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Appendix

[Page 539]

Former Residents of Sierpc in Israel

by I.M. Sidroni (Sendrowicz)

Translated by Alex Weingarten

 

A. The Earliest

Sierpc Jews took part in all the Aliyot[1] to the Land of Israel, except for the First Aliyah.

The following young men from Sierpc came with the Second Aliyah (1904-1914): David Bornstein, Akiva Glazer, Yitzhak Kahana (who was called “Kana,” originally from Plonsk), Yitzhak Oren (Aaron) Liebson, Yitzhak Karpa (Itche Karp), and Shmuel Szampan

However, the Land of Israel was then desolate and wilderness, and it was a constant battle to attain the minimum conditions for existence. Most of the immigrants of the Second Aliyah did not make it, and left the country. Among those that left were five of the six immigrants from Sierpc. The only one that remained was David Bornstein. (Itche Karp returned a few years ago.)

David Bornstein (1870-1944) was one of the founders of the first moshav[2] in the land, Ein-Ganim (1907-08). He was an advocate of Jewish labor and of Hebrew as an everyday language for all of his life. He championed manual labor and farming, and was contemptuous of all those who, in that period, abandoned the land and looked for easier occupations, or left the country. He himself was a model of the “new Jew” in the renewed homeland. He was the first and a leader everywhere, whether in guarding the moshav, or on its council. He never asked anyone to do anything that he would not do himself. Even when he was more than 70, he worked his land by himself; he tilled the earth with his hoe and irrigated his orchard. Until his last day, he did the same things that he asked of others.

One morning, when he was 74, he was found unconscious in his barn, on his milking stool. His head was resting on the cow's stomach, and the milk was overflowing from the milking pail. He never recovered consciousness and died in his house in Ein-Ganim… May his memory be blessed.

In 1908, during the period of the Second Aliyah, Chayim Nachum Tobol visited the land of Israel. He was among the first of the Hovevei Zion[3] in Sierpc.

*

Between the Second Aliyah and the Third Aliyah, during World War One, the following four young men from Sierpc immigrated to the Land of Israel: David Lieberman, Noatak Lerer, Chayim Pindek and Shmuel Rosen. They emigrated from America as volunteers in the Jewish Legion[4] at the beginning of 1918. Their unit, the volunteer unit from America, was called “the 39th King's Sharpshooters.” It fought alongside other units of the English army, and freed Palestine from the Turks.

Some of the soldiers of the Jewish Legion left Palestine at the end of the war. Some others, Zionists that wanted to remain to protect the Jewish settlement, left after the disbandment of the Jewish Legion by the English government. This was a punishment for their participation in the defense of the Jews of Jaffa in the bloody clashes with the Arabs on May 1, 1921. Only a few of the volunteers remained in the country, and among them was the Sierpc volunteer, David Lieberman.

*

The first of the immigrants from Sierpc during the Third Aliyah (1919-1923) was Avraham Freed (Yerushalmi), who came, together with his wife Sarah (daughter of Eliezer Wesolek) and their three children at the beginning of 1921. They “managed” to get a taste, soon after they arrived, of the bloody clashes of the first of May in that year. The others that came during the Third Aliyah were Avraham Zajdemark and Yaakov Meir Neiman (the latter returned to Sierpc).

*

Thus the links from Aliyah to Aliyah continued and grew longer and stronger, until the day when the number of former residents of Sierpc in Israel grew to 215 families; thus may they multiply.

In those days there was no organization of Sierpcers, nor was there need for one. The modest home of Avraham and Sarah Yerushalmi was open to all the people of our town and also to the former residents of the surrounding towns (who were almost all bachelors), and they shared their meager pieces of bread with all their guests. If someone needed a reference, he would get it from Avraham Yerushalmi; if someone needed a guarantor for a loan, Avraham Yerushalmi would be it (and in many instances, also the payer).

In a few cases, there were organized activities by all or some of the Sierpcers. In the intermediate days of Sukkoth in the year 5695 (1934) there was a meeting of all the Sierpcers in Avraham Yerushalmi's house in honor of two guests from Sierpc, Yossel Blachman and Yeshayahu Friedman, who were visiting the Land of Israel.

To mark Avraham Yerushalmi's 60th birthday and 25 years since his aliyah, in the year 5705 (1945), he was registered in the Gold Book of the Keren Kayemet.[5]

The newspaper Davar that appeared on 23 Sivan 5705 (June 4, 1945) wrote: “The certificate of registry in the Gold Book of Keren Kayemet was presented by a group of friends and admirers to Avraham Yerushalmi, a dedicated veteran Zionist activist from Sierpc, Poland, upon his reaching the age of 60 and 25 years since his aliyah to the Land of Israel.”

***

A tragedy overtook the Sierpcers in Palestine when Shmerel (Shmaryahu) Hazan drowned in the sea near Tel-Aviv.

Shmerel Hazan left Sierpc in 1919. He stayed for a time in Danzig and Berlin, and later traveled to America. He arrived in Palestine in 1925. He worked in various places at various jobs (for a while he worked together with a partner as a carter) and often he was unemployed. He heard of an opportunity to find work in Haifa, and he went to the “Office” (the employment office of the Histadrut[6] was in the “Red House” on the seashore of Tel-Aviv) to ask for two or three days work to pay his expenses for the trip. When he was in the “Office,” he heard screaming that people were drowning in the sea. Shmerel ran to rescue those that were drowning. This happened on the 25th of Tamuz, 5686 (1926).

In Sivan, 5702 (1942), a headstone was erected over his grave in the old cemetery by the “Zion” committee (a Histadrut committee for erecting headstones on the graves of workers and anonymous shomrim[7]). This was done with the participation of the community council and some of the former residents of Sierpc, and in their presence.

