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Reb Zismele Shames was an interesting Jewish character- a paradox even in the early years-and it is worth acquainting ourselves with this truly honest man who once lived in Chrzanow.

Reb Zismele Shames (Cyzner) had a fine textile store in the middle of the marketplace, and didn't lack income. He traded in feathers, did business with the great Cracow firms, and was respected by other merchants. Moreover, he was also a scholar whose opinion was to be reckoned with; he had a phenomenal memory, and knew the entire Mishnah by heart. He was the very model of a philanthropist, and nevertheless, for five decades, he was the simple caretaker of the great synagogue. How did this happen? Quite simply. For some time the great synagogue had no caretaker. Since there. was no one to light the candles and take care of other everyday chores, Reb Zismele volunteered to serve as caretaker without remuneration, thus demonstrating that it was no shame, but rather an honor, to serve God's home. From that point on he neglected his business, and devoted himself entirely to his responsibilities at the synagogue.

Private citizens provided some income, and later the community also began to pay him a salary, but he devoted this money to charity in the very highest form imaginable. His distribution of charity was according to a plan. It didn't consist of giving pennies to poor people who extend their hands for alms, for whom taking charity is a profession. Rather, Reb Zismele made it his specialty to seek out worthy heads of 29 families, artisans, who suffered hunger along with their families, unwilling to let others know about their need. Reb Zismele saw to it that these needy people had food.

As a child the writer of these lines often saw Reb Zismele secretly approaching such respectable people while they stood reciting the Eighteen Benedictions, slipping several guldens into their pockets. Often the recipients themselves didn't know who their benefactor was, who had perhaps rescued them from hunger. Commendably, the city knew how to honor this Jew, and was well aware of his modesty and piety.

(The Study House Cantor)

Although Reb Hirsh Leyb was not born in Chrzanow, he made Jewish Chrzanow famous throughout the world, and the fact that Chrzanow became in time a center of Jewish and Chasidic music is largely attributed to him.

He was simultaneously a scholar, a musical genius, a wonderful Heldentenor, and a prolific composer. His compositions are said to number in the hundreds; they were carried across the world, and often people didn't even know who composed them. Reb Hirsh Leyb composed settings for all of the Jewish prayers, including the blessing of the sun (which is said only once every 28 years) and final confessions. In fact, many composers and musicians have expressed the opinion that his setting of the confession surpasses the power of Chopin's Funeral March. His melodies and his specifically Chasidic style of prayer exemplified both Jewish sincerity and cantorial craft.

Reb Hirsh Leyb founded a school in Chrzanow, conducting services according to his original style. No new or foreign elements were introduced- rather, like a skillful art collector, he conserved various forms, and as an expert in his craft he sorted out all the versions that had been passed down from generation to generation. Out of them he created a single harmonious, complete melody, which echoed, precious and intimate, in the ear of the Jewish modern musicians, including nonJews.

Reb Hirsh Leyb prayed in the large study house, which was filled to overflowing every time he performed.

Reb Hirsh Leyb was closely connected to Chrzanow, and had no desire to exchange his Chrzanow audience for any other. When he was temporarily in Berlin, from 1919 until 1924, representatives of the local orthodox synagogue on Grenadier Strasse tried hard to hire him, offering much more favorable terms than he had in Chrzanow. He was also offered a cantorial post in London, but Reb Hirsh Leyb refused. As he quite accurately put it, he only wanted to lead prayers for Jews who prayed along with him, and who understood what he was saying or singing.

And he was even understood by people who could not translate the Hebrew words of the prayers. In addition to his cantorial compositions, he was a master of the art of cantorial "saying," (Zugen), interpreting the prayers in such a way that he reached hearts and minds. The following episode illustrates how powerfully his talent influenced his audience.

While the writer of these lines was riding the train from Breslau to Berlin one day many years ago, he was approached by a German, who introduced himself as a Jew. One Rosh Hashanah, he said, when he was in Chrzanow, he wanted to hear the famous cantor. When he entered the large study house, he was simply terrified by the gesticulations and rocking back and forth of the Chasidic congregants, and by the inhuman sounds they made as they prayed. But when he heard Reb Hirsh Leyb "saying" the cantor's prayer "Here am I (Hineni)," he was overcome by a monumental urge to repent, and he decided that from that day on he would live only for Jews, and if necessary sacrifice his life for Judaism.

A few of Reb Hirsh Leyb's students are still living as this book is being written. They remember his wonderful compositions, and it would be more than worthwhile for them to collect these treasures of Jewish music and record them. In doing so, they would earn the thanks of future generations, and be blessed for the merit of this good deed.

[Publisher's note: His son Itzchak, who is a professor of literature at Ben Gurion University, is working on this task, and I am certain that he will accomplish it admirably.]

(The Synagogue Cantor)

Equal glory attached to Chrzanow thanks to the efforts of the cantor of the town synagogue, Reb Leybish Mayzeles b/m. Those Jews of Chrzanow who knew him well will agree that he belongs among this gallery of the prominent people in our city. Reb Leybish thoroughly and properly earned this distinction not only through his forty years of activity as a cantorial musician, but also through his fine character as a Jew and as a man. A member of nature's aristocracy, he had been well brought up and also had an advanced musical education. He was a scholar and an honestly pious, observant Jew, an enthusiastic Chasid, and close to the courts of both Sadigura and Husyatin. These virtures earned Reb Leybish considerable honor and recognition from the Jews of Chrzanow.

