There Once Was a Shtetl [Town] Działoszyn
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The shtetl Działoszyn near Czenstochow lies in a valley, ringed by fields and tall, green mountains. A clear river flows past the city and divides it in two. One part of the river is called the Court River. The women would bathe there. In the second part near the bridge the men would bathe. The river flows into the Warta, which flows by Czenstochow. The center of the city consists of a large four-sided market with many side alleys. In each corner of the market are found wells and the shtetl took its water from the four wells.
In the middle of the market stands the house of the firemen and during a fire the bell on the high wooden tower sounds. The sounding of the bell brought panic to the shtetl each time.
During a fire they would grab the horses from the arriving peasants or from local businessmen and harness them to the firemen's equipment.
The firemen's house also had a meeting hall where theater presentations and dance evenings took place. The firemen's equipment was taken out of the meeting hall for the presentations of dance evenings.
Theater presentations took place in Polish and also in Yiddish, most by arriving actor troupes. The firemen's building was called the vog [scales]. No one knew the significance of this name.
A large chestnut tree ringed with a flower fence was the ornament of the Christian population. The greatest pride of the Jews in Działoszyn was the synagogue. They would boast that this was one of the most beautiful synagogues in Poland. It was a tradition that this synagogue was built in the 18th century by the same Jewish master architect who had erected the gorgeous synagogue in Przedborz and, it was assumed, also in Pińczów. The khazan [cantor] of the synagogue, who was called the Litvak, prayed with a choir of choir boys. When a guest would come to the shtetl, he was taken to see the synagogue. When the aron kodesh [ark containing the Torah scrolls] was opened, birds with which it was adorned, gave out musical notes. It was said that only two such synagogues were found in Poland, built by a German master.
A large number of Jews had small shops of various goods. A similar number were artisans: tailors, shoemakers, cabinetmakers, tinsmiths, hatmakers and others. There were also those who were involved with black market goods from Germany. There were also women among them. When a
woman would be sentenced to several months in jail, a sister or a relative would often spend the night with her so that it would be homey.
Działoszyn also possessed a watermill and a sawmill that belonged to a Christian family of three people: the old unmarried Fildowski and his two sisters. From the beginning he traded with Jews. When anti-Semitism strengthened, he made his own butter from his milk and sold it in the larger cities. After the First World War with the help of his mill he brought electric lighting to the city and was the master of light and darkness. He provided light when the sun set and turned it off late at night. When there was a celebration in the shtetl one paid for an entire night of electricity and one had to sleep with electric lights.
There was also in Działoszyn:
Several weaving workshops where woolen cloth was made. The most important of them belonged to Moishe Zalman Rusak, Hershl Weber, Yehuda Leibush Gnaslaw. Each weaving workshop consisted of two or three weaving machines and employed several workers.
Two sock factories with hand machines that employed Jewish girls belonged to the Rusak family, to Shloma Sztemplers and Zelikowicz.
About 10 girls worked in the two straw hat factories of Alka Barnsztajn and Hershl Kutlak.
Dozens of workers, Jewish and Polish, were employed in the two Jewish tanneries.
The finished goods were sent by wagon to Warsaw, Lodz and other cities.
Every two weeks a fair took place in Działoszyn. Peasants from the villages and Jews from the surrounding shtetlekh arrived with their products and goods.
Działoszyn couples loved to stroll in an informal garden that were called lipkes because of the lipove [linden] trees. The gardens belonged to Tovya Jakubowicz, the Hasid. However, Reb Tovya strolled here after his Shabbos nap and the young people moved to the Czenstochower road at the bridge.
The group Shomrei Shabbos [Shabbos Guardians], which did not permit girls to stroll together with boys, often disturbed the strolling of the young couples in order to protect the city from illnesses
Two feldshers [providers of medical care, often referred to as barber-surgeons], Yehuda Hersh and Itshe Meir, who also served as doctors and dentists, also protected Działoszyn from illnesses. Their wives were midwives, delivering the children for the women in childbirth.
The malamdim [teachers in religious schools] in Działoszyn: the lame Leib, Moshe P . Mendl Trene and Motl Sz
Zalme Didje taught the children of well-to-do parents how to read and write in Yiddish, Polish, Russian and German.
The young left the shtetl at 15 or 16. They mainly went to Lodz or Czenstochow. Then when they needed to serve Fonya [Russia service in the Russian army] they left for America.
Chaim Szilit was the uszony yevrei [learned Jew]. He reported the births of children, wrote petitions and when necessary defended Jews he was also an advokat [laywer].
Nakhman Blander was the poor man of the shtetl, had a dozen children who helped him earn his living. With even more children more pity and donations. The brisn [ritual circumcisions for his sons] were paid for by the city. There was no name for the child at the last bris. At that time, the rabbi said that he had seen various poor people, but this was the first time that he had seen that a poor person did not possess a name.
Działoszyn had several charity societies, such as the hakhnoses orkhim [provides hospitality to visitors], hakhnoses kalah [assistance for poor brides], gmiles khesidim [interest free loan societies] and bikur-khoylim [society to visit the sick].
