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ה    E

The First Jewish Textile
Manufacturers in Bialystok

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

The majority of the German manufacturers were factory directors and master craftsmen. After erecting their factories with all of the necessary buildings and machines, the factories began to operate, but they still needed assistance from a banking house to collect the promissory notes they received for the completed goods – despite having the means and remaining capital to purchase the required raw materials and to pay the personnel and workers. They also had to provide money as pledges for goods during the quiet season because their seasonal goods lay finished in storage and waited for customers. Those who had a turnover of capital and who still had previous debts had even more need of a banking house. However, there was no banking house in Bialystok until 1872.

 

The First Banking House – PERLIS

The first banking house in Bialystok was founded by Dodye PERLIS, a son of Nakhame PERLIS, a daughter of Itshe ZABLUDOWSKI. This banking house was located in WILBUSZEWISZE's house near the apothecary.The larger manufacturers could not make use of the Warsaw bank, which did not have an office in Bialystok, and therefore there was no one to collect their more worthwhile promissory notes. Because there was no local monetary facility for the firms, they could only pay cash for the Russian wool that was sold.

The local collectors and lenders assisted the manufacturers – which could not exist, develop and increase their production without them – with all of their problems. These collectors and lenders were from the circle of Jewish merchants who became rich in the earlier generation of contractors in BRANICKI's courtyard and, later, from manufacturing, the importation of tea from abroad and also from other businesses

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such as the wood business, like Itshe ZABLUDOWSKII[21] (1781-1865), whose wealth came from Biatowieza [a primeval forest] timber that he would buy and transport abroad. He was the money magnate of Bialystok. There are still legends about his wealth: his house on the corner of Senkewicze and Pilsudski, was the first modern, affluent house in Bialystok.However, none of the rich Jews had ventures to pursue after closing their old businesses and their capital remained inactive. They found natural consumers for their money with the arrival of the German manufacturers. They also found new business pursuits – providing raw materials for the manufacturers who needed purchases made for them in Russia and abroad. Purchasers who worked for commissions and merchandise traders were trained and developed in Bialystok.

At the same time that they had these very close relations with the German manufacturers and their products, the Bialystok merchant class was more closely acquainted with the developers of modern textile manufacturing. As a matter of course, a movement had to awaken among the younger Jewish generation for them to emulate the German manufacturers and themselves become manufacturers of the finer cloth products. They could fill in their lack of knowledge of the craft with hired German master craftsmen and directors.A) Reb Sender BLOKH, B) Reb Nukhem MINC and C) Eliezer HALBERSZTAM, three rich and aristocratic sons-in-law of the wealthy Itshe ZABLUDOWSKI, stood at the head of this movement. With the agreement and the help of their rich father-in-law, they created three self-contained cloth factories, with distinguished master craftsmen and directors.Almost at the same level as them were the well known son of Mikhele, Dodie ZABLUDOWSKI, and another educated Jew, Sender BLOKH's son, Noakh-Dovid BLOKH, who had a partial factory. All of the factories produced the finest cloth and clothing goods.[22]

Sender BLOKH's Factory

The first and most distinguished son-in-law of Itshe ZABLUDOWSKI was one of the great aristocrats from Vilna. His grandfather, Reb Noakh bmohr'r[1*] Shrage Fajwish, was one of Vilna's greatest rich men and philanthropists.[23] His mother, Dworya, who is buried in the local cemetery, had an extensive rabbinic ancestry. He, himself, was also

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a Jew, a scholar and a generous benefactor. He was a significant Moscow merchant and wood trader.In 1841, he founded a large self-contained factory in the Nowi (Mitskewicze today) that existed until the 1860's. His wife, Malka-Reyzl, the oldest daughter of a wealthy man, who was an active and clever woman and renowned in the Bialystok commercial world and in her environment, helped him in his business.Sender BLOKH died young (in 1849) at the age of 39. His wife, Malka-Reyzl, carried on his business; she had branches of her business in Zelwe, as well as Bordiszew, but in the end, she had to close the factory. As was said, a wealthy man helped her with 40,000 rubles (that was transferred from her share of the inheritance).[24]

Malka-Reyzl had a large family: she and Reb Sender had 15 children; of them only two died. She arranged great aristocratic matches for her children; her sons-in-law were the largest merchants and manufacturers in Bialystok, who greatly helped the development of manufacturing and trade in Biaylstok.How important a personality Sender BLOKH was in Bialystok is seen by the great dirge entitled Merirei Yom [Poor Souls – those who suffer daily bitterness] that his brother-in-law, the Hebrew poet Eliezer HALBERSTAM, wrote at his death on the day when he was brought to his grave (published by Rom publishing house, Vilna, in the year 5609 [1849], 11 pages; he describes his large funeral, where his casket was taken to the Great Synagogue and he was carried inside and there three funeral orators eulogized him. He describes how he was mourned by all of the orphans who lost a father in him and all of the widows who lost a source of support in him, his beloved wife, sons and daughters, as well as the sick in the hospital they he founded and supported. All lamented and wailed for him.

