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[Page 173]

About Daily Life
and Trivial Events in Strzyzow

Odd Stories


Gentiles Reciting the Prayer “Shema Israel”

by Itzhok Berglass

It happened one spring, after the snow thawed, and the rains ended. It was twilight on the day of the funeral, when the Priest Yablocinski was buried. The Christians called him “The Old Priest” because he lived to a very old age. (I wrote about him in the story about the excesses in 1898.) Because he was admired by his coreligionists, thousands of people came to his funeral, from near and far. In those days there were no bridges over the Visloka River, which encircled the town. The crossing was done by ferry–boats which were located, one at the end of the town near the village Godowa, and the other a few kilometers down the stream.

On the day of the funeral the river overflowed. The attendant of the ferry–boat was very busy so that Reuven Saphire and his wife who were the concessionaires had to give a helping hand in collecting the passage fee from the passengers. As evening approached, they overloaded the boat and the boat partially sank. The steel cable to which the boat was attached, tore and, instead of crossing to the other side, the boat turned north and was carried away with the tide.

A panic broke out among the passengers on the boat and among those who were waiting for their turn on the shore. The passengers on the boat were helpless and could do nothing to help themselves. The only thing left to do was to pray. In town meanwhile, Reuven's children ran to the Beit Hamidrash to pray for the safety of their parents in front of the open Holy Ark. Their prayers were expressed only by silent crying without words. And the community prayed with them.

On the ferry–boat, the passengers whose lives were in danger whole–heartedly prayed to Jesus and to the Holy Mother. Reuven and his wife sat in a corner of the boat and recited the prayer “Shema Israel.” When those who were near them heard them praying in Hebrew, in despair, they too began to pray to the Jewish G–d and repeated the words in Hebrew. Soon the entire crowd began to pray the eternal Jewish prayer, “Hear O Israel.” Mispronouncing the words.

The District Commissioner's Party

by Itzhok Berglass

My father had various characteristics that complemented each other. On the one hand, he strictly observed all the divine rules and commandments, both light and weighty ones, like all the Jews. He was a believer in the righteous and a fiery Hassid of the Rabbi from Munkatch. On the other hand, he did some deeds that were considered progressive. In his

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youth, he was a fervent visitor in Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro's house until his departure for Munkatch. He studied Torah day and night and became outstanding and prodigious in his studies. But, at the same time, he also studied the Prophets, realizing that without the knowledge of the Prophets he would not know to write Hebrew. Being aware before his marriage that, eventually, he would take over my grandfather's business, intensively and rapidly he learned Polish and German, two languages which he would have to know in his future business endeavors, from the town's man of knowledge, Reb Hersh Mohrer. He sent his two daughters, my older sisters, Nechama and Chaya Sarah, to the high school in Rzeszow, after they finished the elementary school in Strzyzow. The advantage of this high school was that they did not have to attend in the Sabbath, unlike the local gymnasium. As for me, he did not allow continuing in high school after finishing the elementary schooling but he did urge me to learn the two languages on my own and to study the Prophets. My father did not object to my learning Hebrew using Shevach Volkowisky's letters, which was a popular way of studying among young people desirous of attaining the knowledge of the Hebrew language, and which most parents opposed seeing it as a beginning of going astray, meaning Zionism.

Because of the strictness in observing the Sabbath, my father suffered much in his business relations with important customers in the area. He never agreed to any compromise. In his youth, during his business visits to aristocratic homes, he never agreed to be treated to even a glass of tea. Nevertheless, he never lost a customer because his business had almost a monopolistic position in town. And now, to the main story.

During the Austrian rule, the District Commissioner in Strzyzow was Mr. Zalewski, a noble man both inspirit and behavior. Indeed, he did request from the Jews obedience and help to elect candidates who supported the government, but he never said, “You have to do it because you are Jewish.” He showed his gratitude with words and deeds. He soon advanced in his rank and from the small town of Strzyzow, was transferred to serve as the High Commissioner of the big city Przemysl, an important fortress city for the Austrian Empire.

When he was leaving Strzyzow, he was named an honorary citizen. In appreciation, he gave a party for the City Council, Christians and Jews alike. The Commissioner's wife received the guests at the entrance, as protocol dictated, with a handshake. The last to enter were the Jews. (Apparently it was accepted even in liberal Austria that the Jews were always last, as was customary in school to be seated in the last row.) My father was among them. When my father's turn came to shake the hand of the commissioner's wife, he apologized that he did not shake hands with strange women. As a result, after the initial confusion, the others did not have to shake the hand of the hostess. The party ended in good spirits. There was kosher food prepared for the Jews but my father told me afterwards, with bitterness toward the Jewish colleagues, that they did drink the wine.

The morning following the event, the whole town talked about it. Indeed, the “Progressive laughed about it, but the pious praised my father for his principled courage.

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The Thousands That Were Burned

by Itzhok Berglass

It happened in the days of the Austrian rule, when a thousand crowns or five hundred guldens was considered a huge sum and one could exchange them for gold coins within minutes. However, people were careful in doing so because they might lose the small gold coin or mistakenly spend them as hellers (pennies), which shone like the gold ones. Conservative Jews held onto these crowns and guldens and never traded them in until the end of the Austrian Empire.

Reb Moshe Dovid Unger was a plain, rich man, who owned the only soda–water plant in town. He also was a wholesaler, who exported dried mushrooms to the United States, where they were sold by his two sons who earlier emigrated to America. Peddlers who bought mushrooms in the villages sold them to Reb Moshe Dovid. He also traveled often to congressional Poland, and from there exported mushrooms directly to the United States.

Except for the group of cattle dealers who shipped weekly shipments of meat to Vienna, Reb Moshe Dovid was one of the main recipients of large sums of money for his merchandise in Strzyzow. Bank transfers were not customary in those days. Besides, maybe Strzyzow had no important bank through which it would have been possible to transfer huge sums. Neither was the post office able to do it. It is doubtful whether the local post office ever had such large amounts on hand to pay out such transfers. Therefore, money was sent in value registered envelopes sealed with a special wax which was acceptable by the Austrian postal service.

One such shipment which contained several thousands of crowns arrived for Reb Moshe Dovid on a wintery Sabbath afternoon. The mailman delivered the envelope on the Sabbath, being sure that he will get the signature for the delivery on the next day. Since no one in the family could handle money because it is forbidden on the Sabbath, the mailman put the envelope in the kitchen not far from the stove. After a short while, the old water carrier came into the house. He was the Sabbath goy who removed the candlesticks from the table and made the fire in the ovens on the Sabbath in the winter. When he looked for paper with which to start the fire in the stove, he found the envelope which was lying nearby. Happy to find such a finding, he innocently started the fire by putting the envelope under the logs. Soon he began to scream because he got burned from the wax which melted and spilled all over the fire. And the deed was discovered. A panic broke out, but it was too late, the situation could not be remedied.

