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[Page 225]

Economic and Social Institutions


The Second Lutsker Loan and Savings Fund

Alter Bardicz, Baltimore

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

During the first years of the 20th century, two Jewish credit institutions existed in Lutsk: “Kraunsztajn's Bank” and the “Komerczeski Bank.” Both principally served the well-to-do class of the Jewish population.

The Pervoya Lutskoya Sberegatel'noya Tovarishtestvo [First Personal Savings Partnership], with a small Christian membership of around 25, was also located in Motya Kharak's building. It was only open two days a week and little known in the city. In any case, Jews were not admitted there.

After the Russo-Japanese War, the Jewish artisans and retailers of our city were very much in need of help during the very difficult years. Mostly [they were in need] of a loan fund from which they could receive small loans with which they would be able to continue [working] and draw a little income for their wives and children.

Salomon Chait, the well-known Lutsk lawyer, the son of the deceased former Lutsk district state-appointed official rabbi, a man with a warm Jewish heart, undertook to obtain permission for a Jewish Loan and Savings Fund in Lutsk from the Tsarist government to be able to ease the need of the artisans and retailers. He immediately received the cooperation and help of several community workers in the city. After a few years of intercession and difficult effort, he finally received permission along with partial support from the state bank.

Arranging and preparing required a long time. First of all, a managing committee, a council and auditing commission of all of the communal workers were created, which helped Salomon Chait achieve this. A recruitment campaign for members was carried out and, finally, the Jewish Vtoroye Lutskoye Ssudo-Sberegatel'nyy Tovarishchestvo [Second Lutsker Savings and Loan Partnership] (the Second Lutsker Loan and Savings Fund) officially opened in Kalman Goldberg's building, at Dominikonskaya, across from the sentry boxes at the market place.

Members or “shareholders,” as we called them, who paid the 10-ruble fee, immediately received all privileges that the Loan and Savings Fund could give. Loans were given of from 25 to 200 rubles with minimum interest and small weekly repayments, under two signatures, that of the borrowers and the guarantors or endorsers. In time, savings also began to come in from many who would save money for a dowry or for other purposes. The government also contributed its promised portion and the until then difficult situation for the artisans and retailers began to ease and improve.


Employees of the Second Lutsker Loan and Savings Fund

[Page 226]

There also was the feeling that everyone was a partner of the self-help institution.

In accord with the regulations of the government laws, an inspector from the state division in Rovno would come to inspect the books, the loans given, savings and all other transactions that were carried out in the course of the year and everything was always found to be in complete order.

In the Odeon theater, the general annual meeting, the election of officials would take place; reports would be given and plans would be made for the future work.

The fund was active every day but Shabbos [Sabbath], from 10 in the morning to two in the afternoon and from five to seven in the evening. Friday – from 10 in the morning until two in the afternoon. Every Tuesday in the evening, the managing committee and the officials came together to approve the applications for loans, the requests to extend the terms of those who had failed to make the payments in time. And so in such a manner, the broadest strata of the Lutsker Jewish population were served with care and devotion by the officials and the employees.

Here are the names of the builders and creators of the institution – the Second Lutsker Loan and Savings Fund – the refined and good people from all strata who dedicated themselves, their time and energy, without any reward, only on behalf of the community at large: Salomon Chait, Avraham Chicz, Yehiel Einbinder (a carpenter), Lipa Pinczuk, Avraham Lender, Pinkhas Astrkes (a bricklayer), Shmuel Yitzhak Isrson, Dr. Ilya Bronberg, Peysi Futer or Peysi Foygl [bird] (tailor) and so on.

Working as employees through all of the years were: cashier: M. Kuperman (after his death, his wife replaced him), chief bookkeeper and leader – Yehuda Yoal Fajersztajn, helpers – Avraham Diksztajn, a son of the teacher, Moshe Diksztajn, Alter Bardasz (the writer of these lines), a cousin of Fajersztajn, both grandsons of Dvoyra, the well-known Lutsk grandmother; Yudl and Dovid Pugacz from Vulka and Berl Finklsztajn.

With the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914 and with the approach of the Russian-Austrian front, life became more difficult and critical from day to day. The situation also had an effect on the banks in the city; it was impossible to collect the debts and pay out the saving.

And finally, at the beginning of 1915, when the city was about to be occupied by the Austrian Army, all of the banks, including the Lutsker Loan and Savings Fund, closed and ceased to exist.


