The purpose of the "Book of Chorostkow", which is now being offered to all former residents of our town, wherever they may be, is to perpetuate the memory of our martyrs, who were killed by the German murderers, may their name and memory be blotted out, for the sanctification of God's name. That is why this book has been compiled by Chorostkow Jews themselves by those who left the little town before the bloody deluge which engulfed it, as well as by the remnant rescued from the Nazi hell.
This memorial book, written in two languages Hebrew and Yiddish recounts the history of the town and describes everything that happened to its Jewish inhabitants. Although a young Jewish community without a long history, it was a lively and dynamic one, faithful to the traditional way of life and customs of its forebears, which were later to be shattered by the winds of modernity beginning to blow through the town.
There are not many Chorostkow Jews left. Most of those who live here with us today are zealous supporters of the Zionist idea who came here during the years between the Balfour Declaration and the outbreak of the Second World War. But a few Chorostkow Jews had emigrated even earlier, in the years before the First World War, turning their footsteps towards countries overseas, especially the United States, where they found refuge. Economic distress, poverty, wretchedness, these were what forced them to take the wanderer's staff in their hands and seek their fortune in the land of limitless opportunity America. After the Holocaust, they helped some of the survivors who wanted to settle there, but the great majority of those who escaped death found sanctuary in the reborn State of Israel and made their second home here.
There was nothing special about our little town of Chorostkow. It was a typical shtetl little Jewish town no different from all the hundreds, if not thousands, of such townlets, once scattered all over Poland, but now vanished. There were no ancient treasures in Chorostkow, no cultural or art institutions, no outstanding personalities or illustrious names. Nevertheless, from the very beginning, the Jews there could stand comparison with other older, larger, more settled communities in the surrounding area when the spirit of national renewal began to infuse the people.
The national awakening soon found expression among the lively young people of the shtetl, who founded and organised the Zionist movement, beginning with Chibat Zion before the emergence of Herzlian political Zionism and continuing with General Zionism and the Labour Zionism that followed it. They organised youth movements, too, Hashomer Hatzair, Gordonia, Hanoar Hatzioni and Betar, until their tragic destruction during the Second World War.
The compilers of The Book of Chorostkow have neither the intellectual nor the literary talent to describe in all its poverty-stricken detail the life led by the Jews of the little town in independent Poland in the years following the First World War. This was a period of unrelenting and oppressive taxation, a period when the country was in the grip of an economic crisis whose main victims were the Jews who lived in the cities and towns, a period when the Government pursued a restrictive anti-Semitic policy designed to force Jews out of Poland's economic life. And it is certainly beyond the power of even the greatest writers to describe the horrifying years of Nazi rule, unparalleled in human history, when the Jews of Poland were annihilated, and the Jews of Chorostkow with them. Yet, the scanty material presented in "The Book of Chorostkow" is still enough to paint a faithful picture of the creative power which coursed through the town, its organisations, its political parties, its institutions and its religious and secular life.
The Book of Chorostkow is thus not solely a memorial to the town's Jews who were wiped out, but also a reminder to those who survived never to forget the evil perpetrated against us by the German murderers, and to remember in order to understand the present and be able to mould the future.
We hereby offer our thanks to all those who assisted us materially and mentally, with financial contributions and literary contributions, to publish "The Book of Chorostkow" in memory of a Jewish community that was destroyed. We are especially grateful to the members of the Committee, Messrs Haim-Israel Weissbrodt and Yitzchak Kessler, to the Editor, David Shtockfish, and to Avraham C'naani, who read the proofs.
The Committee Tel Aviv, February, 1968
Dr. N. M. Gelber
The little town of Chorostkow  is located between Hosyatin and Kupiczinze, on the banks of the River Taina, in a highly fertile region of Galician Podolia, and does not have a very long history. We learn from an order promulgated in 1748 by Cardinal Mikulai Wyzycki that an independent parish existed in Chorostkow as early as the beginning of the 17th century, and the villages of Chalupowka, Greater Howilow, Lesser Howilow, Karaczinze, Kalubinze, Meshaniecz, Prembilow, Ubisla and Viaczchubtza were linked with it.
