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Photo Caption: Committee of Association of Those from Wyszkow in Israel and the book committee. From the right: Yekhieli Pinkhas, Ostry Khaija, Kovitz Khaim, Shtelung Liza and Menakhem, Farbsztejn Moishe, Wilenski Yerakhmiel, Bitmanowski Rivka, Mitelsbakh Yaakov and Caspi Menakhem.


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The Beginnings in Israel

by Moishe Farbsztejn, Los Angeles

Translated by Pamela Russ

Until the establishment of the State, the Wyszkower came to Israel with the third and fourth Aliyah, and also as individuals. Each one of them, with his own capacity and temperament …

Caption: Presidium of Irgun Yotzei Wyszkow b'Yisroel [“Association of Those from Wyszkow in Israel”] during the memorial in Tel Aviv, 1950.
[Next phrase, same in Hebrew.]
From right: Khaim Nosson Wengrow, Bina Holcman–Rakhman, Yakov–Dovid Przeticki, of blessed memory, the cantor, director of the Union of Those Who Came from Poland, Moishe Farbsztejn, Yakov Mitelsbakh.

… helped form national Jewish life and participated in the struggles of settling, with the mandate government. Our compatriots would get together from time to time, but these were gatherings with personal interests, even though memories of Wyszkow were not lacking …

Only after the end of World War II, and with the strengthening of flow of Aliyah with the surviving refugees, did our hearts begin to bear more strongly: Did any of our close ones manage to be saved? Will we merit to see in the Land of the Jews a saved member of any branch of Wyszkower families? And if they will come here beaten and downtrodden from the horrors of their war experiences – who will take care of them? Why should they not feel the brotherly, warm hands of their compatriots?

It was only in 1950 that we saw that of those who were saved from the sea of blood in Europe, our compatriots, Wyszkower Jews, were also coming to the established State, and they would have to be welcomed with brotherliness and warmth. The first official gathering of almost all the Wyszkower was held in the home of Y.D. Przeticki, of blessed memory, in Tel Aviv, with the participation of the well–known Yisroel Osman of Los Angeles. The elected administration put out a notice to all Wyszkower in the country and outside the country, that reported on the establishment of our organization and that urgent basic help was needed from the Wyszkower around the world. The needs were tremendous at that time, and the potential of help – very limited. The small capital was not sufficient for the ongoing expenses and loans. So, from time to time, the administration members would tax the fund and in that way would be able to help those who were in need.

In the first year of its existence (1950), the established loan fund gave out loans for minimum conditions. For those newly arrived, this provided financial and morale help at the first level. That same year, the Wyszkower in Los Angeles sent us $6,000 – and thanks to this money contribution, it was possible to extend the aide work in many areas. We also began to distribute assistance for the Jewish holidays twice a year for the needy – on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, and the eve of Passover.

Material aide also came from Argentina, and in the same way, all the compatriots over the world responded to the needs of the Wyszkower in Israel. In 1950, the first loans were distributed at more than 75 Israeli Lira – and later, in the year 1953, thanks to the help from foreign countries, the loans went to 200 Israeli Lira, which at that time, was a very significant amount. With this sum, every new immigrant to Israel was able to help himself with his first steps into the State of Israel.

The work grew. Our goal became: to put out a Yizkor Book and to build a permanent monument in memory of the Jewish community of Wyszkow. As the secretary of the Irgun Yotzei Wyszkow b'Yisroel for the first seven years, I was pleased that our organization had grown so beautifully. Both the aide fund, as well as the Beis Wyszkow, and the Wyszkow Book, can fill each of our compatriots, wherever they are, with real pride.

Caption: [Hebrew and Yiddish] Memorial service in Beit Hachalutzot [Pioneer Women's Home] in Tel Aviv
From right: Moishe Farbsztejn, Yakov Mitelsbakh, Brama, Director of the Hitakhdut Olei Polan [“Union of Those Who Came from Poland”], Menakhem Shtelung, Yakov Dovid Przeticki, Yisroel Kaluski.


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Fifteen Years of the Irgun Yotzei Wyszkow b'Yisroel
[Organizaton of Those Who Came from Wyszkow]

by Rabbi Yerakhmiel Wilenski – Grapa, Tel Aviv

Translated by Chava Eisenstein

Fifteen–years of the Wyszkower Association in Israel is certainly a modest amount of time for the many tens of years of existence and activities of our landsmanschaften [compatriot associations] in foreign countries. Nonetheless, our organization became the center of Wyszkow activity in the entire world and a central address for all our compatriots in Israel and in foreign countries.

One of the main objectives of the Wyszkower Association in Israel was and still is: to stretch out a warm and brotherly hand to each compatriot, a new immigrant who crosses the threshold of this Jewish State; help him to free himself from his experiences in the countries of exile, and to speed up the process of his acclimatization and organizing himself in this country in order that he live his life here in a warm environment. And one more thing: to eternalize the memory of the Wyszkower martyrs and pure souls who died in the Name of God – through memorial events, “Beis Wyszkow,” a memorial room, a Yizkor Book, and so on.

How effective we were to accomplish these important tasks – the following report of our activities will tell.

 

The Establishment of the Organization

The Association in Israel also has its history until the establishment of the State [of Israel]. There were Wyszkower in Israel in a respectable number, about one hundred souls. Their main problem was – to create a new form of life. Without having a difference between life with an ideology or belonging to a [political] party, all strove towards “…And lead us upright into our land, and we will plant for us in our borders…” [recited as part of daily morning prayers], which connected the hundreds of Wyszkower in Israel to their new lifestyles and conditions. Whether these were new members of a kibbutz [collective farm] or moshav [settlement], or in a workshop and factory – they carved out their governing independence in their own land.

But everyone was tied to his town, and tried to bring over his close ones from the old home town. Understandably, in those circumstances it was not possible or necessary to create a landsmanschaft. A change came about with the tragic outcome of the Second World War.

At the end of 1946, we received the first reports of the tragic deaths of the Wyszkower Jews: From over 10,000 souls, only hundreds were saved. We did not know the full force of the tragedy. Then, the first group of Wyszkower orphan–children from Tehran* [*translator's note: The “Tehran Children” is the name used to refer to a group of Polish Jewish children, mainly orphans, who escaped the Nazi German occupation of Poland. This group of children found temporary refuge in orphanages and shelters in the Soviet Union, and were later evacuated with several hundred adults to Tehran, Iran, before finally reaching Palestine in 1943. From: Holocaust Encyclopedia] came to the land. Also, older immigrants, adults, who came to Israel from Teheran at the beginning of 1947, told about the destruction of our city. Not understanding the horrors of the tragedy, Wyszkower in Israel ran in great confusion to the Jewish Agency or to the Red Cross to learn about the fate of their own families. At the beginning of 1948, when they were already awaiting the establishment of the State of Israel, it became clear that the only way to save the survivors of the Holocaust was only by having them immigrate to Israel. But who would be the lucky ones, whose close ones were still alive – no one knew yet. Sporadically, committees were formed to help those survivors by sending food packages and providing first financial aid to the new immigrants. Mrs. Orensztejn (Goldwasser) Pesse, then in Haifa, assumed the responsibility at that time of taking care of the new immigrant children through Aliyat Hanoar [“Youth Aliyah”]. She came to Tel Aviv and together with Zamir (Bzhozha) Rokhel, Osenholtz Dvoshe, Baharav Zev, Brama Shmuel, Lieber Wigoda, and others, they turned to our compatriots to raise financial aid and any other means of assistance.

In 1948, smaller meetings of compatriots took place, where letters of saved compatriots were read, filled with tragic news and horrifying details. They requested from us that we establish an aid fund that would send help to the foreign countries and welcome the newly–arrived to the country. When the War of Independence broke out, the organization could not maintain the system that it wished: that there be representation of the Wyszkower youth in Israel; and to position the aid committee in a primary position. At that time all were preoccupied with securing a victory over the Arab aggressors. With the arrival of the first group of Wyszkower families from the German camps in the American zones, we learned many of the details of the tragic outcome of the Wyszkower Jews. The families that arrived were: Rosenberg, Przeticki, Wengrow, Postolski, Najman, and others, all community activists in Wyszkow for many years (councilmen, inspectors, and so on). They called meetings of other compatriots and requested overall activity and no involvement with small aid work.

