« Previous Page [H] Table of Contents Table of Contents [Y] Next Page »

[Hebrew page 27 & Yiddish page 184]

Maskilim and Haskalah (Enlightenment) Movement
in Bolekhov in the 19th Century

by Dr. M. Hendel

Translated from Yiddish by Eszter Andor

A. The Haskalah in Galicia

When we talked about Reb Ber Birkenthal (Ber Bolekhover) we mentioned two movements which emerged in the second half of the 18th century, and we also gave a short summary of the relationship of Ber Bolekhover to these two movements. One of them is the Hassidic movement, which conquered masses in Galicia, and the other is the Haskalah movement, which was still in its infancy in Reb Ber’s time and the first signs of which had only just emerged. The Haskalah movement arose from the economic changes that too place in the 18th century. A stratum of rich Jewish merchants and industrialists emerged in Prussia and in other German states, whose contact with the outside world inevitably led them to change their way of life. The outside world was experiencing an age of "Sturm und Drang" [Storm and Stress]. People behaved as if they had just opened their eyes and started looking at their surrounding in a totally different way, analyzing everything with the help of reason and intellect. This led to the weakening of the hitherto sanctified values in various areas of life: religion, society, economy, education, etc. This fermentation contained the seed from which the French revolution and the great transformations of the 19th century would develop. As a result of looking at the four ells [narrow confines] of the sanctified Jewish religious forms of life there is a change in the mind of the Jew as well. His naive faith is replaced by the critical stance, instead of shutting himself up behind the walls of an inner Jewish life, the Jew aspires to get to know the world with the help of science; instead of promoting the spirit and depriving the body comes the call for harmonious development, which includes special care for one’s bodily health, and for finding aesthetic pleasure in the beauty of nature. In the case of some maskilim, these new elements which became part of their thinking strengthened their Jewish roots – because the maskilic awakening was generally closely connected to the love of the Tanach [Bible] and Hebrew, even though they transformed more or less the essence of the religious Jew. To sum up, a new type of Jew crystallized which in due course gave birth to Jewish nationalism.

In the mind of other maskilim, the new elements conquered the old ones and as a result of the struggle between "old" and "new", their soul was torn and they became estranged little by little from their Jewish roots, to the extent that some of them even converted.

[Yiddish page 185]

As we recall, the Haskalah movement emerged in the German lands but it spread beyond their borders. We can see its influence in the town of Shklov, Belorussia, the Jewish merchants of which came into contact with the Haskalah centers in Germany through their business activities. This is how the Haskalah movement emerged in some Galician towns, in particular in Brody, Lemberg and Tarnopol which were important commercial centers at the time.

One of the first maskilim, Reb Israel of Zamosc (1710-1770) comes from Galicia. Born in Boyberik [Bobrka], he spent the last twenty years of his life in Brody. He wrote an article on mathematics and astronomy. He published a book entitled Netzach Israel [Eternal Israel] in 1741. (He wrote a commentary in rationalist spirit on a passage of the Shas [the Talmud].) This Galician precursor of the Haskalah movement who was a melamed [teacher] in the yeshiva of Zamosc (hence his name), was in contact with the pillars of German literature (among them Lessing), and even Moses Mendelssohn, the leader of the German maskilim, was influenced by him.[1] A similar figure was Reb Shlomo Chelmer, rabbi of Chelm and Zamosc. He settled in Lemberg and died in Saloniki in 1871 on his way back from Palestine. In the preface of his book "Marchevat ha-Mishna"Chidushei Halachot le"Yad ha-Chazaka shel ha-Rambam" ["Chariots of the Mishna – Halachic Novellae to the book entitled "Strong Hand" by Rambam], he highly praises the sciences and complains that people neglect them, even though they are the seven pillars referred to in the Proverbs, chapter 9, verse 1.[2]

Another personality who belonged to this circle is Reb Shlomo of Dubno (1738-1813) who drew on the Torah knowledge of Reb Shlomo Chelmer of Lemberg. During some time, he participated in the translation of the Torah into German initiated by Mendelssohn. For a while he worked as a teacher in Mendelssohn’s house. In the last years of his life he published a Biur [Hebrew commentary on the Bible by Mendelssohn and his disciples] to the Torah, without a German translation, and collected subscribers for this work. He died in Amsterdam.[3] Reb Zeev Wolf Büchner (1750-1820), born in Brody, also belonged to this circle. He traveled a great deal in Poland, Bohemia, Hungary and Germany because of his businesses, as well as for the publication of his books. For a while he was the secretary of the Jewish community of Brody. He displayed a passionate love for Hebrew and he saw the maskil as a Jewish ideal, who, among others things, studied the Tanach [Bible] with the commentators, as well as scholarly works, among them the Rambam.[4] An interesting figure among the precursors of the Haskalah movement in Galicia was Reb Pinchas Eliahu Hurvitz, who was born in Lemberg in 1765 and deceased in Cracow in 1821. His travels took him as far as Holland and England. In 1794, he published a work entitled Book of the Covenant, the first part of which is an encyclopedia of natural sciences.

[Yiddish page 186]

"The Book of Covenant played an immense role in diffusing basic knowledge about the universe", states the historian Mahler.[5] The pioneer of the Galician Haskalah movement was Reb Mendel Lapin of Satanov (1749-1826), who spent the last eighteen years of his life in Brody and Tarnopol. We are indebted to him for many practical plans in the spirit of the Haskalah and for practical activity for a particular goal.[6] This activity is connected to the negotiations concerning the Constitution of May 3 of independent Poland in 1791. In his pamphlet, written in French, he proposed, among other things, improvement of Jewish education, the spreading of scientific works, as for example, the More ha-Nevuchim [Guide to the Perplexed] of Rambam in easy Hebrew and he publication of popular scientific books.

