«Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 296]

Ben-Zion Rappaport
and his book “Nature and Spirit”

by S.H. Bergman

Translated by Daniel Kochavi

Recently students and admirers of Ben Zion Rappaport (a Krakow native) marked the publication of his book “Nature and Spirit” (Bialik Foundation). He was one of the founders of the philosophical ideas at the time of the revival of the Hebrew literature.

Rappaport was born in Tarnow in 5644 (1884). His parents both descended from famous Rabbis. His life, as told in his book, reflects the spiritual storms of a transitional generation in the 19th century: a young prodigy, an internal struggle between faith and knowledge, tearful and enthusiastic reciting of psalms to overcome the desire to read external literature, loss of naive faith after reading “ Religion and Life” by Reuven Asher Broydes. When he turned 18 his father found him a wife to stop him from leaving for western Europe. Failing as a businessman after his wedding, he turned to teaching. The desire to write awoke and he contributed articles to “Hamitzpah”, published in Krakow, on the Baal Shem Tov (a well-known Hassidic rabbi), and on Rabbi Baruch Mekosov, on “the question of choice and acceptance”. His contributions to this paper made him unpopular with the town leaders and he was forced to leave. He settled in Krakow and lived in poverty as a teacher, studied western philosophy on his own and started to publish his studies in the weekly magazine “Haolam” (5673-5674, 1912-14) in Odessa. Slowly he gained recognition and wrote his first book in 5684 (1924).

For some reason the publisher delayed its publication for five years. After many years of hardships Rappaport was able to breathe more easily. But the Shoah came and he disappeared without a trace. Miraculously his hand-written manuscript of “Nature and Spirit” was saved. Rappaport entrusted it to a Polish gentile who guarded it with devotion. We are grateful to this unknown “goy” who saved this important contribution to the Hebrew literature.

Ben-Zion Rappaport left a small body of contributions to the Hebrew literature. Three books: “Consciousness and Reality, A collection of philosophical essays” (5684-1924), “Thinkers and Logic” (5696-1936) and “Nature and Spirit: Philosophical Inquiries” that was just published. Given the state of Hebrew literature dealing with theory(?) Rappaport could only become a “popularizer”. In fact, many contemporary Hebrew philosophers dared to publish their theories only in Hebrew, for example Rabbi Eliezer Yitzchak Ilnaeh-Sheinbaum author of the book “Transition to Sensuality: Theory of the Soul and its Mysteries” (5690-1930). They bore a heavy price for their daring: No one paid them attention, no one read their books and they were forgotten. Rappaport became the popularizer who made the Hebrew reader conscious of the philosophical ideas of his people and he

[Page 297]

accomplished this task faithfully without condescending to his readers i.e. he never hinted even slightly that he knew more than his readers, and he never used overblown verbiage or sharp and witty aphorisms to provoke or humiliate the reader and impress him with each written phrase. Not only does he explain but he also argues with the philosopher that he writes about. He argues with himself as he introduces the reader to the difficulties that he is struggling with. When he comes to explain the ideas of Echad Haam, (one of the great Zionist thinkers of his generation) he is humble as a student in front of his teacher. However, he states, in parenthesis, his reservations. Sadly, he notes that Ahad Ha'am considered philosophy “a concept that has lost its meaning”, and after he explains this to his readers, he humbly states: “our aim is not to criticize his ideas but to explain them. We do not intend to investigate the validity of Echad Ha'am's views of the essence of Judaism and whether they consist of “Love of Zion '' and nothing else. We also do not pass judgment on his view that the desire for national unity can replace naive orthodox religious Judaism or that of leading Rabbis. Our main purpose is to clarify Echad Ha'am's ideas.” The hint is clear but Rappaport hid behind “it is not the place...” and always remained the narrator.

Only in his beautiful essay on Spinoza, published as the introduction to the book “Consciousness and Reality”, could he not restrain himself and from comparing the prophets' morality with Spinoza's ethics, after describing its basic lines: “ the Hebrew prophet could not see the inclinations and feelings of the soul as if they were lines, surfaces and solids. The prophet contemplating the events of human society could not laugh or cry but could understand. The objectivity found sometimes in scientific studies trying to understand, does not exist for the Prophets of Israel.” Rappaport explains further that the absolute moral obligation felt by the prophets contradicts Spinoza's view of natural needs or the theory of evolution. He then returned to Echad Ha'am:” the contradiction between natural needs and the moral imperative disappears as far as Chad Ha'am is concerned thus there is no need for further clarification.”

Rappaport explains clearly and simply the writings of the philosophers he was lecturing about. The desire to popularize probably had a negative effect on his writing style. He could not cover entire topics in detail. That would have required a book. He had to limit himself to short essays. But he writes like an educator, an experienced teacher with broad knowledge of contemporary philosophy and an amazingly wide range of essays: Spinoza and Kant, Lang and Mach, Vunarious, Herman Cohen, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Horsel, Dicrat, and of course the classical Jewish Philosophers. His outstanding knowledge stands out in the book “Thinkers and Logic” published by the Society of Hebrew Writers in Krakow.

One of the strangest and saddest occurrences in the Hebrew book business is the disappearance of books from this market. A book that was published ten or twenty years ago disappears as if it had never been written, even when it is much needed for our spiritual life. Many Hebrew volumes published in Poland between the two wars, a treasure of Hebrew culture and translated into Hebrew – for instance books by Schtiebel and others have disappeared and no publisher or public institution – or even the department of education

[Page 298]

and culture – ever bothered to publish these books again. This was also the fate of the first two books by Rappaport in spite of their rich contents. Let us hope that his last book beautifully published by the Bialik Foundation with respect will fulfill this purpose.

“Davar”
(an Israeli newspaper)


Ben-Zion Rappaport

by Ben-Zion Zangen

Translated by David Schonberg

Benzion Rappaport was one of those who laid the foundation for philosophical thought in the period of the revival of Hebrew literature. He was born in Tarnow in 1884, descending from a branch of famous Rabbis. His father, R. Moshe Gorlitzer, was one of the great teachers in Tarnow, studied in the kloiz [beth-midrash- study-hall] and had an understanding of worldly matters. Benzion studied in the yeshiva and had already in his youngest years shown great capabilities, not being satisfied to limit his studies to Torah learning. As an autodidact he studied by himself and absorbed worldly knowledge/learning.

At age 16 he married and since he wasn't successful in the livelihood to which he went, he began to give lectures. He became a private teacher, teaching well-off boys Hebrew, philosophy and world-literature. In the same time he began writing and publishing articles about famous Hassidim. Then he went over to live in Krakow.

In poverty and lacking all means he became acquainted with Western philosophy, and the strict religious Jew, with beard and peiyos, who is a notable expert of Jewish studies/ learning- quickly becomes also a splendid expositor of the world's great philosophers. In 1924 his book Consciousness and Reality appears, a compendium of philosophical articles and in 1936 comes out his work, Thinkers and Logic.

Very often, when I had the opportunity to visit Krakow, his place of residence, I visited him in his humble apartment, which was packed full with books in every cranny. From him there shined a spiritual light, especially when he spoke of the ideas of a Plato or the thoughts of Kant as to “pure reason”, about logic and morality.

He always sought God's word, that which resounded in the hearts of man. He sought the inner morality in man. And especially “that higher element

[Page 299]

in man which is above the animal”. Philosophy for him was not merely an outlook/ perspective upon life but a way of life. It filled his whole being.

After the founding of the Hebrew gymnasium in Krakow, Benzion Rappaport became there the teacher of the Hebrew language and at this position he remained till the outbreak of the Second World-War. The Hitlerite murderers in an evacuation action in Krakow took him in a “death train” to Belzec where he died a martyr's death [al Kiddush HaShem].

The peasants/ farmers who worked on the fields along the railway line that led to Belzec, observed each and every day the “death trains”. One day one of the farmers found a bundle of papers, inscribed in a foreign language and with the bundle was a note/ piece of paper, with Polish handwriting. In the note was written that whoever finds the bundle of papers is asked to give it over after the war to a Jew or to send it to the Jerusalem University.

When the war ended one of the scholars of the Jerusalem University travelled to Poland, in order to research and gather together/ collect the spiritual treasures of Polish Jewry. And just then the farmer remembered the bundle of papers that he had once found and he fulfilled the last wish of a person who he had never known, and now could no longer know.

And so wandered Benzion Rappaport's manuscript, till it reached “Mossad Bialik”, which, in 1953, published the work Nature and Spirit: philosophical researches in which the author had been engrossed in philosophical problems, with which our generation struggles.


