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My Grandfather Rabbi Nathan Lewin

by Rabbi Dr. Isaac Levin of New York

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Photo page 82: Rabbi Nathan Lewin


The Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin of holy blessed memory, who was accepted as the rabbi of Rzeszów in the year 5664 (1904) and served there until the day of his death, was born in the city of Brody in the year 5618 (1858) to his father Reb David Yehuda, an honorable merchant who was an expert in Torah. [1] Reb David Yehuda, or has he was called Reb David Leib, was the son of Reb Levi Yaakov Lewin and the son–in–law of Reb Yechezkel Reisfeld, who was a famous philanthropist. Reb Levi Yaakov Lewin had a great pedigree. The Gaon Rabbi David Yehuda, the head of the rabbinical court of Radichów, the author of the book “Yad Yehuda” on Tractate Pesachim published in Lemberg in the year 5632 (1872) from a manuscript that was in the hands of his sons Rabbi Yitzchak Lewin of Brody and Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Lewin of Kaminka, was, apparently, also the father of Reb Levi Yaakov (even though only the two aforementioned sons are mentioned in the book “Yad Yehuda” and not Reb Levi Yaakov).

Reb David Leib Lewin, the father of the Gaon Rabbi Nathan, was born on 2th of Adar 5597 (April 4, 1837), and died on 6 Adar 5658 (February 28, 1898) at the age of 61. These two dates are noted in one book in the handwriting of another son of Reb David Leib, whose name was Rabbi Yisrael [2]. That page also includes words written by the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin, stating the date was “Tuesday of the Torah portion of Nitzavim, 21 Elul 5638 (1878).” Rabbi Nathan, who was then 18 years old, writes that he purchased the book for four Florin (zloty) [3].

Rabbi Nathan's great–grandfather, the Gaon and author of “Yad Yehuda” was one of the great ones of his generation. He died in the year 5591 (1831), when his book was ready for publication. The author, who was a rabbi in the city of Radichów, describes his lineage in the introduction to his book: His father, Rabbi Avraham, was the son of “The great rabbi in his generation, Rabbi Yechiel Michel, rabbi of the community of Breslau.” From his mother's side, he was a descendent of the holy and pure Rabbi Nathan of holy blessed memory, the prince of the Land of Israel. He is buried there in the Holy Land.” Apparently, this Rabbi Nathan was the trustee of the charitable fund of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, and therefore is called the “Prince of the Land of Israel.” According to the author of “Yad Yehuda” Rabbi Nathan was the son of the Gaon, the author of the book “Beit Levi.” This apparently refers to the book “Beit Levi” by Rabbi Levi the son of Rabbi Shlomo of Brody, which contains novellae on the Talmud, published on Zolkowa in the year 5492 (1752).

There are three approbations in the book “Yad Yehuda.” The first was written during the lifetime of the author, in the year 5590 (1730). It was by the Gaon Rabbi Shlomo Kluger, who wrote, “I will sing a song to my friend a Song of Ascents to David, he is the sharp rabbi and Gaon Rabbi David Yehuda the head of the rabbinical court of the community of Radichów… He called the book ‘Yad Yehuda’ [Hand of Yehuda] because his displayed his strong hand to fight the battles of Torah, and to delve into the Talmud and rabbinic decisions, to destroy and build, and to turn the tortuous route into a plain. The following is the prayer on my lips: May G–d hear the voice of Yehuda, and bring him to his nation [4].” The words of two other approbations are included with feelings of honor: the Gaon and Tzadik Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, the head of the rabbinical court of Ujhel and author of the famous book “Yismach Moshe”, and the Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Heller, the head of the rabbinical court of Ungvar [Uzhgorod] and author of the books “Teiv Gitin,” who knew Rabbi David Yehuda from his youth in the city of Rawa.

