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[Page 161-162]

Itzel [Yitzchak] Radziminsky, of blessed memory

by Zev Radziminsky, New York

Translated by David Goldman


My father, of blessed memory, was one of the most respected men among the members of his profession. He had a butcher shop on Koshchushko Street. He owned a large house and was highly respected by his fellow men in the widest circles. He had fear of G-d and gave charity. One of his daughters was married to a rabbi. He [Itzel] left Vishkov after World War I because of an event that is worthy of being eternalized in a book since the reason for it came to be forgotten over the years.

It happened in 1910, when a regiment of Cossacks and its commander passed through Vishkov. As they went along Koshchushko Street, a large potted plant fell on the officer and he was badly injured. All the residents of the building, including my father, were arrested, and no one was permitted to approach them to speak with them because they were suspected either of an attempt on the life of the commander or of opposing the stationing of the Cossack army in Poland. It was later revealed that this event was caused by one of the residents known as Blind Aharon, who was in fact blind. When Aharon heard the sound of the military band, he went over to the window of his apartment and caused the pot to fall.

The guards wanted to take advantage of the situation to squeeze money from everyone, and wouldn't even let the blind fellow open his mouth. Everyone was poor except for my father, who was considered wealthy. After a few days, seven of the prisoners worked out among themselves that they would all denounce my father for being the cause of the incident so that they would all be freed. They were convinced that my father had the money demanded by the Cossacks for the Jews to be freed temporarily. Indeed, during the questioning they all declared that my father was the one who threw down the potted plant. They were all freed, and my father was taken away to the "fortress" in Warsaw.

During the pre-trial investigation they put together the strictest case against him. The prosecutor told the judge that this crime either deserved the death penalty or in the event the commander recovered, it deserved a lighter sentence – exile to Siberia. In town, no one knew where they had taken my father, and the police were forbidden to publicize it until the investigation was completed. There were rumors that they would take him to St. Petersburg and have the trial there; others said that he was no longer alive.

It happened that my father was able to throw down from the Pavyak [prison] a note on which he wrote his location and the whole story of his tragic situation. He promised that whoever would give over the note would be rewarded. The Jew who brought me the note received his reward. I immediately traveled to Warsaw, and for a large amount of money I was able to get to him and speak to him with the assistance of a lawyer; with a bribe of a few thousand rubles for one of the senior commanders I was able to arrange that the commander assure that the trial be postponed for a full year and that the lawyer would submit a request to let my father out on bail. On the way out of the court, it was arranged with the police that my father would go into the corridor by himself, and from there would disappear. The commander stipulated a condition that my father never return to Wyszków. Everything was arranged to get him out and set him free.

When my father returned some time later to Wyszków, we had to bribe the police commander not to report my father's arrival in Wyszków and arrange that the commander would get his bribe every month. The commander promised that if there were an inquiry into the matter he would tell us ahead of time, and my father would be able to escape. I was the only person in our family who knew about this situation. We were always living in fear, and prepared to travel to America. This plan took several years to accomplish, but we finally got to the land of freedom and liberty – New York.

His family was large. One daughter was married to a rabbi, and they emigrated to America in 1928. In late 1959, near the end of his [the rabbi’s] life, when he was already paralyzed, he moved to the Land of Israel and died in Ramat Gan in 1961.

Itzl’s son, Zev Radziminsky lives in New York together with his wife Rachel née Frieder. They built a large family and have been involved in community work for many years. They are the leaders of the Wyszków Society. They were responsible for sending funds to Talmud Torah and yeshiva institutions for several decades. In recent years they have assisted new immigrants to Eretz Yisrael with Maot Chitim [Money for Passover], and after his visit in 1959, he was responsible for sending several thousand dollars for the Gemilut Chesed [Charity Assistance] Fund and the establishment of Beit Wyszków [Wyszków House] in Israel.




[Page 163]

The First Air-Raid of Vishkuw

by Yosef Gurni

Translated by Jane, Mikhail Freider and Vladimir Fronton


Vishkuw is a Jewish shtetl. It's the whole world. It's a lost world that was destroyed so that nothing and nobody is saved for the future existence. For most of those who lived through this flame the disappearance of this world wiped off memories about the family home, manner of living, community, language, soul, about the childhood and youth, and about other values that connect people with their motherland. But even after becoming dead this world has risen in a new body and became a different one. Young people hold only imprecise, unclear childhood memories that are difficult to distinguish from fantasies.

Between those memories there are events that were imprinted in our memory in spite of their distance. They could not be forgotten; they are part of our feelings. Maybe only now, after many years it's possible to define a level of unexpectancy and fear during a first bombing attack, first sign of war.

During that summer of 1939 when I was a sixth year old boy the surrounding world was changing. In one day it has changed from a world of tenderness, spoiling and joy to a dark, angry world full of worries about the father who was being on the war front.