If Reb Hirsh Leyb was the Verdi of Chasidic music, Reb Leybish was, if the comparison may be permitted, the Wagner of thoughtful composition in his cantorial creations. He was a master of choral music, a wonderful conductor, and above all a lyric tenor with a voice that was a gift from God. In the earlier years he would sing the blessings over the lighting of the Chanukah candles to the accompaniment of an expanded choir and a finely balanced string and brass orchestra. This was always a great event, attracting crowds of music lovers. Among his listeners and fans was the above-mentioned Reb Hirsh Leyb.

Several of those who trained and sang with his choir later became well-known cantors. Among them were the head cantor of the Pazmonit Temple in Vienna, Yosef Giblikhman, and the future first Heldentenor of the Royal Opera in Berlin, Yosef Man.

Thanks to these two famous cantors, Reb Hirsh Leyb and Reb Leybish Mayzeles, the Jews of Chrzanow had some notion of good music in general, and of Jewish music in particular. Chrzanow had an entire pleiad of singers who were widely known for their extraordinary talent, such as Igor Goren of the Metropolitan Opera, despite the fact that they did not know how to read music. In Chrzanow, the one who led the prayer in congregation was not only responsible for appealing to the Most High, but also had to be a fit musician.


The "Bathan from Chrzanow," the wedding performer Weintraub was famous not only in Poland, but beyond Poland's borders as well. He was much in demand at the weddings of wealthy and rabbinical families.

More than simply a facile inventor of rhymes, like the majority of wedding jesters, he was a typical Chrzanow bathan and a serious rabbinical scholar. In addition to his first-class skill at recitation, his rhymes were peppered with profound textual insight and pearls of wisdom from the ancient rabbis. His jokes and puns were packed with cheerful good humor.

Weintraub was a bona fide genius at this craft, a first-class performer. When he was reciting in front of the groom before the ceremony, or in front of the bride during the ritual of checking her veil, even elderly Jews wept rivers of tears- and then they doubled over in laughter after the wedding supper, when Weintraub entertained the crowd with his jokes and "bits."

As a rule, whenever anyone was invited to a wedding, the first question was whether Weintraub would be present. Everyone knew that the catering had to be a little fancier at a wedding where Yisroel Leyzer Weintraub was going to perform.

His jokes and impersonations often lifted Jewish Chrzanow out of deep sadness. When people were depressed it was enough for Weintraub to appear, and they began to laugh and forget their troubles. Such was the power of this modem Hershele Ostropoler (famous Galician humorist).


We, the older Zionists, always called him "The Old Man." This nickname expressed both our affection and our deep respect for the well-known doctor.

We liked him for his warm human and Jewish heart, for his pure conscience and his affectionate attitudes. As a doctor, he earned the affection of every Jew in Chrzanow without exception. But we also respected him as an honest and unconditional Zionist of Herzl's school.

In his youth he and Dr. Shmuel Cyfer had led the Zionist movement in Chrzanow. He had taken an active part in every Zionist undertaking, and gave a great deal of his income to Zionist funds. His money paid for the erection of the Anshey-Chayel synagogue, which served as the assembly hall for Zionist demonstrations. Under his influence, his wife worked tirelessly on behalf of the Jewish nation. Her commitment and behavior served as a model for our Jewish women.

When the Jewish intelligentsia became better developed, Dr. Adolf Rieser set the tone for the Jewish nationalist camp in general, and for the nationalist intelligentsia in particular.

All of the surviving Jews of Chrzanow will be happy to learn that our "Old Man" miraculously avoided the murderous hands of the Nazis, and survived to see the realization of his lifelong dream: the proclamation of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

(The touch of his hand, his smile, his mere presence was enough to make one feel well again. S.G.)


The son of Leybl and Fanny Cyfer, Shmuel Cyfer was born into a modern, enlightened Jewish family. A lawyer by profession, for a long ti me he was the director of the Jewish birth registry, and the First Vice Mayor of Chrzanow.

Samuel Cyfer, as he was generally known in the city, well earned the right to a monument among its prominent folk. A warm-hearted Jew and a Zionist with a broad perspective, he had a fine instinct for the common good. He could have achieved high status in the larger Jewish world. However, his patriotic feeling for Chrzanow and his concern for the needs of the Jewish population kept him rooted to our city. Of equal importance was his true and pure love for his extended family, to which he sacrificed his own family happiness.

In order to evaluate his forty years of activity, we must first acquaint ourselves with the atmosphere in which Dr. Shmuel Cyfer lived. On one hand there was a Chasidic, conservative mass that wouldn't permit even the slightest fresh breeze to blow in from the outside world; on the other hand there was a young generation growing up, which threw itself from one extreme to the other. In addition there was a small Jewish intelligentsia, made up of people who prided themselves on their Polish culture, but were unable to find a proper place in the world.

As soon as his social activity on behalf of Jewish nationalism began, Shmuel Cyfer's talent, potential, stubbornness, and Jewish pride became obvious. He was held back neither by the petrified attitudes of the Chasidic masses, nor by the "What will the Gentiles say?" crowd, the distorted ideologues among the small group of assimilators.

During the elections to the Austrian parliament, the rabbis and rebes, who did not have an activist conception of politics, controlled the masses and always ordered them to vote for the candidates put forward by the government, even if they were the worst anti-Semites, to keep the aristocracy satisfied. But Dr. Cyfer fought like a lion in defense of Jewish national principles and political aspirations.

In matters that had to do with defending Jewish interests, Shmuel Cyfer was a competent lawyer of deep erudition. At the same time, however, he was an outspoken fighter against discrimination. He thoroughly opposed the accommodationist politics of many of the leaders of Chrzanow, and he struggled against them despite their temporary successes. Jewish national honor was more important to him than all of the little favors and kindnesses which the well-known Jewish representatives Reb Faytl Halman and Reb Zisma Kinreich won from the Polish authorities by dishonorable means.