In the second half of the 18th century, the land-owner, Siamianski, granted the village the rights of a small town, while abrogating to himself the licensing rights to which every town and small town was entitled. In order to develop the town, Siamianski invited Jewish artisans and merchants from other Podolian towns to come and live there, granting them rights which guaranteed their economic existence, as well as their existence as an independent community. But there was still no independent congregation or cemetery in the town. Chorostkow became affiliated to the congregation in Strusow, 8 or 9 kilometres away, which was linked at that time with the Trembowla District, and that was where the Jews of Chorostkow, who came under the authority of the Rabbi of Strusow, buried their dead. Later on, the town's dead were buried Sochostow, on the main road some 9 kilometres from Chorostkow.
The first group of Jews transferred to Chorostkow from other parts of Podolia during the latter half of the 19th century appointed four men to lead them, headed by Yaakov Feffer. Siamianski invited them to build up the town to serve as a commercial centre for his numerous estates and agricultural produce. He himself built houses for the Jews in the town, which was his private property under Polish law, and put Feffer, an energetic and forceful man, in charge. Feffer paid Siamianski a fee for allowing him to take over the licensing rights.
Thanks to his initiative, the Jewish settlement grew substantially. According to a census carried out in 1765, there were 42 Jewish poll-tax payers and two children less than one year old  in Chorostkow. In the Trembowla District as a whole, there 7,534 Jews at that time.
The congregation's organisational arrangements remained unchanged until the period of Austrian rule at the end of the 18th century, when Chorostkow was recognised as a congregational unit, although not as an independent congregation.
Thanks to Yaakov Feffer's efforts, Baron Siamianski helped them to build a large synagogue, where the settlers established a beit hamedrash. Some years later, the tailors established a beit hamedrash of their own. However, the Austrian authorities turned on the Jewish community in 1785, accusing them of having built the synagogue without a Government licence. An order was issued in Vienna that those responsible for building the synagogue were to be punished, even though they had not known about the law or that the responsibility lay with the heads of the community, because it was they who had acted in contravention of the law .
Most of the Jews were pedlars who used to hawk their goods round the town and barter them with the peasants for farm produce. There was also a substantial number of Jewish tradesmen, especially tailors, most of whom worked for Jewish and nonJewish customers in the town itself, while some used to travel round the neighbouring villages, repairing clothes in exchange for produce or poultry, which they then used to sell in the cities. During the time of the Austrians, the Jews played an important role in forestry and the timber industry, selling timber to Danzig.
As far as we know, the first rabbi in Chorostkow Jewry's history was Rabbi David Shlomo Eibeschitz , who was subordinate to the Regional Rabbi in Chortkow. In 1796, while still a rabbi in Bodzanow, Rabbi Eibeschitz helped to reconstitute the Chevrah Kadisha (Burial Society). The fact that there had once been a Chevrah Kadisha in Chorostkow shows that there must also have been a cemetery there at an earlier date.
The Society, represented by Menashe Rosiner and Sander Kalman, gave Rabbi Eibeschitz and Rabbi Yosef Haim Yavetz of Kopiczinze far-reaching authority to draw up regulations and procedures for every aspect of its duties and responsibilities and associated matters. Anyone infringing the regulations had to pay a fine of six gold florins to the Society. In addition to those mentioned above, the following signed the authorisation:
The Burial Society regulations run to thirty clauses, detailing the Society's aims and the duties and the rights of its members. Junior members were appointed for a one- or two-year period, at the end of which they had to contribute two roubles or a gold florin for a festive meal for all the members. After that, they were exempt from having to serve as junior members.
There was also a rule that any Jews involved in a dispute who resorted to the Gentile courts would be subject to a heavy fine.
In addition, their appointment as members was blocked for several years. We know of a certain Josef Mantil, who was fined six roubles and warned that, if "he shall go to law in the Gentile courts against another Jew or against the congregation, then he shall not be appointed to the congregation's minyan at all." The preamble to the regulations states that every member shall be entitled to make his unmarried sons members .