 

B. “The Sierpc Townspeople in Israel Organization”

There were no organizations of townspeople (landsmanshaften) in Israel until World War Two. There were associations of expatriates from different countries, but the well-organized Yishuv[8], which gloried in its Zionist ideology, did not especially approve of these associations. The organized Yishuv considered these associations a diaspora phenomenon, something that reinforced the differences within the Jewish people and prevented a union of the exiles.

During the War, when details of the horrible Holocaust of the European Jews became known, groups of townspeople from various towns started to organize. The purpose was to be ready to render aid, when the war would hopefully end, to the survivors. The former residents of Sierpc in Palestine, who were few in number, also became organized.

The activities leading to the organization of the Sierpc townspeople began in the year 5704 (1944).

The meeting of the Sierpcers in Palestine took place on the second intermediate day of Sukkot in 5705 (October 5, 1944). The meeting confirmed the resolutions of a preliminary meeting and elected the members of the interim committee as members of the executive committee of “Association of Sierpc Townspeople in the Land of Israel.” In addition it was decided that all those present would each contribute one [Palestine] pound, in addition to the six pounds to be contributed by each member during the course of the year. This would go to the “Aid Fund of Sierpc Townspeople in the Land of Israel” that would be used to assist Sierpc refugees anywhere in the world.

In the first meeting of the committee, Avraham Yerushalmi and Zvi Algavish (Crystal) were elected chairman and secretary respectively.

*

The Second World War ended on May 8, 1945. New immigrants started coming to Palestine, the survivors who had been saved from the great destruction. They came in a number of ways - both “kosher” and “non-kosher” (according to the laws of the [British] Mandatory Government). Many were captured and interned in Cyprus. There were residents of Sierpc among both those that managed to get into Palestine and those that didn't. It was necessary to help them to become accustomed to the life in the new land.

The activities of the Gmilat Hasidim[9] fund of the “Association of Sierpc Townspeople in the Land of Israel” began during this period. The fund's capital was composed of money received from Sierpc townspeople in America (the major portion), and money collected from Sierpc townspeople in Palestine (the smaller portion). The aid was distributed as loans (without interest, of course) with easy conditions for repayment.

But the loans were considered grants by many of the immigrants, and the money was never repaid. The state of the fund worsened, until its activities were stopped altogether.

After many misgivings and much hesitation, the activities of the fund were renewed. The new committee started to collect money from the association members in Palestine.

During a visit by Sierpc townspeople from Mexico, various sums were contributed to the Gmilat Hasidim fund, thereby allowing it to continue with its undertakings.

***

At the end of the war, the townspeople's organizations started to arrange for memorial meetings for the martyrs on the anniversaries of the destruction of their communities. The large organizations started first, and the smaller, less active ones, followed suit.

This custom became accepted in the country, and the organizations held memorial meetings every year for their martyrs.

Before the memorial service, there was an open meeting of the townspeople, who had not seen each other for a year, or for years. After the memorial service, there was usually a regular meeting of the organization. The agenda consisted of a report of the activities, discussions, and election of the committee.

The first memorial meeting for the martyrs of our town was held by the “Association of Sierpc Townspeople” on Monday, 26th of Heshvan 5711 (November 6, 1950), the anniversary of the day of deportation of the Jews of Sierpc, the 26th of Heshvan. Since then, the memorial meeting is held every year on the anniversary of the deportation. (The date of the deportation was selected as the day for the memorial service by the Sierpc survivors when they were in the refugee camps in Germany.) The members meet prior to the memorial service, and afterwards hold a regular meeting, and elect the committee.

*

In addition to the above meetings, a number of meetings were held in honor of former residents of Sierpc from the United States, Argentina, and Mexico, who were visiting Israel.

*

In addition, the “Association” held two meetings in honor of two important members, who were dedicated activists in Israel and abroad, upon their reaching 70 years of age. These were Avraham Yerushalmi Fried, on the 20th of Tammuz, 5715 (July 10, 1955), and Avraham Ben-David Mlawa of blessed memory, on the 1st of Tammuz, 5716 (June 10, 1956).

***

Many Jews living in Israel and the diaspora, including the survivors, have felt that the various annual memorial meetings were not enough to remember the millions who were lost. The nation looked for a way to commemorate the millions of sacrifices that would be appropriate to the enormity of the extent of disaster and the loss.

Thus was born the idea to erect a monument that is fitting for the People of the Book - a monument in the form of a book. There would be a book for each city and town whose Jews were tortured and destroyed by the oppressor. The book would be written by the Jews of the town, about their lives in the past, their struggles in the years before the Holocaust, their torments during the Holocaust, up to the moments of their death. The idea spread to all of the Diaspora, and found enthusiastic support among all classes of people. Intense activity began, gathering historical material, writing memoirs, descriptions of ways of life, and collecting testimony about the Holocaust. Considering all the difficulties in realizing this mission - from both the cultural-spiritual and technical and financial perspectives - about 150 “Yizkor” books have already been published in Israel, the United States, and Argentina.

The “Sierpc Townspeople in Israel Organization” began its work on a Yizkor Book for the martyrs of our town. The first circular on this topic appeared in the month of Nisan, 5712 (April 1952).[10]

The comrades who were preparing the book ran into many difficulties. It turned out that it was not simple to create something where there was nothing, to publish a book by people who were not writers, without sources and historical records about Jewish life in the town in the past, and without documents and data about Jewish life in the town more recently. The book was written with the hard work and devotion of a number of friends in Israel, with the help of a number of comrades who are Sierpc townspeople living in the United States. We are also very thankful to three friends, who to their great credit, contributed to the financing of the book. These are Avraham Ben-David (Mlawa), Yitzhak Oren (Ahron) Liebson, and Mordecai (Max) Sina.