The poor house was near the cemetery. Visitors from elsewhere went through the shtetl collecting donations. City Jews took home visitors for Shabbos.
When the hakhnoses kalah married off Binele the hunchback of Działoszyn to Zelik the water carrier from Pajczeno the shtetl was joyful. The wedding took place in the house of the gabbai [synagogue trustee], Moishe Zalman Rusak, and all of the Jews in the shtetl were in-laws. The groom and the bride were led to the khupah [wedding canopy] in the synagogue courtyard as in all of the weddings in the shtetl. Household utensils for
the couple tumbled from the wedding presents that all of the Jews of the shtetl had given.
The main water carrier was Itsik the goylem. Once, during the winter, he slipped and fell down. A crowd of Jews saved him. His first words were: Gevald [Yiddish word meaning violence, but used as an exclamation when seeking help], Jews, look, I am still alive!
There were no fights between the Jews and Christians. Jews were only cursed with the word, Zydze. At kol nidre [prayer recited at the start of the Yom Kippur Day of Atonement - evening service annulling all vows] on Yom Kippur, the intelligent Christians, such as the rejent [notary public], the sędzia [judge], the soltys [village head] and the scribe for the government office came to the synagogue.
It occurred that the Jewish judge's daughter came from Wielun with a groom a Russian soldier. The shtetl learned of this, went to the father's house and poured tar on the daughter's head. The groom ran away. The bride had to shave the hair on her head and remained a Jewish daughter.
A Jew in the shtetl had a carousel.
Before leaving to be conscripted, recruits having a fling removed the horses from the carousel at night and carried them through the entire city. At every house stood a little horse. The Jew had enough work gathering the horses and restoring his income.
Działoszyn suffered from a storm 40 years ago.
After a severe winter, when the snow on the surrounding hills melted, water flooded the shtetl and transformed all of Działoszyn into a giant river in which various tools, cattle and even people floated around.
It was necessary to go by boat in order to return from one corner of the city to the other.
The city became severely impoverished then because the people could not work for two weeks and could not carry on any commerce.
But Jewish Działoszyn again lived, worked, bought and sold and increased its size. Until the bloody flood of Nazi-German murderers wiped it from the earth like hundreds of other shtetlekh.
Only a memory remains: There once was a shtetl Działoszyn.
by P. Kalka
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The Nowo-Radomsker Society in New York has existed for close to 50 years. The founding meeting of the first group of Nowo-Radomsker landsleit [people from the same town] took place in 1898. In the course of time, it was shown to be an important factor both in Jewish life in America itself and in the area of aid activities for our brothers and sisters on the other side of the ocean:
The Nowo-Radomsker Society was and remains an exemplary, progressive landsmanschaft [organization of people from the same town] organization in America.
From the first day of its existence, the landsmanschaft was the center where all Nowo-Radomskers came together without differentiation as to belief. Rich, middle-class people and workers belonged to the society. Many of them were American born. The atmosphere of unity and tolerant attitudes towards each other gave the society the opportunity to develop widespread activities.
The membership of the Nowo-Radomsker Society was never content with just benefits and cemetery insurance, but was always also aware of all Jewish national problems, cooperating in the implementation [of solutions to these problems] and, in general, took part in the struggle for human rights.
After the First World War, the Nowo-Radomsker Society was one of the first organizations to help the Jewish settlement in Eretz-Yisroel and voted 1,200 dollars for the purpose.
When the movement here [in America] began to create Patronats [organizations that supported Jewish political victims in 1930's Poland], which would come to the aid of victims of the militaristic-fascistic cliques in Poland the society was one of the first to create a Now0-Radomsker Patronat and to support it very generously.
The Nowo-Radomsker Society was one of the initiators and founders of the Jewish People's Committee in 1936 which, with all anti-Fascist elements here in [America], organized a series of public appearances and street demonstrations against anti-Semitism and Fascism.
The society published a very well edited Almanac of 160 pages at the 40th anniversary of the society, in 1939. The Alamanc was edited by the long time Nowo-Radomsker Society worker, Moshe Schwartz, with the help of Pinye Kalka.
The Nowo-Radomsker Almanac described the history of the society and the aid work that the Nowo-Radomsker landsleit had done in such great magnitude for their brothers in their old home city. Reports about Jewish institutions in Nowo-Radomsk and biographies of many personalities, both from the old generation and the younger generation, were published in it.
The book was received with enthusiasm by all Nowo-Radomsker landsleit and recognized by the public as a great
contribution to the rich history of the Jewish landsmanschaftn in America.
Now, after the catastrophic destruction of the Jewish population in Nowo-Radomsk, the only clear memorial for the content rich and full-blooded life of a beautiful Jewish community that was named Nowo-Radomsk, remains for the present in the Nowo-Radomsker Almanac.
30 Years of Nowo-Radomsker Relief
The Nowo-Radomsker Relief is, like a series of other institutions, a branch of the Nowo-Radomsker Society. With the greatest love and devotion, the friends and members of the society are dedicated to the work. The Nowo-Radomsker Relief had fraternally supported and helped create in Nowo-Radomsk such institutions as: Linas haTzedik [society for visiting the sick], Gemiles Khesed [interest free loan] Fund, secular children's homes and public schools, Talmud Torah Malbish Arumim [organization to clothe the needy] and a series of institutions that have eased the need of the poor Jewish population. The aid work has particularly been distinguished by the great contribution from our beloved landsman, Sol Grynberg.
