Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Recollection of Economics in the Carpathian Mountains
As far as economics were concerned, the Jews had the upper hand. They were the big and small merchants and the craftsmen. All of them made an honorable living . Most of the population was involved in the wood business which brought blessings and wealth to the merchants. There were large forests on the Carpathian Mountains, where the trees were cut and sent down via the river to the banks of the Tsarmush. There they were formed into rafts that flowed down the river to sawmills that were built along the banks of the river that extended all the way to Romania and Russia. They also had large plots of land covered with grass and thousands of cattle that was brought to the world market especially Vienna to be slaughtered. Non-Jewish inhabitants came daily from the surrounding villages. Some went to the government offices while most came to purchase their needs. Many of these villages belonged to the town. There was no agriculture, just forests and beautiful scenery. There was an extensive field where merchants brought their wheat from distant places to be brought to the market in town for the entire area, food for several thousand inhabitants. The general stores were busy every day. On market days everyone came to shop, from the villages and from the town. There were warehouses filled with all kinds of merchandise to be sold wholesale. A limited amount of credit was extended.
The fact that Admorim lived in the town brought blessings and income to its people. On week days and special important Shabbatot, many Chasidim came to see their leaders. עיניך ראות פני מורך (your eyes see the face of your teacher) Many came to request success in business, relief for sick and redemption. Many hotels, restaurants and inns were full of guests all year round and were successful. The brothers R’Alter and Zeide Drimmer were wholesale wine merchants. R’Alter had a big house that was a hotel and restaurant that he and his modest wife, whose head was covered with a wig, operated. Their house was open to important guests and their followers for food, drink and sleep. Every evening until late after the prayers, Jews would come to drink a glass of choice wine “Adabeshter” that cost only a few pence.
In general, the Jews of Vishnitz, as most of the Jews in Bukovina, were satisfied with their lot. They were pleased with their life regarding large and small matters. You could not find a sad face except for one beggar.
There was a saying that a Jew from Vishnitz, rich and not so rich, would change a 100 Reinish bill for pennies, so that it would make noise in his pocket to show how rich he was.
All the rich people of Vishnitz, even though who were not that rich, wanted to appear really rich. Three qualities would impress: 1) their dress 2) their generosity in giving alms 3) their appearance riding a well bred horse around their property in the Carpathians. A servant would run in front, riding on a mule. Most of them were not outstanding in their spirituality. They did not know Torah, wisdom and science. Some of them knew how to read and knew the language of the country. Their sons and daughters were educated in Torah and general education by teachers who taught them languages and grammar. Most of them were engaged to children of known Torah scholars and after their marriage they spent time with young students who studied all the times. Some their married sons went on to serious study. Some people were active in all kinds of community work. One of them, R’Mendel Sherf, an honorable and rich man took upon himself a goal which was to release all the sons of the town and the area from serving in the military. Every year before the tests, as a holy mission, he went and found the army officials who were checking all the candidates who came to Vishnitz. He contacted them and negotiated that they would get a certain sum on the condition that those giving the tests would find these candidates not fit to serve in the army. A committee was appointed and evaluated how much each man would pay for his son before the tests in order to collect the money. All poor boys that were born in the city and the area would be freed from service without payment. R’Mendel did his job faithfully with clean hands. This activity continued for several years until someone squealed and the situation was revealed to the government. This was all canceled because of fear of what might happen.
There was not yet a Jewish school in the city. There was only a government school where the teachers were not Jews and they taught in Ukrainian and German. The students, boys and girls, were non-Jews. Maybe there were a few Jews. The inhabitants educated their sons in the Cheder where they learned from Chumash to Gemorrah and further. The oldest son of the Admor Rabbi Baruch זצל was Rabbi Israel זצל, established a Talmud Torah which after some time expanded into a Yeshiva. In the Talmud Torah, youngsters studied from the age of six to thirteen and from thirteen and up in the Yeshiva. They were both situating in the Beit Hamidrash of the Admor. The money was paid monthly and was collected from the people of the town and the area. All money matters were taken care of by the Admor.
