The Immigrant Association of Ostrów Mazowiecka in Israel
By Arija (Leib) Margolis, Tel-Aviv
(Chairman, Ostrowa Landsmanschaft in Israel)
Translated by by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
In 1945, when I began receiving letters pleading for help, we decided to organize an Ostrowa Landsmanschaft in Israel to help our fellow Ostrowers who were in Russia. On April 1st, 1945, during Passover, we held the founding meeting with more than a hundred people present and a committee of nine people was elected, with the writer as chairman.
The committee undertook to raise money and send parcels to Russia. The writer with Mala Liwazer and Freidl Szalowicz undertook the buying, packing and shipping of the parcels. All the parcels were packed and addressed from home.
We could not send money or food, so were limited to sending clothing and shoes which were needed in Russia. We raised three hundred fifty English Pounds (a large sum in those days) and sent out about one hundred fifty packages to fifty families three packages per family.
This work continued until 1946 when the Polish Jews were allowed to leave Russia and travel to Poland, Germany, France and other countries.
The work of sending help to our fellow Ostrowers was then taken over by the Relief Committee in New York, which had been organized by then.
In the following two years, when the refugees began to leave Europe for North and South America, Canada, Australia, but mainly Israel, we took care of them. We decided then to establish a lending fund, not charity, which could give constructive help to the refugees in order to become established in Israel.
As the Relief Committee in New York was well established, in November 1948 we were in touch with the chairman, our landsman Jechiel Chrust and he sent the first five hundred Pounds to create the lending fund and we raised another two hundred fifty Pounds. This seven hundred fifty Pounds was a large sum of money in those days, but not enough for the large number of Ostrower survivors arriving in Israel.
It did not take long to distribute the money. The Americans sent more help which lasted unfortunately only from January to July 1949. In the end one thousand two hundred Pounds arrived, but at that time nobody needed any loans.
The work of the new committee began in April 1950. When the general meeting took place we had two guests from America, our landsmen Tofel and Wejlach. A new committee was elected headed by Jechuda Szulc. The writer, because of ill health, was no longer a member of the committee.
After four years, the lending fund was abandoned, the uncollected debts forgotten.
In February 1954 a general meeting was called in order to clarify the situation and a new committee was elected headed by Michel Ciechanowiecki. In two years that this committee existed, apart from the chairman's trip to America, no positive work was recorded.
In April 1956 a new committee was elected, but lacked direction. They also lacked funds as most of the money was still in the hands of those who had borrowed money.
In May 1957, the committee came to the writer and asked for help and asked that he take over the work to collect the outstanding debts, etc. I agreed to do it on the condition that the recovered money would be used to publish a Yizkor Book to memorialize our murdered martyrs.
After the committee agreed, I got down to work and as of today, about seventy-five percent of the loans have been repaid.
Another general meeting took place in July 1958 and an exact report was given on the work done that year and about the Yizkor Book. A new committee was also elected consisting of: Arija Margolis, Jaffa Graf, Jechezkiel Ratowicz, Szolem Strykowski, Gdalia Leszcz and Berl Dmocher (the latter from Haifa).
In the last three years loans were made (in small amounts) to a certain number of landslayt.
Help was also given to tens of newly arrived families in Israel, recent arrivals from Poland. During the winter we had a clothing drive and divided the collection between the needy families.
Every year before Pesach we had a fund-raiser (on a small scale) and divided the money among our causes. The largest amount of money went to publishing the Yizkor Book as a memorial to our town and those murdered.
The committee also decided to install a memorial plaque on Har Zion [Mount Zion].
We also began to raise money to plant a thousand trees in the Jewish National Fund's Martyrs' forest on the hills around Jerusalem, in memory of the martyrs. We have already collected two hundred pounds and we hope to continue raising money towards this end.
Every year on the anniversary of the first mass-murder which took place on the 29th of Heshvan, 5700 [11th of November 1939] hundreds of former Ostrowers sadly gather in remembrance.
There are more than six hundred Ostrower families in Israel, scattered throughout the country, in the cities, villages and settlements. Let us hope that the work of the association will go forward without the mistakes of the previous years and continue to serve the needs of Ostrowers.
Standing: Jechazkiel Ratowicz, Berel Dmocher, Szolem Strikowski and Gdalja Leszcz
By Chaja Palgon-Urlant, New York
Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
Our city Ostrowa also gave France a small number of its inhabitants - about ten to fifteen families - who worked at home as shoemakers, knitters and in other branches of industry. There was no special landsmanschaft, the so-called societies, founded by our Ostrowers, like in other cities. They grew into the community businesses existing in Jewish Paris - each with their own political persuasion. In their free time people enjoyed cultural Paris, with love for this country and its traditions.