When the Germans arrived Dr. Shmuel Cyfer fled deeper into the country with his sister, believing that he would be able to escape them someplace where he, was not known. He and his sister both died at the hands of German murderers during the slaughter in 1942 m/b/a.


The older generation has tragically disappeared, and in the future we will never again have the opportunity to meet such fine and interesting Jewish characters as Reb Jecheskiel Zajac. Therefore it is worthwhile to include a brief and modest picture of this rich personality amongst our gallery of the city's prominent people.

A son of the Rabbi of Olkusz, in his youth he had absorbed Torah for its own sake, without neglecting books of Jewish morality as well as secular books. Nevertheless, he didn't lose his soul, as the expression went in those days. On the contrary: it was while reading foreign literature that he first became a devoted patriot of higher Jewish morals. The education of the younger generation became his main mission. Reb Jecheskiel Zajac believed that neither the slaps of the fathers nor the whips of the teachers were proper means of education, but rather kind speech and impassioned appeal to the conscience of the child. Some extremely moving scenes took place when Reb Jecheskiel addressed the children in the study house or the Talmud Torah. His native talent as a spiritual guide greatly influenced their religious and intellectual life.

Reb Jecheskiel Zajac also devoted a good deal of time and energy to elderly Jewish artisans and storekeepers, giving them lectures in the Jewish morality books and the Torah portion of the week on the Sabbath and holidays. He also stood out as a preacher, drawing large audiences with his power of logical persuasion and his wonderful parables. Since he was himself an experienced merchant with a solid knowledge of the practical world, his influence over his audience was significantly greater than that of the professional preachers and the speakers who had no other occupation.

Because of his fine personal character and his friendly attitude toward his fellows, he was loved and respected by a large number of Jews in Chrzanow. May his memory be blessed.


Reb Shmuel Grajower was neither a community activist nor a simple busybody. He was neither a "big shot" nor even a representative of the community in its dealings with the authorities, although his intellectual capacities and his material means were such that he could have held a prominent position in society. Nevertheless, Reb Shmuel Grajower was one of the brightest lights among the leading personalities of our city.

He was a descendant of the rabbinical judge of Cracow, Reb Yidl Grajower b/m, and also of the well-known Cracow family Shamrot, who were famous for their quick and "'wild" minds. Reb Shmuel was among the "last of the Mohicans," a representative of the old-style Galician Jewish Enlighteners, and a leading student of the founders of Wissenschaft des Judentums (Jewish secular knowledge), Reb S.Y Rappoport, Reb Nachman Krochmal, and Reb Josef Perl.

Among the large number of rabbinical scholars in Chrzanow, Reb Shmuel stood out with his thorough, encyclopedic knowledge, his phenomenal memory, and his logical analysis. He was a man of deep erudition both in Talmudic and secular knowledge, and he had a modem, relevant approach to all of the problems of Judaism in general, and to Jewish research in particular. Reb Shmuel represented a fine Jewish synthesis of deep religiosity and modern humanist thinking.

In addition, Reb Shmuel, along with his brothers Reb Chayeml Grajower from Kwocala and Reb Sender Grajower from Jaworzno, were known throughout Western Galicia for having the most thorough knowledge of the Book of Books-the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings.

As a good Hebrew stylist and grammarian, he devoted a great deal of study to the older Jewish literature. Catholic clergy visited him frequently, in order to hear his opinions regarding various philosophical or religious questions, although they managed somehow to avoid unpleasant religious disputes.

The nobler individuals among the Polish intelligentsia also treated him with great respect, which was a source of great honor for Jewish Chrzanow.


Reb Cyna Kurz was a sort of Jewish patrician, quite a wealthy man, and the very model of the old-fashioned Jewish patriarch. He was a philanthropist on a generous scale, with a deep understanding of others' needs. The story is told of how he was once visited by a pauper whom he did not know. Seeing that the Jew was well dressed, he gave the man a gold piece, assuming that he had once been well-off but had lost his money. That night, however, a member of his household reported seeing the same pauper at a restaurant, spending the entire gold piece on goose and wine. Hearing this, Reb Cyna left his house, found the poor Jew, and gave him another gold piece, saying that if he had known the Jew was accustomed to eating goose and drinking wine, he would have given him two gold pieces in the first place, instead of just one. This episode is generally characteristic of the wealthy Jews of former times, who distributed charity not for the sake of their own reputations, but because of their desire to help the needy.

Reb Cyna Kurz was always cheerful when it came to giving money. He and his partner Reb Shloyme Zelinger held the monopoly on the sale of spirits under the Austrian government. He was a loyal devotee of Reb Naftoli, and since he wanted to support the latter somehow, Reb Cyna invented various disputes with his partner, whose handling of financial matters left something to be desired. Reb Naftoli earned a fine living from these frequent court cases.

Although he was wealthy, Reb Kurz lived modestly; although not a scholar himself, he supported rabbinical scholars and Torah institutions; although he was not a Chasid, any rebe who came to town found a warm welcome at his home. That was the kind of Jew the master of the courtyard was. And now a few words about the courtyard itself.

If Chrzanow was a true Jewish city, Reb Cyna Kurz's courtyard was the most Jewish spot in town. In addition to Reb Cyna and his children, other Jewish families lived there, and together they comprised one large Jewish family.

A purely Jewish life pulsed in that courtyard. A clock and a Jewish calendar were superfluous there-all of the neighbors arose to say penitential prayers at the same time; everyone lit Sabbath candles simultaneously. Even if someone had forgotten that it was the Sabbath, the redolence of fish and cooking cholent would have reminded him. And it was the same at every Jewish holiday.

