« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 46]

Part III



[Page 49]


Fragments of Memories
from the Pioneer Period in the Town

Hila HaMenachem (Jerusalem)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

The year was 1914, the year the First World War broke out. Our town was hit hard, as it was located in the heart of the front, and all the horrors of the time passed through it. When the war ended, and our guys had not yet returned from the army, and many of them never returned, the economic situation was very bad. Even the most affluent of its residents were destitute, homeless and deprived of every source of livelihood and sustenance. Many of the youth began to look for all kinds of ways to create a new framework for themselves, without having any guidance. Due to this awkward and sad situation, several female members, who were imbued with the blessed inspiration of their mothers, took upon themselves the social actions to restore the life of the town. The war left women and children without any help; the sanitary situation was neglected and as a result typhus and cholera epidemics spread. First, we tried to take care of the great neglect and desolation. Then we began to organize visits to the patients' homes; we took care of their children and, when necessary, we contacted a doctor and brought him to the homes of those who needed him. I remember how we, the female members, were guided by the Jewish doctor named Dr. Blay, who was the director of the government's municipal hospital; he was the one who taught us how to treat the patients and instructed us on how to follow the hygiene rules that were prevalent at that time - such as using the bowl of water with Lysol for washing hands, etc. We had an internal duty to spend the night in the patients' homes. With us were one “medic” named Ichel and another Jew from the old generation named Mordechai Korman (his son, Moshe, was saved from the Holocaust and lives in Melbourne, Australia. Moshe's son practices medicine there) -a dear Jew, a wise scholar, and God-fearing. The same Mordechai was known as a great expert in medicine. Where did he learn this - no one knew. It is possible in Russia (he was taken along with other Jews as a captive hostage to Russia). It is possible that his effect was mainly psychological because his very presence had a positive effect on the patients. Unfortunately, negative people slandered him to the authorities, and that popular and unqualified “doctor” was prosecuted for this action.

There were many hungry residents among us, we knew about some of them, and some of them died secretly without us knowing. The youth movement initiated immediate action and opened a public kitchen housed in the “ladies' section” in the synagogue, since no other suitable public place was found for this purpose. In the kitchen they cooked a soup that was distributed (with bread) for free to the needy. Their operation was conducted properly and there was no lack of

[Page 50]

expressions of Jewish brotherhood and devotion on the part of Jewish women who organized other acts of help in the form of “giving in secret”, actions whose purpose was to help those in need and at the same time avoid hurting the feelings of the aid recipients. All those women helped and acted out of internal motives and developed social consciousness without having to go through any course of social work, as is customary these days. As a result of the blessed action of all the parties who were involved in the operations to restore the life of the town, the remains of its residents woke up and slowly found sources of income for them; many started building their destroyed houses and the men who fought in the front began to return home - to the town.

The youth were not content with that; being vibrant and eager for a different, new way of life, they harbored an ambition to insert spiritual content into the empty space opened up by the war. We therefore founded a drama band, among whose participants were: Dr. Katz, who served as our director, G. Rotfeld, the wife of one of the lawyers in the town, Itke Gottlieb, Sharka Krater, Rachel Mayes, Yaakov (Yankel) Messer, Zalman Gira (the son of Alter the baker) and the writer of this article. The band's performance breathed some life into the town. The shows were held in Sokol and we were at constant war with the zealous religious people since the band's rehearsals were always held on Shabbats - guys and girls together - and there was a great fear that someone would press the power button before the end of the Shabbat, before the stars come out. I should note favorably the mothers, kosher Israeli women, “Yiddishe mames”, who were able to understand us much better than our strict fathers.

The progressive youth was also interested in the political life in the town and was alert in the matters of elections of representatives to the institutions of the town and national institutions. We, the youth, wanted that our candidates would be elected to the parliament; but here too, of course, we clashed with the will of our parents, since, by virtue of having trade ties with the non-Jewish citizens, they had other desires regarding the nature of the candidates. And even if they thought otherwise, they expressed their support to satisfy the desires of those Christians, contrary to the needs of our national requirements.