From his literary activity we can trace his practical-daring plan, which was to translate the Tanach [Bible] into Yiddish, the only language that the common people speak. This went against the ideas of other maskilim who wanted to educate the people in German. It is especially noteworthy that Reb Mendel was one of the renewers of Hebrew language.[7] One of the main opponents of the translation of the Tanach [Bible] into Yiddish was the Galician maskil Tevye Feder (born near Cracow, died in Tarnopol in 1817). The activity of Mendel Lapin leads us already into the 19th century, where we find his friends and allies among the leaders of the Haskalah in Russia and Galicia. There are three personalities in the Galician Haskalah movement of the 19th century that are especially interesting to us. The first is the writer Josef Perl (1774-1839) who fought against the Hassidic movement and promoted a new type of education in Tarnopol. The second is Reb Shlomo Yehuda Rapaport (1790-1867) who, having served for a short time as rabbi in Tarnopol, was nominated rabbi in Prague, where he served for 27 years. He was one of the founding fathers of the Wissenschaft des Judentums [Science of Judaism] of the traditional spirit and of the founders of the historical critical research. And the third is Reb Nachman Krochmal (born in Brody in 1783, deceased in Tarnopol in 1840), the author of a profound work, the More Nevuche ha-Zman [Guide to the Perplexed of our Time] in which he put the Galician movement at the head of the forces which had an effect on the ideological strengthening of the Jewry.

Three characteristic features distinguish the pioneers of a new way of thinking in the Jewry:

  1. from a religious point of view almost all of them remained within the framework of tradition, observing the mitzvot [good deeds] and fearing God;
  2. they had a negative stance vis-a-vis the Hassidic movement because, as the leaders of the Haskalah movement argued, its strengthening led to the growth of ignorance.

[Yiddish page 187]

Photograph: the two lines under the picture read: Sincere thanks to Ch. David Zeman who found this document in the attic of his house in Bolekhov, brought it here from America and put it at my disposal.
[Yiddish page 188]

Mendel Lapin, for example, demanded that the publication of Hassidic and Cabalistic books be forbidden because "if the Hassidic movement strengthens, all hope of spreading scientific knowledge among the common people will be lost".[8] The maskilim were considering the idea of reforming the education hoping that it would lead to the emergence of the new man.

The Austrian government, which got Galicia at the partition of Poland in 1772, supported the maskilim. In the previous chapters on Ber Bolekhover, we described in detail the efforts of the government to transfer the Jews into agriculture. Now we will recall Emperor Joseph II who decreed that public schools must be opened for Jewish children and made it the responsibility of the Jewish community to ensure that children did attend school. When he realized that his orders were not successful, he decided to open German schools especially for Jews and introduced the following principles. A child was not allowed to attend cheder [religious elementary school] and study Talmud unless he had a certificate that he attended a German school. A Jew could not marry or be hired as a journeyman to learn a trade unless he had a certificate that he had gone to a German school or learnt German at home. In order to prepare teachers for these schools a seminary was founded in Lemberg, which was to be maintained from Jewish taxes. A Czech maskil Herz Homberg was nominated as chief-inspector and it was his task to establish and supervise the schools. The Jewish inspector set about his task with great zeal. In 1877, a year after accepting the nomination, he established 48 schools, among them a school in Stryj and in Dolina; four years later another 51 schools are added, among them a school in Kalusz, Skale, Zurawno [Zhuravne] and Bolekhov. Almost all the schools were designated for boys and the course lasted for one year; schools for girls were opened in two towns only, Lemberg and Brody. Beside the one-year course, a three-year institution was set up in these two towns as well, and a teacher training seminary was opened in Lemberg.

Until the graduation of the teachers from the Lemberg seminary, Homberg provided the schools with candidates from Germany, Bohemia and Moravia. However, Homberg did not live up to the expectations of the Austrian authorities.

Homberg approached with contempt all that was sacred and dear to the Jews and his only aspiration was to please the authorities and secure his career. His behavior and the behavior of his teachers was foreign to the spirit of Galician Jewry and provoked an uncompromising hatred. When the Jews learned that he was among those who recommended the introduction of a tax on Sabbath candles, his authority and the authority of his teachers collapsed completely.[9]

[Yiddish page 189]

[Note: 2 pictures are here. You can view enlarged versions of the lower picture, made from a duplicate original photograph, of higher photographic quality than the copy in the Yizkor Book, including the faces of the students and teachers, at the JewishGen ShtetLinks webpage: http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/Bolekhov/PeopleSum.htm]

[The line under the two pictures reads: The Jewish school in Bolekhov]

[Yiddish page 190]

