« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 257]

Portraits

 

Chaim Gross
(1904)

by B. Tsh.[1]

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

kol257.jpg

 

It can be said about the widely acknowledged and well–known sculptor, Chaim Gross, that he was without a doubt, an even greater “miracle from Kolomea” than his brother, the poet, Naftali Gross, long may he live. Actually, Chaim Gross was a resident of Kolomea only for a few years during his earliest childhood years, but the influence of the Kolomea Hasidic environment in Chaim Gross' extensive artistic creation becomes even clearer and more distinct.

[He] was born in the Carpathian village of Wolowa [Mezhgorye, Ukraine] in 1904. Chaim Gross was three or four years old when his family of many children – Chaim was his parents' 10th child – settled in Kolomea. His father, Reb Moshe, already was impoverished at that time and there was little attention given to Chaim's education. Meanwhile,

[Page 258]

the First World War had began. In the panicked and the chaotic escape from the pogrom of the Cossack invasion, Chaim alone remained a 10–year old boy alone in “a world in flames.” After innumerable torments, the lonely young boy reached Budapest where he entered into an apprenticeship with a jeweler and even received the ability to begin to draw and to paint.

When the reactionary [policies] began to rage in Hungary, Chaim made his way to Vienna. There he suffered hunger and hardship until his brother, Naftali, who had emigrated to America shortly before the outbreak of the war, enabled him to come to New York in 1921.

A new world opened here for the 17–year old young man. He really had to labor very hard in order to earn his livelihood; but at the same time, he became a diligent art student at the Educational Alliance [and], later, also at other superior art schools and with relentless stubbornness and rare perseverance, Chaim reached the very important position in the art world, which he has to this day.

Chaim Gross soon received American and international prizes for his wonderful sculptures in wood, stone and bronze. He arranged frequent exhibitions, which always caused a sensation in the interested circles. His studio in Greenwich Village, in New York was always a meeting place for local and not local art critics and art dealers. The fact that he was officially invited to create a sculpture of the first Israeli president, Chaim Weizmann, shortly after the rise of the State of Israel, shows how popular Chaim Gross was across the ocean, particularly in the Jewish world.

Professor Josef Vincent Lombardo, the famous American art critic, published a large biographical–critical work (in English), Chaim Gross: Sculptor.[2] In this work we find, in passing, these remarks:

[Lombardi p. 105] “Chaim Gross's philosophy is very simple indeed. He believes that his sculpture should stir the observer's imagination and awaken in him the consciousness of form and beauty hitherto unknown to him.”

[Lombardo p. 132] “To Chaim Gross, the human body is a source of abstract invention; nevertheless he always preserves

[Page 259]

some aspects of its representational character…”

[Lombardo p. 221] “Chaim Gross is an artist of unusual creative imagination and productivity…”

[Lombardi p. 222] “…new subjects will in turn suggest new forms and only through this process of creative evolution will he continue to produce original work of indisputable artistic merit.”

The influence that the Kolomea Hasidic environment left forever on his artistic spirit [is evident in] Chaim Gross' observation in his conversation with a New York art critic:

“I was raised in the joy of the Creator and in spiritual pleasure. I do not understand the artists who are ruled by productivity and the grotesque. Why should the artist behave like a corpse as long as he is alive and creates?”


Translator's footnote:

  1. These initials belong to Baruch Tshuvinsky whom the editor, Shlomo Bickel thanks in his preface to the yizkor book. Return
  2. The following quotes have not been translated from the Yiddish text, but are taken directly from Professor Lombardo's English–language book, Chaim Gross: Sculptor, Dalton House, Inc. 1942, 247 pp.; the book includes photos of and comments on Gross's sculpture up to that date. A “Biographical History” chapter starting on p.73 describes Gross's early life and influences as told to the author by Chaim and his older brother Naftali. Return

Coordinator's note

    Chaim Gross drew and contributed the title page drawing to the yizkor book. He died in 1991 and was buried in Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Brooklyn–Queens NY.
    The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation maintains a repository and display of his work in NYC and can be reached at www.rcgrossfoundation.org.


The Poet Naftali Gross
(1897–1956)

by Shlomo Bikel [Solomon Bickel]

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Naftali Gross was born in Kolomea on the 10th of Tevet 5657 (January 1897).

He spent his early years in Slobodka–Lesna where for several years his father, Reb Moshe, was the treasurer of the sawmill not far from the Jewish colony and agricultural school named for Baron Hirsch.

At first Gross studied with private melamdim [religious teachers] and with his father, later in khederim [religious primary schools] and in the Polish school in Kolomea. He prepared the gymnazie [secondary school] course privately. Gross began to write poems at 12–13 years of age. The Hasidic and folk stories that he had heard at home and had read in storybooks influenced Gross' poetry.

Gross left for Canada in 1913 and from there came to New York. At first he worked as a typesetter in a printing shop. In 1917 he became a teacher in the schools of the National Workers Union; later – over the course of 15 years – in the Arbeter Ring [Workman's Circle] schools and middle school. For a short time he also was teacher in the Sholem Aleichem Schools.

[Page 260]

Gross debuted in the Keneder Adler [Canadian Eagle] in 1913 with his poems. In 1915 he began to publish poems, stories and essays in the newspapers and journals: Fraye Arbeter Shtime [Free Workers Voice], Onheyb [Beginning], Oyfkum [Rise], Velt Ayn, Velt Oys [World In, World Out], Zukunft [Future], Kunds [Customers], Veker [Waker] Yidish Kemfer [Jewish Fighter] Di Zeit [The Times]. Forverts [Forward], Der Fraynd [The Friend], Tog [Day], Morgn Zshurnal [The Morning Journal],

 

kol260.jpg

 

Kinderland [Children's Land], Kinder–Velt [Children's World], Kinder–Zshurnal [Children's Journal], Indzel [Island], Studio, Epokhe [Epoch] – all in New York; Der Tsvayg [The Branch], Filozofia [Philosophy], Renesans [Renaissance] – in London; Kritik [Criticism] in Vienna. In 1943 Gross became a worker at the Forverts. He published his work, Mayselekh un Mesholim [Little Stories and Parables] over the course of 1946–1952. In 1918 he translated the first of three parts of [Heinrich] Heine's Buch fun Leider [Book of Poems] (Yiddish Publishing House); of Edgar Lee Masters, of Edward Arlington Robinson, Kahlil Gibran, and other American poets. With Avrom Reizen he translated poems by Reb Solomon Ibn Gabirol for Dr. A. Ginzburg's Poets and Thinkers in the Middle Ages. Gross edited the journal, Kinder–Ring [Children's Ring], published by the Teachers Union of the Arbeter Ring in 1929–1930. In 1936 he edited the weekly children's section of Tog; in the 1930s [he edited] the children's and women's section of Fraynd, New York. In book form: Psalmen [Psalms], Lider un Meditatsies [Poems and Meditations], New York; Lider [Poems], New York, 1920; Der Veyzer Reyter [The White Rider],

[Page 261]

poems and ballads, New York 1925; Yidn [Jews], poems and ballads, New York, 1929; Eugene Debs (a story about a man), New York, 1933: Vladimir Medem (the legends of the Jewish workers movement), a biography, New York, 1938; Mayses [Stories], with drawings by Chaim Gross, New York, 1935 ([later in] Hebrew [translated] by Shimshon Melcer, Tel Aviv, 5710 [1950]; Yidn, second book of poems and ballads, New York, 1938; Di Finf Megiles [The Five Scrolls], Yiddish with an introduction and explanations for Eykhe [Book of Lamentations], New York, 1936; Tehilim [Psalms], Yiddish with an introduction and Hebrew text, New York, 1948; Shir haShirim [Song of Songs], Yiddish, Yosem Tsvi Publishing House, Rio de Janero, 1949.

