« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 53, Volume 2]

Adolf Rudnicki – A Jew from Tarnow

by Menashe Unger, New York

Translated by Gil Stamberger

Edited by Erica S. Goldman-Brodie

One of the greatest writers in Poland today is Adolf Rudnicki. Adolf Rudnicki however is not a Polish writer, but explicitly a Jewish writer writing in Polish. I would say the main Jewish writer in today's Poland, not only because his whole theme is Jewish, because all the heroes in his novels and stories derive from Jews, but because he is today the advocate of the Jewish lament in Poland.

Adolf Rudnicki is the modern Job, the Jewish mourner, who complains and cries about our great destruction, about the disappearance of the most colorful part of the whole Jewish people in the last thousand years, about the three million Jews in Poland and about the loss of the six million who have been cut off by the Germans, may their name be obliterated.

I am connected with Adolf Rudnicki with a number of threads from (the life of) my youth. And immediately when I came to Warsaw, I started to look for his telephone number, and when I connected with him by phone, he did not believe that it was me he was talking to and quickly agreed to come to see me at the “Grand Hotel” where I was staying.

And after an hour of waiting, the bell of my room rang, and at my door stood a tall and handsome “mensch” with a head of curly black hair, a longish nose and with a timid gloom in his eyes.

We embraced each other, wiped off our tears quietly and, as if by a magic wand, the 40 past years were swept away and we both were transformed into two young children.

We were quiet the first few moments and soon Adolf Rudnicki felt at home and threw himself on my bed in his coarse woolen sweater and stayed lying on my bed until the middle of the night.

In order to be able to understand the mystery how it happened that the son of a Rabbi became a Polish writer with a typical Polish name like Rudnicki I have to reveal the secret that the real name of the famous Polish writer, Adolf Rudnicki, is

[Page 54, Volume 2]

Aharon Hirschhorn and he is the youngest son of Rav Itshe Hirschhorn, who was the chief Gabbay at my father's beit din (rabbinic court), זצ”ל (may the memory of the Tzaddik be blessed) at the time when my father ate chestnuts with his father-in-law, the Rozvadover Rebbe, Reb Moshe Horovitz.

Afterwards Reb Itshe travelled with my parents to Żabno, got married there and became Gabbay in the court of the Rebbe. He went with my parents to Vienna where during the First World War the Rebbe's court was re-established.

Reb Itshe, the Gabbay, has been very faithful to our home and especially my father, זצ”ל. He prayed the Shacharit prayer in front of the pulpit, he had a nice voice and knew the Rofshitzer and Rozvadover nussach (prayer method) and the Rofshitzer and Rozvadover specific nigunim (religious songs).

Reb Itshe Gabay has strongly taken care of the health of my father זצ”ל and he did not want my father would to have a heartache because the youngest son of the Rebbe had left the right path. I remember an episode which has carved itself strongly into my memory, how Reb Itshe Gabbay has protected the honor of the Rebbe's youngest son.

This has happened in the years around 1917/18. In Tarnow there already was a Hebrew school “Safa Berura”, the Jewish youth (movements) of “Hashomer Hatzair” and Poalei Zion and other organizations. I was more attracted to the Poalei Zion youth, even though in the big “kloyz” (religious study house) where I learned for a while together with Avraham Wald (Ya'ari), today the famous bibliographer and culture researcher in Jerusalem[1], who sympathized more with the “Hashomer Hatzair” and with his younger brother Yudke Wald (today the famous Hebrew writer Yehuda Ya'ari in Israel), who was a member of “Hashomer Hatzair”. But I was carried away by the PoaleiZion movement.

At this time a young man with the name Itshe Schiper, who was called Itshe Kapelushnik lived in Tarnow. He was a relative of the famous Jewish historian Dr Yitzhak Schiper הי”ד (May Hashem avenge his blood). By profession he was a hatmaker and he liked to write articles in the party newspapers. Itshe Kapelushnik also had a love for the Yiddish theatre and he

[Page 55, Volume 2]

had decided to perform Peretz's “In Polish oyf der Keyt” (chained in the synagogue's anteroom). As I had been pulled into this play, I remember that I have been very enthusiastic in the rehearsals. Peretz has been very close to me from my youth and especially as this specific drama “a dream of a sinful kloyzenik” (Ed. note kloysznik, a student in a small synagogue) has been somewhat symbolic for the life of my youth at that time.

And once, on a Sunday afternoon the hall of “Safa Berura” was packed with Jewish youth, I was below the stage and the main hero, the “sinful kloyzenik” had been made up as I looked (then), he also borrowed my kaftan und my broad rabbi's velvet hat and the actor, made up in a longish pale face with black, curly side curls like little bottles and a black round little beard around his tender face called from the stage; “inside me a rose has flashed up … will no one punish me?”

