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The eccentric Heschel Holoshitz
“Heschel the peasant”

by Moshe Mussler

There was not a town in the Jewish Diaspora which did not have its share of eccentrics and various types who, with their behaviour, distinguished themselves from the rest of the townspeople.

Our Hebrew and Yiddish literature is rich with these characters. These creatures were particularly outstanding and, therefore, they are lingering in my memory. It seems to me as if they are now alive and standing before my eyes.

One of them was the rich man, Heschel Holoshitz, who came to settle in town, as I heard from my grandfather, from Bonaruvka, a Ukrainian village near Strzyzow.

Heschel lived in a large, dark and damp room in the house of Shimon “The Horse trader” behind my grandfather's house. The room served as a kitchen, a bedroom and also as a store. His merchandize was extra–especial because of its smelly character. He sold naphtha, tar, low–quality soap, herring and cod liver oil which had a sharp stench and also matches. The smell of these articles caused dizziness.

His customers were Ruthenians from distant villages who gathered in his house with their wives and children to buy and also eat there. And, maybe, that is the reason why he was nicknamed: “The Peasant” because he dealt with them and behaved like them.

I doubt if Heschel knew how to write even one letter. His walls were marked with straight and diagonal lines. In addition to those lines, there were also some mysterious marks which were clear only to him.

Heschel Holoshitz was a miser without comparison. He bemoaned every penny which he avoided spending as much as he could even for food. He and his wife lived on stale bread dressed with onions or a bowl of sauerkraut. Even on the Sabbath and holidays, they satisfied themselves with a poor meal, just so that their fortune should not decrease.

No wonder then that the man accumulated during his lifetime a sack full of gold coins. It was said that his wealth reached several thousand guldens. This treasure he kept in a chest reinforced with forged steel bands and locked with an antique lock. The chest was hidden under the bed and covered with rags.

The poor people of the town, tradesmen and also small store–keepers who were in need and pressed for a little cash, were forced to set foot in his house to borrow a few guldens. Understandably, for a usurious fee.

This man loved his money more than himself; was careful not to lend it unless the borrower brought valuable collateral. The well–informed testified that his chest contained tens of wedding rings, strings of pearls, gold chains, earrings, bracelets and other silver and gold heirlooms which were inherited from parents or acquired during better times.

This wealth that Heschel kept in his chest had robbed him of his peace of mind, fearing robbers day and night. He was hated by all the townspeople. Nobody wished him well, particularly the debtors. A poor

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man never stepped across his threshold. He never opened the palm of his hands to give alms. He walked around like an outcast, angry and vexed with himself and others.

His clothes were shabby and filthy and so were his wife's. She wore dresses whose origin could hardly be identified; remnants of fashions from the seventies of the past century or maybe even earlier.

When the spring of their lives was over and they became older, they suddenly remembered that there existed a hereafter. And, in their minds, they began to worry. The question arose as to how to secure a corner in paradise. Indeed, how could one achieve such a corner when there was no heir to say Kaddish after their departure, because they were childless. In spite of their wealth, the woman was not blessed to bear an offspring.

After all, only if someone says Kaddish and learns a chapter of Mishnayoth for the departed soul, is it possible to overcome the obstacles on the road leading to paradise.

In town there existed a society: “Good Remembrance” which was founded by Rabbi Moshe Leib Shapiro. The goal of this society was to study a chapter of Mishnayoth daily for the first year of a member's departure and, thereafter, on the anniversary day of the departure to also say Kaddish if the member had no heir.

Every year on Passover, a general meeting was called and held in the rabbi's house. The rabbi's family were busy preparing treats for all the members of the society. The effort was worthwhile because the rabbinical family derived much financial support from the society's funds.

Heschel Holoshitz and his spouse reluctantly decided to join the society. In those days, no Jewish person was ready to relinquish his share in paradise. The Holoshitzes knew that they would have to pay up a fortune, possibly a few hundred guldens. It was painful, very painful for them to separate themselves from the money which had been so hard to accumulate. But the fear that they might die before joining the society overpowered their lust for money. And they were forced to accept their verdict.

This Passover when the society members were discussing the acceptance of Heschel and his wife, I succeeded with other boys to sneak into the meeting room. Not only to witness the show but also to enjoy the treats of the Rabbi's wife.

The amount asked of them was large even for those times. The value of the Austrian coin was as good as gold and this almost caused Heschel to faint. He cried, begged, and swore by his health and by his wife's health that he never in his life saw such a huge sum. He claimed to be a poor and oppressed man and if they would insist on such a sum, he would not have money left for his next meal and would be forced to go out and ask alms from door–to–door.

Of course, all his swearing did not help. Everyone knew that his chest was full of gold coins, coins engraved with Kaiser Franz Joseph's likeness and it was a pity that they should lie there useless. Heschel was not enjoying them but the society would know how to use his money.

The hours of negotiation lasted longer than usual. At the end,

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Heschel and his wife surrendered and, heavy–hearted, they rushed home and brought the money. It appeared that this was the first time and the last time in the society's history that such a big sum came into their treasury.

When I returned to town after World War I, Heschel and his wife were deceased and I was told that during the Russian occupation; they were attacked by robbers who robbed and killed them. Hopefully, their place in paradise was secured for them.

The needy

by Moshe Mussler

In the time when Galicia, including our town, was under the protection of the powerful Hapsburg Dynasty, there were only a few wealthy people in our town: their number could be counted on one hand. The concept of “wealth” meant that they need not worry about tomorrow. Even so, I have doubts that such men fully enjoyed their wealth and had peace of mind. Below those rich ones, townspeople who seemed to have enough bread to eat were always worrying about the next day. Making a living was as hard as dividing the Red Sea and everyone begrudged each other.