[Page 300]

One of the First Zionists - Chaim Neiger

by Dr. Shmuel Spann

Translated by David Schonberg

R' Chaim Neiger, z'l (of blessed memory) (1873-1944) had special and rare qualities in our generation. On the one hand he clearly had Jewish learning and on the other hand general secular knowledge; He was strictly observant of the religious minutiae yet mixed with others partaking too with free-thinking circles in their outlook. These characteristics, seemingly contradictory, joined and came together in R' Chaim Neiger z'l without one aspect displacing the other. This wonderful harmony is understandable only to those who know the rock from which R' Chaim z'l was hewn and the roots which nurtured and shaped his spiritual identity/ character.

R' Chaim's grandfather was a Torah scholar but he did not hold himself back from enlightenment and secular learning; He was a wealthy man, a tenant estate-holder who was connected with the Polish intelligentsia of where he lived and the surrounding area. In his son, R' Moshe Aharon z'l, the father of R' Chaim z'l, were collected all the attributes that our sages enumerate for that of a Torah scholar: He was learned in the Talmud and the Rabbinical rulings and there was virtually no Talmudic statement that he didn't know of where it was or who stated it. He knew the literature of the Middle Ages and modern research works; He was a unremitting scholar, continuously reciting his learning, and days and nights he devoted to his studies; He was very Orthodox, taking equal care to observe both light and severe mitzos/ precepts; He was very wise and knew what advice to give in any complex situation. When the Zionist movement began to operate, he joined the ranks of the Zionists.

In the third generation, with R' Chaim Neiger z'l, the Torah [i.e. the outlook of his forbears] returned to its place. Chaim Neiger was born in 5633 (1873) in western Galicia. His education was general and comprehensive, encompassing all that which constituted Torah and wisdom; His father's intention was to raise him to be a Rabbi amongst the Jewish people, but the conditions of the times took him away from this path. Because of these circumstances also R' Chaim was different from his father; R' Moshe Aharon was an incisive researcher, who loved to deal with a complex halachic subject or philosophical problem. R' Chaim could no longer find satisfaction in such matters. He fully immersed himself in the Zionistic world; Zionism was his desire in which he placed his whole being.

After getting married he stayed for several years in eastern Galicia in a village near Tarnopol, where he devoted his energies to Zionistic work of the times: he made converts to the Zionist cause and he spoke/ explained to the masses the idea of the revival of the nation. Most of his articles of this period were printed in the Yiddishe Zeitung, the central/ main Zionist newspaper in Austria.

[Page 301]

In 1908 R' Chaim moved to Tarnow. He didn't come as an unknown person to our town. His name went before him as the son of R' Moshe Aharon Neiger and as a devoted Zionist activist and fighter. The days were the beginning of Zionism, few in action and great in vision. Tarnow was a town that had a Zionist tradition. The deputy-President of the first Zionist Congress and the assistant of Dr. Herzl was Dr. Avraham Saltz, a Tarnow man/ Tarnowian. Here was founded also the first Zionist association, the Ahavat Zion association, that established in 1899 the settlement of Mahanayim, in the Galilee.

The attributes of R' Chaim and his great capabilities prepared him to be the leader of the Zionist camp in Tarnow. His great expertise in Jewish literature, old and new, his broad general learning and his great speaking ability set him at the head of this camp. The great speeches that he made on various occasions- the elections to the Austrian parliament and later to the Polish Sejm, to the community committee and the municipality – interspersed with the sayings of the sages, resonated in the hearts of the Jewish masses.

His public activities were many. He understood the importance of basic/ original Jewish education. In the first year of his arrival in Tarnow, together with others of like mind, he established the Hebrew Safah Berurah school. The purpose of this institution was to complete the education that was given to Jewish children in the general school. But soon it became apparent that this duality was not advisable from the educational viewpoint; thus, this school became a school in which were studied Jewish subjects together with the general disciplines. Till the time when R' Chaim left Tarnow he was the leading spirit of the institution/ school and chairman of its board of directors. Hundreds of Jewish children received in this institution their Zionistic education and broad knowledge of Jewish studies.

No other perhaps understood as much as he did the great value of the book in molding the character/ identity of the people/nation; It is with the book that he was involved throughout his life. For this reason, he founded the public library, that comprised, over time, thousands of books.

R' Chaim Neiger z'l excelled also with great understanding for those who were suffering. Immediately after the end of the previous war [the first world war] he took up the task to renovate the hospital of the Jewish community in our town. Hundreds of the sick found in the hospital succour/ healing for their bodies due to the blessed works of the departed [R' Chaim].

The principal area of his activity was in the field of politics.

Faithful to Herzl's slogan, he started by devoting himself to conquer the central institution in Jewish public life, the community committee. Before the previous war, this important institution was led by several baalei takse tax concessionaires, who didn't represent the people and didn't know to claim the rights due to them. This situation was not acceptable (disapproved of) to the public amongst whom R' Chaim Neiger lived and operated. Together with like-minded friends he began to fight to change the nature of the Jewish representation. And behold the day of the “revolution” came; Thousands of Jews gathered next to the community committee officesand a delegation headed by R' Chaim Neiger came before the community leaders, demanding changes in the make-up of the committee. The result was the attachment to the committee of several members of the delegation, as committee members. The first project on the part of the new members was the passing of a resolution for the disbanding of this committee. In the elections for the new committee the Zionist list was chosen, led by R' Chaim Neiger. He was also, for many years, the chairman of the Jewish community council in our town.

Also, in matters of general politics he was active. In 1911 he took a very active part in the elections to the Austrian parliament; If the Zionist candidate achieved in Tarnow the greatest number of votes, this was due to the efforts of R' Chaim Neiger z'l. Also, in the elections to the Polish Sejm he took a very active role; twice he was candidate to this legislative body. He succeeded in drawing in his election district a hundred percent of Jewish votes who voted for him, despite the many dangers that lured above them.

For many years R' Chaim Neiger was chairman of the Zionist Organisation (Histadrut HaZionit) in our town and a delegate to the Zionist Congresses since 1913; He was also chosen as the Zionist deputy for western Galicia to the great/ main Acting Zionist committee.

In 1936 R' Chaim Neiger z'l came to the Land of Israel. Also, here he did not rest or stay quiet. He did not rest satisfied with a “renta” -pension, that was his due as a veteran Zionist. With an enthusiasm that so characterised him, he started afresh.

With his death [in 1944] there went down to the grave one the few Jews, who all who knew him and especially we who treasured him, fellow townsmen of Tarnow, could say of him without exaggeration, that he served his people/ nation faithfully.

*The article is reprinted from the Hebrew compilation 'Shnot Chaim' that was published in 5706 (1946) in memory of Chaim Neiger, z'l by the publishing company of the General Zionists Alliance, Haifa branch.


[Page 307]

Dr. Zeev Berkelhammer
(1889–1934)

by Yeshayahu Fejg

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

He studied in a parallel class at the state gymnazie [secondary school], but I knew him very well, just as I knew all of the Jewish students. They would point to him: he was a member of the editorial [committee] of Moriah, the Zionist periodical in the Polish language, designated mainly for the young people who were studying in the middle–school. And in sum, he was 14 or 15 years old. This periodical was read in secret and a student who was caught subscribing to the newspaper or reading it was thrown immediately out of the gymnazie. However, despite this Draconian punishment, Moriah was published regularly and reached everyone who was interested in it. We knew that the particular name, the initials of the writer of the article had a connection to the modest young man, a tall one with pink cheeks, a long face and a little bit of a jutting chin, half ashamed eyes that always gave

 

tar1_307.jpg
Dr. Zeev Berkelhammer, of blessed memory

[Page 308]

the impression that he was surprised, lost in thought, with short sleeves or too long arms.

He came from a bourgeois family. His father had a sawmill in Biadoliny, a village near Tarnow on the shore of the Dunajec River. There, Wilek (that is what we called him) spent his vacation with his younger sister Leah (Lonka), a capable girl who appreciated the value of her brother's capabilities and related to him with respect (she married Dr. Yekel, a devoted Zionist who bought a house in Eretz–Yisroel so that his entire family could immigrate. His parents did immigrate and lived out their lives in the country, but he, his wife and two children did not live to immigrate and took part in the fate of our annihilated brothers).

At that time, a “Jewish circle” (kulko Judaistyczne) was created at the middle–school by the Jewish students, in which Wilek was one of the most active members. He was strongly beloved by everyone. By nature, he was a good–hearted person who had no equal; he would get excited during a discussion; his face would turn red and he often stepped over the accepted frame of the discussion. However, a while later, he was the same sincere, dear comrade. He had a reputation as a talented young man and when one of the members of the well–situated families was looking for a teacher for their daughter (they could not send them to the gymnazie because of piety), the choice fell on Wilek. His student, Sura Oberdam, later became his wife.

