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[Page 64]

The Economic Life

 

Sources of Income

by Moshe Wajnman, Paris

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

The livelihoods and sources of income of the Jews of Klobuck were of varied. Like in all of the shtetls, the specific Jewish trades were prominent: ready to wear tailors, sold their products in the market; custom tailors, had their customers in the shtetl among the well to do Jewish and Christian populations; milliners, produced all types of hats: “litsipetkes”[1], winter hats, Jewish kerchiefs, and velvet hats; shoemakers, who cobbled new shoes or boots, and shoemakers that only repaired footwear; and gaiter-stitchers, which was a respectable trade, and was a craft and trade primarily for the Chasidic Jews.

Almost all of the businesses in the shtetl were in Jewish hands. The Jewish dry-goods store carried woolen fabric, white linen, peasant checkered fabric for blanket covers and pillow cases, flowery head scarves, and heavy winter shawls. Also the colonial food shops were mainly held in Jewish hands. The mills that ground wheat and rye, and provided electric light for the shtetl and electricity for the three sawmills that cut beams and boards also belonged to Jews.

The Jewish means of making a living also included the peddlers. They sold among the poorer villages, and dragged themselves on the roads during the heat and the cold, and hardly made a poor living. A special source of income for a significant number of Jewish families was the result of the trade with the nearby town of Czestochowa. Coachmen transported

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the traders to Czestochowa, and they returned in the late evening with the goods from the town. Also in the shtetl were Jewish tea-houses; orchard men “sadownikes”, who rented orchards from rich peasants and landowners; hairdressers; butchers; an ice shop; and the Jewish religious trades: shochatim (ritual slaughterer); melamdim (Jewish teachers); Jewish judges; and the Rabbi.

During these years Klobuck had also a special category of Jews who made a good living by smuggling goods from the nearby Germany (distant of 17 kilometers from Klobuck) to Poland (that is to say Russia). Tobacco, saccharin and silk were smuggled.


Translator's Footnote:
  1. I think it is a Borsalinoy. Return

 


[Page 65]

Jewish Artisans and Merchants

Borukh Szimkowicz

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The Klobuck Jewish artisans were mostly pious men of the people who in the very full fervor of work would leave everything, wash their hands, put on their cloth smock and run to the synagogue to prayer in a minyon [prayer group of at least 10 men]. If someone was a bit of a bel-tefillah [the cantor or man who prays for the congregation at the lectern], a baal-koreh [man who chants from the Torah], he did not miss the opportunity to go to the lectern or reading desk to read the Sefer [Torah].They went home satisfied – having given to God in heaven what was His.

These simple Jews gave away their last groshns for their children to study Torah with the best teachers. Machn di kinder for mentshn [turning their children into responsible people] was a sacred obligation for each of the toiling Klobucker Jews. And the Klobuck Jewish community did not have to be ashamed of its people. Here there were learned men, heads of yeshivus [religious secondary schools], good tradesmen, great merchants, party leaders and community workers. It is worthwhile to immortalize

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klo066.jpg
Avraham Leib Chorzewski [spelled Chorszewski below] and his family;
two daughters and a son remain – [they] live in Israel)

 

in our memorial book the types and personalities of the toiling, sensitive Jewish community.

Avraham Leib Chorszewski belonged to the branch of tailors by appointment. He was a tall Jew with a small beard. He was called the Wreczycer tailor because before he settled in Klobuck, he had lived in Wreczyca. Arvaham Leib mainly worked for Christian high government officials who lived around Klobuck: in Zagorze, in the “imperial court” and for nobles in the area.

The tailor by appointment was a Radomsker Hasid. His son, Emanuel, was a good student. Avraham Leib's son and three daughters, Ita, Pesa and Yehudis live in Israel.

Lipman Holcman and Zindl Zigleman, tailors by appointment, only were busy with new Jewish garments: beautiful cloth jackets, furcoats, overcoats, meshilange [full length silk kaftans worn by pious men] and satin kaftans.

