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[Column 405]

Section F

I – Before the Deluge

 

A Bundle of Memories

by Leyzer Tenenblatt

Translated by Yael Chaver

A. From Stagnation to Progress

I would like to present several episodes that are characteristic, to a certain extent, of that period; the older generation, with its set, frozen ways, and the younger generation with its impulse towards personal freedom and progress, its mass transition from religious to secular knowledge, from small–town religious slumber to an interest in general issues and in Jewish issues in particular.

My earliest memories are linked with my parents: my father Yeshaya and my mother Chana, may they rest in peace, and with their house, a house filled with piety, charity, and friendliness. I'd like to mention an act that, thanks to my parents, led to a watershed moment in the education of religious Hasidic children and had a marked effect on the cultural development of the younger generation.

Before 1905, the heder was the only educational setting for young boys in the town.[1] There was a great distance from Henech melamed and his father (who was called the “half–new”), from Mendl melamed, Moshe Bintsiyes, Lipe the handicapped, Eli melamed, Meir Chayim (Moshe Zelig's son–in–law) to Mordkhe Hendel (“the goat”).[2]

The educational system was the same for all these teachers. The only difference was in the particular texts, their interpretation, and in the disciplinary methods: in the beginners' heder the children were stood in the corner, and in the upper level heders a ruler, long stick, or wooden spoon was used.

Girls were completely forbidden to study in a heder. Those few who were educated at home learned prayers and, sometimes, how to write in Yiddish.

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As for secular studies, the government school was the only educational institution where boys and girls could study equally. Regulations stipulated that every child six years and older had to be registered in a school. I remember two Jewish teachers, Mozer–Rast and First. Studies were in three national languages: Polish, German, and Ukrainian. The result was that children who completed fourth grade knew none of those languages.

It came to pass that in 1905, during the revolution in Russia, a refugee from the fighting came to town.[3] This was a fine, elegant young man dressed in modern clothes, named Avrom Mintzer. He introduced himself as a Hebrew teacher, using the “Hebrew in Hebrew” method.[4]

The national Jewish awakening that was the result of the Hovevei–Tziyon and Bilu groups' activities in Russia as well as of Herzl's political Zionism, had not yet come to our town.[5] Learning Hebrew and its grammar, and speaking the language were alien concepts. Teaching methods in the heder were primitive, though they produced learned young men.

As far as I remember, only two boys left our town to study in a yeshiva: Oyzer (Israel Shochat's son) and my cousin Mordkhe Antshel Tenenblat.[6] My uncle Avrom and my aunt Ethel, may they rest in peace, were the first and last members of the middle class to send their son to an institute of higher learning abroad. I don't remember how far Oyzer got in the yeshiva. Antshel left the yeshiva after some time and went to Czernowitz and Vienna, where he studied secular subjects and

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became first a teacher and then a journalist.

 

oze407.jpg
Baruch ben Moshe

 

The residents of our town were mainly Hasidic–religious (with a few exceptions). They belonged to Hasidic groups identified by their leaders, the righteous rebbes, who were known by their locations: Kopyczynce, Czortkow, Husyatin, and Belz.[7] My parents, followers of the Kopyczynce rebbe, were the first in their social circle with the courage to rise above the others and take me out of the heder when I was nine years old.

 

We start studying “Hebrew in Hebrew”

Along with the parents of my friend Buni (Avrom) Pohoriless, they hired Avrom Mintzer to teach us “Hebrew in Hebrew.” Although Buni's parents (Shmuel and Esther) were observant, they were two of the few progressive Jews in the town who were not followers of a Hasidic rebbe, and hired teachers for their children. These teachers were Moshe Aharon Schwartz, Zusye Schwartz, and Avrom Mintzer.

My parents were the first of the Orthodox Jews to take a step further in their liberalism and understanding, and give the children (myself and later my brother Yisr'ael)

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a secular education. They ignored the fact that many in the town pointed fingers at them because they sent their children to a gymnaziya[8] (in Tarnopol) where Jewish children were turned into non–Jews (goyim). The metal insignia G on the cap was, according to these religious fanatics, a clear indication of this change. When Antshel and I came home for a Jewish holiday, we seemed to be two worlds: Antshel was in Hasidic garb and I in the gymnaziya uniform. After Antshel left the yeshiva he, too, changed his dress.

Progress gradually overcame stagnation and backwardness. Over time, especially after a gymnaziya was opened in Borzsczow, the number of boys and girls who studied there increased. At the same time, boys and girls began studying in the Hebrew school that had opened in our town. The teacher was Shtokman. During the war years 1914–1917, children continued to study in both the Hebrew school and the gymnaziya. During the war, M. Glick (a teacher who was driven out of Zalishchyky by the Russians) taught children Hebrew conversation and writing. Nowadays he is a lecturer in the New York midrasha.[9] Many children started or continued their gymnaziya studies during and after the First World War.

My students at that time included Emki Likerman (Ben–Dor), Emki Kahn, Utzi Mayberger, Shneour Waldman and his cousin (Leibish Waldman's son), Salo and his sister Annie Filstiner, Natalia Gold, and Fruma Wasserman (some of these live in Israel). Other students at the time studied at gymnaziya with Margulis (a lawyer) and with Hirshhorn, both of whom settled in Jezierzany during the war.

