by the late Zvi Goldberg, Tel-Aviv
Translated from Hebrew by Kutzi Weill
WWI [First World War], which lasted four years, havocked, as every war, economy in general and especially played havoc with the vulnerable Jews. War's inevitable side effects, like transportation disruption and other mishaps, naturally impacted severely the unproductive middle classes, including small craftsmen and merchant's class to which majority of Jews belonged.
With back to normality and revival of economy following the end of WWI, the Jews of Staszów, being main war victims and suffering financial hardship, had an urgent necessity to establish an independent Jewish credit institute which will mitigate financial stress and will open opportunities for commercial initiatives and normal commerce and craftsmanship's life. For this worthy task, at 1922, the Cooperative Bank, being one of the first of its kind in all Poland, was founded. The author of this document [= the undersigned] was among the initiators and founders of the Cooperative Bank.
Despite the poor funding capital of the new institution, 2,500 zlotys, based on 10 zloty's member share, the Bank slowly but surely developed to be a financial factor of the first grade, not only for Staszów Jews, but in a sense also for surrounding commercial life.
The annual turnover of the bank along years got up to one million zloty, at those days a significant size.
It is to be noted that the founders and directors of the Cooperative Bank were motivated by their belief that they work for the Jewish public welfare rather than their own interests.
As an example, frequently, according to owner's plea and despite the risk involved, payable bills, was not sent to protest. Such an extension, even for few days, is much more precious than a loan, since it helps to keep the owners' good reputation and help to prevent weakening of his status in the community. More than that, the Cooperative Bank, apart from regular banking activities, served Jewish community, on totally private plane, as charity source, an activity which usually thought to have nothing with banking.
Thus, by realizing, at least the third part of the known Mishnah saying The world is based on the Torah, on Labor and on Charity, the Bank's owners and founders expressed their public mission's vision.
Annually, the banks' statement, including all deals, and elections for board of directors and management had been held. Those definitely democratic elections had been a most important event in the local Jewish community. Despite livelihoods' difficulties, many Jews left their shops or workshops at the Election Day and went to the annual meeting, personally taking part in the debates, decisions and elections thus influencing bank affairs conductance for the coming year.
This is a clear indication for the level of significance related by the Jewish community to the Bank, an institution seen not as private property of some people holding high positions, but owned by the public, all shareholders left their sign on the way it is run.
The Bank, a most important financial institution, affiliated to the Jewish Cooperation Alliance in Poland had a very good reputation in trade world; its stamp is good money around all Poland.
The Bank was headed by a board composed of three members [David Tauman, Szmul Helmer and the undersigned], assisted by six member's council, including Dr. Ratinóv, Benjamin Tochterman, Avraham Nisenbaum, Chaim Albaum, Josef Segal and Chaim Neta Erlichman.
Accountancy was conducted by Hershele Tauman, who was, when moved to Warsaw, replaced by Szmul Szaniecki, his former deputy.
Concluding, it is allowed to say, that at it's time, The Bank, faithfully fulfilled the task it was founded for, to serve the Jewish community as a convenient credit source and helped allot to develop normal commercial life, enhancing personal initiatives and support for the man in the street.
by Menachem Lifshitz, Giv'atayim, Israel
Translated from Yiddish by Kasriel Brum
Jewish business activity in the small Polish towns makes for an especially interesting, and instructive chapter in socioeconomics; not only to establish the economic foundations on which the Jewish settlements existed in the midst of an environment which was controlled by others, but also in order to derive conclusions regarding their social and political positions.
My purpose in the following work is entirely modest: I will try to give as far as possible an objective overview concerning the story and development of the shoe division, the most important business branch involving the 5000 Jews in the town, which made up about 50% of the general population.
That vibrant Jewish Kehilla, pulsating with life, also drew livelihoods from a lot of other economic branches including a) grain merchants of smaller and larger operations, b) wood merchants, c) groceries and general goods (galanteria) stores, d) market place salesmen-the so called Tandatnikers, and others.
Decidedly, the (premier) economic activity of the shtetl was the multi-branched shoe production, from which a major portion of the Staszówer Jews derived an honorable occupation-until the time that the Nazi's (may their memory be blotted out) destroyed all Jewish business along with the Jews.
In Staszów, which until the First World War, belonged to the Russian Occupation Authority and thru which, due to its geographic location, ran the main highway from Russia to the Austrian, Hungarian and German borders-the Russians put up large artillery storage facilities and horse stalls, a large church and most importantly military barracks (Karzames in Russian) in which were stationed the military garrisons.
As an important consumer, the Garrison resulted in the establishment of specialized businesses in the shtetl, geared to the needs of the military forces, and there arose not only purveyors (Padreitshikes in Russian), who provided all necessary products for the military, but also a total array of artisans (in Yiddish, Bal-Maloches) such as saddlers, tailors, shoemakers, and hat makers and so forth: jobs which afforded them support while maintaining respectable positions in providing for the military effort. The great majority of the above mentioned positions fell into Jewish hands, with the one exception of the shoe craft which mainly was occupied by Christians.
