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[Page 135]

Jewish Brody in the Last Decade of its Existence,
As I Remember It

by Yitzhak Zohar (Izyu Zhorna)

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

Brody, a main city in Ternopol district, is located on the Podolia-Volhynia border. Since its establishment until the division of Poland in 1772, it was included in the Polish kingdom. Most of the population in this region was Ukrainian (Ruthenian in Polish); however, most of the population in the cities and towns was Jewish with Ukrainian and Polish minorities. The Jews worked mostly as merchants or craftsmen. Most of the physicians, engineers and other free professionals were also Jewish.

Because of its strategic location as a border-town, Brody suffered through all the wars, and was often totally burnt or destroyed. After the division of the kingdom of Poland, the town became part of the Galicia province in the Austrian Empire. As a result of the various wars and conquests, Brody's Jews immigrated to various countries and were replaced by Jewish refugees from Russia. Thanks to these emigration waves, many Jews from our city can be found in different places in the world, mostly in the US, Israel and other places. During the years between the two World Wars, as the Polish regime consolidated in 1920, the Jewish life in the city progressed orderly. The Jews, who constituted a majority of the city population, lived peacefully with their Ukrainian and Polish neighbors. Even the Jews who were scattered in the neighboring towns and villages got along nicely with the gentiles.

There were four elementary schools in the city. Three of them were state schools. The fourth school was Jewish and belonged to the Jewish community. The parents paid tuition for their children who studied in the Jewish school, based on their economic situation. The teaching language in the Jewish school was Polish; however, Hebrew and Jewish studies were also covered. Unlike the Polish state schools, no classes were conducted, in the Jewish school, during the Sabbath or Jewish holidays. Until 1934, the Jewish school consisted of only four grades, after which the students continued their studies in the city's state school. In the Jewish school the classes were separated for boys and girls. In 1934, the classes were unified and a fifth grade was added. This progress continued until the Jewish school grew and became a full-scope elementary school with seven grades. The school's principal – Mr. Mostzisker, who instituted a very strict regimen, organized various clubs such as carpentry, sewing, singing, gymnastics, chess and sports. He also organized a club for a pellet gun shooting, “so that Jewish kids would learn how to use weapons”. There was a library in the schools, managed by a teacher (the principal's wife), who was also the sister of General Mond - one of General Pilsudski' associates. Mr. Moustzisker forbade activities by any youth movements to take place in the school.

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In addition to the elementary school, which consisted of seven grades according to the compulsory education law, three high schools operated in Brody. One was a state high-school for boys, which had six grades (four regular high-school grades and two high grades, at the end of which the students passed a test for a matriculation diploma that allowed admission to a university). There was another high-school for girls, which was privately owned by Daodet Levin and another privately own coeducational (boys and girls) business high-school, also owned by Mr. Levin. In all of these schools parents had to pay tuition, a fact that prevented many from continuing their studies because of their economic situation.

Because of these economic constraints, many youths remained idle after graduating from the elementary school. Some found a place in one of the craft shops where they learned a craft. Some immigrated to Palestine after completing the “Hakhshara” [“pioneering training” MK]. Others were drafted to the Polish army when they reached the age of 21.

Several Zionist youth movements were active in the city during the last decade of independent Poland: Akiva-Mizrakhi, Hashomer Hatsair, Beitar, and Akhva General Zionists. In addition, the illegal communist party was active in the city. There were several sports clubs active in the city: the Ukrainian “Bohon”, the Polish “Gvaizeda”, which later on merged with the military sports club, and a Jewish sports club, which operated its own facilities, a football club and a football team. In later years, the Jewish football team merged with the local leftist football team.

A music club by the name “Hazamir” [the “Nightingale” in Hebrew MK] under the management of Kalman Harnik from the Jewish school was active in the city. Its activity included an orchestra and various musical courses. Several Jewish clubs with halls for card games, chess, reading and a library were also active in the city. The first club was “Postęp” (=Progress), and later on the club “Vita” (=Life) was established. Postęp consisted mainly of craftsmen, while Vita comprised wealthier mercahnts, industrialists and people of liberal professions (physicians, engineers, pahramacists, attorneys etc.)

There were three large synagouges in the cities, and tens of Batei-Midrash [Jewish study houses, MK], Kloizes [communal houses of learning, praying and gathering, MK] and Cheders [Torah schools for little children, MK], in which children began studies at the ae of 3.

The city, with its Jewish majority, did not experience acts of anti-Semitism in the open. Only toward the latest years, when Polish pilots settled in the new military airport, the city witnessed cases of Jewish beatings in the streets by drunken squadron's soldiers, or soldiers from the artillery unit, from the 43rd infantry brigade, or the 22nd cavalry battalion that were stationed in the city.

