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Relief Work and Shikkun Brzezin (Brzeziner Housing Project) in Israel (cont.)

An appeal to our landslayt all over the world was issued at once, and we read in it:

To all Brzeziner landslayt dispersed throughout the world:

To our landslayt whose cradle was in Brzezin near Lodz, to all who learned the alphabet in that Hasidic tailoring town of toiling, honest, noble folk, it is to you we turn with this appeal. We hope that the call for help will reach all Brzeziners that Fate has scattered all over the world.

The matter about which we turn to you is of such great importance that we want all Brzeziners to acquaint themselves with it, to agree at once that they wish to have the honor of being among those who have assisted in the realization of the project.

It is the matter of the Shikhun Brzezin that is to be built in Israel to put a roof over the heads of all our landslayt who were rescued from Nazi hands and now find themselves and their children in canvas tents in Israel, imperiled by all kinds of weather, bringing them to the brink of desperation. For those Brzeziners who came through hell and arrived in our homeland to find their permanent home—we must care for all of them so that they may settle down as human beings and be able to live a normal life. We, the Brzeziners in America, as brothers who were concerned about and helped all the survivors when they were found in the camps, we must now provide them with a roof over their heads.

In order to carry this out, a shikhun will be built in Kfar-Unu near Tel Aviv, a shikhun of forty three-room apartments, ten four-family houses, and also a gathering place. We must contribute $44,000. The New York organization has raised half that sum. Now, we have to complete the project. If we do not get the help from our landslayt around the world, we will not be able to see the plan finalized. The construction work has finally begun!

For the Brzeziner organization, Alter Rosenfeld, President

For the Brzeziner Relief Committee: Jacob D. Berg, Chairman, Abe Fox, Honorary Chairman, F. Maliniak, Vice-Chairman, Louie Horn, Finance Secretary

Of course, it was not as easy as it sounds. It required a lot of strength and effort on the part of our landsmanshaft in New York and the landslayt in California, Chicago, and Paris.

Many raised their eyebrows. They could not believe that we were capable of accomplishing such a big project. We were not many in number; most of the landslayt consisted of craftsmen working in the tailoring trades, small wage-earners. “It will get stuck in the middle. It is far beyond our strength,” well-meaning landslayt advised.

Nevertheless, the plan succeeded in being implemented. Not only were nine buildings built in Kfar-Unu, where one hundred and thirty souls live, but there is also a beautiful Culture Center, where the walls are adorned with pictures of the once remarkably beautiful shul [synagogue] of Brzezin, of the great rabonim [rabbis], and especially with the picture of Harov [town rabbi] Jekutiel Zalman Borensztajn, zts”l [may the blessed memory of a righteous person be blessed], whom the Nazis beat murderously while they were burning the shul.

At the Beit Ha-am, the gathering place for all our landslayt in Israel, trees were planted in memory of our dead brothers, the secretaries of our Relief Committee—Willie Green and Louie Horn—who put in so much strength and effort that everything might be completed.

 

brz191.jpg -   Child actors from 'Shikhun Brzezin' in their roles
Child actors from Shikhun Brzezin in their roles

 

We must also recall that there is also a very fine library there, which was donated as a gift by the J. D. Berg family. The equipment and furniture in the hall was a gift of our member Morris Frank and his wife. He himself was actually born in Bialy but voluntarily adopted Brzezin as his second hometown.

We also had the great mazl [luck] to have a most wonderful women's organization such as ours, which raised the sum of $7,000 and helped make it all possible. They encouraged us so that our great undertaking might succeed.

As was already stated, the greatest part of the needed sum came from direct donations from our landslayt in New York, California, and Chicago. We must certainly remember here with thanks several of our well-to-do landslayt who donated larger amounts. Among them were Abraham Fox, the honorary chairman of the committee, who donated a building in the name of his deceased mother, Mollie Fox, z”l; the Brothers Max and Charlie Kalish; Shlomo Schwartz; and several others.

