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[Col. 1841]

Landsmanchaft: Sventzian
Sventzianer Relief in New York

Brania Forus – Chasid, New York

Translation by Anita Frishman Gabbay

In 1906 a young man from Sventzian by the name of Belal Levinson arrived in New York. He was the son of Rivka and Meir, one of the well known families of Sventzian. Arriving in America he met up with those Sventzianers who came in 1900, among them: Sheina Richman, Chana Heyman, Abraham Bromberg. Levenson also remembers in the early 20's, a young man from Sventzian who arrived from a wealthy home, religious and honest. His ambition was to study in America, later his plans fell apart. He worked during the day, and studied at night. After earning some money, he decided to open a small factory in the center of New York and started to manufacture character – monograms for ladies clothing.

His factory became the center of many activities. We got letter from many Sventzianers from all over the world. He always helped, and was very beloved by all.

Poverty, need and despair drove Sventzianers to leave and wander all over the world, eventually some arriving on the shores of America.

Between 1905 – 1914, before the first World War, there were already here: Harry Beigel, son of Itze – Zelman the tailor, Harry Norek, son of Mordechai, Yosel and Aharon Jakobson, sons of Hirshl the Melamed, Frank Klatzko, son of Schaia the butcher. Lewis Isackson, son of the grocer, Chana Heyman, Max Grin(Green), son of Chaim, Harry Breiner and Harry Rich(Richman).

The above mentioned group of Sventzianers decided to organize in 1918, with Charles Levinson's help, the Sventzian Landmanchaft Society in America.They formed a committee to provide help and resources to their fellow Sventzianers. After World War 1, help in Sventzian was desperately needed.

Charles Levinson and the idea of the organization, set an example for other such relief societies. They elected Chana Heyman as its first President, and the finance secretary, Charles(Belel) Levinson, who was the primary source of help, and he carried the burden mostly upon himself. Being young in spirit,

[Col. 1842]

Bellel – Charles Levinson


and young in years, the group enthusiastically and energetically began their mission. The goal – – to help Jewish Sventzian. After the war, the Jews started immigrating to North and South America to flee the poverty and hopelessness of the shtelach of Russia and Poland, amongst them many from Sventzian. Charles Levinson reached out to his fellow Sventzianers,

And with help even from South America, managed to bring about 450 Jews to America. Help came from other organizations and the work that was being done was meaningful and necessary. A Jew, that should be mentioned, is Harry Gordon – a brother of Hirshl the shoemaker from the Schul – Hof, open – handed and very generous helped our Sventzian Relief Organization. The name of Charles Levinson grew in name and fame every day,

[Col. 1843]

He became the heart and the symbol of the organization. He was never too tired to answer the numerous appeals and letters from all over the world. From this organization others were founded as well: the Talmud Torah, the Yiddish Folk Schul, the Yeshiva, Refugee Help, Clothing for the Needy, both Beit Midrashim (synagogues), the Tailor's Kloiz and the Bath in the Schul – Hof and Free Loan Society.

Thanks to the Sventzianer in America, a People's Bank (Gemilut Chesed) was founded in the new synagogue. Packages were sent to individuals for Rosh Hashana and Passover, they were given wood to tide them over those cold winter months.

In 1937, the Sventzian Relief Organization was officially renamed : “The American Friends of Sventzian”.In 1938, it celebrated 20 years of existence. A journal was published and good wishes from friends and organizations from all over the world were sent to celebrate the 20 year anniversary. The celebration was mentioned by the American representatives and those who were mentioned were: Charles Levenson, Yosef Jacobson, Moris Teitz, Max Oster, Shimon Siroka, Harry Sneider, Yosef Richman, Harry Gordon, Max Richman, Harry

[Col. 1844]

and Rose Beigel, Mrs. Rose Rabinovitch, Harry Gurwitch, Yacov Beker, Rebi Milken, Aharon Jakobson, Sam Rifkind, Frank Klatzko, Mrs. Mirski, Herman Shapiro, Mrs. Bella Goldman, Tzilia Tomson, Rose Chit, Rose Amber, Tzilia Katz, Rose Osofsky, Shragovitch family, Hillel Kopelovitch, Meir Kantorowitch, Dora Kessner, Ida Miller, Frances Lagorna.

The Workmans Circle, 321, also organized a branch of the Sventzianer relief, which also provided cultural as well as institutional help, such as medical, burial and others things necessary to sustain a good quality of life. This branch comprised of: Y. Max Breicher, Mr. and Mrs. Ozinski, Zina Stein, Israel Siroka, Meir Blumberg, Charles Charmatz, Abe Glick, Mr. Bromberg, Mina Trotski, Aida Oster, Annie Katz, Mrs. Sirokin, B. Golstein, Rose Lifton, Abraham Radni. For many years the secretary for this branch was B. Vidutchinski. A devoted individual, who passed away in 1960 and this branch was then dissolved.

