Commerce, Banking and Agencies
We find hints and signs of an awakening of commercial life in Sanok during the first decade of the 1900s. We can surmise that the causes for this awakening were, on the one hand, the development of industry in the city and the region even though it was only in its early phases; and on the other hand, the growth of both the Jewish and gentile population in the city, which of course meant the growth of marketplace demand.
We find clear signs and hints in support of commerce in Sanok in the newspapers of that era, both daily and periodical. This is particularly clear in the Sanok weekly Folksfreund, where we find commercial advertisements and announcements; for example of the Galicia firm, which was a large wholesaling enterprise, apparently of large scope and with a large staff, which began by selling bone meal, phosphates, etc that is the manufacture of fertilizer products for agriculture. There were also advertisements about the sale of sewing machines, bicycles, records, and even typewriters!
In every edition of this newspaper, we encounter advertisements regarding the search for agents to distribute merchandise and products from this firm.
Here, as we discuss commerce, we will make note of a bakery that during the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, rather than being merely a workplace and business enterprise, was noted in that its owner Elimelech Rosenblatt was the provider of bread for hundreds of Austrian soldiers of Kaiser Franz Josef who were stationed in the military camp of Sanok. Elimelech Rosenblatt was a scholar and Zionist activist. His name is mentioned among the members of Yeshurun, the first religious Zionist organization of Sanok, which was founded during the time of the leadership of Dr. Herzl. In the minutes of the founding meeting of Yeshurun, brought down in the book The History of Zionism in Galicia by Dr. N. M. Gelber, it is noted that Elimelech Rosenblatt was given the responsibility for the library.
In this era, we see an awakening in the banking sector. In the February, 1, 1912 edition of Folksfreund, we read an announcement in the weekly chronica section about the founding of banking institutions. These are in the form of objective announcements rather than advertisements, and there is no doubt about their authenticity. One is called Credit and Handelsperein, directed by Nachum Rosenberg, Avraham Hochdorf, and Hirsch Weiner, with the members of the audit committee listed as Dr. Sala Landau as chairman and Leon Hasenlauf as his vice. The second financial institution about which we read in the chronicles section of this newspaper was founded by the partners Shimon Reich, Shimon Scheiner, Dr. Ornstein and others. These were Jews who are known to us from the commercial and communal arenas of our city at that time and later.
Here is a different type of commercial announcement, from a later period, in Hamitzpeh, the Hebrew weekly published in Krakow. An advertisement appears signed by Doberish Rosenfeld, who is known to all of us as the owner of the monopoly store for cigarettes and tobacco (trafik). The following is the text of the advertisement
The First World War brought all sectors of commercial life to a halt. However, immediately during the first years following the end of the war, there was already a broad-based economic revival. The movement to restore and renovate ruins from the war increased demand and purchasing power. A large independent Poland arose and new, broad scale industrial regions came to the fore. New business enterprises were founded. Businesses and warehouses full of merchandise and new products that were attractive to customers were reestablished with improvements and modernization. The textile and fine goods businesses were expanded and merged. New sources of imports were developed, and previously unknown export markets were revealed. The building business was expanded for the purpose of restoration and re-erecting the ruins of the war. Alongside this, the branches of business relating to the building industry, such as building materials, equipment, and carpentry, also increased. We see a significant rise in the textile and clothing industries. We note the development of the egg exporting business, which was represented by Ephraim Kramer and Mordechai Bross.
An electric grid was set up in Sanok in 1928. Connected to this, business opened up for electric needs, machines and parts (Herman Sobel and others).
Alongside the signs of development and flourishing and the potential of further positive development, the economic life of the Jewish population of Poland, especially in the commercial sector, faced difficult tests, which included threats of liquidation and decrees of destruction upon Jewish businesses and industry in Poland. One test was the harsh, cruel, openly anti-Semitic hand of the Grabski government, which imposed unbearably heavy taxes upon the Jews, to the point of choking and strangulation. The second matter was the anti-Semitic spirit that pervaded among the various strata of Christian Poland, especially among the intelligentsia, and which began to place obstacles not only before the development of Jewish commerce in Poland in the near future, but also in the day to day life of Jewish business in Poland. This was done by the establishment of stores and co-operatives, the confiscation of Jewish businesses, and the imposition of boycotts upon Jewish stores to the point where student guards were placed at the entrance of every Jewish store to prevent customers from purchasing in them.