Crowned with this pedigree, and possessing of broad knowledge in Torah, at the young age of 20, Rabbi Nathan married the only daughter of the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes, who was the head of the rabbinical court of Przemysl at that time, and renowned in the Torah circles of Galicia at that time for his book “Beit Yitzchak” on Orach Chaim, that was published in the year 5635 (1875). Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes had a son Reb Aharon who died in the year 5631 (1871) at a very young age, and he was left with an only daughter Hadassah. He searched for a groom for her who was graced with all fine traits, and the Gaon of Przemysl found such in the Iluy from Brody, the son of a well–pedigreed merchant who was involved in importing pearls from Italy. The match was made in the year 5637 (1877) (or perhaps already in 5636). We find a responsa from that year in “Beit Yitzchak Section II (on Yoreh

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Deah I), addressed to “my future son–in–law, the young, pleasant, expert youth Nathan Lewin, may his light shine” (section 970). In this responsa, the Gaon of Przemysl deals with a strong question from the young Iluy regarding the Gemara of Kritut folio 23. He also praises his response to the question (“you have answered well”), and discusses his words (“this is not answered with your answer'). The response was written with respect and great appreciation. In responsa from the year 5638 (1878) (sections 84, 93, 98, 147, 166) he already referred to Rabbi Nathan “my son–in–law.” This proves that the wedding took place that year. In one responsa (section 84) from the year 5630 (1870) he is given the description “The great rabbi, sharp and expert in all aspects of Torah, full of wisdom.” It should be known that the author of the “Beit Yitzchak” was very careful in granting such descriptions, and if he called his son–in–law with such terms when he was 21 years old, it was a sign that Rabbi Nathan Lewin already excelled in great expertise as well as in exceptional sharpness and understanding. From these responsa, it seems that he was not only expert in Talmud, but also in Bible. The author of the “Beit Yitzchak” praises “your precious notations” of his young son–in–law, who was able to tie the commentaries of the Rada'k on the book of Kings to the words of Tosafot in Menachot (section 84). At times, he was enthusiastic about the questions and wrote, “Your question is like a strong wall” (section 36 – without a date). There is no doubt that the Gaon of Przemysl was comforted through Rabbi Nathan over the loss of his son who died in his prime. We read this in the emotional words of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes in his introduction to the “Beit Yitzchak” on Orach Chaim, “I gave over my first born due to the sins of my soul, death came through my window and waved his harsh sword over my only son and true friend, my dear son, sharp and G–d fearing from the time of his youth, Rabbi Aharon of holy blessed memory… I drank my share of the poison cup over my shoulder and my right eye, as all of my hopes were wiped out in weeping for my only son.” His son–in–law became as a son to him and an assistant. The four sections of “Beit Yitzchak” that were published after Rabbi Nathan Lewin married the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes (on Yoreh Deah I and II, and on Even HaEzer I and II) also carry the signature of Rabbi Nathan Lewin, and the final section of “Beit Yitzchak” (on Choshen Mishpat) that was published after the death of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes, was the fruit of the pen of Rabbi Nathan Lewin in the same way as it was of his father–in–law the Gaon.


Rabbi Nathan Lewin lived in the home of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes for about 15 years. These years were a very fruitful period in his life. In Przemysl, where the author of “Beit Yitzchak” lived in honor and comfort until he was chosen as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Lwów, the capital of Galicia in the year 5654 (1894), Rabbi Nathan found a broad field for growth and ascent in Torah. In the third section of “Beit Yitzchak” (on Yoreh Deah II) published in the year 5655, there are many responsa to him that testify to his greatness. Significant responsa from Rabbi Nathan Lewin himself are also found in this section, including the wonderful responsa of sections 84 and 85 responded to Rabbi Chaim Zeev of Satanów, the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, written in the year 5641 (1881), or the response in section 115 written in the year 5648 (1888).

Some of the responsa from the third section of “Beit Yitzchak” to Rabbi Nathan Lewin are from the first period, when he had just become the son–in–law of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes [5]. However, there are also responsa there from a bit later [6]. The author of “Beit Yitzchak” is effusive in praise to his scholarly son–in–law in all of these responsa. He brings the words of Rabbi Nathan in the midst of his words in several responsa [7].

When this section of “Beit Yitzchak” was published in the year 5655 (1895), Rabbi Nathan Lewin already had two sons: Reb Aharon the father of the writer of these lines, and Reb Shmelkes, as well as three daughters: Miriam, Sima, and Sara. All five grandchildren are mentioned with love by their grandfather in his introduction to this section of the book. Reb Aharon is mentioned in section 99 [8]. In “The final volume” at the end of the book, his scholarly grandson, who had become famous in the Jewish world through his books, and excelled at protecting Jewish rights in the Polish Sejm, includes a wonderful note. He earned this right of including his own note by participating in bringing the book to publication [9].

