The evil minds of the infamous Endeks never cease. The blood-thirsty rabble-rousers who can find nothing too evil to defame the Jews whom they regard as a bone in their throat are reviving diabolical stories from the darkness of the middle Ages.
Issue N°37 of the black journal Samo-obrona describes in lurid colours how Jews use Christian blood for religious purposes: First, two weeks in the year, the rabbi takes the blood of a murdered Christian child and smears it on the doors of Christian dwellings in order that those who dwell in them may feel kindly towards the Jews; second, a solemn ceremony is carried out at every Jewish wedding in which the rabbi gives the youthful pair an egg to eat which
which has been dipped in Christian blood; third, the Jews smear the eyes of their dead with Christian blood; fourth, at Passover, the Jews eat matzo that has been kneaded with Christian blood. The name of this kind of matzah is Afikoman; fifth, in order that Jewish enterprises may be successful, they take a letter from the rabbi containing Christian blood-stains. They bury this letter in front of the home of a Christian and that is enough to ensure them a good living.
The writer sets out to show that Jews are born, wed, do business and die thanks to the blood of Christians!
Undoubtedly we would have laughed at all this farrago of ignorance and stupidity which might suit a circus clown who wants to make his audience laugh. But instead of laughing, we have to think it over very seriously.
This filthy gutter-sheet is sold in tens of thousands of copies, particularly among the masses. It fills the villages and is sent to all parts of the country in order to incite the base instincts of the mob who regard the printed word as holy truth. What are the writers and disseminators aiming at? The demagogues of that party must certainly know what they are after.
We ask the Jewish members of the Municipality, all the community leaders, and our chairman: Do you intend not to react this time as well? Are you just going to sit and wait for these vipers' eggs to hatch? Can you not see the Hitlerist incitement? Must you wait for the fruit to ripen?
We appeal to all representatives of the Jewish public: Do what has to be done to end this devils' dance which may go on and grow to - - -
Poznan was a centre of anti-Semitism but thanks to the energetic measures taken by the Jews there the pogromist paper: Poznanski Prengiez was suspended and its editor sent to prison. We await your announcement about the steps that will be taken to eradicate this dangerous poison.
by Joseph Milner
Kalish Jews pride themselves on the Magen Abraham. It is true that he was born in Gombin, a small town near Warsaw where there were no more than about 400 Jews. But he spent his life in Kalish. The date of his birth and death are not precisely known, though according to the leading Jewish bibliographer Professor Moritz Steinschneider, he was born in 1636 and passed away in 1683.
His work, thanks to which he became known as Magen Abraham throughout the rabbinical world of Ashkenazic Jewry, was printed in Duerenfurth in Silesia at the then renowned press of Reb Shabtai Bass, who was
also referred to as Basista and also Meshorer Bass. This Shabtai Meshorer Bass was himself the first Jewish bibliographer. He was born in Kalish in 1641 and died in Krotschin in 1718. His parents were killed in the 1655 pogrom in Kalish and he found his way to Prague. There he became a Meshorer or leading choir-man supporting the cantor in the Altneu Schul Choir. His exceptional voice secured him the family name Bass. He continued studying of his own free will and became one of the leading Jewish and general scholars of the region, achieving a reputation beyond the boundaries of Poland. Jewish and general scholarly circles in Germany, Holland and elsewhere evinced considerable interest in his bibliographical work. Christian orientalists translated his studies into German and Latin. He settled in Breslau and spent four years trying to obtain a permit for a printing press. In 1687 he opened his press in Duerenfurth, a small country town not far from Breslau. His books were veritable works of art and drew the attention of book-lovers throughout the world, Jews and non-Jews alike. The Jesuits also began to take an interest in him and finally had him imprisoned for publishing Reb Nathan Haovers Shaarei Zion (Gates of Zion) which they regarded as anti-Christian. He brought up his son Joseph Bass to share his love of books and the son continued his father's lifework.
Shabtai Meshorer Bass passed away in Krotoshin which was a centre of Jewish learning where the Magen Abraham also died. There were a group of hand-setters in this city who were among the most famous in Jewry. After the persecutions conducted against him, Reb Shabtai persuaded the Monish family to open a Hebrew press in the city which later became known throughout the world. The Monish family were closely related to Professor Heinrich Graetz. Before the latter achieved renown as a historian, he was a proof-reader at the Krotoschin press of his uncle Monish. Dr. Max Nordau also used to pride himself on being a descendent of this family.
All persons with the name Kalisch or Kalischer are connected with Kalish in one way or another. These two surnames are common among the Jews of Germany. Many Kalish Jews migrated to Prussia by way of Posen. Those who migrated to Kiew were al called 'Kulisher' without exception.
There were many Kalish folk among the Jews of Germany and in the Lodz district of Poland as well. Bertha Kalisch was born in Lemberg and is the only Galician who bears this name. She was a Jewish actress in New York who played in Yiddish and successfully presented the plays of Jacob Gordin. David Kalisch was a well-known German humourist whose parents came from that city, though he himself was born in Breslau. Isidor Kalisch (1815-1886) was a German poet. Ludwig Kalisch (1814-1882) was a German writer and literary man. Markus Kalisch, a scientist who took part in the 1848 Revolution, had to seek refuge in England. His parents came from Kalisch and later moved to Treptow in Pomerania.
