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Chapter 8:

Lanowitz, History, People & Memories


[Pages 284-287]

Lanowitz, a Spiritual Concept

By Yosef Warach

Lanowitz had a spiritual quality. It had all the elements needed for such an atmosphere: Learned men, two kosher butchers; Yoel & Yitzhak, a Kloizel, a Kloiz, a synagogue, a Beis Midrash and a small Shul. Each Shul had a Hazan [= leader in prayer], especially for the high holidays and for Passover, Shavuoth and Succoth. Most of the congregants were capable of leading the congregation in their prayer.

The Congregants were proud of the fact that their Hazan was an orthodox person, versed in writing Torah scrolls and was God fearing.

The high holidays were a time when each Jew reviewed his past behavior vs. his fellow men; it was time for reflection. Immediately after Yom Kippur a Succah was built to recall from whence we came. We recalled our long history: Egypt, the journey in the Sinai desert, and becoming an independent nation through sacrifices. The Jews of Lanowitz slept in their Succahs despite the inconvenience, to give meaning to their heritage. It was their way of commemorating being a people with a Torah that commands them to behave better than other nations.

On Simchat Torah, one felt the joyous atmosphere in the synagogue. Everyone was eager to carry one of the heavy Torahs, to circle the Bimah during Hakopos, to dance with the Torah to and fro. The word Simcha, meaning Joy in Hebrew, shows that dancing with the Torah scroll was an ancient tradition. It was with the Torah that Jews went to war.

The same can be said for days of mourning such as Tish'a Be'av [= 9th of Av]. The synagogue was illuminated with lanterns. The interior was dark. We lamented our destroyed Temple. Our hearts were heavy as we recalled that Jews of that era lost everything. We took off our shoes, sat on the floor and cried while reading the book of Eicha. It was a spiritual cry. Only spiritual people can cry over what happened in the past.

One sensed the spiritual atmosphere of the town throughout the year. It was a town that had its own Rabbi, R. A'haron Rabin. The Congregants sought his company, and were eager to hear his sermons. They sat at his table, not for the sake of the served food, but mainly to hear his Torah commentaries, to enjoy the singing, to feel a little closer to heaven. Periodically, other Rabbis came to visit our town to add learning, singing and spirituality to our community. I remember in particular, the Rabbis from Turysk, Ostrog, Vishnivitz and Shumsk who came to Lanowitz periodically. There were other Rabbis whose name I no longer remember. My father was not satisfied celebrating a Shabbat with one of the above-mentioned Rabbis. He also celebrated the anniversary of deceased famous Rabbis such as the one from Berdichev. He meant to commemorate them by this means and elevate the occasion to the same level as his daily economic effort. It symbolized what was important to him in his life - the Sabbath, and anniversaries.

Our youth sought alternate spiritual satisfactions. They rebelled against the old forms, but their ultimate aim was the same. The question they posed was how best to improve the community's cultural and spiritual life. They established a lending library, and promoted secular, technical and artistic literature. They also established a school where children, whose parents could not afford the tuition, attended classes. They created a Bikur Cholim [=visit the sick] society, whose members helped sick people as needed. The main thrust of their activity was to help create a feeling of brotherhood, to enrich one's self-esteem, and enhance the group's spirituality.

Lanowitz had a reputation as a center for good deeds. When Yehi'el Shemesh rose early in the morning, and went from house to house, knocking on windows, shouting: “It is time to get up for morning worship”, his message was symbolic; saying in effect: “It is time to start the day's work. The body has rested enough, now it is time to nourish the soul”. Worship consisted not only of prayer. It encompassed good deeds and charity, all in an effort to praise the Lord.

If a person does not have money to buy matzos on Passover, we are obligated to provide him matzos so he can fulfill the commandment to eat them on Pessach. Should a young man wish to marry, but does not have the means, we are obligated to help him financially. We had to encourage marriage to facilitate the growth of our community.

Inasmuch as Lanowitz was a border town, it had soldiers stationed in its barracks. There were Jewish soldiers among them. It was a mitzwa to invite them for the Sabbath and holidays, to let them enjoy a Kiddush, the synagogue and a meal; to reduce the frequency when they had no choice but to eat non-kosher food, or defile the Sabbath.

