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[Page L]

Association of Lanzut Jews
and its branches in Eretz Israel

by Michael Walzer

Before World War II, it was not the practice for newcomers to Eretz Israel to organize themselves according to their towns of origin. The concept of “landsmanshaftn”, which comes from the American Jewish lexicon, was alien in this country where the idea of the merging and fusion of the different exiles has always been fostered and encouraged. But the situation changed entirely with the outbreak of World War II, whose flames devoured the roots of Jewry in Poland as in the whole of Europe. Poland suddenly became a kind of vast auto-de-fe for all European Jewry.

It may be said that the people from Lanzut belonged to those groups which did not sit with folded hands. They were among the first groups of “townsfolk” who organized themselves here to aid their needy brethren and save and rescue the war refugees among them. No sooner was the organization established here that contacts were set up with other organizations in America, Argentina, France, Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Switzerland, Australia and England.

The Association of Lanzut Jews in Israel was established in 1943 and its first committee included: Rabbi Jacob Hurwitz, Israel Herzberg, Dr. Nathan Kudisch, Dr. Julius Weissman, David Har, Haya Katz, Moshe Milrad, Zalman Yasem, Hayyim Kesztecher, Penina Popiol, Nehama Sauerhaft, Hayyim Hebenstreit, Samuel Greisman and Michael Walzer. In the course of the years, the activities of the Association have changed together with its principal organizers; a fact which has left its mark on practical work. Some of the original active members have passed away without being privileged to see the fruits of their work. Their memory and labours are reflected in this Lanzut Volume.

At the Inaugural Meeting of the Lanzut Association in Eretz Israel, those present all made financial contributions to help the refugee townsfolk in Russia. The meeting also fixed a regular payment to be made by all those originating in the town. When the war came to an end and many Jews gathered in the city of Wroclaw in Poland (formerly Breslau), we gave help to the refugees from our city. Following the establishment of the State of Israel and the massive immigration to the country, the tasks of the Organization changed. In addition to social aid to those who needed it, problems of absorption and constructive assistance emerged together with the need for guidance and good advice. Finally, steps to preserve the memory of the city emerged as a characteristic task of the Association.

The Lanzut Association soon began to engage on this task and can now present this considerable achievement of the “Lanzut Volume”. It is the work of two sons of the town, aided by a number of other individuals from Lanzut in Israel and assisted by the Lanzut Association in the U.S. and a number of individuals in the Dispersion.

The commemoration of Lanzut in Israel has assumed several forms. In 1951, it was decided to plant the “Lanzut Wood” consisting of a thousand and fifty trees in the Martyr's Forest and to establish a monument there. The 21st of Ab has been fixed as Memorial Day for the martyrs of our city for it was on that date in 5702 (August 3rd, 1942) that the great expulsion took place to Palkinia village where the remaining Jews of Lanzut were gathered together and exterminated.

Together with “Yad VeShem” we have registered the Lanzut Martyrs in the “Dapei Ad” (Eternal Pages).

The major act of commemoration in the present “Lanzut Volume” edited by the following Committee: Michael Walzer and Dr. Nathan Kudisch. The Financial Committee: the late David Har, Chairman; Shalom Buch, Michael Fast, Pinhas Goldman, Debora Lipshitz. The Audit Committee: Zvi Landau (chairman), Joshua Kesten and Penina Popiol.

At the meeting of our townsfolk held in 1960, an Israel Council of 33 members was elected. The consolidation of the Association has led to close social life between the townsfolk, and contact with

[Page LI]

Lanzut folk in all parts of the world. Many townsfolk in other countries have recently been visiting Israel and make their way to the Association. There is always common interest in activities of the Association and the steps to commemorate the community.

The following founders of the Lanzut Association have not lived to see the full achievement of our enterprise: Hayyim Hebenstreit, Samuel Greisman, David Har, Moshe Yona Flashen, and Dr. Julius Weissman. The following members have also passed away: Rabbi Jacob Hurwitz, Mordechai Paster, Samuel Zavada, Gedalia Engelberg, Wolf Katz, Rachel Greisman, Abraham Katz and his wife, Melech Kesten, Abraham Felner, Mirel Gottesman, Abraham ben Anshel Katz, Michael Shiffer, Israel Lipshitz, Joshua and Rachel Kornblau, Ephraim Kornblau, Mendel Goldman, Feige Stempel, Moshe Mond, Yehezkel Teitelbaum, Joseph Shpons, Gold Stoser, Devora Regenbogen and Zlata Langsam.

The Association of Lanzut Jews in Israel, like all other associations of sons and daughters of destroyed communities, is a historic phenomenon reflecting the epoch during which European Jewry was overwhelmed and destroyed and the State of Israel came into being.

As a public phenomenon, the Association has carried out and will carry out the function of a link with the destroyed past, salvaging all that it can of its values from the abyss of forgetfulness for future descendants of Lanzut in Israel and the Diaspora.

