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[Page 172]

The Luninyetser and Kozhanhorodoker in America

Yosef Ben Adina (based on material by Joe Goldman)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Dedicated to my dearest Sura and Aba Wilk in New York

The emigration from Kozhanhorodok and Luninyets to America began after the 90's of the 19th century. The oppressive economic situation forced the provincial young man to part from his family and home. However, only a few people emigrated then. After the failure of the Russian Revolution in 1905, emigration increased. It was difficult and bitter for the emigrants who had never been in a large city and, in the majority, were religious, very well brought up, rooted in their families, accustomed to their local life, without the language, without an education. Therefore, it was no surprise that falling into the great kettle of turmoil of New York, it was very hard for him to adapt to a new life. The greatest number left Russia illegally and special agents who had connections with a net of helpers, organized the emigration. Reb Leib Wolf Petshenik was the agent in Luninyets and one would sneak across the border…

The fear when sneaking across the border cannot be described; until one heard the words of the guide - provozhator: Zdes uzhe za granitsei (here is already outside the country). And later - the travel on the ship, the Kesl Gardn [Castle Garden - the immigration reception station in New York City], the “Isle of Tears” [Ellis Island], all of the inspections, searches - this really tired the emigrant. Yet, he was fortunate when he left the ship, particularly after a relative of his or a landsleit [person from the same town] welcomed him. Now the emigrant heard completely different words - “this is a free land,” “you are a free citizen in Columbus' country, equal to everyone, no difference between a Jew and a Christian.” But these beautiful words were not enough to satisfy him. Adapting as a citizen was not so easy without [knowing] the language. Acclimation to a new living place, gaining work, income and so on.

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Almost all the newly arrived went to work in a shop and other places and this was a difficult chapter that not everyone could endure; the longing for their family, for their old home resulted in a certain number who actually left America and returned home. Especially those who left a wife and children. In addition, many of the newly arrived had to work on Shabbos and a number of them suffered morally from this. He could not agree that he should desecrate the Shabbos.

In general the Jewish immigrant was patient and accepted his suffering as a natural thing until he attained something; later a certain number settled down well. The landsleit [countrymen] helped the new ones to arrange things, particularly their relatives. Each newly-arrived one immediately sent his family his saved, hard earned dollars and soon his photograph as an American - after the First World War, dozens of families from Luninyets and Kozhanhorodok left for America, until the gates of the country were closed to new immigrants.

And after the departure to America, the emigrants did not forget their old home. A large number of the Kozhanhorodok Jews lived on support from America. The Kozhandorodoker landsman [man from the same town] remained devoted to his shtetl; everyone of them was proud of it and remembered with love the old “cold” synagogue with the wonderful artistic aron-kodesh [ark containing the Torah scrolls], the old cemetery, the “mountain of souls,” the Babrainie, the great rabbis, shoykhetim [ritual slaughterers], chiefly, the Rabbi, Reb Hilel Garelik, of blessed memory. Their love of the rabbi was so great that they took him with them to America. To great regret, he died a short time after. The old men, the pious women - all of this was engraved in the soul of the landsman. Their love was expressed by sending material help. The Luninyetsers also did not forget their old home and they sent urgent help immediately after the First World War and a special envoy - our friend Tzvi (Harry) Denenberg, who came at a very difficult moment after the war between Poland and Soviet Russia when the regime in Poland was not yet stable and there was no normal order. The Jewish population actually starved and Harry Denenberg was a savior. He came and brought a great deal of money, which each relative had sent for his family and a large sum of money from the Luninyetser and Kozhanhorodoker Relief Committee for the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community]. Denenberg devotedly and honestly filled his mission and the people both in the old home and in America were so satisfied that our landsleit [plural of landsman] sent him a second time.

