The Beis Medrish of Stropkov sponsored a Talmud Torah Study Group. They conducted daily classes in Talmud between the mincha and maariv services. The group consisted mainly of men of the older generation, representing the finest type of Chassidic products. Each one in his own right was a scholar and a devoted Chassid of the Rebbe. They were mostly people who were occupied all day in their respective businesses. It is worthwhile mentioning their names so that their grandsons and greatgrandsons will know what kind of a grandfather they had so that they will strive to emulate them.
Reb Naftali Goldman of blessed memory whom I am mentioning first because he was a Kohein was in charge of the mikve (ritual bath house) for many years. He was a profound scholar. While conducting the study group he often became angry when someone would make remarks not to his liking. Nonetheless, people respected him for his honest and fine scholarship.
Reb Chayim Tsiment, of blessed memory, was a very busy man during the entire day. Though he was the owner of the inns, he was far from being a rich man. When he conducted the study group he would speak slowly and clearly. He was a profound scholar and clever businessman. In time he became the mechutan (in-law) of Rabbi Reb Yaakov Yosef.
Reb Moishe Baum, of blessed memory was a respectable personality. He was already retired from business. His appearance and bearing commanded respect. He was a man of few words and when he did say something, no one argued with him because they respected him so. He had a stately appearance and when he conducted the (shiur) Talmud study he gave the impression of a Rosh Yeshivah (Dean of a Talmud Academy). He lived with his children and grandchildren who were a constant source of pleasure to him.
Reb Shlomo Henig of blessed memory was an unusual tsaddik. He was busy running his inn and also worked in the fields. Summertime he would come to the Beis Medrish in the evening after working in the field cutting grass to feed his cows. He also added a room to his house to accommodate itinerant travelers in need of a place to sleep, whom he would also serve breakfast to in the morning. When he conducted the Talmud Study Group it appeared as though this man did nothing else but prepare his lecture. When asked questions during the course of study he would answer without too much hesitation. He was also a man of good deeds, always ready to do a favor and help in time of need.
Reb Yehudah Leib Daitsch, of blessed memory was a very pleasant person, always with a smile. He was the Purim Rabbi (impersonating) of the town for many years. When he delivered his Purim dissertation to the audience he appeared calm and convincing. He was a beloved person. In his later years he and his family left for Eretz Yisroel.
There were others of this same type who attended the Talmud class, unfortunately, I cannot recall their names. When I think back about this beautiful picture of people sitting around long tables studying, I see before me this group of respected Jews spreading light and goodwill. I cannot remember having seen this anywhere else.
There were many Jewish merchants in Stropkov, both small and big and they were busy people. They were scholars and honest people who utilized their spare time for study. For instance, Reb Ever Grossman, the biggest merchant in the area who was a very busy person. He was quite occupied with serious business transactions, involving many gentle people, but as soon as he finished he would sit down to study.
Reb Ever was also a man of good deeds. He would never refuse to do a person a favor. His only son Yechiel was also a good natured soul. As a young child he would always dofavors for poor children. When he was somewhat older he would also look to do someone a favor and share with others whenever asked to do so. After his marriage he moved to Reishe, and also there he extended a helping hand to the needy. The Jews of Reishe had nothing but praise for him. He was privileged to have children and grandchildren who live in America and are successful merchants and very charitable people.
Reb Ever Grossman had a neighbor by the name of Reb Hersh Tuchman. He was the son of a Rabbi from a neighboring town. He was a watchmaker by trade. He was an intelligent Jew whose motto was "Silence is Golden." He was also a humble type of Chassid. He would often be seen sitting and studying Talmud in the Beis Medrish. He had a lovely family which consisted of three daughters and two sons who were also quiet and respectable people. His wife was a saintly person as well.
Reb Michel Hendler of blessed memory was a merchant and was considered to be wealthy because he was involved in big business. He was considered a fine citizen whose conduct was always upright. He was known in the community as a scholar. He had three talented sons and also they were learned.
Reb Asher Friedman, known as Reb Asher Falis who was of the older generation was also considered to be a fine honest Jew. He had very talented sons. The oldest, Reb Yoel Shochet was a fine Baal Tefilla. When he would sing a melody accompanied by his brother Naftali and his son Hersh Laizer it was something worth listening to and the audience enjoyed it very much. In addition to being fine singers they were also bright and scholarly people.
Reb Yoel Friedman the head of the Jewish community was the son of the well known and beloved Reb Hersh Friedman, who occupied a similar position.
Reb Yoel, just like his father, possessed a magnetic personality. His manner and bearing were majestic. He was a successful businessman and a respected citizen. His home was a meeting place for scholars and he himself was a scholarly Chassid as well as an honest and respectable person.
Reb Chayim Yosef Friedman and Reb Aharon Friedman, thebrothers of the community head were also fine Chassidic Jews.They were business people and conducted their lives in an honest and religious fashion. They also spent many hours studying in the Beis Medrish.
Reb Eliezer Hassenfeld, the son-in-law of Reb Hersh Friedman was a fine Chassidic Jew. He was in the furniture business and considered to be a smart person. His manner was that of an aristocrat. His well tailored and smart clothes attracted much attention. He was also often seen studying in the Beis Medrish.
