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[Page 255]

Czentochower in America

 

[Page 281]

The Czenstochower Synagogue in New York

Y. Kirshenbaum

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

All Czenstochower landsleit [people from the same town] from New York and other cities gathered together around the United Czenstochower Relief and Ladies Auxiliary. One of the addresses of the Czenstochower Jews is the “Chasam Sopher Synagogue,” 8 and 10 Clinton Street, New York in the very heart of the Galicianer neighborhood – the well known Jewish philanthropists, Jacob Schiff and Lewisohn, helped to build the synagogue.

The Czenstochower Chasam Sopher synagogue on Clinton Street is now a Galicianer synagogue. It is among the oldest synagogues in New York. The synagogue was once almost like a reform synagogue. Dr. Stephen S. Wise's father was the rabbi and Dr. Stephen Wise had his Bar Mitzvah in the synagogue. The rabbi of the synagogue is now the Rabbi, Reb Mordekhai Meyer, a student from the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva [center of Torah study in Lublin, Poland], where the Piotrkower Rabbi, the Rabbi Szapira, was the head of the yeshiva [secondary religious school].

The officials of the school tell us the history of the Chasam Sopher Synagogue in simple words. Mr. Lieber Grill tells us that in 1886 a small synagogue with the name Chasam Sopher existed on Columbia Street that mostly was supported by Hungarian landsleit – in memory of the great Hungarian gaon [sage] of the Chasam Sopher Yeshiva. The synagogue had 200 members. And when the synagogue [building] became too small, they began to look for a larger house of prayer. And they found favor at 8-10 Clinton Street. The then named Rodeph Sholom – a real reformed synagogue in the proper manner: Jews and their wives came in “carriages” on Shabbos [Sabbath] and an organ played, accompanied by the “boys” and girls in the “choir” and so on. And even a younger Jew, did not dare to enter there and pour out his heart for God Almighty in a Jewish way. The house was bought after full negotiations and with luck renovated and immediately transformed into a real orthodox synagogue. But in the course of only two years the group split, not being able to support the great operating costs that a synagogue needs to have. More than 150 members left the synagogue and founded a lodge under the same name, Chasam Sopher Lodge. In 1890, the handful of members did everything to support the synagogue. However, it was impossible to honor the debt of the mortgage and the interest. The mortgaged was “foreclosed” on the house and Jews remained almost as if on the street without a synagogue. As in all other societies, there also were good-hearted members who carried more responsibilities than others. When ex-president, Sh. Glik who already is in the world of truth [died], saw that the house had been sold to speculators and they already had begun to pull the bricks from the walls to transform the house into a theater or cinema, he went to work and went into the street to the societies to look for partners for the broken building. In four weeks, he succeeded in saving the synagogue.

It is necessary to say that the congregation then only had 40 members.

On a secluded corner on Sherriff Street

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existed a society with the name Czenstochower Khevre [Czenstochower Society], which consisted of 15 members. Two of them, the brothers[1] D. Geizler and Yisroelke Broder, may they live long, had already been members of the society for 50 years. Despite the fact that Hungarians and Poles were never suitable in-laws, the match took place. The above-mentioned came to an understanding after several conferences with a few Jewish communal workers, such as the ex-presidents, the deceased Sh. Goldberg, H. Wilczinski and D. Geizler, may they live long; they are still members. Both societies merged.

With united strength they immediately threw themselves into worship and in addition to the joint assets, capital of thousands, they also collected contributions. As all of this was not enough, they went to Jakob H. Schiff and Lewisohn and they both donated up to 1,000 [dollars] on the condition that the society collect 25,000 dollars. They gathered penny to penny, even went through the streets with a handkerchief and visited “societies” and unions, which not only did not give anything, but they even, according to the old way in New York, did not even let the committee enter. The “soldier with the bolt [of the door]”, the “inner guard” said, “No.” The general, the president with the hammer commanded no. Even the eulogies that were given in the synagogue on Shabbosim were of little help. However, after much effort the few members gathered the sum of 18,000 dollars and the remainder was covered with mortgages. They immediately began to rebuild almost the entire synagogue, which was broken into pieces and looked like a real ruin.

Now the synagogue is one of the most beautiful and oldest synagogues in the Galicianer neighborhood.

Translator's Footnote

  1. It is probable that the use of the word “brothers” is in the sense that it was used for members of the same organization. Return


 

[Page 286]

Czenstochower Young Ladies Auxiliary in New York

by A. Litman

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The women took a large part in the work of the Help Union and Czenstochower Relief in New York the entire time. No ball, no other undertaking took place without their work and help.

