by Moshe Kalchheim
Translated by Selwyn Rose
One of the most magnificent essential institutions in our town of Jaroslaw was the Yad Harutzim hall on Mickiewicza Street at the foot of the hill. The Wiata Targowa was on top of that hill. It was a magnificent two-storied building containing several important institutions. It was an institution containing many cultural activities even though the town of Jaroslaw was not lacking societies, federations and foundations of many various types. Its official name was The Federation of Master-craftsmen the Yad Harutzim which was founded in 1901.
On the ground floor was a beautiful synagogue where prayers were held on weekdays, Sabbaths and festivals. The chief Cantor was Shlomo Mahler whose children live in Israel today. In that synagogue, Cantors from many towns in Poland and Galicia often performed recitals of liturgical and other pieces.
During the Days of Awe, the prayers were transferred to the large hall on the upper floor which was large enough to accommodate hundreds of seated men and women filling it from wall-to-wall and still some people had to stand during prayers. They did so willingly because the great attraction during those days was the Cantor Shmuel Shpindel with his choir, conducted by his eldest son Motek, who lives today in Tivon, Israel. I had the privilege to sing in that choir and even one year to be the soloist for the Untaneh Tokeff prayer. And if we are mentioning the Cantor Shmuel Shpindel, I want to say that he was a very interesting man, a baker by profession and distinctly Bohemian by nature, tall, handsome gray-haired and bearded. He had a well-developed sense of humor acceptable by all. Shpindel was a dedicated football fan; a match at the local stadium never took place when the prominent figure of Shmuel Shpindel was not seen among the spectators. He didn't particularly like his profession as a baker although his cakes were famed far and wide throughout the town. His function as a Cantor was a hobby and the public, as mentioned, rushed to hear him at the Yad Harutzim Hall and other venues in order to enjoy his performances in all their aspects.
Facing the synagogue were the offices of Kupat Gemilut Ḥassidim and The Artisans' Bank of Yad Harutzim Hall which basically was the principal foundation of
the Society. This bank gave loans to artisans and small businessmen on very convenient terms and was a central support for those of the Jewish population of limited means and a source of basic economic and professional support. The constructive assistance given by the bank in the shape of loans made it possible for borrowers to continue and broaden their activities. The management of the bank was comprised of representatives of all sections of the community:
From riht to left, first row above: Leon Schmalzbach, Feiwel Katz, Emil Tanzer, Pinkas Meister, Salomon Ehrlich, Izak Gaschge
The second row: Abraham Rotenberg, Mandel Weiszager, Leon Aschkenazi, Herman Rosenfeld, Szymon Mond, Leon Wycher
The third row: Jakob Baustein, Juda Berger, Salomon Mahler, Adolf Rager, Matis Springer, Jakob Fruchtman, Moses Zeller
In the center: Dr. Salo Rosberger.
doctors, attorneys, industrialists and artisans and noted citizens in town, who were all concerned with different incoming assets from various sources. If I am not mistaken, the bank received important and significant support from The Joint in the United States.
The second floor was taken up entirely by the large auditorium of generous proportions. There was room for nearly 300 seated people and a further 100 in the gallery. The stage was also large. In that hall, many meetings of the various parties and town institutions took place. The local Jewish theater group also found its home there and the amateur dramatic groups of different organizations, visiting dramatic ensembles of professional actors from Warsaw, Vilna, and Lvov and also from Palestine. We were fortunate enough to see The Vilna Yiddish Concert-Theater, the actors Dzigan and Shumacher, Morris Schwartz, Ida Kamińska-Turkow, The Broom from Tel-Aviv and other well-known Jewish actors and actresses who enriched the cultural lives of the Jewish community in unforgettable performances.
The large hall was also used as a gymnasium, fitted with all the necessary equipment such as wall-ladders, weights and so on, provided for the use of the various Jewish sports societies in town. In the building's cellar was the center for teaching Hebrew in Hebrew under the teacher Chelimer where both youngsters and adults learned the language. The windows of the school looked out upon a staircase that led to Mickiewicza Street and the Wiata Targowa and everyone that used them could hear on hot summer days, the sound of the Hebrew tongue especially the lovely songs of Israel, that were being sung by the toddlers under the baton of their teacher Chelimer.
