A composer of rhymes and writer of aphorisms. He wrote correspondence and literary pointers in Hebrew newspapers, and was a sworn-in translator from Hebrew to Polish in the courts of our city. He was a secretary of his community for about twenty years. In the year 5643 (1885) he published the composition Father of the Plague-Stricken, a translation of the poem of Slowacki that was known by the name Ojciec zadzumionych.
We have a book Words of the Sages from him, which is a sort of lexicon to the legends of the Talmud.
Do not look at me, oh writers! For I am hired for business,
These are the daughters of the song of Zion, sent outside:
Send your hope with money, send your fishing rod to gold,
Today, the Hebrew writer stopped being successful!
Behold, the language of my nation is bent low, it is enclosed in a girdle,
Every Priest in his temple, will no longer set up an altar,
In order to raise up to him fats, wine, oil, and incense
We will not hope for this, we will not trust in this today,
It is with its mount, those who come there with the covenant of tradition;
Everyone who plants its vineyards should know that its vines will not blossom
It will not make him very rich, and some will worry in a year of drought.
However a fire is burning with its love, a flame is burning,
Its sparks are its statements, and its heart is protected like chaff
Its days are strongly nourished, a season it takes,
On the face of the ark of testimony of his people, the face of the ark cover
He will remember all of his offerings, all of his savory vows,
And send forth the daughter of his song: surround the city, your entreaties are attended to!
And go, go you as well, enveloped in the wholeness of our holiness!
You, the daughter of another nation, born into a foreign language,
And harvest the sheathes of mercy on the vineyards of our nation,
May your fate be like that of the Moabite girl,
And the judge will meet you strengthened with the power of the pen
With your strength and your hymns, you will be educated as a Hebrew citizen!
The moon has already gone around and renewed itself three times
From the day that I pitched my tent in the place of the sand, I came as a guest.
With a child suckling the breast of my wife
And with three daughters, and three sons, I came there,
And now, they have all fallen victim to a plague,
Nine camels also came with me,
To graze in the roots of the rushes in the reeds near the seashore,
On this peak of sand, they wandered all day and went;
And they camped around me at night, when they came back from their grazing,
Here, in the place of flashes of fire, the time of might was not warned,
My daughters went to draw water from the canal,
My sons burnt fire, coals went up in the fire,
The cooked food, my wife, the dear one, held her son to her breast.
Now they are all poured under the shadows, they are cleaving to the clods.
The lovely sun sends down its rays
On the mound in which are buried those who were once alive.
I will return childless! Woe! Tribulations and plagues found me!
From the time that I was here three times, for forty days:
From the day that I spread out my tent here for my place of my lodging
The affliction of death came into my abode without mercy.
Woe! There is nobody who can understand the depth of my agony,
Closed inside the chambers of my heart are my wounds.
I will return to the Lebanon, the place that I live
And a splendid tree that grows in the garden of my courtyard
Will ask: Where are your children who were as strong as oaks?
And in the garden that I planted, my daughters, beautiful like roses
On his first literary paths, he was an essayist in various newspapers, until he found his professional niche in the biographies of the ancient Italian sages, who lived hundreds of years ago, and the historians deprived them of their lot.
During his youth, he delved into the depths of Jewish law with the sages of Galicia. His expertise in our ancient literature led him to occupy himself with the history of the sages of Israel in the ancient days. His first book was The History of the Gaon Rabbi Yehuda Moscato, who was a rabbi in Mantova three hundred years previously (Drohobycz, 5660 1900). Later he published the history of Rabbi Azariah Pigo, the author of Bina Laitim (ibid. 5667 1907). In his third book he told of the history of Moshe Zakot, his life, books, Kabbalistic style, students, hymns, and communal activities (Lvov, 5686 1926).
(Gershom Bader, A Country and its Sages, page 26).
He loved Hebrew literature and wrote in newspapers. He lived in Rzeszow for many years. He served as the head of the community there. He was also a city advisor and had large-scale business dealings.
|An Eternal Souvenir|
My friend, my beloved, the honorable eminent, generous man, who knows our holy language,
The advisor of the business council
Presented by the translator
He was a parliamentarian from two generations ago. He was an excellent speaker. He was a representative to the national council of Galicia and to the legislative council of Austria. He was an enthusiastic fighter for the enlightenment of the Jews and the establishment of their rights.
