Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Part 17

Land Swindle

The brothers Sheiber from Prosin and Dornei-Vatra from Bukovina refused to remain in contact with me. They promised to send me an amount of wood and from the profit of that wood, to buy for them 500 dunam of land in Kfar Metzer through our company Hityashvut.

The purchase of land in Tirra of 500 dunam that I bought, through Eretz Israel Hachadasha Company, for Freifelder, Moshe Katz, etc from Petshenishin was cancelled.

To my sorrow, we fell in with a ring of swindlers. This was particularly true with Pinchas Magolit, who was involved with the well known swindler Edmund Levy, the Sepharadi, who took care of acquiring land from known Arabs. The first step of their swindle was not to fulfill the contract on time according to religious law. I demanded the return of the deposit money of 150 lei without interest. With lies and excuses that Margolit presented, the legal Rabbis postponed the trial. In the beginning, I thought of taking out the money from Opek bank and sending it abroad. After a time, it was difficult to take out the money and it was gone.

This was the situation of buying land at Kfar Metzer by Schechterman and Hockman from the Egyptian through the swindler Levy. Whoever tried to acquire land in Eretz Israel knows and understands the disappointments and shortcomings of this venture. This would be so with the Edmund Levys and the Schechtermans who took care of buying the land. We knew people after signing the contract and paying a sum of 500 lei were twisted around with falsehoods. I went with Schechterman to Levy in Haifa several times. Finally the Count from Alexandria, Egypt came to Haifa on the 9th of Adar 1926 and the four of us came from Beit Shean. The land was passed over from the Arabs to the Count and from him to us. Weiss came with a bundle of money to the Tabu office, paid the Arabs, after they got the first payment from Levy of 500 lei. The salary was paid with the remainder.

(Pages 104A/105)

Levy and Schechterman took out credit from the Count on this land with a mortgage. They paid 2.500 lei a dunam with a 9% mortgage over a period of five years.

For three days we sat in Beit Shean waiting to hear about the conclusion of the deal. We traveled to Tiberias to spend the night. On the third day, the Tabu registration ended.

For the Stanislau buyers, 500 dunam were on the books for D. Weiss and M. Hochman. For M. Katz, Petshenishin and Moshe Feierstein, Scala, 100 dunam was entered in my name. In addition to the cheating by the sellers, Schechterman and Levy on the price of 2.500 lei they sold, according to the contract, one plot for the establishment of a Jewish settlement. They passed over (from the money that Weiss deposited and could not take back) several plots that were not joined but had Arab fields separating them. We did not know Arabic and they did as they pleased. Even after the three days, we did not get the papers of ownership from Tabu. We had to get additional documentation. D. Weiss asked me to get these documents and send them to Stanislau.

During the interim days of Pesach, I traveled six hours on the train to Beit Shean. I bribed the Tabu clerk with five lei to give me a copy of the 500 dunam listed in Tabu. From the deed, I found out that in an area of 20,000 dunam, we were not close to any Jewish neighbors.

(Note* This whole section about the purchase of land is not clear as written. Grandfather wrote on top of these pages that “it wasn’t worth reading” RDK)

My son Aaron and his brother-in-law Chaim Fogel became partners and bought a large amount of trees to be cut at “Yahar and Partners” in Dalatin. This was a good opportunity for me to earn a good income and I hurried to return home. On April 8, 1926, two days after Pesach, I bought a ticket fourth class and sailed on the ship, Dotzi, from Haifa. The sea was calm all the way and most of the passengers were Jewish tourists. On April 12 in the morning, the ship anchored in Constanta. That same day in the afternoon, I took a train, second class, to Chernovitz. On the 15th, I arrived in my house in Stanislau.

On יז נעומר תרפו 1926, ב איר, was my 60th birthday; I became old in days. We did not celebrate this occasion due to the chase for the penny and the poor bread. It hurts that there was no simchah, even a small one, not from the family and not from friends. There were no blessings, verbally or written from the family except A.L. Freifelder who blessed me that day. I was happy with my lot; I blessed the blessing of my existence and my survival without punishment. May God allow me to celebrate my being seventy with uplifted spirit, life and joy instead the darkness of today.

I received a letter from my son Nathan in New York that his wife Rivka gave birth to a son, למזל'. He was called David Arie after the deceased father-in-law of the branch of the Admorim, family Hager of Kosov. May he grow and be educated in the Torah and in good deeds and as it says in מקרא, be fruitful and multiply.

In addition to the good news, my son Nathan sent $150, half from him and half from my brother David. The money came at the right time. This way I started my business of wood and hoped to make a living. My first purchase was with Fogel and Yahar. My son was in charge of the mill in Dalatin. With this small sum, my son Nathan and my brother David took part in what I owed. May God bless them.

(Pages 105/106)

David Sperber came to visit me on his way to Vienna on the 19th Eyar 1926 at 14 Batarga Street. I will describe in detail the visit with David Sperber. (Note* David Sperber was my maternal grandmother’s brother, my great uncle. D.K.)

I was walking in Tel Aviv on Rechov Nachalat Benyamin and a voice called my name “Avraham”. An old man fell on my neck with kisses and pressed my hands warmly. You are a close relative Avraham. I hadn’t prayed to see you and here you are in front of me in the Holy Land (בארהק'). This old man was a close relative and friend from my youth in Zablotov and close to God. Forty years ago he said goodbye to me, his nephew, and went to Canada empty handed with his abilities and desires. With his education and standing among the Jews of Montreal he represented the Jewish community in the government. In his town of Zablotov he was also outstanding. He married into a good and important family. He was educated and was involved in public affairs. After he lost his big dowry, he made a limited income as a clerk in an unofficial organization. His greatest desire over the years was to see Eretz Israel. He decided to make Aliyah from Montreal, despite the strong objections of his wife and sons. After the adventures that he experienced as an old man with a broken body, several days of difficult travel over land, storms and illness on the sea, he achieved his desire to land on the coast of Eretz Israel. It was a joy for him to see with his own eyes the gathering of dispersed Jews of the Diaspora and the building of Eretz Israel. He traveled the length and breath of the country, visited old and new settlements and the four holy cities. In all the places he visited he gave with an open hand. In the two months he spent in Tel Aviv, he frequently invited many poor, elderly people to have lunch with him. After the first meeting with me, we saw each other every day. Some days we ate together in his room.