Money was collected for the poor from the people of Vishnitz, not just from the rich. A committee would distribute money weekly with an open hand, to those who needed it. The gate to the Admor’s court was open to all who requested backing and help. His followers tell of the goodness and honesty of the Rabbi’s wife Miriam זל, daughter of the pious Admor Rabbi Israel Merizn זצל, wife of the Admor Menachim זצל. A widow of a rich man came to the Rebbetzin, and told that all her wealth was taken by a relative of her husband. She asked for help for her daughter who was supposed to be married but it was postponed. The groom threatened to break the engagement contract if the wedding did not take place shortly. The daughter had no money for the large dowry.
The Rebbetzin like her husband had only a small amount of money. There was not enough time to contact the rich Chasidim and the amount of money was large. So she took her jewelry to get a loan with interest in order to give the woman the sum she needed with blessing and Mazal Tov.
In order to get to such a large sum of money quickly, she claimed her jewelry was stolen from her that night. She was sure that the Chasidim would make up the money missing. She did this secretly and did not tell her righteous husband. She acted upset about the theft. At that time there was a gang of thieves and the head was Nathan Chalifus who spread fear among the rich of the city and required a monthly protection fee. He had great respect for the Rebbetzin and promised to guard her from theft. She invited Chalifus and told him her story. He told her that if this deed was done by his followers, she would get everything back but if done by others, it was lost. The money was collected from the Chasidim and the jewelry was returned to her.
Because of the goodness of his heart, R’Baruch inherited the chair from his father R’Menachim זצל. Elyashar came to town and told R’Baruch his troubles. He threatened to break the contract between his son and a girl, if the wedding didn’t take place shortly. He had no money in his pocket, owed money and is almost bankrupt. He is hoping to get the blessings and redemption from God shortly. The Rabbi asked him to smell the tobacco in the box. During the conversation the Rabbi turned aside and put 200 Reuch in the box. The man blessed God with the hope that he will send his holy help quickly and he was sent home.
He opened the tobacco box at home and found the money and hurried quickly to the court of the Rabbi to return the bill. He reasoned that the Rabbi had made a mistake of putting the bill in the box instead of his own pocket. The Rabbi answered, the blessings of immediate help by God exist and the money was there for the wedding, with Simcha and Mazal Tov.
R’Arie Blum from Vishnitz, who now lives in Tel Aviv, told me, before he was appointed as Rabbi that his father Chaim זצל was the Rabbi of the town of Kosov in the year תר 1840. The Rabbi R’N.Landman, knowledgeable in Torah, sat on the dynastic chair. R’Menachim was appointed without his agreement or most of the town. Only a small number of the followers of Kosov agreed. When R’Landman died there was a fierce war between the Admor and townspeople to appointment a Rabbi and a Head of the Rabbinic Court, until the people chose Blum’s grandfather R’Kapel Glazer, born in Chartkov. After he died the town picked his son-in-law R’Ira Blum and after his death the Admor R’Israel son of R’Baruch זצל. When R’Arie son of R’Ira זל was chosen as Rabbi and Head of the Court, a serious war broke out between the followers and people of the town. R’Arie Blum left the town of Vishnitz, went to his rich father-in-law in Butchach, Galicia, who set him up in money lending business and he succeeded. From the year 1903 until 1910, the dynastic chair and the Head of the Court of Vishnitz were inherited by his brother R’Eliezer and since his father-in-law was R’David Meltzer זל the Admorim of Vishnitz were satisfied. The Admor R’Israel זצל agreed to the choice and R’Eliezer made a meager living. At the beginning of WWI he left Vishnitz and went to Vienna where he died after several years. His wife and sons went to Eretz Israel and America. R’Arie went to Vienna after WWII as the Head of Court in a Beit Knesset.
In 1948 he came to Israel with his family. He serves on the community committee as most of the Rabbis and is helped by his sons.
