The Gostyniner Society in New York
Translated by Pamela Russ
The Gostyniner Society in New York was founded in the year 1908.
The founders were Lipe Bresler, Yona Segal, MoisheDovid Rozental, Shloime Motilinski, Shloime Dobzhinski, Chaim Wand, Yakov Aryeh Herskowycz, and Y. Gliksohn.
The Society was set up according to the means and foundations of the thenexisting Societies of the various landsmanschaften [immigrant benevolent societies formed and named after the members' birthplace in Eastern Europe], such as: to pay members' sick benefits; in the event of illness, to ensure their medical care and provide a doctor who would receive an annual fee from the Society. The Society also acquired its own burial ground for their members and families and organized itself based on the principle of shared support in a member's time of need.
When new members registered and there were elections, the first president to be elected was Yosef Wolman.
During the first period, a constitution was set up regarding how the Society should conduct its work, what the responsibilities should be of each member, and so on. According to the regulations, meetings were to be held twice a month.
The Society became the information center for Gostynin. When a member received a letter from Gostynin, with any kind of news, this was reported at the meetings. And when a Gostyniner arrived in New York, the landsleit [compatriots, Society members of the same town in Eastern Europe] already made sure that this newcomer would attend the Society's meetings, where he was warmly welcomed. This type of guest aroused the members' great interest, because usually he was able to give over personal regards. Because when someone left Gostynin to come to America, the entire town knew about this. That's how the Society maintained a constant contact with Gostynin.
When the Society's membership grew, and the opportunities for social activities were no longer so limited, the Society made contributions to various charitable institutions and establishments. Meanwhile, financial assistance was also sent to the needy in Gostynin, especially for the holidays.
With the outbreak of World War One, contact with Gostynin was broken. So much so that there was no information about what was going on there. But as soon as the war ended, a special general meeting was called and a relief committee was elected that would help with the aide work to Gostynin, because there was no doubt that Gostynin would desperately need help.
The activists on the help committee were Moshe Flaum, Sholom Motlinski, Lipe Bresler, Philip Lefkowycz, Moshe Kalish, Harry Solomon, Meyer Dovid Tremski, Yosef Keller, Binyomin Kalmus, Dovid Kalmus, Zigmund Silverstajn, Itche Lewi, and Moshe Faiereizen. It should also be mentioned here that Esther Flaum, the daughter of Moshe Flaum, even though she wasn't a committee member, helped tremendously with this financial collection of money.
As soon as contact was reinstated, help was actually sent to Gostynin. The contact with Gostynin after that was maintained consistently, and in the postwar years, the Society also sent timely help for the Gostyniner, especially for those who needed assistance for the holidays.
There was a plan to celebrate a small holiday for the tenyears of the Society's existence. But the air was still filled with the war's gunpowder. So the celebration was delayed.
On Sunday, November 18, 1923, the 15th jubilee celebration was marked with a banquet. A journal was published in honor of this occasion. At that time, the president was Sholom Motilinski, vice president Herman Lewi, treasurer Yona Segal, protocol secretary S. Bakh, finance secretary Meyer Dovid Tremski, hospitality
Y.M. Motilinski, doctors S.R. Peili and Y. Blum.
The other officials were: S. Silverstajn, Moshe Faiereizen, S. Klein, Binyomin Kolmus, Sam Solomon, Sam Gerst.
It's probably of interest to mention that in this jubilee journal there was a financial report of the fifteen years of the Society's existence:
Among the expenses was the total of the sick benefits that was paid out to members $3,848.00
Contributions to charitable establishments and to other Jewish institutions $1, 225.52.
The author of these lines stops here at the celebration of the 15th year's jubilee, disregarding the fact that the Society celebrated other jubilees in later years with more breadth and splendour, according to the progress in the life of the times because for the 15th jubilee celebration almost all of the founders of the Society participated. The Gostyniner cantor, Reb Yankel Miller, of blessed memory, came from Detroit. It really felt like a Gostyniner celebration. The atmosphere and brotherliness was exceptional with the homey feelings Gostyniner warmth and intimacy.
