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[Page 50]

Kretsnif (Kretchinef)

47°58' 23°59'

Ruthenian: Crăciuneşti
Hungarian: Karàcsonfalva
Old Hungarian: Tiszakarácsonfalva

Translated by Moshe A. Davis

Town located 7 kilometers northeast of the capital Sziget. Nearly all [non-Jewish] inhabitants Ruthenian.


Year Jews Total %
1830 219 874  
1880 799   ?
1910 1330   52.8
1921 996   54.2
1930 889   47.7
1941 911   46


Table of Contents
Early Jewish Settlement
Torah Life and Chassidus
 1. Rabbinical Leaders
 2. Chassidic Rebbes (Admorim) and Rabbinical Judges, (Dayanim)
 3. Torah Scholars mentioned in the Responsa literature
Community Organization [and other Individuals of Note]
The Holocaust


Early Jewish Settlement

The first Jews reached Kretchinef in the beginning of the 18th century.

Two Jewish families appear in Kretchinef in the 1728 census. The first family was that of a Jew named Alter Moshe, who was a leaseholder on the estate of the local noble Georgi Pogany. The family of Alter Moshe included his wife and two children. The second household consisted of a single individual, an apparently unmarried Jew named Hirsch, who was under the protection of the noble Marya Balog. These two Jewish families seem not to have stayed in Kretchinef for an extended period of time, for they do not reappear in the in the next census which was taken in the year 1735. However, in that 1735 census appear four other Jewish families living in Kretchinef. The first of those families is that of Yosef Iszak, which included his wife, three children, and two Jewish employees – a manager and a servant. He is listed as owning a horse and two cows, and as being a leaseholder on the estate of Ference Szegedy. The second family was that of Israel Moshe, his wife and seven children. This household included a Jewish servant, a horse and a cow, and enjoyed the protection of Adam Pojan. Two additional Jewish women named Rachel and Sara were also counted in this census. They were unmarried [probably widowed], and had between them four children. They owned four cows, and were under the protection of Gersi Szerentsi.

In the 1768 census, five Jewish familes were listed as living in Kretchinef, consisting of a total of 19 individuals, none of whose names appear in the earlier census listings. These five familes are those of: (a) Yaakov Csajnovics [the census taker probably corrupted this surname – perhaps it was Chaimovics]. He was apparently a man of means, as he paid a land-usage fee of 60 florins [per year]. His family consisted of two individuals. (b) Solomon Hovics also seems to have been quite well established, as he paid a land-usage fee of 65 florins. His family contained four individuals. (c) Avraham Hershovics, who was married with one child, appears to have been poor, as he was not required to pay any land-usage fees whatsoever. Apparently he worked for the previously listed families. (d) Yecheskiel Yakobovics was also lacking of means, as he only paid 6 florins land-usage fee. His family contained 5 individuals. (e) Hershko Shmilovics was of intermediate economic status, as he paid 32 florins per year. His family also consisted of 5 individuals. According to the data in this census, all of the Jews in Kretchinef supported themselves by the distillation and selling of alcoholic drinks and by peddling.

All of the Jews listed in these early censuses had come to Kretchinef from Galicia.

We have no information as to the continuation of the Jewish population of the town in the years immediately following the period covered by these census records. At the time of this writing [~1983] the compendium of the documentation of Jewish Hungary [Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar] – which has at the present time reached 17 volumes – has not yet published the data from the Jewish censuses taken after 1768.

In the census of 1830 the following Jewish families were listed as living in Kretchinef (in parentheses is the total number of family members):

Smilovics Avraham (6), Kratz Honic (3), Leiberman Hersch (7), Kratz Avraham (8), Kratz Samuch (4), Taub Hersch (4), Perel Hersch (6), Berkovics Shlomo (7), Smilovics Yane (3), Rotta Mosko (6), the widow of Sheliger Tovi (2), Avraham Leizer (6), Weisel Michal (7), Folk [or perhaps Pollack?] Marko (5), Abraham Shlomo (6), Mayesarosh Yosef (4), Martshel Chaim (3), Rot Yankel (6), Kopel Isaac (7), Zalman Barko (4), Ganz Yankel (4), Zusman Alter (8), Feig Avraham (10), Feig Meir (3), Leiberman Avraham (3), Feig Manio (5), Leiberman Isaac (7), the widow of Ingber Reuven (3), Markovits Moshko (4), Feig Chaim (6), Henig Itzik (8), the widow of [?] Chana Ita (7), Perel David (3), Moskovits Fishel (10), Shultzer Yoshka (10), Dariat Avraham (7), Kratz Mendel (3), Dariat Zelig (8), Lazar Nadel (3), Markovits Yosef (7), Rimer Lazar (9), Sobu Itzik (6), Hoss David (4), Shlomovits Hersh (7), Ganz Yisroel (7), Feig Shlomo (6), Steinmetz Yankel (7), Hamadia Yecheskiel (6), Litman Dariat (8), Feig Isaac (4), Leib Santo (7), Perel Zelig (11), Kiyam Shalom (6), the widow of Kopel Moshko (7), Kiyam Yisroel (6), Eliyash Shechter (8), Chaimovits Ephriam (6), Deutsch Yosef (6), Leiberman Isaac (4), Weisel Chaim (5), Yankelovits David (6), Zindel Avraham (3), Sobu Shmaya (7), Shaya Ephriam (7), Shlomo Leib (6), Dov Moshko (3), Isakovits Asher (4), Kain Yoel (3), Gedalie Barko (9), Gedalie Yankel (3), Gedalie Meir (4), Marko Hersh (3), Weisel Yankel (2)

[translator's note: This list from the year 1830 consists of 73 families totalling 413 individuals. However, this is not consistent with the population chart given at the beginning of the article, in which the Jewish population of Kretchinef in 1830 is listed as 219 individuals.]


