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[Page 189]

The Religious Jewry

 

Tarnow – A Center of Torah, Hasidus, Zionism and Culture

by Rabbi Avraham Kahane, Tel-Aviv

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

In memory of my faithful and beloved mother, Chaya daughter of David Yitzchak HaCohen, and my faithful and beloved brother Zev Wolf and his wife Rivka, and their only son Yisrael Haim, who were exterminated with all the Jewish martyrs in Tarnow. The beloved and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not separated - God will avenge their blood - may their souls be bound in the bond of eternal life - and may their memory be blessed.

 

1.

Tarnow is a famous city from the past. To its history, which must still be treated in depth, I will add a brick with my various facts and memories.

In the entire area of Tarnow, Zaber was the restorer [of the] synagogue with the cupola, which was, in the architectural sense, almost a copy of the Budapest Tobacco Temple [Dohány Street Synagogue]. A great tumult arose in connection with building the synagogue. A number of haredim [ultra–Orthodox Jews] corresponded with prominent men of the conservative world about the kosherness of the synagogue. Many forbid it; many justified it. Then the synagogue was built and was remarkable and the pride of the city. Here should also be remembered the synagogue of Dvoyra Menkes, which stood across from the previously mentioned synagogue and the Merc synagogue, which was supported and founded by the former head of the community of Tarnow, Herman Merc (the father of higher regional court official, Dr. Shlomo Merc).

The city of Tarnow was a very important center of education. For many years before the [Second] World War, young men from all over Galicia would come there to [study with] the famous and learned scholars of our time, the dayanim [religious judges] and gaonim [geniuses], Reb Naftali Goldberg, of blessed memory, author of the erudite book, Beit Levi [House of Levi] (on the tractate Gtin [divorces]), a treatise whose subtle argumentation and acuteness was a touch–

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stone for all of the scholars of that time (a son of the religious judge was a famous scholar and author in Pabianice – the Gaon [genius], Rebbe Alter Goldberg) and Reb Moshe the son of Reb Yekel (Reb Moshe Apter, of blessed memory – his father was a simple artisan – author of Imrei Moshe [Kab Maim Khaim] on various tractates of the Talmud); both drew many important students, who later settled in various locations and cities. Here I remember further the respected religious judges of my time, Rebbe Yudele Orszicer, of blessed memory, Reb Yoal Etkes, Reb Fishel Radomyszler and Reb Yosef Chaim Kirszenbaum, a son–in–law of Reb Yekel's son Moshe – author of Kab Maim Khaim [Measure of Living Waters], a kuntres [folded sheet of book with Rashi commentary] addition to the treatise of his father–in law (one of his son's was a religious judge and the head of a religious court in Frankfort am Main before the Holocaust). Further – Rebbe Zalman Yosef Kurc, a well–known scholar and follower of the Enlightenment, admirable, “defender” in Hebrew of the first order. His son–in–law, the Rabbi Rapaport from Krakow, lastly was a religious judge in Tarnow. Rebbe Yankli Gutwirt, who headed a small yeshiva [religious secondary school] for adult young men in Tarnow for a time, later left there and became the rabbi in Kolbuszowa. Rebbe Shaul Rapaport, a former candidate for the Tarnow rabbinate, was a relative of the Rabbi, Rebbe Abele Shnur, of blessed memory, Rebbe Shmuel Rapaport (ברז”פ) (son of the Lizhensker Rabbi, Rebbe Moshe ברז”פ later in Lemberg), and his children, Hershele and Yosef [Yosha) Rapaport, as well as his son–in–law, Rebbe Shaul Horowicz, son the gaon, Rebbe Leibish Horowicz, of blessed memory, author of Hare BeShamim [Mountains of the Heavens], previously the rabbi in Stryi and later in Stanislavov [Ivano–Frankivsk]. The world famous gaon, Rebbe Yosef Engel, was the author of an entire series of Talmudic and Kabbalistic works, about which we have put together a separate outline, lived finally in Krakow and in the end in Vienna. And also, his great and important relative, the gaon, Rebbe Shmuel Engel, Rabbi in Radomyśl, later in Munkacz – author of many important texts and responsa – is also among those who came from Tarnow. The last one, a brother, Rebbe Wolf Engel, also was a well–known learned man. In addition, we should mention the gaon and productive author of many important books, including BaNistar uva–nigleh [In the Open and in Secret] (Talmudic and Kabbalah), previously was the head of the yeshiva in Tarnow, then in Antwerp; Rebbe Abish Reinhold, of blessed memory, a son of the renowned shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] and scholar, Rebbe Henokh (Khenokh) shoykhet, of blessed memory; the dayan [religious judge], Rebbe Yakov Kurc; the dayan, Rebbe Wolf Fink; the dayan and teacher Holender. In addition, the scholars and well–known teachers of adults, Rebbe Yeshayahu Man and Rebbe Abish Klajnhendler; [teachers] of the younger scholars, Leibish Rozental, Chaim Zelinger, Yekli Bernsztajn; [teacher of] the older and younger, Motl Kornmehl (later dayan in Vienna).

A generation earlier, the rabbi in Tarnow was the well–known gaon and Rabbi, Rebbe Yisroel Rapaport, of blessed memory (a grandfather of the last rabbi, Reb Abele Shnur, of blessed memory), author of the well–known treatise, Responsa Mahari haKohan, and, in addition, was an enlightened man. After him, after a certain pause, his grandson, Abele Shnur, of blessed memory, entered the city rabbinate.

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The Rabbi and Gaon, Rebbe Meir Arik, may his memory be blessed. and the Talmudic Gaon, Rebbe Yosef Engel, may his memory be blessed

In a book dedicated to the memory of the major Jewish community of Tarnow, it is certainly a sacred duty to provide a respected place for the great Gaon [genius], Rebbe Meir Arik, may his memory be blessed, and one of the greatest Talmudic geniuses and a child of our city, Rebbe Yosef Engel, may his memory be blessed.

Because of the scarcity of suitable sources, we only provide a few fact from the life and creations of the great Gaon, Reb Meir Arik, may his memory be blessed. He was born in 5696 [1855] in the shtetl Grzymałów (eastern Galicia), and was one of the students of the well–known gaonim, Rebbe Yekele [Yakob] Weidenfeld from Grzymałów, author of the famous book, Melo Haro'im [Full of Shepherds], and Rebbe Sholom Mordekhai haKohen Schwadron of Berczan, one of the greatest jurists and Halakhists [experts on Jewish law] of his time, author of various treatises and books of opinions on rabbinical matters, Halakhus [Jewish law], commentaries and sermons and [he] received authorization for them from the rabbinate.

At first, he was the rabbi in the shtetlekh Potok Zloti and Jazlowiec where he lived frugally and with few needs. He was not disturbed by communal activities; he had the opportunity to study diligently and increase his great learning. Later he became rabbi in Buczacz and remained there until 1914 (the year of the outbreak of the First World War). He remained there until the year 5682 (1922), then he came to Tarnow and remained there until the year 5686 (1926) where he died on Sukkous [the Feast of Tabernacles] of the same year.

Five large volumes of responsa were lost in the [First] World War, about which he greatly grieved because this was a great loss in the scholarly area. However, he again began to work in the same area and answered all those who turned to him with religious legal [questions]. His following treatises were published: Shiri Tahara [Songs of Purity], a treatise on the Talmudic tractate Teharot [Purification], Minkhas Kenaos [Jealous Offerings] on the Tractate Sotah, Minkhas Pitim [The Broken Pieces] on four parts of the Shulkan Orekh [Code of Jewish law], Tal Torah [the “dew” of the Torah], proofreader for the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud, – the further treatises: Imrei Yosher [Words of Rectitude] 2 parts – the first, Responsa (printed in Munkács, 5677 (1917), the second part, Krakow–Tarnow, 5685, 1925. It is certain that other writings and manuscripts remained, but we do not know their fate.

And although, for all his life, he lived in a bad material position, this did not influence his spiritual work. During all this time, his health was not good and he had bad eyes. Despite his great learning and renown, he was an example of modesty.

May his memory be blessed.

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The Talmudic Gaon Yosef Engel, of blessed memory

Reb Yosef Engel was born in Tarnow in 5619 (1859) and died in Vienna in 5680, the 2nd of Chesvan [1920]). He spent the years until 1914 in Krakow and also belonged to the Beis–Din [religious court] there. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, he left for Vienna, where he remained until his death on the 2nd of Chesvan 5680 [26 October 1919]. He was also buried in Vienna. We include only the names of his works that include Talmud investigations, corrections and supplements to the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, Responsa, Kabalistic writings and sermons. His main accomplishment in the Kabbalah was to show the close links and connections that bind the Jewish mystic to the popular rationalist part of the Talmud and Halakhah [religious law] and the later literature of Halakhah and Aggadah [compilations of the allegoric and narrative sections of the Talmud] and Talmudic commentaries (Teoria Kabbalah [Theories of Kabbalah]) and so on.

During his life, approximately 20 works were published. Approximately 90 remained in manuscript form, which were published little by little with the help of patrons and friends of Torah literature by a grandson, Moshe Borukh Morgensztern, who declared himself a student of the great gaon (at the same time, [he also was] a grandson of the famous gaon and righteous man, Rebbe Mendele of Kutsk, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, who is now in New York).

The scope of work of the great gaon, who almost had no equal, encompasses the area of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, books of Sifra [commentary on Leviticus], Tosefta Mekhilta [supplements to the Mishnah – Talmudic commentary about the Book of Exodus], Rishomim vaAkharonim [“the first ones” and “the second ones” – leading rabbis from the 11th to 15th centuries and the 16th century], then rules of Halakhah (Garments) in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds – Kabbalah according to Talmudic sources, a movement that now is being strongly built by the great scholar, the Rabbi Ruwin Marglius in Tel Aviv.

Of his texts we mention only the following: Shivim Panim LaTorah [Seventy Faces of Torah], Sheva Danhamta [Seven Consolations], Lekakh Tov [Good Lessons], Asvin D'Oraysa [Letters of the Torah], Ziyyunim la–Torah [Points of the Torah], Gevurot Shemonim [Eighteen Powers]. Responsa: xsBen Porat [Good Son] (Two parts), Ozerot Yosef [Joseph's Treasures] (five parts), Gilyonei haShas [Editions of the Talmud], notes and supplement of the extremely scholarly valuable to order of the Mishnah [Oral Torah] Zeraim [Seeds (dealing with agricultural laws)], Gilyonei haShas, order of the Mishnah Moed [Festivals] – and last was published in its entirety by his grandson, Moshe Borukh Morgensztern, New York 1949, Gilyonei haShas, Nashim v'Nezikin [Women (Family Law) and Damages] – Babylonia and Jerusalem. In addition to this, a large Talmudic Encyclopedia (Basic Laws of the Talmud), Talmud norms, principles and doctrines – encompasses the entire theoretical material of the entire Talmud in 32 parts, from which only two sections were published, alef and beis [a and b or 1 and 2] and the rest of the sections remained unpublished. After his death, a group of friends of the gaon founded a society with the name Hovevei Torah [Lovers of Torah] in Vienna, to publish the entire existing manuscript material, which was a great treasure for Talmudists. We do not know what happened to this.