When the war broke out on September 1st 1939, panic settled over the city. Many Ukrainians were attracted by the idea of a “free Ukraine” statehood, like its state during the years 1919-1920. The city communists awaited the entry of the Red Army as established by Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement. According to the agreement, the eastern part of Poland was supposed to merge with the Ukraine and Belarus, occupied by Russia. Some of the Polish government ministers or generals, members of the Polish General Staff, stopped in the city in their flight toward Romania, and the city had the ”privilege” to receive an aerial bombardment, which claimed many victims. Upon the declaration of “liberation” by Western Ukraine on September 17th, the city communists (most of whom were Jews), organized and seized power, even before the arrival of the Red Army..

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When the Red Army entered the city, the previous Polish officials and police officers were arrested, and the nationalizing of industry, commerce and housing began. Some Jews were jailed and exiled to Russia. Many refugees, mainly Jewish refugees, arrived when the western part of Poland was occupied. Local Jews hosted the Jewish refugees in their homes, but the situation was difficult. At one point, the Russian authorities announced that refugees who wanted to return to the German occupied area could register to do so. Most of the refugees registered; however, instead of returning them to western Poland, they were loaded onto freight boxcars and exiled to Siberia.

Widespread communist propaganda started with the arrival of the Soviets. The city was visited by many bands, orchestras and choruses. The nationalized stores reopened, where the owners now served as sales people or clerks. After the inventories were depleted, the city experienced a severe shortage of consumer goods. Long lines started to stretch at the stores. Some of the merchandise leaked into the black market, which flourished in the city. Many Jews managed to trade their property. Watches generated a strong interest among the newly arrived Soviet soldiers and officers.

Upon the consolidation of the new regime, all the schools, including the high-schools, reopened. The Soviets abolished the customary high tuition. Many hundreds of students, even many who already graduated years ago, surged into the high schools. Instead of a seven grade- elementary school and six grade high-schools the Soviets instituted a combined elementary-high school of ten grades. The schools were filled with students who, previously, could not afford the high-school studies, or did not find any institution where they could acquire a profession. Life in the city continued, more or less, orderly. Jews found all sorts of ways to make a living. Craftsmen worked in newly established cooperatives, former merchants worked as managers in the nationalized stores or as clerks in government and civil offices, positions which were previously forbidden for Jews.

The relative clam was abruptly shattered when Nazi Germany invaded the western areas of the Soviet Union. German airplanes, which appeared over the city as soon as the second day of the invasion, 23rd June 1941, helped to cast a horrific panic over the city. Soviet and local officials started to pack their belongings and flee eastward. The calm never returned despite the mass gathering in the city park, organized by the local military commander, in which he described the “victories” of the Red Army (like – “taking Krakow” and “advancing toward Vienna”).

Only a few Jews managed to escape eastward, before the first German soldiers entered the city toward the end of June, despite the fact that the roads eastward remained open and the Russian border was only 70 miles away. Only a few took this opportunity to cross that border and continue eastward into Russia. The Jews did not expect that the situation would develop into something as bad as it eventually became. They knew that they will experience troubles, even just from the local Ukrainian population, but nobody thought that the Nazis, damn them, planned to annihilate the entire Jewish nation.

Much has been written about the Holocaust in Brody. Therefore, I would skip over that period.

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Upon the liberation of Brody, on July 7th 1944, most of the city was in ruins, because the front was nearby for many months. The few who survived the calamity which happened to the Jews, started to return to the ruined city. The deep distress, and the lack of graves of the loved ones, who were murdered in Belzec, forced the few that returned to leave the city by taking advantage of a special permission given by the Soviet Union. This special permission allowed Jews to go to Poland. In July 1945, several tens of Brody's Jews gathered in an abandoned synagogue in Lublin. From there they started to disperse. Most of the survivors from the city itself and its neighboring areas left Poland and settled in camps for displaced people, organized by UNRWA in West Germany, Austria and Italy. Many went to United States, Israel (Palestine) and other countries when the camps were later dismantled. No Jews were left, except for a few families originally from Brody and a few families from elsewhere, who resettled in the city after the war. There were a few Jews who remained in Poland, adopted Polish names and married gentiles.

An association consisting of former residents of Brody and neighboring areas who immigrated before the Holocaust was active in Israel (Palestine). When the Holocaust survivors arrived in Israel after the war, the association reorganized. About a thousand of former residents of our town participated in the first memorial ceremony to our city martyrs, which took place on May 21st 1951, at the Herzlia high-school in Tel Aviv. A memorial is held annually since then.

