by Morris Mandelbaum (from the Yiddish by M.D. Bell)
The First Sokolover Immigrants in Chicago
The immigrants who left Sokolov for America, with the exception of those who fled because of Tsarist persecutions for revolutionary activity, had it in mind to return after a while when they would have saved some money. With their savings, back in the old hometown, there were many things they could do: one would give his daughter an appropriate dowry; another hoped to buy a home, or to build one; another would go into business, and so forth. The trip to America was meant for a tachlis, a future.
Among those who found their way to Chicago were some who could not continue to live in the environment of a small town in Eastern Europe, at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present. Many of these travelled through Western Europe seeing life in Paris, London and other great cities.
Many a Sokolov youth, with little sense of responsibility but plenty of wanderlust, travelled the length and breadth of the United States. These had no aim or tachlis in mind. Some of them ultimately made their homes in distant parts of this country. In New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angles, however, larger groups of Sokolov immigrants settled.
In Chicago, at the turn of the century, we find Chaim Israel Elster arriving about two years before the assassination of President McKinley; he may have been at that time the only Sokolov immigrant in Chicago.
But soon after, we find Chaim Greenberg (Klitske), Shamai Greenberg (Klitske), Chaim Leib Rosenbaum, David Rosenbaum, Leizer (Ruchnes) Feinberg, Joseph Behr, David Shmilke Kaviesers, Peretz Naidorf, Gedalie Kordon, Avrum Bornstein, Joseph Naidorf and others.
I shall not forget my first impression of Chicago. I arrived at the end of summer, on Labour Day, 1914. I had lived for a short time in London and Paris and after these great cities, Chicago appeared to me like an immense village, as if many villages, a thousand perhaps, had been strewn together on the shores of Lake Michigan for a stretch of about 25 miles Had I had enough money at that time to buy a ticket, I would have taken the first train out of Chicago What a difference between the Chicago of today and that of a quarter of a century ago!
Many of us had the feeling that we lived here temporarily. We felt as though it were a stop-over. Soon another train would take us from here. We did not feel at home; our home was far away. Here we were strangers. We were longing for family, friends and above all for
Sokolov. We, therefore, hoped for the 'day' when we would go 'home' to Sokolov, drive up in a carriage all dressed up in American clothing everybody on the street would look on a crowd would gather the whole town would point: There goes an American! An American!
This feeling of strangeness, the longing for the 'real home' 'over there', was the reason that life in Chicago for most of the Sokolov immigrants was unstable. The group kept close together. Many of them lived together in one room and in one house. Each and every one worked hard, counted every earned dollar, translating it into 'roubles'. We watched every penny-thinking in terms of kopeks. Physically, we were here but spiritually we lived in Sokolov. Here the immigrant worked long hours in sweatshops, tailoring in unsanitary factories; in dark stores (shoe repairing), at old clothes (in cleaning stores), at carpentry, building and what not serving this great young country, helping to build it sleeping a t night occasionally in the midst of old clothes, old shoes, etc. dreaming about 'homecoming' another year one more year and we'll be back in Sokolov home Only then would life really begin!
And so we were heedless of the life we lived in America. It was only temporarily
Good-times of Early Sokolov Immigrants in Chicago
However much one longs for his 'old home' one, meanwhile, tries to make the best of things as they are and to 'have a good time'. On Sundays and holidays there usually was a gathering at someone's home, someone who already had become more or less established and had his family with him. Often these gatherings were at the home of Chaim Israel Elster, Shamai Greenberg, Mendel Vishni or Chair Leib Rosenbaum. At such affairs there was much to eat and drink. Especially when they celebrated over 'home-made' foods, and dishes they had liked in Sokolov. The delicacies consisted of roasted meats, fried liver, baked fish, and 'kliskelech' with liver, potatoes with 'pope zatse'. Each one of the landslayt brought some foodstuffs or drink. Often, Avrum Bornstein, who was earning well and who was a good sport, bore all the expenses of such an affair.
A great deal of excitement was prevailed whenever a new immigrant arrived from Sokolov. They went to see the 'greenhorn' to 'look' at him, to hear about relatives in Sokolov and to ask him how he 'likes America'.
Occasionally there was a celebration, almost a real 'ball', arranged in honour of the newcomer. A great deal of roasting, frying and elaborate preparations, just like for a wedding The latest immigrant, who was usually the chief attraction, was seated in the most prominent position where he was helping himself not quite so 'green' Everyone separately offered him a whiskey and looked to see the effect of the
And so went life of the Sokolov immigrants in Chicago. They came, experienced hardships went back to Sokolov came again and finally settled down.
Organizing a Sokolov Society
When the group of Sokolov settlers in Chicago was small, they lived within easy reach of one another but when their numbers increased, they were spread out and scattered far and wide. Some did it for business reasons, others for a job. Seldom were they able to see each other now. Fear set in that this condition would bring about estrangement. So the idea of organizing a 'society' a Sokolov Society in Chicago was born. Not just a 'society' it also would have a 'sick benefit', distress benefit as well as 'brotherly love', etc. The idea materialized and the first Sokolov Society in Chicago was organized in 1910. (The records of this first organization were lost; therefore it is difficult to establish the exact date).
The Sokolov immigrants were overjoyed in their organization. The shoe repairer, the tailor, the factory worker, felt themselves elevated through the society. A new interest in life was added through the activities of the society, by being president, vice-president, treasurer, inner-guard, etc . a full list of officers and committees. Many of these would dress-up for the meetings almost in uniform with badges, ribbons, bands with inscriptions in gold letters (the initials of the organization and rank of office). They would appear resembling notables, diplomats, generals, etc.
At meetings, the president would sit like a monarch on his throne, in a high chair on the platform to the right and left of him were two chairs, same style but smaller and lower for the two officers next in rank who dressed and decorated like the president.
The presidents would stand, order the officers to 'take their respective places', pound the gavel three times a signal for the assembly to rise and call out: In the name of the Sokolov Verein, I call the meeting to order Then followed a ceremony part of which was taken from meetings conducted by fraternal societies such as the Old Fellows, Masons, etc..
The first Sokolov organization in Chicago did not last long. There were too many who had an ambition to sit in the president's chair or to hold other office. Factions sprung up and a battle raged for leadership. Brotherly love was forgotten. The fight grew to scandalous proportions until it landed on the doorstep of a civil court.
The young organization was too weak to survive the shock of 'civil war' and collapsed. Because of petty squabbles', unimportant and foolish quarrels, the Sokolov Society fell apart.
The American Sokolov Independent Verein
On May 11, 1912, the first meeting of a new organization took place. The initiators of this new verein were Avrum Borstein, Mendel Vishni, Morris M. Cohen, Morris Don, Morris Stein, D. Weiner and D. Glasgold. This organization which was named 'American Sokolov Independent Verein' is now celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.
Most of the Sokolov immigrants in Chicago joined the new organization. Amongst them were such active people as Chaim Greenberg
(Klitske), David Rosenbaum, Israel Shultz, Louis Good and Wolf Endles. At the first meeting, Morris Rosenbaum, David Steinberg, Sam Endles, Geo Bornstein, Wolf Endles, Hyman Gottlieb and Avrum Rubinstein signed up as members of the body.
At the above meeting, election of officers was held. Morris M. Cohen was elected the first president; Wolf Endles vice-president; A. Bornstein treasurer; D. Glasgold recording secretary; M. Rosenbaum financial secretary; M. Vishni, M. Dan and D. Weiner, trustees. These individuals as well as those who participated in the organization of the Verein are proud of the fact that they built such a fine institution.
Then, too, they wore a uniform and followed a ritual, conducting themselves as they do in secret societies or lodges. Besides sick benefit, distress relief and 'brotherly love', a clause was inserted in the Constitution whereby any 'member found to be working in a struck shop would be expelled from the Verein'.
The constitution of the organization was written in 1913 by Louis Tepper, Morris M. Cohen, A. Bornstein, M. Rosenbaum, M. Vishni, W. Endles, Harry Shultz and Ezrielke Naidor. Shultz was then president of the verein.
