by Dr. Bernard Hoizner
Translation by Sara Mages
The personality and the influence of Rabbi Yshaya-Meir Shapira in the Chortkov's community
Dr. Bernard Hoisner, the commerce attach?s to the Polish consult in Tel-Aviv during the British Mandate of Israel, wrote in the Anniversary Book of Shapira, the Chortkov's organization in New York, about his parliamentary activities in Poland and gave details about his immigration to Israel. He also wrote about his brother Hillel, who died in Israel. In his letter to Mr. Mordecai Rintl, the president of the "Shapira Organization" in New York, he is writing:
My father, of blessed memory, passed away in 1911 and my brother Hillel is no longer among the living. He died in Eretz Israel. I am sure you remember, how well he lived in our town but he left it all and came to settle in Israel. All his wealth was lost but his soul never failed him. Hillel bought a couple of horses and became the owner of a cart that delivered sand to a silicate factory. He was among the first to settle in kfar Chitin, and there he died next to his plow, working the holy soil in the holy land.
My memories of Rabbi Yshaya-Meir Shapira, of blessed memory, are from home. You surely know that my two brothers, Hillel and Yoel were Rabbi's Meir Shapira most devoted students. From morning to night, the Rabbi was the only topic of conversation in our home. My father was a 'Spihranzik.' He was devoted to Rabbi Shapira and he deeply hated his opponents.
Rabbi Yshaya-Meir Shapira personality, in all his splendor and glory, is vivid in my memory. The Rabbi was not a tall person but of average height. His face was beautifully carved and he always had a pleasant smile on his lips. He was courteous and pleasant with every person he had contact with. The Rabbi's wife had the same qualities as her husband. She was loyal and pleasant in her own way, the proper qualities of a righteous woman.
I will never forget a picture that was carved in my heart 50 years ago, and will remain there forever. Rabbi Shapira paid a lot of respect to those who were engaged in simple trade. His slogan was: love your trade. The Rabbi worked days and nights and established the Yad Hacharotzim Movement (a diligent movement) and also built a synagogue for its members. I remember the synagogue's house warming party. Joyful members, young and old, big and small, enthusiastically danced to celebrate the happy occasion. For the enemies of Rabbi Shapira, this day was a day of mourning. There was so much hate between the two sides, that the exchanged of heated words nearly ended in a fist fight.
The seed that Rabbi Y. Shapira planted in the Jewish society in Chortkov grew into a tree with wonderful fruit. In the coming years, the town developed into a cultural center that had a lot of influence on the neighboring towns and the Jewish people who lived there. Rabbi Shapira, who was loyal to his advanced ideas, suffered a lot from his opponents who were tormenting him. They did not hesitate to say stupid things that everyone knew in their heart to be based on lies. The cruelty of his opponents and their vicious acts were also aimed against the Rabbi's family. One Friday evening, they evicted him from his apartment, which was part of the Jewish community property, and threw him and his belonging to the street. Haim Velk, a follower of the Rabbi, took him to his home and shared his food with him. In spite of all the troubles and the persecutions, Rabbi Y. Shapira stood strong against his tormentors. He could have lived a peaceful and honorable life, if he chose to leave Chortkov. The Rabbi felt that by moving out it would mean that he caved in to his tormentors. That he betrayed his followers and all the idealism that he was ready to sacrifice himself for. Rabbi Shapira stayed in Chortkov. Even though, in his last days his camp of supporters dwindled, those who followed him remained loyal and were ready to protect him with their lives.
Rabbi Shapira was a Zionist. He fully understood the meaning of the big change that the movement would inflict on the Jewish nation. He believed in the idea of the return to Zion and the settlement in Eretz Israel. He felt that this was the only step that will give a real solution to the suffering and the poverty of the Jewish nation that remained in exile.
Rabbi Shapira lived like a holy man. He was modest, asked for very little,
and believed in the path that his life was taking. He lived a short life but his
contributions will never be forgotten.
Translated by Sara Mages
We, who respect and honor the name of our learned rabbi, Rabbi Yeshaya Meir Kahana Shapira of blessed memory, president of the court of the holy community of Chortkov, whose name is known through out the land, as a teacher of the wisdom of the Torah who spread the light of education through out the whole world, we decided to create in memory of his great name a magnificent house of learning for the Torah and for prayer, which will be named after our rabbi of blessed memory, to be a marvel for generations to come, who did not see and did not hear with their own ears his holy words of wisdom and his teachings of the Lord's Torah. The next generation will turn and follow the ways of this house where the sun of education shined for many days and it will carry the flag of the Torah and the wisdom of our rabbi of blessed memory, for many generations and for eternity. The youth of Israel will follows the ways of this house and those who seek enlightenment and those who are thirsty for the waters of the Torah and its wisdom will come and quince their thirst. Because the soul of our learned rabbi of blessed memory will always breath in it and his pure spirit will cover it all day long. Our hope will strength us and with the Lord's will we will enlarge the borders of this house to be a school for the children of Israel to teach the youngsters of our nation the ways and knowledge of the Almighty as it was in the heart of our rabbi of blessed memory when he was still alive. And now we ask from all who respect the memory of our learned rabbi Y. M. Shapira of blessed memory and from all with a generous heart who are fond of the Torah and honor its teachings to remember the soul of our late master of blessed memory to take part in this great deed to support us and give u s a helping and generous hand, with a lot or with little, so we can achieve our goal. For the glory of Israel we have to build monuments to the strong leaders of Israel whose name will be remember and their memory will be blessed among the nations, and from above and your good deeds will be recognized.