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2.

Hasidus and Tzadekim in Tarnow during the Last 80 Years

Tarnow was, like other centers, also an important center of Hasidus of various colors and shades. It should be emphasized that the famous Rebbe, Reb Hersh Rimanower, born in Dąbrowa, as an orphan was raised for a long time in Tarnow by a pious tailor during his young years; he later left because he did not see a practical purpose for himself in tailoring and for his spiritual strivings. First, he was a shamas for the tzadek [righteous man], Reb Mendele from Rimanow (“Rimanower”), of blessed memory, and, later, took over the rabbinical seat following his rebbe because the son and inheritor of the Rabbi, Rebbe Mendele was not capable enough for it. There actually were many Rimanower Hasidim in Tarnow. One of the oldest Hasidim was Rebbe Gershon Kamelhar, author of Kol Mevaser [A Voice is Announcing], the histories of rabbis. Then, Reb Hersh Rimanower – the father of the rabbi and gaon [genius], Reb Yekutial Kamelhar, well–known head of the yeshiva [religious secondary school] in Rzeszów, Stanislawow (died in Jerusalem); author of an entire series of scholarly and Hasidic historical works (former publisher of the Talmudic periodical, Ohel Moed [Tent of the Meeting], in Rzeszów). Further – Rebbe Yosef Szif (once a candidate for the Tarnow rabbinate, as it is told), and Rebbe Yerukhem Teitelbaum (a grandson of Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum, rabbi of Ujhel [Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary], later went to Israel, where he died). Both later became Hasidim of the gaon, Rebbe Chaim Halberstam, author of Divrei Chaim [The Words of Chaim], rabbi and righteous man from Sanz [Nowy Sącz], of blessed memory.

The main Hasidim in Tarnow actually later consisted of the Sanz variant and everyone in Tarnow knew the Tarnow Sanz house of prayer, which for many long years was the center of Hasidus and learning. Great scholars and giants of Torah actually came out of there, among them: the famous gaon, Rebbe Gedalia Szmelkes, of blessed memory, the child prodigy and gaon, son–in–law of Rebbe Yehoshua Zilber, of blessed memory, in Tarnow, later rabbi in Kolomea and in Przemyśl, (where he died on the 28th of Tevet 5688 [21 January 1928]), father of Dr. Shmuel Szmelkes, well–known among pedagogues and rabbinical replacement of Dr. Ton, of blessed memory. It is told of the Sanz Rabbi that he was the one who in his time cursed the new synagogue in Tarnow, which stood as a ruin for approximately 40 years because a non–Jewish Austrian general was supposed to have laid the first stone of the foundation. A son of the Rabbi and gaon, Rebbe Chaim Halberstam was Rebbe Sholom Eliezer (I think the youngest of his children). He lived for a considerable number of years in Tarnow, had many Hasidim because of his lineage and great father. He left for Hungary (Ratzfert [Újfehértó]) many years before the First World War

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where he remained until deep old age (he perished there at the hands of the Nazis, may their name be erased.)

The tzadek [righteous man], Reb Yehezkiel Halberstam, a son of the Divrei Chaim [The Words of Chaim – the name of a book by Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz; he was referred to by the name of his book], had many Hasidm in Tarnow after his father's death. His place was the Sandzer synagogue; he had many Hasidim and followers.

The Bobover Hasidim also were represented in Tarnow in large numbers, beginning with Reb Shlomo Halberstam, previously the rabbi in Oświęcim, later in Bobov. His son, Rebbe Ben Tzion Halberstam (may the Lord avenge his blood) took his place and did a great deal for education and yeshivus [religious secondary schools], and had, as is known, a very great influence on the young Hasidim. He also was a great musician and composer and wrote Hasidic melodies that were very popular in Hasidic circles.

The Tzadek Rebbe Yehosha Horowicz, of blessed memory, Rabbi of Tarnobrzeg (Dzików), a gaon and well–known rebbe, the son of the Tzadek Rebbe Meir Horowicz (author of Emeri Noam [The Sayings of Noam] and a grandson of the Rebbe Rabbi Eliezer Horowicz and great grandson of the famous Tzadek Reb Naftali of Ropshitz [Ropczyce], of blessed memory), had his own small synagogue in Tarnow, where there was much prayer and study and a considerable number of Torah students emerged from there.

In later years, right after the war of 1914–1918, his son, Reb Alter Horowicz, of blessed memory (may God avenge his blood), perished with his family in Krakow, settled in Tarnow and had Hasidim and followers.

Rebbe Yehiel Horowicz, a brother of the Dzikówer Rebbe, also lived in Tarnow for tens of years. His son, Rebbe Naftali, later settled in the yeshiva [secondary religious school] city of his father, in Pokshivnitz [Koprzywnica]. Another son was named Reb Alter and a third, Avraham.

Of further rabbis of great stature, we should remember the Rabbi Igra, of blessed memory, a great scholar and ascetic (he fasted). [He was] a grandson of the gaon, the Rabbi Meshulam Igra, of blessed memory, called the Ziliner Rebbe, who later left Tarnow many years ago. He lived in Tarnow for many years and had many followers.

Then the Rabbi, Reb Yakov Baranower, of blessed memory, the Rabbi Chaim Eliezer Unger (Radlower Rabbi, of blessed memory); his son, Reb Meir, of blessed memory, led the rabbinical office after him and his brother, Rebbe Yisroel Yosef, of blessed memory (did not preside over any rabbinate).

The Tutsziner Rebbe, who, as it is said, did not take any gifts after meeting with people, should also be remembered.

Sadigura [Sadhora] and Boyaner [Boiany] Hasidim also were in Tarnow in a considerable number. Of the main followers should be remembered the families of Rebbe Yitzhak Brandszteter and of Rebbe Alter and Rebbe Chaim and Rebbe Yosef Zinger, Reb Zalman Zilberberg, of blessed memory, and many others.

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Ostrowcer Hasidim. The followers of the well–known rabbi, tzadek [righteous man] and gaon [genius], Reb Meir Yehiel of Ostrowce (Poland), were also represented in Tarnow. Among others should be remembered the great leader and philanthropist, Rebbe Yeshaye Zilberfenig (a grandson of the well–known rich man and scholar, Reb Skharye Mendl Aberdam, of blessed memory). He perished in Tarnow during the Hitlerist occupation).

Żabner Hasidim. The Gaon, Rebbe Sholom Dovid Unger in Żabno also had a considerable number of Hasidim in Tarnow. Later, he settled in Tarnow where his son, Rebbe Eliezer Unger, then led the rabbinical office.

In the Area of Torah the Gaon and preacher, Rebbe Wolf Ber Szenkel, of blessed memory, a student of the Gaon, Rebbe Moshe Sofer [Schreiber], author of Hatam Sofer [Seal of the Scribe] was active in Tarnow. His son, Rebbe Yakov Szenkel (Rebbe Yakov Magid [preacher]), a famous scholar, Rebbe Volvish Magid (in municipal house of prayer) and his son, Rebbe Yekli Belzer. Reb Shimeon Najman

 

Tar1_195.jpg
Reb Abele Shnur, of blessed memory – City Rabbi in Tarnow before the First World War

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– a great scholar and author of many collections of sermons and scholarly treatises; later the owner of the old, famous book firm Ahron Faust in Krakow. The preacher and scholar, Rebbe Nusan Nota Landau – preacher at the Kove'a Itim LaTorah [have a fixed time to commit for Torah study each day] Society at several times, later, the head of the rabbinical court in Oświęcim, author of important scholarly books.

The religious judge, Reb Mordekhai Kornmehl, one of the keen minds in Tarnow, later in Vienna. Mordekhai Elihu, son of Feywel, Yitzhak Kashe (Shnur), later religious judge in Krenitz. Elimelekh Yehuda and Moshe Yosef Zalc, Yosef Sapir, Rebbe Moshe Rapaport, son of Rebbe Shabtil Rapaport, rabbi in Dombrowa, great scholar and intimate friend of Mordekhai Dovid Brandszteter.

One should remember the past scholars: Rebbe Avraham Wakskerc and his brother, Pinkhas Wakskerc, the prominent Rebbe Yakov Bernsztajn, the older and younger Yekli Bernsztajn, important scholars from the Sanzer synagogue, Rebbe Mendl Miller, later the head of the rabbinical court in Złoczów, a great scholar and author of the book, Menakhem Tzion [Consolation of Zion], the Gaon Rebbe Yekele Horowicz, previously the rabbi in Delyatyn, Zelka Kanarek, who left for America and became a rabbi there. Abele Hirsh, son of the teacher, Rebbe Moshe Mordekhai, simultaneously was a composer of liturgical music and religious melodies. One still must remember Ruwin Jakubowicz and Reb Alter Lezer.

With this, the number of scholars in the area of Torah is not complete. Because in addition to those mentioned above, many more important scholars lived in and had an effect on Tarnow.

 

3.

Professor Leon Kelner, son of the Tarnow Rebbe Rafal Kelner, excelled in the cultural area. Kelner was an intimate friend and co–worker of Dr. [Theodor] Herzl, of blessed memory. He was a university professor in Chernowitz, later in Vienna. A scientist, first–class English philologue, author of the Shakespeare Encyclopedia, translator into English of Dr. Bloch's work, Vegn Yidn un Felker [About Jews and Nations]. In addition, he was a very warm Jew who had a great deal of understanding for Jewish tradition and sanctity.

Prominent and significant men who were born and lived for a long time in Tarnow included Dr. Yitzhak Sziper, a well–known writer, literary critic and historian, the scientist Dr. Professor Maks Binensztok, the well–known communist leader Radek–Sobelzohn, the writer and scientist, grammarian and philosopher, Moshe Ahron Wizen, born in Baranow, died in 5731 in Eretz–Yisroel, where he

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spent his time after Hitler arrived in Vienna and in the course of many years spread his fruitful activity in the area of linguistics, grammar, philosophy and religion.

The famous historian and wide–ranging scientist, Professor Dr. Shalom [Salo] Baron, who became well–known with his historical works, was born in Tarnow. [He is] now in America, with a large staff of colleagues at Columbia University.

Of the personalities of the greatest range must be remembered the well–known lawyer and defender, Dr. Elihu Goldhamer, who had a great reputation in all of Austria. Then, Dr. Shlomo Merc, of the Higher Regional Court Council in Tarnow and, in addition, a religious Jew. Dr. Leon Szicer, the leader of the Jewish hospital in Tarnow for many years, a person with literary capabilities and a thinker, was among the former well–known Tarnow doctors. The virtuous and warm–hearted Dr. Yakov Yekel, who helped so many people and who perished in Stanisławów [Ivano–Frankivsk] at the hands of the Germans, should be remembered among the doctors during the last years before the [Second World] War.

