During the Period Between Both World Wars[1*]
by Dr. Zvi Heller, Tel Aviv
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
When I speak about Kolomea, I mean the environs that were called the political electoral district of Kolomea that was geographically known under the name Pokutia. Everything that took place in Kolomea had an effect on the shtetlekh [towns] and villages with large Jewish settlements in the mountainous vicinity.
Kolomea had its own Jewish representative in the state parliament, then the Austrian Reich's Council in Vienna, for many years before the First World War. The election district in Austria consisted of three cities in one: Kolomea (Kolomyya), Snityn (Sniatyn) and Beczucz (Buczacz [Buchach]).
The Kolomea Jewish deputies before the First World War were members of the Polish Club (Kolo Polskja).
After the First World War, the Kolomea election district in the newly revived Poland was represented in
the Sejm by a deputy from the United Zionist list number 17, on which the general Zionist, Dr. Henrik Rozmaryn, Dr. Zvi Heller, the representative of Histadrut, the representative of Mizrakhi [religious Zionists], Dr. Shimeon Federbush were candidates. The other Jewish lists, from the Bund, Agudas Yisroel [anti-Zionist religious party], and Paolei Zion [Marxist Zionists] were incapable of carrying through their candidates.
The democratic elections to the Jewish National Council that were dominated by the assimilated [Jews] to the Jewish National Council that in the time of transition immediately after the war took the place of the earlier small kehile [organized Jewish community] houses of prayer provided a strong push to national-political organizing by the Kolomea Jews.
Contributing to the [Jewish] national turmoil was Hashomer Hatzair [the Youth Guard Social Zionists], the Zionist youth movement that arose during the First World War in Vienna and then was transplanted to Galicia by the returning refugees, young men and girls. A group of Hashomer Hatzair was also founded in Kolomea that had its hakhshara [agricultural training for potential emigrants to Eretz-Yisroel] location in the area of the village Slobudka Lesna.
Immediately after the war, Kopl Gugik and his wife [reopened] the Hebrew school, Safa Brura [clear language a movement to encourage the use of the Hebrew language] and organized classes for the young and courses for the adults.
In the large meeting hall of the Zionist party, Beit Yisroel [House of Israel], which had existed since 1903, would gather veterans of the local Zionist movement of the past such as the old Dr. Shlomo Rozenhek, the commendable Efroim Klarman, Dr. Marek Laks, Shlomo Scher and Yona Ashkenazi; also there were the younger leaders and the halutz [pioneer] youth, among whom, in a place of honor, were representatives of Hitachdut: Chaim Ringelblum, Kopl Gugik, Moshe Schneberger, Mikhal Hazelkorn, Lev Grebler, Yitzhak Teitelbaum, Meir Laks, Yakov Bender, Nakhman Palik, Shlomo Rares, Dov Sternberg, Etl Ramler, Yakov Schikler, Dr. Meir Etinger, Nety Eiferman and others.
The mentioned Hitachdut comrades headed by Mikhal Hazelkorn led the Keren Kayemeth [National Fund] commission in the city and in the area.
Hitachdut created a professional artisan's school that was led by Mrs. Gusya Horovitz.
The Herzl Library, at the head of which stood the famous Zionist activist Yakov Byter and his wife, Gitl Perminger Byter,
was very beloved in the city. It possessed thousands of books in Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German.
A drama section [of the Zionists] was started with Dr. Marek Knap, Pinkhas Scheierman, Zindl Neiman, Hersh Neiman, Leibele Wolfberg and Neti Eiferman at the head. The drama group carried the name Halevi.
The lectures were begun again as before the war in the Jewish Toynbee Hall. Of the local people, Dr. Shlomo Rozenhak, Chaim Ringelblum, Kopl Gugik and Dr. Kramer often would appear with lectures. Dr. Meir Geyer, Senator Dr. Mikhal Ringel, Professor Binshtok, Dr. Zilberstein, Dr. Naftali Schwartz, Dr. Kopl Schwartz, Fishl Werber, Dr. Fishl Rotenstreich, Zalman Hering and Dr. Zvi Heller would come from Lemberg to lecture. Hundreds of Jews from various circles listened to these lectures.
There was a chess club with a considerable number of members in the Baron Hirsch Hall. Pinkhas Scheierman and Dovid Schreiber led the club.
Lively work went on and with it good success for the Keren Hayesod [the Foundation Fund] in Kolomea and in the surrounding area. The success mainly was thanks to the emissaries from Eretz-Yisroel, Natan Bistricki and Sura Berger. The Hitachdut worker, Lev Grebler traveled to the surrounding cities and villages with the delegation from Eretz-Yisroel.
