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[Page 30]

Remembering Rypin

Szymon Laks

Here is a book dedicated to the memory of a town and a community. The town itself still exists. The community in question – the collective of people once known as the Jewish Community of Rypin – has ceased to exist having suffered the tragic fate of many such communities in various parts of Europe – annihilation at the murderous hands of hate-driven barbarians.

Still, the memory of that community must be kept alive so long as there is a Jew alive who claims ancestral derivation from it. Fortunately, there are, and will continue to be, many such people who can relate themselves to Rypin

 

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“Hehaluz”, 1927
Sitting from right: N. Levy; K. Monter, R. Shiranski, A. Surgal, Y and M. Braun
Standing from right: Y. Rosen, Z. Surgal, H. Krupjarz, Y. Rabi, Karnshin, B. Mencke, A. Levkovitch, Z. Gutentag and Z. Shtanka

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as their place of origin. And so the memory of Rypin and of its Jewish community will live on.

This article is written in the belief that it is important to remember the past and to identify ourselves with it. Our present is rooted in the past; our aspirations for the future are based upon our remembrance of the past. The survival of the Jews as a people and the revival of Israel as a Jewish state were made possible by the persistent clinging to and recalling of the past.

In Judaic tradition, we have two established kinds of commemorative observances: one has a collective character; the other is of a personal nature. First, there are certain feast and fasts which recall historical events of importance to the Jews as a people – Hanukkah, Purim, Pesach, Tishash b'ab, etc. This is the collective way of relating ourselves to our past history. Then, there are the memorial services for the departed – the saying of Kaddish, Yiskor, etc. This is our personal way of remembering those from whom we derive our life. In this two-fold way did countless generations of Jews keep up their ties with the past. And thus did we maintain our identity as a people and our sense of unity and national destiny throughout the ages.

For those who have not known Rypin from personal experience – and even for those of us who were born and raised there – let us try to evoke a picture of the town both in its physical and social aspects. Let us, therefore, try to envision a typical East European shtetl – that quaintly picturesque town made famous in the writings of Mendele, Sholem Alechem, Peretz, Sholem Asch and other chroniclers of Jewish life in the 'old country', and also romantically depicted in the paintings of Marc Chagall and others like him.

Let us descend for a brief visit upon that huddle of one – and two-storied dwellings made of lumber, clay bricks and mortar, with thatched or tar-papered roofs; let us also note the few “modern” buildings interspersed here and there; let us walk into the “big” shul and into the squat, dilapidated “besmedrish”; let us look into the steaming mikvah and peer into

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the dank, mysterious churches; let us then enter the firehouse – which also served as a theatre and a concert hall; let us stop for a moment at the water pumps, three of them, rusty, noisy cranky – spurting water when they felt like it – often frozen and dry during the bitter cold winter months; let us gaze from the little bridge into the lazily flowing water of the Rypienica – that poor imitation of a real river; now let us rest for a while in the public park or in one of the private orchards before resuming our wanderings through the town. And now, let us stroll again through the hilly streets and crooked alleys; let us climb over wooden fences and upon slatted roofs of rickety sheds and stables into sandy or muddy backyards, play games in fascinating lumberyards or in the ruins of the old flour mill. Finally, if this be a Saturday afternoon, let us put on our best finery and go promenading on the Barbara, the Praga, up the Brodnica road to the “veldl” and to the “berghlech”, enjoying the Sabbath respite from the everyday toils and troubles.

 

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The Committee of “Poalei Zion”, 1929
Sitting from right: Z. Feldheim, M. Broun, A. Kalma, Y. Kurzman
Standing from right: A. Levkovitch, Y. Levkovitch, H. Konskowolski

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Our tour through the town has, of necessity, been rather quick and far from complete. It would take volumes to tell the full story of the many places which constituted so vital and intimate a part of Rypin – to bring out its full colour and flavour to relate the history of every bustling nook and cranny. Books could be written about any one of a number of particular points of interest – the public park, Cholewinski's garden, the firehouse, Levitan's fields, Frenkel's little candy stand (the Budka), Filat's barber shop – to mention just a few. Each of those and many other such places played a special role in the life of the town and contributed in one way or another to the rich complexity of its social patter.