 

Tarnow – a Seat of Hebrew Writers

Reb Mordekhai Weissman Chajes ([pseudonym] Moach) was an editor and professor of many works and collections of verses and songs of praise according to the taste of that time (of the pious followers of the Enlightenment). He spent his later years in Vienna, where he ran a kosher restaurant. His brother Fishel was a correspondent for Hebrew newspapers.

Shmuel Weissman and his wife, Dwoyra, later in Dinow; [she was] a Hebrew writer (a rarity at that time).

Abraham Yehuda Hajman, a teacher of the science of commerce and a writer on economic themes. (His son, Hilel Hajman, was a modern merchant who occasionally would write about trade themes.)

Naftali Keler (editor of the Bikurei Ha'Itim) [First Fruits of the Time], succeeding the follower of the Enlightenment, Pinkhas Sim, the world recognized writer Mordekhai Dovid Brandszteter (who for personal reasons and misgivings alas burned his last writings so that, God forbid, they not touch anyone's honor). A large number of correspondence with all of the world writers and scientists of his time was lost. Various interesting travel impressions of his wanderings (to Prague and back) disappeared during the World War.

The scribe Moshe Ornsztajn, editor of HaShahar [The Dawn] after Smolenski, had an effect in Tarnow for a time at the Baron Hirsch school. Also, for a certain

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time (1905–1907) the scholar and philologist, Dr. Yosef Mises (may the Lord avenge his blood), had an effect in Tarnow as a religious teacher at the Tarnow gymnazie [secondary school], later the military chief rabbi for all of Poland (perished in Przemyśl).

 

4.

Zionism in Tarnow

Over the course of more than 50 years the city was the center of Zionism. Sixty years ago the Colonization Union, Ahaves Tzion [Love of Eretz–Yisroel] was founded there [in Tarnow], had branches and members in various cities in Galicia and was active in the creation of the Manhamim [camp] colony, which over the course of its existence has created various transformations in children's and adult's illnesses and continues to exists until today. At the head of this work stood Dr. Avraham ben [son of] Ahron Zalc, delegate to the 1st [Zionist] Congress and its vice president, as well as Professor Zigmund Bramberg–Bitkowski.

In addition to the previously mentioned Zionist personalities, such as Dr. Sziper and Dr. Binensztok, such leading Zionist activists as Dr. Efroim Fishel Waszic, later a revolutionary, had an effect before the First World War and died in Eretz–Yisroel, Dr. Shimeon Feldblum, leader of the Zionists in Krakow and in western Galicia, in Israel since the Second World War. Dr. Zelenfreund of Romania, later in Brzozów. The writer, Tzvi haLevi [descended from the priestly class] Rumeld (Tsohar [Hebrew acronym for Revisionist Zionists), later in Zakopane – published the first literary almanac – Luah Sha'ashuimAlmanac of Amusements – with Moshe Ahron Wiesen.

The admired and beloved popular speaker, writer and Enlightenment Rebbe Chaim Najger, of blessed memory, who was known and loved in every Jewish community in Galicia, later in all of Poland, made an impression in Tarnow for many years. Dr. Shmuel Szpan, lawyer and communal worker, leader of the Jewish community and Zionist organization in Tarnow for many years, now in Haifa for 20 years. Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Dr. Wolf Szenkler (both perished), Dr. Wilhelm Berkelhamer (later editor of Nowy Dziennik [New Journal] in Krakow), the writer and worker activist, Daniel Leibl – in Israel for more than 20 years, Dr. Elihu Tisz (in [Israel] for several years), Dr. Avraham Comet, lawyer, communal worker, director for many years of Yidishn Vokhnblat [Jewish Weekly Newspaper] (Tygodnik Zydowski), last head of the community in Tarnow, now in Israel – Dr. Yeshayahu Fajg, in Israel for approximately 20 years, and Dr. Yeshayahu Szpira, now a co–worker at Kol Yisroel [Voice of Israel].

Tarnow once was an important center of the Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] movement.

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The follower of the Enlightenment and philosopher, Rebbe Moshe Ahron Najger, of blessed memory, the father of the well–known Zionist activist in Tarnow, Rebbe Chaim Najger, of blessed memory, was among the first active Mizrakhi workers in Tarnow. Here should be remembered the important pedagogic work of Rebbe Moshe Ahron Najger as an instructor and educator of an entire series of Jewish followers of the Enlightenment.

Beginning in the years 1911–1912 until the outbreak of the First World War, Mizrakhi work and informational activity was carried out by the writer of these lines with his co–worker, Ahron Hofmeister (Hetzroni), in the country [Israel] for over 20 years and the teacher and writer, Yosef Umanski (in Israel for even longer).

After the First World War, the well–known activist, Rebbe Wolf Gecler and Rebbe Yehiel Kurc, of blessed memory (both perished in Tarnow) among others, stood at the head of the Mizrakhi movement.

 

The Hebrew School System

The first Hebrew school was founded in Tarnow over 50 years ago, in which took part the first activists, Rebbe Chaim Tsvi Lichtblau, in Israel for about 30 years, and Avraham Brandszteter, who was among the first teachers there, as well as Rebbe Pinkhus Bazler and Rebbe Skharye Mendel Szpiro (later in Eretz–Yisroel, where he continued to be active in his trade); then Tzvi Szrafsztajn (now in America), Rafael Suferman (in Eretz–Yisroel for many years), Shmuel Kopelanski, Yosef Umanski (well–known scholar and author of many important works and Talmudic monographs, in Eretz–Yisroel for many years, where he works diligently. During recent years, his two works of great scientific importance, Mafteikhos laTalmud Babyloni vaYerusalemi [Keys to the Babylonia and Jerusalem Talmud], two volumes, have been published) taught in the revived school Safa Berura [clear language]. The leadership of the folks–shul [public school], director Liblich, of blessed memory, and the director of the gymnazie [secondary school], Dr. Skharye Zilberfenig (now Kesef) – Deputy Director of the Department of Education of the municipality of Tel Aviv – achieved a great deal for the Safa Berura. After him, the leadership of the Safa Berura gymnazie was taken over by Dr. Rozenbusz, of blessed memory, who perished in Tarnow.

 

The HaShakhar Movement in Tarnow

The HaShakhar [Dawn] movement began to arise from the young men in the house of prayer, of whom a number left 40 years ago for Eretz–Yisroel. [It was] founded by the communal worker and writer, Moshe Wizeneld from Rzeszów, of blessed memory,

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(after many tranformations, he was finally the director and financial director of Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] in Krakow and perished there), with the collaboration of Dov Kimhi (Meler), well–known writer in Eretz–Yisroel for approximately 40 years, and Yitzhak Laufban, later editor of Hapoel Hatzair [The Young Worker] (also came [to Eretz Yisroel] 40 years ago and died several years ago), of Yudel Bornsztajn of Dembic, Daniel and Shapse Leibel (both in the country [Israel] for many years), then Leib Lichtinger, Zionist activist of many years, many years in Eretz–Yisroel – the HaShakhar [movement also had a beautiful branch in Tarnow and to it belonged among others: Yehekiel and Yehoshua Brandsztetter (both in the country [Israel] for about 40 years), Dovid Geldcehler, of blessed memory, fell during the First World War, the writer of these lines who was the first secretary of the first conference in Dembic, Shlomo Keler, of blessed memory, A. Yungerwirt (Abrach) and many other active followers of this movement.


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From the beginning of the Jewish community in Tarnow,
its rabbis, communal workers, Torah scholars and writers

by Chaim Dov Friedberg

Translated by David Schonberg

The sprouting/development of the Jewish community of Tarnow already began in the mid-fourth century of the present millennium {(i.e.- the fifth- Hebrew date)- from 5350 = 1590}. In the year 5397 (1637) the Jews here received a charter of rights from King Władysław )IV Vasa) and these rights were later affirmed by Prince Radziwiłł. Due to the mass murders of the tyrant Chmielnicki, this community could not develop, and for this reason there has sadly not remained any memory from this first period and closed to us is any image/idea/vision of those days and that generation.

Despite the {different}events and barriers that stood in the path of the community, the community slowly developed. In the year 5425 (1665) there already lived (in the community) approx. 2,300 souls after which there was built a beautiful synagogue {note: Compare Jewish encyclopaedia in English, part 12, p. 64 and also as to the history of Tarnow in Polish [Tarnow 1911]), into which was poured their speech/prayer before their Creator.

In the year 5440 (the text here has 1673- but the Hebrew year, is equivalent to 1680) the community decided to seek out a leader at its head and the choice fell upon Rabbi Samuel Schmelke, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua, from the Horowitz family {note: Compare what I wrote about him in my work The History of the Horowitz Family and the chain of descent, originating from Rabbi Y. Horowitz, Baal ha-Shloh [author of the famous work- Shne Luhot HaBrit {the two tablets of the covenant}- R. Yeshayahu HaLevi Horowitz, 1558-1630]}. He received his instruction as a youth in various Yeshivot in the Krakow area and his good reputation came to be heard by/to Rabbi Moshe, the son of the author of the Sefer (book) Meginei Shlomo and he gave his daughter to him as a wife. Over time he became famous and amongst Torah scholars he was honoured and he merited to be chosen and serve as Rabbi of the Tarnow community. When sitting here upon the seat of the rabbinate he gave a haskama (rabbinical endorsement) in the year 5454 (1694) to the work Va-Yichtov Moshe {Frankfurt on the Oder, 1694) and in the year 5459 (1699) to the work Shem Shmuel (ibid, Frankfurt, 1699) {research- not in piece: this is a work of sermons on the weekly portion by Rabbi Shmuel ben Moshe Maswislawitch}. In addition an opinion is cited in his name in the work Arba'ah Turei Even (Lvov, 5549= 1789) from his son-in-law and he lived long over his realm and died after 40 years in old age in the year 5473 {1713} and upon his tomb- gravestone/ matzeva is inscribed {note: compare- the Annual- Bikkurim, part 2 (5626), p. 11):

