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[Page 71]

Financial Branches and Institutions


[Pages 71-72]

The Cooperative Bank

by the late Zvi Goldberg, Tel-Aviv

Translated from Hebrew by Kutzi Weill

WWI [First World War], which lasted four years, havocked, as every war, economy in general and especially played havoc with the vulnerable Jews. War's inevitable side effects, like transportation disruption and other mishaps, naturally impacted severely the unproductive middle classes, including small craftsmen and merchant's class to which majority of Jews belonged.

With back to normality and revival of economy following the end of WWI, the Jews of Staszów, being main war victims and suffering financial hardship, had an urgent necessity to establish an independent Jewish credit institute which will mitigate financial stress and will open opportunities for commercial initiatives and normal commerce and craftsmanship's life. For this worthy task, at 1922, the Cooperative Bank, being one of the first of its kind in all Poland, was founded. The author of this document [= the undersigned] was among the initiators and founders of the Cooperative Bank.

Despite the poor funding capital of the new institution, 2,500 zlotys, based on 10 zloty's member share, the Bank slowly but surely developed to be a financial factor of the first grade, not only for Staszów Jews, but in a sense also for surrounding commercial life.

The annual turnover of the bank along years got up to one million zloty, at those days a significant size.

It is to be noted that the founders and directors of the Cooperative Bank were motivated by their belief that they work for the Jewish public welfare rather than their own interests.

As an example, frequently, according to owner's plea and despite the risk involved, payable bills, was not sent to protest. Such an extension, even for few days, is much more precious than a loan, since it helps to keep the owners' good reputation and help to prevent weakening of his status in the community. More than that, the Cooperative Bank, apart from regular banking activities, served Jewish community, on totally private plane, as charity source, an activity which usually thought to have nothing with banking.

Thus, by realizing, at least the third part of the known Mishnah saying “The world is based on the Torah, on Labor and on Charity”, the Bank's owners and founders expressed their public mission's vision.

Annually, the banks' statement, including all deals, and elections for board of directors and management had been held. Those definitely democratic elections had been a most important event in the local Jewish community. Despite livelihoods' difficulties, many Jews left their shops or workshops at the Election Day and went to the annual meeting, personally taking part in the debates, decisions and elections – thus influencing bank affairs conductance for the coming year.

This is a clear indication for the level of significance related by the Jewish community to the Bank, an institution seen not as private property of some people holding high positions, but owned by the public, all shareholders left their sign on the way it is run.

The Bank, a most important financial institution, affiliated to the Jewish Cooperation Alliance in Poland had a very good reputation in trade world; its stamp is good money around all Poland.

The Bank was headed by a board composed of three members [David Tauman, Szmul Helmer and the undersigned], assisted by six member's council, including Dr. Ratinóv, Benjamin Tochterman, Avraham Nisenbaum, Chaim Albaum, Josef Segal and Chaim Neta Erlichman.

Accountancy was conducted by Hershele Tauman, who was, when moved to Warsaw, replaced by Szmul Szaniecki, his former deputy.

Concluding, it is allowed to say, that at it's time, The Bank, faithfully fulfilled the task it was founded for, to serve the Jewish community as a convenient credit source and helped allot to develop normal commercial life, enhancing personal initiatives and support for the man in the street.

[Pages 72-73]

Social Action during World War II

by Tzvi Goldberg, Tel Aviv

Translated from Yiddish by Leonard Levin

A hailstorm of harsh decrees–new ones daily–rained on the heads of the Jews in the areas of Nazi conquest, including the Jews of Staszów.

First of all, it was forbidden for Jews to leave their zones of residence, and later they were forced to stay within a suffocating and stinking Procrustean bed–in the form of crowded ghettos–and were forbidden, by force of the new reality, to come into any contact with the Polish population.

One of the words that was most common in those hard days–a word whose meaning was decisive regarding the Jewish situation and fate–was Verboten [forbidden]. Jews encountered this cruel word every step of the way, as it limited and constricted the possibilities of existence to below the minimum.

But this word, with all its destructive consequences, not least because it smacked of physical threat and danger to Jewish lives, involved insult and humiliation to the divine image within the Jewish person. These special circumstances necessarily had the effect that a large portion of the Jewish community in Staszów–not counting the bloody sacrifices that this community was forced to suffer at regular intervals and not counting the various contributions in the form of cash, jewelry, furs that they were forced to produce every other day–lost most of their sources of livelihood and were down to their last slice of bread.

This situation was made even worse by virtue of the fact that our town had to absorb several hundred refugees, many of whom came with nothing, who had escaped from Łódź, Kraków, Warsaw, and other cities in the hope of finding refuge with us.

Trying to remain one step ahead of the calamity, the Judenrat sprang into action at the initiative of its head, Efraim Zinger, and with the active assistance of a number of men possessed of a sense of responsibility for the fate of the community that was now placed in such distress–such as Mendel Frydman, Icek Tuchman, Menachem Lipszyc, Majer Bidlowski, the Rotman brothers (refugees from Łódź), and the Lejezrowicz brothers (also refugees)–to set up a kitchen for the poor in order to ease somewhat the situation of hundreds of people hungry for bread, especially among the refugees. The kitchen was set up in the Hasidic beit midrash on Lower Rytwiańska Street.

