« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 96]

Personalities and Events

 

by Shlomo Yahalomi

In this section of “Personalities and Events” we will write about known personalities in Strzyzow and the occurrence of events which, in our opinion, should be perpetuated in this book. I will write about interesting characters, some from the previous generations and some from the last generation. About people who were G–d fearing, Talmudic scholars and some plain, good Jews, humble in their behaviour, doing day after day good deeds without fanfare and also about a few exceptional people.

I will write about small and big happenings that I heard from the mouths of the elderly in our shtetl or that I personally witnessed.

I will begin from the earlier times and later about the Holocaust generation. The stories which I selected were chosen objectively without any prejudice to other stories about which I did not write. I will write about the ones which are most familiar to me and please forgive me for those I have omitted. It was not intended to discriminate.

 


About the old Strzyzow
A Royal visit at Reb Aaron Kanner the First

by Itzhok Berglass

I heard this story from Elazar Wurtzel and he heard it from Rabbi Moshe Leib Shapiro, the rabbi of Sassov–Strzyzow who heard it told by the famous rabbi from Sandz, Rabbi Chaim Halberstam.

Rabbi Naphtali from Mielec was the son–in–law of the rabbi from Sandz. When his wife died, somebody suggested he marry the daughter of Avishal Kanner who lived in Strzyzow. But, Rabbi Naphtali hesitated because he was afraid that such a marriage may offend his former father–in–law as the suggested bride was not from a rabbinical family. So he decided to ask his former father–in–law, Reb Chaim, if he objected. When the rabbi from Sandz heard the name of Avishal Kanner, he agreed right away saying: “I am very happy that we are going to be related with the Kanner family”.

And the rabbi from Sandz told a story that happened between him and Reb Aaron Kanner, the father of Avishal.

The grandson of the famous rabbi from Lezajsk was very poor and also shy and no matter how much his friends urged him to ask for help from his grandfather's admirers, he refused. When things got worse and his family was starving, he finally agreed to visit a few cities to ask for support under the condition that the rabbi from Sandz and the rabbi from Kaminka would travel with him for moral support. On the way, the rabbis told rabbi Naphtali that they would pretend to be his attendants and that he should act as a rabbi. They visited a few cities with little success. Then, one Friday, finding themselves near Strzyzow, they decided to spend the Sabbath in Strzyzow. On the way and walking in the direction of Strzyzow, they met Reb Aaron Kanner, the father of Avishal

[Page 97]

who was speeding in a carriage with a pair of fine horses. When Reb Aaron Kanner noticed the three men, he had the impression that they might be famous rabbis.

Reb Aaron Kanner stopped for a while to greet them with a loud “Shalom Aleichem” and then went to his carriage to continue his voyage. He drove a short distance when his carriage broke down. Reb Aaron immediately realized that this mishap had something to do with the recently–met rabbis whom he did not offer a ride. He approached them, turned to Rabbi Naphtali, the grandson of the rabbi from Lezajsk and apologized, explaining that he was in a hurry to reach a sick Count in a nearby village who owed him money and he was afraid that the Count might die before he reached him. Rabbi Naphtali responded by pointing his finger toward the rabbi from Sandz and the rabbi from Kaminka saying: “I am innocent; it is they who did it to punish you for being rude and not offering us a ride”. The rabbis accepted the apology and told Reb Aaron to continue to his destination and collect the money. Reb Aaron Kanner then told them that upon their arrival in Strzyzow, they were to go directly to his house because he wanted them to be his guests for the Sabbath. They accepted the invitation and spent a very pleasant Sabbath. The whole town was very happy to have such important rabbis among them.

Saturday night, Reb Aaron Kanner asked the rabbis what was the reason for their travel? They explained the situation and the predicament rabbi Naphtali found himself in. That he was the grandson of the famous rabbi from Lezajsk.

The rabbi from Sandz also informed Reb Aaron Kanner that they were already a week in to their journey with little success and, if the second week would not improve, Reb Naphtali would return home empty–handed. Then Reb Aaron Kanner asked them how much they expected to collect. They told him that they hoped to collect five hundred guldens (at that time it was a sizeable sum). After Reb Aaron heard of their ambition, he suggested that he would give them the money on condition that they stay with him another week. Of course they happily agreed and every day was a holiday for the people in Strzyzow. At the end of the second week, Reb Aaron paid his pledge and the rabbis went home. That is how rabbi Chaim from Sandz told the story and added: “Of course, I would not dare to oppose such a match”. Years later, the grandchildren of the rabbi from Sandz married the grandchildren of Avishal Kanner. One of these great–grandchildren is Rabbi Avishal Kanner of Haifa, Israel.

I would also like to mention that the house where these rabbis stayed was where my parents, Reb Joseph and Dvora Diamand, of blessed memory, lived until their departure to the other world. This visit was called by the people in town, a Royal visit.


[Page 98]

Reb Joel Margalit, of blessed memory

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Joel Margalit was a wealthy man, an admirer of the Tzadik from Ropczyce. Once, he went to the rabbi for a Sabbath and, after the Sabbath was over, he went into the Beit Hamidrash to take farewell from the Hassidim who dwelt there and to give each Hassid a donation. When he ran into Reb Hersh, a fiery Hassid, he refused to take the donation and demanded from Reb Joel fifty guldens saying: “I have a one and only daughter and the time has arrived for her to get married but I do not have a dowry for her”. Reb Joel was very agitated and angrily took back the donation he had wanted to give in the first place. When Reb Joel went in to see the rabbi from Ropczyce, he complained of the “hutzpa” of Reb Hersh who sometimes served as the attendant of the rabbi. The rabbi listened to the complaint and said, wondering: “Is that so? He demanded the sum of fifty guldens?” That is what he had asked, responded Reb Joel. Then Rabbi Naphtali from Ropczyce said: “If that is the case, who knows, maybe you should have bargained with him. Perhaps he would have agreed to take less. Go back and, if you do not succeed, you may be forced to pay him the amount he asked from you”. If Rabbi Naphtali asks, who would challenge the rabbi's wish? Reb Joel went back to Reb Hersh and bargained with him, pleading and threatening him but to no avail. The man did not budge. Reb Joel went back to the rabbi and told him that he failed to persuade the Hassid Reb Hersh to take less than the fifty guldens. “Well”, the rabbi sighed, “Go back and pay him”. Reb Joel had no choice. He would not leave without bidding farewell to Rabbi Naphtali of Ropczyce, so he paid Reb Hersh the money.

Later, Reb Hersh, the servant, turned out to become one of the most righteous rabbis in Galicia. This was Rabbi Hersh from Rymanow. He blessed Reb Joel and his blessing came true and Reb Joel became even wealthier than before.


Reb Itzikl Diller makes a choice
between Sandz and Sadigora

by Shlomo Yahalomi

There was one exceptional person in Strzyzow during the time when Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro served in Strzyzow and this was Reb Itzikl Diller. He was a pupil of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro, the author of the book “Beni Yisochor” and the grandfather of Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro. Reb Itzikl was not just an ordinary Jew; he was a man of many attributes, a scholar, skilled in the mystical teachings and an enthusiastic Hassid. Notwithstanding the fact that he was Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech's pupil, and Rabbi Shlomo was his grandson, he opposed Rabbi Shlomo fiercely. There were many reasons for Itzikl's opposition which cannot be divulged. However, one of the main reasons was that Rabbi Shlomo was an admirer of the rabbi from Sandz who fought the rabbi from Sadigora and his Hassidim.

Reb Baruch Diller, Reb Itzikl's son, told me that his father used to travel intermittently – once to the rabbi from Sandz and once to the rabbi from Sadigora and when the dispute between the two rabbis broke out, Reb Itzikl decided to make his mind up once and for all, either to follow the rabbi from Sandz or the rabbi from Sadigora. As soon as he

[Page 99]

Went for a Sabbath to Sandz, he returned enthusiastically. He liked the rabbi's way of Hassidism. But, the following week when he went to see the rabbi from Sadigora, he saw a different world. There, everything was done quietly, without noise and without outwardly expression. He thought to himself: “In Sandz they serve G–d out of fear; in Sadigora they service him with love, and our sages prefer to serve G–d with love rather than out of fear”. And so he decided to follow the Rabbi from Sadigora.

Reb Itzikl's decision hurt Rabbi Shlomo very much and this was reflected in their relationship. Rabbi Shlomo could not forgive him because he knew that Reb Itzikl was his grandfather's pupil.

This is not the only story that I heard from Reb itzikl's son. Every time we talked about old times he used to say: “What do you know about those Hassidim and their ways?”


How Rabbi Chaim from Sandz gave
a thrashing to Reb Shlomo from Zyznow

by Shlomo Yahalomi

My grandfather, Reb Shlomo from Zyznow was a very rich man. He owned a lot of farmland and timberland. In his youth, he worked very hard and struggled to make ends meet. His life changed after he visited the famous Rabbi from Sandz. Here is the story as my father, may he rest in peace, told it to me.

Reb Eli Bilut who leased farmland from a big landowner in a nearby village called Lutcha, was on his way to Sandz to see the Rabbi. When he passed the village where my grandfather lived, he stopped and suggested to my grandfather to join him on his journey to Sandz. My grandfather happily accepted the proposition and they went together. When they arrived in Sandz they went to the Beit HaMidrash. Everybody was happy to see Reb Eli Bilut because he was known for his generosity. He always gave a big donation for the Beit HaMidrash dwellers and treated them with a bottle of vodka to drink L'chaim. Soon Reb Eli ordered a bottle to drink L'chaim for his safe arrival and it was not long before everyone was in high spirits. In fact, Reb Eli was a little bit drunk and my grandfather realized that he was in no condition to appear before the Rabbi for the traditional greeting.