To demonstrate the extent of the tragedy that fell upon the Brody Jews (as well as most of the European Jews), I will mention my father's family, the Zhorna family, and my mother's family – Kentshuker family. Like with many other large families, very few survived. I, Yitzhak, the eldest son of Mordechai-Motl Zhorna, was the only survivor from the family of my grandfather Shlomo Zhorna (who was a tavern and restaurant owner from the time of the Austrian rule), as well as from the family of my mother, nee Kentchuker. My paternal grandfather had seven children. Five of them were married and each had two children. Arye-Leib son of Moshe Kentshuker, who passed away in Israel, was the only survivor of the large Kentshuker family from Brody and the neighboring Podkamen. From the 49 members of both our families, we remained only two. The same fate was met by most of the Jewish families of Brody and the neighboring areas. Most of them were decimated without any soul left.

Jewish Brody, that was one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe during its peak in the 18th century, is no more. As early as 1948, a booklet was published by the Soviet Union authorities in honor of the 900th anniversary of the city establishment. It would have been very difficult for the reader to guess that there were ever any Jews in Brody. The city was rebuilt. There are now four high schools, a large industry, eighteen different clubs, a museum, a library and other various institutions. However, there are no Jews left.

[Page 139]

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The Tarbut School: A Hebrew evening class
In the center the teachers of the course: Avraham Waltman and Naftali Lernr-Naor

 

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A Hebrew class, Course A of the Tarbut School
In the center the teacher Naftali Lerner-Naor

[Page 140]

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The Drama Group of the Jewish Youth in Brody
In the center Mirka Lilian

 

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The Jewish Elementary School

[Page 141]

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Fourth Grade students of the Jewish Elementary School (1928)
From left to right: Standing first row: Grossfeld, Narks, B. Topper, B. Pastas, Unreich, Feuerstein, Fisch, Doner
Second row: Drillich, A. Katcher, Richkin, Furman, I. Friedman, B. Schpruch, Grossman, Ch. Peltz
Third row sitting: S. Gemersmidt (Milk), I. Mikulintzer, W. Hochberg, A. Moshtzisker (the teacher of the class), P. Ashkenazi (the principal of the school), N. Okser (teacher), Abramowitz, I. Recht, M. Hut
Sitting: Zussman, Z. Glanz, I. Katz, W. Singer, I. Shapira

 

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The Jewish Elementary School in Brody: At the Summer Camp (1933)

[Page 142]

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The Jewish Elementary School: Fourth grade boys 1930
The teachers and the Principal sitting from right to left: Shaul Bernstein, Kalman Harnik, Nachum Okser, Philip Ashkenazi (the principal), Sheinholz and Shkolnik

 

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The Jewish Elementary School: Fourth grade girls In the center the principal Philip Ashkenazi

 

[Pages 143-149]

The Sorrow of the Lonely Jewish Homes

by Dov Sadan (Shtock)

From the book “Realm of Childhood” by Dov Sadan

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

I am praising the poet who established a big memorial to a national hero or to a lonely youth who does not extinguish the candle that illuminates his page of study, when darkness settles over the town and its inhabitants. However, in my opinion, a memorial for “perseverance” and praises should be given, even in a way of a few lines, to another loner, the barkeeper, whose house stood solitarily in a remote village, stuck in the middle of the diaspora and hated by it. He was like a Jewish candle that is flickering but is never extinguished.

If you read the few but colossal lines of the introduction to the poem “My Father”, you would be able to envision the head of the barkeeper revealed above the barrels of liquor like the skull of a tortured holy man. His head is rising above a book of yellow parchments, amid the defilement of a tavern, through the hazes of abomination and fumes of repugnance.

I am so sorry that no poet has brought up for us this scene of the lonely man, keeper of the light of Israel, in the times of the night, in the loneliness of the tavern, when darkness is settling in, the darkness of diaspora and the hatred around him. We could see then, how strong is the link between these two lonely figures: the lonely young pupil in his corner, who guards the concealed light in the midst of the darkness of the diaspora and those bearded Jews of the taverns who had to continuously withstand the fear of the tyrant drunks, and who were guarding, with all of their might, the tiny light within themselves. They guarded this light so that it would not vanish in the midst of the ignorance, loathing and scorn that were always surrounding it. My feeling is that the will power of these lonely men was stronger than the will power of the lonely pupil. The learner could amplify his light by studying in isolation and seclusion without interruptions, while the barkeepers were exposed to all four winds of heavens. Their light was very frail to begin with, so much so that their fellow Jews, who were town dwellers, made it a subject for their distasteful jokes. Lo and behold the sense of humor and satire of our own people was nourished by the despair, humiliation, and bewilderment of the tavern owners. Against that, how scanty were the tries in poetry or and otherwise, to portrait the great heroism of these lonely people.

