Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Towns where Grandfather Worked and Lived – Economics, Social and Religious Life
In the year 1902, I lived in Chernovitz. According to a Chasid, the Admor R’Abraham Jacob זצל a Tzadik from the town of Sadagora, sent his two grandsons to the Congress in Basel to find out about the Zionist movement. He was predisposed to the movement as was his brother, the Admor R’David Moshe זצל from Tchartkov.
I lived in Kolomyea from the beginning of 1898 until the end of 1899. I made a lot of friends, outside of the family and Chevrat Zion. I would go in and out of the houses of Rabbis like Rabbi R’Gedalyahu Schmekis זצל, a strong Mizrachi Zionist, and his son R’Chaim Tzvi זל an enthusiastic Zionist, Rabbi David Reiss זל and his brother-in-law R’Schmerl זל, R’Yitzchah Veber זל, the righteous Rabbi R’Hillel Lichtenstein who was a Rabbi in Kolomyea. I knew him when he came to Zablotov to open the cemetery that was connected to the old cemetery. I was then a boy of eight or nine. He spoke in the big Beit Knesset and from there walked to the cemetery. All the people of the town accompanied him. The second time I met him, he gave me a blessing to get me out of the army, as I previously wrote.
The third town that I lived in Bukovina was Starozinec. I worked for the firm of Langenhahn in the wood business in the years 1899 until the end of 1902. Part of my job was to also work with two towns close to Starozinec.
The town is on the road that passes Baramata-Chilibanka and connects to the main road Yassi-Lvov. The train tracks are parallel to the road. On the Southern side is the Sirit River that comes out of the Carpathians and flows into the Prut. Most of the population was non-Jews, Romanians that speak that language and about 2,000 Jewish families that live in the center of town where there was a large market. On all four corners were houses built mostly of stone with gardens and trees. In the houses were stores that fulfilled all needs. All the businesses belonged to the Jews. There were also warehouses with wool and silk cloth that were sold wholesale to all the surrounding areas. On the Eastern side of the market there was a castle belonging to the noble of the town, Jan Flander. It was a big house and all the buildings belonged to this noble who was part of the government of the Kingdom of Romania. There was a big garden that had flowers and fruit trees and room to walk and an awning for the hot summer days. A Jew was not permitted there. All the houses were built on the land of the noble Flander and everyone paid for the land at the full price and it was registered. His land spread out for many kilometers. Two sections of several hundred Yochim of land were leased by Jews. There was also a mill for grinding wheat on the bank of the Sirit River. There was a sawmill that cut the trees that came from his forest. I was in the service of the firm that bought the cut wood. The ground wheat was for the castle.
The non-Jewish population and the noble, Flander, treated the Jews in the same neutral manner. The noble was the governor of the town in all matters. He chose the head of the town as well as the members of the citizens committee. The officials of the town were all Romanian except for two or three Jews. The minister of the province, his staff, the head of the court and the three judges were not Jews. There were four or five Jewish lawyers. Dr. B. Katz, one of the lawyers, was an important Jew and president of the community. He and his partners rented the sawmill and a distillery in Davideni.
The economic situation of the town was good and everyone made a living. They had enough bread and even a glass of chosen wine. I met a Charadi Jew, R’Artzi Freilich, wrapped in a long coat, a beard, long payot and his wife, Chaya Rickel, who had a wig on her head. They had an inn and every day after the Mariv prayers, their big hall was completely full. Most of the Jews came from the Beit Knesset to have a glass of chosen wine, called Adabeshter, which cost only a few prutot. There were many who drank close to a dozen glasses, ate spiced delicatessen or goose liver until late at night. Among those who sat around was the gentile head of the town, Malchinski, who was friendly to the townspeople and fulfilled their requests in all matters relating to the town.
There were several merchants who bought a large amount of pine wood and built sawmills on the banks of the Sirit. There were others who rented farm land, distilleries and built barns for cattle to be sent to the market in Vienna. The economy of the town was good. There were no poor people.
The fifth place where I lived in Bukovina was Tsirish, a village that belonged to the wife of a baron. There was a large forest, a sawmill and a distillery which the Jews of Starozinec rented. They sold the wood and the rights to use the sawmill to Langenhahn. That is where I worked and lived from 1901 to the beginning of 1902. At that time there was a fire at my Jewish neighbor, who had rented the distillery and had hard liquor in his warehouse. The fire spread to my house which burned, together with all my property, and all the surrounding buildings. I moved to live in the village of Davideni, some four kilometers from Tsirish, in which there was a sawmill. I was to be in charge of the trees coming into both sawmills and their operation.