Although Gross' books of poem were warmly received by the critics, some of his writing comrades had complaints as to why “in the time of revolutions and barricades,” he was occupied with religious themes (Di Psalmen) and too much with the shtetl [town] (the two Yidn books). Years later, the same writers changed their opinion toward life and toward Yiddish life and turned to Naftali Gross' themes.

“He was shy and reserved,” his poet–comrade, Efroim Auerbach, writes about Naftali Gross, “but in his shyness was a spiritual strength, which did not bend nor bow, but with the most internal light illuminated himself.”

This strength that shone from Gross' dark eyes with his tenderness and with his soulful relationship to people, along with his naivety and simplicity, made him beloved to everyone who knew him.

The Second World War and the Jewish catastrophe in Europe severely affected Gross and destroyed his health.

Notes left on Gross' writing table, had written on them – “If only I had known all of the Kolomea Jews, the wonderful figures, people and types who each in his way affected Jewish life there in the city, I would have tried to save as many as possible of the magnificent people, but I did not know them.”

In the summer of 1948, Naftali Gross suffered his first severe heart attack and in June 1954, the second one. From then on he had to give up the greater part of his work little by little.

[Page 262]

In 1955 Gross' book, Mayselekh un Mesholim, was published, from which he still received much satisfaction. The book was very warmly received by the critics and readers.

However, he did not live to see the completion of the work on the Kolomea Yizkor Book. Sunday, the 8th of April, 1956 (27th of Nisan 5716), around two o'clock in the morning, Naftali Gross breathed out his illustrious soul.

 

Speech Given at his Funeral
Tuesday, the 10th of April 1956

Once at night in Kolomea
A fire broke out, may we be spared –
The city almost went away with the smoke,
And who knows what would have, God forbid, happened,
If Josl klezmer [musician] had not been there, –
A time of wonder!

Josl stood in the middle of the market,
[He] played so fervently, so strongly on his fiddle –
That the fire immediately left the roofs. –
Who knows what would have, God forbid, happened.
If Josl klezmer had not been there, –
A time of wonder!

Josl klezmer, the alter ego of the poet Naftali Gross, was there and in the times of wonder, served the city and its wonderful Jews with his poems.

And as I stand now at the coffin of my beloved comrade, friend and fellow townsman, Naftali Gross, I see the shadows of our common holy community embrace the deceased and envelop him with love and thanks.

They come, the shadows, one by one – the rabbi and the magid [preacher], the respectable middle class man and the impoverished man, the bride and the old servant, the old tailor and the fiddle player – now they all come, as we say good–bye to their celebrator, their immortalizer in beauty; they come to welcome him with honor, come to console his family; they also come to give us, his comrades and friends, a word of consolation and to the

[Page 263]

entire Jewish literature, which has lost one of the most respected representatives of the modern Yiddish poem, lost him at the age of barely 59, lost him just at the blossoming of his creativity.

In the 30 years of his poetic and Biblical translation activity, Naftali Gross was one of the Pleiades of Yiddish, Galicianer poets, who remained a complete and utter romantic; I mean a poet whose romanticism was classic and did not exhibit the foolishness of all of the divisions and fractures of tragic mockery and the grotesque that was so characteristic of Jewish singers in Galicia.

He was our Naftali Gross, the calm Galicianer of our literature, who never had an unfriendly argument with the images and visions from the old home that accompanied him; he was right with his God in his creations, always welcoming with piety the poetic gift with which he was gifted. He was the poet who created wonder by forming the same happy calm with which his most beautiful hero and alter ego, Josl klezmer, deceived the fire in the middle of the market on the strings of his fiddle and saved the city from a fire.

The poet, Naftali Gross, was a rare artistic portraitist and artistically painting a portrait for him meant tearing out the image from the surrounding noise, smoothing over his own unhappy distress and transforming it into a monument of calm and beauty.

Naftali Gross left us a magnificent garden of created calm and beauty. This poetic beauty, whose creator was our dearest deceased, will blossom for as long as Yiddish lives. And Yiddish, the Yiddish poem, will live eternally. The Yiddish poem will never be erased from the soul of the Jewish people, never be erased from the spirit of our people.

 


[Page 264]

The Musical Child Prodigies

The Brothers Sigmund
(1900-1952)

and Emanuel Feuermann
(1902-1942)

by Dr. Isaac Shchor

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Kol264.jpg

 

Among my relatives, who mainly were butchers, was one named Mendl Henigsberg. Mendl Henigsberg's daughter married the musician Meir Feuermann.

Meir Feuermann was a gifted player of several musical instruments, but his two sons, Sigmund, born in Kolomea in 1900, and Emanuel, born two years later in 1902, achieved fame.

At three years old, Sigmund already was playing the violin; at four years he tried to read musical notes and at five he appeared in public as a violinist at the Kolomea Zionist Women's Union, “Rachel.”

To be able to perfect his wonder-child in music, the father moved his family to Vienna. In Vienna Sigmund studied with the music professors Roze, Feist and Shepczik and at age eight he gave his first violin concert in the Austrian capital.

In 1911, at age 11, Sigmund had colossal success with a violin concert with the London Philharmonic Society, which was under the patronage of the English king.

From London, Sigmund Feuermann's triumph over Europe and America began. He came to America

[Page 265]

in 1925 and had a great success there with his concerts. He also became a teacher at the New York Music Academy.

Sigmund spent five years in America. In 1930 he returned to his parents in Vienna.

However, he only benefitted from his virtuoso glory in Vienna for a few more years. The difficult pre-Nazi and then the horrible Nazi years immediately arrived. It should be understood that there could be no talk about appearing publicly as a musician under the Nazis.

One day before the deportation of the Vienna Jews, thanks to the intervention of his younger brother Emanuel, who then lived in Zurich, Sigmund and his parents crossed the Austrian-Swiss border.

Sigmund only spent four months in Switzerland and he emigrated from there to Eretz-Yisroel. And in Eretz-Yisroel it was apparent that the glory of the once famed wonder-child had been harmed considerably.

Sigmund took a position as music professor at the American University in Beirut, but the growing hatred by the Arabs forced him to return to Tel Aviv.

Sigmund Feuermann's last years in Tel Aviv were sad and then tragic. There were few concerts, few lectures, little income and little peace with his wife.

One day at the beginning of 1952 he became paralyzed; he lost his ability to speak. Sigmund died several months later.

 

2.

Emanuel (Munya), the younger brother of Sigmund, reached even more glory, but he was cut down at a younger age.

Emanuel was a cello virtuoso. He studied music with his father and with Professor Anton Walter. Emanuel gave his first public concert at the age of 11 as a soloist with the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra. Emanuel later studied with the well-known musician Julius Klengel in Leipzig.

[Page 266]

Kol266.jpg

 

At age 16 Munya Feuermann himself was a professor at the conservatory in Cologne. And it did not take long for him to lead the cello division of the Berlin Music Academy and strengthen his name in Europe as one of the most important cello virtuosos.

In 1934 Munya Feuermann gave a series of concerts in Eretz-Yisroel and evoked great enthusiasm. Then he lived in Vienna for several years and from there he traveled around for concerts in France, England and America.

In 1938, when Hitler entered Austria, Munya Feuermann settled in America permanently. He appeared in many cities and played with many orchestras with great success. In 1941 the 39-year old cello virtuoso became the leader of the chamber music department at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. A year later Munya Feuermann became ill, went through an operation and died at the early age of 40.


The Nationalist Educator of Two Generations

Laibel Taubes
(1863–1933)

by Meir Henish, Tel Aviv

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Laibel (Arya Leib) Taubes was born on the 19th of Adar 5624 (1863). His father, Reb Yitzhak Ayzyk Taubes, was the rabbi in Otynia and his grandfather was the famous gaon [scholar] and Iasi Rabbi, Reb Ahron Moshe Taubes, the author of [a book of] questions and answers, Karnei Re'em [The Horns of the Wild Ox]. His mother was descended from well–known righteous men, back to the Rozhiner [Rebbe] and the Baal–Shem [Tov] [founder of Hasidism].