I agreed to celebrate the second night of Pesach with David Sperber in the Hotel HaRav Tzisling on Rechov Montefiore. The hall was large, full of light and joy and guests. The tables were filled with all the good, tasty foods and drinks of the country. We sat all night leaning on our chairs and telling the story of the Exodus until the early morning. This night awoke the joy in me of this holiday and eased my depressing situation. Here we were in this country; God put us together like brothers. We had wonderful talks opening our hearts and troubles from the time that we left Zablotov. He told me about going to Canada with empty hands and being able to come to Eretz Israel with money and honor. He was happy with the wife of his friend, Pessi, with his sons Shimshon and Mordechai-Meir and his young daughter that grew up, were educated and would find their way professionally. His daughter, Esther, from his first wife, Drezi, got financial help from him every month. He continues telling about a good income from the rent from three buildings in Montreal. At first he saved much of his income but now it was his money for living and to support his daughter.

David Sperber informed me of many details that I had forgotten. They were about the relatives of my mother and father and the close relationship between us. Grandfather Gershon was Grandmother Frieda’s father, the mother of my father Aaron. Gershon was the brother of David’s grandfather whose name was Nathan. Therefore we are relatives of the third or forth order. The father of David was R’Abraham Leib, son of Nathan, the brother of my Grandfather Gershon. Gershon and his wife Gittel made Aliyah in their old age and lived there for forty years, Gershon lived in Safad and died about the age of 100.

(Pages 106/107)

From my mother Devorah’s family, Grandfather Itzchak Isaac Meltzer was known to tell about the family. His father R’Abraham Leib זל when he was young, rented a large farm in Elishkav. He had a good relationship with Grandfather Meltzer and had many business contacts. This was the reason that they bought the land, farm and everything in it in Chalibtchin. Grandfather Meltzer was occupied with real estate for many years. He leased this land for his sons and paid a large deposit. This was known to Grandfather’s competitor, Moshe Rosenbaum, who pulled a swindle by increasing the deposit on the land and had Grandfather’s contract cancelled. This caused a scandal in the whole area.

In order to get out of this situation with Rosenbaum, there was advice from the Admor of Kosov. According to R’Moshe Zanvils-Tau and R’Abraham Leib Sperber, the law stated that a bill of sale overrides a lease. There was no solution except to buy everything.

Grandfather’s friends helped him to borrow money. They found a man who was a land owner to help him buy this property. He was Shmuel Tau Ben Khina. Ben Khina hired and paid the arbitrator to activate the sale. The conditions were easy payments of 30,000 Ruch in cash on the transfer of the land and a mortgage of 30,000 Ruch to be paid out. Another condition that upset Grandfather and the family was that Rosenbaum could keep his lease for several years. When Grandfather took over the land, the problems increased. It was not possible to fulfill all the conditions of the sale.

As a result of all these disagreements, it was finally decided to go to final arbitration. Grandfather chose on his side, his friend R’Abraham Leib Sperber; Rosenbaum chose R’Shmuel Baran, a landowner from the adjoining town of Haradanka. The two arbitrators came to a compromise decision. The land for farming would remain for a limited time in the hands of Rosenbaum. The big house and all the buildings around it, the big mill, the fruit and vegetable garden would go to Grandfather.

Grandfather Meltzer lived to achieve his goal to bring his large family into this big house. In a short time he was able to enjoy all that was good in this estate and he had high hopes for success. This big estate Chalibtchin was connected to a big farm in Tritzi. There was a good chance that several families would live a good life. The future looked bright. Then a sudden tragedy occurred and Grandfather died. Slowly all the expectations of a bright future disappeared from all the families that depended upon him. Grandfather did not realize his dream. The man Moshe Rosenbaum, his sworn enemy, won. All Grandfathers’ sons left Chalibitchin. These are the memories that David Sperber passed on to me in Tel Aviv.

David Sperber came to Eretz Israel as a tourist with the thought that after some time he would settle in the country. His wife and son strongly insisted that he return as soon as possible to his home in Montreal. He received daily letters as well as telegrams that he returns home. They were concerned that he was alone and old without family. He bravely decided to return to his country, take care of his property and will, and immediately come back and settle with his wife. However, his wife refused to leave her family and home. He decided to come alone and live in this country. After Pesach 1926 he left Eretz Israel by way of Triest, Vienna to visit his older daughter Esther and her family for several days. After our visit I left the country on the way home by way of Constanta and went to Chernovitz. Sperber promised me to come from Vienna to Galicia and that would be the first visit to my house.

(Pages 107/108)

In fact a few days after I arrived home, Sperber came straight from the railroad station to my house יט' באייר. I and my family greeted him with love and great joy. We made a big celebration for him and his older sister Devorah and her family who came to greet David.

