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[Page 78]

History of the Jews of Podhajce (cont.)

pod078a.jpg Members of the Hechalutz organization in the year 1931 [58 KB]
Members of the Hechalutz organization in the year 1931


pod078b.jpg Lineup in the summer camp of Young Achva near Berezhany [58 KB]
Lineup in the summer camp of Young Achva near Berezhany


pod078c.jpg Young Achva in Podhajce [58 KB]
Young Achva in Podhajce

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two other Zionist deputies were elected from Eastern Galicia: Dr. Adolf Stand and Dr. Arthur Miller.

On the other hand, not one Zionist candidate was elected n the later elections of 1911. The following assimilationists were elected: Stern (from the region of Buczacz), and Dr. Steinhaus (from Zolkiew – Rawa Ruska – Sokol). The system of Galician elections worked in such a good manner.

In December 1910, Zion organized a Chanukah evening in Freundlich's large hall. The hall was overflowing. Y. Schorr from Lvov and Sh. Margolies from Podhajce spoke. In the artistic segments, artists from Lemberg performed[*36].

The Zionist organization conducted its work in this manner within the political-cultural realm at that time, and was more advanced than larger cities in Eastern Galicia.

The Zionist organization grew strongly during the Polish era, after the First World War. The Z.P.S. disappeared, and the Jewish national workers parties came in its place: Poale Zion, left and right, the Bund and the “Reds”.

The city remained a nationalist Zionist city until the end, and therefore its Jews suffered not infrequently, first from the organ of the regime (Starosta), and from the assimilationists, whose numbers were negligible, but whose power and influence over the regime and communal organ was large.

The vast majority of the Jews from the city took part in all the Zionist funds, and also in the Zionist observances (20th of Tammuz, the Balfour Declaration, and general events the proceeds of which were designated to Zionist purposes.) The Zionist deputies of the Sejm were often invited to report on current events, etc. (Somerstein in August 1934, etc.)

For the most part, the general open ceremonies took place in the synagogue. At times, a major speaker was brought in from Lvov (on the 20th of Tammuz, 1927, the Sejm deputy Dr. Bernard Hausner, etc.) Aside from the general Zionist organizations, other Zionist organizations were active in Podhajce, but their influence was much smaller.

As well, the youth organizations such as Achva, Hashomer Hatzair, and Haover conducted their activities in the city.

Achva was the largest youth organization. It had its own chapter in Podhajce, and published its own publication called Gloss Achwai. According to number 4 (July 1935), three members from Podhajce were to travel to the Land of Israel that month: L. Fisch, L. Scherer, and G. Hessel. Aside from this, there was a “den of youths” in Podhajce, the number of members of which reached 65. In 1935, that chapter organized a Hachsharah in Nadworna, and in the year 1936 it organized two summer colonies: Ormien near Berezhany and Sielce near Sokol.

7. Schools

In the former independent Poland, the regime did not involve itself at all with the education of Jewish children. The Jews themselves concerned themselves with this. Later, when Austria took over the government, strong ordinances were issued the aim of which was to Europeanize the Jews in general, along with the children and school graduates. They began to persecute the cheders and melamdim, and encouraged the Jewish youth to seek out the government schools and to learn the vernacular as well as the government language. Of course, the Jews tried as much as possible to evade these edicts.

We bring the following anecdotes which describe how the Austrian regime dealt with those areas.

In 1806, there were 533 Jewish children in the government schools in the entire region of Berezhany[*38]. We first find Jewish children in the open schools approximately 80 years later when the statute regarding compulsory education was issued. In the meantime, Jews studied, as always, in cheders, Talmud Torahs, Yeshivas, or alone under the supervision of their fathers, grandfathers, or other good and pious Jews.

Even later, at the end of the 19th century, modern (private) Jews schools began to appears, which complemented the general government schools with Jewish studies, or they had permission from the government to completely replace it[9].

