« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Column 51]

My Town, Ozeryany

by Chaim Zeidman

Translated by Meir Bulman

 

A. Experiences and Memories

In this essay I will attempt to memorialize my birth town. It is said that the name Jezierzany originated in the two lakes (“jeziora”) in the town. One lake was the “bathhouse” pond where rainwater and sewage from the bathhouse accumulated. The bathhouse lake was covered in scum and emanated steam and stench; its frogs' croaks were heard all through the town. When the government wanted to drain the pond, both Gentiles and Jews objected. The Gentiles objected because they would harvest the reed and sell it to the Jews to use on sukkot.

The second pond was called “the cemetery pond” because of its proximity to the Jewish cemetery. How did the water get there and how did the deep and wide crevice form in the plain? We do not know. The pond is outside of the town but within the permitted Shabbat walking distance. People feared bathing in that pond as it “demanded a sacrifice” every year. No fish lived in the pond. In winter, the “shkotzim[1]” skated on it, and ice was taken from it by sparkling water salespeople or for those with a fever.

The pond served as a place for Jews to recite Tashlikh[2]. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, all town residents of all ages walked to the pond through fields and gardens that belonged to Christians. The Christians did not object to the parade passing through their property. Instead, they acted as hosts, gave apples and pears to the children, and saw it as a privilege to give passage to the holy convoy. As the crowd returned to the town after they shook their laps and emptied their pockets of their sins, Ozer the cantor began singing, “How happy are you, Oh Israel” and the crowd responded, “How good is our lot and pleasant is our fate.”

I did not know how many Jews lived in Jezierzany, for “Who can count the dust of Jacob?” According to my estimate, the number was less than

[Column 52]

5000. I also do not know the number of non–Jewish residents. On the weekly market day, thousands of gentile villagers gathered and one could not tell apart a stranger and a resident. It seemed that the number of gentile residents was in the thousands.

Jezierzany stretched across wide flatlands. There were barely any visible mountains or hills other than grazing meadows. One could see on the horizon green fields locked in by forests. Some of those forests were called “hallelujahs” and others were called “knees.” The name “knees” came from a local legend: Prince Spiah, owner of the regional land, promised forest grounds to one of his clerks if the clerk would crawl through the territory on his knees. The clerk did so and became the owner of the large territory.

There was no river in the town. Thus, in order to issue a Jewish divorce, one would travel to nearby Ułaszkowce, known for its never ending fair, for it is near the Seret River. On hot summer days, we went to Zhilinitz, an hour–long walk, to bathe in the river.

The Jewish section was at the center and surrounding it was the rural, non–Jewish population. Residents did not clean the town unless an outbreak of cholera occurred or a high–ranking government official came from Lviv and the policeman announced that the streets must be cleaned. Each homeowner swept in front of his home and city hall took care of the rest. There were no streetlights and at night the streets were as dark as the ninth plague. Every resident walking through the streets in the evening took a lantern to illuminate his muddy path. The exception to the darkness was the evening of August 18th, birthday of Franz Joseph I of Austria, on which the government commanded [us] to light

[Column 53]

candles on the windowsills. At the synagogue on the Shabbat before the Emperor's birthday, the Shamash[3] also announced the obligation to light candles on the 18th.

There were no paved roads and sidewalks were unheard of. I heard that my maternal grandfather, Alter Shulman “succeeded” in lobbying the government not to pave a road at the center of town in order to avoid noise and turmoil. There were privately owned stone–paved yards in front of each home. In the rainy season, especially during Passover season as the snow melted, folks sank into mud and when the rabbi or rabbinic judge had to go purify the ovens for matzo baking, men carried the rabbi on their shoulders. Before I left the town, I was fortunate to take a stroll on the new road which crossed town from west to east. At the same time, train tracks were placed at some distance from the Jewish center.

