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[Page 207]

The Way Of Life

 

Community institutions, welfare, economy and neighborly relations

(According to publications in Mazowsza District calendar,
1934 – Kalendarz–informator Mazowsza Plockiego)

Translated by Sara Mages

Institutions and Organizations in Plock in 1934

Vaad Hakehila: chairman – L. Kilbert; vice chairman – H. Licht; members of the board – HaRav Eidelberg, Dr. H. Bromberger, L. Brigrat, Y. Galewski, Y. German, H. Schilis, P. Walart.

Community Council: chairman – Y. Nagel; vice chairman – Y. Turkeltaub; council members: Y. Aszkenazi, Dr. Y. Feinberg, D. Karnak, A. Karber, G. Lifshitz, Y. Lipfeld, V. Szperling, L. Szimanask, Y. Zilberberg, D. Zworek; council's secretary – Eliyahu Wolf Zilberberg.

Association of Merchants: chairman – Alfred Bligh; vice chairman – Dr. Henrik Bromberger.

Craftsmen's Organization: chairman –Y. Dumb; vice chairman – L. Brigrat; secretary – Y. Turkeltaub.

Homir” Library: chairman of the board – Yakov Konig.

Asylum for the elderly and the handicapped: guardian – Yakov Yosef Glowinski.

Orphanage: committee's chairperson – Mrs. Paulina Altberg.

Tipat Halav” [“Milk for Babies”] Committee: Heads of the committee – Mrs. Lifschitz and Mrs. Kowalska.

The association “Supporters of the Poor”: chairman – Michael Rubinstein.

The association “Gemilut Hasadim”: chairman Hanoch Szilit.

 

Jewish associations of craftsmen (“Tzechim”)

Tinsmiths – head of the association: Yeshayahu Rosenberg.

Barbers – head of the association: Julius Dumb.

Tailors – head of the association: Avraham Gratner.

Bakers and confectioners – head of the association: Eliezer Brigard.

Butchers – head of the association: Yona Lubernicki.

Carpenters – head of the association: Yitzchak Turkeltaub.

Shoemakers – head of the association: Shlomo Taub.

Locksmiths, Blacksmiths and boiler manufacturers – head of the association: Chaim Mordechai Zig.


[Page 208]

Plock (Warsaw District)

(Published in “Almanac of the Jewish communities in Poland ” Warsaw 1939
– “Almanac Gmin Zydowskich in Posce,” – Warszawa 1939)

Translated by Sara Mages

The population of Plock now numbers about 35,000 and from that the number of Jews is about 9,000, meaning, 22 percent.

In the elections to Vaad Hakehila, which took place on 5 December 1937, were elected: Kilbert Levek (Agudah) – chairman, Dr. Henrik Brumberger Henrik (Zionist) – vice chairman, HaRav Eidelberg Mordechai, Brigard Leizer (craftsman), Galewski Yosef (Zionist), German Yitzchak Leib (Agudah), Cohen Yitzchak Meir (Agudah), Hanoch Szilit (Mizrachi), Wolrat Pesach (craftsman).

The council consists of 14 members and from them 4 craftsmen, 3 from “Agudah,” 3 Zionists and 2 from “Mizrachi.” The council's chairman is Yakov Nagal (Agudah), t vice council is Yitzchak Turkeltaub (craftsman).

The office of Vaad Hakehila is under the leadership of Mr. Eliyahu Zilberberg (as of 1932). The community property: the Great Synagogue built over 300 years, a small synagogue, founded by Danziger and existed for a 100 years (Nachum Sokolov studied there among others), a hospital founded by Yitzchak Fugel, asylum for the elderly and the handicapped named after the Platao couple, Talmud–Torah named after Y. Kirstein, an orphanage, slaughterhouse for the poultry,

 

Plo208.jpg
Lejb (Levek) Kibert

[Page 209]

a mikveh, new and old cemetery, room for ritual washing of the dead, a lot received for the benefit of the association “Gemilut Hasadim” according to the will of General Dombrowaska's wife z”l.

The rabbi is Mr. Mordechai Eidelberg. The community also employs: 3 slaughterers, a cantor, 4 teachers, 2 gravediggers and more. The teaching staff at Talmud–Torah numbers 7 people. The school principal is Y. Aszkenazi.

