« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Pages 35-36]

Rabbis, Homeowners, Hasidim, and Scholars

by Y.H. Chodorov

It was customary and acceptable in the Jewish Diaspora that, when an important man came to one of the places and wanted to know the nature of the Jewish community and its spiritual essence, he made the effort to introduce himself to the community's rabbi and, according to the nature of the rabbi, he expressed his opinion on the whole community. For that reason, it is fitting to examine and investigate who sat on the rabbinical chair in Tluste in recent generations, a period of approximately two hundred years.

Like other small communities which became famous in the entire Jewish world thanks only to great sages and Torah scholars who lived there, the name of the community of Tluste was known afar thanks to Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov who lived and worked in our town for a long period of time. To my sorrow, I don't have the exact details about that period, and I am afraid that these data don't exist: only a few letters, in which Baal Shem Tov added the notation, “from Tluste,” next to his signature, and also the tombstone of his mother, Sara, in our town cemetery. From all the calculations we can assume that Ba'al Shem Tov lived in Tluste for ten years, from 5490–5500 (1730–1740). At that time, there was already a Beit Midrash in town, and also a bath house with a Mikveh. That Mikveh was still in existence during the latter period, and was called by all “the Mikveh of Baal Shem Tov.”

At that time, there was a rabbi in Tluste by the name of R' Yitzchak. His son, R' Eliyahu–Arye, sat after him on the rabbinical chair. I don't have any additional information about the two rabbis, I only have a few details about the rabbis who came after them and sat on the rabbinical chair during the last one hundred and ten years. I will not attempt to describe the nature and qualities of these rabbis, I will just settle for stating their names and their attributions – each generation and its preachers.

The first was R' Dov–Ber (Bertsi) z”l from the renowned Shapira family. He was the son of the Holy Rabbi, R' Yehudah Meir z”l of Shepetivka and grandson of the holy rabbi, R Pinchas of Korets, May his virtue stand us in good stead. He died in Tluste in the year 5610 (1850). The famous rabbi, R' Meir Shapira z”l, and the rabbi from Vikno, R' Alter, were the grandsons of Dov–Ber.

The second rabbi was the famous rabbi, R' Avraham Yehoshua–Heshel z”l, a descendent of the famous rabbinical family, Katzenelbogen. He was the son of the Holy Rabbi, R' Mordechai of Korets, May his virtue stand us in good stead. R' Avraham Yehoshua–Heshel z”l, died in Tluste on 9 Nisan 5654 (1894).

The third rabbi was the son–in–law of R' Katzenelbogen, my father my teacher, the famous R' Pinchas z”l, a descendent of the famous Chodorov family from Berdychiv. He was the son of the famous rabbi, R' Duvid z”l from Ros–Banila Romania, grandson of the Holy Rabbi, R' Haim of Kosov and the Holy Rabbi R' Pinchas of Korets, May his virtue stand us in good stead. He died in Tluste on 26 Menachem Av 5675 (1915).

The fourth rabbi was the son of R' Pinchas, my brother, HaRav, R' Avraham Shmuel Aba Chodorov, May the Lord avenge his blood. The murderers, may their names be blotted out, sent him to Belzec together with his family during the “Aktzya” on Isru Chag of Sukkoth 5702 (October 1941). My honorable mother, the Rebbetzin Sheindele, May the Lord avenge her blood, was shot and killed there.

This short list of Tluste's rabbis does not need additional explanation. There aren't many small communities that were rewarded with several consecutive generations of famous rabbis, who sat on the rabbinical chair not only for their merit, but they were also the sons of great and famous rabbis who were educated on the knees of the Torah and piety. This greatly contributed to the fact that the community of Tluste was also an important and well–known. And here, I only want to add one additional detail to the image of my father z”l, who, all his life, fulfilled “You shall meditate on it day and night,” and stopped his studies only on the second watch, an hour or two after midnight.

Most of the families in our town originated from Ukraine; many Jews crossed the border and settled in Tluste during the decrees of 5408 and 5409 [1648–9], and also during the prosecutions and pogroms at the end of the 19th century. One of the families, whose attribution continued from the period of the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov, was, according to my best knowledge, the Hornig family. I still remember how R' Alter Hornig walked, at the age of eighty, from house to house on Sabbath eve to collect challot for the town's poor.

The large majority of Hassidim gathered at the Chortkov Kloiz [synagogue] and the Vishnitz Kloiz. The leaders of the Chortkov Hassidim were: R' Aharon–Wolf Brecher, R' Mendel Fiderer, R' Simsho Klein, R' Monye Stupp and R' Motye Shpitser. The dignitaries of the Vishnitz Kloiz were R' Yosi (Yosef) Epstein who was R' Duvid Fiderer's brother–in–law, R' Aharon Drimer, R' Hirsh Bremer and R' Shlomo the ritual slaughterer. All as one were modest G–d fearing Jews, and all of them wished that their sons would be Torah scholars. Besides that, there were the Hassidim of the rabbi of Kopyczynce, the rabbi of Zalishchyky [Zaleszczyki] and other rabbis. It should be noted, that the name “Hassid” was a very wide concept and covered many people who were very different from each other. There were Hassidim who clung to their rabbi and really wanted to follow his ways and study the Torah from him. With my own eyes I saw what one of the rabbis wrote in his notebook: “someone asked me to pray for him, that G–d will give him the heart to understand the Torah.” However, Hassidim of this type were already scarce in our days. There were Hassidim who traveled to their rabbi as though he was a “miracle–maker” in order to seek salvation and comfort from his words, because they believed wholeheartedly in the saying “The righteous decides and the Lord fulfills”, and all as one believed that “Everything that is connected to purity – is pure.”

There was an old Beit Midrash in town, and there was a new Beit Midrash that was built from the money of Mrs. Rivke Braksmier, daughter of R' Yehoshua Nagler z”l, who invested twelve thousand Reynish in its construction. Beit Ha'Midrash was a center for Torah and prayer, and its doors were open almost all day and all night. At the hour of three or four in the morning, the Shamash [caretaker] walked from house to house and woke those who were asleep with his song: “Wake up, rise to work for the creator!” and in the middle of the night, the young and the elderly sat there and studied the Torah with great dedication and diligence.

From among the important homeowners who prayed on the Sabbath at the Great Synagogue, I remember R' Chaim Langholz, who was an important man with a distinguished character. He was not one of the Hassidim, but he “respected their rabbi.” In general, I don't member Jewish “Mitnagdim” [opponents of the Hasidic movement] in our town. Even the homeowners who weren't Hasidim appreciated the rabbi and honored him, and everyone paid respect to Torah students. I remember, that Yitzchak Shechner z”l used to come to my father z”l almost every evening, except on Sabbath eve, and for a long hour stood on his feet – in respect of the Torah – and refused to sit in the presence of my father.

A number of Jews excelled as prominent scholars during the last generation: R' Yakov Schor z”l (son of Reb Yitzchak the tinsmith), R' Hirsh Meir z”l and R' Zalman Melamed z”l. They were “learned men,” and so they were called by the people. Dr. Berel Wachstein [Bernhard Wachstein] z”l, one of the students of Beit HaMidrash in Tluste, was a known scholar with a world–wide reputation. He became the director of the Jewish library in Vienna, and his compositions in the field of deciphering tombstones in ancient cemeteries left a great impression among the circles who engaged in the new Jewish wisdom.

After many years of separation from my town and my birthplace, it is difficult for me to remember and to list all the respected and important homeowners who wanted, with all of their hearts, to lead their sons in the righteous way, raise them according to the Torah and good deeds. Even so, I will mention a few of them: R' Haim Nagler, R' Monye Gertner, R' Yitzchak Shternlib and R' Haim–Monye Hirsh.

At the beginning of the Jewish settlement in town, during the days of the Polish Kingdom, most of the Jews earned their living producing spirits and selling it during market days. The same was the situation in the early years of the Austrian rule, until the opening of the government stores when the selling of spirits was under the government monopoly. After the railroad from Ternopol to Chernovitz was laid, the grain trade was developed and provided jobs and livelihood to many of the town's Jews. There were also those who engaged in selling agricultural products to Germany.

Yet, many of the townspeople immigrated to the United States in the period before the First World War, and there was hardly a family in town who did not have a relative in America. Many young people, who couldn't find a base for their future in town, left and settled in Vienna or Germany. With the help of the financial aid organization of Baron Hirsh, a number of young people studied in the agricultural school in Slovodka [Słobódka], to be able to settle in the Jewish villages in Argentina. With the initiative of this fund many girls worked in the production of hairnets.