Oy- Woe, the crown of our heads has fallen
Our teacher and Rabbi the Rabbi the great light
The Elder-sage who acquired wisdom, our teacher the Rabbi, Shmuel
Schmelke
Segal son of the great light, our teacher and Rabbi
Yehoshua Ish Horowitz- who passed away
On the Wednesday, the first of Ellul 5473 {1713}, 'And Samuel judged
the people forty years and died'.
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After the death of Rabbi Shmuel Schmelke Horowitz, his position as Rabbi of the town was filled by his son-in-law, the Rabbi, renowned and praised, Rabbi Eleazar Margaliot, the author of the work (Sefer) Ma'aseh Rokeach that is upon the Torah and the Mishnah, and who was at the end of his days the Rabbi of the Ashkenazi community of Amsterdam, and as to his greatness and his life I wrote at length in my book, Luhot Zikaron (Tablets of memory)- page 71 onwards. And after his leaving his position in Tarnow, in his place was Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac, who was the son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib, the head of the (bes din) court of Shidlov. He was at first for many years the Rabbi of the town Tarnogrodia {note: compare Heilprin, Pinkas Medinat Lita, p. 591}, and from there he was appointed to be Rabbi of Tarnow and to dwell there. In his time he was highly considered and in the year 5496 {1736} he was one of the signatories upon the cherem {ban} against the famous Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto {note: compare Kerem Hemed, 3rd, p. 156, Iggrot Ramhal, p. 327} and he died in old age in the year 5516 {1756} and upon his gravestone/ matzeiva is inscribed {note: compare- the Annual- Bikkurim, above, p. 14):

Here is buried the departed, the glory of the generation,
Our Teacher and Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac
Head of the Beis Din (court) of Tarnow
Son of our teacher and Rabbi Yehuda Leib of Krakow
Who died and was buried on the eve of Sabbath
In the year 5516 {1756}.
On the seat of the Rabbinate of Tarnow there sat afterwards our Rabbi and Teacher Yitzhak, the son of Rabbi Haim, the head of the Beis Din (court) of Lublin {note: compare Daas Kaddishim, p. 69 ff} and the daughter of Rabbi Yitzhak, Feigele, became the wife of Rabbi Hayyim Hochgelernter who spread/expounded Torah in various communities in Poland {note: compare Daas Kidoshim, p. 72}.

Unfortunately I was unable to identify who filled the position of the above Rabbi Yitzhak, though indeed later crowned with the Rabbinate of the Tarnow community was the Rabbi our teacher, Rabbi Abraham Abeli HaCohen Rappoport (a descendant of the Schach) {note: as proved in my work Keter Kehuna} and many of his responsa that he wrote to those who asked him questions on various topics were printed by his son {note: such as part one of Even Haezer, 4, 25; Yoreh Deah 52, 62; Orach Hayyim 37} in two parts of his book Responsa Mahari (Rabbi Yisrael) HaCohen (Lvov, 5629-5635).

Rabbi Abraham Abeli HaCohen Rappoport expounded Torah in Tarnow for many years and when taken upon high his son the above mentioned Rabbi Yisrael was placed upon his seat and after his death there became the Rabbi of the town, Rabbi Abraham Abeli HaCohen Shnor, the great-grandson and grandson of the above Rabbi Abraham Abeli. He was born in the year 5618 {1858}, served at first as the Rabbi of the town Ushpitzin and in the year 5659 {1899} he was placed upon his grandfather's seat, may their memory be for a blessing.

* * *
*

Of the Tarnow community leaders who merited repute/ renown, there cannot be removed/ forgotten Benyamin Wolf Landa. His father Yehezkel was aluf (need check this odd term) and dayan: Rabbinical judge in the town Apta {note: Daas Kedoshim, p. 104; and compare also- my work on the Landa family, Bnei Landa l'mishpehotam} and he merited to raise his son to Torah learning and greatness, and was made a leader of the town of Tarnow and the region/area/vicinity, and he would collect the taxes of the communities for the government, he being in their trust, for many years till his death, and upon his gravestone/ matzeiva is inscribed:

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Here is buried, in the borders of Benjamin,
upon which the teller –funeral orator- of his deeds shall be great
as that who orated at Josiah's death in Ramon
A faithful shepherd, champion of shepherds
Faithful friend Binyamin Wolf son of Yehezkel Landa
Fallen is the crown of the head of the speakers,
Community leader, head of state
Oy- Woe is the generation that has lost its leader
Died Wednesday, 7th Iyar 5497 {1737}. {note: Behurim, 2nd year, p. 9}.

* * *
*

And here are its Torah scholars and writers:
  1. R' Shevah Maggid that gave to the public at large hortatory discourses and occasionally went around other towns as was the practise in those times. The wise Rabbi and scholar Simcha Pinsker, his son, who wrote the important work Likutei Kadmoniot (Vienna, 5620) was born here in the year 5563 {=1803} and he was the father Rd. Yehuda Leib Pinsker, one of the initiators/proponents/ of Zionism. After years of work and hardship Rabbi Shevah departed from the land of the living in the year 5576 {=1816} and this is inscribed on his gravestone/ matzeiva:
    Shevah, a tower of strength, admonisher at the gate
    Speaking words of God to old and young
    Took the souls of the wise with sweet words
    With his knowledge understood the simple, brought enlightenment
    This is Shevah (praise) of the seventh day in which he expounded wisdom and morality and brought back from sin many by his
    pleasant discourses in the written and oral Torah. The Rabbi who was famous and learned, knowledgeable in the revealed and the hidden, in the seven wisdoms
    Our teacher and Rabbi, Shevah, son of Mordechai HaLevi, may the memory of the righteous one be a for blessing, righteous preacher and teacher, here in the holy community Tarnow and other holy communities, who passed away 9th Av 5576 {=1816}. May his soul be bound up in the bond of life. {note: ibid., p. 11}
  2. R' Zeev Dov Shenkel, the author of the work, (Sefer) Magid Zedek (Krakow, 5654= 1894) that comprises/includes elucidations of the prophetic readings, in the fashion of the Hassidim.
  3. R' Yaakov Shenkel, who was busy in his youth in the book trade, and brought to publication in Vienna (in the year 5624= 1864) a Pesach Haggadah with many commentaries, and at the end of Sefer Tefila LeMoshe (Podgorze, 5660= 1900), printed from it, Tefila LeYaakov, a discourse on attributes.
  4. R' Naphtali Zvi Goldberg, the author of the work Beit Levi on the tractate Gittin (Premishla, 5638=1878) was for many years the head of the Tarnow Beit Din (rabbinical court).
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  1. R' Shimon Betzalel Neiman a descendant of R' Yisrael Neiman, the author of Mahane Yisrael who served in Krakow as head of the Beit Din in the period of R' Shimon Sofer, also he was involved in the book trade, and was the chief agent of printers in Vilna for the region/state of Galicia and afterwards he acquired the book business from the heirs of R. Aharon Foist of Krakow. He published in his life many works of halacha, also books of homiletic literature that I brought/referred to in my work, Beit Akad Sefarim.
  2. R' Mordechai Weisman-Hajes, son of R' Yitzhak Yehuda Leib. In his youth he composed a work of explanatory notes and sources in regard to the Yerushalmi Talmud (Krotoshin, 5626= 1866), "and I was very preoccupied all the day in matters of business, long and weary, and in great haste in a short time at night I completed with G-d's help, all this difficult work, from beginning to end". Besides this, he enriched the newspapers HaMaggid, HaNesher and others with many valuable articles, besides a large number of books on various subjects. He was born in Tarnow in the year 5591=1831 and died in Vienna, in the year 5674=1914.
  3. Naphtali Keller born in Tarnow in the year 5594=1834 (16th Shevat) to his father, R' Menachem Mendel, a wine merchant, and already in his youth the spirit of the Enlightenment (Haskalah) breathed in him, and from time to time he published articles in various newspapers, becoming a multifaceted prolific author, raconteur and editor of the annual Bikkurim (Vienna, 5624-5) which in the printing of its second part, he passed away. His son-in-law who married his daughter, R' Hayim Margaliot, who was the Rabbi in Dubnow, published his work Sippurei Naphtali (Warsaw…-).
  4. Mordechai David Brandstetter, raconteur and humourist, one of the pillars of the HaShahar circle, who enriched our literature with his stories of the life of the Hassidim and the Tsaddikim of Galicia, published as Kol Sipurei (Krakow, 5655=1895) and with additions and the details of his life, Warsaw, 5670-80= 1910-20.
  5. Aharon Yehuda Heiman researcher who composed/wrote the work (sefer) HaZikaron veHashichaha (Memory & Forgetfulness), Krakow, 5648= 1888 on the nature of memory and its quality, etc. Also he printed Sedarim veHitrakzut- how to improve the material life of the Jews of Galicia, together with Shem U'Sheerit on the immortality of the soul (Krakow, 5664=1904).


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The Jewish Religious in Tarnow

by Rabbi Yehuda Gefen (Ausabel),
Head of the Beit Din [Jewish Supreme court] of Kfar Asa [Israel]
[1]

Translated by Dena Ressler

Tarnow was one of the most beautiful Jewish towns in Galicia, known in the Jewish world as “a city and mother in Israel” [i.e. an important Jewish city] - as a center of Torah, Yidishkayt, Tzedakah [charity] and Chesed [generosity]. The name Tarnow was exceedingly popular in the Jewish world and was regarded with respect and honor. Tarnow became famous thanks primarily to the unique lifestyle of its population and its exemplary organizations and institutions. The religious Jews in educated a substantial number of people, but also the so-called “free” (non-religious) were, unfortunately, also very far from what we understand today under this designation. These were simple Jews, householders, merchants, tradespeople. With a deep feeling for Torah and Yidishkayt, Jews in large numbers gathered in shuls and Beit midrashim [houses of religious study]. There were almost no atheists or virulently anti-religious people to be found in the great Jewish center, Tarnow.

The jewels and pride of Jewish Tarnow were its shuls, study halls and Hasidic shtiblekh [note: prayer & study rooms] where the voice of Torah and prayer almost never ceased during day and night; they were continually full of life, joy and spiritual elevation. The large prayer hall – or as it was called - the Sandzer Kloyz was the main “fort” of Orthodox Tarnow. Around 500 daveners [people praying] prayed there, outside of the nearby study houses. The cream of the crop, i.e. the finest householders of the city, davened and learned [studied] in the prayer hall which was open 24 hours a day for Torah and prayer. On winter nights, during extreme cold, snow and blizzards, at 2:00 A.M. in the morning, the prayer hall was already active, with a large number of young men and householders

[Page 206]

diligently studying [Talmud]. Those who were late and arrived at the large prayer hall around 5:00 A.M. couldn't find a place to sit. The entire day the hall was also full of bachelors, young married men supported by their in-laws and students from the higher classes of the Talmud Torah [a religious grammar school]. Everyone streamed into the large prayer hall. In the evenings it was like a kettle cooking with daveners, among those daveners were Torah scholars [Lamdi Torah] and ordinary Jews who came to warm up by the large ovens and with that opportunity, to catch a word of Torah or a chapter of psalms. This was the scene until late at night when the second shift of scholars arrived.

It is no surprise that the Tarnow study hall produced world-famous geniuses and great Torah scholars.

