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Economy and Welfare


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On the Economic and Social Image of Ternopil

by Dr. Tzvi Parnas

Translated by Moshe Kutten

A. The Economic Structure of the Population

Ternopil is located in Podolia, a region with a distinct agricultural character. Agricultural production of some products there exceeded local demand. For example, 12.5% of all wheat, 20% of all buckwheat, 18% of all beans, 46% of the corn, and 35% of the tobacco produced in Poland, came from Podolia. These were just some of the numbers provided for illustration. Podolia was not only an export center for agricultural crops but also for eggs, milk, meat products, and even forest woods, as evident by the official statistical data.

The vast majority of the population made a living in agriculture. A million and six hundred thousand lived in the Ternopil area (namely Podolia) in 1931, among them not more than 185,500 (16.8%) in cities and towns. That was after the population in the cities grew faster than in the villages. On average, the population grew at a rate of 1% per year, during 1870 – 1900, while in the cities, the growth was 1.4% per year. In the last few years before 1931, the gap between the population growth in cities and the village was even wider.

The Jewish population in Ternopil Voivodeship [province] in 1931 numbered 134,000 people (8% of the entire population). More than 70% of the Jewish population resided in towns and cities, and close to 30% in villages. The Jewish community in Ternopil numbered 15,000 people in the city and 3,000 more in the neighboring villages. In the city, the Jewish population constituted 44% of the population of 33,900 people, while in the entire province, the Jewish population constituted only 34.7% of the population. Ternopil contained the largest percentage of Jews than any other city in Podolia. Although the Ternopil city's Jews constituted only about 1/10 of the entire Jewish population in the province, their influence was decisively beyond their actual numbers.

An important factor in shaping the demographic character of Podolia's Jewish population was immigration. According to the data of the Bureau of Statistics in Warsaw, the natural growth of Podolia's Jews during the ten years 1921 – 1931 was 13,000. However, only 5,000 remained in Podolia after 8000 people immigrated. During 1927 – 1938, 2900 Jews from Podolia made Aliya to Eretz Israel from the Ternopil province. Among them, about 800 people from the city of Ternopil.

What were the occupations of Ternopil's Jews? According to the census, the Jewish occupations were:


Agriculture 200 1.3%
Trade 6600 44.2%
Industry and craftsmanship 4100 27.3%
Transportation and freight 1000 6.6%
Miscellaneous Occupations 3100 20.6%
Total 15000 100.0%

The group of “Miscellaneous Occupations” included free professions, office staff, public and religious institutions employees, landlords, and people who lacked any occupation.

The professional distribution of the non-Jewish population was entirely different as depicted in the following table:


Agriculture 2350 12.4%
Trade 1200 6.3%
Industry and Craftsmanship 3100 16.3%
Transportation and Freight 2650 14.0%
Miscellaneous Occupations 9600 51.0%
Total 18900 100.0%

The largest group of non-Jews was the “miscellaneous occupations”. That group included the officials in the offices of the government, courts, police, etc. The group also included the housemaids, who were mostly Ukrainians.

The economic division between the Jews and non-Jews is demonstrated in the following table:

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Occupation Jews Non-Jews
Agriculture 8.0% 92.0%
Trade 84.7% 15.3%
Industry and Craftsmanship 57.0% 43.0%
Transportation and Freight 27.4% 72.6%
Miscellaneous Occupations 24.4% 75.6%

These numbers prove that the Jews had numbers superiority in Trade, Industry, and Craftsmanship, while the non-Jews concentrated on transportation. This is reasonable since transportation was run by the state, and all of its employees were employed by the state. The same was true for the post office's employees and the telegraph office. Against that, the Jews were in the majority in private transport.

The numbers mentioned above do not fully reflect the situation, without reviewing the social structure of every occupation, namely, who headed the economic pyramid who was the base, and who made their mark on economic life and delineated its path?

We start with agriculture. The 200 Jews (which included the head of the family and his family) were all owners or lessees of estates, which in Podolia (and particularly in the former province of Galitsia) formed a considerable group with a substantial influence over agricultural production. The city of Ternopil was surrounded by farms owned or managed by Jews, such as Biala, Kotpoptza, Proniatyn, Dragnovka, Zagroblia, Smikoptza, and others. It is worthwhile to devote research about the role of the Jews in Polish agriculture since they were negligibly mentioned in the official publication because of the overwhelming majority of the non-Jews in that area.

The following is the social structure of the people who made a living in agriculture:

  Total Jews Non-Jews
Independent 1900 200 1700
Non-physical workers 150 - 150
Physical laborers 500 - 500
Total 2550 200 2350

As aforementioned, all the 200 Jews who made a living from agriculture were independent, and 25% of the non-Jews were employed either as non-physical workers or as manual laborers.

The social structure of the people who made a living in trade was more complicated:

  Total Jews Non-Jews
Independent 6400 5900 89.4% 500 41.8%
Non-physical workers 400 350 5.3% 50 4.1%
Manual Laborers 1000 350 5.3% 650 54.1%
Total 7800 6600 100.0% 1200 100.0%

The huge gap in the social structure of the people who made a living in trade between Jews and non-Jews is highlighted in this table. While the independents constituted about 90% of the Jews, they amount to only 42% for non-Jews, and about 60% were employees.