In the 17th century there was a Dr. Moshe Kalisch in Poland who left medical works written in the Judeo-German of the period. Isidor Kalisch was a rabbi in Cincinnati from 1857. He was an outstanding scholar of the
period who published important works on Jewish subjects and achieved a considerable reputation in America.
Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer was born in Lissa in 1815. He served as Rabbi in Torun where he died in 1884. Reb Yehuda Leib Sheindels (Kalisher) was also born in Lissa in 1807. His son Reb Akiva Kalischer was a Dayan in that city. Reb Yehiel Mechel Kalischer, who also wrote a work called Shaarei Zion lived in the 17th century. Alfred Kalischer, an authority on Spinoza, was a university lecturer (Privat Dozent) in Berlin. Salomon Kalischer of Torun was a physicist in Amsterdam around about 1878.
In Russia there was a well-known ethnographer, jurist and historian named Michail Kulisher who was born in Lutzk in 1847. His son Joseph was an authority on economics and his other son Evgeni was a criminologist. In Russia there were many Jews bearing the name 'Kulisher' including famous physicians and journalists.
by A. K.
During the 20's, a number of weekly journals began to appear in many Polish cities including Kalish. Much material was lost during World War II. Here we shall summarize what is definitely known:
Kalish Blatt, weekly 1922. The first to appear, edited by H. Solnik. On three issues were published.
Das Kalisher Wort, weekly, edited by S. Stern. Three issues.
Kalisher Tog, daily, 1925. This did not last long.
Kalisher Weker, 1931, weekly. Four issues. Organ of the Bund. Dedicated to Kehilla elections. In 1937 a special issue was published dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Bund.
Kalisher Express. A daily local supplement of the Warshaver Express. It did not last long.
Kalisher Leben, weekly edited (most of the time) by A.J. Mamlok. Published with some interruptions until World War II. This was under Agudat Israel influence.
Kalisher Woch, weekly. It appeared with interruptions until World War II. Under Zionist influence.
by Peretz Walter
Before the revolutionary years the younger generation did not engage in any social activity. Most of them used to work at various kinds of embroidery. After work or on holidays they all used to stroll around the Town Hall which contained the Army Club where the Military Band used to play.
In the years 1904-1905 the period of the First Revolution, things began to liven up. Political strikes were held in Kalish too and were led by the Bund, Poalei Zion, P.P.S and the Social Democrats. The Russian Authorities engaged in large-scale arrests of the strike leaders. Every Thursday morning, they used to send off a transport of arrested revolutionaries to Siberia. Heart-breaking scenes took place in the streets when mothers saw their sons being exiled. More than one Jewish revolutionary perished on the way or was buried in frozen Siberia.
In 1909 or 1910, the authorities permitted Hazamir singing and musical clubs to be established in Poland. The Kalish Society set up an orchestra and a choir. The Club had a fine hall for premises and infused a spirit of life in the Jewish youth who used to come, sing folksongs and play musical instruments.
In the years 1910-11 the Yiddishe Turn und Sport Verein Sports Society was established and awakened enthusiasm in the younger generation who were proud of their shirts and caps in the national colours. Most of the youngsters were members. I remember a ramble to Opatowek, a distance of 7 miles from the city. The sportsmen marched together in the national uniform and the non-Jews showed their respect for the proud Jewish youngsters. Preparations for the Sport Festival lasted a whole year and it was very successful. The entire population, Jews and non-Jews alike gathered to watch the competitions and exercises.
In the course of time, the Society became a Cultural Centre for Jewish Youth. A Hebrew and Yiddish library was established and lectures in Yiddish and Hebrew were given from time-to-time. The Society continued to function until World War I. The Russians left the city on 2nd August, 1914. The Germans entered on Sunday. The Jews received them with white flags and in a friendly fashion. But the Germans displayed their cruelty even then. They began shooting in the streets at 6p.m. and many Jews and Christians fell.
The following day, Polish and Jewish reserve troops who had been mobilized but not called by the retreating Russian Forces, returned to the city. The Germans ordered them to lie down in the street and shot anyone who raised his head. On Tuesday morning, the Jews were ordered to open their shops and anybody who refused to do so was threatened with punishment. After the Jews obeyed orders, the Germans began shooting again. This dreadful situation continued for several days and there were many more victims. The Germans who had occupied Kalish came from Poznan (Posen). The Poles placed crosses on their windows.
On the Friday, the Jews opened their shops and the Germans shot into them.
They took people out of their houses, placed them against the wall of the Municipality and shot them. Towards evening they left the city and bombarded it with artillery all night long. On the Sabbath morning, German patrols returned, collected men in the Breslau Street and took them out of the city. There they were lined up and were told that every tenth man would be killed.
The Jews began to run away from the city but all the streets and roads were packed with refugees. Now the German soldiers killed more Jews and pillaged the abandoned Jewish shops. After that, they set the city on fire.
