Natives of Strzyzow throughout the world
by Itzhok Berglass
This article will be very superficial and possibly may contain some inaccuracies because we lacked clear information about our natives who are spread throughout the world. Even in countries where there are large concentrations of our brethren, we did not find anyone to write about people from Strzyzow who settled there. However, this fact does not free us from the obligation of writing an article at the conclusion of this book after having described the town, its inhabitants and the Holocaust in which our Kehillah was wiped out and after which the few remaining survivors have spread into many countries.
Only a few survived from those Jews who lived in Strzyzow until the outbreak of World War II. The majority remained in town when the Germans took control and from those, a few young men who were sent to German labour camps and two young girls on Aryan papers, survived. From the few of our townspeople who escaped East to the territory occupied by the Russians and were not exiled, three people survived: One, on Aryan documents after his family was taken away during his absence and were annihilated somewhere. A second man returned to Strzyzow after the Germans occupied Lwow and survived in a German camp and the third one succeeded to join the Soviet Army. From the army he was transferred to a prison and later into labour camps. He finally reached Eretz Israel. Of the people who illegally returned to Strzyzow during the short SovietGerman peace period, no one survived. The majority of the refugees from Strzyzow in Soviet Russia were exiled to distant places and forced into labour camps. A part of those could not withstand the hard living conditions but the majority of these refugees remained alive. Among them, there is only one family who remained intact: husband, wife and two daughters the only prewar family from Strzyzow who is living in Israel.
Natives of Strzyzow live all over the world thanks to the immigration during the fifty years that began in the second half of the previous century
until the beginning of the war in 1939. Most of the immigrants who went to the United States and Germany were mainly single, young men from poverty-stricken families and from the middle class who could not find a place in their parents' home or entrepreneurs who looked for enchantment in the big world. Family people emigrated only after their effort to establish a livelihood failed. For longer periods, they immigrated to the United States and for shorter periods to Germany. They went and returned several times. They left the families in town and sent home money for support.
Entire families or daughters rarely emigrated. In general and until World War I, emigration was not popular. Long-standing families, respected families, were embarrassed to emigrate and even to be supported from such sources. Despite the fact that money does not smell, it did not seem to have the same value as money earned with sweat at home. Also, a dowry of a girl which came from an emigrant did not earn the same respect as the one given by parents who saved it up during many years of hard work and thrift. This situation changed after World War I when many Torah-educated young men began to immigrate to Germany. Young men, scholars, enlightened people and also families who struggled to make a living especially the people who had evacuated from Strzyzow during the Russian occupation, did not return. Reb Leib Eisenberg, a Torah scholar, settled in Vienna. Joseph Wolf, the son-in-law of Menachem Guzik, became rich in his new place. Reb Moshe Itzhok Schimmel, the Hassid who immigrated to Germany, became very wealthy. Reb Hersh Pfeffer, an educated man, owned a printing shop in Strzyzow and, after his departure, there was never another printing shop in town. Reb Chaim Laufer, the scholar and intellectual known for his sweet voice, and others.
After the war, there was a turnabout. Emigration increased. It became natural and people were not ashamed of it anymore. Besides the two emigration places, the United States and Germany, a few also went to Belgium, France, Switzerland, England and South America. Some also went to Upper Silesia which belonged to Poland. Then emigration began to Eretz Israel every possible way, legally or illegally. Aliyah and emigration continued until the outbreak of World War II.
At present, there are about one hundred and forty people from Strzyzow in Israel. There are a few families in which both parents came from Strzyzow. However, the majority were single people who got married and established families outside of Strzyzow. There were no cases of Aliyah made by elders or Hassidim to live out their last years in the Holy Land. There are only a few Jews of the older generation: Reb Levi Itzhok Schiff who brought his whole family with him. Reb Shimon Leitner who came by himself bought some property but went back to Strzyzow. Reb Shalom Schwartzman came with his wife Sarah, née Schiff, the daughter of the Rabbi from Niebylec and his grandson Mordechai. They settled in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem. They made Aliyah influenced by the spirit of Zionism without even realizing it. Zionists, pioneers, members of Zionist youth
Organizations that made Aliyah were mostly single and settled in towns. They did not organize into groups or join a Kibbutz. The number of people from Strzyzow in Eretz Israel increased after Hitler's ascendance to power. Then, several families who had immigrated to Germany came to Eretz Israel. Finally, the majority of the Holocaust survivors, particularly those who returned from Russia and also families who survived in the Western countries, came to Eretz Israel after several years of wandering.
