The delays did not arise from fundamental differences of opinion. All of us were residents of Horodenka; we had survived years of calamity and retribution. We felt that we were still in mourning that we were orphans who had lost our fathers and our mothers as well as our sisters and our brothers. Each one of us felt that something had to be done to commemorate the martyrs of Horodenka. We wanted to establish a worthy headstone in memory of our town where we took our first steps, where we dared to dream of a better future and of a free world for every human being a world that would guarantee freedom of expression to the Jewish people. We felt obligated to inscribe and memorialize all those who had died, whether they were family members or friends, individuals or entire families, even if we did not know their burial sites.
Technical problems were the primary cause for the delay in publishing this book. It was clear to us, the members of the committee in Israel, that the book had to be written by Horodenkans themselves those men and women who witnessed the atrocities and the destruction of the town and who carried the awful memories in their hearts. They are the only ones who could express all this sorrow and desperation. We knew that in order to execute such a difficult task the Horodenkans in two major centers of residence, Israel and the United States, would have to cooperate and create an organizational infrastructure. Last, but not the least, we had to find the financial resources needed to make even the first step toward our goal. And we needed to take care of some basic problems that came up during the negotiations.
First on the agenda was the issue of the language of the book. There were those who thought that it should be published only in Yiddish, the language that most Horodenkans spoke and the language that most Jews in Israel and the United States, including Holocaust survivors, understand. Others objected. They claimed that the purpose of the book was to perpetuate the memories of our beloved ones for the next generations, and therefore the book should be written in Hebrew, the language of our sons and daughters. There were those who expressed their wishes to publish the book in English, for the sons and daughters of the Horodenkans who live in the United States. Thus we concluded that perhaps the book could be published in three languages Hebrew, Yiddish, and English. Opinions and positions were formed and taken. Everyone stood his ground, trying to convince the others of the strength of his opinion.
A major problem arose at the time when we were deep in the process of creating the book and after most of the material had already been written and all the conflicts had been settled: Should the book serve as a memorial for the entire community and portray a destroyed congregation with a rich social life, or should it be a personal account, where each individual has the opportunity to express their inner feelings and describe their dear and close ones who are gone forever?
We corresponded for a few years with the landsmanshaft in the United States regarding the publication of the book, but we could not reach agreement. There were also occasions when qualified representatives from the United States visited Israel and when members of our committee visited the United States. But negotiations weren't useful and didn't break the ice or overcome the frost.
Until one clear day, a Horodenka couple Ruth and Abba Podway (Podvoysoker) from the United States arrived in Israel. In Horodenka Ruth was called Rivkah Neigiser. During the years 1917 through 1919, Ruth was a Zionist and belonged to one of the first Zionist-Socialist youth groups, Ha-Shomer, which had been established soon after World War One. Therefore, it is no wonder that she showed inclinations toward Israel in general and toward Horodenka in particular. Her husband, according to friends who knew him well before he moved to America, always had a strong sense of justice and was always ready even if it meant self-sacrifice to lend a hand and help those weak and weary, regardless of their political views or opinions. In his youth in Horodenka, he was active in the establishment of Yiddish kindergartens and public schools. These schools gave children from families of poor laborers and unskilled workers a Jewish and general education to help them find their way out of their depressed cultural condition.
This modest beginning was the foundation from which Abba Podway and his right arm, Rivkah-Ruth, grew to become renowned non-partisan social activists. Many changes, no doubt, occurred in their life-style and customs, during all those years when they struggled to rebuild their life in the United States; but to this day, their Jewish-national inclinations have not changed. Those inclinations led to their active participation in many projects and enterprises that were carried out by American Jewry since the establishment of Israel. To that point, their first visit to Israel was with the Volunteers of the Histadruth Fund from the United States.
As a result of Ruth and Abba Podway's first visit to Israel, there was a complete turnaround in the relationship between Horodenka organizations in the United Sates and those in Israel. It was now possible to fulfill our obligation to the families that were destroyed in the Holocaust. I would like to express my hope that the cooperation between us will not end upon the publication of this book and hope the friendly relationship between the two organizations will continue.
Immediately after our first meeting with the Podways, we felt their strong desire to do something to benefit the Horodenka people in Israel. During the three weeks of their first visit we talked a lot about our problems and at the end we decided to establish Kehilyah a foundation to give financial help and loans to survivors of Horodenka living in Israel. The Podways personally gave the first donation to the foundation and later gave additional amounts for its growth. Additional funds were also received from their friends and acquaintances, especially from Mr. Abba Kremer. Details about Kehilyah are included in the concise financial report that I presented in one of the yearly memorial meetings for the victims of Horodenka.
