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The Destroyed Home

Moshe Szwarc (Chicago)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

From steel and iron, cold, hard and mute,
A heart beats on its own, the person – he comes!

Ch. N. Bialik

Despite the fact that my task is to describe a specific period of life in Sochaczew, I cannot let pass and not mention, at least with a few words, the great destruction.

The hand shudders and the heart is full of grief when one makes mention of the fate of the Sochaczew that I left in 1926 full with an ebullient Jewish life, and the Sochaczew to which I returned in 1949. Between those two dates lies a deep abyss, a sea filled with blood, woe, agony and destruction.

The established way of life is to forget that which the earth covers up. However, who can ever forget the destruction of an entire group of people, of a community and its brutal death.

It is hard for me to eulogize my native town, which is so beloved and familiar to me. I am bound to the Jewish life of Sochaczew with thousands of bonds. I shared in its agony and joy, and in the happiness and suffering of every Jew in the town.

Now, it is my lot to participate in the recording of the sorrowful chronicle, and the erecting of a headstone to perpetuate the memory of our destroyed Sochaczew and of the murdered martyrs;my own flesh and blood, and my fellow natives whose lives were cut off follow after me like a Satan in my grave.

Sochaczew adds a significant chapter in the colorful and unique life of the Jewish in Poland which exuded its illuminated spirit over all of the Jewish communities in the world throughout the generations, and nourished our people with the precision of Jewish tradition, with Jewish knowledge, with the work of Jewish thought and Jewish creativity.

Sochaczew symbolized, and was the synthesis of both Jewish traditional life and progressive cultural life. These were years when deep roots were planted, which assured continuity - until the great national misfortune. The survivors who remain have the sorrowful longing – a longing for those years and days, for the summer evenings of childhood;for the joyful Sabbaths and festivals. A nostalgia for home, for the alleys and streets populated by Jews who sat in their homes on summer nights with their Jewish wives from whose simple women's talk one could discern the difficult socioeconomic and political life of the Jews in the Poland that once was;a nostalgia for the dear, simple Jewish common folk who were murdered in such a brutal fashion. The city of my birth always enchanted me, and I always look back at it with affection. Wherever I am, I always recall Sochaczew, the city of my youthful ideals, the city where my dreams of youth took shape and which set me upon the intellectual path of my life.

The period between 1915-1925 can be considered to be a period of renaissance, the upswing of Jewish social, political and cultural life in Poland.

These were stormy years of wars and revolutions;years of birth pangs, of new sociopolitical orders in many countries, and the freeing of downtrodden peoples, including Poland which became independent on November 11th, 1918. All of these events left their tracks, and brought deep changes to Jewish life in Poland.

Ignoring the difficult economic situation, under both the German occupation and later the "free" Poland, Jewish life underwent a great cultural strengthening, and the political and social life pulsated. Sochaczew was not only a part of the Polish-Jewish society, but rather it stood in the foreground of the strong, pulsating life of Polish Jewry, whose actions were expressed in widespread cultural activity, including a rich civic library that contained a collection of several thousand books in Yiddish, Polish, Hebrew, and Russian;a reading hall which was filled with boys and girls each evening as they discussed various literary and political issues;lectures given by local personalities as well as reports from neighboring Warsaw about new streams in Jewish and world literature and other issues. There was also a very capable and active dramatic group, conducted at various times by the theater connoisseur Nachum Grundwag, which made a name for itself by presenting frequent dramatic performances and literary-musical evenings with programs from the Jewish classics and world literature;accompanied by song numbers from the choir of literary troupe.

This was all possible thanks to the intelligent youth, who embraced a new life, and who were distinguished in their active work that brought light, knowledge, and a new spirit and rhythm to the entire Jewish life.

Even prior to the First World War, Sochaczew had a "Jewish communal library" and a dramatic troupe that was affiliated with the library. However, with the outbreak of the war, the Jews of Sochaczew, as the Jews in many other cities and towns, were driven by the Czarist regime into Warsaw, leaving the entire endeavor, along with the entire city, destroyed.

Later, when the Germans took Warsaw in July 1915, the Jews began to return to Sochaczew. Returning home and beginning to build up the destroyed lives and destroyed homes, they quickly began to think about the life of the intellect.

The greatest worry was where to live, for there was almost no home that was not damaged;however the strong desire to improve the day to day economic life did not dampen the desire for a spiritual-societal life.

