[English page 5]
by Marc Wieseltier
The Jew is haunted by the catastrophe of 1939-1945. Six million Jews lost their lives in Europe. The national psychology has been shaken. By nature and tradition an optimist, the Jew has become an easy prey to disillusion.
He cannot forget or forgive this tragic holocaust of our age, except by an impulse of faith unparalleled in history and by a will of greatness.
This book tells of the great deeds of Jews of our hometown Stryj, and this history will live for all time a perpetual monument after our dearest ones. It is a history of noble men who fought and suffered and persist in living so that our Nation might continue in a land of freedom ruled by free men.
This Yizkor Book of our hometown will add a new page, heretofore unwritten, in the history of the Jewish people.
The Benevolent Stryjer Fraternity consists of former Jewish inhabitants of the township of Stryj who arrived in the United States after World War 11. Having miraculously escaped brutal death at the hands of the Nazis, a small remnant of a once flourishing and populous Jewish community, settled in New York City environs banded together and founded in October 1958 the above named Fraternity.
Scattered over the tremendous expanse of the metropolitan area and neighboring cities and states, they felt a need to get together at least for festive occasions to see each other, to exchange news about friends and relatives in distant places, to comfort each other, to assist with advice and material help to those among us who may need it, to establish organized close contact with Irgun Olej Stryi who have settled in the State of Israel.
At the foundation meeting in October 1958, an executive committee was elected to guide the Fraternity.
The committee consists of:
Marc Wieseltier, President
Jonah Friedler, Vice-President
Sam Seliger, Vice-President
Edward Friedlander, Treasurer
David Kron, Secretary
What sparked lively activity among the membership, and occasioned many meetings and social get-togethers, was the idea of publishing a Yizkor Book in Israel consecrated as a memorial to our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, who succumbed to ruthless Nazi massacre during World War 11., and a history of the Jewish Community of our hometown Stryj since its inception many hundreds of years ago up to its last, dark clays during the Nazi years of extermination.
We have managed to establish relationship with our brotherly organization in Israel, and we hope, if needed, to be a help not only to the organization but to the State of Israel.
The United Stryjer Y.M.B.A. was organized on August 16, 1913 by:
Nathan Stark (D) First President
Dave Brumer (D) Former President
Henich Berger (D)
Max Heller (D) Former President
Kalmen Horowitz (D) Former President
Jacob Schachter (D) Former President
Henry Meltzer, Former President
Dr. Leo Rubin
The present officers of the United Stryjer Y.M.B.A. are:
From its inception the organization has continually come to the assistance of its Stryjer brethren. In 1915 the first Stryjer Relief Committee was founded to raise money to send to European families left destitute by the First World War. In 1933 the Stryjer Matzo Fund was set up by Reuben Fried and Abraham Sieger and for several years it supported the sending of Passover matzos to the poor families of Stryj. The end of the Second World War witnessed the reactivation of the Stryjer Relief Committee dedicated to coordinating the efforts of all Stryjer organizations to assist Stryjer refugees scattered throughout Europe. The Relief Committee, through CARE, sent hundreds of food packages and it also financed the construction of a house in Israel.
[English page 6]
by Morris Friedlander
The purpose was to create headquarters for Stryjer people to meet, to hear news from home, to help each other in need and at the same time to have their own place to congregate on Saturdays and Holy days.
The first President they elected was Mr. Gotthoffer, and then down the line to this day have been: "Schwartzer, Wecker, Becher, Chaim I. Eichel, Feldman, Gruber, Wanderer, Fink, Mittler, Judis, Schechter, Nussenblatt, Friedlander, S. Eichel, Lippman, Fairberg, Opper.
This organization was growing rapidly in membership. The first step was to provide the members and their families with burial ground in case of death, therefore a moderate piece of ground was purchased on Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.
In order to provide the members with burial expense and death benefits, they decided to join up as a branch in the order Brith Abraham, because the capital of the society was too small to carry that burden. Later in years when the capital and membership grew, they decided to withdraw from the Order and become an Independent society.
At that time there was in New York in existence another society by the name of "Chevra Anschei Zedek" of Stryjer people. The two societies came together and decided to merge in one. In that committee was: Gersliom Ast, M. Abner, Morris Darmstender, Moshe Wolf Fiedler, Berish Last, Louis Opper, Louis Wurstel. The decision was favorable to both sides and so it was created the "Independent Stryjer Benevolent Society with the provision that each member is entitled to: sick and shiva benefit, death benefit to $ 500, and burial ground.
They also did not forget their home town Stryj, and the people left behind, therefore every year before Pesach, a substantial sum of money as Muoth Chitim for Matzoth was sent to Stryj, for the distribution to needy families.
At the end of the World War Two, we organized a Stryjer Relief Committee, from the three Stryjer societies: The Independent Stryjer, The United Stryjer Young Men, and the Stryjer Ladies Society. The following were the members of this committee: Morris Friedlader, Chairman, Dr. Nathan Reichbach, Secretary, later Sam Uchteneger became secretary, Morris Darmstander, Abe Seiger, Charles Opper, Rubin Fried, David Kerner, Samuel Schoen, Max Zaum, Max Kleiner, Minnie Karnell, Gussie Weingarten, Bertha Baer.
This Committee functioned several years and sent thousands of packages of food and clothing and also money to the Stryjer refugees in concentration camps in Europe and in Israel, also to many others that we had information of their whereabouts.
At the same time the President of the Galicianer Verband, Mr. Sussman, went to Warsaw Poland as a delegate from the Joint, he cabled us that Stryjer people were there, naked and starving and that help was needed urgently. We immediately cabled back to him "one thousand dollars" for the distribution to the Stryjer people there. When he came back to America he gave us receipts for the amount of fifteen hundred and fifty dollars with which he had helped our landsleit there. We gave him the balance.