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The so-called inferior-quality tailors, who worked for the market, were in great number in Klobuck. They bought balls of goods in Czenstochow, mainly on credit, and made suits, overcoats that they sold at the fairs in the surrounding villages and shtetlekh [towns]. If there was a large market day, they had the money to pay the merchant for the goods and a fine profit remained. And if they stood the entire day without revenue and still had to pay travel expenses – it was bitter. There was nothing with which to pay the merchant and there was hunger in the house.

Reb Lipman Birenbaum was an interesting type among the inferior-quality tailors. He was very beloved by the peasants who bought from him because of his good relationship with them. When Reb Lipman stood at the market selling his goods, he always had small boxes of snuff with him. When a peasant went by, Reb Lipman honored him with a bit of snuff and with it “recited” in Polish: “Do not be so hard on yourself; take a whiff of snuff.” With such a joyous welcome, the peasant customer let himself be measured for a suit and agreed to the price. In addition, Reb Lipman said to his wife: “Bayla, pack up the suit quickly, bind it well with a lot of string”…

Rep Lipman had sons who were scholars, leaders of prayers. One son, Shlomo, is one of the oldest Klobuckers in Israel.

Hershl Ripsztajn worked sewing women's clothing. Yitzhak Zajbel was one of the most esteemed sewers of linens. He was the gabbai [assistant to the rabbi] of the Khevra Kadisha [burial society] for many years. Yitzhak was knowledgeable in the traditional Jewish texts and their study. His ambition was to pray at the synagogue lectern and to read from the Sefer [Torah]. His daughter Batya lives in Israel.

The life of the shoemakers was difficult. Almost all of them were very poor. If there was no one to earn money with poultry and fruits, he did not have any income. Despite their poverty, the Klobuck Jewish shoemakers always provided for their children to be able to study. They took money needed for food to pay the melamdim [religious school teachers]. The shoemaker, Jakov Goldberg, had a son who

[Page 68]

was called the Wloyner prodigy, because he lived in Wloyn. He was the author of several religious books.

The Jews in Klobuck were represented in almost all of the craft trades. There were trades which employed only two or three people: there were three gaiter- quilters – Jakov Fajga from the old city, Niedziele, who lived in Zawada and Chaim Zajdman, whose son lives in Israel; two tinsmiths – Beser and Mendl Fajga. Beser worked on gutters for houses, covered roofs. From time to time he made repairs on the roof of the synagogue, which was a religious service for him. Mendl Fajga was occupied with domestic work such as fixing bathtubs, washtubs and pots. On Chanukah, he made various Chanukah lamps. Of the two hatmakers, one, Itsikl Lapides, worked for Christians, mainly fur winter hats, and he had a good income. The second one – Ayzyk Zagelman – had Jewish work. He traveled to the market and it was difficult for him to earn a living. Despite this, he always was in good humor, loved a witticism, a joke and never complained about his fate.

Two Jews were dyers: Reb Meir Hersh, a tall, quiet, modest Jew, and Shlomo Rozen, whose son lives in Israel. Both dyers had village work. The dyed wool was always seen hanging from poles in front of the houses of the artisans.

There were two Jewish oil pressers. They had great difficulty with income and had to have additional employment. One of them – Moshe Yakov Rozental taught, working with children learning Khumish and Rashi. In addition, he was a barber every Friday. He cut [hair] mainly for Hasidim. The second one was called Shlomo Rozental or Shlomo Olejarz [Polish word – oil man]. Both oil pressers had work from the village population. Peasants brought linseeds from which the oil pressers extracted the oil by primitive means. The greatest season was “Lent” time when the Catholics did not eat meat and used a lot of oil. The oil pressers then worked day and night. With great difficulty, they extracted their income from this season for an entire year.

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A good trade, which provided income, was the baking trade. Klobuck had several Jewish bakeries. The majority of them were named for the wives of the bakers, such as: Gitl Kopl's [Gitl, Kopl's wife], Brayndl Zalman's, Perl Lipman's. In addition there were bakeries with men's personal names, such as Moshe Dovid Ripsztajn, Josl Beker and Avraham Itshe Holcman.

