During the latter part of the 19th century many Jews of eastern Galicia, including many from our township of Boiberke, sought to better their economic condition by emigrating. Most of them went to the United States, where they knew that able-bodied men willing to work could earn a fairly good living.
There was a valid reason for their eagerness to leave Boiberke. The town was situated in eastern Galicia, a province of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, which had its industries in other provinces, chiefly in Bohemia (now Chechoslovakia) and Upper Austria. Galicia was predominantly an agricultural land, a field where the Jews played a minor role. Although Boiberke was a large district embracing more than 90 villages, it was in many respects backward. It was only four European miles [about 29 kilometers] away from Lemberg (Lwow), then the capital of Galicia. Lemberg at the end of the 19th century already had a population of 160,000 among them more than 45,000 Jews and it was growing fast. Jews of Boiberke who wanted to purchase anything of value could be in Lemberg in one hour by train. This naturally, was detrimental to the economic growth of Boiberke.
That was why many of our townspeople were eager to leave for the New World. A number of craftsmen, including tailors, shoemakers, carpenters and cabinet makers, somehow scraped together passage money, by disposing of some of their belongings and by borrowing from friends and relatives. Arriving in the New World, they found work in New York, mostly in their own trades. They worked hard and long hours, since the trade unions were still in their infancy and could render little assistance. They managed from time to time to send money to their families whom they had left in Boiberke. Eventually they
managed to procure steamship tickets for their families, either through the small private banks which existed in those days, or through peddlers on the instalment [sic] basis. Those families whose children had reached the working age considered themselves the luckiest. An additional few dollars could be added to the earnings of the heads of families. Since the schools were free and there were day schools for the children and night classes for the adults, they acquired the English language, and were happy to make the New World their permanent home.
On the other hand, a number of Boiberker small merchants, and also what we call white collar workers, come to America only to remain a few years, save up some money and return to Boiberke, to open a store, (naturally) in competition with the local storekeepers. Frequently they used up the money they had saved and were compelled again to leave for the New World. This time most of them brought over their families and they too made this their permanent home.
First Boiberker Arrivals
Since there is no record of the first arrivals, I tried to get information by leafing through a pamphlet at the New York Public Library, issued in 1898, by Dr. Michael Singer, who was then the representative in America of Dr. Theodor Herzl. This pamphlet led me to a source on the Lower East Side of New York, where I learned that in March 1898, two fellow Boiberker, Moishe Spitzbard, the son of Kalman, an intellectual of the town, and Abraham Fruchter, son in law of Mordchi Itzik Stein, organized the Yehudah Halevy Zionist society in New York. Spitzbard then held a responsible position in Yarmelowskies Bank on New York's lower East Side, while Fruchter was negotiating at the time for an important post with the Standard oil interests. Since they organized the Yehudah Halevy Zionist Society in 1898, they must have been in the United States for a number of years at that time. I presumed therefore that they were among the very first Boiberker who immigrated to the United States.
Recently I met a schoolmate of mine, with whom I had attended public school in Boiberke, by the name of Mendel or Emil Bromberg (on his mother's side). Speaking of old-time Boiberker in the United States, he advised me that as early as in 1882, his mother's brother, Itche Bromberg, was married to a girl from Rohatin, another small town in Galicia. They left for the United States right after the wedding, which indicates that Itche Bromberg was the first Boiberker who emigrated to America.
In 1890, another of Emil Bromberg's uncles, Yehudah Halweil or Yide Kokler came to New York. After a sojourn of several years, he returned to Boiberke, but again he couldn't better his economic condition and when he learned that the Brazilian Government had sent a commission to Galicia to lure working people to Brazil, he joined the group and went there. However, he couldn't stand the hot climate of the country and returned again to Boiberke. This time he tried hard to remain there, but again he couldn't better his economic condition. By this time he had very little money, not even enough to pay his passage to the United States. He managed however to go to England, settled in London and brought over his family. Several years later he immigrated to the United States where he settled for good.
During those years many other Boiberker immigrated to America. Among them were Isaac Korn and Yidel Geier, who later brought over his father Moishe, who was known in Boiberke as Moishe Heker. The last three established themselves in the butcher business.
Between the years 1890-1897, the immigrants from Boiberke included several who were determined to remain strict Sabath observers. Abraham Paget, Hersh Schneider and his brother Dovid, Shmuel Josel Fechter, Shloime Drezen, and several others. They organized themselves into a Sabath observing group, Am Kedoshim of Boiberke. In later years, when their number dwindled, they joined the then outstanding Galician Synagogue on the lower East Side in New York, the Dukler Mogen Avrohom Shuhl which is still in existance [sic].
In 1901, a large group of Boiberker gathered at the home of a fellow Boiberker, Nissan Katz, by trade a house painter, and organized the Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society for the purpose of acquiring burial grounds and to pay to its members weekly sick benefits. Among the founders were Nissan Katz, Israel Fiebert, Levy Haber, David Moishe Krieg, Hersh Zeiger, Jonah Stein, Leon Meierson and Moishe Brenner.
The last two also house painters, in later years were among the founders of several, institutions in the Galician quarters of New York. Moishe Brenner was for more than five decades the guiding spirit of the Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society. The first president was Israel Fiebert and the secretary was Levy Haber. The present officers are, Alex Schwartz, ex-president; Morris Paget, president; Hersh Schnitzer, vice president; Hersh Zeiger, treasurer; Joe Konenthal, financial secretary; and Morris Zipper, Chairman Welfare Committee.