The annual budget of the community is 125,000 zloty. The revenues are: community taxes (“Hatat”) 47,000 zloty, the income from the synagogues 3,000 zloty, from slaughtering 30,000, from the cemetery 6,000 zloty, from the association “Gemilut Hasadim” 1,500 zloty, from wills 2,000 zloty, from real estate assets 4,000 zloty. The number of taxpayers is 808 and payments start from 5 to 1,400 zloty.

The community's expenses are: administration (office workers, mikveh, slaughterers, pension, maintenance of buildings and social insurance) 61,000 zloty. The community education network 10,000 zloty. Social welfare (support for the holidays, coverage the hospital's deficit, orphanage, asylum for the elderly, etc.) 15,000 zloty. The community gives grants to: private religious schools 4,000 zloty, charitable organizations (“Ezrat Cholim,” “Tipat Halav,” Child care Association and more) 4,000 zloty.

 

Plo209a.jpg
A Samson, Chief cantor of the Synagogue

 

The Jewish Hospital named after Yitzchak Fugel

Shmueli (Plutzer)

Translated by Sara Mages

In 1926, about seven years after the establishment of independent Poland, the Jewish public in Plock was able to re–open its hospital which was established in the 1870s by a donation from the Fugel family and won the support and appreciation of the Jewish population. [1] The activity of the hospital, whose building was located at 7 Misjonarska Street, was halted after the city was conquered by the Germans in 1916. They confiscated the building for their own needs and ordered the Jewish residents to hospitalize their sick at the General Polish Hospital named after the Holy Trinity.

After the departure of the Germans, and the establishment of Polish rule, the buildings were returned to the hands of Vaad Hakehila and since then efforts have been made to renew the activity of the Jewish Hospital which was absolutely necessary because the Polish institution did not have adequate conditions for the hospitalization of observant Jews.

For the purpose of implementing this plan a special committee was set up under the leadership of Raphael Plonsker and, finally, in 1926, the institution was reopened. It contained 35 beds, operating room, room for radiation with quartz lamps, outpatient clinic (free of charge) and first–aid room. In addition to the general ward a maternity ward also opened at the same time.

The Public Committee, which took care of all the institution's affairs, included a number of well known public figures. Among them: Rafael Plonskier (chairman), Efraim David Alberg, Yitzchak Kowadlo, Kalman Lejb Kilbert, Yosef Galewski and more. The medical team was composed of: Dr. Bresler, Dr. Kadish, Dr. Prankowsky (Polish doctor who was very popular with the Jewish population) and Dr. Marinstrauss. The team of doctors was headed by Dr. Y. Feinberg.

The hospital's administrative director was Binyamin Luszinski. Mrs. Bina

 

Plo209b.jpg
The Jewish Hospital

[Page 210]

Yochevd Plutzer was employed as household manager. Hela Guterman, Regina Madelion, Basia Gecel and Sara Hazan worked as nurses. Yehusua and Sara Rosenfeld worked as orderlies. Mr. Chana Paloch worked for a while as the kitchen manager.

The frequent economic crises, which afflicted the Jewish population of Plock, left their mark on the hospital and often it was very difficult to cover the institution's deficits which were usually covered by the coffer of Vaad Hakehila if it had the means to do so. However, it should be emphasized that the hospital survived and developed thanks to the loyalty of its staff and devotion of the Public Committee that headed it. Despite its meager equipment it managed to maintain a proper medical level and had a reputation not only among the Jewish population because, sometimes, also Christian patients knocked on its doors. From time to time serious surgeries were performed by visiting doctors, among them the famous Warsaw surgeon, Dr. Grabber, as well as doctors from the Polish Hospital in Plock,

The religious atmosphere characterized the Jewish Hospital in Plock and as soon as it was reopened the association, “Mishmorim,” also renewed its activities. Its activists sat every night next to the beds of the seriously ill to serve a hot drink and help as needed. In this way the beautiful tradition of volunteerism, which existed in the first period of the institution, continued. From among the duties of this association was also the care for the synagogue that was located in the hospital. Prayers were held there on the Sabbath and on holidays. At the head of “Mishmorim” stood the activists – Hersh Yakov Zilberberg, Hersh Licht and Laks. During the Holiday of Passover a proper Seder was held at the hospital. At the head of the table sat R' Shmuel Yona Plutzer and the patients sat around him. The kitchen was strictly kosher and this allowed the hospitalization of all Jews, even among the ultra–orthodox, and it happened that the rabbi himself was hospitalized there.