The Prescription

by Itzhok Berglass

Almost every Jew liked to have a drink of 96 proof spirits on weekdays, during his meal to entice his appetite, and in the Beit Hamidrash on various sanctified occasions, on the Sabbath, after eating fish, and in friends' houses on different celebrations. The Jews were protected by their cleverness in preventing intoxication. They knew that such strong

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brandy which burns like fire is impossible to over imbibe.

Reb Tzvi, a simple, faultless Jew, who divided his days between his store and the kloiz of Reb Moshe Leib from Sassov, used to enjoy an extra drink. Understandably, within limits, so as not to get drunk. When he aged, he became ill with pneumonia, a serious illness in those days, which caused many to die. As soon as Reb Tzvi became ill, he asked his family members to give him a drink of spirit to which he was accustomed. His family refused to fulfill his request, despite his pleading throughout his sickness.

Not until his condition deteriorated, did his family tell Dr. Taub, the only Jewish doctor in town (who lived in Strzyzow until the First World War), about Reb Tzvi's strange request. The doctor saw that these are the last hours of the sick man, and he saw no reason to deprive him of this pleasure in his last minutes of life. So he advised the family to give Reb Tzvi the longed–for drink, saying that there is nothing to lose. And behold, Reb Tzvi took one sip from the strong liquid, his eyes lighted u, and it was as if a new living spirit had entered him. After a few hours, he began to perspire and the crisis was over. His condition improved and, after a short time, he fully recovered.

A Conscientious Ignoramus

by Itzhok Berglass

A certain so and so was a wealthy man and a certified ignoramus. Not just an illiterate who envies those who know how to learn a chapter Mishnayoth and a page of Gemara, but a conscientious ignoramus who despises those who spend their time studying Torah. Sometimes he also sided with his fellow simpletons who, in his opinion, were a special class in opposition to the scholars who prided themselves on their knowledge.

Once, a wealthy ignoramus passed away in Strzyzow. The Kehillah and the Burial Society demanded the customary fee from his heirs, according to their financial situation. Then a group of those ignorant organized in defense of the bereaved family to free them from any payment. When they were asked the reason for their strange demand. “Is it not asked from everyone?” they were asked. “Even the heirs of Reb Avrohom Itzhok Sturm, one of the most respected people in town, a scholar and a pious man, had to pay the customary fee.” Then the certain so and so replied: “Why do you compare the deceased to Reb Avrohom Itzhok who squandered all his life at the Gemara?”

When the certain individual demolished his small house and built a big two–story house, the work stopped for two days every week, Saturday and Sunday, as it was customary at the construction of a Jewish house. He became angry about the delay for which he blamed the town's scholars and their Torah, saying: “Because of the Sabbaths and the dark bad days (meaning the High Holidays), I could not finish my house on time.”

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The “Resolution” by the Rabbis
to Observe the Sabbath Twice a Week

by Itzhok Berglass

Reb Moshe was a village man who came to settle in town and made a living as a middleman, in addition to the support from his sons. He was not a great scholar, but he never released the book of Mishnayoth from his hands. Reb Moshe also liked to peek into a newspaper, even though he did not understand everything that was written there.

And behold! Once he read in the newspaper a wonderful thing. At the convention of the Rabbis and activists which took place in the Yeshiva of Lublin, it was decided to have Sabbath twice a week. (That is how Reb Moshe understood the speech of Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the Dean of the Yeshiva. Speaking about the spreading disease of the desecration of the Sabbath by the Jews, Rabbi Meir quoted the sages who said: “If only the Jews would fully observe two Sabbaths, the redemption would be imminent.”) Reb Moshe rushed over to Itzhok the confidant of such type of people, and told him the earthshaking news, but Itzhok told him that he was wrong.

Reb Moshe deeply regretted his mistake, and he returned home disappointed, back to his Mishnayoth.

The Relations Between
the Jews and Gentiles

by Itzhok Berglass

As I already told in one of my articles about the interrelations of the Poles and the Jews, they were, in general, normal. The relations of the town's wealthy gentiles with their Jewish neighbors were particularly good. Jews were tenants in their houses, conducted business with them, and sometimes they reached the point of real friendship, despite the fact that their spiritual life and traditions were strange to each other. I will further tell about two events related to this interrelationship which I heard from my friend Itzhok Deutch who also told me the aforementioned story about Reb Moshe.

The Jews Extinguished
the Fire in a Gentile House

by Itzhok Berglass

On a Sunday afternoon, a fire broke out in the house of the blacksmith, Leopold Gornicki; who lived on one of the town's main streets. It would have been hard to organize help from the gentiles who were resting on their Sabbath and, until the fire brigade who were spread all over town would have gathered, the wooden structure would have burned to the ground with everything in it. Gornicki came out into the street yelling despairingly: “Jews, good neighbors, help!” Immediately, the Jews who lived nearby, including a few lawyers who lived on the next street near the courthouse, organized help and, in a short while, the fire was extinguished with little damage. To express gratitude to the Jews for their deed, Gornicki persuaded the priest to publicize the deed in his weekly sermon, and to celebrate a special Mass on Sunday. The incident and the Priest‘s sermon made a strong impression on the Christians, and contributed to the improvement of relationship between the two sectors of the population.

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How the Jews Saved
Gentile Property during the Flood

by Itzhok Berglass

The cabinetmaker Jan Zamorski, and his wife always intermingled with the Jews, and the Jews were their main customers. Particularly, the wife befriended many Jewesses who were her acquaintances.

Zamorski's house was near the Visloka River whose water was always overflowing. During heavy floods, the houses located nearby had to be evacuated, including Zamorski's house.

Their Jewish friends were always there to assist the family. They carried out valuable belongings and safeguarded them until the water subsided, and the evacuees were allowed to return home.

The cabinetmaker and his wife used to tell everybody that, while the Jews kept their belongings with honesty and returned everything to them on their return home, the gentile friends were disloyal and kept for themselves a big portion of their belongings which they had helped to carry out from their house.

The Zionist Movement
and my Road to Zionism

by Leah Loos

I was then a first grade student in the local Polish gymnasium. My studying did not last long because, despite the fact that I did not attend school on the Sabbath and holidays, my parents had to withdraw me from school under the pressure of public opinion. That is to say, the worshipers in kloiz could not suffer that a daughter from a family related to the Rabbi should attend a Polish gymnasium and thus desecrate the purity of the family. My parents were as religious as all the other people in town and, understandably, were concerned that I should not, Heaven forbid violate one divine commandment. I, who was nurtured from my infancy with the spirit of traditional Judaism, knew that it was forbidden to desecrate the Sabbath, not to eat meat and dairy together, and not to eat any non–kosher food. I have observed all the traditions of Passover, Shavuot, Sukkoth, Hanukkah and Purim. Furthermore, I knew about the mourning of Tisha B'Av and all of the other Jewish traditions in general. I was joyful on holidays and sad in days of sadness, without knowing the real meaning of these events.

