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Translated by Jerrold Landau

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Economy and Livelihood

Wholesale and retail business was almost solely in Jewish hands. Here and there, there were some stores belonging to Christians of German origin, including two pastry shops of Androletti (an Italian) and Lewitzki which were frequented by captains of the Austrian army, administrators, the nobility, and a few Jewish snobs. Other Jews only frequented the Europa Café, which was partially open on the Sabbath, where the Apikorsim [1] would smoke cigarettes, something that they would not do out in the open. The Leon family was involved in the export business, exporting eggs to Germany. Hirsch Wistreich exported hides and furs to Germany, particularly to the Leipzig market. The bountiful fruits of the region were sent out by the trainload to western Austria and Germany to make into jam. The principal textile importers were Chaim Wolf Bau, Kahane and Braun, Chaskel Wang, Rosenwasser, Jezower, Lubasch, Feivel, etc. Grocery and colonial merchandise businesses were in the hands of the Gleicher, Alter, Wachtel and Glasberg families, among others. Michel Bierman and sons, and the Rebhun family were involved in iron wholesale. The rope factory of the Schipper brothers and also the two movie theaters were in Jewish hands. Purchasers would come from hundreds of villages and towns of the region to sell their agricultural produce and to purchase manufactured goods and other items. In the pre-war years, the Polish anti-Semites began to found cooperative unions in the villages and cities with the motto “purchase produce of the land”, or “purchase from your fellow nationals” in an effort to dissuade the Christians from purchasing from Jews. They opened stores and warehouses in order to attract the Christian consumer, and thereby to weaken Jewish commerce.

There was small-scale labor and manufacturing in our city. Hundreds of workshops in the traditional fields were owned by Jews – there were shoemakers, tailors, sawmills, tinsmiths, engravers, bakers, chocolatiers, confectioners, and makers of woolen items. Jews also established large scale industries, such as the foundry of the Zweig brothers, the soap and candle factory of Lifschutz and Zinnamon, the flour mill of Motish Eckstein, the brick kiln of the Mintz family, the building materials factory of the Fett family, and the tannery of the Heiblum family. There were also people involved in finance, banking, and money changing. The right to a pawnshop was given to Yehoshua Schneeweiss. The Lerner brothers and their sons, and Aloys Freulich were well-known moneychangers. Loans and pledges were an important source of livelihood in our city. Wealthy families, such as Kanner, Shapira, and Sheinblum played an important role in communal matters.

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{Photo page 215: Orphanage children.}

At the end of this era, representatives of the masses rose to the stage and pushed aside the representatives of the well-established families.

In general, the economic situation of the Jewish community was difficult. Most people earned their livelihood with difficulty. Business recessions took place in brief cycles, and bankruptcies were everyday occurrences. Those on top descended and those on the bottom ascended. New rich people blossomed, however their riches did not last, whether through the pressures of the times, or primarily because Jewish wealth was not well rooted. We did not possess land, permanent government offices, quarries, or friends. Many were occupied in “airy enterprises” and went around without a profession, brethren of Menachem Mendel of Yehopitz who had a dozen professions [2]. Many Jews earned their livelihood by supplying the Austrian army, as stewards, negotiators, deal makers, arbiters, middlemen, etc.

The number of people involved in the free professions, such as doctors and lawyers, increased, for the route to heavy manufacturing and civic and national service was closed in their faces. Their situation continued to decline, and many of them were not able to open their own office without the dowry of a newly rich man who wished to marry off his daughter to a doctor or a lawyer. The lawyers in the city included Dr. Shmuel Reich, an assimilationist who served as the head of the community for a period of time; Dr. Wilhelm Hochfeld, an extreme assimilationist who was the head of the community and vice mayor for many years; and Dr. Zangen, an assimilationist. There were many Zionists among the young lawyers, including: Dr. Schnee, Dr. Felix Hopfen, Dr. Herman Lecker, Dr. Zaltzman, and Dr. Shlager (a researcher and author of a book on Spinoza). There were expert craftsmen in our city, including tailors who sewed for the cream of the crop. The tailor Rosenbaum was the head of the “Cach” (the professional union), and the leaders of the city were among his customers. The painters Silberman and Platzer were professionals in their trade, and they became well known when they painted the interior of the synagogue with oil paint, and the ceiling of the old synagogue with the twelve constellations. They painted a picture of “Run like a hart, strong as a leopard, light as an eagle, and brave as a lion” [3] in the large Beis Midrash. Yisrael Ducker, a painter, would lead synagogue services. He had a deep base voice, and he would make the entertainment time at Zionist celebrations pleasant with singing, tricks and magic. Reb Itzikel the tailor would come with his tallis every Sabbath to the Tailor's Synagogue. However, he was also not absent from the May 1st demonstrations. They called him by a Polish nickname meaning “The Vengeful Storm”, a reference to the hymn of the Polish proletariat that he sung out loud on the days of demonstrations! The well-known sign painter and glazier Emanuel Wind's name was displayed on all signs. The Grad family owned a locksmith, metal and mechanical workshop. Both of them have very wealthy relatives in the United States. The craftsmen were organized into the “Yad Charutzim” organization. During my youth, the head was actually a wealthy factory owner, Reb Shmuel Fett. Hundreds of young people were employed as bookkeepers and salesmen (called “servicers” in Yiddish) in the enterprises.

However, there is no light without shade. Hundreds of indigents and poor people earned their livelihood by begging at the doors, as they traveled through the villages and cities of the region. On the landscape of the shadows shone the revealed and hidden light of the Jewish community, surrounded by hatred, pressure and persecution. A Jewish man was forced to rest two days a week, for in addition to observing the Jewish Sabbath and festivals, he had to lock his business on Sundays in accordance with government law. Those who transgressed this law were punished and fined, or they were forced to pay a bribe to the policeman, so that they would be able to earn their bread for that day.

Social Activity (Charity)

Charitable work for the poor, help for those suffering, providing for brides, straightening up the fallen, visiting the sick, providing lodging for those in need – these were the traditional means of charitable social activity in accordance with the old tradition that existed in Jewish communities. These activities were centered in organizations and groups, or they were done privately by righteous women, Jews who are merciful, the descendants of merciful people.

The organized community did not have social institutions in my day. Only after I left was an orphanage founded by two excellent women, Mrs. Anna Kahane, and Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld (the wife of Leo Weisenfeld [4], the publicist and writer in Cleveland, U.S.A.). There was a Jewish hospital affiliated with the community, as a “charitable trust”. Poor Jewish sick people formerly

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preferred to take ill and die in their homes rather than enter the civic hospital and be cared for by nuns - nurses. In our city, nobody died of hunger. Wealthy families and ordinary Jews assisted the poor of the city, and ensured that they would not be lacking meat and fish on the Sabbath. The community distributed “Maos Chittin” [5] for Passover. I should point out that there were generous doctors in our city tended to the sick without soliciting a fee. Dr. Herman Koppel also provided medicine on his account. He received the payment from the wealthy people of the city, and that payment served as a sort of compensator for the healing of the poor ill people of the city. I will recall here popular doctors such as Isadore Dornfest and a doctor, who was considered to be an expert to the level of a professor, Dr. Elsner. Rzeszow was a sort of medical center. Sick people from the entire region came there for treatment. Even gentiles trusted the Jewish doctors greatly. Aside from their medical expertise, they healed with a bright face, offering words of support and comfort. The doctor was respected by the citizens. Even Orthodox Jews honored the doctor by removing their hats. It was permitted for a doctor to violate the Sabbath [6]. I often saw a doctor traveling in a wagon to a sick person on the Sabbath, and nobody threw stones at him. In general, the doctors were secular, far from tradition, and most of them lived amongst the gentiles. They still recalled the Seder in their grandparents' home [7]. My father would humorously relate that the physician Dr. Zegel would only observe 3 of the 613 commandments of the Code of Jewish Law: He did not recite “Kriat Shma” on the night of Seder on Passover, he did not put on Tefillin on Tisha Beov in the morning, and he did not recite the Grace after Meals on Yom Kippur [8]. The poor and those of meager means were healed by a barber surgeon who healed with the aid of cupping glasses, leaches, pills or “grandmother's” ointments that had been used for generations. There were only two accredited dentists in our city, Dr. Strasser and Dr. Jezower. They pulled teeth with tongs without using anesthetics.

