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[Page 577]

Serocker Countrymen in America

(1905-1939 period)

An Actual Report from Nakhman Feinboim

Translated by Pamela Russ

According to what is known, Jews began coming to America from Serock after 1905.

They settled in the East Side, in New York, which was at that time the center of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland. The Jews that arrived from Serock lived, as did the other Jewish immigrants, in heavily poor conditions and unsanitary housing, suffering frequently from unemployment, particular difficulties in integrating into the new land, no language, and being totally unprepared for the enormous changes.

Because of all this, they searched for a sort of “place” for themselves. They began to get together to talk to each other and share the issues that pressed on their hearts. They would read letters from home. And, so, in 1913, the first organization of Serocker Jews in New York was established under the name “Khevra (group) Rav Yosef Levinshtayn, ob”m (of blessed memory),” named after the former Serocker rabbinic leader.

*

The organizers were: Moishe Finkelshtayn, of blessed memory, Harry Goldflam, Aharon Kronenberg, of blessed memory, Hershel Krimkowich, of blessed memory, Harry Bailinson, of blessed memory, Henokh Mai, of blessed memory, Yitzkhok Shikore, of blessed memory, Moshe Drezner, of blessed memory, Shaja Kuperman, of blessed memory, and Yosef Fishbayn, of blessed memory.

The responsibilities of the first group were: to meet frequently, to provide material and moral support to the newly arrived fellow countrymen, to send financial support to the poor countrymen and families in Serock, and the most important thing, to feel a little warmth from back home by just getting together.

The group under this name existed until 1918. During this time period, almost all the work described was undertaken by the above mentioned names, with great sacrifice.

By the end of 1918, more Serocker Jews began arriving in New York and began settling in other states, and because of various reasons …

[Page 578]

…they came to the center where it would be easier to get organized. The Khevra grew, gained new members, and at that point, changed its name to: “Khevra Tiferes Achim Anshei Serock” (trans: the “Society of the Pride of Brotherhood of the People of Serock”).

Because of gaps in the minute-book of this time period, exact details of the daily activities of that time are unknown. Nonetheless, it was known that this was the address for the newly arrived Serocker Jews in New York, where they received a warm welcome, some advice from those people who were already somewhat familiar with some of the life, and some material assistance. All this had tremendous value for the newcomer who was without a language in the new land.

Aside from the gatherings and the helping activities, somehow, despite incredible material difficulties, the society managed to purchase a plot of land for a cemetery. This [finding and purchasing the land] was a serious problem in America.

The society had approximately 80 members. In this time period, the work was done by the president, Reb [the title “Reb” is commonly used in Yiddish to address a male] Shlomo Meyer Orenshtayn, of blessed memory, and the secretary, Reb Yosef Fishbayn, of blessed memory.

For various and unknown reasons, in 1922, the society split, with approximately half the members leaving the group, and a second group was organized under the name: “Serocker Young Men.”

In the management of the new group at the time of the founding, were: the president, Reb Harry Goldflam, of blessed memory; vice-president, Reb Harry Greenberg, of blessed memory; secretary, Reb Moshe Finkelshtayn, of blessed memory; minutes-secretary, Reb Layb Sosniak, of blessed memory.

In those years, new immigrants began arriving, Jews from Serock who survived the First World War, along with all of its events. These Jews had primarily other outlooks with regards to social and worldly problems that, understandably, affected the interaction of the Society.

Among the newcomers was Sam Dunner, who immediately became active. He became president in 1926, and later undertook other official positions.

The group of newcomers, with their sacrifices for the work of the organization, successfully united the two individual groups in 1937…

[Page 579]


A group of activists in the Serocker Landsmanschaft (Society) in America – arrived after World War II

 

[Page 580]

…under one name, the “United Serocker Young Men.” The organization exists to this day.

A constitution was created that described to all the members the obligations of the organization and the rights of each member. The following are some of the most important rights:

Whatever assistance is given to a member in times of illness, for a funeral, or for a burial, is to the cost of the Society, and [burials] are to be in our own cemetery.

