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The History of Our Shtetl (cont.)

The Great Fire

I remember when the great fire broke out in Rozniatow and half of the town burned down. I was a little child then, not yet attending school. I saw people with their meager belongings standing near the Polish monastery below the hill. It looked very strange to me. I ran around and could not understand what was going on. Years later, when I spoke to older Rozniatower Jews about that event, they told me that it was really a huge fire and almost half the shtetl burned down.

The fire broke out outside of the town at Bendet Yampel (Herzl's son) and proceeded along all the houses of that same side to the Ringplatz, where Yossel Berger erected his brick house years later. Further, the fire consumed the whole row of houses belonging to Klein and Frenkel and all the way to the corner of Nissen Shindler's house. Years later, the victims of the fire reconstructed their homes.

At that time, the general population of Rozniatow constituted about three thousand people including 180-200 Jewish families. Ukrainians were the majority. A few tens of Ukrainians were rich landowners with houses and huge herds of livestock. The others were poor landowners with small houses that had thatched roofs plus a cow and a pair of piglets. Some Ukrainians were government officers and craftsmen.


Jewish Livelihood

Most Jews were merchants, government officials, craftsmen, animal traders, brokers, peddlers, coachmen, teachers, private tutors, lawyers, writers, solicitors, match-makers (Reuven Getzl), members of the burial society, a few grave diggers, stall keepers, tavern keepers (Chanina Weissmans).

Four Rozniatower Jews possessed fields, Leizer Turteltaub (who also managed the birth registry), his sons Itzi and Motty and Lipa Taneh. Only Itzi Turteltaub cultivated his fields by himself. He was the only real Jewish peasant. The other three hired people to work their fields.

In addition, there were attorneys, physicians, barber-surgeons (feldschers), cupping glass 5 and leech 6 placers, female charmers and wax founders (Sosye-Feyge Gelobter), clergymen, beadles, women prompters of prayers for female worshippers (Sara-Malka Wechter), women administering ablutions to women, midwives (Zlate Bera Zimmermann).

Most of the Poles, who were new arrivals, were Austrian government officials, and a few peasants and craftsmen.

Rozniatow itself was never an industrial city, but in the neighboring town of Broszniow, some 8 kilometers from the city, there was a huge steam sawmill (tartak paravy) under the name “Firm F. Glezinger”, whose center was located in Czyeszyn. This firm employed Jews as well as others both as officers and workers. In 1910 the firm built a narrow-gauge railway. Every day it drove from Broszniow through Rozniatow, Perehinsko and other villages deep into the forests to Osmoloda, which is near the Hungarian border. From there, it brought cut logs to the sawmill for further processing. On its way there and back, it transported passengers free of charge.

In Rozniatow the firm had a farm near Nachman Sheiner, the bookbinder. The manager of that farm was a Hungarian man named Shamlo who was fat and had long hair. He was very talented in breeding pigs. Weinless was his housekeeper. Shimke Hillmann from Perehinsko was also employed there.

There were naphtha pits not far away from Rozniatow. There was a refinery in Ripne where the naphtha was filtered. In that old village and located on the river Fyszarka there was a water sawmill and a water mill belonging to Vovtche Taneh.

About 2 kilometers from the city, on the way to Swaryczow, there was an oil refinery owned by Hersh Rechtschaffen. The refinery worked only with cheap oil called “Lachting” that was used only by the gentiles.

In all, there were three water mills. One was at the monastery below the hill belonging to Yaakov Meir Lehrer, where the manager was Yossel Helfman who had a son in America who was a garment manufacturer. Our father taught the miller's son, Eli. The second water mill was across the river. From all the millers of that mill I remember only Efraim Rechtschaffen. In that mill there was a worker called Chaim Kasner whom people called “Chaim from the mill” and who lived near the Beis Midrash 7.

The landowner Lipa Weinfeld, a rich Jew who possessed many fields, lived in the village of Szwaryczow, about 3 kilometers from the city. His son Moynik was also our father's student. One of his grandchildren, Sanye Freier, is a real estate broker in New Jersey and is very wealthy.


