by L. Goldsztajn
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
After the suppression of the Russian Revolution of 1905-6, when the Czarist regime made all political-communal work impossible through the most terrible repression, a group of young people, who earlier had been active in various political groupings, looked for a way to create something in a purely cultural area. For this purpose, the following young people: Jakob Krygsztajn, Herszl Sztrochlic, Kopel Openhajm, Ruwen Sączow, Isidor Lewinski and others founded a musical, literary, dramatic society under the name Hazamir in 1907 according to the pattern of similar societies in Warsaw and Łódź. Officially, the goal of Hazamir was to awaken the desire of the Jewish young for music, literature and theater. However, in addition to this, it actually was the spiritual center around which the entire Jewish national and working intelligentsia was concentrated in contemporary Będzin.
First of all, with enormous material and organizational effort, the above-mentioned young people succeeded in creating a musical section that held rehearsals two to three times a week in the Harmonie hall on Słowiańska Street (today Małachowski). The creation and leadership of the orchestra had full assistance from the musical families, Lustik and Barenblat, who in the course of a year, before the legalization, had led an amateur orchestra without compensation, although they were professional musicians.
Since it was necessary to have men who were old enough and responsible to carry out the legalization formalities, the young tried to draw the intelligentsia of the older generation into this work. Despite the tendency towards assimilation among the then bourgeois Jewish intelligentsia, the more nationally disposed individuals were won over to this matter, among whom were found: Jawetz, the popular Hebrew teacher, Majer Szwarc, Jakob Sztaler, Eliezer Rubinlicht, J. Regier, Sz. Szeftel and others. These people were considered as the formal founders of the Hazamir with respect to the Russian regime.
As has already been mentioned above, the work for legalization only encompassed
the orchestra and, although the results in this area were very good, we could
not yet appear in public.
The true cultural-communal activity first began after receiving legalization, which took more than a year and cost a great deal of money in the Piotrków gubernia [province]. After this, the first general meeting was organized with great pomp. Birenbaum, the then famous chazan [cantor], composer and writer, founder and leader of the Cantor's School in Częstochowa (the first and only in former Congress Poland) was invited and gave a beautiful lecture and the orchestra played a series of musical creations. Since then, that is, since 1908, is dated the official founding of Hazamir. It is worthwhile to remember that until the general meeting almost all of the expenses that were connected with Hazamir were covered by Jakob Krygsztajn, Herszl Sztrochlic, Kopel Openhajm and Ruwen Sączow.
The success and existence of Hazamir was assured in advance due to the fact that at the general meeting the most esteemed and most well-to-do from our city were elected to the managing committee.
The respected businessman and former dozor [synagogue warden] chairman Chaim Dawid Rozenblum, who donated a new, first class pedal accordion to Hazamir, was elected as chairman Isidor Sercarz (later the honorary chairman of the Bendiner Esperanto Union), vice chairman. In addition, elected to the first managing committee was Salomon Gutman (Secretary), who was the most active and the most self-sacrificing member of the managing committee. He provided a large meeting premises without payment in his own house that consisted of several rooms; in addition he spent great sums of money and bought several instruments for the orchestra. It can rightly be said that Salomon Gutman was the soul of Hazamir. He was despite his great businesses always ready at every call to serve on behalf of the institution.
More joined the managing committee: Sz. Abramson, one of the most intellectual in contemporary Będzin, Icek Cerasz, L. Rubinlicht (treasurer), who also later greatly cooperated in supporting Hazamir, Jakob A. Perlmuter, Majer Szwarc, J. Regirer, Jakob Sztatler, Sz. Szeftel and others.
Klebanski, the military bandleader, was engaged as the first conductor, who led the orchestra and choir. The greatest strengths in the orchestra were: Rubinzon, H. Goldcwajg, Mordechai Rechnic, A. Ptasznik, Wolf Rechnic, P. Werdyger, K. Hamburger, Wodislawski, K. Hendler, Buchman, H. Bialka, D. Erlich, and many others. In first place in the choir stood: Mrs. Perlmuter, the Misses Wdowinska, Preger, Andrzej Plesner, Andrzej Gutman, the sisters, Rachel, Ita and Nadzia Fersztenfeld, and others. Of the men, those who distinguished themselves: H. Sztrochlic, L. Goldsztajn, B. Salomonowicz, Perlmuter, Kaufman, A. Lachman, M. Werdyger, L. Lemkowicz and others.