Torah Life and Chassidus

1. Rabbinical Leaders

The first Rav of Kretchinef was apparently Rabbi Yosef Yoel Deutsch. R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch was known as one of the sharpest of the Rabbinical figures of his generation and as an expert halachic decisor. A large number of responsa were written to him by the sages of his generation, led by none other than the Chasam Sofer [Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1838), a towering figure who was the undisputed leader of greater Hungarian Orthodox Jewry in his generation]. A single one of these responsa, written by his brother-in-law Rabbi Yoel Ashkenazi, serves as the basis for our statement that he served in the capacity of Av Beis Din [the head of the Rabbinical Court] in Kretchinef (see below).

If in fact R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch did serve as Rav in Kretchinef, he apparently did so for only a very short time. Between the years 5592 (1832) and 5599 (1839) he served as Dayan [Rabbinical Judge] in the city Tarnopol. During the period of his stay in Tarnopol, the Chasam Sofer wrote to him 15 separate responsa. Starting approximately 5605 or 5606 [that is, circa 1846] R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch served as Rav in Manistrich in Galicia. It appears from the abovementioned responsa of his brother-in-law R' Yoel Ashkenazi that R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch was chosen as the Rav of Kretchinef in approximately the year 5615 (1855). Towards the end of his life Rabbi Deutsch served as Rav in Chadrov, where he died [in 1859].

In the introduction to the book Nefesh Dovid it is mentioned that Rabbi Yosef Yoel Deutsch's yartzeit was the 8th of Elul, but the year of his passing is not explicitly stated. [Nefesh Dovid was written by Rabbi David Nosan Deutsch, the son of R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch (see below). The introduction to the book Nefesh Dovid was written by a grandson of R' David Nosan Deutsch.] It appears that R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch died circa 5618 [1858], for in a responsa written to his son by Rabbi Yosef Shaul Natanson on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5619 [i.e., in the spring of 1859], the author of the responsa expresses his condolences.

R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch was son-in-law of Rabbi Moshe Dovid Ashkenazi, the Rav of Telcheve. Perhaps it is conjecture to assume that R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch was active in the election of the author of Yitav Lev to the Rabbinate of the city Sziget in 5618 (1858). The author of Yitav Lev was another son-in-law of R' Moshe Dovid Ashkenazi, thus the author of Yitav Lev and R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch were brothers-in-law. Towards the end of his life, Rabbi Moshe Dovid Ashkenazi moved to Tzefas [Safed, in the Galilee region of the land of Israel], where he died in the year 5616 [1856].

Rabbi Yosef Yoel Deutsch left behind a large number of written manuscripts, of which only one was destined to be published after his death. That publication is the responsa Yad Yosef on the four sections of Shulchan Aruch, published in Sziget in 5635 (1874), 138 pages. This volume Yad Yosef consists of 124 responsa, almost all of which were written to various Torah scholars and rabbinical figures in Galicia. Yad Yosef was republished in Jerusalem in 5731 [1971] in offset format with a short introduction written by the publisher, R' Avraham Yitzchok Kahan.

A large number of responsa were written to R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch by the sages of his generation, led by the Chasam Sofer, as we previously mentioned. All of these responsa were addressed to him in either Tarnopol, Manistrich, or in Chadrov. The single responsa addressed to him in Kretchinef can be found in Responsa Mahari Ashkenazi, section Yorah Deah, responsa number 20. The text of the responsa begins, “To my esteemed brother-in-law, the Rav and gaon, our teacher R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch, whose light shall shine, Av Beis Din of Kretchinef … who enlightened us by asking… on the words of the Ramban…”.

The responsa concludes, “…and of my honored father and teacher [R' Moshe Dovid Ashkenazi, who, as we mentioned previously, towards the end of his life moved to Tzefas in the land of Israel], he should be well, I haven't yet heard from him this entire year. G-d should should give me the merit to hear much of his beloved well-being.” R' Moshe Dovid Ashkenazi is known to have died on 18 Tamuz 5616 [1856]. When this responsa was written, we see that he was still alive. Thus, we see that R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch apparently served as Av Beis Din in Kretchenif during the period of the final years of his father-in-law's [R' Moshe Dovid Ashkenazi's] lifetime.

The second Rav of Kretchenif was Rabbi Dovid Nosan Deutsch, the son of R' Yosef Yoel Deutsch. He was the son-in-law of R' Yitzchok Isaac Mistari. He did much to organize and lead the Jewish community in the town. He was a follower of the Ruziner Chassidic Rebbe, R' Yisroel from Ruzin. After the death of R' Yisroel from Ruzin, R' Dovid Nosan Deutsch travelled often to visit his son R' Dovid Moshe from Chartkov. R' Dovid Nosan Deutsch also merited to study the hidden, mystical aspects of the Torah. He passed away on 11 Shevat 5638 (1879). His widow moved to the land of Israel and died in Tiberias on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Teves in the year 5646. One of their sons, R' Yitzchok Isaac Deutsch, also moved to the land of Israel and died in Tiberias on 20 Tishrei 5669.