During the last few years before the Second World War, the income tax offices maintained the list of taxpayers according to their ethnicity. The numbers were published after the war, and they provide an illuminating description of the role the Jews played in trade. The 971 trade licenses purchased in Ternopil, were divided according to their types:

  Total Jews Non-Jews
Types 1 & 2 103 92 11
Type 3 400 385 15
Types 4 & 5 468 368 100
Total 971 845 126

Among the Jews, businesses with the highest turnover (types 1 – 3) constituted 56% of the total number, while among the non-Jews, only 20%.

The businesses were divided according to their character into three major groups:

  1. Businesses for purchases
  2. Businesses for sales
  3. Services

The following businesses were included in the first group:

  Jews Non-Jews
Purchases of grains 35 5
Purchases of fruits 10 -
Purchases of cattle 25 25
Purchases of leathers 10 -
Miscellaneous Purchases 10 -
Total 90 30

The following businesses were included in the second group:

  Jews Non-Jews
Sale of food 300 40
Sale of clothing 170 10
Sale of furniture 10 -
Sale of chemical products 35 5
Sale of paper 10 5
Sale of construction materials 45 5
Miscellaneous Sales 85 5
Total 655 70

The following businesses were included in the third group (services):

  Jews Non-Jews
Hotels and restaurants 60 20
Currency exchange 10 -
Offices 5 -
Transport 10 -
Miscellaneous Services 15 6
Total 100 26

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In the first group, the Jewish businesses constituted 75% of the total, in the second group – more than 90%, and in the third – about 80%.

In 1938, the turnover of the Jewish businesses reached 28 million guldens (5.6 million dollars). The turnover of the non-Jews businesses amounted to only 3.6 million guldens, namely 11% of the total turnover. The revenues of the Jewish businesses, which served as a basis for the tax assessment (except the part which was tax-exempt), reached about 2 million guldens. These numbers prove that the share of the Jews in the Ternopil's trade was decisive.

The following was the situation in the Industry and Craftsmanship section:

  Total Jews Non-Jews
Independent 3800 2400 58.5% 1400 45.2%
Non-physical workers 400 300 7.4% 100 3,2%
Manual laborers 3000 1400 34.1% 1600 51.6%
Total 7200 4100 100.0% 3100 100.0%

In this professional section, the independent people among the Jews also constituted a most significant share, although as much as among the merchants.

There were about a thousand workshops and factories in Ternopil. However, only 233, which employed more the five workers, were required to purchase industrial certificates according to the law,

110 plants carried a distinct character of factories, while the number of workshops was about 900. According to the law, every craftsman had to pass a test at the craftsmanship bureau to receive the title of a craftsman. There were 550 craftsmen in Ternopil. The largest group among them was the carpenters (22%). After them, came according to their numbers, butchers, tailors, and shoemakers.

In the Industry group, the following businesses held a prominent position: Flour and buckwheat mills, factories for making drinks (among them the big beer factory in Podolia), factories for making sweets, and large metal products workshops. The tax offices estimated the total value of the products of the large factories (types 1 -7) to be seven million guldens. Plants under Jewish hands manufactured products estimated to be six million guldens.

The following are the numbers for the “Transportation and Freight” group:

  Total Jews Non-Jews
Independent 750 700 70.0% 50 2.0%
Non-physical workers 500 100 10.0% 400 15.0%
Manual Laborers 2400 200 20.0% 2200 83.0%
Total 3650 1000 100.0% 2650 100.0%

That table proves that 93% of the private Transportation and Freight businesses were in the hands of Jews. The state transportation and transport businesses employed the largest number of employees. The share of Jews among the employees was negligible.

The group “Miscellaneous Occupations” was divided as follows:

  Total Jews Non-Jews
Independent 2300 1100 35.4% 1200 12.5%
Independent without an occupation 1500 900 29.9% 600 6.2%
Non-physical workers 3400 600 19.3% 2800 30.0%
Manual laborers 5500 500 15.4% 5000 51.3%
Total 12700 3100 100.0% 9600 100.0%

Based on the explanations about the “Miscellaneous Occupations” group above, it is no wonder that the “Independent” group constituted more than 65% of the Jews and less than 19% of the non-Jews. The group “Independent without Occupation:” included wealthy people who made a living off their stocks or interest, people receiving pensions, landlords, and people who were supported by welfare institutions, etc. There were about a thousand landlords, who owned half of the apartment buildings in the city valued at twenty million guldens.

In conclusion, we should bring some numbers for comparison to understand the economic image of Ternopil residents and draw some general conclusions about the roles played by different groups.

We start with the main group, “Independent”:


  Total Jews Non-Jews
Agriculture 1900 200 1.8% 1700 31.2%
Trade 6400 5900 52.8% 500 9.2%
Industry and Craftsmanship 3800 2400 21.4% 1400 25.6%
Transportation & Freight 750 700 6.2% 50 0.9%
Miscellaneous occupations 3800 2000 17.8% 1800 33.1%
Total 16650 11200 100.0% 5450 100.0%
Total in % 100.0% 67.3% 32.7%

From that table, we learn almost 53% of the Jewish independent people concentrated in trade, and relatively small portions in Industry and Craftsmanship, free professions, and non-physical work. Transportation and Agriculture portions constituted very small portions. The first place of the non-Jews belonged to the group “Miscellaneous Occupations” (free professions, pension receivers, and the wealthy with no specific profession). After that group came the Agriculture and Industry groups.

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The Trade and Industry groups captured a negligible portion.

Among the independent people, the Jews constituted about two-thirds, although their percentage of the total population was about 44%. These numbers speak for themselves.