Wilek had the makings of a Zionist leader. The first activity he showed was in the Tarnow and Vienna Bar Kochba Zionist student organization; he became famous for educating a generation of activists. The Vienna Bar Kochba, which knew [Theodor] Herzl, obtained an apartment in the Zionist office in Vienna during Herzl's time, at Turkenstrasse no. 9, then where the office moved to Cologne (Germany). We were proud of this good fortune with which Wilek ended his studies in Vienna and received the diploma as a Doctor of Jurisprudence, that is, he was now on the road to becoming an attorney. However, we all knew that he would not become famous as an attorney. And we also knew that with his entire essence he was not an attorney, but an editor and his body and soul drew him to journalism. Moriah already was too small a dais for him and there was no appropriate publication for him. It was necessary to create a dais!

Voskhod [Dawn], a Zionist newspaper, was published in the Polish language in Lemberg before the First World War. As Galicia was a

[Page 309]

battle arena during the First World War, there was no suitable place there for a Zionist editorial board. A daily newspaper was needed. Galicianer Jews were in western Austria then as refugees. Therefore, everything spoke of the need for publishing a daily Zionist newspaper in the Polish language that would publish in Mährisch Ostrau (Morawska Ostrawa [Moravská Ostrava]). Here Nowy Dziennik [New Daily] actually was founded and Zeev Berkelhammer became the first editor and the living spirit of the newspaper. His journalistic talent, which already was known from before, was revealed here with its complete power. Just as in Moriah, he wrote not only the editorials, but also other articles under various signatures and initials. He would often sign Pepin, based on his mother's name Pepi, whom he loved deeply. He would place this signature particularly under polemical articles, full of humor and irony. The newspaper very quickly acquired a good name, much success and profited materially. With the end of the First World War and with the creation of more or less normal contact, the newspaper moved to Krakow, the main city in western Galicia. Berkelhammer ceased his work with Nowy Dziennik for a short time because of a conflict with the editor and returned to Tarnow where he tried to work as an attorney. However, he had not ceased writing for various newspapers in Polish, Yiddish and German.

He did not become famous as an attorney. Various jokes were told about the time of his legal practice, because the bottom line is that with God's grace he was a journalist. At this time a rift took place in the Zionist organization. Until then, all three political movements, the general Zionists, Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] and Hitachadut [pioneer youth movement], were represented in the local Zionist committee. Berkelhammer was chairman of the Hitachadut Party and he opposed the split. However, it was a fact and Berkelhammer experienced it strongly. Three Zionist committees arose in the city (left Poalei–Zion [Marxist–Zionists] did not take part in the Zionist Congress and the right Poalei–Zion was weak in Tarnow). Berkelhammer's party coloration, his economic and literary erudition, his speaking talent and devotion to Zionism, very quickly created an esteemed place and a name in Tarnow. His scientific lectures about the basis of the movement and his literary readings received great applause from the audience. Other cities also requested that Berkelhammer come as a lecturer at agitation meetings, literary evenings, to celebrations, particularly

[Page 310]

Maccabi meetings on Chanukah that were then very important events for Zionist propaganda.

However, Nowy Dziennik could not go on for long without Berkelhammer. They began to negotiate with him and he finally returned to his old workplace in Krakow. The work on the editorial board was not the easiest. The newspaper articulated general Zionism, but the editor preserved the character of the newspaper. It demanded much tact and maneuvers to satisfy the desire of the director and not to violate the spirit of his party. The discussions with the Polish newspapers also were not easy, mainly the anti–Semitic ones. He was very sharp in his polemic. However, he maintained a standard and not for nothing he was unexpectedly elected to the managing committee of the Krakow Journalist's Union, the only Jew.

In 1934 he became ill with pneumonia. Lying in his sick bed, he was visited by the well–known Polish writer, Irena Arand. He died suddenly of a blocked artery at the age of 45. He left orphaned a wife and two small children (his son died of typhus in Russia; his wife and daughter live in Haifa).

It is difficult to put into words the deep impact his death made on everyone. The misfortune became known lightning fast. It was hard to believe that Berkelhammer was no longer among the living. Grown men cried like small children. He was not only a very talented journalist, but also an important leader, beloved by everyone. Every strata of the Jewish population was overcome with a sincere sadness.

Despite his youth, he left an unforgettable impression on everyone who knew him. He was known for his comprehensive activity: in the [Zionist] movement, in various institutions where he worked, on the editorial board that was his life's work.

Everyone emphasized that first of all he was a kind–hearted man who was a rarity. He never refused anything that was asked of him. This could be one of his acquaintances or a stranger, a young one or an old one, an important personality or a simple person. Everyone turned to him with their worries because they knew that he would not refuse, that he would not rest until the requested thing would be arranged. No one left him with empty hands.

I remember one such case:

The Pole Tarnowski, from a Polish aristocratic family, a Bohemian and philosopher, a mocker of

[Page 311]

race prejudice, with a free world view and not an anti–Semite like the majority of those like him, died in Krakow. His family had long ago disowned him and there was no one to pay the several zlotes to arrange his funeral (pogrzeb). There also was no one to take care of his body. His Christian friends turned to Berkelhammer and without thinking for long, he came to an understanding with the khevra kadishe [burial society] and after an ideological quarrel they agreed to arrange the funeral. When Tarnowski's family learned of this they could not condone such shame and they took the dead body and buried it in Łańcut in Count Tarnowski's family grave.

I could tell still more facts about his tangible help from his private money (his salary as an editor was small) and in many cases he, himself, gathered the money for someone in need. He intervened, had an effect in a needed place. He bore great trouble from those who asked his help in procuring a certificate to immigrate to Israel (when immigration was greatly limited by the British mandate regime). Berkelhammer's intercession at the Palestine office would be considered with great earnestness.

And all of this was done by a man who was very busy as the leader of a movement. Mainly, he took an active part in meetings, solemn evenings and party conferences. During the voting for the Austrian Parliament, then for the Polish Sejm – he was the living spirit of propaganda and agitation, spreading the word and the essence of Zionism to the widespread masses. He even was called to Warsaw during the elections to the Sejm and from there he led the election propaganda for the Zionist list, spreading the Zionist idea among the widespread strata who until then were distant from Zionism because of piety, fanaticism or indifference. His entire life was involved with the renaissance of the [Jewish] people, to free them from their dark exile.

His political and literary articles, his essays and polemics were justified by an iron logic. At the same time, they were lightly written, with irony and healthy humor. His treatise, Mir un di Felker fun der Velt [We and the People of the World], gave a psychological overview of the Jewish people. He says there, “Mountains become the equal of mountains, but not with valleys.” And if one would equate people, they need to take into account their writers, philosophers. On the basis of a deeper treatise about the play The Blood Libel in Tiszaeszlár by Arnold Zweig, which he presents as an example, we feel that in the deepest depth of his soul and heart there is no feeling of revenge, but forgiveness. Another Tarnow personality,

[Page 312]

Max Binensztok, demonstrated on the basis of an analysis of German literature and its folk legends that revenge and brutality lies in the German essence. This was said before the First World War when there was strong sympathy for German nationalism (also on the part of educated Jews).

Dr. Berkelhammer's literary legacy is spread over various newspapers in several languages. There is a duty to assemble all of this, to publish a book so that his spiritual legacy is not lost.

Berkelhammer's name was known everywhere, as was his love of the land [of Israel], which he had visited several times and to which he was preparing to emigrate. An influential comrade, a fighter, a pillar in the Zionist movement in exile, a very talented journalist and, last but not least, a sincere, dear man, with a golden character, sensitive to artistic words – such were the character traits of this wonderful man.


[Page 313]

A bundle of memories of the grammarian,
Moshe Aharon Wiesen z'l

A Zealot for Hebrew

by Ben-Zion Zangen

Translated by David Schonberg

In these days have been completed the shloshim [30-day period] following the burial of one of the greatest grammarians of the Hebrew language in our times- Moshe Aharon Wiesen (1878-1953). He died at the age of 75 and in his last years he was hospitalised in a medical centre in Tel-Aviv, mortally ill.

He came from Galicia and all his life was devoted to one sole purpose: the study of the Hebrew language and its dissemination amongst the Jewish people. For decades he went through Jewish towns and villages in Galicia and in these places, he was not only a teacher of Hebrew, but primarily a disseminator of Jewish culture. Afterwards he went to Vienna and became one of the main assistants of Vienna's Chief Rabbi, Prof. Dr. Zvi (Hirsch) Chajes z'l (1876-1927). In his Hebrew seminary in Vienna he was absorbed in research into the Hebrew language, in a scientific fashion. There he began working upon scientific Hebrew grammar study, from all aspects. In the Hebrew seminary in Vienna he educated many teachers in the philological and scientific facets of the Hebrew language. And indeed, after several years he produced a book on Hebrew grammar that can be denoted a grammar work based upon the most modern scientific approach in this field.