In 1922, through the initiative of Friend Louis Szimkowicz and other friends of the Young Men, a separate women's organization was started under the name – Czenstochower Young Ladies Auxiliary, with the goal of supporting the war orphans and poor children in Czenstochow with food and clothing.

The petition for a charter was signed by: Louis Szimkowicz, Bertha Bratman, Anna Wajskop, Zelkowicz, Katy Jackson and Rae Sobol.

The composition of the first Board of Directors consisted of: Celia Szimkowicz, Rose Wajskop, Dora Rozen, Helen Fridman, Anna Zelkowicz, Helen Lajcher, Ruth Hiler, Celia Jacobs, Rose Goldberg, Beatrice Zajdman, Gussie Jacobs, Rebecca Skowornek.

Later others joined: Lena Win, Yetta Korpiel, Anna Rips, Rose Adler, S. Foist, Minnie Korpiel, and Samuels, Gussie Lewensztajn, Wajnstajn.

Friend Louis Szimkowicz was elected the first President of the Czenstochower Young Ladies Auxiliary; Lina Win as Vice-President; Recording Secretary – Rose Adler; Finance-Secretary – Katy Jackson; Treasurer – Rae Sobel; Representative - Anna Wajskop.

Their first large undertaking was the ball that took place on the night after Shabbos [Sabbath] on the 14th of January 1923 in the Park Palace, New York.

The second chairwoman of the Czenstochower Young Ladies Auxiliary was Mrs. Anna Samuels.

Mrs. Yetta Lenczer was elected chairwoman in 1924. Vice-chairwoman - Martha Korpiel; Recording Secretary – Yetta Korpiel; Representative – Broder; Finance- Secretary and Treasurer remained the same.

Starting in 1928, the Ladies Auxiliary organized the yearly balls in partnership with Czenstochower Aid in New York.

In 1928 Mrs. Anna Samuels was elected as chairwoman, Anna Broder as vice chairman.

The arrangements committee consisted of the following ladies: Anna Nirenberg, Celia Szimkowicz, Yetta Lenczer, Martha Korpiel, Molly Gotlib, R. Moskowicz, Malka Fridman, Celia Lewental, Chana Fajersztajn, Fanny Fajersztajn, Mary Lefkowicz.

Anna Wajskop – chairwoman, Molly Gotlib – vice chairwoman, Katy Jackson – recording secretary, representatives – Florence Nirenberg, Celia Szimkowicz, Anna Broders [previously recorded as Broder] were elected as officers in 1929.

Yetta Lenczer – Chairwoman, Rebecca Skwornek [previously recorded as Skowornek] – Vice Chairwoman were elected in 1931. The remaining officers were the same.

The organizing committee consisted of Chana Manuszewicz, Anna Samuels, Sara Singer, Celia Lewental, Mary Lefkowicz, M. Hiller, Martha Korpiel, Gussie Pitman, L. Skowronek, Chana Fajersztajn.

After Czenstochower Relief in New York ceased to exist, the Ladies Auxiliary for a long time alone carried on the aid work for Czenstochow, first in order to support the Y. L. Peretz Library. Friends Louis Szimkowicz, Sam Korpiel, Sobol and Charlie Lenczer always worked with the Ladies Auxiliary. In the end, the Ladies Auxiliary, too, ceased its activities and was reorganized into a new organization with United Czenstochower Aid in New York.

The renewed Ladies Auxiliary in United Czenstochower Relief began its activities in 1936.

Until now the ladies have worked together

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with Relief and had their representative, Yetta Lenczer, as vice-chairwoman.

The first officers were:

Yetta Lenczer, Chairwoman; Fanny Fajersztajn, Vice-Chairwoman; Celia Jacobs – Finance-Secretary, Sura Senzer, Recording-Secretary; Glantz, Treasurer; Gussie Gelber, Chairwoman of the Activities Committee; Rae Kaufman – Treasurer of the Activities Committee; Martha Korpiel, First Representative; Kep, Second Representative.

*

The founding of the Ladies Auxiliary in 1922 begins its history in the Czentochower Landsmanschaft. Many wives whose husbands were members of various organizations belonged to the Woman's organization. The Ladies meetings often were larger than the meetings of Aid. The leaders of the Young Men participated in large numbers in the meetings of the Ladies: Friend Louis Szimkowicz, Marks Korpiel, of blessed memory, Sam Korpiel, W. Sobol, of blessed memory, Charlie Lenczer.

