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[Page 97]

Agudat Israel in Bilgoraj

by Sh. Feller

Translated by Moses Milstein

With the emergence of the Agudat Israel movement in Poland after WWI, in 1918-20, Bilgoraj also founded an Agudat Israel party.

The party was headed by the most respected organizational leaders of the city, like: Levi Stern, Yakov Kanter, Yechezkel Teicher, Birach Hershman, Nuteh Fink, Nachum Wagner, Dovid Furer, Yakov Eliezer Goldbrenner, Yosef Rapaport, hy”d, and Harav Itzchak Huberman, and the writer of these lines who is now in Eretz Israel.

Agudat Israel was very active in various areas like, education, religion, and social issues.

 

Education

In the area of education, Agudat Israel established a cheder with the help of an American philanthropist, R' Moishe Frost, z”l, in which several hundred students studied. The first supervisor of the cheder was Mr. Alter Zuker of Dlugosiodlo who now lives in Bnei Brak, Israel.

The cheder was founded and run according to the instructions and the programs of all the other cheders and bet sefers that were created in Poland under the name of Yesodei HaTorah, with all modern facilities, and in accordance with the laws that were

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The committee for the cheder, “Zichron Yakov and Beit Moshe” in Bilgoraj

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required by the Polish education ministry generally in matters to do with the school system.

In this cheder, the best pedagogical methods were always taught and studied.

According to the laws of the Polish school system, they also had to teach secular subjects in line with the public schools. So teachers from the government school came to teach the worldly subjects to the children.

The cheder was run by a committee headed by Harav Mordechai Rokeach, Levi Stern, and hamavdil bchl”ch, the writer of these lines, and others.

The cheder produced children steeped in Torah and piety, but also with a worldly education, many of whom are in Israel or America today.

 

Beit Yakov

In the area of schooling for girls, the Agudat Israel in Bilgoraj, established an exemplary Beit Yakov school with several hundred students, along the lines of the Beit Yakov schools that Agudat Israel created in all of Poland.

The founder and creator of the school was the writer of these lines with the help of the rav, ztz”l, and a committee of basically the above-mentioned committee of the cheder.

Shaineh Torenheit, a”h, was selected as a female teacher, pedagogue, and educator.

An excellent teacher, she brought the school to an appropriately high level. She was always organizing

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plays on religious themes, that would attract a large audience from the religious sectors.

 

A Beit Yakov performance in Bilgoraj

 

She later married Baruch Stern, the son of Levi Stern, z”l, and settled in Bilgoraj, and ran the school until the war.


The Workers Movement in Bilgoraj

by A. Greener, B. Eichenblat

Translated by Moses Milstein

In 1905, Bilgoraj was part of Czarist Russia, and when the famous “strikes” were taking place all over the land, Bilgoraj was not left out.

Bilgoraj, which had a large number of sieve workers, young unmarried men, early on worked with the workers movement, which was then illegal, with the Bund. They used to organize various strikes and protests. The Russian police hunted for the leaders, but because Bilgoraj was close to Austria, they would cross the border illegally, and from there, flee to America. In this way, they avoided being sent to Siberia.

In 1926, the young workers were in a very bad situation. They had no opportunity to go to school, because by the age of 11 or 12, they had to start learning a trade–which then consisted of sieve work, tailor, or shoemaker–in order to earn enough for a piece of bread, because their parents could no longer support them. That was the situation in those days.

At that time, there was a certain Shimon Zilberlicht (Shimon Kashtan[1] he was called). He lived with his parents in very poor conditions. He too was forced, at a very young age, to learn a trade, and he apprenticed to a tailor. Later, when he had learned a little of the tailor trade,

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he realized he and his parents were in great need, and he decided to go to Warsaw where he thought he could live a better life materially.

After living there for a while, he was drawn into the Polish Jewish revolutionary world, got a bit of an education, and returned to Bilgoraj.

In 1927, the first trade union in Bilgoraj was formed, and united all the workers of the city such as: shoemakers, tailors, domestic servants, bakers, brush association (sieve workers), and printers.