The first official founding meeting was held on March 4, 1950, at the home of Reb Yakov–Dovid Przeticki, of blessed memory. The most important resolutions that were made at that time were: to establish a loan–free financial aid fund for constructive help; to distribute support for the needy. A committee of the friends was established:

Khaim Wengrow, Simkha Farbshtejn, Pesse Orensztejn–Goldwasser of Haifa,
Yisroel Kaluski, Rokhel Zamir (Bzhozha), Avrohom Kwiatek, Yakov–Dovid Przeticki,
Shmuel Brama, Yitzkhok Nudel, Moishe Farbsztejn, Yakov Najman, and Khaim Cembal.

Two main points underline the activities and path of development of the organization in Israel: a) the …

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… aid work in many different forms; the efforts to expand the activities, and set up the organization on a larger social/economic level. b) to contact the Wyszkower compatriots around the world. The mutual aid and collaborative work, as well as the common guidelines that were planned and realized during that time also provided partnered achievements. I will describe these activities chronologically in order to give an exact view of the active deeds and accomplishments.

 

Renewed Activity

On May 8, 1950, the plans of the new committee were accepted. These were already the first sums, thanks to the donations and loans of the wealthier friends in Israel. Moyshe Farbsztejn, together with Yakov Dovid Przeticki, were designated to create a money fund, to take care of the accounts of membership fees of all Wyszkower in Israel, and to connect with the landsmanschaften [compatriot organizations] in America and Argentina, in order to acquire the required funds for a gemilas khesed [non–profit] account. Najman Yakov was assigned as the one responsible to collect the members' fees.

At the end of 1950, Mr. Yisroel Osman was elected – a Wyszkower who came from Los Angeles, known as a prominent literate, and researcher of legends and folklore, employee of the New Yorker “Tag” [“The Day,”] and author of several books. He becomes familiar with the work of the committee, and participates in a larger gathering of Wyszkower in Tel Aviv. He says that the active Wyszkower group in Los Angeles (Yekhiel Bzhozha, the Teffs, Markuskhammer, Rotblat, Byalis, and particularly the devoted secretary Muskat, and others) were prepared to help realize the economic and cultural plans of the Association in Israel.

In the months of October–December 1950, the following were co–opted to the committee: friends Moyshe Pakht, Rakhman (Holcman) Bina, Yakov Mitelsbakh, Yerakhmiel Wilenski, Laya Goldsztejn (Nudel), and Meyer Postolski.

The committee's work is extended. The treasurer, Yakov Dovid Przeticki, reports on the loans distributed and the greater number of requests for new loans. The secretary Moishe Farbsteyn reports on the capital of the loan fund that contained $500 at that time (then only 170 Israeli pounds) in Los Angeles; 85 pounds from Argentina, and the collective loan fund in Israel – 265 Israeli pounds. He also reports on the foreign food packages that were received from Buenos Aires, New York, and Los Angeles. M. Farbsztejn tells about the development of the Association in Los Angeles, and that they should provide them with the names of those who received the food packages; and also about the letter from the compatriots in Israel to the American committee with criticisms of this committee, with the request to send them food packages directly. At that time, there was a period of “austerity” in Israel. You only received food according to your cards. Our committee could not meet all the demands and persuade the needy ones that there were those even needier than they.

At another meeting, Secretary Farbsztejn reported that Los Angeles would soon send another $500 to the loan fund, and that the New Yorkers were asking for a list of the needy compatriots for Passover support. This type of aide was given to each compatriot that presented himself to the committee, and also to those who were embarrassed to come forward, even though they needed the help.

 

Constructive and Social Help

In the year 1951, the activities of the Association were reorganized. Separate committees now were responsible for their own resources of their activities. On the loans fund committee, the following were designated: Yisroel Kaluski, Moyshe Pakht, and Moishe Farbsztejn. The secretary's job is expanded with taking on Mr. Yerakhmiel Wilenski as protocol secretary. The idea of a Yizkor Book has not yet been actualized, because the economic situation in the country is still difficult. The steady stream of new Olim [immigrants to Israel] is occupying the committee with many demands and applications. We are looking for ways and means to address all these demands. Then we receive another $3,000 from Los Angeles. The loan fund is set up in the “Discount Bank.” Then we look for ways to increase the loan possibilities for the compatriots. We adopt the recommendation from the bank “Otzar Amomi” [“People's Treasury”] to keep our capital there, and therefore we receive loans from them for double the sum. The regulations of the loan fund are: “Loans are given for a maximum sum of 100 Israeli pounds (then $300). There have to be two guarantors for every request for a loan. Each week, the loans committee reviews the requests, and the bank guarantees it with their own deposit, and they also decide who should receive the loan first, and who second.” The loan committee borrows the designated sum from the committee, only for social needs and for those in difficult need. The social aid will be provided within the realms of possibility, primarily – from the support that we receive for this purpose from the American landsmanschaften or from individuals.

In the years 1952–1953, the activity of the Association is expanded. We receive another $3,000 from Los Angeles and a promise to send more annually in order to increase the monies in the loan fund in order to meet the needs of the hundreds of new Olim and help them establish their lives in Israel. New friends take on positions on the committee: Khanina Stolik, Berish Sapersztejn; Control Commission: Yosef Yanisz, Avrohom Kwiatek. The Association receives acknowledgement by all compatriots in Israel. Khaim Noson Wejngrow (from Haifa) requests that a branch of the loan fund be set up in Haifa. The treasurer Yakov Dovid Przeticki claims that compatriots in Haifa have received loans for a sum of 2,000 Israeli pounds over the last year …

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… and they are not being wronged for this. The decision is made to ease the load of the Haifa compatriots so that they should not have to go to Tel Aviv especially for this.

Then, the suggestion of several friends is raised, that the loan fund should become a non–profit fund. Instead of the loans coming through the “People's Treasury” bank and the “Discount Bank” the loans should be allocated through a non–profit fund that would use the same percent that the bank uses. Also, our compatriots from distant areas would not have to come especially to these banks in Tel Aviv. This suggestion is accepted in principle, but with the condition that the fund is increased to 20,000 Israeli pounds in order to be able to meet the demands of the requests for loans. We negotiated with the Wyszkower committee in New York that they participate in this loan fund, aside from their yearly aid and individual assistance. That year, the “Building Club” was established in New York, that invigorates the local Wyszkower compatriots, but also causes disappointments and misunderstandings with the longstanding Wyszkower Associations. The “Building Club,” which carries youthful energy, also connects with us, and, in a limited form, sends us support, disregarding that they are busy with local issues and challenges. In the American tradition, they make an effort to help the compatriots. We turn to all the Wyszkower Associations in New York, asking that they unite under one Association that would serve all the same interests. Our call was accepted only a few years later. The secretary of the “Building Club,” Kh. Apelboim, to our joy, became the secretary of the united Wyszkower committee.

Also, the Association in Argentina sends tens of food packages annually for the needy in Israel, according to the list that is compiled by our special commission.

 

Plans for a “Beis [House of] Wyszkow” and a Yizkor Book

In the year 1954, the activities of the Association are increased by electing the following friends onto a committee: Menakhem Sztelung, Avrohom Wilner, Yakov Pakht, and Henja Goldbarszt. They generate new plans for greater tasks, such as putting up a monument for the Wyszkower martyrs: 1) publishing a Yizkor Book, 2) the plan from Los Angeles to put up a “Beis Wyszkow” in Tel Aviv that would provide for all the activities of the Association: the loan fund, a public hall for all the gatherings, and a Yizkor Book.

