by Yehuda Leib Mintz
Translated by Jerrold Landau
When one discusses or writes about Sierpcer Jews, their life and economic creativity, their societal and cultural activities, the four Sierpc Landsmanschaft organizations in New York play a very important role. These are the old Sierpcer Gemilut Chasadim, the Independent Sierpc Young Men, its ladies' division called the Sierpcer Ladies Auxiliary, and the Sierpc Branch 42 of the Jewish National Workers Union.
Each of those organizations had its own role in various realms of Jewish societal life in America, as well as in Europe, the Land of Israel, and, of late, the State of Israel.
The most noble of their activities, as well as the most prominent, was the founding of the United Sierpc Relief – the Sierpc help organization that was created by all four organizations with the goal of assisting Sierpc natives wherever they are found, whether in Sierpc itself (before the great misfortune of Hitler, may his name be blotted out), in the countries where the bitter fate had brought them, or in their new home in the Land of Israel.
It is natural that in a book about Sierpc, mention must be made of that united organization – the United Sierpc Relief Organization. Its founders included Mordechai Tzvi Mintz of blessed memory – the Sierpc teacher who educated a generation of Zionists and Hebraists in the town and continued his teaching work in America; Shlomo Loeb (Lobashka) of blessed memory, who belonged to the Zionist workers' camp both in Sierpc and in New York, and, together with his late wife Pesha, spent all of his years involved in charitable activities; and Yaakov Sand of blessed memory a long-time member and leader of the Sierpc Young Men's Organization.
It is obvious that in order to function properly, an organization must have workers – people who are willing to dedicate their time and energy to the goals of raising the necessary financial means, maintaining contact with the needy people and distributing the assistance to those in need. To move forward, the activists required the driving force that would propel the organization forward. That driving force was no longer a physical driving force alone – let us say an electric motor that would be set in motion once and continue to go. The driving force that was needed for this type of relief work must be spiritual – a driving force that springs forth from the depths of the soul of the individual personalities who possessed warm hearts and fine senses of sensitivity to the ideal goal for which the help organization was created.
The United Sierpc Relief Committee had the fortune of having that very internal drive embodied in the personality of Mr. Max Sina – a long time member and activist in the Sierpc Young Men's
Organization. A book about Sierpc and its Jews would simply be imperfect if it failed to mention Max Sina and his good deeds amongst us. Standing near to him in our joint work – I as the financial secretary and my wife Rashe and Mordechai Rzejszokto as corresponding secretaries of the Sierpc Relief, of which Max Sina was the president – we often admired his singular deep dedication to the work for the Sierpcers. For him, the word Sierpcer was a magic word that instilled a life spirit – a soul – in him, an inspiration that reflected off of him and influenced those with whom he worked together.
When a Sierpcer requested assistance, or if he merely heard that there was someone who required assistance, Mr. Sina would immediately feel a great sense of responsibility and would strive to help without any additional clarification of qualifications – the word Sierpcer was already a sufficient qualification. This was just like the word Jew to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Berditchever of blessed memory, for whom he would always serve a righteous intercessor before the Master of the Universe. Can one ask a mother about the qualifications, or positive and negative traits of her child? It is her child – she loves him – and that is all. That was the very relationship that Max Sina had with his dispersed Sierpc fellow natives, wherever they might be found. With him, there was no cause for doubts. If he took something on, if he set off on a designated path to help his fellow natives, there would never be a case of return us back – always forward, forward, and never back.
It seems that Max Sina himself had for a long time not been vigorous and healthy. However, he displayed exceptional strength when it came to his beloved relief work for Sierpcers. I can never forget the warm evenings and nights that we spent in the basement of my house in Brooklyn sorting the clothing and food to make packages to send to the Sierpcer refugees in France, Italy, France, the Land of Israel, and Africa. He himself was a capable man who could have permitted himself some personal comforts after a hard workday in New York. Instead of traveling for a weekend to his summer home by the sea to cool off and rest, he came to our house where everything was collected and undertook the work that was holy to him. If it was too late to go home, he would spend the night with us and wake up very early in the morning to catch the train to go home. He never complained about others who were not as willing as he was to work. He carried out his holy duty that certainly brought him spiritual enjoyment.
When it was decided to undertake the activity for the Sierpcer Relief, for various reasons of which here is not the place to write, Max Sina was conducting a Sierpcer Relief on a small scale by himself. He obtained money, of course putting in no small amount of his own cash, and sent it to where he thought there was the need.
When the first refugees from Germany began to arrive in America, he himself conducted the individual assistance
activity for them. He found work for those he could, and if it there was the need, he would take them into his own shop. They learned the trade of sewing on the machine, and then they were employed by him or by someone else. On many occasions, he spent entire evenings with the students in the shop, in order to avoid a meeting with his partner or with the Workers Union. When it was possible, one of the new arrivals would find a paternal accommodation at Mr. Sina's house during his first days in New York, and receive warm maternal treatment from his prominent wife.
When at last the undertaking of creating a Yizkor Book to perpetuate the memories of the martyrs of Sierpc came to the fore though the initiative of our fellow natives in Israel, and a leading hand was needed in order to turn to the fellow natives in America for financial assistance as well as to collect written material and documents or data from historical works, Max Sina took upon himself the mission to conduct this work and to do everything that was needed, to make it possible for our fellow natives in Tel Aviv to do their work. Due to his poor state of health, he had already retired from his private business. On account of his weakness on his feet and his poor vision, and after several serious operations including on the eyes, he suffered from several serious accidents that caused him no small amount of additional physical suffering. However, none of this held him back from continuing with the work. He continued to connect with everyone by telephone, to call meetings at his home, and to do everything that he could do to help actualize the Sierpc Yizkor Book, which had lately become his purpose in life.
That intensive dedication to his work to help the Sierpcers had its influence upon those surrounding him, so that it was almost impossible to refuse his requests to become involved and do work, even in cases where one was not in complete agreement with him. There was something about the dedication of Max Sina that stood higher than any cold reckoning and accounting.
That characteristic of Max Sina shone like a ray of light through all the years of our mutual work for the Sierpcer Relief until his final undertaking to create the Sierpc Yizkor Book – and from that stems our respect for Mr. Max Sina, Mr. United Sierpc Relief.
Unfortunately, he did not merit in seeing the Sierpc Yizkor Book. He passed away on May 20, 1959, corresponding to the 12th of Iyar, 5719. May his memory be a blessing!
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