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The First Brzeziner Chalucim [Pioneers] (cont.)

In 1938 Jacob David Berg made his first visit to Israel. He unexpectedly met Aron Mendlewicz, who introduced me to Friend Berg for the first time. It was not peaceful in the land at that time. Friend Berg was not able to visit the country properly because of the unrest.

Contact with the Landslayt in America

At that time we had, in fact, already broken our ties with the American Brzeziner brothers. The Brzeziners in America had already had a society for many years. We in Israel, at that time, maintained that in Israel all Jews who arrived should join together, without exception, and that there was no need for any landsmanshaftn [organizations of fellow townsmen].

 

brz205b.jpg -    A group portrait of Brzeziner 'landslayt' in 'Medines Isroel' [State of Israel]
A group portrait of Brzeziner landslayt in Medines Isroel [State of Israel]

 

The Second World War broke out, and Tel Aviv was bombed. Eretz Isroel stood on the brink of war. At that time, we certainly did not think about creating a society. When the country was a little calmer and the enemy had withdrawn from the borders of the land, we met in 1942 at Friend Szmul Sulkowicz's home and founded the Brzeziner Society. The outcome of the war was not known at that time, but we understood that we had to collect relief money for the people who had remained in Brzezin. We did not know that the end would be so tragic.

The following friends were members of the committee: Frankensztajn, Mojsze Icek Szajnberg, Lemel Horn, Fiszel Benkel, Jechiel Erlich, and Szmul Sulkowicz. During that time a considerable sum of money was collected in order to be able to assist the Jews remaining in Brzezin.

Unfortunately, fate determined otherwise. Instead of helping those remaining in Brzezin, we had to help the survivors all over the world.

Our first deed was to send packages to Lodz and oranges to Sweden

Shortly after that, Jews from Brzezin began to arrive in the country. The committee began to provide financial assistance. At that time, none of the committee members expected that the money they had distributed would be returned to the treasury. Fifteen hundred pounds [British currency] was distributed, and in those times, that was a great sum of money. Dissatisfaction then arose among the new arrivals. As with all community work, here as well, many of the newly-arrived had complaints about the committee.

The first connection between the Brzeziners in America and the Brzeziners in Israel was through Jehuda Fuks, who was on his “Joint Appeal” visit in Israel at that time. He left one thousand dollars, which at that time was over three hundred pounds. When Fuks returned to America, the Brzeziners took upon themselves the obligation to commemorate the destroyed life of the Jewish community in Brzezin, the Brzeziner kedoshim [martyrs]. The cooperation of the American and the Israeli Brzeziners grew into a close relationship. In 1950 our friend Jacob David Berg came to Israel in order to create a tailoring cooperative or a shikkun in memory of the Brzeziner martyrs.

 

brz206.jpg -   A secular school with its teacher
A secular school with its teacher
In the second row, in the center, is the teacher Penina Horn-Kaufman

 

After basically exploring the situation, it was decided to build a shikkun and a community center and to publish a Yizkor [memorial] Book. After the shikkun was erected, Friend Berg came especially for the dedication of the buildings.

Thirty-six Brzeziner families live in the shikkun. A number of them had previously lived in tents or barracks and, in general, under very difficult living conditions. At the same time, a House of Culture was created in the name of the Brzeziner martyrs as well as those who fell in the War of Liberation in Israel.


[Pages 207-212]

How the Shikkun Brzezin (Brzezin apartment project) was Built

(Activities Report from the Brzeziner Landsmanshaft in Isroel for the years 1940–60)

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

A.

The landsmanshaft [organization of fellow townsmen], under the name Irgun Yotzei Brzezin B'Yisrael [Organization of Former Residents of Brzezin in Israel] was founded and began activities in 1940 with the following persons:
1) Jechiel Erlich
2) Fiszel Benkel
3) Lemel Horn, z”l, [may his memory be blessed]
4) Mojsze Har-Jaffe (Szajnberg)
5) Gedalia Waldman
6) Wolf Zagon
7) Aron Mendlewicz
8) Szmuel Sulkowicz, z”l
9) Dawid Poliwoda
10) Aron Fogel
11) Mojsze-Icek Frankensztajn, z”l
The only job and activity of the landmanshaft in the first years after its founding was to collect money from our landslayt [fellow townsmen] in Israel, in order to be ready and able to send help to Brzezin when the Second World War ended.