This, then, was the wonderful building of Yad Harutzim the main and important center of Jewish and Hebrew cultural life, art, sport and economic assistance and support to all layers of the Jewish population of Jaroslaw without any consideration of status, ideology or political outlook. It served all those who wished to take a break from the daily routine and enjoy the satisfaction being provided to enhance and enrich the lives and content of the Jewish population.
by Dov (Barak) Fruchtman
Translated by Selwyn Rose
Because of a lack of a Tarbut school within the educational structure of the large Polish towns, young Jewish students streamed into the various Polish middle-schools and gymnasiums in Jaroslaw, more than they did in comparison to other nearby towns.
Our town was known as having schools and an army. The number of schools in Jaroslaw exceeded the number of schools in nearby larger towns like Przemyśl and Rzeszów.
The school for building studies was the only one of its kind in the Lvov region and Jews and Poles came from afar to study therel. The school resembled a style of our own period for an practical engineering school.
Standing in the last row: First M. Kornberg, Sixth B. Fruchtman, Seventh J Graf, Eighth J. Kirschenbaum
Many graduates of that institution completed their studies at the Lvov Polytechnic and became engineers.
There were two gymnasia for boys in Jaroslaw; one was located on The 3rd of May Street and the second on Świętego Ducha.
During the 1930's the number of Jews in both of them amounted to a third of the total pupils but with the years, the number shrank for various reasons and the percentage of our brethren studying there at the end of the 'thirties had dwindled to some few tens only.
The beginning of the August Witkowski high-school was the Real-School during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the First World War, that school became a gymnasium and it remained in that format until the time of the reform of the Polish high-schools in 1936. Later, the school became an academic gymnasium with lyceum with two majors applied mathematics and biology. The studies in the lyceum were after completion of four years in the gymnasium.
I remember quite well my four years of study in that other gymnasium, a sign of recognition of their status was a red ribbon attached to their hat and a similar ribbon on the lapel of their coat. Because of this the institution became known as the Red Gymnasium[a] Later on, two years before the outbreak of war, and after the Polish educational reforms the gymnasium was known by the symbol 555 and that number was sewn on the left sleeve of every student.
The majority of the students were Jewish or Polish and very few were Ukrainian. I remember two of them. In my class, there was one Ukrainian as opposed to ten Jews.
The Jewish Teachers
There were only a small number of Jewish teachers in both of the famous gymnasia in Jaroslaw. Understandably, the teachers of religion were Jewish, like Distelfeld and Dreyfus.
But it is worth to note those of the Jewish teachers who were among the staff teaching general studies.
One of the most famous was Professor Taube, a stalwart Pole, who taught Polish literature. No one could cast a shadow of doubt of his knowledge and excellence on the subject of Polish literature and the sources of the country's language, for if it were not so, how would it be possible to imagine that a Jewish teacher, of all things, would obtain the respected position as teacher in a Polish gymnasium during the period of significant anti-Semitism in Poland?
Professor Taube was a pleasant well-mannered man and although I was not one of his students in the first gymnasium, I remember his English lessons to pupils of both gymnasia during the afternoon hours in the framework of foreign language students.
The second teacher, was Jewish and a teacher in our gymnasium, Professor Bachmann who was the German teacher. His pupils did not reach the heights of excellence in the German language not because of the lack of his didactic ability but the difficulty of the Polish people to absorb the German language.
|The August Witkowski Gymnasium||The Real Gymnasium|
Next to the Blue Gymnasium was the gymnasium for girls, the classic gymnasium named in honor of Josef Pilsudski where the principal was the well-known Jewish sympathizer and adversary of open anti-Semitism in our town.
The Hebrew School in our Town
The Jewish school was established in 1930 or1931. Until then there had been no Jewish school in town. Hebrew was taught in the Yavneh school and other places in town also ran courses in the language.
The school was located in a two-story building on the junction of Wanska and Sowiaska Streets. For years, the school had been struggling with the authorities for recognition to prepare children for Government matriculation and for official status.