After the death of Chana Heyman, the presidency was taken over by Yosef Jacobson. The protocal – secretary was Harry Oster. The role of finance – secretary was never handed over to anyone else. Charles Levenson had



Standing: Michael Oster, Harry Oster, Bellel(Charles) Levenson
Sitting: daughter of Levenson, Mrs. Bromberg, Avraham Bromberg

[Col. 1845]

always, with great efficiency and devotion, carried out his duties.

In 1938 when the reorganization and renewing of the Sventzian committee took place, Harry Oster became the new president, son of Moishe Benjamin the Melamed, a practical person, who conducted himself in his work with logic and tact. He held this position for 10 years. Until his last breath he carried out his duties with honor and devotion.

A void was created, until Mrs. Osofski, who was working in the Vilner society as secretary, in 1938 started to work with our Sventzianer society and then became its secretary. She conducted her job with great devotion.

The women were for many years active in relief work, they organized themselves in 1940 and became known as “The Woman's Auxillary”. This idea came from the daughter of Kalman Shutan, Rose Ginzberg. They called her the “mother of the organization”. The first women who were involved were: Aida Oster, Annie Katz, Rose Lifton, Rose Rabinovitch, Lena Jacobson, Rose Beigel, Aida Norek, Tzene Teitz, Bella Goldman, Mrs. Osofski. They attracted a lot of people and worked diligently raising money for different needs, and collected articles which were sent to needy Sventzianers in Europe.


Rose Ginzberg


Aida Oster was one of the “Ladies Auxiliary's” presidents. In 1958 this group dissolved because of sickness and old age.

With the outbreak of World War 11, all contact with Europe was interrupted. Our Sventzian was caught in this hell of fire and was completely destroyed. The call for help to the free world was not heard!

Rich America always absorbed immigrants, amongst them Sventzianers. The Sventzian Relief Society always gave help to our needy fellow immigrants, seeking out the sick in hospitals, in their homes, providing the necessities as well as welcoming them and providing financial assistance.

In 1945, after the Liberation, the committee received calls for help and letters from their needy brothers from Sventzian who managed to survive the war, and with brotherly love, assistance was provided. Food parcels and clothing were sent to those who barely survived and were now living in post war German, Italian and Austrian camps.

[Col. 1846]

When the time came and things were getting back to “normal” and we came to our senses, we began to heal from this horrible nightmare and time was needed to heal these open wounds of our enormous loss, the Sventzianers began to work together with other organizations. The task at hand was urgent, we couldn't leave our brothers and sisters to rebuild their lives in a “blood soaked” land: rescue was of utmost importance and our work was needed especially at this time.

The American Government, together with Jewish and American organizations, undertook to bring the remnants of European Jewry to America. The first ship of immigrants arrived on our shores on April 1946. On this ship was Chaiala Forus, and Folevski and her husband. These were the first of the newly arrived Sventzianers who managed to survive.

Another new comer, Frieda Ligunski, from Sventzian, and her husband made a very difficult journey through Siberia, Japan, China, to finally reach American shore in 1944. These were the first new comers.

Later the mass immigration took on a different character, amongst the thousands who arrived, these were the Sventzianers: Dr. Niame Toraseitski, Avigdor Levin, Dora Pomerantz, Brania Forus – Chasid, Dina and Kapel Sirotka, Monesh Sirotka, Tzdek Charmatz, Hirsh Bleichman, Efraim Miadzolski, Luba Gershonovitch, Pesia Lantzman, Chaim Swintelski, Chaia Cutler – Fridberger, Rocha – Feiga Kramnik – Hit, Guterman Abraham, Sura – Tema Bak – Ring. Moishe Kurlandtzik, one of the last, arrived from Poland was Dr. Kovarski's son Liove with his wife and child. Others were scattered in South America, Canada and others places, names which I cannot remember.

A special committee was formed with the help of Hirshl Beigel, son of Itze – Zelman the tailor. The task on hand for these newly arrived was of great importance and special attention was needed. He arrived in 1913 and like every immigrant to America, he knew the hardships.

As our organizations were already established, these new Sventzianers soon found a new home and quickly integrated in their new way of life.

Few families were in constant contact with the Relief Society in New York. They were: Hersh Ushpal, Guterman, Bronia Chasid, Frieda Fradkin and Tzdek Charmatz. For the Remembrance ceremonies, a large percentage were Sventzianers.