There were often clashes with Agudas Yisroel in the small Vizhnitz, Ziditshov, Boyan, and Otynia synagogues. Agudas had its fortresses of anti-Zionist struggle in every Hasidic synagogue.
The first halutzim [pioneers] left Kolomea for Eretz-Yisroel in 1920. Among them Yehuda Grunverg-Hurin, the current leader of Jachin [Prepare] and of Merkaz Hahaklai [Agricultural Center] at Hahistadrut in Eretz-Yisroel, Yosef Kuperman, Dov Sternberg, Sholom Laks and others.
There was a large hakhshara [training site to prepare emigrants for life in Eretz-Yisroel] settlement with the name Klasov that consisted of comrades from the Kresy [Borderlands formerly territory in the eastern part of Poland], from Volyn, from Polesia, Podlasie and from the Vilna area.
Among the first comrades that Hitachdut sent to hakhshara to the landowner, Engineer Ayzyk Berlet in Gody-Turka, were Chaim Laks, Yakov Grin, Etl Ramler, Levi Grebler, Yakov Hamer and others. Most of this group emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel during the month of July 1925.
The Hitachdut Central [office] in Lemberg strongly supported the Kolomea hahalutz movement through special cultural envoys. Among the Lemberg delegates were Engineer Reizer (today a high official in the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem), Dov Stok (today Dov Soren, professor of Yiddish at Jerusalem University), Menakhem Gelerter, Fishl Werber, Dr. Nusan Melcer, and the former Sejm [lower house of Polish parliament] deputies, Dr. Kopl Schwartz and Dr. Zvi Heller. The General Secretary, Minister Zigmund Herring, and the regular delegate from the Halutz Central [office], Lionek Braunstein (today in Kibbutz [communal settlement] Hulda), also helped with the cultural work.
The general Zionists, Mizrakhi and Revisionists [non-religious Zionist group founded by Ze'ev Jabotinsky], had their youth and halutz groups in the city.
Yehuda Kreps, Henekh Schecter, Yona Ashkenazi, the Rabbi, Reb Chaim Zvi Taumim, Hersh Rozenbaum, Efroim Klarman and others stood at the head of the Mizrakhi Party. At the initiative of the Hebrew writer, Reuven Fahn, delegates from Kolomea Mizrakhi (Hocher and Zinreich) traveled to Eretz-Yisroel to buy land.
Dr. Hesl, the lawyer, Yakov Heger and others, led the Revisionist group. They created a Betar [Revisionist Zionist youth group] group, as well as a group of Kayil Lemui [National Force] in the city.
The main workers from the leftist Poalei-Zion were: Shlomo Schmoys, Mendl Marksheid, Dutsia Landman, Krauthamer and others.
The Agudas Yisroel was a small group in Kolomea, as it was in all of eastern Galicia. However, it had several capable leaders and the most capable among them were Reb Yosef Lau and the lawyer, Dr. Ben-Tzion Fesler. However, Agudas was completely weakened and lost its influence after Dr. Yosef Lau was chosen as the local rabbi, at the initiative of the Mizrakhi social worker, Reb Yona Ashkenazi (Gedelia Biter's son-in-law and Yekl Biter's brother-in-law). But it still had a group of respected businessmen in its leadership, such as Dovid Zeidman, Lipe and Shlomo Heller, Lipe Ungar, Leibtsie Libman, Shmuel Ber Hener, Leibush Krys and Mendl Hirsh.
Kolomea had its own two Zionist newspapers, Nas Glos [Our Voice] in Polish from the general Zionists and Undzer Shtime [Our Voice] [in Yiddish] from Hitachdut.
The visit of Yosef Sprinzak, the present speaker of the Knesset [Israeli parliament], was an important event in the history of Kolomea Zionists.
Yosef Sprinzak came to Kolomea in 1935 to carry out the
unification of Hitachdut and Poalei-Zion. Some from Hitachdut with Chaim Ringelblum, Moshe Schneberger, Lewi Grebler and Dr. Marek Knop were stubborn and would not embrace the unification with Poalei-Zion that had been carried out on a worldwide scale.