These were very important accomplishments under those conditions. During that time period, a second plot of land was purchased as a cemetery, which they visited every year before Passover; there were projects for fundraising for food for Passover [“ma'os khittin”] for the needy fellow Serocker in America and in Serock.

The new active group, with Sam Dunner at the head, understood that the future of the Society depended on the young children born in America who would find a place and take an interest in the Society. They started active projects in those years, and they successfully pulled in a group of second generation Serockers already born in America. Thanks to that, they received information about their ancestors, and with that ensured a part of the establishment of the Society to which their parents gave so much of their strength and heart.

*

The Period of 1922-1931

The president and others who were active in various other positions during this period:

Reb Harry Goldflam, Yosef Fishman, of blessed memory, Moishe Finkelshtayn, of blessed memory, Harry Greenberg, of blessed memory, Layb Sosniak, of blessed memory, Sam Dunner, Dovid Mann, Avrohom Drezner, of blessed memory, Khaim Blakhman, of blessed memory, Ben-Zion Rozental, of blessed memory, Shaja Kuperman, of blessed memory, Moishe Drezner, and Ber Kulok, of blessed memory.

*

Period of 1939-1968

The Serocker organization in America conducted regular activities until the outbreak of World War II – the terrible tragedy for the world in general, and for us Jews in particular. Information began to arrive about the liquidation of thousands of Jewish settlements – among those, was our beloved old home and its residents. There was no one to write to, no one to help. A town was erased …

[Page 581]

…with all our dear ones that remained there. The Serocker Society, just as the other Jewish Societies in America, believed that even after all that, someone would remain alive and need help.

A special committee was established at that time, headed by Sam Dunner and Layb Sosniak, and in a short time, through extraordinary efforts, established a fund of $10,000. This was the source from which money was sent to each Serocker townsman who requested it after the war.

In 1949, survivors began coming to America from the German DP [Displaced Persons] camps and from other places.

Every Serocker that came found himself greeted warmly by the Serocker Society, and particularly from the Serockers Layb Sosniak and Sam Dunner.

The majority of the newcomers settled in New York, and mostly registered in the Society right way.

Those who survived the war in many different ways, brought with them fresh memories of our liquidated home, and special ties with the remaining Serockers everywhere. Understandably, this affected the morale of those in the society, and evoked more understanding [compassion] for the old home town.

The establishment of the country of Israel, with the huge change that came about for the Jewish nation in the entire world, and particularly here in America, also affected the Serocker Society.

Israel became an important issue in the life of the Serocker Society. Every year, Yom ha'Atzmaut (Israel's Independence Day) was celebrated. In those days, the Society purchased Israel bonds for $10,000. Simultaneously, the Society contributes annually to the “United Fund” and collects money from her members for Israel.

The society maintains the tradition of collecting money for food for Passover [ma'os khitin], and every year great sums of money are sent to each Serocker that requests assistance for Passover.

[Page 582]

Nowadays, regular meetings are held with all the members and with a report about the financial activities of the Society that have to be affirmed during the meeting. After that, other issues on the agenda are addressed.

*

All the people who hold positions are elected once a year at a special meeting.

The Society today counts approximately 150 members; most attend the meetings. The work is managed by the officers and the executive.

Aside from the regular meetings, every year there are Purim and Khannuka parties, where the members attend with their children, and we celebrate together.

Thankfully, a large number of activists from the old group and from the new post-war group in our Society were able to successfully work through all types of crises which other societies experienced as well, particularly between the older members and the newcomers. Many societies dissolved because of this. Our Society established good relations among the members, and maintained itself as a family.

We hope the situation will continue on for the memory of our holy ones and our old home. [The term “holy ones” has come to refer to those who died during the Holocaust.]

*

The Special Activists during the Period 1939-1967

Reb Layb Sosniak, of blessed memory, finance secretary and minutes secretary, from 1922-1961 (when he died). He was the heart and intellect behind our Society.