I didn't understand completely what is a war and during first days of the war I was in the ignorant state, full of despair and fear. Though I listened patriotic songs playing on a radio and I, a boy, really believed them. The war front was still far and I believed that there was no power that could break great Polish soldiers.

Adults thought differently. They packed stuff in boxes to leave to Warsaw. They thought that a miracle would happen in 1939 the same way as it was twenty years ago in Warsaw. This way I first understood what is the war on the bright fall morning. I still don't know how German pilot decided to drop a bomb exactly on our calm street. Our world woke up from the ringing sounds of breaking glass. My first reaction was to hide under the blanket that was a defense from the surroundings. That morning my mother woke me up earlier to finish packing our stuff. At that moment my mother was very much like a tigress than a home chicken. She ran to men and cover me by her body and then we embracing each other hid behind the commode and we heard the sound of dropping bomb from there. After that there was heavy silence, suspicious silence. Besides the fact that we are still alive we didn't know whether it was the end or just the beginning of the bombing. After that voices of people asking for their children and relatives resounded around. There were a lot of cries and tears. Desire to stay alive hurried us away from this place. We left together with grandfather. Last part of the family had to join us near the bridge over the river Bug. I, full of fright and curiosity, squeezed to my grandfather body. House walls were like witches with black faces, there was smell of burning, sounds of cries from the center of the town.

Nothing surprised and shocked me anymore. Neither crying wounded people that were lying here and there, nor died people who were at least covered, not even a Jewish cabman who abused a goy in the fireman clothes. He was standing on the cart, pulling the horse reins by one hand and beating the goy using a whip in another hand.

This goy was trying to push the cabman down from the cart (surely he wanted to take a cart for himself). "Jew beats goy!" a thought fast as lightning came through my head and I even felt a pride for a moment. My childish wounded pride was very satisfied by this fact because of continuous pursuit by the goy gang.

There was another world after the bridge. Blue waters of the river Bug flew in the eternal calmness. Fields were green and a sky was blue. Smoke didn't cover everything in the black color yet. We were lying near the road and waiting for a cart.

In Warsaw we arrived at the evening. It admitted us with alarm sounds, guns fire and discharges of air defense artillery.

Beaten and wounded Poland was still defending.




[Page 164]

In the First Days of the Destruction

by Moyshe Venger

Translated by Jane, Sofia, Mikhail Freider, Mikhail M.,
and Vladimir Fronton


Friday, September 1, 1939. I arrived in Wyszków. I had to be with my family during the most difficult times. In the morning radio announced that Germans attacked Poland. All people from Wyszków ran from the town. But journalists found out last news in the town. At the same day people from other places near the border arrived. They told about mockery of Jews by Germans. It was said that polish authorities are going to leave Wyszków. We were left without passports. Germans were bombing the railroad bridge and other locations. On Sunday and Monday everything was silent. On Tuesday, September 5, German planes were bombing Wyszków. In our house my sister Khletche was sick of lethargy for 8 months already. That's why my brother Moyshe and I created a stretcher to carry on the sister to the house of Moyshl the Baker at the market plaza. There were many families on this plaza because they thought it was safe there. All the time planes dropped bombs on the town and all people went through wooden bridge and ran into the forest. My mother Rivele, brother Moyshe, little Sorele and I decided to stay because of sick sister. Later she woke up, kissed everybody and asked: "Let's take me underarms and run to save ourselves".

We passed the bridge and entered the forest with many other families from Wyszków: Malkhiel the Ritual Slaughterer, Pshetitski and others. Planes fired on the running people and spread death. Every couple minutes we were lying on the ground, once going up we found that my coat has got holes from bullets. We were running through the forest in the direction of Jadow.


Wanders During Voyage

At the end of forest on the way to Jadow we met wounded people after the bombing. Among them there was Rokhele Shkarlat. She was being taken on the cart to a doctor. At that time everybody ate together in one common because Leybish Pshetitski had taken some food provisions from his bakery shop. We arrived in Jadow in the early morning. Immediately we were bombed by planes. A lot of people hid in a grocery store but I don't remember the name of this store. One rich and kind Jew invited us and gave us food, drinks and beds. There were no authorities left in Jadow at that time. Polish army ran and Germans were expected to arrive in the town. All of us left this town and hid in trenches from guns' firing. Someone shouted that it would be better if Germans had come already because our fear was too big. Next day Germans came in the town and found hammered doors and gates. It took them half a day to do all their affairs and they started goods requisition. Some families from Wyszków stayed too long in Jadow that time. Leybish Pshetitski went to look at his house and didn't come back ever. Germans killed him on the way.

During those days Germans and Poles killed all Jews in Wyszków and burned everything. People told Germans occupied Wyszków in vengeance because Poles killed fifteen German spies there. We saw a lot of Jews from different towns in Jadow; they passed me this hard news. My mother's sister and all her family Youngsteyn were killed in Karlishem.