They stayed in my house and I helped his older poor sister as well as to the rest of his family. He asked me to accompany him to several places in our country of Galicia and I fulfilled his request. The first visit was to his sister Leah and her husband Moshe Gross. He was a clerk in a wood warehouse of Sternberg’s wife. After several hours at his sister’s in Kolomyea, we went by auto to Kosov to be presented to the young Admor Chaim. The Admor’s father was R’Moshe זצל' who passed away a few months previously. His only son inherited his position. After the official meeting and the passing over of gifts and notes פתקאות ופדיון to the Rabbi, we were invited to his house to be received by the women of the Rabbinate, his wife and mother. We welcomed with glasses of tea and sweets. There were discussions and memories of the days of the Admor’s father זצל. We departed with blessings at midnight. The following morning we went though the village of Rosnor on the way to Zablotov. We entered the house of Sperber’s brother-in-law Rosenbaum. This was an important visit to the town Zablotov, which he had not visited in forty years. All the inhabitants, men, women and children, surrounded the house. All of them were sure that they would receive a gift according to their family relationship. Every one of the close members of his family plus the two Rabbis made it their business to visit him. He gave everyone with an open hand. On Tuesday, we returned by train to Stanislau. He then continued on through Vienna, Paris, and Montreal. We parted with warm kisses and hoped to see each other in Eretz Israel.

On כב אייר I received the sad news of the death of my beloved cousin and friend Jacob Shatner, a son of my uncle Joseph from Kuti. He was a teacher and principal of the Hebrew School “Chosen Language” ספה ברורה in Stanislau. He was an educated and honest man who taught גפת (Gemorrah, Law and Torah). He educated his oldest son Berl Locker, his two brothers and his only daughter Pebbi in Gymnasia (high school), and university and so they found their way in life making a good living. (Note* Berl Locker was a leader of the Poali Zion, Mapai Party and was head of the Jewish Agency. I visited him in London in 1944 during the war. DK) It’s good to remember that I visited the deceased teacher in the Hebrew School. He made an honorable living there from 1878 until 1884.

R’Jabob Shatner was born in 1867 in Kuti. His parents were R’Joseph and his mother Kreindal. After he married the daughter of R’Mordechai Hirsh Lecher זל from the town close by of Slatavina, where he settled and started a grain business which did not succeed. After closing the business, he got a job working for R’Shalom Meltzer זל in Lvov selling Carmel wine from Eretz Israel. After some time he returned to his city Kuti, opened a Hebrew School where he was the principal for several years. My daughter Taube studied there for two years.

In 1918, I returned from Vienna to my home in Stanislau. Most of the inhabitants of the town did not return. My first step was to establish the Hebrew School which was destroyed. I rented from R’Abba Milstein from Kalush five rooms on the third floor from his house in Stanislau. After I made the contract for the apartment from Milstein, I hired Jacob Shatner זל to be the principal.

(Pages 108/109)

The school moved to the community center with seven big rooms, seven teachers and several hundred children. In the big building, besides rooms for the school, there was a big hall, an apartment and a large garden. This building was previously the office of the administrator of the area. It was bought by the Zionist group headed by Dr. Jacob Laufer. A management committee of which I was a member was established after this purchase. I also donated 200 Keter. In addition to the Hebrew School “Chosen Language”, there was another Hebrew group of several hundred studying higher education. R’Jacob Shatner was a teacher in the school until his last days. תנצבה

In this building, the head of Keren Kayemet LIsrael, Mr. Mordechai Rubenfeld and his assistant, Rice, set up places for prayers for Shabbat and holidays in the large hall and some surrounding rooms. In the Holy Days of the year תרעט 1919 we sold places for prayer for the price of ten Keter each (poor people were let in free). Three hundred places were sold. The large income for the holidays came into the thousands after paying the Chazan, etc. A large balance remained with the treasurer, Michael Sakal. With the agreement of the president, Dr. I.Laufer, the treasurer of the Keren Kayemet committee it was decided to pass over a large sum to Keren Kayemet and to the school “Chosen Language” Due to my activities, it was decided to register my name in the Book of Gold for 1922, volume כב 22, number 3993. I continued my activities through the years 1918-1922. Due to an argument with Dr. Alexander Ritterman, the head of the community and the education committee, I left all these tasks. I went to pray in the Beit Knesset Mizrachi which I had helped establish.

On the June 10, 1926, Aaron’s wife Naomi gave birth to a son ,Mazal Tov, whose name was Menachem after my wife Edel’s זל father, R’Menachem Yacob Gaster זל . Menachim was a learned man, a chared. The Admor Chaim, the Rabbi of Atania, was the Sandak (Godfather). The Mohel were the butchers, Moshe and Isaac. We celebrated with most of the family with wine and sweets. He who gives this grandchild the name of one who was educated, let him grow and be educated in Torah and knowledge. With this grandchild, I am blessed with three grandchildren, a son from Nathan, a daughter from Taube and a third grandchild, a son of Aaron.

The wood business was growing. There was just a limited income but the prospects looked good for the future. Most of the purchases were from Fogel and Company from the sawmill in Dalatin, where my son Aaron was the manager. It was understood that he would make some of the payments easier for me. Here again I ran into business trouble.

Our friend, R’Moshe Hochman invested in Eretz Israel and persuaded me to be part of the business of dealing in land. He sent us unending streams of letters demanding that one us come immediately to Eretz Israel. Our “friend” Schechterman found a man whose name was Arie Caspi, a professional engineer. He is interested in the land in Kfar Metzer. He prepared a plan that looked good to establish a settlement and the name would be Kfar Devorah. There was to be five dunam for the house and surrounding area and 25 dunam for planting. The Power of Attorney came from Chevrat Hityashvut (Settlement Company). The plan for the above land was to find an important American firm who would find buyers. Caspi wrote that he sold 1,000 dunam to this firm at a price of 12 lei a dunam. He will return to Eretz Israel with a bundle of money, $5,000.

(Pages 109/110)

The Settlement Company, Schechterman and partners, would hurry to make a deal for a 1,000 dunam to pass over to the buyers from America through the firm. That is what Caspi wrote in his letters. Pahan and Weiss were very pleased with this news. We had to hurry back to Eretz Israel to help Hochman, according to his request. They had no possibility to go, and the land deal was very attractive to me, so I took upon myself the obligation to go. At first, I refused for several reasons. I didn’t want to leave the business that was just starting to develop. There were many expenses and above all the lack of faith in Schechterman and his partner. Pahan and Weiss kept on insisting and finally they accepted part of the expenses for me to travel there and back. With all these reservations, there was a glimmer of hope that this land deal in Kfar Metzer would be successful, I agreed to go. (Note* Grandfather put red lines around all the explanations dealing with land and wrote, “it’s not worth reading.)