After greater efforts and more intensive theoretical doctrinal work on the part of the special messengers from Ikhud [Union], Dr. Naftali Schwartz and Yitzhak Fagenbaum and finally, Yosef Sprincak, the Ringelblum group as well as Kopl Gunik's group united with Poalei-Zion. The previously mentioned leaders of Hitachdut, Chaim Ringelblum, Kopl Gunik and Moshe Schneberger and the Poalei-Zion workers, Dr. Wagman, Shlomo Badler, Dr. Schnebalg and Shlomo Eizner, were at the head of the united party.
In 1934, Lewi Grebler created a hakhshara settlement of the Hitachdut comrades under the name Vitkinia. The group became a part of Hitachdut halutz in eastern Galicia. The economy of Vitkinia consisted of four gardens near the Prut [River] and a house on Dzieduszycki Street. During the summer the group worked in the field. However, during the winter, the group was hired to do laundry in private houses. The group members were woodcutters during the winter.
It was very typical that the halutzim had to carry on a struggle for the right to work. The woodcutters organized by P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party] often attacked the halutzim and did not allow them to work. The municipality helped to secure for the halutzim their right to work thanks to the councilmen Chaim Ringelblum and Moshe Schneberger.
Hitachdut and the women's organization, WIZO [Women's International Zionist Organization], created a people's kitchen in the city. Members of Hitachdut founded a credit bank for artisans and retailers, again with the help of Sejm-deputy, Dr. Avraham Zilberstein, who was the leader of the Jewish cooperative movement in Poland and with the help of the Joint [Joint Distribution Committee] representative, Yitzhak Niterman. The old communal worker Dugye Vizelberg stood at the head of the bank.
Yad haRutzim, the artisans' union that was under the influence of the P.P.S., split after the death of the well-known P.P.S. leader, Dr. Samuel Lazarcz Schor. A Zionist group emerged from the union and the comrade from the
Hitachdut, Yitzak Teitelbaum, succeeded in organizing 15 young locksmiths for emigration to Eretz-Yisroel.
Most of the artisans reorganized under the leadership of the jewelry traders and the government-friendly city politician, Yehuda Borukh Feuerstein, in a union, under the name Rzemieslnik (the Artisan).
The Hitachdut under the chairmanship of councilman Moshe Schneberger created a separate union for artisans and retail traders. A Union of Private Employees that joined Lemberg Central was founded under the chairmanship of Chaim Ringelblum. The Hitachdut also created Jewish produce cooperatives in large villages surrounding Kolomea under the name Hema (butter) with the help of Dr. Avraham Zilberstein. These cooperatives were in contact with the cooperatives Tnuva [fruit] and Mashbir [to sell food] in Eretz-Yisroel.
Members of the Local Committee of Hitachdut Tseiri-Zion [Young Men of Zion] in Kolomea
Sitting from right to left: Munya Schumer, Wolf Weisbrat, Dr. Marek Knopf, Chaim Ringelblum, Levi Grebler, Moshe Schneberger, Dovid Hilzenrat;
Standing under them: Zini Thau, Moshe Schikler, Dr. Zev Haber, Yitzhak Kern, Shama Tindel (Teicher), Itsye Danker, Naftali Thau;
In the last row: Yosef Reich, Yosef Ramler, Munya Bank, ..?, Bank.)
by Levi Grebler
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Three days before the voting, on a Shabbos [Sabbath], the Z.P.S. [Zydowska Partia Socjalno Demokratyczna Jewish Social Democratic Party] under the leadership of Dr. Schorr, together with the P.P.S. called a mass meeting in Lyeblyk Room on the Sobiejski Street to question why the city council was not carrying out the [recent] Austrian law requiring that three weeks before the election, the city council was to distribute a stamped voting card to each citizen so that he could take part in the election.
This was to be the first, general, secret, direct and proportional election that was battled out with great effort in the Reichsrat [Austrian Parliament in Vienna]. However, the municipal authorities in Kolomea deliberately and consciously neglected their duties and three days before the election, the citizens still had not received their voting cards. The crowd was very agitated by this action on the part of the city managing committee and everyone came as one to the protest meeting. Kolomea had not seen such a gathering until then! Artisans, merchants and workers came from all strata to demand that the municipal authorities treat them as the law demanded as free Austrian citizens.
Dr. Schorr gave an inspired speech. He proposed his program to the large assembled crowd, which he intended to carry out in the Reichsrat [Austrian Parliament] as the representative of the working masses. At the close of his speech, he enjoined those assembled to march in closed ranks to the city hall. The crowd responded to his speech with strong applause. The several thousand assembled immediately formed rows and, singing the Czerwony Sztandar [Red Banner], they marched with the red flag, carried by Anshel Weitz.
