« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 52]

Economic Life

Jewish Metropolitan City

by Arye Avatihi

Translation by Sara Mages

The city of Rovno was known for its special importance. Indeed, it is not as old as its sisters: Ostroh, Dubno, Lutsk, Kremenets and other old communities in Wolyn. Not its beauty, nor its unique style, differentiates it from other large cities in the Jewish Diaspora and also its personalities didn't exceed those in neighboring cities. Nevertheless, it was different among its sisters. The difference has been particularly noticeable in recent generations with the increase in the pace of its development from year to year due to various factors which changed its structure, composition and character in almost all fields. Anyone, who remembers the city half a century ago, from the Tsarist period, would agree that it deserves the crown of metropolis and, in fact, ancient Lutsk wasn't the main city of Wolyn, but rather Rovno, which is younger but more developed and advanced economically, publicly and socially.

Attracting population, especially Jews – was a prominent goal of the city. This phenomenon must certainly be attributed to the development of trade, which placed Rovno in line with the large and developed cities. Of all the populated towns in the vicinity people were drawn to Rovno to arrange their purchases and bring to it from the produce of the estates, villages and towns in the region for the purpose of importing the merchandise to the cities and abroad. For decades, Rovno was known as a trading city and a center for the export of lumber and forest products, grains, hops, fruit, eggs, dairy products, skins, soap, bricks and more, and also various rural handicrafts.

There were other important reasons to the growth of Rovno: its public approach to matters of the


Movement on The 3rd of May Street (Shossejna) from the corner of 13th Division

[Page 53]

general public, and to questions of social organization, charity, welfare and politics. There were always Jews in Rovno for whom the concern of the general public was theirs, and those who saw the need to care for the needy, to donate and solicit donations for help. The concern for the poor was important to the city's leaders and its communal workers. In addition, a wide range of activities were developed in the local community in its religious education system: Talmud Torah, housing for scholars and their maintenance, construction of prayer houses and the maintenance of cantors in them, etc. In the last century, Rovno reached the peak of its social, national and cultural growth. After the Russian Revolution the community was organized on democratic foundations and was protected by law. Reforms were made in charitable and benevolence institutions and various aid projects, most of which were under the supervision of the community. New institutions, planned and founded, were established in the areas of aid, health, welfare, education and more.

After the First World War, and the revolution in Russia, life in the city has been changed: a broad political and social movement was developed in the general and national spheres of life which earned a reputation for Rovno in the Polish state and the Jewish world of Eastern Europe. During this period, the city flourished as a border–city populated by people of several nationalities, a city of commerce, industry and culture, and above all, a Jewish–Zionist city with Hebrew and pioneering education. Rovno's character was always Jewish and, in the last generations, Zionist spirit prevailed within the Jewish life.

In general, most of the time the Jews constituted sixty to seventy percent of the general population in Rovno. The plagues, which spread over various periods in the past century, did indeed afflict the city's Jews, but eventually their number grew. From the population census in Rovno it appears that from 890 Jews in 1765 its number reached to 19,791 in 1910 and 28,000 in 1939.

Due to the proximity of the place to the Austrian border, concentrations of the Russian army were established in Rovno and barracks were built at the edge of the city. Soldiers and officers always met the in the city's streets and there is no doubt that the city enjoyed the army barracks and the commerce it provided.


The commercial area on The 3rd of May Street (Shossejna)

[Page 54]

There were regular “fairs” in Rovno and they were a blessing for the economy of the city and its inhabitants. Many flocked to these “fairs” from the surrounding towns and villages, to buy, sell and exchange. Another factor in the development and advancement of the city was its convenient geographical position and the paving of the main road, Kiev–Brisk, along the length of the city, and the south–west railway line which divided the city between its old part and the suburb of Hovalia. The area's farmers, and Jewish merchants, arrived with their goods to the city and in exchange bought various commodities, materials, etc. Some came by train and most came in wagons and on foot. The city and its markets were crowded most of the time.