At the end of 1953, our secretary Moyshe Farbsztejn leaves for America. He receives full authorization to arrange for establishing the two memorials in Israel. In the year 1954, we receive another $1,000 from Los Angeles for the loan fund.

In the new administration, Menakhem Sztelung is elected vice–president. The committee for the “Beis Wyszkow” is: Avrohom Wilner – chairman; Yisroel Kaluski and Menakhem Sztelung – members. Yakov Pakht is coopted to the treasury committee (Kaluski, Farbsztejn, and Przeticki). The Yizkor Book committee: Yisroel Kaluski, Menakhem Sztelung, Yerakhmiel Wilenski, Laya Nudel. Chairman, secretary, protocol secretary, and others – as before.

According to the reports of Moishe Farbsztejn, there is important material for the Yizkor Book in New York, in the YIVO Institute [Jewish Research Institute], and elsewhere. A lot is accomplished in Los Angeles about “Beis Wyszkow”: They collect a sum of $10,000. They have already collected a sum of $3,900. After sending the plan of “Beis Wyszkow” over to Los Angeles, it seems that they already have $4,000 for this goal, and they are in touch about this with the Associations in New York and Argentina.

The administration next addresses the issue of legalizing the organization. A lawyer is working out the regulations that are discussed at great length. The committee for the “Beis Wyszkow” suggests buying building sites with good conditions. All the suggestions, prepared and presented by Mr. Avrohom Wilner, are confirmed and afterwards – are put aside because of shortages in funds. In the years 1954–55, the loan fund gives out loans of sums more than 18,000 Israeli pounds annually (more than a hundred loans per year).

At the annual Yizkor evenings, there are more than 400 participants. With increased activity, opening our own office becomes a reality, since the work of the Association becomes very challenging. Reb Yakov Dovid Przeticki takes compatriots into his home because of debts and all kinds of other issues. Others are also taken into homes of other committee members. There are administration meetings every week at another member's home. The question about building or buying a house becomes pressing, and at the same time – close to reality. According to the reports that we receive from all the landsmanschaften, special committees are formed for the “Beis Wyszkow” in Israel. In the year 1955, the Association in Israel begins to work out the plan of “Beis Wyszkow” and negotiate plans for purchasing a building plot or old house. Also, the regulations of the Association are decided by us and are sent to the government for legalization.

A special committee addresses special need situations and social requirements of the Wyszkower in Israel. From the New York Ladies Auxiliary, we receive the first sum of $50 as social assistance. Also, the Building Club sends significant sums for special projects, indicating the persons who should be given the aid.

January 16, 1956 – Shevat 3, 5717. Reb Yakov–Dovid Przeticki, of blessed memory, our long–time, commendable community activist, and in his last years our capable treasurer, took his final leave from us. His devotion, activism, and self–sacrifice for our compatriots served as a symbol of brotherly assistance and reciprocal commitment. At the meeting of the administration on…

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… the 23rd of January, 1956, his memory is honored, and on his shloshim [30 days after death] – a memorial takes place at his gravesite.

Reb Pinkhas Yekhieli (Shultz) is invited to a special meeting and he is elected as treasurer of the Association. When his father–in–law, may he rest in peace, is still alive, he would assist him with managing the loan fund.

February 28, 1956, at a meeting about the loan fund, Mr. Yekhieli reports that the fund's capital consists of:

In the Bank “People's Treasury” 8460.80 Israeli pounds
In the “Discount Bank” 875.74 Israeli pounds
Change 2342.75 Israeli pounds
Total: 11679.29 Israeli pounds

We recently received 1000 Israeli pounds from Los Angeles.

In the month of February, twelve loans totalling 2431 Israeli pounds were given out.

The last annual report by H. Przeticki, of blessed memory, stated:

During the year, until September 1955, 116 loans were given out, with an approximate sum of 20,900 Israeli pounds. The capital in both banks, after dealing with old debts, is 9,000 Israeli pounds. Understandably, the needs are much greater.

The administration has decided to create an internal fund to increase the capital of the loan fund. The friends of the administration, on the spot, give 105 Israeli pounds and it is confirmed that a tax would be added with an annual due.

In April 1956, the editor Mr. Dovid Sztokfish, was assigned to begin collecting material for the Yizkor Book. Then we also decide on the mission of the “Beis Wyszkow” that should address all the needs of the compatriots in Israel – both as a memorial and for the activities of the Association. The income will provide for the loan fund and for the social expenses. The plan of the “Beis Wyszkow” committee, with H. Wilner at the head, includes: The costs will be $10,000, the construction $8,000. In August 1956, old debts are paid off. The friends of the administration create a special internal fund.

The report of the seven months of 1956 (February – September): membership dues – 371 Israeli pounds; special find – 1230 Israeli pounds; loans – 10,400 Israeli pounds.

In July 1956, Mr. Farbsztejn travels to Los Angeles for the second time. He deals with the Association in New York and Los Angeles about the Yizkor Book and about acquiring material from YIVO. At the annual general meeting, September 1956, Reb Dovid Sztokfish describes his steps to gather material and preparations for publishing the “Sefer Wyszkow.” At the constituents meeting, a special committee is elected for the Yizkor Book: Kaluski Yisroel, Sztelung Menakhem, Wilenski Yerakhmiel, Yekhieli Pinkhas, and Farbsztejn Moishe. Chairman – Kaluski Yisroel; vice chairman – Sztelung Menakhem. Treasury committee: Kaluski, Sztelung, Wilner. Secretary – Farbsztejn Moishe. Treasurer – Yekhieli Pinkhas. Building committee – Sztelung, Wilner, Mitelsbakh. Protocol secretary – Wilenski. Control committee – Yonisz Yosef, Rakhman Bina.

In the months of January – April, 1957, many Wyszkower immigrated to Israel. The committee decided to give each of them 20–40 Israeli pounds. The Book Committee addresses the issue of money, paper, editing. A special internal collection is established for the book, so as not to overtax the expenses of the loan fund. A special circular is sent to all the compatriots requesting they send material and dues. Mr. Yekhieli takes the responsibility upon himself to collect the debts of the loans that were neglected all this time.

Because of Kaluski's illness, M. Sztelung is elected chairman. Because of the absence of Secretary Farbsztejn, Yekhieli replaces him, and later – Wilenski. June 26, 1957, Mr. Farbsztejn returns to Israel. In a special meeting in the house of Mr. Sztelung, he reports on the Wyszkower Associations in New York and Los Angeles: They already have $6,000 in the bank, and another $4,000 will be added in the near future. The Wyszkower in New York will finance the Yizkor Book, and the “Beis Wyszkow.” The Building Club already has a few hundred dollars for the Yizkor Book.

July 4, 1957, an administration meeting takes place in the home of Bina Rakhman. Moishe Farbsztejn reports that he is going back to America for a longer period. He asks that before he leaves to America, we should buy a plot of land for the “Beis Wyszkow.” We also have to elect a secretary and a treasury committee because of the departure of three members of the administration: Kaluski to Europe; Sztelung to Argentina; Farbsztejn to America. Leyb Holcman (from Argentina), who attended the meeting, assured the representatives of both Wyszkower Associations of establishing the memorials in Israel.

A treasury committee is elected: Wilner Avrohom, Rakhman Bina, and Postolski Meyer. As secretary – Wilenski Yerakhmiel. Mr. Farbsztejn is coopted on the building committee, and they take on the responsibility of purchasing land within the next two weeks. But the Los Angeles group wants to wait for the participation of Argentina and New York for this plan. From New York, they write that the local Khevra Tehilim absolutely wants that in the “Beis Wyszkow” there should be a place for praying. Then they would commit to paying into this plan. We decide to wait with the “Beis Wyszkow” and increase the work on the Yizkor Book.

July 1957, we organize a farewell evening in honor of the departure of M. Sztelung to Argentina. He receives the mandate of the Association to work with the Association in Buenos Aires with the Yizkor Book and “Beis Wyszkow,” and also to describe the efforts of Secretary Wilenski for the unification – so that they should collaborate in the questions of the Yizkor Book (that has no political bearing)…

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He feels that the trip was successful, even though it had a personal nature. At a reception in his honor, a $5,000 commitment is made for the book and for the House. Also, his efforts for a union were fruitful.

