Friday, December 17, 2010

Illustrations to accompany Zarwanitzer essay

A Standard Printed Text of the Talmud

Follow this link to see a standard printed text of the Talmud with commentaries. Kahana progenitors are on the page.
On the top right, Rashi, on the top left, Tosafot,(Rashi'sgrandsons),on the left side margin, a link to the additional glosses on the Talmud, one by Rabbi Akiba Eger, my mother's ancestor. Rashi, it is said, was a descendant of Rabbi Jochanan HaSandlar, a prominent figure in the Mishna.

A Standard Printed text of the Mishna
Follow this link to see a standard printed text of the Mishna with commentaries. On the top left, bracketed around the  text of the Mishna, is the commentary, Tosafot Yom Tov, by Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman Heller, another progenitor.

Sefer Divrei Zadikim of JOSEPH MORDECAI Kahana(d. 1896, dayyan of Teczo, Hungary. Divrei Ẓaddikim (2 parts, 1874–76), an alphabetical work on the reasons for the precepts and customs. In his introduction he stresses that the purpose of the work was to show "that Jewish customs are binding as law." This fragment was in my father’s library and was printed in Lemberg, Suess Verlag, ,1879 .

Grandfather Shmuel’s notes on Sefer Revid Hazahav are shown here, It was  referred to by his grandmother, Devorah, as a book written  by a relative. It seems to be a work by an Israel Dov Ber Gelerneter, printed in Lemberg, around middle to end of 19th century and it is a work of Jewish piety and mysticism. Devorah’s granddaughter, Sarah, married a Jonah Gelernter, a noted Hebrew educator. Perhaps there is an older family relationship.
Binah Weinberg, nee Zarwanitzer

Photos on life in the shtetl

A " Segulah"( a mystical incantation or action) against the evil eye,"Eina Bisha,"  from the notebook of grandfather Shmuel Weinberg, a devout and pious Jew, who sent his sons to the "gymnasia", an act of heresy in that region and time.

Class picture from "Gymnasia"( high school) in Dolina. If this is the entering class, at 7th grade in the American system, my father, second from right on the top, would have been  12, which would put date this picture as 1913, a year befroe the outbreak of World War I.

William Weinberg, age 12,in the gymnasia uniform which angered his neighboring Hasidim because it was an emblem of the assimilated Jew.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Picture to accompany chapters on Dolyna

Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire. Dolina(Dolyna)is situated due north of Sighet, Hungary,just below the 49th parallel, due west of Stanislawow(  Ivano-Frankivsk), due south of Bolechow ( Bolekhiv), further north to Lemberg(Lwow,Lviv).

A street in Dolina as it is today and as it appeared then

Ten Commandments, all that is left of the synagogue, found in the cemetery.

A two story house, such as may have been the Weinberg house, with shop on the ground floor and living quarters above

Shmuel Weinberg
The entry visa of a Stateless Jew

The end of Empire and the End of the Shtetl

Excerpt The end of Empire and the End of the Shtetl
Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, Austria entered the Balkans, the Germans declared their support of the Austrians, the Russians, the British and the Germans declared their opposition. World War I erupted on the face of Europe. 
The Austrian army came to every village to draft every able bodied man. My grandfather managed to evade them. The Austrians became so desperate that cartoons show the army MD examining a skeleton and declaring,” Fit for Service”. They became short  even of the doctors and drafted first year medical students to serve as physicians. The only solution the young army doctors had for mutilated limbs was summed up in one word,” Aspirin.” 
The Russian armies advanced on the Eastern front of Austria and the heaviest fighting between the two armies was in Galicia, as the Russian armies made their way through, and then were driven back. The front lines went straight through the Dolyna region
Hundreds of thousands were dislocated. Many Jews fled from the advancing armies for the capital, Vienna. The Weinberg s were among them.
.  .   .