The second event happened during the days of the First World War. Almost all the Jewish homes were set on fire and a great panic broke out. All night long the sound of those who were “burning” reached the center of heavens. After that, a typhus epidemic broke out and in a number of days several hundred Jews perished. As a result, the town's entire Jewish population, except for a very few, joined the Austrian army in its second retreat on Rosh Hashanah 5676 (September 1915), and many never returned to our town. The deportation of Snyatyn Jews by the Russians, which happened on the Holiday of Shavuot 5675, left a difficult and depressing impression in the hearts of Tluste's Jews. When they arrived to Tluste, the town's people have done their best to help them.

This is, in short, what I was able to remember about the life in our hometown, Tluste, and its Jewish community until the period of the holocaust, when this community was annihilated and wiped from under the sky.

May the souls of the pure and sacred be bound in the bond of life, and may the Lord avenge their blood.


[Page 36]

The Defeat of Frank in Tluste

by Menachem Teiber

It is known that the Hassidim of Yakov Frank in Galicia succeeded to attract many and sound from the towns around Tluste, such as Chortkov [Czortków], Borszczów, Kopychintsy [Kopyczyńce], Ozieran [Jezierzany] and others. But it was not so in Tluste. And in this matter, a story that I heard from my father of blessed memory, remained in my memory.

Frank's visit to our town happened on a Friday during the winter. Heavy snow covered the town and the roads leading to it, and the townspeople went out to shovel the snow and clear the road for the guest who declared that he was the reincarnation of the “Messiah” Shabbetai Tzvi. Frank arrived in a magnificent carriage, accompanied by a convoy of horsemen dressed in Cossacks uniforms. The guest stayed at the rabbi's house, as it was appropriate for a distinguished man like him.

On Sabbath eve, when the guest opened his mouth to bless the wine, the rabbi immediately felt that he was a complete ignorant, but he did not dare to say so. On the next day, the Sabbath, something happened that exaggerated it and caused the rabbi to lose his temper. One of the town's women came to Frank bitterly crying and asking him for medicine for her sick child. Frank advised her to go to the pharmacy and buy a specific medicine for which one needed to pay a full price. The rabbi, who saw it as a desecration of the Sabbath, approached Frank and called with anger: “You ignorant, get out of my home immediately!” Frank got scared and on the same day he escaped with his entourage to Chortkov.

It was the beginning of Frank's downfall, who pretended to be the “Messiah” of the Jewish people. He and his entire congregation moved farther and farther from Judaism and, in the end, converted and assimilated among the Poles.


[Page 37]

In the Old Cemetery

by Shimshon Meltzer

Translated by Dave Horowitz-Larochette

In the old cemetery the fence is breached all around
And a goat or a cow, and also a horse enters the breach and passes,
Treading on gravestones and skipping and jumping on graves
To graze the good green grass fresh for the unborn.

In the old cemetery the graves are crowded–crowded,
Scattered like wild flowers hunched–hunched gravestones.
Weeds rose on the cheek of every weeping stone and monument,
Moss covered almost every inscription.[1]

In the old cemetery only one gravestone is
Standing upright, not bent over from old age;
The grass around it green and a cow doesn't approach to graze it,
Because it is the gravestone of Sara the righteous mother of the Baal Shem Tov.

The mother of the Baal Shem Tov died poor and exhausted
And a grave was dug for her among the graves at the end of the row.
A year joined a year until the day came and arrived
To place a tombstone on her grave – but the location was not known.

They traveled to the tzadik of the generation – and there's no generation that doesn't have its tzadik
The tzadik heard and held his beard in his palm and smoothed it,
And said: take two young cows that have never been yoked
And they will carry Sara's gravestone and it shall stand wherever it falls.

The cows carried the stone on their backs and it was not tied,
Straight between the graves and dropped it at the end of the row.
Everyone who saw knew and saw that the place was found and known,
And here is the grave of Sara, of blessed memory, to this day.

(From “Keter” [Crown] by Shimshon Meltzer)


Translator's Footnote:

  1. The examples לפ”ק (referring to the date) and פ”נ (here lies) are used by the author Return


[Pages 37-39]

The Baal Shem Tov in Tluste

by G. Lindenberg

In his short introduction to the history of Baal Shem Tov in his book, “The Hassidut and the Hassidim” (Davir Publications 5688), Dr. Shemuel Aba Horodtzki writes: “We do not have in our hands a reliable source on the history of Baal Shem Tov because it does not exist. I had to get all the material about the history of Baal Shem Tov from various societies that were mentioned in the book “The praises of Baal Shem Tov,” and other books that were written by his students and their students.”

In view of the admission of one of the first researchers of the Hassidut, it is very difficult to clarify the facts regarding the time that Baal Shem Tov spent in Tluste. At most, it is possible to compare the different versions in this matter and to clarify which one is the most logical. According to prevailing tradition, Tluste itself was, by all accounts, one of the main stops in the walk of life of the founder of the Hassidut.

The lack of clarity and accuracy regarding the walk of life of Baal Shem Tov starts with his birth date. Shimon Dubnov writes (The History of the World, volume 7, page 128): “Yisrael Baal Shem Tov was born in the year 1700 on the border of Wallachia and Podolia in the town of Okop.” Dr. S.A. Horodtzki writes in his book “The Hassidut and the Hassidim” (page 1): “Baal Shem Tov was born around the year 5460 [1699] in a small town, on the border of Poland and Wallachia, that was known at that time by its name Okop.” A more exact date was written in M. Shrantski's book “Images of the great Hassidim” published by “Beit Yakov” in the year 5705 [1944]. Based on the book “18 Elul” by the Lubavitch Admor, the writer states that Baal Shem Tov “was born on 18 Elul in the year 5458 [1689], on the second day after the Sabbath in the town of Okop in Wallachia.”

There is no difference of opinion as to the location of Baal Shem Tov's birth place. Everyone agrees that he was born in the town of Okop, in Podolia, on the border of Wallachia. All the writers of his history also mention that, as a boy, he was orphaned from his father and his mother and was raised by the members of his town. From their words, it is possible to understand that both his father Eliezer and his mother Sara died in Okop, but, as it is known to the people from Tluste, his mother's grave is located in Tluste. Most of the writers of his history silently skip this detail. Indeed, Dr. S.A. Horodtzki knew that Baal Shem Tov's mother is not buried in Okop, but for some reason he moved her burial site to the town of Kutow [Kuty]. And so he wrote in his book “The Hassidut and the Hassidim” (page 2): “immediately after he weaned his son Yisrael, his father, R' Eliezer, died. Days later his mother also died and, to this day, her grave is located in the town of Okop.” h It is difficult to understand how a veteran researcher like him was caught in such an error.

Based on the undisputed fact that Baal Shem Tov was orphaned from his father at the dawn of his life, it is possible that he arrived in Tluste with his mother during his childhood, and after her death he was taken to his birthplace where he was raised by the townspeople. It is possible, that his mother had relatives in Tluste who were as poor as she was. According to legend that was common in Tluste, the stone on his mother's grave was erected many years after her death and nobody knew or remembered the place of her burial. One of Baal Shem Tov's grandsons ordered that the stone be carried to the cemetery, and when it fell from the hands of those who carried it – that place was chosen as her burial place. And so they did, and there they erected it. The fact, that Baal Shem Tov's mother was buried in Tluste, proves that he had a special connection to this town where he probably stayed twice during his wanderings between the towns and villages of Podolia.

A partner to this theory is, Eliezer Steinman, who wrote the book “Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov” (Jerusalem 5708). In the chapter in which he briefly describes the history of Baal Shem Tov (page 100), he writes: “We do not know how many years he served in this craft (of teacher's assistant) and where he went after he left Okop. We only know that he got married when he was around the age of 18, and his wife died some time later. According to tradition, he worked for a period of time as a primary school teacher in the town of Tluste. There is also a theory that at the same time he worked as a forest watchman and, at times, as a caretaker in a synagogue. Once he was invited to be an arbitrator in a trial together with R' Efraim from Kutow. The rabbi, who examined him carefully, realized that he worshiped God with a great mind, and expressed his wish that he marry his divorced daughter, Chana. They came to an agreement and composed an engagement contract. A few days later the Rabbi of Kutow died. His son, R' Gershon, a popular scholar, objected to the matchmaking because he saw that the groom was a simple man and was considered to be a complete ignorant. At the end, he changed his mind after his sister demanded that he keep their dead father's wishes. R' Gershon agreed to his sister's marriage to the man who, according to all signs, did not know how to read or study, under the stipulation that he find himself a craft in order to provide for his wife.”