The verein issued a special emblem with a blue background for its members to wear. The name of the organization was inscribed in gold around the edge; in the centre a design of two white hands close together (as though shaking hands) - the symbol of unity with a red flag waving over them.
The old organization disappeared but the old grudges amongst some of the landslayt remained for some time to come. And so, as late as 1916, certain countrymen were refused admission to the verein because of old accounts. This was too great a punishment for those Sokolover with a desire for activity since this organization was (and still is to many) the only place where they could find expression.
Finally, they were admitted into the ranks of the Verein and some of them became active and loyal members.
The interest of the members in their organization was demonstrated not only at meetings but also outside of the meeting hall during the two weeks interim. Up to this day, some members gather on Sundays at Chaim Greenberg's second-hand shoe store, have a 'drink' and discuss 'politics', relief-activities and other organization problems.
A 'relief committee' to aid war refugees in Sokolov was organized in the winter of 1914-1915, independent of but with the assistance of the Verein. In another place in this book, the relief committee is dealt with in more detail.
There were times in the verein when there weren't enough 'literate' members to fill all the offices of the organization. More difficult yet was to find someone to take the office of recording secretary.
The cultural level in nearly all such organizations at that time was very low and in a good many cases, it still is. The intelligentsia, a few exceptions, kept aloof of such bodies composed of simple but honest people and even to this day, they smile 'good humouredly' at the 'speeches' of these folk.
Of course, it is amusing (as well as tragic) to hear the president of such an organization express himself as follows: We have to carry on
in the way our forefathers did; they were ma-yufis Jews, so we too have to be ma-yufi Jews!
But does not the blame for this low cultural level in the landsmanshaftn fall on our 'good-natured' intelligentsia who shunned these organizations of large masses of Jewish immigrants? The most prominent places in these organizations were, at all times, reserved for the intelligentsia! Had they participated in the work of these simple people, their own life would have been enriched and the cultural state of the organizations as well.
A few years ago, a group of intellectuals, including authors, teachers, doctors and others who were active on the cultural field in Chicago, got together for the purpose of raising the cultural level of the landsmanshaftn. The efforts of these kind people met with failure because they did not come to the masses as a part of them. Instead, they handed down to these potential important bodies 'cultural charity' from above, and it was resented.
It is amazing, therefore, the tremendous amount of work bodies like the Sokolov Independent Verein have accomplished for themselves, here in the United States as well as for their 'old homes' across the Atlantic.
Reform in the Verein
When World War I broke out, immigration to the United States of Jewish people from Eastern Europe ceased. Therefore, no new members for the American Sokolov Independent Verein. However, the organization carried on along the old routine: 'rituals' at meetings, parading with decorations (some wearing 'gold medals' presented to them by the verein for their 'good work'; payment of sick and distress benefits and even benefits for 'shivah' (the seven days of mourning) and so on.
Certain members of the organization who also belonged to outside 'lodges', insisted that the verein introduce new ceremonials, such as they had seen at the Odd-Fellows and other fraternal societies. Outstanding among these were Max Yeger and Louis Tepper (neither of whom came from Sokolov). In particular, they wanted new ceremonies for the introduction of new members
At about 1916, a new period begins with reforms introduced in the organization of Sokolov immigrants in Chicago. Under the leadership of M. Mandelbaum, A. Vishni, and A. Weinberg, a struggle began in the verein to discard the old rituals, ceremonies and change some sections of the constitution. The 'reformists' also fought for 'woman suffrage' in the organization; for 'cultural activities' such as lectures, readings, recitations at meetings and other reforms.
It was difficult to bring about changes in a group whose cultural requirements were next to nil. One argument was: leave it as it is; we have no need for a new system!
In the minutes of the meeting held on November 24, 1918, we find the following:
The literary programme arranged for this meeting was carried through in part in spite of the disorder caused by some members.
This was the first of a series of 'evenings' that was planned for the ensuing winter. But no preparations were made for any more such 'evenings'. The reason for the failure to carry out the planned programme for the winter will be found in the following paragraphs:
On the occasion of the 'cultural evenings' a specially printed letter was sent to the entire membership which responded favourably. The hall was filled to capacity. Of course, many who attended came because of their curiosity and to witness the new innovation.
As soon as the programme began the opponents started an 'emigration'. They all went into an adjoining room where they had, beforehand, prepared drinks and refreshments. Those who remained in the hall kept their seats and with great interest, listened to the reading of a story (by A. Reisin?). It dealt with a group of young shoemakers (apprentices) who went to the fair on the market place to steal boots or legs of boots. A number of listeners became restless believing it was they whom the author was referring to. Meanwhile a merry sound reached the meeting hall from the adjoining room and soon the door was opened and a 'happy' crow rushed in dancing. The faces of these merry-makers were flushed, their noses red and in their hands they held half-empty whiskey bottles with small glasses. Interrupting the proceedings of the gathering, they shook the walls with their dancing.
Avrum Bornstein, president of the Verein at that time, left the 'throne' and rostrum and joined the dancing.
On that night the 'reformists' suffered a big defeat. Still they carried on the fight for changes and for the abandonment of the old, outworn methods and customs employed by the Verein, until finally, they were in the main, successful.
The most difficult task the progressives were faced with was the granting of 'equality' to the women-folk. The biggest opponent of this reform was the deceased Ezrielke Naidorf, a man very active in the Verein and known as a 'learned fellow'. Many efforts were made to convince him of the justice of this reform. He was finally convinced. Grace Mandelbaum is credited with winning him over 'to the side of the women'. In 1921, on 23rd January, the organization resolved to accept women into the ranks of its membership.
The special committee appointed at this historical meeting to work on the conditions and laws for the acceptance of women members consisted of: M. Mandelbaum, Jack Naidorf, A. Bornstein, D. Gilberg, M. Rosenbaum and the aforementioned opponent, E. Naidorf.
On February 13, 1921, the first women members were admitted to the Verein. They were: G. Mandelbaum, Lena Bornstein, Sophia Bornstein, Meitke Rosenbaum, Anna Rosenbaum, S. Kaliner, T. Endles, Ena Greenberg, Etta Vishni, Rachel Rosenfeld and Eva Greenberg.
At every meeting, women joined the Verein. They immediately became active and were themselves elected to office. In the election of June 26, 1921, G. Mandelbaum and Anna Rosenbaum were elected to the executive committee. In 1930, G. Mandelbaum was elected to the office of recording secretary the only woman the Verein has had so far.
The acceptance of women into the organization brought about a complete change in the Verein. Men started to 'dress-up' for the meetings (women too, of course). The atmosphere of the meetings improved and the gatherings became more attractive. A new era began.
The Yearly Ball of the Verein
After the post-war crisis, there followed a period of prosperity in the United States. The Sokolov landsleit make a living and make money. Some work in factories, others 'for themselves'; some are in business; they live in new modern apartment buildings with new, modern furniture and 'grand pianos' for the children. There is a race to out-do one another amongst the country-people, especially amongst the women with homes, furniture, clothing, automobile, etc And the best place to show-off was at the meetings, at gatherings of the Verein. Men show off with their 'sportsmanship' in contributions, outbidding one another in the auctions, raffles, etc. Twenty-five dollars is not too much for such enthusiasts to spend at a gathering the proceeds of which went for relief to Sokolov needy.
The 'Yearly Ball' is the biggest event of the Sokolov Verein. For months ahead preparations are made. The women get the best and most glamorous in clothing. Their hair and facial make-up, and expensive garments make them look like opera stars, while the men drive up proudly in new autos.
The ballroom is flooded with a blinding light. The festive crowd is merry and happy. The men jam the bar and treat each other
Wolf Endles calls out: Landsleit, drink ! drink ! drink! I pay! Abe Isenberg, behind the bar, can hardly fill the glasses fast enough to suit his customers Come here! calls Chaim Greenberg. Now the drink is on me! I pay! Fill them up! Again, again! I'll pay.
The wives are displeased not so because their men throw away so many 'greenbacks' but because they fear their men may drink a little too much.