We will note here that this manifestation of anti-Semitism was not new. It had affected the Jews of Sanok, and not only the Jews of Sanok, from time to time at times in a similar fashion and at times in a somewhat different fashion. We read the report in Hamitzpeh of A. Siedlisker, the Sanok reporter for several newspapers in Galicia, from January 20 1905, which is more than 20 years prior to the era that we are dealing with here. In the report, several examples of anti-Semitic events in Sanok are described, manifesting themselves in literal anti-Semitic persecution. Siedlisker writes:
The Jews of our city enjoyed good times prior to being afflicted by the illness of anti-Semitism which took root in the hearts of the Catholic citizens. Now the illness has spread and the Jews of our city are in a bad state. Eight years ago, a Tabaat (Ognywo) society was formed here. The following is written in clear form at the top of its charter: 'A Jew may not remain in the society headquarters for more than five minutes.' Hatred and great animosity against the Jews flowed forth from this society. A dormitory was founded for gymnasium students without differentiation based on religion. 80% of the money that was collected for this purpose was from Jewish donors, and a Jew was among its founders. When the house was erected, it was decided that no Jew can dwell in this house. The writer of this article asks: Who has ever seen or heard of such things? A house built with Jewish money is closed to Jews, and nobody opens up their mouth in complaint!
The writer complains further that the anti-Semitic spirit penetrated from Tabaat to the city council, where a Jew occupied the position of vice chairman. He was Dr. G. A good and upright man, a lover of justice, a man of spirit, who has the abilities to work for the benefit of the city. Furthermore, he has dedicated all of his energy toward the benefit of the citizens for the past three years straight, and the entire city was satisfied. And behold Christian citizens found fault with the vice chairman of the citizens and an anti-Semitic gentile was appointed in his stead From that time, the city advisors were split into two camps, Jew and Christian, arraigned one against the other in a battlefield. If the Jews said yes, the Catholics said no, and the city council was in turmoil for all of its days.
The writer further complains about the anti-Semites persecuting the Jews in the areas of commerce by opening up communal stores for this purpose. The writer writes, The hand of the Jews is disparaged in the center, for when
the anti-Semites were unable to find any place for their merchandise, a Jew who owned a fine house had mercy upon them and rented his house to them for six years.
The writer continues: What do the heads of the community do against all of these many tribulations? They have their own unique politics They still ride on the donkey of assimilationism, and kiss the hand of any Pole who smacks their face saying 'good gentile!' They speak only Polish at all of their meetings. Fifteen of the sixteen communal advisors understand only Yiddish, and nevertheless, they use the Polish language amongst themselves.
The spirit of the Jewish population did not fall. The Jews continued in their struggle for life and continued existence. They attempted to utilize acceptable means of fighting and various methods of battle, such as: unifying the economic forces, forging commercial and financial entities for ensuring their protection and ability to maintain their stance in the face of the torrent of boycotts and economic persecution by the representatives of the Polish government. During these times of tribulation, we see, for example, signs of development and flourishing of the wheat and flour trade by firms that were founded in the wake of the cartel cooperatives. We see other unified entities, such as the Produkt cartel for wheat and flour, and others (Tzvi Trachman and sons). To continue and ensure the effectiveness of this struggle, and to give organizational and administrative assistance to the Jewish merchant, a union of Jewish merchants was founded and operated through the efforts of several merchants of the city, including Tzvi-Herman Sobel, Avraham and Yitzchok Gurfeinn and others. Throughout the duration of its existence, its purpose changed to the direction of the centralization of the cultural and social lives of the Jewish merchants of the city.
There is no doubt that the struggle for economic existence of the Jewish population would have continued on, and might even had been finally crowned with success, were it not for
the waves of deep-seated hatred and enmity by the entire Polish population that grew until they became caught up in the international conflagration of the Second World War, which burnt and destroyed themselves as well.
by Chaya Reiser (Fennig)
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The porters congregated mainly around the Ocyca Theater. Prior to that, they sat in the display windows of the Weiner and Ozenloif stores on Jagielonski and Kosciuszko Streets that had already been broken from the time of the First World War.