The above–mentioned story is also told in Dr. S.A. Horodtzki's book: “The Hassidut and the Hassidim” (page 5) with a few changes. According to his story, R' Yisrael got married in Okop at the age of 17 and became a widower shortly thereafter. Later, he left his town and moved to a small town near Brody and there he became a teacher. He was an arbitrator in a dispute that happened to R' Efraim of Kutow who offered him his divorced daughter as a wife. R' Efraim traveled and died midway.

The continuation of the story is known. Shortly after the marriage the couple moved to a small village between the towns of Kosow and Kutow, and R' Yisrael earned his livelihood digging clay from the mountain side. His wife delivered the clay in a cart to the town and sold it as floor mortar to Jewish homeowners. R' Yisrael sought solitude in the Carpathian mountains and prepared himself for his future destination. According to tradition, he lived that way for seven consecutive years, and at the end of these seven years Baal Shem Tov returned and settled in the town of Tluste. His “revelation” took place in this town or perhaps in the village of Koschilovtza [Koszyłowce] near Tluste when he was 36 years old. All the sources are in complete agreement in this matter, and it is fitting to bring here a number of them.

The main source is the book “The praise of Baal Shem Tov” which was written by R' Dov Ber, son of R' Shmuel a slaughterer in Linz, son–in–law of R' Alexander Shohet who was a student and an author of Baal Shem Tov. The book was printed for the first time in Kopys Lita in the year 5575. The words that are brought here were taken from the addition that was published by Dr. S.A. Horodtzki (Davir, 5707, page 53):

“Later, he settled in the holy community of Tluste and was also a teacher there. He was not able to have a Minyan at his home, so he collected people and prayed with them. He was only dressed in Tuzlik of Komey [traditional peasant clothing], and his toes penetrated from the holes in his shoes because he was very poor. Before prayer he went to the mikveh, even during the month of Tevet, and, while praying, drops of sweat dripped from him… and at night, they told him that he turned thirty–six … and he left the teachings, and they traveled to him from all places.”

Dr. Horodtzki, with great caution, also refers to these things as words of legend. In his book, “The Hassidut and the Hassidim,” he writes about Baal Shem Tov's return to society in general and to Tluste in particular: “Despite the great patience of Baal Shem Tov and his wife, they were not able to cope with the great poverty in the village, but he also did not wish to beg before his brother–in–law and, again, held to his first work as a teacher's assistant. Another source is telling that some time before his revelation, R' Yisrael was an assistant to a teacher in Horodonca [Horodenka] (according to “Kvutzat Yaakov” page 52). Later, he became a teacher to a customs official. Meanwhile, he studied the craft of slaughtering and he and his family settled in the village of Koschilovtza [Koszyłowce] near the town of Yazlivitz [Jazłowiec]” (there page 7).

And on page 10 he writes: “His time to be revealed has arrived, the thirty–six years that he had to be hidden and concealed ended… and if this legend doesn't indicate the place where Baal Shem Tov was discovered, here is another legend which calls the name of the place of his revelation: it is the town of Tluste in Galicia.” This legend can be relied on because he was called by all “Baal Shem Tov from Tluste.” And in a comment there: “In a letter from Baal Shem Tov to the Rabbi of Kutow (his brother–in–law, R' Avraham–Gershon) he is not signing himself in the name Baal Shem Tov, as he always does, but he is writing from the community of Tluste to the community of Kutow, May G–d protect and preserve him (the great scholar).”

 

tov038.jpg
The gravestone of Baal Shem Tov's mother in Tluste's old cemetery

After the First World War the stone was found leaning and in danger of falling and was re–erected by Zionist youth. Under the year 5500 there were two additional blurred letters. The picture was published for the first time in “Menora” in Vienna (in German). The picture was brought to Israel in 5693 [1933] and was given to the collection of the national library in Jerusalem.

 

Shimon Dubnov writes with more certainty and detail about this matter in his book “History of the Hassidut” (Davir, 5708). Here are a few quotations from this book: “Close to the year 5490 (1730), R' Yisrael settled in the town of Tluste in Galicia, and started to work there as a teacher. At times, he traveled to nearby villages and taught the Torah to the tax collectors' sons. But, despite this, his income was insufficient. A legend tells, that he was dressed as an ignorant peasant and his toes came out through the holes in his shoes because he was very poor” (there, page 46). “In the first years, after the revelation of Baal Shem Tov, Tluste was probably the center of his activities. He lived there permanently, but from time to time he walked around the nearby communities in Galicia and Podolia, such as Horodnica, Kutow, Nemirov [Niemirów], Shargorod [Szarogród]… he mostly traveled to the villages and engaged in the healing of customs officials and Jewish leaseholders. At times, even Polish “land owners” invited him as a doctor” (there, page 48). Approximately between the years 5500 and 5505 (1740–1745), a change came to the life of Baal Shem Tov. He moved from his permanent home, from the Galician town of Tluste, to the town of Medzibozh where he stayed to the day of his death.” In a remark there: “It is possible to assume that after his “revelation,” about the year 5495 (1735), he stayed for a few years in Tluste, where he previously worked as a teacher, and around the year 5499 (1740), he moved to Medzibozh (there, page 51).” We find that Baal Shem Tov lived in Tluste for fifteen years, from 5490 to 5505, and at least from 5490 to 5500 – ten years!

Also Y. Alfasi, in his book: “Sefer HaAdmorim” (Tel–Aviv, 5721, page 9), briefly mentions the matter of Baal Shem Tov's stay in Tluste: “Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov was raised by the people of his town Akuf (of course, it should be Okop). He served as a teacher assistant and at night he studied the Torah and the Kabala. From Okop he moved to Tluste… at the age of 36 he was discovered with all of his greatness. He returned to Tluste where he became famous.” (According to this, his revelation took place outside Tluste, maybe in a village near Brody. He returned to Tluste in which he became famous!)

As opposed to the detailed testimony of the above–mentioned researchers about the affinity of Baal Shem Tov to Tluste, there were many who did not find it necessary to specify the location of Baal Shem Tov's revelation. Professor Martin Buber brings in his book, “Hidden light” (Schocken Publishing, 5718), only the simple facts about the revelation of Baal Shem Tov, but he does not list Tluste as the location of his revelation: “A student of R' Gershon from Kotow” (Baal Shem Tov's brother–in–law) traveled to his rabbi and against his will stopped at Baal Shem Tov's for the Sabbath. On Sabbath eve he saw a fire burning above the oven etc. On Sunday he came to Brody, and before he turned to his rabbi he turned to the “great Hassidim sect” in town, told them what had happened to him and added: “A great light is living nearby, go and bring him to the city. They went, met Baal Shem Tov near the village at the edge of the forest, made a throne out of tree branches, sat him on it and he preached the Torah to them.”

Also the Hassidut book of Yitzchak Refael (Verfel) does not mention at all the name Tluste in the history of Baal Shem Tov. More than that, a picture appears in the book: “the grave of Baal Shem Tov's mother”, but there is no mention where it is located…

*

In this book, which is dedicated to the community of Tluste that was destroyed and no longer exists, we found it necessary to clarify the affinity between Baal Shem Tov and the town of Tluste, and bring the words of the best historians in this matter. These words are especially important for the “next generation” who will know the town only from the descriptions in the book in front of us. The townspeople, who lived there most of their lives, must know to what extent the city was saturated with the “awareness of Baal Shem Tov” which was always renewed by the existence of his mother's grave in the old cemetery, Baal Shem Tov's Mikveh, and especially in the many legends about Baal Shem Tov that passed from person to person. Tluste was rewarded that one of her sons, the poet Shimshon Melzer, has done a lot to deepen the connection between the town and the founder of the Hassidut, with his many poems about the Hassidut in general and Baal Shem Tov in particular that became the inheritance of the Jewish nation.

According to the words of S. Anski, who visited Tluste in 1915 and stayed there for one confusing night during the Russian occupation, in his book “The destruction of Galicia.” “The town of Tluste has its own “sacred places.” Some say that Baal Shem Tov was born here. In any case, his mother lived here, and here he spent his childhood years. We can see his mother's grave at the cemetery, and at the edge of the town they point to the location of Baal Shem Tov's Mikveh. Baal Shem Tov's mother was a midwife, and he himself was called in youth Yisraelik the midwife's son.”

“They told me here many amazing stories about Baal Shem Tov. One of the important homeowners in town dared to oppose Baal Ha'Shem. Baal Ha'Shem said: “this man will remember me”… and surely, a curse stuck to this man for ten generations, his family and his home suffered from many tragedies, and there was not a Zaddik [Hassidic rabbi] who was able to save them.”

