Nathan Lava would play the part of the Rabbi, Reb Yokhntze; Miss Kaplan, the dentist of Zaromb, who was herself not a Zaromber, would play Soreh-Sheyndl, the "rebbetzin" (rabbi's wife) ; Zelig Rumyanek played Avraml, their son; Feyga Segalovitch - their daughter, Bobele; Moyshe Bergman - the Rabbi's brother Jake, an American; Berl Fridman - Sam, his son; Israel-Velvel Raskolenker - Gumpel the Cantor; Shmuel Leib Raskolenker - Shabsi the "Shamess" (se)tant") ; Golde Rosental - Khaneleh. The director was David Grinshpan.
All the scenery and makeup were brought from Ostrove. The hardest thing to get was a "shtrayml" (fur-trimmed hat) for the rabbi. Finally, the committee convinced one of the group to borrow her father's "shtrayml", without his knowledge, of course.
After feverish preparations, we were ready for our first performance. It was a huge success. The room was packed to overflowing, even though a ticket cost a few mark. The "show stopper" was when Shabsi the Shamess, played by Shmuel-Leib Raskolenker sang, "Shabsi, You Are Not a Golem." He was called back for several curtain calls to stormy applause.
Because of the success of this first performance, it was soon decided to give a second performance of the same play. But during the second show, something terrible happened. One of the Chassidic women, who came to see the play, recognized whose "shtrayml" the "Rabbi" in the play was wearing. In her eyes, this was too serious a "crime" to ignore. After she left the "theater", she went right to the owner of the "shtrayml" and informed him of the blasphemy. After all, in this shtrayml the owner had so often sat at the real rabbi's table. We had to return the shtrayml immediately after the show.
Left without a shtrayml, we still decided to give a third performance. But the third time, it was nowhere as successful as the first 2 times. Perhaps it was because we did not have the shtrayml.
For the youth of Zaromb these performances were a source of inspiration. Very soon thereafter, the "Bund" put on Yakov Gordin's "The Wild Man", which was a huge success. Later, the "Tzeiri-Zion" began rehearsing for Gordin's "Khasha, the Orphan Girl", but it was the time when young men were being called up for military service and it was impossible to continue with the work of a theater group.
The Yiddish Folkshul was founded in April, 1919. It was a secular school. The language of instruction was Yiddish, and Hebrew was taught as one subject. Two teachers worked at the school: Israel Steinberg (myself) and Moyshe Bergman. At the beginning, we had about 80 students who were divided into 4 groups. In December of 1919, the school became part of the governmental school system, but despite the fact that the language of instruction now had to be Polish, the character of the school remained the same. The content was still aimed at Jewish nationalism and Yiddish continued to be taught. The number of students kept growing until we had 260 divided into seven classes. We had a very nice house with 4 rooms and the same two teachers.
There was an active parent committee, which helped to build the school, to strengthen its educational policies and to keep close contact with all the mothers and fathers of the students. Soon the Folkshul became popular among the entire Jewish population of Zaromb and almost all the children of school age went there. Soon the school also developed a fine reputation among non-Jews. The government inspectors determined and reported that the Jewish children were good students, well disciplined and that the school was well organized. They also showed that in several subjects, the students surpassed those studying at the Polish school.
It was a pleasure to work with the students in Zaromb. They were attached to their teachers, like children to a father. They were not afraid; they obeyed their teachers out of deep respect. The worst punishment for a pupil was for the teacher to show disapproval of the pupil's behavior. The general tone of the school was one of active learning, good discipline and a tone of harmony and solidarity.
Naturally there were some pupils who were more able and talented than others, but there were almost no "street children" to disrupt the school activities. The student committee played an important role in maintaining the tone of the school. I particularly remember the student committee made up of Endl Rosenblum, Freydke Burstayn, Yoshua Fridman, Dina Lashinski, Yakob Shtshupak, Dvora Fridman and Feygl Migdal. That was a real student government.
The students ran the children's library, were responsible for the supplies needed by pupils; they were concerned with order and discipline in the school; they tutored those students who were weaker in the various subjects; they organized several clubs including a drama club which made quite a name for itself with its performances. I remember the play produced in the Polish language "Karpaccy Gorale". It was quite daring for students to put on such a serious play, but it was so successful that the audience, both Jews and non-Jews, were entranced. These were golden children whose names are engraved forever in the heart and memory of their teacher.