A drama club was formed of the following people: Hodis Bromberg, Perl Gerstenman, Rochl Leah Glicklech, Breine Eichenblat, Yakov Dorenbust, Yosef Schlechterman, Yakov Zimring, Orish Saltzberg, Eliyahu Dorfsman, (director), Berish Feder (prompter). Their first presentation, “The Bells of Siberia,” and later, “Where are my Children,” were a success. Huge audiences were attracted.

The trade union also conducted cultural work among the workers. They created a library, and brought knowledge to the Bilgoraj workers.

Various speakers used to come, and indeed, in 1930, when the union was located at Yakov Mermlstein's, a free-thinker came to give a lecture there.

When the religious Jews, who were at Minche-Maariv, heard about this speaker, they left the besmedreshim, and headed out for the trade union.

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It was quite a scene, and the lecture did not take place.

The Bilgoraj young workers became educated, and there was lots of activity. At the head were Shimon Zilberlicht, Yehoshua Shtark, Yosef Shirota, Yosef Ball, Shaindl Shtreichler, Yidl Sharf, Issar Kandl, Brombergs, and others.

In the meantime, the Polish police began to spy on every movement of the leadership. In spite of the disturbances, the drama club of the trade union put on, to great acclaim, “The Romanian Wedding.”

Between the years 1932-1936, the Polish government was engaged in hunting down Communists, and fell upon the vestiges in Bilgoraj. Very many followers were arrested and sentenced to long years in jail. Some managed to escape, and later to cross over to Soviet Russia.

The police confiscated everything of the trade union, and the local was shut.

Even with all these arrests, Shimon Zilberlicht still managed to escape to Paris.

In 1936, a workers party was again formed, “YAP.” (Yiddisher Arbiter Partei), which began to put workers lives back in focus.

It did not last long. In 1938, the Polish authorities arrested the board of the YAP, held them under arrest for 14 days, and the local was closed.

No more workers movements were permitted in Bilgoraj.

[Page 105 (sic)]

This was how the workers movement existed in Bilgoraj. It brought light to the working masses, until the accursed Germans annihilated everything and everyone.


Translator's footnote:

  1. Chestnut Return


Cooperative Banks in Bilgoraj

by Sh. Feller

Translated by Moses Milstein

The emergence of the Polish state, proclaiming itself a democratic country, with the previous social orders, and socialist parties at the head of government for a long time, nurtured and valued the cooperative movement and cooperation in general.

 

(From right to left) bottom row. Moishe Toitman, Shloime Zilbermintz, Shmuel Elyahu Groisman
(Second row seated) Itzchak Wirtzer, Yehoshua Pantser, Chaim Mordechai Hirshenhorn, Hillel Janower, Hersh Zilberberg, Feivel Lerman, Leibl Shneiderberg
(Third row, standing) Itzchak Meir Warshoviak, Yakov Tauber, Moishe Kornworzel, Shefsl Honigsfeld, Israel Roit, Yehoshua Fogel, Mordechai Loberblat, and Moishe Zisman

 

Thanks to this, cooperative banks arose in every city and shtetl and served all classes of people with loans and the like.

Bilgoraj, which had a lot of sieve workers and merchants, was strongly in need of such bank institutions.

And in 1927, the Mizrachi association in Bilgoraj created the first “Payen-Bank,• which was later called “Bank-Udzalova.• Later, the “Bank-Spoldzielcy• was formed by people closer to the Agudat circle, and finally, the merchants in the city created the “Bank-Kupiecki.•

All three banks developed well, and served the city residents with loans and the like.

The Jewish banks were annihilated along with the community.


[Page 108]

Charitable Institutions in Bilgoraj

by Ch. Anger

Translated by Moses Milstein

Linat Hatzedek

In the city synagogue, to the right of the main entrance, there was a little shul where the young generation of shoemakers, smiths, wood-workers, butchers, netting, and horse traders, davened.

One Saturday in 1930, while the men were gathered there to pray, they discussed the situation of the poor tradesmen in Bilgoraj. What if someone fell ill, who was there to help him? So right then and there, they decided to establish a Linat Hatzedek. A committee was quickly formed with the following people: Chaim Anger, Aharon Leib Brenner, Chaim Eliyahu Anger, Pesach Sheinzinger, Zecharyahu Dornbust, and others.