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Increased National Awareness

The cultural development of the town's young people also led to an intensified awareness of Jewish nationalism. The Tikvat Tziyon association, of which I was a proud founder and the head for some time, was the first General Zionist organization in town.[10]

I left Jezierzany in 1920. On my occasional visits, I enjoyed seeing the positive changes in Jewish life in the town. The younger generation established its national, Zionist groups (General Zionists, Po'alei Tziyon, Jabotinsky Revisionists, and Grossmanites) as distinct from the sluggish Hasidic–Orthodox groups.[11]

 

We Start a Theater

One aspect and expression of the intellectual development of our youth was the wish to spread a bit of culture in the town. For the first time in the town's history, an amateur theater group was organized; I was its founder, manager, and director. We started with one–act performances at Yisr'oel–Khayim's inn, and went on to larger performances at the firehouse. This was a wood structure with a tower, where the volunteer firemen kept their tools and held their training exercises. We set up a stage. The curtain was decorated with an oil painting by Avrom Heyman (Menge Gelbrad's son–in–law). I made the more important decorations. Our first performance was God, Man, and Devil by Jacob Gordin. We went on to perform Mirele Efros, The yeshiva Student, The Deserted Inn by Peretz Hirshbein, The Village Youth by Leon Kobrin, and other works.[12] During the prologue to God,Man, and Devil the appearance of the Devil

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was heralded by a blinding magnesium flare. When I had finished my role as the Devil, I went backstage and saw my brother Yisro'el – still dressed in the clothes he wore for his role as Motl – with a very pale face and bandaged hands. While lighting the magnesium flare he had burned the skin on both hands. He had immediately been taken to a pharmacy, where his hands were dressed. Ignoring the considerable pain, he continued playing his role to the end, hands in pockets. Our mother, may she rest in peace, sat in the first row and had no idea of what had happened until the performance had ended.

All the productions were very realistic. The hall was always sold out (the income was donated to the needy) and the audience laughed and cried.

The group became famous all over the surrounding area. When it was performing in Borszczow, news came that the Bolsheviks had crossed the Zbrucz river. This was in 1920. After the Poles drove the Bolsheviks back, sometime later, another theater group was organized, I had left the town earlier.

The following people took part in the productions: Maltsye and Avrom Zaltzmn (refugees from Zalyshchyky who were very active Zionists); major roles were played by Bunye Pohoriles, Velvel Filstiner, the brothers Shimshon and Yeshaya Bodler, Ya'akov Kaplan and his sister, Ruzya Grosser, Zisl Berman, and, last but not least, my brother Yisro'el. The two Shoyfman brothers, also refugees from Zalishchyky) participated in the music and song scenes.

In connection with the theater performances, I recall that after the death of my father, may he rest in peace, my brother Yisro'el and I decided to discontinue our theatrical activities.

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The group went to consult the rabbi, who said that we could and should go on with our theater work, as the money was going to charity.[13] As far as charity is concerned, we had learned about it from our parents. Our home was charitable, extending actual help to the needy. We therefore decided to continue theatrical activities.

We established the first Jewish lending–library in the town. Previously, it was only possible to borrow or buy a mayse–bikhl from Leybish Zaydman, may he rest in peace.[14]

Hitler, may his name and memory be blotted out, brought all this to an end, and decimated Jewish life and culture in the town. The survivors will never forget.


Translator's footnotes

  1. The heder (Hebrew for “room”) was the school for young boys. Return
  2. Many of the names and epithets in this paragraph are apparently very local. A melamed is a teacher of the youngest boys. Return
  3. Tenebaum begins this sentence with a biblical locution that often signals the advent of a momentous event. Return
  4. A pedagogy method developed in the early 20th century. Return
  5. The Hovevei Tziyon (“Lovers of Zion”) movement developed in the late 19th century and encouraged emigration to Palestine and settlement there. Bilu (a name formed by an acronym of a biblical phrase) was a smaller movement with similar purpose. Return
  6. The yeshiva is a religious school for older boys; not every town had one. Return
  7. The rebbe was the leader of a Hasidic sect, who was often credited with special access to God. Return
  8. The Russian gymnaziya was a government–run high school. Return
  9. I could not identify this school. Return
  10. The Hebrew Tikvat Tziyon translates as “hope for Zion.” General Zionism was a center–right Zionist organization. Return
  11. Po'alei Tziyon was a leftist Labor Zionist group; the Jabotinsky Revisionists were right–wing–oriented. Henryk Grossman broke with the Zionist Left and eventually joined the more extreme left–wing, non–Zionist Bund. Return
  12. Jacob Gordin (1853–1909) was a Yiddish dramatist, first in Europe and later in the United States, and the author of Mirele Efros. Peretz Hirshbein (1880–1948) was a Yiddish playwright and journalist. Leon (Jacob) Kobrin (1873–1946) was a Yiddish writer, dramatist and translator. Return
  13. In traditional Jewish communities, the rabbi is often called on to decide civil as well as religious issues. Return
  14. The mayse–bukh (diminutive bikhl) is a sixteenth–century edifying alternative to worldly stories in vogue at the time. However, indulging in narrative for its own sake was generally associated with low social status and especially with women. Return


What we did for our home town[a]

by Morris Berger

Translated by Yael Chaver

Shortly after the First World War, we started receiving letters from our home town asking for help. By means of assemblies and theatrical benefits, we collected $5000, which we sent to war victims there. Later, during the interwar period, we sent over $20,000 to our home town.

