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[Page 189]

Jewish trade and banking

by Rywka Barkai

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The Jewish settlement in Dąbrowa, grew and developed with the expansion of heavy industry, that absorbed villagers from the region and changed them from being food suppliers to food consumers. The Jews, since they were blocked by the Christians from entering industry, were compelled by circumstances to become agents and shopkeepers. The Jews faithfully fulfilled this task over a number of generations, and were the main food suppliers for the working population and the light traders.

dab189b.gif [7 KB] - Bank Advertisement
Dąbrowa bank advertisement

However, the problem was that all trade was carried out by credit, from the first of the month till the middle or the end of the month. The banks and the mutual aid funds financed light commerce with loans, since otherwise they would collapse under the burden of a lack of cash capital in commerce. The borrowers didn't always stand by their obligations; at the end of the month they only returned part of their dues to the Jewish trader because of the authorities, dismissals or a sudden unemployment. More than once the small-scale trader was placed in situations where he was unable to pay bills when the payment day arrived. We saw distressing scenes, in which a small-scale Jewish trader stood in front of the bank manager and pleaded at length to extend the payment date because of the aforementioned reasons. For the most part the Jewish manager of the bank acceded and didn't pass on the bill for implementation by a court officer. Thus Jewish commerce was integrated with all the fluctuations of the working man in industry and in mining, and the banks also operated under these conditions. Jewish banking in Dąbrowa was founded under pressure of the commerce with operated with a lack of return capital and required loans.

(The article about the Spółdzielczy Bank will serve as a refection of the activities of other banks and funds for helping out tradesmen and so on that were founded in our town).

There were a number of Jewish Banks in our town: Ludowy Bank, under the management of Bernard Rechnic z”l; Kopicki Bank, on behalf of “Agudat Yisrael” under the management of Reb Mojszele Ajzenman z”l; Spółdzielczy Bank, managed by Dawid Grynbaum z”l, that was affiliated with the tradesmen organization in the town; and the Spółdzielczy- Kredytowy Bank in which I worked.

The bank was founded in 1927. This was a partnership between Reb Icze Strochajn and Eliezer Tenenbaum z”l. The bank was at 17 Sobieskiego Street, in the courtyard of the home of Reb Dawid-Bar Zigrajch, who was well-known in town. This was a large store divided into two sections, one for the use of the manager and the second for the work and activities of the bank.

The manager of bank was Mr. Eliezer Tenenbaum z”l, who served for a long lime as the bank teller. He was a handsome and aristocratic man, who was always dressed impeccably. He was refined, educated, a dedicated Zionist, from the “Et Livnot” [time to build] organization of the time, and took a very active role in the activities of “Keren Kayemet” [National fund] and “Keren Yesod” [Foundation fund], and was chairman of the Zionist association. Reb Icze Strochajn z”l was partner to Mr. Tenenbaum z”l, and was the son of Gecel Strochajn, a well-known wealthy man in our town.

dab189a.gif [9 KB] - Bank Advertisement
Dąbrowa bank advertisement

Reb Icze was very orthodox and a philanthropist, of medium height and had a bearded face. I always saw him immersed in commerce matter, since apart from his partnership in the bank he had additional businesses (a store selling tobacco and cigarettes, and an additional store with his brother-in-law, Jankele Fridman, who came to Dąbrowa from the town of Częstochowa and married the young daughter of Reb Gecel Rachcze z”l).

[Page 190]

Amongst the first employees taken on in the bank were: Itka Tenenbaum z”l, Rózka Kotlicki and a young man by the name of Szlomo Fuks z”l and also the writer of this article.

Our first activities were to receive forms for discounting, payment and providing loans on credit. A number of people invested their money in the bank and were shareholders, and others invested their savings in return for interest.

We announced the existence of our bank to other banks in the region and outside of it, and our desire to be in commercial contact and we also were in contact with the P.K.O. Bank (The Polish Savings Fund). On a daily basis I would sign for sums of money in the post office which would reach us through the P.K.O. and I also transferred sums of money for other banks and merchants. Of course the bank profited from the commission for these activities. Another branch that brought in profits to the bank treasury was the “dispatches”, Fracht in Yiddish; dispatches of merchandise would arrive on return payment of the bank, the traders would receive the dispatches according to the date of the return payment and paid the bank the cost of the dispatches on exact days. The bank profited the commission from these activities and the interest that sometimes accumulated to considerable sums.