Even as a very young man, Laibel Taubes already had begun to feel that besides [concern for] the after life, we Jews lacked the feeling and comprehension

[Page 267]

Kol267.jpg

 

of the “pintele Yid” [essential feeling of Jewishness]. And thus he came to Zionism before the Zionist movement. At the beginning of 1890, as one of the first 10 pioneers, he began to work on publicity for the Jewish national idea. He sent an appeal “.And the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language,” [Esther 8:9] in which he declared the necessity of a Jewish newspaper. And soon he also created the first Yiddish newspapers in Galicia – Di Yidishe Folkszeitung [The Jewish Peoples Newspaper] and the Folks Freynd [People's Friend], both in Kolomea, and the HaAm – Dos Folk [The People or The Nation]. The first Zionist generation drew its basic ideas of Jewish nationalism and Zionism from these newspapers. Taubes also participated in the first National Jewish Conference in Lemberg in 1891. He also immediately stood in the service of Theodor Herzl and of his political Zionism and translated Herzl's Judenstat [State of the Jews] into Yiddish.[1] Herzl greatly valued Taubes' work and engaged him as a speaker and propagandist for Zionism.

Thanks to his rabbinical background and traditional way of life, as well as his great knowledge of Yiddish, Taubes was very successful with the middle–class Jewish circles that were then the majority of Galician–Bukoviner Jewry. His sermons and speeches particularly inspired the young generation Zionistically in the Jewish cities and towns and many of those who were drawn by the spirit of the speeches, are today in the ranks of Jewish leaders and activists in the Jewish centers of various countries. Taubes spoke at more than a thousand Jewish people's gatherings in almost every city and town in Galicia and Bukovina before an audience of more than a quarter million Jews.

Taubes lived for several years in Chernowitz [Chernivtsi], where he published the Judishe Vokhnblat [Yiddish Weekly Newspaper]. At the beginning of the First World War he and his family moved to Vienna and he also was active there as a Zionist activist and speaker, particularly in eastern Jewish circles. In Vienna, thanks to his initiative and work,

[Page 268]

the union Zion was created with the public Jewish library, around which gathered the Zionists of the eastern countries who lived in Vienna. Taubes was a delegate to many Zionist Congresses and also took an active part in the Zionist national political work in Austria. He also was a candidate to the Reichstag on the Zionist side during the parliamentary elections.

In addition to many Zionist appeals and brochures, Taubes published the minutes of the Katowice conference in Hebrew in a new edition with a preface as well as a book on Talmudic elements in Yiddish proverbs (in Yiddish) and Dos Judishe Jahrbuch fur Austreich [The Jewish Yearbook for Austria] (together with Chaim Bloch, in German). During recent years Taubes was an official with Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund].

Laibel Taubes' two sons, Dr. Dovid and Dr. Yisroel, live in Tel Aviv. The youngest [his third] son, the Yiddish poet, Yakov Shmuel, is a resident of America.

Coordinator's note

    This information about Taubes' Yiddish translation of Der Judenstaat may be in error. Joshua Shanes writes:
    “Taubes himself recognized that even traditional Jews tended to view Yiddish as inherently less sophisticated than German or Polish. That is why he deliberately chose to transliterate Herzl's Der Judenstaat rather than translate it outright in order to preserve a sense of seriousness and realism that he hoped Herzl's status would invoke… [Taubes, according to Gershon Bader] fearing that had he produced a true Yiddish translation, Galician Jews would have viewed it as ‘laughable, to treat in jargon, such a deep diplomatic question as the founding of a Jewish state.’”
    p. 133 in Shanes, Joshua, Diaspora Nationalism and Jewish Identity in Habsburg Galicia, Cambridge University Press, 2012. See the book's index for more information about Taubes and his work.


The Last Kolomea Rabbi

by Rabbi Joseph Lau

by G.P.

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The rabbi, Reb Joseph Lau was born and raised in Lemberg [Lvov, Poland from 1918 to 1939; L'viv, Ukraine from 1991…]. He was the son of Reb Hirsh Leib Lau, of the respected residents of Lemberg and was descended both on his father's and mother's sides from great rabbinical ancestry. Reb Joseph Lau's brother Moshe was a son–in–law of the Vizhnitzer [Vyzhnytsia] Rebbe and rabbi of the Bukowiner city of Shutz (Sutshava [Suceava]), and in the years before the disaster in the Hungarian city of Eperjes. Reb Joseph Lau's brother–in–law, Reb Mordekhai Fogelman, is today the Rabbi in Kiryat Motzkin near Haifa.

 

Kol268.jpg

 

As a boy, the future Kolomea Rabbi showed great genius and was entrusted with the office of rabbi by such great Talmud scholars of that time as the Lemberger Rabbi, Reb Yitzhak Shmelkis, the Berezhany Rabbi, Reb Sholem Mordekhai haKohen Shwardron and the Chernowitz [Chernivtsi] Rabbi Reb Benyamin haKohen Weis.

[Page 269]

In 1911 Rabbi Joseph Lau married the daughter of the rich banker and mill owner, Reb Yakov Beidaf, in Kolomea. The young son–in–law was busy in his father–in–law's large business during the first years and the Jewish community only knew him as a great scholar and a [teacher] of Talmudic lessons for young men in the small Vizhnitzer synagogue.

After the First World War, Reb Joseph Lau was drawn into communal work. The Agudas Yisroel [Orthodox anti–Zionists] was founded then and Reb Joseph Lau appeared at its head as a spokesperson and leader, and leader of the fight against Zionism in Kolomea. He himself was an exceptional speaker and a first–class organizer. The pious young men and a considerable number of the Hasidic middleclass gathered around Reb Joseph Lau. He created a yeshiva [religious secondary school] and founded a Bais–Yakov [Orthodox school organization] and Bnos Yakov [daughters of Jakob] School and made Kolomea a bit of an Aguda fortress. Rabbi Lau's main co–worker was the lawyer, Dr. Ben–Tzion Fesler, who helped him organize the pious talisim [prayer shawls] weavers and created a union of Poalei Emuni Yisroel [Religious Workers of Israel].

The bank of his father–in–law, Reb Yakov Beidaf, no longer existed then and Reb Joseph Lau and his brothers–in–law carried on business by exporting poultry, which went from bad to worse because of [Polish Finance Minister Wladyslaw] Grabski's tax penalties against Jews.

Around 1930 the city began to talk of hiring a rabbi. The rabbinical seat in Kolomea had remained vacant for over 20 years since the Rabbi, Reb Gedaliah Schmelkes left the city in 1907 and returned angrily to Przemysl.

The Agudah leaders, among them the Lipa brothers and Avraham Shmuel Heller, Dr. Ben–Tzion Fesler and Leibush Krys, negotiated about bringing the Smapolner Rabbi.

This was learned by the Zionist circles and Reb Yona Ashkenazi, one of the leaders of Mizrakhi [religious Zionists], thought out a plan of how to prevent Agudah from getting its rabbi and neutralizing the Agudas work of Reb Joseph Lau.

The Mizrakhi leader Yona Ashkenazi offered Reb Joseph Lau the rabbinate on the condition that he not be politically active. The representatives of the Zionist parties agreed to Yona Ashkenazi's proposal and Reb Joseph Lau also agreed.

On another day, the Zionist parties began to make efforts in support of their candidate. The Agudah was surprised. It did not expect Mizrakhi to put forward the

[Page 270]

candidacy of its sharpest opponent. The Agudas Yisroel split and some of the leaders held stubbornly to the candidacy of the Sampolner Rabbi. However, the majority went over to Reb Joseph Lau.