The fund raisers at that time were, in addition to the already mentioned founders, also the following landslayt:

1) Jehuda Bialer
2) Rebeka Benkel
3) Sarah Goldberg-Dzialoszynska
4) Cypora Har-Jaffe
5) Chana Waldman-Leczynska
6) Gitel Janowska-Ardenbaum
7) Bluma Markowicz-Erlich
8) Chana Sulkowicz, z”l
and many others.
Considering the difficult economic situation during the war years, the Irgun Yotzei Brzezin B'Yisrael succeeded in collecting what was in those days a significant sum of money. That money was held by the treasurer at that time, Szmuel Sulkowicz, z”l.

When the World War ended, sadly, the great tragedy that befell the Jewish world in Europe and, among them the Brzeziner Jews, was revealed and brought to light. It was evident that there was no longer any Brzeziner Jewish community and that the Brzeziner Jews, men and women, the elderly and the children, had been assassinated and murdered in a horrible and brutal manner by the merciless beasts, the Nazi murderers. Only a very small number of Brzeziner Jews remained alive. Through great miracles, they had managed to survive and escape from the inhuman, murderous hands. These Brzeziner Jews who remained alive were spread out over many displaced person camps in all the countries of Europe.

The previously mentioned collected money was then used to send packages of food and clothing to the surviving landslayt in the various displaced person camps and, later, to the landslayt in Sweden and Lodz, where, after the war, a few surviving Brzeziner Jews had gathered.

B.

At the end of 1948, landsman Jehuda Fuks visited us from New York, following which contact was established between the two most numerous and most important Brzeziner landsmanshaftn, in New York and in Israel.

At that time, Friend Jehuda Fuks brought with him $1,000 from the Brzeziner Society in New York and presented it to our landsmanshaft in Israel. This was then exchanged into our currency and was worth £329 (329 pounds), an extraordinary sum.

Later, the New York landsman Fiszel Maliniak visited us and gave us £90.

With these above mentioned two sums, together with the money that had been collected by the landslayt in Israel, the landsmanshaft in Israel conducted a new relief activity for those Brzeziners, newly arrived in the country, who had been saved from the cataclysmic war. Every newly-arrived Brzeziner who turned to us received a sum between £10 and £75, all according to the situation of the new arrival and according to our financial capability at the time.

In order not to shame the needy person, help was distributed in the form of loans, and although all of those new arrivals, thank God, became settled, only a very small number paid back the aid they had received. The sums that were repaid were again used for the same purpose.

In 1950 and 1951, the landsmanshaftn in New York and Israel came up with two projects to help the needy Brzeziners in Israel: 1) the founding of a tailors' cooperative or 2) the building of a shikkun (apartment project) for Brzeziners in Israel.

During the time of New Yorker landsman J. D. Berg's visit to Israel in 1951, these two projects were thoroughly thought through and fully defined, and with his cooperation and influence, it was decided by both landsmanshaftn to select and undertake the project of building the shikkun in Kfar-Unu.

On November 30, 1951, the contract to build the apartment project for the Brzeziner Shikkun in Kfar-Unu in Israel was finalized between the New York Brzeziner Relief Committee and the Israeli construction firm, the Rosko Corporation.

The New York Brzeziner Relief Committee selected and approved the following people as the Israeli Building Committee to act on behalf of the New York Brzeziner Relief Committee:

1) Lemel Horn z”l
2) Fiszel Benkel
3) Aron Mendlewicz
4) Mojsze Har-Jaffe (Szajnberg)
5) Dawid Poliwoda
6) Aron Fogel
7) Majer Sulkowicz
Nine buildings were constructed––four apartments in each building––altogether thirty-six apartments. The Brzeziner Relief Committee in New York sent word to assign one of the apartments to a Jewish family from Romania. Of course, the Relief Committee in New York received $1100 for that apartment from the New York relatives of that family. As it turned out, the Brzeziner Relief Committee in New York paid the Rosko Corporation for 35 apartments, $1100 per apartment––altogether $38,500 (according to the rate of exchange at the time of one [Israeli] pound for one dollar, that came to £38,500).[1] The thirty-five apartments were allocated and sold to:
1) Brzeziners who were living in mabarot (camps) and

2) Brzeziners who were living in very bad living conditions but not in mabarot.

