As I have already mentioned, there was a charitable organization in Kielce called Achiezer, in Polish Bratnia Pomoc the masses knew it by the name of Dobroczynnosc and it was the oldest charitable institution in the Kielce community. It was established at the beginning of the twentieth century by a group of wealthy people from the city who volunteered to do charitable activities to benefit the poor of the city. Among the founders were Chassidim and assimilated Jews as well. The good deed of charity blurred the outlines and differences of opinion between the Chassid and the assimilated Jew.
The tasks of this charitable institution were: A) maintaining the Talmud Torah, where the poor children received their early education and, before holidays, also clothing and shoes. B) Maintaining the Jewish Hospital. C) Maintaining the Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society]. D) Maintaining the social welfare fund for giving small loans to the poor in exchange for a pledge or the guarantee of one of the members. E) Distributing food to the poor before holidays and coal and potatoes in the winter.
Its main income consisted of the members' contributions, the synagogue income, which was earmarked for its use, the income of the Chevra Kadisha, legacies and so forth.
All of the affairs of the organization were run by a committee, which was elected at a general meeting of the members. Its most active members were Rabbi Mosze Fefer, Firster, Hassenbajn, the Zagajski brothers, Awigdor Rajzman, Rabbi Eli' Naftali Ajzenberg and his son Rabbi Mosze, Lemel Kahana and others.
Over time, some changes occurred in the circle of activities of the Achiezer society. Some of its jobs were taken from it.
When Poland achieved its political independence [in 1918], the cities received independent local authority and the sphere of action of the Jewish communities broadened; at that time the maintenance of the Jewish Hospital was transferred to the local municipality. The cemetery and Chevra Kadisha moved to the auspices of the Jewish community. The activities of the Achiezer society were then limited to minor philanthropy and maintaining the Talmud Torah. Its income also shrank in those days. Its shamash, Mr. Sukenik, had to bestir himself to collect the members' monthly donations.
The activities of the society expanded greatly, especially when Dr. Pelc, who was a well-known activist of great energy and solid character, headed it. He also established a clinic alongside Linat HaTzedek where during several hours each day patients could receive an examination at a nominal fee and treatment to prevent their disease developing further.
|The Linat HaTzedek committee in Kielce
Among those present: Zew Kluska, Daniel Szalit, Awraham Piotrkowski,
Mosze Rozenblum, Szmuel Kligman, Chaim Wajnryb and Sz. Z. Chmielnicki
The Linat HaTzedek institution was very popular with many of the city's inhabitants and its membership grew from year to year.
From among its active members I will mention here only a few names, of those who were most noticeable in their activities to develop the society: Mendel Lifszycz, who stood at its head from the day it was founded and whose attention, without wavering, hovered over it at all times and in all circumstances. Lajbel Goldberg, a simple householder, was always ready at the first request to come and visit the patient, to see to his needs and care for him; even though he himself was familiar with illness he was plagued by asthma to the end of his life even so, he did not prevent himself from sleeping at the patient's side. Josef Gertler, a peddler, childless, was devoted to the society with his entire soul. He would care for the patient with warmth and love and spared no effort in his attempts to ease the patient's pain and suffering. Aszer Kazlowski who also stood at head of the society and did much to balance its budget. Szmuel Lajchter, an artisan with a large family of his own to worry about, a public activist, also found the time to act, work, and do things for Linat HaTzedek. In his speeches he would arouse the audience and show them the benefit and advantage in this charity endeavor.
With sincere and simple words that penetrated the heart he would describe the physical and emotional sufferings of the patient to the audience; how much a person needs the help of others and their words of encouragement when he is lying helpless on his bed, and his family are worn out taking care of him. How the patient especially needs other's help during the hours of the night, when everyone else in the house is asleep and he needs care and has no one to turn to; and then the person who comes to his house appears before him like a redeeming angel. The value of the good deed of visiting a patient when they are alone with themselves is immeasurable.
Lajchter was attached to Linat HaTzedek with his whole heart and soul, and even his own illness did not sever this bond to the institution. There were cases in which he himself was ill when he was called to an urgent meeting at Linat HaTzedek and he would find the strength and get up to participate in it. And the protests and yells of his wife, that he was endangering his own life by going out to participate in the meeting when he ought to be in bed, did no good.
All of these I mentioned here by name and many others who were not mentioned here were worthy of being remembered for a blessing among those who worked for the benefit of their brethren and did not remain within the four amot [cubits] of their own personal lives.
During the war, many of the Jews of the city lost their livelihood; in addition
to the local unemployed, many more refugees arrived from the surrounding
villages who had been expelled from their places of residence and found shelter
in Kielce. Both groups were facing hunger and disease.
Several activists therefore sat down and founded the Tomchei Aniyim [Supporters of the Poor] society, whose goal was to give support and aid to the poor in an organized fashion. First of all they opened an inexpensive kitchen where anyone who was hungry could receive a delicious and satisfying meal for a nominal fee. They announced a project of collecting clothing, underwear and shoes for the refugees, who came from their places of residence with only the clothes on their backs. After that they also opened a shop that supplied the needy with basic necessities at very low prices. In general the society then devoted itself to a broad variety of activities that extended aid to the needy affected by the war. The means for these activities were gathered from the contributions of members, from one time donations, from community allocations and various other sources, such as the income of the prayer house that the members of Tomchei Aniyim founded for themselves and that was dedicated to the needs of the endeavor. The most active members of this charitable society during the days of the war and the years afterwards were: Dr. Krauze, who participated in the society when he was still a student, Josel Kohen, Josel Marynka, Sztrozberg, Jona Rotman, Zilberberg and others.
|First Row: Dr. Fleszler, Rabbi Horberg, Rabbi Rapaport,
J. Kohen and B. Sokolowski.
Second Row: J. Gutman, J. Klajnman, M. Horberg, Ch. Sz. Lichtensztajn,
Zew Kluska, Rabbi I. Finkler, A.B. Ajzenberg, S. Kaminer, and others
After the war, the society continued with its activities and adapted them to the conditions of the times and its needs. The main activities of the Tomchei Aniyim society were restricted afterwards to supporting people from the middle class who had fallen upon hard times. Its activity was mainly constructive. A peddler, a small shopkeeper, who needed a certain some of money to survive, and not become indigent and no longer be able to climb back the society arrived and extended the necessary support and set him up on his feet. In the same way there was a tradition in this society to arrange a kosher kitchen and prepare all of the requirements of the Passover holiday for the Jewish soldiers who were stationed in the city.
Ch. Sz. Lichtensztajn, Rabbi I. Finkler, E.I. Rozenblum and R. Rafalowicz.
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