The red inn that my ancestors owned for more than a hundred years was located very close to the custom-house and to the city itself[1]. The Jewish families in the village numbered about a hundred. Proximity to the city and the other Jewish families helped to ease the feeling of isolation during the days. This was not the case at night, particularly during dark and stormy nights, when the scattered Jewish homes in the village felt like they were more scattered. It felt like the gendarmes who rode their horses to the darkest corners, rode their horses even harder.

The fear was magnified during stormy nights when the howls of the wind silenced any cry for help. Even the armed soldier, stationed in front of the inn, seemed to have lost his significance and power. If this was happening in our inn, then it was certainly happening in inns in more remote villages which were located far away from any town or city. In these villages, the inn with the tavern may have been the only Jewish home. A cry for help, vanishing in the darkness of the night, is the picture I visualize when I remember our lonely tavern.

Two figures of gentiles are associated in my mind with this picture. Both figures were idlers, farmers who uprooted themselves from their birthplace, turning from one occupation to another, hanging out between the edge of the village and the beginning of the town. Their outfits were a mixture of clothes – villagers' mantles and city hats. They were the head instigators of anything that has to do with smuggling or stealing. Their hands were in many mischiefs. They were especially great in harassing the Jews of the taverns. They were experts in causing trouble and tormenting people. Their specialty was to create small fears and cause small damages; however, when these small occurrences happened continuously, they had an accumulated effect of a sorrowful affair of immense proportion. The main thing about the pain and contempt was that they were able to inflict suffering and not only getting away with it but also being rewarded for it. They had this power of people of the periphery who were not afraid of the authorities, and even the gendarmes who were called to subdue them, learnt quickly that it is more convenient to ignore them. As a result, these two pests walked around like the kings of the village with nobody daring to resist them.

My grandfather was not the only one that got a taste of Demko's mischiefs. All other tavern owners in the area did as well. Not once did my grandfather wake up in the morning to find the well plugged with dirt while Demko was standing on the side, grinning. Demko knew that that specific day was a market day, and on a market day, an inn without a well is not an inn at all. He knew that Mosh'ko, wanting or not, would tell him in a way of asking: “Dear Demko, there is nobody as swift as you in plugging or unplugging a well. Would you be kind enough to do what you know well, with pay of course? You know that, as far as pay is concerned, I would never lessen your pay or deprive you of it”. Demko knew that he had a “monopoly” on this kind of repair jobs, which were always the direct results of his own doing. He knew that Mosh'ko's life and body were dear to him more than his money. He stood there and yawned like a spoiled kid and did not bother to pick up the shovel until some more appeasements and pacifications were thrown at him and until the entire household were encircling him and begging him to start. When Demko completed the job and was paid, he would break away arrogantly and say: “on the next market-day, when the well is plugged again, don't forget to call the specialist, Demko the specialist”.

Like Demko, like white Pavlo. His “expertise” involved breaking things. He would swing his cane, as if unintentionally, and drag down, with the bent edge of the cane, a dozen large glasses that were standing on the shelf, or break the window panes..

Breaking the window panes was an event reserved for special nights – such as the meal time of holidays, the joyful time of an Engagement Conditions gathering[2], or a Seven Blessings”[3] gathering. The real problem with all of that were not the damages created by his mischiefs that secured his income, but the fear that he instigated. He would approach my grandfather and say: “you have a license to sell liquors, and I have the license to your glasses”. Another expertise of his was creating a significant crack in a liquor barrel, which caused a stream of liquor to be leaking on the floor.

My grandfather used to say that he carried four tyrants on his shoulder: “The first was the Czar, may he live, whom I pay taxes. The second tyrant was the proprietor, whom I pay the lease. He is a parasite, may he die. Then there was this couple - Demko and Pavlo, may they die a sudden death, whom I pay a pension like two old retired clerks. The problem with my retirees is that they would not stop working. I tell them that I would pay their pension without them lifting a finger, but they continue to lift all ten of their fingers to plug my well and break my glasses – I guess they simply like what they are doing”.

Demko liked to tell stories about his power and bravery, as taverns with wells in front of them existed not only in our village but also in the neighboring villages of Sokodola, Dobia, Yesinov and others. However, Demko perceived his main achievement and fame to have come from that one evening on Friday night, when he smuggled Hodya, the daughter of a tavern owner along with her sawing machine, and loaded her and her lover – the gentile boy Katolnitski, on his wagon. He then brought them both to Podhorze where Hodya was baptized and later on married her lover. With scorn and mockery, Demko divulged that he heard the tavern owner going out in his white garment to the main road, at the same time on Friday night, and yelling: “My daughter, my daughter, Hodya, Hodya”. There was no answer except the echo to his own voice vanishing in the darkness, and the diminishing and receding echo of the wheels of the wagon as it sped away toward Podhorze. Demko boasted that he approached Chaim, the tavern owner, the next day, and asked him: “Chaim, Chaim, why is your face so sad? Isn't it Saturday today? Tell your Hodya to bring you your kugel. You will eat the kugel and your face will be brightened”. Chaim gave him a long teary-eyed look, but did not answer. Demko challenged him: “Oy-Vay Tata'le-Mama'le [Oy-Vay Father'le and Mother'le - MK], Chaim filled up his stomach with okovita [strong alcoholic liquor with a high alcohol content MK] and he lost his speech. You talk to him about his daughter Hodya and he does not respond. You talk to him about his kugel and he does not answer”.

