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[Pages 116-119]


(Vişeu de Jos, Romania)

47°44' 24°22'

Romanian: Vişeu de Jos
Hungarian: Alsóvisó

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It is a village about 55 kilometers southeast of the district city of Sziget. Almost all of its residents were Romanian.

Jewish Population

of Jews in the
183096 14.5
1910563 14.6
1920565 11.5
1930604 12.5
1941514 10.9


The Beginning of the Jewish Community

From among the three settlements knows as Wischau, only Unterwischau had a significant Jewish population. No Jews were listed in the early censuses. In the census of 1768, four Jewish family heads were listed, totaling nine individuals, whereas no other Jews were listed in the other two Wischaus. Furthermore, it is almost certain that the first school for Jewish children in this area of Maramures was there. Children of the entire area studied Torah in the cheder of Unterwischau. That means that children from other nearby villages, including Borşa, Masif, Sãcel, Ruscova, Palean Ruscova, Petriva, Bistra, and perhaps other cities also came to study, aside from students from the Wischaus.

In the census of 1830, the following heads of family of Unterwischau were registered (number of individuals in parentheses):

Leib Glazer (10), Fishel Malek (6), Yaakov Meir (3), Yosef Sofer (8), Yosef Ganz (7), Shmuel Hecht (3), David Meir (4), Meir Ganz (4), Yaakov Malek (6), Berl Meir (5), Yosef Krasner (3), Ephraim Meir (4), Shmuel Fishel (9), the younger Yaakov Malek (6), the widow of Mendel (6), Leib Moldovian (4), Izik Schnitzer (5), Yaakov Shlomovitch (4), Yosef Moldovan (3), Berl Weider (9), Lechman Moldovan (3), Fishel Unger (6), Berl Unger (4), Shmuel Moldovan (4), Fishel Malek (7), Isak Appel (7).

The following families: Meir Jakobovitch, a peddler, paid 8.30 florin of lease fees annually; Lazar Jakobovitch (the brother of the aforementioned?) also a peddler, paid 3.24 florin a year of lease fees; Asher Lazar, a liquor distiller, paid 12 florin lease fees annually; the teacher Berko Lefkovitch, who paid no fees, for in accordance with the statute of Empress Maria Teresa who exempted members of the clergy from all types of taxes and fees. All of these were two person families – a man and a wife – aside from the Lazar family that consisted of three individuals – a couple and a child.

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{The children of the Talmud Torah and girls' school. Sitting from right to left: at the far edge Reb Alter Benzion Fried, Rabbi Yosef Meir Wurtzburger, Reb Evir Weiss, Reb Leibish Ganz, Reb Moshe Pinchas the teacher of the girls' school. At the left side is the teacher Bat Sheva Polak, the wife of Reb Dov Polak.}

Apparently, these were young couples, a short time after their marriage. All of them arrived from Galicia. We do not know who they are, or whether they set down roots in Maramures at all.

Despite the strong beginnings, the Jewish community of Unterwischau did not develop into a heavily populated community, neither in terms of actual numbers nor in terms of percentage of the general population of the area. The pinnacle of the Jewish population of this village came before the First World War, when the Jewish population reached 14.6% of the general population. The neighboring village of Oberwischau took first place, with the relative Jewish population reaching 34.6%. Apparently, the village did not develop economically. The Jews did not find a broad arena for practical business activity, and the opportunities for an honorable livelihood were restricted.

The community of Unterwischau was subordinate to that of Oberwischau throughout its entire period of existence. A rabbi never served there. The rabbi of the community of Oberwischau was also appointed to that village, and would visit it at specific times. Of course the community participated in maintaining the rabbi as well as funding other services provided by the mother community. At first, there was not even a shochet there. The shochet of the villages, whose set residence was in Oberwischau, would visit the village once a week to slaughter for the Sabbath. A permanent shochet lived in Unterwischau already from the year 5640 (1880). His name was Reb Nachman the son of Reb Yaakov the shochet. (Perhaps his father was the “shochet of all the villages” who made aliya to the Land and died there on the 24th of Elul 5624 (1864) [as is noted in the article on Oberwischau]. Reb Nachman may have inherited the position from him and later moved to Unterwischau.) Following him, from the year 5666 (1906), we find Reb Shlomo the shochet. The final shochet was Reb Yitzchak Moshe Roth, who perished in the Holocaust.