Reb Eli ordered his driver to take him to the river for a dip in the cold water to sober up and to cool off because it was a hot summer day. As soon as they went into the water, and attendant of the Rabbi came running with a message from the Rabbi. The Rabbi wanted to see Reb Eli immediately because he wanted to go for a drive in Eli's coach.

Reb Eli was a husky man and it was not easy for him to scramble out of the water. My grandfather, who was much younger and faster, jumped out at once, grabbed the horse and carriage and left Reb Eli Bilut behind. The Rabbi did not ask about Reb Eli. He just climbed into the coach and went for the ride.

When the Rabbi returned home and went into the house, my grandfather followed him in without asking permission which was against the rules. Immediately, he asked the Rabbi of Sandz for a blessing, spilling out before him his bitter situation and how hard he was struggling to make a

[Page 100]

living. Rabbi Chaim from Sandz who walked with a limp and used a cane for support, grabbed his cane and began to hit my grandfather, yelling at him; “have you seen a hutzpa this young man has? It is not enough that he stole Rebi Eli's privilege to take me for a drive', but he also demands a reward, a blessing!” He kept hitting him and calling him names and in the end gave him his blessing.

You can imagine how happy my grandfather felt because it was a well–known fact that whoever was thrashed by the rabbi could rest assured that the rabbi's blessing would be upon him. Hassidim used to try very hard to make the rabbi angry. Of course, all his life, Reb Eli regretted inviting my grandfather to join him on this trip.

And from then on, my grandfather succeeded in all his endeavours and turned out to be a very rich man.


Rabbi Alter Zev Horowitz

by Shlomo Yahalomi

In the days when Rabbi Alter Zev Horowitz occupied the rabbinical chair in Strzyzow, people were not too generous to bestow unearned titles. When someone was called Rabbi, genius or righteous man, it had to be well–deserved. Therefore, I would like to tell something about our rabbi, Reb Alter Zev who was a man of G–d, righteous, honest and holy during his entire life.

Reb Shalom Schwartzman told me that once, when Rabbi Alter Zev was in Belz to visit the famous rabbi, the rabbi from Belz saw him passing by his window and he called his son asking him: “Would you like to see a truly G–d fearing man? If you do, look out the window”. Rabbi Alter Zev was only nineteen years old then and Reb Shalom added: “Now you know who our rabbi is!”

The rabbi from Sieniawa once said that Rabbi Alter Zev could have been one of the biggest rabbis in Galicia, and could have had a big Hassidic following. However, his humbleness prevented it.

In his childhood, he perplexed many with his behaviour and the following story will tell you how devoted he was in observing every rule and custom, be it large or small. Rabbi Alter Zev's father once became very upset when his son Alter Zev was only thirteen years old. It was on Purim when his father read the Megillah and Reb Alter Zev was not sure that he had absorbed every word as is required. So he asked his friend Hersh Ber to stay with him the Beit HaMidrash to read the Megillah again. Being afraid that somebody would disturb them, they barricaded the door with tables.

When Rabbi Alter Zev's father saw that his youngest son had not yet returned home after a day of fasting (the day before Purim is the fast of Esther), he went to look for him. The first place he went was the Beit HaMidrash. When he found the door locked he began to knock. Not knowing who was knocking, Her Ber told Alter Zev's father: “Go and knock your head against the wall”. The father became angry and demanded the door be opened immediately. Soon, Hersh Ber realized that this was the voice of Rabbi Alter Zev's father and removed the tables from the door then hurriedly jumped out of the window. Reb Alter Zev did

[Page 101]

not pay attention to what was happening around him. He continued the reading of the Megillah. The father angrily slapped his son's face, an act he regretted in later years.

The following year, Reb Alter Zev got smarter. He went home first to participate in the Purim meal and later secluded himself and read the Megillah a second time to make sure that he did not miss a word. When Rabbi Alter Zev became Bar Mitzva, he made a vow never to laugh in his life thus fulfilling the command of our sages that people should always be sombre. He never laughed thereafter!

When Rabbi Alter Zev was elected as the rabbi of Strzyzow, he was not even twenty years old. He was a good–looking man, especially when he matured and his beard turned the colour of salt and pepper. He had an angelic face. Even the gentiles admired this aristocratic figure. He had a very sweet voice and rumours were that in his youth, he composed a melody to the lyrics of a Sabbath song. It was well–known that all members of the Ropczyce Rabbinical Dynasty were blessed with musical talents.

Rabbi Alter Zev sang and led the prayers and was upset when his helpers sang off–tune. His prayers were always prolonged but people did not mind. It was a pleasure to listen to his chanting. He was truly G–d's servant and he studied the Torah day and night. His daily prayers lasted until later afternoon. He was very charitable and sometimes gave away his last penny. The Rebitzin knew better than anybody else what a righteous man he was and, therefore, she watched him closely since he was the apple of her eyes. She always put money in his pocket so he would not be embarrassed if somebody asked him for alms.

On more than one occasion and on a Friday, after his wife lit the candles, he declared that he was not going to shul because he pledged his Shtreime for charity. Since he was short in change to put in the charity boxes, he placed his shtreimel near the boxes as a pledge. In those days there were many charity boxes in every Jewish home and every Friday, before candle–lighting, people donated small change into the boxes. Rabbi Alter Zev's wife had to go to her neighbours to borrow money to put in the boxes so that the Rabbi would be able to go to shul. Meanwhile, the congregation were waiting for him, and grumbling that the Rabbi was burdening them unnecessarily.

And if all year–round he was so absorbed in serving G–d, imagine how he was on holidays. Let us begin first with Passover: They used to tell about the rabbi from Ropczyce that his soul was obsessed with the mitzva of Sukkoth because, all year round, he either talked about the Sukkah or did something for the Sukkah. His grandson, Rabbi Alter Zev was obsessed with Passover, especially with the importance of having kosher matzos.

Rabbi Alter Zev went to the field in person to oversee the harvesting of wheat. He then stored the wheat in an especially dry place to prevent any moisture from getting on to the wheat. He stood by when the wheat was ground with grinding stones and the matzos that he ate were the ones he baked on Erev Pesach, the day before the Seder night. To the baking of the matzos, the rabbi invited almost the entire town. Everyone was anxious to

[Page 102]

help in such a holy endeavour. During the baking of the matzos, the people sang and recited Psalms with the traditional melodies from Ropczyce. When the baking ended, everybody was rewarded with three matzos for the first Seder night. People carried these matzos home with pride. Rabbi Alter Zev also invited the young men who had participated in baking the matzos to be his guests for the second Seder night and many accepted his invitation.

Who could forget a Seder with Reb Alter Zev? There was no electricity in Strzyzow but when the rabbi sat at the head of the table surrounded by his family and guests, a brightness of light shone upon us all. It seemed like the angels from heaven provided a special heavenly light. His white gown had a special whiteness and the rabbi himself, with his majestic face, expressed only holiness. When he began reciting the Haggadah, silence fell upon the room. No one wanted to miss a word while he chanted the Haggadah. They used to say that if people knew how the rabbi conducted a Seder, everyone would leave his house and would come to the rabbi's Seder. The rabbi always added some interesting anecdotes about how his ancestors and other famous rabbis celebrated their Seder nights. Even in the way he ate was worth watching. He ate with a certain devotion and reverence, not just to fill his stomach. The rabbi used to tell jokes that had been told by his grandfather, the famous Rabbi Naphtali from Ropczyce who was known as an amusing man.

And how was Rabbi Alter Zev on the High Holidays? I don't know if anybody is able to describe Rabbi Alter Zev during the Silent Prayer on Rosh Hashanah when tears, the size of pearls, rolled down his face or, for that matter, his dancing on Simchat Torah during the Hakafot. I will never forget the Rabbi's last Rosh Hashanah when he was unable to walk and was carried to shul on a chair. Still he led the Mussaf prayers and when he reached the prayer: “Unesanei Tokef”, the verse where it says who shall live and who shall die, we realized that he knew that his end was near.

Like all other Jews, his family had its share in the Holocaust. His sons and daughters and their families all perished. Only a few of his family survived and they continue to serve G–d. Some live in the United States and some in Israel.


[Page 103]

Rabbi Nechemiah Shapiro

by Shlomo Yahalomi

“Out of the depths I called to Thee”
(Psalms, Ch.130, ver.1)

Attributes which are listed by the sages in the Talmud such as: good looks, cleverness, stature and wisdom were all possessed by Rabbi Nechemiah. Even now I still see him standing right in front of me, upright and with a lively expression on his face. He had sparkling eyes through which you could see his purity and good–heartedness. All the Shapiros, going back to the founder of the Shapiro Dynasty – Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro, were blessed with all the above–mentioned merits. Rabbi Nechemiah was a very humble man. Although he was well–known as a Torah scholar, he never seemed to be arrogant about it or boastful. On the contrary, many times during conversations with me, he told me that he wished that he had been born into a poor family and was a simple Jew rather than to be from a Rabbinical Dynasty. He explained it by saying that G–d does not ask much from simple and uneducated Jews as long as they serve G–d the way they know. But, from Rabbi Nechemiah, G–d expected more and more all the time. He used to recall how the rabbi from Ropczyzce always asked: “What is the difference between a simple uneducated Jew and a rabbi of his stature?” And he answered that a simple man gets up in the morning, says his prayers, does a few good deeds and thinks that he did G–d's will the best he could. I, a rabbi of the stature of Rabbi Naphtali from Ropczyce, no matter how much I try to fulfil G–d's will and study Torah day and night, still feel that it is not enough. Nevertheless, Rabbi Nechemiah did overcome his “tragedy” and was not an embarrassment to his forefathers. Rabbi Nechemiah inherited from his grandfather, the Rabbi from Sassov, the love for his fellow man and Jew. He loved everybody, friend or foe. He literally embraced them, patted their backs, gave encouragement and strengthened their belief that G–d the Almighty had not forsaken them. Was it any wonder that the simple folk, tradesmen, hard–working people loved him so much? These people were ready to sacrifice their lives for their rabbi if, Heaven forbid, somebody would show any disrespect to the rabbi. He called them G–d's people. Come and see the remnants of these simple Jews who are in Israel now, some of whom, to my sorrow, left their parent's ways. Come and see how their souls simply go out at the mention of the revered name “Rabbi Nechemiale” as he was called in endearment.