When we move to the second group: office and non-physical workers, the following picture is drawn:

Office and non-physical workers:

  Total Jews Non-Jews
Agriculture 150 - - 150 4.3%
Trade 400 350 25.8% 50 1.4%
Industry and Craftsmanship 400 300 22.2% 100 3.0%
Transportation & Freight 500 100 7.4% 400 11.4%
Miscellaneous occupations 3400 2600 44.6% 2800 79.9%
Total 4850 3150 100.0% 3500 100.0%
Total in % 100.0% 27.8% 72.2%

The characteristic of this group was the group “Miscellaneous Occupations” took the top place both among the Jews and the non-Jews. These were the state and community officials, office workers in the public, religious institutions, lawyers' firms, and the rest of the free professions.

Among the Jews, the non-physical workers and the workers in Industry and Trade occupied the top places. Among the non-Jews, the government office workers of the railway, post, and telegraph offices, took first place. In the group of non-physical workers, the Jews constituted a modest part of 27.8%. That was the direct result of the policy of driving the Jews out of government offices but also reflected the passion of the Jews for economic independence.

To complete the picture, we bring the numbers for the physical laborers. We have taken out the housemaids, as they represented a special type of worker:

  Total Jews Non-Jews
Agriculture 500 - - 500 5.2%
Trade 1000 350 14.2% 650 6.5%
Industry and Craftsmanship 3000 1400 57.3% 1600 16.1%
Transportation & Freight 2400 200 8.1% 2200 22.1%
Miscellaneous occupations 5500 500 20.4% 5000 50.1%
Total 12400 2450 100.0% 9950 100.0%
Total in % 100.0% 19.8% 80.2%

Among the employees in Ternopil, the Jews constituted about 20% of the workforce, most as apprentices and only a negligible portion

Union of Commercial Workers

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were employed in larger industrial plants. The “Miscellaneous” group captured second place among the Jews. Workers of the institutions such as the community, Batei Midrash, public welfare, and religious, and a small portion of Jewish housemaids belonged to that group.

Among the non-Jews, the “Miscellaneous” group took first place. Houseworkers and housemaids numbered 3000 were the majority in that group. The rest were workers who worked in public and religious institutions, caretakers, and assistants for free professionals.

The railroad workers and the physical laborers in telecommunications constituted the majority in the “Transportation and Freight” group. Only a small portion worked in private transportation companies.

The non-Jewish industrial workers were employed as assistants and apprentices with the craftsmen and in large industrial factories. We should note that most of the workers in the industry came to work in Ternopil from the neighboring villages, and they do not appear as such in the table. That means that the number of Jewish workers was proportionally even smaller than the number in our table.

Based on the aforementioned analysis we can now get a clear picture of the social structure of the Ternopil population, particularly the split between the owners of plants on one side and hired workers on the other. That problem generated many arguments before the break of the Second World War.

  Jews Non-Jews
Independent 11200 74.7% 5450 29.0%
Employees 3800 25.3% 13450 71.0%
Total 15000 100.0% 18900 100.0%

From these numbers, we see that Jewish independents constituted 75% of the total and only 25% were employees, who depended economically on an employer. Among the non-Jews, the proportions were the opposite. We should also note that the Jewish independents did not use hired employees, and the vast majority worked by themselves or with their own family members. Therefore, there was no friction between employees and employers among the Jews.

We can draw the following conclusions from this short analysis, based on the statistical information mentioned above:

What we had was a dynamic and robust community. That community was the initiator and the organizer of all essential economic areas. It constituted the majority number of people in trade, craftsmanship, and the free professions. It exported agricultural products to the rest of Poland. It was the one that built apartment buildings in the city and lived in them. It was the main tax-payer of city and state taxes. It made a living on its own without hiring employees. It was a diligent social and economic element, socially with great virtues.


B. Credit Unions and Banks

Like all other Jewish communities, Ternopil was blessed with institutions of welfare and charity for every needy. These institutions were managed according to customs that were inherited from one generation to the other. However, the social and cultural revolution among the Jewish population during the 19th century also made its mark in that area. A new layer was established – the Jewish bourgeoisie, made of merchants, contractors, wealthy landlords, and people with free professions. That layer, which captured the leadership of the Jewish public, excelled in its momentum. During the 1860s, several welfare institutions were established, and the community established a new a hospital[1]. These institutions were modernly managed but did not deviate from a philanthropic charter.

An additional development in the area of welfare operation took place in the 20th century. A new type of social activist rose, who was not content with just providing assistance but also tried to remedy the sources of the problem. Although the objective conditions that allowed annulling the source problem did not always exist, at least efforts were made to ease the distress by providing collective assistance. The goal was no longer just philanthropic but also to provide rehabilitation of the sufferers and assistance that would bring with it the economic independence of the dependent.

The first credit institution, which was based on a business foundation, but with public orientation, was the bank “Kupat Milveh” [“Loan Fund”], established by the JCA [Jewish Colonization Association]. The bank did not seek profits. Its objective was to serve as a loyal support organization for the craftsman and the small business owner. The credit union was founded based on the Austrian corporation law allowing financial activities on a mass scale for social purposes. These credit unions were established from the member fees, and their general assembly delineating their activities. The number of votes of each member was counted according to the number of “stocks” they owned. Since the JCA organization invested a sum of several thousand guldens in the credit union, it owned the majority of the “stocks”. Therefore, its representative had a decisive opinion in every assembly.