As regards the school in Bolekhov, we know that there was a teacher called Jacob Blumenthal there; In the list of teachers in Galicia in 1790, assembled by the historian Gelber, he appears under the name Jacob Blum, which seems a mistake. We have an official document dated from 1794 which shows that the authorities took the issue of the school quite seriously. In that year a young man named Benjamin Bradbart received a permit signed by two community leaders (Shlomo Birkenthal and Yoel Rosenstruch) and validated by the administrative authorities, which allowed him to go to Lemberg and spend a year there (from July 29, 1794 to July 25, 1795) to improve his skills in the tailoring trade. Our young man traveled to Lemberg but it seems that the police made a mistake because on the pass which had been given to him on August 6, 1791, the police wrote the following remark: "the person in question will be sent back to his home town Bolekhov where he is obliged, in compliance with the laws passed by the authorities, to attend school and only after finishing school can he learn the tailoring trade." It can be assumed that the Jews of Bolekhov related the same way to the school as the Jews of other towns in that they did not want to rent a flat for the school, they made up various pretexts not to send their children to school and they tried to harass the teacher. Most importantly, the Jews took various measures not to send the children to school although, by order of the authorities, it was announced every year in the shuln [synagogues or schools] that young men could not get married or learn a trade unless they could read and write German, the number of students did not grow and the schools vegetated. The hostile attitude of the Jewish public opened both Homberg’s eyes and the eyes of the government. Homberg left Galicia disgraced in 1801. In 1806 the government in Vienna discredited the plan for establishing schools for Jews in Galicia. Homberg summed up his activities in an anonymous article that appeared in the periodical Bikure ha-Ittim in 1820. In the article he claimed that "his educational activity bore nice fruit and it is undeniable that Galicia can be grateful to the schools for the many intelligent and useful persons educated in them.[10] The fact that in the discussions concerning the establishment of a school in Bolekhov in the 1840s neither the initiators nor the opponents mention Homberg’s school shows that the school did not make much of an impression on the contemporaries. It should be pointed out that Bolekhov was one of the few towns in which the school teacher struck roots in the local community. Blumenthal married and settled in Bolekhov,[11] and it is more than likely that Berish Blumenthal whom we will talk about when we describe the new school was a descendant of the teacher who Homberg had brought into the town in 1790.

[Yiddish page 191]

To conclude our foreword which helped us familiarize ourselves with conditions in Bolekhov, we must recall that after the abolishment of Homberg’s schools, new schools sprang up in Galicia which strove to combine "Torah" with "Derech Eretz" ["Torah with the ways of the world", phrase coined by S. R. Hirsch who wanted to combine traditional Torah observance with secular studies] and give their students both a Jewish and a general education. The two schools of Josef Perl, founded in Tarnopol in 1813 and in Brody in 1818, were typical of these endeavors.

In these two schools, the students learned general subjects, German, like in all other schools, and other foreign languages (French in Tarnopol, and French and Italian in Brody).

In the school in Brody practical subjects, such as bookkeeping and commerce, were also taught. In Tarnopol considerable attention was given to Jewish subjects: to the study of the Tanach [Bible] in Mendelssohn’s translation, the Talmud, Jewish philosophy, as well as to writing in Yiddish and Hebrew. It appears that in the 1820s a mere 300 Jewish children attended these schools, of which 120 attended Perl’s school in Tarnopol. The movement to establish schools in Galicia was renewed in the 1840s. Lemberg was the first with to open a four-year educational institute in 1844 and Bolekhov followed next. The founding and maintenance of the educational institute was part of the of the bitter fight between the maskilim and the Hasidim. Neither side refrained from denouncing and defaming the other before the authorities and it went so far that the forces opposed to Haskalah removed the rabbi, Abraham Kohn, who was the representative of the maskilim of Lemberg and a central figure in the founding of the local school, by poisoning him.

B) The representatives of three generations of maskilim in Bolekhov

1. Introduction

When we described the social and cultural centers of Galicia, we referred to three towns, Brody, Tarnopol and Lemberg. Contrary to these three centers, Bolekhov was a small shtetl but fortune favored it and it appeared on the stage of the battle of ideas together with the large towns, and moreover, very interesting maskilic characters emerged from this town who played an important role in the general Haskalah movement in Galicia.[12] We have seen that the first sprouts of the Haskalah movement in Bolekhov appeared with Reb Ber Birkenthal at the end of the 18th century. The evolution of the movement in the 19th century was a natural continuation of what Reb Ber had unintentionally laid down the basis of. In Bolekhov, as in other towns, the battle between the maskilim and the Hasidim was centered around the school. A few facts can show us that the shtetl was a maskilic center in the 19th century. In 1812, Samson Bloch, the well-known maskil, published the first volume of his geography book entitled Shvilei ha-Olam [Paths of the World] and among the 340 subscribers to the book there were six people from Bolekhov, 171 from Brody, 78 from Lemberg, 41 from Tarnopol, 13 from Zhulkover [?] and 13 from Jaroslaw. The following towns had fewer subscribers than Bolekhov:

[Yiddish page 192]

Risha [probably Rzeszow] – 5, Muscisk – 5, Tysmienica [Tysmenitsa] – 5, Tarnow – 3.[13] When the school in Lemberg opened in 1849, Bolekhov was the first to welcome it.[14] When the school in Stanislaw opened in 1849, the Bolekhov maskil Zelig Hirsch Mandschein was invited to give the opening speech.[15] Bolekhov gained the reputation of an active town and in the 1850s larger Jewish communities, such as those of Przemysl, Zlotshev [Zloczew] and Risha [?], consult Bolekhov in the matter of establishing schools.[16] In an appraisal published in 1858 in the monthly Ben Chananja [17], the author, who was in fact from Bolekhov, states the following: "The Jewish communities of Brody, Tarnopol and Lemberg, where progress and culture had struck root long ago were recently joined by the small community of the shtetl Bolekhov." This certainly enhanced the good reputation of the shtetl and encouraged the local maskilim.