Through the murderous fascist hands, the great majority of the Zaromb students and their later teachers along with them, were cut down, their lives cut short. Only a few individual students and their first teacher survived to bear witness to the pulsating Jewish cultural life in Zaromb, which existed but is no more. The names of the tortured, slaughtered and incinerated children of Zaromb will always be remembered. In spite of our enemies we will continue to spin the golden threads of knowledge, of Jewish Nationalist culture – the symbol for "Am Israel Chai", the people of Israel live!
In Zaromb, our mothers rocked us to sleep with the lullabies "Rozshinkes un Mandlen" (Raisins and Almonds) and "Toyre Iz Di Beste Skhoyre" (Torah is the best goods) . As children, we used to play near the big synagogue, a handsome red brick building with a 3-story tower, great wide doors and long, wide windows. Those windows – what a mixture of various colors: green, yellow, red and blue around stars of David, also made of glass. Those windows made the synagogue exceptionally beautiful on the outside.
The interior was a treasure of art. So much fantasy, so much beauty, such originality as most I have ever seen. The ark, which held the Torah, was exquisitely carved. It was 3 stories high, like an elongated triangle with fantastic animals and birds among the branches and flowers. It was the dream of a genius Jewish woodcarver who sometime, somehow wandered into our region of Poland. The Ten Commandments were beautifully mounted and the colored stones in the crown above shimmered and sparkled. The two lions seemed to stare at each person, filling hearts with courage. The huge hanging chandeliers shone from above. The bima (platform) was in the middle of the synagogue encircled with iron gratings and steps to go up on both sides. The women's part of the synagogue was on the western side. Sometimes the young women leaned over and threw nuts to a prospective bridegroom.
On Thursdays, Jews began preparing for the Sabbath. Pesakh, the fisherman, would shout, "Fish, fish, fish for Shabbes!" He shouted with a melody. Yosl Bolender also sang out his wares. Yeshaya Zelig had heated the bath in the "Mikva" (ritual bath). Rayzl, the "shameste" (Rabbi's assistant) for the women put away the long pointer, which she used all week while teaching the girls, and began fulfilling her obligations to the women at the "mikva". People in charge of the baths changed frequently. After Yeshaya came Hershel, then his son, Yosl Bendet, and later others, but Rayzl, the shameste, always remained at her job; nobody could chase her out.
When the holy Sabbath arrives, everyone and everything becomes imbued with the special Sabbath feeling. The everyday clothes have been discarded; boots have been polished; everyone is scrubbed and clean and dressed in Sabbath finery. Everything looks renewed, even people's souls seem to change. The woes of the week are put aside as the Sabbath sings in everyone's bones with the happy nigun (melody) of "Lekha Dodi."
What was even more interesting was how the Jews of Zaromb ended the Sabbath and received the coming week. Right after "davening minkha" (saying the afternoon prayers) , the "Misnagdim" (non-Chassidim) went home for their festive main Sabbath meal. The Chassidim went to have their meal together at their "shtiblekh" (prayer houses) where they shared the food and sang with great enthusiasm until the first star appeared in the sky. Then they "davened merev" (saying the evening prayers) and finished up with "Havdolah" (last rite of the Sabbath) before heading home.
On a Sabbath even when a new moon was greeted, all Jews went out into the streets. That was when the Misnagdim, the Gerer Chassidim, the Alexanderer, Amshinover and Kotzkes Chassidim all were like one large family. They carried candles and in the light of the new moon, they all recited the same prayer. Then they called out "Sholem Aleikhem" to one another, which received the answer "Aleikhem Sholem". These greetings could be heard through all of Zaromb.
For our youths, moonlight had a very different meaning. In such a night, the cucumbers grew and grew. My father was, after all, Leyble, the gardener, and it was from the moon that my father made his living. Although Zaromb consisted only of a market place and a few small streets, our shtetl was full of life, of holiday spirit. In our mourning for the martyrs, we also mourn for the joys of that old life which will never return.
My first melamed was a woman who was called Ayge the melamed'ke. She taught only girls – I was the only boy in the women's cheder. I was teased horribly and felt ashamed in front of the other boys who studied in the regular cheders. But there was nothing I could do; Ayge charged less than the other teachers and my parents could not afford the higher tuition.
But, the second year, I protested; I said I would not go there any more! "Enough! I was not a girl!" I went to Avrom Shloyme, the melamed, on my own and presented myself as a student. Actually, my father was pleased because he had studied with this same teacher when he was a boy. I stayed with Avrom Shloyme for a few terms, but I was not happy there because although he taught us the prayers, he did not teach us to read and write as other melamdim did.