After the Admor Rabbi Baruch זצל died, the Admor’s seat was inherited by his oldest son, Rabbi Israel. Seven brothers and two brother-in-laws and their families left the town. Every one of them found a place to establish a seat as an Admor. The second son R’Chaim זצל found his place in the town Atania, Galicia, close to the big city Stanislau. The third chose the town of Haradanka also in Galicia. The rest of the sons and the two son-in-laws found their places in Bukovina and one or two in Hungary. In the beginning of WWI 1914, most of the Jews left Vishnitz including Rabbi Israel and his family. He chose to settle in the town of Grossvardine, Hungary and there he set up a successful Admorate. He lived there until the end of his life. In 1952, his bones were brought to Israel and laid to rest in the cemetery in Bnei Brak, where his son R’Menachim lived. After the war, the sons of R’Israel זצל R’Eliezer זצל and his brother returned to Vishnitz. The first one set up the Yeshiva founded by his father and was the principal and also inherited the seat of the Admor.
Bukovina known as Little Israel where Jews lived under the Austrian government fell into the unsympathetic hands of Romania after WWI. The situation of the Jews changed radically for the worse. There were heavy taxes, unfair laws and the worst of all was the new border. The ability of the merchants to travel back and forth to most of Europe was now closed. The sister towns of Vishnitz, Kuti and Kosov, were connected in business and the Tsarmush River became a border. Permission, which was hard to get, was needed to cross. The various administrative positions, which had been held by Jews, were taken out of their hands. Business that was primarily in the hands of Jews, especially the business of trees and wood, was handed over to Romanians. Some Jews left to go to big cities to find work and others came to Eretz Israel. Those who remained found only a limited income. When the terrible Holocaust by the murderous Nazis came, no one survived.
Three brothers, sons of the Admor R’Israel Hager, were able to make Aliyah after WWII. The oldest R’Eliezer זצל went to Tel Aviv, the second founded the Admorate in Bnei Brak and the third in Haifa. The Admor R’Chaim Meir founded a Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
The sister town of Vishnitz was Kuti (Kituv). The two towns were like two sisters, family wise and business wise. People would go back and forth daily. On Saturdays and holidays, the Chasidim of Kuti would come to pray at the Beit Knesset of the Admorim of Vishnitz. After the bridge across the Tsarmush was built, there was even more traffic.
I was not a resident of Kuti but since my youth I had business and family connections with the people. I went there almost every month and knew most of the people. The town spread up to the river and there were Jews as well as those from a special tribe called “Tamchim” תמחים (according to tradition, these people were from the seed of Amalek, that was said of them תמחה זכר עמלק and they are Armenians) Most of the Jews lived on the hill. Polish people as well as offices of the mayor (not Jewish), clerks and police were there as well as a market and stores for all needs. Each family had their own house built of stone with a metal roof. There were some houses built of wood with straw roofs. Spread around were small merchants in the town close to the Carpathian Mountains.
In the valley on the shores of the Tsarmush, the wood merchants set up sawmills to cut the planks that came from the river from a large station that was operated by their owners who were Germans and Jews. The sawdust was sent to other places. The tribesmen of Bnei Tamchin were primarily shoemakers for boots and shoes and their outstanding products were sent to many places.
The large merchants dealt with the forests, wood and the fields for cattle on the Carpathian Mountains. The small merchants dealt with the nobles and those living in the hills with their products: wood objects, boxes, doors, etc. The wise men demanded that the town do whatever the Tzaddik Rabbi R’Meirl from Petshenishin ruled.
Mamelige (corn flour pudding) was the accepted food for the mountain population as well as the poor and rich Jews. There was a saying about mamelige in Yiddish (It does not translate well into Hebrew and also not in English. RDK) “You mix it with a pinch, you cut it with a rope, you use it like a bull and you pray like a fly.” The small merchant would run from Kuti to the Carpathians with a sack with two pockets filled with mamelige on his shoulder.He would bargain his merchandise with the non-Jews. The rich merchant had sacks of mamelige and goat cheese tied on to his donkey. The very rich came to look at their property and the view. They came to give corn to his agents and wine for the inns, etc. There were other merchants who came with flax and woolen goods for the men and women of the village.
