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[Page 207]

The Trade Unions[1]

By Pesach Finklshtayn /Ramat-Gan (Israel)

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

Only part of the Jewish population of Kałuszyn was engaged in commerce. The majority earned a living as artisans in various occupations – as tailors, shoemakers, joiners, talaysim makers[2], pelisse makers, cap makers, wood-turners, brush makers (females), and other trades.

The Kałuszyn talaysim were renowned and used to be sold all over Poland. Tailors and shoemakers used to sell their production in the neighbouring townlets as well – Stanisławów, Dobre, Mińsk-Mazowiecki, Siennica and other. The brush makers and pelisse makers also used to sell their handiwork in other towns, as well as fill orders for the Polish Army.

The turner workshops in Kałuszyn were making quality products as well, some of which went for export abroad.

All these trades engaged a considerable number of employees, and before the establishment of the trade unions, conflicts used to arise between the workers and the employers, and occasional strikes (would break out). Thus, even before the emergence of an organised movement, workers struggled for better conditions and higher pay.

The first to organise a union were the turners. In 1924 they established the trade union of woodworkers in Kałuszyn. In time that union organised various sections – shingle makers, brush makers, as well as a section of Polish (non-Jewish) workers - wood cutters.

 

kal207e.jpg The wood-turner workshop of P. Finklshtayn
The wood-turner workshop of P. Finklshtayn

 

The woodworkers union had in 1934, after great efforts, acquired its own quarters and extended its field of operations. Apart from looking after the economic interests of its members, the union conducted extensive cultural activities, brought in lecturers and organised discussions around the political issues of the day.

The woodworkers' union watched over the workers' interests, and despite the (subsequent) weakened demand for their products, the workers obtained higher pay through union action. The biggest strikes involved the brush makers (the female unionists) and sometimes lasted three to four weeks. The strikers used to be assisted by all the working people in town, as well as (those) from the neighbouring townlets and (even) from Warsaw. The deliveries of strike-affected products would be impounded, and notwithstanding the intervention of the police, most strikes ended in victory (for the workers).

The main activists and organisers were: Avrohom Kamienny, Mayer Milgrom, Sholem Kamienny, Chaim Milgrom, Velvl Safirshtayn, Gershon Varshav, Artche Sukenik and Pesach Finklshtayn. Among the female brush makers were very active: Naomi Shtaynberg, Laya Ray, Yocheved Mashlanke, Chana Levin, and others.

Other trade unions were organised on the model of the woodworkers'. The clothing union organised all the clothing workers in town, and set up as well a section of pelisse makers. This union too, fought tenaciously for the interests of its workers.

For a time there existed two clothing unions in town – one under the aegis of the “Bund”[3], the other led by the communists and the Poalei Tsiyon-Left[4].

Among the activists of the clothing union were: Mayer Engel, Moyshe Tseshinski, and Yocheved Rayzman.

The leatherworkers' union consisted of a section of shoe uppers makers, and a section of elderly shoemakers - home workers who used to work for low pay. The latter were poorly organised, and it was very difficult to draw them into the struggle for better working conditions.

The activists of the leatherworkers' union were the comrades Sholem Ray, Yosl Obronczka, Shmul Shooster and others.

The (membership of the) transport union consisted of a group of wagon drivers who used to cart all sorts of goods from the railways at Mrozy to Kałuszyn. The merchants of Kałuszyn wanted to engage peasants' carts in order to force a lowering of transport prices. Whilst they couldn't cope with the Jewish carters during weekdays, they (thought) they found a way to do so on the Sabbath. They figured that if they used the peasant wagons on Saturdays, the elderly and pious Jewish drivers would desist from showing up (to interfere) so as to avoid disturbing the day of rest… However, they were mistaken. All the transport workers came to defend their interests, and instead of going to worship they went to stop the peasant carts and bar the entry of goods into town.

Thus the transport workers too, won the right to work and for better working conditions.

The transport union was led by Shmul Ayzershtayn, Motl Roznboym and others.

These trade unions were under the auspices of a central council comprising representatives from the constituent bodies. The council was in charge of all trade union activity in town. The unions also took an active part in all campaigns of the political parties (that were sponsoring them).