One summer, we rented a small plot of land from Itke the glazier. There was plenty of rain that summer, almost every day, but during daytime only. The cucumbers grew big and beautiful as did all the other vegetables we planted.
Every summer, officers and ordinary soldiers came to Zaromb from the army camp in nearby Gonsherova. The Jews of Zaromb were happy because they could earn money selling things to the officers and their wives. My father spoke Russian with them when they came to our garden to buy our vegetables and they always paid what my father asked. My father likes to speak Russian, especially when he had an opportunity to tell stories about the time he served as a soldier in the Caucasus region. After that summer, my parents were happier because they were able to pay off their debts and even had some money left for the winter.
That is when I made use of the opportunity to tell my parents, "I want you to send me to Avrom Khaykl, the melamed." "Why to him?" my parents asked. "Because he teaches how to read and write," I answered.
Richer children went to this rebbe, such as the sons of Zavl the seltzer-maker, the baker's sons, the butcher's sons and others. My parents agreed and now my friends were balabatishe" (more well-to-do) children and I learned to read and write as well as Khumesh (the old testament), Rashi (biblical interpretations) and a little Gemorrah.
This melamed had a beautiful handwriting and that was the main reason that the richer Jews of Zaromb sent their children to him.
An official from Ostrove once came to announce that an inspector from Lomze was coming to see if all the Cheders were located in places, which met the standards to be schools. Each melamed was terribly worried - what if the inspector did not approve his Cheder - he would lose his source of income. So all the melamdim met together and decided that, first of all, the rooms where the children were taught must be kept clean and white and, to our amazement, he never came.
I remember when Nathan Zalmen, the tailor, and Eliohu Dryarsh left for America. They walked from house to house to say good-bye and everyone wished them a good journey and that they should arrive safely in America. Once Velvel Malakh came from America and the entire shtetl went to greet him and brought him into Zaromb with great pomp. He was a distant relative of mine. Shimshon the melamed and his wife Riva the midwife were our neighbors and Riva was my mother's closest friend.
She was always ready to help us with a loan. She was beloved by the whole neighborhood, even by the Christians who considered her "lucky". They claimed that as soon as she walked into the home of a woman who was in labor, the baby would be born right away. The Christians from the nearby villages brought her all sorts of presents. They would come with their wagons to fetch her and when they brought her back they loaded on corn, peas, chickens and other gifts for her.
She would not take any money from the poor Jewish women when she helped them give birth. In fact, she often brought them some of the gifts she had received from the peasants.
There was one girl, Sheva, with whom I was friendly. She was very short but very bright. She played only with dolls. One of her older sisters was a dressmaker and Sheva would take the little cloth remnants and make all sorts of dolls. I used to help her. I think that these dolls we made and dressed had an influence on me much later, when I was already in America. Maybe it was Sheva's dolls, which led me to learn to become a designer of women's clothing.
Sheva's father was a melamed and she would listen while her father taught the boys. That is how she knew Khumesh so well. When the boys were being tested by her father, she often prompted them. This would make her father angry and he would yell at her and send her out of the Cheder room.
Khulke the rope maker, was also a melamed. He did not make rope anymore but the name remained. He was the only one in Zaromb who subscribed to the Hebrew newspaper "Hatzfira" and to the Yiddish "Fraynd". He would bring these newspapers to the marketplace and stand near Laybke the tub-maker's house. Soon a crowd gathered around him and he would read the news from the world. He would explain everything to anyone who asked and he would give his own opinion about every event. Everyone liked him. He did not have any children of his own, which troubled him greatly.
When the hot summer days arrived, we would go swimming in the river. Every summer someone drowned, no matter how attentive people were and even though we swam at only a few spots along the river. There were some very deep points in the river where only the best swimmers ventured. The others stayed close to shore or watched from the river bank.
There were peasant villages on the other side of the river and the "shkotzim" (young Christian boys) would arrive suddenly and pelt us with rocks as we swam. We had to defend ourselves and would throw rocks back at them. As soon as we saw them coming, we would jump out of the water and grab our pants so that in case we had to make a run for safety, we would not have to run without our pants.
We used to love to pick berries. If a peasant caught us, he would pull off our pants. In tears, we would plead for him not to shame us and to give us back our pants. Eventually, he would.
I remember when Gozsh, the butcher's son-in-law drowned. He was still quite young and a fine scholar who got room and board from his father-in-law. The entire shtetl mourned him and the rabbi at the synagogue preached that no one should go swimming.