In addition, the Women's Committee maintained a heder and sent clothes for needy children, as well as money each winter for firewood for the poor. The Jezerziany Association, formed for this purpose, created a Loan Fund. Each Jew in Jezerziany could borrow a set sum and make weekly, interest–free payments. Money for Passover food was also sent every spring.[1]

During World War Two, when the murderous Hitler, may his name and his memory be blotted out, wanted to rule the entire world and murder all the Jews (Heaven help us!), while we, in the free country of America, were worried about our children who were fighting for victory on the battlefields for victory over the bestial Nazis, and contributed considerable sums to the various Jewish and general war fund–raising efforts,

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we did not forget the people in our town. Although for a long time we did not know if anyone was still alive, we set up a special fund of $4000. As soon as we got letters from those who miraculously survived Hitler's hell, we supported each of them with a set amount of money. Those who came to America were invited to join the association without an entrance fee, and were freed of monthly dues for six months.[2] We also raised $1500 and established an imposing monument in our cemetery, with a list in eternal commemoration of the martyrs who were killed by those murderous hands.[b]

We also recently sent $1000 to people from our home town in Israel, as a contribution to the “Forest of Martyrs” that they planted, and for the Yikor Book commemorating Jezierzany and the surroundings.


Editor's footnotes

  1. From the 60th Anniversary Yearbook, New York 1958. Return
  2. See the image on page 249, and the list of martyrs on pages 338–364. Return

Translator's footnotes

  1. The custom of assisting the poor with free provisions for Passover (ma'ot hittin) is ancient, and is still observed in one form or another in many Jewish communities. Return
  2. Members of such associations paid monthly dues to enable the support and free loan programs. Return


[Column 413]

Between Jezierzany and Borszczow

by Ruchel Oyerbach

Translated by Yael Chaver

I come from the village of Lanowce, halfway between Jezierzany and Borszczow. Letters to our village used to be addressed as follows: “ [vies]…Lanovtsy, district of Borszczow, Jezierzany post office, [kola] Czortkow.”[1] Jezierzany would also be called Jezierzany–Pilatkowce; there were several towns named Jezierzany in Poland, and it was important that the postal service not make mistakes. But on our Jewish map such a mistake was impossible. There was only one such Jezierzany…

The sun came up from the direction of Borszczow, and set in the direction of Jezierzany. As a child, I was convinced that the sun stayed there overnight. Although our house was closer to Borszczow, which was the location of the county offices, and although we referred to Jews from our little corner as coming from Borszczow, Skala, and Myslenice, the Jews of Lanowce were usually more connected with Jezierzany. Going “to town” meant going to Jezierzany. My parents had a dry–goods store (“assorted dry goods”), with a tobacco shop, and bought their goods in Jezierzany. How happy I was when they took me along! They would hire a non–Jew, Andrey; my trips on his wagon with my mother, atop a heap of canvas–covered straw, were my first expeditions into the great world.

Halfway to Jezierzany, to the left of the King's Highway, there was a stand of oak trees – eight or ten mighty oaks –who knows how old they were. The oak stand was the entryway to Jezierzany.

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Besides the King's Highway, there was a “Polish Road.” If you took the Polish Road to Jezierzany, you'd pass the cemetery on your right hand. This is where my grandparents, their parents, and their ancestors, were buried. My mother was buried in the same cemetery, and my last pilgrimage to her and my other ancestors was sometime in 1933.

I don't know whether anything is left of the graves. They might have done the same in tiny Jezierzany as they did in the big city of Lemberg[2]

 

oze414.jpg
Toybe Kimelman

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and in many other cities: pulling out the grave markers and using them for street paving. The “field” – the very same field that our mothers and grandmothers used to measure with sacred thread before the High Holidays, thread that they later used in the wax Yom Kippur candles–may have been plowed and sown over…[3]

I can't be sure of this. But of one thing I am certain: of all the aunts and uncles, the cousins on my mother's side, their children and grandchildren, in Jezierzany and Lanowce, in the Kozaczyne region, in Borszczow and Czortkow, in Myslenice and Jagelnice and in Krziwcze – in the entire region of Podolia – no one remains. My town disappeared, our town. Annihilated, exterminated, uprooted.

So, who and what of my earliest memories should I mention in a memorial book? All the images and tales I use in my writing are derived from there – from the land of my childhood. What, after all, is creative writing, if not an expression of yearnings for those places and times when the world was still whole?

In Jezierzany, the sky was never gloomy. I have often tried to characterize and recount the different styles of Jezierzany and Borszczow. Borszczow was staid and respectable. But Jezierzany was remarkable for its fantasy and spirit. It was smaller, yet less provincial than the county seat –at least, that's how it seems to me when I think of my memories now. Jezierzany was light–hearted, seeking new fashions, ready for adventure. Here, no one was pushy; here, people liked to have a good time.

