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{574}

The Sochaczew Mutual Benefit Organization of Chicago

by Louis Libert

Translated by Jerrold Landau


I am grateful to have had the opportunity of being able to direct the constructive work of our small but active society for the fleeting period of 33 years.

{photo – Eliezer Meir Libert. Passed away in Chicago.}


In 1914, due to a coincidental meeting of a few Sochaczew natives, the idea of founding a Sochaczewer Mutual Benefit Society was born. Before me now lies a copy of the original constitution, dated February 8, 1914.

The first task of the society at that time was to support the newly arrived immigrants from Sochaczew, and to help them to settle in their new home. We would provide for them respectfully until they were able to find their own means of livelihood. We would also support the families of the “greeners” from Sochaczew, as well as all other families who required support. The society also established a free loan organization here in Chicago to lend money to fellow natives without interest, when the need arose. The borrowers would be able to pay the loan back in small sums. That same year, the First World War broke out in Europe. Poland was occupied by the Germans, and no news came out of Sochaczew. The Sochaczew natives (landsleit) worried terribly. They worked extra hard to establish a fund, so that when the day of freedom would come they would be able to assist. The awaited day finally came. Without any request, help was sent along with a letter inquiring about the well being of the residents of Sochaczew, and indicating what our further support could accomplish. Their response came with a request asking if it would be possible for us to build a Talmud Torah (elementary school) for them, for the Jewish cheders were not fit for the children. Their request was accepted at our following meeting. A committee visited our native town, and plans were set.

When they returned, we commenced with the work.

In 1926, the president at the time, Mr. Hyman Rabinovitch, traveled to Sochaczew for the opening of the Talmud Torah. It was a very solemn opening. The school was the pride of all the Sochaczew Jews. Here, it was as good as there. We took care of the upkeep of the school. We regularly sent money, every year, to clothe the children, as well as help for poor children. We also sent help to all the organizations that existed up to the time of that accursed Hitler. Shortly after the murderers entered Poland, we heard that all the Jews of Sochaczew were expelled to the Warsaw ghetto. The Jews had ill fortune and were annihilated. The Talmud Torah was destroyed. The destruction of Sochaczew affected us greatly. We all decided to work toward and to eagerly await the great day when our greatest hater would be destroyed. Nobody would have been able to believe that so many of our people were destroyed. More than three-quarters of the people from our hometown were murdered.

Aside from the support that we sent via the federation, we at that time did much assistance work. We received letters from the small remnant of our natives who were scattered in all parts of the world. We sent them packages of food and money. We also received letters from natives of other areas who were searching for their relatives. We did what we could to connect them with their relatives.

Sochaczew is no more. As faras we hear, the entire city has turned Polish. All signs of Judaism were erased. We are still bonded to our hometown of Sochaczew with thousands of threads, and we wish that Jewish Sochaczew would still live. We carry with us the hope of establishing a Sochaczewer settlement in the Land of Israel. We will attempt to realize our dream. It should be said about our fruitful work on behalf of our organization is thanks to the constant hard work of people such as Mr. Yitzchak Landau, who held office for more than 25 years already; Mr. Benny Beister, the ex-president[1]; H. Rabinovitch, Mr. J. Rabinovitch the treasurer; G. Beister and others, such as myself[2], who held the office of president and recording secretary for 20 years.

Chicago District
November 1947


Deceased Members of the Relief Committee [3]



Pinchas Graubard Vova Rosenberg
Max Graubard Max Landau
Henry Miller Tzalel Nelson
Eliezer Rosen Fanny Borenstein
Meir Plamiak Phillip Nelson
William Muney Hyman Goldberg
Yisrael Keller Sam Leifer
  Jack Leifer



{Photo}

Sitting from right to left:
Chava Benzer, Shirley Lesinger, Esther Shpeizhendler, Becky Winter, Chana Hodes Rosen.

Standing from right to left:
Sam Winter, Shimon Neiten, Moshe Geier, Isadore, Silverstein, Moshe Shpeiznendler, Hermen Nelson,
David Wohlrat, Al Weitzman, Bella Weitzman, Avraham Shorkin, Joel Roth, Mendel Gombinski, Yosef Chazan.