And you, my dear ones, who remained in your homes, were robbed of all your belongings by the peasants. The Germans told you you were moving to Tzshitchev to live in a ghetto, but led you to Sember where they tortured you and shot you and even buried some of you alive in the prepared pits.
What has happened to the sound of your voices, the shine of your eyes? What has happened to the wisdom and the spirit with which you were so richly endowed? Pieces of the past come back to me. For short moments, I forget the terrible reality. I see us strolling, laughing, our hearts shining, our faces flushed, our hands pressed together in true friendship and loyalty. …Where are you?
Your last cries for help sound in my ears. Your last calls told of unfinished dreams and unfulfilled desires, of longing and love and lofty ideals and of a thirst for revenge on those who took your young lives, cut your lives short.
I will never see you again but, like a lost ship, my longing keeps wandering around, looking for you in all that I see. I hear your voices as others speak to me; I see your hand in every fine work I see. Every child is a bright promise of tomorrow. To work with even great determination is a way of memorializing you. Each achievement of ours is your accomplishment. In my voice I hear your voices, which call for life.
After a few landsleit visited Zaromb from America that year and saw the terrible economic conditions there due to the boycott and other acts of anti-semitism, even periodic pogroms which had the sanction of the Polish government, we decided to call a conference to form a committee for an organized relief effort.
Several hundred landsleit attended that conference and realized the importance of assuming the responsibility of helping the people of our shtetl. A committee was formed comprised of organizations and individuals of all political and social positions.
This united committee included the synagogue, "Degel Itzkhak Anshe Zaromb", the Zaromber Young Friends Benevolent Association, the Zaromber branch 56 of the Jewish Fraternal Order and the Young Ladies Friends. Then individuals of the Jewish National Farband also joined the committee.
At the beginning, we had some serious problems and difficulties. First, we had to win each other's trust. Secondly, we had to reach an understanding about the ways in which a broad-based organization could do constructive relief work for all our landsleit.
At first, charity was the major theme since that was the tradition the members of most of the organizations brought with them. But those on the committee who were more community oriented insisted on a more constructive approach to our relief efforts.
After our first efforts of aid reached Zaromb and we received reports back, everyone was convinced that our future help for our shtetl must be more constructive than mere charity.
In the years until the war started, we sent about $6,000 to Zaromb. We enlarged the "borrowing chest" in partnership with the Joint (Joint Distribution Committee) through a special fund to cover any
deficit if it should occur. In this way, even those who could not pay back their previous loans were able to borrow money.
According to the report issued by the Joint, which controlled and supported the "borrowing chests" in Poland, the Zaromber chest was an example which could be held up to others.
At our request, a sickness fund was set up and medical instruments were sent which were to be made available to all Zarombers so that even the poor received free medical care and free medication.
We financed a kitchen where two meals a day were served to those in need and a full day school for poor children where they were fed. We even arranged for these children to go on vacations. We supported the library and a series of cultural and religious institutions. We saw to it that everyone in Zaromb had shoes. We were on the verge of opening a vocational training school for the young adults in Zaromb when Hitler's murderers invaded Poland.
When war broke out, our relief committee did not stop its work, as many larger relief committees did. On the contrary, we realized that now the need would be greater than ever. We felt the responsibility to help win the war against the enemy of humanity -- fascism.
During the past ten years, the Zaromber Relief Committee contributed about $5,000 to the following governmental and relief organizations - the U.S.C., the American Red Cross, the Jewish Council, Russian War Relief, the United Jewish Appeal, the Federation of Polish Jews, Histadrut, ORT, HIAS and Ambidjan.
As Germany was defeated, we learned of our enormous national destruction, of the deaths of 6 million Jews killed by the Hitler murderers. We found out that our shtetl suffered the same fate and the majority of the Zaromber Jews were horribly murdered and buried in a mass grave near Zaromb.
We learned this from the first Zaromber who survived the hell of the Hitler years by hiding in the underground pits or in the forest as partisans. We also found out that the few Zaromber survivors who returned to the shtetl after liberation had to run away quickly after one of them was shot and killed by a Polish anti-semite.
Through our connections with the Joint, HIAS and the Red Cross, we quickly made contact with our surviving brothers and sisters in Poland, Germany, Austria and Italy. We also got some letters from Zaromber who had survived in the Soviet Union. As soon as we received the first letters from the survivors, the committee began the work of sending pack-
ages of food and clothing, as well as money and letters. These were sent through every possible route.