Reb Chayim Yosef Gutman, the son of Reb Yaakov Hersh was a talented and fine personality. he was a dealer in wine. He was quite successful and he conducted himself like a man of wealth. In time he became the head of the community. He was considered as one of the smart Jews in town. He conducted himself in a Chassidic manner and studied whenever he had an opportunity to do so.
Reb Eliezer Friedman, the son of Reb Yehudah Friedman was a personable and interesting individual. He had a very wealthy father-in-law. He was the owner of a tall building in the community which included the finest home in town from which he had a handsome income from rents. He was not occupied as a rule and thus always of calm disposition. When one met him he always had a good word to say. G-d blessed him with many virtues such as learning, intelligence and goodluck. He too would often be seen in the Beis Medrish studying. In time he became head of the local community.
Reb Yoel Friedman of the Friedman family also conducted himself in a respectable manner. He also operated a sizeable business and was considered to be a wealthy man. He was called the Iron Yoel because he was in the iron business. He conducted himself in an aristocratic fashion. His Shabbes clothes were of the finest available. He always gave the impression of being a well-to-do Chassid. He also had a fine and talented son-in-law by the name of Chananya, a young man possessed of many qualities. He was considered a bright young man with talent as a fine Baal Tefilla and also a good singer.
Reb David Hassenfeld, the son-in-law of Reb Moshe Baum was a Chassidic type of Jew and also a very handsome person. He was a business man as well as intelligent and wordly. He was always well groomed, well dressed and highly respected by everyone. He had very talented children, especially his son who was an unusually handsome and talented young man. His name was Yeshaye Hertz. Reb Dovid and his son were both learned and scholarly people.
Reb Avraham Abba Mezer had a business of food products and he also sold wheat. He was an energetic person and hada fine family. Reb Avraham Abba was short in stature but well built. He was known for his learning, good sense of humor and many other virtues. He was always the center of attraction whenever people would gather in a circle to listenand enjoy his wit. He was a Chassidic Jew who sat and studied in the Beis Medrish between minche and maariv services.
Reb Yaakov Ziskind the brother-in-law of Reb Yitschak Hersh and the second son-in-law of Reb Zalmon Yosef was an unusually interesting and talented fellow. His appearance was that of a fine learned Chassidic Jew. He was also knowledgeable and acquainted with various businesses, such as leather, dry goods, silverware, diamonds, etc. In addition to all of this he was the founder of the local bank. In his speech one sensed that he was wise and wordly. He was a bright scholar and also highly successful in his business ventures.
Reb Aharon Bergman was also a Chassidic Jew who was occupied in his cloth business. His customers consisted mostly of women from the villages who bought cheap cloth. He was a learned man and always had a warm and friendly expression on his face. He was well liked because he was a man of many virtues combined, such as learning and intelligence.
Reb Berish Weinberger was in the lumber business and also familiar with building materials. He was always involved as a partner with other men in the same business whenever it involved building. He was well learned to an advanced degree. He was very clever and his partners could never put anything over on him. He was known as Berish the Red-Head. He was an honest Chassidic Jew and would often remain in the Beis Medrish after the maariv service to study.
The son-in-law of Reb Berish Weinberger, was supported by his in-laws for a few years. He would sit and study in the Beis Medrish all day curling his payes (side curls). He was a fine scholar and even when he became a dealer in lumber involved in all sorts of business transactions he continued curling his side curls.
Reb Shmuel Shinever was a good person from every standpoint but he had a habit of showing his temper even in carrying on a conversation. To an outsider this gave the impression that he was having an argument. Very often, when Reb Shmuel Shinever was relating something to a friend, passers-by would stop to ask what the argument was all about only to be told that this was his way of talking and that there was no argument at all. His son-in-law Reb Berishelwas a quiet type of person. he spoke in a quiet refined tone. Even when he sat and studied in the Beis Medrish he would hum a tune as quiet as a dove.
Reb Efrayim Hersh Wideman and also his father Reb Meir were not wealthy people but they were certainly upright honest Chassidic Jews. One could tell they were poor by the Shabbes clothes they wore that were with patches. They were humble and respectful in their relationship with their family. They would sit and study with enthusiasm in the Beish Medrish. Reb Efrayim Hersh was an outstanding scholar.
There were also many fine honest Jews in Stropkov who never had the opportunity in their youth to study Talmud so they studied whatever they knew. This did not in any way determine how people related to them. For even if one was not learned but simply said his daily prayers and read psalms he was nonetheless considered an honest person. There were many who fitted into this category. I shall attempt to the best of my ability and to the extent that my memory serves me, to list their names.
Reb Moish Weinstein, who was known as Moishe Reb Isaacs. He was a Kohein and as such was always the first to be called to the Torah. He was a merchant and dealt with whatever came along. Sometime he made a profit and at other times he lost. Once he bought a wagon load of matches or various types of bands. If he had a buyer, he would sell even for little profit. If there weren't any buyers and it started to rain,which ruined his merchandise he would of course lose money. This was the type of business he did though he was not a poor man. He was also not a learned man but definitely a pious and honest Jew. He would recite psalms everyday before the services and also at home he enjoyed reading the chumish. He was not the type who would sit around doing nothing. He would not discuss secular subjects on Shabbes and being very limited in the knowledge of Hebrew he hardly discussed anything even with his wife. During prayers he would cover his head with the talis so as not to be distracted. He prayed with fervor and every bone in his body would speak. When he reached old age he left for Eretz Yisroel and had the privilege of being buried there after his death.