The kehile [organized Jewish community] council unanimously chose Reb Joseph Lau as rabbi. After an interval of 23 years, Kolomea again had a rabbinical authority, who was worthy to sit on the seat of such scholars as Reb Hillel Lichtenshtein and Reb Gedalia Schmekles.

The city was very satisfied with the new rabbi. Rabbi Lau was a big hit with his Polish speeches at state celebrations and even more with his sermons at der Hoykher Shul [the Great Synagogue] every Shabbos haGadol [Sabbath before Passover] and Shabbos Shuvah [Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur]. Rabbi Lau also was an exceptional organizer in the area of Jewish education and of teaching among adults.

All Jews saw their spiritual leader in Rabbi Lau and he “found favor with the multitude of his brethren: he sought the good of his people…” [Book of Esther 10:3].

Eliezer Unger talks about Rabbi Lau during the Nazi time in his book, Zikhor [Memories] (Tel Aviv, 5705 [1945], pages 74 and on):

“One of the most frightful edicts during the first months of the Nazi occupation was the edict that Jews must tear out the headstone at the cemetery and pave the streets with them. Hundreds of old and new cemeteries in Poland were destroyed as a result of this edict. I remember that day during the 10 Days of Repentance 5702 [days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 1942], when the Gestapo entered the office of the chairman of the Judenrat [Jewish council] and demanded several hundred workers to rip out the headstones. The head of the Judenrat informed the local rabbi, Rabbi Joseph Lau, about the order. The members of the Judenrat assembled on the same day in order to consult on what to do. The majority of those assembled wanted to oppose the order. Most argued: no matter what happens to us, we will not desecrate the graves of our parents. But Rabbi Lau declared that the sin does not belong to the three, of whom it was said ya'avor v'al ye'hareg [guiding Jewish principle of “transgress and do not be killed”].”

Those assembled listened to the rabbi's words with grief and pain. A fast was called for the next day and –

“We all stood around the graves and the rabbi among us. Before we began to tear out the headstones, the rabbi went to one of the older graves and said approximately thus: “Sacred graves, sacred bones! Forgive us for desecrating your honor. It is an edict on us to desecrate the sacredness of your

[Page 271]

graves and we must carry out the edict so that our children and grandchildren will remain alive. We ask mercy from the Divine Throne on the people of Israel on whom tragedy has been poured…”

And raising his trembling hands, the rabbi called out: “God is my witness, we are anusim [Jews forced to abandon Judaism].” The rabbi could not finish his words. He began weeping and everyone wept with him. And then the rabbi, with tears in his eyes and with trembling hands, went to tear out the first headstone. The heads of the kehile [organized Jewish community] helped him.”

At the end of the year 5702 [1942], Rabbi Lau together with other Jews were sent to the Belzec death camp.

It was said that on the way to the train station, the rabbi found himself walking near the leader of the left Poalei–Zion [Marxist Zionists], Yitzhak Shlomo Shmoys, whom everyone in the city called “Rabbi Shmoys.”

Rabbi Lau is supposed to have said to Rabbi Shmoys, “You see, all these years, I went one way and you went another way and today we are all going on the same path. We are all Jews and we are all doing the will of the Holy One, blessed be He.”

Rabbi Josef Lau, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, was the last Kolomea rabbi. He sat on the rabbinical seat for 12 years, from around Shavous 5690 (1930) until his death al Kiddush haShem [in the sanctification of God's name – as a martyr] at the end of 5702 [1942].

Only one of Rabbi Josef Lau's sons, Shmuel Yitzhak Lau, survived. He now lives in Tel Aviv.

Coordinator's note

    Based on what is stated about his family, we can assume that Rabbi Joseph Lau was briefly the uncle of Israel Meir Lau who was 8 years old when freed from Buchenwald, and went to Israel in 1945 where he lived with his Aunt Bella –Joseph Lau's sister–and her husband, Uncle Mordecai Vogelman in Kiryat Motzkin. Rabbi Israel Meir Lau was Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003 and published an autobiography in Hebrew in 2000: “Do Not Raise a Hand Against the Boy.”


The Rebbe-Bokher
(188? -1917)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The Rebbe-Bokher [Hasidic rabbi who was a young man] was one of the most colorful pious-Jewish personas in Kolomea. He was the Rebbe, Reb Mordekhai Nadverner's grandson and himself a rebbe in Kolomea. He was called the Rebbe-Bokher because he began praven tish [led a communal meal at which a rebbe's followers are present] before he was married.

The Rebbe-Bokher was a people's rebbe. His Hasidim were completely from the poor. The Rebbe himself was an impressive figure, a handsome man, a sharp nay-sayer with wonderful commonsense, evoked admiration on one side and, from the other side, considerable contempt on the part of the Hasidic spiritual world and on the part of scholars and rich men.

[Page 272]

Legends about the Rebbe-Bokher spread while he was still alive. One legend saw in him a great philanthropist, who would give the small pidyones [gifts given to a Hasidic rebbe after meeting with him] he received from his poor Hasidim to the needy, and others saw in him a kind of cynic who made fun of the world and his Hasidim and of himself.

Much was written about Rebbe-Bokher, who stimulated the fantasy of the city dweller, and each writer provided his legend. (See: Shlomo Bikel in his Shtot mit Yidn [City with Jews], New York, 1943; Meir Henish in Reshimes [Lists], volume 2, Tel Aviv, 5717 [1957], Avraham Yitzhak Braver in his essay, Kolomea, haTzofe [The Observer], Tel Aviv, 5714 [1954] and Moshe Rat in Reshimes, Tel Aviv, 5717.)

Each writer gives his own version and each one has a remarkable amount of good and pertinent stories to tell about and in the name of the Rebbe-Bokher.

We will provide only a few facts about the Rebbe-Bokher, as they are told by Levi Grebler who was present at the wedding of the Rebbe-Bokher and knew his family, and several characteristic lines from the pen of the writer, Meir Henish, because we think that they come the closest to objectivity.

Levi Grebler writes from Tel Aviv: “Summer 1903, a large rabbinical wedding took place at Leib Zenenreich's in the large inn at Jagielonska Street opposite Mota Pesakh's house – a wedding that had never before been seen by the city. Everyone ran to watch the wedding. Reb Mordekhiale Nadverner made the wedding of his grandson.

“Several days later, a large plank bed with furniture pulled up in Reitana Street, near the house of the widow Miriam Shneier, and a young man, a handsome one, a tall person with a brown beard and with a high fur hat on his head and a kaftan with a velvet collar and velvet cuffs on the sleeves, stood near the porters and told them how they should carry the furniture into the house and not damage it.

“Here I will list the Rebbe-Bokher's first Hasidim, in addition to me and my playmates: Ayzyk Frid, a son of the grain merchant, Reb Shmuel Frid; Chaim Becher, Moshe Yehuda Becher's son, and Moshe Fan (today in America). The rebbe's adult Hasidim were: Dutsia Bandel and his son Gershon, who has been in America since 1909; Khaskl Fliker, the butcher Hersh Shofter, who was called

[Page 273]

“Hersz Noz [nose]” or “Hersh Pan [Mister] Kolomea”; the shtreiml [fur hat worn by members of some Hasidic sects] maker, Avraham Hersh Cygelaub, Tevl the fisherman, Ayzyk the deaf one, who sold butter; Borukh the baker, who was called Labik-Baker; Hersh the porter, Itshe the coachman's father (in America since 1911); the butcher, Henekh Szifter and Pinya the soda-water carrier.

“As the Rebbe already had Hasidim, he rented two small rooms from Dutsia Bandel for a men's synagogue with a women's. The Rebbe was a good singer and Torah reader. He himself would pray at the reading desk and it was a pleasure to listen to him. On Saturday evenings he liked to play his violin.