My parents worried about my traditional upbringing but not about my national consciousness which I received in the Polish school. During the Polish history lessons my heart ached when I leaned about the spiritual decline of my country, Poland, about the tripartite division of the land and the loss of her independence. I was happy about the peoples' trials and tribulations, my people, whose resurrection was expressed in the constitution of May the Third, about the rescue of the Kingdom by Kosciuszko. I was sad about the failure to receive the independence by Dombrowski, and Poniatowski in the rebellion of 1830 and 1863.

And suddenly a bitter disappointment. It happened on my big holiday, Constitution Day, May the Third. All the students marched in a procession to the church for a special Mass and, afterward, we were

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supposed to have marched in a parade through the town to a mass meeting in the club house. We, the Jews, did not enter the church, but waited outside, to later join our comrades in the parade. Behold! While standing outside, we were attacked by a group of gentile boys with insults and shouts of: “Jews go to Palestine!” I was very hurt by the attack and the screaming, and it also aroused some feelings in me. I then persuaded myself to get to know more about my own Jewish people, and I approached the Zionist movement which already existed in Strzyzow, and was active among the youths.

In time, I made a turnabout of 180 degrees, and I decided to fulfill the goal of the Zionist movement and to make aliyah to Eretz Israel. But to make aliyah I had to prepare myself and be qualified. Otherwise, what could one do in Eretz Israel? There was only agricultural work available. Well, I thought, I will have to learn the agricultural trade.

There was no organized Chalutz movement in Strzyzow. So I was forced to get farm training privately. I took advantage of the fact that my best friend Sarah Rebhun, the daughter of Reb Yacov, who was a milkman and traveled daily to Count Wolkowitzki's estate to get milk. The trustee of the farm knew me because he was a steady customer in my father's store, and I was accepted by him to work and learn farming.

Of course, I did not tell my parents about it because they would not have agreed to such a childish idea. Under the pretext that I was accompanying my friend, I left the house every day and worked, to the laughter of the female village workers, who were not used to seeing a spoiled city girl, a Jewess, working in the fields. The work was very strenuous for me. I was not used to physical labor, particularly to remain in a bent position for many hours every day. In addition, I could not complain at home about my backache. Everything was done discreetly.

Despite everything, I decided to hold out, no matter what happened. One day the bomb exploded. The trustee, my employer, came into the store as usual to buy yard goods, and during an innocent conversation, he disclosed to my parents about my secret work. His story disturbed my parents and they immediately decided to put an end to my “craziness.”

The first casualty was the blue–white collection box from the Jewish National Fund which they threw out. But I was not swayed from my path. In the meantime, I became active in the movement and, a few years later, I decided that it was time to fulfill the goal that eluded me earlier, namely, to make aliyah to Eretz Israel. This time, my parents were forced to agree because I was more mature and I knew that in Eretz Israel I could do something else besides farming.

I trained as a nurse which I enjoyed very much, and I was the first in town to make aliyah and settle in our land.

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by Leah Loos

Reb Yeshayahu Mandel was a fiery Hassid of the Rabbi from Munkatch. He was one of the most charitable activists in town. It was already described in a separate article about his charity deeds. Reb Yeshayahu was one of those Jews about whom the sages said: “Ask him for a donation for the temple, he gives, ask him for the golden calf, he also gives.” Therefore, when Reb Yeshayahu was approached by three young men and asked to contribute to the Jewish National Fund, he could not turn them away empty–handed. Maybe he was smitten by the young men's enthusiasm for a Jewish National Homeland. The important thing was that Reb Yeshayahu was among the first donors to the fund. But, alas, deep within Reb Yeshayahu, a doubt was gnawing. Should he have contributed or refused? After all it was a Zionist action, and Zionism was completely forbidden, particularly for the Hassidim of Munkatch. Rabbi Chaim Elazar, the Rabbi of Munkatch, was the grandson of Rabbi Shlomo from Strzyzow, blessed be his memory, of whom the Hassidim in Strzyzow had such fond memories, and he was a strong opponent of Zionism.

And behold! Rabbi Chaim Elazer came to Strzyzow in one of his frequent visits. Understandably, Reb Yeshayahu was among those who came to greet the Rabbi, shake his hands, and hand him the traditional Kvittel” (note). And on that occasion, Reb Yeshayahu wanted, once and for all, to get rid of the nagging doubt. He confessed to the rabbi about the sin he had committed.

The Rabbi of Munkatch, in whose eyes event the Agudat Israel was not kosher, can you imagine how he viewed the Zionists” The Rabbi related to Reb Yeshayahu's sin with total seriousness, and he commanded him to atone in order to obtain forgiveness. The nature of the atonement – I do not know. What I do know was that Reb Yeshayahu did not commit such a sin again.

He also had a blue–white collection box which his daughter had brought into the house, and it became the first casualty. Reb Yeshayahu broke the box and threw it out. From then on his daughter suffered very much from her father because of her association with the Zionist movement.

The Deal with the Ukrainians

by Itzhok Berglass

During the elections to the Polish Parliament which were held between the First and second World Wars, the Jewish candidate from our district was a man from the Mizrachi, Rabbi Hirshfeld from Biala–Bielsko. We, the Zionists, worked very hard for the success of his election campaign in our city.

There were two villages near Strzyzow populated with Ukrainians.

Because of the absence of a Ukrainian candidate, they always voted for the Polish Peasant Party.

One of our comrades who often visited these villages on business told us that he could strike a bargain. For the price of a few hundred zlotys contributed toward building a clubhouse in those villages, all

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the people would vote for the Jewish list to assure our candidate's election. We contacted the Central Committee, or maybe the candidate himself, I do not remember exactly, and they advised us to close the deal and promised to pay us back the money we spent.

We, the naïve ones, to whom every request from above was sacred, rushed over and handed the money to our comrade, a few hundred zlotys, to give to the people in the village.

Where did we get the money? Behold! I, the most naïve of them all, was the Chairman of the local Zionist Committee. In addition, I was the only man who could spare the money and nobody at home would even notice. Therefore, I agreed to borrow from my private funds, hoping to be paid back.

The Ukrainians lied to us. They took the money and voted for the Polish Peasant party, and our candidate lost as in the earlier elections. The man who promised to pay back did not keep his promise, and I was the victim. Money from other funds was sacred, and I would not dare to touch it. These funds were always sent entirely to the head office. I had no choice but to consider my money lost.