Some time after publishing the third section of “Beit Yitzchak”, Rabbi Nathan stood outside the house of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes – he was then a rabbi in the city of Pukshan, Romania. However, he only served as a rabbi there for a brief period, since the conditions of life were difficult and the community was involved in a dispute at that time. Rabbi Nathan Lewin pursued peace throughout his life, and was unable to tolerate the atmosphere in Pukshan. He returned to his father–in–law's house in Przemysl. In the book “Beit Yitzchak” on Yoreh Deah II, Rabbi Nathan is mentioned several times as the head of the rabbinical court of Pukshan, but in the introduction to that book, written already in the year 5655 (1895), the Gaon of Lwów prays for the wellbeing of his only daughter and her husband “The Rabbi and Gaon who is sharp, expert, wholesome, G–d fearing, the crown of rabbis Rabbi Nathan Lewin may his light shine, who had been the head of the rabbinical court of Pukshan.” The word “who had been” had a sort of tragic note in the life of my grandfather the Gaon. He did not want to mention the rabbinate of Pukshan after that, and his gravestone inscription does not mention at all that he had been the rabbi in that city.

At almost the same time that the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes moved to Lwów, Rabbi Nathan Lewin was chosen as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of the city of Rohatyn. He remained in that community from the year 5655 until 5664 (1895–1904).

When the fourth section of “Beit Yitzchak on Even HaEzer I was published in the year 5661 (1901), his father–in–law wrote in the preface,

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“May the Blessed Master bless the G–d fearing man, my son–in–law who is beloved to me like a son, the Rabbi and Gaon, sharp and expert in all facets of Torah, the scholarly man with a good name, Rabbi Nathan Lewin may he live long, the head of the rabbinical court of Rohatyn, and his wife, my only daughter the honorable, modest, good hearted Rebbetzin Hadassah.”

Another son was born to him in Rohatyn in the year 5658 (1898), named Yechezkel, after his great–grandfather Rabbi Yechezlek Reisfeld of Brody. His middle son Shmelke, who was living with his grandfather Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes of Lwów, died at the end of his tenure in Rohatyn. (This was after his older brother Reb Aharon, who had previously been educated in the home of his grandfather, got married in the year 5663 – 1903).

After years of studying Torah in the home of his father–in–law, Rabb Nathan developed as a rabbi and halachic decisor throughout the period of his tenure in Rohatyn. He lived in that city for approximately ten years, and was not only beloved by his flock, but his name also became known throughout the breadth of Galicia as a leader who was faithful to his nation. Delegates of the communities of Galicia gathered in Lwów for a national convention in the year 5660 (1900), where the young rabbi from Rohatyn was elected as vice president. His speeches at that convention left a great impression, and their echoes spread throughout the country.

In his books “Beit Yitzchak” on Even HaEzer that appeared at the time that Rabbi Lewin served in Rohatyn, he is mentioned with great honor and respect by his father–in–law (Volume I: sections 122, 123, 129, 137, as well as on the final page where it is written, “A bit of ink still remains in my pen, so I will mention what was my son–in–law the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin may his light shine, the head of the rabbinical court of Rohatyn, asked me:” Volume II: sections 33, 92 and others).

At the end of the year 5664 (1904), the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin was accepted as rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, where he remained until his death. He became beloved by his community very quickly. All the people of the city, from young to old, loved him. His wonderful traits – that included truth and uprightness, love of his fellow and love of his nation – caused the community to literally treat him as their head. His name grew from year to year as one of the Gaonim of the country. Rabbis turned to him from near and far with questions on matters of faith and law. He answered everybody, and the number of his letters grew. He then prepared his letters for publication in the name of “Beit Nediv” (which is the acronym for Nathan the son of David Yehuda). However, he did not merit to see his book in publication. After his death, his sons and sons–in–law prepared them for publication, but all of his letters were lost during the world war.

His daughters got married in Rzeszów. His daughter Miriam married Shimon Dym of Krosna, who was an honorable merchant, a scholar, and a noble man. His daughter Sima Yuta married Shmuel Eintracht of Krakow, the son of one of the important communal heads of Krakow. His daughter Sara married David Kratz of Lwów, the son of an important householder of that city. His two sons became communal leaders of Polish Jewry. The Gaon Rabbi Aharon Lewin was chosen as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of the city of Sambor in the year 5665 (1904). While serving as rabbi of that community, he was elected as a representative of the Polish Sejm in the year 5683 (1923), as well as in the Sejm of 5691 (1931). He even took the place of Rabbi Nathan in Rzeszów after his death. The second son, Rabbi Dr. Yechezkel Lewin, became the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in Katowice, and later a rabbi in the city of Lwów.

