were proficient in general erudition, but this erudition only had an external influence upon the spiritual life of the city. With regard to Jewish knowledge, I only knew two people who had a name in the circles of Galician maskilim. One was Reb Moshe Bernfeld, the father of Dr. Shimon Bernfeld. He was a typical autodidact with a deep level of thinking, from the Beis Midrash of Rabbi Nachman Kruchmal. Of course he was considered to be an apikorus and a breaker of barriers, even though throughout his entire life he never violated a light or serious commandment. Reb Moshe Bernfeld did no find his livelihood in the city. He moved to Lwow were he earned his livelihood in a meager fashion as a teacher in the homes of the wealthy. The other was Reb Yitzchak Fernhof, a Hebrew writer of mediocre caliber, who was considered by the young maskilim of the city to be a symbol of new Hebrew literature. When I arrived in Stanislawow I found him as a lone man without any influence on Hebrew culture in the city.

C.

With this spiritual situation in the city, communal affairs were of course not conducted in a loftier manner than those of medium sized communities in Galicia. The traditions of spiritual and administrative formalities from the days of the Polish rules and the time of Austrian administration brought these communities to a situation of a lack of material and spiritual power. Any new idea and any constructive initiative was not able to have any influence on the proceedings of the communal leadership, who conducted their work based on the standards that were passed down from generation to generation. Only the government supervision and its administrative demands from time to time forced innovations in the protocols of the community, and more or less prevented the setbacks in financial and personal matters that were known in the annals of our communities. This way of doing things found its basis in religious tradition, which for many matters served as a shield for protocols that had become outdated. Most of the efforts of the communal leaders and their enablers were to protect the traditional communal protocols from the demands of the government. It is obvious that with such conditions, the community could never reach a state of renewal from the inside. Any new idea that arose from within Stanislawow Jewry, as in Galicia in general, was forced to find its support and protection in a unique new institution that was created and developed outside of the community. Of course the community would look upon it as a strange matter that was encroaching on its bounds. This was the case with Zionism, and this was the case with modern Judaism – that is to say with regard to the new synagogue that was founded by the local intelligentsia. They stumbled upon the dissatisfaction of the communal leaders.

The progressive community which was dedicated to spiritual vigilance was not particularly large. However, it included the finest of the intelligentsia of the city, including talented people who had great influence in the running of communal affairs in this important regional city. Zygmunt Regenstreif headed the committee at that time. He was an agriculturalist who was educated in his field. He was heavily occupied with agricultural manufacturing, and was considered one of the honorable men of the city due to his honesty and proper behavior. He was typical of a person who assimilated completely into the gentile environment and did not have many of the trappings of Judaism. Yet he considered himself to be a good and faithful Jew. In truth, he was dedicated to the building of the synagogue, and put great energy into its leadership. It was typical of him that on Yom Kippur, he did not leave the synagogue, and stood on his feet without a break all day. A completely different type was the vice chairman, Dr. Elias (Eliahu) Fischler, one of the first lawyers of the region. His knowledge of Judaism was also not particularly great, but he was a popular Jewish man who got along well with people and was expert in the customs of Jewish life. He was also one of the chief communal activists of the city, in matters of the community as well as in matters of the region and the city. His voice was also heard in the circles of state politics. As opposed to Regenstreif, who was hard of speaking and had a harsh temperament, he was hasty in his thoughts and deeds. That liveliness, which had a chord of youthfulness, also stood him well during his old age. He always remained as a living spirit in any area that he found himself. Since he was a proper and upright man, he was well received in Jewish circles as well as among the gentiles.

The third member of the committee was Edmund Rauch, a man lacking both in erudition as well as refined manners. However, he had the character of a civic strongman who attained close to decisive influence in communal affairs in Stanislawow, due to his great energy, diligence and strength of spirit in pushing all of his ambitions to fruition. His livelihood was not the most refined. He was the lessee of the civic profinancial. However, he was able to impart a communal spirit in his business dealing to the point where all of his business dealings appeared as being for the public benefit. His astuteness also stood him in good stead in his relations with the local and regional governments, to the point where he became an advisor to the head of the region and had a decisive voice in the city, in which the Jewish population had reached half of the general population. Thus did Edmund Rauch become a local activist, without whom or against whose will almost nothing was done in the city.

As a strongman, of the type that was known in the annals of Jewish history in the Diaspora, Rauch was not one of the worst. He was concerned about and did a great deal for the benefit of the public and individual, and was constantly vigilant in every matter that was related to the honor of the Jewish population, the defense of its rights and its influence in the region. He knew how to organize with great diligence and astuteness the Jewish communal powers and even the circles of liberal minded Poles in order to stifle the anti-Semitic streams which had begun to raise their heads with the growth of reactionary influences in the country. Of course, Rauch considered himself to be a faithful Jew. Even within the community, which had been ruled for generations by the Orthodox circles, he aspired to modern protocols and even introduced some, even though he had no spiritual motivation for this, and his entire intention was restricted to the administrative realm in which he knew how to stifle any personal and family favoritism which was very rampant in the Orthodox circles. He also knew how to prevent any waste of communal money for the benefit of various special interests.

Edmund Rauch had the greatest influence in the synagogue committee despite the fact that he was the youngest of the members of the committee and was below them in level of intelligence. He was the first to tip the scales regarding my appointment, for he liked me. From the outset, he became one of my confidantes and friends. He attempted to pave the way for my new position and to ensure a stable base for my livelihood. One of his first steps was to turn the heart of the regional government and the court advisor Prokowcicz toward me. When I came to visit him on an official visit, I was astonished at the enthusiasm and pleasantness with which that high official greeted me.

From among the rest of the members of the committee, I must mention the treasurer Leizer Frankel. He was a large-scale iron merchant, an intelligent man who dealt a great deal with the administrative matters of the synagogue. The brothers Herman and Emil Adlersberg were lumber merchants who had become very wealthy through the years, and were known in the city as generous donors to communal needs. Dr. Shlomo Gelerter and Dr. Izidor Falk represented the professional intelligentsia on the committee, along with Dr. Fischler. All of these people, as all of the other members of the committee, always deferred to the opinions of the aforementioned three leaders, especially to the opinion and will of Edmund Rauch.