The establishment of Kehilyah in 1958 was only the first link in a chain of activities that the Podways arranged on one of their biannual visits to Israel. Their visit in 1960 became a turning point in the publication of the Yizkor Book. They were impressed by our story about the deadlocked negotiations with the Landmanshaft people in the United Sates. They took it upon themselves to mediate and help us reach an agreement with our Horodenka brothers and sisters to make the publication of the book possible. The Podways also committed to take care of the financial problems related to the publication of the book in the United Sates. Their initial contribution was more than all the amounts that had been donated by other Horodenkans to date. It is no secret that we in Israel are not wealthy enough to finance a book that costs eight thousand dollars (close to 18,000 shekels) to publish.
When the Podways returned to the United States, they established a committee for the publication of the Yizkor Book. We began a constant correspondence. Before long, it became clear to everyone that the apprehensions of both sides were very exaggerated and that actually the differences in opinion were not so great. For fear that the renewed effort to accomplish the task would fail again, each side behaved cautiously and therefore we managed to solve the major problems effortlessly.
In addition to correspondence during the past two years, we also had the opportunity to meet with important members of the [Horodenka] committee from the United States who came to Israel as official or unofficial representatives. First to arrive was Mr. Leibala Koch, an exceptional Jew who for years had been a philanthropist supporting a number of needy families in Israel through his private anonymous charitable foundation. (He is far from wealthy and takes no public credit). A few months later Harry Eckhaus arrived. He is a businessman and a member of the committee in the United States. Together we resolved a few problems concerning the publication of the book. I must note that there were members of our committee who could not easily understand the other side. I do not intend to dwell on details, but it is important for me to mention it as one of the many difficulties and obstacles that we had to overcome. Mr. Eckhaus' visit was also crucial for another reason. The amount of money that he brought from the United States enabled us to begin our task and gave us assurance that there would be no financial obstacles in publishing the book.
A few months following Eckhaus' visit, Mr. Hass and his wife arrived for a visit to Israel. Mr. Hass is a long time member of the Progressive Horodenka Association in the United States and served as its director for a period of time. A reception was given to each of these guests by our organization and by the Yizkor-Book Committee. By the time each of the guests left Israel, they all had become loyal friends of our project and our organization.
Up to this point, I have tried to describe the sequence of events that led to the publication of the Yizkor Book. Now permit me to say a few words about the book itself. The first task was to find a suitable editor. Unfortunately, we could not find the right person among the Horodenkans. With sheer luck, and I am using the word luck in its simplistic meaning and not as a metaphor, we succeeded in getting the poet Shimshon Meltzer to agree to be the editor of the Horodenka Book.
We are confident that we could not have chosen a better editor, as Meltzer is known as one of the best in Israel. We could rest assured that by entrusting him with the editing of the book we would get more than we had hoped for. The close collaboration between him and our members, who are the true authors of the book, enabled us to properly plan the memorial for our martyrs that were murdered and for our community that was eradicated.
In addition to his literary talent, Meltzer is, in a certain way, one of the Horodenka people. Not only was he born in Tluste, which is on the outskirts of Horodenka, but a year prior to his emigration to Israel he and his wife lived in Horodenka where he worked as a teacher in the Hebrew School. Therefore, his descriptions of the town, its roads, its people, and its atmosphere are authentic and accurate.
As mentioned above, we succeeded with the selection of the editor. However, the quality of the book is not determined just by the editor but also by the material presented to the editor. Here we suffered a disadvantage, since during the Holocaust Nazi oppressors murdered many of Horodenka's Jewish intellectuals who would have contributed greatly to this book. Their testaments were buried with those of blessed memory.
That dwindling of collective memories is evident in many chapters of the book. On one hand many of the events of the past were not included, since those elders who could tell about them have long since passed away. Thus we lacked information about the different organization and institutions in our town during the years just before the Holocaust. We did our best to collect as much material as possible. We hereby present to the public a book that was written by the survivors of our town, with all its imperfections. The public will read it and form an opinion for better or for worse.