Reb Pinchas Baum was known to be a wealthy man who conducted his life in Chassidic fashion. He was always seen looking into a book and studying. He also had the reputation of being a fine citizen, possessed of good moral habits.
Reb Avraham Ber was an honest Jew. Though he recited his prayers in the synagogue in the Ashkenazic rite he nevertheless wore a shtreimel and long black coat on Shabbes and conducted himself as a Chassid. He was often seen with a book in his hands studying.
Reb Leibish Treitel was a fine Chassidic Jew with a stately appearance. He sold clothing mostly to a non-Jewish clientele. He was in business with his sons who were capable young men. He conducted his personal life in a very respectable manner and was a man of good habits. He was always seen leafing through a sefer in the Beis Medrish. Generally speaking, he was a smart and congenial type of individual.
Reb Asher Stern was called Asher "Madiar". He was a quiet type of person but in his business things were quite lively. He was a grain dealer and also the owner of a variety business. His wife was a woman of valor and took a great interest in his business. Two grown sons also worked in the store and the business grew. Reb Asher conducted his life in Chassidic fashion and his wife was a righteous and charitable woman.
Poor women who did not have any money to buy flour to bake bread and also challes for Shabbes would come to Reb Asher's store and would confide in his wife that they had no money. She of course would help these people and tell them not to worry and that they can return the money whenever they have it. After the two sons married they opened a store in the town of Ungvar where they were very successful. They soon became known as being very charitable and patrons of the local rabbis. Their fine reputation spread not only throughout the area but to other towns as well.
Reb Nessen Feitel, a very honest Jew recited his prayers in the synagogue according to theAshkenazic rite. Because he was a yeshivah bochur in his youth he enjoyed coming to the Beis Medrish on Shabbes before the minche service where he would study. His children were taught by Chassidic teachers and they were very religious.
Reb Naftali Gerhart, his neighbor attended services in the Beis Medrish. He conducted himself in Chassidic fashion and wore a shtreimel and black satin coat on Shabbes like all others in the Beis Medrish. He was a quiet, sincere Chassidic Jew. He was always busy reading books on Chassidic thought. He had one son and one daughter. She married a Chassidic family and supported him for many years. His grandchildren were also quiet and very bright. One grew up to be a successful poet whose books were highly praised in literary circles. His second grandson was a respected Jew and if Reb Naftali were alive today he would enjoy great naches from them in America.
I think it would be a sin to omit and not mention the respected widow Mrs. Frumet Stern. She was respected by everyone in town because she was bright and talented, truly a woman of valor. She was the head of a fine family and raised her children with dignity. I believe she had two sons, one by the name of Anshel, who lived next door to her and they were in business together, and another son who did not live in Stropkov. They were both upright honest Jews.
Her grandsons live in New York and some are respected Chassidic Jews whose children study in Yeshivas and are quite scholarly.
The head of the community at that time was Reb Avrohom Chaim Scheinfeld. He was the owner of a tavern and things went well with him. He conducted himself with respect and took an interest in community affairs. He was considered a smart person and town officials respected him as well. He was well liked by everyone and he was always ready to do people favors whenever the need arose. His ability and talent proved most helpful to the community. When there was a need to rebuild the mikve and those responsible for the work ran into difficulties and refused to continue Reb Avraham Chaim stepped in and undertook to carry on with the project which he did with great success.
People couldn't get over his accomplishments and thus he was highly respected. He was an honest person and well learned. His children were a source of great pleasure to him. His two sons-in-law were good Chassidic Jews. One was called Shlomo Berliner.
The teachers of Stropkov were truly honest Jews. The first melamed (teacher) was Reb Asher and children were brought to him at an early age. Three years later the child was able to read, study chumash and had some knowledge of writing Yiddish. The second teacher was called Reb Shloimele Melamed. He taught his student Chumish and Rashi and also prophets and writings. Reb Shloimele was a very pious Jew. He would stand during the recital of prayers in the synagogue and pray aloud, in a plaintive voice. He taught his students to be religious. He spent much time teaching his students lessons on morality. After two years of study his students were quite religious.
The third melamed was Reb Zalman Goldman. He was a quiet Jew and an energetic teacher who taught his students Talmud, Chumish and Rashi. He explained his lesson patiently and clearly and would include some commentary as well. His students studied with him for a period of three years as well.
The fourth melamed was Reb Yudel Goldman who prepared the boys for Bar Mitzvah, though the main subject of study was Talmud. By the end of the week each student was required to know the lesson in Talmud including the commentaries. The Rabbi would give the lesson of Talmud and all would sit, listen and absorb. Some did not understand and would ask questions and the Rabbi would explain. There were some who did not understand too well and did not ask any questions.
