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[Col. 97]

8. Jewish Labour Movement

The Jewish labour movement began to flourish at the beginning of the 20th century however, this is the time period to which we are limited in this work as this great dramatic chapter can only be briefly surveyed here.

At the end of the 19th century there was a considerable Jewish working class in Suwalk which quickly took up the revolutionary slogans of the Bund and later the Zionist-Socialist parties. Suwalk played an important role in the history of the various branches of the Jewish labour movement after World War I.[1]

The Jewish students, who would come home from their German and Swiss universities, had, at the end of the past century, a considerable influence on the spread of Socialist ideas among the Jewish workers and young people. The universities were hotbeds of socialist-emigrant groups and the Jewish students from Suwalk brought these stormy ideas home with them.

Important personalities from other places, who would spend some time in Suwalk for various reasons, also had a part in spreading the ideas. Such a person, for example, was Moshe Kamionski – the intimate friend of the famous socialist –Eliezer Tsukerman.[1*] Kamionski lived in Suwalk in the 90's.

[Col. 98]

Suwalk took its place right at the beginning of the Jewish revolutionary movement in Russia. In 1901-1902 there was already a Bundist organization in Suwalk. Suwalk province was among the centres of Bundist activity. It is often mentioned in various financial accounts reported by city organizations to the central committee of the Bund. The Zionist-Socialists had one of their first branches in Suwalk.[2] The Jewish tanners and brush-makers of the Suwalk area were quickly organized. Later, at the end of 1905 and during 1907 when the big lock-out strike occurred which lasted many weeks; the result was a great victory for the workers.[3]

In 1903, the funeral of the Suwalk tanner David……. was the occasion for a demonstration lasting five hours. At his gravesite, revolutionary songs were sung and socialist speeches made. The workers marched back from the cemetery in closed ranks. Such a demonstration was so unusual that: “some officers removed their caps and crossed themselves”.[4].

At the beginning of 1905, the Bund and other revolutionary parties were very active in Suwalk. They carried out a strike which lasted several days. They forced the shops to close down. The “Kamfa-Atriad” was armed with daggers and revolvers. Many policemen and soldiers patrolled the streets. Six or seven workers were arrested, among them Zekhariah Krivetski, in whose possession a dagger was found. Another man, Avraham, like Zekharia a Suwalk locksmith, was also arrested. Later Avraham Gliksman, a private tutor was also arrested for possession of illegal literature.[5]

Various labour proclamations were distributed in Suwalk. Sometimes, they were printed in Suwalk in Yiddish. Such a proclamation of the Bund of Suwalk in 1903, now a rare item, will be quoted below:[6]


Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party. To all Workers and working youth in Suwalk

“Brothers and sisters: The labour movement has spread throughout the world like a mighty stream. Everywhere, in every city and town, the workers have awakened from their sleep and have emerged to struggle for a better and brighter life. Everywhere is heard the voice of the worker and he proclaims before the whole world: “We must destroy the present order where millions slave to build the most beautiful palaces and themselves go naked; where the workers produce everything the society needs but themselves suffer from misery and want; where everything belongs to a small minority who take all of the riches which the worker produces through hard labour and for which he gets paid so little that he cannot keep body and soul together and must continue to slave for the capitalists. - -

Therefore, we want an order where all the means of production should belong to the entire society and not to individuals…, where all people should enjoy equally the products of their labour. This order, where there is no master and no salve, where all people will be free and will not sell themselves like horses to the capitalists, is the Socialist Order.

[Col. 100]

To bring it about, we are founding the Social-Democratic Workers Parties which stands for the destruction of the capitalist order – it is the cutting-edge of the working class in the struggle for[2*] oppression of one man by the other; against those who are fighting to overthrow the Socialist Order.

We, Social-Democrat workers of Suwalk have long been in the ranks of the international fighting proletariat. We call upon our brothers and sisters to join our struggle for we know that the working class is the basis of society. It is the Samson who holds up the pillars of the present order. Should he just shake the pillars a bit – the corrupt world would cave in. In its place, we will build a better and freer world.

We, Jewish workers, need not listen to the fairy tales of the defenders of the bourgeoisie – the rabbis who say that it is so destined by God, or the Zionists who argue that all Jews are brothers. No – we must carry on our economic and political struggle, side by side with other workers of all nations and always remember the holy words of our leaders: “To live in freedom or to die in the struggle”.

But, we Russian workers have a terrible obstacle in our way which prevents us from reaching our goal. First of all, we must destroy the tyrannical government which, like a leech, sucks our blood and protects the interests only of the capitalist class. We must destroy the Asiatic robber bank which uses every disgraceful means in order to weaken the power of the labouring class: Here with sweet talk – there with clubs and bullets, with prisons in Siberia – here, with inciting one nation against the other (as in the Kishivev pogrom), in order to disrupt the unity of the workers of all nations.

We, Jewish workers, suffer especially from the self-perpetuating government and, therefore, must fight against it even more energetically. It has enclosed us in the accursed “Pale of Settlement” where we are choked and crowded, where the competition between workers is fierce. Therefore, we, the Jewish workers, are fighting against all exclusionary laws which prevent national civic equality.

[Col. 101]

This struggle is being carried on by the “Allgemayner Idisher Arbayter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland.”[3*]

At the time when the Russian throne is shaken by the mighty blows of the fighting proletariat; at the time when the Jewish bourgeoisie uses all its oppressive means to halt the stream of the workers' movement – let us, Social-Democratic workers of Suwalk, together with all of the fighting proletariat -, proclaim loudly:

Down with capitalism
Down with oppressive self-inheritors
Down with oppression of nations
Long live the Democratic Republic.
Long live Socialism”.