From this maternal grandfather, the rabbi from Sandz, he inherited devotion to G–d and obedience of the laws of Moses down to the smallest command. He did not inherit the rabbi's extremism. Notwithstanding all the above attributions, Rabbi Nechemiah was unlucky his entire life. He was never rich and whatever he had, he gave away. In spite of the Sandz–Sadigora dispute, he preserved the friendship of Sadigora offspring. When he lived in Vienna, he had friendly relationship with the rabbi's,

[Page 104]

grandchildren who also lived in Vienna. He did not follow their way of Hassidism – it did not go that far. He followed his own ancestor's traditions especially that of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech. The reason for this adherence was not only because he was the fifth generation of the Shapiro Dynasty but out of his conviction that this was the right way to serve G–d. Rabbi Nechemiah was the son–in–law of Rabbi Yeshayahu Hertz from Dynow who was a grandson of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech.

Rabbi Nechemiah's father established his own Hassidic customs and did not follow his father's footsteps and neither did Rabbi Nechemiah follow his father's customs. When Rabbi Nechemiah was asked why not? He responded that he was doing exactly as his father did. His mother was not pleased but she could not change his mind.

Rabbi Nechemiah had his staunchest admirers in Strzyzow. They were the Hassidim of the Rabbi from Munkatch: Reb Elazar Wurtzel, Reb Chaim Yacov Nuremberg and Reb Chaim Mandel. They supported him out of allegiance to the rabbi of Munkatch who was his cousin and they had a very close relationship.

Not only did these fiery Hassidim stand by Rabbi Nechemiah but also simple folks supported him, especially in his dispute over the rabbinic seat.

Rabbi Nechemiah! Where are you now? I wish you could see us now, remnants of your congregation. Now we would like to hear you chanting the Sabbath afternoon prayer – the “Vaani Tefilati” with your strong voice. How sweet it sounded. I remember one Sabbath afternoon before the Shavuot holiday. You, Rabbi, had not felt so well. The people asked you to relax and not to lead the prayers but you refused. Later, you began to recite the “Vaani Tefilati” (which means: “I pray before you, O G–d”). It is time to help your folk in Israel and you also added in Yiddish your own words: “Derbarimdiger G–d, derbarim zich shoin” (which means: “O merciful G–d, have mercy and respond to our prayers”). Suddenly, a shriek was heard in the kloyz. This was the retarded epileptic, Eliezer Mussler. He fell to the floor and fainted. People whispered that you tried to help this unfortunate boy with your prayers.

When the High Holidays approached, especially at the first day of Slichot which begins one week before Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Nechemiah in his prayers demanded mercy for his flock. He always chanted and led the prayers himself with a sweet melodic voice. The kloyz was packed and Rabbi Nechemiah began the prayers mixing in Yiddish words such as “Oy tate, heiliker tate”. (“Father, holy Father, please listen to your flock's prayers and respond positively”. There was such a silence in the kloyz that a fly could be heard. Rabbi Nechemiah, perspiring and his face pale, prayed with such an ecstasy that his body and soul were in it. The Rabbi always blew the shofar. He was a very skilled man in many fields; mohel, architect and writer. Nowhere can you hear, nowadays, chanting like those that Rabbi Nechemiah chanted on the High Holidays. The young generation does not comprehend how Jews prayed before the Holocaust.

When the war began, Rabbi Nechemiah wondered aloud and asked by the Almighty could not leave the Jews alone. Rabbi Nechemiah did not lament only on the trouble which had befallen the Jews but also spoke

[Page 105]

about all of mankind. At the beginning of the war, he tried to cheer up the people as much as he could. He, the sickly man who in normal times endured several diseases, suddenly gained strength to help his flock in these troubled times. He tried to strengthen the broken–hearted of his community. He mobilized his entire energy to convince people that Hitler's downfall was imminent. He told them stories about similar situations in the past when somehow the Jews survived and help had come unexpectedly.

However, Rabbi Nechemiah himself was not very optimistic. He confided to a few close friends that he foresaw tragedy of large dimensions to the people of Israel. He tried to prevent panic. Apparently, it was decided in heaven to help him ease the suffering of his community a little bit.

One day during the Nazi occupation of Strzyzow, a few Nazi came into his house. They began to terrorize the rabbi but the rabbi did not demonstrate any fear. In a loud voice and in perfect German which he knew because he had resided in Vienna, he asked them if they were able to converse in a civilized way. Surely, if such a question would have been put to the Germans by a simple man, the response would have been a bullet in his body! However, Rabbi Nechemiah was tall, husky and handsome. His attitude startled the Nazi and caught them off–balance. They did not harm him. They just left the house silently. After they had left, the Rabbi thanked G–d that he had escaped a tragedy. But this was not the end of the story. When the commanding officer of the Nazi heard about the Rabbi's knowledge of the German language, he ordered the rabbi to report to his office. It is not hard to imagine how the rabbi must have felt hearing of such an invitation. He decided that he would not deny what he had said to the soldiers in his house. He would say exactly what had happened and that all he had asked was for a civilized behaviour.

When the rabbi came to the office, he noticed that the commanding officer was a middle–aged man with a gentle expression on his face. Indeed, the thought that there were good and bad Nazi was far from his mind, but the looks of the officer encouraged him. “Are you Herr Rabiner Shapiro?” When the rabbi responded positively, they developed a conversation in a Viennese accent. The officer told the rabbi that he was also from Vienna. They ended the conversation in an almost friendly atmosphere. The officer never mentioned the incident with his soldiers. When the rabbi left, the officer told him to let him know if he had any problems. Everybody wondered what had caused the officer to behave in the way that he had. Many thought that maybe he knew the rabbi from Vienna.

The rabbi spent sleepless nights thinking on whether he should develop a friendship with the officer and use him to extort favours for the Jews. He was not sure if it was proper for a Jew, especially a rabbi, to have anything to do with a Nazi. He also wondered what the non–Jewish neighbours would say. HE feared that they would call him a traitor. But his love for his flock convinced him to do everything possible to make life a little easier for the Jews in Strzyzow. For a

[Page 106]

whole year and as long as the commandant was stationed in Strzyzow, Rabbi Nechemiah succeeded in calling off a few decrees which the local Polish Jew–haters tried to instigate against the Jews.

When I was on my way to escaping the Nazi, I stopped in Strzyzow (by that time I was living in another shtetl) and I went to see the rabbi. He was sitting in his room surrounded by a few of his friends and admirers. All of them had sad expressions on their faces, knowing that heavy clouds were hanging over the Jews. Someone asked the rabbi a question: “Is it true that this was the last stage of suffering for the Jews before the Messiah's coming?” The rabbi asked the man: “Why do you think so?” And the man responded innocently: “If it is not for the Messiah, why is G–d tormenting us? Is it perhaps for the sins that we have sinned?” Rabbi Nechemiah got up from his chair and started pacing across the room, back and forth. His face turned pale and he suddenly raised his voice in anger and stated emphatically: “No! No! No such talk in my presence. You do not mean to tell me that we are supposed to justify the Almighty's treatment of his children”. He sat down and after a while he started to tell the following story: Once a woman came to Rabbi Moshe Leib from Sassov and complained bitterly that her children kept dying one after the other. In her complaint, she said that G–d was not fair to her. The Rabbi's wife, overhearing the woman, scolded her and told her that G–d knows what he is doing and that she should not behave this way. Rabbi Moshe Leib turned to the woman and said: “Dear woman, you are right and your complaints are justified. I will pray for you and I promise you that the next child you will bear, G–d will help you and you will live to see him or her under the wedding canopy”. When the rabbi finished the story, everybody understood that the moral of the story was that there may be a time when the children of Israel felt that G–d's treatment was not too merciful.

When I left the rabbi, he told me: “My child, you know the prayer and the meaning of the words – “out of the depths I called to thee”. And the rabbi began to cry. He then said: “Nobody is able to help us now, only G–d Almighty. The Jewish people are now in deep trouble but let us hope that G–d will eventually have mercy on us”.


The Assistant Rabbi Yacov Shpalter

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Rabbi Yacov Shpalter was born in Illitch, a very small town in Galicia. He came to Strzyzow after the previous assistant rabbi, Reb Alter Ezra Seidman passed away.

Rabbi Yacov Shpalter was an interesting personality. He was very sharp and well–educated in all response books concerning Jewish religious code and strictures. He was also well–versed in many other holy books. Several times he had harsh disputes with Rabbi Nechemiah Shapiro and other rabbinical authorities. But, Rabbi Yacov Shpalter never gave up in his discussions. He was very persistent and loved to discuss. Most of the time, he found a source or precedent in the books to prove that he was right to rule the way he did.

When the Kehillah refurbished the mikva in Strzyzow, under the supervision of the assistant rabbi, everything was done the way Rabbi Yacov

[Page 107]

Shpalter wanted and he ruled that the mikva was kosher. However, when Rabbi Nechemiah came to inspect it, he ruled that the mikva was not kosher.

According to Jewish law, if a rabbi rules or makes a certain decision, a party concerned is not permitted to turn to another rabbi for a second opinion and another rabbi is not permitted to rule otherwise. Once Rabbi Nechemiah forbade something and notwithstanding this decision, Rabbi Yacov Shpalter ruled differently. Rabbi Nechemiah was very angry and upset and he turned to a few famous rabbis and Torah scholars for support in his criticism of Rabbi Yacov Shpalter. However, Rabbi Yacov also recruited a few scholars whom he convinced with his arguments that his viewpoint was also correct.