Communal Relations between the Jewish and Christian Communities

What were the communal relations between the Jews and the Christians in Rozniatow like? The Jews carried on no conflicts with Christians, besides those arising in trade exchange when one bought something from the other and at similar situations. Rozniatow was no exception to other cities when it came to anti-Semitism. The Ukrainians and the Poles were anti-Semites. The slogans for both of them were “Bij Zyda” 8 or “Zyd Zlodzej” 9, “Parch” 10 and other expressions such as “Zyd z nieba to wiezyc mu nie trzeba” 11. This proverb speaks for itself. Besides that, the clergymen used to preach hatred and enmity to Jews from their pulpits. There were exceptions to this in Rozniatow — Malinowski, Jaczkowski, and others.

The majority of the Ukrainian peasants were small landowners and their harvests were sometimes insufficient to feed even their own families. They used to walk barefoot all summer and until late autumn. They envied the Jews who lived and dressed better, and they were convinced that all the money that the Jews realized from sales they kept. They didn't trust Jews, thinking that they were charged high prices and were obliged to sell their produce almost gratis. Besides that, among the peasants were many illiterates.

The Poles, most of them governmental officials with good salaries, were materially better off than the Jews and the peasants. The trouble with them was that they preferred to enjoy life and to squander almost their whole salary in a few days on drink. When the bartender refused to sell beverages on credit, they vented their anger on the Jews.

We can divide the Rozniatower Jews in several economic groups. There were people with well-established businesses who owned their own houses, earned their livelihood with surplus, and lived comfortably according to the standard of living of that time. In Rozniatow there were no very wealthy people, possessing huge capital, houses, fields and forests. Another group was composed of the small storekeepers. They earned their livelihood through toil, but they possessed their own little houses. Among the craftsmen were some who could hardly procure all that was needed for the Sabbath, and there were even some very poor people.

About 90% of the Jews owned their own little houses — some were bigger, others smaller. The house and land taxes were very low because the government wanted to stimulate the building of industries and agriculture.

All of the stores were concentrated around the “Ringplatz” and along the city in a dense configuration — one shop next to another — and sometimes one shop was divided into two separated by a little wall. The inscriptions on the stores' signboards announced what was for sale. There were haberdashery stores with articles for peasant women like corals, ribbons in all kinds of colors, beads, mirrors, combs, needles, thread, yarn, earthenware pots, glassware, plus more trifles and embellishments.

A piece of leather on a stick announced that leather was sold there. Meat or bone-markets didn't need signboards because the meat could be smelled outside.



The fairs and the weekly market days held on Wednesdays played a very important and large role in the amount of money realized by sales. Every city from the Dolina District had its fairs on different weekdays several times a year. They were called Michaela, Ivana, Yakova, Yuria, etc. The fairs were looked at as a Messiah, because the money realized from the sales meant a great deal to Rozniatower merchants. Good sales helped to pay the bills of promissory notes and debts in a timely fashion and helped with the purchase of new merchandise. Therefore the preparations for the fairs started weeks earlier.

The fair in Rozniatow began at daybreak. Out-of-town merchants were already there laying out their goods on stands. Peasants with their cattle and horses for sale as well as cattle and horse merchants came to the animal bazaar. Every empty corner of the market place and its side lanes was occupied by peasant wagons loaded with agricultural products for sale.

Then the taverns filled with peasants with drunken voices even though the fair was still in full and fervent swing. People bought and sold, comic actors showed their acrobatic tricks, fire-eaters appeared as did burglars and stilt walkers. Poor people played on their street organs and sold cards that were pulled out by a parrot beak and that predicted everyone's future. All kinds of beggars and cripples were begging with their traditional tunes. An old beggar with a white beard and big spectacles on his nose was seated and read monotonously from a big book written with an evangelical handwriting; nobody understood him. Not far away from him, seated on a bundle of straw, was a blind beggar with a “shire” 12 singing and playing melancholy songs that tugged at the heart. A huge crowd of peasants surrounded him. The peasant women cried bitterly and threw coins.

Violent cries of drunkards were heard from the tavern of Melech Gross. They fought with each other and started to riot in the tavern. Mordechai Gross seized a bench and hit the peasants over their heads. Several of them were lying already quietly on the floor and in this way he mollified the drunken crowd.