In the year 5661 (1901), when Weisenfeld was 17 years old, he was already in the United States. He tried his hand at various jobs. He returned to his birthplace in the year 5666 (1906) and began to publish articles on the issues of the day in general Polish newspapers. He founded a Yiddish newspaper called Gerechtigkeit, of which only six issues were published. He then went to Germany, from where he wrote correspondences to the Yiddishe Journal newspaper in London. In the year 5670 (1910), he wrote feuillitons in the Der Tag newspaper of Yona Karpel of Krakow. After the World War broke out, he went to Bohemia along with other refugees, and founded a Yiddish newspaper there called Prager Yiddishe Zeitung that served as a political mouthpiece for the war refugees of Galicia, who were expelled from their cities of residence to Bohemia and Moravia. When Weisenfeld was called to work in the field of the war, his newspaper ceased. When Weisenfeld returned from the field of war to his birthplace, he published there a newspaper called Yiddishe Folks Zeitung for 22 months. In that newspaper, he fought against the libels of official anti-Semitism that pervaded the government circles of Poland at that time. In the year 5680 (1920) he arrived in the United States for a second time, and from that time, he began to work in journalism. He published articles in most of the Yiddish newspapers that are published there. He came to Cleveland at the beginning of the year 5686 (1926) and worked as an assistant in the editing of the Yiddishe Velt newspaper. Aside from his hundreds of articles that he published there, and that were republished in other newspapers, he published a novel The Rabbi's Daughter that also appeared in various newspapers. Its English translation is coming out soon. For a time, he also was involved in the Jewish theater. He wished to help raise its profile. Already in the year 5679 (1919), he published a four act play called Tzerisene Neshamos (Torn Souls) that was later performed on stage in Rzeszow and America. He also authored another play called Love and Relations that was performed on stage in Krakow.
He is the brother of Leon. He grew up in the bosom of Hassidism. After he was freed from its bonds, and began to delve into European culture, he founded a youth group for Beis Midrash students. Along with Tzvi Romuald, he produced for them a periodical anthology called Hashachar, of which four issues were issued. For a while, he published articles in German in Hamitzpeh and other Jewish newspapers. He wrote in Yiddish in the Lvov Tagblatt and also edited a newspaper called Neie Folkszeitung. He participated in the literary work of his brother when both were out of the country.
Weisenfeld's youth movement was called Hashachar, like the anthology, which was published from 5666 (1906) until the beginning of the war. Moshe Weisenfeld himself stood at its helm during the first two years.
Weisenfeld received the impetus to found the organization from seeing the exertion of the Beis Midrash boys in their lifestyle and their spiritual development. This proved to him that mighty powers are hidden in the hearts of these boys, as they absorb the national spirit that springs forth from the original Hebrew culture. If each of them is left on their own, all of this power would be lost and wasted.
He studied with the rabbi of his native city. When he was 14 years old, he left his Beis Midrash due to a dispute about the checking of a shochet's knife. The rabbi found an imperfection, whereas Asher Simcha checked it and did not find such. He then fled to Rzeszow, and began to write articles on Biblical commentary and research into the Hebrew language. These articles were written in Hamagid, Hamashber, Ivri Anochi, Hamabit, and Haboker Or. He later went to Romania and worked as a Hebrew teacher there.
He began to study German, French, Latin and Greek when he was 30. At that time he began to publish a Yiddish newspaper called Jewish Free Press, which included a Hebrew addendum called Hakohelet. Only three issues were published (1872). At that time, he wrote articles in German in the Jsr. Wochenschrift newspaper of Lvov. He later published a scientific monthly called Monatschrift fur die Literatur und Wissenschaft des Judentums (1889-1892). In that monthly, he published his research paper Das Buch Judith (Vienna 1891).
He wrote the following books in Hebrew: Concerning Research on the Burning of the Dead in Mishna and Talmud, written in a free scientific manner (Lvov 5638 1878); The Sanctity of the Bible (Vienna 5647 1887). His free opinions began to change at the end of his days, and he began to write Answers and Serious Responses together with Meir Cohen Bistricz against the ideas of Izak Hirsch Weiss regarding his outlook on Orthodoxy (Krakow 5652 1892). This work was not successful, for everyone who read his words immediately recognized the artificiality of his attacks.
Professor Franz Dilitsh compiled a publication of questions to the sages of Israel in the year 5647 (1887). Asher Simcha answered him in a sharp fashion in a work called: Ernste Antworten auf ernste Fragen (Vienna 1888). Its first publication was banned by the government because he did not guard his language in his attacks.
Reb Abba Apfelbaum was born in the year 5621 in Galician Rzeszow to non-wealthy parents. Already in his youth, his teachers said of him that he was unusually sharp and expert, and all of them determined unanimously that he would be a Jewish scholar. Indeed, when he was a young man, he already maintained a halachic correspondence with the Jewish greats of those days. When he reached his 20s, he threw himself into Jewish literature to its full extent.
In the year 5642 (1882), Reb Abba Apfelbaum took up the writer's pen for the first time. His first article was published in the Hamazkir periodical of Lvov, which had an assimilationist style. Later, when the sparks of Hebrew revival appeared in the land and Hebrew journalism began to develop, Apfelbaum became a regular contributor to Hamagid, Hatzefira, Hamelitz, Hashiloach, and Haolam, and also to the Yiddish Galician newspaper the Lvov Tagblatt.
Reb Abba played a first class role in historical literature, and his writings of great value on the early Gaonim and the Italian scholars were very important. In the year 5660 (1900), he published his first book, The History of Yehuda Moscato. Researchers of Jewish history jumped upon it as upon a unique discovery. To this day, it is to them as a set of eyes, a lens, and a faithful source of information. In the year 5667, his second work appeared, The History of Rabbi Azaryah Figo. This book also had great historical value. At the end of his days, he published the book Moshe Zacuto. The importance of this book is demonstrated by the fact that Nachum Sokolow brings many sources from Reb Apfelbaum's Moshe Zacuto in his book Baruch Spinoza in his Times. In editions of
the Otzar Yisrael Encyclopedia, one can find many precious articles that are the fruit of the spirit of Apfelbaum.