We, who have traversed oceans and have come to know the world at large, may be inclined to think of Rypin as a sedate little nest – a placid, slumbering, uncomplicated corner of the world. But, the fact is that life in Rypin was far from simple. True, there were no subways, no ocean liners, no airfields, super markets, department stores or world's fairs. But, there was plenty of agitation and turmoil; there was drama and excitement on all levels of existence.

Most of the town's vital activities centred on the market square – the Marek or Rynek. So perhaps we should spend a little more time in the market square before we take leave of little old Rypin.

It is Tuesday – one of the two-weekly market days. Since early in the morning, the square is covered densely with stands displaying all sorts of ware – ready-made clothes, shoes, hardware, farming tools, toys and so forth. The stores surrounding the square, as well as those in other parts of the town, are also stocked with merchandise and are waiting for the day's business to begin.

From the outlying hamlets and villages, peasants arrive with their produce: cattle, hogs, horses, chickens, ducks, geese, eggs, butter, grain, fruits, vegetables – all ready to barter or sell. The market square soon becomes a jumble of human beings and beasts; human voices mingle with the bleating, grunting, mooing, neighing, cackling and quacking of animals. The noise

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rises to a wild crescendo as the day advances. There is a trampling and shoving and rushing about as if the world were coming to an end.

And the peasants – they are here not merely to trade – they want to taste the pleasures of town life, to indulge in some uninhibited feasting with kielbasa, raw-boned herrings and vodka being the chief items on the menu. Here and there, quarrels and fights break out; blood thinned with vodka flows quite freely. There is also laughter and singing and back-slapping. And, business deals are concluded with a hearty handshake.

Evening descends and the tumult begins to subside. The peasants depart; some poorer than they had come; some richer – some bloodied and dishevelled; some still drunk and full of mischief. The merchants pack up, pull down their stands, close the stores and retire to back rooms to count up the day's earnings or bemoan the losses and damages caused by the

 

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“Hashomer Hazair”, 1930

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rampaging peasantry. Except for a stray cat or dog, the market square is now nearly deserted. It lies quite dormant after the day's hectic activities.

But the Marek was not merely a place for trading. It was the heart and the brain of the town in many respects. It was the hub of the town's political and social life; it was the place where important news and events were first announced and debated and then broadcast all over town. It was the meeting ground for the town's idlers and gossips. It was also the place where pious Jews would gather on a given night of the month to celebrate and bless the new moon, and above all, it belonged to the children – in summer's dust and winter's snow, that is where they would assemble for outings and diverse games. That is where they were nursed in infancy; where they grew into childhood and adolescence and experienced first love and knew happiness as well as heartache; where they eventually matured to adulthood; and some drifted to far countries in the wide world; and many, alas, too many, were driven away to slaughter.

This, broadly speaking, was the daily life of our ancestral town, a town very much like its neighbours and like many such communities in Eastern Europe, steeped in ancient tradition and superstition, adhering in many ways to the customs and sages of the Dark Ages, bizarre and colourful in its blending of the primitive with the worldly, yet, striving to rise to the light of modernity. Eager to acquire culture and learning, starkly provincial but struggling to become cosmopolitan, and sometimes emerging from this effort looking somewhat like an over-dressed matron. It was not a simple matter to convert from backwardness to progress.

In this movement toward enlightenment, Rypin stood out rather markedly among the neighbouring communities. It may sound like the boast of local patriotism, which often tends to exaggerate the virtues of one's birthplace, but it is a fact that Rypin ranked first among all the surrounding towns in cultural, ideological and political enterprise, especially

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where Jewish life was concerned. It was, as mentioned above, often a mixture of incongruous and contrasting elements – a patchwork of shadows and lights, a medley of pretence and real achievement.

On the one hand, for example, there was the melamed with his “bobeh maises” – tales of ghosts and evil spirits and wandering sous; there was the wearing of amulets, the practice of exorcisms and incantations and all sorts of magical remedies against illness and other kinds of affliction; there was the young woman who would visit the library every day and take home a book to show her great interest in literature; and there was also a young man who always carried a volume of poems which he rarely read and hardly understood.

But there were, on the other hand, those who truly thirsted for knowledge, whose love of beauty was genuine, whose dreams of a better and richer life inspired them to perform yeoman work for the development of the community, for education, culture and progress. These were the builders of

 

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Public School and the Teacher Sonabend, 1926

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institutions, the ideological and political leaders of the left, the right and the centre.

