By Schaje Schmerler
THE NADWORNERS IN AMERICA
In the "Seifer-Zikaron" (memorial book) our Jewish shtetl Nadworna is being immortalized which was so cruelly wiped out by the German murderers. My friends from Nadworna who are living here in New York have given me the task to tell in this book something about the life of our Nadworna compatriots who, in the course of many years, have immigrated to America: how they adapted themselves to the way of living here which was strange to them, and unknown, and how they adjusted and organized; about the help they made available to their countrymen in the old homeland; also, about their part in various philanthropic undertakings, etc., so that the Nadworners here in America should not be forgotten either.
It will be difficult for me to accomplish the task given to me. I myself came here only shortly after the Second World War, and I know only little about the way the Nadworna immigrants adjusted to their new life. I will, however, try my outmost to give a picture of those immigrant-martyrs that will do them justice. I am using the word martyrs for those immigrants because I feel that, in a way, those immigrants who had left our shtetl Nadworna many years ago, can be considered martyrs. Indeed, they were the poorest of the poor; mostly they were workmen who had labored very hard in our shtetl without having been able to support their families with their work.
What the fate of a Jewish "Baal-Mylucha" (workman) in the shtetl of the old homeland was like, one can tell from the well-known song "Ot azoj neit a schnaydyr":
"Ehr neit yn neit a ganzy woch
yn fardient fyn a beigyl a loch"
Since I myself came to America only after the Second World War, I based the reports on the Nadworna Jews on information which I received from the following sources:
1) from older compatriots who had immigrated here many years previous,
2) from lists at the First Nadworna Sick Benevolent Association,
3) from gravestones in the Nadworna cemeteries on Staten Island, N.Y., from which the names of these noble Nadworna immigrants radiate — the names of these good-hearted people who knew enough to found the vitally important society "Anschei Nadworna" which became a home away from home for the newly arrived immigrants. (Enclosed photos of those gravestones).
In those Nadworna cemeteries there are, also, the graves of the sons of those immigrants who had lost their young lives on the battlefields fighting the German murderers. Some of those dead soldiers had been the only children of their unfortunate parents.
Every year, on Memorial Day, these graves of the soldiers killed in action, are being honored by the war veterans: they put a small American flag on the graves.
Some tombstones tower above the graves of newly arrived Nadworna compatriots who had passed through Hitler's hell, and immigrated here after the war — who, however, passed away prematurely due to the suffering during the Hitler time.
Our Nadworna compatriots deserve it fully to be inscribed in the Yizkor-book (memorial book) with the others. After all, it is dedicated to the memory of our little home town which was so cruelly wiped out by the German murderers; and our people have never forgotten the "there", their shtetl to which strong emotions tied them, even if they lived thousands of miles away from the old homeland.
How attached they were to their shtetl proves the following
When in 1897 Jewish Nadworna immigrants founded a "Landsmannschaft" here in New York, they called this organization "Anschei Nadworna", which means: "The people from Nadworna". This shows how proud they were of their home town; they crowned their new society with the name of their shtetl so that it should never be forgotten.
The main purpose and duty of this Nadworna society was: to help the needy compatriots and especially the newly arrived immigrants. The good-hearted founders were: Louis Arzt, Berl Bochner, Leon Banner, Benjamin Berton, Philip Hirsch, Herzl Jäger and a few more.
The Society was like an island of salvation for the lonely and miserable new arrival who suddenly landed in a strange and unknown world.
On this island of salvation (Society), he — the poor and lonely immigrant — found a homelike atmosphere. There he found help in various forms: a place to live, and a place to work, were provided for; and besides that, he found assistance in bringing over his family which had been left in the old homeland.
This extra-ordinary brotherly care and help for their newly immigrated compatriots stands out as one of the beautiful, humane chapters which our Nadworna countrymen here in America have added to their history: to the history of their rescue work with which they excelled in the course of all the years since their own immigration.
No less generous was their unusual assistance for those people from their shtetl who had been hard hit by the war.