I was sitting dressed only in my Talit Katan (Ed note: small tallit, undergarment) behind the stage in the wardroom and imagined that it was me who said this from the stage.

And suddenly …. The sinful kloyzenik says passionately from the stage: “my soul drips out, drop by drop…..”

I hear a huge turmoil in the hall …. At the entrance policemen appeared. Someone has complained who did not want that this drama should be performed. The theatre youth has been dispersed and the main hero, the “sinful kloyzenik” and the second hero Reb Berchiye have been arrested and led on the Walowa Street to the police (office).

When the Jews of the Walowa Street saw this young man, “the sinful kloyzenik” being led away, a rumour started to spread that the youngest son of the rabbi had been arrested, and soon, “at the gate”, small groups of Jews already said that they had heard that the son of the Rabbi had asked to make an effort to free him.

And I was lying behind the stage in big trouble, I did not have my kaftan and did not have my broad rabbi's velvet hat. I put on a simple cloth jacket which was hanging in the wardrobe and a hat made from cloth and ran quickly out of “Safa Berura”. I ran in one breath through the backstreets to the “Holtz” Square, to the house of Reb Itshe Gabbay. There they dressed me in a kaftan and a different Rabbi's hat and I still managed to get home in time for the afternoon-evening Prayer and Reb Itshe

[Page 56, Volume 2]

Gabay told everyone that someone had posed as the son of the Rebbe and that the youngest son of the Rebbe had been in his home the whole afternoon.

This is how Reb Itshe Gabbiy has saved my honour.

Also, a second episode has engraved itself in my memory many years later. This happened when I returned from Palestine to Warsaw in the middle of the 1930's.

I wanted to see my mother, may peace be with her, who lived in Tarnow with my brother, the Żabner Rebbe Rabbi Elazar, may God avenge his blood, who succeed my father after my father's death, (may the memory of the Tzaddik be blessed).

My mother was already old and I knew that in my attire I would not manage to get in to visit her. I had a beard as required (at this time I was also a vegetarian) and a kaftan could be acquired in Tarnow, but what to do with side curls, how could I appear before my mother without side curls?

The Jewish cultural activist, Seinfeld in Cracow, the brother-in-law of the poet Imber, had procured a large hat and to the hat two small curly side curls had been attached and when I dressed in the kaftan and the skullcap with the velvet hat, I again looked like the religious young man from the past … Like this I travelled from Cracow to Tarnow and went to the home of Reb Itshe Gabbay. There I changed clothes and went to the house in Lwowska Street 24 where my brother and my mother lived.

But a mishap took place; it was a hot summer day and I gave a push to the hat on my head and the two side curls which were attached to the skullcap were pushed aside as well; one side curl now hung behind an ear and the second almost in the middle of my forehead. Reb Itshe Gabay immediately noticed this and gave a turn back to the skullcap and the side curls returned to their correct location and my mother, may peace be with her, who already was old and did not see well did not notice this at all.

When I now told the memories to “Elyusha” (this was the nickname of the son of Reb Itshe Gabbay) he asked me to talk more about his father and about his and my home, as he wanted to refresh his youthful-memories which were buried deep in his brain…..

[Page 57, Volume 2]

But so that we should not just talk chit chat Adolf Rudnicki returned to his permanent subject, the killing of the Jews in Warsaw, the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the huge catastrophe which had hit us.

* * *

Adolf Rudnicki was a profound lyricist (writing) in prose. He had published his first novel “Rats” in 1932 about the psychological and moral situation of the Jews who lived in a shtetl, better: his shtetl.

In the year 1933, his second novel, “The Soldiers” appeared, where the human values of the individual were described. Before the war, several more novels were published and in 1939, he was drafted into the Polish army; he participated in the army in the downfall of Poland. The first period of the Hitlerian occupation he spent in Lemberg (Lwow, now Lviv in Ukraine) and the most difficult years he stayed in Warsaw where it was his destiny to be a witness and a chronicler of the slaughter of the Polish Jewry. His literary creations are based on his own experiences and memories.

Adolf Rudnicki tells in his short story “Passover” how in those days, during the ghetto rising in Warsaw he came disguised as an Aryan next to the ghetto wall and met there a young lonely Jewish woman. “We used to recognize each other among strangers through our eyes, in which suddenly a warm, familiar spark appeared” – Rudnicki writes there – “and when passing each other we used to call to each other, without a word, pointing to each other their and our destiny … the young women now did not only shake, she choked on her tears …. they die, she whispered quietly, they die and no trace will remain of them except ruins, fire and vague memories nothing will remain from so many lives, love, suffering, customs and memories ….. may it though be described, strongly emphasized as well, that it may remain a memory of their multicolored life and inhuman and so beautiful death. If even only one will remain, may it be possible to describe all of this, so that people may one day come from behind the seventh sea and cry as we cry today”…

Adolf Rudnicki remained true to this testament until today. All his themes in his novels and short stories revolve around the murdered six million Jews.

