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[Page 135 (Yiddish)]

The First Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society in New York
Later known as “Progressive Boiberker Young Men's Benevolent Society”

by Israel Gimpel (New York)

Translated by Claire Rosenson

It was after the horrible destruction of the Jewish community in Bobrka, after the Nazi murderers and their willing Ukrainian lackeys barbarically destroyed all the Jews in Bobrka and erased all traces of Yiddishkeit from the old historic town in the years 1939-1943, - that's when the New York Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society was the only Jewish help organization and started operating under the name “First Bobrka Assistance Union”, Progressive Bobrka Young Men's Benevolent Society and Ladies Auxiliary Relief.

The organizing of the Bobrka Union actually started a lot earlier when the Bobkra pioneers who immigrated to America organized themselves and founded the First Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society.

The first young Bobrkans who went to America in the final years of the 19th century were children of poor parents who lived in Bobrka in more and more poverty. When they grew up they came to realize there was no future in this small backward town and started to search for a way out of this poverty and backwardness and to make a better life for themselves. At other times other Bobrkans heard the news of the “Goldena Medina”, the free land of America, a place that was thought of as a land that accepts with every person open arms and without question as to their religion or race. Also at that time they talked a lot about the opportunity where everyone can improve according to his ability and become rich and where you can conduct yourself according to your beliefs.

The first few years the Bobrka newcomers didn't fare well in New York. It was very natural that people who came from a small shtetl where one out of every two people knew one another would feel alone in the big tumultuous city of New York. Without knowing the language and without friends and relatives and stable income, but full of hope in their pioneering mission, they worked hard. Under the hardest conditions they worked at whatever they could from 12 to 14 hours a day.

Most of the time they slept at their workplaces for fear of losing their jobs to other persons. Under the worst conditions in the sweatshops, the Bobrkans dreamed about a better tomorrow for themselves and their families. That's how they worked day in and day out. They were thrifty with food and saved money to send to their families in Europe.

As the Bobrka immigrants became more assimilated in America, they thought of ways to bring their families from Europe. They planned how to find and help one another and how to live in the big city of New York.

That's how the first few Bobrka landsleit came together and founded the First Bobrka Health Assistance Union. Later in 1908 the Progressive Bobrka Young Men's Union was founded.

[Page 136]

The Village of Strilke near Boiberke

by Motl Ehrlich (New York)

Strilke was a village about one and one half kilometers from the city of Boiberke. About twelve families lived in the village, but the village was always full of Jews from morning until night. Jews engaged in lots of different kinds of business in the village. Because the village was on higher ground, it was agricultural. And one actually traded with non-Jews there, buying cattle and horses, grains and even potatoes in sour yogurt.

One of the distinguished members in Strilke was my grandfather, Rav Sender Ehrlich. He was a vigorous man and was a great talker until the age of 104. He lived long enough to have the nefarious Germans throw him out and sent him to Belzec. In time, even I came to think of my grandfather as a really old Jew. He was a tall, steady man, and always fastidious, that was like being rich to him. He read and spoke Polish. He had a warehouse in which he gave out Polish books in 1863. He was also a fair juror and judge.

Together with all that he did, he was a very pious Jew and a very hospitable person. Hardly a night would go by that he would be without guests in his house. Along with the hospitality, he would go and prepare the beds by dragging the bundles of straw and make and turn over the beds with his own hands.

I think now also how he would stay up nights heavily considering this world. Every Sabbath he went to shul in the city. It was a very long way but he never missed going. He lived around a courtyard with his sons Berl and Leibish, and the Erlich's home was always open and one could come and have some potatoes, some flour, a little milk. There was always warmth there.

I think in 1915, from the Russian invasion, the Jews in Boiberke didn't have much to eat. My grandfather said “Come Jews to my fields and plant and dig up potatoes and take them”. And so it was that all the Jews got potatoes for their families. Rav Sender's house was a warehouse for what the Jews had grown and bought in Strilke. Because my grandmother was really pious, she had warmly received the Jews who came to her in the city. She had an open hand and what she had, she gave out to the poor people.

My father Berl Ehrlich, or the “Dark Berl” as he was called, did not have any pleasure from life. Always he was busy and plagued with hard work. He didn't understand how people could live and not work hard. Mitzvahs and hospitality he learned from our grandfather, Rav Sender, and he conducted himself like our grandfather. He would have nothing for his mouth, everything would be cooked for the children first and then he would give to the poor who by chance would wander into the village. Our mother died in 1915 and he was left with six little children. He had to be both a father and a mother then.

In the early days of World War I, 1914-1918, there was another famine. I remember how Sruel'che Fisher ate and slept at our house. My father had the greatest respect and honor for Rav Yosef Fisher. He himself had prepared food for him -- not, G-d forbid, because Yosef Fisher couldn't afford to buy it himself, but because it was hard to find food at all.

When the group preparing for Aliya from Boiberke was in the Strilke area (in 1919), almost every day they came to us and my father and grandfather were happy to welcome them as guests.


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