Reb Yudel Melameds students studied with him until the age of 15-16. Some stayed home and continued with their studies while others left to study at the Yeshivah. Reb Yudel was a very bright Jew and the Shinever Tsaddik brought him to Shineve to be the teacher of his sons. Reb Yudel Melamed was an unusually outstanding person. His friends the trustees Reb Asher Melamed and Reb Yudel Weinstein were also honest Jews who worked for various institutions with the noblest of intentions. Reb yudel Goldman was a man of high moral standards. He sat and studied with his students the entire day and as a result he would be very tired and had to rest his voice as well. This would not stop him though from visiting any student who was sick. The rapport between him and his students was commendable and he was loved by all. During the entire year his manner and conduct in the Beis Medrish was that of a quiet humble person but when Purim came around things were different. He would add to the levity of the evening by singing joyfully and expounding of sections of the Torah in true Purim fashion, which brought on continuous laughter and applause.
The fifth teacher was Reb Moshe the Shochets, he too was a teacher of Talmud and prepared boys for Bar Mitzvah. He sat and studied diligently and personally, was a quiet, honest and scholarly individual. His students also studied with him until the age of 15-16.
There was a teacher in Stropkov by the name of Reb Berishel Melamed, that's what they called him. He was the teacher of boys and girls of poor working people. He was a likeable friendly and pleasant type of a fellow who was considered to be a true Tsaddik. It was a pleasure to be in his company. The teacher of older boys of marriageable age was Reb Moshe Scheinfeld. He was the third Dayan (Judge of Rabbinical Court) at Rabbinical Court sessions and was the teacher of boys of well-to-do families. He was not only their teacher but also their friend. He was a Gaon (genius) in learning and well acquainted in worldly issues. His students spent time with him until they were married. There was another teacher by the name of Reb Yosef Rochels. His students were the sons of members of the synagogue who preferred to study the chumosh in the German language and also to write in German. He was a very honest Jew and knew German well.
The Shamosim of the Beis Medrish were extremely upright people who took great pride in their work. One was called Reb Avraham Shames and the other was Reb Yakov Shames. Reb Avraham Shames was an unusual person whom everyone admired. His income was meagre, not the less he raised a very fine family and never complained. Reb Yaakov Shames also had a small income but was a happy type of individual. He would entertain at simches and bring joy to others with his singing though he himself got along on very little and lived in want, his singing at the table of Reb Itsik Hersh during holidays would bring pleasure to those present.
In past years the Beis Medrish had a Chassidic Chazzan or the name of Reb Mendel Hirs. When we saw him last he was already advanced in age and everyone recognized his saintliness, honest and polite manner. He always had a smile and pleasant expression on his face. One could also detect that he possessed a fine voice in his younger years. He was a handsome and likeable Jew. His oldest son was Chazzan and Shochet in Trebishov and had a lovely family. The other children were scattered in other towns. In our generation there was no need to engage a chazzan because the Rav Reb Sholom davened beautifully and his son Harav Reb Mendele was an excellent Baal Tefillah also the elderly Shochet Reb Yisroel Leib, because of his tenure continued to conduct services during the high holidays. Another first class Baal Tefillah was the young Shochet Reb Yoel. Whenever he davened accompanied by his son Yehoshua Leizer and his brother Naftali the audience was always delighted. There was no shortage of qualified young people who davened well and were good singers.
I would like to mention a third shochet Reb Meir Shochet an honest and quiet type of individual who lived in Stropkov most of his years and raised a fine family. His children lived in other communities.
The following were the Melamdim (teachers) of the past generation who taught our fathers. Reb Moishele Gotman, known as Reb Moishele Boksher because he came from the village of Bokshe, and who was a teacher of talmud. Reb Shimon Etkis and Reb Shimon. Reb Avraham's were extremely straight forward and fine scholars. Many interesting stories were told about them.
The following were the names of the various societies of Stropkov: Chevra Bikur Cholim (Society for Visiting the Sick), was headed for many years by the Trustees Reb Asher Melamed, Reb Yudel Weinstein and Reb Yudel Melamed. These three would not only visit the sick but would help the needy with money and medicine and counsel as well. Those who were not in financial need would benefit from their counsel as these were people of wide experience.
Reb Yudel Weinstein and Reb Yudel Goldman were also the trustees of the Chevra Talmud Torah. They saw to it that children and poor people attended Hebrew school. In cases where parents could not afford to pay the teachers, they would raise the money.
Another society was the Chevra Hachnasas Kalah, a group that cared for poor brides. They would solicit funds, help with wedding preparations and assist in setting up the new home.
There was also a group known as Chevra Tikun Sefarim whose responsibility it was to take care of the thousands of books in the library of the Beis Medrich of Stropkov. This entailed keeping books in good condition, proper labeling and cataloging. This word was done with the help of young boys, from poor families who would be paid. Their responsibility was mainly putting books back in their proper places. For quite some time it was my responsibility as well to see to it that books were always in good condition. I considered this a great mitzvah and saw to it that books were always kept in order.
