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[Page 61]

Staszów of the Soul

by Rabbi Dr. David Graubart, Chicago

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

Staszów, the town of our birth, has already entered the memory of the people as a place of the spirit. Because the earthly Staszów was destroyed, we are left only with the intangible, the entirely spiritual Staszów: the Staszów of the soul. The spiritual portrait of our beloved town stands before us in all its breadth: a town with its rabbis, its Hasidim, its maskilim,[1] and its overall spiritual and intellectual essence.

According to the monograph on Staszów written by the priest Szieka, the town belonged to the Radziwiłł and Czartoryski families, renowned Polish nobility, who were known for their pro-Jewish traditions. Incidentally, the famous pious convert of Wilno, [Walentyn] Potocki, (called “Count Polany” in a Hebrew song), was related to the Radziwiłł family.

The town is mentioned in a number of old books and Hasidic religious works, among others, the memoir, Megiles Sefer [The Scroll of the Book], by the Gaon[2] Rabbi Jacob Emden, who lived in the eighteenth century. Rabbi Emden, or, as he was called by his acronym, JaBeTZ, writes that his father, the renowned Gaon Rabbi Tsvi Ashkenazi (called the “Khokhem[3] Tsvi”, spent about two years in Staszów during his travels throughout Europe. In our town the Khokhem Tsvi was the guest of his admirer, Princess Czartoryska, proprietress of the town and of the neighboring village Rytwiany, or Ritvin, as the Jews called it. The small, white house on Synagogue Street where the Khokhem Tsvi lived still stood in Staszów in my time.

Here is the relevant, valuable excerpt from Rabbi Jacob Emden's above-mentioned biographical work, Megiles Sefer. [The text in Hebrew appears here. The author continues:] I will avail myself of the following Yiddish translation [of the Hebrew excerpt] by the Canadian Yiddish writer, H.G. Shimen, that was published in “25 Years of the Staszówer Young Men's Mutual Benefit Society”, Toronto, 1956:

After my father, z”l, set out on his travels, God granted that he found favor with a rich Jew, one of the most respected in Poland, with a reputation for good deeds, Reb Yisroel Rytwin, an official called an econom, steward of an estate owned by Countess Szaniawska (= Czartoryska? -D.G.), over whose property he was the actual ruler… . And this man was a pious Jew and an intelligent person, who took upon himself the good deed of taking my father and his family into his home. He gave him an apartment on his property in Staszów or in Rytwiany, and provided him with all the personal and household necessities, giving him cows, milk butter, bread, wood, meat, fish and everything needed to run a household…and he did this with great pleasure, with love….

In this way several years passed, until 1718, when my father was appointed Rabbi of Lemberg (Lwów), and Reb Yisroel was sad to lose this opportunity to do a good deed, to house the great Torah scholar for a number of years…

If I were to relate everything that happened to us in Lemberg, it would take too long. Four our sins, father didn't last long there, not even a quarter of a year. He left behind his good name, dying on Rosh Chodesh [beginning of the month] Iyar, 1718, at the age of 58. This light of the Jewish people was extinguished and all of Poland wept at the sad news.


In the Hasidic world Staszów is known for quite an important historical incident, the death of the Lubliner Rabbi, Rebbe Yakov Itsik Horowic, called “the Seer of Lublin”. The story is well known and has to do with the rabbi's death on Tisha B'av, 1815. During the time his desperate Hasidim were searching for him[4], he was found by Reb Leyzer Chmielniker, a son-in-law of a well-known Staszówer Hasid. The latter is called in Hasidic books (among them “Ten Lights” by Harav Yisroel Berger, and others) “Harav the tsaddik [saintly], the poresh [ascetic], the exemplary Rabbi Tsvi Hirshele of Staszów.”

Many stories circulated in Staszów, even decades later, about this remarkable Rabbi Tsvi Hershele, wondrous legends of this great saintly man. In his pious way not wanting to take pleasure in the sinful world, he shut himself up in his room, where he remained for more than twenty years without ever setting foot over the threshold. From this years-long seclusion in meditation, he derived the name, “the poresh”. He died on the 20th of Tammuz, 1835. An oyel [gravestone in the form of a house] was erected on his grave, which became a place of attraction for thousands of people, who streamed there for years, in search of a remedy against the evil eye, both for individuals and for communities.

