Town: Rachov, Ukraine (translated 1996)

Translation of a chapter from Sefer Marmarash (Yizkor Book)

Rachov is a town in the Rachov district, on the train line connecting
Kiriaza-Host-Sziget-Yasin. The town has 3 parts: Akna-Raho, Bocsko-Raho, and
Berlebash. The first two parts were adjacent to each other, the section called
Berlebash is 9 km south of the town, but is part of the municipality. Most of 
the residents are Ruthenians, with a small minority of Hungarians and Shvavites(?).

Population Table

Year	Jews	Total residents
1728		2	--
1830	   --	2446
1880	  288	--
1910	   --	6577
1921	   --	6879
1930	 1234	8893
1941	 1607  12455

The Beginnings of the Jewish Settlement

In the first half of the 18th century there were several attempts by Jews to
settle in this town, but none succeeded. In the first census of Jews in Hungary
in 1728, two Jews were recorded living in Rachov, both were unmarried, without
families. One was Isaac Marco, apparently a bachelor, with no profession, and no
property. The other was Ilya or Eliyahu Kolman, who leased the Arinda(?) and had
a Jewish servant to assist him. He was also single, with no wife or family.

For reasons unknown to us, these Jews did not stay in Rachov very long. Seven
years later in 1735 there is a Jewish resident in Rachov, named Moshe Nania, who
unlike the previous ones was married and a father of four children. He owned a
farm including a horse and cow. This was also a temporary settlement, in the 1746
census we again find a single Jew without family. This census did not list the
names, but his family status indicates that he was not Moshe Nania, who had a
family.

>From here on, there is a long period of about 100 years when no Jew stepped foot
in Rachov. No Jews were recorded in the census of 1768, even in 1830 there was
still not a single Jewish soul. The total population at this time was around 2500
people. We don't have specific information as to why Jews were not to be found in
Rachov, while much smaller [surrounding communities] had large numbers of Jewish
residents. One possible explanation is that during this period, Rachov did not
have any local nobelmen who owned the land and other property. All the lands in
Rachov and surrounding areas were owned by the state, and were administered by
government officials who had no interest in renting lands to Jews as was
customary among the lands owned by nobles and gentry. The nobles and gentry
benefited from the Jews that they sheltered.


The community, its institutions, rabbis and distinguished people

When did the Jewish community in Rachov grow to the point where a kernel of a
community existed? We don't have an answer to this question. Even the survivors
of this community, on whose memories (both written and and oral) most of this
work is based, has no record on this issue. There is no doubt that that the
origin of this community came much later than those of neighboring communities.
Our opinion is that the community was first organized in the 1860s, after the
gathering of several tens of Galician Jews in Rachov.

We will try to recall the names of several Jews of Rachov from the years 1869 -
1910 as they were recorded in the "Hebrew Subscription Lists" in books published
during those years. The two first names were Mr. Mordeai Dov Shub [note -- this
is an acronym for a shohet, kosher animal slaughterer -- trans.] and Mr. Aaron
Rosenthal, who appear as subscribers to "Nazir HaShem" (Lemberg, 1869). From this
we know that already in the 1860s there was already a shohet in Rachov, even
though the number of Jews living there was quite small. It turns out that he
served the surrounding villages, that had a larger Jewish population than Rachov
itself. The second man, Mr. Aaron Rosenthal, headed a large family that spread
out in the coming generations in Rachov and the surrounding area.

