Yakub assembled a tall ladder of about 20 feet. He purchased paints and other items of necessity in the local stores and collected various pots and old containers. With the help of ropes and burnt coals he designed the outlay of his plan. He started with the bulkhead, then with the corners and back to the center. He created sections that he filled with painted creations in a free style. He never created two similar designs even if it meant simple ornamentation. He worked alone and very rapidly. He maneuvered the big ladder with ease from place to place. He had many fantasies and was familiar with the bible that inspired him to recreate the scenes on the ceiling. The spirit fired his imagination and the colors and the scenes enlivened the dull ceiling background of the holy place that consisted of chalk mixed with some blue. The colors were mixed with water and proved lasting as long as the building was kept dry. Many public buildings and homes in Galicia were painted in a similar fashion and lasted for many years if not decades. Of course, repainting a shul was a big financial outlay and few communities had the necessary resources.
Yacub's wanderings enriched many small town shuls with nice artistic works and gave the worshippers a taste of art. Without him, many of the communities would have simply painted their shuls. Apparently, Yacub had talent and under ordinary circumstances could have developed into an outstanding artist. Yacub worked for a while in Korczyn and one day disappeared and took on another job in another community. He remained there for a while and then returned to Korczyn to finish the job. His disappearance or reappearance surprised no one. It was accepted as a matter of fact. Haim of course felt bad about the situation but he did everything he could to keep him painting. Nobody criticized him for the painter's disappearance. People accepted it as a way of life. No fights erupted over the event. No accusations or acrimonious debates occurred. People respected each other and were concerned with their daily needs. Crime for pleasure was unheard of even amongst the so-called lower elements of Jewish society. It was only the master race that developed the policy of mass murder of innocent people.
Haim provided the expensive tastes of Yacub in the following manner. Each day, Haim walked around in the shul with a box and collected contributions for the painting of the synagogue. People contributed very generously. I frequently witnessed the collection since I was already a barmitzvah boy and studied in the synagogue. Yacub inspired me and I waited each day to see the advancement he made in his painting. One day he told me, you see this point on the ceiling, and tomorrow I will paint four angels there and you will die. The next day I looked all over but did not see the angels. Perhaps he took pity on me. He had a ringing voice that was melodious when he sang and induced me to fantasize. He was very moody and if things did not go his way or he felt slighted, he would kick the paints or the containers and the worshippers would be frightened. Nobody dared to talk to Yacub when he was in such mood. People had patience and understanding for the artist. We have but praise for the artist.
David's parents were in the textile business and Roizale Dym, mother of David, sent material for four pair of slacks for Shlomo. Obviously, the gift was meant for all the children of the house. In normal circumstances, Shlomo's mother would never accept charity gifts but on Purim it was different. To return a Purim gift was considered in bad taste and even sinful. In ancient days in Palestine, the Jews set aside portions of agricultural produce for the poor people and in the Diaspora the tradition of sending gifts to the poor people continued without lowering their self-esteem. The next Purim, Shlomo sent his friend David a miniature wood sled that fitted a small doll. The muddy streets no longer enabled the sled to glide but the symbolic effect was there. He again received for himself and his brothers' material for pants. The third Purim, Shlomo was already twelve and left home. His brother Moshe decided to send David a nice gift. He received material for three pair of pants. The next year, Moshe decided not to send a gift to David since he was not his friend. He feared that it would be construed as charity rather than a Purim gift. Thus, he decided to stop sending gifts to David. The sending of Purim gifts enabled people to help needy people that otherwise would not accept help. Self-esteem was very important in the shtetls and even the granting of charity involved tact and the right approach. An entire system of values and traditions developed on the manner of giving Purim gifts without insulting the givers or the recipients.
On an occasional Saturday afternoon, prior to the third meal of the Shabbat, my mother allowed us to go to Moshe Sroka, a nickname, to purchase on loan a piece of herring for a penny. The herring was eaten with bread and chewed as though it was a lump of sugar. The mixture of bread and herring produced a delicious sensation in the mouth. One Saturday, I asked my mother for permission to get a piece of herring. It so happened that there was no jam, honey or sour milk to spread on the bread. I had the idea that a piece of herring would moisten the bread. Apparently, my mother did not have the money and refused to consent to the purchase. She insisted that I control my appetite. I could have gone to Sroka and purchased the piece of herring. My mother would have had to pay for it. But we were raised to tell the truth and I was not going to cross her. Perhaps she figured that everybody should get a piece of herring and this would entail costs that she could not afford. Anyway, I realized that I would not taste salty matter in my mouth on this Saturday. I could not extend the story too long for the time for the third meal would pass with the appearance of the three stars ending Saturday. So I decided to take a piece of the rim of the bread and chew it together with a soft piece of the bread. I thus created the illusion of eating herring. I accomplished two things, I ate the third meal and created the taste of herring.