2 a Growing Up in the Shtetl

Excerpt   Growing Up in the Shtetl
My uncle, Benjamin (Benyamin,  Munio for short) was born in 1899 and then my father, Wilhelm,(William, Zeev , Villi for short)in 1901, in Dolina, the classical East European Shtetl of the turn of the previous century
 In light of the custom of Jews to give names after the deceased ancestors, perhaps my uncle was named after his great- grandfather at the request of Binah. I can’t determine who my father is to have been named after; William, the anglicized form of Wilhelm, is a common Jewish counterpart to the German/Yiddish “Wulf”( wolf), in Hebrew, Zeev.
When Jacob blesses his sons, he describes the youngest, “ Benyamin Zeev Toref”, Benjamin is a ferocious wolf. Perhaps my grandfather had that verse in mind when he picked “Zeev” as my father’s Hebrew name. It was a blessing in disguise, as symbolically, the two brothers, as a team, were able to over come great danger. Little could my grandfather imagine.
There is the idealized world of the Shtetl, all of humor and the levity of a Sholom Aleichem and a Fiddler  on the Roof, and then there is the fantasists Shtetl, of an IB Singer. And then again, there is the shtetl.

1 c The Zarwantizer line-- How it came to be that my great-grandfather was also my great-great-grandfather and that I am my own third cousin

Excerpt The Zarwantizer line-- How it came to be that my great-grandfather was also my great-great-grandfather and that I am my own third cousin

When the Rabbi of Dolyna sent his Gabbai( assistant) to  invite my father’s grandmother  to his daughter’s wedding,  she did not attend.  When the Rabbi asked why, she replied,” You did not invite me in person; you only sent your Gabbai!”
Yichus—Ancestry- played a great part in Jewish circles. After all, the very Bible itself is a list of “begats” from Adam down to the lists of returnees from Babylonian captivity ; from the “ Hebrew “ Scriptures it goes  on into the “ Christian” Scriptures as well. Thus it turns out that Jesus and I share the same yichus : King David and Aaron the first Cohen, High Priest.
While this may be wrapped in myth or faith, what is clear is that, in  11th century  France, there lived the shining light of Biblical and Talmudic clarity, the Sage, Rashi, who, by tradition, was a descendant of Kind David.

1 B The shtetl of Dolyna and the origins of the Weinbergs.

The shtetl of Dolyna and the origins of the Weinbergs.
The Jews of Dolyna ( also spelled Dolina) trace their origins back to the times of the Polish kings who had conquered Ukrainian territories.  My uncle, Benjamin (Munio) who travelled back and forth in the former territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as a lawyer, found ancient records in the town’s archives. He reported having found documents dating to the 16th Century, when a progenitor of the Weinberg family ( with name registered as Turteltaub) came from Turkish held  regions to Dolyna. During the time of massacre of Jews  in the Ukrainian territories of Poland by the Cossacks in 1648, the borders of the Ottoman empire came just north of the town of Dolyna. These regions were spared the massacres and Sefardic Jews came as administrators or merchants into those territories. (Presumably, Turtletaub is a later “Yiddishization” of what may have originally have been a Sefardic/Spanish name, perhaps akin to “ Paloma” or “ Tortola). This first ancestor of record established the Jewish cemetery and built a house there, which was still in use at least till 1917, and the family members were always given the choicest burial plots.  He opened and operated salt mines under contract from local aristocrat. By the 17th century, the first “Weinberg” was  registered in the Grundbuch, land registry, of Dolyna in Latin, German, and Polish. (Note: This Dolyna/Dolina is not to be confused with a current Dolina, which was formerly called Janow).
. . .

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chapter 1 Prelude

Chapter 1 Prelude

Here Only to Rest
Conscious Jewish historic memory begins with Abraham and Gods first words ”Lech Lecha.”-Go, an emphatic go, get yourself out of your country, from your  kindred, and from your father’s home,” Movement, whether by act of God or by human brute force, has been a hallmark of Jewish existence.
Two millennia ago, some Jews made their way into the Italian peninsula, some as merchants, some as prisoners in the course of the two great rebellions against the Roman Empire, while others made their way to the Iberian peninsula. Among them where the progenitors of my family.
Gradually, these Jews made their way from Italy  into the realms of Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire. This became the heartland of Ashkenazic ( Central and Eastern European) Jewry and here we have the first flowering of the great European school of Rabbinic study, as embodied in the figures of Rashi and his “ Eineklach”
( grandchildren).
It has been estimated that no more than 3000 families comprised the core of this dynamic Jewish community spred between what has become France and Germany. “ Lech Lecha”—this is what they were told, again, this time by rioting Crusaders or rapacious kings eager to seize hold of Jewish properties.
 . . .