Things changed dramatically after the Balfour Declaration. With the increase in Zionist activity, pioneering youth movements began to be founded in all Galician cities. The first pioneering movement in our town was the “Hashomer” movement. It was founded and maintained by Lonk Eloil - today the painter Aryeh Eloil. He held the actions - the conversations - in the basement of his house. Although I was not one of the first members of “Hashomer” in our town, I was a witness to the revolution that took place among the youth and the panic that arose in the town after those first “undercover operations” came out. The parents began to discuss what could be done to prevent the “evil” that “Lonk” is plotting to bring upon their sons and daughters; God forbid he might force them to convert from Judaism. There was also lashing out from the parents about that “sinner who is causing others to sin”, Aryeh Eloil, but they did not dare harm him. And this was only natural, since the activity in the movement inevitably led to a violation of the parent's discipline. Before the establishment of the movement, the sons helped their parents in their businesses, and now they devotedly and enthusiastically were occupied in the movement activity, something that distanced them from their parents for long hours each day, often without the permission of their parents and even against their will.

In the movement, the members were divided into groups (the head of the group I belonged to was Buni (Avraham) Tzuch, who currently works at the “Shaari Zion” municipal library in Tel Aviv). It wasn't long before the movement began to think about the “fulfilment” of the Zionist idea, that is immigrating to Israel. Of course, we understood that we had to train ourselves for this first. We went for training to the estate of Leder, the owner of the estate in the village of Shachalki, not far from the town. The members of the group did all kinds of agricultural work and were not intimidated from doing all kinds of other menial jobs in the estate. We lived in a commune and accumulated money to finance the longed-for immigration. I remember how some girls, including myself, worked before Passover in baking matzahs.

And I should note that in the town there were many pious and strict housewives who did not agree to buy matzahs without being sure of their kosher baking by their mere presence there. Those “righteous women” used to hand out “Bakshish” (bribe) to the girls rolling the dough, who were mostly from the pure of the people, and even we did not hesitate to take the “Bakshish” in order to contribute to the common fund. In this training, the boys worked outside and the girls worked in the kitchen. Our main purpose in our work in the kitchen was to cook and prepare nutritious food for those guys who did hard physical labor. Among us were also girls from outside our town; of them I remember well the late Sabina (Sabke) Eisenstein, who was the only daughter of wealthy parents who came to Shachalki to forcefully return their lost daughter.

The activity in the movement was alert and intense. We organized trips, we had conversations on various topics under the guidance of all the intellectual forces among us; we learned Hebrew, we learned professions from which we could earn a living in Israel, we danced and sang, we aspired and dreamed.

And now we are here, in the State of Israel. The young people of our town who accompanied the “state on the way” have integrated into the life of the state and are playing main roles in all walks of life.

Our people are found and work in the field of education and culture, their place among the people of science and research is evident, they are also present in the agriculture and industry fields and many of them have a considerable contribution in the public life. The sons of those “young people from those old days”, the sons of the sons and the descendants of those fathers who fought a religious war against the generation of the “rebellious and insurgent”, are now active and working for the security of the country and working hard for its development.

The Jewish life in the town faded away. And the heart aches! Our dear parents and relatives were exterminated by beasts in human form. Our parents and relatives meanwhile put up with our “rebellion” and were proud of every sign of victory and progress - but they didn't get to see the spark of redemption.

In their memory we bow our heads in reverence.

[Page 51]

The Incident with the Rabbi from
Stratin on the Holiday of Shavuot

Dov Beker

Translated by Sara Mages

On that year, the two days of the holiday of Shavuot were stuck and connected to the Sabbath after them, or, to the Sabbath before them, which was the holiday eve. Anyhow, the days of the holiday were close to the Sabbath. There were a lot of preparations for the upcoming holiday at the Rabbi's home. Many guests, members of the Stratin Hassidim, arrived from other towns to the Rabbi's house for the holiday. The experts in the relationship between the Hassidim and their Rabbis claim, that the holiday of Shavuot is the holiday when most of the Hassidim come to visit their Rabbi. And their reasons are with them: Who will leave his home and his family before the night of the Seder and travel to his Rabbi? And those who observe the deed of “Kosher for Passover” had an additional reason to stay at home during the holiday of Passover. Few Hassidim traveled to visit their Rabbi during the last days of Passover, and during the “High Holidays” it is an obligation to stand by the sons during prayer time. So, how a man can leaves his sons to fend for their souls during the fateful hour? Nevertheless, there were few Hassidim who also traveled to visit their Rabbi during Rosh Hashanah. Those were exceptional individuals, the older ones, whose sons were already married, and were exempt from teaching them. There were those who choose to visit their Rabbi during the holiday of Succoth, mostly on the Sabbath during the intermediate days of Succoth. But, on Shavuot during the holiday of “Matan Torah” (Giving of the Law), in the middle of the summer, when the roads were no longer dangerous, a Jewish man could allow himself to travel to his Rabbi, to be next to him and warm himself in his light.