[Page 58, Volume 2]

And what could I answer him? I only asked him, that he should at least travel for a visit to Israel and he agreed to do so in the close future…

 

A damaged house in the Zydowska Street of Tarnow (the board with the writing Ulica Żydowska remained)

 

Footnote:
  1. In the year 1953 he received the Ussishkin prize and several years later the Bialik prize he passed away and soon afterwards Return

[Page 59, Volume 2]

The Way of Life
of the Village Jews in Tarnow County

by Dr. Yeshayahu Fajg (Fagi), Haifa

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

I was born in a village near Tarnow, where my father was in the dairy business. So I learned about the life of the Jews in the village, which was located not far from the town. Their lives were hard, not only because it was hard to make a living, but also because of the difficulties of living a traditional Jewish life.

How, actually, did the village Jews earn a living? They would buy agricultural products from the peasants, and sell the peasants manufactured goods. Those peasants who were better off and who had their own horses would transport their own products to the town, in the belief that they would get a better price there. But even in the village itself, there was commerce in string, thread, cheap wool and knitted products, which were often exchanged for eggs, poultry, rabbit skins, vegetables, potatoes or other village products. Sometimes, a glazier would come from town to repair the broken panes, and would be paid in either money or goods.

The village had a tavern that was run by a Jewish lessee. There were also a mill and another dairy dealer [in addition to my father]. In a number of neighboring villages lived Jews who cultivated a few acres of land. There were also rich Jews who owned a lot of land, but they themselves lived in town and they would lease their estates to Jews or non–Jews, or for political reasons (anti–Semitism), would hire a Pole as manager.

Village Jews lived far from settlements with many Jews and in most cases couldn't gather the necessary minyan [quorum of ten) required for communal prayer, even when Jews from three villages got together. There was never a minyan consisting entirely of adult, married men. They had to resort to bar–mitzvah boys and young unmarried men, and you can imagine how proud these were, because without them the minyan would not have been possible.

There was also a serious problem in providing Jewish education for children in the village. It is true that they could attend the Polish school, but who would provide them with the necessary little bit of Jewish learning. Where would they get that? The village had a cheder [religious school for young children], but only when one of the Jews would provide a room for a whole semester

[Page 60, Volume 2]

for use as a classroom. For a teacher, they would bring in a belfer [helper in a cheder] from the town, who would pound the Torah into the children's heads. Few Jews would pay tuition for such a cheder; rather they would make a symbolic payment as a way of earning a mitzvah [credit for a good deed], and the money barely sufficed to support the cheder.

When the high holy days came, the question arose of how to provide for communal prayer in the village. There wasn't the necessary number of adult married men to make up a minyan during the Days of Awe. They were confronted with two choices: They could invite guests from the town, along with the cantor brought in from town, to make up the minyan. Or, they could travel to town along with their entire household for the period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Both solutions posed difficulties. Bringing in a cantor cost money, and the cantor also required them to pay for the chorus that accompanied him. They could raise the required money only by having all the village Jews make a contribution, but that wasn't so simple to do.

Nor was it easy to travel to town, which entailed harnessing up the horses to wagons and loading up the children and one's meager possessions. But most people chose this second option. Every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur you could see horse–drawn wagons loaded with people and baggage, carrying Jews who had moved into town in order to serve God during the high holy days. They made do by sleeping on floors with relatives who lived in town, or in rented accommodations. In this way, they got to hear a good cantor. But they were never free from worry and fear over the houses they had left behind in the village.

The village Jews were always concerned for their children's educations. They strived to give them a Jewish secular education in town. But few sent their children to gymnasium [academic high school]. Others apprenticed their children to craftsmen in town, so they could learn a trade.

I want to take this opportunity to mention the names of those Jews who left the villages to live in Tarnow and who later played a distinguished role in Jewish communal life there.

Yankev Blat came from the village Pleshno. An expert in classical languages (Greek, Latin), he was a very talented philologist, who, had he not been a Jew, would have had an impressive career in university. While still in the 4th class in gymnasium, he was already reading the Greek

[Page 61, Volume 2]

Iliad and The Odyssey. He got the highest grades in school. He later became director of a high school in Drohobitsh. Engineer Borgenicht came from the village Biale. Zev Bloch came from the village Koshitse, and as soon as he graduated from gymnasium in Tarnow, made aliyah to Israel, where he was one of the founders of Kibbutz Bet Alfa.[1] Lawyer Dr. Zayden was from the village Skusheshuv. The brothers Laynman. The brothers Vestraykh finished gymnasium in Tarnow; one of them, Avrom, died in India and the other, Dovid, emigrated to America.