R' Dovid Nosan Deutsch left behind many written manuscripts, only one of which was published, approximately 50 years after his passing: Nefesh Dovid on the Torah, volume 1… which includes at the end of the volume a public essay delivered by the author on Shabbos HaGadol… published in Siani in 5689, 62 pages. In addition to the book Nefesh Dovid, R' Dovid Nosan Deutsch added his own comments to the published responsa of his father, Yad Yosef, which volume in fact includes three responsa of his own (sections 34, 41, and 88).

Responsa written to R' Dovid Nosan Deutsch include:

Divrei Shoel, Yosef Daas on Shulchan Aruch Yorah Deah, published Lemberg 5626, page 76: “…On the eve of Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5619, I received a letter from the acute thinker, our teacher the Rav Nosan Dovid (note: this should read “Dovid Nosan”) the son of the late Rav (Yosef) Yoel Deutsch, on the instance where the goose fat for Pesach was soaked in water…”

Shoel U'Mashiv, volume 3, Part 1, section 291:“…To the Rav, our teacher Dovid Nosan son of the Rav Av Beis Din Kretchinef in the land of Hungary, about the question that was posed regarding the Jew who was passing through a community. The man was dying (G-d should have mercy), and was asked what his name was, from what town he came from, whether or not he was married, and if he had children. He answered that he was from the town Kretchinef near Sziget, his name was Chaim Tzvi, that he was married with children, that his children were learning with a private teacher, and that one son was working as a shoemaker. Among the man's possessions was found his passport and his late father's ethical will. He had some identifiable facial features, that is, that his nose was long, and part of his nose was dark-colored. On his left cheek, near his beard was a black mole, and his left eye was bad. He died on the Friday of Parashas Vayeshev. There are a number of remaining questions, such as that he did not mention his father's name… and he said that he has children, and one son works as a shoemaker – it turns out that he has an only son who is a tailor…”

Chesed L'Avraham volume 2, Yorah Deah section 17 (from the year 5621): “…regarding a hole found in the spleen of a cow…”

Beis Shlomo, Orach Chaim section 25 (from the year 5624): “…Reuven lives in one of the villages [of Marmaros] where there are only a few Jews. He put in extensive efforts and received permission from the local landlords to build a synagogue in his house. He set aside one building, part of his house, as a synagogue. He also purchased with his own money a Torah Scroll, a Holy Ark and the other necessary holy implements… All of the Jewish residents of the village prayed there for a period of 8 years. This same Reuven tried to organize the residents to build a Mikveh [ritual bath]. He collected money, but most of the funds came from his own pocket. He bought some land upon which to build a Mikveh. However, before the building was finished, a few of the other residents decided among themselves to rent a building from a local gentile and to organize there a synagogue. Reuven protested that there already existed a synagogue in his house, for which he had put out great efforts to obtain official permission, and he had spent large sums of money (most of which was his own)… Also, the place where they wanted to build their synagogue overlooks the river and the mill, that the windows will be facing the area where the male and female gentiles gather together to grind their flour and to bathe in the river. The two sides came to Your Honor to decide the case. The decision was in favor of Reuven. Yet the other side did not accept the decision and went directly to the greatest Rabbis of the generation, who also all agreed with your decision. Still, they refuse to accept the decision. Your Honor requested my opinion in the matter… Your decision was correct…”

Maharam Shick, Even Haezer section 154 (from the year 5629): “…In truth, I did not want to respond regarding this matter. Apparently the woman in question is sluttish, as she secluded herself with the gentile and slept with him in a wagon. Thus it is a mitzvah to divorce her, and I wanted nothing to do with helping to restore her to her husband. However, according to the letter of the law, the later authorities agree… that a woman is not necessarily forbidden to her husband in all questionable circumstances…”

Menuchas Asher, part 2, in the responsa at the end of the book, section 6: “…As to what should be done in the case where the upper part of the letter lamed was extended up into the line above, into the letter hay of one of the holy names of G-d…”

The son of R' Dovid Nosan Deutsch, Rabbi Moshe Deutsch, was a sort of local “folk” Admor in Kretchinef. He dispensed natural remedies and treatments and even wrote prescriptions. Occasionally he even crafted mystical amulets. In the 1930s he moved to Sziget. He was martyred in the holocaust.

The next Rav in Kretchinef was Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Reinman, the son of Yitzchok Meshulam Reinman. He was the son-in-law of R' Abraham Aharon Teitelbaum, the son of the author of Yitav Lev. We do not know exactly when he was chosen as Rav in Kretchinef. If he was chosen immediately after the death of the previous Rav, R' Dovid Nosan Deutsch, that would indicate that R' Tzvi Hersch Reinman served in Kretchinef for a period of about 40 years, which would be the longest period of time that any one individual served as Rav in the town. He died on 25 MarCheshvan 5679 (1918). A short time before his death, he was also chosen as Rav of Bicskof.

Before that time there had lived in Bicskof a great Talmudical scholar named Rabbi Alter Shaul Pepper, who did not hold an official rabbinical position. Before the First World War he moved to the United States (see article on Bicskof for more details). In Bicskof it had not been possible to write a get [halachic divorce document] because of technical questions regarding the proper spelling of the place name in the get. In the year 5670 there was a case of a husband who was dying, who had no children but who did have a infant brother. In such a situation, if the husband was to die childless, his widow would have to wait until his infant brother reached the age of bar-mitzvah [to perform the halachic chalitzah ceremony that would allow her to remarry]. In this emergency case, R' Alter Shaul Pepper arranged a get in Bicskof for the first time in history, on the date Hoshana Rabba in 5670. Afterwards, he contacted the leading Torah scholars of the generation, with whom he engaged in involved halachic discussions which led to their approving of the halachic validity of the get.

