Some stories have been left out because they could not be translated
WITH THE death of millions of Polish Jews, a vast treasure of Jewish folklore,
the product of generations of creativity, was lost as well. Every province,
city, and town had its own special sayings, parables, tales, jokes and the
like. Even if many of these sayings had the same moral, they were repeated in
different versions in various locations, always fitting the everyday existence
of the Jews who used them.
Entire volumes could be filled with the collected folklore which was passed
among Jews, in their study houses, Chasidic synagogues, in the house and in the
street. Even the unprintable was valuable for its sharp wit, which is so
characteristic of our Eastern Jews.
Our present task is a limited one, our capacities minimal. We have collected
the materials for this sample of Chrzanow folklore in haste, to save this tiny
remnant from oblivion, and to serve as an example. Perhaps other Jews from
Chrzanow will undertake the rewarding task of collecting and recording what we
have neglected, because our memory has grown weak as a result of the
concentration camp and other troubles. In fact, I have not limited myself to
that which has an immediate connection to Chrzanow; rather, I have tried to
encompass the folklore that was characteristic of Chrzanow Jews.
A Saint Wearing Fur
Generally this expression is used to describe someone whose manner is extremely
religious, who seems to consider himself a fine Jew, but who does not give to
charity. Rabbi Shloymele explained the expression thus: In the winter, when it
is cold, one can warm oneself in two ways. One can stay near the stove, or wrap
oneself in a fur. The first way, someone else can benefit as well, but a fur
benefits only the one who wears it.
-Heard from Reb Ben-Tsion Hirshberg, b/m.
"A Poor Man Is Considered as if Dead"
Fat Moyshe Aron supported himself with money which he received from his
children in Cracow every month. It so happened that one month the money didn't
arrive on time, so Moyshe Aron sent a telegram to his children: "Your
father is dead." When the children arrived by train they went straight to
the cemetery and asked the gravedigger when the funeral was going to take
place. The gravedigger laughed out loud and told them that he had just seen
Moyshe Aron joking around at the market place. When they met their father, the
children asked why he had tricked them. "The telegram I sent you,"
their father responded, "was the whole truth-because without money I'm
German Jewish manufacturers from Vienna who had business with merchants in
Chrzanow used to come to our city. One of these German Jews observed his
during his visit to Chrzanow. He wanted to make sure that there would be a
minyan the first thing in the morning, and he gave the
two gulden to make sure of it. The German Jew arrived punctually, like a
German, but the ten Jews weren't there yet. The
explained to the German Jew, "The Jews have to prepare themselves for
"What do you mean, 'prepare'?" asked the German.
The shames explained to him that before they pray, pious Jews drink tea, then
tbey smoke their pipes, they go to the bathroom, and then to the mikvah. And
that's what preparing means. The German Jew listened to everything patiently,
and then responded in a strict tone: "When I come back next year, I'll
give you five gulden. In exchange I want ten Jews, fully finished and ready for
-Heard from Reb Yoysef Loyfer (Red Yoysef).
Two Dead Men
Rabbi Naftoli used to say jokingly that he wasn't afraid of the dead, because
he always had two dead men right next to him: Yukl Dodek was always dead
hungry, and Tall Yoske was always dead thirsty.
Very Few Circumcisions and So Many Bastards
Avrom Meir, the
in the study house, who couldn't get rid of the young pranksters who used to
disrupt his work-throwing snowballs while he lit the Chanukah candles, and
other practical jokes- used to shout angrily, "You don't see a
circumcision for love or money, how come there are so many bastards here...
Yortsayt Every Day
Simcha Stapler used to say that he had
every day, because every day his father was dying of hunger.
The well-known joker Berl Kender used to say that the miracle of the Exodus
from Egypt was more like an expulsion. The Master of the Universe should have
done just the opposite-he should have driven out the Egyptians and left the
Jews in their country. He should have sent the Egyptians into the desert for
forty years, honored them with exile in Babylonia, exile throughout the Roman
Empire, and wanderings down to the present day. We Jews would have it just
fine, if we had stayed in Egypt until the present day!
A Cantor Is a Fool
Reb Hirsh Leyb Bakon, the cantor at the municipal synagogue in Chrzanow, used
to comment on the saying, "a cantor is a fool," that it didn't
necessarily mean that every fool can be a cantor.
