by A. Landfish
Translated by Moshe Kutten
From time immemorial, it was customary at the Old Synagogue, before the concluding prayer on Yom Kippur, to hang on the ark a white elongated Parokhet [a curtain for the ark]. The writing on that Parokhet was embroidered with diamonds and gems: Yom Miyamim Hukhas Yom Kippur HaMeyukhas [A great importance was attributed to that day Yom Kippur an honored day a hymn sang as part of the Musaf prayer of Yom Kippur].
My father, Alter Landfish ZL, was born in 1835 [may be an error M.K.]. He was a pious and G-d fearing man. We used to pray for many years at the Old Beit HaMidrash, however, after his oldest son died, he moved to the Old Synagogue because they used to dance and sing at the Old Beit HaMidrash.
The Old Synagogue was an old stone building in which the chill was always present. An atmosphere of seriousness enveloped it. They did not dance or sing there, even during the Simkhat Torah holiday, like in the other houses of prayer.
Aba [father] once told us the history of the Parokhet:
A wealthy, pious, and honorable Jew, R' Shalom Dankner, used to pray there at the western wall for many years. During the Days of Awe, the custom was to auction off the Torah Aliya's [the blessing before and after Torah reading] and other honoring functions, except at the opening of the Ne'ila prayer [concluding prayer], which R' Shalom Dankner was always honored with. Nobody dared to encroach on his role even after he lost his wealth. When the Gabbai would announce: A gulden for the opening of Ne'ila the first call! the crowd remained silent, and nobody thought to compete with R' Shalom Dankner.
However, an unprecedented event occurred once. When the Gabbai issued his customary auction announcement, one Jew named Sapiluk, a commoner who became rich, raised his two fingers signaling that he was willing to pay more. Embarrassment encompassed the synagogue, and everybody jumped on their feet to see who dared to break the tradition. Shouts and threats were heard. Following a short discussion, the Gabbais decided to continue the auction to allow for winning it for R' Shalom.
However, when the auction price reached a substantial sum, a small bag filled with jewelry fell on the Gabbais' table. R' Shalom Dankner's wife threw it from the women's section since she could not bear to see her husband's sorrow and humiliation. At that point, Sapiluk could not overbid, and R' Shalom Dankner won the auction.
After Yom Kippur, the Gabbais decided to return the jewels to Mrs. Dankner and offered that she would only pay a symbolic sum. However, she refused to receive her Jewels back. It was then decided to sew a Parokhet, embryoid the writing using diamonds and gems, and hang it every year before the opening of the Ne'ila prayer. Two Gabbais stood by and guarded the Parokhet during the prayers and hid it in a safe place after the prayers.
When the First World War erupted, the Parokhet was transferred to Vienna, and I do not know its fate.
* * *
In 1896, a Zionist organization by the name of A'havat Tzion [Love of Zion] was established in Ternopil. Young men and women gathered, read newspapers, and played chess; A lecture was organized from the to time. A ball called Neshef HaMacabbim [Macabbees Ball] was organized on Hanukkah, and sometimes an amateur play was shown.
At the same time, a Jewish scholar lived in Ternopil called Mania Maggid. According to people's opinions, he could have served as a rabbinical judge, but he did not come from a good lineage. Mania Maggid was an opponent of Zionism, but his daughter, a beautiful girl of 17, joined the Zionist organization and visited its club without her parent's knowledge. There she met a nice youth with a pleasant voice, a painter, and they fell in love with each other. It was clear that R' Mania would not agree to the match under any circumstances.
Once, in Purim, we heard the drums beating and the flutes playing. A group of Purim actors went from house to house, as was customary in those days, to play short sketches about biblical subjects. And here, the group approached
R' Mania's home and following them was a large crowd of boys and girls. When the actors entered the house, the entire crowd forced themselves in, me included. R' Mania was sitting at a set table, with [his family and] a few guests. The actors played the scene from the Book of Esther: King Ahasuerus marries Esther. The merrymaker began to sing, and the gathered youth repeated after him. With all the noise and tumult, nobody noticed that R' Mania's daughter disappeared from beyond the table and mixed with the crowd. One of the couple's confidants handed the daughter a mask, dress, and crown. King Ahasuerus approached her then, took out a ring, put it on her finger, and said in a loud voice [the Jewish wedding vow]: Harei aat mekudeshet lee [Behold you are consecrated unto me ]. Everybody laughed and yelled Mazal Tov and served the couple wine. Then King Ahasuerus and Queen Esther took off their masks. To the embarrassment of the parents, Queen Esther turned out to be none other than their daughter, and King Ahasuerus was none other than the painter Panic arose in the room. R' Mania set motionless like a fossil. His wife fainted, and they had to call a doctor. The entire crowd disappeared. The city was agitated and tumultuous. The Zionists' opponents used the case to gore the movement and defile it. The parents and the rabbinate tried to convince the painter to divorce his wife, but all their efforts were in vain. The couple could not see any other way out except to leave the native city and immigrate to America.