The committee, in conjunction with the Joint, set up an emigration apparatus so that all the landsleit who were in Germany, Austria and Italy could register with the Joint for cooperative affidavits, if they wanted to come to America. At the same time, the Joint would help those who wanted to go to Eretz-Israel or the other American countries.
It did not take long before we got all the survivors in touch with their families in Europe and in the Americas. We contacted landsleit in Cuba, Argentina, France and Eretz-Israel. In those countries, relief committees, which were then in existence, got reorganized. In other countries, similar committees were formed by us to help locate Zaromber who survived, to get them in contact with their families, to send them parcels of food, etc., and to correspond with them by letter.
We were able to do all this thanks to the feeling of respect we had for the representatives of the organizations who made up the Committee for Relief.
It is worthwhile to say something about these representatives. The Zaromber Young Men have the greatest representation and are the most esteemed. They have provided the largest financial contributions and their opinions, in my view, are always right. Also held in high esteem are the representatives of the synagogue. Despite the fact that these men are of an age when it is physically difficult to participate in all the work of the committee, they have always managed to bring in the second highest amount of contributions. Some of the representatives of the congregation have always been active and are an excellent example to the younger members of the Committee.
A good word must be said for the representatives of the Zaromber Young Ladies. They were not always able to bring in much financial aid, but, to make up for that, a few of the women were very active and were among the first to become involved in every activity of the committee throughout these 10 years..
There was also a small representation from Branch 56 of the "Order" (Jewish Fraternal Order) but their contribution of ideas were always given the consideration due them. It is worth noting that some of the small representations gave heart and soul to the work and, thanks to their devotion, they had an influence on the orientation of the relief work of the committee.
It must be said, however, that a number of representatives of all the organizations in the committee did not meet their responsibilities as they had promised to do.
Yet the small group of very active members succeeded in sending help to 75 addresses of surviving families and individuals between 1945 and 1947 as well as 175 persons in the Soviet Union, Poland, Germany, Austria, France and Italy. We sent parcels of food (which we packed ourselves) by mail, special Passover food packages and packages through "Care". All in all, we sent about 11 thousand pounds of food. We also sent over about 3,000 pounds of new and used clothing, and about $3,000 which was distributed partly in cash and partly in sewing machines to help some of our Paris landsleit to get back on their feet.
At this time, our main objective is to finance the trip from Poland and Germany to Argentina of 10 landsleit. Their families are also helping. They received visas sent by the Zaromber Relief Committee of Buenos Aires.
The Zaromber Relief Committees in other countries are working in close cooperation with us. The Zaromber Relief Committee of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the second largest and their orientation is the same as ours. They have shown great talent and experience in relief work and, in a short space of time, have sent significant help to the survivors.
Cuba has also played an important role. The few Zaromber families who live in Havana have, through activities, sent financial help to our committee in New York. Through personal contacts, a close bond has been formed between their committee and ours.
The situation with the Zaromber Relief Committee in Paris is, however, quite different. Regretfully, our landsleit in Paris are, like all the other Jews who suffered through the fascist occupation, so weakened physically that they simply did not have the strength to do anything. This was especially the case for the few Zaromber who survived the death camps. Still, despite their own hardship, they managed, with the help of our committee, to give the first essential assistance to the landsleit in Paris and to those who had just arrived in France after their ordeal.
The relief committee in Tel Aviv occupies a special place. Despite the fact that, together with the whole Jewish population of Palestine, the Zaromber are involved in the battle against the British "Mandate Guardianship", they have managed to send aid from time to time. They have also sent us detailed plans, which they have worked out, for a children's home in Tel-Aviv which would be erected in the memory of our martyrs and would be named for our shtetl Zaromb.
We discussed this project and it was decided that we would accept this plan with gratitude. We let all the above-mentioned Zaromber Relief Committees know that they should
have a specia1 fund-raising campaign in 1948 for this holy construction project.
Particular recognition is due our landsleit in the various American cities who were always ready to help, whether contacted in person or by mail. Their generous response always gave encouragement to our committee. We are certain that they will continue to show their sincere concern for our newest plan -- the monument project -- as well as helping us in our steady efforts to send assistance to our brothers and sisters, who have suffered so much, until they find a new secure home.
