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[Pages 183-185]

Sieu [Shief]

(Șieu, Romania)

47°43' 24°13'

Romanian: Sieu
Hungarian: Sajó

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 51 (906
residents)
1920 481 23.8
1930 324 18.5

 

The Beginning of the Jewish Settlement

The first Jews arrived in Sieu during the first half of the 18th century. In the census of the Jews from 1746, one Jew is listed, with a wife and no children. His name is not mentioned in the census. It seems that he was involved in liquor distilling.

In the census of 1768, three family heads (10 individuals) are listed: Leib Lazar, with a wife and no children. He paid 25.30 florin of lease fees annually; A Jew by the name of Ursul [apparently his name was Dov Ber][1], with a wife and two children. He paid 10.07 florin annually; a Jew named Avraham [family name not specified], who also had a wife and two children. According to the listing, all of these Jews earned their livelihoods from liquor distilling.

In the 1830 census, the following heads of families are mentioned in Sieu (number of individuals in parentheses):

Berl Weider (7), Leizer Kind (5), Yisrael Perl (6), Leib Wiesel (9), Meir Kind (7), Izik Moskovics (3), David Tawel (7), Yaakov Laner (3), Michael Wiesel (3), Avraham Tawel (7), Hirsch Tawel (5), Olga Tawel (3).

According to the gravestones in the cemetery, it seems that the community began to organize itself at the beginning of the 19th century. The basic institutions of communal life were set up at that time, such as the mikva [ritual bath], the cemetery, and a set place for communal prayer. A wooden synagogue was built at the beginning of the 19th century, which was expanded and renovated as time went on. The census of 1830 notes that the Jews had their own synagogue.

The community of Sieu belonged to the district of Rozavlea. Questions on Torah law and on what was permitted or forbidden were asked of the rabbi of Rozavlea, about two kilometers away. The rabbi visited Sieu once or twice a year. All the people of the village would gather in the synagogue in order to greet the rabbi and listen to his sermon. Reb Hershel Sachs served as the shochet [ritual slaughterer] between the two world wars. He was a scholar, a diligent man, an ascetic who satisfied himself with little, but he always had a smiling face and sparkling eyes. He had a pleasant voice and was an accomplished Torah reader. Twice a week, he would walk to the village of Botiza to slaughter for the Jews of that village. He would make the entire journey on foot, both in the summer and the winter, and even in the harshest cold weather. All five sons of the shochet studied in yeshivas. The eldest of the two daughters made aliya to Israel as a pioneer in 1935.

The synagogue of Sieu was built of wooden planks, rounded on the outside and flat on the inside. The roof was made of wooden shingles (dranitzes). The yard of the synagogue was fenced with broad boards. Of course, the Jews of Sieu also had a mikva with several wide, wooden baths.

People were chosen for communal positions on the night of Hoshana Rabba. The communal leadership included two gabbaim [trustees], the head of the community, and the gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha [burial society]. A communal leader was not elected in the latter years. This honorable position was reserved by general agreement for Reb Azriel Anshel's (Perl), one of the important men of the village who was very wealthy. He was also on good terms with the district authorities. He and his wife Chancha, who had no children, supported the needs of the village in a generous fashion. Reb Azriel's paternal grandfather, whose name was also Azriel, was one of the first Jews of Sieu. He made aliya at the age of 80, and merited to live in the Land for 27 years until he died at the very old age of 107.

There were two cheders in Sieu to teach Torah to the Jewish children: the cheder of Reb Shlomo Yosel (Ovics) and the cheder of Reb Moshe Aharon Wachs, who was known as “Der Rebbe Moshe.” The two teachers had impressive appearances with splendid faces. They were institutions in their own right and in their own merit. They disseminated Torah for decades, and raised generations of individuals knowledgeable in Torah in Sieu. Reb Shlomo Yosef taught the children from a young age until the age of Gemara study, and Reb Moshe Aharon taught them Gemara and Tosafot until he prepared them to learn a page of Gemara on their own and they were ready to study in any of the higher yeshivas of the country.