And in the midst of it all, there stood the venerable figure of the man who, in the light of subsequent events, must be remembered as a prophet. For this man, though often faced with severe opposition and even ridicule, more than anyone in the community sensed the great need for the fulfilment of the Jewish people in terms of its unique history. Let the name of this visionary and leader, about whom a great deal more ought to be written, be inscribed here with due reverence. The name is Shmuel Zavel Posner.

The cultural renaissance in Rypin began shortly after the turn of the century. It was then that various cultural and social undertakings – in education, in drama and music, in political organization, in sports – blossomed forth like mushrooms after a heavy rain. It is impossible to do justice to all of them in the space of an introductory article such as this. Rypin, that tiny dot on the map (very often it did not even appear on a map), fairly hummed with activities in all areas of social life. In the political arena there functioned the several branches of the Zionist movement; the Agudath Israel, the Bund, the Communist party. There were the Maccabi, Hashomer, Hechalutz. There was the musical society Hazomir chorus and orchestra. There was the Drama Circle. There were the library and the Beth Am. There were Crynszpan's, Gutfeld's, Rozenowicz schools, Hatechia, the Tarbut, Yesodeh Hatorah, not to mention the chederim and melamdim of older vintage and, eventually, the Polish public school and the Gymnazia. So much was undertaken and so much accomplished in comparatively so short a time.

The library and the Beth Am deserve special mention for they constituted the backbone and the plasma of Jewish life. The People of the Book needed books; its whole history reveals a profound concern with books. And so it was in Rypin too that books became a focus of primary attention. In fact, the entire cultural revival there began with the

[Page 38]

establishment of a reservoir of books – the library. Then came the Beth Am – the people's home. Around it grew a rich network of activities: drama and music, lectures and recitations, social gatherings and dances. From the Beth Am came the words of inspiration and the sounds of songs which accompanied the young people on their way to building a new home in Palestine.

One thinks of Rypin, and what one remembers most, is names: names meaning people. One remembers, of course, the names of the prominent citizens. But there comes to mind names which somehow evoke an even more vivid, much warmer remembrance of the town – names of little people, humble people to whom Rypin was the whole world, the beginning and the end of the universe. And perhaps it is not even their names but rather the earthy quality of their being that makes one recall the true essence of the town which once was home. Remember the wretched little tailor who was never given an order for anew suit but was only permitted to remake or patch up old clothes; the shoemaker who equally did not make new shoes but only mended old ones; the poor old woman who would tend to her fruit stand on bitter cold winter days and try to sell half-frozen apples; the dim-witted water carrier

 

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Public school, 1926

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Who was often the butt of cruel practical jokes; and many others like them. For these little, insignificant people, who were, nevertheless, so much a vital part of the community, a special Yiskor should be said, a special Kaddish recited.

Jews received the right to settle in Rypin late in the 18th century in order to stimulate trade and commerce. In 1779 the Jewish Community was officially recognized as a civic entity. The total population of Rypin numbered about 1400 at that time; of these some 500 were Jews. During its entire existence, for about 160 years, the Jewish Community was allowed considerable autonomy by the ruling authorities. There were good times and some not so good, but by and large the position of the Jews was fairly secure and stable.

Then the barbarians descended upon the town and then came the tragic end of the Jewish Community of Rypin. May its memory be inscribed in our hearts and minds forever.

Why should we remember Rypin? The question is hardly necessary; it practically answers itself. One might as well ask why should any proud people remember its heroes and martyrs? Such remembrance is vital for a people's sense of dignity and self-respect. This is even more important in the case of us Jews. What else did we have to sustain us for 2000 years? Without this living memory, the very soul of our being would have expired and we would have ceased to be Jews, to be a people with a future. But we did remember and, in spite of the untold hardships, persecutions, pogroms and mass murders, we kept our heads high – we remained Jews – we remained a people with a future.


[Page 40]

Rypin in Bygone Days

Fred E. Goldstein

It has been well over 40 years since I left my shtetel of Rypin in Poland or Russia.