Most houses were one story tall and a few were two stories tall. The roofs were made of wooden tiles and the villagers' homes were hay–covered. Almost every resident owned his home and there were very few tenants. The stores stood in a row, very close together. Town jokers called them “al khet” [for the sin of] stores, because they resembled the appearance of the “al khet” section in Holy Day prayer books. On the day of the great fire on Tisha B'Av, all the stores were decimated within a few hours. The Baron de Hirsch Fund aided in rebuilding the stores which appeared more modern as a result. Two years later, another fire burned down the new stores. When the store owners approached the Baron de Hirsch Fund again, they were denied and only foundations and remnants remained, on top of which wooden huts were constructed. Fires burned often, mostly on Shabbat evenings, when a lit candle fell on the table; by the time the Shabbos Goy[4] arrived, the fire had consumed the furniture. There were fires on Passover eve when the ovens were koshered for Passover, the chimney soot caught fire and spread outward. A fire department was yet to be founded. A cure for such fires was found: a goose was lowered into the chimney and it swept the soot. At times the goose survived and exited the chimney black with soot.

How did the Jews of Jezierzany earn their pay? When asked, they replied with a question, “Can't you see that no one has died of hunger, God forbid? We live.” Here are the various sources of income: grocery stores,

[Column 54]

sewing products, manufacturing and distribution of leather, livestock trading (mainly bulls for meat), horse trading, military horses supply, crafts; carpentry, tinsmith, hatting, fur supply, grain trading, restaurants, pubs, lodging, etc. Notable among the grain wholesalers were those who held scales and patrolled among the farmers, negotiating over small bundles of grain in a Talmudic melody, half Yiddish and half Rusyn[5]. Grain wholesalers and livestock traders never missed a weekly fair in the neighboring towns.

 

oze054.jpg
A Resident of Jezierzany
(Moshe Aharon's mother)

 

Traders prayed at the first minyanim[6] and counted the town fairs according to the daily psalm; “A Song by the Sons of Korah”– Borszczów; “A Song by Asaf” – Probizhna; “God of Vengence”– Jezierzany; and “for the conductor of Gitith”– Tovste or Korolowka. There were also many independent professionals: various clergy such as rabbi, judge, shochetim, synagogue administrators, teachers, cantors, etc.; band members; medic; midwives; a doctor; and a pharmacy assistant. (The pharmacist during my time was a Christian.) The medic was also called a doctor and at the entrance to his home was a sign displaying a red crescent. The medic filled many roles: barber, teeth remover, leech applier, wind cupper, and mustard ointment applier for stings. When the patient felt his condition was worsening, the Jewish doctor was summoned. The town's enlightened youth envied the doctor as he could walk in the street bare–headed and drive on Shabbat.

If the doctor could not cure the illness, he recommended calling Dr. Shtekil from Chortkiv. Of course, only the wealthy could afford such luxuries. Dr. Shtekil was large–

[Column 55]

bodied and wide shouldered, with a Franz Joseph beard whose appearance screamed “Pay your respects to the professor.” When news of Shtekil's visit spread through town, many ill people and hypochondriacs, mostly women, visited Shtekil. Shtekil usually prescribed a trip to the healing springs in Carlsbad or Marienbad. The poor were prescribed an at–home drink of water from the miracle springs of Carlsbad. Dr. Shtekil saw patients at the pharmacy so the pharmacist also could profit. The local doctor would examine the patient, feel his pulse, examine the tongue and measure temperature. Dr. Shtekil then listened to the patient's heartbeat, wrote prescriptions, pocketed money, and wished folks they get well soon. In his infinite kindness, he would return to Jezierzany if he was invited.

There was no dentist in the town. Everyone was well–versed in the various tooth remedies: spirit, garlic and some pepper applied to the tooth, and a Quillaia tincture. If those three remedies did not cure the ache, the patient went to “Vepsi the doctor” who removed the tooth, with or without its root.