Before we start describing the activities of the maskilim insofar as we can find their echo in the periodicals of the period, we will describe some maskilic personalities in Bolekhov. In the material at our disposal we can discern three generations of maskilim, whose representatives are the prototypes of their comrades ideological brothers-in-arms. Unfortunately, they were much smaller in numbers and weaker than the Hasidim and the conservative powers but, as well shall see, they made considerable achievements.

2. The first generation of maskilimin Bolekhov

We will now introduce Reb Hirsch Goldenberg who represents the first generation. We do not know much about him. It can be presumed that he was a wholesaler and he made regular business trips to Greece. We have two reliable witnesses – pillars of the Haskalah in Austria with whom he maintained a regular correspondence on science and scholarship – who described Goldenberg. One of them is Shlomo Yehuda Rapaport, the other Shmuel David Luzzatto, professor of the rabbinical seminary of Padua, who impressed all maskilic circles in Europe. In 1831, Hirsch expressed his appreciation of S. Y. Rapaport’s historical biographies and he made a parenthetic remark that Rapaport was wrong concerning a Greek word, "according to my knowledge of Greek and what I have heard in their country". But Reb Hirsch apologized for his remark saying that "I am still far from the threshold of wisdom and scholarship, and how could a fly speak among lions!".[18] Nevertheless, he displayed such a profound and thorough knowledge of Jewish cultural history that Rapaport reminded him in his answer to him that "You are one of the few who get to the core, to the heart of everything," and expressed his astonishment: "To tell the truth, I have not expected to encounter such a man in such a small shtetl as Bolekhov."

[19] These were unusual words. Rapaport was delighted at the deep knowledge of the scholars in Bolekhov. He expressed his delight in one of his letters to Reb Shmuel Reggio,[20] stating that Reb Hirsch "is a maskil who knows a great deal about Jewish sforim [religious books], he wrote me, too, very clever and dear remarks about my pamphlet".[21]

Let us now turn to our second witness S. D. Luzzatto. On December 15, 1835 Luzzatto replied to Reb Hirsch’s letter in which the latter complained about the situation in the Jewish world, how the middle course is abandoned and everybody leaned towards the extremes – some towards uncompromising conservatism, others towards uncompromising progress. Luzzatto agreed with his judgement and said that he also believed that the right course was reciprocal communication, compromise and compliance, "but only the chosen ones follow such paths and you, Sir, are one of them".[22] A sentence from a letter that his son wrote to Reb Hirsch completes his characterization: "from your letter it appears that you are full of ardent aspirations that Jewish scholars should engage in translating useful scholarly works into our holy tongue in order to enrich and embellish it and to make it the lady of languages as it had been in the past." [23]

Reb Hirsch was a maskil who was deeply concerned for the survival of the Jewry and worried lest the sudden offensive of secular culture might harm it. However, he was not one to close his eyes and ignore the well of wisdom which could enrich the life of the Jewry and embellish our national culture as we progress.

As we shall see, a new generation of fighters emerged in Bolekhov in the 1830s who fought for modern Jewish culture and were not satisfied with aspirations only but prepared to take daring steps, as well.

3. Representatives of the second generation of maskilim in Bolekhov

The second generation is represented by Reb Hirsch’s two sons, Shmuel Leib and Jacob, and Zelig Zvi Mandschein and his circle, whose members are each a chapter in themselves. Here we will only treat Reb Shmuel Leib Goldenberg and Zelig Zvi Mandschein. Goldenberg was born in Bolekhov in 1807. He got married at the age of 16, left Bolekhov at the end of the 20s and settled in Tarnopol. He died in 1846, leaving five children behind. Two of his children were abroad studying: one studied philosophy and the other was preparing for a teaching position. Shmuel Leib studied a great deal and from his youth on he was in contact with the prominent figures of his generation discussing with them the sciences and Haskalah. In the 1830s he planned to publish a periodical treating sciences in general and the science of Judaism in particular, in the form of a correspondence between learned men. This is how the periodical Kerem Chemed [Vineyard of Delight], which was the continuation, only on a higher level, of the periodical Bikure ha-Ittim came into being.

[Yiddish page 194]

Kerem Chemed, published by Goldenberg between 1833-1843, appeared first in Vienna then in Prague under the editorship of S. Y. Rapaport (ShI’R). From an exchange of letters with S. D. Luzzatto we learn that Goldenberg planned to publish the periodical in Italy. With the publication of the periodical Goldenberg made a important contribution to our new literature as editor, publisher and patron. The writer Shniur Sachs, who renewed the publication of the Kerem Chemed in 1854, was right in writing about him that "… he sowed justice in the field of Israel, his deeds will always stand by him because he performed a great deed in Israel." [24] His respect for learned men and his readiness to serve and help them manifested itself on various occasions: he was one of the mediators, together with the scholar Tzuntz, in the publication of the great work of Reb Nachman Krochmal’s More Nevuche ha-Zman [Guide to the Perplexed of our Time].[25] He made efforts, together with others, to nominate Reb Shlomo Yehuda Rapaport rabbi in Prague.[26] And when they succeeded, Goldenberg wrote a long letter to his father in which he described the whole matter in detail and added a few poems by Haskalah writers in honor of the event. He ended the letter with the following wish: "If God granted that all Jewish communities in the Diaspora be looked after by devoted and learned ‘shepherds’, then the light of Judaism would rise as the morning star." [27] He also planned to publish the literary heritage of the Brody maskil Jacob Shmuel Bik but his writings fell victim to the fire of 1835.[28] He intervened on behalf of Joseph Perl’s grandson that he be accepted at the rabbinical seminary of Padua.[29] In the columns of the German weekly Der Orient, he turned to the writers and asked them to donate copies of their books to the library of Perl, may his memory be blessed.[30]