After many years and from across the Ocean, I see Lanowitz as a place buzzing with good deeds, charity and happiness. It was a laboratory for spirituality, warmth and communion between residents. Our Gentile neighbors did not understand this spirit. But, how could they understand us?

It was an unforgettable town. Now that we live among Gentiles, we can appreciate the spirit of Lanowitz all the more. It was a kind of spiritual mountain. Thanks to communities like Lanowitz, it is hoped that the Jewish state will be different than other nations. It is a community that should not be forgotten.

[Pages 288-301]

Lanowitz - Types and Customs

By Abraham Teichman

It is not easy for me to record my recollections of dear Jews who are no longer among the living because of the deeds of animals in human form.

I shall remember forever the various classes of Jews with their good values and their pride. They were loyal and good to everyone without exception. Wherever one met another, be it on the street in the Beis Midrash [= a prayer room attached to a synagogue], the bath house or at a joyous event, their wishes, after a drink, a piece of homemade Lekach, came from the bottom of their heart. If, heaven forbid, a person became ill, everyone felt the pain as if the ill person was part of his household. One could see the sorrow on each neighbor's face.

The whole town was like one large fan. A family's joyous occasion was an occasion for everyone, and heaven forbid, a misfortune was also felt by all, rich or poor.

I had the opportunity to visit many towns around the world. I did not meet Jews who were as warm-hearted, and good to one another as those in Lanowitz.

When Plenikes (Austrian prisoners of war) were stationed in Lanowitz, the (Jewish) soldiers among them were treated to a meal. Everyone knows, for instance, that Jews who sold quick lime were not wealthy, yet they hosted 5 Plenikes (P.O.W.s). I remember well that a Jew from Buchach Galicia with the name of Yidel Geltnar. He wrote his wife and children how well he was treated. We received a thank you letter from her. We never demanded a payment reward. This hospitality custom was part of Lanowitz's tradition.

Yekil Israel Wolff had a machine for baking Matzos. On a Pessach evening, I went over to use his machine. On that occasion I met a 15 year old lad, whose name I no longer remember. I noticed, as he moved, that he was only using one of his hands. The other was wrapped in rags. I asked him what the matter was with his hand. He replied that his hand had broken while he picked apples in the orchard of Eli Kuziel. He fell off a tree and broke his hand. I asked him if he had seen a Doctor. He replied that his hand was looked at by Bakshe, the Felsher [=Country Doctor]. I told the story to Yidel Kiskiwitzer, also known as Greenblat, who lost no time looking into this matter. Bashke, the Felsher said that it may be necessary to amputate the hand. When Asher Brilliant heard of the case, he took the lad to Lvov to try and save the hand. The injured hand was already black. In the end, the hand was saved and the lad recovered its use. When I visited him at home, I asked him if his family knew about the matter. He replied that he told no one. He had visited the Felsher only once; that Asher Brilliant had paid for his treatment in the Lvov hospital, also Asher visited him often to track his recovery. The community had no heroes, but it was its custom to help a needy person at all times and circumstances.

The Blessings of a Polish State

When Poland annexed the Eastern territories including Lanowitz, the local Jews did not benefit from the new regime. The Poles imported with them a hate of Jews. When the Polish Army entered Lanowitz, the three of us: Asher Brilliant, Israel Katz and I left the house of Hannah Atis and honored the entering army with bread and salt. I predicted then that we were likely to regret their arrival. To our sorrow, this was the case. The Polish occupiers of Lanowitz saved no time to spread their racial poison. They settled hooligans from the Warsaw area who were called “Asadnikes” in our area. One fine day (fine for the Poles, but not for us Jews) three Asadnikes stood on the streets of our town. One of them, named Ogurek, was from Napadowka (NW of Lanowitz). They stood across from Shmuel Moshe Lazar's house. As his son Taleh left the house, one of them, apparently Ogurek, called him over and slapped his face. The second Pole urged Taleh to hit him back. It was a taunt because everyone knew that we Jews were powerless.