In 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, I noted the contribution of our compatriot Moszek Ryba, to the solidarity of the Spanish Republic. He chose to go to Spain and fight for democracy.
At the start of the Second World War, several of our compatriots also chose to join the French army to fight: Moszek Ryba, Tejtel, Aron G±sior, etc.
In June 1940 when the Germans occupied France, they enacted barbarous anti-Jewish laws (arresting and deporting) causing the first deaths among our fellow-Ostrowers: Benjamin Miadowszewski and the Cwejbaks, who never returned. Those of us still remaining were constantly afraid. There were constantly new restrictions: wearing the yellow star, eight o'clock curfew at night, special times for Jews to shop. Jews were not allowed to visit public institutions such as the cinema, theatre, libraries, etc. Jews had to travel in special segregated train cars, etc. Those who violated the travel laws were sent to camps. Some of our compatriots became active in various social projects: collecting money, sending packages to those in camps, helping families whose men were taken for forced labour. Chaja Palgon and Mejer List were among those who were active.
The 16th of July is memorable for tragedy and is a cursed day for the majority of French Jews. Among the Ostrowers expelled from their homes in a murderous manner was Bejla Rubin, a sick woman the murderers took from her bed and sent to Drancy, then later to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Her sister Cyrl who prepared food parcels for her brother Moszek, a soldier in a prisoner of war camp, wanting to save Bejla, volunteered as a substitute for her sister. The murderers killed her as well. Dina Goldwaser was also taken that day and Mrs. Lupke's only son was shot dead.
Every one of us remembers the Malkinia wagon driver and his family, the four sons and two daughters and Mama List. They were genuine, fine people, a working class family. Meier was a shoemaker from the time he was young and became active in the Ostrower Shoemaker's Union. Later he travelled to Warszawa and continued his activities in the union and community work.
When the entire family moved to Argentina, Meier went with them. One of the brothers was already in Russia and was killed on the battlefield. Another was shot at in a bitter fight with his foreman. As the leader of a strike, the boss shot him and while dying he shot the boss with his last bullet. Meier List quickly became very active and an editor for a Jewish newspaper. In 1929 the police were searching for him, so he left Buenos Aires and entered Uruguay illegally. He was active there and later returned to Buenos Aires where he was arrested. While he was in prison he fought for better living conditions and led a hunger strike.
In 1936, after being released from prison, he and four comrades went to the Spanish front to fight for freedom with the International Brigade. After several heroic battles, the group fell into the hands of the enemy. Meier and his Jewish comrades escaped and fled to France near the Spanish border. There they ended up in a concentration camp. Sick, broken and hungry, he decided to escape to Paris. In the violent days of the German occupation he participated in the partisan movement and took part in three sabotage raids against the Germans. One of them was even mentioned on the radio from London and Moscow. With each of Mejer's daring raids, the interest in him grew and the Gestapo was looking to arrest him. In 1943, Mejer fell into enemy hands. The greatest chapter of his heroic life was his death. The police, knowing he was the leader of the 2nd partisan group in Paris, tortured him, but they were unsuccessful in their attempts to get him to talk. They did not get any names or information from him about his comrades. His mind was clear, but his body betrayed him and he died.
October 1st, 1943 he was released from his suffering. A division of Nazi soldiers shot him. The name of our compatriot Mejer List will shine bright in the stories of heroism by the Jewish people and the worker's movement. Mejer List's body is, with many other heroes of the French resistance, buried in the cemetery in Ivry.
In liberated Paris, through the initiative of Jozef Chrust (now in Israel) and Abraham Mordchai Orzycer from London, a meeting was called for surviving Parisian Ostrowers and refugees. During one of the meetings a committee was selected: the Epsztejn brothers, Judka Zylberman, Perla Zylberman, Chaja Palgon, Moszek Ryba, Szolem Migdal and Lipke.
By Mosze Fryd
Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
In the 1920's, many Ostrowers came to America and worked in the needle-trade. The majority held membership in the Sochaczewer branch of the Jewish union, Workmen's Circle.
How is it that Ostrowers in the 1920's were in a Workmen's Circle branch called Sochaczów? Well, a young man from Warszawa who had heard of the Sochaczewer branch brought his young lady, an Ostrower, to enroll and she in turn brought Ostrowers she knew to the branch and that is how the Ostrowers became the majority.
The Ostrowers with the Sochaczewers, like all branches of the Workmen's Circle, held cultural events, lectures, discussions and get-togethers.