“Once, on Passover eve, the gentiles brought a murdered Christian boy to Baal Shem Tov's home in order to falsely accuse him of a blood libel. During the Seder, the house was surrounded by gangs of gentiles and soldiers. At the last moment, Baal Shem Tov discovered the murdered boy. What did he do? He dressed him in a Jewish boy's clothing, put a skullcap on his head and sat him next to the table. The dead boy sat together with everyone as though he was alive and well. Baal Shem Tov raised his voice on him: “You bastard! I order you to sway!” and then, the dead boy started to sway like everyone else as if he was reading the Haggadah. The gentiles broke into the house and searched for the dead boy all over the house, but they were not able to find him. None of them thought that the boy, who was sitting and swaying over the Haggadah, was the dead boy that they were looking for. After they left, the boy's soul was taken again and Baal Shem Tov buried him in his yard.”

As we know, this blood libel story also served as a subject for Shimshon Meltzer's ballad, “The Guest,” and in his way he only took the core out of the legend and changed many details for artistic necessity. In one edition of his books (“The seven strings”) he attributed the miracle to Eliyahu HaNavi [Eliyahu the prophet], but, in other editions, he returned and attributed it to Baal Shem Tov.


[Page 40]

Between Tluste the Town and Tluste the Village

by Shimshon Meltzer

Translated by Dave Horowitz-Larochette

Between Tluste the town and Tluste the village,
From the dead afar, on the mountainside,
In a house poor, low and narrow
Lived the Baal Shem Tov, zatz”l[1]

The Baal Shem Tov zatz”l, was – grief! –
Clothed in a bruslak, the attire of a Gentile,
Old and worn, without charm,
And patch on patch and wear on wear.

Wear on wear the body wrapped,
But on the inside love all through
To every crow on the eruv[2] [wire]
In repose from weary flight.

The falling snow white and pure
Through the window shone its light…
His lucent eyes had he but opened
Modeh ani[3] he spoke with awe.

He donned a boot and another boot
And in the bruslak he wrapped himself.
Out he went – and at the door
The mezuzah kissed with his palm.

Out he went in light awash –
Into the body dripped the light;
And only one sullen crow
Called “rak ra”[4] from the eruv.

The Baal Shem Tov stood, looked around:
“White world, world so bright –
And only a crow calls to fight…”
Rak ra, rak ra” answered the crow.

The Baal Shem hurried to a stream –
A stream that night had made to ice;
The Baal Shem struck the ice and struck again –
In the ice he made a bath

He shed a boot, a boot took off,
And the bruslak also was cast;
To the water down he zatz”l went,
Submerged himself with great intent.

He dipped, arose and dried himself
And wrapped himself in the bruslak.
A world renewed, a festive world,
A world so pure to it he laughed.

He stood and looked around, around…
Barefoot he walked, trod the path.
And from his soles a drizzle
Red on the shining white did spread.

A drizzle of blood on the pure snow –
But he forgot all, forgot.
A splendid world, so beautiful –
And he strode, strode, strode…

Then came one, old and aged,
And straw he carried on his back,
He spread and lay before his feet –
The bleeding ceased and did not flow.

The bleeding ceased and did not drip.
On the eruv a crow did beat
A black wing on its black back:
Kara'a, kara'a[5] – and flew away.

The Baal Shem Tov knew: the decree was torn.
And to his poor house he returned,
From the dead afar, on the mountainside,
Between Tluste the town and Tluste the village.


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Tzadik of blessed memory Return
  2. A ritual enclosure that Orthodox Jewish communities construct in their neighborhoods as a way to permit Jewish residents or visitors to carry certain objects outside their own homes on Sabbath and Yom Kippur. Return
  3. “I give thanks” is a Jewish prayer that observant Jews recite daily upon waking, while still in bed. Return
  4. “Only evil” in Hebrew. Return
  5. “He tore, he tore”, in Hebrew. Return


[Page 41]

Hasidut in Tluste at the Outset of the Century

by Meir Sternlieb

The years 5663–5674 (1903–1914) were the years of growth for the Hasidic movement in our town. Most of the town's Jews belonged to one of the three Hasidic rabbis that were popular in our town: the Chortkover Rebbe, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and the Kapishnitzer Rebbe. Each Hasidic sect had its own synagogue. The Chortkov Hasidim congregated at the “Chortkover Kloiz,” the Vizhnitz Hasidim had their own synagogue the “Vizhnitzer Kliezel” in one of the rooms in old Beit Ha'Midrash, and the Kapishnitz Hasidim prayed at the “Kloiz” that was rented from Elik Platzker. All three synagogues were located on the road to the village of Lisowitz [Lisowce].

The three Hasidic groups belonged to three different social classes. The Chortkov Hasidim were wealthy people – estate owners, bankers and money lenders, lumber merchants and forest lessees, leather and fabric merchants and others. The Vizhnitz Hasidim belonged to the middle class – grain merchants, store owners, teachers and brokers. The Kapishnitzer Rebbe was the rabbi of the simple folks. Also, most of the women followed the Kapishnitzer Rebbe. There were Jews in town who did not belong to any Hasidic sect. They prayed at the old “Beit Ha'Midrash” and were close to the Vizhnitz Hasidim.

From time to time the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and the Kapishnitzer Rebbe came to town for a visit, but the Chortkover Rebbe did not come, and his Hassidim traveled to him.

The rabbis used to come to town on Thursdays and stayed for seven days. That week was a holiday week in town. When the Kapishnitzer Rebbe came, the horse merchants decorated their horses and left to welcome him. They brought him to town in a multicolor procession with songs and dances.

On Sabbath eve they “set the table” in “old Beit Ha'Midrash” which was full to capacity. On the same Sabbath eve the square next the synagogue also changed its appearance and was crowded with people, men, women and children who came to enjoy the radiant face of the holy rabbi. After the prayer and the meal, when each Hasid tried to grab a little “leftover” from the rabbi's food, the Hasidim escorted their rabbi to the hostel with song and dance, full of devotion and enthusiasm. At that hour the entire “gentile” street was conquered by Hasidim dressed in kapotas [black coats] and “streimlachs” on their heads. All the townspeople, from the young to the old, joined in the singing and clapping and their voices erupted to the Heavens.

On Saturday night they ate the third meal at the rabbi's hostel and the sound of their melodies sounded from there late into the night. Also the little ones mixed among the older Hasidim. They sat and listened to the amazing stories of the Hasidim about the miracles and wonders that the rabbis and the tzadikim have done as their eyes shone from excitement and happiness. At the end of the meal, about an hour before midnight, the various “request seekers” started to arrive, each holding a “note” with a request in his hand. Hundreds stood in line to hand the rabbi the “note” with “redemption” on its side.

The bustle and joy continued throughout the week that the rabbi stayed in town. Evening after evening, the Hasidim gathered at the rabbi's lodging and sat and talked to him to the late hour of the night. And all that time the landlady served them the best delicacies: stuffed dumplings, “Knishes” [stuffed dough] with fragrant roast and different types of beverages. The rabbi's Hasidim also came from the nearby villages to see their rabbi and receive his blessing.

At that period, in first years of the 20th century, the committee of the Jewish community of Tluste was mostly composed of Vizhnitz Hasidim. The community leader was Chaim Nagler. The Chortkov Hasidim did not accept this situation. In the elections to the community council, which took place in 1908 and 1913, a difficult struggle took place between the Chortkov Hasidim and the Vizhnitz Hasidim. The leader of the Vizhnitz Hasidim was an old rabbi, R' Pinchas Chodorov, and his helper was Yitzchak Shechner. Leading the fight on the Chortkov Hasidim side were the estate owners Eli Albin and Baruch–Itsi Vitashka. In the 1913 elections, the Chortkov Hasidim won but the departing community leader, Chaim Nagler, refused to hand over the community legers and only with the help of the police were they able to take them from him. Since then, and until the First World War, the community leader was R' Baruch–Isti Vitashka from the Chortkov Hasidim. After the triumph of the Chortkov Hasidim both sides reconciled and the opponents made peace with each other. Since then, the matters of the community ran peacefully and quietly until the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.


[Page 42]

One winter night

by S. Meltzer

Translated by Sara Mages

One winter night HaBal Shem Tov went
for a dip in the Mikveh named after him,
surely, it is the Mikveh in our town, the town of Tluste,
that maybe today its location is known…

The winter night was a dark cold night,
not a shining moon not a hinting star,
only the snow was white and slightly blue
showing the path to the treading boot…

And HaBal Shem walked fast,
walked straight, no hesitation, no fear,
and after him walked with fear and trembling
and trepidation, the man servant….