* * *
Sixty years ago , the price of a litra of veal in Ternopil was fourteen cents [hellers?], However, one Jewish villager brought veal to the city daily and sold it for twelve cents. There were many, particularly among the poor, who jumped at the bargain and bought all their meat from that villager. That lasted for about three years. One day, the gabbais announced, in all the synagogues and houses of prayer, that anybody who bought meat from that villager must throw away the pots and kitchen tools since they were forbidden. They also disallow selling them to the gentiles. Embarrassment descended on the city since most of the people who bought the meat from the villager were poor. In addition to their sorrow for eating taref [non-Kosher] meat for years, they had to throw away the tools they used to cook it. The rabbinate decided to excommunicate the person who failed the city by supplying taref meat.
I still see the scene of the ex-communication in front of my eyes. At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, a caretaker passed the streets and used his hammer to knock on the shutters of stores and homes. It was a signal for everybody to gather at the synagogue. A crowd of several thousand Jews gathered shortly while later. Black candles were lit and Rabbi Shimon BABaD, a Jew with a majestic appearance, spoke about the wrong that was done to the city Jews. He later read the Rebuke Torah Portion, and the audience responded with Amen. When the rabbi finished the rebuke, he ordered the Jewish villager to leave the synagogue and never come again among the Jews. With dead silence and the people standing on both sides of the aisle, the villager walked crying. Excommunicated by his fellow Jews, the villager had to leave the village and escape to America.
by M. Deutsch
Translated by Moshe Kutten
As well known, Yosef Perl was not kind to the Tzadikim; On the contrary, he did not shy away from using the police to expel a Tzadik who happened to stop by Ternopil.
One of the dignitaries in the court of the Zhydachiv Hasidim came out with a cunning idea: I will go to Ternopil, and Yosef Perl will expel me by the force of the police. Thus, I will become famous among the Hasidim. He dressed in a silk gown and wore a Spodik on his head, traveled to Ternopil, and walked around by the home of Yosef Perl. Perl noticed him when he went out on his terrace and said:
You are walking around here in vain, I will not expel you from Ternopil by calling on the police. I do not intend to make you a rabbi.
* * *
Yosef Perl tried his best to ensure that the Jews attained equal rights compared to the rights enjoyed by other citizens. He had some success. His son was the first Jew to study pharmacology. When the son completed his studies, he planned to open a pharmacy. He needed a license for it, and he could not obtain one despite his many inquiries. Yosef Perl was forced to turn to the king and requested to speak with him. The king accepted his request, and Perl got to see the king and plead his wish. The king responded: So what, let him begin working in another profession, and he will be fine. Perl answered: Yes your honor the king, but even Your Majesty can not give my son back the years he spent studying.
* * *
Yitzkhak Pasternak was one of the famous Chortkiv Hasidim and spent all his days in the company of the Hasidim in a tavern on a cup of honey water and stories telling the praises of the Tzadik and words of the Torah.
He made a living by brokering between the estate owners and the merchants. He once entered the home of an estate owner to talk about some business. He did not find him at home because the estate owner spent his days in the tavern. His wife was angry about her husband, who neglected his work, and she ran to the tavern to fetch him. When Pasternak saw her from afar, he asked the barman to pour a cup of honey water from that very old wine. When she entered, he welcomed her kindly, and before she opened her mouth, he told her: First, please drink this cup of honey water since today is the anniversary of the death of the holy Tzadik, may his memory protect us. The woman drank the honey water, became dizzy, and had to sit down and rest. She fell asleep a minute later. When she woke up, her husband told her: You see? That is how we are being tortured for years!
* * *
Shmerl Eikenbaum interpreted the phrase written above the synagogue of the enlightened people: This is the gate of the LORD; Tzadikim shall enter through it [Psalms 118:20] as follows: Like righteous come through the gate, so it is the gate of G-D.