Beginning in 1922, the leftist newspaper Freiheit was founded, around which all the original leftist elements concentrated - the opposite of the Forward.
The best writers of our time: Abraham Rayzin, Leyvik Vinchevski, Jakob Milch, Sholem Ash, Leah Cobrin, Menachem Braysha worked at one time or another for Freiheit.
The struggle between right and left became more pronounced. In 1929 they split and the left wing formed the Workmen's Order which was also an Ostrower-Sochaczewer Branch - which grew to about five hundred members.
In the 1930's, the relief-committee came into existence in New York under the name United Ostrower Relief-Committee. It included all the Ostrower organizations: the two Workmen's Circle branches (young and old), the Ostrower synagogue and the order branch. Until the war, we supported institutions in Ostrów Mazowiecka.
When the war broke out and the Germans occupied Poland, there was nothing we could do for Ostrowa, so the relief work came to a standstill. When the war ended and we were able to make contact with Ostrowers, the work began again and with more to take care of. We collected money, parcels of food and clothing that were sent to the DP Camps where Ostrowers were located. Our relief work was distributed in Israel, as it was the foremost place to help Ostrowers. But a lot of Ostrowers in America thought that once the Ostrowers reached the Promised Land there was no longer a need for relief. The fact that several active members had died and others had retired made the committee's work difficult.
There was a small committee of women, a sort of united-relief. They sent individual relief to Ostrowers in Israel. When their chief worker, Ester Rotenberg died, they ceased their relief work and the Ostrower committee in New York was down to almost nothing...
There remained the Ostrower-Grajewer United Relief. Their work was a kind of fraternal relief. They had sixty members; with their wives - about one hundred. They helped other radical organizations (even non-Jewish). The Reuben Brainin Clinic in Tel-Aviv was built through this International Workmen's order. Today, thanks to some newly arrived Ostrowers, I am again involved in a Landsmanschaft and we wake up the weary and sleepy landslayt.
What I Remember About Ostrowa
In 1915-1916 when the Germans occupied Ostrowa, I began to take an interest in working for Jewish organizations, especially the Bund, under the leadership of Icchok Aron Sygier. The Bund sent out a weekly newspaper Lebns Fragen [Life's Questions] to members and sympathizers.
In 1918 the Bund already had its own headquarters and did more and more work.
Once the war ended and the Polish army had defeated the Germans, the Poles were given their independence. After the government took power, a militia was formed from the P.P.S. The workers from the Ostrowa mills, factories and workshops demanded an eight-hour workday.
Luria, the Bund activist arrived from Warszawa (not long after his return from Siberia). He organized a trade union for Jewish workers. All the different trades joined the union. The union headquarters was rented somewhere outside the town at a Christian's. A strange odour, which the Jewish workers could not tolerate, wafted from the Christian's house to the union room.
Afterwards, Arnold, a Bund activist, arrived. He organized the joiners, blacksmiths and metal workers. When a small group, already a little to the left, (I was one of them) did not want the Bund to have total control, Arnold the Bund activist called in the Polish metal workers in Ostrowa to silence us and he remained the leader of the Bund.
At that time groups of left Poalei Zion and United were forming.
I remember the meeting concerning the eight-hour workday because I was running around to the Jewish workshops calling the workers to the meeting.
In 1920 the Bolsheviks arrived in Ostrowa. They were there no more than two weeks, but the radical Jewish young men and some Poles took over the city government with the police. The Red Army had agreed to this. When the Communists had to retreat from Ostrowa, hundreds of Jewish young people, in fear of the Poles, left with the Red Army. Afterwards many anti-Semites and also Jewish adventurers blackmailed the left, threatening denunciation.
Jews, young and old, were taken from their houses, imprisoned and beaten. The Polish government believed that all Jews were Bolsheviks.
My brother, Szija Fryd, was among the young people who had run away from Ostrowa with the Red Army. He was only fourteen years old. Everyone called him the youngest revolutionary.
All of them were caught in Zambrów and brought back to Ostrowa, including my brother. In 1923-1924 he managed once again to sneak across the border into Russia. In Minsk he graduated as a teacher, but did not want to take a teaching position. He went to Leningrad to work in a factory. The last time I heard from him was in 1939.
Overview for 1937 from Herszl Frejdkes
Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
At the beginning of 1937, American Jewry was alarmed by the catastrophic situation of the over three million Jews in Poland, who were suffering economic and political persecution. Anti-Semitism grew daily. The wild hooligans were not satisfied with only boycotting Jewish stores, artisans and labourers, but also carried out bloody pogroms in a number of towns and villages such as Wilna, Brisk, Pszytik, Czyzewo, Ostrów and others.