But when they entered the bathhouse
it was pitch dark, like never before –
and the servant started to tremble more,
and suddenly he raised his voice with a cry:

“Woe, our rabbi, I do not see a thing…
the darkness is sealed… hurting me a lot…
scratching and scraping… needles in my flesh…
as if skewers are stuck in my head!”

“Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid!” HaBal Shem answered him,
and a smile sounded clearly in his voice:
“These are only icicles not skewers…
God's beautiful wonder and work …

Raise your hand upwards, hold the tail
of one of the hanging icicles and say:
“Candle of frost, candle of frost, please light up
please shine and glow, Let there be light, Let there be light!”

Though there was cheer in the voice
of a man who was mocking and ridiculing a fool,
the servant, not knowing, repeats
the words of HaBal Shems and says:

“Frost candle, frost candle catch on fire and alight
please light up and glow, Let there be light, Let there be light!”
and immediately fire gripped the icicle,
the simple icicle of ice and frost.

And here it is burning, and here it is shining,
splashing sparks, sparks on sparks,
glittering toward him like crystals
the rest of the icicles that are hanging around

And the servant is standing wondering and looking
staring with wide open eyes,
wonder of wonders, precious stones
wherever the eye rests….

And again he raises his hand up
and he wants to touch, to examine and to inspect…
but HaBal Shem says (in the meantime he dipped,
wrapped, and climbed) to the servant in a laughing voice:

“If you were allowed to light and look,
you were not allowed to touch, to examine and to inspect…”
and he puts one hand on the servant's eyes –
and immediately the sight and the light disappeared…

And he puts his second hand on the hand
that is raised to examine and to inspect,
and holds it gently, with compassion, with love,
like a father holding a baby's hand in his hand…

And HaBal Shem is walking outside
walking straight, no hesitation, no fear,
and follows him like an embarrassed child,
and with trepidation the man the servant…

But it is a winter night outside – a bright illuminated night,
the moon is shining, the star is hinting,
and the snow is bluish and very white,
and answers with a whistle to the treading boot…


[Page 43]

Reb Velvel Melamed

by Yisrael Shechner

As one of the students of R' Velvel Melamed, I see it as my duty to write a memorial for him in Tluste's Yizkor Book. I am afraid, that none of the townspeople who closely knew him is left, and therefore it is my duty to describe the image of the teacher who taught the Torah in our town. Many students studied the Torah from him, before and after me, and everyone came out of his school armed with the great knowledge that was taught according to the customary system of those days, fifty to sixty years ago.

As we know, the educational methods at that time were very far from the methods of today, and there were many flaws in the expression and the explanation. The teacher did not even find it necessary to properly explain the expression “Come and hear” that appears in the Talmud every so often. He never imagined that his students didn't know how to distinguish between the two different kinds of “Come and hear,” that one is in the form of a question while the other solves the problem. For a long time I did not even know the simple thing, that the literal meaning of “Come and hear” is “Come and listen” until the book “Introduction to the Talmud” came to my hands. At that time, I was not able to forgive the teachers who did not provide those regulations to their students and did not try to make it easier for them to understand the special way of the Talmud by bringing the problems and the solutions in the lectures.

Velvel's knowledge of the Torah, in the first five books on the Old Testament, was quiet good. Without a doubt, his duty as a “reader” in the synagogue helped him with that. However, his knowledge of the Prophets and the Writings was very weak. He did not know how to explain a verse without reading the explanation to it first, and also after he did so, his explanation was weak and faulty. I remember that once he was asked to explain the verse “Al yithalel hoger kimfate'ah” [he who goes into battle should not boast as much as the one who has won it] – he translated the word Hoger [soldier] to lame. It can be said, that the verses of the Bible were mostly known to him from the references of “Torah Or” in the “Gemara” and not from the source in the Bible. In general, at that time they did not value the study of the Bible and knowing a “passage” was not considered “acquiring knowledge.” A “scholar” was only the one who was well versed in the Gemara, “erudite and powerful debater,” while knowing the Prophets and the Writings and grammar was considered to be the beginning of an “education” which ended with mischief and agnosticism. For that reason, the teachers did not see the reason for investing time in the studies of the Bible, including my rabbi, R' Velvel Melamed.

In the intervals between studies he read us words from the Torah according to his method. He used to say: “The Torah, Moses' Torah, is compared to wheat. Can a man eat grains of wheat as they are? First, you have to grind the grain into flour, sift the flour, knead it to dough and bake the bread. Only after all of that, a man can eat the bread and digest it. The same is with the words of the Torah. First came the Tannaim [Rabbinic sages] who clarified the theories according to the thirteen measures that the Torah requires, after them came the Amoraim [Jewish scholars], and after them the various commentators. Without all of them we were not able to understand the laws of the Torah.”

On the side of his occupation as a “Melamed” [teacher], R' Velvel Melamed set himself time for the study of the Torah. By the time he reached the age of eighty, he managed to “get through” the six orders of the Mishna eight times. R' Velvel was the typical “wise student,” but he did not have any concepts in world matters. We can see his philosophy and approach to world matters from the expression that he used to say: “It is written: the Lord said, I have the silver and I have the gold, but do I need to safeguard his money? Mendel Fiderer can do it, not me…”, and by the way, Mendel Fiderer's three sons, Alter, Leibtsi and Moni studied with R' Velvel. The Hasidim in town did not send their sons to him, because he was known as a “Mitnagged” [opponent to the Hasidut].

R' Velvel had difficulties making a living and lived in poverty all of his life. He had one son who was a scholar like him, but, unlike his father he was a Hassid. He also had three daughters who came of age but never got married. However, R' Velvel accepted everything with love and, God forbid, he did not resent the creator and the way that he had treated his worshipers. As he used to say: “Everything God does is for the best.” All of his life he behaved like a pious God–fearing Jew and performed all the deeds – the easy and the severe alike. He was an extreme “Mitnagged,” so much so that he hated the Hasidut, the Admorim and the Hasidim alike. Once I was a witness to this event: R' Velvel sat in the Chortkov Hasidim Kloiz, diligently studying his lesson in the Gemara. A group of Hasidim, who sat next to him, told stories about the marvels that their rabbis preformed and drank “LeChayim” for the spiritual exaltation of one of their rabbis who passed away on that date. Later, they studied a chapter of “Mishnayot” [the smallest unit in the Mishnah] in memory of that righteous, and after their studies they stood and recited “the Rabbi's Kaddish.” As a pious Jew, R' Velvel was forced to stop his studies and repeat “Amen, may the Lord be blessed…” However, he was furious and angry that he was forced to “stop his studies.” I also learned from him for the first time about the scandal that took place at the court of the rabbi of Luh. The son of the Ruzhiner Rebbe locked himself in his room on Yom Kippur eve and refused to receive his Hasidim with their “notes” and their “presents.” In this, the matter of opposition to the Hasidut R' Velvel was in agreement with the “Maskilim” of that generation even though in all other matters there was a polar contrast between his opinions and their opinions.

This is how the image of my teacher and rabbi, R' Velvel, remained in my memory. He was a Jew who has devoted himself all his life to serving the Creator, fulfilled the Torah from poverty without enjoying the “vanities of this world.” He firmly believed that this world is only a corridor to the parlor – to life in the next world.


[Pages 44-45 Hebrew] [Pages 86-87 Yididsh]

The Beginning of the Zionist
and the Socialist Movements in Our Town

by Shmuel Fiderer–Margulies

During the first decade of the 20th century, when the different streams of Zionism already succeeded to arouse and stir the emotions of the Jewish population around the world, Tluste's Jews were immersed in a deep sleep. Surely, there were few individuals, mostly people who traveled to the big cities of the Austrian Empire for their business, who were touched by the sparks of Zionism, but when they came to spend the Sabbath or celebrate the holidays at the bosom of the families, they did not have the time or the will to establish a Zionist association in our town. Even a passionate Zionist like Aba Gutman (Natan Hikand's son–in–law), who expressed his Zionism with a handsome and well kept “Herzl beard,” also stayed away from the public and has done almost nothing to create a Zionist group in our town. The writer of these lines does not know about the existence of a Zionist association before 1921. For a short period of time, a tea house was opened at R' Yosele' Sternlieb's new home. A few Yeshiva students with Zionist inclinations gathered there to read the Hebrew newspaper “Hazefira” and other nationalist newspapers and conduct conversations and discussions over a cup of tea. But also this “club” did not last long. R' Yosele' Sternlieb came to the conclusion that keeping a tea house in order to sell a few cups of tea was not a profitable business and after a short period of time liquidated his business.