Davideni was on the road from Starozinec-Maldbalina. Most of the population was Romanian. There were about fifteen Jewish families. There were two Charidim; R’Pinchas Stein, a citizen of Kituv, the bookkeeper and accountant of the distillery, and R’Zev Shmeed from Vishnitz, who had a store in his house. The two of them created a place in Shmeed’s house to pray daily and on Shabbat. There was no Mikvah or bathhouse. One Jew was the secretary of the citizen committee of the village. There was no other Jew on any other committee. The relationship of the Jews to the non-Jews was “live and let live”.
In Davideni, I lived only a short period from the beginning of 1902 until July of that year. There was a disagreement between me and a manager of the new partners that joined the firm of Langenhahn. He was an assimilated Hungarian Jew like the people that joined the firm Langenhahn. They hated Jews that still had the smell of Torah and the spirit of God. This assimilated Jew was Jacob Kachan ימש, who attacked me in front of the other workers and strangers. I fought back by daring to answer him. This evil one left the fight and the scene and ran to the office of the evil assimilated bosses. The following day, I received a letter of dismissal and had to immediately leave the apartment that the firm had supplied me. Without an alternative I left the valley of the demons on July 1st 1902. From there I went to Starozinec.
I worked for Langenhahn for seven years, who agreed with the decision of these assimilated one. I did not receive any compensation. I approached Mr. Langenhahn and asked him about my salary. I reminded him that I was one of the few honest, straight clerks, who had an important job that brought in huge profits. He replied that he owed me nothing because of my behavior.
The wood that was cut in the two sawmills, Davideni and Tsirish, was brought by the agent M. Reichman, by wagons to the train station of Tshudin. This was about eight kilometers from Tsirish and twelve kilometers from Davideni. The wood was loaded on the train cars by a Jew who lived in the town and made his living with this work. This train station of Tshudin connected to the main rail line Chilibanka-Baramata.
Since I worked week in week out in Tshudin it is good to remember that I was in contact with most of the population in Bukovina. Most of the inhabitants in Tshudin were non-Jewish Romanians. In the surrounding villages there were about 300 Jewish families. The minister of the government forest department of Bukovina whose name was Rushka had an office in the town. He was an educated man and the governor of the province of Sharnitz who sold wood every year. The planks and wood for heating were mostly bought by Jews who made their living from this business. I explained to Rushka the reason I left Langenhahn and he sold me a large quantity of wood, both planks and fire wood. I made a good living. After a few months of this business, the tax office of Sharnitz assessed me 2,000 Austrian Crowns. I approached Rushka to help me. His brother-in-law was the minister in charge of the area. He brought me a letter from his brother-in-law that allowed me to pay only several 10’s of Crowns.
After many years, about 1916-1917, when I was in the army and on my way by bus to Lvov, I met a captain that asked how I was. He introduced himself but I did not know him. He was pleased to meet an old man in the army. He offered to help me if I had any difficulties and he gave me his address in his office in Lvov. This is the difference between a gentile, a minister in the Austrian Parliament, a member of the anti-semitic Christian-Socialist party, and his friendly attitude to a Jew as if he was a non-Jew. Compare this to the assimilated Jew who sowed evil to the director Millich, the new partner of Langenhahn and his brother-in-law Kachan. Assimilated sinning Jews are harsher to the Jewish community than the anti-Semitic non-Jews. It appears to be that way, what a shame.
The Jews of Tshudin made their living partly as storekeepers, most as wood merchants. They did business with the non-Jews of the town and village. Some of them were porters who loaded and unloaded the trains. The Admor Rabbi Itzchak Hager זל was chosen to the rabbbi’s seat in Tshudin after the death of this father, the Admor Rabbi Baruch זצל. There were not enough Chasidim to stand in line with requests and money to make a living.
(Note* Page 196 is illegible and we are forced to leave it out. DRK)
I left Starozinec at the beginning of 1903 to live in Chernovitz, the capitol of Bukovina, my last station in that province. A lot has been written about Chernovitz and I am sure that more will be written. I am not the one to describe the city geographically or historically. I will not deal with the development of the Jewish community or their extinction by the Nazis in World War II, 1943-1944.
