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[Page 136]

Teachers State Seminary in Brzezany

Batya Boneh-Prizand

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

I turn to write the review of the teachers' seminary in Brzezany, hesitantly because of the non-Jewish character of the subject. The reader would, no doubt, ask what teachers' seminary has to do with the memorialization of the Jewish community, which is the main objective of this book. However, because I educated and taught hundreds of Israel children at a state school in Israel, thanks to being a graduate of the seminary, and like me, two more graduates of that institution dedicatedly fulfilled their roles in the education field in Israel, the institution for training teachers in Brzezany is worthy of a its own article.

Not every city the size of Brzezany had a female teacher seminary, in addition to a coed high school. Therefore, many girls from nearby and faraway areas studied in Brzezany's seminary. It was not easy to be accepted. There was only a single Jewish student among the thirty students who began their studies every year.

Following a five-year program and success in the official matriculation examinations, the graduate received a diploma, authorizing her to teach in any state or private elementary school where the teaching language was Polish or Ukrainian.

The seminary combined theoretical and vocational characters, and the level of study was high. All the teachers had an academic education, and the teaching methods were quite advanced. An emphasis was placed on students' self-work and independence.

I will never forget my essay about the history of the Jewish nation in the history class of one of the upper classes. I lectured on that essay in class before the students and the teacher. The effect of the lecture on the students was immense, and I received special appreciation and an excellent grade in history. In the two upper classes, an emphasis was placed on pedagogic studies and training teachers in actual teaching work in the exemplary school located by the seminary.

A discussion about the lessons conducted by the students was held once a week, in which the teacher and the students analyzed the material. These discussions expanded our horizons and provided tremendous professional knowledge.

Studies in the seminary took place six days per week, while Sunday was a free day. We, the Jewish girls, five in total in the whole institute, suffered from being forced to go to school on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and conduct compulsory activities, some of which were forbidden according to Jewish law. As a daughter of a religious family, I had to hide these activities from my parents, particularly my father Z”L, a G-d-fearing and pious man who was very strict in fulfilling the commandments.

We were released from our studies only during the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur - and the release required submission of a special request every year. However, the teachers were not considerate and did not give us any allowance. Besides these difficulties, the overall atmosphere at the seminar was positive, and the attendance of five Jewish female students did not result in any problems.

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Among the teachers who stood out in their education and their humanistic and educational approach toward the students were the principal and two additional teachers. On the other side, there were teachers who, despite trying to hide their hostile attitude toward the Jewish students, they did not succeed in that. The seminary management was strict about discipline and studying orderliness.

Despite all of that, the atmosphere at the seminary was not that of a monastery, and the students were involved in the life of the youth in town.

A ball with the participation of the seminary's girls and the high school's students was held once a year. Preparations for that event were lengthy and the program was diverse. Echoes from that ball continued to resonate long after the event and it became the topic of discussion among the youths.

Once a year, the seminary held a day trip with the participation of the elementary school's students, and it was a wonderful day in the life of the institution. I remember the charming nature location - a ravine among tall mountains, rich in water and vegetation, at the foot of an enormous railway bridge. We established a camp there, and teachers and students spent a long day playing games and sports. It was a day of joy and happiness.

Upon graduating from the seminary, and after the matriculation exams, I was hired as a teacher in a state elementary school in Khorostkiv, Kopychyntsi District. That was a rare occurrence in Poland, which restricted the acceptance of Jews to governmental positions.

Despite my successes, I felt like a foreign body at the seminary and also when I worked as a teacher. My aspiration was somewhere else. That is because I was a member of the “HaShomer HaTzair” [“Young Guard”] movement, and followed its objectives. I lived the life of the youth movements. The movement's principles gave me the mental fortitude to leave everything behind me and make Aliyah to Eretz Israel. I made Aliyah in 1932 and worked at a state school from 1936 until 1972. All that is thanks to the basic knowledge and professional training I received at the seminary.


by Tzvi Scharfstein

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

In memory of [Prof.] Tzvi Scharfstein, who served as a teacher in Brzezany. This article was copied from his book “Haya Aviv BaAretz” [It was Spring in the Land], 1952, “Masada” Publisher.

I do not know who controlled it – but the rumor spread that I needed to leave Peremyshlyany [in Yiddish - Primishlan]. Two activists from the school “Safa Brura” [“Clear Language”] in neighboring Brzezany came to me and invited me to accept the management of their institute – I agreed. The change of place changed my situation for the better – I moved to a bigger city with a population of fifteen thousand Jews, Poles, and Ruthins. A third of the population were our brothers.

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There were two high schools in Brzezany, one for boys and the other for girls. Both schools contained large numbers of Jewish youths, some of whom were local and others from the neighboring town. Because, just as in the past, people migrated to different places of residence, Jewish youths began to migrate to locations of high schools and universities. Almost all Jewish high school students came from tradition-holders' homes, graduates of the “Kheder” who remembered their childhood roots, whether a little or a lot.

When I arrived to manage the Hebrew school in Brzezany, a delegation of upper high school classmates came and asked to arrange Hebrew evening lessons for them – and that was what I did. I also established morning lessons for the girls. About a hundred youths - boys and girls, came to study Hebrew – the best of the Jewish youth. Excitement was felt in the city. Hebrew talks could be heard when the youngsters strolled on the main street.