A great scholar and server of G–d, who after years was recognized by the people of the village as a pure Tzadik and worker of wonders, lived in Unterwischau. He was Reb Yosef Meir Wurtzburger, who lived in Unterwischau for about 50 years. At first he was known as a scholarly and important householder, as were others. Their esteem for him increased, as they recognized him better and understood his ways and behaviors, to the point where he was like a local Admor at the end of his days. He was the son of Reb Yitzchak Wurtzburger of Borşa. His father–in–law Reb Yaakov Fruchter was also from Borşa (according to another version, he was the son–in–law of Reb Fishel Ganz of Oberwischau). Reb Yosef Meir Wurtzburger was in Unterwischau from the year 5643 (1883) and onward. He died on 2 Sivan [5687? 1927].

His son–in–law Reb Feibish Langer was a descendent of the Admorim of Stretin. He spent his entire time with Torah and Divine service, separated from all contact with the Jews of the village, who barely saw him outside of his room.

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He immigrated to the United States after the death of his father–in–law, where he became known as the Admor of Stretin.

After the death of Rabbi Yosef Meir, Rabbi Feibish the son of Rabbi Yeshaya Kahana, a descendent of the author of Kuntrus Hasfeikot, was chosen as the rabbi and rabbinical judge. (He was the grandson of Rabbi Feibish Kahana the son of Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Kahana, the author Divrei HaGeonim). Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch the son of Rabbi Yosef Mordechai Kahana of Dragomireşti was another descendent of the Kahana family of Unterwischau. He was a Hassid, a wealthy man, and one of the communal notables.

The community of Unterwischau had traditional communal institutions such as a Chevra Kadisha [burial society], Chevra Mishnayot [Society for the study of Mishna], and the like, and of course a Beis Midrash. Aside from the communal Beis Midrash, people also worshipped in the Kloiz of the Hassidim of Spinka, which was opened by Reb Leib Bloch, apparently still during the lifetime of the Imrei Yosef. Later, an additional Beis Midrash was opened in the home of Reb Yosef Meir Wurtzburger.

{Photo page 118: Reb Yaakov Ganz and his wife Chaya.}

The heads of the community that we know include Reb Yehuda Segal and Reb Yisrael Roter (during the years 5640–5642 1880–1882); Reb Gedalia Stein (5603 / 1883 – ?), and Reb Shmuel Aryeh (5666–5670 1906–1910). The rest of the communal notables and administrators between the years 5629–5670 (1869–1910) were Reb Meir the son of Yissachar Ganz, Reb Shimon Ganz, Reb Yosef Yom Tov the son of Reb Mendel Ganz, Reb Yosef Yom Tov the son of Reb Meir Ganz, Reb Chai Dov Segal Tzeichner, Reb Moshe Wieder, Reb Aryeh Leib Bloch, Reb Nachum Malek, Reb Yerachmiel Stern, Reb Yisrael Zanwil Apter, Reb Yoel Aryeh Frishman, Reb Avigdor David Ginod, Reb David Stauber, and Shimshon A. Gottlieb.

There were large numbers of scholars, Hassidim, and people of good deeds in Unterwischau. We will list a few of them, as they are remembered by natives of the town:

Reb Leib Bloch, one of the significant Hassidim of Spinka, established the Spinka Kloiz in Unterwischau, as has already been noted, and maintained it with his own funds. He owned a large store, but sat in the Beis Midrash for almost half the day.

Reb Aryeh Leibish Ganz the teacher was an enthusiastic Hassid of Visznitz. He would shout out “Rebbe Rebbe” many times even as he studied with his students. He would dwell with the Rebbe from the Selichot days until after Sukkot.

His son–in–law Reb Dov Polak was a fine scholar. He was a prayer leader and a musician. He would entertain the guests at every joyous occasion by playing his violin. His son Reb Yehuda Polak was among those who established the Torah and Hassidic institutions of Rechovot. He made aliya after the war, and died on the 11th of Elul 5627 – 1967.