Dr. Yosef Teller served as a civic physician. He was a senior official and the only one [9] in the magistrate (city hall), even though Jews numbered 40% in the civic censuses.

Happenings, Way of Life, Customs

The life of a Jewish child and youth was not of one hue. The studies in cheder, public school and high school took up most of the time, but the Sabbath and festivals were days full of deep experiences and joys. On the other hand, there were sad days, days of national and religious mourning. I cannot forget the mourning that descended upon our house with the news of the death of Binyamin Zeev Herzl on July 4, 1904. I was nine years old at the time. We Zionist families felt that our world was disrupted, that the end of the exile was pushed off. We awaited the redemption from the time of our youth, and we were taken by a longing for the Land of our fathers. We believed that if all of the Jewish people in the world would observe the Sabbath, our righteous Messiah would come. We wept about this sinner, the only one in our city, whose store was opened on the Sabbath. It was he alone who was delaying the advent of the Messiah, this we were sure of; so we poured out all of the curses of the reproof [10] upon him.

We lived in the quarter between the 'Tepper Gesel” and “Roizengesel”. The Admor Reb Elazarel Weissblum, the great-grandson of the Rabbi of Lizhensk the author of “Noam Elimelech” lived near our house. I worshiped in his Kloiz on weekdays. On the Sabbath, we worshiped in the large Beis Midrash according to the Ashkenaz prayer rite. As a youth, I absorbed deep experiences in the court of the Admor. On Sabbath eves, I heard his recitation of Kiddush and the “Eishet Chayil” [11]. The Rebbe had no children. After he became a widower, he married a young woman, the daughter of the judge Rabbi Chaim Yonah Halpern. Whoever did not witness the wedding has never witnessed joy in his life. Hassidim from all areas of the country and also from Hungary came to the wedding. I remember a crowded feast from my childhood. I am not sure if this was on the wedding day or on another occasion, but I remember long tables set with all sorts of delicacies set up along the length of the street. The portrait glistens before the eyes of my spirit as a dream, as a sort of hallucination. All of a sudden a cavalry unit dressed in the clothing of Cossacks appeared. I was afraid of this event, until I recognized Hassidic youths among this brigade. This was a “fantasia” of young Hassidim as a sign of joy and honor for the Admor.


On the days of Chanukah, we did not study in the Kloiz as we usually did on winter nights. We also did not study on the night of “Nitl” (Christmas) [12]. Those nights, the Hassidim and Orthodox people played “kvittelach”, a sort of card game and with spinning tops. This was the only time of the year that they did so. We children were free from study during the nights. On Chanukah in the Beis Midrash, after Maariv (the evening prayer), the cantor Reb Leibele Blumenkrantz sang “Hanerot Halalu” accompanied by a choir and a band, to a tune that was traditional among the people of Rzeszow. He also sang “Mizmor Shir Chanukat Habayit” [13].

The Feast of the 7th of Adar

On the birthday of Moses, which was also the anniversary of his death, the Mishnah study group (Chevra Shas) organized their annual banquet with the participation of the burial society (Chevra Kadisha) in the large Beis Midrash. The learning stands were removed, and long tables were set. Kingly delicacies were served for this holy festive occasion. The evening was celebrated with song and musical instruments, and the Jews had joy and gladness until the time of the crowing of the rooster. Even Reb Senderl of the “broken grindstones” by Haim Hazaz would have surely praised these delicacies had he been present.


Purim was a feast for the children, with the sending of gifts to friends, dressing up in costumes, reading of the Megilla (the Book of Esther), the downfall of Haman and his sound, the splendid feast, and the signing of popular Purim songs that left an indelible impression on the heart of every Jewish child.

On Shushan Purim [14], I used to visit the Purim feast of the Rebbe, so that I could see him sitting in his armchair at the head of a table filled with kingly delicacies, dressed in his Kolpak and his festive clothes. A broad smile shone over his white bearded face, and a smoking pipe was in his mouth. The Rebbe melted in joy from the performance of “The Sale of Joseph” that was put on by the young Hassidim on a stage that was made of tables that were gathered together. I enjoyed the improvisation of the famous jester, who scattered drops of wisdom in Yiddish rhyme, spiced with verses and sayings of the sages. The doting Hassidim performed a play about Achashverosh in Yiddish. Young Hassidim played the roles of Vashti and Esther.

The Great Sabbath [15] Shabbat Hagadol

It was a custom in our city that a group of jokers prepared railway tickets in the form of government railway tickets of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, and sent them anonymously to people in the city. On the card was written “an honorary ticket from Rzeszow to Egypt for those stricken with boils [16]”. When the mothers bathed their young children, and they protested, cried

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and refused to bathe in cold or warm water, their mothers would threaten them that if they were not clean, and they would get boils on their heads, they would be sent on “Shabbat Hagadol” on the free train to Egypt for backbreaking labor. Whoever received such a card in the mail by an unknown person would see it as an insult: as if they said to him “you are an unclean, leprous person”.


We began to prepare for Passover from the days of Chanukah. Then, we melted goose fat in honor of Passover, and set up the pots of fat in a separate place far away from any trace of chometz [17]. The bakery on our street closed down after Purim, and was kashered [18] for the baking of matzos. Jewish women dressed in linen clothing kneaded the dough, and the baker placed it into the oven. This time, the water drawers were Jews (gentiles drew the water for the rest of the year). They brought the water in pails covered with white cloth from the well with two pumps that were adjacent to the synagogue. The baked matzos were placed in special baskets, covered, and brought to the homes with a covering of white cloth. An additional corner of the house was set aside and kashered, and children were forbidden from going there lest they bring in chometz. Preparations were also made for the beet juice (borscht), a red Passover drink. We went to the synagogue early in the morning on the eve of Passover. As a first born who was required to fast on the eve of Passover, I partook of honey cake and wine after listening to the “siyum” [19]. At 9 a.m. we had our final breakfast of chometz. Then we went to the bathhouse to cast the chometz spoon [20] into the burning fire. Afterward we went to the mikva (ritual bath) for the kashering (purging) of dishes. In the afternoon we ate only potatoes with chopped broiled liver, for it was only permitted to eat matzo after the blessing on the Seder night [21]. Then we went with father to the mikva and to the sauna to purify our bodies. When we returned home, we dressed in new festive clothing from head to toe. The festival prayers in the Beis Midrash were festive. On the way home, we stopped in at the wine seller Rafael Koplik to bring home a large bottle of Carmel wine [22]. There are no words to describe the sublimeness, beauty and joy of the wonderful, splendid Seder night, which was awaited all year. Years later, I found in the story of the Rabbi of Bachrach” by the prominent writer Heinrich Heine gave expression to this joy in his description of the Seder night with all of the sweetness and devotion that I felt in father's house. This night was different from all other nights, for I was the son of a king. Outside, the full moon shone in the bright heavens, and the beams of silver light covered the Jewish street with a magical kerchief. The singing of “Shfoch Chamatcha”, Hallel, and Chad Gadya burst forth from the Jewish homes. This was a night of watching, where the Guardian of Israel does not slumber or sleep, and the feelings of freedom filled the entire space. On all of our streets, the hearts were filled with pride.