Eleven years later, in 1880, we meet these six Jews, all of whom subscribed to
"Imrei Shoham" (Kolyma, 1880): Mr. Mordecai David Shiovich, of whom his
descendants say that he went to Israel and died in Jerusalem in the early 20th
century; his son, Mr. Joshua Meir; Mr. Israel Rosenthal (apparently the son of
Mr. Aaron mentioned above); Mr. Solomon Abish; Mr. Asher Anshil Shub; Mr. Azriel
Wasserman. In the next book we meet Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman, who was appointed
in 1888, and of whom more will be said below; and Mr. Israel Rosenthal; and Mr.
Joshua Meir Shiovich; Mr. Zvi Sheiner; Mr. Zusia Rosenthal; Mr. Yerachmiel
Rosenthal, the elder (apparently to distinguish him from a younger relative with
the same name); Mr. Judah Zvi Lottman; Mr. Chaim Adlerstein; Mr. Alexander
Feirvarger; Mr. Benjamin Shmerler; Mr. Yerachmiel Adlerstein; Mr. Leibush
Schechter. In books published in the early 20th century we find many of the same
names, with the rabbi always at the head of the list. These are the additional
names: Mr. Yekutiel Yeruham Wasserman; Mr. Zusha Darinstein; Mr. Itza Tzavechter;
Mr. Haim Zalman Kapilman; Mr. Ovadia Darinstein; Mr. Moshe Zvi Kahane; Mr. Jacob
Rosenthal; Mr. Dov Berel Feig; Mr. Meir Zvi Weiss; Mr. Simha Foigel; Mr. Herzel
Feig; Mr. Shalom Mordecai Weider; Mr. Milech Shaiovich; Mr. Haim Aryeh
Moscovich; Mr. Yehiel Mihal Davidovich; Mr. Jacob Isaac Shaiovich; Mr. Yekutiel
Judah Shaiovich; Mr. Meir Feig. The surnames that occur with highest frequency in
the lists are the Shaiovich family (9) and the Rosenthal family (7), which
represented a large portion of the Jews of Rachov until the last generation.


The Jews of Rachov had five synagogues and houses of study: 
1) The "old" synagogue -- made of wood, that was apparently built in the 1880s.
In the last days, the Gabbai was Mr. Mordecai Feig; 
2) The "great" synagogue -- made of brick. Until the 1930s the Gabbai was Mr.
Alter Shmerler, followed by his son, Hillel.
3) The study house of "The Mishna Group" [Hevre Mishnayot], the Gabbai was Mr. Isaac
Wolf;
4) The small study house in the Rabbi's courtyard. Most often acting as Gabbai
was Mr. Ephraim Baruch Berger;
5) The "kloyz" (small study house) of the ADMOR of Rachov (see below). The Gabbai
and supervisor was Mr. Solomon Kriendler.

The oldest communal organization was the Hevre Kaddisha [burial society], headed
by Mr. Jacob Dornstein. The organization was managed and supervised by the heads
of the community. Among its active members were Mr. Zvi Menachem Konitz, who
visited the sick and took care of corpses all on a volunteer basis. The Shamash
was Israel Mordecai. Surplus funds from the Hevre Kadisha were given to the
community to assist the needy, sick or other uses.

Two communal Torah study organizations existed in Rachov. In the study house
"Hevre Mishnayot", a regular class was taught by Rabbi Zvi Scheiner, a learned
man who was authorized to render Halachic decisions. At night he sat to study and
arranged a regular midnight study session (tikkun hatzot). When Rabbi Zvi
Scheiner went to the synagogue on the eve of the Sabbath everyone knew that
candle lighting time was approaching. In the "old" synagogue the class was taught
by Rabbi Alter Schiovich, who was also a rabbinic judge and halachic decisor and
also served as secretary of the community. Many dozens of householders
participated in these two classes, many were scholars or least learned men. At
each of these synagogues there were also Hevre Tehillim (Psalms Group) whose
members completed the book of Psalms every Sabbath in the afternoon before Mincha
and the third meal.

Some charitable and welfare activities were found in Rachov, not necessarily well
funded, but done with a heartfelt soul. The rabbi of the community managed a
charity fund that gave loans to the needy at very reasonable rates (often with no
repayment). The rabbi raised the funds from Jews of Rachov. The fund brought joy
to so many around the town -- he also added to it from his own meager savings. In
1920 a women's organization called "Vered" (rose) was formed to ...