Hymie Drezner, 1953-1964 – president. He gave so much of his time and energy, and moved the Society to a healthy financial state.

Sam Dunner, head of the executive committee, gave much effort and heart. Thanks go to him for the relations within the Society.

Yakov Brooks (Brukhanaski), was the minutes secretary after Sosniak's death. He organized a regular and good minutes-book, which will remain as a recorded document of the activities of the Society.

[Page 583]
The current president, Joe Kuperman, with his activities and understanding, in a short time established good relations in the Society.

Dovid Mann, of blessed memory, conducted honest work in the financial issues.

Vice-president Philip Roth. He is not a Serocker, but his wife is. Any time a task or favor had to be done for a Serocker, Philip Roth was there immediately [to get things done].

Mrs. Sosniak, the widow of Reb Layb Sosniak, of blessed memory, takes care of all the social problems.

Esther Dunner, Sam Dunner's wife, and Tzila Kuperman, president Kuperman's wife, takes charge of all the parties and all the evening events that the Society organizes.

A special place was allotted to the new group members that came after the war. Thanks to them, closer ties to the Serockers in Israel were formed, in terms of producing the Yizkor Book, and other things.

The administration of the Serocker Societies in 1970 was taken over from Dovid Mann, of blessed memory, by Irving and Walt Greenberg – the second generation of Serocker in America.

 

The Administration of the Serocker Societies in 1968

President: Joe Kuperman. Vice-president: Philip Roth. Financial Controller: Harry Drezner. Financial Secretary: Dovid Mann, of blessed memory. Minutes Secretary: Yakov Brooks.

 

Executive Committee

Chairman – Sam Dunner Irvin Birm
Yosef Fineboim Nakhman Fineboim
Shmuel Brooks (Brukhanski) Khaim Itzkowicz
Yehuda-Layb Shteinski Philip Kurski (Pshikurski)
Shaja Mai  

The position of D. Mann, of blessed memory, was taken over by Irving [and Walt] Greenberg.

[Page 584]

 

Note about Simchas Bais Hashoeva:

Translation: A Happiness of “Oneness”

During the time of the Temple, a unique form of sacrificial offering was brought on the altar during the holiday of Sukkos. Each morning of Sukkos, water was poured on the altar when the daily morning sacrifice was brought. The pouring of this water was celebrated with much fanfare. The celebration was known as Simchas Bais HaShoeva, the Rejoicing of the House of the Drawing. (“Shoev” means to draw water.)

In terms of the invitation in this text, it is quite auspicious to have a “Unity Meeting” on the night of Simchas Bais Hashoeva, a time that symbolizes unity, since it provides the Society's members with even more reason to celebrate.

[Page 585]


A gathering of the survivors in America


[Page 586]

Serocker Countrymen in Argentina

Shlomo Ashenmill (Buenos Aires)

Translated by Pamela Russ

In the year 1923, when it became uncomfortable for the youth to continue living in Poland for all kinds of reasons, including anti-Semitism, political persecutions, and difficult economic situations, a large movement evolved of those that wanted to travel the wide world, wherever the gates were open. One of these places was Argentina, where a large wave of youth found its place with the great help of ICA [Jewish Colonization Association (philanthropic association assisting Jews with resettlement and finding productive employment)] that helped people settle into agricultural work.

Of the first pioneers from our home town Serock, were: Fishel Gutkovski, may he rest in peace, and his wife Ruda Leibgott, of those brave ones, Yitzkhok Perl, may he rest in peace, Khana Berenshtayn, may she rest in peace, Moishe Hokhman, may he rest in peace, and, may they live long, Mendel Kuligovski, Yekhiel Meyer Slomianski, and others.

Being in a strange land, in a strange environment, we got together every Sunday because that was the only day we were free from work. The gathering was held in the home of Fishel Gutkovski.