The value of the Jewish hospital in the area of social assistance for the needy was great. Patients, of the poor, received treatment without charge and many of them were hospitalized for long periods of time.

The Nazis, after invading Plock, immediately liquidated the Jewish management and opened an emergency room and infectious diseases department. Nevertheless, the Jewish staff continued to work and more than once Jewish activists, who were wanted by the Nazis, found refuge in the hospital disguised as patients. Among those who were hidden was the Rabbi of Eypin, R' Neta Nutkevitch, who stayed there for about a month and a half until he was able to escape to Warsaw.

The hospital was liquidated at the end of 1940 and its patients transferred to the Old People Asylum in Dobrzynska Street.

 

Plo210.jpg
Physicians and nurses of the Jewish Hospital, 1930

Seated: Nurses – Madlion, Rozenfeld, Plutzer. Physicians – Dr. Kadish, Dr. Bresler, Dr. Feinberg, Dr. Prankowsky. Binyamin Luszinski
Nurse – S. Hazan. Fledsher Rozenfeld (standing)

 


Translator's Footnote

  1. About the hospital in the period before the First World War see Chapter 1 pages 55, 106,119. Return


[Page 211]

Ezrat Cholim

(Published in “Almanac of the Jewish communities in Poland ” Warsaw 1939

Translated by Sara Mages

The association “Ezrat Cholim” [help for the sick] existed in Plock throughout the years and enjoyed the support of Vaad Hakehila even though most of its income came from contributions and anonymous donations. The peak period in the association's activities occurred during the first years of the reopening of the Jewish Hospital in Plock, meaning, as of 1926. At the beginning of 1928 a festive assembly was held at the Municipal Theater and all the proceeds were dedicated to “Ezrat Cholim.” The assembly's artistic program was very diverse. Rosenthal and Burstein played Schubert's works, B. Fenigsztajn and Y. Gunsher performed a number of humorous monologues by Shalom Aleichem and others, and Tonkeller's “Diamonds” skit was presented with the participation of Y. Gunsher, L. Yagoda and L. Prosak. The highlight of the evening was the appearance of the child prodigy, Yisrael Nishri, the nine year old xylophonist from Plock who performed Liszt's Rhapsody and other works on the xylophone.

The revenues from this assembly enabled the services of “Ch” for several months.

In 1934 stood at the head of the association: chairman-Yitzchak-Meir Zilberberg; vice chairman - Yakov Konigsberg.

The aid that “Ezrat Cholim” provided the needy was mainly expressed in the provision of medical assistance to poor patients, free medications and concern for the family in the event that its breadwinner was hospitalized. All the association's activists worked not for personal gain and played an important role in the independent social aid system developed by the Jews of the community.

And what was said about the members of charitable societies of the Jews of Warsaw (Dr. Reuven Ben-Shem, “Institutions of aid and charity,” Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora, Warsaw. Volume 1), undoubtedly applies to members of “Ezrat Cholim,” or to “Mishmurim” association in Plock:

…Every evening its members went to the Jewish hospitals. On their toes they entered the rooms. The patients had already fallen asleep. The visitors slid their hands carefully over the patients' beds and left all sorts of sweets on their tables: apples, oranges and such. In the morning, when the patient opened his eyes he saw that someone is worried and interested in him. Sometimes the doctors said that the secret visitors helped the sick more than the medicine… In Warsaw there were hundreds of such Jews. No one knew them. No one knew their name. They came from different circles. Among them were Hasidim with beards and sidelocks, students and public workers. And there were Jews dressed in European style and shaved clean. There were righteous women of the old type. Women engaged in mitzvoth and good deeds. And there were rich Jews and Jews who worked hard for a living. All were united in one idea: to help and be charitable... They helped and they knocked on the doors of the charitable, and they knocked on hard hearts. And they demanded, and they asked, and they rushed everywhere when they heard a voice calling for help… (There, page 595).

The Jewish Orphanage (”Ochronka“)

by G. Puk[1]

Translated by Sara Mages

I remember the house where I grew up, was educated, and from which I left for the wide world. It was the Jewish Orphanage in Plock whose Polish name was “Ochronka” (asylum). In the first years, after the First World War, the institution resided on 18 Dobrzynska Street where the pre-primary school was also located. The children of the poor were given lunch there. The principal was Miss. Kuzn.