That'll be enough for today begs one woman of her husband. You can hardly stay on your feet already another woman says to her man. Rest up a little! So the women plead with their breadwinners. But no heed is paid to them
Here and there in the large hall are groups conversing and discussing politics, business, and 'making a living ', 'making money The orchestra plays American dance tunes and in the centre of the hall, the youth dance, children of one-time Sokolov inhabitants poor people in a small town in Eastern Europe. The mothers watch their dancing children and are happy. There is my Samuel dancing. He's a good student at the university taking up medicine There is my Maxie'le. He doesn't like to be a doctor, he'd rather be a dentist My Bernard'l wants to be a lawyer. I want him to be a doctor but he insists that he wants to be a lawyer
Look how nice my Dorothy is dancing! And how do you like my Anna'le's dress? You know, my Anna'le is finishing college this winter? My Sylvia too is finishing college this winter and we are going to buy her grand piano to her graduation. A 'baby grand', you know? The latest style. We are kenenore, so crowded and now, with the piano we're looking for a larger apartment, you know
The two women walk aside and whisper to each other: How do you like Columbus's Medine?! Who is talking about grand pianos? Did she know about a 'baby grand' in Sokolov?
Somebody shouted: Aren't we going to dance at all? How about a sherele? Go on with your Sokolov dances! Well! You too don't like Sokolov anymore? Onlookers broke up the possible quarrel while others hoped it would become 'livelier'. Everybody was convinced that even the young generation, the American born' wanted a 'sherele'. They played the tune but every one realized that it was not it 'not just it' . Criticism was expressed for the hiring of such an orchestra and the next meeting of the Verein promised to be a 'lively' one!
A cemetery for the Sokolover
Lately, the Verein has been dealing with a new problem. The older members wish to have a cemetery of their own a Sokolov cemetery in Chicago. The younger members won't even hear about it: We want to live; - we have enough time to think about such matters!
Chaim Greenberg, Mandel Vishni, David Rosenbaum, Joseph Naidorf, W. Endles, H. Shultz and others insisted that when the time comes they don't want to be scattered in different cemeteries: We are together now; we want to be together a hundred years from now.
After several stormy meetings, it was decided to purchase a cemetery. In the summer of 1922, a stretch of land was bought on a Jewish cemetery (in Waldheim) on the outskirts of Chicago. One Sunday, all the Sokolov landsleit men, women and children donned their best and in holiday spirit, came out to the cemetery field where the burning of shemoth took place followed by general rounds of 'l'chaim' (toasts) amongst the men with everyone wishing the other to live a hundred and twenty years. Everyone wanted to stay long in the cemetery. They didn't seem to hurry home when everything was over. It felt like home.
A good number of lots for graves were immediately bought by members of the Verein who prepared themselves for 'after a hundred and twenty years' for themselves and their families. Now the cemetery was a regular point on the agenda at each meeting. Our cemetery should be the nicest. There was no end to planning to improve 'our cemetery'. The grass should be mowed. We should plant some trees. There should be a plastered path. There should be a fence. There should be an arched brick-gate and so on.
Some members, protesting against taking up so much time for the matter, complained by saying: You have made a cemetery of the meetings but no attention was paid to them. Trees were planted in the cemetery. An asphalt path was laid along the entire length of the ground with grass, flowers and trees on both sides. A very attractive gate was put up at the entrance of the cemetery.
From a distance it looked like a small brick house. There are two wide walls over which a red roof is laid. On the floor at each wall is a built-in bench over which there is a marble plate on the walls. The following names of the most active members of the Verein are engraved and the letters are covered in gold. On these plates the following names are inscribed: Morris Mandelbaum, Wolf Endles, Morris M. Cohen, Avrum Bornstein, Morris Rosenbaum, Ezriel Naidorf, Chaim Greenberg (Klistke), Hyman Kokee and Dave Gilberg.
At a special meeting of the Verein, it was discussed and voted the first names and their order on the plate under a special inscription. The names of contributors and others are also on the plate on a separate space.
Over the red roof rises an arched design made of metal with the words: Sokolover Verein worked out in large gilded letters. It was a real holiday for the members of the organization when the gate was 'opened'. Again, on Sunday, everybody men, women and children all dressed in their best came to celebrate the 'opening of the gate' of 'our cemetery'. The honour of opening the gate was bought by Aryeh Gilberg and again there were toasts wishing one another to live a hundred and twenty years! The celebration was kept up till darkness fell over 'our cemetery'.
At times, a member would drive out to take a look at the cemetery just like that and very often, after such a visit, a whole commotion would be raised at the meetings: The cemetery is being neglected! The gold on the letters of a certain name on the plate in the gate-wall came off! A tree is in need of special attention What kind of a cemetery committee have we?
The cemetery committee gets special attention at such meetings. The Sokolov immigrant is no longer in the 'new world' in the United States, temporarily 'for a while' Witness is the gate at the cemetery entrance, the tombstones amidst trees and flowers that were planted years ago. Together they are, these stones not scattered their own Sokolov tombstones in their own Sokolov graveyard!
Election of Officers
The ambition to sit in the president's chair, to be the head of the organization is strong indeed amongst the members. Some strive for the offices of vice-president and treasurer; others are satisfied to be just executive board members. Because only one can be president, vice-president, etc., at one time, the campaign to win such office is lively indeed. Factions or 'parties' are formed around candidates. At first, often many months ahead of election time, a whispering campaign is carried on. Gradually, as the time of election approaches, the campaign is carried out into the open. It's all done outside of the meeting hall. Candidates and their supporters go around seeing members at their homes, to solicit their votes. 'Agitation' on a large scale is carried on by telephone. There's a lot of talking in favour or against candidates. Both factions use the same arguments.
Some time, at the last minute, the two groups come to some sort of an agreement and compromise. They divide up with the posts, arrange some kind of a 'coalition' ticket and peace reigns again in the Verein.
Such an agreement was once reached between A. Bornstein and E.
Naidorf. They represented two groups that had their own slates. Sunday afternoon, before the meeting of the organization, they made their agreement. In the evening, at the general meeting of the Verein when nominations came up, E. Naidorf, in line with the agreement, withdrew his candidacy but A. Bornstein, unable to resist the temptation to become an officer, broke the agreement and accepted the nomination.
The election was uproarious. Accusations fell from both camps. The legality of the election was questioned. There were complaints that ballots were 'improperly marked'. The counting was wrong. It was voted again and again. The tumult did not cease until after midnight when, before adjournment, it was decided to have a special meeting in two weeks and to have elections all over again.
During these two weeks, the campaign was carried on even more intensely through telephone and personal calling on voters. As luck would have it, a few days before the special meeting, a strike occurred of transportation workers in Chicago. The membership, scattered throughout the city, could not be reached by trolley or bus and each faction felt the danger of losing the election. A. Bornstein got an idea: he rented a bicycle, rode around to visit the membership and saved the election.
Such stormy elections were not unusual in the Verein. But when it came to install the newly-elected officers, all grudges were forgotten. Everybody participated in making the event one of joy and festivity. The meeting hall would be decorated and tables crowded with all sorts of drinks and refreshments ready to receive and greet the new officers and the entire membership who would attend the celebration.
The special committees would do their best to please everyone. Some members, though they were not on the committees, would voluntarily help out in the work. Women who came dressed in their best attire, their nails manicured, and their hair specially set, would not hesitate to put on an apron and help the committee in the kitchen or serving at tables. Every time there was the feeling that the arrangements were even better than the previous year's installation.
The 'installing' officer would usually turn over the leading of the parade of the new officers, carrying two flags one American; the other, the Jewish national white and blue flag to the two oldest members of the organization: Chaim Greenberg and Dave Rosenbaum. After them, the new president, vice-president, recording secretary, finance secretary, treasurer, trustees, executive members, hospital and cemetery committee would march until they reached the platform. Meanwhile, an appropriate march would be rendered by the musicians hired for the occasion.