There were no government offices. The district capital was Borszczów where clerks came from, where the courts were, and where one reported when enlisting in the military. There was a police force of 8–10 people, headed by the shift commander, known as “postnfirier.” The police force kept peace in the town. There were also two policemen working for City Hall; one was an announcer who hit his drum and announced that a villager lost a pig or a foal. The policeman guarded the jail which was in the basement of town hall. He had another role, his main role, of serving in the mayor's house. The other policeman's role was to accompany the gendarmerie as they searched for thieves, draft dodgers and deserters, etc. He also accompanied the tax collectors who came from the district capital to search for smuggled tobacco, despite the fact that every child in town knew about the tobacco–hiding spot in the women's section of the large synagogue. There was never an informant. Once, the inspectors caught Yankel Peckelmacher with a sack of Russian tobacco and the members of Schneider – Schuster Youngen [?] grabbed the sack and ran. In the absence of evidence, there was neither trial nor punishment.

The horse trade in Jezierzany was famous throughout the region. There were legends about the horse trade. One such legend was that, when

[Column 56]

a villager brought a horse for sale, a local Gentile (a designated middleman) approached him and asked how much the villager was charging for the carcass, then walked away without waiting for a reply. Then a Jew came along, inspected the horse, counted its teeth, and advised the villager to quickly get rid of the “carcass” for it was terminally ill. Thus, the villager was softened to the point of agreeing to sell the horse at any price. If a villager approached, interested in purchasing the horse, another Gentile (also a designated middleman) appeared, dressed as a peasant, and inquired in Polish about buying the horse. The middleman whispered to the prospective purchaser that he was willing to buy the horse at a higher rate than the Jewish salesman was asking but did not want to enrich the “Zhid[7].” After the sale was closed, the buyer, seller, and other parties entered the pub to “wet” the buy. Outside, Yisrael'chi “Baal Shem” examined the horse by riding it around the market, and at times, the horse and its rider vanished and the police searched for them.

The post was brought to the town by coach, and the coachmen/postman announced the arrival with a trumpet call. Alter'il Briftrigger [?], a thin, short man, distributed the mail. Alter knew how to distinguish between a plain letter and a letter with dollars from America. On the days before Rosh Hashanah, he walked around with his backpack filled with cards wishing a happy new year and said, “Choose the prettiest one but most importantly, have a good year!” There was no post box in town and one had to bring the letters to the post office.

There were prayer houses on almost every street, including public ones and those hosted by private individuals. The official public synagogues were the Great Synagogue and the Study House. Both were the community's property and the administrators were chosen by the public. Elections were held on Simchat Torah after Kiddush.

The synagogue was constructed entirely of thick wooden planks without plastering or painting. The exposed planks were gray with old age. The cracks were filled with genizah[8] to protect the audience from the cold, wind, and rain. The ceiling was decorated with

[Column 57]

images of the zodiac signs and the names of the months. Drawings of the Showbread Table[9] in the menorah, etc. were on the wall. Near the pulpit was a seven–candle bronze menorah standing at a man's height. The podium was at the bottom of three stairs, to fulfill the psalm's language, “from the depths I call upon you.” There were two wings in the synagogue. One was the prayer house of the tailors and where Moshe Budner served as Torah reciter. The second wing was the fur makers' synagogue, and its Torah reciter was Henzil the hatter. The great synagogue was attended mainly by plain folks. The nusach[10] was Ashkenaz and the morning prayer began with “Baruch She'amar” [Blessed is He who said] and not “Yedid Nefesh” [soul friend] like other prayer houses. During the holidays, the cantor was accompanied by a choir.

In order to avoid fires, there was no fireplace. On winter days, the services were completed two hours before those at the other prayer houses. The synagogue was closed on weekdays, aside from exceptional events such as a public recitation of Psalms in times of trouble or when the rabbi or community leader was ill, and for a Halizah[11] ceremony if the decedent's brother was among the Shapira loyalists.