Staszów is also mentioned in rabbinical books on “[Religious] Questions and Answers”, including those dealing with matters of divorce and deserted wives. In this connection, there is a famous ruling in favor of a deserted wife from Staszów, issued by the Kozhenitser [Kosienice] Magid, the Gaon and Tsaddik[5] Rabbi Yisroel Hofsztajn, zts”l. My father, the Gaon Rabbi Yehuda Leyb, mentions the case of the deserted wife of Staszów in his book of questions and answers, Khavalim b'neimim.

Staszów also had several [non-Hasidic] rabbis renowned in the Jewish world. There is no doubt that “the” Staszówer rabbi was the just mentioned Gaon, Rabbi Yehuda Leyb Graubart, z”l,[6] who was known in the entire world of Jewish scholarship for his important works, in addition to his work as a community activist of the highest level. Before him, the position of chief rabbi of Staszów had been occupied by a grandson of “the holy Jew”, the Porisover [Parysów] Rabbi, the Gaon, Tsaddik Rabbi Avrom Rabinowic.[7] Also well known were Rabbi Mayerl Staszówer, zts”l,[8] the Gaon and Hasid, Reb Moyshe Shaltiel Gerszt, z”l, the star pupil of the Ostrovitser [Ostrowiec] rabbi, and Gaon Rabbi Mayer Yehiel Halevi Halbsztok, zts”l, who is remembered by Staszówer Jews as a truly saintly man.

In conclusion, I think it no exaggeration to say that, apart from the position held by Staszów in the socio-economic and secular-cultural life of Jewish Poland, the town held an important role in the religious-Hasidic-rabbinical-scholarly realm, a role that was greatly disproportionate to the size of Staszów's Jewish population.


Footnotes

  1. Maskilim: Followers of the Enlightenment; those Jews who in an age where the majority of Jews had no education beyond a traditional Jewish upbringing, fostered the study of modern languages, literature, sciences and philosophy. (LL) Return
  2. Gaon: “Genius”-honorific title for an eminent rabbinic scholar. Return
  3. Khokhem: Sage. “The Khokhem Tsvi” was an honorific title by which Rabbi Tsvi Ashkenazi was popularly known. Return
  4. Tsaddik: “righteous.” Formally, the title “tzaddik” was given to a Hasidic rabbi who was the official head of a Hasidic community. More informally, it was a general honorific. It is a characteristic mark of reverence in this milieu and in this style of writing to heap honorifics on individuals: “the Gaon, the Tsaddik, the Rabbi” etc. Return
  5. The Seer of Lublin died from injuries incurred in a fall from a window on Simchas Torah, almost a year earlier. The search referred to is apparently the search for him after this fall. Return
  6. Z”l: Acronym zikhrono liv'rakha-“may his [her[ memory be a blessing.” Return
  7. See Meir Geshuri, “Rabbi Abrahame'le of Porisov,” http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/staszow/sta093.html#Page104. Return
  8. Zts”l: Acronym zikhron tzaddik liv'rakha-“may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing,” a shade more honorific than the more ordinary z”l (“may his [her] memory be for a blessing”). Return


[Page 63]

Dates and Events

by Elchanan Erlich

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

In 1526, Hieronymus Laski, owner of Staszów and Rytwyn, obtained from King Zygmunt the First permission to hold a fair in the town every Thursday.

In 1610, the local Jews were the victims of a blood libel[1] and were expelled from the town.

In 1690, 80 years [after the expulsion], the Jews were permitted to return.

In 1718, the Jews received permission to build a synagogue and a cemetery.

In 1738, Count Czartoryski had a town hall built, in the center of the market place, to house the town government and shops.

In 1772, the permit for the synagogue and cemetery was renewed, after the original document was destroyed in a fire.

In 1808, the Jews were ordered to adopt Polish surnames.

In 1809, the government of the Principality of Warsaw, [to which Staszów belonged], issued a decree that prohibited Jews from living in the same area as Christians, and a separate residential quarter was designated for them.

From 1809 to 1844, the town of Staszów was the seat of the Staszów powiat [district].

In 1809, changes were made regarding the holding of fairs in the town. Every Thursday was designated a market day, and fairs were to be held on the following dates: January 2, February 24, April 1, May 27, August 24, September 2, October 21, November 30, and December 20.

In 1825, the new [Jewish] cemetery was established.

In 1826, the first bridge over the mill was built.

In 1843, the road to Opatów was paved.

