In 1925 several activists from the Brzeziner landsmanshaft agreed to give serious thought to including our women in active community work. We had a young, good element, whose specific activities would surely be a constructive addition to the general work of our landsmanshaft.
The participants in that conversation, as it was reported, were Aaron Kuyawsky, Toviah Peizer, Israel Cohen, Alter Rosenfeld, Feivel Rosenberg, Abe Miller, and maybe some other brothers also.
This initial committee already had in its possession a small sum of money that had been raised by the women in order to begin the work. After a series of meetings held by the committee, it was agreed to call an organizational assembly.
At this first assembly, they talked over the necessity for such a branchin as much as the women represented an important element and could, most importantly, engage in constructive work of a broad and far-reaching scope for the benefit of our landsmanshaft here and, at the same time, also serve as an important connecting link with our landslayt overseas.
One did not have to do much campaigning to convince the majority of the women at that founders' assembly of the importance of such an organization. They were a mature, good group, capable of carrying out such work. They actually moved very quickly from talking to action.
That same evening, a provisional working committee was formed, consisting of the following sisters: Katie Sobovinsky, president; Helen Kalish, vice-president; and Sara Hauser, treasurer. In order to encourage the work, Brother Israel Cohen was appointed financial secretary, and Brother Sam Hyman, recording secretary.
The first official installation of the newly-elected officers took place in March 1927. Brother J. D. Berg, in an impressive manner, conducted the meeting, and he had the honor of swearing in the newly-elected officers of the newly-founded branch of our landsmanshaft.
The first public appearance as an organized effort consisted in taking over a part of the relief work of the men's organization. The very first act consisted of providing for poor and sick pregnant women in Brzezin. In that area they did a lot of work of which they can certainly be proud. It was a good and successful beginning.
Their second action was really a greater challenge. This time they actually took under their maternal wings a project to provide clothing and shoes for impoverished children in Brzezin. Brzezin had a lot of small children whose parents, because of the seriously deteriorating economic condition of the postwar years, could not provide them with basic needs. This work was under the auspices of our Women's Auxiliary.
Later, with the cooperation of the entire landsmanshaft, they took over more concrete, constructive work.
They helped finance a children's camp in Brzezin. This children's camp was located in a village near Brzezin and provided the opportunity for seriously wan and emaciated small children to enjoy several weeks of summer vacation and breathe fresh country air. At the same time, they could strengthen their weak little bodies, under the special supervision of the children's director, especially through eating healthy, nourishing food.
The Women's Auxiliary carried out a regular correspondence with Mrs. Rebecca Sulkowicz from Brzezin, who was the head of this children's colony, and also with the teachers and the children's camp counselors. In their correspondence, they reported and talked about every single detail of their activities.
Thanks to this intensive work on the part of our Women's Auxiliary, it encouraged and made possible the rehabilitation and relief activities in Brzezin itself to expand and include the outskirts of the town.
They regularly distributed food packages to impoverished families in the town. They took care of the sick and the pregnant of the unemployed craftsmen. The responsible committees that devoted themselves to this extremely important work made sure that middle-class homes hit by the recession, which dominated almost all of Poland, would not have their Shabosim [Sabbaths] and holidays spoiled. In a tactful way, they selected clean clothing and especially dressed and shod our little Moyshelekh and Shloymelekh [Mojszes and Szlamas], in order that they could go to kheder [religious school] neat and clean.
In order to create the necessary financial resources that would enable Mrs. Sulkowiczand the committee she established in Brzezinto function and plan appropriately, here in America, the sister organization, with the assistance of the entire landsmanshaft, organized various campaigns to raise money. They arranged all kinds of ventures of a diverse and interesting character. They organized trips, theater benefits, banquets, and also small gatherings on various occasions. Smaller committees functioned whose assignment consisted of getting cost-free rooms that would make it possible to minimize expenses and increase profits.
Mrs. Rebecca Sulkowicz, who can be seen in the picture
Year in and year out, the Auxiliary also arranged New Year celebrations. These holidays really became traditional. For these evenings, the women themselves baked, cooked, served, and even brought food and drinks from their own homes so that the arrangements committee would have fewer expenses. Their happiness was truly great when an undertaking of theirs was a social and, most important, a financial success, because it really meant that a greater sum of money could be sent to Brzezin.