From among the honorable householders of the synagogue who excelled as dedicated activists and synagogue leaders after I left Stanislawow, I should mention the brothers Alexander and Bernard Haber. From the time that I arrived in the city, they were among the first who tried to emphasize their faith in me. They also supported me, despite everything, if the direction of m work was not pleasing to them.

Dr. Arthur Nimhin, the mayor of Stanislawow, was outside of this group of builders and leaders of the synagogue, but connected to it in the arena of civic work. He was very far from religious and traditional Judaism, for he had been educated in the home of an extreme assimilationist. However, he knew how to behave in a manner that made the Jews proud of him as their chief representative in the city. Even the Poles recognized him as a Polish patriot. In the running of the city he stood arm in arm with Edmund Rauch. Both of them assisted each other so that Rauch from time to time involved himself with the election of Nimhin, and Nimhin concerned himself with the civic duties of Rauch. From this came the polite relations of Nimhin toward me, even though he was not a member of my congregation. I only had one occasion to come before Nimhin in a direct matter of religion. He spent most of his years as an older bachelor, but he finally got married and had a son. I found out incidentally that he had no intention of circumcising his son who was born in Lwow. I approached him as a rabbi and attempted to speak to his heart, and demonstrate to him the obligation of bringing a Jewish child into the covenant of our forefather Abraham and not removing him from the ranks of the nation that struggle to maintain this. However Nimhin already silenced me at the beginning of my words and assured me that the child had already been circumcised in Lwow. Later I found out that this was a lie, but the opportunity had passed, for he had misled me with his devious intelligence, just as he had misled several other people to whom he also had told this story. However, all of his intelligence and estrangement from Judaism did not stand for Nimhin, for when Polish politics turned its face against him, he was forced as well to leave his position in the city council.

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D.

The expectations of my first steps in my new work were very good after I received the recognition and friendship of these people from the time that I first arrived. Nevertheless, I immediately felt that something invisible to the eye was dividing us. They of course knew that I was an active Zionist who stood in the front ranks of the activists of that movement, and that I entered the walls of the synagogue with a clear decision to utilize my tenure there to spread the idea of the renaissance of nation and the upbuilding of the Land of Israel – not in the factional political sense but rather in the sense of a Jewish weltanschauung. However, already in my first conversations with my gabbaim, I realized that they look upon my Zionism as my own private matter, and hoped that I would be wary of intermixing my political outlook with my rabbinical activities. Even when I stressed my nationalistic thoughts and practical plans as a spiritual leader during my first trial sermons, they expressed their admiration and satisfaction, but attempted to hint to me that they see my words only as fine sermons, but do not think that I will derive practical applications toward my efforts from them.

With all this, these first impressions were not able to weaken my resolve to be a Zionist rabbi and to forge through my activities in words and deeds the necessary character of a spiritual leader who ties matters of religion and matters of the nation into one inseparable bundle through his personality and actions. My path was set from the outset, and with my faith in myself and dedication to my aspirations I entered this difficult task with open eyes, hoping that I would succeed in forging a strong enough base in the synagogue that I would be able to depend on despite the opposition of the heads of the committee. This indeed was the situation when I arrived in Stanislawow before the Festival of Shavuot 5660 (1900) and came to the synagogue as the rabbi. Indeed, my first steps strengthened my hopes.

My sermons on the festival, which were permeated with the spirit of national pride and deep faith in the sublime value of the Torah of Israel, made a great impression upon the audience, who filled the synagogue to the brim. After I had apparently won over the hearts of the congregation from a rhetorical perspective, as I left the synagogue I felt that a strong bond had been forged between myself and the congregation, which the forces of the opponents could not weaken. I realized this from my relations with the members of the committees that stopped taking the form of warnings and good advice that was at times cloaked in the form of directives. They now spoke to me as someone whom they now understood, as a man who knows his direction, and to whom everyone who wishes to work together with must get accustomed to.

{Photo between pages 104-105: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Zeev Braude.}

Of course, the Zionists of the city accepted me as a leader and guide. Not only did they express to me their readiness to listen to my commands, but they also raised their heads with their feelings that they found in me a trustworthy force that they can depend upon in their efforts and difficult battles in the environment of the rulers of the community and the city who were immersed in assimilationism and the politics of compromise. Their weak hands were strengthened primarily when they saw my influence upon the members of the intelligentsia, the most powerful of whom had become my friends and followers. What surprised them even more was that the mighty strongman Edmund Rauch in particular, who was always thought of as an extreme assimilationist and a man who conducted his communal work by joining forces with the Polish authorities, did not stop singing my praises and demonstrating signs of dedication and friendship toward me. Furthermore, his house also became to me the house of a good friend. Even Mrs. Rauch, the daughter of the honorable and proper householder of the city Reb Yehoshuale Blumenfeld, attempted to demonstrate to me tokens of appreciation, and took interest in all my needs when I needed to set up a residence and household, for I was a unique type of rabbi without a wife. Her father was known in the city as Yehoshuale Blumenfeld. He was given this name by the masses of Jews out of feelings of popular friendship that he acquired through his unique character that was expressed by his temperament that can only be expressed with one word: gentleness. This trait was also expressed in his relationship to the various streams that came into contact with each other. In communal life in the city he was a traditional Jew, with an understanding of modern culture, faithful to the line of the Polish State, but also full of appreciation for the desires of the young Zionists. He was a wealthy man, distant from all ruling over “small” people. Through this his home became a symbol of the home of the masses. Reb Yehoshuale imparted these character traits and this way of life to his only son Dr. Maximillian Blumenfeld who continued in the popular tradition of his father as a lawyer who was honored by all strata of the population.

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E.