The Lag Baomer Hike [23]

Gentile children used to take an annual hike on May (Majowka), when the spring was blossoming in the fields and forests of Poland. We Jewish children who studied in cheder were not so brazen as to go out as far as they did. We satisfied ourselves with a hike to a Jewish inn close to the city. We set out armed with wooden guns, bows and arrows, and we played as if we were the brave men of Bar Kochba. We partook of buttermilk and brown bread covered in fresh, aromatic butter. The teacher and his assistant enjoyed a cup of frothing beer.


The house and the synagogue were decorated with a sea of greenery. Dairy foods and butter instead of the meat and fish were very pleasant to us. The reading of the Book of Ruth and the chanting of Akdamut [24] cast upon us a special joyous feeling.

High Holy Days

Prior to the High Holy Days in the month of Elul, dozens of wagons came to our street, as if there was an army draft. These were for the Jewish families who would ride on these wagons to travel to the Admor of Dzikow for the High Holy Days. This was a wonderful procession. I was only sad for the women and children, whose husbands preferred to celebrate the festival with the Rebbe, and left them sighing.

On the eve of Yom Kippur, we went to the Shacharit (morning) service in the Beis Midrash early in the morning. At the conclusion of the prayers, we were treated to honey cake and cups of wine. After breakfast, we went to the sauna, where we purified our body for the holy day. That was the only time of year that we ate lunch early at 12:00, so that we would be able to eat the concluding meal at 4:00 p.m. We went to the Mincha (afternoon) service in the Beis Midrash. As a student in the Zionist movement, I sat with a “plate” in the anteroom of the Beis Midrash to collect donations for the Jewish National Fund. In the meantime, father prayed Mincha, and after Mincha, he kneeled down on the hay covered couch that was set up before the Holy Ark, and Reb Zalman Sofer, the regular prayer leader in the Beis Midrash, beat his back with the customary 39 lashes. Afterwards, Reb Zalman Sofer kneeled down (he was from the large Amkraut family in our city), and father administered the customary lashes to him [25].

The prayers of Kol Nidre night with the sublime, holy melody, the confession, the recitation of Shma Koleinu, the prayers of the Ten Martyrs and the Avoda on the holy day, and end of the Neila service with the prayer “May the cries of those who praise You reach Your Seat of Honor” moved and purified the hearts, and expunged sins. We forgave and were forgiven with the understanding that sins between man and G-d would be forgiven, but sins between man and his fellow could only be atoned through good deeds. It was touching to see mothers weeping, and fathers taking hold of the hands of their adversaries and requesting forgiveness and reconciliation. At the conclusion of Yom Kippur, we hammered in a peg for the Sukka, and afterward sanctified the moon [26]. It was a wondrous site on a moonlit night to see bearded Jews blessing the moon with “Shalom Aleicheim” and answering “Aleicheim Shalom” [27]. This mysterious dialog and the dancing before the moon covered us with a sort of magical canopy.

Sukkot and Simchat Torah

There were now a few days to prepare the decorations for the Sukka, lanterns and chains. Reb Abba Apfelbaum hung on the wall of his Sukka rugs, colored kerchiefs used by old women, a collective photograph of giants of Torah including the Gra (The Vilna Gaon), Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Reb Yaakov Emden, and a photograph of all of the delegates of the First Zionist Congress. The Zionists issued a declaration not to purchase Etrogs [28] from Corfu, but rather to only recite the blessings on the Etrogs of the Land of Israel, our own splendid fruit from the Moshavim of Judea. The children played with nuts and were saddened at the advent of Hoshana Rabba (the 7th day of Sukkot), which marked the end of the meals in the Sukka. The Ushpizin (symbolic Sukka guests) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, etc. disappeared, and we regarded the beating of the Hoshana bundle [29] as the end of the holiday. Simchat Torah and the processions were the final spark of joy. The heart of a child was angered when the honors for Ata Hareita, Chatan Torah, and Chatan Breishit [30] were given to the wealthy people of the city who were able to purchase these honors, and not to the dear, poor, scholarly Jews who were beloved to us. Indeed, the prayer for rain [31], and the fear that the following day marks the beginning of the winter, and the cheder learning even during evening hours – all of this depressed our hearts. Simchat Torah was not sufficient to assuage our sadness and fear of the upcoming freezing cold and snowstorms. The calling up of all of the children during the reading of Vezot Habracha, to us closed off the holiday.

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Days of Mourning and Agony

Days of mourning and agony were not absent from the Jewish child. The fast of the 10th of Tevet [32]; the 49 days of the Omer count [33] with its mourning over the destruction of Beitar and the plague that afflicted the students of Rabbi Akiva; the days “between the straits” including the 9 days of Av and Tisha Beov [34] itself, with its reading of the Book of Lamentations (Eicha) and the recitation of the dirges (Kinot) and Zion poem of Yehuda Halevi, cast a pall upon us. All Jews who were faithful to their people fasted on this day. For the concluding meal (on the afternoon preceding) we ate an egg and a bagel dipped in ashes. The youth prepared thorns and thistles to throw on the girls and the bearded men. This was a childhood game, in which even mischievous older children, to whom Zion was beloved, participated. On the night of Tisha Beov, the cover was removed from the Holy Ark, and we sat on low benches and wept. At home, we read the commentaries on the destruction. At this point, the New Moon of Elul, the month of repentance prayer, with the arousing Shofar blasts, beckoned [35] from behind the walls. The summer was concluding. The parents would go to visit the graves of their ancestors, and one week prior to Rosh Hashanah, during the nights, the call of the shamash could be heard as he knocked on the doors of the houses with a hammer in the call to Selichot, the service of the Creator [36]. We reached the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah, the prayers “Instill Your Fear”, the coronation of G-d (Malchuyot), the memories (Zichronot), and shofar blasts (Shofarot) [37], as well as the Day of Judgement itself, instilled fear in the hearts.

Taanit Esther and Tzom Gedalya were also among the fasts [38] days, but these did not have a great impact on us – not so among the adults. The adults observed them, and there were no small number who fasted also on the petitional days [39] of Monday and Thursday.