After the setting of this precedent in the giving of a get in Bicskof, there were two responsa written to R' Tzvi Hirsch Reinman on the issue. The first responsa was from R' Alter Shaul Pepper himself, written after he was already living in New York:

Avnei Zicharon, part 1, section 40 (written in 5676): “…on Hoshana Rabba of the year 5670 when I was living in the community of greater Bicksof, I arranged a get for a dying man. I previously wrote at length that even though that was an emergency situation, from now on, since a precedent has been set, it should be possible in the future to arrange additional gittin in Bicksof. Back then, I sent my pamplet to the leading halachic experts of the generation, every which of whom reached total agreement that the woman was divorced [before the death of her husband] and was thus able to remarry, and that based upon this precedent, future gitten could be arranged in Bicksof... Since that time, I moved from there [Bicksof] to here [New York], and I did not arrange any additional gitten in Bicksof. At present, your question and request is that I should write to you a summary of the conclusions that were reached, in order that your son-in-law, who is now the Rav there, can arrange additional gitten based upon the precedent that was set… You will find enclosed copies of all of the relevant communications that were exchanged with the halachic authorities on this issue…”

Imrei Yosher, part 1, section 166: “…Regarding the arrangement of a get, and the proper spelling of the name of the town Bicksof which is in the area under your authority, all of what he has written clearly appears to be correct…”

After the First World War, Rabbi Elazar Reinman (the son of R' Tzvi Hirsch Reinman) served as the Rav of Kretchinef and Bicksof. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Avraham Chaim Rubin, the Av Beis Din of Glagov in Galicia and grandson of Rabbi Naftali Horwitz from Rofshitz. For a period of time he ran a Yeshiva in Kretchinef which had approximately 50 students. In the 1930s R' Elazar Reinman left Kretchinef and moved to Bicksof. Afterwards, he moved to Glagov to fill the position of his father-in-law. Apparently he was martyred in the holocaust in Poland. None of his writings were published.

Responsa written to R' Elazar Reinman include:

Etzei Chaim, Even Haezer section 6 (from the year 5690): “…Regarding a woman whose husband, R' Shlomo the son of Yitzchok Keneg, disappeared in the First World War…”

Etzei Chaim, Even Haezer section 23 (from the year 5695): “…Regarding a woman whose husband was killed in the [First] World War. The woman gave birth but the child died after a few months. According to the testimony given, the husband was killed before the child died. If so, she is not required to perform the chalitza ceremony…”

Afrakasta D'aniya, section 112 (from the year 5693): “…Regarding a woman whose husband, R' Michel Yisroel from Ober Rina, disappeared in the First World War…”

The last Rav of Kretchinef was Rabbi Avraham Chaim Reinman, the son of R' Elazar Reinman. He served in Kretchinef only, and was a widely accepted and beloved public speaker. His public essays were interwoven with parables and entertaining stories of the lives of Tzadikim. He was deported in 1941 to Kamenetz-Podolsk. In attempting to return from Poland he was murdered in a horrible fashion (see details below).

About a year previously, he published his commentary Yotzei Perach on Pirkei Avos, published Satu-Mare 5700, 109 pages. In his work, the author acknowleges the help of a number of young Torah scholars “…of sharp minds and well-versed in the hallways of the Torah”, among them R' Chaim Kandel [of Kretchinef], who “…put in strenuous efforts to edit and arrange my writings for publishing.” R' Chaim Kandel also had edited the earlier book Pelach HaRimon, adding to it his own glosses, when he was a student in Sepinka (see the article on the town Sepinka).


2. Chassidic Rebbes (Admorim) and Rabbinical Judges (Dayanim)

Rabbi Meir Rosenbaum, the son of R' Mordechai Leifer from Nadvorna, lived in Kretchinef towards the end of the 19th century. Almost certainly he lived in Kretchinef after the death of his father in Bistina on the first day of the Succos holiday in 5656 (1895). From the time that R' Meir lived in Kretchinef, the town became a Chassidic center. R' Meir founded the Kretchinef Chassidic dynasty which even to this day is famous, [with extensive branches] even in the land of Israel.

R' Meir's followers built him a Beis Midrash [synagogue / study hall] and family housing in Kretchinef. R' Meir himself participated in the physical building of the Beis Midrash. While he was plastering the walls, he sang Hallel [songs of praise from the Psalms, recited publicly on various holidays]. R' Meir was constantly immersed in prayer and learning, and did not encourage others to become his followers. He never laughed. Still, many chassidim and other Jews in need streamed to see him. He was famous as a miracle worker, and even gave out mystical amulets. He died in Kretchinef on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Tamuz 5668 (1908).

After his death, his son Rabbi Eliezer Zeev Rosenbaum took over his father's position. He put in more efforts to cultivate a personal connection with his followers, and during his lifetime, the Kretchinef chassidic movement broadened considerably. He was the most widely accepted Admor [Chassidic Rebbe] among the many descendants of R' Mordechai from Nadvorna, most of whom lived in various places in broader historical Hungary. He was also a miracle worker, and gave out prescriptions to the ill. Towards the end of the First World War he moved to Sziget (see article on Sziget). [During World War 2,] he was deported from Sziget to Auschwitz.

mar050.jpg Rabbi Eliezer Zeev Rosenbaum [19 KB]
Rabbi Eliezer Zeev Rosenbaum,
the Admor of Kretchinef