Aside from the Rauch and Blumenfeld families, I was welcomed with open arms in the homes of members of the Halpern family. Despite the fact that they were far removed from my synagogue, they treated me like a relative and tried to emphasize this relationship before everyone. This family suffered three great tragedies during the timeframe between Passover and Shavuot, when I first appeared in the city. They lost three heads of their families. All of them were honorable men of stature, who were considered to be among the chief householders of the traditional camp. One was Reb Hirsch Halpern who had been the head of the community for several years, and was an exceptional activist in the city. The second was his brother Reb Lipa Halpern, an intelligent man with a refined character. The third was Reb Leibush Bernstein, the son of Reb Hertz Bernstein (who was the father-in-law of Reb Avraham Halpern, who became an in-law twice with Reb Hertz Bernstein, for Reb Lipa Halpern also married Mina, the youngest daughter of Reb Hertz Bernstein, as his second wife). It goes without saying that the deep mourning of this threefold loss was felt in all corners of the homes of this family, and at first it was not easy for me to be present in this depressed environment. However, the remaining members of the family attempted to display such enthusiastic tokens of closeness and friendship to me, that I felt myself as one of them. I participated with them in their mourning and grief, and attempted to alleviate their anguish.

Aside from these three families, there were two other sons of the Halpern family in Stanislawow: Reb Michel and Reb Mendel, as well as three married daughters: Sara married Reb Yosef Landau, Miriam married Reb Meir Margolin, and the third one Roza married Reb Mordechai Ashkenazi. Reb Yosef Landau was considered to be the holy one of the family. He was indeed a pious and pure-hearted Jew in a fashion that is unusual. He was also a great scholar, expert in the bible, the Hebrew language, and medieval philosophy. What characterized him in particular was his wonderful refinement in his interpersonal relationships, which attracted the hearts of anyone who came near to him. The second son-in-law of Reb Avraham Halpern, Reb Meir Margolin, was also considered in the city as a pious man who was knowledgeable in Torah, who conducted his home with proper tradition and form. The third son-in-law Mordechai Zeev, who was known as Markus Ashkenazi, was a simpler man. He was a businessman, who was appointed as the director of the city bank after he lost his property. He was under the influence of the Halpern family. He as well was considered one of the honorable men of the city due to his close relationship with Reb Avraham Halpern as his son-in-law.

From among the Halpern families, when I first arrived in the city I drew close to the home of Reb Leibush Bernstein. I found him in the prime of health when I first stayed in the city during Passover, but he was already in the World of Truth when I came to live in the city at Shavuot time. His widow Tauba, the daughter of Reb Avraham Halpern, was not particularly scholarly or erudite. However, she had an alert temperament, a good, feeling heart, and she had a special love for people. She was faithful to her friends and relatives. She was influenced by the traditions the family of her husband, who had brought into his house the family pride and wide heart of the home of his father Reb Hertz Bernstein of Lwow. The home of Tauba Bernstein was opened wide to anyone who came in. When one of the speakers said during a family celebration that her home was nothing other than an institution, he was speaking the truth.

That family had four daughters and a son of their old age. When I came to Stanislawow, the three youngest daughters were single. The eldest daughter Roza, known for her beauty and intelligence, was married to Dr. Shmuel Schur, the son of the renowned wealthy man Reb Moshe Schur of Mohilov. After the death of the head of the family, Dr. Schur moved his residence to Stanislawow, and he and his wife participated in the family business that was left without a leader. Dr. Shmuel Schur was a veteran Zionist already from his university days. He had literary talents – he published an anthology of German poems. He was upright and good hearted, but he had some sort of naivety with respect to the ways of the world and interpersonal relationships. He was considered as an incompetent person, whereas his intelligent wife conducted the house and its business with the strength of the Bernstein tradition.

Despite his external weakness that detracted somewhat from his standing in the circles of his family and acquaintances, Dr. Shmuel Schur not only had wide knowledge in the sciences, but he was also a clear and organized thinker, and knew how to stand his own in matters that were close to his heart. Even in his Zionism it was possible to always recognize the train of thought that was contrary to his aforementioned weakness, and perhaps even a result of it. It often took the form of stubbornness. We, his friends, knew that we could always depend on his straightforwardness and his faithfulness to Zionism. We also recognized in him his European culture and politeness in behavior, and we knew that we could place him at the helm any time we did not require leadership but rather proper representations. Thus, Dr. Shmuel Schur was ready from the outset to be the chairman of the local Zionist committee in Stanislawow.

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F.

From the time of my arrival, this family related to me with exceptional friendship. I became a frequent guest in that home, and I felt myself as if in my own home. This family also took active interest in all of my work at the synagogue, even though according to their family tradition they considered themselves as members of the Orthodox Halpern and Bernstein families and opposed any innovations in Judaism. These families had some influence, in the recent and more distant past, upon all of the wealthy and influential families, in that their young people attended schools and universities, and the Orthodox attempted to educate them at the simultaneously in Torah and tradition, along the accepted way of German Orthodoxy which combined Torah and the ways of the world. However, these efforts succeeded only partially and only with some people. At time, absurd situations were created, for example when the father used all means to ensure that the son would not have to write at school on the Sabbath, but when the son left the school and went on to university, he did not concern himself at all with the fulfillment of the commandments.