In the late evening the crowd scattered and gradually drove off and with this the fair ended.

The whole family — the wife and the children who have finished school and the Cheder — had to help provide for the family's livelihood. In Rozniatow there were women who did better in business than their husbands; they had “business heads”. These included Adela Leizer's 13 Geller, Feyge Beyle Shlomo Foygel's, Mamze Yosef Shimon's, Gittel Chaye Adler's, etc.

This was the way life went on in Rozniatow day by day. The yoke of sustenance was heavy. Only with trouble and pain could you gain your daily bread plus something to put on the bread. The small merchant, the craftsman, the village teacher and the impoverished man fared the worst. During the week they used to survive on anything — black bread, coffee with chicory sweetened with saccharine. The main concern of the poor man was how to provide for the Sabbath! They were glad to have a little animal head, a leg with a marrowbone, tripe, lungs, liver, other giblets, and a potato pudding (kugel). For the third Sabbath Meal there was available drelia 14. At times there was also calves foot jelly (ptcha), and sometimes even a spicy dish, but no frozen goods.

Every Jew, rich or poor, used to discard his weekly crudeness, feeling a kind of spiritual elevation until the end of the Sabbath. With the arrival of the new week, there was a return of the yoke of sustenance, a burden more difficult than the parting of the Red Sea 15.

The most popular food in Rozniatow was potatoes. There were houses where potatoes were eaten thrice a day — the whole week, the whole year. As the little song asserts “Sunday potatoes, Monday potatoes...” They were eaten in different ways: not peeled, “in their shirts,” with herring, fried, cooked with soup, with fat, and with grieven 16. Even a pudding (kugel) for Sabbath was made from potatoes, as well as pancakes for Chanukah (latkes), and drop scones for Passover. There were also muffins stuffed with potatoes (knishes), and dumplings fried with onions (kluskes).


Hassidim and Maskilim

Hassidim 17 and Maskilim 18 lived in Rozniatow. Leftist elements first appeared after the First World War. The enlightenment was unavoidable. Young Hassidic men used to devour enlightenment books. Differences in their mode of dress also became apparent. They started to wear short jackets, long pants, whole shoes, hard hats like the Germans, and hard stiffened collars with neckties. They cut their sidelocks (peyos) and beards. In winter they wore a jacket or a short or long pelisse 19. Women had more difficulty changing their appearance. They wore their own hair instead of a wig, and a cap over the head.

The Hassidic dress was traditional: a large cloth or velvet hat, a large cap, a coat, a ritual four-cornered garment, short pants, white socks, and half shoes. On the Sabbath they wore a streimel 20 with lace, a silk gabardine; in summer a light jacket and in winter an overcoat or a sheepskin coat. On Saturday, unmarried young men used to wear a kind of a fur cap called a “spodek.”

1) Dr.Sapir, 2) Dr.Feuer, 3) Dr.Sabat, 4) Dr.Diamand, 5) Dr.Redisch, 6) Director Blaustein,
7) Dr.Kahane, 8) Dr. Katz, 9) Dr. Menkes, 10) Magister Leib Meizeles,
11) Magister Leib Horowitz, 12) Prinz, 13) Director Rosenberg


During the whole week Hassidic women wore floor length dresses. In summer, the dresses swept away the dust. On rainy days, the dress had to be lifted up with one hand while the other hand held an open umbrella. A blouse with long sleeves closed up at the neck was worn over the dress. On the Sabbath, they wore the same clothes, adorned with a little bit of jewelry, as well as a jacket called a “yupke”.

