Religious Leaders of Zolynia

Rabbi Chart

A segment of one rabbinic family of great stature within some circles of Hasidic Jewry, and their relationship to Zolynia. The Leifers were connected by marriage to other prominent families in Poland and Eastern Europe.


Rabbis and Rebbes of Zolynia

Rabbi Chaim Halbershtam was born in Tarnograd in 1793. His first Hasidic Rabbi was Yossel Halewi, the famous "Seer of Lublin," and by the age of 18 he was appointed Rabbi in the village of Rudnik, about 20 miles (32 km) north and west of Zolynia. In 1828, he was invited to become more tzaddik or "righteous teacher" in the large town of Nowy Sacz, located between Rzeszow and Krakow, called Sandz in Yiddish. The town already had an official rabbi, Moshe Dawid Landau (see the reference to the Landau family below). Instead, Rabbi Halbershtam became the official rabbi in Zolynia. He stayed only a short time. He would become the official rabbi in Nowy Sacz (the Yiddish name is Sanz) and served there for 46 years until his death in 1876). Known as Rabbi Haimel the Sanzer, he founded the Sanz Dynasty of Hasidic rebbes. Considered by many to be the leader of Hassidism in Galicia, he was a strong conservative force; for example, he opposed all formal education for the masses, including Jewish education. His grave in Nowy Sacz is a pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews. His seven sons were also rabbis, and founded at least five offshoot dynasties.

Rabbinical chronicles state that the Zolynia Jewish community had stopped growing in the early 19th century, overshadowed in particular by the thriving, larger towns of Lancut and Przeworsk. A report states that there was a rabbi serving in Zolynia in 1830, but the congregation was "unable to fund his service." He continued to serve without a fixed salary. The next Zholiner rabbi we know of was the Grand Rabbi of Zholin-Lantzut, Yosef Moshe Teicher.

Rabbi Yosef Moshe Teicher was the son, grandson, great-grandson, great-great-grandson, great-great-great-grandson and great-great-great-great-grandson of respected rabbis (his father was Rabbi Gershon of Ulanov and his grandfather was Rabbi Eliezer of Drohobycz). An acclaimed Torah scholar, he was a rabbi in Czudec, just outside of Rzeszow, for about ten years before becoming Grand Rabbi of Zolynia in 1848. Rebbe Yosef Moshe served in Zolynia until 1860, when he became the head of the rabbical court in the city of Przemysl. Author of Imrei Yosef and considered an important Hasidic Tzaddik, he died in 1887.

Rebbe Teicher's place in Zolynia was taken by his son-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Ende. It is known that his daughter, Beila, married Zwi-Hirsch Konigsberg and they lived in Zolynia until at least 1895.

About 1867, Rebbe Moshe Landau was Zolynia's Rabbi. He was part of the rabbinical Landau family of Lezajsk.

By 1880, Rebbe Avraham Yosef Igra (sometimes spelled "Eigra") settled in Zolynia. Hundreds of his followers visited him and some stayed in Zolynia, helping to revitalize and grow the Jewish community there. The "Rebbe of Zholin" was the son-in-law of Rebbe Mordecai Leifer of Nadvorna (see the chart above). The Leifer name is sometimes transliterated as "Laufer." His wife, Chaya Leifer, was a respected Rebetzin. Rebbe Avraham Yosef wrote the book Toldos Avraham Yosef, a major Hasidic work. A rabbinical chronicle says that "he was known to fast from one Sabbath to the next" and "would distribute all his money to the poor." After a few years, the Tsaddik and most of his followers moved to the city of Kishinev in present-day Moldava, and he died in Cracow in 1916.

Rebbe Avraham Yosef Igra's position in Zolynia was taken by his brother-in-law, Rebbe Aharon Moshe Leifer (see the chart above), son of the famous Rebbe Mordecai of Nadvorna. Aharon Moshe was the son-in-law of a well-known rebbe in the nearby city of Rzeszow. He moved to Lancut and is considered part of the Lancut Dynasty of Hasidic rebbes that existed before the Second World War. Every year, followers visit his grave in Lancut. His son, Rabbi Avraham Mendel Leifer was another well-known rebbe in Kolomiya, Ukraine. A son-in-law was Yaakov Yisachar Ber Rosenbaum, the Grand Rabbi of Slotvina Sighet, whose three sons became Grand Rabbis there, including one who married the daughter of Yakov Leifer of Nadvorna and Debrecen (see chart above).

When Aharon Moshe moved to Lancut, he was followed in Zolynia by at least three more rabbis of the Nadvorna dynasty: Rebbe Yisachar Ber Leifer (grand-nephew of Aharon Moshe), Rabbi Chaim Naftali and Rabbi Yoel Heller. Chronicles note that in the 1890s, Reb Yaakov Cohen was a rabbinical scholar serving under the Chief Rabbi of Zolynia. Details about exact years served are not known at this time.