Many store keepers lived from day to day and their situation hung on a thread. Everybody pushed everybody, desperately fighting for a customer. They argued for every cent. The bread they ate was dipped in bitterness. Instead of rich people, our town was blessed with several kinds of poor people which our language has named as follows: Poor, poverty–stricken, beggars, wretched people, those who go from door–to–door and others who barely ate from one Sabbath to another. The highest poverty was reached by the brothers Shlomo and Mendel and their unfortunate mother. They were poor as poor can be.

The older brother Mendel worked in the store of Moshe Reicher. He loaded and unloaded sacks of flour, distributing them to different stores. Mendel himself looked like a sack of flour and a funny smell emanated from him. These two brothers were also the only Jewish water carriers in town, at a time when all the rest were gentiles.

Mendel was very easy going and never bitter at children who teased him. Even though there was no shortage of poor girls in town, nevertheless, a match for him was not found and he remained single all his life. On the Sabbath and holidays, he wore a torn and patched–up frock. He stood in the corner of the shul with a prayer book in his hand. It is doubtful that he knew how to pray or even to say the blessing over the Torah. Therefore, he was never called to the Torah.

If somebody asked Mendel why he did not take a wife, a broad smile appeared on his face and he meekly responded: “I too have the same question. Apparently my mate was not born yet”.

Remembering him, I could see him representing all the innocence in town. He never hurt anyone, not even a fly and I mean it literally. He surely could not hurt his fellow man. He walked on the side of the road so as not to disturb anyone. Mendel spoke very little and he suffered his poverty in silence.

If he were alive today, the psychiatrists would diagnose Mendel's

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brother Shlomo as retarded. His mind was that of a two–year old. Not only did he behave like a child but his mother treated him as such. She did not call him Shlomo but “Shloimele”. Only on rare occasions did Shlomo help his brother Mendel in loading and unloading sacks of flour. He treasured the few cents he earned until he lost them or his mother emptied his pockets.

Girls shied away from him as if he were a ghost. He himself avoided facing them. Instead, he liked the company of older women and enjoyed sitting amongst them.

I remember when Shlomo reached military age, the mayor of the city presented him before the selection committee while his mother stood outside crying bitterly and praying to G–d to save him from gentile hands (of course, needlessly).

On the Sabbath and holidays, his mother dressed him up in a multi–coloured jacket, riding pants of a cavalry man with two big patches in the back and a vest of a page. Dressed in such splendour, she sent him off to shul to show him off to the worshippers.

Shlomo did whatever his mother told him to do. In wintertime, his favourite place in the Beit HaMidrash was behind the oven. Summertime, he walked proud as a peacock, back and forth with a smiling, dumb–founded expression on his face. Habitually, he would tickle a worshipper and disappear.

Outside on the law in front of the shul, little children waited for him. In their company he felt equal and spent the time playing until the end of the services.

How long these brothers lived and how their lives ended, I have no information. After World War I ended, I turned my back on the town and the memories of the inhabitants paled and were forgotten, except these written lines which I brought out from the depths of oblivion or forgetfulness.

The unfortunate families

by Itzhok Berglass

Strzyzow was a troubled town. Livelihood was hard to come by because the main customers, the Polish peasants whose farm products were very cheap, haggled over the price of everything and the competition among the merchants was tremendous. The Jews had all kinds of worrisome problems. Above all was the worry about their health. In spite of the clean air, many youngsters and adults died of tuberculosis and, in spite of the quiet conservative life, people also died of heart diseases and other illnesses that befall mankind.

There were two families in town that saw very little joy in their lives and drank from the cup of bitterness to the end.

The first such family was Reb Shalom Schwartzman who was called Reb Shalom the Trustee. He was the son of an assistant rabbi from Sokolow near Rzeszow. He came to our town to oversee and to be a trustee of Reb Yacov Kanner's business. That is how he got his nickname.

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Later on he became independent and opened a combined business, a tavern, restaurant and inn, all in his living quarters. His main customers were the Jews of the town who used to drink a glass of beer after the Sabbath meal and during weekdays, out–of–town agents who came to the town on business. His customers were also local gentiles who wanted to indulge in Jewish food. The attraction of Reb Shalom's customers was not only the food and drinks which he served but also Reb Shalom himself. He was a clever Jew, a scholar who pleased his guests with his wisdom and education. His first wife bore him two daughters and a son and it seemed that he had achieved success. The then the first tragedy struck. His wife died of tuberculosis in the bloom of her life. Reb Shalom bore his grief with self–restraint and, after a while, he married a second time. She did not give him offspring but she was a good wife and mother, devoted to his children like their real mother.

His children grew up and got married. His older daughter bore three sons to the delight of the parents and grandparents. Suddenly a tragedy again befell Reb Shalom. In one winter, his son Moshe, who lived in Rzeszow, became ill with pneumonia, a serious illness in those days in particular for those who had weak lungs. This was a defect apparently inherited from his mother. Moshe died. Next, his older sister, the mother of the three sons, became ill as a result of running around in the harsh winter during her brother's illness. She neglected her own weak health and passed away. After her death, the younger sister, who lived in Strzyzow with her father, also became ill and died shortly in spite of the energetic care from her parents and husband who was very devoted to her. Reb Shalom and his wife took the oldest grandson, Meir Mordechai into their house and the two other children were left with their father in Rzeszow. These two children then died after a short time of scarlet fever. The grandparents raised Meir Mordechai as a son, taught him Torah and piety.

In spite of these tragedies, Reb Shalom's spirit did not break. He did not rebel against the Creator. He continued to teach Torah and to lead the Mishnayoth studying group in the Beit HaMidrash as before. But with all the outward calmness, these many tragedies shook Reb Shalom and his livelihood was not as before because he was forced to neglect it. Then he decided to do something that was not popular to do in his circles. He decided to immigrate to Eretz Israel. Reb Shalom obtained a permit to emigrate as a rabbi, of course, not without the Zionists' help. Our comrade, Avigdor Diamand intervened in this matter at the Central Zionist office. Although Reb Shalom opposed Zionism, his opposition was good natured, without hypocrisy or personal hatred. We, the Zionists, understood that a man of Reb Shalom's stature could not do otherwise but be opposed to Zionism. He went to Eretz Israel and settled in the Meah Shearim section of Jerusalem, the Holy City. Here he continued his studies of Torah and prayer. He raised his grandson in the spirit of the community where he settled for a peaceful life in his old age.