It is possible to state with near certainty that were it not for Reb Abba Apfelbaum, Italian Jewry of the previous centuries would have been forgotten from Jewry. Indeed, if one wishes to learn about the past of the Jews of Italy, he should consult the books of Abba Apfelbaum to find out!
Dr. Shmuel Poznansky was one of the first who recognized the importance of Apfelbaum's books. In a letter full of reverence, Dr. Poznansky wrote to Apfelbaum among other things that his books revived Italian Jewry. Max Nordau also indicated the great value of his books, and he wrote the following about his book Yehuda Moscato: I read your book with special interest, and I found in it material full of interest about the history of our brethren in Italy. Similarly, Breinin informs him in a friendly letter that when he read his books, he made a blessing of pleasure over them.
Reb Abba was in contact and maintained a correspondence with the most famous personalities, with great Gaonim and Jewish scholars throughout the earth. In his large legacy, we find many writings, lists, scrolls, segments and notes. We find essays and thick bundles of manuscripts, letters and cards from Professor A. Berliner, Professor Bichner of London, Dr. Shlomo Rubin, Sh. Y. Ish Horowitz, Rabbi Castiliani of Rome, Dr. A. Kaminka, Professor Gidman of Vienna, Sh. A. Horodecki, Dr. Shlomo Buber, Rabbi HaKohen Shlomo Kook and many other such personalities. They all recognized him as a Jewish scholar, and demonstrated the great value of his literary pursuits. It is clear that had Reb Abba lived in a large city, in some royal city, in a city of scholars, writers and academies, and not in the provincial city of Rzeszow, he would have become famous in the world of Jewish scholarship as one of the great historical researchers in the field of Jewish scholarship.
He was an authentic person, uniquely gifted, also as a communal activist. He was a pious, observant Jew, with a beard and a long kapote. On Sabbaths and festivals, he would wear a streimel. With all this, he was one of the early preachers of Zion, and he traveled to Zionist conventions as a delegate and a leader. He belonged to the general Zionist organization. He was one of the first of Chovevei Zion in Galicia, and the founder and head of the first Ahavat Zion organization. Similarly, he founded an exemplary Hebrew school, and to this day, his students are known personalities in various countries. He always fought like a lion for his Zionism, that is to say, as he understood it. At the time of elections to the Austrian legislature in 1907 and 1911, he traveled to cities and towns to conduct publicity among the Orthodox population on behalf of Jewish candidates, who remained in contact with the wide masses without intermediaries. During his old age, he did the same thing under the Polish rule for elections to the Sejm and senate.
By his nature, he appreciated any Torah personality, any scholar, and any reliable authority, without differentiating between faction and leaning. Three years ago, the 70th birthday of Reb Abba the teacher, the writer, the veteran of Chovevei Zion, the leader, the historian and the publicist was celebrated. He passed away on the eve of Shavuot 5683 (1923). Apfelbaum was the last of the remnants of the Orthodox Maskilim in Galicia, and he definitively ended the era of the Galician Haskalah that continued on from the first Maskilim, Reb Nachman Krochmal and Sh. Y. Rappaport.
Abba Apfelbaum was born in Rzeszow in the year 1861. He studied Gemara and Jewish law in his youth, and did not abandon them at the time that he was active in teaching and communal matters. He studied Talmud every day. His wife was occupied in the textile business. She sustained the family and enabled him to dedicate his time to his studies in the Beis Midrash in his early years. The way his family lived was always modest. Despite the daily concern for livelihood, he dedicated himself to Torah and activism. He was like an admirer in all his activities, who conducted his work with love and faithfulness. He was an observer of the commandments, and worshipped regularly in the Bikur Cholim synagogue, a large portion of whose worshipers were scholars. I recall that I worshipped with my father in Bikur Cholim during my childhood. After the service on Sabbaths, Abba Apfelbaum would remain for some time in the synagogue to clarify with my father some topic in the Talmud that he had studied that morning before the service.
In his desire to spread Torah in public, he set aside a time to teach the Kuzari on Sabbath evenings in Bikur Cholim. My father of blessed memory was particular that I also hear these classes. A small group of worshippers would gather together. His explanations of each chapter of the Kuzari excelled in their clarity, and were appreciated by those present.
As an activist, he excelled in his activities in the Zionist movement of Rzeszow, which was then in its early stages, as well as in his activities within the Jewish community. These two activities were, for all intents and purposes, interconnected with each other, for we are talking about the struggle of Zionism to rule over the community. Abba Apfelbaum played an important role in this struggle, both in writing and in speech. He appeared frequently in support of the Zionist candidates to the communal council. His activities were intended for the benefit of the public, for he never wished to grab the chair for himself. Only at a later stage was he elected to the communal council, as a result of communal pressure. Throughout all of his activities in communal matters, Abba Apfelbaum saw his purpose in life in two areas, that is in teaching the Hebrew language and literature, and in researching the wisdom of Israel, especially of the era of the 16th and 17th centuries in Italy.
