The people of Kalish were always very sociable and wherever there were a few persons from Kalish, they would organize. There is a tradition that in the days of the Turks, there was a Hatzer (courtyard) of Kalish Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem. Menahem Shklanovsky records that when he came to Jerusalem for Passover 1924, he stayed at the home of Moshe Haim Waxman. The Kalish townsmen gathered there and discussed the possibility of organizing.
In 1925 Gad Zolty, Isaiah Leib Sowa, Menahem Shklanovsky, Moshe Yitzhaki and Shmuel Toporek, all from Kalish and Blaszki, met at the home of the late Eliyahu Berlinsky in Manshieh, Jaffa and set up a Kalish Club. They used to meet each evening and arranged cultural evenings as well as assisting members to find employment. People from Sieradz, Turek and Warta also used to attend the meetings and gatherings. This Cub functioned until 1928.
In 1929, there were further immigrants from Kalish and the Society organized once again. The oldest member, the late Hirsch Weltz, used to help members of the Society. It was a time of unemployment and the shop of Nahum Shurek served as an address and meetingplace. One day, about fifty members met at the home of the late Moshe Goldenberg and decided to start a ‘Society of Immigrants from Kalish for Mutual Assistance’. The Government approved the Society which began with an initial capital of £P.10 and began granting loans of a pound or half a pound. The yearly turnover did not exceed £P.100. Membership fees were fixed at 4 piastres a month. At a later date it was decided to raise them to 5 piastres. A new immigrant was given £P.2 to help him buy a bed and the very basic necessities. The Committee looked after social cases. General meetings were held in various places.
Meetings and gatherings of part of the members were usually held in private dwellings. The Committee applied to the Kalish Kehilla and asked them to allocate some money in support of the local relief activities of the Society. The Kehilla allocated a sum of 1,000 zloty and informed the Society that 500 zloty had been sent. For some reason, the money was never received. The Committee tried to obtain help from townsfolk in the United States but received no reply.
Apart from the actual Committee, a Council of Patrons also existed. It was composed of the late Joel Solnik, the late Joseph Mamlok and the late Raphael Meir Shklanovsky.
When the Society expanded, a collector had to be appointed and the late Jacob Wartski was appointed to this post. In December 1932 shares of 1£ were sold to members who bought them on an instalment plan and also to tourists from abroad.
In 1934 the Committee decided to raise the membership due to 50 mils. As there was no fixed address, the Society decided on the homes of a number of members which would serve as its meeting place and address for the payment of dues. Activities continued as before.
We can learn just how small the resources were from the following figures: The turnover of the Mutual Assistance Fund amounted to £P. 22 in the year 1931; £P.13 in 1932 and £P.53 in 1933.
All activities ceased during the 1936 disturbances as well as World War II. In 1945, former members resumed the activities of the Society. The first members to begin were: J.D. Bet Halevi, Chairman; Mendel Sieradski, treasurer; Yehiel Heber, secretary; Eliezer Birnbaum and Menahem Shklanowsky.
When the first of the European survivors arrived, they needed help. The sums provided in those days were: £P. 5; £P.7.5 and £P.15. Six hundred members were then registered. A Ladies' Committee was also formed for special relief work. These were Mesdames: Bet Halevi, Avrunin, Birnbaum, Shklanovsky, Maroko, the late Leah Sieradzki and the late Hanna Gootschell. Memorial services began to be held for the martyrs of the city.
In 1946, upon the arrival of the first immigrant ships in Cyprus, the Committee mobilized for special relief work and coopted Mesdames: Bet Halevi, Birnbaum, Avrunin, Shklanovsky, Maroko, the late Hanna Gottschell and the late Leah Sieradski. The ladies collected food and clothing and sent parcels together with money to Kalish immigrants in Cyprus and the survivors in Poland. The Cyprus relief work continued until the immigrants came to Israel.
That year, the reconstituted Kehilla in Kalish asked for ritual and religious objects. A few members met at the home of the late Joseph Mamlok and sent prayershawls, phylacteries and mezuzot with the assistance of the Committee. During the years 19461949 including the War of Liberation, most of the members were busy in defence work of various kinds. But they continued their activities and helped to organize branches in Jerusalem and Haifa as well as assisting the new immigrants who came to the country.
In early 1949, the Chairman of the Impartial Kalish Relief in the United States, Mr. Joseph Arnold (Aronowitz) arrived in Israel. At a Joint Meeting of the Committees, a Central Committee was elected consisting of: Eliezer Birnbaum, Haim Mendel Naparstek, Mendel Sieradzki, Shimshon Green, David Sinaderka, the late Shlomo Shimshoni, the late Fania Rogozinsky and Abraham Zohar. It was then decided that all money coming to the country from abroad should be sent to the Central Committee which would distribute it according to the following key: 3 shares to TelAviv; 2 to Haifa; 1 to Jerusalem and for the rest of the country. The same key was used for Central Committee membership. Monies from the local collections were to remain with the various branches which were to send detailed reports to the Central Committee. At the same time, the Gemilut Hassadim Fund began functioning again and was named for those who fell in the War of Liberation.
The wish to commemorate the martyrs began to make itself felt. In 1950, S. Avrunin and M. Shklanovsky proposed that a special Forest be planted in memory of the dead of the City. In May 1954, even before the Jewish National Fund announced the planting of the forest, a circular was sent calling for the allocation of 50 dunams for the purpose. The sum if IL.500 was borrowed from the Gemilut Hassadim Fund as an advance payment to the JNF. In February 1952 the Forest Committee was elected consisting of Messrs. S. Avrunin,
Abraham Zohar, M. Shklanovsky, M. Sieradzki, G. Wroclawski and Meir Maroko. Each member was called on to plant one tree in the Kalish Martyrs' Forest. At the same time we contacted fraternal organizations in the U.S.A. and they also commenced activities.
In May 1952 collections began in Israel. Mention should be made of the main collectors: Esther and Shmuel Avrunin, Leah and Eliezer Birnbaum, Bluma and Gershon Wroclawski, Abraham Zohar, Gad Zolty, Moshe Yitzhaki, Shoshanna and Meir Maroko, Neha and Haim Mendel Naparstek, Melech Shurek, Yonah and Menahem Shklanowsky, Leah and Mendel Sieradzki.
In March 1953 Joseph Arnold, Chairman of the Forest Committee in the United States, visited Israel. He informed the Society that he had donated 1,000 trees to be planted as a wood in the name of Aharonovitch and Sandziewsky families. This wood was to form an inseparable part of the forest in memory of the Martyrs of Kalish and District.
In April 1953, close on one hundred members went out to plant trees in the Forest. The inhabitants of Israel planted some 20,000 trees while those from the United States planted an additional 10,000.
In November 1953, Mr. S. Avrunin went to the U.S. on a family visit and met the Committee for the planting of the Forest in Memory of the Kalish Martyrs. With the help of Kalman Aharonovitch he met the late Gedalya Yoffe. He persuaded him to leave a sum of money in commemoration of his name and the name of his wife. The Fund for the Forest succeeded in raising a sum of $4150 in the United States until November 1954.
In 1954, the Committee visited the planted area and found that the three were not growing well. In April 1955, Walter Morris and Kalman Aharonovitch, members of the Forest Committee in the U.S. visited the forest together with members of the local organization and found that the condition of the tree had not improved. It was decided that a protest should be sent to the JNF. In 1958, a final meeting was held between the JNF representatives and the Committee who demanded a new site for the Kalish Forest. After a prolonged and exhausting negotiation, the JNF agreed to allocate another planning area to the organization. The site was to be chosen by the Forest Committee.