The non-Jews were simple and the Jews took advantage of them. They asked for exaggerated prices for their merchandise and the Jews bargained and managed to trick them into lowering their prices. Most of these people did not know how to read and write, most of the material measured 100s of meters. It was customary to mark off the meters by putting a ten grush coin in a bowl to mark each measurement. Since the measuring took a long time the number of coins should equal the meters. The stupid non-Jew was open to steal, especially coins. Each time the Jew would go outside for a minute, the non-Jew took money out of the bowl. After they finished all the measurement, the seller got the coins and the purchaser got the material and it was possible to get the right amount of merchandise and profit.
Among the rich people, there were those to whom money was more important than anything. They were poorly dressed and some of their money was kept under the roof or in the ground. Some loaned out money and charged high interest. Two of them ran into trouble. They were in court for charging more than the official 10% interest. One was punished with a sentence of four years and the other with one year in jail in Lvov.
There was a story about one of the rich men of Kuti (Kituv). Once he went to Chernovitz, capital of Bukovina. He had to take care of important business. The negotiator brought him to the Merchants Association “Bersenhaus” to approve his large purchase. The head of the Association, Mr. Lotinger, a Jew from Kuti, said “I have a complaint against you and I want to take you to a דין תורה (Rabbinical Court)”.The merchant from Kuti was shocked, this was the first time that someone from his own town should do this to him. Mr. Lotinger explained that God had invited both of us and said he wanted to invest 200,000 Austrian Renish with one of us. He wanted to know what percentages we offered.
Lotinger said “I have to receive at least 150 Reinish a month so that I can fulfill my position and the needs of my house.” God said “I am not going to invest my money with you, since you are demanding too much money and you waste it.” Then he turned to you “You asked a small amount, ten Reinish a month, your expenses were limited and you were careful in your dress and way of life. You go up to the Carpathian Mountains by foot and carry with you mamelige and cheese and are careful with the money you have.
יאה עניותא לישראל (a poor person does Tikon Olam for Israel). In this manner said Lotinger to the son of his city, “You are a serious competition for me and caused me to lose a large sum of money, therefore I call you to the Rabbinical Court”.
Kuti was one of the important communities in relationship to Torah. They had great influential Rabbis throughout the generations, who wrote commentaries of the Torah that were read all over the Diaspora. This started with Mordechai Gershon Kituver, brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov, one of the first who went up to Eretz Israel, 200 years before our time, up to the present, the Rabbi Yacob Shur and Rabbi Chaim Grental זל. From the time of Rabbi Gershon Kituver there was a continuing chain of outstanding Rabbis. They were rich in honor and Torah, wisdom and writings. They were busy in the day time in business and at night they studied Torah.
Kosov was famous throughout Poland and Bukovina for its known Admorim from the founders of the Rabbis of Kosov and Vishnitz. The righteous Admor Rabbi Menachim זצל author of the book אבות שלום (Fathers of Peace). The dynasty continued until 1954, six generations. A book was published about the Rabbis of Kosov, especially the Admor Menachim and his sons, telling about their good deeds and activities. After the tragedy that befell our people, it was decided to publish a memorial book by those who had lived in Kosov. This told about the generations who had lived there until the Holocaust. This included the righteous Rabbi Yacob Shimshon and his son the Admor Moshe, his grandson Rabbi Chaim זצל. I knew him and had come to his courtyard in Kosov. I knew some of the people in town but not enough to tell about them.