The Elections to the City Government

by Itzhok Berglass

Our Zionist movement was gradually progressing. In the beginning, we were a tiny group of boys and girls, dreamers, students enjoying every book, Hebrew and secular, as long as it was on a Jewish subject. These books revealed to us new horizons. Eretz Israel was our dream, our oracle, and a trip to Rzeszow to view a Jewish National fund propaganda film about how the Jews labored in Eretz Israel was a thrill for us. (Many parents did not allow their kids to travel.) We were only interested in politics on the national level – not locally. Even during the Austrian rule, we participated in the election campaign only to assist the Central Zionist Committee.

After the First World War, and the decline of the Zionist movement which followed, we were strengthened only with the return home of the young people. Slowly we became a force in the town's public life. The democratization of the city authorities came a few years after Poland became independent. In the elections that followed, Strzyzow as getting ready to elect forty people to the City Council. The forty people consisted of four groups, ten men in each group. The fourth group was elected by all the people who reached their voting age. The third group was elected by the small tax–payers. The second group was elected by the big tax–payers, and the first group was elected by the aristocracy, high government functionaries, academicians with titles, and the religious clerics, the Rabbis, the Priests, etc.

Until then the city had been ruled by the Clerical Party. The mayor was a cabinetmaker, Mr. Konieczkowski who was under the influence of Father Kwieczinski. The ex–mayor, Dr. Joseph Patryn, about whom I wrote before, challenged his opponents. He wanted to reestablish his rule over the city. To achieve his goal, he recruited supporters from every segment of the population. The Jews were present in both opposing

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parties. However, the majority were on Dr. Patryn's side. The personality of the candidates played a bigger role then the partisanship, and the incumbent Mayor Konieczkowski, despite the fact that he belonged to the Clerical Party which was not too friendly to Jews, conducted himself properly toward the Jews during his mayoralty. Therefore, many Jews were counted amongst his friends, acquaintances, and supporters during the election campaign.

We, the Zionists, who by then were able to muster a sizeable force mainly in the fourth group, hesitated in the beginning whether to get involved in the local election campaign as an organization. But in the heat of the election campaign, a meeting organized exclusively for Christians in the church under the Priests' supervision, the speakers for Konieczkowski attacked the Jews. Only then, did we join Dr. Patryn's party and made an agreement with him to add three candidates from the local Zionist Committee, in addition to the Jews he already had on his list. Our candidates were Dr. Chaim Frenkel, the lawyer, Avigdor Diamand, and I.

Every Sunday, elections were held for one group starting with the most populated fourth group. Dr. Frenkel and Avigdor Diamand were elected by the fourth and third groups. I was supposed to have been elected in the exclusive first group. I could not run in the second group because I did not want to compete with my father who ran on Konieczkowski's list. The elections were proportional but majoritarian. Therefore, all who were on Dr. Patryn's list had received the majority votes and were elected. Meanwhile, my father resigned from the second group of candidates in the opposition camp, realizing that the decisive majority of the town was on Dr. Patryn's side. In that case, we the Zionists decided to demand from Dr. Patryn that my name be placed on the second group's candidate list to assure my election, according to our agreement. But Dr. Patryn, who demanded blind allegiance from his supporters, was not anxious to move my name up because of my father's sin, namely supporting his opponent. He already felt strong and he wanted to impose somebody who would be more loyal as a third candidate. Dr. Patryn was urged on by his close Jewish friends. Because I was still single, they found a serious defect in my candidacy. They complained vociferously, “Have you seen such an audacity, a bachelor?”

We fiercely opposed, arguing that only the organization may decide the candidacy and we demanded that Dr. Patryn adhere to our agreement. When we saw that our argument was not convincing, we were afraid that he was liable to do as he wished. We therefore, resorted to the strategy of the election rule which say: If an elected candidate resigns before the nominating assembly which supposed to elect the mayor, the replacement comes not from the alternates but from the opposition list. Thus, at a meeting of the Zionist committee we decided to notify Doctor Patryn that if he would not transfer my name as agreed, as a protest, Dr Frenkel, and Avigdor Diamand, would resign before the end of the elections. When we notified Dr. Patryn our decision, he, who was erudite in all the rules, jumped up as if he had been bitten by a snake. He knew that in such a case, his opponents would be elected. The Jew

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Michael Schitz, and the incumbent Konieczkowski were on the top of the list.

Dr. Patryn's Jewish friends were embittered and voiced an outcry all over town. “The attic will dictate to us who to elect?” (the attic that they referred to meant the Zionist library from where we conducted all our Zionist activities, which was located on an attic.) But, not only did Dr. Patryn, the realist, pout my name on the list, but furthermore, all day Friday before the elections, and early Sunday morning, election day, he visited all his friends and supporters, and asked them not to change anything in the list because he must see to it that I “The audacious rascal” must be elected.

I was elected, and we, the Zionist Committee, felt our strength. From then on no Jewish activity in Strzyzow was done without us, or without our approval.

The Unsuccessful Intervention

by Itzhok Berglass

When Rabbi Alter Zev Horowitz advanced in age, the Rabbinical family began to worry about naming a successor while the Rabbi was still alive in order, that after one hundred and twenty years, the Rabbinical post would not be left empty, even for one minute. They feared that perhaps it would be exploited by the supporters of Rabbi Nechemiah Shapiro, who, by then, had returned to Strzyzow.

Rabbi Alter Zev's family decided to do something out of the ordinary; to strive that the Rabbi's young grandson, Reb Kalonymus, the son of Reb Chaim Yehuda, be named as successor while the old Rabbi was still alive, an action previously unheard of.

According to the bylaws of the Kehillah, a rabbi had to be elected by all the members of the Kehillah Committee, Reb Yacov Greenblatt, the Rabbi's opponent, had the decisive vote.

The District Commissioner, Dr. Malin, who was one of Rabbi Horowitz's staunchest supporters and wanted to help him execute this act, tried to persuade one of the committee members to cross over to the Rabbi's side, to tip the scale in the Rabbi's favor. This member was a representative of the Zionists, my colleague and friend, Reb Avigdor Diamand, who operated his mother's saloon and made a nice living.

Such a business required a license from the District Commissioner's office which Dr. Malin supervised. The District Commissioner could have found a pretext to make trouble on many occasions, and even revoke his mother's license. It was hard for Avigdor to withstand the pressure of the Commissioner. On the other hand, he could not vote against his principles, and particularly against the will of his Zionist voters, the most of whom opposed Reb Kalonymus, because of the local and national politics of his father, Reb Chaim Yehuda. Therefore, Avigdor resigned his seat, and I was next on the list to take his place.

For the Rabbinical family, I was not much better than Avigdor. My family were ardent supporters of Rabbi Nechemiah Shapiro for two reasons. First, in his youth my father was a frequent visitor in Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro's house as he befriended young people, Torah students. Therefore,

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he continued his loyalty to Reb Shlomo's offspring. The second reason was that Rabbi Nechemiah Shapiro was the son–in–law of the Rabbi Yeshayahu Hertz from Dynow, a brother of the Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech, the Rabbi of Blazow, with whom my brother–in–law was a close friend and to whose advice he listened as if it would have been given by Moses on Mount Sinai.