The Sabbath

The atmosphere of the Sabbath could already be felt on Friday afternoon. On the street, one could see young and old Jews hurrying home from the Mikva (ritual bath) or sauna, with the peyos (earlocks) and beards dripping from the immersion waters of the Mikva or in the summer, from the Wislok River. The movement stopped slowly but surely. The shamash of the community went through the streets while there was still time and announced the advent of the Sabbath Queen. Here and there, the final melodies of the Song of Songs [40] could be heard. At sunset, Jews went out in their royal garb to the synagogues or the kloizes, accompanied by their children. From the windows, the light of candles from brass candlesticks shone, and one could see mothers and grandmothers blessing the candles. These portraits of a Jewish mother blessing the candles, surrounded by her children, or of the fathers worshipping in the synagogues, as perpetuated by Jewish artists such as M. Gottlieb, M. Wachtel, and Uri Leser, gave me comfort and strength during the time when I dwelt in the cities of the west, far from the Jewish centers. In the Beis Midrash, the Sabbath prayers started with “Lechu Neranena” (Come let us sing) [41], and the melody struck to our essence. “Then the trees of the forest will sing, the fields and all therein will rejoice, the rivers will clap their hands, and the mountains will sing together, the rivers will raise their voices” [42]. Man and nature both sanctified the Sabbath. After the services we returned home, and father began singing the song “Shalom Aleichem Malachei Hasharet” [43], and the hymn to mother “Eishet Chayil” [11]. We were never missing a guest for the abundant Friday night meal. Mother of blessed memory requested from father that he should always bring a guest for the Sabbath. Wandering beggars always stood in a line in the Beis Midrash. They were divided up among the householders, and nobody was left without a Sabbath meal. My mother of blessed memory served them portions in deep and wide dishes, literally bowls, in order that the poor and the unfortunates should fill their empty stomachs to their desire. I was very sad that my friends, the children of the enlightened lawyers and doctors and the assimilationists did not partake of the experience of the Sabbath along with me. I felt sorry for them. They were immersed in the sea of secularism, and all the days of the week were the same to them. They did not sanctify the Sabbath, each person with his family and in his place. They sat with their cup of coffee in an atmosphere that was neither cold nor hot, not gentile nor Jewish, they did not taste the taste of the cholent [44] that even Heine had tasted in his grandfather's home, and of which he sang the praises. Each Sabbath, I went to the bakery to bring the pitcher of coffee that was left warming in the bakers oven throughout the Sabbath evening, and before noon I carried the aromatic hot pot [45]. With a procession of boys and girls, we walked from the bakery with the hot cholent pots, bringing them home. We did not eat cholent in the winter, for the Sabbath Goy [46] would come to the houses to light the oven in order to heat the food that had been prepared from the Sabbath eve.

Sabbath Fruits

Each child in a Jewish home was required to read “Barchi Nafshi” [47] on winter Sabbath afternoons, and then he would receive a slice of orange from his grandmother or mother. If he continued to read all of the Shir Hamaalot Psalms and other chapters, he would receive more slices. During the summer, we would receive seasonal fruit after reading Pirke Avot. On Tu Bishvat, we received fruit of the land of Israel, which had been purchased from the fruit store of the Schindler family.

The “Pi Tamid” Organization

On Saturday nights after the Sabbath, a group of Zionist Maskilim would gather in the home of the vintner Freund for a party, a sort of Melave Malka feast [48]. The name of this group sounded like pure Hebrew, but was a combination of the Polish word for “Drink”, and the Hebrew word “constant” (like the Ner Tamid), that is to say – constant drinking [49].

At this party, every person showed his prowess in joking, humor, mocking, song, nice story telling, and monologues. My father Levi Chaim also participated. Yisrael Ducker entertained us with his magic, when he pulled dozens of meters of noodles from his nostrils, or when he removed eggs or doves from a small box or his sleeve. Nachum Sternheim sang and recited his poetry. Yaakov Alter lectured. Bernard Fish, one of the heads of Poale Zion, proved the merits of the Yiddish language as an international language. Pinchas Elenbogen, the son of the judge of Stanislawow sang hymns, etc. etc. The waiter was the idler, newspaper distributor and collector who was called General Ludendorf.


Reb Abba Apfelbaum, the founder of the first Hebrew school in our town, was a publicist and a writer, the author of the history of the rabbis of Italy of the 17th and 18th centuries. He maintained a correspondence by letter with all of the giants of Jewish wisdom in Germany, Hungary and America. He was one of the first of Chovevei Zion, an educator of a generation of teachers and candidates for the Vienna rabbinical school. He was my Bible teacher. There are separate articles describing him.

Nachum Sternheim

Nachum Sternheim was a popular man, the son of a retail merchant. He was a popular singer who composed the words and melodies himself. He printed them in pamphlets, with the text and musical notes. His songs and hymns were sung by himself at parties in our city and other outlying cities. They were sung in all corners of Galicia and beyond. He lived for a time in America, but returned to our city prior to the World War. He sang and lectured in all cities of Galicia, and earned a good name

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and the appreciation of the people. He longed for the Land of Israel, but he did not receive a certificate. He perished n the ghetto with his family.

{Photo page 219: Active Zionists during the First World War. Sitting from right: Yisrael Ducker, Bernard Fish, --, Levi Chaim, Chaim Wald. Standing from right: Dr. Kleinhaus, -- Yosef Storch, Yaakov Alter, Pinchas Elenbogen, Moshe Shifer, Leon Horner, Nachum Sternheim.}

Reb Wolf Licht

Reb Wolf Licht was the gabbai in the large Ashkenazic rite Beis Midrash. He was a tall, thin Jew. He was a member of “Chovevei Zion”, and he kept order during the times of prayers among the Orthodox, Misnagdim, and the Maskilim, and the indifferent Jews. During his term as gabbai, no incidents occurred where the prayer leader was chastised because of “Veyatzmoch Purkanei” [50] during the recitation of Kaddish, or because of conflicts over the distribution of aliyot (honors) of the Torah. He cut off his sparse beard once a year, prior to his trip to the Volga River area of Russia to purchase agricultural products, particularly onions, for the merchants of Galicia. When he returned from his business trip to Russia with his passport – for in those days a passport was needed for travel to Russia, even though all of the borders of the world were open – he again grew his beard and continued serving as gabbai. When his business failed, he was appointed, with the help of the Zionists, as the communal bath attendant. It made a strong impression on me in those days that his children left the city, for they did not see a future there. One went to France and the other to Spain. He was the only Jew of Rzeszow in that country, upon which there existed a ban not to return there after the expulsion and the cruelties of the inquisition.

My father and we children were troubled that the first Zionists, who were Maskilim, immigrated to the west from our city due to the economic situation. Most of my friends, old and young left to the west, such as the Horen family, Max Goldreich, Pariser, and Tzvi Leder, Yitzchak Knecht –Vistreicher, Yechiel Weisman, Moshe and Leon Weisenfeld, etc. Young adults from the small towns came in their place. They played an important communal role in our city, and the most capable of them became leaders of the Zionist movement. These included Simcha Seiden who died in America, and Eisenberg (the son in law of Chaskel Wang, the owner of the textile factory), who became the head of the community during the war.

Naftali Glucksman

He was born in Krivets, a small town in eastern Galicia, and he was educated in yeshiva. I knew him as a Hebrew teacher, a preacher, a popular Zionist lecturer, the editor of the local newspaper “Die Folkszeitung”, and a friend of my father in the Zionist movement. One clear day, he left the Ahavat Zion organization, cast off his streimel, and became a member of Poale Zion with all that that entails. He was a Yiddishist, and independent, a socialist, and a revolutionary along with his friends Meshulam Davidson and Ben-Zion Fett. It is interesting that all of them left the movement after some time, and then returned. Reb Naftali Glucksman was an exemplary Zionist. He educated all three of his children in the spirit of Zionism, and sent them to the Land of Israel during the time of the Second Aliya. He made aliya together with his wife during the time of the Third Aliya, and he became a teacher in the Mizrachi religious education system. He was the principal of a religious school in Petach Tikva, where he died.

Levi (Leon) Chaim

He was a lover of Zion. He had a wonderful memory, and was a researcher into the origins of the community. He knew each monument in the old cemetery from the

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time of the 16th century, etc. He had a refined soul, and every sorrow and mishap of the Zionist organization and the community hurt his heart. His hand was open to everybody, and he gave charity in secret. He worked in banking matters, and after the war in business in Danzig. He perished in the Holocaust.

