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[English page 19]

Stryj Between the Two World Wars

by Dr. Natan Kudish

Stryj during the First World War, 1914 – 1918:

During the Tsarist Russian invasion of Galicia, 1914-1915, many Jews fled from Stryj westwards to Czechovakia, Hungary, and in particular – Vienna. However, the great majority stayed in the city, where they suffered greatly at the hands of the Russians. A Committee was set up to represent the population vis-a-vis the military occupation authorities. When the Russians retreated in 1915 they took a number of Jews with them as "hostages".

The Austro-Hungarian Empire began to collapse in Winter 1917 – 1918. Strikes and hunger demonstrations were held throughout the entire Imperial territories. In Stryj the Hunger Demonstration was held after the Passover. The local Jews mobilised a self-defence force of 40 men from various parties and academic societies. The Polish and Ukrainian demonstrators, including many members of the underworld, passed along Potocki Street towards the avenue that leads to the railway station, while the self-defence men kept level with them on the pavements. The demonstrators did not touch any of the Christian shops they passed, but when they reached the avenue they attacked the Jewish kiosk owned by Reinhartz. Thereupon the sticks of the Jewish self-defence men came down on their heads. The startled rioters promptly retreated. The self-defence group also protected the Jews of Stryj during the period of confusion which accompanied the passage of authority from the Austrians to the Ukrainians in 1918.

 

Institutions and Societies

The Community (Kehilla):

Until 1918 the affairs of the Stryj Community were conducted by pamassim (synagogue and congregational presidents) and local notables. From the Mid-Nineteenth century the heads of the community were: Lippe Halperin, David Halperin, Zelik Borak, Isaac Sheinfeld, Abraham Luft, Dr. Fichner and Dr. Wiesenberg. After the downfall of Austria, Stryj was included within the "West Ukrainian State" the Government of which proclaimed national equal rights for all minorities. The Stryj Zionists then won community control from the Assimilationists, and a Jewish National Council (Jüdischer Nationalrat) was set up containing 48 representatives of all parties. Zionist: Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Dr. Zeev Presser, Dr. Morclechai Kaufman, Dr. S. Wandell, Dr. Rosmann, Professor Maks Bienenstock, Professor Spät, Dr. Norbert Schiff, Shalom Reich, Naphtali Siegel, Magister Sternberg, the teacher Tauber, Rachel Katz, Evelina Apfelstein, M. Wohlmut, Berel Stern, Ben-Zion Radler, Jacob Buksbaum, Shmuel Shenbach, Leibush Pickholz, Shmuel Ginsburg. Poalei Zion: Levi Opper, Abraham Kaufmann, Berel Friedman, Shlomo Rossler, Betty Friedman. Economic organisations and societies: Abraham Levin, Israel Klieger, Davidman. Religious bodies (synagogues): Haim Redler, Shalom Stern, Shmuel Klein, Shlomo Garfunkel, Abraham Egid, Moidel Fritsch, Zvi Fefferbaum. The Bund: Israel Dornfeld, Isaiah Rossler, Moshe Wagman, Nathan Welker, Vove Kenigsberg, Benjamin Ber, Leib Tepper, Fanny Horowitz, Zvi Akser.

In February 1919 the Poles occupied the city. The composition of the National Council was almost identical with that elected during the period of Ukrainian rule. However, the Polish authorities did not view the rise of the Jewish National Movement with approval, and appointed P. Begleiter as head of the Community. After two years under his leadership all the national parties elected the following Community Council: Dr. Z. Presser, Dr. M. Kaufmann, Magister Sternberg, Zvi Krampner, Abraham Apfelgruen, Leibush Pickholz, Shalom Stern, Abraham Levin, Wolf Spiegel, Joseph Leibovitz, Shalom Schwartz, Shlomo Garfunkel, Israel Dornfeld and Nathan Welker.

In 1924 the first elections to the Kehilia were held and led to a victory for the Zionist lists. The Kehilla head elected was Dr. lnsler; but the Polish authorities cancelled the legal elections, and new ones were announced in 1925. Once again the Zionist list triumphed, with the election of Dr. Z. Presser, Magister Abba Sternberg, Dr. N. Schiff, Zvi Krampner, Leibush Pickhoiz, EleazarApfelgruen, ShmuelKlein, Israel Dornfeld and Shalom Stern. The Agudas Israel was defeated. Proportional elections to the Kehilla were held for the first time in 1928, and as in subsequent ones of 1929 and 1932 the greater part of the Jewish population voted for the Zionist lists and against the Assimilationists and the ultra-religious groups. In 1936 the community was headed by Dr. Presser, with Dr. Mishel as vice-chairman, Benjamin Klein as Council Chairman and Israel Zeidman as vice-chairman. However, there were differences of opinion with regard to the choice of a new rabbi after the death of Rabbi Ladier; and the authorities entrusted the Kehilla to those who were prepared to do what was wanted by the Polish District Commissioner. The Jewish public did not submit to this arbitrary appointment and demonstrated its support of the Kehilla Executive headed by Dr. Presser. This was the last Community Council of Stryj Jewry.

The “Safa Brura” Hebrew School:

One of the signs of the spiritual revival at the beginning of the 20th. century in our town was the opening of a Hebrew School for Jewish children. The first teachers were Axelrod, B. Fuks from Russia, Sapirstein, Hofenbartel, Chotrinsky, M. Wundermann, Tennenblatt and Naftali Siegel. Following the victory of the Zionist Movement after the First World War, the school was fitted into the framework of the Hebrew School system set up all over Poland. The number of pupils increased by hundreds, and the standard of studies also improved. Though the school passed through some critical periods, the devotion of the teachers M. Helfgott, Shapira and David Kom, and the activity of the communal workers Moshe Spiegel, Baruch Neumann, Dr. S. Wandel, Dr. Roth, Jonah Friedler and the treasurer Apfelgruen enabled it to fulfil its educational functions. The Catastrophe brought this source of the national revival to an end as well.

The Ivriya Society:

Hebrew began to be spoken by youngsters of all sections and circles of the community. At the close of the First World War an "lvriya" Society was founded in Stryj, as in so many other towns of Galicia. The Society met at the home of Benjamin Stern in the "Rynek". Lectures and discussions were held on subjects and problems of old and new Hebrew literature. The first Hebrew Library was established, and spread the knowledge of Hebrew among the student and working youth. The founders and pioneers of the Society were Naphtali Siegel, Levi Teitler, Isaac Sturmlauf, Rachel Altbauer, Yocheved Goldberg, Sarah Neubauer, Ben-David Schwartz, Aryeh Derfler, Shalom Reich, Dr. Zvi Diesendruk, Zvi Gelernter, H. David Korn, Isaac Schorr, Aryeh Sachar, Joseph Richter, Mrs. Seif, Joshua Tileman, Dr. Joseph Schuster, (Shilo), Joshua 0berländer, Dr. Nathan Kudisch, Jonah Friedler, (now vice-president of the Benevolent Stryjer Fraternity, N.Y.), Naphtali Gelernter, Moshe Meller, Aron Meller, Moshe Eisenstein, Isaac Nussenblatt, Isaac Silberschlag, Jacob Stark, Jacob Zeman, Moshe Steiner, Pessah Stark, Meisels, Esther Altbauer and Avigdor Rotfeld.