Every porter had his own nickname. Leizer Motshki, Efraim Potias, Avraham Avinu, Shmuel Hanavi. Their shoes were always without laces. Their shirts were open to their belt. The odor of sweat and liquor coming from them could be smelled from afar. Thus did they sit for long hours, tired or without work. On their way home, they would make the rounds to the doors of the shops to collect donations, as was their usual custom... As if the merchants were required to make up for their losses every day.
Their wives would also beg. They were almost always pregnant, with babies in their arms and their older children around them. They would go from door to door and make the rounds to the offices endlessly. Therefore, the following sign was prominently displayed in many hallways and house entrances: Entrance is forbidden to peddlers and beggars. It was already hard enough to tolerate the schleppers, where each additional child would ask separately and for me?
For this reason, in a special meeting of the Merchants Union in 1928, we deliberated about the organization Kupat Tomchei Aniyim (The Fund for the Support of the Poor).
Three merchants with stores near to each other were chosen: Reb Feivel Mann as the secretary, Reb Zusia Fennig as the cashier, and Mr. Herman Wenig as the advisor. They compiled lists of residents who would donate generously as a form of monthly tax, and lists of needy people who would receive 3 zloty each week based on the decision of the committee.
The collection was given over to the hands of a sickly, weak widower who was the father of four children. This occupation supplemented his livelihood.
It was decided to grant from 3 to 5 zloty to beggars from outside of Sanok, according to their identity cards. The protocols of the Kupat Tomchei Aniyim were publicized widely. Many beggars accepted this willingly, for they would no longer have to waste time begging.
The most difficult task was that of Reb Feivel Mann, since for the most part the poor people from outside were equipped with forged identity cards. They would change their clothes and act deceptively in order to obtain money outside of the lineup and over and above what was due to them in accordance with the protocols.
Once an elegant vagabond, who presented himself as a merchant who had lost his livelihood, acted stubbornly and asked for a larger sum. When he did not succeed, he asked to speak to a member of the black committee (by coincidence, the three activists had red beards). The listeners burst out in laughter. The vagabond made scandals in the store and on the sidewalk. Threats of calling the police did not even help. In order to solve this complicated problem with this difficult client, the one-time urgent assistance of the black-bearded Mr. Yacov Gerber was solicited. He checked the vagabond's suitcase and removed several travel cards, which showed that this downtrodden merchant had been in several places in the region that day. As a punishment for his trickery, he was prohibited from appearing in the city for an entire year... (instead of three months)... This matter was publicized to everyone, and people learned a lesson from it. From that time, nobody disturbed the work anymore.
Much good was done in secrecy through messengers and protectors for the bashful poor and for those who had lost their means. The members of the committee suffered great suffering from this, for the visits of the beggars to their stores, and the negotiations with them took a long time. However, their dedication to the acts of charity and kindness overcame the suffering.
The following took place on a bright summer day in 1934. Several women dressed festively entered the Mr. Zusia Fennig's bookstore shouting Woe. These were the women from the Jewish Street
who received regular weekly support. They shouted, Reb Zusia! Reb Zusia! Fennig, Fennig! You must come with us. Otherwise, help with dollars. I understood that my uncle Zusia Fennig knew about the matter. However, it was not pleasant for him, and he had no desire to go the Barak Joselewicz Street (This was the official name of the Street that was called The Jewish Street by everyone). Having no option, Mr. Fennig and Mr. Mann went with the women, and I was given the task of urgently summoning them back... I had no time to even think, and they had already returned, with high spirits and full of impressions and experiences. All of the families in need of financial help had gathered in the clean, orderly room of Itshele the Porter. The visitor from America, who was a relative of the owner of the room, decided to give the money over only to a responsible organization in accordance with the directions of the donors from America. Therefore, they called the men of Tomchei Aniyim. When the leaders arrived, they distributed the donations according to the list that they had made themselves; that is, only the communal workers signed with the Tomchei Aniyim of Sanok -- and that was all. The cleanliness that pervaded on the Jewish street was the main thing. It was hard to believe that suddenly all of the green puddles of sewage water, and the piles of feces and waste in front of the door of every house had suddenly disappeared. The Kupat Tomchei Aniyim organization had been the cause of the cleanup in the houses of the poor and on the Jewish Street. For when the women had stopped begging from door to door, they began to concern themselves with cooking and housekeeping. This also caused the porters, several of whom had died after difficult operations, to stop getting drunk. The children and youth gathered in the Moadon Peretz or in the Poale Zion movement, and the life of begging and alms collecting began to change for the better.