Jews began to return to Kalish only after several months had passed. Many did not find their homes. The shops had been looted or burnt. Poverty and need were widespread. A Relief Committee organized a Teal-Hall at the Jewish School where tea was served to the returning refugees. Young Jews served as volunteers in this institution. The Jewish Aid Society in Germany supported this Tea-Hall and actually ensured its existence. By this time, the Jewish population were virtually starving. The Aid Committee established a communal kitchen where bread, soup and potatoes were provided free. Long files of men, women and children used to line up there.
In 1915-16 the Germans kidnapped young people in the streets for forced labour behind the lines. As a rule these were Jews. The weaker ones who did not have the strength to work were murderously beaten and many perished. My brother Abraham Jacob was one of the few who returned unharmed.
In 1916-17 the Germans again permitted the public organizations to function. The Sports Society also renewed its activities at the new hall in Wieska Street. Sports groups were re-established and the library was re-opened. Lessons in Yiddish and Hebrew were organized as well as scientific lectures. Once again the choir was established and a dramatic circle was founded and produced plays from time to time. The Society also participated in the Olympiad of all the Jewish Sports Societies in Poland which was held in Lodz. The political parties likewise began to reorganize, particularly the Bund and Poalei Zion. Most of the young Jews belonged to the Sports Society. The Tea-Hall was renamed the Arbeiter Heim (Workers Home). Here lectures were given and a Consumers' Cooperative Store was opened for foodstuffs and kerosene and sold its goods cheaply. A Workers' Kitchen provided good meals at cheap prices. The Aid Society in America supported the kitchen.
After Poland became independent, we set up the Children's' Home where the children learnt and studied. The Poalei Zion party was the largest among the Jews and gained most of the votes in the elections to the Seim and the Municipality. The Party Club was in the Workers' Home. The Bund had its own club and so did Zukunft. Other parties included the Zeirei Zion, General Zionists, Folkists, etc. Among the Polish parties there were the Endeks, the P.P.S which had no Jewish members and the Polish Social Democrats.
Each party set up Trade Unions. The communists began to organize the workers who were engaged in clearing the ruins of the city. Their club was
in Weiland House in the Josephine Allée. Every evening, meetings and debates were held in the Club. The subjects were the Revolution, brotherhood, improving the state of the workers and better bread; for at the time, the bread contained a high proportion of straw. A few days before Purim 1919, a strike was proclaimed in order to achieve these demands. In the early morning, the strike could be felt in the air and everybody knew that the matter would not end peacefully.
In the morning I opened our (sausage) shop in the Jewish street. At nine o'clock my mother came and said that near the Police Station she had seen the Police Chief, a well-known anti-Semite, sharing out cigarettes to the unskilled workers of the communist Society. This friendship between the chief of police and the workers made my mother suspect that something unpleasant was going to happen. I went to the Workers' Home where I learnt that the communists intended to arrange a demonstration but the P.P.S. was refusing to participate. The demonstration was to begin at 10 a.m. and would pass through the New Market and Ciasna Street, pausing at the Workers' Home because they wanted us to join the demonstration.
We promptly held a meeting to discuss the matter. Most of the members rejected participation because the P.P.S. was not taking part. The minority approved since the demands were exclusively economic, being for better bread, etc.
The demonstration began at the appointed time. When it passed the Workers' Home a number of members snatched the Poalei Zion flag on which revolutionary slogans were embroidered and went out to join. Other members also joined by themselves and so a group of the Poalei Zion marched in the communist demonstration. We sang revolutionary songs and many youngsters joined us on the way. The demonstration grew steadily bigger. When we passed through Ogrodowa Street near the Bund Club, they also joined. We marched on to the Gates of the Town Hall where the demonstration stopped and a representative of the communists gave a speech calling on the Mayor to improve the quality of the bread.
At this point we began to feel suspicious. During the speech many of the communist demonstrators vanished. They climbed onto the broken-down walls of the ruined hand-embroidery factory that had belonged to Meizner. When the speech ended, these ruffians began to throw stones at the Jews in the demonstration and beat their 'comrades' with long sticks. A panic began in our ranks but we promptly understood that this was a provocation and that we had to go on marching. We reached Breslau Street and the building containing Burshin's cigarette shop where we saw a dreadful sight.
The ruffians attacked the Jews several of whom began to bleed at once. My companion Ragashinsky and I held fast to the flag which the rioters wanted to drag away from us. The flag fell to the ground for a moment. Two ruffians dashed to pick it up. I kicked one of them while Ragashinsky picked up the flag and ran away with it. Now I got the wooden stick out of the hands of the other ruffian and began to lay around with it on all sides, hitting them hard. I then started to run towards the Workers' Home. As I ran, a stone hit my head and leg. Blood began streaming over my face but I continued to run. I suddenly saw a woman gate-keeper coming
out of one of the houses and hitting a Jewish boy over the head with a wooden clog. I dashed over, plucked the wooden clog out of her hand and hit her over the head until she shrieked: O Jesus. Nearby there was a Military hospital which had been a Commercial High School in the days of the Tsar. When the soldiers heard her shrieking, they came out and began chasing me. With the last of my strength, I reached the Bund Club where I hid in the attic. About an hour later, I dashed over to Havera Levitt who had a shoe shop and is now in Israel. She bandaged my hand and leg. Now I ran to the Jewish Street where I learnt that the ruffians had carried out a real pogrom. The policemen had suddenly vanished and the ruffians rioted without interference, looting shops and beating Jews.