The Academic Societies

From the commencement of the Twentieth Century an increasing number of boys and girls were sent to the secondary schools and the universities by their parents. Former pupils of the Stryj secondary schools included such outstanding Zionist figures as Dr. Gershon Zipper, Senator Michael Ringel, Dr. Abraham Insler and Dr. Emil Schmorak. With the increasing maturity of the National Movement, Jewish academic student societies were set up in Galicia. Even before the First World War an academic society called "Veritas" had been founded in Stryj. After the War there was set up, in addition to the "Emuna" (formerly "Veritas") Society, the further societies Hebronia, Kadima, Makkabia and Z.A.S.; the latter being a Society of Zionist Socialist Students. Almost all the Jewish academic youth of the town belonged to one or other of these. After 1926 all these societies became Corporations, although girls were also accepted as members.Members acquired Jewish culture in addition to the general education obtained at the Government institutions. Their sense of national consciousness was deepened, their physical strength increased thanks to sports activities, and their sense of national pride and self-respect was fostered. The members of the "Emuna" Society came from all the popular and Zionist parties.

The presidents of the "Emuna" Society and its initial members were Dr. M. Ringel and Dr. A. Insier, who were followed by: Dr. Rosenzweig, the writer Mark Scherlag, Dr. N. Schiff, D. M. Kaufmann, Dr. I. Reich, Magister K. Einhorn, Mag. Selinger, Mag. Ingber and others. The society was headed by the Senior and three co-Seniors, and there were various active committees. Active members and office-holders were Mark Hurwitz, Leon Sternberg, Isaar-Feller, Israel Weidenfeld, Joseph Ehrman, Shmuel Spiegel, Moshe Nagler, Judah Wiesenfelcl, Leon Hubel, Henryk Wolfinger, Lila Grossmann, Minna Marbach, Frieda Reich, Lugia Bermann, Leib Pilz, Adolf Zehngebot, Asher Zehngebot, Otto Friedlander, Jacob Friedlander, Rena Lindner, Aaron Hoffmann, Reuben Hoffmann, David Hubel, Abraham and Shmuel Marbach, lzchak Nussenblatt, Meir Borer, Joseph Friedlaender.

The Hebronia Society was close to the Revisionist Movement in its ideology. When it was founded it was headed by Joseph Friediaender, First Senior, Joshua Hazelnuss, Secretary and "Fuchsmajor" (Chief of New members,who were called "foxes"), M. Borer, co-Senior, Ephraim Fromm, Emmanuel Zoldan, Alexander Zoldan, Klemens Lustig, Clara Bleiberg, Minna Wechsler, Henia Nagler, Malka Rudik, Rosa Neumann, Rosa Lentz, Genia Grossmann, Shalom Goldberg, Michael Garfunkel, Karol Einhorn, Icchak Nussenblatt, Leon Arnold and Moshe Steiner.

Kadima, the second academic society, was founded in 1922, and its membership increased from year to year. This wasthe golden age of the Jewish academic corporations in Poland. Kadima participated in all the activities and aims of Zionist circles in Stryj. Special mention should be made of the active members of the society who were martyred, and also those who were saved and have survived. Kadima's Seniors were Dunek Sander, Bernard Baumann, Srulik Kudisch, Wolff Koppel, Uzek Ber, Filko Redler, Co-seniors were M. Lerik, Hugo Bonum, The "Fuchsmajoren" were Yuzek Ekert, Marek Wieseltier (now President of the Benevolent Stryjer Fraternity N.Y.) and Henek Hammermann.

The Z. A. S. S.:

The year 1931 saw the establishment of the Zionist Socialist Academic Society of the Hitahdut Party. Its members organised and based their activities on the standards of the Israel Labour Movement and the Mifleget Poalei Eretz Israel, or Mapai Party. The initiators were: Dr. Azriel Eisenstein, Dr. Ada Bar-lev-Klein, Dr. Moshe Bar-lev-Reinhartz.

Many members of the Z. A. S. S. proceeded to Eretz Israel in due course. The active members were: Klara Seidman, Henek Mayer, Mandek Pritzhand, Moshe Hauptmann, Anda Buchman, Salka Wohlmann, Ruzka Neimann, Belka Vogel, Lea Meltzer-Hauptmann, Loncia Wolf-Rotfelcl, etc.

Society of Friends of the Hebrew University:

The local institutions of the Jewish national spiritual revival included the Society of Friends of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It should be noted that Stryj was the first provincial city in Galicia to establish such a Society; and its activities were crowned with success.

Committee for the Rescue of German Jews:

In 1938, when the Nazis cruelly drove the Jews of Polish origin in the Reich back to Poland, several dozen refugees arrived in Stryj. They were aided by the Committee together with the community.

Toynbee Hall:

A branch of the Education Movement was active in our town, and had lecture halls which were known as "Toynbee Hall" after the centre in East London. These halls served as a centre for the dissemination of national education, Jewish knowledge and scholarship, and Zionist theory among extensive circles in the city.

 

WIZO:

In 1929 a branch of WIZO (Women's International Zionist Organisation) was established under the chairmanship of the talented and devoted communal worker Mrs. Rachel Katz, and won Jewish women to action for the Zionist idea. During the final years Dr. Rosmarin and Mrs. Kaufmann were also active there.

The Amateur Theatre:

The Yiddish Popular Theatre Movement developed in Poland and Russia early in the Twentieth Century. Dramatic groups of young men and women, lovers of the Yiddish Theatre, were set up in every large and small town.

In Stryj the Dramatic Circle was founded by Aaron Hauptman, the son of Reb ltshe Shohet. The amateur actors were: Mordechai Langer, Adler, Elijah Hauptmann, Shiman Eckstein, Hannah Leibovitch, Etka Wagner, Salka Sperling, Chippe Wunderman, Salka Waldman-Schwalb, Haya Behr. The Producer was Aaron Hauptman, Scenic Painter Berl Stern, and Prompter Moshe Katz.

The First World War interrupted the Circle's activities, which were renewed in 1917 when fresh members joined: Mania Igra, Monderer, Seidenfrau, Buszko Apfelgruen, Dr. Meller, Dr. Lieberman, Dr. Singer. The producers were now Professor Max Bienenstock and his wife.

The Beit Ha'am or People's Forum:

In 1930 a Beit Ha'am or People's Forum was set up in the town in addition to the other charitable and public institutions. It was founded by the outstanding public figure Dr. Presser. The members of the first committee were: Tzeler, Apfelgruen, Diamant, Kindler, Dr. Kohn, Kreisberg, Klueger, Haim Meyersohn, M. Spiegel, Stern, Weinreb, and Wohlmut. The Beit Ha'am Society received a plot of land from the philanthropist Adolf Auerbach and resolved to erect a central building for various institutions.

The Jewish Hospital:

Among the social institutions of the community an important part was played by the Hospital, which did much for those Jews who required public health assistance. The Hospital began as a "Hekdesh" (communally owned, and therefore usually neglected, property) and poor travellers' lodging place. With the assistance of Moshe Stern, the vice-Mayor, Michael Auerbach, Joseph Horowitz, Isaac Sheinfeld, and Dov Pollack, the "Hekdesh" was liquidated and instead a Hospital was erected for Jewish patients, who could not receive medical aid in the Government Hospital on account of the Antisemitism rampant there as in all other Government institutions. The Community supported the Hospital ,which underwent severe crises. Mention should be made of the Jewish communal workers and physicians who gave their services to the Hospital without charge. These were Reb Haim Mayersohn and Reb Isaac Hauptmann (the slaughterer), Moshe Zechariah Goldberg, Dr. Kiczales, Dr. Lippel, Dr. Brauner, Dr. L. Bienenstock, Dr. Kenig, Dr. Shützer, Dr. Schleiffer, Dr. Malka Leibovitz and Dr. Ada Klein.

TOZ (The Jewish Health Organisation):

There was also a branch of the Jewish Health Society "TOZ", which looked afterthe health of Jewish children. The active figures of TOZ were Dr. M. Leibovitz and Dr. Begleiter.