The Torah writings and compilations of the customs of R' Meir Rosenbaum and his son R' Eliezer Zeev Rosenbaum were recently published. Those works are described at length in the article on Sziget. Also [in the article on Sziget] is described the continuation of the Kretchinef Chassidic dynasty in Israel, R' Dovid Moshe Rosenbaum, and his activities in the city Rechovot [in Israel].

mar051.jpg Rabbi Dovid Moshe Rosenbaum [11 KB]
Rabbi Dovid Moshe Rosenbaum,
the Admor of Kretchinef
in Rechovot, Israel


For many years Rabbi Meir Dovid Tabak served as a Dayan in Kretchinef. He was the son of the famous R' Shlomo Yehuda Tabak, the author of Erech Shai and Tshuros Shai. Like his father, he was a Torah gaon who had a sharp mind and broad grasp of the Torah. However, he did not publicize his writings and thus his fame in the Torah world was more limited than that of his father. After his father passed away in 5668 (1908), he was chosen to fill his father's position in Sziget. He died in Sziget on 2 Nisan 5696 (1936) at the age of about 90 years old.

Two responsa written to him, both from the period when he lived in Kretchinef:

Tshuvos Maharsham, part 2, section 229: “…about the mikveh in which was set up a samovar to heat the water, and many people put hot coals there on Shabbos eve shortly before sunset so that the coals should burn through the night in order that the water should be somewhat warm on Shabbos morning. Your honor raised the question as to whether there is a concern that someone might stir the coals on Shabbos…”

Avnei Zicharon, part 1, section 97 (from the year 5664): “…regarding Reuven, who bought in a tender of the non-Jewish court system the rights to the wild apples from the forest owned by the landowner of the village, and afterwards sold to Shimon 300 [units] of mixed apples composed of three quarters wild apples and one quarter cultivated apples…”


3. Torah Scholars mentioned in the Responsa literature

The earliest responsa which we have found which mentions the town Kretchinef is from the year 5619 (1859), written to Rabbi Yaakov Reuven, the Av Beis Din of Dalitin in Galicia. The subject of the responsa is the issue of permitting a woman to remarry whose husband was murdered by a gentile who had disposed of his body (see below). The first testimony was collected on the date 24 Teves 5617, and the testimony itself was signed upon by Rabbi Berel Nagil, together with Rabbi Ezra Shub [note: “Shub” is possibly a surname. It also is an abbreviation for “Shochet u'Bodek”. This may indicate that R' Ezra possibly was a shochet.], and a third individual whose name is only abbreviated. A second set of testimony was collected on 13 Shevat 5619, and is signed upon only by R' Ezra Shub. It appears that during that period there was not an official Rav in Kretchinef, and that R' Beril Nagil and R' Ezra Shub were local Torah scholars who knew the details of how to collect the testimony necessary for the permitting of an aguna [a woman whose husband has disappeared] to remarry. We do not understand why this particular case was dealt with by a Rav in Galicia, and not by R' Yekutiel Yehuda Teitelbaum, who already by this time was serving for at least a year as the Rav of the neighboring city Sziget.

The actual text of the testimony collected gives us insight into the living conditions of the Jews in Kretchinef in the mid 1800s. Therefore, we take the liberty of quoting at length:

Responsa Bar L'vai, part 2, section 16 (from the year 5619): “…The woman in question is from the town Kretchinef in the land of Hungary. Three years ago her husband left Kretchinef for business purposes with the destination Iasin, and disappeared. For these three years she has been waiting for his return, with no knowledge of his whereabouts. After extensive investigation, it has become clear through the collection of testimony by the Beis Din there, that she is waiting in vain for her husband's return. It seems clear that the gentile, who is established to be a murderer, killed him…”
“Testimony collected 24 Teves 5617: Transcription of testimony that was given in the presence of the undersigned for the woman whose husband disappeared two years ago: After extensive investigation it has become clear that on the previously mentioned date the Jew Eliyakim Gatzil, the son of R' Meir met with Tzvi the son of Yirachmiel of our city. He gave to R' Tzvi ninety silver coins for the wood that he bought from him. This same Eliyakim Gatzil then went to R' Dovid Chaim of our city here. The gentile who is suspected to be the murderer was waiting for him at R' Dovid Chaim's place. While there, the gentile invited the Jew to purchase from him some cattle. The Jew bought for the gentile some whiskey from R' Dovid Chaim, and from there the two of them walked to spend the night at the gentile's residence. As they were walking, they met R' Eliezer the son of R' Shmuel of our city, with whom they conversed about the reason for their journey. A number of gentiles also saw them walking together to the area where the gentile lived. R' Eliezer the son of R' Shmuel has already testified under oath, as have the gentile witnesses, in the gentile court. The Jews, and also the Germans and the local authorities, have searched for the abovementioned Jew Eliyakim Gatzil in the entire region where the gentile lives, and have not found him. The Jews questioned the servant-girls of the gentile who denied any knowledge of the Jew, and also they questioned the wife of the gentile who also denied knowing anything. Afterwards, the Jews exited the gentile's house and stood outside, behind the door. The gentile investigators went back inside and spoke to her gently so that she would not be afraid to tell the truth as to whether the Jew in question was in her house on that day. From the questions that were asked and the answers that the gentile's wife gave, the Jews who were standing outside behind the door heard her say the following: The Jew had arrived at the house in the evening with her husband. The two of them spoke about the cattle to be sold, and later went to sleep. She showed them the place where the Jew had slept, and where he had hung up his clothes. When the Jew awoke in the morning, he washed himself and put on his tefillin and recited his morning prayers. After finishing his prayers, the Jew requested of the gentile to give him directions from the forest called “Bidilitzar Vald” leading towards the main road. The woman described how the Jew was dressed wearing an overcoat, and that her husband had left together with the Jew. Afterwards, the gentile had returned home alone. He took an axe and then left again, into the forest in the direction which the Jew had left. After about two hours, the gentile returned home, again alone. This is what she said to the Germans, which the Jews standing outside the door overheard. There were approximately 20 Jews who overheard her say this. The overcoat is at the present time in the custody of the gentile court. The garment has has in it two holes which are obviously from the axe, and is soaked like liver in congealed blood. Already the gentiles and the Jews have testified that they recognize the garment, and also that they saw the garment in the near vicinity of the accused gentile's home. The Jews testifying are R' Tzvi the son of Yerachmiel, together with a number of other individuals who also signed…”