[Page 64]

In 1846, ten Jews, supported by Count Potocki, established an agricultural settlement on the Adamowke estate near Staszów. The ten were: Yisroel Dyzenhaus, Pinchus Wajnrib, Zhema Sztraus, Leyzer Szternberg, Betsalel Wincygster, Yisroel Goldsztajn, Yeheskl Orkan, Szmuel Goldberg, Leyzer Erlich, Yosef Frenkl.

The same year, Leybush Wolman carried out the digging of a new canal from the River up to Długa Street. For this work he was paid 2,040 zlotys and 18 groschen.

In 1850, the number of yearly fairs was reduced to 6.

In 1854, a big fire broke out in town, and 17 houses and many peasant buildings went up in smoke.

In 1874, there was another big fire, which consumed all the houses from the river up to Kościelna [Church] Street, including the synagogue.

In 1886, the town gardens were established.

In 1899, a loan and credit bank was founded.

Statistical data for the bank:

In 1905, the Bund [Der Algemeyner Yidishe Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poylen un Rusland -The General Union of Jewish Workers in Lithuania, Poland and Russia] was established in Staszów.[2] The same year, the town government and police were organized, including both Jews and Poles, and a municipal court was established.

In 1910, the market days were designated to be held every Thursday and fairs on every Monday.

In 1914, by order of the Russian general Novikov, one Jew was hanged and 10 others were shot to death. The same year, the town rabbi, Reb Yehuda Leyb Graubart and a local proprietor, Reb Dovid Goldfeder, were sent to Russia as zakładnicy [sureties or hostages].

In 1917 the [religious] Zionist organization Mizrachi was founded.

The same year, the first annual memorial for Dr. [Theodor] Herzl was held.

In 1918, the Histradrut scouting organization, later called Hashomer Hatzair [Young Guard], was founded by Itsik Tenenbaum from Będzin.

In 1919, after the reconstitution of Poland, the local Poles incited the peasants to attack the Jews. This danger was averted through the intervention of community leaders Wolf Tuchman, Efraim Zyngier, Yisroel Karpen, Mathys Frydman, and Yosef Segal.

In 1923, Chaim Cimerman, the leader of the local Bund, died of tuberculosis. His comrades excluded the burial society, and organized a simple burial. The town was in an uproar.

In 1924, the 16 year old son of Hershl Goldflus was struck by lightning. They tried everything to revive him, such as artificial respiration, burying him in the earth up to his neck, etc., but to no avail.

In 1925, the repair of the wall around the cemetery was completed. Despite the vigorous opposition of Poles who lived near the cemetery, the repair was carried out peaceably, thanks to the energetic intervention of the members of the kehile [organized Jewish community] and especially, Reb Efraim Zyngier.

The same year, on Rosh Hashanah, a fire destroyed the house of Reb Moyshe Raj, as he watched. When Reb Moyshe returned from visiting his Hassidic rebbe and was walking up Opatów Street toward his house, Reb Naftali Szoor joined him and carefully prepared him for what had happened, out of fear the sudden shock would have caused an even greater catastrophe.

Beginning In 1929, Polish anti–Semites who affiliated with the NDK [right wing Polish Nationalist Party] were very active. Under the leadership of their local representatives: Staszowiak, the organizer Samburski, and others, the anti–Semites broke windows, picketed Jewish businesses and fought with Jewish youth.

In 1929–30, during an election campaign, Itsik Grynbaum, leader of Polish Jewry, visited Staszów. The occasion was celebrated like a holiday in the town.

In 1930 Hanoar Hatzion [Zionist Youth] and Hechalutz Haklal Zioni [General Zionist Pioneer Organization] were founded, mostly through the efforts of Zvi Lewowicz.

The same year, the organization Tseiri Agudath Yisroel [Orthodox Jewish Youth] was founded.

In 1932, Dr. Itsik Szifer and [Yakov] Zerubavel visited the town and gave a series of literary readings.

The same year, another fire broke out, in a barn near Reb Mordkhe Wagner's house and quickly spread, destroying all the houses on the so–called “places,” up to Złota Street. The fire also killed a Polish shepherd who had been sleeping in the barn.

In 1933, an ox belonging to the butcher Khone Katz ran amok and killed him.

In Feburary, 1934, the town celebrated the aliyah [emigration to Israel] of the Rabad family. After a banquet at the headquarters of Mizrachi, they were accompanied out of town, with singing and dancing.

