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[Pages 181-182]

Strimatra

(Strîmtura, Romania)

47°47' 24°08'

Romanian: Strîmtura
Hungarian: Szurdok

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It is a village about 25 kilometers southeast of the district city of Sziget. All of its residents were Romanian.

Jewish Population

Year Population Percentage
of Jews in the
General
Population
1830 23 (1352
residents)
1920 409 12.7
1930 369 10.5

 

The Beginning of the Jewish Settlement

A Jew in Strimatra is first mentioned in the Jewish census of the year 1748, where a Jew with a wife, two children, and two servants helping in the home economy are mentioned. The names of the Jews, their occupations, and their places of origin are not noted in that census. Apparently, he was occupied in peddling. However, that Jew did not remain long in Strimatra, for, once again, no Jew was mentioned in Strimatra in the census of 1768.

The following heads of families in Strimatra are listed in the census of 1830 (number of individuals in parentheses): Maria Feintuch (6), David Zisa (5), Yitzchak Zisa (7), Yisrael Zisa (6), Binyamin Wiesel (8), Srul Zisa (4), Hirsch Leib (6), Meir Hirsch Schwab (6), Vizer Schwab (2), Hirsch Moskovics (4).

It is almost certain that the first Jew to lay down roots in Strimatra was Reb Yitzchak Stern, the son of Reb Mordechai Stern from the village of Salist (see entry). He settled in the village during the 1780s. He became wealthy, and followed the path of his ancestors, standing out in hosting guests at a large scale. The Tzadikim of his time, such as Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum of Ujhel, Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhyn, and others were guests in his home. These Tzadikim compared the home of Reb Itzik Stern to the home of Abraham our Forefather. He was also accepted by the village authorities, such as Baron Tlaki the owner of the village, as well as the district authorities. He interceded on behalf of the Jews of Máramaros. All of the townsfolk, with the exception of one family, were his descendants. When he died at the age of 82 in the year 5605 (1845), he had hundreds of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and descendants in the village itself as well as in villages of the area who followed his path in the way of Torah and Hasidism. The most illustrious of his sons was Rabbi Yosef Stern, who served as the rabbi of Sziget for 24 years (from 5594-5600 1834-1840)[1], and as the head of the rabbinical court and district rabbi from 5600-5618 1940-1858.

Many legends are told by the descendants of Reb Itzik Stern, who was nicknamed Der Zeida Reb Itzik [Grandfather Reb Itzik], until the latter generation. We will note one story here in the words of Reb Yekutiel Greenwald, as told to him by one of the grandchildren: Once he was walking with a certain Jew to intercede with a minister on behalf of the community. The minister was a good man, but quick to anger. When they arrived at the minister, the found him eating and drinking, and he received them honorably. He ordered his servant to go to the cellar to fetch the best wine to serve his guests. When the minister served the guests, they refused to drink, claiming that Jewish law forbids them to drink their wine. Then the minister rose from his chair in anger and fury and told them that there has never before been such brazenness, where a Jewish person has refused and turned his back to his request. He continued on, “I will give you ten minutes to respond. If you fulfil my request, it will be good, and I will also fulfil your request. However, if you refuse, I am prepared to kill you on the spot with my sword.” Reb Itzik rose from his chair, and blessed G-d who gave him the opportunity to sanctify the Name of G-d in public. He even answered the minister, “I am prepared to die for the sanctification of His Name.” Then the minister turned to his friend, “And You? Drink now and save your life.” He listened to him, took the cup, and drank. Then the minister said to them, “You should know that my intention was only to test you. I wanted to see how precious your Torah is in your eyes. You, Itzik, are very dear to me. I am prepared to fulfil your request today and at any time.”

Apparently, the process of organizing the community of Strimatra began at the beginning of the 19th century. The cemetery opened at that time. One of the oldest gravestones was of the wife of Reb Itzik Stern from around the year 5570 (1810). The first mikva was opened when Reb Itzik arrived in the village. The synagogue was built from wood during the first quarter of the 19th century. The Chevra Kadisha was founded and its charter was set around that time, even though the Jews of the village actually fulfilled their duty at the time of need[2].