The landsmen in America were shocked by the terrible situation their brothers were in on the other side of the ocean and felt they had to be helped immediately. In order to carry out a united relief drive for Polish Jewry, every landsmanschaft in the country, especially in New York, would have to organize a relief committee.
The social workers of the Ostrower organizations did not waste any time. In February 1937 the United Ostrower Relief Committee was formed.
On March 14th the first general meeting was called and one hundred fifty people braved a downpour to be there. The sad conditions under which our brothers and sisters were living were explained to them, as well as the plan to alleviate the situation. We immediately collected two hundred fifty dollars from those assembled.
Letters were sent to all Ostrowers explaining the situation, what had occurred during the meeting and who the committee members were.
The letters were also a link with the other Landsmanschaftn throughout the country such as Chicago, Detroit and Hartford.
At the end of the first year, the committee had raised one thousand two hundred dollars through: general meetings, a ball in May, gatherings, raffles and house parties at Mr. Tandeter's.
The sum of one thousand dollars was sent to Ostrowa where it was divided among several relief institutions such as the Orphans' Home and Gemiles Hayesod Fund, schools and also hundreds of needy families.
It must be noted that one thousand dollars for a town the size of Ostrowa was not enough to do much in the way of relief for the needy and poor. As a result the committee members and private individuals received alarming letters from relatives and organizations saying that our help had accomplished nothing.
At the next meeting the committee brought up the question of yearly membership dues to be paid by Ostrowers which would bring in a good sum of money for the relief effort.
The canvassing of New York would require good organization and an interesting activity. The committee chose to have a ball and laid out their plans in the program.
The committee hopes that in the second year the Ostrowers in America will respond more generously in order to alleviate the situation for our brothers and sisters in the old country.
UNITED OSTROWER RELIEF COMMITTEE
Founded in March 1937
Young Men's Branch 536 Workmen's Circle
Sam Libgott Chaiman
S. Tandeter Treasurer
M. Wolberg Recording Secretary
A.Y. Tofel Finance Secretary
Maks Stuczyn Correspondence Secretary
|M. Osiński||Y. Chrust|
|M. Gurewicz||H. Frejdkes|
|A. Goldsztejn||Y. Finkelsztejn|
|Y. Hofman||M. Fried|
|Mrs. Tajczer||Y. Kohn|
|Mrs. Tandeter||M. Richman|
|G. Jalon||Sam Koskowiec|
Participating Committee in Ostrowa:
Mosze Raf Chairman
Hirsz Chaim Dessel Treasurer
M. Bursztejn Secretary
I. Podbielewicz, Mosze Pokrzywa, Eli Kossower
By Maks Stuczyn
Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
During the many years of helping Ostrowa, where lately the need has become greater, I and others had become very familiar with the Ostrowa relief effort, doing whatever possible to alleviate the need and misery. It was necessary from time to time to send aid, which one or another unfortunate Ostrower needed. But the same question was always there: what to do about the orphans who needed bread each day and a roof over their heads. These children could not wait any longer. Now their welfare and existence hung on the charity of strangers. The president of the orphanage, Moszek Raf, appealed to us. Can we actually produce? Could we collect enough to help secure a permanent home for the suffering orphans? Ostrower Relief will take responsibility for creating a fund to this end and we are appealing to every former Ostrower to help us. With your cooperation and assistance, this work can become a crowning success.
Society for the protection of children in Ostrowa
A group of children with representative Mosze Raf
By Mendel Fajncajg
Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
|The sky is clear,
The night is cold,
Over dark disaster
the moon watches.
Through a frozen window
She drifts from the house
No doctor, no medicine,
Standing: Aaron Hofman, A.M. Orzycer, Abraham Rotenberg, Moshe Fried, Chaim Silverman and Josef Vengrowski
Standing: Raf, Szlofmiec, Najman and Holcman
By A.M. Orzycer, New York
Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
Jechiel Chrust is a man who did so much for his fellow Ostrowers. But it is necessary to mention those who also worked for the United Ostrower Relief Committee, with Jechiel Chrust as its leader, soon after the Holocaust of the Second World War.
Several names in alphabetical order such as Rywka Blum, Jakob Grynszpan, Mosze Icchok Tofel, Sam Tandeter, Sam Liebgot, Nagoszewer, Sara Frydman, Mosze Fryd, L. Fazner, Y. Frejlich, Hirsz Frejdkes and Mrs. Maks Stuczyn, Chaja Stone, Koen, Mosze Rotenberg, and Mrs. Rozen. All from the United Ostrower Relief Committee, lead by Jechiel Chrust, the secretary, were able to alleviate the need and encourage the tormented and crumbled landslayt.