The next day the rioters tried again. They approached the Jewish butcher shops where they received what they deserved. The Jewish butchers were organized and went out to meet them with choppers and cleavers. There was a savage battle. One of the scoundrels was badly wounded but Moshe Anzel, son of a butcher, was stabbed to death. Joshua Rosenblatt was also severely wounded and later died of his wounds.
The riots continued for two days. The Polish press announced that the police had the Poalei Zion flag which bore revolutionary slogans against the Polish government. In this way, they wished to renew the riots. As remarked, the flag was in our hands.
The news of the riots startled the whole of Poland. The Jewish deputies in the Seim submitted interpellations. A Committee of Seim Deputies was appointed to investigate the Kalish Pogrom. A few of the ruffians were given light punishments but the Police Chief who had organized the riots was not touched at all.
Two days after the riots, the first assistance of the Joint arrived. Baruch Zuckerman, representative of the Peoples' Relief, reached Kalish. He lectured at the Workers' Home, calmed the Jews down, encouraged us and promised the assistance of America. The Kalish townsfolk in America also began to send help.
In those days the deputy, Dr. Rosenblatt of Lodz was in the U.S. as a representative of Polish Jewry. The Kalish townsfolk in New York gave him money to help the Jews of the city. At the time, all the Kalish townsfolk there had united in a joint committee which worked to help the Jews in their old home. This committee was joined by the Kalish Lodge, the Kalish Union and the Kalish Young Men's Arbeiter Ring, branch n°241.
In Kalish, a committee was elected for the fair distribution of these funds and I was appointed a member. We then received more than three thousand dollars from the United Relief Committee in New York and, in those days, it was a very considerable sum. The money arrived just before Passover and we distributed support for Matzos and potatoes. We also allocated sums for the Jewish Hospital, the Old Age Home, the Rabbi's Yeshiva and the Children's' Home of the Poalei Zion and the Bund.
During those years, many attacks on Jews of the city were made by hooligans but the youth had learnt how to defend themselves and paid them back in their own coin.
Those are my memories until 1920 when I immigrated to America.
by Simon Horonchik
The days and weeks dragged on, grey and heavy like clouds bestrewn with spots which only faintly brightened on brief and lean Sabbaths.
Eizik Sheniak, a tallish fellow with a bent back who had taken Benjamin on to work as a threader, did have something good about him because he worked in the factory of Uncle Leib Hayyim, Benjamin could be sure of his weekly wage of several zloty. But, in all other respects, Sheniak was neither better nor worse than the average run of embroiderers. For a whole week he worked his hardest at the machine urging the threaders on and him as well; toiling and busy from five o'clock in the morning until late at night. Before the Sabbath, he took the week's wage from the cashier, drank himself drunk on the Sabbath, wasted all his wages to the last farthing and came back to work on Sunday, fuming and angry, to start the race all over again.
Yes, he was no better than many other embroiderers, but no worse either.
The working day dragged on forever. The lamps had already been lit but it was still a long, long time before they finished. The hour grew later and later and the machine was already moving more slowly. The handle began to slip from the weary hands. The hands of the threaders were also as heavy as lead. Tirelessly, the fingers and eyes were closing by themselves. All their limbs were praying for rest.
Nearby, at the threading table, a girl was sleepily singing. In the middle of the day when the machines were clacking loudly, her song could not be heard at all. Now, with the more easy-going work of the late evening hours, a few words of her song could be caught from time-to-time. She was singing about the young men who had promised to write letters to her but did not keep their word.
And remember how live did glow,The sad melody made something quiver inside Benjamin but he was so tired that his ear caught the notes indifferently his heart did not respond at all and he wanted nothing but to be able to sleep.
And now it has gone out already
Cold, turbid like winter rain after midnight, came some more of the girl's song:
And remember how you promisedBy now the machines were keeping up a broken rhythm that seemed to support her, unlike their normal clatter in the daytime. At length, the work was done. Like all threaders, Benjamin removed the tools and parts, put out the lamps hanging above all sections of the machine and went home.
Without a dowry me to wed.
It was a clear winter night outside. His lungs had been breathing the dusty air of the factory all day long. Now they widened, deepened and he took long breaths while his eyes enjoyed the sight of the snow. Everything was while
and the gas-lamps were burning. A solitary policeman wrapped up in his furs was pacing this way and that in the middle of the street.
All of a sudden, Benjamin forgot the day that had passed so greyly and dustily amid the oil. The desire to live which had slumbered now woke up within him in a single instant and as though he wished to test his strength, he began to run. Not in order to get home more quickly but just for the pleasure of it. He was alive and he was young. Here he was, running like a foal, shaking his head and jogging his arms while the night watchman looked at him in astonishment.