Because of the fact that the Brzeziners who lived in the mabarot did not have sufficient funds to buy an apartment, we were compelled to allocate the loans from the relief money differently. Not $1100 per apartment but more for the camp dwellers and less for the others, as listed below. Otherwise, the camp dwellers, in general, would not have been able to afford an apartment.

The final price for which the apartments were sold was:

1) For the camp dwellers:
Cash Payment£460
Loan (with interest)£800
Total£1,260
Interest-free loan from the relief-money$1,450

2) For those who were not camp dwellers:
Cash Payment£1,475
Loan from Rosko Corp. (with interest)£600
Total£2,075
Interest-free loan from the relief-money$900

This was the decision of the Building Committee in Israel in order to make it possible for the Brzeziner oylim [immigrants] who were in the camps for the homeless in the worst conditions to also be able to get a good place to live.

This was the decision––and in fact, the relief money was distributed in the following manner:

27 loans of$900=$24,300
1 loan of $1,010 =$1,010
5 loans of $1,450 =$7,250
1 loan of $1,480 =$1,480
1 loan of $1,100 =$1,100

Altogether: 35 loans for the sum of$35,140

The Brzeziner Relief Committee in New York had given the Rosko Corporation in New York $38,500. We allocated from this 35 loans for the sum of $35,140. The amount of $3,360 remained. This amount, which at that time equaled £3,360 was credited to the building of the culture house Beit Ha-am al Shem Kdushi Brzezin [House of the People Named for the Martyrs of Brzezin].

C.

The building of the Beit Ha-am al Shem Kdushi Brzezin cost by the end of 1956––£19,700 and in 1957, 1958, 1959 an additional £1,400 was spent. Altogether, the Beit Ha-am cost £21,100 by the end of September 1959.

This sum grouped together in the following way:

1) Building costs according to the calculation of the Rosko Corporation£14,857.00
2) Fence around the site of the Beit Ha-am£1,275.00
3) Lighting supplied by the electric company£320.00
4) Painting the fence£46.50
5) Installation of electricity and lamps £247.00
6) Pictures and signs £253.00
7) Planting and maintaining the garden around the Beit Ha-am£241.00
8) Furniture£2,283.00
9) Changes and improvements£102.00
10) Books purchased£72.00
11) Miscellaneous expenses£69.50
Total through the end of 1957£19,676.00

In the years 1957–58 and through the end of September 1959:

1) 3 electric fans and 6 fluorescent lamps£327.00
2) 6 oven vents£110.00
3) 20 small tables£320.00
4) Table linen and curtains£54.52
5) Glasses, saucers, and platters£55.60
6) The garden at Beit Ha-am £283.00
7) New books for the library£149.50
8) Payment for handing out books to readers (for being on duty three times a week up to two hours in the course of three and a half months)£105.00
[Total for 1957–58]£1,394.62
Total costs for Beit Ha-am£21,394.62

The above expenses––for building, fixing up, furnishing, and also maintaining the Beit Ha-am, the library, and the garden––amounting to the sum of £21,070, were put together in the following manner:

1) The remainder from the $38,500 for the houses built$3,360.00 = £3,360.00
2) The participation of the Relief Committee in New York to build Beit Ha-am, sent directly to Rosko Corporation––$4,500.00 (at rate of 1.80 £to the $) =£8,100.00
3) Contribution from Mojsze Frank in New York for chairs£1,500.00
4) From the Brzeziner landsmanshaft in Los Angeles$450.00 = £807.55
Total£13,767.55

The rest of the building costs for Beit Ha-am, in the amount of approximately £7,300, were covered by:

1) Three repaid loans by residents of the Shikkun who left Kiryat Unu [town of Unu] and sold their apartment (during 1954–56)––together £2,700.00
2) From the donations collected by the Brzeziner landslayt in Israel£4,600.00
Total£7,300.00

D.

Now our greatest attention turned to developing the Gmiles-khsodim-kase [Interest-free loan fund] in the name of the Brzeziner heroes who fell while freeing and defending our country.

The Gmiles-khsodim-kase began its activities in January 1957 and joined the Israeli central organization of Gmiles-khsodim-kases and was under the supervision of that central organization.

From the Brzeziner Relief Committee in New York, we received as a contribution to the Gmiles-khsodim-kase two bank transfers 1) $1,500 and 2) $500, altogether $2,000––which was changed into £3,600 Israeli.