 

tar1_313.jpg
Moshe Aharon Wiesen z'l

 

[Page 314]

It was about 3 years ago, sent by Davar haShavua, that I visited Moshe Aharon Wiesen z'l in the medical centre where he had been hospitalised already for several years. He was paralysed and bedridden. The nurse who looked after him told me that she advised me not to go to him today. The reason was that he was sensitive, delicate and a gentle soul and that he wouldn't want to show himself before others at a time when his illness so irritated/ bothered him. Also, that he wanted to appear before others as someone well/ healthy, in other words that he needed to prepare himself to receive visitors.

I came the following day. He lay on the bed, almost as if healthy- as if it was an afternoon rest. He was fresh, shaven and exceptionally clean [spruced up]. I had the feeling that he sought to overcome his illness with all his strength.

The conversation was immediately warm-hearted. He spoke to me as if he knew me for tens of years. And of-course, he spoke of only one subject- the Hebrew language. He complained/ protested that we spoil the Hebrew language and speak it incorrectly. He expressed angrily his critique of the Hebrew press and those who were able to amend the situation, yet do not do so. Especially he complained as to the lack of respect for the grammar of the language. For several minutes he gave tens of examples of language and expression errors, in which the language is not used correctly. For every expression he brought proofs and sources from the Bible, the Talmud, the Midrash, and so on. His expertise knew no boundary. It wasn't possible to fathom how he could keep in his memory all this vast treasure-house. In speaking on matters of grammar, he didn't merely relate to the expressions, or the style, from a language point of view, but also from a philosophical outlook. And indeed, this person was an original grammarian and thinker. He could cite Jewish and European works of philosophy as he could works of grammar.

He stressed especially the grammar courses that he organised/ led and he spoke with pride as to the students of these courses: Berl Katsenelson z'l, and, may they be separated in life, Zalman Shazar, David Zakkai, and members of Davar's editorial board.

During the conversation he related as to how he left Vienna in the time of the Nazis, and especially as to how he miraculously saved some of his writings on Hebrew language research. For many years he thought of/ had the original idea of forming an international religious league of various peoples and religions- for promoting peace.

There has left us an original personality that has contributed much in the setting of the foundation-stones for the modern Hebrew language. May these modest words be a wreath of flowers upon the fresh grave of Moshe Aharon Wiesen - the researcher, the grammarian and the precious man.


[Page 315]

Daniel Leibl

B. Weinreb

Translated by David Schonberg

I never asked Daniel as to what it was that caused him to stay in the Poalei Zion, amongst poor workers and employees. when a large part of the intelligentsia left it. It remains a fact that Jewish workers in Tarnow had a lot to thank Daniel for.

In Tarnow there were also other members who had an effect (weight/ influence), such as Yoshe Band, Nahum Einshpruch, Yoel Shnur, Haim Hoenig, Abraham Chomet and others. But none of these gave us what Daniel Leibl did. He acquainted us with the classical writers of Yiddish literature. For us, the youngsters, just recently out of the Cheder, Yeshiva or the Beis ha'Medrash (study-house) he popularised Mendel (Mocher-Sforim), Peretz, Asch, Shalom-Aleichem, Morris Rosenfeld. For us a new world was revealed (unfolded). Also deeply incised in our memory is the going out into the nearby woods where Daniel Leibl would lecture on various philosophical problems. At this opportunity it is worth stressing that the Jewish cultural life in the town, at least till the outbreak of the First World War, was led by Poalei Zion. If a Jewish writer came to Tarnow he had a one-and-only address: the Poalei Zion party. To a greater extent this is thanks to Daniel Leibl. There wasn't in Tarnow hardly any literary event in which Daniel didn't appear and give a lecture. Whether it was concerning Mendel (Mocher Sforim), Bialik, Peretz, Rosenfeld, Shalom-Aleichem. The two regular lecturers were Dr. Yitzhak Schiffer and [said after reference to person no longer alive] may he live long, Daniel Leibl. He had many students (followers) and sympathizers. It would be difficult to say that he could have any personal enemies or anyone with a grudge against him even though he was staunch and ruthless in defending his principles and ideological attitudes (outlook). One remembers well his coming out against Dr. Nathan Birnbaum, after the writing of his work- Gottes Volk and his sharp response to David Einhorn's article against Zionism that was published in the Lebens-fragenin 1920 [a Bundist newspaper]. Yet- still, even his opponents in the party had derech-eretz (respect) for him and were sympathetic to him.

In 1919 he was invited to carry out party-work in Warsaw, where

[Page 316]

he was active in the political, publicistic and literary fields. He was also known as a poet, essayist, translator and philologist. He translated two of Wyspiañski's plays: The Judges and Daniel. The last play was for the first time produced in Yiddish on the stage of the Krakow Jewish theatre.


The writer- Yehuda Ya'ari (Yudke Wald)

by W. Brachia

Translated by David Schonberg

Actually, he came from the Galician shtetl Dzików-Tarnobrzeg. His spiritual upbringing he received in Tarnow, in war-time itself. In the period of the First World War, 1914-18 he and his parents settled in Tarnow. For a long time, he studied in the Sanzer kloiz {editor note: kloiz=house of study, small synagogue}. In Tarnow he became acquainted with the Zionistic youth movement and was drawn into the HaShomer Ha-Tsair. In 1920 he came on Aliyah [immigrated] to the Land of Israel. Though not strong physically, he went to work on the roads (highways) with the enthusiasm and Hassidic fervour that he took over by inheritance from his grandfather, R. Herschel from Dzików. Not once did he have the opportunity to observe (see/witness) the Hassidic practices of his grandfather, ensconced in Hassidic customs/ habits and thereafter, by working on the roads, taught the 'non-Jews' how one practices the Sabbath's 3rd meal (shalosh-seudos) and the melave malke [the evening meal marking the conclusion of the Sabbath]. He showed this, not just on the Sabbath, but also in mid-week. In the work in the quarry (hewing stones) he practised Kotzker Hasidism. In his writings (stories, novels) he expresses/brings out a Hassidic way of life. His first work was in Kiryat Anavim, subsequently in Netanya, and later on the Haifa-Nazareth road where he got to know A. D. Gordon, with whom he became very friendly. Till today Gordon's influence upon him is apparent.

For several years he worked in the library of the Hebrew (Jerusalem) University, from which he was sent to America to learn librarianship studies. In 1952 he received the Ussishkin prize for a work of stories.

Several biographical features: He was born in the year 1900 in Dzików and later lived in Tarnow. He came on aliya in 1920 where he in the same year produced in the Land of Israel Ansky's Dybbuk. Yehuda Yaari was one of the founders of Bet-Alfa. Now

[Page 317]

he is the general secretary of the Keren HaYesod and has served as its emissary on two occasions in America and Canada.

To date he has published the following works:

Ka'Or Yahel, novel of the Third Aliya- 2 editions, Eretz Yisrael press, Tel-Aviv, 5697.
Darchei Ish, Collection of stories, Dvar, Tel-Aviv.
Be'Ohalecha, Collection of stories, Eretz Yisrael press, Tel-Aviv, 1983.
Bein Ashmoret, Collection of stories, Masada, Tel-Aviv, 5708.
Shoresh alei Mayim, novel. Bialik Institute, Jerusalem.
Arbaim Yom al HaYam. Play in three acts, Darom press, Jerusalem, 5698.


[Page 320]

Jewish Scholars, Men of Letters
and Commentators in Tarnow

by Dr. Abraham Chomet

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Mordekhai Dovid Brandstetter

The cultural life of Tarnow Jewry went through several developments, as did all of Polish Jewry from the very earliest times. From the closed ghetto life, with its own forms of living one's life culturally in the house of prayer and yeshivus [religious secondary schools], the spiritual horizon of Polish Jews gradually changed: Hasidism, the Enlightenment, assimilation, Zionism, socialism. The struggle between the Orthodox conservative masses and the enlightened intelligentsia in Tarnow took on a very sharp form and this was thanks to the fact that literary activity began very early in the city. M.D. Brandstetter was the Nestor [oldest and wisest Greek at the time of the Trojan War, who became a counselor to the Greeks in his old age] of that time's Hebrew literature, a pioneer of the Enlightenment movement in Galicia, a relentless enemy of fanaticism and backwardness. His work, novels and humorous stories, written in a beautiful Hebrew, greatly helped to encourage the spread of Hebrew literature among the Orthodox young in Galicia and played an educational role over the course of many decades of the 19th century.