While still living in Ostrowa, Jechiel Chrust was already involved in community work. He was a founder of the Education Union and together with the teacher, Szwarc and Jakob Lejzor Kahan (the librarian) raised money for the well-known library in Ostrowa, which later accommodated an exhibition of the entire Polish press that was opened by the Governor.
Jechiel Chrust, Szlafmiec and Dr. Mozeson organized a chess game The chess pieces were school age children who moved according to hand signals. He also led the Choral Society in Ostrowa - a musical and dramatic club with a group of fiddlers and forty choristers who sang Jewish folk songs and he was involved in the amateur theatre group.
The work at the library and in various others societies was not always easy. The Polish authorities in the small towns and villages were hypocrites and sadists. In 1922 they closed the library. Only when Noyech Prilucki and Deputy Farbsztejn intervened, did they allow it to re-open.
Chrust also helped in the success of the United Jewish Block in Ostrowa (besides the Agudah) in the election campaign for the Polish Parliament.
His American wife, Ruth, was also active in relief work for Ostrowa compatriots, answering letters, gathering and packing parcels of food and clothing stored at Rywka Blum's and at Chrust's business on the Jewish east-side. Afterward they sent packages through Care. Chrust also sent a questionnaire in each package asking for a complete history of the family in order to facilitate finding relatives throughout the DP camps in Europe as well as in America. He also edited a one-time publication about the destruction of Ostrów.
Jehiel Chrust did a lot of useful relief work for Ostrowa.
Translator's note - December 1996
Jechiel Chrust was born in Ostrow in 1899 and lives in Manhattan with his wife Ruth. When I was looking for information on the New York Landsmanschaft, I was told to contact Hilary Chrust, which I did. I phoned and made an appointment to see him. He and his wife were very pleased to help with our questions and Mr. Chrust's incredible memory made a few researchers very happy with his remembrances. He also provided some much needed background information about Jewish Ostrowa.
So, Jechiel and Ruth Chrust are still involved in working for Ostrowers by helping their descendants recover their heritage.
Mr. Jechiel (Hilary) Chrust died at his home in New York City on August 28th, 1997.
After Jechiel Chrust died, his niece and wife were cleaning out his files and they found some Yiddish papers that they gave me. These pages turned out to be the list of Ostrower survivors compiled in the fall of 1946 from the questionnaires that had been sent to Poland by Mr. Chrust and returned to him by the survivors.
Honour his memory!
By A.M. O.
Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
In January 1959 we were invited, by the United Ostrower Landsmanschaft, to an evening to welcome and honour the poet Izrael Emiot, at the Henry Hudson Hotel in New York. Many compatriots came, some had been in America for forty years and many were new immigrants.
The chairman for the gathering was a newcomer, a neutral so to speak, among the weary and fresh activists. At the start of the evening all rose to honour the deceased Ester Rotenberg, who during her lifetime, helped so many needy compatriots in Israel.
Many from the old country remembered Izrael Emiot (Goldwaser) well: a Hasidic young man, friendly with the young Agudah [Orthodox Youth Organization], used to write songs, printed brochures, and worked on Agudah leaflets. The war put a stop to his work and the Hasid became an activist in Birobidzhan [U.S.S.R.].
Izrael Emiot, every inch a poet, became a proletarian writer and correspondent for the Jewish anti-Fascist committee lead by the director and artist Szlama Michaeles and the talented poet Icchok Fefer.
Izrael Emiot spoke about our city, brought us back to the coziness of Ostrowa and described many familiar characters. That evening our city soared, never having died, hovered around us and we heard once again the whisper of the Ostrowa trees, saw the sky and moon covering the heads of the old-immigrants and the new-comers in a New York hotel. It took the suffering of the war and Russian prisons for us to notice the talent of this religious young man, who used to walk very quietly in the lanes of Ostrowa. Each of the one hundred forty ex-Ostrowers in the hall were entranced by the vision, created through words, of their former home where they were born. A kind of longing and nearness embraced everyone - making of them one Ostrower family...
Emiot was surrounded by many fellow Ostrowers who wanted to know more, particularly about Russia and among them was a young man, newly arrived, who sat on the side, thinking about the tumultuous New Yorkers fate had saved...
By Y. Papiernikow
Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein
|Finished my old home is finished!
There isn't any bridge, not a one, to go back on,
No trace of Jewish Ostrowa
Our hometown, everyone's cradle.
No more Shabes-Yontoyvim,
None of my near and dear ones
No more, No more this is the sum total
And there, in spite of all enemies
It is dead, like an endless cemetery,
Finished my old home is finished!
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