Reb Moshe Wachs was modest and comported himself in a discreet fashion. He taught Torah to Jewish children for 40 years. He never turned away a child for non-payment even though his livelihood was meager.

{Photo page 183: Reb Moshe Wachs.}

After finishing teaching in cheder, he went along with Reb Azriel Perl to empty the charity boxes of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. He transferred the copper coins to the Admorim of Visznitz to distribute to the poor of the Land of Israel. Reb Moshe Wachs was also a prayer leader, a Torah reader, a gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha, and was involved in all aspects of communal life. He educated his children in the study of Torah. His son Reb Yitzchak, one of the prominent students of Visheve, made aliya to the Holy Land.

There were five shopkeepers in Sieu, some of whom also maintained taverns. The largest shop was that of Reb Leizer Yaakov's (Ovics), who was also an apple merchant. There was also a similar sized store of Reb Hershele Moskovics. His wife Esther exerted complete dominance, and her husband, who was short, with a sweet voice, was subordinate to her

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in the business of the shop. The store of Reb Mendel Wertzberger was on the other side of the bridge. He himself lived in the United States for most of the time, and would return to Sieu once every few years. His intelligent wife Reizel concerned herself with livelihood, and with the education of the sons and daughters. The sons all had curly peyos and were good-hearted, with smiles on their faces. They studied in yeshivas. The shop of Reb Alter Perl was opposite the synagogue. This was a small shop that provided the livelihood of six children with great difficulty. The shop of Reb Zelig Schneider's was even gloomier. He was a handicapped bachelor with crutches. The heads of the community gave over to Zelig the rights of maintaining the candles and yeast, which were a monopoly held by the community, in order to ensure him some income.

Several Jews of Sieu earned their livelihoods from trades and manual labor. Undoubtedly, the most prominent of them were the two blacksmiths Elia Ovics or Elia Rache's, and Baruch Mendel Batya's, who was similar to him. Both were burly and possessed great physical strength. Of course, both of them had beards and wore Hasidic garb, as did the rest of the Jews of the village. There were no gentile smiths in Sieu. There were three wagon drivers in Sieu: Yosef the Wagon Driver, a short Jew, with a grey, curly beard. He was jovial and full of jokes. He would chat with his horse as one would chat with one's fellowman; his brother Izik Mendel, who had a snow-white beard; the third wagon driver was David the son of the aforementioned smith Baruch Mendel. He blended both trades. The wagon drivers served as means of connection between the village and the city of Sziget, and they would transport merchandise from the city to the nearby villages.

The only carpenter in the city was Reb Azriel Chuna's (Liberman). His wife Perl was the town midwife. He was a tall man with a full beard and peyos flying out at the sides. Reb Azriel would fix the synagogue furnishings as a mitzvah[2]. His wife was the mother of the entire village. She helped thousands, both Jews and gentiles, give birth, all without compensation. If the gentiles would give her a present from the bounty of the field, and the Jews would complain about it a bit – she did not refuse. However, she never bargained or begged, and was always smiling. The smith Reb Azriel was buried in the village a short time before the Holocaust. He prepared his own tombstone. He ordered a large wooden anvil, planed the stone on both sides, and etched a menorah, Magen David, his name and the name of his father, and even the letters Tav, Nun, Tzadi, Beit, He [3] on the smooth area. He left the date of death and burial blank. His wife Baba-Perl was taken to Auschwitz at the age of 90 where she died.

There were two shoemakers in Sieu. Leib the shoemaker was a great expert. His business partner was Chuna the shoemaker. The popular adage “lots of trades and few blessings” was fulfilled by Zalman Leib the mikva man, who, aside from his role as bathhouse keeper, also served as a glassblower, bookbinder, watchmaker, barber, pot and umbrella fixer, and several other “trades.” His life was bitter and painful, for he was very poor all his life. His only enjoyment was his many stories of the city of Budapest, which he had visited once in his youth.

Reb Yaakov the shamash was also an expert builder. He would go out to work in his trade after he finished cleaning the synagogue. He was a great expert in building baking ovens and chimneys for the houses of the farmers. He had a special talent and unusual memory for stories of Tzadkim and Hasidim. Every Sabbath after the Third Sabbath meal, Reb Yaakov the Shamash would entertain his listeners with stories of Tzadikim, which he told in the darkness of the synagogue.