In 1891 there came from Boiberke Chaim Aaron Hafner, an intellectual, who was known in Boiberke as well as in the entire area as the best wedding jester, (Badchen). After a sojourn in New York of a year or two, he could not adjust himself to the enviroment [sic] and returned to Boiberke. Since his economic condition did not improve, again he was compelled to immigrate to the United States where besides being the jester at weddings of his fellow Boiberker, he gave private lessons in the Bible to the growing youngsters of his friends. He also began to write in Yiddish as well as in Hebrew periodicals. When the Yiddish weekly Dos Yiddishe Wochen Blatt, which was published by the Galician landsleit in New York, made changes in its management, Hafner became its editor. I recall one evening when I visited him in his tiny office on Rivington Street on the lower East Side in New York. I found him writing the editorial for the weekly by candlelight, as there was no money to pay the gas bills.
In 1895 our oldest brother, Yitzchok Leib, arrived in New York. He was followed at interwales [sic] of about two years, first by brother Samuel, then brother Leizer, then brother Abraham and finally I too came to the United States. It was the same with many families from Boiberke and elsewhere.
Just as the 19th century was drawing to a close, another fellow Boiberke, Shmuel Schleider, an intellectual who at the time Dr. Herzl summoned the first World Zionist Congress in 1897, was one of the founders and first president of Zionist society Ahavath Zion in Boiberke, left the town for the New World. He came with the intention of saving up some money and to return to Boiberke. After a sojourn of less than two years he left the United States, but before leaving he used to visit the missionery [sic] houses on the lower East Side. There he, who knew the Bible and the entire history of ancient Jerusalem, would dispute with the missionaries, who were no match for him; more than once he would be thrown out bodily from the missionary houses.
In 1899, another interesting individual from Boiberke arrived in New York. His name was Efrayim Messer. In Boiberke he was know as Froyim Boziak (this was his nick-name). Messer was known as the best carpenter in town, the furniture which Efroyim made was known not only in Boiberke but in the entire area. Newlyweds prided themselves that their furniture was made by Moishe Hersh Perlmutter, where Efroyim Messer worked. He had a great interest in the youngsters of his town. On Purim in 1896, he made a huge grager (noise-maker) and strolled through the street of Boiberke, followed by us youngsters. When we reached the Beth Hamidrash, each time the reader of the Magillah would mention the name Haman, Efroyim would let loose his noise-maker (grager) and we kids had a great time. In fact even the elders in the Beth Hamidrash enjoyed as well.
The following Purim he made himself a pair of stilts and since he was a tall man we kids would cry out in amazement feeling sure that when stood up in his stilts he would touch the heavens. Efroyim Messer did it all to bring joy to the children of the town of his birth.
One of the most interesting of the Boibeker landsleit whom I met in the summer of 1903, was Moishe Gottlieb, who was the actual leader of the Jews in our town. He had to flee from Austria to escape arrest. When I met him on Rivington Street, on the lower East Side of New York, he walked with his head bowed down so low that the 6 ft. in statue in Boiberke was this time hardly recognizable, and I felt truly sorry for him.
During the week days when the landsleit were working at the sweat shops, he had no one to converse with. He used to go to the shoe shop of Yoisip Raucher on Pitt Street, also in New York. There he would sit on the low shoe maker stool and watch Raucher making shoes, while they chatted about Boiberke.
Observing the scene in the shoe shop once I was reminded of the role Moishe Gottlieb had played in Boiberke. I recall how the Chazan in the Boiberker Shul where Gottlieb worshipped would not begin the services until Gottlieb sat in his place.
I also recall the night after the fasting on Yom Kipur, the local band under the leadership of Chaim Gross, or Chaim Kleneter, (he played the clarinet) would come to Moishe Gottlieb's house and played their instruments, and the younger set of the town would stand at the windows to listen to the fine music.
Moishe Gottlieb felt that the streets of New York weren't for him. He left for Palestine and when his wife, Roisele, came from Boiberke to join him, they settled in Jerusalem.
In 1912, when I was on a visit to Boiberke, I was told that Gottlieb's oldest son, Josel, who was known as Moshke, always against the Jewish National Movement, had returned from a visit to his parents in Jerusalem, and as a real Meragel would tell the folks in Boiberke that he found Palestine dirty and filthy. No drinking water to speak of, the roads and highways the worst he had ever seen in his life. He said he would rather stay under the Polish regime in Boiberke than settle in that poor country which is called Palestine and is under the Turkish graft regime.
Josel and his family remained in Boiberke and his so-called Polish friends didn't lift a finger when they were slaughtered by the Nazis in the Ghetto of Boiberke. On the other hand, his parents live in Eretz Israel until they reached a ripe, old age and they were respected by all who knew them.
On a Saturday afternoon, if I am not mistaken it was on Decoration Day, May 30, 1905, I was on the lower East Side in New York, attending the place of worship of our Boiberker landsleit. I saw a man sitting at a table and reading the Psalms of David. As I looked at the man he lifted up his eyes and recognized me, although I hadn't seen him since I left the town of my birth. It was Simche the water carrier. He earned a meager living by carrying water to the house wives of Boiberke from morning to late in the night, six days a week.
I sat near him, and in reply to my question, he told me he arrived in New York several years ago. One of his sons (If I am not mistaken was a pants operator,) who came to this country some years previously, sent for him and the other members of the family. He told me that he did not lack for food and clothing and could even spare a few cents for the poor, but that he was praying constantly to God to forgive him his sins. What sins could you have committed in your life, I asked, slaving from morning to night in Boiberke merely for a dry piece of bread? This you call sinning? Oh Joel (this is my name), you do not understand, he told me; the sin is to eat the bread your son earned by desecrating the Sabbath. Simche lived to a ripe old age, respected by all who knew him.