The students were divided into groups based on their knowledge. Some unique characters were found among the members of the upper course, a small group who read modern [Hebrew] literature.

One such character who stood out changed his name as early as then to Hebrew. He was the son of a good family from Buczacz [in Yiddish - Buchach], which the author S. Y. Agnon made famous in his literary creations. That student differed from his friends in appearance, views, and ways of life. In terms of his appearance – he grew a beard, which added an aura of maturity, seriousness, and a bit of strangeness since the combination of a high school uniform and a beard seemed strange. In terms of his way of life he was a follower of what can be called “natural life,” and he avoided meat. He was nationalistic with all his soul and might and pedantic about his Hebrew speech. He read modern Hebrew literature and faithfully participated in Zionist activities. His attitude toward his friends and his sacrifice for their sake was paternal. He carried that ideological sense, not out of the recognition of a charity doer or for showing off, but out of simplicity and modesty and as something done anyway.

I have met many naturalists, vegetarians, and idealists in my life, and found that most lack a sense of humor. Their prominence was high in their own eyes, and they highlighted their seriousness and superiority over everyone. They assigned themselves the eminence of teachers and guides created to elevate their friends to their superior level. But he was not flawed by this. Although he was a vegetarian, he did not try to convert his friends. He used to visit me at home when he had free time to discuss literature, Zionism, and activities among the students. When he entered, purity entered, the room was filled with myrrh fragrance, and miraculously joy filled one's heart.

He studied with me for two years, and I became attached to him. After getting a graduation and matriculation certificate, he moved to Vienna to study medicine there. I threw him a farewell party before his departure. It was a modest party but a novelty and rare honor, nevertheless. His friends praised him, toasted in his honor, sang songs, danced, and dragged him into the dancing circle. He seemed to be happy. Since he left the city, the splendor of the group dimmed.

I received news about him from time to time. It was told about him that he neglected his studies and that he intensified his vegetarianism, turning to nature with a strangeness in his behavior. His studies lengthened. When he received the license to practice medicine, he returned to Brzezany and served as a physician there for a short while. Later on, he made Aliyah and settled in Eretz Israel.

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When I read Agnon's “Ore'akh Noteh Lalun” [A Guest for the Night], I found a few pages dedicated to a vegan physician whom the author found by chance after the First World War. He described the physician's great righteousness and generosity toward his poor patients and his frugal life and contentment with little. His good manners with people resulted in people beginning to disrespect him: “A sick person who can afford to pay calls a different physician, and one that cannot afford to pay calls this physician.” And that physician came for visits and returned, even if not called. Not only that, but he also gave poor patients what he received from the villagers. The latter flocked to him as he accepted produce instead of payments: butter, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. A trace of the past remained in medicine: the more distanced the physician was from the people, the more prominent he became, and if he demanded an exuberant fee, he was called a physician-artist. Our doctor… did not practice any of those ways. He would meet a stranger, talk to him like he was his friend, and bring food for poor patients, and for that, people disrespected him.

Sometimes, I thought about home and wondered when I would see him again. It would be interesting to see the effects of grueling life and the time on him. The opportunity to see him again presented itself in the summer of 1948 when he came to see me in Jerusalem from his settlement.

When he sat down, I saw a skinny and wrinkled man standing before me; his speech was austere, and his eyes were filled with grief. The angel of laughter did not visit him anymore, and his voice lacked hope. I felt a pinch in my heart. I could not suppress my thoughts comparing the image of a young man with the radiance of an icon whose frequent smile filled my heart with joy, his warmth infected me with the joy of living, and his sense of humor created the illusion that life was easy. He went out to the world in a healthy body, happy, believing in his goodness - like an island of justice and peace. And now, when he reached the age of sixty, his experiences ravaged his island. From his talk, I could see that he battled with life and did not prevail because he could not add his voice to the chorus of deceits – and was left in the corner, lonely and neglected.

Did he stop believing in people? Does he continue to treat people kindly because he cannot change his character or because he still trusts the human race?

Who knows?

One day, I received a letter from a fellow in Russia who asked me to hire him as a teacher] in my school. “Do you remember me?” – he wrote – “Do you remember me standing in front of the yard's wicket at the “Kheder Metukan” [improved traditional Kheder] in Berdychiv [Berdichev] to prevent the children from entering their school? – I am sure you did not judge me on the scale of demerits and recognized my good intentions, and you do not hold a grudge against me. I want to leave Russia – no, I have to leave Russia. If you have me join your school, I will serve you loyally”.

“Come, my friend, come!” I wrote to him. When he came, while I was writing the formal papers, I saw a young man with short stature, his eyes gleaming under the burden of his emotions, which warmed my heart. I said: “The bulky stick that you carried in your hand that you pounded with force on the cobblestones, and the face of terror that you put on did not conceal the tenderness of your temper and the grace of your ways. The weighty Marxist terms that you put forward, through efforts, did not cover your loyal Jewish feelings. I recognized you, Moshe. You are the son of Moshe. Moshe, who took pity on the tortured and broken.

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You have already stripped off your foreign attire, which does not suit you, and now appear in your natural image: A young Israeli from a good family who loves his people and speaks and enjoys the Hebrew language. Come, Lekhtman, and help me in my holy work.”