At the same time, the branch of TOZ[1], which had existed in town before the war, was reactivated. The late Dr. Kirszenbaum was appointed to be the head of the branch. This man–a man of great personal charm, loved by all–took things seriously by acting to the best of his ability–and even more so–to establish the health services of the Jewish population at a proper level, despite the emergency conditions. While fulfilling his obligation to medical ethics and the sense of responsibility and devotion to the other that motivated him, he fell in the line of duty. During the typhus epidemic that broke out in town, Dr. Kirszenbaum disregarded his own safety, working night and day to provide assistance to all in need of it. This action of his, working under those conditions, made the difference. In the end, he himself succumbed to infection and died a short time later.

Despite the conditions of the war, his funeral was attended by a large audience of people who paid him the last respects; this included the majority of the local Jewish population, as well as a portion of the Polish population.

May his memory be for a blessing!

After Dr. Kirszenbaum's death (incidentally, no remnant of his family survived, for his wife and only daughter also perished at the hands of the Nazis), the leadership of the institute passed to the writer of these lines. TOZ worked hard to organize health services for the Jewish population. Indeed, it was not easy, at the height of the war, to obtain experienced and reliable workers, not to mention medical and hospital supplies. Still, the institution excelled in its work and was often helped by non–Jewish health institutes.

In that period, a Jewish committee for mutual aid, called ZSS (Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna[2]), with headquarters in Kraków, was founded in Poland. An executive stood at the head of the branch of this committee in Staszów, headed by this author, and his colleagues included Mordecai Pomerancblum; Magister Sztern (a refugee from Łódź); Reuben Berech Hercig, secretary; and Mordecai Sonszajn, treasurer.

The branch of the committee took under its care the orphaned health institute TOZ and even supported the kitchen. The branch of the committee encompassed all the social services and all the health services, organizing widespread assistance activities for the many needy of Staszów's impoverished and humiliated Jews, including refugees.

A well–equipped infirmary, according to the concepts of the time and those conditions, supplied medical aid to about 2,000 people.

The physicians of TOZ–the committee–included Dr. Bergson (a refugee from Warsaw) and Dr. Elias Frydman, while those serving as dentists included Szajndel and Szlama Frydman.

It is proper to mention that much assistance to the medical services was rendered by a medical assistant named Pincki, a refugee from Kraków.

The council also organized a women's group of social workers under the management of Magister Riwka Troper.

Perl Tuchman, Perl Rozengarten, Dina Rozenblum, and others belonged to this group. These also contributed their part to easing the poverty and suffering of the Jews of Staszów and the refugees out of the guarded hope for the coming of the day that would release us from the horrors of the period of the “new order”–an expectation that was mostly disappointed.


  1. TOZ: Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia; fuller name: Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej w Polsce przy Centralnym Komitecie Żydow w Polsce (Health Care Organization of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland). See https://portal.ehri-project.eu/units/us-005578-irn516513, http://www.jhi.pl/psj/TOZ and collections.ushmm.org/findingaids/RG-15.107M_01_fnd_pl_en.pdf (acknowledgement to Leszek Tyboń for this identification and these references). return
  2. ZSS–Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna (Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe = Jewish Social Mutual Assistance). See http://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn501668 and http://www.jhi.pl/inwentarze#94 (acknowledgement to Leszek Tyboń for this identification and these references). return

[Pages 74-77]

The Shoe Industry

by Menachem Lifshitz, Giv'atayim, Israel

Translated from Yiddish by Kasriel Brum

Jewish business activity in the small Polish towns makes for an especially interesting, and instructive chapter in socioeconomics; not only to establish the economic foundations on which the Jewish settlements existed in the midst of an environment which was controlled by others, but also in order to derive conclusions regarding their social and political positions.

My purpose in the following work is entirely modest: I will try to give as far as possible an objective overview concerning the story and development of the shoe division, the most important business branch involving the 5000 Jews in the town, which made up about 50% of the general population.

That vibrant Jewish Kehilla[1], pulsating with life, also drew livelihoods from a lot of other economic branches including a) grain merchants of smaller and larger operations, b) wood merchants, c) groceries and general goods (galanteria) stores[2], d) market place salesmen-the so called Tandatnikers[3], and others.

Decidedly, the (premier) economic activity of the shtetl was the multi-branched shoe production, from which a major portion of the Staszówer Jews derived an honorable occupation-until the time that the Nazi's (may their memory be blotted out) destroyed all Jewish business along with the Jews.

In Staszów, which until the First World War, belonged to the Russian Occupation Authority and thru which, due to its geographic location, ran the main highway from Russia to the Austrian, Hungarian and German borders-the Russians put up large artillery storage facilities and horse stalls, a large church and most importantly military barracks (Karzames in Russian) in which were stationed the military garrisons.

As an important consumer, the Garrison resulted in the establishment of specialized businesses in the shtetl, geared to the needs of the military forces, and there arose not only purveyors (Padreitshikes in Russian), who provided all necessary products for the military, but also a total array of artisans (in Yiddish, Bal-Maloches) such as saddlers, tailors, shoemakers, and hat makers and so forth: jobs which afforded them support while maintaining respectable positions in providing for the military effort. The great majority of the above mentioned positions fell into Jewish hands, with the one exception of the shoe craft which mainly was occupied by Christians.

When the garrison moved, probably for military reasons, in about 1906 to Kalisz which was closer to the German border, a serious crisis broke out in the town. Especially critical was the situation of the Jewish craftsmen and purveyors, whose entire income derived from their military connections. Indeed, some of these Jews followed the garrison in order to continue their already established businesses. In contrast, the majority of Polish shoemakers (non-Jewish) who already possessed, in addition to their skills, a bit of land and their own cottage, stayed in the town; Similarly, the majority of Jews who had “lost their bread” and did not have the means to move with the military, remained in the town and soon began to develop new sources of business-especially shoe production.