In general, there was a strong tendency among village Jews to move to town, both because of the difficulties mentioned above and also because of external pressures, that is, anti–Semitism and persecution. This occurred as early as the time of Austrians, after the election in Warsaw in 1907, during which the Jews helped campaign for the Socialist candidate in opposition to the anti–Semitic candidate of the Endecja [National Democrats, a right–wing, nationalist party] . When the Socialist won, that became a fresh reason for anti–Semitic actions, especially in the villages, where the Jews mostly did not live in their own houses, but rather rented houses or leased taverns or dairies.

Jews were also driven out of the villages by economic pressures. The priests called for a boycott of Jews, telling people not to buy from or sell to Jews. The peasants were swayed by the priests' sermons and didn't want to deal with the village Jews, but they still maintained business relationships with the Jews in town. The priests and anti–Semites caught on to this, and set up their own shops, organized into so–called agricultural circles. These new stores paid a much cheaper price for agricultural products.

At that time, I moved with my family to Tarnow. Although the movement to make the Polish villages “free of Jews” had abated somewhat, in 1918 it regained strength, just when Poland became independent. Then came the laws regarding redistribution of land. This law about the redistribution of land was postponed from year to year regarding land owned by the Polish nobility, but it was quickly and with great severity passed in regard to land owned by Jews in villages. In this way Jews were completely removed from the villages.

Footnote:

  1. He died in 1966. Return


[Page 62]

What I Remember of Jewish Tarnow

By Yitzhak Blazer, Haifa

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

Yitzhak Blazer

 

Much has already been written of the spiritual story of Tarnow Jewry, about the specific Jewish way of life that was deeply rooted in the Jewish endeavors in Tarnow from its rise until its tragic destruction, about the Tarnow of Torah giants, about the Tarnow synagogues, about the numerous charity institutions, about the Love of Zion [Palestine, now Israel] of the Tarnow Jews and about the effervescent political and communal life of Tarnow Jewry.

However, Jewish life in Tarnow was so rich and colorful that without a doubt, the pride that Jewish Tarnow possessed has not yet been fully described. Therefore, in providing a bundle of memories of my old Tarnow home, I will strive to not be repetitious.

 

Concerning the Age and importance of the Jewish Community in Tarnow

The Jews [living] there played an extraordinary important role in the general development of the city of Tarnow. If the poor shtetl [town] of Tarnow, which over many centuries was a private possession of the Polish noble magnate families, grew into an important trade center in Lesser Poland into, one of its largest cities, this was exclusively thanks to the activities and industriousness of its Jewish residents.[a]

[Page 63]

Tarnow Jews were an important source of income for the nobles, for the owners of the city. The Tarnow Jews were pioneers who led the city to its then central trade position and, therefore, contributed to the economic ascent of the city for the city population, for the non–Jewish town dwellers.

However, despite this, the life of the Tarnow Jews was not always a bed of roses. Historical research concerning the existence of the Jews in Tarnow before the 17th century did not provide any great results and only on the basis of conjectures and signs, on the basis of legends that were passed from generation to generation and on the basis of ancient headstones at the Tarnow cemetery can we come to the conclusion that Tarnow Jews suffered more than once from bloody excesses and blood libel trials that took place there.

In connection with this, I remember a fact from my childhood, which is engraved in my memory. My oldest brother Yisroel, of blessed memory, once showed me a book of Jewish history written in the German language (today I do not remember the name or the author); today I only remember that my brother received the book from Reb Wolf Krapner, of blessed memory, who was administrator at Kwadratsztajn's house on Holc Platz. Several crates of Hebrew, Polish and German books were located in an attic room of this house.

As I remember, there were books there that provided details about the terrible blood libel trials against Jews in Tarnow and about bloody excesses that took place in Tarnow for hundreds of years before the total destruction of the Tarnow Jewish community and during which innocent Jewish blood was shed.

Not far from the entrance at the cemetery, opposite the mass grave of the martyrs who perished at the hands of the German killers, there were ancient headstones from before the First World War (I doubt they still exist today), with erased letters. According to the conjecture that would be repeated by the older generation of Tarnow Jews, the graves of the martyrs who perished during the anti–Jewish persecutions and excesses against the old Tarnow community were to be found in this area of the Tarnow cemetery.

Before the destruction, there also were signs of the lively spiritual development of past Tarnow Jewry. First must be remembered

[Page 64]

A fragment of the area at the Tarnow cemetery where the oldest headstones stood
[Photographed by Y. Bergman in 1965]

 

The gate to the entrance to the synagogue courtyard in front of the destroyed old synagogue coming from the Jewish neighborhood
[Photographed by Y. Bergman in 1966]

[Page 65]

The Old Synagogue in Tarnow, built in 1581 [the front of Fisz Platz]

 

the Old Synagogue that stood from the second half of the 16th century.[1] In time this synagogue building sank significantly and in order to enter the actual holy place, one had to walk on the Jewish Street through the large courtyard or from Fisz Platz, one had to go down several steps to get to the synagogue entrance hall.