I was busy with my affairs and business and did not have the opportunity to visit all parts of the city. I was involved in visiting villages and forests in my business of buying and selling wood. At the same time for about three or four months, I was busy selling wine from Eretz Israel in Eastern and Western Galicia as well as the Carpathian area. Nevertheless I cannot ignore some of my impressions from the time I lived there. Due to its important geographic location on the Prut River and on the train crossroads of Romania, Russia, Austria and Hungary, Chernovitz flourished economically with peddlers and merchants. There were 40,000 Jews among the 70,000 inhabitants in the city. The town was outstanding in that the Jewish inhabitants made a good living and many became well to do and even rich.
This was in contrast to all the other cities and towns in Bukovina. The hotels and restaurants were always full of people and the food and drink was kosher and even inexpensive. The entertainment and parks were always full of Jews, old and young. Many of those who came for the first time from small villages said “this wonderful town, a person eats, drinks, day and night and has all kinds of pleasures. One hour in Chernovitz is more than a whole life in a small town.”
In regards to the political establishment, the governor of Bukovina was Prince Conrad von Havhanloha, a noble son of the family of Emperor Franz Joseph the First. He was a liberal in his relationship to the Jews. Several Jews worked in his office. While he was governor, there was an attack on the Jews by the non-Jewish Romanians in Kimpaling, some distance away. He immediately sent a battalion of cavalry which took twelve hours to get there. The soldiers did not understand the language but entered every rebel house. They killed everyone, looted, set fire to the houses and killed the livestock. They stayed there about a month.
Jews were not only in the Governor’s office but in every government office. They worked in the railroad office. They were in the high court, the low court and were most of the judges. The chairman and most of the members of the citizen committee were Jews. The chairman was Dr. Joseph Weiselberg and the head of the Jewish Community was Dr. Benno Shtraucher who was also a representative to the parliament in Vienna.
The economic situation in Bukovina, in particular the capitol Chernovitz, was in a way a small “garden of Eden” for the Jews. Most of the non-Jews were anti-Semites. Every once in a while, the Romanian and German students from the higher institutes went wild and found an opportunity to attack Jews in villages. There were a large number of Germans in Bukovina and Chernovitz who sent two representatives to the government in Vienna. One of them was the Governor Rushka and the second one was the young Langenhahn, the son of the man for whom I worked in the wood business. They belonged to the Christian Socialist Party which was anti-Semitic. It seemed as if the Jews had the upper hand in government offices and in business. Because their situation was so good, the real rulers, the ministers, head of the courts, the head of the army treated the Jews with respect; the Jews felt they could not denounce those who attacked them.
As far as matters touching on culture and education, as I said previously, I am not knowledgeable to give a clear judgment, except what was told to me. Mr. Sigmund Regenstreif from Tisminitch Galicia had a father who owned an estate and was a cultured man. He finished academic studies and was in the Austrian Army as a Captain. He came to live in Chernovitz at the beginning of 1840. He was one of the important people in town and a member of the citizens committee. He built the first Temple in Chernovitz. In the year 1895 when I began to work for Langenhahn, Regenstreif worked for him as a secretary and head bookkeeper, just like an assimilated Jew. He still liked to read a portion of the Tanach. He tells that when he first came to Chernovitz, someone from the town, maybe from the Citizens Committee, got a letter in Hebrew and couldn’t find anyone to read it. He came to me and I read it for him.
In most of the coffee houses in Chernovitz, there was card playing and billiards. A table stood in the middle of a large room. Every day from noon to late at night, Jews and non-Jews were playing and drinking until they were drunk.