We took upon ourselves the distinct responsibility of publishing a list of the Holocaust victims from our vicinity who were killed in different Actions. Here, too, we faced questions that required the full cooperation of the Horodenka survivors. During the past two years we took every opportunity to appeal to the Horodenkans in Israel and in the United Sates to request lists of their loved ones or acquaintances who perished in the Holocaust. Indeed, we managed to compile a long list based primarily on the recollections of the survivors. Therefore, it is inevitable that there will be errors, inaccuracies and omissions. In spite of this, we felt that it was our holy duty to publish such a list even if it is incomplete.
I feel myself obligated to add some explanations and to apologize to a lot of people who participated in the writing of the material for the Horodenka book. I would like to reiterate what we said and emphasized in every meeting. Each member was free to write about whatever he or she desired, but we were not obligated to publish his or her material unedited. We stated that the editorial board together with the editor would have the final authority to decide what to print. We were also obligated to check all the facts and dates in the manuscripts and to make changes. We did all we could and hope that we succeeded in avoiding mistakes.
In some cases we copied into this book paragraphs and chapters from a variety of sources like chapters from A. Granach's book and a poem by M. Birenboym. We thank all whose permission enabled us to do so.
I would also like to mention the enormous and important work that was done by groups of volunteers in Israel and in the United States. These volunteers spent hours, weeks and months of their free time, neglecting their own personal matters. I would very much like to express my gratitude to these people in the name of the Organizations in Israel and in the United Sates and say: Yishar Kochachem! (May your strength remain with you forever!)
The most difficult time was the last few months before the publication of the book. We worked zealously to be able to finish in time. In this period we faced complicated problems that we could not have foreseen. It is quite possible that some of them arose from our wish to finish this work in November of 1962, which was within two years of commencement of work on the book. In addition we wanted to include Ruth and Abba Podway in the book's publication ceremony before their November 18th departure to the United States.
I would like to point out that during the last two years, many members of the small committee in Israel helped me, as primary person in charge, in the process of publishing the yizkor book. They are: Nachman Bergman, Yosef Yanker, Tzvi Marksheid, Yitzchak Rauchwerger, Zelig Shchory, Moshe (Monya) Stachel, Gavriel Lindenberg and Itschak Shapira. The last two were also members of the editorial board in which Joshua Streit and Moshe Stachel participated. Additionally, our friend Gavriel Lindenberg was largely responsible for the preparation of the material for the memorial book.
Through the entire process, and especially at the end, Gavriel worked
tirelessly preparing the material for editing by typing, doing adaptations,
translations and proof reading. People close to Lindenberg and who are
familiar with his work complimented him on his ability, his dedication and
diligence. I have known him for years and have been working with him in the
organization for Horodenka survivors and in the management of Kehilyah. I have
also worked with him on this book. I respectfully join them with my own
Additionally, I would like to commend the hard work and the dedication of the members of the American committee of our organization. I want to bring to your attention these people: Izador Oringer, Mo Nadler, Izik Fink (the secretary of the book committee in the United States), Sam Kirshner, Mendel Rozenkranz, Izik Shechter and Zelig Shpierer.
In light of the important task that we accomplished, it is my pleasure to note that all of our members, who were called upon to assist us in our work, fulfilled their obligation with commendable dedication. I express my deepest gratitude to both organizations in the United States and in Israel. I also want to thank two enterprises for their big help in the printing of the Horodenka Book: Achduth cooperative print in Tel-Aviv and United Graphic Corporation Ltd. in Tel Aviv. They guided me in the preparation of the galleys and we benefited from their unusual attention.
It is worth briefly reviewing the actions of the Organization of the Survivors of Horodenka and the Vicinity in Israel during the twelve years of its existence. I would like to do so by quoting from a report given at a memorial meeting on December 15, 1957. At that meeting, Moshe Fleshner, the director of the organization read the report and Yitzchak Shapira eulogized the community that was destroyed. A few guests from abroad and a few newly arrived immigrants also attended the meeting. Later they all expressed their happiness that they were once again among the community of Horodenka people.
During the twelve years of its existence, our organization has succeeded in accomplishing some of these goals. Once a year we hold a memorial meeting at which Horodenkans meet and remember together their loved ones that were killed in the Holocaust. We established a memorial in the form of a forest Yar Kdoshem Polin (The forest of the Polish Martyrs) in the Martyrs' Forest planted by the Jewish National Fund in the Jerusalem mountains. We held discussions with the directors of Martef ha-Shoah (The Holocaust Cellar) regarding the establishment of a memorial tablet to be placed among the other tablets that are on the walls in memory of the Holocaust victims of Polish communities. But our main mission publication of the book in memory of the victims of our town is still before us. We have not been able to overcome all the obstacles standing in our way. Nevertheless we have not given up and we are confident that a day will come when we will be able to add this last link to the chain of events done in memory of the martyrs of our town.
