By Synai Kac, Haifa
Translated by Yigal Rechtman
Ostrow Maz. Tishre [September] 5693 [1932-33]
Standing: Rywka Pokrzywa, Orlanski, Kronenberg
The Tarbut School in our town, Ostrów-Mazowiecka, was the first to give its students a Jewish and Zionist education. It was large, modern and very advanced - but its material condition was always poor, because it was based on the tuition paid by the students' parents. And for these payers the economic situation was difficult. All their income was based on small profits from small crafts and tiny stores. Therefore it was necessary to find other sources to maintain the school.
At the head of this institution was the school board coping with all the problems of the school: paying teachers' salaries, rent and other expenses. It was not an easy job and definitely unpleasant. However, the board members readily accepted this responsibility.
Some parents did not pay promptly and it was necessary to visit their homes in order to collect the tuition. Very often the board members had to sign for loans at the bank so the teachers could get paid. The management was beset with such burdens, but it did not give up the fight and the school kept going.
To ease the burden, the management decided to recruit some women to include in the drive to find additional sources of income to ease the school's budget. Sara (Sonja) Kac zl undertook the role of organizing the Ladies' Circle for the school. She was an educated, smart and active woman. With her special charm she was able to influence all her acquaintances. Around her, women of all ages and classes formed a group to raise funds to help the school.
In our town there were many places of entertainment. There was a theatre that stood empty most of the year. There was a portable projector and only rarely, a few lecturers who came from elsewhere. For this reason the Ladies' Circle decided to bring about a bit of entertainment and arranged parties and galas sponsored by the school. And because most of these events were undertaken for the school, the work was done at no charge. The Circle members paid out of their own pockets the few expenses incurred. These galas included all the Zionist circles in town.
The Circle did not end with organizing galas and collecting money - they also worked hard against assimilation.
In our town there was a public school for Jewish children. Most of the students were girls and they were educated only in Polish without a trace of Jewish tradition. The Circle was interested in these girls and managed to convince many of their parents to take them out of the public school and enroll them in Tarbut and the Circle pledged to pay their tuition.
The Circle was also involved in the general operations of the school. This organization worked so well, that other schools in town followed the example and created Women's Circles, as well.
We remember those Committee members who are no longer with us: Sara (Sonya) Kac zl, Ester Brunak and Orlanska, hyd. And for those who live amongst us today - our congratulations.
22 October 1935
The day Keren Kayemet l'Yisrael went to Warszawa
Comrade Arija Margolis treasurer
Sitting (right): Mosze Morgensztern, Arija Margolis, Sara Tejtel
Standing: Fiszel Rozental, Szmul Lewitow, Izrael Sztejnberg
By A. Kellerman, Tel-Aviv
Translated by Yigal Rechtman
When I first started working in the national office of Keren Kayemet l'Yisroel [Jewish National Fund], during the visit of Mr. Menachem Usyszkin to Poland, I went over the list of cities, rosters and files of active committees. I found reports and letters written in perfect Hebrew, in beautiful hand writing and the name Michel Tejtel, who was head of the commission and a trustee of the JNF since its founding.
We discussed the expansion of our activities in Poland; we founded an operating system and I was in close contact with the chairs of the committees. Almost every week we would receive letters from Ostrowa with suggestions on how to increase the income of the JNF in Poland. After some time, Ostrowa became an important factor in the income of the JNF. Members of the board, especially the executive board, were always looking for new ways to raise funds.
Unfortunately, I did not know Mr. Tejtel personally. I corresponded with him. I remember that he was one of the most loyal trustees among the 868 JNF committees tied to the national office in Warszawa.
One of the important sources of income was the traditional Bazaar that was held annually at Purim. All the parties and movements in every town participated in organizing this event. WIZO, the women's organization, especially excelled in this and its members contributed much to its success.
When I worked in the national office, until the start of World War Two, I visited Ostrowa several times to organize drives. The head of the executive committee was Arija Margolis who had held this honoured position since 1930, after Mr. Tejtel zl passed away.
I knew Mr. Margolis through other Zionist activities. We were together at the convention of the Zionist Workers' Party movement in Poland. He was close to our party (Al HaMishmar) and I always felt comfortable during my visits to the city.
I recall the regional convention that was held in Ostrowa with members A.L. Bloch, head manager of the JNF in Poland and Lichtinger, representative of the main office in Jerusalem.
The conference, with representatives from every country, was very successful and activities expanded in all the cities.
Every visit of representatives from Israel and the national desk, such as Rabbi Szapira (Kfar Pines), M. Hazrachi, Jakob Melamed, Leja Wodrowiec, A. Bialopolski zl, A. Kellerman and others expanded the activity in Ostrowa. It became one of the top Zionist cities, due to the loyal work of the activists there.