The new officers were seated in front of the hall on two rows of chairs especially prepared for them. The 'installing officer' would stand up and after a short speech, would bestow the honour on a certain member to install the president; another would get the honour and privilege to install the vice-president; a third the honour, privilege and pleasure to install 'our best secretary' and so on down the line. Each 'installer' would begin with thanking for the great honour, honour and privilege and honour, privilege and pleasure, etc. All speakers were applauded heartily, nearly all got their share of recognition and everyone was pleased.
When the official installation was over, the 'surprises' began. The
organization would present each outgoing officer and a present for the good work, etc. Again there were special speech-making, lauding and praising. The recipients would make speeches in return for the presents and would promise to hold the presents 'dear' and carry on the work in the Verein even better than before.
As a whole, there was great enthusiasm in the hall. But more so when the new president would surprise his wife with a present or vice-versa, the wife would surprise the president, her husband, also by delivering a speech: My dear husband. I hereby present you with or My dear wife. I hereby present you with this diamond ring and just like the brilliance of the ring, The applause was tremendous. Everybody was jubilant. It isn't just a meeting of a society, it's a family celebration.
The evening was not complete without a musical number by professionals and a recital and musical number rendered by members' children or even grandchildren. A little girl recites something dramatically and a little boy plays 'Kol Nidre' or 'Eli Eli' and, somewhere in the audience, elderly members sat, carried away in thoughts somewhere in Sokolov when he was young, when he was a little boy or an apprentice to a shoemaker not like this little boy on the platform playing the violin wish such fine white fingers. Not like his that were hardened from handling the rough leather of leggings and heavy boots somewhere in a dark cellar which was the home of a hard-working artisan.
Everybody please keep your seat! «is called out by a committee man announcing: Refreshments are served immediately. Wines and whiskey are served and plenty of cakes, sandwiches, soft drinks, beer, etc. To your health! To the health of all of us!.
A real nice installation this year! Never have we had such an installation as today.
The festive crowd were relishing the drinks and food and were preparing to leave. All commented on the successful celebration some began to leave while others got a last drink a 'toast'. There was still plenty of food on the tables but nobody was hungry and it was getting late, after midnight! The hall was emptied. One member gave a last look at the food on the tables and whispered to himself: If they, in Sokolov, could have all this food? «Must you be the last one now too? somebody called him. Take your books and let's go!.
A picnic of the Verein
The work of the Verein cannot be covered by the income it derives from membership dues. It is not enough to make possible payment of sick-benefit, give aid to a member in distress or contribute to the work of other organizations and institutions. It was therefore necessary to undertake something whereby we could raise some money to help us carry on our good work.
This is, in essence, the answer given to the criticism offered by members at almost all meetings when the question of raising money would come up. The membership was asked to help make a success of the 'Ball'; the 'fish dinner of the Sokolov Ladies Aid; the picnic of the Verein; the picnic of the Sokolov Relief Committee, etc.
One member had something to propose and would take to the floor:
Brother President! Brother Vice-president! I want to make a motion and while I am at it, I might as well second it the man is interrupted by a point of order! It is all straightened out and the organization of the affair goes on. Everybody offers his or her services to the success of the picnic.
As usual, Sophia Bornstein, Rebecca Tushner, and Serke Gilberg volunteer to assist them. The work is done at either Mrs. Tushner's or Mrs. Bornstein's home. The work is done in a hurry so that they can still manage to get an hour's sleep before daybreak. The husbands of these women do their share by playing cards all this time in the living room but occasionally run over to the kitchen only to be driven back to their pinocle game.
After midnight, we find S. Tushner, Ph. Tefki and N.D. Stein on the picnic grounds, after they have relieved Jack Naidorf, sitting around a table at a pinocle game at the light of a lantern. It is a dark night and still darker in the woods: Years ago, one speaks out. It was necessary to come out here on Saturday morning to lay claim on a picnic ground and then watch it through a whole night on Saturday. I nearly killed myself dragging the tables together. The tables are very heavy. The work for the picnic was very hard but everyone understood the meaning of the few dollars which would be raised at the picnic for the poor in Sokolov. They were, therefore willing to sacrifice a night's sleep and put in all they could for the success of their undertaking.
It was getting colder in the woods and the men took the last of their liquor to warm up a little. Then men noticed signs of rain but they were not concerned with their own well- being. It was the outcome of the picnic that they were anxious about. There was no shelter nearby so the men put as many tables together as they could for some protection against the rain but they were rained under and over anyway.
It was still raining in the morning. The Relief Committee gathered A. Bornstein's house where everything was prepared during the night ready to begin transporting the foods and other articles to the picnic grounds. Outside Dave Gilberg and Hyman Kokee waited with their trucks. Joe Zigard was waiting with his truck ready to go to S. Dukowitz for tables and benches (which he lent gratis to each Sokolov picnic). Everyone was ready to do what he could for a successful picnic but the rain had not stopped yet.
What are we going to do? We'll wait a little longer. If the rain doesn't stop, we'll rent a hall and have an indoor picnic. What shall we do about the committee in the woods on the picnic ground? We'll have to go and bring them home. They are liable to get sick from exposure.
Jack Naidorf and Mandelbaum drove out to the picnic grounds. On their way they looked at the sky which was still very grey with clouds but here and there, in the distance, was a break and a streak of light breaks
The day in summer is long and it will get clear and dry up yet, with enough time left for the picnic.
We don't see anyone on the grounds. Just a pile of tables thrown together. It was clear that the men had left and gone home. We took in the situation, a wet ground and non-stop rain. Soon we heard someone calling us. We could hardly recognize the people! Two men crawled out from under the tables both looking alike black with mud and wet. One was S. Tushner and the other a Negro who was hired to help. The other two men were sent home. It was not necessary to all to stay there in the wet and cold. Tushner would not take a chance in case it cleared up and others would take away the place and the tables.
It cleared up. It turned out to be a hot day. A day that was just right for a picnic.
The committee was arranging the tables putting them in the shade of the trees. Soon Dave Gilberg, Hyman Kokee and Joe Zigard came with loaded trucks. The unloading began; the field kitchen (especially made by Hilke Rosenbaum) was put up; a special place for the bar was arranged; a table for the secretary to keep record and sell the 'checks' was put in proper place; one table was assigned for the raffling of candies, and so on.
Pick-nickers were coming out. The crow was getting larger. The picnic was in full swing. Each committee member at the tables was calling out his or her articles. Above all the voices we heard Dave Gilberg's: Ice cold beer ten cents a glass! Schnapps ten cents a shot! was called by Jack Naidorf. Chaim Greenberg and Morris Cohen walked between the tables selling the checks for the bar. There was competition between these two men; each was trying to get ahead of the other in the number of checks sold. Each enquired from the secretary as to the stand of the other, adding: You'll see, Mandelbaum today I'll sell more checks and immediately ran back into the crowd shouting: Checks for the bar! » The youth also come to these picnics. They entertain themselves by playing all sorts of games such as ball, etc. Country-men that are not otherwise seen, even from distant towns, come to these picnics. Morris Greenberg relaxing a little from his assignment was criticizing as usual. Not a sufficient variety of food had been prepared to draw customers.
Louis Vilensky, a member of a committee came late, all dressed up in a white suite and white shoes but he was soon put on a job selling 'pop' and the outfit became fit for the work. Ice cold pop, five cents a bottle! he called his customers.
Hyman Kokee took care of the 'wheel'. Ten cents a number! You can win a bottle of whiskey; a box of candy and only for ten cents! Who's next? And he sells the 'lucky numbers' and turns the wheel to determine the winner: Watch your lucky number!
Amidst all the noise, Peshe Gizard was selling raffle tickets for a cake she had baked herself: For ten cents a number, you can win this beautiful cake! All the money is for our people in Sokolov!
It was getting dark and nightfall was near. The crow quickly left the picnic grounds on their way home. The committee members once again load the trucks with pots, tables and chairs. Mandelbaum was still at his secretary's tables, figuring out and counting the money in the darkness of the passing day. Well, how much did we make? Will we have five hundred dollars to send to Sokolov? they are anxious to know.