Those are the words of the building committee who are waiting for your generous
Dr. Adolph StakalDonation to be sent to Reb. Favish Shorr a forest agent
Mr. Favish Shorr
Mr. Yoseph Birch Shapira
Mr. Meir Landau
Mr. Zvi Aksalard
Mr. Zvi Ari Pochs
Mr. Mordechai Landau
Translation by Sara Mages
We the undersigned, admirers of the glorious and genius deceased rabbi, Rabbi Yeshaya Meir Kahn Shapira, of blessed memory, from Chortkov, gathered here today to build a memorial to his great name this house of learning for Torah and prayers and it will be named after our deceased rabbi, of blessed memory, for eternity. And this is the name that it will be called: “Rabbi Yeshaya Meir Synagogue”. The spirit of our deceased teacher, of blessed memory, will always be present. All of us, who are here today, remember in their hearts our rabbi’s, of blessed memory, righteousness, humility, his teachings and his wisdom which will never be erased from the depth of our hearts, and we are here to build a memorial, in this house, for his pure soul. We, who gathered under the Lord’s flag, will always follow in his footsteps and keep his rules without leaning right or left, even in the full width of one hair, from the road that he paved for us and we are here to say: We only believe in one Lord, the Lord of Israel and in his holy Torah and its truthful writings. This is the Torah, that we know by heart, that was handed down to us by Moses, the father of our prophets, by the wisdom of the scholars of the Mishna and the Talmud and by the learned Rabbi Moshe Hasphradie Ben Mymon, of blessed memory, who enlighten the Torah’s path for us. We do not believe in words spoken by false prophets, now or in the past, or in their deception. Only the refined Torah that was given to us by our Rabbi Moses, orally and by script, will be our guide and the spirit of Rabbi Moshe Ben Maymom (Rambam), may he rests in peace, who enlightened us with his values and his reasons.
This Torah that was presented to us by our deceased rabbi of blessed memory, in its ways we will walk as long as the Lord’s spirit sustain us. And this is why we came here today, in covenant, all of us together as one man and friends, to built for us this synagogue, for the Torah and for prayer, to be a witness for us and for our sons after us that we will never forget the commend of the Torah that was taught to us by our genius Rabbi Yeshaya Meir Kahana Shapira. With his pure gracefulness and the beauty of his style he planted in the furrows of our hearts the laws of the Torah. His words of wisdom and knowledge will never be forgotten from our mouth and the mouth of our offspring, for ever.
The purpose of this house, that was build with money donated by the people signed below, and other people with a charitable heart who wanted to take part in this good deed, is to be a synagogue a place for prayer and a memorial to the soul of our deceased rabbi, may he rests in peace. If the Lord will help us we will widen its boundaries to be a place to teach the Torah and its wisdom to the young Jewish people. And this is the purpose that we are searching for, and we will always be connected to our teacher the rabbi, of blessed memory, we will follow in his footsteps and we will teach the Torah throughout the boundaries of Israel and we will sacrifice our souls on the altar of the Torah and its knowledge.
But, we the undersigned, stipulate hereby, that those undersigned and the rest of the people with charitable hearts who took part in this good deed are not obliged to; sign . and receive author’s fees, and we decide: Permission will be given to every person in our congregation, together, to sell it in time of need for secular use, and it will be allowed to eat and drink in it and use it for secular activities. And we add and insist that all the charitable money that was collected for this house and more that will be collected will be under the knowledge of the Gabbai of this synagogue and the knowledge of its founders. It is their decision that charitable money is not to be considered sacred and they gave their permission to use the money for the building of this house and for repairing it.
And these are the rules that we decided on, all of us who signed below
and with equal opinions. The pillars of this house will be supported by
them from generation to generation.