Missing from the picture:
Moshe Kipper, Y. Jacobi, Molly Solomon, Yetta Spikler, Sydney Landau, Klara Leifer, Chava Zuckerweiss.



{577}

Sochaczewers in New York

by Ch. L. Ludzki

Translated by Jerrold Landau


Regarding the first Sochaczew Jews in New York, when did they come, how did they earn their livelihood in their new home, their social and spiritual state, how did they acclimatize in their first years, how many returned to Poland, etc. – about all this, unfortunately, we have no written documents, and also no accurate details.

There are no record books, letters or books that tell about this. They do not exist. After a great deal of searching, we can find grave markers with letters that are peeling off in the old Jewish cemeteries that are no longer used today. On these, we can make out the word “From Sochaczew” beside the personal data of the deceased. There is no other reminder of the great immigration of the Sochaczew Jews who took up their wandering sticks and came to the Golden Land along with the great stream of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia at the end of the 19th century.

I had no choice other than to collect in a primitive manner the meager data from the remaining aging Sochaczew natives who remember themselves or who had heard stories told by their parents about their first years in New York. I will attempt to relate here that which I have collected.


*

The information goes back to the end of the 1870s, and I can state with certainty that at the beginning of 1880, there were already groups of Sochaczew Jews who not only came to worship in the Hassidic Shtibels that were located both on the East Side and in Harlem, but also served as gabbaim (synagogue trustees), prayer leaders, Torah readers, and other official positions in a number of groups of Polish Jews. They also took part in all of the institutions that began to arise during that time that were needed for the newly arrived immigrants who were fleeing the Russian pogroms. We find our Sochaczewers in the Beis Midrashes, in the beer halls, and also in the parks and gardens where they came to search for work or where they came on their day of rest with one objective: perhaps they might find a newly arrived immigrant with a warm greeting from the old country.

Thus do we find the names of Sochaczewers in the membership lists of the first Warsaw, Lodz, Vilna and Berdichev organizations. They were active in the work of these organizations.

For the first time in 1881, a small number of Sochaczewers in New York began to organize their own societal life, as well as assistance activities for their own fellow natives, who would be ashamed to ask for help from others even during their time of need – but they would be willing to accept assistance from their own people from the same city, and they would not be ashamed of pouring out their difficult situation…

In that year, a group of Sochaczewer worshippers at the “Great Beis Midrash of the East Side” founded the first Sochaczewer institution.

Despite the fact that its original name was not indicative of any unique Sochaczew origins, as it was called “Chevra Bnei Rachmanim” (The Organization of the Merciful Ones), and also offered assistance to other Jews in need. All of the unique Sochaczewer institutions and societies that exist until this day stem from it.

Among the first group of activists one finds names such as Chaim Slomak, Zindel Segal, Yeshaya Spiegel, Yona Sheinbaum, Yaakov Lewin, Aharon Zelig Leitheld, Yaakov Switzman, Yehoshua Goldberg, Shalom Leib Hershkowitz, Pinchas Keller (later the shamash at the Ludlow Street Synagogue), Tovia Speiss, Avraham Greenberg and others who later assisted in the founding of the “Young Men's Organization”.

I wish to mention here the scholar Ashenheim who assisted with the first institution with his entire energy and soul. In those days he was not yet an official rabbi, and he worked at various jobs such as a mashgiach (kashruth supervisor) and learning holy studies with youths so that he could sustain himself.

It also seems that the Sochaczewers in New York did not form an independent Sochaczewer organization, for with meager means it would not be possible to obtain their own building. They were centered around the beautiful synagogue on 117 Ludlow Street, which was founded in 1898 by almost the same group of people and activists.

Its first worshippers were members of the Bnei Rachmanim. Later, a group of Sochaczewer Jews gathered around the Chevra Mishnayos synagogue on Suffolk Street.

The fervent activity first began in 1894, when a new cemetery was needed for the members who died during that year. The members desired that the synagogue should have its own cemetery, as did other organizations. This led to the founding of the “Chevra Kadisha Anshei Sochaczew” that exists to this day, and has maintained an important set of records. (President Issie Silverstein, Chairman H. Landau, Treasurer Sidney W., Landau). For example, they transferred the remains of the long deceased members from the old cemetery, for the place was needed by the city for other purposes…

To that end, two areas in the Washington Cemetery were purchased as a cemetery for the members of the synagogue. Later, they also purchased a place in the Beth David Cemetery in Long Island.