Three factors allowed for the rise of the massive shoe-production in our town.

  1. The local leather production of an array of Jewish tanneries.
  2. A conspicuous number of Jewish shoe upper-part makers (Kamashenmacher in Yiddish)
  3. An even larger number of shoemakers, mostly Polish gentiles.[4]
At first, the production methods were quite primitive and initially only children's shoes were made using locally produced leather. Also, sales were limited to the Shtetl and the nearest surrounding villages. Later, thanks to the energy and enterprising spirit of the Jewish merchants, production was greatly refined and enlarged, and at the same time efforts were made to penetrate markets in more distant Polish provinces, reaching as far as Volhynia and eastern Galicia.

During the War years, (1914-1918), all trade in general diminished, the leather business was entirely forbidden and so the still young shoe industry almost entirely fell apart. However, as soon as the War ended, the Jewish shoe enterprisers with fresh, redoubled energy began to renew their work with endless dedication and drew their attention to the aesthetics and improvement of the shoe industry (in general) as well as the orderly growth of the new heel market.

As an administrator-member of the Staszów Shoe Merchants Guild and as a person who knew the industry well from the inside, I would like to give over here a variety of more-or-less exact details, both in the numerical holdings of all those parties involved in the industry in various divisions, as well as the established work methods that were used.

Of the 40 official Jewish shoe entrepreneurs all drew their direct financial existence fully or partially from the following business branches:

  1. 60 Jewish upper-shoe piece workshops which employed, besides the owners and usually their families, close to 200 apprentices and students of various categories and levels of earning.
  2. Close to 1000 shoemakers, both self-employed and also employees; they were active in about 200 large and small workshops in the town alone as well as in the surrounding villages.
  3. There were 10 Jewish tanneries where mostly upper-leathers were produced in various colors and qualities. By the way, thanks to the improved qualities and aesthetics which the Jewish tanneries developed, they eventually occupied a well respected place in the general requirements for soft leather. This created splendid prospects for the future for the local shoe industry.
  4. More than 20 Jewish stores (which sold) hard and soft leather; both imported from Kraków, Radom, Szydlów, as well as from the local production.
  5. Ten Jewish shops, for shoemaker and spat-maker (upper-leather) parts (and accessories) the so called Tzudatin (accessory) shops.
  6. The larger shoe merchants also employed ten agents who transported the Staszów shoes to the most distant Polish areas.
  7. Besides the above mentioned forty shoe-entrepreneurs, there were also those active, about sixty Jewish and Christian shoemakers, who had their own independent production to sell directly to the consumers, both during the two market days (Mondays and Thursdays) and also during market days in the nearer cities and towns.
The Work Methods in the (production) division:

Every shoe enterpriser had established working relationships with designated upper-part leather workers and also with designated shoe makers. The merchants ordered the upper leathers-by us they were in general called chalevkes[5] - and presented them to the shoe makers. In order to finish the product, the latter received the necessary additional materials from the leather and tzudatin (shoe accessory) stores, on the basis of certified, accredited notes (nicknamed Matbea[6]). These notes were signed and stamped by the shoe merchants, to be paid out at an exact set time.

This system was created to two reasons: 1) to discourage abuse by the Christian shoemakers who were, in general, known not to be adverse to the “bitter drops” (alcoholic spirits) and therefore it was prudent not to put cash in their hands and 2) the system served as an indirect financing of the business which required large amounts of money, which occasionally far exceeded the financial capabilities of the entrepreneurs.

As mentioned, the upper leathers (chalevkes) were procured by the shoe merchants. But the accessories required to finish the upper leathers was provided by the upper-leather craftsmen as their own responsibility. There were also those upper-leather craftsmen of means who produced the chalevkes on their own (financial) count, then sold them to independent enterprising shoemakers and occasionally to the shoe merchants.

The shoe orders which arrived not only from the immediate environment but also from distant Polish provinces were in the majority of cases packed in boxes or plywood containers and sent off on the “small” train or by mail. There were, however, not a few merchants from near and sometimes from distant areas who often came alone to the town particularly in the proper seasons in order to purchase on the spot their requirements and carried them off by themselves.

In order to obtain an idea of the scope of the Staszów shoe industry, which was by the way organized in its own Merchants Union, it will be enough to remember the official statistics from the tax rolls of the year 1938-1939. According to those statistics and considering only the merchandise which was sent by train or mail without counting the packages which were carried out manually or sent out by other means: amounted to greater than one million zlotys.

To conclude, I would like to mention and this is without the slightest suspicion of exaggeration, that just about the entire town, in one way or the other, in a greater or lesser degree was impacted by this town wide industry.

Also the two Jewish well established banks: the Bank Spoldgiltsze and the Bank Kopicky had the greater part of their banking operations to thank for the existence and development of the shoe industry.

I can't end the article without mentioning in at least a few lines the fact that in the shtetl also existed also another branch of economic enterprise-the production of whips and walking sticks. Also, these business divisions just like the shoe production were developed through Jewish endurance and energy, producing income for many tens of Jewish and non-Jewish families. Thanks to the good quality and aesthetic appearances of these items, as well as the enterprising spirit of the owners of these small industries those productions received a good name and became well known and spread out over all of Poland.