The preparation of this book took seven years full of great effort, persistence, and patience.

*

At the end of this article on the townspeople of Sierpc in Israel, we must remember our townsman Isser Czeslak (Asher Ben-Mordecai). He fell in battle in the Israeli War of Independence, in the north of the country, near Kibbutz Daphne, on the 10th day of Tamuz, 5708 (July 17, 1948). He was 28 years old.

In the “Yizkor” Book published by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, page 117, it states:

“Asher Ben-Mordecai was born in 1920 in the town of Sierpc, in Poland. His father was Mordecai, and he called himself by his father's name after he survived the desolation of the diaspora. He was the son of pious parents who were merchants. He was at first schooled at home, and then continued his education in the Hebrew school, “Tarbuth,” and joined Poale Zion, Left[11] when he became older. When World War Two broke out, he went with other refugees to Russia. He joined the Polish Army in Exile when it was formed, and with it reached Palestine in 1944. He lived for a while in Kibbutz Beit HaArava, and later moved to Tel-Aviv, and was a construction worker.

“When the War of Independence broke out, he enlisted immediately. In July, 1948, he came with his company to Tel-Aziziat, which is near Daphne in the Upper Galilee. He was slightly wounded, and was sent to recuperate. But he would not rest until he was returned to his place on the Northern Front, where he fell on July 17, 1948. He was buried in She'ar Yashuv - Dan. On March 3, 1950, he was reburied in the military cemetery in Haifa. He was the last surviving member of a family of seven souls who were exterminated in the great Holocaust. He sanctified the name of his people in the homeland.”


Footnotes

[The following is a list of endnotes. The translator's endnotes are inside of square [] brackets to indicate that they are not part of the original text; the footnotes that were part of the original text are listed here as endnotes, without the square brackets.]

  1. [Aliyah (pl. Aliyot) is the Hebrew term for the various cycles of Zionist immigration to Palestine. These are denoted as First Aliyah, Second Aliyah, etc.] Return
  2. [A moshav is a cooperative agricultural community where the members own and work their own land.] Return
  3. [Hovevei Zion - literally “Lovers of Zion” was a forerunner of the Zionist movement.] Return
  4. [A Jewish volunteer group that fought in the British army during the First World War.] Return
  5. [Jewish National Fund, an organization dedicated to purchasing land and planting trees in Palestine.] Return
  6. [The Jewish labor union] Return
  7. [Members (literally - guards) of the first Jewish self-defense groups in Palestine.] Return
  8. [Literally - settlement; the term applied to the unofficial authority of the well-organized Jewish population living under the British Mandate government in Palestine.] Return
  9. [Beneficial Fund] Return
  10. In the years 1947-1948, there were four pamphlets published to the memory of the martyrs of Sierpc. Two pamphlets were issued by the Sierpc Holocaust survivors in Germany. One was called “The Destruction of Sierpc” (printed in Latin letters), and the second was titled “An Anthology of Sierpcer Survivors.” Two pamphlets were issued by the Sierpc townspeople in America. One was called “Yizkor;” the second did not have a name. These pamphlets give an account of the suffering of the Jews in Sierpc until the deportation, a description of the expulsion, and the torments in the death and labor camps. Return
  11. [A Zionist-Socialist Organization.] Return


 

[Page 543]

“Mister United Sierpc Relief”[1]

by Yehuda Leib Mintz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

When one discusses or writes about Sierpcer Jews, their life and economic creativity, their societal and cultural activities, the four Sierpc Landsmanschaft organizations in New York play a very important role. These are the old Sierpcer Gemilut Chasadim, the Independent Sierpc Young Men, its ladies' division called the Sierpcer Ladies Auxiliary, and the Sierpc Branch 42 of the Jewish National Workers Union.

Each of those organizations had its own role in various realms of Jewish societal life in America, as well as in Europe, the Land of Israel, and, of late, the State of Israel.

The most noble of their activities, as well as the most prominent, was the founding of the United Sierpc Relief - the Sierpc help organization that was created by all four organizations with the goal of assisting Sierpc natives wherever they are found, whether in Sierpc itself (before the great misfortune of Hitler, may his name be blotted out), in the countries where the bitter fate had brought them, or in their new home in the Land of Israel.

It is natural that in a book about Sierpc, mention must be made of that united organization - the United Sierpc Relief Organization. Its founders included Mordechai Tzvi Mintz of blessed memory - the Sierpc teacher who educated a generation of Zionists and Hebraists in the town and continued his teaching work in America; Shlomo Loeb (Lobashka) of blessed memory, who belonged to the Zionist workers' camp both in Sierpc and in New York, and, together with his late wife Pesha, spent all of his years involved in charitable activities; and Yaakov Sand of blessed memory a long-time member and leader of the Sierpc Young Men's Organization.

It is obvious that in order to function properly, an organization must have workers - people who are willing to dedicate their time and energy to the goals of raising the necessary financial means, maintaining contact with the needy people and distributing the assistance to those in need. To move forward, the activists required the driving force that would propel the organization forward. That driving force was no longer a physical driving force alone - let us say an electric motor that would be set in motion once and continue to go. The driving force that was needed for this type of relief work must be spiritual - a driving force that springs forth from the depths of the soul of the individual personalities who possessed warm hearts and fine senses of sensitivity to the ideal goal for which the help organization was created.