With the greatest persistence and effort, with restricted human and financial resources, the "Jewish communal library and reading hall" was opened. This quickly became the home and center of the youth who returned. Almost all of the youth of Sochaczew gathered around the library, as well as a number of the adults, representatives of the various ideologies and party affiliations. The library became more than a place where one obtains a book, it became an educational institution that concerned itself with the intellectual development of the youth, and made sure that each member or reader would read the appropriate book.

The process of cultural growth led to brighter ways, and the upswing expressed itself in a variety of cultural means. The dramatic troupe was formed in the library, and everything contributed to the integrated composition of the general Jewish life in Sochaczew.

The dramatic troupe undertook great tasks from the beginning, and left its mark on all areas of Jewish life, which spurred it on to its future successes. The task of the dramatic group was to perform Jewish theatrical productions and the best of Jewish drama, to improve and enrich the city culture center, and thereby to fulfil the intellectual needs and longings of the Jewish population.

In a very short time, the dramatic troupe grew into one of the finest cultural institutions in Poland. By 1926, through their activities, they were recognized both for their artistic style, with their high cultural level and their breadth of repertoire.

The Sochaczew library and dramatic troupe were known in many cities in Poland, and their performances were in high demand in the neighboring towns such as Bialynin, Grodzisk, Wyszogrod, Lubowiec and others.

When this book is completed, those who lived in Sochaczew at that time, and now live throughout the world will surely relive those fine days of festive success of the artistic performance of Yaakov Gordon's "The Unknown", "God, Man and the Devil", "Kreizer Sonata", and the "Stranger"; Peretz Hirschbein's "The Carcass";"The Mute" by A. Weiter;"The Family" by Nambergen;Shalom Aleichem's "Scattered and Spread", "Mazel Tov", and "Agents"; "Yankel the Smith" by David Pinski; "Return" by Shalom Asch;as well as other single act dramatic performances, short artistic evenings, choir recitals, which brought a great deal of spirit and festivity to the Jewish street.

The Jewish cultural activists in Sochaczew would mark with great honor and holiness the yahrzeits (anniversary of the death) of the deceased Jewish classical writers. The yahrzeits were marked each year with great activity and intellectually stimulating programs, performed by esteemed writers from Warsaw, who introduced the liberal Jewish masses to their creations.

Aside from the library which was not affiliated with any party, there were also, of course, circles of the Zionists, Folkists, and Workers, who conducted liberal, variegated cultural and political publicity work.

We went through various episodes perpetrated by anti-Semitic characters from Poland of the time. One of them is worth mentioning – it is connected with the later leader of the Bund, the writer and orator A. Lutwak.

He was invited by the library to give a lecture about Y. L. Peretz. It was necessary, as always, to obtain an appropriate permit for this. As was usual, on that Sabbath evening an hour prior to the lecture, representatives of the police arrived with an ordinance in the name of the starosta (mayor) stating that the speaker must deliver his lecture only in the Polish language, and not in Yiddish. All explanations did not help, and the writer of these lines, as the chairman of the library and representative of the Jewish community, signed a paper that he took upon himself the entire responsibility toward the Polish authorities for not following a police ordinance.

This matter was clarified by the education ministry, and later lectures in Yiddish took place without interference.

To my great pain, the majority of those who led and participated in the development of Jewish social and cultural life in Sochaczew were among those murdered. With great awe and respect, I wish to mention here the names of Simcha Grundwag, Nachum Grundwag, Machla Grundwag-Szwercer, Bluma Wajnberg, Chaya Flejszman, Chwacza Lefkowicz, Bina Festman, Simcha Kan, Yosef Muney and Yosef Luksztyk, as well as others whose names I no longer remember.

Let us here also mention with respect Yosef Leib, better known as Lutek Skotnicki, who died before the last war. For the entire time, even after I left Sochaczew in 1926, he stood at the foreground of Jewish social, political and cultural life in Sochaczew, and brought a great energy to the struggle against anti-Semitism since the rise of Polish until his sudden death.

With awe, respect, grief and agony, I wish to also mention here the name of Vove Rozenberg, who died in New York on May 14th, 1953. The deceased, with his intelligence, energy, and deep proficiency in literature and theater, played a great part in the development of the life of the spirit in the city. (He prepared to participate in this book, but with his death, his life and his plans were torn apart. )

With grief and agony, I wish to also mention here an important activist from that time, whose young life was also suddenly cut off – Aharon Friedman, who died in Jerusalem on the eve of Yom Kippur, 1953.