Suwalk Social-Democratic Organization of the “Bund”. September 1903.
Printed in 700 copies. “Bund” Press.

[Col. 102]

This first Bund proclamation, which was widely distributed in Suwalk, was brought by the Rabbi David Tebeli Katsenelenboyn to the Synagogue where he read it to the congregation and burst into tears.[7]

No great Bundist leader came from Suwalk as far as we know. The only one known as an important Bund activist was Dr. Alexander Margolis, born in Suwalk in 1887. His family came from Seray. He was a doctor and he served in the Suwalk city hospital for a long time. Dr. Margolis was murdered by the Nazis.[8]

In the chapter on “Hibat Tsyion”, we have written about the Zionist-Socialist personalities who came from Suwalk and its vicinity.



1. See, for example, “Yidisher Arbeter Pinkas” v.1 editor Zerubavel. Warsaw 1928 p.353. Return
2. “Geshikhte fun der Yidisher arbeter-bavegung in Rusland” {History of the Jewish labour movement in Russia} N.A. Bukhbinder. Yiddish: D. Roykhel. Vilne 1931 pp170,186,193,393 Return
3. “Garber-Bund un Mershter-Bund”. {Tanners' and Brush makers' Bund}. S. Dubnov-Erlikh. Warsaw 1937 p.104. Return
4. “Iskra” 1903 n°36. Return
5. “Arbayter-Shtimme” 1905 n°39, supplement. Return
6. The original is in the Jewish Theological Seminary of New York. Return
7. “Di arbayter shtimme” 1903 n_35 p.16. Return
8. ”Doyres Bundistn” {Generations of Bundists}. Ed.by Y.S. Herts, New York 1956 p.165. In Mexican “Faroys” (1957 n°255) Dr. Margolis is described as “one of the finest personalities of the Bund in Poland”. Return

Translator's Footnotes

1*. Redundancy here which I have eliminated Return
2*. Must mean against Return
3*. The General Jewish Workers Bund in Lithuania, Poland and Russia Return


[Col. 101]

9. Institutions, Societies, Communal Workers

One of the oldest institutions in Suwalk was the synagogue or the “Alte Shul”[1*]. It was founded in 1821. Over the entrance, the following words were inscribed:

[Col. 102]

“Keh Ha-Shaar LaD'Tsadikim Yavo u Bo”.[2*] In the synagogue there were some steps going down in order to fulfil the saying: “Out of the depths I have called to you O Lord”.


Suwalk Bet-Midrash


As in other cities, the synagogue of Suwalk was built in the middle of a large courtyard where there were many kloyzn[3*] and communal institutions. In the large Shulhoyf[4*] and around it, there was the Bet Hamidrash Hagado which could hold 1000 people; the Fishermen's kloyz[5*]: the Tailors' kloyz; the Cobbler's kloyz; the Masons' kloyz as well as the kloyzn of the Hevrah Midrash, Hevrah Hakhnasat Orhim and Hevrah Torah. A bit further on, on Shaul Shamash Street, stood the Butchers' kloyz “Zovhe Tsedek”. There was also in the courtyard the bathhouse, the mikveh, the “Hakhnasat Orhim”. On Passover, the Jews used to come there to “kasher”[6*] their utensils.

[Col. 104]

Aside from these kloyzn, Suwalk also had many other kloyzn and quorums scattered all over the city such as: the “Haye Adam”; “Ets Hayim uBone Tsedek”; “Menorat Hamaor”; “Mahazike Torah”; “Maye Olam”; “Moshav Zekenim”; “Derekh HaHayim”; “Rozntal's kloyz; “Aharon Ahrnzon's kloyz; the Carpenter's kloyz; R'Zelmele's (Birger) kloyz; the R'Yisrael Leyb kloyz; R'Yitshak Broyn's kloyz; Zilberblat's kloyz; Berlinski's kloyz; Efrayim Yelinevski's kloyz; Postavelski's kloyz; Burak's kloyz; Pshedmeyski's kloyz; Ivri's kloyz; Hirshe Levinzon's kloyz; the Drovers' kloyzs; Shteynberg's kloyz and the popular “quorums” of R'Eliyah Rozntal, Sinenski, Tsvilling, R'Yaakov Shelomoh Pinkovits, Leyzer Zef, Artisans' and Hoveve Tsiyon.

[Col. 103]

The Shulhoyf after the Holocaust
Part of the wall and two windows of the large synagogue in Suwalk, the nearby “Eyn Yaakov”
[5*] the town bathhouse and the ritual baths. Opposite – the empty space of the ruined kloyz “Hevrah Midrash”. The only Jewish child – Hayale Lifshits – stands in the Shulhoyf.

The sound of Torah study did not cease in the various study groups of Gemara, Mishnah, Kitsur Shulkhan Arukh, Menorat-Hamaor, Psalms, etc. There were formal study sessions in the larger synagogues where Gemara or Mishnah was taught. On the Sabbath, the learned householders would come to the rabbi's house to study. In addition, there were often visiting rabbis in Suwalk, preachers or lecturers on Torah and commentaries who would inspire the minds of both the important householders and the common workingmen who would come to listen after a weary day in their stores or workshops.

