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[Pages 183-185]

Cuhca [Kechnia][1]

(Bogdan Vodă, Romania)

47°42' , 24°16'

Romanian: Cuhca
Hungarian: Izakonyha

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It is a village about 60 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 86 6.7
1910 450 21.6
1920 477 24.5
1930 321 14.7

 

The Beginning of the Jewish Community

The first Jew that we know of reached Cuhca in 1721. In the census of 1728, a Jew by the name of Lazarus Israel (that is: Eliezer the son of Yisrael) is noted as having lived for seven years on the estate of the local nobleman Ladislai Szaplonczai. It is said that he was a poor Jew who earned his livelihood from liquor distilling and grain. A teacher of children, whose name is unfortunately not mentioned, also lived in his house. Apparently,

[Page 186]

several children of nearby towns came to Cuhca to study Torah. It is close to certain that this was the first (and without doubt one of the first) schools in the Máramaros district that taught Torah to Jewish children.

Apparently, Lazarus Israel only remained in Cuhca for a short time, for no Jew is listed in the census of 1735. In the census of 1746, we once again find a Jew in Cuhca, with a wife and a child. He also owned two servants who helped him with the home economy. Names of Jews were not listed in that census.

The following heads of families are listed in Cuhca in the census of 1830 (number of individuals in parentheses):

Srul Perl (8), Leizer Moldavan (4), Yankel Lengiel (3), Sender Hecht (3), Itzik Fligelman (4), Mihae Lengiel (7), Moshko Polak (6), Leib Josipovitch (7), Yosef Zelig Josipovitch (7), Yisrael Josipovitch (5), Shimon Josipovitch (2), Leib Lender (3), Moshko Moshkovitch (6), Marcul Appel (8), Mihae Keldevar (2), Isak Shpritzer (5), Mihae Feig (8), Asher Perl (3), Eliahu Perl (7), Moshko Perl (3), Shlomo Ketdova (3), Shlomo Polak (4), Mendel Leniel (2).

In the census of 1763, we find the Jew Leib Hersch [in the source, there is an error, as it is listed as Hersth], with a wife and a child. He was also a liquor distiller. He paid 20 florin annually as a lease fee.

Apparently, the organization of communal life began at the end of the 18th century. The kernel of communal life, such as a regular minyan [prayer quorum] and a mikva [ritual bath] already existed previously. A wooden synagogue was listed in the census of 1830. It was built at the beginning of the 18th century, and was expanded and renovated around 1860. Later, the Beis Midrash of the Hassidim was built. At the end of the 19th century, several new communal institutions were established, such as the Chevra Mishnayot [Mishnah Study Group, which already existed in 5640 (1880) when its gabbai [trustee] was David Fogel; the Chevra Shas [Talmud Study Group], Chevra Tehillim [Group for recital of Psalms], and of course the Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society] which dates back from the beginning of the community.

{Photo page 186 right: Nechama Shpitzer.}

The community never had an official rabbi. At first, the community of Cuhca belonged to the Sziget rabbinical district, just like most of the settlements of Máramaros. In the latter period, it affiliated with the community of Dragomireºti. Rabbi Mordechai Kahana served as the rabbinical judge prior to the First World War. He was the son of Rabbi Nachman Kahana, the rabbi of Spinka and author of the book Orchot Chaim. Later he was selected as the rabbi of Fábiánháza, Hungary (Szatmar district). Rabbi Yezhezkel Weidman served as the rabbi of the village and neighboring village of Ieud (see entry) for a brief period. Then he was chosen as the rabbi of Săcel (see entry).

A well-known Admor, Rabbi Pinchas Shapira, lived in Cuhca at the beginning of the century. He was the son of Rabbi Shalom Shapira of Lunca, descended from Rabbi Pinchas of Korec and the son-in-law of the Maharsha'm of Berezany. Rabbi Pinchas Shapira was the son-in-law of the Admor Rabbi Meir Rosenbaum of Kretsnif. He settled in Cuhca after his wedding. He was already in Cuhca in the year 5665 (1905) (he was among the signatories of the book Teshurat Sha'y, Sziget 5665). He attempted to settle in Ubervischau before the First World War, but the authorities deported him to Galicia. He returned to Cuhca after the First World War. From there he moved to Ubervischau, from where he was deported to Auschwitz, and perished on 3 Sivan 5704 (1944). (See the article of Ubervischau for additional details on him). His son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub the Admor of Kaliv in Rishon Letzion, published his book: Sefer Tzafenat Paaneach on the Torah and Festivals… Jerusalem 5724 (1964) [[10]][2], 170 pages.