[lines missing]

... his humble home served as a lodging for all the "guests" and fund raisers
that found their way to Rachov, where they were received cordially and in
addition to lodging, they received simple and healthy meals. Mr. Alter Feig ("the
Returner") [baal t'shuva] for many years collected food and supplies for the
Sabbath. With a pack on his shoulder, Mr. Alter wove his way around the town,
gathering the supplies into his pack. Each Sabbath eve there was a long chain of
"guests" that accompanied him from house to house, in order to be greeted as a
"Sabbath guest" at the home of one of Rachov's Jews.

[photo caption on p. 356 -- Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman, author of "Likutay
Maharyach" (collections of his father's writings)].

As stated above, the first Rabbi in Rachov was elected in approximately 1888,
Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman. His father was Rabbi Judah "the old hasid" (from
which his son derived the acronym for his book -- "Likutay Maharyach") [ "Ma" -
moraynu -- our teacher, "har" -- ha-rav -- the rabbi, "yach" -- Judah the hasid,
or the old hasid - trans.], who was one of the best students of the author of
"Yitav Lev" and son-in-law of Rabbi Menahem Wolf Weisberg, head of the rabbinic
court in Tarkan in the Zamplan district (who was the son-in-law of Rabbi Jacob
Zvi Waldman of Bursha). The rabbi of Rachov earned his fame in his great
composition, the 3 volumes of "Likutay Maharyach" about the Shulchan Aruch, Orach
Chaim, that became a wonderful book among rabbinic works because of its great
practicality. The author skillfully wove into the "dry" legal code many
unexpected gems of folkways and wisdom, based on very many books, scholars, both
ancient and modern, law codes, customs, Kabbala, Hasidism,  and thus he
strengthened the legal codes, and added a pleasing and piquant element
appropriate for those used to reading lighter works, but applicable to all. As
soon as it was published, the book was warmly received and within a short time it
could be found in thousands of homes. It was used by people at all levels,
starting with rabbis, and learned, sharp-witted scholars to householders troubled
with mundane issues of daily life and not able to spend much time attending classes
or studying.

The book "Likutay Maharyach" was entirely printed by the author over 11 years.

The author's grandson (son of his daughter), Rabbi Jacob Zvi Kaufman, son-in-law
of Rabbi Samuel Zalman Weinberger, head of the rabbinic court in Margarten, who
was a rabbinic judge in Margarten, reprinted the first part of "Likutay
Maharyach": [bibliographic info in small print] "Likutay Maharyach" volume 1.
Reprinted with many additions [acronym unknown]... the author and some notes ...
Zichron Menahem .. Satmar, 5692 (1932). [14], 203, page [1].


photo caption (1) -- Rabbi Solomon Zalman Friedman in his youth
photo caption (2) -- Rabbi S.Z. Friedman surrounded by ex-Rachov residents

It appears that Rabbi Jacob Zvi Kaufman completed the entire work but did not
publish the other volumes because of a lack of funds. This book, known as
"Zihkron Menahem", was apparently lost in the Holocaust, as well as its author,
the grandson and publicizer of the author of "Likutay Maharyach".

He is mentioned in a responsum written by the Great Rabbi Eliezer Deutsch of
Banihad: "We will consult together about the man ... whose wife has been insane
this past year and a half" (Responsa Pri HaSadeh, Part 3, Section 186, 1905).

Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman died suddenly on Sivan 24, 5682 (1922) in an accident
that occurred while he was on a ritual mission in the "Palinina" (where the
flocks graze) to assure the kashrut of the cheese. He died in a flash flood that
struck suddenly, coming after a cloud burst of heavy rain. Thus died Rabbi Israel
Chaim Friedman.