In April 1958, the organization applied for and received permission to erect a Memorial Stone in the Forest. The cost amounted to IL.900. In 1960 it was unveiled. Care of the forest was then passed on to the Committee of the Organization and Mr. S. Avrunin was elected as representative to the JNF. In 1961 it was decided that the square in front of the Memorial Stone should be extended and Mr. Joseph Arnold made a personal contribution for the purpose. Money was also donated by the Committee of the Kalish Organization in Australia. The extension was carried out by the JNF.
In August 1961 members of the Organization went to the Forest with their families. The excursion was filmed and the film has been shown on various occasions.
In 1952 the Jerusalem branch fixed 22nd of Sivan as a Memorial Day (before National Memorial day was fixed by the State). Several hundred members went up to the Vault of the Holocaust on Mount Zion and unveiled the tablet
commemorating the Martyrs of Kalish and the neighbourhood. The late Rabbi Jacob Avtalion delivered a eulogy.
In 1953, the Israel Legation in Warsaw received a Torah Crown, a salver and a hand through Kalman Sitner, now of Kibbutz Ein Shemer. These were brought to Warsaw by two men from Kalish. Upon his arrival in the country Abraham Friedman of Kalish brought two Torah Scrolls with him. These were handed to the Organization. One was donated to a synagogue in Marmorek Street, TelAviv, by the Organization of Kalish and District. The second Scroll was donated to the Haifa Branch. That same year, Simeon and Batya Green left on family business to the United States. The Committee gave S. Green a mission concerning help to new immigrants from Kalish arriving in Israel.
After meeting in different house of committee members weekafterweek, the members decided that a home should be found for the Organization and it was resolved that a Club of the people of Kalish and the neighbourhood should be erected. Here is an extract from the Protocol Book:
At the meeting of the Committee of the Organization of Kalish and the District which was held at the home of Mendel Sieradzki on September 1st, 1955, it was resolved that a ‘Kalish House’ should be constructed. All members voiced their readiness to donate money and raise funds for this Kalish House. The building is to serve as a Cultural Centre and Museum and shall have a Hall for meetings and for the Committee of the Organization. Meir Maroko was elected secretary of this undertaking.
A building committee was chosen. Meir Meroko, Eliezer Birnbaum, Gad Zolty, Avraham Zohar and Menhem Shklanowsky were the members. A circular was sent to the Committee of the Organization in the United States. At first, the local members were not certain that we would be assisted by the United States members because of the Martyrs' Forest. The first to be convinced was Mr. Joseph Arnold who donated the sum of IL.2,000. The founders in the country and in the United States, as well as individual members, donated through the Relief. In 1955 the building containing the Kalish House was erected by the initiative and help of our member, Eliezer Birnbaum. It was dedicated with impressive ceremony in the presence of guests from the Diaspora.
We would like to mention the Israeli founders:
The late Rabbi and Mrs. Jacob Avtalion; the late Hannah Gottschell; the late Fania Rogozinsky; Esther and Shmuel Avrunin; Leah and Eliezer Birnbaum; Ruth and Mordechai Bloch; Joseph Gottschell; Bluma and Gershon Wroclawski; Haya and Avraham Zohar; Haya and Gad Zolty; Ruhama and Moshe Haimovitch; Sarah and Moshe Yitzhaki; Shoshana and Meir Maroko; Neha and Hayyim Mendel Naparstek; Bella and Moshe Shurek; Yonah and Menahem Shklanowsky and Leah and Mendel Sieradzki who are happily all with us at the time of writing.
From the estate of the late Gedalya Yoffe, a request was received for completing the Kalish House and establishing a Library in his memory and in that of his wife. Members donated books as well and there are now over 650 books in the Library. At a meeting of the Organization Committee, Mr. Joseph Arnold was elected ViceChairman of Kalish House. Mrs. Paula Arnold was elected Honorary Chairman of the Ladies' Committee for construction of the building.
In 1956, Rabbi J. Avtalion passed away. At a meeting held after his death, it was decided to plant a small forest of 500 trees in his name at the Rabbi Gold Forest on the way to Jerusalem. In 1957, Mr. Joseph Sieradzki and his family came to Israel. Together with them, they brought another Torah Scroll, salver, hand, two wooden crowns and a Shofar which had survived from the Kehilla of Kalish. These religious articles were not in a good condition and expenses were involved in bringing them over from Poland. Leah and Eliezer Birnbaum undertook all the expenses involved in the repair of these articles and dedicated the Torah Scroll in memory of their parents. The Scroll and the vessels were given to the Synagogue in Marmorek Street in the name of the Society of Kalish and its District.
The Gemilut Hassadim Fund and the Hannah Fund have developed very well. The Hannah Fund was started by the husband of the late Hannah Gotschell, Mr. Joseph Gotschell, on the first anniversary of her death with a donation of IL.8,000. Her sister, Mrs. Esther Malka Ziegel donated the sum of IL.1,000.
The Birnbaum family donated a further IL.200. The yearly loan turnover in the Hannah Fund amounts to IL.22,000. The turnover of the general Gemilut Hassadim Fund indicates the extent of activities: 1956: IL.1,222: 1957: IL.8,502; 1958: IL.11,411; 1959: IL.15,147; 1960: IL.18,228; 1961: IL.20,566 and 1962: IL.25,567. In 1959 the General Meeting elected Mr. Dov Zilonka to the Financial Committee.
On 22nd Sivan a yearly memorial is held at the Kalish House for the Martyrs of our city. A memorial plaque has been put up in the House with the names of the founders and donors. In 1959, a meeting of onetime Kalish members of Hashomer Hatzair was held there sponsored by Dr. Saul Zalud. In 1961, a meeting of Graduates of the Kalish Hebrew Gymnasium took place there.
It was decided in 1957 to contact members in the United States and France in order to issue a Memorial Book for Kalish and its martyrs. Material, pictures and information from people who had lately arrived in the country were collected. This material was sent to the United States.
However, the work did not progress there. It was then decided that the activity should be shifted to Israel. At a meeting with certain members from Kalish, namely Baruch Tall, Dr. Saul Zalud and Joseph Holz, it was decided to put out a Kalish book which was to contain all material dealing with the community and the neighbourhood. A special committee would see to the publishing of the book and a special budget would be provided for it.
In 1959 the following members were elected to the Publication Committee: Baruch Tall, chairman; Abraham Zohar, secretary; Dr. Saul Zalud, treasurer; Joseph Holz, collector of material; Gershon Wroclawski; Eliezer Birnbaum; Mendel Sieradzki and Menahem Shklanowsky, Secretary of Organization. The committee contacted members in the Diaspora and requested the return of material from the United States. The Book Committee in the United States agreed to publication in the country and material began to arrive. At the time, Messrs. Yitzhak Kletchewsky and Yehiel Greenspan from France were visiting Israel. They gave the committee the material which they possessed about the city. While the material arrived from the United States, material was also gathered in Israel. Evidence was taken from survivors of the Holocaust and the committee set to work.