The average Jew was not versed in the metaphysical complexities of religions but was raised on the simplicity that one must serve God directly without intermediaries. The Jew was raised with the knowledge that he was responsible for his acts and nobody could obliterate them for him. No indulgences could clean his deeds. Nobody could assume his deeds but himself. He must keep his slate clean if he wants a stake in paradise. The well to do man was respected to the extent that he gave charity and worked for the community. The poor honest and God fearing man was also respected in the shtetl. The rabbi of the community was the highest moral personality. He kept an eye on all the human dealings in the community and had the backing of the Jewish population. He tried to be fair in the arguments or disputes between the members of the kehilla and attempted to lead the community in a righteous path. Disputes occurred and they assumed a religious tone but there were no murders. The disputes were settled through negotiations, discussions and persuasions. Even the simple village Jew saw that justice was done even if the sides were not evenly matched. Every Jew was part of the community that was supported by the torah. The latter was not the exclusive domain of a privileged caste but belonged to every Jew. He could study it whenever he had the time. The aspiration of the Jew was to study the torah in order to improve his spirituality.
In all the towns, the rabbis adjudicated disputes, fights and arguments. They also answered the religious inquiries regarding the rules of Kashrut. Most of the rabbis were highly moral people that set examples in their conduct and created the necessary atmosphere for their spiritual leadership. Even the loudest people would lower their speech when talking to the rabbi who represented the community and not necessarily his own interest. When conflicts arose between poor and rich or whether this institution should receive help, the rabbi influenced public opinion to make the right decision. His influence in social life was very important as well as his abilities to bring the various factions together. He of course knew what was going on in the city and attempted to prevent problems. We had rabbis that were highly moral leaders and influenced a small group of people while others influenced masses beyond the borders. A Gaon of Wilno, a Baal Shem Tov, a Hafetz Haim influenced every Jewish community. Every Jew that looked for the truth could find an ethical personality that would serve him as a guide in his trip through life.
The prophet Elijah was a host to the poorest and humblest Jewish homes located in the most distant places. His moral integrity served as a basis for the Jewish communities throughout the world. Our leaders were morally inspired by generations of spiritual leaders that influenced them. Even the few well to do Jews in history submitted themselves to the rule of the torah or its representatives. We have to remember that Jewish history remembers the spiritual leaders rather than the wealthy merchants. Jews organized themselves wherever they lived. The small communities maintained their religious life while the big communities tried to spread their influence into many areas of Jewish life. The torah was the glue that bound the Jews until the Germans killed them in the name of progress that was baseless and devoid of human values. How could progress be based on killing innocent people and could this nation claim any moral leadership. The obvious answer is in the negative. The Jews proved that in spite of their slaughter their values were correct while the values of their neighbors were based on false premises. Nobody can forgive a person for what he did to other innocent people. One can not ask for forgiveness and enjoy all the comforts of life. The outside appearance is not important what is essential is the inner feeling and if that is not clean than there is no value. Man must rise above the animal.
And now we must find a key that would open the door to our own continuation as a people after the horrible destruction. We must revert to the past and draw from the moral sources our renewed inspirations to serve as a beacon of light for the world. Just as in the past we were not impressed by the wealth and power of the noble but lived a righteous life, so must we now stop looking over the fence and concentrate on our own spiritual values.
During my days, Korczyn had a population of about 300 families. There was a Rabbi, a religious judge or dayan, two shamashim, two slaughterers, a cantor, a study center and a synagogue, a bathhouse divided into a steam room and warm bath room for people that could not take the steam. Woman also used the latter. The facilities had mikvot attached to them, the steam room mikva received cold water from a spring and the second mikva received preheated water. The Jews prayed the entire week in the study center where services were held throughout the day. Few people missed services, except for those that were ill. The study center was packed in the evening for services. Saturdays and holidays there were services in the synagogue and in the study center. There were no other service facilities during my time. The study center was big enough to accommodate all congregants of Korczyn but the synagogue could not be left without services. It was empty the entire week but services were held on Saturday and holidays even during the coldest days of the winter. Usually a synagogue was not heated. The unfinished synagogue of Korczyn provided no shelter against the weather elements; as a matter of fact, it was as cold inside as outside the synagogue. On cold Saturdays, one saw the steam from the mouths of the worshipers as they prayed for it was bitter cold. But they never missed the services at the synagogue, on occasion they would pop into the study center to warm up and return to the synagogue.