Yosl Glazer, Fishl Thau, Haber, Dr. and Mrs. Schorr with a Ruthenian female teacher and Dr. Oster walked in the first row. Fuks, Ciper, Ehreman, Mikeitin, Bialas, Korski, Simcha Weitz and his wife, Leib Biger, Mordekhai Leibowitz, Borten, the younger Thau, the shoemaker's son, Shaul Freier, Gabrial Ziegenlaub, Naftaler Kesten, Haker the shoemaker, Hilzenrat the weaver. The enthusiastic masses called out various slogans: Niekh zywo, Dr. Schorr, hoorah! Precz z kliki magistrackiej! Hanba! Wstyd! Tchórzak! The Ruthenians sang: and Hei tam na hori Sich ide [There upon the mountain Sich marches, a Cossack song] and so on.[1*]
New people constantly joined this marching mass, Jews in their Shabbos [Sabbath] clothing, in long, coarse coats and shtreimlekh [fur hats worn by members of some Hasidic sects]. These were the Jewish weavers, mostly pious Hasidic Jews. All were ready to fight.
When the demonstrators reached the city hall with the cry, We demand our voting cards! the Jewish vice mayor, Funkenstein, gave an order to the firemen to close the gate and he telephoned the military. Meanwhile, still more people joined in. The crowd became larger and larger. The clique in the city hall also quickly called a meeting of its people to decide what to do in such a tense mood. Meanwhile, several demonstrators noticed that the officials from the city hall on the second floor were standing near the window and laughing. There was shouting: Look up, they are laughing at us! The masses started for the city hall and began to storm the gate. Some threw stones and broke the windowpanes of the windows of the city hall. Dr. Radecki arrived during this. When he had to pass the Hotel Grand, the masses threw rotten, stinking eggs and began to beat him. However, Herer came to his aid and pushed him into the gate of the hotel. After everything, the masses stormed the gate of the city hall until they broke in and several hundred people entered inside. The military came immediately, a company from the 24th infantry regiment with the Lieutenant Colonel Count Czukowski at the head. They
called out the 24th regiment, not the landwehr [militia], because there were many Jews and city bourgeoisie in the landwehr and they knew that the landwehr would not dare to shoot at the masses.
The company commandant demanded that the demonstrators disperse, if not he would be forced to order shooting. Dr. Schorr and his wife left immediately, but the demonstrators did not move from the spot. Even the doctor's bodyguard remained in place with a firm decision to present the demands of the masses. At the commandant's second demand to disperse, the masses slowly withdrew from the city hall and stopped near the gymnasium [secondary school]. The lieutenant colonel demanded for the last time that the masses disperse and threatened that he would give the order to shoot. As the masses still did not leave, he did give an order to the military: Attention, load the weapons! Secure the bayonets! And the trumpeter began to blow with such power that a fear fell on everyone. The crowd began to draw back in the direction of the Ring Platz. They ran in all directions in the greatest confusion. Hundreds of brave people remained standing in the Platz. Here, some kind of miracle took place: at the moment when the company commander made a gesture to the soldiers to open fire, we heard a strong whistle and we saw our dear Field Commandant of the city of Kolomea, Colonel Sir von Pfeifer, come running with all his power. (It could be that the Colonel von Pfeifer was a Jew and, perhaps, not. We cannot know. But it is certain that he was a very liberal person.)
Meanwhile some cried: Shoot! And tore open their shirts and stood unbuttoned at the chest ready to perish for their rights. There was a great tumult. People pushed and were pressed so closely together that it was impossible to move from the Platz. Even I, an onlooker, could not free myself from the vice. The people did not consider what kind of danger to life hovered over them, standing against the armed soldiers who were ready to shoot at any second.
The Colonel von Pfeifer was seen running out of the restaurant that was in Moshe Breyer's house. He was a good looking,
tall man, so he could be seen among the entire mass of people. When the top lieutenant Czukowski, who was ready to give the order to shoot, saw the Colonel von Pfeifer running with his sword in his right hand, he was puzzled. The colonel came and called out to the company: Attention! Weapons to the feet! Back three steps! Halt! And he called to the company commander: Who gave the order to shoot at unarmed people? The company commander could not answer. He was pale as a wall. The colonel gave the soldiers an order to turn around and withdraw. He told the company commander to take over the command to call the soldiers back to their barracks in full order. And this all lasted only several seconds. The soldiers withdrew and marched away.