Every landsman who was in need and turned to the Gmiles-khsodim-kase with appropriately good references received an interest-free loan up to the amount of £400––insofar as our financial condition allowed.

Understand, that if the Brzeziners who lived in the houses in Kiryat Unu had held to their obligation and repaid in monthly installments the monetary loans that they got in 1952––when they entered the apartments in the Shikkun––then today we would have much greater financial reserves, and we would be able to distribute to Brzeziners in need more loans and in greater amounts.

Until now––in the course of the three-year activity of the Gmiles-khsodim-kase––the kase has not had any losses, and all the borrowers have paid their installments precisely and promptly.

E.

Now we present here a summary of everything we said before in numbers:

According to the joint account balance 1) Irgun Yotzei Brzezin B'Yisrael (our landsmanshaft) and 2) Yad Hashisha kupat gmiles-khesed shel Irgun Yotzei Brzezin B'Yisrael [The Helping Hand Fund of the Organization of Former Residents of Brzezin] (our Gmiles-khsodim-kase) show up to September 1959, the following activities:

1) Cash in the bank£4,357.71
2) 27 building loans to the residents of the Shikkun £27,940.00
3) Regular loans £4,756.00
 
4a) The Beit Ha-am, according to the real estate evaluation amounted to£18,000.00
4b) According to the calculation of expenses£3,070.00
 £21,070.00
 
Together, our assets£58,123.71

We have no outstanding loans whatsoever to anyone.

Besides these assets that we have according to the account balance up until September 30, 1959, we have to take into consideration that during the time between 1940 and September 30, 1959, that is, during the last twenty years, we have had expenses:

1) sending help to the surviving Brzeziners in camps
2) distributing relief to needy Brzeziners who came to the country after the end of the World War
3) arranging projects, collections, haskore [memorial services for the dead], and so forth
4) entertaining guests from abroad,
5) administrative expenses, such as writing materials, printed matter, postage stamps, and so forth
6) various other expenses.
These expenses during the entire period of our activities––during the last twenty years––come to a sum of about £12,000. And this outstanding sum of £12,000 was recorded as expenses, without omitting even the smallest, insignificant amount in the balancing of the account. But before we spent the money and distributed it, we had to collect and accumulate it.

To restate all the previously enumerated expenses, from the total of about £70,000, we received from the Brzeziner Relief Committee and from the Brzeziner Society in New York, during twenty years, the already previously mentioned sums:

1) From landsman Jehuda Fuks$1,000.00£329.00
2) From landsman Fiszel Maliniak £90.00
3) Via the Rosko Corporation for the houses built $38,500.00£38,500.00
4) Via the Rosko Corporation for the building of Beit Ha-am$4,500.00£8,100.00
5) For the Gmiles-khsodim-kase: 2 transfers$2000.00£3,600.00
Received from the Relief Committee and the Society in total £50,619.00
6) From landsman Mojsze Frank £1,500.00
7) From Brzeziner landmanshaft in Los Angeles  £807.00
8) From 8 repaid building loans––£900 pounds each £7,200.00
Together £60,126.00

The rest––a sum of £10,000––we gathered and received from our landslayt here in Israel through voluntary contributions and donations, income from meetings and memorial services for the dead, and other revenues.

F.

In brief, we must remember that during these years we also dedicated ourselves and spent much time and effort in order to help particular individual landslayt in the country with employment and making a living.

Also, from time to time, we had to settle and straighten out conflicts between the residents of the Shikkun.

The entire account above describes the activities of our committee in Israel; the difficult work, which took a great deal of time and effort and often resulted in grievances and even worse, aggravation.

But nevertheless, after the tasks that we had undertaken were completed and the Shikkun and the Beit Ha-am were built and the Gmiles-khsodim-kase began its activities and all had the opportunity to develop and to grow, it brought all of us great pleasure and satisfaction, and we were proud of the results of your and our effort during the last twenty years.

In the name of:

Brzeziner Landsmanshaft in Israel and
Brzeziner Building Committee in Israel

S. Mendlewicz        Dawid Poliwoda
Menachem Gutkind

Tel-Aviv, August 8, 1960


Translator's Footnotes

  1. It seems from what follows that this amount did not pay for the apartments entirely but served as a subsidy for each apartment, at the rate of $1100 per apartment. The Relief Committee in Israel decided to allocate the subsidy loan based on need, rather than being uniform for each apartment. Return

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