He came and taught, and we became good friends. However, he carried a secret burden. He was called to serve Russia and the party (the “Seimists” party – non-Zionist Jewish Socialistic/Communist Party). A short while later, he left me, returned to Russia, and disappeared into the abyss. No memory remained of him except one: a photograph of three people - him, me, and Berl Loker, one of the leaders of “Poalei Tzion” in Galitsia and Bukovina in those days.

* * *

Reuven Brainin [journalist, author, editor, and Zionist thinker and activist] came to Galitsia in 1907 to lecture national students in Lviv and provincial cities. The student union invited him to promote the old language and its literature.

Brainin arrived at an opportune time. The national idea was gaining popularity in Galitsia, and the Hebrew schools were at their highest level and influence. The national sentiment was simmering in the hearts. No great Hebrew authors existed in Galitsia[1]. The Zionist, Hebraic Brainin, a man with exquisite etiquette, became a symbol of the revival. The generation's youths looked up to him and poured their love on him.

Brainin's banquet in Lviv became a substantial demonstration. Fifteen hundred men and women gathered in the hall, which was a big surprise. Nobody believed gathering such a massive crowd for a Hebrew literary lecture was possible. When Brainin appeared on the stage, he was showered with flowers. The cheer broke out: “Hooray! Long live Brainin.” The author gave his lecture about the development of Hebrew literature and the significance of its authors, and the audience listened with beating hearts. During the banquet, the students handed him an expensive silver bouquet as a token of their admiration, and prominent speakers praised him. The rest of the cities were jealous of Lviv and invited Brainin. He passed through Stryi, Stanislawow [today Ivano-Frankivsk], and Drohobych. That was a victory lap.

I also invited him to come to Brzezany.

We paid him great respect when he came. We printed his picture – the one that showed his long hair flowing down the back of his neck, and his black tie spreading its wings left and right, the way of freedom and poetry. We distributed hundreds of copies of the picture. When Brainin passed on his way to the gathering hall, he could see his face peeking out from every lighted window with the word “Welcome” in bright letters.

We brought him to a homey Jewish inn that had no luxury. The inn owner, Roza, won the privilege of hosting the author by being a Torah learner, reader of research books, and loyal Zionist. When we brought Brainin there, he looked around and shook his head in disappointment. We praised the owner, but he insisted:

“Lodge me in a “European” hotel”

We fulfilled his wish and brought him to “Bristol,” the city's only “luxurious” hotel. After a light meal, emissaries of the city associations and parties, came to congratulate him, each emissary with his short speech. It was a magnificent show. Brainin stood there as a king in his court. He listened attentively to the speeches

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and every blessing, and at the end, presented questions about the state of the city's Jews, the activity and development of every association and party. Humbly and submissively, the emissaries gave him a detailed report about their activities. When they encountered the insignificance of their actions, they began to stutter and buried their faces in the ground.

When the emissaries left, Brainin turned to me:

“Would you please accompany me to the pharmacy? like to buy cologne”.

I brought him to the most “luxurious” pharmacy – whose owner was a Pole. The pharmacist handed him a cologne bottle, but Brainin shook his head.

“I want,” – he said in a “Jewish-ide” German – “a French cologne. Perhaps you have 'Heliotrope Flowers'?”

“No sir,” answered the pharmacist.

“How about ‘Paris lilac’?”

“I am sorry, we do not have that one either.”

Brainin named several other French perfumes, but the pharmacy carried none.

“There is probably no demand for good perfumes here,” Brainin said.

“Why,” the pharmacist was offended – the dames in the city know how to choose. We have good perfumes from Vienna and Warsaw.”

“French perfumes are second to none. However, since I do not have a choice, please give me another good local one.” Brainin shook his head disappointedly.

The gathering hall where Brainin gave the lecture was filled from end to end with people from all corners of the city: the enlightened and the one being enlightened, the professionally intelligent, the student, the yeshiva student, and the young woman who stretches out on the chaise longue to read love stories – they all came to hear the sublime and exalted – the words of the European Hebrew author. Brainin talked about the “Revival” in life and literature, about the Zionist idea, whose fulfillment is approaching, and the Hebrew language being revived, and the crowd was listening, holding its breath.

Brainin charmed the crowd with his noble image and manners. His face was cloaked with a veil of sadness, paleness, and concentration like a man pondering the world's purpose and the suffering of humans. He had tender hands, and their touch was soft and pleasant. In his lectures and discussions – like in his articles, he used to mention the names of the world's great authors and his meetings with them in the capacity of their confidant. His permanent apartment was in Berlin, but he was a frequent visitor in Paris, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Brussels, Copenhagen, and everywhere a great creator resided. He introduced his listeners to the lounges of Georg Brandes, Maurice Maeterlinck, Max Nordau, and the rest of the prominent people. His flowery language was flowing and interspersed with catchphrases and proverbs that flashed for a moment. All these attributes elevated his image in the eyes of the audience.

The audience set there for an hour, riding on the clouds of the sweet dream. Zionism, which was nothing but a faraway dream or ornament – acquired a real shape. Here comes a man from the center of the world who speaks audaciously about the “Revival.” The soul transcended, and when Brainin finished his lecture with his famous ending: “Long live the Hebrew people! Long live the Hebrew language”, prolonged applause broke out and the walls trembled to the calling voice: “Hurray!”