Alter Band Mosze Lieberman
Avrum Baum Jehoszua Lincfeld
Herszel Brendzel Menachem Lipszyc (lives in Israel)
The widow and brother Goldhar Pintsze Nisengarten
Jakob Goldlust Herszel Nisencwajg (lives in Brazil)
Szmelke Glatsztajn Majer Krakauer
Mendel Dyzenhaus Widow of Abraham Rizenberg
Josef Wajngarten Jehoszua Wolf Rosencwajg
Judel Wajngarten Josef Rajch
Herszel Wagner Jakob Rosenberg
Leizer Watman Abrahamtsze Rosensztok
Ayzek Wolman Zalman Szajner
Chaim Wincygster Elchanan Szterenlicht (lives in Canada)
Mosze Zylbersztajn Mendel Sznifer
Yisrael Eliezer Tenenbaum Leibel Szwarc
Betsalel Tenenwurcel Aron Sztalryt
Awner Jaskolka Szimon Aszer Sztajnfeld
Bencion Kohen  

At the end of the article (above) is recognized approx. complete list of the Jewish Shoe Merchants who were active in the Shtetl.


  1. Kehilla-(Hebrew)- organized Jewish community return
  2. Galanteria' (Polish) -clothing accessories such as buttons, ribbons, belts, purses, etc. return
  3. Tandatnikers (Polish) those who stood in the market and sold lower quality items. In the article the Yiddish alternative to Tandatnikers was “Mark Steier”-or Market place Stander return
  4. Shoe manufacturing was divided into various specialties- the tanneries produced mostly soft leathers which was used for the upper parts of shoes. These “upper” leathers were refined by the upper leather workers (kamashenmachers). The upper leathers were eventually presented to the shoe makers who fitted the upper leathers on sole, added accessories and created the finished product. There were also stores that sold imported hard and soft leather. And stores that sold accessories needed by the shoemakers and the upper leather workers- the so-called Tzudatin shops. return
  5. Chalevkes-the Polish-Yiddish term for the “uppers” (equivalent to Kamashen in Germanic Yiddish). Kamashen are also a name for ‘Spats’. return
  6. Matbea-(Hebrew) = coin. The notes which were signed and stamped by the merchants as sold as a kind of internal shoe production currency or scrip were called “matbeas” (coins) though they were actually paper notes (in Yiddish, “kvitlech”). return

[Pages 78-79]

The Jewish Craftsmen's Union

by Meyer Weber, Sao Paolo

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

The “Jewish Craftsmen's Union” in Staszów was an institution that had tremendous significance for a large part of the town's Jewish population. The socio–economic structure of the Jewish community – the thousands of Jewish craftsmen in all the economic branches and professions, such as tailors, shoe stitchers, cobblers, whip–makers, carpenters, locksmiths, hat–makers, clockmakers and others – not only favored the establishment of such an institution, but made it absolutely necessary.

Most of the craftsmen of the town were not very learned in the technicalities of Polish law. Confronted in the newly reconstituted Poland by a deluge of laws and decrees designed chiefly to impede their development, and often even their right to economic existence, they relied on the Craftsmen's Union as a truly life–saving source of support in their daily struggle to survive.

The Union did more than defend the interests of the craftsmen as a whole –and these interest were as varied as the entire class – against the Polish administration, which mobilized all the powers of the state to carry out the discriminatory laws to their fullest extent. It also marshaled all the resources at its disposal to assist the individual craftsman in any way it could, to provide not only formal legal assistance, but also other aid, such as a loan, or simply providing advice to all members.

In their sincere concern for the Jewish craftsman community, the Union leadership did not get involved in extraneous matters, and didn't think in political terms. They just distributed help, in whatever form necessary, to every Jewish craftsman, regardless of his political beliefs.

The Union not only enjoyed the full support of its membership; it was respected by all segments of the Jewish population in Staszów, and even by the Polish administration.

We want to honor the Union activists, headed by its devoted chairman, Yosef Zalcberg. These included: Yeheskl Wargier, Simche Goldhar, Meyer Goldhar, Simche Rzezak, Mendl Goldfarb, Sholem Goldfarb, Chaim Zalmen Cukier, Yisroel Wajsbraut, Yehiel Binyomen Wajsbraut, Zalmen Wajsbraut, Yeheskl Aichen, Zalmen Lipman, Aron Rubin, et.al.

All of these did their best to raise up the economic, social and intellectual condition of the masses of Jewish craftsmen, a group whose struggle for existence was a link in the chain of the general struggle of Jewish craftsmen throughout Poland.

With the horrifying destruction of the entire Jewish community in Poland, came also the extinction of our fellow Staszówers. May these words serve as a memorial for these honest, hard working people, killed by the Nazis and their foul partners.

[Document, page 79]

[Caption] A Document from the Craftsmen's Union, 1924.

[Note in the original:] The translation of the document is printed here:

Staszów, December 1, 1924, Certification 12/24:

It is hereby certified that Pan Max Weber of Staszów works in our Union as administrative secretary, conducts himself well, and enjoys our trust in all areas. This certification is issued to Max Weber as a letter of introduction of the Central Jewish Craftsmen's Union in Warsaw. (stamped) Chairman, Y. Zalcberg.

[Pages 80-82]

Purchasing Age

by Moshe Rotenberg

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

Among the colorful array of Jewish trades in Staszów, the purchasing agents, the so–called “shpilitern” [sing. shpiliter] occupied a special place. This was a branch of the economy that provided a very difficult and hard–earned livelihood for only a few families. But inasmuch as the economic activity and development of almost all the town's merchants and artisans depended to a large degree on this group, it merits a few lines about its participants.