It must also be said, to the credit of the sister organization, that their work was not limited only to fund raising, food packages, and clothing for the impoverished in Brzezin, but they also had a considerable list of activities in relation to Brzeziner families who were, from time to time, in need of concrete, substantial help even here in our local Brzeziner colony. They did this work in an appropriately circumspect manner, actually, with aid given discreetly, so that no one would feel embarrassed..
The organization also handled all kinds of holidays and private celebrations for various occasions. These celebrations in honor of this or that deserving family were carried out in a stately, impressive manner. Those who had the great honor of attending any of the celebrations and intimate small gatherings will surely not forget them.
Ruth Hauser became president of the Women's Auxiliary in 1941. Ruth Hauser is one of our most capable and gifted sisters. She acquired the reputation thanks to her energetic, intensive work. She has a long list of accomplishments.
1941 was a hard year both for Jews and also for Americans. The world was involved in a bitter armed conflict. Hitler invaded Poland, and at once, we started to get news from there.
The work among the Brzeziners for our landslayt overseas came to a halt. The mood was strained and downcast. We knew what was now awaiting the Polish Jews under the domination of Nazism, including our own near and dear ones from Brzezin.
In December, 1941, America declared war against the Japanese and Nazi enemies. Our children were mobilized into the American armed forces and were sent to all the battle fronts. At that time, the local women's organization carried out an active campaign to send letters and food packages to our children in the armed forces. Ruth Hauser, as president, with her thoroughness and energy, especially excelled in this important work.
When the war ended, the women's organization was again involved in its interrupted relief activities. They directed a broad range of projects on behalf of Hitler's victims from our destroyed town. They capably participated in all sorts of activities to send food, clothing, and medical supplies to the survivors in various countries.
When the Brzeziner landsmanshaft was engaged in the great project of building homes in Israel for the remaining refugees, the women's organization very energetically took part in this work. For this purpose, they raised nearly ten thousand dollars. When taking into consideration that the majority of the husbands of these women had already separately contributed to the same project, it is of very great significance. Without their devoted work, the great project in Israelof which we are all proudsurely would not have been realized with such enormous success.
It was truly a pleasure to attend the meetings of the Auxiliary. They were conducted in an interesting, simple, and easy manner and ended in an intimate way, with a pot of coffee and pastries.
Among the sisters who especially excelled in the many activities must be recalled the following. Sister Ray Bergman, many-times president, who, with her simplicity and popularity and with a constant smile on her face, is very beloved. Sister Gussie Pakula, one of the older sisters, has worked for the Auxiliary since the beginning and expended a great deal of effort and endured sleepless nights so that the various activities would be crowned with success. Anna Hayman, eh, almost always filled the post of recording secretary and used to read aloud the driest details of a meeting as if recounting a children's story. With her fine Litvak Yiddish, she also excelled in reading stories from Sholom Aleichem and other Yiddish writers, so that the meeting would be interesting and attractive.
Ruth Hauser, who has already been mentioned, in addition to being president, also filled the office of financial secretary (since our brother Louie Horn died, she also took over his post in the Relief Committee which she fills in a worthy manner) and is generally active in every important working committee. Although she is American born, she displays a lot of feeling and warmth for the work of our landsmanshaft. Fannie Tanenbaum, who also excels in the field of the Auxiliary's finances and is always the secretary for all undertakings of our sister organization, is a capable and devoted leader who is truly a great prize for the entire landsmanshaft. Mary Lehrer is the one who reports to us all the personal celebrations, such as births, marriages, and various celebrations among our landslayt. She offers a lot of congratulations to everyone. Rose Lefkowitz occupies the office of vice-president and is represented on various committees. Renee Lasky, eh, was an unassuming, capable leader for the welfare of our large landsmanshaft. Masha Green, who is also very dedicated to various activities, particularly loves to give reports on weddings and celebrations. Our late sister, Helen Kalish, also excelled in various offices and functions; an important leader, she also had been president. Also Minnie Frank, Esther Shapiro, Anna Zwerin, Anna Pakull, Molly Schilsky, Fannie Gamzon, Sarah Levy, and many others.