 

oze057.jpg
The Gabbai, Mendel der Langer,
Calls “In shul arein!” (To the Synagogue!)
(by Moshe Sternshus)

[Column 58]

The official gabbai[12] was Reb Mendel. On Fridays and on Saturday mornings, Mendel walked the streets of town, stood for a moment, put his hand under his chin and announced, “In shul arein!” (To the synagogue!). Mendel also woke folks for Tikkun Chatzot and Selichot[13]. It was pleasant to listen to his voice in the silence of the night as he sang “I thank God, the examiner of souls, as morning stars rejoice” or “Holy people of Israel, rise and worship your creator.” The singing echoed throughout the corners of the town and it seemed that the sounds emanated from infinity.

Who built the synagogue and when? Many legends were created around the synagogue to the point where reality and legend are indistinguishable. The fact that fires, which often burned in town, skipped over the Prayer House increased the mystery. Legend was that every night, those who had died that year gathered, and woe is he who is called to the Torah and does not oblige. Men, even those who were allegedly mature or enlightened, and Torah scholars feared passing by the Synagogue at night, lest the dead would invite them in. Mendel Shamash would knock three times on the Synagogue's gate before he opened it. After each knock [he] called, “Return to your resting place, dwellers of earth.” Before the entrance to the hall was a large corridor where the wedding canopy stood folded, as well as the board used when washing the dead. A case of “dybbuk”[14] was also cared for in that corridor, as the patient lay there, mumbling whatever he did, rose and left after the attack which instilled fear in the young and the old.

The Study House, a one–story brick building, was not far from the Synagogue. A wide corridor stretched through the house and separated the study hall and the warehouse used to store firewood and broken furniture. On Yom Kippur, hundreds of large candles burned there. The holy ark in the study house was the most beautiful in town. The word “Shiviti,[15]” written in large letters, decorated the pulpit. In the middle of the hall the small stage [bima?] stood, and on it there was the table for reading the Torah and also “Elijah's chair” for circumcisions.

Under the floor of the pulpit were out–of–use holy artifacts, such as torn books, no–longer kosher tefillin, ripped ark curtains, and the like. Benches and tables were situated along the hall. In the western wall was a deep crevice where the bookshelves were kept with Talmud volumes by different publishers, Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, poskim[16], Mishna, Jewish ethics, Zohar etc.

[Column 59]

A special set of shelves was dedicated to bibles, Psalm books, and prayer books. All year long, including at night, studies did not cease at the Study House. Scholars studied mainly Talmud with poskim, and, in secret, bible with Malbim,[17] and on Fridays bible with Or HaChaim[18]. The Talmudic melodies were also heard on summer nights. Righteous women said, “How happy the boys are that their effort is in Torah, and happy are the fathers who raised their sons on their path.” Night studies ceased only between Shavuot and Tisha B'av.

The large door–shaped fire place created a sort of room which served the traveling book salesman who sometimes came to the town with his merchandise. In the winter, the fireplace [area] served as lodging for guests. Next to the door was a basin, and hanging next to it was a wet towel, the original color of which was never witnessed by man.

On the first of Adar, a board was hung on the wall with a drawing of two fish (the month's [Zodiac?] sign), a bottle, cups and under the drawings, the caption: “When Adar enters, happiness is great.”

Rabbi Velvel prayed at the Study House and his flowers followed. Velvel led the Kol Nidrei and Ne'ilah prayers on Yom Kippur. The cantor in the study house was Ozer Chazan and after him his brother–in–law Yisrael Shochet. The synagogues Molly's Kloyz, Shcreishtshina [neighborhood], and Horinka [?][19] (home of Alter Feivish Pinchas) are also worthy of mention.

The Christian prayer houses' places were respected and noticed in the town. The “Red” Polish Catholic church was in the western part of the town and the White Church was in the eastern. The Red Church was constructed with red bricks. The building was shaped like the Italian cathedrals with dozens of towers. It was situated on a tall hill and visible from miles away. The residents of the town said that inside the church

 

oze059.jpg
Road to the Train Station with the Polish Church

[Column 60]

were gold treasures, diamonds, and a priceless altar of pure gold. Of course, I dared not approach the church gate, let alone enter it. As a child I feared violating “Thou shalt utterly detest it” and in my youth, I feared the bachelor priests with their large stomachs. Surrounding the church was a large garden with flowers and fruit trees aplenty. I am sure that no Jew tasted from the fruits of that garden, as Jews hated the shaved–headed priests, and, undoubtedly, the priests hated Jews. When the church bells tolled on Sunday, they instilled fear in the hearts of Jewish children.