A contemporary description of this courtyard was printed in the YIVO-Bleter, published in Vilna, as an example of genuine Jewish culture. There were other Jewish courtyards in town, but Gentiles sometimes made their way into those. At Reb Cyna Kurz's courtyard, on the other hand, the air was purely Jewish.

For various political purposes, such as elections, the parties would send representatives specifically to concentrate on this courtyard. In the earlier years all that was needed was Reb Cyna's approval, and the entire courtyard would vote along with him. Reb Cyna's word was law.


Reb Mordechai Shor, who was well known to the people of Chrzanow both in the past and today, must not be omitted from our pantheon of the prominent folk of the city. He was sensitive and energetic, and despite his 56 years-he was born about 188-90--he had an activist's youthful temperament. He was tied body and soul to Chrzanow, both as a founder of Poalei Zion in 1905, forty years before this writing, and also by seeing to the needs of the surviving Jews from Chrzanow in America after Hitler's war.

Mordechai Shor was one of the most interesting of the characters who stood at the cradle of the Zionist movement in Chrzanow early in this century. He stood out both for his seriousness as a leader, and for his eternal good humor, which earned him the affection of all the young people. He was very popular everywhere, and was referred to as "Comrade Shor, " a title he earned honestly by his friendly and compassionate attitude not only toward his own comrades, but also to the opposition camp. Even dyed-in-the-wool pietists treated him with more sympathy than any of the other party leaders in the city.

And as it turned out Mordechai Shor remained the same always; only the circumstances changed around him. He remained the same "Comrade Shor," and perhaps became even more so. Right after the war, when the news spread about the great destruction of Polish Jewry in general and of the Jews of Chrzanow in particular, Mordechai Shor was the first to spring into action. He was the only Jew from Chrzanow outside Europe who responded to the great disaster. With self-sacrifice and abundant energy, he organized assistance for the Jews of Chrzanow, although it was bitterly difficult for him to assemble petty sums from the poor Jews from Chrzanow (rich people do not give easily). When the money was finally counted, however, it came to several thousand dollars. He himself bought goods, packed them, and sent them to the surviving Jews of Chrzanow wherever they were living. And for this the Jews of Chrzanow will eternally remember him.

May these few modest lines serve as an acknowledgment of his altruistic efforts, and comfort for all of the bitterness and anguish he doubtless experienced. And may the Lord give him his reward.


(Moyshe Avrom Heshl's)

just like his grandfather, the first rabbi of Chrzanow, Reb Moyshe Bochner was also a modest man who kept his light under a bushel. He didn't seek fame, but stayed within his own four walls. Even among the Jews of Chrzanow he was not particularly popular, because the public did not know him well. They were unaware of his sharp insight and his thorough knowledge of the sea of the Talmud and of the rabbinical literature. He was valued at his proper worth only by the scholarly circles in Chrzanow, and to some degree in Cracow as well, since he lived there for several years.

He only revealed himself to the public, and to the scholarly world in particular, in 1926 when, already 60 years old, he published his Book of the Thoughts of Moses. Its contents display unusual breadth of knowledge and insight, of a kind attained only by rare individuals. He was the only Talmudic scholar in Chrzanow to publish a book that would have a major impact elsewhere.

Reb Moyshe also completed a second volume in his last years -a sort of anthology of Torah insights and commentaries on difficult passages of the Talmud. Unfortunately the manuscript was destroyed by Nazi murderers. Among the Talmud scholars of Chrzanow, Reb Moyshe occupied the most prominent place, despite his modesty and humility, despite the fact that he fled public honors. His extraordinary simplicity served as an example for those around him, who appreciated his fine character. He lived among Chasidim, and yet he was no Chasid; he didn't think much of the rebes with their "courts," unless they were sources of pure, genuine Torah.

Reb Moyshe suffered the full cruelty of the destruction of his city. In May 1942, at age 79, he was sent to Auschwitz during the first deportation. He was accompanied by his youngest daughter Taybl, who would not abandon her father to the murderers, even though she could have escaped. His pure and honest soul left his body, along with the souls of many other Chrzanow Jews, there in Auschwitz.

May vengeance befall his murderers! (Will they ever be avenged?)


And last but not least, the best and the brightest gift of the city of Chrzanow to world Jewry in general and to Polish Jewry in particular. The son of the city who is the pride of Chrzanow Jewry, and who miraculously survived, from among the large circle of Jewish personalities which Polish Jewry once boasted.

If a few Jews get together and start talking about Dr. Schwartzbart, you will immediately discover which, if any, of these Jews comes from Chrzanow. The Jew from Chrzanow won't refer to him as Itzchak, but rather as Ignac, since that is how we knew him from his earliest childhood on. Forty-odd (circa 1905) years ago he used to come home to his parents for the 'Jewish holidays wearing the uniform of an Austrian gymnasium student, with gold stripes on his collar. We who were still small boys, although strictly Chasidic, drew strength and pleasure from every new stripe, which indicated that he had passed into a higher grade. Eventually, he went to the university to become a doctor. Somehow we children of that generation instinctively sensed that Ignac would make something out of himself. We just didn't know that he would go so far, that he would be known throughout the world.

His father, Reb Mordechai Shoyel, was a simple, honest Jew, who maintained a proper, religious Jewish house. He maintained a tavern (first across from the Kamienica, and then on the marketplace, where Bochenek most recently ran the inn), where he earned his living by honest toil. Reb Shoyel was strict, but upright. He could pronounce the truth straightforwardly, without flattery or ulterior motives.