Under Soviet Rule

There were rumors that Soviet Army was coming. In the beginning when Soviet authority just settled everybody was glad. People prepared to meet the ones who would be walking through the town. When we were going through Wengrow we've spent a night in Reyzman family and visited our acquaintances there. We met the Rubin family and also Fayvele Shran with his wife Ite who was in a dangerous condition (her leg was injured with bomb's splinter). Fayvele Baharav, their father of son-in-law, a very good Jew, never left them and helped her all the time before she died.

We arrived in Kosow at night and Red Army detained us. In commendant's office we explained (with arms and legs) that we ran from Germans and now we have families and jobs here. Later we were freed. First days in Kosow we felt very free. Red Army showed movies on the streets. They propagandized how to behave in foreign country. Red Army didn't stay in Kosow for long.

We were allowed to go with the army. The border was opened for about two weeks. A very small number of people went with army. But we wandered with a hope to find a better life those days. My sister Khletche prepared to go in Wyszków. In days of wandering she recovered and hired a cart to go to Lochow and then to Wyszków by train. Her speech and appearance wasn't similar to Jewish woman. Her travel lasted ten days and she came back with bad news. We found out that Wyszków was occupied. Our house was destroyed. And we had to think of place to live. These days Germans came in Kosow. A lot of Jews didn't come back there and tried to find a job.

Our family had important discussion and it was decided that my brother and I had to cross the border, find some job and later the whole family will come to us. We and many other families hired a cart to go to the border. We went through the forest avoiding any bands of robbers. This was we arrived to the German border. We were examined and all our things were taken away. Every Jew received ten golden coins and we were taken to the river so that we can swim through the border under gun's fire. We had to pay two golden coins per a person for this. When we reached another bank a few soviet people with rifles came to meet us. And they clearly ordered us to go back. My brother Moyshe told them something in Russian and explained that we can't go back because we would be killed there. Soldiers told us to go to the commendant's office. There we were examined again and we were told to wait in the yard. This night we were taken somewhere. On the way we met other groups of Jews that were convoyed too. We arrived in neutral zone near Malkin. There were people from special services. Near Malkin station Soviet soldiers gathered together about six thousand old people, children, parents. There were staying on the open field in rain and cold. Speculators sold bread for big money. A lot of people died without medical help there. We sent a delegate to ask to free us but it didn't help. After that we decided to explode a bar and free ourselves. We waited for a moment when there were fewer guards. Mothers with little children were moved to the front and old people stood behind them. On the predefined time the bar was exploded and a mass of people went out. Young girls began to kiss soldiers. Some people were so excited because of these events and then all people were singing "International". Soldiers who sat in trenches near border greeted us. We arrived to Zareby Koscielne station. At about two o'clock at night there were several thousands people from Poland in the forest. Together we moved forward to Tshehanovcy where we've been met and given a cargo train to move to Bialyastok.


In Bialyastok

In Bialyastok we came to town committee. They gave a half loaf of rye bread to everybody and told to go to Folvark that is about 15 km from Bialyastok. We came to the town committee of Folvark. They didn't admit us and we came back to Bialyastok under a heavy downpour. Nobody admitted us again. Then we decided to come to Jewish baker.

You can't imagine how bad was our situation at that time, we took off our boots, dried them our and sold them to buy bread. Then we spend horrible days when we had no place to sleep. Even synagogue was completely full of people. There we met the Farber family who wanted to give us a place to sleep for a night but they had many louse. Then we ran to the rail station but there was no place too. We were wandering around this way until we get a job in the bathes where we could wash ourselves. My brother Moyshe knew this job before from Israel. From this time we slept at our workplace. In Bialyastok we met with many families from Wyszków: Asti and his family (I've heard they died from hunger in Russia later), Tchekhanogura and his family, the Shults family, Srebnik and his family, Shran with his son and daughter, Itche Baharav, Nayman with his son, Frayman and the Segal family who had a place to live. Many people from Wyszków found each other. We gave a place to sleep to others together with Moyshe Stolik. All were glad about this meeting. Ours from Wyszków were working and trading buying old clothes on the market and then selling them. Everyone who was from Wyszków let in others in the lines. My brother Moyshe couldn't be in Bialyastok any more and was pursuing every possibility to return to Kosow to my mother and sister. At this moment I've got a postcard from my family to return back to them. Also at this time Soviet authorities started registration. Everybody who wants to get a passport must stay in USSR and move forward because they didn't allow to stay in Bialyastok; others had to go back to Germans. Most of people signed to go back to their families who were left in Poland. Many families who went together with echelons further into Russia couldn't live there and came back to Bialyastok. These families signed to return back to Germans. Many people thought that it would be better in Poland in the end. But the end came actually. We were not allowed to go back. We started to grow accustomed to the new life. Everyone lived as one can. Some tragic night around 12 o'clock, everyone who didn't have a soviet passport was arrested. Immediately they were taken in the echelons to Siberia, into the jails and concentration camps.




