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History of the Jews of Podhajce (cont.)

2. The Number of Jews in Podhajce

From what we can see, it appears that Jews were the majority already at the beginning of the 17th century. We are missing further details, but we can deduce that there was never any shortage of them. Neither the Polish government nor communal institutions knew this at that time. It is possible that the Jewish community itself did not even know this. We have a sign of this, for in order to know precisely the head-tax of the Jews, the Polish government had to conduct a Jewish census in Poland. In the second half of the 18th century, shortly after the first partition of Poland in 1765, we have the first official (however less precise) number of “Jewish heads” in Podhajce, despite the fact that we had the right to take sufficient precautions during the election for various reasons.

According to the census of 1765, there were 1,290 Jews in Podhajce itself, and 1,548 in the entire region. In 1870, the Austrian regime conducted a census every ten years. We bring down here a table of the general population of the city, and the number of the Jewish population, as well as the percent of Jews in the general population from the years 1870-1939.

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Year General
1870 4,570 2,742 60.0
1880 5,943 4.012 67.5
1890 5,646 3,879 68.7
1900 5,790 3,757 64.9
1910 5,576 3,497 62.7
1921 4,814 2,872 59.7
1931 5,743 3,124 54.4
1939 6,000 3,155 53.0

Questions of religion, nationality and mother town were a very important part of the population censuses in Galicia.

Until 1910, Austria did not recognize the Yiddish language in the censuses, and the Jews had to indicate one of the official languages, mainly Polish or German. Thus, in the census of 1900 it came out that 76.56% of the Jews of Galicia speak Polish, 10% German, and the rest “European” languages.

Even later, during the time of the Polish regime, when Yiddish was recognized as a language, the official Polish authorities made efforts to reduce the number of Yiddish speakers. In the census of 1921, 2,872 residents of Podhajce registered themselves as Jewish by religion, but only 2,543 Jews chose Yiddish or Hebrew as their mother tongue. It is hard to believe that in such a Jewish town as Podhajce, there were indeed 329 Jews who considered themselves to be Poles and spoke Polish in their homes.

Dr. Avraham Stop continues along this theme in the Book of Tluste, and writes the following anecdote: A Hassidic Jew entered the conscription office along with an escort who must instruct him what to say. The Polish officer asks him what type of education he has, what language does he speak to his children, what type of books he reads. The Hassid must ask his guide after every question, “What is the master saying?” Finally the officer asked the Hassid what nationality he should register him as. The escort responded, “You see that he is a Pole, write down Polish…”

3. With what do the Jews of Podhajce Occupy Themselves

We do not have precise information about this. The question is almost unsolvable to this day. From the fragments we can surmise that during the years 1876-81, in the entire area, there were: 5 glazers, 3 lathers, 1 clockmaker, 17 blacksmiths, 7 pot makers (clay pots), 1 brick maker, 4 bakers, 2 butchers, 2 greizler[8], 6 millers, 17 liquor distillers, 12 tailors, 16 shoemakers, 5 furriers, 2 bednares[8], 13 carpenters, 7 pharmacists, 1 bathhouse attendant, 5 coachmen, 10 barbers and surgeons (the two occupations went together), 2 mechanics and opticians, 18 plough makers and wheelwrights, 1 bag and net maker, 1 weaver, 3 wheel makers, 9 restaurateurs.

As we know from other cities as well, most of the tradesmen were Jews. The statistics do not support this[*20]. Altogether there were 1,281 tradesmen in Podhajce.

The following merchants were in the region: 4 iron merchants, 12 salt merchants (a government monopoly), 21 mill professionals (apparently they worked independently and thereby were considered as millers), 1 liquor merchant, 78 propinators (innkeeper or tavern keeper), 1 linen merchant, and 1 agent.

The following were in the free professions: 1 notary, 7 brokers, 1 leaser of forests for cutting, 1 owner brewery owner, 13 owners of mines, 27 leasers of goods and speculators[*21], 3 wood handlers, 3 owners of brick kilns, 59 small scale businessmen, 13 fur and leather traders, 9 meal and cereal businessmen, 26 mill owners, 2 merchants of women's dresses, 1 chimneysweep, 42 wheat tradesmen, 5 silk and cloth tradesmen, 5 tradesman of spices and similar items, 3 tradesmen of axle grease, 3 tradesmen of clay pots, 2 dealers in second hand clothing, 3 cattle merchants, 3 tradesman of tar.