We would hear sermons and novel interpretations of actual religious problems in this Old Synagogue in which Tarnow rabbis and Torah scholars studied for hundreds of years and along with such Torah giants as the Rabbi Yehuda Leib haKohan Maimon, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, the first Minister of Religion in the Land of Israel, as well as the Rabbi Meir Szapira, the Lubliner Rebbe [who was] the founder of the Yeshiva Khakhmei Lublin and of many other rabbinic societies.

The Old Synagogue building was blown up by the German

[Page 66]

The interior of the Jubilee (New) Synagogue

 

vandals one day along with the other houses of prayer including the New Synagogue and tens of other synagogues, minyanim [10 men needed for communal prayer: in this case, the places in which the minyanim met] and kloyzen [private houses of study].

The unadorned Torah reading table of the old synagogue, now overgrown with grass, remained undamaged after the explosion and still stands today in the place, protected by the city managing committee as a “historical memorial”… In addition to the cemetery in Tarnow, this reading table is today the only remnant of the magnificent Jewish community and it gives witness to the tragic fate of Tarnow Jewry and its sacred cultural treasures.

[Page 67]

Copy of the picture, “The Talmudists” by Professor F. Wilenberg

 

Hasidism and Hasidim in Tarnow

Hasidism [Hasidic philosophy] planted its roots in the Jewish streets of Tarnow very early. Deep faith, the study of Torah with insight and ingenuity, this was the fundamental foundation of Tarnow Hasidism that in time, thanks to this doctrine, became very strong and won wide circles of Tarnow Jewry.

[Page 68]

There are written details about the great influence of Sanzer Hasids in the Jewish neighborhood in Tarnow and about the great center of this version of Hasidism in the Sanzer kloyz [private house of study] in Tarnow in the first volume of the Tarnow Yizkor Book. I will only emphasize that hundreds of young men studied day and night in this large kloyz. During the winter months, it was difficult to find a place to study in the morning.

Many Tarnow Hasidim studied in the Sanzer house of prayer, which had a rich collection of expensive and rare religious books.

There was no lack of students in the Belzer shtibel [one–room synagogue] and in the two small Bobower kloyzen. Among others who studied in the Belzer shtibel was the martyr, Efroim Sztiglic, of blessed memory, about whom my brother, Ahron Blazer, may he live long, (today a lawyer of Haifa) who studied there with him, said that he had the mind of a genius and an extraordinary memory. While in general, the Sztiglic family in Tarnow produced great scholars, it is enough to remember Reb Alter Sztiglic, the great scholar, a brother of Efroim, who authored many important books and innovative interpretations of the Talmud and Halakah [religious law]. The magid hashiur [person who teaches a class on a page of Talmud] at the Belzer synagogue then was the religious judge, Mikhl Holender, of blessed memory.

A large number of scholars always were found in the Dzikower kloyz. Such gifted young men as Yissokher Wakspres, Yehosha Fracht, the Klener brothers, the Hertzog brothers, the children of Reb Yeshayale Rozner, Yehosha Szlisl, Grinbaum, Kaufman and many other talented young men who were brutally murdered by the German hangmen had all studied [there] with great diligence.

And how boisterous the Boyaner shtibel always was and with what zealousness did they study with the rabbis from Szczuczyn, Paszowic, Grodzisk and Żabno…

Or with Reb Yisroel Yosele Unger, of blessed memory, and in tens of other houses of prayer in the Jewish center of Tarnow…

Torah scholars, such as Reb Moshe Wolf, Reb Avrahamele Gewelb, Reb Mendl Hofman, Reb Meir Malter, Reb Wolf Weksler and many, many other dear scholarly Jews who excelled with their insight and expertise emerged from these kloyzen and rabbinic shtibelekh.

Brilliant young men who were considered as future great men of Torah of their generation came out of these yeshivas [religious secondary schools], among many others: Yakov Holender, Leibish Szajner, Abush Szwarc, Shaul Brener, Nafatli Mehr, Borukh Rinder, Moshe Rik, Eliezer Templer, Kalman Halbersztam, Moshe and Meir Weksler, Yeshaya Orszicer,

[Page 69]

Borukh Tajtlbaum… All of the dear, young men, tortured by the Nazi murderers, perished al Kiddush haShem [as martyrs – in sanctification of God's name].

The active scholars famed for spreading Torah and Hasidism among young Jewish men were not only in the yeshivas. But finally at the end of the 19th century, several Torah scholars, who gave private lessons in the Torah, Gemora [Talmudic commentaries] and supplements to the Talmud, also taught worldly subjects.