The Orphanage (The Bourse):

One of the aid and charitable institutions which Stryj Jewry established was the handsome Orphanage. To begin with it was a Beit Niachse (Charitable Home') for poor Jewish pupils, and its Committee was headed by Dr. Philip Fruchtmann. In 1917 it was transformed into an Orphanage headed by Dr. Rappaport, Professor Spaet, Zalman Steiner, Dr. Fichner, Professor Resport, Professor Tauber, Mondschein. Towards the end support of the institution dwindled and its economic position deteriorated. The final heads were Dr. Rappaport and Mr. Weissgiass.

The Popular Kitchen:

In Stryj a Jewish charitable institution such as a "Tamhui" or People's Kitchen and restaurant was to be found. As early as the end of the Nineteenth Century the charitable Mrs. Mahla Katz had initiated a kitchen which provided the Jewish hawkers of the market place with hot tea and a roll for one "kreutzer" in Winter. The poverty-stricken Jews always needed the help of such a public institution, particularly during the last years before the Catastrophe. The community therefore kept it up under the devoted care of Professor Seinfeld.

The “Ezrat Nashim” (Women's Aid) and “Kreuzer Verein”:

The charity and kind-heartedness of Jewish women in Stryj found expression in the two societies for aid to the needy. The members of these societies paid rent and helped to pay off mortgages; particularly for those who had built houses after the Great Fire of 1886. They provided medical services for the sick, and sometimes sent them to convalescent centres. Aid was given in secret so as not to affect the credit status of those helped. Members took turns in spending the night in the homes of the sick. The "Kreuzer Verein" chiefly assisted women in childbirth by sending them diapers, sheets, etc, together with three gulden. Active members included: Helena Rosenman, Rachel Katz and the wife of Advocate Dr. Byk, also the wife of Advocate Dr. Norbert Schiff.

The “Gemilat Hesed” (Interest-free Loan) Fund:

In 1927 a "Gemilat Hesed Fund Charitable institution" was founded for the purpose of mutual aid within the Jewish community, and assisted the small merchants the craftsman and artisan, etc. with loans without interest. It proved of particular importance after 1933, when the large-scale extrusion of the Jews from their economic positions began. The basis for the Fund was the assistance of the Joint Distribution Committee following the First World War. Time and energy were devoted to the Fund by M. A. Wohlmut and Dr. B. Milbauer. During the final years the Fund was headed by Reb Moshe Kudisch, who was its manager until the Catastrophe.

The Jewish Vocational Training School:

In 1919 the Joint Distribution Committee founded a workshop for Jewish Youthwhich in the course of time developed into a vocational school at a high technical level. During its existence and until the Catastrophe this school trained hundreds of young Jews for working life in the Exile, and provided halutzim with the vocational preparation which proved so useful when they proceeded to Eretz Israel.

There were four sections: carpentry, ironwork, lathework and mechanics. The Joint Distribution Committee provided up-to-date machinery, while the JCA, the Jewish Community, the Municipality and philanthropists (Leib Horowitz and Dr. Schindler) supported the school financially.

The Chairman of the School Society from its establishment until the Catastrophe was Dr. Schindler, who devoted himself entirely to this institution. Other active members were: Dr. M. Kaufman, Sommerfeld, A. Levin, S. Steiner, Dr. Hausmann and B. Diamant.

Yad Harutzim (Diligent Hand) Society:

In 1908 a small minyan (prayer quorum) of artisans was established, thanks to Davidman, the builder of ovens, followed by the house-painter I Klieger. In the course of time the minyan became a vocational society of artisans called "Yad Harutzim". Abraham Levin was elected chairman in 1920. Most of the members were close to the National group. There was a split in the society in 1931 because of the elections to the Polish Sejm (Parliament). Those members who remained faithful to the national group established a new society called "Ihud Baalei Melacha" (United Craftsmen), Their secretary was Moshe Weiss, while Shlomo Schwartz was their vice-chairman.

The “Oseh Tov” (Do Good) Society:

The outstanding economic society was the Jewish Merchants "Oseh Tov" Society, which watched over their interests in the city and tried to counteract the anti-Jewish discrimination of the authorities. Its most active members were: Kindler, Moshe Spiegel, Dr. Schiff, I. Reich, Benjamin Klein, Dr. Z. Presser, David Seidman and others.

The Jewish Economic Society (Zydowskie Zrzeszenie Gospodarcze):

This Society was set up by non-Zionist and other external factors with the aid of the Polish authorities. It was an artificial creation, and enjoyed no support from the local Jewry. In spite of this, the authorities entrusted the community to it, and appointed Dr. Rappaport, once a member of the Bund, as head of the Kehilla. After the elections the community returned to the Zionist parties headed by Dr. Presser.

The Jewish Civic Casino (Zydowskie Kasyno Nueszczanskie):

The Casino was a meeting-place for the intellectuals of our town, a club without any political coloration. Here meetings, conversations and debates were conducted on current affairs. The Presidents of the Club were Dr. Hoffner, Dr. Brauner, Dr. Weiss and Dr. Schindler. The Club Committee supported the Orphanage and Hospital.


Jewish Sport

Sport as a Jewish activity in Stryj went back to the early Twentieth Century. The Jewish National Revival, and Dr. Max Nordau's Zionist slogan of Muscular Judaism brought about a physical revival together with a spiritual and social one. Even before the First World War there were the beginnings of sport activities in our town, though they were not properly organised and merely showed the trend of the youth. The foundations of Jewish sport in the town were laid by a group of Jewish secondary school students who established the first football club called "Hasmonea" (the Maccabeans). They played their first game, wearing blue-and-white, against the Polish. teams "Pogon" and "Skala". The first players were later to be lawyers and physicians in Stryj; among them Drs. Allerhand, Ende Fink and Frenkel.

After the first World War sport developed considerably. The first sport society was established under the name "Hakoah". Its first president was Dr. Plesser, and the Committee members were: B. Apfelgruen, Shlomo Borak, Mgr. Jacob (Tafko) Waldman, Dr. Berlass, the Brothers Henryk and Isidor Wolowski, Dr. Schutzer, Zussman and others. The members of the first team were: Zygo Weiss, Shlomo Borak, Dr. Houssmann, P. Feuerstein, Benio Haber, Gottesmann, Graubart, Mundek Gritz, Nolek Apfelgruen and M. Redler.

In 1920 a second football team was organised as Hakoah II. Its members were: Meniu Halperin, Jacob Wien, Filko Meller, Jósek Ber, Srulek Kudisch, Benju Lerch, Hochmann, Fruchter, Mannes Fefferbaum, Alexander Weiss, Max Horwitz, Landes, Yumck Rap. The society acquired a tennis court of its own, and the outstanding players were : Maciek Stern, Benczer and Dr. Wlhelm Hausmann. Three referees were appointed from among the society members. These were: Mgr. Tafko Waldmann, Isaac Katz and Mannes Halpern. The members engaged in various other games besides football, and established a social club.

In about 1925 another football club was founded under the name of "Dror" (Liberty), consisting of members who came from the ranks of the general public and youth. Its members were : Knittel, Hochstein, Strassmann, Haber, Filko Meller, Moshe Wolff, Heiber, Rotstein, Rap, Redler, Mottek Meller. The first president was Nathan Welker, and the Committee included: Gleicher, Hammerschlag, Leah Brand, Sabina Binder, Taub, Berger, Meller, Garfunkel and Monderer.