From the former Austrian official statistics[*39],

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it can be seen that in the Podhajce region, there were the following Hebrew schools:

Year 1894 - 1895 1897 - 1898 1899 - 1900 1901 - 1902 1905 - 1906
Schools 2 3 3 5 6
Teachers 2 3 3 5 6
Students 44 70 72 145 149

There was no Baron Hirsch school in Podhajce. It seems like this pious town was against founding such a school. The Baron Hirsch foundation supported six students here, who studied trades with various tradesmen during the 1903-1905 school years. The Hirsch allocations supported them and paid for their studies.

A yearly accounting was published by the foundation in Vienna from 1896 to 1914. There was a synagogue in the city called the Baron Hirsch Shul. It is possible that it was established in a house that had been dedicated as a school, but this did not come to be.

In 1904, a General Talmud Torah was set up in Podhajce through Rabbi Lilienfeld. A notice about this was published in Hamagid (December 1, 1905, number 8): “For the children of the poor and rich together, set up with proper order and appropriate and effective supervision.” There were six classes in the school. “Every student will study at the appropriate grade level. The subjects include: a through knowledge of our holy tongue, Bible, Mishna (Berachot, Pesachim, Yoma, Sukka, Beitza, and Megilla)[10]. Simple Gemara (tractate Berachot), Gemara with the Tosafot and Rosh (tractate Pesachim).” Every subject is taught in a designated hour according to the curriculum: “And in every grade there are two teachers, one who supervises the order to ensure that the students pay attention to their studies, and one to teach the appropriate lesson – and over them is a head teacher – a principal who is in charge of examining the students on their studies at every occasion.” Both Hassidim and enlightened people study at the school. The rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Shalom HaKohen may he live long took interest in the Talmud Torah. He sent emissaries to find out how the Talmud Torah is conducted, and apparently, he also visited himself. (Hamitzpeh, February 16, 1906).

The renowned Admor, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Heshel may he live long of Kopachintsy, came to Podhajce in the year 1906. He examined the students, and was very happy with the situation. He donated 26 crown to the school, and before he left the city, he gave a 20 crown gold coin to the chief advisor of the school, Mr. Kutner, as well as all the money he had collected through his visit[11], which was greater than 100 crown. He also gave 13 crown to “support the poor in the hospital with kosher food” (Hamagid, February 23, 1906). The article was sent to the newspaper by Netanel Shechter, the secretary of the General Hospital.

Interest in the Hebrew school, and for learning and understanding Hebrew, grew as well with the growth of the activity of the Zionist organizations.

(In 1931, the school had 250 children and 3 teachers – Cywila, May 22, 1931.)

8. Credit Institutions

In 1929, the communal council established a charitable fund. According to an accounting that was given to the general meeting of the membership in May 1931, throughout the duration of two years, interest free loans to the sum of 20,000 zloty were given out. Over 150 merchants and tradesmen benefited from this. The fund was supported by the constant support of the communal council[*40].

About a year later, a cooperative bank was established, which decided to affiliate itself with the Jewish cooperatives of Poland. The headquarters of the Zwi¹zek ¯ydowskich Spó³dzielni (Association of Jewish Cooperatives) was located in Warsaw, and the headquarters for eastern Galicia was located in Lvov. The bank called Zwi¹zek Kredytowy Spó³dzielczy (Cooperative Credit Union) was founded in the year 1930. According to the balance from the year 1932, the turnover was 70,445.12 zloty; the revenue was 2,204.01 (Przegland Spó³dzielczy year 7, number 1). In 1933, the sum shrank to only 30,190.02 zloty. This fact also points to the economic destruction of the Jews in the town.

9. Podhajce “Duckmakers”

In S³ownik Geograficzny (Geographical Lexicon), in the section which discussed Podhajce, the Jews were given such a “compliment”: “The Jews of Podhajce were known for their cunning in business and their dishonesty.” I do not know the basis upon which the author issued such a judgment. He offers no substantiation or corroboration, so I believe that he arrived at that conclusion

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from the words that he certainly heard: “Podhajce Duckmakers” (Certainly that expression also existed, in some form or another, in Ukrainian.)