I personally was not involved in the Rabbinical dispute, however, my grievance against Rabbi Alter Zev was the Zionists' grievance against his son, Reb Chaim Yehuda, who was a fiery anti–Zionist.

The Horowitz family, whose struggle for the Rabbinical seat lasted many years, learned how to exploit everything that could be to their advantage. They found something about me which they wanted to try before the District Commissioner would accept Avigdor's resignation.

Reb Feivel Steppel from Sendiszow, my bride's father, (she s my wife now until a hundred and twenty) was a friend and supporter of the Assistant Rabbi in Sendiszow, Reb Yosele Frenkel, who was the son–in–law of Rabbi Alter Zev. Reb Yosele was also the father–in–law of the young man Reb Kalonymus, the candidate for the succession.

Rabbi Alter Zev, even though he served as Rabbi in Strzyzow, did not abandon his rights in Sendiszow from where he came, when his younger brother was nominated as rabbi of Sendiszow. Rabbi Alter Zev saw to it that his son–in–law, Reb Yosele, should be named Assistant Rabbi. Rabbi Alter Zev's family tried to use the friendship of my future father–in–law with Reb Yosele, to persuade me to vote for Reb Kalonymus. They hoped that I would not oppose, especially when the arranged meeting was made in presence of my bride.

I refuted the argument, claiming that according to our Zionist concept, no public office is private or family property, as it was customary years ago. Our representatives have to honor the wishes of their voters. And, as far as I was concerned, they were opposing the Rabbi. I also refused to abide by my future father–in–law's proposal that I too should resign as my friend did. This proposal came from the initiative of the Rabbi's family who was experienced in finding all kinds of options. I argued that my friend was able to resign because he knew that his replacement would not breach the faith of his constituency, but I could not resign because my replacement would be an easy target for persuasion, and this would strengthen the Rabbi's power.

When my future father–in–law saw my steadfastness, he told those who asked to convince me to resign that, in his opinion, I was worse than my friend Avigdor Diamand. Ultimately, the Commissioner refused to accept Avigdor's resignation.

Despite heavy pressure not to resign, Avigdor did not budge. He refused to withdraw his already submitted resignation. Then the Rabbi's family found a way to persuade one of his opponents to vote for the young Reb Kalonymus and tipped the scale in Rabbi Alter Zev's favor. It was seven to five.

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Jewish Contact with the Authorities

by Itzhok Berglass

Generally, we, the Zionists, unlike many Jews, were not happy about contact with the people from the authorities. The authorities were not very interested in what was going on among the Jews except the Rabbinical dispute. The Kehillah Committee, though, had to bring their problems before the Commissioner for his approval. Every time the authorities showed some interest, it was to our disadvantage. They oppressed us because of their hatred for the Jews in general and, particularly, the Zionist, who were less submissive than other Jews. Among other things, they closed our first library, “The Jewish Library,” without reason but that caused only a change of name. We reopened the library soon after at the same location with the same books under the name “Hatikva.” The library existed until the end. Settling disputes depended on the character of the people with whom we came in contact, and what kind of a problem it was. Further on I will tell about three such incidents.

How the Word “Choshiver”
was Changed to “Hashomer”

by Itzhok Berglass

It happened in 1922, when the three of us; my friend Akiba Keh, Avigdor Diamand, and I, conducted the first appeal for the Jewish National fund, and we strove to reach every segment of the Jewish population in town and the Jews from the nearby vicinities, particularly the wealthy ones. We approached the local Jews face to face attempting to influence them with our persuasive power. To prepare the Jews from the nearby vicinities about the forthcoming visit we had written a circular letter in Yiddish. The circular letter began with the words: “Choshiver” (honorable) Comrade! Because we related to every Jew as a comrade who shared with us the goal of realizing the Zionist ideal. In the circular we pointed out the imminent danger that we were threatened with if we did not use the opportunity given to us to rebuild our homeland, without naming the enemy – the Arabs. The circular was signed by the three of us, the activists.

One of these letters which we sent to Mr. Engel, who leased a farm in Blonek near Frysztak, for reasons unknown to us, turned up in the hands of the District Police in Strzyzow, and they, as usual, examined the proclamation. One of the policemen, sergeant Shpitol, knew some Yiddish and claimed to be an expert in all matters concerning the Jews and their lives. When he was requested to look into the text of this circular, he turned t Reb Meir Ber, the only barber in town, who, until his emigration to the United States, extracted teeth and attached leeches to the sick. (That is why he was called doctor.) Since Reb Meir was a clean shaven Jew, they thought him to be an intellectual. Therefore, he was asked to help decipher the letter. Reb Meir who always bragged about his wisdom and denigrated every Jew, did not want to lose is prestige by confessing that he did not understand what was written in the circular which was sent out by the Zionists. Therefore, after much effort by both, Sergeant Shpitol and Reb Meir to translate the circular, they concluded that in Strzyzow existed the organization

[Page 186]


The word “Choshiver” became “Hashomer.” Hashomer was legal in other places but not in Strzyzow, because it was not officially approved by the District Commissioner.

This incident happened not long after the Polish–Russian War. The Jews and, particularly, the Zionists were suspect ted of being disloyal and, that they sympathized with the Communists. In the anti–Semitic press the name Zionist–Bolsheviks was routine despite the absurdity of pairing these two together. Apparently, the police realized that they needed more evidence about our underground activities. Therefore, one Sabbath afternoon (of course, it had to be on the Jewish Sabbath), when the three of us, I and my aforementioned comrades, strolled in the town's marketplace, out came from the police station a large group of policemen, who split into three smaller groups. One group went into my parents' house and two groups into the Diamand house where the Keh family also lived. The policemen made a thorough search in our three houses. At my comrades' houses they did not find anything. All; the material of the local Zionist Federation and the National Fund was in my house because I was then the secretary of the local Zionist Committee and the head of the National Fund. All the documents and my personal correspondence were taken by the policemen who were unable to distinguish what was suspicious material and what not.

The police filed charges with the District Court in Rzeszow accusing the three of us of running an illegal organization. The case was handed over to a judge who came to Strzyzow and summoned us to appear for interrogation which took place in the local courthouse. I was called first, either because the documents were taken from my house, or maybe because of the alphabetical order, since my name starts with a “B”. The interrogation was conducted in the presence of the Sergeant Shpitol. The judge asked me to translate everything that was written in Yiddish and Hebrew. On occasion, during the interrogation, the judge made anti–Semitic remarks to which I vigorously protested saying that they were irrelevant to the case. After the interrogation did not produce any material for prosecution, he pulled out the “heavy cannon,” the circular which was in his possession, and asked me to translate it into Polish word by word. By then we still had no idea what the charges were.