The day was only beginning now at home after the work was over. Mother had prepared a herring for supper and all were eating it, slice-by-slice, with bread, gulping down tea at the same time. The little family sat around the table. His mother was praising little Simmeleh, telling how clever she was, bless her. She could be sent on errands to the shop and she bought whatever was needed and brought back the proper change.
Malka raised her head from the book she was reading so diligently. She told how something had gone wrong in their office today. A few cases of good had been returned because of defects. Rosenblum, Uncle Leib Hayyim's partner in the factory, had raised hell.
Israel Noah, who was renowned as a nimble threader, asked Benjamin how he was getting on at work, whether he fell far behind the girl who was the head threader. Tranquilly and cheerfully, the family spent the evening together until Mother reminded them that it was time to go to bed.
But things were not always in order. Quite often, something disturbed the home. Mother, Simmeleh or somebody else became ill and expenses went up at once. Sometimes one of the embroiderers did not pay Israel Noah a fortnight's wage and the whole family promptly went short of food and fuel. They would all go to bed on half-empty stomachs and hunger would not permit them to fall asleep. In his restless slumber, Benjamin felt that he was no in the factory at the table with needles in front of him. He promptly felt afraid, wondering why his hands weren't busy. Thereupon, he began working, moving his hands as though he were threading the needles It seemed as though Israel Noah also couldn't fall asleep on an empty stomach. He kept on waking up, then suddenly sat up in his bed and said drowsily in a frightened voice: I must get up! Mother, what's the time?
He then fell asleep again.
And just as though of set purpose, it was very cold indeed outside and the chill made its way through the thin walls of the miserable hut and took possession of it. The walls seemed to be covered by a layer of glass. The mother padded the bed next to the wall in advance with all kinds of clothes and oddities so that the children should not catch cold, God forbid!
At dawn when they had to get up, the room was so cold that all their teeth chattered. When they opened their mouths, their breaths formed a vapour just as though the cover were being taken off a boiling kettle. Mother gazed at the frozen window which looked as though some snow-white hairy skin had been stretched over it a skin set with flashing diamonds. And the sighs left her lips, one after the other.
Now the boys rose, dressed and wrapped themselves up in huge mantles that Malka had brought home for 'repair'. The mantles with their coarse unfinished embroidery were wrapped around their bodies several times. They put the lamp out; each took a chunk of bread left over from last night's super and went off to work.
Out in the open it might be the end of the world. There was a shrieking raging snowstorm, piling up heaps and heaps of snow-dust.
Benjamin and Israel Noah trudged along, bent and bowed like old men. Their necks were warmed by the mantle. They felt warm. The faint scent of soap, in which the embroidery threads were dipped before being threaded, now reached their nostrils. The smell made them sneeze and since their stomachs were empty, they began to feel nauseated.
They exchanged some words with one another. The words were very few and serious, only what was absolutely necessary. Within a few weeks, the hard labour and need had turned the boys into grave elders, practical men with heavy responsibilities on their shoulders.
Said Israel Noah: Now we have a bad model which eats up lots of thread. We have to hurry. Benjamin, who was not yet a swift threader, remarked: We always have to hurry anyway, every day.
And when they reached the parting of ways, each of them turned off in his own direction without a word.
When they reached the factory, they pressed the frozen palms of their hands against the glass of the lamps while their stiff and frozen fingers moved with difficulty until they thawed little-by-little. The embroiderer was better off. He swung the handle with his whole fist so he warmed up quickly. When he saw the threaders standing with their hands against the lamps, he gained the impression that they didn't particularly want to begin work. And he started annoyed: Stop this business now. You've warmed up enough already!
That was how the monotonous days ran on like long grey threads. The only ray of light for which their eyes looked out was the Eve of Sabbath and the Sabbath. Sometimes Uncle Leib Hayyim paid them a visit. He stayed a few moments in order to do his duty, to pay a debt and then promptly disappear with a promise to come another time. Sometimes his daughters came, Leah the married one or Esther with the red cheeks who was already grown up. The house seemed to grow brighter when they walked in. Mother became a bit cheerful, hid her wisps of white hair and invited the guests to sit down. As long as they were in the house, they seemed to bring a ray of light with them out of the happy home from which they came.
Yet, when they went, all the family felt as though they had been tricked. There was a sense of resentment at heart because they had come. The poverty
here seemed worse, painful almost. It seemed as though the poverty was heavier than it had been before they had made their visit.
The Sabbath passed and it was a weekday again. Somehow they felt as though Sabbath was shorter than any other day. Now the work-a-day week had begun. They wrapped themselves in the mantles and went off once more.
And now something happened which they had all dreaded and about which they had been speaking apprehensively. Aaronsohn, the manufacturer, brought machines. No longer would they need the embroidery machine with a handle and a man's palm and the pedals at his feet. Henceforward, engines and belt transmissions would set the machines moving.
