the Communist activity did not cease, and in 1931 there was another mass arrest. At that time the following were, among others, arrested: Liza Gordon, Sorke Movshovitsh, Shmuel Baran-the teacher, Boske Kovarsky, Liovke Poshumensky, Shloyme Abramson. All of them, except Baran and Abramson, were sentenced to many years in prison. The informant, who turned over the activists, the defense, [sic] was revealed. In the year 1939, when our area was taken over by the Soviet Union, he was arrested. For his informing activities, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He defended his 'selling out' the activists [by saying that it] was motivated by his difficult financial situation and his fear that his arrest would leave his large family without any food.
Many were arrestedothers left the movement out of fear of being arrested, but others came, took their places and promulgated Communist activities.
In 1936, there were once again mass arrests. Those who were sent to [the concentration camp] Kartuz Bereze without a trial for an undetermined time [were]: Avram-Leyb Germanisky, Eliahu (Luske) Taraseysky (both had just received their law degrees not long before being arrested). In Vilna: leyb Kovner, Keyb Disyatnik, Kopl Sirotka and Motl Ginzburg. The regime in Kartuz Bereze was
[Photo spanning bottom of cols: 327 & 328]
[Caption under photo]
The Bee at Bild-Gez under the name of Yehoash Link at an excursion accompanied by the Bild-Gez Orchestra.
[Caption under photo]
An excursion of young people at the Jewish cemetery
was an exact copy of Hitler's concentration camp, Dachau, in which the inspector of Kartuz Bereze, Gepnes, had honed his specialized talents for this purpose.
In Kartuz Bereze terror reigned; physical punishment was carried out according to camp regulations. In this bestial way Avram-Leyb Germanisky was persecuted and murdered in the camp (May 6, 1936). The hangmen refused to release his body to his family, so that the Fascist cruelty of these murderers should not be known outside [the camp].
[Cols. 329-330 top]
[Col. 329 top]
It was very difficult to found a Needle [Trades] Union in Sventsyan. After great effort, and thanks to the initiative and courage of many devoted activists, it was possible to organize a Needle [Trades] Union in our city.
It is worthwhile to note, that except for Sventsyan, there was not one other town in the whole province that had a Needle [Trades] Union. It was not easy to get the necessary permits from the governor of the province.
Another difficulty was to find a suitable location and the requisite rent money.
Therefore it was a joyous occasion for the needle workers of Sventsyan when the union was finally opened in its own location in the synagogue courtyard, not far from the market square.
Right at the very first meeting of the founders
[Col. 330 top]
the topic of which trades should be included in the union was discussed. After a lengthy debate, it was decided that 4 important divisions of the needle trade should be included:
1) Custom-made [clothes] 2) Second-hand [clothes] 3) Underwear makers and 4) Hat makers.
[Col. 330 top cont'd]
The following workers immediately joined the union: Libe Fermant, Hirsh Sharski, Yisroel Levin, Moyshe Levin, Khaye Salamyak, Sore Movshovits, Ahron Rutshteyn, Yoysef Smargansky, Avram Smargansky, Yankev Beygl, Khatskl Kaltun, Sheyne Kharmats, Gershon Hokhman, Perets Abramson, Ruven Shnayderovitsh, Kats and the writer of these lines.
The Needle [Trades] Union was active in many areas and gave its members financial assistance. It also did everything [it could] to raise itself to a higher social and cultural level.
[Col. 329-330 bottom]
[Col. 329 bottom]
In order to fight the deceptions and the decrees of the anti-Semitic government of Poland, an artisan association was founded. Its representatives defended the artisans regarding all the government problems and also regarding the Jewish community. After the war, the artisans suffered greatly from fines imposed by the government, from various laws pertaining to examinations, diplomas, apprentices and so on. The management of this association gave them very valuable help in these matters. Every artisan paid membership dues and was, therefore, entitled to assistance in all of these matters. In order to make his financial situation a bit easier, a interest-free loan fund was established and the Folk Bank, which gave loans at very low interest rates.
[Col 329 bottom cont'd]
Borukh Rozental, the well known Sventsyaner businessman, was for many years the President of the Artisans' Association. He represented the artisans as councilman in the City Council and was also on the board of the Folk Bank.
[Col. 330 bottom]
Other board members were: Ben Tsion Lishanski, Eliahu Frish, Khaim Ber Feygel, Zalman Eydelman, Efraim Tseykinsky, Avram Gertman, Shimen Rudnitsky, Zaydman, Yankev Dov Kharmats, Maks Tseykinsky and Perets Kahn.