The enlightenment movement brought Zionism in its wake. Among the first enlightened and Zionist pioneers in Rozniatow were: our father Chaim Shimon Lutwak; the brothers Leibtshe, Meir and Abraham Yankel; Meir Kaufman; Yudele Melamed's son; Bendet Spiegel; Mendel Horowitz; Yisrael Leib Ortmann; Meir Ortmann; Hersch Mendel; Shalom Rechtschaffen; Aharon Weissmann; the brothers Shlomo and Itzi Gross; Vove Chaye Adlers from the old village; Hermann Horowitz; Moshe Barnik; David Barnik; Yissachar Stern; Leizer Tepper; the brothers Bonye and Azriel Reizler; Yechezkel Nussbaum; Yomtzi Frisch; Binem Geller; Dr. Alter Berger; and may he live long Dr. Yaakov Yankel; Yehoshua Ortmann, a son of Mishel Ortmann; Dulik and Nunek Lusthaus. Leizer Tepper was from Rozniatow, his former wife was Gustava and her father was Pinchas Reiter. He used to worship in the Beis Midrash. He was an intelligent man. He wore a “Kaiser beard” like Franz Joseph and a pince-nez. He lived a short time in Rozniatow in the house of Meir Taub and Blume Ayngemachts from Stryj where I attended the gymnasium.

At that time, almost a century ago (in the 1870s), our father was already openly reading enlightenment books and the Hebrew weekly “Hamitzpeh”, which he read for many years.” He did not hide this from anyone. For him it was quite natural and he saw nothing bad or heretical in his readings. But Jews of his age and environment could not understand how a Jew who teaches Torah to Jewish children could read newspapers and seemingly heretical books. They felt that such a person departs — G-d forbid — from the right path. Our father knew how to learn well, like every other Rozniatower Jewish citizen of his age and environment. He served as the Torah reader in the Beis Midrash. He had nice handwriting, which was an important trait in those days, and was able to compose a good Hebrew letter written in flowery language.

We lived in our own house near the synagogue. We purchased it from Yitzchak Schwalb. He manned the tollgate in Stryten Nizjtne in his earlier years. This was a city gate that charged a toll for wagons that entered or left the town.


A group of communal activists
From right: Shlomo Widmann, Peretz Sperling, Feivel Weber,
Sender Friedler, Shalom Rechtschaffen, Herman Rubin, Avraham Groll,
Zishe Aryeh Kuperberg, Leizer Deutscher, Shalom Hoffmann


When I was born, our father was already a teacher and did not take part in local politics. The enlightenment movement broke the ice in Rozniatow. People started to study secular subjects in addition to the Torah. They dressed in a German style with short jackets. They wore white hats with a crease in the middle as well as hard hats.

At that time the first worldwide Zionist Congress took place in Basle under the chairmanship of Dr. Theodore Herzl of blessed memory. The enlightened in Rozniatow were also the pioneers and first members of the Zionist association “Chovevei Zion” 21. It was located in the house of Moshe David Yekeles where Esther Lusthaus used to live. Later on, the association was in Sosye Heller's brick house. Other members of the Chovevei Zion were the baker Wolkentreiber who did not return home from World War I, Dr. Alter Chaim Berger, Meir Taub, Shaul Schwalb, the son of Avraham Schuster, and our brother Hersch Mordechai Lutwak. Dr. Alter Berger and his sister Tinka now live in Israel. Artzi Berger died in Israel. Our brother was an Austrian officer, fell into Russian captivity, came to America in 1921, died young, and left a wife with two children. His son is a doctor and conducts scientific research for the American Government. He is a lecturer at Cornell University.


First Drama Circle

The association did good work for the Zionist idea, collected money for the “Keren Kayemet Leyisrael” 22 and for the first time in the history of Rozniatow performed the play “The Jewish King Lear” By Jacob Gordon. Thanks to my brother, I had the privilege to assist at the general rehearsal and the performance itself. It was performed in a hall in Moses Rosenman's brick house, where the Poles previously had their sports club called “Sokol.” It was performed to a packed hall with great success.

The members of the drama circle included Shalom Rechtschaffen in the main role, David Mosheles as the Jewish King Lear, Aharon Weissmann as Shamai the servant, a certain person who was a writer for Dr. Sapir, Meir Taub, and others. Shaul Schwalb was the prompter. The performance was unusual because men — Yissachar Stern and David Barnik — dressed in women's clothes and played women's roles. It is necessary to take into account the circumstances of that time, in that a Rozniatower girl would not dare even to look at a boy never mind to perform with him in the theatre. This would have been rakishness; may the merciful G-d save us. The boys would do it willingly. They would like to have romances with the girls, but a girl of a good family was permitted to be friendly only with girls of her class.