Members suggested including Arthur Szyk's Edition of the Statute (or Privileges) of Kalish. In 1960 Leah and Eliezer Birnbaum went to the United States on a visit and were empowered to bring back the material. Eliezer Birnbaum contacted members in the U.S. and began to search for the work of A. Szyk. Abraham Bandel devoted himself to this with all committee members headed by the Chairman, Joseph Arnold. When the pictures were discovered in the Jewish Museum in New York, the members helped financially. They also undertook to ensure that the work would be printed only in the Kalish Book. The Birnbaum family brought the illuminations to Israel. Shmuel Brand, the graphic artist, was coopted to the Editorial Board and is responsible for the attractive and artistic design of the work. Ninetyfive percent of the material has been written by people from Kalish and it has been printed at the Avalon Press by Yaakov Krzepicki of Kalish and Meir Anavi (Traube) who helped in the layout.
Every year, a gathering of Kalish folk is held in the different towns. The TelAviv gathering is held during Passover; the Haifa gathering at Tabernacles and Jerusalem is held during Hanukka; the Feast of Lights. On the Memorial Day for the Holocaust, there is a tradition pilgrimage to the Martyr's Forest of the Kdoshim. Members from the whole country participate. In 1962 a Mattan Beseter (Secret Relief) Fund was established at Kalish House to assist needy members in secret. The major part of the Fund comes from the donations of friends in the United States. The Committee has assisted sick members financially, has looked after their welfare and encouraged them. In 1965 there was a special Drive at which IL.7,000 was collected.
In 19621964, after several decades in the United States, the family of Hava and Israel Shurek, who were active in the U.S. Kalish Organization, arrived in Israel. The Roth family as well as Nahum Lenchitsky who were active members of the Organization in Australia, also came to settle here. They promptly began to help the Organization in Israel.
In 1966 a General Meeting was called. In accordance with the Regulations, a new committee was elected with a council of 25 members. The following committees are appointed by the Council: Financial Committee; Relief Committee; Cultural Committee; Kalish House Committee and Audit Committee.
Seated: r.to l. Hela Rosenfeld, Leah Birnbaum, Menahem Shklanovsky, Baruch Tall, Abaham Zohar, Esther Avrunin, Gershon Wrotzlavsky, and Ruth Linch
Not in the photograph: Abel Rosenfeld, Mendel Sieradzki and Arieh Kviatkovsky
In 1944 all persons from Kalish living in Jerusalem and the surroundings were invited to a General Meeting in order to organize and elect a Committee. More than one hundred persons participated and elected the First Committee consisting of the late Shimshoni, chairman; the late Heiman; the late Dr. Noah Braun and happily still with us: Dr. Solnik, Klein, Noah Bimko, Mrs. Doba Bet Halevi and Mrs. Masha Lavi.
The Committee was required to organize economic and social aid in absorbing the new immigrants who began to reach Eretz Israel from Kalish, first in the army of General Anders and later from Cyprus. The early steps of the Committee consisted chiefly of collecting and sending clothes to Cyprus, providing financial support for those who needed help on arrival and helping them to find work and housing. One of the Committee's most important measures was the Mutual Assistance Fund in Jerusalem which provided loans when necessary for newcomers to make their first arrangements in the country.
In 1952 a national convention of Kalish Townsfolk in Israel met in Jerusalem. Those present went up to Mount Zion and lit candles in memory of the Kalish victims of the Holocaust, unveiling the tablet in memory of the Kalish Community which was one of the first to be set up in the Martef Hashoa or Vault of the Destruction. On this occasion there was a discussion of ways and means of strengthening the Organization and providing more help for newcomers from Kalish.
The Memorial Ceremony on Mount Zion was recorded and sent to the Organization of Kalish Landsleit in the U.S.A.
Activities of the Committee Members
Mention should be made of the productive activity of all members of the Committee who worked as devoted volunteers to help all who needed help during the first period after their arrival in Israel. Special mention should be made of the Piotrkowski family who served as an example and model for the others. Mrs. Piotrkowski in particular was the vital spirit of the local Committee.
Meetings were held between Kalish Landsleit in Jerusalem and various guests from abroad who came to visit the country. The Jerusalem Committee was particularly active in planting the Forest in memory of the Kalish Martyrs in 1955 as part of the Martyrs' Forest in the Jerusalem Corridor. When the Memorial for Kalish Jewry was set up in the Martyrs' Forest in 1960, the Committee played a very active part particularly the Chairman, Mr. Carmeli.
During recent years, activities have decreased because some of the original Committee Members have left Jerusalem while others have passed away and have not been replaced by new arrivals.
On 961966, a General Meeting of Kalish Landsleit in Jerusalem was held with the participation of members of the Central Committee and the Committee for the publication of the Kalish Book who came from TelAviv. After a Memorial for the Kalish Martyrs, a report was given on the activities of the Book Publication Committee and the methods of distributing it among those that came from Kalish.
The Haifa branch of the Organization was founded in 1925 and the first committee members were: Samson Green, Arie Nussbaum, Zvi Knobel and Elijah Winter. The chief purpose of the committee was to help people from Kalish and aid them in finding work. Activities were interrupted in 1936 and renewed only in 1944 when reports of the destruction of Polish Jewry began to arrive. Messrs. Samson Green, Elijah Winter, Fishel Katz, Yehezkiel Salz and Fingerhut decided to help Kalish survivors. Together with Mesdames Batia Green, Bracha Knobel, Leah Salz and Renia Katz, the committee collected clothes and money which were forwarded to Kalish and reached their destination.
A Mutual Assistance Fund was also founded which aided immigrants from among the survivors to the sum of IL.7 each. Pauline Arnold visited Eretz Israel at that time and her contribution encouraged activities.
In 1947, larger numbers of survivors began to arrive in Haifa. The committee members received them and helped them with money and work. In 1950, Messrs. Israel Friede, David Sinaderka, Naphtali Ziege, Judah Kott, Mrs. Brandwein and Mrs. Parzenczewski jointed the committee while Messrs. Fuerstenberg, Baum and Meizner served as an Audit Committee. A Gemilut Hassadim Fund was founded the same year and with the assistance of friends in the U.S. it was enabled to loan IL.50 per family. With the assistance of the National Committee of Kalish Landsleit, the amount of the loan had been increased to IL.500. Monthly assistance ‘in secret’ is also provided where necessary.
Seated: l. to r. Shoshanna Becher, Bella Katz, Bella Winter, Sarah Fuyara, Leah Baum and Leah Saltz
by Joseph Arnold
To my wife Pauline
In April 1946 the Relief called on me to go to Poland in order to extend aid to the Kalish survivors. On 5th May I flew to Paris where the World Conference of Polish Jewish Federations was being held. I participated actively in the deliberations and talked in detail with the delegates from France and Poland. The urgent need for immediate relief became perfectly clear to me.
In Paris I visited the Orphanages which were housing the World War orphans. I went there in the company of the Jewish artist Naum Aaronson. I shall never forget a talk with a sevenyearold orphan. When I asked him how he was he answered: Yes, everything is good, the teachers are good, I don't have to be afraid of the Nazi any more… but what use is it all if I haven't got my father and mother?
I held a special meeting about the Relief with the Federation of Jewish Organizations which was headed by Marc Jahrblum. Since the sums allocated by the Relief for Paris had already been used up, I added 30,000 francs of my own. During my two visits to Paris, where I stopped on my return, I visited the Foreign Ministry where we were promised 5,000 entry permits for Jewish emigrants from Poland.