The Rabbi, Reb Moshe Josef, head of the religious court of the holy community, Kanishin Jedwabna, talks about him and his death in his book, Mate Yosef [Joseph's Staff] or Hotam Tochnit [Seal of the Design], commentary 10, point 9: This beautiful town, the famed Bialystok, wherethere were many dead would cry out in sorrow for this tragedy,since its mighty have fallen as well: The rabbi, famous, respected and generous,of good counsel, pious and God-fearing, a great treasure of Torah, scholarship and good deeds, supporter of the needy and helper of the poor, our master and teacher Alexander Sender Bloch. His memory is cherished by many to this day, in their hearts they weep for him,

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for he is missed by all. Themost respected members of the communityremembered and praised his piety, righteousness and generosity.

Malka-Reyzl[25] died in Tevet 5638 (1878), 29 years after her husband's death. Her brother-in-law, HALBERSZTAM, in his Alei Higayon Bekhinor [from Psalm 92:4 – “On the Strings of the Harp”] mourned her:

A woman of valor, more precious than pearls, beautiful and wise, of a righteous soul, her generous charity is known by all, her words were pleasant to the ears; rest in peace among thousands of women, untilthe daywill come [an allusion to the day of the resurrection of the dead tkhies-hameysim].

Malka-Reyzl's factory was later sold to the German manufacturer, Rudolf KOMIKHOV, who became the well-known blanket manufacturer and from him to the manufacturer, HENRICKS-IZENBEK. Today it belongs to two small Jewish manufacturers who work for payments. Her large locations were parceled and sold through them.

 

Nokhum MINC's Factory

The second son-in-law of the wealthy man, Nokhem MINC, was a Jew, a scholar, a follower of the Enlightenment and a great man of aristocratic descent. His father, the rabbi, the sagacious scholar, Orish MINC, was the 15th generation of the MINC family. He had six sons and three daughters. All of his sons as well as his sons-in-law were very educated, followers of the Enlightenment and rich men. Reb Menakhem Nokhum MINC was his sixth son and also a distinguished Torah scholar. His first wife was Chaya Frume, the daughter of a rich man from Bialoystok; his third wife was Yokheved, daughter of the rabbi and great man, Mr. Zalmen Bornsztajn.[26] He died in 5626 [1866], a year after his father-in-law's death. He received the stately courtyard on Kilinski Street opposite the palace (now the “Palas” Theater) from his father-in-law after his father-in-law's death. There he established a group of factories. He erected a Beis-Midrash and also a bathhouse with a mikvah [ritual bath] for himself there at the same time.[27] He had seven sons: They were referred to as the “golden MINCs” in the city. All of them were educated and studious. One of his grandsons was a well-known professor of surgery in Russia; he is now a professor in Riga. None of his family remains in Bialystok, except for one son, completely deranged, who subsisted in the old age home. His sister, Mikhel, FRYDLANSKI wife, in Petersburg, would support him.After the factory closed, it was rented to Malka Reyzl's two sons-in-law, Mordekhai-Chaim HAJLPERIN (later the Jewish public notary), Avraham ZUSMAN and their partner, Leib RASZKIN, who was an employee of Malka Reyzl. The factory and the courtyard were later sold to FRISZ, the manufacturer, from him to LITERER for production by wage earners. During war time [First World War] – for the “Palas” Theater. The courtyard was divided into parcels.

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Eliezer HALBERSZTAM's Factory

Eliezer HALBERSZTAM, who was one of the wealthy man's sons-in-law and stepson, founded a series of cloth factories in Królowy Most, a village not far from Bialystok. He had well prepared himself for manufacturing. As an educated person he sent his son, Heinrich, to Achen to learn the techniques of the textile industry. This one later became the director of his father's factory. The father himself was not very involved with the factory. He was more involved with the Haskalah [Jewish Enlightenment] movement, but his wife[28] was more involved with the factory. The factory existed until 1879, when it burned. Later, he was the fabric finisher for the German manufacturer HAKE.