Rabbi Yosef Aryeh Kahana, a native of Antradam in Transylvania, one of the descendants of the author of Kuntrus Hasfeikot and Mareh Yechezkel, the son–in–law of Reb Shimon Ganz, was a great scholar with vast sharpness. He was a primary student of Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald of Satmar, the author of Zichron Yehuda,

[Page 119]

who wrote about him during his youth, “A dear student, that is the honorable, fine, diligent, scholarly youth, who has the fear of G–d in his treasury…” (Responsa Zichron Yehuda Section 2, entry 42). He taught Torah publicly throughout his life, and his classes in Torah and morality enthused his entire audience. During his youth, he authored novellae and commentaries on tractates of the Talmud, as well as an abridgement of points of Jewish law and explanations on the book Pri Megadim on Yoreh Deah [a section of the Code of Jewish Law] that were lost during the Holocaust. His service of the heart during his prayers was exemplary. When he served as the prayer leader for the Neila Service, the “walls trembled” from the abundance of emotion. He lived in Betlan during his final years, and is buried there.

His eldest son Rabbi Chaim Meir Kahana moved to Czernowitz after his years in Yeshiva. There, he led the Agudas Yisroel Center for the settlement of the Land of Israel, as well as the Orthodox educational institutions. He was the chief editor of the weekly publication Das Yiddish Vort. He joined the rabbinate of Czernowitz after exile in Transnistria. He was imprisoned by the Soviet authorities a short time later, and sentenced to six years of prison for “anti–Soviet activities and slander.” He was deported to prison camps in Siberia. After six additional years of struggle, he received permission to make aliya to Israel in the year 5722 (1962).

His second son, Rabbi Yehuda Menachem Kahana, is a teacher and educator. He is the principal of Beit Maramures in Tel Aviv.

Reb Shimshon Ganz, the father–in–law of Reb Yosef Leib Kahana, was one of the elders of the Hassidim of Visznitz. He was G–d fearing, fine and proper, and hosted guests frequently. He served as the head of the Chevra Kadisha for many years.

Reb Tzvi Hirsh Kahana was a descendant of the author of Kuntrus Hasfeikot. He served as the head of the community of Unterwischau for many years. His house was open wide to any passerby.

Reb Shimshon Eliezer Gotlieb was also a head of the community. He was the secretary of the town council of Unterwischau. His son Reb Yosef Gotlieb is an elder of Kvutzat Yavneh.

Reb Alter Ben–Zion Fried was a charitable man who was a comrade of the rabbis. He owned a sawmill.

Reb Yaakov Ganz was a head of the community for almost all his life. He was close with the Admorim of Visznitz. He was a charitable man who occupied himself with the needs of the community.

Reb Aharon Malek was loved by his fellowman and performed acts of charity and benevolence to anyone. He was a prayer leader with a sweet voice, as well as a Torah reader. His son Reb Eliezer Malek wrote memoirs of the village. (A significant portion of this article is based upon them.)

The shochet Reb Yitzchak Moshe Roth was a Hassid of Spinka. He was the regular prayer leader in the synagogue, and he taught the daily page of Talmud [Daf Yomi] every evening.

Reb Yosef Yom Tov (Yontel) the son of Reb Fishel Ganz was the son–in–law of the aforementioned Reb Leib Bloch.

The shoemaker Reb Yehoshua Hoffman knew all of Psalms by heart. His voice was heard throughout the town when he read Psalms.

Reb Yaakov the son of Reb Asher Anshel Perl was a G–d fearing scholar who occupied himself with Torah despite his meager means.

Reb Zeev Aryeh fisher was a teacher of Torah to children.

At the time of the Holocaust, the fate of the Jews of Unterwischau was the same as the fate of the Jews of the area. A few days after Passover 5704 (1944), all the Jews of the village was gathered together and transferred to the ghetto of Oberwischau. The men went on foot, suffering from beatings and abuse, whereas the women and children were transferred to the ghetto by wagon. It is appropriate to note positively several Romanian gentiles of Unterwischau who attempted to transfer a bit of food to the ghetto. This food was obtained from the Jewish homes as well as from their own supplies. At times, they were captured by the gendarmes and ghetto guards who prevented them from transferring the food and even beat them.

After the war, several tens of Jews of Unterwischau returned to the town. Among the first things they did was restore the desecrated and defiled synagogue. They repaired the mikva and set up a kosher kitchen at the home of Reb David Kahana, where those who returned from the Concentration Camps ate during the first period. The remnants of the Torah scrolls and holy objects were gathered up and buried in accordance to custom.

Almost all of the Jews left the town at the end of the 1950s. Most made aliya to Israel. Today there are no Jews in Unterwischau.



Interviews with several natives of Unterwischau.
Two manuscripts from the memoirs of Reb Eliezer the son of Reb Aharon Malek.
Magyar–Zsido Okleveltar, vol. XVI, Budapest 1976, p. 100.


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