The credit union provided loans of fifty and up to a hundred guldens for a biweekly payment of one to two guldens. The interest charged was minimal, just to cover costs and accumulate some small reserves.

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Dr. Mark Parnas, the first representative of JCA in the fund served for many years. He was also the head of the fund's management team. After his death, pharmacist Julius Frantsuz served in that position.

The fund served hundreds of people from among the small business owners, craftsmen, and owners of stalls in the market. It was characterized as a transitional stage between a charity fund to a cooperative credit institution.

Indeed, a public-oriented credit institution with a wide field of activity was also established. It was the “Onia Kreditova” [“Credit Union”], which was founded by Ternopil Zionists to serve as a source of credit with favorable terms for the members of the movement and the public at large. The founders used the bank in Lviv as an example. That bank, which carried the same name, assisted the Ternopil bank in the first stages by providing credit. The “Onia” bank served middle-level merchants and small craftsmen who suffered from a shortage of credit because existing banks were not fully available for them. The Apothecary Bank mainly financed trade in agricultural products, and the Municipal Saving Fund served the city's numerous officials and the owners of neighboring farms.

M. Fisher headed “Onia Kreditova” bank. His assistants were Mark Schwartz and Fleishman, members of [the Academic Zionist organization] “Bar Kokhba”. They executed the “Economic Policy” of the movement. The two banks: “Kupat Milveh” of the JCA and “Onia” were different in their characters. The “Onia” was more democratic in its character since it did not answer to just a single owner. The extent of its activity was wider, and the loans it awarded were higher. The “Onia” developed nicely, and its credit activities grew more and more until the break of the First World War, which turned everything upside down. The economic life faltered, most activists left the city, and the bank ceased to exist.

In 1921, the Zionists renewed their efforts to establish a credit institution. Dr. Tzvi Parnas and Ben-Tzion Fett led that effort, this time based on the modern Polish corporative law. Large sums of money were collected, particularly from the various business circles and mainly among the Zionists. The bank, headed by Tzvi Parnas, opened at 5 Sobieski Street, handled a broad activity, and maintained close contact with respected Polish economic institutions. In parallel to the bank named “Independent Economic Assistance and Credit”, the JCA fund continued with its measly operation. Life in new Poland did not return to its normal course. The value of the Polish mark deteriorated, and inflation, which ruined all the banks and financial institutions, including the cooperative bank, prevailed. The entire fortune of the bank was lost, except for its apartment, into which large sums were invested.

The “Organization for Supervision of the Jewish Cooperatives” (“Revizons Farband”) came to the rescue. That organization was funded by the “Joint” [JDC – “Jewish Joint Distribution Committee”]. JCA center joined in, and together with the “Joint”, they established a dedicated organization to assist the Jewish cooperative institutions named the “Foundation”.

After negotiations, it was decided to unify the “Loan Fund” of the JCA and the “Bank for Self Help” into a single bank. The bylaws of the new bank were approved by the general assembly held in 1924. In these bylaws, the principle of equality, in the bank management, between the two rescuing organizations was approved. Dr. Tzvi Parnas was elected to head the new bank and Dr. Weissnikht to the supervision committee. That principle did not last long. With the strengthening of the national movement, the number of assimilators' supporters of the JCA diminished more and more.

Thanks to a credit of fifteen thousand guldens the bank received from the [“Foundation”] organization and the sums deposited by the members, a large capital was accumulated, which enabled vigorous activity.

The Committee of the Cooperative Bank, 1922
Dr. Tzvi Parnas, Eng. Schekhter, Eikhenbaum, Sperling, and Clerks: Mrs. Horowitz and Gelber


With time, the “Popular Bank” as it was called by the people, secured the trust of the people, deposits grew more and more, and the loan amounts were raised.

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In the first conference of the credit cooperatives in Galitsia, assembled in Lviv, Dr. Tzvi Parnas was elected to the presidency of Lviv representation. The direct contact with the central institutions was a blessing for the bank, which turned into a flourishing institution with eight hundred members. The bank activists worked dedicatedly and managed it without favoritism (according to their own resolution, they could not obtain a loan from the bank). When bullies from various circles tried to seize control, they were alert to prevent any assault on the bank.

The craftsmen and small merchants presented a unique problem. The doors to the banks were closed for them since they lack surety. They were initially helped by the loan fund of the JCA. However, with the closure of that fund, they were left with no source of credit. The vacuum was filled by “Tzekabah” [?] (the center for all the welfare funds of the “Joint”). The fund in Ternopil was established in 1926. Most of its customers were craftsmen and small merchants. The Zionism [political] left showed interest in it for political reasons. The fund received its foundation capital from the “Tzekabah”. The principle based on which the fund operated was providing loans of twenty-five guldens (and higher sums in exceptional cases) without interest and with small monthly payments.

The fund's committee included Dr. Tzellermayer, Dr. David Rottstien, Yehoshua Parnas, and Isenberg. The hundreds of people who benefited from the fund served as a support mechanism. Many of its customers established themselves over time and moved to the cooperative bank.

In addition to that fund, there were some small funds affiliated with Batei Midrash, companies, etc. but the scope of their activity was small and limited to a small circle.

The year 1932 was a record year in the history of the cooperative bank. Although it was not the largest bank in the city, it was undoubtedly the liveliest. The bank's capital with its reserves reached more than sixty thousand guldens. The total amount of loans and rediscount credit was about one hundred thousand guldens. The inkaso document file – about five thousand guldens per month.

