by Yaakov Shmuel Weissman
Translated by David Goldman
My maternal greatgrandfather, Yaakov Shmuel Raubvogel, was born in 1865 in Radekhov. He owned property in the village of Chmielno. The town's Jews greatly revered Reb Yaakov Shmuel, noting his intelligence and greatness. I can remember his special gravestone that was surrounded by a fence, and many townspeople would visit his grave to recite prayers and appeal for divine mercy.
My mother's mother, Rosa née Raubvogel Kohl married my grandfather Reb Anshel Kohl who was from the city of Kamionka Stromilova. He was a resident, meaning that he spent many years studying under the rabbi of Stratyn. Then he served as an instructor of teachers in Radekhov. He was greatly honored and admired by the community, and the leading citizens in town would come to study Torah from him. Among them was Shmarya Imber, the father of Schwartzwald, Feivel Geisler and others. Grandmother Tsira earned her livelihood by operating an iron materials store, and Grandfather totally devoted himself to studying Torah in order to fulfill the commandment of studying and teaching.
My father, Zvi Aryeh, of blessed memory, followed in his father's footsteps, and was a dedicated follower of the Rebbe of Stratyn, who would stay in my father's home together with his entourage whenever he visited our town.
I can remember one event in 1909, when the Rebbe of Stratyn visited our town, and my father, of blessed memory, complained to him that his livelihood was becoming increasingly difficult because the property manager of Count Badeni stopped buying merchandise from him for his estate. When the Rebbe heard this complaint, he spent a moment deep in thought and then immediately said, Soon this manager will have a black end. And so it was. One day in the winter he went outside and slipped on the ice on the lake of the estate. The ice broke under his feet, he slipped and broke his leg. Since there was no hospital in the area he was taken to the large city of Lvov and died from his injuries on the way.
At home, the spirit of Zionism was very strong. On one occasion the head of the community wanted to interfere with the Zionist youth who were collecting money in the synagogue on the holiday of Hoshana Rabbah for the Keren Kayemet . My grandfather the rabbi became angry at him, and said: In order to redeem land in the land of Israel it is even permitted to sign a contract on Shabbat and the Keren Kayemet is redeeming land in the land of Israel.
This spirit of Zionism had a strong influence on my younger brother Mordechai, of blessed memory, who decided to carry out the mitzvah of settling in the land of Israel himself. He left our wealthy father's home and joined the chalutzim (pioneers), who were involved in all sorts of activities that were unacceptable at that time among Jewish youth, especially those from wealthy homes. He soon immigrated to the Holy Land.
My brother Mordechai once decided to purchase dozens of dunams of land in Palestine, and since he had no money for that purpose he turned to our father, who consulted with the Rebbe of Belz, who prohibited him from doing it, saying, God forbid, they are polluting the land, desecrating Shabbat, and eating nonkosher meat. So he did not purchase it, but thanks to my brother we still have surviving relatives living in Israel.
Under the Germans in World War II
In the early days of World War II I worked for a German who was an agent in the business of iron and other metals to help the war effort. He appointed me as the manager of collecting and sorting metals, and thanks to that I was able to employ 30 Jews and to save them from the terrible decrees.
In 1942, Reb Yosef Shochet son of Yekutiel contacted me and said: You can see that famine is affecting us badly, and children are swollen and dying we have to do something to save the children. I have no one other than you to speak to, and you can help them. I immediately made the first contribution and I demanded from all those who had hidden merchandise to give as much as they could. This was how we set up a kitchen in the synagogue of the Belz Chassidim. A barrel that was divided into two served as a stove and for a period of time we distributed to 1,200 people twice a day.
When the Germans were defeated the few survivors left their hiding places. When they found out that I was still alive, they started gathering around me, and I assisted them as much as possible. Afterwards I moved to Lvov, and various individuals who survived gathered around me. In Lvov we found out that Rabbi Steinberg from Brody survived in Dubno. Mr. Halberthal (now in Belgium) and I tried to bring him to Lvov. There was no community in those days, and many of the Auschwitz survivors and those wounded in the war turned to us. We helped them as much as we could.
In Germany I was involved in commerce, and I had contact with many merchants. On the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel in 194748 I was the chairman of the Fighting Nation Tax for Israel, and I assisted in purchasing weapons from Czechoslovakia. I received a certificate of appreciation from the Israeli government for this as shown below:
Yaakov Weissman Munich
With the completion of the Fighting Nation Tax project in the city of Munich, we feel pleasantly obligated to thank you in the name of the project administration for all your work and dedication in organizing the work in your city.
Your efforts proved your great loyalty to building our homeland and your active participation in the great war to establish the State of Israel.
We hope you continue your work in fortifying the state. Build it and you will be built by it.
With blessings from the State of Israel to the Fighting Nation Tax Project
Saving a Torah Scroll
In the village of Peratyn there lived a respected man who was a relative named Mordechai Launer. He owned a Torah scroll and many holy books. When he saw that the end of the Jewish Diaspora was fast approaching he took the Torah scroll and sacred texts and gave them to a priest of the Subbotnik sect so that he would hide them. In one of the Pentateuchs he inserted a note saying: Since the end is approaching, should anyone from the Weissman family survive, I ask that you give this book to that person. Should that not be the case, please give it to any Jew who survives.
With the arrival of the Bolsheviks, I was approached by the priest who told me he had a letter written to me. When I read the letter I asked him to bring me the Torah scroll. Because of danger on the roads from the Ukrainian marauders, the Banderistas, my brother Moshe and I carried the Torah scroll along with us the entire time of our wanderings until we arrived in Israel and then turned it over to a synagogue in Haifa. I view this event as being in the merit of my holy ancestors that served me well. Thank God I was able to see each of my sons and grandsons serving the nation in his own way. My daughter Tsiona Oberman is a chemist in a hospital. My soninlaw Mordechai is a doctor. My grandson Aryeh Oberman a medical student. My granddaughter Orly will probably follow in their footsteps. My second daughter Hella Kraus lives in Mexico, and her husband is Moshe Kraus a businessman. Their children are: Yitzchak a mechanical engineer, whose wife is a dentist. Their second son is Anshel a medical student, and the youngest is Dov an architect. The children all know Hebrew and spent a year in Israel as volunteers, and they run Zionist activities where they live, especially among the youth.
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