A mikva (ritual bath) was also constructed at the synagogue. It was called “The Kosher Mikva for all Jewish daughters”, and was still in existence at the end of 1928, when the bathhouse attendants provoked a scandal and the president of the time, Meir Slomak had to call a special meeting where the announcement that was sent to all of the Sochaczewers was read. It was tragic enough even for those times.

In the Yiddish and English invitation from the middle of October, 1928, we read: “Worthy Members! You are called to attend a regular and special meeting on Tuesday, October 30, 1928 at 8:00 p.m. in the synagogue, 121 Ludlow Street, New York.

The purpose of this meeting is very important: the current circumstances of our synagogue and what will be the conclusion.

As you already know, the synagogue is undergoing a difficult situation with the bathhouse attendants who accused us. The trial will take place shortly. Also, since the contract with the bathhouse attendants expires in the month of April, we must begin to discuss and debate what we will do so that the name of our synagogue should not Heaven forbid be debased, the synagogue will not be driven to the ground, and the name of our city of Sochaczew will not be shamed – so that we can continue to maintain a synagogue. At the last meeting, it was decided to send around circulars to every member to remind them to be present and take part in the meeting for this holy purpose. We have already existed for 45 years, and we must not, Heaven forbid, be driven into the ground through this terrible crisis.

It is impossible now to describe the situation in writing about all the years that we have toiled for the synagogue. We request that all the members come to the meeting with pure hearts and proper thoughts, to do what is needed, since the time is short.

The day is short and the task is great. If you do not attend the meeting, we will leave the synagogue in an abandoned state, as well as our portion of the cemetery with its plots. Nobody will be able to protest.

You should know that in our synagogue we have a member who has been sick for six months, and the synagogue has done what it could do. Now his family has set up a theater benefit. So that we can further help this member, every member must purchase a ticket. Every member who does not show up at the meeting will be charged a three dollar fee, which will go toward this sick member.

We are hoping that none of our members will be absent from this important meeting – by the order of the president:

Meir Slomak, President, Tzemach Pomerantz, Secretary”

I have especially included the meeting announcement from 1928, and even brought it down with its original orthography and language, in order to illustrate a small snippet of the large scale and multi-faceted work that has taken place throughout the years when, aside from serving as a holy place for worshipping, the synagogue served as a devoted home for our Sochaczewer immigrants who for the most part arrived alone and without their families. In the synagogue, they found familiar people and friends, and first and foremost, a warm, brotherly atmosphere and environment that was somewhat of a substitute for the old home.

At the time that I write a little about the long history of the Sochaczewer community in New York it is indeed our great duty to express to a small degree our great fondness for the builders, and to mention with respect the honorary list of the first group of activists, who did not hold back any money and time as they worked for the benefit of their society.

Among the original activists for the benefit of the Sochaczewers, we find the important names of Michael Landau, Yaakov Switman, Aharon Leidhold, Zindel Segal, Yeshaya Hershkowitz, Aharon Speiss, Hyman Hirsch, Sam Bauman, Shlomo Goldshneider, Max Landau and Rabbi Ashenheim, the first rabbi of the Sochaczewer Synagogue. He assisted the endeavor during the early period for a very small salary. He also learned with the Chevra Mishnayos group and played a very important role in forging the spiritual form of our society, which had to accustom itself to the new American style and customs.

The synagogue had two eras: the first one until 1920, and the second one until 1956. During the first period, its spiritual leaders included the rabbis Ashenheim, Efraim Einman, Landau, and others.

In 1920, a very large renovation of the synagogue took place. It took on the appearance of a modern, stately building, comparable with the large synagogues of New York. The work was done voluntarily and with great proficiency under the supervision of Moshe Cooper, who gave of his entire free time and experience. At that time, the prime activists included: Zindel Segal, Hyman Nelson, Hyman Hirsch, Max Bauman, Yaakov Switman, Max Landau, Shlomo Goldshneider, as well as the younger people Sidney Landau, David Segal, Reverend Louis Rosen who was the sexton of Reb Yitzchak Graubard, and others.