The Lutsk Interest-Free Loan Fund

Yoal Charak

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund


Yoal Charak


At the end of 1931, there began to be signs of an economic decline. The credit institutions, which the middle class found lacking [funds] during the emergency, shook.

The specter of an economic crisis began to float before our eyes, which would show an intensifying trend and make it more difficult for Jews to obtain their livelihood. However, we “consoled” ourselves that its arrival would signify a further weakening for the badly situated Jewish population. On the contrary, the middle-income groups, the majority of the Jewish population, would find a solution.

Therefore, they founded the Interest-Free Loan Fund. That means they founded an institution that we hoped would not be needed.

However, the crisis grew stronger and grew at a much greater tempo than had been expected.

They had not then thought about organizing widespread and well-planned work in order to prepare for every eventuality. The well-to-do strata, which could help with material support, had to be drawn in for this purpose. This needed much time and deliberation and the crisis that already reigned in the Jewish quarter did not permit this. The Interest-Free Loan Fund was opened with a sum of 625 zlotes.

They began the work on a small scale.

[Page 227]

However, time forced a situation on the Jewish settlement in Lutsk requiring the Interest-Free Loan Fund to evolve.

During its existence, the fund went through three periods. At the beginning, it distributed small, partial and unorganized help. This was a kind of small amount of help of which very few Jews could make use. They had to be satisfied with giving loans of very modest sums.

In the report of activity of the first year, a loan of five zlotes is listed. This was a


Sitting from the right: Sziczik, Bak, Elkin, Chicz, the Rabbi Sorotszkin, Diment, Goldberg, Charak
Standing: Y. Sima, Hofman, Gecht, Shachnauk, Rane, Bursztajn, Goldfarb, the shamas [synagogue caretaker] for Rabbi Sorotszkin


true sum! When in time the auditor came to audit the books of the society and carelessly skimmed the statistics of the loans given, noticing the above-mentioned sum, he looked at it with wonder. He could not grasp that such sums could bring about the bettering or worsening of the financial position of the applicant. The writer of these lines told him: the smaller the sum, the greater the importance of the loan given. The Jewish population of Lutsk also understood this.

The second impetus of activity came later. We had to establish contact with the American Joint Distribution Committee and also the American Lutsker Society.

This was a necessity because the need that arose because of the [financial] crisis grew greater and greater. Previously, we had discussed at a meeting of the managing committee whether the borrowers must be full members or not – not that we were discussing if members could become borrowers from the fund or not… From time to time, a request would arrive from a Jew to whom we had just considered turning, as a well-to-do merchant, about giving support to the Interest-Free Loan Fund…

The third phase of fund activity was when it had to take on several tasks that verged on the political – at a moment when, as a result of political shake-ups, all Jews were more pressed to the wall and they lost the financial ground under their feet. The interest-free loan movement in Lutsk, as in other cities and shtetlekh [towns] in Poland, had to take on several political functions. The task was a double one: on one hand, we could not permit a situation in which people would fall so low that they were forced to access hand-outs; on the other hand, we had to fulfill a first-class Jewish-national mission, in view of the heightened anti-Semitic wave.

* * *

The Interest-Loan Fund became the source of support for poor artisans and the support for retailers, shop-keepers and orchard workers.

Let us give several examples. The shoemaker, taking a loan from the Interest-Free Loan Fund of not more than even 50 zlotes, considers himself fortunate according to his concept that with ready cash of a 50-piece coin he can come boldly to a leather merchant. The shopkeeper on his part gives him more credit than the money he receives from the shoemaker. And thus the artisan buys his small amount of goods and he can then work with a calm head and somehow earn his income for the week.

A Jewish street-stall owner buys his little bit of goods from the wholesaler on Wednesday with the loan he receives in order to take in and earn his income at the fair on Thursday.

A Jew, an orchard worker, took a larger loan once a year. As a tradesman in the field of orchards and with a little cash money, he was accepted as an honored partner by a well-to-do Jew who rented orchards around Lutsk.

Understandably, the fund was not so popular with the rich Jewish men in Lutsk. They did not need to go to it… In contrast, it was very popular among the humble people. Necessarily, this institution was popular among the simple people.

Our institution, as weak as it was financially, without the help of our rich men and with small and modest means, still gave approximately 10,000 loans for a sum of a scant half million zlotes.