The United Sierpc Relief Committee had the fortune of having that very internal drive embodied in the personality of Mr. Max Sina - a long time member and activist in the Sierpc Young Men's

[Page 544]

Organization. A book about Sierpc and its Jews would simply be imperfect if it failed to mention Max Sina and his good deeds amongst us. Standing near to him in our joint work - I as the financial secretary and my wife Rashe and Mordechai Rzejszokto as corresponding secretaries of the Sierpc Relief, of which Max Sina was the president - we often admired his singular deep dedication to the work for the Sierpcers. For him, the word “Sierpcer” was a magic word that instilled a life spirit - a soul - in him, an inspiration that reflected off of him and influenced those with whom he worked together.

When a Sierpcer requested assistance, or if he merely heard that there was someone who required assistance, Mr. Sina would immediately feel a great sense of responsibility and would strive to help without any additional clarification of qualifications - the word “Sierpcer” was already a sufficient qualification. This was just like the word “Jew” to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Berditchever[2] of blessed memory, for whom he would always serve a righteous intercessor before the Master of the Universe. Can one ask a mother about the qualifications, or positive and negative traits of her child? It is her child - she loves him - and that is all. That was the very relationship that Max Sina had with his dispersed Sierpc fellow natives, wherever they might be found. With him, there was no cause for doubts. If he took something on, if he set off on a designated path to help his fellow natives, there would never be a case of “return us back” - always forward, forward, and never back.

It seems that Max Sina himself had for a long time not been vigorous and healthy. However, he displayed exceptional strength when it came to his beloved relief work for Sierpcers. I can never forget the warm evenings and nights that we spent in the basement of my house in Brooklyn sorting the clothing and food to make packages to send to the Sierpcer refugees in France, Italy, France, the Land of Israel, and Africa. He himself was a capable man who could have permitted himself some personal comforts after a hard workday in New York. Instead of traveling for a weekend to his summer home by the sea to cool off and rest, he came to our house where everything was collected and undertook the work that was holy to him. If it was too late to go home, he would spend the night with us and wake up very early in the morning to catch the train to go home. He never complained about others who were not as willing as he was to work. He carried out his holy duty that certainly brought him spiritual enjoyment.

When it was decided to undertake the activity for the Sierpcer Relief, for various reasons of which here is not the place to write, Max Sina was conducting a “Sierpcer Relief” on a small scale by himself. He obtained money, of course putting in no small amount of his own cash, and sent it to where he thought there was the need.

When the first refugees from Germany began to arrive in America, he himself conducted the individual assistance

[Page 545]

activity for them. He found work for those he could, and if it there was the need, he would take them into his own shop. They learned the trade of sewing on the machine, and then they were employed by him or by someone else. On many occasions, he spent entire evenings with the students in the shop, in order to avoid a meeting with his partner or with the Workers Union. When it was possible, one of the new arrivals would find a paternal accommodation at Mr. Sina's house during his first days in New York, and receive warm maternal treatment from his prominent wife.

When at last the undertaking of creating a Yizkor Book to perpetuate the memories of the martyrs of Sierpc came to the fore though the initiative of our fellow natives in Israel, and a leading hand was needed in order to turn to the fellow natives in America for financial assistance as well as to collect written material and documents or data from historical works, Max Sina took upon himself the mission to conduct this work and to do everything that was needed, to make it possible for our fellow natives in Tel Aviv to do their work. Due to his poor state of health, he had already retired from his private business. On account of his weakness on his feet and his poor vision, and after several serious operations including on the eyes, he suffered from several serious accidents that caused him no small amount of additional physical suffering. However, none of this held him back from continuing with the work. He continued to connect with everyone by telephone, to call meetings at his home, and to do everything that he could do to help actualize the Sierpc Yizkor Book, which had lately become his purpose in life.

That intensive dedication to his work to help the Sierpcers had its influence upon those surrounding him, so that it was almost impossible to refuse his requests to become involved and do work, even in cases where one was not in complete agreement with him. There was something about the dedication of Max Sina that stood higher than any cold reckoning and accounting.

That characteristic of Max Sina shone like a ray of light through all the years of our mutual work for the Sierpcer Relief until his final undertaking to create the Sierpc Yizkor Book - and from that stems our respect for Mr. Max Sina, “Mr. United Sierpc Relief.”

Unfortunately, he did not merit in seeing the Sierpc Yizkor Book. He passed away on May 20, 1959, corresponding to the 12th of Iyar, 5719. May his memory be a blessing!


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The title of this article is slightly different than the title as listed in the table of contents. Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levi_Yitzchok_of_Berditchev. Return


 

[Page 546]

Independent Sierpcer Young Men's Benevolent Association

by Yehuda Leib Mintz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(Sierpcer Society)

The Sierpcer Society, whose official name is the Independent Sierpcer Young Men's Benevolent Association, has now celebrated the 50th year jubilee of its existence. This is certainly an appropriate opportunity to tell – albeit in a restricted manner – the important details of its founding and development.

It is obvious that the founding of the society dates back to the epoch of Jewish immigration during the early years of the 20th century, when large masses of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe built a new home for themselves. The largest number of arrivals to the New York harbor arrived alone, without relatives, and with a haunting longing for familiar surroundings. The downtrodden, lonely people in a wild, strange city, among strange people, with a strange language, without assurances for the next day, searched for a homey corner with familiar people with whom they could talk from the heart and seek advice. People who came from the same city would seek out one another, and would become close to each other with joy in their hearts. That is how groups of people from a single city were created and later grew into organized associations known as landsmanschaft societies.

During that time, many Sierpcers left their hometown due to economic or political reasons, arriving here in the new, free America.

The homey corner for the Sierpcer natives was the house of a fellow townsman, Yitzchak Nathan Sina of blessed memory. In that homey corner, the idea of founding a Sierpcer Association was born. There, the Sierpcers discussed together and decided that it was already time for the Siercper natives to organize into an association.