Tired from a hard day's work and sunburnt, they returned home. Tired but glad and satisfied that it had not been a lost day. There will be some bread and coal for our people in Sokolov for next winter.
The Crisis in 1929
The crisis of 1929 affected the Sokolov people in Chicago as well as the rest of the American people. Some lost their apartment, houses, homes and their businesses. Their savings were used up; their jewellery was exchanged for cash to live on. All efforts were made to maintain the pre-crisis mode of living, even if only for appearance sake.
At the meetings of the Sokolov Verein one could see in attendance members about whom it was said that 'they were too rich to come amongst landsleit'. These people were now seen as well at the benefit socials, arranged to aid some distressed members and also to the 'affairs' run by the Sokolover Relief Committee for the benefit of the poor in the 'old country'. In time of grave economic hardships, the Sokolov countrymen did not forget to help the Sokolov needy. Some members of the Verein protested that this was done at the expense of needy members in Chicago. Even today, there are some who complain that more attention is paid to the needy in Sokolov than to those in distress in Chicago.
The crisis lasted from several years. It was not until the Roosevelt administration introduced work projects to help the millions of unemployed and appropriated billions to alleviate the suffering of the masses that new hope and courage was awakened in the hearts of everybody. The Verein carried on a great deal of work to help its unfortunate members, many of whom were hard-hit by the crisis and needed help. Especially was this sort of relief work carried on by the Sokolov Ladies Aid Society. Outstanding in this work of the society were the following members: Rebecca Tushner, G. Mandelbaum, Sophia Burnstein, Serke Gilberg, Feige Gilberg, Perl Mindle Naidorf, Chaie-Rivke Rosenbaum, Fannie Kokee, Anna Baum, Etta Tefke and others. These women worked tirelessly gathering and distributing aid. Many a family were saved from misfortune and disgrace of eviction from their dwellings. They provided their needy members with food, coal, rent, etc.
At the same time, relief work for the needy in Sokolov was kept up. The Sokolov Relief Committee kept on demanding relief for Sokolov and much was done in this respect.
Gradually, people got used to the new situation. Although the good-old-times did not return, the Sokolov folk in Chicago began all over again and their 'deal' was better. After all, there never were any millionaires amongst them. Some made a living; others made a 'better' living.
The vanishing of prosperity brought back into the ranks of the Verein those who were drawn away by land speculations, real estate, brokers, agents of all sorts and types into the environment of 'rich' people and 'important' people, but, together with the prosperity days, vanished the important and rich friends of the landsleit. So these landsleit came back. Once again, they wanted to be together.
The crisis brought the Sokolov landsleit close together as never before.
The New Generation Stays Away
Eighty out of the hundred families that came across from Sokolov were in the organization, which counts for about one hundred and fifty members. Amongst these families that were not in the Verein (not to speak of American-born amongst the Sokolov immigrants which makes about two hundred families) many who are altogether indifferent to the kinsman ship of the Sokolov organization. They just don't want to be bothered. Conditions in Sokolov don't concern them. They think themselves too intelligent to belong to the Verein.
These people came to America most after World War I. These were the elements that it was hoped would instil new life in the Verein and stimulate further relief work for the needy in Sokolov. So, they are 'too intelligent' for such work?
A few years after World War I, I called together a group of these 'intelligent' people at my house in an effort to interest them in cultural work and in particular in organizing (financial) assistance for the cultural work in Sokolov, from whence they had recently come. At that time, there was a modern school in Sokolov; a library and other cultural activities. A short time following this gathering, we had a cultural committee which included a number of immigrants that had left Sokolov before 1914. The outlook for cultural work was hopeful.
However, to the call for the second meeting of this committee, only half of the number responded; to the meeting, not even that many and so the group dissolved. It was discouraging. Again, I spoke to some of these people personally but with little success.
The anxiety to draw these people into the work of the Verein became even greater when it became obvious that the organization would not grow because of immigration restrictions. The members were getting old and no new people were coming in to take their place.
At the beginning of 1935, an attempt was made to organize the new generation the American-born children of these Sokolov immigrants. The Sokolov Youth Organization was organized under the supervision of the Verein and under the leadership of Sam Naidorf as President. Later, Sydney Cohen was President of the youth group with Nathan Mandelbaum as Vice-President; Edith Naidorf, secretary; Max and Pauline Naidorf, Sol and Edith Epstein, Esther Tushner, Isadore Behr, Arthur Zigard and others joined the Sokolov Youth. But to the regret of the seniors, the youth group did not survive. The American generation of the immigrants didn't seem to have much interest in the 'old country' and so, with the Sokolov youth organization.
In the early days of the Verein, members would invite the organization to their own or their children's weddings. Now, they invite the Landsmanshaft to the weddings of their grandchildren!
Lately, the Sokolov Verein entered a new epoch: it is not confined any more to activities pertaining to the old hometown Sokolov. Besides being a part of the national organization of Polish landsmanshaftn, the Verein participates in many activities of a local and national character as well as aiding immigrants in general through the work of HIAS, participating in certain activities of the American Zionist movement, American Jewish Congress, etc.
The membership now consists of old and middle-aged people, and
with the development of World War II, the activities for Sokolov proper were greatly limited and were on the downgrade and also, because of the present trend among these immigrant organizations to exert influence on local life. The intelligentsia were gradually coming nearer to these mass organizations; cultural activities crept in, though very slowly and there was even a desire to have a Sokolov centre with a library of its own.
A Dream That Did Not Come True
We should have our own home; our own centre, club-rooms, library, reading room; a place for the Verein, the Sokolov Relief Committee, Ladies Aid and also where to spend an evening or even to play a pinochle too! We should be able to conduct services there on Saturdays; holidays a Sokolov synagogue together with a centre.
The enthusiasm for a Sokolov centre that could be of many uses and purposes was great. A specially called and well-attended meeting of the Verein was voted unanimously to establish a Sokolov centre in Chicago which would also be a synagogue for Saturdays and holidays. A fund was immediately created and a considerable sum of money was raised at the meeting. It became the dream of every member. The centre would serve all purposes for the Sokolover landsleit in Chicago. A committee was appointed which often met to consider the purchase of a certain house and how to finance the enterprise. Considering that the New Year period was not far off, it was decided to rent a hall for services during the two major holidays of the year and all the proceeds would go to the centre.
The hall was fixed up; a cantor was arranged and everything went smoothly. The membership cooperated to the utmost and never before did they experience such a holiday spirit as during these days. After the services, they did not feel like going home to leave their synagogue. There was no limit to their joy on their accomplishment of organizing their 'congregation'.
The Holy-Days passed and still greater was their enthusiasm to work for the centre; for their 'own home' but, some foreseen disrupters began their destructive work which, if continued, would disrupt the entire Verein. The committee, wanting to save the Verein, gave up its work, returned the contributions to the donors, turned over the proceeds from the services to the Sokolov Relief Committee and so the dream of a centre faded away.
The first experience of holding services for the Holy-Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) under the society's auspices encouraged the Verein to make this a yearly affair. The proceeds of the first undertaking went to the Relief Committee and the result was that this committee was given sponsorship of the whole business: renting the hall and organizing the services. It became a business proposition for the benefit of the relief work of the Verein. So, in mid-summer of each year, preparations for the affair began. The hall was rented. The committee then thought it advisable to get a chazen (cantor) able to 'deliver the goods'. This would make the whole enterprise a success and bring in larger proceeds for the relief work.
The problem was to find the 'right man'. After some search for him with no results, Jack Naidorf recommended a man who worked at his trade at cloaks an opera singer who could be a good cantor. An appointment was made for an 'audition' before the committee. On a hot night the 'examination' took place. It satisfied the committee? The publicity campaign began. All landsleit were told that they would get a special 'treat' during the holidays to hear the new canto(r. The place was sold out. Not a seat was vacant in the hall. The prospect was good! It was a financial success however, when the time came and the man had to 'deliver the goods', it was not 'just it!'. The people were not satisfied. Why, he did not even have a beard!
The next time, it was decided to get a man with a beard that could bring about a feeling of the atmosphere of the Sokolov shool. In 1939, they arranged for a man with a beard but who was too weak and could hardly raise his voice!