 

Dodje ZABLUDOWSKI's Factory

Dodje ZABLUDOWSKI's factory was the fourth self-contained factory in Jewish hands. We do not know how involved he was with the factory. His factory was situated at the location of the Real School – today the Polish gymnazie [high school]. I found his son, Izidor,[29] who supposedly had no capability in running such a factory, managing the factory. It was entrusted by lease to Sheine-Chaya HAJLPERIN, Malka-Reizl's daughter, and later, to Kalman GELBERG (“Kalman with the shoes”), until it burned. The Russian regime later bought the courtyard and the house from Izidor ZABLUDOWSKI (in 1892) for 19,000 rubles and there erected the Real School. The Polish Men's Gymnazie is now located there.

 

Noakh-Dovid BLOKH's Factory

The highly educated son of Sender and Malka-Reizl BLOKH – Noakh-Dovid BLOKH – founded a small spinning and fabric finishing factory in partnership with his brother Bontshe (Ben-Tzion] BLOKH on the Nowi. When the factory went bankrupt, Noakh-Dovid BLOKH fled to Vienna. There he became a co-worker at Vienna German newspapers and died there. His brother later again operated a small spinning factory. Here we have described the first large, but unsuccessful attempts by the Bialystoker Jewish aristocratic wealthy men to establish self-contained

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textile factories. This required a knowledge of the trade and many years of experience, such as the German manufacturers had.

 

Dovid-Avraham KEMPNER's Factory

Attempts at fine woolen fabric weaving mills were also made also by other distinguished Jews. For example: at the same time, in 1844, Reb Dovid Avraham KEMPNER, later well known as an entrepreneur, scholar and author, founded a weaving mill for fine clothing fabric with a partner in order to receive the right as a Polish Jew to live in Bialystok, which was then still forbidden. Tzlal NOWIK, later well known as an eminent manufacturer, worked as a weaver in his weaving mill.The factory stamp of 1844 is still found with his son, Falk KEMPNER, today. The local weaving mills would send wagons with their raw materials to Zgera, near Lodz, to be worked on. It appears that the local German manufacturers from Supraœl did not want to work because of the competition. The Russian notarized contract that was closed on the 15th of October 1844 between Dovid-Avraham KEMPNER and his partner, Markus RUBINSZTAJN, from the Mazowiecki area, to create a factory to produce various sorts of woolen cashmeres, inferior sorts of cloth and linen [or canvas] until the 15th of October 1851, is found with his son, Falk. The contract was concluded by the notary, Zalman GRAWE.

 

Jewish Factories during the years 1850 – 1880

At the same time as these factories and still later, all business sectors of the middle class and people on the lower strata began to engage in the textile industry. They began to specialize in it. There were also those in the 1840's who were already referred to as printed calico weavers (with a weaving mill of cheap, inferior merchandise). After this, they became linen [or canvas] weavers and later they developed to the level of cloth manufacturers. However, they did not attempt and because of a lack of means, could not attempt, to present themselves as equals to the German professional manufacturers producing the same goods from the finest wools and expensive materials. Earlier, they had learned to imitate and produce cheaper goods and to develop around a new kind of cloth and clothing cloth and also blankets that appeared entirely equal to the German kind at the first impression. However, they were of a much lower quality. As a matter of course, they could be sold at a much lower price and in this way could compete with the better and finer good of the German manufacturers.

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After specializing in all fields of the textile industry, the Jewish manufacturers sought to apply all means and to make the most ingenious arrangements and calculations to make their goods as inexpensive as possible. And as the German manufacturers placed on the market a new kind or a new pattern of goods, it was very soon after that the same sort of pattern was brought out by the Jewish manufacturers at a much lower price. In such a manner, the Bialystok Jewish cloth manufacturers became very competitive in all of the markets in Russia, where cheaper goods were sought.We list here the Jewish factories that arose in the years 1850-1880:Reb Yakov-Shlomo BARASZ - a Jew, a person of high standing, a scholar and a respectable man, was one of the first bourgeois manufacturers who founded a self-contained factory in 1850 in Wasilkow, near the Suprasl [River], five kilometers from Bialystok. It existed until 1890. It burned then. Fiszl BARASZ, Reb Yakov-Shlomo's son, rented it to LESZGOLD-LUNSKI and later to PORECKI-GOWENSKI. Leib ROZENTAL had a fabric and blanket factory and later a spinning mill, fabric finisher and synthetics factory.In 1865 Zelig JASZINOWSKI organized a self-contained factory. The factory later went to the former weaver, Kalman GELBERG (or “Kalman mit der shikh” [Kalman with the shoes]. The communal bath mikves [ritual baths] are located at that location today. Berl POLJAK had a factory in 1865. It closed and later reopened in 1877 (perhaps 1873). It became a large and solid firm, “B. POLJAK and Son.” The factory employs up to 300 workers.Avraham-Leib ZILBERBLAT opened a spinning and weaving mill in 1866. His son, Sheime, later had the spinning and weaving mill.A. SLONIMSKI organized a weaving and spinning mill in 1870. His son, Tovya, opened a spinning mill in 1875.In 1875 Leib PRAJSMAN opened a partial factory. Shmuel BABULKES organized a spinning mill in 1875.Shraga Fajwl BLOKH opened a spinning and weaving mill in 1878.