Those from the town's house of study on Fish Place weren't far behind them. There, at 2:00 A.M., Jews could be found enthusiastically studying and reciting psalms. A few Jews specially occupied themselves with preparing tea and with honoring the continual stream of guests – frozen Jews who came at dawn from far-flung streets. Also, in the evenings, the study hall was packed with daveners and maggidim [preachers] used to give their sermons there – they were received with great interest. This is how Jews prayed in the morning, at Mincha-Maarav [afternoon prayers], Shabbos and Yom Tovim [holidays], reciting psalms and studying Midrash [Torah commentary], Ayn Yaakov [Note: “The Well of Jacob, a collection of non-legal Talmud material], Pirke Avos [Note: meaning “Ethics of the Fathers,” a Mishna (tractate of the Talmud) dealing with morals, values, and ethics] or listened to the sermons of the preacher.

The Old Shul, one of the oldest in Poland, was also located in Tarnow. It was accepted that this shul was 500 years old and that the renowned “Shakh” [abbreviated name of Rabbi Shabsi HaCohen Rapaport], z”l davened there. [Note: He lived 1621-1661, authored the important religious book Shapsi Kohen “The Cohen's Lips” about part of the Perkey Avos] The Old Shul was one of the most historic in Poland, and Rabbis delivered sermons there on official occasions.

The New Shul (synagogue) is considered to be one of the most beautiful in

 

tar1_206.jpg
The ruins of the New Shul
(Photographed in 1946)

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Poland due to its brilliant magnificence, artistic architecture and grandeur. Inside, every visitor must have marveled at the beauty and glory of the art. The world-famous Hazonim [cantors] and outstanding choirs davened there. The large shul building could be seen from very distant locations in and around Tarnow.

Tens of shuls, minyanim [small prayer groups] and Hasidic shtiblekh [prayer & study halls] were still found in the city such as Deborah Menke's shul, the Stutshiner Minyan [small prayer group], Reb Yeshayele's Minyan, the Strushiner Shul, the Gravovker Shul, these minyanim: Dzhikover, Pakshevitzer, Belzer, Bobover, Grodushisker, Old Sanzer, Magid, “Lamdi Torah” [literally, “learned in the Torah”] minyan and tens of others.

On Shabbos and Yontif [holiday], Tarnow looked gloriously beautiful. All Jewish businesses were closed. The majesty of Shabbos spread out its reign over streets and neighborhoods where Jews walked around in silk kapotes [caftans] and straymlekh [Note: fur hats worn by many Hasidic men, especially on Shabbos or Yontif] who hurried to a shiur [religious lecture] in the prayer hall or study house, or to the table of his Rebbe. Workers and tradespeople, worn out from the week's work, used Shabbos rest for a walk with family and friends. On holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot, thousands of Hasidim from all over Poland came to their Rabbis in Tarnow. Also, Jews from other countries (England, Belgium, Holland, and Germany) would come to the Dzhikover Rav, z”l, who lived in Tarnow [Rebbe Yaakov Horowitz ben Yisroel, Melitz-Dzhikover Rebbe of Tarnow].

Marvelous Jewish institutions existed in the city: the Jewish Hospital with hundreds of beds, the most modern facilities and all comforts. The best doctors were active there; and the Talmud Torah [Jewish religious elementary school] owned a large building in which 600 students were educated.

 

tar1_207.jpg
The ruins of the Dzhobner shul
(photographed in 1946)

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Mostly poor children whose parents could not afford tuition; there was also a broad system of Cheders [religious schools for young boys] the Beis Yaakov [schools for religious girls] shuls and yeshivas, the Jewish Orphanage, and the hospital for the poor where the sick were honorably supported.

Religious Jews in Tarnow were organized in Agudus Yisrael [“unity of Israel”], Tseri [the Youth of] Agudus Israel, and Mizrachi. Just the part of the Orthodox who grouped in the prayer hall wasn't associated with any party, because for them this was a modern phenomenon. In Jewish-religious matters particularly active were: in Agudus Yisroyl - Mr. Aaron Rosenzvayg [Rosenswieg], Mr. Eli Gevertz, Mr. Shimon Aberdam, Mr. Shloyme Meyr [Meir], Mr. Zalman Leyb [Leib] Valakh, Mr. Mordechai [Mordechai] Loyfer and others. At the prayer hall – Mr. Pinches Templer, Mr. Vulf [Wolf] Veksler [Wexler], Mr. Elimelekh Reynhold [Reinholt], Mr. Ruveyn [Ruven] Shtroys, Mr. Khayem [Chaim] Englander and others. From the esteemed householders – Mr. Eli Baron, Mr. Fayvl [Feivel] Blozer, Mr. Abush [diminutive of Abraham] Foyst, Mr. Mayer [Meir] Lev, Mr. Naftuli Elimeylekh Fines and others. From Mizrakh – Mr. Wolf Getzler, Mr. Yekhiel Kurtz, Mr. Yakov Hertzman, Mr. Yitzkhak [Isaac] M. Tzitronenbaum.

Orthodox Tarnow was involved and active in all aspects of Jewish communal life and produced honest, intelligent, faithful activists; upright [e.g. they didn't make money from their activities] community leaders who donated much of their time, money and energy to the interests of the community. Such types of

 

tar1_208.jpg
Mr. Chaim Englander z”l

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community leaders are, unfortunately, rarely found today and belong to the glorious past.

Only a few individuals from beautiful Jewish Tarnow survived, spread out and scattered throughout the whole world; on them rests the task to relate to future generations the life, suffering, pain, and destruction of the historic community Tarnow, which was located in the heart of Galicia.

The events during the last, tragic days of Tarnow should not happen to the Jewish people – its memory should not continue among its children.

The Jewish world will always remember the destruction of the great Jewish center, Tarnow.

 

2 Torah Giants [great Torah scholars] of Tarnow

Tarnow was famous for her world-renowned great and holy men. The first great ones include the Rebbe Rabbi Shmelke Torner, z”l, a grandfather of Rabbi Shmelke [diminuative of Shmuel/Solomon] of Niklshpurg who died around 260 years ago in the year 5456 (1695-96) – as it says on the gravestone: Shmuel judged the people for 40 years and then died [this may be a posek from the Torah; at any rate, it is playing with the fact that the Rabbi was named Shmuel, like King Shmuel (Solomon)] that is, that Rabbi Shmelke was a rabbi in Tarnow for 40 years and he died in 5456/1695-6. It is interesting that over many years, no one was able to find his grave. Recently, the Rabbi Neftali of Ropshitz z”l, pointed his cane to the spot of the grave and ordered people to dig. And the ancient matzeyve [grave stone] was uncovered at that spot and was restored.

In the Tarnow cemetery rest great men such as the author of Soveve Simokhes [“Satisfaction with Happiness” a book dealing with mourning] by Rabbi Y. HaCohen Rapaport. It's interesting that the famous Tzadik [saintly or righteous person], Rabbi Hersh of Rimanev and the student of Rabbi Mendele of Rimanev (who also hailed from Tarnow), studied tailoring in his youth in Tarnow and later grew up to be one of the greatest tzadikim [righteous men] in his generation. A tremendous miracle man, the world-famous Talmud scholar from recent times, Reb Yosef Engel z”l, author of monumental books of Jewish law – also came from Tarnow. The great Talmud scholar Reb Shmuel Engle, z”l, known in the Hasidic world as the Radomyshler Rav (he lived his last years in Kashau, Czechoslovakia) also came from Tarnow. It is hard to relate all the names of influential Talmud scholars and righteous men who were born in and lived in and were influences in Tarnow. Here, we will have to be satisfied with giving only a short list of the Talmud scholars and righteous men of Israel active in Tarnow in recent times.

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tar1_210a.jpg
 
tar1_210b.jpg
The gravestone of Reb Ariah son of Pinchas HaLeyvi z”l, a grandson of the Ropshitzer Rabbi z”l   The gravestone of Reb Avraham HaLevi z”l [the stone is hard to read] …man of many deeds…established the Yoke of Toyre [my Hebrew translator thought it might be that he set up yeshivas] …great Rav [Rabbi], hokhem [learned in Talmud]…grandson of ….

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Rabbi Reb Meir Arak, z”l

The last “town Rabbi” (“mara de'asra”) in Tarnow was the world-famous genius and righteous man, Meir Arak renowned as the Yazlovitzer Rav, or the Butshatsher Rav. He was “the only one of his generation” – the greatest authority in the realm of Halakha [Jewish law]. People from all over the world turned to him with various complicated and difficult. His word was decisive in the Torah world. He was the author of huge works on the Torah, such as Minchas Keno'os[on tractate Sotah ,Minchas Pitim [on Shulchan Aruch], Shiori TaharaTal Toyre ]The Dew of Torah-on Babylonian & Jerusalem Talmuds], and Imrei Yoysher [Words of Justice- on a wide range of legal issues] and as well as many other unpublished treatises. His works became famous in the world as classic books of Halakha/law. He was active in many fields of knowledge and led a large yeshiva. Young Talmud geniuses came from great distances to study with him. Great students from recent times include Rav Mikhel Preminger, Rav Yosef Shepfel, Rav Mikhel Henik, Rav Menakhem-Mendl Hurvitz, Rav Yitzokh Templer, Rav Mekele Hollander, Rav Shloyme Wolf, Rav Moshe Wolf, Rav Chaim-Eliezer Hurvitz [Horowitz], and many others. The abovementioned Jews were murdered by the Nazis. From the surviving students we know of only Rav Yehuda Hurvitz, a son of the Zhikover Rav, presently in Yerushalayim [Jerusalem]. Rav Elkanah Zauberman, the former rabbi in Yordanov, now in America. Rav Ehernberg, the present Rosh Beit Din [head of the Rabbinical court] in Jaffa and Rav Weissblum of Haifa. The last Tarnow Rabbi, Rav Meir Arak zt”l died on the first day of Sukkos (3/10/1925).

 

Beit Din [Jewish supreme court] of the Holy Congregation of Tarnow

The last gathering of the rabbinical court in Tarnow was the following Rav Chaim Kirshenboym, Rav Yitzokh Rapaprt (the Shidlover Rav's son-in-law), Rav Kalman Arak (a grandson of the abovementioned Mr. Meir Arak z”tz l), Rav Zev Fridman, Rav Yakov Kurtz, Rav Zev Fink, and the young genius and Gemara wonderchild Rav Mikhl Hollander – almost all killed by the Nazis.

 

The Pokshevitzer Rav, Yekhiel Hurvitz z”l

The oldest rabbi in Tarnow in recent times was the Pokshevitzer Rav z”tz l, a son of Amri Noyem /“Pleasant Sayings” [as was common, the man was named after his sefer/book], z” l, a grandson of Rav Naftuli of Roptshitz, z”tz l, from the greatest rabonishe yikhes [rabbinical pedigree], a great servant of God and lover of Israel [Jews]. He was very beloved and popular by all sorts and circles of people from the city. Hundreds of Hasidim, even from Congress Poland, would come from great distances to the

[Page 212]

tar1_212.jpg
The gravestone of Rabbi Naftuli ben Yekhiel Av Beit Din [head of the supreme court] Fokshevitz – a grandson of the Roptshitzer Tsaddik [righteous man] z”tz l

 

Pokshevitzer Rebbe z”l and many were helped by his advice and blessings. He died on 10 Shevet 5688 (1927-8), leaving three sons who continued on his path. His son Rabbi Alter, hi”d, the last Pokshevitzer Rav, was murdered by the Nazis.