This dispute was never solved because many rabbis disliked such disputes and hated to be dragged into such arguments. Rabbi Yacov never felt insulted by his opponents. On the contrary, he used to joke about it and laughed about them.

He knew all the tricks and manoeuvres in the business world and when he was asked to arbitrate a dispute between two businessmen, he was well qualified to make the right decision. Rabbi Yacov lived in our house and many times had asked me to be present during litigation or to look up a precedent in a similar case in order to make the right judgment.

It was a well–known fact, in those days, that Jews avoided bringing their problems to a gentile court and, therefore, they always brought their disputes before a rabbinical judge. It is impossible for me to re–tell all the stories or jokes that I had a chance to hear from Rabbi Yacov Shpalter. To our sorrow, he and his family including his grandchildren all perished in the Holocaust. Only one grandson, Reb Ephraim Shpalter, survived and now lives in Israel.


Memories from Strzyzow

by Itzhok Deutch

This story was told to me by Reb Shalom Schwartzman when I went to see him in Jerusalem after my arrival in Israel. He told me that he saw this story recorded in the chronicle of the Kehillah before the great fire of 1895 destroyed the chronicle and other old documents.

It happened when Rabbi Mendele from Rymanow was very old. When he was ill, Rabbi Naphtali from Ropczyce went to see him. There was no train in those day so the rabbi travelled by horse and buggy. The road led through Strzyzow where Rabbi Naphtali arrived at dawn. He prayed in shul and rested for a few hours.

At noon, Rabbi Naphtali resumed his journey and was escorted out of town by many Hassidim. When they reached the village of Dobrzechow, the horses refused to continue and they remained standing in the middle of the road. Everyone was astonished and looked at the Rabbi.

Rabbi Naphtali became immersed in his thoughts and it seemed as if he was trying to remember something. He then said to the crowd: “I am supposed to convey greetings here to a great Tzadik. Please lead me to him”.

The Hassidim were astounded and began to tremble because they all

[Page 108]

knew that there were no Jews in Dobrzechow. The Hassidim did not know what to tell the rabbi and where to lead him.

Finally, somebody remembered that on a side–road that led to the village of Wysoka, there was a little house where a poor and simple Jew lived. This Jew was called the “Psalm Jew” and they took the rabbi there.

When Rabbi Naphtali stepped in through the door, the Psalm Jew rose and said loudly: “Welcome Rabbi Tarphon”

Later, Rabbi Naphtali continued on his journey to Rymanow. However, in Strzyzow, this incident made a deep impression. The fact that there lived a hidden righteous among them and that nobody knew it could not be ignored. The shtetl was in uproar. The sick ran to Dobrzechow to seek healing. People came from near and far, handing him notes about all kinds of problems. But the Psalm Jew refused to see anybody or to accept notes (Quitlach) insisting that he was a simple man and not a rabbi. The people did not relent. They demanded to know what the meaning of the greeting was: “Welcome Rabbi Tarphone”. So he declared to them that in the previous incarnation, many generations ago, Rabbi Naphtali was the Tanai Rabbi Tarphon.

In his old age the Psalm Jew moved into the city. He did not become a rabbi but he did lead Torah discourses. That is how he spent the last days of his life and he was considered holy by the people of the town.


A Miracle

by Itzhok Deutch

It was known in Strzyzow that many members of the local rich family, the Patryns, were friends of the rabbi from Sassov. One of them, Jan Patryn who was called “the ox driver” because he ploughed his field with oxen, was an admirer of the Shapiros. Not once did I see him unloading produce from his fields at Rabbi Nechemiah Shapiro's house.

Curious about the beginning of this friendship, I once asked Jan Patryn about it.

“Yes”, said Mr. Patryn. “I owe the Shapiros a lot. I owe them my life. Their holy grandmother saved me from a sure death”.

“How was it possible?” I asked, wondering. “Their grandmother was already dead for many years”. “Listen to this wonderful story and you will wonder no more”. And Mr. Patryn began to tell his story.

It was in 1914. The Russians had just occupied Strzyzow. There were rumours circulating that the Russians were committing cruelties to the civilian population and everyone sat in their locked homes and were afraid to walk in the streets. We already heard that they had stabbed a leather merchant by the name of Mandel in the nearby town of Czudec. The stores in town had been robbed of all merchandize and we thought that now they would start to rob the houses.

About a week after the occupation began when I and my family were sitting in the house depressed, we heard a knock on the door. We all remained silent and, at first, we did not open the door. However, the knocking became stronger and we were forced to open the door.

Two Russian soldiers appeared at the door and immediately began to look around for something to take. Apparently, they did not like my

[Page 109]

poor belongings but they soon noticed the boots which I was wearing. “Give me your boots and we will not take anything else”, they said.

The boots were made from good black leather and I had no desire to part with them. I knew I could not afford to buy another pair. There was already a shortage in everything especially footwear for the winter. Afraid of being robbed, I had stashed away some money but not enough to replace such a pair of boots.

I decided I was not giving up my boots. “Take whatever you want”, I said “but not my boots. The winter is approaching and they are the only ones I have. I cannot walk around barefoot in the winter”.

One of the soldiers withdrew his sword from its sheath, raised it over me and said: “Take off the boots or I will kill you”.

Both soldiers grabbed and tried to pull the boots off my feet. I fought them with all my power and, during the struggle, I grabbed the sword and broke it in two.

The two soldiers became confused and I took advantage of the situation and ran out of the house. However, I did not know where to run to in order to escape the attackers. I felt that they were chasing after me and were getting closer. I was sure that if they caught me, it would be my end.

My inner instincts told me to run into the Jewish cemetery which was not far from my house. I ran between the gravestones and noticed a big double gravestone which consisted of three parts: one large flat stone which lay on the ground and a steel bar which connected the head stone with the stone at the foot. An inner voice told me: “here is the place to hide”. It seemed to me that I heard a voice from the grave: “Yashek, stay here”.

When I stood at this grave I saw the two Russians coming after me. I swiftly threw myself on the ground along the stone and laid there drenched with sweat. I saw the Russians and heard their steps. Nonetheless, even though they were so near to me, they did not see me. After they had searched the entire cemetery and failed to find me, they left. Only then did I breathe with relief. I rose and thoughtfully looked at the grave. I understood that there probably was a holy person buried here and who had saved my life and I was overpowered with a feeling of reverence. I solemnly bowed my head to the grave. But who was this holy person who had performed a miracle? I did not rest but quickly went to town to find a Jew who could tell me whom this grave belonged to. The first man I encountered was Reb Zalman Brauner, the bookbinder.

“Come with me!” I said to him. “Read to me the inscription on that gravestone in the Jewish cemetery. You will render me a big favour”.

“What happened?” he said. “Why do you want to know and why are you so excited?”

“I will tell you all about it later. But first, let's go to the cemetery”. I went with Reb Zalman, pointed to that gravestone and asked him whose gravestone it was? “Oh, here lies the holy Rebetzin, of blessed memory, from Lancut, the Shapiros' grandmother”.

I remained a friend of the Shapiros forever. I also assembled me.

[Page 110]

Entire family to tell them this miraculous story and asked them to support the rabbinical family of the Shapiros because they were holy people.

I also told this story to my relative, Dr. Joseph Patryn and he was so impressed with it that he decided to withdraw his resignation from the mayoralty (from which he had earlier resigned) in order to be able to help the Jews during the hard and difficult times of the occupation.


A Jewish Heart
(The luck of the poor man)

by Itzhok Deutch

It is common knowledge that a rich person is lucky. But sometimes it also happens that a poor man gets lucky not to lose the last thing he owns.

Reb Leibush Hochdorf, Reb Reuven's Shapiro's son–in–law, owned a small store with yard goods located in the house of his father–in–law adjacent to the shul in Strzyzow. From this store, he barely made a living. Once, on a Wednesday morning after the Tuesday market day, Reb Leibush took all the money that came in yesterday, borrowed some more money from his neighbours and went to Rzeszow to buy new merchandize for his store. He hoped that buying for cash would have him pay a lower price and, therefore, would be able to sell easily.

After his arrival in Rzeszow, he immediately went to the wholesaler, Reb Shimon Fleisher, and announced to the salespeople that he had cash and wanted to buy cheap. He selected the merchandize for the entire sum that he had and was happy about the prices.

When the time came to pay, he became pale and horrified because he could not find the money that he had brought with him. He searched in every pocket of his clothes but alas, he had no money. It was gone! The salesman advised him to retrace his steps back to the railroad station where he might possibly have lost his money.

Leibush went back and searched the streets in vain. He could not find his money. He remained standing in the middle of the station in desperation and, out of great sorrow; tears came out of his eyes.

Accidentally, Reb Yacov Nathan Kanner, an important man in Rzeszow who knew Reb Leibush and his status, happened to be at the railroad station. “What happened? Why are you crying?” asked Reb Yacov. “Some kind of misfortune?” Leibush burst out sobbing and told him about the money he had lost. Not only his money but money that did not belong to him. And now, how could he buy merchandize in order to be able to repay the money he had borrowed?

“Do not despair, the Almighty will help and you will find your money”, said Reb Yacov. Thinking for a while, he continued. “How much money was there? Do you remember the denominations? Where did you keep it? And how was it wrapped?” Reb Leibush told him: “Four hundred zlotys in ten zloty bills wrapped in a newspaper and tied with a string”.