The Rusyn White Church was called “white” because the roof was white tin, a silver cross atop it. The Rusyn priest looked Jewish, had a long beard, and spoke Yiddish with the town residents. Jews could stroll in the church garden without bother. On Saturday afternoons, young men and women met there and “played lovingly”.

The firehouse was a public institution shared among members of all religions. The building was constructed entirely of wood and had a tall tower for observation. The building was constructed thanks to a donation by Prince Spiah, who was the honorary president of the firemen's' battalion. The commanders were the prince's clerks from nearby estates. The firemen, mostly volunteers, were recruited from among the Jews and Christians. When a fire started in the town, a simple citizen could not approach the site until the trumpet sounded from the observation tower and until after the firemen had donned their uniforms and shiny tin hats.

When Rabbi Velvel was told that the town established a firehouse and had fire extinguishers, he nodded and said, “I fear that if there are already horses and a wagon, passengers will be found as well.” Rabbi Velvel's followers interpreted his words as a prophecy predicting the future. Indeed, from that time forward, there were many fires in the town and its surroundings. The town residents exchanged rumors, not unfounded, that the paid firemen were starting fires so they could be paid.

 

B. Dispute among rabbis and sects, and its cause

The brothers Yechiel and Avraham Pfeffer, [?] Yechiel the rabbi and Avraham the shochet, were both God–fearing scholars.

[Column 61]

The town was divided into two camps because of the Pfeffer brothers. One camp was the Yoel loyalists led by Rabbi Velveli and the other Shapira Loyalists led by the Pfeffer brothers.

 

oze061.jpg
Rabbi Yechiel Pfeffer and his Grandsons

 

A community leader, Moshe Shlomo Bezner [?] took as a groom for his daughter Rabbi Yechiel Pfeffer of Ułaszkowce. Due to Moshe Shlomo's influence, and mainly due to the talents of the young scholar, Yechiel was appointed as the town rabbi after the passing of Rabbi Mordechai. Rabbi Velvel and his followers objected to that appointment and invited a rabbi from Girov [?]. The chasm among the camps widened when Rabbi Yechiel's brother, Avraham, was appointed as the town shochet. The brothers were devout followers of the Chortkiv dynasty. Rabbi Yisroel, son of the “Elder ADMOR[20]” supported the brothers. Rabbi Yisroel demonstrated his negative approach towards Rabbi Velvel and there were instances when he [Rabbi Yisroel ?] wanted to remove the wine cup from his [Rabbi Velvel's ?] hands during a tish[21].

Even further into the dispute, a halakhic question arose regarding the precise placement of the knife when slaughtering an animal. Some said knife placement in a different area was permitted and others said it was forbidden. Rabbis and halakha[22] scholars were brought from the outside and they too disagreed. The sounds of the dispute over the animal's neck did not cease for weeks and months in the Study

[Column 62]

House. Even at the bathhouse, people debated over shechita[23] and some could not even say the disputed term correctly. If the “fire was missing fuel”, another question was raised when a needle was found in the gizzard of a slaughtered chicken and Rabbi Yechiel said it was kosher. The gizzard was delivered to Borszczów by a neutral messenger and the rabbi in Borszczów ruled like Rabbi Yechiel. The other side suspected that the messenger switched the punctured gizzard with another.

The dispute which began among Torah scholars and scholars spread to the general public and both sides faced one another with hostility. Arbitration took place, investigations were conducted, and verdicts were handed down by various rabbis, without resolution to the conflict.