A lot of excitement was felt in the city when the Hassidim arrived to their Rabbi. New faces were being seen. Here, they are waiting for the cantor, the one who is holding the power to pray close to the Rabbi during the holiday of “Matan Torah”, and that cantor is an expert in the Stratin version that he learnt from the mouth of the elderly rabbi, Rabbi Yehoda Hirsh himself. Or, they were planning to listen and learn a new Hassidic melody that one the Rabbi's Hassid brought with him.

A famous cantor known for the gracefulness of his singing, and the owner of a great voice, was Rabbi Yoel from Pomoren. Rabbi Yoel from Pomoren had two brothers in Bobrka; the Hassidim Reb Feibel Melamed and Rabbi Michel Shamir; the three brothers were musicians and cantors. Like many other Hassidim, also Rabbi Yoel was worthy to gather at the Rabbi's house more then once a year. And if Rabbi Yoel happened to visit his Rabbi on Sabbath during Chanukah, after the “Habdalah”(benediction over wine at the conclusion of Sabbaths and festivals), and after the lighting the candles, he sang the “Moztstir” (Mighty Rock of my Salvation - a Chanukah hymn) with his great voice. It was a Hassidic tradition to gather after the lighting of the candles in the Rabbi's synagogue and sing hymns with great happiness and excitement ending the with the “Moztsir” song.

There were very few hotels or guest houses in our city. It was before the custom of the city of Belz was customary in our city, where every other house was used as a hostel for the many Hassidim who came to visit the Rabbi from Belz. Anyhow, if there were such guest houses, there were only a few of them close to the Rabbi's house. The Stratin's Rabbi Hassidim used to stay at the homes of their relatives and friends, with distant relatives, and even with those they knew very little, like business associates. The Hassidim who were not able to find a place to stay, stayed as guests at the Rabbi's house, and somewhere they found a place to sleep for the night, and somehow they managed to push through the crowds in order to enjoy the leftovers from the Rabbi's meal, or to eat what was left in the pots in the Rabbi's kitchen.

On the eve of Shavuot, it was both customary and a great obligation to study the Torah all night and to say the “Tikkun for the night of Shavuot” (night liturgy of Shavuot). When the Rabbi and his Hassidim were busy in the synagogue reciting the “Tikkun”, silver articles and gold jewelry were stolen from the Rabbi's apartment. The rumor spread very fast in the city, and turned into an event that everyone was talking about. Fixing the damage from the robbery was left to the worry of the well to do and rich Hassidim, who for sure, were not going to let the Rabbi's house be without jewelry and silver articles. But the main question that pierced the brains of all kind of curious was: who were the thieves? And the guess-work started; Perhaps this one? Perhaps that one? And from “perhaps” they moved to “without a doubt”, and from “without a doubt” they moved to, “as clear as the day light” and to “most certainly”. And who is the thief? It is certainly not a gentile! Just a Jewish thief at the Rabbi's home, and if he was Jewish, he was one of those flotsam and jetsam, the poor who lay in waiting by the doorways, most likely, the one who display an innocent face, who puts on a “Tzaadickel” (honest) face, one of those who search with their eyes for secret corners, and know exactly where everything is. And at twilight, when the open eye was taken off, they took advantage of the right time, during the night of Tikkun Shavuot, to do the deed. It was the one who was seen begging by the doorways on the holiday eve. It was him, the one who was walking back and forth by the doors on the holiday eve. He is the thief and no one else, and there were those who were ready to testify that they saw him with their own eyes..

And where is the thief? He ran off with the loot and disappeared. And if the thief is not found in our city, the police should hurry and find him in another city.

On the same Sabbath that was close to the holiday of Shavuot, either before it or after it. They caught the thief and brought him to the city. The news spread very fast throughout the city and was the source of conversation for everyone; in the synagogue's hallways, outside, and in the streets next to the synagogue. The diligent shortened their prayer time, and were ready on time to stand by the side of the road where the thief is going to be driven on his way from the train station to the prison. The policemen, who knew the Jewish soul, planed it for the right time, when the Jews left their synagogues.

The sight was heart breaking. A Jew was driven in a wagon sitting in-between two armed policemen, one on the right and one on the left, and the Jew's hands were shackled with chains. His face was lean and his paleness was emphasized by his black “Bekshe” (thick coat). He did not wear a hat, there was only a velvet Yarmulke on his head. His hair was cleanly cut in the pious tradition, and his side locks, two long curls, were falling beside his grey beard, and his face was white as chalk. He was sitting embarrassed, and it seems to you that was is innocent.