I came to the town of Kuti from Zablotov for the first time when I was 13/14 years old. Tova, the wife of R’Tzvi Arie Luner from Tritze was a relative. She brought fish from the Prut to sell every Thursday in the market in Zablotov, which was full of fishermen and not enough customers. She asked me to take fish to Kuti to sell. Fish there was expensive and there was a chance to make a good profit. That night I was on my way with a horse and wagon and at dawn I reached Kuti, the yard of my uncle R’Joseph Shatner, a place to rest. My uncle and Aunt Krendle and their children received me with love. I sold the fish and made a good profit. This was the first time in my life that I sold merchandise and made a profit. I knew my uncle and aunt from way back; they had six sons and one daughter. We had a family connection of love. This trip woke in me the desire for more profit, especially in the spring when the fish multiplied. From time to time, the woman Tova זל tried to bring me a large amounts of fish. Her husband worked for the man who was in charge of the fishing from the Prut. He agreed that she should get some of the fish in order to make a living.
From that time on I was close to my Uncle Joseph Shatner and the family. Three sons were close to my age, the oldest Shalom was three years my senior, the second Abraham was a year older, and the third Jacob was younger than me by a year.
Several times I remained there for Shabbat and was received very warmly and other times I
stayed several days. I joined in the studies with the outstanding teacher R’Michla Horner. He taught us Talmud, Tanach and grammar. The credit for some of what I learned has to go to my uncle and his sons who influenced me.
I was very close to my uncle and his family and received their warm love. I came on a visit for days at a time. In the year 1886/7 I found my Uncle Joseph suffering from severe pains in his stomach. The doctors suggested that he go to Vienna to specialists. There was a need for someone to accompany him and to stay with him if he had to remain. They asked my parents for me to accompany him, even though his sons were about the same age. They chose me. My parents fulfilled their request. After being examined by the specialist, the known professor Zucherkandel, and the head of the Rothchild Hospital and they found stones in his stomach. (Kidney stones) The surgery had to be performed immediately. He remained in the hospital for about six weeks. I visited him every day. After he left the hospital, he remained in Vienna for business and I returned home by myself.
He had a store with cloth of knitted, wool, silk, etc for men and women’s clothing which he sold wholesale and retail. He would come every year to Vienna and was in business contact with the factories that sent him merchandise with extended credit.
After some years, his son Shalom got sick and needed to see a specialist in Lvov. They asked me to accompany him and I did so. He was taken to Lasrav Hospital and stayed for six weeks. I was in a hotel at their expense and did not ask for any payment.
My uncle and aunt were interested in finding me an appropriate wife. They had their eye on the daughter of a friend R’Jacob Menachim Gaster and the Shiduch was agreed upon and made. The Gaster family was important in the town of Kuti. R’I.M. Gaster went to live in Vishnitz in the house of his father-in-law. He had a clothing store that sold to non-Jews that his wife operated and he would help her from time to time. Most of the day and night, he was busy with Torah and studies. After I got married and lived and ate at his table several months, I visited my Uncle Shatner two to three times a week. We enjoyed warm and lively conversations and talks together with his sons about Torah and Haskalah. We became close like a father to his sons.
Kuti was like Zablotov to me, my home town. I took upon myself to write about the places I lived in. I remember all the good things about Kuti and the dear and wonderful people who lived there.
Intelligent, educated people would say: people receive their culture not only from Tzadikim, Admorim and teachers of Torah but are also influenced by the town they live in and the preceeding generations.
Since the days of the righteous Rabbi Gershon זצל, the brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov that lived in Kituv, his spirit of Torah and good deeds influenced everyone. After him came many Rabbis who encouraged Torah and made a mark with their spirit: R’Mshullam Piestner Epstein, his daughter Biela who was the wife of uncle R’David Meltzer son of R’Iitzchak Isaac זל. The last Rabbis in Kuti were R’Itzchak Gelerter and Head of the Court R’Jacob Shur זל.