We have made some progress in extending help to the survivors that have come to Israel. This accomplishment was a result of the visit of the Podway family to Israel last summer. They helped initiate and fund Kehilyah a fund for the Horodenka survivors. Horodenkans living in Israel and landsmenshaft in the United Sates also made contributions. During its short existence, the fund has dispersed loans to new immigrants and to residents in the sum of a few thousand lirot. Some of these loans have already been repaid.
We must acknowledge that the assistance given by Kehilyah did not solve all the financial problems for those who are in need, but it did provide assistance to those needing to obtain apartments, etc. We now call upon the Horodenkans who live in Israel to join the fund by making financial contributions to increase its capital.
Our third goal was to nurture relations among the people of our town living in Israel and abroad. We tried to do this by arranging special parties and group meetings during the holidays and during visits of guests from abroad. Many of our members took advantage of these gatherings and had a good time.
Before I proceed with our program, I would like to wish a speedy recovery to one of the Horodenkan elders, Mr. Yosel Bergman who is bedridden. This is the first time that he won't be attending the memorial meeting. In the name of all those present here tonight, we wish him a speedy and complete recovery and express our hopes that we will have the privilege to see him among us at future meeting.
As we do every year, let us remember the members of our organization who died in the last year. I'm asking the audience to respect their memory by standing. There names are: Eliezer Fridler, Mati Shertzer, Uritza Frishling, Henya Rubel (mother of the Langshtein family in Israel), and Feiga Foler. Two family members of our friends also passed away: Ataliya Lindenberg, wife of Gavriel Lindenberg and Shrage Shvartshtein, husband of Haya Shvartz.
May their memories be blessed!
And now I would like to invite our friend, Mr. Yitzhak Shapira, to talk about the people of Horodenka.
Our human brain cannot comprehend nor grasp how it all happened. The Jewish nation has never been spoiled by the nations of the world. We have had our share of pogroms, slaughtering, inquisitions and forced conversions. However all those dwarf against the terrible holocaust that the Jewish nation faced in Eastern Europe thirteen, fourteen and fifteen years ago. World history has never recorded, since creation, such a planned and loathsome murder executed by military commanders and scientists. These supposed representatives of the twentieth century, with treacherous sadism, slaughtered, butchered, murdered and burnt men, women and children. It was done with precision using the methodology that the German Nazis were known for, and with the full cooperation of the human filth in all the countries occupied by the Hitler regime. There is no doubt that a large span of time must pass before the essence of this immense tragedy and catastrophe, which happened under the sun and in full view of the entire world's population, can be assessed correctly.
Hertzl, the founder of national Zionism, taught us that a Jewish State will rise from the adversity of the Jews, and indeed, the State of Israel is today a reality. But is there a shore to this sea of tribulation, this sea of blood and tears that were spilled during the massacre of six million Jews in Europe? There is an old saying that life is more bearable than death, and that every wound is destined to heal. It is quite possible that in the near future, students will read in their textbooks, with horror and nausea, about the lowest depth that human endeavors reached during the war. But we, who are present here today, the survivors of Horodenka, have cut off limbs that are still bleeding. We are part of the large body of masses of Beth-Israel, orphans who lost their fathers and their mothers. Those who are still mourning the death of brothers and sisters cannot quietly analyze these historical events. For us, this wound is a reality, a horrible reality.
Our town, Horodenka, blessed be her memory, was pure and righteous, and even though it was unprogressive compared to some other modern cities, its people embodied vitality and aspirations. Its Jewish residents were of all races, classes and ages and possessed an inner soul, for which the Galician people were known.
I would like you to join me on a short trip in our small town. We will not travel through each street. Rather our trip will take us to the people who lived there and to their places of work. It will be a kind of socio-demographic trip. I would like to ask forgiveness from all the young people here, those who were born after the period that I have chosen to discuss tonight. It is the period that immediately followed World War I, a period that was extremely crucial for our town. It was a period in which nations woke up and demanded their independence. It was a period of revolution that brought awakening to our region. It was the period following the Balfour Declaration when we were occupied first by the Austrians, then the Romanians and Ukrainians, and among them the Podolians, and later the Polish. I chose this period, the years of 1920-1930, because I remember it vividly. I visited Horodenka for a week in 1937. It was a short visit, but I managed to notice that nothing much had changed. I met the same people, and more or less, life seemed to be the same as when I left the city in 1925.