But before we turn to the specific characteristics of each of the purchasing agents individually, we will portray some of the essential physical and mental qualities common to all of them, without which they could not have continued to practice their difficult and responsible profession:

Berl Apelbaum

His status as the foremost purchasing agent was well earned. He was so active and dynamic, so adaptable, that he didn't need to be given much instruction; he understood everything immediately, filling hundreds of orders fully and accurately, as if the person who commissioned him were right there. Whether it was a needle, some thread, or a cobbler's last, he took on the errand willingly and completed it in full. If anyone wanted to send a bit of chicken fat or cookies to a son studying [in the big city], to deliver a straw hat, or to send a machine for repair, the safest bet was to entrust it to Berl Shpiliter.

He was on such good terms with the train conductors that he often smuggled in one of the students travelling to Warsaw to study, but who didn't have money to pay the fare.

But as quick and lively he was during the week, he was serene and quiet on the Sabbath. He would drive all thoughts of business from his mind, leaving behind the tensions of the whole week. He would walk, uncharacteristically slowly and solemnly, to the synagogue to pray. Having satisfied his spiritual needs, he would later enjoy a pleasant time with his family and friends, so as to be ready, on Saturday night, to put his shoulder to the wheel of earning a living.

He died, along with his wife and child in 1943, in the Sandomierz “Judenstaat,”[1] leaving behind two daughters and a son in Canada.


Avrom Nisenbaum

Avrom Nisenbaum, a calm, shrewd merchant, worked his way up from being among the first longtime purchasing agents to become the proprietor of a well–run haberdashery shop in the very middle of the market place.

A prominent, active participant in community affairs, and one of the most important and devoted Mizrachi activists[2], Avrom Nisenbaum dedicated his efforts to the Talmud Torah[3] and the cheder metukn[4], and also participated in all fundraising and institutions of a nationalist [Zionist] character. Avrom Nisenbaum was also among the first representatives of Mizrachi on the town council, the kehile[5], etc.

He was killed by the Nazis.


Chaim Goldfarb

Although he carried out his duties completely and acted honorably toward his clients, like the other purchasing agents, Chaim Goldfarb was a person with a difficult character. Because he was demanding and inflexible, some people avoided him. But because of his scrupulousness and honesty, many merchants stuck with him for decades.[6]

He died in the Skarżysko Camp.


Efraim Zyngier (Singer)

He began his business career as a purchasing agent. But with his extraordinary dynamism and his sharp mind, despite his limited learning, he soon became a merchant, running a large, fine business. But because of his ebullient, energetic nature, this wasn't enough to satisfy him. He became a dynamic community activist.

He was so talented, and his mind was so sharp, that his marked ignorance and the fact that he was incapable of putting together a decent sentence –– not only in Polish but in Yiddish as well –– in no way impeded him from occupying first place as a community and political activist.

His fine manners and elegant appearance gave him an air of respectability and polish. As one of the most respected and able leaders of Agudas Israel[7], he was for many years president of the Jewish kehile and member of the town council and a proud defender of Jewish interests – as he understood them. As head of the Judenrat, he often displayed great courage in his dealings with the German authorities. He died as the first victim on the day of the deportation, the 28th day of Cheshvan, November 8, 1942.


Shmelke Ajzenberg

A young man, a so–called “gifted scholar,” a bit of a maskil[8] and good bal tfile[9], he wasn't born to be a purchasing agent. But people will do anything they can to earn a living – even play the bear in a circus!

So what if the main route, Staszów to Warsaw, was already taken? It didn't take him long to claim his “own” route-Staszów to Łódź.

There came a day –it was the first day he practiced his new trade –that Reb Shmelke arrived late at the train station in Łódź, just before the train was about to depart. As was usual for purchasing agents, he was heavily loaded up with packages and, fearful that the train would leave without him, he asked a refined looking young man who just “happened” to appear, to help him toss his packages onto the train.

Reb Shmelke stood below on the platform, while the young man – the “angel from heaven” – stood in the train, catching the packages he tossed up, and “took care” of them –– by throwing them out the train window on the other side! As the final whistle blew, Reb Shmelke boarded the train with his final packages. When he realized he had been swindled, it was too late. That was how he paid the tuition for his first lesson.

But he didn't become discouraged. Despite this initial failure, he later became a talented purchasing agent, who great level–headedness performed his job as well as any of his fellow tradesmen.

In the area of communal life, he was one of the most active of the leaders of Mizrachi, working tirelessly for the Mizrachi educational program, as well as every Zionist effort in general. He was also a personable, friendly man, whose wit and cheerfulness made him beloved by all social segments of the town.

He was killed by the Nazis.


Anshel Hajman

Anshel Hajman also had his “own” route. A reliable, clever, proficient person, he was for years the sole purchasing agent on the Staszów–Tarnów–Kraków route, carrying out his duties intelligently and responsibly.

As a scholar of traditional Jewish learning and with an understanding of modern ideas that had penetrated into the Jewish world, he gave his children complete freedom in choosing their life paths. He himself was a dedicated Mizrachi activist, working with a devotee's enthusiasm and with great optimism, in all areas of Mizrachi programs.

With a good ear for music, and a pleasant voice, he was for many years bal tfile and bal koyre[10] in the Mizrachi minyan[11], and before that, also in the shtibl[12] of Reb Velvele Frydman.