The national conference took place in Warszawa with Mr. M. Usyszkin, and several representatives from Ostrowa attended; among them Mr. Margolis, who was the very spirit of public service and arranged a project for redeeming land in Israel.
Mr. Margolis headed the drives until 1935, when he made aliyah and Mr. Szmul Lewitow succeeded him and held this position until the war.
When I was in Wilno at the beginning of the Second World War, I received news about the Holocaust and the misery of the Jews in Ostrowa. I do not know how many Jews from that city survived the war.
I recall my visits to that town, its activists, youth organizations and Zionist work. When I came to Israel in 1940 and took the bus from Haifa to Tel-Aviv, I stopped in Hadera for a light drink and there I saw my friend Mr. Arija Margolis who was in Hadera for the national committee of the JNF. He was the first friend I had met since making aliyah and we reminisced about those hectic days and nights in Ostrowa. In 1940 we could not imagine or believe that the Nazis would destroy Polish Jewry and that we would never see our families, friends and comrades again; nor the millions of Jews who had been living in Poland when the war broke out.
By S.D. Jeruszalmi, Tel-Aviv
Translated by Yigal Rechtman & Ros Romem
They were few and they are rarely seen in our redeemed country. You will not find any like them even if you search throughout the entire country, because they are gone Their fanaticism, their way of living is not contemporary and they are unknown to the young generation that was born and rooted in Israel. But, as someone who once lived in the Diaspora I cannot - and do not want to - forget the actions of those obsessed with one thing and existed in almost every Jewish community, large and small, until the Destruction.
The few amongst them who managed to come to Israel before the Shoah, or those who survived and came to their final destination - Israel, tried as much as they could to continue their obsession with one thing and some did succeed in renewing the old days.
And who amongst us does not remember their work? The Reb Jakobs and Reb Moszes who gave up, in their now destroyed towns, their income, families and living to devote their lives to the needs of the people? Some were devoted to khakhnases orhim, some to bikur holim, while others donated towards a hospital, old age home, charity, or other mutual aid society for the underprivileged.
Who could count all the organizations and public institutions established only because of the help and fanaticism of those with limitless energy and will power in their chosen field of public service. They always behaved most loyally and kept the rule: First he will give, then others will give (join in) too. Many gave so generously that sometimes they gave more than they could afford and were an example to those who were not as charity-minded.
One of these blessed activities, over and done with today, but which I mention with some satisfaction, is the organization that lends a hand to the brothers who survived the Holocaust. It allows them to renew their lives in Israel and sustains the connection between the survivors and their brothers in Israel who came here before the Holocaust. They serve as counselors and emotional aides to the survivors of the death camps, towards their physical and emotional success.
They excelled in the commemoration of the communities that were destroyed by collecting material, photos and articles to be used in memorial books. This activity, that is always a blessing for the existing generation, is even more valuable for future generations. In this way the memory of the communities, their people and organizations shall not be wiped out. These reminders of the communities are the only way to communicate between brothers who were scattered all over the world.
I would like to tell you something about one of those crazies whom I have known for more than thirty years - since 1925. His good deeds toward building the country brought him close to me, until the casual friendship in a specific area of activity - JNF - turned into an alliance that continues today and gains strength daily. I mean one of the fine people from Ostrów Mazowiecka, Reb Arija Margolis, or as I know him, Lejbl Margolis or Comrade Margolis.
I came to know him when I was first appointed as the main correspondent to the national office of the JNF in Poland and after some time as head of public relations for the Funds.
As part of my work I was the in-house correspondent between the JNF and all its activists in Congress Poland and its rural cities.
I was in contact through letters and in-person with senior activists. During trips to Warszawa they regularly visited the offices of Keren HaYesod to arrange their affairs. Those who did not skip my office could peek into a new issue of a Hebrew newspaper just arrived from Israel or form an opinion about local publications, or the fruits of the national public relations department.
Arija Margolis was among the visitors to my room. He would always come by after dealing with the Zylberbergs. They were for years in the Keren HaYesod office and because their given names and last names were similar they were called Zylberberg One and Zylberberg Two. I mean my dear friend Abraham Zylberberg One hy'd bureau secretary in charge of planning collections to benefit Keren HaYesod. The other, my childhood friend, Abraham Zylberberg Two hyd (son-in-law of Ostrów Mazowiecka's Icel Morgensztern) who was in charge of vouchers (whoever worked in Keren HaYesod in Poland and saw the hundreds of vouchers [checks] sent to be cashed at the bank, would appreciate the work involved). And what did we talk about? First of all - how are you? And how are your people in Keren HaYesod and how many donors? And what are the plans for next year? And who is the great one who will declare the annual drive?