Approximately at the same period of time (in 1912), a Hanukah party was organized by Meir Platzker (son of R' Leybus). The party took place at “Goviarda” hall and the program was both nationalist and Zionist. The speech that was given by the Zionist preacher who was brought from Lvov left a great impression. The program, which included the reading of poems by Haim Nachman Bialik and the singing of “Hatikvah,” aroused the public interest.

Since then, the Jewish public gathered from time to time at the town's Great Synagogue and a Zionist speaker from one of the big cities preached before them about Zionism and various national problems. But, all of that did not reach the founding of a Zionist association with regular members who would establish the movement in town and help with its programs and finance.

One of the strong opponents of the Zionist movement was Tluste's rabbi, R' Pinchas Chodorov z"l, who was a wise and great Torah scholar. He was afraid that the new movement would bring atheism to the community of Tluste which was considered to be the fortress of Hasidut. I remember an event that took place: Once, a famous lecturer came from Lvov, entered the rabbi's house in order to talk to him about Zionism. He opened in this language: “Our teacher and master the rabbi! All of us are the sons of the same father, so why are we divided into two different camps! We should unite and work shoulder to shoulder for Zion and Jerusalem! The rabbi answered him with his great wisdom: “The matter is true and correct! We are the sons of one father and one mother, but what is not allowed for us – is allowed for you…!”

In comparison to the lack of national activities among the Jewish population, there was an active national activity among the non–Jewish population. There were three national Polish associations and a Ukrainian association named “Sitesh.” These associations, with their active and noisy activities, brought jealousy to the hearts of the young Jews and increased their will to work and act for the Jewish nation. However, only at the end of 1912, a few weeks after the Jewish socialist movement was established in town, the young adults who leaned towards Zionism woke up and established a Zionist association. This association fulfilled its duty with great success and stood at the head of the Jewish National activities until the days of holocaust and destruction. In the light of the difficulties and the stumbling blocks that stood before the Union, like the great opposition of the rabbi and the Hassidic organizations, we see in the establishment of the Zionist Union an important accomplishment in Tluste of those days.

*

The fact is, there was not a substantial basis for the existence of a Socialist movement in our town. We did not have “proletarians” (although we had more than enough beggars….) and the craftsmen didn't differ in their social status from the small merchants, nor were they inferior to them. For example, R' Zeida the tailor, the owner of a long beard who sewed cloths for the Polish landowners around Tluste, had a big house (next to the river close to the Bathhouse Street), as well as the carpenters, two or three in number, who worked together with their sons. Even the bookbinder had his own house. Therefore, it is no wonder that the socialist teaching of Marx and Engels found no echo in the hearts of most of the townspeople.

At the beginning of the summer of 1912 a doctor from Ternopol with socialist ideas happened to be in our town. During his vacation he came to visit his relative and, with nothing to do, he gathered on Saturday eve several dozen boys and girls at the Babtzi's home and laid before them the international socialist program. He was not content with just the Marxism theory, but brought evidence from the Torah on the social character of Jewish morality. In this way he excited the hearts and minds of the youth to the socialist idea and after a short discussion it was decided to establish a socialist association in town and a planning committee has been elected on the spot. One of its members was Berale' Weisman who was an apprentice in a cobbling upholstery shop. When he was in Chernovitz he was a member of the socialist association there and knew all the songs that they used to sing by heart. Berale' Weisman taught us various revolutionary songs and two months later, during the first association meeting, we already knew how to sing the songs of “storm and struggle” and repeated them before the crowd in the thin voice of young boys. This time the lecturer was the socialist Hirsh Bratholz from Zalishchyky [Zaleszczyki], who delivered a long speech in which he excited the young audience. Our choir sang songs by Adelshtat and Bovshovar,

and ended with the anthem of the Bund movement “Brothers and sisters from work and hardship.” With a lot of enthusiasm, the assembled decided to establish the Jewish social association “Z.P.S” [Jewish Social Party]. The leadership was elected in place but the registration of members to the association and the collection of money for financing the activities were postponed to Saturday night. We returned home late at night from the meeting where we formed an alliance with the “doctrine” of Marx and Engels. Our spirits were high and our eyes were raised to our town's pure sky, to the glowing moon that hung and stood over the summit of “Mount Moriah” and felt in our hearts the meaning of the verse: “And the Jews experienced light and happiness…”

With great energy and excitement, we started to work. We rented a hall, handed a request to the district governor to approve our by–laws and called the “Jewish Social Party” (Z.P.S) center in Krakow. With that we ordered newspapers and books, opened a library and started to organize an amateur theater. The director of the theater was a young talented woman named Ginandel who was also a dance teacher in Tluste. After that we tried to organize an eight–hour work day for the boys who worked as shop–assistants, but we failed due to our lack of experience in this kind of a struggle.

On the other hand, our second activity, the May Day celebration, was only partially successful. At noon we gathered at the association club house and from there we marched in the town's streets holding sticks covered with red paper (so we wouldn't look like the “Heder” boys on Lag Ba'omer). We sang songs and shouted: “Hurray to May first!” until the town's one and only policeman arrived and scattered the “demonstration.”

After that we continued to bring speakers from Zalishchyky, Chernovitz, and Stanisławów. Those speakers widened our education and lit the “source of our souls” until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 which destroyed all of our socialist dreams. Without a doubt, at the end of the war the young generation continued to weave the golden yarn of the political and social activities as a continuation to our modest start in the Zionist and socialist activities.


[Pages 45-46 Hebrew] [Pages 80-89 Yididsh]

The Period of the War
Between Poland and the Ukraine

by Ben–Shlomo

The First World War lasted for more than four years. At the beginning of 1919, after the military collapse of Germany and Austria, Tluste's Jews started to return to their half– destroyed town. In most cases they did not find their homes or their businesses standing. Each one of them wanted to find a roof over his head, to find a shelter wherever possible. Those who came back carried the meager belongings that were left in their hands and crowded into the few houses that were left standing after the destruction. They seized and filled the building of Baron Hirsh School, Beit Ha'Midrash, the courthouse, the jail cells, and even settled in the homes of those who arrived late from their wanderings. Slowly, slowly they began to strengthen their bodies and straighten their tired backs, and after four years of wandering each one of them wanted to enjoy the years of calm and relief that started to appear in the political horizon.

And now, suddenly, amid of all this preparation a new war broke out! This time between the Ukrainians and the Poles.

At the beginning, the front was far away from us, somewhere in Przemyśl [Poland]. But a battle also took place in Lwów where the two sides fought each other using canons from the Great War and other tools of destruction. The whole matter was unrealistic, how? The great world diplomats were sitting in Paris, negotiating peace and arguing about the fourteen principals of President Wilson that were designed to secure the freedom and safety to all mankind and to all nations – and here, two small nations found a window of opportunity to fight each other. Two nations, which were enslaved to other nations for hundreds of years, were spreading death and destruction among their own people and the Jews who lived among them.

The story was as follows: The Poles prepared themselves during the days of the World War for the time when their national independence would be returned to them. They prepared an administrative government, trained their army and also marked the borders of their kingdom. In contrast to that, the Ukrainians approached the matter only at the end of the war. In great haste, a small Ukrainian country was established in Stanisławów under the leadership of the lawyer, Petroshevitz, and immediately started a war against the Poles. For us, Jews, a “delicate” and dangerous situation was created, and our leaders tried to adopt a natural position in the conflict between the two nations. In the meantime, “The Jewish National Committee,” which was organized in Stanisławów, demanded equal rights and a social–national autonomy from the Ukrainians. In truth, the Ukrainian leaders promised to fulfill all the demands, and the cultured and civilized among them repeated and expressed their support and sympathy to our demands. However, at the same time, the mobs, who were carrying weapons, shouted: Jews, get ready, now we are the masters!” and started to persecute the Jews. In spite of that, at the beginning there were Jews who claimed that it was not correct and fitting to take a neutral standing toward a country that we lived in and found shelter on its land. In this case we have to take a positive stand to support it and help it… The main spokesman of this kind of “positivism” was the lawyer, Dr. Yisrael Waldman, brother of the Zionist leader Moshe Waldman. Under his influence a Jewish brigade was organized in Ternopol and was given a double duty: providing protection to the Jews from Ukrainian gangs and, on the other hand, to fight with them against the Poles. But this strange political outlook blew up very fast, like a soap bubble, immediately after the pogrom that was carried out by Petliura's gangs in the cities of Ukrainian Russia. At the same time when we were all in grief and anger over the acts of the Ukrainian gangs, we did not see any expression of sympathy from our “friends,” the Ukrainians of Eastern Galicia.