He was killed along with his community during the “deportation.”


  1. Sandomierz “Judenstaat”: Ironic term that the Nazis used to refer to the Sandomierz ghetto. return
  2. Mizrachi: religious Zionist movement. return
  3. Talmud Torah: charitable religious school for children. return
  4. Cheder metukn: modern religious school for children. return
  5. Kehile: the organized Jewish community's governing council. return
  6. Skarżysko camp: forced munitions labor factory. return
  7. Agudas Israel: the chief non–Zionist Orthodox organization. return
  8. Maskil: A follower of the Enlightenment. return
  9. Bal tfile: A lay prayer–leader. return
  10. Bal koyre: One who reads from the Torah in the synagogue. return
  11. Minyan: a (regular) group (of ten or more men) that gathers together for daily or Sabbath prayers. return
  12. Shtibl: (literally “small room”) A small, regular gathering place for daily or Sabbath prayers. return

[Pages 83-84]

Watchmakers and Goldsmiths

by Moshe Rotenberg

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

For ages, watchmaking and goldsmithery were considered by Jews to be clean, refined and respectable occupations. When a respectable Jew whose profession was not so lucrative started to think about providing for the future livelihoods of his grown children, his first thought was of watchmaking or goldsmithery. And when a Jew who was well versed in religious learning considered the well know Talmudic advice, “A man should always teach his sons a clean and easy profession,”[1] he immediately associated it with these two trades.

Today, with all the tremendous technological developments, there exist tens, even hundreds of professional specializations that are immeasurably more precise than the watchmaker's craft. The discovery of electricity, radio, telephone and the development of electronics, have given rise to such a varied and numerous array of professions, for which the description “clean and easy” is much more appropriate than it is for watchmaking and goldsmithery. But decades ago, there were very few trades that could measure up in this respect.

There are people who had an inclination for mechanics, and also who had a bit of intelligence and manual dexterity, who were sent by their parents to learn these trades. And, in fact, almost all of them were well versed in Jewish learning and intelligent, and many also quite enlightened and well read.


Reb Yisroelke “Zeygermakher” (“Watchmaker”)

I remember him as the leading watchmaker in Staszów. A learned man, to whom people often came for advice, or to engage in a scholarly discussion, or simply to hear his views on current communal issues. With his patriarchal appearance, his wide, handsome beard and shining face, he made quite a nice impression on everyone with whom he came in contact.

He was considered a gifted craftsman, not only as a watchmaker, but also as a goldsmith, an expert on precious stones, and he ran a successful business. He was a prominent man in the town and later moved to Łódź, where he ran a successful jewelry business.


Reb Pinye “Goldshmid” Wajnberg

The father of Chaiml and Moshke Wajnberg, Reb Pinye was a well known goldsmith, who produced artistic jewelry-embossed carved and engraved.

He was also an intelligent man, a bit of a Torah scholar and an active member of the town's Mizrachi [religious Zionists] organization. His sons were also goldsmiths, and helped their father in his profession. Notably, they specialized in creating gold and silver tokens for Hashomer Hatzair [Zionist youth].


Moyshe Dovid Weksler

He was called “Deaf Moyshe–Dovid”, and as a craftsman, in fact, he didn't rank high, but despite his deafness, he was quite intelligent, even called “gifted” by the locals and with a quick, sharp comprehension. He was also fanatically religious and also quite poor. In the town, people would wonder, “How is it that a goldsmith goes about with his rings uncovered by gloves?”


Yosele “Goldshmid” Gliklich

Having taken over the trade from his father, Reb Sane Goldshmid, Yosele was a quiet, calm soul - a “jewel” of a person, who sat constantly at his work–table, engaged in his golden craft. He wasn't very rich, but he earned a respectable living, supporting a well–run household.

He was betrayed by a Christian neighbor, and killed in a bunker, together with several others, among them Yisroelke the cantor, and Mendel Lifshitz's family.


Reb Yehiel Klap

Among the best, noblest watchmakers in the town, an honorable and respectable man, incapable of dishonesty. Because of personal problems, he held himself apart from the community, avoiding contact with other people as much as possible.


Mordkhe “Zeygermakher” Goldwaser

In my article on “Staszów Maskilim” [p.355 of this book], I have already portrayed this fine person. But since we are discussing the watchmakers trade as a branch of the economy, we cannot overlook or fail to mention, in only in a few lines, one of its most important representatives, Mordkhe Zeygermakher.

Although he was called Mordkhe Watchmaker, that wasn't his most important specialty. What distinguished him from his fellow tradesmen was his skill with all kinds of machines. Wherever there was a problem with a sewing machine, gramophone, Pathé phone[2], or any other complicated mechanism, they brought it to Mordkhe. Like a skilled doctor, he was able to make a diagnosis, and most of the time to effect a cure.

But he didn't just do the job, accept his fee, and be done with it. Mordkhe Zeygermakher had to explain in detail how the mechanism worked, and not just in a straightforward way, but often interwoven with a proverb, a Talmudic saying, or even a quote from Sholem Aleichem, Mendele [Moykher Sforim] or Ahad–Ha'am.

He was killed in Paniatów.