Amongst the worshippers at the synagogue, there was Moshe Kirschner who conducted the services and was also the reader of the torah. He took his job seriously and did the best he could for there were no experienced readers in this congregation. He lacked proficiency in the reading of the services and in reading the torah but did the best he could do. He worked very hard to prepare himself for the tasks. He was an exception in the family of brothers and uncles that stressed the need to improve himself spiritually. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the old cantor with a raspy voice conducted the second half of the services as well as the Kol Nidrei service. As far as I remember, the cantor only performed these services in Korczyn. He used to conduct services in the study center when he was younger. The services in the synagogues were fast and simple. As a matter of fact, the synagogue finished the service when the study center was at the half way mark of the services. No cantorial singing was part of the synagogue service. Most of the people were simple people that came to pray and went home. No snobs or well-connected people were found here. But these people maintained the synagogue by conducting services there, without them the place would have been deserted the entire year.
The synagogue was never finished; the walls were not cemented, the construction beams were exposed as were the beams that held the roof shingles. The roof had holes and when it rained on Saturdays one had to choose a dry place to avoid the puddles. The synagogue had no wooden floor. Nobody knew how long it had remained in this unfinished condition. But rumors had it that the dead people congregated there at midnight during the weekdays and that children and adults better avoid the place. For if one is near the place, he may be called up to the torah and the party must go. At the end of the reading, the visitor must leave the reading platform by going backwards. Otherwise he remained there permanently. People told stories about people or their souls being stuck in the synagogue for generations. The place was immense and unfinished and lent itself to many legends. Anyway, during the daytime it was safe for the dead people, and the souls apparently played games only at night. The same entrance that led to the synagogue also led to the study center. Students closed their talmud books prior to midnight in order to leave the study center before the night activities started.
Besides ghosts, the people had real income problems. There was competition and rivalries but it rarely emerged to the surface and certainly not in the study center or in the synagogue. Here the people prayed for divine intervention on their behalf. But on occasion grievances flared up and they hit the stunned congregation. I remember a case when a person went up to the reading platform and informed the congregation that he wanted to delay the reading of the torah. Pandemonium broke loose, everybody wanted to know what was the problem but that could not be discussed since it was Saturday. Negotiators and intermediaries went back and forth between the parties and tried to solve the problem temporarily until after Saturday. Committees were formed, messengers went and came, the protagonists softened their stands. True, both sides had apparently legitimate grievances but the study center on Saturday was not the place to solve them. Finally, both parties consented that the issue would be resolved during the week and the reading of the torah proceeded. The scene did not last too long but one saw the recourse that a party had against a wrong done by someone else, be it a mighty or rich person. Compromise and mediation solved the problem. These cases were limited but they occurred. Most of the fights were solved before they erupted.
It was difficult to conceive such scene in the Christian church where a simple person stopped a service to express a grievance against someone in the community and the members proceed to solve the problem. In democratic countries such events take place daily. We the worshippers did not see in the dispute as an insult to the worship place, on the contrary we felt all responsible for what happened and wanted to contribute to solve the problem and when it was resolved we felt spiritually richer. The community did the right thing. These feelings bound us in the Diaspora and gave us the strength to withstand all the pressures and deprivations. That Saturday, the service was finished rapidly and we rushed home pleased that a wrong was corrected.
Benyamin lost his business, sold everything in Korczyn and looked for a customer to buy his seat in the study center. He offered the place to all the well-qualified people but they refused to purchase or lacked the money to acquire the seat. He decided to sell the seat on the block. Nathan Nute, the butcher, bought the seat. He was neither a scholar nor a respected individual in Korczyn. He sold and bought animals as well as meat. He hardly made a living from the business. His sons lived in Germany and married out of the faith. They supported him and he led a nice and comfortable life.