He also used to say: The fool is always there at the stand with the man who
leads the services. When he wraps himself up in a talit to lead the prayers, he
includes the fool. Sadly, not everyone leaves the fool behind when he's
Regarding a coarse individual who was audacious but a
(miser), people said (in Polish):
Pieniedzy nie daja
Toyre nie znaja
Ale chutspe maja
If, Heaven Forbid...
Reb Yekheskl Shmuel Blumner
(Pipek), a wise and insightful Jew of the older generation, used to say
jokingly: The miracle on Mount Moriah didn't benefit our Father Isaac, but
rather us, his grandchildren. The daily and holiday prayerbooks are full of the
fact that all Abraham wanted to do was slaughter him. Can you imagine if, God
forbid, he had actually cut? We'd doubtless need a cartload of daily and
holiday prayerbooks to take to the synagogue!
According to its Kind
Yudl Kurtz (Shvinke) used to boast:
"Among Chasidim-I'm a Chasid.
Among modem Jews-I'm modern.
But among women-I'm a man."
An Empty Sheet
When you go to a rebe you should hand him an empty sheet of paper. Why? Because
if the rebe really knows what's going on in your mind, then he'll know what you
need from him. And if not, you're wasting your time...
-Reb Binyomin Hirshberg
The son of a minor Chasidic rabbi filled his head with ideas from secular
books, and his father came to consider him an apostate. The father decided that
the only explanation was that the spirit of a dead person had entered into his
son's body. The rabbi assembled a minyan of Jews, ordered candles to be fit,
and summoned his son, so that he could exorcize the evil spirit. When the
shofar was blown he shouted three times, following the custom: "Dibbuk!
Dibbuk! Leave my son!"
To that the " dibbuk" -namely his son-responded: "Nonsense!
Nonsense! Leave my father!"
-Heard from Reb Moyshe Bochner
Thoughts of Moses.
A coachman once asked the popular and always lively Chrzanow Zionist activist
Menashe Fishler m/b/a: "Tell me, what's the difference between the Bobover
Rebe, who has a large number of Chasidirn, and other rebes whose Chasidim can
be counted on your fingers? The others are just as fine Jews as the Bobover,
Menashe explained it to him: "It's just like the difference between
Smiechowski's soap (a famous firm in Cracow, which demanded high prices), and
Gasner's soap (a small factory in Chrzanow, which belonged to Menashe's uncle).
Both products are of the same quality, but only one has the big
Nu Akh! Shtayim!
Once upon a time two respectable Jewish merchants of Chrzanow-their names are
known to those who know the town-traveled to Vienna on a buying trip. Arriving
there late in the evening, they began to say evening prayers in their hotel
rooms. One of them finished the Amida first, rapidly said Aleinu, and started
out of the room. The second, not wanting to interrupt himself in the middle of
the Amida, winked at him and asked, "Nu akh?" ("Where are you
going?") The first answered that he was looking for someone to go get into
a little trouble with. . . And the one replied, " Nu akh! Shtayim! "
(Make it two.)
a popular man who loved a good joke, once met an elderly Jewish stranger at the
railroad station. He offered his hand, pronounced a hearty
"Sholem-aleikhem!" and wished him mazel tov. The stranger stood in
astonishment and stared at him: Mazel tov-what for? "Listen," Mendl
said, "today's the first time I've seen you since your wedding!"
What's Left to the City,
During the elections to the Austrian parliament in 1911, the Polish Socialist
Party deputy, Dr. Marek, came to Chrzanow from Cracow. After his speech in the
courtyard of Berish Prister's house, which was well received, he drove away in
his automobile which emitted a strong smell of gasoline. At that a supporter of
an opposing candidate (Reb Yisroel Shimen Grubner,
called out to the crowd, "You see? Dr. Marek drives away in comfort, and
he leaves the stink for the city. . .
If I'm Permitted...
Years ago a Jew arrived in Vienna, and felt the need to urinate while in a
strange neighborhood. There was no restroom handy, and he was afraid that he
would get into trouble if he relieved himself on the street. He thought for a
while and then went to a good doctor, claiming that he was having a problem
urinating. The doctor gave him a bottle, and he relieved himself... The doctor
was amazed, but the Jew explained to him: "You see, Doctor-when a pot is
available I have no problem!"