Now the main task for Hazamir was to unite all of the young people and older elements around the revival of the Jewish cultural-national work. Because of this the founders endeavored that the first concert be turned into a true Jewish holiday that was an absolute success. The concert took place in connection with a Purim ball.
|The managing committee and a group
of Hazamir members with Sholem Aleichem in 1913
Standing from the right:
D. Baum, editor Szpigelman, J. Krygsztajn, Sholem Aleichem's secretary.
The writer Auerbach, the wife of Sholem Aleichem.
The writer J. B. Zajanc, A. Liwer, L. Goldsztajn, J. Wygodzki, Motl Tenenbaum, L. Blumenfrucht,
Mrs. Sercarz, A. Sercarz, Sholem Aleichem, D. M. Ratner, M. Potasz, Najfeld.
Underneath: M. Gold, H. Bialka, Miriam Tenebaum
After the first concert (1909), various disputes arose among the managing committee at whose head then stood Salomon Gutman and Klebanski, the director, who really was more of a specialist in the instrumental field than in the vocal field. Moreover, he wore a Czarist military uniform while directing and did not succeed in winning the sympathy of the choir and orchestra members. As a consequence, Klebanski was discharged from his post and Leon Kopf, a young, capable musician who had only just graduated from his musical studies abroad, was engaged in his place.
Leon Kopf's time belongs to the glorious era of Hazamir; the institution then reached the greatest growth and musically stood at the highest level of achievement. In that period, Hazamir was among the leading music societies in Poland.
The choir was reorganized and, for this purpose, Leon Kopf searched among the moderate and working intelligentsia for the most capable people that Jewish Będzin then possessed. And in time, when Kopf publicly appeared in a concert, where he mainly performed the most difficult compositions by Handel, [Louis] Lewandowski, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn and others with untrained material [singers], it was a terrific surprise. The choir, which consisted of 49 people, women and men, sang wonderfully under the direction of Leon Kopf, and delighted the listener.
The popularity of the Będzin music institution grew so much that, after several more concerts by the choir and the orchestra, which then numbered around 130 members, it was invited to Katowice, which was then one of the most significant German border cities. The concert was performed with enormous success. The Hebrew and Yiddish folk songs sounded harmonic in the then existing Reich's Halle. At the concert appeared the soloists, N. Kaufman (tenor), who sang Zamd un Shtern [Sand and Stars] by Sh. Frug, and L. Goldsztajn who sang the then very popular folk song, A Brivele der Mama [A Letter from the Mother], with a specially written accompaniment by Leon Kopf.
The dramatic section also began intensive activity at that time. The section, which then consisted of the sisters, Rachel, Ita and Nadzia Fersztenfeld, Frimet Lustik, Ester Ast, Herszl Sztrochlic, Herszl Sztatler, Wolf Rechnic, Majer Cymberknop, L. Goldsztajn, Pesach Barenblat, Dawid Pinkus and others, performed a series of plays, Sholem Aleichem's Tsezeyt un Tseshpreyt [Scattered Far and Wide], Sholem Asch's Mitn Shtorm [With the Stream], Kenig Lir [King Lear] of J. Gordon, Talmid Hacham [Scholar], Mosze Heyt and others.
|A group of founders and active Hazamir workers
Sitting on the right:
Buchman, J. Lewinski, Director Leon Kamf,* L. Goldsztajn, J. Krygsztajn
Standing from the right:
K. Hamburger, K. Openhajm, Sz. Wodislawski, H. Sztrochlic
At the end of 1910, the poet, Avraham Reisin, who took part in an artistic evening dedicated in his honor, stayed in Będzin as a guest of Hazamir. Reisin recited a series of his own creations and, in addition, the dramatic section performed Sholem Asch's Mitn Shtorm. It is necessary to remark that several Hazamir members obtained a passport for Reisin. Thanks to this he successfully traveled to America right from here.