The Hebrew school bore no resemblance to the Tarbut schools in Poland that had achieved a rare status. The Hebrew language had been taught there as a foreign language as part of its curriculum with all the other subjects taught in the Polish language.
At its peak, the school had about one hundred pupils.
The new format of the school was co-educational where boys and girls studied together. A system that was not practiced in other Jewish schools, for one thing, even in Polish schools girls and boys learned separately. There were schools for boys alone and schools for girls alone.
I recall one of the more well-known teachers Fella Engelberg, who taught Hebrew at the institution from the day of its foundation until the outbreak of war.
On the contrary, the gymnasium was known for its anti-Semitic stand against the Jewish pupils compared to the other gymnasium. Return
by Dov (Barak) Fruchtman
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The Yavneh school was located in a two-story building in the center of town facing the municipal registry building. It was the first Hebrew school of the Mizraḥi movement. The subjects taught in the institution were Talmud, The Bible and Hebrew.
Due to the efforts of the original founders, known Mizraḥi businessmen, (like: Shimon Spiegel, Elimeleḥ Reich, Haim Aharon Zilberger, Mordecai Landman, David Graff, Noah Lemm, Z. Reinhertz, David Kremer, Moshe Raff, Michael Silber, Tzvi Schlafrig, Yehoshua Begleibter), the teachers at the school were well-known educators.
Among the staff of teachers in the institute, I recall one by the name of Avraham Zuta. He was a well-built man with a short beard adorning his face. The Rabbi, our teacher of the Gemara, introduced difficult topics into our heads with a typical motion of his thumb. I remember to this very day the first page of the tractate Pessaḥim beginning On the eve of Passover, close to Minḥa time, a person may not eat until dark, so that he will be able to eat matzot that night with a hearty appetite. Even the poorest of Jews should not eat the meal of Passover until he reclines on his left side as free and wealthy people recline when they eat. Only a few among the pupils understood the nicety of the difference of opinion between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yossi. The second occasion when the Rabbi explained it, I searched the conclusions of the Tanna`im, and my face lit up with understanding and contentment. I discovered that it was possible for the issue to be explained either way.
The teacher Zuta habitually compelled his pupils to learn by heart complete pages of the Gemara and complete chapters of the Torah. Perhaps, thanks to him, I remember until today the complete first pages of several tractates and complete chapters of the Torah. And that brings to mind the saying: Things learned in early childhood are remembered more easily than those learned later.
Among the teachers of the institute was one who came to our town from the Vilna area. He would teach from the holy writings in Yiddish. To our surprise, his Yiddish was not the Yiddish that we knew and were used to in Galicia and in our everyday speech. Our 'A' suddenly became 'OO' and our 'EY' became a pure 'EH' and perhaps 'OI'. For some reason, this teacher, whose name was Yesheyahu Rabinovitz, provoked much giggling among the pupils, who found nicknames for him gathered from the Vilna dialect. Mr.
Rabinovitz was well-mannered and pleasant. He had no beard and wore no ear-locks and appeared for lessons with a clean shaven face. It seemed to me that in those days, he was still single and the talk of the town labeled him a woman-chaser.
I remember a few other teachers from the Yavneh school. One of them, Yesheyahu Lang, I got to know him well in Palestine. He was an excellent teacher and known as an active Zionist in town. For some time he was the principal of the school. I also remember with appreciative thoughts the teacher Rabin, with whom I studied Gemara privately, until the war broke out. He too, was among the Yavneh teachers in our town.
There was another school where the only scholar who taught there was the teacher Kelmar. I studied various courses under his tutelage for two years. The school was housed in one large room in the Yad Harutzim building. The windows of the room looked out on the nearby stairway that led to the Wiata Targowa
The studies in Kelmar's school took place during the afternoon hours in corrected Hebrew. In other words, Hebrew using the Sephardi pronunciation. The seats were occupied by students of various ages. Their knowledge of the language and not their age was the only criteria to be accepted to the courses.