The former municipal doctor of Chrzanow, Dr. Klein (who served before Dr.
Hochbaum), always said that he denied all the principles of the Jewish faith,
except for the principle of resurrection of the dead. Jews who suffer bitterly
all week long, don't eat when they should or as much as they want to,
nevertheless when the Sabbath afternoon comes, make kiddush on an empty stomach
over 96-proof liquor and a cracker, then they eat a portion of fat carp, fat
cholent with fatty kishka
kugel dripping with chicken fat and lots of heavy dessert and then, their
stomachs stuffed to the maximum, they take a mid-day snooze. And if these Jews
are able to get up again, it's truly resurrection of the dead.
Being a Bit Crazy Helps
During the war years from 1914-1918 a certain number of young men pretended to
be insane in order to get out of military service. One of these young men,
actually nuts, had been certified insane by the military doctor. He was asked
how he had done it. "You have to be a little bit crazy to begin
with," came the answer, "and for the rest, you rely on God."
A Large Portion of Cloakroom
In Trzebinia near Chrzanow lived a well-known Jew named Aba Zalke. He loved to
celebrate at Chasidic weddings, but he knew very little of worldly affairs.
Once he received a wedding invitation from an acquaintance of his, which
mentioned that a separate cloakroom would be prepared at the wedding. When he
arrived at the wedding Aba Zalke whispered to the father-in-law, "Do me a
favor. When the food is served, give me a large portion of cloakroom, because
I've never had the chance to eat it before."
A Jew doesn't eat an orange unless the orange is spoiled (and therefore cheap),
otherwise the Jew is spoiled (i.e., sick).
"Tea and Psalms never hurt anyone."
There are never too many children nor too many glasses.
Do you want to arrive quickly? Then you should proceed slowly and carefully.
I Say What Reb Eli Says
Until World War I the Jews of Chrzanow enjoyed a large majority on the town
council, and the meetings were conducted in a very Jewish manner. The people
elected to the town council at the time weren't necessarily those best
qualified, but rather the rich men who enjoyed power on account of their money.
Among them was Reb Shmuel Bromberger (or Reb Shmuel Mokh), who, although he was
little about the affairs of the city. At that time the main spokesman was the
rich man from the Kamienica, Reb Eli Rauchwerger. Reb Shmuel slept soundly
through the debate on a certain matter... When he was awakened for the vote, he
rubbed his eyes and responded sleepily, "I vote the same as Reb Eli."
Why Does the Rabbi Get a Salary?
Reb Baybi Seifman, a prominent Jew in Chrzanow, the leader of the Radomsker
Chasidim several decades ago, asked why the rabbi was still being paid a
salary, since he received separate payment for every deed he performed, plus
holiday money, presents on Purim, and Chanukah gelt. He was always given an
etrog by one of the wealthier citizens on Sukkoth; on Passover he was a partner
in the selling of flour, and on the Sabbath he was given a kugel, in addition
to the salary he received along with the cantor and the shames. The answer he
offered was that the rabbi needed a salary so that at least he could put on his
phylacteries without requiring payment...
Let It Rot
There was a self-assured and demanding woman in town, who had a learned and
well-mannered son. The neighbors wore out their feet looking for a proper match
for the son. But no matter how much was offered as a dowry, it was never enough
for the mother. Once a marriage broker said to her, "Tell me, Kayle dear,
what and how much do you really want for your son?" She gave him a very
businesslike answer: "If you don't bring me a well-mannered and pretty
girl with a dowry of five thousand dollars-let my goods rot in my
Berish Frister, a well-known horse trader, wasn't an especially pious or
observant Jew. When he traveled to horse fairs, his wife always packed into his
suitcase his talis and phylacteries, along with provisions: a challah and a
stomach pouch filled with meat. Once his wife decided to find out whether her
husband actually prayed when he traveled, and she packed the stomach into the
tefilin bag. When he returned from his journey on Friday, her husband
complained that she hadn't given him any stomach as she usually did. "It's
because you didn't pray," his wife answered, taking the stomach out of his
The former Polish finance minister Michalski was the tax inspector in Chrzanow
under the Austrians. Once the well-known slaughterer, Reb Shloyme Lipe, was
summoned to see the tax inspector about his income. Reb Shloyme Lipe, who knew
no Polish, asked Michalski to permit him to speak German, and Michalski agreed.