The changes in the economic conditions in Poland during the years before the Second World War, the crisis phenomena, the impoverishment of the Jewish population due to the policy of discrimination, and also the lack of suitable people resulted in the deterioration of the bank over time. The savings dwindled, and the bank equity decreased due to deficits. Despite all of that, the bank continued with its activities, until it was abolished with the takeover by the Soviets. The capital, amounting to substantial sums of hundreds of thousands of guldens, was transferred to the Soviet government bank.

Ternopil excelled not only in banking cooperatives. One of the first production cooperatives in Poland – the cooperative of the carpenters, was established there. As aforementioned, the number of furniture and construction carpenters was substantial in the city. Ternopil's carpenters not only met the city's demand but also the needs of the neighboring villages. The villagers bought standard doors and windows in the city and furniture for their houses. During the inflationary period that followed the collapse of the Polish mark (currency used until the end of the First World War), the buying power of the villagers and their needs increased. However, just then, a competitor to the Jewish carpenters rose from among the non-Jews. The youth in the villages studied carpentry in modern vocational schools. The villagers did not need the city's Jewish carpenters any longer, as they found professionals locally. The crisis erupted in full force with the appearance of the new currency – the Polish gulden, issued as part of the economic stabilization efforts. The population's buying power decreased, and the only way out was to strengthen the competitive standing of the Jewish carpenter. That could have only been achieved through mechanization and the introduction of mass production. The JCA assisted the carpenters by purchasing a system of machines and making it available for the Jewish carpenters. For a minimal fee, a carpenter could produce the parts for his products and assemble them in his workshop. Thanks to that arrangement, the Jewish carpenters in Ternopil were rescued from economic collapse.

A few years later, the carpenters met with another severe crisis. With the worsening of the economic situation in Poland, the demand for furniture decreased, and the prices fell. The carpenters became impoverished, and many could not afford to buy the wood needed for production. They became dependent on retailers who took advantage of their distress and dictated poor working conditions. A group of carpenters established a production cooperative, and their situation greatly improved within a short period.

The cooperative consultant, Dr. David Rottstein, assisted the cooperative and contributed tremendously with his experience and energy. He often helped the cooperative to overcome problems it got itself into.

New opportunities for the carpenters opened with the establishment of the “Rehabilitation Fund” of the “Tzekbah”. That fund assisted production cooperatives not only by providing loans but also by handling the sales of the products abroad. Thanks to the initiative of the Jewish institutions and their connections with the Jewish public abroad, the doors of the international market opened for Polish products.

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One of the most respected social institutions in the city was the orphanage, founded by the pharmacist Fleishman. Before his death, he donated a substantial sum to establish an orphanage. He also donated the revenues from his pharmacy on Perl Street to cover the maintenance of the orphanage. In 1908, a nice building on Sobieski Square was built. About 30 girls found shelter in it, and in time of need, even more.

The pharmacist's widow, Mrs. Julia Fleishman, forwent her private life and devoted herself with all her heart and soul to the orphanage. A unique organization took care of its maintenance. It was headed by the dedicated activist, Mrs. Anna Oksenhorn, the wife of Dr. Herman Oksenhorn and the sister of Edmond Rauk, the Galitsian representative in the Austrian parliament and later the Polish Sejm.

For tens of years, these two great women managed that institution and handled its budget, which was paid via membership fees, donations, and revenues from the charitable organization's traditional annual ball. The elite participated in that ball, and its revenues were a substantial portion of the orphanage budget.

Many of the institution's graduates captured a respected part of the city's life, which testifies to the orphanage's atmosphere and high education level.

The assimilators ruled that institution for many years. That was one of their last fortresses in the city, to the dismay of the Zionists who warned day and night about the lack of national education in the institution. However, the new winds blowing in the Jewish street finally penetrated the orphanage. Mrs. Fleishman and Mrs. Oksenorn could not ignore any longer the revolutionary changes in public opinion, so the orphanage's children were swept by the turbulent current of life around them.

The First World War wreaked havoc on city life. During 1914 – 1920, the city rulers changed seven times. Many of the city's residents, most of which from among the intelligentsia and the wealthy, found refuge in Vienna during the Russian invasion and later during the war with the Bolsheviks. The city was robbed, and many of its neighborhoods were burnt. Unemployment and hunger prevailed. As a result of the poor sanitary conditions, an epidemic broke out, which cut down a horrific portion of the population, particularly among the poor. The aid committee, headed by Shmuel Margalit, and the group of physicians worked day and night to rescue the sick and to prevent the spread of the epidemics. The Ukrainian regime, which rule Ternopil and its surrounding areas then, was powerless and did nothing to improve the situation.

As a result of the war's hardships, the number of orphans and neglected youth in the city grew and became a severe social problem. Ternopil's activists did their best to ease the distress however, a turn for the better happened only upon the establishment of the “Tzentus” corporation (“The Central Corporation for Taking Care of Orphans”), which organized district committees. The district committee in Lviv handled the districts of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk [formerly Stanyslaviv or StanisŁawow], and Ternopil.

At the beginning of 1924, the first conference gathered in Ternopil. The representatives of thirty committees and institutions that took care of orphans and neglected children participated in that conference. The conference elected a “District Committee for Orphans” headed by a presidium consisting of the members – Dr. Tzvi Parnas, chairman, Engineer Berl (from Zloczow), vice chairman, and Yosef Libergal, general secretary. Dr. Tzvi Parnas was elected for the district office in Lviv and together with Dr. Shaf represented Lviv's district committee at the central assembly of “Tzentus” in Warsaw.