On the August 24, 1926, I left the city on the way to Bukovina, Romania. I stopped in Chernovitz to visit family and businessmen I knew, to try to make contacts for future business but to no avail. On September 1, I boarded the ship Datzi that sailed that same day, Friday evening. The trip was quiet and most of the 180 passengers were pioneers. Tuesday morning, the ship anchored in Haifa because the day of Remembrance was coming and the clerks of the Zionist management ordered the ship to anchor in Haifa instead to going the following day to Jaffa. Most of the passengers were taken to the quarantine area, to be washed, given shots and to have their clothing disinfected. This did not finish until the evening. During the days of Rosh Hashanah, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I stayed at the Hotel Menachim in Haifa, prayed with the Galicianer Minyan in a private house on the way to Mt. Carmel. On the fourth of Tishri, I came to Tel Aviv and rented a room in the Hotel Sternfeld. After several days I moved to the quarters of Chevrat Hochman, a room in Beit Kamerav, Rechov Kalisher and paid two lei for a month.

During the holiday of Succoth, Hochman and I went to Jerusalem for Shabbat. We prayed Minchah at the Western Wall כותל המערבי and had a Friday evening at the Beit Knesset Hurban-Yehuda-Hachasid. We prayed Shacharit at the Beit Knesset of the Hungarian Charidim. In the afternoon we took a walk around the walls of the Old City.

We went up to the Mount of Olives and entered “Beit Hachofshit”, the “Grave of Zechariah”, “Yad Avshalom”, the “Graves of the Kings from the house of David” and “Mikvah R’Yishmael-Cohen Gadol”. We returned to the hotel in the evening. The following day, Hochman returned to Tel Aviv and I went to Hebron, to the “Grave of Rachel” where I went to pray. After spending a night with a Sepharadi Jew, I hurried up to visit the מערת-המכפלה (Cave of the Fathers). The guard let me go up only until the 13th step. It was forbidden by the Mufti to get close to the graves. One was permitted to see from a distance the holy graves and to throw “notes of request” from where one stood. I visited the Slovodki Yeshiva, where 80 young men were studying with R’David Nathan Finkle who was an astute scholar who ran the Yeshiva.

I came to the place of העץ אשל-אברהם (the tree where Abraham ate, drank and slept), an ancient tree. The priests of this monastery and the Arabs say “under this tree, our father Abraham and three visiting angels had a meal”. The Jews of Hebron deny this tradition and say “the Russian monasteries call it the Tree of Abraham to attract tourists.”

(Page 110)

In truth, the Tree of Abraham and the Pines of Mamre אלוני-ממרא were North of Hebron, about three kilometers away from town. Today this place is called “Village of Mamre”. The tree has since disappeared. Which of the two stories should one believe? The next day I returned to Tel Aviv and celebrated the last day of the holiday with Sternfeld.

I had been in the country for about a month and had not yet heard from Caspi when he would arrive from New York. The telegrams and letters came telling us to quickly take care of arranging at least 1,000 dunam. Why did Hochman demand from me to hurry back and why did I do so? Who knows if Caspi and Schechterman are not setting me up to be disappointed?

On the basis of the contact with Caspi, the American Company confirmed by telegram the purchase by Caspi. $5,000 was to be sent to a Tel Aviv Bank to be paid at the signing of the contract. To guarantee the deal, since there was a large sum of money involved, Pinchus Margalet was already in contact about the land with his partner the known Count and Levy. We decided with our friends from Hitiashvut to join them in the deal of Kfar Metzer. The Egyptian Count, who was invited by Levy, came over to transfer the 1,000 dunam of Kfar Metzer. It was Chanukah before everything was settled. The transfer of the western part of the land went to the Count and from him to Margalit, Schechterman, Hochman and me. A month passed and on the December 3, 1926, the deal was entered in Tabu (official registration office of land ownership) in Beit Shean. We had to pay 2.500 lei per dunam in cash and the remainder was a mortgage.A total of 900 lei was passed, part from our friends that was held by Edmund Levy. Margalit took from Levy his share of the money. After we closed this deal, the Count insisted that we rent another 2,200 dunam, that he had available, at Kfar Metzer, for a year. Levy, the swindler, proposed to us and the Count, a beautiful deal. If we would rent for the sum of 10 mille a dunam, it would cost us 220 lei. Levy would go into this deal for half. He was certain of the profits and obligated himself to pay 110 lei as his share and we agreed. The cheat Levy put in nothing and we lost all our money.

After arranging the renting and the Tabu in Beit Shean, I was to go and receive from the assistant of the Count and from the Arabs the land we had bought and perhaps rented. Schechterman and I had the task of dealing with this. On December 24, 1926, we traveled from Tel Aviv to Haifa by car and stayed at night in the Moshava Zesh-Ari. The following morning we rode on donkeys for two hours with our guide Gamlieli to Kfar Tabor. After we prayed Shacharit and ate a light meal, we continued our way to Kfar Metzer. We chose Gamieli because he knew the way and spoke Arabic and was recommended. He led us to the house of the Muchtar, “Sheik” the judge, the head of the village. He was not home. We gave gifts to his wife and sons as was expected, coffee and sugar to her and candy and sweets to the sons. After an hour, the Muchtar arrived. He invited us to his large house. The room was four by four meters without a ceiling or a floor, without chairs or a table, a metal burner for making coffee with no chimney. The smoke that came from making the coffee was choking. The warm greeting we received was exaggerated. He sat cross-legged on a straw mat. Gamlieli was asked to bring two small stools for us. As soon as we sat down, the Muchtar blessed us with peace and health “אל-סלאם-עליכם,אל-עיאף-ואל-סלאמאת”.