[Caption under photo]
Sitting: Mendl Tseykinsky, Zalman Eydelman, Borukh Rozental, Ben-Tsion Lishansky, Elye-leyb Paruss, Khaim-Ber Feygel.
Standing: Ber Kharmats, Avram Gertman, Shimen Rudnitsky, Perets Kahn, Efraim Tseykinski, Leyb Zaydman.
During the German occupation an elementary school was opened in Sventsyan, and the language of instruction was Yiddish.
This school competed with the existing Talmud toyre.
In the year 1921, the Yiddish school had over 200 children, and in the Talmud toyre there remained only a few dozen children.
Later on a Jewish gymnasium was also founded in Sventsyan. Both the elementary school and the gymnasium
[Photo that spans the bottom of cols. 333-334]
[Caption under photo]
Sitting, from the right: Genendl Kuritski, Khaye Shpiz, Basye and Yoysef Svirski, Nakhum Taraseyski, Rifka and Yisroel Levin, Lipeh Rozenshteyn.
Standing: Malke Vaynshteyn, Shloyme Ash, Reyzl Azinski, Dovid Ginzburg, Reyzl Solomyak, Yisroel Abramson, Lina Yavitsh-Kats, Ruven Abramovitsh, Ida Agulnik, Mordkhe Lyekhovitski, Yoysef Lulinski, a teacher, Medl Shpiz, Leyb Margel, Yehoshua Shayevitsh, Mordkhe Naviser and Dovid Kuritski.
were connected with the C. Y. S. O. (the Central Yiddish School organization), which was decidedly anti-Zionist.
This influenced the Zionists to do everything in their power to found a Culture School.
The greatest and most outspoken opponents of establishing a Culture school was the group that most ardently supported the Yiddish school. They understood that the pupils who would go to the Culture school would reduce the number of students of the Yiddish school. They
[Photo across cols. 335 & 336]
[Caption under photo]
Sitting, from the right: Avram Gertman, Borukh Rozental, Dovid Kuritski, Yoysef Svirski, Nakhum Taraseyski, ____ [sic] Koyfman, Yehoshua Solomyak.
Standing: Zekharye Nyomkin, Akiva Goron, Yisroel Abramson, Shaul Vilkomirski, Boris Brumberg, Ben-Tsion Lishanski, Efraim Tseykinski, Perets Kohn and Leyb Porus.
began a big struggle and with all the means [at their disposal] began to disrupt the building of the Culture school. The struggle went on from 1925 to 1928. Thanks to the great efforts and mighty exertion of Leyb Margel and Mordkhe Gaviser the school opened for the 1928/9 school year.
At the same time there was founded in Sventsyan a branch of the Culture Society, which took the lead in order to make sure that the newly established school had whatever it needed. In addition to the two people mentioned above, the following people also distinguished themselves in this effort: Yisroel Levin, Yoysef Lulinski, Ruben Abramovitsh, Nakhum Taraseyski, Berl Kharmats, Yisroel Abramson, Dovid Kuritski and others. The school was successful until the outbreak of the Second World War. When Sventsyan was occupied by the Soviets, the school was closed.
When the after-school Hebrew school was closed, the Hebrew Folk School was opened in its place and that became the center for the Zionist activities in the city.
There were two active libraries in Sventsyan. One was a Yiddishist [library] which was supported by
[Col. 336 under photo]
the Sventsyan Culture League and the second onea municipal [library], which was run by Borukh Rozental.
Rozental was also the founder and the director of the drama club, which was called: the Art Society.
In Sventsyan there was also a Committee for Working in the Land of Israel, a branch of the League for Working in Israel, which was run by the lawyer, Leyb Gurvitsh; a K. K. L.-Commission run by Leyb Margel and Shimon Bushkanyets; a Committee to raise money to buy land in Israel, in which Yoysef Svirski and Yisroel Levin were quite active.
The Culture League occupied a very special place among the institutions in town; it was also called Bildgez. It was a kind of branch of the Education Society of Vilna, Vilbilg and held cultural and social events in town.
The main activists of Bildgez were the teachers of t he Jewish gymnasium: Yoysef Brumberg, Manye and Avram Reynharts, the teacher [Ms.] Fisher, Kopl Sirotkin, Dr. Karvarski among others.
In Sventsyan, there were two interest-free loan societies; one was a general [fund] run by Dovid Kuritskiu, Avram Gertman and Akiva Gordin, the second was khasidish, run by Aron Tsinman and Shloyme Kurlandtshik.
There was also a branch of the Central Cooperative Folk's Bank run by Dr. Binyomin Kavarski and Borukh Brumberg. The directors were: Miron Taraseyski and Mendl Kuritski.
