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[Pages 166-170]

Rozavlea

(Rozavlea, Romania)

47°44' 24°13'

Romanian: Rozavlea
Hungarian: Rozália

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

This is a village about 35 kilometers southeast of the district city of Sziget. All of its residents were Romanians.

Jewish Population

YearPopulationPercentage
of Jews in the
General
Population
18301,12010.0
191077528.0
192077827.6
193072322.7
194173721.2

 

The Beginning of the Jewish Settlement

The first Jews settled in Rozavlea at the beginning of the 18th century. In the census of Jews from 1728, one Jew named Eliahu Sicar (Elias Sicar) was mentioned there, who was apparently a widower, and very poor. The list notes that the Jew was behind in his payments of fees and taxes. He was a peddler. It seems that he only lived there for a brief period. No Jews were mentioned in Rozavlea in the census of 1735. In the census of 1746, one Jew is again mentioned in the village, but that census did not list the names of the Jews or their occupations.

In the census of 1768, two Jews were listed in Rozavlea: a) Marcus Markovitch, married without children. He was occupied in liquor distilling, apparently on a large scale, since he paid a significant lease fee of 120 florins annually. Apparently, he was a wealthy Jew. b) Lozer Leib, married and the father of two children. He was also a liquor distiller, but on a restricted scale. He paid only 20 florins of lease fees annually. All of these Jews had come from Galicia.

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In the census of 1830, the following heads of families are listed in Rozavlea (number of individuals in parentheses):

David Perl (8), Simon Shimon Sabo (3), Yosef Shlomovitch (6), Liber (7), Leib Perl (2), Leib Sabo (3), Leib Fried (2), Hirsch Fogel (5), Naftali Yitzchak (5), Meir Shlomovitch (7), Avraham Gefler (8), Hirsch Kaufman (6), Avraham Fried (4), Leibush Shlomovitch (7), Shimon Kaufman (8), Yaakov Tessler (4), Israel Shiminovitch (6), Shlomo Shlomovitch (3), Hirsch Lazarus (3), Israel Shapira (3), Marco Fishman (6), Israel Sabo (5), Yitzchak Lerner (6), Moshe Sabo (4), Leib Fried (6), Avraham (4), Marco Shlomovitch (2), Nechemia Shechter (6), Lozer Hirsch Weiss (3), Pinchas Mendel (10), Shmuel Weider (5), Yitzchak Sabo (4), Avraham Berkovitch (3), Leib Weider (9), the widow of Marci Weider (3).

 

Torah Life

Rabbis

Rozavlea had a rabbi at a relatively early time. The first rabbi was Rabbi Yitzchak Menachem Kizalnik, who was born in the village of Rina, and was the son-in-law of Rabbi Shmuel Chasid of Rozavlea, the dear student of Rabi Menachem As”h of Ungvar (Uzghorod). He served in the rabbinate of Rozavlea for about 50 years. He was already serving as the rabbi in the year 5628 / 1868. He is mentioned as one of the signatories of the book Kisei Rachamim [Seat of Mercy], Ungvar, 1868. He had many students, including scholars who served in the rabbinical court. He died at a ripe old age on 20 Kislev 5676 (1915). We can surmise that he authored books, but they remained in manuscript form and were not published. We do not even find mention of him in the responsa books of the sages of his generation, except for one responsum:

Responsa Sheeilat Shalom second edition, paragraph 26: … Regarding the question that was given to me when he was here [Botosani], which his renowned son, may his light shine, did not come to remind me of the issue, and due to great distress… the matter was forgotten from my heart. This week, his son, may his light shine, came and reminded me… Regarding a question that arose in a certain settlement with an ox that broke his leg below the knee in a place that does not render it non-kosher… The shochet slaughtered it and checked the lung and all internal organs, and found everything intact, so he sent the matter to one rabbi who certified it as kosher. The second shochet complained about him that he was causing Jewish people to eat non-kosher. His Honor expressed his opinion on this and asked that I instruct him… The matter is straightforward that there is no cause for suspicion… and the words of the person who complained are null and void…

After the death of Rabbi Yitzchak Menachem Kizalnik, his son Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Kizalnik was chosen to take his place. He accepted the appointment, but remained in the village of Ruscova, where he served as a rabbinical judge. He died around 5685 (1925). None of his books were published. We do not find mention of him in the responsa books of the rabbis of his generation.