[Col. 104]

One of the oldest and most important institutions in Suwalk was the Jewish hospital. According to a correspondence from Yonah Kapelovits, the Jewish hospital was built at the end of 1859. He reported the interesting fact that the Suwalk community sent an annual donation of 800 rubbles to the Jewish hospital in Warsaw.[1]

[Col. 105]

According to other correspondents such as Tsevi Hirsh Abramzon, S.P. Shaytlis, ATsB”E Melterson and others, the hospital was founded in 1863. The city authority contributed over 5000 rubbles for its construction; a very large sum for that time. It also gave an annual subsidy of 150 rubbles.[2]

[Col. 106]

According to Dr. Yaakov Shatsky, the Suwalk hospital was in existence as far back as 1845. It had 50 beds and was one of 10 Jewish hospitals in Poland.[3][7*]


Shul Gas {Synagogue Street}

[Col. 105]

The dates quoted are not really contradictory as they seem at first glance, although they are not too accurate. The truth is that on 13th November 1862, the Jewish hospital was officially given over to the Jewish community. However, the Hospital was rebuilt anew from the old Polish hospital. There was another old hospital outside the city near the Jewish cemetery which was certainly older.

There were 12 wardens on the board of the new hospital: Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer – chairman; Yitshak Bialastatski; Shabtay Rozntsvayg; Mordekhay Ahrnzon; Mordekhay Rozntal; Y. Krakovski (member of city council); Yeshayah Lifshits (member of city council): Yitshak Braun; Yaakov Luksemburg; Shemuel Vilner; Avraham Pakhutski; Volf Rubinshteyn and Feliks Bramson.[4]

[Col. 106]

The Jewish hospital building was very large and modern and well equipped. It had its own pharmacy, doctor's residence, staff residences and a large kitchen. The institution was directed by 12 wardens with the rabbi at their head.

In later years, there was a ladies auxiliary which helped the poor. In the “Vaad Ha-Nashim Ha-Tomkhot Holim Be-Suvalk”[8*] was Havah Ayznshtat, Ida Burak, P. Ahrnzon, Hene Feygin and Gitl Rozntal as well as Dr. Natanzon and his wife. The auxiliary was organized in the wake of a smallpox epidemic in the city in 1893.[5]

[Col. 107]

In addition to the ladies auxiliary, the sick were helped for many years by the “Bikur Holim” and the “Linat Hatsedek”. In 1864, the members of the “Bikur Holim” committee were: Shabtay Rozntsvayg, Mordekhay Rozntal, Yitshak Bialostotski and Moshe Krakovski.[6]

[Col. 108]

In the crisis year of 1863, many Jewish families in Suwalk were impoverished. At this time, the “Tamhu'I”[9*] society was founded to feed the hungry. The volunteers of “Tamhu'I” used to go from house to house with large sacks collecting donated food.[7]


The Jewish Hospital of Suwalk

[Col. 107]

In the famine year of 1868, Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer, who was then rabbi of Suwalk, persuaded the Police Chief Zshurakovski and Governor G. Gerve to allow 25 charity boxes to be distributed to collect money to buy bread for the poor Jews.[8]

The economic condition of many Jewish families in the Suwalk area was very shaky and it was necessary to turn to charity from abroad. In one list of “LeTemikhat aniye ahenu bene Yisrael Be-Rusland ve-Palen”[10*], Saini is listed as having received 50 rubbles and Suwalk as having received 100 rubbles for a second time.[9]

[Col. 108]

In 1857 the “Hakhnasat Orhim” was established in Suwalk. Its fame spread beyond the borders of the town. It's' first trustee (treasurer) was R'Yehezkel Leyb Likhtenshtayn. The dwelling was at n°806 Petersburg Street.[10]

In 1863, the rich communal worker, Avraham Rozntal built a new building for the “Gemilat Hesed”[11*]. He had also sponsored the older building. He laid the foundations of this society with a donation of 1500 rubbles.[11] In later years the “Gemilat Hesed” became an important savings and loan institution.

In 1867 the “Somekh Noflim”[12*] was founded. During the first year, it had a treasury of 450 rubbles and it helped out 700 Jews. The society had 24 wardens who would carry out the work taking turns according to a monthly roster. Membership dues were a minimum of 2.5 kopeks a week.[12]

[Col. 109]

The “Korban etsim”[13*] society provided fuel for the poor. It was naturally particularly active during the winter time. In 1871 when there was an unusually severe frost, the society organized an appeal for funds which collected 120 rubbles.[13]

The “Lekhem Aniyim”[14*] whose main concern was the distribution of bread and potatoes, sometimes also distributed wood. This was the case in 1892, for example, when Suwalk suffered an economic crisis. The leaders of “Lekhem Aniyim” at that time were: Lawyer Godzinski, Lawyer Klinkovshteyn and the maskil, Mordekhay Roznberg. They were aided by Dr. Natanzon, Dr. Margolit and Dr. Rotrozn. Each would sit in a different synagogue and distribute bread, potatoes and wood.[14]

There were other societies in Suwalk for example: “Hakhnasat Kalah”[15*], Malbish Arumim[16*], etc.

In 1861, a group called: “Bakhure Hemed”[17*] was active. It is not quite clear what its function was, but from its name, it may be assumed that it was a group of young scholars, a kind of kolel[18*]. The society even had its own ritual slaughterer, R'Dov, son of R'Eliezer whose name appears in the list of Suwalk subscribers.

In 1894, Yehoshua Dov Burak donated a large building to be used as a “Moshav Zekenim”[19*]. He was assisted by A. Natanzon and Lipski.[15] That same year, the Moshav Zekenim published its by-laws in Hebrew and in Yiddish. There, the organizers first expressed their joy at the construction of the institution: “How worthy is this day on which the notables of our people were inspired to erect a shelter for old men and women”.