As far as spiritual culture in Chernovitz, there were outstanding students of Torah, writers, etc, and there were several who knew how to read a page of Gomorra and Pesukim. There was no Talmud Torah and no Hebrew school. There was just the government schools that taught in Romanian for non-Jews and a Jew would not go inside except a few. There were a large number of Chasidim who lived in the city. When the Admor Rabbi David Hager זצל, the Rabbi of Zablotov, died, his son the Admor Rabbi Michli Hager זצל was chosen to take his place. Rabbi Michli Hager זצל came to Chernovitz and they built him a big house and a Beit Midrash on a side street. From near and far, Chasidim came to receive his blessings. At the time I lived with my family, about two kilometers from the center of town. I prayed at the Beit Knesset of Rabbi Michli and he treated me with honor, a son of Zablotov. There was a spiritual closeness to my grandfather and father. I was a constant visitor in his yard and among those invited to his table on Shabbat and other days. I still remember the nights of the cold winters where we sat a dozen Chasidim close together around the table near the hot stove in the Beit Midrash of Rabbi Michli. We occupied ourselves with stories and deeds of the Tzadikim, the father of the Rabbi and the righteous grandfather Rabbi Moshe Leib Sassover זצל. The grandfather on the side the Rabbi’s wife was Rabbi Eliezer, son of the Tzadik, Rabbi Shalom Rokach from Beltz. Glasses on the table were filled with strong wine. They drank and said “L”Chaim” to one another over and over again while the stories continued until late at night. One of those close to Rabbi Michli was Rabbi Shalom זל, Rabbi to the small town of Mald-Kalina. During the days of World War I, he left for London. His bones were brought from London by R’Menachim Hager, the head of Chevrat Kadisha in Tel Aviv, to be buried there.
The Rabbi of the town was R’Simcha Ginsburg זל. He was the judge who decided all disputes in the community from his house. After he died, his son inherited his seat. He made Aliyah and died in Eretz Israel in 1951. The Beit Knesset was a large, beautiful one in the middle of town. Much of the populous including many prominent people prayed there.
(Note* Page #199 is missing)
In Stanislau I worked in the sawmill for the merchants Sternberg and Bittiter. It was a big mill on the banks of the Bistrastzi River near the railroad tracks. The trees came down the river from the forests of Baron Liebick in the Carpathian Mountains. In addition hundreds of wagons daily delivered trees to the mill.
I went into business for myself in 1910 after I left this company. My business contacts were with the entire Stanislau area as far as the city of Stryi in the west. In the south, my contacts followed the rail line Stanislau-Karasmachi, from the village Zalana close to Nadvorna to Varachta-Karasmachi. In addition to the seven towns where I had business, my daughter Taube and her family זל and my son Aaron and his family זל lived in some of these towns. Every year I came to visit them in the summer time in their new homes and to enjoy the fresh air of the Carpathian Mountains. In the years 1924 to 1939 I lived with my family in our holy land Eretz Israel and came to visit them in the summer for three months.
It is worthwhile to give a quick description of these places, the economic situation of the Jews living there, as well as their spiritual life as I saw it.
Many important writers have written about Stanislau. The book “ערים ואמהות בישראל” The Cities and Mothers of Israel was published in 1953. The history of the city is recorded there from the time of it’s founding until the Holocaust in 1942-43. It described my activities in Stanislau until I made Aliyah in 1924. My descriptions are only what I experienced at the end of 1915-1918, in the time of World War I. I was taken into the army despite the problem of my eyes and spent two years working and moving from country to country without any real benefits to the government. Toward the end, I was sent to the capitol of Herzegovina, Master to study army procedures which was not appropriate for my advanced age. After three months in the same place with boring work, an order came down from the Emperor Karl that everyone fifty years and older should be released from the army. All the details of this period are recorded in this diary, pages 83-88.
Another important event at the end of 1918 when I returned home to Stanislau, I found that the school שפה-ברירה Chosen Language was in ruins. I tried to reestablish the school and was active in other important Zionist activities and institutions. I was rewarded by being listed in the Golden Book of Keren Kayemet Volume 3, number 3993, 1922. In 1924 I left Stanislav to Eretz Israel.
I have spent time each year in several places on the route Stanislau-Varachta. I will describe each place in detail. In the town of Nadvorna there were about 1,500 Jewish families. Most of them were storekeepers of general stores. There were very few rich like the family of R’Eliezer Gripel זל. He leased a large sawmill, had an oil well and a wax business on the outskirts of town. Another rich man was a friend from my home town Mr. Joseph Maher זל who also had an oil well and a wax business. He was a dedicated Zionist and when I visited him the last time in his home, we parted with blessings. I was asked to bless him as a Cohen. May the blessings be fulfilled and may he be rewarded, may this Pesach be the last one here and next year in Eretz Israel. I also met from time to time my friend, Mr. Chaim Kleinman זל who developed the green collection box of Keren Kayemet LeIsrael. I met him a number of times at Zionist meetings and at his son-in-law R’Aaron “Archie” Helfer I met Schechter who was named after his father-in-law R’Yehoshua Schecter. R’Archie was a devoted follower of the Kosover Rabbi and was a friend to my father’s family זל may his name be blessed. The Rabbis of this town were not outstanding in their knowledge and I did not know if there was a large Torah in the town. The Jews were religious and gave Tzadakah תנצב'ה.