[Page 177]

In the Years of Misfortune and Anguish

by Khane Srebro



[Page 181]

6.

The first thing that we did after leaving the cellar was to breathe in a little fresh air. Spending three days in terribly cramped and crowded conditions, without bread or water, had totally exhausted us. Now we ran out of town. The further away from this place, where those closest to us had in the last few days been murdered in such cruel ways, the better. Other individuals began to crawl out of their various hiding places, and when we encountered them, we told each other whatever news we knew. I learned that in the last attack the following Jews had died: Isaac Vansover, along with his wife and children; Soreh Vansover; Khave Elbaum; her mother; the Aldok brothers and their families; Dovid, Hershl-Mekhl and Libe Flude; Ester-Dvoyre Flude and her mother. (The youngest son, Leybl Flude, escaped at that time, but later died in the woods.)




[Page 193]

The last Request of a Martyr

Translated by Edward Jaffe

Donated by Rona G. Finkelstein


In a pocket of a perished Jew from Rovno, who was the head of the Vishkov Yeshiva and later became the Rabbi of Rovno, the following letter[1] was found:

To our Jewish brothers:

Our time has come. Like all other Jews subjugated by the Evil Empire, we give our lives to God, blessed be he.

I am Abraham, son of Shmai Halevi Tsitrin, born in the town of Trachenbad. My father was Shmai Tsitrin, born in Vald, the son of the exalted Rabbi Meyer Zeev. My parents lived in Rovno. My father with his son-in-law Itzchak Chekhnizer, the ritual slaughterer and congregational messenger, were killed last year in Rovno. My mother Sarah Rivka, daughter of Eliokem Getzel Gelman of Trachenbad, together with the entire family were killed by the murderers in Rovno. We have relatives in America. My mother's brother, Joseph Gelman, my wife Bella, daughter of Yakov Arye Steinman of Viskov near Warsaw, member of the large family Steinman of Amselof.

I am leaving behind in Pobrusk two houses with many things hidden in the walls. Furniture and other things are left with the Ukrainian clergymen. Find our relatives and see to it that our bones will not be scattered and our names not forgotten.

Our relatives should say Kaddish and observe annually the day of our death. I Abraham, son of Shmai Halevi and my wife Bella, daughter of Yakov Arye, who has a brother in Russia – Zvi Steinman, say goodby to this foolish world. My dear son Meyer Zeev, 9 years old, my daughter Chaya, 6 years old, my daughter Masha, 3 years old, my mother-in-law, Chava Ziatah and her son Moishe, and daughters Chaya Sarah and Yentah Hadassah, her daughter-in law, wife of the above mentioned Zvi who is in Russia with her three small children and her mother – all of us are being sacrificed in His Holy Name, together with the 70 families of Pobrusk, and 15-20 families from Piasetchny.

Don't forget us, the murdered innocent.

Hear, O Israel. The Lord is our G-d, the Lord is one.

Abraham son of Sarah Rivka

Abraham, son of Shmai Halevi cries out at the threshold of death to search for his relatives and requests that his and his family's bones not be scattered, and that they be remembered. He also asks that relatives say Kaddish (prayer for the dead) and observe the annual day of their death.

_______

[1]   This letter was brought to the USA by Rabbi Moishe Steinberg of Brod, who visited Rovno after the liberation in order to once again organize a Jewish community. This is a reprint of the letter which was published in the "Day" (Tog) of December 16th. This is a document of the awful period. The letter conveys a cry from a life that refuses to give up and disappear without a trace, and wants to be remembered. It describes what Abraham, son of Sarah Rivka, felt in the last minutes of his life when he saw no escape from the hands of the murderers. This was also experienced by thousands, hundreds of thousands of other Jews. Return





[Page 221-226]

Vishkov Association of New York

by Yekhiel Burshteyn

Translated by David Goldman


1

Our Vishkov Association in New York is now sixty years old – a rather respectable age. Our members have given their time, health and labor for our organization, and have maintained and cared for their beloved memories. When we get together, we talk about Vishkov of former times and its Jews, community, Jewish institutions, large and small streets, and houses were once our cradles stood. We think of our Vishkov Association as a living monument that we have created on free American soil in honor of our former town that no longer exists. We want to care for this monument and constantly give it new life, similar to the way we constructed a living memorial for Vishkov in the free Jewish State with the aid we provided Israel through the building we established in our names. Now we have created a special unified Vishkov Aid Committee for Israel, about which I will write later in this survey.