In the continuation of the collected testimony is related: “…Testimony collected… R' Aaron the son of Elazar from Rachov came in front of us and said, with respect to the woman Henya the daughter of R' Itzik whose husband has disappeared: He stated that he had been jailed, and in the jail was someone who was in custody for stealing cattle, and that the thief [the same gentile who is suspected in the murder of the Jew R' Eliyakim Gatzil] had said in front of all of the prisoners that he had to get out of the jail as quickly as possible, because he hadn't hidden the clothes of the victim that he had killed, that he had to get home as quickly as possible to burn the clothes, and that he did so. Further, that the murderer stated in front of the Jews that were present that he wasn't afraid at all, for he had hidden the body very well…”

From the testimony given 13 Shevat 5619: “…Also, another individual came in front of us and said in the name of the abovementioned R' Aaron that the murderer had clearly stated that the body of the murdered Jew would not be found, as he had hidden the body very well. The undersigned also testifies that he heard from a gentile who lives in the village Iasin, that the brother-in-law of the murderer had said that if he gave him two bulls he would show him the place that the Jew had been buried. He asked him what he had responded to the brother-in-law, and he was told the following story: The father-in-law of the murderer had taken the murderer into his house to hide him. His son, the brother-in-law of the murderer, came and asked his father, “Why are you hiding him in your house? In the next few days, they will be looking for him as a murderer. If they find him on your property, they will confiscate all of your possessions.” The father-in-law of the murderer asked his son, “How do you know about it?” He answered, “Give me two bulls, and I'll show you where the Jew is buried.”…”

Rabbi Yitzchok Shub:
Responsa Beis Yitzchok, Yorah Deah part 2, section 92 (from the year 5638): “…Regarding the twenty year old individual where it is questionable if his Bris Milah was properly done…”

mar052.jpg Rabbi Yitzchok Shub of Kretchinef [27 KB]
Rabbi Yitzchok Shub of Kretchinef


Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Shub (perhaps this is the same as the previous):
Responsa Nota Shorek, section 9: “…Regarding the yearly blessing on flowering fruit trees, whether the blessing should be recited upon flowering trees which have not yet given fruit for three years, and thus the fruits are forbidden to be used because of orlah…” (This responsa was authored by the the son-in-law of the author, Rabbi Yehuda Altman.)

Rabbi Yosef Friedman (student of Rabbi Eliezer Deutsch of Banihad):
Responsa Pri HaSadeh, part 1, section 4 (from the year 5653): “…Regarding what is written in the Shulchan Aruch that food should not be stored under one's bed, if the reference is specifically when someone is sleeping on the bed or not…”

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch, Sofer STaM [professional Torah Scribe who writes Torah Scrolls, Tefillin and Mezuzos]:
Responsa Avnei Zicharon, part 1, section 2 (from the year 5663): “…Regarding the Torah Scroll which has broken and erased letters…”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Saboy (student of the author of Etzei Chaim):
Responsa Etzei Chaim, Yorah Deah section 17: “…Regarding the counting of the seven clean days…”

Between the two World Wars, two outstanding Torah scholars gained prominence in Kretchinef as teachers and Poskim: Rabbi Herschel Berles, and Rabbi Yecheskiel Herbst.

mar053.jpg  [26 KB]
from right to left: R' Mendel Sabo,
R' Eliezer Berkovits,
the shochet R' Ben-Tzion,
and R' Meir Berkovits


Community Organization [and other Individuals of Note]

It seems probable that there was an established minyan in Kretchinef from sometime in the mid 1700s. However, the community did not fully mature until the mid 1800s. In 1830 there was already an established synagogue and a beis midrash [study hall]. The cemetery was older than the synagogue, apparently having been inaugurated in the early 18th century. As the community became organized, a mikveh was built, and several community organizations were founded. The most important of these community organizations was the Chevrah Kadisha [burial society]. Established in 1894 was the Chevras Bachurim for the support of the poor, with six founding members.

As the number of Jews in the town increased, the community continued to mature and the establishment of various additional community organizations took place. These community organizations included learning groups such as Chevras Shas [Talmud learning group] and Chevras Mishnayos [Mishna learning group], and community service organizations such as Chevras Tzedakah Gedola [general charity], Chevras Bikur Cholim [care of the sick], and various other public welfare organizations. As part of the community structure, there was organized a Chevras Talmud Torah [religious elementary school system]. However, many children learned with private teachers independently of the community framework. Located next to the Talmud Torah was a government school, where the language of instruction was Romanian. [During the later period between the two World Wars], this school was also supported by Jews from Kretchinef who had moved to the United States.

