It is hard for someone as much in love with Goniondz and Goniondzers as I am to write objectively about them but I will of course attempt to stay within the framework of the facts as they are, and principally I will focus my attention on Goniondzers in America.
About four thousand landsmanshaftn are registered in New York (others consider the number to be much higher), some very big, such as Bialystock with about 20 organizations, Warsaw, Lodz, Minsk, etc. I don't want to denigrate the activities of these thousands of organizations, but the Goniondzers, although not as eminent in public life in such a big city as New York, are truly different. I believe that the cultural level of our landsmanshaft is higher than the average landsmanshaft, our scope has always been broad, we have always approached various problems with liberality, whether it is a question of local assistance or of allocating funds for our home town, and in recent years, our brotherly cooperation with our Goniondzers in Israel. We never use the words charity, donations, or support, as is the fashion here. Our attitude is that we are in America, and are therefore better off, not because we are so wise; it might have been just the opposite, and we would be on the other side of the fence, and the Gondiondzers would have acted against us as we against them .
We are especially proud of our human resource, our dear, wonderful membership, which unfortunately has decreased considerably in recent years. I will mention some of them in what follows.
The present-day Goniondzer society was officially organized in September 1905, but there were already Gonionders in America at the end of the 19th century. They had organized themselves as a religious organization (unfortunately no documents remain, and I can only record what I have heard from elderly countrymen). They had their own synagogue, and since they lived close to each other in the early years, they prayed there every day. There was no problem in getting together a minyan . For reasons we do not know, they later joined the countrymen of a Ukrainian town, Khomsk, so that I still remember the Goniondzer-Khomsker synagogue from the beginning of the 20's of this century. It was at 25 Ridge Street in New York. Perhaps it is not important, but I will note here that as far as I know I am the only Goniondzer of the last immigration at the beginning of the twenties to get married in the Goniondzer synagogue. My bride was Soroke Kantshuk (Sore with the black hair from Trestine). Performing the ceremony was R. Benjamin Bayer zl, beloved by all.
I have heard that only one member remained in the organization, and it is said that a large sum of money was left over, some tens of thousands of dollars, and that according to the laws of New York State (not the City) the entire sum belongs to this man or his heirs. (Unfortunately I have no documents confirming this.).
In September 1905 the Goniondzer organization was formed. It is now known by the name Goniondzer-Trestiner Young Friends Benevolent Association. The founders of the landsmanshaft came from a completely different element. They were workers who had arrived from Goniondz at the beginning of the century, some fleeing conscription in the Czarist army, some because of revolutionary activity, etc. The founding took place in a bedroom in Willy Levine's home. In a few weeks 20 Gonziondzers were registered, and Simon Blum was elected the first president and Morris Levine was elected secretary.
Although the members paid a total of 10 cents each a week in dues, they immediately decided to pay a sum of four dollars a week to a member who became ill, without knowing where the money would come from. They also decided to buy land for a cemetery as soon as possible (land for a cemetery was an important matter for a landsmanshaft in a city like New York, although it seems to be no less important for Americans).
Despite the difficult conditions in those years, especially in the terrible crisis in America in 1907, and generally despite the long working hours and the low pay, they were able to sign up more members and to arrange some small activities and more or less fulfill their obligations to the members. When the first World War broke out in 1914 a new era began in the Goniondzer landsmanshaft.
At the beginning of the twenties of the present century, after the First World War, when the first immigrants were arriving in New York, we already find the organized Goniondz landsmanshaft, together with the Trestiners, in its own club rooms at 31 2nd Avenue, in the heart of Jewish New York, with a membership of over 200. The club rooms were tastefully furnished with a library having English and Yiddish books, and there was even a chess teacher and a dance teacher.
At this time we already find a well organized relief committee which sent the first sums of money to Goniondz and Trestine. As was then the custom, they also sent a delegate to Goniondz, our Dr. Blum, and later Aaron Rudsky.
A short time later we organized a mandolin quartet. Its members were Zalmen and Moshe Bachrach, Itshke Burak, and the present writer. We gave several concerts in the club rooms. From time to time there were also lectures. It goes without saying that almost all new arrivals joined, paying about $25 a year. Commonly a weekly meeting (every Tuesday) would draw 150 to 200 members.
We began publishing our bulletin in August 1929. It came out regularly for about four years. I had the honor, with some small interruptions, of editing the bulletin and the five special enlarged journals.
In November 1930 we published a special enlarged bulletin of about 60 pages, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the organization of the landsmanshaft in America. About 500 people came to the great banquet, which was carried out with pomp and splendor. At that time also the Goniondz Ladies Auxiliary was organized, under the leadership of Mrs. Kamenetz, who has since then taken over the entire relief effort. It even published four issues of its own bulletin, called the Shul-barg. Our landsmanshaft's activities went along in this manner (sometimes more strongly, sometimes less) until the beginning of the 40's, when everyone's great misfortune began.
In 1945, in connection with the fortieth anniversary of the organization, we published our first memorial journal, with about 100 pages, most of which were filled with accounts of the terrible tragedy which befell our town and the entire Jewish people. Our relief work took on a completely different character (Mayrim Rubin especially writes about this).