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From left: Rabbi Shalom Rubin, Mrs. Hana Rubin, Michael Walzer, Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Shapiro.
(Taken while the Rabbi and his wife were visiting Israel)


[Page LII]

Farewell Forever – Year after Year

by Devorah Tuchfeld (Lipshitz)

lane052.jpg

Year by year, those who are left of our community, gather in the hall of the Bet-Hachaluzot here in Tel-Aviv. We are drawn together as though by hidden threads, some from near and some from afar; to that spot where we can meet again.

At the entrance, we congregate in little groups. Some of us block the passage-way to the pavement, standing bunched together and talking in low voices. A whole torrent of memories seems to pour through us when we see on another. As we chat together and gradually move round and round, anyone might think that we are swarming like bees in a hive. There is a mellow melancholy in passing these groups, pausing a while here and there, looking at one another and stopping to listen. The fragmentary phrases and the interwoven gazes and glances seem to weave a tapestry of by-gone scenes – the cradle, the courtyard, the street, the market, Sabbath nights, Festivals, the whole range of Jewish life….

Here comes a pair of old folk. His beard is white and he wears a black hat while she still has the old-fashioned wig. Slowly they approach together. My soul quivers and warmth passes through me. Surely they stand for my own parents and for our entire holy and martyred congregation!

The fathers with their beards and the mothers in their kerchiefs – they did not caress us and show us their love in the parks or streets of Lanzut. But, we knew the warmth of their embrace. We lay in wooden cradles on mattresses of fresh straw and slept the sweet sleep of infancy while they gently rocked us with their feet…..

And which of us did not enjoy playing with the hair-pins that were stuck in our mother's wigs? And if they damaged the fine mesh on which the wig was built up, mother's eyes were as gentle and forgiving as ever. Her patient lips taught us, from our very infancy, to recite the “Modeh Ani” of the Morning Prayers and the “Shema Israel” which every Jew confesses. And there was always understanding for our mischievousness.

Other eyes pass over me and move on to other folk here. I look back at them and se we gaze at one another. In me still they see the granddaughter of Zissele the Scribe. In our eyes we still exchange the light of youth. They and I alike immerse ourselves in the sea of memories.

Here is Father wearing Tallit and Tefillin. I see the embroidered silverwork in the part of the Tallit that covers his head and the black straps wrapped in symmetry around his arm. How that ancient glory is impressed on my memory. And here and now, I make my way back to the “Apikorsim” (free-thinkers), as our fathers called them. By our present standards, they are the most aristocratic of our Elders. Their faces are seamed and wrinkled. Years of toil and the struggle of existence have set their seal upon them. Life in Eretz Israel has, one might think, erased all the characteristics of our little Lanzut.

They look different. For these who gather here, rebelled against the Exile many long years before the Catastrophe began. They came here thirsting for new life. They struggled hard. They took root and fulfilled their purpose of shaping themselves while they built what had to be built…..
Were they granted a special sense of what was to come? Was that what brought them here? Or was it the hand of Providence which chose them to serve as the emissaries of our community?

They passed through the broad-shouldered ranks of the Poalei Zion, Freiheit, and Hashomer Hatzair. They were the fine and delicate youngsters of the Mizrahi, of the Noar Tzioni and Akiva. The girls belonged to Wizo and the Benot Yaakov.

Our hair is no longer black. It has faded or vanished in the case of the men. Among the women, it is turning silver and white.

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We go back to those lovely years when we were young, when we dreamed our dreams in spite of the menace all around. A quiver passes through us as we remember how the Zionist Movement spread and the days when we went wandering along the avenues of Count Potocki's estate… The landscape fixed our imagination and we enriched our souls with ideological conversations …

We used to debate with youthful zest and forgot all the daily trouble and the marks of Jew-hatred which clouded Lanzut life. Yearnings for redemption throbbed within us and we were aware of everything that took place in Eretz Israel. We used to compete in raising funds for the Jewish National Fund, for the Keren Hayesod, for the “Wall and Tower” settlements. We preened ourselves with our Zionist activities. We studied Hebrew, we acted Hebrew plays. We held meetings and gatherings and wonderful Sabbath-day celebrations. All of these together gave us the strength to stand firm with an unflinching spirit.

How old were we then? Sixteen or seventeen in all.

We see how think our ranks have grown and sadness spreads among us…Where are all those fine-looking and upright brothers and sisters of ours?

Like us, they were imbued with the values of the Zionist Movement. They yearned and longed for the Land of Israel. They were full of energy and enthusiasm. We remember them as they streamed to the railway station to accompany us when we left for Eretz Israel – those whose youth was cut off betimes, those who went down living to the grave …

I seek in vain here for any neighbour from our courtyard, that lively Jewish courtyard which was surrounded on all four sides by houses standing as close together as a wall.

It is hard to accept the fact that the pulse has ceased to beat there. The very spirit grieves…There was the Sukkah in the courtyard with the candle-light glowing within, the narrow lattices in the attic, the cellar and those firm stout walls against which stood the bookcases with all the volumes of the Talmud standing side-by-side in array … The windows with their broad tops and sills, the gateway with the iron bar that closed it. That was the courtyard which was breached and polluted and whose inhabitants were led away.