He interpreted the name: Balak ben Tzippor [King of Moab - Numbers 22:2] as Ba Lock ben Tzippor [In Hebrew A lock, the son of Tzippor, is coming or] in Yiddish (in Ashkenazy accent) A Jew with leken (curly sidelocks) is coming. He said: I thought that this was somebody like a son of a Tzadik [In Hebrew ben means son], but I found out that he is the son of a bird [in Hebrew, tzippor means a bird] so he is a free bird or a free man.
* * *
Mykulyntsi [Mikulnitza] is a small town located not far from Ternopil. A Jew who resided there used to walk every day, very early in the morning, with a Talit and Tefilin to pray. One day, a wagon harnessed to four horses stopped by him. The Paritz [wealthy man] sitting in the wagon asked the Jew:
What Paritz owns this town?. The Jew answered: Before Rozhin people came here, the town belonged to the Tzadik from Stratyn, however after the people from Rozhin came, the town is divided into two: A half belongs to the Tzadikim from Rozhin and another half to the Tzadikim from Stratyn.
* * *
Three grandsons of famous Tzadikim resided in Ternopil, and many from the lower classes were among their followers.
During one of the winter nights, one of the Tzadikim hears knocks on the door and a voice calling: Rabbi open!. The rabbi gets off his bed, washes his hands, wears warm clothing, and sits on his chair. Two poor women come in and begin to cry: Rabbi, we have a woman in our family, who has difficulties in her childbirth, and we come to ask you to pray for her. The rabbi sits down and expects to see the redemption money but does not see anything in a form of a coin. He ponders in his mind what should he do? Did he get off his bed in the such cold for nothing? No money? He tells the women: Please know that a harsh sentence hangs over that woman, and I cannot do anything for her myself. Go and wake up the two ther Tzadikim in the city, and the three of us will try to avert that sentence.
by Meir Khartiner[a]
Translated by Jerrold Landau
|The entertainment makes noise and raises a tumult.
We have almost forgotten,
The bride and groom are fasting oh no!
Everyone wants to eat!
The jester shouts like a goy:
Beloved mekhutanim [in-laws]!
The crowd is not at this point
They are falling on their faces!
It is time to conduct the khupa, the khupa, the khupa
It is time to set up the khupa the khupa, let's get on with it already!
|Thank G-d they stopped fighting
Already the two sides:
Let's go Jews, lets move
To the khupa hooray!
Waiting already in front of the synagogue
Is the Society of Good Deeds: [a group to help with the festivities at the wedding]
Young girls, young men so many!
Playing pranks, laughing, crying
Suddenly voices: Be quiet already! They are already coming they are already coming!
Suddenly voices: Be quiet already! They are already coming, hey hey hey!
Come forward, first class musicians:
A crowd, a large group!
Behind him is a young lamb [The Hebrew translates it as tail]
|Right and left, on every side
The entourage is coming!
Brother-in-law Mekhtshe, a proper Jew
Yentkhe the regal:
Drags himself like a pest
A sort of ruddy sort.
Instead of a streimel, he had a regular cap.
A cane with a gulke [a walking stick?]
It is our rabbi, the rabbi, the rabbi!
And indeed, it is our rabbi the rabbi, ti di da!
And the Jews are marching en masse
A variegated crowd moves along
But is the girl lacking grace,
|Why are you crying now
Before the khupa circle?
O, you beautiful, sweet child
Do you love another boy!
O, the one young of years knowns
Perhaps you are!
The fiddle sighs, so sweet,
It moves the soul:
Sweet you were you were, oy vey zmir [woe is me]!
Sweet you were you were, oy vey zmir [woe is me]!
Perhaps G-d will make a miracle,
It is already not far from here,
And the Khupa is now over
|Khana, Khaya the gabbai's wife
Dances to the point that her kerchief vibrates
The mother-in-law gestures
The father-in-law with the belly (sings):
Praised is He forever,
Who lives forever!
With good mazel [good fortune] I am again a father-in-law
I have married off the mezinke [youngest daughter]!
Mazel tov to us all, to us all, to us all!
Mazel tov to you all to all Mazel Tov!
|Notes for the song To the Khupa by Meir Khartiner
by Avner Avnon-Bronstein
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Through the thin fog formed after my departure, now approaching twenty years, Ternopil, my childhood and youth city, is standing tall in its beauty and charm. In actuality, it is a city like any other, but for me, it is a city unlike any other. My intimate me' is tied to its calm view and, at the same time, lively life, with thousands of threads. These threads differentiate it entirely from any other city in the world. It is my soul city. Every street, house, and person was absorbed in my heart and became part of it. Today, after the great disaster, my heart is aching for all of the people who shaped my life at the beginning of my journey on earth. My emotion grows and explodes seven-fold when I remember the tragic and painful fact that all of that was, and it is no more.