All of them worked and continue to work like a well-organized team in the interest of all of us and for the good of every Brzeziner no matter where he might be. The Brzeziner Women's Auxiliary holds a very important place in our history.
one hundred years of age
In those difficult years, all kinds of groups and clubs began to develop in the Cloak and Dressmakers' Union, each one trying to exert its influence on the broad masses who were victims of the bad economic situation in the country. Among some of the groups, you must understand, elements of swindle and deception were also not lacking. There were people who had ill intentions and completely used the bad situation for political ends that had absolutely nothing to do with the interests of those who suffered directly from the crisis. It was also the period of the Right-Left fight that flared up so strongly within Jewish society during those sad years.
This fight flared up sporadically within our circles, but it can be said with pride that in our community, among us landslayt, the fight of the Right-Left did not take on such an ugly face as in other landsmanshaftn. This was thanks to the farsighted and healthy attitude on the part of our leadership, who, right from the beginning, sought to avoid bringing the outside battle into our society.
However, at that time, the problem of more substantially helping our landslayt who were employed as cloakmakers and dressmakers came up. This could only be accomplished through the creation of an independent organized body that could, by appropriate methods, exert influence on the leadership of the union on behalf of our members.
As a result, on December 4, 1930, a meeting took place of Brzeziner landslayt, and landslayt from nearby towns, employed in the dress and cloak industry. The purpose was to organize as an independent body with the aim of gaining more influence within the union, and, in that way, directly and indirectly, to use that strength to secure more favorable conditions for our landslayt in the shops.
To give an accurate historical account, it should be stated here that the Brzeziner Worker's Union was founded two years later, but it was this important meeting that was the driving force inspiring the formation of an independent organization.
In the minutes of this first meeting, we find the following paragraphs that express the aims of this Brzeziner Worker's Club. The arguments within the workers' movement over the last four or five years have moved us to reflect on the sad state of affairs in which our own landslayt are also involved, and we must organize as an independent body in order to gain influence and respect in the union movement.
Soon the Workers' Union acquired a reputation with its activities. The members rented their own meeting rooms on Eighth Avenue in the garment district. At one time they reached two hundred members. Meetings were held every other week in which important problems relating to conditions in the shops were discussed, as well as ways to broaden our activities to go beyond the confines of our own circle. They also arranged lectures on different subjects and about specific problems that concerned the interests of the trade union movement.
The events that the organization arranged from time to time, where people enjoyed themselves with a keg of beer and herring with bread, were so intimately cozy that they provided a homey atmosphere and brought back the flavor of the distant, distant past.
Certainly, a major goal was for each of us to help the other cooperatively, such as trying to get work for an unemployed landsman or generally helping him get settled in a shop where badly needed communal aid was available. The union also tried to educate and culturally elevate the Brzeziner worker, so that he could fight for his social and community rights on a more conscious level and also so that he would not be crushed in the great Right-Left quarrel within Jewish society.
During the short time of its existence, the Brzeziner Worker's Union clearly demonstrated its accomplishments, both on behalf of its own craftsmen and also with respect to influence and prestige within the trade union movement.
The chairman of the union was brother Joseph Diamond; L. Hauser was financial secretary, Nahum Summer, recording secretary. The following brothers also took an active part in the work: Jacob Leib Wald, Israel Cohen, Louis Horn, A. Kuyawsky, B. Loominitz, Sam Hyman, and others.
Joseph Diamond really had an extremely great influence on the union because of his long years of accomplishments in the local Jewish trade union movement. Over the course of many years, he was the chairman of the union and was really the driving force in the activities of the Brzeziner Workers' Union.
Not only should we remember the founders, the pioneers, the builders, who, unfortunately, already sleep in the dust, but we must surely acknowledge with gratitude those who remain at the helm to this day.
We will try to outline here some up-to-date observations about our leaders, thanks to whom it was possible to celebrate the sixtieth year anniversary of our local landsmanshaft, certainly an important milestone in our history. Several of our leaders who devoted years of their lives have already been mentioned in other chapters.