In the later years, before the outbreak of World War II, the Society continued with its general activities: maintaining contact with Gostynin. But no more Gostyniner came to this land [the US] because of the antiimmigration laws. Many members did not demonstrate too much interest in this work, and so the meetings became more sparsely attended.
In the 1930s, when Hitler, may his name be erased, appeared on the German stage, a great
unrest was felt in the societies of all the Jewish landsmanschaften of Poland, and naturally, the Gostyniner felt this as well. Many members received letters filled with ominous fear for the fate of the Jews of Poland. Others asked for an opportunity to come to America, but the gates to America were already shut by that time, and sadly, nothing could be done.
It did not take long, when the horrifying World War II broke out, and once again, contact with Poland was severed.
Needless to say, during the war years nothing could be done for Gostynin. And when the end of the war was already in sight, and an assistance committee was created with money collections for the Gostyniner Jews, suddenly they found out about the terrible destruction that Gostynin, Jewish Gostynin, just like all the other towns in Poland, was wiped off the face of the earth.
After lengthy searches, if one discovered that there were several surviving Gostyniner living in Israel, immediately the Society sent them food packages, shoes, and clothing.
At the end of the 40s, when the Combined Jewish Appeal, along with the full cooperation of the entire Jewish press, undertook an intensive money campaign among the landsmanschaften, that was hugely successful, the Gostyniner Society also contributed a significant amount to the appeal. It is worth noting that Dovid Kolmus served as an example for others in the Society with his very generous contributions for the good of the Jewish Homeland.
When Dr. Chaim Weitzman, of blessed memory, was honored with a banquet in New York, Yosef Keller was the Society's delegate to the event, where he gave a check of $500 from the Society for the benefit of Israel, in honor of the esteemed guest.
The Society also gave $2, 400
the price for building a house in Israel for new emigres. The Society also bought Israel bonds.
It should also be mentioned that the Society sent a significant contribution to the nonprofit loan fund [Gemilas Chesed fund] that was created by the Gostyniner Social Club in New York for the Gostyniner in Israel. The fund bears the names of the martyrs and is managed by the Irgun Yotzei Gostynin be'Yisrael [The Organization of Emigrés from Gostynin in Israel].
In November 1958, the Society celebrated its 50year anniversary.
In the latter years, the Gostyninborn members remained a minority in the Society. The reasons for this phenomenon are the following: Many of the founders and original members have died. Many left New York, but at the same time many sonsin law, daughtersinlaw, distant family members, friends, and acquaintances joined up, who had never in their lives seen Gostynin before their eyes, and more important, they have no feeling for the former homeland. In fact, now they are in the majority and in the management of the Society. The indifference to the Society went so far that the idea of publishing a Yizkor Book in memory of the Gostynin community received no support in the landsmanschaft. The Society declined participation in and even support for this publication.
The fate of landsmanschaften societies in America is deplorable and the Gostynin Society is living through the same crisis that many other organizations of the same makeup are experiencing.
For this history, we should mention the names of important friends who held responsible positions in the Gostyniner Society's halfacentury's existence:
The office of president during this time was held by: Yosef Wolman, Lipe Bresler, Sholom Motolinski, who
were exceptional with their devotion to the Society and were active in the organization until the final days of their lives. Moshe Flaum, whose house was always open for all our landsman; Herman Lewi, Itche Lewi, Max Winograd, Moshe Kalish, Harry Solomon, Mikhel (Michael) Mekler, M. Weinstajn, Moshe Faiereizen, Meyer Strauss, Y.S. Wajnerman, and Emanuel Shefer.
The office of finance secretary was held by the following:
S. Bakh, L. Bresler, Sam Wand, Yosef Keller, Meyer Dovid Tremski (who glorified this position of office for eighteen years), Jackie Flaum, Emanuel Shefer, Y.S. Wajnerman, and Lewis Goldfarb.
Protocol secretaries were: S. Bakh, Lewin, Shmuel Keller, and Moshe Kalish, who held this office until this day, for the last 40 years.