One of the most important such teachers was Reb Ayzik Wrubel, of blessed memory, who taught Dr. [Salo] Sholem Wittmayer Baron, famous today as a professor at Columbia University in America, the son of Reb Eliyahu Baron, the head of the kehila for many years and a communal activist in Tarnow (his wife Mina, may her memory be blessed, was descended from the esteemed Wittmayer family in Tarnow). It is worthwhile also to remember Reb Ayzik Wrubel's son, the young Dr. Zvi Wrubel–Ankori, who after graduating from the Hebrew Safa–Berura [pure language] Gymnazie in Tarnow in 1938 emigrated to Israel, where he received his doctorate from Hebrew University and today is a professor at this college in Jerusalem.

* * *

If the Tarnow Sanzer kloyz grew into a weighty center of Hasidus in Tarnow, it was in thanks to the great spiritual influence of the Sanzer Rebbe, Reb Chaim Halberstam, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, an extraordinary personality who occupied an honored place among the geniuses of his generation. In addition to this, he was the author of many books on Torah and Hasidism. Thanks to his intelligence and insight, he was a true guide in the lives of his Hasidim, who had the fullest confidence in their rebbe. They asked his advice on every important matter and followed his instructions fully. Therefore, it is no wonder that the rebbe was drawn to the Hasidic city of Tarnow, which lay not far from Sanz. His oldest son, the Szinewer Rebbe, Reb Yehezkiel Halberstam, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, was known as one of the greatest Admorim [abbreviation of Adoneinu Moreinu v”Rabeinu – our master, our teacher our Rabbi] and geniuses. He had a negative position toward the Hovevi Zion [Lovers of Zion] movement in Galicia. When the founding meeting of the Hovevi Zion society took place in Tarnow on the 22nd of Tevet, the 27th of December 1896, and the managing committee elected the Tarnow Szinewer Hasid, Reb Zakhria Mendl Aberdam, as the treasurer of the society, among others

[Page 70]

Headstone of Reb Fibel Blazer,
of blessed memory, died in 5691 [1931]

 

Reb Yehezkiel Halberstam convinced them that Reb Zakhria Mendl Aberdam had not accepted the election and declared that he [Reb Zakhria Mendl] had no connection to the Hovevi Zion in Tarnow.[2]

Reb Leibish Halberstam, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, the son of the Szinewer Reb, a grandson of the founder of the Sanz dynasty, Rebbe Reb Chaim Halberstam, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, had a close attachment to Tarnow Hasidim. He was the rebbe at the largest Tarnow kloyz, he was a great scholar and God–fearing person. He always placed an emphasis on learning Torah. His doctrine of Hasidism distinguished itself with its moderation and characteristic of

[Page 71]

avoiding noise and boisterous forms of expression. He was not a great believer in lavishly receiving his followers at his table or with accepting kwitlekh [notes requesting the rabbi's intervention with God for a marriage for a child, a child for a barren woman, etc.] and so on. I remember a case from my youth when I had the opportunity to be able to study near the great scholar. My father, of blessed memory, had the habit of spending time with the rebbes for the Days of Awe. I was still a young man when my father, may he rest in peace, once took along my younger brother, Mendl, may his memory be blessed, and me to Rebbe Reb Leibish Sanzer. The rebbe was just then teaching and did not permit anyone to disturb him and, therefore, it was difficult to approach him. However, he made an exception for my father, may he rest in peace, and the rebbe welcomed us. He sat at a heavy book and when my father, may his memory be blessed, turned to him with a request, that he should bless us – my brother Mendl and me – that we should be good Torah students. The Rebbe, Reb Leibish, first declared that he could not have an influence on us to become good students of Torah and emphasized that if we studied with diligence, we would be good students. He finally gave us a blessing.

My brother Mendl, may he rest in peace, in later years graduated from the well–known Hildesheimer yeshiva [religious secondary school] and received his doctorate and ordination as a rabbi. He fell as a martyr at the hands of the German murders in the Tarnow ghetto.

The Bobover Rebbe, Reb Ben–Zion Halberstam, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, son of Reb Shlomo Halberstam, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, a grandson of the author of Divrei Chaim [Writings of Chaim], the Sanzer Gaon [genius] and Rebbe, Reb Chaim Halberstam, had an influence on Sanzer Hasidism in the last years before the Holocaust. The main novelty of Bobover Hasidism was placing weight on the young generation. Bobover Hasidism had a large following in Tarnow and had two Bobover shtibelekh [one–room synagogues], where hundreds of young men studied, in Tarnow. During elections to the Tarnow kehila [organized Jewish community], the Bobover Hasidim would issue their own candidate list and their distinguished, publicly esteemed representative, Yisroel Wind, of blessed memory, always received the appropriate number of votes to be elected as a member of the Tarnow kehila council.

