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[Page 653]

Associations of Former Staszowers
in Israel and the World

 

Association of Former Stashovers in Israel

by Tuvia Nisengarten, Ramat Aviv

Translated by Leonard Levin

With the end of World War II, the entire Jewish population of Eretz Israel, including the handful of former Stashovers, found itself in a state of tremendous psychological tension. The Holocaust survivors from Staszów had not yet arrived, but knowledge of the shocking horrors and the destruction of Polish Jewry, including that of Staszów, were on everyone's mind.

Indeed, we had no illusions about the fate of our town. Still, our hearts refused to be reconciled to the awful reality. Everyone harbored some hope–perhaps one's own family had not met with such a cruel fate.

But with the arrival of the first Holocaust survivors to Eretz Israel in 1945, the bitter truth was revealed–the abyss opened up under our feet. We, members of Kibbutz Beit Alpha, listened with unimaginable fury and pain to the last detail of the horror stories of the refugees who found their refuge and home with us. We were dumbfounded at that moment and knew no surcease. We listened, individually and in groups, to every word that came from the mouths of the isolated survivors, and we gathered into groups to find release from the heavy burden that had been thrust upon us in those days.

Indeed, we knew that the wheel of history could not be turned back and our town of Staszów could not be brought back to life. Nevertheless, we were suffused with the feeling that on us, the children of Staszów who were scattered here and there, was thrust the sacred obligation to perpetuate the memory of our shtetl in whatever form possible–for our own sake, for the sake of our children, and for the sake of coming generations.

We sat up for entire evenings with the new olim,[1] and various suggestions (not fully articulated, to be sure) were raised, whose essence was to create a memorial to perpetuate the memory of Staszów. These took various forms: a perpetual lamp; gathering archival materials, documents and books, connected with the history of the Staszów Jewish community; a location for meetings and gatherings; and the like. But the idea lacked substance. We did not have the financial means to realize it, and we had not established a connection with the Stashovers in Diaspora. Short of that, we decided on our own initiative to put out a call for a gathering of all Stashovers in Eretz Israel (about 170 in all). There, in public forum, we would set forth our proposals and seek a way to a solution.

 

The First Gathering

On 22 April 1946 (the last day of Pesach), the first conference of Stashovers took place in Ulam Beit Ha–Chalutzot in Tel Aviv.

The agenda had three points:

  1. to identify with the memory of our community that had been so cruelly cut off;
  2. to outline a program for perpetuating its name;
  3. to render assistance to refugees.
Here is an excerpt from a circular that was sent on 20 May 1946 by Pinchas Goldhar, who was then the secretary of the national committee: “Getzel Erlichman opened the gathering with heartfelt words. Sarale Or (Hauer) read excerpts from the Jewish martyrology from the period of the destruction of the Second Temple and from the struggle of the ghetto fighters. Meir Weil, Yosef Steinberg, and Yehuda Feldberg (from the first ten survivors of the forest who arrived in Eretz Israel) reported details of the events in Staszów, from the outbreak of the war until the bloody liquidation of the Jews of Staszów on 7 [should be 8] November 1942 and of the struggle of the remaining survivors in the Golejów Forest until the liberation of Staszów [by the Russian front] on 3 August 1944.

The gathering made a tremendous impression. The very fact of all expatriates of the town coming together was quite an experience. The people came from all corners of Israel, from city and village, from kibbutz and moshava–all of them, including grandchildren who had been born in Israel. Staszów itself stood as a living reality before our eyes.

For my part, I will add that the emotional impact of the gathering, which lasted an entire day, was major. The first meeting with the new olim–Holocaust survivors–became an unforgettable experience, an experience of sadness mixed with joy, which we did not forget for a long time.

 

Decisions of the Gathering

The decisions of the gathering were as follows:

  1. to publish a Staszów Memorial Book;
  2. to organize assistance for refugees by announcing a fundraising campaign. Incidentally, $165 were raised on the spot for this purpose.
The gathering elected a national coordinating committee composed as follows: Moshe Rawet, Yosef Steinberg, Zvi Bornstein, Shlomo Heiman, Yosef Winer, Ruchama Lipschitz, Meir Weil, Pinchas Goldhar, Moshe Karmi, Shlomo Weinstein, Zvi Solnik, and Tuviah Nisengarten.

At its first meeting, the committee elected the following secretariat: Zvi Bornstein and Pinchas Goldhar, secretaries; Zvi Solnik, treasurer. Meir Weil and Getzel Erlichman were appointed to the Memorial Book committee. Beit Alpha was chosen as the address of record.

 

Activities of the Committee

The activities of the first committee and its executive arm, the secretariat, did not stand in direct relation to the honored tasks that were entrusted to them. In this connection we will again quote the words of the secretary, Pinchas Goldhar, in a circular that was sent on 11 November 1946: “The principal activity that was announced in the gathering–collecting material with the purpose of publishing a book dedicated to the Staszów community has not been done because our comrade Meir Weil, who took on the task, was regrettably forced to resign due to unforeseen personal circumstances.”

We may nevertheless note with satisfaction that despite Weil's resignation, the collection of material for the book nevertheless commenced, with the intention that, when a reasonable amount of material (in quantity and in quality) was collected, a suitable team would be arranged that would deal with editing and publishing it.

But with respect to the second decision that the gathering approved–namely, to organize assistance to refugees–important activities were carried out in accordance with the conditions and needs of the times. Packages of food were sent to prospective olim who were now interned in Cyprus. A young oleh, Gabriel Singer, of the forest survivors, was fixed up with Youth Aliyah of the Jewish Agency, and a permanent connection was established with the Agency's Department for Finding Relatives. Similarly, a fundraising campaign was announced in order to increase assistance to olim who arrived in Eretz Israel immediately after the war.