When the people noticed this, some began to gather again. However, the colonel remained standing on the stairs of the gymnasium with his sword in his outstretched hands. The crowd began to come out of its hiding places and again began to shout slogans: Niekh zywo, Dr. Schorr! Precz z kliki. Hanba! Wstyd! Tchórzakomi![2*]
The colonel gave a sign to the crowd to calm down. He wanted to say something. As soon as it became quiet, he began: My men! I ask you, tell me, what pains you and why have you gathered here? Everyone shouted out an answer to his question at once: Voting ballots! And a great tumult began again. The colonel shouted at this: My men, I do not understand any words. Let two or three of you approach, lay out your complaint; I will see what I can do for you. However, be calm! Three respected middleclass citizens appeared. They were: Yosl Glazer, Naftali Kesten and Hersh Eisenthal, an iron merchant who had his business at Bitman, near the canal. He came from Bukovina, an intelligent man who spoke German well. He was the spokesperson.
Eizental called out as follows: Respected Sir Colonel! Our majesty, the Kaiser, for the first time in history, had permitted us, as Austrian citizens, according to the decision of the
Reichsrat universal, secret and direct voting rights. The elections will take place on Tuesday. According to the order of the Reichsrat, the city hall has to distribute a stamped voting card to each citizen three weeks before the voting and now it already is three days before the voting and we have not received our voting cards! Therefore, we gathered to demand that the clique in the city hall carry out its duty. When the leaders in the city hall saw us coming, they locked themselves in and would not even listen to us. And because of that [there] is great agitation! To the colonel's question of who was responsible for not carrying out the order, came a shout from the masses: The clique, the propinatarski-clique! The straw mats! Down! Disgrace! And so on.
The colonel shouted: My men! Calm yourselves. I do not understand a word you are saying. I will have to leave if you do not calm yourselves. It immediately became quiet. And Eisenthal called: Sir Colonel, you want to know who is responsible? The vice mayor, Josef Funkenstein! The colonel answered this: Let several of you go with me to the mayor and you will present your complaints in my presence. I assure you that I will strongly demand of the mayor that he carry out his duties.
They immediately elected a delegation of five people: Dr. Oster, Yosef Glazer, Herer, Hersh Eisenthal and Haber (an official at the Export Bank). The colonel walked in front and the delegation after him. The firemen, seeing the colonel, moved aside and opened the gate of the city hall. The delegation and the colonel immediately went up to the mayor on the first floor.
While the delegation lingered in the city hall, the crowd outside again began to sing fight songs and called out slogans. When the delegation and the colonel came back out, they went up to the balcony of the Hotel Grand. They asked that it be quiet because they had something to report. It became quiet. And Dr. Oster and Herer reported that the Colonel Sir Pfeifer had demanded strongly of Vice Mayor Funkenstein that he carry out his duty unconditionally and provide every citizen with a voter card. If not, a military managing committee would take over the city hall and itself carry out everything. The rights of citizens cannot be violated! The colonel also warned the mayor
that he would hold him responsible for calm and order in the city.
The crowd accepted the report with a shout of hurrah and great ovations for the colonel. The colonel saluted and left.
The Jews of Kolomea have the Colonel Sir Pfeifer, to thank for the prevention of a blood bath before the Reichsrat voting in the summer of 1907. He appeared as an angel of the people and a miracle for the Jews of Kolomea happened through him. Who does not remember what happened in Drohobych on the same Shabbos when in a similar case, under mayor Feuerstein, 21 Jews fell dead and many were wounded! However, thanks to the Colonel, Sir Pfeifer, area commandant of the city of Kolomea and commandant of the 36th landwehr [militia] infantry regiment, the Polish top lieutenant, Count Czukowsk, could not carry out his murderous intentions and destroy hundreds of families.
Later, when the colonel parted with the assembled, Dr. Oster, in the name of the mayor, reported that every citizen should go up to meeting room of the city hall where he would receive his voting card. He, Dr. Oster, asked the crowd to stay calm, not to disturb the work of the city council.
Those authorized to vote left for the city hall in closed ranks and everyone received their voter card, stamped for the voting. When a thousand Jewish citizens had received their voter cards, the secretary said that from now on only the Christian voters would receive their voter cards at the city hall. The Jewish voters would have to go to the Jewish community council for their voter cards. The Jewish voters left for the [offices of the] kehile [organized Jewish community] en masse. It was closed because of Shabbos. They saw this was a new trick by the community leaders and they again went to the city hall en masse.