The spoken language of Kelmar's family was Hebrew alone. All the family members had Hebrew names and spoke pure Hebrew. I remember from those days how we looked upon that in wonderment and envy on the members of the household of this famous teacher.
Kelmar the teacher had created in his home a way of life of as he imagined it would be in the land of Israel..
There were five children in the family and they all had Hebrew names: Haya, Shulamit, Arieh, Yocheved and Gideon.
Dov (Barak) Fruchtman
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The official name of our town's library was The Hebrew Library for Education and Culture - 'Tarbut', in Jaros³aw. In the beginning, the library was housed in the Community Center on Sanowa Street on the way to the River San. It was located in the house of the wealthy Jew Sobol.
The Community Center, where the Tarbut library was located, existed before the First World War. The activities of all the Zionist movements in our town took place within its walls. In 1921, the Tarbut library was transferred to Yad Harutzim building and there
it remained for 10 years. In 1931, the library expanded and grew and the place became too small to accommodate the treasure trove of books. It was then transferred to the home of Dr. Blumenfeld oin Kraszewski 6 and there it remained until the outbreak of World War Two.
The Tarbut library was the largest among all the libraries in our town. Within it
were books in four languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish and German. At its peak, it contained close to 10,000 volumes.
The Jewish youth in town were among the reading public. But the Polish people were also among the readers because only in the Tarbut library could the Polish Intelligentsia find the famous literary works of the world. The Polish élite preferred the Tarbut library over the large Meinhard library. The Tarbut library was a significant contributor in establishing the cultural image of the Jewish youth.
The central figure in the library was the institution's librarian Mrs. Sala Striks, (today Heftler), a resident of Tel-Aviv. She was not simply the librarian. She knew all the readers and they knew that she alone carried the burden of managing all activities of the library. She started her work in the library in 1921 and continued until the German invasion. Mrs. Striks knew all the readers and knew which books were suitable for that individual. If a reader selected a book beyond their understanding, Mrs. Striks would say: This book is not for you and would not recommend it to the reader knowing it was beyond their understanding.
The librarian remembered many of the (reference) numbers of the books and was rarely in need of the book's card.
One of the first managers of the library was Marcus Kurtzman (ZL). The first chairman of the library was Dr. Rabinowitz and after his death, Dr. Erik Reszler followed by Bonek Metzger. But all the practical work, like acquisition of books, organizing and cataloging them and ensuring their maintenance from wear and tear, fell on the shoulders of the librarian, Sala.
After the Jews were deported by the Nazis, the library was abandoned.
[Page 168 - Yiddish] [Page 165 Hebrew]
by Moshe Kalchheim
Translated by Pamela Russ
The cheder of Rebbe HershMer, was one of the most popular ones in the city. It was located near the public school by the name of Piotr Skarga, not far from the Beis Midrash and from the slaughterhouse. This was a proper house built from brick and wood, with a large yard. Many children from the city had completed this cheder.
The Rebbe, HershMer, with his idiosyncrasies, cast a fear on the children. By nature, he was not a bad person and not at all an angry person, but he was very particular and was a strong disciplinarian. There were belfers (assistants) for teaching Torah to his students.
I remember when I was a young boy about three years old as was done then, they dragged me to the cheder of Rebbe HershMer. Four boys appeared in our home, two of which grabbed me by the arms and two by the feet, and that's how they carried me through the large marketplace on Spitka Street to the cheder, totally disregarding my complaints.
In the cheder of Rebbe HershMer, the children learned alephbeis [Hebrew alphabet] and when they already knew all that, the children started to learn the Hebrew prayers and chumash [the Hebrew Bible]. The cheder was a means of going from one stage of learning to a higher level, such as for example, to Talmud Torah [higher level Hebrew studies], even though they still learned the Hebrew prayers and chumash.
At the edge of Sabieski Street, in the house where there was the shul called Hachnosas Orchim [Guesthouse] and the Belz shtiebel [informal synagogue of the Belz chassidic community] was the cheder of Tall Shmuel. This was his nickname because of his height.
In my memory, he is etched as an elderly, tall Jew with a white beard.