The synagogue existed until the year 1956. Its last president was A. G. Silverstein. However, since the entire areas now had fewer Jews, and most of the Sochaczew builders and worshippers moved to other areas just like most of the Jews, a decision was made to sell the synagogue at a general meeting of its members.

The sum of 35,000 dollars was used for a very important project which was certainly very important to our fellow natives.


{Photo page 582: Rabbi Yitzchak Graubard of blessed memory, one of the synagogue activists in New York.}


It was decided to donate the sum of 25,000 dollars to the eminent Bar Ilan University. A special, modern tablet with the names of all of the deceased members and worshippers of our Sochaczewer synagogue in New York was to be put up in the synagogue that was to be built at the University. This would serve as an eternal light, and on every yahrzeit date, a light would be turned on next to the name of the deceased, and someone would recite Kaddish. For this purpose we gave 15,000 dollars in cash and 10,000 dollars in Israel bonds. The rest of the money would be kept for cases of need in New York as would be determined through a regular meeting of the committee.

That first group of activists who came in 1900 included the founders of the broad based organization that is called to this day the “Independent Sochaczewer Young Men's Sick Benefit Organization”. It was officially founded on November 27, 1900, and conducts its activities to this day with a large membership.

It is interesting to bring down here a small snippet of its constitution, which was published in Yiddish and English in a 55 page booklet at the time that it was amended on December 28, 1939. (The booklet was published at the beginning of 1940.)

I will only bring down the first article of the constitution:

  1. The name of this society will be – the Independent Young Men's Sick Benefit Organization.
  2. The name of the society will never be changed.
  3. The society must not be disbanded as long as thirteen members wish that the society should continue its existence.
  4. All of the business of the society must be written in minutes in Yiddish or English.

The funds of the society must be used only for the following purposes:
  1. Sick benefit.
  2. Death benefit.
  3. Shiva benefit.
  4. Assisting and supporting members in need and assisting those who are in need because of the death of a member.
  5. Publications that are needed in the interests of the society.

A further article: Members, that is a member or his widow, who become apostates, meaning that they abandon the Jewish faith, will be suspended from the society. Furthermore a member who marries a wife from outside the Jewish faith, or a Jewish wife who does not follow Orthodox Jewish practice, will be suspended.

From this small excerpt, we can get a bit of idea about the work in both the national and the social areas, as well as the concerns of the society during its early years, when the need of newly arrived townsfolk were a daily phenomenon, and they had to be helped during their time of need.

It would take up too much space to tell about the entire 60 years of its activity, and also to mention all of the activists, most of whom have already passed away. I will suffice myself with mentioning a number of the first elected officials, organizations and builders who lovingly gave of their time, health and monetary savings for the benefits of the community of Sochaczewers in New York.

The society was founded with 18 members.

Its father and actual founder was Max Eisenstop of blessed memory, who also served as president for the first six months. A few years later, he again served in that important office once again due to his important work.

The first committee consisted of Barney Greenberg of blessed memory, who served as vice president; Alex Gottlieb of blessed memory, treasurer; Harry Berman of blessed memory, financial secretary; Yaakov Friedman of blessed memory, recording secretary; and the members Benny Lewin of blessed memory, Hyman Slomak of blessed memory, Abe Rotstein of blessed memory, and Louis Schwartz of blessed memory.

They raised the number of members to 45.

The second president was Aharon Zelig Leitheld. Under his leadership, in May 1901, the area of 12 plots in the Mount Sinai Cemetery was purchased in May 1901. A. Z. Leitheld did a great deal more during his term of office as president.

The third president was Solomon Goldshneider of blessed memory. He excelled in intelligence, knowledge and tact, which gave a great deal to the society in those times.

The fourth was Louis Brokman of blessed memory.

The fifth was Mendel Frankenstein of blessed memory. He also simultaneously served as the treasurer.

The sixth was M. D. Helfand of blessed memory.

Max Sheinberg, who at that time was one of the first and the eldest members, was elected as president several times. He also arranged for the construction of the beautiful fence with an inscription around the Sochaczewer area in Mount Sinai Cemetery.

Aside from serving as president, Moshe Metchnik served several times as financial secretary. Aside from being among the first organizers, Barnet Kolsky served as president in 1910.

Aside from serving as the first financial secretary, Harry Berman was the president from 1910 to 1912, and he later took on many other positions of responsibility.