They talked and they carried it out. On a fine day, May 13, 1906, the group of Siercper natives gathered at the home of their comrade, Simon Rosenfeld, and organized an association. The association was given the name: Independent Sierpcer Young Men's Benevolent Association.

The organizers and founders consisted of the following people: the two brothers David and Joe (Yosef) Shlakman; the two brother Nathan and Philip (Nasan and Pesach) Leit, David Cohen, Moe (Moshe) Lerer, Kalman Zabitsky, Simon Rosenfeld, Julius Rosen, Abe Rosen, Victor Waldstein and Max Sina.

The goals of the founding of the association were as follows:

    1. To relieve the need of its members in the event of illness.
    2. To ensure cemetery facilities after 120 years[1].
    3. In general, to help a comrade in a time of need.
    4. Over and above all else, benevolence at all times – brotherly dedication and love.
That is how at the first, small meeting on May 13, 1906, in the home of

[Page 547]

the comrade Simon Rosenfeld, the cornerstone of the Independent Sierpcer Young Men's Benevolent Association was laid, and its growth and development began.

From that time on, regular meetings were held with regular dues of ten cents a week.

At the meetings, they mainly discussed how to solicit new members and how to create a treasury. Indeed, the first steps of the builders of the society were difficult. Only those people who are more or less familiar with the conditions of those years can properly appreciate the work of our pioneers.

A little later, with the arrival of more immigrants, the society grew much larger and stronger, both in terms of number of members and finances. It also increased its activities in the area of timely help for the members and by supporting certain social institutions within the Jewish community. The latter brought it recognition and visibility in Jewish societal life.

The society enhanced its activity between the years 1908 and 1912. In 1908, the society introduced its charter, which turned it into an organization recognized on a civic level. During that year, several active members joined, such as Hymie Silverman, Emanuel Rosenberg, Harry Kaplan, and Max Rosen – people with a great deal of experience and a broad view on life. They soon became very involved with the work of the society. Also that year, the society signed up as a member of the United Hebrew Charities and of the Russian-Polish Union, with specific annual payments.

The financial situation improved somewhat, and in 1909, the society began paying weekly benefits to its ill members. In that year, the society also purchased a cemetery area for the sum of 3,000 dollars.

During those years, a loan relief fund (Gemilat Chasadim Fund) was founded to lend a specific sum of money to a member in the case of need. During those years (1900-1910) the society also broadened its support for many external organizations. It should also be noted that during those years, many strikes took place in the various trades. Not only did the society not demand membership dues from the members who were on strike, but it even helped such members with weekly support until the end of the strike. With more incoming activists who had a strong and positive effect on the functioning of the society, it also became involved with impulsive activity – until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

During the war years, the society excelled with great vitality and efforts to send relief assistance to the suffering brothers and sisters in the native town of Sierpc. The leaders of the society set up a Sierpc assistance fund (Relief) from among their fellow townsfolk, and through their initiatives, they

[Page 548]

also involved many Sierpc natives from outside the society. The chairman of Relief was brother Victor Waldstein and the treasurer was Yaakov Zand of blessed memory. The Relief collected large sums of money, from which the society paid out significant sums on several occasions. In this manner, several thousands of dollars were collected, which were sent to Sierpc immediately after the war. The various institutions in Sierpc, including the fund, the Talmud Torah, the Bikur Cholim, and others were helped from this money. A maot chittin committee[2] was also formed through the initiative of the leaders of the society. Before Passover every year, the committee collected money for Sierpc. The society members Yaakov and Chana Zand of blessed memory, and for many years Fishel Wallerstein, Hennie Rachel Fer, and the Kamer brothers and their wives were active in the committee. Tzvia Wallerstein of blessed memory was also active in the committee.

The year 1921 was also an important time in the activities of the society. In that year, the wives of our members, with the help of several active members of the society, founded the Sierpcer Ladies Auxiliary. Quickly after its founding, the Sierpcer women's organization displayed great energy in its good and necessary work. It helped our society a great deal in its important undertakings and helped greatly with the Sierpc relief effort. It was very active in the maot chittin committee and in other important assistance efforts. In this manner, the society, with the help of the Ladies Auxiliary, continued with its activities until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

Naturally, with the outbreak of the Second World War, the entire assistance work for Sierpc was temporarily interrupted. At the same time, they did not sit with folded arms, but rather planned, and they collected money for a major assistance fund in order to be ready for the fortunate day when normal contact with our beloved and dear ones in Sierpc could be restored. When the war ended, and the great misfortune of our people was revealed, and we found out what the bestial Germans did to our dear ones, we began, with weeping hearts, to concentrate our efforts on those few who miraculously survived the great misfortune. The Sierpc Relief was quickly reorganized thanks to the initiative of the active members of the society together with the Ladies Auxiliary and the Sierpc branch of the Jewish National Workers Farband. This quickly enabled us to send help in the form of cash, food packages, clothing and other assistance to the survivors who were spread out in many countries in Europe and Israel. From the society, the members Max Sina, Philip Walerstein, Max Apelbaum, and Morris Kamer were very active. From the Ladies Auxiliary, Mrs. Kamer and Mrs. Rivka Arpa were very active in the Sierpc relief effort.

At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, the society, with the help of the women's organization, collected and sent several thousands of dollars for the building of houses for the newly arrived immigrants. Also, since the establishment of

[Page 549]

the State, it purchased many thousands of dollars of Israel bonds and also supported the Histadrut with several thousand dollars. It also supported annually the Histadrut, the Jewish National Fund, and the United Jewish Appeal.

Since its founding, the society always stood at a high level in the realm of charitable assistance, despite the fact that it was established on the foundation of mutual benefit and was responsible for assisting its own members. It always supported various charitable causes and Jewish institutions. The society joined and supported with an annual stipend such organizations as the United Jewish Appeal, HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), the Jewish Congress, the Denver Sanatorium, the Deborah Sanatorium[3], ORT, the Federation of Jewish Charities, nurseries, orphanages, and many other social organizations.