 

Beginnings of the Realization

The year 1958 marks the beginning of the realization of the two large projects. March 1958, our compatriot HaRav Bronstejn comes to Israel as a delegate of the American Jewish Rescue Committee, on his way to Jewish children in Poland, born during the war years. He reports to us about the excitement of the Wyszkower in New York regarding the memorials in Israel, and that the New Yorkers would collect a lot more than the Association in Los Angeles. Then, a larger delegation of leaders and founders of the Association in Los Angeles comes to Israel. We have several meetings with them, dedicated to the treasury reports that contained:

During the year 1957, 120 loans were distributed for an approximate sum of 23,000 Pounds. The capital:

In the banks 10,020 Israeli pounds
Exchange 1,811 Israeli pounds
Postponed debts 97 Israeli pounds
Yizkor Book 111 Israeli pounds
Support in the form of loans 350 Israeli pounds
Total: 12,389 Israeli pounds
From taxes and membership fees 2,306 Israeli pounds
Expenses and support 2,306 Israeli pounds
Formal debts 401 Israeli pounds

These figures do not satisfy the compatriots, since their requests for loans have not been acknowledged. The administration takes on the action of increasing the loan fund by another 5,000 Israeli pounds, possibly with the help of New York. The Building Committee holds several meetings with the delegates and the same for the Yizkor Book committee. They familiarize themselves with the many arms of the work and needs of the Association in Israel. April 29, 1958, we organize a festive event for them in “Beis Sokolow” with greetings honoring the founders and activists of the Wyszkower landsmanschaften [compatriot associations] in America. A discussion of the goals of our activities followed. In closing, all the delegates of Los Angeles enthusiastically agreed to facilitate the building of the “Beis Wyszkow” and to send over $10,000 for that goal.

The activity of the Association is lessened, after canceling the contract to buy the “Beis Wyszkow” on Brenner Street. Mr. Kaluski became very ill at that time and did not participate in the weekly meetings. The treasurer, Mr. Yekhieli, is in Europe, and Mr. Sztelung also acts as the official for the loan fund. The work for the Yizkor Book encounters great difficulties. We call a larger meeting of the active compatriots. The coopted members receive a mission, each in his own area: Alenberg – in Haifa; Mrs. Goldbarszt – in Netanya; Mitelsbakh – in Petakh Tikva. The point – to collect material and money for the Yizkor Book. Wilenski is assigned to organize the money collections and create a fund for the book. Mr. Bruk Binyomin Khaim, former secretary of “Hekhalutz” in Wyszkow, is assigned as vice–secretary. A special account is opened in the “Bank Hapoalim” for the Yizkor Book fund and for the “Beis Wyszkow.” We also receive new material for the book.

We come to an agreement with the Association of Polish Jews and they make their place on Ben Yehuda Street 100 available to us. We hold our meetings there. The secretary welcomes compatriots there twice a week in the evening hours.

 

The Goal – Our Own Non–Profit Fund

The reorganization of the committee, under the chairmanship of Menakhem Sztelung, brings in a vitality and expansion of the activities in all areas.

The program for the year 1959 includes:

1. An increase to the loan fund and the creation of our own non–profit fund in order to improve the deficient activities of the loan fund that had losses because of the bank expenses, displeasure of the compatriots, for whom each inaccurate payment of the rates incurred great costs (each letter cost 2 Israeli pounds) for them, other than the percentage, and so on). All of this was taken off the capital of the Association, which was responsible for each loan. Many times it was impossible to collect on the debts, because they informed us when the person was already out of the country, or for other reasons. Also, the loan fund did not allow the compatriots to leave part of their loan in the bank as membership fee, as a bank percentage, or as other expenses. Instead of that, they pay their membership fee to the Association – 10 Israeli pounds from that loan for 200 Israeli pounds. When they turn to the treasury committee to delay repayment until later, this does not cost any money. The treasury lender, Mr. Yekhieili, receives the assignment to work through this new program and be in contact with the Postal–Bank, and then to transfer the money from the People's Treasury to the Postal Bank.

We create the women's committee, which helps us in the work of the Association, such as: social aide, collection activities, welcoming compatriots, all kinds of technical work, organizing welcomes for guest, and all kinds of celebrations.

We receive more work for the book from New York, Los Angeles, Argentina. Mr. Wilenski gives the sum of 3,000 Israeli pounds (for the necrology) from New York, Los Angeles, and from Israel – over 2,000 Israeli pounds as a contract for increased responsibility. For this money, we buy paper for the book, for a reasonable sum of 5,000 Israeli pounds.

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The Building Committee renews its activity, receiving guarantees from Argentina regarding sending over the first $1,000 to Los Angeles, and that in time, they would send an additional $4,000. Los Angeles agrees immediately to send over the $10,000 for the “Beis Wyszkow.”

March 29, 1959, these foreign guests are welcomed: Mr. Radziminski and wife, Mr. Tzimerman and wife, HaRav Bronsztejn, also Mr. Leybel Rozenberg and wife, who came at that time to settle in Israel, participated in the meeting of the administration. After the greetings and the addressing of the requests for Passover support and loans, Mr. Radziminski donates 1,200 Israeli pounds for Passover support and 1,000 Israeli pounds to create the non–profit fund. This guest relates that these past few days he had received favorable information about the work of the Association in Israel. HaRav Bronsztejn talks about the accomplishments of Mr. Radziminski and his wife Rokhel in New York. Also, Mr. Tzimerman reports on the many years of activity in all areas of the “Society” and the new interest of the compatriots in New York to help the compatriots in Israel. Mr. Wilenski greets the guest and briefly talks about the accomplishments of the Association in Israel. The committee members have given their time voluntarily to the committee, but the needs are much greater than the means. Mr. Yekhieli gives a report about the activity of the loan fund. Mr. Radziminski assumes the responsibility to place the tombstone on Har Tzion in Jerusalem (which the Association in Israel had decided to do, according to the secretary's report), and he hopes to meet a greater number of compatriots in order to hear their requests and reports about this in New York. This type of gathering took place on khol hamoed [the interim days] of Passover. In the reception hall of the “Association of Emigres from Poland” and with the participation of 200 compatriots, Mr. Radziminski promises to establish the non–profit fund earlier, and after that the “Beis Wyszkow” and the Yizkor Book. During his visit, they set up the marble memorial plaque on Har Tzion for the Wyszkower martyrs.

In June 1959, we receive from them 2,400 Israeli pounds for the non–profit fund (which they promised during the farewell banquet for them at the home of secretary Mr. Wilenski). Then we receive about 5,000 Israeli pounds from Argentina for the projects of the Yizkor Book and for “Beis Wyzkow.” Meanwhile, we decide to borrow this sum from the non–profit fund and remove the funds from the “People's Treasury.” We begin to manage the non–profit fund according to the new regulations.

February 13, 1960, the women's committee organized a “Tu b'Shevat festival” [15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, celebration of the new fruit, usually mid–March], with a rich program. Hundreds of compatriots from the entire country participated, being so happy that they had the opportunity to get together in warm, friendly evenings. The income was directed towards social assistance and support for the holidays.

July 26, 1959, with the help of the Association in Argentina, the Wyszkower Association in Montevideo is established. They immediately connect to us. We ask for their collaboration with our work on the Yizkor Book and “Beis Wyszkow.” March 21, 1960, we receive from them the first $100 as a contract for the book, and for materials and pictures.

June 1960, Mr. Biales and his wife come to Israel from Los Angeles, along with guest from Argentina and Montevideo. At a larger meeting, the ongoing activities and the relationship between the two compatriot associations are addressed. Mr. Biales guarantees that the purchase of “Beis Wyszkow” will be realized.