His relationship with the prominent figures of the generation placed Shmuel Leib in the center of Jewish cultural life in those times. S. D. Luzzatto was in constant correspondence with him and in 1833 he wrote the following to him: "It makes me glad that God helped me meet such a pure, dear, kind-hearted person." [31] S. Y. Rapaport wrote him in 1830 that "… My love for you is great, I have found in you a virtuous and pure man who hates flattery and loves the truth, therefore, my soul is happy to unite with you." [32] Rapaport described what he thought of Goldenberg in a letter to the historian Yost: "Goldenberg has profound knowledge and it gives him pleasure to serve learned men and scholars". Yost added that in his eyes, too, Goldenberg was "a pure man and his deeds are just".[33] Everybody praised him highly. Rapaport (ShI’R), noting his learnedness and his literary plans, wrote: "there are scores of men in your land who are learned and thirsty for knowledge… and you, my friend, are one of them". He agreed with Goldenberg’s plan of publishing the sforim [religious books] of the Galician Karaites.[34]

[Yiddish page 195]

Shmuel Leib Goldenberg was a businessman but he did not regard his Kerem Chemed as a business undertaking but as an undertaking that required devotion and self-sacrifice. He emphasized that he did not look for profit and he would be on guard despite the temptations because he had a single aim, "to spread the light".[35] It is interesting to note that S. Y. Rapaport argued that Goldenberg was a Jew who observed the mitzvot [good deeds], "he has never committed any serious transgressions, such as the desecration of the Sabbath, eating forbidden food, etc.". However, it seems that he did transgress lesser prohibitions. We learn from Rapaport that Goldenberg was not too pious: "he is not a "sedentary person", he is a businessman who cannot observe all the mitzvot [good deeds], unlike the scholars who make a living from studying the Torah." [36]

Although S. L. Goldenberg developed his communal and literary activity as a resident of Tarnopol, there is no doubt that he had his roots in Bolekhov. He drew his spiritual force from his father’s house, from the atmosphere of the shtetl, and maybe also from his circle of friends and acquaintances, just like his brother Jacob, about whom Shmuel Leib wrote that "I have known you for a long time as a lover of Jewish learning and the sciences, as a diligent student of our old and new sforim [religious books]".[37] Like his brother, Shmuel Leib was also well-versed in Jewish learning and the sciences but he also inherited the practical-mindedness of his father, who united in himself the scholar and the businessman, and he supported the community by serving it in the field of culture and literature.

Another personality of the generation of Goldenberg brothers was Zelig Hirsch Mandschein. As we know more about Mandschein, we shall write about him at length. He was five years younger than Shmuel Goldenberg. He was born in Bolekhov in 1812 and died in Jaroslaw in 1872. He also left the narrow circle of the shtetl and lived for a while in Stanislaw in the 1830s. He spent the last years of his life in Drohobycz, then he became a teacher in Jaroslaw. However, he lived the largest part of his life in Bolekhov, where he was one of the responsible movers of the community, he was also one of the community leaders for a while and taught for many years in the school of whose founders he was one. Beside his activities in Bolekhov, he taught a circle of young maskilim in Stanislaw. Jacob Bibring (1818-1882), the Hebrew poet of Stanislaw, who was the secretary of the community for many years spoke highly of Mandschein.[38] The historian Dr. Gelber stated that the maskilim in Stanislaw were influenced by the maskilim of Bolekhov. He wrote: "the influence of Zelig Hirsch Mandschein awakened the youth of Stanislaw to Hebrew literature and he also sent them Hebrew newspapers." [39]

[Yiddish page 196]

Mandschein wrote a few books on science, culture and education and when Peretz Smolensky [40] published his journal Ha-Shachar [The Dawn], dedicated to the revival of the Jewish people and its language, he introduced the writer Mandschein with the following words: "The name of the writer is well known to us from his books and articles which are disseminated in the newspapers. And all his books are like a battle field where he fights against Hasidim and darkness. His love of the Jewish people is great and strong is his hatred of those who degrade the honor of Israel. Such books benefit the Jewish people because they are built on strong pillars, on the sayings of the sages of blessed memory. God grant him success in his strivings to bring the light to the hearts of his brothers." [41] Nowadays his books, articles and poems have little literary value but in his time they were important contributions to the Haskalah literature as important journalistic tools in the battle for light, progress and the modernization of Jewish life in his town, in Galicia and beyond its borders. In a book which outlines Hebrew educational journalism in Austria we find the following: "Among the Galician maskilim who fought in the first lines excelled especially Zelig Hirsch Mandschein in Bolekhov and Yechiel Meler in Stanislav [Ivano Frankivsk]." [42]