There is a will and need to rescue the memories of the past etched in my heart since time immemorial from oblivion. Perhaps doing so would bring healing and relief to the heart mournful for the life that passed and faded away forever
Here is the amazing street named after Yosef Perl. When I returned from my wandering life in Vienna and Hungary in 1918, I went to that street. We settled in a house bordering Perl's school with its Temple. I found my first friends on that street. That was where I spent my free and quiet time and contracted world after years of wondering. I was enrolled to study at Perl's school. Within its walls, I met the essence of the Jewish poor. We studied in a large class of eighty-seven students, seven on each bench. That was during the Ukrainian regime. The other schools were closed and therefore, Ukrainian and Polish children flocked to our school. The class educator was the old teacher, Glassgal, who served in this role for forty-three years. He was a noble-spirited man, one of the people one never forgets. I will always remember him affectionately and with admiration for his fatherly treatment of every child.
Our school principal, Okser, gave us a speech. I remember only one sentence from that speech: You are young today, however, when you grow up, you will be proud that you were fortunate to study in the school named for Perl. We were ten years old then and did not understand the meaning of those words. However, over time I learned to understand their meaning well. I recall the teachers' lounge. A big picture of Yosef Perl hung at the center of the wall, a noble figure wearing an impressive uniform adorned with excellence awards medals on his chest. We thought the picture was of the emperor, but the caretaker corrected us: This is Yosef Perl, he said. In reverence, we drew back
The thick books in Perl's library made a huge impression on us. May it be so for us to know the secret concealed within those books.
Perl Street obtained a unique character during the Days of Awe. The temple, which was closed during the year except for holidays and Shabbat, was filled with people. We, the children, observed the many people, different from those we used to see in our street on weekdays, with curiosity. We knew they were important people who lived on Mitzkeivitz and Tarnovski streets. We always tried to get in and listen to the prayer, the cantor, and the chorus singing. We especially liked listening to the sermon by Dr. Taubles. He seemed to us as an ancient prophet (as much as we knew about prophets) with his style of speech and enthusiasm. We listened to him eagerly when it came to memorializing deceased exalted people who lived in the city and prayed in that Temple: Yosef Perl, SHIR, Nakhman Kromkhel The entire audience became emotional when those names were mentioned. After so many years, it became clear that the distance between the audience and the people Dr. Taubles mentioned, was immense, and not just in time
Almost opposite the Temple, on the other side of Perl's Steet, the middle-class people gathered in their house of prayer: Merchants, accountants, and trade workers. At least, that's what the golden sentence written on the front of the house said. Their Tallitot were larger than the ones in the temple. A few houses further, the house of prayer Yad Kharutzim [The Hand of Diligent] was located. The following people prayed in that house of prayer: Craftsmen, kiosk owners, small merchants, and Jews without any specific trade, the commoners whose faces showed signs of worrying about their existence and hard work. Their Tallitot were big and showed a clear sign of old age And again, a few houses down the street, the Minyan of Rabbi BABaD, the rabbi from Yavorov, was located. During the long breaks in Days of Awe's prayer, the praying people got out onto the street. The view was spectacular. The holiday clothing, the various Tallitot, and the peaceful discussions during an easy stroll gave the street an unforgettable perspective. Only the people from BABaD house of prayer did not mix with that crowed and kept a reasonable distance. These were the silk Jews, who diligently boycotted the Temple and made sure not to pass it. Fate was cruel to them. The home of their rabbi was located on the loathed street carrying the name of their hated person - Yosef Perl At the end of the break, the people returned, every person to their own house of prayer. Only the voices that emanated from the windows testified that there, on Perl Street, G-d gathered Jews from all classes to worship. The epitome of Ternopil's Jewish population prayed in that street.
The street looked entirely different on regular days. Here is the proud image of Rapoport, the owner of the bookshop, located across from the Temple. Inside the store, there was a darkness of a typical antiquarian, evoking curtesy in the hearts of his visitors. That was a respectable store, far from external glitter, arousing a sense of eminence. The furniture warehouse of Mr. Katz was located in the neighboring house. And here is the owner of the warehouse, the elegantly dressed Jew, paunchy with his eternal cigar between his lips. Warming in the summer sun he seemed to me as the perfect advertisement for his furniture...