After the meeting, Michalski, who knew Yiddish well, said to him: "If I
had known that you speak Yiddish so well, I wouldn't have allowed you to speak
German under any circumstances. .
Reb Leybish Wiener, a well-known textile merchant from Chrzanow, used to tell
his wife when he was young, before he became wealthy:
"You know, Chana, I have to go to the rabbi." Later, when he had some
money, he said, " Chana, I have to go away, because the rabbi wants to see
me. " Later, when he built his own house and was quite comfortable, he
said to his wife, "Chana, the rabbi always sends messengers to fetch me.
But I'm not going to him this time; he can take the trouble to come see me for
The Right Answer
An anti-Semitic elementary school teacher once asked her female students,
"Why does it rain so often on Saturday?"
The Christian children answered, "Because Saturday is a Jewish
"No," spoke up a Jewish girl named Chanele Halbershtam (who happened
to be a niece of Ahad HaAm), "'it rains on Saturday so the streets will be
muddy on Sunday!"
Forgot About Money
Reb Yakov Ruben, a typical Chasidic character, was a well-known Sanzer Chasid
in Chrzanow. When he went to see Reb Chaim in Sanz, his wife asked him to
mention to the rabbi that he was having problems earning a living. On his way
back, his wife asked him, "Well? Did you mention money to the rebe?"
"No!" was Reb Yakov Ruben's response. "'When I reach Sanz, I
never remember anything as prosaic as money. I only remember it when I get back
Praying With a Rooster
In Trzebinia near Chrzanow, the synagogue and the study house were in the
middle of the market place. In the summer, when the windows were open, the
merchants and customers used to say the prayers
together with the congregations. A Jewish woman was in the middle of making a
deal for a rooster while saying the
and lifted her heels at the words, "Holy, holy, holy." The saleswoman
said to her, "You can jump up and down all night, I'm not going to give
you the rooster for a penny cheaper,!"
The well-known Chrzanow marriage broker, Reb Chaim Gross, was summoned to the
tax department regarding the taxes he paid on his fees for arranging marriages.
Reb Chaim said to the official: "Ill pay you as much as you demand, on
condition that you forbid the boys and girls to meet at the Plantn because
since the Plantn became popular, I have no more customers, neither boys nor
Three Virtues Which Are Flaws
A Jewish woman went to a rebe with a request. She asked the rebe's secretary to
write on the note that she had a son with three failings: first, he plays the
violin; second, he sings very beautifully; third and worst, he writes verse.
The rebe pushed his spectacles up onto his forehead and looked at the woman as
if she were mocking him. "These are three of the finest virtues a woman
could expect from a son."
"Yes," the woman said, "he plays the fiddle, and some people
realize he's a fool. It's worse when he sings, because then people in the
synagogue realize he's a fool. But the worst is his writing-then the entire
world knows he is a fool..
A Sin That's Not Mentioned in the Torah
The rabbi of Jaworzno, Reb Vove Rozenblum. b/m, had a son who lived far away
and wasn't especially pious. The son sent the father money and gifts on several
occasions. Reb Vove didn't want to accept them, because he wasn't sure the
money had been earned in the spirit of the Torah. One time the rabbi received a
large sum of money from his son, along with a letter saying that if he returned
the money as usual, then just to spite him the son would commit a sin the likes
of which aren't dreamed of by Jews or by Gentiles. The rabbi didn't want to be
responsible for such a dreadful sin, so he accepted the money on condition that
the son tell him what sin he intended to commit. His son responded, "I
would have put on tefilin on the Sabbath. . . "
I Know the Solution-But I'm Not Telling
(from nearby Cracow)
Reb Leyb Ziser of Cracow (owner of the large house at # 13 Kuzmark), was known
for his intelligence, wealth, and impressive appearance. He had many Jewish
virtues, but only one major failing. He was not well versed in traditional
Once when he was in the city of Pressburg-at that time one of the greatest
centers of Torah-he went to the yeshiva of the Chasam. Sofer to wait until it
was time to board his train. Just then two students of the yeshiva were
debating a certain fine point, and since they couldn't come to an agreement,
they decided to ask Reb Leyb for the proper interpretation. Reb Leyb Ziser,
seeing that he was stuck, said to the boys: "Listen, children!