{Photo page 186 center left: Sara Leah Shpitzer.}
{Photo page 186 left: Reb David Shpitzer.}

The communal notables and parnassim [administrators] until the First World War were: Reb Asher Zelig Kahana, Reb David Fogel, Reb Zelig Moshe Kahana, Reb Shmuel Naftali Feig, Reb Getzel Polak, Reb Meir Feig, Reb Yisrael the son of Yuta Kahana, Reb Mechil Aryeh Appel, Reb Shmuel Hertz Feig, Reb Raphael the son of Yisrael, Reb Yitzchak Adler, Reb Yosef Chaim Yehuda Shochet, Reb Avraham the son of Yitzchak Weintraub, Reb David the son of Shimon, Reb Shmuel the son of Yosef Izrael, Reb Zalman Chaim Klein Shochet, Reb Yaakov Greenfeld, Reb Noach Aryeh Wiezer, Reb Meir Moshkovitch Shochet.

The prominent personalities of Cuhca, as recalled by the survivors of the village, include: Reb Asher Anshel Shpitzer the son of Reb Yisrael Leib of Bicksof. He moved to Cuhca after he married Nechama the daughter of Reb Moshe Perl of Cuhca. He was a straightforward, upright man with generous traits. He traveled regularly to the well-known Tzadikim Rabbi Mordechai of Nadworna, Bishtna, and the author of the Kedushat Yom Tov of Sziget. His father-in-law Reb Moshe Perl, was a Hasid of Kosow. His home was open, and

[Page 187]

the Admorim and rabbis who came to Cuhca stayed in his large, splendid house.

Reb Meir Feig was born in Cuhca. He was a great scholar and a wealthy man. He owned a tavern, fields, and forests. He was an enthusiastic Kosow Hasid. He often endangered himself and crossed the border secretly in order to spend a Sabbath or festival in the court of an Admor. He served as head of the community for many years. He raised a large family of thirteen children, all of them G-d fearing, observant, scholars, and Hasidim. His eldest son was Reb David Feig, who surpassed all his brothers with his scholarship and good deeds. During his youth, he studied at the Yeshiva of Pressburg under the author of the Shevet Sofer, as well as the Yeshiva of Pecs. He married the daughter of Reb Mordechai Greif of Riºkova. He worked as a cattle broker, but his livelihood was not ample, and he studied Torah with financial difficulty. Even so, he was always happy. He would take a leading role in any religious joyous occasion, and he would gladden all the invitees. He later moved to the city of Szatmar.

{Photo page 187: Reb Mordechai Greif.}

Reb Yisrael HaKohen Fligman was a descendent of the author of Kuntrus Hasfeikot. He blended Torah and greatness. He owned a large estate, along with forests and sheep. His son Reb Zelig Moshe was the son-in-law of the Admor of Zablutow, and a grandson of the Tzadikim of Kosow. He was also a great scholar and Hassid. He served as secretary of the village for a brief period. He later immigrated to the United States.

Reb Avraham Yehuda Zalmanovitch owned a shop and a tavern, but spent all of his time studying gemara and did not take interest in any mundane matter. Business was conducted by his wife, who was a woman of valor. Reb Yosef Yisrael Perl was also one of the wealthy men of the village. He would host guests. He was especially known for serving as sandek at circumcision ceremonies[3]. The sandek would pay for the entire circumcision feast. Reb Getzel Polak was a great scholar. He was afflicted by blindness during his old age, but continued to study many tractates by heart with the proper language. He wrote a book on healing and segulot[4], but it was not published.