“No rich Jews nor Talmudic scholars crossed the Rebbe's threshold, although a considerable number of them lived near him. The Rebbe-Bokher only acquired one well-to-do Hasid. This was a Jew with the name Zegenreich, an insurance agent from the Adriatika Society. He would visit the Rebbe for Havdalah [concluding Sabbath ritual] and the Rebbe played Gut Vokh [good week] for him on his violin. Zegenreich would leave a nice gift for him and Cuban cigars for the entire week. The Rebbe also smoked a large, beautiful amber pipe. Many women would come to the Rebbe for remedies and ask for a healing for an illness. Often, one would hear crying from women who came to ask the Rebbe for the salvation of sick children.

“Later, in the years before the First World War, the Rebbe-Bokher lived better. He bought a house on the Klebanye, near Yona Zager's talisim [prayer shawl] factory.

“The Rebbe had four children – three daughters and one son, Meirl. The Rebbe was often seen strolling near his house, speaking with Jews as well as Christians. The Germans spoke German with him. The Rebbe did not interfere in politics, not even at elections. When I came home from the First World War, I did not meet the Rebbe. He had died during the time of the war. Many of his Hasidim dispersed, mostly to America. Others died. The rebbitizin [rabbi's wife] married her oldest daughter to the son of a rabbi. The second daughter married the son of Zayde Landman, may he rest in peace, a large cloth merchant in the city.

[Page 274]

The Rebbe-Bokher's son, Meir, who was supposed to be his father's successor, turned from Yidishkeit [a Jewish way of life] after the premature death of the Rebbe; he became a communist. He evacuated from Kolomea with the Soviet Army and was murdered on the road by Nazi bombs.”

* * *

The writer, Meir Henish, relates in his memoirs, that –

“The Rebbe-Bokher did not exalt himself over his Hasidim, who were all common people. He maintained his folksiness and behaved simply and modestly. He prayed more and commented on the Torah less. He had a sense of humor and instead of miracles and tales of wonder, his Hasidim spoke of his witticisms and sharp jokes.”

According to Dr. Avraham Yakov Brawer, the very exuberant humor that the Rebbe used with his Hasidim he did not use with his own wife, the rebbitzin [rabbi's wife]. He constantly quarreled with her and he cursed her: “May you live through hard times in this world and in the other.” And his words came true, because after his death, she endured hardships. Before his death, he also issued a decree for her that every erev Shabbos [Friday night] she should go to his oyel [tomb] at the cemetery and bless the [Shabbat] candles. And this unfortunate woman carried out his will, she went to the grave in the heaviest downpours and frosty blizzards, when no person was seen on the street.


The Zionist Veteran
Dr. Shlomo Rozenhek

(1862-1934)

by T.M.

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The Folks-Doktor [people's doctor] Shlomo Rozenhek was a veteran of the Zionist movement in Galicia and the symbol of Zionism in Kolomea. He was the senior delegate from Kolomea to the First Zionist Congress in Basel (the younger of the two delegates was Peysie Zinger's son, Shlomo Zinger, then still a student at the Juridical faculty in Lemberg.

[Page 275]

During the first years of the Zionist Congress, when there was a quiet and also half-public quarrel between [Theodor] Herzl and the Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] movement under the leadership of the Tarnow lawyer, Dr. Avraham Zalc, Dr. Shlomo Rozenhek was on the side of Dr. Herzl and Kolomea was a political-Zionist fortress. Dr. Rozenhak was a member of the broader shareholder's committee and Herzl's close co-worker in Galicia.

 

kol275.jpg

 

Dr. Shlomo Rozenhek had Dr. Herzl's Judenstaat [Jewish State], which accidentally fell into his hands, to thank for his Zionist convictions.

Dr. Rozenhek writes about this in his essay, “Why did we go to the First Zionist Congress?” (1922):

“I already was politically active as a student in university. During my time as a student in Vienna, I was a German national, and as I began my medical practice in Kolomea, I became a Polish national. At the end of the year 1896, doubts about assimilation stole into me, mainly because I had read Judenstaat.

“In 1897, I was sent as a delegate to the first Zionist Congress in Basel by the union, Yishuv Eretz Yisroel [Land of Israel Settlement], to which I belonged only for philanthropic reasons. I traveled to Basel more because of Switzerland than because of the Congress. On the way I met my childhood friend, Dr. M.T. Shnirer (in our joint time of study in Vienna, Shnirer, who traveled to Basel together with Professor Maks Mandelshtam, had not succeeded in drawing me in as a member of the student union, Kadimah [Onward]). The conversation with Dr. Shnirer awakened strange feelings in me that grew stronger and more positive after I became acquainted with Dr. Theodor Herzl in Basel.

“After the First Zionist Congress I changed completely spiritually. Coming home to Kolomea, I became one of the most passionate Zionists. At a large people's gathering I

[Page 276]

evoked such enthusiasm among the young gymnazie students that they enrolled as a body as members of the Zionist union, Beis Yisroel [House of Israel]. As a result, Kolomea became the center of Zionist life in Galicia. This Zionist centrality lasted until the end of 1901.”

Dr. Rozenhek did not exaggerate anything in his report about his own great contribution to the rise of Zionist work in Kolomea.

For all the years, Zionism in Kolomea remained identified with the name, Dr. Shlomo Rozenhek. During the first 20 years after Basel, Dr. Rozenhek was the active stimulating power of Zionist work. Later, when he grew older and younger strength arose, Dr. Rozenhek, until his death in 1934, was the respected symbol of Zionism in the city.

From a report that Mikhal Hazelkorn published in the Lemberger Togblat [Daily Newspaper] (28th September, 1922) about the celebration of Dr. Rozenhek's 60th birthday, we extract several points about the celebrant's devoted and self-sacrificing work for Zionism in Kolomea and in Galicia.

At the celebration, representatives from all Zionist parties appeared and all unanimously spoke about Dr. Rozenhek as Herzl's first friend in Galicia, about Dr. Rozenhek the co-founder of the Colonial Bank (Dr. Rozenhek's signature was on the shares of the bank), about Dr. Rozenhek's propaganda trips through Galicia and Bukovina on behalf of Zionism and to the harm of his own large medical practice, about Dr. Rozenhek, the president of the kehile during the most difficult time of the Ukrainian regime and president of the national council during the no less difficult time of the Romanian occupation, about Dr. Rozenhek, the Joint [Distribution Committee] activist and doctor at the Jewish hospital, about Dr. Rozenhek's earnings for Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] and Keren Hayesod [The Foundation Fund – United Israel Appeal] and for the maintenance of the Hebrew School.

In a word, there was no corner of Zionist and Jewish national work in the city that was not connected with Dr. Rozenhek's work or with the prestige of Dr. Rozenhek's name.

[Page 277]

Dr. Shlomo Rozenhek died in 1934 in Lemberg after an operation in a hospital there. His remains were brought to Kolomea, where he was buried. Dr. Rozenhek's funeral was one of the largest funerals in the history of Jewish Kolomea.


The Creator of the Religion Yirat Elohim[1]

Moshe Yakov Schwerdscharf
(1858-1922)

by M. A. Shulwas, Chicago

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Moshe Yakov Schwerdscharf was born in Bilgorai near Lublin on the 2nd of Tevet 5618 [19 December 1857] (beginning of 1858). He was descended from a rich and illustrious family. His father from his great grandfather, Reb Mordekhai Hajlpern from Kaidan, was a brother-in-law of the Vilna Gaon [genius] and, on his mother's side, he was a descendent of the Hokhem Tzvi, the famous rabbi from Amsterdam.

 

kol277.jpg

 

Our family legends still circulate today about Moshe Yakov's brilliance and about his clear commonsense. It appears that he also had capabilities as a painter. It is said that when he was a boy, he would cook eggs in coffee and would with a needle engrave on the brown area [of the eggshells] in miniature and with great accuracy faces of those close to him. One of the lords from whom Moshe Yakov's father, Reb Dovid Tevil, would lease a whiskey distillery wanted to send the boy to an art academy. However, his pious parents would not hear of it.