Abba Apfelbaum founded the first school of the Hebrew language in Rzeszow. Due to a lack of means, he dedicated one room of his own modest home for this purpose. As in all towns of Galicia at the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish students studied in cheder. This was the case in Rzeszow as well, until Abba Apfelbaum came and made a revolution by teaching the Hebrew language in the modern style, which was known as Hebrew in Hebrew.
At first, the number of students was very restricted, and he took upon himself, single handedly, the holy task of spreading Hebrew among the children of the Jews of Rzeszow. When the number of students grew, Naftali Glicksman joined him, and later on, Meshulam Davidson. The three of them laid the foundations for the teaching of the language in the city. The late Glicksman and Davidson settled in the Land before the Holocaust, and they were brought to their eternal rest here. May their memories be blessed.
Abba Apfelbaum also gave private lessons to those who wished to gain expertise in Bible and in the wisdom of Israel in accordance with modern methodology. These were youths between the ages of 12 and 16. Abba Apfelbaum used the German translation of Moses Mendelssohn, which he valued greatly, as a commentary on the Bible, and he added explanations that he had gleaned from the research of Jews and non-Jews. Despite his progressive outlook, he opposed the far-fetched theories of the Bible critics. I recall one incident that aroused his wrath and fury as if he was personally hurt in the depths of his heart. The story was as follows. At the beginning of the 20th century, the well known debate of Babel und Bibel arose after stone tablets with cuneiform writing were discovered at the end of the 19th century, and called the Amrafel Law . Many of these laws were similar to the laws of the Torah, and since the King Amrafel preceded Moses, the Bible Critics determined that Moses extended the codification of Amrafel. Obviously, this matter caused a literary uproar in the world. Abba Apfelbaum reacted against this with all of his national-Jewish feeling, and attributed this episode to anti-Semitism.
A few years later, when I returned home from abroad and had studied the Amrafel Law with regard to my research in comparative law, I met Abba Apfelbaum, and of course we discussed this issue. I explained to him the essence of the problem, and that some of the laws were a joint heritage that spread out in general among the nations of the East, and these also expressed themselves in the Amrafel Law. Abba Apfelbaum accepted this explanation quietly, and apparently he approved.
Indeed Abba Apfelbaum did not satisfy himself with classes in the study of the new Hebrew literature. He asked us to read the writings of the scholars of the Golden Age of Spain: Yehuda Halevi, the Rambam, Ibm Ezra, etc. He required us to read all of the literature from the 18th century, such as the plays of Moshe Chaim Luzzatto and others. He would dissect the plays from a linguistic perspective and relate them to current events. To him, teaching was a holy task, and in the books that he authored, he added to his name the title of principal of the Teudat Yisrael Hebrew School.
Aside from his activities in teaching, Abba Apfelbaum found time to be a writer. He dealt with the wisdom of Israel: Talmudic, philosophical, Kabalistic and historical issues. He studied in particular the works of three scholars that lived in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries, and he dedicated three biographies to them: The History of Rabbi Yehuda Mosato, The History of Rabbi Azaryah Figo, and Moshe Zacuto.
He wrote the first book about Yehuda Moscato in 1900. Yehuda Moscato (1530-1590) w a rabbi in Mantova who was known in particular for his commentary on the Kuzari. He occupied himself with Kabbalah and poetry, and wrote a great deal about arts and music. In generally, he was under the influence of the Italian Renaissance.
His second book, written in 1903, was dedicated to Azaryah the son of Rabbi Efraim Figo (1579-1647), who had also been a rabbi in Italy. His well-known book Bina Laitim deals with the festivals of the year and issues of the day. His second book, which is of great importance, is called Gedolei Teruma, and is comprised of new ideas and commentaries on the Talmud and legal decisors.
The topic of his third book, written in 1923, was Moshe Zacuto (1625-1697), who was one of the colorful rabbis of Italy. His spiritual interests encompassed the entire spectrum of Jewish wisdom. As a great scholar, he wrote books on the Talmud; and as a Kabbalist, he wrote a commentary on the Zohar. In addition, he was a poet. In one of his poems, he describes the tribulations of the grave  and the punishments of Gehinnom (purgatory) according to the Midrash, following in the footsteps of Dante's The Divine Comedy. The importance of Moshe Zacuto was that he authored the first play in the Hebrew language, called Yesod Olam (The Foundations of the World). The characters of the play were Abraham our Father, Terach and Nimrod.
In the books that Abba Apfelbaum wrote, he displayed no pretences of being a researcher, but rather as a scribe and historian who delved deeply into the creativity and lives of the scholars of Israel who were close to his spirit. In these publications, he wished to give expression to the feelings of admiration that he had for them.