|Reb Zusia Fennig next to his shop, which served as the treasury and cash office of the Tomchei Aniyim and Bikur Cholim of Sanok|
We recall several of the social workers of Sanok who did their work in a voluntary fashion, without expectation of recompense, whether driven by an internal drive or feelings of mercy, or whether as a fulfillment of the traditional religious command of you must surely help him -- or perhaps both together.
We will recall them here in the order that they come to memory.
by Aryeh Lerner of Haifa
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Reb Zushe the cobbler played a large role in this social assistance. When I recall his tall, awkward appearance, with his brownish face adorned with a pointed grayish black beard, and bright eyes beneath his broad, arched forehead -- the image of Reb Zushe of blessed memory -- appears before my eyes along with the Street of the Jews, with its filthy, shaky houses, and the degenerate poverty that emanated from them. For there was a strong link between Reb Zushe and this poverty. Apparently Reb Zushe, a simple man and poor cobbler, who did not excel in Torah and wisdom, possessed a great soul that was imbued with 99 measures of mercy and love of his fellowman. What would have been the fate of many unfortunate souls were the helping and supportive hand of Reb Zushe not to have reached them? He did not perform his holy work of charity and benevolence with noise and fanfare. He would discretely and modestly visit the vulnerable areas in the morning, noon and evening, with loaves of bread or other articles of food under his arm. At times, he even had a bundle of coins. Many people poured out the bitterness of their hearts to him, knowing that his ear was attentive, and their troubles would not be spread into the public domain, Heaven forbid. Who provided for his many needs? From where did he derive his budget? This man was a minister of assistance without an official office, and a minister of the treasury without a certified budget. No philanthropist or donor stood behind him to assist him with his budget, or by providing monetary grants. He took on the actual concerns himself. He himself made the rounds to the doors of the philanthropists of the city -- at times literally from house to house. He collected money in order to give over to his needy people. He was forced to do this, for he had no other source, and he was poor himself. With his concern and actions for others, he almost completely forgot about himself and his own family. He did not develop himself as a shoemaker, and he did not nurture his own livelihood. The question and if you should ask, what will we eat? Found its answer -- albeit in a meager fashion -- from the small support that was sent from time to time to him by his daughters in America. After some time, they even brought him to America to live there, for he faced the disgrace of hunger with the increase of the economic straits in Poland during the mid 1930s. However, our Reb Zushe could not maintain his stand in America, where he had no arena for his charitable and benevolent works. He returned to Sanok and continued his previous customs until setting out on his journey of tribulation and suffering to the towns of Siberia to where he was exiled. Even there, in that reality, Reb Zusia found the time and opportunities to continue with his task.
Reb Reuven Lieber and his Wife
by Ascher Bit
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Translated by Jerrold Landau
With their own bodies -- for both of them, Reb Reuven and his wife, occupied themselves with the commandment of visiting the sick, in the true sense of the commandment. That is, they would tend to the sick where there was a need to help the sick person and their family. They would not only visit for the sake of supporting and lightening the spirits of the sick person and the family, but rather to literally lighten the physical burden by tending to the sick person while he was lying on their sick bed, or by standing guard at the bedside throughout the night in cases where the family members were already weary from tending to the sick person during the day. This would give them the opportunity to rest a bit and regain their strength. They did other similar things as well.
Reb Reuven was extremely diligent about performing acts of kindness -- and at times even kindness of truth -- with the deceased and with the surviving family members, for he was active in the Chevra Kadisha (burial society) and was involved in arranging funerals and burials, and in comforting the mourners with all of his energy, even when he was already old. He performed his acts with full seriousness, as if it was his own deceased person or relatives.
Reb Reuven Lieber earned special appreciation, approaching reverence, from the Jews of Sanok when they saw him -- albeit only rarely, at times of need, usually once a year -- burying sheimos, that is, torn pieces of paper, pages, parts of books and prayer books that had been collected throughout the year in special boxes in every hallway, and corridors of the houses of worship.