The number of Jews who made use of the loans reached the sum of 50,000 Jewish souls!

The attitude toward the debtor was not as a fallen, needy person, something of a small, inferior creation. As

[Page 228]

much as our modest means permit, we turn to our strong convictions and have an effect on each one that dares to take a loan. And, as is known, there were many Jews who not long before had been in a good financial position but in time became impoverished. They could not become accustomed to the idea that must decide to take a loan that would help them a tiny bit in their stressful economic situation.

The borrower felt our respect for him. He entered the premises of the Interest-Free Loan Fund as someone who belonged, to [find] brothers who would do everything possible for him.

Because of the fruitful activity of the fund, non-Jews who were familiar with it joined with great enthusiasm. They then began to understand our specific situation and the great help we distributed to the those in need.

Four or five years ago, the priest, Antoni Jaglonski, published an interesting work, printed at the Lutsker Biskup Kurier [Lustker Diocesan Courier], dedicated to the communal supervision (opieka społeczna – welfare) in Lutsk. In this book, the author dedicates several warm words to the Interest-Free Loan Fund, from which can be seen that he had a good grasp of the sense of the tasks of our institution, because [with its help it was responsible for the fact] that a large number of people would not have to seek communal help. Such testimony by an influential personality is very, very typical.

* * *

The principal concept of the fund consisted of taking under its wing one Jew and another one binding them together with an extraordinary feeling of unity that joined the communal worker, debtor and so on.

The fund drew the leaders who grasped that there existed another Jewish soul outside of one's “I” that is a part of one's own Jewish community, for which the leaders must do something. Just as the debtor feels his own significance, he comes not servile like a small one to a greater one. He comes as one comes to a brother who has more possibilities and better opportunities to help him in an emergency.

It is notable that the leaders of the Interest-Free Loan Fund did not feel a dissatisfaction when they learned that the Joint [Distribution Committee] had designated a certain sum for the Interest-Free Loan Fund in other cities, let us say: Rovna or Kovel. For them, for the Interest-Free Loan Fund leaders, no local matters existed, compared to the general Jewish matter that involved the Jewish people as a whole.

* * *

The activity and the fundamental matter of the Interest-Free Loan Fund earned us respect and esteem among the non-Jewish public. The government organs officially recognized the usefulness of the institution. They did this in the form of a certain subsidy, although not a large one, but this was a gesture meaning that they also were showing an understanding of our business. From time to time, we received a few hundred zlotes from the government institution, C.B.K. We received larger discounts [on interest] for a short term from the state bank for farming [loans].

Our institution was known by its Hebrew name in government circles. And it is a fact that often we received an answer from the Polish Finance Minister: “Gmiles-Khesed - to już inna zszec” [“Interest-Free Loan Fund – it is a different thing”] – Gmiles Khesed is another matter! For this, money was found in the government [treasury]!

Even the attack by the Gazeta Warszawska [Warsaw Gazette] during the arranging of the Interest-Free Loan month in all of Poland in 1933 was a moral victory for Jews because it revealed to the Polish public what beautiful organizations we had created to support our economic position. This brought us much respect.

Right at the end of 1931, we could not foresee what kind of a road the fund would need to take and how it would have to change as a focal point for the Jewish people – thus we cannot now know what tasks await us in the future.

Lutsk, 1938

[Page 254]

The Jewish Butchers Guild

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The Jewish butchers, who until the year 1929 were organized in a general artisans' union, little by little began to feel a certain difference between their situation and the situation of the general artisans. For example, they were thought of as merchants by the tax office, because of the sale of meat in their butcher shops. In addition, a series of specific problems surfaced, such as hygienic-sanitary rules, etc. Because of this, there arose among the influential members of the union's meat branch the idea of organizing by creating their own independent organization. After carrying out the first formalities, a legal regime recognized as the Butchers Guild was founded on the 17th of August 1929 at the head of which stood the Messrs. Avraham Zigelbaum, Moshe Kazial, Efroim Abramowicz, Dovid Manker, Yehezkiel Sznajder (Pinya's son], Yosef Sznajder, Nisl Sznajder and Ahron Tesler. A journeymen's division also was created with the now- deceased butcher, Fridl Ditina, at the head.