All of them – his two sons, three daughters, three son–in–laws, along with several grandchildren – perished in the Holocaust at the hand of the Germans, may their names be blotted out.

While serving in Rzeszów, the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin became known as one of the most important rabbis of Galicia. During the First World War, in the year 5675 (1915), he escaped from the Russians who invaded Galicia, and spent several years in the city of Vienna. There, he was appointed as one of the ten expert rabbis of Galicia who were given permission by the Austrian Government to testify about whether candidates for the rabbinate were worthy for that position. If a candidate received a certificate from one of those rabbis, he would be exempt from army service.

Photograph page 84: Gravestone of Rabbi Nathan Lewin (1966).

Many books that were published between the years 5665–5686 / 1905–1926 bear an approbation from the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin. At times, he includes wonderful Torah notes in his approbation. His Torah novella are published in various rabbinic anthologies. When a dispute broke out between the Kolel of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness (headed by Rabbi Chaim

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David Sofer of Drohobycz) and the Kolels of Kosów, Visznitz, and Ottynia in 5672 (1912), Rabbi Nathan Lewin of Rzeszów was asked for his opinion about the location where the Torah judgment should take place (in the Land of Israel or the Diaspora). His fine responsa is published in the bookless “Teshuva KeHalacha.”

There is no doubt that if we had merited to see the masses of his Torah writings in print, and especially his Halachic responsa, a deep genius, expert in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, as sharp as one of the Gaonin of previous generations, would have been revealed to us. It is too bad that the entire literary treasury that was preserved with his son–in–law Mr. Shimon Dym, was lost in the Holocaust, as has been noted.

I recall that on one occasion, when I was in Rzeszów with my uncle Mr. Dym, may G–d avenge his blood, and I was perusing the works of my grandfather Rabbi Nathan of holy blessed memory, I found a notebook with an article written in wonderful Hebrew. The title of the article was “Regarding Tears.” It contained words of praise about tears, which helped him assuage his grief during his youth. I burst out in tears as I saw how that Gaon recognized the good in tears… In a poetic manner that penetrates the depths of the heart, my grandfather describes how a man sated with agony feels as he weeps: the pain (and he describes there various types of pain) weakens progressively as tears pour from his eyes… a philosophical idea that is confirmed by reality.

My grandfather the Gaon died on the 5th of Elul 5686 (1926).

A canopy was erected around his grave. The accursed Germans destroyed the canopy, but the grave and the monument remain to this day.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. There is a text footnote here, as follows: In a response to Reb David Leib Levin in the year 5641 (1881) in the book “Beit Yitzchak” Section Yoreh Deah II, section 112, he is addressed as, “The Honorable wealthy, scholarly rabbi, who is wholesome, expert, famous, and well pedigreed.” Return
  2. There is a footnote in the text, as follows: This book was owned by Dr. Karl Lewin of blessed memory of Tel Aviv, the son of Rabbi Yisrael Lewin. He sent me a photocopy of this biographical article. Return
  3. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: His love of books was awakened in him when he was still a lad. Throughout the years, he amassed one of the largest and most important private libraries in Galicia. Return
  4. Deuteronomy 33:7. Return
  5. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: Section 56 and 61 from the year 5638 (1878). Section 43 was written in the year 5634 (1874). Of course, it was impossible that this could be the date of the responsa, for Rabbi Nathan was only 14 years old at the time, and certainly did not yet know Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes. Sections 87 and 170 were from the year 5639 (1879). Sections 104, 119, 120, and 169 are from the year 5660 (1900). Return
  6. There is a footnote in the text here as follows: Such as section 139 from the year 5646 (1886). On the other hand, in the fourth section of “Beit Yitzchak” Even HaEzer I, there are responsa belonging to this period. Responsa of sections 122–123 were written in the year 5639 (1879). The responsa to section 129 was also written that year. Return
  7. There is a footnote in the text here: For example, in section 81, paragraph 5. Return
  8. There is a footnote in the text here as follows: “My grandson, the sharp lad Aharon Lewin may his light shine pointed out to me…” Return
  9. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: “The grandson of the author states: Since I had the pleasant lot of copying the table of contents, I will bring a note that I found among the words of my grandfather the Gaon may he live log, in the final section that is appended to his work.” Return

