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[Page 189, Volume 1]

The Religious Jewry

 

[Page 201, Volume 1]

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'.
[Page 202, Volume 1]

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:

[Page 203, Volume 1]

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).
[Page 204, Volume 1]
  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).


[Page 205, Volume 1]

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, Volume 1]

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

 

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The ruins of the New Shul
(Photographed in 1946)

[Page 207, Volume 1]

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)

[Page 208, Volume 1]

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

 

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Mr. Chaim Englander z”l

[Page 209, Volume 1]

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.

[Page 210, Volume 1]

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 ….

[Page 211, Volume 1]

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, Volume 1]

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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, Volume 1]

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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

 

[Page 215, Volume 1]

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

 


[Page 217, Volume 1]

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

[Page 218, Volume 1]

[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

 

tar1_218.jpg
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

[Page 219, Volume 1]

tar1_219a.jpg
 
tar1_219b.jpg
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

[Page 220, Volume 1]

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

[Page 221, Volume 1]

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

[Page 222, Volume 1]

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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

[Page 223, Volume 1]

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

tar1_223.jpg
Rov Volf Getsler of blessed memory

 

[Page 224, Volume 1]

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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