This Stryjer Relief committee also gave $300 for the adoption of a war orphan in the Krakau orphan home, which was taken care then by the Galicianer Verband.
We also gave $ 2,250 to the United Jewish Appeal for a housing unit in Israel, which was built by the "Amidar", in the name of the Stryjer landsleit in New York. When the refugee camps were evacuated this committee was dissolved.
With the birth of Medinat Israel our Independent Stryjer Benevolent Society took an active part in all undertakings that were functioning in New York for the help of Israel. We contribute every year about $500 to the United Jewish Appeal. We have already purchased from our treasury $13,000 Israel Bonds, exclusive of the individual members that buy Israel Bonds.
We also take an interest in local philanthropic organizations and the Yeshiva University in New York, with a yearly contribution.
The present officers of the Independent Stryjer Benevolent Society are as follows: Charles Opper, President, Max S. Lieberman, Vice President, Herman Schein, Treasurer, Morris Friedlander, Financial Secretary, Abraham Kriss, Recording Secretary, Jacob Ginsburg, Comptroller, Max Kleiner, Chairman of Cemetery, The trustees are: Charles Opper, I. Jonas Speciner, Morris Friedlander.
May the Almighty give long life to our society, to all our members, and to the people in Israel.
[English page 8]
by Dr. N. M. Gelber
In the year 1880 the total non-Jewish population in the entire Stryj District had amounted to 67,623, and that of the Jews to 10,382. Of these 7.515(11.1%) of the Christians lived in the towns and larger villages, with 6,383 (63.40/o) of the Jews. In 101 villages there were 2,537 (24.4%) of the Jews.
Ten years later, in 1890, there were 78,398 non-Jews and 12,744 Jews in the entire District. Of these, 10,429 Christians (13.3%) and 8,241 (64.5%) Jews lived in the towns and large villages, while 3,224 (25.3%) of the Jews lived in l00 villages.
In 1900 there were 96,194 Christians and 15,859 Jews, of whom 15,239 (15.8%) Christians and 10,742 (67.7%) Jews lived in the towns and large villages, and 4,295 (27%) Jews in 99 villages.
In the city of Stryj itself there had been in 1880 some 5,245 (41.5%) Jews out of a total population of 12,625. In 1890 the numbers were 6,572 Jews (39.8%) in a population of 16,515. For 1900 the figures were 8,647 Jews (37.2%) out of 23,205; and in 1910 there were 10,718 Jews (34.6%) in a population of 30,942.
Thus proportionately speaking the Jewish population had grown between 1880 and 1910 from 5,245 to 10,718. As compared with the total number of inhabitants, however, it must be remarked that during the period in question the proportion of Jews had declined from 41.5% in 1880 to 34.6% in 1910.
Between 1881 and 1910 the Polish population in Stryj increased by 260.3%, the Ruthenians by 130.5%, other nationalities by 31.8%, and the Jews by no more than 104.3'%,.
Real estate owned by Jews and registered at the Land Registry (Tabula) amounted to 55,963 hectares (63.8%) for the entire district in 1889. By 1902 it amounted to only 16,278 hectares (20.3%). This was a very appreciable reduction, and was clue to the peculiar economic conditions current in the District.
A change had also come about in the field of education. From the 'Sixties' onward there had been a constant increase in the number of Jews attending the general elementary and secondary schools. Most of the Jewish inhabitants used to send their children to school. In 1885 a total of 600 Jewish pupils attended all schools (including both elementary and secondary).
In 1910 the two secondary schools then in the town were attended by 447 Jews, out of a total of 1182 pupils in all. There were then 10 Jewish secondary school teachers, while a large proportion of the Jewish pupils came from out of town. In view of this fact, as well as the number of pupils without the means that would permit them to continue their studies, a special committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Fruchtmann was set up in 1908 for the purpose of building a Jewish Students' Home (Bursa Zydowska). Between 1908 and 1910 contributions were collected and a handsome building was erected, in which an average of 30 Jewish pupils were housed from 1910 until the outbreak of the First World War.
Beginnings of the Zionist Movement in Stryj
By the end of the 'Eighties some of the Jewish intellectuals were beginning to take an interest in Jewish national issues. The spread of Antisemitism, the events in Russia, the awakening of the smaller nationalities within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the lack of sympathy shown by certain Polish and German circles towards Jewish assimilation, made it clear to these Jewish intellectual circles that there was no point in trying to identify themselves with some alien people, and that the only effective step was to return to the bosom of their own people. As early as 1884-1885 a national movement had developed among the Jewish pupils attending the Gymnasiums (Secondary or High Schools). "Zionist" circles (though the term was not yet in use) were established whose members studied Jewish history and Hebrew, and engaged in debates which dealt with Jewish national and Zionist themes.
The vital spirit in all this was a pupil who had come from Tarnopol in 1883 after failing in examinations in the sixth form, and was now continuing his studies at Stryj. This pupil was Gershon Zipper. He established contact with the Zionist students at Lwów (Lemberg) and corresponded with Mordechai Ehrenpreis Feld, the author of the once famous Zionist anthem "Dort wo die Zeder" (Yonder where the Cedars ), and Abraham Korkis; and he regarded himself as their emissary in Stryj. During his period of studies he organised Jewish national activities in Stryj, which made an impression throughout the whole of Galicia.