Berg actually writes about it himself. My sensitive father noticed it with distress. Surreptitiously, he would sometimes press me to him and, with tears in his eyes, recall the name of my mother. When you get older, he would whisper, you'll go away to study
Feeling my father's helplessness, because he did not want to spoil the sholem-bayes [domestic harmony], I quietly looked forward to the day when I would finally be grown up enough to go away to study in a yeshiva.
Though not residing in Brzezin, Berg was deeply anchored and rooted in Brzeziner soil. He had been restless in the small Jewish yishev [village], where the environment was confining and too monotonous for his dynamic, restless spirit. With a tremendous passion, he was magnetically drawn to life in the big city, and yet, yet the love for his hometown grew within him with a tremendous passion. He was entwined by a thousand threads to the place where he had first seen light, despite the spiritual restlessness that propelled him out into the world.
During his interesting life, he came into contact with colorful personalities who exerted a strong influence on Jewish spiritual life and on him, in particular. Still, it was Brzezin, the small village, which remained the source from which J. D. Berg drew his spiritual nourishment.
Every time Berg comes together with landslayt, he turns the conversation to Brzezin and Brzeziners. He is a wonderful conversationalist, and with nostalgia and fervent longing, he talks about his younger years in his beloved shtetl and about those years when, as an already grown-up and successful businessman in the community, he returned to Brzezin for a visit. He expresses a warmth for Hasidic middle-class Brzezin. As he concludes his reminisces about those years, about that generation, you actually sense that a tear appears in the corners of his eyes. Brzezin of the past was beautiful! The Jews of my generation were beautiful! You shnekes [squirts] really didn't know my generation, he warms up. That really was a generation of tsadikim [saintly men].
When the younger Brzeziners, those from the second generation, want to disagree with Berg, he protests very strongly, and it is not easy to convince him that in his generation, during his time, there were also quite a few shadowy aspects. But no, and no, he would not allow any blemishes to be ascribed to the beautiful people of his generation.
This mighty love for his town, which is now more dream than reality, strongly influenced Berg to undertake this work with great zeal and determination, in order that Brzeziners might immortalize their town through a verbal monument. He plunged in under formidable, objectively difficult circumstances, in which a person of weaker character and less conviction might have been badly discouraged and, perhaps, in general, not have dared to proceed with such a risky undertaking.
Berg, the eternal man of faith, made light of the unfavorable conditions and obstacles. He was inspired by the idea that the world should become acquainted with his town, with his generation, and with all the past and future generations of Jews from Brzezin that the Nazi murderers had annihilated forever. And, as a result, we have this great book-monument about the destroyed Brzezin community!
Berg is a colorful personality within the turmoil and turbulence of Jewish organized society. Everywhere he is the same, an unpretentious man. There is not an activity, an institution of communal significance, where Berg does not occupy a place of respect.
But the focal place for his spiritual interestsis the Sholem Aleichem school movement.  He was once granted the honor of being the president of the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute. He took on this work with heart and soul during most of his life spent in America. His house was a gathering place for people from the Yiddish world, of the Yiddish spirit. Important meetings of cultural leaders and people for whom Yiddish and Yiddish literature were near and dear always took place there. His home was a bes vaad lkhokhmim [wise men's house of council]. Berg boasts that important institutions for the continuation of the existence of Yiddish culture in America were planned and created there, and he has the right to be proud.
Along with his work for the educational and cultural endeavors, he certainly does not forget his landslayt. He is very active in the area of relief and rehabilitation work. Under his leadership, the Brzeziners in America built a housing project in Israel with a cultural center and library, the crowning glory of the sixty-year old Brzeziner landsmanshaft in America.
Certainly, at the beginning, when this great project came up in discussion, a considerable number of landslayt had doubts about the possibility of an undertaking of such magnitude. They were afraid that it was beyond our strength, since the majority of the members were craftsmen. Berg, the great man of faith, encouraged and cheered us on, and the Brzezin housing project is today a reality. In Kfar-Unu, not far from Tel Aviv, a Jewish village is located in remembrance of the destroyed and martyred Brzeziner Jewish community. Hundreds of Brzeziners from all parts of Israel converge there for various occasions.