The appearance of the past took on a special form in the personality of Dr. Karel Halpern, the son of Hirsch Halpern, who became the head of the family unit after the death of his illustrious father. He studied agronomy in the University of Halle in Germany. Like many youths of the second generation of assimilation, he considered himself as a Pole and he occupied himself with issues of the Polish students in that university. Even when he returned to his family home from Germany and took over the running of the wonderful agricultural enterprise in Wolciniec near Stanislawow after the death of his father, he tended to consider himself as a Polish farmer. His conduct in the Polish environment also demonstrated this tendency. However, on the other hand, a strong love of Judaism and the Jewish nation was rooted in him from his youth, from the family tradition and his Jewish education. He also had a strong feeling of Jewish honor and his heart ached with the worries of his nation. With the passage of time, as the chasm between the Jewish and Polish communities widened, Karel Halpern became more and more involved with Jewish matters. Even though he regarded himself as far from Zionism and the national idea, he became a faithful and active Jewish activist, to the point where the Zionists recognized him as a faithful communal servant. He became closer to the national idea after the First World War, and as head of the community he attempted to the best of his ability to serve as an intermediary between the Zionists and their opponents in any place that he saw the need for external unity. On account of these efforts, Karel Halpern became a member of the Jewish Agency representing the non-Zionists, and was very happy when his daughter and son-in-law made aliya to the land of Israel after the ascension of the Nazis to power in Germany. When I arrived in Stanislawow and drew close to the family circle of the Halperns, I felt a difference of opinion between myself and Karel Halpern. This disrupted somewhat the relations between us, especially since Karl Halpern also was distant from the circle of assimilationist intelligentsia that gathered around my synagogue. However this situation improved from year to year when Karl Halpern drew progressively closer to Jewish matters and began to look upon them not only through the eyes of a communal activist but also through an understanding of the social and national questions of the Jewish community. Several years after I left Stanislawow, Dr. Karel Halpern became a close friend of mine through his close connections to my wife's family, for her mother was his cousin.

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G.

I set up my Zionist activities immediately after my arrival by becoming an active member of the regional Zionist committee, but I refused to accept the chairmanship of the committee so as not to overly accentuate my factional standing. Dr. Shmuel Schur accepted the chairmanship. He became my friend and acquaintance in communal work as well.

Galician Zionism was organized during the last years of the 19th century as a national organization, whose first center was in Lwow. A change came upon it before I moved to Stanislawow, in that the national Galician committee split into three regional committees – in Krakow, Lwow and Stanislawow. The net of the Stanislawow committee was cast over the entire Southeastern region of Galicia. Its organizational jurisdiction encompassed many cities that had a recognizable Zionist committee, including Kolomyja, Snyatin and others. This committee was composed primarily of young people, whose Zionism was acquired in the Zionist student organizations of Lwow, Krakow and Vienna. Some of them were natives of the city, and others had come to Stanislawow as legal assistants in order to prepare for their own legal profession. The householders of the city, many of whom were Zionist sympathizers, were for the most part not talented at political leadership. Reb Yaakov Kremper was an exception to this. Due to his great dedication to Zionism and erudition (he was Orthodox and his knowledge was based only upon Jewish knowledge) he was considered by the youth as a modern man, and was selected to the committee as one of the members. He was already old, close to 60, when I arrived in Stanislawow. He drew near to me with great friendship and became one of my veteran followers who attempted with all his might to raise my stature in the traditional circles of the city. To my great sorrow, I only worked for a few years with this dear man of great talent, for he became seriously ill with an illness that killed him. Aside from him, Dr. Schur and I were the oldest members of the group.

Several of the youths in the committee were known to me from Lwow. Of them I must first mention Dr. Yaakov Laufer, who was one of the founders of the Emuna student union. He was an enthusiastic Zionist who already made a name for himself in the city as a talented jurist and good orator. He became one of my most dedicated assistants and was faithful to his Zionist work eve when, with the passage of time, he became established as a lawyer with a large clientele, and he director of one of the large banks in the city.

Dr. Reuven Yunas was one of the most effective young people of this circle. When I arrived in Stanislawow he was already an independent lawyer, and was already serving as the head of the Zionist committee of the city. He was calm by nature and slightly negligent. These traits weakened his status in the Zionist group, despite the fact that he was intelligent had has experience in communal affairs. He was considered to be the Zionist leader in the city even many years after I left Stanislawow. I met him in 1922 when he was a representative to the Polish Sejm and a member of the Jewish club. However, through all the days of his Zionist and communal work, he did not attain a position of significant influence in the Zionist community. I believe I describe his character correctly by stating that he was a man fitting for an advisory position and not for power.

The third of this group was Dr. Anselm Halpern, the son of Hirsch Halpern. He was the head of the community for several years and the youngest brother of Dr. Karel Halpern. By his nature, he was typical of the scion of a wealthy, well-connected family. His behavior was refined, his externals were elegant, his intelligence was well based, his opinions were strong and persistent, but he had the spirit of negligence and apathy toward the needs of life. These traits hindered his success along the path of life. However it is necessary to note that this weakness in personal matters affected his communal work only in a small measure. For many years he stood in the first ranks of the Zionist movement as well as communal life. He was well received by the people who knew that it was possible to depend on him on any occasion that required a leader with internal integrity and personal nobility.

Dr. Alexander Riterman was a completely different personality. He possessed stubborn energy, which was even able to overcome his leg disease. From the time of his youth, he was stubborn, standing up for his opinions, hot tempered with a tendency to enter into dispute. Nevertheless, his friends knew him as a faithful and dedicated man who knew his way and also appreciated the value of others. This blending of stubborn energy and personal honest forged him into the character of a fighter and builder who, like the men of Nehemia[3] knew how to take hold of the javelin and the builder's trowel throughout his decades of communal activity.

During the latter years, aside from their work within the Zionist organization, Anselm Halpern and Alexander Riterman also excelled as representatives of the Zionist party within the Jewish community of Stanislawow. When the influence of the Zionists grew within communal life with the passage of time and surpassed the power of the assimilationists, the two of them served as the heads of the community one after the other. Dr. Riterman also served for a number of years as the vice mayor.

Hillel Zusman was also a member of the regional Zionist committee. His father Shalom Zusman was a typical Jewish householder. He was a well-to-do man who owned estates, one of the honorable and cultured men of the city. Hillel had a sensitive and faithful heart. His dedication to Zionism knew now bounds. His dedication to the national ideals endeared him to all of the members, even to those who were not prepared to accept his opinion. He was honored in the city as one of those who stood in the first row. Of course, this continued in the traditions of his father.

