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[Page 307]

Our Landsleit in America


[Pages 307-311]

The Brief History of the Chicago Dobrzyn Organization

By Esther Graner-Rabbe

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Steve Bolef

To the Yizkor Book that our Dobrzyn friends in Israel are publishing, I would like to contribute a brief overview of the work that the Dobrzyn landsleit (referring to people from the same town) in Chicago did to help our tragic Dobrzyner during the time of the destruction of Europe, and what they did for the few that survived after the death of our loved ones by the hands of the Nazi bandits. At the same time, I would like to give an accounting of the thousands of dollars that the Dobrzyn landsleit collected in Chicago.

I would like to give a clear explanation to each and every Dobrzyner wherever he may be about the devoted work that the Chicago landsleit did for our few surviving sisters and brothers who are now spread across the world.

The history of the Chicago Dobrzyn Organization begins in the year 1917 when it was established as a result of the terrible reports in the American press about the situation of the Polish Jews. At that time, a group of Dobrzyner landsleit in Chicago formed together as an organization to be able to assist those who were in the town of Dobrzyn and needed help. Europe then was terribly impoverished, and it was the Jews in the small towns who suffered most. In the years 1919-1920, we sent many thousands of dollars to Dobrzyn. At the same time, our organization also helped a group of Dobrzyn youths who were in Berlin. After that, we sent smaller sums regularly each month to individual families in our town, understandably, to those who most needed the support. In the year 1923, the Dobrzyn women in Chicago took over this assistance work and …

[Page 308]

… they immediately sent notices for money – according to a list – to about 150 families. The need for help was tremendous and many times we were simply unable to meet those needs. In that situation, we women of the organization would borrow larger sums just to satisfy the needs of the community.

In the mid-1930s, the economic situation in the town worsened because of the anti-Semitic movement that incited a boycott. Then the men's union became more involved in active assistance. They organized themselves to send packages and clothing, shoes, and food. Help was sent for children in the schools and Talmud Torahs, and special help for the library, and a sum of money for the community charity fund (gemilas chesed) so that it would be able to help those who presented themselves for immediate help. In the year 1939, with the outbreak of World War II, the assistance stopped completely. The Chicago organization then was flooded with letters that reached out to us, but unfortunately there was already no possibility of sending help. Among us friends the collection of monies did not stop in order that there would be money in the fund, and so that when the opportunity would arise we would immediately be ready to send help. But the realities were not as we had imagined. The destruction of our brothers in Poland in general and in Dobrzyn specifically, undid all our plans.

Only in the year 1948 did we finally have the opportunity to connect with all kinds of centers in Europe, and through them we found out about scores of Dobrzyn refugees that survived the massive destruction. Slowly, we began to receive letters from them in which they asked for help. We immediately undertook massive assistance activity.

In our correspondence we were in touch with several countries in Europe, and through messengers and through the mail we sent larger sums of money as well as clothing and food. The joy and comfort that our help brought …

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… our letters brought to the survivors, was heard in their heartfelt thanks from the pained hearts that lived through the war, some in bunkers in Europe and some in the vast wasteland of Russia. Their joy was enormous and with doubled efforts we threw ourselves into more collection activities. To our great joy, everyone doubled their contributions and money flowed in from all sides. Often we organized lunches where we would read the letters from our dear survivors. When we would read these letters, a quiet weeping could be heard among those gathered together. We looked for any opportunity to support our dear ones not only materialistically but also in morale through sending them pictures and letters that, as soon as they were received, evoked tremendous joy. They didn't feel abandoned, God forbid, knowing that there were still devoted family members who would make sure that these survivors would be able to get on their feet again and build their lives.

Our help reached each person …


Mrs. Zbicki from New York at a welcoming in the hall of the Keren Kayemet in Tel Aviv

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… wherever he would be, even in China. We sent all kinds of medicines, blankets to cover themselves, and help for those with lung problems so that they could cure themselves. Also, through our intensive correspondence, we brought together families that were spread apart, family members that didn't know of the others' existence. We busied ourselves with making sure they would be able to rebuild themselves as quickly as possible. Because of that, many of them left Europe as soon as they could, and many of them immigrated to Israel, as well as many to America. When they arrived in Israel we received mail from them very often and upon their request we sent work materials that would help them with their livelihoods -- machines for example, etc. We responded to each request according to our possibility, and I think no one was wronged and everyone was treated fairly.

Among all the letters of pain, we received a request from one of our Dobrzyn survivors, a man that lost his entire family. The author of the letter was a chassidic Jew and he said he would be very grateful if we would send him a talis (prayer shawl). Of course we immediately sent him a talis and the letter of thanks that we received from him completely touched our hearts. He wrote:

“Dear friends,
When I received the talis, I cried deeply from great joy. The talis will serve as a valuable garment for my life and I will ask that I be buried with this talis upon my death. When I wrap myself in this talis my Jewish soul sings and I remember the heartfelt folksong, ‘The dear talis, the dear talis, my only joy and comfort.' Be well and be blessed for your esteemed gift.
Your friend who will never forget you,
Mordechai Eliezer Tinski”

A half a year after we received this letter of thanks, we received a letter from a friend of Eliezer telling us that Eliezer had died in Poland and was buried …

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… wrapped in the talis that we had sent. In that way we knew that we had done a true kindness for the dead (chesed shel emes) for a religious Jew who after terrible pain and suffering merited at least to be buried in Israel.

Now, dear friends, we will stand shortly at the publication of the Yizkor Book – a book that must serve as a holy tombstone for our Dobrzyner martyrs. In this should also be remembered the important activities of our friends in Chicago, many of whom are already in the Next World, for what they organized and did for our suffering brothers who came out with their lives from the horrific destruction. And when we will assemble at a meeting and open the Yizkor Book, with our heads bowed, we will say Yizkor from the deepest sorrows in our hearts for our dearest and most devoted parents, brothers, and sisters, and all the other millions of Jews and our innocent children, the future of the Jewish nation. A holy kaddish for all the martyrs of all generations.

Yisgadal ve'yiskadash shemai rabboh


Family Lurd


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