Now I would like to relate my memories of our families who were from various social classes. It is possible that many of the sons and daughters of these families may live differently than their parents, but none-the-less, the ethical values remain the same for generations. The fruit usually represents the tree. When I look here at the faces of these youngsters, I recall what their parents looked like when they were young and how they conducted themselves.
First on our tour of Horodenka, we will pass by the schools. Among them is the Yiddish high school, and most importantly the Hebrew high school, which was responsible for generations of students who spoke and understood Hebrew. Those schools produced the pioneers and first settlers who went to Israel in pursuit of their dreams.
Let us now pass by the heders (the little schools). If you close your eyes you will surely remember the different rabbis and the heders of that period. We can remember the more modern heders where the Bible was taught with interpretation. There were also conservative heders where the Rabbi waving a belt was the last word together with his counterparts: the Rebetzen with her hard heart, and her group of strict assistants.
From there, let us proceed to the many synagogues in our town. First let us enter into the primary synagogue that was destroyed in the first invasion during World War I. Later there were efforts made to rebuild it. I remember, and surely some of you remember this huge synagogue with its precious caretaker, Dudi Zelner. All of us heard the pounding of his hammer that woke up the town's people to do God's work. I remember how during Kol Nidre night he watched Pietro, the Sabbath Goy, who tended the crowded Yortzeit candles making sure they didn't bend over or die out prematurely, God forbid.
On both sides of the synagogue there were two areas that were crowded with worshippers saying their prayers and entreaties in competition with those inside the large synagogue.
And close by stood the seminary where a group of important scholars, headed by Rabbi Ashkenazi, my he rest in peace, gathered. Rabbi Ashkenazi was one of the most learned rabbis in Galicia. He was an incredible scholar with a very sharp mind.
And let me briefly mention all the Kloyzen (clubs), old and new, which were named after the different Rabbis according to their associations and religious affiliations. There was Yad Chrutzin and Tzyonistisher Farain, the cradle of Zionism in Horodenka. It was the spring from which we quenched our thirst for Aliyah to Israel. Let me also mention the ha-Hitachdut and the Bond, which inspired the establishment of such organizations as ha-Shomer, he-Chlutz, Gordoniah and he-Chlutz haTzair. There were also the national funds such as LiterarisheTzirklen and the dramatic clubs, including one at the warm and pleasant house of our friend Hesel Suka.
Our town was blessed with a variety of believers and apikoroses. I remember one of them vividly, but I won't mention his name. He was an avid learner and a sharp scholar, but an apikoros by choice. He used to brag about the fact that when he wrote letters of the Sabbath, he started with the words Today is the holy Sabbath .
Let me list the many avid students of the Mishnah. I will mention only those who were prominent among those scholars: Hayim Shnitzer, Meir Shlaam, Shlomo Shtreit, and Yehiel Rozenberg. And last, but not least, my father, who first had the title of Dayan u-Moreh Tzedek (Judge and Righteous Teacher), and who, after the death of Rabbi Ashkenazi, was promoted to the head of the Rabbinical court.
Our town did not have many religious functionaries because we were not a wealthy community. But we had many who served God faithfully. Let me remind you that during the Days of Awe, Sabbaths at the synagogues, and the three feasts many minyamim gathered in different locations and sang the Zmirot. Again let me mention some names to refresh our memories. Ma'chale Vaves, Shimshale Minitzer, Shlomo-Hayim, also known as Der Nayer Shochet, and his wife's delicious Harazaveh Bretlac.
For those of you who did not attend the three feasts to elevate the soul and to hear the Zmirot, let me mention those Ba'ale Tefila (cantors) who filled the synagogues with beautiful voices. I will mention, in one long breath, just a few of a long list who chanted during morning and evening prayers: Moti Sukar, Berl Zeifer, Shlomo Greitzer, Shalom Hirsh Fink, with his wonderful voice, Isaac Meltzer, Yosi Shapira, cantor of the Central synagogue for Kotokivka, and the Schecter brothers, Anchel and Notzya.