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In the banquet held in his honor in the Ruthene Community House, the best of the Zionists blessed and praised Brainin. Then Roza, that innkeeper, stood and, with awe and reverence, praised Brainin: “You are the elect of God among us [Genesis 23:6].”

Brainin was moved, and his eyes moistened.

* * *

Among the people who welcomed Brainin was a graceful brunette girl with many talents and a sharp mind – Rakhel Dorfman. Her father was enlightened and saw his entire world in his talented daughter. Whenever he was free from his activities in his store, he sat her down by him and taught her a chapter from the Bible or its commentaries. She was my student, and I felt a special affection for her because of her pleasant manners and spiritual virtues. Originality was evident in her compositions. Brainin listened to her blessing and got excited. He talked to her and asked her to come to his hotel the next day before leaving town. She brought her compositions with her. Brainin read them and announced:

“A star.”

He mentioned the girl in every place in Galitsia he lectured and prophesied greatness for her. He remembered her even after returning to Berlin and mentioned her in his letters.

I remembered that girls at times too. I thought about her and asked myself, “what happened to her, and where did she disappear?”

Forty-four years passed, and I did not hear about her or her fate. During one of the days in Sivan 5711 (1951), I got a call from a woman who spoke English:

“Can I talk to you in Hebrew?”

“Of course.”

“My name is Dr. N. from Tel Aviv. Forty years ago, you were my teacher at the school in Brzezany. I arrived in New York and like to meet with you for a sentimental reason.”“Yes, I would be happy to see you.”



“I will come shortly.”

Half an hour later, I opened the door for her. A woman with a delicate face and dark skin stood in front of me, and a thread of grief was drawn across her face. That was Rakhel Dorfman from the past.

She set down with me for about an hour and told me the history of her life in a soft voice. She studied in Vienna and received a doctorate in medicine. She married a wealthy merchant from Berlin and lived a pleasant life with him. However, they were forced to escape the Nazi oppressor. They reached Israel with their son and had to endure a miserable life of poverty.

She worked in simple and fatiguing jobs until she was finally able to return to her profession. But fate prevented her from doing so. She became ill and had to move to America to seek a cure for her illness.

She spoke softly, but disappointment roared from her voice.

“The prophecy of Brainin did not materialize,” she said, “and I did not become an author. My heart does not even permit persistence in reading fine literature. Every time I recall meeting with the nobleman, Brainin, and remember his sweet talk – I feel a pinch in my heart.”

Brainin's portrait is floating in front of her eyes, reminding her about fate and evoking nostalgia for youths that have passed, for talents that have been lost, and for dreams that blossomed in the dusty lap of life.

Author's Note:

  1. There was an author by the name of Gershon Shofman in Lviv. However, he was mainly appreciated by people with fine literary tastes and was not popular with many people. Asher Barash was very young then, and so was Aganon. Return

[Page 143]

Khevra Kadisha [Burial Society] – “The Bed Carriers”

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

“Khevra Kadisha” – the Burial Society - was founded in our city in 1837 under the name “Nos'ey HaMitah” [“The Bed Carriers”]. Its founders were Rabbi Naftali Hertz Halperin and Avraham Apel. In 1876, the association was recognized officially by the authorities in Lviv under the name “Tzdaka Va'Khesed” [“Charity and Grace”]. However, that name was not accepted by the members, and they continued to call it by the original name of “The Bed-Carriers,” until its elimination during the Second World War.

All the association's activists were volunteers who fulfilled their roles dedicatedly and with great effort, fitting their mission of providing “true grace.” Their job was particularly demanding during the rainy days and the harsh winters. Despite these conditions, there was hardly any turnover among the association's activists.

The Tahara [ritual purification], the funeral arrangements, and the burial were arranged immediately, if possible, free of charge. Money for the burial plot was imposed only on people who could afford it. The poor were brought to Jewish burial free of charge according to the Jewish tradition and Halakha.

In 1930, the following people were the association's activists: Chairman Ya'akov Mitelman, Deputy Chairman Shlomo Margolies, Secretary Kalman Altein, Treasurer Yosef Shtreizend and members: Leib Bleishift, David Ginsburg, Meir Lifshitz, Efraim Veintraub, and Lezer Bernshtien. The association's comptrollers were Katriel Diamant and Ya'akov Shmeterlink.

In addition to their tasks associated with the organization, the members helped sick people, particularly the poor ones. They provided financial and spiritual assistance, organized bedside assistance at night, and any other needed help.

The association was active for many years, although its members changed once and again because somebody died, left, or made Aliyah to Eretz Israel. However, the spirit of volunteering and benevolence did not cease in all its transfigurations.

With the outbreak of the [Second] World War, the association continued to operate despite the substantial turnover of its members. With the Nazi conquest and the abandonment of most of the members, even at the beginning of the Holocaust, volunteers could not be found. An old-timer, R' David Ginsburg took it upon himself, through the assignment by the Judenrat, all of the tasks of the “Khevra Kadisha.” He acted alone with dedication and limitless sacrifices, took care of all the burial arrangements, and in the end, gave his life for true grace.


Khevra Kadisha with Rabbi Shraga-Feibish Halperin
(fourth from the right) at the entrance to the cemetery

[Page 144]

The Cemetery

by Dr. Eliezer Shaklai

Translated by Ruth Yoseffa Erez

The cemetery is part of the community. It serves as a live testimony to the history of the community from the beginning. It is as old as the community is.