The record of the Sierpc society during its 50 years of existence was very rich and active. We have celebrated the jubilee of the organization with joy. Unfortunately, many of the founders and active members are no longer with us, and we remember them with honor. Let us hope that all the members and their families will be with us for many long years.


 

[Page 549]

The Sierpc Branch of the 42nd Jewish National Workers Farband [Union]
Its Founding and Activities

by Levi Kalisky

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Perhaps it is not always necessary to repeat the generally known fact that the history of the past 40 years cannot be compared to other 40-year periods. The last 40 years are equivalent to many hundreds of years in light of the political and social changes. It is very true that reading or writing in the spirit of our times about the activities of an organization that lived and persevered over the last 40 years should serve as a guidepost for the evaluation of our organization, its goals and its founding.

What is the purpose for which a group of Sierpc natives organized themselves under the name of the Sierpc Branch of the Jewish National Workers Farband? What were their ideals?

When the branch was founded, the Sierpc landsmanschaft in New York already consisted of two established organizations or, as we call them here in America, societies. The older one was the Sierpc Charitable Organization [Sierpc Chevra Gemilut Chasadim] and the younger, larger, and more progressive one was the Independent Sierpcer Young Men's Benevolent Association. Like all such societies or unions organized by the landsmanschafts of every city and town from the old home, it concerned itself with providing its members with assistance in the event of illness or

[Page 550]

other cases of need, as well as cemetery plots after 120 years [1]. For the most part, the members were newly arrived immigrants who got together frequently and lived as an intimate family.

Despite the fact that those societies did not claim to have any ideas of a more general scope, but rather were involved solely with their own local interests, they had a great moral influence upon their members, as many of the newly arrived immigrants gathered together at their meeting places. At the meetings, the new arrivals from the old home found their relatives and previous friends and felt the warmth that they so greatly needed. During those years, those landsmanschaft organizations served as warm nests, and often as sources of direction for the “green” nostalgic natives of the towns. The intellectual lives of the members were marked by hot discussions at the assemblies, and by joyous events at various occasions. The discussions, which were mainly focused on the question of mutual assistance for a sick or needy “brother,” were conducted in accordance with the strict principles of the constitution of the society. If the chairman of the meeting was not expert on all the opinions, he must at least be knowledgeable in parliamentary procedure and clear about the constitution of the society. The meetings of the Sierpc Young Men's Society often included discussions on trade unionism or heated civic or national election campaigns. It was the good fortune of the Sierpc society that some of its leaders were active in their union locals and members in the Socialist Party. Incidentally, not all of the leaders were Sierpc natives. The so-called “intellectual atmosphere of the meetings of the Sierpc Young Men's Society was strongly influenced by the Socialist cosmopolitan motives of the celebrations and recreational activities. The annual ball was conducted in the fashion of all the societies. The annual ball of the Sierpc Young Men's Society was a major event for all the natives of Sierpc and the surrounding area. The Sierpc ball was conducted with great pomp and circumstance. For the natives, it served as a manifestation of the glorious existence of the Sierpc Independent Young Men's Benevolent Association.

However, not all of the newly arrived town natives remained under the tent of the societies. Some of them, who had already become a bit “oysgegrint[4], became lost and left for the broader circles that were involved with different types of “Americanisms.” Many of those who left became completely estranged from the groups of fellow townsfolk. As well, many left the societies, because they had already raised their levels of factional awareness above that of the old country, where they did not find sufficient spiritual freedom. Even though the Sierpcer Young Men's Society was one of the strongest and most enthusiastic of the societies in those years, with a membership solely of young, energetic people, there too, a group of their young members were no longer satisfied.

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This was a group of newly arrived young people, the majority of whom were in their early twenties. A few who were older had already been influenced by the Poale Zion ideology already in the old country, whereas the younger ones had not yet experienced programs of a political Socialist orientation. With youthful curiosity, they searched for “ways” to live in a more charming manner than could be found in the meetings of the Sierpcer Young Men's Society. The discussions about the general problems of the society did not interest the new, young members at all. They regarded as obnoxious the long, elaborate debates over the often repeated questions that were typically important at the society meetings such as cemeteries. In order to live in a cultural fashion more appropriate to their spiritual needs, they founded a club, while simultaneously maintaining membership in the Sierpcer Young Men's Society. The club was named the Sierpcer Social and Educational Club.

The founding of a separate club by the young “rebels” aroused a strong discontent within the society. In truth, there was already strong tension between the leaders of the Young Men's and the “group” from before. The youthful stubbornness of the young group who refused to adapt to the leadership of the society often provoked debates at meetings, and embittered the mood of the officers and leaders. In this manner, the “group” had already obtained a nickname – “the new generation.” The nickname would be pronounced with no small amount of derision. The strong tension grew even stronger with the founding of the club. Those who set themselves up in a separate organization eventually established the houses of the two separate camps, each with different tendencies, under a single roof. The signs of a full scale rift were evident, and within a short time from the founding of the club, the “group” separated from the Sierpc Young Mens'.

The members of the club, now without a connection to the Sierpcer Young Mens', intensified their activities, and increased the number of members. They arranged lectures and entertainment events with greater frequency than previously. They carried on with their activities until the sounds of the relatively new national Jewish organization reached their ears and found its way into their hearts.