Here is an interesting story which my late brother Samuel, who was older than I, told me some years ago. One Saturday afternoon, he came to the lower East Side in New York to observe the Yahrzeit of our mother, (this must have been the year 1900.) On Rivington Street he encountered a fellow Boiberker who used to be a cattle driver in Boiberke. In the winter he used to drop in to our house to warm up. When my brother met him on Rivington Street, he was dressed in a dark suit and a dirby hat and his chest was ornamented with a golden watch and chain which in those days was usually purchased from a pedler on payments of a dollar a week. When my brother asked him, Mordchy Hersh, how are things with you, you look prosperous? his reply was, everything would be all right but the food isn't as good as in Boiberke. The meat, isn't meat, the beer isn't beer. My brother looked at him and thought, here is a man who perhaps had a piece of meat once a week on the Sabbath in Boiberke and a glass of beer only if by chance someone treated him, and here he has plenty of everything but is complaining. Nevertheless, he lived out his years as a successful fruit pedler in New York. Not only did he have plenty of food and clothing, he also could spare a dollar for the poor.
I have already mentioned that among the founders and officers of the strictly Sabbath observing Jews Am Kedoshim of Boiberke who immigrated in the early 1890's, was one Abraham, or as he used to be called, Avromele Paget. He was known as the ablest Mohel among the Boiberker as well as among other Galicians on the lower East Side in New York. It was a real pleasure to meet him on Saturdays and Holidays walking with his high hat to the Synagogue. On the high holidays he prayed Musaf in one of the outstanding small Shuhls and worshippers even from other Shuhls would come to hear his fine voice. He was respected and loved by all who knew him.
Abraham Paget attained a ripe old age and was buried among the Boiberker landsleit on the Mount Zion cemetary in Long Island, New York.
I have also mentioned Moishe Gottlieb, who had to flee from Boiberke, the town of his birth, never to return. There was another Moishe from Boiberke in America who also had to flee never to return for fear of arrest. This was Moishe Yaaker. He on orphan grew up in our town at the home of a relative by the name of Malke Greenblatt. Moishe Yaaker was by trade a house painter, but a good one, whose work was always appreciated. In 1897, several weeks before Pesach, he was engaged by Rochel Erden, the wife of the wealthiest Jew in our town, David Erden, to paint her rooms, for a certain set price. Moishe made a good job and finished it three days before Pesach. Rochel Erden, satisfied with his work, complimented him and handed him the pay, but Moishe found that she had taken off a dollar from the price they had agreed upon. When he asked her for the additional dollar, she began to shout, called him names and threatened him if he didn't leave her house she would have him arrested. Whereupon he took his pail of paint and splashed it over the new painted walls. He was smart to leave town at once. Rochel screamed and cried. Here it was three days before Pesach, and there were no painters to do the job over. I recall during the entire Pesach Holiday, the town had nothing else to talk about except the Rochel Erden-Moishe Yaaker incident. When I met him several years later in New York and reminded him of the incident, Yaaker told me that if she only insulted him by calling him names, he probably would have left the house with a course on his lips. But when she also cursed his relatives where he grew up, that was more than he could bear.
In the years from 1890 to the outbreak of world War I in 1914, the immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe was at its peak. Every day ships loaded with new Immigrants arrived at the port of New York. No wonder that countless Benevolent societies were emerging from the newly arrived element. The immigrants were eager to organize societies in the name of the townships from where they stemmed. Most of them made sure that before the name of the township the words The first, appeared. But when the younger set of Boiberker gathered to organize, they preferred under the guidance of Rubin Graebel, to put in front of the name of the town, the word Progressive and thats how the name was given on the 17th of May 1908, when a group of Boiberker boys organized the Progressive Boiberker Young Mens Benevolent Society.
They approached me to be one of the founders but when I learned the purpose, I was reluctant because at that time a cousin and business partner of mine, Louis Kratter, and I were members of the then outstanding Zionist society in greater New-York, The Austro-Hungarian Zionists of greater New York. We believed that since the main purpose of these new societies was to acquire cemetary and this subject have taken the major time at their meetings, we Zionists believed that it was more important to work for the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in ancient Palestine. And for this it was necessary to devote our time and effort to collect funds for the Jewish National Fund, which acquired land in Eretz-Israel, which has led to the proclamation of the State of Israel in our days.
In later years, we began to realize that even young folks have to prepare burial ground for young and old.
The group who gathered on May 17th to organize the society consisted of: Max Glantzer, Hertz Fischer, Rubin Graebel, (my school mate in Boiberke), Julius Engelberg, David Gewanter, and several others. They elected Max Glantzer as president, Julius Engelberg as Financial secretary and Hertz Fischer, as the protocol secretary. Two years later, Simche or Sam Herbst, joined the society and for several decades he and Rubin Grabel were the guiding spirit of the society.
The present officers are; Max or Meyer Gimpel, ex-president, Sidney Helfer, president, Herman Ehrenzweig, vice president, Irving Herbst, financial secretary and treasurer, and Samuel Bergwerk, corresponding secretary.
Although my cousin and I did not join the organization, we took an active part whenever we were called on. We shared their joys as well as their sorrows. The society, in a small measure, from time to time is active in behalf of the State of Israel.
It is of interest to note that Boiberker townspeople were always eager to organize groups or societies. The very Nissan Katz, who earned a living as a house painter and was one of the organizers in 1901 of the Boiberker Sick & Benevolent society, decided to organize former Jewish soldiers who had served in the Austrian army into a group in New York. In this effort he was assisted by another fellow Boiberker Naftali Haber, who had also served in the Austrian army and who was by trade a carpenter. In no time at all, they attracted a good many others from Galicia who had served in the Austrian army before they came to America. They dressed in regular soldier's uniforms and paraded in the streets and especially in the park of the lower East Side.
Katz who had been a sergeant in the Austrian army, became the head of this unit. He always headed the parade astride a big white horse flanked by one or two aides. Their greatest, glory each year was on August 18th, the birthday of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, whom many Jews of Galicia admired and loved as a friend of the Jews. On that day Nissan Katz, would be attired in an expensive new uniform, which he could ill afford to pay for. He and his unit would pass in review before the Austro-Hungarian Consul General in New York and from there they would proceed to the Dukler Mogen Avrohom Shul on Attorney Street (on the lower East Side), where the Cantor would chant a Mishebirach for the Emperor. Some days later, Nissan Katz would proudly display a letter of thanks from the Austrian Ambassador in Washington. But the turnover in the regiment was high. As soon as a recruit received his United States citizenship, he would discard the uniform and ultimately, with few members remaining in the ranks, the entire organization disbanded and disappeared.