The Linat Hatzedek quickly became popular in the city due to the help it unfailingly provided for the poor and sick. It negotiated large discounts from the city's doctors and pharmacists for patients referred by Linat Hatzedek. They purchased various medical appliances which they lent to patients for use in the home.

It became a well-regarded institution in the city, and continued to attract new members who paid a small monthly amount that allowed this very important institution to survive.

The Linat Hatzedek committee worked with devotion

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and heart and soul. There was not one celebration in town where Linat Hatzedek did not collect money. They also received support from the Bilgoraj committee in America which enabled them to continue to expand their work on behalf of the poor and ill.

 

Bikur Cholim

In 1934, for various reasons, a Bikur Cholim was established headed by the most prominent tradesmen of the city, such as: Levi Stern, Nuteh Kronenberg, Chaim Anger, Hershel Groisman, Chaim Mordechai Hirshenhorn, and Shloime Israel Shtall.

The Bikur Cholim carried on a strong and intensive work, giving help to any poor, sick person who came to them.

In 1937, Linat Hatzedek and Bikur Cholim united, and became a single institution dedicated to providing help for the needy sick.

The Linat Hatzedek v'Bikur Cholim was run by an amalgamated committee which continued to provide aid until the devastation.

 

Beit Lechem

In the last years before the war, the economic situation in Bilgoraj had deteriorated markedly so that many families could not provide for Shabbes.

Bilgoraj Jews who had always cared for the poor, established a Beit Lechem in 1934 headed by

[Page 110]

Yakov Shnitzer, Moishe Model, Chaim Anger, Dovid Zokman, Yekutiel Pest, Tevl Stempel, and others.

Every Friday, the committee sent people to go from house to house gathering bread and challahs. Bilgoraj housewives would prepare beautiful, big challahs and happily give them to the collectors.

Later they would be distributed to the poor of the city.

There were also poor, reclusive Jews to whose homes the bread and challahs were sent for Shabbes.

 

Hachnasat Orchim

In Bilgoraj, as in all the cities of Poland, masses of poor people who wandered all over the country would arrive with no place to spend the night other than the hard benches of the besmedreshim.

Bilgoraj Jews could not merely look on at their plight, and so, in 1936, they established a Hachnasat Orchim where every arriving pauper was given a clean, spotless bed to sleep in, and a glass of tea.

These were the charitable institutions that existed in Bilgoraj until Hitler's murderers annihilated them all.


[Page 111]

Drama Clubs in Bilgoraj

by Sh. Atzmon (Wirtzer) actor

Translated by Moses Milstein

Bilgoraj youth had always loved theater, and had a strong desire to put on plays.

Theater to them ranked higher than political partisanship. The ambition to perform united all spheres and classes.

A drama club was begun back during WWI, when the public kitchen and orphanage were operating, made up of the following people: Manik, Kubeh, and Esther Brafman, Perl and Golde Honigboim, Roize Shwerdsharf, Broche and Chaneh Grossman, Yakov Mermlstein, Shrentze Spiro, Hershke Goldbrenner, and others, under the direction of a certain Matchek from Zamosc. The first performance was “King Lear,” from which all of the revenue went to the public kitchen and the orphanage.

In 1922, a drama club formed again of people with diverse backgrounds such as: Nissen Shlechterman, Gerstenman, Langburd, A. Y. Bramberg, Moishe Honigboim, Eliyahu Dorfman, Fessl Kandl, Pinchas Zimring, Chaim Oberhand, Zisman and Itzchak Meir Eilish, under the direction of Nissen Shlechterman. They gave frequent performances and all the revenue went to charitable goals.

Later, a drama club was formed by the Zionist organization with the following people: Nuteh Shwerdsharf, A. Bramberg, Y. M. Eilish, A. Weiss, Y. Bramberg, Chaim Oberhand, Esther Bromberg, and others. They put on a lot of plays, and the money went to K.K.”L.

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Photo inscription: Yiddish drama section in Bilgoraj 1922

 

The Zionist youth, the “Ze'evim,” (Viltchukes), were keen and started a drama club with the following people: Yosef Shlechterman, Hodis Kornblit, Chantche Hodes,

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Rochl Yegerman, Neitche Honigboim, Ettl Bramberg, Necheh Bramberg, Feige Bin, Tsippe Kesselshmid, and others, under the direction of Nuteh Shwerdsharf. They put on shows which drew large audiences.

