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[Page 16]

Communal Organizations During the Nineteenth Century

by Joseph Chrust

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

  1. Women's Association

    The Chevrat Nashim or Women's Organization was the oldest organization of the community and performed its benevolent work since its founding. The impetus to organize the community's women to works of charity came from Rosalie Immerwahr who called a meeting for this purpose on December 11, 1863. The meeting was chaired by Simon Schalscha who served for many years as the secretary of the organization. The minutes of that first meeting were signed by: Laura Shalscha, Rosalie Aschner, Rosel Glaser, Rosalie Immerwahr, Charlotte Rappaport, Bertha Kochmann, Sara Dzialoszynski, Rebekka Fröhlich, Anna Hammer, Anna Zernik, Rosalie Danziger, Pauline Rosenbaum, Lotte Kleeman, Jettel Ehrenhaus, Therese Silberstein, Johanna Wittner, Lene Rund, Johanna Grünfeld, Marie Rund, Friedericke Krakauer, and Livia Freudenthal.

    The transcript of the articles of organization, drafted by Simon Schalscha, includes an introduction that summarizes the goals and aspirations of the organization. Rosalie Immerwahr, Rosalie Fiedler, and Natalie Goldstein. were elected to the first Executive Committee but Laura Schalscha was added when Natalie Goldstein declined to serve. Expansion of activities of the organization, necessitated the addition of Rebekka Fröhlich to the Executive Committee in 1864.

    Expansion of the community and its changing and increasing needs necessitated changes in the statutes (last in 1891) and a reorganization of the society. Its objectives, which follow, were expanded to include services to the deceased.

    1. Support and provision for poor women, girls, widows and orphans
    2. Support and provision for poor women in confinement
    3. Support and provision for poor brides by granting subsidies for a dowry
    4. Works of charity for the deceased (to sew clothes and Taharah for deceased women).

    In 1900, the Executive Committee consisted of the following ladies: Johanna Czwiklitzer, Charlotte Altmann, Johanna Sachs, Jenni Fischer, Eleonore Königsberger, Therese Wiener, and Lina Kleeman. The following ladies were subsequently added: Handel Zernik, Rosalie Breslauer, Jeanette Münzer, Fannie Leubuscher, Bertha Borinski, Selma Ring, Anna Hammer, Flora Sachs, Tina Cohn, Therese Silberstein, Rosa Hirsch, Charlotte Fröhlich.


  1. Society for Helping the Poor

    The Society was founded in 1866 and initially was under the direction of Simon Schalscha. Its goal was to help the poor who might be too embarrassed to ask for aid. It did not last long since its activity was transferred in 1870 to the community whose budget was increased accordingly.


  2. Society for Burial and Aid to the Sick

    The Chevra Kadisha and Bikur Cholim Society was founded by Heimann Fröhlich who for many years was its chairman and Simon Schalscha, the Head of the Community. Even before the establishment of this society, the community had many dedicated members who helped the sick and buried the dead. The organization's statutes, drafted by Simon Schalscha, were approved at a community meeting on October 5, 1868. The first paragraph describes its objectives:

    “The function of the Chevra Kadisha and Bikur Cholim Society is to visit the sick and deceased Jews; not to abandon the dying in their last hours; and, if death comes, to perform the necessary Jewish ceremonies (Taharoth and Kevura) and burial. In addition, the society will take on the responsibility of providing medications and nursing care for the poor who are sick”.


    kat017.jpg The synagogue in Katowice up until 1900 [36 KB]
    The synagogue in Katowice up until 1900


    According to the first statutes there were originally active and inactive members since not everyone was suited to provide bedside services to the sick. In 1874, the objectives of the society were expanded to include support and care for poor and sick Jews who were transients in the town. In addition, the difference between active and inactive members was eliminated and the society engaged a physician to provide care for the poor. The regulations were once again changed in 1891 and gave the sick freedom to choose a physician.

    The first executive committee consisted of: Heimann Fröhlich, Julius Breslauer, Louis Knopf, Löbel Zernik, Julius Ring. In 1900 the Executive Committee consisted of Leopold Altmann, Jakob Kochmann, Louis Bock, Moritz Katschinsky, Jakob Wiener, Julius Goldmann, Michael Abraham and Fritz Staub. The Chairmen were Heimann Fröhlich (1868-1886); Louis Knopf (1886-1890); Salomon Königsberger (1890-1898); Leopold Altmann (1898-?).