It appears that in the further course of events, the following occurred:
When the clique saw that it had lost, they turned for help to the district chief, Dr. Poblikowski He again made contact with Count Potocki, the governor. When Count Potocki heard the report from the district chief about the situation in the city and what had occurred
with the Colonel Sir Pfeifer, he communicated with the corps commandant of the 11th Corps in Lemberg, General Sir Kolossváry von Kolosvár (of Hungary) and he pulled strings in such a manner that the kehile would accomplish its goal. The following occurred:
When the Jewish demonstrators again returned to the city hall, they were told that the voter cards were being given out at the kehile and they should go there. When they arrived for the second time, they met the well-known kehile shamas [sexton] [and] informer, Shlomo Dovid, standing in a shtreiml [fur hat worn by some Hasidim], before the Jewish community building gate. He shouted in Deitsch-merish [Germanized Yiddish] to the demonstrators: Komen zi morgen. Heite ist Shabbos! [Come tomorrow. Observe the Sabbath now.] When they heard this, they understood and the humble Jews again raised their heads; they had been turned away again. They again left for city hall singing songs and calling out their slogans. Some shouted: Long live Dr. Schorr! Others shouted: Long live Dr. Thon!
Meanwhile, evening fell. At around eight o'clock, when they approached the gate of the city hall, the gate was closed and no one was permitted to approach. The police did not get involved and remained neutral because this was the municipal police. However, the firemen and the gendarmes did take part, protecting the city hall from the outside and the inside because they were working in the villages and employed by the Kolomea district. The well-known lawyer, Dr. Havrilo Trilovsky, leader of the Ukrainian Social Democrats and also the leader of the Rutenian Radical Party, Ivan Lobruk, campaigned there. The gendarmes had enough work in the villages.
Two squadrons of dragoons with drawn sabers suddenly came running when the demonstrators before the city hall demanded their rights and they stormed the demonstrators from the right and the left and demanded that they disperse.
There was a great tumult and a wild stampede. Shtreimlekh and caps were mixed up on the ground along with pieces of kaftans and sticks. However, thank God, no victims fell. This also was thanks to Colonel Feifer because although he had to carry out the order of the corps commander, he probably ordered the dragoons to be careful that no human victims fell. In addition, the 14th Dragoon regiment consisted for the most part of Czechs and a small number of Germans. To our good luck, not
Hungarians, as had happened in Czernowitz [Chernivtsi] at the election of Lucien Bruner.
After the crowd dispersed, the Ring Platz looked as if there had been a battle. However, we had pulled through well.
The clique won a great victory. They sent entire wagons, loaded with beer, whiskey and sausages to the Christian streets. Meanwhile, the German anti-Semites banged on Jewish skulls on the Menechevka.
Thus ended the first public election demonstration of Jewish workers, artisans and citizens, after the first large election meeting that was called by the Socialist candidate, Dr. Schorr. He was beloved by all workers and toilers. However, because of the machinations of the clique in Kolomea, he was never elected to the Reichstag.
Translator's & Coordinator's footnotes
by David Yesha'yahu Silberbusch
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
A young Jewish man got married in 1876 in Kolomea, the wellknown city of approximately 13,000 souls with a majority of Jews, unpretentious Jews from the old generation. He was supported by his own parents and by his fatherinlaw and motherinlaw for several years. He became a man with the burden of children and a long, yellow beard already grew on him. He searched for his own income for himself and the members of his household. He had an ingenious idea in 1883. He imported looms from Germany. He brought trained weavers from there for the period of several months, until he could teach the [working] Jews the business of the weaving trade and until the Germans would no longer be needed.
Taleysim [prayer shawls] were woven. The Taleysim weaving factory grew from year to year. It already was called a Taleysim factory. And soon the owners were called the manufacturers.
The manufacturer with the yellow beard was a respected naïve
Jew. He was a Boyaner Hasid with a little bit of learning and a great fear of God, and his workers were mostly Hasidic Jews. A number of them were elderly, former teachers, learned men.
The bosses behaved well with their workers outside of the work time in the traditional Jewish customs and they with him.
All through those years life went on according to traditional Jewish practice in the Taleysim factory. On a wintry eve before Purim, they paused their work for the daily late afternoon prayers known as Minkhah and Maariv. The manufacturer often led the prayers from the podium in front of the worshipers and his workers were proud of their boss's Godfearing manner. One of the workers sometimes spoke up to present a dvar Torah [a comment on the religious text] or to tell a Hasidic story. The manufacturer was not disturbed by a little criticism from the worker. In fact, as he stood alone on the podium, he listened with great pious interest. And what is more, on a special holiday, when it was the old rabbi's yahrzeit [the annual memorial on the date of that rabbi's death], the manufacturer provided whiskey and cake after the afternoon prayers and drank along with all the workers in a brotherly way and told a marvelous story about the old rabbi, of blessed memory.