When I arrived in Stanislawow, I found among the members of the Zionist committee the dedicated young Zionist Landau, the son of David Landau, a member of the Horowitz family. He had already been active for several years in all administrative affairs of the local Zionist committee, but his Zionist understanding was always very superficial. After some time he left the Zionist camp and transferred to government service in the field of justice.

The fifth young man of the committee, Dr. Hertz Halpern the son of Lipa Halpern seemed to me to be a blend of the aristocratic indifference of Anselm Halpern and the stubborn temperament of Riterman. His faithfulness to Zionism was a part of his soul that stood for him despite all of his tendencies to rashness and lightheadedness, and made him into a pleasant man and a good friend despite his enthusiasm for momentary impulses. On a personal level, he became closer to me than any of my other friends, until he became my personal assistant. He fulfilled this role as assistant with faithfulness and dedication, which greatly endeared him to me. He remained faithful to Zionism even when he became immersed with time in earning his livelihood and in the daily pleasures of the Galician Jewish bourgeoisie that led him to neglect his status among the Zionist party.

In the second rank of activists there were several young people who were primarily considered to be assistants and helpers. However, even among these there were people of value who assisted greatly, each according to his ability, in the dissemination of the Zionist ideal. I should mention in particular the names of Dr. Avraham Magner, Dr. Yosef Filenbaum, and the Kanner brothers.

[Page 110]

H.

The city of Stanislawow was a very traditional city by the usual measurements. Many honorable and well-rooted families ruled it, and acted in accordance with the traditions of previous generations. Of course, they did not tend toward the new movements. Aside from the wide branched Halpern family, there was the Horowitz family who had great pedigree. This family was headed by Reb Lipa Horowitz, who was at that time very old. He was a zealot and very opinionated who imposed his will upon all of his surroundings. He and his son Yitzchak Meir, who was as intelligent and strong as he, were considered as the leaders of the Orthodox in the city and had great influence on the running of matters in the Jewish community after Reb Hirsch Halpern, who was the head of the community until that time. He considered himself as a conservative, and stood the middle ground between the various streams in the life of the Jews.

After the death of Reb Hirsch Halpern, Yekutiel Kizler was chosen as the head of the community. He was a unique provincial character of the type that was more commonly found in the outlying cities of Galicia. He himself was a cynic, a complete scoffer, and an apikoros, who ate non-Kosher food to make a point. However, as a communal activist he conducted Orthodox politics, and he was a sworn enemy of any social ideology of any variety. He was very intelligent, and diligent in his communal work. He became a supporting pillar of all the reactionary forces in the city. The Orthodox of the city used him at their whim, since he also had connections with the government. With his assistance, the communal council became a center of opposition to both Zionism and the modern religious movement that was centered around my synagogue. Yekutiel Kizler became the head of the community when I first arrived. He also attempted to impede the selection of a preacher for the synagogue since he felt that a rabbi of this nature would become an organ of new culture in communal life. He was supported in his efforts by his son Adolf Kizler and his son-in-law Alexander Vitels, who were indeed members of the synagogue committee, but were both always drawn after the opinions of their father.

From here we can see that when I arrived, I encountered great stubbornness from the community as well as passive opposition from two members of the committee who were family members of Yekutiel Kizler. Only after some time, as through my work I strengthened my standing in the community and the influence of the leaders of the synagogue committee grew, headed by Dr. Eliahu Fischler and Edmund Rauch – in the city in general and in the community in particular – did the communal council began to treat me as a serious force and treat me pleasantly.

My status in the community was also helped by the fact that the position of rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of the city was filled by a man who had very little influence, and was chosen as rabbi as a heir to his father, Rabbi Meshulam HaLevi Horowitz, who was one of the greatest and most famous rabbis in Galicia. After the death of Rabbi Meshulam Horowitz, his son Rabbi Yitzchak moved from Zhuravno to Stanislawow by virtue of dynastic succession. I met no opposition from this rabbi. On the contrary among the Orthodox there were circles who regarded the advent of a modern rabbi as a form of completion to the spiritual leadership of the community in matters of culture and religion. The wealthy Reb Aharon Hirsch Tzvi Weishaus was prominent among these circles. He was a man of Judaism, knowledgeable in Torah. Even though he was completely Orthodox, he appreciated the value of Jewish academics and also understood the need for a change in the educational methodology for the younger generation.

[Page 111]

I.

In the city there were also families who were already significantly influenced by modern culture, participated in the building of the synagogue and entered my congregation, but were uninvolved in communal affairs – and became closer to the goals of active Judaism through my influence. For the most part, my influence was strongest on the women from their families. Of them I should note two women whose characters were completely different from each other, and the result of my influence upon them was also completely different. One was Mrs. Goldfeld, the wife of the wealthy merchant Yitzchak Goldfeld. She arrived in the city as a teacher of the German language and was known by her family name of Winer as an experienced teacher with important cultural influence among the wealthy families. When she married Mr. Goldfeld, her cultural influence increased as a wealthy woman with a large house, and she became a prominent personality among the intelligentsia. From the time of my arrival, she joined the group of people who gathered around me, and she assisted me in several matters.

Mrs. Katznelbogen, the wife of the lawyer Dr. Katznelbogen, was a completely different personality. Even though he was the scion of a well known rabbinical family, he was a complete assimilationist, without any connection to Judaism. She had a calm temperament, and was one of my enthusiastic followers once I came to the city. She would come to the synagogue and listen to all of my sermons. She would stress over and over again the extent of the influence that my sermons had upon her. However, after two years I suddenly found out that the entire Katznelbogen family was about to convert away from Judaism. When I attempted to talk to her heart, I found out that she had fallen under the influence her son, a haughty young man who conducted himself in high fashion and felt himself as a scientist who was on the verge of becoming famous. He thought that his path would be easier if he abandoned Judaism. All my efforts were for naught. This event left a depressing influence on he city. I myself realized how shaky the influence of my sermons was even if they are enthusiastically received by the audience. From another perspective, this strange event affected one of the national principals that I attempted to impart to the hearts of my audience, which was the significance of Judaism as a public national doctrine and not just as an issue of religious consciousness and personal inclination, but rather as a communal duty upon a person to wage the battles of his people and to bear its concerns and burdens. I dedicated an enthusiastic and powerful sermon to this, and even though I did not touch on anything specific, everyone knew to what I was referring. However, even with this sermon, I discovered the extent that liberal ideas of religious consciousness had taken root in the hearts of the Jewish intelligentsia, for many of my listeners looked bitterly on my stance and saw it as excessive zealotry.

