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[Page 273]

COMMUNITY INSTITUTIONS

Medical Assistance Organization and Hospice for the Poor

By Zvi Yitzchak Hoffman

1890

        When I returned to Drohitchin from the United States, Rabbi Menachem called me in and told me that there were many poor people in town, and whenever someone was ill, there was no one to help. Therefore, I came up with the idea to start a Hospice for the Poor.

        I first bought fruit, berries, etc., and brought them to the rabbi's wife to be fried. She took a glass of preserves to every infirm person she visited. I then arranged that whenever someone became ill, I would send two people from opposite sides of town to keep that person company. Everyone had to participate, and even the rabbi had to hire a substitute when it was his turn to spend the night with a patient.

        I would like to mention one event that gives an idea about the activities of the Hospice for the Poor.

        On Kobrin Road there lived a poor unmarried young man, a shoemaker, who was supposed to get married on a Tuesday evening. Since he had to complete all of his orders before the wedding, he worked Saturday night after the Sabbath until very late. He found he needed a certain tool, and he went to borrow it from another shoemaker. His mother waited for him to return, and when a long time had passed, she went out to look for him.
She walked across a bridge and heard someone groaning below; the person turned out to be her son lying there in a ditch. She started screaming and people came rushing to get her son and take him home. Shimon the Doctor was called immediately in addition to three other doctors from nearby towns. All of them gave up on the boy. Only Shimon claimed that they should try to wrap him up in sackcloth soaked in cold water as a way to help save his life. Shimon asked me to send to strong men who would change the wraps on the boy every ten minutes. I sent Moshe Handeles and Berl the Blacksmith. Moshe asked Berl to get some sleep; Moshe remained awake the whole night and changed the wraps every five minutes, and the wet wraps were thus continually changed for three straight days. Thank G-d the boy recovered and later got married.

In approximately 1898, before Shammai Hershel Dinas ran away during the yontof, a cholera epidemic broke out in nearby towns. Shimon the Doctor instructed that hot water should be prepared and kept hot in tin cans, as well as tubs, for the patients because it was feared that the epidemic would spread to Drohitchin. I prepared the tin cans and tubs, and the epidemic broke out ten days later. We were prepared, however, and no one died during the epidemic.

To a certain extent, the containers were paid for by the sale of tickets during the second two-day holiday at the end of Passover sponsored by Shmuel Hirsh, a brother-in-law of Chana Resha, and Markel, a cantor, who had returned to Drohitchin from the United States. This money covered the costs of the tin cans and bathtubs.

The Hospice for the Poor also undertook another activity: since ice was needed for the patients, I hired gentiles to chop ice so that each person could take as much as he needed, and contributed as much as he could afford to a charity box. When I returned to the United States I gave the chairmanship of the Hospice to Hershel Chaim Lev, the belt-maker. The esteemed rabbi Zalman Sender provided the rules for the Hospice.

[Page 274]

        Medical Aid and Hospice for the Poor
        Drohitchin, Polesia

Receipt No.

        Received from
        For

        Sum of 25 dollars

        Twenty Five Dollars

        March 22, 1937

        Treasurer [illegible signature] [Stamp of Hospice]

        Kholozhin Rebbe requests aid for the Medical Aid Organization

        
To our dear brothers and sisters, friends and supporters of our organization Medical Aid and Hospice for the Poor who are in Chicago. February, 1932.

        Together with a report about our work in 1931, we are requesting you to become familiar with our work of last year, 1931. On behalf of the administration of the Medical Aid organization, and on behalf of all the poor and needy, weak and infirm who we support in their trying circumstances, we thank you for the $75.

        As you can see from our report, we have limited our work, and the main assistance for the ill was for providing them with medical help (such as free doctor services, prescriptions, etc.) as much as we could afford. In previous years we provided support for the ill in the hundreds of zlotys, e.g. for transportation to a doctor in a major city, for surgery, kinpetorins assistance, country houses, fish oil for sickly children, and other various situations. We were able to save many lives.

        We painfully regret that we are unable to meet the needs of many important dejected and suffering householders who approach us in their time of difficulty, and to whom we can only respond with a small amount of money. Perhaps you know that we have on our conscience the cases of a number of victims who could have recovered from their illness had we been able to help them.

        We turn to you, brothers and sisters, to request that you not abandon us as we face our awesome responsibility during these bitter times. Please help us to meet to meet the needs of your and our brethren in Drohitchin.

        We extend our thanks to you, the esteemed activists in Chicago, Mrs. Malka Warshavsky and all her colleagues for their efforts. May the Almighty make conditions better so that we can assist the needy.

        Chairman: Yosef David Schub; Treasurer: David Warshavsky; Secretary: Alter Karelitz.

        This is a note from the esteemed Kholozhin Rebbe, R. Eliyahu Mordechai Levinovitz [Editor]:

        I bless all those who participate in assisting the holy organization of our town, Medical Aid Organization. I too have their charity box for which I collect money for the organization. For G-d's sake, please do not abandon such a holy organization because if it can only maintain itself on a handful of coins, it will fail. Please accept my blessing that is offered from a heart suffering from the requests and distress of Jews. May you never know from such illnesses.

Eliyahu Mordechai Levinovitz
[his ink stamp with his name and “known as the Blacksmith of Kholozhin”]
[handwritten:] Eliyahu Mordechai Levinovitz, I ask that you read the letter in front of the congregation at the synagogue.

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