Nathan was always neatly dressed and clean but this did not deserve a seat along the eastern wall. For the occasion he acquired a new bekeshe and a shtreimel. He also shaped his beard and curled his peyot to gain respectability. He slid into the seat so as not to attract attention. He never occupied the full seat. He took care not to crease his new clothing that fitted him well. He was quiet pleased with himself in the new seat. He even studied a bit the section of the week and on occasion made a small comment. Moshe Zak was his new neighbor in the study center. He also was not from the elite of the town and felt that Nathan dragged him down socially. He was angry that occasionally turned to a boiling point. What was the sense of seating along the wall if everybody can sit there; but he managed to control himself. One Saturday, he no longer contained himself and went over to Naphtali the dumb one and told him to take his seat along the wall. At last Moshe had some satisfaction. What happened later between the neighbors in the study center only God knows. We must mention that when the Nazis kicked Nathan's sons out of Germany, their wives joined them and they all came to Korczyn where they shared the fate of the Jewish community. Poles killed some members of the family. The local killers were never brought to justice. Thus both sides cooperated to eliminate Jewish presence in Korczyn.
Sometimes women could read in his face the contents of their letters prior to reading them. Zalman was also a host to many people that had no place to sleep. He knew what took place in Korczyn and therefore knew the needy as well as the homeless that he met on the streets. They all had a place at his home. He retired because he no longer could carry the mail. The job was transferred to his son Elimelech who read the Latin script. But he was not lucky; the government soon took away his job. The position that his father held for a lifetime, the son kept for a short period of time. The job was given to a gentile who made his appearance in Korczyn. He was a tall man with a hat that had a shiny visor and above it was the Austrian Eagle. He had a big bag that hung on his shoulder that contained the mail. He took out letters and started asking people where the parties lived. He could not figure out the names and the addresses and exactly where the people lived. He was totally confused. It took him quite a while to figure out where the people lived. For Korczyn had no official street names and numbers. So and so lived near the synagogue, the bathhouse, etc. Even the stores had no signs or names. There may have been one or two signs but they were not important since no one paid attention. Everybody knew where everybody was and where to buy what was needed.
The same applied to people that had no stores or permanent addresses or special trades. But everybody knew Itzik, Yossele, Moshe, Haim Shmay's, Haim Hersh Mayer's, Reisel Yidale's, Feige Haya's, Shmerl balegole etc. People did not use last names that were imposed by the Christian world on them, they managed to live with their own names. Korczyn was the Yiddish name for Korczyna, the removal of the letter a gave it a kosher stamp of approval. Krosno was called Kros by the Jews, Sanok was Sunik and Rzeszow was Reishe. These names functioned amongst the Jews. The moment something was sent outside to an official institution, then the name and address and official town name had to be used. The township of Korczyn was mapped out so that a Jew could find with ease his direction. There was a market and Jews lived along three sides of it. Their flats and stores were located here. Some homes were further out but they belonged to the front properties of the market. Along the left side stretched the road to the synagogue, the study center and further on that was densely populated by Jews. Behind the study center there was already a small street where the bathhouse and the beginning cheder were located. The street led back to the market and was inhabited by Jews. Jews also inhabited the right side of the market to the mill. There were also some Jewish families in the Targowicze area market for animals that was also along the right side of the market. There were about 200 Jewish families and the mailman had his hands full. Frequently, he resorted to Jewish help to untangle addresses. But this was our destiny.
The rabbi's son Asher came to visit his father. He was also rabbi but in another town. The congregants noted that the dayan Mates and the rabbi's son were involved in halachic discussion regarding the meat decision. Each side used precedents to strengthen their ruling. No decision was reached. The Jews in town did not want to enter a religious battle between two religious authorities, but they felt that the prestige of the Jewish community was at stake. Pressure was applied and both sides apologized to the community and slowly ended the dispute. Their wrath they turned to the butcher who involved them in the scheme. Most people finally forgot about the story when Yosef the butcher appeared one Saturday at the study center with a hat instead of a shtreimel. The congregants knew immediately that this was his punishment. For every married man in Korczyn wore a shtreimel on Shabbath and the butcher also wore it up this Saturday. Everybody saw it but nobody pointed. The community understood that this was the punishment meted out by the religious leaders to the butcher for his dealings. The next Saturday he also appeared with the hat. Obviously, this was the punishment and it affected the butcher to the extent that he soon he left Korczyn for the States.
In the USA he opened a kosher butcher store and brought his entire family to the country. Later he closed the store and became a religious supervisor. His beard he never trimmed and the peyot he rolled behind his ears so as not attract too much attention. A long coat and velvet black hat he wore. On Saturday he wore his shtreimel. Here in the States he lived in peace with the religious leadership.