The Jews of West Virginia-- Clarksburg and the Coming of the Messiah

The Jews of Clarksburg , West Virginia, Part II
My father , the late Rabbi William Weinberg, came to Clarksburg, West Virginia in 1963 and served as Rabbi of Etz Chaim Congregation till 1969.
Here was a worldly-wise man who had lived in Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt, New York, and lastly, Washington, D.C. What could possibly satisfy him in a small town of at best 28,000 population at that time. It was a long 12 hour drive over a winding highway to his previous home, Washington, and a 4 to 5 hour drive, also over twisted terrain, to the nearest major Jewish community, Pittsburgh, PA.
When I was a student at New York University, my dorm-mates were perplexed by this town they had never heard of, except, almost, in a song by the TV-series rock group, The Monkeys, “ Take the Last Train to Clarksville”( but “ville” , not “burg”). Finally, they were satisfied that indeed, such a place existed, because, on one  of the last episodes of “ The Fugitive”, the hero escape through a tunnel, which, he is told, will take him into Clarksburg.
Nevertheless, he said, in a thought that presaged the universality of communications of the iphone and wi-fi  era, nothing is distant anymore—all the benefits of sophisticated society could be found through movies and television and a good record could substitute for a symphony orchestra. A man who had survived Nazi prisons, concentration camp, and exile in the farthest reaches of the Soviet Union could make his home anywhere.
In truth, this town, despite its size and geographic isolation had its own element of sophistication. It was the birthplace of noted Civil War General Stonewall Jackson (one of the members of the Jewish community , S. Joseph Birshtein, was himself an authority on Jackson).  The graduates of my high school, Washington Irving, went on to significant universities; a small neighboring college, Salem, had moved its center to Clarksburg and was drawing students to it  from New York City. There was a local amateur theater company and cultural events of its own.
It also had a Jewish community which supported the Etz  Chaim Congregation ( recently disbanded, however).  They were key players in the civil society.
There were two rival  pharmacy and general supplies stores along Main Street.  The stores constantly advertised promotions to draw customers one form the other. What was not known was that both stores belonged to the Gottlieb family. This played to the benefit of the other local merchants despite what may have seemed unfair competition. One year, a discount store, in the style of a Kmart or Target, first opened in the outskirts of town, offering a huge selection, deep discounts, and ,above all else, easy parking. This was devastating to the local business—here was a one-stop shop all location, so close, why shop locally.
This did not phase the Gottliebs- they simply upped the ante, began an even more intensive rivalry between their two stores, the local customers stayed in town to catch their bargains, and , on their way  in and out, shopped at the other local merchants. Business stayed in town.
Another successful local Jewish business was the Workingman’s Store, a men’s clothier that carried both work clothes, as the name indicated, as well as a line of dress suits. The founder, Berman, was in his 80’s when he went to visit Israel and climbed the long ascent  to Masada, to that date, the oldest man to have made the climb since Josephus time. ( I did the ascent myself when I was 20, and it left me breathing hard. A cable car has since made that ascent easier and no longer a challenge).
Jews from distant towns made their way to Clarksburg for Jewish education for their children. One such family would come in every Sunday from Elkins, at least an hours drive in winding roads, where they had a lumber mill.
On the Shabbat of their  child’s Bar Mitzvah, the grandfather came to shule, took one look at the president, and told the Rabbi- Oh, my gosh! I know who he is! I put him in jail overnight!”
No big crime here. The president,Mr. Weiner,  who ran a successful scrap metal business, had come as a poor immigrant from Lithuania, and started in the West Virginia towns as an itinerant peddler, a fine tradition started by the likes of the founders of Macy’s. At the same time, this Jewish resident of Elkins served as the mayor, sheriff, judge, clerk  all rolled in one. The peddler came to town and it turned out, the town had a rule against wandering peddlers. He had to cool his heels overnight in the local clinker . Many years later, this pillar of the Jewish community, and a generous philanthropist, would preside at the service of his jailor’s grandson.
Jewish life for a teenager consisted of the local AZA-BBG, the Bnai Brith Youth affiliate, with at most a minyan of members. Obviously, one of the greatest worries for their parents was interdating—with such a small pool to chose from,  young Jews didn’t easily date each other—they had grown up  together, afterall, and were too close. The big event of Jewish life for the teens, therefore, consisted of pilgrimages to our fellow teenagers in Uniontown, McKeesport, or the great Mecca for us, Pittsburgh, a good four hour drive over winding road. Occasionally, our counterparts would make the trek to Clarksburg in return. Here was the chance to find partners that were within the pale of acceptability.
There was never a problem to get a good turnout for services on a Friday evening or Saturday morning, but Shabbat Minhah( afternoon) was a different story. One way to guarantee the tenth man was to pay the congregation’s teenagers for their attendance. This worked well for a while, until, it was told, the teenagers began to organize, demanded a raise, and went on strike. The congregation, in turn, was not intimidated, and fired the strikers. They got the minyan without the hired help.
There was another method for getting the minyan. Across the street from the synagogue was a lodge, I believe it was the Elks, and it held a club card inside. Whenever they were ready for the tenth man, they would call the lodge and the manager would send one of his Jewish members across the street to join the services.
The teenagers, too, who had now been drafted into minyan service without pay, after the failed strike, had their own “lodge”. Next door to the synagogue was the Masonic Temple, which had a youth affiliate, DeMolay, with it’s own club room, featuring a pool table. Here it was that the Jewish youngsters would hang out, waiting for the minyan to start, and it was here that I learned my best shots.
One time, my father asked the president, the same peddler turned philanthropist, why he didn’t bring his elderly mother, who was in New York, to live with him in Clarksburg. After all, it would be no problem for him to hire caretakers for her, and this way, she could enjoy being with her family every day.
But Rabbi,, as you know, when the Moshiach will come, he will raise up the dead and bring them all to Eretz Yisroel.
My mother is worried- the Moshiach will never find Clarksburg!

