In his vast posthumous biography of Buczacz—his hometown and, as he depicted it, the symbol of East European Jewry—the Hebrew writer and Nobel Prize laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon spins a lengthy tale of the town’s mythical origins: “When was our city founded, and who was its founder?” he asks. “Long have all the chroniclers labored to find this out in vain. But some few facts have been revealed to us,” continues Agnon, possibly tongue-in-cheek, since he was famous for his fine sense of irony, “and I am herewith setting down a faithful record of all I know.” 1

What, then, is the story of the town’s origins? Here is how Agnon relates it:

There was once a band of Jews who were moved by their own pure hearts to go up to the Land of Israel, together with their wives and their sons and their daughters. They sold . ....

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