Reb Alter Zeygermakher –Erlich

Last but not least, the well–known Reb Alter Zeygermakher, the father of our friend and editor of this book, [Elchanan Erlich]. Genial and lively, he was full of humor and wit. In his presence, sadness always had to give way to cheerfulness . And, if he happened to meet up with Reb Itshe Mancznik, a friend from his youth, the air was filled with laughter and joking that was contagious. They were always ready to tell one of their inexhaustible supply of stories about their home town, Wiślica, and these stories bubbled forth as from a spring, light and refreshing. Reb Itshe Mancznik was particularly good at this. A well–learned man, a Ger Hasid and all in all, very intelligent, his stories poured out as from a torn sack. And when Reb Itshe told a story, it was as if everything was happening before your eyes, so real, that you never tired of listening to him.

Both of them died in the Holocaust, along with their families.


  1. “A clean and easy profession” – Talmud Kiddushin 82a. return
  2. Pathé phone: an early gramophone. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path%C3%A9. return

[Pages 85-86]


by Moshe Rotenberg

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

The Jews of Staszów would jokingly ask, “What does a goy need a hat for, if he hasn't got any brains to protect? ” The answer to that was, “So that the Jewish hat–makers can make enough money to prepare for the Sabbath. ” But the fact that quite a few families relied for their support on hat–making was no joking matter. It required a lot of savvy to develop a manufacturing sector that was sufficiently diverse in type and quality to meet the head–ware requirements of various seasons and of various segments of the population. And the Jews did in fact manage to accomplish this, just as they had in other economic sectors, selling the goods they produced partly in their own stores, and mostly in the annual fairs in town and in other towns in the surrounding area.

And here is a list of the kinds of hats they produced: Tshikapes; caps with matte or shiny visors; warm winter hats made of sheepskin, karakul [baby lamb], cat skin; and the square, peasant hat called a “konfederatke”.[1] And then there were the hats worn by Jews: the common round, cloth weekday hats; the satin Sabbath hats; children's silk caps; and the shtreimls [large fur hats] made of skunk, sable, etc., which required special skill to make.


Reb Moyshe “Hitlmakher” [Hatmaker] Frydman

From among the older generation, I remember Reb Moyshe Hitlmakher (Volvele Frydman's father). He was renowned throughout the town as a fine craftsman. A young Jewish boy who donned a hat made by Reb Moyshe on a holiday, was as proud as if he had found the most beautiful treasure.


Reb Zalmen “Hitlmakher” Dajtlbaum

The second greatest expert in this field was Reb Zalmen Dajtlbaum (the father of Dr. Leon Tamri (New York) and Moyshe Daytlboym, who was once our theater director.

The peasants had such confidence in Reb Zalmen's hats – the quality of the goods as great as his integrity in doing business - that they were willing to pay double the going rate. And that was true of all his hats.

Reb Zalmen ran a first class workshop, employing sewing specialists who did their jobs perfectly, and so his wares were greatly esteemed among his clients.

Reb Zalmen was a prominent man in Staszów. He maintained a fine household, gave charity to many institutions, and saw to the education of his gifted sons.


Reb Akive “Hitlmakher” Dunajec

Reb Akive Hitlmakher (the father of the musician and later conductor of the orchestra of Hakoach [sports club]) was an entirely different kind of person. He was unable to stick to his work in his workshop. He always found time to stroll around the market place and the streets. And whenever he observed, with his sharp eye, a humorous scene or a comical human characteristic, he would seize on it, and work it into a story that he would later tell, imitating and making fun of the characters. But his comical bent was only part of his nature. He was at heart a calm and quiet man, and had great appreciation for education. He did everything he could to help his only son Yosele fulfill his musical training.


A Note

There were also other hat–maker families in town, especially from among the extended Flajszhakier family, who led a life of honest, peaceful hard work; the majority of whom eked out a meager living to support their many children. But I don't remember them sufficiently to memorialize them separately. Let these words serve to memorialize all the Jews – those mentioned and unmentioned – good, honest Jews, who were ripped up by their roots, and who exist no more.

Honor to their memory.


  1. Konfederatke: a squarish cap named after its use by the Polish Bar Confederation of nobles of 1768-72, and thereafter regarded as a symbol of Polish patriotism. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_Confederation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogatywka, and http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konfederatka. return

[Pages 87]

Statistical Data on Staszów

by Elchanan Erlich

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

Charts formatted by Leonard Levin

Here is a chart of Jewish industrial enterprises in Staszów, as presented in the book, Jewish Industrial Enterprises in Poland, produced under the direction of Engineer Eliezer Heller, pursuant to the survey of 1921, Volume Four, pp.114-125, Table A and Table A-1, Provinces of Kielce and Lublin. [Published in] Warsaw, 1923.

The attached list is far from exhaustive; in particular, it underreports the shoe and leather industry. But that is certainly not the fault of the author. An article in this book [p.74] by Menachem Lifshitz, “The Shoe Industry”, does a great deal to complete this chart and at the same time points out the great economic development of the town in the years following the First World War, especially in the leather and shoe industry.

Sectors Production
by Sector
Stone, Clay & Glass 2.4% 3.8% 6.8%
Metal 2.4% 1.4% 0.7%
Machinery 4.7% 2.8% 1.3%
Wood 3.1% 3.8% 4.6%
Leather 2.4% 4.8.7% 7.3%
Textiles 1.6% 1.1% 0.7%
Clothing 64.6% 69.6% 76.8%
Food 12.6% 9.4% 2.0%
Construction 4.7% 2.4% 0.7%
Cleaning 1.6% 0.7% 0.0%


Summary of the Town's Industrial Enterprises and Persons Employed

Enterprises Total
- With hired workers 72
- Without hired workers 55
Inactive 0
Total active & inactive 127


Persons Employed (In Season)

Workers   Total
Pct of
Self-employed   126 44.1%
Family members   9 3.1%
Hired workers      
- Jewish men 128    
- Jewish women 12    
-- Total Jews 140 140 49.0%
Non-Jewish men   11 3.8%
Total workers   286 100.0%

According to the provisional results of the general census of 1921, which are contained in the Statistical Monthly (Book V, Monthly #5, 1922), the town's general population amounted to 8, 368 persons. Details as to the size of the Jewish population have not yet been published.