Between the two World Wars, the Jews of the town prayed in four established synagogues: the Great Synagogue, the Beis Midrash of the Talmud Torah, in the Beis Midrash of the [Chevras] Bachurim, and in a fourth Beis Midrash that was a bit distant from the town center located on the road leading to the town Rina, which served the Jews who lived in that vicinity. The vast majority of the Jews who lived in Kretchinef were followers of either the Sziget or Vishnitz chassidic movements.

The official heads of the Jewish community that are known to us are as follows: Before the First World War, the leader of the community was R' Hirsch Berkovits, who was a Kretchinef chassid. He owned a lumber mill and was a cattle merchant. He died shortly after the war. During the period of his tenure, the Gabai was R' Alter Yankelovits, who was a Torah scholar and a shopkeeper. After the death of R' Hirsch Berkovits, R' Zalman Leib Eliyash was chosen to replace him as the head of the community. He was born in Hungary, and was the son-in-law of Yaakov Dovid Hans, who was a wealthy lumber merchant. He was a Torah scholar and a Sziget chassid, and was very active in community affairs. Among his contributions to the community was the refurbishing of the mikveh, and the installation in the mikveh of new modern bathtubs. He died a few years before the outbreak of the Second World War. The next leader of the community was R' Tzvi Elimelech Firewerger, who also was an expert Torah scholar and a Sziget chassid. He was the son-in-law of R' Isaac. He also was very active in community affairs, putting in strenuous efforts for the sake of the community. The last head of the community was R' Hirsch Fogel, who was a shopkeeper and a Torah scholar. He and his wife survived the holocaust. Today [~1983] he lives in Haifa, and is the elder member of the Society of Survivors of Kretchinef in Israel, being all of 93 years old.

In the year 1834 a bitter disagreement broke out in the Kretchinef community, waves from which spread out into the entire country. The Rav of Sziget at that time, Rabbi Eliezer Nisin Teitelbaum, forbade the meat of the shochet of Kretchinef, R' Moshe, who was a Kosov chassid and who had been appointed to the position of shochet in Kretchinef under the auspices of the Rebbes of Kosov. At that time, followers of the Kosov Rebbes made up the majority of the Jewish residents of greater Marmaros. The Kosov chassidim took offence at the action of the Rav of Sziget, and declared war against him. This stormy dispute was one of the causes of R' Eliezer Nisin Teitelbaum's eventually leaving the city Sziget. (For further details, see the article on the city Sziget.)

The Jews of Kretchinef supported themselves in occupations similar to those of the majority of the Jews in the other villages in the Marmaros region. A large proportion of the Jews of Kretchinef worked in various aspects of the local lumber industry – as woodcutters in the forests, as raftsmen transporting lumber rafts down the Tisa River into greater Hungary, or as workers in the local wood mills. All of the local wood mills were under Jewish ownership, and a significant percentage of the workers in the mills were Jewish. Most of the Jews of Kretchinef had small plots of land surrounding their houses and outside of the town itself. Most of these were small plots of land whose crops supplied the household needs of the plot owners. Some of the Kretchinef Jews were shopkeepers or innkeepers. Others were craftsmen or simple laborers. Most of the Jews of the town were poor and worked hard to eke out a living.

In the aftermath of the First World War, the southern half of Marmaros (including Kretchinef) was transferred to Romania. The Tisa River and its tributaries were in the northern half of Marmaros which had been given to Czechoslovakia. Thus the major source of income of the Jews of Kretchinef – the lumber that was rafted into central Hungary – was cut off. This led to a major depression in the local economy, which together with other factors, led to a relatively large number of the Jews of Kretchinef abandoning the town. In the first decade following the First World War (1920-1930), the Jewish population of Kretchinef decreased by at least 100 individuals. Most moved to cities in either Transylvania or Ragat [?]. A minority left Romania entirely. Most of those who left Romania emigrated to the United States. During the interwar period, a significant number of the Jewish residents of Kretchinef were supported by family members living in America, many of whom with the passage of time acclimated themselves in their new country and prospered. Some of these Kretchinef emigres to the United States even eventually became wealthy. Besides the help that individual Jewish Kretchinef families received from family members overseas, there was also financial aid provided by the Kretchinef Society in America through lists organized by the official local community in Kretchinef.

Worthy of note is the righteous convert Abraham Klein. His original Hungarian surname was Ketszi. He came to Kretchinef from the town Niradhaza in Hungary. He married the daughter of Gatzel Katz, the owner of a butcher shop in Kretchinef. This Abraham Klein became known as a Jew with outstanding personal character traits, who and went out of his way to welcome guests and to perform charitable acts. He concentrated on his Torah studies with extreme perseverance and iron will, until he actually became a Torah scholar. He learned to be a shochet from the shochet R' Ben-Tzion of Kretchinef. Afterwards he left Kretchinef and opened a factory producing various meat products.


The Holocaust

Signs of the coming Holocaust already appeared in Kretchinef towards the end of the period of Romanian rule, with the marked increase of anti-Semetism that occurred in Romania in the years 1938-1940. The gentile inhabitants of Kretchinef oppressed the local Jews, in particular in the economic sphere.

A great calamity overcame the Jews of Kretchinef in the summer of 1941, when the occupying Nazi Hungarian regime demanded that the Jews obtain within a very short period of time valid Hungarian citizenship papers. Towards the end of the summer of 1941 the deportation took place of 496 Jewish residents of Kretchinef [who had not succeeded in obtaining those citizenship papers]. Almost all of the deportees had lived in Kretchinef for most (if not all) of their lives, and their families had lived in the town for many generations. The majority of these deportees were murdered by the Hungarians and the Germans in the forest near the city Kaminetz-Podolsk in Poland. Others were murdered near the cities Stanislau and Horodanka in Galicia. A few members of only 8 of the deported families succeeded in surviving the slaughter by escaping from Stanislau and fleeing through the fields of Poland for distances of hundreds of kilometers until they finally reached the Hungarian border.