In 1928 the institution moved to Zdunska Street and remained there until its liquidation by the Nazis.

I will try to remember all the Jewish women who over the years headed the institution and some of them even devoted their best efforts to it. The first was Mrs. Bligh after her came Mrs. Lifshitz that her son was later a famous doctor. The third was Mrs. Sarna (she lived in Warsaw under the name Scheiko) and was replaced by Mrs. Lutka Zilbernik. Of the last managers I remember Mrs. Jadwiga Zand (of the Levinson family in Warsaw) and when she suddenly passed away Mrs. Zlina Bugta came to us.

The number of children in the institution was always in the border of 32-36 and among them were a number of orphans who arrived to us from Warsaw. At first the institution was financed by the “Joint” and “TOZ.” Later, it was financed by Vaad Hakehila. The municipal council paid the sum of 30 zloty per month for each child they sent to the institution. However, despite all this, the expenses weren't covered and therefore it was necessary to organize performances in which the children of the institution appeared. From time to time there were also raffles with prizes and the tickets were sold in Jewish homes. The lack of funds has been felt at the nutritional level which wasn't usually very

[Page 212]

 

Plo212.jpg
The well known public worker, Mrs. Altberg,
with her daughter Emma, the piano player

high. In was also necessary to skimp on expenses for clothing even though the clothing storeroom enjoyed frequent donations.

The administration's main concern was cleanliness and, indeed, the rooms and the children always looked clean and polished. Every year, during the summer vacation, the children traveled to a rural residence in Mr. Lubraniecki's estate in the village of Amylin. These days were the happiest days for the children.

All the students of the institution attended the Jewish elementary school and after graduation they tried to teach them a profession so that they could be independent. Some were sent to ORT vocational schools and the most talented were given the opportunity to continue their studies in high school.

The well known public worker, Mrs. Altberg, took care of the institution for most of the years of its existence. The orphanage was the apple of her eye and she spared no effort to raise its level. She was to us, the children, like a mother to whom we turned at time of need. She will remain in our hearts as the symbol of a Jewish mother, devoted and caring, and as a symbol of the good in the human soul.

The fate of the institution's students, who were there at the time of the Nazi invasion, was the fate of all the Jews of Plock. Today only five remain alive and from them three in Israel, one in Poland and one in Russia.

 


Footnote

  1. G. Puk worked until the outbreak of the war in the Plock power station. During the war he volunteered for the Polish army in the Soviet Union and rose to the rank of lieutenant. As the commander of his company he was among the first to liberate Plock. For his excellence in the war he was decorated with five combat medals. He also participated in the battle for the conquest of Berlin. Return


“Charity will save from death”
(the image of a popular welfare activist)

by Halina Woitkowski Szlechter, source: Dina Berland

Translated by Sara Mages

There was no welfare or charitable institution in our city that R' Moshe Aaron[1] had no direct contact with. He was sort of an institution. He was not satisfied with collecting the help from others so he gave his own money, often anonymously, so as not to shame the needy and to fulfill the mitzvah not for personal gain.

His enthusiasm for action in the field of charity didn't grow at once. At first he dealt with charity as a Jew who sees it as the main mitzvah for, after all -“Repentance, Prayer and Tzedakah Avert the Severe Decree”… When he was still young he volunteered to the activities of the association “Mishmurim” that its members took upon themselves to visit the sick, to sit by their bed at night, serve them hot tea and helped them with their needs. R' Moshe Aaron was the youngest in the group and was at full strength. For this reason he was more able than others to devote hours of his sleep to look after the seriously ill in the Jewish Hospital. The members of “Mishmurim” were not satisfied with helping the patient alone, but also tried to help his family who remained without a breadwinner. R' Moshe Aaron had to provide food, heating materials and warm clothes for the patient's children. All this required a lot of effort, but he did not know fatigue until he provided everything.