At the Stryj Gymnasium, Jewish religious studies were not taught, and Jewish pupils were exempted from religious subjects. This state of affairs was actually against the law, but the Community Council treated it with absolutely superb indifference. Zipper organised demonstrations by the Jewish pupils and their parents, who went to the heads of the Community and compelled them to intercede with the National Educational Council for the appointment of a teacher of the Jewish religion. This step was supported by a petition signed by the parents of the pupils, and thanks to it the Council in 1886 appointed the Hebrew writer Isaac Aaron Bernfeld (1854-1930), brother of the famous Hebrew scholar and writer, Dr. Simeon Bernfeld, as teacher of Jewish religion for the schools of Stryj. Zipper also conducted propaganda for the national idea among the young Jews outside the Gymnasium. He continued with this after completing his secondary school studies and until June, 1890, when he went to Lwów University in order to study law.
Zionist work among the youth naturally had a positive effect, awakening an echo among Jewish intellectual circles as well, and first and foremost among the maskilim(readers and writers of the 19th Century Secular Hebrew Enlightenment literature), among whom there was in any case a recognizable turn in the same direction. In the German and Hebrew press these circles read what was taking place in Jewry elsewhere, and were informed about the beginnings of the national revival.
In 1887 a group of maskilim, headed by Dan Hacohen and Meir Abraham Stern, established the "Shoharei Tushia" Society for the purpose of spreading the national idea, supporting the new settlements in Eretz Israel and fostering the Hebrew language and literature.
This society, which was joined by 100 members, was headed by the maskilMoshe Stern, (one of the active communal workers of the city and a member of the Town Council, who achieved a great deal for Stryj and her Jewish population), David Goldberg and Patrach. Three years later all activities were suspended, and in 1891 a number of young men who were not satisfied with the leaders of the "Shoharei Tushia" Society founded another, which they called "Hayahadut", for the purpose of promoting the study of Hebrew literature. Under the impress of this split the General Meeting of "Shoharei Tushia" which had already been held on the 28th of November, 1890, resolved to change its name to "Haleumi". In its rules and regulations it provided that its chief purpose was to strengthen and disseminate the Jewish national consciousness among the Jews.
The Stryj Zionists maintained close contact with those of Lwów, who used to visit them and conduct programmatic debates. Dr. Mordechai Ehrenpreis, who participated in these discussions, relates in his "Recollections": "In the small and pleasant town of Stryj, on the banks of one of the tributaries of the Dniester, we had one of our most decisive victories among the intellectuals and Hebrew-reading youth. We quickly learned that we could rely completely on the support of our comrades there, and on their good will. Among those whom I came to know well personally were Ephraim Frisch who afterwards became a talented German writer, and a young Jewish merchant named Moshe Hornstein."
In addition to these two Societies, another, the "Admat Israel" Society, was founded in March 1891 on the initiative of Avigdor Mermelstein of Przemysl, with the purpose of popularizing the idea of settlement in Eretz Israel, and collecting money to support the tillers of the soil there. Fifty persons joined and Moshe Lipschitz was elected chairman. A year later another 150 members joined the Society. In November, 1891, little more than half a year after its establishment, the Society sent its Secretary, Meir Abraham Stern, to Eretz Israel in order to investigate the condition of the Jewish settlements and "to seek a place there" for setting up a Colony of Galician Jews. "Admat Israel" was the first Society in Galicia to send a representative of its own to Eretz Israel for the said purpose. After a visit which lasted a year, Stern came home and gave a detailed report. On the 24th of July. 1894, he passed away following a protracted illness, and in him died one of the most active members of the "Shoharei Tushia" and "Admat Israel" Societies.
In May 1892, Dr. Nathan Birnbaum made a propaganda tour of Galician towns, in the course of which he visited Stryj on the 24th of May. There he proposed to the members of the "Admat Israel" Society that they should join the Zion Association of Societies in Vienna. Moshe Lipschitz and Moshe Schoenfeld declared in his presence that undoubtedly the General Meeting to be held following the return of Meir Abraham Stem from Eretz Israel would adopt a resolution in that sense. It was actually adopted in due course, and "Admat Israel", which had originally dreamt of becoming a centre of Societies in Galicia for the settlement of Eretz Israel now became a branch of Zion in Vienna, and continued its small-scale activities in that fashion.
In November, 1894 Rabbi L. M. Landau and Adolf Stand spoke at a General Meeting of the Society, encouraging the members. The establishment of the new Societies led the "Shoharei Tushia", and in particular its Chairman Moshe Stern, to renew and regularize its own activities. An extraordinary General Meeting was held in 1892, and elected a new Committee composed of: Abraham Goldberg, Chairman; Michael Hornstein, Vice-Chairman; Mattitiahu Patrach, Secretary; A.J. Kris, Treasurer; Isaac Reissner; and A. Scheinfeld, Librarian. The Society began to conduct meetings and hold lectures which were addressed by speakers from Lwów, including Dr. Gershon Zipper, who was already known to and popular with the Jewish public in Stryj from the time of his nationalist activities while studying there.
The General Meeting held on the 24th of March, 1894 elected Moshe Stern, Chairman; David Goldberg, Vice-Chairman; M. Kerner, Treasurer; Jacob Ringel, Librarian; and S. Stern, L. Welker, Abraham Scheinfeld, P. Ringel, Michael Raff, Hirsch Scheinfeld, W. Last and H. Pfefferkorn as Committee. At this meeting it was resolved to alter the regulations of the Society, the formal character of which was general Jewish only, turn it into a national Zionist body and join the Jewish national party which already existed in Galicia with its centre in Lwów.