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Reb Yosef Reich

By Shlomo Tal

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Reb Yosef Reich was one of the wonderful personalities who imprinted his stamp upon Jewish Rzeszow. The elders of Rzeszow of our generation remember him in his youth: a sharp and intelligent lad, full of energy, mischievous, “Der Roiter Yossel” (Yosef the Red). He was involved in all practical jokes and tricks that took place in the “Tzanzer Kloiz”, and he was the living spirit behind them. All of this was between lessons, between absorbing entire pages of Talmud, decisors and commentaries, and delving deeply into the four sections of the “Shulchan Aruch” (Code of Jewish Law) and Responsa. Suddenly, as if in a night, the man became serious, he grew up, and he straightened out his tall stature – and before us there was Reb Yosef Reich, or “The Rebbe”, as he was referred to by his students: “The term Rebbe without a proper name refers to Reb Yosef Reich”.

His father, Reb Menachem Mendel Reich (Reb Mendele the Judge) arrived in Rzeszow from Stryszow, and was a member of the rabbinical court. He was an expert decisor in areas of permissions and prohibitions. He was quiet and modest. Reb Mendele the Judge had two sons, Reb Chaim and Reb Yosef. Reb Chaim was a great scholar who occupied himself with business. Reb Yosef made Torah his vocation. Reb Yosef had a phenomenal memory. He was an expert in Talmud and its commentaries. He knew the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch by heart along with the commentary of the Rema. He was a great expert in books of Responsa, homiletics and moral teaching.

At first, he earned his living from teaching children. Every Torah oriented lad studied with Reb Yosef Reich. This was the highest rung of education. After they studied with Reb Yosef Reich, the lads would continue to study in the Beis Midrash on their own, without the help of a teacher. Everyone was accepted to his classes, provided that they wished to study. It is difficult to understand how he supported his large family, replete with small children. He never demanded a fee from his students. When his students brought him his tuition on Rosh Chodesh, he would put it in the pocket of his kapote without even looking at it to determine how much they had given him. I recall that once, one of the students was brazen enough to ask him why he is acting so. Reb Yosef answered that this is the law: “Behold I have taught you laws and statutes”. Our sages of blessed memory explain: “Just as I have done so without payment, you also do so without payment”. “Despite this, you are taking money”, asked the student. Then Reb Yosef answered him with his sense of humor: “I teach you for free, and you give me money for free.”

Nevertheless, even the money that he received on Rosh Chodesh was not sufficient to completely sustain his household. When he received the money, he would first send emissaries from among his students to repay the loans that he took out for various people in need, and for the good-for-nothings and tramps who came daily to the Beis Midrash, some with a letter of approbation in their hands, and others without. The students had to go about begging on Thursdays, and in the meantime, Reb Yosef was giving “his” money to those in need. If he did not have any, and for the most part, he did not have any money, he would send his students to obtain loans from businessmen who were his friends. On Rosh Chodesh, when he received the tuition payments, he would pay his debts, and his money ran out before he even got home.

As a teacher, he was not dependent on the parents of the students, as were other teachers. Since he did not demand payment and did not engage in any discussion of this sort with the parents of the students, they were not exacting with him. He was also not exacting with the hours of study. Reb Yosef set up his place in the Beis Midrash that stood between the large Kloiz and the synagogue. Unlike the Kloiz, where the Hassidim worshipped in a quorum [minyan] during all hours of the morning until noon, the Ashkenazim worshipped with only one quorum in the Beis Midrash. The Beis Midrash was empty all day, and therefore Reb Yosef set up his place there. His lesson extended from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. In practice, only rarely did they study for these hours.