The bank prospered within a short time. Every day there would be long lines to the teller's window, and there were those who paid for a bill, those who came for a check and so forth. Naturally there were those that for various reasons could not pay the bill on time, and the bank endeavored to allow the merchant to extend the payment date and even assisted by providing a loan to cover the bill, and the main thing was that the merchant or tradesman would not blemish, heaven forbid, their good name the moment the bill was passed on to a notary. However there were also those who didn't pay their bill at all and they had to be passed on to the “protest”. I recall that a notary by the name of Klement Czechowski lived in the home of Reb Gecel Strochajn z”l, and all the bills and checks that were not paid on time were passed on to him. The notary sent out signed announcements and if within three days they didn't come to pay the dues including expenditures, the bill was marked with a special black stamp: “protest”, and returned to the bank which had to decide its fate. More than once the signatories were summoned to court and covered the burden of all the expenditures.

As activities progressed and work expanded there was a need to expand the staff. The manager, Mr. Eliezer Tenenbaum z”l, passed on the cashier's office to a new clerk (she now lives in Australia). Maszka Tenenbaum z”l, Pola Leszczyna and Edzja Potasz from Będzin were taken on to help with the supervision of the clerks. Mr. Eliezer Sapar z”l was taken as the chief clerk responsible for the ledgers; two young men were taken to help with clerical work, Herszele Weltfreunt (located here in Israel) who excelled in his dedication and meticulousness in his work, and after him came Jakob Zigrajch – located in Israel – who excelled with promising talents and incredible adroitness.

As was customary at the time, a government clerk from the main office in Warsaw would suddenly appear from time to time, and order that the bank be closed, activities ceased and began auditing the books, and clarifying each record.

All the bank employees were insured in the “Kupat Cholim” [Medical Fund] and received medical aid. In the event of unemployment or work termination for any reason, the employees enjoyed “Employee Insurance”, which in Polish was called “Towarzystwo Ubezpieczenia Pracownikow w Umylowuch”.

Every employee received financial help in accordance with his rank and seniority. The employees also enjoyed annual holidays and when summer came they left, each in turn, for two weeks to revitalize themselves.

The understanding and friendship that prevailed in the bank is engraved in my memory to this day. On Fridays, when we worked without a break in the afternoon, in the quiet hours without dealing with customers, we would all sit together to eat and sipped from the tea that was served by the manager's wife, Mrs. Złatka Tenenbaum z”l, together with delicious cakes that she proudly baked. More than once she would sit with us in order to hear stories about the goings-on in the bank.

Mrs. Tenenbaum was a good-hearted woman, enjoyed charity, always had a cheery smile on her face, was refined and full of humor. She was a Lover of Zion. She came from the Zigrajch family, which was aristocratic and respected in the town. She was the daughter of Dawid-Ber Zigrajch. Her good relationship with all the employees is praiseworthy, and the way she looked after her beloved husband Eliezer should be mentioned, since she knew that his health was poor and she cared for him with great dedication.

May her memory be blessed.

[Page 191]

Jewish trade as reflected in the telephone book

by Juda Londner

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The settlement and development in Dąbrowa, was accompanied by a bitter struggle to hold on to by any method, some means of survival. What could the Jews hold on to if not to trade, business, renting and supply, when more productive means of survival were banned to them? These were indeed borderline and non-productive financial means, but quite vital in order to create a city over the swamplands.

Dąbrowa Górnicza began its development as a small and isolated village. The Jews on entering it transferred it to a vibrant and lively place from a financial aspect. It should not be assumed that the French and Belgian banks could, with large investments, carry out the development of the mines, if a trade of living requirements hadn't existed that was supplied by the Jewish merchants to the public working in the factories and mines. More than once there were complaints to the governors that one had to walk to nearby Będzin to get hold of consumer goods after a difficult and exhausting work day.