 

Connection with Diaspora

In the coming years, in the course of the change of personnel comprising the committee, regular correspondence was begun between the Israel Stashover Committee and the committees and individuals all over the world where our townsmen were to be found. The thirst for any revelation about a relative, friend, or acquaintance after we had all been orphaned and diminished was great. These connections with our townsmen outside Eretz Israel were an encouraging and gladdening experience not only for them but for us as well. The committee did everything within its power in this area in order to carry out its mission. We recall here with praise the rich activity of the late Herszel Pomerancblum from New York. This man made connection on his own initiative with the Stashover organizations in Diaspora in order to organize assistance in the form of money and care packages to the refugees who were still in displaced persons' camps in Germany and later also to needy new immigrants in Israel. In his frequent contacts with our committee, in the name of the Diaspora Landsmanschaften,[2] he responded to the smallest details and touched on all possible and desirable fields of activity for the expatriates of our town as such. This man even devoted much time in search of material for the memorial book in the great libraries of New York in order to send it to us in Israel. Incidentally, a considerable portion of it was retrieved and put to good use.

 

Visits of Landslayt[3] from Diaspora in Israel

The living and direct connection with our kinsfolk in Diaspora became solidified with the visit of our landslayt to Israel. These visits generally took place during the Jewish holidays, especially during Pesach and Israel Independence Day. We note with particular satisfaction the fact that the number of Jewish visitors to Israel generally, including Staszów expatriates, has been increasing in recent years [as of 1963, the time of writing].

We admit the truth: we wait every time with trembling and expectation for the longed–for meetings with our visiting kinfolk. These meeting in gatherings and parties, dedicated to their visit in Israel, the joint meetings with members of the local committee, the face–to–face conversations in groups and one–on–one, the unpacking of common memories of the past relating to the movement, the social life, cultural activities, and the ambience of the shtetl–all of these comprise a renewed factor of psychological closeness and strengthening of ties between us and our kinsfolk outside Eretz Israel.

 

Mutual Aid (Gemilut Chasadim) Fund

There is no doubt that the proper title of the activity of the committee in Israel today and for most of the recent years of its activity is the Mutual Aid Fund.[4] The foundation for the fund was laid by the receipt of the first money from our landslayt in Diaspora, and the beginning of this activity together with the fixing of the rules of preference with respect to distribution of aid came from the first visit of our comrade M. Sowewicz to Israel in 1949. In the meeting of the committee that took place with the participation of this guest, we were told of the discussions that took place in Chicago and in the other Landsmanschaften in Diaspora and of the general tendency to use these funds for the reestablishment of needy Stashovers in Israel and especially for the absorption of new olim who had recently come and hopefully would soon come from Poland, Russia, and the like.

Indeed, after years of regular work, it is possible to note with full satisfaction the great and acknowledged assistance that has been given to needy Staszów expatriates and to a certain extent to the needy from the vicinity [of Staszów] thanks to the activity of the Mutual Aid Society. With a measure of pride we can even assert that this fund of ours can hold its own in the extent of its activities and the unceasing devotion of its members to the mission they have taken on with the capabilities in this area of Landsmanschaften from much larger cities. All this is thanks to the considerable aid and persistence coming to us from the Staszów organizations of the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Paris, and more. We see it as our obligation to express at this opportunity the feelings of admiration and appreciation for the Staszów Landsmanschaften in Diaspora for their blessed and fruitful activity.

Loans from the fund are given to all needy Stashovers who apply for them. Until recently, the maximum amount of these loans was 200 IL, whereas today, with the gradual change in currency values, the size of loans has increased to 500 IL. Loans are given under convenient terms, with an individualized approach. There is no room here to dwell on the details of the committee's activities in this area. This was done in direct coordination with the Landsmanschaften in Diaspora. We only note that the number of loans has passed the 500 mark, and many people have managed in that time to receive several loans and repay them.

We add, finally, that the support from Diaspora to Israel's needy came to expression in earlier years through sending food packages according to a special list, whereas in recent years it has been through sending monetary gifts for Pesach.

 

Saving Children

One of the most important activities of the committee in Israel–an activity that was brought to a successful conclusion thanks to its unflagging devotion–was the recovery of the girl Paula Hautman. In the last days of the ghetto, before the liquidation of Staszów in November 1942, her parents, Feivel and Bluma Hautman,[5] surrendered their two–year–old daughter to a local Christian family, Czerna. The girl was brought up among Poles for many years without knowing anything about her Jewish origin. In 1954, when the girl was already 14, the committee was informed of this situation, and from that point on the secretariat began to act persistently, communicating with all possible parties in order to recover the girl. Among the parties enlisted for this effort was the secretariat for the Union of Polish–Jewish Immigrants, Mr. Kawel; the president for Youth Aliyah of the Jewish Agency, Shimon Tuchman; Moshe Sztajnfeld, a relative of the girl; Herszel Blum from New York; Szmuel Szaniecki from Łódź; and more. Finally, as Kalman Brenner reports to us, the Committee of Stashovers from Toronto succeeded in overcoming the obstacles and bringing her to them.

It is with great satisfaction that we are able to emphasize the decisive part that the Organization for Stashovers in Israel played in this important and successful effort.

We express here our deep thanks to the Czerna family–of the Righteous Gentiles of the World–for this act of kindness, braving the danger that they incurred in doing so.

With special pleasure we recall here an additional case involving the rescue of a Jewish girl, Chayale the daughter of Abramche Grosberg, the granddaughter of the Staszów cantor Reb Israelke Wajcman.

A Christian woman, who raised the girl from a tender age, brought her after the war to Łódź. It then fell to the lot of the Borsztajn family (not from Staszów), Holocaust survivors who specialized in recovering Jewish children who were in the custody of Christians, working through the Jewish Agency, to redeem the girl. The Borsztajns got in touch with Chayale, adopted her as a daughter, and brought her with them to Israel. Chayale Grossberg–Borsztajn now works as a teacher. Chayale is even a contributor to this volume, with her dramatic description of the period in which she was hidden with her foster parents (see p. 396, “A Small Child's Revenge, Even Satan Has Not Yet Devised”).