You could, heaven forbid, have embarrassed a Jew with your question, because a
Jew like myself, despite the beautiful beard, could never theless be an
ignoramus. If that happened, you would lose your share in the world to come. I
have the solution on the tip of my tongue, but to punish you for being so
careless, I'm not going to tell you what it is. . .
Well Meant, I Said
It is well known that the last rabbis of Chrzanow, with the exception of Reb
Yoysef Elimelech b/m, were not especially good speakers.
The son of Rabbi Naftoli, the last rabbi of Chrzanow Reb Mendl, delivered a
eulogy for the deceased Reb Shmuel Grajower. As people know, Reb Shmuel's
children were not quite as pious as their father had been.
Trying to express the wish that Reb Shmuel's children should be loyal to
Judaism and follow the same lifestyle as their father, the rabbi finished his
eulogy by saying that "Reb Shmuel's children should go the way their
What Is True Honesty?
It is possible to acquire the World to Come in a single hour. This saying
applies to Reb Velvele Loyber, m/b/a, a simple Jew without any pretensions, a
wholesome man in the fullest sense of the word. The following story took place
once upon a time.
Since he knew that Reb Velvele was a responsible and honest person, the
wellknown money changer Reb Leybtshe Klein gave him several hundred dollars to
take from Cracow to Chrzanow, as a favor. Reb Leybtshe didn't offer him a
commission. When Reb Velvele arrived in Chrzanow, he realized that $200 was
missing. After a long investigation, the rabbi ruled that Reb Velvele would
have to swear that he hadn't taken the money. But Reb Velvele refused, saying
that he had never sworn in his fife, and he wasn't about to start. He would
sooner sell his house and pay back the money he had lost. But just as he was
about to sell his only possession, his house, a miracle occurred. The Jew who
had found the missing money appeared. Thus Reb Velvele, whom people had begun
to suspect of foul play, went away with his name cleared and enjoyed everyone's
respect forever after.
Don't Argue With Money
Yidl Kurts was once found sitting at home on Rosh Hashanah, while all the Jews
were on their way to the town river to say Tashlich. When asked why he wasn't
going to cast his sins into the river, he answered: "I can't let myself
get away with the same thing that Reb Itshele Yakov-Ruven's or Reb Yenkele
Aba's do. Their sins consist of such trivialities as making a mistake in a
single word while saying grace after eating on the Sabbath. Or someone else ate
beans for lunch, passed wind while saying his afternoon prayers, and couldn't
wash his hands immediately... Sins like these can be easily cast into the
river, but my sins cost me a lot of money, and it would truly be an even
greater sin to simply cast them into the water!"
Isser Lapke, Translator
When the Germans first came to Chrzanow they used Jews as translators. The
Jewish population felt even more hatred toward the Poles than toward the
Germans, because the Jews expected evil from the Germans, and were psychically
ready for it, but the Poles were noted for their provocations and treachery.
Our hearts bled watching the Poles gleefully rubbing their hands as they
witnessed our tragedy. Just about that time the Germans arrested for some
trivial transgression a Pole who was known for his hostility toward Jews. The
German, being unable to communicate with him, called in Isser Lapke (who was
well known as a joker in town) to translate.
Pole: "I didn't know it was forbidden."
Policeman: "What's he saying?"
Translator: "He said that he's in his own home and can do whatever he
Policeman: "Slap the bum and knock out a tooth."
Pole: "Why do I deserve to be hit?
Policeman: "What did he say this time?"
Translator: "He said that when you're defeated, he's going to take revenge
Policeman: "Tear that bum limb from limb and turn him into chopped
Policeman to translator: "Tell that Polish pig that if he were a Jew Id
shoot him on the spot, and I'm going to give you a cigarette for your good
Older Jews from Chrzanow no doubt remember what used to happen in the winter
nights with the draftees who had been called up for Austrian -military service.