There were two shepherds in Sieu, who accompanied the gentile shepherds in the mountains (palanines) around Borsa: Mordechai Shaul Yaakov's and Aharon David Hershel's (Moskovics). The Jewish shepherds would supervise the kashruth of the churning of the cheese and other dairy products. There were also butchers in the village, who maintained a small butcher shop over and above their trade in cattle. The butchering trade was a sort of sideline. The butchers included Reb Heshel Meir's, Avraham Malek, and Reb Yaakov Apter, who also served as a scribe as needed.

The most Jewish profession in Sieu was without doubt that of Reb Moshe Klein, who earned his livelihood from weaving tzitzit [ritual fringes] and selling holy books. He was also a great scholar. His father, Reb Shalom Klein of Halmeu, was a great scholar and a teacher. He traveled to all the great Admorim of his time. Reb Moshe married the daughter of Reb Raziel Wiesel of Sieu (his nickname was Reb Moshe Raziel's). His house was a workshop for the manufacture of tzitzit. When he had accumulated a certain quantity of tzitzit, he would load the sacks unique to the Jews of Máramaros (sakves) on his shoulders, half filled with books and half with tzitzit, and would go to the surrounding villages to sell his products. Of course, his sales “stalls” were the synagogues and Beis Midrashes in each village.

Five families of Sieu earned their livelihood from teaching. There were the two aforementioned melamdim. Aside from them, there were three melamdim who taught Torah in other places, whether in Sziget or villages of Máramaros, and returned home to Sief only between sessions, for the High Holy Days and Passover.

There were three flourmills in Sieu that operated from the power of the stream of water from the side water trench that traversed the village. The Upper Mill (Di Oybershte Mil) was run by the Jewish miller Leib the Miller, who left the village during the 1940s to move afar.

Other primary branches of commerce in Sieu included trade in apples and plums that grew in the village orchards, and trade in sheep, cattle, and grain. Itzik Leib Popovics had a large fruit orchard, with tens of types of fruit: apples, plums, nuts, and others. Berish Hallpert and Sroel Perl also had large fruit orchards. Jews would also purchase the fruit from the large plantations of the gentile landowners, generally while still on the trees. A number of families earned their livelihoods from their own plots of land – some through independent work and others by partnering with gentile farmers as tenants, for a half, a third, or a quarter of the profits.

Relations between the Jews and the farmers were generally excellent. In many cases, the gentiles preferred to bring their disputes before several Jews who were trusted by them, rather than bringing their disputes to their own judges, courts, and adjudicators. Many of them came to Reb Azriel Anshel's, whom everyone trusted fully, and recognized his uprightness and practical insight. This was also the case with Reb Ben-Zion Stern, who was nicknamed Ben-Zion the Notary because he served as the secretary of the village council until the end of the First World War. He was a G-d fearing Jew, and a great scholar. Along with this, he was an expert in the laws of the land, and especially in laws relating to real estate and the change of ownership of real estate. He was fluent in Hungarian and Romanian, and had a clear, flowing handwriting. He knew the map of the village with all of its fields and boundaries.

During the 1880s, the paranssim and notables of Sieu included: Reb Tzvi Perl, his son Reb Eliezer Perl, Reb Avigdor Ovics, Reb Pesach

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Menachem Segal, Reb Anshel Perl, Reb Avraham Weg, Reb Chaim Yisrael Perl, Reb Azriel Perl, Reb Razil Wiesel, and Reb Alter Pesach Tzvi.

From among the natives of Sieu, it is appropriate to mention Rabbi Mordechai the son of Reb Moshe David Fried (Davidovics), one of the finest students of the Admor of Satmar, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum. He was the son-in-law of Reb Berish Gross of Straza-Bukovina. Before the war, he served as rabbinical judge in the settlement of Satmar-Hej near the city of Satmar. He was the rabbi of Moshav Beit Meir in the Jerusalem Mountains. He died on 28 Shvat, 5733 (1973).