[Page 112]

J.

One of the first concerns of the synagogue committee was to increase my income by adding accepted roles that were suitable to the synagogue rabbinate, for my salary during my first years in the synagogue was insufficient for my needs. Since at that time the office of the director of the Jewish family registries (matricul) was vacant as the former director had been fired for misappropriation of funds, the heads of the synagogue, especially Edmund Rauch, interceded with the head of the region Prokowcicz to offer me that position. That regional head, who was one of the most experienced and intelligent people in the Galician provincial government, answered this recommendation positively, for he thought that in this manner he would be able to hitch me to the government wagon, as he saw me as a youthful force who would have influence over the spirit of the Jewish community of the city. This intention was expressed especially by the fact that he did not appoint me as the director of the office of the matricul but rather as the acting director, so that the fear of dismissal would always be over me. I recognized this machination, and I wished to remove myself from this matter, but the members of the committee and the Zionist organizations strongly urged me not to forego this fortuitous opportunity. They stressed that they place their faith in me that I would always know how to preserve my independence and to stand for my opinions, without disrupting my relationships with the government. I acceded to the opinion of my friends, particularly due to the fact that I was indeed in need of the income from this source.

I began to set up my new office based on the foundations of the proper communal protocols. This was no simple matter, for the issue of family ledgers was based upon a tradition of lies, forgeries, bribery and nepotism, as was known throughout the Galician community, and the community was not at all accustomed to relating to these matters as orderly and proper. The former director, Max Bibering, was one of the worst characters in this profession. During my first steps in this position, I stumbled across the slander of this man who could not make peace with his dismissal and saw me as encroaching upon his territory despite the fact that neither I nor my supporters had any connection at all to his firing, and I entered this office after it was already fully vacant.

The first slander was with respect to my doctoral degree. He claimed that since I had a doctorate from outside the country, I required certification from an Austrian university. On account of this slander I was forced, on order from the authorities, to desist from signing my name with the title “doctor” on official papers. This was not at all pleasant for me, since my doctorate was considered as part of my rabbinical credentials. However, a coarser slander was brought against me in the judicial court. This slander was with respect to registering the marriage of parents of four children, for which Bibering had received payment before his hiring. His claim was that I demanded money from them illegally. The matter was concluded with the cancellation of the claim by the investigator and with the fining of Bibering for the sum of 200 guiders as a slanderer. Of course all of these matters were unpleasant for me, even though the Polish judges who were involved in this matter realized the propriety of my deeds, and spoke greatly in praise of me, to the satisfaction of the congregation in my synagogue.

However Max Bibering had not yet said enough. He attempted to write slanderous articles about me in the newspapers by portraying me as a dangerous revolutionary who came from outside the country to ruin the youth with a worthless political spirit. However all of the efforts of this corrupt man came to naught and did not succeed in destroying the increasing faith that the community had in me.

[Page 113]

K.

In the meantime, I succeeded in completing the publication of my dissertation, entitled Die Elemente der Reinen Wahrnehmung (Principles of Pure Cognition). It grew at the time of its publication to more than 200 pages due to new work that I had done for it by agreement with the faculty of the University of Frieburg. The publication was very difficult for me, because I was not able to find a printing press in Lwow which was able to typeset the proper German font. The typesetting was done in such a mechanical fashion that it was necessary to supervise each and every word. When I sent to the faculty the number of copies that were required by the examination committee, I receive my diploma with the first class honors of Summa Cum Laude.

My work revived extensive praise from the academic critics in Germany. Fritz Medicus, later a well-known philosophy professor in Zurich, wrote in the well known journal Deutsche Literatur Zeitung (issue 3, January 18, 1902): “Braude approached his difficult task by entering into a debate not only with Kant, but also with other philosophers who researched deeply during the previous several decades, with unusual strength and great power of independent perception.” After summarizing the content of the book, he concluded his words with the following: “In his book, the author deals with deep thoughts about issues whose proper place in debate is appropriate not in research articles but rather in academic articles and books on the field of cognition. In any case, his words are appropriately thought provoking and therefore we must give him our blessings that his work will not remain in the small form of a dissertation but will rather appear (we hope in the near future) as part of a larger work in the marketplace of books.” The famous philosopher Wilhelm Schuppe, the master of the logical theory based on cognitive research “Erkenntnistheoretische Logic” dedicated a long, 15 page article about my work in Gottinger Gelehrten Anzeiger (issue 8, 1901), in which he debates my opinion in detail. He started his article with the following words: “If I had to give a general evaluation of the work of Mr. Braude, which evaluation would completely satisfy my spirit, but if I come to evaluate his conclusions, I am must disagree with him on several important points.”