It was a paying proposition for the Relief Committee. The landsleit were eager to get together once a year if not for the services, they were glad to contribute to the Relief Committee and have a chance to meet with all the Sokolov countrymen.
These 'minyanim' (ten male persons comprising a quorum of worshippers; term is applied generally where it is not a regular synagogue all-year round) became a regular business of the Verein.
Sokolov Relief Committee in Chicago
In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, the idea of a relief organization was born in the house of A. Bornstein. Besides the latter, also present were Abe Vishni and Morris Mandelbaum. The proposition was vaguely discussed and in general.
The 'Relief Committee for War Sufferers in Sokolov' was organized. In its ranks were included: Ezriel Naidorf, chairman; M. Mandelbaum, secretary; Chaim Greenberg, treasurer; Jack Naidorf, A. Bornstein, Abe Vishni, Wolf Endles, M. Rosenbaum, Chaim Gottlieb, Jacob Titelbaum, D. GIlberg, H. Gilberg and F. Greenberg. Some of these would drop out of the work and later come back. Abe Vishni, for instance, left the Committee within a few months. Later on the Committee was joined by Abe Eisenberg, Sam Tushner, J. Eisenberg, Rebbeca Tushner, Grace Mandelbaum, Sophia Braunstein, Feige Gilberg, Anna Rossenbaum, Perl Mindle Naidorf, Hyman Kokee, Morris Cohen, Shaye Behr, Joe Zigart, Morris Greenberg, L. Vilenski, H. Maranski, B. Bernfeld and S. Behr.
The reason for organizing the Relief Committee, apart from the Verein, was in order to avoid friction because of old grudges among some of the members. It proved very practical to have this organization as a separate unit of Sokolover Landsleit.
It was not a new idea to send relief to Sokolov after some misfortune befell, such as a fire, etc. A considerable sum of money had been sent to Sokolov after the 1910 fire. Relief acts would be undertaken spontaneously after an emergency call. The funds raised would be sent to the Sokolov rabbi and he would use his discretion in distributing the money. The system used by the present committee was not popular at the time and it required some pioneer work in this respect: to have a permanent organization with a regular dues-paying membership, weekly or monthly; that the money sent to Sokolov should not be sent to one, two or three
'nice Jews', depending on their sense of justice but to a committee representing all groups and sections of the population.
The committee was raising funds on all occasions and from many sources: at weddings, confirmations, parties, funerals, memorials, appeals were made and collections for the relief fund. At Mr. and Mrs. Chaim Gottlieb's daughter's wedding, $60 was raised; at the brith (circumcision) of Hersh Behr Greenberg's son, $50 was raised; at a wedding of H. Sosnowitz, $24 was raised; at a bar mitzvah (confirmation) of J. Naidorf's son Sam, $151 was raised; at the birthday party of H. Sedlece, $44 was raised; at the engagement of G. Kordon's daughter, $46 was raised; at the funeral of Chaim Leib Rosenblum, $37 was raised; at a mass meeting of landsleit, when Chaim Leib Levin came from Sokolov, $15 was raised, and some members turned in their jewellery. Jack Naidorf and Abe Bornstein gave up their golden rings for the relief work.
The committee's work was encouraged by the support given to it by the landsleit. On visiting the homes of the Sokolover in Chicago, they responded very favourable as with those out of town or in nearby cities. Some did not wait for the visiting committee but sent in their contributions. When St. Louis, Mo., was visited, the forty or so Sokolov families there organized a verein and carried on their own relief work for Sokolov.
The Verein does everything to help the committee in its work. Besides this help, the Verein turns over priority to the committee in running affairs, etc., whereby funds can be raised.
It was impossible to send any relief to Sokolov during the war. But as soon as this became possible, the Chicago landsleit were the happiest people in the world, realizing that it was possible to help their old friends and relatives. This was on November17th, 1919. The money was sent to Chaim Leib Levin's wife (in Sokolov) and she turned it over to a committee of ten selected in Chicago by the Relief Committee. In a letter sent to each of these ten individuals, it was written thus: We don't know who will be selected as treasurer but we are sending you, meanwhile, $616 (28,000 Polish marks) in the name of Chaim Leib Levin's wife. Chaim Leib Levin has made himself accountable for this amount.
It is our sincere belief, the letter went on, that you will aid those in need of it; that you will consider the need of the person or family and not let personalities stand in the way. Aid should be given not as charity but as a debt that we must pay! It was also demanded that the committee in Sokolov keep a record of all monies distributed and to whom.
The Chicago committee sent to Sokolov $2,407.50 (718,700 Polish marks) in the first year. As soon as one amount was forwarded, the committee began its work to raise additional funds.
Because of a number of complaints that were received here, many which proved to have little justification, the work of the Relief Committee was jeopardized. It was asserted that the committee of ten in Sokolov was not fair in the distribution of funds. The Chicago committee, therefore, deemed it necessary to increase the size of the committee by the addition of eleven members. A letter was then sent to eleven individuals in Sokolov (mostly relatives of Chiacgo-Sokolov immigrants) asking them to serve on the committee. At the same time, an additional sum of $1,175 (587,500 Polish marks) was sent. This took place in December 10, 1920. The new
Committee of twenty-one received instructions from Chicago to distribute the afore-mentioned sum as follows: 400,000 marks for the needy population; 100,000 marks for the Talmud Torah and 87,500 marks to clothe the children of the poor.
But, the newly reorganized committee of twenty-one in Sokolov did not follow instructions. Applying their own discretion, they used the money in the following manner: 100,000 marks to buy a house dedicated to the Chicago Sokolov Relief Committee, instead of giving it to the Talmud Torah; 200,000 marks was given to the loan association (which was not very popular at that time in Sokolov); 200,000 marks to the poor and the rest for the children as instructed.
This action on the part of the committee in Sokolov disrupted the work both here and there. Letters of protest were received and cablegrams were sent to Sokolov protesting the committee's action. The treasurer of the Sokolov committee, who was not in agreement with the above action, resigned in protest. The house was not bought. All efforts on the part of some Chicago members to keep up the relief work were in vain.
At a special mass meeting of the landsleit in Chicago on August 27, 1922, it was decided that a balance of $365 on hand be turned over to the Verein to be held there for an emergency in Sokolov. The Chicago Relief Committee to aid the Sokolov war sufferers broke down; its activities ceased.
Five years passed. When Harry Baker and his wife left for a trip to Sokolov in June 1927, the Verein decided that he take the $365 relief money with him. In Sokolov, Baker distributed the money appropriately.
In the minutes of the Verein held on April 15, 1928, Abe Eisenberg, secretary, recorded the following:
Brother Mandelbaum made an appeal to carry on relief work for Sokolov. President Morris M. Cohen calls for volunteers for a relief committee. The following members have given their names: Abe Good, J. Naidorf, Chaim Greenberg, M. Rosenbaum, L. Feinberg, H. Gottlieb, A. Gilberg, G. Mandelbaum, L. Feinberg, H. Got-Bernfeld, S. Tushner, P. Zigard, D. Gilberg, H. Baker, D. Rosenbaum, Rothstein; Hyman Kokee is elected chairman and M. Mandelbaum secretary . Responding to the appeal, those present contributed to a relief fund the sum of $53. Brother Gottlieb was elected treasurer.
The new committee began activities at once. Relief boxes were put up in the homes of members. These were soon filled with contributions, indicating the willingness of the landsleit to again carry on relief work for their hometown which had just experienced a devastating fire.
A mass meeting was called. The fire in Sokolov warmed the hearts of the landsleit in Chicago. They contributed with an open hand to help save our flesh and blood. The work of the new committee brought good results. Money is again sent to Sokolov.
There is now no committee in Sokolov. Instead, the Chicago relief committee apportioned the sums to be sent to the various institutions
In Sokolov or sent it direct to the G'mine, central Jewish organization of the community. In June, 1929, the sum of $1500 was sent to Sokolov. But again, there were complaints against the way the distribution was made. Again the work of the committee became difficult and was jeopardized. Once again a struggle became necessary to maintain the organization. And so, this continued for a number of years.