October 1960, the book “landsmanschaften in Israel” is out, with a description by secretary Y. Wilenski, about the activities of the Wyszkower Jews in Israel. Unfortunately, some entries in the article were changed to refer to the Association in Argentina, instead of in Montevideo.

 

Guest from Argentina

The delegation of Wyszkower landsmanschaften to the World Congress of Polish Jewry, was in Tel Aviv, January 1961, represented by: on the organizational committee – Aryeh Sztelung – chairman; Moishe Kwiatek – member. On the social constructive committee – Menakhem Sztelung – member. They participate in several meetings of the committee and various other committees, such as: the loan fund, Yizkor Book, and “Beis Wyszkow.” January 28, 1961, a large “Tu b'Shevat festival” in the reception hall of “Beis Hasofer,” with the participation of more than 400 compatriots. The delegation from Argentina was energized by the Wyszkower Association in Israel.

February 12, 1961, at an extraordinary meeting of the committee, the purchase of “Beis Wyszkow” was confirmed as a house that was being constructed on Bugrasow Street 25.

The committee gives over the full rights to the chairman of the building committee, Mr. Avrohom Wilner. At the same time, we hold gatherings of compatriots, and within a few months, over 2,000 Israeli pounds are collected. Mr. Wilner devotes a lot of time to establishing the “Beis Wyszkow.” Thanks to his expertise, the hall of the “Beis Wyszkow” was extended and he saved some necessary expenses.

The Wyszkower center in Israel – “Beis Wyszkow,” becomes a reality. Participating in this memorial, are Wyszkower in

Los Angeles with 20,000 Israeli pounds
New York with 9,500 “
Argentina with 6,000 “
Montevideo with 500 “
Israel with 3,000 “

In September 1961, the annual Yizkor evening is already organized to be in the hall of the “Beis Wyszkow.” More than 400 compatriots participated. The hall is not yet completed. There are no chairs to sit on, no tables. But the joy of our compatriots is great.

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Caption: Presidium of the “Khanukas Habayis” celebration [for new home], May 12, 1962. From right: D. Sztokfish, editor of “Sefer [Book of] Wyszkow”; Yerakhmiel Wilenski, general secretary of the Wyszkower landsmannschaft in Israel; Menakhem Sztelung (speaking), chairman of the landsmannschaft; Pinkhas Yekhieli (Shultz), treasurer; Y. Mitelsbakh and M. Kaspi – administrative members.
[Repeated in Hebrew]

Along with the mood of the sad evening, hope is expressed that the house will provide for the spirited health of Wyszkower Jewry. The words of Cantor Brukhanski (Malkiel's son): “velo yosefu ledaava od,” [“May we know of no further harm”] take on a profound meaning…

On December 5, 1961, we organized a welcome for Rav Silver, newly–elected president of “Khevra Tehilim Anshei Wyszkow” [“Group (Congregation) of Psalm Reciters, People of Wyszkow”] in New York. After learning about our activities, he offers several suggestions to expand the activities of our Association by establishing a special fund for constructive help. He takes on the responsibility for this objective to help raise money in New York, and offers a donation from the Khevra Tehilim for “Beis Wyszkow.”

At the beginning of 1962, the inner furnishings of the hall are completed. March 22, 1962, a welcoming is organized for the secretary from the Los Angeles union for the Wyszkower – Moishe Farbsztejn. The guest also participates in several meetings of the administration and committees. Issues of the Yizkor Book, the non–profit fund, social aide, and other topics are discussed.

 

The Festive Opening of “Beis Wyszkow

May 12, 1962, with 500 compatriots and foreign guests present, the celebration took place, along with the celebration of the 15th Yom Ha'Atzmaut [“Day of Independence of the State of Israel”]. The representatives of the Wyszkower foreign Associations are honored with lighting six memorial candles in memory of the martyrs. In his opening speech, the chairman of the Association, Menakhem Sztelung, underlined the importance of our own “house'” in Israel for our survivors of the destruction, and then he thanked the Wyszkower around the world for their open willingness and interest to establish the “Beis Wyszkow” in Tel Aviv. The chairman of the evening ended his impressive speech with a “shehekheyanu” [blessing over a new home].

The secretary of the Association, Yerakhmiel Wilenski, reports on the tasks and the accomplishments of the Wyszkower landsmanschaft in Israel in the past, and the plans for the future. He tells of the compatriots' joy all over the world in relation to this festivity, and the blessings that they sent. He ends with the wish that this joyous event, that is mixed with sorrow, in memory of our dearest, the martyrs of Wyszkow, should in the future come to full joy, “ oz yimo'lei s'khok pinuve'hoyinu semeickhim” [“our mouths will be filled with laughter … and we will be joyous”: Book of Psalms, 126:2]…

The following gave greetings: Engineer Anshel Reiss, chairman of the Union of Polish Immigrants to Israel; the well–known Borukh Yismakh, Bronsztejn, and Yakov Palukh – from Argentina; Rotblat – from Los Angeles; Sholom Grapa – Uruguay; Mrs. Mondry –

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… Detroit; Mr. Khashmal – New York; and also guest from Mexico and Canada.

Further greetings from: Margalit – from the landsmanschaft Ostrow–Mazowieck; Warsawski – from the Association out of Serock; director – from Pultusk, Asher Ben–Ono (of blessed memory) – from the Association out of Mizac.

The artistic program, the dances, the entertainment, and bright cheer, left a wonderful impression on all those present.

After the Khanukas Habayis, there was new energy for completing the work of the book and the printing. The editorial committee meets often and presents their thoughts about the material gathered. The clichis [printing plates] are ordered. Also, in September 1962, for the annual memorial event, other compatriots brought more material for the book.

Now, with our own place, the work grows. Also, the non–profit fund acquires a lot of activity. Because of a shortage of time and money, we put off for later the organizing of the memorial hall. We think that sales of the book that will be published at the end of 1963, will help take care of the future investments of our place, which include: a synagogue with an ark for the Torah scroll; a library, and the memorial room. “V'osu li mikdash v'shokhanti b'sokhom” : (Pirkei Avos) Ethics of Our Fathers [“And you shall build Me (God) a dwelling place, and I shall dwell therein”]…

To complete the report, it is noteworthy to point out the following set activities of the Association of the Wyszkower in Israel:

The non–profit fund: Loans of more than 200–300 Israeli pounds are given out, which in annual sales relates to 22,200 Israeli pounds.

Social aide: Twice a year, for Passover and Sukkos, help is given to needy compatriots. Also over one year, in unusual circumstances, help is provided.

Beis Wyszkow”: Every Tuesday, once a week, there are gatherings and meetings of the administration, committees, and activists in the Association. In the evening, all the compatriots also discuss their issues with the Association. In the “Beis Wyszkow” there are also the annual memorials, meetings, and we are also planning to set up a library.

Memorial evening: Each year, on one of the Ten Days of Repentance [between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur], we hold the annual evening in memory of the destroyed Jewish community of Wyszkow. Through invitations and announcements in the press and on the radio, we let everyone know about the evening's event. After the memorial, there is the annual general meeting of the Association, with reports of the activities and elections to the officials.

The Prayer House: We are planning to set up a House of Prayer in our place, and to bring a Torah scroll from New York, and to build a marble ark for it, and a bookcase for the religious books.

Yizkor Book: As these lines are being written, the Yizkor Book is already at the printer. Truthfully. With the publishing of the Yizkor Book, an obstacle arises. We know, however, that the long wait will be compensated with the content, appearance, and distinction of the book.

Memorial room: Completion of the “Beis Wyszkow” will not be realized, if the memorial room will not be set up as required for the eternal memory of the tortured Wyszkow martyrs. In this room …

Caption: Women's committee at the Khanukas Habayis celebration [“Dedication to new home”] of “Beis Wyszkow” [repeated in Hebrew].

… each compatriot will be able to be alone with the holy memory of his dear ones, and also learn a chapter of Mishnayos [Talmud study], read our Yizkor Book … For this goal, we already received the sum of 1,200 Israeli pounds from the Ladies' Auxiliary in New York.