Once, a merchant of Korczyn applied for a loan of 200 zlotys to the bank Zaliczkowa in Kros. He listed his wealth, his business activities, the possibilities of business expansion and the need for the loan. Berl handled all these papers. It also happened that another party by the same name applied to the tax department for a reduction of taxes. He of course blackened the picture to the state, listing every item that would help his case, a large family, a sick wife, poor sales, poor location of the store, etc. There were course specialists in writing these requests in order to get the reduction. The inspector received many such requests and sometimes did reduce the tax payments. It depended on the official and the one in Korczyn was not favorably disposed to Jewish requests. Thus Jews looked to somebody that could influence the decisions. Jews were always accustomed to pray for miracles, for interventions, for help. Most of the time they prayed to God to help them with their problems but they also prayed for good middlemen to help them with their earthly problems. However, the devil intervened and Berl delivered the letters to the wrong places for the envelopes merely listed the name of the sender and both names were similar. The bank received the application for tax reduction and the tax office received the application for a loan. Of course the bank refused the loan and the tax office increased the tax assessment.
The news reached the study center between the minha and maariv services. It became the topic of the evening and of course Berl was ridiculed. He explained the reason for the confusion but the listeners were not impressed. They had a good laugh at the expense of Berl, although they sympathized with the two merchants. The story broke the monotony of the winter months and became the topic of conversation for some time.
Our small place had four children and our mother. Friends and visitors always came and went. Beggars entered the house hoping, and usually getting, a coin donation or a piece of bread or a plate of soup if the food was ready. Sometimes it was a plate of potato soup, or a bean and noodle soup or other cooked dishes. The beggar usually had the choice, money or food. Our subtenant Ester also competed with us by giving money donations to beggars. Please excuse me for digressing from the topic. My mother had even prepared a pillow gift with geese feathers that she plucked herself as well as dried mushrooms that I have never seen in the States. How she knew that these items were non existent in the States, I do not know. Anyway, everything was prepared with tender care for the guest. The latter took Israel's coach at the railway station in Kros and within a half-hour was at our home. She complained that the ride was too rough. Young people walked from Korczyn to Kros in about 45 minutes; the coach took less although the actual road was longer. The coach was also pleasant and everybody had a seat. Furthermore, the coach had shock absorbers to smooth the ride, the seats were upholstered, the legs of the passengers were covered with blankets to protect them from dust or rain. The road was paved with stones that eliminated the monotonous sliding of the coach. The ride was pleasant and reminded one of the carousel rides in the circus. The wheels were delicate and rimmed with rubber. Only the hoofs of the horses made that familiar and repetitious noise. Yet the guest complained about the terrible ride.
I asked her how the rides were in the States and she said that all roads in the USA were smooth like our wooden floor. I accepted that the USA builds homes, provided jobs, supplied food, beverages and clothing. But I found it difficult to believe that the roads were like our floor. This seemed to bother me for years. Even when I visited the big cities in Galicia or the city of Budapest seventeen years later, I noticed that certain roads were evenly paved but certainly not like our floor. The massive urban transportation only strengthened my thesis that the comparison was a bit far fetched. At the time, I met another cousin from the USA, Luis Schnek, who traveled to the spa of Karlsbad in Czechoslovakia. Actually, I met both cousins at the spa of Teplitz Scheinow. Louis was but skin and bones. He owned a haberdashery store that he estimated to be worth about 30,000 dollars. He considered himself an average businessman. I was astounded; in Korczyn a merchant with a store of 1000 dollars was considered a wealthy person and certainly acted the part. People treated him with deference and here Luis stated that he is not a rich person. I could not make sense of these discussions. Furthermore, he complained that the mattress of the spa was terrible. This reminded me of the complaints of my cousin about her bed in our house, on her previous trip. I examined the mattress and concluded that the Emperor could sleep on it. But Luis insisted that the bed was terrible and in the USA they have better beds. He brought the latest news about my brother and described the USA for me. Of course, there were many exaggerations as I found out later. I arrived in the USA in 1921, and the next day, my cousin Luis took me to the barbershop and had the barber remove the mustache and all other unnecessary hair without even asking me. We then walked for a while and he suggested that I always look ahead and never back. Only later did I understand the meaning of the sentence.
Meisner and Wolf were still the main door bell ringers and collectors, and I facilitated their task by chauffeuring them about to save their energies. But time did not stand still. Their constant personal appearances emphasized the need for help. At the meeting we also discussed ways and means of helping survivors with urgent problems. Our agenda was lengthy and we discussed the various items and were engrossed in the discussions when I suddenly asked the other members whether they prayed minha, they answered in the negative and we stood up as one and prayed. The scene reminded me of troops responding to the visit of an officer. With such spiritual soldiers God could truly boast. Honor their memory.