The village of Zalana was fifteen kilometers south of Nadvorna on the Carpathian Mountains, where you found the fir trees that gave the air a wonderful odor. This village was like all the other villages in the area up to Karashmachi and up to the other side of the Hungarian border. All the trains were full of passengers traveling to all parts of this area, from the months of April until October, a period of noise and excitement. People ordered places to stay for the summer; small merchants went back and forth from Stanislau and Kolomyea, to supply the grocery stores and restaurants with all kinds of food, fruit and merchandise. Most of those who came from the surrounding villages had to arrange their business for that period. In Zalana there were ten to fifteen Jewish families. Each of them had room to receive guests and a place to pray.
Some of the villagers made a living from small stores and dealt with wood, oil and wax. There was also a small sawmill that was operated with the water power from the Prut River. R’Yeshuah Bloch lived there, had a big house and garden, and bought a large amount of trees from the government forest every year. He was an agent of the government who took care of the roads in the forest, until he left the village. I visited Mr. Bloch several times on business and bought wood for Sternberg and Bittiter for the sawmill in Atania. His father-in-law Tzvi Wunderman had a big sawmill close to the government forest. The cut planks were brought from the forest to the train station in Nadvorna. Not everyone had the permission or the right to use the train.
The minister of the province chosen by the government was to be in Nadvorna, which included all the area up to Karashmachi. There were offices and clerks as well as the court which was operated by three judges. In these offices there were no Jewish clerks. There was one Jewish lawyer and a Polish lawyer. People from the area, some of whom were Jews, came daily to the office of the Minister, the tax office and the court.
While I was in Stanislau, I found a letter and picture from the time I spent in Mostar. There were high buildings on both sides of the Neretva River that runs along the length of the town. This picture is a memento of the capitol Mostar of Herzegovina where I spent time in World War I from the beginning of Shavuot 1916 until June 8, 1917. I was sent to Mostar by the order of the Army Command to study accounting and writing so that after finishing the course, I would have a higher rank and be an accountant and bookkeeper.
Before I began my studies, an order came down from the Emperor Karl who recently became Emperor, taking the place of the deceased Emperor Franz Joseph זל. The order was to discharge everyone fifty and over from the army. Since I was fifty-one, the order applied to me. On June 8, 1917, I left Mostar on the way to Vienna. Galicia including Stanislau was still occupied by the Russians. On June 11, I arrived in Vienna. This was basically what I wrote on that picture thirty-seven years ago. (Note* Grandfather Abraham wrote on the back of every picture; the names, dates and details. This information on Mostar was written in 1954 at the age of 88. RDK)
Here is a little information of what I saw in Mostar. According to the picture, it was full of tall buildings on both sides of the Neretva River. We were about eighty soldiers studying, mostly intelligent non-Jews and two or three Jews. We were assigned a large shack on top of a hill outside of town. In the morning, our activities were indoors. After 10:00 A.M. nobody went out of the building, because the heat outside was 40 degrees Celsius. It was forbidden to leave by orders of the commander. I saw the city by going into and out of it. Except for the tall buildings along the river, most of the houses were one story high with a garden behind it. There were many oak trees that offered shade from the heat. The inhabitants did not leave their homes from ten until four in the afternoon. The river is not wide, the water is dark green, and even darker, than our Yarkon River in Israel. On the river was a steel bridge for vehicles and foot traffic. According to the legends of the towns’ people, the bridge was built several hundred years ago. The foundation of the bridge was built and the following morning it was destroyed. This happened several times until they found a solution; a sacrifice to the God of Building.
A man and a woman were found under the collapsed foundation. Since them the original foundation and the bridge have survived. Faith was kept with all the Gods.