Jacob David Berg's work, in connection with the great Israeli project and with his general effort throughout the entire world on behalf of the American Brzeziner landsmanshaft, is a great historical accomplishment.
He had a serious attitude toward his work, even if it was the smallest task. He was neat and tidy in his attire, and that is how he habitually conducted himself in his work. If he took on an assignment, he sought to carry it out to the minutest detail. During the time he worked among our landslayt, he occupied various posts, and his personality lent a special importance to the lowliest office.
Before his premature death, he held the respectable office of financial secretary of the local Relief Committee. In this task he put in an endless amount of hard work, and we must understand that the hours he devoted to this work he wrested from the pressure of work in a cloak shop. He belonged to those leaders who loved more effort and less noise. He did his work like a good, proficient businessman. He was very precise, and he hated those leaders that continually got away with shouting much ado about nothing. May he be remembered with honor.
Diamond has a very great interest in the trade union movement, but most of all, it seems to us, he wasand isbound up, body and soul, with everything that has a close connection to Brzeziners.
When we leaf through the pages of forty years of Brzeziner landsmanshaft in America, Diamond occupies a very respected place there, an extremely prominent spot. Leafing through the books of the minutes of our society, there is truly not one important project in which he does not figure very significantly.
Diamond is a community leader in whom word and deed are harmoniously combined. He belongs to those leaders who don't just don the frock coat and top hat but also are always among the doers. He not only tells others what to do but actually puts on the overalls, as our fine landsman, Aron Selin, once splendidly characterized our active leaders.
Diamond, the leader, the man, often had complaints, grievances that are a part of community work. They were, in most cases, fair complaints, of justifiable merit. He knew things should have been different. It would certainly have been healthier for us, but these resentments and grievances were, it seems, unavoidable in community work.
In his broad community responsibilities, Diamond had decidedly aimed to achieve the maximum, and often because of his strong zeal and temperament, someone seemed to step on his toes. However, he never lost sight of the forest for the trees, that unique individual. Especially in his attitude toward neighborly relations, Diamond particularly had great merit. Almost every one of the hundred landslayt families can find a commendable instance somewhere, in which Diamond found time and lent an attentive ear to their private remarks, their individual concerns. It is a great plus in an account of his life that must be greatly valued. It is of great importance in a landsmanshaft like ours to find leaders of Diamond's caliber. They are true diamonds in the crown of our accomplishments.
Diamond recently moved to sunny California. We here, the New York landslayt, are encompassed by a kind of feeling of sadness, because so many landslayt, friends, are recently missing from our get-togethers and meetingsand certainly, we will sorely miss this dynamic, energetic person who spent forty years with us in New York. It is certainly not a small thing! We know that although he has become a resident of California, he will, nevertheless, remain closely bound to us. Diamond, the leader, will surely not sit on his hands and isolate himself within the confines of his own four walls. Most important, he should only be healthy and enjoy many, many more years.
Horn belonged to those leaders who could not remain indifferent when they noticed a wrong. He was very sensitive and argued with opponents with fire and feeling. That sensitive trait of his was not a pretense. That is how he was even in his private life.
But regardless of his overly sensitive nature and the indelicate adjectives and expressions he used in arguing with his opponents, he was, nevertheless, a great asset for our organization. Those individuals in L. Horn's category are winners in every organization. They are the constant guardians who make sure that, God forbid, some strange element does not find its way into the work. They often disturb the tranquility of many leaders, but their moralizing and stern speech often spur others on to more work and greater effort. In that light, they are constructive and a factor that brings life and zest to the work. They interrupt the monotony and the apathy that often intrude into routine, everyday activities.
Let me mention here a characteristic feature of Louie Horn's biography. As all of us know, Horn came from a middle-class, well-to-do family, but not everyone knows that Horn was not very happy with his father's overly harsh manner in dealing with craftsmen and that he promised himself not to follow the same well-worn traditional path as his father. In protest, Louie decided to become a worker himself and set out on the path of radical and socialist elements that were striving to free the world and the individual from exploitation and injustice. And here in America he became very active and involved in various radical groups, most particularly, in the Cloakmakers' Union, in which he himself was a member. Later, because of his service, he became the business agent of Local 117.
