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Translation of chapter
On the history of the Jews in Czernowitz
from Volume II:
Geschichte der Juden in der Bukowina
Edited by: Hugo Gold
Written by: Prof. Dr. Herman Sternberg, Tel Aviv
Published in Tel Aviv, 1962
Jerome Silverbush zl
The story of a city, which is a regional capital is inseparably tied to the history of the region. In order to tell the story of Jewish Czernowitz we must repeat information that has already been published. A certain amount of overlapping is unavoidable. In spite of that, the attempt will be made in this article to fill out the story of the city with a more subjective representation. One who has experienced the city with his heart, who hailed the growth of the city and mourned its fall will endorse this attempt.
Even at the turn of the century, the trip from the Pruth valley into the city was very difficult for people and freight. The small poorly nourished horses had difficulty pulling the carts uphill and when the horses couldn't go any further, the teamsters would whip the animals without mercy. Then there would be much screaming and yelling, a situation typical for old Czernowitz. Only later, when more powerful draft horses were used and passengers were carried in elegant wagons fitted with rubber tired wheels, did the situation improve. Also, the use of granite paving blocks for the roads led to easier transportation of freight. You couldn't imagine the cityscape without the horse drawn taxis. Long rows of them stood before the train station and the hotel "The Black Eagle." on Ringplatz and in the Dr. Rottgasse. In addition, there was a narrow gauge electric streetcar (since 1894) which ran from the Volksgarten station (south rail road station) along the old Reichsstrasse through the center of the city to the Pruth bridge. Small horse drawn wagons waited at the Springbrunnenplatz to serve the poorer residents, but they couldn't compete with the "electric" and gradually disappeared from the picture. For a period, a Jewish firm ran horse drawn multiple seat wagons for transportation of the public. The means of transport were never completely motorized. The automobile was to the last, a rare means of transportation and they were owned mostly by officials and the rich. That the transportation business was completely in Jewish hands was accepted by the Christian Cernowitz residents without question.
The cities of Moldovia didn't have ghettos for their Jewish residents and Jews who were allowed to live in Czernowitz could take rooms wherever they pleased. In spite of that, they settled in a particular area of the city, East of the railroad station and lower Main Street. Also in the period in which the richer Jews had dwellings in the higher part of the city, this area of the city, almost completely inhabited by Jews was called the "Jewish quarter." It included the Bahnhofstrasse (the railroad station was in the Pruth valley), the Springbrunnengasse, the Synagogengasse, the Alpenplatz (later called Theodor Herzlplatz, the Judengasse as well as the Dreifaltigkeitsgasse to the West and the connecting streets between the two. The first Jewish settlers probably preferred this location, because they could have water without the troublesome and costly work of digging a well. In this area could be found an artesian well after which the adjacent street (Springbrunnengasse) was named. It was a round structure built of sandstone out of whose center, pipes radiated like friendly arms delivered uninterrupted streams of water. One had to bring along a short piece of pipe to direct the water from the outlets into a bucket. This monumental fountain was destroyed when in 1894 modern underground water and sewerage pipes were run through its location. The next generation never got to see it. At the other end of Springbrunnengasse there was another productive fountain which was covered by tastefully designed scrollwork well house which was topped by a half moon which was visible from a great distance. This symbol justified the name, "Tuerkenbrunnen" (Turkish fountain) and indicated that the fountain was built during the time of Turkish rule, that is, before the year 1775, when the Turks turned over Bukovina to the Austrians as thanks for the diplomatic support Austria gave them during the Turkish Russian war (1768-1764). The ritual bath (built in 1840), later named the Kaiserbad was situated by the Tuerkenbrunnen. The long time proprietor was named Kalichstein. The waste water from the bath raced through the "Jar" or Judengraben (Jewish ditch) down to the Pruth. For many years, the Jar represented the Eastern boundary of the Jewish quarter.
There were many small streams running through the city, which with the progress of building gradually disappeared. At one time a stream ran through the lower Dreifaltigkeitsgasse originating from a spring at the corner of Fleischergasse. Before the introduction of pipes to distribute water, residents of the area used this source to supply their water needs.
Around a spring, there would be much activity, trade and commerce. The common people called the place where all the streets inhabited by Jews intersected, the "Ham." It was a world unto itself. Already in the early morning hours it bustled with life. Men hurried to the prayer houses or to their businesses. Housewives did their shopping. There was the shop of the Jew, Feuer in which all sorts of necessities could be found. Across the street Ruthian farmers from surrounding villages who had come to town to find casual work crowded in front of a tavern leased by a Jew. There were many arguments among them some of which led to fist fights. A city policeman was constantly posted there. He never smiled because he was aware of the dignity of his position. On Sundays, he wore his parade uniform and a rooster feather fluttered on his black hat. In spite of that, the youngsters from the surrounding streets made fun of him and outran him when he tried to chase them down. The policemen, mostly of Ruthian nationality knew only a smattering of German. The higher police offices were mostly occupied by Jews (Gerbel and Nathan Loebl).
The wholesale bakery belonging to Mordechai Weissmann's heirs was nearby. In the basements of the one story houses, women sold bread, pretzels, other baked goods and sweets to passersby and noisy children in whose outstretched arms a copper red coin lent the necessary emphasis. On the east side of the plaza a small alleyway led to the "Jewish hospital" and later to the old folks home. Shops of all sorts lined the Springbrunnengasse. Used clothing stores stood side by side. Nearby sharp aromas escaped from the butcher shops and fish stores. The transactions and bargaining took place with much loud conversation. The noise lasted until late into the evening. On the street which went by the Altmart, stood the tables for dressed poultry. On the small slope that later became Theodor Herzlplatz, salesladies sold their wares. The demand for eggs, vegetables, and poultry was supplied by country women from the surrounding region whose white kerchiefs made them visible from a distance and the Swabians from the suburb of Rosch, where their ancestors, had settled since the reign of Kaiser Joseph II. In the surrounding houses, craftsmen of all sorts had established themselves. There was also no lack of inns, taverns and canteens in which the regulars in addition to a good drink, were offered fish prepared in a traditional manner.
It seems that in the 80s of the previous century, the craftsmen received official permission to practice their trades in certain streets. We are reminded of that by the street names which are still in use even though the craftsmen have long since moved into other districts. There was a rope maker, carpenter, book binder street, likewise a furrier, watch maker and butcher street. On the other hand, were the shoemakers, plumbers, bakers, barbers, copper smiths, locksmiths, tinkers, glaziers, tailors, brass foundry men, gold and silversmiths, blanket makers, wallpaper hangers, saddlers, bridle maker, musicians, room and sign painters, stove fitters, that is all the trades that were mostly practiced by Jews, but were not concentrated in particular streets, probably because their number was not great enough. Other trades like wagon maker, blacksmith, bell maker, chimney sweep, vase craftsmen, and with few exceptions, mason were avoided by Jews. Members of the graphic trades, to which the Torah scribes, the engravers and the book printers belonged enjoyed special respect. Grave stone making which was hereditary in the Picker and Steinmetz families belonged to this group of trades.
In the Jewish quarter, alongside of merchants and craftsmen, there were also representatives of the free trades like ritual slaughterers and synagogue singers. The teachers often lived in a single room that during the day served as a cheder 1. A large, well attended cheder was founded about 1890 by Leiser Gross. To the poorest of the poor belonged the synagogue servant, members of the burial society "Cherwra Kadischa," peddlers, etc. Representatives of the intellectual professions and better situated merchants chose their dwelling place outside of the Jewish quarter.