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Unions and Organizations of Our Landsleit in America

In 1917 the Luninyetser and Kozhanhorodoker Relief Committee was organized at the initiative of landsman Meir Lutzky, which came to help those impoverished by the war [World War I]. Over 3,000 dollars of relief money and 20,000 dollars for orphans was sent through delegate Harry Deneberg* and with this they saved hundreds of our families in the old home from doom. In 1943, in the very fervor of the Second World War, a Relief Committee was again organized on the initiative of Jakov Schwartz, of blessed memory, who anticipated the need for help. To great misfortune, Jewish Luninyetser and Kozhanhorodok no longer remained, only survivors who were spread across Russia, Poland and various camps. The Relief Committee, with Joe Feldman at the head - chairman, Meir Kruglin - treasurer and the efficient and devoted secretary, Max Lutzky, joined with the Irgun Yotzei [Organization of] Luninyetser and Kozhanhorodoker, which was organized at the same time in Eretz-Yisroel and was already active and had connections with survivors. Thanks to the great help of the Relief Committee in New York, the Organization of Luninyetser in Eretz-Yisroel expanded its aid and activity both by sending food packages to Russia and other places and by helping the dozens of surviving landsleit who came to Israel.

*[Translator's note: The name is spelled Denenberg in the above text.]

The Relief Committee also gave 200 dollars for the Haganah [paramilitary organization that later became the Israel Defense Forces] in Eretz-Yisroel during the Jewish war of liberation with the Arabs and also gave a sum of money for the Jewish Appeal on behalf of Israel.

 

The Luninyester and Kozhanhorodoker 481st Branch of the Arbeter-Ring

This Arbeter-Ring [Workmen's Circle], organized in 1917 at the initative of Joe Goldman, Y. Ginzberg, H. Kolnik, Muziker and A. Schwartz, gives help to its members in cases of sickness or a misfortune and has connections with sanatoria for members who have need of this help, so that they will not need to approach various charity groups. These last years, there is also an initiative here to build houses for the older members. A splendid building for this purpose was built in New York. Our landsleit, Joe Goldman, is one of the five members of the applications committee. The 481st Branch supported the building with over 3,000 dollars. It cares for its members not only during their lives but also after their death - with cemetery plots.

But the A. R. [Arbeter-Ring] does not only concern itself with social welfare. It is concerned

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also with cultural activities, such as organizing literary evenings, concerts and entertainments. The A.R. takes part in general Jewish undertakings: thus it took part in the action to collect money for the Jewish Workers' Committee, HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] and recently - also in the campaign for the Histadrut haOvdim [Federation of Laborers]- in Israel. - In 1935 a women's group was organized at the Branch that did important work for the Branch, such as helping the needy and organizing cultural events. - In April 1942, the 25th anniversary of the Branch was celebrated. A special anniversary journal was published in a splendid form. The main workers in the Branch were Joe Feldman, Joe Goldman, F. Stan, S. Feyn, Dovid Feyn, Hofets, Kalnik, Ginzberg, Selitser, Schneider, Klempner and Berson. The Branch counts about 180 members.

The number of Luninyetser and Kozhanhorodoker in America is around 600-700, of this, around 500 in New York and the remainder in various cities. The greater number of them draw their income from work or retail trade. There are no greatly wealthy men among them. But among them there are socially devoted workers, such as Max Lutzky and Meir Kruglin in the Zionist movement and Josef Goldman, Sender Petshenik and Joe Feldman in the Jewish Workers' Movement. Other landsleit are located in South America (Argentina), mainly in Buenos Aires, who carry on communal activities and several families are spread out in Brazil, Cuba, South Africa and so on.

 

The managing committee of the coworkers of the
Luninyetser and Kozhanhorodoker 481 Arbeter-Ring (1927) New York
Sitting from left to right: Y. Feldman, Y. Leyfman, Y. Goldman, M. Lutzky, D. Feyn, B. Shapira.
Standing from left to right: Kwatnets, Shneyderman, Fenfild, Migdalowitch, Weyner and Berzon

 

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