Reb Chaskel Kraut

He had a wonderful memory. He was the shamash of the religious court, the Torah reader, and the Shofar blower. He knew the birth date and death date of all members of the community at his time, and even of those who passed away in earlier generations. He knew the dates on all of the tombstones in the cemeteries, from the 16th century to his days. A while ago, I told Dov Sadan about the level of honor to parents exhibited by Reb Chaskel. His father, who was lame, had a store that sold scrap metal and cheap implements, primarily screws and locks. The farmers of the area willingly came to his basement in order to purchase “bargains” such as scraps and damaged implements. His father sat cross legged, with his handicapped legs on a pillow that was placed on a wide table full of small accessories. Reb Chaskel came every morning and evening, took his father on his shoulders, and carried him to the Kloiz for the Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv services, for many years, on Sabbaths and weekdays, during the summer and during the winter. To this day, I bow my head in front of this personality. Here is another story regarding the prowess of his memory. A large arbitration case between large scale merchants took place before the head of the rabbincal court, Rabbi Nathan Lewin, the father of Reb Aharon Lewin the rabbi of Sambor and Rzeszow, and Dr. Yechezkel Lewin, who served in Katowice and Lvov. The arbitration lasted for a long time, and the rabbi and the judges found it difficult to find a precedent in Jewish law, and to issue a decision. The judges sat in deliberation for three days. Reb Chaskel the Shamash entered the hall of the court and saw the rabbi immersed in his thoughts, with beads of sweat dripping from his forehead due to his great weariness. Reb Chaskel asked the rabbi about the reason for his worry and perplexity. The rabbi told him about the difficulties that arose in this Torah court case, which was robbing his time and disturbing him, without any chance of finding a solution. Suddenly, the face of Reb Chaskel lit up. He turned to the rabbi and said: “Why do you need to deliberate so. I recall that three years ago, a similar case arose before you, and you issued a decision based on the precedent in Yoreh Deah [51] page so and so, in the fifth line from the bottom.” The rabbi opened up the book of Yoreh Deah, found the place, and issued a verdict that satisfied both sides.


The Large Beis Midrash

People of all types, Orthodox, Maskilim, distinguished people, and simple folk, all worshipped in the Large Beis Midrash. The Ashkenazic prayer rite was used. Reb Zalman Sofer conducted services, and the shamash was Reb Noach, the teacher of young children. For the most part, he was tipsy. Anski, the author of “The Dybbuk” who visited this Beis Midrash as a delegate of the Red Cross from the area of Russian conquest during the First World War, describes it. The rabbi of the city, Rabbi Nathan Lewin, worshipped there during winter Sabbaths, and in the summer he worshipped in the Old Synagogue. The following distinguished people sat on the eastern wall, Reb Yosele Sheinblum and his family – who were wealthy and pedigreed. Reb Nachum Wachtel sat next to the Rabbi, opposite the Holy Ark. He owned a flour warehouse, and had a wide branched family in our city and in Tarnow. The elder Dr. Henry Wachtel, a physician in New York and a native of Rzeszow, told me that the Wachtel family numbered 80 families. Most of them perished during the time of the Holocaust, and only a few survived in America and Israel. Reb Zalman Verstandig sat next to him. He was a scholarly Jew who was a Maskil. He abandoned the streimel, and wore a “cylinder hat” on the Sabbath. He did not look into the prayer book during the time of prayers, but rather into books of Maimonides and other Jewish greats. Wandering beggars sat and slept in the vestibule of the Beis Midrash. In the area between the Beis Midrash and the synagogue, which were connected with a common wall, the town fool would walk. He was called “Regele”, since he stammered over that word. He walked to and fro, and smiled. His son in Vienna was a writer in the German language, Yosef Roth, who was known in his time as an author of novels.

The Great Synagogue

Merchants, artisans, and ordinary householders worshipped there, dressed in European festive garb. The main cantor was Reb Leibele Blumenkrantz, who had a splendid face. He wore a black cloak and shiny cylinder. He had a trimmed beard. He had a wonderful tenor voice, and enchanted his congregation with song and prayer, accompanied by a choir. His compositions, which included the blessing of the new months, “Unetane Tokef”, “Hanerot Halalu”, and “Kedusha”, were sung by the masses. The synagogue was packed on Sabbaths that Reb Leibele served as cantor. Sorrow descended upon the city when the news spread of the sudden death of this wonderful cantor. I stood with father of blessed memory beside his bed during his final moments. The rumor spread through the city that the second cantor, Reb Zusha – who was demoted from his position when Reb Leibele was appointed as the main cantor, and who the worshippers, particularly those who loved the cantorial arts, wished to remove from his position due to his nasal voice – was jealous that Reb Leibele Blumenkrantz had become the cantor, and erected a monument in the cemetery during his life with the engraved inscription “Here is buried Reb Leibelei Blumenkrantz”. The gabbaim invited various cantors to audition, for it was difficult for the parnassim to choose a cantor who would be the equal of Reb Leibele. I remember that my father of blessed memory, who loved the cantorial arts and was considered an expert, invalidated a cantor who wailed during the “Lechu Neranena” prayer at the welcoming of the Sabbath. He said that this was not singing and prayer, but rather Tisha Beov dirges.

There was also a synagogue for the porters and a synagogue for the tailors. I enjoyed worshipping with the common folk. It was only there that the porters or the tailors could obtain the honor of “Shishi” or “Maftir” when being called to the Torah. [52].


Superstition was widespread among the common folk, particularly among the children. We were afraid of devils and spirits, especially during the dark. As we passed by the Old Synagogue next to the old cemetery, we chased away the spirits with a valid weapon – “Shma Yisrael”. In our imagination, we saw the souls of the dead coming at midnight, enwrapped in their tallises, to worship in the Old Synagogue. At the Neila service [53], as the day was declining, we heard in the rustling of the leaves of the trees the souls of the dead coming to pray with us: “Hear our prayer, do not cast us away during our old age!”


A wedding was an event in the life of a family that was prepared for over many months. The tailors and sewers prepared clothing and white bed linens (“oysshteier” Yiddish). One week before the weddings, the women whose jobs were such began to prepare baked goods, pastries (“Lekach” and “Flodn” [54]), cookies and dainties in a variety of shapes, baked and fried with professionalism. The extended families

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of the bride and groom gathered from the towns of the area. This family gathering participated in the prayers on the Sabbath preceding the wedding, when the groom was called up for an aliya to the Torah. An opening party (“Forshpiel”) took place at the end of the Sabbath. Friends were invited to take part in the joy of the bride and groom. They received their invitation cards with the heading “The voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the voice of joy and the voice of happiness”. The ceremony was conducted with great splendor. Many tears of joy and sadness were shed as they cut the hair of the bride [55]. The jester succeeded to entertain the guests with verses and rhymes. The “Sheva Brachot” celebration took place for seven days in honor of the young couple. The rabbi conducted the chuppa [56] marriage ceremony for the important people of the city. For the simple folk, the judges or other rabbis, who were qualified for this purpose, conducted the ceremony. Well-known bands played popular and Hassidic tunes “dvinot valachlech”. Mottel Krebs was the fiddler, and Leib Bass played his instrument, with the accompaniment of flute and clarinet players. At the more modern weddings, Fishbein's (a dance teacher) group played tunes of Polonaise, Quadrille, Waltz, and Polka, and the youth danced. As was the custom in those days, wedding organizers served the guests. These were not simple waiters, but bearded Jews who were called “Sarvarim” (from the Franco-Latin word “service”). The most famous of them were the Schwartzbart family (who immigrated to America already in my youth) and the Szynweiter family.