A few days later, while in my shop, I was visited by Moshe Tepper from Iskowitz [Juskowcy-in PL, 4 km NE of L.]. He came to chat with me as was his custom. We discussed issues of the day. In came Uziel Hayim, son of Mordechai, known as Rabin. He asked me, “Why are you so pensive today; Have your ships sunk?” I replied that I do not trust our future with the current regime. I can only foresee what will be tomorrow; our new neighbors that have been transplanted to our region from the Warsaw and Poznan region are unlikely to improve our lives. He next asked what I had observed to lead me to this assessment. I told him what had happened to Taleh, Moshe Lazar's son, a few days ago. Uziel proceeded to tell us what had happened to him recently. He has, for a long time, had business relations with estate owner Laduniuk. Recently, he went to see him regarding a business matter. The latter owns four large dogs. One of the dogs attacked him. Fortunately, Uziel had a stick which he used to protect himself. When the owner came out of his house to greet him, he said, “You are lucky that I don't have a gun on me, otherwise I would have shot you for hitting one of my dogs.” It was under such social and political conditions that our community lived, believing in God and hoping for a better future.

The late Manish Riba Yosel, son of Moshe, was a decent young man, good looking and well mannered. He made a living buying eggs from farmers in the surrounding area and selling these in Zbarazh. He returned one evening, taking a route distant from the Soviet border so as to avoid being arrested by a Polish border patrol. Two criminals from a neighboring village murdered him as he returned that evening. It was not difficult to find out who the murderers were. A blood soaked garment was found on one of the murderers the next day. Jewish blood was expendable. The local authorities were not interested to indict the murderer. Instead, they encouraged the Gentile communities to distance themselves from Jews.

To travel after sundown to or from Shumsk, Kremenec or Vishnevitz to Lanowitz was dangerous. It was particularly dangerous in the winter period when transporting coal to warm our houses. The following happened to Yitzhak Barges, the son-in-law of Shmuel Karshenboim. He and a helper traveled to Shumsk to trade in flour as was his custom. On the way, his wagon broke down in the middle of a field. Because they could not reach Shumsk by nightfall, they decided to stay put in the field fearing Polish bullies. The night was cold and long. Due to this accident and exposure, Yitzhak died several weeks later, long before his time. The village Poles did not hesitate to maim innocent Jews on these cold nights.

Bentzi Gurwich, or as we called him, Bentzi Itzik son of Hirsh, was engaged to the daughter of A'haron Marchiches. As was our custom, the groom went to his in-laws' house to visit his bride on a Friday night. On Friday, one can stay a bit longer. As he left their house at 11 pm, he was attached by a group of Poles who beat him until he collapsed. Next, they placed him on a bench and cut his hair. Afterwards they smeared the hair with soap and forced him to eat the mixture while beating him further. After this torture, they led him to the village of Novosilkes. There, on a high hill which was used as a gravel pit, they threw him downhill while he was semi-conscious. He regained consciousness the next morning. A well was nearby known as LOITSHICH KRINITZI. A Christian woman went to this well to fetch some water. His luck was that she heard him moaning and saved him. This episode did not happen during the Nazi occupation, but before the war, at a time when one still hoped that we could live in peace with the Poles. We thought (mistakenly) that they would get used to us and we would learn to co-exist with them.

I once happened to visit my brother-in-law, Moshe Tepper, in his village, Iskowitz. A policeman by the name of TOMZIK positioned himself at Tepper's house door and proceeded to address the assembled crowd. The policeman implored them to no longer sell their produce to Jews. He added, “Note that the Jew has a big belly. It is due to the butter and chickens you sell him. Afterwards he travels (annually) to a spa to reduce his excess weight. To carry out your hard labor you need a pair of boots. You go to a Jew and ask him to loan you a few zlotys to buy the boots. When you repay him, he overcharges you, and you are ignorant of the debt details, preferring to believe his accounting.” He next alerted the crowd that there are Gentile buyers at the train station that will buy their grain, eggs and poultry.

Those Gentiles that persisted to sell their goods to Jewish merchants became afraid to leave their homes at night for fear of a beating. The anti-Semites among the Poles came to realize that such threats were an effective tool since almost no peasant had indoor toilets. Even many Jews did not have such a luxury. As a result of these threats, many Gentiles succumbed to these threats against their better judgment. Selling to a Jewish merchant normally fetched a better price because of the fierce competition amongst Jewish merchants. Jews shaved their profit in order to make a living.