For years, various offices were held by: Mordekhai Tabacznik and M. Hofman. Dr. Irving Mekler, even though he did not hold an office position, was exceptional in his active contribution in all areas.
by Y. KR
Translated by Pamela Russ
In the years after World War II, the plan of publishing a Yizkor Book arose among the groups of Gostyniner landsleit [compatriots] in New York. The news that came from Poland bore witness that there was no trace left of Jewish Gostynin. Therefore, a group of Gostynin landsleit got together, with the initiative of Yissakhar Motil, to discuss the possibility of compiling a memorial book for Gostynin. This group consisted of Shmuel Keller, of blessed memory, Herman Krauz, Yosef Keller, Julius Bagno, Philip Lefkowycz, Shlomo Gostynski, of blessed memory, and Binyomin Tremski.
Even though all the participants were enthusiastic about this idea, a series of difficulties came up, and during the discussions it seemed that there was a pressing issue the need to amass aide for the Gostynin refugees. At the meeting, it was decided to give priority to the aide activities of the landsleit and they sent out a message to all the Gostyniner in New York for them to collaborate in these activities.
After lengthy preparations, a general meeting of Gostyniner landsleit was held in spring 1949 in the Diplomat Hotel in New York, to which the Gostynin Society and its administration was also invited.
MeyerDovid Tremski was the chairman, and he underscored the urgency of helping the miraculously saved landsleit, and the responsibility to hold annual memorial gatherings in memory of the Gostynin holy martyrs. He summoned everyone to consolidate their activity in the organization that was created under the name of the Gostynin Social Club. The goal of the club would be to maintain stable friendly relationships among the landsleit and to do constructive work for the new Gostynin Olim [emigres] in Israel.
During the discussions, it became clear that there was a need for such a club: 1) because not all of the landsleit belonged to the Society; 2) the Society, lately administered by nonGostyniner, did not demonstrate adequate understanding of the problems and needs of the Gostyniner: 3) the Society had remained frozen in its organizational format, and therefore had stopped its social activities.
The following officials were elected: Yosef Keller president; Charlie Miller vice president; Herman Krauz treasurer; Shmuel Keller, of blessed memory protocol secretary, and Binyomin Tremski finance secretary.
Until now, the social club marked the yahrzeit [memorial date] of the liquidation of Jewish Gostynin and every year they held memorial gatherings. The idea came up to collect the means for the founding of a kibbutz [settlement] in Israel that would perpetuate the name of Gostynin. The appeal that was held brought in a significant amount. The activists of the club calculated that for this type of project there would have to be a collective effort made by all Gostyniner across the United States. The club reached an understanding with the Gostyniner Society in New York, to hold a collaborative money campaign. The officials of both committees created one collective administration with Betty Tremski as secretary. The Society withdrew from the partnership and the plan of the kibbutz fell through.
Socially, the club was very active. Contact with the Gostyniner in New York was strengthened. The club organized a series of musical evenings, in which, other than Shmuel Keller, of blessed memory, who sang folk songs, were Pauline and Clarisse Gostynski, the daughters of Shloime, of blessed memory, and Golde Gostynski, Iris Krauz, the daughterinlaw of Herman Krauz, and a series of professional performers and singers. Needless to say, the organization used the income for aide purposes.
During that time, the club sent out help to the Gostyniner in Israel food packages, clothing, and also money. A larger sum of money was sent over with MeyerDovid Tremski in 1952. This money served as the founding funds for the Gemilas Khesed [nonprofit charity] fund in the name of the Gostyniner holy martyrs, administered by the Irgun Yotzei Gostynin [Organization of Emigrés of Gostynin in Israel]. Several years later Shmuel and Chana Keller went to Israel. They donated a significant amount from the club to the Gemilas Khesed fund.
The club did not give up the idea of a Yizkor Book. Shmuel Keller's visit to Israel caused the idea to be raised again.