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Sheyne-Chaya HAJLPERIN opened a spinning mill and fabric finishing shop in 1878. The factory was later enlarged by her heirs.Yeshayahu WISOCKI and Moshe HUROWICZ together opened a spinning and weaving mill in 1878.In 1880 Y. CZEKHOWISKI opened a fabric finishing and dye shop. The undertaking later was taken over by Bacze SEGAL. KAMINKO, WOLKOWISKI's son-in-law, organized a spinning mill and a fabric finishing shop in Wasilkow in 1880.In the general list of manufacturers, after the alphabetic list of names of the owners, can be found a few more factories that opened during this era. However, only a few of all the manufacturers excelled in their development and great scope.

 

Betzaleel NOWIK and Son

Earlier, Betzaleel NOWIK was himself a weaver. In 1841 he was a dyer in Nowi [Street], a peasant cloth craftsman. According to official information, NOWIK's factory was founded in the year 1848. However, this is not correct. He was then certainly a dyer. Later, he had a weaving mill in the house he acquired on Nowi [now Mickewicza Street) in partnership with Reb Yitzhak KHOHEN, the son of Leib KHOHEN, the well known Bialystok dayan [religious judge]. NOWIK remained alone when Reb Yitzhak KHOHEN left the partnership and became a wool broker. In the 1870's and 1880's, B. NOWIK later expanded until he had a self-contained clothing cloth factory with his sons.In 1895, through the initiative of his son Feywl, a large felt hat factory was organized in it (he had earlier specialized in this work). Later in 1905, he was joined by his sons Khone Hersh and Pesakh-Shlomo, who had been individual manufacturers, in founding the firm, C. NOWIK and Sons. It became the largest Jewish factory in Bialystok with all modern equipment, with a large spinning mill, 68 industrial steam pressers, four machines to straighten out the thread during the weaving process and a finishing site with 10 rollers. The large factory (and the felt factory) employed up to 800 workers. The factory declined after the death of the first and second generations and was rented for income.

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Yisroel TRILING and Son

Yisroel TRILING came to Bialystok from Sereje (a small shtetl [town] in Sulwaki gubernia [province], as a son-in-law of RAFALOWSKI, a local middle class family. He was a student of Reb Chaim FILIPOWER, who was a well known freethinker in Poland in his time[30]. At the start of the 1860's, Yisroel TRILING was involved in the produce business for the manufacturers. Later he also became a comisioner [one who earns a commission on sales], mainly to sell the heavy blankets of FLAKERT, the German manufacturer. He later manufactured the same blankets himself through jobbers. In 1890, his son, Oswald TRILING, who had studied the textile trade in Brin (Austria) and in Milhausen (Alsace) returned from abroad. He liquidated the production by jobbers and opened his own heavy blanket factory. At first, the work was on handlooms. Later, when production greatly increased, its own laundry, dyer and fabric finishing was arranged and later the factory began using mechanized weaving machines. Oswald TRILING became a partner in the firm that still went by the name “Y. TRILING and Son.” Yitzhak TRILING's son-in-law, Wolf ALTMAN, was also a partner in the firm during the last years of the First World War.Yitzhak TRILING died in Nice in 1914 and Wolf ALTMAN died in Bialystok. Oswald TRILING remained as the sole owner of the factory.During the First World War and the German occupation of Bialystok, Oswald TRILING moved to Moscow, bought a factory there near the Bikowa train station and worked there until the Bolsheviks came to power. He then returned to Bialystok, brought order to his old factory and enlarged it.A new cloth finishing and dying mill and a synthetics factory was built in Wasilkow near Bialystok in 1923. Production increased and the number of workers reached 500. A division was also founded in Harbin in the Far East. In 1921 Oswald TRILING's son, Maksim, joined the business as a partner and director. The firm was reorganized as “Oswald TRILING and Son,” a stock company [in which shares were sold] in 1924.