It was decided not to accept more than 20 people during the first year but, an exception would be made for anyone willing to pay 75 rubbles a year. Residents had to be over fifty with exceptions made for “weak or disabled persons who cannot earn their livelihood by any means”.

[Col. 110]

According to paragraph 38, a feldsher[20*] had to visit the institution every day. There was also a doctor on call whenever the feldsher thought it necessary.

The published by-laws (quite a rare booklet) was purchased from the Soviets by the famous bibliographer, R'Hayim Liberman during the last years of the war, when he so happened to be in Moscow. It was one of the two copies deposited with the Czarist censor of any book published in Russia. The Censor has noted that the booklet was published in 1000 copies.


Moshav Zekenim

Many societies and institution would organize amateur performances in order to raise funds. Among the plays performed a number of times was “Zerubavel” by Lilienblum and “Yehudit” Lerner.

[Col. 111]

The communal workers in Suwalk had an area of activity not common in other Jewish towns – concern for the well-being of Jewish soldiers. Suwalk was a garrison city and often hundreds of Jewish soldiers were stationed there. The local communal workers provided kosher food and homes for them to celebrate the holidays. They arranged for Jewish soldiers to be furloughed on the Sabbath and on holidays.

[Col. 112]

A special society “Maakhal kasher” (or “Kupat hatsedakah”[21*]) was set up in which deposits drew interest. In 1884 the weekly income was 30 rubbles. The number of Jewish soldiers at that time was 47. In 1894 there were 100 soldiers and in 1889 = 130soldiers.[16]


By-laws of the Moshav Zekenim.
In Hebrew: By-laws of the Moshav Zekenim of the city of Suwalk

[Col. 113-114]

Bet Moshav Zekenim Bair Suvalk. Warsaw, Halter and Ayzbshtadt Press, 1894

[Col. 115]

They had a much more difficult task providing kosher food for uniformed Jewish boys. There were times in Russia when Jews could legally “buy themselves out” of military service. Since most of the young men could not afford to do so, and since there were severe cases where this was absolutely necessary, it became the duty of the local communal workers to find the means. For example: such a situation came about when in 1866,there were 14 soldiers who were husbands and fathers. Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer, Yishayah Lipski, David Likhtnshteyn, Abele Markson and others carried out an appeal for funds which brought in the huge sum of 5000 rubbles with which they were able to free all of the soldiers.[17]

Naturally people were not always pleased by the methods used by the communal workers. For example, a correspondent from Suwalk complained that the rich sons were freed from the draft board while poor boys, even those who were over age, remained to serve the Czar.[18]

Like all Jewish cities and towns, Suwalk had to care for more than just its own needs. The feeling that “All of Israel are comrades” was very strong and whenever there were troubles for Jews, their brothers in Poland and Russia were among the first to help.

In 1871 Asher Margolit notified[22*] that there was a fundraising appeal for the Jews of Strassburg, Alsace-Lorraine. The collectors were R'Binyamin Diskin and R'Ahron Ahrnzon. Among the contributors are listed:[19] Aharon Ahrnzon, Shelomoh Rozntal, Ayzik Ahrnzon, Zalman Ayznshtadt, Eliahy Moshe Shapira, Mordekhay Yafe, Moshe Minski, Betsalel Leyb Rubinshteyn and others.[20]

In 1872 there was a big fund collection in Suwalk for the suffering Jews of Persia. Among the contributors were: Aryeh Simiatitski, Hayim Tsevi Rakhman, Avraham Fridman, Abraham Varshavski, Moshe Firdman, Mordekhay Itskavski, Aryeh Fligltoyb, Moshe Aryeh Yezerski, Elhanan Zilbershteyn, David Amdurski, Yaakov Pareski, Moshe Levintanski, Barukh Lubelski, and Nahman Aryeh Rabinovits. In another list of Jews from Suwalk, there were 200 names. The collectors were: Asher Rubinshteyn, Mortis Levinski, Azriel-Zelik Grinberg, Shraga Brayz, Beyle Sheynman, Hene Mints, Leyb Epshteyn.[21]

[Col. 116]

There was a fund collection for the Jews of Persia carried out in Filipowe. The collectors were: Rabbi Zevulun Brit, Shemuel Kats, Yosef Ziman. Among the contributors were: Dov Komisarski, P. Gibianski, Zalman Tsevi Royzngold, A.Y. Tsarnanski, Aryeh Vitshtinetski, Shelomoh Radziskanski, Moshe Psedmeyski, Aryeh Khmalinski, Yehoshua Yudl Tukhman, Shraga Radzilovski, Shakha Rushinski, Yehudah Leyzer Finklshteyn, Barukh Sukhavetski, Mordekhay Shidlavski, Moshe Sukhavetski, R'Shaul Leyb Halevi, Shelomoh Garboshiker.[22]

Psherosle participated via these contributors: Yitshak Margolit, S. Getsevits, H. Vistinetski, Y and B. Mishkovski, S.Y. Abramski, Y. Frenkl, G. Hazanovski, Ts. Peltin, Yisrael Broyde, Y. Mertelski, M. Dobrovolski, Y.M. Pashushinski, Y.Y. Punsker, A.R. Vinitski, M.D. Yakobovski, A. Shlakhetski, S. Gotlib, A. Karpavits, Y. Bramson.[23]