His place was taken by his son, Rabbi Solomon Zalman Friedman, a scholar and
author of "Kedushat Yom Tov" and a follower of the rebbe of Sziget. He was also
known as a great scholar, a wonderful teacher and a kind person. He was much
loved by the Jews of Rachov. Between the two world wars he ran a large Yeshiva in
Rachov, with as many as 150 students. This was, of course, a Yeshiva in the
hassidic style, following the tradition of the Sziget Hassidim, but its students
included those from other Hassidic groups. Most of the students were from
Maramarosh, but also from other towns in Carpatho-Rus. An idea of the diversity
of the origins of the student body can be seen in a list of 15 young men who
subscribed to the book "Responsa Mira" (Munkatsch, 1938), according to which the
students came from the following towns: Rachov proper (4), Host (2), Salish,
Kiralahana, Trivushan, Bahutz, Novaslitz, Dibova, Nersanitza, Ganitch. This kind
of distribution appears to have been representative of all the students in the
Yeshiva of Rachov.

Rabbi Solomon Zalman Friedman survived the events of the Holocaust. He
experienced the horrors of the murderous death camps of Auschwitz and other camps
in Germany. After the war he settled in Satmar, where he was head of the rabbinic
court and watched over the Jewish life of the survivors that settled in Satmar.
He made many efforts on behalf of agunot and agunim  from the Holocaust. [Jews
whose spouses are lost need special procedures to permit them to remarry -
trans.] In 1947 he escaped from Rumania and settled in Logano in Switzerland
where he was the head rabbi. He was warmly welcomed by the Jews of the community
and in all of Switzerland he was sought out and considered as one of the great
halachic decisors. He established certain rules in his community to strengthen
religious life. His last years were spent in the home of his son-in-law, Rabbi
Menahem Mendel Horowitz, in Bnai Brak. He died at a ripe old age on Shevat 4,
5740 (1980), his coffin was carried to Jerusalem and interred in the Mount of
Olives.

One of the first shohetim in Rachov was Rabbi Israel Wirtzberger, from the years
5639-5640 (1879/80). A year later he had the same role in the well known Hassidic
city Bevian in Bukovina, and afterwards he was a judge in the rabbinic court and
ritual authority in the city of Buzav in Moldova. At the end of his book "Zihkron
Yehoshua", sermons on the Torah (Tissa-Sasfala, 5672 - 1912), were published 18
responsa. The first three responsa were written in Rachov and were often referred
to by the great rabbis and scholars of Galicia -- Rabbi Moshe Te'omim of
Horodenko and Rabbi Shraga Feivel Shrier of Brodshin. The subject of these
responsa dealt with kashrut issues associated with animal lungs, and burial
markers that had been exchanged in a cemetery. It is clear that Rabbi Israel
Wirtzberger taught halacha in Rachov since he was also a rabbi in the community.

We already hear of the shohet Mr. Mordecai Dov in 1869 who was apparently the
first shohet in Rachov. After him was Rabbi Israel Wirtzberger and after him was
Mr. Asher Anshel.  A long standing shohet was Mr. Jacob Samson Fisher who died in
the 1930s. The last shohetim in Rachov were Mr. Solomon Leib Falk and Mr. Michael
Shreiber. These two were martyred in the Holocaust. One additional shohet, Mr.
Zeev Grief, survived the death camps and managed to return to live in Rachov. He
continued in his holy profession even under the Communists until his death in
5735 (1975). Mr. Zeev Grief was the only mohel in the region and with great
dedication he ensured that Jewish boys entered the covenant of Abraham our
forefather. He persisted despite official barriers as well as frequent threats
and attempts to frighten him from performing his duties.

[photo caption -- Rabbi S.Z. Friedman at a  Chanuka candle lighting]

The business and financial arrangements in the Jewish community of Rachov were
not markedly different from others in Maramarosh. A significant percentage of the
local Jews were employed in different levels of retail trade; a portion of the
Jews were craftsmen and others were hired workers in workshops or factories. In
Rachov as in many places, Jews dominated commercial life.