In the Rovno market


A State Bank and other banks, large trading houses for the grain of well–known companies and merchants were opened in the city. In addition, the trade in fabrics and textiles, merchandise, groceries, iron, notions and more was expanded . A number of craft industries and light industries were developed: flour milling, brick production, soap, matches, candy, furniture, brewery, clothing, footwear, tannery, tobacco for cigarettes and many more. Almost all these factories were located in or near the city, and all were the product of Jewish initiative. Indeed, in some industrial plants, such as: brick incinerators, brandy distilleries in the district, beer factory, flour mills and in the only foundry for steel in the area there were also many non–Jewish workers, but they consisted of a minority among all workers.

It should be noted, that among the branches of trade, the trade in textile, grain and forests flourished the most. Due to the large turnover in Rovno's trade, many came for their various businesses – merchants, agents, manufacturers, brokers, buyers and sellers, owners of estates and small farms, and shopkeepers from the towns in the immediate and distant surroundings. Even ordinary people came to Rovno to buy their own goods on the assumption that they would find not only a selection of goods but also at a reduced price. In addition, it was possible to order there a garment, or a dress, tailored to fashion. In Rovno, there were specialist doctors, lawyers, teachers, who weren't found in a small town and, in general, it was possible to arrange in the city all matters that couldn't be easily arranged in a small town. The city attracted people to it and its enjoyment from this movement was substantial.

[Page 55]

Every day wagons, laden with goods, left the city for various locations; since the 1920s, when transportation by buses and cars was introduced, the travel in wagons, in areas where the train did not pass, almost ceased. Roads, which strengthened ties with neighboring areas, were paved around the city. In this manner, Rovno, the metropolis, served as a center of all branches of the economy for a large part of Wolyn and Jewish communities in this region and thus Rovno developed in the last three or four decades into its flowering period before the Holocaust descended on it.

In Rovno, the metropolis, various economic and cultural enterprises, which were a glory to the city and a blessing for its Jewish and non–Jewish residents, sprung up. The Rovno–Kovel–Warsaw railroad line crossed Rovno from the mid–nineteenth century, while the Rovno–Vilna line was only paved in 1885. These railway lines eased the growing traffic on the road leading through the city to Brisk. The city itself expanded during the Polish rule (1920–1939) and could rightly compete with large cities and well–known centers in Poland. Jewish Rovno also did not lag behind in the field of sports and alongside the Polish sports associations there were Jewish associations that excelled and added respect to the city's Jewish population. The Red Army, which entered Rovno at the end of 1939, shifted the life of the metropolis on other tracks and the way of life has changed radically.

Banks and monetary institutions

by Feibel Berliner

Translation by Sara Mages

As a developed commerce city in the center of Wolyn, which had commercial relations with centers and cities around it, Rovno was in need of financial institutions. In the distant past financial businesses were arranged in the city by loans from individuals and postal transfers, or through banks in the big cities nearby. Those in need of loans turned to moneylenders and various brokers. In those days R' Gur–Arye Meizlish worked in Rovno as a private banker. The Commercial Bank in Minsk, which had connections with Rovno, opened a branch there. At that time there were no other banks in the city.

In 1890, when Czar Alexander III came to Rovno accompanied by his family and entourage to observe the military maneuvers of the Kiev–Warsaw region and stayed there for eight days, a group of Jewish merchants submitted a request to set up a branch of the State Bank for the development of the city and its surroundings. The request received attention and in 1895 a State Bank was opened in Rovno. Shortly after its opening, in 1896, the bank began to give loans against promissory notes to merchants, landowners, and others. A committee of dignitaries was established next to the bank to examine the ability of the borrower and those who signed the promissory notes. The loans were approved on the recommendations of the committee and the bank deducted the merchants' promissory notes in good faith and favorable terms. Everyone, who was privileged to be one of the bank's customers, enjoyed it, and the benefit of the bank to the Jews of Rovno and the entire city was great.

Alongside the State Bank there was also a government treasury, “Kaznacheistvo,” which had major roles, mainly for the needs of state institutions.

[Page 56]

At the beginning of the 20th century, a branch of the bank of the brothers Shmuel and Yudel Lurie of Pinsk opened in Rovno. After it, Mr. Pinchas Gelferson opened his private bank. In those days, R' Zalman–David Levontin, manager of the branch of the Bank of Pinsk in Rovno, planned to establish a large bank for the development of Rovno and the entire district of Wolyn, but the idea was postponed when he moved to London in the service of the “Jewish Colonial Trust.”

