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[Page 182]

The Embroiderers' Union [1]

by Sore Rozenman–Treger, Tel Aviv

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

From childhood on, I knew many embroiderers, who worked at home, late into the night. I remember two “masters” in the trade – Khaim Shpare and Sore Neytorin [seamstress], as well as the workers Ester Loketsh, Royze Gothelf and Dobe Gomberg. And I, too, learned the trade and became an embroiderer.

After World War I and the liberation of Poland, the embroidery trade expanded greatly in our town. There was a steady flow of work orders from Warsaw and many people learned the trade. The number of women embroiderers grew and there began disputes and conflicts with the bosses over exploitation and low wages.

We began to organize a union of embroiderers. Our meeting place was the educational association in Mordkhe Fishele's [Lipshteyn's] house. We elected a committee which consisted of Ester Loketsh, Sore Rozenman, Royze Gothelf, and Dobe Gomberg. Helping us organize were Comrades Rudowski, Yosef Rozental and Motl Rozenshteyn. It was very difficult to organize the embroiderers. We had a backward element that worked in their homes and were not as prepared for struggle as those who worked in a workshop for a boss. But we didn't let any difficulties stop us and always defended the interests of the workers.

In 1922 we organized the first strike, in which almost all the embroiderers participated. The strike was led by Comrades Rudowski, Rozental and Zamyatin. The strike committee consisted of Ester Loketsh, Sore Top, Rivke Kirshteyn, Khaye Yudes Mendelson, Rivke Mosak and me. The strike lasted five weeks and ended in a great victory. The second strike broke out almost a year later, in 1923. We won this strike, too, after three weeks, thanks to the leadership of the strike committee, headed by Comrade Rudowski.

All these struggles and victories won us the understanding and sympathy of the entire Nowy Dwor population. The prominence of the embroiderers as an organized force continued to grow. The embroiderers became the spokespersons for all trade union actions in the town. We were ready to respond to every appeal with moral and material assistance. The embroiderers were always willing to give time and financial help from their meager, hard earned pennies to such causes as the elections to the city council and the kehile [organized Jewish community], support of the 7 grades of the Yiddish–language school, and other social undertakings.

Once, just before Passover, there was a strike by the matzoh workers, and the embroiderers held a solidarity strike. All the embroiderers gathered at the bakeries on Warshawer and Zakrotshker Streets to encourage the workers and demonstrate the meaning of worker solidarity.

These are just some examples of the activity and struggles of the embroiderers of Nowy Dwor in the years after World War I, when Jewish workers demonstrated great self–confidence and readiness to fight. The embroiderers proved themselves equal partners in organization and struggle.

Only one of the activists and leaders among us – Hene Top –

[Page 183]

survived. All the rest –Ester Loketsh, Rivke Kirshteyn, Rivke Mosak, Khaye Yudes Mendlson, Sore tishler, Royze Gothelf, Rokhl Hershfang, Sore Top – were killed by the Nazis. They will remain in our memories forever.

 

now183.jpg
A strike appeal by the embroiderers [in Polish and Yiddish]

[Page 184]
now184.jpg
A proclamation by the Bund and the trade unions against the boycott against Jews

 


Translator's Footnote

  1. The Yiddish word for embroiderers used in the title and throughout the text is hefterins, which is more accurately translated as “women embroiderers” or “female embroiderers.” To avoid this awkward construction, I have translated it simply as embroiderer, but the reader should know that virtually all the workers in the trade (excepting the workshop owners or bosses) were women and girls. Return

 

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