That source of expression was imparted (in writing as well) in various forms[*41]. I wish to give over as well the variant that I heard from my mother (a niece, the daughter of the brother of the Gaon of Berezhany Rabbi Shalom Mordechai HaKohen), and also from the region from my childhood in Borszczow.

A gentile from the town came to the fair in Podhajce to sell a calf. He stood for a very long time, and nobody approached him. Finally a butcher approached him and asked him: “What do you want for the duck?” The gentile became very angry and shouted at the Jew that it was a calf and not a duck. The Jew went away. The gentile continued further on until he came to another Jew, who asked the same question. The gentile left him also in anger, but already with a quieter voice. This continued for a third and fourth time, until the gentile came to the conclusion that it might indeed be a duck and not a calf, since so many people said this. When a Jew approached him at the very end of the fair, the gentile did not argue with him, but only demanded a good price for the duck. They conducted the usual business negotiations, until the Jew finally purchased the merchandise. Both businessmen went on their ways, and both were happy: the Jew because he purchased a calf cheaply, and the gentile because he received a good price for the… duck.

10. City Council

As they did with the elections to the community, the Jews campaigned for their representatives on the city council. First and foremost the opponents were the Poles and Ukrainians, and following that, the Jews against each other. Often, the Jewish side attempted to create a general Jewish block in order to increase the chances of the Jews.

At times, they also attempted to form a coalition with the Poles and Ukrainians in order to create a common list, but this did not always succeed.

Such a unified list was formed during the 1927 elections to the city council. The Jews had 29 mandates, the Poles 11 (7 Miestszanes, 4 Endekes), and the Ukrainians 4 (Anda).

The following are the names of those elected: 17 Zionists: David Lile, Dr. Shlomo Dik, Dr. Malvina Landauawa, Binyamn Zeidler, Mechel Kohn, Oszias Gottesman, Dr. Zygmunt Rottenberg, Dr. Nathan Reichman, David Cimet, Hirsch Moshe Weintraub, Moshe Liblich, Dr. Avraham Finkel, Moshe Orenstein, Magister Shmuel Eker, Chaim Funk, Julius Hassenkorn, Dr. Leon Salpeter; 10 Nationalist Jews: Dr. Henryk Notik, Shmuel Fisher, Avraham Moshe Ridkes, David Lilienfeld, Tovia Ratner, Oscar Haber, Chaim Lerer, Dr. Leon Gross, Suesia Kahn, Dr. Julius Fell; 2 non-aligned: Herzl Falber, Eliahu Rasmak.

The magistrate chose a Pole as mayor, and Engineer David Lile as deputy mayor.

In May 1931, the city council was dissolved and a government commissar was put in place with a nominated council (Cywila, May 22, 1931). On the first meeting of the council, after the opening of the meeting by the commissar, the Jewish representative Dr. Salpeter took the floor and protested that there is only one Jewish representative on the council whereas in the previous vote, there were 29 Jews out of 48 city councilors. (Cywila, May 15, 1931).

In the elections which finally took place in May 1934, the Poles received 8 mandates (Sanacia – 5, Endekes – 3), the Ukrainians received 2, and the Jews received 6 (4 Zionists, 1 Orthodox, and 1 assimilationist). (Neue Morgan, May 30, 1934).

11. The Final Years before the Destruction

In a correspondence from Podhajce that appeared in the Neue Morgan on June 22, 1932, the correspondent (whose pseudonym was R-D) complains that the economic crisis caused the destruction of Jewish existence. Many businesses closed or transformed their stores to… soda water.

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The credit institutions of the city included the Gemilut Chasadim fund and the cooperative bank, which were created from local funds with the aim of mitigating the need of the fallen merchants and tradesmen. They granted loans with good conditions, but this was too small. According to the article the community itself became impoverished. Nevertheless, they tried to help in whatever ways were possible: good subsidies for orphans; providing wood for winter; matzos for Passover as well as potatoes and financial support; proper free prescriptions for the ill. However, this was not sufficient.