Ignac's mother was a precious Jewish woman, a "kosher soul" as they used to say, with a native nobility. Like every pious Jewish woman, she wore a wig. Nevertheless-, she had a sense of modern education and modern methods of child-rearing. She participated in all of the philanthropic institutions in the city, without neglecting her home and children. Together with her husband, she worked in the business, and she did not forget about paupers, the elderly, and the sick of the city.

If Polish and world Jewry owes something to Dr. Itzchak Schwartzbart, then we should say, as our parents used to, "Happy is the woman who bore him!" Chane Schwartzbart honestly earned the right to be mentioned together with her great son. Moving and just is the inscription on her grave at the Chrzanow cemetery: "She raised her children to be faithful to their people."

Ignac and Itzchak Schwartzbart aren't quite the same person, however. Ignac, the gymnasium student, looked for a semblance of truth in socialism. Later, however, Itzchak discovered a purely Jewish truth when he went to the univeristy and encountered the Jewish national renaissance movement represented by Herzl's Judenstatt and by Yiddish and Hebrew culture. As soon as he convinced himself of this Jewish truth, twenty-year-old Itzchak threw himself into the work heart and soul.

Dr. Itzchak Schwartzbart was born on November 13, 1888 in Chrzanow. In 1911, at age 23, Schwartzbart was already playing a leading role in nationalist circles, being elected chairman of the Zionist academic organization Hashachar in Cracow. This group later became the avant-garde of the Zionist leadership in Western Galicia and Silesia. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 sent Schwartzbart to the countryside of central Poland as a judge in the Austrian military courts.

At the end of the war, he was entrusted with the general secretariat of the newlyformed Zionist executive of Western Galicia and Silesia. At the same time Dr. Schwartzbart participated in the founding and direction of the Jewish national council in Cracow, under the leadership of his great teacher and future adversary, Dr. Yehoshua Tohn b/m.

In 1921 Dr. Schwartzbart was named editor-in-chief of the Cracow daily Nowy Dziennik. A Polish-language newspaper, it was nevertheless a proudly Jewish national tribune, and the Jewish and even Polish public gave its opinions serious consideration. At the same time he was a collaborator on the Lemberg Chwila, the Warsaw Moment, and countless other periodicals. By the late 1940s, Dr. Schwartzbart had been a delegate to virtually every Zionist congress for almost forty years; in 1933 he was elected a member of the Zionist action committee. A short time later he also became a member of the administrative council of the World Jewish Congress. As a candidate for Dr. Tohn's position in the Polish Sejm, Schwartzbart received 94% of the Jewish votes. He was also a member of the Cracow city council, and chairman of the Jewish councilmembers' club.

When Hitler's war broke out, Dr. Schwartzbart managed to escape to Rumania, where he became involved in intensive social action among the Jewish refugees. An of his energy was devoted to getting Jews to the Land of Israel. In 1940, General Sikorsky summoned him to join the Polish government in London. At the end of Hitler's war Dr. Schwartzbart was the first Polish Jew to return and visit the surviving remnant in Germany. His speech at the first congress of the Jewish survivors in Munich went straight to our bones. In 1946 he was summoned to America to direct the organizational department of the World Jewish Congress.

It is indeed difficult to characterize Dr. Itzchak Schwartzbart. Should we begin with the organizational activist or the journalist? The Zionist leader, the politician, or the representative of the people's wishes? His multifaceted character demands more extensive treatment, and a thorough picture of this great personality cannot be provided in the narrow framework of this volume.

At the time this book is being written, in the late 1940s, it is too early to evaluate his activities. Despite his sixty years and hard work, Dr. Itzchak Schwartzbart is still in the midst of his work on behalf of his land and his people, toiling with faith and courage. We hope and wish to see Dr. Schwartzbart as a leading personality in the State of Israel for which we have longed and dreamed, speedily and in our days.

The Educational Institutions in Chrzanow

CHRZANOW WAS known primarily as a city of trade and artisanry, with its Prussian merchants, its tailors, and market merchants. Its inhabitants were Chasidim and men of good deeds. Chrzanow never boasted any world-famous yeshivas; it never produced any great men of the Torah famed throughout the world. Nevertheless Torah education occupied an important position. In the early days prior to World War I, the major center of Torah was the large study house. It was always packed with young men and boys who studied there day and night. Later, after World War I, and especially after 1919, when General Haller's anti-Semitic armies turned the study house into a barn for a short period (later it was ruined and demolished), the center of Torah was diminished and dispersed to the Chasidic synagogues of the Sanzer, Bobower, and Radomsker Chasidim. Only when someone wanted to check a reference in a rare volume did he go to the large abandoned study house, because its walls were still filled with shelves of rare, precious volumes.

The pious Jews who resided in the city did not possess any particular sense of social good, nor did they establish any significant educational institutions. The educational societies they did establish, such as Talmud Torah, the Psalm Society, the Regular Study Group and the like, generally flourished for only a short time. These groups died together with their founders, who had devoted so much energy and sacrifice to them while they were still alive. The only exception was the Supporters of Study, which existed for three decades without interruption, and which had a great influence on the education of Chrzanow's youth.

In the following pages we will review each of the major educational institutions.


In every Jewish settlement, a communal Jewish school was established, and it should have been the greatest of the educational institutions. However, the Talmud Torah, which existed for over 150 years in Chrzanow, flourished only rarely. All of its students were poor, or more accurately, the poorest of the poor, including a large number of orphans. The level of study was quite low. Thousands-tens of thousands-passed through its classroom doors, and we can say without any exaggeration that the Talmud Torah did not produce a single rabbinical scholar. For the most part its students were ill-clothed, hungry boys who studied in poorly maintained rooms, with up to eighty in a class, taught by a teacher who was dreadfully poor himself, and bitter on account of his poverty. The boys, aged between ten and twelve, studied for ten hours a day. When they turned thirteen they were sent as apprentices to an artisan- a tailor, shoemaker, or employee in some business. They left the Talmud Torah as ignoramuses, and if they became free thinkers in time, it is because they became hostile to Torah Judaism at the Talmud Torah.