A black dread settled on the streets and alleys in which the workers lived. The whole quarter was gripped in a deadly fear that their livelihood would be taken from them. Nor was it the embroiderers and threaders alone who began to be afraid. The fear also spread to the local mechanics that had learnt how to repair the machines, not in Saxony or in Switzerland but here in Kalish. They had been accustomed to break down one machine after another until they had 'grasped the principle'. Even Seidel the head mechanic grew melancholy. Some said he had told his wife to be a bit economical in her household and not to make so much noise with the big ladle ..
It became generally known that the new machines had already been brought to Aaronsohn's new building and were being assembled there. A mighty host of German mechanics, embroiderers and threading helpers had come with them and the new machines would start working in a few weeks' time; and there was a great outcry and alarm among the workers. The moaning and groaning could be heard in every home. The wives of the embroiderers met in the shops. There was nothing else they could talk about except the black cloud hanging over their heads. Any moment now their husbands would be left without work and they wouldn't even have a mouthful of food at home for the children.
As soon as the shopkeepers heard about the shaky position of the embroiderers, they stopped their credit well in advance. And so the trouble came very close indeed and the necks could already feel the knife.
The dangers of the steam-driven machines were the general topic of conversation; in Benjamin's home, of course, as in all others. Mothers became dead afraid of the Germans and their steam engine, dead afraid of the days to come. Those Germans would deprive her household of their last crust of bread; she sighed and moaned all day long and she paid frequent visits to the home of her brother Leib Hayyim in order to hear what was being said there.
In one of the conversations, Benjamin remarked that the steam machines which did the work of human hands did not harm the workers but would benefit them only it would be necessary to get better working conditions as a result of the advantages which the machines would provide.
But Israel Noah insisted that the new machines were a calamity for the workers. They would increase unemployment and the manufacturers would grab
all the advantage from them. So the only thing to do was to smash those machines by force.
And then they'll bring in new machines, said Benjamin. We'll smash the new machines into bits as well until the importers get sick and tired and don't bring any more. And Israel Noah told a story. When he was still a little boy, he used to fetch missionary books from somewhere. He fetched them once and then fetched more. Jews used to try and persuade them not to bring ay but he stood fast saying: What do I know? They pay me so I bring them. And that was how things went on until one day Jews waited for him just outside the town; stopped his waggon and did whatever they felt they had to do to him and he then stopped fetching the goods.
The same with the machines, Israel Noah drew the parallel. If it's impossible any other way, we can only rely on our fists. Abba was present at that conversation and had the same opinion as Israel Noah. It's the only way Abba added his opinion, to smash the machines and make it tough for the Germans. And then they'll take their legs away from here.
Benjamin was not prepared to accept the view of Israel Noah under any conditions. But mother tended to agree with him except for one little change: First we should go about it gently and go to Aaronsohn and make him realise quite clearly what a calamity he is bringing down on us with his new machines. And only if he turns us away, then we have to use force.
It was all they spoke about in the beer-houses on the Sabbath. Nota Makower had a beer shop. He had formerly been an embroiderer but had to git it up because of his health so he opened an unlicensed beer shop in his single room. That Sabbath afternoon, an unofficial Council gathered there.
Nobody was invited. They all came without having been called. Each one felt it necessary to discuss the business because he was worried at head and at heart. Since most of the Makower's customers were elderly embroiderers, skilled craftsmen whose name carried weight among the workers, the Council had something of the character of an official deliberation about the ways by which they could defend themselves against the danger of the power-driven machines.
Joel Pancher, who also came to down a glass of beer, said what Benjamin had said at home, that steam-driven machines were not the danger, but that the danger lay among the workers themselves. His words aroused a tremendous hub-bub. The elderly workers, who looked like horses worn with toil, were angry at him. It almost seemed as though they would come down on him and give him a thorough working-over.
Hatzel Pins, who was one of the best of the craftsmen but still did not have any decent clothing and educated his sons at the Talmud Torah, jumped up to silence him.
Kreide, who worked at the Walberg Factory, was a tall, thin Jew with eyes surrounded by shadows and a high-pitched voice like a cock. He suddenly began
declaring, nobody could say why, that the worst of the dogs were the manufacturers who had come up from the muck heaps. All the others present spoke, each one declaring what he had at heart and all speaking at once, yelling, fuming, then calming down. Then he began yelling again. Not a man paid attention to any of the others.
When they silenced Pancher's arguments he swiftly cleared out. After they had all calmed down a bit, Meir Kalb, a dwarfish embroiderer with a greyish-black beard stood up and proposed that they should set up an Embroiderer's Society like Pancher wanted. But let them bring a Torah Scroll there and pray and have the teacher come and teach a chapter of the Book of Moses every Sabbath afternoon.
A little later, Feldberg the supervisor of Waldberg's factory came up to the beer house. At the sight of him old Propper vanished unseen. He was afraid that Feldberg might relate in the office that Propper was earning enough for a glass of beer as well. Kreide also began to feel uncomfortable. All the embroiderers became silent.