 

Meetings and Gatherings

The meetings of the coordinating committee take place appropriately to the needs of the hour, at least twice a year. These meetings are attended by a majority of the members of the committee, and they bring for discussion general problems of organization and generalized guidance for the day–to–day activity of the secretaries. As currently organized, the committee comprises fifteen members: Shlomo Heiman, Jehiel Weinstock, Yonatan Tochterman, Pinchas Goldhar, Mendel Lipshitz, Yoel Fishof, Yehuda Feldberg, Mordecau Sosewicz, Moshe Karmi–Wajnberg, Ida Kaiser, Eliezer Goldberg, Tuviah Nisengarten, Ben–Yitzchak Binyamin, Wajnberg Binyamin, Zvi Solnik.

The members of the secretariat, composed of five people, meet at least once a week, maintaining constant connection with those Stashovers in need of financial assistance or any other service and sharing responsibility for the practical implementation in all the organization's areas of interest.

The secretariat participated regularly, ex officio, in the activities and gatherings of Yad Vashem in Israel as well as in the meetings of the Union of Polish Immigrants organizations. A notice on Staszów, written by yours truly, was published in the book Landsmanschaften in Israel, published by the union.

 

Memorial Service

Each year, on the 28th of Cheshvan (October–November), a memorial service is conducted commemorating the liquidation of the Staszów Jewish community by the Nazis. About 300 people of our townsfolk flock to this event from all over the world. Sometimes notices are published in the Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers for Yom Hashoah [Holocaust Memorial Day, a week after Pesch], written by our comrades M. Sosewicz, Y. Wajnsztok, M. Blumstein, and E. Erlich.

The Stashovers in Israel also hold gatherings during the intermediate days of Pesach week or on a date close to it. These gatherings are held primarily in order to receive guests from Diaspora, who regularly visit us in this period, close to Israel Independence Day.

 

The Hall

When our comrade Mr. Rosner from Chicago came for a visit to Israel, he brought a sum of money that was entrusted to my custody by Mr. Samuel Helfant and Mr. Hyman Rey for our organization. In many meetings, with the participation of the guest, the question was raised: What should we do with the money? After exhaustive discussion, it was decided to apply the larger part of the funds toward the acquisition of a hall for our townsfolk in Eretz Israel, while the remainder was allocated to Kibbutz Beit Alpha as seed money for a project to perpetuate the memory of the Staszów community. It will be noted that Rosner made good this promise and engaged in establishing the monument in the Holocaust Cellar in Jerusalem for the memory of our community.

Once we had acquired the hall (on 10 Mana Street, Tel Aviv), we were in the public square. This put an end to our peregrinations in search of a place for meetings and gatherings among comrades, and even the secretarial meetings became more regular. Since then, the secretariat has met weekly on Tuesday evenings to deal with current business, especially the approval of loans and the like. The hall even serves as a rendezvous for Stashovers to meet each other casually, aside from regular business with the secretariat and the committee.

In the course of time, on 23 October 1961, the cornerstone was also laid for building an assembly hall in Kibbutz Beit Alpha, in which, according to the plan, a special alcove would be dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust martyrs of the Staszów community.

In the cornerstone–laying ceremony, Ida Kaiser, Mottel and Yoel Fiszof, Menahem Lipshitz, Tuviah Nisengarten, as well as the Stashovers who were members of Beit Alpha participated on behalf of the coordinating committee. Yoel Fiszof spoke words of greeting.

 

The Memorial Book

The committee regarded the publication of the Staszów Memorial Book as one of the most important tasks under its jurisdiction. Many organizations in Israel and Diaspora have been successful over the years in bringing this sacred task to completion. But there are also many organizations–among them, those of some of the important communities in Poland–who are still struggling with the problem and have not yet found the solution and the means to fulfill this important assignment. Some of our comrades in Israel and in Diaspora were mistaken when they thought that it was possible to hasten the end and bring the idea from potentiality to actuality in a short time. To give one example of the difficulties and dilemmas in this area, we recall an event that occurred several years ago. As there was no chance of a reasonable solution to our problem on the immediate horizon, it was decided as an interim solution, to soothe our consciences, to publish a prospectus of the community, as other Landsmanschaften had done. The prospectus appeared in November 1955, published by the coordinating committee under the editorship of M. Tamri. Let us not forget that it was impossible to approach the fulfillment of this objective with good chances for success without finding a solution to three basic problems: collecting appropriate material, editing it, and funding the project.

We underwent many debates and stages, enduring several failures, until our comrade Elchanan Erlich saw fit to take on himself the most difficult and responsible task of editing the book. Even after the financial basis for funding the book was substantially guaranteed through a tour of M. Sosewicz in the Diaspora and after the material was gathered and edited, it was up to the editor and the Memorial Book Committee to overcome many challenging technical obstacles. Innumerable problems arise in the course of producing a book of broad scope such as ours, many of them entirely unforeseen. If we have finally arrived at this point after all those pains, we are entitled to congratulate ourselves and give thanks on the occasion! Photo captions:
P. 656 – The Coordinating Committee of Stashovers in Israel.


Footnotes

  1. Olim (sing., oleh): immigrants to Eretz Israel, people who “made aliyah.” Return
  2. Landsmanschaft (pl., Landsmanschaften): an association of expatriates from a common city or country of origin. Return
  3. Landslayt (sing., Landsman): expatriate(s) from a common city or country of origin. Return
  4. In original (in parentheses): “Lai–kase.” Return
  5. Note in original: Feivel and Bluma Hautman later perished in Poniatów. Return


[Page 657]

In Memory of the Stashovers Who Fell in Israel's War of Liberation

by Tuvia Nisengarten

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

 

Zvi Bornstein

A member of Kibbutz Beit Alpha, he was strong and straight. His face shone joie de vivre and creativity and a gushing spring of humor and folklore from the town life.

From the benches of the yeshiva and the beit midrash he found his way to Hashomer Hatzair and was counted among the active members of the Hechalutz troop.

Faithful to his pioneering path, he was the first of his comrades who fulfilled his promise and made aliyah. After his comrades joined him, Zvi was already a veteran, established in the community, a member of the coordinating committee, and bearing his share of the tasks of the kibbutz.

His entire life was dedicated to the kibbutz, to the farm work, and to shaping the community in which he worked.

He fell while fulfilling his guard duty at the entrance to the farmstead.

 

Zev Baum

His parents, an agricultural family among the founders of Kfar Ata,[1] arrived to Eretz Israel in 1924. Zev was the first baby born in the community.