2

Over the more than sixty years of the existence and work of our association we have had great and important times. The association's establishment itself was an important event that took place in times totally different from those we are in today when there is highly developed and vibrant Jewish life here in America. In this book, it is worthwhile to reconstruct a picture of life in that former period, when our compatriot [landsmanshaft] association in New York was founded, alongside an array of other ethnic organizations.

The immigrant Jew from the cities and shtetls of Eastern Europe felt lonely on New York's East Side in those days. The leading activists in the Jewish neighborhoods were called Yehudim, and were primarily concerned with philanthropy. They didn't take into consideration the feelings and opinions of the new immigrants about how to build their various institutions. The attitude of the radicals toward the common immigrant in Jewish New York was no better: as far as they were concerned the poor peddler would never turn into a bourgeois who ought to disappear, and the immigrants' religious needs were certainly of no concern whatsoever.

The immigrants started to become organized; their longing for the customs and traditions of the old country, as well as their loneliness, created the need for compatriot organizations. Helping each other in times of trouble and assisting new immigrants to get settled and then bring over their family therefore played a very large role. This was how in a rather short time hundreds of compatriot organizations with hundreds of thousands of members developed at that time. In addition, the more the new immigrant became more Americanized and accustomed to his new environment, the more proud and confident he felt. His low self-esteem and inferiority complex disappeared, and the compatriot organization to which he belonged assisted him immensely.

The significance of the compatriot organizations in Jewish life in America at that time began to grow, and their influence continued to spread. It should be noted that the trade union campaign in America on behalf of the Histadrut in Israel deserves a lot of credit for increasing the importance of our compatriot organizations. The trade union campaign on behalf of the Histadrut was the first event that attracted compatriot organizations to become involved, and to this very day our organizations have a respectable place in Israel. For many years there has existed a special department in the United Jewish Appeal for our organizations. In addition, large Jewish educational institutions, such as Yeshiva University in New York, have appreciated the importance of attracting the compatriot organizations to become involved in financially assisting their institutions.

This was how our Vishkov Association was established in 1896 in New York in the same way as other associations were founded. In the beginning the Vishkov compatriots used to get together over a glass of beer every Sabbath evening to share memories of the old country and to provide the new immigrant with lodging and pay the "Shop" to teach the new immigrant a trade. Hirsh-Meir Kotlowitz, one of our compatriots, was one of the greatest people involved in communal hospitality. Many of us still remember him today. Although he was himself a poor laborer, his modest apartment was always open to newly arrived immigrants; he assisted them with his advice and with his actions.

Due to the constant influx of new immigrants, the compatriot groups multiplied and grew larger. Soon they had to rent special halls for their weekly meetings. Their expenses also grew. Instead of relying constantly on contributions, they established membership dues. Eventually we came to the conclusion that it was appropriate for our association to have a managing committee. In December 1904 we established what was then known as the Independent Vishkov Immigration Support Association.

The following individuals were chosen for the managing committee: Avraham Mittelsberg, president; Yechezkel Parover, vice president; Shmuel Gemara, financial secretary; Morris Topfel, recording secretary and Shmuel Wideletz, cashier.

The most important goal of the new Vishkov organization was to assist the recent "green" compatriots, both financially and emotionally. Over time, the members became settled in their new country and brought over their families. However, soon new problems arose, such as the need to be able to provide medical assistance, build a cemetery, etc. At that time we had a doctor, the well-known community activist, Dr. Nathan Rotnov, who was hired annually and provided free medical assistance to members. Later on he played an important role at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dr. Rotnov was an active member in the Vishkov Association for a long time.

The old Vishkov Assistance Association, which was founded in 1896, had its own cemetery; its financial situation improved as well. The very first immigrants of our shtetl belonged to the old association. One of those members was the late David Feingold, who some of us remember to this very day. According to our late compatriot, Chaim Aharon Yoskovich, even before the old association, there was a first Vishkov society under the name Ezrat Achim [Fraternal Assistance]. Yoskovich was a vice-president of the society, which only existed for a short time.

The new task was to merge the two organizations: the old 1896 Vishkov association and the new 1904 association; the merger was accomplished in 1906. The total financial assets of the new unified organization amounted to four hundred and eight dollars and 31 cents, and the association had a total membership of 142. The unified organization started providing material for its members; it offered financial assistance in the sum of six dollars a week in the event of illness of any of its members. This was in addition to the assistance provided to the newcomers.

Our Vishkov Association was one of the first compatriot organizations that became concerned with the cultural situation of its members. The association fought against the germanization of Yiddish that at that time was occurring in the Jewish associations, both in the management of the organization and in the spoken language used in the meetings. We were virtually the only ones who were concerned, therefore, that the bylaws of the association were written in good, clean Yiddish. To achieve that purpose, we hired the well-known Yiddish journalist Yaakov Pfeffer, who wrote our bylaws, which are the same as the ones we use today (with some minor changes). This contrasted with the way other associations' bylaws were written in a mixture of Yiddish and German. The leaders of our association also fought against the heretical movements and disgusting practices that could be seen in the Jewish neighborhoods in New York. We didn't allow our members to participate in the open revelry that took place on sad Jewish occasions such as the Ninth of Av [commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem], and prohibited the repugnant tradition of holding a communal meal after the death of a member, etc.