In Mostar I found R’Moshe Neiman who was in the army and came from Stanislau. Among the students who came with me to the course was Dr. Fried, a judge from Stanislau, several acquaintances from Chernovitz, one Jew, teachers from the school and the minister of the area of Chernovitz. On the day after my release from the army, all the friends organized a farewell party in the shack with a glass of beer and a written farewell note with all their 80 signatures written with a pencil. This note and all the papers from my army service are saved until this day. (Note* The papers, notes, pictures are gone. DRK) I met R’Moshe Neiman in 1924 in Jerusalem in his father’s apartment in an old age home.
The 22nd Atalki regiment was the unit under which all the students served. The attitude towards us was unusually good compared to the inhuman humiliations that I suffered until now under the cruel army orders of the 15th Polish Regiment that came from Tarnipol. The regiment left the city of Tarnipol in East Galicia in the beginning of 1915 after the Russians captured Galicia. The regiment moved to Aparis, at that time Hungary and now Romania, and stayed in that city until 1918.
The first day that I arrived at the Atalki regiment I found the purpose of my service; in the morning difficult army drills, in the afternoon studies. I had to report to the officer in charge of the regiment because I was physically incapable of taking part in the drills and my eyes were bad. The captain, they say he was Jewish, listened to my request to be released from army. He said that he would pass on this request to higher authorities. Until he received an answer from above, he gave me easier work, to guard the shack where we studied from morning to night. I was very happy with this move and spent the days reading until I left for Mostar on June 10.
(Grandfather cancelled Page 202, explaining that he had written about it earlier.)
The third station on the train line Stanislau-Varachta was the city of Dalatin, which was on a special train line to Kolomyea. In this way, it was connected to the cities in the East and the West, the direction of Lvov, Galicia, to Yassi, Romania. The city was built between the Prut River and the canal. The canal is close to the city of Dara, passes through the city and reaches the train station that comes from Kolomyea. The houses of the city were built on both sides of the road on the East shore of the Prut River, as well as on the west side of the canal. There were connecting roads in all directions and the city was always busy with buyers and sellers from all parts of the Carpathian Mountains. There was a court house with a president and three or four judges. There was one Polish and one Ukrainian lawyer as well as three or four Jewish ones.
There were about 1500 to 1800 Jewish families. Some made a good living as store keepers and as merchants of wood and grain. There were merchants that dealt with the forests that belonged to nobles. Most merchants bought large amounts of trees mainly from the government forests and brought them to the mills in the town. The biggest merchant came from Budapest, the capitol of Hungary. Some of the smaller ones were from the city. In the factories were Jewish clerks working in all kinds of jobs to make a living for their families.
There were salt water springs in town as well as in the area. The Austrian government established a big factory that produced salt that was sold in the entire province. After the last war of 1914-1918 the province and the factory became part of Poland. The Poles built a big bathhouse using the salt baths for medicinal purposes. No Jew worked in the factory or in the salt baths, even though most of those who came to the salt baths were Jewish.
Visitors from the cities and the surrounding areas came to Dalatin in the summer in order to breathe the fresh mountain air and to bathe in the Polish salt baths and in the Prut River. The visitors brought a significant amount of business to the inhabitants of the town. In general the economic situation of the inhabitants was adequate, with some rich and some poor.
In regard to the spiritual life of the city, many years ago the Admor Rabbi Yankele settled in the town. He was from the family of the Admor HaTzadik Rabbi Menachim Hager זצל, from Kosov. He put out the book אהבת שלום “Love of Peace”, and influenced the townspeople with his spirituality. They built a small Beit Knesset named for the Admor from Kosov. In addition to being the Rabbi of the town, R’Yankele זצל received Chasidim from the surrounding villages who brought him notes and donations. (פתקאות ופדיונים) With all this coming and going, he barely made a living. His grandson, R’Naftali Ehrlich זל of the family of Admorim from the dynasty of the Ziditsuvim, inherited the chair of the Rabbinate. He had a lot of opposition including the Admor Rabbi Moshe זצל from Kosov. His agreement was necessary for a Rabbi to be accepted in Dalatin. R’Naftali Ehrlich was very clever and decided to sit in the Rabbinical chair. In time, the Admor of Kosov accepted him.