Mandschein, as we have shown, was an important writer and a militant personality. However, he was a modest person and knew the limits of his abilities and possibilities. In a letter to his friend and student Jacob Bibring in Stanislav [Ivano Frankivsk], he wrote the following about himself: "I am a big fowl with little wings which makes futile efforts to spread its wings under the skies." [43] This seems quite true: he had a strong will and was ready for a great swing but he had few possibilities. Maybe we have before us the tragic embodiment of a man of great stature and bel esprit whom the atmosphere of a small shtetl left no room to grow in but weighed down and degraded his exaltation. Mandschein complained many times of conditions in the small shtetl. He wanted to break out of it because even though he was spiritually attached to the shtetl, he could not find a place for himself. It remains a fact that he lived almost all his life in Bolekhov, which he saw as his tragedy and perforce also his greatness. In a letter to his friend Bibring he praised the big city so utterly different from the small shtetl: there – excellent educational institutions, nice parks, clubs, libraries, literary cafes for an exchange of opinions and friendly conversation. In the small town, on the contrary, all is petty… the order of studies is not in order… the rabbis and chazanim [cantors] do not know how to awake glorious feelings in the people.[44]

[Yiddish page 197]

Sixteen years later, during which life tested him hard because which his literary activity did not reach up to the skies and his communal activities did not bear much fruit compared to the efforts he made, and maybe also because he did not find any satisfaction in his personal life, he wrote to his friend, the philosopher and future thinker Shlomo Rubin who had the privilege to settle in a big city: "Life is delightful in a big city which is full of scholars, where culture and scholarship have their nest." [45] His grief was big but, as we have said above, he perfected the fate of the shtetl man and he was ready to see it even as his greatness. In a letter to Bibring in 1846 he wrote, maybe out of despair, maybe with pride, that "not everybody can be a pillar of light for the whole world, I am content to be of use and to help in one town only and to give them advice to help them not to sink in the abyss of stupidity." [46] He found pleasure in his activities and his studies. The closing words of his book Lashon Chachamim [Language of the Sages] (1866) in which he turns to the Almighty are characteristic of Mandschein: "It is not concealed from you that I have loved the truth from my early youth, I have not asked you to give me wealth and the pleasures of the world, I have only asked for wisdom and you listened." [47] In his book Amudei ha-Olam [Pillars of the Universe] (1861) he expressed his ideals more clearly: "… Man! If you want to live happily, come into your rooms, close the doors, study Torah and wisdom, perform deeds of loving kindness and do not desire luxury." [48] 

Mandschein’s life revolved around two axis: literary creation and communal-educational activities, and both of these drew their spiritual nourishment from the same root: love of the Jewish people and care for its improvement. Hence his fight with the Hasidim and "those who rebel against the light", hence also his communal ideals, which he expressed on various occasions: he complained of people’s lustfulness for whom "gold is their God and silver is their idol, they worship them and pray to them." [49] He called upon Jews of his town to donate for the benefit of the communal institutions: "Help poor people, give tithe of the goods that God bestowed upon you." [50] He called upon the rabbis to organize communal help. "Perform deeds of loving kindness, support and feed the poor and the paupers".[51] In a letter to Peretz Smolensky on the occasion of the publication of Ha-Shachar [The Dawn], he noted that in fact each Jewish community was "full of war and looting". He rose to a symbolic-picturesque image, stating how deceptive the romantic image representing the idyll and happy life of the shepherd was when in fact the shepherd often suffered from hunger and went in tatters.[52]

[Yiddish page 198]

Let us accompany our hero in two spheres of his active life and at the same time learn something about the atmosphere of the shtetl. At the age of sixteen Mandschein devoted himself to literary activity. He confessed in a letter that "when I turned sixteen (in 1828), the spirit of poetry awoke in me… and every day I wrote something".[53] And in a second letter he said: "From the time when my intellect opened up, I sustained myself with scholarship, it was my only comfort in my miserable life." [54] The development of his poetic and artistic spirit was backed by a circle of young people the same age as he. At the end of the 1820s there were a number of young people in Bolekhov who dreamed about changing the life of the Jewish people to elevate the people culturally so that Jews would be equal to other civilized nations. Mandschein’s letters reflect the life of the shtetl, even if not the whole shtetl, at least its active part which, indirectly and to a certain extent also directly, laid the basis for the development and character of the shtetl for the coming decades.

Mandschein depicted his inclination to write already in his earliest youth in the following way: "And the friends of my youth regarded me as a model, the daily Ha-Tzefirah was successful in our town." [55] In a letter from 1847 he recalled that "… we had a place outside the town where we used to spend part of the summer days, there we used to have long talks, there awoke the love of learning in us, there we thought out noble thoughts." [56] Thus grew the writer and he always found time, even during the busiest years of his energetic cultural activities, for writing an article or preparing a book for publication. The publication of a book was an event not only for him but for the community as well. This is how in 1864 for example people in Bolekhov learned from the monthly Ben Chananja that Mandschein had published a book entitled Goral ha-Tzedakah and would soon publish a book entitled Lashon Chachamim [Tongue of the Scholars] [57] which contained the following chapters: ‘The lineage of the Generations’, ‘World and Man’, ‘The Torah’, ‘Torah and Mitzva’, ‘Torah and Wisdom’, ‘The Mysteries of the Torah’, ‘Agadot and Midrashot’, ‘The Path to Faith’. His most interesting book is the Amudei ha-Olam [Pillars of the Universe], in which he talks about a life governed by the "Torah, prayer and acts of loving kindness". We note that Mandschein revealed a thorough and extensive knowledge of the old and new sources of Judaism. He was also familiar with world literature. In his book Amudei ha-Olam he cites what the French writer and politician Lamartine wrote about his visit to Palestine.[58]

We will discuss his communal activities as head of the community council and teacher in the Jewish school in detail in the chapter dealing with the history of the school. Here we confine ourselves to describe some of his characteristics.