Demko knew that he could terrify people with this story more than with stories about well plugging or other mischiefs. Most of these lonely tavern owners experienced this fear from tyrants, idlers and drunks. However, the greatest fear of these confused and scorned Jews was the fear that their own offspring's would be tempted by the world around them, by the vacuum of the diaspora that surrounds their weak candle. Only God knows how disturbed the souls of the parents were, how much anxiety and torment-filled sleepless nights these fathers and mothers had to go through, weary after their daily hassle and the non-stop daily uproar of the drunks and their emptiness. They must have been terrified to see the winks thrown over at their daughter by the villagers' sons and her smiles and talk. Like red-hot skewers to their skin was her friendship with the village's boys and the girls.

Nevertheless, what was the use of reprimands and the following reconciliation? Can one simply jail his or her daughter in a room with no door or window to the village? Could they supply her instead with the friendship and companionship of youths from her own people? Is there any matchmaker with whom they have not already consulted? If only they would have a brother or a sister in the city, they could have sent their daughter to stay with them and thus keep her away from the dangers of the remote village. This would eliminate the clouds of suspicion rising in the hearts of the parents and secure the little joy they had in life. On the other hand, how can they send their baby girl away from her own home to be like a lonely finger in a city of strangers? How can they send the bird away from her nest to become a stranger in a faraway place and be like in the phrase: “away from the eyes, away from the heart?” The long and fearful nights continued to come; every night harder than its predecessor. Her father's ears were always directed toward his daughter's bed as if to count the breaths of his sleeping daughter. Her mother's shoeless feet pacing hesitantly on the bare floor and her fingers moving cautiously on the shutters, her eyes watching the gate to see if it is shut. A faint echo of a wagon speeding away on the main road can be heard. An echo that is moving toward the fear of fears: a fear which was always hanging over the house and over the hearts like a mourning garment – the fear of their kids' conversion.

Running after Hodaya, who was named Olga after her conversion, throwing stones and shouting calls of mockery after her in the streets of our town, was one of the most popular engagements of the boys of the Cheder [Jewish Torah School for boys], during the former generation. During our days, she would come to the city, an old farmer woman, walking with her bare feet with her basket on her shoulder and nobody would pay attention to her any longer. The boys of the Cheder became tired of the shouting. The sensation god found them other engagements to get involved in – the conflict between Blokh and Bik, and later on the battle between Shtand and Kulisher. Supporting or opposing these people was not only the business of the parliament voters but also of the Cheder boys. These became involved, class-by-class, supporting one elected candidate or another. This class would be pulling to that direction and the other class to the opposite direction. The Cheder boys also stopped singing the insulting verses that predicted a calamity for the converted woman: “Poor Hodya, she found a bargain. This uncircumcised gentile will thrash her as they thrash crops in the barn. Poor Hodya who converted, this uncircumcised gentile will reap her like they reap the rye in the field”. The kids stopped tormenting her because her husband Katulnitski treated her with respect and did not stop loving her during his entire life. Maybe they stopped their harassments because they feared their two sons, who studied to be priests in Lvov. However, her father Chaim carried his shame through his entire life – humiliated and ashamed he passed through the city as if the insults had not ceased, and the stone throwing had not stopped. People looked at him with pity in their eyes, but to him their eyes seemed like eyes of reproach. Even when he was sitting down, either in the synagogue or as a guest in other people's houses, he has always chosen to sit at the edge of the chair or the end of the bench, a sitting of a useless person. My grandfather was always openly showing him affection. Particularly refreshing for him was the custom of accompanying him to the bathhouse before the holidays. During this ritual, Chaim seemed to be like a baby carried on the shoulder of an adult. He would straighten a bit his normal stooped posture. When they returned and sat at the table, tasting tiny bites, one could even hear a bit of openness and looseness in the otherwise curbed and ashamed speech of the gloomy father. However, even during that pleasant time, he would always repeat the question: “aber, R' Moshe, farvos iz es mir gekimen” “… but Reb Moshe, why do I deserve this?” My grandfather would keep telling him that most of the unfortunate events that happened in this world have nothing to do with sins. This is just a matter of misfortune or tragedy. My grandfather would point to the newspapers that stood in a mixed pile above the hearth and say: “Chaim, Chaim, if you read all of these newspapers, you will realize how many fathers shed tears over their kids who uprooted themselves and moved to barren lands. He would tell him, in detail, stories involving not only famous and old cases, such as the story about the Mortara child[4], but also about cases closer in time and location. Such was the case that happened during his childhood in the village of Shvidova, near the city of Mariampol. A tavern owner by the name of Aharon Rosenwald resided in that village. The gentiles seduced his son when he reached 18 to join them, and splashed baptism water over him. When the act was done, it was impossible to undo it. The kid converted. Most of the gentiles of that village frequented the tavern and his son was among them. The converted [literally - “destroyed” in Hebrew] son was sitting in his father's tavern eating pork while facing his father. He was not satisfied with his own doing, so he managed to seduce his sister to follow him and she was sent to a monetary. His father ran around in the corridors of lobbyists and offices of VIP's in Lvov, begging them to help release his daughter from her jail at the monastery. These lobbyists launched numerous forays, headed by the renowned attorney Dr. Landsberger, but they all ended up with nothing. The father's tears even softened the heart of the state governor the Baron Poimegarten who was also not able to help. The father returned to his village and to his tavern. His son came to tease him immediately upon his return. He set himself against his father and asked him in the language of the gentiles: “Pania [lord in Polish. MK] Aharon, are you back from Lvov already? Did you marry your daughter to a Rabbi?