Mordekhai Dovid Brandstetter was born in Briegel in 1844. In his earliest youth, he immersed himself in Talmudic studies. At 12, he studied with the famous gaon [genius], Landau of Briegel and received a higher rabbinic education from him. At 15, he traveled to Limanowa to study with the rabbis there. He married the daughter of an esteemed Tarnow merchant as a 16-year-old young man and moved to live near his father-in-law and mother-in-law. Here, in Tarnow, he became acquainted with a follower of the Enlightenment from Pruszków who was a fervid follower of the Hebrew language. The follower of the Enlightenment immediately recognized Brandstetter's capabilities, took on his secular education and revealed a new world, new horizons for the young man with a thirst for knowledge, acquainting him also with the Hebrew literature of that time. The scholar Brandstetter's literary activity began with poems, published in various Hebrew publications. During his visit to

[Page 321]

Warsaw for commercial opportunities, he became acquainted with the Hebrew literature that came from Russia. His concerns drove him to Vienna, where he became acquainted with Peretz Smolenskin and he gave him his novels for HaShakhar [The Dawn]. Smolenskin was delighted with his work and led the young writer into the world of Hebrew literature, where Brandstetter immediately occupied a respected place. He began to publish a series of short stories about Hasidic life in Galicia in HaShakhar. His important works appeared in an incomplete edition, of which three volumes were published in 1910 in Warsaw under the name Kol Kitvei (Collected Writings). A series of short stories by M.D. Brandstetter was translated into English, Russian, German and Yiddish.

Mordekhai Dovid Brandstetter lived in Tarnow from his 16th to his 84th year of life. He took part in Jewish communal life as a member of the kehila [organized Jewish community] managing committee after the First World War.

Moshe Montefiore was a fervid follower of Brandstetter's talent. On the 22nd of May 1880, Montefiore, in a sign of recognition of his literary activity, sent Brandstetter his book in the English language named Stories about a 40-Day Visit to the Holy Land. The book was furnished with the photographs of Yehudis and Moshe Montefiore and his own signature.

Montefiore heartily praised Brandstetter's literary activity in the letter. Montefiore's gift evoked much joy with Brandstetter and among Galicianer Jewry – a great sensation. Tarnow Jews flocked to him in his residence to have a look at the picture of the one who represented in the wide world not only the refined ideals of Jewry, but was the salvation of Tiberias, Damascus, Turkey, Poland and Russia. They went to look at the actual signature of he whose likeness they dressed in the happiest legends and highest humanity.[a]

On the 25th of May 1880, Brandstetter answered Montefiore with a thank-you letter. We provide an exact copy of the letter[b]:

“Light of Israel, crown of the holy people and their pride, merciful Moshe, chosen by God of the patriarchs.

“A simple man and your slave, with a trembling heart, I lay at your feet a thank you for sending your work and picture. I am proud that your generosity and goodness poured out on me. If I was worthy of your attention, it is thanks to the love and

[Page 322]

esteem for the holy language – the eternal treasure of our forefathers, the chosen, beloved by your heart. The love for it is the contents of your life and your flag, which you hold proudly. Lord, I am not worthy of your great mercy, which you have shown your slave. I take pride in your generosity and your blessing, which you have bestowed on me and my entire family. Your gift will remain an eternal memory and this work of your life, a holy memorial for the Jewish people and its culture.

“When future generations talk about my accomplishments, my children will point to your picture and say: here is the picture of Moshe, the genteel man, chosen from thousands of people. Here is his book that celebrates in song the land of the patriarchs, the land that is your longing and hope. Here is the signature, which his powerful hand recorded. God led the movement of [his] hand. He was given to the world to help Israel [the Jewish people].

“And may your beloved God help you. You are a sign that God's eyes rest on the Chosen People; God sent a protector for his people in exile.

“People, seeing evident signs, will trust the servant, Moshe, and his prophets.

“Therefore, may your name, Moshe, the one chosen by God, be esteemed forever and ever.

“Master! May God's blessing rest on you and your closest ones; may it be of help to you in your work. May God bless each minute of your life; may He happily increase your years as the years of Moshe Rabbenu [Moses, our teacher], whose name you carry and whose spirit you inherited. May God bless your house for eternity and the person who declares my name.

“Your slave, full of joy and admiration, bows his head to your feet.

Mordekhai Dovid Brandstetter.”

Brandstetter furnished the copy of the letter with the following annotation:
“A sacred souvenir. May today be blessed, on which I have received the beautiful present from Moshe Montefiore with his letter and signature. Shabbos [Sabbath], Parshes Masei [Torah portion Journeys], 20th of Sivan 5650, 22nd of May 1880. This is my answer and modest thank you sent to Mr. Moshe Montefiore, Tuesday, Parshes Behaalotecha [Torah portion When You Raise], 15th Sivan, 25th of May 1880.”
The opening of Hebrew University took place in Jerusalem on the 7th of Nisan 5685 [1st of April 1925].

Brandstetter sat at his writing-desk and wrote[c]:

“We are happy that we have lived for the sublime moment
[Page 323]

of the opening of the first Hebrew university in the Jewish land, which was being born. May God help that from Zion Torah, knowledge of life and happiness, belief in peace and love for us, for all our brothers, for all peoples. May it come true; may this miracle happen before our eyes.”

“We are fortunate that we have lived for this sublime moment of opening the first Hebrew university – the 80-year-old man repeated in a trembling voice, full of restrained, somber and unlimited joy.

“We went through many hardships – he said in a quiet voice. We had to endure much bitterness from people. We know what such suffering and enslavement is – we, the unluckiest people in the world. Now, the years of constant pain are behind us. Strolling to a new, happy life, we must not only remain Jews, but also people. Such a complete synthesis of Jewry and noble humanity was Montefiore. His person and his spirit need to stand on watch of our historical actions. What a shame that Montefiore did not live to see this great moment.”

In 1914, Tarnow Jews celebrated the 70th jubilee of M.D. Brandstetter. A special jubilee committee, which consisted of the then head of the kehila [organized Jewish community] in Tarnow, Berish Mazler, of the chairman of the Zionist organization in Tarnow, Dr. Shmuel Szpan and of the leader of the Hebraists in Tarnow, Tzvi Szarfsztajn, organized a great celebration and a banquet with various unions and organizations in the ballroom of the Hotel Soldinger.

Mordekhai Dovid Brandstetter died in Tarnow on the 24th of May 1928 at the age of 84. In the periodical of the Zionist organizations in Tarnow, Yidish Vokhnblat [Jewish Weekly], of the 18th of May 1928, Chaim Najger gave an appraisal of the literary and communal activity of M.D Brandstetter. We provide the article in its entirety:

“The Jewish people mourned at the mita [board carrying the dead] for one of its best sons. This bit of living Jewish literary history, the rare remnant of the old era of the Enlightenment, the famous Hebrew writer, Mordekhai Dovid Brandstetter, stepped over the bridge of the present world to the eternity of history at the age of 84.

“It is rare, but M.D. Brandstetter lived to see with his own eyes the historic close of an era to which he himself belonged as a creator. He had an effect during the flowering season of the Enlightenment, reached

[Page 324]

a respected place in it and also had the honor to see the evaluation of the Era of Enlightenment after its conclusion.

“As an enthusiast, as a lover of the Hebrew language, as a simple lover of our old holy language, he took his first step in the temple of Hebrew literature. Out of simple veneration for this old inheritance of our people, out of grateful love for the old mother, without whose affirmation the entire Enlightenment generation did not believe [in it] and, it should be understood, that our writers also did not. He placed in its service, his brilliant pen, his fresh, lively spirit. However, he had the good fortune to live to see the wonder with which the Hebrew language, already believed to be dead, was rejuvenated and again began to ring with fresh, lively sounds in the mouths of thousands of children

 

tar1_324.jpg
The invitation to the anniversary celebration in honor of M. D. Brandstetter in the year 1914

[Page 325]

of the rejuvenated people in the united, revived Jewish land. The luck that was not destined for his predecessor, Y. L. Gordon and his literary comrade Peretz Smolenskin, M. D. Brandstetter had the good fortune to have the honor to see with his own eyes.

“And actually, in this respect, we must distinguish between Brandstetter of the era of Enlightenment and the present Renaissance era. The first, the Enlightened Brandstetter, felt in his literary work a kind of mitzvah of accompanying a body to its burial, a mercy one does for the dead, from which one does not hope to gain something. However, the second one, the Brandstetter of our time, was surprised to see that the old mother, the Hebrew language, which had been thought of as a corpse, again became alive and as a living one it thankfully served its lovers with the veneration that was shown to it. This Hebrew language, from which Brandstetter, despite its ostensible death, could not tear himself away, also rejuvenated his Jewry; it awoke in him the belief in the eternal strength of his people and his national [Zionist] feelings also were animated and rejuvenated thanks to the influence of the Renaissance of the language. Brandstetter, thanks to his connection to the Hebrew language, survived the crisis of assimilation. In addition, the old follower of the Enlightenment became a young, inspired Jew.

“In conclusion, we again want to remember, with a few words, that the deceased was a child of Galicianer Jewry and we, his close landsleit [people from the same town], must be proud of the treasure with which we were favored from the Hebrew literary world. Our city, Tarnow, and his birthplace, Briegel, were immortalized in the literary history of the Jewish people by his famous name. The readers of Brandstetter's works, which are found all over the world, remember with respect the name of our city, which had the merit to be the home of a great son of the Jewish people, of a city, in whose brick buildings the greatest Jewish spirit worked and where he created the eternal historical works for his people. We thankfully bow in sadness before the mita of the unforgettable poet, M.D. Brandstetter.

