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[Page 317]

The Vicinity


The Little Towns

by Itzhok Berglass

In the district of Strzyzow, there were three little towns which were connected to Strzyzow as the regional city. The largest of these towns was Frysztak, which was called by her Jewish residents “Frystik.” It was located on the highways Strzyzow–Jaslo, and Strzyzow–Krosno. There were more Jews in Frysztak than in Strzyzow and were the majority there. There were very few Christians in that town and until the rise of official anti–Semitism during the rule of the “Sanacia Party,” there was always a Jewish mayor in Frysztak. The last mayor who served many years was Reb Tzvi Yare.

The main source of livelihood in this town was the weekly market which took place on Thursday and was primarily a cattle market. Merchants and farmers, sellers and buyers, came to this Market Day from far and near.

In its spiritual life, Frysztak was different from Strzyzow. The difference was that Frysztak was such an extreme city that it did not allow the penetration of the Zionist Movement but at a very low level, it was headed by Shlomo Schmidt. We wrote already about the burning of the secular books.

The second small town was Czudec called, in Yiddish, “Tchitch.” It was located on the way to Rzeszow. This town had the same characteristics as Strzyzow, only on a small scale. It had commerce, wealth, scholars, Hassidim, and also the Zionist Movement.

Czudec's livelihood was derived from dealings with the rich farmers in town and vicinity, who owned huge estates and, also, with the biggest landowners in that area, Polish aristocrats.

The Youths in Czudec were more liberal–minded than the youths in Strzyzow and, in the Zionist Movement, they put more emphasis on their social life. They had a dramatic group which Strzyzow lacked, they had also developed a stronger pioneering spirit and, thanks to that spirit, many people from Czudec now live in Israel.

The third nearby town was Niebylec, in Yiddish it was called “Nebalitz.” They had a Kehillah, a Rabbi, and other clergy. In the last generation, they had among t hem merchants, scholars, and Hassidim, as in any other Galician shtetl. Of late, they even had a Jewish doctor. But, of all the four towns in the district of Strzyzow, Niebylec looked more like a village than a town. Once, the majority of its Jews were simple people, believers, and strong adherents of mitzvot, but behaved like peasants. They were mostly cattle and horse traders, highly conceited with an inclination for skirmishes, imitating the behavior of small Polish aristocrats. Until the war broke out, many of Nibylec's cattle

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and horse traders played an important and respected part in the market in Frysztak.

The distinctive feature of this town was the Jewish estate of Reb Joseph Asher Wallach, with its huge cross standing in the center of the garden which was left by the previous owners. Reb Joseph Asher Wallach, the pious Jew, could not remove the cross from the garden and lived in its shadow all of his life.

The Villages

by Itzhok Berglass

There were many Jews in the surrounding villages who continued to live there until the final years, in spite of the great exodus in the years before the Second World War. Most Jewish families were deeply rooted in these places for generations. They had all kinds of occupations, small store–keepers, trades–people, peddlers, middlemen, tavern keepers, and also buyers of farm produce and forestry. They had contact and dealt with the estate owners in the area. These estate owners conducted most of their business through the Jews who lived nearby. Some Jewish dealers reached a high rank in the world of commerce which engulfed the whole region, like Reb Hersh Resler from Tolkowice and Reb Shlomo Diamand from Zyznow. Every village Jew had a small farm of his own, like his neighbor the Polish peasant. There were also a few larger Jewish estates, like the estate in Rozanka which, for generations, belonged to the Diamand family, and the Glinik estate which belonged to Reb Abraham Mendel Berglass, the patriarch of the Gertner and Deutch families in Strzyzow. Berglass was charitable and well–respected in town because after every harvest he provided food for the poor in Strzyzow. Ultimately, both estates passed into Christian ownership.