During World War II, when the number of people from Strzyzow in Eretz Israel increased, Reb Levi Itzhok, who saved his family by making Aliyah and had been previously an activist in the community of Strzyzow, tried to organize all the Strzyzow natives, as other cities had done. He did not succeed because those who came from Germany claimed that they were German refugees since they had left Strzyzow a long time ago. After the war when the first refugees arrived, mainly those who came from Russia, Reb Levi Itzhok Schiff tried again and this time he succeeded in organizing the Society of Natives of Strzyzow in Israel. The timing was perfect. The new immigrants arrived one by one, found an address where to turn to and get help and guidance. After the establishment of a free loan committee, they were also helped financially. The house of Reb Levi Itzhok, with the help of his wife Ryvka, was open to receive guests from Strzyzow who were in need and he himself exploited his circle of friends to help the immigrants to find living quarters and a job. The nature of Reb Levi Itzhok Schiff was always to befriend people and he therefore organized around him some kind of a committee, mainly of the people who came from Germany who, despite distancing themselves from their native town, were close to him spiritually and he succeeded in influencing them to join the society.
The first committee of the society was headed by Reb Levi Itzhok Schiff. He served as president for about ten years from 1950 to 1959. His assistant and right-hand man was the secretary Elazar Nuremberg. The committee members during the years were: Shlomo Asher; Pinchos Aloni (Klotz); Michael Birnbach; Itzhok Berglass; the brothers Joseph and Eliezer Gruber; Menachem Hasenkopf; Shlomo Yahalomi-Diamand; Chaim Kalb; Simcha Langsam; Chana Langerman; Seryl Fishler; Israel Pfeffer; Itzhok Lanner; Tzvi Sternberg and others.
The committee's main action was to establish the organization which exists until this day and its activities consisted of organizing annual memorial services to honour the martyrs of our town, to support needy members and to establish a free loan fund which loaned funds for several years to new immigrants who arrived after the war.
Levi Itzhok led the organization even when the rest of the committee members withdrew one-by-one and even after secretary Elazar Nuremberg passed away. At that time the only activity of the society was the maintenance of the annual memorial services which was helped by Pinchos Aloni and Eliezer Gruber.
In 1958, Reb Levi Itzhok Schiff could not continue to be active anymore. At the annual gathering on 25th Tamuz, 1958, a temporary committee was elected and on 3rd of Tevet, 1959 a general assembly was called during which new leadership was elected. The new committee consisted of: Pinchos Aloni; Itzhok Berglass; Eliezer Gruber; Shabtai
Hausner; Golda Tishler; Shlomo Yahalomi-Diamand; Chaim Kalb; Simcha Langsam and Seryl Fishler. At the meeting which took place on 11th of Tevet, 1959, I was elected Chairman and Treasurer; Pinchos Aloni secretary and Shlomo Yahalomi were put in charge of caring for the perpetuation of Strzyzow.
At the next assembly, two additional members to the committee were elected: Leah Loos and Joseph Schiff.
This committee is still in existence and is active in the regular activity of the society. We settled the financial problem and arranged a thorough registration of all natives of Strzyzow. The Free Loan Committee ceased to exist by itself but in time of need we supported the needy. We successfully intervened and prevented the demolition of the shul in Strzyzow and also initiated the removal of the gravestones from the movement in the market place of Strzyzow. We were helped by the Polish-Israeli Friendship Society during the friendly period. At that time, public opinion was still a factor and our appeal to the Polish Consul, Mr. Antony Bido and to other public figures was a big help. The main activity of the committee was devoted to the perpetuation of our martyrs, our community in general, so that it should not sink into oblivion after a generation.