In general the Jewish quarter around the turn of the century gave the impression of a closed settlement of people with not much education, who were behind the times, but who were cooperative and tried to help each other to make life easier. Many of the Chasidim a were followers of a "wonder rabbi" in who they saw a exalted figure, a heaven sent helper in need, a teacher and enlightener. The prescribed prayers were repeated three times a day. The older men wore black coats called "kaftans, didn't shave themselves and had side curls, the younger ones already preferred European clothing. Their family life was exemplary. Pious to a fault, they spent their days with little joy waiting for the promised arrival of the Messiah who they were convinced would appear shortly. Beyond this district lived the Jews mostly in obvious prosperity. They were better educated than their brothers and sisters in the Judengasse, their children already attended Christian schools, spoke among themselves German in addition to Yiddish, but they didn't experience the intimacy of community life. With their Christian fellow citizens, the government officials relocated from the West, the officers of the garrison, professors, Polish merchants and other such people, there was little or no social contact. The suburbs Rosch, Kaliczanka, Klokuczka, Horecza and Manasteriska were villages whose population consisted mainly of farmers. Only rarely was a Jew owning a drygoods store or a bar a permanent resident of the suburbs.
The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, opened a new chapter in world history and caused serious consequences for the princedoms of Moldavia and Wallachia and for the Jews of Czernowitz. The Turkish sultan was now the boss and the local princes became kings and had to purchase the right to sit on their throne and to wage war together with the neighboring princes with repeated presents at the gate. Moreover the mutual mistrust led to bloody incidents. Also, the strained relation with Poland resulted in war which caused great suffering for the population. In 1509, Czernowitz was plundered by the Polish Hetman Kaminetzky and in 1538 was likewise burned to ashes by a Polish army. The Moldavian King Alexander Lopusneanu (1552-1561 and 1564-1568) issued terrible ordinances against the Jews and only relaxed them when commanded to the Sultan through the intervention of the Duke of Naxos Don Josef. It is noteworthy that the Turks who kidnapped young boys in the lands they conquered and after educating them put them in the slave army of the Janitscharen, made an exception with Jewish boys.
At that time, many Jews came from Western Europe to Czernowitz, some were Ashkenazim, called "Franken" who fled persecution in Germany and some were Sephardim. While the Sephardim moved further, the Ashkenazim remained in the city and brought the Yiddish language with them. During the short period of peace before the outbreak of the Turkish Polish war in 1600, commerce developed. The connection stretched from Nuremberg to Adrianopel and brought Armenian, Greek and Jewish businessmen great profits. About that time in Czernowitz, as in other cities of Moldovia a form of Jewish self government, called the "Kahal" modeled on the example of the Polish Jews was developed. It was called "Bresla Jidoveasa" (Jewish guild). The director carried the title "Starost." He was supported by the community elders. The elders together with the Starost and the rabbis were elected, although, the results of the election had to be confirmed by the Prince. The community was allowed a restricted autonomy and self government. Nevertheless they were powerless to protect themselves against the spiteful actions of the current ruler. The fact that the Jews had the same clothing and language as other residents of Moldovia brought them no advantage.
About 1650, the Jews of Poland and the Ukraine were murdered by the bands of Chmielnitzkis. The few that could rescue themselves fled in part to Moldavia and settled there. They brought Jewish knowledge with them and stimulated the intellectual life of the Community. Also many Jews came from Russia. The many following wars between Russia and Turkey placed a heavy burden on the residents. The Jews of Czernowitz had to temporarily leave the city. A change came when the Turks obliged themselves in the peace treaty of Balta Liman (1749) to leave the principalities of Moldavia and Walachia. The rule of the princes was limited to seven years and a privy council (Divan ad hoc) was created. The rulers of this epoch called Phanartioten attempted through extortion of the citizens to get the money they had to deliver to the court of the Ottoman empire to pay for their positions. The Phanarioten in the expectation of higher income from taxes promoted the settling of foreign merchants. The Jews were treated differently than other taxpayers. A report about those times came from the Jesuit Boskovich who accompanied the English envoy on a trip from Constantinople to Poland and because of bad weather was forced to remain two weeks in Czernowitz. He met many Jews in the city in whose houses his traveling companions were quartered. The Jews, he reported, occupied themselves in the export business and were subject to many oppressive restrictions. From a 1774 document one sees that they didn't even have the right to build a synagogue. They had to send a request to the Divan ad hoc in Jassy requesting permission to rebuild the synagogue that was burned down by Russian soldiers.
Because the Jewish population of the city consisted of heterogeneous elements there were many contrasts that sometimes even led to quarreling. In the first quarter of the 18th century, the starost Cerbu (Hirsch) was at the head of the community. One of his successors was Lazar Israel who held his office through 35 years into the Austrian occupation. He harbored no feelings of Jewish solidarity. In 1777, he requested in a memorandum to the Lemberg High Command, that the "foreign Jews" be removed. He died in 1782. The rabbis during that period were Rabbi Meir ben Jechiel (died 1740), rabbi Simche Seew from Kuty (died 1780) and rabbi Baruch ben Schlomo (died 1793).
The "Tolerance Patent" issued by Kaiser Josef II did little to relieve the difficulties of the Jews. The Kaiser and his advisors wanted to force the Jews to become farmers, but only as tenants. They would have to work the land for 20 years and convert to Christianity before they owned the land. This condition was unacceptable. Many Jews preferred to emigrate, especially since the document requesting civil rights which was given to the Kaiser on the occasion of his visit to Czernowitz on June 17, 1783 was unsuccessful. The Jews who remained behind were forced to send their children to Christian schools and to take German names. (Kaiser's patent of July 13, 1787). The officials entrusted with the carrying out of this ordinance soon discovered a new source of income. They only gave the Jews the names they desired when they were handsomely bribed. The poor received names intended to make them the objects of ridicule. The Jews stubbornly resisted the order to send their children to Christian schools. They preferred to pay fines and let their children continue to visit the cheder.
The placing of Bukovina under Galician rule (1786) started a new wave of Jewish immigration to the land. In spite of a strict official ban, many Jews from Galicia left their homes to move to neighboring Czernowitz. Here the pressure of taxes was less. The Bukovina Jews were still not recruited for military service and the possibilities for earning a living were better. The authorities were powerless to stop this secrete infiltration. The repeated measures meant to send "undesirable elements" back to the countries they had "sneaked" in from were always withdrawn because of the difficulties of the affected people. In the end many Jews found ways and means to remain in the land. Also long time Jewish residents sometimes found ways to help the new arrivals by adding them as family members to their residence permits.
In spite of the government harassment, an economic upswing could be observed. Already in 1787, there were 91 Jewish owned homes on the road from Czernowitz to Lemberg. At the same time, there were also setbacks. At the time of the war against Napoleon, Russian troops who marched through Czernowitz repeatedly plundered Jewish owned property and commerce in agriculture was severely harmed by Russia's annexation of Bessarbiens (1812). The beginning of industry could be observed. The production of potash was almost entirely in Jewish hands as was the production of alcohol. The first beer brewer was Juedl Schmiedenauer. Jews liked to run taverns, but Christians held the concession for owning brandy inns and the Jews had to be satisfied with leasing them
In 1789, the old Moldavian form of Jewish self government was discontinued. In the place of the Kahal, the Josephine Jewish system, patterned on the Kultusgemeinde 2 form of government practiced elsewhere in Austria was adopted. The community had the right to self government, but many problems were created because of the differences between the very conservative Chasidim and the enlightened Maskilim 3.