Fayvl Rozin and Asher Shterling collected for the same cause in Baklerowe. The contributors' list has 40 names.[24] Moshe Vizanski, Yitshak Hirshfeld, David Haltsman and his son Zeev, Yehudah Trotski, Hananiah Skuranski, Abele Giltzon and his son Aryeh Leyb, Meir Gitlzon, Meir Yonah Golembieski, Yaakov Anshinski, his son-in-law Barukh Elia, Yehudah Leyb Ziman, Mordekhay Kranenberg, Yosef Ayzik Rozntal, Avraham Zalman (Hazan), Hayim Zalman Ornshteyn, Note Shterling, Nahum Vaynerovits, Yisrael Moshe Zilberman, Pesah Leyb Ludvinavski, Leyb Plotski, Berl Goldberg and his son Meir, Yehezkel Guralski, Ahron Aleksanderovits, Avraham Aleksanderovits, Nisan Tsadik, Meir Matulski, Yehuda Zantavits, Meir Yitshak Zelanzanitski, Menashe Zusman, Moshe Tsarninski, Yehoshua Fridman, Yehoshua Hurvits.

In the list from Ratzk, there are 50 names.[25] Yisrael Zubrunski, Avraham Yitshak Stalavski, Gershon Milerski, Yehudah Leyb Finklshteyn, David Likhtsier, Tsevi Sukhelski, Yehezkel Aynfrank, Eliezer Tsevi Opnhaym, Shemuel Khadrovski, Eliyahu Ivashkovski, Aharon Zabludovski, Yitshak Khanovits, Zalman Platnavski, Avraham Daniel Kreynzon (prayer leader and ritual slaughterer), Mordekhay Krugman, Yehezkel Davidzon, Yaakov Tsevi Karpel, Berl Aniksboym, Eliezer Yekl Verbalski, Efrayim David Brinman, Avraham Yalkut, Aharon Oysterin, Shimon Krugman, David Iser Segalovits, Eliezer Margolit, Yosef Zabludavski, Mikhl Aynfrank, Meir Stalovski, Aryeh Leyb Ratskevits, Yehiel Moshe Roytnberg, Hayim Leyzer Hayat, Tuviah Aykhilaytner, Yisrael Epshteyn, Ezra and Moshe Oshinski, Avraham Leyb Elterman, Mordekhay Felendler, Avraham Zeev Gorfinkl, Moshe Aryeh Khanovits, Yitskhak Ratskevits, Ayzik Shteydam, Eliezer Motlovits, his son Yehezkel, Hayim Tsevi Virtsebovski, David Hirshfeld, Yaakov Spivak, Meir Gotlibovski, Yaakov Nusboym, Avraham Yitshak Bervald, Yisrael Reuven Platsinski, Shelomoh Beylovits, Moshe Rekhtman, Meir Tsevi Beylovits, Ite Shampanski, Eliezer Valovski, Gale Karpel, Yitshak Zubrinski.

[Col. 117]

The collectors were: Shemuel Nehemiah Ravravia(?), Nahum Beervald, Binyamin Telshits, Hayim Gibianski, Pinhas Funk, Pinhas Kval, Yehezkel Berzin, Avraham Menahem Granevits, Aharon Falk, Moshe Keyla, Binyamin Gutshteyn, Tsevi Raynshmid, Yosef Shlimakovski, Zeev Visheyski, Ziskind Roznblum, Duber Shapira, David Shelomoh Kohen, Menuhah Tile Faynberg, Shelomoh Leyb Shapira, Dov Fridman, Yitshak Leyb Viskeyski, Shabetay Nayhoyz, Aryeh Leyb Stutsinski, Ziskind Rozntal, Aryeh Bardin, Simhah Leyb Balinski, Tsevi Aryeh Dante, Yaakov Segal, Avraham Shlam, Yitshak Gibianski, Tsevi Dan, Zalman Roznfeld, Avraham Yitshak Babrovski.

From Saini - - 60.[26] The collectors: Tsvi Vizanski, Zelik Roznfeld, Baruk Gutshteyn, Refael Gutshteyn, Moshe Barukh Galanti, Hayim Shelomoh Galanti, Duber Frank, Avraham laypuner, Moshe Bramzon, Tsevi Bernshteyn, Tsevi Goldberg, Yisrael Lypuner, Yitshak Golberg, Shelomoh Gizianski, Asher Funk, Avraham Ragalski, Moshe Pik, Moshe Yakubzon, Yehiel Baruk Teplits, Hayim Savatsevski, Moshe Gibanski, Meir Leyb Dilitski, Tsevi Rubinstsik, Eliyahu Sheynholts, David Zarimbovski, Yaakov Roznblum, Yaakov Tsevi Shaynman (ritual slaughterer). Hayim Moshe Elson, Yitshak Garbarski, Moshe Yitshak Zelikhovski, Yosef Hefner, Moshe Eliyahu Finkl, Yaakov Shapira, Yosef Aryeh Levintinski, Yekutiel Verblinski, Nahum Laypunek, Yaakov Vizanski, Shemuel Ragalski, Moshe Yitshak Zelvianski, Moshe Frank, Aharon Yitshak Frank, Aryeh Laypuner, Yehudah Frank, Fayvl Gibanski, Duber Rutnberg, Menhem Mendl Zilberman (prayer leader), Yehudah Vizbutski, Yitshak Aryeh Komisarski, Moshe Levintal, Shlomoh Azan, Aba Palnitski, Tsema Balinski, Shemaryah Khmilevski, Aharon Kats, Shemuel Aryeh Handlsman, Nahum Zalman Sakhatsevski, Nahman Laypuner, Betsalel Teplits, Yaakov Ratski, Yehezkel Prenski, Mordekhay Markson, Note Grinberg, Leyb Freyd, Yitshak Tsevi Hurvits, Yosef Yablonski, Abel Varglinski, Kopl Yaverkovski, Meir Yonah Bilevits, Yosef Yehudah Rozntal, Eliyahu Margoliot, Yehoshua Shamash, Aharon Zlatavski, Yisrael Natan Gradzinski, Mordekhay Eliezer Lazavski, Yitshak Litman, Dov Zeev Zilberman, Moshe Shamash, Yaakov Krukovski, Meir Smalinski, Zlate Grinberg, Reuven Ratskovski, Avraham Eliyahu Hirshfeld, Hanokh Kats, Yitshak Leib Guralski, Moshe Segal, Selik Shvartsman, Yosef Pinkovski, Shimon Eliyahu Barovski, Yisrael Yaakov Kaplan.