The community of Strimatra belonged to the rabbinical district of Rozavlea. The rabbi of Rozavlea, Rabbi Moshe Kizelnik, would visit the village frequently. Apparently, he even lived in Strimatra for a brief period. Rabbi Eliezer David Greenwald issued the following response to him during that period:

Responsa Keren LeDavid section 112: Regarding the custom that some householders of that locale that when they place an eruv techumin[3] so that they can go to worship with a minyan, they do not return to their houses. It seems like they are acting upon the direction of a sage, and he asks me if this is indeed the law…

Rabbi Tzvi Cohen was chosen as the rabbi of Strimatra at the beginning of the 1930s. He was born in the village of Petriva in the year 5664 (1904). His father, Reb Yeshaya HaKohen, a scholar and a Hasid, was a descendent of the Tzadikim Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch the Magid of Nadworna the author of Tzemach HaShem LeTzvi, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, and the author of Kuntrus Hasefekot. He studied

[Page 182]

under Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager in the yeshiva of Ubevischau. He published many works of Torah in the Degel HaTorah publication. He was known as a very sharp individual from among the yeshiva students. He was one of the students who make their teacher smarter. He would engaged in a great deal of didactics with the rabbi, who held him in very high esteem. At times, he was given the task of testing the students. His comprehensive knowledge amazed everybody. For example, he would recall every paragraph of the first section of the Yoreh Deah with the Pri Megadim. He married the daughter of the wealthy Hasid Reb Tzvi Basch of Strimatra. He founded the Beit Aharon Yeshiva in Strimatra, the number of whose students reached 50-60. It students saw great blessing in their studies. Many scholars emanated from this yeshiva. The students were bound to their rabbi with heart and soul. Rabbi Tzvi Cohen was deported to Auschwitz on 26 Iyar 5704 (1944), and was sent to labor. He died as a martyr in the Dura Camp on 25 Tevet 5705 (1945). Some of his novella on Jewish law and lore were preserved, and are owned by his son-in-law Rabbi Chaim Meir Lustig of Brooklyn. Seven responsa to him were published in the books of the author of Keren LeDavid. Beer Chaim Mordechai, and Afarkasta Deanya, all from the era when he lived in Petriva (see entry), and some from before his marriage.

The community of Strimatra had several charitable, benevolent, and study societies. One of the natives of the village lists them as follows: The Bikur Cholim society functioned alongside the Chevra Kadisha. Its purpose was to help poor sick people and their families. The members of the society would organize night rotations next to the bed of the ill person in order to ease the pressure on the family. Between the two world wars, the gabbai [trustee] of the Chevra Kadisha and Bikur Cholim society was Reb Nachman Pintur. The Chevra Mishnayot [Mishnah study] society held in high esteem. Between the two world wars, the gabbai was Reb Yaakov Steinmetz; Regarding the study of Torah [Talmud Torah], the Chevra Mishnayot obtained a plot of land in order to set up cheders for the study of Torah. The plan did not come to fruition due to a shortage of money; the Chevra Shas [Talmud Study group], and Chevra Tehillim [Society for recital of Psalms] for simple Jews; The Chevrat Bachurim (or Ateret Bachurim) [Youth group or Crown of Youths] whose members were lads prior to their marriage. Their main activity was conducting a separate prayer group on Sabbaths. This way, the youths learned the customs of the prayers, and gained experience as prayer leaders and Torah readers.

The livelihood of the Jews of Strimatra was not fundamentally different from that of the villages of Máramaros. A significant number of townsfolk were owners of lands. Reb Pinchas Hoz and Reb Yaakov Feintuch owned large tracts of land. At first, the lands came to the Jews by leasing the lands of Baron Tlaki. After the revolution of 1848/49[4], the baron sold a significant portion of his lands, and almost all the Jews of the village obtained plots of land. People of means obtained large plots. In the second half of the 19th century, the Jews also transferred to commerce, such as the lumber business that developed greatly especially after the development of the railway line in the country. They also tried their hand at commerce in wheat, fruit, and cattle. About ten families owned shops, some including a tavern. Jews earned their livelihood also from the work of their hands as tradesmen. According to the memory of the village natives, there were four shoemakers, two carpenters, one glassmaker, and others. Almost every family maintained a small farm that provided some of their provisions. Several Jews owned sheep, and produced kosher cheese that was sold throughout the country.