By request from the Rebbe of Chortkiv, the rabbis of Rymanów, Borszczów, and other halakhic scholars gathered in the Study House to express an authoritative opinion. The Study House was full and even women squeezed in behind the fireplace to listen to the rabbis. One of the rabbis took to the pulpit and said, “By opinion of the Torah and may it please the audience, I declare that Reb Avraham's shechita is mehadrin kosher[24]. If you reach the heavenly court and you are asked, ‘who permitted Reb Avraham's shechita?’ you may say, ‘The rabbi from such and such town.’” Some of the audience agreed.

A second rabbi came and banged on the table and said, “By order of the poskim, both old and new, I declare that Reb Avraham's shechita is unkosher and one may not enjoy it.” The rabbi turned towards the women in the audience and said, “Any clay utensils you used for the meat must be shattered and…” Before he could finish, a man, I think he was a fruit seller, banged on the table and yelled, “Say, rabbis, how many gods are there and how many Torahs do we have? Say if it is kosher or not and put an end to this.” That ordinary man's words dealt a blow to the speakers of both camps yet the dispute continued. On the day after the gathering, I witnessed women from the Shapira loyalists breaking dishes and yelling, “a pot for a head.”

My father was loyal to Rabbi Velvel and meat from an animal that Avraham slaughtered never entered our home. If a neighbor borrowed a dish to cook meat, mother put it aside. My older brother, Mordechai, was

[Column 63]

a frequent visitor in the homes of Yechiel and Avraham. I, too, went many times to Rabbi Yechiel's home at his invitation to study Talmud.

Personal and trivial matters also expanded the differences between sides. The women did not want to come to terms that Moshe Shlomo's daughter who just yesterday strolled the tulica alongside them and would suddenly become a rebbetzin[25]. Some objected for supposedly patriotic reasons, e.g. “A miniature town like Ułaszkowce, the income of which depends on a single annual fair, will supply us both a rabbi and shochet, and we the people of Jezierzany are what?”

To the credit of both sides, I will say that the dispute, with all of its contentiousness, did not exceed the bounds of authority and never went beyond sharp words or hand gestures. No physical altercations took place and outsiders were not enlisted in a dispute among Jews, as had happened in other places such as the dispute about the Sfard or Ashkenaz nusach[26], with or without an extra line in the Kaddish. It was probably a dispute for the sake of the heavens, because it endured. [Pirkei Avot 5 – 17]

 

C. From my Father's home to Eretz Israel

The family of my father, Yechiel Michel Zeidman, or as he was known, Yechiel Michel Chana's, was expansive and well known in most towns of eastern Galicia. The family had members who were rabbis, tradesmen, estate owners, etc. My mother was Esther Gittel, nee Schulman, and her family members were craftsmen and merchants. My uncle Chananya Schulman told me that Kalman Schulman, author of ,Safa Brura [“clear language”] and translator of Les Mystères de Paris, was a relative of ours. As [was the case with] every young person, I did not research the relation.

My father was not considered one of the town's rich, although some said he hid his riches. I did not feel any scarcity at home. Every Thursday, father would travel to the grain and liquor marketplace in Tovste and returned with milk and cheese. Sometimes he also brought a barrel of beer which he got from the uncle who owned an estate near Tovste. About two years after my Bar Mitzvah, I learned that the uncle was bankrupt and my father's partnership investment was lost; only then did I understood that the cheese and beer had cost us a hefty sum.

My father was not a disciple of Hassidic rebbes and there were times he spoke critically about matters of halakha

[Column 64]

with Reb Yisrael, son of the Chortkiv rebbe. Father was absent from Rabbi Velvel's home for many years and, only in the last few years, reconciled and frequently attended Velvel's house. Because my father was closer to Rabbi Velvel, my brother Mordechai and I also became closer to the Rabbi. Father was ordained as a rabbi but did not want to use that label. In important cases, father was invited to the rabbinic court on deliberations of finance issues. Mother's family was proud of father's scholarliness and they all wished that we, the sons, would also be scholars. After the crisis, mother was frugal on household expenses so she could pay our tuition.