Yosef Miller, also one of the founders, was the president in 1913. In 1915, at the 15th anniversary of the society, a special souvenir collection of 50 pages with an accounting of the first 15 years of work, as well as photos of the first activists, both those who had already passed away and those who were still alive and active in the activities was published. We can take the names from this booklet.

These are: Aharon Z Leitheld, Harry Berman, Max Muney, Barney Greenberg, Moshe Metchnik, Henry Cohen, Chaim Slomak, Max Eisenstop, Barnet Kolsky, M. Frankenstein, Yosef Miller, Louis Schwartz, David Ohlberg, Max Lewin, Avraham German, Herman Jacobs, Arthur Sofron, Avraham Berman, David Miller, Yaakov Laosher, Avraham Rotstein, Max Sheinberg. The members included: V. Enis, B. Enis, D. Auerbach, Y. Berman, Yosef Berman, M. Berman, Y. Berger, A. Benzer, Y. Besserman, Meir Bauman, Y. Binder, L. Brzasky, M. Bernstein, L. Boznicky, Sh. H. Becker, A. Boznicky, A. Cohen, Y. Cohen, L. Cohen, R. Cohen, M. Cohen., Sh. Sholk, B. Cohen, Sh. Cohen, S. H. Diamond, M. Temple, H. Epstein, Y. Friedrich, Y. Felt, L. Pritz, L. Friedman, S. Finkel, Y. Goldflus, H. Greenberg, Y. Greenberg, S. Grobshmit, Y. Gursky, M. Greenwald, H. Heiman, D. Helman, S. Holtz, A. Innfeld, L. Jakobovitch, S. Jacobs, Y. Kozshinsky, A. Kotshinsky, V. Kornfeld, Pinchas Keller, V. Kopeld, Y. Lusky, H. Lewin, D. Lions, A. Levy, Sh. Levy, S. Levy, D. Lustig, L. Lisser, Y. Levkovich, Yosef Lewin, Sh. Miller, S. Miller, H. Miller, A. Miller, Y. Miller, Y. Mashman, A. Mashman, T. Morenfeld, H. Notan, P. Nelson, Y. Foster, Y. Putter, A. Peters, Sh. Rosen, Sol Rosen, H. Rotstein, L. Rappaport, Meir Slomak, B. Slomak, Y. Slomak, L. Slomak, Y. Speiss, M. Speiss, Y. Sofer, Y. Stromfeld, L. Stromfeld, A. Stromfeld, Sh. Schwartz, A. Schwartz, Sh. Schwartz, H. Silverman, M. Silver, B. Solomon, Sh. Sochaczewsky, M. Sherel, M. Zuckerwise, M. Temple, Sh. Weingard, H. Weingard, M. Wishinsky, S. Vidaver, Y. Wagner, Y. Weisman, L. Weltmsman, S. Zemel, L. Zand, M. Weisman. As well as the following people whose photos were not present:

S. Bauman, Y. Birnbaum, D. Balterman, H. Blinderman, S. Boznicky, L. Cohen number 1, M. Cohen, Dr. D. Diamond, Dr. H. B. Elster, Dr. H. Y. Friedman, P. Gorlik, S. Gilder, H. Goldman, Zimmerman, A. Gutman, Y. Gordon, Mrs. A. Greenwald. A. Greenwald, A. Greisman, H. Graubard, L. Grusky, A. Hershkowitz, Dr. M. D. Keller, H. Kramer, T Marenfeld, S. Moshkovich, L. Rappaport, S. Reiter, Y. Sofer, S. Solomon, A. Schlesinger, Y. Silber, B. Sochaczewsky, Mrs. H. M. Starkman, S. Starkman, Sh. Sneiberg, Y. Sh. Ohlberg, S. Weinberg, A. Wilhelm. N. Winter, Z. Zanger.

It would be interesting to give over a little bit of the financial and activity report of the first 15 years, which began with a small sum of dollars and at the anniversary year almost reached the sum of 6,000 dollars. In the treasury there was the sum of 2,300 dollars.

It is also very important to give a small list of the first people who were buried in our own cemetery. We can see from this that our town natives underwent a difficult struggle for their existence during the first years. We see from the death information that the oldest was 45 years old and that the youngest deceased was 25 years old (in the picture of the first graves in the aforementioned anthology).