Apart from my mission on behalf of the Relief I also served as the representative of the American Federation of Polish Jews. When I arrived in Warsaw on 20th May, I attended a meeting of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland where current affairs were discussed. At this meeting, I presented the contribution of the American Federation of Polish Jews for the Children's Homes in Poland amount to 4 million zloty. After I visited two orphanages in Otwock and saw their condition, I added to the contribution on behalf of the Relief.
With a heavy heart I visited Kalish. I think I must have been one of the first Jews from Western countries to have visited the city after the war. I arrived in the middle of the night, did not sleep at all and went out into the streets as soon as it was light. To tell the truth, the city had hardly been touched compared with other cities in Poland. But Jewish Kalish had been almost entirely destroyed. I was received by the tombstones of our parents with which the Germans paved the streets. Indeed, it was a dreadful feeling to tread on the tombstones of parents and ancestors whose graves had vanished. The Poles all around were walking freely while I hesitated to put my foot down for fear that I might be obliterating the name of a Jew who had lived here; he himself, his father and grandfather…
I wanted to visit the Old Jewish Cemetery but it had vanished. They used the tombstones to pave streets and buttress the banks of the Prosna. Nor had the New Cemetery escaped. About a quarter of its tombstones were still in place. The rest had been desecrated.
Before this shock was over, I was shaken when I went out to search for some survivor of my own family. Nobody was left. I wandered through the streets trying to find some Jewish communal building that was still standing. The Great Synagogue was a pile of ruins. The large House of Study had vanished with the hospital and the various Kehilla Institutions. Poles were living and working in the surviving homes and workshops. The people had revealed the hiding places of the Jews to the Germans and had been given their reward. They had murdered and had also inherited.
I met a handful of Jews who had come back to the city in the hope of finding survivors of their families. They had found nobody at all and now they were wandering around mournfully, planning on how to leave the soil of Poland forever, soaked as it was in Jewish blood. They were afraid to demand their property back for fear of reawaking the fury of the Poles.
One Jew told me that he had entered the former home of his parents. There he found a Polish family who stared at him as though he had come back from the dead. What, are you still alive? And we thought the Germans had cleared the Jews out of Kalish! What a pity! When I heard this story I kept away from the bakery of my murdered parents which now belongs to Polish owners. But I did find a grain of consolation in the story these Jews told me about my sister Hannah Rackman. Before she was shot, she slapped the face of a German officer who tried to take her only child from her.
When I visited Kalish I found 290 starving, ragged and tattered Jews there without any means of livelihood or work. And from whom could they ask for alms? Between 30 and 40 of them lived in a single room and slept on the bare floor. Luckily 900 parcels of clothes and food had just arrived in those days from the Relief and another 70 from the Aid Committee in Eretz Israel. These two shipments had really given life to them.
I immediately established contact with the Local Committee in Kalish. At several meetings we discussed Relief programmes, Jews who wished to emigrate and those who proposed to remain. I gave the Committee the contribution of the Relief and help activities began at once. The Committee bought two houses that very day. In one large house they opened a Relief Kitchen, a Hostel for the homeless, Cooperative Workshops and cultural institutions. Workshops were set up in the other house.
However, it turned out that plenty of building materials were needed to restore the houses which we had bought. I went to Dr. Koszutski, the Mayor, who promised to supply the necessary materials. Then he described the distress of the nonJewish population to me and I thought it advisable to make a contribution to the Municipal Charitable Fund as well!
We viewed the help in setting up workshops and cooperatives as an important step towards making the surviving Jews productive once again. When they began to manufacture and earn a living again they would find it easier to forget the horrors and at the same time they would prepare for Aliya to Eretz Israel or emigration to some other country if they so desired.
Next day I set out for the New Cemetery which is some distance from the city. Although it was not the month of Ellul, many joined me and we travelled
in a long procession of carriages. With me I had a large wreath on behalf of Kalish People in the United States. After the El Maleh Rahamin prayer, I said a few words to my companions and promised that we would not forget the martyrs and would help those who had remained alive. The common grave of the Kalish martyrs had been dug by Jews after the liberation of Poland. Masses of the Jews of the city had been shot by the Germans in the neighbouring forests. When the Jew came back from their hiding places and slave camps, they brought the murdered martyrs to a Jewish grave.
Upon our return from the cemetery we held a meeting of all the Jews in town. I asked for their opinions and requests in order to get to know what they were thinking. A few of them spoke. In all their words I could hear uncertainty, fear of the morrow and a desire to live. How sorry I am that I did not note down their words! For it would have been a very interesting document. What most of them said amounted to: Jews of America, get us out of here. We cannot live here we cannot breathe. The air is poisoned with antiSemitism. We want to go to Eretz Israel but if that's impossible, we shall immigrate to America.
There were a few who proposed to remain in Poland for terrifying reasons. We are tired of being fugitives and wanderers and we know how hard it would be for us to start a new life in Eretz Israel. So we want to live the rest of our lives in the place where we find ourselves.
In my reply I said: Our hep will branch in several directions. We shall help every man who wants to go to Eretz Israel and every man who, for personal reasons, wants to go to some other country. And we shall not abandon those weary ones who propose to remain here. I felt the necessity of allocating a considerable sum to building a wall around the cemetery, the only Memorial of a flourishing community that had been destroyed.
Within a few days the number of Jews in Kalish rose from 290 to 1060. The new arrivals were Kalish Jews mostly from Lodz, Cracow and Lower Silesia. They had heard that a Kalish landsman had arrived from the United States and came to receive and give greetings from and to relatives and friends. A certain number were repatriates who had only just returned from Soviet Russia. Most of them stated that they had no intention of remaining in Kalish. They had only come in the hope of finding some kinsfolk still alive. When they were disappointed, they wished to run away wherever they could; as long as they could get a considerable distance from the common graves.
It was clear that many more would be added to this thousand during the coming months and I told myself that we must not rest until each one of those who had been saved had found a place in Eretz Israel or some other country. But, meanwhile, these Jews would be spending weeks and months in Kalish and how could they live in a city where the hatred of Jews could be felt? So I interviewed the Chief Police and in the name of former inhabitants of Kalish who were now in the United States, I requested safety and protection for the survivors. The Chief of Police promised to ensure the safety of the Jews.
I ended my visit to the city with a contribution to the local Red Cross on
behalf of the Relief. Then I proceeded to Lodz through Zdunska Wola where I found a Jewish community of 190 souls and helped the local committee as best I could.
In Lodz I found another 190 people from Kalish, all in direct need. The Funds of the Relief were already exhausted so I had to take a loan in order to provide immediate help for those who wished to proceed at once to Eretz Israel or to other countries or to remain in Poland.
I met the representatives of the writers and journalists in Poland. They also needed urgent help to ease their distress. In Lodz I also met a delegation of the Borochow Kibbutzim directed by the leftwing Poalei men, Joseph Rotenberg and Abraham Kagan. At the time the kibbutzim provided a place for repatriates and agricultural training centres, preparatory to Aliya to Eretz Israel. They asked me to visit at least one of the kibbutzim in Lower Silesia but to my regret, I was unable to do so. This kibbutz bears the name of the heroic Abraham Diamant of our town. They also required considerable aid.