In 1927, the trade union formed a drama club with the following people: Hodis Bramberg, Perl Gerstenman, Rochl Leah Glicklech, Breine Eichenblat, Yakov Dorenbust, Yosef Shlechterman, Yakov Zimring, Urish Salzberg, Berish Feder, under the direction of Eliyahu Dorfman. They first put on, “The Bells of Siberia.”

In 1928, a joint Beitar and Hechalutz drama club was formed with the following people: Yakov Eidelstein, Yakov Stempl, Hersh Ritzer, Nuteh and Yosef Kleinmintz, Rochl Geist, Rechl Kornblit, Minke Shur, Breine Renner,

 

The play, “Shalom Bayit

From right to left (seated) Minke Shur, Braneh Renner, Rechl Kornblit, Abraham Kronenberg,
(Standing) Nuteh and Yosef Kleinmintz, Rochl Geist, Yakov Stempl, Yehude Tauber, Hersh Ritzer, Yakov Eidelstein, (Top) Eliyahu Grossman

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Yehudis Bramberg, Yehuda Tauber, and Abraham Kronenberg under the direction of Eliyahu Grossman. The first performance, which was a great success, was “Shalom Bayit.”

And Mizrachi in Bilgoraj also had a drama circle which put on religious plays.

Even the “Banot Yakov” in Bilgoraj used to present religious plays that were very popular.

And thus in Bilgoraj the chain of drama clubs stretched until the last minute before the Chorbn.


[Page 115]

Religious Zionism and its activities in Bilgoraj

by Tuvia Korenvurcel

Translated by Sara Mages

When we come to erect a literary monument to Jewish Bilgoraj with its institutions and people, who were wiped out of the world in such a tragic way by the Nazi oppressor, we must not accept the absence of a description, even an imperfect description, of the religious–Zionist part in it with its institutions and activities. The work, the deeds and the people, that the seal of Zionism was imprinted on them, were so integrated into the general life of our city that they actually formed an integral part of its public life.

There's no denying that the few lines that I – a former student of the “Yavne” School and one of the activists of the youth movement “Hashomer Hadati” [“The religious Guard”] in Bilgoraj – will express in my article will join a uniform and comprehensive picture that only people like the late, Yitzhak Wirzer z”l, who was one of the movement's leaders, could draw.

If my memory serves me correctly, a number of yeshiva students organized for the first time immediately after the First World War with the clear goal of becoming the foundation of the Mizrahi federation. A prayer minyan was formed, and shortly afterwards, “Yavne” School was founded. The beginning of the school was very sad: it was housed in one room and employed one teacher (Mr. Nahum Ber Gloz).

The establishment of a Hebrew school, whose language of instruction was Hebrew, and whose method of teaching adhered to the requirements of modern pedagogy, was a revolutionary step at that time, in a city like Bilgoraj which caused its organizers constant conflict from both outside and inside. In those days, most religious Jews in the city still did not understand the need for a modern religious school which would serve as a cover for new penetrating spirits whose tendency was to uproot traditional Jewish content. On the other hand, some residents looked at this new creature with open envy (to put it mildly), knowing that the establishment of “Yavne” School would prevent, once and for all, the establishment of a modern, non–religious school, in Bilgoraj.

And, indeed, no other school was established in Bilgoraj until the outbreak of the last war.

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”Yavne” School, the first school in the city, went through many stages before it reached its pre–war state of about 350 students, and the highest level of education. As mentioned, the school started with one teacher and one room at the home of the member, Yehoshua Panzer, z”l. It then moved to the home of Mr. Yakov Yehoshua Zilberzweig where it already occupied two rooms. Later, it resided in an entire building on the Third of May Street. The methods of teaching, and also the number of graduating classes, gave the school a huge impact in the city, and the number students in the school increased from year to year. Finally, it is worth mentioning the school's first founders: my esteemed father, Mr. Moshe Korenvurcel, may he live long, Leibel Milech, hy”d, who was among the founders of Mizrachi in Bilgoraj, Yona Haim Kronenberg who was a school activist until his immigration to Israel in 1936, Yitzchak Wirzer, z”l, Yitzchak Meir Warsoviak, hy”d, and also the first teacher, Mr. Nahum Dov Zchochity (Gloz). The last teachers were: Mr. Korman and Goldenberg (whose traces were lost in the war), and my esteemed father who joined the teaching staff in the last years. Haim Mordechai Hirshhorn, hy”d, the representative of Keren Kayemet LeYisrael [JNF] in our city, also joined the activists of the school and Mizrachi.