Of course I have many happy as well as unhappy memories of my childhood. Namely: Barmitzvas, weddings, parades, Zionist meetings, promenading up and down the sidewalks of the Praga and especially the hikes on weekends to the hills and woods at the western edge of town. And who can forget the warm unpasteurized raw milk direct from the cow right after milking.

Of course I also remember deep mud, heavy snow, dirt, dust, poverty as well as funerals, fires, fights with shgotzim and most of all FILAT the feltcher who used to pull my teeth out without any sort of anaesthetic or even as much as an aspirin tablet after extraction.

But somehow we managed to survive, even a dose of Gehakte Bankes.

But the thing that amuses me most about Rypin are the peculiar names people used to have in addition to their real names.

Naturally, everyone had a real first, second as well as a third name. But these were reserved only for special occasions like MENTREKES, birth certificates, weddings, funerals and so forth.

As a matter of fact, the everyday name had nothing to do with ones' real name. Take for an example, my own mother – no one would ever know who Mrs. Leah Goldstein was unless one said LIAH ELLES, or my father Shieh der Hoicher or Shieh der Moilecher. But the above are mild in comparison. I shall mention a whole list of names with whom I am sure you are all familiar, especially the old timers.

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Another thing that amuses me is the way we used to go to the bakery on Saturday noon after Shul and pick up the Tchulent. Somehow, everyone recognizing his own meal. Once in a while, one would get the wrong pot and if the content was better than his own, he would usually keep it. But if it was the other way around, he would rush back to the bakery and demand the genuine article.

Other memories are the frozen pump in the winter time – the black and white post that would go up and down over the bridge, the Russian Cerkwo with its deep sounding bells and the park on the Piaskes with its gymnastic paraphernalia.

But coming back to the names, here is a list that comes to mind. See if you remember them.

Chaim Itzchek Der Bal Hagule Smiel der Jashek
Der Griner Avrum Der Parech
Der Lumer Salmen Der Lechtenzier
Der Roiter Itzchek Jankef der Kmashenmacher
Hershel Shoichet Tune Davai
Der Toiter Josef Leib Shime Niches
Der Kleiner Itzekio Der Blinder
Jechiel der Raker Der Shtimer
Avrum Pelek Der Toiber
Der Hoicher Ichaskel Der Lumer
Avrum Leib Kazven Der Reicher
Moishe Kuter Der Karger
Avrum Races Der Blechner
Avrum Kapusteie Der Klezmer
Milush der Naar Der Shames
Duved Chane Goldes Der Gabe
Der Mazek Der Zionist
Itche Chemio der Akshon Der Bundist

All these were some of the peculiar names that were an important part of the daily life in Rypin.

I hope the above will give you just a few moments of happiness.

Efroim Leah Elles


[Page 42]

In Memoriam to Ch. & Sh. Posner

Malka Sperling-Posner

How curious the fate of things,
As of Man
Here on my window sill,
Half way around the world,
From whence it came
Stands your silver Chanukah Menorah
A gift on YOUR wedding day.

The ship of life sails on
It is my privilege
To light the candles today
The first day of Chanukah.

 

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The Hanukkah Menorah – A wedding fit to Chaja and Samuel Z. Posner

[Page 43]

Inner eyes are following,
The dance of the shadows of the lights,
My memory allows me
To dwell in thought
Of my dear departed.

Yester-years in the old country,
When the Chanukah candles were lit
Kindling the spring of joy
Your children were singing and dancing.

And after the Chanukah holiday,
For a year it became a toy
They roughed it from boy-to-boy
“I wonder that it is not broken”
Remarked our beloved Jakob,
Your oldest son.

He was honoured with this gift,
During his visit
To his mother in Israel

Today, 21st December, 1962
It is my privilege
To relate the preceding episode.

As the ship of life sails on
I bow in loving reverence.


[Page 44]

Nathan Warsaw, in Appreciation
On the Occasion of his 75th birthday

Zelig Brown

Nathan Warsaw was born as Nathan Israel Warshawsky, son of Reb Itzik Warshawsky, a wealthy Chassidic Jew of Rypin, near the East Prussian border, in the then Russian part of Poland.

The boy's remarkable intelligence and devotion to study filled his father's heart with pride and great expectations and he sincerely hoped that he would see his son among the greatest Rabbis of Poland. After having been a brilliant student under famous teachers of Jewish divinity and law, he successfully completed his rabbinical studies at the age of seventeen.

