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[Pages 244]

The “Cantor's” Beit HaMidrash

by Menakhem son of Shimon Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin


The southern front of the Cantor's Beit HaMidrash


The plan of the “Cantor's” Beit HaMidrash


The Beit HaMidrash of the “Khazan” [cantor] stood on the corner of Zigmontovska and Shkolna Streets on the way to the city's two elementary schools. Nobody in the town called Beit HaMidrash with a different name, despite the fact that Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson prayed, acted, and gave sermons there. The latter was a native of the city and the pre-eminent Rabbi of Lviv after he left Brzezany.

It was a square building without any additions. The narrow entrance hall had a wide door leading into the prayer hall, across the Bimah and the Holy Ark behind it. On the other side of the entrance hall were a large Kheder and the caretaker's apartment. The Beit HaMidrash was built in the middle of the 19th century and belonged to the family of square synagogues common to Galitsia. Its structure was functional and met the needs of its worshippers. The prayer hall was spacious because of the number of benches, the Bimah, and the furnishings. The hall reflected richness. Its furnishing was renovated in the 1930s, and the walls were covered in wood throughout. The new Bimah, surrounded by a curved railing, rose significantly high (about seven to ten stairs above the hall's floor). That was not common in the other synagogues in town. Perhaps that was done purposely because the “cantor,” after whom the Beit HaMidrash was named, wanted to sound his prayer from a great height. The Holy Ark was similar to the one in the Great Synagogue. It was magnificent but smaller. The exterior was plastered, with a stone-made and oil-painted relief positioned above the entrance door. Two lions supporting the Covenant Tablets hinted about the purpose of the building. Large arched windows with colored glass emphasized more forcibly the purpose of the building.

Worshippers prayed only on Shabbat and holidays in that Beit HaMidrash and occasionally afternoon and evening prayers. Despite that, the gates were open all day long, thanks to the “Kheder.” One could hear the learning and teaching voices of the youngsters all day long.

Despite the heavy bombing that took place not far away from it, the Beit HaMidrash survived the Second World War. When I left the city in 1944, the structure was desolate and deserted.

[Pages 245]

The Old (Alte) Stratyner Kloiz

by Menakhem son of Shimon Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

After the fire at the old Stratyner Kloiz [small synagogue] on Belkherska Street in 1915, the worshippers moved, after the First World War, to that Kloiz. It stood in the yard of the “Built” Beit HaMidrash and was attached to it on the eastern side. The name “Alte” (old) moved with it.

The entrance into the Kloiz's small entrance hall was through the entrance hall of the “Built” Beit HaMidrash and through a narrow yard (that had no ceiling).


The plan for the Stratyner Kloiz with the caretaker's apartment


Like other houses of prayer that Kloiz throughout Galitsia, this synagogue consisted of a large prayer hall containing a Holy Ark, Torah reading table, and several “Shtanders” [stands] near the eastern wall, which served among other uses) the students of the “Kheder,” was managed by R' Shlomo Prisant.

Like the “Built” Beit HaMidrash, the building was made of plastered sandstone. Architecturally, the building did not have any special features, however, due to the stone details in the windows and the entrance from the yard with the door's lintel, it was apparent that it was built to serve as a house of prayer.

The prayers at the Kloiz were handled purely based on the customs of Stratyn Hasidim. Indeed, many of the people who prayed there were such Hasidim.

Among the latest Gabbais in the Kloiz were Alter Lufter and Yeshaia Tempel.

Like the Beit HaMidrash, the Kloiz remained standing, and in 1944, the Soviet supply authorities used the building as a wheat warehouse.

[Pages 246]

The Kloiz of the Chortkobver Hasidim

by Menakhem son of Shimon Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

The name “Kloiz” provides a hint about the Prayer House plan. That name defines a small structure that belonged to the family of small synagogues that were common in Galitsia.

The two-story house was built before the First World War by the followers of Rabbi David-Shlomo Friedman [According to the literature, the founder's name was David-Moshe Friedman], founder of the Chortkov [Today – Chortkiv] Hasidic Dynasty.

The first floor contained the prayer hall, and the second floor, the women's section. The building was burnt in the First World War. Chortkov Hasidim rebuilt the ground floor and established the prayer hall there.

It was a square structure about 9 x 9 meters. People entered it through an entrance corridor, which could be lifted to serve as a Sukkah during the holiday of Sukkot. The hall was furnished simply. The dominant piece of furniture was the Holy Ark, which rose to the ceiling.