R’Itzchak was learned in Torah and had three son-in-laws and one son whose name was Chaim. The people of Kituv said about a son-in-law, a Chaim (life) of loving Torah. On the second one they would say Chaim (life) of shame and disgrace and about his son they would say, a Chaim (life) of joy and honor. The son got engaged to the daughter of a rich man with a large dowry and inherited the Rabbi’s Chair in Kuti and was outstanding in whatever he did in Torah. R’Jacob Shur the Head of the Court knowledgeable in Torah, was one of those who were victims of the Nazis with the other members of the town.
There were notable families in town like R’Alter Gaster, his four sons, all who studied Torah. R’Jacob Menachim and his brother R’Moshe זצל were outstanding in Torah. R’Moshe also knew math. R’Jacob Menachim was known for the wisdom of HaNester. R’Moshe had a warm heart, honest, fair and was in charge of accounting and books in his father in law’s factory. Two other brothers were outstanding in whatever they did.
There was the honorable family Gottlieb who studied Torah and were educated. R’Eliezer Gottlieb was a student of Grammar and knowledge of תנך (bible) and knew all the commentaries. He was at one time an important teacher of the three sons of Grandfather R’Isaac Meltzer. His brothers were educated. One of them was an officer of a battalion in the Austrian army and was the accountant of the battalion. He was considered extraordinary by the officer in charge of the regiment. Other outstanding families in Kuti were Ehrenstein, the writer, R’David who was known for his books on Kabbalah and research. People of the town said the writer R’David and R’Jacob Menachim Gaster were influential in the book צמח צדיק that was written by the Admor Rebbe Menachim Hager זצל founder of the rabbinical dynastic of Vishnitz.
The outstanding family of Rabbi David Stein זל, came from a rich and well-known religious family. He educated his sons in Torah and Haskalah. One of them was Rabbi Mendel Lipa זל who had a large piece of property in the area of Lvov. They said of him, that he knew all six סדרי משניות (six sections of the Mishnah) by heart, gave charity, had guests in his house, etc. The second son was R’Shimshon Stein, knowledgeable in Torah and good deeds, lived in the town of Kosov and was treated with respect by the Admorim and Rabbis.
The third son of R’David Stein זל was Rabbi Zechariah זל. (I do not know if R’David had any daughters) R’Zechariah even though he was not known as a Torah Scholar, did not write books, and did not put together questions and answers on Halacha, had a very sharp, deep and basic understanding of everything connected to the Torah and its analytical writings. He had a warm and understanding heart, a sensible and logical mind and was unique in every way. He had a big house on the outskirts of town with a large room as a Beit Knesset where he was occupied day and night with Torah. He educated his four sons in Torah and Haskalah and they also knew how to write the languages of the country. All this also applied to his four son-in-laws. One of his son-in-laws was the Uncle R’Joseph son of R’Isaac Meltzer, who owned property in the village of Halibitchin near Zablotov.
All of R’Zechariah’s family prayed in the Beit Knesset every day of the year. One of the Admorim came twice a year to Husiatin to receive the blessing of the Admor.
He was the son of the Admor Harziner זצל. The trip was made in a carriage with two fine horses accompanied by his son R’Jacob and the sister of R’Joseph Shatner. R’Zechariah’s house was open to all and they received blessings and advice from him. His brilliant advice was considered even wiser than a prophet.
R’Zechariah was considered one of the rich people of the town and the surrounding area. He owned large sections of forest land in the Carpathians. The work was done by others. His sons big and small were busy with Torah with a special teacher. They were also occupied with his business. One of his son-in-laws R’Joseph Meltzer זל had a power of attorney and rented a very big place in the village of Zabia and he went to live there. He was in charge of a large area in the Carpathian Mountains. He had several clerks under him and came to do business and stayed a few days at a time in the forest with his workers. His house at Zabia was a ride of several hours. There were times when he came late at night and he was chased by wolves. Sometimes he had to stop, clear the road, chase away the wolves and other wild animals.