Opposite our home lived Leib Melamed. His niece and her eight-year old son lived with them. She supported herself by selling quass [a carbonated drink] and sunflowers on Friday nights. When not working, she used to drop in to visit us. One night, after we had already retired for the night, she came in to our house with her child. She told us that the aforementioned policeman, TOMZIK, was on duty that night. Instead of patrolling the town, he chased her out of her bed and went to sleep. We kept her company for the night.

When the forces of Petlura's army (1917) bombarded Lanowitz, most of us fled. My late wife also fled with a child only several weeks old. She did not know where to flee to and I did not know where she fled to until it was over. I escaped from our town and hid in a Gentile cemetery. There I met a Pole from my town named Vaznikevich. He tried to console me, saying, “Notice what hooligans these Ukrainians are. I don't understand what they have against Jews?” I thought then that the Poles were our allies. However, as later events showed, once the Poles were “in the saddle”, they treated us with a whip in hand. I had the opportunity to visit a friend with my late brother-in-law, Eli. At the time, Eli had a tile business. He needed a fixture with which to mix lime. In those days, no one walked bareheaded. Eli and I went to this Pole's Smith shop located 30 meters down a path from his property's gate. We entered his property wearing our hats. The fact that we did not remove our hats, the Pole found insulting. As a result, he demanded a much higher price for the desired fixture than it would have cost in a Kremenec store. He remarked: “Money is of no consequence for you. If it were not for your wealth, you would have removed your hat at my door and not dared to walk with your head covered until you approached me.”

One day our district chief received a letter from the Warsaw magistrate to arrange a collection for poor Poles, probably not including any Jews. This collection was probably destined to support the very hooligans who used to stand in front of Jewish stores to shoo away potential customers. The locals that organized the collection were the district chief, the local Kommandant [Police Chief] and the local town physician, Dr. Litwak. All of us had to contribute. We knew from experience that to refuse would risk the ire of the local Kommandant who could easily concoct an infraction that would cost us dearly. The aforementioned three locals addressed our community. Dr. Litwak spoke for the committee of three explaining the purpose and importance of this collection. Attending the presentation were a few Asadnikes [=local Polish settlers], our “new neighbors.” One of them rose to complain in a loud voice asking why a Jew is speaking on behalf of “our cause” The district chief replied that he is a respected physician, implying a high local status. To this, the complainer retorted that he prefers to hear Mr. Stasik to the Doctor. Do you realize who Stasik was? He was a dirty drunkard who never earned a penny in his life, preferring to beg regularly.

Avraham Eliezer Graffen had a brother-in-law named Ya'acov Hazan, who was a poor man. He barely made a living from selling goods at the weekly fairs which he attended regularly, both in the summer heat and winter frost. He had no money to buy these goods so he depended on interest-free loans from such local benefactors as Mordechai Guverman, Kahat Kaufman, Eli Miratshnik, or Zelg Rofeh. One day, the late Hirsh, our Starosty [=district chief] came to Hazan's house warning him not to offer his goods for sale at the market temporarily because the “Executor” [=state-tax collector] is due to visit him soon. Such a warning by an official entails a potential loss of tax income to the Polish State, hence is subject to a significant fine. However, Hirsch had sympathy for the poor among his brethrens in such a case, hence was not deterred. The end of this story was that the tax collector came to Hazan's house but found nothing except for a small parcel of goods. In the following week, as Hazan prepared to attend the trade fair in Vishgorodek, the tax collector came to him again the same week and found the parcel of goods. He ordered Hazan to follow him to the Gmina [=Town Hall], in order to confiscate his goods. Hazan's wife, crying, asked the tax collector what he expected her to feed her children with. He replied: “feed them stones”. When Hazan's creditors heard about the confiscation, they provided him with funds to buy additional goods. Several locals contributed funds in addition to the original creditors: Shmuel Poliak, Asher Brilliant, Shlomo Kesil, Benzion Wohl, Eliezer Kiwess and others. We need to praise the good heart of Starosty Hirsch, also known as Hirsch Mailman.