The principal aims of the Society were:
Under the regulations, every member was obliged to contribute money according to his means and ability. This money was to be used to defray the expenses of keeping the cemetery in good repair, charity and donations to workers, in accordance with the instructions of the Gabbai (treasurer). He was authorised to pay all expenditures up to one gold florin. Anything in excess of this had to be approved by a trustee with the knowledge of the administrator of the month. There are three special clauses (c), (d) and (e), referring to care of the dead and burial fees. Members were also obliged to stay overnight in the home of anyone who fell ill. If the patient could afford to do so, he was obliged to meet all expenses, and pay the person staying with him, out of his own pocket, in accordance with the treasurer's instructions. The Society paid all the expenses when someone stayed overnight with a poor person who was ill.
During the intermediate days of Succot, elections were held at the home of the treasurer of the month by arbitrators, and the treasurers used to hand over the cash box while voting took place. Anyone failing to come and vote "forfeits his right to do so. His ballot paper shall not be placed in the ballot box, and there is no appeal in the matter." However, the arbitrators were entitled to choose a treasurer or trustee and to appoint others, even if they were not at home at the time, appointing deputies until they returned.
The Society was headed by two treasurers. Every month, one of the trustees changed places with the treasurer of the month, who was responsible for all the affairs of the Society and for arranging burial fees. Members were entitled to enrol their sons in the Society. There were special clauses (21 and 22) defining the duties of junior members and of the factotums under the treasurer's authority.
A particularly interesting clause is the one requiring junior members of the Society to wait on members as instructed by the treasurer at the Society's festive meals.
It was part of the treasurers' duties to supervise the cemetery and ensure that it was properly maintained, as well as to cater for the needs of the sick and the poor who required financial support from the Society's resources. If the Society ran out of funds, members had to lend it money out of their own pockets. In addition to membership fees, the treasurers used to collect money for charity at the cemetery during the month of Ellul, and in the synagogue at Minchah (the afternoon service) during festivals and Holy days.
The Society had 22 founder members, 4 juniors and three factotums. Discipline was strict and breaches were forbidden. A special clause (12) specified that "if anyone fails to respect the rules, even if only by word of mouth, and there are witnesses, then they shall all come together and judge him fairly by a majority vote. And if he shall refuse to collaborate, then a note shall be made in the minute book of the Society that he is to be repaid in his own coin when he dies and when his wife or sons die, so that it will be a warning to the rebellious, and so that everyone will hear and see and draw the moral from it.".
Despite the rigorousness of this clause, there were people in the community who had the temerity to oppose the Chevrah Kadisha, and their names were duly recorded in the minute book. From 1795 to 1797, the name of Aryeh Ben-Mordechai Leib was recorded and, in 1804, the names of two women: Sarah the wife of Mordechai Blazner, and Rivkah the wife of Mordechai Leib, who opposed the entire congregation in matters concerning conformity with religious practice .
The names of those who had insulted Society members were also recorded in the minute book "against the day when the time shall come to repay them in their own coin." There were many instances of individuals feeling affronted, because the members of the congregation did not take kindly to complaints about them with regard to actions of the Society and its members, who wielded a great deal of influence. The Society helped the congregation, bought scrolls of the Law and helped to defray the expenses of the synagogue and the bath house.
During the period of Austrian rule, Chorostkow's position was the same as that of other communities in Galicia as regards taxes and the socio-political situation.
There were no substantial changes in the community's internal life, apart from the growth of the Chassidic movement, which dominated the communities and rabbis of Podolia in the first half of the 19th century. In Chorostkow itself there were many adherents of the Chassidic courts of Hosyatin and Chortkow. In 1848, companies of Cossacks being sent to Austria by Tsar Nicholas I passed through the town on their way to fight against the revolutionaries in Hungary. In 1860, when a cholera epidemic broke out in Hosyatin and its environs, the town's Chassidic rabbi went to stay in Chorostkow for a short time, being put up in the home of a wealthy supporter of his called Klahr.
The so-called "marriage scare" blew up during the same period, when a rumour began circulating in Galicia that the Austrian Government was about to prohibit men under 24 years of age from marrying. Most of the young males in Chorostkow married on impulse when they were still only between 14 and 16 years old and the girls younger still, without having attained any sort of position and without a dowry .