My Uncle R’J.Meltzer came to visit us in our house in Zablotov when I was still a young boy. He told us about a winter night when he was returning to Zabia from the Carpathians and was riding his powerful horse. Suddenly the horse started to gallop as if an arrow shot from a bow, his nostrils were blowing, foam came from his mouth, his hair was standing on end and his skin was wet. Joseph understood that danger was near and a wild animal was after them. Wise men have said about animals, that they have a sense of smell stronger than that of man and know when a wild animal threatens them. Their smell is like words from a distance. So it was. Man has a strong sense of sight and he saw a black bear chasing them. When they reached the village and the house of R’Joseph, the horse collapsed even before the rider dismounted. When the veterinarian came to examine the horse, he was already dead. This had an effect on the rider who became sick but not dangerously. The doctor took care of him for several days. From that time, he traveled to and from the Carpathians during daylight.
R’Zechariah Stein lived to an old age and continued to study Torah and to pray until the last day of his life. He wrote a will before he died. He demanded from his sons and sons-in-law to continue the study of Torah and perform Mitzvot. He also recorded all his debts that reached to the thousands. He demanded that all debts be paid in full. After the payment of the debts, what remained would be divided among the sons. The jewelry, the house and part of the money went to his wife. He left the big house and the furniture to his crippled son R’Chaim.
The debtors demanded everything immediately and not be paid out as the inheritors requested. There were also arguments among the inheritors. His son-in-law R’Joseph was left with the power of attorney and the small property in the Carpathian Mountains.
What did R’Joseph do with his power of attorney? He went to the debtors in Bukovina who were merchants of forests and wood and gave them his property in the mountains on the condition that they wipe out all the debts.
He was to take care of all the money to the charitable institutions that R’Zechariah listed in his will. Whatever was left was to be divided among the inheritors.
The merchants had conditions that they get all the forest and the trees on Joseph’s land. They put Joseph in charge of the management and accountants to oversee the business. He was also in charge of the workers in the forest. They built bridges, repaired the roads and put in rails. Another condition was that J. Meltzer was to remain in the work area the entire week. The work began, the trees were cut, the wood was sent down to the Tsarmush and then with rafts to the sawmills in Bukovina. This work continued a few years and according to what Uncle Meltzer told, in one year they managed to make what they had invested and in the following years, they made a lot of money.
What was the end of this honest and loyal R’Joseph Meltzer? After a number of years of work in the forest, there developed a frightening situation. One night when he was alone in the forest, he awoke from a deep sleep hearing rocks being thrown on the roof of the shack. He got up and went outside to see what was happening, thieves, robbers or what? There was no sign of a human being. On the second and third night the same horrible thing happened. It seems that from the time when the bear chased him, these illusions were in his head. He concluded that it was ghosts that were throwing rocks on the shack at night. He left the forest and became bedridden. A black cloud fell on him and he thought that evil ghosts chased him. The people of the village were frightened and came to visit him. They filled the Beit Knesset of R’Zechariah and prayed for mercy to heal the sick. Many also came from the village church. After a few days, they brought Joseph to a special doctor in Chernovitz. I heard the sad news about R’Joseph when I lived in Lukovitch. I went to visit him and spoke from my heart. “How can a man so wise and intelligent like you, a man of experience, who had a frightening incident believe that spiritual ghosts would harm you?” He stood his ground and believed with full faith as was written in some places in the Great Books חזל about ghosts and bad spirits. In the book of Psalms, it is written that they have complete control of the underworld. God will save you from the ghosts at noon. After some time, R’Joseph returned home and died. תנצב'ה
Uncle J. Meltzer had four sons and two daughters that were educated in Torah, writing and language. His oldest son Shalom זל knew Torah and literature and was intelligent. Once he was a refugee during WWI in Hungary and found my son Aaron (Keusch) who was in the army. He saw him and said, “You are the son of Abraham Keusch from Stanislau.” My son asked him, “How do you know that? I have never seen you in my life.” I knew from your face that you were a son of our family. The other three sons were educated and intelligent. His daughter and son-in-law were in Israel as well as his daughter-in-law and her three children.