When Moshe Yakov was 20 years old, he married Sura Hirsz of Kolomea, a daughter of Shaltiel Ayzyk haLevi Hirsz, of a prestigious Kolomea family. Moshe Yakov settled in Kolomea, where his family remained forever. He wandered all over the world, but he would constantly return to his family.

[Page 278]

At first, Moshe Yakov was a merchant, a rich man. But, as his head did not lay in commerce, he lost his possessions and almost always lived in need. In 1895-1897 he was in Budapest where he apparently did physical labor and lived in great poverty. At the inn in which he lived, he did not even have his own room. Despite this, he wrote his small book, Daas LeNevonim [Knowledge for the Wise], a commentary on Ethics of the Fathers.

Moshe Yakov returned to Kolomea in 1898. It is certain that he also was in Kolomea in 1900, 1906 and 1909, because he published several of his small books there. His three children were also born to him in Kolomea: a son Shaltiel, a daughter Chava Raitsa, who later lived with her family in Bilgoraj, and the youngest daughter, Ryvka Chana, who lived with her mother in Kolomea. I do not know where Moshe Yakov spent his later years. It appears that in 1919, he was in Krakow because he published his, Birkat Hamazon Hakatzar [Short Grace after Meals], according to religious prayer Halakhot Tefilah [Laws of Prayer] of the Rambam. Around 1921 he came to Warsaw, old and sick but still full of great plans. His dream was to prompt the non-Jewish world to adopt a new religion whose basis would be the Sheva Mitzvot B'Nei Noakh [seven Noahide Laws]. For this purpose, he published a pamphlet of 72 sides with the name Emuna Hakduma [Ancient Religion] with a title page in Hebrew, Polish, German, English, French and Russian. The Hebrew version is: "This Hebrew book contains the holy and pure religion of the people called The Fear of God, the believers of which will be called The Fearers of God. I beseech those who find interest in the religious question in this book to translate it into all languages, and I hope that it will provide you with pleasure and satisfaction.”

We also see that he gave the believers of the new religion a name, Yerai Elohim [God-fearing people]. In the introduction he asserts that this is not a new religion, but he wants to lead all of humanity to a pure belief and to peace. In the last chapter, he writes exactly who his parents were, when and where they were married and when and where he himself was born. He does this, he writes, in order that after his death it is not said that he was born supernaturally.

H.D. Fridberg records in Beis Eked Sforim [Bibliographical Lexicon] seven of Moshe Yakov Schwerdscharf (he was not familiar with Emuna Hakduma and the Kitzur Birkat Hamazon [Shortened Version of Grace After Meals), mainly small, pamphlets of 16 sides.

[Page 279]

One of these he published anonymously three times (the first time in Kolomea, 1890) under the name Torath Ha'amim [The Wisdom of the Nations]. I never saw this book, but according to its name, I surmise that this was an earlier, anonymous version of the Emuna Hakduma. Among the other treatises, it is worthwhile to remember Drosh vaTefila Keter Melukha [Essential Prayers for the Royal Crown], published in 5669 [1909] in Kolomea, in honor of Franz Joseph's 60th state jubilee.

In the preface to Emuna Hakduma, Moshe Yakov Schwerdscharf asks that his pamphlet be translated into various languages. He was sure that the great universities of the world would disseminate his idea. In the middle of his dream, he suddenly fell in the street in Warsaw and died. I do not remember the exact date, but it must have been in the summer of 1922. His daughters and grandchildren still lived in Kolomea, Bilgoraj and Warsaw at the outbreak of the Second World War.


[Page 279]

The Teacher, Reb Wolf Rozenkranc

by Dr. Moshe Elihu Nhir (Klarman) Tel Aviv

Yiddish translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Hebrew translated by Sara Mages

Wolf Rozenkranc was born in 1846 in the shtetl [town] Horodenka near Kolomea. His father, Moshe, maintained an inn in the shtetl. When the inn burned, Reb Moshe Rozenkranc and his family moved to Kolomea. As a youth, Wowa [diminutive of Wolf] was a child prodigy. At the age of 25 he took part in the Rabbi's Conference in Chernovitz in 1871.

In 1883, when the future deputy from Kolomea, Dr. Josef Shmuel Bloch, was victorious in the trial against the anti-Semitic Professor August Roling, respected members of the Kolomea middleclass with the very wealthy man, Reb Yakov Bretler, at the head, sent a congratulatory letter to him. The highly pompous letter was written by Reb Wolf Rozenkranc and he signed it:

“Dr. Shoshanim [Dr. Roses - Dr. Rozenkranc], teacher of young children of Yeshurun [Jewish], here in Kolomea.”

Reb Wowek [diminutive of Wolf] was the author of many Hebrew poems and he translated poems from German to Hebrew. Among the translated songs was the Austrian anthem. The most important one of the books Reb Wolf Rozenkranc published is Sefer Moreh Shevile ha-Lashon [a Hebrew grammar book for language teachers].

[Page 280]

The introduction to the book is in rhyme and reads thus:

My notebook! Sail between the Hebrew camp
Bring a greeting to all seekers of wisdom,
Don't be proud of your mistakes, my daughter,
Because a net of error is slanted on every book.

The eyes of your lovers will explore you
Will see in you all the pleasantness and beauty
Those who envy you will look at you
All good and helpful - defect and blemish in their eyes.

Don't recoil from critics who will meet you
Tell them an excuse that is already known:
How hard it is for a man to do something with wisdom
And how easy it is to find a flaw in everything.

When my father, Efroim Klarman, of blessed memory, together with several pious and enlightened members of the middle class in the city founded the first Kheder Metukan [modern religious school] under the name Torat Chaim [Theory of Life], Reb Wolf Rozenkranc became one of the main teachers there.

At the time of the First World War, Reb Wowik [spelled Wowek above] was a refugee, first in Vienna and then in Carlsbad.

He traveled from Carlsbad to his children in the city of Mannheim in Germany. There, Reb Wowik died on the ninth day of Kislev 5676 (1916) [actually 1915, on the 16th of November] at the age of 70.

He prepared the inscription on his headstone himself. We provide here a part of the wording:

Here
In the depths of the earth
In the Hall of Silence
A dwelling
For a man respected by his community
He also wrote useful books for the Jewish people
In the glory of the language that God has chosen
And always used his logic wisely
The writer of the book “Moreh Shevile ha-Lashon
And the book “Time to talk”
And the book “The grammar rules in a way of singing,”


Translator's footnote:

  1. Fear of God Return


[Page 281]

Member of Suchnot[1]

Dr. Fishl Rotenstreich
(1882-1938)

by Y. D. (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Dr. Fishl Rotenstreich was a child of the Kolomea hey-platz [hay square]. He was born and he was raised there. His father, Yehoshua, a pious Jew, who prayed and studied at the Roytshulekhn [small, red synagogue] died young and left his wife, Sora née Rotenstreich, and his only son, Fishl, in poverty.

Fishl studied at the Baron Hirsch School and then at the Kolomea Polish gymnazie [secondary school] at Mickewicza Street.

Fishl helped his mother with their livelihood when he was at the gymnazie by giving “private lessons.” At one such “private lesson” he became acquainted with Manya Eiferman, the daughter of the rich grain merchant Yisroel Eiferman. Manya later became his wife.

 

kol281.jpg

 

When in gymnazie [secondary school], Fishl Rotenstreich was occupied with Zionist work. He founded the organization Betar with friends. The organizations at the Jewish gymnazie in Kolomea and in other Galicianer cities then united and under the name Tseiri Zion [Youth of Zion], became the secret national movement of the educated young people in Galicia. The central committee was in Lemberg and there, in the capital, at the beginning of summer vacations the yearly vietsn (congresses) were held.

Fishl Rotenstreich made his first appearance in the public arena as a student from Vienna University. He came to Kolomea then (1907) and took an active part in the election propaganda of the Zionist candidate to the Reichsrat [Imperial Council], Dr. Yehosha Ton.