The club decided to collect material, articles, and photographs, and to publish the book. It was understood that the Irgun Yotzei Gostynin in Israel would also commit to partnering in this plan. A special committee for the Yizkor Book was elected. The committee vigorously managed the work for a few years, and as a result, the Pinkus [record book] of Gostynin was developed.
|Seated from right to left: Yisakhar Motil, chairman; Yosef Keller, secretary; Esther Stupej (Gombiner), Chana Keller (Bagno), Golda Gostynski (Frankel), Laya Keller (Miller); Moshe Kriger, finance secretary; Hersh Krauz, treasurer;
Standing from right to left: Meyer Gostynski, Meyer Dovid Tremski, Dovid Bresler, Dovid Kunczman, Yehuda Bagno, Shlomo Gostynski, Shmuel Keller, Rakhtche Gosman (Gostynski), Yakov Gostinski, Yosef Gostynski
Translated by Pamela Russ
The Gostyniner Society in Chicago consisted of a small group of Gostyniner because there was never a large number of Gostyniner in Chicago.
The activists were: Yitzkhok Bruks, Eleizer Motil, his brother Yisroel Itche Motil, Polye Bagno, Sam Zajacs, and Mendel Holender.
The small number of Gostyniner who lived in the towns of the Midwest also belonged to the Society in Chicago.
From Kenosha, Wisconsin, those who belonged were Pesse (Miller) Kest and her husband Harry, Rivka (Zajacs) Kest and her husband Irving.
From Hammond, Indiana, those who belonged were Sam Zajacs and his wife Paula, Avrohom Neiman and his wife.
We also know some of the names of the individual Chicago members, such as the Millers, Chaim Itche Glantz and his family, Zelig Motil and his wife, Soroh Rabinowycz and her husband, Yoske Zajdeman and Zalman Zajdeman and their families.
Even though the Society comprised a small group, nonetheless, after World War I, they sent out a sum of money to the Gostyniner Jews to set up a Gemilas Khesed [nonprofit charitable] fund. They also sent aide to those Gostyniner who needed help.
The Society in Chicago also contributed to the Gemilas Khesed fund that the Gostyniner Social Club in New York founded in Israel in the name of the Gostyniner holy martyrs and which is administered under the supervision of the Irgun Yotzei Gostynin Be'Yisroel [Organization of Emigrés from Gostynin in Israel].
The Society also helped in a big way, so that the Gostyniner in Chicago should socially remain together.
Regarding other places of activity where the Society was involved, we do not know any information.
Some time ago, the Society lost two of its most active members with the death of Paula Bagno and Mendel Holender, of blessed memory. They were very missed in the Society.
Also, some members left Chicago, and several years ago, Yitzkhok Bruks, one of the most active members, former president for many terms, also left Chicago with his family. This left little vitality for the ongoing existence of the Society.
The result was that two years ago, the Society gave up its work. The funds that the Society had were sent to Israel and that strengthened the volume of capital in the Gemilas Khesed fund.
Truthfully, it is a great loss that other members did not take over the management, and the Gostyniner Society in Chicago had to dissolve.
Translated by Pamela Russ
Until the end of World War II, the number of Gostyniner olim [emigrés to Israel] in Israel was small. During the wartime, some Gostyniner came to this Land with the Polish Anders' Army [Polish Armed Forces in the East in the period of 194142, named for its commander Wł‚adysł‚aw Anders] who came from Russia then stayed there [in Israel]. The main wave of olim from Gostynin began after the war in the year 1945. The Gostyniner used to meet privately from time to time and on the occasions of simkhos [festive events]. At these meetings they used to reminisce about their shtetl [small town life] that once was and is no longer. At the end of 1950, with the increase in Gostyniner Aliyah [immigration to Israel] the hometown family grew and they decided to organize a landsmanschaft [a society of compatriots] of Gostyniner in Israel, whose objective would be to strengthen the ties between the newcomer Gostyniner and those…
Standing from right: Manjak Mikholski, Mrs. And Sholom Rok, Regina Zweighaft, Moishe and Shoshana Motil, Dovid Kunczman, Regina Motil/Margalit, Mrs. LeizerowyczZweitfarb
who came to the country before and to support them with everything possible as well as those who would come later on.
The first meeting, when the organization was founded under the name of Irgun Yotzei Gostynin Be'Yisrael, took place on December 11, 1950. At that time, a committee comprised of the following was elected: chairmanShloime Zweighaft, secretarySholom Rok, treasurerShmuel Gotfarb, YehudaLeyb Leizerowycz, Shmaya Kunczman, Danczinger, Shmuel Kruszniewski, and Ezriel Zajdman. At that meeting, a decision was passed: to publish a book compiled by the Gostyniner Jewish community that would reflect, as much as possible, the life of the Jews in our town, the outbreak of the war, the period of the catastrophe that would tell the horrors of the German concentration camps and deportation camps, and the fate of the experiences in Russia that our Gostyniner landsleit [compatriots] lived through. Also, about the life of the Gostyniner in Israel and in foreign countries.