The most important work of the women's organization is shown by the monies sent to Czenstochow for the children's homes and folks schools that were raised by the Ladies Auxiliary itself,

 

cze287.jpg

Ladies Auxiliary at the United Czenstochower Relief Committee

Sitting from right to left: Gutsha Gelber, Sadie Senzer, Celia Jacobs, Yetta Lenczer. Fanny Fajersztajn, Martha Korpiel.
Standing from right to left: Reila Frajmoyer, Esther Kep, Celia Levy.)

 

[Page 288]

besides the sums that were transferred to the Aid for the building of a house and other purposes:

  1925  _____  $1,095
  1926  _____  $850
  1927  _____  $1,150
  1928  _____  $1,150
  1929  _____  $700

In the course of just five years a total sum of 4,945 dollars was sent.

The women and friends of Young Men who worked with the Ladies Auxiliary during the time when no aid organizations existed deserve separate recognition. The remaining members of Czenstochower Aid in New York had partly abandoned their activities because they had the ability to work together with the Ladies Auxiliary. The Ladies Auxiliary remained the only aid organization in New York that not pay attention to the severe Depression in America and the discord in the Czenstochower organization in New York and continued to perform aid work.

The newly reformed women's organization was already more closely connected to United Czenstochower Relief than before. The meetings took place in the same hall on the same evening. The Ladies Auxiliary must be recorded as doing the larger part of the work for Relief, even as both organizations jointly carried on the undertakings.

Often the joys and sufferings in the lives of Czenstochower landsleit found reverberations at the meetings and get-togethers of the Ladies Auxiliary, just as with Relief. If a member of Relief or the Ladies Auxiliary had a wedding for a child, a certain sum was spent by Relief and whiskey and hors d'oeuvres were brought to the meeting, and there was rejoicing and the parents were wished mazel-tov [good luck]. The same when a child or a grandchild was born. Just as on such an occasion, the fathers and mothers in the old home treated those praying in the synagogue or Hasidic shtibl [one-room synagogue] with cake and whiskey. If someone got sick, or God forbid, left this world – the sisters and brothers visited the mourner in his house and mourned along with him and suffered the misfortune that had been met by the Czenstochower family.

The Ladies Auxiliary also directed aid work among the landsleit in New York who found themselves in need.

*

Mrs. Anna Samuels was the first president of the Ladies Auxiliary. In later years she was again elected as president and to other offices. She was born in America, but was always ready to do everything in her power for the aid work for Czenstochow.

Yetta Lenczner, today as 30 years ago, is the most active and energetic Relief worker. She surpassed everyone with the number of years as president of the Ladies Auxiliary and there is no equal to her in the work that she gave for Czenstochow and harmony among the Czenstochower landsleit in America.

Katy Jackson, the English speaking recording secretary, in the course of many years, always added charm and energized the members of the Ladies Auxiliary.

Helen Fridman, the financial secretary of the First Ladies Auxiliary for the entire time of its existence, is the best heir of our old mothers who embodied the maternal love and goodness of the entire world.

Let us also remember the active and devoted activity of Anna Broder, as vice president and in other offices. Among the officials of the Ladies Auxiliary during recent years, Sara Senzer, recording secretary, is particularly worthy of being remembered. She excelled with her folksy Yiddish, which she brought with her from Czenstochow.

Celia Jacobs, finance secretary, Celia Szimkowicz, trustee, Anna Wajskop, chairwoman in 1929, Florence Nirenberg, trustee, Anna Nirenberg, Gussie Gelber, chairwoman of the enterprise, Rae Kaufman, treasurer of the enterprise, Kop, trustee, gave much energy and life to the aid work.

 


[Page 289]

Czenstochower Br. 261 Arbeter Ring
[Workman's Circle] in New York

by A. Litman

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Thirty-seven years ago (in 1909) a group of 28 Czenstochower young people, who had settled in chaotic New York, founded a branch of the then still young workers' organization – the Arbeter Ring.

These young people were the children of the poor streets of Czenstochow, whose parents toiled in the workshops or traded in the market. The fathers and mothers dreamed that their children would, perhaps, find something better and with broken hearts they said goodbye to their children and accompanied them to the train station, from which they traveled beyond the sea, to the end of the world – to the unknown, distant America…

On arrival in the giant city of New York, the young Czenstochowers searched for a corner in which to pass the time, to come together and discuss the problems of home and the world.