Reb Yosef Reich was one of the two mohalim [circumcisors] in the city. Reb Elisha Abramovitch, a Hassid of Dzykow and a merchant of Hungarian wines for Kiddush and Havdallah, was an elderly and veteran mohel. Reb Yosef was young, and possessed fine interpersonal skills. Days without a circumcision were very rare in our city. At times, there were five and six in a day. He often had to travel to the nearby villages. There were occasions when he spent the Sabbath in the village, when the eighth day would fall on the Sabbath. As a mohel (without expectation of reward) Reb Yosef was occupied daily, and the students waited for him impatiently, for one hour, two hours, three. Sometimes, they hurried him along right after the conclusion of prayers in the Kloiz, and he did not have the chance to put on the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam. Only after he returned to the Beis Midrash from the circumcision did he put on the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam (without a tallis). He then sat at the table to teach. Even when he came late he did not begin the lesson right away. First he would tell a few “stories” of Tzadikim, slowly and deliberately, for Reb Yosef was a conversationalist. With a smile on his lips, as he was smoking a cigarette and puffing out a long column of smoke from the tip of the cigarette, and with an inviting, penetrating glance from his small, alert eyes, he told stories that instilled the trust in Tzadikim to the hearts of his students. Through these discussions, hundreds of his students were educated in the fear of Heaven, Hassidism, and good, upright character traits. Only after this discussion did he begin to deliver the lesson with Hassidic enthusiasm and clear explanation. Often enough, the discussions lasted longer than the lesson itself. Reb Yosef Reich was a natural educator, and he knew that education in fear of Heaven and good traits is more difficult than teaching Gemara. He accomplished this wonderfully through his many discussions.

Reb Yosef was one of the Hassidim of the lineage of Tzanz. He would travel to Reb Simcha Yissachar Ber of holy blessed memory of Cieszanow, and he was one of his enthusiastic Hassidim. After the death of the Rebbe of Cieszanow, Reb Yosef was left without a Rebbe, even though he would frequent all of the Admorim who lived in Rzeszow, Reb Elazarel, and the Rebbes of Rozwadow, Plancz, Zielona, Blazowa, and Kolaczyce. However, in truth, he himself was like a Rebbe of Hassidim. He worshiped in the Large Kloiz, where he served as a prayer leader on Sabbaths, festivals, and particularly on the High Holy days. After the death of Reb Shlomo Teitelbaum, Reb Yosef also lead the Yom Kippur Katan services on each eve of Rosh Chodesh. His deep voice made both the walls and the hearts tremble.


He read the Torah there every Sabbath. He read the Megillah on Purim. He blew the Shofar there. He taught a class on the weekly Torah portion on Friday nights in the presence of a large gathering. He also conducted a Seuda Shlishit (Third Sabbath Meal) like one of the Admorim.

Reb Yosef was by nature a zealous Hassid. He opposed Zionism and Mizrachi. Even Aguda did not satisfy him. Nevertheless he was well received by everybody, and lived in peace with everybody. He was a man of friendship. Reb David Hager, an Agudist, was one of his personal friends. One could see him go on long walks and share confidences with Naftali Tuchfeld, the energetic Mizrachi activist. He would share exciting conversation, filled with humor, with the Zionists Eli Wang and Yaakov Alter. Reb Yosef knew how to get along with people. His entire appearance commanded respect: his dress was Hassidic in the style of Galician clergymen – a long black kapote, a velvet hat, half-shoes, and on the Sabbath – silk clothes, a streimel and white socks. One could never find a stain on his clothes. His peyos were neat, and his long, red beard was combed, and flowed over his ironed, shiny clothes.

On the 22nd of Iyar 5678 (the day after the national Polish holiday of May 3rd, 1918 [other sources cite the year as 1919] the Poles perpetrated a pogrom against the Jews of Rzeszow. They broke into the Kloiz during the time of prayers, and dealt the Jews deathly blows. A tumult broke out, and some succeeded in escaping. Reb Yosef jumped out of the window and broke his leg. He was laid up for months, and suffered greatly, until he was able to go out with a cane. Nevertheless, his energy and diligence were not diminished. With the same characteristic diligence, he ran to the Mikva at daybreak during the summer and winter, in the rain and snow. From there he went to the Beis Midrash to present his class before prayers. From there, he went to the Kloiz to worship, and he then returned to the Beis Midrash or went to a circumcision, as if nothing happened.

Reb Yosef was tied with all the strands of his soul to Rzeszow. His name went out before him as a great scholar and Halachic decisor. He was offered the rabbinic seat in various places, including the opportunity to take the place of Reb Shmuel Engel of blessed memory of Kashau as the head of the rabbinical court. However, he refused to leave Rzeszow. Later on, after the death of his father, he was accepted as a judge in Rzeszow, and sat on the court of the rabbi of the city, Reb Aharon Lewin, may G-d avenge his blood. His economic situation thereby improved.

It is told that the Nazis beat him with cruel blows on his lame leg and on his entire body, until his soul left him in purity. May G-d avenge his blood.

{Photo page 102: The Yeshiva of Reb Yosef Reich in Rzeszow. (Photo: A. Kacyzna).}

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