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[Page 235]

The Heder Yesodai Hatorah

The heder was created in 5679 [1919] by Lejb Englard, B. Scemski and others. The institution was first located within the premises of the Talmud Torah and several years later moved to Glawcki Street, and then to Wespolne Street number 14. Presently the heder has 120 students who range from elementary stages to talmud classes. The heder has four Hebrew teachers and a principal. The heder also has a general study program conducted by 6 licensed schoolteachers and a director named L. Majerczik. The committee in charge of the heder consists of Chaim Fiszel Fridman (chairman), B. Secemski (honorary chairman), D. L. Kisner, I. Markowicz, A. Londner, Sh. Berger, H. Neufeld, I. Dafner, and A. Goldberg (manager). Many applicants are turned away from the heder due to lack of space. All matters pertaining to the heder Yesodai Hatorah are handled in agreement with the former head of the heder, Rabbi R. Pinhas Finkler (presently Rabbi of Pinczewer).

The Beit Jakob School

A girls school was established in 5686 (1926) under the name of Beit Jakob. The school consisted of two rooms, and a teacher who finished the Krakow Beit Jakob Seminary was hired. The initiators of the project were Henech Najfeld, Itzhak Dafner, Jidel Borowiecki, Eliezer Sklarczik, Chaim Lichtik, and Yehiel Grilak. With time, the school expanded and presently has at its disposal five rooms where five classes meet. The school has an enrollment of 300 students and two teachers.

Connected to the school is a kindergarten that follows the educational theories of Fröbel. The class consists of 35 children and has a specialized teacher. The girls' school provides many scholarships for poor students who cannot afford the tuition. Girls who graduate from the school can join many associations and organizations, such as the Daughters of the Agudath Israel. The director of the school is Hershel Borensztajn. The committee that administers the school consists of Baruch Secemski, Itzhak Dafner (honorary chairman), Chaim Klajner, (chairman), Henech Najfeld (vice chairman), Chaim Fiszel Fridman (treasurer), Eliezer Sklarczik, Yehiel Estrajcher, Ruwen Binensztok, and Chaim Lichtik.

The Talmud Torah

The beautiful building of the Talmud Torah was finished in 1908. The initiators and builders were Lejb Englard, Grunem Saper, Rabbi Gitler, the late Chaim Josef Zajonc, Moshe Marianka, Lejb Abramczyk, Jakob Sztal, Gerszon Stawski, Moshe Königsberger, and others. The institution was created to provide a religious education to the poor Jewish children. A radical change occurred in 5678 (1918) when, under the influence of the Rabbi of Radomsk and the Agudath Orthodoxim (Shlomi Emunai Israel) extreme orthodox religious group, the name of the Talmud Torah was changed.The new institution was called Heder Yesodai Hatorah, and it concentrated itself around religious education. The institution also enrolled many poor students.

The institution existed for 10 years and then faced a financial crisis due to the poor financial situation in the country. The heder collapsed and ceased to function. Only the poor students remained at the school. The heder became again the Talmud Torah, but this did not help the financial situation. As a matter of fact, the building faced public liquidation due to the large debts. Then a few people appeared who took matters in their hands and managed to control the situation. They were, Shimon Mendel Tobiasz, Chaim Unger, Lejbisz Szwajcer, and Majer Roter. They managed to place the heder back on the present track. Presently, the heder has 370 students divided into 6 classes with 6 Hebrew teachers and a principal. The general studies program consists of 5 classes with three teachers and a manager. The Talmud Torah has a society of 800 members. It has an annual budget of 15,000 guilder that is covered by monthly school fees, pledges and donations, school drives, and flower sale days. The administration committee consists of Lejbisz Szwajcer (chairman), Moshe Josef Kajzer (vice-chairman), Josef Majer Roter (treasurer), Mendel Czechowski, Betzalel Erlich, Ruwen Binensztok, Chaim Unger, Josef Dan Rezazak, Dawid Lejb Kisner, Jakob Itzhak Hageft, Alter Zeidler, Majer Gutherc, Lejbisz Auerbach, Berl Szwarc, and Szmul Kestenberg. The director of the Talmud Torah is Michael Francuz.