The landslayt from Paris, who had been helped only recently, also had a hand in that work. They contributed several thousand dollars to the historic project that is our great crowning work—of which we can truly be proud.

 

brz192.jpg -   Fishel Maliniak, on behalf of the Relief Committee, addressing a gathering of 'landslayt'
Fishel Maliniak, on behalf of the Relief Committee, addressing a gathering of landslayt
On the dais can be seen Joseph Diamond, J. D. Berg, and Ruth Hauser

 

In connection with activities to raise larger sums among the landslayt in Chicago and California, it should be noted here that our Brother Joe Diamond, who had the opportunity to make several trips to various places, used his private travels for all sorts of projects related to the Brzeziner Relief Committee. The Brzeziner Relief Club of California, with J. Fogel at its head, carried out independent relief work on behalf of our survivor-landslayt and should be mentioned here.

When Friend Berg traveled to Israel for the second time, for the dedication of a building of the Shikhun Brzezin, the Israeli correspondent Tsanin of the Forvertz wrote about it:

It was not an ordinary commemoration but a real wedding, where the most essential person was the representative of the Brzeziners in America, J. D. Berg, for without the Brzeziner landslayt, the entire celebration would not have taken place … ”

The Jews in the transit center did not even dream of having such palaces, so the celebration was enormous. They laughed, and they cried … but it did not end with that. Places to live are certainly a good thing. Only now will they be able to have a real sense of their own home in Israel—but that is not enough. Brzezin was not an ordinary shtetl of 'scissors-and-iron folk,' but Brzeziner tailors knew Talmud, carried on a cultural life with libraries, with books, with lectures and talks. And that is what they also wanted in Israel. One has to take care of the soul. And at the ceremony at the opening of the apartments, the cornerstone was laid for a Culture House …

The Culture House and the library, about which M. Tsanin wrote in the above-mentioned article in Forverts is already a completed fact. A wonderful library functions there now with Yiddish and Hebrew books, newspapers, and journals from all over the Jewish world.

When our distinguished landsman, Har-Jaffe (Szajnberg), came to America, he expressed thanks that this great project brought the landslayt in Israel closer to the landslayt in America. A bridge was created between them and us. Actually, there are now two great communities of Brzeziner landslayt—in America and in Israel. They represent Brzezin from long ago and from the present.


[Pages 193-94]

Brzeziners and Lodzers in California

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

The Jewish yishev [colony] in California has grown greatly in recent years; Jews have come from various states and cities. Of course, the good climate for which California is known has been an extremely strong influence.

Of course, there already had been Jews in California for many years, but they did not come with the stream of “gold hunters.” Most of the Jewish residents came looking for the “gold” of the sun.

Brzeziners came to sunny California with yikhes [aristocratic lineage], with tradition. Jews from Lodz also came. They kept close together; they felt as if they were related, because, geographically, Lodz and Brzezin were almost like a room with an alcove. They began to stick together, and as a result, the Brzeziner-Lodzer Society was established.

On November 21, 1929, we convened at the home of Morris Badover, and there the cornerstone was laid that united the highly developed industrial Lodz with the small tailoring town of Brzezin. Since then, they have lived in harmony as in a good marriage.

At the founding meeting the following landslayt were present: Morris Badover, Charlie Baron, S. Berkowitz, Jack Diamond, A. Diamond, Morris Gribs, B. Miller, C. Newman, M. Piotrkowski, J. Rosenblat, S. Rubinstein, W. Walter, and Sam Zigman.

The following were appointed temporarily as the first officers of the united Brzeziner-Lodzer landsmanshaft [society of fellow townsmen]: Morris Badover, president; B. Miller, vice-president; and Charlie Newman, treasurer.

Over the years, they carried out various community activites. Here is a list of important organizations they supported: the American Red Cross, City of Hope, Cancer Fund, Community Chest, and the California Home in Recido—as well as Jewish organizations and institutions, such as Keren Kayemeth, Histadrut, United Jewish Welfare Fund, and many others.