Hirsh was afraid that this tax collector, this robber, wanted to repeat the above procedure. He, therefore, spoke to the tax collector and said, “In my opinion, the man deserves to be free of tax. Come with me and I will show you what his family lives on, what they eat”. While sitting in the Starosty's house, the tax collector told Hirsch; “You are lucky that your daughter is present today. Otherwise I would have had you arrested and your daughter would have never seen you again.” Hirsh Starosty, the son of Leah Hind, was a Mentsh that never failed to greet another person with a “Good Morning.” He shouldered the town's troubles and helped the locals of the community whenever possible.

One day Hirsh came with the Executor to Lipek's son-in-law to collect taxes. The son-in-law made his living collecting rags with the help of a wagon pulled by two old mares. When Hirsh and the Executor entered his home, they saw his wife trying to light her Pripitshek [=cooking stove] to boil some potatoes. The wood she used refused to ignite because it was wet. Dry wood was expensive hence not affordable. She tried to ignite the wood by blowing on the lit twigs. With each puff, her face reddened. When the two visitors arrived she asked Hirsh, the Starosty (probably in Yiddish)) what the Executor wanted. Hirsh replied that he came to collect taxes. She began to cry, pleading that she does not have enough funds to feed her children. The Executor yelled at her, asking her why she had such healthy-looking red cheeks.

He accused her of eating alone at the expense of her children. He added: “I now realize that the state deficit is primarily due to the fact that Jewesses refuse to pay taxes. For this, you, Hirsh, are the primary culprit!”

Michel Yekil Leider trained as a cobbler. However, he failed to get a job in his profession. He turned to Bumin Brimmer and Bentzi Reichman for help. These two bought him a horse and wagon to use for his livelihood. He was not lazy. He used his wagon under all weather conditions. Sometimes, when his horse could not pull the wagon's load, he acted as a “second horse.” One day, he traveled with his wagon to the village of Wolica (SW of Lanowitz). It was a cold autumn day. His wagon got stuck. No one in the village came out to help him; no one put on his boots to volunteer to assist him in pulling the wagon out of the mud. Michel hit his horse to urge it to attempt another pull-out, a Polish policeman, who saw him do it, showed up. The policeman slapped his face three times for hurting the horse. He could not stand seeing the horse being whipped by a Jew. The incident did not end here. This policeman reported Michel to the above-mentioned executor for avoiding payment of taxes. The executor asked the policeman for Michel's residence. The policeman replied that he did not know where Michel lived; that Hirsh the Starosty would know.

The executor called on Hirsh and asked: “Do you know this man?”


“How does he support himself?”

While he knew the answer already, “he travels buying and selling needles, thread, finger protectors and old clothes.” (It was the whole truth.)

“When can I meet him at home?”

“At night.”

“Meet me at the evening hour so we both can go over to this tax shirker.”

When Michel returned from his days travel, his wife met him, before he had an opportunity to enter his house, and told him what Hirsh, the Starosty related to her, that the authorities plan to confiscate his horse and wagon. Having heard the terrible news, Michel turned around, though he had not eaten all day, and left to hide in a nearby village for several weeks. In the end, he was caught; his horse and wagon confiscated, and auctioned off at the Lanowitz fair. His mother-in-law lived next to the bath house. With no job alternative, she helped him get a job as a bath attendant in that bath house.

The family Itzi Tsop, whose real name was Gersham, had 3 sons: Ya'acov, Moshe and Uziel. Theirs was a fine, honorable, family. Their livelihood was a leased flour mill in Gribova [3 km NE of Lanowitz]. The father, Yitzhak, preferred to pray in the Kloiz [=Hassidic Shul] located next to his house. It was his custom to sit and learn Gemarah until noontime. His eyesight was poor but he knew many Gemarah parts by heart. When he returned home from the Kloiz, his wife, having prepared his supper, greeted him by asking him to wash his hands. As he turned to wash, he suddenly remembered that the miller at his flourmill may not remember where the grain pail is located. He therefore, turned to this wife and said, “You can serve my supper soon; I shall return shortly.” She asked him, “Where are you going?” He replied, “I need to go to Gribova, to our mill!” He walked the 3 km and returned shortly thereafter. His soup was still warm.