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In Jezierzany, there were great merchants, and people who were bankrupt. There were major dealings with Hungary – show–offs, bustlers, and bizarre events that shook up the entire region. In Jezierzany, each person and each family had a nickname. People talked expansively, perhaps more than anywhere else in the Jewish world. The Jews of Borszczow said “cakies” and “yeeahst”; the Jews of Jezierzany imitated them, but themselves said “cakes” and “yeast.” They could allow themselves the pleasure…

And yet, the merchants of Jezierzany did not stay away from the Borszczow weekly market, which took place every Monday. I would see them from our orchard hitching up their harnesses and wagons; the orchard bordered on the main road. A barefoot village girl sitting on a cherry tree, I would see the townspeople milling around the carts. In Jezierzany, the market was held on Wednesdays. Once a year, the “market of markets,” the “Ivan,” took place in Laskiewicz.[4]

And I remember the Jezierzany post office, and the pharmacy. I remember the balconies with the panes of colored glass, the decorative glass balls on the flowerbeds in front of the houses…

A long time ago, a dispute broke out in Jezierzany. This conflict was tragicomically reflected in the lives of the poor village Jews. It led to a division into two camps, forced them to take a chicken to the city for ritual slaughter in freezing weather, because the local shokhet had taken sides and would not carry out the ritual for the side he opposed.[5]

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I sometimes use this dispute as an illustration of how fatal and absurd I believe the deep rift between Mapai and Mapam to be, reflecting the division of the world into blocs…[6]

Our inspiration, for all of us whose roots lie in that environment probably stems from that destroyed home.

* * *

I don't know whether the oaks at the wayside between Lanowce and Jezierzany survived the storm of Hitler. Our Jews, like the oaks, did not survive. Our homes were destroyed, our families were destroyed and separated.

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The fascinating Jewish towns and villages of Galician Podolia, with their vigorous traditions and special brand of Podolian Jewishness were obliterated. Like leaves torn off from those sturdy oaks, we were buffeted around by malevolent winds coming from all the oceans and continents.

We have a single consolation: we survivors who have settled in Israel are living among Jews in a Jewish state. We have found a new home, more our own than all the homes that Jews have ever had anywhere. We are certain of one thing: we will never be uprooted and dispersed from here, as happened there.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. I was unable to translate some of the Polish words in this passage. Return
  2. Now known as Lviv. Return
  3. Women used to lay a continuous strand of thread around the graves of pious persons for use as wicks during the High Holidays, believing that such wicks added special merit to their prayers. Return
  4. I was not able to determine the meaning of “Ivan” –a common male Russian name – in this context, or identify this location. Return
  5. In Jewish tradition, the shokhet is the ritual slaughterer of any meat for consumption by Jews. Return
  6. Israel's two major Labor parties of the 1950s and 1960s, Mapai and Mapam (known by their acronyms), were eventually bitterly divided over ideological differences. Return


The Books of a Jezierzany Grain Merchant[1][a]

by Anshel Tenenblatt

Translated by Yael Chaver

Account
From Re'eh to Shofetim[2] 9.08 fl[b]
Ki Tetze[3] 7.22 fl
Ki Tavo[4] 5.17 fl
Total received 21.47 fl

 

Account
Tavo[5] cash 100 fl
Additional, from my home 20 fl
Eve of the Holy Sabbath[6] 31fl
1Nitzavim[7] 8 fl
Total 159 fl

 

Account
Still owing after the total 17.02 fl
Va–Yelekh1[8] 56 fl
Va–Yelekh2 102 fl
Eve of the Holy Sabbath 161 fl
Additional 60 fl
Total 642.02 fl

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Account
Ha'azinu 1 56 fl
Ha'azinu 2 66 fl
Ha'azinu 4[9] 42 fl
Eve of the Holy Sabbath 82 fl
Total 642 fl

I received, on this account (174.52 R still owed) 467.50 fl

On this account, received, in grain and wheat, 170. The remainder was paid on the Eve of the Holy Sabbath of Bereshit.[10]

Note from Baneh[c]

From the Borszczow market 288 kg I paid 26.02 r[11]
From Nikoli Rzymaze[12] 395 “ ” “ 34.13 “
From Mihaily “ 395 “ “ “ 10.72 “
From Dymytry Woyczseszyn 112 “ ” “ 8.50 “
From Mihaily 254 “ ” “ 22.76 “
From Ditu[13] 11 “ “ “ –85 “
From Ditu Zvi 28 “ ” “ 1.70 “
From Mihailykhe[14] 21 “ “ #147;1.55 “
Michal Zlagodo z Kozaczina[15] “ 8.42 “
Ryn Staziuk z Lanowce “ 2.80 “
Michal Adomunski po Marcina z Lanowce   9.25 r

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Expenses 1.67 “
Income from Baneh 130.60”
Additional 41 “
Additional 137.59”
Additional 56.48 “
Transfer from Baneh acquisitions Total .135.96 “
Ditu from Korolivka 97 “
Ditu from Borzsczow 38.06 “
Expenses 4 “

Note on debts owed from Pilatkowice[16]

Semki Zakhalani 11.20 “
He received an additional 6.60 “
On account, he gave 66 k wheat X 51 k wheat[17] 7 “

Account from my brother Yeshaya

Cash received 82 “
Ditu 72.50”
1.20 “
I gave to Baneh 288a[18] 10
Ditu 543a .9
Ditu 594a 9.50
Total 134.03
Cash given 20.45
Hire of cart 1.2

Personal petition to rebbe[19][d]

Yehuda the son of Malka, for redemption of body and soul
His wife Freyda the daughter of Mirl, for healing,
Her daughter Sarah, for healing and a good match,
A request that God, blessed be His name, help “rejoice, young man in your youth, ”
May he not desecrate the Sabbath.