In order for the portrait of Hasidism in Tarnow to take in all the schools of thought and variants, I will provide in a general way several facts about such rabbinical authorities as the gaonim from Dzików, Żabno and Grodzisk because these martyred Tarnow rabbis are mentioned with more details and with more expertise and thoroughness by our Tarnower, Menasha Unger, in his important book, Sefer Kedoshim [Book of Martyrs], which was published in New York in 1967.

[Page 72]

The Dzikówer Rebbe, our teacher and master, Reb Alter Horowitz, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, a grandson of Rebbe, Reb Naftali of Ropshitz [Ropczyce] and a son–in–law of the Wisznicer Rebbe, Reb Yisroel Hager, may the name of a righteous man be blessed, was one of the great Hasidic rabbis in Tarnow. The Rebbe, Reb Alter, was very well–known and beloved in the Hasidic circles and he was known far beyond the borders of Tarnow for his knowledge and intelligence. On the holidays, particular during the Days of Awe, Hasidim would come to Tarnow to sped it with the Dzikówer Rebbe. They came not only from other areas in Galicia, but also from the larger world, from England, from Belgium, Holland, etc. The names of the respected Tarnow Jews who belonged to the loyalist Hasidim of the Dzikówer Rebbe remain in my memory, such as Reb Abush Faust, may he rest in peace, Reb Eliyahu Gewirtz, may he rest in peace, my honorable father Reb Feywel Blazer, may he rest in peace, Reb Shimkhale Wakspres, may he rest in peace, Reb Yekele Faust, may he rest in peace, Reb Yeshayale and Dov Rozner, may they rest in peace, Reb Manish Kelner, may he rest in peace, Reb Toyva Grinbaum, may he rest in peace, Reb Zalman Guter, may he rest in peace, Reb Yeshayale Szpiro, may he rest in peace, Reb Yitzhak Aszchenazi, may he rest in peace, and many, many hundreds of devoted Jews who would take an active part in various community, humanitarian actions on behalf of the needy Jews in Tarnow.

All of the influential leaders of the Tarnow Agudah [association – organization founded by Orthodox rabbis] were concentrated around the Rebbe, Reb Alter, who was a follower of the Agudah organization and, above all, his influence was owed [to the fact] that the representatives in the kehila [organized Jewish community] in Tarnow worked together with the Zionist faction. During the last years before the Holocaust, as a result of an agreement, a representative of Agudah (Reb Elya Gewirc, may he rest in peace) stood at the head of the kehila–council and the office of the chairman of the kehila managing committee was from the Zionist block (Dr. Menderer and, during the last two years before the Holocaust, Dr. Avraham Chomet, long may he live).

At the table that would be led by Rebbe, Reb Alter on Friday nights in the presence of a large group of Hasidim, he would provide teachings and innovations as was the custom of his father, the Rebbe, Reb Yehosha, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, the author of Atarat Yehosha [Crown of Joshua]. At the conclusion of the evening, the Hasidim glorified the evening with an ecstatic rikud [Hasidic dance]. The Dzikówer Hasidim also were known as great musicians and leaders of prayers, who brought in a breath of life and sweetness into their prayers. It is enough to remember our unforgettable Reb Abush Faust, may his memory be blessed, Reb Shmuel Eder, may his memory be blessed, and their magnificent, strong voices, as well as Shmuel Korn, long may he live (now lives in Israel), who possessed musical talent and a particularly beautiful voice. The Hasidic band of the Dzikówer young men with their Rochnitz–

[Page 73]

Dzikówer melodies were known in almost all Hasidic circles in Galicia.

They studied in the Dzikówer kloyzen [plural of kloyz – private houses of study] in Tarnow with earnestness and zeal. The students could make use of a rich collection of Talmud books and post–Talmudic commentaries; in addition there were also books of responsa, philosophy and Midrash [early commentaries], books of Kabbalah and musar [ethics]. There were also rare, valuable copies of books in the well–organized book collection that had been published by the first Hebrew printer.

There were two separate rooms in the Dzikówer kloyz. Prayers took place in one room and instruction in the second one. I had the privilege of studying a page of Gemora [Talmud] and commentaries at the Beis Dzików Yeshiva for a time with my teacher and leader, Reb Moshe Ahron Brand, of blessed memory, who was a great scholar and sage, along with the two sons, Reb Meir, may God avenge his blood, and Reb Yekele, may God avenge his blood, of the Rebbe, Reb Alter. Both sons and their brother, Reb Mendl, may his memory be blessed, their father, Rebbe, Reb Alter, may the name of a righteous man be blessed, and his rebbitzen [rabbi's wife], the righteous, esteemed woman, Chava, the Wicznicer Rebbe's daughter, may she rest in peace, were tortured by the German murderers and perished al kiddush haShem [in sanctification of God's name – as martyrs].