[Yiddish page 199]

In his communal activities he had only one goal in mind, namely, "to raise the cultural level of the community, to embellish its customs so that we would not be disgraced in the eyes of other nations." [59] He fought bitterly against the Hasidim, but just like Goldenberg, he also sought the middle course between the religious cultural tradition and European cultural values. The ideal man for him was one whose life was governed by reason and whose existence was based on and rooted in true Hasidism. Mandschein’s intimate attachment to Hebrew, the revival of which was one of his sacred goals, as he declared it on various occasions, must be noted in particular.[60] His devotedness to education, his love of the Jewish child and concern for his education are also obvious.

Let us now turn to his material circumstances and family relations, and the last years of his life. We have shown already that he was rather badly situated. He himself hinted at it in his writings and his friend who wrote a eulogy of him in the periodical Ha-Magid [The Preacher] explicitly said that Mandschein had not had a joyful life… All in all his life was short and miserable. Another friend states that hardship and poverty shortened his life. His last years were very hard. One of his friends paints a gloomy picture in his funeral oration: the remainder of Mandschein’s money came to an end with no hope for more. Anger and pain, poverty and distress engulfed him. And beyond all this, he had family troubles as well: his son died young and his grandchildren were thrust upon him. Then his wife died and apparently he was lonely and deserted. We do not know why he left Bolekhov but we do know that he did not find another post at once. He lived for a year and a half in Drohobycz apparently without employment. Finally, his friends, the maskilim, found a position for him as teacher of religion in Jaroslaw and his material circumstances improved but he had hardly taught for a year before he became ill and died. Many people participated in his funeral, among them his students who learned "religion and faith" from him.

Two Hebrew newspapers eulogized him. In the weekly Ivri anochi [I am Hebrew], which was published in Brody, funeral orations and lists appeared from Drohobycz and Borislaw in the form of a poem written by a Jew from Lemberg. On the contrary in the periodical Ha-Magid [The Preacher], which was published in Luk (Prussia) an appraisal from Jaroslaw and Tarnow appeared. His personality and his merits in the battle for progress which he fought courageously and proudly were highly valued everywhere.

[Yiddish page 200]

One of his friends published a mourning poem about his death entitled ‘Moonlight’ (Mandschein). Below is the stanza of which the first letters give the family name Mandschein:

Before we pass on to the representatives of the third generation of maskilim in Bolekhov, let us cite the words of Mandschein’s friend, the thinker Shlomo Rubin who characterized him thus in his foreword to Mandschein’s book Amudei ha-Olam [Pillars of the Universe]: "You labored tremendously amongst your brothers – you spoke, you wrote, you even preached – and they were bitter towards you. They saddened your spirit with their deceitful language, with their persistent slander. And you are pure, all the power to you – …! Bless him with the fruit of wisdom."

« Previous Page [H] Table of Contents Table of Contents [Y] Next Page »