 

Our Officials

The administration of the Association of Wyszkower in Israel consists of the following persons:

Chairman – Sztelung Menakhem. Vice chairman – Kowic Khaim, Mitelsbakh Yakov. Secretary – Wilenski Yerakhmiel. Vice secretary – Kaspi Menakhem. Non–profit fund committee: Sztelung Menakhem, Yekhieli Pinkhas, Bismonowski Rivka, Wilenski Yerakhmiel. Committee of the “Beis Wyszkow” – Sztelung Menakhem, Wilner Avrohom, Yekhieli Pinkhas. Book committee: Sztelung Menakhem, Wilenski Yerakhmiel, Yekhieli Pinkhas, Kaspi Menakhem. Control committee: Yanisz Yosef, Kwaitek Avrohom.


With emotion and satisfaction, we end the fifteen–year active and creative work of the Association of Wyszkower in Israel.


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Vishkov Association of New York

by Yekhiel Burshteyn

Translated by David Goldman

 

1

Our Vishkov Association in New York is now sixty years old – a rather respectable age. Our members have given their time, health and labor for our organization, and have maintained and cared for their beloved memories. When we get together, we talk about Vishkov of former times and its Jews, community, Jewish institutions, large and small streets, and houses were once our cradles stood. We think of our Vishkov Association as a living monument that we have created on free American soil in honor of our former town that no longer exists. We want to care for this monument and constantly give it new life, similar to the way we constructed a living memorial for Vishkov in the free Jewish State with the aid we provided Israel through the building we established in our names. Now we have created a special unified Vishkov Aid Committee for Israel, about which I will write later in this survey.

 

2

Over the more than sixty years of the existence and work of our association we have had great and important times. The association's establishment itself was an important event that took place in times totally different from those we are in today when there is highly developed and vibrant Jewish life here in America. In this book, it is worthwhile to reconstruct a picture of life in that former period, when our compatriot [landsmanshaft] association in New York was founded, alongside an array of other ethnic organizations.

The immigrant Jew from the cities and shtetls of Eastern Europe felt lonely on New York's East Side in those days. The leading activists in the Jewish neighborhoods were called Yehudim, and were primarily concerned with philanthropy. They didn't take into consideration the feelings and opinions of the new immigrants about how to build their various institutions. The attitude of the radicals toward the common immigrant in Jewish New York was no better: as far as they were concerned the poor peddler would never turn into a bourgeois who ought to disappear, and the immigrants' religious needs were certainly of no concern whatsoever.

The immigrants started to become organized; their longing for the customs and traditions of the old country, as well as their loneliness, created the need for compatriot organizations. Helping each other in times of trouble and assisting new immigrants to get settled and then bring over their family therefore played a very large role. This was how in a rather short time hundreds of compatriot organizations with hundreds of thousands of members developed at that time. In addition, the more the new immigrant became more Americanized and accustomed to his new environment, the more proud and confident he felt. His low self-esteem and inferiority complex disappeared, and the compatriot organization to which he belonged assisted him immensely.

The significance of the compatriot organizations in Jewish life in America at that time began to grow, and their influence continued to spread. It should be noted that the trade union campaign in America on behalf of the Histadrut in Israel deserves a lot of credit for increasing the importance of our compatriot organizations. The trade union campaign on behalf of the Histadrut was the first event that attracted compatriot organizations to become involved, and to this very day our organizations have a respectable place in Israel. For many years there has existed a special department in the United Jewish Appeal for our organizations. In addition, large Jewish educational institutions, such as Yeshiva University in New York, have appreciated the importance of attracting the compatriot organizations to become involved in financially assisting their institutions.

This was how our Vishkov Association was established in 1896 in New York in the same way as other associations were founded. In the beginning the Vishkov compatriots used to get together over a glass of beer every Sabbath evening to share memories of the old country and to provide the new immigrant with lodging and pay the “Shop” to teach the new immigrant a trade. Hirsh-Meir Kotlowitz, one of our compatriots, was one of the greatest people involved in communal hospitality. Many of us still remember him today. Although he was himself a poor laborer, his modest apartment was always open to newly arrived immigrants; he assisted them with his advice and with his actions.

Due to the constant influx of new immigrants, the compatriot groups multiplied and grew larger. Soon they had to rent special halls for their weekly meetings. Their expenses also grew. Instead of relying constantly on contributions, they established membership dues. Eventually we came to the conclusion that it was appropriate for our association to have a managing committee. In December 1904 we established what was then known as the Independent Vishkov Immigration Support Association.

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The following individuals were chosen for the managing committee: Avraham Mittelsberg, president; Yechezkel Parover, vice president; Shmuel Gemara, financial secretary; Morris Topfel, recording secretary and Shmuel Wideletz, cashier.

The most important goal of the new Vishkov organization was to assist the recent “green” compatriots, both financially and emotionally. Over time, the members became settled in their new country and brought over their families. However, soon new problems arose, such as the need to be able to provide medical assistance, build a cemetery, etc. At that time we had a doctor, the well-known community activist, Dr. Nathan Rotnov, who was hired annually and provided free medical assistance to members. Later on he played an important role at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dr. Rotnov was an active member in the Vishkov Association for a long time.

The old Vishkov Assistance Association, which was founded in 1896, had its own cemetery; its financial situation improved as well. The very first immigrants of our shtetl belonged to the old association. One of those members was the late David Feingold, who some of us remember to this very day. According to our late compatriot, Chaim Aharon Yoskovich, even before the old association, there was a first Vishkov society under the name Ezrat Achim [Fraternal Assistance]. Yoskovich was a vice-president of the society, which only existed for a short time.

The new task was to merge the two organizations: the old 1896 Vishkov association and the new 1904 association; the merger was accomplished in 1906. The total financial assets of the new unified organization amounted to four hundred and eight dollars and 31 cents, and the association had a total membership of 142. The unified organization started providing material for its members; it offered financial assistance in the sum of six dollars a week in the event of illness of any of its members. This was in addition to the assistance provided to the newcomers.

Our Vishkov Association was one of the first compatriot organizations that became concerned with the cultural situation of its members. The association fought against the germanization of Yiddish that at that time was occurring in the Jewish associations, both in the management of the organization and in the spoken language used in the meetings. We were virtually the only ones who were concerned, therefore, that the bylaws of the association were written in good, clean Yiddish. To achieve that purpose, we hired the well-known Yiddish journalist Yaakov Pfeffer, who wrote our bylaws, which are the same as the ones we use today (with some minor changes). This contrasted with the way other associations' bylaws were written in a mixture of Yiddish and German. The leaders of our association also fought against the heretical movements and disgusting practices that could be seen in the Jewish neighborhoods in New York. We didn't allow our members to participate in the open revelry that took place on sad Jewish occasions such as the Ninth of Av [commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem], and prohibited the repugnant tradition of holding a communal meal after the death of a member, etc.

 

3

When World War I broke out, the Vishkov Association became heavily involved in all aspects of the war effort: it invested in Liberty Bonds, in savings plans, and donated significant sums of money to the Red Cross and other aid organizations on behalf of those suffering in Europe because of the war. The association also assisted its members who had gone off to war. Because of the war it was decided to disband the youth organization called The Vishkov Young Men that had been established earlier, and it merged with the Vishkov Association. Aside from the members of the former Vishkov Young Men, the association took in other new members. Our association needed a large hall where it could hold its meetings. At that time, the Vishkov Association also began to become involved in general Jewish community life in the United States. To the extent that we were financially able we supported an array of important institutions and activities. In one case, we also provided assistance to the shirt-workers' union that had gone out on strike.

Apart from the above activities, our association distinguished itself in its work on behalf of those suffering in Vishkov because of the war, and collected thousands of dollars from among our members. Right after the war our compatriot Benny Dovriss traveled as our special emissary to bring aid to the impoverished Jewish population of Vishkov. During the First World War we also participated in establishing the American Jewish Congress, which supported the historical resolution that called for the rebirth of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel [this would have been the Balfour Declaration]. Our delegates to the American Jewish Congress were our compatriots Benny Dovriss and Paul Kramer. Morris Topfel, who became our president in 1914, deserves a lot of credit for the Vishkov Association's expanded activity in those days.