The Torah teacher from Ułaszkowce was my last teacher and he taught me several chapters of Talmud. I then left the cheder and began studying at the Study House where I always found scholars who were willing to answer and explain every question and inquiry. At a later age, I began secular studies with a tutor; the studies included Polish and German literacy, and mathematics. I studied bible with Malbim commentary with Yossel Yiddel's (Feldshuh) alongside Shmuel Schulbaum's sons. In 1903, I traveled to Chernivtsi to study. Instead of attending a teaching seminary as I wished, I entered trade school. In the first year, the school granted me a stipend as an excellent student. I had to teach in order to survive and, thanks to my sister who lived in Chernivtsi, I was able to continue my studies. The district rabbi, Dr. Rosenfeld, sent me gymnasium students so I could prepare them for religious studies exams.

As an accountant, I relocated to Pidvolochys where my scholarly brother Mordechai resided. In that Russian border town, Zionist and socialist organizations of all types were established, e.g. Deggel Zion, Benot Zion, Poale Zion, etc. There was also a club of youngsters who came from across the border and supplied spiritual materials to their friends in Russia as well as explosives and arms to the Socialist Revolutionary Party. It was after 1905, and many escaped the tormentor.

In 1907, I actively participated in the Austrian parliamentary election campaign on behalf of the Zionist candidates Adolf Stand, Dr. Ringel, Professor Mahler, and Benno Straucher who later established the Jewish–National Club in the Austrian Parliament.

[Column 66]

In the spring 1908, I left Galicia and traveled through Russia to Eretz Israel.

 

D. Zionism in my Youth

In those days, 50 years ago, very few in our town knew about Zionism. Vague news arrived about the Mahanayim[27] colony founded by Dr. Abraham Salz of Tarnów. Jezierzany residents heard about Eretz Israel only from the envoys who arrived to collect money and empty Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNes collection boxes. I was knowledgeable about Eretz Israel because most of the envoys of the kollels[28] in Safed were guests in our home. The envoys also brought letters and gifts from Grandmother Chana and Aunt Yocheved Segal who made aliyah ninety [?] years ago.

A Zionist union was already established a few years before I left Galicia. The young men who came from the big outside world brought with them the news of the new Zionism. Newspapers were ordered, such as De Velt and HaMagid from Krakow. Shekels[29] and Zionist stamps (from the Unslikh [?] brothers) were ordered. We sang Zionist songs such as “Dort wo die Zeder” [There in a place of cedars], “Yona Homiya” [Humming Dove], and “Al Em Haderech” [On the Road].

 

E. Social and Cultural Situation

A mandatory free education was not implemented in Jezierzany yet no child in the town was abandoned or was a street child. Every father,

[Column 66]

even the poorest, sent his child to the cheder and tuition payment was at the top of his concerns. The government mandated studying at the szkoła,[30] but very few Jewish children attended the government school. The Jewish teachers and students always knew how to bypass the law; when the “professor” accompanied by the policeman appeared in the street, the students dispersed and the Torah teacher hid in the cellar or closet until the police passed.

Medical clinics, hospitals, women's organizations, charity offices, and old folks homes were non–existent in the town yet there were always kind Jews who filled the roles that established organizations now do in Israel. They did so humbly and not for profit, at times anonymously.

I have mentioned details and people to liven Jezierzany in our memories including the lifestyle in the town with its light and shadows. Half a century passed since I left my birth town and my parents' home, yet in my mind's eye I still see the people and the way of life as they were there. I desired to build a monument in their memory. That small town instilled in me the spiritual assets on which we live to this day. A pleasant aura surrounded that generation, and the glory of lively and pure faith illuminated the darkness of the diaspora. All that is gone, never to return, and I cannot help but weep for the beauty now buried in the earth.

