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[Page 179]

The Fight in the City Council[1]

by Khaim Rudowski

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

Khaim Rudowski


It had been a long, long since there had been such a tumultuous meeting of the City Council. The issue was the budget for 1939–40 and even before the meeting started, a large audience of Polish workers had gathered to hear how our town fathers were managing municipal affairs.

Before dealing with the budget, two important questions were considered. For years our members had conducted a campaign for the paving of Psheskok Street, where the very poor lived. Every year the municipal government spent a lot of money on paving, but when it came to Psheskok, there was never enough money. Finally, the magistrat [municipal government] unanimously decided to include Psheskok among the streets to be paved. But at the council meeting, the Polish council members opposed the paving of the entire street, proposing that only the Polish section of the street be paved. And even the mayor, who was obliged to defend the magistrat's proposals, joined this opposition to the magistrat.

When asked by alderman Rudowski why he had not previously said anything in opposition to the paving of the street, the mayor replied that he had only just changed his mind. Herr Takhne Kronenberg and Herr Nisn Shtaynberg strongly opposed the anti–Semitic proposal and condemned the actions of the council and the mayor.

The second question concerned the taxes to be paid by property owners. At an earlier meeting of the city council, it had been decided that owners had to pay a city property tax amounting to 50% of the state tax on houses. The owners vociferously complained and the council quickly changed its mind and reduced the amount of the supplementary taxes to the current rate of 37%.

When the education budget was under consideration, Herr Kronenberg proposed that 300 zlotys be allocated for free books for poor students, 600 zlotys for school excursions for poor children, and 300 zlotys for the town library. Herr Shtaynberg proposed a subsidy of 500 zlotys for our [Jewish] school. The latter proposal was quickly rejected by the anti–Semitic majority, but they didn't know what to do about the other proposals, given the very large audience of Polish workers, so they went back and forth until those proposals were also rejected.

When the health budget was under consideration, Herr Rudowski proposed to include 1000 zlotys for children with tuberculosis, in the form of a subsidy for the hospital, 4500 zlotys for medicine for the poor, and 300 zlotys for the sports organization. The mayor refused to allow a vote on these items for the reason that we needed to specify the source of the money to cover them. He said that the Bund was just putting on a show for the audience.

Despite the mayor's refusal to vote for the proposals, Herr Rudowski made further proposals:
For the social welfare department for orphans – 600 zlotys; food for children – 2000 zlotys; halb kolonies – 600 zlotys; coal for the poor – 1500 zlotys and support for old people – 6000 zlotys.

The mayor blew his top and didn't want to allow a vote for these items. Herr Rudowki then declared that 11 years ago, when there was a Socialist council and the population was smaller, the council spent 8000 more zlotys on education than today, and for social services 64,000 zlotys more than today. The excuse that there isn't enough money didn't stand up. Why did they give the property owners a gift – actually

[Page 180]

just today, of lower taxes. The whole budget was reactionary, anti–democratic. We can't accomplish anything here, Rudowski said, and in protest we are leaving.

Right after our members left, along with the Polish workers, leaving the gallery entirely empty, it took quite a while before the mayor could continue the meeting. A few Polish councilmen shook the hands of the two Jewish members remaining, the latter saying that they didn't agree with what the Bundists had done. Not long after, the Jewish council members proposed a subsidy for the Jewish free loan society of 200 zlotys. This proposal was also rejected, but the Polish aid fund received 300 zlotys. Having no choice, the two remaining Jewish councilmen also left the meeting.

A half–hour later, the budget was completed.


In front of the city hall on the day the Narew flooded

[Page 181]

Part of a Bundist demonstration. In the center, Rudowski and Babitz


Bundists at the grave of Herr Dovid Mosak



  1. Footnote in the original: From a dispatch in “Folks Tsaytung” [Bundist newspaper] in 1938, signed “Yerukhem,” a pseudonym for Khaim Rudowski. Return


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