The synagogue in Stropkov used the Ashkenazic form of worship. Upon entering the synagogue one could not help but be impressed with the Eastern Wall. Those sitting up front were people of means who were always well dressed in modern garb, different from the Chassidic clothing worn in the Beis Medrish. A stranger would get the impression that these were German Jews, but actually these were pious, honest Jews who spoke a real down to earth Yiddish. They were owners of good size businesses of all sorts similar to those found in largerc ities, such as food products, grain and iron works. The business that was carried on was all of a high level. The first to establish this type of business was Reb Naftali Shtark and the one responsible for running the business was his son-in-law Herr Friedman. Their home was ultra kosher because they were observant Jews. The second son-in-law was a fellow named Weinberger. He had a similar type of business but on a smaller scale. His appearance was likewise that of a modern type of individual. It was said about him that he at one time attended a yeshiva and was somewhat learned. He also gave his children a good Jewish upbringing.
Reb Bertsha Kolbert also had the appearance of a modern Jew. Judging from his conduct and manner he gave the appearance of a refined type of Jew. He was a dealer in salt. He sold salt on a wholesale basis in the area and also to gentiles in the area villages. His business did not require his daily attention thus he was able to dress during weekdays as well leading a quiet life as a strict observant Jew.
Reb Chaim Friedman, a very fine person also dressed well in modern clothes because his business did not require his daily attention. His wife baked cakes and cookies and her daughters helped her. He took care of his customers as they came along but it was not a very busy type of enterprise. He was a fellow who enjoyed talking to people about world affairs. Just the same, he had a good income and was able to dress his daughters and sons in fashion. They were among the well dressed in the synagogue. The house was strictly kosher. His elderly father Reb Yitschak Yosef had a beard and side curls and was a typical Chassid Jew.
Reb Wolf Shain was the owner of a good tobacco business. This type of business was government controlled and allowed only one dealer to operate in each area. He was responsible for the distribution of tobacco to smaller dealers. He managed a sizeable business and would often joke about strict religious observances and was even ready to forego some of them. His wife was a saintly soul who supervised the upbringing of the children with a strict eye and the house was strictly kosher. The Sabbath was observed to the minutest detail and Reb Wolf would be careful with his remarks in the presence of his wife because he did not want to aggravate her. The house was conducted in royal fashion and the children were raised accordingly.
These were the Jews who adorned the Eastern Wall of the synagogue. There were also smaller business people who did not sit up front who were respected Jews and successful in their business. They also dressed in modern garb and were all strict, observant upright Jews.
All of the craftsmen attended services in the synagogue and they would dress in modern garb. They were without exception religious Jews. Those with larger families were generally poor because a craftsman's income was not large. They were also as a rule not very learned. After their Shabbes meal these Jews would come to the synagogue to recite psalms. Not only were the parents observant Jews but they also raised their sons and daughters in the same manner. Those who migrated to America continued in similar fashion and after their marriage established respectable Jewish households.
Reb Meir Schuster was in America but after a short while he returned home. When I was getting ready to go to America, I went to see him to ask how Jews lived there. His answer was that Jews were very hard there and that it is hard to be a Jew. He told me that it would be a pity for me to go there because I would cease to be a religious young man. He also said "I would rather eat bread here than meat in America." This was the answer of a poor shoemaker from Stropkov.
The synagogue always had a Chazzan and a choir and only an honest Jew could hold this position. The choiristers consisted likewise of good children. One of the best choiristers who sang with the Chazzan of Stropkov was Reb Yosef Zavber, a fine Chassidic Jew. Often when he would sing many of the Jews of the Beis Medrish would stand near the windows to listen to him. The Jews of the synagogue would often invite Reb Yitschak Hersh the Dayan to daven in the schule and deliver a sermon, which the people always enjoyed.
In 1966 the New York newspapers reported the murder of a young woman in the middle of the day on a street humming with people. She cried for help but her pleas went unanswered as no one came to her assistance. Why should this be so? The answer is, nobody wants to get involved or take an interest in the suffering of others.
I would like at this point to convey to you something that happened in Stropkov to show how much people did care for one another. Earlier I mentioned the fact that I lived for awhile with my grandmother and grandfather. My grandfather would be away all week for business reasons and return on Friday. One summer night when my grandfather was not at home, my bobbe, may she rest in peace, woke me up when she heard someone yelling "fire". I was sent to find out where the fire was. When I went outside I saw that some distance away there was a house on fire and that it was spreading to nearby homes. When I told this to my bobbe she decided that we have to start packing our belonging and carry them out into the garden among the trees because the fire may soon reach our home. As soon as something was packed I took it outside among the trees and I noticed that all of the neighbors were doing the same thing. I packed all of my grandfather's personal belongings including his shtreimel and long black satin coat. My grandmother was equally as busy packing and together we took out as much as we could. We finally reached the point where we couldn't continue because we were completely exhausted.
From the cries of our neighbors we soon understood that the firm has spread and that we were unable to do anything. But, like an angel from heaven Reb Berishel Melamed appeared and offered to help. Reb Berish soon saw what had to be done and started to carry the remainder of our belongings out of the house to be placed between the trees in the garden. I and my bobbe went outside and just sat on our belongings.