“May his soul be bound up in the bond of life.”

* * *

At the beginning of August 1929, an impressive memorial was unveiled at the Jewish cemetery in Tarnow, on which there is an inscription composed by Mordekhai Dovid Brandstetter during his life. The unveiling of the memorial took place on the first yahrzeit [anniversary of a death] of the great deceased man.

[Page 326]

Prof. Leon Kelner

[Professor Leon Kelner] is the pride of Tarnow Jewry. He was born in Tarnow in 1859. In 1900 he took over the lectureship of English and English literature at Vienna University and in 1904 he was university professor in Czerniowce [Chernivtsi]. He published a large number of works about the English language and literature. In his early youth, he joined the Zionist movement. He was one of the most fervid followers [of Theodor Herzl] during Doctor Herzl's life and for a time he edited Di Velt [The World].

 

Pinkhas Sima

Just like Tarnopol and Bordi, Tarnow was a city in Galicia where the Enlightened type of Jews appeared, who drew from the well of secular culture but nevertheless did not withdraw from Jewish lineage, but tried to reinforce and strengthen their roots. Therefore, Tarnow followers of the Enlightenment occupied a respected place in the process of reviving Hebrew literature and language. Pinkhas Sima was a follower of the Enlightenment who knew well our Judaism.

 

Naftali Keller

Among the followers of the Enlightenment in Tarnow, Naftali Keller occupied an esteemed place close to Pinkhas Sima. He can boldly be considered one of the first pioneers in the city spreading Hebrew as a language spoken by all Jews. He published a collection under the name Bikurim [First Fruits].

 

Moshe Orenztajn

[He was] a teacher of religion at the school in Tarnow named for Baron Hirsch, where he taught in the modern spirit. He was the editor of HaShakhar [The Dawn] for a time after Peretz Smolenskin. Moshe is the author of the history, Toldot Goye Yeme Keden [History of the Ancient Gentiles].

[Page 327]

Skharya-Mendl Szapiro

When the Hibbat Zion [Lovers of Zion] Society in Tarnow founded the first Hebrew school, one of the first teachers was S.M. Szapiro, although he was completely religious, a fervid follower of the Enlightenment. In 1900, he immigrated to Eretz-Yisroel, where he was a teacher. He taught at the Tarnow Hebrew school with the teacher Bazler, the father of the well-known Tarnow lawyer, Dr. Bazler, who perished during the Hitlerist occupation. Skharya-Mendl Szapiro died in Zichron-Yakov in 1938.

 

Leibush Karec

Leibush Karec, author of the brochure haEtrog [The Citron] in Hebrew and other propaganda publications on behalf of Jewish colonization in Eretz-Yisroel belongs to the same category of followers of the Enlightenment in Tarnow. He immigrated to Eretz-Yisroel several years before the outbreak of the Second World War, as a 70-year-old man.

 

Ben Tzion Rapaport

Ben Tzion Rapaport was professor of the Hebrew language for many years at the Krakow Hebrew gymnazie [secondary school]; [he was] born in Tarnow in 1884, where he also taught in the yeshiva [religious secondary school]. He acquired secular knowledge with his own strength and zeal and studied philosophy with great interest. In time, Ben Tzion Rapaport grew into a famous Jewish scholar and his philosophical works evoked great interest in wide scholarly circles. He perished at the hands of the German murderers during the Hitlerist occupation. [There are] details about the life and creations of Ben Tzion Rapaport in an article by Ben Zion Tsanger and Sh. H. Bergman.

 

Mordekahi and Fishl Wajsman

The Tarnow Jew, Mordekhai Wajsman, published a collection of religious poems by various authors and a collection of various treatises, mainly about the Talmud, Aggadah [Talmudic narrative legends] and Midrash [Talmudic commentaries]. His brother, Fishele [diminutive of Fishl] Wajsman, was a writer and, for a time, a correspondent with HaMagid [The Declarer].

[Page 328]

Avraham-Yehuda Hajman

Significant follower of the Enlightenment, who brought economic and social problems into the Hebrew literature of that time.

 

Moshe-Ahron Wiesen

Talented writer and poet. He began publishing the Luah Sha'ashuim [Almanac of Amusements]. After finishing his studies in Switzerland, he traveled to Vienna where for a long time he was professor of the Hebrew language at the Hebrew Pedagogium [teachers' academy] named for Rabbi Dr. [Hirsch Perez] Chajes. He published an excellent Hebrew grammar book, supported the achievements of modern linguistics. He also published a collection of folklore, Khokhme un Kharifes [Wisdom and Acumen], in Yiddish. In 1938 he left for Eretz-Yisroel where he developed important pedagogic activity. As a member of Vaad haLashon [Acadamy of the Hebrew Language], he benefited from great prestige in pedagogic circles. He died in 1953.

 

Tzvi Rumeld

Teacher and story teller; lived in Tarnow over the course of many years. Among others, he published the book,Hale'ah ha-neshek [Lay Down Your Arms by Bertha von Suttner].

 

Rabbi Shlomo Kurc

Was known in Tarnow as a pious follower of the Enlightenment. He published a series of interesting treatises in the Hebrew language.

 

Moshe-Ahron and Chaim Najger

Moshe-Ahron Najger was an important scholar, who educated an entire generation in Tarnow. His son, Chaim Najger, also was a scholar and was a significant expert in the Hebrew language. In the year 1934 his book, Avot Labanim [Fathers and Sons], was published.

[Page 329]

Yosef Umanski

When the Hebrew school system in Tarnow began to take its first steps, one of the first teachers appeared, a devoted and persevering pioneer of the Hebrew language – Yosef Umanski. As an experienced expert in Talmud, he published a work Khakhme haTalmud [Sages of the Talmud], in which he attempts to single out the tremendous number of ideas in the Talmud according to the separate ideas of each author, creating unity from the separate ideas that are found throughout the entire Talmud. This work, evidence of mastery of an abundance of Talmud material, brought recognition from the well-known authorities in the area, such as the poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, Professor Balaban, Professor Shor, Professor Wajs. In a letter to the author, they expressed their thanks and recognition of the completed work. In 1931, Omanski's second monograph was published – Sefer Rav [Book of Rav – Abba Arikha] (in two parts). The first contains Rav's biography; the second – his treatises, thoughts and opinions, arranged alphabetically.

In 1934, Y. Umanski celebrated the 25th anniversary of his literary activity in Tarnow. Then he and his family immigrated to Eretz-Yisroel, where he lives today.

 

tar1_329.jpg
At the 25th anniversary of Y. Umanski's literary activity [1934]

[Page 330]

Avraham Kahane (Avrak)

Starting in 1907, [he] carried on widespread literary and journalistic activity in Tarnow. Educated in the Tarnow house of prayer, he then immersed himself in Talmudic knowledge and fell under the influence of Zionism and the Enlightenment at an early age. He was one of the first Zionist propogandists among the Hasidic young in Tarnow. He joined Mizrakhi [Religious Zionist] and became one of the first esteemed workers in Galicia. Kahane's first article excelled with his knowledge of Judaism, general intelligence and language ability, which were deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition. They [his articles] were published in HaShakhar [The Dawn], HaMicpe [The Anticipation] and HaEvri [The Hebrew] after the First World War. During the years of the First World War, he was in Prague and worked at a series of Yiddish newspapers: Zelbstvehr [Self Defense], Yidishe Folksshtime [Jewish People's Voice] in Bern, HaMicpe, HaTsefirah [The Epoch], HaYarden [The Jordan], Di Zeit [The Time], HaOlam [The World] and Di Vokhnshrift [The Weekly] of Dr. Bloch. Kahane also published several smaller works, among others, a monograph about the Maharal [Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague]. In 1920, he moved to Przemysl, from which he sent his articles to a series of Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers such as Togblat [Daily], Morgn [Morning], Haaretz [The Land] and others. Among other

 

tar1_330.jpg
Avraham Kahane [Avrak]

 

[Page 331]

of his published works in print are Letoldot Yehude Behm [Biography of Yehuda Behm], Avraham Mapo and, in German, Yisroel Baal Shem. Kahane's feature articles, critical articles and reviews were dispersed through many periodicals in various languages. They provide a picture of a significant literary achievement by a modest person who did not chase after glory. His works encompass deep problems of Jewish knowledge and give evidence of the erudition of the critic, of his comprehensive knowledge of our old literature, connected with a modern education and connection to the Jewish tradition. Avraham Kahane, who emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel in 1936, continues his literary work here under the pseudonym Avrak.