Early in the 20th century, Rabbi Naftali Chaim Horwitz, the son of the distinguished Rabbi Meir of Dzikow (28 miles or 46 km east of Zolynia), became the official rabbi of Zolynia. At least two of his grandchildren became Admorim (honored rebbes) In Rzeszow, where local Jews sometimes referred to them as the "Zoliner Kinder." During the 1910s, the Zoliner Kinder left Galicia to settle in Palestine.

By 1912, Eli Horwitz (sometimes transliterated as "Horvitz") became rabbi in Zolynia. There were several fondly-remembered rabbis of the Horwitz family in Lancut during the 19th century. He was succeeded by Manashe Horwitz. In 1936, Aron Kornreich became the last rabbi of Zolynia.

Leaders of the Zolynia Kahal

Polish researcher Andrzej Potocki recently found the names of some of the chairmen of the Zolynia Kahal, the governing council of the Jewish congregation. In 1867, it was Mendel Goldman, followed by Mozes Katz, Ozjasz Stempel and Rubin Hauser. The last head of the Kahal in the 1930s was Zolta Ireiczman. At that time the Kehilla was legally no longer an official public agency, but more of a private corporation owned by Jewish residents.


Rabbi headstone

This partial headstone, photographed by Gedalia Fensterheim of Israel, hangs on display at the Jewish Museum at the former synagogue in Lancut. It memorializes a "modest and pious woman who followed the ways of our holy fathers," Gada, daughter of Reb (Mr.) Yakov Avigdor the Cohan, More Tzaddik Zhalin (Righteous Teacher of Zolynia)." The abbreviated spelling of Reb likely indicates that Yakov Avigdor was not a town rabbi or a rebbe, but he was a very respected teacher. The date and year of death is partly obscured.

Pittsburgh Rebbe

Rabbi Mordechai Yisachar Ber Leifer is the present "Pittsburgher Rebbe," a great-great-grandson of Rebbe Mordechai Leifer of Nadvorna and a cousin to the Leifer Rebbes of Zolynia. He has large communities of followers in western Pennsylvania and in Ashdod, Israel. The Nadvorna Dynasty (named for the Galicia town now known as Nadvirna, Ukraine) may be the largest of any of the Hasidic dyansties, producing over 100 rebbes.


More Information

What is the difference between a rabbi, a rebbe and a tsaddik?

Technically, a rabbi is a teacher of Judaism qualified to interpret and decide questions of Jewish law (halacha). Each local Kahal, the council that governed a Jewish congregation in Galicia and Poland, hired one "official" or chief rabbi. Starting in the mid-19th century, that rabbi also had formal government responsibilities regarding the registration of births, deaths and marriages with the civil authorities. At times, Zolynia had at least one assistant rabbi and a rosh yeshiva, a hired rabbinical scholar who taught Torah and Talmud. A maggid was a traveling scholar hired to give sermons, something the town rabbi would rarely do except on special holidays, such as Passover and the High Holidays.

'"Rebbe" is a term used by Hasidic Jews to denote a respected spiritual mentor who might also be sought out for advice on social, political and even financial matters. The term is sometimes translated into English as "Grand Rabbi." Tsadik or tzaddik ("righteous man") is an honorary title for those especially revered for their piety, charity and holiness. Admor, usually placed after the name, is another title for a rebbe or tsaddik, meaning "our master, teacher and rabbi."

We don't know at this time if every rabbi of Zolynia was a rebbe, or if every rebbe was the "official" rabbi during his stay there. As always, additional information is welcome.

In the 18th and 19th-century Galicia, Hasidism was a grassroots, radical movement that was vehemently opposed by many "Orthodox" and traditional rabbis. Over time, Hasidic ideas greatly influenced traditional practices and thought and there was some blending. By the 1930s, most Jews in Zolynia practiced what today might be considered a fusion of Hasidic and modern Orthodox Judaism. There was a wide range of religous and political philosophy, as evidenced by the variety of Zionist and political groups in the village.

In the United States, immigrant Zholiners were generally Orthodox in practice, and many would become Reform or Conservative Jews. Today's growing Hasidic movement in the United States today was in large part a post-Holocaust phenomenon, established by surviving rebbes and their followers.

Today, nine out of ten Jews in the United States and eight out of ten Jews in Israel consider themselves to be neither Orthodox nor Hasidic.

Thanks is given to Tomer Bruner, a Zolynia researcher in Israel, for his information about Rebbe Yosef Moshe Teicher.


Site Search

Enter word or phrase and click on the Search button: