by Yankel Rabinowitz
Translated by Aaron Housman
The baking of Matzo for Pesach/Passover in Stolin started immediately after Purim. Balebattim [lit. homeowners], especially the wealthier ones, were the first to bake matzos in the bakery, while the poorer folk, the paupers and the needy, had to wait until the final week before Pesach; for they did not have the necessary funds to purchase flour and to pay the bakery dues. Some waited for financial help from the annual Ma'os Chittim charity fund, or from other charities, perhaps family support or even supplemental income from others who needed extra help in advance of YomTov. Still, on the faces of all Jews of Stolin bore the expression that no-one will be left without Matzo for Pesach.
The Rav, however, and the activists in town, saw to it that no poor person would be left without Matzo, and many also received potatoes. Still, the worry was constant; for if you give a poor man flour, how will he pay the bakery dues? Worst of all fared those who only recently lost their fortune, who went from being benefactors to recipients. These people were just too embarrassed to ask for aid.
Then, in 1904, the Zionists of Stolin decided to deal with this vital issue, in a way that would help the multitudes. They went and rented a separate Matzo bakery, solely for the purpose of providing free Matzo for the needy. They called it The Zionist Matzo Bakery.
To fund this project they held a fundraiser between their friends and people of the town, the tens of Rubels that came in were enough to pay for the rent, the tools and the baker's salary. Wood for the oven was collected from the townsfolk and the daughters of the town volunteered to kneed and roll out the dough. Other men volunteered to bring water and run the bakery etc.
The men behind this bakery idea and who ran it included: Shlomo Roseman, Alter Muchnick, Yehuda Leib Hoberman, Yitzchak Blahousky, Leibel the Chazzan and others. They convinced their sons to and youth: Isaac Shapiro, Leibel Rosenberg, Yossel Gayer, Yaakov Rabinowitz. Even some children helped out: Leibel Garbus, Asher Rabinowitz and Yossel Muchnick. The youngsters were jealous of the older boys and therefore were happy to help out. The girls were punctilious and all the work was done in a very orderly fashion. This served as a blessing for the needy of the town.
The Rav, Rabbi Asher Filakov, was invited to check the bakery to determine if it is Kosher for Passover, and to observe the system in place. He found it very satisfactory. He began sending the needy to the Zionist organizers to receive funding and Matzo from them, and he expressed his wish to bake his own Matzos there. At the end of the Matzo-baking season the Zionists gave the profits to Rabbi Fialkov to distribute to the needy.
The story goes that Vitiya Frankel did not allow her daughter to go bake Matzo in this bakery at first, but after the Rav threw his support behind it, she expressed he dismay that she did not have the chance and the merit to donate firewood for the bakery. At that point they handed her the blue pushka (charity box) and she donated handsomely.
The bakery was a big success and gained respect for the Zionists in all other camps.
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Updated 17 Aug 2014 by LA