After some time, at one of these meetings, it was decided to set up a united group for all the Serocker because new countrymen were continually arriving, and those who were there earlier were no longer “green” [new immigrants], so they were able to help the new arrivals.

A meeting was held and a provisional election was held. The first active participants were: Shmerl Ashenmill, may he rest in peace – chairman; Yitzkhok Perl, may he rest in peace – secretary. Announcements were sent out to all fellow countrymen in the city and in the province, saying that everyone should register in the Union.

The response was very good. And everyone was pleased with the notion of a united group for all the fellow countrymen.

At the time of the first meeting, there were approximately 15 members, and it was decided to immediately establish an assistance fund in order to help out …

[Page 588]

…the newly arrived with a large sum of money, for renting a home, and so on.

Meanwhile, the number of immigrants from Serock continued to grow, and the Union grew with many more members. Everyone paid a monthly fee to cover the various expenses of the Union.

It happened once that the countryman Moishe Horowicz (his parents sold hats; I think they used to call him Aharon Leibes) became ill, and the doctor said that because of the climate, this person would have to return to Poland. If he stays here, he would soon die. We needed a large sum of money, and the situation was difficult. We were a total of 25 friends (members), and with great effort we saved our fellow countryman and sent him back to Serock. This was, I think, in the year 1925. Unfortunately, we have no documents of those times, and even a list of all the members does not remain. Therefore, many names of the countrymen are missing. Then there were Eliezer Merker, may he rest in peace, Alter Platze, may he rest in peace, Avrom Kahn, may he rest in peace, and others whose family names I have forgotten.

In the year 1928, Shlomo Ashenmill arrived from the Palestine, as it was called then, to Buenos Aires. He registered in the Union, and took over the position of secretary.

There were meetings every two weeks, and all kinds of issues were dealt with, particularly for distributing loans to the needy.

Once (I don't remember the year), we received a letter from Serock saying that Yakov Kuzhnitzki had died. The Youth Committee asked us to send some money to help set up a gravestone, which we did immediately.

When World War II broke out, our contact with Serock was severed because of Hitler's (may his name be erased) uprooting activities of the Jewish population in the occupied territories with the help of his ally, Stalin. We had no possibility of helping.

[Page 589]

In the year 1940, we decided to unite with the Pultusker countrymen into one union. A new provisionary executive was elected which comprised: Moishe Monchazh, Aharon Yurkevicz – all from Pultusk; Shlomo Ashenmill, Kalman Kuligowski, Yekhiel Meyer Slomianski, and Shimon Shpilke – all Serocker. It was decided to promote the activity of increasing the number of members, and to call a general meeting to elect an executive, meanwhile, for one year.

The executive elected: Moishe Monchazh, may he rest in peace – president; Moishe Yakubovicz – vice president; Aharon Markevicz, may he rest in peace – secretary; Shlomo Ashenmill – vice secretary; Mendel Goldberg – treasurer; Leibel Forminski – vice treasurer; and friends: Mendel Kuligowski, Duvid Melnik, Nakhum Melman, Kalman Kuligowski, Yosef Karmel, Herzke Geluda.

When the jobs were distributed, it was decided that a mandate for the Union be worked out, to legalize and register the Union with the Argentinean government so that it be recognized as a social service institution in order to be able to distribute help to the needy and the sick, and so on.

In order to increase the funds of the Union, in addition to our other service activities, we presented theater performances and other events.

In 1941, a general meeting was held, to elect a new executive for the following year. The elected were: Mendel Kuligowski – president; Zalman Gurman – vice president; and Shlomo Ashenmill – secretary; Leon Kopelowicz – vice secretary; Moishe Monchazh – treasurer; Yoel Gutkowsi – vice treasurer; Miguel Vetshtayn – Spanish secretary. Executive members: Shlomo Wrubel, Kalman Kuligowski, Moishe Yakubowicz, Yosef Karmel, Duvid Melnik. And in the revisions committee: Yitzkhok Perl and Aharon Jurkowicz.