Noah Laypuner, Yosef Komisarski, Moshe Levita, Asher Dunkl, Iser Valtsanski, Avraham Yitshak Lifshits, Aryeh Frank, Kalman Pivarski, Refael Laypuner.[23*]

[Col. 118]

At the time of the famine in Jerusalem in 1874 the town of Baklerowe sent 20 rubbles collected by P. Rozen and Hananiah Skuranski from 83 people.[27] Similar collections were made in Filipowe, Suwalk, Krasnopolie, Yelinowe, etc. The Jews of the Suwalk area not only responded warmly to appeals from their brethren elsewhere but were not indifferent to troubles in nearby towns. Most of these troubles were caused by fires.

In 1886 there was a great conflagration in Lazdey in which 250 houses were burned. Bread, clothing and other necessities were immediately sent there from Suwalk, Saini and other towns.[28] In 1879 there was again a fired in Lazdey and the Jews there thanked those from Saini for their help.[29] That same year, the Jews of Suwalk collected 120 rubbles to help burned out Jews from three nearby towns.[30]

In 1895 the Jews of Suwalk collected the large sum of 1000 rubbles for the Jews of Brisk[24*] who had suffered a terrible fire that year. The collection was carried out by Rabbi Barukh Roznberg and R'Shemuel Yosef Mariampolski.[31]

In 1900 around 200 Jews of Augustow were burned out and food was sent to them in wagons from Suwalk and Ratzk.[32]

The Jewish communal workers in Suwalk and vicinity were not only involved with charity – there were other communal concerns which had to be watched very carefully. These were usually connected with events in the royal court and in administration.

When Prince Nicholas was born to the Czar's family in 1864, the Jews of Suwalk paraded through the streets with musical accompaniment to the synagogue where they made speeches in honour of the event. They celebrated with such pomp that they received a telegram with greetings from the Governor-General of Vilne, Muraviov.[33].[25*]

A few weeks later, there was another cause for celebration: it was the ninth anniversary of the Czar's coming to the throne. The “Great Officer “Baklanov was present in the synagogue for the celebratory event.[34]

[Col. 119]

In 1897 the “Officer of the State of Poland” – the Commander-in-chief of the Warsaw Region – Count Imertinski, visited Suwalk. In addition to the official state reception in the gymnasium in which Jewish representatives Yehoshua Burak and Sheynman participated, the count also visited the synagogue. Near the entrance to the synagogue stood rows of Jewish gymnasium students, boys and girls dressed up in their uniforms and holding flowers. In the synagogue the count was greeted by the government rabbi Zeligman. The choir of Yehudah Leyb Hasid sang some Russian songs. The count thanked Rabbi Tuviah Katsenlnbogn, Rabbiner Zeligman and Messrs. Burak and Sereyski. He wrote in the community register: “I express my thanks to the Jewish congregation in Suwalk, its rabbis and leaders and to the cantor and his choir”.[35]

There were similar festivities in the surrounding towns. Tens of communal workers and philanthropists participated in these communal activities. We cannot compile a complete list of their names from newspaper correspondence and subscription lists in books but many of their names can be found there and should be recorded here.[36]

Moshe, son of R'Avraham Rozntal was a scholar; a rich man and a worker for the community. He died young {12 Iyar {5}612{1852}. He was eulogized by Rabbi Yitshak-Ayzik Heber.[37] One of his aphorisms or epigrams is found at the end of R'Yitshak-Ayzik's book: “Bet Neeman”.

In 1858 the wealthy communal worker Yehudah Leyb Rozntal died. All shops were closed during his funeral.[38]

In the list of “Hamitnadvim le-hevrat shomre Torah”[26*] one finds the names of scholars and rich men from all over the world including that of “Hamaskil hashalem”[27*] Shlomoh Rozntal of Suwalk.[39]

[Col. 120]

In 1869 Binyamin Note Rivlin, “the wealthy rabbi”, died and was eulogized by the Suwalk Rabbi.[40]

Avraham Rozntal, the wealthy Suwalk philanthropist died in 1870. The entire community was in deep morning on that day. He was eulogized by R'Eliezer Simhah and R'Avraham Yeruzalimski.[41]

R'Nahman, son of R'Aba Butkovski was a scholar and a philanthropist who died in 1871.[42]

The “maskil and rabbi” R'Shaul Rozntal died in 1873.[43]

One of the scholarly householders of Suwalk was R'Yitshak Gordon. Some of his novella was published in “Hamagid” 1871 n°33.

Nahum Roznberg and Nisan Lipnatski were the directors of Y'Broyn's kloyz.

R'Moshe, son of R'Yaakov Seloveytshi, son-in-law of the “elder of the religious court judges” Rabbi Naftali Prendzel, was an active communal worker in Suwalk. He died in Göttlingen in 1896.[44]

Eliezer Tsevi Ratsevski was a wealthy maskil in Suwalk.