In shtetl, everybody knew each other and felt a part of one entity but, in the village, every Jew stood out as an individual. To him, Christian farmers used to turn for advice and help and, in many cases, they trusted the Jew more than their own Christian brother. The Jewish townspeople knew all the Jews from the villages only by their first names and the names of their villages, never by their last names. The village Jews were also distinguished from their brothers in town in their spiritual life. There were among them people who hardly knew how to pray or recite Psalms, and some were ignorant altogether. Only a few knew how to study the chapter of the week, a chapter of Mishnayoth, or Talmud. Hassidim and scholars among these Jews were a rarity. In some villages, the Jews organized a quorum on Saturdays and Holidays to pray together. Only a few came to town for the High Holidays. When they had a quorum, they always hired somebody from Strzyzow to chant for them and lead the prayers. In general, they were as observant as the townspeople. They observed the small and the large rituals, in spite of being isolated. Often times they were only one or two Jewish families in a whole village. They did not mingle with the gentiles and their houses were Jewish in all details. They kept strictly kosher, observed the Sabbath and holidays, and their children were sent to Strzyzow to study and, on rare occasions, also to obtain higher education.

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The incident of the conversion of two sisters in Rozanka was an exception. In the final years there were a few young men who belonged to Zionist groups and associated with the youth of Strzyzow.

In any case, all the village people dreamed about settling in town, and some realized their dreams. Many of the Jewish population in Strzyzow lived once in a village or were descendants of village people.

The Village Lutcza

by Itzhok Berglass

Lutcza was different from other villages because of the many Jews that lived there. They had several quorums which used to congregate on the Sabbaths and holidays in the estate of Reb Yechezkiel Wallach and, after he passed away in the house of his sons until the Holocaust. Lutcza was a huge estate which occupied an area the size of a large village with a population of thousands of people. For many years this estate was very neglected by the previous aristocratic owners until Reb Yechezkiel Wallach bought it. Previously this estate was leased and managed by Reb Eliyahu Bilut. Reb Eliyahu was a fiery Hassid of the Rabbi from Dynow. He behaved like the Polish aristocrats. He related to his workers and to the farmers with conceit. The workers and the farmers from the village were used to such treatment since feudal times. Reb Eliyahu used to leave the estate for long periods of time. However, unlike the Polish aristocrats who traveled to the big city or abroad to live the life of pleasure, Reb Eliyahu visited with Rabbis, especially during the months of High Holidays which fell during the harvest season of the Polish farms. Reb Feivel Adest, the clever man from Strzyzow, used to call Reb Eliyahu “The Hassidic Vagabound.”

There were rumors in Strzyzow that the Rabbi from Dynow promised Reb Eliyahu that someday he would be able to buy the estate from the Christian owners. But my father, when told about those rumors, vigorously denied them, stating that, “If the Rabbi had promised it to him, it would have surely come true.” (Hassidim believe that the righteous request and G–d fulfills)

At the end, Reb Eliyahu left the estate broke, and it was purchased by Reb Yechezkiel Wallach. Reb Eliyahu and his descendants bore a grudge towards the Wallach family forever, and for years they tried to harm the Wallachs.

Reb Yechezkiel, in contrast to his predecessor, related to his subordinates with humility and simplicity, took good care of his possession, and lived a conservative life. The only luxury he allowed himself was proper matches for his sons and daughters. His sons–in–law came from good scholarly families and for daughters–in–law; he searched only for daughters from good families. All his sons and sons–in–law worked with him on the estate. With Reb Yechezkiel's help, his son, Joseph Asher, was able to purchase the estate in nearby Niebylec, and is son–in–law, Reb Yehuda Schiff, obtained the large farm, Lunek. His grandchildren were all educated like city children. He engaged melamdim to study with them Torah, and tutors for secular education. One grandson, Reb Zisha Hirshfeld, was a Zionist representative in Lutcza and vicinity.

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Reb Yechezkiel Wallach passed away of old age and was buried in Niebylec, the Kehillah to which Lutcza belonged.

Details about what happened to the Jews from these little towns and villages during the Holocaust, and who survived, are unknown to me. The only thing that I do know is that they disappeared like all the other Jewish communities. Only a few have survived.

