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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Avraham Reich’
Last week I wrote about Rabbi Avraham Reich, a decendent of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow. Rabbi Reich represents the chassidic side of Rymanow. While most of the Jews in Rymanow were chassidic, not all were. The community was officially organized in the 15th century, 300 years before the advent of chassidut.
During the 16th century, most the town’s Jews became known as sellers of wine from Hungary. The selling of wine to non-Jews became the topic of debate with the Vaad Arbaah Artzot, (Council of the Four Lands). The Council was concerned about Jews selling wine to people using it for religious purposes such as Mass. At first the council intended to entirely forbid the Jews to deal in such wine, but since it was their main occupation, a decision was made by Meir ben Gedaliah of Lublin to issue only a warning.
Due to the small size of Rymanow, many of the Jews had to sell their wares in nearby Krasno. Krasno, though, had a law banning Jews. In the 17th and 18th centuries the municipality of Krasno allowed its townsmen to rob and even put to death any Jew from Rymanow who attended the fair at Krasno.
The sale also caused difficulties with the bishop of Przemysl, who brought the Jews of Rymanow to court in the 17th century supposedly for profaning the Christian holidays.
There is no record of exactly when the synagogue, located at the corner of Bieleckiego Street, was built, but it and the house reserved for the residing rebbe were said to be the finest in the town.
In the late 19th century, the Zionist movement gained a foothold in Rymanow, and some Jews immigrated to the land of Israel. Due to the economic situation after World War I, many Jews from Rymanow immigrated to the U.S. The Rymanower Young Mens Benevolent Society owned two Landsmanshaft plots in the New York City area. They are listed on the New York Jewish Genealogical website. The plots are located at Mt. Hebron (path 32, gate 2) and Mt. Zion (Block 75, path 1).
The Stanton Street synagogue on the Lower East Side was officially known as Congregation Anschei Brzezan, but records show that the Bluzhower-Rymanow society paid “rent” for decades to join in the services, and that the relationship was never terminated. It is not known if any members today trace their roots back to Rymanow. Rabbi Reich’s synagogue in Boro Park is the only synagogue named after Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow.
A man in Poland, Michael Lorenc, is interested in forming a society to preserve the Jewish heritage of Rymanow. In July 2005 he held a two-day festival in Rymanow with movies, concerts and exhibitions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the Ukraine was the birth place of the Chassidic movement, Poland and especially the Galicia area soon became the hub for most Chassidic activity after only two generations. Many of the renowned early Chassidic Masters were travelers until Rebbe Elimelech of Lejask settled down in one place and became known as the Rebbe of Lejask. His students also took up residence in specific towns, connecting each branch of Chasidism to a specific locale. Today there is no Chassidic leader who is not affiliated with the name of a shtetl even if there has been no connection to the town since the Shoah.
Recently there has been a movement to return to the ancestral home of the Chassidic movements to recover and restore any sign of their heritage that had been left behind. Many cemeteries have been restored and Ohalim, burial chambers, of important Rebbes have been rebuilt, and pilgrimages have been made to the sites on important dates, such as yahrtzeits.
Last week I had the privlage to sit down and talk with Rabbi Avraham Reich, Rabbi of Cong. Menachem Zion Yotzei Russia in Boro Park Brooklyn. Rabbi Reich is a seventh-generation direct descendent of the legendary Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow. During our conversation that engendered enough material for numerous articles, Rabbi Reich told me of the state of affairs in his ancestral home town of Rymanow.
Rabbi Avraham Reich of Rymanow
The cemetery has been mostly cleaned up, and the Ohalim had be rededicated thanks to many individuals such as Rabbi Mendel Reichberg who has done much work throughout Poland. But the former synagogue was in a sorry state of affairs. There are many pictures taken where there were trees growing out of the central section of the synagogue, with only the outer walls remaining.
Rabbi Reich said that he had always had an interest in the town due to his family history, but he was moved to action by the reminiscences of a Mr. Yosef Margolis who was born in Rymanow and came to talk to the rabbi of his childhood memories. There was a custom that people coming to Rymanow to commemorate the yahrtziet of Rabbi Menachem Mendel would stay overnight in the town. Mr. Margolis told of how on the 19 Iyar of each year thousands of people would come to Rymanow. There would be no room left for all the people who wanted to sleep in the town, and people would wind up sleeping on rooftops or even in the streets. Mr. Margolis explained that the reason for this mass pilgrimage was that it was said that miraculous cures would occur to people in need, who would spend the night in the town after commemorating the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit.
Mr. Margolis related how he himselfs was an eyewitness to a cure. There was a man who came to Rymanow as a cripple and after sleeping overnight, in the town he went home without the use of his wheelchair.
Rabbi Reich had of course heard all the stories before, but this was the first time he had heard a story first-hand from an actual eyewitness.
He decided to do whatever possible to recreate the custom. He started the process of reclaiming the ancient synagogue in Rymanow. In 2003, Poland passed a law enabling Jewish communities to reclaim communal property including synagogues, giving Rabbi Reich the opportunity to begin to realize his dream, and work began to renovate the synagogue.
Actual records for the synagogue building say it is older, but the earliest known date for the building is 1593. During the renovations workers came across two stones that geologically did not match those of the area or those of the other stones used in the construction of the synagogue. Rabbi Reich excitedly explained that according to family tradition there were stones from the Beit Hamikdash, incorporated into the building of the synagogue. “These stones,” Rabbi Reich explained, “look like the easily recognizable, Jerusalem stone that we are familiar with today.”
The stones were re-incorporated into the building of the synagogue in a section where a mikveh is being built.
The tradition of pilgrimages is also being re-established. This past year there were over 200 Jews from around the world. They came from Israel, the U.S., England, Belgium Switzerland France.
A highlight of this year’s trip was a Bar Mitzvah celebration of a young man whose birthday coincides with the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe. It was the first Bar Mitzvah celebrated in Rymanow since the Shoah.
Rabbi Reich can be contacted at 718-851-8954.