With grief and nostalgia, I wish to mention Eliezer Meir Libert, the former president of the Chicago Sochaczew Mutual Benefit Society for 28 years, who died on July 20th, 1956. His death deeply affected all of our fellow natives. He excelled in bringing assistance to all Sochaczewers who were in need.

Of those who remain alive, we should mention:Yaakov Friedman of Schunat Borochov, Rachel Weinberg-Levanon of Tel Aviv, Hershel Kac of Los Angeles, and Moshe Szwarc of Chicago.


The Sprouting of the New Poland

On November 11th, 1918, Poland proclaimed itself as an independent kingdom. Along with the celebrations and liberation came a wave of pogroms. Jewish blood flowed; they cut beards, threw Jews off of trains. The illusion of a happy Poland, for which we had dreamed of and placed so much hope, trickled away. The previous anti-Semitism became stronger in all of its manifestations. The way things turned out in the new Poland became a great disappointment to the Jewish youth of Sochaczew, as throughout Poland.

However, with the birth of an independent Poland, a change came in the history of the Jews in Poland. There was an awakening of activity in all Jewish political and national streams in the land. This brought a new birth and life to the entire political and social life in Sochaczew, which was not left behind. That era marked the complete end of the previous situation of apathetic-congealed Jewish life, and the Sochaczew Jewish community began to take up the struggle, and faced all of the problems that went around in life, as they struggled for the rights for Jews as citizens in the new Poland.

Sochaczew demonstrated with honor that it was an integral part of the colorful Polish Jewry in all domains of political, social and cultural life.

{Photo page 147: Jewish civic council members as part of a delegation to greet the president of Poland. }


The Social Makeup

Of the approximately 800 Jewish families who lived in Sochaczew at that time, most were artisans, tradesman, small shopkeepers, wheat handlers, or people without definite occupations. Sochaczew, like most towns of Poland, did not have any specialized industry. Most of the tradesmen were tailors, shoemakers, butchers, wagon drivers, boot makers[1], metal workers, horse drawn cab drivers, porters, etc.

There were also a small number of well to do people who conducted business in forestry and wood products, who were large scale grain businessmen, and who were involved in various other businesses. However, most of the merchants struggled for their economic existence under the yoke of high taxes and significant restrictions in business.

There were also a small number of people involved in other trades. However the majority were involved in the above mentioned businesses, and later organized themselves into a professional organization. That group, even though it was small in number, soon began to play an important role in the social, economic and political life. Aside from being active in political training, they also succeeded in working for better economic conditions for the workers.

The tradesman also conducted activities to the best of their ability, and formed a handworker's union.

There was also a societal cassa in town, where the artisans and small businessmen could obtain a loan in order to lighten their difficult lives.

The handworker's union also played a political role in both Jewish and civic life.

The Jews of Sochaczew took a significant interest in the general political life of the country and in the situation of the civic communal economy. They demonstrated political maturity and unity at the time of the elections for the civic council.

Even at the beginning of the 20thcentury, the Jews of Sochaczew formed a coalition with the Polish Socialist Party (P. P. S), elected a Jewish vice mayor, and thereby wrote an important page in the history of the Jews in Poland, in particular with regard to the militancy, might and struggle for equal rights. With their unified power, at that time they were able to elect a progressive mayor, who defeated the candidate of the reactionaries. The anti-Semites could not bear this situation, and therefore they threatened to toss the provisional vice mayor, who was indeed the writer of these lines, into water in a sack if he would not immediately resign. However, they did not carry through. He remained at his post as a proud Jew and a Polish citizen with full rights as he continued with the struggle for Jewish rights until his immigration to America.

The Sochaczew population at that time was made up of 60% Jews and 40% Christians. The Jews of Sochaczew played a progressive role in the sociopolitical life. Until the time that I left Sochaczew, they were united in all civic elections, and as a result of their unity, there were 14 Jewish councilors out of a total of 24. They came from the entire spectrum of the Jewish social spectrum – Zionists, the handworker's union, the Folkists and Bund. They blocked the anti-Semitic plans to undermine Jewish business in the upper areas of the city and to expel the Jewish wagon and carriage drivers from the market, in which Jewish families earned their livelihood for generations. Later, these anti-Semitic plans, through various geographical machinations, arranged for all areas of the city to have a majority of Christian residents, and therefore, the number of Jewish votes, and correspondingly, the number of Jewish councilors, was reduced.