“Calm down. I will go into the street and inquire of the local Jews. Maybe someone has found it?” Reb Yacov Kanner, the noble and charitable Jew, speedily went among his rich acquaintances and

[Page 111]

collected four hundred zlotys in ten zloty bills, wrapped it in a newspaper, tied it with a string and, with a radiant face, quickly brought the money to Reb Leibush Hochdorf who sat with a trembling heart in the waiting room of the station.

Leibush, bewildered with joy, thanked Reb Yacov several times and wished him success and long life. With great joy he ran back to the wholesale place of the Fleisher firm, showed the just–found package of money and told about the miracle that Reb Yacov Kanner had brought the found money. The face of the salesman who had waited on Hochdorf before and had heard the story, became white as chalk because he knew very well that nobody had found the money. He himself had stolen it when Hochdorf absent–mindedly had put the money on the table. The salesman realized what the noble Reb Yacov Kanner had done. He was very touched and a feeling of remorse arose in his heart. He could stand it no longer. He pulled the money out of his pocket and returned it to Reb Leibush.


Hanukkah in Shtetl

by Harry Langsam

Can someone imagine the joy of us children when Hanukkah was approaching? The joy was overwhelming for many reasons. First of all, we were free from studying in the evening because soon after services, the lighting of the candles was required. Afterwards, we were supposed to gaze at the burning candles and sing songs for at least half an hour. Therefore, there was not much time left to return to the cheder.

The air was frosty outdoors and tiny, crisp snowflakes were falling from heaven. It was only the beginning of the brutal winter. The ovens in kloyz and in the Beit HaMidrash were warm and cosy and the regular occupants of the benches nearby sat there before the services and talked politics or reminisced about World War I, stories that had been told many times. It seemed that every winter, these same stories were re–told. How they evacuated to Bohemia and Hungary and how some escaped from prisoner–of–war camps in Italy.

Of course, the rich had not need to sit around the ovens in the Beit HaMidrash because their homes were warm enough and, at Hanukkah time, they already enjoyed the taste of Passover food. Hanukkah was the time when housewives prepared schmaltz for Passover and the goose cracklings were devoured immediately.

When Hanukkah eve arrived and the Almighty was good to us children and sent us down the first pure white snow, it was for us the greatest happiness and exhilaration. Snowballs were thrown at the sextons while they were reciting the blessings during the candle lighting ceremony.

I have no idea how such a tradition of throwing snowballs at the sexton started. Maybe tens or hundreds of years ago. One thing we were sure of was that the sexton would have felt deprived if, Heaven forbid, nobody threw snowballs at them! No sexton would have relinquished the privilege of being hit with a snowball on his head. And, when snow was not available, a wet towel or a bucket of cold water, which someone dared to spill over them from the women's gallery, was also acceptable. In addition, the

[Page 112]

sexton was forced to stay under such an avalanche and still try to light the wet Hanukkah candles. In later years, the Rebetzin, of blessed memory, made sure that the gallery was closed thinking that what the sexton received downstairs in the sanctuary was enough without the additional bucket of water.

The festivities began an hour or so before the services while Reb Itzikl, the sexton, was busy preparing the big metal Hanukkah lamp, and putting in the candles. We, the youngsters, began to carry ammunition into the kloyz and storing them under the benches. Until this day, I cannot understand how these snowballs did not melt. When the services were over and the mourners finished saying Kaddish, Itzikl Dayches, the sexton, (Dayches was his wife's name by which he was called), was standing with a candle in his hand like a conductor with his stick ready to begin. He began with a drawn–out and festive voice: “Baaruch A–a–ta”. Son the children began yelling and screaming and the show began.

Hanukkah possessed many more pleasurable activities. For instance, attending the official City Rabbi's candle lighting ceremony or, as my father and I did, attending the ceremony at the home of Rabbi Nechemiah from Sassov. To be present when the rabbi lit the candles was a spiritual uplifting. Every night a few quorums gathered in the rabbi's house to hear him recite the blessings and light the candles in the beautiful silver menorah. Until the ceremony began, the Hassidim sat around and told Hassidic tales. The room was warm and cosy and a festive mood reigned everywhere.

Meanwhile, we, the children, were playing with the dreidel and many of us lost our “Hanukkah gelt”.

Soon, the rabbi was slowly putting on his Sabbath fur hat and his wide silk belt on his long silk coat. He poured oil into the bright and shining silver Hanukkah menorah while the Hassidim rose and began to sway back and forth, like a wave. The rabbi then recited the blessings with devotion and sang “Al Hanisim”.

The soul felt so good during the ceremony. It seemed to me that these little wicks that were burning in oil brought a ray of hope and told the people who gathered here in the rabbi's house that somewhere far away, there was a land which, a long time ago, belonged to us. Then the gentiles tried to expel us but a miracle occurred and we overcame them. Afterwards, a small vial of oil was found, surely not bigger than the vial that the rabbi used and that miraculously found vial of oil keeps bringing light for the Jews until this day.

The rabbi sang “Maoz Tzur” and asked Reb Moshe Yacov Mandel to sing “Mizmor Shir”. Reb Samuel Moshe Grosskopf sang “Or Haganuz”. Next, Reb Elazar Wurtzel began a Torah discourse with the participation of Reb David Wiener and the rest of the congregation.

On Hanukkah, it was also permitted to play cards. It was not a sin. On this account, gambling was taking place in several candy stores and it lasted longer than Hanukkah. The Hassidic young men played in private homes but only on Hanukkah and on Christmas Eve. The days of Hanukkah were over and were followed by harsh winter days but the pleasant experience of Hanukkah remained in our memory forever.


[Page 113]

Piquant stories from Strzyzow

by Heschel Diamand

Our shtetl was loved and dear to us all and we all deserve to be proud of the good deeds by the town in general and by many individuals in particular especially of our glorious past, including the great rabbis who served our community. The rabbis contributed to the glory and brightness of Strzyzow and they also made us well–known around the world. Nonetheless, there were some events that also brought shame and loss of respect. For instance, the rabbinical dispute caused many small disputes among the inhabitants. These disputes seem frivolous nowadays but at the time, they occasionally aggravated the whole town and not only resulted in hatred but also caused us to be laughed at by others. Now I would like to tell a few tragi–comical episodes from the last years before the horrible devastation.


An awful story about “Rev'EE”

by Heschel Diamand

Who amongst us does not know that there exist nice, medium and ugly aliyot (ascending to the bimah and Torah)? The third, sixth and maftir are the choice aliyot. One who is called before maftir is medium. The fifth person who was called to the Torah was neither the best nor down and out. In contrast, if you were the fourth calling, may G–d help you. If a revered citizen (and who did not consider himself revered?) was called to the Torah, “Rev'ee”, the fourth, it was considered an insult. The frivolous gang had a ball with such a person and they endlessly kidded him. “They could not find anybody else whom to give Rev'ee?” They kept pestering him and that caused strong resentment and arguments between the unfortunate victims and the trustee in shul, in kloyz and in Beit HaMidrash.

Well, one day, it happened during the time when the Rosen brothers, Yacov and Mendel, were trustees in the Beit HaMidrash. They decided to put an end to this ridiculous predicament. I was the leader of the Kehillah and they came to me to seek my support for their suggestion that from this Saturday onwards, “Rev'ee” would be given to the most prosperous and revered worshippers and that should put an end to the discriminatory feelings. The trustees proposed that I, the head of the Kehillah, should be the first to jump into the fire. Of course, I agreed and I was called the fourth person to the Torah reading. The town came to life and caused a tremendous uproar. And from then on, it became standard procedure. No more special privileges for the more affluent worshippers when called to the Torah. Logically, order should have returned. But not so! Yacov and Mendel Rosen, the trustees, declared that the rabbi too should get Rev'ee. At first I was reluctant to agree to their proposition. I later told them; “If the rabbi agrees, it would be fine with me”. The rabbi was traditionally called the sixth: “Shishi”, once a month. The rabbi was asked and he philosophically responded

[Page 114]

“I will keep getting my “Shishi” once a month and also Rev'ee whenever they will call me”. Understandably, such an event was historical for the town. However, the idyllic situation did not last long. A short time later, someone (out of reverence to the martyr of which I cannot reveal his name) complained to the Ministry of Religion in Warsaw that the rabbi was given an aliyah which was usually reserved for simpletons and such an act was demeaning and an outrage. It brought shame to the entire community. The district commissioner summoned the leader of the Kehillah to report to him for an explanation and he also called the rabbi for an inquiry. (The rabbi was innocent because it was done without his knowledge). The community leader took with him Reb Chaim Mandel – a Torah scholar who intended to prove to the commissioner that according to the rules of the Torah reading, Rev'ee is even better than Shishi. Before we went into the office of the commissioner, the rabbi begged me to do everything possible to avoid blasphemy. I suggested to the rabbi that he declare that Rev'ee is as good as the other aliyoth. The rabbi did as I told him and the explanation was forwarded to the Ministry in Warsaw…


How Reb Yosl, the sexton, had suddenly gone deaf

by Heschel Diamand

The trustees were not always capable of running the business. There were trustees who distributed aliyot to members of their clique. Once it happened that the trustees belonged to one party and the head of the community to another. Somebody decided to teach the trustees a lesson and arranged a deal with the sexton, Rob Yosl – a clever man who knew from where the wind blew – and saw that the majority was on the opposite side of the trustees. On a holiday eve, he agreed to accept a list of names of those that he should call to the Torah reading from the trustees' opponents and here is what happened: When the trustee told the sexton whom to call, he called someone else from the list. The trustees looked at each other and asked the sexton: “What happened?” But Reb Yosl played dumb and claimed he had not heard them correctly. At the next calling, the same thing happened. The trustee said: “Shlomo” and the sexton called: “Yacov”. Finally, the trustees understood what was going on and they capitulated.