But his misfortune followed him to Eretz Israel and robbed him of his last offspring.

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One evening during the excesses by the Arabs against the Jews in 1938, Meir Mordechai went for a stroll to breathe in the clean air of Jerusalem which he needed for his health. He accidently lost his way in the maze of Meah Shearim and walked into an Arab alley where he was attacked by Arabs. He was put in a sack and killed. This murder shook the whole Meah Shearim neighbourhood and outraged the Jews of Strzyzow. But the bereaved Reb Shalom bore the pain with courage and continued his life as before, studying Torah and praying.

Reb Shalom lived a long life and attained the satisfaction of welcoming Strzyzow's returnees from Russian refuge that arrived in Israel after the war. He died at a very old age and was buried in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

The second family struck by the hands of fate was the family of Reb Israel Kanner. He was a son of the aristocratic Kanner family whose roots in Strzyzow went back many generations. He was not as rich as his brother Reb Yacov. He was a quiet and humble man, toiling to provide for his family. He earned his livelihood from a tavern and a small inn. Reb Israel's speciality was dealing in wine. He was a great wine specialist. His customers included peasants, local gentiles and Jews who only bought wine for the Sabbath and holidays and, in particular, for Passover.

The tragedies began to befall him when he was still young, when his wife Freidel, a daughter of the famous Landau family, became ill. She was sick for a long time. She also bore him a retarded son. After a few years his wife recovered and they became accustomed to the retarded son. In 1910, Reb Israel lost the licence for the tavern which cut deeply into his livelihood. He overcame the hardship because of his and his family's diligence. But when World War I began, the worse tragedies that can happen in a person's life – sickness and death – befell upon him.

During the war their retarded son disappeared without a trace. Within a year of the son's disappearance, their oldest daughter Chaya became ill and needed surgery. However, when the local doctor diagnosed the illness it was too late to operate and she died in the bloom of her life. Their younger son, Itzhok became ill with tuberculosis and passed away. The wife became sick from grief and shortly after, also passed away.

During the pogrom of 1918, Reb Israel suffered more than others. The rioters, after becoming drunk on his wine, broke all of the wine barrels in the cellar in which he had invested all of his savings.

All these blows were not discernible in the shrunken and silent Reb Israel. He did not shed one tear, not even during the mourning period. These blows, however, touched his inner soul and weakened his health. Reb Israel became sick and died of a serious and prolonged illness – an untimely death after much suffering.

The tragedies kept befalling the family even after the parents' death. The second daughter Yehudit and her new born twins died at childbirth. A son, Joseph–––Bendet, an educated young man, had an unsuccessful marriage. At the outbreak of World War II, he lived in Lwow.

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The two other daughters of Reb Israel Kanner – Chana who was married and had a child and Bella, who was single, remained in Strzyzow in their parents' house. They all perished in the annihilation of the European and Polish Jewry by the Nazi who exterminated all the Jews both fortunate and unfortunate.

The first Zionist in Strzyzow

by Itzhok Berglass

The first Zionist, as I wrote before, was Moshe Meir Seidman – the only son of the assistant rabbi, Reb Alter Ezra.

In his youth, when he studied in the Beit HaMidrash and even after he was married until he left Strzyzow in 1908, his behaviour was no different than other young men in Strzyzow. He wore a bear with side–locks, wore the traditional silk frock on the Sabbath, and after his marriage, he wore a shtreimel. He prayed and studied Torah and did not do anything detrimental to the Jewish religion or tradition. Nevertheless, he had a bad reputation in town which lasted for years, until the people became used to Zionist creatures like him. He was the symbol of a man gone astray. His sin was that he peeked into secular books despite his father's opposition and openly propagated Zionism – a new idea which was not well accepted in the Hassidic circles.

Although he never succeeded in organizing the Zionist movement in Strzyzow, he demonstrated his devotion to Zionism on every occasion. He named his first–born son Benjamin Zev in memory of the Zionist leaded who had just passed away.

In 1908, Moshe Seidman moved to Drohobycz, the city of oil wells where he became one of the most energetic activists in local Zionist movement.

During World War I and due to his shrewd commercial tactics, he became rich and bought an estate near Lwow.

From then on, Moshe Meir Seidman's house was run as befits a wealthy man. But under his wife's influence, the house was empty of Jewish tradition and was run in an entirely secular way, devoid of the Jewish spirit. Moshe Meir, in whom the Jewish tradition was implanted since childhood at his parents' home, suffered greatly from his wife's behaviour to which he never agreed. His troubled soul caused him to do a desperate deed. Namely, he left his estate and went to the rabbi of Komarno who lived in Lwow where he spent a year with the Hassidim whom he supported generously.

Subsequently, he returned to his wife but he did not find his peace. In 1923 he left again. Wishing not to be recognized, he disguised himself. He grew a beard and side–locks like he had done in his youth and decided to be in exile and repent for his sins. He was a regular in the Beit HaMidrash of the rabbi from Komarno, without being recognized. Notwithstanding the disguise, the rabbi recognized him without letting him know. Then, one Saturday night, the rabbi told him that his father had passed away and he arrived for the funeral just on time.

From then on, he struggled with his wife about keeping the household in a traditional Jewish spirit until he partially succeeded. Strzyzow, his birthplace, was always close to his heart and he was always happy

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to meet people from Strzyzow and help them out. He was twice as happy when, in 1913, he met Moshe Mussler – his friend Eliyahu's son – who came to Lwow to enrol in a Hebrew Teacher's seminary. He saw in this student a realization of the Zionist ideal which he propagated in his youth.