Shaken to the very roots, I left Poland and proceeded to Stockholm. With the assistance of the World Jewish Congress, I made contact with twenty people from Kalish, some of whom had been brought there from BergenBelsen by the Red Cross immediately after the collapse of Germany while others had come from other camps thanks to the head of the local branch of the World Jewish Congress even before the defeat. Hillel Storch had ransomed a consignment of Jews at a very high price and with the help of a local physician. I learnt that rescued sons of Kalish were to be found in the hospitals but to my regret, it was already impossible for me to visit them. I promised them the help of the Relief and the promise was kept as soon as I returned to the U.S. Some of them proceeded to Eretz Israel while others immigrated to other countries.
On my way back, I stopped in Brussels in order to redeem a Jewish child from a Christian house; but when I arrived, I learnt that the child had already been redeemed. At the Brussels office of the W.J.C. I recognized the directors of the leftwing Poalei Zion Children's Home headed by A.J. Kibble of Kalish. I also met with the camp survivors of Austria among who were also several Kalish people. For them I left the last 200$ of my own that I had on me. The official funds had already been expended long before.
And I returned to the U.S. with a clear sense of the debt that is owed to these survivors.
The Financial Report of the help given by the Relief in the course of my mission is as follows:
Paris Orphanage: 500 suits of clothes, 200,000 francs. Kalish people in France: 1,200,000 francs.
Children's homes in Poland: 250,000 zloty. Aid Committee in Kalish: 9,500,000 zloty. Kalish Municipal Charity Fund: 25,000 zloty. Wall built around the cemetery: 1,000,000 zloty. Zieradz folk: 100$. The Zdunska Wola Committee: 500$. Borochow Kibbutzim: 400,000 zloty. Kalish folk in Stockholm: 800,000 zloty. Children's Homes in Brussels: 10,000 francs.
World War I saw our home town of Kalish demolished. Most of the buildings had been shelled or set on fire by the Germans. The Jewish population fled and the economy of the town was entirely destroyed.
In the years 19191920, when the refugees returned to their town, they found its rehabilitation a very difficult task. Only those people who had no alternative and were unable to immigrate began rebuilding their homes under very difficult conditions. They laid the new foundations for commerce and industry. But there were large sections of the population, particularly among the youth, who could not see opportunities of making a satisfactory living and decided to immigrate. Those who did not have relatives in the United States or money for a ticket, immigrated to Germany and with great difficulty established themselves there. A few joined the Halutz Movement and immigrated to Eretz Israel. But the majority of those who left chose to immigrate to the United States. And so it came about that between the years 19211924 there was a considerable immigration of Kalish Jews to the United States.
The social integration of the newcomers was difficult. It is true, of course, that each person established contact with the existing Societies and Fraternal Organizations according to his individual preference and social flair.
It appeared as though the activities of the Organizations of former Kalish residents were insufficient for the ‘newcomers’. In 1928 the idea of founding a new society for Social Aid was aired. This Society was also to look to the old home town which everybody regarded as their source and origin.
The Society for Social Assistance (Frein fuer Socialer Hilf) was founded at a ball given by Branch 244 of the Arbeiter Ring (Workers' Circle) in 1928 when the young new immigrants came together. They decided that for actual social welfare (sickness and unemployment) they would remain in the Organizations they belonged to. The new Society, however, would deal with cultural assistance to institutions in the Old Home.
Before leaving Kalish we had witnessed the rise of secular Jewish schools and the financial difficulties which its founders, etc. faced. We, therefore, made up our minds to devote all of our assistance to these institutions and we were not in touch with other organizations. Our first President, Joseph Aronovitch (Joe Arnold) stated at the time that the Jewish school also served as a soup kitchen for hungry Jewish children. It was there that the child received a glass of milk, a roll and a plate of soup; for where there is no bread, there is no study. All the members of the Committee agreed with him.
The Society supported all secular Jewish schools in Kalish no matter what their parties for close to six years.
In 1934 we decided to extend our activities. There was a permanent economic crisis in Poland. Jewish artisans and market travellers were being
pushed out of their unsteady employment. The Jewish labourers were also out of work and tried their luck at peddling, or else depended on assistance from elsewhere. The various professional societies and the managements of the Jewish schools asked us to extend our assistance.
At the close of the Day of Atonement, we gathered at the shop of Joe Arnold. The following took part: Mendel Mansfield, Yohanan Yaakov Heber, Shmaaya Wartski, Yehuda Aharon Brockman, Wolf Zivush, Peretz Walter, Sam Oscar and Leizer Zolty. It was unanimously decided to found a nonpolitical Aid Society of exKalish folk whose name would be: Umparteisher Kalisher Relief (nonpartisan).
We suggested that an impartial committee to be founded in Kalish which would contain all trends and professional societies. This body would receive the relief funds from us. The people of Kalish agreed to our suggestion and the Committee was active until the outbreak of the war.
During the first twenty months of our work we mainly assisted kindergartens and schools, some of which were attended by the children of our sisters and brothers. By the beginning of 1936, however, we extended our activities.
Our organizational basis grew wider. All the landsmanshaftn of New York and the vicinity joined us. We also established contact with other mutual aid organizations which existed in Kalish. We assisted the Market Travellers Section which was affiliated to the Society of Small Merchants and founded the Gemilut Hessed Fund of the Society, the Moshav Zekenim (Old Age Home), and the Society of Artisans, the Societies of the Weavers, Porters and Coachmen. With our aid, the Society of Food Workers with its two sections of butchers and bakers set up cooperative workshops for its unemployed members. In the years 1936 and 1939, we also sent food and parcels to help needy families at Passover.
Once the Jews really began to feel the organized economic boycott of the Polish reactionaries, a company was formed in town for the encouragement of craftsmanship and farming among the local Jews. We immediately responded to their plea and helped bring a change to the dislocated sections of society.
The four years preceding the destruction were years of considerable assistance in all fields of life in Kalish. We wish to enumerate the organizations with which we were in touch and the names of the persons who contacted us in the names of these organizations:
We assisted Jews that had been expelled from Germany and whom the Polish Government refused to readmit and were kept in the Zbonszin Camp. Some of them were from Kalish.
During the war we did not suspend activities and supported the general War Funds and the Jewish Assistance Organizations: Joint, HIAS, ORT, Passover Aid, The Federation of Polish Jews, The Red Cross, the Jewish War Appeal, etc. We assisted the Kalish folk who reached Teheran with the Polish Army through the World Jewish Congress. We realized the significance of our help from the numerous letters we received from them.
When the war ended, we found out that our Kalish brethren were dispersed all over the world and were in great need. Our brethren in France, who had been fairly prosperous, were now displaced persons and homeless. Many of them came back from Germany, from hidingplaces in France, from the Maquis. There were Jewish children in Christian homes and in monasteries and homes had to be found for them. Polish Jews too began swarming to Paris, among them Jews from Kalish people from Kalish who had just emerged from underground bunkers, travelled hitherandthither on immigrant ships together with partisans and people from the camps. Some of these immigrants were taken to Cyprus by the British. Transports of Jews returned to Poland from the U.S.S.R. entirely destitute.
There was no time to waste on methods of assistance. The members of the Relief Committee were, at that time: Joseph Arnold, Chairman; Milton Mansfield, Peretz Walter, Becky Prashker, Lottie Lishow, David Tiger, Leizer Zolty, the late Pinhas Greenwald, Israel Glovinski, I.I. Heber, Hershel Arkush, Israel Diamant, Kalman Aronovitch, H. Okonowsky and Y. Shurek, Secretary. We realized that quite apart from immediate help, we had to provide constructive assistance and for this purpose, we must rely on progressive forces in the countries where our brethren were residing.