The work of anonymous charity can not be measured in money terms or any other terms. Even the promise of heavenly rewards can not be measured. Most of us like to be rewarded immediately even if it is only with some honor. But Meisner and Wolf did not care for honors. They devoted themselves to the task of helping their landsmen be it in Korczyn or the USA. They worked ceaselessly to awaken in us the need to help and this was their precious contribution. They created all the contacts with the Korczyner Jews throughout the world and enabled us to stay in contact to this day. They formed the basis for the entire help activity prior, during and after WWI and WWII. Many people knew the name Meisner for this was the first address that the survivors of Korczyn wrote to but this is another chapter.
Here I would like to mention Mendele, who although well connected in Korczyn, here in the States he worked for a living. True he never made it big but was pleased with his life. He was the first stop on our planned visits in Brooklyn. He lived near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. We passed the park and I asked whether he visited the place and he answered spontaneously that he visited the place to cast his sins or Tashlich. It appeared that many areas in Brooklyn have no access to water bodies where religious Jews could cast their sins on Rosh Hashana. So they assemble right after the holiday and travel to the park to perform the service. Thus, Jews solved their religious problems in the States.
All communities that contained very religious Jews had a special problem on Shabbath or Holidays since they were not permitted to carry items. They could not even carry a prayer book or a talit to shul. Only if a wire that symbolically demarcated the area as one domain fenced in the shtetl, were they permitted to carry prayer books and prayer shawls. Women could wear their kerchiefs to shul, the tcholent could be picked up from the bakery, and food could be sent to the shul for the third meal. Of course, there was always the possibility that someone forgot an item in one's pocket and carried it on Shabbath. True, an unintentional sin but still a sin for the very observant. When a place had no enclosure, the children were the main porters on Shabbath. They became quite knowledgeable in the area and knew all the ins and outs. The non-Jewish neighbors were not enthused about this Jewish custom of symbolically enclosing them in their areas and sometimes tore the wires. The custom was easily practiced in ancient Palestine but in the shtetl it frequently presented problems. The youngsters were aware of these problems and frequently tried to avoid them. Still Jews tried to observe the custom in spite of the objections of the local non-Jewish population that frequently created wedges that prevented the running of the wires.
Korczyn had a special problem with the enclosure for the church stood in the midst of the Jewish population and the enclosure wire had to run through the church property. Three sides of the Market Square were inhabited by Jews; along the fourth side was the church along the road to Kros. The church protruded between Haim Horowitz's and Mendel Schroit's houses. The entrance to the church was from the Market Square. The bishop of Lemberg was a native of Korczyna and he built a beautiful church fit for a large city. The location of the church prevented continuous running wire for the Jews in Korczyn. The Jews tried to enclose the area. According to one version, Avraham Haim Horowitz paid a Polish farmer to stretch the wire across the church property to the house of Mendel Schroit. Whether this was strictly kosher from a halacha point is doubtful but we would accept it for the purpose of the story. Someone noticed a strange wire on the church property soon cut the wire. Perhaps the same fellow that installed it. Another version stated that the wire was stretched from Horowitz's house to a point that nearly bordered the church property and then continued to Schroit's house. This wire was cut during a procession from the church to the cemetery when the crucifix entangled itself in the wire. Thus Korczyn had no enclosure. The Jewish community filled a petition to the court but lost the case.
Zishe Beck, the son in law of Nafthali Raab, petitioned the Austrian crown for a wire permit but the appeal was rejected. The Jewish community leaders tried to appeal to a higher judicial instance according to Shmuel Leib Kaufman. He stated that the community wrote a letter to the son of the famous Dzikower Rabbi, Nafthali Haim, who was in Palestine. He suggested that some important leaders of the community should travel to the grave of the famous rabbi Mendele of Rymanow and recite particular psalms. They were to abstain from chit chatting on their way back and merely discuss spiritual matters until they reached the office of the kehilla of Korczyn. There they were to recite a particular line of the torah. The messengers abided by all the requests until they reached the office. Then they had to decide who would be the spokesman and recite the line. Since they considered such discussion mundane, they started to murmur and point fingers until all three lost courage and headed home without reporting to the community leaders. None of these leaders lived longer than the year in question. Apparently, the heavenly verdict was quite severe and unintended. My father told the story to me every year when we read the particular line of the torah. He also believed that had we followed the instructions to the letter, Korczyn would have had an enclosure.