In 1791, the Community, acquired the field hospital owned by Jakob Weibel for 100 dukats. The Executive Committee at the time consisted of Hirsch Gerbel and Juda Leib Bayer. The officials would not allow the Jews to build their own hospital. The Jewish hospital was first opened in 1853 in place of the old shelter for the homeless.
At the Board of Director election in 1804, Solomon Bayer, Beer Rosenthal and Salomon Zahn were elected. The aforementioned Josef Schmul Pultower protested the election results on the grounds that the winners had entered the land illegally. A new election was held in which Aron Amster, Juedl Schmiedenauer and Salomon Bayer were chosen for the Board of Directors. Only Solomon Bayer was able to produce a school certificate to verify his qualifications. Knowledge of the German language was a prerequisite for holding office.
Little was done to educate the young people at that time. The general (Catholic) schools in the city, a boys and a girls school accepted Jewish children if their parents were among the "tolerated" Jews. The children were first examined for cleanliness. This demeaning procedure was not used with Catholic children and the Jewish children were assigned special desks (school ghetto). The Jews were very reluctant, also on religious grounds, to send their children to these schools and satisfied themselves with the traditional chedars. Likewise, they refused to send their children from the missionary school which opened in 1841 and in which instruction was given in Polish and would gladly have accepted Jewish children.
Since 1750, Rabbi Israel Josef Ehrendorf officiated as rabbi in Czernowitz. His successor was Rabbi Baruch ben Schlomo (died 1794). With the first district rabbi, Rabbi Chaim ben Schlomo Tyrer, called Chaim Czernowitzer (1760-1813) in 1789, a significant personality assumed the leadership of the Community. He was the author of numerous theological papers, fought valiantly but unsuccessfully against the enlightenment movement and against the hostile measures the government enacted against the Jews. He left the city in anger in 1807. Since no one worthy to be his successor could be found, the rabbinical lawyers, Moses M. Loewy, Meier Reiner and Efraim Zelniker took his place. Only in 1833, Rabbi Isak Schimschon Horowitz-Meisels was elected as rabbi. He was the spiritual leader of the Community until 1870.
Thanks to the efforts of the Board of Directors members, A. N. Rosenzweig and Welwel Juster as well as the Community secretary Wolf Schiffer, the great synagogue located in the Jewish quarter was completed in 1853. In addition, there were many private prayer houses like the "Schul" of the Rabbi Chaim Czernowitzer at Bahnhoffstrasse, no. 2 and the "Luttingersche" prayer house.
The city had two cemeteries. The old one (perhaps the same as the "Turkish" cemetery named in an old document) was started in 1700 and used until 1866. In the same year, the new cemetery in the suburb of Horecza was put into use. In 1940, 80,000 could be counted in this cemetery and for the ultra orthodox there was a special section. There were many monumental grave stones there. The dome on the funeral parlor could be seen from afar.
The revolution year of 1848 saw Bukovina separate from Galicia (proclaimed on March 4, 1849) and brought with it several joyously greeted freedoms, which were quickly taken away by the reactionary regime. In spite of that progress couldn't be halted, if not in the political, then in the cultural arena. More and more of the population were caught up by the new currents of the Enlightenment. The proponents of this movement were immigrants from Galicia who believed that they served progress when they attacked the walls that the rabbis had erected for hundreds of years to preserve Judaism in a hostile world. The advocates of these new ideas didn't realize what danger they were subjecting themselves and their people to. Blinded by the light of profane knowledge they opened the fight against everything conventional and shrank back from no consequence. In Czernowitz, however, the enlightenment clashed with another current, that of the Chasidim, which had captured a large part of the population. The Rabbinic courts of Sadagura, Wiznitz and Bojan were near enough and their adherents were devoted protagonists of religious fanaticism. Extremists and rational people stood face to face and defended their positions. The contrasts became more extreme. The events of the next decade took a dramatic turn.
Some of the torch bears for the Enlightenment in Czernowitz were the pioneer of Jewish theater, Abraham Goldfaden and other well know names like Welwel Zbaracazer-Ehrenkranz, Mordechai Schreier, Chaim Gottesmann, Moses Ornstein, whose famous student was Karl Emil Franzos, the private teacher Abraham Abisch Eisner, Israel Teller and the book dealers David Apotheker and Jehoschua Widmann. Along with them worked intellectuals like the poet Matatja Simche Rabener, the nephew of the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Igel, further Moritz Amster (1831-1904), workers of the "General Newspaper of Judaism" and the "Vienna Pages" and the lawyer Dr. Heinrich Atlas and Dr. Reitmann, who was an advocate of German education. The Enlightened found understanding in increasing numbers of the population where there was the inclination to escape the "spiritual straight jacket." Its influence can be seen in the fact that the Jews of the city gradually let their sons study at the gymnasium 4 despite the fact that from the year it was founded, 1803 until 1820, it didn't have a single Jewish student and that the Israelite German elementary school (with instruction in German) was opened in 1855. The education of youth conformed with the modern spirit, which wanted or not, led to an assimilation with the Germans.
The Chasidim and the Orthodox, saw in the desire for worldly knowledge, the greatest danger to the survival of Judaism. Assimilation with the surroundings appeared to them as the first step in the decline of Judaism. Since their misgivings were based on experience, they found the courage for a meaningful rejection of the new direction. With all the means at their command, they fought for the maintenance of the traditional life style. For that reason, they would rather see girls attending public schools than boys, since the male carried on the religion (my guess at what he is saying). According to statistics that were preserved, in 1871, 11 girls and 1 boy attended public school in Czernowitz, in 1875 it was 69 boys and 224 girls and in 1880, 229 boys and 541 girls. In the rapidly increasing number of boys attending public school, one can see the success of the Enlightenment.. Compared to the new educational institutions, the Chedar was losing its significance. The ultra orthodox were also conservative in their costume. They wore a black silk caftan in the Polish style, short pants, white stockings and on Shabbat, a fur hat. If a son wore modern clothing, in the eyes of his father it was a violation of sacred commandments. The Jew should differentiate himself from his neighbors in all things.
The orthodox leaders were honorable citizens like Herschl Welwel Juster, Josef Schmelzer, Samuel Schwarz, and Aron Goldfrucht. Among the free thinkers were Isaak Rubinstein, an educated liberal thinking man and Markus Zucker, the generous philanthropist , the most prominent leader. The Orthodox had no understanding and no sympathy. Among them were fanatics who for example in 1851 rioted in the upper Judengasse because of the hiring of a ritual slaughterer who was not acceptable to them, so that the police had to arrest the mob leaders. As three years later, a free thinking rabbi, Dr. Lazar Igel (1825-1892), in spite of the protests of the Orthodox, was appointed as instructor in oriental languages at the Lemberg university and taught the course in German, the embittered Orthodox left the community(1872). For a period of time, there were two communities, an Orthodox with Rabbi Horowitz-Meisels as its head and the progressive community with Dr. Igel as its spiritual leader. That, however didn't end the conflict. Only after repeated mediation attempts by the mayor of the city and the regional president was a compromise reached (1875). The installation of two rabbis, a progress rabbi with the title of chief rabbi and an orthodox rabbi called the "Aw Beth Din" was agreed on. Dr. Igel was confirmed as chief rabbi and after Rabbi Horowitz declined the position (1870), Benjamin Weiss (1841-1912 was selected as Aw Beth Din. An event of crucial importance for the Jews in Austria was the passing of the Land Ownership law of December 21, 1867. It brought the Jews the desired equality with the Christian residents including the removal of restrictions on property ownership and freedom of movement within the boundaries of the state 5. The immediate result of the new law was an large increase in the Jewish population. According to the census of 1880, there were 14,449 Jews in Czernowitz, in 1890, the number was 17,359, in 1900 the number rose to 21,586 and in 1910 to 28,613. Jews from the surrounding villages where their houses were destroyed during the war, moved into Czernowitz, increasing the number of Jews in 1940 to approximately 50,000 which was about half of the total population.