In the summer of 1909, two days after the election to the Austrian Parliament in Boiberke, at which Dr. Gershon Zipper was the candidate on the Jewish National ticket, I arrived in Boiberke. There I learned that the previous day, my father had been called to the office of the District commissioner. He was asked why he, as the Gabbai of the Beth-midrash had permitted the place of worship to be used for mass-meetings in connection with the election to the Parliament. Father pointed out that the Jews in Boiberke had to use the only place available to them, adding that the Beth-midrash was not merely a synagogue, a house of worship, but a place for learning and study. It was as well a gathering place for the Jewish community -- in fact, the only one open to them. Since the vote total which Dr. Zipper received in Boiberke was the largest ever received there, it reflected badly on the Commissioner's competence in controling his own political domain.
In the summer of 1914, I again visited the town of my birth. No sooner was I ready for my return to the United States, when the war broke out. Although I was a citizen of the United States, I found myself pinned down like a butterfly on a collectors board, unable to take one step that would lead me closer to securety. With the Russian army drawing nearer to Boiberke every day the future looked grim indeed.
Remaining in Boiberke all through the first month of the war, I saw hundreds of wagons with Jewish families and some of their belongings passing through or rather, fleeing through the town on their way to Bohemia, Hungary, or Upper Austria including Vienna. They had ample reason for their flight as the Russians, under the command of the Czar's Uncle, Nicholas Nicholewitch, were arresting Jews right and left. Soon most of the Jewish inhabitans of Boiberke had fled. Only at the last moment before the Russian army entered Boiberke, did I receive permission to leave the town. When I reached the United States, I began to realize that the Jews in the United States would be called on to help them to rebuild the Jewish institutions and Jewish life which the Russians destroyed.
Several months before the United States entered War War I in April, 1917, a group of Boiberker Landsleit of the Maskilim (enlightened men) type, met to discuss the best method of honoring one of the most renowned intellectuals of Boiberke, Chaim Aaron Hafner, a Yiddish as well as a Hebrew scholar. At the suggestion of his closest friend, Joseph Margoshes, who at the time occupied a prominent position in the field of Yiddish journalism, it was decided that a fitting tribute to Hafner would be to organize a society in his name to consist of intellectual landsleit, who originated from Boiberke and other places in Galicia.
The first president of the society was Israel Greenblatt and the secretary was Levy Haber. Among the members were the following: Joseph Margoshes, Louis Haber, Michael Halver, Otto (or Obadiah) Panzer and his younger brother Choone, Bezalel Shell, Shayeh Herbst, Abraham Shticker, Simche Baer, Abraham Zlatkes, Moishe Fischer and his youngster Max, Pincus Fischer and his brother Abraham.
At the first meetings were held in private homes and business places. Later they were held in the then well-known wine and mead tavern of Kalman Rosenbluth on Attorney Street on the lower East Side of New York.
The meetings were always conducted on a high level. The members discussed subjects of current importance and engaged in a play of words of Biblical interest. In this dialogue Aaron Hafner would most of the time propound the subject and the first to answer was Obadiah Panzer. On other occasions, Panzer would put the questions and Hafner would give the answer. Chaim Hafner's society was at the time the only one of its kind in the Galician quarters in New York.
Obadiah Panzer was by trade a printer, a vocation which he learned from Abraham Fruchter in his printing shop in Boiberke. This was one of several trades which were considered of a higher social standing in those days. Watchmaking was another trade which in those days was held in high regard. As soon as h knew the printing trade, Panzer left for a larger city in Galicia, but several weeks before Purim in 1897, he returned to Boiberke and organized a dozen youngsters into Purim players. They performed the Biblical play Joseph and His Brethren. He took the role of Joseph and his younger brother took the role of Benjamin. On Purim eve they went from house to house of our town and performed to the delight of old and young. We youngsters would follow them for hours on end.
A year later, in 1918, while the cannons of war were still belching flame, our town folks in New York, members of the Progressive Boiberker Young Men's and members of the Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society, as well as two or three members of the Boiberker Women's Aid Society, and several none affiliated individuals, gathered to organize the Boiberker Relief Committee in New York.
Some months after the armistice, one of our Boiberker, my good friend Julius Engelberg, went to Europe on a business trip and also paid a visit to Boiberke. Upon his return he reported that it was urgent to send help, as the need is great. We sent some money and undertook in addition to raise $5000. This money was handed to two Boiberker, Samuel Haber and Benjamin Helfer, who were to visit Boiberke. On their stop in Vienna, they met a fellow Boiberker Hersh Gross. He informed them that there was a large group of Boiberker halutzim in Vienna on their way to Palestine. They had ship tickets from Trieste to Palestine but they were lacking the rail fare from Vienna to Trieste. Gross urged that they take off some money from the $5000 which they carried with them for Relief in Boiberke and assist these young halutzim, men and women, to reach Palestine where they could be useful in the rebuilding the Jewish National homeland.
And indeed, Palestine did gain immeasurably. In later years, we learned how wise had been the decision to assist the first large group of Boiberker halutzim.
Of the original large group, Dr. Michael Zohari, became a full professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a member of the Israel Acadmy; Feivel or Dr. Shrage Schleder-Kallay became the inspector of the State of Israel School System; Abraham Zuch was for 38 years librarian at the Tel Aviv Municipal Library; Lonick, or Arieh Alweil, became an outstanding artist and art teacher in the Herzliah Gymnasium in Tel-Aviv; Chaim Schein-Zohari is already on pension from the government public school system; Moshe Wind, who came several months before the first large group, was a supervisor of building the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, and for the past few years the supervisor of building the Yad Vashem Memorial Institute in Jerusalem.