At that time the Socialist Movement also began its work among the masses. Polish workers had begun to organise themselves in Galicia from 1870 on. Boleslav Limnanowsky, and Czerbinsky, author of the Labour song "Czerwony Sztandard"', were the first organisers and preachers of the Socialist Movement among the Polish public. They were chiefly supported by Polish political emigress. Socialist organisations also began to appear here and there among the Ukrainians. They were established by the disciples of the Ukrainian writer and scholar A. Dragomanow. Ivan Franko and Michel Pavelo were the first pioneers.
Professionally organised Jewish workers appeared on the scene only at the beginning of the Nineties. Not as independent organisations, however, but within the framework of the Polish Social Democrat Movement. In 1891 Jewish workers were organised in the Polish Sita Society of Lwów, but within a little while independent societies of Jewish workers were being established. Among them were "Yad Hazaka" at Lwów, "Brüderlichkeit" at Cracow, "Freiheit" at Stanislaw and a Society at Kolomea.
On lst September, 1893, the Social Democrat Organisation in Galicia began to issue a fortnightly, "Der Arbeiter" in Yiddish, or, more correctly, German in Hebrew characters, under the editorship of Karl Nacher. From this journal we learn that a ferment among the workers was also beginning in Stryj at the Lipschitz Match Factory, because they were working there for 15-17 -hours a day.
Little by little Jewish workers in Stryj too began to organise their independent Society. In 1893 the first Society of Jewish workers was established there under the name "Brüderlichkeit". For official purposes it was a Society for the dissemination of culture (Bildungsverein). However, it had little real influence on the Jewish public and declined even more following the rise of the Poalei Zion Movement.
The political movement which gained the largest number of supporters among both the intellectuals and the Jewish masses was the Zionist movement. In virtue of the fact that Zionist societies had been established in most cities of Galicia, there soon arose the question of a common framework for them. In March 1891, at a Convention of "Zion" members in Lwów, Dr. Abraham Salz of Tarnow proposed to unite the societies of the country in a close territorial organisation for the purpose of uniform activity. To this end he suggested that a countrywide convention should be called for the end of 1891, and should be participated in by representatives of all the existent societies. In order to carry out this plan a special Committee was appointed, consisting of representatives of Lwów, Drobobycz and Stryj; the latter being Gershon Zipper. This Committee also prepared the Convention which in 1892 brought about the union of all Zionist Societies in Galicia within a single territorial framework. A programme was also prepared, and organisational and propaganda methods were decided on. The first Territorial Conference was called for 23-24 April 1893 on the initiative of the Lwów Zionists, with the participation of representatives of all then existent societies. The second Territorial Conference was held on 24 September 1894. The organisational foundations were laid down and fixed at these two gatherings. They were attended on behalf of the Stryj Zionists by M. Patrach, and by Abraham Stern who was elected to the Präsidium on both occasions.
The Zionist Societies made a considerable contribution to the increasing Jewish national consciousness of the younger generation, who organised in secret societies in order to master Hebrew and study Jewish history. Gymnasium graduates and University students in Stryj set up their own Society, whose representative participated in the first Students' Conference held on 25-26 July 1899 at Lwów. On this occasion the Stryj representative Juliusz Wurzel took an active part.
In the year 1903 the "Veritas" Academic Society (afterwards called "Emuna") joined the Association of Academic Societies other than Student Corporations in Austria. The Society exerted a considerable influence on the Jewish youth, and in 1912 joined the Zionist Organisation which was established at a Convention held in Drohobycz on 15th September.
An Organisation of Secondary School youngsters, "Bnei Zion", had been in existence at Stryj, from the end of the Nineteenth Century within the framework of the country wide "Ze'irei Zion" Association headed by Nathan Czaczkes (J. Kirton) and Moshe Frostig.
It was in 1908 that the process of differentiation first began to affect the Zionist youth. Under the influence of the Poalei Zion those students who supported the Poalei Zionist ideology began to set up their own societies within the framework of the country wide "Herut' Organisation. In 1911 Stryj had, a "Bnei Zion" circle containing 6 Ze'irei Zion branches, with 80 members and 5 Hebrew courses attended by 40 students. The "Safa Brura" Hebrew School and Club had been established in 1902.
In 1901 the Commercial Assistants Club, an Organisation of Zionist employees and workers, was set up and laid the foundations for the Poalei Zion movement in Stryj. In June 1903 the Club joined the national Organisation established by the "Ahva" Society of Lwów.
After the Mizrahi began to set up its branches in Galicia, a Mizrahi Society was founded in Stryj as well by Moshe Wundermann.
Following the visit of Rosa Pomeranz in 1898, a Women's Zionist Society was established and led by Dr. Helena Rosenman and Rachel Katz, who served as a member of the Stryj Municipal Council for some years. In 1910 the Society joined 'the National Organisation of Zionist Women. Dr. Helena Rosenman, representative of Stryj, spoke at the First Conference which met at Lwów on 27th February, 1910, dealing with the subject of Hebrew Kindergartens. She was also elected to the National Committee of the Association.
Between 1903 and 1906 the Stryj Zionist Societies came under the Lwów District Committee. From 1902 Zionist activities were conducted by Dr. Juliusz Wurzel, a lawyer who lived in the city until the outbreak of the First World War. At the elections to the Austrian Parliament in 1907 the Zionist Candidate was Dr. Abraham Salz of Tamow. In 1911 Stryj, like all the rest of Galicia, was affected by a wave of Jewish enthusiasm. Nobody who saw it will ever forget the devotion and support which the Jewish masses displayed for the Zionist Movement.
At that time the heads of the Zionist were Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Dr. Heinrich Buch, Dr. Wolf Schmorak and Dr. Michael Ringel. Election activities were directed by Dr. Wurzel, who was arrested and had his home searched; a very unusual proceeding in those days.
