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{Pages 200–207}

Relief Activities
During the First World War

Translated from the Yiddish by Martin Bornstein

The (World War II) survivors of the Belchatow Jews, who now are found in the state of Israel, took along with themselves an interesting document, which was saved by accident and contains the

Report of the Belchatow Relief and Backing Committee

For the time between February 18th, 1915 till July 31st, 1917

This is a logbook that is handwritten and contains a precise report of the relief that was given in that period to the needy Jewish people in Belchatow. The said document without a doubt has historical significance for the history of the disappeared Jewish shtetl [small town] and we find it of importance to give here the full contents of the document. In the explanation, written on four sides, it says the following:

“Without support from the side, only with their own strength of a group of young people, was the first relief institution founded, by us in the town, which had been so strongly affected [found] by the war. [So] On the 12th of February 1915 the cheap tea hall was founded. Right away it was demonstrated that the tea hall is still not enough, while the little town that counted more than 800 Jewish families who were as a result of the war [largely without work], the majority of whom were employed in industry, and the need [among them] was indescribable. Therefor immediately thereafter, on the 1st of March 1915, the cheap kitchen was founded, which could exist, as did the tea hall, from the membership dues for the good of the institution. Due to the small membership one had to carry out limited activities, although the consumers of the kitchen had increased over time, such that the 50 mid-day eaters of the beginning were substituted over the duration of time and increased to 600 daily. Therefor we want to express thanks to Misters Israel Pitowski and Stadtlender, who in a critical time for the kitchen, [assembled)] collected a significant sum for the kitchen, also the circle commander for his administration [donations] and produce [production] for the good of the tea hall together with the kitchen.

We first received the financial support of the Alliance * * * in March 1916. Since the kitchen could exist, although with limited activities, we decided to utilize the money from the Alliance for other purposes. [So] During Passover of 1916 we took on wider support activities and [during] Passover of 1917 we significantly enlarged the activities, which consisted of dividing [passing out] produce free of charge and also financial support.

The summer of 1916 on account of certain people, because of “principle” themes, there was carried on a heated battle against the “Free Thinking” [non-observant] kitchen that burned to the point that a lot of Belchatower stopped paying their membership dues for the good of the kitchen. In the middle of June the tea hall closed down and by the end of August we were forced to close the kitchen too.

The need in the town was indescribable. Hundreds of families, both Jewish and non-Jewish, the majority of whom were weavers, were left literally without bread. At that time the United Salvation Committee was first reorganized, which had to carry out the relief work amongst Jews and non-Jews. There [on the committee] the Jews were represented by Misters P. Freitag, M. H. Stadtlender, and M. Warshawski [Warszawski].

Thanks to the revenues of the salvation committee, together with the money from the Alliance, we had the possibility to carry out a wide [range] of relief activities, which mostly consisted of alms, interest free loans and further.

In the winter of 1916/1917 we were able, thanks to the collections of reb S. Y. Shilit [Szylit] and reb H. Weiss, to distribute wood for heating to the largest portion of the families, as well as 300 pairs of (wooden) clogs were distributed for free.

In March of 1917 we first had the possibility to renew the activities of the kitchen, and due to the predominant need [among the people] it was converted to be a free one [when it was re-established]. This turned out to be an impossible thing, as the count of mid-day eaters shows, which had increased to 1,200 – 1,300 daily, of whom almost half were children. We also distributed for the whole poor portion of the population free bread and to another portion we sold bread at cheap prices.

From June on we stopped receiving the financial support of the Alliance, so that whole branches of our activities had to be discontinued. In the end of July the kitchens in general were also discontinued, among which also was our kitchen.

Now that an entire period of our relief activities has ended, we decided to deliver [publicize] openly a judgement – accounting of the incoming [influx of] money and of our activities.

With this opportunity we want to publicly express thanks to people openly who serviced different branches of our activities, the Misters reb S. Y. Shilit [Szylit], reb H. Weiss, I. Pitowski, M. Stadtlender, B. Waldman, A. Y. Rosenzweig, Mrs. Rosenblum, Mrs. Shilit [Szylit], Miss Fela Warshawski [Warszawski], and in general to everyone who was helpful to us in the work. ”

The Organizing Committee
Belchatow the end of July 1917

* Alliance – Probably the “Alliance Israelite Universelle”, which was founded in Paris in 1860 and was the first modern Jewish international organization.