Right at the start of the First World War, in 1914, a huge fire destroyed our little town almost completely. Over night, the Jewish inhabitants were homeless and impoverished.
The acts of war in that area caused tremendous damage and cost many human lives.
The Russian army occupied the town. Wild hordes of Cossacks, known as violent Jew haters, plundered and terrorized the Jewish population. Any connection with the countrymen in America stopped.
And when, finally, the horrible war had come to an end, the Nadworna countrymen here answered the desperate cries for help from their home town with a generous action of assistance. Large sums of money were immediately sent over which helped the hard-hit people to rebuild their destroyed houses. Also, through arrangement with the Joint Distribution Committee, sizable shipments of food were sent to the poor.
Those ruined families who, due to the war, could not be united with their relatives in America, were greatly helped. With the greatest dispatch they were being sent tickets for the boats as well as travel expenses so that they could be reunited with their families as quickly as possible.
How devoted and helpful to their compatriots in the old country the Nadworna countrymen in America really were, is further proven by the following act:
This was after the First World War, in the 20ies. The Ruw (Rabbi), by the name Meier der Pasieczner, one of the Nadworna rabbis, lived in great poverty. He had to support a few children, among them a daughter already of marriageable age. But the Ruw Meier der Pasieczner was not able to afford the necessary "Naden" (dowry) to marry her off. So he turned to the Nadworna countrymen in New York for help.
The countrymen in New York answered his plea for help in a generous way. At their expense, they let the Ruw come to New York as prayer leader (Vorbeter) for the "Jomim-Noroim" — holidays; after a few weeks with the countrymen in New York the Ruw Meier der Pasieczner returned to Nadworna, successful and happy, "loaded" with a "Naden" for his daughter and with a certain amount of money which enabled him to buy a small house.
When did Jewish Immigrants from Nadworna
Already in the 80-ies of the last century, Jewish immigrants from our shtetl Nadworna were residents of New York.
The "Dales", poverty and great need, motivated these poor people to leave their families and their homeland where they had been born and raised, and to emigrate.
They joined the vast stream of Jewish emigrants from Russia who had left their homes on account of the persecution of the Jews, and the pogroms, and who emigrated to the New World, hoping to find peace and happiness there.
At that time, a journey by boat across the Atlantic ocean took very long. Naturally, such a journey in 4th class cabins, where these poor people were quartered, was also very painful.
Neither did the suffering of these poor, miserable immigrants cease after their arrival in the promising land of Columbus, and after the examinations in the dreaded "Kesselgarden" on Ellis Island were finally, and successfully, over. Rightfully, Ellis Island was called the "island of tears" by the immigrants; all the immigrants on the arriving boats were examined by strict quarantine physicians, concerning their state of health; immigrants afflicted with incurable diseases, especially those suffering from diseases of the eyes, were sent back. The immigrants did not have a single person in this strange land who could be of help to them, either concerning a place to live, or work, or a piece of good advice.
These bitter sufferings and difficulties which the immigrants underwent at their arrival in New York towards the end of the last century, made some well-meaning ones among them decide to found an organization of compatriots in order to help following immigrants in their need.
So it was that in the year 1897 the first Nadworna society was founded here in New York, under the name of the little town of Nadworna to which the Nadworna countrymen felt strongly, emotionally tied.
"Congregation Anschei Nadworna"
On November 2, 1897, on the East side of New York, a group of Nadworna Jewish immigrants congregated, at the suggestion of their compatriots Louis Azrt, Berl Bochner, Leon Banner, Benjamin Barton, Philip Hirsch, and Herzl Jäger; they founded the Nadworna society "Congregation Anschei Nadworna".
Later on, the name of the society was changed to "Erster Nadworner Kranken Unterstützungs Verein", and still later it was changed to "First Nadworna Sick Benevolent Association".
At that time, the books were kept in the German language, as is evident from enclosed photo.