 

The Synagogues

The Great Synagogue (Die Große Schul) rose in splendour in the Old Jewish Quarter. It was a lofty building which had been erected during the time of Reb Enzel Cuzmer in the 19th. century. Most of the congregation were everyday folk, and the Ashkenaz usage was followed. Until 1905 the First Warden was Moshe Stern, the Assistant Wardens were Isaac Jerich and Moshe Waldmann. The Askan (notable) was Israel Nussenblatt and the shamash (beadle) was Zvi Hirsch Friedlander. The cantor was Nissan May. During 1914-1918 the First Warden was Isaac (Itshe) Hauptmann, and until the Catastrophe the First Warden was Shalom Stern while the Assistant Wardens were Zev Waldmann and Simeon Halpern, and the shamash was Abraham Tadanier. The cantors were David Nussbaum and Sender Kessler. Rabbi Eliezer Ladier prayed in the Great Synagogue for years. A special minyan (prayer group) of Jewish cab-drivers of Stryj also prayed there.

To the right of the Great Synagogue stood the Large Beit Hamidrash (House of Study), most of the congregation of which were also everyday folk. This was the only synagogue in which the congregation put on their tefillin during the middle days of Passover and Tabernacles. (This is normal among Ashkenazic jewry in general, but Hassidim have introduced what was originally the Sephardic practice of not putting on tefillin during these intermediate days). The wardens of the Large Beit Hamidrash were Zalman Schwartzberg and his brother-in-law David Schorr. The beadle was Leib Kurtzer. The wardens who followed them were Mendel Liebermann and Abraham Egid.

Reb Meir Shalom's Synagogue, known as Meir Shalom's Kloiz, was the prayer centre of many groups of Hassidim. It was used on their visits to town by the Hassidic rabbis of Stretin, Strelisk, Sassov, and the Rabbi Wyiznic. The wardens were Haim Garfunkel and his son Shlomo Garfunkel, Shimon Weiss, Wagner, the mohel Moshe Zechariah Goldberg, the family of Abraham Apfelgruen and Fishel Shenbach.

The synagogue of Wolf Ber was supposed to be built in the form of a Greek letter, and was therefore known as "die Yevonische Kloiz". The congregation consisted of well-to-do householders, who followed the Sephardic usage (like the Hassidim). An outstanding member of the congregation was Reb Shlomo Finger, who was warden and also acted as cantor during the High Holidays.

The synagogue of the Boyanov Hassidim (Boyanover Kloiz):

The outstanding members of the congregation were Reb Shammai Gertner, David Ornstein (slaughterer, ritual), Shlomo Seif (slaughterer), Leiser and Shlomo Mihlrad.

The Ziditchev Synagogue (known as the “Blechene Kloiz”) was one of the important synagogues in the town. The congregation included many town worthies who were both Hassidim and scholars. The synagogue was the spot where the young Talmud students pursued their studies. Outstanding and typical personalities included Reb Yekele Schorr, Itshe Shohet, Mendele Horowitz, Velvele Haftel, Kalman Schorr, Shmelke Schorr, Dov Rotfeld, Azriel Kleinmann, Shimon Igra, Nuty Sheinfeld, Itshe Sheinfeld, Shalom Shohet, Sender Shohet, Haskele Horowitz, Koppele Seman, Eizik Hubel, Sender Rothenberg, Moshe Kudisch, Leib Krieger, Haim Brand, Yankele Rosmarin, Rotbard, Abner and Aaron Katz, Israel Seidmann, Leiser Weiss, Shmuel Friedler, Eli Meir, Abraham Shuster, Aaron Reiter, Haim Brickenstein, Yekele Jerich, Haim Wolff, Nuta Wolff, Yessele Boimel, Eliezer Melamed, Mottel Rathaus, Falik Moshe Kupfer, Shmuel Rathaus, Itshe Haftel, Leib Rathaus and others.

The various minyanim or small prayer groups, included:

The minyanim of the rabbi Reb Eliezer Ladier, of the Rabbi of Mosczick, of the Rabbi of Glogow, of the Rabbi of Stretin, of the Rabbi of Strelisk; the minyanim of Reb Pinhasel, of Reb Eliyahu Labin, of Yankele Glezer, of Israel Yekels, of "di Lanys", the minyan of "di Szymianszczyzny", the minyan of Reb Eli at the Yad Harutzim Society, of Motel Drucker and the minyan of Rabbi Horowitz.

The Talmud Torah:

Before the First World War the Orthodox Jews of Stryj had established an institution for educating the younger generation in the spirit of the Holy Torah. The two-story building which housed this Talmud Torah was set up in the Jewish Quarter near the Great Synagogue and the Batei Hamidrash (Houses of Study).

In the "hedarim" or classes of this Talmud Torah hundreds of children pursued their Jewish studies all the way from the Hebrew alphabet to Talmud and commentaries.

The initiators of the institution were Reb Haim Meyersohn, Yekele Ettinger, Eliyahu Zeldovitch, Moshe Kudisch, and Judah Nussenblatt, who were joined by the communal workers Shmuel Friedler and Haim Kramer.

The teachers in the Talmud Torah were: "Rozler" teacher, Eliezer teacher, Yehoshua "Behelfer" (Assistant). Teachers of Talmud and commentaries were: Ellyahu Meir Pressburg (known as "Flick") and Yossele Lindner (known as "Skipky").

 

Personalities and Figures

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Hacohen Heller (1745--1813), pupil of Reb Mesliullam Igra of Tysmenic was an outstanding authority. From 1788 till 1813 he was rabbi of Stryj. His works "Ketzot Hahoshen" (Ends of the Breastplate) and "Avnei Milu'im" (Inset Stones) are commentaries on the Shulhan Aruch. When the rabbi of Lissa criticised "Ketzot Hahoshen" he replied with the pamphlet "Meshovev Netivot".

Rabbi Asher Enzel Cuzmer was the pupil of Reb Aryeh Leib Hacohen and was rabbi in Stryj for forty years. Being a wealthy man as well as a renowned scholar he engaged in business besides acting as rabbi. He was given the rank of Kreisrabbiner (District Rabbi). The Great Synagogue was erected during his term of office and with his support, and was opened on 21st Nissan 5618 (April 1858).

The Rabbi of Lissa author of the work "Havat Daat" (Statement of Opinion) became rabbi of Stryj after Reb Aryeh Leib Hacohen Heller, author of "Ketzot Hahoshen". He was one of the outstanding occupants of the rabbinical chair at Stryj and the pride of the city, besides being a descendant of the renowned sages Hacham Zvi Ashkenazi and Reb Nathan Ashkenazi, who were leading rabbinical scholars in the early part of the eighteenth century. His descendants in Stryj included Reb Yokel and Reb Mordechai Lorberbaum. In his own time he was one of the leading halachic authorities of European Jewry. Evera, student of the sections of the Shulban Aruch entitled "Yoreh Deah" and "Hoshen Hamishpat" is also familiar with his commentary on them entitled, "Havat Daat". After having been rabbi in Lissa and Kalish he was invited to the Rabbinate in Budapest. On his way to Hungary he stayed in Stryj for a while, and the leaders of the Congregation, headed by Reb Enzel Cuzmer offered him the rabbinical office. He agreed to serve as their Rabbi,. until 1832, the year of his death, and left behind him an ethical will reflecting his moral and Spiritual character. He wrote thirteen important works, including commentaries on the Shulchhan Aruch, and his own Novellae on Torah, Agada and various commentators.

Rabbi Elijah Meir ben Yaakov Hacohen Rosenmann was rabbi from 1858 till 1877. He was the pupil and son-in-law of Reb Asher Enzel Cuzmer. Though supported by the ultra-observant, he avoided the disputes between the latter and the maskilim, and devoted himself to the study or Torah and to works of charity. He passed away 28th Nissan 5657 (1897).