(Pages 110/111)

The rumor of our arrival spread through the village and twenty other Arabs joined us. The Arabs that came greeted us with bows of their heads and sat cross-legged on the straw mats in a circle around the fireplace. After sitting, we all received the traditional coffee, which was considered very important to them.

In our honor, the Muchtar planned a festive meal which according to tradition, a goat or a lamb is slaughtered for this meal. I hinted to Gamlieli that nothing should be prepared for me except eggs, olive and oil. It was forbidden by their law to converse with a guest before the meal. When all was ready for the meal, the Muchtar faced and said “סמי-באל-רחמן” inviting God the all merciful to the feast. The son of the Muchtar served me on a wooden plate, eggs, olives and oil. I had a piece of bread in my pocket. After the meal, the conversation began. It was about the transfer of land that we bought from them and that which belonged to the Count. After the transfer of the land, we then spoke about the additional purchase of twenty thousand dunam. The other Arabs joined us. The Muchtar started to talk saying that all the inhabitants of the village want and agree to rent their fields for a year. The amount of rent would be 10% of the crop yield of that field. Since some of the Muchtars were not present, we asked to postpone the meeting until the following week when one of us would come to finalize the renting. We parted from the Arabs who accompanied us to the edge of the village. On our donkeys we rode to Zesh-Ari where the car was waiting.

Hochman and Margalit were waiting for us in Haifa. The following day, they and Schechterman returned to Tel Aviv. I remained in Haifa in order to be at Kfar Metzer to arrange the renting with the Arabs. On January 3, 1927, in order to save expenses, I traveled by car to Tiberias on the way that goes up to Zesh-Ari. The last two kilometers to the village were through muddy paths in the rain and cold of winter. I arrived at Gamlieli’s house in the evening. I was warmly received by Gamlieli and his wife. I asked them to take me to a place to eat and sleep but he and his wife insisted that I stay with them. I agreed since lodgings were far away and the road was not good. I was exhausted and we had to get up at sunrise in order to get to Kfar Metzer. I agreed and we had a pleasant meal, pitot, green olives and tea. The only bed was small, narrow and broken in half with an old mattress and a small pillow, which his wife prepared for me. That night he, his wife, their two children and his old mother slept on a mat on the kitchen floor. I was not able to sleep or find rest that night due to noise, a meager meal and an uncomfortable bed. Early the next morning, we mounted the donkeys and by nine we were at Kfar Metzer. This time I chose Reuben Goldman from Kfar Tabor to come with me and sent Gamlieli home. In retrospect, I realized that Gamlieli’s knowledge was limited.

We found the Muchtar Hussein, in his house and he received us in the customary way. In the afternoon we began the negotiation for the renting of the land. The Arabs of the village and those renting came to the meeting. We wanted to make the price and the conditions of renting on the same day. We spent the night in the same house, with no pillow or covering in the company of the Muchtar’s two sons. During the night, the chickens and goats came close to where we were sleeping. Of course, whatever sleep there was, ended and there was no rest. All the Arabs gathered together and after several hours, the writing and signing of the contract was completed.

(Pages 111/112)

I had the Power of Attorney of Hitiashvut to rent 1,600 dunam from 32 Arabs who are listed by name. This land was rented to the Galicianer Jews who are listed by name as residents in Eretz Israel. In this way 2,200 dunam was rented to the Egyptian Count, a total of 3,800 dunam to rent for 10% of the produce of the land per year. The contract written in Arabic was signed by me, the renters, R. Goldman who had the Power of Attorney to hand over the field and receive from the produce at harvest. Three of the renters were in Nazareth and were not present to sign. The Muchtar told us to come again as those three owners had not signed. January 6, before noon with farewell blessings, we left the village. Goldman went to his house and I, on the donkey, went to Afula by way of Ein Dor. I stopped to pray at Machane Israel, an Agudat Israel settlement together with an acquaintance, Horovitz from Krakow, son-in-law of Jacob Brightman from Tarnipol. I was received with warmth and had a breakfast of onion bread. Horovitz was in charge of the Agudat settlement and poured out his bitterness to me. The mismanagement of Agudat Israel and the heavy taxes of the government caused the settlers to leave empty handed. He and one of his friends remained to liquidate the settlement. Most of the land was abandoned.

By way of Kfar Yeladim, I reached Afula and from there to Haifa. On January 10, I returned to Kfar Tabor to Goldman’s house. The Muchtar and the three Arabs from Nazareth came and we finished the difficult issue of renting the land.

From Kfar Tabor by way of Yavniel, I reached Tiberias to bath in the medicinal hot springs. I found lodging in the house of Benjamin Lautman, a relative of my mother’s family. Every day I bathed in the hot springs which were two kilometers from town. I visited the graves of the holy men; Rabbi Akiba, Rabbi Chaya ר'חייה and his sons. Their resting place was on a desolate hill with no stone fence, just a metal wire around the area that was put up by an American Jew. I visited the Tomb of Rambam and his students. His resting place is in town surrounded by a stone fence. The entrance was open without a gate to everyone, especially the four legged animals. Why couldn’t there be a small house for a guard to keep the tomb clean? What was missing between us and Rambam’s tomb? It stands on a high hill on the road from Tiberias and Tzemach and near the hot springs. There are an Ashkenazi and a Sepharadi Beit Knesset, a yeshiva for forty students and several dunam of grape vines. Hundreds of people visit every week. In order to reach the graves of R’Akiva and R’Chaya I had walk through fields of thorns. Their resting place is a desert and no one visits their graves. הרבם' שלא קם ממשה עד משה כמשה (From Moses until Moses Ben Maimon there has been no Moses) Where are the gates to the entrance, the Beit Knesset, the yeshiva and the Rabbis? I spent two weeks in Tiberias and went to the hot springs thirteen times.