The first Jewish settlers in our town bought a piece of land and sanctified it for a cemetery. They dug graves and put tombstones on them on which they engraved the name of the deceased and a summary of his life and achievements.

In between vegetable gardens and fields of grains, in the south western corner of the town, to the right of “Riska” street, on a hill surrounded by a stone wall – there was our cemetery. A wide gate stood at the entrance, on it was written: “Tzedakah (charity) saves from death”. To the right of the gate stood the undertaker's apartment. Opposite it to the left there were the “Tahara” (purity) rooms.

In the cemetery the old was mixed with the new. Right next to the entrance on the right side, there were a few middle sized structures with tombstones inside them. Those were family graves of the rich and prominent Jews, called “shtibalach”. Around them were hundreds of years old tombstones, deep in the ground, crooked and covered with grass and mold. The letters were erased by the rain, the wind and the time. In between those tombs were bushes.

As we withdrew farther away from the cemetery entrance the tombstones became straight and the writing clear. That is where the new part began. There were tombstones from our time, big white stone with engraved letters, familiar names.

There was a custom in the “Israeli house”: mass visits to the cemetery in the month of Elul. During the early hours of the morning, many visitors came in. The cantor would eulogize and sing “el male rachamim” and the visitors would hand out donations to the poor. Of course people would also visit the place during the year on memorial days and also just to “pour their hearts out” in this holy place.




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During WWI the cemetery was harmed. For months, the front between the Austrian and the Russian armies was inside the town, and the Austrian army dug its trenches around the cemetery. From this action and from the artillery shells, the graves, the tombstones and part of the wall suffered heavy damages.

In the years between the two world wars, the Jewish community rehabilitated the cemetery. It was Baruch (Boozia) Stark that took the job upon him and fulfilled it completely. He cleaned the cemetery, rehabilitated the tombstones and fixed the wall.

During the Soviet rule, all the activities of the Jewish community ceased to exist including the supervision of the cemetery.

The Germans and their helpers utilized the cemetery and were responsible for thousands of victims, some in single graves and some in mass graves. They uprooted tombstones and used them to build roads and buildings and ruined the cemetery.

When we returned to the town with the Soviet army in 1944, the few of us who stayed alive would visit the lonely and broken cemetery and commune with the memory of the holy victims. May those who dwell in it rest in peace.


Old tombstones in Brzezany's Jewish cemetery:


A tombstone from the beginning of the 19th century
(photocopied from the book ZYDZI W POLSCE ODROCZONEJ)
Old Tombstone from 1643 (Hebrew year of 5403)

[Page 146]

My Father's Home

by Dr. Eliezer Shaklai

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

Our apartment was in a low house near Tarnoploska Street. We lived there with the parents of my mother, Moshe-Natan, and Roza (nee Kimel) Vilner. The young daughter, Ester, married my father, Hersh Wagshal, the older son of Zelig and Shindel (nee Bartfeld) Wagshal. We were three siblings - two daughters and I, the youngest.

I grew up and educated in that house, street, and neighborhood. The neighbors and the children with whom I played, left me with the feeling that my home was “my father's house”. A patriarch-based regime prevailed at home. Life progressed according to the order of the generational tradition of laws and customs. The relations with the neighbors were hearty and friendly. People shared their worries and joys with each other. The closest family, with whom we stayed in friendly relations for our entire life, was the Bar-David family… The house got burnt, the street destroyed, and the property robbed, but the friendship remained until today!

Those years, home, neighborhood, and education, left not only memories but formed the foundations for our lives and values. They planted within us the love of the Torah, the understanding of knowledge in general, and the love of Israel. They fostered our attitude toward work and educated the human within us.

We suffered and were painfully hurt by the First World War. That period also left its mark on us. It taught us about life when the law gives way to power, and the only law that rules is “might is right.”

My parents were a happy couple, an efficacious pairing between two people who loved each other, with virtues that complemented each other, and therefore each one helped the other.

My father was a tall person, athletically built, with a symmetric face and blue eyes – good good-looking man in his exterior and mannerisms. He inspired respect, was quiet, restrained, spoke calmly and politely, and paid respect to everyone. He was modest and humble. He was a believer, wholeheartedly, without any hesitation, and without deviating from the honest way even by a hairsbreadth. His faith was not dependent on reward and punishment - it was an integral part of his being. He used to say: “You cannot cheat G-d, since you are cheating yourself”. He also used to say: “A person was created in the image of G-d, and there is no difference between one Jew to another, in anything associated with matters between one person to his friend.”

He was very organized in his work and personal matters and was so in prayer, eating, and studying. An impressive experience was for anybody who stayed with us during Shabbat or a holiday. We felt “Neshama Yeterah” [“Additional Soul” - a popular Jewish belief that Jews are given an additional soul on Shabbat]. I would not expand here on Shabbat's and holidays. I will only say that Shabbat was completely holy, a day of rest. Yom Kippur was a completely restful day, the sukkah was a sukkah of peace, and the Seder night… Song of songs and praise for the holiday of spring.

My mother was a beautiful woman in her youth, but the hard life, work, and worries plowed wrinkles on her face…She was smart, practical, agile, had quick perception, good memory, and unique workability. She was not only helping my father, but he could also lean on her when needed. My father appreciated her, loved her, and felt more secure around her.