The Jewish bakeries baked: bread, challah, rolls, bagels, rogalkes [horn-shaped loaves], kajzerkes [Kaiser rolls] – braided rolls and the like. The Christian taverns and restaurants bought from the Jewish bakers in addition to the usual purchasers of baked goods. This lasted until the Poles opened a bakery and took away all of the Christian customers from the Jewish bakers. It is interesting that the Polish baker employed a professional Jewish [baker] because he was not able to compete with the production of the Jewish bakers. He also wanted to win Jewish customers through the Jewish baker.

The Jewish bakers were afraid of the Polish competition and sought help from the rabbis. Bakers traveled to the rabbis from Radomsk, Rozprza and Czenstochow and asked for prayers that the gentile's baked goods would not succeed. One of the righteous men assured them that the Christian baker would close his bakery. So it was: the Jewish journeyman left his Christian boss. The Polish baker's baked good did not succeed during the year-end holidays. A second time the baked goods were burned. Finally, he closed the bakery. Naturally, Hasidim saw this as a miracle from the righteous man. Later, another Christian bakery opened.

The four Klobuck Jewish butchers – Mordekhai Unglik, Wolf Gelbard, Kopl Golard and Mentshe Unglik – were very charitable men and observant Jews. They took part in all of the institutions and helped the poor. Mentshe's wife, Rodl, stood in the butcher shop with her husband on Thurdays and during her free time did a great deal for the poor. Their daughter, Adela, who lives in Australia, visited Israel some time ago. Wolf Gelbard's son, Avraham, lives in Israel.

In addition to the listed professions, Klobock also had: a Jewish

[Page 70]

carpenter – Reb Josef Gliksman; a glazer – Reb Berish; his daughter lives in Israel; and a watchmaker – Reb Meir Blau, a Radomsker Hasid.

The carpenter and the glazer had great difficulty earning a living. It was better for the watchmaker, who raised his children in the spirit of Torah. His oldest son, Yakov Ahron, was a learned man. Reb Meir Blau's daughter, Bluma, lives in Israel.

Klobuck also had two Jewish master-craftsmen who made clay pots (earthern). They were called: Mendl Teper [pot maker] and Borukh Teper. They brought clay from the Podkamienicer road and they produced various pots, flower pots using all of the primitive machines, such as a cutting machine worked with the feet. There were also several wagon drivers, porters, fruit traders, orchardists and Jews who were involved with agricultural; they [did the] seeding, plowing and cutting themselves.

 

Food Stores and Cloth Shops

The food stores belonged to the Hasidic Jew. They mainly were former kest-eydems [sons-in-law who were supported by their fathers-in-law for the first years after their marriage] who, when they became “on their own,” had small food stores arranged for them by their in-laws. The kest-eydems, former habitués of the houses of prayer, or young yeshiva men did not have any trade. Therefore, they had to become teachers or storekeepers.

Jews in Klobuck, as in the majority of the shtetlekh [towns] in Poland, had almost all of the commerce in their hands, such as: cloth shops, grain stores, shoe businesses, confectioners and the like.

The Klobuck “steam” mill belonged to the partners, Josef Meir Kurland and Moshe Zylberbaum. The owner of the water mill was a Pole. The two sawmills (zegwerk) belonged to two Jewish partners – Hasidic Jews. Each sawmill had two partners who traveled to different rebbes.

The Klobuck Jewish horse and cattle merchants represented a particular stratum. The horses were sold in various places in Poland and brought to neighboring Germany. There they were sold to the German horse traders. The Klobuck Jewish horse merchants were divided into two groups. Each

[Page 71]

group had its partners. Those involved in this commerce had a respectable income.

The cattle merchants were divided into groups. Each group had its partners. The cattle were bought at the markets in Poland and brought to Klobuck by “specialists” – drivers.

The Klobuck Jewish horse and cattle merchants were respected men. Dozores [members of the synagogue council] and gabbaim [assistants to the rabbi] were recruited from among them. They were Jews, scholars. We saw them for almost the entire week dusty, in crude clothing, cowhide boots with long sticks in their hands to drive the horse and cattle. The holy Shabbos arrived and they were other people. It was lehavdl bein kodesh leChol [distinguished between the sacred and profane]. When we passed in front of Hershl Zaks' window on Shabbos, we could notice how he sat over a Midrash Rabbah [the collected writings on the Five Books of Moses and the Books of the Song of Songs and Ruth, Esther, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes]. On Shabbos night, Reb Meir Szperling could be found in the house of study near the book closet looking for a good book of moral edification.