Among the deportees was the Rav of Kretchinef, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Reinman, together with his entire family. His wife and children were murdered near Kaminetz-Podolsk. The Rav succeeded in escaping and even reached the town Iasin, located over the border in occupied Hungarian Marmaros. However, he was recognized there by one of the Hungarian gendarmes who had participated in the deportations. The Rav was tied to a wagon and taken back over the border into Poland. There he was taken into the forest where the Hungarian gendarmes tortured him mercilessly and plucked out his eyes. Finally, they shot and killed him.

Towards the end of April 1944, the remaining Jews in Kretchinef were imprisoned in the Beis Midrash. From there, they were taken to the Slatfina ghetto. During the forced march from Kretchinef to the ghetto, the entire gentile population of Kretchinef accompanied the Jews, singing joyfully and playing on every musical instrument that they had in their possession. On 24 May 1944 the surviving Jews of Kretchinef were deported from the Slatfina ghetto to Auschwitz.

Today there are no Jews living in Kretchinef.


Interviews with a number of Kretchinef survivors.
Arik, Rabbi Meir, Responsa Imrei Yosher, published Munkacs 5673, section 166.
Ashkenazi, Rabbi Yoel, Responsa Mahari Ashkenazi, volume Yorah Deah, published Munkacs 5653, section 2.
Cohen, Rabbi Yitzchok Yosef, Responsa of the the Rabbinical Figures of Transylvania in the 19th Century, Areshet, volume 5 (5732), pp 278-279.
Deutsch, Rabbi Eliezer, Responsa Pri HaSadeh, published Paksh 5666, part 1, section 4.
Drimmer, Rabbi Shlomo, Responsa Beis Shlomo, part 1, published Lemberg 5637, volume Orach Chaim, section 25.
Greenwald, Yekutiel Yehuda, Matzevet Kodesh, section 1, Sziget and the Marmaros Region, published New York 5712, page 30.
Greenwald, Yekutiel Yehuda, One Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Hungary (Yiddish), published New York 5706, page 234.
Horwitz, Rabbi Meshulam Yissachar, Responsa Bar L'vai, part 2, published Lemberg 5632, section 16.
Nathanson, Rabbi Yosef Shaul, Responsa Shoel U'Mashiv, volume 3, published Lemberg 5636, part 1, section 291.
Pepper, Rabbi Alter Shaul, Responsa Avnei Zicharon, part 1, published Sziget 1923, sections 40 and 97, part 2, published Szatmer 5691, sections 28 and 69.
Roseman, Shlomo, Roshei Golas Ariel, part 1, published Brooklyn 5736, pp 174-192.
Sheferber, Rabbi Dovid, Responsa Afrakasta D'aniya, published Satu-Mare 5700, section 112.
Shick, Rabbi Moshe, Responsa Maharam Shick, volume Even HaEzer, published Lemberg 5644, section 144.
Shmelkes, Rabbi Yitzchok, Responsa Beis Yitzchok, volume Yorah Deah, published Premishla 5658, part 2, section 92.
Shwadron, Rabbi Shalom Mordechai, Responsa Maharsham, published Pietrokov 5668, part 2, section 229.
Tannenbaum, Rabbi Shraga Tzvi, Responsa Nota Shorek, volume Orach Chaim, published published Munkacs 5659, section 9.
Teitelbaum, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi, Responsa Eitzei Chaim, published Sziget 5699, volume Yorah Deah, section 17, volume Even HaEzer, sections 6, 23, and 26.
Teomim, Rabbi Avraham, Responsa Chesed L'Avraham, edition 2, published Lemberg 5658, volume Yorah Deah, section 17.
Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, Budapest, vol VII (1963), pp 139, 306; vol XVI, (1976), p 102.
Magyar-Zsido Lexikon, Budapest (1929), p 1005.

Translated and edited by Moshe A Davis. This translation is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather Benish Davidovits (in America, Bennie Davis), to the members of his family (family surnames mainly Davidovits, Markovits, and Katz) from the village of Leh (Szeleslonka, Shirukiy Lug) in Marmaros, and to the memory of my grandmother Chaya Chaimovits (in America, Helen Hayfer), and to the members of her family (family surnames Chaimovits and Zelminovics) from the village of Drahiv (Kovesliget, Drahova) in Marmaros. Most of their family members were murdered by the accursed Nazis and their accomplices. Hashem Yenakam Damam!

In this translation, I have endeavored to maximize ease of readability and the grammatical flow of the material, while keeping true to the spirit and the content of the information contained therein. To this end, in many places I have taken the liberty of rearranging the sentence and/or paragraph structure from that of the original Hebrew in order to improve the clarity and natural flow of ideas in English. Also, in many places I have slightly expanded the material, in order to clarify ideas or to define concepts which may not be familiar to readers who lack background in traditional Jewish customs and who are unfamiliar with Jewish Law. My own additions I have set apart by enclosing them in square brackets [ ].

Please note that many of the original sources used by the authors of Sefer Marmaros were written in languages other than Hebrew, which is the language of the text of Sefer Marmaros itself. Those original sources were not available to the translator, and thus most of the surnames as transliterated here may in fact have been spelled differently in the original source.

List of Jewish surnames from Kretchinef mentioned in this article: Abraham

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