Therefore, I did not stop at the word “Choshiver” in the title of the letter, but tried to explain to the judge the words pertaining to the danger which was hovering over the Jews. That this did not mean Poland which is our country, but we referred t the Arabs in Palestine. Then the judge demanded to make clear to him the meaning of the word “Choshiver” in the title of the letter. When I told him that the word was not “Hashomer,” the judge was dumbfounded and so much more the Police Sergeant Shpitol. They both realized that the accusation which had cost them so much effort had fallen apart.

The judge immediately ended the interrogation, and after I signed the protocol, he also requested the signatures of my two comrades who were waiting for their turn in the hall of the courthouse, without additional interrogation.

[Page 187]

The main victim was the Sergeant Shpitol who proved his ignorance in matters related to Jews. For a long time he was ashamed to look into our faces and distanced himself as much as he could.

The Election to the Polish Parliament

by Itzhok Berglass

As I previously stated, there was a great demand for Jewish votes during the elections to the Austrian Parliament. We were compelled by force, or willingly enticed by agitators to elect the Polish candidates who were close to the authorities. The Polish aristocracy, who then ruled in Galicia, even though they looked down upon the Jews, still needed them and used them to strengthen their influence. Even when they had to forego their candidacy in favor of assimilated Jews in the democratic parties, they still preferred them over the Zionists, because the Socialists and others belonged to the Polish national caucus in the Austro–Hungarian parliament from where the Polish aristocracy was still able to draw their power and influence.

When Poland was resurrected, the strong Polish Parties did not seek the Jewish support anymore, and did not court their votes during the elections. Whenever possible, t he apportionment was shaped in such a way as to decrease artificially the percentage of the Jewish vote and influence. However, in places where it was not possible, representatives of Jewish parties were elected to the Seym (Parliament) and the Senate.

When the Sanacia Party came to power, and the appeasement of the aristocracy followed, they too used the system of the aristocrats and demanded from the Jews to vote for their candidates because they were not popular among the Polish masses, particularly at the beginning.

The Sanacia Party was no less anti–Semitic than the other Polish parties which preceded them in the government and, in the last few years before the war, they officially endorsed anti–Semitism. However, all this did not prevent them from demanding Jewish support during elections. In Strzyzow, as in the rest of the country, there were also such a demand for support and, to soften the opposition of the Jews, particularly the Zionists, they used official pressure, but not too harshly. Despite the anti–Semitic trial in Brest Litowsk and the concentration camp in Kartuz Bereza, Poland was still a light dictatorship, much lighter than other dictatorships which existed during that period in Europe.

Before the elections to the Seym, (I think this was the last election before the Second World War) the District Commissioner, Dr. Malin, a brother–in–law of an important figure close to the “Belveder,” the dictator's palace from the days of Pilsudski, sent the police inspector, Mr. Potoczny, to the Zionists in Strzyzow who were influential in town. The inspector was asked to find some infraction of the law and punish them for it in order to prevent Zionist propaganda during the elections.

Inspector Potoczny was a straight forward young man who came from Rzeszow where he was friendly with all the Zionist young men. He came, accompanied by one of the Zionists, and told us that he was forced to obey the order of the District Commissioner. He fined us a small amount which in no way could detract us from campaigning for the Jewish candidate.

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On Sunday, a week after the elections to the Seym and a day before the elections to the senate, we, a group of Zionists, were strolling in the street, and encountered the mayor, Dr. Chmiel, a son of a peasant, who belonged to the Folks Party and switched his affiliation when the Sanacia came to power. The mayor expressed his confidence that tomorrow we will all elect to the Senate the men from the Sanacia. I replied that this wish seemed strange because in all the elections to the Senate since Poland became independent, a Jewish candidate was always elected from our district, and we intend to continue to vote for our candidate. The authorities saw to it that this time n Jew was elected but the District Commissioner did not forget my transgression. In every district the Commissioner was automatically the head of the Public Works department in the district. In the aftermath of the elections, he gave an order to the department to stop patronizing my business, and also persuaded the landowners around Strzyzow to stop buying anything from me. They all went to the Christian store which had just opened to compete with the Jews, in accordance with the official policy that prevailed then to drive the Jews out. But not for long. They did not take under consideration that my brother–in–law Reb Jacov Itzhok Bernstein's, and my business were like my father's in his time, almost monopolistic, and these customers could not adapt themselves to do business anywhere else.

After a short time, the officials from the District Public Works Department who were in charge of the projects decided to return and buy from us again, provided that their superiors would not find out about it. After a while, the landowners also returned without even bothering to hide the fact from the District Commissioner.

The Kindergarten Inspection

by Itzhok Berglass

At the establishment of the Hebrew kindergarten, we did not make any effort to obtain a license from the Board of Education. We were low in funds, and we knew that the Board of Education sometimes made demands that were impossible to meet. We relied on the fact that the gentiles were not interested about what was going on among the Jews, and we took it for granted that no Jew would report us, especially since only a few individuals knew that we did not have a permit. Perhaps we might have succeeded to administer the kindergarten in this manner to the end were it not for the following incident.

Two inspectors, a man and a woman sent by the Board of Education, arrived in Strzyzow to inspect the Catholic kindergartens in town and the nearby villages. These kindergartens were managed by nuns under the supervision of the local priests. There were no automobiles in town. To get from the railroad station to the town and to the nearby villages the inspectors hired the town coachman, Reb Raphael Ber. As it is habitual with coachmen, he started a conversation with them, and finding out the purpose of their visit, he expressed his national pride by telling the inspectors that all the kindergartens they had inspected already and the ones they intended to inspect were nothing in comparison to the Hebrew kindergarten which was supervised by the Zionists. The inspectors

[Page 189]

who had no Hebrew kindergarten registered in their files were more than happy to oblige, and asked Reb Raphael to them there.

The Hebrew kindergarten was located in a rented room in the house of Samuel Feit. The inspectors arrived there before noon when all the children were present and the teacher, Elka Shulman, was busy teaching. When the inspectors asked her who was in charge, she mentioned my name in spite of the fact that from an official point of view, I was only a patron. The practical supervision and the daily management were in the hands of a mother's committee under Nechama Gertner's leadership.

The inspectors did not act harshly and did not immediately report the illegal kindergarten to the authorities. They turned directly to me. After a few minutes, they arrived at my store which was crowded with customers. After I took them into my private quarters, they pointed out to me the seriousness of such a violation. I spoke to the inspectors with frankness. I told them that we simply could not entrust our toddlers, especially the girls, in the hands of the Catholic Nuns, and neither could we abandon the children to the peasant maids who hardly know how to read and write. Therefore, we had no choice but to organize a Hebrew kindergarten. Since we lacked the financial means to execute all the governmental requirements for the legalization, we were forced to do it illegally.