Editor's Footnotes

  1. These are some accounts found in a bookkeeping ledger of Avremele Khayes (Tenenblat) dating to about 1898. We quote, unaltered, the original Yiddish, mixed with Hebrew, as well as the traditional calendrical dating according to the Torah portion of the week. Return
  2. Editor's note: Florins (rheingulden) – an old Austrian silver coin of medium denomination. Return
  3. Apparently Poles. Notes to himself. Return
  4. The rebbe's followers would send him notes (kvitl) with special requests. Jews who were not confident of their abilities to formulate a suitable note would ask someone they considered more adept to write out their wish. Return


Translators Footnotes

  1. Weekly portions (parshes) of the Hebrew Torah – Five Books of Moses – are read in the same order throughout the Jewish year, such that the entire Torah is covered over the year. This division of the text antedates the more familiar, 13th–century, division into chapters. The weekly date is referred to by the name of the parshe, which is the words that begin it; thus, the traditional Jewish reader would know which week it was based on the name of the parshe. All the portions mentioned in this excerpt are read in late summer. Many of the notations seem to comprise the writer's personal abbreviations and references.] Return
  2. Deut.11,26–16,17 to 21,9. Return
  3. Deut. 21,10–25,19. Return
  4. Deut. 26,1–30,20. Return
  5. Deut. 26,1–29,8. Return
  6. This refers to Friday Return
  7. I have not been able to determine what the ‘1’ refers to. Nitzavim is the portion from Deut.29,9–30,20. Return
  8. Deut. 31,1–31,30. Return
  9. The 4 here may be a typo. Return
  10. Genesis 1:1–6:8, the first portion of the Bible and the beginning of the new yearly reading cycle. Return
  11. This might be an abbreviation for rubles. Return
  12. This and the following names seem to be Polish; I have spelled them as best I could, as there is no way of ascertaining the original Polish spelling. Return
  13. This could be “ditto,”’ though the Hebrew preposition מן means “from.” The Yiddish דיטו appears later in the lists without a preposition. Return
  14. “Mihailikhe” might refer to Mihaily's wife; in Yiddish, non–Jewish wives were often referred to by their non–Jewish husbands' names, with the feminine suffix “–khe.” Return
  15. This and the following two notations are in Polish in the original. Return
  16. This is a place name. Return
  17. Possibly kilograms. Return
  18. The meaning of ‘a’ is unclear. Return
  19. This petition (lacking the name of the Rebbe) was found on a clean sheet of paper among the accounts of my father, may he rest in peace. His painstaking calligraphy indicates that he wrote this out for the petitioner with great intent. I don't know which Jezierzany family this is. The special request regarding desecration of the Sabbath indicates that the family had children in the army, or in America. The accounts and the petition are characteristic of the community, as they are of the time: a miniature cross–section of social, economic, and cultural conditions, with local color. Return


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The Books of a Jezierzany Grain Merchant[1]

by R. Avrekh[2]

Translated by Yael Chaver

A significant part of the villages around Jezierzany, as well as throughout Podolian eastern Galicia, was held by Jewish proprietors or leaseholders. The earliest were pious Jews, even staunch Hasids (such as the Bartfelds, the Axelbrods, Reb Leybl of Piszczetinic, who supported the Hasidic courts in Czortkow, Husyatin, and Kopyczyńce).[3] They purchased, or leased, properties (including fields, livestock, and other inventory) from Polish landowners. Most of them employed Jewish workers, who filled the important management positions. Thus, there were Jewish managers, stewards, bookkeepers, clerks, humenes, dairymen, etc.[4] They would also hire Jewish teachers and melameds for their children. These actions alone led to several dozens of Jews settling in the villages. There were also Jewish millers and distillers (who leased lumber mills and distilleries). The latter would use the waste material from brandy production to feed oxen, which would be exported – under the Austrian regime – to other provinces of the Austro–Hungarian empire.

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That is the source of our regional proverb, “An ox goes to Olmütz and comes back a fool.”[5][a] Jews were usually lease–holders and tavern–keepers of the villages, and held the taverns on the crown lands. Jews bought the peasants' produce (eggs, grain, domestic animals), and supplied them with goods that they needed. There were Jewish general stores and textile shops. These Jewish merchants, who depended on commerce with the Ukrainian peasants, hired Jewish religious functionaries, who depended on Jews for their living: ritual slaughterers, heder teachers, and butchers. The village Jews maintained synagogues and small prayer groups, who often grouped themselves according

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to the religious factions in the nearby villages. The village Jews even experienced the disputes of the town Jews. Thus, the village of Lanowce duplicated the argument between the Jezerziany rabbi Reb Yechiel Feffer and the heirs of the rebbe Reb Velvele. As a result, each faction employed its own ritual slaughterer, would not eat at the homes of the other group, etc. It is also worth mentioning the city gate–keepers, who administered the Austrian government's highway tolls. They usually lived slightly apart from the rest of the community. Toll–taking ceased with the end of the Austrian monarchy. The village Jews usually did not have their own cemeteries; they would use the cemetery of a nearby town, where they were also registered as Jews.[6]