Enterprises, Categories of Production, and Persons Employed - In Absolute Numbers

Enterprises Workers
Production Sectors Active &
in Sector
in Sector
Pct in Sector
Pct in Sector
Pct in
Men +
(men), Pct
in Sector
Stone, Earth & Related Industries 3 2 1 11 2, 18.2%   4, 36.4% 4+0 5, 45.4%
Metal Industry 3 1 2 4 3, 75%   1, 25% 1+0  
Machines & Related Industries 6 2 4 8 6, 75%   2, 25% 2+0  
Wood & Related Industries - Fabrication 4 4 0 11 4, 36.4%   7, 63.6% 7+0  
Leather, Fur & Related Industries 3 2 1 14 3, 21.4%   5, 35.7% 4+1 6, 42.8.7%
Textile Industry 2 1 1 3 2, 66.7%   1, 33.3% 0+1  
Clothing & Accessories Industry 82 56 26 199 82, 41.2% 1, 0.5% 116, 58.3% 105+11  
Food & Delicacies 16 3 13 27 16, 59.3% 8, 29.6% 3, 11.1% 3+0  
Chemical Industry 6 1 5 7 6, 85.7%   1, 14.3% 1+0  
Construction Industry 2 0 2 2 2, 100%        


[Pages 89]

A Boycott Proclamation from 1935

Yiddish text (translation from Polish) by Elchanan Erlich

English Translation from Yiddish by Miriam Leberstein

[NOTE: The source of this document is unknown. The text is presumably taken from a poster or pamphlet emanating from the right-wing National Democratic Party as a part of its campaign in Kielce Province to propagandize in favor of an anti-Jewish economic boycott in 1935-37. See footnote for direct English translation from Polish original by Dobrochna Fire.]

Poles and Citizens of Polish Villages! Farmers!

You, farmers and farm owners, constitute a huge majority of the Polish people. Moreover, you are the basis and foundation of the Polish state. We appeal to you to save Poland, to liberate it from a dangerous internal enemy, who eats away and oppresses the healthy organism of the Polish people and state, living off our arduous agricultural labor, feeding off your sweat. You farmers support masses of Jews, who destroy Polish business and trades. You give your hard-earned bit of money to the Jews at fairs and markets, buying various goods from them. You forget that 300,000 unemployed workers, millions of ruined agricultural workers and merchants, hundreds of thousands of your educated sons, are dying of hunger.

Remember! The well-being of Polish society depends on you. The thousands of Poles dying of hunger depend on you to make things better. You, and only you, can improve the fate of your brothers.

Poles! Farmers! Can your enrich the Jews and labor for them, to enable them to live in wealth?

Proprietors, men and women, and your Polish children! Remember: Don't buy from Jews. Buy from Poles, from Christians. Remember that the Jews are the major cause of the current impoverishment of Polish society. They enrich themselves through commerce, swindling Polish farmers, taking their last penny for tawdry goods. Let no citizen of a Polish village buy in a Jewish shop.

In Poland, bread and work are for the Poles, who for generations have possessed their land.

Every honorable Pole shall buy only from Christians, and in that way will help to improve the fate and economic condition of Polish society and the power of the Polish state.[1]


  1. The Yiddish translation seems to be pretty faithful to the Polish original. The following is an English translation made directly from the Polish, by Dobrochna Fire. Significant differences are underlined:

    Poles and Citizens of Polish Villages! Farmers!

    You, farmers and farm owners, constitute a huge majority of the Polish people. Therefore, you are the basis and foundation of the Polish state. We appeal to you to save Poland, to liberate it from the most dangerous internal enemy that is eating away at and oppressing the healthy organism of the Polish people and state. Four million Jews are preying on the healthy body of the State, living off your, farmers, arduous labor, growing fat on your sweat. Thanks to you, farmers, masses of Jews, who destroy Polish business and trades, are able to subsist. You give your hard-earned bit of money to the Jews at fairs and markets, buying various goods from them. You forget that 300,000 unemployed workers, millions of ruined agricultural workers and merchants, hundreds of thousands of your educated sons, Poles, are dying of hunger.

    Remember! The well-being of Polish society depends on you. The thousands of Poles dying of hunger depend on you to make things better. You, and only you, can improve the fate of your fellow countrymen.

    Poles! Farmers! Do you want to enrich the Jews and labor for them, so that they may live in wealth? Farmers, men and women, and you, Polish children! Remember not to buy from Jews.

    Buy from Poles, from Christians. Remember that the major cause of the current impoverishment of the masses of Polish society is Jewry, which enriches itself through commerce, swindling Polish farmers, taking their last penny for tawdry goods. Let no citizen of a Polish village buy in a Jewish shop. In Poland, bread and work are for the Poles, who for generations have farmed their own land. Every honorable Pole shall buy only from a Christian, and in that way will help to improve the fate and enrichment of Polish society and the might of the Polish state. Return


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