Commerce began with the dawn of the city's existence in the location of inns and small traders near the factories. Later on stalls were setup in the local market which took place twice a week. Commerce developed very slowly: a butcher was opened, grocery stores, clothing and metal requirements. Following them came the small tradesmen: Watchmakers, tailors, jewelers, bakers and bookmakers, all of them supplied the basic needs of the population.

The Jew developed the commerce and lived frugally. He carried supply baskets on his back, at minimum profit, from the shopping centers or to his store or stand. The Jewish peddler traveled days and nights on his wagon to villages in the region, in order to buy agricultural produce, in order to sell them to the mine workers. Thus the Jewish merchant provided a productive service towards the development of the city.

As time changed and with the expansion of the railway network and motorized transport, the approach of the Jewish merchant also changed. Large sized stores opened up, with show-windows, and goods were supplied continuously over the whole day, and there was no longer a need to wait for market day in order to obtain them.

For the most part the trade took place by credit, from the beginning of the month to the beginning of the next. The Jew worried that there would be a stoppage in the continuity of work in the factories. When he woke up in the morning he would look out at the smoke spewing chimneys, a confirmed sign that the factory was “breathing” and the laborer buying in his shop by credit would pay his debt. More than once the Jewish merchant was destitute because of a strike, dismissals or a stoppage of work in the factory.

Trade by credit forced the Jewish merchants in the city to find sources of finance and credit that would allow him to carry out continuous trade. To this end, Jewish banks were founded like the Spóldzielczy Bank, the Ludowy Bank, the Kredytowy and Kopicki Bank, and loan funds for the tradesmen for buying raw material and so on.

The small shopkeepers no longer needed to traipse over to the wholesalers in Będzin or Sosnowiec, since they could obtain everything from the wholesaler in Dąbrowa. With time the Jewish merchant became a significant entity, not only in light trade. He also infiltrated the factories and became a raw material supplier and subcontractor for carrying out small scale jobs.

When the professional labor union was founded on behalf of the P.P.S. [The Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna)], Polish cooperatives were established for supplying goods. They did not serve as competition, since they were located in regions that the Jewish merchant didn't get to anyway.

Perusing through the telephone book that was published in1925 by the post office, we are provided with informative material as to what the status of the Jewish merchant had become, and how deeply rooted he was as part of the financial body of the city. Today a trade telephone is a regular and routine matter, however years ago it was regarded as a Polish measure of affluence. Still this does not mean that only the owners of telephones were involved in a range of commerce, the small shopkeepers, as well, sought to trade and make a livelihood.

We will examine the telephone owners who are no longer with us, in order for us to realize how vibrant and vital our community was.

  1. Kredytowy Bank, 17 Sobieskiego, telephone 269. Run by: Eliezer Tenenbaum z”l, Itche Strochajn z”l and Jakob Fridman z”l.
  2. Spóldzielczy Bank, 25 Zeremskiego, telephone 234. Tradesmen bank run by the activist Mr. Dawid Grinbaum z”l, who was a long time Zionist and one of the city's leaders.
  3. Nachman Bajtner z”l, 37 Królowy Jadwigi, telephone 205. Owner of metal products shop.

[Page 192]