He engaged in scientific research of the Talmud and its commentaries from a historical perspective, and also in other fields of research. The late man acquired a good name also from the fact that he established the first Hebrew school in his hometown of Rzeszow with a curriculum of secular studies. This was a new phenomenon in the State of Galicia at the beginning of the 20th century. This school excelled in its exemplary orderliness, its curriculum of study, and the spirit of nationalist religiosity that pervaded it. This school, which existed for about 15 years, served as a model for the modern popular nationalist school. Nevertheless, the late man dedicated the majority of his time to research. He published excellent historical monographs, such as The History of Rabbi Yehuda Moscato, 5660; The History of Rabbi Azaryah Figo the author of Bina Laitim, 5667; and Rabbi Moshe Zacuto, published by Snunit in Lvov. This latter book is one of the most outstanding books in our monographic literature.
The late man toiled in his fruitful and varied labor for approximately 50 years. All of his work was conducted with youthful enthusiasm and great dedication to Jewish scholarship.
The late man wrote his articles in Hebrew. Many of them can be found in Hatzefira, Hamelitz, Hamagid, Hashiloach, and Haolam. His language is clear and pleasant, and significantly helped to develop the new Hebrew language and its style. The late man worked with great diligence in the fields of communal service as well. He was active in the Zionist Movement starting from the First Zionist Congress. He was the first of the founders of Chovevei Zion, and he headed the local Zionist council in Rzeszow for many years. Both his scientific work and his communal work can serve as a model for those who revered him, as well as for his political opponents.
We, his students who valued the late man, including Dr. Tzvi Koretz the General Rabbi of Salonika; Dr. Yechezkel Lewin the rabbi in Lvov; Professor Shlomo Horowitz in Vienna; Dr. Ovadyahu Eizenberg, the secretary of the League of Nations in Geneva; Dr. Moshe Wald-Yaari, a secretary in the city council of Tel Aviv; and the writer of these lines look from afar at the grave of the revered late man, and weep with broken hearts over the loss.
Born in Rzeszow 5654 (1894) died in the Holocaust in Poland.
He received a traditional and Hebrew education. He completed studies of philosophy in the universities of Lvov and Vienna, and received the degree of doctor. He also studied in the rabbinical seminary in Vienna, and was very close to Professor Aryeh Schwartz. He taught in various educational institutions in Vienna and Berlin for many years.
In the year 5685 (1925), he was appointed as a lecturer in Jewish and World History in the Tachkemoni rabbinical seminary that was under the auspices of Mizrachi in Warsaw. He served as principal of that institution from 5689 (1929). He concerned himself with the raising of the cultural and physical level of his students.
He was active in the organization for the assistance of Jewish academics, the organization of friends of the Hebrew University, the organization of Jewish writers, and Bnai Brith. He was a member of the Mizrachi movement and worked within that organization, particularly in the cultural realm, by giving lectures and classes.
He published several historical research articles in newspapers and anthologies in Yiddish and Polish, including an article of Rabbi Shmelke Horowitz of Nikolsberg in Di Kehila Shtime (Warsaw, 5688-5689 1938-1939), and others. He was influenced in his methodology of historical research by his brother-in-law Professor Meir Balaban.
In his final days, he was occupied with the writing of a historical monograph on the Jews of Rzeszow in the 17th century.
From the Encyclopedia of Religious Zionism, volume I, edited by Yitzchak Rafael, the editor of The Year of Redemption, Mossad Harav Kook, 1958, page 142.
His strong longing for the Land of his desire brought him to Jerusalem in the year 5681 after difficult tribulations. There, he dedicated his best efforts to the Zionist idea and to his holy work in the field of education. Every Zionist victory aroused his enthusiasm, and every national failure crushed his spirit.
In the year 5681, he was accepted as a teacher in the Talmud Torah of the Sephardim, where he dedicated his initiative and all his intellectual prowess to the spreading of Torah among the poor children of the Old City of Jerusalem. He knew how to explain even difficult matters to a child in a simple and straightforward fashion. With his dedication, behavior and exactitude, he knew how to endear himself quickly to those around him. He retired in the year 5684 (1924), and then dedicated himself to writing, which was always near to his heart.
Naftali Asriel excelled as a journalist as well, and participated regularly in the Doar Hayom newspaper in the Land; and abroad in the Tagblatt of Lvov and Zeit of London.
Naftali Asriel was born in Rzeszow on the 25th of Elul 5631 (1871), and died in Tel Aviv on the 18th of Av 5708 (1948) at the age of 77. May his soul be bound in eternal life.
Reb Chaim the son of Reb Yosel Dembitzer and Tema Wald was born in Rzeszow in 1873. His father was a Gemara teacher of older youth, and his family name was Dembitzer. On account of religious marriage, which was not authorized by the civil law, he received the name Wald, which was the name of his mother. His mother Tema Wald came from the city of Sedziszow near Rzeszow. Father told me that there was a tradition in his family that they came to Poland with the exiles of Spain, and that his father Reb Yosel was from a wide-branched family that was scattered in many countries; and further that Rabbi Chaim Dembitzer, the rabbinical judge in Krakow and the author of Klilat Yofi was a relative. In his youth, father was orphaned from his father Reb Yosel who died at about the age of 40. Grandmother Tema was burdened with the yoke of livelihood of the three sons and daughter. She earned her livelihood by distributing dairy products to the homes of the Christian officials. After her sons reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, they were forced to immigrate to America due to the difficulties of livelihood. The daughter married a merchant in Jaroslaw. However Father, who was blessed with talents, studied in a cheder, and grandmother saw in him her Kaddish. Father was successful in his studies . He was expert and sharp in Torah and Talmud, and his name reached the head of the rabbinical court Rabbi Heshel Wallerstein. He invited him for an examination, and presented him to his friend Rabbi Hirsch Moshe Eizen, with whom he was to study a daily page of Gemara.