The purpose and duty of the newly founded congregation was:
1) to afford the immigrated countrymen a social shelter — an address where the needy could turn for help,
2) sick- and death — benefits,
3) to preserve the traditional Jewish religious way of life as it had been in the old homeland. For this purpose the congregation built a schul (house of prayer) in New York, at 630 East 5th Street, where the countrymen could pray and learn.
Isn't this a wondrous coincidence: in 1897, a few courageous Jewish immigrants from the shtetl Nadworna founded the "Landsmannschaft" "Anschei Nadworna" which became a homelike, warm meeting place for the miserable, lonely, needy new arrival — and in the same year 1897, a great Jew, the visionary Dr. Theodor Herzl, called the first Zionist Congress in Basel; at the opening he proclaimed the famous "Basel Program" which says: "Zionism aspires to create a publicly and legally secure home for the Jewish people in Erez Israel".
Aside from that: in the same year 1897 when the first Nadworna society was created, Jewish labor leaders in the city of Wilna founded the "Bund" under the name "Allgemeiner Jüdischer Arbeiter-Bund" (General Jewish Workers' Society) which played a very big part in the life of the Jewish worker in Russia and in Poland.
I was privileged to attend services in a Nadworna Schul (house of prayer). This was on the first Sabbath after my arrival in New York from Vienna, in February 1947.
My compatriot Herzl Ball had learned of my arrival through HIAS. So.,the good Herzl Ball came to me in order to bid the "Tchijath-Hameisim" (the resurrected one) welcome.
Ball told me that close to my apartment, 2nd Avenue and 9th Street, there was a Nadwerner Schul (house of prayer), and he, Ball, wanted me to go to Schul with him to "Dawenen".
Of course, I complied with his request, and together we went to the Nadwerner Schul.
I, who during the Hitler-time had witnessed our houses of prayer being turned into horses' stables and latrines, was moved to tears entering the Nadwerner Schul — despite the fact that I cannot claim to be a religious Jew. And I was touched even more when the president of the congregation, Herzl Jäger, honored me by calling me to the Thora.
The compatriots present I knew only by their family names, because these people had immigrated here many years previous.
My heart was heavy when they inquired about their relatives, wanting to know what had happened to them. A guilt feeling kept gnawing in me because their relatives had perished, and I had not
Nachman Soltes, 100 years old, now the only living countryman who has been present at the founding of the first Nadworna society "Anschei Nadworna".
Thanks to a notice in the Jewish newspaper "Forward" of June 21, 1974, which I enclose, I knew that on Father's Day, June 16, 1974, there was taking place a rare birthday celebration for a 100-years-old Jew in a Home for the Aged. Thus I have now discovered a countryman, still living, who has been present at the founding of the first Nadworna society.
The name of this man celebrating his jubilee of 100 years is Nachman Soltes. He, Soltes, immigrated here in 1897 — the year of the founding of the first Nadworna society — and he had come from Dzwiniacz — bei- Solotwina, a place not far from Nadworna (and known for its soil-wax- and Naphta — pits).
The name Soltes is not unknown to me, because he, Nachman Soltes, and his parents had been our closest neighbors. (At the time, my parents lived in Dzwiniacz where my father was employed with the soil-wax- and Naphta — company).
Naturally I did, on the very next day, after having read that notice, go to the Home where Nachman Soltes lives, to see my countryman and neighbor.
I found him in his room, resting in bed. "It's my daily afternoon nap", he said. The 100-years-old man looks relatively young and high-spirited, considering his advanced age.
His joy was great when I introduced myself as a countryman from Dzwiniacz and even greater when I told him my father's name. He told me that his father Leib, and my father Mendel Chaim, had been very good friends. He told me much of interest from the time when we had been neighbors.
To me it feels like a dream that Nachman and his father Leib Soltes emigrated to America 76 years ago. I was 4 years old then.
Our conversation concentrated mainly on familiar countrymen from Dzwiniacz, Solotwina, and Nadworna.