The following industrial enterprises were located the area: 1 beer brewery in Podhajce, 16 mines (one in Podhajce), 8 pot makers in Podhajce, 24 watermills, one factory of agricultural machines in Siulki.

The general problem of employing Jews in practical jobs began to be discussed during the final years of Poland's independence at the time of the Four Year Sejm (1768-1772). Of course,

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nothing came of it. After that, when Austria took over a portion of Poland, primarily Galicia, the ruler (at first Maria Theresa, then her son Kaiser Josef II) attempted to change the occupations and means of livelihood of the Jews. At the same time, they tried to attract them to agriculture. However, almost nothing came of this. According to the plan, in the year 1786, in the entire region of Berezhany, 64 families had to settle in the countryside. In fact, there were only 40 Jewish farmers in the year 1822. 16 did so with their own means, and 24 with the help of the community[*22]. Later, the number further declined.

Regarding shopkeepers and stall owners – In the entire region of Berezhany, in the year 1826, there were 1,827, of whom 1,820 were Jews; in 1827 there were 2,015, of whom 1,824 were Jews[*23]. At that time, in the entire region there were 18 merchants with their own firms, of whom 17 were Jews[*24].

This situation did not change much until the final years. New tradesman and new merchants arrived. Their numbers grew. However, a new domain arrived – the free professions. Podhajce had a relatively large intelligentsia, with many lawyers, doctors, ordinary students, and those who had already concluded their studies but who could not find any work due to the attitude of the Polish regime towards the Jews.

The first lawyer who settled in Podhajce was – it seems – Rudolf Schwager, who had an office there until the outbreak of the First World War. We find his name in the Jewish folk's calendar of Gershom Bader (for the years 1905-1909). In the same timeframe, that same source mentions two doctors: Arnold Landau and Michael Salpeter (we can note that the first names of the members of the Jewish intelligentsia were assimilated). Prior to the First World War, Dr. Wilhelm Neuman was in Fuchuk.

Prior to the Second World War, more than ten people were engaged in those two professions.

4. The Final Rabbis of the City

In the Hebrew periodical Halevanon (Mainz)[*24] from the year 1878, we find n the section “From the Writings of Writers” a correspondence written from Podhajce by David Polisiuk, who was already known to us. In the beginning, he writes about the city of Podhajce as it once was: “What we had from days of yore, and what we lost and are lacking at this time, our fathers told us and we know them, and our elders told us, this time it is told to you: In days of yore, our community was at the pinnacle of its splendor, like all the large and faithful communities. They were not lacking in righteousness, uprightness, Torah and wisdom. We still hear a lofty voice speaking words from the commentaries of the son of the Gaon the author of Siftei Kohen, and how golden are his words: My place of rest in strength used to be in the holy community of Podhajce, a pleasant community, a city with everything in it, the Divine Torah is in it, it is a faithful and praiseworthy city, from it stemmed people of wisdom and understanding (from his preface to the Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah section, printed in Lvov, 5625, 1865). The head of our community was the Gaon the author of Masaat Binyamin – a mighty lion crouched there by the name of Lev Aryeh who was a light sown for the righteous.” After him the Rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Natan Neta Galitzer of blessed memory held the rabbinic seat. He was fearless, and openly stamped out any bad thing. He died approximately 40 years ago, and left behind a grandson, Rabbi Shimon Meller, a young man. The elders of the city were against making him their rabbi: “How can they set their eyes upon such a young rabbi who is still a lad”. However, the “brazen men of the generation raised their foreheads”, and they “helped him with their strong hands to ascend the rabbinic seat despite the will of the righteous and pure ones”. Now he is already old. He has left the city and moved to Stanislawow, where he inherited a large fortune and a large house from his father. The city heaved a sigh of relief, believing that now they would choose a new, capable rabbi. “However we erred apparently”, for the rabbi left behind a son, Rabbi Yonah, who was still quite young. The entire population of the city opposed giving him the crown of the rabbinate.” His father came to his assistance, “and dispersed money like dust among the wealthy people of our city.” All of them suddenly agreed to the new rabbi, and inscribed their consent.”