With the appeal of the Jewish National Workers Farband, a new spirit penetrated the Jewish street in America. In those days, it was new and revolutionary. It indeed demanded might and spiritual energy to spread and defend such a slogan. The Jewish workers' organizations, at the pinnacle of their blossoming and development in those years, were not interested in the message of Jewish national consciousness. Their founders and leaders, who were Socialists and revolutionaries from the old home, were with a small exception thoroughly assimilated. They were aggressively inimical to any thought and impression that was involved with the ideal of

[Page 552]

Jewish national consciousness. Those leaders owned or controlled pretty much the majority of the Jewish press. Their influence on the Jewish immigrants was strong and effective. It was therefore natural that in such an inimical atmosphere toward Jewish national strivings, the rise of the new organization which took on the program of Labor Zionism evoked a negative reaction. Despite this, the call of the Jewish National Workers Farband received a warm answer from a significant portion of the Zionist oriented Jewish workers. The young members of the Sierpcer social club, the working element who had a warm relationship to the Zionist ideal, responded to the call of the Farband. Through the initiative of a few older members who were already affiliated with the Poale Zion ideology, they organized the club as a branch of the Jewish National Workers Farband.

The founding and installation of the branch took place in February 1916. A considerable number of the members were from the town of ¯uromin. The new branch was given the name: Sierpcer-Zurominer Branch 42 of the Jewish National Workers Farband. The following names were among those inscribed in the charter: Comrades Shlomo Peretz Fefer, Meir Lichtenstein, Nachman Lichtenstein, Shmuel Yaakov Horowitz, Yaakov Graubard, Noach Lerer, Mendel Reichgot, Shual Munter, Hirsch Binyamin Lisobitzky, Chaim Greenberg, Shepsl Tik, Tobi Tik, Avraham Zabitsky, Mordechai Segal, Chaim Zabitsky, Hirsch Chazan. The first secretary was David Liberman.

When one casts a backward glance to the long range of activities of the branch since its founding, one sees among other things an endless, broad canvas of world events, and of horrific events that plagued our people during the course of a mere four decades. Despite the fact that our branch had a limited number of members, never more than 80, it nevertheless became involved with heart and soul in almost every important Jewish happening. The activities of the branch excelled during the era that was filled with Jewish pain and also Jewish murder.

The mood becomes a bit lighter when one casts a backward glance to the first years of the branch and its activities. The world and Jewish situation were very different then – much, much better than in the later years. Like all Jewish organizations, the activities of the branch were not so burdensome. In truth, the world was not then as free and open as it was two years prior, when the First World War broke out. America was not yet at war, but the Jews here were very worried about the situation of the Jewish war victims in Europe. They took action to help through the relief organizations that were founded then. Nevertheless, one cannot compare the mood and the duties of the Jews in America from that time to the later years.

These were the honeymoon months, when the newly established branch began functioning. The first members of the club

[Page 553]

lifted their hands and became involved in the work with great enthusiasm. The meetings were ebullient with life. The young officers willingly undertook the duties and tasks of the organization. With their youthful energy, they inspired the members to perform their tasks. The leaders and officers of the Farband were frequent guests at the meetings, and with their speeches, they succeeded in educating the new family of members to the spirit and direction that the Jewish National Workers Farband stood for. These were the first stages of education in the direction of Labor Zionism that the young members received. It did not take long for the Sierpcer-Zurominer Branch 42 to become one of the favorite branches of the Farband. The members of the branch took part successfully in all of the fundraising campaigns undertaken by the Farband, whether for the national fund, agricultural machinery for Palestine, or for schools in America. As Sierpc natives, the members played a strong role in the assistance work for the victims of the war from Sierpc by the Sierpc Relief led by the Sierpcer Young Mens' Society, in the branch itself and in the Chevra Gemilat Chasadim.

The young members led a rich societal life. They often got together, celebrated joyous occasions, went on excursions, and engaged in other societal undertakings.

The following were among the leaders who stood at the cradle and the helm of the branch:

Members: Meir Lichtenstein, Nachman Lichtenstein, Shaya Rosen, Shlomo Peretz Fefer, Shual Munter, Hirsch Chazan, Shmuel Yaakov Horowitz, Hirsch Binyamin Lisowitzky, Mendel Reichgot, Tobi May, Noach Lerer, Shmuel Lopotika, Yaakov Graubard, Avraham Zabitsky, Zecharya Zlochower, Chaim Pundek, and Shmuel Green.

This was the so called romantic period in the existence of the branch.

The temperature of the branch activities fell a bit with America's entry into the First World War. A considerable number of the members went off to war with the American Army, and a smaller number went with the Jewish Legion[5]. With the establishment of normal communication between America and the outside world, the society activities in general shrank. The situation played itself out in the activities of the Farband, and naturally also in the branch. The members were involved with their work, held meetings as always, and conducted activities that met the demands of the time. Where possible, they maintained correspondence with the members who were soldiers. This is how things went until the end of the war.

The following are the members who fought with the Jewish Legion: Noach Lerer, Chaim Pundek, David Liberman, Shmuel Rosen, and comrade Hart (from ¯uromin – he died on his way to the war).

Shortly after the war, new life streamed into the branch. The various activities were conducted under weakened circumstances, but this did not last for long. In the meantime, the members were involved with celebratory banquets in honor of the returning

[Page 554]

soldiers and with other various other pastimes.

The frequent gatherings on festive occasions bound the members into a large, intimate family.

However, after the festival come the weekdays. American Jews returned and established contact with Jews from around the world, and lifted up their hands to help.

The requirement to alleviate the need of the Jews who had suffered in the war took first place in the order of the day of the American Jewish assistance organization. The activists of the organizations expected and demanded the assistance of every Jew, including a financial contribution to the extent possible. The work on behalf of the Land of Israel also recommenced with a much broader scope. The aliya from Poland and other Eastern European lands, and assisting the pioneers in the Land of Israel became very pressing, as did the demanding problems in every area of American Zionism.