While growing up, he joined the guard unit and served in the defense of Kfar Glickson[2] and later in the refineries near Haifa.

In addition to these, he also participated in reprisal actions in the communications corps and also in the well–known action at the corner of Kiryat Motzkin and KIryat Bialik, an action that prevented the Arabs from transferring a number of trucks loaded with ammunition to Haifa during the period of guerilla warfare.

Alert, gay, and beloved of the members of the youth labor movement, to which he belonged.

He fell in open engagement with the enemy at Ramat Yochanan when he was only 20 years old.

 

Isaac Lipshitz

He belonged to the Hano'ar Hatziyoni troop from a young age and was counted among its most devoted members.

He made aliyah in 1937 and was admitted to the agricultural school in Beit Shemen.

On completing the school, he joined Kibbutz Nitzanim and was among the first conscripted into the Jewish Brigade despite the wishes of his kibbutz.

While serving in the brigade, he took on himself the task of searching for relatives and acquaintances from Staszów, and he devoted himself body and soul to this task.

All who came in touch with Isaac, especially those who came to Eretz Israel at the end of World War II, knew to appreciate his honesty and unlimited devotion to his fellow Stashovers and to everyone.

With his demobilization from the army he moved to the settlement Ramat Naphtali, of which he was among the first founders.

He fell during a fierce and stubborn battle between a small handful of defenders and a far more numerous band of attackers.

 

Yosef Steinberg

He was among the active members of Hashomer Hatzair in Staszów.

Once he became convinced, after the Nazi invasion of Poland, of the malicious Nazi plans for the Jews, he finalized his decision to escape to the forest and fight for his life with dignity. When the ghetto was established, he was transferred to the work camp. Not long later, Josef acted on his decision. He escaped from the camp at the risk of his life and made his way to the forest. He attempted there to make contact with the command of the Warsaw fighters, but this did not succeed.

With the help of soldiers of the Jewish Brigade, he arrived in Eretz Israel in August 1945. Bursting with energy and enthusiasm, he joined Kibbutz Yad Mordecai. He was among the first olim[3] of Holocaust survivors. The stories that he told of the catastrophe of the Jews in Poland, and particularly of Staszów, made a strong and shocking impression on his listeners in the kibbutzim and other places in Eretz Israel, who took them in with rapt attention.

In a conversation that I had with him in Tel Aviv, during a Yishuv demonstration against the British White Paper,[4] he expressed his skepticism concerning the utility of the means that the Yishuv was taking on behalf of the survivors. It seemed to him that the Jews of Eretz Israel did not sufficiently realize the suffering of the refugees in transit and in the displaced persons camps and was not doing enough to relieve their plight and bring them to Eretz Israel.

During the siege of the kibbutz and the hard–fought battle against the attacking Egyptian army, he fought valiantly and courageously among the kibbutz shock forces. He fell in this battle.

 

Moshe Rawed

Rumors spread for several weeks, but the heart refused to believe. In the end, the bitter truth was revealed.

The son of a Labor Zionist family, he joined the local Hano'ar Hatziyoni movement at a young age. He was prominent in this movement for his devotion and enthusiasm to educational affairs.

His attachment to the fate of the troop and its needs is attested to by the fact that he preferred to separate from his family when they made aliyah in order not to let go of the tasks that he had assumed for the troop.

When he made aliyah, he joined Kibbutz Nitzanim and was counted among those who shaped its social and economic image over time.

During the hard days of the war, he was concerned primarily with provision of food to the kibbutz and its animals. He fell in the last battle before the surrender of the kibbutz.[5]

 

Meir Lipshitz

He had a solid Zionist upbringing, and at a young age he joined the local troop of Hano'ar Hatziyoni. As a young man of integrity, he took the Zionist message at face value and made preparation for aliyah on condition of acceptance to the agricultural school in Ben Shemen.

The outbreak of war upset his plans. He suffered all the tribulations of forced labor and displacement from one camp to another.

In 1946 he made aliyah and became a member of Kibbutz Masada in the Jordan Valley and later in Kfar Hachodesh.

In the War of Liberation, he belonged to the Carmeli Brigade and participated in the liberation of Haifa and Acre. He died while being deployed for the defense of Kibbutz Ramat Naftali.

 

Abram Baum

He made aliyah with his parents in 1934 from Germany. He was a graduate of the Bnei Akiva movement.

He was active in the Haganah from an early age and fought in the Hatikva Quarter [of Tel Aviv] and on the outskirts of Jaffa. He was among the first liberators of Sharona.[6]

Serious and dedicated, upright and good–hearted, he was always ready to enlist in the help of his fellow.

His letters from the siege of Ben Shemen, a siege that lasted four and a half months, are suffused with a deep faith in the victory of the idea for which he fought. He was able with his elegant prose to depict the danger in prospect for the entire Zionist project without arousing worry in the hearts of his family members.

He fell in the liberation of Gozha,[7] in the vicinity of Lod and Ramla, when he was only eighteen and a half years old.

 

David Goldfarb

He made aliyah in 1932. In the Hashomer Hatzair troop in which he was raised, he was outstanding especially for his tendency to faith.

He was an independent character who loved to shoulder the burden. With his devotion and perseverance, he took care of whatever seemed right to him. He was not deterred from starting over, with the same power of perseverance, when he was convinced that this was indeed the way.

He was included among the first founders and settlers of Kiryat Amal [currently Kiryat Tiv'on].[8] As a diligent and able farmer, he built a house and established a glorious community. He did not refrain from its defense, either. All those years he was responsible for security affairs in the immediate and broader vicinity.

When violence broke out in 1947, David went out with a band of comrades as an expert in espionage and succeeded in clearing the area of nests of murderers and securing adequate transportation for the locale.

Given his age and family circumstances, he was eligible to be conscripted for civilian service. But David was not the man to shirk his national responsibility. He opted for active military service, and he fell in a combat unit on the way to the Negev.