As they came down the stairs they agreed that it was necessary to call a meeting in some public place, the House of Study, for example. Makower, with the thinnest little beard, with glasses that had astonishingly thick lenses and ears that stack out on either side, suggested going to the Rabbi and asking him to summon Aaronsohn and persuade him to send the new machines back to the place they had come from and not to destroy the livelihood of a whole city full of workers.
Sure enough, the elderly workers met together and decided nothing and the whole business finished off with verbal argumentation. But the youngsters were different. They came together, it seems, in some other place and decided on taking real steps. A few days later, the Germans returning at evening from their work in the building where they were assembling the new machines, were attacked by a gang of youngsters and savagely beaten. Sure enough, the Germans were badly bruised but the next day the Police were busy conducting embroiderers from all the factories to the Chief of Police.
From factory-to-factory went the policemen, inspecting the young fellows and each and every one of them who seemed sharp or tough was arrested. All of them were brought together in one place and led to the lock-up under guard.
Fear and alarm spread everywhere. Faces grew pale; hearts began to thud and quiver like leaves in the wind. Gimpel's mother, the potato-seller, came running to the office and howled as she begged Rosenblum to persuade the Police to set her bread-winner free. Tevel Knop was also arrested because one of the policemen remembered him from the time when he had been a real tough.
Fear hovered over all the factories. Nobody was sure that he would be left alone and that they would not come to arrest him. Trying conclusions with the police was no trifle. There is a common saying: keep your distance from the red collars. The members of the older generation who used to visit Makower's beer shop wished to disassociate themselves from the deeds of the young ruffians and prove that they did not like such tricks. A few of them went up to
Aaronsohn, spoke out their frightened hearts and begged for mercy's sake that he should send the machines back. Aaronsohn, so they related later, received them in the corridor. He called them idiots and cautioned them to be more careful in future and not to attack Germans. As for the fears that the Germans would rob them of their work, that was just§ so much nonsense for everybody was capable of learning how to work the new machines. He had no intention whatsoever of employing the Germans for any length of time but only until they had taught the local workers what had to be done. As soon as the local people learnt the business, the machines would be handed over to them while the Germans would go back home. And, in any case, the new machines did not manufacture the same things as the old ones. They only made muslin and applique embroidery. And all in all, said he, to finish off with, it was sheer idiocy to oppose the development of machinery.
The messengers went back to the factory and told the workers what Aaronsohn had said. They could not quite make out what he meant and nobody knew whether to be glad or sad. But one way or another, they all became accustomed to the new trouble, accepted the existence of the machines, calmed down and no longer thought of revenge.
by Morris Walter
These are the things I remember in Kalish near the beginning of the century: The Old House of Study, the Great Synagogue, the Shtiebel of the Alexander Hassidim, the Shtiebel of the Ger Hassidim, the New House of Study, and the cemetery, the Mikveh, the Slaughter House and the Slaughter House for poultry. The Jewish representative, known as the Dozor, was Berish Shimkowicz whose behaviour was not all it might have been. He was the Shtadlan or intercessor with regard to conscription and it was told that he used to get the sons of the rich exempted while he had the poor young men conscripted in their place.
The Chief Rabbi was Reb Samson Ornstein, a great scholar who was well versed in everyday affairs and knew several languages. The Dayan (assistant rabbi) was Reb Moshe Schlumper who was a scholar, quite capricious, a Mitnaged or opponent of Hassidism and who prayed in the House of Study of the Mitnagdim. It was his habit to be very stern and rude towards youngsters and he showed no particular respect for adults. The third rabbi, known as the Moreh Horaa (teacher and educator) was a noble-minded Jew who prayed in the Old House of Study.
The cantor was Yisroelke who was famous throughout the world. Of him I can only mention his way of praying. But I knew personally one of his assistants, Itschke Bass. Later, he was also the Bass for Reb Noah and his mighty voice still echoes in my ear. In my day, Reb Noah Zaludkowski was cantor in the Great Synagogue where Reb Samson Ornstein prayed. Reb Noah
was renowned as Noah Klager. One of his assistants, the cantor Katchka, went to America and became famous there.
The Great Synagogue was used for meetings, weddings and in time of trouble as a gathering place. But only the wealthy had regular seats there. The next social rank, the learned householders who were not too rich but were respected, found their place in the New House of Study. There were definitely Mitnagdim but meticulously complied with all the commandments. The ordinary all-year-round Jews used to pray in the Old House of Study and their cantors were all Baalei Tefilla (prayer-leaders from among their own number). I can remember Reb Hayyim Sheinik, the Shamash or beadle of the Old House of Study who was the patron of any visitors and guests.
The following division reflects the various classes within the Kalish Community: Wealthy intellectuals; ordinary rich people; householders; scholars; everyday Jews and the Hassidim of Ger and Alexander.
All week long they were all busy making a living the innkeeper, shopkeeper, artisan, porter, agent but on the Sabbath they were all to be found in the synagogues. On Sabbath afternoons the scholars would refresh their memories of the Mishna while the ordinary folk strolled around the Market Square, pausing at Czenkalowski's shop, feasting their eyes on expensive imported dainties and tropical fruits which only the wealthy could afford, wines and sweets. That is how things were in those days.