The demands upon the Farband at the branch meetings became heavier. Two strong fundraising campaigns were undertaken by the Farband – for funds for the Land of Israel and for Jewish schools in America. Incidentally, the Jewish National Workers Farband was the first Jewish organization to found Yiddish-worldly schools in America – or as they were called Yiddish Radical Farband Schools. The new, difficult tasks demanded a strong level of activity from our branch members – and this indeed took place.

Thanks to the already developed feeling of the branch leaders toward Jewish national needs, accompanied by fresh energy from a number of newly arrived active members, the activity was at a strong level. The meetings had better attendance, and were full of enthusiasm. The business and discussions regarding the various goals of the Farband, as well as from other Jewish assistance organizations, helped strengthen the Jewish national consciousness of the members, who were stimulated with the appropriate enthusiasm toward the work. The fundraising campaigns for the various funds took on a strong tempo and encouraged the majority of the members to agree to their duties.

The branch was also greatly involved in cultural activities. The leaders of the Farband would frequently visit the meetings and deliver enlightening lectures. In the literary realm, the branch also sponsored lectures from well-known speakers and writers. They also conducted gatherings and friendly discussions from within “their own powers.” The members would participate readily in the friendly discussions that primarily dealt with practical Jewish themes. From time to time, concerts took place with the participation of well-known artists. There were celebrations of the national festivals and also festive occasions of the local branch. In this manner, the members lived with culture and festivity along with the undertakings and lessons of Labor Zionism, and the new Jewish national consciousness in general. The branch continued with that tempo of societal and cultural activity from the end of the 1910s until the economic depression in America.

[Page 555]

The following people especially excelled from among the newly arrived active members: Mordechai Reshatka, Yosef Judkow, Mordechai Goldstein, L. Kalisky, Leib Mintz, Tzadok Lisovitsky, and Yosef Mendel Dwornik. The following people remained strongly active from among the older leaders of the branch: Leib Rosen, Shlomo Peretz Fefer, Hirsch Chazan, Mendel Reichgot, Noach Lerer, and Shmuel Lapotka.

However, the famous “American Depression” came, and lasted for a decade. It weakened the powers of all the Jewish organizations, and naturally, our branch suffered.

In order to concentrate the energies of the smaller, weaker branches, the Jewish Natoinal Workers Farband merged smaller branches into larger ones. Thus, our branch was united for about two years with the Farband of the Zelichower natives. During that time, the branch was called the Sierpcer-Zelichower Branch. The name Zurominer was no longer used because very few of the ¯uromin natives remained in the branch. Apparently, however, the leaders of our branch were not particularly satisfied with letting “foreign” leaders lead, so the merger broke up. With the return of its own independence, our members re-adopted the name Sierpcer Branch 42 with great enthusiasm.

The reorganization involved with returning to our own independence had a great moral influence upon the members and leaders of the branch. The desire to lift the branch out of its weakened state was great. A bit later, a few active members joined, including: Yitzchak Wrona, his cousins the two brothers Yitzchak and Nathan Horowitz, and Wolf Buda. The leaders seized the opportunity and, despite the general decline in societal activities on the Jewish street due to the economic pressure, they brought back a great deal of liveliness and vigor to the branch, with the help of the new active members. The various activities strengthened one by one, and in March 1941, the celebration of the 25th anniversary of its existence took place with a fine banquet and a rich artistic program. We should note here that the guest speaker and representative of the Farband at the banquet was the renown activist and pedagogue Pinchas Gingold, may he rest in peace, who was also the installer of the branch at its founding. He imparted a great deal of joy and spiritual satisfaction to the celebrants of the banquet.

A new chapter of activity was inscribed in the history of our branch with the outbreak of the Second World War, the Hitlerist destruction, and the greatly awaited establishment of the State of Israel.

During the time of the war, there was only one concern. The members who were too old to serve in the army (with the exception of the two young members Nathan Horowitz and Wolfe Buda who were at war in the American Army) had their children on the battlefields. The concern now was for the Jewish people as a whole.

The meetings of the branch were marked by unrest and agony. The business and activities at that time played out in common with the entire organization of Jewry in America, with the

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firm decision to be prepared with everything – time, energy and money – for the awaited day when help could be given to the surviving victims of the destruction. When that day came, the branch displayed great energy in carrying out its duties.

As Sierpc natives, the members of the branch played a large role in the work of the Sierpc Relief, a united body of all the Sierpc organizations. One of the active doers and founders of the Relief was a member of ours, the chairman of the branch at the time, Yitzchak Wrona. Our members Mordechai Reshatka, Leib and Rashe Mintz, and Mr. and Mrs. Shlomo Lyubashka especially excelled with a great deal of strenuous work.

Following the war, the shocking Hitlerist destruction, and with the realization of the Jewish dream of the establishment of the State of Israel, the Farband became very active like all other active Jewish organizations and grew to some degree. This means that our branch also had the duty of carrying out a much greater quantity of work.

The efforts that took place during the forty difficult years of the existence of the branch did not weaken. On the contrary, under the influence of the extraordinary worldly and specifically Jewish events, the branch remained ripe and hearty. It was full of a lively desire to take on the work of its ideals and mottoes, and to help with everything involved in the upbuilding of the State of Israel, improving Jewish culture, ensuring the Jewish existence and future, and being constantly active partners with the builders of social justice and propriety.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The expression for a full lifetime. Return
  2. Maot Chittin is a fund to provide the needy with Passover supplies. Return
  3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deborah_Heart_and_Lung_Center. Return
  4. There is no great way to translate this colorful term. It means – who have passed the stage of being “greeners.” Return
  5. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Legion Return

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