- This house of learning and worship magnificently stand in number in the city of Chortkov, that was purchased and build with charitable money given by the people singed below, and other people who are showing respect to the name of our late rabbi, of blessed memory, it will be the property of the congregation together with those who signed below, small and big, for us and for our sons after us forever. Also the three Torah scrolls with their ornaments, the Torah’s decorated crown, the rest of the study books and all the articles of the synagogue and the books that were given as gifts or bought with money given by the community for the synagogue now and forever. It will be the property of the entire community together, no one among us is permitted to hand out or to give as a present or to trade this building and its articles or the Torah scrolls and the rest of the books without the permission of the synagogue’s Gabbai and three quarters of the people signed below or their heirs or their representatives.
- If it will be necessary for us to write the deed of sale for this house on only one name from our congregation, it will be written in the state’s book of deeds under the name of Rabbi Faivish Shorr as long as Rabbi Faivish Shorr agrees, with his signature below, that he is willing at any time to sign the house back to our congregation and it will be done in the best way the congregation wishes to do so. For this purpose our congregation will elect a special committee that will be called The synagogue’s Committee and on its name the house will be written and signed in the state’s book of deeds.
- The person who buys himself a place in our synagogue his money will also buy him a seat for his wife in the women’s section.
- Each one of us is permitted to sell his place to another man but under the condition that he must present his intention first to the directors of the synagogue and they will come in secret with the whole congregation and they will decide if the man is worthy in their eyes or not, and their decision is final. Also if this man wants to buy one of the unsold places, the whole congregation will decide if they are pleased with the man who wants to join them in their holy place off worship.
- The man who buys himself a place in this synagogue will leave it as a legacy to his son after him.
- If there are many heirs to the place of their deceased father, the directors of the synagogue will evaluate the price of the place, as they see fit, and ask the heirs to divide the money among themselves.
- In order to prevent a dispute, the directors will not give permission to one of the sons to seat on his dead father’s place until the brothers divide among themselves, as it is stated in section 6. Only after he paid his brothers for their part of the inheritance he will get his father’s place, and his name will be written in the book that is in front of us.
- If a man dies and a son and grandsons he does not have, his place will be returned and will become the property of the congregation and they will sell it to the man who they see fit in their eyes and distant heirs will not get a share of it.
- The places that are not sold are the property of the congregation and the Gabbaim will rent them to the persons they see fit in their eyes for a period of one year from the holiday of Shavuoth to the holiday of Shavuoth for one tenth of the value of the place.
- The Gabbaim will be instructed to keep a watchful eye and to enforce law and order in the synagogue so no one will walk down before the pulpit during Shabbath and Holidays without the Gabbai’s permission and no one is allowed to walk or to stand on his feet inside the house during prayers. Each man should sit in peace only in his place as a buyer or renter, also those who can’t afford to buy a seat or an occasional guest the Gabbaim will find a seat for them.
(The original page containing sections 11 to 15 was partly damaged)
- Three collectors or directors of the house
one will take on himself the sacred work: to
to give orders and to serve in sanctify work
charitable money that he collected
for all the income and expenses of the house
- During the year that they were elected they are accounted
for all their doing in that year for all to know
- People who are late paying their promised donations
are given a longer payment time until Rosh Hashanah
- But if a man could not find sufficient
of three collectors and if his
and his honor will come first
- Three collectors will elect a caretaker in
order in the house of prayer and to
during the holidays to protect the prayer books from being stolen
the community must listen to them and serve them
- No one from our congregation has a claim for any of the religious services, to be called up for the reading of the Torah or walk down before the pulpit during the Lord’s festivals. Only the Gabbaim have the authority in religious matters and they will honor each man according to his praise and only sometimes when it is greatly needed they will hire dignitaries.
- It is forbidden to change in our synagogue from the Ashkenazi version to the Sepharadi version or to any other version forever. Also the customs that were taught to us by our deceased teacher and rabbi, of blessed memory, will be kept forever and they are: To read the Hallel on the first nights from the holiday of Passover after the evening prayers; to say psalm 25 on the night of Rosh Hashanah after the evening prayers and to walk the Hakaffot also during the night of Sh’mini Atzereth. To call the Cohenim to the pulpit also during a holiday that occur on Shabbath without saying, Lord of the Universe, during the priestly benediction: to say the Haftora and Arva also during Shabbat Hagadol when it does not fall on the eve of Passover.
- The man who comes to buy himself a place in our synagogue, from now and forever, will accept on himself all the rules written above and will sign his name on them.
- No one is permitted to gather in one of the rooms in our synagogue school children under the age of fifteen, and teach them there without the permission of three quarters of the people of our congregation who signed below.
- The end of the matter, all have been heard. We are giving man and his colleague our love and our peaceful covenant and together we will be like one man, partners to good and useful matters, if there are matters of good deeds, matters of contact with Jewish people and matters of contact with our religion, we will help and support each other with all of our ability in order to do right and well in the eyes of the Lord and man.
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