Horn did a great deal of important work, both as president and also as recording secretary and, most especially, in his tireless work on behalf of our children who were on all the battle fronts.
His activities on behalf of our Relief Committee were also tireless. He held the important post of financial officer in the Relief Committee for many years, until his sudden death in his sixty-fourth year. At the Kfar Unu housing project, for which Louie worked so energetically, trees have been planted in his memory.
Hyman is not a person who is satisfied only with putting forth a view or a thought, and then his mission is fulfilled. No, he belongs to the category of active leader. In our community life, there are certain known types who take great pleasure in being active in communal affairs by causing a commotion, by talking, by pursuing grievances, and scolding others for not doing enough. But they themselves stand on the sidelines and don't participate. They exclude themselves from the rules. We must really work, we must, we mustbut not themselves, only others.
Hyman does not belong to the type that tells others to do the work and sees himself only as the leader. In the Relief Committee, in the sorting of the clothing, he himself truly did an enormous amount of work. All the clothes had to be sorted, mended, packed, and gotten to the necessary agencies. He practically did this work by himself, and you must understand that he could only do it in the evenings, after a hard day's work in the shop.
Hyman served in nearly every office in our society. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Brzeziner Workers' Union and was truly very active in it for many years. No work was too small or too big. He did not measure the work by the amount of honor he would get from itonly by the importance of the work itself. His motto was always if the work is important, action is important; it must get done.
Now Hyman belongs to that great multitude of retired craftsmen who enjoy their "golden years" in retirement. He now summers and winters in sunny Florida. In his retreat he still holds close to his heart warm feelings and nostalgic longings for our Brzeziner colony in New York. And if he should once drop in on us in New York, he would actually see all those landslayt with whom he spent so many pleasant evenings.
Usually most of the leaders are in love with themselves and their petty notionstherefore, their ideas, in most cases, are without substance or vitality.
We do not want to create here the impression that Hauser is only a good listener. No, he also has his opinions and his judgments about matters connected with our work. What he says is of significance, although he often breaks in, in his usual manner of expression, with a note of doubt, of what if the opposite. . . It is because Hauser wants to be clear and see in everything logical connections, logical basis. He dislikes vagueness and distortions. He wants to see serious business in everything, some meaning. Therefore, he often would call for more information from the chairman, more particulars, more clarity in the matter that was being so hotly debated by people.
Hauser is also considered among us as an expert in the field of finance. In almost all financial discussions and in all matters that had a connection to financial affairs, he occupied a very prominent place. Incidentally, Hauser was the first financial secretary of the Brzeziner Workers' Union and put a lot of effort and energy into it. For many years, he occupied the responsible post of financial secretary in the society and truly brought clarity and system to the books. A good public accountant would testify to that.
Our Louie, although already a grandfather, is still young. Let us wish for him that he should hold onto his youth for many, many years and continue to grace our landsmanshaft with his right-to-the-point, practical suggestions.
Our Reb Aronthe title we are accustomed to use for himreminds us with his entire manner of the old community leaders we respected so much. He belongs to that type of leader that is becoming a rarity among us; every expression and idea has to be supported with a parable or lengthy passage from our sages. When Reb Aron says something, we are eager to listen. His thoughts are always intertwined with pearls of wisdom and Torah witticisms of past generations.
We do not have many of them, these Aron Selins. He should really be aware that we are proud of himand may he for many, many years favor us with the treasures and pearls that he gathers from our ancient sages. As the peyrek [chapter from a holy text] says, speaking in Reb Aron's language, good is the one who gathers pearls and words of the Torah, and good is he who pays attention to the wise speech of the sages.
Thanks to the fact that Fishel Maliniak is employed in a printing shop, he is completely responsible for the fact that our publications and printing work these last years are so lovingly and accurately published. Also, in the planning of this book to memorialize our shtetl, we had to rely greatly for practical instructions and recommendations on the person who is an expert in the printing trade. In summary, Fishel belongs among our important leaders from the younger generation.
Here, on American soil, he adjusted. It was not easy for him. For a teacher from the Polish-Yiddish schools, the local style and local cultural situation were difficult for him to sink his teeth into. Thanks to his community activities, he was able to overcome many difficulties.