This activity achieved two goals: a) honor to the holy sheimos and prevention of their desecration by rolling on the ground without any concern for their holiness; and b) were Rev Reuven not to engage in this activity once a year, the sheimos would eventually pile up into huge heaps and become a communal menace or even a threat to public health.
|Rev Reuven Lieber and his wife|
This activity was executed by Reb Reuven by no small amount of running from one house of worship to the next, and by enlisting the youths who studied in the Beis Midrashes and kloizes to assist him with this endeavor. The endeavor included: collecting
the sheimos, placing them in sacks, loading them on a wagon, hauling them to the cemetery -- the Jewish one of course -- and burying them there in a special grave that was designated by the Chevra Kadisha for this purpose.
This was done with the money of others, for Reb Reuven Lieber and his wife were of meager financial means. They earned their simple livelihood from their small shop with great difficulty. Nevertheless, they carried out large-scale charitable acts by collecting money and canvassing people of means to set up a charitable fund. Reb Reuven himself canvassed for the charitable fund. He founded it, and he served as its director. Many Jews were helped greatly by receiving long or short term interest-free loans from this fund, with very low and easy repayment rates.
Many Jews of the city owe a debt of thanks to Reb Reuven who enabled them to maintain their stand in their economic struggle and in their struggle for existence, until they were able to extricate themselves from their financial straits.
Reb Reuven also used the money of the charitable fund for the purpose of tending to the sick of the Jewish residents of the city. This was done by providing medical assistance to needy sick people, whether by direct financial support to the sick person or his family, or whether by obtaining needed medicine and appropriate food for the sick person. In cases of need, they also provided additional food for the family of the sick person and for the sick person himself.
by Ozer Pipe
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Translated by Jerrold Landau
money for the Jewish sick who were hospitalized or convalescing in their homes. She would carry out her work energetically and with dedication. She paid no heed to rainy or cold weather, even when accompanied by snow or ice. She also did not take heed of her own health, even when the threat of a cold or other illness existed. The presidents of the women's union, Mrs. Dr. Romer, often expressed her surprise of her behavior when she came to her house for official matters even when it was raining or cold, endangering her state of health. We members of her household already knew that when she was absent from the house, it was certainly because she was visiting some Jewish celebration to collect money for sick people. She did not want to give up on this mitzvah of collecting money for those in need, even in her old age.
Sara Kuehl was a very religious woman. Nevertheless, she had relations with the upper windows of Sanok. Everyone knew that Sara had connections with government authorities, and was able to find her way and language with the military doctor, the mayor, the general solicitor, and the district governor, etc.
Still, during the days of Austrian rule, Sara Kuehl became known for the interview that she had with regard to Kaiser Franz Joseph for the benefit of her father Pesach Langsam, the owner of the estate. After she returned from this interview, high government officials greeted her at the train station and nicknamed her Bismark...
When Max Jonas, the well-known philanthropist from America, visited his brother Tzvi Jonas in Sanok, Sara Kuehl entered into negotiations with him and succeeded in obtaining a significant financial donation for the benefit of the sick people that she supported. Before she died, she summoned her successor, Mrs. Tova Dorlich, and gave her a bank book that included 300 dollars for the needs of charity, the fruits of her savings.
As we discuss here the level of dedication and willingness to offer assistance to one's fellow, we will mention those sublime personalities whose good heart and warm, motherly feelings of mercy led them to charitable deeds and benevolent acts much greater than their own energies and beyond the call of duty. These include
Sara Berger, the wife of Reb Yisrael Shlomo BergerDetails highlighting their personalities will be noted beside the names of each of them, at appropriate places in our book. The reader will find them easily via the index at the end of the book.
Reizel Berger-Kesler, the wife of Rev Eliahu Berger may he live
Bracha the midwife
Roze Weiner, the wife of Reb Yitzchok Weiner
Malka Gittel Lazar
Malka Rabach, the wife of Reb Yosef Rabach
Tulcha Rotenberg, the wife of Reb Chaim Rothenberg
Sara Reizel's (Leibowicz)
Chaya-Sara Sharbit (Schwerd) the wife of Reb Chaim Schwerd the shochet
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