Translated by Bill Leibner Usually, the Jewish community of Zloczew had one rabbi, one dayan and two schochtim (plural of schochet). This was the custom and continued for years. With regards to rabbis, it is worth mentioning that Zloczew had three rabbis with the same first names - Aaron Moshe. Yet, they were not related in the least.
The new rabbi and the new schochet worked harmoniously together as time went by. They respected and understood each other. For example, the rabbi always invited the schochet to be a member of the judicial panel that heard cases between Jewish litigants. When the cases were adjudicated and the parties offered payment to the rabbi for his services, he refused to accept the money and insisted that the schochet take the money. The rabbi claimed that he had no children and therefore did not need the money. But he pointed to the schochet and told him, You have many children and really need the money - so please take it.
Due to the respect of the dead, the incident passed without recriminations. Everybody kept his temper under control. But following the funeral, the strains became obvious and soon the Jewish community was divided into two camps: the Gerer Hassidim camp on one side and the Alexander Hassidim on the other side. The disagreements intensified with the search for a new rabbi. Each camp wanted a rabbi that was associated with its own camp. Eventually, the camp of the Alexander Hassidim won the race in spite of the fact that they were a minority in the city. However, they represented the Jewish elite in Zloczew, namely they were the well to do Jews in town. Their position swayed many Jews in the community. The struggle between the two camps would have continued for some time if the Gerer Rabbi had not made peace between the two factions In person, he visited the city of Zloczew when he was in the vicinity and brought the two factions together.
When I was a small child, I remember that my uncle, may his memory be blessed, told me about a shul in Zloczew, about which a number of legends circulated -about its uniqueness, its magnificence and glory, and exceptional beauty. Regretfully, the shul burned down.
The famous Jewish cultural researcher, Director of the Museum of Ethnography and Folklore in Tel Aviv, engineer David Dawidowicz, mentioned the Zloczew shul in his book Wall Paintings of Synagogues in Poland. He writes: The synagogue was built in the 18th century based on the designs of the famous artist, Hillel Benjamin (born in Lask), who established three similar shuls in Poland: in Lutomiersk, Zloczew and in Kornik.. These shuls stood out because of the unique style of their structure. Scholars maintain that Hillel Benjamin was an underlying influence on contemporary Western European architecture.
The Zloczew shul of the time was mentioned in the Yizkor books of the neighboring towns Zdunska Wola and Pavianitz, and therein the tragic fall was also described, that by the structure of the shul in Zloczew did the artist Hillel Benjamin perish, when he fell from the roof of the structure and died when he hit the ground. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Zloczew, where now there is no memorial remaining.
|The exterior wall of the synagogue
|The upper wall of the synagogue
The famous synagogue was completely destroyed by fire, down to its foundations, in the year 1885, in the days of The Great Fire as the elders of the town of Zloczew used to call it.
Immediately after the burning of the old synagogue, work began on the construction of a new synagogue, built of stone, unlike the previous one that was built completely of wood. The driving force behind the construction of this synagogue was Yitzchak Wolkovicz, may his memory be blessed, who for decades served as the head of the community in Zloczew and labored greatly on behalf of the people of his town. During the time that he served as head of the community, the Jewish population in Zloczew grew and flourished.
Reb Yitzchak was a liberal man in his outlook, educated and progressive. During the days of the famous culture war that lasted for many years, he stood on the side of the educated and, while not alone, it was on him to defend the young men of the Bet HaMidrash from the fury of the envious Hasidim. Sometimes, he was imprisoned by the authorities on security grounds because of the rumors that revolutionary books were in the hands of the young men (the authorities, as was known, were very sensitive in this area). Reb Yitzchak Wolkovicz, may his memory be blessed, had to prove that the books were printed with the authorization of the censor (see what was written by Eisik Faiwlowicz, may his memory be blessed Origins of Zloczew Jews''- p. 19).
For the construction of the new synagogue, he dedicated his own resources and wealth. Visible to the worshipers in the synagogue, they were always in the presence of the many donations from the house of Wolkovicz. These took the form of sacred paraphernalia such as: cotton torah scrolls, tablecloths, etc. Over the complete length of the eastern wall, the women had hung a curtain (so as not to be disturbed by regular outbursts from the male congregants) that had written on its edges Sarah Leah wife of Reb Yitzhak Wolkovicz. One remnant of the sacred vessels in the synagogue that survived the flight after the Holocaust arrived in Israel with one of the townsfolk. The vessels had been made of copper, with handles all around the perimeter, by which the Levites grasped them at the time of the washing of the hands of the Kohens, before the blessing of the Kohanim. On the edge of this vessel were inscribed the words: Donated by - Reb Yitzchak Wolkovicz.
Translated by Bill Leibner We had a nice tradition in Zloczew that continued for generations regarding children that had to start the cheder or Hebrew school. (The Hebrew school usually consisted of one room that also served as the living place of the teacher). When a boy reached the age of three years, the father would usually wrap him up in his large talith or prayer shawl (practically all were big) and carry him to the cheder that he chose for the child. There, the melamed and the other students would await the new arrival. As they arrived, a young student climbed up the stove with a candy in his hand. The father removed the talith and seated his son next to the melamed The latter would show the boy a page with the Hebrew alphabet. At that moment, the melamed gave a sign to the hidden student to drop the candy on the page of the alphabet. The candy fell on the page and the melamed took it and gave it to the new student. The implication was clear - that an angel from heaven had dropped the candy. The melamed would usually add that if the student will be a good pupil and listen to the melamed, the angel will always drop candy.
Translated by Bill Leibner After a number of years of Chumash studying, whereby the student acquired the ability to read Hebrew texts and Rashi script, his middle education was finished. He was now ready for the third level of education, namely the study of the Talmud. There were special Talmud teachers that had their own cheders. There were two teachers in Zloczew: Lozer (Eliezer) and Shaul Abba. Their students were already older boys that started their studies at 7 A.M. until midday when they went home to eat lunch Then they returned to the cheder where they remained until the evening. In winter days, the studies continued until the dark hours of the night and the students had lanterns to guide them home in the darkness. I still remember some of the meaningless rhymes that we recited heading home, namely the life of Sarah is a long night, that is why we are starting to march tonight (loose Yiddish translation).
The students were older and some did not pay attention or were distracted in their studies They did not remember or did not comprehend the texts. The teacher was not bashful and used the whip or even slapped the student. The melamed's or teacher's life was not an easy one. His wages were meager. Some of the parents did not pay on time or paid less than they were supposed to. The poor parents could not pay. Thus the teacher's income was always short and he was frequently forced to develop an extra source of income. The teacher Lozer dealt with dishes That is, his wife had a cart that was stacked with dishes. The students of the cheder would push the cart to the market where she would stand and sell her merchandise. The students would take their time returning to the cheder. Along the road, they would play with their pocket knives or roll steel rims. Students spent several years with the Talmud teachers. Then some would continue independently in their studies in the study center or Beit Hamidrash while others started to work to help their families.
|Young Members of the Agudat Israel
On the right, Moshe Beser, Mordechai Mayerowicz,
Arie Faivelowicz and Arie Kshepicki
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