On account of the slander regarding the legitimacy of my diploma in Austria, I approached the faculty of philosophy of the University of Lwow regarding nostrification. This faculty was prepared to recognize the legitimacy of the dissertation and also the oral examination from Freiburg, but demanded from me one makeup examination in a secondary field, since my examination in economic politics that I had taken in Freiburg could not be accepted by Austrian protocol as a part of the examinations of a faculty of philosophy. This was not pleasing to me. By chance, I knew the well-known erudite Polish politician Count Wojciech Dziadoszicki, an owner of estates in the town of Jezupol. After he became very enthusiastic about my dissertation which I gave him on that occasion, I requested that he use his influence to exempt me from the requirement of the faculty in Lwow. Dziadoszicki got very angry about this requirement, and he directly approached the Minister of Education in Vienna, Professor Hertel, stressing that it is very strange to demand any additional examination for the author of this dissertation. However, this intercession did not accomplish anything, for the minister did not want to impinge upon the autonomy of the university and to override the decision of the faculty. I was therefore forced to prepare myself to study once again. I chose Austrian history as the subject in which to be tested. After I passed the examination in this subject only (I found it quite amusing that I received an excellent mark on this exam), I received a legal certification of my doctorate that was valid throughout Austria, and the mouths of the slanderers were shut. However, now I once again stood before the decisive issue in my life about whether to become involved in academic work. Now, that I look on the course of my life, pangs of regret afflict my soul as to whether I accomplished my life's mission by distancing myself from academia when I had something to add to it. However, apparently my fate was sealed, for I once again decided to forego all of my academic aspirations and enter with full force into communal work within the Zionist movement that was at that time beginning to raise its wings.

[Page 114]

L.

In the interim, I acquired a good name among the gentile official circles as a result of meeting them as an official of the regional governor, and by their approaching me as an expert on matters of Judaism. The praises about me from the city notables apparently also influenced the members of the Jewish community of Stanislawow, who began to hold me in growing esteem. Within my first year of residence there, the community asked me if I would agree, on behalf of the Hebrew community, to accept the position of supervisor of religious studies in government schools. By law the community had broad rights to concern itself with religious education, both in terms of the curriculum and in terms of the examination and certification of teachers. I knew that accepting such a position would be like descending into a pit filled with snakes and scorpions, but I decided to accept it nevertheless.

The state of religious studies in government schools in Galicia in general and Stanislawow in particular was very low. This was one of the great disasters that ruined the souls of the young generation and laced it stamp upon the cultural and moral life of Galician Jewry from the last decades of the 19th century until our day.

Traditional Jewry, with its own cheders and Yeshivas, found no way of transferring to modern schools due to its internal situation. It also did not aspire to such a path, for it related to modern education and modern schools in general and gentile schools in particular, with complete negativity. With all of its rabbis and Rosh Yeshivas, it had no pedagogic connection to questions related to modern modes of education for the Jewish religion and Jewish studies. When Jewish children began to stream en masse to the government schools, Galician Orthodoxy did not have the will or ability to concern itself with religious studies in such schools.

On the other hand, Jewry had no methodological preparation or serious system for taking its place within the general system of education and general studies, for secular studies were not considered at all within religious thought and the religious experience – and there was also opposition to it with regard to several matters. The educational law that prevailed at that time in Austria was a result of liberalism and required religious studies as a special subject. It included several religious customs within the schools; however it left the supervision of these matters up to the various religious communities. Therefore, the Jewish community had the task of organizing religious studies in the schools from all perspectives, and this was a task that the communities were not prepared for at all. There was no curriculum for religious studies, there were no textbooks, and even more important, there were not trained teachers, both with regard to the topic itself and with regard to pedagogical ability.

There was another major impediment from a legal perspective – the religion teacher was required to have general teaching qualifications and the religious studies were allotted two hours per week. The Jews were completely lacking in graduate teachers who knew religion, and it was also impossible to incorporate any curriculum within those two hours – for aside from education in the principles of Judaism, one would have to educate the Jewish child in religious life relating to prayer and the Hebrew language. One would have to begin any study of the Jewish religion with a study of the Hebrew language, and this required a special curriculum with its own hours of study. Even Jewish history, which is itself a foundation for the development of religious life, would have to have its place in the curriculum of the study of the Jewish religion. Thus, a confusing situation was created in which the leaders of the community of maskilim took interest in the question of education in government schools but were unable to do anything effective. This terrible neglect caused a complete destruction in the Jewish education of myriads of students in these schools. The government, which on the one hand was responsible for carrying out the law, and on the other hand faced the lack of any means by the community, began to organize religious education itself. Its first steps were to invite teachers according to the way it saw fit. It invited Jewish teachers who had graduated from teachers' school, and demanded from them only a certificate that was signed by any rabbi that testifies to their ability to teach Jewish religion. The Galician rabbis, who for the most part regarded public school education as a government decree that must be avoided at all costs, saw no harm to Judaism in granting certificates of this nature to anyone who requested them, without taking interest I their knowledge and outlook. Indeed, a few rabbis in the outlying cities made this matter into a source of income, for not all of them hated monetary gain and were willing to forego this income. However, even teachers of this nature were not found in sufficient numbers, for in the early years, when the educational regime in Galicia was still liberal to a significant degree, teachers with pedagogical degrees preferred serving as general teachers over descending into the remote corner of a teacher of Judaism. The government filled this lack of personnel by giving responsibility of teaching religion over to various people who were considered in its eyes as educated people by virtue of their knowledge of the Polish language. They implemented temporary contracts that placed these teachers outside the realm of regular teachers in the schools. It is easy to understand the degree to which this lowered this profession both with regard to content and with regard to the status of these teachers in the eyes of both the other teachers and the students, and what were the fruits of this teaching through such people. Among the thousands of parents who sent their children to the public schools, whose numbers grew from year to year despite the opposition of the Orthodox, there were many who attempted to fix the breach by sending their children to cheder for a few hours in the afternoon. Others who had the financial means hired private teachers for religious studies. However, experience quickly revealed that none of these means of education were effective, and these students remained, like their other friends, devoid of any effective Jewish education. They left school without any comprehension of Judaism, and for the most part without even an elementary knowledge of the language. Sometimes they could not even ready Hebrew.

[Page 116]

M.

This severe situation inspired some of the religion teachers to write textbooks on the Jewish religion, either because they felt some sense of responsibility or because they saw a business opportunity before them. However, with all of their talents and professional knowledge, they were only able to write various summaries from the Torah and early prophets in the Polish language. For the most part, these books were merely concise translations similar to those in German that were used in the schools of Austria. At the time that I began to concern myself with education, there were two teachers of this type in Eastern Galicia, one was Nathan Schipper and the other was Yitzchak Planer. Both were complete ignoramuses, for to them the entire matter was merely a business venture. Due to the dearth of any other books, their books were distributed by the thousands to the schools.