On June 7, 1862, a big fire broke out in the townlet, causing enormous damage to Jewish property. Fifty large, good houses and a number of shops were completely burnt out, and a prayer hall also went up in flames. Another fire broke out in 1869, and the communities in the surrounding area sent out a distress call to the "Maggid" ("preacher") asking for help for those who had suffered in the fire . In the wake of a severe storm, the entire shtetl burnt down, and all that was left was stones and ashes. The inhabitants were left without a roof over their heads and totally without possessions . This time, too, they were helped by neighbouring communities, and the owner of the shtetl not only contributed money, but also provided building materials logs, planks, stones, sand and in the weeks that followed, even supplied the Jews with flour, potatoes and vegetables. The town was gradually rebuilt, and life returned to normal. During the second half of the 19th century and until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the economic situation of the Jewish population mostly urban Jews was sound, thanks to the situation of the shtetl.
The surrounding area was rural, and thousands of peasants used to stream into the town every Monday for the market, where they sold their agricultural produce linen, poultry, eggs, cattle and horses  and bought the things they needed from the Jewish shops and market stalls. The Jews gained their living from such markets and fairs.
A breakdown of the Jews of Chorostkow by trade and occupation is given in the table below. It mirrors the economic situation in Galicia at that time sound and stable.
The data are as follows:
Altogether, 358 Jewish heads of families were in some kind of occupation.
Further broken down, the data yield the following information:
3) Wines and spirits, inns and hotels 16
5) Artisans and tradesmen
6) Religious requisites
7) Transport, Carters 16
9) Middlemen, agents, bridge toll licensees, clerks 8
10) Porters, labourers 5
The main occupation of the Jews of Chorostkow was business of one kind or another connected with agricultural produce, and some of the artisans and tradesmen blacksmiths, tinsmiths also had farming connections. Although Chorostkow was situated in a part of Galician Podolia that was very strongly influenced by Chassidic rabbis, it nevertheless became imbued with the Enlightenment in the 1860s, clandestinely at first and then, gradually, openly.
One of the first Maskilim (enlightened people) in the town was Yeshayah Amschel, a weaver by trade, who was an Orthodox Jew and a great scholar. At the same time, he was an ardent supporter of the Enlightenment, a lover of the Bible who read the Book of Proverbs with Moses Mendelssohn's commentary close at hand. He inspired the young people of the town to learn Hebrew and German.
A more prominent Maskil was David Leib Harnisch. As well as being an Orthodox Jew and a great scholar with a wide knowledge of the Hebrew language, he had also had a secular education. He was widely read in German and, of course, Hebrew literature. According to a contemporary and pupil of his , "Harnisch's house was a meeting place for the town's handful of Maskilim. There they argued about the meaning of difficult passages in the Bible and discussed modern Hebrew and also the writings of Schiller and Goethe."
Mention should also be made here of two other pioneering Maskilim Shalom Reitmann and Shimshon Zissermann, a Maskil par excellence, who was in charge of the register of births, marriages and deaths. A number of young men were drawn into this small circle because they wanted to learn Hebrew and German and receive a secular education. By that time, secular books, the writings of Rabbi Haim Luzzatto, Weizel, Mapu and Smolenskin had become available in the town, as well as German literature, especially Schiller and Goethe, beloved by the Maskilim of Galicia.
Thanks to the influence of these young men and their clandestine acquisition of secular culture, the Zionist idea also began to gain ground in Chorostkow. The first proponent of the Shivat Zion (Return to Zion) idea was Haim Frisch (1875-1923), a watchmaker by trade, and a cultured and enlightened man with an intense passion for polemical discussion and the interplay of ideas. His right-hand man was Yaakov Bermann, a blacksmith. They were among the town's very first Zionists in the 1890s, and were instrumental in establishing a Zionist Society at the beginning of this century, based on the rules of the Zionist Federation of Galicia. The head of the Society in 1905 was L. Schechter, who was succeeded in 1907 by Lazar Pasternak and Yaakov-Moshe Frisch. They, in turn were followed by Menashe Fellner, who remained in the post until 1914. In the course of time, the number of Maskilim among the younger generation who took an interest in Hebrew literature (Israel Yehudah Feldmann) and Yiddish, increased. A Tsofim (Jewish Scouts) movement existed even before 1914 and, already by then, 10 children from the congregation were studying at the Trembowla Gymnasium (secondary school).