On Rosh Hashonah, Reb Yitzhak (Tsop) used to recite the entire prayer by heart; likewise on Yom Kippur. His oldest son, Moshe, was a scholar. When one person sued another, he often acted as a mediator such that both parties felt satisfied. He showed an equal interest in each mediation case and helped the contesting parties whenever possible. The word “impossible” was not in his vocabulary. He intervened in difficult dilemmas, finding creative solutions for them. I became acquainted with his deeds because I lived in their house for a period of time.

The second son, nicknamed Yekil, was also a scholar, a learned man who excelled in learning Gemarah. He was never angry nor did he ever speak badly about others. He was a very respectable man. He spent the entire week at the Barsikawitzer Mill, a mill his family leased for many years, returning home for the Sabbath only. His wife Rachel was the daughter of the Lanowitz chief -Rabbi.

The third son, Uziel Tsop, was a learned and good man who officiated at weddings and funerals. He attended many weddings regardless of how closely he was related to the couple. His presence always added to the spirit of the celebration. He always brought a gift as was the local custom. He never had money in his pocket because the family income from the mills went to his brother Moshe. The latter distributed the mill's income in accordance with his brothers' needs. It was said that Moshe saw to it that when a family member's shoe was tight, i.e., he was squeezed financially, he loosened the shoe, his needs were taken care of. Moshe had high moral standards. With the demise of the Tsop family we lost a respectable component of our community.

* Kahat Kaufman, the son of Uziel, had a great sense of humor. His jokes made us forget temporarily our bitter fate. He often entertained us merchants: A'haron Marshak, Mordechai Guverman, Avraham Teichman and Akivah Leibishis, with humorous stories and questions. His first question one day was: “When will Poland suffer a defeat?” Whoever has the answer will receive from me a good piece of smaltz herring for 10 Groschen.” [The herring actually sold for this price at the time.] Mordechai Guverman opined that Avraham Leizer, son of Khava, would likely be able to solve this riddle. At that moment Avraham Leizer arrived and we all had a good laugh. Puzzled, he asked: “What are you laughing about?” Kahat replied that we all wish to know when Poland will suffer a defeat. Avraham opined that when Jews can afford to make jokes at Poland's expense, it is a sign that our state is in decline, he is however afraid that the state will drag us down with it.

(In our town) there was a love (i.e. consideration) for the welfare of another person which had no bounds. When a person approached one of us (merchants) for a small interest-free short-term loan, we would ask one another who amongst us had some extra funds to lend for several days. (In one such instance) Gruverman replied that he could spare the funds for 8 days. He turned to us as he was about to go home to get these funds, and asked one of us to mind his store for a few minutes until his return. So it always was. Such loan-need episodes were an almost daily occurrence. When a creditor was not found at his home, one looked for him on the street or in the Beis Midrash [=small shul] or one visited him the next day early in the morning while the person was likely to still be in bed.

I remember one such episode when Eli Mitratshnik received a load of lime from Podwisoky. The factory's owner was Mr. Shmarak, now living in Israel. It was delivered on a Friday while Eli was short of funds. Eli needed to pay for the load before the Sabbath to avoid a 3 day fine, and to avoid possible theft of part of the load. Eli's mother hoped to receive an interest-free loan from Bunim Brimmer. She furthermore anticipated that Bunim's wife, Haya was likely to have arisen early that Friday morning to knead the Challah for the Sabbath meal. In order to lose no time, Eli's mother walked over towards the Brimmer house and met Haya carrying a pail of water into the house that she fetched from the community well located next to the synagogue. Eli's mother greeted Haya with a “good morning” as is the local custom, and asked her if her husband is already up. Haya replied that he is still in bed, that it is her job (to rise early) to knead the Challa on Friday mornings, not his. Haya (wise to such early visits) next asked her what Eli needed and how much. Bunim overheard the conversation between the two women from his bedroom. When his wife entered their bedroom, he told her to look for the needed money in his bedroom drawer, that its key she will find in his coat pocket. Bunim Brimmer was a tall, good looking, man with an expressive face. He never spoke idly; his sentences were thoughtful and measured when he spoke.