1 Intro- Micro as Window on the Macro


Chapter 1
Micro as Window on the Macro

All Jewish thought begins with a question. Here is my question.
Why write about one family?
After all, there are 6 billion plus individuals, surely at least a billion families. Why write about Jews, who numerically are a statistical margin of error in a population census.
The Micro sheds light on the macro. One Jewish family highlights the story of the Jews and the Jews highlight the story of the human family. As the adage goes, Jews are like everyone else, only more so.
I am impelled to this primarily because of the story of my parents. My father, Rabbi William Weinberg, survived Nazi jail and Soviet exile. My mother, Irene Weinberg, survived Nazi head-hunters in the guise of an Aryan. They worked with the “ She’erith Hapletah”, the surviving remnants of the Holocaust who rebuilt their lives on the ashes of dead Europe and set off for the
wonders of America, or for the new dream of a State of Israel. They both lived to see the blessing of the Psalms,” They shall see the children of their children.”
 .  . .

Friday, July 2, 2010

Senator Robert Byrd, The Six Day War, and The Jews of West Virginia

        What did the Rabbi's son share in common with the Preachers daughter?
        Answer: They both kept Shabbat.
        I introduce my comments on events in West Virginia of some forty plus years ago,with this curio because West Virginia, like the late Senator, was, when I lived there as a teenager, a state of unusual contradictions, as unusual as the idea of Jews in West Virginia.
    Yes,Virginia, there are Jews in West Virginia, and they, together with Senator Byrd, played a significant role in 1967 during the Six-Day War to bolster vital support for Israel from the United States.
        My father served as Rabbi to the Jewish community in a small city in the center of the State( Clarksburg), which had been the home town of a former Vice-Presidential candidate.
        There were aspects of the state that we associate with hillbillies or the old South.
        When I went on hikes in the countryside, I could see farmers still plowing their forty acres with a mule. A devout Christian  woman from a small neighboring town who read the Bible literally and  would come to the synagogue on Jewish holidays bearing first fruits from her garden. It was a land marked by coal mines that till today devour those who work them.
        The KKK at one time had a strong appeal, and even the late Senator had his start in their nefarious ranks.It took him a long time to break with old segregationist attitudes ( he tried to blockt he passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and in 1967, opposed Thurgood Marshall's appointment to the Supreme Court , for example).
        There was a different West Virginia ,as well, and Senator Byrd was aware of it.
        The Jewish communities were doing well, and in Clarksburg, the local Jews were active in civic affairs. I personally never experienced any anti-Semitism, joined the local DeMolay (a kind of junior Masons) because the club-house was next door to the synagogue, and hung around at the local YMCA (yes, Christian, not Hebrew) with the rest. 
        Mother's Day was an innovation of a church in neighboring Grafton, and my father, as Rabbi, delivered a Sunday sermon on Mother's Day.
       When the Principal of the High School blocked the celection of a black student as a cheerleader, the students made him back down. When Kennedy, a Catholic, ran for the Democratic nomination in 1960. the people of West Virginia, a heavily devoutly Protestant state, gave him the win, a fact which led to his nomination and then Presidency-- if a Catholic could win West Virginia, he could, and did, win America.
        You couldn't even escape the Beatles craze--I had the first Beatles collarless jacket in town.