All those Jewish workers and toilers were murdered together with their leaders. Let this recollection (serve to) engrave their worthy names for generations to come.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of די פּראָפֿעסיאָנעלע פֿאַראײנען, an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961. Return
  2. Talaysim (talitim) - prayer shawls (singular tales or talit). Return
  3. Abbreviation of Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland: “General Jewish Workers' Union in Lithuania, Poland and Russia”), Jewish socialist party founded in Russia in 1897 (Encyc.Judaica). Return
  4. A socialist-Zionist party, a predecessor of the left-wing Meretz party in Israel. Return


[Page 212]

A Strike and a Din-Torah[1]

By Chaim Rayzman

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

This is the story about a strike led by Noote Tenenboym.

 

kal212e.jpg Noote Tenenboym
Noote Tenenboym
(Please Note: This photograph appears in the printed (1961) version
of Sefer Kałuszyn on page 496 in a short biography of N. Tenenboym)

 

Soon after the first German occupation (World War I), the trade union presented the owner of the big mill, Dovid Ruzhe a demand for a pay raise. The request came with an ultimatum to sign the agreement within 24 hours or face a work stoppage. Ruzhe did not take notice of the letter, but when the twenty-four hours where up and the mill went idle, his children started to read the strange note with the demand.

“Who is this tachsheet [2], this Noote Tenenboym?” Ruzhe asked his children. When he heard that it was the dayante's[3] grandson and a (former) student of the Rabbi, he went forthwith to the latter to complain that the dayante's grandson stopped the mill.

The Rabbi was amazed: “is it possible, how come? If two Jews have a dispute, they (usually) go to the Rabbi for a din-Torah. How is it that the dayante's grandson (suddenly) became a Rabbi?” The Rabbi ordered Reb Mechl, the old beadle to fetch the tanna bara[4], the grandson of the dayante.

The tachsheet entered the bez-din (rabbinical court) room, where Dovid Ruzhe the miller was already waiting. Noote Tenenboym, the secretary of the Trade Unions boldly declared that the dispute is not a matter for a din-Torah, or even arbitration, but the business of the trade unions; it concerns only the workers and the employer, and the final arbiter would be the union.

The Rabbi of Kałuszyn, Reb Shmuel Yaakov Kopl ha-kohen[5] z”l[6] was a very wise man and understood the arguments of his former student. After the miller was gone, and the Rabbi was left alone with Noote, the former confided that he too, was being badly treated by the kehilla[7] and that his pay was not sufficient to sustain his family…

It seems that the opinions of his student appealed to the Rabbi and that he was, almost, ready to accept Noote's intercession on his, the Rabbi's behalf…

The strike ended with the employer acceding to all the demands of the workers, and the wheels of the mill were once again set in motion.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of אַ שטרײק און אַ דין־תּורה, an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961.
    Din-Torah - lit. “Judgement according to the Torah”. Term used for a court case held before judges, who rule in accordance with rabbinic law. Today, except in Israel, where certain areas of personal status are legally assigned to the rabbinical courts, diné Torah (pl.) are generally held only where both parties have signed an agreement accepting the verdict of the bet din as binding. (From www.answers.com/topic/din-torah). Return
  2. Jewel (ironic). Return
  3. A combination of dayan (a rabbi's assistant charged with settling minor disputes) and the Yiddish suffix –te for the feminine. Here it probably means the “dayan's widow”, otherwise Noote would have been identified as the dayan's grandson. Return
  4. Very ironic – “darling son”, “fine fellow”.
    {The Tannaim (singular תנא, Tanna) were the sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 70-200 CE. (From Wikipedia).
    The Mishnah (“repetition”, from the verb shanah שנה, or “to study and review”) is the first major redaction into written form of Jewish oral traditions. (From Wikipedia).
    Bara(ita) - Aramaic word designating a tannaite tradition NOT incorporated in the Mishnah; later it was applied also to collections of such traditions. The Baraitas were taught in preparatory schools, existing alongside the (Talmudic) academies, (and) were designated by the term “bara” (the outside). Thus “tanna bara” (means) a “tanna (teacher) of the bara” (outside school). (From www.jewishencyclopedia.com/)}. Return
  5. Belonging to the priestly tribe. Return
  6. Of blessed memory. Return
  7. The Kehilla as an institution was the instrument of Jewish denominational autonomy and was in charge of, among other things, hiring and paying the rabbi. Return


[Page 218]

Poalei Tsiyon – Right (PoaleiTsiyon – Z.S.)[1]

By Y. Tsigler/ Tel-Aviv

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

The party Poalei Tsiyon – Right became active and began to exert an influence on the social life in Kałuszyn in 1928. Some of the members came from the Poalei Tsiyon – Left, others from the Chaluts[2] circles. In 1929 the party membership stood at about 50.