I don't want to discriminate against those people who achieved higher academic education and who practiced in our town periodically. We were very proud of them. I am not going to mention their names, but let me announce them by profession: doctors, dentists, pharmacists, magistrates, lawyers, and the judge Rathoizer. There were also world-renowned artists like Alexander Granack and Rana Pfeifer.
Though Horodenka was not an academic town with many scientists, all its Jewish residents were hard working people who labored and did everything possible to enable their children to learn the Torah and the mitzvot. They got up early in the morning to work, both in the summer and in the harsh winter. A few were rich, many could barely make a living, but all of them did their best to educate us, their children, who are here today.
Again I am not going to mention names, but let me give you a list of the various occupations. I am sure that you will recall who did what.
Let me begin with the foods that were sold by our residents either wholesale or retail: herring, petroleum, sugar and salt, flour and sweets. Other people worked in lumber and iron, confectionery and manufacturing, shoes and hats, leather, fur wool, fabrics and upholstery. Other merchants sold soaps, shoeshine, resin for carts, plaster, tar, candles, or books.
I would like to mention now those righteous and devoted Jewish women at the apples market, and those vendors who sold kvasnitzes. I remember how they bent over their stands during the summer with no protection from the scorching sun and how they were bundled with layers of clothing during the harsh winters, warming themselves over the fire top which was by their feet.
Let me also mention those in our town who had vocations. These included rope makers, meat butchers, blacksmiths with their metal tables, tailors, carpenters including those who built coffins for the Christians. There was also the Russian carpenter who was probably as good if not better than the best of the carpenters in Horodenka. Let me mention the watchmakers and the fur makers and finally coachmen with their carts and wagons, the insurance agents and mechanics. These are just a few of the trades of Horodenkans.
And among those with other talents, let me mention the artisans. There was Valul Greinberg, a mechanical engineer who was well known and respected in the community, together with his children. Almost equal to him, Dodi Meltzer, was a first-class artist and painter.
I did not know many builders, but I can see in front of me the image of the respected Baruck-Leib Greidiner.
All those I mentioned above, including their families, are no longer among the living.
Before I complete this review of the people of our town by mentioning those good people living in the surrounding areas, let me mention briefly the financiers and economists. At the top of the ladder those who accumulated property and wealth included Alter and Shmuel Yungerman, Yosel Zeifer, Berl Shfirer, Yosel Zeidman, and Rubel Shlomoh Pa'al. Right behind them were the owners of the quarries and the flourmills, both big and small.
I would like to end this tour with a description of hundreds of Jews that lived in villages around Horodenka. They were observant Jews that labored tirelessly in order to provide food and shelter for their families in the hope that their children would not follow in their footsteps but would rise above the level of education that the village could offer them. They sent their children to schools in the city, to high schools and universities if they were able to pull their finances together. When their children were still young, these parents summoned Yeshivah students from the city to serve as temporary teachers even if only for one or two lessons. I remember these young teachers. I also remember that those Jews who lived in distant villages would invite Jews who were single to come and join them for a minyan. During the High Holidays they would invite Ba'ale Tefilah to conduct the services. I even remember how during harsh weather conditions, those Jews risked their lives to go to town in order to purchase kosher flour for Passover, or to buy the four kinds of branches for Sukkot. And I remember the utmost dedication and devotion they exhibited towards the lulav and the ethrog by placing them on a bed of straw so that, God forbid, the pittam wouldn't break off.
I remember clearly, as if it were engraved in my mind, how all those Jews did whatever they could to keep the purity of the family intact, according to their understanding of Jewish laws. Every Sunday evening, they would sit in their wagons, in front of the Mikveh and wait for their wives who went to purify themelves. It was an act of dedication for one's belief. These were the efforts of Jews to maintain their Jewish identity in those God-forsaken areas surrounding our city.
I have attempted to depict for you the multiple and colorful facets, both economic and cultural, of our community. Members of our large community dispersed to many countries and beyond the great ocean, to North and South America. The sons and daughters of Horodenka even reached Australia. However, the hearts and souls and yearnings of the Jews of Horodenka were directed towards the land of Israel and its resurrection. Horodenkans sent its pioneers to Palestine during the various Aliyot with love, a deep longing, and with a strong spiritual belief in the coming of the liberation and redemption. The Jews of Horodenka believed that during their lifetime, salvation would come to Judah, and the family of Israel would dwell peacefully in its land. But unfortunately most did not live to see the fulfillment of this dream. Their tears and prayers did not help, their shouts and cries to God did not yield results. The Nazi savages gathered the Horodenkans during the first, second and third Actions, in the synagogue or fields, they torturing and murdering them in the most sadistic ways. And God looked down from the sky and saw how we were ridiculed and mocked by the goyim. And in spite of all this, netzah Israel lo yeshaker (your name we did not forget.).
