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[Page 387]

K. Organizations of former Będzin
residents throughout the world

[Page 390]

2. Former Będzin residents in Israel

by M. H.

Translated by Nitsa Bar Sela z”l

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

According to a careful estimate (on the basis of the lists we possess and the vast participation in memorial ceremonies for the martyrs of our community), in Israel there are about two thousand former residents of Będzin and their numbers grow with the immigration of survivors arriving from Poland. Będziners live in Israel all over the country: in towns, villages, kvutzot [groups] and moshavim [cooperative agricultural settlements]. They have professions in industry, commerce, agriculture, clerkship, education and more. Generally speaking, they have adapted themselves to the life in the country, have become devoted citizens and have connected their future with the land whole-heartedly.

In the years of the great tide of immigration from Poland, 1924-1925, when hundreds of people came from our town to Israel (most of whom belonged to the middle class, but failed, unfortunately, in their business here and returned to Będzin to be annihilated in the Holocaust), there was no need to found a special “landsmanshaft” [society of immigrants from the same town or region], because whenever the immigrants confronted hardships, they were helped and supported by “The General Association of the Immigrants of Poland”, which helped all of them, no matter what town or community they came from.

But when World War II broke out in 1939, and the first horrendous news started to reach Israel about the Holocaust and the Będzin refugees escaped to Russia, Będziners in Tel Aviv began to get together with the purpose to send help to the suffering refugees in the plains of Siberia. Similar attempts were made in other cities, Haifa and Jerusalem, where there was a large concentration of Będziners. However, most attempts to organize the people failed, because very few were ready to devote themselves to this mission.

One day, by the end of 1939, several people met in the home of Mr. Zilbersztajn in Tel-Aviv. They were Abram Hampel, Icchak Rudoler, Josef Szapiro (all three have passed away since), Chaim Welner, Szraga Rozenblum, Szlomo Bolimowski, Kalman Honigman, Icchak Inwald, Josef Cwi Rajs, Elimemech Diamant, Leibl Kokotek and others. They laid the foundation to the organization of the former residents of Będzin. For a long while, they assembled in the flat of Mr. Zilbersztajn, who was very devoted to the organization in its first years. Icchak Rudoler was the head of the organization (until his death), Bolimowski and the late Szapiro were the secretaries and Rozenblum was the treasurer.

The organization was duly registered in the governing offices as an official association, which had the right to proceed publicly in fundraising and manage fiscal projects. Its objectives were defined as helping the Będzin refugees who suffered in Russia and supporting the few immigrants who succeeded in reaching Israel, after a long journey through neutral countries.

Former residents of Będzin in the USA, especially our good friend Abram Liwer, who was himself one of the refugees in Russia and succeeded, after painful wanderings, to bring his entire family to the United States, met and organized constructive help by sending us by mail packages containing shoes, clothes and food, to be sent by us to Russia to addresses that we had obtained. Since this organization was registered by law, the parcels that we received from America were cleared of customs and other taxes and we could send them to the USSR without delay. We received letters and telegrams (which we still keep in the memory of those bitter days) which confirmed that the parcels reached their destination and helped them survive, and that they needed much more of them.

We did not count on former residents of Będzin in America alone, and started fundraising among Będziners in Israel as well. We sent a special circular to our people, in which we asked them to donate generously. We also distributed shares, which yielded several hundreds of Israeli pounds (liras), a considerable sum in those days, established membership dues, gave parties – and all the money collected was used to distribute packages and offer financial assistance to new immigrants.

In 1944 a new committee was elected: Mordechai Tenenbaum, of blessed memory, Asher Fishel, Szraga Rozenblum, Dawid Liwer, Alter Brukner, Szlomo Bolimowski, Menachem Gelband, Hanoch Malach, J. C. Rajs. This committee succeeded greatly in placing new immigrants in jobs and finding housing for them. As an example, three families were put up in a rented three-room shed on Dizengoff Street and eleven single men were put up in another shed on Levinski Street.

