by Rabbi Ben-Tzion Fendler
Translated by Marlene Zakai
|Under the Polish regime, Zamechov was located in the Podole Province. In 1765, the Jewish Community in the town and surroundings numbered 505 individuals. In 1784 there were 547 and in 1787 there were 518; of them 252 were in Zamechov. When Podolia was annexed to Russia, the town was in Ushitza Province. The number of Jews in 1847 were 958. According to the 1897 census, there were 895 Jews among the 2,217 residents.|
The town was small and meager. There were approximately 1000 Jews. Among them were Torah scholars, respected and honored by tradespeople and other residents, and from whom they learned a way of life.
There were also Hasidim in the town, followers of the Friedman Rabbinic line (also known as the Ruzhiner Rebbes). These rabbis were from Boyani, Sadagora, Chortkov and Husiatyn. Almost every year the Hasidim would cross the border to Galitzia during the holidays, and they would return refreshed and inspired, with a new nigun (melody without words) and words of Torah from the rabbi. Every Shabbat the Hasidim would gather in one of their homes, for Kiddush and to praise their rabbi. On Hanukah they would celebrate the completion of the reading of the entire Talmud. They would also gather to pray on the Yahrtzeit of the Rizhany (refers to a prominent rabbi from Rizhany). The rest of the town's Jews were connected to one of the rabbis of the nearby town of Krolevetz. Rabbi Yehiel, from Synkiv, would visit the town once a year.
There were no organized institutions in the town. The Jewish residents looked after the poor in different ways (anonymous giving, bikur cholim [visiting the sick], welcoming guests, acts of loving kindness, providing dowries, etc.) To these goals, many contributed without remuneration.
The synagogue was also a Beit Midrash, a house of study. Every evening there was Torah study. The less learned studied Ein Yaakov a collection of Aggadic material and commentaries. There was another synagogue, a wooden synagogue that was considered to be the holier one. Education in the town was mostly in Chederim (religious schools) run by those who studied Gemara. From the years 1917-1918 kindergardens and public schools were established, as well as evening studies for adults.
Emigration was mostly to the United States. During this time, only a few went to Eretz Yisrael. There was a Zionist youth group in town. There was also a Bundist club made up of mainly artisans and their apprentices. During the 1917 Revolution, the Zionist movement grew and many of the youth joined Ze'irei Zion (Young Zionists) and similar organizations. During WWI young men were drafted into the army and this resulted in great financial hardship for their families. This was the extent of the suffering, perhaps because they were so far from the battlefields.
Anti-semitism was not prevalent in the town. There was trade between Jews and non-Jews and it was mostly on good terms. Shabbos goys served the community in various ways. During the 1917 Revolution, a few Jews joined the local town council and from among them some were sentenced to death by Petlyura's people. After October 1917, the economic situation of the Jews worsened. Jewish life began to decline due to the difficult economic conditions and young people leaving the town.
During the change in regime resulting from the Revolution, Petlyura's gangs descended on the town, causing extensive pogroms. The goyim of the town and surroundings joined in the looting, destructions and murder. During the Petlyura and Denikin Regime there were more pogroms in the town. Denikin's soldiers burned homes, looted what was left after the Petlyura soldiers finished and they cruelly killed scores more. It is worth noting that during the pogroms there were also some goyim who saved lives. A few Jews managed to flee to a neighboring town, the new Ushitza. The synagogues were burned by the rioters and after that religious Jews prayed in private homes.
When the Soviets entered the town there was rejoicing at being saved from the pogroms, but the economic condition worsened and there were further signs of decline of the small community. The few that remained suffered from hunger, and if not for the help of their fellow Jews that managed to escape to the United States, or Israel, they would have all died of starvation.
Before the Germans entered, the town organized self-defense with a few weapons which they were forced to give up when the Germans occupied. By this time there were no young people and no one to continue the Hebrew Culture. During the Holocaust, the Jews were taken outside of town where they were forced to dig their own mass grave, after which they were shot and killed.
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