{Photo page 221: The leadership of “Hashomer Hatzair” group in 1918. Seated from right: Hela Horowitz, Moshe Wald (Yaari), Efraim Elfenbein, Wang. Standing from right: Feist, Elbaum, Hauser, Michael Schneeweiss..}

Thou Shalt Not Make Any Graven Image

Along the way to the railroad station, we went in a roundabout fashion and skipped over a certain street so as not to see the statue of the Christian holy man dressed up as a High Priest, sporting a beard. We were told that this was a statue of someone who used be a Jewish rabbi from the city of Dubcek, and who converted from his religion, and rose in the Catholic clergy. We did not know how true this rumor was. We generally kept from passing by Catholic churches with their many statues and the crosses with the crucified Jesus. The second commandment “Thou shalt not make any graven image” was in our consciousness. We had no choice and we had to pass through a street of churches, we closed our eyes and recited the verse “Though shalt utterly detest it and utterly abhor it, for it is a forbidden thing” [57]. We remained at home on the Catholic parade on the Sunday prior to Easter. Farmers came from the neighboring villages with their statues, crosses and banners upon which were pictures of the family of the crucified Jesus with canopies covering them. Thousands of farmers came with their wives and children, attired in colorful festive clothing.

Jewish children believed in the coming of the redeemer on the “Paper Bridge”, and on the downfall of the Jew haters on the “Iron Bridge”. We were promised the Garden of Eden, where the trees were dripping with myrrh, and where the groups of righteous people would be sitting with crowns on their heads, joined by angels and seraphim. There we would satiate ourselves with an honorable portion of the wild ox and the leviathan [58]. This was our comfort in the tribulations of exile, when our honor had been downtrodden.

The Atmosphere of Faith and Devotion

Yiddish was the spoken language in all of the houses on our street. This was a sweet, rich Yiddish, interspersed with Biblical verses and Hebrew expressions. I was aware that my mother or grandmother never mentioned the name of G-d Elokim. The word “Gott” was never heard, only “The Holy One Blessed Be He” [59], “The Master of the World”, “The Master of the Entire World”, “The Merciful One”, “Merciful and Gracious”, “The Creator”,

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“His Beloved Name”, “His Name May It Be Blessed”, “For I Am Not Fitting To Express His Holy Name”, “The Master of Mercy”, “The Divine Presence”, and “The Upper One”. Sometimes I heard a Yiddish nickname for the Creator of the World “Gottenyu”, or Sweet Daddy. Our mothers came from small towns, and married young men in the main city. They came from Blazowa, Sieniawa, Lancut, Sendiszow, Glogow, Sokolow, Kolbuszowa, Lezajsk, Kanczuga, Czudek, and Ranizow. My mother the daughter of Reb Yankel and Esther Holiszicer came from the town of Kanczuga in the direction of Przeworsk-Dynow. All of these towns lived their life as in the days of King Sobieski (a saying used by the people). The atmosphere of the holiness of tradition enveloped these towns, far from the new world, that was changing continuously as a result of the emancipation and the German-Austrian Haskalah.

The Peace of G-d On One Summer Day

I remember one summer day at twilight. This was at the end of the month of Av. It was a quiet year during a peaceful time. Peace and tranquility prevailed in the country and in all of Europe. This was a few years before the First World War, after the Japan-Russian war caused a tumult among the people. The grandmothers and mothers sat outside on their porches during those hours to rest after the day's work. They talked to their hearts' content, about livelihood, and about pleasure from their children and grandchildren. They told legends and stories. I passed through the street that led to the synagogues and Kloizes, on my way home. The setting sun, all crimson, sent golden rays of light on to the street and its houses. The entire street was lit up with precious light, the light of the seven days [60]. I never felt such pleasantness in all the days of my life. I tasted the emanations of the seventh heaven. I was all enwrapped with splendor and happiness. I felt as if the Divine Presence had descended upon this Jewish road, which was filled with the aromas of the Garden of Eden. This was an otherworldly experience, the last experience of happiness in the diaspora.

The Year 1914

The Divine Presence departed, and from afar the sounds of the storm of war could be heard. The “world of yesterday…” finished in that year. I was still able to participate as a gymnasia student in the Zeirei Zion, the organization of gymnasia students of Lvov, convention in July. I participated along with my friend and classmate Shlomo the son of Alter Horowitz. The enlistment to the army began in August, and the war with Serbia broke out in August 1914, which spread out to the First World War. The Austrian army retreated, and the Russians invaded our city for a brief period. Father remained to guard the house, while mother and her family wandered with a stream of refugees to Silesia. After a short period, the Russians invaded for a second time, and then father rejoined the family and fled to Vienna. I and my brother Meir were drafted into the army. During the time of the war, I was discharged due to illness. My brother rose to the rank of captain, and participated as a captain on the Russian front, and later in Serbia and Albania.

I concluded my university studies in Vienna. There, the youth movement “Hashomer Scouts” merged with “Zeirei Zion” to form “Hashomer Hatzair”. During the years 1916-1917, the Russians were expelled from Galicia. Parents returned home and found complete destruction. The Jewish towns had become impoverished and partly destroyed. The destruction of Galician Jewry was described by Anski in his book of research on the cities of Galicia, including Rzeszow and in “Oreach Nata Lalun” (“A Guest for the Night”) of Sh. Y. Agnon.

I visited my parents in my city during the time of vacation, and I founded a branch of “Hashomer Hatzair” in Rzeszow in 1917. The young people were educated with one motto: to make aliya to the Land at the conclusion of the war. Rays of hope penetrated the cities of Galicia and occupied Poland to the west with the news of the Balfour Declaration. The hope for a Jewish State under the protection of England encouraged our hearts. The Jews of the Beis Midrash already suggested the cabinet of the State of Israel, with Weizmann as the president, Sokolow as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ushiskin as the Minister of Agriculture, etc. News reached us via neutral lands about the legion of Jabotinsky, the Second Aliya, the cavalry brigade on the Gallipoli front, the raised spirit on the Jewish street, and the hope, strength, and comfort for the Jewish people who were immersed in suffering and poverty. The war ended in 1918. Independent Poland arose. The Jews of Rzeszow and Galicia became subjects of Poland. After the defeat, I returned to Poland from Vienna when my studies concluded. The provisional government of Poland began to rebuild the ruins in its three areas of occupation: the Austrian, Prussian and Russian. The discharged soldiers who returned from the fronts reorganized their lives with difficulty. The era of disorder began, an era of throwing off of the yoke. Jews were beaten on trains. The brigades of General Haller, who came from France, cut off the beards of Jews. Due to their great despair, some of the youth found the Bolshevik revolution to be the answer to anti-Semitism and the betterment of the lot of the Jews. Comrades and students became enthralled with the doctrine of Lenin, however they were persecuted up to the neck in national Poland… I felt bad when I found out that my student in Hashomer Hatzair, Aharon the son of Eliahu Wang, joined the Communist Camp. I was especially distraught when my friend, a member of the head leadership of Hashomer Hatzair, Dr. David Cohen from Vienna, moved with his wife Freda Hershderfer (a partner in the pharmacy on the 3rd of May Street) to Rzeszow and joined the Communist Party. Dr. David Cohen spent years in Polish prisons until he died of tuberculosis. The hatred of the Jews and the weakness of the government reached their pinnacle on May 3, 1919, when pogroms in the Kishinev style [61] broke out in Rzeszow, Strazow and other towns of the region. My decision to immediately leave Poland for the Land of Israel ripened – “If not now, when [62]”. I packed my belongings and set out. I tarried in Vienna and was busy in matters of aliya, which flowed in a stychic (dynamic) manner after the outbreak of the Russian-Polish war in 1920. I worked in matters of “Hechalutz”, and as secretary to the aid committee for emigres and people making aliya. The office of the Land of Israel in Vienna (Palestine-amt) received grants from the Joint in America for this purpose. We provided the empty handed Chalutzim with travel tickets. We put them up in the Chalutz houses in evacuated Austrian army barracks and in a special house in Dinau Varta until the time that they received tickets and visas

Disturbances broke out in Jaffa on May 1, in which Ch. Y. Brenner and his friends were killed. The High Commissioner in the Land of Israel issued the well known order for a temporary halt in aliya “Stop Immigration”. After the lifting of the ban on aliya, I worked for an additional year in joint effort with the representative of the Working Land of Israel, Nota Harpaz, who was a man of the Second Aliya. I set out for Israel at the end of 1922.