That year we received letters from the Jewish committee in Będzin, who appealed desperately for immediate financial help for the survivors who were arriving to Będzin from death and labor camps. Indeed, our committee immediately mobilized assistance. They raised funds among Będziners in Tel-Aviv, who donated nice sums of money. The money was intended to help in two directions: for our brethren in the deserted Będzin and for our people who were making their way to Eretz Yisrael. The mission of delivering the donations to their destination was not easy because large sums were spent on the way.

This situation lasted a few years. Meanwhile, the idea arose to join our organization with the other organizations of Zagłębie into one body so as to render our activities more efficient by saving money spent on administration. In the beginning of 1949 the people of Zagłębie met in a general assembly, in which they decided to unite he two organizations.

[Page 391]

A union was set up, which included the former residents of Będzin, Sosnowiec and Ząbkowice, under the name of “The Zagłębie World Organization”. For five years the united organization was headed by the late Rabbi Menachem Hager who helped to achieve several of the objectives of the organization. The deputies were Nechemia Singer, the lawyers Dr. Sapir and Dr. Rechtman, and Dawid Liwer. The secretaries were Chaim Triger and Mordechai Hampel. Majer Landsman served as treasurer and other posts were held by Mrs. Guta Jutkowicz (Ben-Itzhak), the lawyer Dr. Josef Orsztajn, Chaim Warszawski, the late Dawid Marinka, Israel Sonabend, Israel Szwajcer, the brothers Szlomo and Jochanan Laudon and others.

As mentioned before, the remnants of all the communities of Zagłębie formed the united organization, except for the people of Dąbrowa Górnicza who, for some reason, declined to join us and established an organization of their own.

When the late Rabbi Hager served as Head, the organization flourished. It consisted of more than five hundred certified members who often met for social events, and there were many of them: concerts, balls and performances, the purpose of which was to collect donations for the needy and loans for new immigrants. For five years I was active in the Organization of the Zagłębie People, together with the late Rabbi Hager. I was in charge of secretarial work and promoted close relationship with landsmanshaftn abroad, especially in Paris.

Anybody who calls on us is assisted and we try to facilitate his absorption and acclimatization in the country. Thousands of Israeli pounds were distributed to the new immigrants thanks to our connections with some banks in Tel-Aviv, who helped with loans, which we vouched for. We also tried to find jobs, housing, appliances (sewing machines and others), medical help and more. Many of the new immigrants, who in time settled down economically, appreciate our modest moral and material support, thanks to which they have managed to overcome their first absorption problems.

And although our means were small, since we did not receive any help from America despite all our appeals, we did all we could in order to help the needy and we never send them away empty-handed.

The peak activity of the Organization of the Zagłębie Former Residents is the erection of a memorial to the martyrs of Zagłębie. It stands in a central place in the cemetery in Nahlat Itzhak, near Tel-Aviv.

With the death of Rabbi Hager the organization split up again and weakened as a consequence. A new “Organization of Będziners” was set up and its committee consisted of the lawyer Dr. Rechtman, head, Elimelech Diamant, secretary, Menachem Gelband, treasurer, Mrs. Rechil Gutman (of the family of Rabbi Graubart, of blessed memory), Abram Gold, Mosze Benjamin Klajnman and Moniek Sercarz.

The activities of the new organization are not particularly noticeable, unfortunately. Except for a few loans to new immigrants and the traditional yearly memorial ceremonies, which are held together with the Organization of Sosnowiec former residents, there are no special achievements. The main success of this organization is “Pinkas Bendin”.

Now, after four years of separation, a re-unification of all the organizations of the Zagłębie people is being considered.

Bed-391.jpg [29 KB] - The Będzin Émigrés committee in Tel Aviv in 1959
The Będzin Émigrés committee in Tel Aviv in 1959
Standing from right to left:
Menachem Gelband, Jochanan Laudon, Mosze Benjamin Klajman
Moniek Sercarz, Rechil Gutman, Abram Gold

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