3

When World War I broke out, the Vishkov Association became heavily involved in all aspects of the war effort: it invested in Liberty Bonds, in savings plans, and donated significant sums of money to the Red Cross and other aid organizations on behalf of those suffering in Europe because of the war. The association also assisted its members who had gone off to war. Because of the war it was decided to disband the youth organization called The Vishkov Young Men that had been established earlier, and it merged with the Vishkov Association. Aside from the members of the former Vishkov Young Men, the association took in other new members. Our association needed a large hall where it could hold its meetings. At that time, the Vishkov Association also began to become involved in general Jewish community life in the United States. To the extent that we were financially able we supported an array of important institutions and activities. In one case, we also provided assistance to the shirt-workers' union that had gone out on strike.

Apart from the above activities, our association distinguished itself in its work on behalf of those suffering in Vishkov because of the war, and collected thousands of dollars from among our members. Right after the war our compatriot Benny Dovriss traveled as our special emissary to bring aid to the impoverished Jewish population of Vishkov. During the First World War we also participated in establishing the American Jewish Congress, which supported the historical resolution that called for the rebirth of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel [this would have been the Balfour Declaration]. Our delegates to the American Jewish Congress were our compatriots Benny Dovriss and Paul Kramer. Morris Topfel, who became our president in 1914, deserves a lot of credit for the Vishkov Association's expanded activity in those days.


4

One of the things that stimulated the desire to establish compatriots' associations in New York – as mentioned earlier – was the problem of cemeteries. Although in the old country it was possible to have a single cemetery for the entire community, this was not possible in New York because of the diversity of the Jewish population. In the early years, our Vishkov Association owned a small cemetery, part of the Mt. Zion Cemetery near New York. In 1911 the Association purchased a larger property at the Mt. Hebron Cemetery, but due to a shortage of funds, we were unable to construct a fence around the cemetery until 1923. The president at the time, Max Baslav, energetically took on the mission to build one. In 1923 a special fence committee that was set up executed the project. The issue was so important that to this day the Vishkov members are grateful to that committee for their work to set up the fence and at the same time increased the Association's assets by six hundred dollars.

The success in carrying out the work on the fence led not only to concern on behalf of the dead, but also provided important work for the living. There was an initiative to build our own building, a Vishkov center in New York, where all the compatriots could get together and engage in social activities. This impulse was a common one in Jewish life in those days because of good economic times and growing employment. Our association became very active in order to carry out the plan for the Vishkov center. It was the finest and most interesting period in the lives of Vishkov compatriots.


5

There were, however, internal disputes. Some of the large contributors quietly agitated against the plan. A proposal to dissolve the building fund that we had already put together was accepted in May, 1925, and the money was returned to the contributors. Nevertheless, because of our various undertakings that were part of the building fund several thousand dollars remained in the Association's funds.

At the time of the depression in the United States after 1929 our association did not give up its work in providing assistance for Vishkov compatriots, including for Vishkov itself. The Association provided financial assistance to its members and arranged free Chanukah concerts and other kinds of entertainment for members and their families.

Our association was intensively involved in activities during the Second World War. We bought thirty thousand dollars of government bonds, and hundreds of our young men served in the army. We participated in the United Jewish Appeal and in efforts on behalf of the Histadrut in Palestine, HIAS, yeshivas etc.

We still feel strongly about our responsibilities as a compatriots' organization. The truth is that we share our fate with the other compatriots' organizations in which the older members are the majority and the young people haven't become involved. We made valiant attempts and spent quite a bit of money to get the youth involved, but without success. We can only say that in our Vishkov Association we are emphasizing those things which are strongly rooted in Jewish nationalism and an attachment to Jewish traditions which we brought with us from the old country.

We are as involved as we ever were in campaigns on behalf of the United Jewish Appeal campaigns, the Histadrut, HIAS, yeshivas in New York, etc., and we are proud of the fact that our compatriots' association, to the extent possible, has contributed a brick to the building of the Jewish state. In this way we are striving with all our strength to maintain the beautiful traditions of our Vishkov Association in New York, from its establishment until this very day.


6

We should take this opportunity to make special mention in this survey of the activities of the General United Vishkov Aid Committee which was founded at the end of the First World War in 1918, and was an initiative of our Vishkov Association in New York. As with all of our work, in our United Vishkov Aid Committee we were concerned with all of the beautiful old traditions we were raised with. We did our aid work quietly, without any fanfare, and thereby always remembered what we learned in cheder, that 'man does not live by bread alone.' We provided assistance to the needy residents of our hometown Vishkov, and supported the Beis Yosef yeshiva and other institutions in Vishkov when they still existed.