In the 1911 elections the Zionist Candidate, Dr. Leon Reich, got as far as restricted election with the P.P.S. Candidate Moraczewsky, in -spite of all the efforts of assimilationists to have him defeated at the preliminary polls. However, Dr. Reich was not elected because the assimilationists and their religious supporters preferred to vote for the P.P.S. candidate. In 1907 Dr. Salz received 1722 votes in Stryj, while in 1911 Dr. Reich received 1541 votes.
Very considerable changes had taken place in communal life since 1896. The academic intellectual group had grown, and occupied the key positions in public life. In 1896 there had been three Jewish lawyers named respectively Dr. Altman, Dr. Fink and Dr. Fruchtmann. In 1911, however, there were 16 Jewish lawyers, 2 Jewish surgeons and 8 other medical specialists.
After Dr. Fruchtmann completed his term of service as Mayor, four Christian mayors were elected in succession. Then once again came the turn of a Jew, the lawyer Dr. Juliusz Falk, who served for a number of years.
At that time the Community was headed by Lippe Halperin, David Halperin, Dr. Goldstein-Enzl (all of them descendants of Rabbi Enzl Cuzmer), Joseph Zvi Gelernter, and Dr. Wiesenberg between 1911-1914.
After Rabbi Hurwitz was appointed to the rabbinical office at Stanislawow no successor was appointed in Stryj. Following his departure from the city Reb Feivel Hertz of Glogow and Rabbi Jolles (son of the Hassidic rebbe Reb Meir of Sambor), of Moicisko were appointed members of the Beth-Din (Rabbinical Court). This led to many years of dissension within the community. In 1917 the step-nephew of Rabbi Hurwitz, Rabbi Eliezer ben Shlomo Ladir (1874-1932), was appointed rabbi in Stryj. He was a major scholar who wrote works on Talmudic themes, but was also devoted to poetry and published poems in Hebrew and German in which he gave expression to the love of Zion, the revival of the Jewish people and the beauty of Nature. His poems were dispersed in various journals and were never collected during his lifetime. However, his son published a volume of his German poems in Vienna after his death under the title "Gedichte". His Hebrew poems were also to have been published, but nothing came out of this.
Activities in respect of Hebrew eduaction and the spread of the Hebrew language were to be noted in the years 1908-1914. Dr. Max Bienenstock, Dr. Zvi Diesendruk and Jonah Gelernter organised the younger generation, set up courses for Hebrew study and established the "Ivriya" Club, while the main private Hebrew school was established by Moshe Wundermann. Active Hebrew teachers before the First World War included Chutriansky and Fuks, a refugee from Russia who had been one of the first members of the Jewish Self-Defence during the pogroms at Homel; M. A. Tennenblatt; Kuhn and Naphthali Siegel.
At the close of the Nineteenth and beginning of the Twentieth Centuries the Jews of Stryj produced a number of individuals who made valuable literary, cultural and scholarly contributions to the press. and in the fields of Jewish. scholarship and public affairs.
Ephraim Frisch, a noted Jewish author who wrote in German, was born in Stryj (1873) and spent his early years there. At the end of the Eighties he moved to Brody, where he studied at the German Gymnasium and joined the Zionist student group.
In 1892 the programmatic brochure of the Zionist students was published in Lwów under the Polish title: Jakim byc powiniem program mlodzieiy zydowskiej. In it work for Eretz Israel was made basic for Zionist activities.
Frisch then published an essay in Dr. Nathan Birnbaum's "Selbstemanzipation" in which he attacked the "phraseology" of the brochure, which spoke so much of settlement in Eretz Israel, Zion, etc. without knowing that it was impossible to begin with settlement as though that were the national idea; and without recognising that as long as no steps were taken to introduce far-reaching reforms within the communities there was no prospect of any kind of improvement.
In his opinion it was necessary to reckon with the fact that steps must first be taken to improve the social condition of the Jewish proletariat which was undergoing a steady numerical increase in Galicia; and in view of the control exerted by the Orthodox and the Assimilationists it was necessary to operate in the field of culture, and disseminate enlightenment among the masses. Despite his opposition to the very approach of the brochure he could not disregard the nature of the internal and external programme, which was based on scientific and moral foundations and drew the necessary conclusions from the degraded and impoverished conditions in which the Jews of Galicia were living. At the end of his essay he went out of his way to stress the brochure's positive aspects.
From Brody Frisch proceeded to Vienna and soon after went to Berlin, where he achieved a reputation as a writer and literary critic. In spite of his activities in the field of German literature he always regarded himself as a full Jewish nationalist and supported the Zionist Movement. In 1902 he published his novel "Das Verlöbnis" (The Engagement) which dealt with Galician Jewish life. In 1905 he worked for Max Reinhardt as a dramaturge. Some years later, in 1910, he became famous through his book "Von der Kunst des Theaters" (1910) and his novel "Die Kantine" dealing with a Jewish theme from Galicia. From 1911 until 1925 he published a political and literary monthly called "Der Neue Merkur" in Munich. In this monthly he published an essay in 1921 entitled "Jüdische Aufzeichnungen" (Jewish Notes) and a novel entitled "Zenobi" in 1927, which dealt with Austria of the days before the First World War.
Feiga Frisch, his wife (1878-?), who was born in Russia, was also a well known writer, and in particular translated from Russian to German such authors as Concharov, Turgenieff, Saltikov-Shchedrin, Chekhov, Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, etc.