The leading Kalish industry of lace-making had negative as well as positive aspects. There was no compulsory education, so children were taken to work for long hours and for a miserable pay. Since the families were large, the pay that the children received was an important part of the income. After a few years' work, the threader became an assistant at the age of 15 or 16 and his wages went up. But the result was the emergence of an ignorant generation.
Then came the days of Zionism and Socialism: Poalei Zion, Bund and Ahdut.
In 1898 the Zionist Club was in the Breslau Street. It had a Yiddish and Hebrew library and newspapers. There were debates on current affairs and Songs of Zion were sung in chorus. They used to say: Next year in Jerusalem from the very heart. They purchased shares in the Jewish Colonial Trust with full faith in the Jewish State. Young lads in the Yeshivot (Talmudical Academies) used to read profane and heretical literature in secret.
Ahdut was a Jewish Socialist Party. The Czarist regime prohibited even the reading of socialist literature. But the prohibitions led the students to spread this literature far and wide and to hold meetings. Two groups emerged: The radicals of Ahdut and the nationalists who were westernized Zionists. The orthodox combatted both groups alike for having lost their faith in Messiah. They called the Ahdut people 'shiftless lads and scamps' or rebels against God and State.
In 1903, I felt that there was no place for me in Kalish. The Colonel of the Gendarmes began to pay attention to me and informed me through a Gendarme which they called Hammer that he wanted to have a chat with me because he wanted to take me under his protection as I was the son of a householder; so I was invited to come to his office. I decided not to go because I was nineteen years old, almost old enough for conscription to the army, which I hated; and
because I suspected that he wanted to make an agent provocateur out of me for certain matters. A few days earlier, a provocateur of that kind had arrived from Lodz and we helped him find his way to the hospital.
This is how it happened: One day a young fellow from Lodz aged about twenty paid me a visit. He introduced himself as a messenger from Ahdut in Lodz and wanted to meet the Ahdut members of Kalish. But we had been warned of his arrival in advance. Since I was a supporter of Ahdut, I told the members of his arrival. We decided to give him a lesson. I promised that I would arrange a meeting in the field near the slaughter-house.
The meeting was attended by several tough members like Show me, the porter's son, Klapper and others, about twenty in all. We arranged ourselves in groups and started whispering to one another. When the provocateur arrived and asked: what are those fellows whispering? we answered him courageously: They say you are a spy! What are you talking about? I think they are right, I answered. The signal was given; the lads surrounded him and gave him a thorough beating. He spent several days in hospital and then vanished.
The gendarmes summoned me because they hoped I would give away the names of those who had attended the meeting in the field. I had a frontier passport. So on Friday morning, I crossed the frontier. My uncle from America had sent me a ship's ticket. I parted with a curse and a vow never to return.
After a year of adapting myself to the U.S., like every greenhorn, my uncle Shlomo Feil brought me to the Kalish Fraternal Union (Kalisher Bruder Verein). At my very first meeting, I was unfavourably impressed by the un-democratic character of the Society: The secret rapping at the door; the official greetings and the almost military ceremonial; the by-laws. For instance, only a Russian Polish Jew could be admitted to membership the Fund was the Holy of Holies, the cemetery was the ground. These were the things discussed at every meeting. They all repelled me but there was no choice. This Society was more liberal than the Kalisher Lodge. So I remained in the Society.
When I proposed that we should also interest ourselves in general Jewish affairs, the Treasurer, Mr. Levi, protested that we wanted to use up all the funds and Galewski, the President, accepted his opinion; and that was the end of it. Monotonous years passed without any change. Only during World War I did I succeed in establishing a Relief Committee for Kalish and in associating our Society as well in the Relief, which resolved that all the Societies had to contribute to the Relief Fund.
In 1918, young immigrants arrived and with their aid we established the Kalish Young Men's Society. It was set up at the home of Abraham Wolkowicz with the assistance of M. Friedman, the three Waxman brothers, S. Kapp, M. Beatus, J. Kott and I. When the Young Men joined the Workers' Circle, I left. I could not accept the attitude of the Bund towards Zionism.
That year, the General Relief Committee for the Kalish Poor was founded with the aid of: Sigmund Galewski, President; Sam Kapp and myself for the Young Men: Joseph Kott, Joe Frashker and Morris Friedman. Participants of the Committee in Kalish were: Eliezer Friedman, Yehiel Tenzer, Yehiel Grinspan, Peretz Walter, M. Kletchevski and Levenberg.
I attended the inaugural meeting of the Non-Party Relief, which resolved
that its purpose was to assist aging embroidery workers in Kalish. Its non-party character was stressed as a primary condition and its name also clearly expresses this.
When it was decided to plant the Martyrs' Forest, the task was joined in by the Shalom Aleichem N°30 Lodge, the Walter Family Circle and the Relief. Within three years, we collected close to $10,000. In 1958, the Jewish National Fund arranged a trip to Jerusalem for the Memorial Days. I participated in the delegation of Kalish Folk from the United States.
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