From the 1880s until the end of the 19th century, the community notables and parnassim [administrators] were as follows: Reb Chaim Leib Lebovics, Reb Tzvi Hirsch the son of Reb David, Reb Mordechai Stern, Reb Yitzchak the son of Fishel, Reb Tzvi Lebovics, Reb Tzvi Yehuda Basch, and Reb Mordechai the gabbai [trustee] of the Beis Midrash.

Reb Mordechai Fishkovics the son of Reb Fishel was one of the important householders of the village. He was one of the activists of Beit Máramaros, a proper, upright man with a good heart. He survived the Holocaust and died on the 7th of Tishrei, 5730 [1969].

{Photo page 182: Mordechai Fishkovics.}

From the beginning of the century until the outbreak of the First World War: Reb Yitzchak Fishkovics, Reb Tzvi Neulander, Reb Tzvi Aryeh Basch, Reb Chaim Adler, Reb Alter Zalmanovicz, Reb Moshe Eliahu Fishkovics, Reb Tzvi Yehuda Fishkovics, Reb Fishel Fishkovics the gabbai of the Chevra Mishnayot, Reb Shmuel Stern, Reb Moshe Yehuda Stern.

At the end of the 1902s and the beginning of the 1930s: Reb Moshe Leib Stern, Reb Yaakov Steinmetz, Reb Yaakov Ganz, Reb Shmuel Mandelovics, Reb Yaakov Feintuch, Reb Yosef Yaakov Kuperman, Reb Yekutiel Yehuda Shochet, Reb Chaim Efraim Tzvi Perl, Reb Yehoshua Yaakov Goldstein, Reb Eliahu the son of Reb Menachem Dov Dab, Reb Chaim Yisrael Shreiber, Reb Mordechai Shlomo Fuchs, Reb Yitzchak Shtoiber, Reb Matityahu Stern, Reb Pinchas Hoz, Reb Yitzchak Hoz, Yechezkel Fuchs, and others.

During the Holocaust years, many Jews were divided up into work camps in Hungary. Many did not return. At the end of April 1944, all the local Jews were concentrated in the Beis Midrash. From there, they were transferred to the Dragomireºti Ghetto, from where approximately 400 people were deported to Auschwitz.

Holocaust survivors returned to their village after the war. (In 1947, their numbers were 32.) However, they quickly left the village. The vast majority made aliya to Israel.

Today, there are no Jews in Strimatra.

 

Bibliography

Sh. Avni: History of the Jewish Community of Strimatra – Máramaros. Toldot, issues 1-2 (5-6), Tishrei 5734 (1974), pp. 7-14 (In the Romanian version, ibid., issues 3-4).
Yekutiel Yehuda Greenwald: Matzevet Kodesh, vol. I, Sziget and the District of Máramaros, New York, 5712 (1952), pp. 14-15.
Ibid.: A Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Hungary, New York, 5706 (1946), p. 234.
Reb Eliezer David Greenwald: Responsa Keren LeDavid, Satmar, 5689 (1929), Section 112.
Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, vol. VII, Budapest, 1963, p. 748.
Yad Vashem Archives: 03/2013.
Sh. Avni: History of the Jewish Community of Strimatra – Máramaros. Toldot, issues 1-2 (5-6), Tishrei 5734 (1974), pp. 7-14 (In the Romanian version, ibid., issues 3-4).
Yekutiel Yehuda Greenwald: Matzevet Kodesh, vol. I, Sziget and the District of Máramaros, New York, 5712 (1952), pp. 14-15.
Ibid.: A Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Hungary, New York, 5706 (1946), p. 234.
Reb Eliezer David Greenwald: Responsa Keren LeDavid, Satmar, 5689 (1929), Section 112.
Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, vol. VII, Budapest, 1963, p. 748.
Yad Vashem Archives: 03/2013.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. 1. There is either an error in the dates or (more likely) in the listed duration. Return
  2. 2. I assume that this means “even before the founding of the Chevra Kadisha.” Return
  3. 3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruv_techumin Return
  4. 4. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungarian_Revolution_of_1848 Return

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