In order to avoid service, they would torture themselves and stay up all night
so that they would be released from the spring exercises, which were held
around Passover time. In order to stay awake, they would pull various pranks
which made everyone laugh. The following stories tell of some of these pranks.
If You Don't Give Willingly, You Will Have to Give Unwillingly
A rich man in town, Reb Leyb Gross, once refused to give a substantial sum for
a certain charitable purpose, saying that he was short of money because he was
building a new house. At that time the leader of the draftees was the popular
Chrzanow joker Moyshe Mizel who undertook to force the rich man to come up with
Moyshe Mizel assembled all the draftees, and one night, under his command, they
removed the bricks that had been stored for the new house and used them to
build a path to the cemetery. The next day the rich man came up with the sum in
question, promising to be good and pious forever.
One beautiful winter morning the men of Chrzanow woke up to a city they could
hardly recognize. The butcher's sign hung on the doctor's house, the druggist's
sign hung at the shoemaker's, and so forth. At first the women said that this
was the work of "demons," may we be preserved, but later the true
explanation came to light:
Since the draftees, who stayed up all night, generally gathered in the
municipal study house and caused damage there, the officers decided to close
the study house at night, and to forbid the draftees from entering. But the
draftees immediately decided to take revenge in a way that would make the city
remember them. They exchanged the signs on all the stores in town, and it
caused such confusion that the citizens went to the officers and begged them to
let the draftees back into the study hall.
Years ago there was a Jew in Chrzanow named Avremele Bentsher who was half
insane and thoroughly witless. If a candle sputtered or leaned on Yom Kippur
night, Avremele Bentsher immediately arrived with a Gentile who would set it
right. The poles for the
for weddings, the chair for Elijah The Prophet, for circumcisions, all were
brought by Avremele Bentsher. At funerals as well, nothing began without
As often happened, an epidemic broke out in town. At the turn of this century,
epidemics weren't recognized as medical emergencies; rather, they were blamed
on the local sinners. Investigations were made, and eventually it would be
discovered that the young couples weren't careful enough... Their beds weren't
far enough apart; or many young wives weren't careful enough with their wigs,
leaving some of their own hair
showing, may we be preserved! Such sins demanded a sacrificial
atonement. The usual practice at the time was to atone by arranging a wedding
between a male and a female orphan at the cemetery. But the town had a problem:
where would they get a pair of orphans?
And there was an additional condition-they had to be from among the poor.
The problem wasn't hard at all for the joker Moyshe Mizel. He immediately came
up with a way to kill two birds with one stone-fulfill the commandment of
arranging weddings, and also ridding the town of the epidemic.
As you've no doubt guessed, the groom was none other than our Avremele
Bentsher. Since he was over
sixty years old by then, of course both of his parents had died.
A similar orphan "girl" was found. The younger generation in Chrzanow
knew her as Hindzhe, who had
carried large packs
of clothing on her back for the past several years, unwilling to part with them
for a single minute. In her youth she had
been quite beautiful, but at the same time, as we used to say in Chrzanow,
"a bit robbed."
Moyshe Mizel played the part of the father-in-law, and the draftees were the
other "in-laws" and guests. The wedding was performed at the cemetery
on a Saturday night. The things that went on there may be left to your
imagination. Not only the living enjoyed themselves, but also the dead in their
graves doubled over with laughter. A generous wedding supper was
Everyone danced and sang until well into the morning, and the draftees went
home as drunk as Lot.
And the epidemic was averted.
How Goodly Are Your Tents, 0 Jacob!
When we describe our city, we don't need to be ruled by the sentiments that
every Jew feels for the place where he or she was born and raised. When we look
back, we can free ourselves of subjective favoritism and still claim openly
that Chrzanow deserves a prominent place in the history of Jewish communities
in Poland. It is no exaggeration to say that Chrzanow was distinct from many
other Jewish cities in Poland, including larger ones, not only because a rich,
vital, creative Jewish life pulsated in Chrzanow, but also because the city's
external appearance bore a distinctively Jewish stamp.
Chrzanow had a substantial Jewish majority. (For a long time it had a Jewish
mayor.) In order to minimize the power of the Jewish population, the Gentile
city government incorporated the surrounding villages into the municipality. To
describe the external Jewish appearance of the city, we will give space to our
greatest enemy, the Hitlerite press.