In February 1937, a letter arrived signed by thirteen individuals who claimed to be a committee representing all sections of Sokolov poverty, elected by a large meeting of hundreds of poor working men. They wrote that the relief sent very little that reached the needy and they requested that in future money should be sent to them to insure that it be properly distributed. In private letters too, references were made to the inequitable distribution of relief. Again the Chicago committee was in confusion. It could not ignore the committee of thirteen although it still recognized the existing institutions in need of aid.
A letter was written to the Sokolov G'mine asking them to call together representatives of the various institutions and interested committees to establish an apparatus to handle the relief funds. A reply was soon received announcing that a United Relief Committee was established, representing all parties and groups in Sokolov but not giving any names. As proof, the letter showed the seals of the various commercial and workmen's organizations, political parties including the Bund and Poale Zion. It all looked well and settled.
But it happened that Mrs. Anna Baum, a Chicago woman visiting Sokolov sent back a letter, again with thirteen names, assuring the committee that these were best fitted to handle relief money received in Sokolov! This made three committees: the one organized by the community representing all parties and organizations; one elected at a meeting of hundreds of poor workers and the committee suggested by Mrs. Anna Baum.
On top of all this confusion, letters were received by the committee and by individuals with complaints, charges and counter-charges, that the Chicago committee showed favouritism to some and was protecting the work of institutions which, according to the writers, should not be aided.
It was difficult to see clearly out of this situation. Here were many individuals devoting time and energy, at times to a point of self-sacrifice, to help alleviate the sufferings of the Sokolov poor, for no other reason than to help these unfortunates in the old country, when, instead of gratitude, out comes slander and disruption! There was discouragement amongst committee members in Chicago; it almost reached cessation of relief activities.
Finally, it was decided to inquire from the New York landsleit's Relief Committee, regarding the matter. Abe Wishner, L. Freedman, Geo Lentcher and Morris Rosegart made up a delegation from the New York organization to Chicago to jointly work out a plan of work.
After a number of conferences and meetings, an agreement was reached on the following six points:
The plan was unanimously adopted at a meeting of the Sokolov landsleit on July 6, 1937, in the presence of the New York delegation.
The relief committees of Chicago and New York thus began their joint and harmonious work to aid their brothers and sisters in Sokolov. It was decided to organize relief committees in other cities with larger groups of Sokolov immigrants; with the support of the Chicago committee, acting as the centre. Relief to Sokolov was to be sent on instructions from the Chicago committee.
Sokolov was immediately notified to go through with the proposed plan without wasting time so that the relief work could proceed and funds from New York and Chicago sent to them.
In September, 1937, we received a reply on our pleadings with the leadership of Sokolov Jewry and its institutions. The letter follows:
Conforming with our letter to the Jewish community regarding the establishment of a central relief committee in Sokolov, we wish to inform you thus: Several efforts were made to have a larger meeting to elect a committee of eleven. We were not successful for reasons over which we have no control. The Jewish community administration, therefore, called a broad conference where the following eleven persons were elected: Dr. G. Gradzhenchik; M.D., I. Shedlecki; M. Lashitski; A. Tchishinski; B.I. Hochberg; I. Zetlni; H.H. Skshidlever; I. Rosenzweig; A. Shwartzfarb and S. Rubinstein.
The committee of eleven got organized and elected Dr. Gradzhenchik as chairman and S. Rubinstein, secretary.
Regarding the second of the six points: S. Rubinstein proposed that we ask you, our friends in Chicago and New York, to broaden the competency of the committee it should also be an independent committee able to use its own discretion in the distribution of the sums sent by you.
We unanimously adopted this proposition and are here asking your approval.
We have many plans to improve the relief work with your help and confidence we will succeed more details will be written after we receive your approval of the committee.
The Chicago committee communicated with New York and it was decided to approve the committee of eleven as set up in Sokolov.
In accordance with the other instructions, the new committee, now called the Central Jewish Relief Committee in Sokolov, takes under its supervision the existing relief agencies, the only exception being the G'miloth Hasudim (a committee which makes small short-term loans on either small interest charges or no interest at all), which, therefore, received no support from the committee.
The Central Jewish Relief Committee apportions a substantial sum of money for the establishment of a Taz branch in the town which is cared for by a special committee consisting of Dr. Gradzhenchik, I. Nelkin, S. Rubinstein, M. Lashitski, I. Elnberg, B. Hochberg, H. Rothstein, F. Zlamagwasda and Arum Itshock Rosenberg.
Taz cares for the health of the Jewish population in Sokolov, especially the children, offering doctor service and medicine gratis or for a small fee. About three hundred Jewish children of the various schools in the city are put under the regular care of a physician and dentist and in most cases, without charge. Taz also set up a committee to provide daily bread and milk to about three hundred children.
In one of the letters from the C.J.R.C. in Sokolov, B. Rubinstein, the secretary, writes:
Each child gets a glass of milk and bread daily. There were instances of children fainting in the classroom from hunger. Our check-up shows that occasionally, this is the only meal the children get for the day. Some children take home the milk for a younger brother or sister while they eat just their portion of bread. The children are also given cod liver oil for a very small charge; to the poor, often without charge.
In the summer of 1938, twenty-five children were sent to a resort at Yarnitz near Vengrov and in the summer of 1939, sixty-four children were sent. In winter, some children were sent to Otwotsk. In Chicago, some clothes were collected from the landsleit and three bundles each 44lbs were sent to Sokolov for the children.
Chicago and New York send relief funds regularly. The committee in Sokolov was even able to establish a reading room.
Before the holidays, larger sums were raised. For Easter 1938, Sokolov received $1,500 from Chicago and New York including $75 from St. Louis. Similar sums were sent for the other holidays. About five hundred families were helped!
Relief was distributed in sealed envelopes. It caused a revival in town! In America too, everyone was satisfied. No more complaining letters with 'charges' were received. In Sokolov, efforts were made by some political parties and groupings to gain control over the relief work. Many such organizations had written here to that effect, but with little success.
Relief work was carried on successfully until the Hitler monster began to devastate Poland. The last $200 which Sokolov received from the relief committee came after World War II was in full swing.
Although there is no chance just now for Sokolov to receive our help, our relief committee caries on even more so than before, raising
Funds to be kept in readiness for the day when it will be possible to send it there to our flesh and blood and when the enemy of the human race will be eradicated from the earth!
Memorial for Sokolov Martyrs
When the Nazi hordes invaded Poland, communications with Sokolov were cut off. Regular correspondence ceased and the only way we heard from Sokolov was by newspaper reports and the listing of casualties.
When the press brought reports of the bombings of Sokolov, the Chicago Sokolover was much affected. Particularly when they heard of the Nazi outrages to the Sokolov rabbi's son, Rabbi Mendel Morgenstern at Vengrov near Sokolov.
Details of the outrage aroused a storm of indignation in the whole democratic world as well as amongst the Jews. In particular, it caused horror among the Sokolov immigrants in Chicago.
Dressed in his white robe (kittel) in the midst of the Yom Kippur services, the Nazis fell upon the rabbi and dragged him out of the synagogue to the market place; the Jews of the whole town were then driven out of their homes and the synagogues to witness the act of torture and the martyrdom of the rabbi. The rabbi was whipped and told to dance; then whipped so that he would stop dancing. He was then forced to take off his shtrammel (rabbinical hat), to fill it with manure and put it on his head and to dance before the Nazi commandant. During all this time, the rabbi did not utter a sound; he just moved his lips in quiet prayer. When the commandant had had his sadistic fill, he pierced him through with a bayonet. The holy man fell to the ground, his white kittel soaked in blood
The father, Rabbi Itzok Zelik, upon learning the woeful news, died of a heart attack.
The Sokolov landsleit were powerless to help their brothers and sisters in the old hometown. But their pain was deep. So they used the traditional means of their people when in trouble: They cried out loud in protest!