This picture, completely depressing, which incidentally was not limited to the city of Podhajce, was from the year 1932. From that time, the situation for the Jews certainly did not improve, and anti-Semitism increased in Poland especially after Hitler came to power in Germany. There were calls for an economic boycott against the Jews. Political machinations of the government also increased, both from the political parties and the incited masses.

The situation came to physical actions against the Jews. The Jew did not feel secure with his life when he saw that the economic basis of his existence was going under. The national cooperatives of the Poles and the Ukrainians who wanted to establish their own economic life on firm grounds, for their own reasons, became more independent and wished to distance the gentiles from the Jewish stores, the Jewish workplaces, and the Jewish intelligentsia.

The Jew felt impoverished, abandoned and alone. His entire hope was for Jewish unity, for the eventual assistance that the Jews abroad would be able to give him, but this too was not sufficient. The need was too great. People began to look for the possibility to leave Poland. However, the world was locked to Jewish immigrants. Even the gates of Palestine were locked for Jews. Only a few fortunate people were able to go there.

Such was the situation of the Jews in our area at the time when the Second World War broke out to the misfortune of the world and to the Jews in particular. This decisively destroyed the Jewish community in Poland, simply wiping it off the map.

12. The Podhajce Landsmanschaften (Societies) in America

A brief overview of the Podhajce organization in America in the year 1939 – just before the outbreak of the Second World War[*42].

  1. Congregation Masaat Binyamin Anshei Podhajce was founded in the year 1895 with 25 members. In 1938, it had 200 members. It had a mixed makeup, with 10% being American born. The language of its meetings was Yiddish. Its aim was to maintain its own synagogue, to have a plot in the cemetery, to engage in mutual help, and to support local philanthropic institutions. Its secretary was Gelle.

  2. Congregation Rodef Shalom Anshei Podhajce was founded in 1900 with 30 members. In 1938, it had 200 members. 75% were workers, 20% were American born, and 5% were not natives of the city. The purpose of the organization was to support the old home and local institutions, and to maintain their own synagogue and cemetery. The secretary was Joe Weiser. It had only 170 members in 1939. That year, they sent 1,600 dollars to the old home for Maos Chittin (Passover assistance)[*43].

    They supported their native city with 1,500 dollars a year. Aside from this, they maintained a fund for their own members who were in need. The secretary of the organization was A. Freundlich.

  3. The Podhajce Young Men's Benefit Association was founded in 1901 with 50 members. It had 125 members in 1938. The majority were workers. 2% of them were not Podhajcers (they were from the region, or they married Podhajcers). 30% of the members were born in America. They met twice a month. Yiddish was the language of their meetings.

  4. First United Podhajce Congregation Anshei Sefarad was founded in 1903 with 10 members. In 1938 there were 100 members. It had a mixed makeup. 40% were American born, and 5% were not natives of the city. Yiddish was the language of its bi-monthly meetings. They maintained the Talmud Torah in the old home. Aside from this, they supported local institutions with 100 dollars a year, maintained a synagogue, had a fund for those in need, and concerned itself with a cemetery for the deceased, etc. It secretary was Julius Schorr.