Among the large factories, former residents of Rachov recall three large
sawmills: one owned by Raphael Abush and son, one owned by Risa Katz, and one
owned by Deutsch. There were three flour mills: owned by Ephraim Kreindler,
Menahem Fruchter, and Risa Katz. The electric power plant was owned by Solomon
Abush -- he was president of the Jewish community until his death at an early
age. Owners of land and forests were: Raphael Abush, Alter Shmerler, Ortza
Kremer, and others. Jews worked in the above mentioned factories both as clerks
and as hired laborers.

In the commercial arena, survivors recall about 30 grocery and variety stores, about
10 textile and ready-made clothing stores and 3 wholesale food markets.

In Rachov there was also a thin layer of Jewish intelligentsia -- people with 
academic credentials. There was one judge, two doctors, three lawyers, and four
dentists. Even the secretary of the town council was usually a Jew. There were also
a few Jews in various government positions.

The craftsmen included tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, tanners, watchmakers, bakers,
photographers, a weaver, a printer, taxi owners, and others.

Between the two world wars, Jewish youth in Rachov had several organizations.
They are mentioned here in order of their size: Agudat Israel, among its well
known leaders were Nathan Feig, Mordecai Komernik, and Mordecai David Shiovitch.
Betar was led by Mendel Davidovitch (he was also a delegate to one of the Zionist
Congresses), P. Gesner and others. Hashomer Hatzair was led by Dov (Bela) Feig.
Hehalutz was led by Elka Arbast and Sara Weiss. Mizrahi was led by Abraham
Engelman.

Jewish youth in Rachov also played sports. Jews were a large majority of the
members in the two soccer and tennis clubs. Amateur theatrical plays were put on
twice a year (Chanuka and Purim), these were plays in Yiddish that were met with
success both in Rachov and surrounding towns. The driving force in this activity
was Zvi Menahem Konitz. Among the plays that the survivors recall are "The
Dybbuk", "Dovosh", and "The Selling of Joseph".


Berlbash
 
As stated above, within the town limits of Rachov was included the village of
Berlbash, at a distance of 9 km. All of the citizens were Ruthenians. In Berlbash
they were able to sustain a minyan (about 50 people total). Before the holocaust
there were the following Jews there: the wagon owner Eliahu, the butcher Isaiah
Arbast, flour mill owner Moses Arbast, wagon owner Abraham Hirsh Arbast, grocery
store owner Krumholtz, Mordecai the tavern owner, Adler the carpenter, and
landowner Fishel Arbast. Because of the distance from town, they had their own
minyan (before the holocaust it was in the home of Abraham Hirsh Arbast, before
that in Moshe Arbast's house).  All other aspects of their religious services
came from Rachov. These were the services available to the Jews of Berlbash: they
made use of the mikveh in Rachov, and the shohet of Rachov came there on a
regular basis, and they buried their dead in the cemetery of Rachov. All the Jews
of Berlbash were fervent Vishnitz hassidim (in contrast to the Jews of Rachov who
had many hassidic followers, especially Sziget). When the Vishnitz rebbe stayed
at the rest-cure in Kvasi (see the entry elsewhere in this book), all the Jews of
Berlbash stopped work to be near him.

About 3 km from Berlbash is a tiny settlement called Vilhobad, where two Jews
lived -- a merchant and a shoemaker. They were included in the local Eruv, so
when they wanted to pray with a minyan, they walked to Berlbash. Today there are
no Jews in either Berlbash or Vilhobad.  
 
The Holocaust

When the Czechs left the area and it was taken over by the Hungarians, the Jews
of Rachov suffered some dreadful times. As is known, the nationalist Ukranians
declared this area as part of their independent country, with Host as its
capital. The Ruthenians "divided" the Jewish property and prepared to engage in a
general campaign of pillage. They also assembled a "black list" of Jewish
"Kulaks" who were marked for elimination and death. The period between March 14
to 17, 1939 were terrible times for the Jews of Rachov. When the Hungarian army
conquered the Czech side of Maramarosh and wiped out the Ukranian gangs, the Jews
were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief as they had been saved from a
certain slaughter. The bitter frustrations of the conquering Hungarian army were
not slow in coming. In a short time the Hungarian regime was shown in its full
cruel and inhuman aspect -- these are well known facts.