Shlomo Yahalomi, who was responsible for the perpetuation, arranged with the help of Tuvia Weiden, the brother of Kalman Weiden from Strzyzow, the installation of a memorial plaque in memory of our martyrs and community in the Holocaust Cellar on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. On the plaque, the established annual Memorial Day, 25th of Tamuz, is inscribed. The annual memorial services takes place on this day. Several times the services took place near the plaque. In spite of the fact that we are small in numbers, we are still able to arrange memorial services, give expression of sorrow and demonstrate our spiritual bond with the martyrs on our own. Reb Chaim Kalb, of blessed memory, excelled in this endeavour until his last day. And Reb Shlomo Yahalomi with his capabilities plays an important role in fulfilling his duty.
The pivotal event in the perpetuation activities was the publication of this memorial book in memory of Strzyzow and its vicinity. There were many obstacles. First, we were forced to overcome the apathy and doubt of our own power even among those capable colleagues to participate in writing the book and to gather materials. We also needed to obtain a great sum of money in order to publish such a big book, rich in content for such a small Society. (Strzyzow had only three hundred and fifty Jewish families). Help from abroad was very small. There is no organized Strzyzow Society worthy of consideration anywhere, not even in the United States. The technical preparations, the difficult work of proof-reading and editing, was all done during several meetings of the editorial committee and then the burden fell on two persons the writer of this article and Shlomo Yahalomi to successfully bring the publishing to the end.
The Strzyzow Society in Israel is the most organized group, better than in any other country. The natives of Strzyzow, including the second generation, are involved and even excel in the life of our
Homeland. Shlomo Yahalomi authored two books on Torah subjects: Pninei Torah and Pninei Avot which were published in two editions and were very well accepted in religious circles. Teachers in religious schools are often quoting these books in their lectures about Judaism. He also writes articles in newspapers and magazines. Reb Shlomo Yahalomi is active in the National Religious Party and charitable institutions. He also gives speeches and lectures. Moshe Mussler, who was a Hebrew teacher in Belgium, translated books in Israel from French and Flemish into Hebrew. Rabbi Baruch Rabinowitz not only serves as Rabbi of the City of Holon but also takes part in the spiritual life of Israel by speaking and lecturing. The writer Ryvka Gurfein, née Steinmetz, and the journalist Zev Schiff, the son of Mordechai, grandson of Reb Levi Itzhok, are famous and have received several awards. One can find people from our town in kibbutzim, colonies, working in institutions, in commerce and trade, also in academics, from elementary to high school and higher learning institutions. You will also find people from Strzyzow in the staff of officers in the military and police force.
Footnote of the translator: All the activities listed in the above article took place in the sixties. At present, the Strzyzow Society no longer exists due to the passage of the majority of its members to their eternal rest. In fact, in 1988, less than a minyan showed up for the memorial service.
As I remarked in the beginning of this chapter, it would have been desirable that someone who lived in the United States and knows more about the lives of the people from Strzyzow in the U.S. would have written about them. Since no one came forward, I am forced to write about them myself. Even though it might not be completely free of errors.
The immigration to the United States began at the end of the nineteenth century, mainly unmarried men with very few young women and even fewer families. The first immigrants soon adapted themselves to the American lifestyle but did not break off contact with their town of origin, especially not with their relatives who remained in Strzyzow. In time, a Society of Natives of Strzyzow was established which was headed by wealthy people who succeeded to climb up to the higher ranks both socially and materially. However, the inspirer of the society was the Secretary. The first Secretary, who was well-known to us, particularly for his vigorous activity for the people of our town, was Samuel Mussler. On behalf of the organization, he extended help to individuals and charitable institutions in our town in the period between the two World Wars. Tremendous was his help to the remnants who had survived the Holocaust in Europe and those that had returned from Russia. In the small archive left in his legacy, there were many letters and pleas for help from the people of Strzyzow, many thank-you letters for help extended by him and receipts for packages he had sent. I also heard that he had helped new immigrants, people from Strzyzow who had arrived in the United States, after
the Holocaust. He also helped the people from Frysztak, the birth place of his wife. After he passed away, Tzvi Unger, who until then was his assistant, took over and became Chairman and Secretary. He was the representative of Strzyzow in the United States at a time when the community in Strzyzow did not exist anymore. The American Society helped the society of Israel very much during the leadership of Reb Levi Itzhok Schiff.