The radiant period of Hazamir lasted until the end of 1912. From then began the decline of the musical-dramatic section. The reason for this was: The neglect on the part of the Jewish cultural institutions in our city that caused Leon Kopf to leave Hazamir because of its financial difficulties. With great endeavors and efforts there was success in engaging the famous composer and musician, Matityahu Bensman, who took over the directing.
However, Hazamir was too small a field of work for Bensman, where he could not derive musical satisfaction; at that time he was one of the most significant Jewish composers. He was also affected by the financial difficulties and after several concerts dedicated to Jewish folk music and several theater performances (also under Bensman's direction) and after several rehearsals of Verdi's opera, La Traviata in Yiddish (which Bensman himself translated and gave a poetic form), the great musician had to leave Będzin.
Because of Bensman's departure, the contributing members of the musical-dramatic section began one by one to depart and more attention was given to the literary section.
At the end of 1912, the following members were on the Hazamir managing committee:
Saloman Gutman (chairman), Szlomo Abramson (vice chairman), L. Rubinlicht (treasurer), Sz. Szeftl (secretary), K. Openhajm, Izak Sercacz, Sz. Zmudzki, J. Sztatler, J. Wygodzki and Editor, L. Szpigelman.
At that time a foundation was laid for a modern Jewish library in Będzin. A collection of books began, to which M. Aronowicz greatly contributed.
At the beginning, the library also benefited greatly from D. M. Ratner, who greatly cooperated on behalf of its development and strongly supported materially.
Again the most active coworkers: Motl Gold. Alter Tenebaum, Eidl Krygsztajn and Miriam Tenenbaum, who was a managing committee member and worked as the librarian with great devotion from 1913 to 1920.
On the 20th of December 1913, the solemn opening of the Hazamir Library took place to which I. L. Peretz was especially invited. The great poet gave a speech and a solemn banquet was arranged in honor of the famous guest, which was turned into a demonstration of Yiddish literature.
Close to the beginning of the World War, Sholem Aleichem on his way to America was a guest of Hazamir. The beloved writer read various fragments from his work and delighted the hundreds of listeners with his ebullient humor.
The work was interrupted by the outbreak of the World War. The Hazamir again began to carry out cultural activity in 1915. The library was reopened and frequent gatherings and literary talks were arranged Among others, M. Aronowicz, Dr. Sz. Wajnciher, J. Pesachson, M. Merkin (Sosnowiec) were active lecturers. In addition, an entire series of lecturers was brought from outside.
In the later years, because of financial difficulties, Hazamir had to confine its activities to the library, in which, J. Pesachson, M. Gold, J. Frajlich, E. Kowalski, B. Graubart, Dr. Ch. Perel, M. Kaminski and Nuta Brodkiewicz were principally interested. The latter especially served on behalf of the library because he was simultaneously active, from 1930 to the present day, as librarian, treasurer and manager (naturally without any financial reward).
According to the order of the 30th of December, 1936 of the Będzin supervisory regime, the Hazamir society had to liquidate and if the library continued to exist it had to authorize new rules which would conform to the decree about societies of 1932.
A meeting of members was called for the purpose on the 6th of February, 1937 at which an organizing committee of the following people was elected: Israel Frajlich, Motl Gold, Dr. Chaim Perel and Nuta Brodkiewicz, who had to create statutes for the new library named for Sholem Aleichem.
The general meeting took place on the 24th of May, 1937 at which a new managing committee for the Sholem Aleichem library was elected with the following composition: Motl Gold (chairman), Icchak Feldbaum (secretary), Dr. Ch. Perel (treasurer), Nuta Brodkiewicz (librarian and manager), Israel Frajlich, Sz. Najszteter and J. A. Liwer.
In 1937 the library counted 41 members, 175 readers and possessed 3,150 books.
The library is a constant subscriber to all Yiddish books and important
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
In October 1929, at the initiative of Dr. F. Widerman, a division of the Jewish Geographic Society was founded in Zagłębie, whose purpose was to awaken the love of tourism and knowledge of the land.