There was no longer a legal barrier to the blossoming of the Jewish "spirit of business" in trade and industry, to the free choice of professions and to progress in politics. In Bukovina and especially in Czernowitz, it became apparent what Jews could accomplish when no artificial barriers were set up for them. Social obstacles and a swelling thinly veiled anti-Semitism which in other crown lands harmed the Jewish minority were hardly felt in Bukovina because of the numerous nationalities there and the numerical superiority of the Jews.
The long holding peace and the opening of the Czernowitz university (1875), open to all students with its worldly faculty, attention to the arts and sciences, the rise of commerce, the widening of the railroad network, building of roads, expansion of the sewer lines, gradual admission to public posts, improvement in the justice system, the mail, telegraph and telephone service and last but not least, liberal legislation, were the levers which facilitated the ascent of the Jews.
The community, at one time, the only recognized representative of Jewish interests had to reduce circle of influence. They were restricted to religious affairs and charities like religious elementary schools, care for sick, the elderly and orphans. They were, however still responsible for maintaining marriage, birth and death records.
With the completed compromise, however, the conflicts were not eliminated. They were very deep and reflected the religious attitude of both partners. One who wanted fervently to pray to his god saw unhappily in the synagogue the presence of men who not only had distanced themselves from the traditional costume and vernacular but also were suspected of not hallowing the Shabbat 6 and not following the ritual dietary laws. The large Synagogue was, because of its location in the Jewish quarter, the Lord's house for the Orthodox. Only a few free thinking Jews, in as much as they still felt bound by the old cherished traditions attended the synagogue on Shabbat and holidays. They were looked at, however with a jaundiced eye. As rabbi, Dr. Igel observed this situation and wanted to remedy it. He held two separate services on Shabbat, one for the Orthodox and one for the Free Thinkers, but this measure didn't satisfy either group. One had to look for another solution. In Rathausstrasse 4, a choir school was held. The choir was directed by Cantor Kesten. The modern service with sermon and choir made a lasting impression on the visitor. However, a suitable framework was lacking. In the long run, a prayer hall in a rented private house satisfied no one. Now the time had come to think about building a temple for the upward striving population. Even the contemporary state president, Barron von Schmueck supported this idea. It was quickly decided to form the Czernowitz Israelite Temple Society whose charter was approved by the Kaiser and Koeniglich state government on December 19, 1872. Well known personalities of the city sat on its board. David Rottenberg the president of the Community, Kaiser's Advisor Naftali Tittinger, Members of Parliament David Tittinge and Heinrich Wagner, the former president of the lawyer's guild Dr. Heinrich Kiesler, the assistant mayor Dr. Atlas, Captain a.D. Bernhard Boltinester, the heads of the families: Amster, Anhauch, Barber, Bronstein, Hohn, Luttinger, Nadler, Regenstreif, Rosenzweig, Steiner, Wischoffer and Zucker. The construction plans for the temple were joyfully greeted. Contributions flowed freely. When Mrs. Amalie Zucker contributed a lot in the center of the city, action was taken immediately. Already on May 8, 1873 the cornerstone was laid. At the celebration, Chief Rabbi Igel placed the first stone and the orthodox archbishop Dr. Hacman placed the second. The completion of the temple was delayed however because money difficulties arose. Finally, the gift of 6000 gulden by the Member of Parliament, Heinrich Wagner made it possible to complete the construction. The completion ceremony took place on 25 Elul 5637 (September 4, 1877). On that memorable day, the president of the Community was David Rottenberg. The echo of this event reverberated far and wide. The Czernowitz Newspaper, an official gazette edited by Government Council Anton Zachar, printed a snappy story on the occasion. The temple was administered by the board of governors of the Temple Society, but in the long run, the Society couldn't fulfill its responsibilities. Because of budget problems, the management of the Temple was offered to the Community. At the meeting of June 13, 1881 the offer was unanimously accepted despite the objections of the Orthodox faction. The Temple was renovated in 1937 and 4 years latter it was incinerated by the Germans.
During the Temple's existence, the post of sermonizer 7 was held by the praiseworthy Chief Rabbi, Dr. Lazar Igel, Dr. Josef Rosenfeld and Dr. Abraham Mark. The chief cantors were Issak Rosenheck, Simon Schaechter, Pinkasewicz, Steinberg and David Feldmann.
Before the era of Zionism, Czernowitz had a thoroughly assimilated upper class. The city served as the capital of the Kaiser faithful Eastern province of the Hapsburg monarchy. Despite the fact that Ruthenes and Romanians were in the majority, the Jews and Germans give this province a German imprint. The assimilated Jews considered themselves Germans, with the caveat "of Mosaic confession." Pure Jewish, even biblical given names became ever rarer. There were Jews with the given name, "Christian." Jews who considered a German education a worthwhile goal, but didn't want to sell their souls created the idea of a Jewish nationality. For the original Zionists, the first attainable goal was not Zion, but the knowledge of the Jewish character and its nurture. They took up Herzl's rallying cry. "Return to Judaism before the return to a Jewish land." An irreconcilable struggle of the Zionists against the propagators of the assimilation idea began. Zionism at that time, however was more an act of charity for poor Jews, who one would gladly get out of sight, than a national movement with a promising future.
The only contact between assimilated Jews and their religion was provided by the Community which all Jews who hadn't left the religion had to belong to. At the head of the Czernowitz Community which in 1873 had almost 10,000 members were Isaak Rubinstein, an educated man who lived at Schlangengasse (later Dr. Reisgasse no. 4) where he started a literary salon. He was the first Jewish member of the federal 8 parliament from Bukovina. Rubinstein's successor was the merchant David Rottenberg. He lived opposite the temple in Franzengasse no. 4. Rottenberg was followed by Kaiser's Advisor Naftali Tittlinger, a strong personality with a strong sense for justice and order, one of the Jewish patriarchs of the city. During his period of office there was an opposition party led by the young lawyer, Dr. Benno Straucher. Dr. Straucher played the "little man against the ruling families" card until he succeeded 1903 in winning the presidents office. From then on, he was the arbiter of the Community.