To all the holy and pure men, women, and children that were murdered and burned in Nazi Europe:
May their names be remembered for ever and ever;
May their memory be praised and be written in the book of Life of the Nation of Israel and among the holy ones of the wars of the Hashmonaim, (aseret hajruge malhut), the brave men of Zahal, and the slain of Sinai.
Let their names adorn the resurrection of Israel in its land.
Unexpectedly, the big war broke out and we were exiled from our town. Thus the first big town that I finally saw was neither Chortkov nor Zaleshchiki but Horodenka. The escape took place on foot on a Saturday morning. My brother pushed a loaded stroller with big wheels as we climbed up the hill to Ryzhanovka, And I, the youngest of them all, lagged behind, trying to catch up.
In Ishtichka, which is on the banks of the Dniester, the escapees stopped to rest. Jews wrapped in Talitot prayed in a minyan near the big river and among the towering trees of the forest. Daring young men tried to cross the river by climbing on top of burned logs that moved like fast cats. Those logs had been the pillars that until recently supported the bridge that crossed the river.
Late Saturday night, the retreating Austrian army arrived with its wagons. They tied rafts together to make a long bridge and we all crossed the river. On the other side the rafts were loaded back on the wagons, upside down, to let the escapees hide beneath them. In the chill of the night the caravan made its way in the dark, in swaying wagons, up the hill from the Dniester. When the first ray of sun lit the horizon we arrived in Horodenka.
Three things were inscribed in my child's memory from the sights of those days.
A wagon with a large metal barrel was rolling down the street as it sprinkled water across the dusty road to prevent dust from rising. Miracle of miracle this was the first miracle of modern technology I ever witnessed.
On Rosh ha-Shanah people prayed in a home. The road to the house went up a steep hill. On the right it climbed up and on the left it went down. I had to be careful of how I climbed or I would stumble and fall, God forbid, down, down, down. Many years later when I was a teacher in Horodenka, I went to look for that terrible hill but I could not find it. What seemed like a mountain in my childhood, was probably a small hill. No wonder I could not locate it.
The third miracle occurred while our family was staying in a house that belonged to a large family. I was surprised to see that the man of the house, his wife and his children sleeping on the floor next to our family, while no one slept on the two beds in the room. Later I understood the reason why. It has a positive and a negative side. The owner was concerned that we might ruin his mattress and sheets. But, while we were there he wanted us to feel at home, so he and his wife and children joined us sleeping on the floor.
That was my flight from Tluste into the world and Horodenka was the first stop. And perhaps it is not a coincidence that after wandering across villages and cities throughout the country, Horodenka was also my final stop in the Diaspora before immigrating to the land of Israel. My wife and I spent only one year there in fact, only ten months but we managed to fall in love with that town: its landscape; its surroundings; and its people; especially the young people, and their endless activities; and our students. Those students came to our school in the afternoon after hours in the public schools to learn Torah for the sake of the land of Israel.
It was our first year of being together and, as it is for many young couples, one of the most beautiful. The snow song will ever remind us of those days. We had only a small flat with one room but it was large enough for us, a young couple. We had different styles of old furniture, everything was temporary, for only one year. Glass windows surrounded a small balcony. White curtains were put up and everything glowed in the brightness of winter. How pleasant it was.
Our apartment was in Mrs. Schwartz's house, across from the Pobiat house. I used to walk to school from that house not through the main street, but through the kapandreyah, a beautiful small park. (For some reason, none of the writers in this book mention that park, but I feel that I need to mention it because I spent many wonderful hours of reading there.) A chicken coop stood in a hidden corner of that park. Inside that coop was a large eagle with large wings. He was locked inside. One of his wings was broken. He used to extend the healthy wing and wave it up and down, hitting the metal bars as if he was ready to take off. Meanwhile his broken wing was dangling behind and getting dirty with his droppings. I don't know whatever happened to that eagle. I always wondered why the Polish people let the eagle remain in that coop. After all it is the symbol of their country. To me, it always symbolized the Jewish eagle, one of the four beasts described in Ezekiel. And furthermore, there is the eagle that belonged to Yehuda Ben-Time, as mentioned at the end of the Pirke Avot: Be mighty as a tiger, light as an eagle, fast as a deer and strong as a lion to follow the will of your Father in heaven. And the will of our Father in heaven is that every young Jew will leave the Diaspora and emigrate to the land of Israel.