The president of the Verein, S. Tushner, called a special meeting and a committee was elected consisting of H. Kokee, Abe Eisenberg and I. Behr to call a mass memorial and protest meeting. The call was sent out to all the landsleit; the newspapers were notified. The meeting was held on Sunday, December 17, 1939 in Nachlath Jacob synagogue. The speakers, beside the chairman, were Rabbis A.L. Shore, S.A. Pardes, M. Eichenstein, Rabbi Landau, Rabbi Henelin and others.
Sokolov Young Women's Club
This was a very short-lived organization. Many women in the Verein were not satisfied with belonging to the 'parent body' of the landsleit alone. So they organized the Sokolov Young Women's Club. The first members of this group were: Grace Mandelbaum, Sophia Bornstein, Rebecca Tushner, Perl Mindle Naidorf, Anna Rosenbaum, Lena Donn, Hinde Eisenberg and others.
The activities of this young women's group were confined mostly to aiding the Verein and to benevolent work among the landsleit in Chicago.
Without experience in the conduct of organization work, their
Meetings were attended by Ezrielke Naidorf to help them 'along the lines of Robert's Rules of Order'. But some of the members did not wish to be 'helped'. However they argued, Naidorf (in company of his friend Dave Gilberg), would come to the meetings and 'give them a hand'. The club finally split on the issue of whether or not Naidorf should help them in the conduct of their business. The two 'camps' carried on the fight until the organization disbanded.
With the balance of the club's treasury, they perpetuated the name Sokolov Young Women's Club by engraving it on a marble plate on the Verein's cemetery gate wall.
Sokolov Ladies Aid Society
Without an organization of their own, however, the ambitious women of the Sokolov landsleit in Chicago could not get along. Even before the young women's club was dissolved, the Sokolov Ladies Aid Society was already organized. The first members and organizers of this body were: Polly Shedlece, Gitl Gottlieb, Peshe Zigart, R. Tushner, A. Rozenbaum and Mary Endles. Anna Rosenbaum was elected the first president and G. Gottlieb, treasurer.
Carrying on the same activities as the young women's club, this body of women struggled along with their organization for several years, making no headway, gaining no further in membership or in prestige. They finally decided to carry on auxiliary work to the Relief Committee, besides its benevolent activities to the landsleit in Chicago. An influx of new members to the Ladies Aid was the result of this change in aims. These new members included Pearl Mindl Naidorf, Grace Mandelbaum, Feige Gilberg, Sarah Gilberg, Lena Cohen, Hinde Eisenberg, Feigel Behr and others.
The aim of these women was to help the Sokolov needy and especially the children (accepting the relief committee secretary's suggestion to care for the poor children in Sokolov), making the group very active and prominent. Their major activity, the yearly 'fish dinner' has become famous both amongst landsleit and their friends who willingly help in this undertaking. The women gather the provisions from their grocers, fish dealers, etc., getting everything as a donation. They do all the cooking and preparation; selling admission tickets (with the aid of the Verein, of course) and then serving at the table themselves to about four hundred guests. And late, one such night, when everyone had left the hall, the committee remained, totalling the proceeds. They then called the secretary of the Relief Committee, M. Mandelbaum, to tell him there would be matzos for Passover for the poor in Sokolov.
Young People's Sokolov Club
In 1913, the newly arrived young people from Sokolov organized themselves into the above named club. This group held together until World War I stopped the influx of new immigrants and the old members, either married among themselves or to outsiders, were too busy privately and in the activities of the Verein to maintain the club. In 1932, the club was revived and the members, now fathers and grandfathers, grey-haired, would gather in their 'Young People's Sokolov Club' to talk about their past, when they were young, about Sokolov and the like.
They still carry on their old activities, however, helping out one another, arranging socials and parties
Home-Sick for Sokolov Looking Backward
The time when the Sokolov immigrant in Chicago thought that he was in the United States for only a short while, that he would soon return to his home that time is now of the distant past. The Sokolover now thinks only of a trip; a visit to the old hometown. And, not many landsleit are fortunate enough even to be able to permit such thoughts. In most cases, they are a dream that will never come true. But the memories of the past creep up in one's mind, without fail or end. .
One dreams of the Sokolov streets; of the shops; the houses; the walks; the seasons of the year; the Saturday afternoon; of holidays; relatives; friends; of people at their daily tasks. Thinking of the time when a book was a treasure and the few books in town were circulated and read time and again. When we finally could put aside several kopeks, we began to save until we had enough to order some books from Warsaw. These were kept under the stewardship of J. Braverman. His father pretended not to see what was going on. The circulation (exchange) of these books had to be transacted in the street.
Yes, it was difficult to live in that town and the hopes that under the restored Polish Republic the situation would improve faded. Excesses against the Jews all over Poland put an end to these hopes.
To some, this life became unbearable so that after Succoth, when the cold weather would set in, they left the town and like the birds migrated to 'warmer' climes
Now, after the passing of three decades, when a landsman is on his way to visit Sokolov, a farewell party is arranged. Regards are sent to relatives and friends. Relief for the poor is given and almost in one voice, the traveller is asked to tell the folks in Sokolov that: We haven't forgotten them! We will never forget Sokolov!
|Arrived from Sokolow January 25, 1924. I was immediately informed of the existence of the Sokolov Organization and I became a member the following month, February 27, 1924. I was amazed to find the noble work that the organization is doing, especially in the form of relief.
I then applied to the various committees of the Organization and asked for the privilege of assisting them in any way possible. After working with these various committees and in doing so with great pleasure, I was elected Vice-President of the Organization in 1935.
I was Vice-President of the Organization for six years and liked every day of it. As a member of the Organization, I would like to urge all members of this Organization to participate in the activities of the fine work that our noble Organization is doing and in so doing, I am sure they will find great interest in cooperating with the various committees in their noble work.
|Morris Cohen II|
Harry Nadler Memorial Club
|Grandpa died Jan. 14, 1936, age 71
Grandma died Aug. 31, 1927, age 64
|Uncle Charles died Jan.19th, 1926, age 37|
|Simon and Pauline Nadler||Dorothy Nadler|
|Dorothy and Max Goldstein||Ann Nadler|
|Lawrence, Joyce and Harvey Goldstein||Manuel and Alice Nadler|
|Gertrude Nadler||Sylvia Nadler|
|Michael and Evelyne Nadler||Gertrude Nadler|
|Daniel Nadler||Jean Nadler|
|Ben and Edith Burnstein||Anna and Morris Brenner|
|Sophie and Abe Burnstein||Irving and Beverly Brenner|
|Maynard, Herbert, Sheila Turetsky||Jerome Brenner|
|Jean and Wm. Turetsky||Rhoda Brenner|
|Manuel and Rae Burnstein||Elizabeth and Louis Weinberg|
|Sandra Burnstein||Stanford Weinberg|
|Joe and Sarah Nadler||Charlotte Weinberg|
|Sam and Sarah Nadler||William and Mildred Nadler|
|Irene May Nadler||Sarah and Samuel Steinberg|
|Jean and Manuel Losoff||Melvin Steinberg|
|Meyer Nadler||Stanley Steinberg|
|Ida Nadler||Ramona Steinberg|
To my beloved Husband
Died May 30, 1935
Your wife Sarah Glickman and children
|In Memory Of
Our beloved parents and grandparents
And our beloved sister
|Sarah & Fischel Witkowsky Club
M. Nadler, Sec'y.
|In Memory of
He was born in Sokolow in 1889 and he came to this country at the age of 22. Worked himself up. He also did a lot for this organization and many others. In the passing of our beloved member, we lost one of our great workers which we all mourn.
He died on November 5, 1941 at the age of 52.
|Mrs. I. Greenberg
St. Louis, Mo.
Harry Agresabum died August 1, 1934 at the age of 57.
Max Agresbaum died on May 5, 1920 at the age of 16 ½.
The best of luck to the Sokolover Verein on the 30th Anniversary in progress. May the good work continue for the Diamond Jubilee. As an American born member of this Verein, I salute you.
Mr & Mrs. Lannes and family are the daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren of the dear departed sister, Gittle Gottlieb
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