On January 28, I returned to Tel Aviv and Hochman and I took a room in the Hotel Sternfeld. We still did not get to see Silverman (Caspi) despite all his messages and telegrams that he was on his way. Caspi arrived empty handed after a few days, but had a Power of Attorney to take care of the land contract. It was decided to bargain over new and different conditions. After two weeks, Caspi called us to a lawyer’s office to sign the contract. We were shocked to see that every article was changed from what had been decided. The deception and lies were obvious in every article. It was a contract that no businessman could accept.

(Pages 112/113)

The whole purpose of Caspi’s adjusted contract was that it would not be accepted. The entire business from the beginning to the end was to throw sand in our eyes, as the Americans would say. This was to take money from us by deceit and to cause us serious damage. In the end, we did not agree to the contract or the proposal to rent the land. We saw again and again from the beginning that these people only wanted to deceive and cheat us: Margalit tried to sell land to the people of Stanislau; Hartman sold to the buyers of Weiss; Caspi, the swindler, pushed to receive 1,000 dunam for himself of the land we had invested in and had taken out a mortgage; Schechterman with his smooth talk and complements “there is only one Keusch” sold me 50 dunam of land in Tirra, two plots, had me pay 160 lei and didn’t fulfill his promises.

I sued him in the court. I won the decision but he didn’t pay the penalty and a lien was put against his house in Haifa on Mt. Carmel. I received 50 lei in notes that could not be cashed, from his lawyer, Vashnitz. What a debacle for our group, myself and my friends Hochman and Weiss. How many scams they pulled on us? How much physical and emotional energy we spent? How much money we spent for the envisioned dreams for us and our friends abroad? How much time, months, years, we left our homes and livelihoods for this purpose? Who knows what would have happened if it had succeeded? A company of traitors, liars and murderers, these sellers of land, and there was no one who could help us.

After some hope, Hochman and I tried to something good about land. I decided to go home, came to Jerusalem, took the Romanian visa and with that I went to the Polish consul and paid him 2.300 lei for the Polish Visa.

I visited the Chief Rabbi, the genius R’A.I. Kook, in his Yeshiva where there were eighty capable students. I went to the Western Wall to pray Minchah among the Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Bucharim, etc. After Minchah everyone prayed Psalms. In the evening prayer, Mariv, on the 20th of Adar, I prayed for the memory of Grandfather Nathan זל on his “memorial day”. It is hard to describe and explain the emotion of that occasion, at that place and the spiritual uplifting with its closeness to God. With the prayer and the incense I saw standing before me, my Grandfather Nathan and my Father Aaron זל both dressed in the clothes of the Cohanim (priests) and making the sacrifice on the alter under this Wall where I am standing. At the hour of lighting the candle to the soul of Grandfather, it seemed to me that both of them זל are standing and lighting the holy candelabrum. I as a Cohen stand by at the oil receptacle and pour it on to the candelabrum to add to the flame. As I left the holy place, I prayed “May the desires that I pray for in this place be fulfilled and received, light of the Candelabrum and light of the souls of those Cohanim זל. Let the light shine on all of our family, their livelihood, with the light of the Torah and know wisdom.”

(Note* When I visited Grandfather in 1952, I asked him if he wanted the Third Temple built. He looked and me, a little abashed, and answered “yes”. DK)

(Pages 113/114)

I used all the money I brought with me due to the swindlers, instead of staying for three months, I stayed seven months. I barely received five lei from my friend Hochman that I needed to cover the cost to return home, in spite of the fact that there was money in the account of the Hitiashvut. On March 3, 1927, I sailed from the coast of Jaffa on the ship “Roma”. The trip was hard. The sea was stormy and the ship was rolling in every direction along with the passengers. My head was spinning, vomiting, sea-sick and in general miserable. It was impossible to eat, drink, rest or sleep. After two days of suffering, the ship landed in the port of Constanta. I spent a few days in Bukovina in the house of Shmuel Shieber in order to earn the matchmaker fee for what I proposed to him while on the way to Eretz Israel. Shieber paid me $360. On the way back to Stanislau, R. Greenfield paid me $200.

My expenses back and forth to Eretz cost me 52 lei. My friends Pahan and Weiss obligated themselves to pay a third of this sum each. I received from Weiss, five lei, and from Pahan six lei, the other 23 lei was not paid. Who knows about the seven months of traveling, worries and extortion, and the loss of business and my other problems? I came back to the country empty-handed. Luckily I was paid the $560 for my matchmaking services and I thank God for his blessing. With this money I decided to return to the wood business in order to earn a good income.

תרפז 1927, I came to Chernovitz to celebrate the wedding of S Shieber’s daughter, to the groom, Greenfeld. (They gave me the matchmaker money) The celebration was on a high level. From there I was invited to their home in Prosin for Shabbat and the seven blessings. I asked and received a donation for Isaac Meltzer who was in need, $25 from Shieber and $30 from B. Hirsch and Sarah Baron. The $55 I sent to Uncle Shmaryahu Meltzer in Scala. Isaac not only did not thank me, but he was upset and angry with me.

My daughter Taube gave birth on May 1, 1928, to her second daughter, called Devorah after my mother זל.

I was informed by my brother David from New York that a son, called Aaron Joseph, was born to my son Nathan. He was named after my father and my son who drowned זל.

Isaac Schrenzel, son of my sister Gitel, came to Dalatin from Scala to enjoy the fresh air. He stayed with a friend, Moshe Stein, who was a neighbor of my son Aaron. His wife, Shprinzi, came to take care of him. He had always been sickly and now did not leave his bed day or night. I visited him several times. My son Aaron helped him. After two weeks, we received the sad news that Isaac was no longer and God had taken him. He was about 50 years of age. Aaron took care of his burial and paid for it by himself. I received words of consolation from my brother-in-law, his father, R’Yeshuah and his brother-in-law Freifelder from Scala. I answered Freifelder with this letter.