Footnotes from Book Chapter:
  1. On Reb Israel Zamoscer see R. Mahler: Divrei Yamei Israel, Dorot Acharonim, book 4, 5716, pp. 26-30; N. M. Gelber: Toldot Yehude Brodi [The History of the Jews of Brody], Brody, 5715, p. 173. Return
  2. On Shlomo Chelmer see Mahler’s book, p. 173. Return
  3. On Reb Shlomo Dubner see Mahler, pp. 31-33. Return
  4. On Reb Zeev Wolf Buchner see Gelber, pp. 177-79. Return
  5. On Reb Pinchas Eliahu Hurvitz see Mahler, p. 46. Return
  6. On Reb Mendel Lapin Satanover see Mahler, pp. 71-88; Gelber, pp. 179-80; Klausner: Historiya shel ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Khadasha [The History of the New Hebrew Literature], vol. 1, pp. 199-225; Tarnopol in the series Entziklopedia shel Gluyot [Encyclopedia of the Diasporas], 5715, pp. 88-90. Return
  7. I. Klausner, pp. 202-204. Return
  8. R. Mahler, p. 74. Return
  9. On Herz Homberg see M. Balaban: Z historji Zydow w Polsce [Of the History of Jews in Poland], 1929, pp. 236-90. Return
  10. Bikure ha-Ittim, 5581 (1821); Yiddish Shul Anshtaltn in Galitzie [Jewish Educational Institutions in Galicia], pp. 141-47. Return
  11. M. Balaban, Dzieje Zydow w Galicji [The History of the Jews in Galicia], 1914, p. 72. Return
  12. We have no clear information on the process of development of Haskalah and the fight between Haskalah and the Hasidic camp in Bolekhov. The material became engrossed in the archives and until now it has sparsely been used in historical work. Return
  13. Gelber, p. 195, footnote 119. Return
  14. Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums (in the following: Allgemeine ), 1844, pp. 545-46, the weekly first appeared in Berlin in 1837. Return
  15. Der Orient, 1849, no. 49 – ‘Der Valbekante Forshteyer oys Bolekhov’ [The Well-Known Representative from Bolekhov]. The weekly was published between 1840-1857 in Leipzig. The school did not function for long. Return
  16. Ben Chananja, 1859, pp. 469-72, 1860, pp. 458-60. Ben Chananja, a scientific-reformatory periodical, was published between 1859-1867 in German in Szeged, Hungary. Return
  17. Ben Chananja, 1858, p. 475. Return
  18. Kerem Chemed [Vineyard of Delight], 1, pp. 48-50. Return
  19. op. cit., pp. 50-53. Return
  20. Reb Ichak Shmuel Reggio (1784-1855). Rabbi in Galicia, one of the first scholars and scribes of the Haskalah movement. Return
  21. Sefer ha-Yovel le-Harkavy [Jubilee volume in honor of Harkavy], p. 487. Return
  22. Igrot Shadal [Letters of Sh. D. Luzzatto], published by Sh.A. Graber, 5644-5654, vol. 1, pp. 322-24. Return
  23. Kerem Chemed 1, pp. 60-68. Return
  24. Kerem Chemed 8 (1854), editorial (?) (be-makom hakdama?). On the Maskilic writer Shniur Sachs see Historiya shel ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Khadasha by I. Klausner, vol. 2, pp. 122-42. Return
  25. I. Klausner, p. 165. – Tzuntz: the founder of Wissenschaft des Judentums (Science of Judaism) (1794-1886). Return
  26. op. cit., p. 238. Return
  27. Kerem Chemed 4 (q839), pp. 241-259. Return
  28. See Gelber’s book on Brody, p. 194. Return
  29. See the letter written to S. L. Goldenberg in 1839, Otzar ha-Sifrut [Treasury of Literature], 4th year, 5652, p. 270. Return
  30. Der Orient, 1840, pp. 261-62. Return
  31. Kerem Chemed 1, p. 106. Return
  32. Otzar ha-Sifrut [Treasury of Literature] 4, p. 268. Return
  33. Sefer ha-Yovel le-Harkavy, p. 491 – the historian Ichak Mordechai Yost (1793-1800), see on him S. Dubnow: Divrei Yamei Israel, ba-Dorot ha-Acharonim, vol. 2, pp. 65-66. Return
  34. Otzar ha-Sifrut 4, pp. 271-73. Return
  35. From a letter to his brother Jacob, in Kerem Chemed 3, pp. 189-95. Return
  36. Sefer ha-Yovel le-Harkavy, p. 485. Return
  37. Kerem Chemed 3. Shmuel Leib had another brother, too, named M. (Moshe?). He is referred to as the leader of the Jewish community in Zulkow [Zhulkev?] and a progressive man in a report On Galicia in 1845. Allgemeine, 1845, p. 224. I have not found any more reference to him. Return
  38. See on him in Bader’s book entitled Medinah ve-Chachmeah [State and its Sages], p. 35. He describes him as "defender of the finest verses". See also in Sefer Stanislaw [Book of Stanislaw], 5712, Arim ve-Imahot be-Israel [Towns and Mother-cities in Israel: Memorial of the Jewish Communities which Perished: vol. 5, Stanislawow], p. 33, compare Bibring’s letter to Mandschein, in his song book Agudat Shoshanim [Bouquet of Roses], 1876, p. 56. Return
  39. Sefer Stanislav [Book of Stanislav], see above, p. 32. Return
  40. Peretz Smolensky (1842-1885), writer and publicist, a spokesman of the national movement. Return
  41. Ha-Shachar [The Dawn], vol. 1, 5629, p. 15. His writings appeared between 1861-1866: Amudei ha-Olam [Pillars of the Universe], Imre Yosher, Goral ha-Tzedakah, Lashon Chachamim [Language of the Sages]. In his last years, he still succeeded in printing one sheet of his book Imre Noam, while the rest of the material survived as a manuscript. Apparently he also left behind a manuscript for a book entitled… Maym (Fey-lamed-gimel-yud, maym) [translation?]. Return
  42. B. Wachstein, J. Taglicht and A. Kristianopoler: Die Hebräische Publizistik in Wien, 1930, p. XLII – On Nathan Meler (1822-1893) see Sefer Stanislav, see above, pp. 33-34. Return
  43. Kochave Jichak, brochure 4, 1846, pp. 27-36. A literary periodical which was published in Vienna between 1845-1873. Return
  44. op. cit. Return
  45. Kochave Jichak, brochure 25, 1860, pp. 107-112. On writer and thinker Shlomo Rubin (1823-1910) see the preface to all his writings, book 2, of Klausner, pp. V-XV. Return
  46. op. cit., footnote 43. Return
  47. Lashon Chachamim, p. 88. Return
  48. Amudei ha-Olam, pp. 92-93. Mandschein is nicely depicted by his student and friend Jacob Bibring in his letter published in his song book Agudat Shoshanim, stating: "you are endowed with wisdom and morals", p. 60. Return
  49. As referred to, footnote 43. Return
  50. Kochave Jichak, brochure 5, pp. 20-27. Return
  51. Kochave Jichak, brochure 6, pp. 21-32. Return
  52. Ha-Shachar, vol. 1, 5629, pp. 11-14. Return
  53. op. cit., footnote 43. Return
  54. Kochave Jichak, brochure 11, pp. 30-38. Return
  55. op. cit., footnote 43. Return
  56. op. cit., footnote 54. Return
  57. Ben Chananja, October 12, 1864, pp. 843-46. Return
  58. Amudei ha-Olam, p. 43, footnote 21. Lamartine, writer and politician (1790-1869), visited the Orient at the beginning of the 1830s. Return
  59. See Notes 43. Return
  60. Ivri anochi [I am Hebrew], 5633, pp. 35, 47, 58. Ha-Magid [The Preacher], 5633, pp. 470-71, 498. Return

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.

  Bolekhov, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Susannah R. Juni and Osnat Ramaty

Copyright © 1999-2017 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 4 May 2007 LA