Reb Baruch Berglass

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Medium height, his back bent forward, a long beard, deep penetrating eyes, slow and carless walk, this is the description of Reb Baruch Berglass. One of the most beloved men in town. In certain ways, he was one of a kind, a rare breed. The town elders used to say that in his youth, he was as sharp as a needle, brilliant, intelligent and knowledgeable in both Talmud and many holy books. At seventeen, he was a diligent student, studying from three in the morning to eleven o'clock at night. He was fascinated with figures and counted each line, letter and punctuation mark that he

[Page 115]

had studied. He also had a knack for finding any subject in the Talmud. When he matured and got married, he studied less but did not stop.

His friend, colleague and avid opponent was Reb Shalom Schwartzman who was also one of the beloved men in town, and about whom we will tell later in this book. They never agreed on anything. Sometimes their discussions were so overpowering that they almost insulted each other but remained friends and respected one another. Both were G–d fearing men, realizing that their arguments were only to enhance their devotion to G–d and abiding his commands.

Reb Baruch Berglass was a rich man and prosperous in his business. He had customers not only on market days but every day of the week. Although he knew that he was needed in the store and his family would have liked him to shorten his morning prayers, he took his time and disregarded their wishes. His prayers lasted more than an hour and were followed by one hour studying. He did not just speedily whisper his prayers. No! He enunciated each word separately with devotion and reverence, understanding the meaning of each word. Certain words he would repeat several times especially the “Shema Israel” concentrating on each syllable. If some strange thought came to his mind that interrupted his concentration, he would start all over again. Reb Shalom Schwartzman loved to poke fun at him for his repetitiousness. But Reb Baruch did not surrender. Angrily he told him: “Mind your own business! I did not ask for your advice”. Or he would laughingly say: “are you chastising me? Very well, you fulfilled your duty, thank you”. And that is how he disarmed him.

Reb Baruch Berglass was a kind and charitable man but people whispered behind his back that he was miserly. People who knew him well knew that although he did not throw his money around, he always gave with a smile and friendliness. Of course, being known as a wealthy man, more was demanded from him and he enjoyed negotiating over the amount. Whenever he asked for a donation, he never let anyone leave empty–handed. And, concerning hospitality, he was the first to offer it. He always fed the poor Jewish wanderers who passed through Strzyzow. Whenever a poor man appeared hungry in shul in in Beit HaMidrash, he was immediately directed to Reb Baruch Berglass' house. For breakfast or lunch, he could be sent without advance notice but for dinner, the household had to be notified in advance.

Reb Baruch served for many years as a member of the Kehillah, always alert to community needs and generous with money and advice. He was highly respected and he always avoided political arguments. He was a truthful man and hated hypocrisy.

His son, Itzhok Berglass survived the Holocaust by escaping to Soviet Russia and later went to Israel to realize his life–long dream of living in an independent Jewish homeland. Also, many of Reb Baruch's grandchildren live in Israel and in the Diaspora.


[Page 116]

Reb Avrehmal'E Goldman

by Shlomo Yahalomi

It is doubtful whether anybody in town was as popular as Avrehmal'e Goldman. Not because of his merits but because of his wife's merits. Her name was Dvoirah Sarah. The whole family had long names. His name was Abraham and his father–in–law's name was Zelig. That is why he was called Reb Avrehmal'e Zelig's. His wife's name was Dvoirah Sarah so they called her: Dvoirah Sarah, Avrehmal'e Zelig's. Their son, Itzhok, was called Itzhok, Dvoirah Sarah's Avrehmal'e Zelig's and so they called all the sons and daughters. Reb Avrehmal'e was as poor as can be. He himself used to joke about his poverty. He used to say that he was poor by a miracle: “If someone is poor because of bad luck, lacking a trade or business – that is natural, but I, a jack–of–all–trades, a wholesale businessman, having dealt with everything: building material, plasterboards, cement, roofing materials and this is only the physical merchandize. Besides the above, I have also dealt with spiritual merchandize, like being a melamed, a cantor and I still remain poverty–stricken. This can only happen by a miracle”.

Reb Avrehmal'e was very educated in Talmud and Halacha. He was a teacher for many years, a highly qualified teacher who taught only teenagers, students capable of studying Talmud and the various commentaries on the Talmud. Reb Avrehmal'e had a fine chanting voice of which his wife was very proud. She used to boast to the peasants in the market about her husband's cantorial endeavours. Reb Avrehmal'e once had a lawsuit in court against his competitor and the case did not look so good. Suddenly, Dvoirah Sarah stood up in front of the judge and declared, proudly, pointing in the direction of his opponent: “You have the nerve to challenge my husband? When my husband begins to chant the Sabbath prayer –“Shochen Ad” all the worshippers are chanting with him”. Reb Avrehmal'e himself was always ready to sing and display his talent. He never complained about having a sore throat or being hoarse. He was always happy, telling jokes and making fun of others and he never got insulted if people laughed at him. Even his own sons use to tell jokes about him and right to his face. About his talented sons, we will tell more later in this book. G–d shall avenge his and his family's blood. No one of his family survived.


Reb Hershel Gelander who chanted the Mussaf Prayers

by Shlomo Yahalomi

As if they were alive today, I see before me standing the wonderful townspeople and each one deserves to be written about and perpetuated in this book so that the future generations will know who the victims of the Holocaust were – the victims who did not leave behind their equals. These dear Jews were entirely wiped out; and some offspring who did survive, do not follow in their parent's traditions. Some distant relatives who did survive rarely remember the martyrs' names. However, a few did inherit nice sayings and expressions of scholars which were used by these townspeople in their daily conversations. But Reb Hershel Gelander, in addition to a son and daughter, left behind him a special form of chanting.

[Page 117]

You saw before you a man of middle height, long side–curls that looked if as though somebody had ironed them and a charcoal black beard. When he was standing behind the oven humming in a sweet melodic voice – the “Zohar” – you stood perplexed: whose are those big burning eyes expressing softness and strength at once, submerged in the book as an inseparable entity, desiring only to unite and merge the holy letters from this wonderful book? And, what is the source of the aristocratic smile hovering on his lips?

Reb Hershel Gelander grew up and was educated in the courtyards of the Sadigora Rabbinic Dynasty. There he spent his day and nights in Torah, Hassidism and songs. He was a choirboy and helper of cantors Reb J. Shorr and Samuel from Ustrzyki and others. From them, he learned how to chant. He used to say that it was very important to know how to chant properly and not only to intone loudly. The principal rule was: a cantor must not be an actor. As blowing the shofar is a science and not a trade, so is chanting. The science of chanting is to remember that we are praying before the King of the Universe. He who realizes that he is praying to the King of the Universe will not fail and will be assured that his prayers will be accepted in heaven and on earth.

Reb Hershel was a clever man, vigorous, a scholar, pious and an enthusiastic Hassid of the rabbi from Sadigora. He did not ponder about it. He just believed firmly in Hassidism. Not because he was unable to ponder but, he said: “A person should be straight. As the sages would say, ‘One who is straight cannot be crooked’. Generally speaking, who needs to rake and research? There is no benefit in climbing a mountain and trying to understand things which are above our perception. We will never comprehend the ways of the holy ones (meaning the rabbis of Sadigora). But what? Whoever has open eyes and good sense understands that the important thing is not the knowledge but the belief. Is it not what the rabbis of Sadigora preached?” This prefaced each of Reb Hershel's discussion about his rabbis and, he added: “I do not intend to recruit believers in my rabbis”. But still, he could not resist demonstrating his beliefs. He learned from his rabbi to love his fellow Jew, every Jew. He opposed Zionism fiercely but never insulted a Zionist personally. When he once overheard someone cursing the Zionists, he became very upset. He was very conservative and he always remained in the background. Few people knew that he got up every day of the year at four o'clock and headed straight for the mikva – summer or winter. After the immersion in the mikva, he studied the holy books at home until nine o'clock. He then went to shul for morning services. He prayed quietly with devotion. He used to tell the rabbi, Reb Israel from Ryzin: “It is better to move one little finger for G–d than to make a big noise dishonestly”.

All year–round, he made a living as a small merchant but in the anticipation of the High Holidays, he stopped his secular trade and began his preparations for the holidays, rehearsing the holiday chanting. He prepared himself not only physically but spiritually as well. His chanting penetrated into each Jewish soul. On those days, he never laughed

[Page 118]

or joked, spending his time in the Beit HaMidrash where he led the prayers every year. His voice was not loud. It was a sweet mellow voice. People followed him in the prayer book word–by–word. People from other prayer houses used to come in to listen to his chanting. In the High Holidays, he was assisted by a group of young people whom he trained before the holidays. The writer of these memoirs was one of these youngsters. I was so well acquainted with his chanting that it made Reb Hershel proud to think that someday I would take his place.

When I was getting ready to escape to Russia, I went to see Reb Hershel to say goodbye. We embraced and kissed each other. Then Reb Hershel said: “It is G–d's will that the Jewish people should suffer so much. Only G–d knows how long this will last, but if….”. And at this point he broke down and began to cry. Later, he composed himself and finished his sentence by saying: “You are younger and healthier than I. Please do not forget me and my prayers”. May G–d avenge his innocent blood. He perished and shared the fate of his six million brothers and sisters. However, I carried with me his form of chanting throughout Siberia and after the war, to Germany and finally, to Israel. Since then, whenever I, his pupil, chant, I always see his face before me.