“My dear Freifelder, I received your letter on the death of Isaac זל . We must cry and grieve over him. The Reaper put his eye upon the dry vineyard and lifted his scythe upon a thin stalk. Thus we lost a young man of 50. The tragedy came suddenly even though a few days earlier, a doctor said that he was in good condition and hoped that the dry vineyard would flower for several years.

(Pages 114/115)

Why was this vine cut when this vine had four branches that were growing? Who will support and console them? Who will worry about their education and their livelihood?

He will be buried on the hill of Dalatin. May God have mercy on his soul and console his lovely wife, Shprinzi, and his four sons. תנצבה.

March 1928 before Pesach, my daughter-in-law Naomi, my son Aaron’s wife, gave birth to a second son. The brith took place with the family in the apartment of Fogel. I was given the honor to be the Sandak (godfather). The baby was called Shimshon Joseph, after my daughter-in-law’s grandfather and my drowned son Joseph. May God grant that he grow with Torah and wisdom and good deeds.

My son David was clever in the ways of the army. His efforts succeeded in releasing him from a difficult situation. In March 1929, he was inducted into the army in Kolomyea.

He suffered from the hard work at the beginning of his service. After three months of this work he went to visit my son Aaron in order to find a way to bribe his way out of this hellish work. The army gave him a general store to operate in order to sell what the soldiers needed at a price that saved them money. This was the best task that he could have to complete his service.

I spent the summer of 1928 in the house of my daughter Taube. This was in the village of Tatarav in the Carpathian Mountains. My son-in-law Benjamin Bloch asked me to come to audit the books of the sawmill at Tatarov. There I met Dr. Dov Hausner of Lvov, now from Tel Aviv, a business advisor of the Polish Government in Eretz Israel.

I have known Dr. Hausner for many years. He was a member of “Hapoel Mizrachi” committee in Lvov. I tried with the help of my friends in Stanislau and Kolomyea, to choose him to be president of Mizrachi, in East Gallicia, against the candidate, Jacob Vitlass. In the Mizrachi election of 1922, I was on the committee of five to choose the new candidates. He was one of the candidates and I voted for him against the others. He was elected and served six years. He was an outstanding man with many talents which showed in his speeches, political issues and economics. He was chosen to fulfill many tasks which he did successfully. After he finished his term of office, he was chosen as commercial council for the Polish government to Syria, Egypt and Eretz Israel where he lived. He often visited Poland to confer with the ministers about business relations. He would come with his wife to the Carpathian Mountains for the fresh air. He knew me as professional wood expert and advised me to make wooden crates for oranges for which there was a large market in Tel Aviv. Since he was the commercial advisor in Eretz Israel who knew many of the buyers, he would help me in that direction. He would try to establish contact between the Polish and Rumanian governments to organize a direct shipment by ship and rail. I joyfully accepted his advice and began to investigate with hopes to receive positive news.

Dr Hausner after returning to Eretz Israel remained in constant contact with me. His last letter demanded that I come immediately. He sent me a document from the Commerce and Industry Office in order to simplify getting the English visa. With that document, I went to Nadvorna and paid only 25 Polish coins instead of 250 for permission to travel.

(Page 115)

On May 4, 1930, I left Stanislau on the way to Warsaw to get an English visa which required the person applying to be present. The following day, with the help of my friend Tzvi Fogel I received all the visas necessary to travel to Eretz Israel by way of Trieste. On the way through Vienna, I visited family that remained refugees from the time of the war. On May 7, I embarked on an Italian ship that left in the evening for Eretz Israel. The sea was stormy and the waves rocked the ship. The sailors ran to their stations and the passengers descended to their cabins. I remained on deck and became so dizzy, I thought I would fall. When I reached my cabin, I laid like a log all night. After 24 hours I felt terrible. I was in third class and the kosher food was awful. Fifty of the passengers were Jews with the majority non-Jews. On May 13, we docked in Jaffa. We were quarantined as usual when we got off the ship.

I reached Tel Aviv in the evening and went to the Sternfeld Hotel. The following morning, I went to Dr. Hausner who greeted me warmly and we planned when and where to go to visit the buyers of orange crates.

On the eve of Lag B’Omer, I traveled with friends, Shimshon Hibner, B. Graskop and his wife, Dr. Spindel and his mother, and we arrived in Meron by way of Afula, Tiberias and Safed. Men, women and children, Jews and Arabs came in the thousands to enjoy this holiday. The town of Meron stands on a hill where there is a big field with a big house surrounded by stones and the graves of רשבי and his son Rabbi Eliezer זצל. In the building there are two Beit Knessets, a big hall and several rooms. Close to this place, a building with several tens of students studying Torah, a kitchen and a big garden. When we reached the celebration near the graves, we couldn’t get close because of the crowd. With the help of the police who were there to keep order, I climbed on to the roof where I could see the bonfire. Men, women and children danced and clapped their hands around the fire. Some of the Cohanim had bowls of oil and were standing and pouring oil on the flame. Women and children threw silk handkerchiefs and wool clothing into the fire which grew larger and brighter. Chasidim and other men danced wildly with great passion, singing “Bar Yochai, Bar Yochai” and psalms. People ate and drank their fill including sweets as was commanded. This continued all night until dawn. I did not move from my place all night. There was no place to sleep in Meron. With sunrise we went up to the graves of Beit Hillel and Shamai, and the caves of the Sanhedrin as well as Chevrat Beit Hamidrash of Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) which was near. We returned the way we came and arrived in Tel Aviv in the evening.