From 1880 onwards, there was an organised congregation in Chorostkow, headed by an 11-member Council. From 1880 to 1905, its chairman was Moshe Weisselberg; from 1905 to 1910, Herschel Foigel; from 1910 to 1914, Shimon Mihlrad; from 1914 to 1918, Yaakov Moishe Frisch; from 1918 to 1928, Pinchas Hochmann, a mill-owner); and from 1928 to 1935, Asher Baruch Klahr (a landowner).
The secretary of the congregation and its registrar of births, marriages and deaths, was Yosef-Ber Tenenbaum, who was also secretary of the municipality. The number of people paying congregation tax before 1914 was 500.
There were six Jews on the 18-member town council, six Poles and six Ruthenians.
In addition to the old Great Synagogue with its beit hamedrash, there was a tailors' beit hamedrash and a prayer room for the poor, as well as a Chorostkow Chassidic shtiebl, a Hosyatin Chassidic shtiebl, a large shtiebl for house-owners and [word unknown] of the beit hamedrash.
The rabbis who led the congregation before the First World War included Zvi Teumim and Yaakov Barbash. When the latter died in 1897, a dispute broke out between the Hosyatin Chassidim and the Chortkow Chassidim about who the next rabbi should be. A decisive majority chose Rabbi Meshulam Roth, while the Hosyatin Chassidim preferred Rabbi Berish Winter. This dispute continued until Rabbi Roth was appointed Rabbi of Sotsava (Bukovina) in 1930. The man chosen to succeed him was Rabbi Yehoshuah Rappaport, who was the last rabbi of Chorostkow.
There was only one doctor in Chorostkow after 1870, a Jew called Dr Ohrhahn, a native of Tarnopol. He was succeeded by another Tarnopol-born man, Dr Wishnowitzer, who was the town's doctor from 1920 to 1941.
In 1891, the authorities decreed the closure of the bath house for sanitary reasons, leaving the congregation without a mikveh. However, according to congregation's minute book, "the modest and righteous Yitzchak Isaac (Widermann), may his name be remembered for good," took up the cause of the mikveh and was evidently successful.
Two general Jewish societies existed: "Yad Charutzim", a craftsmen's association established as early as 1875, and the Women's Union, headed by Mrs Cecilia Roth. In 1908, the Berlin Branch of the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden (German Jewish Welfare Association) organised hairnet-making courses in Chorostkow and, eventually, 16 Jewish women were employed for this work. The hairnets, which were renowned for their high quality, were marketed in Austria and Germany.
The Jewish population grew from 42 to 2,130 between 1765 and 1880, but declined between 1880 and 1900. The general population, on the other hand, grew from 3,493 in 1880 to 4,627 in 1900, ie, from 62.1% of the total population to 71.3%.
In 1900, there were 2,075 Jews in Chorostkow, 33.1% of the general population, which numbered 6,261. By 1910, the number of Jews had fallen to 1,871, 28.7% of the general population of 6,498 ..
Notes and Sources
 In the course of excavations in Chorostkow in 1926, the Polish scholar, Ossowetski, made a number of finds, including stone tombs in the form of oblong boxes constructed from six large slabs of stone or numerous smaller slabs, embedded in the ground. In the opinion of Polish archaeologists, the finds, including the tombs, date to before the Common Era.