General Notes and Footnotes :

These notes and footnotes have been added by this Yizkor Book's translation co–coordinator, not by the original author. They are intended to help clarify certain words, names and phrases.

  1. Shkotzim – a term used especially by a Jew to refer to a boy or man who is not Jewish. Return
  2. Tashlikh – a Jewish ritual, often performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, during which the participants symbolically cast off their sins by gathering along the banks of a river, stream, or the like and reciting prayers of repentance. Return
  3. Shamash – salaried person in a Jewish synagogue whose duties now generally include secretarial work and assistance to the cantor, or hazan. Return
  4. Shabbos Goy – a non–Jew who performs certain types of work which Jewish religious law prohibits Jews from doing on the Sabbath. Return
  5. Rusyns – a primarily diasporic ethnic group who speak an East Slavic language known as Rusyn. Return
  6. Minyan – the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations. In more traditional streams of Judaism, only men may constitute a minyan; in more modern streams, women are also counted. Return
  7. Zhid – anti–Semitic Russian slur. Return
  8. Genizah – a storeroom located in or by a synagogue in which are kept sacred Hebrew books that cannot be used (due to damage or other reasons) but which cannot be discarded because they contain G–d's name. Return
  9. Showbread Table – In a biblical or Jewish context, refers to the cakes or loaves of bread, an offering to God, which were always present on a specially dedicated two crowned table in the Temple in Jerusalem . Return
  10. Nusach – a concept in Judaism that has two distinct meanings. One is the style of a prayer service; the other is the melody of the service depending on when the service is being conducted. Return
  11. Halizah – under the Biblical system of levirate marriage known as Yibbum, the process by which a childless widow and a brother of her deceased husband may avoid the duty to marry. Return
  12. Gabbai – a person who assists in the running of synagogue services in some way. Return
  13. Tikkun Chatzot – a Jewish ritual prayer recited each night after midnight as an expression of mourning and lamentation over the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Selichot are Jewish penitential poems and prayers, especially those said in the period leading up to the High Holidays and on Fast Days. Return
  14. Dybbuk – in Jewish mythology, a malicious possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. Return
  15. Shiviti – meditative representations of a candlestick used in some Jewish communities for contemplation over God's name. Return
  16. Poskim – the term in Jewish law for “decisors,” legal scholars who decide the Halakha in cases of law where previous authorities are inconclusive or in those situations where no halakhic precedent exists. Return
  17. Malbim – Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser, better known as the Malbim, a rabbi, master of Hebrew grammar, and Bible commentator. Return
  18. Or HaChaim – a thorough, comprehensive commentary on the teachings of Rabbenu Chaim ben Atar. Return
  19. The original Hebrew version of this book does not contain vowels. The translator of this book has made a guess regarding the possible names of these two synagogues based on the consonants in the text. Return
  20. ADMOR – an acronym for “Adonainu, Morainu, VeRabbeinu,” a phrase meaning “Our Master, Our Teacher, and Our Rabbi.” This is an honorific title given to scholarly leaders of a Jewish community. Return
  21. Tish – a gathering of Hasidim around their Rebbe. Return
  22. Halakha – the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah. Return
  23. Shechita – slaughtering of certain mammals and birds for food according to kashrut. Return
  24. Mehadrin Kosher – Mehadrin refers to the most stringent level of kosher supervision. Return
  25. Rebbetzin – the rabbi's wife. Return
  26. Sfard or Ashkenaz Nusach – Nusach Sefard, Nusach Sepharad, or Nusach Sfard are the names for various forms of the Jewish prayer books, designed to reconcile Ashkenazi customs with the kabbalistic customs of Isaac Luria. Return
  27. Mahanayim – a kibbutz in northern Israel. Return
  28. Kollels – institutes for full–time, advanced study of the Talmud and rabbinic literature. Return
  29. Shekels – any of several ancient units of weight, especially a Hebrew unit equal to about a half ounce. Return
  30. Szkoła –Polish public school. Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


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


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

  Ozeryany, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 27 Jan 2019 by JH