[Page 282]

After graduating from the Philosophy Faculty in Vienna, Fishl Rotenstreich became a gymnazie [secondary school] teacher at first in Hungarian Brod, then in the shtetl [town] of Bursztyn and finally in the middle Galician city of Sambor.

Rotenstreich was an extraordinary gymnazie teacher; he spoke Yiddish publicly and took an active part in the Zionist work in the city.

The Poles remembered Rotenstreich's Jewish nationalism and when Austria crumbled and Sambor became Polish, the new rulers arrested Fishl Rotenshtreich and held him for several months in a concentration camp.

He was freed through the intercession of Chaim Weizmann and Nakhum Sokolov at the English Interior Ministry.

Fishl Rotenstreich was elected on the Zionist list to the Polish Senat and then to the Sejm. His specialty was economic questions of the Polish Jewry. He also wrote a well-read article in the Warsaw Heint [Today] about these matters.

As the leader of the General Zionist Group B in Galicia, Fishl Rotenstreich was chosen as a member of the Jewish Agency at the 19th Zionist Congress in Lucerne and he settled in Jerusalem with his family.

Rotenstreich took over the leadership of the Department for Industry and Commerce at the Jewish Agency and remained at the head of this important division until his premature death in 1938 at the age of 56.

Fishl Rotenstreich left two sons: Natan and Yehosha. Natan is a philosophy professor at Jerusalem University and Yehosha – a lawyer in Tel Aviv.


Translator's footnote:

  1. Jewish Agency Return


[Page 283]

The Jewish Teacher in Vilna

Dr. Yisroel Biber
(1897-1942)

by Shin Beis

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Yisroel Biber was a friend of mine from the Kolomea gymnazie [secondary school]. I remember the new wooden house that his parents built on Morka Street. Biber was not communally active in gymnazie. He did not belong to the secret student organization, Tseiri Zion [Youth of Zion].

After many years, I met him for the first time during the winter of 1935 in Vilna. He occupied a respected place there in the Jewish school and cultural world.

There are three articles about Yisroel Biber in the memorial book about the teachers from the Tsysho [Tsentrale Yidishe Shul-Organizatsye – Central Yiddish School Organization] schools in Poland who perished.

We provide here short citations from all three articles to characterize Yisroel Biber and his work.

 

kol283.jpg

 

“Yisroel Biber actually came to us from afar, from Kolomea in southern Galicia to Vilna in northern Lithuania; this is quite a distance. However, he very quickly became a “Vilner” with heart and soul. His systematic methodical education was far from our yeshiva [religious secondary school] traditions, autodidactic, enlightened. All of us at the Seminar were folkslerer [teachers of the people], who themselves had climbed up to higher levels of knowledge. Biber came with a great deal of knowledge and an even greater love of nature. For others, for us, natural science was a part of our pedagogical communal ambitions. For him, this was a direct love, planted in him from childhood on, more knowledge

[Page 284]

and fewer impulses and urgencies. Two worlds, and I often marveled at how quickly he grew to feel at home among us.

“We led the Jewish Teachers' Seminar along with Biber for an entire nine years.

“Yisroel Biber took an active part in the cultural work in Vilna, in general. He led the evening courses for workers of Vilbig (Vilner Bildungs-Gezelshaft [Vilna Education Society].

“Yisroel Biber wrote a great deal and enriched our poor Yiddish natural-scientific literature. The bibliography of his works in this area is very large.”

Regina Weinreich relates:

“Yisroel Biber came to Vilna in approximately 1924 at the invitation of the Teachers' Seminar as a teacher of natural science and geography and he later became the director of the Seminar. When the Polish regime closed the Seminar, Biber took over the same subjects at the Real Gymnazie [secondary school emphasizing the sciences] of the Central Education Committee and worked there until the Germans arrived in Vilna. During the vacations, Biber would travel to the Medem Sanitorium (Miedzeszyn, near Warsaw) to direct the natural science work there.

“From the start Biber found it was not easy to impart in Yiddish the knowledge that he received in Polish. He gave a great deal of effort to overcome the difficulties and did this, as everything, very thoroughly: working out terminologies for his subjects, taking part in terminology commissions, putting together teaching and reading books on zoology and anatomy and systematically writing popular scientific articles in Folksgezunt [People's Health].

“Yisroel Biber was a real expert in his trade, a stubborn and systematic worker. He helped to raise Jewish study in and around the school with his activity and equalize the level of instruction to the highest European standards.

“Biber was idealistically inclined, but he never was a militant Yiddishist; in general, he did not have a combative nature, but he obviously brought his complete honesty and consistency to his private life. His house was full and completely Jewish. The Germans took Biber from Vilna to Estonia before the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto.”

[Page 285]

Sh. Giligski describes it:

“Dr. Yisroel Biber was connected with the Medem Sanitorium for over eight years. He would spend almost all his summer and winter vacation there, as well as other times when he was free of his work in the Vilna schools.

“Thanks to Biber working with it, the sanitorium became rich in content and the life and pleasure derived from it for the children was fuller and deeper.

“Dr. Biber was among the few teachers who, with their work and talent and with their strong love of children, elevated the education of children to such a high level that the institution became famous first to the tens of thousands of Jewish children in Poland and then in the pedagogical world.”

I note books from Biber's published works: 1) Zoologie [Zoology], first part of Onshedredike [Invertebrate], Vilna, 1934; 2) Anatomie, Fiziologie and Higiene fun Mentsh [Anatomy, Physiology and Hygiene of People], Vilna, 1945.


The Leader of the Bund

Dr. Adolf Frisch
(1891-1943)

by Ed.

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Dr Adolf (Bunjo) Frisch was the oldest son of an esteemed fabric shopkeeper, Motl Frisch. The house in which the future leader of the Bund in Kolomea grew up and was educated was a pious, enlightened house. The sons studied in khederim [religious primary schools] and also graduated from the Polish gymnazie [secondary school] and then one studied medicine and another engineering. One of the three sons, Elihu (Eltsie), born 1896, did not succeed in attending a university. He fell in June 1916 at the Austrian-Italian front, in the mountains of southern Tyrol.

Adolf Frisch studied medicine in Vienna and served in the Austrian Army, receiving his doctoral diploma in 1916. The same year, he also got married in Vienna to Ida Shor of Kolomea. Their only child, a daughter Miriam, was saved

[Page 286]

from death in the ghetto and lives today in Stockholm as the wife of her landsman [person from the same town], Ervin Saudek.

In 1930 Adolf Frisch settled in Kolomea. He immediately became one of the most esteemed and beloved doctors in the city. He was beloved and esteemed by all of the rich and middle-class patients, beloved and truly idolized by "the common people." Adolf Frisch was a people's doctor in the nicest sense of the word. He was more than a doctor to his poor patients. He was their friend and their consoler. He healed them without payment and if it was needed, he left the necessary coins to buy various remedies.

A very busy doctor (Dr. Frisch, over the course of years, also was the director of the Jewish hospital), Frisch found time for communal and literary work.

Between both World Wars, he was the leader and the gem of the Bund in Kolomea. He was the Bund's spokesman and the most important communal envoy to joint ethnic institutions and he diligently did literary work. He took part in Bundist publications with short stories and articles and he tried to make a reality of a great literary plan: translating all of Shakespeare into Yiddish. He had already completed several of Shakespeare's dramas. As Dr. Frisch's brother Zigmund, who lived in America in the city of Lancaster in Pennsylvania, asserted in a letter, Dr. Frisch held these Shakespeare translations as his most important literary achievement.

According to the information from friends who lived in Kolomea on the eve of the catastrophe and during the catastrophe, Dr. Frisch was also busy with the translation of Goethe's Faust and he had read the translation of several scenes from the first part of Faust to a group of friends.