Now, more than 2 years after the war against fascism ended, after one-third of the Jewish people were killed, there are still about 250,000 Jews in concentration camps. The armored might of British imperialism stands at the gates of Eretz-Israel and sends the tortured, exhausted Jews back to the camps in Germany, even though the "Yishuv" (Jewish community in Eretz-Israel) is ready to take them in as brothers. The destruction of our people was so momentous and the need of our brothers overseas so great that assistance from brotherly hands and righteous hearts is demanded.
The members of the Committee, along with all our landsleit in America, will renew our efforts to continue our relief work for the Zaromber survivors in Europe in this, our eleventh year. We have long understood that our long-suffering relatives are not asking for a charitable hand-out, but for the assistance they are justified to receive. We are doing everything we can to fulfill our obligation to them. It is with this approach that our committee has always carried out its relief efforts and we shall continue to carry on our work until the entire problem of our surviving brothers and sisters in need will be totally resolved.
By 1902, there were enough Zaromber Jews for them to form their own congregation. The synagogue of the "Chevre Degel Itzkhak Anshei Zaromb" was officially founded on September 23, 1902. Abraham Mikhl Pevka, the present secretary of the synagogue, describes the founding this way:
"We were homesick. We dreamt of the old home, the old ways. So on September 23, 1902, we gathered at Velvl Melakh's apartment at 136 Christie Street, and decided to establish a 'Khevre' which would immortalize the name of our shtetl and of the Zaromber Rabbi Reb Itzkhak H'Makhone, son of Rabbi Itchele, whom our parents had known. So we decided to call our Khevre "Degel Itzkhak Anshei Zaromb" and that the name of our Khevre would never be changed."
"A few weeks later, we had 28 Zaromber landsleit and we opened our shul on 156 Christie Street. The number of immigrants from Zaromb increased and the new arrivals found close comradeship in our Khevre. On April 15, 1903, we received our state charter issued to: Yakov Kosher, Itzkhak Pivka, Berish Rezen, Mordecai Malina, Yosef Yasolka, Max Rozen, Henekh Weinberg, Leybl Zhinovitch, Yakob Rotenberg and Abraham Hertzke Lashitzka."
Soon thereafter, the khevre set up a "Gemilles Khessed" fund (free loan fund) to help provide interest-free loans. They purchased 2 cemetery lots at Mount Sinai and one at Beth David cemeteries.
Now, in 1947, the Khevre has 82 members.
The first president was Leybl Zhinovitch. He was followed by Max Rosen, Max Grossman, Henekh Weinberg, Berish Rosen, Itzkhak Moyshe Fivoko, Mordecai Mendl Weiss, Yakob
Sendak, Aaron Yosef Paluba, Abraham Nathan Shoynberg, Menakhem Rotberg, Sane Drukman, Yakob Sendak again, Khayim Yosef Evrei, Artshe Richman, Zalmen Apel and Abraham Itzkhak Zomberg.
The current officers are: Shmuel Levine, President; Mordecai Zlotogora, Vice-President; and Abraham A. Levitz, Khayim Mordecai Sir, Berish Rosen and Abraham Itzkhak Zomberg.
The treasurer is Ben-Zion Kendel and the trustees are Yoseph Levits (Yosl Kosoter) and Khayim Mordecai Sir. The secretary is Abraham N. Pivko.
Just because the synagogue was the first organization of Zaromb in America, one should not assume that the first Jews to leave Zaromb for America were orthodox. It is quite possible that the first to be on their way were individuals of a revolutionary bent, young men who were looking for expression of their ideas, which was punishable by penal hard labor (usually in Siberia) under the Czarist regime. It is understandable that those to whom the religion was of primary importance had to build a home for the practice of their religion. They all lived in one neighborhood, New York's Lower East Side. They waited the whole week for the holy Sabbath, not only to pray but to share a drink together, to tell each other stories of Zaromb, the old home. Everything revolved around the synagogue. The synagogue served a double purpose.
In February, 1913, at the initiative of Abe Yarmus, Yankl Kafkevitch, Khayim Segal, Isidor Greenspan, Harry Albeck and Henry Gonsher, a meeting was called at 73 Ludlow Street and the Zaromber Progressive Young Friends Society was born.
All Zaromber were accepted into the Zaromber P.Y.F. Everyone felt at home there. The organization was ready to help any individual who was in need. During its existence, the P.Y.F. gave many thousands of dollars to important causes. The P.Y.F. was a permanent member of the United Jewish Appeal, HIAS and the American Red Cross. During WWII, they contributed to the Russian war relief and to Histadrut. But their greatest contributions went to the "United Zaromber Relief Committee." Since the founding of the Relief Committee in 1937, the P.Y.F. contributed large sums of money. Such members as Nathan Lava, Haymie Segal, Itzkhak Steg, Nathan Skalka and Max Steg must be mentioned for their never-ending efforts on behalf of the relief committee with both their physical work and financial contributions.
