by Arie ORNER, Haifa, Israel
Translated from the Hebrew by Thia Persoff
Agudat Israel in Kutno was a branch of the international organization of orthodox Jews, established in Katowice in 1912. The Kutno branch of Agudat Israel stood for the same ideas as the rest of the movement, that is, opposing Zionism and immigration to Israel before the arrival of the Mashiakh (messiah). Agudat Israel was based mainly on the Chassidim, their rabbis, and their various dynasties, mostly in Poland. It developed a political and social activity of its own in the towns and the Jewish communities.
Those Jews, from the ordinary people in Kutno, prayed in the large Beit-HaMidrash [house of learning] or in the various synagogues and other minyans [prayer group of 10], even though they had no sense of political organization. The minyan or shtibel [a prayer room in a house] where they prayed during the Shabbats, the holydays, and the weekdays, this was the mainspring of their lives.
In the Kutno branch of Agudat Israel, there was an active life concerning what was going on in the various arenas. At the head of the chapter were Reb Joel Sztajnfeld, Abraham Fiszel Zandberg, Reb Lajbusz Finkler and Abraham Orner. Agudat Israel kept a network of religious educational institutes for boys (Talmud Torah) and for girls (Beit Yaakov). In Kutno an institute was founded by Yesodei HaTorah, headed by Reb Lajbel Mamlok and Szlomo Majer Liberman. Also, a school named Beit Yaakov was founded for young women.
Attached to the organization, the association of Agudat Israel's Youth was active. It was headed by Prost, Lajbel Lichtensztajn, Hersz Jakob Najmark, and Josef Brzezinski.
At the head of Poalei Agudat Israel in Kutno were the brothers Fajwisz and Icchak Kraut, and Simcha Traub. At the election to the community board, the Agudah appeared as one group and its representatives were Reb Joel Sztajnfeld, Szlomo Zylberberg, Lajbusz Finkler, and Avraham Boms.
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