[Page 236]

The “Maccabi” gymnastics and sports club

Thanks to the initiative of Adolf Horowicz, B. Altman and J. Binder, the Jewish Athletic mast club was established in March of 1916. A hall was rented for this purpose, and within a relatively short period of time it was equipped with the necessary sport equipment. The club is still located at the same place. The temporary committee called a general meeting on January 13th 1917. 82 people attended the meeting where a permanent committee was established that consisted of I. Gutowski (chairman), A. Horowicz (vice-chairman), M. Abramowicz (secretary), B. Altman (treasurer), J. Langer, S. Zysman, J. Binder and N. Rajz.

The same year, the Maccabi club in Sosnowiec concluded a successful year of sport activities that included many victorious events. Notable was the excursion to Olkusz, where 265 members and guests partook. The excursion and the physical events that took place in the open field proved very successful. It showed the growing awareness of sport amongst the Jews as well as the awakening of the national Jewish spirit. In 1918, at the Winter Theater in Sosnowiec, the local Maccabi membership flag was presented to the local club. The flag was obtained due to the tireless efforts of the vice chairman A. Horowicz. As a matter of fact, he traveled especially to Vienna, where the flag was finished and presented to him for the club in Sosnowiec. The Maccabi organization suspended the activities of the club for various reasons in 1918. The club resumed sport activities in 1922.

On April 25th 1922, the club received back its hall. After a few months of activities, another Jewish club, named Szymszon, joined the ranks of the Maccabi club. The unification led to the development of a strong gymnastic team where a strong soccer team evolved. In July of 1926, Maccabi celebrated the tenth year jubilee of the existence of the club. The event turned into a festive day for the Jewish sportsmen of the city. The gymnastic team continued to gain many sport laurels, notably at various mast sport meets such as in Bilitz, Merisz-Ostrowi, Warsaw, Lodz and other places. The gymnastic team gained many prizes and certificates. It participated at both Maccabiades in Palestine; the team took first place in the final gymnastic events, and the Sosnowiec Maccabi flag represented the Polish Maccabi organization in Palestine.

In 1934, a boxing section was created within the local Maccabi club. Unofficially, the team had already scored many local victories. In 1938, the boxers of Sosnowiec defeated the boxers of Lemberg, the strong boxing team of Hakoah Lodz, and the team of Maccabi Krakow. The latter team was defeated three times. The same year the team defeated the Polish runner-up championship team, the Ruch team. In 1939, the Sosnowiec Maccabi boxing team placed itself in second place in the Silesian boxing league. In 1939, the club had a membership of 300 members. It sponsored the following sport activities; light athletics, ping pong, sport games, ice skating, ski, gymnastics, soccer, cycling, hiking, tennis, boxing and motoring.

The committee in charge of the local Maccabi club consisted of; Dr. S. Bernsztajn (chairman), Jechiel Kimelman (vice chairman), D. Sobol (vice-chairman), Majer Lancman (secretary), H. Oxenhandler (treasurer), E. Wiener (sport manager), Sh. Horowicz, (administrator), B. Mendelowicz, and D. Saper.

The Academician Circle “Ognisko” (Campfire)

In 1922, the Jewish academician circle was established in Sosnowiec. Until 1926 it was under the wings of the "Auxilium Academicum Judaicum" society in Warsaw. It functioned within the framework of this organization that included the sponsoring of flower days, garden expositions, concerts and festive events with the proceeds earmarked for the benefit of the organization of Ognisko in Krakow. During these years, the following people helped found the circle and were the first members of it: H. Kachel, Dr. B. Bronitzki, Engineer M. Lipszyc, Dr. H. Liberman, Eng. Sh. Zysman (delegate of the Academikus for Zaglembia), Dr. A. Lewenhof (Ognisko delegate), Dr. A. Wolfson, J. Kromolowski, Dr. A. Minkowski, M. Lejbowicz, A. Grajtzer, Sh. Szapiro, D. Priwer, J. Prusak, and L. Lejbowicz.