The attempts in Germany and to some degree in Austria to formulate some minimal curriculum of religious studies during the brief period of two hours a week had no influence at all on the way things were going in Galicia, for from the time of the failure of Hertz Homberg, the streams of spiritual influence from Western Galicia in matters of education were sealed off. Indeed, the serious attempts by the Israelite Alliance in Vienna to rectify the situation of religious education in Galicia took place a few years before I moved to Stanislawow. This organization wished to found a seminary for teachers of Jewish religion in Lwow. To this end, they turned to the large communities of Galicia and also to the official rabbis of these communities, and expressed their readiness to give over the complete supervision of this seminary to the Orthodox rabbis of the country. From my youth, I recall the visit of delegates of the Israelite Alliance to my grandfather Rabbi Hirsch Orenstein of holy blessed memory, and also the attempts that the leaders of the Lwow community, who were progressive and assimilationists, tried to exert over my grandfather to influence him in this matter. Until the outbreak of the last war, I had a long letter from my uncle the noble Nathan Kalir, the well known politician and representative of the parliament from Brody. The letter, in clear Hebrew, was written to his brother-in-law my grandfather. It attempted to demonstrate the need to forge an appropriate link between modern education that is taking hold in the Jewish camp, and religious and traditional education that was under the supervision of the rabbis. I also recall my pain during those day, for even though I was still a lad, I already understood the situation, and my heart ached over the situation of terrible neglect in the school when my grandfather pushed aside all of these recommendations and categorically refused to give his approval to any revolutionary institution such as a seminary for teachers of the Jewish religion. If my grandfather, who had proper European knowledge, took such a negative stance, both because he did not believe in the success of a solution that mixes general education with religious education and also because he knew that the Orthodox rabbis were lacking any readiness for this, it is easy to understand how distant the other Orthodox rabbis in Galicia were from this idea. It turned out that the government was the sole institution that took interest in this dismal question, due to legal requirements.

With respect to the aforementioned law, during those days the question arose as well regarding the representation of the Jewish religion in the central government educational committee of Galicia, which was the governing body of all matters of education in Galicia, and was completely under the influence of the Polish leadership. According to the law, every religious community had the right to send a representative to this committee, but this issue was greatly neglected in the Jewish communities of Galicia, which did not have a central organization that could act in their name. Therefore the government ordered that a representative of the Jewish religion be appointed. Of course, the Polish authorities searched through all nooks and crannies of Galician Jewry to find a trustworthy assimilationist for this position, upon whom they could depend from the Polish perspective. The sole candidate that was still able to be viewed as a delegate of the Jewish communities was Dr. Emil Bik, the head of the community of Lwow, who was an assimilationist by political inclination but still had some contact with matters of the Jewish religion. However even this Dr. Bik was not found to be sufficiently suitable in the eyes of the Galician rulers, even though he wanted this position very much. They finally selected Leon Sternbach, a professor in the University of Krakow and a well-known teacher of classical literature, who earned a name for himself in the academic world through his research in the Greek literature of the fathers of the Catholic Church fathers. Through this he won the appreciation of the Vatican, in whose library he worked for several years. This professor Sternbach was a great expert in his field, but his field of knowledge was very restricted and he had no experience in political affairs, especially in Jewish political affairs. When he rose to his position, he saw only one path in his work, which was a battle against Zionism and nationalist Judaism. Thus, the highest educational institution in Galicia became a foil to all activity and attempts to improve the Jewish situation within the government schools. Haters of Judaism and Zionism from among the teachers and Jewish communal activists gathered around the personage of Sternbach. Furthermore, all of these utilized these mottoes in order to curry favor in the eyes of the ruler and to thereby cover up their complete lack of knowledge, and in some cases, their base character traits.

The legal situation which was the cause of this development brought one positive phenomenon in the field of religious education during those years of the beginning of the 19th century[4]. At that time, a number of Galician natives left the rabbinical seminary in Vienna with Ph.D. degrees and rabbinical ordination. Some of them returned to their native country to search for appropriate postings. Since Galicia had only very few possibilities for modern rabbis, they turned to the teaching of religion. These were the first teachers that had appropriate training for this task, and they brought with them their energy and faithfulness for work in this neglected field. Even from a legal perspective, these were the only candidates who were qualified to teach in the high schools; therefore almost all of them received positions in the high schools. A few of them gathered in Lwow.

In this matter, I should mention the names of my friends Moshe Schur, Dov Ber Hausner, Meir Tauber, and Dr. Meir Gajer, and also Meir Balaban who came directly from the university in Vienna. Of course these young men, laden with the knowledge and will to engage in their work, attempted to introduce organized protocols into their teaching profession. However, they stumbled across difficulties with every step, from the government in general and from Professor Sternbach in particular. These difficulties grew when they attempted to establish a curriculum of study, and especially when, with the passage of time, Dr. Sternbach discovered their Zionistic inclinations. Many of the assimilationist parents in the city and to a greater degree the older teachers took action when a teacher of the Ph.D. rabbis appeared as dangerous competition for themselves. Nevertheless, this Lwow group succeeded in raising the moral and social status of teachers of religion, and forged the character of a teacher with higher education and full European culture, who earned his place within the ranks of the general teachers of the school and also earned the respect and attention of the students.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A bekishe is a long rabbinical or Hassidic frock typical of Eastern European Orthodox Jewry of that era. Return
  2. This is unusual, as this is not from the traditional Haftarah for the eighth day of Passover, which is from the Book of Isaiah. Return
  3. A reference to the stories in the Biblical book of Nehemia, where they built the walls of Jerusalem and simultaneously fended off the enemies. Return
  4. I suspect that this might be referring to the beginning of the 20th century, or to the end of the 19th century. Return
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