In a short time the fire spread and burned all of the houses and we sat on our belongings all night outside in the garden. I remember asking my bobbe how come Reb Berishel Melamed is here to help when he lives so far away, and how could this weak old man carry out so much by himself? Her answer was that it was not the old man Reb Berishel but rather an angel.
The fire was eventually brought under control and the following morning our neighbors went to inspect the damage. Some of the homes were salvaged while our house was totally destroyed beyond repair.
By mid-day our neighbors were back in their homes but my bobbe and I were left with our belongings with no place to go and wondered what now?
And again like an angel from heaven Reb Zalmen Yosef the Dayan's father-in-law appeared with a gentile who had a horse and wagon came and took us to his spacious, well furnished wealthy home. We felt as though we were in the Kaiser's palace and were afraid to step on the costly carpets. The saintly wife of Reb Zalmen Yosef, Malke Gottlieb, prepared a meal for us and with her kind words made us feel good and we remained with these kind people until after Sukkos. A week later when my grandfather saw Reb Gerishel Melamed and praised him for his help, he told him that when he and his neighbors noticed that their own homes were not in danger, they decided to help the less fortunate ones when it looked like the fire had spread beyond their control.
Before concluding my impressions of Jewish life in Stropkov, I think it is worthwhile to describe an incident which I witnessed and took part in.
I think that the incident will give us an idea how honest people were and how much their daily deeds were guided by the Torah and by the advice of one who is learned in the Torah.
Malka Gottlieb, the present wife of Reb Zalman Yosef Weinberger had an unmarried daughter, Ruchama. During the Sukkos holiday, on the first night of Chol Hamoed (Intermediate Days) when we lived in Reb Zalman Yosef's house and were eating in the Sukkah with the Tsaddik Reb Yitschak Hersh the Dayan. Malka Gottlieb entered to ask for some advice. Also seated in the Sukkah at the time were the Dayan's Father-in-law and my grandfather. It seems that two shidduchim (marriage matches) were being proposed for her daughter, one to a young many who was a student and the other to a businessman, both fine young men from good families. She was willing to be guided by their advice.
The Dayan Reb Yitschak Hersh suggested the casting of lots. I was selected to pick from a hat the name of the son of Reb Leibish Treitel the businessman was chosen. She was congratulated with the traditional mazel-tov and the news spread rapidly. By morning, all those in the Beis Medrish had already heard about the shiddach and people were wishing each other mazel tov. The good tidings seemed to have satisfied everyone.
Approaching the final account of the history of Jewish life in Stropkov, I would like to relate something I witnessed during the Sukkos holidays when we sat in the Sukkah with the Tsaddik, Reb Yitschak Hersh Amsel, the Dayan of Stropkov. We always sat in the Sukkah with neighbors, this was the usual. Having the honor of sitting in the sukkah with such a great tsaddik, this was most unusual.
During the entire meal Reb Yitschak Hersh sat without saying anything. We certainly had no idea what this great tsaddik was thinking about but we imagined that his thoughts were directed only to Torah. However before the conclusion of the meal he related a brief rabbinical anecdote which started some conversation. His father-in-law Reb Zalman
Yosef said a few words and my zaide Reb Yudel Weinstein also had something to say.
After the bentchen (grace after meals) everyone left the Sukkah except Reb Yitschak Hersh who remained a short while and was the last to leave the sukkah. I wanted to see what he did after everyone left. He had tears in his eyes which he couldn't control but started to wipe them as he left the sukkah with which he hated to part.
We had a minhag (religious custom) that on Shmini Atseres we recited the kiddush in the sukkah but ate our meal in the house. After the meal we went back to part with the sukkah, eat fruits and say a special prayer, the Yehi Rotson. I was anxious to see how Reb Yitschak Hersh parted with the sukkah. When he remained there along, I noticed that while he was saying the Yehi Rotson he prolonged the words with deep feeling and was crying as he kissed the four walls. Upon leaving the sukkah he wiped the tears from his face and went into his house. This made an impression upon me which I shall never forget.
There also existed a minhag on holidays when all of his chassidim would gather around his table after the meal and Reb Yitschak would deliver a discourse on the Torah. Reb Yaakov Shames would lead in the singing and there was also plenty of wine on hand. In between the singing and dancing the Rebbe would expound his Torah thoughts.
The entire afternoon was spent in listening to the Rebbe's words of wisdom, singing joyfully, drinking wine and dancing. Just before the hour of minche the Rebbe changed clothes. This was a sign that the afternoon was over and that it was time to go to the synagogue for evening prayers and Simchas Torah Service.
Reb Yaakov Shames started to sing and the congregation joined in as Reb Yitschak Hersh went on his way to the synagogue, followed by his chassidim. It looked as though the entire population of the shtetl was marching with men and boys of all ages singing and circling around the Rebbe with scrolls of the law in their arms. Upon reaching the synagogue all entered quietly and took their seats. Those who never witnessed this simche, have never seen a real simche this is how the Jews of Stropkov gave respect to the Torah and to their leader who was learned in the Torah.