Dr. Straucher was elected a member of parliament in 1897 and held the position until 1914. His main contribution was the recognition of the Jewish people as a political force in a period that the Jews of the land were followers of a powerless German liberalism. It was not long after that, that a Jewish folksong was heard in Czernowitz that had the refrain, "We Jews have a good God, we have chosen Dr. Rott (a liberal German Christian)." Dr. Straucher hammered a hole in the wall of German liberalism. He allied himself with no party and let his voice be heard in the Vienna parliament in the name of the Jewish people. His championing the revision of the Hilsner trial and his fight against the ritual murder slander were unforgettable. He brought the pogrom in Russia before the court of public opinion. This national Jewish stance revealed the political astuteness of Dr. Straucher, who expected and gained advantages because of his position., but it didn't lead to a commitment to the newly arrived Zionist ideology. To the contrary, Dr. Straucher recognized that the nationalist content of Zionism would take the wind out of his sails and he therefore fought the Zionist organization in which he saw a competitor which would endanger his power. Occasionally in a gathering, he would sanctimoniously take a piece of paper out of his vest pocket to prove that he had "purchased a shekel," that is, he was a Zionist, but this fooled no one. His hatred of the Zionists in whom he saw personal enemies. couldn't be disguised by any demagogic gesture. One had to credit him with being a master at controlling the masses. His boundless ambition and unparalleled desire for power gave him this quality. He was president of the community, member of state and federal parliament, Landesausschussbesitzer, president of the Jewish Parliament club in Vienna as long as it existed, intermittently member of the delegation, member of the State School Board, city councilman and lawyer for Czernowitz, had a seat and a voice in the board of directors of the Aktien Brewery Company, was director of the Bukovina savings bank and had many honorary positions. His interests encompassed all areas of importance to Jews in the city and the state. Dr. Straucher's power depended mainly on the Community, over whose officials he ruled and on the many followers whose loyalty, he knew how to purchase. It pleased him to be addressed as "Herr President," he played the benefactor and enjoyed being flattered. Through his connections with the "common man," who he drank in the Political Cellar 9 he ruled the voting apparatus. The men who played a roll in public life along with him had their positions thanks to him and remained true to him even when the editor, Adolf Wallstein, publicly denounced his political activities and even criticized his private life. Pushed by his friends, Dr. Straucher brought a lawsuit against Wallenstein for defamation of character, but withdrew the lawsuit when the judge accepted Wallenstein's proof the truthfulness of his statements.
In the period during the war years during which the city was occupied by foreign troops, Dr. Neumann Wender acted al leader of the Community. He retired from office in 1918. a commission of the Jewish National Committee took over the agenda and named the hospital director, Dr. Josef Ohrenstein as leader.
Jews took an active part in the political life of the city. The succession can be clearly seen in the selections from "History of the Jews in Bukovina. The following list (with no claim to completeness) gives the names of Jews who played an important roll in public life.
Member of State Parliament Deputy Mayor, Dr. Josef Fechner (1861-1874); Jakob Kohn (1874-1898); Isaak Rubinstein (1861-1863); Dr. Hermann Poras (1870-1871); Leibuker Barber (1871-1878); David Tittinger (1886-1901); Josef Steiner (1901-1903); Wilhelm Tittinger (1904-1914); Dr. Benno Straucher (1900-1914). Landesausschsszbeisitzer Dr. Josef Fechner (1861-1877); Dr. Benno Straucher (1904-1910); Dr. Neumann Wender (1911-1914). Members of the federal parliament: Isaak Rubinstein (1873-1878); Heinrich Wagner (1878-1896); Heinrich Popper (1885-1891); David Tittinger (1897-1900); Dr. Benno Straucher (1897-1914); Leo Rosenzweig (1901-1906). In addition to the above named, the following were members of the state parliament for various terms: Josef Blum, Janku Fischer, Jakob Hecht, Dr. Isidor Katz, Salomon Rudich, Dr. Salo Weiselberger, Prof. Dr. Leon Kellner, Dr. Max Folkschaner.
In the city council, Jews had won 20 of the 50 seats. Because of this, they were able to get a Jewish mayor elected two times; Dr. Eduard Reiss (1905-1908) and Dr. Salo Weisselberger (1913-1914). As a consequence, Dr. Weisselberger, because of his courageous stand during the Russian occupation of the city (1914), was made a nobleman.
The Jewish councilmen were in the position to get the Council to vote unanimously to name some city streets after deserving Jews.
There were streets in Czernowitz that carried the following names:
Atlas Gasse, named after Dr. Heinrich Atlas;
Hauptmann Baltinestergasse, named after the worthy city councilman.
Dr. Fechnergasse, after the first Jewish deputy mayor of the city of Czernowitz;
Franzosgasse, after the author Karl Emil Franzos;
Heinegasse, after the poet;
Dr. Theodor Herzlplatz;
Igelgasse, after the rabbi Dr. Lazar Igel;
Markus Kampelmachergasse, after the city councilman/community council member;
Karolinegasse, after the first name of the wife of the Community President Rubinstein.
Lazarettgasse, for the street where the Jewish hospital had previously been located;
Dr. Eduard Reisgasse, after the first Jewish mayor of the city of Czernowitz;
Dr. Benno Strauchergasse, after the long serving community president, member of federal and state parliaments of this name;
David Tittingergasse, after the member of parliament of that name;
Heinrich Wagnergasse after the founder of the Jewish orphanage.
The streets in which the old synagogue, the temple and the cemetery were located were called: Synagogengasse, Templegasse 10 and Friedhoffgasse. The street signs were lettered in three languages: Romanian, German and Ruthenian.
After the Romanian troops marched into the city on November 11, 1918, the street signs were removed. The streets were renamed and not a single worthy Jew had the honor of having a street named after him. Thereafter the streets flaunted the names of Romanian personalities unknown to the city and when these were lacking, the names of Roman emperors were used in order to demonstrate even to the skeptical the connection with the Roman nation.
Kampelmachergasse for example was renamed after the scholarly Emperor, Marc Aurel, which led Dr. Ebner to make the humorous remark in his East Jewish newspaper, "Markus Kampelmacher was followed by Marc Aurel."
Many worthy men served on the board of directors and the community council in the last years before the outbreak of the war.
Before their elections as mayor of the autonomous city of Czernowitz, Dr. Reiss and Dr. Weiselberger served as deputy mayors. There were many Jews among the higher officials of the city.
Before the outbreak of the World War, the Jews of the city reached the peak of their political and economic development. The roots of this success were the high level of education of a large part of the population, the spiritual connection with the culture of Europe, the rise of a healthy feeling of nationalism under the influence of Zionism, the decided rejection of "Germanization" as a worthy answer to German anti-Semitism which was coming into the open and as a result of these factors the political maturity which manifested itself in public life and also contributed to business success.
The fight against assimilation caused by the use of German as a colloquial speech was aided by the success of the "Safa Iwria," which was dedicated to the teaching of the Hebrew language. The "Yiddish School Organization" in spite of the opposition of the Zionists tried to make Yiddish the national language of the Jews. Because of the strength of the Zionists, this attempt failed. The fight of the Jewish student's fraternity for the recognition of their nationality at the university must be given the highest praise. The same degree of political understanding was shown by the students and other youths who in great numbers, joined the movement (Volksrat) founded by Prof. Dr. Leon Kellner in 1910. They had a hard fight, because Dr. Straucher and his followers fought tenaciously to protect their position in public life. On the other site, many, especially the intellectuals followed a new political direction and gathered around Prof. Kellner, who as a former friend and fellow worker of Herzl, enjoyed great respect. In the city, mass meetings took place and the political speeches of Prof. Keller and his fellow workers were attended with a previously unseen enthusiasm. The attempts at disruption by paid agents of the opposition were unsuccessful. The fight was carried out with great bitterness on both sides and lead to a split of the Jewish community into two opposing camps and ended with a partial victory of the Volksrat party who won two seats in the municipal council (Dr. Ebner and Adolf Wallstein) and two seats in the state parliament (Dr. L. Kellner and Dr. M. Fokschaner). The success was prized all the more because Dr. Straucher and his followers had used all the means at their command to prevent this outcome. While the party fight continued and the Volksrat party apparently won new victories, the World War broke out. Jewish nationalism found a premature end.