In his varied community work, he does not neglect his landslayt; those small town Jews from whom he drew his shoyresh-neshume [the roots of his soul].
He became active here with the local landslayt, mainly in connection with the relief-and-rehabilitation work, helping to rescue the uprooted, the impoverished. His pleading and warmly emotional speeches, intertwined with silent sorrow and poetic lyricism, make an impression on our landslayt and prod them into action.
In the assembling of this Sefer Brzezin, he also contributed by word and deed.
He was always involved in all kinds of activities. He was one of our several regular committee members. Without the practical, matter-of-fact leaders, a great many of our accomplishments over the years could not have been realized. Thanks to the quiet, modest leaders, our landsmanshaft did not remain stagnant or fall into disarray due to the infirmities of old age.
They, the quiet, modest leaders, were always ready to do their assigned work without cymbals clanging, without whims or biases.
Sam Fox held various offices with us and even served several terms in the office of president, and his modesty and simplicity added dignity to the office.
For many years he was engaged in bookkeeping, with managing our finances. It is responsible work, requiring a lot of diligence and knowledge. He was our financial secretary for many years. That very office is in fact the key office in our administration, and we must not forget that Peters worked with his own hands and earned his bread in a cloak factory, where he had to wrest free time from his hours of rest and family duties for his work.
Finally, in his later years, when working became difficult, he practically fought tooth-and nail to remain in that post and, indeed, did remain there until the last days of his life. He was devoted and loyal all the years that he carried the heavy burden of financial secretary. L'koved zayn ondenk [May his memory be honored].
Krengel was a person of strong characterwhich means that he would impose his opinions on everyone with whom he came in contact.
We don't know whether this bossy element would be so charming and desirable in our community life today. Years ago, because of entirely understandable and extenuating circumstances, this type of Jewish community leader was an important component of our community life. The accomplishments of these people with iron-clad principles and opinions were numerous and important. They were not to be found among the soft-hearted and wishy-washy people who could not decide important issues.
Di Yidisher gas [Jewish society] was ruled by these kinds of people, and our small movement also had that kind of element, of which M. Krengel was a typical example.
We say that Krengel never officially held any office in the society, but, in fact, he was the boss of our organization. If he wanted a certain project to go through or not to go throughthe final decision was always the way he wanted it. The sentiment of the people could have been for carrying out a certain proposition, but if Krengel said no, it could not go through. Indeed, he prevailed in most cases.
We do not say these words about him to criticize him, because we know that, in essence, he was a constructive, reliable member with the best and purest intentions for the welfare of our society.
That powerful element may appear odd today and naive, child-like, but in those beginning years it was not at all childish and certainly not at all naïve.
Our Abraham was full of life, bursting with energy. Often, it seemed to us that his sparkling vigor was a bit excessive. He had to react to every detail. Nothing was regarded as someone else's concern. Where there were two, he became a third in the debate. You could have a conversation about literature, about great personages in Jewish life, about politics, trade union questions, our own society mattershe always had something to say, an idea, a saying in his own direct style. He had something of a peculiar manner of presiding over and engaging in conversation. He was often extremely pointed, and his words could pierce like a sword. We took it in a friendly manner, good-naturedly, because we knew from whom it came. He was quick to get very upset and angry, but his anger just as quickly dissolved, cooled off.
He occupied many administrative posts in the Brzeziner landsmanshaft. In an entirely different position, he also excelled as financial secretary.
For the fortieth year jubilee of the local society, Abraham Kuyawsky was very active in putting together and distributing the very fine journal that was published at that time. He contributed valuable historical cultural material and, most especially, he was involved with the technical work in connection with the journal.
While we are now preparing the great Yizkor Book, we are aware that we would not have been able to write the history of our local landsmanshaft without Abraham Kuyawsky's having laid the groundwork, and though he was taken from us so early, we want to thank him for being such an energetic, active leader among us.
Israel Cohen became one of the most active, energetic leaders of our organization. For many years he was in charge of our finances, and it is extremely responsible and difficult work. And we must take into consideration that almost all of our officials were hard-working, toiling workers in the cloak and dress shops. And under these conditions, Cohen carried out his duties to complete satisfaction.