It seems fitting at this point to relate an incident which teaches an important lesson. There was a man in Stropkov named Reb Isaac who was a very pious and honest Jew. Financially he would be considered a poor man but he had three beautiful daughters and G-d blessed him with three talented sons-in-law. One was Reb Naftali Hersh, who was the Shames of the schule. He was a quiet honest person and interested in literature. He was the owner of a rare pair of Tefillin, written by an outstanding scribe known throughout Hungary as the expert in this field. The second son-in-law was Reb Shlomo Yosef Weinberger, also an honest chassidic Jew and a clever merchant who provided well for his family. G-d blessed him with a son-in-law whose name was Reb Boruch Greenfeld who had a wonderful reputation as an outstanding scholar and very talented musically. One would only have to talk with him for a few minutes to realize the vast extent of his knowledge of the Torah. This was also true of his ability as a baal tefilla, for listening to his pleasant voice and sweet melodies was an unforgettable thrill. The third son-in-law was Reb Moishe Weinstein, an honest and pious Jew. Reb Moishe was a merchant dealing in various types of merchandise and supported his family honorably and respectfully. He had four children, two sons and two daughters, each one bright and talented. The two sons and one daughter married well. The other daughter was not so easy to marry off. For some reason a young religious fellow from a Galician town arrived and shortly afterwards a match was arranged and the couple was married. The groom's name was Reb Getzil Friedman. He was very religious and spent most of his time praying, reciting psalms and studying. His wife Chave soon realized that he will not be able to provide for a family so she decided to go into business and become the breadwinner of the family. In time she had a family which consisted of two sons and a daughter. Her husband never thought of nor discussed with any one where the support of his family came from, he continued with his lifestyle which consisted of studying, praying and saying psalms, then coming home for meals. His wife supported the family and brought up the children in a respectable manner. In time Getzel became known as Getzel the Batlan (Never do well). During the war years they lived through the tragic experiences which many others were not able to escape.
There are two grandchildren of Reb Getzil and Chave living in New York. One is a young man, tall and well built who is a Rabbi and occupies the position of principal of a small yeshivah. He is well respected by the parents because they feel fortunate to have such a capable person looking after the education of their children. His sister likewise occupies an important position in a Jewish school and her husband is the principal of another yeshivah. From all this it is quite clear that the creator of the world keeps a watchful eye on us and directs our destinies.
In the year 1903 an unpleasant incident occurred in Stropkov and because it really did happen, I feel that it should be recorded as part of the history of Stropkov.
There was a family whose head of the household was known as Reb Chaim Leib. I do not remember the family name as this rarely came up in conversation. The family consisted of Reb Chaim Leib and his wife, a married daughter and her husband and a young daughter. They were rather poor people and as far as I can recall their support came from charity. Reb Chaim Leib was an old man and very scholarly. He would attend the second minyan in the Beis Medrish and would wear his talis and tefillin until noon time. When someone in the congregation observed yahrtzeit they would usually bring some brandy and cake. He would always take some and put it aside on a book shelf in the Beis Medrish. After finishing his prayers he would sit and study until noon time, remove his talis and tefillin and then enjoy the little drink with the cake.
One day I noticed that a youngster who studied together with me was planning to put one over on the old man. He watched carefully where Reb Chaim Leib placed his little treat and when he wasn't looking he removed it from the bookshelf and put it somewhere else. When Reb Chaim Leib was ready to enjoy his drink of brandy and cake he soon found that it wasn't in its usual place. I noticed how he sighed and looked around in disappointment to see who was responsible for this bit of mischief. Sure enough he noticed that this youngster is laughing and enjoying it all. He went after him but of course the youngster was much faster and Reb Chaim Leib became exhausted to the point where he collapsed on a bench and soon passed out completely.
When the congregation gathered for minche services they found that Reb Chaim Leib had passed away. Why was I silent all of this time? Because the youngster was much stronger than me and I was already beaten up by him in the past. Truthfully, I was really afraid of him, and didn't know what to do. The incident left a painful impression and everyone bemoaned what happened.
It all ended in the following manner. This youngster came to America as a young man and conducted himself as a Jew should. He was soon introduced to a fine young lady and they were married. This man soon became very wealthy. He saw to it that his children received a good Jewish education and that they would conduct their lives accordingly. His children also married well and his sons-in-law were good religious Jews. Afterwards he lost his business and his wealth dwindled. His health began to fail and he suffered with his legs. His condition deteriorated to the point where he couldn't leave his house for the last ten years and he finally passed away. This whole episode left an unbearable impression upon me because I witnessed it all and my conscience bothered me.
I came to the conclusion that in addition to the regular studies we should also teach our children Ahavas Yisroel (brotherly love) as this is what is needed to be a good person and a good Jew. I am reminded of what a Jew once told me, that Shabbes in the Beis Medrish he sees many friendly people who greet him with a gut Shabbes, on Saturday evening they greet him appropriately but during the week they pass his fruit and vegetable store but do not patronize him. Though his prices are the same, they buy from others. What is the reason for this? Something is lacking and that is Ahavas Yisroel.
I want to conclude with a wise adage which I heard from my good friend Rabbi Sholem Ackerman, may he be blessed with a good long life. This was originally told by the venerable Rabbi and Tsaddik Reb Menachem Mendele Halbershtam, of sainted memory, that last rabbi of Stropkov.