In the beginning the new party experienced some difficulties, especially from the Poalei Tsiyon Left, who couldn't make peace with the new orientation and the “breakaway” comrades. In time, however, the new party found its niche in the social fabric (of the town) and normalised its relations with the other groupings and youth organisations.

The leader of the local Right Poalei Tsiyon was Yitzchok Kozhech, a son of a talaysim [3] maker, a frail only child, who till the age of ten wore exclusively white clothing to protect him from the “evil eye”… When he grew up his father sent him to sell talaysim all over the towns and shtetls [4] of Poland and Galitsya[5]. These travels broadened the young man's horizons, and he dedicated himself with considerable energy and organisational talent to the new party.

 

kal218e.jpg Poalei Tsiyon  Right  1928
Poalei Tsiyon Right 1928
(Inscription on the banner reads: Jewish Socialist Workers - G.G.)

 

In the beginning of 1936, before my departure to Israel the party had grown to one hundred members and also built up a youth organisation, “Yugnt-Frayhayt”[6] with a membership in excess of 100. The youngsters were recruited from the working youth. With an increase in influence on the youth of the idea of Eretz Israel[7], “Yugnt-Frayhayt” attracted many young people from the Left Poalei Tsiyon “Yungbor”[8] and from the Bundist “Tsukunft”[9].

In comparison to the other workers' parties that existed for many years, the Poalei Tsiyon Right did not have many successes in the political or trade union fields. Nor did it have any councillors in the municipality. However, the party spent a great deal of effort and initiative on cultural activity and spiritual preparation (for) Eretz Israel.

Together with the abovementioned Yitzchok Kozhech were also active in the party the comrades Yisroel Klaynman, Yecheskiel Shtutman, Meshngiser and Yankl Furman. The speakers Kozhech, Tsigler, Meshngiser and Yeshaye Shapiro acted in the cultural sphere; the youth organisation was led by comrade Tsigler.

The main activity of the cultural groups consisted in discussing the issues of the Zionist organisation and the current problems of the workers' movement of Eretz Israel.

We were represented in all the Zionist institutions - in the Jewish National Fund, in the League of Workers of Eretz Israel and were involved in substantive practical activities. We were also in close friendly relationships with the Chalutsic-Shomer [10] circles.

Very interested in our activities was comrade Laybl Rozenfeld, the chairman of the League of Workers of Eretz Israel. Although he wasn't a member of our party, we found in him a kindred spirit.

We had established language night classes in our meeting place. Thirty students studied Hebrew and Eretz (Israel) current affairs with Moyshe Chalef, the son of the renowned Hebrew teacher Yehoshua Chalef. The course contributed a lot to the spiritual awareness and to the influence (of the concept) of Eretz Israel.

We were not content with the work in Kałuszyn only, and kept in touch with our party organisations in the surrounding towns and shtetls, helping to implant the Eretz Israel work ethos and to connect Jews with the land.

In the 1930-ies the party helped to organise a hachshara-kibutz [11] in town. It was situated in Goldshtayn's house, in Mrozy Street. The members were employed in chopping and sawing wood, also working in some of the local factories. The kibbutz experienced great financial difficulties, and I in part had to shoulder its worries and be responsible for its debts.

The comrades, adults and youth of the Poalei Tsiyon Right in Kałuszyn dreamt of going to the land of their ideal, but only few succeeded in fulfilling the dream. As far back as 1929 the party farewelled the comrades Shtutman and Kutchkovski on their aliya [12], but they had to stay back due to the interruption of aliya after the events in Israel during that year[13].