I should mention here with honor the long-time Jewish activist of Sochaczew, Simcha Grundwag. Aside from his activities in other areas of the city, he especially excelled in his work for the city council, as a long-serving councilor, in his day to day struggle against the Polish reactionaries and anti-Semites in order to promote the interests of the Jews of Sochaczew.


The Elections for the Jewish Community

Of the 652 cities and towns in Poland, Sochaczew excelled greatly in the area of establishing an organized official Jewish life.

When the ordinance was issued calling for elections for the position of chairman of the Jewish community, the entire Jewish political and communal spectrum began preparing for the historic day with their entire partisan might.

The internal Jewish life in Sochaczew, just like in all other cities, changed greatly after the independence of Poland. Official Jewish life used to be dominated by a small number of wealthy people, "fine" and "lovely" Jews [2], parnassim (communal servants) and leaders. These "leaders"of the Jewish community were for the most part removed from Jewish life and did not feel for the lot of the poor Jewish masses.

The entire work was in matters of kashruth (Jewish dietary laws), synagogue, the Beis Midrash, the mikva (ritual bath), ritual slaughterers, etc. The entire agenda was out of date and obsolete. The common folk and the tradesmen did not have any respect or reverence for the powers.

Therefore, with happiness, elections took place understandably to reorganize Jewish life under the name of "the religious Jewish community". According to the election ordinance, Sochaczew must appoint four heads of the community. The Rabbi of the community, who at that time was Reb Yehoshua Prekal, was automatically a representative to the communal council.

Those who lived in Sochaczew at the time and will read these lines will surely remember those days of the zealous election campaign. The Aguda[3] with the assistance of the rabbi conducted an intensive election campaign against all the other parties;the tradesmen and the Folkists wanted to free themselves from the hegemony of previous "leaders" and wished to elect a number of representatives who would concern themselves with the needs of the broad populist masses. Officially, three parties ran – the Aguda, the Zionists and the Folkist party. Although the latter was small in number, it had a strong following from the handworkers, workers and all those who wished to bring a radical change to Jewish life.

After a long and intensive election campaign, an action that initiated a new upswing in Jewish political, religious and cultural life, both the Zionists and the Folkist party were victorious. Despite the fact that the Aguda expected to elect no fewer than all four candidates, they barely elected two. The Zionists elected one representative, as did the Folkist party.

{Photo page 151: The Joint[4] kitchen in its activities after the First World War – distributing food to the children of the city. }

The results of the election initiated a new chapter in the history of Jewish life in Sochaczew. The two progressive representatives were a significant factor and an important power in the life of Sochaczew Jewry, and they expanded their activities beyond the realm of purely religious matters. The meetings and deliberations were open, and always drew a large audience. The communal office became a veritable open populist tribunal, where discussions took place on important political, national and world matters. The communal committee became a true reflection of the Jewish community of Sochaczew, and acted in a serious manner, with its full authority, against every challenge to the Jewry.

In the first place, the Jews of Sochaczew felt that their lives had taken on a new form. The social and economic situation began to be reflected in the meetings of the communal organization.

Around the years of 1924-1925, Poland became entangled in a difficult crisis. The workers and small businessmen made up a greater portion of the population than previously. The Grabowski "wagon" removed a bit of the poverty from the impoverished Jewish handworkers and storeowners[5]. Under these difficult conditions, the duties of the communal committee became more serious. They often had to intervene with the tax office for the benefit of a number of Jews, and were often successful in saving them from complete ruin.

Thus did the community go about its activities, always placing great importance upon the economic situation of the artisans and small businessmen, and their poverty.

The poorer segments of Sochaczew Jewry, whose numbers increased during the crisis and who were in need of assistance, were helped by the communal organization in various ways in a fine, modest fashion. The imposition of the Jewish communal tax affected the economic situation of each individual, and this was often the cause of a struggle with the representatives of the Aguda.

This was the picture of Jewish life in Sochaczew when I left in February 1926. I visited Sochaczew in 1949, and my heart bled profusely upon witnessing the great destruction.

Sochaczew remains as a corner of light in the soul of every Sochaczewite. The beginnings of my generation were not lost. Those who were carried by fate to all corners of the world carry on the beautiful traditions of Sochaczew – some have participated in the founding of the State of Israel, and others struggle for a nicer and more just world.