The plan for the Kloiz of Chortkov Hasidim

[Pages 247]

The western front of the Kloiz


The carving on the ark included flowers, fruits, leaves, and stems, all strung and combined like embroidery. A complicated “wooden embroidery” of various plants enveloped the sides of the Ark and reached its top. Two lions, with two eagles on their sides, stood on the top of the Ark. There was no Bimah in that Kloiz, only a large table, covered with a colorful tablecloth, serving as a place for Torah reading.

Life at the Kloiz

by Dov Knohl

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

Like the rest of the houses of prayer in the city, prayers took place on regular days and on holidays and Sabbaths according to the tradition from time immemorial. However, the prayers in this Kloiz had a unique character. The prayer was marked by the utmost seriousness and the great devotion of the worshippers. At the same time, it was a quiet and concentrated prayer without unnecessary movements or raising voices. Looking at the worshippers, one could see old and young men, many of whom were standing, facing east with their Talits rolled down on their faces and their whole beings concentrated in the prayer. That was the prayer style of Chortkov Hasidim – inner enthusiasm arrested within the worshiper's heart.

The prayer's melody was jovial, sad, filled with longing and self-assurance. The Kloiz on Sabbaths and holidays did not resemble the one on weekdays. Although many worshippers prayed on weekdays, the Kloiz was too small to accommodate everyone on Sabbaths and holidays. Due to crowding, many prayed in the entrance hall and, in good weather, even outside in the spacious yard attached to the Kloiz.

The Kloiz was a center of Torah learning in the city, as the Yeshiva ceased its operation after the death of the Maharsha” m. In that period, between the two World Wars, it became the central location where high school-age boys and older young men concentrated all day long and studied. During the evening hours, older adults sat at the long tables at the end of their workday and dedicated their time to studying the Torah.

Among the learners, were some young men who persisted in their studies throughout the day. Among them was a unique “studious” young man. A bright day or rainy day, summer, or winter - the Kloiz's gate was wide open. Almost always, when you approached the building, you would hear from afar the study melody rising and falling. The voice echoed among the prayer hall walls, ceased for a moment, and then started again. The voice, which was coming from one of the corners, was of a young man, Zalman Shekhter z”l. He was a Torah scholar who was certified to teach by prominent Rabbis. He dedicated nights and days to his studies - a slender figure bent over the Gemarah and swaying in an even rhythm. When somebody entered the hall, he would raise his head, look at the person, and return to his study.

Another scene of life at the Kloiz was the Hasidic parties on Sabbaths, holidays, days of festivities, and anniversaries of the death of Tzadikim [righteous]. On those occasions, and particularly

[Pages 248]

in a Kiddush party following a Shabbat prayer or the party of the “Third Meal.” Tens of Hasidim sat around a long table, enjoying a drink and singing Hasidic songs with great devotion. Suddenly, there was silence. One of the Hasidic elders or young scholars would talk about the weekly Torah portion, the essence of the holiday, or sayings of the Tzadik for whom the Memorial Day was celebrated. All the meal's participants would listen quietly and attentively.

In particular, the Hasidim liked to listen to R' Shmuel Adler z”l, the city's ritual slaughterer. His demeanor testified to concentration of thought, moderation, and self-control. R' Shlomo told stories about the conduct of the Tzadikim, incorporating deep Hasidic ideas. He always began his story with: “I heard that story from my grandfather - who heard it from a Polish man who, in turn, heard it from an eyewitness…” He began his talk with a quiet voice, raising it gradually and lowering it again upon reaching a dramatic moment. The entire audience sat alert and attentively, absorbing R' Shlomo's talk.

Just as R' Shlomo ended his talk, R' Mendeleh, an aged man who knew many Hasidic melodies, began to sing and the crowd followed him.

Those parties, some of which were short while others lasted several hours, were typical characteristics of life in the Kloiz.

Particularly known among the Jews were the “Hakafot” [literally “encircling” - dancing with and around the Torah scrolls] on the evening of the “Simkhat Torah” holiday and the prayer in “Ninth of Av” held by the Hasidim of Chortkov at the Kloiz.

A break was announced following the holiday prayer of the “Simkhat Torah” evening. Most of the worshippers went to the home of one of the Gabbais for a traditional holiday party. The young men gathered in another house for a more intimate party. Two hours later, people began to return to the Kloiz. In the meantime, the hall filled with women and girls, members of the youth movements, and other curious people who came to watch the Hakafot ceremony.

Following the prayer “Ata Horeta Lada'at” [“Unto thee it was shown that thou mightest know that the Lord, He is God”], sang with a festive melody, worshippers were invited to make “Hakafot” with Torah scrolls in their hands. After every round, the participants, accompanied by the congregation's elders, broke out with long and passionate dances. While most of the Hasidim sang devotedly and enthusiastically, prayers and their melodies. They danced with their eyes closed endlessly encircling the scrolls without a break until they collapsed.