Since Rabbi Shmelke Kizalnik did not want to move to Rozavlea, the community chose another rabbi. The chosen rabbi was Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Yaakov Gotlieb (Reb Yankel). He was born in 5636 (1876). He studied Torah in the Yeshiva of Khust under Rabbi Yoel Tzvi Roth, the author of Beit Hayotzer, and under Rabbi Moshe Greenwald the author of Arugat Habosem. His primary rabbi for both the revealed Torah and the hidden Torah [i.e. Kabbalah] was the well-known Admor Rabbi Yosef Meir Weiss of Spinka, the author of Imre Yosef. He was attached to Spinka Hassidism throughout his life. Before Rozavlea, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Yaakov Gottlieb served as the rabbinical judge in Borşa for six years, and in Oberwischau [Viseu de Sus] for 14 years. He lived in Rozavlea for about three years, from 5683-5686 (1923-1926). During the final ten years of his life, he served as the rabbi of the Hassidic community of Miskolc, Hungary where he died on 8 Tammuz 5696 (1936).

mar187.jpg Rabbi Yaakov (Yokel) Gottlieb
Rabbi Yaakov (Yokel) Gottlieb

 

RACHM'Y [R'Chaim Mordechai Yakov] Gottlieb was a fruitful author. To this point, ten large volumes of his works have been published; all under the name of Yagel Yaakov, on halacha, exegesis, and Hassidism (see a list of his books in the article on Oberwischau). Approximately two responsa were published to him in responsa books, but none of them were sent to him in Rozavlea (for the list of responsa, see the articles on Borşa and Oberwischau). Several responsa in his Yagel Yaakov responsa book were written in Rozavlea (for example, Even Haezer paragraph 30 from 5684 / 1924; Choshen Mishpat paragraph 21 from 5685 / 1925). In Rozavlea, RACHM'Y Gottlieb signed a verdict on a complex Torah adjudication dealing with the large estate left behind by the late Avraham Gutman (the son of Reb Asher Anshel Gutman of Palien-Ruscova), who died childless in Wischau on 2 Nissan 5681 / 1921, and his brother-in-law Zeev Gutman demanded a portion of his brother's property. The verdict was signed in Rozavlea on the eve of the Sabbath of Vayeitzei 5684 / 1923. Aside from RACHM'Y Gottlieb, Rabbi David Sperber the head of the rabbinical court of Rashov and Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Widman the head of the rabbinical of Masif signed the verdict.

The last rabbi of Rozavlea was Rabbi Moshe the son of Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Kizalnik, who perished in the Holocaust. Before that, Rabbi Moshe Kizalnik was a rabbi in Str?mtura.

The community of Rozavlea also maintained a rabbinical judge, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Fogel the son of Rabbi Avraham Moshe Fogel, who was a shochet in Ruscova. He was the son of Reb Zindel Fogel, the rabbi of Oberwischau. Rabbi Michel Fogel was

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the son-in-law of Rabbi Mordechai Gertner. He was born in Ruscova in the year 5639 (1879). He settled in Rozavlea in 5657 (1897). He received ordination from the Gaon the MAHARSHA'M of Berezhany, the RI'M Kizalnik, as well as the Admor of Ottynia. He lived in the court of the Admor for about two years in order to prepare one of his grandchildren for the rabbinate. He had a phenomenal memory, and was a great expert in Choshen Mishpat. People would come to him for Torah adjudications even from other places. Even the gentiles preferred to bring their disputes to Reb Michel the judge. He was very charitable, performed the commandment of “tithe” [setting aside a tenth of his earnings for charity], and even maintaining ledgers regarding such. Reb Yechiel Michel Fogel died on 14 Shevat 5695 / 1935. His son Reb Alter Yitzchak Leib Fogel is a G-d fearing scholar who lives in Bnei Brak, and his younger son Dov Fogel (Tzipori) made aliya in 1935, and was a teacher in the religious sector of Mikve Israel until he retired.

mar168a.jpg Rabbi Yechiel Michel Fogel, rabbinical judge and rabbi
Rabbi Yechiel Michel Fogel,
rabbinical judge and rabbi

 

A responsa to Rabbi Yechiel Michel Fogel:
Responsa Maharsha'm section I, paragraph 137: … Regarding a case where two eggs were cooked in a frying pan. Both were removed simultaneously, and then a blood spot was found in one egg…

One of the young scholars in Rozavlea was Reb Naftali Herzl Weiss the son of Reb Leib Weiss, a native of Tetsh [Tiachiv], the son-in-law of Reb Yaakov Tzvi Gertner. He participated in several Torah periodicals with sharp novel ideas on Torah that caught the attention of rabbis and scholars. For example, in the booklet Aseifat Chachamim, Year I (5670 / 1900), Menachem Av paragraph 58, the editor notes as follows: Regarding the question… that was written by my dear friend, the young genius, strong in Torah, Rabbi Naftali Herzl Weiss of Rozavlea… After the First World War, Rabbi Herzl Weiss was chosen as the rabbinical judge of Vilkovtsy (see entry) in Czechoslovakian Maramures. He was deported to Galicia in 1941 where he was murdered.