With respect to our account about California, permit me to cite from “Impressions from a Trip,” which Joseph Diamond printed in his booklet, released by the Brzeziner landsmanshaft on their 50th anniversary jubilee:

“…my personal pleasure in meeting with those near and dear to us also had an additional place in our plans. A meeting of the Brzeziner Relief Club was arranged at once, and I was warmly and cordially greeted that evening as the guest of honor. Although that club consists of just a small number of members, they nonetheless created a warm and friendly environment.

The warmth with which our landslayt were welcomed that night, was—we thought to ourselves—not personal, not an expression of pleasure toward an individual, but only because that evening I was the embodiment of the landslayt in New York. Perhaps in that feeling of pleasure was the expression of a buried longing, which lies in the depth of our souls, toward that former place, for the town where our cradles had stood…I was so overwhelmed by that poignant pleasure that I never stopped talking about it… .

This particular society [Brzeziner-Lodzer Society] has a majority of non-Brzeziner members. Therefore, it is natural in their collections of money for their rescue work that they would express the wish to participate in general Jewish relief work. They did not want to localize their relief work—all of those in need are victims and must therefore be helped. This organization made a good impression on us, particularly their method of conducting their meetings. Their leaders are very likable people, and they demonstrated interest and a sincere attitude toward our recommendations and suggestions.

The Brzeziner Relief Club there is an organization that was created at the outbreak of the war. It should be noted here, incidentally, that Brother Fogel gave a great deal of effort and work in support of the club. The purpose of that Brzeziner club became clear to me. It was motivated principally by the idea of having their own corner in which to be able to live in their own Brzeziner manner. Fate had also willed that because of the horrible world situation, they should feel obligated, as to one of their own, to come to the aid of Hitler's victims from Brzezin. They began to carry out independent fund raising, sending clothing and food packages directly to the unfortunate who had survived Hitler's hell.

After several meetings with them, we succeeded in persuading them that substantial work for the victims can only be done in a united way and that the New York relief organization should be the central body to carry out the rescue work.

As a result of these negotiations, they actually began at once to send contributions to the Brzeziner Relief Committee in New York…at my farewell evening there were representatives already from both of the local organizations sitting at one table and discussing common problems …

The present board of the Brzeziner-Lodzer Society consists of the following members:

J. Haber, president; Harry Newman, vice-president; Celia Zigman, recording secretary; Jack Lax, financial secretary; and Sam Zigman, treasurer.

Chairmen of committees are: Natan Czernik, executive board; Rudy Czernik, loan and relief; Sam Stein, cemetery; Esther Haber, membership; Edward Jaloff, culture and publicity; Henry Bernheim, entertainment; Ida Apelbaum, hospital visits; Herbert Segal, management; Berta Kaufman, management; Hetty Miller, executive.

IN MEMORIAM

Sam Apelbaum
Morris Badover
J. Baron
Malia Becker
Fanny Berkowitz
Morris Berger
Sol Berkowitz
William Brown
Sam Simon Cohen
Tesia Cooper
S. Kronin
Jack Diamond
Noel Irwin Fox
George Horn
Celia Kalish
Harry Kaufman
Max Lang
S. Lasman
B. Miller
Jakob Miller
Morris Piotrkowski
Herman Ratner
Isidor Rosenblat
Ana Rosman
J. Rosman
Carl Rubinstein
Emanuel Samuels
Bessie Sheinholtz
Henry Sheinholtz
Sara Weinberg
William Walter
Celia Zigman
Abe Zigman
Alex Zimmerman
Alex Zwilling
Mary Zwilling

During various times, the following list of landslayt held the post of president of the Brzeziner Society in America:

A. Blas, S. Baron, M. Drengel, G. Diamond, Joseph Diamond, William Green, J. Hillel, M. Horowitz, A. Toping, H. Kesler, L. Fogel, Sam Fox, A. Kujawsky, S. Newman, Tuvia Peizer, A. Rosman, M. Rosenberg, Feivel Rosenberg, Alter Rosenfeld, J. H. Rosenkrantz, Aron Selin, M. Sher, J. Silverstein, and Manny Snyder.

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