Hearing about these cases, Chaim, the bartender, wondered about how limited the power of the authorities was against the priests and the nuns. My grandfather would also tell him about a case that happened during his youth, not in a remote village like Shvidova, but in the city of Lvov itself. This was a story about a group of Jewish kids who were walking joyfully and cheerily, in the street of Lvov on Sabbath. When their voices were heard at the monastery, two nuns came out angrily and started to yell at the kids. They were angry at the kids's Sabbath festive spirit. They forcibly took one of the kids, Yaakov Faideles, who was already a Bar-Mitzva, inside to their gardens. One of the nuns put a sponge to his forehead, and another nun dipped a small brush in a searing acid, and engraved the word “z łodziej”, meaning thief in Polish. This poor kid with the inscription, that cannot be erased, on his forehead was walking around crying. His widowed mother was whining, and one could not find a Jew in town who was not upset over it.

The renowned Rabbi, Dr. Issachar Ber Levenstein, who was able to melt stones-hearts with his words, became the patron of this orphan. He mobilized the entire gendarmerie to go to the monastery that Shabbat evening. The nuns stood and mocked them all, as the power of the authorities would not extend beyond the entrance to the monastery. My grandfather then added: “We all remember the case of the girl - Mikhalina Aratin who was imprisoned in the monastery of the Felician Nuns. There was no doorstep of a minister or any other important appointed official that her father did not step on. These nuns were also mocking the authorities that tried to secure the girl's release. In those days, there was nobody more high-ranking than Prime Minister Kraber. He issued several decrees trying to help in this matter but to no avail. The community asked him: “You are the head of the government and you do not have the power over these virgins? This is our Jewish fate which is on the short end of the stick”. The Prime Minister answered: “God forbid, this is not only your fate. What happened to you, happened also to two girls of Mohamed's religion in Bosnia. Dalmatian Christians caught them and imprisoned them in a monastery. Mohamed's community raised hell, so I issued some decrees, but all of them were useless. This is how my grandfather strung one story to another and ended with the greatness of Dr. Yosef Shmuel Blokh, the son of a poor baker from Dukla, who rose to prominence in wisdom and Torah study and served in the parliament in Vienna. He fought the Jew-haters bravely, demonstrated publicly their ignorance and stupidity, and acted vigorously to save the Jewish children who were caught with the help of temptations, swindling and force in the net of conversion.

My grandfather did not prolong his story except to emphasize to Chaim the tavern owner that his misfortune was shared by many. , Chaim, would listen to my father silently, nodding his head with gratitude. However, at the end he would always ask the same question again: “…but Reb Moshe, why do I deserve this?”