The workers disguised themselves at the Purim feast. They bent their peyes [side curls] behind their ears. They rolled up the coattails of their kaftans, tied them behind with their gartlen [belt worn by pious men] to the knee. And thus they disguised themselves as Germans. The entire group went to the home of the manufacturer. They distorted their mouths to speak hochDeutschmerish [high Germaninfused Yiddish] with swollen lips. The manufacturer laughed. The manufacturer's wife laughed and the manufacturer's small children actually rolled with laughter. The Purim spirit brought happiness to the house. They ate; they drank. They sang The Rose of Yakob and they merrily began a little dance with the boss.
Things went very well at night on Shemini Atzeret [the eighth day of Sukkos the Feast of Tabernacles]. The Taleysimweavers gathered with the manufacturer. They devoured hot stuffed cabbage, blowing it with their lips and burning their tongues. They drank alcoholic beverages, on which the world stands and on which the world does not stand. And thus they carried on drunk. The workers, the owners, manufacturers, went singing and frolicking through the streets with flaming torches in their hands to their small synagogue for hakofus [circular precession with the Torah scrolls on Simkhas Torah].
The talisworker stood for years and years, day in and day out, naively, innocently at the loom. With his hands, he wove
Taleysim, Taleysimkotnim [small pray shawls usually worn under a man's clothing] and large taleyisim. And his brain weaved its own thoughts, small thoughts and great thoughts: the wages are stingy. But praised is the Lord God for it. He has a noble occupation. He is not a shoemaker and not a tailor, not a carpenter and not a blacksmith…
However, times change. New birds flew in from afar, far away and with them new songs.
It was not too long before social democracy in Austria would raise its head, show what it was capable of, gather around itself its wandering comrades, until then in various party camps, and prepare for them the program of organization that had long ago been achieved in other nations.
This party worked with all its strength.
Socialism also entered the Kolomea Taleysim factories.
A young man, halfintellectual, fiery, pretentious, was the successor of an elderly deceased comrade. The young man immediately became a big shot among his comrades. They even grinned sarcastically at the start. They called him the Taleysim philosopher. However, they listened to his words. He explained that in Vienna there is a group of workercontractors and when one joins it [the group], they get all benefits as members.
They accomplished: 1) a raise in wages; 2) no more than eight hours a day of work; 3) to be paid their entire wages even at the time when, God forbid, the worker collapsed and he could not come to work; 4) the bosses became intransigent in accepting the demands of their workers, so all of the workers stopped working at their trade at the same time and received their wages from the society in Vienna for as long as it takes for the bosses to give in.
In the Taleysim weaving factory could be found a tall, slender Jew with a grim expression and with a thick, black beard, a Jew who stood sullenly almost the entire day at his loom, his heavy black eyes downcast and his lips always clenched. This Jew heard these words; he became inflamed, flashed
his two large, dark eyes. His lips opened. He explained the matter to his comrades in his own KosowerHasidic style. He called them together for a meeting on the same evening at the small Sharagroder synagogue. A thick, dark cloud settled on his face. He opened the Aron Kodesh [Torah ark] with his lips clenched. He was the first to swear on a Torah scroll to stick together. All for one and one for all, and then his comrades did [the same].
And on a hot summer day in 1892, suddenly, all Taleysim workers wiped the sweat from their brows with their right sleeves. They donned their caftans and caps. And with the canes in their hands, all together, they left the weaving factory.
The talisweavers donned their caftans and caps in Kolomea Vienna was gripped with excitement: A strike had broken out in the Kolomea talis factory! The socialist ideas had infiltrated the Jewish neighborhood from the distant east!
The socialists laid out this matter and explained it in detail. They made every effort. They photographed the workers with their beards and peyes [side curls], with their taliskatan hanging out over their pants, as if they, the wretched ones, were standing wearily at the looms. They distorted the face of the Taleysim manufacturer, with the yellow beard, into a caricature of a leech. They put up these images in the Vienna streets and sent them to their comrades in all their groups in other countries.