The tension in local politics during this epoch was insignificant compared to the progress in the realm of spiritual life. Soon, middle school was not adequate and many Czernowitz Jews sent their sons and daughters to the Austrian universities. Since the completion of the German Franz Josefs University in 1875, students who couldn't attend high schools, were able to study in both the law school and the school of philosophy Only medical students had to study in Vienna. At the beginning, there were only a few Jewish students at the University. In 1914, however there were 431 Jewish students in a total enrolment of 1118 students (38.5%). There were many Jewish professors on the faculty. In the middle schools and other public schools, the number of Jewish students (both boys and girls) rose far above the percentage of Jews in the general population. In 1913, the number of Jewish students in all the middle schools, 1150, was two thirds of the total school population. This number reflected the great desire of the Jews of the city for education. The faculty of the middle schools, which for many years, included no Jewish teachers, now had a large percentage of Jews who had obtained their factual and pedagogic knowledge at the Czernowitz University.
The desire of the Jews of the city to read, corresponded to their high spiritual level. New appearances on the book market were sold out immediately. The daily newspapers, mostly in the German language, satisfied the need to learn about the events of the day. In part, the papers served the political goals of the respective parties. Before the founding of the great daily newspapers, the "Czernowitzer Tagblatt," the Cernowitzer Allgemeine Zeitung," and the "Morgenblatt 18" the "Bukowiner Rundschau" was the leading local newspaper. It was printed by the publisher, Hermann Czopp in his own printing plant in Gregorgasse and before the Christian German "Bukowiner Nachtrichten" came out it had many non-Jewish readers. The reporter Jakob Hut was a character known throughout the city. Newspapers from outside the city, especially the "Neue Freie Presse" from Vienna had a considerable number of faithful Jewish readers. There was a lively interaction between the reading public and the journalists.
Now and then, a Jew who made his home in Czernowitz became known in the wider world. Among them were the many scholars, artists and writers who honored their home city. To name some, there was Karl Emil Franzos (1848-1904) whose book, "Halbasien" made him popular in the Jewish world. Further, Dr. Leo Ebermann (1863-1914) whose play "Die Athenerin" was performed with great success in the Vienna Burgtheater, Rudolf Kommer (1887-1943) a publicist with Europe wide renown who, when he signed his name, never forgot to add the words, "from Czernowitz." Critic Alfred Polgar said of him, "his only wish was to be born in Czernowitz and since he was a favorite of the gods, this wish was fulfilled." Further, Michael Wurmbrand (1879-1952, who wrote poetry and plays (Die Karawane, Die Leuchte, etc.) which found great approbation (Kurt Grossman, Phil. Library, New York); Dr. Philipp Menczel, the great Austrian patriot who long after the fall of the Monarchy tirelessly campaigned in word and speech for the reinstitution of a Federal Republic of the Danube (Deceptive Solution, Stuttgart 1932). The dramatic advisor and author of novels, Dr. Marco Brociner: the financial-political writers, Dr. Friedrich Leiter and Mathias Roll; the historians of the homeland, Dr. Salomon Kassner and Dr. Manfred Reifer (died 1953); Schlomo Wininger, the author of the great Jewish national biography in 7 volumes; the poet Alfred Margul-Sperber; the Hofberg actress Lia Rosen and the actor in the German Volkstheater in Vienna, Feldhammer; Karl Klueger (The Eleventh Commandment); Dr. Heinrich Kiesler (Judaism and modern Zionism); Dr. Max Diamant (Jewish Folk Art); etc.
Along with the printed word, the spoken word exerted a lasting influence on the intellectual life of the Jews. The many lectures not only about political subjects, but also in the area of science, were well attended. The speakers invited by the State Zionist Organization and the Student Circle, established a contact with world Jewry. Every Saturday in Toyenbee Hall, popular lectures accompanied by slides took place. These lectures were organized by Dr. Mosberg and Koifmann whose untiring efforts, assured their success. All levels of the population took part in the intellectual life. In Zionist circles, especially in community meetings, the speakers, and especially Dr. Mayer Ebner had become educators of the people. The science of Judaism was nurtured by the organization "Jeremia" (S. Grossberg and Dr. Salomon Kinsbrunner). The University library which was open to the public and the Jewish library in Toyenbee Hall (its directors were Prof. Salo Dachner and later Prof. Bendit Gottlieb) and the offices of Jewish organizations, which without exception had a library for their members, offered intellectual nourishment and were heavily used. In the German theater which gave very sophisticated performances, the vast majority of attendees were Jewish. They were the ones who gave the city its German character. The Jewish theater which for a time only offered rather low brow entertainment, finally succeeded especially when the Wilnaer company gave guest performances and important artists like Dr. Baratoff and Fischhoff appeared and serious pieces like "The Dybuk" and "Gott der Rache" were performed.
The Yiddish language conference in 1908 which many significant personalities attended, for example Schalom Asch and J. L. Perez, opened the eyes of many Jews caught in the circle of German culture. They recognized the existence of a Jewish spirituality in another garment. The population gradually became acquainted with the theories of Dr. Nathan Birnbaum (Mathias Acher), the initiator of the conference and the theoretician of the Jewish Speech movement. Its prophet was Loebel Tauber. From that point on, the portion of the population whose every day language was Yiddish, took part for the first time in the intellectual life of the nation. The Jewish worker became a cultural asset in a speech that he was intimate with. Soon he grasped the social problems of his time and found ideological explanations in the Jewish press. A study group ("The Jewish culture") opened a tenacious fight against the use of German as an every day language. In contrast to the workers, the Orthodox Jews drew their spiritual nourishment from the ancient Hebrew writings , to which the literary works of the Czernowitz rabbis, Tyrer, Dr. Igel and Benjamin Weiss contributed.
The political, ideological differences split, as regrettable as it was from the standpoint of ensuring higher interests was a sign of intellectual activity. Along with the political parties (Unity Party, People's Council Party), there were Zionists of all stripes (General Zionists, Revionists, Misrachi, Radical Zionists, Jewish State Party), worker parties of various convictions (International Social Democrats, Poale Zionisten, Haschomer Hazair), religious bodies of all sorts and charitable organizations of which the reader of this essay is sufficiently informed.
Commerce, for centuries the source of income for the Jews reached in the last decades in Czernowitz before the outbreak of the World War, its greatest blossom. To be sure, there were setbacks. As in 1886, the Romanian import tariff and shortly thereafter the Russian tariff were raised, the Czernowitz exporters lost their most important sales territories. Because of this, there a large emigration to Canada and the United States started. It was rare for any of these emigrants to return to their homeland. However, the former Czernowitz natives, tried to keep up their ties to their homeland by forming their "Landsmanschaften" and charitable organizations. In Czernowitz the businesses gradually evolved from retail to wholesale. The stores were tastefully outfitted, the show windows nicely decorated. The sales people, dealt with customers in a polite and respectful manner, an atmosphere of mutual trust prevailed. The goods imported from Vienna and other Western industrial centers, pleased the most demanding customers.
The few Christian, mostly Polish firms couldn't compete with the Jewish merchants went out of business. Because of religious tradition, Jewish merchants as a rule didn't do wholesale business with ritually forbidden smoked meat.
During the Austrian period, industry was not significant. It was restricted to a few booming enterprises. The Schlossmann steam powered mill was in existence since 1867. It had been founded by Breslau Jews. There were three breweries in Jewish hands. The largest was the Aktienbierbrauerei. On the clay hill, "Weinberg", stood the brick kilns "Patria" and H. Trichter. The Trichter company also produced wall and oven tiles. The six mineral oil refineries were all in Jewish hands. Since Bukovina was rich in forests, the Jewish spirit of entrepreneurship had opportunity to prove itself. The forests belonged in great part to the Greek Orthodox church and with its agreement, the forests were systematically harvested. Max Ritter von Anhauch and Baron Popper were great sawmill owners who opened new markets for the Bukovina timber industry. Of the 34 large sawmills in Bukovina, 28 were in Jewish hands. Some of the notable industrialists in the years before the ware were: Dr. Emanuel Fischer (potash), Emanuel Axelrad (cement), Moki Fischer and Nathan Eidinger (sugar factory), Fredric Fischer (glass factory), the Kraft brothers and Luttinger (mill industry). There were also a number of smaller industrial concerns. Jews were active as a rule in In the export of agricultural products.