My father, my teacher, Reb Joseph Diamand

by Shlomo Yahalomi

My father was a highly esteemed and outstanding citizen in town. His spiritual features were: Strong faith in G–d and perpetual belief in eternity of Israel. He had a fatherly approach to every individual as well as to the community. He was a social activist, always occupied with the need of the community and with no expectation of reward. He was also blessed with positive merits: always being content, always happy, and always full of hope that everything will turn out alright, and he shared his happiness with everyone who came in touch with him. These merits in addition to his cleverness and wisdom put in in the centre of community activism. Although there was no lack of disputes in town, whether spiritual or not (in which he was sometimes involved), but people knew that even when he was angry, his anger was only pretended. More than once during a heated exchange, he would throw in a funny remark or tell a joke and soon the tempers were cooled off and the loud–mouths lost their tongues. He knew how to raise himself from his individuality and judge each problem from the perspective of what is good for the community. Whenever an urgent need arose to mediate between real or imagined adversaries or to extricate someone from mire, they turned to Reb Joseph and he, with his cleverness and patience, settled everything in a way that left both parties feeling victorious. It was all done with a smile on his face. They said about him – according to Rabbi Alter Zev: “What he could achieve with a funny and sharp remark in the right place and at the right time, ten wise men could not accomplish”. Generally speaking, he was never agitated or angry and if, on occasion he became agitated, it was very easy to appease him. He used to say: “My theory is if somebody tells me ‘Shalom Aleichem’, my answer is ‘Aleichem Hashalom’.

He had a warm Jewish heart and helped whoever turned to him, no matter what kind of help was needed, advice on how to extricate oneself

[Page 119]

from entanglement or for help to obtain a favour from a gentile master. He was active in a very sensitive and delicate field: freeing Jewish sons from military service. As it was known in Galicia, every year and in each shtetl, a military commission visited and gave physical examinations to those who were eligible for military service. Our Jewish brothers were not too happy to serve in the gentile military. On the contrary, everybody tried to avoid this “privilege” to suffer and sometimes to get killed for a fatherland which was not his. And it is an old story that you could always find a good Jew who acted to free our Jewish brothers from the claws of the gentile military. In our shtetl, there was also one who was active in this field and this was my father Reb Joseph Diamand. He did this holy work without any expectation of being rewarded. He always tried to contact the members of the commission and to come to an “agreement” in this sensitive matter. The middle–man between the military doctor and the Jews most often was Dr. Patryn, the mayor of the town who was a medical doctor by profession. The fact that he was a doctor gave him a change to express his professional opinion that the Jewish recruits' physical condition might not be suitable for military service. Sometimes he influenced the military doctor without a bribe and sometimes there was a need to pay a sizeable sum. On very rare occasions, somebody from the shtetl was recruited but, if such an incident did occur, the townspeople did not leave a stone unturned – they always found a way to cancel the first commission's decision and to bring the recruit before a second commission and be freed.

At this point, I would like to tell a terrible incident that happened once in town. On the initiation of my father, Dr. Patryn offered a sizeable sum of money to a military doctor on the condition that he free all the Jewish recruits who would appear before him.

However, the military doctor refused to accept the bribe but he fulfilled the request anyway. But, this episode had unfortunate results. This is what happened: The military doctor told about the proposition to his colleague, the presiding officer of the commission – a major. Subsequently, when the major quarrelled with the doctor, he reported the affair to the military prosecutor. The mayor, Dr. Patryn was summoned to a trial as a defendant accused in an attempt to bribe the military doctor for which he could have received a severe punishment. If the court would have found him guilty he might have been sentenced not only with imprisonment but they would have also revoked his right to practice medicine and not be permitted to continue to serve as mayor of the city. It is easy to imagine the uproar that this trial stirred in the whole region and especially in the town. Most of all, this affair touched the heart of the Jews. If the mayor would have been convicted, it could have caused distress and resulted in dire consequences for the Jews.

This incident hurt my father directly because he was the cause of it. In his defence, the mayor claimed to have said: “If they, the military, will not discriminate against the Jews, the Jews will make a sizeable donation to the Red Cross”. Since the military doctor did not understand Polish very well, he misunderstood what was said. But the military doctor said resolutely that there was no misunderstanding:

[Page 120]

“Ihrtum–ausgeschlossen”. (Misunderstanding – impossible).

After many intercessions and tremendous effort, the defence was able to get a change of venue from Vienna to Rzeszow, a central city in Western Galicia and to arrange a second investigation of the parties and witnesses. My father was also summoned to the second trial as a witness for the defence, besides the defendant and the army doctor. My father was supposed to have testified that Dr. Patryn told him that the Jews would make a donation to the Red Cross as the defendant had claimed. Torah authorities requested that everything possible should be done to save the defendant who had endangered himself in favour of the Jews. Their biggest worry was how to save the Jewish reputation since a harsh sentence might provoke vengeful feelings among the gentiles towards the Jews.

The night before the trial was dreadful to all participants. The military doctor was probably angry because he was dragged from Vienna to Rzeszow and was probably anxious to testify and name the accused in order to teach the gentile mayor of Strzyzow a lesson. He himself was Jewish. Although the mayor was a friend of the Jews, he could not ignore the fact that it was because of them that he found himself in such a predicament. My father, Reb Joseph, thought and searched for a tactic that would relieve them from the bad situation unscathed. That is to say – how to save the mayor and the shtetl? As much as he tried, he came up with only one bit of advice: the quotation of our sages: “The only one to lean on is our Father who rules the Universe”. He hoped that at the last moment, he would somehow find an exit from this entanglement. Oh yes, one more person – someone very special – was awake that night before the trial: The Town's rabbi, Reb Alter Zev, blessed be his memory. He did not let out of his hands the book of Psalms and other mystical books. He summoned all his righteous ancestors, calling out to them by their names: The Holy Shlah, Reb Itzhok Horowitz, the Baal Shem Tov and especially his grandfather, Rabbi Naphtali from Ropczyce. He called them all out and demanded help for the shtetl in distress. At dawn when my father went to him to ask for his blessing before his trip to the trial, the rabbi said to him: “By the authority of my righteous ancestors, I hereby bless you that you shall succeed in your mission”. He thought for a while and added: “The month of Nissan is the month of many great miracles and the holiday of freedom. May it be the will that G–d should make a miracle and show us wonders”.

When Reb Joseph disembarked the train in Rzeszow he unexpectedly saw the military doctor leaving the train which had just arrived from Vienna. At this moment, he felt as though somebody had pushed him forcibly towards the doctor and they suddenly were face–to–face. Both turned pale as chalk. The doctor tried to look the other way but as he later told, it seemed to him than an elderly man with a dignified face insistently pushed him to Reb Joseph's side…. And Reb Joseph? Girded with strength and with a clear and decisive voice, as if he were giving an order, thundered at the doctor: “Would you listen, my master, revered doctor? Today they are going to prosecute a gentile who wanted to help Jews. The only accuser is you, a Jew. Have you thought about

[Page 121]

how many more Jew–haters you will create after the gentile is found guilty? Jew–haters who will probably in time strike you too, my revered master!”

These energetic words were said dangerously but from a warm Jewish heart and they did the job. When he appeared before the judges, the doctor said: “Ihrtum ncht ausgeschlossen” (there is a possible mistake). And there was light and relief for the Jews in the shtetl.

Reb Joseph passed away in 1929. Of his offspring a son survived, Abraham Joshua Hesel who was the last president of the Kehillah in Strzyzow, presently in New York and a second son, Shlomo Yahalomi, the writer of this story. Blessed be G–d from above for the privilege to build anew our house and beget sons and daughters – may they live a long life.


Reb Elazar Wurtzel. The Man of hints and gestures

by Shlomo Yahalomi

If he would have said that Reb Elazar did not talk too much, that would have been an understatement. He spoke less than people who do not talk much. His problem was that he spoke in cues and hints, half sentences but, if you were lucky and guessed what he wanted to say, you enjoyed it.

He was a distinguished scholar in the scriptures, Talmud and all Talmudic commentaries. He did not study fast like one doing piece work. No! He studied slowly and in depth, spending unlimited time penetrating the depth and the mysteries of the subject. He always asked: “What is there to rush?” And apropos, he told a story that once Rabbi Itzhok Shmelkis from Lwow visited Rzeszow where his son–in–law served as rabbi. Traditionally, when a famous scholar came to town the local students and the Beit HaMidrash dwellers gathered for a discourse with the visiting scholar on different Torah subjects and to hear from him some new interpretations. One student, who was a prodigy, brought before the Rabbi a very complicated problem being certain that the rabbi would explain it to him. The student spoke very fast. The rabbi stopped him and said to him: “Slow down, let me hear you word–by–word on this problem of yours”. After the student slowed down and told about his problem, he suddenly realized that there was no problem at all. That is what Reb Elazar wanted to point out; studying slowly and thoroughly would make it easier to understand. He studied day and night. If something was not clear to him, he was never tired to study it again and again until he understood it. When this happened, a sparkle lit up his eyes and a smile appeared on his face. His studying was not in quantity but in quality.

If one of the younger students asked him to explain something he would spend unlimited time with him until the student understood the subject. Not many dared to bother him because of his peculiar way of explaining, that is, with hints and gestures. He used to advise the student to look up in this or that book, or maybe in a third source and then come back to him if it was still unclear to him.

Reb Elazar was a very humble and soft–spoken man and he never raised his voice even when his opponent, during a discussion, got excited and angry, not realizing that he was wrong. It did not bother Reb Elazar at all.

[Page 122]

Reb Elazar showed no interest in local politics especially in the Rabbinical dispute which never ceased. Neither did he participate in the dispute between the Zionists and their opponents. Although he was related to one of the rabbis with whom he sympathized, he never openly expressed his opinion. I remember once, when somebody said something derogatory about Doctor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist Movement, he objected right away with a hint and gesture like: “Nu' Oh'” and that is all that he said, meaning that it was wrong.

Few knew that he was well–informed in current events. At least once a day he spent a short while scanning the headlines in the daily newspaper. Some people in town frowned upon it and there were even rumours that he carried around progressive ideas in his head, although whenever expressed them. But, he had everybody's admiration. There were certain times when Reb Elazar was talkative. This was only when he spoke about the rabbis he admired most, such as the rabbi from Sandz, Reb Chaim Halberstam and his son, Rabbi Yechezkiel from Siniawa. He became a master storyteller when he began to tell about their greatness, holiness and about all the miracles they had performed.