In 1938, Adolf Frisch's poetry collection, Libe nisht Mer [No Longer Love], 120 pages, was published in Kolomea by der Bloyer Shtrokh [the Blue Stroke].

Dr. Frisch remained in Kolomea the entire time until the liquidation of the ghetto. He perished at the hands of the Nazi murderers on the 26th of March, 1943.


[Page 287]

The Minister of Education of Tel Aviv

Dr. Elihu Maruz-Rozenbaum
(1897-1952)

by Shlomo Bikel

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Elihu Rozenbaum was born on the 30th of May 1897. During his gymnazie [secondary school] years he was one of the leaders of the student education group, Tseiri-Zion [Youth of Zion].

In 1921 he received his Doctorate of Philosophy from Vienna University. He graduated from Dr. [Adolf] Schwarz's Vienna Rabbinical Seminary the same year.

He was one of the main founders of the Hashomer Hatzair [the Youth Guard – secular Socialist Zionists] organization in Vienna and chief editor of the Polish publication, Hashomer [The Guard].

From 1922 to 1923, Rozenbaum was the director of the Jewish-Polish gymnazie in Bialystok.

 

kol287.jpg

 

He was then the director of the gymnazie in Plock and of the Yavne [religious Zionist] middle school in Lodz and inspector of all Tarbut [secular Hebrew language] schools in Poland.

In 1929, he emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel and at first became a teacher at the famous gymnazie in Haifa and from 1940 until his death, the leader of the municipal education department in Tel Aviv.

On the 1st of July 1952, Elihu Maruz-Rozenbaum died after a severe heart attack.

[Page 288]

I do not know why an official title is connected with the managing society of the municipal education department of Tel Aviv, but in the autumn of 1950, when after a long, long time I met with my childhood friend, Elihu Rozenbaum; he looked like the expert government ministers with whom I also met then – preoccupied, bent under the burden of responsibility and a mountain of plans, with realistic and Menakhem Mendl-like plans.[1]

And another similarity to the government ministers: friends were also concerned about him, the Minister of Jewish Education of Tel Aviv, that he was working beyond his strength and quietly let him know that he needed to take care of himself because his heart was not “fine.”

Eltsie (that was what we called him during the years shared in kheder [religious primary school] and shared at the gymnazie [secondary school] in Kolomea) came to me at the hotel several times with the clear intention, he said, to have a conversation about “old times,” about gymnazie teachers, religious teachers, school Jews, about friends, those without number who perished and the few survivors and about everything that we remembered together as a pair about the days and nights at the “convent” (representative council) of the gymnazie group, Tzeiri Zion, and the library in his parents' house, at the Hebrew club and at the annual viets (congress) summer-time in Lemberg.

We sat on the terrace of the Hotel Irkun and had made, so to say, the introduction to conversation. We calculated how long we had actually not seen each other since the several years of close friendship in the Kolomea secondary school.

In one flight of our memories, we put together 36 full years, from the beginning of the First World War and up to the conversation on the Irkun terrace at the end of 1950.

Both of us, I think, simultaneously remembered that the 36 years had had an interval – an interval of one hours-long winter night that Eltsie had spent in my house in Bucharest when he came on a special mission from the Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] Directorate from Eretz Yisroel to somewhere in Romania for several days at the beginning of the 1930s.

– And remember, then – Rozenbaum said to me as if with a reproach – we said almost nothing about Kolomea.

[Page 289]

I spoke then about Eretz Yisroel and then I sang Eretz Yisroel songs for hours on end (although I was asked if I had been invited or had I myself rushed to the synagogue lectern? – Eltsie smiled sadly with his eyes and with his dimples on both cheeks) and then it became late and I went to my hotel in Bucharest and then 19 years later I again came to you for a conversation in the hotel in Tel Aviv.

We were already, as I said, at the beginning of a conversation about “those days,” but just then when his eyes and dimples smiled auto-ironically, I saw a hidden paleness on his face. I remembered what friends had told me, this his heart was not “fine” and I felt a need to caress him with warm and friendly care.

Eltsie, they tell me – I started a second introduction to “conversation” – that you work too much, that you exceed your strength both in the office and in traveling. So we – I tried to speak jokingly – remembered the 36 years that we have not seen each other. What do you mean, 36 years are only an abstract time and not 36 steps down in physical health nor 36 measures less energy and strength?

With my few words of concern about Eltsie's health, I was not willing to move the conversation away from the theme that we both desired so much and for the several times thereafter, that we saw each other, by no means could I return to it [the subject of his health].

Rozenbaum listened to my humorous words of concern and honestly confirmed that he often did not feel well, that he made frequent visits to the doctors about his heart and that the doctors, and mainly his own brother, the doctor, asked him to take good care of himself and to work less and less. However, how was this possible? How could he take care of himself when there was so much work, so much endless work that had to be and must be done?

And my friend Elihu Rozenbaum began to talk about this, how the educational needs during these recent several years had grown in Tel Aviv, about the scarcity of school buildings, scarcity of good teachers, scarcity in school benches and so many other scarcities for which he had the duty and responsibility, as far as possible, to evaluate

[Page 290]

in order to argue for budget increases with the municipal managing committee and until he finally succeeded in persuading them and as he came to terms with the finance minister about foreign currency and he left for Switzerland to buy comfortable chairs, it had cost him some of his health.

The number of children grew, the number of teachers grew and also the number of school buildings and, along with them, Rozenbaum's work hours, Rozenbaum's communal difficulties and the symptoms of his heart ailment also grew.

But in one detail – he had taken over one of the conversations from me – I did not have problems. The opposition is the municipality, your Histadrut [General Organization of Workers in Israel] – his eyes brightened with satisfaction, no, with joy, and the dimples on his checks shone as always – is not a problem for me. With my party comrade, the mayor, Rokach, there was actually a war, but not with me and with my school department.

Why is “my Histadrut” so good and gentle to him, the devoted party comrade and coworker of Yisroel Rokach? Rozenbaum's answer to my question was a clever smile and a quiet utterance, more to the table than to me: It seems, that I have luck. (I remember Eltsie's father, Reb Hersh Rozenbaum's clever and smiling to the table when he would speak about the successes of his successful daughter, Frida, and her successful brother.)

Friends we had in common and people from Histadrut later explained to me that Rozenbaum's luck with the opposition was not only miraculous. The Education Minister of Tel Aviv made it very difficult to engage in opposition because he was the most capable, most energetic, most loyal and most responsible leader in the [educational] area that the city had ever had. And a close friend of mine from Histadrut added something of his own: Rozenbaum – he said – added to the luck of the city and to the difficulties of the opposition in that he was not concerned with politics, only with education.

When I saw Rozenbaum for the last time at the home of our common young friend, Dr. Shemaria Elenberg, Director of the Geule Gymnazie [secondary school], he did not seem to be particularly

[Page 291]

filled with good health. He sat quietly and sadly in a corner and barely said a word.

But once in the course of the evening we happened to sit close to one another. Then he bent over to me and spoke to me as if from somewhere in the middle of an already long drawn-out conversation: the old, pious Jews who you described in your Shtot mit Yidn [City of Jews] all remained devoted to the people and to Yidishkeit [Jewishness, connoting an emotional connection to Judaism and/or to the Jewish people and their history, beliefs and customs ], but the young Jews from Tseiri-Zion [Young Zionists], from the library and from the congresses in the majority withdrew from the front. From our generation, from those who were spokesmen, who remained? Only a few.

I wanted to tell him that of the few who had remained devoted, he was the most devoted and that we, the survivors, were succeeding him and [continuing] his good work for the people and the country.

However, I was not successful in doing so. The woman of the house called us to tea and the friends at the table drew me into their conversation.


Translator's footnote:

  1. Menakhem Mendl is a Sholem Aleichem character who is an impractical man with lofty aspirations. Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Kolomyya, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max G. Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2021 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 05 Aug 2021 by JH