In 1945, we announced that we were starting a $25,000 drive. That year, we sent parcels to France and Belgium. When the town of Kalish was liberated
we sent ordinary food parcels, Passover parcels and clothes to our brethren there.
When the first representative of Polish Jewry, Dr. Joseph Tannenbaum, went to Poland, we sent Kalish the first $3000 and we immediately began preparing for the trip of our own envoy, namely our Chairman Joseph Arnold, one of whose tasks was to organize constructive assistance.
Joseph Arnold's trip to Europe has a special article devoted to it in this volume. On our behalf, he distributed a total of $41,000 in Poland, France, Sweden and Belgium, to organizations and private persons. We would like to note two outstanding points in his activities on this trip: In Poland and France, special organizational institutions were set up for our townsmen whose function was to prevent political feuding and personal misunderstandings. He also saw to it that some of the money was used for constructive purposes: namely, the Cooperative workshops which were then set up and the pioneer Kibbutz named after Abraham Diamant. Indeed, his trip was acclaimed both among our own people and in the circles of the Polish Government.
The assistance we gave to refugees in Cyprus also merits a special chapter. Apart from the considerable financial help, we maintained a lively correspondence to encourage them in their national purpose.
We began activities in 1947 with a deficit of $13,000. The days of wartime prosperity were over for us but we maintained activities in all fields.
We continued supporting people in the Displaced Persons' Camps in Germany Austria and Italy and in the Kalish Institutions of France and Cyprus. At about the same time, a group of refugees reached Oswego, New York. We sent them some assistance and also a special delegation: Joseph Arnold, Israel Diamant, Max Smollin and others.
Here we wish to quote some figures on our activities in 1947: We sent $4000 to Poland; $800 to Cyprus; $1700 to France; loans to people who left the camps to the amount of $450. To camps and Training Kibbutzim in Germany and Italy, we sent hundreds of parcels to a value of $2500.
For this purpose, we had help of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Relief. They helped a great deal in local activities; preparing for major appeals; collecting advertisements for our Yearbook; preparing our traditional joint festival celebrations, etc. Their activities contributed a great deal to the success of the occasions and added a charm and beauty of their own.
In 1955 the activities of the exKalish townsfolk in Israel were resumed and the renewed society of Irgun Olei Kalish Vehaseviva was established. The Relief responded to a request from the Organization and immediately helped them found a Gemilut Hessed Fund which is still active and has branches in TelAviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. We regarded these funds as very important for we were aware of the hardships an immigrant had to encounter at every stage of absorption in a new country.
During this period, the idea of commemorating our destroyed Kehilla was taking shape. This, it was decided, was to be done by the erection of a
building in Israel which would serve as a social centre for all Kalish folk throughout the world. The Relief initiated a meeting of all friends and organizations. Sam and Golda Prashker suggested holding a gathering at their home and expense. The participation fee was $100 and the entire income of $25,000 was donated to this purpose. To our great regret, the plan could not be carried out immediately owing to the needs of the rescued brethren. But a few years later, the house was indeed built in TelAviv with the active assistance of the Chairman, Joseph Arnold and many members. The Kalish House in TelAviv has now become the focus for all our active members and all visitors to Israel.
The Relief responded to a request by the Organization to plant ten thousand trees in Israel in The Forest of Martyrs of Kalish and its Vicinity; a section of the large Martyrs' Forest which the Jewish National Fund planted in the hills of Jerusalem.
The Relief has been publishing a Yearbook since 1942. This contains historical material and current reports of its own activities and those of organizations of Kalish folk in Israel and elsewhere. The first editors of this Yearbook were: The late Jacob Kaner and the late Shmuel Margolis. It is now being edited by the writer Menashe Unger.
The Relief Committee, the Committee of the Kalish Martyrs' Forest and the Committee of The Kalish Book hold a yearly memorial service for the dead of the city. This service brings together all exKalish residents in the United States.
The Relief takes part in the activities of the Committee for the Kalish Book which will serve as memorial to the creative work and lives of the Jews of Kalish.
The Relief holds a banquet each year which brings the people of Kalish and their friends together again and enables them to spend an evening in the atmosphere of the Old Home. During this banquet there is fund raising for the funds of the Relief.
These varied, productive activities have been possible thanks only to the devotion of many exKalish folk in the United States. Each individual dedicates his time and money to the aid work and regards his activities as a holy task. For lack of space, we are unable to name all of them. We shall, therefore, only mention the most active members of the Relief who have given life and soul to these good deeds for many, many years: Joseph Aronovitch (Arnold), Chairman; Pauline Arnold, Jacob Arkosh, Hershel Arkush, Sam Oscar, H. Okonowsky, the late M. Beatus, Abraham and Fella Bedel, Glowinsky, the late Pinhas Greenwald, the late Z. Gollawsky, Yeshayahu Goldberg, Israel and Sadie Diamond, the late Yohanan Heber and his wife, long may she live, Shmaya Wartski, Moshe Walter, Samuel Wittkower, Perez Walter, the late L. Zolty, I. Sachs, the late David Tiger, the late H. Yoffe, Mrs. L. Lishay, the late M. Mansfield, Max and Marie Smolin, Mrs. Piedzanek, the late Noah Perle and his wife Frania, long may she live, Sam and Golda Prashker, Wolf Tsivush, A.S. Klaper, the late N. Kahn, Sam and Janet Okladek, the late Michael Kempin, Shmuel and Yasha Roth, Israel and Hava Shurek.
Throughout these years, the secretaries of the
organization have been: Paul Walter, Kalman Aronovitch and Israel Shurek.
We are happy to have some of the original members still continuing with the good work to this very day. They are: Joseph Arnold, President; Abraham Bandel, Chairman; Pauline Arnold, Secretary; Sam Okladek, Financial Secretary; Peretz Walter, Israel Diamond, Treasurer. Members of the Executive are: Jenny Okladek, Max and Marie Smolin; Yasha and Shmuel Roth, Hershel Arkush, Sam Beyrack, Sadie Diamond, Nahum Medina, Jacob Levy, Ludwig Walter and Paula Bandel.
The idea of commemorating the memory of the Martyrs of Kalish struck roots in our hearts. When the Israel Knesset called for trees in memory of the murdered millions, we too responded. At the same time, the Appeal of the Organization reached us. This is why a large United Committee was set up for planting The Forest of the Kalish Martyrs.
The committee members in New York were: Joseph Arnold, Chairman; Sam Beyrack, second Chairman; Kalman Aronovitch, Secretary; Mortis Walter, Treasurer; Lena Friedman, Secretary; Israel Shurek, Financial Secretary; Hershel Arkush, A. Bandel, M. Duel, I. Diamond, M. Friedman, Shia Goldberg, A. Krotowsky, A. Lubelsky, A. Miedzinsky, S. Okladek, Mrs. S. Piedshank, Samuel Roth, S. Rakowsky, H. and I. Shurek, M. Smolin, S. Weingarten and P. Walter.
The following bodies promised their support: Kalisher Bruder Ferein, Isidore Pile, President; Kalisher Young Men's Arbeiter Ring, Branch 241, H. Klarman, Chairman; Kalisher Independent, Waxman, Chairman.