And here nearby is the grocery store of Cohen. A dark shop in the building Yad Kharutzim, filled with merchandise in boxes, tin bins, drawers, barrels, and jars, but mostly empty of buyers further, an empty yard and the workshop of Drexler. An old Jew, wearing glasses, a yarmulka on his head, agile, always running here and there and nobody knows why. His turnery wood creations amazed all. And so on shops and workshops of all kinds and types, a textile workshop, barbershop, Zilber's shoemaker shop, the leather workshop of Winkler, Helman's pharmacy, the hatter shop of Podhortzer with the amazing cat in the windows, and more, and more. All of those shops were located on that small street. Life was peaceful but filled with worries about making a living. Quietly and without commotion, life continued.
Everyone carried their hardship silently and tried to show a smiling face so as not to be seen as a downer It seemed that the glorious past helped them overcome the difficulties of the present. Despite being located among crowded and noisy markets, between Kazhimzhovski [Kazimierzowski?] Square and the central market, that cultural street was unique with atmospheres of regular days and holidays, and with its own soul
On the other side of Perl Street was the park, surrounded by four rows of houses, shops, and institutions and Sobieski Square. Strange, but this was a park used by both Jews and soldiers. In the early hours of the summer mornings, the school children scattered through the park's corners, trying to improve their standing and memorize their lesson one last time before the test. They concentrated on their work, and every moment was dear. They swallowed compositions and covered the material in a hurry.
Following the students, old women appeared, slowly, slowly, mostly coming two at a time, sitting on the park's benches, enjoying the fresh air before the day's warmth began to oppress. Wearing sleepers, holding walking sticks, their faces wrinkled from the toil of life. They conducted conversations about days gone by, about physicians like Dr. Leibelinger who knew the secret of Carlsbad, and the healing seasons they spent in that enjoyable place in the distant past.
Later on like in all other world parks - mothers appeared pushing children's carriages for a morning stroll. In the evenings, the park became the domain of another authority: The garrison's soldiers met there with their girlfriends, the maids. A different atmosphere prevailed in the Jewish Park named after Sobieski.
Surrounding the park were four rows of buildings with a [unified] style and shape. Diversified private and public life, trade, and institutional life took place in these buildings. One front of the school named after Yosef Perl faced Sobieski Square. In that wing, a Hebrew school opened towards the end of the First World War. Hundreds of children acquired the Hebrew language there. Three or four idealistic teachers conducted the teaching. They were pioneers in the best and most sublime meaning of the word. They worked hard there for many years under difficult conditions without any external support. They seeded the idea of the national revival in the hearts of the Jewish children and youth in the city.
I can still see the clear images of these dear Hebrew teachers. Here is the teacher Greenspan, a flawless man with deep knowledge of the Hebrew cultural treasures. He was somewhat hasty and untidy but strict and boundlessly dedicated to his educational mission. He educated many generations of Hebrew-speaking youth. His spouse and partner in his educational mission was teacher Shitzer-Greenspan, a hearty woman with a tender approach to every child. And how can we forget teacher Gusta Steinberg and the innocent smile on her accommodating face? She was a woman that found all of her happiness in teaching and dedicated her life and future to it. She was a pioneer teacher. I have not found a person like her. I fondly remember teacher Sharaf, who came to us from afar and taught in our Hebrew school. Those teachers were the first to excite the children's imagination with the views from Eretz Israel. Here in the dark classes of Perl's school, Bialik's heralding bird flew for the first time for us bringing a greeting from the valley, ravine, and top of the mountains Here we learned about the dreamers and the fighters of the Second Aliya. Here we absorbed Eretz Israel's atmosphere and the views of its fields and vineyards.
In the same classes, the Jewish self-defense headquarter was located during the days of horror between the various invasions during the horrific years 1918 1920. Here were the Jewish students and workers, who wore stripes on their arms and worked vigorously to gather rifles and ammunition. They then distributed them among the areas exposed to the danger of the attacks by the antisemitic gangs who wandered around and looked for the opportunity to conduct pogroms among the Jews. That was a period of lawlessness. We were children at the time, and I remember the excitement with which we accompanied every armed jew, going out to his mission and guard, thirty years before the establishment of IDF (Israel Defense Force)
On the other side of Sobieski Square Bar Kokhba, the Zionist association of the Jewish students and intelligentsia was located. In our generation, between the two World Wars, we have not always understood the character and role of that association as part of the city's public life. However, to its credit, we must mention its activity among the assimilating academic youth, saving many by enlisting them to be under the Zionism influence.