We didn't have a lot of belongings to take with us from Horodenka at the end of the school year. Everything went into a small peasant cart that took us to Tluste for a short stop before emigrating. Mrs. Schwatz, the owner of the house, treated us to a lavish farewell breakfast. When we left the house we were confronted with our students standing around the cart, crying and sobbing. Many of them had become our friends by then as they were not much younger than we were. The sight of our students crying with their wet cheeks was the best gift we could have gotten. It was the soul that we found in Horodenka.
Shalom, shalom and see you soon they shouted as the cart began to disappear up the road. Years later we were fortunate to meet with a few of them that had survived. Those few remind us of that beautiful year of love. Two of the female students still send us greeting cards from across the ocean.
Thus, I became a citizen, or shall we say half a citizen of Horodenka.
Intermittently for two whole years I have labored over the editing of the Horodenka Book. For two years the atmosphere of my adopted birthplace surrounded me. And I was constantly surprised by the quality of the articles that I was getting. As the verse in the Psalm reads: Your forehead is like a sliver of pomegranate, and our sages explained it as even those empty people among you are full like a pomegranate with mitzvot and good deeds. This saying applies to Israel as a whole and to Horodenka in particular. Even the simple people among us, those who never saw themselves as writers or scribes and even those with little education, who set out to write their memories for the first time in their lives, displayed their ability to express themselves by about incidents in their lives incidents filled with feelings and deep perceptions.
I made it a rule not to overedit. However I corrected the language, the grammar and the spelling. I let each one of the stories speak for itself in its own unique way. I also did not delete complete segments that had already been told by others, even though the many repetitions increased the size of this book. I wanted to give each of the storytellers the opportunity to tell about the town, the people, their deeds and their destiny, in his or her own unique way. We don't really know how important our task is and what it will mean in the future. Perhaps it is the last meeting place of all the eye-witnesses to the events of those days, or perhaps it is the last grand gathering of all the Horodenkans who witnessed the building and the destruction of their town. As the editor of this book, I did not have, God forbid, the right to edit and chop these collected stories.
In his introduction, our friend, Moshe Fleshner has already told about the origin of this book and the work of the different committees. He also thanked and blessed all those who financed it and contributed their time and effort to see this book published and indeed they deserve the thanks. Since I was also editing his introduction I found it flattering to read that the Horodenkans were lucky to find such an editor as me. I deleted some of the praises and the compliments, for modesty sake. On the other hand I left a few compliments in order not to deny myself the truth. I couldn't say for a fact that I was the best editor the Horodenkans could have found, but I will affirm that I did the job with dedication and a warm heart as if I were editing a book, which hasn't been done yet, about my hometown Tluste.
In addition, the Horodenkans treated me with respect and trust. The meetings with the editorial committee were more like a gatherings of old friends. I would like in particular to mention the names of two men with whom I was constantly in touch: Moshe Fleshner and Gavriel Lindenberg.
This man, Moshe, was the moving spirit of this book, the engine who kept this complex apparatus in motion, the publisher, the director, the treasurer, the carrier and the courier. It would be impossible to calculate the amount of energy, time and dedication that he exerted to see this book published. Without his effort, I doubt it if would have happened. He was crazy about it in the good sense of the word and deserves to be called the father of this book.
And the man, Gavriel, as distinguished from the angel Gabriel, who always stands on Man's left side my Gavriel stood to my right to do any labor, light or hard. And in contrast to an angel that does not perform two tasks simultaneously, my Gavriel performed multiple tasks simultaneously. He wrote a tractate to be proud of and rewrote articles written by others. He copied and translated from one language to another, from Yiddish to Hebrew and vice versa, and he did it magnificently. Without his effort, chances are that the book wouldn't have been published on time or in as complete a form as it is.
It is a sad, draining and depressing task to write, edit and publish a book, which serves only as a headstone for a thriving Jewish community that is no longer in existence. But as the Jewish phrase goes: There's 'luck' in 'unlucky'. Not all the descendents of towns in Europe that were destroyed are so eager to commemorate them in writing, and establish a memorial for Jewish generations to come.
Horodenka was lucky.
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