{Page 203}

The Tea Hall
18 February 1915 – 11 June 1916

Income   Expenditures  
246.64 Membership Dues 908.84 5,453 pounds of bread [2,726.5 Kg ** ]
499.47 Donations 416.56 886 pounds of sugar [443 Kg] (as part of it 64 pounds that came from the circle commander)
450.11 16,204 glasses of tea sold at 1 krone each [about 3 glasses per ruble] * 61.39 10 pounds of tea [5 Kg]
428.03 15,409 portions of bread sold at 1 krone each 147.64 Rent
15.73 283 portions of bread sold at 2 krones each 111.11 Heating
244.00 2 containers of sugar weighing 488 pounds [244 Kg ** ] 26.44 Petty expenses
560.00 14 sacks of flour received from the Circle commander in
560.00 3,392 pounds of bread [1,696 Kg] that was distributed for free among 848 people
  212.00 424 pounds of sugar that was distributed for free [212 Kg]
2,443.98 Rubles   2,443.98 Rubles  

The exchange rate for the krone was 36 kopecks [for 1 krone]
[The ruble is Russian currency, and 1 ruble is divided into 100 kopecks; the krone is Austrian/German currency.]

The tea Hall gave out during the time of its existence:

24,191 Glasses of Tea [*]
17,451 Portions of bread with 12 pieces comprising a portion
3,392 Pounds of Bread [1696 Kg] given out free of charge
224 Pounds of sugar [212 Kg] given out free of charge

* [Tea in Poland, Russia, and much of Eastern Europe is drunk from glasses and not cups or mugs.]

** [The “pound” in this table and all subsequent tables is the German “Pfund,” which is equal to half a kilogram or 500 grams. Therefore 2 pounds = 1 kilogram. ]

{Page 204}

Wood for the Winter [heating] 1916 – 1917

Income   Expenditures  
1,494.80 collected by Reb S.Y. Shilit [Szylit] and Reb H. Weiss 2,344.80 28 fathoms of [fire] wood [a measure equal to 6 feet]
250.00 from the Salvation Committee    
600.00 from the Alliance    
2,344.80 Rubles   2,344.80 Rubles  

Wooden Clogs 1916 –1917

1,582.30 R from the Alliance 1,582.30 R to purchase and distribute 307 pairs of Wooden clogs [about 5 rubles per pair]

Medicine for the Sick

200.00 R from the Salvation Committee 106.00 R for medicine for 14 persons (free of charge)
    94.00 R remaining in the treasury
200.00 Rubles   200.00 Rubles  

{Page 205}

Passover 1916

Income   Expenditures  
1,879.62 income from flour money 2,051.40 2,085 pounds of matzah (distributed among 287 families)
208.34 income from a Passover sugar sale 1,831.30 Financial Support (distributed among 92 families)
200.00 income from the Salvation Committee 995.60 128 measures* of potatoes (distributed among 282 families)
2,600.00 income from the Alliance 9.66 assorted expenses
4,887.96 Rubles   4,887.96 Rubles  

[*the actual measure amount listed is – “kerz”]

Passover 1917

2,497.00 income from flour money 4,617.40 3,360 pounds of matzah (distributed among 301 families)
1,853.00 income from [the sale of] Passover flour 4,882.70 financial support (distributed among 334 families)
5,150.10 income from the Alliance    
9,500.10 Rubles   9,500.10 Rubles  


381.00 from the Salvation Committee 2,182.40 alms given out to 398 families
1,351.40 from the Alliance    
2,182.40 Rubles   2,182.40 Rubles  

Family Honor

3,607.50 R from the Alliance 3,607.50 R alms given out to 160 families

Interest Free Loans

681.50 R from the Alliance 681.50 R money lent to 9 people

{Page 206}

Last Page of Handwritten Ledger

[Translation of above document follows:]

Balance on July 31, 1917
Income   Expenditures  
17,244.16 Salvation Committee 14,388.06 Passover 1916/17
19,468.50 Alliance 681.50 loans
4,376.62 flour [donated or from sale] 5,789.90 alms (together with honor)
208.34 from Passover sugar 106. medicines for the sick
1,853. from Passover flour 1,582.30 wooden clogs
5,227.81 donations 2,344.80 firewood for the winter
1,464.58 membership dues 1,621.98 Tea Hall
893.87 income from the Tea Hall 19,960.79 Kitchen (Produce)
830. from the Circle Commander 4,011.53 Kitchen (Expenses)
127.98 income from the Kitchen 712. distributed produce bread and baked goods
51,694.86   51,308.86  
386.00 treasury resources [balance on hand] 386.00  

[The seal in German reads: Jewish Community (Project) Administration Belchatow.] Belchatow the end of July 1917
The Organizing Committee:
  Yakov Hirsh Stadtlender
[illegible signature –
possibly in Russian]
[signature – possibly P. Freitag]
[illegible signature]
[illegible signature – possibly B. Piewszy]

[Based on the other tables the amounts given in this handwritten one are all in Russian Rubles]

{Page 207}

Belchatower Talmud-Torah (Yeshiva)

Youth committee of “Tzishoy” in Belchatow

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