It is almost certain that they were family tombs, because three skeletons were found in each of them, together with clay pots decorated with a dogtooth pattern in the form of squares inlaid with chalky material on a black background, and a number of iron vessels of various kinds.Back
 There were 104 Jews who paid poll tax in Strusow and 15 children under a year old. Under Polish law, children of this age were exempt from poll tax and were therefore included in special population registers. In addition to the Jews of Chorostkow, those in the following villages were also linked with Strusow: Warwarinze, Naloshki, Nastasov, Rozdozhanje, Ostrowiecz, S- lobodka, Darachov, Brokola, Wetkov, Brenorov, Kaswianiecz, Awilow Rojalki, Awilow Malu, Lickowca, Trawchow, Horodnice, Sankowca, Wiazwadniki, Rakowkont, Postolowka, Wiarzchovice, Firmilov and Karshinic. The Jews of Karshinic, Kaswianiecz, Awilow Rojalki, Avilow Malu, Lickovca, Trawchow, Horodnice and Strusow together numbered 224, with 26 children under a year old. Back
 Dr Majer Balaban: Spis Zydow i Karaitow w ziemi halickiej i powiatow Trembowelskiego i Kolomyjskiego w roku, 1765. Cracow, 1909, p. 15.Back
 From the archives of the Ministry of the Interior in Vienna: The protocols of Galicia for 1784-1785, January 18, ddo 15/I, 1785, File No. 3, Ad. No. 30187, state that the Chorostkow Jewish community was unaware of the ban on building a synagogue without the consent of the governing authorities, so those to blame for the announcement not having been made must be held responsible and punished, failing which, the elders of the community, who acted in contravention of the ban, must be punished. Vienna 7 exp. 15.- 1.1785. Back
 A great scholar, preacher and Cabbalist, born in Oziran, the son of Avigdor and a pupil of Rabbi Moshe Zvi Heller the author of the commentary, "Gaon Zvi", on Choshen Mishpat in the Shulchan Aruch and a follower of the Chassidic Rabbi, Ze'ev Wolf of Czerno-Ostraha. He used to travel to the Jewish townlets and preach sermons which were later published in book form. He also published other books, including one on ethics. He left Chorostkow in 1790 to become Rabbi of Bodzanov, where he remained until 1800. He then became Rabbi of Soroky (Bessarabia) and Jassy in 1805. He emigrated to Palestine, died in Safed (Tsfat) on 19 November, 1810, and was buried in the same cave as Rabbi Leibush of Volozisk. See also:
 The first 22 people to join the Society were:
David Rosiner (for one year), the beadle, Yaakov Chaim, Reuben Chayav and Hirsch Haberman were chosen as the first "melatchas" (junior members) of the new Society. Back
 Printed in the bibliography folios, "The Annals of Israel", edited by David Frankel, Vienna, No. 1, Tammuz, 5694 No. 2, Tishrei, 5695. Back
 In 5556-5558, the names of four men were noted in the record book, following insults and contemptuous behaviour with regard to the Chevrah Kadisha:
 Pinchas Sherlag, "Memoirs", in "Reshumot" ("The Gazette"), 5707, Vol. 3, p. 41.Back
 "Hamagid", 1862, No. 28, p. 219. Back
 Pinchas Sherlag, "One in a Thousand", in "Reshumot Tel Aviv" ("The Tel Aviv Gazette"), 5707, Vol. 3, p. 47. Back
 The estate of the owner of the town, Siamianski, included a stud farm for breeding pedigree horses. Back
 Memoirs of Pinchas Sherlag, "Reshumot" 3, p. 50. Back
 Dr. St. Fruinski: Materjaly do kwestji zydowskiej w Galicji, Lwow, 1910, p. 13.Back
At a meeting of the distinguished heads of the Chorostkow community, all of us, the undersigned, agreed to set up a revived Chevrah Kadisha in the above-mentioned year, and there were small differences of opinion among us over who should belong to the Society and who should be outside it. All of us, the undersigned, agreed to endorse and to fulfil everything uttered by the two men chosen by us, namely Rabbi Yosef Haim Yavetz of Kopiczinitz and Rabbi David Shlomo Eibeschitz. [We also agreed that] anyone who said anything to undermine any of their statements, his words should be null and void, and if he did not accept this, he would be brought before a Beit Din (rabbinical court) and be fined six gold coins by the Society. [We further agreed that] the two above-named men should draw up all the rules and procedures for the Society and arrange all matters for us, and that, whatever they said, we would do. We took all this upon ourselves with strength and with vigour. In witness whereof we have signed this day, Tuesday, 9 Kislev 500 and ??? of the above-mentioned year, here in Chorostkow.
Menashe Rosiner spoke, as did a further eighteen people who have signed below after him on this line, and Sander Kalman spoke, as did a further sixteen people who have signed below after him on this line. These are the true signatures of the signatories on the attached page, men of the holy congregation of Chorostkow and in our presence they signed and took upon themselves with all strength and vigour to endorse and to fulfil everything explained there, without duress and without compulsion and with the cancellation of all kinds of statement and a fine, as explained above, and they endorsed it and fulfilled it. Today is the above day of the above year, here, Chorostkow. The holy David Shlomo Eibeschitz of Oziran and the holy Yosef Haim Yavetz of Kopiczinitz.
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