During his youth, Father was swept up with the winds of the Haskalah, and spent much time studying Moreh Nevuchim, the writings of Ranak (Rabbi Nathan Krochmal) and Shir (Shlomo Yehuda Rappaport). He loved to read Hashachar of Smolenskin and his stories, the poems of Yalag (Yehuda Leib Gordon), and the Bible with the commentaries of Rabbi Moshe Midaso. He studied German, and dabbled in the poems of Schiller. He enjoyed Nathan the Wise of Lessing, etc.
Father joined the Maskilim of the city (Holtzer, Abba Apfelbaum, Yonah Bernstein, Chaim Wang, and Kalman Kurtzman), however he did not remove his traditional garb, and was consistent in his observance of the commandments. He delved into the sciences of Judaica rather than the discussions of Abaye and Rabba. He read Hamagid, Hashiloach, Hatzefira, and Hamitzpeh; from among the non-Hebrew newspapers the Lemberger Tagblatt edited by Moshe Kleinman; from the vernacular newspapers the Velt edited by Herzl, Buber, Leva. He read the Neie Freie Presse on a daily basis. Even before the Jewish State of Theodore Herzl, he followed with his entire soul the Chibat Zion movement, which was then centered in Odessa.
At the age of 18, he married Freda the daughter of Reb Yaakov Holeshitzer and Esther nee Hausman from the town of Kanczuga. This was a wide-branched family, whose roots were in the towns of Przeborsk, Dinow, Blazowa,
Pruchnik, Lezajsk, and Sieniawa. My mother took pride during my youth that among her relatives there were rabbinical judges, and that she was related to the family of Rabbi Elimelech of Lezajsk (Lizhensk), as far as I recall. She was a modest and pious woman. She was busy with the livelihood of her family throughout the week, and she dedicated the Holy Sabbath to prayer, to Tzena Urena, petitions, and the recital of Elokei Avraham (Gott fun Avraham). Father once told me that a city native he considered Rzeszow to be a city should search for his wife only in a small town, where there is fresh village air, and the girls are modest, healthy of soul and body, unlike the girls of the large city who are coquettish, adorn themselves with makeup, and worship fashion and vanity.
From what should a young man earn his livelihood in order to sustain his family? Rabbi Heshel Wallerstein advised Father to study to be a mohel (circumcisor), so that he could busy himself with inducting Jewish babies into the covenant of Abraham our forefather. Father worked at this profession for one month, and then abandoned it. His friends were concerned and found a new source of livelihood for him. He received a concession for the government monopoly of the sale of tobacco and cigarettes (Koenigliche Tabak Trafik) in the gentile quarter, on Krakowska Street next to the Bernadine Monastery, on the banks of the Mikoszka River. The gentiles were not pleased with this: a Jew dressed in a kapote and streimel on the Sabbath, with peyos and a beard, in the heart of the Christian neighborhood was to them a thorn in their side. I remember Father from my early childhood. Father was handsome, of a medium, tall build, and a noble face, with one large dreamy eye and the second exuding wisdom. A Greek Catholic woman, the wife of the principal of the seminary, and to whose house we would bring dairy products, would say: Your father resembles an icon. Our savior certainly looked like that. As I had mentioned, the business of this Jew was a thorn in the eyes of the Christians of that neighborhood. Each evening, shkotzim would break into the store and remove the merchandise. There was no other choice other than to leave the neighborhood. Grandmother owned two houses (poorhouses) on Kazimierz the Great Street (Roizngessel) and the corner of Zamkneita Street. She gave our family one large room in her two-room apartment and divided it into two with a wooden partition. The front half became a store, and the other side was for living . Thus did Father become the owner of a grocery store. However, the sign displayed mother's name: Freda Wald. It was difficult to earn livelihood from this store, which was mainly run by my mother. Father fulfilled the role of Minister of the Exterior, who made purchases from the wholesalers; whereas mother was the Minister of the Interior who sat in the store from morning until 10:00 p.m. During the cold winter days, she warmed herself up with a pot of burning coals, and took no afternoon rest. In the afternoon, Father occupied himself with communal matters, Zionism, the war against the assimilationists and their associates the Hassidim who ruled the community. He never missed the Shacharit, Mincha, or Maariv prayers.
He worshipped on Sabbaths in the Beis Midrash, and on festivals, particular on the High Holidays, he served as a prayer leader in the Progressive Society (Fort-Strits Farein). There, the assimilationists and progressive Jews came for Kol Nidre, Yizkor, and Unetane Tokef. Father served as the prayer leader, and enchanted the congregation with his sweet voice, spiced with compositions from the great cantors. At times, he permitted himself to include tunes of Meir Baer, Halevi, Bizet and Verdi in Hallel. I and my brother Meyer served as the choir who accompanied him on the High Holy Days.