During the years that he lived in Rozavlea, the following responsa were written to Rabbi Herzl Weiss:

Responsa Pri Hasadeh section III paragraph 166 (5671 / 1911): … Regarding the fact that there are butchers who sell the blood, whether there is no suspicion of the prohibition of doing business [in a forbidden product]…

Responsa Dudaei Hasadeh paragraph 54 (5672 / 1912): Regarding the question of someone who died, and was taken out for burial on Friday afternoon a long time before night. His sons went to the burial, and his wife and children remained at home. Since it was a cloudy day, they thought that it was time to light candles, and the women lit the Sabbath candles. After that, the men came home from the cemetery, and carried out the mourning procedures for about a quarter of an hour. The women also sat on the floor. Now the honorable asker, may his light shine, is unsure whether Friday counts for women toward the seven days [Shiva] since they did not start to conduct the mourning procedures until after they lit the candles and accepted the Sabbath…

 

Organization of the Community, its Institutions and Personalities

Nobody knows today when the community began to organize. It is almost certain that a regular minyan already existed in Rozavlea at the end of the 18th century. The first synagogue, constructed of wood, was probably built at the beginning of the 19th century, for in the census of 1830, it is noted that the Jews had their own synagogue. Even before this, a ritual bath [mikva] was built, a cemetery was opened, and the Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society] was founded.

A new synagogue was built at the end of the 1830s. Aside from it, there was also the Poale Tzedek Beis Midrash and the private house of worship of Reb Moshe Eliahu Perl. The vast majority of the Jews of Rozavlea were Hassidim of Visznitz-Borşa-Ottynia. The minority were Hassidim of Spinka and others.

mar168b.jpg The gravestone of Reb Shmuel Eliahu Stern
The gravestone of Reb Shmuel Eliahu Stern

 

Several of the Jews of Rozavlea were excelling personalities who were also known outside their area, such as Reb Shmuel Eliahu (the son of Reb Tzvi) Stern. He was an expert scholar, who studied in great depth to the point that the rabbi of Slotpina, one of the geniuses of the country, expressed his great astonishment

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at the exceptional phenomenon that a busy lay Jew who was a successful businessman was able to study in depth just like one of the great, expert Torah giants. He was a confidante of the elder Admor, the author of Ahavat Israel of Visznitz. In the year 5686 / 1926, when the Admor married his last wife, he sent Reb Shmuel to her in the city of Lublin with the power to bring the matter to a successful conclusion if he saw it appropriate. When the issue arose in the town of Borşa (see entry) regarding the appointment of Rabbi Alter Menachem Hager as the rabbi of the community, and many of the local Jews objected to this, they turned to the Orthodox office and the rabbi of the city of Bistriţa who was the head of the office. The rabbi of Bistriţa turned to Reb Shmuel Eliyahu and asked that he travel to Borşa to investigate the situation, report to him, and also express his own opinion. He succeeded in mediating between the sides, and the rabbi was well accepted. In 1920, when the law of agrarian reform was passed in Romania, the estate owners in Maramures asked Reb Shmuel Eliyahu to travel to Bucharest to seek advice of how to mitigate the situation. He remained there for a few months, and with the assistance of the Chief Rabbi Dr. Nemirower (who was also a member of the Romanian Senate), he succeeded in making contact with the Romanian minister of agriculture, who advised him about what to do so that the law would not cause excessive damage. He died at the age of 54 on 7 Elul 5688 (1928).

His brother Reb Simcha Aryeh Stern was also a scholar and a Hassid, who served as the head of the community for several years. He was the son-in-law of the Gaon Rabbi Shmelke Gintzler, the head of the rabbinical court of Oberwischau and the author of Meshiv Nefesh. Reb Simcha Aryeh died on 25 Sivan 5693 (1933).