While he was alive, Mr. Mussler had broached the idea of publishing a memorial book for the martyrs of Strzyzow. He collected some funds for this purpose and Tzvi Unger continued to carry on with the idea. However, their approach, financial and organizational, was not practical, and there were no competent people able to put the idea into action. Subsequently, the funds collected for publishing the book came into our treasury.
After Tzvi Unger passed away the organization in the U.S.A. became even weaker despite the activity of Jacob Diller who had also been a committee member before. At that time, after the war, a few survivors from Strzyzow arrived and among them were: Heschel Diamand, the last presiding officer of the Kehillah in Strzyzow; Ben Zion Kalb, the hero who had saved Jews especially children from the Nazi claws; Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Horowitz, a grandson of Rabbi Moshe Leib Shapiro from Strzyzow (he passed away not too long ago), and others. People to whom we solicited and who had cooperated with financial help, with material and the distribution of this book were: Jacob Diller (he recently passed away); Heschel Diamand and Reb Shlomo Nuremberg. These are the last members of the Natives of Strzyzow Society in the United States. They made an effort to help us in our work but did not succeed in reviving the Society of the Natives of Strzyzow, like other city organizations, despite the fact that the people from our shtetl would have gladly accepted the renewal of such an organization. Not having such an organization, they joined the societies of their spouses who came from other cities in our vicinity. There are individual reasons. Also, conditions in the United States are not the same as they are in Israel. There are very few left of the first generation of immigrants. The American lifestyle and the great distances between the cities and even in New York, relatives do not meet too often. All these are factors in not being able to organize. We found direct contact with many of the people from Strzyzow and sent them the memorial book.
Of their past and present situation, we have very little information. We do not know their economic situation, who succeeded and who did not. I am writing here of the activity of two people from Strzyzow who are known to me; one because he is my cousin.
The first person is Menachem Tzvi Baim, of blessed memory from Frysztak, the husband of Sarah Dembitzer, the daughter of Reb David from Strzyzow. He was a rich and generous man, open-handed to charity but his main deed was his rescue work. When the Nazi took the rule of Germany in their hands, he rescued from there many families who had immigrated to Germany from Strzyzow, by arranging entry visas. He turned his house into a transition place, provided jobs and helped them adapt to the new
The second man was my cousin, Itzhok (Irving) Lev who carried my grandfather's name, Itzhok Berglass. He became very successful but he had not forgotten what he had learned in his youth, his Zionism, and he energetically distributed many Israel bonds. He brought huge amounts to Israel to develop the land and he therefore met with all the members of the Israeli government.
There are a few people from Strzyzow who live in Canada. I think that the first immigrant to that country was Sheindl Ameis with her sons Yacov and Eliezer and daughters Esther and Ryvka. She immigrated in the years between World War I and World War II. At present, residing in Canada are the above-mentioned family Ameis, the Holocaust survivors Rabbi Israel Frenkel, a son-in-law of Reb Shlomo Diamand from Zyznow, his son Samuel Nachum and their relatives Hena and Gita Propper, grandchildren of Reb Shlomo Diamand; the grandchildren of Reb Nathaniel Schlisselberg. Also, Israel, the son of Reb Moshe Pinchovski lives there too. The brothers Abraham and Israel Kraut; the sons of Reb Yehuda and probably Abraham Reicher. Sheindl Ameis passed away recently. We also heard that Dr. Leon Deutch, the grandson of Wolf Deutch lived there but now only his widow with her family live somewhere in Canada. No more information about our brethren in Canada was made available to me.