* When I first came to Lanowitz in 1912, I noticed the warm reception one received daily, either a “Good morning” or “With God's help,” regardless of one's professional or financial standing. I remember these warm feelings to this day. Such warm encounters were absent in other towns.

Moshe (Rinkewitzer) Gurvich was a Jew that once lived in the village of Rinkowitz. I once had the task, together with a colleague, to resolve a demand that came down from the Kremenec Starosty [=district executive]. It ordered the community bathhouse to be brought up to specific hygene standards within 6 weeks. Shalom Weisman [see story about him on p. 397] was the Kehilah president at the time. The usual procedure in such a case was to convene a meeting on the Sabbath at our Shul at which experts came up with an estimate of the upgrading costs, and other associated repairs. Next, several of us fanned out into the community to collect the needed funds. When I came to from Moshe Rinkewitzer he asked me: “How much have you collected thus far?” I replied: “I have yet to collect from A&B.” He then volunteered that at the end of our collection process he will match the highest single contribution. And so it was. He was not wealthy, but he was a Gentleman. The arrival of beggars in Lanowitz was an almost daily phenomenon. Besides the small change they received they also needed a meal. It was general knowledge that beggars could get a meal at the house of Moshe Rinkewitzer.

* David Leepeh (or Leepa) whose family name was Zabarsky, traded in horses and was a food purveyor. One day Leibzi Chaggal came to my shop. He lived next to Hayim Yisroel who processed barley. He told me that he recently transported Tobacco from Zbarazh to Lanowitz. Someone reported him to the police; thereupon they confiscated his merchandise. He was not wealthy, nor was he a beggar. He asked my advice as to what to do about the confiscated merchandise. I knew the police chief to be a big hooligan; I also knew that he loved to ride horses. Knowing that David Lipeh always had a few beautiful horses in his stable, I immediately left the shop to visit him. I did not visit David Leepeh often because I had no need for horses. Besides, my late brother-in-law also traded in horses. I arrived at his house as he was eating his noon meal, consisting of a nice-looking red borscht. When he saw me he said laconically: “Your brother-in-law should live to 120.” I thanked him for his good wishes. He next asked me to sit down and his wife immediately offered me some of the borscht soup she had prepared that day, to honor my visit. I thanked her and added that her offering is a wonderful addition to the purpose of my visit. I next told him why I came to see him. He replied that only an hour ago the chief of police came to him to borrow a horse to ride to Borsehkowitz [Borszczewka (Polish) NW of Lanowitz]. He agreed to speak to the police chief when he returns with the horse.

The same night David Leepeh returned my visit, and told me that the entire merchandise is now in his house. I knew that this favor, as were other such favors, came out of his pocket. David Leepeh never asked for any monetary compensation. He was a simple man, yet a good, brotherly person.

* In Iskowitz [Juskewice] lived a couple, Moshe and Hinda Tepper. Hinda used to drive to town with a red horse that was with her over 20 years. Day in and day out she used her wagon to transport potatoes, beans and barley to Lanowitz. Sometimes she added Challah and poultry for those beggars she knew personally who counted on her to bring them food for the Sabbath. Moshe Tepper's father lived in town. He was a good looking and respected person, intelligent and a particularly good accountant. He seldom made accounting mistakes because he addressed his work with great patience. He felt similarly that one should eat leisurely, that slow eating is like eating two meals. He was also proud of his ability to lead a congregation in prayer, but preferred not to accept the honor regularly except on his Yahrzeit day [=anniversary of a parent's death]. He also maintained that if others derive joy leading prayer, he preferred to let them do the job. He never insulted another person and was modest in all respects.

* Moshe Tepper's brother-in-law, Yizthak Tsop, whose wife was Hinda Tepper's sister, spent WWI in captivity as a Russian P.O.W. in Austria under difficult conditions. He and his wife moved to Lanowitz after the war and ran a store selling flour. Yitzhak always loved to polish his boots even when his destination included travel through the local swamp. He liked to lead a prayer and to do Mitzwoth [good deeds] such as providing an interest-free loan. He never refused such a request and his late wife, Tova, was duly proud of his good deeds.