*

It is a wonder in my eyes how, at that time, Tluste's Jews managed to maintain peace of mind. They did not lose control and didn't get caught in panic. During that period, which was filled with tension and great danger, their sense of responsibility to maintain their unique Jewish existence awakened in them and they made every effort to protect it. The youth, the socialists and the Zionists started to work diligently in order to strengthen their ranks. They organized meetings, established committees to help the needy, and organized cultural parties and classes in Hebrew. In general, they managed their social and cultural activities with energy and dedication, as though the days were normal days, as though nothing had happened. The ground burned under our feet and various gangs and armies passed by our town. Once, they arrived from Chortkov [Czortków] and once from Zalishchyky [Zaleszczyki]. They terrorized women and children, and here and there even tried to loot and scorn. At the same time, the young met in the evenings in the union hall to hear a lecture, to organize a political debate, or practice for a show. There was not even the slightest feeling of depression or despair (we were probably sworn optimists).

For the sake of truth, it should be noted that the Ukrainian dignitaries in our town prevented, to the best of their ability, any riot or violent attack on their Jewish neighbors. The mayor, Avrila Bunder, used to warn the Jewish grain merchants each time the Ukrainian authorities wanted to confiscate their merchandise. The teacher, Badluk, an educated man with a musical talent, used to come to our parties and sing “Ha'Tikvah” or the “Marseilles” with the audience. At that time he was the commissar in charge of political interest and prevented, as much as he was able to, any discrimination and any injustice towards the Jews. There were also a number educated Ukrainians who eased our sufferings during that difficult period, the period of the “Petrosvitz scandal.” There have been cases when the military headquarters in our town confiscated grain or other kind of merchandise from the Jews, who were going to transport it to another town where there was shortage of food, and distribute these products free of charge among the needy gentiles. A delegation of Jewish socialists went to lobby before Badluk and obtained his agreement that the merchandise that was confiscated from the Jews would be given to the socialist group who would distribute it among the needy Jews. The merchants, who suffered from these confiscations, attacked the socialist group with shouts and “ethical” claims. They claimed, that Jewish property cannot be confiscated and given for free, and other claims of the sort. They demanded that the confiscated merchandise be returned to them, or at least half of it. But the socialists did not respond to their demand, kept their agreement with Badluk and divided everything among the poor people in town. Among the members of the socialist group were young energetic men, who went to the forests of R' Meir Kleyner and Baruch Itizik Vitashka in winter carts, and brought from there (with the agreement of the forests' owners) wood for the poor, and even chopped the wood with their own hands. Those activities were welcomed with joy and satisfaction by the town's poor, and aroused anger among the wealthy persons in town.

At the same time, an amateur group from the socialist association practiced the production of the play “G–d, Man and the Devil” by Yakov Gordin, and also performed it in Chortkov for the benefit the town's orphanage.

An enthusiastic activity also took place among the Zionists in town, especially in light of the hopes and the possibility that a Jewish state would be established. The awakening started after the publication of the “Balfour Declaration,” Our town's landsman, Avraham Stupp, who was a talented speaker, spoke on different occasions in the synagogues and, with the power of his words, he gained souls to the Zionist movement. Miriam, daughter of Shenior Melamed, organized a group of girls and taught them Hebrew. Preparations were made to establish a pioneer center in order to train and educate young people for their immigration to Israel. The activities of the Zionist sector did not lag behind the activities of the socialist group. They also had an amateur group with talented members, and also organized parties that brought excitement to the hearts of the teens. In this manner, we were able to pass the difficult period of the Polish–Ukrainian war without halting or minimizing our social and national activities.

*

Meanwhile, the Polish army was getting closer to our region and our locations, and the Ukrainians were losing the positions they held in their hands. Now, we found out that the Poles were already in Ternopol and a week later they already captured Chortkov. One summer morning the Polish army arrived in Tluste and put an end to Petrosvitz's power.

In the midst of those days, the writer of this article was able to get out of Eastern Galicia, which, at that time, resembled a barrelful of gun powder, and never had the chance to visit his beloved birth place. Since then, for a period of more than forty years, his strong longing for the town where he was born, Tluste in the Zalishchyky district, never ceased.


[Pages 47-49]

The San Remo Celebration and the Zionist Activity

by Shmuel Fiderer (son of Moshe)

After the approval of the Balfour Declaration at the San Remo Conference and presentation of the mandate on Eretz–Yisrael to the British government, a great celebration was also to take place in our town, to mark the event which sparked a wave of joy in the heart of every Jew in the Diaspora, especially in the hearts of our Zionist friends. As is customary in such cases, a committee was elected for the preparation of the celebration and, besides the Zionists, it also included homeowners who were not organized in the Zionist federation.

First and foremost, the committee turned to the state authorities and requested a license to hold the celebration and a demonstration–parade in the town's streets, and received permission to hold a celebration and a parade. The district governor gave the committee members a letter addressed to the commander of the state police in which the police were asked to keep the order on the day of the party. On its side, the police also promised to help us.

After we received the permit in our hands, together with the promise from the police, we started to plan the celebration so we could hold it with great glory and splendor. There were two Hebrew schools in town, one under the management of Mordechai Spector whose fame was known all over the area, and the second under the management of Yosef Lechter who also had a large number of students. In both schools the students started to study songs and poems with Zionist content – to sing and to recite, and they were trained to march in a procession. A uniform was chosen for the students: white dresses for the girls, dark pants and a white shirt for the boys.

The preparation towards the celebration left its mark in town and within a few days all the stocks of blue and white ribbons, which were purchased for the purpose of decoration, were sold out. Michael Hesing, a former horseman in the Austrian Cavalry, organized a company of riders and Jewish estate owners promised to send the best riding horses in their stables for that purpose. Everything was organized to perfection. The youngest among the marchers in the procession were going to wear blue and white silk ribbons, and hundreds of button loops, in the national colors, were prepared for distribution among the rest of the marchers and the spectators. And the most important of all – we prepared a large number of blue and white flags to hoist in the procession. All the townspeople, Jews of all walks of life, also got ready for the celebration. They mended their clothes towards the celebration and decorated the facade of their houses with national flags and other decorations. The balcony of Dr. Emil Bleicher was decorated with a magnificent Persian carpet, the picture of Dr. Theodor Herzl was displayed in its center and two long blue and white flags adorned it on both sides.

The whole town was filled with life and movement and the sound of happy people came from all sides. However, we were not the only ones who were busy with preparations for the day of the parade – also the anti–Semite rioters, from among the Poles, were getting ready. They organized their battle troops in order to disturb us and stop our celebration. To do so they gathered in town all their friends from the entire area.

*

The day of the celebration arrived. It was a warm and pleasant spring day. The wind did not blow and even a small cloud did not darken the blue sky. From early morning there was vigorous activity in the town: Young and old, men, women and infants, everyone rushed to the gathering point on the town's border, to a place that was called the “valley” by the townspeople. It was a grass–covered valley with enough space for the townspeople who came to participate in the procession. Last minute preparations took place there, little girls came in their sparkling white dresses and their chests were decorated with blue and white ribbons. The older teens came dressed in dark pants, white shirts and blue and white ribbons tied to their hands. The elderly Zionists also came to join the procession. The Jewish estate owners, who lived around Tluste, kept their promise and sent handsome riding horses which were also decorated with blue and white ribbons. Michael Hesing, the riders' commander, stood before his unit for a training exercise.

Meanwhile, news arrived from the town that masses of farmers from the entire area started to gather in it and their number was growing by the minute. This news spread concern among the assembled crowd, but the organizers of the festivities believed that they had someone to rely on: after all, they had a written permit signed by the provincial minister and a promise from the police to keep peace and order in town. And if so – what is the concern and what is the fear? Therefore, we continued to organize the procession according to plan, and started to march in perfect order towards the town's streets.

When the procession got closer to the building of Baron Hirsh School, thugs emerged from the adjacent alleys and attacked the small children first. The children panicked and began to flee in tears and shouts to their homes. The leader of the thugs, Peranishek Blumicz, stormed Dr. Emil Bleicher's house, tore the expensive Persian carpet in two, broke Dr. Herzl's picture and furiously tore apart the national flags that were hung on both sides of the picture. At the same time the thugs, under the leadership of Antosko Dodekei who at that time was the commander of the municipal police, broke into the ranks of youth, tore off their ribbons and loops and at the same time ripped their clothes and underwear with great pleasure. When the young people who rode the horses tried to resist them and deter them from their actions, a dangerous situation was created and almost ended in a “pogrom.” However, the events did not reach a dangerous stage and there were no casualties, only a few among us were slightly wounded and two have been seriously wounded: Yisrael Gertner, brother–in–law of David Nuremberg, and Mesholam Eger.