He was also talkative at the Passover Seders when everybody was required to tell and re–tell the story of the redemption of the Jews from Egypt and the miracles that happened at the Red Sea. Many of the Beit HaMidrash dwellers used to pay him a visit on Passover night to hear him tell the Passover story.

Reb Elazar was a widower and lived with his daughters. The son–in–laws were not big Torah scholars. They were simple people but they respected their father–in–law and put up with all his whims. If I would have had the foresight of the annihilation of European Jewry, I would have taken notes of all my conversations with Reb Elazar, whether on Torah subjects or secular subjects. What I do remember, I hope I will someday put it in print for future generations. Unfortunately, no one from his family survived the Holocaust.


Reb David Wiener

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb David Wiener was a special asset to the community, a wonderful type, a great scholar and a G–d fearing man. On one hand he was a shrewd and clever businessman and on the other, a schlemiel in his personal life. He studied Torah with devotion. He never did both at the same time and he always knew what to do and when to do it. When he studied Talmud he always hummed a melody. It was a pleasure to listen to him because it seemed as though you were listening to a wonderful composition. Reb David liked the Beit HaMidrash dwellers who studied Torah daily. He preached to them the ethics of Jewish behaviour, not in a strict way but in a fatherly way. Reb David spoke softly, like a father to his sons, never uttering a bad word and, when he wanted to needle somebody, he did it jokingly.

On occasion, when he detected that a young man shaved his face which was strictly forbidden according to the Jewish custom, he touched the fellow's face with his hands. When the culprit smiled blushingly as if he were caught in a misdeed, Reb David remarked to him: “You are

[Page 123]

Laughing and I am hurting” because the stubble always irritates when you caress it, both literally and figuratively.

The young people in Beit HaMidrash used to complain that although he was such a wise man, he would not accept a little progress. He insisted that once you ignore a small infraction, you never know when to stop. He used to say: “my father was a g–d fearing man and I am a G–d fearing man and so should everyone be”. He father was the assistant rabbi in Strzyzow. His name was Reb Joseph Mordechai Wiener.

When the Nazi came to town, he said: “Now the time is ripe to get ready for sanctification of the Divine Name”. He did not pay attention to what was happening around him but he continued to lead the same life style as though nothing had changed. He studied even more and when the Nazi came to his house to take him away, they found him bent over the Talmudic tractate and studying with a sweet melodic voice. He did not pay any attention to the representatives of the master race. The Nazi were enraged with such behaviour. When they asked him why he did not respond, he said: “I have nothing to say to you. All I want is time to study the scriptures and not be interrupted”. He was killed immediately and that is how he gave his life for the sanctification of the Divine Name while humming a song.


Reb Feitel Last and his son Shlomo

by Shlomo Yahalomi

You saw before you a Jew of medium height, lean and gaunt with a long silvery beard which covered almost a third of his height. His head was a little tilted and it looked like it was coming off of his very thin neck. His back was also bent a little forward and only his face was attractive and gentle. Sometimes radiant and sometimes expressing some anger.

Reb Feitel was not a great scholar but he absorbed in his youth the fragrance of Torah and most of all, the belief in the Righteous Ones especially in the offspring of the Dynow Dynasty and its founder, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro. If someone dared to criticize his rabbi in his presence, he would attack him, ready to tear him apart like a fish. On a good day, if he was in a good mood, happy, content and relaxed, he would react with only a scolding and name–calling.

Reb Feitel was a model of cleanliness. You could never find a spot on his ancient clothes. The jokers in town use to say that he inherited those clothes from his great–grandfathers. In every spare moment he would moisten his finger with his tongue and pick the tiniest piece of lint from his coat, pants or shoes which, according to the testimony of the town elders, he bought on his wedding day, approximately forty years hence. They were always polished and looked like new as if they had just left the shoemaker's hands yesterday. It was no wonder that he walked so slowly, counting each step so as not to soil the soles. When he saw people walking fast and carelessly, he would stop them and shout a fatherly reproach: “Nu, you are ruining your shoes, you are violating the commandment ‘You shall not waste’”.

Reb Feitel was a happy Jew jesting at the weddings of his good friends. He was an unpaid jester. He knew many folk songs and

[Page 124]

Hassidic melodies. On Saturday nights after the Sabbath was over he strolled back and forth in the kloyz of the rabbi of Sassov and sang the traditional song: “Hamavdil” in a melody and lyrics which he himself had composed. The lyrics were about how said it was that the holy Sabbath Queen was leaving us and the drab week began. His admirers formed a chorus around him and they sang with him. Woe to those who sang a false tune.

On the yahrzeit of his parents', he led the prayers and tried to show off his cantorial talent which, unfortunately, he did not possess. At one such performance and on a Friday night, Reb Feitel began to chant the Kabalat Shabbath prayer which begins with: “L'cha n'rannah” and repeated the word L'cha several times which means: “let's go”. Rabbi Moshe Leib became irritated and told him: “Go, go and come back tomorrow night to sing the Hamavdil”.

And now let us return to the Saturday nights. When Reb Feitel concluded his singing, he sat down at the table and began to tell tales. He had a few stories that he repeated hundreds of times. His favourite two stories were about a pupil of the Baal Shem Tov who wanted to convert to Christianity but the Jewish legendary preacher from Mezritch saved him with his powerful preaching. And the second story was about Rabbi Meir from Premishlan who, in his childhood, used to tell his neighbour the butcher, which cattle would be kosher and which would not. IF one of the Beit HaMidrash dwellers wanted to have fun with Reb Feitel, he would interrupt him and tell him that the story was not exactly the way it happened. Reb Feitel would raise his head with his angular chin and long bear, put his hand under his chin and say: “Nu, by all means, let us hear it!” And the young man would intentionally twist the story around. Soon Reb Feitel would stop him and with mockery, he would declare that the teller did not know what he was talking about and silenced him. Then Reb Feitel would continue the story with a victorious look on his face.

He used to say, with a sigh: “What do you know? There was once…. What do you know children? Where can you get today a holy Reb Shlomo? He was a Tzadik”. He was referring to Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro who served as rabbi in Strzyzow and ran away to Munkatch, as it was told earlier in this book.

Reb Feitel's biggest opponent was his son Shlomo. The son was his “adversary” and, in general, a big philosopher. The father called him: “my son the philosopher”. And there was a lot of truth in it.

Shlomo was really an enlightened young man who studied many research books and books on ethics. He could not tolerate his father's tales about the miracles of the rabbis and on this subject; there were eternal discussions and arguments between father and son. “Your destructors and demolishers will come from among your own”, a quotation from the Prophet Jeremiah which his father used to quote with sadness and complaint. And if they did so all year round, on the Sabbath and holidays, they argued even more. His father practiced all kinds of customs on the Sabbath and holidays, imitating the rabbis from Dynow, of which his son, the intellectual, did not approve. And so they always fought. Whatever the father did, the son refused to do and sometimes the son even joked about it.

[Page 125]

Just as much as Shlomo was more educated and enlightened that his father, so was he sharper than his father.

For understandable reasons, this is not the forum to tell about all the fights between father and son. We will tell only about a fearful true story which could have ended in a bitter tragedy. Only through a miracle was the outcome good. It appeared that Reb Feitel was a good provider for his household. They were never deprived of anything. Even though he was a little stingy on weekdays, he spared nothing for the Sabbath and the holidays. It happened on the first Seder night of Passover. As in every Jewish home, they prepared in his house “maror” (bitter herbs). And as it might seem strange and amazing, these bitter herbs were, year–after–year, the source of a heated exchange between the na´ve father and the enlightened son. The father prepared an oversized portion of bitter herbs that would be sufficient for each member of the family to consume as much as it was required by the commandment, and he intended to force everybody to eat the entire portion. The son not only disagreed with his father's intention, but he tried to prove to his father that he was wrong about the size of the portion. Shlomo called his father a “bitter herbs glutton”… This bitter fight over bitter herbs brought bitterness and more than once, the father had called his son “Goy” but the son also reacted with sharp words. This argument took place not only before the Seder but during the Seder as well. There were a few people who stood in the back of Reb Feitel's house on the Seder night and listened to the bitter arguments and poked fun at them.

Once a dreadful incident happened during the eating of the bitter herbs. Reb Feitel, while eating the oversized portion and being angry and shouting at his son, a piece of horseradish stuck in Reb Feitel's throat and almost choked him. At first the family did not realize the seriousness of the matter and the son continued screaming: “maror, maror”. Suddenly, he saw his father had lost consciousness and a tragedy was imminent. The family began to scream: “Please help! Mercy!” One of the neighbours ran to bring the doctor to help save Reb Feitel. After he regained consciousness, Reb Feitel's first word to his son was: “Goy”.

When he recovered his disposition, Reb Feitel said: “Do you know who saved me? Nu, by all means, tell me who?” The son who had also recovered from the ordeal was almost ready to start the fight again. But he restrained himself as his father continued: “You know who saved my life? None but Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech himself. His spirit should protect us and all of Israel. I swear by my life”. He continued to speak with emotion and enthusiasm. “When I thought that my end was near, I saw him, the Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech, may he be remembered with blessings. He simply approached me, stuck his finger in my throat and pushed the ‘maror’ down my throat. When I wanted to kiss his hand and thank him for the favour that he did to me, he disappeared and ascended into heaven….”

It is superfluous to remark that the educated son did not believe the story, but this time he did not react.

Reb Feitel was more fortunate than others. He died of natural causes but his son Shlomo and the rest of his large family perished in the Holocaust.

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Strzyzow, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2023 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 01 Jun 2015 by JH