Rabbi Arie Leib Horwitz author of "Harei Besamin" (Mountains of Balsam) who belonged to a widely-branching rabbinical family, was appointed Rabbi of Stryj in 1878 and became known as one of the leading rabbinical figures of his generation. His Responsa were accepted as definitive statements on points of the Halacha. Besides having a brilliant Hebrew style he also knew German well. His work "Harei Besamin", a volume of Responsa, gave him a leading reputation among his contemporaries and later scholars. In Stryj he helped to establish a modern Heder, arousing the anger of the ultra-orthodox. He showed his sympathy for Zionism and delivered a memorial address on Dr. Herzl. In 1904 he was summoned to be Rabbi of Stanislawow after the death of his father, Reb Isaac Horwitz.

Rabbi Eliezer Ben Shlomo Ladier of blessed memory , was born on the 3rd of Adar 5634 (1874) at Seret in Bukovina. Blessed with an august presence, he was one of the greatest rabbis to occupy the rabbinical seat in Stryj. His was a poetic soul in which Talmudic research and legal dialectics dwelt in harmony. In his researches he sought scientific and historical truth, while in his German poems he gave expression to the love of Zion and to exalted beauty. From 1917 he served as rabbi of Stryj after his uncle Reb Aryeh Leibush Horwitz, serving his community faithfully and raising the standards of his city.

Rabbi Shalom Hacohen Jolles of blessed memory was one of the outstanding rabbis of the country. Thanks to his efforts a Yeshiva was established in Stryj where students learnt Talmud, Rashi and Tossafot under the outstanding guidance of the Gaon Rabbi Raphael Kitaigorodsky. In 1929 he came to Eretz Israel, where he settled in Jerusalem and passed away there.

Reb Shraga Feivel Hertz was rabbi and head of the Rabbinical Court in Glogow, and was appointed to the same offices in Stryj after Rabbi Horowitz gave up his rabbinical post and returned to Stanislawow. Rabbi Hertz, who was very wise and shrewd, was sensitive to everything that took place in the Jewish world. His method of studying Talmud resembled that of the Lithuanian Yeshivot. Once his students comprehended the problem before them, he would introduce them to the keen dialectic and casuistics of the early and later authorities. He showed how the halacha, the legal principles, could serve contemporary needs. As a result there gathered round him those young Talmud students who later joined the Jewish National Movement. His son became Rabbi of Borszczow and perished in the Catastrophe. Looking back over the decades, the dispute between the rabbis of Mosczisk and of Glogow seems to have been one of the cases of "Both alike speak the words of the living God", though they found support among different groups of Jews in Stryj.

The Dayanim ("Judges" or rabbinical assessors who aided the Rabbi in the Bet Din or Rabbinical Court): Reb Isaiah Igra, a descendant of Reb Meshullam Igra, one of the great authorities of his generation, was a leading dayan in Stryj in the middle of the Nineteenth Century.

Between the two World Wars the Dayan of Stryj was Reb Isaiah Usher, son of Reb Jolles, and Reb Shaul son of Reb Jacob Joseph Lusthaus.

Reb Mordechai (Motel) Drucker, an outstanding scholar, was particularly expert with regard to Agada, Midrashim and Hebrew grammar. He was an excellent cantillator of the Pentateuch, and served as the maggid and darshan (preacher and homilist) of the Stryj community. Highly esteemed by all circles, he published scholarly essays and the works : "Safa Laneemanim" (Speech for the Faithful, on the Hebrew verbs); "Techelet Mordechai' , a commentary on the Pentateuch; "Tovirn Meorot" (the Luminaries are good), giving the prayers for Hallowing the Sun and moon; "Ateret Mordechai" (The Diadem of Mordechai), a commentary on Midrash Rabba. The synagogue in which he prayed was known as Reb Mottel Drucker's Kloiz after him.

Reb Isaac “Show” Hauptmann (Reb Itshele Shohet – "Show" are the initials of "Shohet Ubodek", Slaughterer and Inspector): One of the outstanding personalities of our Orthodox community was the interesting and original Reb Isaac Hauptmann Show, a faithful worker in the observant community and its institutions, Warden of the Great Synagogue and of the Zydyczow Synagogue (Blechene Kloiz). He was an outstanding slaughterer and mohel (circumciser), in which traditional Jewish function he was a very great expert. In addition he was one of the finest Masters of Prayer and singers in our city, being blessed with a very musical ear and a power of original melody. He used to act as cantor during the Morning, Sabbath and Festival Additional prayers without receiving any pay. Reb Itshe Shohet showed his originality by his knowledge of engineering, housebuilding and repairing. The Technical Department of the Stryj Municipality always approved his plans although he was not a qualified engineer. Unlike most of the Orthodox community, he openly declared his belief in Zionism and in the Jewish National Revival.

Dr. Zvi Diesendruck:

One of the most brilliant scholars originating from Stryj, a leading figure in Hebrew learning and literature. Belonging to a Hassidic family, he was an active figure in the Hebrew Movement of Galicia. In 1922 he received his Ph. D. He was a teacher at the Vienna Hebrew Pedagogical Institute headed by Professor Zvi Peretz Chajes. From 1925 to 1927 he taught at the Jewish Religious Seminary established in New York by Dr. Stephen Wise. In 1927-1928 he lectured at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, then returned to USA and was appointed Professor at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati as successor to Professor David Neumark. He became Vice-President of the American Academy of Jewish Research and editor of the Hebrew Union College Yearbook. His essays and studies were published in "Haet", and "Hashiloah", in "Revivim" under the editorship of J. H. Brenner and G. Schoffmann, and in "Haolam" and "Hatekufa". In Vienna he published the monthly "Gvulot" jointly with C. Schoffmann. From Greek Diesendruck translated Plato's Phaedrus, Corgias, Crito and Republic into Hebrew. In German he published a work on "The Structure and Character of Plato's Phaedrus". In the 1928 issue of the Hebrew Union College Annual he published a study of "Samuel and Moses Ibn Tibbon on Maimonides' Theory of the Negation of Privation", and an essay on Maimonides' Theology in the Israel Abrahams Memorial Volume.

Dr. Naphtali (Tulo) Nussenblatt:

One of the first Zionist students in the youth movements of our city. After the First World War he settled in Vienna where he obtained a Doctorate of Law, but devoted himself to literary activities, and particularly to the study of Dr. Theodore Herzl. He collected very ample material on the Zionist Movement during Herzl's lifetime. and was the leading specialist on Herzl's life and times. In 1929 he issued a volume entitled "Zeitgenossen ueber Herzl" (Contemporaries on Herzl), and in 1933 "Ein Volk unterwegs zum Frieden" (A People en route to Peace). In 1937 he began to issue an annual "Theodor Herzl Jahrbuch". After the Nazi entry into Vienna he fled to Poland where he was active in the Underground of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War. He was murdered in the vicinity of Lublin in 1942, and his collection of Herzl's correspondence and manuscripts was lost with him.

Jonah Gelernter:

was born in Stryj in 1890, and was active together with Dr. Diesendruck in Stryj and Vienna. He wrote stories and essays. Between 1923 and 1938 he taught Hebrew Literature at the Zvi Peretz Chajes Jewish Gymnasium in Vienna, and also published a monthly in that city called "Devarenu" (Our Word). He escaped to Paris from the Nazis, but was murdered in that city in 1944.

Joshua Tilleman was one of the interesting scholars and maskilim of the town, though he rarely displayed himself. He was a Hebrew speaker from his youth up, as well as a literary critic and publicist. A teacher at the Hebrew gymnasium, he intended to proceed to Eretz Israel but did not live to do so.

Dr. Max Bienenstock (1881-1923) was one of the outstanding figures in the field of Zionist activities during a brief period after the First World War. He was one of the organisers of the Nationalrat (Jewish National Council) established in Stryj under Ukrainian rule, and helped to lay the foundations of Jewish national education in Eastern Galicia. He also edited the journal "Volkstimme" (People's Voice) which was published in Stryj in 1919. In 1922 he was elected to the Polish Sejm as a Senator. He contributed to the "Togblatt" (Daily journal) which was published in Lwów, and published books and studies in "belles lettres" in German and Polish.