In the beginning the seat of the division was located in Sosnowiec and the first members were recruited from the faculty of the local Jewish women's gymnazie [secondary school].
In November 1930 the seat of the division was moved to the premises of the Merchants' Union in Bedzin. The new managing committee, with the participation of L. Rechtman, J. Tenenbaum and others, began intensive work.
Strong development of the division, which many new members joined, began after the seat was moved to Będzin. So that at the end of 1932 the society numbered 258 members from Będzin, Sosnowiec, Dąbrowa and the surrounding areas.
In addition to numerous nearby and distant excursions, the division also organized a series of excursions in the Zagłębie and Upper Silesian factories and thus made possible the acquaintance of the Jewish community with the industrial centers in the above regions.
The society developed cultural and informational work simultaneously among its members, organizing lectures, literary evenings, foreign language courses and also arranged exhibitions of pictures by Jewish painters.
A tourist library and a reading room that was provided with 21 different publications also were founded by the society.
In the activity of the society the fact of arranging the first Zagłębie tourist and geography exhibitions in the area in 1931 earns special attention, as well as the organization in 1933 of popular train trips to Krynica and in 1934-1936 to Krakow.
In 1930 a skiing section was created that was a member of the skiing association and a photography section with a well-equipped dark room and a photography course was also created.
Because of the strong development of the division, the necessity arose to move to a new meeting place that was rented on Sączewski Street in 1933. When the number of members grew considerably in 1936, the society moved to a comfortable meeting place on Kołłątaja Street.
Because during the last years various difficulties arose in organizing excursions, more attention was given to the cultural and information work and for the purpose of systematically arranging lectures, reports and literary evenings every Wednesday. The communal club, which was part of the club, led this activity.
In 1937 the managing committee of the Geographic Society consisted of the following members: Dr. Widerman (chairman), L. Rechtman (vice chairman), Sz. Hampel (secretary), B. Salomon (treasurer), H. Wajzenfreund, J. Tenenbaum, M. Plesner, Dr. Wajnbach, and A. Rudzyn.
The composition of the club managing committee was the following: J. Erlich
(chairman), L. Rechtman (vice chairman), Dr. Wajnbach (treasurer), W. Buchwajc
(secretary), J. Ajzenberg (manager), J. Tenenbaum, D. Cukerman, L. Goldsztajn
and A. Hampel.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Ognisko [The Hearth], the academic circle, has existed officially in our city as a provincial division of the Jewish Students Organization Ognisko, based in Krakow since the 22nd of August 1925. However, such a circle existed earlier as a division of the association, Auxilium academicum iudaicum [Academic Jewish Aid] branch in Będzin.
The purpose of the circle according to its statutes is: to provide loans to the members, in order to make it possible for them to finish their studies, to strength the process for the Krakow Central as well as to awaken a desire among the members to lead scientific and communal ways of life. In the matter of the first purpose, the local Ognisko can boast of success. The general sum of the loans that were provided through the circle to the end of the academic year 1936/37 reached 18,720 guilder. This aid made it possible for a large number of members to finish their studies and many doctors, lawyers and so on thank the help described for their present existence.
The general sum of money that was given to the Krakow Central reached 4,820
guilder. This amount shows that the Będzin circle is among those with the
most significant Jewish academic provincial standing.
The circle today numbers about 200 members and almost the entire professional intelligentsia, the academic young and the graduates of the middle school are concentrated around it.
The cultural and organizational work that for a while was only being carried out at the general meetings, spread in more recent times, to a series of other areas. So, for example, in the academic year of 1936/37 about 20 cultural events, such as lectures, artistic evenings, discussions and so on, took place.
A very important achievement in the cultural area was the publication of its own periodical under the name Ognisko published in partnership with the Sosnowiec circle. The periodical, which makes use of literary, political and scientific categories, tries to create contact between the Jewish academic young and the older generation and presents itself as an important cultural factor in the area of Jewish Zagłębie.
Ognisko, the academic circle, is very popular and beloved among the local society. That all undertakings that are arranged by the circle are widely and welcomingly supported serves as evidence of this fact. This is mainly expressed in the arrangement of the yearly academic ball with the largest communal orchestra from Zagłębie and Upper Silesia.
