About Several Figures in Our Town

D. N., Translated by Adam Prager

I would like to mention in these lines the names of noble figures of the last few decades, the last generation before the destruction of Buczacz. They excelled in that the foundation stone of their lives was the integration of Torah with worldliness [“tov tora im derekh-erets’]. The daytime was devoted to business and the night to Torah. I have already referred above to Reb Osher, Reb Yanay, and Reb Ayzik, the three pillars of the Old Study House. To their names I would like to add those of householders, humble individuals, among whom were authors of books such as Reb Zeev Pohorila [1], Reb Abraham Riblin [2], and just plain Torah scholars like Reb Mendele Hornstein, Reb Mordechai Shpilberg [3], Reb Yudl Shapiro, my older brother Reb Abraham Jonah Neuman [4], Reb Sholem Mordechai Czaczkes [5], Reb Leibush Glantser [6] and others.


End notes

  1. Reb Pohorila was a banker and a writer. He wrote Khomat anakh on the Torah and Shearit yehuda on the Talmud. Back
  2. Reb Abraham Riblin wrote Peyrush al haRamnan. Back
  3. Reb Mordechai Shpilberg was an outstanding scholar, a fierce misnaged who remained opposed to the Hasidic rabbis till his dying day. He died at the age of 85. Back
  4. Father of Irving Israel Neuman of New York, known for his contributions to the Histadrut HaIvrit HaOlamit (‘World Hebrew Federation’). Back
  5. The father of the writer Sh.Y Agnon. Back
  6. In his old age Rabbi Leibush Glantser served as dayan in the religious court of Buczacz. Back

Two Figures

Zionism in its first days in our town (during the years 1894/95) was a youth movement. It consisted of boys from the bet-hamidrash [study house] and youth from bourgeois homes; later on it was joined by student youth. Among this youth two older prominent figures stood out.

One was the first chair of our town’s Zion Society, founded in the year 1894 – the venerable and honorable Reb Hershele Shtern, (of blessed memory). He was an educated man with a deep knowledge of the Bible; he was much involved in communal life and wore a long white beard. An enthusiastic Khovev Tsiyon [‘Lover of Zion’], he brought up his sons to be enlightened Zionists in a religious-national spirit. He wielded great influence on all of us.

The small branch of the Shtern family also included Reb Hershele Shtern’s sons Meir Haim and Abba, and his brother Israel Solomon, who has family in Israel.

The second was a Hasid in every respect. Mr. Jacob Leib Alfenbein (the uncle of Mordechai Shenhavi from Mishmar HaEmek) was highly knowledgeable in the Torah and a respected householder. His love for Zion was as intense as a sacred flame. Following the Balfour Declaration, he wholeheartedly proclaimed that every Jew must immediately sell his property and emigrate to Eretz Yisrael. He actually carried out his belief. He intentionally sold his house and the one belonging to his relative Reb Reuben Leib Pohorila (two high-story houses) to gentiles, for Jews must leave for Israel. He received a worthless amount for them due to the inflation, but all was for the purpose of emigrating with his family to Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately he fell ill and died at the age of seventy, his aspiration unfulfilled. When I visited him before his death he asked how many Jews were in Eretz Yisrael at the time. After telling him there were about 80 thousand Jews there, he replied in low spirits that he was convinced that in the years to come there would be a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel.

With the verse “And the sons shall return to their lands,” he passed away in the year 1924.

I am fulilling my duty by erecting a sacred memorial and a marker for the memory of a pure soul, one in thousands, my most learned teacher, Rabbi Samuel Issachar Shtark, of blessed memory, who was a dayan [rabbinical judge] in Buczacz. I studied under him for three years. He wrote several important books in a beautiful style, Minkhat Oni (‘Gift of Suffering’) on the Talmud, Avney Shayish (‘Stones of Marble’) on the Torah [Shayish ‘marble’ is an acronym of his name Samuel Issachar Shtark], Petakh HaTeyva (‘Portal of the Ark’) on Seyfer Teyvat-Guma and others. Among his pupils were the Chief Rabbi of Italy, Dr. Sh. Margoliuth of Florence, the son of Reb Jonah Margoliuth of Bresni. My teacher Rabbi Samuel Issachar, possessed a phenomenal memory. He knew the entire Talmud by heart. If a passage in a tractate was read to him, he immediately cited the page on which it was found. In his old age he was invited to fill the imposing post of Head of the rabbinical court in Vizhnits, Bukovina. May his memory be blessed.

D. N. Bet-Alfa