True, they had then already heard that here all sorts of organizations and societies exist where landsleit [people from the same city or shtetl] come together and one feels at home. The religious Jews built synagogues in which to pray and to study a chapter of the Mishnah. The ordinary non-religious Jews founded “lodges,” “societies,” “groups of friends” that were concerned with help for the sick, preparing a grave after over 120 years [Translator's note: It is customary to wish that someone live “until 120”]… These groups of friends grew like mushrooms after a rain and they confused the circles of newly arrived immigrants in New York.

What did the new immigrant who in Czenstochow had been an artisan – a tailor, a cabinetmaker, a hat maker, an upholsterer, a baker – think of this? Here he fell into a “sweatshop” where they suffered and slaved from morning until late in the night, lived in the “tenement” districts, in the crowded, stuffy little rooms, without air and sun. Strikes would break out. The strikes would be bloody and long. The workers often lost the strike. Returning to the shops, they did not lose their courage and they did not give up hope of bettering their bitter condition.

Then the Czenstochower immigrant workers in noisy New York came to the decision that an organization must be created that would be interested in their condition, help the workers organize unions, defend their interests; at the same time, they were looking for a progressive, friendly environment. They heard the song of the poet Y. Adler (B. Kovner) who had published the song about the founding of the Arbeter Ring that was then only nine years old. This song resounded in the Jewish workers' neighborhoods with a fiery enthusiasm. The song was entitled Undzer Boim [Our Tree] and was sung as follows:

“In a winter night, a grey one,
No stars shone,
Then good people
Planted a small tree for us…”

*

The following twenty-eight young people were the first ones to conceive [of the idea] of founding a Czenstochower branch of the Arbeter Ring: Leon Fridlender, Avraham Montag, Morris Rozencwajg, Harry Szerman, Harry Frejman, Dovid Faucht, Louis Goldman, Ruwin Fajerman, Yisroel Inzelsztajn, Pinkhus Gotlib, Max Szajer, Sidney Glazner, Heimy Gotajner, Moshe Bornsztajn, Sam Silversztajn, Louis Besser, Avraham Warmund, Louis Eizner, Louis Rafalowicz, Harry Brzezinski, Shmuel Lewkowicz, William Grin, Moshe Kraus, Louis Upner and Aba Kaufman.

They came together on the 8th of February 1909 in Mrs. Szajer's house at 712 East 6th Street, New York, where the founding meeting was held.

The history of the Arbeter Ring Czenstochower branch 261 is actually the history of each branch of the Arbeter Ring in general.

The founders of our branch, 36[1] years ago, were influenced by the same ideals and dealt with the same problems as our mother organization that was then already in existence for nine years.

[Page 290]

The Arbeter Ring and Branch 261

There was a time when our branch breathed with communal life. There was a time when the branch carried out various plans whose purpose was to better the material condition of the members at a time of economic need and in case of an illness. A fund was created for local health benefits that paid three dollars a week at the start and later was raised to four dollars a week. We also created a “loan fund” and a fund to pay the bills of such members who could not do so because of need; a fund for the old that was to pay the bills of members who could no longer work. In general, the democratic spirit rules in the branch and friendship of one member with the other and everyone was one family…


Czenstochower Branch 261 Arbeter Ring

Sitting from right to left: Av. Litman, S. Richter, Y. Szubin, M. Fajner, A. Goldfinger, H. Brzezinski.
Standing from right to left: M. Wilinger, M. Sztern, P. Szwajcer, A. Kap, M. Kap and M. Gotlib

 

A Civil War Breaks Out in Our Branch

Every dispute in an organization has a destructive effect: its growth stops; it cripples its activity; it demoralizes the members and the hand of destruction gets the upper-hand…

When the branch split, 36 members officially left it. However, the storm carried away a greater number of members who were lost to the Arbeter Ring and fell into bourgeois societies.

The branch would, perhaps, have gone into a state of complete helplessness and feeling of loss if it had not found several of the older

[Page 291]

active members and the younger members who stood on the side and were not active in the branch at the time of the dispute, but after the split again became active with the wish to revitalize the branch and renew its activities. However, they were greatly hindered by the economic crisis that then began to be rampant in the country.