Dr. Shlomo Goldberg:

One of the Zionist figures of Herzl's generation. He prepared the ground for Zionism in our city before the First World War, together with Dr. Heinrich Byk, Dr. Julius Wurzel, Dr. Michael Ringel, and Dr. Wolf Schmorak. After the War he was elected Head of the Kehilla, and was held in high esteem by the Stryj community.

Dr. Abraham Insler (1893-1938), born in Stryj, received a secular education and while at the gymnasium joined the Zionist group of the "Zeirei Zion". He studied law in Vienna where he participated in Zionist activities, and afterwards became chairman of the "Emuna" Academic Society. Upon his return to Stryj in 1918 he helped to organise the Jewish National Council. From 1921 he was a member of the editorial staff of the Polish Zionist journal "Chwila".

Dr. Zeev Presser, born in Stryj to a progressive family, was possessed of extensive professional and general knowledge and was a central figure in communal life. He was a Zionist leader and a devoted head of the community, a pleasant person who was welcome to all.

Dr. Mordechai Kaufmann, born in Stryj to a traditional and observant family, was one of the first to speak Hebrew and was an active Zionist from his youth. He played an important part as vice-Mayor, head of the Community and Chairman of the General Zionist Party. In his spiritual characteristics, approach to problems and influence he resembled Dr. Presser. After settling in Eretz Israel he returned to Poland on a mission and met his end during the Catastrophe.

Dr. Benjamin Mihlbauer was born in Bolechow to a teacher of Jewish religion, and was a physician. He was devoted to Zionist activities and played an important part in the Zionist Party and numerous committees. He also visited Eretz Israel.

Moshe Aaron Wohlmut, a Hebrew scholar and lover of the Torah, was devoted to Hebrew education and the spread of Hebrew culture. He was an active member of the Ivriya Society and aided the Safa Brura School. A devoted Zionist worker. he was an active member of the Community Council and Municipality, and visited Eretz Israel.

Benjamin Klein came of an observant family and was given an orthodox upbringing. In his youth he joined the Zionist Movement. He was a merchant, but devoted himself to the communal requirements of Stryj Jewry, and to the Zionist Movement. He was a member of the General Zionist Organisation and one of the party's popular workers. He was active himself, led others to participate in the committees of many Zionist and general institutions and organisations, and was moderate, open-hearted and upright in all his public dealings. Like so many others. he was planning to come to Eretz Israel, but delayed too long and met his death during the Catastrophe together with the rest of the community to which he had devoted the greater part of his life.

Dov (Berl) Stern was one of the earliest Zionists in the town in the days of Herzl, and was a popular figure. He went to Eretz Israel in 1925 and made a living by manual labour. His home in Tel Aviv served as a first stopping-place for new arrivals from Stryj. He passed away in Eretz Israel at a ripe old age.

Meir Frankel was a devoted Zionist, who went to Eretz Israel before the First World War but had to return on account of illness. He was an active member of the Stryj General Zionist Organisation. Returning to Eretz Israel in 1932, he worked as an official in the community and municipality, and lived to see the establishment of the State of Israel.

Abraham (Buczi) Apfelgruen:

One of the oldest and most outstanding leaders of the Mizrahi in the city. An active communal worker, he represented his party in Zionist, public and economic institutions. He was a man of fine presence and pleasant to get along with, a true sage and popular on account of his equable temperament and good nature.

Rachel Katz was born in 1877 and was a talented communal worker, who was esteemed and revered by the entire Jewish population of the city. She was a herald of the emancipation of Jewish women, and fought valiantly for equal rights and the restoration of self-respect. She took the initiative in founding the "Women's Club" (Ognisko Kobiet) and the Jewish Girls' Shelter "Ochronka dla Dziewczat Zydowskich". In 1907-1914 she engaged in politics during the election campaigns, played an important part in the National Council in 1918, and afterwards took steps to organise a branch of WIZO. She expressed her life's vision nobly and giftedly both verbally and in writing.

Dr. Malka Leibowitz was one of the outstanding women of Stryi. Between the two World Wars she played a decisive' part in founding and developing the Hashomer and "Hashomer Hatzair" Movements in Stryj. Her qualities made her a natural leader and guide of the youth, who revered and loved her. It would be impossible to think of or mention the Stryi Hashomer Hatzair without its central figure - Malka. As a physician she did much for the health of the poor Jewish population and initiated and established public health institutions for Jewish children.

Aryeh (Leib) Schwamer received a traditional training and gave himself a general education. From 1921 until the Catastrophe he managed a Loan Bank. When the Hitahdut Party was established in Stryj he left the Poalei Zion and joined the new group, to which he was devoted until the community was destroyed. He served as chairman of the Hitahdut and vice-chairman of the "Arbeitsgemeinschaft" and was a delegate to the Zionist Congress. A good-natured person, he was prepared to help others and was a model communal worker who was popular in all circles.

Dr. Azriel Eisenstein, a lawyer, joined the "Hitahdut" Party and was one of its outstanding figures. He represented his party on the Municipal Council and the Community Council on behalf of the Stryi branch of his party.

Levi Oper:

One of the founders of the Poalei Zion Organisation of Stryj in his early youth, and an active worker for it He had outstanding organising capacity and was an excellent public speaker. Thanks to these qualities he headed the Stryj branch and later came to play an important part in the Polish Poalei Zion Movement. Following the split he remained faithful to the Zionist Organisation and joined the right wing of the party, "Hitahdut", in which he continued his dynamic activities.

David Seidmann, born in Skala, came to Stryj with his family at an early age. Blessed with a highly developed community sense, he was at home in communal problems and become a central figure in the public and national affairs of our city. A shrewd public worker with a clear sense of political realities, his field of activities covered both Zionist and local affairs. Though he held no official position he was one of the most influential persons in the town.

He first belonged to the Hitabdut but afterwards joined the Revisionists and finally supported Meir Grossman's Jewish State Party. Practical-minded and with clear objectives, he devoted himself more particularly to aiding halutzim and helping them to proceed to Eretz Israel. He was killed in 1943 during the Catastrophe.

Aaron Meller, a longstanding student and scholar at the Beit Hamidrash, joined the Hebrew Movement in his youth and was one of the first active members of the "Aguclat Ivriya" (Hebrew Society). He participated in many institutions as a representative of the Hitahdut Party.

Joshua Oberlaender received a traditional education and was brought up in the Beit Hamidrash, but while young he became irreligious and joined the Hebrew circle which gathered in the Ivriya Society. He was one of the first zealots for Modern Hebrew in the city. An active member of Zionist committees, he was part and parcel of the public life of the Jewish community.

Ben-Zion and Aryeh (Leibush) Garfunkel were clerks by profession and were among the earliest members of "Hitahdut", faithfully carrying out the duties required of them. For many years Ben-Zion was Party Secretary, Chairman of the Popular Youth Society "Kadima", and Stryj correspondent to "Dos Neie Vort" (The New Word), the party organ.

Dr. Joseph Schuster-Shilo arrived in Stryj with his family at the end of the First World War. His was an extensive Jewish and general culture. As a Hebrew maskil he was one of the central pillars of the Ivriya Society, and contributed greatly to the spread of Hebrew among the younger generation at Stryj. In 1935 he proceeded to Eretz Israel where he worked devotedly as a teacher and headmaster in various secondary schools. He was one of the initiators of the "Yizkor" volume in memory of the Stryj Community, and for many years devoted himself to the collection of material, laying the foundations for publication.

The General Zionists:

In Stryj Zionism preceded the Zionist Movement and Organisation set up by Dr. Herzl. The national revival, indeed, had commenced there some twenty years earlier.