At the founding of the Brzeziner Workers' Union, Cohen was one of the most capable leaders of the union and occupied important positions there. It is worth mentioning here that, in fact, in the later years of the union's existence, he was the facilities manager. Every time we came into the clubrooms of the union, the large premises were clean and neat. On a cold, frosty, wintry late afternoon, you could also find a delightful hot glass of tea, thanks to his effort.
Landslayt appreciated it and really thought of him as a unique person in our midst; as an important leader on our board. It is unfortunate that he left us so early.
Yes, he lived and breathed for Brzezin. Our dear friend, J. D. Berg, long may he live, once said: Brzeziners, that is somehow like a different tribe. When you saw the ardor, the kind of fervor when the late Feivel Rosenberg spoke about Brzezin and its residents, you would understand that Berg's statement was not a meaningless saying but is actually characteristic of Brzeziners. Yes, they are somehow kneaded from a different doughwith all their faults and shortcomings. For us, our Feivel was, in fact, one of those who knew Brzezin like his ten fingers. Among us, he was actually the living memory with regard to the history of our shtetl. We remember a particular instance about some sort of historical episode concerning our shtetl, when Feivel immediately helped us to disentangle and clarify the seeming problem in the incident. And of late, with the monument to memorialize our beloved shtetl, we actually intended to take advantage of Feivel's knowledge of Brzezin. He left us too soon, and we really miss his knowledge.
It is somehow not easy to get used to the thought that this quiet, modest Feivel is really no longer among the living. There he sits in the president's chair and carries our the functions of the president's office with quiet modesty. He is a man of the people, an ineffectual speaker and not skilled enough to respond to certain subtle questions regarding our members. He regretted afterwards that he had lacked significant arguments with respect to this or that matter. Sometimes he felt somewhat helpless in his role as the president of the local landsmanshaftand, nevertheless, his straightforwardness crowned the office with respect. Those with the subtle questions surely did not have any evil intentions, and he with his ineffectual answers meant them for the benefit of all.
He left a great legacy that remains in the possession of the people of our community. We should not minimize this legacy for our people. His remembrances will live on with us. Somewhere, Hasidim have maintained that mourning must be accompanied with a melody of ascent, of future existence, and continuation. And in the last years, Feivel drew near to the universal concept of Torah Judaism. Let us cherish his legacy regarding our shtetl, which, as everyone knows was in the Hasidic spirit.
He belongs to the quiet, unassuming, dignified leaders. His words are significant, and one is always ready to listen to him, because we know that he has a serious attitude. He substantiates his spoken thoughts with logical arguments, and, most important, he is also a person of deeds.
He liked to carry things out precisely and thoroughly. When we talked about getting authentic, historical documents of the history of our shtetl, he did not let us get away only with talk. He immediately made contact with the appropriate authorities and ran daily to the libraries in order to get the necessary sources and information. The significant work that you find in this book is the result of his zeal, industriousness, and thoroughness.
As the recording secretary of the society these last few years, he added dignity to the office, and he brought thoroughness and clarity to the beautifully written minutes.
Because of worsening economic conditions and the mood of revolution and war that filled Russia and Poland, he decided to leave Brzezin again and come once more to America. He came with a background of long community service that he had gained in Zionist circles in Brzezin, but here he did not take an active part in Zionist community life. Here, he is extremely busy and weary with toil to support his family.
But he takes part in various landsmanshaft activities. Once he held the office of recording secretary and was a member of various committees. As a traditional Jew, well-versed, he observes Shabosim [Sabbaths] and holidays. Over the years he was drawn into orthodox life. He became a bal-tfile [Prayer leader], a bal-koyre [synagogue Torah reader]. He is drawn back to his roots.
Although in his later years Joseph-Hirsh Goldkrantz was not active in Zionist affairs, he had, however, great nakhes [Pleasure] from his two daughters who settled in Eretz Isroel. One of his grandchildren, Michrowski, about whom we have written in detail elsewhere in this book, died as a hero in the War of Liberation. These meager facts about Joseph-Hirsh Goldkrantz are certainly not a full description. Here we have only sketched the outlines of his profile. May his memory be honored.
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