At the beginning of World War II and during the triumphant march of the Nazi through Poland, his older son, Benjamin Zev, was killed trying to escape from Rzeszow. The loss of his son greatly depressed him.

After the Russians took over Eastern Galicia, Moshe Meir Seidman changed his name to Alterowich and lived alone in Lwow. Because of his wealth, he did not want to be recognized and avoid being exiled to Siberia. He continued his attendance in the Komarno rabbi's Beit HaMidrash.

To distance himself even further from his family which had caused him so much grief, le left Lwow and settled in Truskawiec – a resort town near Drohobycz. There he found his sanctified death together with his Jewish brothers. His family was filled on the estate where they had lived.

Rizhi, the righteous woman

by Itzhok Berglass

There was no lack of righteous women in Strzyzow. The majority of the town's women deserved such a noble title. Not only the women who attended the services each Sabbath but also those who came only once a month were all righteous. They were kind and unpretentious to their husbands. They worried about the children, took care of their household and also helped carry the burden of earning a living.

An important fact about these women was that each and every one was active in charitable deeds. Although normal charity work was done by the heads of the families, the men, the women were active in a different way. They discreetly helped women in need who accepted without their husband's knowledge, because had they known they would have been embarrassed and might have refused such charity.

One woman in town who was outstanding charity and maybe the most outstanding was Rizhi Rosenblith, whom everyone called Rizhi the Righteous.

Her husband, Reb Elazar Rosenblith, had a hard time making a living in spite of the fact that he was a high–pitched peddler. On market days while others displayed their wares on a simple table, he built a whole Sukkah which resembled a mobile store. Notwithstanding all this, his wife had to help him earn a living.

All his life Reb Elazar complained of pressures in his head. But nobody paid attention to him because he was a tall, husky man with ruddy cheeks. On account of his constant complaining, he was nicknamed: “The complainer”. Whoever heard in those days of high blood pressure?

Reb Elazar did not need any help in the business. Besides, Rizhi was not a business woman. She was a very straight person who was not able to convince a buyer to buy anyway. She therefore opened a private bakery in her quarters and people who knew that she was trustworthy, gave her ingredients on Thursday to bake challahs from them for the

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Sabbath. She was good–hearted and patient. She never became angry at customers, not even at those who were always late bringing the cholent on Friday afternoon to keep warm in her oven.

Her second and most important job was charitable activity. Her heart and hands were always open for the needy. The poor were part of her household. They came to her in times of need and she always found time, whether day or night, to help out with her own means or from others. She provided the poor with all their needs.

Her happiness was seeing others active in charity especially the young people. She considered charity the greatest mitzvah.

There were four of us

by Itzhok Berglass

In memory of my three friends during my youthful years: Reb Samuel Zeinvel Greenblatt; Naphtali Herz Weber and Chaim Gertner and who are no longer among the living.

We were sixteen or seventeen years old then, the best period in our lives both in our dreams and ambitions. The time itself was a time of transition from conservatism of the old Beit HaMidrash to the new Zionist movement which marched in step with our yearning for enlightenment and renewal of the structure of our lives.

In general, we the Zionist youth and the Beit HaMidrash dwellers were still friends. But this was a time when we began to split up into small groups which met in our spare time, strolled in the streets and the beautiful surroundings where we discussed world problems. The four of us were a tight circle. The three that I have mentioned about and I who feel that it is my duty to perpetuate them in our memorial book.

Reb Yacov Greenblatt whose son was one of the four, was called Yank'l the writer. (Almost everyone in town had a nickname. Many people were known only by their nicknames and not by their last names. There were whole families who shared the same nickname and nicknames were inherited by the sons from their fathers). Reb Yacov Greenblatt had no schooling. He was a self–educated man who knew all the laws and as a lawyer he acted as legal adviser and wrote petitions. That is how he obtained the nickname: “the writer”. During the years he advanced and became the secretary of the Kehillah. During World War I and the mayoralty of Dr. Patryn, he was also the Secretary of the city. Subsequently, he established his own bank and named himself as president. He was also elected as president of the Kehillah.

The most mature and the strongest intellectually was Samuel Zeinvel Greenblatt who was well educated in Hebrew and secular subjects. The three of us thirstily drank in his words of wisdom. We called him simply: “Zeinvel”. His whole family was self–educated. Zeinvel's older brother, Joel, was a member of the first Zionist committee. Joel was sharp and knew Hebrew and German to perfection. The knowledge of German came to him from reading German books about Jewish wisdom and philosophy. The German language was the only language that had so many books on Jewish subjects. He too never attended any school, not even the Polish elementary school. Joel immigrated to Germany and enrolled in the

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Rabbinical Seminary of Dr. Brauer in Frankfurt. However, he soon left because he could not get accustomed to the extreme religious spirit which prevailed in the Seminary. He subsequently succeeded in business and when Hitler came to power, he left for England.

Reb Zeinvel Greenblatt did not attend school either. Their Orthodox mother wanted her sons to grow up Torah scholars and pious men. But Zeinvel turned into a bookworm. He knew Hebrew and German perfectly and he was an expert in literature. At the age of fifteen he was influenced by the book “Reishit Chochma” and became extremely pious. His extremism did not last long but he remained religious all of his life. In spite of his being religious, our parents did not favour our companionship with Zeinvel who, because of his Zionism, was considered to have gone astray religiously. He taught Hebrew privately and he was among those who laid the cornerstone of Hebrew education in Strzyzow.

In later years, he immigrated to Germany where he hoped to settle with his brother's Joel help. He returned disappointed and remained in Strzyzow for the rest of his life working for his father as a clerk in the bank. Zeinvel died a sanctified death. He was murdered by the Nazi during the massacre as it will be told later in this book. Zeinvel's two sisters were active Zionists and both died in the Holocaust.