The Struggle for Zionist Influence

Although the Admo”rs of the Chrtokov dynasty excelled in loving the Jewish masses, they were among the leaders of “Agudat Israel” [anti-Zionist Haredic party.]. As such, the elders and some young men ensured that Zionist influence would not be reflected in the framework of the Kloiz. However, not everyone supported that view. Some worshippers demanded that the Kloiz would not differ from the other houses of prayer, where those who ascended to the Torah on holidays donated money to “Keren Kayemet Le'Israel” [KKL _JNF], and where notable events in the Zionist movement were held in the building. The people who led this struggle for Zionist influence were Mordekhai Knohl, Moshe Toiber, Arye Narol, Ozer Rot, and E. D. Rot.

[Pages 249]

Joining them was the young generation of youths, members of the Zionist youth movements. That struggle lasted many decades and was often stormy. It ended only during the last years before the Holocaust due to the news about the religious lives being established in the Jewish settlement movement in Eretz Israel, and principally because the Rabbi from Chortkov, who was forced to escape the Nazis from his place of residence in Vienna, arrived in Eretz Israel with the help of an Aliyah certificate secured for him by the Jewish agency. That also helped in securing donations for KKL-JNF and the Zionist movement [at the Kloiz].


The prominent figures

Like in any society, several people became prominent among the worshippers of the Kloiz, intentionally or unintentionally, due to their personality or way of life. Since they contributed to shaping life at the Kloiz, they should be mentioned and memorialized:

Admo”r' Israel son of Pinkhas Brandwein – grandson of the Stratyn family.
R' Shmuel Abelis Nebel [or Nevel] – a Melamed at the Maharsha”m's Yeshiva. A learner who dedicated his life to the Torah.
R' Naftali Gelber – served as a Gabbai for many years. Dedicated his fortune and efforts to constructing and renovating the Kloiz.
R' Yosef Noiman – a scholar and one of the dignitaries among the worshippers.
R' David-Hersh Haber – The “Matmid” [studios] who dedicated many years to studying Torah at the Kloiz.
R' Israel Tzeig – from among the leading speakers at the Kloiz, Ba'al Koreh [Torah reader], and public activists.
R' Tzvi Toiber – a scholar whose diligence in studying Torah and praying was exemplary.
R' Arye Narol – a modest scholar.
R' Mordekhai Knohl – studied Torah and served as an advocate for the Zionist idea at the Kloiz and follower of the “HaMizrakhi” [Zionist religious party].
R' Shreiber Yehoshua – a young learner from among the students of R' Meir Shapira ztz”l from Lublin, and a public activist who dedicated most of the day to studying Torah at the Kloiz.

[Pages 250]

The Synagogue - “Yad Kharutzim” [“Dilligent Hand”]

by Menakhem son of Shimon Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

A new synagogue was built on Strazacka Street. This synagogue was located, opposite the Synagogue of R' Mendeleh. It was built by the Jewish craftsmen's guild in 1901 to serve as the prayer house for its members. It was a plastered brick building containing a prayer hall and an entrance hall, through which there was a shared entrance to the prayer hall and the women's section on the upper floor, a rare design feature in the town. Except for the shared entrance, the design was like the other latest houses of prayer in the city. In the 1930s, this synagogue served about 100 households, members of the guild, and a few homeowners who resided nearby.


The plan of the first floor of “Yad Kharutzim” Synagogue


The members of the craftsmen's guild took care of the upkeep, cleanliness, and occasional renewal of all the objects. They made sure that it always looked like new.

The synagogue was burnt along with the rest of the buildings around it as a result of the Nazi heavy bombarding of the city on Shabbat evening, 18 July 1942. Its burnt skeleton collapsed over the years and was wiped off the face of the earth, as did its dedicated worshippers.

[Pages 251]

Rabbi Mendeleh's Synagouge

by Dr. Eliezer Shaklai

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

Rabbi Mendeleh Halperin was the city rabbi for many years until the outbreak of the Second World War. In fact, Rabbi Mendeleh resided in the city of Dukla, where he also served as a rabbi. He visited Brzezany about twice a year, where he had a spacious synagogue on Strazacka Street [opposite “Yad Kharutzim” Synagogue]. The synagogue building included an apartment for the rabbi, where he resided [when in town] and where he received his followers.


The plan for Rabbi Mendeleh's Synagogue


The plan for the synagogue was almost identical the other houses of prayer, built in the later part of the 19th century. The difference in this synagogue was the rabbi's apartment and the entrance to the women's section [on the second floor], which was reached through a wooden staircase behind the building.

The synagogue was burnt together with the “Yad Kharutzim” Synagogue during the Nazi bombardment on Shabbat evening of 18 July 1941. Only these written words testify to the existence of the synagogue in the days past.