[Column 423]

Most of the village Jews were connected in one way or another. For example, most of the Jews in Lanowce originated either from the Feldshuh–Kimelman family, which traced its lineage to the first lease–holder of Count Sapieha[7] or to his trusted holder of the Lanowce tavern and liquor license, Itzik Hersh Nagler. Both families proliferated, and included – in order of rank – representatives of all social and economic classes: property owners and lease–holders, simple well–to–do home–owners, field–owners, and various merchants – down to poor village beggars and go–betweens. The Feldshuhs, for example, owned the properties in Borszczow and Zalesye, A. Kimelman was the owner of the Zalutshe property, and his brother owned the property of Wolkowice. However, another close relative of the Feldshuhs was the poor village glazier, Avrom Feldshuh, who survived the Destruction with his family, and whose witness account is included in this book.[8]

Lanowce Jews with other surnames were, for the most part, newcomers, who married into the village families, such as sons–in–law. There were also officials of Lanowce properties, which passed into the hands of Jews a few years before World War I. The Jewish landowner, who took over properties from the Polish owner Dluski, was Shpis. His successor, the last Jewish porits of Lanowce, was named Shperling.[9] However, the Lanowce property was also owned by Jews two generations earlier. Its owners were a certain “Uncle Ovadia” and “Aunt Ayge”; they were cousins, one of whom was named Feldshuh and the other – Kimelman. Ayge's brother ,Meir Kimelman, was a property owner and had his own fields. Rokhl Oyerbakh's grandfather built a small synagogue in Lanowce, and the honorary prayer–leaders were the wealthy Lanowce “capitalist” Zelik Kimelman, son of Meir Kimelman, and Itzik Hersh's son Meir Nagler. They, their sons, and grandchildren, are mentioned in the witness accounts that appear in this book.[b]


Editor's Footnotes

  1. This requires a note on Austro–Jewish history and Jewish settlement by village Jews in eastern Galicia in general and in our Jezerziany region in particular, 170 years ago:
    In the 1780s, Kaiser Josef II (“the Enlightened”) issued an edict transferring Jewish families to agricultural settlements. The edict was titled Landwirtschaftliche Ansiedlung der Juden and was implemented in 1785–1794. Galicia was assigned a quota of 1410 families.
    The district seat for our Jezerziany was then Zalishchyky. (During that period, the position of “District Rabiner” was established.)] [Translator's note: Rabiner is the Yiddish term for state–designated officials fluent in the language of authority, appointed as intermediaries between the Jewish community and the government.]
    Later, around 1870, when our district seat moved to Czortkow, the first rabiner was the head of the “Shapironiks,” the Hamburg rabbi Reb Meir Yeshaya Shapiro, a great scholar and a brilliant writer as well, who wrote almost weekly in Ha–Magid. [Translator's note: Ha–Magid was the first Hebrew–language weekly, published from 1856 to1903. The “Shapironiks” were a group of enlightened opponents of Hasidism.] His title and seal was “Head of the Religious Court in the Jewish Community of Czortkow and the District.” Pious and observant, yet an enlightened misnaged [Translator's note: opponent of Hasidism], he was the creator of a movement of enlightened misnagdim, the “Shapironiks.” The movement quickly spread to other towns in Galicia, first to Jezerziany and surrounding villages, where many minyans were already living due to the royal resettlement edict [Translator's note: A minyan is the group of ten adult male Jews required for community prayer]. The entire Zalishchyky district was ordered to move 117 families to agricultural resettlement, 16 from Jezerziany alone.
    In 1804, the first official report on the results of this order was published by a special committee of inspection, as required by the order. According to that order, the report (in the Austrian government archive in Vienna, under the title Totalausweis ueber den Fortgang der Juedischen Ansiedlung in Ostgalizien bis letsten Oktober 1904”) [Translator's note: The date is obviously wrong, and is more likely 1804.] states that the 16 families from Jezerziany consisted of 20 men, 17 women, 19 young men, and 15 girls, 71 people in total.
    Nearly all of them settled in new villages, or near Jezerziany. (To this day, one such village bears the name Borichovuki, named after the Jewish man Borekh, from Jezerziany, who was the first peasant there. [Translator's note: I was unable to locate a place by this name] They were allotted the following inventory: 5 houses; 15 barns and stables; 75 plows and other tools; 30 horses; 27 oxen and 28 cows. They worked hard, and were quite successful, on 8 large agricultural parcels. Their area extended over 240 bushel–parcels (one bushel, equal to 100 kilograms), which peasants then used as a unit of field measurement.
    The Vienna archive was completely destroyed by fire during World War II. One original document is now in the private archive of Dr. N. M. Gelber in Jerusalem. We extend special thanks to him for sharing this interesting material with us.
    Following the “forced resettlement” by Joseph II, dozens of Jews from Jezerziany moved to the villages, for better livelihoods or other reasons. Return
  2. Jezerziany was surrounded by a total of 18 villages and their outlying farms. Almost all of them are mentioned in this Yizkor Book, as well as the approximate number of Jewish inhabitants. Between the two world wars, the number of Jews in these surrounding villages was estimated as equal to the number in Jezerziany, about two thousand people. The villages and farms extended in a radius of 7 kilometers around Jezerziany. Barely 4–5% of these souls survived Hitler's bloodbath. Return