My second friend was Naphtali Hertz Weber whose name was shortened to Hertzke. Hertzke's father, Reb Meir, was a poor village peddler who never missed a recital of Psalms on Saturday afternoons. He was known as an avid “Amen” sayer after everyone who made a blessing. Reb Meir strived ambitiously for his son to grow up a Torah scholar and he did not let the son help him earn a livelihood. Reb Meir spent as much as the wealthy people for his son's education. After Hertzke finished his studying in cheder and legally required elementary school, he continued studying in the Beit HaMidrash. But at home, he completed a secular education on his own and became a private tutor to help out his parents. He tutored boys and girls who fell behind in their elementary school studies. He taught girls to read and write Yiddish and taught both sexes Modern Hebrew. Hertzke also contributed a lot to Hebrew education in town. In 1920 Hertzke and his parents immigrated to the United States, joining his three sisters who had previously emigrated. At the beginning, Hertzke had a hard time finding a steady job in the United States. Although they were from Strzyzow, his employers had fast become accustomed to the American way of life, along with the other Jewish immigrants and they conducted their business on the Sabbath as usual. As soon as Hertzke failed to appear on the job on Saturday, they refused to let him work on Sunday or Monday. And this was supposed to be the progressive Zionist from Strzyzow. He finally became acclimatized in the United States, got married and lived there for the rest of his life.

My third friend, the youngest in the group, was Chaim Gertner. He was the son of Reb Israel Gertner, one of the wealthiest people in town. Chaim Gertner went through the stages of religious and secular education, as I and Hertzke did. Chaim helped his father in the business and so did I, the writer of these memoirs. We studied Torah together in the Beit HaMidrash and the secular studies at home. We were the youngest

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members in the Zionist organization, a movement which had just started in town. Chaim's father, who was apprehensive about his family's reputation, did not relate favourably to his son's Zionism. In his opinion it was the diminution of reputation for a son from such a respectable family. For that reason, Chaim's father had put all kinds of obstacles in the way of his Zionist activities. But the flexible Chaim knew how to overcome the hardship and did not deviate from his path. He left town together with his parents during World War I when Strzyzow was occupied by the Russians. Chaim never returned. After the war, he settled in Krakow.

Before World War I, when we were sixteen years old, we attended the funeral of Reb Leibush Shipper, of blessed memory*** On the way back from the funeral we, the four friends, promised ourselves with a hand shake that, at the appropriate time, we would immigrate to Eretz Israel, the land of our dreams. In the winter of 1931–1932, I suggested to Chaim Gertner that we should fulfil our promise and realize our dream. To my sorrow, Chaim not only refused but also failed to give me the necessary encouragement which I needed to overcome my family's opposition. Chaim lived comfortably in Krakow, a city heavily populated with Jews. It had many synagogues, rabbis and Torah scholars and also many Jewish intellectuals.

During World War II, I met Chaim Gertner as a refugee with his family in Lwow. Apparently, he somehow managed to receive a Soviet passport or maybe he was just lucky enough to have escaped exile to Siberia along with his brother Moshe. He remained in Lwow until the German occupation and he and his family perished together with millions of his brethren.

***Reb Leibush Shipper was one of a few interesting personalities in town. At the beginning of the 20th century, he came from another town to settle in Strzyzow. In his old age, he married a woman from Strzyzow. His children from a previous marriage supported him. So all he did was sit in the Beit HaMidrash and study the Talmud from early morning to late at night. He used only one commentary. He studied with much speed as though he were reading a detective story. His wife Nechama brought him all the meals to the study table. Finishing the sixty two Talmudical tractates was, for Reb Leibush, a simple routine when for others it took years to accomplish.

Reb Simcha Feingold, of blessed memory

by Ben Ami Feingold

My grandfather, Reb Simcha, was born in Radomisl, Galicia in the middle of the past century (1863). He spent his youth in, the traditional way – in cheder and Yeshiva. After he married he settled in Strzyzow where he lived until just before World War I. He then immigrated with the big wave of immigrants to the United States. He made his livelihood in Strzyzow by working in the forests. He supervised timber cutting and marketing.

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Reb Simcha was not only a Torah scholar who studied continuously, but he was also a thinker. He concentrated his thoughts on the timing of the redemption of the Jewish people. He even secretly authored a composition on this subject. He wrote it, chapter by chapter, and only the later years of his life, when he came to Eretz Israel, did he complete his book as scholars have been doing throughout history.

His thinking about the redemption made him a Zionist in his youth. Therefore, his house in Strzyzow became a centre for Zionists with the help of his spouse, – my grandmother. When a Zionist speaker came to town he always stayed in Reb Simcha's house. The greatest day in his life was when his son, Yacov (my father), of blessed memory, went to Eretz Israel as a member of the American Jewish Legion. My father went with both his grandparents' blessings, interwoven with Reb Yehuda Halevi's poems, wishing success in his endeavour.

Grandfather was a believer but not a zealot. With love and understanding, he reached out to his grandchildren, the so–called “agnostics”. With understanding, wisdom and patience, he implanted love for Israel.

My grandfather's Zionism brought him to Eretz Israel in 1934 and he settled near his son in Schunat Borochov. Here he continued his studies and research. He kept on writing and spent many hours in the libraries reading ancient books and manuscripts. However, Schunat Borochov was a secular settlement and he did not like the environment. Thus, he looked for a more traditional atmosphere and settled in B'nai Brak. Later, he moved to Schunat Montefiore where he remained until the last days of his life. He lived the life of a scholar, in piety and love of mankind.