Photo captions:
p. 657 – Zvi Bornstein fell while serving guard duty in Beit Alpha.
P. 658 – The brothers Isaac and Meir Lipshitz.
p. 659 (right) – Yosef Steinberg, who fell in defense of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.
P. 659 (left) – Moshe Rawed, who fell in the battle for Nitzanim in the Negev.
p. 660 (right)–Abram Baum, who fell in the liberation of Gozha.
p. 660 (left)–David Goldfarb, who fell on the way to the Negev.


Footnotes

  1. Kfar Ata: see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiryat_Ata. Return
  2. Kfar Glickson: see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kfar_Glikson. Return
  3. Olim (sing., oleh): immigrants to Eretz Israel, people who “made aliyah.” Return
  4. Yishuv: the organized community of Jews (whether old and established or new immigrants of the Zionist movement) in Eretz Israel prior to 1948. Return
  5. Kibbutz Nitzanim surrendered to the attacking Egyptian forces on 7 June 1948. On 7 March 1949, the survivors of the kibbutz, who had been held prisoners by the Egyptians in the meantime, returned and rebuilt the kibbutz. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Nitzanim. Return
  6. Sharona: a neighborhood of Tel Aviv, originally a German Templar settlement, occupied by the British during World War I and World War II, and taken over by Israel in 1948. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saron_(colony). Return
  7. Gozha: Unidentifiable. Return
  8. Kiryat Amal [currently Kiryat Tiv'on]: see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiryat_Tiv%27on. Return


[Page 661]

The Toronto Staszów Young Men's Society:
The Social and National Mission of the “Society”
[1]

by Nachman Shemen, Toronto

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

 

The Years Fly By

Recent years have brought big changes in Jewish life, and this is widely reflected in the Stashover [Young Men's] Society [of Toronto, Canada], whose membership includes dedicated activists, sincere people who are inspired by a deeply engrained readiness to offer aid on a national and individual level.

Until the [Second World] War, the Stashover Society, like the Stashover Relief Association and the Stashover Synagogue, maintained a constant connection, a direct relationship with their home town on the banks of the Vistula River in Poland.[2] It was a town that resounded with songs of longing for the dreams of youth, a town renowned in Poland for its great rabbis and religious judges as well as for its contributions to the cultural and social spheres in the period of the awaking of national ideals between the two world wars.

 

The Influx of New Members

In recent years, the Society has been enriched by a number of newcomers, the “last remnants” – if only their numbers were greater! These are the ones whom luck and Providence permitted to survive Nazi extermination. They survived, remained alive after the destruction of our people, and did not lose their blessed humanity. We hope and wish that together with them we will strengthen and secure Jewish life on a new shore, in their new home, and that we will reawaken the ideal of eternalizing Jewish heroism and sanctity, of memorializing those who endured indescribable suffering.

The word “Society,” as it is understood in the Jewish community, means a mutual aid society organized to provide aid to landslayt[3] and members in time of need. In a broader sense, it means, or meant a short time ago, a home for immigrants, a community for the lonely, an organizational home for those unaffiliated with a political party, and a place to keep memories alive.

The Society brought together landslayt, whether newly arrived greenhorns recently uprooted from their old home or those who had left when they were still almost children and often after the bitterest of experiences but who still had in their hearts a spark of love for the past.

At the time of mass immigration to Canada after the First World War, landsmanshaft[4] societies were organized by town or region, following the pattern set in the United States. They became a place where the newly arrived found a home–like environment after a hard week's work. In the society they had the opportunity to socialize among their own kind and refresh their memories of the recent past

More than the political parties, the societies understood the individual characteristics of their members and knew how to attract them, to lift them up according to their situation and character, instinctively understanding their needs, warming and embracing them.

Among the active members of the societies one can find to this day paragons of integrity and dedication, common folk who understand that one has to broaden the programs, to leave behind the narrow framework of the landsmanshaft mold, and to participate in general activity in the philanthropic, nationalist, and cultural realms. This was the goal and this is the way of the Stashover Young Men's Society, organized on 23 June 1931 after a series of meetings and sessions in private homes upon the initiative of the founders, among whom we note with respect and gratitude: Wolf Applebaum, M. Mlotek, and Leyb–Wolf Rosen, long may he live.

Among those who contributed a lot of work and unsparing effort in the early years, we must note the following: Alter and Yosef Bloom, Izzy Brown, Borukh Eisen, Naftali Freedman, Izzy GInzberg, Sam Hammer, Sam Kutcher, T. Kligerman, Yakov Lerer, Harry Mitchell, Izzy Mandelewski, Joe Rosen, Kalman Rosen, Yakov Rosen, Mordecai Ray, L.M. Shniffer, Moishe Unger, Shmuel Weisbrot, Samuel Werner, V. Weisfeld, Izzy Wygodner, H. Applebaum, and L. Goldfarb.

They bore the burden of the Society and tried hard to see that it had a place in the social–organizational life of the city.

The immigration of 1929–30 played a large role in the founding of the Stashover Society. Many of the new immigrants did not want to affiliate with a political party but could not forget the vibrant life of their old home. They were also unable to attune themselves to the long–settled residents. So they decided to establish a society and turn it into a place of friendship and mutual aid among familiar landslayt, friends from the past.

 

Tasks and Goals

Reading the minutes of those early years, when the Society had just begun to develop, one can see that in addition to the usual functions of such societies, such as providing various kinds of aid for members in need, the Society also focused on the general needs of the Jewish people, participating in citywide campaigns, programs, and associations. It also generously supported, often beyond its financial means, the Jewish national funds, city educational institutions, aid to Israel, support for overseas fund raising, youth aliyah [immigration to Israel], the welfare fund, old–age home, the [Jewish] Polish Federation, and almost all charitable institutions.

At the same time, it worked together with the Stashover Relief Association, which did so much for the refugees who had gone through hell. In that sense, it was landsmanshaft–like in nature, true to the inherited tradition that had been imbued in them from childhood. The Staszów of their childhood remains indelible in the memories of its natives, no matter where they may find themselves, and in that sense their focus on local issues is not a shortcoming–on the contrary, it is a positive virtue and the raison d'etre for a society.

The Stashovers, as a landsmanshaft society, feel an ardent love and patriotism for their hometown or area, which thanks to them has been transplanted in miniature and in abstract form onto our Canadian soil.