Rabbi Yisrael Aryeh Zalmanovitch was a native of Cuhca. He was born in the year 5677 (1907) to his father Reb Shmuel Nota Fisher, a prime student of the Gaon Rabbi Yankel Gotlieb the author of Yagel Yaakov, the head of the rabbinical court of the Sephardic community of Miskolc. Rabbi Yisrael Aryeh Zalmanovitch studied in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager in Ubervischau, the Yeshiva of Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinski in Khust, the Yeshiva of Rabbi Yaakov Elimelech Panet the Admor and head of the rabbinical court of Desze, as well as with the Admor of Klausenberg. He married the daughter of the rabbinical judge of Borsa, Rabbi Gerson Shtoiber, who perished with her children in Auschwitz. After the war, he married the daughter of the well-known Hasid Reb Elya Weiss of Marosvásárhely [Târgu Mure?], the grandson of the author of Beit Yitzchak of Swolowo. Immediately after the Holocaust, he served as the rabbi of Bergen Belsen. After he made aliya in 5709 – 1949, he was chosen as the rabbi of Yavneh. Later, he was chosen by the Admor of Klausenberg to serve as the rabbi of Kiryat Sanz. From there, he was chosen as the Chief Rabbi of Akko. (Today, he lives in Bnei Brak after his retirement.) He wrote the book Chayey Nefesh, dealing with explanations of Jewish law and responsa. Five volumes have been published to date.

The shochet Reb Meir Moshkovitch, who was taken to Auschwitz when he was over the age of 80, was a special man. He was a Jew who studied Torah day and night, and also responded to halachic questions in Cuhca. He served as the regular shofar blower in the Beis Midrash of the Admor of Borsa for many years.

The vast majority of the Jews of Cuhca were very poor. The small farms that were owned by almost every householder were insufficient to sustain their owners. The Jews of the villages also had to work in other trades, such as in working in the forests, floating lumber on barges, serving as day workers in the sawmills, and other such jobs. There were also some tradesmen: three blacksmiths, five shoemakers, several tailors, an umbrella fixer, a barber, and others. Some Jews owned shops and inns. Only a few Jews lived with no fears of livelihood. These ones owned estates, sections of forests, sawmills, and flourmills.

The Jews of Cuhca were generally represented on the town council. The village secretary (the notar) was generally a Jew. Between the two world wars, Kaufman and Yitzchak Pasternak filled that role.

We do not have any exact details about the unfolding of the Holocaust in Cuhca. We do not know how many Jews were drafted to harsh labor, and what their fate was.

At the end of April 1944, all the Jews of the village were gathered together and transferred to the Dragomireºti Ghetto, from where they were taken to Auschwitz.

About 30 Holocaust survivors returned to Cuhca after the war, but the community was not reconstituted. They found the synagogue destroyed and the bathhouse dismantled. The two cemeteries, the old one and the new one were also desecrated, and some of the gravestones were broken. Eight Torah scrolls were saved by the village priest, who hid them and returned them to the survivors.

All of the survivors left the village, and the vast majority made aliya to Israel. Some of them participated in the War of Independence. According to an official list prepared by the Máramaros natives, two Jews of Cuhca fell in the 1948 War.

Today, there are no Jews in Cuhca.

 

Bibliography

Yekutiel Yehuda Greenwald: Matzevet Kodesh, Part I: Sziget and the Máramaros District, New York, 5712 – 1952, p. 67.
Naftali Ben-Menachem: From the Jewish Literature of Hungary, Jerusalem 5718 – 1958, p. 303.
Máramaros-Sziget (periodical in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Hungarian), edited by Yehoshua and Helen Reich, Tel Aviv, issue 37, p. 6.
Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, Budapest, vol. VII, 1963 pp. 135, 747.
Yad Vashem Archives: 03/2435; 3/3385;
Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Cuhca is also knows as Cuhea, Konyha and Izakonyha, and is currently known as Bogdan Vodă Return
  2. The [10] is seemingly a footnote in the text, but no footnote appears in this chapter. Return
  3. The person honored with holding the baby during a circumcision ceremony. According to some customs, the sandek would pay for the circumcision meal. Return
  4. A charm, spiritual or kabalistic remedy. Return

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