Translators Footnotes

  1. “Village Jews” (dorfsyidn) typically lived far from Jewish communities with their religious and scholarly resources, were relatively unlearned, and often did not conform to rabbinical ideals. Return
  2. A Hasidic rebbe led the community of his followers (‘court’), which looked up to his authority and personality for guidance and help. Return
  3. Return
  4. I could find no translation for humenes. Return
  5. This saying may be a pun on the dual meanings of the Yiddish oks: “ox” literally, and “fool” figuratively. Olmütz was a city in Moravia (present–day Olomouc, in the Czech Republic) which might have been the farthest geographical limit of commerce for these Jewish farmers. Return
  6. Transliteration of the Yiddish yields konfesionele evidents–aynhayt. This is apparently a type of government registration based on religious affiliation. I was unable to find an English equivalent. Return
  7. Possibly the 17th–century Polish–Lithuanian Count Paul Sapieha. Return
  8. The Yiddish word for what is commonly known in English as the Holocaust is khurbm, “destruction.” Return
  9. Porits is the Yiddish term for Polish landowner. The term may be used here ironically. Return


 

The Origins and Livelihoods
of the Village Jews around Jezierzany

by Yitzhak Metzker (New York)

(About the Jews of Lanovtse [Łanowce] and Kazatshine)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Donated by Saul Lindenbaum

Years ago, before we foresaw the terrible destruction, when I began to think of writing my novel, Oyfn Zeyde's[1]

[Column 424]

Felder [On My Grandfather's Fields], I wrote home to my father, of blessed memory, to Kazatshine [Kozachizna] and asked him to help me with a little information. My father

[Column 425]

did not keep me waiting for long and wrote a letter on four large sides, with small handwriting, that I have kept until now.

My father writes at the beginning of the letter that the first Jews who settled many years ago in our village and in the surrounding villages came here with the grace of the Polish nobility and chiefly from the Duke Sapieha to whom the majority of the estates in the area belonged. My father writes: “our older Jews know to talk about a Feldshuh family who settled in our village many years ago and had the propencia [license to sell alcohol] from the Bilczer Duke. The Feldshuhs then bought estates. The Blank family also was one of the earliest in the village; a great-grandfather of Mekhl Blank was a Jew named Borukh. It is said that this Borukh would harness himself to a wagon and would himself bring a wagon of wood from the forest. He would also have arguments with the non-Jewish young boys until they beat him so badly that he died of his wounds.

“I know about our family, that the great-grandfather Reb Josef – that is, the father of Leib-Ayze, your grandfather and my father-in-law – was brought from Russia when young boys were caught there to be converted. Your grandfather's father-in-law had been brought to a village near Buczacz so that he would become a trustee of the propencia at Kimelman's. It happened that a stranger, a certain Halbin, then obtained the propencia. They immediately went to the Husiatyner Rebbe. How was it possible that the business had been theirs since the grandfather's time and now they had to yield it? The Husiatyner tzadek [righteous man] pledged that Halbin would not take over the propenica and the preacher asked that it be taken from him [Halbin]. In short, Halbin had brought a large household with good furniture and expensive things. They again went to the rebbe and the rebbe answered that he had not yet
[Column 426]
taken over and would not take it over. And that is how it was. On the day of the take-over, thunder descended on the inn and destroyed all the material goods and the whiskey. Then Kimelman was asked to take back the propencia.

My grandfather, Leib-Ayze Reich leased the mill near our house many years ago and there manufactured the dark blotting paper. Rags would be brought from the surrounding villages and shtetlekh [towns], from which the paper was made. My grandfather brought the paper to such towns as Tarnopol and Buczacz. He would tell about how he brought the first kerosene lamp from the world and how the non-Jews as well as the Jews from the village ran to see this new invention.

And here are further sections from my father's letter:
“The [number of] Jews in the village increased little by little. They lived among the Ukrainians better than with the Poles because the village Poles, although he knew no Polish, were proud. Jews in the village drew their livelihood more from the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians were given goods on credit, with the lending of money. However, the Jews had little to do with the Poles.

“It was very rare that someone among us went to America. Years ago, when uncle Hersh Reich left for America (in the 90's of the last century [19th], Y. M[2]), I drove him with my horse to Chortkow to the train. I had said in jest at that time that I, too, had a little money with me. They immediately emptied my pockets and my mother and my grandmother no longer took their eyes off me. They sent the preacher and a man

[Column 427]
with me to watch me and to bring me home from Chortkow.

“Whenever there was trouble in the village they immediately went to the rebbe. My father-in-law, Leib-Ayze, also would travel often to Chortkow for the Days of Awe. Reb Welwele Azieraner would also always come to us in the village. He came many times for a ritual circumcision. He was brought to be the sandek [man who holds the baby boy during the circumcision]. He was a righteous man. His way of life was poor. When a woman once wanted to give him payment for his advice, he did not want to take it until it was confirmed that her husband knew of it. In general, he did not want to take any money.