The composition of the managing committee at the beginning of 1938 was the following: Mgr. [magister director of an academic institution] R. Rechnic (chairman), L. Dreksler (vice chairman), Miss F. Czarnicka (treasurer), H. Berkowicz (secretary), E. Gutman, M. Szwajcer and Miss G. Beri.
The trustee of the academic circle was the very capable communal worker, Dr.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The statutes of the Merchants Union were legalized by the Russian regime in June 1913. The founders were: Salomon Gutman, Szlomo Abramson, L. Rubinlicht. The founding meeting took place in September of the same year, at which the first managing committee was elected with the following composition: Ch. D. Rozenblum (chairman), L. Rubinlicht (vice chairman), Nachum Cukerman, Szlomo Abramson, J. Wajnryb, Dr. Wajnciher, and others. Since, Dr. Wajnciher did not accept the mandate, Mendl Blumenfrucht took his place on the managing committee. J. Goldfeld, Jeszaja Hendl Erlich, M. Kronental, Sz. Rotner and others also had a substantial role in the first sessions.
At that time the Merchants Union also tried to organize the Jewish artisans.
The Endekes [Endecja Narodowa Demokraczja anti-Semitic, Polish Nationalist Democratic Party], which in 1912 proclaimed an anti-Jewish boycott because the Jews in Poland did not support Kucharzewski, the Endekes' candidate, for the Russian Duma, but Jagiełło, the Democratic candidate, provided the initial impetus to found their own merchants union.
After the rise of the union, the members joined the finance institution Known as: Mutual Credit Society and demanded for the first time that there should also be Jewish members on the managing committee of the credit commission and in all other divisions. This demand evoked strong displeasure on the part of the non-Jewish managing committee that was not accustomed to hearing such bold requests from Jewish merchants.
Thanks to the initiative of the Merchants Union, a group of Jewish mutual credit societies arose with the lawyer, Rider, at the head. These financial institutions had a great success and developed well.
The outbreak of the World War in 1914 temporarily paralyzed the activity of the Merchants Union and of the financial institutions, but a short time later the union again began to carry out intensive work.
The arbitration court, which handled various matters, was well accepted during the German occupation.
A charter for a Jewish gymnazie [secondary school] was received after the energetic intervention on the part of several members of the Merchants Union with the occupying power and to this day the contractor for the gymnazie named for Sz. Firstenberg and his wife is the Merchants Union.
At the emergence of the newly revived Poland, the union showed a great intensity when seizures were made from various merchants; as well as later, when the office to fight usurious prices arose. The Merchants Union then earned great esteem with the regime, which strongly took into account its opinion of the union. Later, M. Tenenbaum, as the representative in the usury court, engaged the then members of the Merchants Union, who did much on behalf of the local merchants.
The Merchants Union takes an active part in all of the election campaigns to
the city council and always guides their candidates for the communal managing
|The managing committee of the Merchants Union in 1937
Sitting from the right:
N. Goldsobel, M. Gertner, M. Lewin, chairman, L. Rubinlicht,
J. Goldfeld, Sz. Krakowski, M. Grundman
Standing from the right:
A. Gitler, B. Rembiszewski, Sz. Frydler, K. Koplowicz Sz. Liwer,
P. Unger, Prawer, officer, M. Gold, A. J. Sandzer, (both in Israel)
and secretary Ajzenberg
L. Rubinlicht, the chairman of the Merchants Union for a long time, was the vice president of our city and today he is an alderman in the local city hall.
When the trade office in Sosnowiec arose, the union delegated its chairman, who is to this day the councilman of this institution, to go there. In addition to this, Rubinlicht also is the trades' judge.
Many of its members were elected as aldermen and in the labor court thanks to the efforts of the union. In this instance, Markus Gertner and Alfred Szwarcbaum were, among others, also representatives found at the county court. M. Gold was representative on the appeals commission at the izba skarbowa (tax office) in Kielce.
For a long time the managing committee members Michael Lewin, Meszulem Liwer and K. Koplowicz were delegated to the appraisal commission at the Będzin tax office.
