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rena michalowska

We were all supported by my grandmother. She was a woman of middle height. The most striking aspect of her appearance were, I think, the almost violet eyes next to black hair. She dressed in normal clothes, not what you would call the outfit of a Hasidic Jewish woman. She wore mostly long sleeves and mostly longish calico dresses. I remember her always wearing a clean apron. I usually saw her at work.
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Teofila Silberring

Before the war, Miodowa Street was largely a street of intellectuals, better secular Jews. And on the side streets lived Jews in cloaks. Not that the ones with sidelocks, in white socks [Hasidim], didn't walk along Miodowa Street. They walked along it because it was a main street, but they didn't live there.
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tomasz miedzinski

In Horodenka there was a synagogue, which it took many years to build, one of the most beautiful in southern Galicia. It was finished sometime in the mid-1930s, and had a beautiful portal. It could hold several hundred people easily. There were few Hasidim in the town, but there were Orthodox Jews, and there was their rov, with sidelocks, and he wore the streimel. They prayed in the large synagogue.
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Ticu Goldstein

While my father was away, we rented his little room to a young man who had come from the North of the country. His name was Sulam Weber. He was a Hasid and he had come to Bucharest to solve his citizenship problem. He was the one who first told me Hasidic stories. They were miraculous, of course, but I don’t remember them anymore now. This man gave my family the most beautiful Pesach of my childhood. Until the beginning of the celebration, Sulam had been very secluded, because of the strict kashrut. He cooked on his own and no one was allowed to get inside his little room, which was actually an entrance hall with cement on the floor. However, on Pesach, he decided to join us: he sat at the end of the table and put some order in our holiday. On the bright, immaculate table, he laid the egg, the potato, the bitter roots, the piece of meat and some matzah. The poverty of this table was soon overcome by his warm, baritone voice reading, reciting the psalms and commenting the Megillat Ester. Being the younger child, I asked, like I did every year: ‘Ma nishtanah halaila hazeh mikol halailot’. The young Hasid sat at the head of the table, like a prince, and he officiated and sang, despite the fact that, in the previous day, he had come back home after having been molested, humiliated and robbed of his shoes by the thug of the neighborhood, whom we had nicknamed Goliath. At a certain point, Sulam stood up and showed us an object he had crafted on his own. He was planning to give it to a magistrate on whom depended the solving of his citizenship problem and who kept postponing him. It was a sort of lamp that projected two majestic lions on the wall. One day after Pesach, Sulam went to the magistrate and gave him the gift. The magistrate accepted it, but had Sulam thrown down the stairs, without helping him; he never got his citizenship and died at Auschwitz, a few years later.
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Mieczyslaw Weinryb

There were about 25,000 people in Zamosc before the war, about 15,000 of them were Jews. Like my family, most of Zamosc’s Jews descended from the Sephardim. Neither their customs nor their language have survived to our times, however. People celebrated the same festivals and dressed the same way as the Ashkenazim. Everyone spoke Yiddish. Of course, the Yiddish spoken in Zamosc differed slightly from that spoken in Lublin or Vilnius. It had its own nuances, but they were differences arising from the use of different dialects of the language. [The Yiddish spoken in the Polish lands used to have three major dialects: Galician (southern), Central (often called Polish) and Lithuanian (north-eastern).] You could say, then, that nothing of the Sephardi culture had survived in Zamosc; all that remained was the memory of the origins of our ancestors.

There was one big synagogue in town, and besides that several shtibls. The interior of the synagogue was traditional, with the bimah in the center and a decorated ark [aron kodesh, in Polish often called ark]. It had ornaments carved around the doors – two lions and two deer, and around them the inscription ‘Gibor ka-ari, ratz ka-zevi’ [Heb.: Strong as a lion, swift as a gazelle]. My father went to a shtibl, but rarely to the synagogue. I used to go with him when I was small and for a while after my bar mitzvah. Mama didn’t go to the shtibl – women didn’t go to pray at the shtibls at all; they were meeting places for men. At the more important holidays and sometimes on Fridays she would go to the synagogue, where there was a special area set aside for women. We used to go to the synagogue with school as well, for instance when services were held for the president of the Polish Republic.

In addition to merchants, the Jews of Zamosc were craftsmen of various trades. There were carpenters, metalworkers, blacksmiths, joiners, painters, leather specialists and cobblers. There were poor water carriers too. Yes, because at that time the houses didn’t have running water. So these people would bring water from the well on the market square, and they were happiest when someone was doing the washing because then more water was needed and they earned more. I also remember that there were servants – also Jewesses – in the wealthier households. These were young girls from nearby towns. They saved up their wages for their dowry. There were those who didn’t find a husband, and they would pay for a Torah for the synagogue out of the money they had saved up.