[On page 57 is a full-page photograph of the Young Friends.]
It is important to note that certain members of tne "Young Friends" were active in many ways. Max Steg, for instance, was an important member of a children's home run by the Morris Morrison Society. He knew how to organize and thanks to him the United Relief Committee rented a complete theater in 1941 for a hugely successful evening. Nathan Lava, the secretary-treasurer of the "Young Friends", was also the president of the United Zaromb Relief Committee and active in the National Workers Farband Yiddish schools and in Histradrut. Max Rosenthal, whom everyone knew for his activities on behalf of the Relief Committee, was always ready to send money through his agency and never took a penny in fees. Once, when he was in Zaromb, he represented the committee in a most noble way. He laid out money from his own pocket to insure that the Zaromber children's kitchen would not shut down. He also helped to purchase various items which were needed by various Zaromber for their health. Schwartz, from the firm of Zuckerman and Schwartz, is also a respected member of "Young Friends" known for his generosity whenever a hand is reached out to him.
I must also mention Davie Cohen, who died so young. He was one of the founders of "Young Friends". He was active in the Amalgamated Union and chairman of its loan fund. He was always sympathetic to the work of the Zaromber Relief Committee.
The first president of the "Young Men's Society" was Abie Rosen, the son of the baker of Zaromb. Khayim Segal had the longest term as president -- 18 years. Yavel Kafkevitch was secretary-treasurer for 15 years. Al Garfinkl, the founder of the "Young Ladies Friends" was recorder secretary for about 10 years.
Thus, we see that the leaders of the organization were people with varied social interests. All children of the poverty of Zaromb, they were always ready to give material assistance to those in need, both here in America and for the unfortunate victims of Nazism who are still unsettled in various parts of the world.
Although, as an organization, the Zaromber Young Friends had no political position, its decisions, when such questions do come up, are always to improve the well-being of the working class. The "Young Friends" office is at 151 Clinton Street; the officers for 1947 are Morris Richman, president; Jack Lauf, vice-chairman, Nathan Lava, secretary- treasurer; and Louis Lieberman, protocol secretary.
Arbeiter Ring (Workmen's Circle) was split apart and a new organization was formed: the "Jewish Fraternal Folks Order."
This split caused a great stir among the working Jews in New York. Not only were political groups involved but even landsmanshaften who, until this time, had very little interest in political issues. Under the leadership of Davie Charney, Benny Cohen, Moyshe Aaron Goldberg, and Abraham Applebaum, a radical block formed which set out to influence the "Zaromber Young Friends" to either become a branch of the "Order" or to conduct the organization along more radical lines. There was a sharp battle within the "Young Friends" which ended by the "Revolutionary Group of Zaromber" splitting away to join with Ostrover in Branch 56 of the "Order."
When, recently, I asked about the activities of "Order" Branch 56, I was told that this branch split away from the Arbeiter Ring 17 years ago. The first Zaromber activists were Moyshe Finklstein and Ch. Silverman. Later, Sam Vertel, Moyshe Aaron Goldberg, David Charney, Abe Appelbam, Benny Cohen and M. Segal joined. The reason for the split became well known. The "Order" grew to a national organization with branches all over the country. Zaromber Branch 56 was one of those.
Branch 56 gave heart and soul to the Zaromber Relief Committee. Branch members who were representatives in the Relief Committee were Benny Cohen, Sam Vertel, Moyshe Finkelstein, Alex Dorfman, David Charney, Moyshe Aaron Goldberg, Evelyn Rosen and Ch. Silverman; the branch has contributed funds to the Relief Committee according to its ability and the representatives contributed lots of hard work. Recently the branch included the Grayever, so now 3 landsmanshaften comprise its membership. They also now help the Ostrover Relief and the Grayever Relief.
The Zaromber "Young Ladies Friends" has written a very fine chapter. They help all the Jewish philanthropic institutions in New York. During the war years, they excelled in sending packages to children of Zaromber who served in the U.S. Army. For their tireless efforts on behalf of relief work, they earned plaudits from everyone. Special mention
must be given to Rose Segal, Dora Border, Bella Weissman, Fanny Frayman, Celia Skolsky, Golda Lava, Paula Mekles, Mary Steginsky and Elsie Steg. All Zaromber landsleit are proud of these women.