Mordechai Galler, the son of the late Rav of Boiberke, is a leading ember of the Tnuva-Export Council.
Beril Becker, of the Kvutza Ramath Yohanan and his younger brother Arieh, of the Kibutz Mishmar Haemek, are two outstanding experts on sheep breeding, (Berill has written several books on that subject); Peishe Kramer Molcho, is still with the Ruthenberg Electric Company. And the late Morris or Moishe Leib Zuch, was one of the builders of the Kibutz Bath Alpha. All in all, I should say that it was a very considerable return for he comparatively small investment. I am certain that others of that original group contributed in equal measure to Israel's growth.
From Vienna Haber and Helfer proceeded to Boiberke, where they met with the local committee to which they handed over the $5000, less the money which they expended for the train tickets for the Boiberker halutzim to Trieste.
In connection with the interest which Hersh Gross took in the Boiberker halutzim who were stranded in Vienna, it is worth-while noting that he followed in the footstep of his father and grandfather. They were both musicians and played at weddings in Boiberke and elsewhere. The father played the clarinet and the grandfather played the cello. But on Saturdays they used to go from house to house in Boiberke collecting fresh white bread (or Chales) for the poor of the town.
When Hersh settled in New York, he tried to be help to the Boiberker townspeople here in America in a more modern way. He would do the correspondence on his Yiddish typewriter for families in Boiberke, especially in cases where the townsman might tend to forget his family left behind in Boiberke. Thus he helped to hold together families which otherwise might have drifted apart. Hersh helped others, unfortunately he could not help himself in the same family respect. He died young and mourned by all who knew him.
Hersh Gross was also known as the founder of the musical band in New York which was known for several decades as the Boiberker Kapelie.
The Boiberker Relief committee in the United States was dedicated to the raising of funds for Maoth Chitim matzos for Passover and prior to every Jewish New year it sent money for the neediest in the town. Which usually meant for the poor. This we kept up until the year 1936, when complaints began to reach New York that the committee in Boiberke was showing partiality in distributing the funds received from the United States. When the complaints persisted, Sam Herbst upon learning of a Boiberker lady who was about to visit the town, appealed to her that during her stay in Boiberke she should look into the matter. She promised to keep her mission secret, as it was nobody's intention to accuse anyone of the committee in Boiberke. Upon the lady's return to the United States it was decided, on the basis of her report, that henceforth all gifts were to be sent direct to the needy individuals in Boiberke. This procedure remedied the situation and put a stop to the complaints.
At a meeting in the home of Lena Gross-Turkel in New York, the Boiberker ladies assumed the responsibility of charge of the Relief Organization, and the following officers were elected:
Also present at the meeting were: Helen Katz-Lusthaus; Jeanne Meth-Philips; Anna Spitzbard-Chapman; The two other Paget Sisters and the sister of Chaya Eisenstein;President, Lena Gross Turkel;
Vice president, Lena Baumgarten;
Financial secretary, Florence Zweben;
Recording secretary, Ray Paget-Hornik;
Co-Treasurers, Anna Paget-Rabinowitz and Chaya Eisenstein
The relief committee was active until the outbreak of World War II (September 1939), when all communications with Boiberke was cut off. But the secretary, Florence Zweben, received several requests from Boiberker who fled the town and found themselves in neutral lands. The secretary with the assistance of Mrs. Julius Katz and her sister Mrs. Samuel Bergwek, who helped to make food parcels for the needy who fled from Boiberke.
The secretary tried to find out Boiberker wherever possible and offer them assistance. When I left for the 21th world Zionist Congress where I represented the American Zionists which took place in Basle, Switzerland during December 1946, the Relief committee gave me $500.00 to distribute among Boiberker wherever I find then on my way to the Congress. Since I was to visit the D.P. camps in a part of Europe as well as on the Island of Cyprus and also in Palestine, I would be in a position to help immediately.
At the Zionist Congress in Basle I met many young men and women whom the Congress committee brought over from the D.P. camps to serve as ushers. Among them I couldn't find any of our landsleit. Two young men were from the D.P. Camps at Chino Chitto near Rome and from them I learned that my niece and her two children had already been transferred from Chino Chitto to the Camp in Cyprus. They were passengers on the S.S. Bracha Fuld. The British captured the ship in Palestinian waters and shipped the passengers to Cyprus. I resolved that some day I should visit the Camp in Chino Chitto in Italy. But the opportunity to do so did not present itself until some 18 months later when, in the War of Independence of 1948, my son-in-law was wounded and I rushed to Israel only to be stranded for several days in Rome, and from there I visited Chino Chitto where more than a thousand of young men and women waited to be shipped to the new State of Israel.
The day of December 25th, 1946, after the Congress closed I was on my way to Marseilles in order to board a ship for Haifa. Since we had to wait from December the 25th to January 1st, we remained in Nice. There I began to look for Boiberker landsleit and the Gabbi of the local shul called out after the services whether there are any Boiberker landsleit. He gave them the address of the hotel where I stayed. The next morning, a tall gentleman called at the hotel and introduced himself as the grandson of Chaskel Milet, who was engaged in Boiberke in buying up calves from the peasants around Boiberke. Chaskel had a son in America by the name of Shmuel who was by profession a brush maker and later he was a grocery stone keeper in New York. The man who called on me actually lived in another small town in Galicia, in Wynik, also near Lemberg. Since he could not get a job in his town, and when he learned that the French government has sent a commission to Poland to engage Poles for mining coal in French at a fairly decent wage, he joined the group and left for French. Working in the coal mines was not pleasant, he began to look around to find friends. Since he was tall, dark and handsome, he made friends with some members of the Monarchist party. He soon learned the language of the country and the new friends especially the women folks, befriended him to the extent that at one time they put him up as a candidate opposing the one time Prime Minister Leon Blum. When Hitler invaded France this young man had to flee and was hidden near Nice, where he caught rheumatism which could be seen on one of his hands. He asked me for $25.00 which I gave him and he promised that he would send me the whole story of his life in France among the so-called Monarchist of the land, which would be very much interesting for publication but he never did, and no one else ever since heard from him.