In the years 1905–6, there was an awakening among various circles and masses of Jews in Russia. Economically, the situation improved somewhat, but the immigration from the cities, especially from the towns, continued and even increased. This has led to the fact that many localities began to establish public welfare institutions such as Loan and Savings Fund (which were called “Benklach,” meaning small banks in the towns) in order to provide simple and inexpensive credit to the masses – shopkeepers, craftsmen and those in need of credit, and to release them from the burden of private loan sharks who charged weekly installments with the addition of exorbitant rate of interest.

These funds were people's institutions built on the foundations of mutual aid. Anyone, who needed help from the fund, registered as a member and paid a membership fee of ten percent of the approved loan in order to pay it in weekly installments. The loans were given against liabilities and guarantees. These funds were supported by the Jewish Charitable Association which periodically invested money in them.

Such a fund was founded in Rovno in 1906 by a number of public activists. At the head of the fund stood Pinchas Gelferson, who later became a private banker and eventually the initiator and manager of a large public bank. Among the other members of the bank's management, who were elected at a general meetings, were: Meir Botzkobski (a local merchant), Shimon Tabachnik (activist from the craftsmen's circles).

This Jewish loan and savings fund in Rovno, which existed under the name, The Second Loan and Savings Fund, operated and developed until 1921. Around the same time, a “Reciprocal Credit” bank was established in the city followed by a Commercial Bank. At the head of the management of “Reciprocal Credit” stood the well known merchant, Shlomo Kolikovicher, and its managers were: Mordechai Schtrich and Shlomo Waldman. The head of the Commercial Bank was Moshe Zilberfarb (who later became Minister for Jewish Affairs under the Ukrainian regime)


Management and staff of the Mutual Aid and Insurance Association next to the People Bank in Rovno, 1912:

Dr. Yakov Guzman, chairman; Juz – vise chairman, Efraim Cacica; Simcha Winocur;
Melech Blai; Shmuel Weinzweig; Shmuel Melamed; Natan Angelchik – bookkeeper;
Shimon Tabachnik – treasurer; Gorenstein – bookkeeper; Yeshaya Schictaw – bookkeeper; Noah Brusiker – collector.

[Page 57]

and its first manager was the Zionist activist Yitzhak Melamed. These three financial institutions, which were people's institutions, stood at the service of their members and were of great value to the trade and economic life of the Jews of Rovno at that time.

The prosperity of the trade in Rovno, and the connections of large firms with the city and its environs, prompted large banks to operate in this commercial city, and the Azovsko–Donskoy Bank, which operated in all the centers in Russia, acquired the branch of the Bank of Minsk, which became its branch (circa 1909) and developed a broad financial and credit operation in Rovno and its environs. At the same period the private bank of Inlander and Parczuk was opened in Rovno.

During the First World War, when moratorium was declared and many of the merchants and business owners wandered from Rovno to the interior of Russia, the activities of the banks were greatly reduced. The State Bank was transferred from Rovno, and the field of operation only remained for the Loan and Savings Fund whose members, members of the simple poorer class, remained in place. Due to the difficult financial situation they needed the institution more than in normal times, and the institution continued to operate to the extent of its ability and helped many of its members.

With the end of the First World War at the end of 1917, a new financial institution was founded in Rovno – a Jewish People's Bank whose founders were a number of merchants and craftsmen, among them a Zionist majority. In the atmosphere of those days, after the Russian Revolution, the founders hung great hopes on their enterprise. And indeed, the institution grew rapidly, many members of various circles joined it and it obtained a distinguished position in the city. However, it was not long before unwanted tendencies were discovered in the institution and caused, under the conditions of the exchange of government in 1918–20, its closure. The bank did not operate until the Polish rule was established in the city in 1930. Some of its founders re–established it in the name of Bank Ludovy and Israel Zilberdik was appointed bank manager. After he immigrated to Israel, Isaac Brick served as manager.