In the later years we find among the active members the names of: secretary, Y. Donowitz (1915-1922), Yosef Sharfstein of blessed memory, M. Libert, Herman Nelson, Sol Levy, Nathan Slomak, S. Becker of blessed memory, Herman Hirsch, S. Solberg, Morris Cooper, Max Landau, Sam Miller, Aharon Nelson, Yosef Mittleman, Hyman Zabosky, Milton Robinson, Nat Dolow, Harry Temple, Hyman and Irving Nelson, Isadore Greenberg, and others.

In the booklet that was published for the 60th anniversary of the society, we find the following activists from 1960: ex president Sol Levy, President Nathan Slomak, vice president Shmuel V. Becker, Recording secretary Nat Dolow, Financial secretary M. Robinson, treasurers Aharon Boznicky and Isadore Greenberg. We also find a list of over 50 members who were active in the activities. We also find the names of the former presidents Shorl Cohen, Nat Dolow, Morris Feld, Morton Friedman, Herman V. Hirsch, Sol Levy, Herman Nelson, Yaakov Nelson, Robert Putter, Sam Solberg, Nat Slomak, and Sam A. Temple. We also find the names of the members in good standing, which reached a number of 270. This demonstrates the usefulness and the brotherliness of the society at its 60th anniversary, just as it was 60 years previously.

Our Young Men's society was called upon for every case of Jewish need, both for local as well as for general Jewish causes.

We also find in the annals of the first Jewish Relief Committee that was founded immediately after the First World War in order to assist Jews in Europe who were victims of the war and the Russian Revolution – our large sums of assistance money that was raised with heart and soul by the general committee.

Aside from this, in those years we conducted a special activity for our Sochaczew natives, by giving power of attorney to our dear brother Hymie Nelson so that he could do what was necessary for our brothers in the old country.

Hymie Nelson is one of the sons of the elder Sochaczew native Reb Shmuel Nelson of blessed memory, who was one of the first of Chovevei Zion in the town. He came to his children in 1924, and died on April 1, 1931 in New York.

The “United Sochaczewer Relief” was founded at the end of 1939, a the time when the sword of destruction of Polish Jewry was launched – among them being our townsfolk who found themselves under Hitler's bloody rule.

The relief committee was comprised of all of the Sochaczewer organizations in New York. There were representatives from the Young Men's Society, the synagogue, the Lady's Assistance Organization, and from Branch 337 of the National Workers' Union.

The following people were on the first committee: Hymie Nelson, Harry Miller, David Wolrat, Sam Winter, Chava Zuckerwise, Bella Weitzman, Max Graubard, Moshe Speisshendler, Vove Rosenberg, Pinchas Graubard, Betzalel Nelson, Yisrael Moshe Zuckerwise, Shimon Neiten and Meir Menzer. The first president was David Wolrat, and the secretary was Pinchas Graubard. His term lasted until the end of the war in 1945.

Immediately after the war a new committee was created which had the great task of aid and rescue. Under the leadership of Hymie Nelson as president, Bella Weitzman as recording secretary and Moshe Speisshendler as financial secretary, we began to forge contact with the survivors of Hitler's death camps and those who returned from the forests and Russian exile.

We got in touch with friends and acquaintances in the German camps, in Poland, in Austria and Italy. Aside from packages with food and clothing, we also sent them our warm feelings. We sent over 500 packages to townsfolk in all corners of the world. We helped them with various sums of money to enable them to emigrate from the camps to the State of Israel, South America, Australia and the United States. We also offered our brotherly assistance to help them acquire dwellings and furniture when they propitiously arrived in their new homelands. We gave them general assistance so that they would be able to begin a new life after the dark Hitler and Stalin years. We assisted the Sochaczewer Charitable Fund in the State of Israel with a large sum of money so that those in need could find a source of livelihood, so that they could support themselves on their own two feet.


{Photo page 588: Yisrael Moshe and Chava Zuckerwise.}


We did everything for those Sochaczewers who wished to come to America – we helped with papers, affidavits, and other material and moral assistance. Here, they were able to experience our best family relationships, so that they were able to quickly acclimatize to our environment in our Sochaczewer Society.

In April 1952, on the 10th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, we arranged a large memorial gathering. Close to 400 Sochaczewers came to pay their respects to our martyrs.