Most of the income of the Talmud Torah was raised through the second pledge of everyone who was called to the Torah on the Sabbath, in any of the synagogues and even more from all of the pledges during the week of the Torah portion of Yittro. Sometimes, there would also be modest bequests by people who were near death. But despite the popularity of the society that ran the Talmud Torah, and despite the frequent meetings and appeals in the name of the prominent men of the city, the school's income was small. The teachers' meager salaries were rarely paid on time, and often not paid for several months at a time. Thus most of the teachers were incompetent ne'er-do-wells, who disseminated the Torah with the whip and the fist.

One exception was an extraordinary pedagogue, the well-liked Reb Elye Rosenboym. b/m. (He was generally known as Elye Reb Meir's.) He taught the highest grade of the Five Books with Rashi's commentary at the Talmud Torah. He would also often read from books of morality. With his great logical powers and his storytelling, parables, and legends, he appealed to his young listeners. He gave them a lively description of every chamber in the Gehenna described in the book The Beginning of Wisdom. He also described the great envy the nations of the world felt toward the Congregation of Israel on account of the Torah, which is the crown of all the seven wisdoms bestowed by God. The students regarded Reb Elye Meir with respect and affection, and he had great influence on them.

In the years after Reb Elye Rosenboym's death, a second Bible teacher, Yehoshue Shlayderer, was also something of an exception. While he didn't have Reb Elye Meir's power of interpretation, he did have a good heart. He had a careful, almost paternal attitude toward the children, washing their hands and faces before he sent them home. He was also acquainted with modern mores, and tried to update the curriculum a bit.

Often this neglected institution managed to find people who gave all of their energy on its behalf. For instance, the well-known philanthropists Gitl Nachman's, Yocheved Wiener, and Fanny Cyfer collected clothing and shoes for many years, which were distributed among the Talmud Torah children during the winter.


Thanks to this Foundation, a Baron Hirsch school was established in Chrzanow, as in several other cities in Galicia, at the beginning of the twentieth century. This school, with the help of its substantial funding, was expected to take over Chrzanow. It was set up in finely-appointed rooms in Reb Leybish Yungenvirt's house on Krzyska Street. Experienced teachers were brought in, and the students received free instruction in secular studies, Polish, and German, as well as religion, including the Bible with Rashi's commentary. The students were provided with free text books, clothing, and food.

Nevertheless the school could not withstand the passive resistance, the silent ban imposed by the Jews of Chrzanow. Its teachers, for the most part half-assimilated, half-apostate Jews, could not earn the trust of the pious population. For the few years of its sad existence the school attracted only poor students, and after vegetating for a few years, it had to close its doors. It left no trace of its existence behind in Chrzanow.


The various societies established in town for the purpose of teaching the simple Jews and householders Bibles, midrash, the Ethics of the Fathers, and the sermons of preachers, made a larger impression on the life of the population. Every few years one of these societies would experience a period of growth, and then give way to another society. The richest of these was the Regular Study Group; its Hebrew name, Komi Atim, was popularly shortened to Kvaytim. The members built a headquarters near the large study house, the finest building any of the communal institutions possessed, where the well-known preacher Reb Shloyme Baruch Mayer b/m, taught. An unusual character, he had been educated in the modem, but strictly religious yeshiva in Pressburg, was a follower of the Hsam Sofer, and had also studied in a German gymnasium. He was extremely attentive to Jewish law in both major and trivial matters.

After his death, the lessons at the Regular Study Group were led by Reb Jecheskiel Zajac, the son of the Rabbi of Olkusz and member of the Kamienica family. This complicated, multifaceted character, with a partially modem education and much Jewish knowledge, was an important, wealthy lumber merchant with aristocratic urges, and at the- same time a man of the people who was drawn to social affairs. He taught lessons in the Ethics of the Fathers and in the midrash, and his extraordinary rhetorical skills attracted a large crowd of listeners. Apparently the Regular Study Group was lucky in attracting good teachers, because the last of them, Reb Moyshe Hochbaum m/b/a, was also an unusual man. Born and raised in the family of a shoemaker from Chrzanow, he was nevertheless a great scholar, and the son-in-law of the rabbinical judge of Chrzanow, Reb Chayem Volf Richter b/m. He was wellread, popular and possessed remarkable pedagogical talents.


As its name implies, this society was created for the simple Jews-artisans and storekeepers-so that they could pray and read Psalms together before praying on the days when there was no market. Also, on the second day of Shevuot (which is traditionally regarded as the day of King David's death), they organized a great celebration, marching with large burning candles into the synagogue across the way, where the synagogue cantor and the choir triumphally sang the traditional Psalm of David. At the same time they arranged a festive meal for all of their members.

As time passed, the Psalm Society began to offer classes in religious texts, but without losing its focus on Psalms. The society owed its good reputation to Reb Noyech Holzer b/m, the director of studies. He was a Kabbalist and a remarkable scholar, and he continued teaching classes until he was quite elderly, even after losing his sight. The last teacher in the Psalm Society was the excellent Talmud scholar and moral exemplar, Reb Itshele Weitzenblum, m/b/a.