After Maariv (the evening service), Father would visit the Chovevei Zion organization for discussion and reading. He dedicated the finest of his talents and his time to winning over the community to the Zionist idea. He would speak during meetings in the Beis Midrash and synagogue. Since he was gifted with a hearty sense of humor, he was a source of political influence in our city. Prior to elections to the city council, the community, and other organizations, Dr. W. Hochfeld and Dr. Samuel Reich, the heads of the community, would appear in the grocery store and engage him in conversations about communal matters. At times, he was invited to the mayor Dr. Jablonski or Dr. Krugolski for consultations. With them he spoke Congress German, for he did not know Polish, the vernacular of the country. My father wrote a political feuilliton in the Yiddishe Folkszeitung, a weekly that was edited by Naftali Glicksman, Abba Apfelbaum and my father. With irony, humor, and at times sarcasm, he would whip strongly at the assimilationists, and strike at their hearts. In the city, they repeated the strong, humorous statements of Father, which served as effective weapons for the warriors of Zionism. The assimilationists searched for means of neutralizing this weapon, and found such. Through the complaints of the assimilationists, Father was accused of sanitary transgressions by the Christian officials of the city council apparently in the store and at home. Finally the city engineer Krolikowski came and decided that the building endangered the security, and that it must be torn down. Of course, the building was not torn down, but Father softened his tone and changed his tactics.
When Grandmother Tema died, we expanded the dwelling. We got another room which we needed, for in the interim, a third son, Tovia was born, and later, the only girl Esther. Since I was an excellent student in the Gymnasium, the Christian teachers gave me lessons to teach, and the income was dedicated to the family. I had students in the afternoon, including Yechezkel the son of Rabbi Nathan Lewin. My brother Meir studied at first in the technical school in Krakow, however those studies did not catch his interest. He returned to our city and continued in the Gymnasium. Our pious mother opposed us studying in the Gymnasium, but when father promised her that I would continue in rabbinical school and Meir would study architecture in the Land of Israel, she stopped her opposition. We spoke Yiddish at home, and when we came to the Gymnasium for the first time, we were like mutes. However, we quickly mastered the Polish language, and exceeded the Christian students in knowledge.
Father influenced the masses even without a degree. They would come to him to seek advice, to look for assistance against strongmen and bureaucrats. He was a friend to those discriminated against and those suffering. Even the best of the doctors, such as Dr. Elsner, were persuaded to attend the houses of the poor without seeking payment, due to their great love for Father. In communal affairs and Zionist matters, he was involved with members of the intelligentsia and academia such as Dr. Felix Hopfen, Dr. Avraham Freilich the head of the council of lawyers, and Dr. Samuel Reich (who served as the head of the community for the duration of one term). This Dr. Freilich who came from Lvov was the only one from the intelligentsia of that time who spoke Yiddish and observed the commandments, and with whom the Orthodox community was satisfied. Father valued very much the political astuteness of Leopold Sternlicht, the jurist who left his profession and dedicated himself completely to Zionist publicity. He was greatly agonized when he moved to Lvov. From among Father's friends, we must especially note an outstanding personality, Leon Chaim (or Levi Chaim), the director of the bank of Elias Freilich. It is appropriate to dedicate a unique article to him. With the help of his friends and the power
of his speeches, Father contributed to the election of Rabbi Nathan Lewin as the rabbi of the city, who was running against Rabbi Yitzchak Steinberg, the candidate of the Hassidim. Father saw Rabbi Steinberg as a danger to Zionism. In his eyes, he was an opponent to the renaissance movement and a confederate of the assimilationists.
The congregation did not disperse after the Sabbath services in the Beis Midrash, for they wished to hear the trusted opinion of Father regarding the problems of the day. In the afternoon hours, a sort of circle formed around father near the statue of Kosciuszko in order to clarify the issues of society and culture.
I revered Father primarily because of his relations with people, and his good, merciful and kind heart. Here are a few examples:
The children made Aliya, but father did not succeed in making Aliya. He died at about the age of 50 on the 20th of Tammuz in the year 5683. Mother set out on the journey with my sister Esther in 1933, but she took ill along the way and died in Krakow. My sister reached Israel and started working in a hospital during the time of the Mandate government. She completed nursing school and worked as a nurse in a hospital for contagious diseases in Jaffa during the time of the disturbances of 1936. When her two friends Nechama and Martha were murdered by the Arab rioters, the murder affected her health, and she went to the United States for convalescence. Today, she works in the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Father was jealous of our friend Reb Naftali Glicksman, who sent his children to the Land with the Second Aliya. He was satisfied when his two sons made Aliya. The third one made Aliya after his death.
As he lay on his sickbed, Meshulam Davidson and Levi Chaim stood next to him. They told me that when he felt death approaching, Father asked that his skullcap be straightened on his head, and he breathed out his soul with Shma Yisrael.
My friend sent me the Nowy Dziennik newspaper that described the funeral. His funeral was attended by masses. Even though he carried no title, did not serve in any capacity, and did not sit at the head of any organization throughout his life, the mayor issued an order to cover the lanterns on the streets of the city with black cloth. Every year on the 20th of Tammuz, his Zionist friends would visit his grave and listen to the El Maleh Rachamim prayer with bowed heads.