 

The Stutshiner Rav, Yitzkhok Hurvitz z”tz l

The Stutshiner Rav, z”l, a son of the old Rozvadover Rav, Moyshele, z”l, grandson of Rav Naftuli Roptshitz z”tz l, belonged to the old generation of Hasidic Rabbis. A great scholar and righteous person, he separated himself from the world for many years, locked in his room on Szpitalna Street, and occupied himself with Torah and serving Hashem [God]. He was also famous for his musical ability in the tradition of Rozvadov. It was a true pleasure to hear him daven or sing the famous

[Page 213]

tar1_213.jpg
The Stutshiner Rav, Itzkhok Hurvitz z”tz l – his son, the righteous Rav Yehuda Hurvtiz is standing next to him

 

Rozvadover nigunim [melodies] which attracted hundreds of Jews. Stutshniner Hasidim built a large house with a chapel across the street from the new Shul that was transformed into a center of Torah and Hasidus. At the beginning of the second World War, in 1939, he was tortured by the Nazis. He died in Sanok in 5700/1939-40. His son, the righteous rabbi Yehuda Hurvitz the Stutshiner Rav in America, who continued the Stutshiner-Rozvadover Hasidus there, The Dshikover Rebbe, Rav Alter Hurvitz hi”d.

 

The Dzhabner Rav, Eliezer Unger hi”d

One of the most popular Rabbis in Tarnow was the Dshikover Rav - hi”d, a son of the old Dzhikover Rebbe, author of author of Etres Yeshua [Note: “The Crown of Salvation”] and a son-in-law of the Viznitzer Rebbe, Yisroyeltshe z”l (a grandson of Rebbe Naftuli of Ropshitz z”tz l). He lived in Tarnow for many years and belonged to the most respected Rabbis in Galicia in general and Tarnow particularly. He was famous for his true wisdom and scholarliness. Famous as a very clever man in worldly and secular matters. Thousands of people turned to him for advice in an array of complicated matters and he helped everyone with his great wisdom. The Dzhikover Hasidim were some of the finest Jews of Galicia. Talmud scholars, wealth men, aristocrats, and also Jews from far away – England,        

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Germany, Belgium, Holland, etc. They would come to the Dzhikover Rebbe for yom toyvim [Jewish holidays]. Even today there exist Dzhikover prayer halls in England, Belgium, America, which represent the glorious tradition of the Dzhikover Hasidim. The Dzhikover melodies were known around the world. The Dzhikover Rav was extraordinarily popular and beloved in all circles and social strata. He often spoke about the impending war and almost foresaw its tragic development.

He experienced the entire hell of suffering by the Nazis in the ghettos of Tarnow and Krakow. Killed by the criminal Germans in Krakow on 7 Oder [Adar] 5703 (1942-3). The children who survived were his son, Rav Hatzadik Yehuda (now in Jerusalem) and his daughter Deborah Abramovitch-Hurwitz (in Tel-Aviv). Several grandchildren also live in Israel.

 

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From the right, the Dzikover Reb Alter who should be remembered for the good – from the left, his close follower Reb Shmuel Eder z”l

 

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The Dzikover Rebbe, Rav Alter Harvitz, hi”d

 

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Mr. Leybish Torner z”tz l

Mr. Leybish Torner or Mr. Leybishl, as he was called, was the son of the old Siniver Rav, author of Divri Yekhzkal [The Words of Yehezkel”], grandson of the holy Sandzer Tzadik [righteous man] the author of Divri khayem [“The Words of Life”] z”tz l. He was the Rebbe of the study hall and from the Sandzer Shiniver Hasidim. The Jews of Tarnow had great respect for him and the same deference for him as a scholar, a religious man, and great aristocrat. He was a severe person, not easily loosening his principles and strictly comported himself according to the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law]. He died in Tarnow in 1929/30 [Tof, reysh”tzadi]

 

The Dzhabner Rav, Eliezer Unger, hi”d

The Dzhabner Rav, Eliezer Unger, hi”d, a son of the old Dzhabner Rav Reb Sholom Dovid Unger z”l, a grandson of Reb Naftule of Roptshitz z”tz l and from the Reb Rav Mordechai-Dovid from Dombrove, who also lived in Tarnow and who was active there for many years – was know as a great lamden [scholar]. As a grandson of the Rozvadover on his mother's side, he inherited musical talent from the Rozvadover and was known for his davening and singing. Murdered by the Nazis in the last war.

 

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The Dzhabner Rebi, Rav Eliezer Unger, hi”d

 

Original footnote
  1. The author – the son of an outstanding Hasidic family in Tarnow studied in the famous Yeshiva in Lublin and was one of the best students of Rabbi Meir Shapiro z”l. Mr. [Reb] Yehuda Ausubel made aliya to Israel after the last world war and for a time ran a yeshiva in Haifa. For a long time he was Rabbi in Kfar Atta. Return

 


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A Survey of Religious Jewry in Tarnow

by Yitzhak Blazer (Haifa)

Translated by Tina Lunson

1. Shabosim un Yom teyvim – Sabbaths and holidays

Our people have special characteristics regarding protecting memories and transmitting them to the future generations. This is a result of studying our Torah, in which we are many times commanded to transmit, to remember and to study: “You should tell it into the ears of your children and children's children”; “Remember what Amalek did to you”; “Do not forget!”, and so on.

When we evoke Jewish Tarnow and its pitiless end, it is necessary for the remaining remnant and their children to also mention the once beautiful, intensively communal life there. It is necessary to mention the God-fearing and observant Hasidic Jews, the proud intellectuals, the artisans and porters, the town of Torah and wisdom, of the tens of study-houses, shuln, prayers rooms and yeshivas where from before dawn until late night one could hear the sound of Torah and prayer. One must also report the thousands of kheyder-boys, the boy- and girl-pupils, the sharp minds, that thirstily drank from the spring of Torah in the shuln, kheyder and yeshivas.

Who can explicate the valuable manuscripts, Torah-creations and books that were murdered along with the congregation that they served in life?

* * *

Not many towns in western Galicia had so vivid a Jewish and religious character as Tarnow. One could see from a distance the magnificent, large edifice of the so-called new shul, one of the largest and most beautiful shuln in Europe, with its copper copula in the Jewish Byzantium style. Shabbat in Tarnow, with the shops and the workshops all closed on the central streets in town, the passing of the empty trams (on shabes we called them the “empty goers” because on that day there were only half the passengers traveling as on the weekdays), put a specific Jewish mark on the town. And if one is already speaking of shabbat in Tarnow, it should be mentioned, that all Tarnow Jews, without differentiation of viewpoint and

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[political] party, observed the shabbat. Each understood the holiness of the day – whether from a religious or nationalist standpoint. With the folk dressed in their shabes clothes, the wide fur hats and long, fur-lined coats of the Hasidim, the week-day thoughts and worries fell away. Everything contributed to the sanctifying of the shabes and studying Torah.

Hasidic Jews in Tarnow celebrated Shabbat at rabbis' tables, listening to Torah, zmiros and praise songs, sometimes a new melody, and took in a lively Hasidic dance. Most of the Tarnow rabbis were grandsons of the Roftshits dynasty through Naftali Roftshits our leader, teacher and master of blessed memory, who said, that the point for people is the joy that comes out of the heart, because the shkhina [God's presence] cannot rest in a person when there is no joy in his heart. The Hasidic Jews in Tarnow felt the joy of shabbat, the happiness of the day of rest, with all 248 limbs and all 365 blood vessels of their bodies.

Of all the Jewish holidays that were observed in the spirit of

 

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Gedalia Shul-lerer of blessed memory stands before the sukkah that he carved by hand and set up in the yard of his house in Zydowska [Jewish] Street

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Tashlikh in Tarnow at the stream “Vontok”
(photographs by Dr. Fayg)

 

Jewish tradition and celebration, Simchat Torah was especially distinguished, with the great enthusiasm in the dance of the rabbis, and especially the dance in the large courtyard of the Mizrakhi at Lwowska 4, where all the Zionist youth of our town participated: Hanuer Ha'tsioni, Akiva, Gordonia, Beitar, Hashomer Hatzair, and others. It was a splendid coming together of religious and national feelings.

To be mentioned too is the going to tashlikh in Tarnow, the large stream of Jews from all the houses of study and houses of prayer, the Hasidic rabbis with their wide fur hats, Jews in fedoras, shul Jews, everyone gong to the “Vontik”. It was like a religious demonstration of Tarnow Jewry.

 

2. Rabbis, Hasidic Rabbis and Cantors

As was already stated, Tarnow was famous for its Hasidic rabbis. Many small prayer houses [known as kloyzn] were named for them. So, for example, there was a Dzikover kloyz, where the Dzikover Rebbe, [Rabbi] Alter Horowitz of blessed memory had prayed, he was a son of Rabbi Yehoshua Horowitz who was known as the author of the commentary “Etares Yeshua” and a grandson of the author of “Omrey Noam”. He used to impress others with his patriarchal figure, stately appearance and wisdom. He was also acquainted with secular matters, just like his father Yehoshua of blessed memory. The Dzikover Rabbi was very widely known and much beloved by the entire town, even in the non-Hasidic circles. The Stutshiner Rabbi of blessed memory also had a mass of followers in town and in the area. The same for the Grodzshisker Rabbi of blessed memory; the Zshabner Rabbi of blessed memory; Rov Yisroel Yosele Unger of blessed memory; the son of Rov Leybishl

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Halberstam of blessed memory – and many other rabbis who had a large influence on religious life in Tarnow.

In almost all the rabbis' prayer rooms, in the town study-houses, in the large prayer houses, in the Bobover, Beltzer and Bialer prayer rooms, dozens of yeshiva boys studied Torah for its own sake. And in the same way people studied Talmud and the commentators with insight and hairsplitting exactitude, disregarding the fact that the foundations of Chassidism [tenets of the modern Hasidic movement] were against the system of studying with exaggerated shrewdness, because that drinks up the juiciness and inspiration of the Jewish heart. Our Hasidic Yeshiva boys studied with that insight and exactitude and at the same time received Torah and faith in the Hasidic manner. Thus, the Tarnow Talmud scholars combined Hasidism with the methods of the misnagdim [“Enlightened” and anti-Hasidic], the shrewdness matched with the simple literal.

Many of those same students and Yeshiva boys later became well-known in the Jewish world in various areas: Aron Vize; Professor Doctor Leon Kelner, Professor Sholem [Salo] Baron, professor of history in an American university; and many others.