Montzki, the notorious policemen, the owner of a foppish mustache in the shape of a “banding knee” set on the right side of the tortured Jew. A scornful smile poured all over the face of the wicked gentile when he saw the large crowd who came to see the sight.

This Montzki was a great evil. During the days of the merciful Emperor Franz Josef the First, a person suspected of committing a crime or stealing, was presumed innocent until he was proven guilty in court. Until then, he should be addressed in an honorary way like;” Mister” or “ Sir”. But that evil Montzki tortured the Jews, addressing them with malice and disgrace and calling each one of them by the name“Moishe”, a reference that felt like a needle piercing a living flesh.

[Page 52]

I, who witnessed the shameful sight, was shocked to the bottom of my soul. Without the ability to properly understand and judge what was happening around me, I put on a hero's face and brought the news to my father of blessed memory. “Do you know” - I said to him - “they brought the thief”! Father stopped me immediately and said; they say that the Rabbi is weeping bitterly saying “What have you done to me my loyal Hassidim'- and he is complaining - “This is such a defamation of G-d”. The Rabbi is crying with many tears, “Why did they brought the matter to the attention of the authorities, this is a profanation of the Divine's name and a desecration of the Sabbath; on the Sabbath they take Jews to prison”.

The city's prison was located on the first floor of the court house, in a beautiful building that stood in suburb of “Zagora”. Opposite the court house, hidden by trees, between the gentile's homes stood the modest home of Reb Yona Helper. Reb Yona Helper was loved by people and respected in the eyes of his gentile neighbors who said: “Reb Yona Helper is a good and honest neighbor”. The family of Reb Yona Helper was also respected by the clerks and the secretaries of the court house. The prison warden, who was treated as a family member by Reb Yona's family, respected them the most. When a Jewish prisoner was handed to the warden, he immediately informed about him to Reb Yona's home. Reb Yona's family took care of the prisoner's provisions so he won't, G-d forbid! fail and eat forbidden food that was prepared to the prisoners.

Reb Yona Helper was a respected home owner, and his income was enough to support his family. He was not one of the “crowds” and not one of the “rushing ahead”, and paid his bills to his lenders with trust. He did not have a seat at the Eastern Wall, and did not wish to be included among the city's snobs. Reb Yona Helper was modest in his ways and never talked in a loud voice even when he was talking to his wife Keila- they were talking quietly like they were whispering to each other. They took care of Jewish prisoner's food quietly and without publicity. They kept is like a great secret, so others wont find out and take the great charitable deed out of their hands.

And who among the homeowners in the city was not ready to troubles himself and bring a small portion of grits porridge or a hot dish of potatoes with bread crumbs, a cup of chicory with a piece of Hallah left from the Sabbath, or just a slice of bread with something spread on it to revive the soul of a Jewish prisoner?

The truth in the matter is that there were not many Jewish prisoners. A Jew would spend all of his money to pay ransom for his soul so he won't have to “sit”. Nevertheless, if a victim to a mistake was locked for a few days in the sin and punishment of our city, it was one of the, rag-tail and bobtail, who came from other towns and begged for money without a license. Those unfortunate were chased up to their necks by the police. I remember one beggar who was armed with one of their permits. When he was young, he worked as a laborer in the oil fields in Borislav, and when he became old and his energy left him, he received a license to beg for money. I learnt about Reb Yona Helper dedication to provide food for the prisoners from my father of blessed memory, when we talked about the prisoner that is the subject of our interest.

My father of blessed memory, used to visit the home of RebYona every once and a while. He told me stories about Reb Yona and his wife, and about the incident of the exceptional and strange prisoner. “We bring him food as we do for all the Jewish prisoners, but that Jew is not taking and he is not eating, not the food that we bring him or the food given to him by the prison. He is not eating and he is not talking, he is fasting and he is silent and we can't get a word out of him”.

And my father told me more. One day, when he happened to be at the train station, he saw a policeman leading the Jew maybe to return him to the place that they brought him from, or maybe to collect facts from his place of residency. The Jew is continuing with his fasting and he is not talking. At the end, also the policeman who escorted him felt sorry for him. He tried to convince him to eat, gave him something from the train station's buffet - but to no avail. Even I tried; maybe he will take something from me. I took a roll and a mug of beer and approached him: “Reb Jew, don't do a stupid thing, please take, it is Kosher”. But he did not see me, like he did not exist, like he was living in another world. He even did not answer me.

And the tortured Jew was forgotten, sunk in the depth of oblivion. The elders of the generation still remember the incident, but no one knows what the end of the unfortunate was. Also, they don't know who the real thief was; the matter remained a mystery even today.