The gathering took place under the chairmanship of our member Vove Rosenberg of blessed memory. The program included speeches about our hometown, about the martyr and writer M. Demblyn, and about our townsfolk the folklorist and scholar Pinchas Graubard of blessed memory. The memorial prayer was recited by our esteemed fellow townsman Cantor and Rabbi Leifer.

The current activists in the relief committee include Hyman Nelson – chairman, Isadore Silverstein – treasurer, Moshe Speisshendler – financial secretary, and Moshe Geier – recording secretary. They never refuse, and are always prepared to assist Sochaczewers in need, either personally or through others. We regularly send assistance to those in need in the State of Israel.

Aside from all of the Sochaczewer institutions of various forms, on March 18, 1934, a special institution with a different purpose was founded. This was the Sochaczewer Branch 337 of the National Workers' Union of America.

In the group of the first ten activists we find Sam Winter, Shimon Neiten, Max Zuckerwise, Yosef Winter the recently deceased Moshe Birnbaum, Meir Benzer, Chaim Fleischman, Meir Slomak, Mendel Graubard and Jack Leifer. They did not suffice themselves with all of the activity of all of the previous organizations that took on solely a material character and rarely concerned themselves with the national and spiritual life.

Their first task was to establish connection with Sochaczewers who had recently left Poland and had settled in the Land of Israel. To this end, they paid great attention to those organizations that worked for the chalutzim (pioneers), for the Histadrut Campaign, for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund) and its branches. Aside from this, we took part in all of the activities for the JOINT and for the United Jewish Appeal. Our program attracted a number of nationally conscious townsfolk. Today, the “Branch” consists of 35 families who are one Sochaczewer family. The branch participated in and continues to participate in all activities to strengthen Jewish life in all countries. We conduct special undertakings to help our townsfolk who survived and came back from the great Jewish destruction.

Aside from what was sent through the relief, we sent our own 500 packages of food and clothing to needy people in the German camps and in Poland. We helped a number of our townsfolk in Israel with their needs. To this end we arranged a special event every year, with the entire proceeds going to the State of Israel. Each of us in the branch separately purchased Israel bonds, the sum of which has already reached 20,000 dollars. We expended the effort and succeeded in bringing two of our townsfolk to America on our affidavits. We helped them and their families settle in to the United States.

The following friends were active in the branch throughout the 25 year period: Sam Winter, Eliahu Weitzman, Abe Shorken, Issie Brafman, Moshe Speisshendler, Shimon Neiten, Yoel Rotstein, Yosef Winter, Menashe Baron, Saul Weiss, Max Lieder, Avraham Hirsch, Mendel Gombinsky, Mrs. Becky Birnbaum, Henry Weiss, Herbert Berkovitch, Anshel Pinczewski, Henry Olewing, Irving Brafman, Max Zuckerwise, David Speisshendler, Walter Speisshendler, Yisrael Brafman, David Speisshendler, and others.

We hold a monthly meeting which deals with all matters of the branch, and our own cemetery which we have had since 1950.

We wish to dedicate a few lines of memory to one of our builders who fell in the line of duty in the war against the Nazis during the Second World War. This is our former dear comrade Chaim David Neiten (Shlomo Neiten's son), who was killed by the Germans at the age of 24 during the air raids over London on April 28, 1944. May he rest in peace!

Our current officers are:

Sam Winter – chairman, Yosef Winter – vice chairman, Abe Sharken – financial secretary, and Irving Brafman – recording secretary.


{Photo page 591: Chaim David Neiten, fell on the 5th of Iyar.}



{592}


The Activities of our Women's Help Organization
in New York


In the winter of 1934, after letters and sorrowful greetings from our relatives in our old hometown began to arrive, describing the difficult Jewish situation and the increasing level of need due to Polish anti-Semitism, a group of women townsfolk met in the house of our townsfolk Becky and Sam Winter in Brooklyn and decided to found a special women's organization, which would occupy itself with assisting the needy in our old home.

The organization grew from the first group of twelve founders. Today it plays an important role in the work of the Sochaczewers in New York.

Some of the original group are unfortunately no longer alive, but their names must be mentioned honor.