Of Hebrew writers in Stryj, mention should be made of Isaac Aaron Bernfeld (1854-1930). He was born in Tysmienice, to be sure, but spent most of his life in Stryj. For 44 years he was instructor in religion at the secondary Schools there. His father, Moshe, who had been one of the first maskilim in Tysmienice and Stanislawow, had provided Isaac Aaron and his older brother, the better-known scholar Simeon Bernfeld, with a traditional education at home which, however, also included a thorough secular and general background. Politically speaking Isaac Bernfeld tended towards a mild assimilation among the Polish majority. In his opinion the Jews ought to acquire the Polish language. Nevertheless he regarded the existence of the Hebrew language as the only possession which could preserve the Jewish people and its culture.
In the years 1881-1885 he edited the Hebrew section "Hamazkir" of the Polish journal "Oiczyzna", which was published in Lwów by the Asismilationist Society headed by Dr. Bernhard Goldmann and Dr. Alfred Nossig. After the measures organised by Gershon Zipper for the introduction of the teaching of Jewish religion in the Stryj secondary schools, Isaac Aaron Bernfeld was appointed teacher of the subject and continued to serve in that capacity for the rest of his life. Owing to his external appearance he could never control his pupils. They laughed at him, though he was a considerable scholar and had something to tell the wild young gymnasiasts, if only they had been prepared to listen. While he was still editor of "Hamazkir" he wrote articles in "Hamaggid", "Hakol", "Hamelitz" and "Hatzefira" on the situation and problems of the Jews of Galicia, particularly in respect of education and schools. He also wrote a Yiddish brochure on "Die Kleinstetldige Assefa", in which he demanded the establishment of Jewish schools on modern foundations adapted to the needs of the times.
He prepared a Hebrew translation of Abraham Berliner's work, "Jewish Life in Germany in the Middle Ages" which was published by the Ahiassaf Company in Warsaw in 1898; and "Abot" into Polish (published in Drohobycz, 1898). His main interest lay in the study of the Hebrew language. In 1926 he published a Hebrew-Polish Dictionary to which he devoted much labour. He also wrote a Grammar of the Hebrew Language in Polish, and prepared a Polish translation of the Mishna; which, however, he never saw in print.
When referring to Jewish teachers and writers who worked in Stryj, mention should be made of Dr. Max Bienenstock (1881-1923), who taught at the Gymnasium in 1912 and who, during the period of the West Ukrainian Republic, organised a Hebrew educational network together with Naphtali Siegel. After the Poles took Stryj in 1919 he was arrested because of his Zionist activities and his earlier contacts with the Ukrainian authorities. Following a trial he was released, but was dismissed from his post as teacher in the Government Gymnasium.
Bienenstock was a native of Tarnow, and co mpleted his studies at the Cracow University. From 1902 onwards he was actively engaged in Zionist work, and became known as one of the fathers of the Poalei Zion Movement in Galicia. He wrote essays and articles in the spirit of the Zionist Socialists, and published studies in German and Polish on such literary themes as 'The Influence of German Literature on the poetic works of Slowacki" (1910), "Hebbel and Heine" (1913) and "The artistic Views of Ibsen" (1913). His book "Das Judenthum in Heines Dichtungen" (Judaism in Heine's Literary Works) is particularly well-known. He translated Krasinski's "Nieboska Komedja" into German, and also the "Sefer Yizkor" (Memorial Book) to the Shomrim who fell in Eretz Israel before the First World War. In addition he wrote in Yiddish on the problems of Yiddish Literature, and participated in the miscellanies "Ringen" published in Lwów, and "Milgroim" in Berlin. During his period of educational work in Stryj he continued his Zionist activities in spite of the attitude of the authorities. From 1918 on he directed the Jewish Gymnasium in Lwów, where he headed the Hitahdut Organisation. In 1922 he was elected to the Polish Senate from the Zionist list, but passed away during the following year.
The well-known Hebrew writer and teacher Eliezer Me'ir Lipschitz was also a native of Stryj, where he was born on 5th November 1879 at the home of his father Yom Tov Lipschitz, one of the first Hovevei Zion in Galicia and owner of a match factory at Skole. He received a traditional Jewish upbringing, and acquired a very wide general education besides a lifelong devotion to Jewish studies. When his parents moved to Lwów he studied with the sages Rabbi Isaac Stekeles and Reb Shlomo Buber, the grandfather of Professor Martin Buber. In Lwów he was in contact with the maskilim and Zionist youth who were headed by Mordecbai Ehrenpreis, Joshua Thon, Mordechai Braude and Shlomo Schiller. He was one of the first to begin speaking Hebrew as a living Ianguage, and gathered round him a circle of young men who introduced the Sephardic or Eretz Israel pronunciation of the language.
After marrying Dinah Reitzes, who also knew Hebrew, he became a merchant and his home, in which Hebrew only was spoken, became one of the centres of the Hebrew Movement in Galicia.
In Lwów he set up a Hebrew Teachers' Seminary together with Zvi Karl, and thanks to his initiative "Ivriya" Clubs were established in Lwów and the neighbouring towns. His was a major influence in introducing Hebrew as a vernacular, disseminating Hebrew literature and improving Hebrew style. In 1904 he published his study of Jacob Samuel Bock in the "Hermon" Hebrew Almanac, which appeared in Lwów under the editorship of Gershom Bader. He subsequently published studies in the History of Hebrew culture and literature in the Hebrew monthly "Hashiloah". It was his aspiration to devote himself to pedagogical and literary work. He therefore acceded to the proposal of the "Ezra" Society in Berlin and became a teacher at the latter's Hebrew Teachers' Seminary in Jerusalem, to which he proceeded in 1910.