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She was a good person and a good woman. She was always willing to help others. My mother was full of vigor and tried to teach each of the children an occupation. She taught me to think fast and make a decision without hesitating. She said we should always try, otherwise, we would lose in advance.

Both of my parents were enslaved to work. They worked hard and sustained their family with dignity. They never complained and did not carry any resentment in their hearts. They only had their wishes. My father prayed that he would be able to spend his last two years before his death to dedicate himself to studying the Torah and holy worship. My mother wished to become free from worrying about sustaining her family so that she could devote herself wholly to helping others. She did that with all her heart, soul, and might.

The year my mother wished for approached its end. The Germans bombed our city. Our house was destroyed, and my mother perished there.

We dug her body out of the ruins. We performed the “Tahara” [ritual purification] ourselves, carried her body on our shoulders to the cemetery, dug the grave with our own hands, and I said “Kadish” under a barrage of bullets.

My father moved to live with us. Times were harsh. People suffered real hunger. My wife invested all efforts to feed our family and some of the refuses we hosted. She performed this task with dignity and talent. From then on, she became the foundation and center of the surviving family.

My father, who during the Soviet conquest, dedicatedly collected money for the refugees, became a “Yoshev Ohalim” [Genesis 24:27] [ a person who devotes most of his time to studying the Torah]. We held public prayers in my room. My father dedicated the rest of his time to studying the Torah.

Before the holiday of Shavu'ot, he fell ill, and his fever rose. When his situation worsened, he called my brother-in-law (my wife's brother). He told him: “I am going to die. Know that I consider that a big privilege, as it would prevent me from witnessing the troubles of the Jews”. He said his confession… The two years my father asked for ended.

It was forbidden for Jews to go out to the street that day. Distinguished guests came to visit the Gestapo. Despite the prohibition, the people of “Khevra Kadisha,” headed by Ginsburg, appeared, performed the “Ta'hara,” put the body on their shoulders, and upon stepping out, they recited: “Justice will march before him [Psalms 85;14].” Twenty people attended the funeral. On the alley from Adamovka Street leading to the high school, we met face-to-face with the Nazi entourage. We stopped and they also stopped. We waited, and they signaled us to move. We passed quietly, and they waited, showing respect to the dead. Unbelievable.

During the “Shiv'a,” people consoled me with the words: “He was lucky and had a great privilege. He lived his life in honor, died honorably, and his funeral was honorable.

His manners and memory will always be our guiding light.

[Page 148]

My Family's Story

by Pnina Shaklai

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

I feel a duty and the need to write about my family history before everything is erased from my memory. I am the youngest and the only one who survived out of my entire large family.


My Parents

My father, Ya'akov, son of Avraham-Volf Bauer from Monasterzyska, and my mother, Matilda, daughter of Leizer-Hirsh Glazer from the village Podshumlantze, married and created a family in that village where their four sons were born. My father felt like a prisoner among the Gentiles. He was worried that his sons would learn from them and follow their ways. My father had a mental need to be among Jews and educate his children in the spirit of Judaism.

My parents' first steps in the strange city with a large family without an economic basis or support were atrocious. My father was a proud man who refused to get aid, even from his mother. My parents worked hard day and night and earned bread in toil. They traded in milk products, which was hard labor, with meager profit. When my father was asked once whether it is honorable for an educated person to work in such a dishonorable job, he answered “that there was no dishonorable or hard work when one needs to earn a living and educate children.” Over time, he acquired his place among the city's honorable people as a public activist. He was one of the founders of the Hebrew school. Two more children were born to them, a son and a daughter – their only daughter.

Before the First World War, they settled down, put aside some money, and enjoyed the children. The strict education, the enormous effort to teach the children despite the financial difficulties, ingraining in them Jewish awareness, and the Zionist atmosphere at home bore fruits. My two eldest brothers were active in the Zionist movement from a young age. They disseminated the Hebrew word vigorously and were engaged among the learning and working youth. They organized the youth, conducted lectures, and taught them the Hebrew language. It seemed that my parents finally reached peaceful waters.

But that was not what fate wanted. Life led my parents on a winding route with ups and downs. A life of calm and peace but became, in an instant, a stormy life filled with worries and struggles. That began before the First World War broke out. The elder sons were taken by the Russians as hostages, and the young ones enlisted and sent to the fronts. Toward the end of the war, my young brother also enlisted. The economic situation was not easy either. The entire property was robbed overnight. There were days when we were hungry for a piece of bread, and my parents reduced the household expenses to a minimum. Among the rest of the adverse and destructive phenomena that accompanied the war, the hatred toward Jews – antisemitism peaked with the arrival of Haller's Army. My brother Moshe became a victim of that hatred when he was tried in a military court. They blamed him for preparing for a terror act. Miraculously, it ended well. That trial cost my parents a lot of money, health, and nerves. With the end of the war, life returned to normal. My parents doubled their work efforts and efficiency to restock and cover the war's losses. Three of my brothers established families and continued with their public work. My younger brother and I continued our studies.

[Page 149]

Then disaster struck. My brother, Khaim, passed away, and my father fell sick with pneumonia with some complications. He slowly recovered but did not totally recuperate. He did not have the vigor he had before but continued to manage his businesses. His memory remained strong until his last day.

My father passed away in 1933, and my mother continued to live for another five years.