 

klo071.jpg
Meir Szperling

 

It then was difficult to believe that the middleclass, pious Jews were horse traders. The same with the cattle merchants, Yakov Fishl Rozental, Shmuel Szperling with the beautiful beard – on Shabbos, they did not want to hear about

[Page 72]

any business. They raised scholars and had sons-in-law who were devoted to Torah and mitzvus [commandments].

This is how the economic life of the Klobuck Jews appeared. The largest majority of them obtained their income with great effort.

(Information received from Gitl Goldberg, of blessed memory and Moshe Fajga)

*

In the years up to the First World War, August 1914, Klobuck under Czarist rule, was not a shtetl (miasteczko [town]), but a settlement (osada). At the head of the settlement stood the village mayor and two village magistrates. In the years of my youth, that is, before 1914, I remember the village mayor, Suchajnski, a tall gentile with long sideburns and the village magistrates, Riepac and Djemba.

 

klo072.jpg
The leading citizens of Klobuck from the past with two Jewish representatives

right: Emanuel Wilinger;
left: Dovid Zigelman and between them the village mayor, the priest and village magistrates

 

[Page 73]

The administrative office was the local “government house,” where all of the meetings took place at which all of the business of the settlement was discussed and decided. Often, three or four Jews were invited to such meetings, particularly when decisions had to be made about new taxes.

Klobuck also had a notable arrest-house that was called the koza, as in all of the shtetlekh. Petty “criminals” sat there, such as, for example: those who received a month's arrest for fighting, for having given false weight, and Jews – for keeping their shops open on Sunday during the hour when [people] were going to the Catholic Church and, also, for not whitewashing the gutters and the like.

The koza was located near the administrative office. The guard for the “arrestees” was named Wilk, the tooth-puller, because in addition to being a guard, he also was employed with pulling teeth. He had a residence in the house of the administrative office. When Wilk needed to go to take care of his concerns, he let out the arrestees for an hour or two and asked them not to be too late because the chief could come and it would not be nice if he found an empty koza.

Wilk had particular rights with the bakers and butchers, who received punishment for charging too high a price or for not keeping the bakeries and butcher shops clean. Such “criminals” were let home for the entire night, the bakers to bake bread and the butchers to prepare the meat for sale. This had to be done with the knowledge of the “sergeant,” as the local police-commandant was titled.

The Klobuck police at that time consisted of a “sergeant” and five to six policemen (straznikes), three gendarmes and three smotsznikes [police spies], a sort of border guard, who fought smuggling that came from the German border, 17 kilometers from the shtetl.

Printed notices were not yet known then in the administrative office. The local “news” was provided

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for the population through a drummer. When he began to play the drum, everyone came running and followed him. The drummer led the crowd to the pump opposite Hertske Guterman's [house]. There he again drummed and in a hoarse, drunk voice shouted out the “news.” That is to say, the Piotrkow governor would be coming to the shtetl for a visit; the celebration (galuvke) in honor of the Czar or the wife of the czar was being postponed because of an illness; about the delivery of the horses for branding and about lost pigs that they were obliged to give to the owner.

The policemen were Russian. No Poles were taken for service. This is how things went on in Klobuck until the outbreak of the First World War, that is – until August 1914.


The Market Place in Jewish Hands

by Batya Zajbel-Izraelewicz

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

In my time, four Jews - Zaynwl Rybsztajn, Leibke Inglik, Leib Zajdel and my father, Ayzyk Zajbel - rented the market place (Targowisko). I remember that we had a good income from our partnership in the market. My father saved money and bought the meadow near the synagogue courtyard.

A market day took place every second Wednesday. Guards stood at the gates and took payment for entering the market.

Later, during the time of the Polish state, the anti-Semites from the city managing committee did not permit Jews to rent the market place. It went over into Polish hands. One by one the Poles took over other means of income in the shtetl.

 

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