I mentioned that I, even having spent my childhood in Dzwinlacz, consider myself as a Nadworna Countryman, since I have lived there, for a great part of my life, with my wife and my children, until the bitter end in 1941. Whereupon Nachman Soltes told me that he has many friends from Nadworna here in New York. In fact, he said, he was present at the founding meeting of the Nadworna countrymen, at the time when they founded the society "Anschei Nadworna".
He can remember it very well, because it took place in 1897, the year he came to America. Mojschy from Nadworna — with whom he had come to America and became friendly, and worked together in the same shop — had taken him along to that founding meeting. As far as he, Soltes, can remember, there were high spirits at that meeting. People drank "Lychaim"; marinated herring and fresh rolls were being served; hot tea was also had, because it was a cold evening in winter.
I believe that Nachmen Soltes is the only person now living who was at that time, 77 years ago, present at that meeting.
Before I said good-bye to my 100-years-old countryman and neighbor, we drank "Lychaim" with the Carmel wine I had brought for Soltes. I wished him many healthful years, and promised him that I would have everything he told me about his presence at the founding of the first Nadworna society, immortalized in the Nadworna book of memory. And I am keeping my promise.
"Nadworna Young Men's Benefit Association"
In the year 1910 — 13 years after the first Nadworna society had been founded — several members left the first society on account of differences of opinion and, probably, also for reasons of ambition. They founded another Nadworna society under the name: "Nadworna Young Men's Benefit Association". The purpose of that organization was
1) mutual assistance,
2) sick-and death-benefits,
3) in case of death, the provision of a funeral for members.
Eifermann was president of this organization, K. Schächter was secretary. Meetings took place twice a month.
"Heri Kraus Nadworna Women's Auxiliary"
In the year 1934, the "Heri Kraus Nadworna Women's Auxiliary" was founded. It was the purpose of this women's organization to take part in the work that preserved the Schul at 630 East 5th Street.
"Nadworna Social Circle, Inc."
After the capitulation of Hitler-Germany in 1945 the world learned the unbelievable: the German barbarians have destroyed almost all Jews in Europe, in the most brutal manner; of the Jewish population in Poland, counting many millions, nothing remained but mass graves of the murdered, and mountains of ashes of the gassed and burned Jews, near the crematoria.
At that time that was very dark for the Jews, there met in New York, in the apartment of Mrs. Clara Mallin (Mrs. Clara Mallin is the daughter of Chaim and Scheindel Bittman), several Nadworna countrymen, in order to start an action of assistance for those Nadworna countrymen who had escaped Hitler's hell. As it appears from a list of this meeting, there were 30 people present, among them the initiators of this action of assistance: Clara Mallin, Oscar Haas, Simon Jakob, Herman Stern, Philip Wiesel, and J. Kriegel.
In this list, there is also the following song, written by Simon Jakob, which Mrs. Mallin read:
"Mein Shtetele Nadwerne"
The 30 countrymen present founded, at that time, the society "Nadworna Social Circle, Inc.", with Oscar Haas as president and Clara Mallin as secretary and treasurer, for this purpose:
A sizable sum of money was collected so that the urgently needed assistance could be started.
The Nadworna Social Circle found the names of those Nadworna countrymen who had survived through the lists of Jews who had been saved, published by HIAS and in Jewish newspapers; they were helped immediately with shipments of food and money.
Also, when in 1946/47 the "first swallows", the D.P.'s (displaced persons) — myself among them — came here, to New York, we were received by the Nadworna Social Circle in an extremely brotherly way and, wherever it was indicated, financially supported.
Everything possible was done to let us forget the "Gehenom" we had gone through. In this, Mrs. Clara Mallin and Bernard Ratsprecher have especially excelled.
In other actions of assistance, too, the Nadworna Circle did not remain passive. In 1950 a sizable sum of money was spent for Audio-Visual Education in Israel, as is evident from enclosed writing. Oscar Haas and Dr. J. Deutscher especially dist anguished themselves in this action of help.