The number of orphans under the care of the district committee reached about a thousand two hundred. About a hundred and fifty in Ternopil alone. Closed institutions initially existed in Ternopil, Brody, Zloczow, and Berezhany. Over time, additional institutions were established in Zalishchyky, Skalat, and Chortkiv. The majority of the orphans - about 80% – were handed over to families. That arrangement was put in place not only for savings purposes but also for educational and social reasons. Experience has shown that although closed institutions had some advantages (such as better hygiene and culture), they lack the homely atmosphere, joyful occasions, and worries of normal life. The children in these institutions were detached from reality, and a huge psychological gap opened up between them and their brothers and sisters who grew up outside of the institutions.

Dedicated supervisors made sure that the children who grew up with families were safe and that the allowance provided to the families was fully utilized for their care. Children who had relatives, maintained relations with them. Only orphans who did not have any relatives were housed in the institution.

The “Tzentus” in Warsaw published a monthly magazine named “Das Kind” (“The Child”), and the district assembly in Lviv published the magazine “The Public Review” (“Przeglad SpoŁeczny”). The activists and educators found useful material, which served as a source of guidance and inspiration in their daily work.

The “Taz” corporation (The Corporation for Maintaining Health) took care of the children's health, which was perilous for most of them. “Taz” organized summer camps, and its physicians treated the children throughout the year.

A special problem arose when the children reached adolescence. The talented among them continued their studies in school, however, in most cases, the children were placed as apprentices of craftsmen when they reached the age of 14 to 15. A dedicated committee (called “Patronant”) made sure

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that the children learn the profession from superior craftsmen. The “Vozet” [?] corporation, headed by Dr. Tzetzilia Klaften, also opened the gates of its schools for the students of the institution and the orphans handled by the council. The boarding house dormitory where the students were lodged played a major role.

Workshops for knitting and needlepoint were also established within the institution. They did not only serve as learning workshops but also as a source of revenue for the institution.

The activities among the orphans were financed from several sources. During the very difficult initial period, the “Joint” covered about 70 percent of the budget, and not only that, but it also provided moral support. The manager of the “Joint's” department for handling orphans, Leib Neustadt, invested a lot of energy and love in his work. Dr. Bernard Kahan, the head of the “Joint” in Europe, showed strong interest in the problems encountered by the activists, taking care of the orphans and neglected children.

With the economic recovery of the population, the portion of the “Joint's” contribution in the budget decreased, and the one covered by [local] donations increased. In that respect, we should mention fondly the estate owners in Ternopil surrounding, who donated their agricultural produce to the institution, and the city's merchants who contributed from their inventories, especially fabrics for clothing.

Starting in 1926, the community allocated monthly allotments for the institution and the orphans. Even the municipality fulfilled its obligation to a certain extent, particularly after the establishment of the committee for social work, by providing financial assistance. The boarding house also received an allocation from the government. Over time, it was almost possible to free the “Tzentus” and “joint” from the need to support the social institutions in Ternopil and its surrounding. In the years 1937 -38, the 17 cities, members in the district council, received a symbolic sum of two thousand guldens [from the “Tzentus” and “Joint” organizations] against the sum of ten thousand guldens they received in 1925.

The following are the numbers that paint the picture of the situation in 1937:[a]

In private care:
  1925 1937
Total in the district 207 212
From them in Ternopil 19 26
In Institutions:
Total in the district 101 87
From them in Ternopil -- 16
Total in the district 308 299
From them in Ternopil 42 19

The numbers in the table do not include the orphanage (22 girls), which retired from its membership in the council due to the reduction in its allocation membership.

We should mention the assistance extended by Galitsia natives in the USA to their native city's residents in general the social institutions in particular. The council maintained a tight connection with the organization of Galitsia natives in the USA and submitted two proposals for solving the orphans' problem: a) Adoption of orphans by families in America b) Fundraising to establish a vocational school including all the needed equipment,

Among the organizations that responded kindly to the request of their townspeople, were the organizations of Zolochiv natives and Skalat natives. In Skalat a magnificent orphanage was built, thanks to the contribution of the American organization, and its budget was guaranteed for years.

A representative of the Ternopil natives' organization, Mr. Greenspan, visited his native city and was very impressed with the social institutions in the city and particularly the care provided to the orphans. When he returned to the US, he continued to show interest in that field and acted and urged Ternopil's natives to act for the benefit of the social institutions in the city.

The Committee of the Tarnopoler Landsmanschaft in U.S.A.

From right the left: Top row – S. Marmorek, Dr. Schuster, Dr. Migden, Wunderlikh, and Atterman
Center row – Dr. Goldwasser Mrs. Rottenberg, M. Guliger, Racker, Dr, Fish, and Bazas
[Names of people on the bottom row are missing in the article]


Space is limited to mention here all the people who dedicated their time and energy to ease the lives of the ill-fated. We at least mention some who showed a superior noble spirit and endless dedication in the holy work they took upon themselves.

[Columns 367-368]

People demonstrated great spiritual virtues of love for others, unbelievable energy, and dedication in that work.

* * *

“Taz” (the corporation for the preservation of health) had an important role in the area of health. Close cooperation was maintained between the orphans' council, community, and “Taz”, which benefitted the city.