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In 1931, due to difficult labor conditions in Poland and the complete cessation of exports to China as a result of direct political entanglements, the factory was closed and the owners left for Southern France, to Nice, where they settled. Oswald TRILING took an active role in communal life in Bialystok. He was vice president of the Society for Mutual Assistance, vice president of ORT [acronym from its Russian name – Obshestvo Remeslenofo Zemledelcheskofo Truda - Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor], chairman of the Union of Large Industry, member of the council of the Polish State Bank, and others.

Dovid HUBINSKI

Dovid HUBINSKI, a son of Moshe HUBINSKI, a rich proprietor in Grodno gubernia, settled in Bialystok after his marriage. Here he specialized in the manufacture of cheviot blankets. In 1878 he began to produce heavy blankets, at the beginning with jobbers, and later he began his own factory. Finally, the firm, “Society D. HUBINSKI” (that is, he and his two sons), had its own machine to straighten out the thread during the weaving process, five large weaving machines, 42 industrial steam pressers, a cloth finisher of 12 rollers. He employed more than 300 workers. He competed with his fine blankets in the English and foreign traders markets with the TRILING blankets. However, the firm, which was taken over by the large German RICHTER factory, did not last until the end; after Dovid HUBINSKI's death it went bankrupt and declined completely.

Ahron SURAZSKI[2*]

Ahron SURAZSKI opened a spinning mill in 1870. He later had large weaving mills with his sons Nusan and Leib SURAZSKI and their sons-in-laws, L. MOWSZOWSKI, M.B.SLOMIANKSI and M. FAJANS. (During the 1840's Ahron SURAZSKI was a weaver of printed calico.) He later learned cloth weaving and became a manufacturer. The first weaving mill was in the house of his father, Wolfke SURAZSKI, or Wolfke POLJAK), on Surazer Street. In 1870 he moved the weaving mill to Nowi [Street], where he completed it with a spinning mill and cloth finishing and employed approximately 100 workers. In

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the later years, he and his sons and sons-in-law occupied a respected place in the Bialystok textile industry.In 1873 Ahron SURAZSKI built a brick Beis Medrash, Hasidi Kotsk [Kotsk or Kock Hasidim]. The SURAZSKI family suffered greatly during the great crisis of 1900-1901. Their factory was sold.The activity of the SURAZSKIs had its continuation 10 years later, through Leo SURAZSKI, his brother Yakob's son, who in 1914 founded a factory in London and in 1917, with his brothers Chaim and Elihu, transferred it to Mexico, where they are industrial entrepreneurs of great stature.


Footnotes

  1. See Pinkas Bialystok, volume 1, pp. 142-143 Return
  2. Details about these personalities in Pinkas Bialystok, volume 1. Return
  3. See Szmuel-Josef Fin, Kiriya neemana [Faithful City] (Vilna, 5620 [1860], p. 220. Return
  4. As has been said, at that time the Bialystoker manufacturers would buy summer wool on the market for the entire year. Malka-Reyzl once bought wool for over 100,000 rubles. She borrowed the money from her father and brought the wool to his storehouse that was under his residence, at the intersection of Senkewicza-Pilsudski, under the support columns. Later, she did not have the money to pay back; her son-in-law, Moshe EIGER, tore off the locks and took out the wool. When the wealthy man learned of this, he asked that the amount be taken from her inheritance. Return
  5. In the mentioned book, Discourse 7, it is said that on Rosh Hashanah 5609 (1849), cholera was rampant in Bialystok and its surroundings. Return
  6. See the book, Det Kadoshim, to the end. Return
  7. H. Wider, the baker and last owner of the front part of the courtyard, told me that he found the mikvah while digging. Return
  8. See Yehezkeil Kotik, Meine Zikhronus [My Memories], 2nd part, p. 44. Return
  9. He would sell entire sacks of Hebrew books belonging to his great grandfather, Mikhele KHINKE, which he had inherited from his father. An acquaintance of mine would buy them from him very cheaply. Return
  10. The old Yisroel TRILING was a member of the gmiles khesed-beis medrash [interest free loan society of the house of study] and of the Mishnah Society [group that studies the Mishnah – the compilation of the Oral Torah] there. His two older sons, Avraham and Eliezer (a large, rich product firm, TRILING Brothers), were Jewish nationalists. Return


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Bmohr'r is an abbreviation of moreinu rabeinu rav – our teacher, our rabbi Return
  2. For precise information about SURAZSKI, see Dovid KLEMENTINOWSKI's article, Di Moshpokha Surazski [The Surazski Family] in Bialystoker Shtime [Bialystoker Voice], New York, 1950, Passover No. 257. Return

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