All of the other societies, with their fine-sounding names, accomplished little, despite the best intentions of their founders and the sacrifice of the trustees. But among them are worth mentioning, along with their founders:

1. Love of Torah. Classes there were taught by the scholars Reb Avrom Hirsh Reffer, the selfless philanthropist Reb Moyshe Lipschitz, and the learned Reb Mendl Landau;

2. The Eternal Light society, where the judge Reb Sholem Aba's was the teacher;

3. The Tree of Life society, headed by the extraordinary scholar Reb Shachne Hamerman;

4. The Supporters of the Torah yeshiva, headed by Reb Nute Dayan; and

5. The Crown of Torah yeshiva headed by the brilliant Talmud scholar Reb Chaim Tobias.

We should also mention the Buttercake society, where the greatest ignoramuses in town prayed. Classes in that society were taught by Reb Motele Kolomeyer, who was a scholar, but very easy-going.

Particularly important in the religious education of the young people of Chrzanow were the Supporters of Study and the Beis Yakov-two institutions in which Jewish Chrzanow could take pride.

(Supporters of Study)

This society had more luck and influence in Chrzanow than the others. A largescale movement, with its own lecturers and large popular gatherings, it even boasted its own press The Religious Jewish Worker, along with a full complement of the tools of propaganda and instructions, thus providing a balance to the Bund and Poalei Zion. The newspaper was founded in the year 1906 with a goal of spreading Torah and religious tradition among young artisans and commercial employees. Its headquarters were in Cracow. The Chrzanow chapter grew until in time it became the strongest of all of the local Machzikei Limud branches. It is worthwhile to acquaint ourselves with the history of this movement, its founders and leaders.

In 1906-7 in Cracow, there was a Jewish lawyer named Dr. Julius Feifer. Like most Jewish lawyers at that time, he had relatively little to do with Jews and Judaism. It was even said that his connection to the Jewish people consisted of composing false accusations against Jews on behalf of his clients. However, one morning this lawyer woke up from a bad dream (or was it a good dream) and decided to repent and become a good Jew. He threw away his non-kosher dishes, grew a Jewish beard and sidelocks, and had his wife put on a wig. He traveled to see rebes, and in general became a strictly religious and pious Jew. This Dr. Julius Feifer later became the main leader, theoretician, and propagandist of the Machzikei Limud movement (somewhat similar to the Salvation Army). The Machzikei Limud did not get involved in national politics as a party, nor did it have anything to do with the Jewish nationalist renaissance or the struggles for social justice. It limited itself to keeping the youth true to Torah and faith, using modern methods. In addition to the various lessons in Bible with Rashi, Ein Yakov, Prophets and Writings, a lending library with Polish, German, and especially Yiddish books was established-books that had previously been censored, on suspicion that they might contain heretical ideas. Members of the society also produced full-scale theatrical performances. The Machzikei Limud also organized religious services at their party headquarters, where the young people prayed together on the Sabbath, holidays, and also on weekdays. In this fashion a collective religious and traditional spirit was inculcated. Reb Jecheskiel Zajac, who has been described previously, played a significant role in the development of the local Machzikei Limud, as did Mendl Ashkenazi, who was blessed with organizational talents. The Machzikei Limud in Chrzanow was the only organization in Galicia that existed for over thirty years without interruption.


As in almost every Polish city, a Beis Yakov school was established in Chrzanow after World War 1. Without doubt it was needed, and it came at just the right time. Although Chrzanow considered itself a pious and religious community, nevertheless nothing was done to ensure the religious education of Jewish girls until the Beis Yakov was established. A kind of religious amnesia was the rule among the Jewish girls of Chrzanow, even those raised in Chasidic families. This changed dramatically after the establishment of the Beis Yakov school. If we are not mistaken, it was thanks to the experienced community activist Yocheved Wiener, who had a large role in shaping the model curriculum, that many progressive parents sent their daughters to the Beis Yakov school, where they received a Jewish education. The Beis Yakov school indeed went a long way toward eliminating religious ignorance among Jewish girls.

Philanthropic Institutions


AMONG THE Jewish philanthropic institutions that were active in the city, the first that deserves mention was the free loan society.

The initiative for creating this useful institution came from the Kamienica family. Its founder and long-time secretary was the famous and wealthy philanthropist Reb Eli Rauchwerger b/m. The free loan society benefited householders and merchants who were down on their luck, rather than out-and-out paupers. Its activity was limited to the distribution of interest-free loans in exchange for collateral which the clients entrusted to the society.

This fine and genuinely beneficent society was thoroughly Jewish, lacking the exaggerated bureaucracy that appeared later in many of the Jewish national banks. For instance, if a Jew needed money to make up his daughter's dowry, he went to the secretary of the free loan society with whatever jewelry he possessed, and the trustee loaned him as much as the collateral was worth, more or less. More than once it happened that the same Jew would go to the secretary of the society on the day of the wedding, and say, "Dear Reb Eli, listen, I'm ashamed to walk up to the wedding canopy without my gold watch and chain which I've left with you as collateral, and my wife would also like to have her gold earrings until after the wedding." And Reb Eli, or whichever one of the secretaries was approached, believed him and loaned the items back out. The Jew was honest, and brought back the items right after the wedding, leaving them until "God" helped him and he was able to redeem them.


Despite the high and humane standards set by the original promoter of this worthy idea, nevertheless the city of Chrzanow was sadly neglectful in this area. It is simply incomprehensible that in such a thoroughly Jewish city, with a sufficient sensitivity for social institutions, so little was done for the weakest and loneliest in our midst, the elderly men and *women who, lacking children, were doomed to enter this institution. To say it was "neglected" is to put the case very mildly.