The following lines are engraved on his gravestone in acrostic form with the acrostic of Chaim ben Yosef (Chaim the son of Yosef). They were written by Reb Abba Apfelbaum.
He lived a life of uprightness and righteousness
His days were dedicated to the service of the nation
He was an enthusiastic Jew of great wisdom
His deeds were just and faithful
In the midst of his work for the building of the Land
He was cut off, and he is no more, death came
The day that death overtook and cut off his life
All who knew him mourned for him.
Moshe Weisenfeld, whose name is remembered by those fortunate people who managed to escape from the Hitlerian inferno, was born in Rzeszow in 1893. He was a sickly child, and was only able to begin studying in cheder in his fifth year. However, he became known as someone with great talent already in his first year of study. He was already studying Gemara when he was seven years old. At times, he would ask difficult questions, to which his rebbe did not know the answer.
When he reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, he was already known in the city as a genius. When he was fourteen years old, he left the cheder and studied with the older lads in the kloiz. He moved over to Hassidism when he was fifteen years old, even though his family was a pious, non-Hassidic family. He joined the groups of youths who decided to delve into Kabbalistic studies. However, this only lasted for a brief period. Four years later, he became enthralled with the Haskalah. Immediately thereafter, he founded an organization called Hashachar. Many of the youths who frequented the Beis Midrash, but wished to free themselves from the yoke of Hassidism and to study secular studies, joined this organization.
Along with his beloved friend Meir Ellenbogen, the son of the rabbinical judge of Rzeszow and the grandson of the rabbi of Satjanow, he professed national Zionism and founded the first Zionist youth organization in Rzeszow. Moshe was a good speaker, and was able to influence many Hassidic youths to join Zionism. However, this was not greatly appreciated. The fathers of the new Zionists attacked both of them, Moshe and his friend Meir Ellenbogen. Even my father of blessed memory shook worlds. My grandfather, an enthusiastic Sieniower Hassid, threatened to rend his garments over him. The Hassidim accused him of leading their children astray to Christianity. When he continued to come to the Kloiz on occasion, the lads would keep a distance of four cubits away from him. However, these types of relationships only served to strengthen his stubbornness. At this point, he devoted himself more strongly to his studies secretly of course. He did not pass over any book that was known as unkosher and unfit, and in this matter, within a brief period, he absorbed a great deal of knowledge. Along with Dr. Yirmiyahu Frankel of Jaslow, he founded a Hebrew publication called Hashachar in 1908. This was a fine publication, rich in content, but dedicated primarily to the youth. This periodical did not meet with great success, and only a few issues appeared.
Then, Moshe dedicated himself entirely to writing, at first in Yiddish, and later in Hebrew, German and Polish, a language that he knew thoroughly. His first article in Yiddish was published in the Der Yid weekly that was published in Krakow by Dr. Efraim Fishel Wasicz. Later, he participated in the Hamitzpeh Hebrew weekly, that was also published in Krakow. He also participated in the Neie Zeitung of Dr. Nathan Birenbaum in Vienna and the Zelbsvehr Zionist periodical that was published in Prague. Still later, he participated regularly in the Zionist Tagblatt of Lvov.
When the first Yiddish weekly was founded in Rzeszow, called Neie Folks Zeitung, he served as vice editor. At that time, he participated in many other newspapers in Yiddish, Hebrew, German and Polish. For a long time, he was the Galician correspondent of the large Yiddish newspaper Der Morgan Journal of New York.
Moshe got married in 1909. Since at that time journalism brought its practitioners great honor but scanty livelihood, he became a partner in a small bank in Krosno, and lived there for several years. The business of the bank was not especially successful, and Moshe accepted the invitation to become the chief director of the Jewish National Fund in Western Galicia. At that time, he was already the father of two children. He moved to Krakow and there he occupied that position for 20 years. He often traveled to various cities and towns, where he preached Zionism. His influence was especially great among the circles of youth.
I recall when the final Zionist Congress took place in Zurich in 1933, before Hitler seized the reins of power in Germany. One of the delegates from America was Dr. Abba Hillel Silver of Cleveland. I was a close friend of Dr. Silver for many years, and when he returned from the congress, he brought me regards from my brother Moshe, whom he got to know during his time in Zurich. Dr. Abba Hillel Silver advised me to bring my brother to America, where he would be able to teach Hebrew, and he was willing to finance the effort.
It is self-evident that I took pride in this advice, and I hoped that it would be actualized. However, due to the events in Europe, my hope was not realized. Dr. Silver was sorry about this, and he reminded me of the matter of my brother until before the outbreak of the Second World War. This is one of the rare people of an uncommonly precious spirit that I have ever met, he said. Exceptional events like these are not forgotten.
This Moshe Weisenfeld, who served his nation with all of his energies already from his early youth, is no longer with us. He was murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name along with his beloved wife and three children by the bloody hands of the sons of philosophers and poets of Germany, may their names be blotted out! He fell victim to the Nazi inferno that was ignited in Europe, that wiped out a third of our people.
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