R'Shelomoh Tabalavski was a private lawyer in Suwalk in the sixties and seventies. His family lived in Kalvarie but his office was in the provincial capital and he stayed there five days out of every week. He had fifteen employees in his office. He had a good reputation. The Russian Minister of Justice once said that there were two outstanding private lawyers{?} in Poland: Povlovski in Warsaw and Tabalavski in Suwalk.[45]

Shimon Faynberg of Filipowe supported many institutions in his town. He gave much of the money for the building of the Bet Midrash and the synagogue and helped found the Free Loan Society. He also had the fence built around the cemetery, etc. His brother, R'S. Hakohen was also charitable.[46]

Royzngold, who died in 1876, was also very charitable towards communal needs in Filipowe.[47]

[Col. 121]

R'Shemuel Kats was also a communal worker in Filipowe.

Wealthy Barukh Gutshteyn was well-known as a supporter of education in Saini.

In 1883 the building of the big synagogue in Saini was completed. Of the money towards the building, $1200 came from the money left in Tsevi Hirsh Shnitser's will. He died in New York in 1881. At the inauguration of the synagogue, Asher Rubinshteyn and his three sons of Suwalk came and sang for the assembly at no charge. One of these sons was only nine years of age.[48]

Meir Roznblum and Asher Finkl worked hard to provide the poor people of Saini with wood for fuel.

R'Ayzik Bishka Litoyer was the head of the religious court in Saini and a well-known communal worker there. He died in 1884.[49]

Avraham Abele Margalit of Filipowe devoted himself to public welfare. He was a student of R'Hayim Filipover. He died in 1877.[50]

Hayim Hakohen Vistinetski belonged to many societies in Baklerowe. He was very knowledgeable in Bible and grammar. He died in 1891.[51]

The name of R'H.D. Zukovski is mentioned as a communal worker in Psherosle in 1872.

R'Yehudah Leyb, son of Rabbi Mordekhay Verbalski (R'Leyb Yekls) was one of the wardens of Ratzk for 36 years. He was a righteous man and a charitable one. He died in 1871.[52]

A well-known communal worker in Ratzk in the seventies was R'Nahum Bervald. At that time, R'Daniel Kroynzon was prayer leader and ritual slaughterer.[53]

In Baklerowe in the seventies, devoted communal workers were R'Shraga Rozin and R'Asher Shterling.[54]

[Col. 122]

The Rozntal family produced the greatest number of communal workers. It was the most prestigious and prolific family in Suwalk. There was no instance from 1843 on, it seems, in which a member of the Rozntal family was not among the heads of the community. The family branched out over many cities: Vilne, Grodne, Harudak, Volkovisk, Bialystok, Warsaw, Berlin, Lodz, Petersburg, Moscow and even cities in the interior of Russia.[55]

As prestigious but smaller in numbers was the Lipski family in Suwalk. It produced many heads of the community as well as communal workers.

Because of the lack of archival materials, there is no systematic list of names of the heads of the Suwalk community. Thus, we must made do with the bit of information it was possible to glean.

In 1843, the heads of the Suwalk community were: Avraham Rozntal, Yehezkel Lipski and Moshe Epshteyn. In 1864: Mordekhay Rozntal, Moshe Krakovski and Nisan Holenderski.[56] In 1875: Yeshayah Lipski, Yosef Rozntal, Yehudah Shayman. In 1892: Menahem Mendl Rozntal, Eliezer Mordekhay Altshuler, Moshe Bardin.

In 1876, the heads of the community in Saini were: Avraham Yitshak Kahaha, Meir Leyb Dushnitski and Yaakov Shapira.[57] In 1884: Ayzik Litaver, Aryeh Leyb Leypuner and Hayim Shelomoh Galanti.

The heads of the community of Ratzk in 1892 were: Shimon Kats Krugman, Meir Stolovski and Yehudah Lapindar.[58]

At the beginning of the 20th century, the heads of the community in Baklerowe were: Meir Gitlzan, Avraham Hilel Zilberman and Avraham Miravski.[59]