In 1936 I came to Eretz Israel and hoped to meet up here with my comrades. However, very few reached the land of their dream - the Nazi beast murdered most of them.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of די רעכטע פּועלי־ציון, an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961.
    Poalei Tsiyon - (Hebrew “Workers of Zion”) was founded in 1897. In the period of 1903-05 three different tendencies competed within Jewish (Zionist) socialist circles. From these, three parties were formed in 1905 and 1906: The Z.S. (Zionist-Socialists) the Y.S. (Jewish socialists) and the Poalei Tsiyon. In December of 1905, the main themes of Poalei Tsiyon ideology were enunciated by Ber Borochov (1881-1917). (From Zionism and Israel: www.zionism-israel.com). In 1920 the party split into Right and Left wings. The Right was a forerunner of the Israeli Labour Party. Return
  2. (Hebrew: The Pioneer) - an association of Jewish youth whose aim was to train its members to settle in the Land of Israel, (and) which became an umbrella organization of the pioneering Zionist youth movements.(Answers.com). Return
  3. Prayer shawls. Return
  4. Yiddish for a small town. Return
  5. Galicia or Galicja in Polish is one of the historical regions of Poland, especially its western part (west of the San River), traditionally called Małopolska, i.e. Little Poland (as opposed to Greater Poland around Poznań). Its most important city, Kraków has long been the seat of Polish kings. (Based on www.polishroots.org). Return
  6. Youth-Freedom. Return
  7. Land of Israel. Return
  8. “Borochov Yugnt” (Borochov Youth).
    Dov Ber Borochov (1881 - 1917) was a Marxist Zionist and one of the founders of the Labour Zionist movement. (From Wikipedia). Return
  9. Bund - Abbreviation of Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland; “General Jewish Workers' Union in Lithuania, Poland and Russia”, Jewish socialist party founded in Russia in 1897 (Encyc.Judaica). “Tsukunft” (Future) was the Bund's youth movement. Return
  10. Shomer or Hashomer (Hebrew: “The Watchman”) was a Jewish defense organization in Palestine founded in April 1909. The purpose of Hashomer was to provide guard services for Jewish settlements. Hashomer was originated by Socialist Zionists, mostly members of Poale Tsion. (Based on Zionism and Israel – Encyclopedic Dictionary). Return
  11. Hachshara – preparation;
    A kibbutz (Hebrew lit. “gathering, clustering) is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. The kibbutz is a form of communal living that combines socialism and Zionism. (From Wikipedia). Return
  12. Literally “ascending” - the Hebrew word for immigration to the Land of Israel. Return
  13. In late 1928 …began …minor disputes between Jews and Arabs about the right of Jews to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. …On Friday, August 23 (1929)… when Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem (1895/1897 - 1974)…fomented hatred … Arab mobs attacked Jews in Jerusalem, Motza, Hebron, Safed, Jaffa, and other parts of the country. … There were Jewish deaths in Hebron, where 67 Jewish men and women were slaughtered … as well as…other losses totaling 133 Jewish deaths, with more than 300 wounded. (From www.palestinefacts.org/pf_mandate_riots_1929.php).
    In 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini fled to Germany and met with Adolf Hitler… and other Nazi leaders… The Mufti sent Hitler 15 drafts of declarations he wanted Germany and Italy to make concerning the Middle East. One called on the two countries to …”accord … the right to solve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries… by the same method, that the question is now being settled in the Axis (Germany and its allies – G.G.) countries.” (From http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/muftihit.html). Return


[Page 227]

Friends from my Youth[1]

By David Felner/ Yafo, Israel

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

Almost the entire youth in town clustered around the (political) parties. Only one group of young people maintained friendly ties outside the political sphere and was rather interested in culture and literature, albeit some individuals were also members of political organisations. To this group belonged the comrades Arye Ryba (later Shamri), Shmul Ayzershtayn, Yankl Zus-man, Berl Felner, Layzer Shalit, Moyshe Milgrom. Yisroel Milgrom, Mayer Shtulman, Mordche Yedvab, Kalman Shtaynhartz, Sholem Shtaynhartz, Akiva Ruzhe, the author of these lines, and others.

I would like here to describe some of them.

Arye Ryba was the youngest and brightest among us. He distinguished himself by his ability to memorise entire pages of the works of the then renowned writers, like Peretz Markish[2] and Uri Tzvi Grinberg[3]. He had a sharp tongue and was full of ideas and plans. He knew everybody's weak points or comical aspect and could use this to entertain. We all wanted to become writers, but he never intimated that he wrote or even tried. As it transpired, he was the one who became a poet.