In Jerusalem he was active in public life and devoted himself to his scholarly studies as well, publishing essays in due course in "Hatekufa" and in journals which appeared in Eretz Israel. He called for the establishment of Hebrew educational institutions based on the traditional foundations that characterised the old-fashioned 'Heder", in which sacred studies would be central and secular subjects peripheral.
During the First World War he was arrested by the Turks and exiled to Damascus, but was liberated as an Austrian subject and compelled to leave the country. He proceeded to Berlin, where he published his little work "Vom Lebendigen Hebräisch" (From the Living Hebrew) ' in 1923. In 1919 he returned to Eretz Israel, where he was appointed the head of the Central Teachers' Seminary of the educational network conducted under the auspices of the Mizrahi (Religious Zionist Movement). The institution developed and expanded under his direction, and he established a model elementary school for training the students and graduates of his Seminary. In the course of time he also added a gymnasium.
For some years he likewise acted as Inspector of the schools conducted by the religious current in the Yishuv, and did much to develop the pedagogical side of the religious educational system.
The essays he published in the press were noteworthy for their beautiful style. His better-known works include: A monograph on Rashi (Warsaw 1912); The Mishna (Jaffa 1922), which also appeared in German in Berlin (1919); a study of the Heder (Hatekufa, Vol. 7); "Conversations" on religious themes under the nom de plume Azariah ibn Bezalel; essays on educational questions (Hashiloah, Vols, 22, 37); and on Agnon (Hashiloah, Vol. 22), which also appeared as a separate volume, Berlin 1920.
All his life long he laboured to unify Jewish education on a basis of the Torah and modem general knowledge.
He passed away in Jerusalem on 24th. Tammuz 5706 (1946).
Among Hebrew writers of the more recent generation mention must be made of Dr. Zvi Diesendruck 1890-1941). He came from a well-to-do family, and his father Yehuda Leib, a Czortkow Hassid, educated him in the spirit of tradition and Hassidim at the klois (conventicle) of Stryj's famous scholar Reb Hirsch Wolff. However, his son who was a prodigy gradually became more free in spirit, and at night he would conceal secular works under the large folios of the Talmud. Zionist students at the gymnasium gave him lessons and prepared him for the gymnasium examinations.
While he was still in Stryj he took part in the activities of the Galician Hebrew Movement, and together with his friend Jonah Gelernter he established the Ivriva Club. In 1909 he left Stryj and proceeded to Vienna, where he matriculated and studied philosophy and classical languages at the University. He was the pupil of the two well-known professors of philosophy, Steher and Jodl. In 1912 he went to Eretz Israel where he spent a year as a teacher. From 1913 until 1916 he taught in Berlin, and then served in the Austrian army. After the close of the First World War he settled in Vienna, where he became a teacher of Philosophy and Hebrew literature at the Hebrew Pedagogical Institute headed by Professor Dr. Zvi Peretz Chajes. In 1922 he received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. From 1925 until 1927 he taught at the Rabbinical Seminary of Dr. Stephen Wise in New York, and was then invited to be lecturer in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University. After two years, however, he left Eretz Israel and was appointed Professor at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnatti, to replace Professor Dr. David Neumark. He was also the vice-chairman of the American Academy of Jewish Research, and editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual.
He had already commenced his research activities before the First World War. His first essay was published in Gershon Bader's journal "Haet" (Lwów 1906). He contributed to "Hashiloah", where he published his first philosophical study, and later to "Revivim" edited by J. H. Brenner and G. Schofmann in Lwów, also to "Haolam", and "Hatekufa". In the years 1918-1919 he issued the monthly "Gevulot" in Vienna together with G. Schoffmann.
He translated Plato's Phaedrus, Gorgias, Crito and Republic from Greek into Hebrew for the Stybel Publishing Company.
His German works included: Struktur und Charakter des Platonischen Phaidros, Vienna, 1927 (Structure and Character of Plato's Phaedrus); and Maimonides Lehre von der Prophetie (Maimonides' Doctrine of Prophecy, New York, 1927). In the Israel Abrahams Memorial Volume he published: Die Teleologie bei Maimonides (Teleology in Maimonides). In the Hebrew Union College Annual College 1928 he contributed: Samuel and Moses ibn Tibbon on Maimonides' Theory of Providence; and subsequently: The Philosophy of Maimonides' Theory of Negation of Privation (proceedings TVI 1934-1935).
Diesendruck had a deep comprehension of philosophical problems and could handle them in a clear and exact Hebrew style. He was one of the deepest research students of our new literature.
Jonah Gelernter (born in Stryj 1889) worked in the Hebrew Movement of Stryj and Vienna together with Zvi Diesendruck. He published stories and essays in the Hebrew press ("Hamizpeh" and "Hayom"). In Vienna he devoted himself to Hebrew teaching. Between the years 1923 and 1938 he taught Hebrew at the Chajes Jewish Gymnasium. In Vienna he issued a monthly "Devarenu" and headed the Histadrut Ivrit. Following the Nazi invasion of Austria he escaped to Paris, where he was murdered by the Nazis in 1941.