Brenzi Sperber and her daughter visited me from New York at my hotel in Tel Aviv. This is the granddaughter of R’Abraham Lieb Sperber of Zablotov (my great grandfather DK). They gave me greetings from my brother and my son Nathan. I also received the sad news of the death of my good friend David Sperber of Montreal, who died in the month of Tevet 1929. This was after he visited Eretz Israel and Galicia and had been in touch with me by mail. He also sent me money several times for his elderly sister Devorah. The last letter I received was a year ago where he wrote that he hoped to meet me in Eretz Israel. He was 81 years old and lived a full life, was honesr and gave to charity all the days of his life. May this be credited to him in the Diaspora, in Eretz Israel and in his country? תצנבה' forever Amen.

(Page 116)

Dr. Hausner and his son-in-law Dr. Fish used all their connections to enable me to sell orange crates. Dr. Hausner asked Dr. Fish to travel with me to Tel Aviv and Petach Tivah where there were buyers. After extended negotiations, with the most important company in the country, “Pardess”, Dr. Hausner’s efforts were successful and I sold them 50,000 orange crates. The price was twelve pennies per crate. (Twelve pence equals a shilling and twenty shillings equal a pound, lei) This included shipment from Haifa to Jaffa. The shipment would be from September thru January 1931. The contract was signed on June 15, 1930. We did not manage to deal with another company despite all the efforts of Dr. Hausner with “Hachaklai” that had made promises.

Before I returned home, I went to Jerusalem for Shabbat to pray at the Western Wall. I visited the Hebrew College and the Library named for the deceased president of the Zionist Organization, David Wolfson.

On June 22, I left Tel Aviv and boarded the ship, Sinia, traveling Yaffa-Constanta-America. The trip was comfortable, the sea quiet, 150 Jewish passengers and average food. Those who ate non-kosher had excellent food. The ship landed in Constanta on June 26, and on the 29th, I came home to Stanislau.

After getting home and a few days rest, I began to look for a good place to buy appropriate crates. I made contact with the largest and most important firm in Poland, Glasinger from Tashin. I bought 50,000 crates to fulfill the contract. I also bought an amount of boxes from the firm, Gadolah from Sanivitski. It appears that there will be a good profit from the crates I bought from Glasinger.

Before I went to Eretz Israel, my son Aaron urged me to buy an amount of wood, with the agreement of his brother-in-law Fogel from Sabel’s sawmill in Mikolitachin. After I returned and checked out this business, I found I lost money. I sent my son David who returned from the army to close this business. Sabel was left with only $1,000 and had no wood to make up for the loss. Who knows if you can take water from a stone?

In the month of Tevet 1931, I received the sad news of the death of my older sister Gittel זל .It seems that she died a year previously but the family held back the news even though I asked about her. She was 73 years old. She married a merchant of decorative sponges that were brought from Italy. They had a steady market in Russia which was on the border of Scala. Her father-in-law Yonah Zeev Schrenzl made a good living, she and her husband Yehoshua and their children always lived a comfortable life for 25 years. The business with Russia ended and he lost everything. Gittel’s husband Yehoshua did not have a lot of business experience nor did he have other capabilities. He couldn’t make a living. My sister, the daughter of our mother, אשת חיל, was a “valiant woman”. She opened a general store and with the help of her three children earned a meager living. During World War I, they suffered from the Russian soldiers. Her husband was taken into captivity, the contents of the store were stolen and they were left penniless. I and my brother David from New York helped whenever possible but there was no end. The last troubles were beyond description. Her older daughter, Chaya Taube, died, and then her only son Isaac, died of an unknown illness. They left young orphans. My sister was in deep depression, destroyed in body and spirit. The younger daughter Hinda did not find her place in life. There was no money for a dowry but luckily she married her sister’s widower, I.L. Freifelder.

(Pages 116/117)

Hinda and Freifelder made a living with the father-in-law by reopening the store with the help of the youngsters. My sister Gittel took care of the household, her husband, Torah and work. The daughter and husband took care of the store and the business. My sister Gittel אשת-חיל was a valiant woman. All the people of the town honored her on her last journey. Freifelder the head of the community of Scala chose the grave site נתצבה.

The orange crates from the company Glasinger that were sent to the firm Pardess in Eretz Israel were on the highest level. There was a good chance that they would be easily sold in large quantities in the Eretz Israel market. I decided to travel to Eretz Israel again, to make contacts for the sale of a large quantity of crates for the following year. I bought and sent a small amount of 22 cubic meters of pine planks to Eretz Israel by way of Romania. I bought a ticket for the same ship “Sinia” that was sailing from Constanta, but this time without a discount. On March 17, I left Stanislau. I stopped off in Strashnitz to collect a debt of $360. These were notes that my son Aaron had received and not been paid from someone I knew. On March 20 I boarded the ship and the sea was quiet for the journey. Most of the passengers were friends of the rich man Jacob Margshim and his wife. On March 25 the ship anchored in Jaffa and from there we went into quarantine as usual.

This time I rented a nice room from Zeltzer, on 6 Rechov Sirkin. There was a lovely garden, fresh air and close to the sea. Since it was almost Pesach, there was no sense in starting contacts for orange crates. Dr. Hausner promised me that he would help. I was invited to celebrate Pesach at the house of Dr. Hausner. At this simchah there were Dr. Vashitz from Haifa, Abraham Lerner and three other honored guests. We told the story of the exodus from Egypt. The food and drink were according to tradition and every detail was fulfilled as was done by all religious Jews.

Content last updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 08:10 PM Mountain Standard Time

Zabolotiv, Ukraine
זבולוטוב

This page is hosted at no cost to the public by JewishGen, Inc., a non-profit corporation. If you feel there is a benefit to you in accessing this site, your JewishGen-erosity is appreciated.

Compiled by Ruth and David Keusch
Updated March 2013
Copyright © 2013 Ruth and David Keusch
Web Design by Alan Raskin