I have no information about natives from Strzyzow in Latin American countries except for Brazil. However, there is hearsay that in Argentina a granddaughter of Reb Fishel Felder and her daughter Hena with her family as well as Sheps, the son-in-law of Reb Yacov Greenblatt who emigrated alone as his family had perished in Strzyzow, now reside here. In Uruguay Rose Gans lives, the daughter of Reb Michael Leib Last, with her family and her sister-in-law, Shprintza, the daughter of Reb Mordechai Rosenbaum, the offspring of Reb Hersh Feit from his daughter Sarah and Meir Kornreich, a grandson of Reb Shlomo Diamand from Zyznow. In Venezuela, Yacov Adest resides with his sister Bina, the children of Reb Ephraim Samuel Adest. Menachem Mendel Kanner, a son of Israel who escaped from the Nazi died in one of these countries.
There is a group of people from Strzyzow who reside in Brazil. The first who arrived there was Joshua, the son of Reb Moshe Schefler with his wife Batyah, the daughter of Reb Mordechai Mendel Schefler. He brought over his relatives, his brother Abraham with his wife Ryvka and
later, Abraham Moshe Felder, the son of Reb Fishel Felder, with his wife Sarah who was the sister of the Schefler brothers and, after the Nazi came to power, Moshe Felder's sister, Tzipora Mohrer with her family emigrated there from Germany. After World War II, the survivors of the Holocaust, the brothers Itzhok Leib and Samuel Rosen and their sister Pearl Strongerovski also immigrated to Brazil. They are all cousins of Moshe Felder. Moshe's father was disappointed with his son because he had refused to study Torah. So he taught him a trade as a punishment. However, being in a strange land, he returned the respect to his father by behaving like a son of a Hassid. He lived in a forsaken little town three hundred miles from Sao Paulo and he turned his house into a central Jewish home, bought a Torah scroll and turned on room into a prayer house. He and his wife fulfilled the mitzvah of hospitality to strangers and the lonely Jews from that area come to their home for the High Holidays. About fifty people used to gather in his house. He died young and his wife Sarah with her sons left Brazil and settled in Kfar Sold, Israel. They did not evacuate the place even in the dangerous days of the Six-Day War.
After the war, Rabbi Baruch J. Rabinowitz settled in Brazil. He is the grandson of Rabbi Moshe Leib Shapiro from Strzyzow. He came to Brazil via Eretz Israel and served as Rabbi in Sao Paulo. While there, the strong opposition by Yechiel Rosen toward Rabbi Moshe Leib's son, Shlomo, during the rift between Sandz and Sadigor was forgotten and the grandchildren of Reb Yechiel Rosen befriended the grandson of Rabbi Moshe Leib as natives of the same city. Later, Rabbi Baruch J. Rabinowitz left Brazil and immigrated to Israel at the same time that young Samuel Rosen also immigrated to Israel. Itzhok Leib Rosen, Samuel's older brother, lives in Brazil where he has become very successful and is active in the Jewish community, especially in its religious life. This activity, to which he devotes much time, energy and financial support, gives spiritual satisfaction to his soul which years to make Aliyah. Lately, thanks to Itzhok Leib Rosen's effort and large donations, the Synagogue Machzikei Dat was built in Bam Netira a section in Sao Paulo. It was previously housed in a rented building. In the synagogue, a plaque in memory of the martyrs of Strzyzow was installed. And so, another monument was added in memory of the holy martyrs of our town in the distant land, Brazil.
Itzhok Borenstein, the editor of the Yiddish newspaper Der Nayer Moment, after touring the synagogue Machzikei Dat, wrote in an article that Sao Paulo became richer with a new shul. The shul is not big but very beautiful. Her name is Machzikei Dat. On Rosh Hashanah, the prayers are led with good chanting and the shofar was blown by Reb Itzhok Leib Rosen, the founder of the shul. Itzhok Leib was also the biggest contributor to this memorial book.
In the thirties, Simon, the son of Wolf Deutch, escaped from Germany via France to Brazil and there he passed away. Yacov Tzvi Millbauer on whose estate near Strzyzow a big group of Mizrachi chalutzim received their training, also lives in Brazil. There is rumour that Joel, the son of Hersh Leib Fass resides in Brazil with his family.
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