Another important family in the town of Kuti was the Shatners. R’Mordechai Shatner was the head of this family. Not long ago I met one of his grandchildren. He said he was R’Mordechai’s grandson and that the grandmother of his father was the daughter of R’David Stein. R’Mordechai knew Torah and a little of the language of the country, Polish and German. He educated his five sons and three daughters in Torah and Haskalah. He was rich and lived in a large house that had a surrounding wall.
His business was recognized by the government. He sold hard liquor to the area of Kosov, Kuti
and the Carpathian Mountain area. The sons and son-in-laws managed the various branches of the business. It was told that one year 1848/49 there was a dispute with a government minister of Kosov on the question of the province. R’Mordechai asked to see the Emperor Franz Joseph the first. He was received in the palace in Vienna and his side of the dispute was accepted.
All the sons of R’Mordechai Shatner were educated in Torah and Haskalah according to the spirit of the times. His son Joseph was far superior to his brothers. R’Joseph was the husband of a wise woman Krendel זל sister of my mother Devorah זל. R’Joseph was a good looking man, innocent, charming and gentle. He was an outstanding scholar of Tanach, Grammar and the books of commentary. He had a wonderful memory and it was said of him “a single word of a verse from the Torah was enough for him to recite the full verse without an error”. He had a sharp mind and knew how to answer everything, sometimes even with a bit of humor. He wrote and read in correct and grammatical German. His Hebrew was on the same level and he wrote poetry. He read the newspaper “Neue Weiner Frei Presse” (New Vienna Free Press) every day for many years. There was once a problem dealing with the game “chess”, in the daily newspaper. He was an expert in this game, found the solution and sent it to the newspaper. After some time, he received a letter from a General of the Army, thanking him for the solution. He was also knowledgeable in music. Once I accompanied him on a trip to Vienna. While walking, he heard someone playing piano. He didn’t move from the spot until the piece was finished and he praised the playing. He educated his only daughter in Haskalah, religious subjects and piano. He bought an expensive piano for her. In the difficult days of WWI, when money was tight, his daughter Devorah Tova and her husband Zev Mahar made a living by her teaching piano.
J. Shatner’s brilliance was recognized in conversations with Jews and non-Jews. With a quiet smile, he would answer questions. Once he was asked why he was not involved in “Chasidut”. There were famous Admorim from Kosov, from Vishnitz who were close to where he lived. He answered that being an Admor was like a magnet, pulling the Chasid to him, and since he lived in Kuti, which was between the two Admorim, each one pulled to his side and so he remained in the middle.
The Admor of Husiatin came once to the funeral of his uncle Rabbi Zechariah Stein זל.
J. Shatner had a big house with a yard, where a room was built for his sons to study and a teacher came to teach. All his six sons learned Torah and writing Hebrew. All were educated in Torah and Haskalah and each reached his full capability. The oldest son was outstanding in prayers and music as were his brothers. His business was a store of knitted material, flax, wool, silk, etc, wholesale and retail. Joseph had business connections with a factory in Vienna and he would travel there every year on business. The owners of the factory treated him with great respect. They gave him merchandise with unlimited credit and until his dying day, he paid off every penny he owed.
In WWI his house and store were destroyed and his merchandise stolen. His debts were canceled. When the Russians came close to Galicia, he took his family (Aunt Krendel was already dead), his walking stick and became a refugee in Nickolasberg.
R’Joseph Shatner died in Nickolasberg in 1918 תנצב'ה. His son R’Shalom died in 1930 in Kuti and his son Jacob זל died in Stanislau in 1928 where he had been the principal of the school “Clear Language” ספה ברורה, תנצב'ה R’Joseph Shatner had nine grandchildren and their families live in Israel. Among them Berl Locker, the head of the Jewish Agency, Dr. Itzchak Shatner, a teacher, Dr. Chaim, a medical doctor and others.
Content last updated Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 08:16 PM Mountain Daylight Time