Dr. Abraham Jacob Braver, the noted historian and geographer, was born in Stryj on 4th Nissan 5644 (1884), and studied at the gymnasium there. After completing his studies at the Vienna University and receiving his doctorate there, he taught at the Tarnopol Gymnasium in 1910-1911. He came to Eretz Israel in 1912 and became a teacher at the Teachers' Seminary founded by the Ezra Society of Berlin (1912-1914). In the years 1914-1918 he taught in Salonika and Constantinople, and in 1920 he returned to Eretz Israel again to teach at the Teachers' Seminary. He commenced his scholarly publications with an essay in the "Kwartalnik Historyczny" Quarterly (1907) on Fergen, the first Polish Commissioner for Galicia. In 1910 he published a work in Vienna on "Galizien wie es an Oesterreich kam" (How Galicia came to Austria) which was received with considerable approval by historical circles in Austria. He also published a valuable Hebrew study in "Hashiloah" (Vol. 23) on "The Emperor Joseph 11 and the Jews of Galicia". While in Tarnopol he found a manuscript in the Perl Library by the. well-known eighteenth-century figure Ber of Bolechow, entitled "Divrei Bina" (Words of Understanding), dealing with Jacob Frank the sectary and the famous debate held between the Frankists and representatives of the Jewish community at Lwów in 1759. This he published in "Hashiloah" under the title "A new Hebrew Source on the Frankists".
In Eretz Israel he devoted himself to the geography of the country, and published many studies in this field. His standard work on this subject, "Haaretz" (The Land) has gone into a large number of editions.
His father Michael ben Moshe Braver 18 62 -1949), who was a well-known writer on rabbinical subjects, lived in Stryj between 1882 and 1902 and took an active part in communal affairs. While in Stryj he contributed to "Ivri Anochi", "Hamizpeh" and "Mahazikei Hadat".
Among the younger communal workers of Stryj mention should be made of Dr. Abraham Insler (1893-1938), who received a non-religious liberal education at his home, but at the Gymnasium joined a Zionist circle and studied Hebrew, Yiddish and Jewish history. He represented the Zionist Gymnasiast youth at the country wide conferences of "Ze'irei Zion" which were held in secret every year at Lwów, and made his mark there with his addresses and lectures. After matriculating he studied law at the Lwów and Vienna Universities and enthusiastically engaged in Zionist activities. He served as chairman of the "Emuna" Academic Society in Stryj, and was one of the founders of the Academic Zionist Federation (HAZ). He published articles on current problems in the Polish Zionist monthlies "Hamoriah" and "Hashahar". At the commencement of the First World War he proceeded to Vienna, where he became an assistant of Dr. Nathan Birnbaum in the "Juedisches Kriegs-Archive" (Jewish War Archives).
On 1918 he returned to Stryj where he led active national workers, organised the National Committee and headed all public activities of the Jewish population.
When the daily "Chwila" was started in Lwów in 1921 he joined the staff. He was elected member of the East Galician Zionist Executive, and was a member of the Polish Sejm (Parliament) 1922-1927. At the Jewish Sejm Members' Club in Warsaw he joined the Isaac Gruenbaum group, which led to differences of opinion between him and the Zionist Executive in Lwów. In 1925 he was elected as Community Chairman in Stryj, but resigned as he then moved to Lwów. In Galicia he established the Radical Zionist Group founded by Isaac Gruenbaum, and disregarded the resolution of the Galician Zionists by supporting the Minorities Bloc of the Polish Sejm in 1928. He was re-elected and remained in the Sejm until 1930, taking an active part in the administrative and legal committees. In 1931-1932 he edited the Warsaw Zionist daily "Nowe Slowo".
Following differences of opinion with the management of the daily he left Warsaw and began to publish the weekly "Opinja" in Lwów. This was followed by "Nasza Opinja". which was marked by its high literary and publicist level and standing.
As a publicist Insler was marked by a high political level and his clear grasp of the problems with which he dealt in his essays.
Two fundamental works by Dr. Insler revealed the anti-Jewish factors and background of the pogrom which took place in Lwów in November 1918, and was organised by the Poles in strictly, military fashion. These works, "Dokumenty" and "Legendy i fakty", Lwów 1937), clearly demonstrated the part played by the Polish army in the pogrom, and were banned by the Polish Government. Dr. Insler also published a monograph in Polish on Dr. Gershon Zipper (1923).
Dr. Tulo Naphtali Nussenblatt was a member of the "Bnei Zion" Gymnasium Zionist circle founded by Dr. Insler. He later joined "Hashomer", from which the "Hashomer Hatza'ir" Movement developed after the First World War, during which he was an officer in the Austrian army, was wounded at the Front and was decorated.
After the War he settled in Vienna, studied law and obtained a doctorate. Instead of devoting himself to his profession he engaged in literary and publicist activities, specialising in the period and personal history of Dr. Theodore Herzl. He collected much material and published essays and studies in the Zionist press and miscellanies. In 1929 he published his first volume: Zeitgenossen ueber Herzl (Bruenn) (Contemporaries on Herzl). He collected the reminiscences of Herzl's contemporaries in his book, "Ein Volk unterwegs zum Frieden" (Vienna 1933) (A Nation en route to peace). He also published valuable material dealing with the political activity of Dr. Herzl, particularly at the time of the Hague Peace Conference of 1899.
In 1937 he began to issue an annual in Vienna, which was devoted to the study of the history of Herzl and the Zionist Movement, under the title, "Theodor Herzl Jahrbuch". However, he succeeded in publishing only the first volume, containing hitherto unknown material and historical essays on Dr. Herzl and the early days of the Zionist Movement.
After the Nazi entry into Austria he escaped to Poland, settling at Dombrowa-Gornice near Bendin, where his son-in-law lived. During the Second World War he moved to Warsaw and took an active part in Ghetto life and also in underground activities.
In September 1942 he was kidnapped by the Germans, who took him to one of the closed camps in the Lublin district where he was murdered.
Dr. Nussenblatt, who was a collector, gathered a large collection of letters
and manuscripts by Dr. Herzl. All this material was lost in the Warsaw Ghetto.
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