In 1967 the Nadworna Social Circle sent, as a gift, an ambulance with all required equipment, at a price of $6.500, to Israel. Mrs. Clara Mallin has contributed much to this with a sizable contribution of money, as is evident from enclosed letter and pictures.
Also recently, when our countrymen in Israel planned the edition of a Seifer-Zikaron (memorial book) in which our tragically destroyed shtetl is supposed to be immortalized, and when they approached the Nadworna countrymen in America with the request to take part in this holy endeavor and to help financially — it was, once more, the Nadworna Circle, inspired by the president of the Nadworna Circle Dr. Deutscher, who accepted the obligation to contribute to the realization of this undertaking.
The Nadworna Circle raised the necessary funds through considerable taxation of their members, and collected valuable material for the book. Another sizable sum was contributed by the First Nadworna Sick Benevolent Association.
The president of the Nadworna Social Circle is now Dr. Jacob Deutscher. Blanka Berger (Schije Berger's wife) is the secretary. Clara Mallin, however, who never wanted to accept a title of honor in the 30 years of the society's existence, is the Mamme, the "Nyschumy" (soul) of this rare society; with all rights it may be called "Nadworna Myschpuchy Circle", because every meeting of this society resembles a family "Symche".
Once there was a Jewish shtetl, Nadworna was its name. In the Jewish world Nadworna was well known, because in this shtetl a great "Zadik" and friend of the people has lived and worked: the famous, divine man and miracle-worker Rabbi Mordchaly-Nadwerner who, despite being very poor himself, shared his meager income with the poor Jews.
Most of the Jewish inhabitants in Rabbi Mordchaly's shtetl were very poor. What little bread the poor Mamme could bake every Friday for the rest of the week was not enough so that her children could eat their fill from it.
Therefore, the needy and hungry children left their hometown and their families, and emigrated to America where they joined together under the name of their home town. Thus it happened that here, in America, a little Nadworna came into being.
Despite the fact that here in America they had to adjust to a way of life totally different from the one in the old homeland, they remained faithful to the teaching of Rabbi Mordchaly: "Azow Tyazein", Help the Needy.
Any call for help, be it from their countrymen or from other Jewish brothers in need, they answered with generous assistance.
Even later on, after Mydinath Israel had come into existence, the Nadworna countrymen gave large sums of money (not counting the vast financial help which the Nadworna countrymen had given to Israel on an individual basis). The Societies gave not only to the United Jewish Appeal, but also invested sizable sums of money in Israel Bonds.
These immigrants have never forgotten. They preserved in their memory the very touching farewell-words which the poor Mamme told her departing children tearfully:
mein lieb Kind
a briewaly der Mayn
solist nyscht fargessyn"
And they did write, those immigrants from Nadworna — as their Mamme had asked them to do when they left — they wrote "Briewalych" to their relatives in the old homeland very often. Always in such "briewalych" there were enclosed green dollar bills so that the Mammes could bake more bread for their children and that the children did not have to go hungry any more.
This connection between Nadworna in America and Nadworna in the old homeland lasted until the horrible catastrophe when the German murderers brutally killed all the Jewish inhabitants of the shtetl. The Jewish shtetl Nadworna has ceased to exist. Even the name Nadworna was, as I have learned, changed. The only one that remained is now the little Nadworna in America.
Of the 4 Nadworna societies in New York there are only two left:
1) First Nadworna Sick Benevolent Association; Bernard Badler is president and Paul Berger is secretary.
2) Nadworna Social Circle, Inc., with Dr. J. Deutscher as president and Blanka Berger as secretary.
Both societies only have a small number of members.
The older members leave the society in a natural way; they go to eternity. New immigrants don't arrive any more, because the little town they used to come from does not exist any more.
The children of the former immigrants are mostly academicians: physicians, engineers, scientists, chemists, teachers, bookkeepers, and industrialists. They are Jewish-nationalist-minded people, and they support Israel as well as various charitable institutions, with an open hand. Unfortunately, they are not members of the Nadworna societies; they are, however, connected with important organizations.
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Updated 9 July 2004 by LA