Shmul Ayzershtayn was a leader of his party. He devoted much effort to raise a genera-tion of youth dedicated to communism. Thanks to his perseverance, he attained a leadership position among his comrades, and was never discouraged by initial failures. At first, when he tried to take part in a discussion he used to stumble already at the second sentence, alternately blushed and paled and was unable to continue - people smiled looking at each other - but later he became a talented speechmaker. He read a lot, leafed through Spinoza's Ethics and Lenin's The State and Revolution, also aspired to write and probably dreamed of becoming an author. We used to gather in the barbershop where he worked and had interesting and lively conversa-tions.

Mayer Shtulman was the son of a former Rabbi of Kaluszyn. He was a handsome young man, full of vitality and rabbinical learning. He had to be the winner in every debate. I used to go for walks with him in the fields out of town. Amid the trees and growths, he used to come alive, receptive to thoughts and ideas. In the stillness of the field, he liked to recite frag-ments from Hamlet and used to make me take part in the dialogues. He was a member of Po-alei Tziyon[4] and a gifted orator, who could move listeners to tears.

Moyshe Milgrom was one of my closest friends. He belonged to the Bund[5], but was not very active and kept mainly with our group. He was serious and quiet, very embittered, and very much into self-education. He was an authority among us, and his opinions were highly valued.

Yisroel Milgrom was Moyshe's brother and one of the main leaders of the Bundist youth movement. He was a stirring speaker and combined a passion for politics with a love of litera-ture - used to read a lot and give talks on writings. Unlike his brother, he was by nature an ac-tivist.

Yankl Zusman together with Arye Ryba belonged to Hechalutz[6]. The former had a strong character and was seriously committed to every cause he took up. He was the best chess player in town and I used to spend many hours with him at the chessboard. We used to congregate at his home and have lots of fun.

Berl Felner - without him, the group would have been too earnest, not so much because he used to actively entertain, but his very presence caused merriment. He used to carry a walk-ing stick, hum airs from an opera, and pick up and comment on any comical aspect of his friends. We therefore were always on guard and tried to repay him with the same. He was sometimes challenged by hostile youths - in his cane and his ironic grin there was always something provocative.

Layser Shalit was the most soft-spoken of the group - small, frail with pince-nez[7] on his lean face. A refined young man, he was much liked for his friendliness and civility. He kept on the sideline, but enjoyed a good joke and a pointed saying.

In summer, we used to go to the forest or the river. There we would read, play chess, hold discussions, climb trees and observe the little creatures in the grass. Once we spent the whole night in the forest, each separately, in order to share the impressions afterwards. We also planned to go on an excursion in the Carpathian Mountains. Generally, we were drawn to the outside world - to learn, to experience and to absorb more all the time. We wanted from life all that, which we soaked up from books.

In time, everyone went his own way - some to France, others to (the Land of) Israel. I went to serve in the Polish Army.

Mayer Shtulman and Moyshe Milgrom perished in Warsaw, Layzer Shalit in a field near Kaluszyn when the town was torched. Mordche Yedvab and the brothers Sholem and Kalman Shtaynhartz died some time later. Yisroel Migrom died after the war in New York.

That group of young people, their relationship, the way they used to spend their leisure time, their mode of thinking - was one of the brightest aspects of life in our town.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of מיינע יוגנט חברים, an article in“Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961. Return
  2. Peretz Markish (1895 - 1952) was a Soviet/Russian Jewish poet and playwright who wrote in Yiddish. Accused of being a "Jewish nationalist" and an enemy of the Soviet regime, he was executed in 1952 (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  3. Uri Zvi Grinberg (1896 - 1981) was an acclaimed Israeli poet and journalist who wrote in Yiddish and Hebrew (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  4. Poalei Tziyon meaning “Workers of Zion” was a movement of Marxist Zionist Jewish workers founded in various cities of the Russian Empire in the early 1900s (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  5. Jewish socialist party founded in Russia in 1897 (From Encyc.Judaica). Return
  6. Hechalutz (Hebrew for The Pioneer) was an association of Jewish youth whose aim was to train its members to settle in the Land of Israel (Wikipedia). Return
  7. Eyeglasses clipped to the nose by a spring (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary). Return

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