  1. A 'kamash' is a low-laced boot or gaiter. Return
  2. A form of sarcasm, denoting people whose main claim to power was theirfinancial standing. Return
  3. Referring to the Orthodox group Agudas Yisrael, often known as 'the Aguda'. Return
  4. The Joint Distribution Committee, a worldwide Jewish organization to take care of poor and oppressed Jews. This organization is often referred to as the "Joint". Return
  5. I am not sure of the meaning of this sentence. Return


Organized Institutions

by Sh. Swiatlowski

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Sochaczew, like all Jewish cities and towns in Poland, had an entire series of organizations that bore the character of a type of self-help. These institutions were headed by the poor workers – “the masses”. I wish to mention here the most senior organization, “Linat Tzedek”, which was founded by such Jews as Daniel the shoemaker from the Moszenberg family, as well as his brother Yosef Yonah the jester and Hersch Kluska, both shoemakers; Moshe Aharon Moszenberg (nicknamed Fatom) the bearer of a trade; Shalom Zelmanowicz, also a shoemaker by trade; and other working men, tradesmen and artisans.

The first Siyum Hasefer [1] which the Linat Tzedek organization conducted with solemnity, when people accompanied the Torah through the entire city to the synagogue, will remain in the memories of Sochaczew Jews for a very long time. Zelig Kluska, a Jew from among the poor of Sochaczew, blew oil from his mouth with a large tin pan, which he carried with great solemnity. The oil was ignited and singed Zelig's beard. He barely noticed that he was being burnt…

The Linat Tzedek organization organized a great deal of assistance for the poor of Sochaczew. The members of the organization went out to “Linatan” – that is to say, spending the night with the ill and concerning themselves with all of their needs, from prescriptions to bedding. We must not forget the conditions in which the Sochaczew poor lived – mainly in attic rooms or in damp cellars. The “Linatnikes” went to those places to offer assistance to the ill.

The Hachnasat Orchim, Bikur Cholim, Hachnasat Kalah, and others offered assistance in different realms [2], whose sole aim was mutual assistance. Their organizers were the poorest people in town[3].

The Jews were not able to demonstrate their initiative everywhere. The upbringing of the poorer children was on a very low level. The premises of the Chevra Kadisha was given to the poor children, where the teacher Moshe Kiszka was located. The teacher of the Talmud Torah had to collect the tuition for them by himself. The students went around with torn clothing and barefoot. More significantly, the visors of their hats were torn… This happened because the teacher Moshe Itche used to figure out how to pull down the visor over the eyes of the students when they complained, saving thereby the gift of the hand [4].


The First Professional Union

The First World War brought a great destruction, and the poverty in the town increased.

The German army approached the villages of the Bzura at the end of 1914, and the front settled in near the town. Natan David the teacher was killed, and the Russians hanged three Jews: Yosef the teacher (Kacew), and Simcha Yehuda and Aryeh Leib Sznajder. The survivors fled naked and barefoot in the middle of the winter to Warsaw. Jewish Sochaczew ceased to exist.

The battles between the Russians and the Germans continued for eight months. The larger portion of the town was destroyed, and the Germans finally took Sochaczew in June 1915. Later, the German army entered Warsaw. Jews returned to their birth town, mostly the poor and the middle class. On the other hand, the richest families such as the Rechtmans, Graubards, Engelmans, Warszawskis and others remained in Warsaw or Lodz. They returned to Sochaczew only at the end of the war. The rabbi's family remained in Lodz. The town returned to life. The ruins were cleared away, and new houses were built. The appearance of Sochaczew Jews also changed. Jews began to appear in European clothing. Social life also renewed itself, and took on an entirely different character than what was before the war. A library was created, the first cultural institution in our town. The first dramatic club was founded. A struggle between the parties for hegemony began.

A professional movement also began in parallel with the cultural work of the library. The first professional union was set up in the Linat Tzedek headquarters in 1925. Feivel Galek was elected as chairman, who was the publicist [5] of the group. A second Orthodox young man was elected as secretary. The first general meeting elected an initiative group of ten members, including myself. After the “initiation” [6] of the chairman Feivel Galek, in which the “Bund” did not permit worshipping[7], a majority decision was taken to affiliate with the central professional union in Warsaw, located on Bracka 11 (The central organization of the elected Communist professional union). After a strong clap on the podium by the blind Itche to inform the gathering that it is time to conduct the Mincha service, the founding meeting took its decision…


The First Strike

The central organization decided to declare a strike on account of the fact that an employer, Mendel Plonski, refused to give work to the member Adam Kluska, who worked as a home manufacturer. I warned that the strike would fail, because it is after the season, however the central organization took interest in a political effect, and decided to strike.