In 1930, I was able to visit Rzeszow to visit my dear mother and the grave of my father. I sent certificates to my mother and sister Esther in 1933, but to my sorrow, my mother took ill along the way and died in Krakow. In 1936, I came for one day to visit the graves of my father and mother.

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I remained in Rzeszow for one day, and my heart broke when I saw the city. I did not see my friends, for they had gone on summer vacations. People who I had known during my youth had been overtaken with old age due to the great suffering and tribulations. Rich men became impoverished and “rich men of crisis” emerged, speculators and black market operators. The civic doctor, Dr. Teller, the only Jewish official in the civic government, a tall man during my youth, walked around shriveled, as a broken vessel. The merchant whose store had been the only one in the city opened on the Sabbath, an elegant man in his time, wandered around, an impoverished beggar. The marks of the world war and its wounds were visible at every step. Parents and relatives had died. I arose that day, and I was able to see the shadow of Shabtai, the mighty man who was a famous inter-city runner, and was now a beggar. I fled from the city while my spirit was still in me.

{Photo page 223: Jewish Officers on Passover Leave, 1916. Seated from right: Ben Zion Fett, Puretz, Dr. Reich, Dr. Zvall, Bernard Fish, Eliahu Wang. Standing from right: Dr. Kleinhaus, Bernfeld, Goldman, --, Levi Chaim, Shimon Tenenbaum, Wang.}


Twenty years have passed since the destruction of the community. Soldiers from all tribes of Germany invaded Poland and most of the lands of Europe. The community of Rzeszow was wiped from the map of the world along with hundreds and thousands of other communities by savage men who ran wild at the command of the mad head of the nation. Millions of our people were murdered, young and old, without mercy, some by fire and some by water, some by hunger and some by thirst. All of the tribulations that overtook our people from the days of Pharaoh, Nevuzaradan, Titus, Adrianus, the bearers of the cross and the inquisition, Chmielnitzki, and the black Czarist century [63] – all these chapters of martyrdom pale in comparison with the official cruelty, bloodthirstiness, savagery and evil of the German monster. They murdered, pillaged, and stole. They were not men of the jungle, but rather subhumans who were decorated with degrees of professors, doctors, philosophers, musicians, national socialists, factory owners, business men, landowners, and simple farmers and workers. There were few among them in whom a feeling of humanity was awoken and very few of them deserve to bear the name “Christian”, who believe in the doctrine of mercy, hope, and love. There were very few who showed some sympathy with our tragedy. Our neighbors, amidst whom our people dwelt for centuries, assisted the murder in an active or passive manner. There were a small number of people in the lands where the ghettos and crematoria were set up who put forth their hands to save Jews. Thousands succeeded to escape or to hide. Thousands who escaped were murdered by their non-Jewish neighbors, or were turned over to the German murderers.

I wrote these words to remember the fallen martyrs of the community that was wiped out after centuries of creative life. Only a mound of earth and ashes remains today of the community. No memory remains, for even the cemeteries were ploughed over and the bones of the deceased were scattered. Streets were paved with the gravestones. In this book, we shall remember the community of Rzeszow, whose soul shall remain bound forever in the bonds of life.

Translator's Footnotes

1. An Apikoros (Epicurian) is a term for a Jewish heretic. Smoking on the Sabbath is forbidden by Jewish law. Back

2. A legendary character. Back

3. A rabbinical statement indicating the way that a person should serve G-d. Back

4. In all other places in this book, he is known as Leon. Back

5. Literally “Money for Wheat”, money used to enable the poor to purchase the matzos and other items needed for Passover. Back

6. In accordance with Jewish law, violation of the Sabbath is permitted for the saving of life. Back

7. Meaning they still maintained fond memories of their traditional forbears. Back

8. These are three technicalities of Jewish law, when a normal daily occurrence (reciting of the Shma prayer, putting on tefillin, and reciting the Grace after Meals) are pushed aside. For example, on Yom Kippur, one fasts, so one of course does not recite the Grace after Meals. Back

9. I expect this means the only Jew. Back

10. The 'reproof' (tochacha) is the term for two segments of the Torah, Leviticus 26, 14-45, and Deuteronomy 28, 15-68, which list the curses of that will befall the Jewish people if they do not keep the Torah. Back

11. A hymn from Proverbs 31, 10-31. Back

12. There is a Jewish tradition, sources of which are unclear, not to study Torah on “Nitlnacht”, or Christmas. Back

13. A prayer (Psalm 30) recited after the lighting of Chanukah candles. Back

14. The day after Purim, observed as the main celebration of Purim in Jerusalem. Back

15. A term for the Sabbath prior to Passover. Back

16. One of the ten plagues. Back

17. Chometz is leavened food that is strictly forbidden on Passover. All pots, pans and dishes are changed over on Passover to avoid any trace of leaven. Back

18. Ritually cleaned of all traces of chometz, so that Passover products may be cooked and baked. Back

19. It is instituted that first born males should fast on the eve of Passover, in commemoration of the plague of the destruction of the first born Egyptians. However, given that this fast would cause divisions in the Jewish people, it can be cancelled if an obligatory festive meal were to take place on that day. This obligatory festive meal could be caused by a circumcision or redemption of first born ceremony. However, events of that type cannot be planned. Therefore, it is customary for someone to conclude the study of a tractate of Talmud, thereby engendering a “siyum” (completion) ceremony which engenders a festive meal (this festive meal can be of token size). Those who are present for the siyum are thereby exempted from the fast. Back

20. On the night preceding Passover, the search for leaven (bedikat chometz) is conducted with a candle. Chometz particles are gathered with a feather into a wooden spoon, and burnt the next morning. Back

21. On the eve of Passover, it is forbidden to eat chometz after the fourth hour of the morning. However it is also forbidden to eat matzo until the Seder that night, so one must eat items that are neither chometz nor matzo. Back

22. Carmel is an Israeli wine company, founded in the late 1800s, and still thriving today. The wine itself would have not been purchased on the festival, but would have been prepaid. Back

23. Lag Baomer is a minor holiday 33 days after Passover, often observed by taking hikes into the woods and lighting bonfires. Back

24. A hymn for Shavuot recited prior to the reading of the Ten Commandments from the Torah. Back

25. The administering of 39 lashes is a biblically ordained punishment for certain sins. This punishment can only be administered when the full fledged Jewish court system of temple times was in effect. It was customary for the shamash of a synagogue (or other communal leader) to administer these lashes, in a symbolic manner (i.e. without force) to the men of the community on the eve of Yom Kippur as an act of penance, reminiscent of the Biblical punishment. Back

