(49°20' 22°17' )
by David Kessler
Donated by Maurice I. Kessler
The Shtetel of Baligrod, with its 250 Jewish families, was detached from the wide world because of the lack of trains. The residents were forced to travel for about 20 kilometers to reach the first station, Lesko-Lukavitsia. In spite of the fragile connection to the outside world, there were a lot of intelligent people among the secular and chasidic circles.
In the shtetel there were 3 shuls. The general shul was considered to be one of the most beautiful in Galicia. In it were paintings that were painted by the famous painter Mr. Messer from Sanok. This shul was built by the famous philanthropist Rabbi Levi Zvi Grossinger.
Till WW I there was also a Klauiz of Sadaguray Chasidim that was burnt by the Russians. In the shtetel there were prominent Jews, Talmidei Chachamim and pious Jews like Reb Herzl and his brother Reb Chaim Vitman, Reb Shalom Meisels, Reb Yosef Zefat (the shochet ?), Reb Yitschak Lefelshteil and his son Eliezer, who took care of the birth certificates in the shtetel, Reb Yisroel Rappaport who had the opportunity to live in Israel, Reb Rubin Alster and his son Simon, and last but not least the Moreh D'asra Reb Asher Teitelbaum zul.
Regarding the Klauiz mentioned above, I remember one episode which is typical of the warmth of the Baligroder people that were and perished. It was on Rosh Hashonah of 1914, we were ordered by the Austrian Military commander to open the stores on Rosh Hashonah. We finished praying at 10 am in the morning, and we went home to eat the festive meal. While we were sitting at our meal we were informed that an Hungarian (unit-battalion) including a lot of Jews arrived in town. They went to daven in the Klauiz.
All the town Jews gathered in front of the Klauiz because it was crowded inside already. Among the soldiers there was also a chazan-shochet. They davened with a lot of excitement. The part of the Ata Nigalaysa, I will never forget. After the davening we prepared the tables. However we had the festive food at home, so we brought it to the Klauiz and nobody went hungry. The Shochet-Chazan as an appreciation to the shtetl promised to rebuild the Klauiz, when he returns home from the war. Unfortunately we did not hear from him anymore.
There was also a Beit Medrish of Chasidei Bokovsk-Blozov (yabornik), with dear Yiden and Yirei-Shamayim like Reb Nuta Dayan, Reb Yehuda Tzvi Mittman, Reb Shimon Mittman, and his sons, Reb Yitschak Dayan and Shmuel of the Garfinkel family, and Reb Lipa Meisels. These men were workers and baalei tzedakah.
I remember a story that was told in our shtetel about Reb Lipa Meisels. That he once stood in the Prezimshel train station, and it was Mincha time. When he stood up davening shemoneh esrei, he heard a whisper about a Jewish fellow who lost a bundle of dollars. Reb Lipa stopped in the middle. He said that he found the bundle and continued davening. After the davening he returned the money to its owner. People were puzzled and asked him how come he stopped in the middle of shemoneh esrei and he said, I was afraid that the yezer hara will coax me out. Then I will have second thoughts.
After WWI some Zionistic clubs were established. Like, Zionim Clalim, Mizrachi and the League for the working Eretz Yisroel. At this opportunity I would like to mention the dedicated zionistic activist, Yosef Haring. He dedicated all his life for Eretz Yisroel causes. Unfortunately he did not see the fruit of his work. At the top of Mizrachi and Young Mizrachi, served Mordchai Gimpel and Shimshon Meisels.
In general, in the shtetel, there were young sophisticated people that were a pleasure to strike up a conversation with them. Also among the plain people there were tyerer yiden.
Whoever did see the simcha on the Eve of Simchat Torah, when the chevra kadisha had the election for their offices, did see a simcha of his lifetime. At the end I want to emphasize the warm heart of a simple man named Yonah Shoav, a shomer mitzvot that lived in the hekdih. All day long erev Pesach, he carried water to the houses. And when he arrived home after davening, very tired, he noticed that his wife who was not a very big balabusta, did not even start to prepare for the seder. He fell asleep till the morning and when he woke up he started the seder at daylight. The neighbors and everybody at the Shtetl gathered around his window and helped him to prepare the seder.
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