[Page 53]

The Baking of the Matzos

Sheraga Feivel Kallay

Translated by Sara Mages

The preparation for the holiday of Passover started long before the arrival of the holiday. In the summer, during the fruit's season, they made jam and wine that was called “Vishnik”, in a foreign language, for Passover. During Chanukah, they slaughtered the ducks that were fattened during the winter, melting the fat to create the special “Passover Oil”. Right after “Tu Bishvat” [The Fifteenth of Shevat], they started to clean the flour mill, preparing the utensils needed for the baking of the Passover Matzos. As we know, nowadays, there are factories for baking Matzos. But on those days, in the small towns, the Jews made sure that they will not eat Matzos baked in factories. On the contrary, there were also Jews in the big cities who only ate Matzos that were baked in a bakery that was specially made Kosher for Passover. For that, there were a number of families in our town who earned their living baking Matzos, not only for the town Jews but also for the big cities, for the observant Jews who were careful not to eat Matzos baked in a machine. They were also careful to buy those Matzos from a kosher scholar Jew.

Baking the Matzos in this primitive way also had a real factory system in it. According to the Teylor system; first they had to prepare the filtered water before sunset, since “our” water, the water that sat in our home all nigh, was needed for the baking of the Matzos. For that, a special water-drawer supplied water from the well the day before. The first delegate in the task of baking Matzos was the person who measured the flour. He was in charge of filling the flour utensil with the correct amount and when the person in charge of mixing gave him the signal (by knocking on the bowl); he poured the flour into the bowl. The water pourer stood on his guard, and the kneading started. It was allowed to add a drop of water to the dough but, G-d Forbid! if they added an extra pinch of flour, the whole thing would became sour. When the kneading was done, the person who was in charge of the kneading announced: “take the dough”. Immediately, one of the women took the dough, divided it according to the number of women who were standing waiting to roll it, from dawn till sunset, and the rolling started.

Where did they roll? They prepared two wide thick wooden boards. They cut and sand them until they were perfectly clean. Then they leaned the two boards on primitive stands creating a table. Next to that “table”, standing on both sides, were 15-20 women who rolled the dough. There were women who were very artistic, who created a perfectly round Matzo like it was cut by a machine and the thickness of the Matzo was equal all over. But, there were those who created a strange looking Matzo, a triangle, like a Haman Ear with a hole in the middle. It is clear that a Matzo like that was burnt immediately in the oven.

Not all the workers (the rollers) received equal pay, “as the work so is the pay”, the worker was paid according to the shape of the Matzo.

The rolled Matzo was served to the “puncher” table. The puncher passed over the Matzo with a special teethed wheel (like a watch) punching it so it won't rise in the oven like a pocket bread. The puncher transferred the shallow Matzo to the oven where a perpetual fire was burning in one of the corners so it won't extinguish. A large special baker's shovel was used to bring the Matzos into the oven and a lighter, narrower one, was used to take the baked Matzos out. A special person was standing next to the oven sorting the Matzos as they were coming out of the oven. Then, he piled them up storing them in a wicker basket, a typical and special one for this purpose.

Only the poor “bought” ready made Matzos by weight. The well to do and the rich baked their Matzos- how?

A man, who wanted to bake Matzos for himself, had to order the oven (and the workers) for a certain hour, let's say on Sunday morning and brings with him his own flour. If the man was rich, a proper man (and there were many) they cut a special table in his honor, cleaned the utensils and even the oven. When the baking of his Matzos, as was described above, was over, he put his Matzos inside a special basket. The poorer people put the Matzos inside a pillow case.

Beside the payment to the baker that was done according to the weight of the flour, the “landlord” who came to bake his Matzos, gave presents to the workers. The rich gave to each one separately, more to one and less to another, according to their duty at the Matzos baking conveyer belt. The very rich were giving, thus and thus, for all the workers who divided it between them. The rich farmers who came to the city to bake their Matzos gave with “generous” hands. The hours that were not rented out to homeowners were used for baking Matzos for sale, or “business”, or for export to the big city for Jews who strictly ate Matzos that were baked “according to the deed”.

The tradition of baking Matzos in our town was done at the bakery of Chaya-Rachel and later on over at Michel Chaya Rachel's. Michel Chaya-Rachel's was a learned and a great pious Jew who was very careful with the small and large details. In Lvov Reb Michel's Matzos cost fifty percent more then the Matzos baked in an unknown source.


Grandfather Gershon and Grandmother
Chaya-Rachel in their Sabbath clothes.

The Matzo baking factory


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

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

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

  Bobrka,Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 10 Jul 2024 by LA