A Torah Scroll is Carried to the Synagogue

It happened during the intermediate days of Sukkot 23 1909. A huge Sukka was erected near Melech Gross. Late in the night, the Torah Scroll was brought into the synagogue where a huge crowd was assembled. Some people stayed outside. Hersch Rechtschaffen sang “LeDavid Mizmor” 24.

From there people went to Itzi Eli Rosenbaum's house where a banquet in honor of the delegate of the Central Zionist Organization took place. Music played and people amused themselves until late in the night.

The preparations for the celebration at the conclusion of the writing of the Torah Scroll went on for a long time. Money was collected in and around Rozniatow at every possible opportunity. The Torah Scroll was written by Lipa Sofer 25 from Rozniatow, the father of Shmuelzi Sofer and the uncle of Moshe Fruchter.

The first Hebrew school was in the house of Eli Mordechai Brodfeld. Most of the students were boys. The older girls were seated at separate desks. I was also a student at that Hebrew school. The Hebrew teacher was Yehoshua Reiter, who was the first Hebrew teacher in Rozniatow. We had other teachers after he left.

Of the Hebrew girl students, I remember Esther Haftel the daughter of Hersch Rechtschaffen, who died young.

This was the blossoming period of the Zionist movement in Rozniatow. Later on the activity waned because some members left — some for Germany, some for other places — where they remained and got married. No new members came. This situation lasted until the outbreak of the First World War.


The Activity of the Jewish Community and its Head Vove Hoffmann

Like all other shtetls in Galicia, Rozniatow was a typical Jewish shtetl with all its virtues and defects, with its solemnity and humor, and with a traditional Jewish lifestyle that was organized by an entity called “die Judische Kultusgemeinde” 26. The Jewish Community had its legal status as an autonomous body under the supervision of the “starostowa” 27] of Dolina. The functions of the Jewish Community were to provide for the religious needs of the city's Jews including: support for the synagogues, the rabbi, the judge, the ritual slaughterers (shochtim); the appointment of the trustees of the synagogues (gabbaim) and the beadles (shamashim); support for the city bathhouse, the “Hekdesch” 28 where they brought the dead corpses from the region to be prepared for burial; and support for the cemetery. The Head of the congregation was Wolf (Vove) Hoffmann, who represented the Jewish Community before the Dolina starostowa. He was a rich, respected citizen, always serious, energetic, a traditional Jew, neatly dressed, tall with a nice beard, whose business involved naphtha and heating wood. He worshipped the whole year in the Kloiz 29 and led the services one day of Rosh Hashanah in the synagogue and Simchat Torah 30 in the Beis Midrash. From there faithful congregants used to go to his house; my father used to take me with him. After “Musaf” 31 there was served “Kiddush” 32.

Vove Hoffmann was the president of the Rozniatow Community until the First World War. I do not remember elections on democratic principles. He was appointed by the starosta 33 of Dolina as president of the Jewish Community and was simultaneously the Bürgermeister 34 (burmistrz) of the city itself. He was also appointed to this office by the starosta. Elections were first held for the presidency of the Jewish Community and for the mayoralty only during the 1920s, under Polish rule.

Hoffmann's children earned their livelihoods honorably. From the family there survived his daughters Taube, and Eszye and Motek Weissmann. They all live in New Jersey. Rozie Falik, Eszye Treu and Leib Hoffmann's two sons live in Israel.

Zecharya David Liebermann played a very important role in the community and in the city. For many years he was active in the administration of the community. For a time he was its president and a member of the City Council. He concerned himself with Jewish interests, was esteemed by the starosta in Dolina, and his views were respected. Together with Vove Hoffmann, he belonged, to the elite of the city. He was an intelligent person who was fluent in Polish, German, and Ukrainian. He possessed great life wisdom, was modern, dressed neatly, wore a patriarchal white beard, and was well groomed. He lived on the way to the Church. Earlier his house was at the “Ringplatz,” but he sold it to Yosef Shimon Stern. He presided over an aristocratic, traditional Jewish home, where Yiddish and Polish were spoken. If a Jew entered his house, he felt comfortable and wasn't compelled to hold his hat in his hands. He was popular in the whole region.