And when Abraham Zylberberg Two heard from the leaders about an agreement with whoever had agreed to come to Poland he would light up and he would call excitedly: Here's the man who will do good for our National Funds and you are lucky he agreed to work with you! And he would continue and ask: Is it for sure, yet? And if he learned - G_d forbid - that it depended on the health of the guest - he would become worried and then said the messengers of a mitzvah are not harmed and is there a greater mitzvah than redeeming the (Holy) Land? When he departed he wouldn't forget to say: Please G-D, when you get final word, please inform me! Abraham Zylberberg Two was very happy when he visited Ostrów Mazowiecka and the great personality that was so expected - indeed did arrive!
I remember one time when Margolis had visited our office the organizer of the fundraising came into my room with a very worried look on his face and said: What do we do with this Jew? He has upset all my plans.
I had worked out a program for two months for comrade Girzelke and had included Ostrow Mazowiecka and here comes member Margolis and says we can advance the fundraising in his town by six weeks as most of the promised contributions have already been paid. When I stated that only months had passed since the last annual fundraiser, he replied: Nonsense. Who will remember that now that the donors have paid their contributions? They can contribute again and because he was adamant I had to agree. And so Ostrow Mazowiecka had a fundraising year of only ten months!
When the second Zilberberg was asked to investigate this, a secret was discovered and we deemed it necessary to make it publicly known.
Reb Arja Margolis paid the pledges of others from his own pocket so that the money would reach Keren Hayesod and he would wait for the contributors to pay their pledges when they could.
He used this method until his Aliyah to Israel and people in the know whispered that when Margolis arrived he had a stack of promissory notes in his backpack that had not been honored by their owners. He kept them either because he was embarrassed or because he did not wish to return them to Keren Hayesod and he gave up on the money that he had paid out for others.
I would not be doing my duty if I did not publicly state what I heard from leaders of Keren Hayesod in Poland about his behavior during the week of the fundraiser in Ostrow Mazowiecka.
These days, which were holidays for all the followers of the national movement in Ostrow Mazowiecka, were truly like a Sabbath. Reb Arja Margolis did no private business, controlling the flourmills in town. Margolis decided that Keren Hayesod (and also Keren Kayemet) were of great priority. Sales and commercial business was postponed!
When fines were levied for allowing wagons to remain without either unloading or loading, he paid the fines from his own pocket and did not order the mill owners to pay.
And Reb Margolis was in charge of the fundraising and also received the fund representatives very hospitably.
It is no wonder that Ostrow Mazowiecka was one of the towns that excelled in its work for the national funds.
My friend, Reb Margolis made aliyah. He achieved his heart's desire, but he did fulfill his objective of working for the national funds in Israel. He did not do this in order to win some award, which in any case is not accepted practice in our country.
He began to work for Keren Kayemet with the same enthusiasm and energy of his youth and what he did not accomplish in one field he achieved in another, no less important than his efforts in Poland. He truly became the father of Ostrow Mazowiecka in Israel. He found the organization of immigrants from Ostrow and a welfare institution in the form of good deeds and lastly set himself the objective to create a memorial book of the community of Ostrow. Nobody believed this could be done, with no material and no writers to do the job. He took on the task with great enthusiasm and is close to achieving it.
My prayers and wishes are that soon he will be able to congratulate himself on its completion.
I have seen it as my duty to put into writing the very little that I know about his activities, as a friend, as a close neighbour and as a person who spent his childhood in Ostroleka. My father, Gaon, Rabbi Nachum Jeruszalimski, of blessed memory, was the Rabbi in Ostroleka and my heart aches for its destruction and the destruction of the nearby town of Ostrow.
By Ben Ahikam
Translated by Dr. Ros Romem
The first of April, the day the Hebrew University opened, we celebrated with great glory and honour. The special celebrations were already underway in the morning. Many windows were decorated with Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] stickers. People wore festive clothing, badges and blue and white flowers.
At eleven o'clock a large public gathering took place outside. The following gentlemen made speeches: Vejgmajster (Hebrew), Szwarc (Hebrew), and Holcman (Polish). In the third part there was a procession by the children of the Tarbut School and their nursery school, which made a great impression.
At eight in the evening, in the largest hall in town, the cinema Euriplus, there was a cultural festival.
Michel Tejtel was in charge of the cultural event.
Some of the gentlemen who spoke were: Vejgmajster (Hebrew), Glinka (Yiddish) and Margolis (Yiddish) and in the singing and recitation segment were Mr. Czerny, Mrs. Lewitow, Mr. Szwarc, Mr. Goldsztejn and Miss Ryba.
The cultural event took place at one o'clock in the afternoon with the sounds of Hatikvah sung by the entire audience with enthusiasm, after which a banquet was held in the library hall, attended by the distinguished town members.
In Ostrow Maz.
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