On the image of my parents

My father was a strong person in body and soul. He was good-looking, with symmetric facial features, fiery eyes, a high forehead, dignified, pleasant manners, full of vigor, strong will and argumentative ability, and quick decision-making. He was an educated man, learned, and a man of letters. He was a Zionist who was born Zionist. He understood that the Jews must have their own language, culture, and tradition. He loved people, cared about others, and sought justice.

My father built a family, took care of it, earned a living for it, and received pleasure from every one of his children, even if he did not always approve of their ways. He dedicated substantial effort, time, energy, and money to his children's education. At that time, the youth was busy searching for new ways, and many failed at the beginning of their ways. My father understood that the soul of a child should not be split up, and the sacred should not be mixed with the secular. A Jewish child should first receive a Jewish education, and only after that - general studies can be added. I can testify wholeheartedly that my father succeeded in that. All of his children remained Jews in their hearts and souls, proud and loyal to the Torah.

My mother was my father's right-hand person, a devoted helpmate in the truest meaning of the word. Without my mother's help, my father could not have achieved what he did - not at work or with the children's education. She worked as hard as him, and often longer hours, to feed us and complement our income during the days of hunger. She experienced atrocious days, but she never complained. She willingly took the burden of managing the household and the children's education. She was a delicate soul. In the relationship between my father and the children, she was the “mother” - arbitrator, defense attorney, and protector. Often, she absorbed my father's anger directed at one of the children. She tended to poor families, distributed charity, and secretly provided shelter to them her entire life.

[Page 150]

I Remember Shabbat at Home

by Rivka Tomarkin-Shapira

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

The preparations for Shabbat in our home began as early as Wednesday. The candlesticks, Father's wine cup, and the rest of the Shabbat table's items were polished. Shopping was done at the market: fish, poultry, and other Shabbat products. Food preparation started on Thursdays at dawn. My friends from the “HaNoar Tzioni” [“The Zionist Youth”] and “HaShomer HaTzair” [“The Young Guard”], were already waiting outside to confirm whose home's “Bobnik” [cake] was the best. In any case, the amount of food and delicacies was enough for the family and friends and for providing aid to the needy families. My grandmother, Sosha z”l, was in charge of that. She visited every poor and needy family daily, at their home, the sick at the Jewish hospital, and even the Jewish prisoners in jail. She always carried baskets filled with Kosher food. It was one of my duties, and the duty of all my young cousins, to help her ferry the baskets.

On Thursday evening, everybody was tired but happy that the work week was behind them. The only thing left was to polish and decorate the home, check the clothing, and polish the shoes. That was done between Friday morning and noon. At noon, the table was already set, covered with a white tablecloth, with the Shabbat candlesticks on it, the wall candlesticks were hung, Khallot covered on the table, and so were the wine, my father's cup, and a special cup for my brother as well as two small Khallot. Everything was ready to welcome Shabbat.

Father used to come home on Friday at noon time. He travelled to the neighboring villages on his business, but on Fridays, he made sure, G-d forbid, not to travel too far. He was a Hasidic and pious man. Upon his arrival, the house took on the atmosphere of Sabbath. In the evening, the whole family waited patiently for the return of Father from the synagogue. Despite belonging to the youth movements, none of the children dared to be absent from the Sabbath table.

Father used to bring “guests” to the Sabbath table, and we used to ask ourselves who would be the guest for the day. What would the guest look like? Would he behave and eat properly at the Sabbath table? Would he be a nice person, young or old? In most cases, our guests were needy people. Father was able to select the guest only during the holidays. Father used to bring Jewish soldiers stationed in the city, who received a short break for praying and the holiday meal at the request of his daughters.

Accompanied by our guests, everybody sat at the table. Right after the Kiddush, we all burst into Shabbat chants. Luckily, my father, mother, and most children had pleasant voices. Sabbath singing continued throughout the entire meal, during the breaks between one dish to another. It ended only after the dessert.

That Sabbath atmosphere, with the candles and the beautiful chants, lives in my heart until today. It guides me toward my children's education and in recreating a similar atmosphere in my home.

[Page 151]

Sabbath chants filled the home during the entire Sabbath. Upon arriving home at noon from the synagogue, Father erupted into singing, aided by the children's chorus, and the singing continued during the meal. After the heavy “Chulent,” Father used to rest a bit and return to the synagogue to enjoy the Torah Daily Study. We, the children, dispersed, some went to the youth movement's branches and some to the fields or forest. Mother would sometimes join us on a hike. When the time came to say farewell to the Sabbath, the entire family would gather at home again. Grandmother would sometimes come to us to listen to the [Sabbath conclusion] Havdalah blessing chanted by Father.

For many, their childhood was a happy period. It is a pity that the period had passed, and along with it, my father Mordekhai Leib, my mother Mina, my sisters Ruzha, Rakhel, and Shanka, and my young brother Hersh. May their memory be blessed.

Memories from my Parents' Home

by Tzipora Rozner

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

The Fefer family was one of the ten families in the village of Wiezhbow in the Brzezany district. I was born in that village and spent my childhood and youth there in happiness and joy due to the warm family atmosphere that prevailed in my parent's home, and not the least thanks to the natural beauty and the view of the village and its surroundings. All the Jewish families worked in commerce and were quite successful. Most of the village's residents were Ukrainians who respected the Jews and trusted them, as the Jews provided them with all necessities. However, over time, with the growth of antisemitism in Poland, that attitude worsened, and the hatred toward the Jews intensified until it culminated with horrific pogroms against the Jews by the Ukrainians.