Not all members are Stashovers by birth. There are those who have not even seen Staszów. But they are Stashovers in spirit, finding themselves bound to Staszów by family connections.

 

Stashovers in Toronto

Stashover landslayt contributed greatly to Jewish life in Toronto in the religious realm as well as in educational, cultural, and philanthropic activity. One of the largest and oldest Talmud Torahs in the city, run along strictly Orthodox principles, was founded by a Stashover by marriage, Reb Itsik Meyer Kodalnik, who had a marked influence on the institution. The Stashovers have a synagogue and aid society of their own. Kalman Berger is among the leaders of the national workers' association, Harry Mann [Mlotek] is a leader of the revisionists, and Jacob Rosen is among the leaders in the Torah V'Avodah [religious socialist] movement.

Among the younger rabbis, Chaim Mlotek, a son of Staszów, must be mentioned.

As for the Stashover Relief Association, it is important to mention Chana Berger, one of the founders and one of the most active women working for Staszów. Her landslayt speak of her with great love and respect. This woman, may she be blessed, held the position of president for a quarter of a century, working day and night on relief efforts. On every major holiday, she would send ever greater amounts of money for the needy to Staszów before the war and to the survivors after the war, wherever they might be. She also participated in programs for refugees from other places. Her work was greatly appreciated by her landslayt, especially those who worked with her in the relief efforts.

Mrs. G. Kates succeeded her and did a lot for Stashovers overseas in Israel and for those who settled in Canada and the United Sates.

The Society filled an important void, a fraternal–familial one, and in doing so strengthened the influence of Staszów. For many it represented loyalty to a way of life from the past.

The concisely written minutes reflect that the Society was governed by fraternal feeling. If members could not afford to pay dues, they were relieved of that obligation. When members regained their health, the entire society celebrated. (On 8 September, the society held a celebration upon the recovery of members Mlotek and Rosen from surgery.) The relief fund supported not only Society members but other landslayt and people in need in general.

From among the resolutions we find a very interesting one from 24 January 1933: the names of members listed on the calendar should be in Yiddish.

Among the matters dealt with at a number of meetings that year were sending delegates to a protest and aid conference regarding the events in Germany; sending delegates to a conference regarding the rights of Jews; supporting the Talmud Torah Etz Chaim, the Peoples' Federation, the Relief Federation, the Borochov School, the Trumpeldor Organization, and so forth.

The year 1934 was a busy one for the young Society. The Ladies' Auxiliary was founded, land was purchased for a cemetery on Bathurst North for $700, and the decision was made to conduct “literary” (cultural) evenings.

There were difficulties in raising the required funds for the cemetery; at that time during the Great Depression, it was almost impossible to impose additional levies on members. Nevertheless, everyone committed themselves to contribute five dollars, and the more prosperous members loaned money to make up the difference. (Other societies purchased cemetery plots there, and it was named the Bathurst Hebrew Cemetery.)

There is an interesting financial report from one of the meetings of that time. The treasury contained only $360.52, but this did not deter the leadership from helping members and supporting institutions. And in order to cover the expense, events that entertained and interested the membership were frequently organized. The biggest gatherings would be held at Rodham Hall on Beverly Street.

There were also several internal disputes during this time, all of which were settled within the Society. There were also conflicts connected with the struggle between left and right in the Jewish world, but here they were resolved as in a family.

In general, the Society's activities were based on religious traditions. The cemetery was consecrated on Sunday, 7 April 1935, pursuant to religious custom, as was the chevrah kadisha [burial society]. And a constitution was established in the same spirit.

The Society's banquets were conducted in a modest manner. They would be held not in a hotel but in the hall of the Talmud Torah Etz Chaim or in another synagogue.

At that time, there were pogroms against Jews in Poland, climaxing in the pogrom in Przytyk, which evoked outrage all over the world and uneasiness among Polish Jews in Canada and America. The Radom Society, together with several others, called a conference to arouse the greater public and to organize (or reorganize) the Polish Federation and to turn it into a political force for Polish Jews.

The Stashovers were among the first to respond and took an active role in arranging the conference. As we can read in a report by two delegates, M. Mlotek and L. M. Shniffer , contained in the minutes, twenty–one organizations participated and decided to demand that the Canadian Jewish Congress help to organize a mass demonstration against the persecution of Jews in Poland and to protest against the Polish government, which was helping and encouraging student hooliganism.

At an executive meeting on Wednesday, 15 March 1936, it was reported that such a demonstration would take place on 29 April and that a protest march would extend from Alexander Place to Massey Hall, where in the evening a mass meeting would be held with the participation of the elite of the Canadian government.

A series of resolutions were adopted at the meeting of 19 April, among the most important:

  1. to hold a celebration on the fifth anniversary of the Society with a banquet in Bolton (a summer resort);
  2. to officially join the Canadian Jewish Congress;
  3. to participate actively in the protest demonstration, because it affects the lives of our friends and relatives;
  4. to make a special, urgent appeal to members to participate;
  5. to make a special donation to the newly organized Polish Federation in addition to its usual membership contribution;
  6. members of the Society should join the Federation as individuals and help in its activities;
  7. to make every effort not to be in arrears in contributions to various welfare and educational institutions in the city;
  8. to take photos of the officials, the membership, and the ladies' auxiliary at the Society's fifth anniversary celebration.
The minutes reveal how active the Society was in those years: meetings, cultural gatherings, support, and participation in every constructive area of Jewish life.

In 1937, the Society decided to help the Stashover Relief Association, which had been founded with the goal of helping Stashovers everywhere and especially those living in Staszów. The activists in charge also began planning an Old Age Fund.

Several undertakings took place in 1938. A large number of new members joined. They worked out new provisions in the Society's constitution. That year, Tu BiShvat [New Year of the Trees] was celebrated on 16 January, and it was decided to celebrate all the holidays as a group. Another resolution that illustrates the character and development of the Society was that official letters should be written in both English and Yiddish.