The Dzikówer Rebbe's daughter, Dwoyrala, and his son, Reb Yehudale, who now live in Israel, survived through a miracle.

* * *

The Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Unger, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, a grandson of the Rebbe, Reb Mordekhai Dovid Unger, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, from Dombrowa, near Tarnow, also was among the great Jewish personalities in Tarnow. Reb Eliezer's father, Rebbe Sholem Dovid, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, had lived in Tarnow before the First World War and was known as a gaon [genius]. After his death in 1923, his oldest son, Reb Eliezer, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, who lived in Tarnow, became rebbe. He was esteemed and beloved by a great circle of Hasidim. During the German occupation, he did not want to leave the Tarnow Jews, although his Hasidim begged him to leave Tarnow for Żabno where they had prepared a hiding place in a secure bunker for him and his family.[3] He was savagely tortured by the Nazi murderers and he perished al Kiddish haShem in September 1942.

[Page 74]

The Grodzisker Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Horowitz, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, a son of Rebbe, Reb Chaim Horowitz of Polaniec, who lived in Radomysl and in Rzeszów after the First World War, was known as a great sage in Jewish Tarnow. The Grodzisker Rebbe was a giant of Torah and had a great circle of Hasidim from Tarnow and, particularly, from Congress Poland. He led a yeshiva in his house of prayer where he taught many young men and he himself taught Torah lessons. He was tortured in the Tarnow ghetto in Kislev 5703 ([November–December 1942). As Menasha Unger, author of the book, Sefer Kedoshim, writes, “his shout of ̰Shema Yisroel’[b] before the Germans shot him, created a shudder in the entire Jewish area.”

The Pokszewicer Rebbe, Reb Yehiel Horowitz, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, a son of Imrei Noam [Rebbe Meir Horowitz, author of the book Imrei Noam – a book of Torah commentary], may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, was well–known in the Hasidic world in Tarnow. A grandson of the great gaon, Reb Naftali Ropczicer, and a brother of the Dzikówer Rebbe. He left three sons who continued with Pokszewicer Hasidism. His son, Rebbe Naftali, settled in the city where his father had been rebbe, in Pokszewic. His second son,

 

Announcement on behalf of the council of the community of Tarnow in 1935 about the sermon of Rabbi Chaim Zwi Szotland at Reb Yeshayala's minyon [10 men needed for organized prayer] at the synagogue in Tarnow

 

[Page 75]

Reb Alter, the last Pokszewicer Rebbe, and his younger brother, Reb Avraham, of blessed memory, were murdered by the Nazis.

The Stucziner Rebbe, Reb Yitzhak Horowitz, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, a son of the Rozwadower Rebbe, Reb Moshe, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, and a grandson of Rebbe Reb Naftali of Ropshitz [Ropczyce], may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, was among the rebbes with great influence in the Hasidic world. More facts about this great scholar and righteous man are in the first volume of the Yizkor Book, Tarnow, where other giants of Torah and the righteous Jews who lived in and had an influence in Tarnow are mentioned.

* * *

Can I forget the effervescent Jewish life in my former Tarnow home… in the home where a God–fearing community of Jews, who day and night lived their lives in the study of Torah… where a large group of toiling Jews lived, who worked hard for their income in order to live an honored Jewish life…

How cruel their pain must have been… how deep the abyss of their suffering… and what a horrible hell in which they found themselves living until the last day when there remained no trace of Jewish Tarnow…

I remember our magnificent communal–political activity in Jewish Tarnow… the dozens of political, humanitarian and cultural organizations… I remember, and I remember with pride, the high morale of Tarnow Jewish leaders… the deep understanding and fraternal spirit to help every needy Jew…

Can I forget the dear Tarnow Jews with their eternal thirst for Torah and knowledge?... I was in Tarnow, my city of birth, several times after the last war… Each time, my first step was to the place where the Dzikówer kloyz stood… No trace remains of it… even the devastation has been cleared away… Only an empty spot remains, without a holy ark, without bookcases that reached up to the balcony… filled with books…

The yeshiva young men were slaughtered – just as in all of the other Jewish communities… dear students of Torah… and my thoughts always returned back to this place, where the holy house of prayer once stood… where the Rebbe, Reb Alter, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed, would send his prayers with such ecstasy to the Creator of the world …

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Lesser Poland was a division of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth formed in 1569. Magnates in Poland were members of the wealthy and influential nobility. Return
  2. “Hear O Israel,” the opening words of the central prayer of Judaism; they are the last words a pious Jew says before death. Return

Footnotes:

  1. It was built in the year 1581. Return
  2. HaMagid [The Preacher], 1897, Issue 7. Return
  3. Sefer Kedoshim [Book of Martyrs] – Menasha Unger – p. 159. Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


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


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

  Tarnow, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


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

Copyright © 1999-2022 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 10 Sep 2022 by LA