The "Young Ladies Friends" was founded in 1935. The first meeting was in the hoine of Dora Border. The founders were Katie Lauf, Paula Mekles, Sarah Karp, Ida Levin, Dora Border, Gussie Ingster and Mary Steginsky under the leadership of Al Garfinkl.
The present officers are: Chairlady - Celia Skolsky; vice-chairlady - Rose Segal; finance secretary -
Fanny Frayrnan; recording secretary - Yatie Lauf, and the trustees are Dora Border and Golda Lava. Many of the Zaromber Ladies are active in other worthy organizations.
Let me end with the thought that the Zaromber Landsmanshaften have contributed their share to
Jewish life in America in a very fine and worthy manner.
We knocked at the door of the first Zaromber and told the small boy who opened the door who we were. "Come in," he said, "I will wake up my father."
Half asleep, the landsman came toward us, but when he saw who we were, he smiled and gave us each a hearty "Sholem-Aleikhem" (hand shake of greeting) . When we began to explain the purpose of our visit, he did not even let us finish, but handed us $10 and thanked us for coming to him.
Another Zaromber lived only a few houses away. He and his wife were so happy to see us and asked us to sit. The woman said, "It is so early, you probably haven't had anything to eat yet. I will make you some breakfast." We assured her that we were not hungry and that we could not stay long. "We understand. We understand," they said and gave us $10 and a blessing.
When we came into the third house, we found another landsman who liked to sleep late on Sundays. When he came out of the bedroom and saw us, he was overjoyed and immediately began asking us about our families. After talking for only a short time, we told him why we had come. He handed us $10 and apologized, "Too bad I am working only a few days a week. I would have liked to make a bigger contribution."
The fourth landsman met us on the steps of his house. We all knew him well because he often attended our meetings. He told us, "Take off your coats and make yourselves comfortable. You do not need to talk to me at length about this matter you come about." He brought in a bottle of brandy and something to eat from another room. We talked about the parcels of clothing we had sent to the survivors from Zaromb. He gave us $10 and said he was sorry he could not give more and that we had to rush away.
When we got into the car, Steg said, "Now we're going to one of my relatives." He found the woman, her husband and a sister wbo was visiting from out-of-town. The man put all sorts of liquor on the table, his wife brought a plate of honeycake, and the sister put up coffee. In a few moments,
the table was set with all sorts of good things. When we sat down at the table, the woman, who was a Zaromber, gave us $30 for the journal and her sister gave $15. To celebrate this large contribution, we each had another small glass of brandy. After such a reception, we could not leave abruptly, so we stayed a while and talked about the work. of the relief committee.
Once back on the street, Steg said, "The next visit is also to a relative of mine." This landsrnan was a Jew with a fine white beard who was well known and well respected while still in Zaromb. He greeted us and asked us to sit He spoke of what had happened to our shtetele, to our relatives. He was enthusiastic about the work of our relief committee, about our accomplishments, gave us $20 and blessed us for our good work.
Silverman announced that we had one more address to visit that day - a candy store. When we came into this Zaromber's store, he did not know who we were because he had left Zaromb a long time before. However, he did remember our parents. He could not talk long because he was busy with customers. but quickly gave us $10. Our day's work was finished.
When we got home, we were besides ourselves from the receptions we received from our landsleit. Our joyous feelings were, however, mixed with tears of great sorrow for the 1,600 Jews of Zaromb who had perished and for the Jews of all the other Jewish Kehillas who were killed. The best way that we can honor our martyrs is to continue our work on behalf of those who somehow survived.
We wish to express our heartfelt thanks for your assistance and your work on behalf of our landsleit who survived in Europe.
We thank you particularly for putting out the Yiskor Book in memory of the martyrs of Zaromb who were murdered by the Fascist Germans and the Polish murderers.
May this Yiskor Book be part of the holy remembrance for generations to come in the home of every Zaromber.
We congratulate the members of the United Zaromber Pelief for their 10 years of important and holy work. We, here in Cuba, will always be united with you, ready to join you in your assistance efforts on behalf of our survivors.
A special thanks to our friend and landsman, Khayim Silverman, for utilizing his visit to Havana to organize us Zaromber into a group who could help you in the important relief work which means so much to us as well as you.
In the name of Zaromber in Havana, Cuba,
Shmuel Yarmus, President
Abraham Reichman, Secretary
Pinchas Bzshaze, Treasurer
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