“The grandfather, Leib-Ayze, was his intimate. He would make Reb Welwele a little happy with his sayings. People say that he also was a miracle worker. One of the children once was very sick. The grandfather went to Reb Welwele and he pledged that he would be healed. And it actually came true, although doctors had already abandoned the child.”

In the letter, my father also provides particular details about how the Jews lived in the twin villages of Kanatshine-Lanovtse among so many non-Jews and from where they drew their livelihood. He also writes about how they lived in their homes and in the small synagogues.

There were two small synagogues there. One was built on the side of the Kazatshine in 1895, on the garden of my great uncle, Hersh Leibhart, the father of Feywl Leibhart. The second small synagogue was in Lanovtse in the courtyard of Meir Kimelman, the grandfather of the writer, Ruchl Oyerbach. In time, a number of Jews, because of the Azieraner quarrels (among followers of Yeheil Fefer and of Reb Welwele's successor, his granddaughter's husband, Reb Eliezer)

[Column 428]

left the small synagogue and created a separate group that had its minyon [10 men needed for prayer] at the home of Yisroel Leib Gorser on the Kazatshine. They prayed there on Shabbosim and holidays in three places. This shows that the twin villages had a considerable number of Jews. At one time, before the First World War, there were forty some Jewish families there.

The Jews lived spread out across the large village and they did not appear there during the week. But when it came to a Shabbos, to a holiday and they took off their weekday toil, scratched off the mud from themselves, dressed up in the best Shabbos clothing and gathered in the houses of prayer, it was seen that they were not few in number. The gentiles often remained standing in astonishment and they would often speak among themselves that so many Jews could again turn their village into a city.

I still see before my eyes the picture of the village Jews, dressed in talisim [prayer shawls] and in the shtreymelkh [fur hats], walking with the members of their household to pray and it still is difficult for me to believe that they are not there anymore.

Almost all the Jews in Kanatshine-Lanovtse lived in their own houses. They had their own gardens and a household of chickens, ducks and geese. A large number of the Jews there had several acres of fields and they also had cows and horses. Several worked the fields themselves and others entrusted them to the gentiles in partnership. There were also a few Jews there who had a great many fields and they were considered very rich men. A significant number of the village Jews were merchants, trading in horses, cows, wheat, eggs, had shops and held leases on inns, a

[Column 429]

kiosk[3] and also [leases of ] the two city gates that were there.

The city Jews competed a little against the Jewish village dwellers. It was an accepted precept with the city Jews that all of the village Jews and their children were ignorant, that they could not read any Hebrew and they related to them with scorn. However, the accepted belief was a false one. Of course, there was no lack of ignorant people, but proportionally, there may have been more in the city. As far as I know, during my time, there was not one boy in the village who did not go to kheder [religious primary school]. Almost every boy studied until he began to put on tefilin [phylacteries] and he may not have had a head for learning, but he could work his way through a chapter of the Khumish [The Five Books of Moses].

There were Jews here, born in the village, who knew a page of gemara [Talmudic commentaries]. In Kanatshine-Lanovtse, there was a boy who achieved a great deal of education, knew German and Polish well, and Hebrew, too, and was interested in literature and in world problems. Good teachers always were employed in the village and the poor Jews did without food in order to be able to pay tuition.

Jewish life in the village also was not so socially backwards. True, the Jews lived scattered, but they kept together. In addition to Shabbosim [Sabbaths] and holidays in the small synagogues, they visited each other for celebrations. They gathered in houses to read a newspaper, speak about politics, play

[Column 430]

dominos or chess. From time to time, a preacher was brought for Shabbos and, later, modern speakers. Many years ago there already was a society, Bikur Kholim [society to aid the sick]. After the First World War there also was a Zionist club there, a dramatic group, a reading room, a dancing school and at one time there was a modern Yiddish school.

As many Jews in the village had geese and there are feathers from geese, on winter Shabbos nights, they had gatherings to pluck the feathers. Each Shabbos night they came together in a different house and it was an evening of entertainment for young and old. The girls and the women plucked the feathers. The teacher or one of the young people gave a humorous reading, mainly from Sholem Aleichem and they sang songs that the Jewish students from the village brought from the [wider] world. On summer Shabbosim the young went strolling from one city gate to the other. They met with young people from neighboring villages or from surrounding shtetlekh; they spent happy times together and they dreamed of the wider, greater world.

After the First World War the young people of the village began to be drawn into the world. However, only some had the luck to tear themselves away from there.

Many Jews lived in the small village kehilus [organized Jewish communities] in eastern Galicia. They were rooted there for generations and lived particularly Jewish lives. However, in a certain sense they were separated from the larger Jewish world and very little was known about their lives. Now we know even less about their tragic death…


Tranlators Footnotes

  1. The book Ofyn Zedyns Felder by Itshe Metsker (Isaac Metzker) was published in 1953.  It was republished in English in 2005 under the title Grandfather's Acres, and offers a detailed look at Jewish life in a small village in Galicia. Return
  2. The letter writer has misremembered the date.  Hersh Reich actually arrived at Ellis Island on June 28, 1902, on the liner Columbia, sailing from Hamburg, Germany.  On the ship's manifest, it says that he has never been in the United States before. Return
  3. Farlag [newpaper kiosk] or trafik - tobacco shop, in Austrian times, a permit was needed for this. Return

 

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