 

The Branch Begins to Revive

We began several plans in order to revive our branch. Two of the plans were: first, that our meeting place would move to the Bronx instead of downtown because two-thirds of the members lived there; the second plan was – to merge with another branch of the Arbeter Ring. The first was done immediately. The second – was postponed until later…

As is evident, the “changes” worked. The members began to attend the meetings; we took in a number of new members; we also took a number of wives of our members into the branch. With joy, we record that they do good work for the branch. During the course of the past few years, the branch has carried on cultural work and holds lectures on various problems. The branch has a theater undertaking for the benefit of the sick fund and finally the branch is again in the position to pay local sick benefits. Three years ago, the branch moved into a downtown apartment, on 14th Street and Broadway.

 

The Branch Supports All Worker and People's Organizations

During the course of 36 years the branch supported the following institutions and organizations: Jewish Children Schools; Arbeter-Ring branches; Young Circle League; unions and strikes; orphanages; sanitaria; convalescent homes; Old Jewish Homes; day nurseries and hospitals; Socialist Party and its press, both in America and in Europe; the Yidisher Visnshaftleker Institut [Jewish Scientific Institute – YIVO]; ORT; the Jewish Worker Committee; HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society]; orphanage in Czenstochow; political prisoners in America and Europe; Bund in Poland; Romanian workers; Spanish People's Front; Czenstochower Relief; Jewish children's schools in Poland; cooperatives; worker lyceums; Young People's Socialist League; Deb's Fund and yet more organizations.

*

There was a bakery worker in Czenstochow who emigrated to England and lived there for 10 years. He helped found the baker's union in London. He came to America in 1907, immediately joined the local bakery union local 305 where he was active for many years and a delegate for the union. He was respected and valued by the members for his idealism and readiness to struggle for the masses. He fought for unionism, picketed and went on strike, although there was no bread in his house for his wife and children … he was torn away from his activities in the workers movement at the age of 54 and died at his post in the fight for bakery workers.

 

Our Branch in the Struggle against Fascism

A long time before the world was ignited by the Nazi barbarians in 1939, our members understood that the Fascists across the world were gathering to drown the workers movement in blood. We, therefore, supported the underground struggle against both Fascism in Italy and the half-Fascists in Poland. And when the bloody struggle broke out in Spain, our members supported the Loyalist struggle with life and soul.

When the world conflict with Fascism broke out in 1939, our branch immediately threw itself into the struggle. Our branch can with pride show that although we were only a small family of 78 households, we gave the American Army and Navy 80 young fighters on all fronts and bought war bonds for 50,000 dollars.

[Page 292]

The members of the Czenstochower Branch 261 have inscribed a beautiful chapter in the activities for the old home – for Czenstochow. Our members were the founders and builders of Relief. All of the great work for Relief were successful thanks to the fact that the members of our branch did their part.

Arbeter Ring Branch 261 did not only give financial support to Czenstochower Relief, but also leaders and guides. The secretary-treasurer of Relief, Josef Kaufman who served the organization these past years with devotion and loyalty, is a member of Arbeter Ring Branch 261. Rafael Federman, the secretary of the book committee and editorial member for the book, Czenstochower Yidn [Czenstochower Jews] – has been a member of our branch since 1941. A series of other workers for Relief, such M. Fajner, Max Wilinger, Sam Richter, M. Gotlib. Av. Hershkowicz, the late Meir Rembach and others also worked with Relief. The present finance-secretary of the branch, M. Sztern, although not a Czenstochow landsleit [person from the same town] (he is from Tomaszow), in the course of the six years he has been in office, has helped everyone in the work of Czenstochower Relief. The writer of these lines, Avraham Litman, who has been active in Relief since arriving in America, also took on the special task of waking the landsleit through the press that they should not forget Czenstochow, their home city.

When sorrowful reports arrived from Czenstochow – in 1937 – that hooligans rampaged and carried out a pogrom on the poor Jewish population, murdered five Jews and wounded several hundred, our member, Avraham Litman, appealed to the Jewish Workers' Committee in the name of Czenstochower Relief, that it should come to the aid of the victims. The Jewish Workers' Committee then granted the sum of 500 dollars for the suffering Jews in Czenstochow.

It should also be recorded here that Branch 262 of the Arbeter Ring also particularly helped the orphan's home in Czenstochow and virtually financed the orchestra of the school in Czenstochow.

*

In the present historic hour the Czenstochower Branch 261 Arbeter Ring, of course, does everything it can to help in the sacred work of revival of the survivors from Jewish Czenstochow.

Translator's Footnote

  1. In the first paragraph the number of years since the founding of the organization is given as 37. Return

 

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