  1. Herszl Bornstajn z”l, 41 Kosciuszki, telephone 164. Scrap and metal dealer.
  2. “Boks”, a tannery in “Dzelona”, telephone 114. Run by Piepsz and Zalman Binem.
  3. Josef Bokowski, 35 Narutowicza, telephone 325. Coal dealer from the mines in the area.
  4. Jechiel Domb, telephone 221. A city leader on behalf the General Zionists, a wholesale flour merchant.
  5. The Klajn Brothers, 72 Szopena, telephone 91. A steel manufacturing factory for nails, springs and wires. Amongst the many Jewish workers were members of the “Borochov” kibbutz that was then located in Dąbrowa, as well as members of “Hashomer Hatzair”, before they made “aliyah” to our country. The products were distributed all over Poland and also sent to Israel.
  6. Israel Edelist, 6 Wiejska, telephone 207. A wholesale merchant of flour and groceries.
  7. Abram Ajzenman, 5 Kosciuszki, telephone 287. Scrap metal merchant.
  8. Abram Feder, 24 Kosciuszki, telephone 70. Coal dealer from the mines in the area.
  9. Jechiel Karol Ferencz, 41 Jadwigi, telephone 314. Wooden planks and sheets store.
  10. Ferenc Nusbaum, 15 Kosciuszki, telephone 294. Wooden planks and sheets store.
  11. Berl Fuks, 31 Sienkiewicza, telephone 119. Supplier and contactor of metal sheets in “Huta Bankowa”: With his assistance the great synagogue in the city was founded.
  12. Lipka Futerko, 8 Sobieskiego, telephone 113. Flour merchant, son of Reb Eliezer Alter Futerko.
  13. Fajwel Gelcer , “Warsel” cake shop, 1 Okrzei, telephone 295.
  14. Sara Glikson, 35 Roza Okrzei, telephone 278. Dentist.
  15. Herszl Glozerman, 6 Sobieskiego, telephone 186. The first wholesale grocery store in the city.
  16. “Kehila” [community] committee, 17 Sobieskiego, telephone 132.
  17. Sz. Goldstajn, 32 Labedzka, telephone 219. Alcoholic drinks store.
  18. Chaim Grajcer, 1 Okrzei, telephone 144. Coal and mortar marketing office. One of the Holocaust survivors. Settled in Israel, grandson of Mosze Micenmacher z”l, who was amongst the builders of the first synagogue.
  19. Mendel Grajcer, 25 Szopena, telephone 187. Amongst the “Gur” Chassidim and a cantor. A friend of Mosze Micenmacher. A long running bakery with many clients.
  20. Dawid Grinbaum, 35 Okrzei, telephone 211. Manager of the Spóldzielczy Bank. Did a great deal for the tradesmen. A community leader in the city.
  21. Nachman Gutman, 54 Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 92. A timber supplier for the coal mines. Affiliated with the coal mines of the region. A wealthy Jew, a generous donator to all the institutions and all who turned to him. He was chairman of the patrons of “Hashomer Hatzair” [“Young Guard” movement] and even head of the “Keren Hayesod” [“National Fund”]. A member of the General Zionists administration. Dr. Nusblat, Dr. Herzl's biographer, was his father-in-law.
  22. Szlomo Halpern, 28 Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 224. A store selling various types of timber for industry and handicrafts. A learned man who was active in the Zionist movement.
  23. Abram Honigsztajn, 44 Szopena, telephone 203. A renowned bakery in the city called “Bagetle”.
  24. Berl Korik, 24 3rd of May, telephone 178. Certificated tailor with many customers in the city.
  25. “Karol” coal retailer. The office: 8 Sobieskiego, telephone 66; Owned by Reb Chanoch Rechnic z”l
  26. Jakob Klajman, 14 Krotka, telephone 209.
  27. Szlomo Krawinski, 31 Limanowskiego, telephone 101. Merchant.
  28. Abram Lajtner, 3 Pilsudskiego, telephone 63. Sheet metal supplier for the mines in the region, and a fabric factory.
  29. Bernard Lajtner, 11 Sobieskiego, telephone 82. Tinsmith.
  30. Herszl Liberman, 22 Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 153. Alcoholic drinks merchant. Was a community leader in the city.
  31. Majer Liberman, 25 Kosciuszki, telephone 257. Animal fodder store.
  32. “Maksimilian”, mining office: 34 Kosciuszki, telephone 282. Owned by Reb Chanoch Rechnic z”l.
  33. Szmuel Milchman, 11 Sobieskiego, telephone 272. Store for watches and gold articles.
  34. Mordechaj-Lajb Miodownik, 101 Legionow, telephone 267; Long-running bakery with many customers in the region. A community leader, head of the community committee, a Radomsk Chassid, an imposing figure and a cantor. Owner of the first mechanized bakery in the city.
  35. Zelig Miodownik, 28 Wesola, telephone 176; A bakery which supplied bread to the city's residents.