Reb Moshe Eliahu Perl was one of the honorable and wealthy men of the community. He was a large-scale contractor for cutting forests. He was a Hassid of Rabbi Chaim of Ottynia. The rabbi would visit Rozavlea for Sabbaths and stay in his house. During the First World War, the rabbi escaped from Galicia to the home of Reb Moshe Eliahu Perl, and also remained there for the High Holy Days. He built a special “sălaş” [dwelling] as a large house of worship for the Hassidim who came to spend time with the Rebbe of Ottynia. He generously supported the Rebbe's household. Once, when Rebbe Chaim was in some difficulty, Reb Moshe Eliahu gave him a large sum. The Rebbe gave him a letter in which he assured him of his place in the World to Come. The content of the latter of the Rebbe spread throughout Maramures, and became the topic of the day. The following is the content of the letter:

18th according to the Jewish calendar

The truth is to be written, since Reb Moshe Eliahu the son of Reb Nachum performed a great and sublime mitzvah, of which nothing is greater, I therefore promise him with a firm and sublime promise that he will merit the life of the World To Come, and no accuser will be able to disturb him from his rest and well-being. The merit of this mater will speedily light up his candle to the point where even something improper will be turned in to a merit, in accordance with that which is known about the greatness of performing a mitzvah with dedication. G-d willing, I will work for his good with all my energy in this world and the next.

I will also awaken for him the merit of my holy forbears, who will also stand as positive intercessors for him. There is even a better matter that I cannot write. In general, it will be good for him in this world and the next.

I have signed this on the eve of the Sabbath of the Torah Portion of “and I will walk uprightly with you.”[1]

Chaim the son of Rabbi Baruch of holy blessed memory.

Reb Moshe Stern, the brother of the aforementioned Reb Shmuel Eliahu Stern was a son-in-law of his uncle Simcha Aryeh Stern. He was a communal activist whose influence reached beyond his village. He headed the community for many years and was a member of the village and district councils. He was sharp and diligent, with an independent intellect. He was fluent in all the languages of the area. His house was open to anyone in need, and anyone in suffering would come to his door. After the First World War, when he was still a young man, he worked a great deal on behalf of the widows and orphans who were bereft of their breadwinner. With the assistance of the JOINT office of Sziget, he arranged for them financial support and constructive assistance in the study of professions, etc. He exercised his influence in 1932-1933 so that several of the war orphans would make aliya with the help of certificates that the Jews of Maramures received from the organization of farmers of the Land of Israel. He was able to have the children be registered as family members of those who were making aliya. All of them settled successfully and established families. During the Second World War, Reb Moshe Stern did a great deal to arrange certificates of Hungarian citizenship for most of the Jews of Rozavlea, and therefore saved them from the threat of deportation to Galicia. To accomplish this, he remained in constant contact with the office of legal assistance for the Jews of Hungary (Magyar Izraeliták Pártfogó Irodája) in Budapest. He strengthened the spirits and instilled hope and support even in the Auschwitz Death Camp, so that they would not give up hope for the approaching salvation. He himself maintained his stand until a few days before the liberation, when he died of hunger.

{Photocopy page 169: A photocopy of the letter of the Rabbi and Tzadik of Ottynia of holy blessed memory to Reb Moshe Eliahu Perl.}

The Jews of Rozavlea earned their livelihood with difficulty and in a meager fashion. Next to several wealthy Jews who owned estates and forests; next to several well-off Jews who were merchants and middlemen of grain, fruit and cattle the vast majority of the Jews of Rozavlea lived by the work of their hands: agricultural work in small farms in order to provide for the household needs, small-scale business in grocery stores, haberdashery, and clothing for farmers, wearisome work as tradesmen, such as tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, wagon drivers, and the like.

From the year 5628 (1868) until the end of the 19th century, the communal notables and administrators were: Reb Hirsch Stern, Reb Yaakov Mendel Steinmetz,

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Reb Mordechai Tzvi Weider, Reb Shlomo the son of Reb Yaakov Mendel Steinmetz, Reb Yaakov Shochet, Reb Avraham Tessler, Reb Mordechai Gertner who at times served as the communal head, Reb Yitzchak Baumgarten, Reb Zundel Koenig, Reb David Shmuel Wortzel, Reb Shmuel Doblinger, Reb Chaim Fried who was the head of the Chevra Mishnayos, Reb Moshe Hirsch Segal, Reb Yoel Leib Schreiber, Reb Moshe Simcha Kahana, Reb Meir Kizalnik.