Some of the needy people had perhaps complaints or expected more than they received but our funds were limited. We lacked the great orator to awaken the conscience of the Korczyners to do more but also the survivors kept to themselves their experiences and did not share them with the rest of us. Perhaps their material would have acted as a stimulus for contributions, but this was not the case. They kept their past to themselves or shared with their friends. The society never received this material. As a matter of fact, we did not even know whether all the people that claimed to be from Korczyn were really from the hamlet or nearby places. Few of the survivors participated in the activities of the society thus we had no way of knowing the real situation. Still Haim made decisions as best as he could and based on the evidence at his disposal. His letters of hope and encouragement reached everybody. Perhaps the donations were limited but this was all that we could send. He never ignored people and answered all the mail. He found people of Korczyn and established contact with them. He corresponded with all landsmen
Following WWII, the emergency meetings of the Korczyner landsmanshaft were well attended. Different people attended different meetings. As time passed less and fewer people attended the meetings and the collection declined. Haim called and wrote letters asking for donations. Things reached such situation that we sent 60-80 invitations to a meeting and five or six people showed. We tried all kinds of devices but no response. We decided to follow the other societies who also ceased their meetings and decided to invest all our energies in creating a yizkor book of Korczyn. Haim immediately sent out letters informing all the members that the society is preparing to publish a book People were invited to sent materials or to write items for the book and some responses were very impressive. We accepted all the materials. Some of course did not bother to write; this was their loss. Nobody could claim that they did not know about the yizkor book. We advertised it and send everybody reminders.
Now I shall return to Haim. I saw that the interest in the yizkor book was small, very few members placed orders. Haim on the other hand continued with his relief activities year after year without ever complaining. He sent packages or cash prior to Passover and Rosh Hashana to all the needy of Korczyn. The yizkor book with all the publicity netted a quarter of the expenses that were paid for the book. I must confess that I never took an interest in the financial aspects of the society until the yizkor book expenses appeared. Suddenly, things did not add up. I could not explain things nor did I understand many activities. I asked Haim for an updated list of the membership and also explanations as to the nature of the givers. It soon transpired that many recipients were not from Korczyn but needed help and Haim gave them. This was reckless especially since it involved public money. Of course, we were also at fault for not taking an interest in the activities of the society and letting Haim make all the decisions. I as president must also share the blame for not being more involved in the activities of the financial aspects of the Korczyner Relief society. True, he did not squander the money or use it for personal use, still public money must be accounted for. I therefore decided that in the future, I will be more involved in the activities and take a greater interest in the running of the society. We must also thank Haim for his hard work in the organization and urge him to cooperate with other members so as to produce the best results in the future.
p.407 picture of Haim Dawidowitz and his wife
In spite of the darkened ceiling, we could still see the beautiful work that Yakub did 34 years ago. The community could not afford to hire an artist to repaint the study center and just to paint the shul was a pity. So layers of dust accumulated but the signs of the zodiac and other creations were still visible. Nobody wanted to obliterate this beauty with paint, nor could it be washed since water would have dissolved the paintings. Thus the shul aged with the ceiling and the paintings. At the door of the study center, on the right and next to the first window, stood Simha [Diller] shamash with his stand of goodies. On the windowsill he displayed some chocolate bars, apples, candy, and a box of cookies. On a bench nearby he had baskets of apples, various sizes and colors. He sold them without a scale. He had golden delicious, green, and small apples. He also had a basket with fruits that were already touched and sold them for pennies. On Saturday, Simha gave his merchandise on credit. He had tags with the names of his clients and tags with the numbers 5, 10, and 15 pennies. Following a transaction, he would join the price tag with the name tag and present it for payment during the week. The accounting system worked very well. On the entrance door to the study center, Simha wrote with chalk each Friday, the time for lighting candles and the end of the Shabbath. On the other door, there was an announcement to the public that the cost of using the steam bath will hence be 20 pennies and 5 additional pennies for small brooms. A tub of water will cost 30 pennies. The public is asked to visit the bathhouse after 2 PM. The statement was signed and sealed with the seal of the kehilla.
Moshe Dawid Fesel sat close by Simha shamash. He was a jovial man and liked to pock the ears of the youngsters and when he managed to hit one, he exploded with joy. The youngsters accepted these pranks. To the left of the door was the stove built from bricks. The corners were bolted with irons. A specialist built the stove. The side door to the stove was wide enough to admit logs, especially in the winter when the stove burned all the time. Above the stove, there was a window with iron bars where people used to put their wet towels from the mikve. Behind the stove, stood crazy Meir. He hardly left the position. Occasionally, he would shout an expression and then bite his fingers. Along the stove usually sat several property owners such as Eliezar Raab, Hersh Holoshitz, Benyamin Rubin, Israel Blank, Yehiel Weinberg, Menashe Hofstater and Hersh Katz. Next was a table with candle drippings. A lamp stood in a pot of sand on the table. The Jews read a holy book or recited psalms or repeated the good deeds performed by well known rabbis such as the Rabbi Mendale, Rabbi Hersh and Rabbi Yossele from Rymanow.