However, he felt no inclination towards a rabbinical career, and being versatile and gifted as he was, finally devoted himself to commercial undertakings.

The writer remembers well the time when Nahum Israel launched a bus line between his native Rypin and Plock, the county seat. His ambitious outlook led him to order for this line, a bus with such comforts as would be considered modern even today. Unfortunately, road maintenance under the Russian government was extremely poor and afforded no scope for such an enterprise.

This and other experiences proved to him that there was no future in Poland for his extraordinary talents. In the year 1913, he immigrated to America where he found the environment more favourable in which to activate his uncommon abilities.

Without benefit of formal college training, Nahum Israel's natural talent led him to invent several industrial machines and eventually to put up an enterprise which grew and flourished to a point where it employed hundreds of blues and

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white-collared works. After years of strenuous work, Nahum Israel acquired his due place in American life and is today a well-established man.

Nevertheless, his success did not affect him in any way and he is still the same Nahum Israel with the warm Jewish heart; nor did he forget the teachings of his early years, and to this day, he greatly enjoys a lively discussion or debate on Jewish law.

He has been a true American for almost fifty years now and is a staunch believer in his country's way of life and democratic institutions; besides, he has deep Jewish national

 

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Mr. Nathan Warsaw, a prominent figure in the Democratic Party of New York with President J.F. Kennedy in 1961

[Page 46]

feelings and is modest by nature. He is, of course, well versed in English but his Yiddish, when he speaks it, is pure and flawless.

He contributes much towards Jewish institutions – both in personal effort and financially and this he does with the utmost modesty. He has been to Israel three times already and loves nothing better than to meet with “fellow Rypiners” and to reminisce together on “days gone by”.

On the occasion of his 75th birthday, he allocated a considerable sum to set up a mutual help fund for former Rypiners in Israel.

For the extent of his achievement, Nahum Israel has to thank, in no small measure, his loving and active wife Zipora, a neat, intelligent and understanding lady who, in the course of a long and harmonious companionship, has been his true helpmate in every way.

I am sure I am expressing the true and sincere feelings of all Rypin people in wishing Nahum Israel, upon his 75th birthday, a long and happy life and may he have strength and health in his old age together with his beloved Zipora.


[Page 47]

Isidore Feld, In Appreciation

Yosef Ronen

One of the heads of the “Landmannschaft” of Rypin in New York, among the first to heed to every national and social event and plea in Jewish life, Isidore Feld, born in 1895, left Rypin in 1910 for the U.S. where he lives up to now.

For 16 years he was Chairman of the “Landsmannschaft” of Rypin in N.Y. Before World War I, he organised in N.Y. the

 

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Isidore Feld

 

“Maot Hitim” for the Jewish community of Rypin and after the war, he organised help in sending food packages, clothing and financial aid to Rypin.

After World War II, Isidore Feld came forward to help and assistance for the remnants of the Holocaust in Rypin. Once again, it was manifested in sending food packages and monetary help, both personal and collective.

With great satisfaction it should be pointed out the buying of the Scroll of Law that was rescued from one of the synagogues in Rypin and brought to the U.S. Isidore Feld

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had dedicated it to the memory of his late mother, Shprinza-Necha Feld, of blessed memory, and brought it, with the assistance of the Histadrut Fund Drive to Israel.

Isidore Feld was instrumental in establishing the cash of “Gmilut Hasadim” for the Association of Jews from Rypin in Israel. This monetary fund, strengthened with a special fund drive, helped to plant trees in the Forest of Martyrs in Israel in the name of the Martyrs of Rypin.

May our dear friend Isidore Feld enjoy for many years to come a most prosperous and creative life to chair the various funds of assistance for the national and social revival, and may all his friends derive pleasure from his Jewish heart-warm and generous.

 

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Certificate on the Redeeming of the Scroll of Law from Rypin

 

[Page 49]

Charles Cohn: The Man & His Activities

Shmuel Cohen

It is almost impossible to make a résumé of a period and to reminisce about Jewish life in Rypin, both cultural and social, without mentioning the name of Charles Cohn.