As overall in the world, Jews engaged in financial enterprises. In old Czernowitz until 1904, the Jewish money changers sat daily at little tables in the Ringplatz to offer their services to the farmers of the region. Officers of the garrison who were often burdened with gambling losses were also customers of the small time bankers. In the course of years, this custom disappeared. The credit business was handled by smaller financial institutions and large banks. In Czernowitz in addition to a branch of the Austrian Hungarian bank,and the State Bank (Dr. Eigermann),there were branches of the Vienna Bank Association (Dir. Ignatz Danker), the Vienna Deposit Bank, (Dir. Bernhard Fleminger, Bank Officer Max Seidmann), the Galician Privileged Hypothekenbank (Dir. Ferdinand Mayer), the Boden Credit Institution, the English Bank (Dir. Friedrich Mittelmann and Bank Officer Siegmund Buchbinder), the Bukovina Bank Association (Dir. Heinrich Steiner), the Commercial Bank (Dir. Edmund Luttinger), and the Mercury Bank (Dir. Mathias Roll). In addition, there was the popular Bukovina Savings Bank (long time director Marcus Teuter) which in 1899 moved into a splendid new building in the Ringstrasse along with a number of smaller banks (Iwanier & Ernst, Linker, etc.) and credit unions. In most banks with only few exceptions the directors and officers were Jews. Also in the insurance business, in which both domestic and foreign companies were represented, the Jewish element was dominant (Phoenix, Assieuracioni Generali, Reunione Adriatica, Nordatern, etc.). Small businesses were mostly in Jewish hands. In many branches (plumbers, glaziers) Jews were the only representatives of their craft. The construction craftsmen organization led by the municipal councilman, M. Picker and his successor, Elias Grill, had its own home in the Drifaltigkeitsgasse with a beautiful hall for celebrations of all sorts (weddings, dancing lessons, meetings, etc.). There were many Jewish clock makers, goldsmiths, photographers (Ehrlich, Bruell, Kleinberger, Straasberg), carpenters, tailors and shoemakers who through ability and personal integrity made a success of their businesses. Business, both wholesale and retail was the main source of income for Czernowitz Jews.
The hotels, without exception were owned by Jews. The old hotel, "Moldovia" in whose ballroom, in 1874, Franz List gave a concert went out of business in 1892. The building was torn down and in its place 25 Hauptstrasse was built. The hotel "Zum Schwarzen Adler" was a stopping place for well heeled guests. Alongside it stood the "Hotel Central" and the "Palace Hotel" on Rathausstrasse and the Hotel "Bristol" on Rudolfsplatz. Smaller inns were the "Hotel Gotlieb" on Postagasse, "Hotel Paris" and "Hotel Lemberg" on Hauptstrasse.
The cafes, also owned by Jews were "watering holes" for men who gambled, smoked, debated and read newspapers there. Before the war, they were seldom visited by women. Certain card games were forbidden and others along with billards and chess games served as distractions. The nightclub, "Vienna" on Hauptstrasse had to close its doors in 1900. Similarly, the café on Tempelgasse didn't last long. Feiger's "Casino de Paris" was well known. The Café de l'Europe and the Café Hapsburg on Herrengasse as well as the Café Astoria (Kaiser Cafe) on Elisabethplatz were meeting places for high society. In the Café "Bellevue" on Ringplatz, artists occasionally performed. Many businessmen considered the cafes a sort of stock market and conducted business there. For their convience, Express 11 Service Men with their red caps on their heads had their regular places outside the cafes.
The most well known restaurants were to be found in the larger hotels. A vegetarian restaurant on Russischen Gasse, which enjoyed great popularity and had many strangers and non-Jews as customers belonged to Meschulim Friedmann.
Jews were able to demonstrate their capabilities in the learned professions. In 1855 there were only two Jewish lawyers at the seat of the state court, Dr. Josef Fechner and Dr. Josef Wohlfeld: fifty years later, there were very few non-Jewish lawyers in the Czernowitz bar. The Jewish lawyers distinguished themselves in the pre-war years by their integrity, well rounded education and expert knowledge of the law. The Jews could be proud of them. Jewish doctors were not greatly involved in public medicine. Most Jewish doctors had private practices and because they awakened trust, non-Jews liked to consult them. There were numerous specialists in all areas of medicine. The number of Jewish doctors increased every year, so that the common people were inclined to view medicine as a Jewish profession. In the technical professions, Jews had to recon with a strong non-Jewish competition.
Jews were leaders in professional organizations. There were luminous names that are still remembered today. For many years, Dr. Jacob Auslaender was president of the lawyers guild, Dr. Jacob Auslaender was president of the doctor's guild, Dr. David Anhauch was president of the Druggist's guild and Willhem Tittinger was president of the Chamber of Commerce. The chairmen of the four merchant's boards and the sixteen trade associations was almost without exception, Jewish. Even the long time director of the State Bank in a land with an overwhelming Romanian and Ruthenian 12 population was the Jew Siegmund Eigermann.
In spite of the equal rights granted by the constitution of 1867, at first Jews were not hired for public positions. In Catholic Austria, there was so much prejudice against the stubborn gainsayers of the truth of Christian salvation, that one couldn't forgive them their Jewishness and accept them as candidates for high office. Even baptized hopefuls were ran into mistrust. But gradually, Jews climbed first small and then higher steps in the hierarchy of bureaucracy, never, however, quite getting to the very top. To lower posts in the courts, the post office, the finance and railroad service Jews were drawn in ever increasing numbers. They were industrious and dependable officials and their non-Jewish superiors acknowledged this fact.
Jewish entrepreneurs were mainly responsible for the growth of the city. After the great fire of 1867 Jew Street was quickly rebuilt. The old single story houses disappeared and in their place arose modern new buildings with comfortable apartments. Thanks to Jewish initiative, Czernowitz shook off its small town character. The beautifying of the city was undeniably due to the Jewish middle class. When one spoke of great houses, in old times the names Melech Juster and Hersch Langer were mentioned, and latter Schwarzwald, Goldfrucht, Graubart, Grieshaber, Heitner, Oelgiesser, Chodrower, Einhorn, Trichter, Noa Lehr, Kinsbrunner, Salomon Salter, Rosenzweig, Kratter, Kraus, Noe, Linker and so on.
The plans for the new buildings were drawn by the Jewish builders Salomon Salter, Julius Bochner, Brettschneider, Elias Papst, Hermann Wender, Gustav Locker, Moritz Elling, Rotleder, Merdinger, Wieselberg, Samuel Zentner, Benno Schaefer, Brandes, Moses Kahn, Kahlenberg and Falik and later moreover, Isidor Czaczkes and the Spuhn Brothers, the Eisenberg firm and so on. The large construction company founded by Emanuel Ziffer, built mainly railroad lines. Ziffer was the builder of the local train in the southern part of the Bukovina which was later taken over by the state. He was elevated to the nobility. In the railroad station garden, behind the station building in DornaWatra was a monument to him was erected.