The first specifically Zionist body appeared in Stryj in 1887, when the "Shoharei Tushia" Society was founded, to be followed very soon by the "Yahadut" Society, established by the city's maskilim headed by Moshe Sheinfeld and Abraham Goldberg. The members devoted themselves to the study of the Hebrew language and literature. In 1890 a third society was founded. This was "Admat Israel", which was joined by about 200 young men for the purpose of aiding the land-workers of Eretz Israel.

After the World Zionist Organisation had been founded by Dr. Herzl, Jewish student youth also joined the "Zeirei Zion" Society, which was prohibited by the authorities and therefore illegal. In the elections to the Austrian Parliament and the Galician Sejm the Zionist candidates were Dr. David Salz in 1907 and Dr. Leon Reich in 1911.General Zionism was the dominant Zionist and public force before the First World War, in spite of the presence of two competing groups, the Mizrahi and the Poalei Zion. The new Zionist idea was disseminated among the Jews of Stryj through the establishment of such institutions as the Toynbee Hall, the "Veritas" Jewish Academic Society, the "Zion" Society, the first Hebrew School "Safa Berura", and the Jewish National Fund Committee. But the First World War paralysed all this national and public life within the community.

The Balfour Declaration in 1917, and the appearance on the scene of Dr. Weitzman as the President of the World Zionist Organisation, led to a wave of enthusiasm and renewed the activities of the Zionists of the city. Their greatest victory was the capture of the Community Council from the Assimilationists in 1918. During the Twenties the General Zionists included in their ranks such experienced veterans, of cultural and communal standing, as Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Dr. Zeev Presser, Dr. Mordechai Kaufmann and Dr. Abraham Insler, who were chairman of the Community, representatives of the Jews on the Municipal Council, chairmen of the various national fund bodies, etc. Their activities were guided by the Executive of the Zionist Organisation for Eastern Galicia, with its headquarters at Lwów.

“Arbeitsgemeinschaft”:

Or "Committee for Cooperation between all Zionist Parties". This body was established in 1923 with the purpose of coordinating all Jewish political activities and affairs in the town, as well as organising and supervising the Zionist institutions. The offices of the institution were at the Zionist Casino in the 3rd. of May Street, and activities were conducted on the base of the "Toynbee Hall" Constitution.

For years the Casino was the centre of all Zionists and active party members. Decisions on municipal and Zionist matters were adopted by a majority vote of the plenum. In general the parties reached agreement on matters of principle. Representatives of all Zionist parties, Funds and institutions participated in the plenum. Thanks to this model cooperation between the parties, the Committee exerted a decisive influence in all Zionist and municipal affairs.

Chairmen of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft were Dr. Z. Presser, Dr. M. Kaufman, Dr. S. Wandel, Dr. B. Mihlbauer, Leib Schwamer, David Seidman, Abraham Apfelgruen and Dr. A. Eisenstein.

The Mizrahi Organisation:

Jewish nationalists with an orthodox orientation first organised themselves in Stryj before the First World War, following the establishment of the World Mizrahi Organisation. As a separate stream within the Zionist Movement, however, the Mizrahi made its appearance in Stryj only after the War. Though the local branch was not very numerous, the proportion of active members was exceptional. The Mizrahi cooperated with all the national groups, and its representatives participated in all Zionist, urban and public institutions and organisations. Among the most active members mention should be made of: Abraham Apfelgruen, Abraham Auerbach, Leibisb Pickholz, Samuel Shenbach, Samuel Ginsburg, Jecheskiel Lehrer, Selig Zwilling, Itzchak A. Hubel, Moshe Kuclisch, Z'ev Spiegel and others.

Agudat Israel:

After the Agudat Israel Organisation was established in Poland in 1913 a number of the extremely orthodox Jews established a branch of the new body in Stryj. Active members were: Shammai Gertner, Mendel Horowitz, Israel and Simeon Weiss, H. M. Neubauer and Moshe Zechariah Goldberg. A "Young Agudat Israel" was set up not very long after.

The Poalei Zion Society was registered in 1903 and received permission to engage in cultural and Zionist activities. The members worked in various callings and included members of popular intellectual circles. At first activities were coordinated with those of the Zionist Societies. Later, however, work was conducted in Yiddish and Yiddish literature was fostered. The first active members were : Berl Friedmann and his wife Perele, Shmuel Horshovsky, Levi Opper, Hannah Leibovitch, Shmuel Shenbach, M. Pollak, M. Patrach, Isaac Oper, Birnbaum and others. In 1907 the Poalei Zion took part in the elections to the Austrian Parliament on behalf of the Zionist candidate Dr. A. Salz. In 1908 they supported the Yiddish Language Convention at Czernowitz. During the years before the First World War they maintained their informative work, spreading the Zionist idea among the poverty-stricken and toiling masses.

 

 

Thanks to their influence a society for young folk was established in the city under the name "Igud Poalim Tze'irim Ve'ovdei mis'har – Poalei Zion" (Association of Young Workers and Business Employees Poalei Zion). The war suspended the activities of the party.

Those who revived it after the war included David Seltzer, Shlomo Rosenberg, Feivel Miller, Sarah Hauptmann, Shlomo Rossler and Shimon Rosenberg. A dramatic group was set up, and amateur actors presented many Yiddish plays at the "Dom Narodny" Hall.

In 1919 there were 300 members in Stryj. The Poalei Zion helped to win the community from the Assimilationists, and tried to help set up a network of Jewish elementary schools. They had 5 representatives in the National Council set up under Ukrainian rule. The new Polish regime however, suppressed Jewish communal work, and the Poalei Zion had to cloak their activities by assuming the form of aid institutions for the poor.

In 1921 the Poalei Zion Convention for East Galicia was held in Lwów. The delegation from Stryj included : Abraham Hauptmann, representing the Right wing, Levi Oper the Centre and Shimon Rosenberg the Left. The branch in Stryj split. The Left-wing Poalei Zion was proclaimed illegal and had to disguise itself as the Beit Borochov Children's Home. In 1923 the first trade union was allowed to organise, an evening school for workers was opened, and the first class in the "Cisza" school network was established together with a kindergarten. The teachers were: Hava Greenberg and Lea Greenberg, and Ruchtche and Henia Fruchter. New members made their mark, including Joseph Harr, Michael Oper, Otto Becher, S. Streifer, Joseph Maurer (now an active Poalei Zion worker in Rio de Janeiro), Leib Nussenblatt, Shmuel Schwarzberg, Davicl Silber, etc. Although the Poalei Zion were persecuted by the Polish authorities its activities did not weaken, and in 1923-24 the party drew all the unions away from the influence of the Bund.

In 1922 the Poalei Zion presented their own list for the Polish Sejm elections. In 1928 it presented its own list at the Communal elections. During the Thirties the police began putting more and more pressure against the Party which, however, continued to function until the Catastrophe.

The "Hitahdut" Party:

The "Hapoel Hatzair" and "Tze'irei Zion" of Eastern Europe united into a single party at a conference held in Prague in 1920. This in turn laid the foundations of the Hitahdut Zionist Labour Party, whose main centre was in Galicia. A group of young men, mostly Hebrew-speaking members of the "Agudat Ha'ivriya", were the nucleus of the Hitahdut party in Stryj. They were: Jonah Friedler, Joshua Oberländer, Nathan Kudisch, Aaron Meller, David Zeidman and Elimelech Frisch, who were joined by David Fruchter, Avigdor Rotfeld and Ben-Zion Garfunkel. In 1922 the following new members joined: Leib Schwamer, Haim Neuman, David Weiss, Meir Byk, Dr. Azriel Eisenstein, Shlomo Rosenberg and Abraham Hauptmann.