In 1948, after the declaration of the new state of Israel, many of the survivors left the camps in Germany to rebuild their lives in their new homeland. The new Olim endured many hardships in those first years. Broken, physically and spiritually, they had to adapt to their hostile environment. In those days the Sventzian Relief Committee

[Col. 1847]

In New York endured the outpouring of grief and those Olim were thankful to receive whatever help or warm words in that time of need.

Charles Levinson, with his warm and constant correspondence, always as organized help. One way was sending over 40 parcels a year to the needy in Israel, and with Heshl Gurwitz coordinating in Israel, a relief society was also set up there. A Gemillut – Hesed Bank was ready in 1951 to give loans to the needy Sventzianers to get them back on their feet after suffering the worst of humanity and had to flee their broken homes of Sventzian. In addition, they organized a dedication – a memorial stone to the 8,000 brothers and sisters who perished in Poligon, erecting a “Brother's Grave “ Memorial, as well as remembering them with a Yiskor Book – all that was needed to help in order to meet their needs.

Many challenges were encountered in the last 10 years. Every year the membership dwindled. They got older, weaker and sick, many died and it became increasingly difficult to continue, and by 1962, only 120 remained. 25 – 35 persons would attend a meeting. The president, Harry Sneider, son of Mendl – Shmuel, took over in 1956 from Sam Rifkin, who was in office for only a year.

[Col. 1848]

Harry Sneider, born in Vilna, raised in Sventzian, came to America in 1903. Until 1922 he lived in New – Haven, Connecticut, and when he arrived in New York in 1922 be began his work in the Vilna Branch, in the Workmen's Circle and became its protocol – secretary. He is involved until this day. Shortly after he arrived, he became involved in the Sventzian Relief Committee, and became Treasurer during many presidencies: Ike Jacobson, Israel Siroka and Sam Rifkin.

He was by nature a quiet and honorable person, and was very dedicated in our society with energy and enthusiasm. His duties – to supervise all the secretaries – Mrs. Osofski, who celebrated her 50 year relationship with vivaciousness and vitality. Her excellent protocols were exemplary : Treasurer, Harry Ozinski, was an honest, philanthropic and devoted individual. His role started in 1956 and he carried out his duties with love and devotion; Charles Levenson, the founder and finance secretary of the organization, became weaker and sicker in the last years, but rarely missed a meeting, finally in 1958 his feet made him retire. The job was transferred to Meyer Kanterovitch. He was not one of the early Sventzian immigrants, he came much later. He worked very diligently.

Working for the Sventzian Relief Committee was: Hershl Beigel and his wife were devoted to the work as well. Distinguished and with an open heart, he worked quietly and endlessly. Loved and respected by all. Harry Beker, also should be mentioned with great respect for all that he did, with deep pockets; Louis Isakson, Harry Noirek, Max, Breicher, Ike Jacobson, Abraham Guterman, Tzduk Charmatz and others.

The women to be mentioned: Rose Liftov, dedicated and selfless, sister of Abraham Guterman was the first


Sventzianer Relief in New York, America

Sitting: Mrs. Charmatz, Breicher, Mrs. Oster, Ozinski, President Sneider, Mrs. March, Harry Beker, Jacobson
Standing: Charmatz, Guterman, Mrs. Vidutchinski, Freida Fradkin, Bronia Chasid, Harry and Rose Beigel, Harry Noirek, Mrs. Sneider, Kantorovitch, Secretary lady, Maurice Yunge

[Col. 1849]

and most active in the “Ladies Auxillary” and all the others organizations of Relief. Mrs. Sneider, the wife of the President, Mrs. Ozinski, always welcomed us into their homes. From the more recent arrivals, there worked: Mrs. Bronia Chasid and Frieda Fradkin. Thanks to them, the organization under the presidents, Harry Sneider, Harry Beigel, Harry Noirek, Harry Beker, Abraham Guterman, Tzudek Charmatz, Rose Lifton, Rose Osofski, founded a separate committee to work for the interests of the Yiskor Book Project.

A hearthy thanks to Rabbi Ushpal, a son of a Sventzian Rabbi, for his contributions to the writing of the Yiskor Book about the religious way of life in our shtetl. And thanks to his importance – this gives us great respect here in America.

In completion, let us not forget those holy people who recently perished.