The strike was impressive. Everyone except for one person participated in the strike. However, the end was sad. Due to a provocation, the authorities dissolved the Communist central, arrested a large majority of the members, and confiscated the entire archives. The police quickly threw themselves onto all of the branches in the country, including the branch in Sochaczew. Arrests and inquisitions began. This caused the employers in our town to become brazen. They organized themselves and declared a lockout; nobody was allowed into work. An oppressive mood overtook the workers in town. The strike failed terribly. The organization was dissolved by the police and the chief organizers, myself included, were placed under police supervision, which caused various other difficulties.

Some time later, around 1926, Yechiel Meir Zalcman (Szkolak[8]) appeared in Sochaczew. He had taken part in the revolutionary movement in Sochaczew in 1905. He was in Russia during the revolution of 1917, and later came to Sochaczew, where he stood at the head of the worker's movement. He called a meeting, and we decided to renew the professional activities. He proposed that we should affiliate with the Bundist headquarters. The motion was accepted with a majority of votes, and shortly after the first actions to organize anew the professional movement in our city, the headquarters sent its representative, the member Berl Ambaras [9] (Berl Szteper), who organized the activities of our union.

The movement developed very well. For the elections to the town council, we succeeded in including one of our members, thanks to our member Moshe Szwarc, who was held in high esteem. Our councilman was indeed our member Zalcman. This further enhanced the esteem of our professional union. We elected two councilmen in the elections for the regional sick fund: Yechiel Meir Piernik and the writer of these memoirs. Later, I was elected to the search committee, where I worked for five years until the liquidation of the mutual benefit organization by the Sanacia regime in Poland.

Our representatives to the sick fund greatly assisted the poor Jewish people of the town, and we struggled to make sure that there would be a Jewish doctor and feldscher [10] in town.

As I have already mentioned, Sochaczew was able to sustain various organizations that were involved in mutual assistance. These organizations had a philanthropic character. After the First World War, in the renovated Sochaczew, new mutual assistance organizations and cooperative activities were established. Together with the economic boycott policies of the anti-Semitic Polish regime, which did everything to destroy Jewish livelihood in the towns, the mutual assistance in Sochaczew strengthened. Thanks to the effort and energy of Yaakov Benczkowski (Yankel Trepiasz), a cooperative people's bank (Bank Lodowy) was founded in Sochaczew. It assisted several hundred families of the Sochaczew middle class and poor to save themselves from going under.

I should also mention the charitable fund that was led by Yechiel Meir Tylman. His work was done with selflessness. More than one poor handworker or poor merchant was saved with money from this fund.

Thus did the simple “townsfolk” Jewish of Sochaczew conduct their economic lives, helping each other and being active for the benefit of the public, until the Hitlerist murderous hand fell upon them.


  1. Festivities upon conclusion of the writing of a Torah scroll. Return
  2. Hachnasat Orchim – taking care of guests. Bikur Cholim – visiting the sick. Hachnasat Kalah – taking care of brides and wedding needs, primarily for the poor. Return
  3. I am not sure if this means that their beneficiaries were the poorest people in town, or more likely, in a somewhat exaggerating statement, is indicating that the activists in these organizations come from the poorer or working class strata of society. Return
  4. I suspect the 'gift of the hand' is a euphemism for a spanking. Return
  5. The term used here is 'baal koreh', literally the person who reads the Torah. I expect that here, it means the publicist. Return
  6. Literally “justification”. Return
  7. This is very cryptic. The Bund is an extreme left wing socialist movement, which is noted to be very anti-religious. My guess is that there was some religious controversy here between the Orthodox members and the left leaning members as to the proceedings at the initiation ceremony. From the next sentence, it is obvious that one of the set prayer times (Mincha – the afternoon service) fell during the meeting time, and a controversy arose as to whether to allow a break for that purpose. Return
  8. This word means 'quilter'. The members of such a socialist organization would often be referred to by their professions. Return
  9. Ambaras might mean 'the warehouse worker'. Return
  10. A feldscher is an old time barber surgeon – a type of medic. Return

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