The cheder was in one of his rooms that also happened to serve as a dining room and bedroom. Over there, we also studied chumash and Rashi [commentary] and also gemara [Talmud]. He was a pleasant person, calm, compassionate, rarely spoke roughly with his voice and his students always behaved quietly and calmly. He never fell into a rage. He died at the beginning of the thirties.
As already mentioned above, the Talmud Torah in our city was an institution of higher learning. Approximately two hundred students studied there. The budget of the Talmud Torah was covered by the community. The parents who were unable to cover the cost of the tuition fees for their children were freed from this yoke of payment thanks to the community.
At the head of the Talmud Torah were select people who were responsible for various projects that were connected with sustaining the Talmud Torah, including maintaining the students.
In Talmud Torah, it was the best students of the city who studied there. Generally, a strong discipline governed. At the beginning of the thirties, in the Talmud Torah, a yeshiva was established, and in order that the yeshiva acquire a good reputation in that region, the staff brought in a Rosh yeshiva [dean, Torah scholar, director, allinclusive] an expert in Talmud, who prior to this, was a Rosh yeshiva in one of the smaller cities.
I studied in the yeshiva for one year along with the best students who excelled in their studies. I do not remember the name of the Rosh yeshiva, but his face is deeply etched in my memory. He was a Jew, an exceptional person, with a shining countenance. He was always very careful with his appearance and his manner of dress. His long white beard was always kempt,
neatly combed, elegant. From under his black yarmalke [skullcap] his bottlecurled peyos [side locks] slid out onto his majestic face. He was an approachable, pleasant, refined Jew, with excellent characteristics, and had a beautiful, calm, melodious voice, with which he almost hypnotized the students. In that class there was an exceptionally pleasant atmosphere that evoked a special interest from the students as well as a great attentiveness to their studies.
Along with me, the other students were Itzik Liberman (lives in Haifa), and the genius of the city, Dovid Eintratter, who later became one of the activists of Tzeirei Agudas Yisrael [the youth group Agudas Israel] in Jaroslaw, and was the head of the modern shul [synagogue] of the Agudas Yisrael. Among other boys in yeshiva with me, I remember Shmuel Kaufman and Aharon Brandt, now head of the yeshiva of the Belz chassidim in Jerusalem.
Of the teachers of the Talmud Torah [religious elementary school], I particularly remember Menachem Mendel and the teacher, Rebbe Schreiber, who taught us chumash [Bible], and Rashi [commentary], and also Rebbe Hershele Meller, whom I already mentioned.
Several Other Small cheders
Along with various recognized study institutions, there were scattered about other small, private cheders. In each of these cheders, there were about ten students. For example the cheder of Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Shlatiner, was in a small house of two rooms on the second floor of Wanska Street, #2. This was a dark house, where even during the day the sun's rays hardly entered. In that cheder, the boys also studied gemara [Talmud] and tosefos [commentary].
Reb Yosele Weistuch (Lame Yosele)
One of the colorful personalities in town was the teacher Reb Yosele Weistuch, or as he was known in town by his nickname, Lame Yosele. He limped on one foot and because of that he always walked with a cane which
served him as a support, and then also as a weapon of punishment for his students in his cheder which was located in the women's section of the synagogue Koler's minyan [quorum] in the yard of Halberthal's house in the large town square.
The older generation simply called him Reb Yosele Weistuch. He was a refined Jew, a radiating face, a scholar, and the principal leader of prayers in Koler's minyan. This was a beautiful, clean synagogue, in the shape of a long, narrow prayer hall, where generally, the congregants were committed Jews who loved and greatly respected Reb Yosele.
For us youth, Reb Yosele was simply: the lame Yosele, always with his stick in hand, of which we were terrified, up to a fear of death. He was an easily angered Jew, and at any opportunity he would use his stick and provoke his students, who sat half asleep and lazy during his lessons, and forced them to learn with more enthusiasm. In his cheder, the boys studied actual chumash. Studying gemara [Talmud] already had to be done with other teachers, and so he was involved with only the very young, upon whom he threw great terror.