Reb Simcha Feingold passed away on the eve of the establishment of Medinat Israel having achieved an abundance of years and good deeds. He did not live to see the realization of his dream of redemption for which he longed for all his life. My good grandmother soon followed him. They were buried on the Mount of Olives in a gravesite they had purchased for themselves. Nobody visits their graves which are over the border across from the Temple Mount. (This article was written before the Six Day War. The Mount of Olives is now under Israeli rule).

The large, well–rooted families in Strzyzow

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Strzyzow had many large, well–rooted families who, after many generations, branched out and, by inter–marriage, reached a point wherein the majority of the people in town were related. Before I list the names of these families, I would like to apologize for any omissions. I only mentioned those families which were well–known to me or were my relatives. I only wish that others could have filled in the names which I have omitted. I will list them in alphabetical order. Each family had their own interesting personalities, scholars and ordinary everyday Jews.

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The Adest family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

The Adest family was well respected in Strzyzow. The family began with Reb Yacov Adest. Yacov had three sons and a daughter: Feivel, Moshe, Zelig and Dvoire Sarah. The sons were sophisticated men who were all involved in town politics but never ran for office. They only pulled the strings behind the curtains. The youngest son, Moshe, was very clever and sharp. His jocularity and stinging remarks offended many people. Nevertheless, everybody enjoyed hearing them even those who were offended. Moshe had a son who was a great impersonator. He impersonated cantors, preachers and righteous women. He was a beloved and fine young man. Reb Zelig Adest's son–in–law, Avrehmal'e Goldman, was a scholar. He was sharp and acute and a man about whom we wrote a well–deserved separate chapter.

The Berglass family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

The Berglass family was an old, rich and well–established family in Strzyzow. They had a hardware store which they claimed was established in Napoleon's time. The family began with Reb Avrom Mendel from the village of Glinik near Strzyzow. From the trunk of the Berglass family tree came the branches of Reb Israel Gertner's family and Reb David Liberman's family. These families were rich and shrewd business people. There were two Berglass families in Strzyzow. Reb Baruch Berglass was a very man who inherited the above–mentioned hardware store. Reb Hersh Ber Berglass was known not for his material situation but for his spiritual richness. Hersh Ber never missed being the first one in the Beit HaMidrash, whether summer or winter. When people came at four o'clock in the morning, he was already there studying. He was a dear and pious Jew. His son and daughter lived in Strzyzow until the Holocaust.

The Diamand Family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

They were one of the largest, most branched–out families in Strzyzow and vicinity. The Diamand family, including the people who inter–married with them, consisted of a few hundred people. I will list only those who were known to me.

The first of this huge family that I remember are: Reb Aryeh Leibush Diamand from Dobrzechow and Reb Akiba Samuel Diamand. They were the founders of the Diamand family. Reb Aryeh Leibush was the grandfather of my grandmother Sarah. Reb Akiba Samuel was the father of my grandfather. Reb Aryeh Leibush was a Hassid and a very hospitable man. He travelled to the righteous rabbis of his time. He was particularly attached to Reb Shlomo Zalman Frenkel, the holy rabbi of Wielopole. According to family legend, they were related. I remember that the Rabbi and righteous Reb Joseph Frenkel from Sedziszow, when writing to my father, of blessed memory, addressed him as “my dear relative and friend”. Reb Aryeh Leibush had four sons who settled in the surrounding villages following the advice of the rabbi from Wielopole.

Reb Yacov, his first son, had eight children and like his father, he was

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also a Hassid and his home was always open to wanderers. The majority of this ancient family perished in the Holocaust.

Reb Arye Leibush's second son, Reb Moshe, also had eight children. He left part of his estate to the poor in Strzyzow. One of his daughters immigrated to the United States and had a large family in America.

Of the offspring of Reb Aryeh Leibush's third son, Avrohom, I only know of two sons and two daughters. One son had eleven children who lived throughout Galicia. The second son lived in Strzyzow. He was a very clever man who possessed many merits, chanted the prayers and only had one son, but many daughters and grandchildren. They all perished in the Holocaust.

Reb Avrohom's daughters married local young men and all had big families of their own. The fourth son of Reb Aryeh Leibush was Reb Akiba who also had a big family. From Akiba's family, one a great–granddaughter survived in a village near Strzyzow. When a relative found out about her, he had to pay ransom for her release. He gave a horse and wagon to the peasant for her release.

The second founder of the Diamand family, Reb Akiba Samuel Diamand, was my father's grandfather. He had four sons and one of his sons was my grandfather, Reb Shlomo, after whom I was named. He lived in Zyznow close to Strzyzow.

My grandfather, Reb Shlomo, owned a tavern and much property in the village where he permanently resided. Even though he lived in the village, he was one of the community leaders in Strzyzow. He was very influential in town and in the entire vicinity. He was well–known for his charity. He was clever and sharp, compassionate and forceful, merits which he applied where necessary, always at the right time and in the right place. My grandfather had twelve children; three from his first marriage and after his wife died and he married her sister, nine more children were born. The children lived in different places where they established families of their own. Ninety percent of these families perished in the Holocaust. It was G–d's will that we, the brothers Heschel and Shlomo, the sons of Reb Joseph and Dvoire Diamand, the grandchildren of Reb Shlomo from Zyznow, survived. There are also a few other grandchildren who survived, some live in Israel and a few others in the United States.

The other son of Reb Shlomo from Zyznow, Reb Hersh from Bonarowka, had a son–in–law who was self–educated and about whom we will write later in this book. Reb Shlomo's third son, Reb Aryeh Leib Diamand, had many children who also had large families of their own. One of his off–spring, Dr. Akiba Samuel Milgraum–Diamand, lived in Haifa, Israel. He was well–known for his generosity because in many instances, upon making house calls to the poor, he would also leave money to buy the prescription. He passed away in 1945. I could not have mentioned everyone in such a large family. Therefore, I beg forgiveness.