The same year, in broad daylight, another fire broke out in the guest house at the corner of the market place and Opatów Street. A number of houses from the corner up to Reb Alter Buchwald's house went up in smoke.

In 1935, there was a large strike by the cobblers and stitchers against the shoe manufacturers. The strike was aborted before it was able to cause serious damage, thanks to the tireless efforts of the leadership of the manufacturers' association: Mendl Sznifer, Isaac Wolman, Hershl Nisencwajg, Mendl Lipszyc and the association secretary, Nosn Rajch.

In 1936, Rabbi Alter Eliezer Horowicz was elected town rabbi after a big struggle. He had been the rabbi in Ryglice, and was from the dynasty of Reb Naftali Ropshitzer (of Ropczyce).

In 1938, a bazaar was established by all of the Zionist groups in town, to benefit the Jewish National Fund.

_______

On September 5, 1939, 5 days after the outbreak of World War II, the Germans bombed the town, and the first victims included members of the family of Meyer Cohen.

On September 6, 1939, a big fire broke out.

On September 8, 1939, the night of Thursday to Friday, Nazi soldiers arrived in town.

On October 16, 1939, a permanent police post was set up.

After several days, five Jews were arrested, to be held responsible [i.e.as hostages] for the “good behavior” of the Jewish population.

On November 25, 1939, the first levies were imposed on the kehile. A few days earlier, the Germans had nominated a Jewish leadership council.

In December, 1939, an order was promulgated requiring every Jew over the age of 10 to wear a patch of white linen with a blue star of David.

That month, the first refugees from Kalisz arrived.

On January 26, 1940, a soup kitchen was opened in the Hasidic besmedresh.[3]

On January 29, 1940, 150 S.S. troopers arrived, led by Obersturmführer Wosmann, to rob and destroy Jewish businesses, with the active participation of Poles and Volksdeutsch.[4] They severely beat Efraim Zyngier, arrested him, and took him to Ivansk. He was freed after great efforts and the payment of a bribe.

On July 1, 1940, all Jews over fifteen years of age were required to work at forced labor two days a week.

On July 15, 1940, the German company, Omlor,[5] arrived to build roads.

On September 12, 1940, in a hunt for Jews, the Germans captured 260 people. Twenty of them were freed for health reasons, and the rest were sent to a work camp.

Two days before the holiday of Sukkot in 1940, the German gendarmes, led by Volksdeutsch Karl Tirene, arrested Leyzer Brendzel, imprisoned him in the town jail, and hanged him.

In June, 1940, the Jewish Ordnungsdienst [security police] was established.

On January 1, 1942 Jews were ordered not to leave town, upon penalty of death.

On January 2, 1942, there was a futer aktsie.[6]

On January 15, 1942,Jewish businesses were placed under the control of Germans, Volksdeutsch, or Poles.

In February, 1942, the Gestapo man, Pan Milocki, arrived from Tarnow. While looting Jewish property, he badly beat the owners.

On March 17, 1942, Pan Milocki conducted a search for Jews and murdered two Jews from Mielec and a refugee, Lichtensztajn.

In April, 1942, Poles denounced Jews for smuggling food. Their first victim was the 19 year old daughter of Hershl Bizes.

In June, 1942, the Judenrat was ordered to turn over 100 “volunteers” for the forced labor camp [munitions factory] at Skarżysko.

On June 15, 1942, the order establishing the ghetto was announced in two parts of the town.

On July 1, 1942, workshops for manufacturing clothing for the Germans were established.

On September 11, 1942, the German gendarmerie burnt all the merchandise belonging to Yehiel Milgram, tied him up for a whole day, and then imprisoned him.

On September 27, 1942, there was another hunt for Jews to send to Skarżysko.

On October 1, 1942, the policeman Panter, from Frankfurt am Main, murdered the wife of Markl Wajswol.

On October 4, 1942, “Deportations” were carried out in Szydlów, Ostrowiec, Opatów and Chmielnik.

On October 10, 1942, 300 “volunteers” were sent to Skarżysko.

On October 18, the deportees from Osiek and Połaniec were brought to Staszów.

On November 6, 1942, there was a second “action” in Chmielnik.

On November 8, 1942, the 28th day of Heshvan, 5703: The liquidation of Staszów. It was reported that on this day Reb Shimele Melamed cried out in anguish, “There is no justice and no judge.”[7]

On December 1, 1942, the Germans proclaim the establishment of a “Judenstaat”[8] in Sandomierz.