From France we sailed to Palestine in order to secure my visa to Cyprus. In the meantime while I waited in Jerusalem, the British being extremely reluctant to issue visas for the D.P. Camps in Cyprus, I visited our Boiberker landsman, Dr, Shraga Kallai, or as he was known in Boiberke, Feivel Schleider. Replying to my inquiry whether there are in Palestine any Boiberker who need monetary assistance, he informed me that he only know of an elderly woman who took care of her grand children while her daughter went to work. But he would communicated with her and would let me know. Her answer was that she would not accept any help even from her Boiberker landsleit.
While still waiting for my visa to Cyprus, I also met our Boiberker Moshe Wind, from whom I learned that a lady to Jerusalem recently from Boiberke with her son and daughter. Naturally I was anxious to meet her and inquire about our family in that town, and we called her. She was the wife of Schmuel Zigler.
Zigler I remember as a firewood merchant who for a substantial sum he and his family were hidden in the home of a friendly Christian on the outskirts of Boiberke during the Nazi invasion. One day, when this Christian returned from town he told Zigler's wife that he had witnessed something he would never forget. The Jewish committee of Boiberke who were ordered by the Nazis to deliver a certain number of Jews for work in Germany (in reality they were to be transported to the gas chambers), dragged through the streets of the town my niece's boy, age 15 and he cried I am still young and I want to live. They locked him up in a small stable but he broke the door and escaped. Unfortunately he went in the wrong direction, was caught again, and this time was shipped with the others to the gas chambers.
The Jews of Europe, Boiberker among them, by that time were aware what is waiting them from the Nazi beasts. Those who had means and could find a Christian friend, tried to save themselves (and very few did). The Nazis at first bribed these Christians by giving them sugar and salt, which were scarse, to reveal where Jews were hiding. Later they threatened the Christians with the death penalty if they refused to tell where the Jews are.
The wife of Shmuel Zigler ended her story about Boiberke by saying my own husband went from the hiding place to the house in our town to fetch some warm clothes and while carrying the clothes, he was shot by the Nazis. Thus, each one of us had a victim; no one could escape the Nazi terror.
I had to wait a fortnight in Jerusalem for my visa to Cyprus. I tried my luck on a Sunday morning when there was the only clerk who had charge of issuing the visas. His name was Mindlin, whom I knew, as he was employed in that office for more than a quarter of a century, but he too turned me down. Finally, I called on my American Zionist friend, Charles Passman, who at the time represented in Jerusalem the American Jewish Joint Distribution committee, and he got me the visa. The next morning, in less than an hour and a-half, I was in Cyprus. In a double barbed wire camp there were already more than 8,000 of our brethren, and by the time the state of Israel was proclaimed 15 months later there were 33,000. After visiting with my niece and her children, I began looking around for Boiberker landsleit in Cyprus, but to my sorrow I could not find any.
Returning to Jerusalem, Dr. Shraga Kallay suggested that since I still had the money from the Relief fund, I should give $50.00 to a Rabbi in Israel who had once occupied a similar post in Boiberke. He had a large family and could use a little extra money.
When I said goodby to Dr. Kallay, he remarked, I am sure ther are Boiberker in Eretz Israel who could use a little money, but as you know they were always too proud to accept aid even if it came their own landsleit. Twelve years later, when they organized with their meager few pounds the Boiberker Free Loan Society in Israel, I convinced myself that Dr. Kallay was right.
Returning to New York 1947, I rendered a report of my journey and handed to the Relief committee the $425.00 which I had left of the $500.00 they gave me to distribute to fellow Boiberker landsleit wherever I might meet them.
We realized that to keep up the Relief Committee was a waste of time and effort and money. It was suggested to dissolve, and the balance in the bank should be donated to the United Jewish Appeal. Which we did. After thirty years of good work in behalf of the poor in Boiberke, it was much viser to give it up.
The last officers of the Boiberker Relief were; President, Anna Paget-Rabinowitz; Vice President, Henie Katz-Lusthause, Ray Paget-Hornik, and Mrs. Kugel; Treasurer, Abraham Haber; Finance Secretary, Florence Zweben;
Among the active women workers for the Relief Committee were Anna Spitzbard-Chapman, representing what was left of the Boiberke Ladies Aid Society, Clara Helfer, Lodie Herbst, Dora Paget, Adell Gross, Mrs. Julius Katz, Mrs. Samuel Bergwerk, as well as Haim Shnuer, Moishe Brenner, Mrs. Raucher, Pearl Schwartz and several others whose names are missing.
I thought then that the chapter Boiberker in the United States was closed as far as Relief for the townpeople was concerned, since there weren't any of them left in Boiberke. However, in April 1958, that was ten years after the Relief Committee was disolved, we came to Israel to the celebration of its Tenth Anniversary, I was visited by a fellow Boiberker in Israel, Uri Kruvi, (Krauthammer). He called on me to say he had a mission to get some money to help a townsman, Shmuel Joizip Shames' son, who had been deported by the Communists when they entered our town at the beginning of the war, to deep Russia. After the war, Russia made a pact with Poland and many Jews were permitted to return to Poland; he, too, was permitted to return, and eventually he was helped by the Jewish Agency for Israel to emigrate to the State of Israel. There, two of our townsmen helped him acquire a horse and wagon, enabling him to make a living by peddling. But when his horse fell dead and he needed another one, the Boiberker landsleit in Israel tried to raise 600 pounds for another horse. After listening to the story, I asked Kruvi how much the old time Boiberker in Israel were ready to raise among them. His reply was, whatever they could, they will raise among themselves. I advanced 300 pounds and told him that we expect two other Boiberker from America to visit Israel shortly for the celebration and that I intended to collect their share from them. I did collect from Herman Zuch and Abe Fischer their share when they arrived in Israel.