As he grew older, and got married, he expanded the framework of his relief activities. Together with two other members he began to walk around the guests at weddings to raise money for the benefit of “Ezrat Kala” [help to the bride]. The money collected was intended for the daughters of the poor who had reached marriageable age but couldn't get a groom because of their parents' lack of money. However, the situation of the orphan girls, who were at the mercy of the general public, was much worse. And how would a Jewish girl get married when she doesn't have a dowry, even the poorest one? R' Moshe Aaron and his friends didn't just collect money, but always in favor of a specific and defined purpose. When they had accumulated a reasonable amount of money they handed it over to the loyal hands of the old matchmaker, Sara-Beila Makowska, who specialized in the matching of the children of the poor. She transferred the money to its destination and made sure that the couple would get married in accordance with law and custom without knowing where the money for the dowry, wedding expenses and even the first needs of the new family came from. Thus, with the help of “secret charity,” Jewish families were established and each of them later succeeded in life.

When the distress of the war came to the Jews of our city, R' Moshe Aaron turned from an amateur operator to one of the pillars of the aid providers to the needy. This activity filled the entire contents of his life and he tried to bring all his family and his surroundings into action. This happened under the influence of a horrific disaster: in those days refugee families from the capital, which was at that time under starvation and deprivation, began to arrive in our city. The Jews of our city were in a difficult situation, but welcomed the refugees warmly and shared everything with them. It was evident that this was the first time that most of the refugee families lived in distress and were not accustomed to enjoying the community's help… One morning there was a knock on R' Moshe Aaron's door and on the threshold stood a gentile acquaintance with a very frightened expression on his face. From his fragmentary sentences it turned out that he rented an apartment in his house to a family of refugees. They told him that there were once wealthy people, but the war improvised them completely until they were left destitute. For about a week now none of them have left their apartment, and it is not known what happened there. He asked that someone would come with him and check the situation maybe some help was needed… R' Moshe Aaron didn't wait a moment. He immediately called his neighbors into action and ran with them to the gentile's house. When they didn't get an answer to their knock on the door, they forced the door out of its hinges and then a terrible sight appeared. The bodies of the parents and their young son were already in a state of decay. The medical examination revealed that they had died of starvation because they had not gathered the strength to seek public aid and no one cared about their fate before it was too late.

From that day, R' Moshe Aaron decided to take the initiative into his hands. He realized that a welfare operation might not succeed if it was not directed to those who really needed it. In order to be among the facilitators of the community's aid policy he tried to be elected as a member of its institutions. He didn't let go, and didn't rest, until he was able to transfer the welfare activities to the right lines, that is, to ensure that the meager amounts at his disposal would be given to the most needy. In order to expand the welfare framework he organized a fundraiser and also influenced the donors to participate in the distribution of the aid to the homes of the poor. It was an effective means of opening the eyes of the affluent to see the plight of the poor and the destitute. He went down to cellars, went up to attics, and came into direct contact with the poor and their distress. More than once it happened that the poor were ashamed to receive the aid, and then he would inform them that it was not a hand out but a loan that they could repay. As proof, he wrote down the amount in the loan notebook that he always carried with him. His joy was great when someone returned the money months later, and even within years, because he knew then that the help had borne fruit and enabled the family to recover from its distress. R' Moshe Aaron's relief activities continued for many years in our city. He was elected as treasurer of “Gemilut Chasadim” and since then there has been a great improvement in its operations. He made sure that a large number of small shopkeepers and peddlers would enjoy the help of the fund because even a small loan could put them on their feet in time of need. Therefore, under his influence, they stopped giving large loans and focused on providing assistance to those who needed it the most. After the First World War, when clothing and food shipments arrived in our city from America, R' Moshe Aaron was the right person to oversee their distribution among those in need. And again, he walked for a long time among the dwellings of the poor to see for himself that the help would be given to those who really needed it and only to them…

He gave not only donations from others but in many cases, also from his own money. Almost nobody knew of this and even those who enjoyed his charity didn't know. When the Jewish Hospital was reopened he sent a crate of groceries to the kitchen storeroom.

On this occasion his wife sent a crate of bedding. When people asked why they had to send two separate crates, she replied that it was her own mitzvah and didn't want to mix it with her husband's.

When he approached the age of seventy, R' Moshe Aaron suffered general paralysis and was confined to his bed. Nevertheless, after a while his condition improved somewhat and he lived another four years. People say that he didn't stop helping the needy from his sickbed even though money wasn't in abundant in his home.

 


Footnote

  1. Details of R' Moshe Aaron Sedowka's life and activities were written by Hela Woitkowska Szlechter, source: Dina Berlan Return

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