Aryeh Glazer, an active religious Zionist, is also a native of Sieu. He organized several boatloads of Maapilim[4] after the Second World War. He settled in Tirat Tzvi after he made aliya to Israel. He was one of the heads of the Lamifneh faction[5]. He died in 5737 – 1977.

The Jewish settlement shrank between the two world wars. During the first post-war decade, 1920-1930, the Jewish community of Sieu shrank by more than a third. Apparently, this shrinkage continued during the final decade before the Holocaust. People from Sieu tried their luck in various cities throughout the country. Some of them immigrated overseas. From there, they supported their families and even sent funds for communal needs.

On Saturday, 29 Nissan 5704 (April 22, 1944), men of the Hungarian gendarmes appeared suddenly in Sieu. They arrived from the nearby village of Rozavlea (there was no gendarme station in Sieu). It was at the time when the Jews were returning home from the synagogue. The gendarmes entered the first homes before the people had managed to recite kiddush. The process was simple and rapid: registration of family names, a command to take one pack of belongings, to close up the house, to give over the keys to the officials of the village council, and to go to the synagogue, which was the place of gathering. The Jews of the village marched to the synagogue in their Sabbath clothes, kapotes and streimels. The village crier, Peter the drummer, went through the village with his drum in his hand, announcing the text of the proclamation with his free translation as follows: “Let it be known to all believers (Christians) that they are to appear immediately in the courtyard of the synagogue in order to see the Jews off to Palestine…” A stream of wagons hitched to horses, oxen and cows began to stream to the synagogue yard. The farmers and their wives came to see off their neighbors, some with joy and some with agony.

In the meantime, the Jews of Sieu gathered in the synagogue, sitting on their belongings, perplexed and confounded. Sabbath and weekday pervaded together. There was noise and bustle in the synagogue. People did not know what to do. They awaited the command of the gendarmes. The gabbaim decided to leave the Torah scrolls in their place and to place them in the custody of the Guardian of Israel until the wrath would pass. Reb Moshe Raziel's (Klein), the seller of books and tzitzit, was among the last to arrive. He was full of Hasidic fervor. His white socks sparkled from below his silk caftan. “Today is the holy Sabbath!” he shouted. He urged his family members to sit on their packs, to open up the cholent pots and conduct the Sabbath meal in accordance to custom with the hymns, praises, and grace after meals in public. As they finished their meal, the gendarmes concluded the final gathering of Jews and issued an order for them to leave in the direction of Dragomireºti. The children boarded the wagons and the adults walked alongside the wagons with lowered eyes and humiliated faces so as to avoid desecrating the Sabbath. They decided to walk on foot to the extent that it was possible, and to the extent that they were permitted.

The farmers who came to watch the deportation of the “Jews to Palestine” stood open mouthed, not believing what they were seeing. They slowly accompanied their Jewish neighbors. A group of shkotzim and shkotzot[6] stood at the edge of the village next to the crucifix. As the last wagon passed by, they crossed themselves, joined hands, and broke out in an enthusiastic dance. The church bells accompanied them from afar.

The Holocaust survivors returned to the village after the war. There were 30 of them in 1947. However, they left the village after a short period. The majority made aliya to Israel.

Today there are no Jews in Sieu.

 

Bibliography

Most of the material is based on a hand written composition by Chaim Yisrael Perl: Sieu.
Chaim Yisrael Perl: Extinguished Lights of Máramaros, Tel Aviv 5718 – 1958. Introduction to the Book.
Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, Budapest, vol. VII, p. 747, 1963.
Maygar-Zsido Lexikon, Budapest 1929, p. 1005.
Yad Vashem Archives: 03/3385;
Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Dov is 'bear' in Hebrew, and ber is 'bear' in Yiddish – therefore, these names are often used together and to some degree interchangeable. Ursul would be a Latinized form of the same name. Return
  2. I.e. gratis. Return
  3. Acronym for Tehei Nafsho Tzror Bitzror Hachaim – May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life. Return
  4. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliyah_Bet. Return
  5. A faction of the Mizrachi Party. Return
  6. Derogatory terms for gentiles. Return

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