My father was an enthusiastic Zionist, and he educated us in the spirit of the love of Eretz Israel (We were five siblings –; three sons and two daughters). My brother Moshe was the first to make Aliyah to Eretz Israel, and his letters served as a source of encouragement to the family in times of trouble when we began to suffer from our Ukrainian neighbors. Later on, my younger brother, Meir, went to Argentina to avoid recruitment to the Polish army. Many of the village's Jewish Jews did the same when they reached recruitment age (21).

[Page 152]

The economic situation of the village's Jews worsened during those years. The Gentiles continued to buy from the Jews but did not pay cash. As their debts grew –; so did their hatred. There were cases of theft and even cases of arson. We lost our entire property after a few cases of arson and robberies at my father's store, grain warehouse, and cow shed. The Ukrainians snitched on us to the authorities that we set fire to our property to claim insurance on a loss of property. The authorities always trusted the Gentiles, and justice was always on their side. Despite the suffering and troubles, life continued, and there was no lack of happiness, joy, and light.

I will not forget the wedding party of my sister. The entire crowd danced to the tunes of the cheerful “Klei-Zmerim” [musical band], and in the middle, my grandmother, a woman of about 100 years old. The Sabbaths and holidays were full of light. We hosted guests, refreshments and pastries were served, and singing and giddy cheers were heard.

All the family members hoped and wished to make Aliyah. With that hope in our hearts, we found the strength to live and overcome the hatred that enveloped us and choked us with a belt of pogroms and murders. The central pillar of the family was obviously my father, who was endowed with unique features and always knew to influence the people around him with the goodness of his heart and the belief in humans and their actions. He was always generous. Even when we had already experienced shortages, he provided charity to the needy. I will not forget the wagons filled with food products (potatoes, oil, geese, raisins, and more) that left our yard on Passover Eves for distribution among the village's poor.

I made Aliyah in 1937 by invitation of my brother Moshe, who had already resided there, and with the great support of my younger brother Khaim. I did not know what was waiting for me in Eretz Israel. Since I was only 15 years old, I was afraid of the long trip and the unknown land. The family members said farewell to me with mixed feelings, but we were careful not to cry. We all believed that we would meet again in Eretz Israel. But these were vain hopes because, in the meantime, the Second World War broke out. Our village passed first to the hands of the Soviets and later to the hands of the Germans!

I heard from a few survivors who arrived in Israel after the Holocaust about the tragic fate of my brother Khaim and my parents. They were cruelly murdered by their Ukrainian neighbors. I could not find any details about the fate of my sister and her family. They undoubtedly perished similarly. That was how these people, who were so dear to me - honest people who always believed that nobody would hurt them because they never hurt anybody, ended their lives.

[Page 153]

In Memory of My Father,
Yossef Kalman, the Pioneer

by Israel-Karmel (Kalman)

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

From my father, Yosef-Tzvi z”l, son of Israel, son of Arye, I heard only a little about Brzezany. He told me about his town, not with longing but with respect. I heard more about Brzezany from my aunt, my father's sister and her husband, Shifra, and Ozer Rot z”l. In many aspects, my father was considered the “son of the land” and his years before his Aliyah were years of Hakhshara [preparation and training] for it.

My father was born in Brzezany in 1899 and received a traditional education. However, he paved his own route early at a young age. He abandoned religion, adhered to Zionist ideas, and prepared to study a profession. During the First World War, he studied mechanics at a vocational school in Vienna and worked for a Jewish wine cellar owner there. During a certain period, he hid to avoid being recruited into the army. He made Aliyah in 1920 with the first group of pioneers from the city. He joined the “Gdud HaAvodah” [“Work Battalion”] (see the article “First Group Makes Aliyah,” page 49]. As part of it, he was among the founders of kibbutz Tel-Yosef. As a member of the “Work Battalion,” he enlisted to work at the British military camp, aiming to take over the work from the Egyptian workers. Later, he moved to Jerusalem and worked in various jobs, mostly in quarrying (see the cover page for the Zionist Movement, page 39). He studied to be an electrician in the evenings at Lemel School. After completing the course (approximately in 1927), he became the electrician and generator operator at the Fast Hotel near the Jaffa Gate. Based on a recommendation of his friend and townsman, Benyamin Te'eni, my father moved to Haifa to work at the refinery, which began operation at that time. He married my mother and settled in the German Colony in Haifa. In 1937, my parents moved to Kiryat Motzkin. In 1938/9, my parents traveled to France for an operation on my mother and returned to Israel just before the Second World War.

The prolonged illness of my mother left its mark on my father's and family life. He moved to work in the water supply operation of Kiryat Motzkin municipality to be close to home. He worked on water wells' machinery and the maintenance of the pipes in the entire town. That was hard work that required working in shifts and even on Saturdays. The hard work and the economic distress did not lessen the emotional involvement in everything that happened in the country, the joy about achievements, worrying about the future, and the willingness to get involved in the national missions when needed. My father loved craftsmanship and respected manual work. Among all the Israeli public shortcomings, he was sorry to witness the decline in the value of work in our lives. It was symbolic that he passed away at my brother Arye's workshop (may he live long).

May the memory of my father be blessed.


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