This picture is too dark to be true, and we wonder why the Levanon printed such a letter at all. From other places, we have other opinions against the Meller rabbis (see the article about the rabbis in our book). His son, Rabbi Yonah Meller, was a rabbi for a long time (until the end of the 19th century), and the shochtim (ritual slaughterers) were happy with him.

Following him, Rabbi Shalom HaKohen Lilienfeld[*25] became the rabbi in the city. There are many stories about him, which in some cases border on the miraculous. At the beginning of 1906, the Ruthenians wished to make a large assembly

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in the city, and this threatened the Jews of the city as well as the provincial residents with a great danger. The rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Shalom Lilienfeld HaKohen, the head of the rabbinical court of our city, saved them. How so? First, he went with the head of the community to the Starosta to request help. He promised to help. But what could 20-30 policemen do against myriads? The rabbi, however, calmed down the community, urging them not to flee from the city, “For the rabbi is also expert in matters of state, just as he is in the gates of Torah and science.” The events took place like this:

The Ukrainians did not have a place to hold their rally, for the Poles did not want to give over their Sukol Hall. The Ukrainians were enraged. What did the rabbi do? He gave his own house. “Despite the will of the Poles who always were careful about his honor, he took a dangerous step, one of self-sacrifice. He turned over the hall of his large house to them.” When the Ruthenians gathered together, approximately ten thousand men and women, and the hall seemed too small, “our rabbi permitted the chief spokesman Dr. Bachinski to ascend to his roof through the large hall, from where he spoke for several hours.”

And he, who was supposed to talk against the Jews, spoke in favor of the Jews and against the Poles. He said the following about the Jews: “Our brethren the Jews are brothers to us in this tribulation. They are also suffering under the burden of this nation… And we must love them with brotherly love – it is a shame upon the Poles. Give honor to the Jews.” The crowd, hearing such a speech, was calmed down. The author of the correspondence writes unassumingly, under the name “Afikoman”.

In the year 1907, Rabbi Shalom HaKohen Lilienfeld issued a proclamation to the Jews that tens of thousands of them should sign a petition to Kaiser Franz Josef, asking him to repeal the new “procedure” whereby Jews can be summoned to court on the Sabbath to give testimony. “Is it not known that the government is not content with those who throw off the yoke of Torah and commandments, and this is the way to protect the religion and its adherents? The rabbis should arouse themselves to present a request to the high government to repeal these improper procedures[*26].

After the death of Rabbi Lilienfeld, no new rabbi was chosen. A group of three rabbinic judges took his place.

5. Eminent Householders

At the end of the book “Kach Yevarech Yisrael” (Thus Shall Israel be Blessed) that was published by the rabbi of Jezierna L. Y. Manzan, Przemysl 1905 we the following names from the residents of Podhajce among the “name of prominent ones” who contributed money toward the publication of the book to enable its publication.

The renowned rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Shalom Lilienfeld, the head of the rabbinical court
        Rabbi Yosef Bergman
        Rabbi Pinchas Hecht
        Rabbi Reuven Helfandbein

I believe that among the Holocaust survivors of Podhajce, there are still people who remember these Jews and who can tell us who they are.

In Hamagid (1906), we find other articles, aside from those written by the aforementioned Polisiuk, written by the maskil Chaim Moshe Silberschitz from Podhajce.

Other correspondents, of that time or from an earlier time, often conceal themselves with “witty” pseudonyms. However, usually, the people in the city knew very well who they were. The correspondent himself made sure of this.

6. Zionism

Anti-Semitism grew greatly in Galicia at the end of the 19th century. The main reason was the difficult economic situation of the population, especially the peasants who did not have their own land, or had very little of it. In Podhajce, there was another reason for this: the Jewish agricultural workers of the Polish landowners.