Reb Yacov Moshe Diamand, the grandson of Reb Shlomo from Zyznow, was one of the important citizens in town. He married Reizi Wiesenfeld from Pilzno who bore him two sons: Aryeh Leibush and Avigdor. Both were enthusiastic Zionists and important personalities in town. Reb Aryeh Leibush married a daughter from the Montag family in Jaroslaw. At the

[Page 168]

outbreak of World War II, when the Nazi entered Jaroslaw, they were expelled to Przemysl from where they later moved to Lwow. They perished together with their only daughter. May G–d avenge their blood.

Reb Avigdor Diamand was married to the daughter of Reb Yechiel Hollender, the leader of the Kehillah in Gorlice. They were childless. A few days before the outbreak of the war, Avigdor arrived in Krakow sick and was admitted to the University Hospital. His wife stayed with a nephew, Aryeh Diamand, and they all perished in the Holocaust.

This is not a complete list of the Diamand offspring. There were many more victims. G–d shall forgive me for those that I have omitted.

The Holles Family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

The Holles family belonged to a big Rabbinical Dynasty, related to the Shapiro family and particularly to Reb Chaim Elazar Shapiro who was rabbi in Strzyzow and Munkatch, respectively. Rabbi Shlomo Holles was the assistant rabbi of Lwow at the time when the genius, Rabbi Yacov Orenstein served as rabbi. Rabbi Shlomo Holles' son, Joseph, lived in Strzyzow. His son, Reb Eisik'l, was known for his piety and righteousness and he was also one of a few interesting types in the town heretofore described. From this whole family, only a few offspring survived. They reside in Israel.

The Kanner Family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

One hundred and fifty years ago, Reb Aaron Halevi Kanner lived in Strzyzow. He was the father of the famous Kanner brothers: Reb Avishal; Reb Yehuda Leibush; Reb Itzhok and Reb Joseph. Reb Aaron was very wealthy and his fame as a hospitable, charitable and graceful man reached far and wide. Most of Reb Aaron's sons were also very rich. They were scholars, pious and charitable people. The most famous of them was Reb Avishal who moved to Sanok. His sons, Moshe and Aaron, were learned men and are mentioned by Reb Shmuel Engel in his responsae. Three famous rabbis: Rabbi Naphtali Horowitz; Rabbi Joseph Rubin and Rabbi Yehuda Eichenstein married daughters of the Kanner family. The grandchildren of Reb Avishal entered into matrimonial bonds with the grandchildren of Rabbi Chaim Halberstam from Sandz. As of today, there are two great–grandchildren who are rabbis in Israel: Rabbi Avishal Kanner, the Rabbi of Tczchow who lives in Haifa and Rabbi Moshe Halberstam of Jerusalem. The whole Kanner family assimilated into large rabbinical families.

Reb Aaron's second son, Reb Pinchos Kanner, lived in Strzyzow and was also very rich. He was a scholar with many merits and his offspring inter–married famous rabbinical families. Two of his sons, Reb Yacov and Reb Israel Kanner as well as his daughter, resided in Strzyzow. Reb Israel Kanner married a daughter of rabbinical ancestors; a relative of the author of the book “Noda Bayehuda”. Reb Israel Kanner was a righteous man without luck in his personal life. His misfortunes followed him all of his life, as we wrote in the previous pages of this

[Page 169]

book. Reb Yacov Kanner, the second son of Reb Pinchos who was my great–grandfather, was a rich man with a capital R. He was intelligent and served the community for many years. Reb Yacov's first wife, Dvoire was from the Komarno Rabbinical Dynasty which goes back to the famous Rabbi from Lezajsk and the rabbi from Lublin called “The Seer”.

My mother, Dvoire, was a great–great–granddaughter of Reb Yacov Kanner. Reb Yacov's second wife bore him many sons and daughters. Two sons lived in Strzyzow. The rest of the children spread throughout Galicia. To list all the names of the Kanner family is simply impossible. Here and there, some great–great–grandchildren of the Kanners survived the Holocaust but most of them were annihilated by the Nazi. Many families in Strzyzow were related to the Kanners.

One of Reb Pinchos Kanner's sons, Reb Aaron, moved to Germany where a large family branched out. They were expelled from Germany in 1936. One of Reb Aaron's sons was caught on the German–Swiss border where he suffered a heart attack and died in Switzerland.

The Mandel Family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

The founder of the Mandel family was Reb Moshe Yacov Mandel from Scuzcin. His son settled in Strzyzow. They were all Kohanim. All the Mandels, generation after generation, were ardent admirers of the Shapiro Rabbis. We already wrote about Yeshayahu and Chaim Mandel. One grandson, Shimon Mandel, survived and is now an officer in the Israel army.

The Mintz Family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

The head of the Mintz family was Reb Abraham Mintz, a well–respected man in Strzyzow. He was the treasurer of the shul and accepted by everyone. His son Michael was, like his father, a very nice person. One son immigrated to France where he soon passed away. Reb Shlomo, another son of Reb Abraham, immigrated to the United States at a very young age. There he raised a large family and lived very happy. One of Reb Abraham's daughters married Feivel Adest from Strzyzow. Fortunately, many of Reb Abraham's family spread throughout the world and survived.

Reb Hershel Resler and his sons–in–law

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Hershel lived in Tilkowice, a village near Strzyzow. He was known for his sons–in–law: Reb Benjamin Baumel, Reb David Dembitzer and Reb Moshe Aaron Zilber. Reb Benjamin was a worthy, faultless Jew, a Hassid of the Rabbi from Sadigora who chanted nicely and had an easy–going personality. He raised his children to study Torah and to do good deeds. Of all his children, only a son and daughter survived. They reside in the United States.

Reb David Dembitzer was a clever and good–hearted man, beloved by everyone. His sons were active Zionists and Torah students. One son and two daughters reside in the United States.