From the beginning of the century until the First World War, the communal notables and administrators were: Reb Simcha Leib Stern (the son of Reb Hirsch), Reb Shmuel Elia Stern (the son of Reb Hirsch), Reb Moshe Eliyahu Perl, Reb Yitzchak Gertner (the son of Reb Mordechai), Reb Yosef Mordechai Weider, Reb Moshe Engelman, Reb Yaakov Tzvi Gertner, Reb Menachem Fishman, Reb Eliezer Perl (the son of Reb Moshe Eliyahu), Reb Yitzchak Einhorn.

The Jews of Rozavlea earned their livelihood in a more or less honorable fashion until the First World War. The Jewish community of the village increased until this time, which was a sign of constant, albeit modest, ascent. The Jews of Rozavlea reached their pinnacle at the end of the First World War. From that time onward, their numbers modestly decreased. The problems with livelihood and employment grew stronger under Romanian rule. The Jews began to leave the place and settle throughout the country. Some of them emigrated overseas, from where they would send financial support to their families as well as for the needs of the community.

It is appropriate to mention the Evich family. Several members of this family were dwarfs. They formed a special troupe that performed throughout the country, and also outside of it, with great success. Even those members of the family of normal heights excelled as stage actors.

 

The Holocaust

When the Hungarians entered northern Transylvania, the situation of the Jews of Rozavlea noticeably worsened. Of course, the general, country-wide decrees applied to them as well, but the matters had a sharper edge there because of the enthusiasm of the villagers and the gendarmes to carry them out with exceptional cruelty. The Romanian priest especially excelled in anti-Semitic incitement. In the summer of 1943, several tens of students arrived in the village from Sziget, and added their share to the incitement of the farmers against the Jews. They took a direct and active role in various acts of oppression against the Jews of the village. The students were exchanged due to the intervention of Reb Israel Tabak, one of the town notables and a great scholar.

On Saturday, the last day of Passover 5704 (April 15, 1944), all of the Jews of Rozavlea were gathered in the synagogue and the synagogue courtyard. For several hours, they suffered from the cruel torments of the gendarmes and their assistants, who beat the Jews indiscriminately and mercilessly. They beat those Jews who were suspected of hiding money and valuables especially harshly.

After several days, the Jews of Rozavlea were transferred to the Dragomireşti Ghetto. The men walked the 12 kilometers on foot, whereas the elderly, women and children were transported by wagons.

On May 15, all of the Jews were transferred from the Dragomireşti Ghetto to the Unterwischau [Vişeu de Jos] railway station. This transport as well, a distance of 25 kilometers over the steep mountains of the northern Carpathians, was fraught with many tribulations and victims. The first victim of this transport was Reb Leizer the son of Reb Chaim Stein of Rozavlea. He was a straightforward and very upright Jew and a fearer of G-d. He and his wife excelled in tending to guests in an exceptional fashion, even though Reb Leizer himself was a poor man who earned his livelihood with difficulty by the toil of his hands. When he lived in the Dragomireşti Ghetto, he accepted the judgment with his typical straightforward fashion, and even was a source of encouragement for his neighbors. However, his spirit broke during the march to Unterwischau. He suddenly shouted, “Master of the World, I cannot take any more!” He lay down on the route and gave up his soul. Reb Leizer was given a Jewish burial in the cemetery of the village of Kechnia [Cucha].

Approximately 40 Holocaust survivors returned to Rozavlea after the war, but they left the place after a brief period, with most of them making aliya to Israel.

Today, there are no Jews in Rozavlea.

 

Bibliography

An interview with a native of the village.
Greenwald, Yekutiel Yehuda: Holy Monument, Section I: Sziget and Maramures District, New York, 5712 / 1952, page 26.
Taubsz, Reb Shalom: Responsa Sheeilat Shalom, Second edition, Lemberg 5645 / 1885, paragraph 26.
Deutsch, Reb Eliezer: Responsa Pri Hasadeh, Section III, Pecs, 5673 / 1913, paragraph 166.
Ibid.: Responsa Dudaei Hasadeh, Seini, 5689 / 1929, paragraph 54.
Schwadron, Reb Shalom Mordechai HaKohen: Responsa Maharsha”m, Section I, Warsaw 5662 / 1902, paragraph 137.
Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, Budapest, vol. VII, 1963, pp. 136, 458; vol. XVI, 1976, p. 100.
Magyar-Zsidi Lexikon, Budapest 1929, p. 1005.

 

Translator's Footnote:
  1. This is following a flowery literary style of identifying a Torah portion by one of its verses. This would be the Torah Portion of Bechukotai. Return

 

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