Mizrachi occupied a prominent place in all the Zionist activities that were held in our city. Mizrachi and its branches, the youth organizations, took first place in raising donations for Keren Kayemet LeYisrael. Mizrachi's influence, as one of the major parties in the Zionist camp, was also evident in the municipal elections, in community elections, and in the elections to the Zionist Congress. Mizrachi's representatives in the community were supported by all the Zionist parties in the city.

In 1935, with the increase in the possibility of immigration for craftsmen, a branch of The Center for Religious Craftsmen, which was affiliated with Mizrachi, was founded in our city. It was headed by the member, Daniel Beglbeiter, who is here with us.

And now a few words about the Mizrachi's youth movements, and they are: the federation of “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” [“The Young Mizrachi”], “Hechalutz Ha'Mizrachi” [“The Mizrachi Pioneers”] and Bruriah, which concentrated the best of the older youth who originated from the Beit HaMidrash. Not only did they not abandon their previous education, but they also strengthened it by incorporating the doctrine of Zionism. And these two: the aspiration and action for Zion, with a traditional religious lifestyle, served as a guideline and a goal and purpose for their lives. We will only mention here two or three names. Moshe Shmuel Peil, Yehusua Maimon, Shlomo Magrem, hy”d, and long may he live, Gedalyahu Meiman who is now in America.

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With regard to the youngest branch, “Hashomer Hadati,” I remember that in 1928, when I was eight years old, I was already a member of it. This movement, or its correct name, “ Ken Hashomer Hadati,” in Bilgoraj, developed a multidimensional educational activity among the Jewish youth in Bilgoraj, not only for those who received their education at “Yavne” School. Apart from Hebrew lessons, which also took place in “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” and “Hechalutz Ha'Mizrachi,” the youth were also given instruction in religion, and Zionism, pioneering, and personal fulfilment. There were many different and unusual educational methods used by “Hashomer Hadati” for the achievement of these goals. One of them was the “Summer Colonies.” In the national “summer colony” for instructors of “Hashomer Hadati” in Nowy Targ, in the last summer before the war, the following representatives participated from the ken [branch] in Bilgoraj: my beloved friend Gershon Anger, z”l, Chaya Goldberg, z”l, (granddaughter of Shmuel Blender), and, may he live long, the writer of these lines.

 

”Yavne” School

 

That summer, two weeks before the outbreak of the war, a glorious celebration was held in Bilgoraj to mark the completion of the Torah scroll of minyan Mizrahi, whose writing took several years.

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The celebration was attended by a member of the movement's national leadership of “Hashomer Hadati,” the member Yitzchak Meir Shenkar, hy”d. His appearance in a two–hour speech at the municipal synagogue in the presence of the Rabbi of Bilgoraj, the great rabbi R' Mordechai Rokeach, z”l, fascinated and excited the crowd which filled the synagogue to capacity. He captivated the public with the force and fluency of his speech, his rhetorical talent, his extensive knowledge of Judaism, and the enthusiasm he created in his listeners. As mentioned, the rabbi, z”l, was also among his listeners, and as a sign of admiration, he approached him at the end of the speech, and shook his hand in front of everyone. In those days, and under the same circumstances, it was an extraordinary step on the part of the rabbi, and added to the public's admiration for the speech and the speaker. The city of Bilgoraj had not seen such an occasion in a long time. (My last words will also serve as a memorial to the great soul of the aforementioned members who were also murdered by the accursed murderers).

When we now summon the memory of the city, Bilgoraj, with its Jews and their deeds, and we picture this festive and lofty occasion, the last one before the outbreak of the war, it will help us to understand what we had, and what is no more.

 

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