The Society took a new turn: its treasury became richer, its scope broader, its influence greater. Among the notable resolutions were to assist the Stashover Relief Association, to contribute to the United Jewish appeal and the United Palestine Appeal, and to support youth aliyah and other new aid initiatives.

One of the guest speakers on youth aliyah was Sholem Miller, the author of the book, The Source of Life, an anthology of Jewish humor. He was introduced by M. Mlotek, chairman of the Society's youth aliyah committee.

Things proceeded peacefully in this manner until the storm of war broke out. The mood of the membership changed as they realized what the Nazi invasion of Poland meant for the Jews. They could imagine the fate of their loved ones under the Nazi regime.

 

The War Years

No banquet was held in 1939. At the general meeting it was proclaimed that this year no banquet would be held, and the expenses saved would be handed over to the Stashover Relief Association. The Society became very active in the Relief Association and raised $300. The Committee for Relief Work included V. Berger, L. V .Rosen, V. Applebaum, A. Kamelgar, K. Rosen, M. Mlotek, and Y. Rosen.

The most important committee was the war–victims committee, chaired by L. V. Rosen. It successfully carried out a number of [fundraising] programs that enabled it to meet its goal of aiding our own loved ones, as well as all Jews.

The Treasury grew, reaching $2,500, despite the various demands created by the war. (In 1941, the Society contributed $360 for youth aliyah to bring a child to Eretz Yisroel.) Reports show the Society's interest in contributions to all the fund–raising campaigns, including the Jewish National Fund campaign for Kfar–Ussishkin, to which it gave $100 and was honored with a certificate in the Golden Book.

The Society was active in the Canadian Jewish Congress campaigns and in its relief association and met its obligation to the welfare fund, which had a campaign goal of $400,000 for the United Palestine Fund, youth aliyah, Red Cross, and so forth.

The Society was also very active in Congress undertakings, providing both money and delegates, helping it to reach its goals on behalf of war relief.

 

The Post War Years

The horrifying portrait of Nazism in Europe, our enormous Holocaust, with the death of six million, is reflected in the Society's records. But instead of succumbing to pessimism, the Society strengthened and broadened its efforts on behalf of the Jewish people, participating in the postwar campaigns for the land of Israel and all Jews. In 1945 it collected $480 for youth aliyah (the largest sum of any organization), $150 for the fund to provide food for Passover to the needy, $100 for holy books, money for a yizkor fund, HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society], and other campaigns in the city. There was increased observance of the custom of visiting the cemetery at Yom Kippur to commemorate the dead.

The society did a lot of work for war victims and imposed a levy for that purpose on every member (at first $4, and when that proved inadequate, $5). It did not cease its work on behalf of its own membership or on behalf of rescue efforts for Holocaust survivors in various Displaced Persons camps and especially for Jewish children.

The organization maintained its fraternal character and spirit. If a member was remiss in fulfilling the mitzvah[5] of visiting the sick, he was rebuked and reminded of his responsibilities. If someone left the city, such as the leader Y. Gottlieb, the society would hold a going–away party. From time to time, the society would organize a celebration for a member's children. If someone suffered a bereavement, everyone shared in his sorrow and consoled him.

The society decided to help HIAS find homes for those newly arrived from the DP camps. We received interesting reports from N. Rotenberg, a delegate to HIAS, and B. Eisen, a delegate to the labor union campaign.

Among the newcomers who joined the society and who today are among its most active members are Alter Lewowicz (president, 1955); Moyshe Yehiel Rosen, active in all programs; Pinchas Zambrowski, a Torah scholar in Staszów, and many others.

At this point, we should single out some outstanding measures undertaken by the Society, which demonstrate the consciousness and understanding of its leadership. I am referring to the donation of $2,000 to the Haganah (this was at the time of the attacks by Arab countries on the young State of Israel) and $1,000 for the other Zionist funds. Stashovers can be proud of this. In the same period, they increased their contributions to city institutions and to national fund–raising campaigns.

At the initiative of Pinchas Zambrowski, a loan program was set up to help the needy. They also addressed the question of how to memorialize the martyrs of Staszów. The consensus was to erect a gravestone in the Stashover cemetery. The leaders also thought the time had come for the Society to buy its own building.

 

From Anniversary to Anniversary

On Tuesday, 30 May 1950, it was decided to celebrate the twentieth anniversary with a banquet in the Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue on 14 January 1951 and to issue a souvenir book on that occasion. In his report for the Jewish Journal, this writer wrote: “The celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Stashover Young Men's Society was grand and impressive. With beautifully laden tables and with a rich musical program, the occasion was celebrated by the landsmanshaft organization which has remained fraternally united for 20 years. A prominent place was taken by the recently arrived Stashovers, these people rescued from post–Holocaust Poland after the destruction of their town.”

The main donations in 1953 were the following: United Jewish Appeal, $500; Histadrut, $200; Stashover Relief Association, $150; Yavneh, $100; Federation of Polish Jews, $50; Tel Hai Fund, $50; Yeshiva Maharil Graubart, $25.

The Society participated significantly in the Campaign for Israeli Bonds. Responding to an appeal from L. I. Zucker, the Society purchased $1,000 in bonds and individual members purchased $6,500. The largest contributions in 1954 were U.J.A., $500; Histadrut, $200; Stashover Relief Association, $150; Yavneh, $75; Tel Hai, $75; Polish Federation, $50; Yeshiva Maharil Graubart , $25. Smaller donations were also made to other institutions and organizations.

The general meeting of 4 November 1954 adopted a resolution by Kalman Berger that the Society take the initiative in conducting the yearly memorial for the martyrs of Staszów. In attendance at the meeting were several Stashovers who were residents of Chicago, who relayed greetings from the landslayt there as well as from Stashovers living in the United States in general. They greatly praised the work of the Stashover Relief Association, including the Toronto resident who enabled the founding of the free loan society for Stashovers in Israel. The audience was very pleased to hear a report of relief efforts by Stashovers in the United States for their landslayt in Israel.

In 1955, Alter Lewowicz was elected president. A person with a cultural background, he made an effort to have every large gathering close with some kind of literary piece or a talk about politics or current events.