These include the longstanding chairwoman and recording secretary Feiga Bornstein and the activists Chava Winter, Floris Speiss, Malka and Chava Tenner, Becky Graubard and Mrs. Fleischman.

We must also mention those of the first group who were actively constantly until today. These include Becky Winter, Chava Benzer (the wife of the late activist in the Sochaczewer Landsleit Organization Meir Benzer of blessed memory. Their son Seymour, who affiliates as a child of Sochaczew natives, is one of the ten most famous scientists in all of America[4]), our first chairwoman Rae Baron, Becky Birnbaum, Fleischman, Clara and Polly Leifer, and a number who today do not live in New York.

Dozens of women followed voluntarily, who gave of their precious time and money, going around to all of the Sochaczewers in New York to collect money for assistance that was later sent back home to Sochaczew.

Thus did the work progress until the war in 1939.

We held our meetings in our old synagogue on Ludlow Street in order to save a few dollars that we utilized to send help.

We undertook various activities. We arranged various theatrical performances in English and Yiddish. The ticket sales and benefits went toward the assistance effort.

Through our common efforts we collected various items and raffled them off, with the entire proceeds going toward those in need…

This took place between the years 1939-1944. During that time, the former president and secretary Bella Weitzman excelled. She brought the work to a higher level.

The highest level of our activity began at the end of the Second World War, when Chava Zuckerwise was elected as chairwoman and Mali Solomon as secretary. They assisted in the founding of the much needed Sochaczewer Relief Committee, to which all of the Sochaczewer organization of New York belong today. These include the Sochaczewer Young Men's Society, the synagogue, Branch 337 of the National Workers' Union, and our Women's Help Organization. All of them together raised the capital for help and rescue of the surviving Sochaczewers after the huge Jewish destruction.

Aside from the general assistance through the relief committee, we ourselves with our own means – through the help of our women – sent hundreds of packages of food and clothing, as well as medicine and other necessities to those who miraculously survived Hitler's death camps, to those who returned from their wanderings in Russian, and to those who remained alive in the bunkers and hiding places in the Polish forests.

Already from the first day of their liberation, we sent the needed assistance along with our good wishes to those who were in Poland as well as Germany, Austria and Italy. We saw to it that they would remain in contact in us and not feel lost after their difficult experiences.

We assisted them and continued to assist them as they settled in the State of Israel or here in America. We offered both individual and collective help.

We adopted two war orphans and gave 600 dollars for their maintenance, at first in a home in Paris and today in Israel. Throughout the time, we sent them whatever they needed.

This took place over a period of 15 years of daily work, which we conducted with love, in order that those who required our assistance should feel as part of one Sochaczewer family.

Finally, I wish to mention our active activists who give of their assistance and hearts for our organization. Let us mention with honor the late activists such as: Reverend Louis Rosen who never refused any undertaking of ours, and helped with words and deeds; the shochet (ritual slaughterer) Reb Naftali Geshen and his wife Sarah of the Neiten family; the prominent Vove Rosenberg; Reb Yitzchak Graubard (called Reb Yitzchak Shamash) and his son Mendel Graubard; Yisrael Moshe Zuckerwise; Max Shpilker and the writer Pinchas Graubard.

I also wish to thank the active workers Chava Benzer, Bella Weitzman and Sarah Lessinger.

I especially wish to stress the great material and moral assistance from our friends Max and Ida Zuckerwise, Issie Fen and Moshe and Becky Cooper, without whose help we would have had to restrict our activity.

Our current committee consists of: Chava Zuckerwise – chairwoman, Chana Esther Green – vice chairwoman, Yetti Shpikler – social secretary, Becky Winter and Pearl Rosen – managing committee, and Mali Solomon – general secretary.


{Photo page 597: The marketplace in the center of the city.}







Translator's Footnotes

  1. It is not clear if the title 'ex-president' belongs to the preceding name or the following name. I guessed at the preceding name. The same applies for the title 'treasurer'. Return
  2. Literally 'mein veinikeit', which means 'my smallness', which is a humble way of referring to oneself. Return
  3. It is not clear if the people on this list, and those listed in the caption of the photo on the following page, are from the Chicago group, or some other group. There is no indication one way or another on these pages. Return
  4. Seymour Benzer, a physicist, molecular biologist and geneticist, died just last year on November 30, 2007. See the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seymour_Benzer. Return


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