Chaim, the bartender with his sighs, my grandfather with his consolations, Demko with his boastings and white Pavlo with his damage causing mischiefs – this was how the world behaved and this is how the wheel turned, that is until the one who commands the wheel, tells it to stop and says that its usefulness has expired and its roll in this world has ended. While the death of a tavern owner was in Heaven's hands, the death of Demko can be attributed to a glass filled to the brim and the death of white Pavlo to a glass filled to the brim and as well as the hands of a human being. This human being was called Chaim Oigenblik. He was a livestock merchant. His short size concealed his great power. He looked like a washed-out creature that gentiles used to discount and insult. One day he was sitting at a table, spread a napkin on it so that he would not have his food placed on a spot where pork meat was previously laid on, and ate whatever he ate. In front of him stood the brilliant comic-artist Pichotzki who told a well-known joke which ended with sting about Jews. This was a story about a person by the name of Rabin who went out on Sabbath and saw a large coin on lying on the ground in the market. He was faced with a dilemma – on one hand, he could not pick it up because of the Sabbath, but on the other hand, he could not leave itthere because of his love of money. He was afraid that other people would take it and so he looked for ways to cover it. However, he did not know what to cover it with. If he covers it with dirt, the wind will blow it off. If he covers it with a stone, people may trip on the stone and find the coin. Then a peasant passed by and Rabin was afraid that he would notice the coin. He proceeded to crouch over it and did whatever he did. On the same day, a committee, responsible for monitoring the cleanliness of the market, visited the town. They came to the market, saw this thing on the ground and started to scream: “Who is doing this in the market?” The peasant testified about what he saw and the committee found Rabin and told him to clean his business off the street. “It is Sabbath today” said Rabin. They angrily asked – “Laying what you laid down is allowed but picking it up is forbidden?” Ignoring their anger, Rabin refused to do it. Hence, they told him to hire somebody to pick it up. He hired the peasant who proceeded to pick up what he picked up and the coin was discovered. The committee shook their hands in disbelief:” What? You did your business on the coin with the face of the Tzar on it?” They took Rabin and put him in jail where he is still sitting. Pichotski completed his joke and all the gentiles in the tavern laughed. He then turned to Chaim Oigenblik and said: “You are sitting here and eating your breakfast and do not even bother about your man Rabin sitting in jail. If I were you, I would lay down my food, go to the Czar and beg him to release Rabin”. Pichotski stood in the middle of the tavern, bowed his head towards the floor, and said: “this is how I would have bowed to the Czar.

Oigenblik stood up and said: “this is not how one bows to the Czar. Let me show you how.” With these words, Chaim jumped on his feet and quickly threw a punch hitting Pichotski's neck. Pikhotski was swiftly thrown flat on to the floor, with his arms and legs spread. The entire tavern was stunned and astonished. This fall of Pichotski also left a mark on his face - his nose remained flat from that day until the day he died. The same way Chaim repaid Pichotski, he also repaid white Pavlo. One day, Chaim was sitting down and eating his breakfast. Pavlo came and started to provoke him. Chaim asked Pavlo whether he wants one or two logs [a measure of liquid. MK] of liquor. Pavlo responded: “I want three logs”. Thus Chaim went and bought three logs of liquor and said to him: ”why should we drink where everybody's eyes are upon us. Moshe will let us use his private room, so that we can drink in private”. They went into the private room. While Pavlo drank until the whole world started to dance in front of him, Chaim just pretended to drink. When Pavlo finished, Kahim brought him outside and laid him down in the shade of the wall.

After a while, Chaim entered the tavern steaming and red-faced and said: “dismissed”. My grandfather became frightened and asked: what do you mean by dismissed? Chaim answered: his lungs are dismissed. Said my grandfather: Life imprisonment. Chaim asked: Any marks or witnesses? Indeed, when Pavlo was found in his vomit, he was dragged to the hospital and Dr. Soltishik who examined him casually said: “Despicable pig, he got drunk and died, burry the carcass”.

From that day on, Chaim Oigenblik saw himself as elevated in status by his bravery, and demanded to be honored and respected. He used to tell the stories about his deeds by not using the first person, as: “I am going, I am doing”, but as a second person: “Chaim is going, Chaim is doing”. He was especially proud by the praises he received from one of the students, almost a doctor. This student stayed as a guest in his home during school vacations. It was a custom among the sons of wealthy people to spend their free time in the village. This was the world turned upside down – village people were attracted by the city. They said that the city is where the joy and the leisure are, while the city people were drawn by the village life. They said that this is where the joy and the leisure were. While Chaim hosted the student, he told him the story about Pichotski. When he reached the subject matter about lying on the floor with arms and legs spread out and about the flat nose of the gentile, the student became excited and said: ”Have you ever heard about Dr. Nordau?” and Chaim answered:” I heard about many doctors. I heard about Dr. Leiblinger, and about Dr. Shorenstein who lived in Brod [Yiddish for Brody – MK], and about Dr. Rosenzweig who lived in Lemberg [Lvov – MK] whom the Rabbi from Tsanz [Yiddish for Nowy Sącz] promised to have place in the next world and gave him a sign to support his promise by predicting that that they will die on the same day”. The student laughed and said: “Dr. Nordau is not from Brod or Lemberg and not even from Vienna. He lives in Paris. He called the deed like you did with Pichotski “muscle Jewry” meaning “Jews with strong muscles.” While talking, the student made his hand into a fist, stretched his arm, and groped his arm's biceps muscle.