In Zamosc there were people of all different convictions, both Zionists and Bundists [6]. There were communists, too. Wealthy people and the intelligentsia were usually Zionists. The communists had a lot of supporters among the poor. That was because they had effective propaganda. [The egalitarian ideal of communism naturally attracted the poor everywhere. It was not merely because of the successful propaganda.] They said that everyone would have work and be equal, and they didn’t offend the Jews.

There were Hasidim as well, of course. I remember that they invited a tzaddik to come and live among them. It started with a long exchange of letters. I think he came from Gora Kalwaria [7]. He came to Zamosc by train. There were crowds waiting at the station, not just Hasidim but other Jews, too, and even Poles. I ran down there with a group of my friends. That was a big event in Zamosc. Many people went out of curiosity, to see what would happen.

The Hasidim had hired all the carriages in the town. They put the tzaddik in the first, best-looking one, drawn by white horses, and drove him to the house they had prepared for him on Lubelskie Przedmiescie Street. Colorful lamps were strung out all along the route. About 100 meters before they reached the house the Hasidim unharnessed the horses and pulled the carriage themselves. After that they would all go to the tzaddik on Fridays and Saturdays to be blessed. I remember that because we often used to go down there and peer in through the window. I saw the tzaddik take the challah, bless it and then crumble it into small pieces, which his followers took because it was blessed [shirayem]. I saw them dancing and rejoicing – that was how they prayed to the Lord.

Rare events like the arrival of the tzaddik were attractions for people who lived in a town like ours. People liked to go and see unusual things. Once, word got around that in a neighboring village there was a sleepwalker. I didn’t go, I was too small, but lots of people gathered to see him. It was a moonlit summer night, and everyone stood around in the street and hushed each other so as not to wake him as he walked along the roofs of the houses with his arms outstretched.

We lived right by the square. Our family was relatively well off; you couldn’t say that we were rich, but we didn’t go hungry. We lived in a town house and our apartment overlooked the town square. And all around the square in Zamosc are arcades, so when it was raining you could walk all the way round without an umbrella. On the ground floor of the house was a Jewish bakery.
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My father prayed at a shtibl [Yiddish for a small Hasidic prayer house] for Reformists like himself. [Editor’s note: In Zamosc there was one Jewish community organization officially recognized by the state authorities. However, Jewish religious life was divided into a number of smaller communities. In addition to Orthodox Jews there were also Hasidim [2] and Reformists. The Orthodox used the town’s only synagogue, while the Reformists and Hasidim usually prayed in separate prayer houses, shtibls.]. One day a whole group of them went to the big synagogue and the Orthodox Jews chased them away.
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Mieczyslaw Najman

I remember the tzaddik's visit, it was the Belzer rebe [probably Yissachar Dov Rokeach (1894-1926), the third rabbi of the Belz Hasidic dynasty, or Aharon Rokeach (1877-1957), the fourth rabbi of Belz]. People clung to the train car, everyone wanted to get to him. He gave advice, read [told] the future. And how to get to him, you had to wait several days to see him. Jews came, Poles, everyone.
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Naum Tseitlin

All Jews were divided into two groups in the town. One consisted of mainly prosperous Jews with their feet firmly on the ground – the Mistnagdim [6]. It was the bigger Jewish group. The second, fewer in number, was called the Hasidim [7] in Yiddish and Khoseds in Russian. My father used to say with pride, that we were in this group – he called it ‘sect’ in Russian, Jews do not like the term. The rich men, as they were called, had everything well organized. They had chazzanim, singers, who sang during the service, and often acted as civil singers. And we, Hasidim, Father said, were a philosophical sect, and he was proud that in the 18th century and later many philosophers were born to this smaller section of the Jews.
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Michal Nadel

He wore different clothes on holidays from the everyday ones. On a regular day he would put on a dark sheepskin coat, sport style, and a hat. And on holidays he used to wear a special outfit, which was usually stored in the bedroom. It was a black bekesha and a hat. Bekesha was a black suit. A black, long, loose coat. It had a collar for sure, but I can’t remember if it was velvety. Because there were various bekeshas. It was a matter of wealth. And of how you wanted to look like. There were also ones for Hasidim [5]: made of satin, long, elegant. I, as a child, didn’t pay attention to it. But I remember Father’s black suit for holidays.

Father had a beard, but didn’t wear side-locks.
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