When we are looking back to those days when all of us lived in Rypin, during the regime of the Czar when Jewish national and public life was trampled underneath, during the short renaissance which coincided with the zenith of World War I and the fall if Imperial Russia and the Revolution that

 

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Charles Cohn

 

Followed immediately, throwing open the gates of liberty and freedom – at that time there appeared in our midst leaders and public figures, men of sterling qualities and noble-spirited who had inspired our youth with the fire of their enthusiasm, spiritually and actively paving for them the path towards our National Home, Eretz Israel; from its ranks a most constructively creative youth appeared who is a glory of our people here in Israel.

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Charles Cohn, our friend and comrade is one of the above-mentioned leaders of our town under whose leadership and guidance Jewish life, cultural, social and national blossomed in Rypin. Being the head of the “Biblioteka” for many years, Mr. Cohn is well-known for the literal evenings, recitations and lectures initiated and sponsored by him, as well as for the Drama Circle whose performances are well-remembered by those who saw them at the traditional Hanukkah and Purim evenings.

Charles Cohn was well-known in the Zionist and organisational circles in Rypin making, on them, his authentic imprint by the work well done. It is sufficient to point out that among his friends were Asher Dobrzynski, Yzhak Zaks, Yehiel Plocer and many others, the names of whom will be reverently remembered by all of us.

Although Charles Cohn left Rypin for the U.S. in 1923, he had never severed his ties with his friends and comrades, never forgot his hometown.

In the years of the Holocaust he had revealed an unmatched initiative and activity in organising the “Landsmannschaft” for the cause of giving assistance to the refugees of our town.

We are most happy to point out Mr. Cohn's activity and devotion in publishing the “Book of Rypin”, in which his part is far from being small, and wish him many years of creative activity.


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Rypiner Relief Activities

 

Direct contact with Rypin Established

At last we can obtain first-hand information about our friends and relatives in Europe. 60 Jewish residents of Rypin returned to our home town and formed a committee: “Komitet Zydowski”. We have been corresponding with them. We received a list of 150 names of Rypiner refugees with whom the committee in Rypin has established contact. This list gives names, ages, names of parents and last-known country of residence.

Those who examined the list of survivors found many familiar names. We hope to receive news of more of our friends and relatives. Meanwhile, your committee is helping whomever it can.

All aid to Rypin is sent directly to “Komitet Zydowski” with instructions to distribute it equally.

 

Relatives Sought

The Rypiner Relief Committee has made many efforts to communicate with relatives of many Rypiner refugees who wrote to us. We have on file letters and cables from China, Italy, Poland, etc. These refugees plead for letters from their relatives. We have been fortunate in locating some relatives in New York and out of town. Almost everyone contacted realizes the need for sending affidavits and aid and willingly accepts the obligation.

 

Over 1500lbs of clothing and food shipped

The Rypiner Relief Committee has shipped to Rypin during the last few weeks over 100 packages of food and clothing. Old clothing was collected by members and packaged for mailing. In addition, we purchased and shipped several hundred pounds of coffee, tea, vitamins, soap, etc. We wish

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to thank all who so generously donated clothing in almost excellent condition.

Many of us sent packages directly to Rypin. If you wish to do so, mail packages to an address of friends you know or to:

Komitet Zydowski
Rypin
Ul. Kosciuszka N°2
Poland

Wrap them strongly, just under 11lbs with no dimension over 42”.

 

Old Clothing Depot

Ship via Railway Express old clothing depot to Mr. Nathan Cohen, 729 Broadway, New York City. We shall pack for you and ship sale to Rypin.

 

Help for Artisans

The Rypiner Relief has sent to Italy a complete set of tools to a watchmaker of Rypin now liberated from a camp in Italy. This will enable him to establish a repair shop. The Committee expects to help many artisans in the same way.

 

Financial Help

The Rypiner Relief has sent, in the last few weeks, the sum of $1,450.00 to China, Italy, Poland and Palestine. Some of this money will make it possible for many to go to Palestine.

 

Food Packages for Passover

Arrangements are being made by your committee to ship to Rypin and elsewhere packages of matzos and other Passover products. If you wish to contribute for this purpose, please specify that your contributions are for.

For further information, write or call the Chairman Charles Cohn, 36 West 20th Street, New York 11, N.Y. Telephone: 9-4289.

 

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