Following the services, people headed home unless news items reached the shul. Then the worshippers discussed the items from all points of view. News was scarce and it barely reached Korczyn. Prior to WWI and especially after it, new winds began to reach the township. Zionism reached the Jewish masses. The youngsters espoused the idea and it gained many adherents. The old generation was fearful of the new development and feared for their families. The young generation openly challenged the older generation and its ways of thinking. Neither party wanted to understand the other one. Both fought for Jewish survival but with different approaches and different philosophies. Local and national elections became battlegrounds of ideologies. No longer was the public pacified with a few statements. The people wanted to know and asked questions that had to be answered. The business as usual approach came to an end. Answers had to be provided. The same changes also appeared in Korczyn.
Still some of the old ways remained. Shlomo Yossef the matchmaker from Dukla appeared in shul with his umbrella. Shlom Binem Zucker whispered in his ear that he needed a husband for his daughter. The matchmaker presented his clients, this one was a jewel, educated and fine looking, etc. He collected all the requests, sorted them and filed them in his particular filing system in order to prevent a mix up of possible matches. One had to remember the social hierarchy in each place when dealing with matchmaking.
Following the services, Jews sat along long tables and studied Gemarrah with commentaries, mishnayot, Shulhan Arouch, the section of the week with Rashi commentaries; the children reviewed the material they had studied during the day. The elder fellows sat at their own tables. When the lights did not reach people, they bought candles for five pennies and read by them. The shul was busy until midnight. Then the night watchman announced the hour and people headed home. The streets were deserted and restful.
p. 412. Picture of Mechel Horowitz, his mother and sisters that were killed by the Germans in 1942 in Korczyn
p.412. Picture of Mordechai Horowitz, brother of Mechel Horowitz, was killed in Aushwitz.
Simha donned his talit and phylacteries and started to conduct the service. He led a very fast pace and some of the worshippers urged a slower pace, notably Benyamin Rubin, Israel Blank, and Hersh Haim Rothenberg. Simha pointed out that he must prepare for the fair in Kros and merchants have lots of preparations.
The people heading to the fair finished the service, and without breakfast headed to the market to see their coachman that would carry the merchandise. Now they waited for the drivers to finish their Sunday service at the church. Finally the coachmen appeared, most of them were familiar with each other and the merchandise for most of them used the same coachmen. Still most merchants preferred to arrange things beforehand and finalize items with a shot at the inn. Monday morning, the coaches were already loaded and ready to go. The merchants squeezed themselves into the available slots and the trip started. When the coaches reached the mountain before Kros, all people left the coaches for the horses barely ascended the mountain. They then rejoined their seats on the other side of the mountain and soon reached the city. Shmuel Aron Teller carried not only baked goods for the market but also kosher butters and cheese for his very religious customers in Kros.
The Sunday prior to the fair, all the merchants assembled everything that went to the market. The textile merchants took all their wares, the haberdashers crated all their goods: shirts, underwear, children shoes, gloves, meters, glasses, multi color hair ribbons, and sewing kits. Clothing merchants took their thick coats with quilted linings, breeches, and winter coats. Nahum Kirschner and his son in law took crates of winter and summer scarves and shawls. Mechel Kirchner sold fur hats with earflaps that he sewed himself. The grocery people fixed their stands so that the roofs remained in place and protected them against the rain or snow in the winter and the sun in the summer. The skin merchants portrayed their wares that were in bags. Shmuel Lipales, Moshe Lutman's brother, also sold leather leggings, wax and cattle skins. The baker Shilem Weinstein with his breads, halot, rolls, and bagels also traveled to the fair. The butchers hired drivers to drive the purchased animals back to Korczyn. Most of the inhabitants of the hamlet placed great faith in the fair. They hoped that it would provide them with a nice income that would take care of their taxes, rents, food, clothing, wood for the winter, schooling expenses and other necessities. Sunday evening approached, the skies darkened suddenly, the fear of rain or snow immediately affected the mood of the local Jews. Still most of them went to the evening services.
Table of Contents
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Korczyna, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 17 Dec 2001 by MGH