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[Col. 403]

Reminiscences of Suwalk Jews

Hannah Altshuler

Jews in Suwalk were always involved in working for Erets Yisrael. No wonder then that Zionism – in all its forms – dominated all of Jewish life there.

The General Zionists were very active. Its President was the devoted Zionist and talented speaker,

Dr. L. Vaysman. Dr. N. Staropolski occupied a respected place in the Zionist organization and was one of the most important cultural leaders in Suwalk. Among the most active Zionists were: Riznberg and his wife, Aviezer Zshilkevitsk, Moshe David Zshilkevitsh and his wife, Shlomoh Gutman, brothers Yaakov and Berl Zeligson, Khone Sukhavolski, Mrs. Ivri, Gavriel Aylender, Khone Markovits, and many others. My husband, Avraham Altshuler, was one of the most devoted members of the Suwalk Zionist Organization. He headed the Keren Hayesod until his untimely death in 1928.

Whether General Zionists or Labour Zionists; almost everyone was involved in commerce, which was

[Col. 404]

mainly in Jewish hands. Since I owned a shoe business, I shall concentrate on the leather line.

One of the old time leather merchants was Shlomoh Altshuler, son of R'Eliezer Mordekhay. Up until the First World War, he had the dealership of the famous St. Petersburg galoshes and rubber goods firm:

“Tre'ugalnik”. People came from all over the province of Suwalk and from Lithuania to by the Tre'ugalnik galoshes and rubbers goods. Another well-known shoe firm was that of Podlaski.

After the First World War, the following were well-known in the leather line: Zalman Altshuler[1], son of R'Eliezer Mordekhay, Aronovski, Morgnshtern, Leventin, and in the shoes business: - the Kovin brothers, Moshe Kravtsinski and others.

I remember these scholarly Jews: the brothers R'Yosl and R'Leybtsik Krutsenishki. The latter, an iron (goods) business on Market Street. He was a great merchant and very philanthropic.

[Col. 405]

I remember how my uncle, Aharon Krutsenishki (who never failed to study with the Hevra Shas between afternoon and evening prayers), would invite the whole Hevra Shas, every Shemini Atseret (last day of Sukkot) for honey cake and brandy.

R'Shmuel Salamianski was an unusually fine and gentle person. He was a scholar, of good character, always smiling and cheerful. He was involved in many business dealings and was always admired for his honesty.

[Col. 406]

Also, R'Shmuel Shapira, son-in-law of R'Binyamin Mints, was one of the outstanding personalities of Suwalk. He was a great philanthropist. Only those closest to him knew about the charity he gave in secret. All the needy wound their way to him and he helped them.

There once was a city with fine and good Jews. Where has it all gone?

*


Translator's Footnote

  1. Shlomoh and Zalman may be the same person rather than brothers. Zalman is a form of Solomon and the combined name, Shlomoh Zalman is very common. Return


[Col. 405]

“Betar”[1]

Shlomoh Riman

The Revisionist youth organization, “Betar” was founded in Suwalk in 1927. The first Mefaked ha-ken {Chief Officer of the “nest”} was David Shtern, who was mostly responsible for making this organization one of the most popular societies in the city. Thanks to him, many young people from the Suwalk Hebrew gymnasium were attracted to “Betar”. This made it possible for “Betar” to conduct all of its activities in Hebrew. In 1930, many of the active men and women of “Betar” immigrated to Palestine and this was reflected in its further activities.

 

Nordia Team
From left to right: M. Simenski (captain), Biedak, Vorobaytshik, E.Gordon, Filipovski, B.Malinski, S.Aviron, Y.Yelinevski, Y.Roznblum, Tsalkovski, S.Kshivitski, D.Shtaynberg, H.Dombovitsh

[Col. 407]

In its first years, “Betar” had a very strong soccer team. Its first members were: Kube Bernshteyn, A.Pulitovski, Yehudah Nayerman, David Shtern, Avraham Sheynman, Yosl Kats, Leyzer Baravski, Yaakov Baravski, Viktor Berman, Leyzer Tsalikovski, Artshik Pinkovski, Yisrael Streltukovski, Shlomoh Haperin and others.

After the split[2] in the World Union of Zionists Revisionists, Suwalk too had a Grossman Party to which many Betarists belonged.

At the head of the new party was Shmule Gradovski's oldest son, Hayim Zalman, who died in Auschwitz, Moshe Lizshenski, killed in a military plane crash, and Elia Gordon, who fell in the first battle between Poland and Germany in 1939.

[Col. 408]

After a few years of decline, “Betar” was strengthened in 1937, main due to the fact that Elia Gordon, President and found of the sport club, “Ha-Kadur” brought his entire team over to “Betar” where it was re-organized as “Nordia”.

The following were active in “Nordia” sports: Zelik Biedak, Velvl Funk, Moshe Saferzon, Elia Gordon, Alter Volf, Yosl Tsalikovski, Yisrael Lublinski, Moshe Semenski, Yosl Yelivenski, son of the Chairman of the Suwalk Community Council Kushnerzitski, Motl Bandishkovski, Reuven Shidarski, Velvl Fafovski, (or Pafovski) Lanovitski, and others whose names I no longer remember.

Many “Betar” athletes immigrated to Palestine and participated in Israel's War of Independence in 1948.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Betar is an acronym of Brith Trumpeldor. Return
  2. Refers to split in March 1933 with Meir Grossman founding the Jewish State Party which re-joined the Revisionists after World War II, when the Revisionists re-entered the World Zionist Organization. Return


[Col. 407]

Suwalk “Toz”[1]

Eliezer Sherer

The “Toz” Society in Suwalk was one of the most important institutions in local Jewish life. Its goals were to protect the health of the poor Jewish children of the town.

“Toz” gave the poor Jewish children free medical care and free hot meals. In the summertime, the poor Jewish children were taken out of their dark and dusty homes into day camps in the fresh air, outside of the city.

All sorts of children were helped; boys from the Talmud Torah, girls from the Tarbuth School, and students from other schools.

[Col. 408]

A group of young immigrants and children of immigrants from Suwalk in America, organized a club in New York in 1937, whose goal it was to help “Toz” and other institutions. The President was Mrs. Mints-Beyli. As the founder of this club, I can say that in the two years of its existence, it sent hundreds of dollars to the Suwalk “Toz”. The outbreak of World War II put an end to our work because the Jewish children were gassed and incinerated.

Let these few words be an eternal monument to the memory of the murdered Jewish children, and also to the memory of my beloved mother, Sarah Shereshevski, who helped the Suwalk “Toz”.

[Col. 409]

Suwalk “Toz”
On photo: Suwalk halbkolonia (day camp?) of “Toz” in Municipal Park

 

Dining room of “Toz” for poor children of Suwalk
Seen in picture: Dr. Sherman, Mrs. Stutshinski – dentist, Ms. Perets, Hanah Maytkes

[Col. 411]

Directors of Suwalk “Toz”
Standing right to left: Dentist Stutshinski, laboratory assistant Hannah Maytkes.
Seated: young girl Krushinski, unknown. Dr. Strarapolski {sic!}, Dr. Rozntal, Dr. Sherman (President), Mrs. Perets, unknown, Mrs. Lozman


Translator's Footnote

  1. “TOZ” stands for the Polish words for Society for Health Protection of the Jewish Population in Poland. Return

 

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