The inspectors who seemed understanding and honest, were sympathetic to our motives. But the law is the law and it could not be violated. The inspectors agreed not to report us to the authorities and they also permitted us to continue to operate the kindergarten. They also promised to give us full support in our legalization efforts. I, from my end, promised to begin the process of legalization right away.

I immediately contacted the Central Hebrew School Organization, “Yavneh.” Although most of our colleagues were General Zionists, when it concerned traditional upbringing, we always aligned ourselves with the “Mizrachi”. We had come very close to achieving our goal, namely, legalization of the kindergarten, which was nonetheless open until the last moments before the outbreak of the Second World War.

This Also Happened in Our Town
(Resurrection of the Dead)

by Moshe Mussler

It is unbelievable when it is told, but it is true that there was a superstitious belief that the deceased gathered nightly in shul to pray. This belief was deep rooted in the consciousness of the townspeople as in all other Jewish towns in Eastern Europe. Not only did the simple folk, women and children believe it, but those mature and knowledgeable in the holy books did not deny the existence of such a belief.

This belief originated from the fact that in most places, the cemeteries were located in close proximity to the shul. The distance between the shul and the cemetery was no more than four meters. The proximity of these two originated during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when

[Page 190]

the majority of the town's inhabitants were Jews, and the authorities did not take the future under consideration.

The Austrian Kaiser was considered by the simple folk as their protector from the German Jew–haters and the savior from the Polish people, their enemies. Because of our provincial naiveté, it would have been out of place to doubt such a belief. However, the servants of the Kaiser and the loyalists among his officials in the towns away from the Capitol could not tolerate the fact that the melamdim should teach and explain the Jewish Torah to Jewish children to assure the continuity of Judaism. They resented our existence, and all means were “kosher” top hinder our steps.

Every Monday and Tuesday, gendarmes were dispatched to the melamdim alley, to inspect it and verify that they abided by the law and taught the children in spacious, well–lit rooms, as the official schools did. Mainly, they checked whether they possessed a license from the educational authorities. The gendarmes were also supposed to check if the number of students did not exceed the permit. Woe was to the melamed who was caught in an infraction. A fine and arrest was his lot.

Our teacher also could not withstand the rigidity of the District Commissioner's decrees and he was forced to transfer his cheder to the Kehillah room adjacent to the main sanctuary of the shul. This place was off limits to the authorities. Even the Commissioner's rights ended at the entrance. (According to the law they could not enter a church or synagogue.)

If the truth to be told, in the summertime the studying in cheder gave is a little bit of pleasure. The windows were open to the old cemetery and the clean scented air blew in from the hundred–year–old trees which refreshed us, replacing the choking smell from the Rabbi's kitchen which he had also used for a study.

But alas, the opposite was true in the wintertime. The camel–like oven stood in the corner orphaned and ashamed with its coldness. A rich man's fortune could not be enough to heat it up. If Rothschild would have decided to squander his fortune to supply us with firewood, we would have needed to engage an entire division of woodcutters to fill the oven's emptiness.

As soon as the sound of the shofar was heard at the end of Yom Kippur, the cheder in the Kehillah room surrendered itself to the exclusive rule of the Prince of Winter who did not move out from that room until Shavuot. Despite the anger and indignation of the Prince of Winter we persevered. Frozen to the marrow of our bones, we sat there hours upon hours and studied G–d's Torah. Those long winter nights made the task of studying several times harder. The hours were drawn and the cold stiffened our arms until we were not able to move them. Our dismissal always came with rejoicing shouts. While going home we waved our lighted paper lanterns, our own production, spreading light on the winter scenery of the slumbering town.

It was the beginning of the winter when this story happened. Into our cheder arrived a new student who was three or four years older than

[Page 191]

we were. He came from a nearby village and he barely knew how to put two letters together.

He replaced his lack of knowledge of our teacher Moses' Torah with a knowledge which had no connection whatsoever to the Pentateuch, and surely not with the Gemara. He was sharp and skilled about cats, dogs and horses, quick in climbing trees. In vain was our teacher's effort to make him participate with us in studying. His peasant brain could grasp nothing of the problems in the Talmudic tractates and Rashi. He found no interest in the “old wives' tales” from the Pentateuch.

The village boy's extra specialty was demonstrated by swiping apples from the peasants' carts that brought them to town for sale. Thanks to his merits we were privileged to say hundreds of blessings a day over those stolen apples, even on plain weekdays.

He, more than any of us, knew how to vanish from the study bench and evade the angry eye of the teacher, He could never restrain himself for more than a half an hour to sit on the bench, when he would suddenly disappear as if the earth had swallowed him…

The Rabbi's lashing and pinching, slid off him like a summer rain. The teacher's hand was powerless in subduing him. That boy's enthusiasm for a card game was as of a Roman gambler. He did not miss any occasion to join a game.

But not always could he find company for a game. It was not enough for him to be free to play cards. A partner was always needed. Otherwise there was no game. Where could he find a partner when we were all subservient to the teacher and burdened with his heavy yoke?

In addition, we were all inexperienced, and did not know how to disappear from the teacher's sharp eye and slip off the study bench. Fear of our parents also existed and could not be ignored.

Besides, the hesitating heart and our conscience did not permit us to violate the clear commandment that studying Torah should not be interrupted – Heaven forbid.

It seemed that this boy was sent to us from heaven to save us from our distress. On the other hand you may have said that Satan's hand was involved. An ingenious idea entered his head, an idea which had been rolling at our feet all along, but we never noticed it until the boy came along. It was only a pity that this geniality was not channeled to the studying of Torah.

As I mentioned before, this was on those nights when we studied in the Kehillah room located near the entrance to the main sanctuary.

Normally, we waited outside until the teacher came, to pass through the gate together and enter the foyer of the shul. The dead who prayed there caused us terror, and none of us dared to peek and see if truly the dead were there. However, the door to the sanctuary was usually closed and only a weak light from the eternal candle could be seen flickering in the darkness through the portal. This weak light spread horrifying shadows on the walls, moving shadows which were spreading and shrinking, forming all kinds of shapes in our childish fantasies. We saw in them what we wanted to see, namely, the deceased wrapped in tallisim, standing crowded together in prayer.

[Page 192]

One such evening, when we were waiting near the gate of the shul for the arrival of the teacher, nobody noticed that the young man from the village was not among us. Finally, the teacher arrived. We went into the foyer, with the teacher walking ahead of us. When we passed before the gate, we were surprised to see it wide open and, on the bimah, is the center of the shul illuminated by a weak light, we noticed a ghost standing wrapped in a talit, rocking heavily with his hands raised above his head.