Dozens of the Jewish young men of Rachov took the opportunity of slipping across
the nearby Soviet border (after the ill-fated Molotov-Ribbentropp agreement
partitioning Poland) in order to move into areas occupied by the Red army. Many
of the young men were taken in by the Soviet and Communist propaganda about
internationalism and the "garden of eden with red leaves" across the border. To
their amazement, they were all arrested by the Soviet authorities and accused of
being spies or "suspicious elements" and sent to slave labor and concentration
camps around the Soviet Union, mostly in Siberia. Many of them perished in
horrifying ways in these camps. Those who survived joined in the war against the
Germans, either by being drafted into the Red army or by volunteering for the
Czech brigade commanded by General Swoboda.

In 1941 the Jews of Rachov suffered the decrees of the Hungarian civil
administration. Several dozen Jews of Rachov who could not pay for the proper
documents were exiled in July 1941. Units of the Hungarian gendarme came to
Rachov with lists of names. They went from house to house rounding up families
and took them to the train station. There they were loaded onto rail cars --
without knowing their destination. They were taken to the border station at
Yasin-Zamir, and from there they were taken by truck to Poland; most arrived in
the area of Kamenetz-Podolski where they were murdered.

Survivors from Rachov assembled the following list of 12 families exiled at this
time. This list is fragmentary, there were certainly another 4 or 5 families
included in this tragedy: Dr. Monio Adlerstein and his wife, Moshe Lottman and
his wife, Isadore Sirmai and his wife, Laichi Steiner and his wife, Abraham
Taubman and his wife, Mendel Krumholtz, Isaac Hos and his son Hirsh, Lazer
Hamburger and his wife, Isaac Konitz and his family, Isaac Wolf and his wife and
sons, Simonovich and his family, Asher the milkman and his family.

Only two families managed to escape this horror and returned to Hungary.
Simonovich brought back his entire family (13 people) through forests and
mountains; ten members of the Krumholtz family of Berlbash, through a series of
harrowing and hair-raising incidents succeeded in returning to Hungary. The rest
of the exiles met their death by drowning in the Dneister river, by being shot by
the Hungarian or German army near Kamenetz-Podolski, or in other ways.

The day after Passover 5704 (April 16, 1944) the general roundup of all Rachov's
Jews began. They were housed in the school opposite the town council building. It
took eight days to complete the roundup. On the ninth day they were all taken to
the railroad station and sent to the well known and despised ghetto in
Matte-Salke. Here, the Jews of Rachov cowered for a month or so and were then
sent to Auschwitz. It is estimated that about 1200 of Rachov's Jews died either
at Auschwitz or at other camps.

[photo caption -- citizens of Rachov and environs at a labor camp]

In the fall of 1944 the first survivors started to make their way from the
"valley of death" -- they had fled from the death camps. They lived as a single
family and tried to revive communal life in the place. In 1945, additional
survivors joined from camps in Germany. The shohet Zeev Grief, as mentioned
above, returned to his holy tasks and was the only mohel in the region until his
death in 5735 (1975). A regular minyan was organized in a private house. The
synagogues had all been confiscated and were off limits -- they were used as
warehouses and in other purposes. At the end of 1945 and in the beginning of 1946
most of the Jews left Rachov on their way to Israel. A few stayed in Rachov,
those are now slowly arriving in Israel in a new wave of immigration from the
Soviet Union. Today there is not even a minyan of Jews left in Rachov.

Bibliography

Interviews with several survivors of Rachov.

A manuscript about Rachov written by David Shmerler with the help of Israel Chaim
Shaiovich.

Rabbi Eliezer Deutsch: Responsa "Pri HaSadeh", part 3,Phaksh, 5673 (1913),
section 186.

[a Hungarian reference]

[list of Yad Vashem testimonies]

---------

translated by E.M. Ganin
eganin@ici.net
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