In 1891 in Podhajce, two assimilated Jews leased land from an insurance company in Krakow. The Polish aristocracy complained against this and demanded that the contract be annulled. They organized a unified and open protest against this. As well, the Polish newspapers spoke out sharply against the “foreigners”, and in connection to this, conducted anti-Semitic agitation directed toward the peasant masses. Because of this agitation, the Polish landowner classes had to fight against the Socialist streams that were beginning to spread at this time, as well as against those, non small number of whom were Jews, who were propagandists-theoreticians or ordinary

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pod076a.jpg Teachers and students of the general public school [58 KB]
Teachers and students of the general public school


pod076b.jpg Members of Hanoar Hatzioni in Podhajce [58 KB]
Members of Hanoar Hatzioni in Podhajce


pod076c.jpg Members of the Hechalutz organization in the year 1931 [58 KB]
Members of the Hechalutz organization in the year 1931

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requestors. The Polish anti-Semitic parties declared a boycott against Jewish businessmen, and in general against Jewish economic institutions, such as banks and the like.

On the other hand, the will of the Jews not to leave things be grew. Many Jewish assimilationists who had hoped that, with the help of the Polish sympathizers, they would obtain full equal rights and assimilate into the public, recanted, returned to Jewry and became disseminators of Haskala and progress amongst Jews. In 1881, Yehuda Leib Alerhand and Shaul Schorr founded in Podhajce an affiliate of the Israelite Alliance of Vienna, which had 40 members from Podhajce and the region. They collected money and sent it to the center in Vienna with the purpose of helping only those who would be making aliya to the Land of Israel, rather than general Jewish emigrants who are traveling to America[*27]. Aside from this, the affiliate turned through Hamagid (number 29, from July 26, 1892) to all other affiliates of the Israelite Alliance suggesting that they also designate their collected money solely for those who are making aliya to the Land of Israel[*28].

The words quickly led to action. In November 1898, 11 Jews were sent from Galicia to the Land of Israel to settle in the Moshava of Machanaim. Elyakim Getzl Perl of Podhajce, a 30 year old man, was among them. They arrived in the Land of Israel on December 1, 1898[*29].

We also find Podhajce in the list of the 75 chapters of the Zionist organization in Galicia of those years. Binyamin Kutner of the Zion organization of Podhajce was among those chosen to the regional committee of the Zionist Organization of Galicia, whose seat was in Lemberg[*30].

The yearly annual meeting of the Zionist organization took place in October of that year, in which the old committee (whose secretary was Y. Messer) was dismissed, and a new one was chosen consisting of: chairman Binyamin Kutner, vice chairman – B. Margolies, secretary – L. Salpeter, treasurer – L. Lilienfeld, librarian – M. Kohn, economic matters (“Gospodash”) – Y. Falber, and members without special functions – K. Sternshuss, Y. Wolf, Y. Zeidler, H. Milch, and Y. Shapira[*31].

In December of that year, we read in Woschod number 49 from December 6, 1905 that a private Hebrew school, a Talmud Torah, was established. The correspondent from Podhajce announces that in that school they study like in the former cheders, and suggests that the Zionist organization should take responsibility for that school.

They conducted publicity work among the masses, collections for the Zionist funds, cultural work, readings, performances, etc. The organization remained in a constant battle against the Jewish socialist Party (Zydowska Partija, Socialistitszna), which worked hand in hand with the Polish Socialist Party and struggled against the idea of Zionism. There were organized evenings in Podhajce in which members of each party spoke. In one such evening, M. Schorr spoke sharply against the representative Dr. Buch. The crowed agreed with the speaker, and the opponent lost the opportunity[*32].

On another occasion, in December 1905, Zion helped conduct a mourning program regarding the pogroms in Russia. Rabbi Lilienfeld, and Messrs. Marienberg and Schorr delivered speeches. Money was also collected for the displaced people[*33].

A convention of Poale Zion took place in Podhajce in the year 1906[*34].

In 1907, at the time of the elections to the Austrian parliament, the Zionist candidate Dr. Gabel came to Podhajce to deliver his political speech. However the rabbi of the city did not allow him into the synagogue. The assimilationists who were in confederation with the Poles – in a factional publicity page in German, they were called “Jews who were enemies of the regime” – were supported by the Orthodox. They conducted their election campaign using such means.

However, the Zionists did not give in, and they finally convinced the rabbi to permit the election rally to take place in the synagogue. Dr. Henryk Gabel came once again to Podhajce. A large crowd came to hear him, including many Ruthenians (Ukrainians), with whom the Zionist organization was in confederation for the elections[*35].

In the elections of that year, Dr. Henryk Gabel was indeed election n the region of Buczacz, Monasterzyska and Podhajce. Aside from him,

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