The work of this book was taken up with intensive energy but because of different opinions that came up in this context, not all the material reached the committee. When it was discovered that the American landsleit decided to publish a Yizkor Book and had set up a special Yizkor Book committee from among themselves, it was decided to collaborate with the New York publication. Only a part of the material from Israel was successfully given over.
The main concerns of the committee concentrated around the aide work for the new Gostyniner Olim [newly arrived to Israel]. Understandably, at the beginning our aide was minimal because of a very lean budget that was at our disposal. Over a matter of time financial contributions arrived and clothing and food packages from the Gostyniner landsleit in the United States, helped those who were in need, with a generous hand and sympathetic heart. From time to time, gatherings were arranged as well as all kinds of
social associations, with the objective to increase and strengthen the ties between the newlyarrived Gostyniner and the older established ones in the land, and also to create special funds for those who needed.
On October 21, 1951, it was decided upon the suggestion of Khaver [friend, comrade] MoisheLeyb Pinczewski to create a Gemilas Khesed [nonprofit fund] whose objective it would be to provide material help to all those who needed it. At that meeting, Khaver Moishe BenDovid, who not long before had returned from a visit to the United States, told of the pulsing life of the Gostyniner landsmanschaft in New York, and about the lively contact among these landsleit and about their activities.
For this committee, the following four khaverim [friends] were elected: Harav [the Rav] Y. B. Katz, Moishe BenDovid, Moishe Mikholski, and Rivka Margalit.
|Seated from right: Shloime Zweighaft, chairman, Harav Yona Borukh Katz, HershLeyb Leizerowycz
Standing from right: Moishe Mikholski, Rivka Motil Margalit, secretary, Moishe BenDovid (Motil)
A tighter tie was established with the Gostyniner landsleit of New York, thanks to our American landsleit in Israel: M. D. Tremski, Bruks, Miller, Sh. Keller, Harav Y. B. Katz, and Yisokhor Motil, and their wives. These guests brought with them larger amounts of financial support for the Israeli Gemilas Khesed fund for the Gostyniner. That's how the fund filled up its capital, and in that way it enabled the yoke to be eased in a constructive way and provided more effective help for all those who needed it. The fund helped all the Gostyniner needy by providing loans and financial support.
At that time, Harav Yona Borukh Katz settled in the Land of Israel. He brought forth a spirit of vitality to all the general meetings at all kinds of gatherings.
A Yizkor gathering in TelAviv with the participation of Shmuel and Chana Keller of New York
|From right to left: Chana Keller, Shloime Zweighaft, Gutfarb, HershLeyb Leizerowycz, Harav Yona Borukh Katz, Sholom Rok, Shmuel Keller|
The activities of the committee were expressed in the organizing of the gatherings, general meetings, and memorial meetings each year on the yahrzeit of the destruction of the Jewish settlement in Gostynin by the Nazi murderers, may their names and memories be erased. The appointed annual date of the yahrzeit was the first day of the Hebrew month of Iyar [corresponding to the month of May].
With this opportunity, in the name of all Gostyniner in Israel, we would like to express our regret for the untimely death of our beloved and esteemed landsman Shmuel Keller, who accomplished a lot for the close ties between our landsleit on both continents, and put in a lot of energy so that the plan of the Yizkor Book would be realized. His letters to Israel were filled with spirit and devotion and his deeds to alleviate the situation of the Gostyniner landsleit in Israel were a well of inspiration for all.
May his memory be blessed!
The current committee of the Gostyniner landsleit in Israel consists of the following khaverim: honored chairman Harav Yona Borukh Katz, chairman Shloime Zweighaft, secretary Rivka Margalit, treasurer YehudaLeyb Leizerowycz, members: Moishe BenDovid and Moishe Mikholski.
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