[Photo page 223: Vishkov Ladies' Organization in New York]

As soon as our United Aid Committee was founded, we began an energetic and aggressive campaign, and collected thousands of dollars. In 1920, as mentioned earlier, we sent our compatriot Benny Dovris as our special delegate to bring and distribute aid among the needy Jews in Vishkov. We continued with our assistance work until the situation stabilized in Poland and the wounds of the First World War were healed somewhat. The Vishkov Aid Committee's activity subsided, but not for long.

In 1927-28 we again began to receive appeals for assistance from Vishkov. Our committee received a number of tearful letters for the Vishkov community, from the various institutions as well as from ordinary Jews in town, who complained about their situation. They wrote that poverty had spread again among the Jews in town. The economic and political situation of the Jews in Poland was becoming critical, and there was mass unrest against Jews. The livelihood of the Jews was badly affected.

The leaders and activists of the United Vishkov Aid Committee went to work to respond to the calls for help from our hometown. The heads of the Committee included the following activists: Morris Topfel, chairman; Mrs. Chekhanov, vice-chairman; Shmuel Videletz, cashier; Leo Chernin, finance secretary and Benny Zimmerman, recording secretary. The following served on the executive committee: Jake Zilberstein, Max Holland, William Radziminsky, Isaac Bengal, Rachel Radziminsky, Paul Kramer, Mrs. Molly Paraver, Morris Bernstein, Avraham Goldstein, Moshe Bornstein, Jacob Chelonko, Morris Levy, Avraham Aldak, Chaim-Aharon Jacobovich, Avraham Goldman and Sam Yagoda. They organized a theater event and undertook an energetic campaign. In a short time they collected a larger sum of money with which we assisted the charity fund, yeshiva, Talmud Torah, sick fund and hundreds of families in Vishkov.


7

Our United Vishkov Aid Committee asked the Vishkov community to set up their own committee representing all sections of the Jewish community, so that the collected monies could be distributed for the various needs in a democratic manner. The Vishkov community organized a united committee, and our Vishkov Aid Committee in New York received official notification about this. In Vishkov, the members were: Moshe Ostry, Moshe Pshemyarover, Yaakov Gemara (who is now in New York), Yosef Bindusky, Moshe Stern, Yehuda-Yosef Maltchik, Hershel Borstein, Nissan Bsheshinsky, Yitzchak Ber Rosenberg, Baruch Stollik and Mordechai Mendel Allenberg. They sent us a group photo of the committee which we published in our Association's newsletter.

Among the aid we provided for our hometown, we strongly supported the traditional ma'os chittim campaign (financial assistance for Passover). Our Vishkov compatriots in New York arranged all sorts of events such as Purim meals and Purim concerts, to which the activists William and Rachel Radziminsky devoted themselves and made a great contribution. Those events brought in a large amount of money, and because of it the Aid Committee was able to send contributions for Passover every year for the poor Jews in Vishkov. Of course, we didn't limit ourselves to such activities. We looked for constructive ways to assist the needy in our hometown throughout the entire year.

In 1937-1938, we received a letter from the community in Vishkov that reported that assistance was not only needed for the poor of Vishkov but also for Jews expelled from nearby villages such as Shchanka, who had arrived in Vishkov. We therefore had to expand our work, and the Aid Committee was reorganized for that purpose. Yechiel Borstein was selected as finance secretary and Rachel Radziminsky as vice-chairman. We began a new energetic campaign, and the response of the compatriots was a warm one. This encouraged us to then hold a theater performance in Maurice Schwartz's Art Theater which presented I. J. Singer's Brothers Ashkenazi. The event yielded around three thousand dollars for our aid work.

Over the years, we regularly (three times, often more – four times a year) sent assistance to the above-mentioned institutions in Vishkov. In the winter we sent money for heating for poor Jews. Several hundred families benefited from the Passover Ma'os Chittim campaign. The sum of two hundred dollars was sent to repair the fence at the cemetery in Vishkov. Besides our yearly donations for the charity fund in Vishkov, we gave money to the American Joint Distribution Committee who also contributed thousands of dollars. Thanks to this effort, the Vishkov Fund received a special sum of two thousand dollars.

The important aid work that the Vishkov charity fund provided with the money we sent in those years has been extensively described in the publication, Folks Hilf [People's Aid] which was published by the leadership of the charity movement in Poland. In the account, special mention was made of the fact that money was being provided to Jews expelled from neighboring villages of Shchanka, Brianchik, Poremba and Divky. This money assisted people with their livelihoods. This was how we helped out the poor Jews in our hometown and in the nearby areas as long as it was possible to send help. With the outbreak of World War Two, the activity of our United Vishkov Aid Committee was suspended temporarily.


