Yehudah (Juda) Kaufman (1839-1923), son of Samuel Leib and Gittla from Zborowa, was one of the most respected Bresko Jews. He was a shochet (ritual slaughterer) and a mohel – for several decades he circumcised all Jewish boys born in Brzesko.
In Judaism, circumcision is a religious obligation that symbolizes the divine covenant with the descendants of Abraham:
“This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised; every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house, or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring.” Gen 17, 9-14
. All Jewish boys must be circumcised, usually on the eighth day after birth, during the ritual called Brit milah, and that is when they receive their Hebrew names.
As we’ve already mentioned, Yehudah Kaufman not only circumcised all Jewish boys in Brzesko and vicinity, but also was a ritual slaughterer. We don’t know when he became a shochet, but it took a lot of learning and considerable skills to perform this function. „A shochet is a ritual slaughterer who skillfully practices shechitah, slitting the throat of the animal as per Torah tradition. He does so using a chalef, a perfectly sharp and smooth knife. Before beginning his work, the shochet says the traditional blessing, “Blessed are you … Who has commanded us regarding shechitah [slaughter].”
A shochet must be learned in the laws of kosher slaughter and adept at sharpening and polishing his knives. He also trains under an experienced shochet to learn how to hold the animal firmly, to slaughter it quickly and smoothly. After a rabbi examines a shochet’s knife and is satisfied with his skill and knowledge, he issues him a certificate of kabbalah, attesting to his worthiness.
In the traditional Jewish communal set-up, the shochet is among the most respected members of the congregation. Since the difference between kosher slaughter and non kosher slaughter are often impossible for the observer to detect, the community relies upon the faith and integrity of the shochet, trusting that their meat is indeed kosher.” (https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4302685/jewish/What-Is-a-Shochet.htm )
There exists a beautiful testimony written by the grandson of Yehudah Kaufman, Samuel Rosenblatt:
„My maternal grandfather, Juda (Idel) Kaufman, the community Shochet, descendant of Rabbi Alexander Sender of Żółkiew, was the acknowledged lay leader of the town, beloved and respected and trusted by everybody, Jew as well as gentile. Whenever a collection had to be made for some charitable purpose, whether it was that of marrying off an orphan bride, or helping a family whose house had burned down, it was reb Idel Kaufman who was charged with the task of canvassing the community. If people had some extra cash on hand – savings banks were non-existent in small towns like Brzesko – they would entrust it to Reb Idel to take care of for them. He was a soft-spoken, even-tempered person, who seldom raised his voice except in the enthusiasm of prayer.Scrupulously observant himself in matters of religion, he was tolerant toward others.” (“Yossele Rosenblatt. The story of his life as told by his son Samuel Rosenblatt”, Farrar, Straus and Young, NY, 1954; page 61)
Juda Kaufman married Rifka Feigenbaum (1850-1918) from Swoszowa, daughter of Abraham and Chana Reisla. Juda and Rifka got married only in the presence of rabbi (so-called “ritual marriage”), they did not have a civil marriage, so according to the law their children were supposed to have their mother’s surname. The couple had 11 children.
They lived together for 53 years until Rifka’s death in 1918 – she died of heart attack. Juda passed away 5 years later. His matzeva survived at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery, and it’s difficult not to be moved by the inscription:
The rabbinic Chasid anxious and fearful
for the word of God Yehuda son of Shmuel Ari’ known as
Judel kosher meat butcher
died 19 Tevet 5684 [December 27, 1923]
May his soul be bound in the bundle of life
Honest and loyal in worship of God
Praise a kosher and innocent man
Served our town faithfully
Belonged to the Beit-Din all his days until his passing
Loved by all, modest in worship of God
(Translation from Hebrew by Noa Shashar)
Majority of the descendants of Bresko shochet Yehudah Kaufman were murdered in the Holocaust. But not all of them perished. New trees have grown out of the few surviving branches. And we gratefully remember this family.