[Col. 1850]

In the last few years, these dear ones left us(died):

Moishe Meir Levenson, brother of Charles Levenson, Chana Herman, Yosef Jacobson, Harry Oster, Ben Zion Vitutchinski, Barney Woods, Israel Siroka, Shimon Siroka, (brother of Israel), Rose Ginsberg and her husband(founder of ladies auxillary), Aharon and Len Jacobson, Yosef and Ethel Richman, Avraham and Frank Bromberg, Alter and Lena Goldstein, (Harry Beker's sister and her husband), Maurice Trotski, Sheine Matle Teitz, Nathan Sneider, Israel Yosef Lifton, Avraham and Esther Zalkin, Boris Stein, Dovid Leib Rothstein, Molly Weisman, Rabbi Aharon Gordon( from Michaelishok), Dzeni Sneider( Mr. Sneider's first wife), Hyman Rabinowitch, Moishe and Alte Herman, Avraham Ber Lifshitz, Leah Tomson, A. Klatzko, Nachum Moishe Saks, Harry Gordon, Aida Noirecki, (Naradski), Abe Glick, Leiba Ber Mordechai Grin, Ben Hurwitz, Mendelevitch, Herb Bernard Stolpher, Sam Stolpher, Rabbi Meyer Blomberg, Yacov Leib Saks, Lifa Reines, Luba Grin, Schlomo and Betty Rothstein, Tuli Grosman, Azia Batkin, Avraham Segal, Yosef Goldman, Lena Farus – Artuganov, Yacov Veks, Aida Vidutchinski, Charles Levenson(Bellel), the Rabbi Boruch Leib Minkin.

Note: Sheina Richman married Avraham Bromberg in Sventzian in 1896

The wedding cake in the previous photo, is actually a cake for their 50th wedding anniversary, celebrated in New York

The 3 men standing sang at their wedding in 1896, and again at their anniversary party

Information by Alan Schorr

[Col. 1849]

Our Aid Committee in South Africa

Mania Tzkinski – Yaffe (Cape Town)

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay




Through Sisela Pupiski – Tabachovitch of Johannesburg, I found out that a letter from Heshel Gurewitz of Tel – Aviv arrived, telling us about the relief work that was begun for the Jews that survived Hitler's destruction.

We immediately assembled a meeting of our landsleit from New – Sventzian that were in Cape Town and we formed a committee, in which were found these devoted individuals: Binyamin Yaffe – President, Mania Tzkinski – Jaffe – Treasurer, Belal Kaplan – Secretary, Zelig Rutseyn – assistant, Ahron Yitzhak Malaravitch – assistant, Teiba Rutsteyn – Tzinman – assistant.

We threw ourselves into this work with great urgency and we immediately started sending packages to the camps for which we had received addresses. The funds from the Sharit Plitah were not enough, the requests were larger and additional help was needed, so we had to make a plan. Social gatherings were organized in private homes and they were very successful.

[Col. 1850]

At these events we sold various items and this helped raise a lot of needed money. The first such evening took place in the home of Ruchel and Ahron Yitzhak Malaravitch. Later at the homes of Sisi and Binyamin Yaffe, Nechama and Shneur Walman, Chaia and Zelig Stein, and Mania and Abraham Yaffe.

Our numbers grew as a result and we raised many funds for these unfortunate souls.

The Relief – Society was directed through Cape Town by a small number of people who where so devoted to this cause: Riva Rudnitski, Chaia and Zelig Rutsteyn, Nechama and Shneur Wolman, Shein and Josef Zak, Ruchel Madaiski, Isaiah and Silva Wolman, Nechama's son, Eliahu Madaiski and his wife, Ruchel's son, Dr. Eliahu and Besia(Pesia or Vesia) Rutsteyn, a son of Chaia and Zelig

[Col. 1851]

Rutsteyn, Belel and Yehudit Kaplan, a son in law of the Rutsteyn's, Eliezer and Henia Rudnitski, a nephew of Riva Rudnitzki, Teibel and Motel Tzinman, Mania and Ahron yaffee, Binyamin and Sisi Yaffee, Ruchel and Aharon Yitzhak Malaravitch, Rivka and Pesach Rogov from Lita, Raizel Shapira from Ignalina, Bluma and Binyamin Schvabski from Lingmian and Yosef Sadur from Sventzian.

In 1950, the work was delegated through the Israeli society by our friend, Hirsh Zar, to tie the two organizations together with our South African branch. A Gemulut Hesed (loans to help the needy) was founded to help the refugees rebuild their lives and homes in Eretz Israel. The branch set up in Johannesburg was aided by: Zelman and Keila Steingold, Zisla and Shimon Tabacavitch, Chaia Maida Kuritzki, Myron and Ezriel Goldberg, Leizer Swirski, Mania and Alter Azinski, the Katzkelevitch and Berzak families, Nisan Zar, Shimon Zar, Shaul Vilkomirski, and Shmuel Braverman.