Several days later, we met in Haifa with a large group of Boiberker who resided in that city. From them I learned that they planned to organize themselves into a Boiberker Society to help Boiberker immigrants who were coming to settle in Israel, and would need assistance. Thats how the Boiberker Free Loan Society was organized in Israel.
When we revisited Israel two years later, we learned that the old time Boiberker had already organized the Fund with their own meager few pounds. When the culture house which Abraham Fischer build in Raanana was officially opened, about 100 Boiberker landsleit from all over Israel came to the opening and there we learned that the Free Loan Fund which they organized must have monetary assistance, otherwise it cannot exist. Abe and I, promised our assistance. We undertook to secure help from our Boiberker in the United States. As soon we returned we interested Sam Marcus, Samuel Bergwerk and Adolf Gross in this project. At a meeting on September 11, 1960, we organized ourselves into a comittee and collected $1,525.00 on the spot. The treasurer Sam Marcus left for Israel and handed to the committee $2,000.00, advancing $475 out of his pocket.
At our second meeting on November 6, of the same year, Marcus rendered a detailed report and also handed individual receipts which the Comittee in Israel issued for distribution among the donators in New York. We eollectcd an additional $490. After reimbursing Marcus his $475, the treasury had a balance of $15.00.
At our third meeting on April 30, 1961, which was also the Yahrzeit for the victims who were slain by the Nazis in the Ghetto of Boiberke, we collected $985.00, to add to the balance of $15. When I brought the $1.000 to the committee in Israel, they advised me that they were operating the Free Loan Fund with 4000 Israeli pounds and the rest was put away for the Memorial (Yizkor) book which we intend to publish as soon we gather all material. Since it appeared that it would take a long time before we can actually publish the book, I told the committee that I feared that the Israeli pound would be devaluated by then and therefore, it would be advisable to invest the money, which was on deposit in the bank in Tel Aviv for something that was fixed to the dollar. However, we needed more money to accomplish this, so I advanced to the committee in Israel 450 American dollars which I had with me.
Upon my return, we had a meeting of our inner committee. After I rendered my report I told Abe Fischer who together with his brother Moishe, had bought 350 copies of my book, The Odyssey of an American Zionist, in the Hebrew language to be given on graduation day to the graduates of the public school in Raanana, in which the Fischers are very much interested, it would be a fine thing if they would buy an additional 100 copies of the 200, which I had donated to the Boibekker committee in Israel in the names of my brothers Samuel and Abraham Haber. The committee in Israel has sent one copy to each family of Boiberke who resides in Israel as a gift. (It turned out that they are getting donations for these books, and this money is also added to the Free Loan Fund in Israel.) Abe Fischer draw a check for $350.00. With this I was repaid the major amount of the loan which I advanced, and the balance of $100.00 was repaid to me from the collection on the Yahrzeit day of March 25, 1962. We actually collected $1,060.00 that day, but when I reached Israel to my grandsons Bar Mitzvah I handed to the committee in Israel in the middle of April 1962, $960.00. With this act, the loan of $450. which I made to the committee on July 7, 1961, was fully repaid to me.
At the meeting which we held on June 24, 1962, in the meeting room of the Boiberker Sick & Benevolent Society, individual receipts were handed out to those who donated to the fund on March 25th. These receipts was brought from the Boiberker committee in Israel.
When we orgnized our committee in the United States on September 11, 1960, our intention was to collect donations from Boiberker in America in order to place the Free Loan Fund for the Landsleit in Israel on a sound basis, and also to assist in publishing the Yizkor-book, in which the story of the Boiberker ghetto, where more than 6000 Jews were slain by the Nazis, is to be told. It was explained that the committee in the United States would be a temporary one, as we do not believe in committees which consume time and affort for something which no longer exists.
At our first meeting, we made clear that of all collections for the two projects, not one dollar should be deducted for expenses in connection with calling meetings of the committee or of arranging the Yahrzeit for the martyrs who were slain in the ghetto of Boiberke. Since such meetings entail expenses, our good-hearted Boiberker Sam Marcus, Moishe and Abe Fischer undertook to cover all expenses from their own pockets. We are fortunate that all notices in the Yiddish press as well as on the radio announcing the meetings were give to us gratis.
On June 1, when I returned from Israel, I rendered a report, telling of the Yahrzeit (Memorial) which we attended on April 8th at the Culture House which Abraham Fischer had erected in the colony Raanana. There we met than 100 Boiberker Landsleit who came from all parts of Israel to honor the martyrs. It was good to see that a financial report of the committee in Israel was enclosed to each of their members together with the invitation to the Yahrzeit meeting. The report shows how much money they received from the committee in the United States as well as from Boiberker landsleit in Israel. I was told that such reports are rendered annually. It prevents suspicion that some of funds may not be expended in the best interest for which they were collected.
At the conclusion of my remarks about Boiberker on the American scene, I took the liberty of correcting as to the name Boiberke which the great Yiddish writer, Sholem Aleichem, used a similar name Boiberik in his writings, like he used the names like Yehupitz and Kasrilowky, making them the butt of much of his humor felt it was high time to take the town of our birth from the comic fiction world and explain that in reality, such a town as Boiberke actually existed and that our cradle stood there. Today our town is Judenrein (without Jews) but its Jewish history extends back at least five centuries. According to historic records Jewish merchants visited the Annual Fairs of Boiberke since the year 1469, when the village of Boiberke was proclaimed a township.