The war left Ternopil a grim “inheritance” in the form of many deceases, such as tuberculosis, trachoma, boils, and more, which were brought by improper nutrition and poor sanitary conditions.

“Taz” began a concentrated effort to eradicate the diseases. In parallel, it conducted a vigorous information campaign in poor communities. Sanitary supervisors visited individual homes and distributed soap, disinfectants, and tickets to the public bath (which were made available by the community). They also distributed informative pamphlets with hygiene instructions for the prevention of diseases and other information. Competitions were announced with prizes for the houses that excelled in their cleanliness. “Taz” also organized public lectures about topics in hygiene and infectious diseases.

Great importance was attributed to the activity of “Taz” helping pregnant women and babies. They organized clinics where young women received training and babies were taken care of. As a result of that activity, infant mortality decreased, and their health improved.

“Taz” was headed by Dr. Hersher, the head of the municipal hospital. All the Jewish physicians assisted him, particularly the young among them. Dr. Hersher's secretary, Dr. A. Korenweitz, whose great dedication should be praised here, carried the burden of the enormous organizational effort.

Ternopil had a hospital of the Jewish community established thanks to the generosity of some people, among whom were the members of the Lazarus family who established several charity funds in Lviv and Ternopil. The hospital was built in a suitable location, and the arrangements in it were satisfactory.

The hospital played a major role in the city. Jewish patients did not like using the services of the municipal hospital because it lacked Kosher food, and the atmosphere there was church-like. The patients there were taken care of by nuns, who not always showed sympathy and understanding toward Jewish patients. That situation did not change much, even during the reign of Dr. Hersher as the hospital manager, and the service by Dr. Feit as the head of the district's health department.

With the establishment of independent Poland, open antisemitism increased in all areas of life. Antisemitism did not pass over the municipal hospital either. To all of that, we should add the obstacles encountered by the Jewish students who graduated the medical school but were not always admitted into the government and municipal hospitals as residents. The Jewish hospital admitted them with open arms. Jewish nurses could also receive residency training in their profession.

The community's elected council, headed by Dr. Tzvi Parnas, a physician, showed an understanding of the needs of the [Jewish] hospital and demonstrated a true concern for its medical level. The “Taz” corporation also came to the hospital's aid and made the most modern medical devices available for it. The community built new special buildings to house them.

To assure an efficient treatment of the sick people, a budget was allocated for hiring a resident physician and an additional nurse.

A clinic located inside the hospital took care of tens of poor patients who came to seek help every day.

A nursing home was located near the hospital. It was not very elegant, and the conditions inside were quite modest. However, about a hundred lonely people found shelter there. A dedicated committee took care of their health and living conditions on behalf of the hospital.

Representatives of the old people took part in the management of the nursing home and the supervisory committee. B that, the feeling of responsibility toward the institution increased, and feelings of distrust, which often poisoned the atmosphere in institutions of that kind, were prevented.

A special association handled the budget for the hospital and the nursing home. D. Shpigelglass, V. Shtekel, and Zeidfeld were some of the most active and dedicated committee members who performed the holy work faithfully and wholeheartedly.

The community also maintained a public bath, which played a major role in the hygienic preservation of the masses.

* * *

In 1930, the “District's Orphan Council” established a boarding house. Although close contact between it and the orphanage was maintained, the boarding house was defined in its bylaws as an independent institution. For a short time, Dr. Tzvi Parnas, who, as mentioned above, served as the head of the council, headed the committee overseeing the school. However, even after he left that position and the two institutions were managed by other activists, the close contact between the two institutions continued.

The boarding house was housed in a dedicated building surrounded by gardens. The building was leased

[Columns 369-370]

for the orphanage in the Zarodia neighborhood, and was modified to fit the school's needs. Twenty-five boys were educated there. They were elected from among the candidates recommended by the local councils that handled the care of orphans.


The Committee of the Boarding House for Orphans


During the first three years of the existence of the boarding house, the district council for orphans covered the budget of the boarding house. Later on, a dedicated committee overseeing the boarding house was established, which received allocations from the community, municipality, and government.

The committee tried to register its students into the two-year vocational school in Ternopil, known for its high level of studies but encountered difficulties. The problem resulted from the prerequisite for acceptance to the school: a candidate had to complete eight years of elementary education. Only part of the boarding house's students did. Also, the number of students at the vocational school was limited as it was the only vocational school in the district. In addition, another problem arose. When a group of Jewish students was admitted by the school, the Polish and Ukrainian students announced that they were boycotting them and refused to interact with them in classes and laboratories. Intervention by the principal, who was liberal, was in vain. When the Polish and Ukrainian students realized, a short while later, that they did not achieve their goal – the Jewish students continued their studies, and they moved to fistfights. The Jewish students did not sit idle and returned a double portion. In the end, two of the bullies were expelled, and order was restored. The Jewish students from the boarding house became among the best students in the vocational school.

The rest of the boarding house students were sent to superior workshops in the city. They also received continuing education studies in their profession and in general and Jewish topics by participating in evening courses. These evening courses were conducted on a high level, particularly during the reign of the principal Dr. Berger. He was a gifted educator with a public orientation. Because of these virtues, he endeared himself to his students who had nothing but feelings of appreciation and respect toward him.