The party expanded its social foundations to include student and working youth, workers, artisans and clerks, and took steps towards the productivisation of young traders, shopkeepers, untrained people, etc. Societies, institutions and organs were set up within its framework of activities for the achievement of Zionist aims; and it exerted a considerable influence on the life of the Jewish community and on local Jewish problems.

The "Hitahdut" branch covered the neighbouring towns and villages, and until the union with the Poalei Zion the active leaders also included Mundek Fritzhand. Moshe Freilich, David Tadanir. Robinson, Mordechai Klar, Dr. Ada Klein-Reinhartz, Dr. Moshe Reinhartz-Barlev, Joshua Steiner, Judah Lustig, Nathan Weiss, Frieda Byk and Moshe Rotfeld.

The pride of the Hitahdut Zionist Labour Party was the pioneer and Zionist youth societies whose roots and sources came from the Eretz Israel Labour Movement. They were: "Gorclonia", "Busselia" and "Vitkinia".

Under the influence of the Party fresh classes were opened at the Jewish Boys School, where vocational training was given to members of the Youth Movements of Stryj and other towns of the neighbourhood. Many former pupils are now living by the fruits of their toil in Israel. The active members in this connection were Haim Neuman and Abraham Levin.

Ihud (Hitahdut Poale-Zion):

In 1930 there was a split in the Poalei Zion Movement, which divided into Right-wing and Left-wing Poalei Zion. The Right Wing joined the Hitahdut, and the "Ihud" (Hitahdut Poalei-Zion) was established. The veteran leaders of the Poalei Zion, Levi Oper, Shlomo Rosenberg and Shlomo Rossler joined the "Ihud", which was welcomed and joined by many people belonging to student and working youth circles, craftsmen, clerks, academic youth, etc. The "Ihud" set up a Carpenters' Cooperative and a large branch of the "Haoved" Movement, headed by Ben-Zion Oper, Malka Tanne, Moshe Zipper, Nathan Walter, and Shalom Blau. "Haoved" established the "Hapoel" Football team. Many academicians who did not find their place in the old-established academic corporations founded their own academic society within the framework of the "Ihud" under the name "Z.A.S.S." (Zionist Socialist Student Association). The "Ihud" also organised clerks in the Jewish Clerks' Association as part of its trade union activity; and sewing circles were established for girls who were preparing to proceed to Eretz Israel. The visit paid by David Ben-Gurion to Stryj in 1933 was a historic occasion for the Party, and aroused great enthusiasm among the Jewish population of the city.

Hashomer Hatza'ir:

The period of the First World War and the years that followed were a time of nationalist and social ferment in Europe, including Poland. At that period large national and international youth movements came into being. Against this backround, combined with that of the Zionist revival, there came about a Hashomer Youth Movement. This was a scout movement evolving in due course into the Hashomer Hatza'ir Movement which exerted a great influence on the Student and Working Youth of the city. The first Shomrim who founded the Stryj branch were: Arieh Krampner (Amir), Michael Händell Jacob Seeman, Isaac Silberschlag (now a leading Jewish educationalist in U.S.A.), Yuzek Roth, Poldek Lautman, Hadassah Dickman, Haya Schlaks, Dzunka Fried, Mela Rechter, Tonka Rechter, Malka Leibovitch, Pnina Freilich, Pnina Reinharz, David Korn (now Secretary of the Benevolent Stryjer Fraternity in N.Y.) and others.

Leaders of Hashomer Hatza'ir

 

In 1919-1920 two groups of organised Haluzot proceeded to Eretz Israel from Stryj and became famous under the name "Bat Sheva" consisting of seven girls, and the "Ve heheziku" Group, also of seven girls, so named in reference to the verse in Isaiah 4, 1, "And seven women shall take hold of one man". For with them was one youngster, Meir Wieseltier.

Thinking young Jews had reached the conclusion by the years 1918-1920 that there were no prospects for a life of freedom and honour in the Exile, and wished to fulfil their aspirations in Eretz Israel. The "Jugend" and "Hashomer Haoved" Organisations combined into "Hashomer Hatza'ir". The Hashomer Hatza'ir branch in Stryj was one of the largest in Eastern Galicia and sent 40 Shomrim to the Convention of Shomrim held in July 1918 at Tarnawa-Wyzna. In writing of this Movement in our city we must pause again to mention the figure of Malka Leibovitz, who was the leader of the local group for many years. This was its most brilliant period.

Many Stryj Shomrim are now veteran members of the oldest Kibbutzim in Israel. They are found in Bet Alpha, Merhavia, Mizra, Sarid, Mishmar Ha'emek, Ein Shemer, Ein Hamifratz and Kibbutz Gat. During the Thirties the Shomer unit in Stryj was headed by Zvi (Honig) Steif, Naphtali Lorberbaum and Libka Szapira; but they never achieved their aspiration and lost their lives with the rest of the community.

The Revisionist Movement:

Towards the end of 1925 a group of young students including Shalom Goldberg, Karol Einhorn and Moshe Steiner organised the nucleus of the Revisionist Movement in Stryj. Many joined the new Organisation, among them the well known communal leader David Seidman. The Revisionist party received 116 votes for the 14th Congress.

The appearance of the new party with its state political slogans produced interest and enthusiasm among the youth on one side, and reservations and opposition from the old-established parties on the other. It soon branched out. The Betar Movement was established and the Revisionist Hehalutz was founded under the leadership of Elijah Waldman. The academic corporation Hebronia joined. Its active figures were: Shalom Goldberg, Karol Einhorn, Magister Sternberg, Magister Rechter, Klara Bleiberg, Dr. Wandel, Magister Garfunkel, Mgr. Arnold, Naphtali Rotbaum, and others. After the Katowice Conference in 1933, which announced that the movement was leaving the Zionist Organisation, there was a split in the Stryj branch and a large proportion of the members went over to the Grossman ramp. The remaining handful rallied. The "New Zionist Organisation" known as "Hatzach" was established with the Organisation "Brit Yeshurun". The Tel Hai Fund was also established.

A Jewish State has come into being, but the overwhelming majority of those young people, who believed in its establishment, in a Jewish army and a. Jewish regime did not live to see the fulfillment of their dreams.

Brit Trumpeldor Or Betar. The purpose of this Organisation was to straighten the backs of Jewish youth, inculcate the values and standards that go with statehood, and prepare them for later military service in the impending Jewish State. The Organisation was joined by boys and girls from all sections of the community. Its leaders and active members were: Zvi Steiner, Uri Shenberg, Joseph Hauptman, Rouven Hauptman, Berko Igra, and Miriam Haftel.

Soon after the appearance of the General Revisionist Movement a process of political differentiation began to be manifest within it. In 1928, two years after the establishment of Betar, a fresh Society of Revisionist youth was established under the name "Massada".

This Organisation adopted an attitude of reserve towards the extremist slogans of Betar. In 1930 Massada became the first Revisionist Halutz Organisation and demanded that its members should proceed to "Hagshama" (Fulfilment), meaning Aliya to Eretz Israel. In Eretz Israel the active members of Massada were Joseph Erman, Lautman, Honig and David Seidman. At the first convention of Grossmanite Revisionists Stryj was represented by Elijah Waldman and Meir Kez. The Revisionist Hehalutz was active until the Catastrophe.

Ezra:

The halutzim preparing to proceed to Eretz Israel needed aid in training and on their journey. Most of them were unable to pay for their fare. Some went there against the wishes of their parents. For these reasons an institution known as "Ezra" (Aid) was founded, with its Central Committee at Lwów. In Stryj "Ezra" operated as a joint Zionist institution participated in by representatives of all the parties, Stryj Jewry contributed generously for this purpose, and the Community Council also allocated part of its budget to it.

 

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