As a matter of fact, when I wrote The Odyssey of an American Zionist, several years ago, and since the story in the book begins with the town of my birth, I tried to emphasize the existence of Boiberke which is situated in Eastern Galicia, less than an hour's train ride from Lemberg (Lwow), the then capital of the Austrian Province of Galicia.
It isn't possible to evaluate one's good deeds until they are authenticaled by reliable and responsible sources. This happened at the funeral of my cousin Julius or Yidel Marcus, when the Reverend who euligized him told of how Julius, who was in the milk business, would instruct his drivers who served retail milk stores on the lower East Side, in New York to take along a dozen or more bottles of milk each morning and leave same at the doors of some Rabbis who could ill afford to purchase enough milk for their large families. While listening to the eulogy it reminded me of Julius' visit in 1934 to Palestine in company of his younger brother Sam and a friend, Morris Walter. At that time I was also in Palestine and arranged for the four of us to tour the country.
One day, on a Thursday two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, we visited the Kibbutz Beth Alpha where we expected to meet our Boiberker landsleit who took part in organizing the Kibbutz and were members of the place. We asked a young lady the whereabout of Beril Beker and she told us with a smile to go to look at the small little houses whose doors by the way, stood open, and where we would see a red blanket, that would be Beker's room. We found the red blanket, but not Beril. The secretary of the Kibbutz, Zvi Neumann, also a Galitzianer landsman, (I believe he comes from Tlumach) at first invited us to have a bite and then directed us to walk to Mount Gilboa, where Beril and the sheep were resting. As Sam Marcus and Morris Walter marched ahead of us, Julius began to relay to me what he learned in Boiberke at the Cheder of Efroyim Melamed (the teacher). Julius recalled that Efroyim was about only Melamed (teacher) in Boiberke who loved to teach his pupils the history of the Prophets, but many fanatics in Boiberke would never entrust their children to Efroyim, since they didn't want their young children at an early age to learn about the Prophets. Julius learned about the Prophets in Yiddish, and since he had a wonderfull memory, while we walked towards Mount Gilboa, he began to recite the lamentation of David when he was informed that his friend Jonathan and King Saul his father, were slain by the Philistines.
Reaching Mt. Gilboa, we met Beril and his flock of sheep, and in the course of one conversation, we discovered that Beril was in the process of compiling material for his book on sheep breeding, which today is the manual on the subject in Israel.Thy beauty, O Israel, upon thy high places is slain;
How are the mighty fallen;
Tell it not in Gath,
Publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon;
Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
Lest the daughters of the uncircumsized triumph.
Ye mountains of Gilboa,
Let there be no dew nor rain upon you,
Neither fields of choice fruits;
For there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away,
The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.
From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty,
The bow of Jonathan turned not back,
And the sword of Saul returned not empty.
Saul and Jonathan, the lovely and the pleasant
In their lives, even in their death they were not divided;
They were swifter than eagles,
They were stronger than lions,
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
Who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights,
Who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel.
How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle;
Jonathan upon thy high place is slain;
I am distressed for thee, my brotherJonathan;
Very pleasant hast thou been unto me;
Wonderful was thy love to me Passing the love of women.
How are the mighty fallen,
and the weapons of war perished;
We returned to Beth Alpha to pick up our car and left for Tiberias. We stayed there overnight being anxious to return to Haifa the same day for the Friday eve services, and wishing also to visit the same day the Northern part of Palestine the Moshav or village of Metulla, we rose very early and started out. En route, Julius expressed the desire to visit at the Shrine of Reb Meyer Ball Haness, or Reb Meyer the Miracle worker. Reaching the Shrine, we tried though it was still dark to look into the inner chamber. By pushing the gate the chain from inside loosened so that we were able to push our way in. Julius lit a match and we observed a copper basin filled with oil and some cotton little candles swimming in the oil. We lit all these tiny cotton candles, and Julius asked us to empty our pockets of all silver coins and placed same at the edge of the basin. Our chaffuer, the well known Kopel Rosenberg, contributed the largest amount of the silver coins. We pulled the chain and closed the gates and left the shrine lighted up. We imagined how the sexton would feel when he opened the place later that morning and found it glowing with light and the silver coins, intended for him of course. We were sure that he would say: Well during this night a real Miracle happened at the Shrine of Reb Meyer Baal Haness.
Attending the services at the Beth Sefer Realli in Haifa, where my three children attended classes, Julius and his brother Sam had a real treat, for they met at the services Meyer Dingot, who was their teacher at the Public School in Boiberke. When we met him he was teaching English at the Beth Sefer Realli. Naturally they were all delighted to meet after an absence of a quarter of a century.
We all sent a delightful evening a Dingot's house, where he and the guests exchanged reminiscences. The following day Dingot related how when the war broke out in 1914, he was still teaching in Boiberke; later he was drafted into the Austrian army, was captured by the Russians, and after the war found himself in Harbin, Manchuria.
At first he thought of returning to Boiberke, but he soon realized that it was no longer part of Austria, since Poland became a sovereign state. But at the same time the press brought the news that Great Britain was to get the Mandate over Palestine, and he was hesitating between Palestine and America. He wrote to New York to his Bolechover landsman Bernard Semel to send him papers and passage money. However just as the began to fill out his papers for America, something snapped in him and he decided then and there to go to Palestine.
He had no trouble adjusting and having learned English while in Harbin, he secured a position as a teacher of that language. The Beth Sefer Realli, a high school in Haifa where Dr. A. Biram was Director, was Dingot's home for more than thirth-five years.
His wife who was much more Pole than even he was, at first was reluctant to go to Palestine, once she got there she became one of the most ardent lovers of Eretz Israel.
Later, when he received his Doctorate, Dingot, who was never interested while in Boiberke in anything that smacked of the Jewish religion, became a pious Jew. He lived a ripe old age. When he passed away while still teaching, he left as a legacy to the State of Israel his only son, who is a successful and able physician in Israel.
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