The initiative displayed by our fathers and grandfathers in their search for good deeds to perform may well be wondered at. This truly useful institution aided poor people who had just arrived in town, enabling them to avoid sleeping on the hard benches of the study house or the Chasidic synagogues, and avoid freezing in winter. Reb Usher Stem b/m, a childless and warm-hearted Jew, was the founder of this "'hotel. " When a Jew arrived in the city, all he had to do was ask for the secretary of the free shelter. When he received a pass, he was sure of a safe place to stay-with a glass of tea thrown in.


This institution, founded by Reb Henoch Timberg b/m, had two tasks. First, it dealt with the masses of wandering paupers who came to town and went from house to house asking for alms, many of whom treated the residents of the city very rudely. The Supporters of the Poor gave these people "travel expenses," so that they could continue on to other Jewish communities, and leave the burghers of Chrzanow alone. Second, it benefited weak or elderly paupers who had difficulty making the rounds of the houses, as well as those who were afraid to beg actively. The initiators of the Society had the best intentions, but as a practical matter it didn't work because the paupers were smarter. They both accepted "travel expenses, " and begged. In the last years before the war, this society dissolved more or less of its own accord.


Although this society was little known, and hence not very popular among the public, it had a good influence on the young men who studied at the Study House. The society's goal, if the expression is appropriate, was "mutual aid." Amidst the commotion of everyday life, the young men looked after their poorer comrades. When a poor young man got married, he received money toward the wedding expenses. On occasion respected Jews also turned to the society for assistance. The society mobilized young men who went out in groups across the city, and gathered money for the needy, yet embarrassed poor.


Our parents always had the best intentions, wanting to help out, whatever the situation. Unfortunately, they did not always take the proper approach, and sometimes the necessary conditions were not met. Although this society was run according to the same stale, outmoded conceptions as in other Jewish towns, it performed a useful function.

The society's first task was to stay with seriously ill people at night. The secretary was responsible for seeing to it that appropriate companions were sent for the invalid in question. Voluntary discipline was the rule in this respect. Rarely did someone refuse to spend the night at another's home.

Out of the money collected from voluntary monthly payments, the society distributed medicine, and often paid the doctors for their treatment of poor sick people. Medical instruments were also loaned to those who could not pay for them.

This institution was something for which the Gentile neighbors could really envy us.


In our age of modem hospitals things are much easier for pregnant women. Our mothers and grandmothers had it a bit harder- especially the poor among them. Although women had more children in earlier times, and a birth was nothing unusual, still it was a more important family event than it is today. Jewish women actively participated in earning a living, and many simply didn't have any time to prepare themselves for the big event. While on their way to fairs, or standing in their stores, they began to feel labor pains. As they lay in labor, Jewish women often lacked even a bit of cereal to keep body and soul together, let alone enough to prepare for the circumcision feast or the redemption of the firstborn son. In these circumstances the Society for the Assistance of Pregnant Women rendered valuable assistance, delegating its female members to visit the women in childbirth and help them in any way possible.

Among the activists in this society, Mrs. Yocheved Wiener and Mrs. Fannie Cyfer should be mentioned. These women who were so dedicated to the community also laid the foundation for the future branch of WIZO, the Women's International Zionist Organization.


WIZO in Chrzanow wrote one of the finest chapters regarding philanthropic and social activities in town. It was directed by educated women, with Mrs. Rieser at their head, and had significant achievements to its credit. First of all, thanks to their intelligence and education, the founders of WIZO took a modern, practical attitude toward every problem of the Jewish woman and the Jewish child. WIZO had room for women from every tendency, from the conservative Chasidim to the progressive Zionists, even including assimilationist circles. Goodwill toward everyone reigned in this organization, and this goodwill brought together people of opposing views, such as the above-mentioned Mrs. Rieser and the conservative, Chasidic, but highly intelligent and refined Mrs. Zajac (widow of Reb Jecheskiel Zajac).

The best and most refined women of Chrzanow belonged to this organization. We need not list all of the social accomplishments of WIZO, since everyone from Chrzanow is quite familiar with this list. However, worthy of special note is the idea, which originated with WIZO, of establishing an orphanage solely for Jewish children. With great difficulty, a fine building was erected in the late 30's for this purpose. To our great sorrow, the children could not long enjoy this wonderful gift.

WIZO was also the first Jewish women's organization to set itself the task of relieving distress without regard to party or class. Perhaps this was the main reason for its success and popularity in our town.


Remarkably, none of the foregoing institutions had as much independent authority as the burial society. Nevertheless the burial society was organized on a democratic basis-the trustees were elected according to the old Jewish system of casting lots, so that every single member had an equal say in the outcome of the elections. The acceptance of a new member into the burial society was not a simple matter. First of all, the applicant really had to deserve to be a member of the society. Power and money had nothing to do with it-moral purity, honesty, and genuine fear of God were the main criteria for any candidate.

The trustees of the burial society were responsible first, for maintaining the cemetery; second, for distributing burial plots; and third, for arranging funerals. Since the burial society had no other source of income, it had to charge a fee for burial plots. Thus there were frequent disputes between the families of the deceased and the society's trustees, who had to be absolutely aboveboard and honest in their financial dealings. They only took money from those who had it and could afford to pay. Larger sums were also taken from those who had been reluctant to give to charity when they were alive, whereas poor people were not charged at all.

The secretaries needed to exercise tact in the distribution of plots. Such decisions had nothing to do with the deceased's wealth or power. The burial society was in the "true world." The rich man and the poor man were equal, and the secretaries refused to be influenced by the children or the more distant relatives of the dead. If the deceased had earned an outstanding burial plot during her or his life, then it was granted. To the credit of the Jews of Chrzanow, the burial society was always run appropriately, and misdeeds were few. The secretaries' power was indeed unlimited, but their morality was beyond reproach.

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