 

Professor Sholem [Salo] Baron

A son of the well-known Tarnow citizen Elihu Baron (perished with his wife during the Hitlerist occupation), Sholem Baron was born in Tarnow in 1895. He graduated from the middle school as a non-matriculated student. He graduated from the university in Vienna, receiving four doctorates: philosophy, law, theology and political science. Over the course of years, he was professor of Jewish history at the Hebrew Pedagogium named for Rabbi Chajes in Vienna. In 1927 he was hired by the Theological Seminary of Steven Wise in New York. Professor Salo Baron published a series of scholarly works, among others, (in 1920) Di Yidnfrage oyfn Viner Kongres [The Jewish Question at the Vienna Congress]; in 1923 – a comprehensive study of Ferdinand Lassalles. A large work in English, Ghetto and Emancipation, and Nationalism and Intolerance were published in New York. Both books made a great impression in scholarly circles in America. Starting in 1930, Sholem Baron became a professor at Columbia University in New York.

 

Yehuda Jeri (Wald)

Studied at the Tarnow kloyz [small synagogue, whose members usually belong to the same trade] and, then, was educated at the Tarnow Hashomer Hatzair [Socialist Zionist youth movement]. In 1920, he immigrated to Eretz-Yisroel, where he was employed as a librarian at Jerusalem University. In the land [Eretz-Yisroel], he was a talented Hebrew writer, immediately occupied a respected place in Hebrew literature and in 1952 was awarded a medal for his literary activity with the Ussishkin Prize. Details about Yehuda Jeri's creations appear in the article of W. Brukhia.

[Page 332]

Dr. Maks Binensztok, Dr. Yitzhak Sziper and Dr. Wilhelm Berkelhamer were born, raised and studied and lived for long time in Tarnow.

 

Dr. Maks Binensztok

Born on the 24th of March 1881 in Tarnow. Under the influence of his mother (born Knopf), an educated and intelligent woman – he was drawn to books and to study from his early childhood. At age eight, he already knew all of the classic authors and was considered a most capable student at the Tarnow gymnazie. At a very early age, there awoke in him an interest in the Zionist movement in Tarnow and as a 16-year-old student in the sixth class, he joined the Zionist party, haTehiya [the Revival]. In 1902, right after he received his certificate of graduation from the gymnazie, he founded a Zionist girl's organization, Miriam, and the first Zionist academic union, Bar Kokhba, whose first chairman he was. He should also be thanked for the rise (in 1903) of the first union of trade employees in Tarnow.

Maks Binensztok was one of the first popularizers of Yiddish literature in Galicia. His wife, Francziszka (Sztok), also helped a great deal through her translations in Polish.

As a very young man, he began the struggle in Tarnow for “conquering the kehila [organized Jewish community] by the Zionists.

After graduating from the university (1908), he received the scholarly title, Doctor of Philosophy, on the basis of his dissertation about Heinrich Heine. In 1910, he published a work about Jewish elements in the creations of Heine. In 1913 – a large work about the artistic attitudes of Ibsen. In 1912 Binensztok translated [Zygmunt] Krasiñski's Undivine Comedy into German, in addition to a series of pedagogic studies. During the First World War, Maks Binensztok developed widespread communal activities in eastern Galicia on behalf of the war refugees, war victims and Jewish orphans. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, he worked on behalf of a series of Jewish national institutions, founding then in Stry (where he taught as a professor in a gymnazie), a 4-grade Jewish school. He edited the local periodical, Di Yidishe Folks-Shtime [The Jewish People's Voice]. During the Ukrainian government, he was elected as a member of the Central Jewish Council as lecturer for school matters in the Galician area.

[Page 333]

After the fall of the western Ukrainian Republic, due to a false denunciation, he was arrested in June 1919. He spent several weeks in the Lemberg jail and after leaving it, settled in Lemberg, where he took over as director of a Jewish gymnazie [secondary school]. Maks Binensztok developed wide-spread activity in Lemberg as a journalist, literary critic and party activist. He was one of the organizers of the radical-democratic wing of the Galicianer Zionist movement, from which later arose the Zionist worker's party, Hitakhadut [Federation]. He dedicated a great deal of work to this party and represented it at various Zionist conferences. He wrote very many articles for the newspaper, Dos Freie Vort [The Free Word]. In 1921, he was elected as a delegate from Hitskhadut to the 12th Zionist Congress in Carlsbad.

In 1922, he was elected as a deputy at the Polish Senat from the National-Jewish List. However, he suddenly grew ill. He died the same year. [He was] one of the great and genteel sons of Tarnow Jewry. Maks Binensztok served the Zionist idea until the last minute – with his pen, authority, talent, organizational and pedagogical capabilities. Honor his memory.

 

Dr. Yitzhak Sziper
[Ignacy Schiper]

Born in Tarnow on the 9th of November 1884. He graduated from the folks-shul [public school] here and entered the gymnazie [secondary school]. In his young gymnazie years, he was interested particularly in beautiful literature, which Sziper remembers very often in his early memoirs, also describing how he spent time together with his school friend, Radek-Sobelson. After graduating from the middle school, Sziper studied law and philosophy at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and in Vienna. Immediately, during the first year of his studies at the university, he received recognition for his historical work, Vegn der Gezetsbegung Legabe Yidn in Poyln in di Tseytn fun Kazimir dem Groysn [On Legislation in Relation to the Jews in Poland in the Time of Kazimir the Great].

As a 20-year-old young man he published his work, Der Onfang fun Kapitalizm bei di Mayrev-Yidn in Mitlalter [The Beginning of Capitalism among the Western Jews during the Middle Ages] in German. This work was to be the start of a larger work about the economic history of the Jews and created a great reaction in the scholarly world. Several years later, it was translated into Russian.

In 1911, Sziper published his Studium iber di Virtshaftlekhe Batsiungen fun Yidn in Poyln in Mitlalter [Study of the Economic Circumstances of the Jews in Poland during the Middle Ages] – an award-winning work at the St. Wawelberg economic competition, held by the philosophic

[Page 334]

faculty of Lemberg University. Sziper's important work consists of: Kritik fun der Literatur Benegeye der Geshikhte fun Yidn in Poyln [Criticism of Literature with Regard to the History of the Jews in Poland] (1909), Onteyl fun Yidn in Groyshandl mitn Orient [Participation of the Jews in Commerce in the Orient], Humanism un di Yidnfrage [Humanism and the Jewish Question] (Moriah 1911), Poylish-Litvish Yidn un Palestine [Polish-Lithuanian Jews in Palestine] (Vienna 1918), Di Shul, Kloister Farshidn-gloybike Gemeindes [The Synagogue, Church and Various Believing Communities] (Moriah), Yidn fun Poylishn Kenigreikh besn November Oyfshtand [Jews in Congress Poland during the November Uprising]. In addition to this, Dr. Y. Sziper published many treatises and works in the area of literary criticism in Polish, German and Yiddish periodicals and calendars. Sziper's erudition and comprehensive knowledge came to particular expression in his work, Yidn in Baneyter Poyln [Jews in the Revived Poland].

To Sziper's larger works belong: Virtshaft-Geshikhte [Economic History] (in Yiddish) and Geshikhte fun Yidishn Teater un Drama [History of the Theater and Drama] (in Yiddish). In addition, his larger book, Geshikhte fun Yidishn Handl oyf Poylisher Erd [History of Jewish Trade on Polish Soil] was published.

Dr. Sziper was one of the earliest young people to become a leading Poalei-Zion [Marxist Zionists] worker in Poland. Until 1919, he lived in Tarnow. After the death of Dr. Rozenfeld, he took over his mandate in the Polish Sejm [parliament] and moved to Warsaw with his family. While living in Tarnow, he helped the local Poalei-Zion with word and deed. Every Shabbos [Sabbath], he gave lectures at the party club. When there were not enough funds to pay rent for the party premises, Dr. Sziper gave his last groshn for this purpose. I remember that when in 1912 (or 1913) I informed Dr. Sziper that the owner of the premises on Ogrodowa threatened eviction because of unpaid rent, which reached several tens of Austrian crowns, Dr. Sziper immediately took off his silver watch, gave it to me and asked that I pawn it and pay the rent debt.

During the First World War, Dr. Sziper lived in Krakow, where he wrote a large work, Geshikhte fun der Yidisher Noit [History of Jewish Need]. Alas, this manuscript was stolen from his residence during a break-in by a thief. During the Second World War, he was in the Warsaw ghetto and took part in the underground uprising movement.

Dr. Sziper was connected to Tarnow by familial, communal and personal threads and, when he was tired from his political, scholarly and communal work, he came to Tarnow and spent his vacation here. He perished in a Nazi camp, about which we report exactly in the chapter, “Umkum” [Holocaust].