Leizer Itzik Lew, Liebermann's father-in-law, lived in the same building. He was a Jew with a delicate face, a silvery beard, neatly dressed in a Jewish style, held in his hand a stick with a silver handle. He used to greet everybody, bidding his “good morning” before his acquaintance could do so. He sold brandy many years ago in the old house where Vove Hoffmann also lived.

I used to go there every Friday to buy brandy for Sabbath for 1.5 “kreuzer.” There stood huge barrels filled with brandy. A Jewish bookkeeper worked there, who sold the drink, pouring it into small or large bottles. When I came there for the first time, I was astonished that the salesman was measuring the brandy so stingily. When I said to him: “Give me a bit more brandy. Why are you so sparing?” he became angry with me.

Yankel, the son of Leizer Itzik, lived not far away, on the way to the river near Yosef Yehuda Gedalya's Rotenberg. He married Zecharya David Liebermann's daughter.

Yankel's brother, Mottel Lew died as a young man.

Leizer Itzik Lew, together with his son and son-in-law, continued in partnership to trade in beer, brandy, and other alcoholic beverages. Leizer Itzik Lew and Vove Hoffmann were in-laws.

From these two large families only a few survivors remained: Klara Diamand who is the widow of the Dr. Morris Diamand, Simon (Shimke) Liebermann, and Anda (Chanele) Sternglass. All of them are living in New York.

The rabbi of the city, Rabbi Hemerling of holy blessed memory, was the spiritual leader of the Rozniatower Jews. He was an honest and refined person, a scholar and a G-d fearing man of stately appearance. He was involved night and day with the study of Torah and the service of G-d. He used to pray in the Kloiz and was very modest. He lived in his own house near Meir Taub. The community paid him a weekly salary. He also performed marriage ceremonies for which he was compensated. The rabbi was also the judge at religious lawsuits, for which he was paid by the litigants. However, very few religious lawsuits were adjudicated in Rozniatow, for most Jews preferred the courts.

The Rozniatower Rabbi passed away in the 1920s. They did not hire a new Rabbi until the 1930s. The “dayan” 35 Reb Yehuda Hersch Korn of blessed memory substituted for the deceased Rabbi. Although he did not have the title “Rabbi,” he took over and accomplished all the Rabbi's functions.

The sources income of the community were from: the fee for slaughtering, the sale of the “Aliyot” 36 on holidays, the use of the bathhouse, the fees paid for the burial of the deceased people which the heirs had to pay from their inheritance. No fees were charged from poor deceased people.

The community also had the right to impose a tax on the local Jewish population. However this was not practiced to avoid shaming 37 poor people who could not pay the tax.


The Synagogue, the Kloiz, and the Beis Midrash

There were three large places of worship in Rozniatow: a synagogue, a Kloiz, and a Beis Midrash. They were located in one area of the town on the way to the bazaar. This street was called “Ulica Boznica” 38 during Polish rule. There was also a “Minyan” 39 in the old town where those that lived there worshiped, because it was too far for them to come to worship in the city.

In the synagogue there was a special room called “Shulchel” 40 where services were conducted as well. The Hassidim and the rabbi worshipped in the Kloiz. The elite, the aristocrats, and on the High Holy Days also the intelligentsia, worshipped in the synagogue.

The general public as well as important citizens — such as the brothers Pinye and Yossel Berger, Shmuel Schwindler, Chaim Rotenberg, Meir Taneh, etc. — used to worship in the Beis Midrash. The congregants elected the “Gabaim” 41 but anybody could become a shamash (beadle) if he wanted. The community did not pay the shamashim. They were paid for lighting lamps at the anniversaries of the congregants' ancestors' deaths (yahrzeits) and from participating at weddings, circumcisions, and funeral ceremonies. They could not earn their livelihood from their roles as shamashim alone. They needed some supplementary occupation.

Before “Mincha” 42 on the eve of Yom Kippur, the shamash put a plate on a table in the antechamber of the Synagogue where the worshippers used to leave some money. The shamash also received a few groszy 43 for beating “Malkot” 44.