[Page 193]

  1. Dr. Szmuel Mittlman, 3rd of May, telephone 182. A well-known general practitioner in the city. Son of Mosze Mitelman who was renown in the city by Holocaust survivors as a community leader and a medic. Settled in Israel and worked as a doctor in the “Kupat Cholim” health fund. Died in Israel.
  2. Szmuel Moneta, 29 Sobieskiego, telephone 103. A store supplying all sorts of medical and cosmetic requirements.
  3. Jakob-Dawid Nusbaum, 12 Sobieskiego, telephone 246. Timber warehouse.
  4. “Oginewo”, 3 Legionow, telephone 228. A steel foundry owned by Reb Chanoch Rechnic z”l.
  5. Mordechaj Parasol, Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 242. Dealt with kerosene.
  6. Dawid Pradelski, 20 Szopena, telephone 96. Merchant.
  7. Dawid-Josef Prajzerowicz, 20 Sama, telephone 96. Merchant.
  8. Bernard Rechnic, 34 Kosciuszki, telephone 256. Was an owner in a coal mine and the screw making industry.
  9. Mosze-Dawid Rajchman, 12 Wesender Sama, telephone 190, In their courtyard was the “Mizrachi” school and “Hashomer Hatzair” center. An office for the wholesale retail of coal.
  10. Szalom Rozenberg, 31 Limanowskiego, telephone 234.
  11. Jakob Rozenberg and sons, 15 Sobieskiego, telephone 293. A wholesale sugar store.
  12. Aba Rozenech, 21 Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 231. Flour merchant.
  13. Josef Rozenblum, 32 Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 193. Coal merchant.
  14. Mordechaj Rozenblum, 38 Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 216. Sale of fodder and straw. He was a representative of KKL [Jewish National Fund] A Holocaust survivor. Living in Israel.
  15. Szymon Rudelnik, Zagorze, telephone 276. Tailor.
  16. Josef Siwek, 7 Lukasinskiegio, telephone 1. Scrap metal trader, owner of a plot that was converted into a vegetable patch worked by the first pioneers in the city.
  17. Solidenszac, 11 Sobieskiego, telephone 233. Owned by Jakob Fridman and Icze Sztorchajn. Wholesale grocery items.
  18. Jakob Szternik, 11 Sobieskiego, telephone 172. Famous dentist in the city.
  19. Lajbl Strzegowski, 29 Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 184. A tar and fabric factory. He was chairman of the Jewish community committee. An “Agudat Yisrael” activist and a member of the city council.
  20. Lajbl Szpigelman, 6 Krotka, telephone 31. Wholesale flour merchant.
  21. Fiszl Szapira, 9 Kopernika, telephone 230. Scrap metal store.
  22. A woodcutting factory owned by Magerkiewiecz, 10 Willowa, telephone 112. Jews as well as members of the “Kibbutz Borochov” training camp.
  23. Maks Terper, 25 Kosciuszki, telephone 115. Contained an accounts and tax advisory office.
  24. [no entry]
  25. Mendl Wajnsztajn, 28 Szopena, telephone 48. Supplier of timber to coal mines. The first “Yesod Hatorah” school was in his house.
  26. Ester Wajnryb, 17 Sobieskiego, telephone 329. Store for the sale of cloth and furs. A righteous woman, a philanthropist, worked dedicatedly in the “Halbashat Kala” [“bride dressing”] organization.
  27. Szymon Wajszalc, 1 Sienkiewicza, telephone 298. They were active [members] in Zionist organizations. A gifted tailor with many customers.
  28. Berek Wajsbrot, 3 Sienkiewicza, telephone 218. Grocery wholesaler.
  29. Dawid Wajnryb, 17 Sobieskiego, telephone 143. Printing house.
  30. Mosze-Hersz Weksler, 34 Lukasinskiegio, telephone 117. Flour goods merchant.
  31. Israel Welner, 9 3rd May, telephone 259. A flour merchant.
  32. Szmuel Zionc, 34 Lukasinskiegio, telephone 147. Alcoholic drinks store.
  33. Icchak Zajdband, 8 Sobieskiego, telephone 231. Flour merchant.
  34. Mosze Zaks, Zagorze, telephone 271. Grocery store.
  35. Szlomo Zilberfrajnd, 22 Krolowy Jadwigi, telephone 263. Flour goods merchants.
  36. Israel Zilberszac, 15 Sobieskiego, telephone 3. Metal products warehouse and supplier for local industry. General Zionist.