R’Naftali was a striking man dressed in a long coat; a fine hat covered his head, a white beard down to his belt and peyot down to his shoulders. His pure white pants were tied and he wore white socks and his shoes were short and polished. He found favor in all who saw him. He spoke a beautiful Yiddish. He also spoke Polish well when introduced to the minister of the province and the clerks from the city of Nadvorna. He was accepted favorably and received confirmation to be the Rabbi of the province from Dalatin until the border Varacta-Karashmachi.
R’Naftali was not a great scholar of Talmud or of Torah. Questions of what is permitted and forbidden were answered by the special Head of the Jewish Court אב בית הדין. He was an excellent leader and wrote clearly in Hebrew. During the holidays he read from the Torah and his voice was strong and pleasant. In his house he had a small Beit Knesset and a small group of townspeople prayed there. In spite of everything, he was not wanted by most of the Jews in the town and in the area. He was sharply opposed by the young people and the educated Zionists.
He did not make a good living from his salary. He found a way to supplement his income by going from time to time to Germany where he had Chasidim that followed him. He gave sermons on Shabbat. On the day he left, his Chasidim brought him notes and donations which pleased him.
There were a small number in town who studied Torah. One group was Chasidim of the Admor of Kosov that met in a small Beit Midrash and there were two or three additional Beit Midrash in town. A large Beit Knesset had been started but was never completed and remained this way until the entire town was wiped out.
There was no charity organization to help the needy in Dalatin outside of the efforts of the head of the community committee, Mr. Shmaryahu Bloch, and his Zionist friends under the auspices of Baron Hirsch in Lvov. They built a big Hebrew School, as in every city in Galicia, on the road from Kolomyea-Varachta. There was room for several hundred students. Lvov sent a principal and three teachers to operate the school. They taught some Torah, writing, reading and understanding the languages of the country which were Polish and Ukrainian. There was a general government school in town for most of the Polish and Ukrainian population. A few Jews from the town and the surrounding villages also attended the school. The schools of Baron Hirsch were destroyed as were all the schools in Galicia after World War I and were all plundered by the Polish government when they took over from Austria. S. Bloch, his friends, the community committee and the Zionists were the only ones who managed to save their school in this city.
The school שפה ברורה, Clear Language, was established and four teachers gave instruction in pure Hebrew to 400 boys and girls. We will remember and bless the names of Mr. Israel Tsimmer and the wife of Benjamin Bloch, Taube, זל, (Daughter of Abraham Keusch) Their apartments were in the school. The school was near the train station that came from Kolomyea. They were members of the school committee. Tsimmer was active in collecting money for KKL (Keren Kayemet). Monthly, he had to collect money from members according to their obligations even though he received a daily wage from the sawmill.
I. Tsimmer together with Dr.Sharf, Moshe Tagger זל and the head of the Kehilla, Mr. S. Bloch took part in the school committee dealing with money and maintenance. With Tsimmer’s effort, the community set aside a monthly sum for the school “Clear Language”. A room was set aside for Zionist activities. Chevrat Zion was founded at that time and the lawyer Dr. Sharf was chosen as president. Many young people came under his influence. Many chaverim came to him for advice on matters of the school, Zionism, Keren Kayemet, etc. A reading room was set aside with newspapers, where the Chaverim could come during the day and evening. There were rooms for meetings and cultural activities where lecturers were invited from the large cities to awaken our people to the love of Zion.
Even though there were no charity organizations in the city, there were private individuals who gave a helping hand to the needy and especially to refugees that came to the city after the previous war. The head of the Kehilla and the Zionists convinced the minister of the province Nadvorna to set up three large buildings on the shore of the Prut River for the refugees. The inhabitants of the town and the Kehilla supported them. The sawmill was in the center of town and my son Aaron זל was the manager. He should be blessed for some of the important work dealing with city activities and giving the refugees wood for heating. They came daily with hand carts and each received according to his needs. The Rabbi and the Head the Jewish Court came once a month to get a wagon of wood. It is understood without payment.
These charity activities of my son in distributing fire wood caused criticism in the firm. The big sawmill far from the center of town got the right to receive water from the wells and wagons of firewood free.
Before the end of the 19th century the Jews had the upper hand politically in this town. The head of the Citizens Council was R’Amiram Knalel זל. Most of the members of the Council were Jewish townspeople and their requests for all the needs of the town were fulfilled while the minister of the province and his offices were situated in Nadvorna.