  3. Benevolent Society

    The Benevolent Society (Chevrat Gemilut Hasadim) was founded because the community wanted to enable poor children to attend the newly opened high school. It was established on November 11, 1871 at a meeting called for that purpose by Simon Schalscha, Isidor Sachs, and Daniel Timendorfer.

    According to the regulations of 1874 and 1889, the Society dedicated itself to the support of needy young people and to promote their scientific, vocational, and technical education. The Society extended its support and help to tradesmen and to non-Jewish children. The first Executive Committee consisted of : Simon Schalscha, Heimann Fröhlich, Daniel Timendorfer, Isidor Sachs, Salomon Königsberger, Ignatz Grünfeld, and Max Weichmann.

    Even though the Society evoked great sympathy in the community, a number of changes adversely influenced its effectiveness. A decline in membership from 101 in 1873, to 48 in 1880, caused its expenses to exceed its income and forced it to restrict its grants of support. The reason for this phenomenon, not typical of any other society in the community, resulted from the fact that in its early years the society was also used as a center for recreational activities. This secondary goal, which was supposed to bring the members closer to each other and to increase the society's income, attracted a large number of young people, mainly from the merchant class, who were transients in the city. In 1874 a portable stage with all necessary accessories, was built by a voluntary subscription of 200 shares of stock at 1 Thaler. At that time this was the only such stage in Katowice and it was rented out to other organizations. The stocks were redeemed from the income of the rental.

    With growth and development of the city and the building of a number of theaters/halls, the portable stage became superfluous and no longer filled a need. As a result, the Society diminished its activities to its original purpose, namely charitable deeds. The decline was stemmed and by 1900, there were 140 members. In 1896, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, it appeared that the society had not lost its popularity in the community and it then included craftsmen, merchants, and many educated people who were quite prosperous. At this time the executive included Heimann Fröhlich, the lawyer Epstein, Rabbi Dr. Cohn, Louis Bock, Simon Friedländer, Herman Fischer, Josef Altmann.


  4. Society for Jewish Education

    In October 1873 (Marcheshwan 5633) Rabbi Dr. Jakob Cohn urged the community in a letter to establish an organization (Chevrat Talmud Torah) that would raise the educational level in Jewish history, literature, and, above all, the practice of Judaism. In the early years, at meetings of the society Rabbi Dr. Cohn lectured on “The Kuzari” by Yehudah Halevi or “Chayei Adam”. Later, the topics included Torah readings of the week with commentaries of Rashi, selections from the “Hayad Hachazaka” by Maimonides, or selections from the Mishna. Sessions were also given by Salomon Wiener.




  5. kat018.jpg The Great Synagogue that was erected in 1900 and was burnt down by the Nazis in 1939 [30 KB]
    The Great Synagogue that was erected in 1900 and was burnt down by the Nazis in 1939



  6. Society for the Support of the Poor

    In September, 1888 Max Fröhlich, Heinrich Kleemann, Adolf Löbinger, Julius Nothmann and Rabbi Dr. Cohn established a temporary committee to develop an organization that would concern itself with the needs of transients. Its central goal was to eliminate the ugly and onerous door-to-door begging by the poor from Poland and Galicia. The need for such an organization (Chevrath Machzikei Evyonim) was evidenced by the fact that 170 members joined immediately. This organization, which obtained an annual budget of 1500 Marks from the community, carried out a very beneficial function. Most of those who turned to it for help came from nearby Poland and Galicia where there was high unemployment, overcrowding, and extreme poverty.

    The organization grew very rapidly. In 1889, 1,127 people were given aid; in 1895 the number was 1,591; and in 1899 it was 2,225. In 1900, the organization spent 3,809.25 Marks for direct support of the poor.

    In 1900, the Executive Committee included Rabbi Dr. Cohn, Louis Bock, Jacob Kochmann, Simon Friedländer, Julius Nothmann, and Michael Abraham.


  7. Young Women's Society

    This was the youngest of the Jewish communal organizations in Katowice at the end of the last century. It was established on January 18, 1892. A temporary committee of Mesdames Lucie Grünfeld, Rosa Bornstein, Getrud Sachs, Jenny Löbinger, and Ella Scholtz convened a meeting in which approximately 100 ladies participated. After Rabbi Dr. Cohn explained the goals of the society, all those present decided to join. The objectives of the society were:

    1. To provide poor children in the community with clothing.
    2. To provide the poor of the community support or the food itself for holidays.
    3. To provide for poor brides.

    The Society was administered by a committee of six members and two alternates. It was aided by a board of three married men and the Rabbi who was the patron of the organization.


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