Many of the Tarnow religious youth studied in the Lublin Yeshiva or in the Hildesheimer Yeshiva in Berlin where my younger brother, Rov Doctor Mendel Blazer of blessed memory also studied.

It is worthwhile to also mention the masters of nigunim [melodies or chants] and masters of prayer whose voices lent peace and sweetness to the holy words of the prayers: Abish Faust of blessed memory, whose powerful yisgadal v'yiskadash [kaddish] carried even over the ruins of Jewish Tarnow; Sholom Kirshenboym, and all the other cantors and prayer leaders, including the Hasidic community activist and personalities Voptshe Veksler, Pinkhas Templer, Meylekh Raynhold, Yoshe Hodes, Yisroel Vind, Tuvie Grinbaum, Ziml Moyhl, the Strushin judge Rov Yankele Kurts, Rov Arak, and thousands of families who were driven to the mass graves of Tarnow Jews, to the crematoria in Belzec and whose last confession was “and we are still God's and for God”.

 

Authors of Religious Books

The Hitlerist murderers also annihilated thousands of holy books that were in the Tarnow study houses and prayer rooms. There were many valuable volumes there, including some published in the first Jewish printing presses. Books are like people and in the book the Talmud scholar and thinker laid out his whole life philosophy and knowledge. Books are

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spirits of people, they teach and educate generations. Many fine books were authored under the name “Omrey Meyshe”, Meyshele Rov Yekel's of blessed memory. A valuable book “Beys ha'leyvi” was produced by Naftoli Peysakh's (Goldberg) of blessed memory. The brilliant Rov Yoseyf Ingel of blessed memory who was Head Judge of the beys-din [Jewish court] in Krakow (born and educated in Tarnow, died in Vienna in 1920), authored 101 valuable books in various areas, such as an Talmudic encyclopedia in 30 volumes, 28 books on the wisdom of Kabbalah, 8 books about the Sabbath and the thirty-nine creative activities not allowed thereon; a book on the laws of the Eyruvim [that delineate the area within which one may carry objects on the sabbath]; 5 books of questions posed and their responses; 2 new books on the Shulkhan arekh [code of Jewish law composed by Y. Karo in 1563]; 6 books about the original principles in the Jerusalem Talmud; 8 books of sermons that he used to deliver in the study-houses; 11 books of novel interpretations and fine argumentation in topics in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud. Mekhele Holender – a pupil of the Butshantsh Rov Mayer Arak of blessed memory who was in his later years head of the Beit-din of the community of Tarnow and an author of several books – authored his own book as well. Rov Alter Shtiglits of blessed memory also wrote several books of questions and answers. The Judge Rov Yosef Khayim Kirshenbaum of blessed memory authored a book about mikvehs [rituals baths]. The teacher Umanski published a book about “Amoyroim” [Third to Fifth century rabbis whose discussions are included in the Talmud] and many others, which it is not possible to account for here. It is worthwhile to mention the book by the Dzshikov Hasid Manye Ekshteyn of blessed memory who used to come to Tarnow for every holiday. I do not recall the exact name of the book, it seems something like “condition of the soul for achieving khsidus” – a deep book, which Tarnow Jews could obtain at the large Zionist library located in the “Safa Berura” school building. It was in that very book that the author established his philosophic teaching of how to conduct oneself to prepare for the level of khisidus and to demonstrate the illumination, wisdom and deep thought that is hidden in the teaching of khsidus.

 

Agudas Yisroel

The Agudas Yisroel movement was founded in Tarnow in 1927 by the distinguished religious personality Rov Eyli Geverts of blessed memory, Rov Abish Faust of blessed memory, Rov Fayvl Blazer of blessed memory, Rov Nakhman-Leyb Volf, Rov Shleyme Mayer of blessed memory, Rov Motish Kelner of blessed memory, Rov Nakhman Renet of blessed memory, Rov Fayvil Kloyzner of blessed memory, Rov Aron Rozentsvayg of blessed memory and others.

The founders devoted much energy to teaching Torah. Most of the members of the committee had dedicated their time to charity and help for the needy. Their goal was to raise the low material state in which many of the Jews in the town lived. So, for example, Rov Aron Rozentsvayg used the sympathy for his person for the good of the community and simply neglected his own affairs.

The Aguda helped to strengthen the religious and intellectual situation in

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Rov Shleyme Mayer of blessed memory

 

Tarnow, insisted on accurately teaching Talmud, especially the daf yomi [the page of the day].

It also established a girls' school, “Beys yankev”, directed by Rov Shleyme Mayer, who was very popular among the orthodox circles in the town.

 

Mizrakhi

The strongest and most influential religious organization in Tarnow was Mizrakhi, which included some anti-Hasidic members, Hovevi Zion from the older generation who in their time had fought for Zionism and who dreamed thoughts about settlements in Eretz Yisrael. Among them were some who took part in the first conference of the Hovevi Zion in Katovits in 1884, such as Volf Mints and others. They were the trail-blazers for Mizrakhi in Tarnow.

The actual, respectable leader of the Tarnow Mizrakhi movement was its long-time Yeshive Head Rov Volf Getsler of blessed memory, a man with a big heart, devoted to Zion, who held a sacred belief in the imminent rise of a Jewish land; he was influential in all the Jewish circles in town, a representative of

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Mizrakhi, active in the Community Council, delegate to several Zionist Congresses (along with Rov Yekhiel Kurts of blessed memory, a well-known businessman and Talmud scholar). And working alongside him for Mizrakhi was Rov Dovid Leybl of blessed memory, teacher Glass of blessed memory; Trintsher of blessed memory; Avrom Burshtin of blessed memory; Meyshe Vaysman of blessed memory; Henig of blessed memory, Sh. Z. Lefelholts of blessed memory; Kleynhandler of blessed memory; Yosef Geverts of blessed memory; Rov Yisroel Getsler of blessed memory; Gevelb of blessed memory; Kalman Gertner of blessed memory and not to mention the dead and the living together Rov Khone Pesil and others. The Mizrakhi Party was in large part the influence that made our town Tarnow became a fortress of Zionism.

And if there is a significant number of Tarnow Jews in Israel, that is thanks to the influence of Mizrakhi and the personal influence of the Zionist activists Rov Khayim Nayger of blessed memory and to separate the dead from the living Dr. Shmuel Shpan and their pupils, Dr. Avrom Chomet, Dr. Volf Shenkel of blessed memory and others.

Mizrakhi in Tarnow was active in practical work, and all its deeds and efforts were dedicated to the strengthening of the settlement in Eretz-Yisroel [Israel]. It also worked in great friendship with other parties in various situations and conditions, such as the town council, the Jewish community council, Keren Ka'yemet, Keren Ha'yesod and others.

Mizrakhi also did very much work in the cultural area. Enlightened teachers and experts in Jewish Law taught Talmud and its commentators at the local Mizrakhi venue. The Hebrew language was taught by Rov Dovid Leybel and the teacher Glas. Every evening

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Rov Volf Getsler of blessed memory

 

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courses in Jewish knowledge were offered, where talented teachers planted the lessons of love for the People Yisroel and for the Land Yisroel from “defender of the faith” Yehuda Haleyvi [tenth-century Hebrew poet in Spain] and his writings. There were also lectures organized by the Hebrew circle.

The Ha'shomer Ha'dati was founded in Tarnow in 1930 and involved hundreds of youth and students of the religious school. The Head of the Yeshiva, Pinye Burshtin of blessed memory dedicated much time and self-sacrifice to the youth movement.

There was also activity around a Mizrakhi-based girls' organization, “Brurya”.

The beautiful building of the Baron Hirsch school was under the oversight of the Mizrakhi for a long time. Hundreds of students received a religious education there. The school was of a high level and taught both religious and secular subjects.

* * *

Tarnow, my Jewish Tarnow, who could forget you? Who could erase from memory those light-filled days, full of substance and faith, with purpose and belief in the sincerity of the People of Israel? Who can, my Jewish Tarnow, set up a gravestone for you and etch on it the history of your life and murder? Our language is too poor and the wounds of our orphaning too fresh for us the find the strength in ourselves to be able to convey and relate even a part of what you were!

The few who remain in this land will replace rings of the beautiful chain of Tarnow Jewishness and forge them into the larger chain of the People Yisroel. We will tell from generation to generation the scroll of life and death of the sacred community Tarnow, of her martyrs and pure ones who gave up their souls in kidush ha'shem [sanctifying the Name of God] may God avenge their blood.


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The Tarnow Kloyz
(Chapters of a Book)

by Yosef Margoszes

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Yosef Margoszes, of blessed memory, (the father of the current editor of the New York daily Yiddish newspaper, Der Tog–Morgn–Zhurnal [The Day – Morning Journal]) published his memoirs, Erinerungen fun Mayn Lebn [Remembrances from My Life]; in New York in 1936. There we learn that Yosef Margoszes, of blessed memory, came from an educated, enlightened family in Lemberg. Because of the death of his father (1881) he came with his mother to Tarnow where his uncle Yehoshua had settled after his marriage to a daughter from rich Hasidic families: Lezer, Aberdam and Weksler. Yosef Margoszes came to Tarnow as a 14–year old boy and continued his studies there, becoming very acquainted with Hasidic life in the city. We provide three chapters from his book (pages 90–98), which provide us with a picture of Hasidic life in Tarnow in the 1880s of the past (19th) century.

The Tarnow Kloyz [small house of prayer] was renowned all over Galicia and the sound of Torah was heard there 24 hours a day. This Kloyz was not a yeshiva [religious secondary school] in which a rabbi studied with his students. Here two or three at most studied together. However, everyone in the city (a large kehile [organized Jewish community] of over 15,000 Jews with many learned men) who more or less could study had a connection to this Kloyz.

It also was a symbol and fortress of Hasidus (mainly Sandzer Hasidus). Every pious Jew in Tarnow, with a few exceptions, was a follower of the Sandzer Rebbe. And, after his death, of his children and grandchildren.

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The Orthodox in Tarnow had their place in the Kloyz and people immediately would ask what was being said at the Kloyz about every small and large concern for the Jewish people.

Like every city in Galicia, there also was a great number of poor people in the Kloyz, but also a considerable number of Hasidic rich men. And they, the rich men, ruled the entire “roost” in the Kloyz. They also were, in addition to those mentioned and the very “German” families, the leaders and tone–setters of Jewish Tarnow. Mainly these were the two large, influential and extensive families, the Szifs and the Lezers.

Reb Yosl Szif was a very old Jew when I met him. He ran the largest iron business in Tarnow with his sons and sons–in–law. They were the exclusive representatives for several large foreign and domestic factories and iron foundries. When something in the iron line of business was needed in Tarnow and in the surrounding towns, one had to turn to them.