In 1955 we celebrated our 50th year. We had reached our peak (actually a bit earlier), and now things started going down hill. A great number of our townspeople are no longer with us, having gone to the next world. Our children do not have and cannot have the interest in our landsmanshaft which we had. The small number of active members still hold on firmly to our beautiful traditions, but the labor gets weaker and weaker. This is a normal process in American Jewry, of which more than 70 % are now born in America.
I consider it my duty, before concluding, to mention the names of at least some of the members who were always interested in our townspeople and always gave of their time for them. We will never forget them.
Zerah Tikotsky; Morris Levine (Moshe Sender the shoemaker's son), died September 22, 1947, in whose memory we published a special issue of the Bulletin; such beloved people as Gedalia Seid, Joseph Babrovsky, Dr. Kamenetz, Mendel Schwartz, and several others I cannot not now remember.
Among the living I must mention such devoted active members as Moshe Bachrach, Mayrim Rubin, the.Gradzinskys, Mrs. Kamenetz, Kaydi Atlas, Israel Atlas, Sholem Grobard, who is the present president of our organization; David Forman (son of Nisn the tailor); and devoted active members like Meyshke Gelbard in Chicago, and Warsho in Detroit, and several others in various cities in America, which Mayrim Rubin most likely mentions in his article.
I will conclude these lines with an excerpt from the poem by Z. Weinper, a poet who died young. This poem is so much in accord with the mood of all of us.
- - - Where has Mother's dear body gone roaming?
I call and I call and I call
and no one answers.
and yet, how my heart now roars
next to the silent canyon!Oh! Wickedness made a bacchanalian orgy from our blood!* * *
I would now needs turn my song into a whipping rod,
except that I am tired, so tired
as every shattered Jew
everywhere, everywhere, everywhere,
a world of stone now looks at me
so hard, cold, and silent.
how can weeping from human emotion matter to it?
the world is granite.
so excuse me, Mother,
if there is no tin-roofed house over you.
You are in the temple of my word.
If I would wish to know where your grave is
I would come from afar with dust on my feet,
the dust which lies over you.
See, see - some strange color
has spread from somewhere.
Oh Mother, is it you?
Who else would walk so blindly and so glowingly over the granite?
I would have sworn step!
I would have sworn a voice
rises from the valley
so softly, like a caress
and what it says is:
- one must bear it
because God, blessed be He, knows what he is doing...- I am no longer able!* * *
a god with a gun!
a god with a whip!
a god with a German!
I do not accept
not even for God's sake
not even for your sake
a curse on life
which would condone this!
[picture caption, pp. 187-188:]
The four founders of our society
Morris Levine, Simon Blum, Leybele Greenberg, Jacob Greenstein
Zalmen Yirmes (son of Yirmiya) zl
His name in Goniondz was Kravietz. He came to Petach-Tikva in the 80's of the last century, at the age of 15, with his uncle Leyzer-Shimon Yirmes from Tiktin, when Petach-Tikva was not yet ten years old. Died in Petach-Tikva in 1948.
David Seid zl
Father of Gedalia Seid zl of New York, who visited Palestine in 1951. In the old country his name was David Raver (of the Raver water mill). Not having money for transportation, he walked for two years to get to Odessa. There a relative of his gave him five rubles and he arrived safely in Palestine. Lived there about two years. Died in Jerusalem in 1895.
Hayim Eliezer son of Dov Miltshan
Was known in Goniondz as Hayim Leyzer Shikorer. A brother of Zerah Shikorer. Came to Palestine, to his uncle Yaroshevski, in 1884 as a boy of 14. Went through all the difficulties of getting settled faced by a new immigrant. Married and established a numerous family. Co-founder of Rehovot, was active in purchasing land and expanding the settlement. A permanent member of the Rehovot administration. He is considered one of the most respected persons of the old community.
We wish him the best of luck and long life.
Israel Krepchn zl
In Goniondz he was called Israel son of Reuben (the Pure Soul) of the old market. Had a large orchard behind the forge of Leyzer the blacksmith. Had two houses. Was an expert in horticulture. A victim of the fire of Passover 1906, he sold his property and left for Palestine, with his wife Feyge and his eldest son Zeydke, settling in Petach-Tikva. Baron Rothschild's officers recognized his ability and employed him professionally. He tried planting apples here and was successful, but when oranges became popular this was abandoned. He died in Tel-Aviv in 1926. His wife Feyge was buried in Afulah. His son is living in Paris.
Two girls traveled with Israel:
Eldest son of Ephraim Halpern zl. Came to Palestine in 1912 to study in the Herzeliya Academy. Finished in the second graduating class. Lives in Tel-Aviv.
Israel David Yardeni
In Goniondz Yaroshevski. A son of Moses Michael the dyer of Dolistover Street. Came before the First World War. Completed the Mizrahi Teachers Seminar in Jerusalem. Lives in Rehovot.
Pua (Paye) Bloshteyn (Soloveitchik-Shalvi)
A daughter of Mordechai Bloshteyn, immigrated to Palestine as a young girl, before the First World War. Lives with her family in Ramat-Gan.
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