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Text Footnotes

  1. Slownik Geograficzny, volume 8, page 384. Return
  2. Baedecker: Das Generalgouvernment, 1943. Page 232. Return
  3. The manuscript comes from a Frenchman who was among Jan Sowiecki's closest confidants. Doleran. 1661. Return
  4. According to Balinski-Lipinski: Balinski-Lipinski: Starozytna Polska. Return
  5. Yevreiskaya Encyclopedia, volume 12, page 641, 1913. The article was written by Meir Balaban. Return
  6. A. Czolowski Bohdan Janusz: Przezlosc I zabytki Wojewodztwa Tarnopolskiego. Page 180, 1926. Return
  7. Ibid. Return
  8. Yevreiskaya Encyclopedia – We can confirm “historical vignettes” about the rabbi; this does not mean that there was no rabbi (rabbis) previously. Only that we are lacking sources about this. Return
  9. Mateusz Miezes: Udzial Zydow w wojnach Polski. Warszawa 1939, Str. 162. Return
  10. The same in S³ownik Geograficzny, volume 8, page 386. However, there, Jews are not mentioned. Ibid. Pages 167-8. Return
  11. Miezes, page 180. Return
  12. Moshe Steinschneider (Moritz Steinschneider), Die Geschichtsliteratur der Juden. 1905. Pages 183, 186. Return
  13. The ledgers of the Council of the Four Lands, Section 5678 (note). Return
  14. Chaim Wirszowski: The Sabbatean Kabbalist Reb Moshe David of Podhajce, “Zion”, 5702, note 3. Return
  15. M. Balaban: Spys Zydow, page 4. It also brings the text of the oath. Return
  16. Philip Friedman, page 144. Note 5. Return
  17. Cywila, May 6, 1927. Return
  18. Neuer Morgan, August 4, 1933. Return
  19. Neuer Morgan, August 20, 1934. Return
  20. Slownik Geograficzny, volume 8, page 388. Return
  21. Characteristically, they provided for the needs of business and industry chambers in Brody, where the article was composed. It is completely clear that Jews were intended here. Return
  22. Steiger, page 258. Return
  23. Ibid., page 257. Return
  24. This was a weekly supplement in Hebrew to the Izraelite, which was published in German in the city of Mainz (Magentza). Return
  25. See the Jewish People's Calendar. Return
  26. Machzikei Hadas, New York, 18, February 22, 1907. Return
  27. Dr. N. M. Gelber: History of the Zionist Movement in Galicia, pages 237, 268-9. Return
  28. A. David Polisiuk, the correspondent from Podhajce, gave over the sum of 140 florins to Vienna, noting that the chapter desires that the money should only be used to assist those who are going to Palestine, and not those who are immigrating to America. The headquarters agreed with this, and the correspondent concludes: How good it would be if in every city, a branch of the Israelite Alliance would be founded – then the idea of the settlement of the Land of Israel would move from potentiality to actuality. Return
  29. Gelber, ibid., page 362. Return
  30. Ibid. Pages 511-512. Return
  31. October 11, 1905, Lemberg, 44 (Polish weekly of the Zionist Organization in Galicia (Woschod). Return
  32. Woschod, from February 14, 1906 – a correspondence from Podhajce. Return
  33. Ibid., December 6, 1905. Return
  34. Ibid. October 31, 1906. Return
  35. Ibid. October 18, 1907. Return
  36. Ibid. January 6, 1911. Return
  37. According to Neue Morgan, Lvov, from July 11, 1933. [Translator's note: footnote 37 is not marked in the text.]
  38. Steiger, page 133. Return
  39. Gronski, table 25, page 45. Return
  40. Cywila, May 22, 1931. Return
  41. In the YIVO information, from the years 1937-1938; Dr. M. Weichert: Memoirs, volume 1, Tel Aviv, pages 11-12. Return
  42. The Jewish Landsmanschaft in New York, 1939. Published by Y. L. Peretz writers union. Return
  43. Galicianer Yearbook, April 23, 1939. Return

pod083.jpg Stara Targowicz Street [58 KB]
Stara Targowicz Street


Translator's Footnotes

  1. I transliterated these spellings into English, and did not spell out the Hebrew spellings in full. Return
  2. A Sejmik is a local parliament (as opposed to the Sejm, which is the main parliament). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sejmik Return
  3. Citizens of the city. Return
  4. Cheshvan of 5363 would correspond to the year 1632. Return
  5. G-d full of mercy – an opening phrase of many memorial prayers. Return
  6. Szlachta is the Polish nobility: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szlachta Return
  7. The Starosta is a regional government leader, and the Wojewoda is the regional parliament. Return
  8. I was not able to ascertain the meaning of these professions. Return
  9. I assume that this means that they had the right to set up their own curriculum. Return
  10. Mishnaic tractates dealing with the holidays. Return
  11. Known as 'pidyon' (redemption) – money given to a Hassidic Rebbe by his followers during an audience Return

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