The Gabaim received no monetary reward. Their work was a matter of honor.

For many years, the shamash in the house of Worship was Kopel, an elderly Jew with a white beard and joined eyebrows who loved the bitter drop, 45 which was never too small. Every day one person or another observed “yahrzeit” to celebrate an ancestor's death, or a circumcision, a wedding or other joyous occasion. He never got drunk, even on Purim and Simchat Torah when it is a “Mitzvah” 46 to be drunk.

He was typical of Jewish shamashim from the old days. He considered his work as a shamash to be sacred task and performed his duties faithfully. The Kloiz was cleaned regularly with the help of his wife.

Kopel awakened summer and winter at daybreak and knocked at Jewish houses with his hammer and sang his call: “Arise to the service of G-d!” He also used to announce the midnight services 47. He was a quiet man and lived near the teacher David Rotenbach.

On a night of Rosh Hashanah during the 1920s, a fire broke out, and the old Kloiz burnt down along with many other Jewish homes. The House was later rebuilt as a brick house.

Katriel the son of Kopel,
the shamash of the Kloiz


The shamash was a central figure in the Kloiz, where the worshippers felt as if they were at home. People from all of the strata in town would come in — rich and poor, scholars and simple Jews. It was the task of the shamash to satisfy all groups. He created a good atmosphere in the Kloiz.}

All the Torah Scrolls were rescued from that fire.

The shamash of the synagogue at that time was Moshe Kaywisz. He lived near Yankel Lew. After reading the “Ketuba” 48 under the “Chupa” 49 during wedding ceremonies in front of the synagogue, he used to fold the Ketuba and to present it to the bride with the following wishes in Polish “here is your contract for 120 years.” Although he was not very healthy — he used to cough — he was also devoted to his duties as a shamash.

I remember the old Beis Midrash and the initiative of Shmuel Schwindler and Chaim Yisrael Yaakov's Rotenberg to build a new Beis Midrash. These two people worked indefatigably until late at night. Shmuel Schwindler even kneaded the clay, plastered the walls, and doing other work for the new House of Study.

Shmuel Schwindler lived near the bazaar on the way to the “Zarynok” where people used to bathe. He used to export calves to Vienna in his younger years. He was an honest pious Jew and of good character. He asked for no honors and was far from mingling in community affairs. He was an adherent of the enlightened people, meaning the Zionists, worked assiduously his whole life, went to the House of Study twice a day to pray, and studied the Torah as well.

During the winter, he used to come at daybreak into the House of Study and heated the stove to warm up the room before people assembled to pray with the first minyan. The words that the cantor recites before the Musaf prayer on Sabbaths can be applied to him: “and all those who occupy themselves with communal affairs in faithfulness”. He did everything that he did faithfully, with all his heart, while not seeking recognition. On Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur he used to conduct the Shacharit 50 service.

I was still too young to know from where the money came for building the new Beis Midrash. Of course, the community gave its contribution. Some money was collected and, I am sure, that Jews helped as much as they could with their own means. All the seats for the High Holy Days were sold, and this money also went toward the new Beis Midrash.

Considering all of the virtues of Shmuel Schwindler, the following question arises: how did it happen that such an honest Jew bears the name “Schwindler” 51? The story is as follows. When Austria gave the Jews surnames, every Jew could select for himself a name of his desire; otherwise an official gave him a name. An official came to Reb Shmuel's great-great grandfather, who gave evasive answers to all the official's questions. He even mocked the official a little bit. The unsatisfied and angry official then said to the stubborn Jew in German: “You are a schwindler and that will be your name.”

Our name Lutwak originates as well from that era. However, the story is slightly different. Our great-great grandfather fled the Russian pogroms from Lithuania and crossed the Austrian border bleeding from his wounds. After he received medical help, the officials asked him where he was from. He said he was from Lithuania, and this is the origin of the family name Lutwak.

In Rozniatow the services were conducted in all prayer houses according to Nusach Sephard prayer rite 52. In other communities, the services were conducted according to the Ashkenazic prayer rites.

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