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[Page 96]

Social Welfare and Charitable Institutions (cont.)

“Moshav Zekeinim”

The “Moshav Zekeinim” (Seat of the Aged) was founded by the brothers Jakob and Cwi Zagajski and was a blessing to the elderly of Kielce and the area. Elderly people who had been abandoned, who needed to rest when they reached the days in which they were not wanted, found shelter, care and rest in spacious and clean rooms. The residents of the city showered blessings upon the heads of the founders, whose generosity prompted them to open this institution for the benefit and comfort of the elderly. Dark and lonely old age did not burden them, the elderly, for the care and comfort that they found there distracted them from tragic thoughts, they knew and sensed that they were not superfluous in the world as long as there is still an eye looking over them.

kie096.jpg [25 KB] - The Zagajski Family and its patriarch, Reb' Cwi Z''L
The Zagajski Family and its patriarch, Reb' Cwi Z”L

Even after the building was erected and the institution created, the benefactors kept a careful eye on it, were always trying to improve it, reform it and bring it up to date. If they found some lacking in the institution they didn't rest nor have peace until it was corrected, all of their desires and efforts were focussed on making the elderly's last days more pleasant. Here too the activist who knew no rest, Dr. Pelc, was very busy with his advice and knowledge that included this beneficial institution. He endeavored to improve the state of the elderly men and women as much as he could. He strictly oversaw the sanitary and hygienic conditions at the institution. The kitchen was also under his supervision. He took care that the nutrition was appropriate to the weakened digestions of the elderly. He was particular about absolute cleanliness in the rooms, which is the precaution for the health of the individual and the community.

kie097.jpg [37 KB] - The 'Moshav Zekeinim' committee, the activists and the elderly
The “Moshav Zekeinim” committee, the activists and the elderly

Sitting: D. Herszkowicz, Heszel Goldberg, D. Szalit, Dr. M. Pelc, S. Kligman, C. Zagajski,
M.P. Kaminer, Mejer Ajzenberg and Benjamin Lew.
Among those standing in the second row: Josef Enach, M. Ajzenberg, Ch. and J. Zagajski

[Page 98]

Orphanage

An important and beneficial institution existed in Kielce, and this was the “Beit Yetomim” [Orphanage]. This institution was brought to life by a group of men and women who were active in public life during the days of World War I.

In those days, there were many orphans in the city. The epidemics, the infectious diseases that accompanied the war, wrought devastation among the population. There were orphans left without father or mother. There was an urgent need for shelter for these abandoned and miserable children. Then the Orphanage was founded which sheltered dozens of orphans under its roof, supplied their needs, care, food, clothing and shoes, basic education. For this purpose the Orphanage hired a childcare worker, a woman with experience. Tender looks and affection surrounded the orphans, and they continued to grow without sensing their being orphaned or lonely. Many of them later became excellent and useful artisans; the most talented among them were accepted at the Jewish Gymnasiums, where they received a high school education.

With the help of this institution, the sad orphans, as a group, became people who contributed to society and to the nation. The Jewish inhabitants were also very fond of the institution and many contributed aid and helped when they saw the excellent results of this charitable endeavor. Without appropriate care these children would have become street children, abandoned children, wild without education and they would have atrophied. This institution saved them from both poverty and abandonment and acted as both father and mother to them.

Mrs. Wolman, the principal of the girls Gymnasium, was the patroness of the Orphanage. She and the members of the committee, whose members included Zagajski, Rajzman, Dr. Pelc, Nechemja Ostrowicz, Mrs. Fajga Arten, were devoted heart and sole to this important institution. The orphans, graduates of the institutions, would recall their names with gratitude. The Zagajski brothers, with the help of city benefactors, erected a beautiful building for the Orphanage in 1930 that was gloriously furnished and improved to the great comfort of the orphans.


In Kielce there were other smaller charitable societies: “Hachnasat Orchim” [Hospitality], “Hachnasat Kallah” [Aid to Brides], an aid society for impoverished women who had just given birth, and a “Chesed Shel Emet” society [burial].

The task of the hospitality society was arranging places to sleep for poor guests who could not afford a hotel. Such citizens were used to sleeping in study halls and places of worship putting their heads on the benches and the tables which they used as a “made bed”, cloths and towels, old prayer shawls and whatever they found there, and thus they would sleep through the night.