In the village Godowa, near Strzyzow, a young man, Yacov, the son of Aryeh Leibush Diamand, was hiding until he was caught by a local farmer who brought him to the Nazi police, and he was killed by them.

The grandson f Ritter who was the victim of the blood libel, a story which was previously told in this book, was killed in Lutcza. He was one of those who jumped from the train which left Rzeszow ghetto on November 15, 1942. The Rosen brothers jumped from the same train, this young man went back to his village and hid until he was recognized by some Poles, and he was killed by them. Reb Abraham Wallach, heir to the estate was also killed in Lutcza. He lived in Krakow and came back to his village to hide. From all the Wallach family very few survived. One grandson, Reb Shlomo Wilner, survived by hiding in Lutcza and a few others escaped and were exiled in Russia. In Rozanka, Reb Chaim Resler and part of his family survived hiding in a farmer's house, except his wife and son who left their hiding place. They were lured to come out of hiding by a peasant woman who knew of their hiding place but could not report them to the Gestapo, not wanting to endanger her relatives in whose house the Resler family was hiding. She took revenge, and she succeeded at least to kill part of the family.

The Jewish Villagers
were the Pillars of Benefaction

by Shlomo Yahalomi

The settling of the Jews in villages was an important factor, not only by establishing roots in all parts of life in Poland, but also by helping find occupations and livelihood in the cities and in the villages also. This settling was needed and desirable for the benefit of the Jews who lived in the big cities and small towns. Whoever is well–versed in Hassidic history in Galicia knows that some Rabbis wanted to forbid the Jews to live in villages. The reasons being their apprehension for the safety of single Jewish families among ninety–nine percent gentiles, and the fear for the gentile influence upon the Jewish family members. The major worry was the problem of educating the children. In contrast, there was famous s Tzadikim who looked favorably upon and even enticed many Hassidim to settle in villages. Their reasoning was that at that period and until the last years it was easier to make a living in the villages. Many of our brothers have found their livelihood in the villages by farming, peddling and in the logging industry. The village people were used also for a way station for the wandering Jews. The desire of the Rabbis was that there should be at least one Jewish family in each village, where a traveler could stop to pray, have a meal, and find lodging. Therefore, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Frenkel from Wielopole told Reb Aryeh

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Leibush Diamand from Dobrzechow that his four sons should each settle in a different village. And they did exactly what the Rabbi had told them to do. Reb Yacov settled in Wyscka, Reb Moshe in Ruzanka, and Reb Akiba in Kozlowa. The fourth son later settled in Pstrongowa. Such cases were many in Galicia, where people obeyed the request of the rabbis and therefore were blessed with a decent living, many even becoming rich men. On the other hand, there were many who struggled to make a living. But they all served as a way station for the wayfarers, fulfilling the commandment of hospitality. Some of these village Jews were also scholars, pious men, at peace with G–d and their fellow men. Of course there were many among the villagers who were ignoramuses, but they were humble and knew their place. By then, the so called “Democracy,” which disturbed the great society and put “Progress” ahead of Torah, had not ruled yet.

In the section “Ancient Families in Town,” I listed many village people but in this chapter, I would like to include the ones I missed before.

Reb Eliyahu Bilut from Lutcza

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Reb Eliyahu was the lessee of the estate and the village Lutcza. He ran the estate as though he had been a squire from birth. He liked to play the role of a ruler, and so did his son. His son Yair trained the farmers to address him “Sir” or “Master.” But, with all of the above, Reb Eliyahu was a Hassid and admirer of many Galician Rabbis, like rabbi Chaim from Sandz, rabbi Itzhok Eisik from Ziditchow, and many more. He was a lavish contributor to charity and all worthwhile causes, wherever he came, he presented himself with an open hand and great reverence. When my grandfather was a young man, Reb Eliyahu helped him become accustomed to visit the righteous and he took him to visit the Rabbis from Sandz and Ziditchow. In the early part f this book an interesting episode that happened to my grandfather and Reb Eliyahu on one of their visits to Sandz was told. With all due respect to Reb Eliyahu's charitable deeds, and his Hassidism, he lagged behind the other Jewish estate owners in knowledge, and ability to manage his domain properly, and everything that went with it. The result f his shabby management was that he was forced off of the estate and his offspring became dependent on others. I knew one of his sons who, despite reaching low esteem, had not resigned himself and demanded to be treated with superiority. Whoever stood before him was expected to stand at attention, the thoughts and deeds of a person are sometimes puzzling…