There is one other person left from the street. I look around at those of us who survived. There is dimness in the light of their eyes. They went through the war with the martyrs of my own family, my gentle sisters who carried their babies on their arms when they departed.

They passed through years of anguish and all kinds of misfortunes. Their world crashed around them. Yet, here is the wonder. Their wrinkles are not different from the wrinkles of those who never drank from the goblet of the Nazi venom. And how strong the “Teheran children” are! They have become part and parcel of life here and it has given them something of its own beauty and grandeur. There is a Sabra liveliness about them. They have taken root well and have done well.

Yes, here sadness and gladness are mingled. The little congregation of Lanzut with all its many aspects – yet one flame flickers in all our hearts – to keep faith with the Jewish town that is no longer there …

One clings to the other with word, with a glance and a gaze; deep in the memories of youth or the horrors of war, the memory of neighbours, of every-day affairs and communal and Zionist life.

The moved crowd who were standing around about the entrance begin to make their way into the hall. Our eyes seek the one unrestingly soul who all these years has been knitting us together. He was one of the first who left Lanzut for Eretz Israel; dreamy Misha with his poesy and talk of love. When he came, he looked to the future. Now he looks back at the past, toiling at it, this way and that. He makes his way into Lanzut life in all its streams and manifestations and brings back whatever can be brought back and saved.

He has not changed. Brought up in the Shomer Hatzair Movement, he now finds his place in the world of Hassidism. He identifies himself with our town of Lanzut through every sinew and vein that is him. He goes from house-to-house, completely forgetting himself. He is immersed in his holy task, devoted to his purpose; for some higher Providence has selected him to be the emissary of our community and preserve the memory of the Holy Congregation of Lanzut.

Silence reigns. There is some mystic inner self-preparation as though we were going to a funeral. Tears are shed. Our eyes rest on the black letters and the burning memorial lights.

Sorrowing and bowed of head, each of us stands

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alone with our townsfolk. The voice of the Cantor sets the heart quivering as he sings the “El Male Rahamim”.

Here we can feel the martyred souls of our fathers, our mothers, our sisters and our brothers, our kinsfolk and all our congregation.

These throbbing hearts are at one with all that was Lanzut. None can describe the broken tremulous sighs, the muffled weeping, the prayers and hopes of our martyrs when their hearts gave way within them… Their moans and entreaties mounted aloft. My heart tells me that in their last moments our holy martyrs were clinging to us.

We wonder and we wonder. Why were they uprooted and not permitted to pluck from the Tree of Life? And why were we not allowed to aid them? Surely their blood cries out aloud to us? Earth, cover not their blood!

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Hayyim Levanon (former Mayor of Tel-Aviv) speaking at a reception for the guests Eliezer and Inga Stempel of Argentina and Isaiah Stempel of Jamaica


[Page LV]

Restoration of the Synagogue

by Noah Zevuloni

The famous synagogue of the Lanzut Community in Poland which was so badly damaged by the Nazi when they destroyed the local community is to be restored just as it originally was. However, it will serve in future not as a synagogue but as a local Jewish museum, according to the Polish Press.

The proposal to restore the synagogue and use it as a Jewish Museum was made by Dr. Wladislaw Balicki, the Lanzut Municipal physician, together with the head of the Cultural Department of the National Council of the Rzeszow District, Mr. Jan Mical. The Council has contributed 200,000 zloty to the purpose. The original plans for the synagogue as prepared in the 19th century by the artist Z. Fogel were found in the Archives of the Warsaw University and the restoration is to take place according to them.

The Polish Government has allocated a sum of 124,000 zloty for the suitable ornamentation of the Museum and all the wall shields which had been obliterated will be restored by outstanding artists.

Dr. Balicki has collected many of the ritual objects which were formerly in the synagogue and were scattered everywhere. These include a Pentateuch with the Seal of the Local Court to the effect that Jews used to swear on it when they came to give evidence. Festival prayer books printed in 1794 have also been found as well as several volumes of the Talmud in whose margins scholars noted various novella of their own and which also bear the signatures of famous Rabbis.

Dr. Balicki was asked why he has been so insistent on the establishment of a Jewish museum in this spot where not a single Jew remains. He explains that his purpose is to ensure that the traces of the dreadful and wanton crimes perpetrated by the Germans against the Jewish people, and particularly against the local Jews of Lanzut, should not be obliterated. Many of the Jews of Lanzut were his personal friends. In addition, there was a state of friendship lasting many centuries between the local Poles and Jews. Above all, the traces and marks of Jewish life in Lanzut which lasted for so many centuries must not be allowed to vanish.

Mr. Jan Mical, Chairman of the local District Cultural Council has appealed to all who have any objects which were once in the synagogue to restore them to the new Museum. In particular, he requests the return of the two famous Menorahs which rose above the roof of the synagogue and which were looted by the Nazi. He knows that they never left the district!

“Herut” Daily, page 5.30.8.1963.”

 

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