Of course, such an arrangement was not good for the public health. Poor guests sleeping in public places were likely to transfer disease bacteria from place to place. To close the houses of worship in their faces was also not possible: to Jews known as merciful, such an act would be considered ruthless, and no Jewish mind would tolerate it.

kie099.jpg [44 KB] - The public workers at the Orphanage and the children
The public workers at the Orphanage and the children

From top to bottom: Mrs. Diament, Sara Erlich, Zagajski, Frajman, Chawa Kajzer, C. Kaufman,
M. Kaufman, Dr. Krauze, Finkelsztajn, S. Maurberger, Merber, Engineer Piekarski, H. Mincberg,
C. Wilner, B. Rotenberg, F. Arten, A. Edelsztajn, F. Zajde, A. Rotenberg and others

To correct this problem, a small house was rented at the initiative of the sons of the Admo”r of Chmielnik, beds were set up there with soft, clean bedding. For a minimal fee a guest found shelter and a place to sleep there.

The supervisor of this institution was Josef Szymon Chmielnicki, the beadle of the synagogue.

The bridal society took care of poor brides, ushering them under the “chupah” and supplying them with their wedding needs. In this society as well as that for poor women who had given birth, mostly righteous women of he older generation took part, who hewed to their mothers' tradition.

Close to the outbreak of World War II a “Chesed Shel Emet” society was founded in the city. The energy behind this society belonged to Dawid Rozenwald. The Jewish settlement in Kielce had expanded and it happened sometimes that the deceased had no relatives and there was no one to look after his burial – several inhabitants of Kielce felt the need to establish a society to observe this commandment of kindness with the dead who had no one to care for them.

All of the above-mentioned charitable institutions brought tremendous benefit to the Kielce community. Nearly every Jewish resident was a member in one of them, participated in their meetings, contributed from his money and strength to maintain them. The Jew did not feel himself isolated even in the most critical situation. He knew that he was a limb in a living, developing body, he was not detached from the community; thousands of tiny blood vessels connected him to the ancient trunk, that no force of wind that one might find in the world – and that one might not find in the world – could uproot.

The charitable impulse that is implanted in the heart of every Jew in the world, that is a basic element of the essence of his soul, is what allowed the Israelite nation to survive even in the worst periods in its history.

A Jew, who was forced to leave his place of residence and take the travelers' staff in his hand, did not get lost on his wanderings. Wherever he came, he found his brothers who were organized into a community who would receive him, care for him and welcome him into their homes not as a stranger, who came to disturb their rest, but as a brother, a friend and a companion. A wanderer like this was not discouraged, did not despair on his wandering path; on the contrary, he found encouragement wherever he went; he knew that everywhere he went he would find brothers, co-religionists, whose homes would be open to him, and in which he would find a resting place after the effort of the road and the weariness of travel.

Ever community in the Diaspora had its own charitable institutions; even the smallest of them represented, in miniature, the entire assembly of Israel. At the head of every community stood the public leader, the “Parnas”, a rabbi and his rabbinical court. It had “melameds” and teachers, who disseminated Torah and knowledge, study halls and synagogues, in which there was a Ner Tamid lit, an eternal light of the soul of the nation, and the charitable institutions cared for the weaker ones, those who had come down in the world, and the sick and supported them so they could stand on their feet. The community members ensured that even one soul of Israel was not lost.

Only Israel had the command – a very important one morally and nationally: “Whosoever saves one soul of the nation of Israel, it is considered as if he had saved an entire world”. Only we, the children of Israel, knew how to cherish and respect the image of God that is in human beings and made the effort to preserve this image in its purity and wholeness. We made the greatest efforts to ensure that this image did not atrophy in the hardship of bondage and the bitterness of the exile.

Thanks to these attributes of every community, we survived the most difficult conditions of the exile. The expulsions, the persecutions, the riots, the despicable murders and conspiracies, which our persecutors invented against us, did not have the strength to erase the image of God from our faces, to blunt the exalted feelings in which the Jewish nations excelled in us, from the time we were a nation on the earth.

The communities were the cells, the fibers in which the national strengths accumulated and were preserved.

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