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Reb Yechezkiel Wallach from Lutcza
(He was a Diamand on his maternal side)

by Shlomo Yahalomi

Sometimes after Reb Eliyahu Bilut was forced off of the estate, it was purchased by Reb Yechezkiel Wallach. Wallach became the master of the village and also the richest man in the vicinity. Reb Yechezkiel was a simple, purposeful man, but clever, and a man of action. A straightforward man, unpretentious, he always believed in the Almighty in his own way. When he prayed, he locked himself in his room and nobody was allowed to enter and disturb him in his prayers. This fact was known by the other gentile estate owners, and they avoided visiting him at that time of day. And if somebody did come, he had to wait until Reb Yechezkiel finished his prayers. Once unexpectedly a rabbi from the Ropczyce Dynasty came to Lutcza to see Reb Yechezkiel and he, too, had to wait. Later Reb Yechezkiel apologized, and the Rabbi responded, “On the contrary! I like it. It is a very nice custom.”

Interesting stories were told about Reb Yechezkiel's cleverness, and here is one of them told to me by Itzhok Deutch. There was one Jewish girl among the servants, who was not attractive and not too young. She managed the household and her main job was to watch the kashrut. In those times, it was very hard for such a girl to get married. If she would have at least had some money to cover her deficiencies, well, perhaps – but she was very poor. And she kept aging and aging to the sorrow of her friends. Behold, an incident occurred. Reb Yechezkiel lost a thousand American dollars, a huge sum even for a rich man like Reb Yechezkiel. He regretted the loss. After a few days, the girl found the money and immediately returned it to Reb Yechezkiel. He was stunned by such an act and he appreciated the great temptation which this poor girl had gone through. However, he decided to punish her for her “stupidity.” Giving back to him the money he never hoped to find. What did he do? He called in a gentile boy and told him to take a stick and hit her, but very lightly. And then he gave her the thousand dollars. The girl later established a family with the money.

Reb Yechezkiel Wallach had sons, daughters, and many grandchildren. He married them off into the most respected families. One of his sons–in–law was Reb Zisha Hirshfeld, the son of Reb Moshe from Rozwadow. He was a distinguished scholar and he was sharp. He knew by heart every complicated segments from Ketzot Hachoshen, a book about religious strictures and Jewish customs. Most offspring of Reb Yechezkiel perished in the Holocaust. Only a few survived.

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The Large Diamand Family

by Shlomo Yahalomi

About the large Diamand family we already wrote in the section about the ancient families in Strzyzow. I only want to add a few details. Almost every member of this family owned a Torah scroll which had been specially written for them. My grandfather, Reb Shlomo from Zyznow, had two Torah scrolls and in his house, they prayed with a quorum. Reb Abraham Diamand from Pstrongewo had four Torah scrolls and gave charity lavishly. Most of the Diamonds' were like him. When the Russians occupied Galicia during the First World War, they accused Reb Zalman Diamand from Wysoka of spying for the Austrians. He was saved only by a miracle. Reb Zalman was one of the first victims during the blood libel pogrom. One of Reb Zalman's sons, Reb Yacov, was surrounded in a house by Poles who planned to kill him. He succeeded in sneaking out and hiding in an abandoned flour mill, immersed in water all night. He survived because the gentiles did not think of looking for him there. Next morning he jumped into a train which was on his way to Jaslo, and from there, he escaped to Germany. At present, Reb Yacov Diamand lives in Israel with his family. Reb Zalman passed away in 1937, but his wife and the rest of his offspring, all perished in the Holocaust. G–d shall avenge their blood.


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