The Poiker Kleizel

by Menakhem son of Shimon Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

As mentioned in the article on page 232, a tiny room of prayer resided within the building of Beit HaMidrash named after Rabbi Yudel. The room was named after Rabbi Asher Potiker, rabbi and teacher of Jewish law in Brzezany, who later served as the head of the rabbinical court in the district of Lviv.

The reason why I [the author] dedicated a separate chapter for that Kleizel was meant to separate it from the rest of the houses of prayer and to emphasize the distinct role of the “independent” [as the author was allowing himself to call them] synagogues.

Kleizel is a tiny place of prayer whose structure is included within another another building. There were several others like it in the city.

In addition to being a room of prayer, where the worshippers prayed Shakhrit [morning prayer], Minkha [afternoon prayer], and Ma'ariv [evening prayer], the room also served as a “Kheder” where R' Getzaleh Halperin taught lessons throughout the whole day.

The accomplished and financial supporter of the Kleizel was the Gabbai R' Moshe Wonder, for whom one of his objectives in life was supporting the Kleizel and ensuring its existence.

With the destruction of [Yudel's] Beit HaMidrash , by the Nazi Kreishauptmann, damn him, the Kleizel was also destroyed, and only these words would serve as a testimony, in the future, about its existence.

[Pages 252]

Rozolover Kloiz

by Menakhem son of Shimon Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

The Rozolover Kloiz of the Rozolov Hasidim was located on the western side of the Great Synagogue in a long and narrow yard.

Like the rest of the houses of prayers in Galitzia, this Kloiz served the enthusiastic Hassidim who strictly observed their customs and contact with their rabbi.

We should note here that, like the Startyner Kloiz on the opposite side of the plaza, the architectural details of the window lintels and the entrance door, reflected the public character of the building. The conclusion is that this structure was built specifically to serve as a house of prayer.

In addition, I would like to mention the colorful windows that decorated the Kloiz, thereby giving its space a special soft and pleasant light that created a unique atmosphere for the people in it.

Without its lintels, beautiful windows and floor, and its plaster peeling off, the Kloiz remained deserted and broken through when I left the town in 1944.

Ya'ir's [Jair] Kloizle

by Menakhem son of Shimon Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

On Tranopolska Street, no. 18, attached to a residential building, stood a small synagogue that people called “Das Yores Kloizle” [Yair's little Kloiz], a single plastered brick structure, with a tiled roof with three slopes, built only to serve as a house of prayer. The name “Kloiz” already hints at its small size. However, when examining the plan, you realize that it is an almost exact duplicate of the other synagogues, such as the Cantor's Beit HaMidrash or the Chortkover Kloiz, the only difference being the small measurements.


The plan of Ya'ir's synagogue


Distinctive characteristics of the Kloiz were its unusual cleanliness, a large number of lamps, and its exemplary order with all of the objects, thanks to the dedication of the Kloiz's Gabbai, R' Barukh Goldman, who devoted most of his free time to the Kloiz .

That house of prayer served its worshippers three times a day – Shakharit [morning prayer], Minkha [afternoon prayer], and Ma'ariv [evening prayer]. We should note that the Kloiz would open before the prayer and lock up at its end, which testifies to purposely enforced order.

In 1944, the Kloiz was broken into and robbed of all the beautiful objects. Only the bare skeleton remained as a sorrowful remnant of its glorious past.

[Pages 253]

Other Prayer Places in Town

by Menakhem son of Shimon Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

The Kleizel [small Kloiz] of the tailors was located at the end of the entrance hall of the Great Synagogue. We should especially note the abundance of tablecloths, Parokhot [Holy Ark curtains], and all sorts of velvet embroideries decorated with gold and silver [strings]. These were used to decorate the Kleizel. The tailors prayed there on Sabbaths and holidays.

The city's porters prayed in a room within the old Talmud Torah [Torah school] at the end of Strazacka Street. They called the room “The Porters' Minyan,” where the porters and the local residents prayed on Sabbaths and holidays.

The last city rabbi, Rabbi Faivush Halperin, had his own Minyan. He organized a public prayer on Sabbaths and holidays in one of his apartment's rooms, where his followers and Hasidim devotedly prayed.

More than anywhere else in the city, young religious people were prominent in the Minyan of HaPoel HaMizrakhi [a religious Zionist party]. Because they did not have their own place, the Minyan moved around from one rented apartment to the other. They prayed regularly on Sabbath nights, Sabbaths, and holidays.

[Pages 254]


Holy Ark


Prayer stand




Table for the Torah reading



[Pages 255]

Eternal candle




Private stand (Shtander)


Towel rack



[Pages 256]



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