The founding of the Pioneers organization brought the city a lot of spirit. This organization prepared the young people to immigrate to Israel.
The Guardians of the Sick was a philanthropic institution, which helped the poor with medicines. The ill would be visited by doctors, receive medication and [help with] hospital staysall paid for by the Guardians of the Sick.
Volunteers were also sent for round-the-clock care of the sick, who needed a nurse. There was also an ice cellar, which had ice available all summer long for those who needed it.
The Guardians of the Sick was supported by: (1) membership fees, (2) a traditional Purim Ball, (3) Greetings on the occasion of the New Year (shana-toyves), (4) subsidies from the magistrate, (5) subsidies from the Jewish community, (6) rent for a private house, (7) charitable donations from various sources.
Among the Jewish institutions in Sventsyan, the Jewish community itself should be mentioned; it included also the towns of Lintup and New Sventsyan.
[Col. 337 cont'd]
The first elections for the board of the Jewish community [organization] took place in the year 1928.
The first Secretary of the Jewish community [organization] was Arye Margel. The Treasurer was Mordkhe Gaviser.
It is worthwhile also to mention the service of the Jewish councilmen on the City Council of Sventsyan. Of the 13 councilmen, 5 were Jewish.
Borkh (Boris) Brumberg was elected Assistant Mayor. He devoted a lot of time and energy to the development of Sventsyan in general and for the improvement of conditions for the Jews in particular.
Among the Most Devoted
[Caption under photo] Bere Moyshe Azinski
[Text of H & I continues alongside photo]
[Col. 338 cont'd]
[Caption to the left of photo] Yitskhok Grinboym
This happened at the Zionist Conference in Minsk this historic kissing. I saw it with my own eyes and was, of course, astonished to see it but happy and had no complaints against Vaytsman. The Mizrakhi faction was also delighted about Vaytsman's historic kiss to Rabbi Reynes.
But let me describe the Conference in Minsk, which took place in August 1902, openly and legally, although no official permission was made public, something the newpapers of the world, not only in Russia, would certainly have written about. The Yiddish papers printed telegrams and detailed correspondence about the conference and the censor was quite liberal in permitting it.
The weak point of the conference lay in the question of cultural work. The Orthodox, who believed in Hertsl, in his political and organizational work, feared the cultural work, which was promoted by the non-religious portion of the Zionist Movement, especially the Hebrew intellectuals by their writers and teachers, who were preaching a national revival, creating a secular Hebrew literature and placing the education of the new generation on a completely different foundation than it had been for many, many past generations. In Hertsl they [felt they] had found a supporter of their demands, because he believed that everyone's energies should be concentrated on politics, propaganda, organization and creating the necessary financial institutions. No powerful [contingent] was to be pushed away if it were ready to work toward the stated goals. Hertsl did not see that the awakening of a national consciousness, the
1. The names that are hyphenated in the caption under the photo are not hyphenated in the text above the photo. [Sic] Return
Dov Ber Shloyme (Brooklyn)
Organization for Hospitality
The organization that took care of inviting guests was founded circa 1901. Before that the indigent used to have to spend the night in the poorhouse (an old broken down house in the Synagogue courtyard). They would also have to stand by the synagogue door and wait for someone to invite them for a meal.
It is worthwhile to mention Rabbi Leybe Eli the butcher, who would wait every Friday evening and Sabbath day to take all those who needed a place to eat to his own home. He would also supply kosher food for all the Jewish prisoners in jail.
In 1901, ten important Jewish men [of the town] organized an official group to fulfill this need. They were called 'The First Ten,' and they created the hakhnoses orkhim organization. Their goal was to collect enough money and food for poor travelers passing through. From this organization every poor Jew would get a note with an address on it indicating the place where he was to eat. They also rented Itse Ber the bookbinder's garret as a place for them to sleep.
The first beadle of the hakhnoses orkhim organization was Itse Vidutsinski the teacher.
The founders of the hakhnoses orkhim organization, the so-called First Ten
[Col. 341 cont'd]
were: 1) Reb Hillel Brumberg the ritual slaughter, 2) Avraham Funt, 3) Yitskhak Vidutsinski, the teacher, 4) Borukh Saroko, 5) Yitskhak Parus, the bookbinder, 6) Leyb Minkin, 7) Yisroel Eli, the sexton, 8) Yudl Vilkomirski, the baker, 9) Leyb Elkis, 10) Yitskhak Brumberg.