The Merchants Union stays on watch for the interests of Jewish merchants and
always intervenes in all state and communal matters on behalf of its members.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
In 1924, the idea ripened in our city for organizing the Jewish retailers, who had no connection with the class of large merchants and wholesalers whose interests were often the opposite.
This happened after the great victory that the then petit bourgeoisie election committee scored during the kehila voting.
A small group of people were occupied with the creation of the local division of the Central Retailers Union in Poland. Thanks to their perseverance and energy, the creation of this institution, which became the guide and defender of the specific Jewish interests of the Jewish retail merchant and retailer, was successful.
On the 15th of February, the general founding meeting took place in their own
meeting hall on Modrzejower Street 37, where a group of about 280 people took
part. The president of the Central office, Krim, Ch. Wajnsztok, the member of
the Central Committee, Dr. Sz. Wajnciher, Sejm deputy and the chairman of the
Retailers Union of Częstochowa, Niemirowski, were present at the meeting.
|The managing committee of the Retailers Union in 1937
Seated from right:
H. Stopinski, J. Rus, G. Rechnic (chairman), D. Gutensztajn (vice chairman),
Sz. Klajman. Standing: M. Kaner (chief clerk), A. Krycler, Sz. Rajchman, Szwajcer, W. Meryn.
Here are missing: G. Brama, A. D. Bolimowski and A. J. Rechnic
To the first managing committee were elected: Jakob Erlich, Josef Szwajcer, Abram Lidzbarski, Nuta Londner, Ziskind Zygelbaum, Herszl Blumenfrucht, Szymon Kruk, Kalman Hajde, Josef Rus, Aron Feldberig, Dawid Gutensztajn, Mosze Majer Zaks, Herman Sztrochlic, Michael Sztrojsman and Ziskind Feldberg; as representatives, Nachman Tenenberg, Mosze Rozenblum and Lipa Berkowicz. To the audit-committee: Herszl Sztatler, Henryk Szwarcberg and Szmul Pelc. The first honorary member of the secretariat was Leibl Rozenblum; later Kalman Zajdman and Mendel Kaner were engaged.
During the time of its existence, the union acquired a reputation for its tireless work on behalf of the Jewish retailers. It developed an appropriate esteem in the authoritative spheres and also received representation in all state, communal and commercial self-managing institutions. In short the union became an important factor in Będzin Jewish economic life.
Herszl Herszelewicz, Abram Flak, Nachman Tenenberg and others, who served greatly on behalf of the development of the institution, worked together very actively for many years.
Josef Rus, who cooperated greatly in the work of uniting both Retailers Central organizations in Warsaw, represented the local division on the Central Committee.
In 1937 the composition of the managing committee was the following: Josef Rus (chairman), Dawid Gutensztajn (vice chairman), Baruch Brama (secretary), Eli Dawid Bolimowski (treasurer), Gerszon Rechnic, Joszua Klajnman, Iser Krycler, Wolf Meryn, Abram Ischar Rechnic, Szlomo Rajchman and Herszl Stopnicki. The audit committee: Dawid Gitler, Szmul Laudon and Jicchak Joel Wekselman. The judicial consul of the union is advocate, Dr. R. Rechtman and office personnel, Mendel Kaner.
The union was represented in the trade office by D. Gutensztajn city managing committee, by G. Rechnic, city council by Jehoszua Klajnman, in the gmilat chesed kase [interest free loan fund] by Mendel Kaner kehila [organized Jewish community] managing committee, by H. Sztrochlic, kehila council by A. J. Rechnic.
In 1927 a cooperative credit institution under the name, Spółdzielczy Bank Dyskontow, was founded at the union that exists to this day, In 1937 the managing committee of the bank consisted of Baruch Brama, Josef Rus, Jehoszua Klajnman and Motel Lenczner; the supervisory council of Gerszon Rechnic, Dawid Gutensztajn, Hersh Stopnicki, Hilel Bolimowski, Wolf Meryn, Dawid Gitler and Szlomo Rajchman; representatives, Aron Feldberg and Mosze Lask.
In 1934 the union took over the three classic trade schools of the gymnazie
type, which are led under its supervision.
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