26. Earlier in this paragraph was a list of various portions of the prayer service of Yom Kippur, including the Avoda service (a poetic reenactment of the Temple service of Yom Kippur), and the hymn of the ten martyrs of the Roman government. The festival of Sukkot follows five days after Yom Kippur, and it is customary to begin constructing the Sukka (the Biblically prescribed tabernacle that is needed for Sukkot) right after Yom Kippur. A blessing of the moon is recited in the first part of each Jewish month, when the moon is in its waxing phases. This is customarily said for the month of Tishrei right after Yom Kippur, the 10th day of Tishrei. Back

27. Shalom Aleichem (peace unto you) is a traditional Jewish greeting, and Aleichem Shalom (unto you, peace), is the response. Actually, there is a factual error in the text here. As part of the ceremony of the Sanctification of the Moon (Kiddush Levana), this greeting is exchanged between fellow participants in the ceremony, and not with the moon. Back

28. On Sukkot, there is a commandment to take the four species: Lulav (palm frond), Etrog (citron), Hadas (myrtle), and Arava (willow). These are held and waved during various parts of the prayer service. Back

29. Ushpizin are the seven symbolic guests who are welcomed into the Sukka each day: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. On Hoshana Rabba, a bundle of willows, known as the Hoshana bundle, is beaten on the ground during the services. Back

30. These are various important honors of the Simchat Torah service. Ata Hareita is the recitation of various verses prior to removing the Torah scrolls from the Holy Ark for the processions. Chatan Torah is the person called up to the reading of the final passage of the Torah (the annual Torah reading cycle concludes and recommences on Simchat Torah), and Chatan Breishit is the person called up to the reading of the first passage of the Torah. Back

31. The prayer for rain (Tefillat Geshem) is recited on the day before Simchat Torah, Shmini Atzeret (the day following Hoshana Rabba). It marks the beginning of the rainy season in the Land of Israel. The prayer for dew (Tefillat Tal), marking the end of the rainy season, is recited on the first day of Passover. Back

32. A fast day observed one week after Chanukah, marking the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the Temple. Back

33. This is the 49 period between Passover and Shavuot. It is a commandment to count each day. Portions of this period are observed as a semi-mourning period in memory of various tragedies that befell the Jewish people. Back

34. The three week mourning period between the fasts days of the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, in the summer, marks the most serious public mourning period of the Jewish year. The 17th of Tammuz marks the day of the breach of the siege of Jerusalem, and the 9th of Av (Tisha Beov) marks the day of the destruction of both Temples. The three week period is known as “Bein Hametzarim” (between the straits). Back

35. The month of Elul follows Av. It begins 3 weeks after Tisha Beov, and the spiritual preparations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur begin. The Shofar (ram's horn) is customarily blown each morning. Back

36. The Selichot (penitential) service is recited prior to the morning service starting from the Saturday night (or early Sunday morning) prior to Rosh Hashanah (or one week previously if Rosh Hashanah begins early in the week). It is recited on every weekday until Yom Kippur. Back

37. The Musaf service of Rosh Hashanah has 3 main themes: Malchuyot – the coronation of G-d as king, Zichronot – G-d's memory or taking into account of the world, and Shofarot – the role of shofar blasts (i.e. in promoting repentance in the present, in the past at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and in the future announcing the advent of the Messiah and the Resurrection of the Dead). Back

38. Taanit Esther is the fast observed the day before Purim in commemoration of the fast of Esther. Tzom Gedalya is observed the day after Rosh Hashanah as a fast day. The six fast days, Yom Kippur, Tisha Beov, 17th of Tammuz, 10th of Tevet, Tzom Gedalya, and Taanit Esther are the six obligatory fasts of the Jewish year. Back

39. Days of Tachanun – denoting the long petitional service recited on Monday and Thursday mornings as part of the Shacharit service, with the exception of festive occasions. Back

40. Some people have the custom of reciting the Song of Songs prior to the commencement of the Sabbath each week. Back

41. Psalm 95, the first of a series of 6 Psalms that are part of the “Welcoming of the Sabbath” (Kabbalat Shabbat) service. Back

42. Snippets of verses from the Kabbalat Shabbat service. Back

43. A song welcoming the Sabbath angels into the home on Friday night. Back

44. A slow cooked stew eaten for the Sabbath day meal. Since cooking is forbidden on the Sabbath, it is left on the fire to stew from Friday afternoon. Back

45. In many towns, it was customary to leave the hot food needed for the Sabbath day in the baker's oven, to avoid having to leave the oven on all night in the home, which might have been dangerous. Back

46. A gentile who does work for a Jew that is forbidden for the Jew to do on the Sabbath. Back

47. It is customary to recite Barchi Nafshi (Psalm 104), and the Shir Hamaalot (Song of Ascents) Psalms (120-134) on winter Sabbath afternoons. On summer Sabbath afternoons, it is customary to read a chapter of the Mishnaic tractate of Pirke Avot. Back

48. Melave Malka (Escorting out of the Queen) is a meal that is customarily eaten on Saturday night after the Sabbath. Back

49. Pi in Hebrew means “mouth” – but obviously has a Polish meaning here. Tamid means “constant” or “eternal”. The Ner Tamid is the eternal light in the synagogue, always left burning. Back

50. This is a segment of four words of the Kaddish prayer that is included in the Sephardic rite, but omitted in the Ashkenazic rite. When worshipping in different synagogues, it is easy to make a mistake with it. Back

51. One of the four sections of the Code of Jewish Law. Back

52. There are 7 aliyas (Torah honors) during a Sabbath morning Torah reading. The sixth aliya is considered a special honor. (There are 6 aliyas on Yom Kippur, 5 on festivals, 4 on the intermediate days of festivals and the New Moon, and 3 on other days when the Torah is read – such as Mondays, Thursdays, fast days, Chanukah, and Purim.) On the Sabbath, Yom Kippur, and festivals, there is an additional aliya at the end called Maftir. The person honored with this aliya also reads the Haftorah – the prophetic portion for the day. Back

53. The final service of Yom Kippur, recited as the sun is setting. Back

54. Honey cake and fruit layer cake. Back

55. Orthodox women cover their hair with a hat or a wig after the wedding. In some Hassidic circles, obviously referred to here, the woman's hair would be cut completely prior to the wedding, in preparation for the placing of a wig. Nowadays, in most circles, the wig is placed above the woman's natural hair without it being cut off. Back

56. The chuppa is the marriage canopy. Here the term refers to the marriage ceremony. The Sheva Brachot is a celebration in honor of the bride and groom, conducted for seven days. At the Sheva Brachot, some of the blessings of the wedding ceremony are repeated. Back

57. Deuteronomy 7, 26. Back

58. I am not sure of the reference to the two bridges – perhaps they were bridges in the city. The description of the Garden of Eden, and the feast of the wild ox and the leviathan, are consistent with Jewish mystical belief. Back

59. Two versions of this are given in the text, one in Hebrew and one in Aramaic. Both translate equivalently, so I only included one. Back

60. The light of the seven days of creation is considered to be an extra special light. Back

61. Major pogroms took place in Kishinev (today Chisinau, Moldova) and surrounding areas in 1903-1905. Back

62. A quote from Pirke Avot. Back

63. Pharaoh refers to the Pharaoh of the Egyptian slavery. Nevuzaradan was a Babylonian army chief during the destruction of the First Temple. Titus was the Roman army chief during the destruction of the Second Temple. Adrianus was the Roman emperor Hadrian who persecuted the Jews in the century following the destruction of the Second Temple. Chmielnitzki was a Ukrainian nationalist whose Cossack armies ravaged Jewish communities during the 1700s. Back

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