A short distance away, in the structure of the Polish castle-fort [Zamek], was the center of the Zionist activity in the city. The large public assemblies and conferences of all the Zionist parties were held in its large hall. Here was where saber-rattling by the rivals in the election for the Zionist Congresses took place. Here was where political life took shape. In the same hall, armature theater troupes tried their luck Zionist, communists, and just people who were crazy about the theater.
The second floor of the castle building housed the evening lessons of the Hebrew union Tarbut. Hundreds and thousands of youths and adults studied Hebrew here, taught by the best teachers in the city. Here, in parallel to the Hebrew school for children, was the circle of the Hebrew language, and its culture was closed. The Zionist idea received an original character among the learning crowd. In addition to the teachers, several individuals worked hard to develop the Hebrew lessons network in the city, In particular, we should credit Mr. Kurfuerst and Zusha Wahler.
Despite the propaganda of the [right-wing antisemitic National Democratic Party of the] Andakies to rescue the historic castle from the hands of the Jews, the blessed and efficient operation of the Jewish national movement took place there until the Holocaust.
At the side wing of the castle, operated, educated, and sparkled the Zionist union of the No'ar Tzioni [Zionist Youth]. That movement formed relatively late after the youth movements HaShomer HaTzaier [The Young Guard] and Gordonia. However, it managed to attract the bourgeoisie youth and join them into the Zionist education circle in the diaspora and onto the fulfillment of the Zionist ideology in Eretz Israel.
The orphanage of Mrs. Oksenhorn was located in a tightly closed house, in the same Sobieski Square, opposite the park, near the city military headquarters. Tens or perhaps hundreds of Jewish children lived in that tightly closed house. They only came out for a short stroll in the street, marching as a group and under the strict supervision of a few women matrons and helpers. We never saw these children playing freely in the park across from their houses or visiting some other entertainment venues in the cities. These places were outside their boundaries, which lay in the margin of the economic lives of the children and youth in the city.
A big fair, named after Holy Anna, took place annually in Sobieski Square and adjacent streets. Hundreds of families relied on that fair to remedy their miserable state during the rest of the year. Anyone who could not find work during the year looked forward to the fair and held onto it like a drowning person clutching a straw. Small merchants in the city and the nearby area, and even from far-away places, brought all sorts of bargains for sale at the fair. The merchants and their assistants announced, in loud voices, about the opportunity given to buying this bargain only on that day. The announcers amazed the masses with their rhymes, composed haphazardly to praise the cheap merchandise and its shaky quality. The announcers' hoarse voices led to the frightening commotion that prevailed at the fair. Buyers and just curious people crowded the square. They all turned that usually quiet corner into a raging sea, where waves of people moved continuously and aimlessly. When the fair ended, the square returned to its calm.
A small and clean Jewish restaurant of Mrs. Sara Rosenberg-Goldberg was located on Kozhminski Street, one of the side streets off Sobieski Square. The owner was a unique figure in the city: she spoke Hebrew. She looked like somebody who was copied from the enlightened circle, people of the early generations, and placed in that restaurant to serve her customers. She surprised people with her kind manners and eloquent and enlightened language. She induced an atmosphere of culture and distinctive grace in anybody lucky to meet her. Mrs. Sara was a modest woman, tied to her place of work, but her soul was far away from that physical place her soul was in Eretz Israel. She corresponded with Dr. Herzl and was among the first people that got hooked on the Zionist idea at the dawn of the national movement. She dreamt about making Aliya to Eretz Israel as early as the beginning of the 20th century but fate changed the path of her life and dreams and confined her to her small restaurant until her last day. While she was deprived of fulfilling her own aspirations to make Aliya and live in Eretz Israel, she knew to transfer her love for Hebrew and Eretz Israel to her only son. She hoped that he would take revenge on her cruel fate that prevented her from fulfilling her dream. With all the warmth in her heart, she dedicated herself to educating her son about the same goal she could not reach. Mrs. Sara taught her son Hebrew from his childhood. A while later, she was happy to see him joining the fulfillment movements of Gordonia and HeKhalutz.
|Mickiewicz [Mitzkevitz] Street
And just as Mrs. Sara was the only woman in her generation that spoke Hebrew daily, so was her son. He was a prodigy. He was one of a kind who used his early Hebrew education in practice every day. Both mother and her small son strolled the city streets, speaking Hebrew between them.