* Yitzhak Melamed and his wife, were satisfied with their lot. He envied no one. He only strived to have enough money to be able to celebrate the Sabbath with a challah, wine and fish. He never envied others who had more or greater conveniences. His greatest striving was to provide his two daughters with an education.

* Leizer der Griener [see also story on p. 219]

Leizer knew no Gemarah, nor did he speak a decent Polish, yet he had a “Jewish heart”, never refusing to do a favor, either monetarily or to fulfill a task. When a person ran into difficulties with the authorities [the Komandant or the Inspector] they immediately asked Leizer for help.

(In his approach to the authorities) he was never flustered despite his limited language skills. He brought forth sentences that were a mixture of Polish, Ukrainian and even some Yiddish when speaking to the authorities. Those whom he had to persuade of his particular case somehow understood him because his arguments were succinct, the product of a sharp mind and profound thoughts. He was never at a loss for words. All those who let him handle their case with the authorities knew that he was not a trained lawyer, yet they appreciated his willingness (and relative success) to help others without expecting honors in return.

[Pages 302-303]

A Visit To Lanowitz

By Yosef Warach

After having lived for several years in America, my heart yearned for my dear home town, Lanowitz. I yearned for my family and my friends. In reality I wanted a little of the warm atmosphere of my former community.

I saved some money and traveled to Lanowitz in 1913. The trip left a deep impression on me that I remember to this day.

I arrived on a Thursday evening. The town was oddly quiet. The normal workday atmosphere had been replaced by solitude. The stores were manned by women. The men of the community were bathing, putting on their black clothes, preparing to go to the Beis Midrash [=a part of the synagogue] for the Mincha and Ma'ariv prayers. I stood in the middle of the street feeling like a stranger. After experiencing the hub-hub of New York, the quiet atmosphere of Lanowitz dulled my senses. I was at a loss, wondering what is more important for mankind, and particularly for Jews.

Before visiting my only sister, Toby Katz, and her dear husband, Leizer Kibes, I went to the Beis Midrash. When I arrived I was immediately surrounded from all sides by warm handshakes and greetings. Yoel, the Shokhet [=ritual slaughterer] was leading a hearty Mincha and Ma'ariv prayer. After the prayer session I contributed a bottle of hard liquor and a snack to celebrate my return visit. All those present drank a Le'Hayim and joined me at the Kiddush table. I was the guest of honor, a person who had not forgotten Lanowitz. Afterwards, I visited my sister and brother-in-law, Leizer Katz.

Before I left the Beis Midrash, I told the congregants that whoever wants to receive greetings from Lanowitz emigrants in America should come to Leizer Katz's house. At the time only a few Lanowitz young men had left their wives and children to seek work in America. I knew them all, for they all lived in the same New York neighborhood. On Friday and Sunday, my brother-in-law's house was full of visitors. People came to ask questions, to accept greetings, to find out how their relatives were doing health-wise and economically. They had a drink; they shed tears and hoped for a better future.

On the Sabbath, after the prayer session, the whole community came to my sister and brother-in-law's house for a Kiddush. Almost every family had delivered a Kugel to their house for the occasion. After the Kiddush, we sang Zmiroth and said grace. Later in the afternoon, I went to Shul for the Mincha and Ma'ariv prayer. At the completion of the Sabbath, the congregants and I went again to Leizer Katz's house for an evening of religious singing till the wee hours of the night. This was a great Sabbath, a joyous occasion that I remembered for years thereafter.

On Sunday, I was invited to the home of Rabbi A'haron Rabin. We had a wide-ranging discussion regarding Yiddishkeit in the U.S. I believe I gave him an accurate account of the matters of interest to him. Even simple folks of our community asked me not only about work opportunities, but also about the level of Yiddishkeit in New York.

From Lanowitz, I traveled to Zbarazh [near Tarnopil] to visit my parents. The whole community came out to say goodbye and wish me a good journey.

Many events happened in the world since then. Many terrible things have happened that have shaken me and distracted me. However, my days in Lanowitz during my 1913 visit have left a deep impression in my memory. I cannot and will not forget these warm-hearted Jews of my home town. They were the best example of a community that the world has created.

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