The Jewish People's Bank, the council, management and staff


About 1925, the power of the craftsmen, who had joined forces with members of the “Bund,” increased in the bank and as a majority they had a powerful influence on it. Mr. Simcha Platt, a member of the “Bund,” was invited to replace the Zionist manager and the Bank continued to exist as a public institution without the influence of the Zionists.

In 1924, Rovno's Zionists founded a bank named, “Jewish Cooperative Bank.” Among its founders were the esteemed gentlemen: Baruch Kagan, Aharon Lerner, Ben–Zion Eisenberg, Isaac Brick,

[Page 58]

Leib Klika, Yitzchak Berliner and Julian Feldman. In the city they saw the bank as a Zionist bank and, as it grew and succeeded in its operation, they saw the need to change its name to “Commercial Bank.” The acting bank managers were the esteemed gentlemen: Isaac Brick and Yitzchak Berliner, and the management was made up of the esteemed gentlemen: Ben–Zion Eisenberg, Julian Feldman and Leib Klika. In the scope of its business the bank ranked second among the public credit institutions which operated at that time in Rovno, after the Merchants Bank.

The new conditions under the Poles' rule, and the economic prosperity of the city, led to the establishment of several new banks, mostly cooperatives, and they are: Discount Bank, Powszechny Bank Kraditovi, Merchants Bank, Small Merchants Bank, Odbudowy Bank, Homeowners Bank, Handlowy Bank, Powszechna Kasa Kraditova and more.

The Homeowners Bank was founded in 1928 at the initiative of: Moshe Sruatnik, Moshe Roizman, Leibish Beik, Yakov Fishbein, Krepliak, Hersh–Meir Pisuk, Alexander Galferson, Feibel Berliner, Chazanzuk, Orlicht and others. Its main objectives were: to unite the homeowners economically and socially, take care of the status of the homeowners, protect their interests, extend aid to them in credit, and serve as a financial instrument for them. The bank took upon itself to arrange the collections and claims of homeowners, as well as the handling of their taxes. Among the heads of the bank were several non–Jews: Colonel Kowaslki and Mr. Baranowsky, but it was essentially a bank of Jews. From forty members at the beginning of the founding of the bank, the number rose to five hundred in 1931, and it continued to grow and expand its activities. The writer of these lines served as the bank's director from its inception until 1932.


Homeowners Bank: management and staff


“Discount Bank” was established in 1926 by: Shlomo Kolikovicher, Pinchas Galferson and Nachum Goldberg, and its offices were at the Liberman home on The 3rd of May Street. Officially, the bank was registered as a cooperative institution but, in fact, it was a private institution of its founders who, thanks to their personal records, attracted the city's merchants who had banking connections with it. At first, the bank's business flourished and its turnover was quite large but, in the end, it did not last. One of the reasons for this was the investment in “Spółka Budowlana” which was founded by Mr. Nahum Goldman, a construction contractor whose company built a commercial center in the area of the old market in Wartowa Street.

[Page 59]

The company swallowed a large part of the bank's money that remained stuck in the building (due to the difficult economic situation the shops built in the commercial center were not sold), and made it difficult for the bank's money cycle. In light of this situation, the bank's customers began to leave, or reduce their activities. Depositors began to take out their deposits and when they saw the bank's difficulties they stood in line at the manager's door and demanded their deposits with threats and tears. The crowds especially put pressure on Shlomo Kolikovicher, a local activist and trader that they had trusted for many years, but they couldn't get what was owed to them. The bank's honor declined and it was destroyed. When it collapsed the prestige of it managers, and several of its founders, also fell.

The “Merchants Bank” was one of the major banks in Rovno. It was founded by: Shmuel Alman, David Fisher, Meir Botzkobski, Shimon Katz and others. Its manager was Shimon Katz, who managed to stabilize the bank and acquire a good reputation for it. Most of the city's merchants gave their trust to the bank, tied ties to it, and it blossomed.

“Handlowy Bank” was the financial instrument of small merchants. It was founded in 1924 but began its operation in June 1925, after its founders managed to sell shares to shopkeepers and collect the bank's core capital. The Bank's activities were not broad, but it acted in favor of its members in the framework of regulations and it had no ambitions.


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Rivne, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 20 Jun 2018 by JH