Some streets were a unique world on their own and unlike any other. Here is the main street of the city Mitzkevitz Street. Large Jewish shops, elegant cafes, movie theaters, hotels, the municipal building, a district court with a jail in the yard, the Jewish community building, and more. The essence of the Jewish youth was reflected in that street. On the one side, students and unaffiliated youths spent their free time. The other side was the meeting place of the youths from the youth movements and HeKhalutz. After their meetings at the various Zionist unions, they appeared in that street in the late hours of the evening for a short stroll and meetings with youths from other organizations. The section between the Polonia hotel and the end of the military hospital's wall was the pioneering meeting section.
In that section, some listened to the music of the Goldring orchestra, which played at the Polonia café. Obviously, they listened to the music while standing outside
In the morning hours before noon, in the same street, near Ingler newspapers kiosk, a diversified crowd gathered to wait for the newspapers arriving from Lviv and Warsaw. Near that kiosk and the triple-faced clock, world and country news published in [the Warsaw Yiddish newspaper] Haynt [Today] and [the Lviv Polish Jewish newspaper] Kvila [Minute], were spread for everybody to read.
At the community building, the various representatives, Zionists, Haredi, and assimilators wrestled with each other about the image and operation of the Jewish community. A building in which all the Jewish community's public activities were managed stood at the center of that street. Dr. Parnas headed the Jewish community and oversaw all its beneficial activities for many years until the Second World War. He was the man who fulfilled the Zionist directive to take control of the Jewish communities. He carried his role proudly, guided by the principles of democracy and caring for public interests. As a person who possessed European manners t and culture, he was able to heal the tears caused by the divided public. He educated it to aspire for great deeds and directed his substantial vigor toward a productive channel. He did all that while his Zionist spirit enveloped that entire ancient community.
When you turned from Mitzkevitz Street onto Tarnovski Street, you entered the world of the free professions. Most Jewish lawyers, physicians, and engineers resided on that street. I knew them all from my work on behalf of the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael [JNF-KKL]. All the refugees who escaped to Russia before the city was conquered by the Nazis, passed through that street directed west to east.
Our city spread over a large area and consisted of purely Jewish communities, mixed communities, and Christian areas where only a few Jews resided. A Jew from the Polish community of Zrodzia was considered by us a person from another town. Christian-dominated communities were scattered in various corners of the city, such as near and around the new public park, Polish hospital, train station, and more. Jews who resided in these areas formed Jewish islands in a sea of gentiles. They certainly did not have an easy life there.
Against that, the atmosphere in Ostrogski was Ukrainian-Jewish. On the side of the Jewish hospital stood the Bertztvo building the center of the Ukrainian national operation in the city. However, the building also served as a place for cultural and public activities of the Jewish parties, often more than the activities of the Ukrainians themselves. The Jewish residents of that street were mainly middle-class people, shopkeepers, and wood merchants. That street led to the two Jewish cemeteries. One of them, the old cemetery, was located in the middle section of the street. That cemetery is the resting place of the city's Jewish community greats from past generations. Yosef Perl, Nakhman Kromkhel, and others were buried there. We would pass that place with admiration and apprehension. Every public activist from outside the city and every emissary from Eretz Israel used to visit the cemetery and commune with the memory of our city's greats. The new Jewish cemetery was located down the same street outside the city. The street witnessed many tears shed at the Jewish funerals when they passed through it on their last way.
There was also a large center for the Jewish poor. It encircled all of the streets on the southwestern side of the city, with the Seret River bordering it on one side, the market square on the north side, and Kaziemizovski on the east. The center's heart was located in the streets around the old synagogue. Here, leanness and poverty combined most convincingly. The rest of the big center's streets were also settled by people of the middle class artisans and Jews without any obvious classification: porters, waggoneers, small shops merchants, peddlers, owners of a stall in the market, or people who were unemployed chronically and who died from hunger ten times a day. These people lived in dire poverty in the streets, Podolska Nizsza, Podolska Wizsza, Czacki, Baron Hirsch, Bogota, Lwowska, and in the allies that branched off these streets. Children rolled in the muck, mothers constantly looking for food for their children, and heads of families ran around like ants, carrying the unbearable heavy burden of existence Thousands of Jewish children were born, grew up, suffered, and carried in their hearts the insult of their miserable, oppressed, and degrading childhood for the rest of their life.