In truth, generally, he was not as bad as he appeared. His was an unusual anger, which was clad and covered with a love for his boys. The Rebbe, Reb Yosele, never used a whip, as other teachers did, but then his stick played an important pedagogical role. As every teacher, he would sit at his table, at the head, always with his bent head, beautiful, covered with dove white hair, and always holding in his hands his tool, the stick, that rested on the table itself. From his rigid face, decorated with a snow white round beard, from behind his white, tin glasses that hardly stayed on the edge of his nose, there looked out at you two large, sky blue eyes that were always in motion. These eyes saw everything and noticed everything and nothing could hide from them.
For even the smallest discipline infraction committed by a cheder boy, the stick, with the quickest and most incomprehensible motion, immediately landed on the hand or arm or back of the criminal, and the victim felt this slap all too well. Reb Yosele did not accompany this slap with any shout or word from his mouth, but the slap was always accompanied with a wink of his eye, and a strange grating of his teeth, some kind of muttering, not understandable, that was heard from his teeth.
During recess, the young boys would run around in the yard and Reb Yosef would mingle among the noisy boys, smiling with pleasure with the boys who were playing, taking pride in them and having great enjoyment. Then the young boys took to pushing each other and included Reb Yosele himself, and if one of them would scream out, to incite the others: Lame Yosele! then immediately, like an arrow shot from a bow, the stick flew from Reb Yosele's hand right towards the feet of the boy, accompanied by his wellknown curse used for everything: A kalik [handicap] and a bolik [sturgeon] in your bones! Reb Yosele shouted this in a loud voice. Then the little boys would run off into all corners of the yard leaving behind, all alone, the Rebbe's stick, until the angry Rebbe called over one of the boys to bring his stick back into his hands. This game with the Rebbe would evoke an excited mood among the boys, and they would intentionally provoke the Rebbe wildly, to get him angry and drive him out of his mind. Then they waited until the Rebbe would once again throw his stick, but many times the boys would be perplexed when Reb Yosele did not want to, or did not have enough time to play this pushy game.
Reb Yosele Weistuch raised several generations of cheder boys in Jaroslaw, and I remember that we really were very frightened of him, but we also loved him and always listened to him.
His son now lives in Israel.
by Shmuel Schleider
Translated by Pamela Russ
In the years 1916 1918, during World War One, when the war was still in its fiery times, the flow of older Jewish reservists to the army was still great, and among them there were many religious Jews who were very strict about kosher food. Many of them were poor and did not have the ability to feed themselves and so, they did not want to eat anything from the military kitchen because of these religious reasons.
Their situation was very difficult and critical, almost without any hope.
On the initiative of Rabbi Yitzchok Enker, who came from Nisko, the young men established a kitchen by the name of Tomchei Hatzava [supporters of the military]. Members of this committee were: Rabbi Yitzchok Enker, chairman; Shmuel Schleider, secretary; members Dovid Graf, Yosef Sacher, Michoel Zilber, Moishe Kalchheim, Asher Kalchheim, Yitzchok Hass, Naftoli Rozenboim.
The goal of the Tomchei Hatzava was to feed each soldier one meal a day in the afternoon, after completing his duties, and two meals on Shabbat and on the Jewish holidays.
It is worth noting, that even with the great shortage of products and large number of soldiers (more than 200), Tomchei Hatzava enabled each Jewish soldier to eat his fill, and on Shabbat and on the Jewish holidays, delicious foods were prepared that were served generously.
The expenses were very great, but the profits, primarily comprised of volunteer payments [donations], basically covered all the expenses.
The name of the Tomchei Hatzava reached very far into many cities and towns and the rumors about the Jewish soldiers' kitchen were extensive. There were many donations from many wellmeaning friends and also from private people in order to enable a regular existence of the Tomchei Hatzava. The Jaroslaw merchants donated all kinds of products, flour, meat, sugar, and other necessary foods. The generosity of the people was exemplary.
The blessed activities of Tomchei Hatzava went on until the end of World War One. The Jewish people were proud of the activities of this necessary institution, which enabled hundreds of homeless Jewish soldiers to use a kosher kitchen and not to leave them hungry, and also maybe to even give them life.
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