[Page 194]

Yiddish theater troupes in Dąbrowa Górnicza

by Mosze Jungster (revised by Juda Londner)

Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal

In our Hotel-Kupiecki on Third of May Street, Jews from the vicinity used to come to do business with the factories in our communities. Jews used to provide assorted raw materials for the factories. They would stay overnight, or they would rest with us for a few days. My mother would worry about her guests receiving a home-cooked meal, a good glass of beer, peas, gefilte fish, and so on. While drinking, the residents would relate stories about events in the big world, and also about Yiddish theater in the cities of Łódź, Warsaw, Białystok, and Vilna [Vilnius]. They would sing assorted songs from Goldfaden's operas “Shulamit” and “Machsheyfe” [witch], and talk about Ester-Rachel Kaminski, mother of the Yiddish theater, and her accomplishments on the stage in Warsaw.

I used to listen with great astonishment about the spectacles that were portrayed in the big cities. My fantasies would come into play, and I would repeat the Yiddish tunes. With pleasure I pictured myself on the stage as a rabbi, a comic, an acrobat, and a performer of assorted popular acts. The audience would melt with laughter. All of a sudden it occurred to me: why do we not have theater in Dąbrowa? Why should we not create a theater troupe?

At that time I belonged to the “Poale-Zion”, and my good friends were Baruch Szenhaft, Josef Kirszenbaum, Fajwel Pasternak, Nachum Pasternak, Ziskind, Melech Rozenberg, Josef Epsztajn, Blumcze Paska, Andzia Frajndlich (from Będzin), Josef Goldman – a gifted actor, although a sick one (a stitcher by trade), Edelman (a shoemaker) – an enthusiastic actor with a voice like a canary.

dab194.jpg [35 KB] - Baruch Szenhaft and Josef Kirszenbaum
Baruch Szenhaft and Josef Kirszenbaum
(standing in the first row in civilian clothing)
They educated a theater and cultural arts circle in Dąbrowa

[Page 195]

I invited the group to my home and proposed creating a dramatic circle, which would present Yiddish plays to the Jews in Dąbrowa. My proposal was accepted with great enthusiasm. The group already saw itself as consisting of artists: one meowed, another one wept, one sang operettas, one declaimed assorted rabbinical lessons, another performed acrobatic acts, one stood on his head, one danced on one foot. In short, the evening was a success.

The initial days of excitement passed, and we actually prepared to present a play. We had a room of props at Josef Epsztajn's on Klub Street. The group approached the work with great seriousness. Melech Rozenberg was the director, a hard-working actor with built-in intelligence. He himself was a pauper, tall, thin, with dreamy eyes and the looks of a lamed-vovnik, one of the 36 righteous men in the world. Adolf Rechnic, a tall, handsome man with wide bones, conducted the music. He later married Blumcze Paska.

We began with a play, “Chofni and Pinchas”, adapted from a theater in Łódź. We played in the movie house Odeon. Profits from the performance were divided among the poor.

After our first adventure, we dramatized “Sara Szajndel” in the Venus movie house near Hendl Erlich. We advertised the play in the streets, making a tremendous impression. The same day, all tickets were sold out. The play was secured for after Shabbat. Jews of all levels came to the theater; religious boys with payot hidden behind their ears, and also freethinkers. I played the rabbi; Andzia Frajndlich (from Będzin) was the rabbi's daughter; Goldman was a small Chassid in the rabbi's court; Moszeke Fersztenfeld was a tall Chassid, also in the rabbi's court. We called him the “drąg” [tall man]. The short Chassid and the tall one were never at peace. In every conversation they would call each other “drąg” and “golem.” The audience laughed heartily. The Jews would hold their sides from laughing so hard. Andzia Frajndlich sang with a pretty voice, and received much applause. The play began:

Sara Szajndel, Sara Szajndel,
Where is the Sara Szajndel? The religious one?
We all scream in unison
Where is she? Where is he?
We have no time to stand.