Within the sea of small lapidated houses, prone to collapse, inside the center of poverty stood the fort-like synagogue. It was built in the early stages of Ternopil as a house of prayer but also as a fort defending the Jewish settlement from attacks by the Turks and Tatars. The Dominican church was built at the same time for the Christian population. That old synagogue was built as a building copied from one of the countries in the east. The style, the basalt stones, the flat roof, with its guard rail containing slots for cannons all of that gave the building a unique grandeur. The whole building portrayed resilience and rooting by the Jews. The prayers of thousands of Jews emerged from that glorified temple, during the Jewish holidays. The atmosphere of the grayish fort synagogue was an appropriate background for the gray life of the crowded Jewish community. The building witnessed some moments of exaltation when the Zionist greats, such as Dr. Khaim Arlozorov, Dr. Meir Giar, and many others, appeared on the stage and enthused a crowd of thousands. That fort was the pinnacle of the Jewish assets in the city. What was its end?
And there was a river in the city the Seret River. Hundreds of boats carrying
youths sailed into the bosom of nature. Here was where residents of poor neighborhoods, youths of the suburbs, and young workers, gained some of their peace of mind back. Youth movements' leadership meetings and discussions with emissaries from their headquarter or Eretz Israel were also held on these boats. The atmosphere there was pleasant and convenient for public activities. In those boats on the Seret River, the best of the pioneers and the Jewish youths made their plans for Aliya and education in Eretz Israel.
At the extreme edge of that Jewish center, on Ruska Street two worlds operated in one corner, near the café of Shtekl: One of the worlds was the currency black market and the other, the parking lot of the Jewish waggoneers and porters. Those worlds were the two poles of the Jewish ways of making a living in the diaspora. On one sidewalk near the café, unnerved Jews ran around, in the summer or winter, searching endlessly for a client who wanted to buy foreign money or do a bartering business in foreign currency. Their eyes projected worry and fear. Worry about the profit, a few guldens to feed their family, and fear from the policemen who always bothered them. Most of the black marketeers were once shop owners or other businessmen. However, during one of the financial crises, they lost their wealth and had no choice but to become black marketeers. Near them, waggoneers and porters stood all year round waiting for a miracle from heaven an order to haul freight from one location to another to make a few measly pennies. The work was so arduous for such a meager wage, and the families at home were hungry and in need of clothing The whole tragedy poor economic state of the Jews was reflected in all of its cruelty in that one corner of Ruska Street.
There were some city corners in which a single youth union branch or a cultural institution was located. These institutions often exerted an unforgettable influence on their neighborhood, directly or indirectly.
The members of the club Yehuda, showed their power in sports, mainly soccer. They carried the flag of the Jewish sport and fought to protect its honor against the Polish and Ukrainian gentile clubs. A large crowd of sports fans flocked to the stadiums outside the city to watch the games. The hidden hatred toward the Jews often rosed up and floated on the surface in these stadiums. The national sentiment of a group of Jewish pickpockets would flare up in full force. They were the first to break into the pitch to defend the Yehuda players and pay the attackers back what they deserved. Indeed, these destitute people had a stormy national consciousness, and they often defended the honor of Israel proudly and bravely. Who can plunge into the depths of a Jewish soul?
The Jewish community in Ternopil, scattered in the various city neighborhoods, came to political gatherings, cultural appearances, lectures, and theater plays, after a whole day of hard work. Jews from all classes found some relief from the daily distress and dove into the spiritual world. Crowds filled up the concert halls and theaters, not only of the Jews but also those of the Poles and Ukrainians. Many would free themselves on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath (enforced by the regime), for a short trip with their family to the neighboring areas (Petrikov, Zagrobela, Gaia Vilieka [Velyki Hai?]) to enjoy the beauty of Podolia's nature and the expanse of the fields and forests.
That was a large community, lively and bubbly, with noble virtues and an open heart towards national affairs. It fought its battles under a difficult economic situation while the hope for national redemption guided it at every step. There were rich and poor Jews, however, the sense of brotherhood united them all in sorrow and joy. The feeling of respect and mutual responsibility guided all of them. The Jewish community in Ternopil was a settlement with a glorious past and quite a grayish present but possessed supreme ideas. It handled its battles through courtesy toward its rivals, where persuasion and explanation were its only weapons. We did not have political hooligans, and rivals' assemblies were not busted. There were no provocateurs in our camp. We conducted our discussions pleasantly and preferred common sense over demagoguery. Our community consisted of great human beings who were calm and possessed good manners. We also had a superior dedicated, and loyal youth. It had Jewish and general education and sublime aspirations. That youth filled up the workshops, shops, various schools in the city, and universities throughout near and far European countries. We had hoped that with the help of that youth, we could change the state of the Jewish population. However, the horrific fate of millions of Jews in Poland also hit Ternopil's Jews. Our dear and beloved people, institutions, and undertakings were all annihilated only our memories remained
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