Visiting the Sick
The first beadle of the Visiting the Sick organization was Reb Shevakh Kavarski. Moyshe Levinson was the first secretary. He was Meytsik's son. Bere Moyshe Azinski also devoted a lot of time and money to this organization. Pinkhus Zelig Demba used to devote a lot of time to the very indigent who were ill and helped them greatly.
The mission of the Visiting the Sick organization was: first to
provide the ill with doctors and with medicine from the pharmacy. Then, they would see to it that someone would sit by the bedside of the sick person, especially at night. For those who were alone, this was a very great help.
Often this assistance saved the family, which had used its last ounce of energy in caring for the patient.
Interest-Free Loan Fund
The head of the Interest-Free Loan Fund was Reb Ben-Tsion Kats, of blessed memory. He had a metal trunk in his house. That is where he kept the promissory notes that were brought as security. When he would leave the house, he told the children to guard the trunk. At that time the whole city of Svenstyan used the Interest-Free Loan Fund. On Monday after the market [was closed] each person would ask the other: Do you perhaps need an interest-free loan? No one had to beg. On the contrary, whoever could offered help to those in need.
Food for the Poor
(Told by Yisroel Saroko)
Food for the Poor was founded 60 years ago. The first founder was Isaac Blue Lips. He was called Blue Lips, because his lips were blue from fasting so much. His task was to collect money and give it anonymously to the needy.
[Col. 342 cont'd]
Reb Isaac was a Torah scholar. Although he had children and they wanted him to live with them, he felt more comfortable in the synagogue and did not stay with his children. He would eat only once a day and would visit Soreh-Mikhla Saroko, who used to bake bread to sell, weigh a few dried crusts himself and call out: Soreh-Mikhla, Borukh, Yisroel, look at the scale. Soreh-Mikhla Saroko used to offer to make him a barley soup, but he would reply: You will make me a glutton and a drunkard. On the Sabbath, he used to eat at the house of Reb Sender Libman, of blessed memory, or
as the family was called Khayke Elke's. The Libman family accorded Reb Isaac great honor. In his old age, Reb Isaac complained to those close to him: What can be done? There is no place to die.
An interesting type of person in the Food for the Poor organization was Kuneh Treyne the beadle's wife. She and Reb Isaac would always carry out their charitable deeds quietly and modestly.
This is how our friends of long ago lived. They were devoted to their work and gave much of themselves, quietly, modestly for the sake of the community with no thought of receiving anything in return.
The chronicles of the Burial Society made every effort to record all the important events of the town. There one could find all the important statutes of the town in general and of the Burial Society in particular.
[Photo spanning the bottom of cols. 343-344]
Top of photo: A funeral in town
Bottom of photo: (The funeral of the lawyer Hirsh Levin; corner of Pilsudski and May Third Sts.)
One of the most important regulations was that before one could become a member one had to be a beadle for three years, to be at all 'purifications,' in town, as well as getting all the members together, when it was necessary.
It was, therefore, difficult to attain the honor of being a member of the Burial Society.
Every year on the 15th of Kislev, a celebratory banquet was held for the Burial Society. The banquet was held at Shneur Robinovitsh's house.
It was the custom that the first thing in the morning of the 15th of Kislev the [public] baths were heated and the mikva, in which all the members of the Society had to immerse themselves, was warmed. In addition, they fasted all day and recited penitential prayers together.
The head of the Burial Society in our time was Reb Shneur Robinovitsh. One of his assistants was Tuvya, the gardener.
1. Or seeing that guests in town were taken care of. [Trans.] Return
2. Hospitality. Named after the commandment to be hospitable to strangers and wayfarers. [Trans.] Return
3. Literally 'Bread for the Poor.” [Trans.] Return
4. This was probably Reb Sender's wife's name. Often a husband or son was identified as belonging to the wife or mother. [Trans.] Return
5. Washing the body of the deceased and preparing it for burial according to Jewish law. [Trans.] Return
6. Ritual immersion pool. [Trans.] Return
[To the left of the photo] Reuben Abramovitsh
According to the Lithuanian [journal?] Yekopa, in the years 1928/29, the population of Sventsyan was close to 6000 souls, among them were 2,900 Jews.
The main occupation of the Jewish population was business; they were mostly shopkeepers but were also involved in other small businesses.
Before the First World War, Sventsyan considered itself to be a center of the flax trade. The biggest companies in this field were Asher Kavarski and Ahron Tsinman. They had their agents and buyers in practically all the towns of the whole region. After the war, the flax business was transferred to [the town of] Heydutsishok.
This business was concentrated, for the most part, around the market that took place every Wednesday.