And in 1944, a new executive was elected: president – Yosef Karmel; vice president – Yoel Gutkowski; secretary – Shlomo Ashenmill; vice secretary – Kalman Kuligowski; secretary of the loans accounts – Miguel Vetshtayn (Mendel Kuligowski's brother-in-law); treasurer – Mendel Kuligowski; vice treasurer – Shlomo Wrubel; elected members – Simkha…

[Page 590]

…Goldmakher, Duvid Melnik, Aryeh Izenberg, Herzke Galuda; revisions committee: Mottel Kronzhek and Leon Kopelowicz.

After assembling the executive, our entire work was concentrated on establishing a fund for the Serocker and Pultusker countrymen who saved themselves from the terrible tragedies. Every opportunity, festive occasions or other events, money was collected for the needy fund. In the beginning of 1945, letters began to arrive from the survivors for immediate help such as clothing, linen, and even medication for their health. With the help of the Joint [American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – a worldwide Jewish relief organization] the first help was being sent out to our countrymen in Poland. Also, 15 boxes of tools were sent out, to be distributed to our countrymen wherever they were.

We received letters from all different places: from Paris, Belgium, Poland, Israel, and we establish written contact with them to send individual help.

December 11, 1945, we received a letter from Rav Yosef Katzenellenbogen, from Israel, where he writes the tragic news that on December 5, 1939, all the Jews from our town of Serock were forced to leave and many of them died and that we should maintain that day as the memorial day of their death (yahrzeit). From that day on, we keep this same date for the annual memorial day.

With the establishment of the State of Israel, almost all of our funds are transferred to help the State of Israel and for the survivors from our community. We received many letters with requests of all kinds. For every letter that we received, we sent out $25, in addition to food packages. We also sent to the few in Belgium and the few that remained in Poland.

Also, for the State of Israel, we contributed a significant amount of money, and collected for Israel at every opportunity.

In 1949, we received a letter from Lodz, Poland, from a woman survivor originally from Serock. She wrote that she is alone with a sick child, and the only help is penicillin, but she doesn't have the means …

[Page 591]


Memorial for Serocker Countrymen in Argentina

 

[Page 592]

… to buy it. At that time, a special allowance was established by our government, and with great effort, we received it [the allowance].

After sending out the help, we received many letters of thanks, and this gave us satisfaction, knowing that our help had reached its goal.

In March 1947, the first 47 survivors from Europe arrived on the ship Compana. Among them were our fellow citizens from Pultusk, along with a small child. The father was from Biale. The Union immediately set them up with an apartment and everything else that a family needs – linen, dishes, furniture. We visited them often so that they wouldn't feel foreign at the beginning.

In 1953, we applied for a unification in Tel Aviv of the two groups – Serock and Pultusk, to raise a significant sum for the Gemillas Khesed (community charities) fund so that our work should be more concentrated and effective. As soon as we received a letter that the merging had taken place, we sent out the first $1,000 and 30 packages as gifts for Rosh Hashana. Within a period of a few years, we sent out money for the Gemillas Khesed fund. In 1959 we sent out $1,000, and in 1960, once more the same sum.

In 1960, we established our own loan fund that existed in our establishment now for many years, a credit co-operative, under the name “Sangeles” (the Angels). We also have our own building and from there we conduct our daily activities.

Our executive today consists of the following members:

President – Kalman Kuligowski; vice president – Herzke Galuda; secretary – Shloime Ashenmill; treasurer – Yosef Karmel; vice treasurer – Duvid Melnik; elected members – Nakhman Kershenbaum, Hersh Leib Shteifman, and Moishe Perl.

In the Union, there was also a women's committee, which comprised the following participants: Baltshe Fisherman, Frederica Karmel, Rifka Galuda, Ruda Gutkovski, Dora Kuligovski, Raizel Shpak, Khaya Shteifman, and Faige Perl.

The Union has 110 members – a combination of Serocker and Pultusker.

[Page 593]

 

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