When the commotion began we tried to turn to the state police for help, but there was not a living soul in the police station. Throughout the day, and until the late hours of the evening, a policeman hasn't been seen in the town. They deliberately disappeared and abandoned the Jews to the mercy of the rampaging thugs, and they even did not see the need to apologize for it.

The panic subsided shortly after the dispersal of the procession and people calmed down. The streets were filled with crowds of people and everyone was getting ready for the festive meeting which was to take place in the evening. During the evening hours, people came from all corners of the town to Beit–Ha'Midrash where the impressive meeting took place. Several speakers took the stage, spoke in honor of the festive occasion and even brought practical ideas for the continuation of the Zionist activities among the adults and the youth. The festive meeting for the San Remo resolution was closed in a festive mood and the singing of “Techezakna” and “Hatikvah.”

 

tov048a.jpg
“Macabi” soccer team

 

tov048b.jpg
Keren Hakayemet committee of “Gordonia”

 

The attack of the thugs, which greatly prevented the joy of the holiday, also caused some positive effects. It enhanced the sense of unity among the town's residents resulting in increased participation in the festive meeting in Beit–Ha'Midrash to the point that it was too small to accommodate those who came and many were forced to stand outside, and also gave the speakers a lot of material for Zionist propaganda. The speakers rightfully pointed at the behavior of the people of the new regime, who had just entered their new positions after they were enslaved to a foreign regime, the Austrian regime. Now they were seen in all of their ugliness and demonstrated that they hadn't learned anything from the lessons of the past. The speakers approached the town's Jews of all works of life, and asked them to join the ranks of active Zionists, to buy the Shekel [membership in a Zionist organization] and take part in the elections to the Zionist Congress, and turned to the young people with a call to join the ranks of those who fulfilled their Zionist dream. He asked them to give up their education and dedicate themselves to constructive work within the Zionist youth organizations and the “Halutz” movement.

There was a lot of echo to the things that were said at the meeting. The next day, people who usually stayed away from Zionism and “politics” now gathered in groups, argued passionately and took a stand on statements made at the meetings. With that, an enormous push was given to the Zionist movement and to the political activity in town. Each political party strengthened its connection with the party's headquarters in Lvov in order to increase their activities during this window of opportunity. The general secretary of the Zionist Socialist party, “Hitachdut,” the member Fishel Verber z”l, came at that time to our town. He gathered the party members and lectured before them. We immediately started to reorganize the “Hitachdut” chapter in town and also elected a new management (“presidency”) which included the following members: Yehoshua Schechter – chairman; Meir Sternlieb – vice chairman; Chaim Naglar, Yeshayahu Rosenthal, Lion Brandes and Dov Pfeffer – board members, and Shmuel Fiderer – secretary.

Immediately after that we rented an apartment that served as our club. It was a three–room apartment in Lion Brandes' building, on the floor above his apartment. There, we were able to develop our wide and varied activities. We arranged our special library, a drama club and a non–political soccer team under the leadership of Dr. Greenberg. And most importantly – the first “Halutz” group was established within the ranks of our party. At the same time we received an order from the “Halutz” headquarters in Lvov to establish an aid fund for the Halutzim, and to start with our activities to train the Halutzim in the agricultural farms in our area.

And here began a bitter struggle with the estate owners and the Jewish tenants near our town. When we turned to them with the offer to accept a group of Halutzim to work and train on their farms, each one of them tried to evade us with different excuses and pretexts. One simply said that he did not believe in the ability of young Jewish men to work such a difficult work. The second pretended to be “merciful” and claimed that his heart did not allow him see young Jewish men working in such exhausting work that they are not used to. Everyone rejected our offer with different excuses, and it is better not to mention and list them.

And now, salvation came to us from one place. Near us was a village by the name of Hinkovza [Hińkowce] where the quality of its land was the worst of the worst, the worst land in our area. The Hinkovza farm owner was a pious Jew, R' Avraham Pohoriles z”l. He was a generous man when it came to giving to charity, and loved Israel with all of his heart. Twice a year he gave his products to our town's poor: he sent potatoes for Passover, firewood for heating upon the arrival of winter in addition to other charitable acts that he performed. So we decided to leave for R' Avraham Pohoriles' farm and try to talk to him about the possibility of accepting a number of Halutzim for “Hakhshara” [pioneer training].

When I came to him and presented my request before him, he burst out laughing and said: “who knows better than you, my friend, my fields are poor and meager, are you playing a joke on me with this offer?” I explained to him that all the farm owners were afraid to receive Jewish workers, and I wanted to prove to them that R' Avrahamzi Pohoriles was not afraid and willing to sign a contract to employ a group of Halutzim in order to influence them and move them from their stubborn stand. R' Avrahamzi pondered a bit and said: “if so, send me ten Halutzim.” I asked him to add two young women, but to that R' Avrahamzi did not want to agree. Only after I explained to him that in the absence of Jewish girls to “Koshering” the meat, the young men were likely to fail and eat non–kosher meat – R' Avrahamtzi agreed to add two young women to the contract.

In this manner we arrived at the first contract of employment of twelve Halutzim, and we knew very well that they wouldn't be able to cope with the conditions in Hinkovza because of the poor quality of its land. A short time after the Halutzim left for Hachshara, I came to visit them and asked R' Avrahamzi if he was satisfied with their work. R' Avrahamsi answered me and said: “the children, God bless, are very well, they dance…” and, as it is known, that with the dancing of the “Hora” a pioneer soul is being formed.

When I turned to the estate owners and showed them the contract with R' Avrahamzi Pohoriles, they also started to relate differently towards the matter of employing groups of Halutzim. I left, together with Isko Viesglas, to one of his relatives who owned an estate in Chersheniowce [Szerszeniowce]. In his home we met his father–in–law, Guthertz from Chernovitz, who was a known Zionist public figure in Bukovina (at that time it belonged to Romania). After negotiation the estate owner, Viesglas, signed a contract to employ sixty Halutzim. His main property was the Zastavna estate, but there was plenty of space in Jezierzany for the many workers who arrived from Tluste, Jezierzany, and Lvov. Today, most of them live in Kibbutz Schiler near Rehovot, and a number of them are scattered around the country, in cities and in farms. After that, we were able to send Halutzim to almost all the Jewish–owned farms, and I am able to say with confidence that everyone was satisfied with their work.

We also established a troop of “Hakhshara” in town that was housed at the home of Sheindl Rottenstreich, and also this troop succeeded in its work. The Halutzim success in the farms was so great, that non–Jewish workers started to see them as serious competition. The matter reached the point that the non–Jewish workers in Rozhanovka [Różanówka] and Hinkovza organized a strike against the employment of Jewish workers. The police interfered in Rozhanovka, and a Polish policeman named Zakshevski was beaten and wounded. In spite of all that, the Halutzim continued to work onthe farms because the estate owners were satisfied with their work. Only the farm in Hinkovza was deserted because of the difficult condition of its land.

The “Hitachdut” branch in Tluste was in constant contact with the Halutzim in all the Hakhshara locations and sent them lecturers for Sabbath social gatherings and other cultural events. At the same time, the Zionist youth movement, “Gordonia,” was established in town under the patronage and with help of the “Hitachdut” party. “Gordonia” youth association accepted the best of the youth in town. Most of them were able to reach Israel before the Holocaust and they live there today.

The activity of the branch of “Hitachdut – Socialist Zionism” stood on a high level. All the Jewish newspapers, in Yiddish and Polish, were available in our club. On the Sabbath it was possible to find there about fifteen newspapers of all kinds, and many of the worshipers stopped at the club on their way home from the synagogues to peek at a Jewish newspaper. On Saturday nights, lectures on different subjects took place at the club and drew a large number of listeners. Our town was a town of Zionists and intellectuals, and many of its residents showed great understanding and interest in the theater, from local productions to visiting theaters.

In 1933 I emigrated to Israel with a “personal certificate.” Unfortunately, I was forced to return to Poland in 1938 and suffered, together with all of Tluste's Jews, in the horrible years of war, 1939–1945. In spite of that I was lucky that able to return to Israel after the war. I remember that in one of the “aktzyot” my wife urged me to hurry up and hide, I answered her and said: I ridicule Hitler and his killers together because I ate meat in Eretz–Yisrael, as the tradition says, the one who eats meat in Eretz–Yisrael must lay his bones there…

 

tov049.jpg
A group of members of Gordonia

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Tovste, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 27 Jul 2018 by JH