    1. “Hamagid” 1860 n°9. Return
    2. “Hakarmel” 5623 {1862-1863} n°29: “Hamelits” 1863 n°12: “Hamagid” 1862 n°49. Return
    3. “Geshikhte fun Yidn in Varshe”. Dr. I.Y. Shatski v.3 p.185. Return
    4. “Yutsenka” 1863 n°8. It is reported in this correspondence that the money for the new Jewish hospital came mostly from “Our Christian fellow citizens”. Instead of Lifshits, it should say Lipski, see below note 56. Return
    5. “Hamelits” 1893 n°72 and 1894 n°86. Return
    6. “Hamagid” 1864 n°3. In 1860 the Jewish gymnasium students with Meir Shidarski's daughter at their head renewed or founded a new “Bikur Holim” (“Hamelits” 1860 n°215. Return
    7. “Hamelits” 1863 n°16 and “Hamagid” 1867 n°7. Return
    8. “Hamagid” 1868 n°7 supplement: “Hakarmel” 1869 n°5. Return
    9. “Hamagid” 1868 n°16 supplement. Return
    10. ”Hazman” of Petersburg 1903 n°6/7: “Hamagid” 1857 n°45. Return
    11.”Hakarmel” 1863 n°29: “Hamagid” 1863 n°4. Return
    12. ”Hamagid” 1867 n°7. Return
    13.”Hamagid” 1871 n°3. The donations for the “Korban etsim” were made on one of the last Sabbaths in the fall. This was true until the Holocaust. Return
    14. ”Hatsefirah” 1892 n°87. Return
    15. ”Hatsefirah” 1894 7th November.[28*] Return
    16. ”Hamelits” 1884 n°56+60. 1889 n°143. 1894 n°9. Return
    17. ”Hakarmel” 1869 n°1: “Hamagid” 1866 n°8+49, supplement. Return
    18. ”Hamelits” 1885 n°68. Return
    19. Here and further on we cite names which are not mentioned in other sources. Return
    20. ”Hamagid” 1871 n°11+23, supplement. Return
    21. ”Hamagid” 1872 n°6+7, supplement 10,14,23, supplement. Return
    22. ”Hamagid” 1872 n°7, supplement. Return
    23. Ibid 1872 n°6. Return
    24. Ibid 1872 n°4, supplement, and n°15,16. Return
    25. Ibid. Return
    26. Ibid. Return
    27. Ibid 1874 n°23, supplement. Return
    28. ”Hamelits” 1886 n°49. Return
    29. Ibid 1879 n°30 and “Hatsefirah” 1879 n°27. Return
    30. ”Hamelits” 1886 n°35. Return
    31. Ibid 1895 n°134. Return
    32. ”Hatsefirah” 1900 n°121. Return
    33. Atsb”E (Meltzerzan) in ”Hamagid” 1864 n°5. Return
    34. ”Hamagid” 1864 n°13. Return
    35. ”Hamelits” 1897 n°179. Return
    36. Workers for education, Hibat Tsiyon, etc. are mentioned in the specific chapters. Names of communal workers which are mentioned together with their societies are repeated only in exceptional cases. Return
    37. ”Tsiyun Le-nefesh” by R'Yosef Heber, Warsaw 1856. Return
    38. Paradistal in “Hamagid” 1858 n°43. Return
    39. ”Halevanon” 1867 n°10. Return
    40. ”Hamagid” 1869 n°12, supplement. Return
    41. ”Halevanon” 1870 n°21: “Hamagid” 1870 n°24. Return
    42. ”Hamagid” 1871 n°42. Return
    43. Ibid 1873 n°41, supplement. Return
    44. ”Hamelits” 1896 n°117.Return
    45. ”Yamim ve-shanim” {Days and years} part I M.Y. Frid, Tel-Aviv, {5}698{1938-1393}p.30. Tabalov is the name of a village near Suwalk. Return
    46. ”Hamagid” 1865 n°40. Return
    47. Ibid 1876 n°4, supplement. Return
    48. ”Hatsefirah” 1883 n°19: “Hamelits” 1881 n°7. Return
    49. ”Hamagid” 1884 n°19. Return
    50. Ibid 1877 n°3. Return
    51. Ibid. 1891 n°18. Return
    52. Ibid. 1871 n°42. Return
    53. Ibid. 1872 n°15. Return
    54. Ibid. Return
    55. “Historishe shriftn” v.3 p.416 article by Anna Rozntal-Helir “Bletlekh fun a lebns geshikte” {Leaves from a biography}. A great-great-grandmother of the Rozntals lived in Moscow in 1812 and received Napoleon in her house near the Russian capital. A great-great-granddaughter of hers, Ana Rozntal was the wife of Vladimir Peniakov, one of the legendary figures in the British army at the time of World War II. (“Popski”. J. Willet, London 1954 p.12). There was a large Rozntal family in Hungary. We do not know if it was connected to the Suwalk Rozntal family. See “Toldot Mishpahat Roznthal”. Y. Grinvald, Budapest 1920. Return
    56. In the first elections for the city council in Suwalk in 1862, the following Jews were also elected/ Yitshak Krakovski, Klinkavshteyn, Barukh Brasmon, Shemuel Moshe Krakovski. Their alternates were: Meir Ahrnzon, Nisan Holenderski, Efrayim Likhtenshtyen, Avraham Rozntal, Yeshayah Lipski (“Hatsefirah”1862 n°10). In “Yitsenka” the name Lipski was changed to Lifshits. Return
    57. ”Hatsefirah” 1876 n°14. Return
    58. Ibid n°75. Return
    59. From a personal communication to me from Rabbi Khashesman in Chicago. Return

Translator's Footnotes

    1*. Old Synagogue Return
    2*. This is the gate of The Lord, may the righteous enter here. Return
    3*. One room 'chapels' Return
    4*. Synagogue courtyard Return
    5*. Hevrah Eyn Yaakov Return
    6*. Purify for Passover Return
    7*. It is not clear what “city authority or management” he is referring to. Return
    8*. Council of Women Supporting the Sick in Suwalk Return
    9*. Soup kitchen or charity box. Return
    10*. For the support of the poor among our brothers, the children of Israel in Russia and Poland. Return
    11*. Free loan. Return
    12*. Support of the taken. Return
    13*. Offering of trees. Return
    14*. Bread for the poor. Return
    15*. Bringing the bride to the canopy, i.e. collecting dowries for poor girls. Return
    16*. Clothing the naked. Return
    17*. Fine young men. Return
    18*. Study house for mature men. Return
    19*. Home for the aged. Return
    20*. Paramedic. Return
    21*. Kosher food or charity fund. Return
    22*. In the press. Return
    23*. 9 names omitted from column 117. Return
    24*. Brest-Litovsk. Return
    25*. Brest-Litovsk. Return
    26*. Not clear whether this is the Governor General's name or some designation connected to Vilne. Return
    27*. Donors to the society for the observance of the Torah. Return
    28*. The complete enlightened man. Return
    28*. This may be a typo for n°7. Return


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