8

At the end of 1944 we started to resuscitate the Aid Committee. We understood that we had to be prepared extend assistance to the hapless remnant of the Vishkov community after the war ended. Right after the end of the war, we established contact with some of our compatriots who at that time were located in Silesia and in the refugee internment camps in Germany. Our first act was to provide food packages to some individual compatriots whose addresses we had obtained. At that time we found out that there were survivors also in Sweden and Italy, and we immediately send food packages and other forms of assistance. There was an urgent need for prayer shawls and prayer books when survivors from Vishkov asked us for them. It gave us tremendous satisfaction to meet such requests. Meanwhile, when the survivors of the Vishkov community left Silesia and, together with other Vishkov survivors, started to move to Israel, we quickly sent off needed assistance to them in the Jewish homeland.

With even greater sums we helped out a number of new Vishkov arrivals in New York, and for some of them we were able to obtain housing and furniture. Our United Aid Committee continues to provide annual contributions to the United Jewish Appeal. During the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948 we made a special contribution of $ 1,500, and between 1919 and 1948 our United Vishkover Aid Committee collected and distributed sixty thousand dollars. In recent years we have been concentrating on providing assistance to the survivors from Vishkov who live in Israel.


9

It is worth mentioning our Vishkov Tehillim [Psalms] Society that is actually quite a bit older than our association. Being traditional Jews, our compatriots continued their traditional life-style and established a Vishkov Tehillim Society in New York, which also owns a synagogue on the Old East Side of New York.

The New York Vishkov Tehillim Society has a beautiful and long-standing history. Documents that have been preserved till today show that the Society was founded in a hundred years ago in 1864. The synagogue, which still stands today on the East Side, was built by the Society sixty years ago, in 1904. It was built by our compatriot, the late Moshe Fleischman, and his son-in-law, Yehudah Ratkovsky. The synagogue's founder, Moshe Fleischman, was president of the Vishkov Tehillim Society for many years. The synagogue also established its own chevra kaddisha [burial society] over ninety years ago, when the Society did not yet have its own building for its synagogue. For many many years one of our members was the Shepser Rabbi, Rabbi Yehoshua, the son of Rabbi Moshe Yosef, and when he passed away, we suffered a great loss; we continue to maintain his memory.

The synagogue of the Vishkov Tehillim Society carried a good reputation on the East Side, and we still have loyal congregants who are businessmen and devoted activists. Our Society has always felt an important responsibility for keeping our compatriots and friends together who celebrate weddings and other events in our synagogue, and who feel as if the synagogue is the same as the one in the old country. Our compatriots also gather together in the synagogue for traditional celebrations at Chanukah, Purim and Simchat Torah. To this day, if someone is looking for one of our compatriots, all they have to do is ask for him in the synagogue and someone will be able to help.

Over the years our Vishkov Tehillim Society always supported various charitable organizations and yeshivas in New York. A large share in this important work was our Vishkov Ladies' Auxiliary, which was always involved in our United Vishkov Aid Committee. The Vishkov Ladies' Auxiliary can take pride in its important work which is imbued with the finest Jewish traditions.


10

I would like to end with a brief look at the new institution we have established – the United Vishkov Aid Committee for Israel – through which we are centralizing our work for our surviving compatriots in the Jewish State. The United Vishkov Aid Committee for Israel was organized in 1957, with Mrs. Rachel Radziminsky as its chairman; Mrs. Radziminsky had been involved with our Aid activities for many years. W. Radziminsky is the cashier and Charles Applebaum is the executive secretary. The following Vishkov organizations are included in this committee:

  1. Vishkov Tehillim Society;
  2. Vishkov Association, with Morris Topfel as its president and G. Zeidenberg as its vice-president.
  3. The Vishkov branch of the Workmen's Circle.
  4. The first Vishkov Ladies' Auxiliary, with Mrs. Molly Parover as its president and Mrs. Enny Fein as its secretary.
  5. The Ladies' Auxiliary of the Vishkov Tehillim Society, with Rachel Radziminsky as chairman.
  6. The Vishkov Building Club, founded four years ago by our compatriots Rabbi Zvi Bronstein, Rabbi Silver, Saul and Mindel Steinmark, Lilly Yoskovitch and Charles Applebaum.

We fervently hope that the United Vishkov Aid Committee for Israel will be able to rise to its calling and carry out great work which is needed to help our compatriots in the Jewish State to get settled and build their homes in their own land. Through this effort, we will eternalize the holy names of our destroyed hometown of Vishkov and build a memorial to it in the reborn Jewish State.

We also expect that the unified effort on behalf of Israel will be beneficial to our various Vishkov organizations that have been established in New York. The idea that we and Israel will help each other is a general principle applicable to our Vishkov compatriots as well. We know that the work for Israel can keep us together so that our organizations can continue to exist and that we can continued to maintain the traditions and memory of our hometown.


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