        As for the Rabbi's son and the Preacher's daughter, the two of us would commiserate that we missed out on so many activities that our less religious co-religionists would attend on Friday evenings. Her father was a Minister of the Seventh-Day Baptist ( not Adventist) denomination, similar in all other ways to Baptists except that they insisted on observing the Seventh Day( Shabbat), not the the First Day.
        Another Shabbat observer was Senator Byrd's colleague, the other Senator from West Virginia, who some forty years before Senator Lieberman, was the only Shabbat-observing Senator.No,not his contemporary , Senator Javitz of New York, but Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia.This was a factoid that I discovered during the Six Day War.
    Recall that in May of 1967, Nasser closed blocked the access to the Straits of Tiran, ordered the UN forces out of the Sinai ( they politely obliged him), and massed tanks and troops in the Sinai. In Israel, mass graves were being readied for the casualities of war.My father reported to me the words of Vice-President Hubert Humphrey at the convention of the Rabbinical Assembly that the United States of America would protect Israel.No assistance came forth..
    In June, the fighting broke out; the people of Israel scambled their  jets and American Jewry scrambled as well- to demonstrate support for Israel.
    The Jews of West Virginia, as from the rest of the country, sent delegations from the various communities; we were joined by noted journalist and the biographer of Ben Gurion, Robert St. John. At the time, I was home on vacation from NYU, and I was selected to join the delegation. We flew out of the small airport on one of the last of the DC-3s to still be flying.( Did I say it was a small airport?)
        In Washington, we met with our Senators and Congressmen. Senator assured us of his sympathies and made mention of his being the only Sabbath-keeper in the Senate.
        It was Senator Byrd, however, who made the great impression on us.
        Senator Byrd was leveraging his long-career in the Senate ( since the early fifties) to move up in the ranks. By 1967. he became the Secretary of the Democratic Majority and he was a close friend of President Johnson.
        Ten years earlier, he told us, when the first Suez Campaign broke out in 1957, he had been a vocal opponent of Israel's actions, as had President Eisenhouer and Secretary of State Dulles. At that time, he was sure that Israel was in the wrong to go into the Sinai.
        This time, all was different.
        He had studied the documents and treaties regarding the rights to the use of the Suez Canal and access to Eilat through the Straits of Tiran. Egypt, this time, was the aggressor and the closures were clearly causus belli. Israel was acting in self defense.
        Furthermore, the next morning, he declared, he would introduce a major appropriations bill on the floor of the Senate for immediate funding and arms for Israel. Indeed, that is what happened next. Appropriations were issued and President Johnson met with his Soviet counterpart as Glasboro state college. The US replaced France as Israel's great ally. The rest is history.
            Did we, the tiny Jewish community of West Virginia, cause this change of heart? I would love to take the credit, but more probably, it was Senator Byrd, who looked to the changing landscape of America, and saw his future in the new direction of America-- Israel as an ally and an America open to all races and creed. This was a major shift for a master politician who know how to move ahead..He became the longest serving member of the United State and the most powerful Senator as Majority leader and as President Pro Tempore, third in line of succession to the White House.