On December 15, 1942, the workshops were liquidated and transferred to Poniatowa.

On January 10, 1943, the Judenstaat in Sandomierz was liquidated.

In May, 1943, Dovid Szniper organized a partisan community in the Wiszniów Woods.

The same month, 100 people were taken out of the Olmor [forced labor] camp and sent to work at stone breaking in Kleczanów, near Sandomierz.

On June 3, 1943, the Olmor camp was liquidated and its inmates sent to Skarżysko and Radom.

On November 5, 1943, there was a liquidation of the Jews of Poniatowa, including hundreds who had come from Staszów.

August 3, 1944 was the day of liberation for those who survived in Staszów's forests and hiding places.

May 9, 1945, was the day of liberation for Staszów Jews who had survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp.


Footnotes

  1. False accusation that Jews killed a Christian for the purpose of using the person's blood in Jewish ritual. Return
  2. The parent organization, of the same name, had been founded in Vilna in 1897. Return
  3. Besmedresh: House of study, also used for worship. Return
  4. Volksdeutsch: Ethnic Germans living in other countries than Germany-principally, in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Return
  5. The many references to the German transport company which ran a work camp in Staszów are variously spelled Amler, Emler, and Omler. The correct spelling is probably Omlor, especially if this is the company referenced in http://homburg.abcd4.de/transporte/alois-omlor-gmbh-123976. This needs further investigation. Return
  6. Futer aktzie: probably a raid by the Germans to confiscate fodder for their use. (ML) Return
  7. “There is no justice and no judge.” A classic Jewish expression questioning whether there is any divine justice in this world. (Source: Leviticus Rabbah 28:1) Return
  8. Judenstaat: Ironic designation of a safe haven for Jews, which turned out in the end to be illusory. Name taken from Theodor Herzl's book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), promulgating the program of Zionism. Return


[Page 68]

How Staszów looked in the 19th century

by Herszel Pomerancblum

Translated from Polish to Yiddish by the late Herszel Pomerancblum

Translated from Yiddish by Hannah Bar-Ziv

Edited by Jean-Pierre Stroweis

Staszów, a town in the province of Sandomierz, is located on the banks of the river Czarna which flows into the Wisła [Vistula] at a distance of 17 kilometers [10 miles] by the town of Połaniec [in Yiddish Plontz]. The soil in the Staszów area consists of three layers: gypsum, lime and sand. Staszów is located 210 kilometers [131 miles] for Warsaw, 114 kilometers [71 miles] from Radom, 48 kilometers [27 miles] from Sandomierz and 52 kilometers [28 miles] from Ostrowiec. Its area was 1743 morgas [i.e. 10.4 km2 or 2607 acres], on 120 morgas [i.e. 0.7 km2 or 180 acres] of which houses and streets were built.

The town had 13 streets, 3 squares and 420 houses – out of which 305 were stone houses and 115 wooden houses. The streets are paved and neatly maintained. The market square is planted with trees. The town park by the river was constructed in 1886.

The town had two Catholic churches, a synagogue, two elementary schools, five Jewish "Cheders", a court of law, and investigating judge, a post office, a hospital with 25 beds, a shelter for 25 needy people with an income of 1,321 rubles in the year 1881, a military hospital, 4 doctors, a veterinarian doctor, 5 paramedics and a pharmacy.

The factories that operated in the town: A brewery with 3,000-ruble worth production and 5 employees; a honey maker with 2 employees and 600-ruble production, 2 soda-water producers, two modern water-operated flour mills with 21 employees and an income of up to 18,000 rubles. Their breakdown by professions: shoe-makers – 51, tailors – 24, barrel makers – 20, butchers – 18, bakers – 16, carpenters – 14, millers – 12, hat-makers – 10, floggers – 7 and 120 shop keepers.

In 1886 the town had 7971 permanent residents and 820 temporary residents. Their religion distribution was as follows: Catholics – 2,668, Eastern Orthodox Christians [a.k.a. Pravoslavs] – 15, Protestants – 8 and Jews – 5,280.

In 1827 there were in town 350 houses and 3,107 residents.

In 1857 there were 367 houses out of which 107 were of stone, and 5,104 residents out of which 3,303 were Jewish.

The average income was around 4,500 rubles and the capital deposited in the Polish Bank 10,000 rubles.

 

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