As a result, the Society held a symposium on Rambam [Maimonides], with the participation of A. Lewowicz, P. Dambrowski, and Jacob Rosen, each speaking about a different phase of Rambam's work. The symposium was impressive, demonstrating that Stashovers possessed their own intellectual resources.

At an executive meeting on Monday, 14 March, it was decided that the society's twenty–fifth anniversary would be celebrated in a grand manner. A Stashover from New York appealed for help and support in bringing over a Jewish girl who was living with a Christian family in Staszów.

At another meeting an insignificant incident occurred, but not so insignificant that Stashovers would let it pass without comment. A member interrupted a political candidate's asking for votes in his race for a position in the provincial government. It was pointed out that this was not in the spirit of the society, which was entirely nonpolitical.

In general, the meetings were concerned with planning for the twenty–fifth anniversary celebration, with reports on contributions for the great event. It was resolved to issue a special publication in honor of the event.

But none of this interfered with the society's traditional mission. Blum proposed to resurrect the society's relief committee, which had existed for a long time, along with its charity fund.

The annual contributions were like those in previous years: U.J.A., $500; Histadrut, $200; Yavneh, $100; Stashover Relief Association, $200; Tel Hai Fund, $10; Federation of Polish Jews, $50; Yeshiva Maharil Graubart, $25; Women Pioneers, $25; and other smaller contributions. At a meeting, the question of Israel bonds was discussed. The president asked and demanded that the organization as well as individuals increase their purchase of the bonds because “the danger is great, the enemy is being armed by the communist countries, and Israel must have the money to purchase the necessary weapons.”

The meeting confirmed the report of Harry Mann about the anniversary book, the prices for publishing greetings, and the decision to ask Nachman Shemen to edit the literary section. The following joined the committee on the anniversary book: M. Mlotek, A. Kamelgar, Y. Rosen, A. Lewowicz, and Harry Mann as chairman.

At an executive meeting on Monday, 21 November, Harry Mann gave a full report about the meeting of the book committee at the house of Y. M. Mlotek, about the plan for its composition, which would include a memorial section for the martyred dead. He also reported on the decision to invite the Stashover native, Rabbi David Graubart, as a guest speaker.

At a subsequent meeting on Monday, 15 December, there were reports about an urgent meeting on the anniversary book; delegates were elected to the Canadian Jewish Congress convention; there was an election of a committee on a banquet for the Stashover Relief Association; and there was a proposal to ask the Ladies Auxiliary to participate in the anniversary celebration.

***

Quietly, without fuss, the society prepares for the celebration of over twenty–five years of work. There are no politics involved. People serve together on the executive committee, which as virtually grown up along with the society. It is an anniversary book about honest, modest, Jewish humanitarian work in this land, work done with intelligence and devotion.

Photo captions:
p. 662
The Executive Committee of the Stashover Relief Association: Chairman, Kalman Berger
First row, standing, from right: A. Bulwa, Y. Rosen, A. Bloom, Y. Feferman, Sh. Hershkop, H. Berger, R. Rotenberg, F. Goldfluss, Y. Goldfluss
Second row: M. Sosewicz, M. Applebaum, Y. Mlotek, K.Berger, Sh. Berger, Y. Bloom, M. Green, H. Green, A. Lewowicz
Third row, seated: Ch. Redlick, H. Oyazd, P. Weisbrot, H. Menin, Sh. Goldhar, Sh. Baum, G. Kates
p. 665
Young Ladies Auxiliary: Paula Weisbrot, Chair
First row, standing, from right: R. Rotenberg, Ch. Greenbaum, R. Rotenberg, L. Bloom, Ch. Brautman, D. Bialov, M. Kleinman, B. Pasmantier, Ch. Green, T. Rotenberg.
Second row, seated: G. Kates, P. Goldfluss, H. Lewowicz, F. Weisbrot, H. Oyazd, Ch. Redlich, Sh. Bloom, Sh. Goldhar
p. 667
Stashover Young Men's Society: Joseph Bloom, Chairman
First row, standing, from right: Sh. Rotenberg, Sh. Kaufman, K. Rosen, Sh. Hammer, M. Ganszweig, M. Applebaum
Second row: A. Lewowicz, Y. Applebaum, M. Kaufman, Yeheskel Shor, Y. M. Mlotek, Y. Helfand, A. Reingevartz, V. Berger, M. Sosevitchv
Third row, seated: H. Menin, P. Dambrowski, A. Bloom, M. Rosen, Y. Bloom, M. Mlotek, A. Brown
p. 669
Stashover Relief Association of Toronto: Kalman Berger, Chairman
First row, standing, from right: R. Rotenberg, R. Nipas, Sh. Rosen, H. Berman, Sh. Goldfinkle, Y. Pagurek, Sh. Warner, B. Pasmantier, D. Rosenberg, Ch. Berger
Second row: T. Feferman, N. Rotenberg, Y. Goldflus, A. Bloom, Ch. Lichtig, Y. Segal, R. Rotenberg, Sh. Rotenberg, M. Sosevitch
Third row, seated: Sh. Shmeiser, Ch. Greenbaum, H. Glatstein, P. Goldflus, N. Fishoff, M. Kleinman, V. Wittenberg, D. Bialov, A. Bulwa, Kh. Brautman


Footnotes

  1. Footnote in the original: Reprinted, with some changes, from the “souvenir book” published on the twenty–fifth anniversary of the [Staszówer Young Men's] Society in Toronto–Edit. NOTE: The spelling of names in this article has been checked, where possible, against the 2007 members' list of the Toronto Stashover Young Men's Society, which has come into the possession of the editors and often reflects an anglicization of the spelling from the original Polish forms. Return
  2. Staszów is actually over 19 kilometers from the Vistula River. The river that runs through Staszów is the Czarna River Return
  3. Landslayt: [Yid., sing. landsman] fellow townspeople, especially expatriates from a common town forming an association in a new geographical location based on their common origin. Related: “Landsmanschaft” – an organized association of expatriates from a common geographic origin. Return
  4. Landsmanschaft: See previous note. Return
  5. Mitzvah: divine commandment; more broadly, any meritorious deed, especially an act of kindness or social service. Return

 

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