The Committee started its activities on January 18, 1953 by sending out letters and circulars to exKalish folk in America. Meetings were held, both large and small, both public and in the private homes of members; and speeches were held explaining the cause. The members donated willingly. At the Memorial Meetings the fund raising went on and the results were satisfactory.
The exKalish folk in America took part in the planting of the Forest as well as the Memorial Services held in Israel. Members of the delegations were: Joseph Arnold, Morris Walter, Kalman Aronovitch, Sam Bayrack, Israel Diamant, Paul Walter, Hershel Arkush and others.
One of the commemorative actions is the Kalish House in TelAviv. Apart from its being the World Centre for Kalish Jewry, the house will contain books, pictures, documents and anything pertaining to the Kalish Kehilla.
An additional activity is the publication of the Kalish Book. Let us mention that the initiative came from Polish and French Kalish folk. Yehiel Grinspan of Paris and Itzhak Kletchewsky began to collect material, pictures and documents and wrote articles on the social institutions of the town. Grinspan contacted members in the United States and was assisted by the members Saltzman, Makowsky and others.
In 1957, joint steps were taken by the Kalish Societies in Israel and the United States. The Committee organized activities, held meetings and gatherings, maintained constant contact with Book Committees in Canada, France, Brazzaville, Uruguay, Australia and in particular with the Israel Committee.
It also assisted in locating data, pictures and the publication rights of the works of Arthur Szyk. The Committee has helped in raising funds for the publishing of the book.
These three enterprises are an important contribution to the memory of Jewish Kalish.
In conclusion, we have summed up the varied activities of the Relief during the past thirty years. These have been like a message to all our dispersed brethren. The facts and figures show the sense of brotherhood in individuals and our public.
Before the deluge of blood, we found creative joy in our work through rehabilitating cultural and educational institutions. After the Holocaust, all our efforts were concentrated on assisting those who survived the gaschambers and the camps. When war ended, we set out to help the few survivors and tried to do the best we could.
At the same time, we remained true to the principle of the revival of the people of Israel and helped the immigrants, the pioneers and the defenders of the State of Israel.
We proudly conclude that during days of sadness and joy, we stood together with our people. Our welfare activities may be noted as part of the total assistance activities that followed the Holocaust. We make our contribution in all urgency and loyalty.
by Kalman Aronovitch
Like all immigrants from Easter Europe who began to arrive in the United States during the seventies and eighties of the 19th century, the Jews of Kalish came to know the meaning of loneliness in their new homeland. There were various reasons for their departure from their old hometown: economic crisis, Polish animosity, unwillingness to serve in the Tzar's army, etc. Once they were in the New World, they missed their families and homeland. Integration in the new country was not easy. Many hoped that their stay in the new land was only temporary and that once they had managed to save a few dollars they would return… But as the years went by, and the changes of return grew fewer, these ‘greenhorns’ began looking for townsmen who were better acclimatized in order to provide one another with mutual aid of all kinds.
In those days, life in New York was very difficult. A man had to work 1416 hours a day in order to make a living. At times, he even had to carry his machine on his back in search of work which was not always plentiful. Even people who had been labourers and artisans in Easter Europe found it difficult to get used to the conditions of the sweatshop, which were very different from the conditions they had been accustomed to in their former homes.
It was this need to find a foothold and support which gave rise to the first Landsmanshaftn in the United States. To our great regret there are no documents dealing with the first Kalish Society. The majority of its members have already passed away and the remaining few do not recall the details. There is, however, more information about the later societies.
The Kalish Lodge
We have found out from former Kalish residents who have been living many decades in the United States that the first association of people from Kalish was founded in 1870. It was named: American Kalisher and later Kalisher Lodge. This association was formed in the style of secret fraternal lodges and was conducted with all the ceremonies of the secret lodges.
When a meeting of the American Kalisher was opened, Outer Guards were placed in front of the entrance. They wore a strange uniform. Inner Guards were placed in the hall. When a stranger wanted to attend the meeting, the Outer Guard informed the Inner Guard by signalling through knocks at the door. A crack was then opened and the stranger's desire was brought to the attention of the president. If the president agreed to his entry, the Guards led the stranger around the table in the centre of the room before he was conducted to the officers of the Lodge. Admission of new members was accompanied by ceremonies and oaths.
This association did assist the Kalish Jews to a certain extent.
The Kalish Bruder Ferein (Fraternal Union)
This Society was formed in Harlem, New York in 1887 when most of the inhabitants of Harlem were Jews. In 1962 the Society celebrated its 75th anniversary. The society maintained contact with the Kehilla in Kalish and from time-to-time sent donations which were intended for welfare purposes. They had their own synagogue and to this day possess two private cemeteries.
The wives of the members formed a branch of the society by the name of The Kalisher Sisterhood and were active in the mobilization of help for people of Kalish in the United States and in the old homeland.
Of the founders and active members, we know of Zigmunt Galewsky, the President, Pile and others most of whom have passed away. The active members today are: Wittkover, Kauffman and others. Most of the present members are second and third generation Americans and to our regret they show little interest in other persons of Kalish origin, either in the United States or in Israel.
The Kalisher Progressive Young Men
The first meeting of the Society took place in 1904 at the home of Abraham Wolkovitch on Second Avenue, New York. In 1909, Wolkowitch and his family returned to Kalish. He was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto with his wife and his sons Sam and David. Abraham Wolkowitch was an active member of Poalei Zion and took part in the social life of the city and in community work.
Most of the members of the Society were young people, many of whom had escaped military service. Some of them were political refugees who had fled from Siberia or the Tzar's prisons. They included members of the Bund, Social Democrats, and members of S.S., P.P.S., Zionists and Poalei Zion. These young men were unable to integrate in existing societies because of their opinions so they formed their own society.
The founders were: Sam Berke, Abraham Weiss, Moshe Walter, Kuyavski, Joe Kott, Jay Prashker, the late N. Kahn, the late Glatstein and others. Sam Segal was their secretary.
The purpose of the Society was: - supporting each new immigrant from Kalish; assistance in finding work and sending aid to Kalish. When the number of members of the Society grew, it was suggested that they join the Arbeiter Ring. On April 11, 1911, the Society joined the Arbeiter Ring as Branch 241. The secretary then was Sam Kauffman.
Arbeiter Ring, Branch 241
In its new image, the Society went its own way. Its members leaned towards Zionism whereas the Arbeiter Ring was then very much under the influence of the Bund. The leadership of the Branch did its best to include national and Zionist issued in its lecture programme in addition to issues concerning socialism. The Branch also supported various Kalish institutions and sent help to schools there.
During its first years the Society numbered over 200 members. Eventually, the membership grew smaller until there were only thirty old members in 1961. After the death of its secretary, Chaver Glatstein, the branch united with the Lodz Branch and today goes under the name of Lodzer Kalisher Kreis Branch Numer 36.
The United Mutual Assistance Committee of Kalish Organizations
After World War I, the United Mutual Assistance Committee for Kalish Jews was founded in New York.
All the organizations which then existed in the United States joined this United Committee. The latter sent out a public appeal to all ex-Kalishers in America to support their townsmen. The answer was $3000 which was given to the emissary of Polish Jewry, Dr. Rosenblatt of Lodz.
An Inter-Party Committee was formed in Kalish for the distribution of the Relief funds and was active until 1930?