Chaim answered: “I understand that your doctor from Paris wanted to say “a Jewish young man who's bones are boney, but what would your doctor say if I told him the story about white Pavlo?” He then proceeded to tell him the details how he made the gentile drunk with three logs, how he brought him to the yard and executed him, and about the fact that Dr. Soltishik found the death to be a result of his excess drinking.

The student heard the story and wrinkled his nose and said: “this is gentile-ness with muscles that are muscular. The deed with Pichotski is a nice deed. However the deed with white Pabvlo is not”. Chaim did not answer but in the student's absence he would say: “As far as Pikhotsky is concerned, it is obvious that he is a student, almost a doctor. However when it comes to white Pavlo he is shown to be stupid, almost a gabay [synagogue administrator – MK]

The term gabay was a joke aimed at my grandfather, who refused to let Chaim be called by the gabay to serve in anything associated with a holy duty since the day he did what he did to white Pavlo.

Translator's footnotes

  1. Until WW I, Brody was a border town between the Austro-Hungary empire and Russia Return
  2. Engagement Conditions gathering - an ancient Jewish tradition conducted between the families of an engaged couple where a pre-wedding contract about matters such as the date of the marriage, the amount of the dowry and the details about the financial or other type of support by each side is signed off on. Return
  3. Blessings, recited for a bride and her groom as part of a Jewish wedding Return
  4. Edgardo Levi Mortara was a Jewish child (born 1851, in Bologna, Italy) who was kidnapped by the Vatican police and raised by nuns to become a papal missionary. The affair caused a storm among the European and American Jewish communities at the time. Return


[Pages 150-151]

Women's Organization in Brody

by Bianca Lilian

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

Among other memories from the city of Brody, the activity of the women organization – “Stowarzyszenie Kola Kobiet” (in Polish, “Women Fellowship”) is etched deep in my heart. The fellowship was active for many years as an association of volunteers with the objective of providing assistance (actually “secret charity”) to the needy population in the city.

The members in this association were the wives of lawyers, physicians, pharmacists and wealthy merchants. Among them, I recall the names* of Mrs. Levin, Mrs. Horn, Mrs. Bilig, Mrs. Halbmilion, Mrs. Sandzer—the pharmacist's wife, Mrs. Shatz and Mrs. Herrnstein. The president of the organization was Mrs. Mirka Lilian, the wife of Mr. Leon Lilian, the deputy commissioner of the internal revenue bureau of Brody. The members of the organization gathered, several times a year, in general assembly meetings. In these meetings, they discussed means for raising funds and ways by which could be delivered to the needy. The assembly meetings were in themselves important social events, in view of the large number of participants and their elevated social status in the city.

The financing of the organization activities came from the monthly membership fee (the fee collector was a Jewish person by the name of Moshe). Another method for fundraising was through art shows, theater shows, dancing balls and more. Participation in these events was voluntary. Among the volunteers one could find the best of the Jewish youths. The names I recall are: Shmuel Lamm, a painter, who now lives in Haifa and who painted the theater sceneries, and Mika Aizenberg, who lives today in Tel Aviv. Others were: Leon Levinshtein(Krokovski), Lunya, Czermak, Manek Zaltzman, Lola Shpigler, Moretz ShpiglerVeiser, Zigmund Wajsher and others, may their memory be blessed.

In addition, they sold tickets and conducted auctions and lotteries, the entire financing of which was collected from donations by the local wealthy population. Among the donors, I recall the names of the pharmacists Sencher and Kalir, Rutenberg, Kalmus – the owner of the flourmill, Zigmont Lifshitz and others.

Some prominent Poles and Christians participated in these events because the respect they had toward the leaders of the organization.

The assistance provided to the needy included packages of food, clothing, medicines and money for medical treatment. The distribution to the needy took place mainly before the High Holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah and Passover, but there were distributions throughout the entire year as well.

[Page 151]

The driving force behind all that was the person who served as the head of organization, Mrs. Mirka Lilian. She was a person with inexhaustible initiative and energy, and was influential even among Christian circles.

This social activity enhanced the respect for the Jewish population in the city and offered substantial assistance to the needy.

This blessed activity stopped abruptly with the outbreak of the war, in 1939.

 

bro151.jpg
The Women Organization in Brody the leadership
Sitting from left to right: R. Dokht, M. Lillian, Shatz, -, -
Standing from right to left: Frenkel, -, Meles, Freundlich, Feuering, -, -, -

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