[Page 335]

Dr. Wilhelm Berkelhamer

Born in Tarnow, in 1889. Here he graduated from the middle school and after receiving the title of Doctor of Law at Vienna University, he carried out his legal practice in Tarnow where he also continued his Zionist and publishing activity. Here he edited the Moriah [a monthly publication] and in 1918 he took over the chief editorship of Nowy Dziennik [The New Daily] in Krakow. He remained in the office until 1920 and then returned to Tarnow. From 1920 to 1922, he was chairman of the Tarnow Zionist Organization. Later he left for Warsaw and there edited the newspaper, Nowy Tydzieñ [New Weekly]. Dr. Berkelhamer published several works, among others, Mir un di Felker fun der Velt [We and the People of the World]. He moved back to Krakow in 1925 and again took over the editorship of Nowy Dziennik, which under his leadership became one of the most serious and widespread Jewish newspapers in Poland. He visited Eretz-Yisroel twice. He died suddenly in Zawiya on the 17th August 1934.

The death of the gifted, industrious and quiet journalist and Zionist leader brought general sadness to the Jewish population in western Galicia where he was deeply loved and esteemed by all Jewish circles. Honor his memory!

 

Dr. Sh. Margoszes
[Samuel Margoshes]

One of the main editors and journalists at the New York Tog-Morgenfreiheit [Day-Morning Freedom], he received his secular education at the Tarnow gymnazie [secondary school]. Born in Józefów (near Tarnow) in 1887. Educated in a kheder [religious primary school] and yeshiva [religious secondary school] in Radomsyl; later attended gymnazie in Tarnow, where he founded a Zionist student group in 1903.

Immigrated to America in 1905. Studied philosophy and social science at Columbia University in New York. [He] received his doctorate in 1917. Studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Director of the educational department of the New York kehile until 1918. Chief editor of the New York Tog for the years 1922-1941. Member of the executive of the Zionist Organization in America. President of the Galicianer Farband [Galicianer Association]. Member of the executive of the Jewish World Congress. Vice president of the American Jewish Congress. Member of the Zionist Shareholder Committee. Contributed to Yiddish, Hebrew and

[Page 336]

English periodicals. Author of Geshikhte fun Yidisher Dertsiung in Deitshland in 1648-1848 [History of Jewish Education in Germany in 1648-1848].

Dr. Margoszes is not only a significant journalist and writer, but also an active communal worker and participant in the political actions of American Jewry, where he stands in the forward position of the struggle for the realization of Zionist beliefs. He is one of the most active workers in the Zionist organization in America.

 

Dr. Elihu Tish

[He was] born [in Tarnow] and graduated from the gymnazie [secondary school] in Tarnow. He received a good Jewish education from his parents and enhanced his secular education with Jewish knowledge. From his first years of his belonging to the Zionist movement, he was among the best Zionist popular speakers in Galicia. Studying in Vienna, he was one of the most esteemed members of the student society, “Theodor Herzl.” After the First World War (1921), he was chief editor for a time of the Krakow Nowy Dzennik [New Daily]. He then moved to Nowy S¹cz, where he worked as a lawyer and active Zionist worker and took a leading role in the Zionist organization in western Galicia, showing a particular interest in matters of a higher cultural level. Dr. Elihu Tish has been in Jerusalem for several years.

 

Daniel Leibl (Aleksander)

Fellow Tarnow townsman, the experienced journalist, Daniel Leibl, known under the pseudonym Aleksander, has been active in Israel for many years. An exceptional expert in Hebrew, master of the Yiddish word, he began his journalistic activities before the First World War. During the years 1919-1923, he worked with the central organ of Poalei-Zion [Marxist Zionists], Arbeter Zeitung [Worker's Newspaper] in Warsaw. He published his political and literary articles in this serious worker's newspaper. At that time, he published a book of poems, Beym Griner Lompn-Shein [By the Green Lamplight]. He also translated [Stanis³aw] Wyspiañski's Rikhter [Judge] and Daniel into Yiddish. After settling in Eretz-Yisroel (in 1924), he constantly dedicated himself to the Yiddish and Hebrew worker's press. In 1929, his Hebrew translation of [Juliusz] Slowacki's Anhelli was published. He is the chief editor of the oldest Yiddish newspaper in Israel – Ney Velt [New World], where he writes on literary

[Page 337]

and political themes. Today, he is one of the most popular and serious Jewish commentators in Israel.

 

Ben Tzion Tsangen

The Tarner [person from Tarnow] Ben Tzion Tsangen is now active in Israel as a journalist and theater critic. Before the First World War, he was a co-worker at the Lemberg Chwila [Moment]. Now he is published in serious newspapers in Israel with discourses about theater presentations, film criticism and articles of commentary.

 

Menasha Unger

Raised in Tarnow, a son of the Zabner Rabbi, Reb Sholem Dovid Unger, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed. After he moved to Warsaw, he began to work in the Jewish press there, writing mainly about Hasidic life. Several of his serious books in this area are still published today. Menasha Unger is now one of the co-editors of the New York Tog [Day].

 

Ignatz Gelb

Born in and graduated from the middle school in Tarnow. After graduating from the university, he was a Doctor of Orientalist Studies, received a scholarly title as a university assistant at the faculty for Orientalist Studies in Chicago. Before the Second World War, Ignatz Gelb was chosen as a member of the American Scientific Expedition in Mesopotamia. His parents, devoted Zionist activists and communal workers in Tarnow, perished at the hands of the Hilterist murderers.

 

Naftali Wajnig

Born in Tarnow, he very early began to write literary criticism, for which he was strongly esteemed in the literary circles in Poland. During the Second World War, he found himself in the Vilna ghetto and carried on cultural activity there. He perished in a martyrs' death at the hand of the Hitlerist murderers.

[Page 338]

Adolf Rudnicki

Significant and now the most read Polish writer. He comes from the Tarnow Orthodox Hirshhorn family.

 

Yosef Ragel

A Tarnow child, a young, talented poet, spent the war time in various German concentration camps. After the liberation, Ragel went to Canada (Montreal), where his book, Auschwitz, a collection of poems dedicated to his annihilated family and to the martyrs of his home city of Tarnow, was published. This book – published by a committee of writers in Canada – demonstrated the author's great poetic abilities.

 

Yakov Najmark

Son of a well-known, respected Tarnow family. Was popular in Tarnow under the name Der Royter Yankl [the red-headed Yankl]. He already was active as a Yiddish poet during his young years and was known for his gifted, poetic creations in all Galicia. Before the First World War, he moved to southern Hungary, where he settled in a village and he perished there with his entire family at the hands of the Hitlerist murderers.

 

Leon Feldsztajn

Known as Leible, Leon Feldsztajn was among the first leaders of the Jewish Socialist Party [Z.P.S] in Tarnow. He showed a particular interest in Yiddish literature and very early occupied an esteemed place among the literary critics in Galicia. His membership in the Z.P.S. did not disturb his constant work with the Lemberg Togblat [Daily]. After the First World War, he left for Switzerland, where he was active in the area of Jewish culture. He died in Switzerland after the Second World War.

[Page 339]

Dr. Dovid Eynhorn

Son of the well-known teacher, Frenkl Lerer [teacher], in whose kheder [religious primary school] the majority of the young, studying Jews in Tarnow studied during the early years. The young Dovid Eynhorn studied philosophy in Vienna after graduating from the Tarnow gymnazie [secondary school] and grew to be a significant scholar and was a member of the international scholarly periodical Scienca. Dr. Dovid Eynhorn made a name for himself as a result of his original theory that combats Darwinism on a philosophical basis.

Tzvi Wrubel (today Ankori), belongs to the youngest generation of scholars who come from Tarnow. His father, Ayzyk Wrubel, came to Tarnow as a young man, began to study in the kloyz [small synagogue, whose members usually belong to the same trade] and immediately became the best student of the well-known teacher, Reb Moshe'l. In time, Ayzyk Wrubel began to give lectures about Gemara [Talmudic commentaries] to a group of esteemed members of the middle class, as for example, the son of Elihu Baron, of blessed memory, the current famous Professor Sholem [Salo] Baron in America.

The younger Tzvi Wrubel was born in Tarnow, where he attended the Hebrew gymnazie, Safa Berura [clear language]. He showed great capabilities as a very young gymnazie student and was the pride of the Safa Berura in Tarnow. On the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War, he immigrated to Eretz-Yisroel, began to study at the university in Jerusalem and served in the Jewish Brigade during the war. After the war, thanks to his capabilities, he received a stipend from the American government as a student of Jerusalem University to study in America to deepen his scholarly knowledge.


Original footnotes

  1. Tygodnik Żydowski [Jewish Weekly] of the 16th of August 1929 Return
  2. Tygodnik Żydowski of the 16th of August 1929 Return
  3. Tygodnik Żydowski of the 16th of August 1929 Return

 

«Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Tarnow,Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2021 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 15 Feb 2021 by MGH