Kalisher Independent Society
After a few years, a number of members headed by Sam Berke, Joseph Kott, Max Meiner and other members of the Progressive Young Men left the Arbeiter Ring because of ideological differences of opinion. They formed their own organization which they named: Kalisher Independent Society. Their secretary was Philip Weiss. In 1940 they took over the cemetery at Mount Moriah in New Jersey. They organized cultural activities, lectures and trips. When the Relief was established in New York, they joined its Committee.
The Society is active to this day. It takes part in Jewish social activities and supports them. It also supports HIAS, the Histadrut, the U.J.A., the Jewish National Fund, etc. The second and third generations still participate in this work. The following members still continue to be active: Sam Berke, Max Meiner, Joseph Brilliant, Roth and others. They are headed by the persons who founded the Society some thirty-odd years ago. The active public worker, Sam Berke acts as President.
Kalisher Social Ferein
In winter 1928, a group of ex-Kalish people founded the Kalisher Social Ferein. Most of the members had immigrated after World War I.
The initiators and founders were: Peretz Walter, Yehuda Aharon Brotman, Wolf Ziewush, Joseph Aronovitch (Arnold), Yaakov Yohanan Heber and others. These, together with their wives, met at the home of Joseph Arnold for prior discussions and in 1929 the Society was officially founded. At first they numbered 15 persons but in due course they grew to 100 members.
The aim of the Society was the support of secular Jewish schools in Kalish, the Borochow School and others. They also set up a Mutual Loan Fund for assisting needy members. It should be remembered that a year or two later, a major economic crisis began in the United States. Many members were in dire need. The Fund sold shares of $25 each and every shareholder was entitled to receive a loan.
The Society also held a theatrical performance in the cellar of Joseph Arnold's home, entitled: The Man beneath the Table. The benefits from this show were sent to Kalish. Wolf Ziewush and his wife, Noskievitch of Zdunska-Wola and others took part in this show.
In 1935 the Society terminated its independence and became Branch 265 of the Internationaler Arbeiter Orden 'I.W.O.' Apart from relief work, there were also cultural activities: lectures and meetings with authors and cultural workers.
After World War II, a number of members demanded that they should withdraw from the Order. In 1955 the Government closed down the Order and the Social Ferein became independent once again. It has retained its character and functions to this very day.
The Social Ferein is represented in the Relief and supports it and its members have been active in it since it was first founded. The Society has its own cemetery at Mount Lebanon in New Jersey as well as its private Sick Fund.
Kalisher Un Umgegent Landsmanschaft Fun Nei Gekumene
After the destruction of Europe, new immigrants from Kalish and the vicinity began to arrive in the United States. They were people who had escaped from the camps and the gas-chambers and also partisans and exiles from Russia. All these newcomers needed the assistance of the Relief. Their common fate: - they had lost families and relatives in most cases made them seek one
another out in order to pour forth their hearts and help themselves in integrating into the new life. Aronowitch gathered these members to a meeting on January 14, 1951 at the Borochow Centre, 216 East 14 Street where a founding committee was elected. Its members were: Kalman Aronowitch, Joseph Lubelsky, Sam Krakowsky, Avraham Krotowsky, G. Meisner and others. The committee decided to found a society which was named Kalisher un Umgegent Landsmanschaft fon Nei-Gekumene (Newcomers from Kalish and the Vicinity).
The aim of the Society was: Maintain social contact, upkeep of the tradition of the older Societies of Kalish; active participation in the work of the Relief and assisting national and cultural Jewish life in the United States. Monthly meetings were held for discussing various subjects; a tradition of Hanukkah parties was established and the Banquet of the Society was set for Purim. On this occasion, funds were collected for the U.J.A. and Israel and were forwarded through the Relief. The Society also took an active part in the connection with the Martyrs' Forest and the Kalish Book. Sam Rakowsky, the Chairman; G. Meisner, Secretary and the committee members: L. Mintz, M. Weintraub, R. Wolnikov, A. Yachimowitch and others, were particularly active in these respects.
At one time, there were differences of opinion among the members. Some held that the Society should restrict itself to being a fraternal organization without taking part in national activities. In 1960, a group of members suggested that they join the Arbeiter Ring. This suggestion was taken up and the society became: Arbeiter Ring Branch 361. Upon the union with the Arbeiter Ring, a number of members left the Society. The Branch now has a few dozen members. They meet regularly and hold their annual banquet on Purim. The Chairman of the Branch is J. Lubelsky and the Secretary is G. Meisner.
Seated: l. to r: Sam Berke, Israel Diamant Treasurer, Paulin Arnold Secretary, Joseph Arnold President, Samuel Okladek Financial Secretary, Jeanette Okladek and Jacob Levy
Not in the photograph: Hershel and Regina Arkush, Rebecca Walter, Sarah Heber, Ida Berke and Helen Levy
Seated. L. to r: Paula Brooks, Leah Levy, Max Levy, Max Brooks, Aryeh Kwiatkovsky, Ruth Linch, Nahum Linch and Sala Shmerling
Not in the photograph: Ezekiel Joseph Margolis
There is no information about Kalish townsfolk in Australia at the beginning of the 20th century. It is true that the first immigrants arrived between 1900-1912 but their influence was not felt at all in local Jewish life.
It was in 1927 that a number of people from Kalish arrived chiefly by way of Eretz Israel. During those years the economic, cultural and spiritual conditions were very difficult. Each man sought for his townsfolk in his loneliness. Between 1927 and 1939, about ten families arrived direct from Kalish. Closer contact between the Kalish townsfolk was immediately established.
A small group of landsleit headed by Feivel Yedwab, the oldest of the settlers, established the Kalish Landsmanshaftn in 1944 with the purpose of assisting those townsfolk who were still alive. When news was received through the Jewish Agency and other sources that there were still living Jews in the city, we took steps to obtain entry permits for them and received 150 in the course of three months. At the same time, we sent large quantities of food packets, clothes and blankets to Poland through the HIAS.
Not all the Jews of Kalish made use of the permits. Some of them settled in Sweden, America, Israel and elsewhere. For those who came to join us, we provided as much help as we could. If we take into account the difficult material situation of the first Kalish people in this country, we can recognize how much effort was involved in their help.
When the Jewish Committee ceased activities in Kalish, our help also stopped. We had some money on hand so we sent it to the Red Magen David in Tel-Aviv.
The Kalish townsfolk displayed no particular activity after that until 1949 when a new wave of immigration began bringing with it fresh needs and functions. Activities were then renewed. Newcomers were helped to find work, homes and loans. With our aid almost all of them succeeded in settling down. We still continue to receive requests for entry permits and the Committee complies as best it can.
There are now many Kalish townsfolk in Australia, chiefly in Melbourne. The Kalish Centre in Melbourne is known for its communal and cultural activities. Towards the end of November every year more than a hundred townsfolk meet for a Commemoration evening. Every year a large party is held which serves as a social meeting and increases the resources of the Committee. The Centre also participates in the activities of the United Appeal to which it devotes a special evening party. Over the years, family parties and joint rambles and hikes have been held. The General Meeting elects the Executive and the Committees for Immigration, Relief, and Help in finding apartments and work.
The Melbourne Centre has also helped to set up a Landsmanshaftn in Sidney which, it may be added, is the only one of its kind in that city. Within a brief period of time, it has already infused a spirit of life into the second largest Jewish Community in Australia where communal and cultural activities were almost non-existent.
We are very interested in all Jews from Kalish, particularly those now in Israel. We maintain contact with the survivors remaining in Kalish and with those wandering all over the world.
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