When a new minister of the province was appointed, Knalel was removed from his job after many years of service. The new minister did not know or want to know “Joseph”, R’Amiram Knalel זל. The new head of the Citizens Council was a non-Jewish Pole and the most of the members of the Council were chosen by the vote of the non-Jewish majority of Poles and Ukrainians. S. Bloch, the head of the Kehilla managed to be chosen deputy mayor and some of his Zionist chaverim also succeeded in being elected.
The Zionists Dr. Sharf and S. Bloch took part in the general public activities and were nominated to be elected to the Polish Sejm. The known Zionist from Lvov, Dr. Roszmarin, who set up Hamamud “הממוד” (האספה המכוננת של מדינת ישראל) (General Planning Committee for a Jewish State) was also nominated. All the Zionists campaigned for Roszmarin and he received most of the votes of the city and the surrounding towns except for some Charidim. The Rabbi R’Naftali and his followers gave their vote to the anti-Semitic candidate. This Rabbi and all his followers were the most violently against any Zionist activity, Haskalah and the “Clear Language” school. The young people had the upper hand and all their activities flourished. The city Dalatin like the other large cities was successful in their good deeds and raising money for Zion.
Rabbi R’Naftali was not unusual. In all the Diaspora and especially Galicia, there were Rabbis and Charidim, Chevrat Aguda Israel, who were against Zionism and Haskalah. This was also due to their reactions to the terrible happenings of WWI, where their children and grandchildren were the victims of the armies. During the New Year holidays at the time of the war, these ultra-religious Jews hoped for help from strangers. They were totally disappointed by the lies from every side including the belief that they would help the Jews. All of this influenced their spirit and they dismissed the Zionist Idea that was accepted among the young people.
The important Rabbis concluded that Herzl’s dream of a Jewish country, of Zionism, of pioneers working in the Holy Land, was false. They particularly denigrated the work of the pioneers who were physically building the land. If God did not build this house, then the work done is wasted. They pushed out of their hearts the promise of a Jewish country.
I knew the Rabbi R’Naftali Ehrlich from the time I came to Dalatin at the beginning of the year 1910. I came on business to buy wood and heating wood from the brothers, Mr. Shabtai and Mr. Shmaryahu Bloch, at the sawmill in the village Lavie close to Dalatin. They had acquired a large tract of government forest in the province. R’Naftali invited me many times to his home and we sat many hours with a cup of tea and delicacies. I enjoyed the conversations with him that included the words of the Torah. We got close when my son Aaron זל lived in his house in Dalatin which was close to the sawmill of his brother-in-law R’Chaim Fogel and partners. My son was the business manager. I visited him yearly to be close to the family, breath the fresh air and take the salt baths.
After my son finished this job, he left the town and went to live in Stanislau. My daughter Taube’s זל family came to live in Dalatin, close to the sawmill. I visited them every year in their home in Dalatin and then when they returned to Tatarov. I spent several months in their home and invariably visited the Rabbi Naftali in his beautiful home. We argued about Zionism, to which he was sharply opposed.
In the years that I was a citizen in Eretz Israel from the year 1924, I visited Galicia for business and to visit family. I went back and forth nine times. Each time, I visited Dalatin. When R’Naftali heard that I was coming, he immediately came to visit me in my son-in-law and daughter’s house to hear the news of what was happening in our country. He wanted to know all the details and was happy to hear positive news.
In the year 1938 or 1939 I stayed with my daughter until Succot. I was invited by Rabbi R’Naftali to pray during the holidays in a small Beit Midrash that was in his home. There were about forty men, not counting the women and children, who prayed. They found a place for me close to him and I was honored to be called up to read the Torah as a Cohen. After Yom HaKippurim, I was invited for the Kiddush and sweets. R’Naftali led the congregation in Shacharit, Maravit, closing the Yom Kippur prayers and reading the Torah. I enjoyed listening to his emotional voice. He read the Torah clearly and exactly with the beauty of those of the Ziditsuv Chasidim (Note* a Beit Knesset known for its beautiful and exact language. DRK). He blew the Shofar both days of Rosh Hashanah and it touched one’s body and soul.
In 1930 I received a letter in Eretz Israel from him requesting that I try to get him permission to enter the country. I include this letter and my answer to him in this diar He did not get permission for Alyiah. He died as a Tzadik, before the murderers wiped the whole town. תנצב'ה
Content last updated Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 08:16 PM Mountain Daylight Time