 

4

One of the things that stimulated the desire to establish compatriots' associations in New York – as mentioned earlier – was the problem of cemeteries. Although in the old country it was possible to have a single cemetery for the entire community, this was not possible in New York because of the diversity of the Jewish population. In the early years, our Vishkov Association

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owned a small cemetery, part of the Mt. Zion Cemetery near New York. In 1911 the Association purchased a larger property at the Mt. Hebron Cemetery, but due to a shortage of funds, we were unable to construct a fence around the cemetery until 1923. The president at the time, Max Baslav, energetically took on the mission to build one. In 1923 a special fence committee that was set up executed the project. The issue was so important that to this day the Vishkov members are grateful to that committee for their work to set up the fence and at the same time increased the Association's assets by six hundred dollars.

The success in carrying out the work on the fence led not only to concern on behalf of the dead, but also provided important work for the living. There was an initiative to build our own building, a Vishkov center in New York, where all the compatriots could get together and engage in social activities. This impulse was a common one in Jewish life in those days because of good economic times and growing employment. Our association became very active in order to carry out the plan for the Vishkov center. It was the finest and most interesting period in the lives of Vishkov compatriots.

 

5

There were, however, internal disputes. Some of the large contributors quietly agitated against the plan. A proposal to dissolve the building fund that we had already put together was accepted in May, 1925, and the money was returned to the contributors. Nevertheless, because of our various undertakings that were part of the building fund several thousand dollars remained in the Association's funds.

At the time of the depression in the United States after 1929 our association did not give up its work in providing assistance for Vishkov compatriots, including for Vishkov itself. The Association provided financial assistance to its members and arranged free Chanukah concerts and other kinds of entertainment for members and their families.

Our association was intensively involved in activities during the Second World War. We bought thirty thousand dollars of government bonds, and hundreds of our young men served in the army. We participated in the United Jewish Appeal and in efforts on behalf of the Histadrut in Palestine, HIAS, yeshivas etc.

We still feel strongly about our responsibilities as a compatriots' organization. The truth is that we share our fate with the other compatriots' organizations in which the older members are the majority and the young people haven't become involved. We made valiant attempts and spent quite a bit of money to get the youth involved, but without success. We can only say that in our Vishkov Association we are emphasizing those things which are strongly rooted in Jewish nationalism and an attachment to Jewish traditions which we brought with us from the old country.

We are as involved as we ever were in campaigns on behalf of the United Jewish Appeal campaigns, the Histadrut, HIAS, yeshivas in New York, etc., and we are proud of the fact that our compatriots' association, to the extent possible, has contributed a brick to the building of the Jewish state. In this way we are striving with all our strength to maintain the beautiful traditions of our Vishkov Association in New York, from its establishment until this very day.

 

6

We should take this opportunity to make special mention in this survey of the activities of the General United Vishkov Aid Committee which was founded at the end of the First World War in 1918, and was an initiative of our Vishkov Association in New York. As with all of our work, in our United Vishkov Aid Committee we were concerned with all of the beautiful old traditions we were raised with. We did our aid work quietly, without any fanfare, and thereby always remembered what we learned in cheder, that 'man does not live by bread alone.' We provided assistance to the needy residents of our hometown Vishkov, and supported the Beis Yosef yeshiva and other institutions in Vishkov when they still existed.

[Photo page 223: Vishkov Ladies' Organization in New York]

As soon as our United Aid Committee was founded, we began an energetic and aggressive campaign, and collected thousands of dollars. In 1920, as mentioned earlier, we sent our compatriot Benny Dovris as our special delegate to bring and distribute aid among the needy Jews in Vishkov. We continued with our assistance work until the situation stabilized in

[Page 224]

Poland and the wounds of the First World War were healed somewhat. The Vishkov Aid Committee's activity subsided, but not for long.

In 1927-28 we again began to receive appeals for assistance from Vishkov. Our committee received a number of tearful letters for the Vishkov community, from the various institutions as well as from ordinary Jews in town, who complained about their situation. They wrote that poverty had spread again among the Jews in town. The economic and political situation of the Jews in Poland was becoming critical, and there was mass unrest against Jews. The livelihood of the Jews was badly affected.

The leaders and activists of the United Vishkov Aid Committee went to work to respond to the calls for help from our hometown. The heads of the Committee included the following activists: Morris Topfel, chairman; Mrs. Chekhanov, vice-chairman; Shmuel Videletz, cashier; Leo Chernin, finance secretary and Benny Zimmerman, recording secretary. The following served on the executive committee: Jake Zilberstein, Max Holland, William Radziminsky, Isaac Bengal, Rachel Radziminsky, Paul Kramer, Mrs. Molly Paraver, Morris Bernstein, Avraham Goldstein, Moshe Bornstein, Jacob Chelonko, Morris Levy, Avraham Aldak, Chaim-Aharon Jacobovich, Avraham Goldman and Sam Yagoda. They organized a theater event and undertook an energetic campaign. In a short time they collected a larger sum of money with which we assisted the charity fund, yeshiva, Talmud Torah, sick fund and hundreds of families in Vishkov.

 

7

Our United Vishkov Aid Committee asked the Vishkov community to set up their own committee representing all sections of the Jewish community, so that the collected monies could be distributed for the various needs in a democratic manner. The Vishkov community organized a united committee, and our Vishkov Aid Committee in New York received official notification about this. In Vishkov, the members were: Moshe Ostry, Moshe Pshemyarover, Yaakov Gemara (who is now in New York), Yosef Bindusky, Moshe Stern, Yehuda-Yosef Maltchik, Hershel Borstein, Nissan Bsheshinsky, Yitzchak Ber Rosenberg, Baruch Stollik and Mordechai Mendel Allenberg. They sent us a group photo of the committee which we published in our Association's newsletter.

Among the aid we provided for our hometown, we strongly supported the traditional ma'os chittim campaign (financial assistance for Passover). Our Vishkov compatriots in New York arranged all sorts of events such as Purim meals and Purim concerts, to which the activists William and Rachel Radziminsky devoted themselves and made a great contribution. Those events brought in a large amount of money, and because of it the Aid Committee was able to send contributions for Passover every year for the poor Jews in Vishkov. Of course, we didn't limit ourselves to such activities. We looked for constructive ways to assist the needy in our hometown throughout the entire year.

In 1937-1938, we received a letter from the community in Vishkov that reported that assistance was not only needed for the poor of Vishkov but also for Jews expelled from nearby villages such as Shchanka, who had arrived in Vishkov. We therefore had to expand our work, and the Aid Committee was reorganized for that purpose. Yechiel Borstein was selected as finance secretary and Rachel Radziminsky as vice-chairman. We began a new energetic campaign, and the response of the compatriots was a warm one. This encouraged us to then hold a theater performance in Maurice Schwartz's Art Theater which presented I. J. Singer's Brothers Ashkenazi. The event yielded around three thousand dollars for our aid work.

Over the years, we regularly (three times, often more – four times a year) sent assistance to the above-mentioned institutions in Vishkov. In the winter we sent money for heating for poor Jews. Several hundred families benefited from the Passover Ma'os Chittim campaign. The sum of two hundred dollars was sent to repair the fence at the cemetery in Vishkov. Besides our yearly donations for the charity fund in Vishkov, we gave money to the American Joint Distribution Committee who also contributed thousands of dollars. Thanks to this effort, the Vishkov Fund received a special sum of two thousand dollars.

The important aid work that the Vishkov charity fund provided with the money we sent in those years has been extensively described in the publication, Folks Hilf [People's Aid] which was published by the leadership of the charity movement in Poland. In the account, special mention was made of the fact that money was being provided to Jews expelled from neighboring villages of Shchanka, Brianchik, Poremba and Divky. This money assisted people with their livelihoods. This was how we helped out the poor Jews in our hometown and in the nearby areas as long as it was possible to send help. With the outbreak of World War Two, the activity of our United Vishkov Aid Committee was suspended temporarily.