A monumental structure which along with the already mentioned Temple added to the beauty of the city, was the Jewish National House, built in 1908 next to the City Theater and across form the Chamber of Commerce building. It contained a banquet hall, all offices of the Community, as well as the Eretz Israel offices and it represented the Jewish position of power in the city. Today, rumor has it that the building has been turned into a club for Russian textile workers. In the banquet hall there is a movie theater. The new building of the Spitals, the home for the elderly, the children's hospital founded by Dr. H. Fischer Edler von Mosara and other public buildings demonstrated the initiative and public spirit of the Jewish population of the city.
The visitors to the fruit and produce exchange located in a new building on Postgasse were mainly Jews. One saw many figures there with beards and side curls among the authorized and unauthorized "curb brokers." who especially on Mondays when many strangers visited the weekly market, crowded the street and were an impediment to traffic. These poor people were visibly oppressed by sorrow and waited in snow storms or the heat of the sun for an opportunity to earn some money. On Sabbaths Postgasse lay in idyllic peace, the Exchange was closed.
One who thinks back with longing on his vanished youth cannot forget the small pleasures the city offered. One memory picture crowds the other and all bring back the magically happy experiences. The unforgettable Sunday strolls along the sidewalk on the East side of Ringplatz, the Pardini Heights, which was not high at all and got its name from the university book store at that location, Heinrich Pardini (later Engel and Suchanka). There stood groups of young officers from the garrison in their resplendent parade uniforms, students from Francisco-Josephina university, walked, their caps offering a colorful picture, coquettish girls smiling and chattering, accepted the challenging and admiring looks of the men as if they were a homage due to them and appeared not to hear the remarks addressed to them. Every Wednesday afternoon in the city park, the "Volksgarten," with the beautiful main promenade not far from the Tomasczuk monument and opposite the Garden Restaurant, the "Kursalon", the band of the K and K. infantry regiment Erzherzog Eugen No. 41 under the leadership of Bandmaster Kosteletzky performed. The park was filled with humanity and there was little chance of getting a seat on one of the garden benches. The city had other public gardens. On "Goebelshoehe," the planted cliff between the Franzosgasse and the Steiner'schen, (previously Goebel'schen) Brewery outdoor parties of all sorts with confetti battles and badmittion were held every Summer. Joy and merriment ruled here and many a high school student overcame his shyness and threw the contents of a full confetti container over his admired beauty to be rewarded with a fleeting smile. Strollers in need of relaxation, went to the shadowy Habsburghoehe located behind the Archbishop's palace (previously called the Bischofsberg) whose winding paths offered a view of the Pruth valley. The cool spicy air in this paradise of evergreens was beneficial and refreshing. The centrally located Franz Joseph park with the grand statue of Empress Elisabeth and the state capital in the background was like a four cornered island in the summer months lying between heavily traveled streets. Children ran and shouted without cares in Schiller Park whose grounds lined the steeply sloping road to the suburb of Rosch.
On summer evenings around the turn of the century, families liked to visit Katz'schen Garden on Russischen Gasse (later Milchalle and vegetarian restaurant Friedmann). Music was provided by the lively musician Schlomele Hirsch and his brother Leib, who played at all the weddings.
Other "guest gardens" were a garden in Siebenbuergerstrasse, later Klavierverkaufgeschaeft and Gruder ice skating rink and the Beer Palace in Rottgasse and after the building which didn't look much like a palace was torn down, another beloved ice skating rink. During the hot summer months, a Jewish theater (director Axelrad) would play in one of these gardens. The performances, mostly satires on the life of small town Jews couldn't please anyone who had very high expectations.
The Jews of the city didn't have festivities with music and dancing. They were to serious for that and life had to many difficulties. An occasional excursion to the nearby Horeczaer forest with its "Robber Cave" was one of the modest summer pleasures for those who couldn't afford the luxury of a summer vacation. One exception was the Purim 13 festival. On the day before and for several days after the holiday, there was a colorful "mask festival" which reached its height on the actual day of the holiday. Private and public balls were held for the dance loving youth. Housewives tried to outdo each other in offering culinary delights. The good Jewish heart was especially generous on Purim; it practically rained gifts of money to the poor. It was also the custom to exchange delicacies. During these days the centrally located streets offered an unusual picture. The celebrants teased each other, laughed and shouted and roistered. Non Jews also contributed to the cheerfulness and merriment. The children rattled Haman 14 noisemakers. During these days, the Jewish children were allowed to be children. Later, the Romanians who hated the Jews, said that this practice was dangerous for the city and forbid it completely.
The Jewish desire for education was reflected in their love for the German theater. Czernowitz had one old City Theater which was adequate for all needs up until 1903. It was abandoned when a new theater was opened. Later it was converted into a meeting place for the Social Democratic party. This modest theater was artistically situated above the Turkish fountain. A narrow pedestrian path and a road in the form of a small tunnel under the Schulgasse led up to it. Prof. Nathansky, the Jewish German teacher in the City Upper Gynasium once wrote a criticism in a local newspaper calling the theater a "Musenstall 15." In spite of this derogatory remark, the Czernowitz Jews, especially the youth saw their theater as a "temple of the muses." The merry operettas and the performances of classical stage works were greeted with enthusiastic approval. For only 10 kreuzer (20 heller) you could get a standing place in the gallery (called Olympus by the students) on Sunday afternoons. In the long run, however, the German and Jewish City Council members, who together formed the majority in the city government, were not satisfied and decided to build a new worthy City Theater. It was erected by Master Builder Hermann Wender, using plans drawn by the Vienna construction firm, Fellner and Helmer and completed in 1905, the year in which educated people of all nations marked the hundredth anniversary of the death of Schiller. Although the Jews as a people had no reason to celebrate Schiller, the Jewish City Council members went along with the placing of a statue of the poet in front of the theater. How different the Jewish attitude toward the "Singer of Freedom" was from that of the Romanian authorities, who immediately after the occupation of the city in 1918, removed the Schiller statue from the court of the German House.
In the Winter of 1904 when the old City Theater was no longer in use and the new theater wasn't open yet, the citizens of Czernowitz didn't want to be without their entertainment. They took steps to remedy the situation. There was a goodly number of young people in the city who were 'bitten by the acting bug." They wanted to try their hands in the performing arts and formed a group of amateurs which had already had some success. They were organized by Stephan Rubasch (died in Israel in 1957), a free spirit whose knowledge of stage direction and acting was at the professional level. A season of successful German theater was played. Many promising talents belonged to the group of amateurs directed by Rubasch including Fanchette Birnbaum, Thea Rares, Emma Auslaender, Anny Kiesler, Carola Neuborn, Ilse Dubensky, Cilly Rosenhecker, Claire Wolf, Wally Reh, the Wittner sisters, one of whom became Rubasch's wife, further Wilhelm Eichel, Rudi Feuerstein, Otto Fuellenbaum, who later became a professional actor, Bubi Oelgiesser, Stefan Kimmelmann, Maurice Sekler (latter chief stage director), Siegmund Pullmann, Emil Czopp, Josef Roll, Zitrig, Hendel, Biber, Druckmann and so on.
The picture of the city in the pre-war period would not be complete if we didn't mention the veteran commandant, Langberg who led his comrades on the Kaiser's birthday and at shooting matches on the target range (at the end of the People's Garden) with panache. He was proud of his uniform and the medals on his chest and embodied the attitude of the Jewish population who were faithful to the Kaiser. The Jews of the city loved their Kaiser in grateful veneration. The ruler let it be known that he was aware of this veneration. He visited Czernowitz in 1851, 1855 and on Yom Kippur in 1830. On this occasion, he visited the synagogue.
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