[Page 170]

Reb Moshe Aaron Zilber was a pious, humble and straight man. His sons Joshua, Pinchos and his daughter Sarah were fervent activists in the Zionist movement. His son–in–law, Reb Tzvi Shapiro was a devoted Zionist who went to Eretz Israel and lives amongst us here in Israel.

The Rosen brothers

by Shlomo Yahalomi

The first of the Rosen family was Reb Shmuel Rosen who came from Wielopole. Rabbi Alter Zev extended a friendly welcome to him and respected him greatly. On Purim, the rabbi let him wear his shtreimel. Reb Shmuel Rosen had two sons: Reb David and Reb Yechiel. Reb David's son, Reb Joseph Hersh, lived in Strzyzow and was an ardent admirer of Rabbi Alter Zev Horowitz. Reb Joseph Hersh, even though he was an irascible man, had a good heart, gave a lot to charity and was very hospitable. Reb Joseph Hersh had three sons: Yacov, Mendel and Joel. Reb Yacov was a Torah scholar. He was very clever, full of energy, blessed with capabilities and was very active helping the community during the Holocaust years. I, the writer of these memoirs, was his student. Yacov had a son, a child prodigy who died in his boyhood. The second son of Reb Joseph Hersh, Reb Mendel, was also a scholar. He had a good voice and often chanted in the Beit HaMidrash. He later became the ritual slaughterer in town. The third son, Reb Joel, did not live in Strzyzow. The Rosens were all killed by the Nazi.

Reb David Rosen had two sons–in–law. The first was Reb Leib Sternberg, a dear man, a good chanter and who was beloved by everyone. He respected everyone and, in return, he was respected by all. Only one son, who immigrated to Eretz Israel, lives amongst us. The second son–in–law was Reb Aaron Kanner about whom we wrote before in this book.

Reb Shmuel Rosen's second son, Reb Yechiel was a fiery opponent of Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro. He died during the prayers wearing his Talit and Tefilin. Reb Yechiel had four sons and three daughters, all of whom resided in Strzyzow with their families. They all perished in the Holocaust. Four grandchildren of Reb Yechiel miraculously survived the Holocaust. They escaped from the train which was carrying them to their death. The Rosens were all Hassidim of the rabbi from Sadigora.

The Schefler Family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

There were three Schefler brothers in Strzyzow: Reb Mordechai Mendel; Reb Shimon and Reb Moshe. Reb Mordechai Mendel was a chanter who assisted Reb Leib Sternberg in shul. He was a devoted community activist. Reb Shimon Schefler was a simple, faultless, pious man and had a good heart. He was one of the Psalmists who recited Psalms every Saturday afternoon, winter and summer. Reb Moshe Schefler was always graciously doing charitable work. In fact, he was murdered by the Nazi together with Reb Shmuel Moshe Groskopft and Reb Yacov Rosen during a meeting in which they were discussing charity matters. May G–d avenge their innocent blood. Remnants of these families survived and live in

[Page 171]

Israel. I also want to mention Basha, the sister of the Scheflers. She was a cook who was hired by the town to cook and bake for every occasion; weddings, engagements and circumcisions. She prepared food that everyone enjoyed.

The Sturm family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

One of the oldest and most respected families in Strzyzow was the Sturm family. The head of the family was Reb Yacov Sturm. His son, Rev Avrohom Itzhok was considered to be among the nobility of the town. He studied Torah at night and wore a silk frock and a colpac (a rabbinical Sabbath fur hat) on weekdays as well as a Talit on Friday nights until after Kiddush. Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro used to say of him that he prayed with such inspiration and devotion that he was often frightened that he might collapse and not be able to finish his prayers. At one time, he served as a community leader and during his term, Rabbi Alter Zev Horowitz was elected as rabbi of Strzyzow. That was after Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro left for Munktach. The second son of Reb Yacov Sturm, Reb Shimon, left town to study with Rabbi Meir Schick, a Torah genius.

Reb Avrohom Itzhok had two sons; one of who married into the big Diamand family. Although his father supported Rabbi Alter Zev, the son was an ardent supporter of the Shapiros. In fact, he married the granddaughter of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro.

Reb Avrohom Itzhok's son–in–law was the assistant rabbi, Reb Alter Ezra Seidman. Reb Avrohom Itzhok's second son had two sons and a daughter. The first son married the sister of the Krosno Rabbi. Reb Avrohom Itzhok's grandson, Reb Yacov Asher, immigrated to Germany and later to the United States. His son lives in Israel and is a professor in the Haifa Technion. A second grandson came from Germany to Eretz Israel and sacrificed his heroic life for the independence of Israel.

The Tenzer family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

The Tenzer family was among the most respected families in town. Reb Hersh Tenzer, the founder of the family, had several sons. He was a Hassid and a faultless person. He possessed a noble spirit and a gentle soul. Reb Hersh was an enlightened man – a perfectionist and very truthful. He was also humble, always had a smile on his face and he loved to study Torah. He married a daughter from the large Diamand family. Reb Moshe, the son of Reb Hersh, was a pious man, an ardent Hassid of the Rabbi from Belz. His wife was the assistant rabbi's sister. Only one son survived and he resides in Israel. The second son of Reb Hersh, Reb Yacov Tenzer, was a clone of his brother Moshe. He was very polite and he was an admirer of the rabbi from Bobow.

There were Reb Itzhok Tenzer and Reb Tuvia Tenzer all with families. They all perished under the Nazi.

Reb Abraham Ever Klagsfed from Krosno was a son–in–law of Reb Abraham Tenzer – may he be remembered favourably. During the war, he almost lost his life when he collected gold in Krosno to pay a ransom demanded

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by the Nazi from the Jews in Strzyzow. May G–d remember him favourably.

One of Reb Hersh Tenzer's sons, Reb Zalman, immigrated to Eretz Israel with his wife, sons and grandchildren. Reb Zalman lived a long life in the Holy Land. The majority of the Tenzer family perished in the Holocaust.


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