At the time of the Second World War, when the news about the dreadful catastrophe of the Jewish people under the reign of the Nazi cannibals began to arrive, the aid work became much more intense. In the first year of Hitler's rule in Poland, the Nowo-Radomsker Relief sent food products in the amount of 600 dollars through Christian aid organizations. Confirmation from those to whom the packages had been mailed came for many of the sent packages. The Nowo-Radomsker Relief undertook the creation of a fund of 10,000 dollars to help the surviving brothers rebuild their ruined home. Relief made contact with the Nowo-Radomsker landsleit in the liberated nations such as France, Belgium, the Soviet Union and sent them aid through packages of food products.
A separate Orphan's Fund was created by Nowo-Radomsker Relief named for Manny Shapiro, the deeply beloved son of the devoted Relief workers Mote and Leyke Shapiro, who fell in Burma as a fighter in the American Army. His father, Mote Shapiro, on his own initiative, had undertaken to create the Fund, contributed the sum of 200 dollars and himself collected the greater part of the remaining 400 dollars.
The Relief, too, as the entire Nowo-Radomsker landsmanschaft, did not forget the children of its members who were in the American Army in all parts of the world. The Relief provided 900 dollars for packages that would be sent periodically to each one as an encouragement in the struggle against our bloody enemies and the foe of all humanity. Half of this sum that was provided for this purpose was donated by brother, Sol Grynberg.
The further sums that the Nowo-Radomsker Landsmanschaft Union and Relief donated during the war years for various purposes show the wide scope of the aid work.
Help for Nowo-Radomsk in 1939 $600 sent to the Joint [Joint Distribution Committee], Children's Fund and Matzo Fund from 1939 to 1945 - $1,200; for Russian Relief $1,000; for Eretz-Yisroel, Labor Union campaign and Histadrut - $400; for Red Mogen-Dovid¸ American Red Cross and British War Relief - $200.
Most recently, a Nowo-Radomsker Relief was organized in Los Angeles that sent the sum of $300 to New York and also sent $100 for the Manny Shapiro Orphan's Fund.
The Nowo-Radomsker landsleit organized two Relief organizations in Eretz-Yisroel, one in Tel Aviv and the second in Haifa. The Relief organizations in Eretz-Yisroel carry out widespread aid activities.
The Victory Committee, which during the war endeavored to sell still more war bonds, now undertook raising money for two Victory Bonds for each member's son returning from the war. Alas, six children from the Landmanschaft would not return. They fell in battle against the Nazi and Japanese enemies.
A Grynberg Loan Fund also exists with the Nowo-Radomsker landsmanschaft, where each member has the right to borrow the sum of 35 dollars. The fund gives the loans without any interest.
Society Officials in 1945
Dovid Lefkowicz President.Grynberg-Loan Fund Officals
Sam Epsztajn Ex-President.
Max Golden Vice President.
Shirley Vitrofski Finance Secretary.
Leon Ellenberg Protocol Secretary.
A. Haber Treasurer.
Mote Shapiro Hospitality
Ahron Gliksman Funeral Director
Max Itzkowicz Auditor
Trustees: S. Krauz, M. Zelkowicz, Avraham Brakman.
Chairman A. Zoberman.Relief Officials
Secretary D. Feder.
Treasurer Jack Almar.
Sol Grynberg Honorary Chairman.Relief Committee
Pinye Kalka Chairman.
Harry Szedlecki Vice Chairman.
Harry Fiszman Aid Chairman.
Chaskl Pazanowski Finance Secretary.
Jack Almer, Lou Beserman, Philip Knapf, H. B. Israel, L. Brakman, F. Frisz, A. Lefkowicz, M. Itzkowicz, M. Brader, Ahron Gliksman, Harry Oberman, Shimeon Medwedow, Sam Dikerman, Sam Ickowicz, Avraham Haber, Chaskel Rudnicki, Lou Dikerman, H. Kasoy, H. Rosztajn, Morris Szwarc, Jack Dikerman, A. Krauz, S. Szolom, Abe Soberman, Karl Ellenberg.Greetings from the Nowo-Radomsker Landsmanschaft in New York
The Nowo-Radomsker landsmanschaft gladly accepts the invitation of the neighboring Czenstochower landsmanschaft to take part in the historic book, Czenstochower Yidn that will be published by the United Czenstochower Relief Committee in New York.
This book will remain the greatest historical document of a landsmanschaft, a book of blood and tears.
This will be a valuable book for the remaining landsleit from Czenstochow and its surroundings that will spread over all parts of the world.
We, Nowo-Radomsker landsleit, will help with the work, so that the book, Czenstochower Yidn, will reach these thousands of landsleit across the entire world.
We give our warm greetings from the Nowo-Radomsker who are so close to you. We will energetically disseminate the work on behalf of the Jews here in America, and especially on behalf of the dear survivors on the other side of the ocean.
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