The old Reb Yosl Szif no longer mixed in the business, but was busy with Hasidus and communal matters. Although he never was a great scholar, several people in the city showed great respect for him and took note of his opinions. He was the oldest, most respected Sandzer Hasid in Tarnow.

(There were no great rich men in the wide–spread family even among a son and several sons–in–law. They always worked with promissory notes and loans like all Tarnow merchants, until after the old one's [Reb Yosl] death they went bankrupt [owing] 200,000 gildn and remained poor people. Only one son–in–law, Reb Yosef Shmuel Erlich, who later left for London, prospered very well. He had a good reputation there among the [London] Jews as a philanthropist and for his hospitality.)

The second truly rich and strongly influential family in Tarnow was the Lezer [family].

The old Reb Wolf Lezer was a son of the famous Strizhover Rebbe, Reb Menakhem Mendl Lezer, author of two important books, both named Soveah Simchos [Satisfaction and Joy] (the first on the Torah according to the way of Hasidus and the second on the tractates of marriages and ketubahs [marriage contracts]).

This Reb Wolf Lezer was not a great scholar. [He was] a bit of a man who spent his time in the house of study and in addition one who devoted all of his time to study [of the Torah]. However, the Lord God favored him with a wife, a very, very capable woman, and with several very capable daughters who operated the largest cloth and silk business in all of Tarnow.

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There were always customers and they only wanted to be served by the Bobovska (she came from a shtetl not far from Bobov).

She gathered a fortune, married off all of her children, gave them large dowries (all of her daughters later became very rich) and her husband sat in Sandz with the rebbe… Or here, in Tarnow, in the Kloyz and engaged in Hasidus.

Two of his sons–in–law were very rich: Reb Skharia Mendl Aberdam and Reb Moshe'l Weksler. Both had large offices and promissory note businesses.

One of Reb Lezer's sons, Reb Dovid, was my brother Yehoshua's father–in–law. He was a partner in the office of his brother–in–law, Reb Moshe'l Weksler.

(He died as a young man of barely 40 years of age, right after my brother's wedding, and his widow later married the Baranower Rebbe, Reb Yisroel Horowicz, a son of Rabbi Reb Eliezerl from Dzików, who in turn was a son of the great Ropshitzer, the Rebbe Reb Naftali).

These two families with sons and sons–in–law and a large line of grandsons were the leaders of the Hasidic Kloyz in Tarnow and I was closely linked with all of them through in–laws.

I fell into this environment right after our arrival in Tarnow.

Our reception was a very friendly one. At first they did not fuss with me, a young boy, but all of the women from my sister–in–law's rich family came to visit my mother, a respected rich woman and, in addition, from Lemberg and also invited her to their home.

My mother was a weak woman and a home body, but for the sake of appearances she paid a one–time visit to all of the women who had earlier visited her.

My mother and mainly my sister–in–law were of the opinion that it is always good to maintain friendly relations with a rich family…

2.

The Young Men of the Kloyz

As soon as I arrived in Tarnow, my brother Yehoshua took me with him to the Kloyz and introduced me to his wife's family. Everyone was friendly to me. However, because they were all people much older than I, I had no interest in their society and therefore I had very few contacts with them.

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There were several boys of my age among their children, but they were all simple, ignorant [uneducated in Jewish subjects] people and there was no one with whom to talk.

As there were only a few weeks to Passover then and it did not pay to send me to a Gemara melamed [teacher of Talmud], I spent the entire time in the house in addition to going to the Kloyz to pray twice a day.

There was a considerable number of boys of my age there at the Kloyz and I tried to carry on a conversation with them during the first few weeks and “take their pulse” about the Enlightenment and Hebrew language books. However, they did not know what I was talking about and had not even heard that there were such books present in the world…

They never heard the name [Meir or Max] Letteris (his Yona Homiyah [The Plaintive Dove] was then very well–known and sung by all followers of the Enlightenment), [Avraham Dov and Mikhah Yosef] Lebenzon – father and son, [Avraham] Mapu. They never heard of them and never saw their books.

Among these young men were those who could only learn a little and studied with a Gemara teacher or alone in the Kloyz. However, the majority of them were “neither here nor there,” they knew nothing but they had long, curled peyos [side curls]…

I realized that there was no one with whom I could have a serious conversation. In addition, I simply was afraid of a “bad reputation,” that I was occupied with heretical books – I immediately withdrew and no longer was friendly with them during my entire time in Tarnow.

I had only one friend then and he remained dear and beloved by me through all the years of my life.

This was a young man, older than me, but he immediately came over to me when he saw me, and our friendship has not been interrupted since then. This was the friend from my youth, Yehuda Leibush Korec. He was the only one with whom I could talk about Enlightenment books; I also was his rebbe [teacher] and taught him a little grammar, how to write in Hebrew and also lent him the books I had brought with me from Lemberg.

Later, he was a Hebrew writer and one of the first and most important members of Khovevei Tzion [Lovers of Zion] in Galicia and published several interesting brochures about it. After his marriage, he lived in Ropczyce (several miles from his birth city of Tarnow), ran a large bulk grocery business and was a rich man. Now, in his later years, he and his three daughters and sons–in–law live in the colony of Tel Mond in Eretz–

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Yisroel (one daughter and her husband, Mr. Shwebel, live in the town of Ozone Park near New York [Ozone Park is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens].

He writes “love letters” to me very often and remembers our pleasant childhood years with great longing.

3.

Reb Pesakh's son Reb Naftali

While I could not hang around for the entire day as an idle one, and as it was in no way appropriate for a rich, young, marriageable man, immediately after Passover my brother Yehosha gave me to the greatest and most important Gemara teacher in Tarnow, Reb Pesakh's son Reb Naftali, the chief religious judge in the city.

Usually, Reb Naftali (his family name was Goldberg) took up to 100 gildn a term from a student, but because I was an orphan and was a young man (we were not supposed to use the word boy here – it should not be thought or mentioned) with a good mind, Reb Naftali agreed to take only 70 gildn from me.

Six or seven young men studied together with him.

We all were not great geniuses; therefore, we studied (or had to be with the rabbi in the courtyard) many hours a day.

Right after Passover we began to study the post–Talmudic commentators, Khosen Mishpat Hilkhot Toen Venitan [Breastplate of Judgment – the Laws of the Plaintiff and the Defendant].

We sat learning before six o'clock in the morning. But in order not to disturb the sleep of the rabbi's household, mainly of the young rebbitizen [wife of the rabbi] (who was his second or even the third wife, a very pretty woman, but only from one side of her face because there was a very ugly birthmark, a mouse with small feet and even with hair, on the other side), we studied in the morning in “Dwoyra Menke's school,” which was just opposite the rabbi's apartment.

After eight o'clock we went to the nearby Kloyz to pray and after 10 we returned and studied Gemara until around two. During the winter, we studied two more hours in the evening.

As far as I know, none of Reb Naftali's students grew up to be a great scholar…

The rabbi himself, though he was a Waśniów scholar (he was the author of a large book, Bet Levi on Masekhet Gittin [the Talmudic tractate regarding Jewish divorce] and a great expert at subtle argumentation, he did not have the characteristics and skill that a teacher must have.

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And secondly, he was, as already said, the most important religious judge in the city and his house, which was located in the middle of the suitable Jewish quarter, always was filled with people. They came with din–Torahs [religious law suits], religious divorces, questions about kashrus [dietary laws], so many that we students could almost rule on such questions. And this took place during the hours when we sat over the Gemaras and were in the middle of Talmudic lessons…

Much time was taken up with getn [religious divorces] and mainly the halitzah [ceremonial release from a Levirate marriage – obligation of a surviving brother to marry his brother's widow]. Such things were done so quickly as one can see. First of all, the parties fought and argued (they never came alone, but with several members of the family and good friends) and a get was agreed to and the scribe and the members of religious court sat; first came the splitting of hairs and controversies among them about the names and nicknames of the people who had a connection to the get and similar matters. Such a get often took an entire day or even more. We were not taught on such a day, but we remained with the rabbi in his house and watched everything that was happening… Moreover, if God had helped a man seeking release from a Levirate marriage – it took much longer, often several days.

The laws and customs of halitzah, which does not occur often, are difficult, very complicated and not every rabbi or religious judge – particularly in the small shtetlekh [towns] – knew how to approach this. My rabbi, however, was a great expert in this matter. All halitzahs that took place at that time in Tarnow and in the surrounding shtetlekh were carried out by him. During the year and a half that I studied with him there were a total of four halitzahs and we students knew a great deal about this.

About how to conduct oneself!

First of all, the rabbi or the religious judge thoroughly taught and made the two people understand (in Parshas Ki Teitzei [Torah chapter entitled “When you shall go out…”]) what it says about Yibbum [the laws of halitzah] and halitzah. Therefore, in the evening the rabbi sat with the man and the woman and, just as a Khumish [Torah] teacher, taught them and translated the entire parsha [chapter of the Torah]. This was very difficult, simply very hard work…

Consider, a simple Jew, often a very ignorant one and a more foolish, ignorant and troubled woman – and they must learn all ten verses from the Khumish and, in addition, both must be able to recite before the religious court during halitzah their names, several verses and in proper Hebrew.

That such a Jew must say the words: “I do not wish to take her!” and they must come out of his mouth, clearly, precise and grammatically:

“I do not wish to take her!”

Not said too fast but also not too slow…

[Page 231]

However, there were even greater hardships as the woman had to say before the religious court and by heart the entire, long verse:

“My brother–in–law refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel, he did not consent to perform levirate marriage with me.”

It was pitiful to watch how the poor woman seeking halitzah became weary and perspired during this verse…

The rabbi's wife often would help and repeat this verse with the woman seeking halitzah.

In addition [there was] the halitzah shoe!

This was such a large and crude shoe and the community had its own, which was suitable for everyone's foot because of its large size and width. However, it had such a long shrukh (leather shoe strap) and when it was put on the foot of the man granting halitzah and tied in a strange manner the desolate widow had to untie it with only her left hand before the religious court…

This was a difficult bit of work that the rabbi with the help of the rebbitzen had to teach the woman until she could do it…

We, the students, once listened then: watched, helped carry out the ceremony, [supported her] and did not study…

Reb Pesakh's son Rabbi Naftali was always an angry and pensive Jew and had a terrible temper. However, he did not have anyone on whom to relieve his frequent anger.

He could not quarrel too much with his students. All were children of the rich and two already were grooms with gold watches and chains. When he became angry with them, he was very careful not to express his anger at those young men in particular, but at everyone together and he honored us with general nicknames: “fat head, ignoramuses, rascals” and other such titles…

And if he became very angry, he would let out his anger at the chair on which he sat. Suddenly he would stand up, grab the chair by its back. He held it firmly with both hands and began banging it on the floor or dancing around the room…

This would last a few minutes until he calmed down a little; he sighed deeply, sat back down on the chair and again opened the Gemara and studied further with us…

 

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