I must underline, that the families with their children involved themselves with this relief work, even though they were born in South Africa and had no connection to the old home.

[Col. 1852]

In 1951, I arrived in Eretz Israel, and the Gemillut Hesed was founded, in memory of those who perished in Poligon.

Besides Hirsh Zar, others came to visit us in South Africa: Yitzhak and Mania Zak and Yehudit and Yacov Michelson. Their requests for help strengthened our involvement.

Of course we wanted to help more, but some had no ties to our former landsleit.

Zelig Rutsteyn was very involved and we must always remember him for his devotion and love for the cause. His death was a great loss for not only the landsleit in South Africa, but for all the Svenzianers all around the world.


New – Sventzian in Cape Town

Sitting: Riva Rudnitzki, Yehudit Kaplan, Zelig, Chaia Rutsteyn, Ahron Yitzhak, Ruchel Malaravitch
Standing: Abraham, Mania Yaffee, Beni Yaffee, Charlie Kaplan, Josef, Sheina Zak, Teiba Rutsteyn – Tzinman, Motel Tzinman, Beni, Raizel Shapiro, Leib Yaffee

[Col. 1853]

Zelig Rutsteyn loved everything about his roots from New – Sventzian, and he would give his life and soul for his home of his birth. A separate fund, in his honor, was established in the Gemilut Hesed by his South African friends,

[Col. 1854]

Of which he was the founder and builder. With all that we possess, we will remember….


A reunion with Yehudit and Yacov Michelson in Cape Town

Sitting: Sisi Yaffee, Mania Yaffee, Yehudit and Yacov Michelson, Chaia and Zelig Rutsteyn, Riva Rudnitski, Taibe Tzinman
Standing: Beni Yaffee, Abraham Yaffee, Sadur, Ahron Yitzhak and Rochel Malaravitch, Josef and Sheina Zak, Fruma Malaravitch, Motel Tzinman

[Col. 1853]

The Good Will of a Group

Heshel Gurewitz, Tel Aviv

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

When we remember South Africa, we are talking about Johannesburg and Cape Town, we are talking about those Jews of South Africa who where originally from Lithuania. The ties actually begun in 1914, a short time before the outbreak of World War I.

Nechama, the oldest daughter of Ali and Riva Rudnitski, The well known baker with her loved cakes from New Sventzian bakery on Kaltinianer street, soon left our shtetl to join her relatives in South Africa. Meanwhile the war begun and immigration stopped.

After the war, the bad economic situation of our Jewish folk and the anti – Jewish politics encouraged more folk to leave their beloved shtetls and to immigrate overseas. At that time the entire Rudnitski family

[Col. 1854]

left New – Sventzian, old and young, together with all their in – laws and made their home in Cape Town, and created a “nest” where they welcomed later arrivals from New – Svenzian. Later more families arrived: Binyomin and Ahron Yaffee, and the Malaravitch and Tzinman (Zinman) families.

This handful of Jews remained true to their old home and after the war they were ready to help the survivors with necessary help. After World War 11, a Relief Society was set up and packages were sent to the various lagers in Germany.

They joined forces with Eretz Israel's

[Col. 1855]

“Former Residents of Sventzian” to facilitate the help that was needed and received all the necessary addresses. The first immigrants to South Africa understood the need to lay the foundation of the Gemillut Hesed Bank, in order to provide the basic necessities of life for our survived brothers and sisters! Our group didn't wait long, as soon as we received the request, a committee was formed. This was formed in 1951, with a special memorial to those murdered in Poligon, which was named “Gemillut Hesed in Memory of our Perished Family in Poligon”. Also, on the same note, our devoted and gentile member Zelig Rutsteyn, may his memory be blessed, should not be forgotten, the son in law of the Rudnitski family and a brother of Chana and Devorah Rutsteyn who were tragically murdered in Poligon, as well as the family of Mania Tzikinski – Yaffee.

In Cape Town we survived to see another wonder: the Lithuanian family Rogov , became involved in our relief society and with great devotion and enthusiasm, with no ties to our Sventzianer region. Eventually we all were known as “Lithuanians”.

It is amazing to see what a small handful from New – Sventzianers could achieve, if there is will and kindness.

We need to give thanks to our friends in Cape Town, and all the others from South Africa: the families Rudnitskis, Rutshteyn, Yaffes, Malaravitch, Tzinmans, Zaks, Altman, Kaplan, Mrs. Chaia Stein, who follows in her husband's footsteps with open arms to help the Sventzianer Jews.


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