However, alas, the financial situation of the guild was difficult. At the start, not all members showed an understanding of their own organization. Besides this, the minimal monthly dues were not sufficient to support an independent administrative office. The guild, consequently, found itself an autonomous section of the central artisans' union. When, instead of the monthly dues, a voluntary payment for each piece of slaughtered [meat] was initiated, it became possible to hire their own secretary – Yehiel Kornblit.

There was more than enough work. The tax penalty was associated with terrible difficulty and one had to help with whatever was possible. Besides this, the artisans' cells were born then and they brought new repercussions, such as certification, artisan cards, journeymen, agreements and so on.

Because of the rapid growth of the guild, Mr. Yisroel Dossik, the well-known athlete, was hired as the manager of the guild. The need arose to reduce the high support payment that had to be given to city hall. The leader of the guild began to beat a path to the thresholds of the various offices, intervening and asking them to permit a reduction to allow the existence of the butchers. When none of this helped, they turned to their last resort: Strikes. For a long time, there was no slaughtering in the city and there was no meat. Finally, city hall gave in and the reduction was granted.

The last challenge of that intense work by the guild was the organizing of the export of non-kosher meat to the larger centers of the country, such as Katowice, Warsaw, Lemberg and others.

Clear proof of how the guild grew is the proportionally higher budget, which was happily adopted: 4,000 zlotes a year.

[Page 255]

In 1935, Avraham Zigelbaum again was elected as the supervisor at the general meeting. Together with the other activists he carried on an energetic struggle for the betterment of the interests of the butchers. Energetic steps were undertaken to combat the unofficial slaughtering, which brought colossal losses to the organized meat branch. They received greater credit than the butchers in the artisans' bank; they erected their own storeroom where they collected the blood from the slaughtered cows and the various offal, which provided significant income.

The guild also willingly took upon itself the civic duty and taxed itself five groshn for each slaughtered piece. This decision [to tax themselves] was told to the village elder at the time, Mr. Sacherski.

In 1936 came the terrible blow of [Sejm (Polish parliament) deputy Janina] Prystorowa's ban on kosher slaughtering. The local butcher's guild then began a struggle against the kehile [organized Jewish community] to make the payment for ritual slaughtering cheaper. The guild also began to organize a central purchasing location that would buy the non-kosher parts of the meat from all of the butchers and they would not be forced to sell the [non-kosher] zadeks (hindquarters) for pennies.

However, the blow that was designed to annihilate all Jewish butchers interrupted everything. Everyone's attention was turned to the new misfortune that carried destruction and ruin.

The Butchers Guild, through its leader Zigelbaum and director Dossik, first made contact with the General Jewish Butchers Union of Poland, which undertook defensive action. Here, on the spot, the right of the existing butchers cooperative was granted and a permit for 19 butcher shops with a central office was received from the regime.

Thus, of the 70 butchers, 57 butchers were allowed for; nine received individual permits and the remaining had to be taken to the mechanical slaughtering. How much the tactic of the butchers managing committee was foreseen can be seen by the fact that some time before the slaughtering misfortune, a course for menakrim [people who remove prohibited fat and veins from cows to make the meat kosher] who would remove veins and fat from the hindquarters of meat had been opened in Lutsk to increase the portions of meat.

Alas, the cooperative did not exist for long. Its privileges were voided and the butchers remained standing in danger of the collapse [of their shops]. The leaders of the guild again had to apply means to secure the existence of the local butchers. Their intervention was successful. Forty-eight butchers were again organized with the 19 permits and the unorganized were taken care of, too.

In 1938, Mr. Zigelbaum was again elected as supervisor. Then, the actual question was about a larger amount of meat and about its fair distribution. When the repeated interventions did not provide the appropriate result, the guild turned to the Agrarian Ministry and the matter was resolved positively.

The Guild decided to tax itself with voluntary payments for the purpose of giving the local 24th Polk [regiment] a heavy machine gun with all accessories in the sum of 6,000 zlotes. The village elder, Mr. Koszczolek, was informed about the decision by Supervisor Zigelbaum and Director Dossik.

In 1939, the butcher's guild celebrated its 10th anniversary. The number of members had reached 70 people.

The managing committee consisted of the following people: A. Zigelbaum (supervisor for the 9th time), Efroim Abramowicz (under-supervisor for the 8th time), Yekhezkiel Koziol (under-supervisor), Sheps Lekhter (treasurer for the 9th time), Yosef Sznajder (secretary for the 5th time), Dovid Manker, Chaim Kardisz, Avraham Baczar (member).

Lutsk, 1938


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