On that day peasants from the whole area would gather in order to sell their products. Various merchants would come in from all the [surrounding] cities and villages in order to buy the agricultural products and also to sell their dry goods, notions and textiles.
Dealing in boar bristles, wool, and small pelts occupied an important place in the economic life of the town. The following merchants were involved in that: Shmuel Shutan, Yankev Kromnik, Henekh Sorski, Khone Salavski, among others.
[Col: 345 cont'd]
Dozens of Jewish families drew their livelihood from dealing in grain. The meat business, which was concentrated in the hands of the butchers, gave them quite a good income. They would provide meat for the army, send it to Vilna, and sell a large part of it at the local market.
The biggest meat merchants were the butchers: Gershon
and Dovid Gurvitsh, Heshl Gurvitsh and his son, Khaykl Gordon among others.
A very important branch of business in Sventsyan was [the keeping of] orchards and gardening. Among the most successful orchard keepers were: Yoysef Kharmats, Yosl and Heshl Kavarski and his son, and others.
They would rent the orchards from the [Christian] landowners, and they would sell the fruits all over Poland and also abroad.
There were some very large manufacturing plants in Sventsyan. Their owners were: Motl Kagan, Ben Tsion Tsosnik, Shmolgovski, Kapelovitsh, and others.
The biggest leather businesses belonged to: Khaim Yavitsh, Lulinski, Eydelman and Shneur Kavarski.
After the war, the condition of Jewish business changed for the worse.
The second source of livelihood was handwork.
All the specifically Jewish trades were represented in town: tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, glaziers, furriers, bakers, blacksmiths, locksmiths, wig makers, and so on.
What happened to the businessmen also happened with the tradesmen. Before the First World War, they made a very nice living. After the war, however, they suffered a great economic crisis, which was mostly due to political reasons.
[Col. 346 cont'd]
The Jewish tradesmen in Sventsyan tried to help themselves by founding an organization of their own and through reciprocal assistance.
For that purpose, they founded the Tradesmen's Union, which included all branches of Jewish trade.
This Union had a special examination board for all apprentices and oversaw the handing out of tradesmen's diplomas.
It would also make loans a low percentages and advised the tradesmen on all of their financial matters.
All of these efforts, however, made little difference. The conditions for Jewish tradesmen became worse from day to day.
Their only option was to emigrate across the ocean or to settle in Israel.
Before the First World War, Sventsyan had two tobacco factories, which were jointly owned by Shneur Rabinovitsh, Hersh-Leyb Teyts and Kopelovitsh.
[There were also] a soap factory, a cigarette factory owned by Ushpal, a leather factory owned by Brumberg and a whisky brewery [owned by?] Rambam.
The felt boots and felt shoes (volikes) industry occupied a very special place in Svantsyan, and it was considered to be the biggest in its field in all of Poland.
The pioneers of the manufacturing of felt boots and felt shoes were Tuvya Shapiro and his son, Binyomin.
This factory continued to be inherited and continued to grow quite a bit, so that [eventually] Binyomin's son, Berl, was the owner of a very large volikes factory in which close to 50 workers, mostly Russians, were employed.
[Col. 347 cont'd]
Other larger volikes factories belonged to Leyzer Zeydel (the manager of the factory was his wife, Kune Feyge) and to Mordkhe Kil.
In addition to these, the volikes factories of Alter Teyts must be mentioned, as well as those of Khone Vilkomirski and his two sons, Shaul and Khaim; the brothers Yoysef and Yankev Svirski among others.
The production of volikes employed several hundred workers, the majority of them Russians but also dozens of Jews.
The felt shoes and boots of Sventsyan were sold all over Poland and reached the most remote corners of the country.
The manufacturing of volikes was one of the main sources of income for the Jews of Sventsyan.
After the First World War, Sventsyan became famous throughout all of Poland for a peculiarly individual item: medicinal herbs.
The pioneer of this field was Taraseyski. In imitation of him, the Abramovitsh- Gramov Company later also began to work in this industry.
The two companies would buy the medicinal herbs of the whole region, sort them, dry them, cut them and according to trade recipes mix up various compounds and then sell them to various companies or directly to pharmacies throughout Poland.
These companies also owned their own plantations, which grew various kinds of these herbs.
Both companies had contracts with all applicable departments in Polish universities, where research was being done on the efficacy of all kinds of herbs.
These medicinal herbs were later exported outside the country, and they were sold in America, Japan, France and England.
1. This was at a time when Jews could not own land. [Trans.] Return
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Svencionys, Lithuania Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2017 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 18 Jan 2008 by LA