When the garrison moved, probably for military reasons, in about 1906 to Kalisz which was closer to the German border, a serious crisis broke out in the town. Especially critical was the situation of the Jewish craftsmen and purveyors, whose entire income derived from their military connections. Indeed, some of these Jews followed the garrison in order to continue their already established businesses. In contrast, the majority of Polish shoemakers (non-Jewish) who already possessed, in addition to their skills, a bit of land and their own cottage, stayed in the town; Similarly, the majority of Jews who had lost their bread and did not have the means to move with the military, remained in the town and soon began to develop new sources of business-especially shoe production.
Three factors allowed for the rise of the massive shoe-production in our town.
During the War years, (1914-1918), all trade in general diminished, the leather business was entirely forbidden and so the still young shoe industry almost entirely fell apart. However, as soon as the War ended, the Jewish shoe enterprisers with fresh, redoubled energy began to renew their work with endless dedication and drew their attention to the aesthetics and improvement of the shoe industry (in general) as well as the orderly growth of the new heel market.
As an administrator-member of the Staszów Shoe Merchants Guild and as a person who knew the industry well from the inside, I would like to give over here a variety of more-or-less exact details, both in the numerical holdings of all those parties involved in the industry in various divisions, as well as the established work methods that were used.
Of the 40 official Jewish shoe entrepreneurs all drew their direct financial existence fully or partially from the following business branches:
Every shoe enterpriser had established working relationships with designated upper-part leather workers and also with designated shoe makers. The merchants ordered the upper leathers-by us they were in general called chalevkes - and presented them to the shoe makers. In order to finish the product, the latter received the necessary additional materials from the leather and tzudatin (shoe accessory) stores, on the basis of certified, accredited notes (nicknamed Matbea). These notes were signed and stamped by the shoe merchants, to be paid out at an exact set time.
This system was created to two reasons: 1) to discourage abuse by the Christian shoemakers who were, in general, known not to be adverse to the bitter drops (alcoholic spirits) and therefore it was prudent not to put cash in their hands and 2) the system served as an indirect financing of the business which required large amounts of money, which occasionally far exceeded the financial capabilities of the entrepreneurs.
As mentioned, the upper leathers (chalevkes) were procured by the shoe merchants. But the accessories required to finish the upper leathers was provided by the upper-leather craftsmen as their own responsibility. There were also those upper-leather craftsmen of means who produced the chalevkes on their own (financial) count, then sold them to independent enterprising shoemakers and occasionally to the shoe merchants.
The shoe orders which arrived not only from the immediate environment but also from distant Polish provinces were in the majority of cases packed in boxes or plywood containers and sent off on the small train or by mail. There were, however, not a few merchants from near and sometimes from distant areas who often came alone to the town particularly in the proper seasons in order to purchase on the spot their requirements and carried them off by themselves.
In order to obtain an idea of the scope of the Staszów shoe industry, which was by the way organized in its own Merchants Union, it will be enough to remember the official statistics from the tax rolls of the year 1938-1939. According to those statistics and considering only the merchandise which was sent by train or mail without counting the packages which were carried out manually or sent out by other means: amounted to greater than one million zlotys.
To conclude, I would like to mention and this is without the slightest suspicion of exaggeration, that just about the entire town, in one way or the other, in a greater or lesser degree was impacted by this town wide industry.
Also the two Jewish well established banks: the Bank Spoldgiltsze and the Bank Kopicky had the greater part of their banking operations to thank for the existence and development of the shoe industry.
I can't end the article without mentioning in at least a few lines the fact that in the shtetl also existed also another branch of economic enterprise-the production of whips and walking sticks. Also, these business divisions just like the shoe production were developed through Jewish endurance and energy, producing income for many tens of Jewish and non-Jewish families. Thanks to the good quality and aesthetic appearances of these items, as well as the enterprising spirit of the owners of these small industries those productions received a good name and became well known and spread out over all of Poland.
|Alter Band||Mosze Lieberman|
|Avrum Baum||Jehoszua Lincfeld|
|Herszel Brendzel||Menachem Lipszyc (lives in Israel)|
|The widow and brother Goldhar||Pintsze Nisengarten|
|Jakob Goldlust||Herszel Nisencwajg (lives in Brazil)|
|Szmelke Glatsztajn||Majer Krakauer|
|Mendel Dyzenhaus||Widow of Abraham Rizenberg|
|Josef Wajngarten||Jehoszua Wolf Rosencwajg|
|Judel Wajngarten||Josef Rajch|
|Herszel Wagner||Jakob Rosenberg|
|Leizer Watman||Abrahamtsze Rosensztok|
|Ayzek Wolman||Zalman Szajner|
|Chaim Wincygster||Elchanan Szterenlicht (lives in Canada)|
|Mosze Zylbersztajn||Mendel Sznifer|
|Yisrael Eliezer Tenenbaum||Leibel Szwarc|
|Betsalel Tenenwurcel||Aron Sztalryt|
|Awner Jaskolka||Szimon Aszer Sztajnfeld|
At the end of the article (above) is recognized approx. complete list of the Jewish Shoe Merchants who were active in the Shtetl.
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