In Josef Epsztajn's workshop (by profession a tailor, but a devoted actor) we would sing more than work. Out of his own money, he bought two decorations and professional make up. The rehearsals for the presentation lasted an entire night before a holiday. People would go and applaud. The troupe was exhilarated. The town made a wonderful, cultural gain, particularly as the poor as well as the soup kitchen in town profited from the performance.

Then we would play “Isha Ra'ah” [bad woman]. By this time we approached it like professional artists. We bought the play from the well-known artist of Łódź, Herszl Sieradzki, who later became a famous Yiddish actor in America.

In the play, two generals, Antigus, a Greek, and Awner, a Jew, served their king. The “bad woman,” the king's wife, used to instigate the king against the Jewish general, even though he was very useful in the land. The king was objective, but when his wife falsely accused the Jew of being a traitor, General Awner was sentenced to be confined in a tower. He became blind there. He sang sad and longing songs about his fate. The audience empathized with him, almost crying along with him. They threw coins on the stage. The women would express their sympathy by blowing him passionate kisses. That is how the audience in Dąbrowa reacted to the play.

[Page 196]

dab196.jpg [38 KB] - Baruch Szenhaft and Josef Kirszenbaum
A group for culture, art and theater in Dąbrowa Górnicza (5684 / 1924)
Sitting from right to left: Grzymek Gutman, Dawid Kozuch, Gorecki, Israel Klajnman, Herszel Frajlich
Standing in the middle row: Mosze Wygodzki, Aron Liberman, Zajnwel Fisz, Chaim Wajnryb, Z. Krzanowski
Last row: Motel Grosfeld, Motel Rozenblum, Josef Juda Izraelewicz, Abram Szwimer

Later we acted out “Meturaf” [Madman] by Jakob Gordin. It is about a father who had two sons: one coarse, the other a refined intellectual. He showed more love to the coarse son, for which the fine son suffered greatly. Malachiel Gobernik would play the father. This play also was very successful. After this drama, we, the old guard, concluded our theatrical careers. Most of our group went to other places, and a new generation of play actors arose in Dąbrowa.

The new group consisted of Gurecki, Nuta Szwimer, Szwajcer, Brukner, Szmuel Goldsztajn, Reja Paska, Mosze Jungster. From this group it is appropriate to mention two born talents, Gurecki and Nuta Szwimer. Gurecki was a shoemaker, a pauper. But when he was called up in the Study House (by Szlipke) to chant the Chazan's portions, including Reb Akiwa, assisted by Mosze Szwimer, the Dąbrowa Jews were proud and happy. He was praised and valued for his talent. The second great talent was Nuta Szwimer, a draftsman/sketcher by trade. He served as director. When he directed the above group in “Tevye der milchiger” [Tevye the dairyman], Jews completely identified with Tevye's pain and with his complaints to the Master of the Universe. Szwimer's realistic, painted decorations were remarkable.

The troupe also presented the following plays: “His Wife's Man”, “The Yeshive-Bocher” [yeshiva student], “The Village Boy”, “The Rumanian Wedding”, “Chancze from America”.

[Page 197]

One of the songs, which remained in my memory, was often sung:

Take her, take her,
Take her, to your place,
And ruin her
And take her away.
Assorted small drama circles were spread throughout almost every organization. The artisans had a drama club in which Alter Pamacnik would often play the leading roles.

“Hashomer Hatzair” also had a drama circle that would stage plays in the academy in memory of Josef Trumpeldor, on the anniversaries of his death. Dawid Friszman's poem, “Hachotfim”, which was beautifully staged in the Venus Theater, boasted an addition of trapeze artists.

It is appropriate to mention the songs that, thanks to the Hashomer Hatzair, were sung in youth gatherings:

1. “In Tel Hai in the Galilee, Trumpeldor Fell “
2. “My G-d, My G-d, Why Did You Abandon Us?”
3. (a song, mixed with Polish words):

“Abram our father hear our voices
We, your sons, have come for an answer.”
“Where to? To our holy country!”

There were also Chanukah plays, produced by the Histadrut Hatzionit. One of the songs from such a presentation that I remember was sung in almost every Jewish home:

Under the little green trees
Moszeles and Szlomeles play,
Tsitsit [ritual fringes], little caftans, little payot
They own only one thing: little eyes,
Their eyes own two dots.

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