In Vienna, two young parties, the Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] party and Austria's newly prosperous Socialist Party quarreled and were at each other's throats. Each party wanted to become the only power in the Jewish neighborhood. They stood opposite each other like angry roosters. The socialist rooster found the best opportunity to give a peck with his hardened beak to the Hovevei Zion rooster in the very middle of his forehead. On the contorted face of the Kolomea talis manufacturer he painted a large Mogen Dovid [Star of David, literally Shield of David] this was to signify: Here, this is a Zionist!
And their organization carried out another nasty trick:
A hit! Blood runs from the nose of the Hovevei Zion rooster…
In Vienna Dr. Natan Birnbaum was the editor of a German news weekly entitled SelbstEmanzipation, and I was the editor in Kolomea of the Hebrew biweekly entitled Ha'am. Birnbaum published an open letter to me in his newspaper (number 17 of 1892)… He stroked me under my double chin. He praised me highly. And finally he let out a frightening howl
How come?! Why did I permit the Taleysim workers to fall into socialist hands and did not grab them earlier for Zionism?!!!
Understand that as a matter of course, when the editor in Vienna questioned me in his newspaper, I, the editor in Kolomea, had to give him an answer in my newspaper. To tell the truth, I was in not too small a dilemma. If I had a thousand heads I could not explain to a Viennese what a Kolomea manufacturer denotes and what Hasidic socialists signifies. In short I answered:
Our socialists did not cease reciting three times a day the Shmoneh Esreh [central prayer], May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy and at the prayer after the meal rebuild Jerusalem. There even were present among them those who rose at midnight for khatsus [midnight study and prayer in memory of the destruction of the Temple]. Socialism did not injure in the least their sense of being Jewish. However, they wanted not only a dry piece of bread for themselves, for their wives and children, but a little bit of butter, too, for their work… Meanwhile can they not earn a pair of shoes for their child despite their love of Zion and Jerusalem… If we want to do something tangible for them, there is another piece of advice: we collect for them a sum of money to create a talis factory where they can work in partnership and divide equal portions for all with the gains from their work.
When writing the last several lines I did not think about Ferdinand Lassalle and not about Karl Marx. I only remembered a Hebrew poem by Samuel David Luzzatto entitled, Portions for Portion Shall They Eat. In addition I must tell the truth that the writings in the last few lines were just like this. A clever Jew always needs
to be prepared with clever advice. I do not think that I could believe for a second that the Viennese Hovevei Zion would consider my advice. Furthermore, this had no connection to their program [of Hovevei Zion]; they themselves, begging your pardon, were poor people and their influence was a lot less than nothing.
However, there was a surprise! A Hebrew written bomb was thrown as far as Vienna and [it] exploded; this means only that it was fired in Kolomea.
There was no doubt in Kolomea that the Viennese Jews were great experts in such things… There were still Rothschilds in Vienna. We only needed to find a smart solution and they immediately would obey.
The first was the manufacturer with the long, yellow beard who came to me with a complaint; why did I want to decrease his income?
In short, the Viennese gentiles do not know. But you, a local Jew, know that I have not made a great fortune from my weaving factory. I can tell you a secret: I made a match for my oldest daughter a year ago. I did not promise a large dowry. The agreed date for the wedding on the Shabbos [Sabbath] after Shavous [spring holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah] was written into the engagement contract. However, I had to seek pretexts for delaying the wedding for later. I tell you however, that the real reason is simple: because it is difficult for me to pay the dowry. And I know that my inlaw is a merciless Jew. He will not relent [for even] a penny.
Hearing these words, I controlled myself with all of my strength and did not even smile. On the contrary, I was very happy with what he meant, that now the Viennese Jews would create a talisfactory for the Kolomea workers. I only made a stern face and I said:
I believe you that it is too difficult for you to make a wedding for your daughter. However, I think that the mitzvah [commandment] of communal help for young women without the resources to marry is not the obligation of your workers. They have the first mitzvah of responsibility for their wives and children… Yet, I will point out that you and your household eat a good lunch and good supper from the [profits of] the Taleysim weaving shop. And your workers also want the same for themselves and their households… You should not forget for a second that your Taleysim weaving shop cannot run without your workers. Not one talis can be made for you without them. However, without you, if they were given the necessary sum of money they could and would…
At my words the manufacturer became soft as dough: he gave me a proxy to reach an agreement with his workers.
But frankly, with them, with the workers, it was not so easy for me. They, the workers received my written advice with very little interest. They believed the same as their manufacturer.
With great effort I persuaded them that meanwhile they should go to work, until… yes… until the Viennese Rothschilds would make their own Taleysim factory for them.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Kolomyya, Ukraine Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2018 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 01 Sep 2015 by JH