 

8

At the end of 1944 we started to resuscitate the Aid Committee. We understood that we had to be prepared

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extend assistance to the hapless remnant of the Vishkov community after the war ended. Right after the end of the war, we established contact with some of our compatriots who at that time were located in Silesia and in the refugee internment camps in Germany. Our first act was to provide food packages to some individual compatriots whose addresses we had obtained. At that time we found out that there were survivors also in Sweden and Italy, and we immediately send food packages and other forms of assistance. There was an urgent need for prayer shawls and prayer books when survivors from Vishkov asked us for them. It gave us tremendous satisfaction to meet such requests. Meanwhile, when the survivors of the Vishkov community left Silesia and, together with other Vishkov survivors, started to move to Israel, we quickly sent off needed assistance to them in the Jewish homeland.

With even greater sums we helped out a number of new Vishkov arrivals in New York, and for some of them we were able to obtain housing and furniture. Our United Aid Committee continues to provide annual contributions to the United Jewish Appeal. During the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948 we made a special contribution of $ 1,500, and between 1919 and 1948 our United Vishkover Aid Committee collected and distributed sixty thousand dollars. In recent years we have been concentrating on providing assistance to the survivors from Vishkov who live in Israel.

 

9

It is worth mentioning our Vishkov Tehillim [Psalms] Society that is actually quite a bit older than our association. Being traditional Jews, our compatriots continued their traditional life-style and established a Vishkov Tehillim Society in New York, which also owns a synagogue on the Old East Side of New York.

The New York Vishkov Tehillim Society has a beautiful and long-standing history. Documents that have been preserved till today show that the Society was founded in a hundred years ago in 1864. The synagogue, which still stands today on the East Side, was built by the Society sixty years ago, in 1904. It was built by our compatriot, the late Moshe Fleischman, and his son-in-law, Yehudah Ratkovsky. The synagogue's founder, Moshe Fleischman, was president of the Vishkov Tehillim Society for many years. The synagogue also established its own chevra kaddisha [burial society] over ninety years ago, when the Society did not yet have its own building for its synagogue. For many many years one of our members was the Shepser Rabbi, Rabbi Yehoshua, the son of Rabbi Moshe Yosef, and when he passed away, we suffered a great loss; we continue to maintain his memory.

The synagogue of the Vishkov Tehillim Society carried a good reputation on the East Side, and we still have loyal congregants who are businessmen and devoted activists. Our Society has always felt an important responsibility for keeping our compatriots and friends together who celebrate weddings and other events in our synagogue, and who feel as if the synagogue is the same as the one in the old country. Our compatriots also gather together in the synagogue for traditional celebrations at Chanukah, Purim and Simchat Torah. To this day, if someone is looking for one of our compatriots, all they have to do is ask for him in the synagogue and someone will be able to help.

Over the years our Vishkov Tehillim Society always supported various charitable organizations and yeshivas in New York. A large share in this important work was our Vishkov Ladies' Auxiliary, which was always involved in our United Vishkov Aid Committee. The Vishkov Ladies' Auxiliary can take pride in its important work which is imbued with the finest Jewish traditions.

 

10

I would like to end with a brief look at the new institution we have established – the United Vishkov Aid Committee for Israel – through which we are centralizing our work for our surviving compatriots in the Jewish State. The United Vishkov Aid Committee for Israel was organized in 1957, with Mrs. Rachel Radziminsky as its chairman; Mrs. Radziminsky had been involved with our Aid activities for many years. W. Radziminsky is the cashier and Charles Applebaum is the executive secretary. The following Vishkov organizations are included in this committee:

  1. Vishkov Tehillim Society;
  2. Vishkov Association, with Morris Topfel as its president and G. Zeidenberg as its vice-president.
  3. The Vishkov branch of the Workmen's Circle.
  4. The first Vishkov Ladies' Auxiliary, with Mrs. Molly Parover as its president and Mrs. Enny Fein as its secretary.
  5. The Ladies' Auxiliary of the Vishkov Tehillim Society, with Rachel Radziminsky as chairman.
  6. The Vishkov Building Club, founded four years ago by our compatriots Rabbi Zvi Bronstein, Rabbi Silver, Saul and Mindel Steinmark, Lilly Yoskovitch and Charles Applebaum.

We fervently hope that the United Vishkov Aid Committee for Israel will be able to rise

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to its calling and carry out great work which is needed to help our compatriots in the Jewish State to get settled and build their homes in their own land. Through this effort, we will eternalize the holy names of our destroyed hometown of Vishkov and build a memorial to it in the reborn Jewish State.

We also expect that the unified effort on behalf of Israel will be beneficial to our various Vishkov organizations that have been established in New York. The idea that we and Israel will help each other is a general principle applicable to our Vishkov compatriots as well. We know that the work for Israel can keep us together so that our organizations can continue to exist and that we can continued to maintain the traditions and memory of our hometown.


Wyszkower in New York

Translated by Pamela Russ

Reprinted from the “Morgen Zhurnal” [“Morning Journal”], December 28, 1939, New York. Section: Reports, observations, and illuminations of Aharon Benjamin: “What you hear, and what is going on at the Jewish People's Associations – 700 houses are destroyed in their hometown.”

A visit to the Wyszkower Benevolent Society: Wyszkow is a town near Warsaw. During the times that the Nazi armies besieged the area and hailed down shrapnel and bombs, the town was completely destroyed.

From reports – indirectly, of course, which the landsmann [compatriots] received, we learned that about 700 homes went up in smoke. The number of victims was great. The number of dead, how great the loss was, and how great the tragedy, we cannot yet describe. But those who followed the growth of the slaughter behind Warsaw, know that the numbers provided are certainly not exaggerated.

The United Relief Committee, which includes the Wyszkower Benevolent Society and its Ladies Auxiliary,

 

wys226.JPG
The United Wyszkower Committee in New York

 

the Workman's Circle branch, the Khevra Tehilim Anshei Wyszkow [Wyszkower] synagogue, and its Ladies Auxiliary, all assumed the task of quickly raising a minimum of $5,000. According to what the Society officials relate, the Wyszkower Benevolent Society is the force behind the relief work and its members – and have the most active workers on the relief committee from the very first day. Morris Tappel, president of the Society, is chairman of the Relief Committee from the very first day, no less than 22 years old. Those very active for their town are: Shmuel Widelec, Yakov Zilberstajn, Max Holand, Mr. and Mrs. Radziminski, and the chairladies of the two auxiliaries – Molly Parower and Rivka Ritchman.

With time, the Wyszkower compatriots sent over approximately $60,000. They send over more than $3,000 annually and support the local yeshiva, Talmud Torah, Bikur Cholim [volunteer organization to help the sick], handworkers' union, fund for the sick, and the non–profit funds. Last year, they sent $1,000 for the non–profit fund, to which Joint [American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee] added another $1,000. Recently, they arranged with Joint for constructive work in Wyszkow, but the war disrupted these plans.

In connection with their new relief activities, the treasurer of their Relief Committee promised that he would give a donation from his own pocket that would amount to exactly the same figure that the activity would bring in.

A large part of the information provided, was given to me by the president Morris Teppel and the secretary Harry Burstajn.

The Society helps the poor and sick members. They gave a member with consumption enough to cure himself, and when he came out healthy they bought him a boarding house in the mountains because the doctor told him that the city would be death for him. With time, he improved and enlarged the place. Another member had a heart problem, so they sent him to the country to cure himself, and they paid the bills at the grocer and butcher for his family. They support the Moishev Zekeinim [Seniors Residence] Bnei Yisroel on Jefferson Street, the United Yeshiva Foundation, the Unions Campaign, Charity Federation, Denver Sanatorium, American Jewish Congress.


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