When Jews say "L'cha Hashem Hatzdakah" (Unto Thee is all righteousness) they praise the Almighty. The Rabbi interprets this as follows: When Rabbis pray "L'cha", they mean, You should teach the Jews the matter of righteousness, because you are not dependent upon their benevolence. But "V'lanu" (we) we Rabbis have to depend upon them for our livelihood -- 'Boshes Hapanim" this we are often disappointed or we face shame.
Rabbi Moshe Scheinfeld of blessed memory, the first Rabbi of Stropkov, passed away in the city of Vronov 1826,
5586, no exact date given.
Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Teitlebaum, of blessed memory the second rabbi, author of Yitav Lev, Yitav Panim, Responsa,
Avnei Tsedek, passed away 6th day of Elul 1883, in the city of Marniarush - siget.
Rabbi Chaim Yosef Gottlieb, of blessed memory, author of Tiv Gitin Uk'dushin - passed away the 4th day of Adar 1867.
Rabbi Yechezkel Shrage Halbershtam of blessed memory author of Divrei Y'chezkel, passed away 6th day of Teves
Rabbi Moseh Teitlebaum, of blessed memory passed away on 24th day of Teves 1897.
Rabbi Avraham Sholom Halbershtam, of blessed memory author of Divre Shalom, passed away on the first day of
Rabbi Menachem Halbershtam, of blessed memory, author of Divrei Menachem passed away 6th Iyar 1954 in Brooklyn.
Rabbi Yitzchak Tzvi Amsel of blessed memory passed away 9th Shvat 1937.
Barri Shlomo Boruch Tannenbaum, of blessed memory, passed away 5th Adar I, 1891.??
The History of Stropkov
Geographically the town was located about four miles from the border town Mezilovritz which was already on the Hungarian side.
[Geographically the town was located 20 miles from Medzilborce which was already on the Austro-Hungarian side.]
The Rabbis of Stropkov
The second rabbi was the famous Gaon and Tsadik (scholar and saint) Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Teitlebaum, of sainted memory, the son of the Drovitsher Rebbe, Rabbi Elezer Nissan of sainted memory, the son of the Baal Yismach Moshe of sainted memory
[The sec ond rabbi was the famous Gaon and Tsadik (scholar and saint) Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Teitlebaum, of sainted memory, the the son of the Drobitscher Rebbe ]
After the rabbi's return home, he took sick and on the Holy Sabbath, the fourth day in the month of Av, 1867 the beloved Rabbi Chaim Yosef Gottlieb, the Stropkover Rav, of sainted memory, passed away.
[After the rabbi's return home, he took sick and on the Holy Sabbath, the fourth day in the month of Adar, 1867 the beloved Rabbi Chaim Yosef Gottlieb, the Stropkover Rav, of sainted memory,passed away.]
They conducted themselves in fine Chassidic tradition. The younger three married in Hungary at Galicia and the two oldest married and lived in Stropkov. Reb Efraim had two sons, Reb Getzil and Reb Leibish
[They conducted themselves in fine Chassidic tradition. Reb Menashe and Reb Efraim immigrated to Israel. Only Reb Naftali remained in Stropkov; he had two sons, Reb Getzil and Reb Leibish.]
The Rabbi's son Reb Menashe lived in Stropkov.
[The Rabbi's son Reb Menashe lived in Israel.]
The Reb Wolf, of Sainted Memory
The Rebbe had a son and I also remember a grandson of his who was called Reb Wolf Yekils.
[The Rebbe had a son who was called Reb Wolf Yetshes.]
The Austrian government asked Russia to help her by sending Russian troops to Hungary and subdue the Hungarian hero Kavschutlayish
[The Austrian government asked Russia to help the Hungarian hero, Koshut Lajo.]
The Dayan Rabbi Mordechai Yitschak Samet
During the period that Rabbi Shlomo Boruch was the Dayan, somewhere around the year 1845, both the Rav Rabbi Chaim Yosef of sacred memory and the Rebbe Rabbi Wolf of sacred memory were already gone
[This statement is inaccurate, because Rav Chaim Yosef (Gottlieb) died years later, in 1867.]
The Chevra Shas-(Talmud Study Group)
Reb Avraham Abba Mezer had a business of food products and he also sold wheat [Reb Avraham Abba Muller had a business of food products and he also sold wheat.]
The son-in-law of Reb Berish Weinberger, (Shimon Riger), was supported by his in-laws for a few years.
After the two sons married they opened a store in the town of Ungvar where they were very successful.
[After the three sons married they opened a store in the town of Ungvar where they were very successful.]
Reb Nessen Feitel [Weiss], a very honest Jew recited his prayers in the synagogue according to the Ashkenazic rite.
The Shamosim (Sextons) of Stropkov
I would like to mention a third shochet Reb Meir Shochet an honest and quiet type of individual who lived in Stropkov most of his years and raised a fine family. His children lived in other communities.
[I would like to mention a third shochet Reb Yitzchok an honest and quiet type of individual who lived in Stropkov most of his years and raised a fine family: one of his sons lived in Stropkov, two others lived in Galicia, and his daughter lived in Michalovce.]
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