A terrible shriek escaped from our mouths. The teacher also became terribly frightened of the ghost. We ran as fast as we could not to be called to the Torah. It was believed that whoever is called to the Torah will not outlive the year.

Breathlessly I arrived home and told my father, of blessed memory, about the incident. My father, who was known to be agnostically minded, interrogated me thoroughly and inquired if I had really seen the ghost with my own eyes.

I swore on everything that was holy to me, that it was true, and I was convinced that my oath was absolutely true, that I saw the dead with my own eyes. As additional evidence, I told my father that the teacher had also seen him and ran.

A smile appeared on my father's face, and he remarked as follows: “I am sure my son that this deceased was a live person. What a pity that you did not use a thick stick to convince yourself whether he was alive or dead. I am not surprised that you were frightened. As for the teacher, I have no answer.”

Of course, we did not return to the cheder that night. We went into the warm and lighted Beit Hamidrash, and found all my friends gathered in a corner submerged in a card game. It was close to Hanukkah.

On Hanukkah it was permitted to play cards. The winner was the peasant boy.

When the term ended the boy returned to his village as empty of Torah as he was when he came. Only then did he reveal to us his secret, that he was deceased who was praying in shul on that winter night. He and no one else.

It was easy to understand his intentions. He wanted to scare the teacher, and he wanted to evade studying and, have partners for the card game…

Long Live the Kaiser

by Moshe Mussler

It is a rare occasion that a person has a chance to recite the traditional blessing when seeing a King or Emperor. The blessing sounds as follows: “Praised be He who bestowed a part of his Majesty upon a human being.” Especially in our days, when the number of Kings and rulers kept decreasing. The people of our town, and yours truly among them, had the honor to meet the Kaiser and make such a blessing. . .

It happened in 1904, or 1905, during military maneuvers in our vicinity. All the highways and the country roads were swarming with the royal army. There were cavalry, infantry, artillery, and sappers who built bridges. They were escorted by high officialdom that followed them

[Page 193]


One morning on a summer day, the town drummer announced an order from the District Commissioner that all residents of the town ought to appear near the railway at the entrance of the town and, when the emperor's train will pass and his Highness will appear in the window, all the bystanders were required to shout: “Long live the Kaiser.”

Of course, nobody would have dared to oppose such an order. Besides that order carried its own reward. a) A chance to recite such a rare blessing. b) If his Highness the Kaiser had bothered to come to us, b y all means we should give him a venerable reception.

At the determined hour, a stream of elders, youth, women and infants flowed to the railroad. The Rabbi and the head of the Kehillah were among the official invitees to the reception committee at the railroad station. We, the public, were lined up alongside the railway and, with trembling hearts, awaited the arrival of the Kaiser's train.

That day, not only did the Beit Hamidrash dwellers interrupt the studying of Torah, but so did the melamdim. They too came to greet his Highness in whose shadow we sought forbearance.

Before we went to the station, we rehearsed the blessing several times in order that the recital should go smoothly and without a hitch. All eyes were glued to the far distance, longing for that exalted moment of the revelation which was about to occur before us.

Finally, the whistle of the locomotive was heard. Slowly the train appeared from around the bend and passed in front of us in a slow tempo. Franz Joseph I was standing at the window, waving his hand at us. In all the excitement, I forgot to say the blessing, and I was convinced that I did not mention G–d's name in vain.

Who can take the dirt away from your eyes, “Courageous Soldier Schweik,” so that you could see that not only you, in your innocence, believed that destiny from above assigned him to be the ruler? We too were naïve and believed in the righteousness of the Kaiser, his ministers, and advisors.

Let us not be ashamed and confess to the truth. We were mistaken about the straightforwardness of our rulers and governors in the past and will be so in the future – until the end of generations.

Books Burned on the Auto–Da–Fe

by Moshe Mussler

It was an undeniable fact that the shtetl Frysztak was near and subservient tour town, had a smaller population, was smitten with poverty and affliction, but was known in the Jewish world no less than our town which was the site of a regional city.

In the past, Frysztak was served by Rabbis who were famous as Torah scholars and sin–fearing people. Righteous women testified that infants soon after they were brought into the covenant of Abraham our Father, refused to be nursed from their mother's breasts unless their heads were covered and the mothers recited the proper blessing over milk.

I myself never saw such wonder. But my mother told me that she heard it from trustworthy women, and it was not a disgrace to believe it.

[Page 194]

No secular books nor a person who joined the new sect called “Zionism” could be found in the periphery of this community. . . This was the official opinion. Unofficially, in the underground, the Zionist bug penetrated their domain and began to shake the town's foundations.

The Young men from this shtetl became contaminated with “atheism.” Namely, they shortened their underwear and made their pants longer. They met with the leaders of our Zionist association, and together they concluded that the youth of Frysztak deserves secular education and, for this purpose, it was necessary to establish a branch of our library. Borrowing and reading books would bring them under the Zionists' wings.

It appeared that the satanic power succeeded, despite all the excommunications and Rabbinical fore–swearings, including the special prohibition of the extremist Rabbi who was then famous all over Galicia.

At the helm of the extremists in Frysztak was Reb Chaim Meir who decided to expunge “atheism” from the community.

On a dark gloomy night, Reb Chaim Meir and a few conspirators who volunteer to do the holy deed, broke into the house where the unclean books were kept, loaded them into a wheelbarrow, and carted them off to the community bathhouse where they were sentenced to be burned. Eye–witnesses reported that during the burning, Reb Meir quietly recited the “Kol Chamira” which is usually recited during burning the chometz.

This happened when the Hapsburg Empire was still in existence and people were not free to do as they wished.

As soon as we found out about it, a complaint to the District Court was filed b y our lawyer, Dr. Kornhouser from Jaslo against Reb Chaim Meir and his helpers. He was ordered to pay the damage.

Their consolation was that they destroyed atheistic books. But woe is to such a consolation. For their money, new books were purchased and their reign over the youth ceased to exist. The breach in the wall of extremism began to grow bigger and bigger.


by Moshe Mussler

Reb Shalom Schwartzman was a renowned Hassid, a very pious man, observant of the Hassidic traditions of the Rabbi from Belz. He always raised his voice during the prayers, burning like a fire. Of course, his fight against the young people who joined the Zionists was for the sake of the Lord. Lo and behold, the Rabbi from Belz was one of the fiercest opponents of Zionism.

On one of those days, Reb Shalom turned to my father, of blessed memory, and said to him: “Eliyahu, my apprehension is that your son, (that was I) will go astray, and maybe, Heaven forbid, become a convert…”

My father replied, “I beg your forgiveness, but you are entirely wrong. I will explain it with an inference. If he ignores a few customs which were not established by our ancestors but only recently, well, maybe he is a little bit agnostic and does not believe in nonsense. There are many who do not believe. But, to betray the Torah of Israel – no way. Under no circumstances, he would not go that far.”


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