In 1935, the boarding house moved to the community house on Miskiewicza Street. In the meantime, management passed from Mrs. Salka Schwartz, who made Aliya to Eretz Israel in 1933, to Dr. Zlatkes. The same harmony that prevailed in the past did not reign in the new committee. Friction arose between the members of the committee and Dr. Zlatkes and Eikhenbaum. However, in the end, the sense of responsibility toward the institution and its students won, and good relations were restored.

* * *

In 1938 the Polish government issued a law that revoke Polish citizenship from Polish natives who stayed abroad, claiming that their connections to Poland were shaky, so to speak. The sting of the law was directed toward the Jewish citizens of Poland who resided abroad. Hitler's government found an excuse to harass the Jews and the Poles, with whom the relations had already deteriorated, despite the friendship covenant between them. Within twenty-four hours, tens of thousands of Jews holding Polish citizenship were deported from Germany toward the Polish border near the Polish town of Zbąszyń [Zbonshin]. At that point, the refugees were arrested by the Polish government, which refused to admit them into the country. “Joint” took care of the huge camp established in Zbonshin, and the Jewish communities gave their share. With the worsening of the relations between Germany and Poland, at the beginning of 1939, the Polish authorities dismantled the Zbonshin camp, and several thousand refugees were transported to Ternopil. A committee consisting of Dr. Tzvi Parnas, Dr, Nussbaum, Dr. Horwitz, Dr. Seret, Kurfuerst, and ekselbirt was established to help the refugees.


Miss Salka Schwartz among the alumni of the boarding house before her departure for Palestine, 1933


The tasks that the committee faced required a great effort. The refugees arrived naked and destitute. The committee was tasked with finding them a roof over their heads, food, and clothing. The refugees' legal status complicated the situation and caused difficulties,

[Columns 371-372]

since most of them lacked certificates proving their Polish citizenship.

The increase in population made its mark in all areas. The food prices rose, and so did the apartment rents. The Polish population, which was antisemitic, to begin with, did not hide its resentment and dissatisfaction with the “invasion” by those “guests”. The Jewish population, too, showed signs of impatience. Contributed to that was the boastful attitude of the “German” Jews, who treated their local “culturally inferior” brothers with contempt.

The tension in the city grew because of a refugee who tried to infiltrate Russia. He was caught by the Polish border guards and was accused of spying. The Polish authorities jumped at the case like one who finds great spoil. They used it to excite hatred against the activists who headed the committee. They were blamed for aiding the communists. Only thanks to their firm stand the baseless libel was refuted.

That was the situation when the Second World War broke out. Before the people could comprehend what happened, the city was flooded by thousands of refugees from western Poland, Bielsko-Biala, Katowice, and Krakow, who escaped from the Nazis. There was a need again to take care of lodging the refugees and provide for their needs. Ternopil's residents showed again their great generosity. They hosted the refugees in their homes, and a soup kitchen distributed meals for a symbolic fee was established. The population in the city doubled in just a few days. Large military units camped in the city, and refugees from the Polish areas conquered by the Nazis arrived daily. Highly ranked officials, state ministers, and ambassadors passed through Ternopil on the way to neighboring Romania. The tension increased in the city. The disintegration of the fronts did not leave room for any illusion. People realized that the end of the Polish regime has come, and everybody nested the fear of tomorrow in their hearts.

* * *

On 17 September [1939], the first Soviet tanks reached Ternopil and following them, large military corps. Although the destruction of war passed over Ternopil, nobody knew what the new regime would bring.

After a few days of chaos, life returned to the so-called “normal”. The refugee problem was again high on the agenda, and it was necessary to find out the position of the new rulers. Captain Zhukov, whom the refugees' committee representative turned to, explained that principally, there was no room for such a committee since the government was supposed to provide work to all its citizens. However, in the meantime, until a civil regime is established in the city. The committee is allowed to continue its activities. The officer also promised that in the case rationing would be enacted, the committee would receive food for the soup kitchen.

Under the new conditions, the refugees needed to organize and find work. The first initiative began by the shoemakers, whose number was substantial among the refugees. A large workshop equipped with machines was arranged at the merchant union's hall, and the cooperative bank gave a group of shoemakers a loan. The shoemakers' productive cooperative was formed with by-laws that addressed the new conditions. Magister Rostel headed the cooperative, which included about thirty people. It became clear very quickly that the cooperative was a solution not only for the refugees but also for the shoemakers in the city since the independent shoemakers did not receive allocations of leather. Within a short time, the cooperative expanded to the size of a factory that employed hundreds of people. Assistance for the factory also came from abroad. Dr. Sh. Hirschhorn, a representative of the “Joint” organization, arrived at Ternopil and brought substantial sums of money to aid the refugees. The money was allocated to production plants. Obviously, the name of the donator was not mentioned in the books.

Other craftsmen, such as tailors, tinsmiths, and carpenters, followed the shoemakers. They formed cooperatives that made substantial progress within a short time. So much so that the Ukrainian head of the cooperative operation, who arrived in Ternopil in November, could not hide his amazement at the Jewish cooperatives, their methods of work, and organization.

With the settling of the refugees, the committee's mission ended. That was the swan song of Ternopil's activists, who fulfilled their mission faithfully for generations until the destruction of the glorified community, famous for its prominence.

Author's Note:

  1. See the article by N. M. Gelber, “The History of Ternopil Jews”, columns 104 – 105. Return

Translator's Note:

  1. The heading for the table is missing in the original article. I am assuming that the numbers represent the difference between 1925 and 1937.. Return


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