In 1945, 1 came into possession of an article from the
dated March 17, 1942, under the headline "The City of Krenau"
(Chrzanow). During the disinfection in Buchenwald, it was taken from me, but I
memorized several verses:
The City of Krenau (Chrzanow)
Leaving the Old Reich and-heading in the direction of the General Government
District of Cracow, we encountered for the first time a city which, owing to
its unmistakably Jewish landscape, made an especially negative impression on
us. The place is swarming with characters who are all too easily recognizable
in their bearing and behavior. Here, until quite recently, the Jews ruled the
entire city, including its trade and industry. Today, however, they have been
isolated from their center, and one day they will entirely disappear from the
We see that even during the war, when the Jews in Chrzanow were forced to
restrict their action and to observe the saying "any attention of the
princess is a danger" even then the obvious Jewish character of the city
was all too clear to the Nazi reporter. We believe that the huge enmity
expressed in the cited sentences best describe Jewish Chrzanow. And we must add
that its character was dominated by the religious and Chasidic segment of the
population. We have to remember how many people flocked to the ritual meals
conducted in Chrzanow by Chasidic
from the entire surrounding region, the generosity with which their receptions
and farewells were prepared, events at which singing and dancing were taken
outside into the streets. Months later Gentiles could still recall the melody
of the Chasidic song "The voice of joy and salvation," singing it
like a popular song. Yes, Judaism as a part of daily life in Chrzanow was not
only seen, but also heard. The sound of the Torah echoed in the streets, coming
out of the various Chasidic studyhouses in the center of the city, as well as
the main synagogue and Talmud Torah.
According to the rabbis of the Talmud, "every place which does not have
ten men free to study full time is not a city"; in Chrzanow their number
reached dozens and hundreds. Most were scholars who had achieved a reputation
throughout the world for their broad and deep knowledge, as well as their own
compositions. The Chasidic sector, which influenced customary clothing in the
city, was only a fragment of the overall Jewish cultural life. The external
view was only a reflection of deep and rich Jewish content.
Chrzanow was shaped by the activity of Jewish organizations of all
descriptions. Not only did Chrzanow have a vital Jewish middle class, but also
a substantial Jewish wealthy class and a strong, organized Jewish artisan
class. We had welldeveloped Zionist and socialist parties. The remarkable thing
was that in Chrzanow, unlike most other Jewish communities, all of the parties
lived together not only in peace, but even in a certain harmony.
Sabbath in Chrzanow deserves particular attention. Sabbath was entirely Jewish.
The image described in Bialik's poem "The Sabbath Queen" was fully
realized in our city. Sabbath in Chrzanow revealed the essence of Judaism in
all its aspects. Not only the calm and the absence of commerce made an
impression, but also the stream of Jews with shtreimelech and long coats going
to and from services added life and Jewish charm. To go walking on the Plantn
in a shtreimel and a Sabbath coat was entirely normal, as it was for a Jew
wearing a shtreimel to take his horse to water on the Sabbath.
Despite the distinctiveness of Jewish life in Chrzanow, anti-Semitism was
negligible. On the contrary: the strength of the Jewish community made it a
force to be reckoned with by outsiders. It is worth mentioning that the Gentile
town council specified that at public meetings and celebrations the rabbi or
Jewish representative was to make his address in Yiddish. (We remember what
people said during the tenure of the Polish mayor named Gdula. When the rabbi
took his place to deliver a speech, it was "Torah and greatness [gdula]
[joy in Yiddish] in one place.") We were not only a qualitative but also a
quantitative force in Chrzanow. We had our own potential force, which we
fortunately never had to use.
Now, when that entire vital Jewish city has been transformed into a cemetery
full of martyrs, now we are united only by our memories of that glorious past.
These aren't memoirs. They are living symbols of Jewish eternity, which are
connected to our city. The deep national consciousness, the feeling for love
and justice which was etched into our hearts and minds, now leads us toward a
better future. Our rich heritage will enable us to forge our future and
continue to spin the thread of Jewish
eternity. Therefore, we proudly look back at our former Jewish life, and
although our hearts bleed on account of our colossal loss, nevertheless we cry
out with all the feelings we can summon: "How goodly are thy tents, 0
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