[Page 237]

At the conference of academicians in Warsaw in 1926, it was decided to attach the Zaglembia academic circle to the sphere of activities of the Ognisko organization in Krakow. The Sosnowiec local council at the annual meeting of March 4th 1926 endorsed the resolution. Since this date, the academic circle of Sosnowiec adhered to the Ognisko society. The chairman at the meeting was M. Leibowicz. The Sosnowiec Ognisko society slowly deteriorated until it ceased to exist. At one point, some members called an emergency re-organizational meeting for November 16th 1928. The meeting was well attended, and it was decided to reopen the local Ognisko society.The society continues to function to this day as a meeting place of Jewish academicians. It forms part of a section of the Jagellonian University, for Jewish listeners.

The first secretary of the rejuvenated Ognisko circle for the academic year 1928/29 was Dr. H. Liberman. The committee consisted of Dr. H. Liberman (chairman), Dr. A. Lewenhof (vice chairman), Prof. D. Cukerman (secretary), Magister K. Fajner (treasurer), Prof. P. Komet, Dr. K. Liberman, and Miss H. Lipszyc. The audit section consisted of Eng. I. Folman, Dr. B. Bronitzki, and Dr. A. Wolfson. During the succeeding years, the presiding officers of the Ognisko society were: Eng. H. Liberman 1929/30, and with his departure, Dr. H. Rudower, Dr. J. Mestel 1930/31, Eng. B. Tencer 1931/32, Eng. Sh. Smietana 1932/33, A. Koplowicz 1933/34, and L. Czarni 1934/35.

Sos237.jpg [18 KB] - A group of chairmen of the Ognisko circle
A group of chairmen of the Ognisko circle from 1928 to 1939
Seated front, right: S. Plawner, Dr. H. Liberman, and Dr. R. Mestel.
Second row: L. Czarni, A. Koplowicz, eng. S. Smietana, Dr. H. Rudower, eng. B. Tencer.

Since 1935 to the present, the chairman of the society has been Salezi Plawner, a graduate of the higher commercial school in Krakow, and manager of the kehila office of Sosnowiec. The composition of the administrative committee of Ognisko in Sosnowiec for the year of 1938 consisted of S. Plawner (chairman), M. Szarf (secretary), M. Orensztajn (treasurer), Miss M. Hamburger, Miss M. Najfeld, J. Najman, and J. Oksenhendler. The audit commission consisted of Dr. K. Liberman, Dr. H. Rudower, and Magister H. Sznycer.

[Page 238]

The Ognisko society of Sosnowiec is involved in a variety of self-help programs that deal with providing financial help to the needy academic students in Poland and abroad. The assistance is primarily geared to poorer students amongst the members of the society. The aid involves scholarships to cover school expenses, exam costs, laboratory costs and other university expenses. The society also helps the students with other needs in order to finish their studies. The society's funds are provided by the annual membership dues, the annual academician ball, and other cultural activities that raise money. At the local level, the Ognisko society has various self-help programs, as well as sections that deal with summer schedules for academicians so that they can benefit from summer vacations without depriving the population of their services. The society also undertakes many activities, notably providing free medical and legal benefits to the members. It also sponsors a variety of cultural enrichment programs, such as the week of the Jewish Academician. Many drives and sales are also held on behalf of the central office of the Ognisko society in Krakow. These help to finance further studies, and to provide food and residence credits, an academic kitchen that serves food, a home for academicians, medical services, a rest home, and a summer resort place.

Recently the local branch has taken an active interest in developing not only material and physical activities, but also cultural activities in the form of literary evenings dedicated to poetry reading, and discussions and lectures that stress scientific, social and cultural themes. Members also organize musical evenings. These activities are devoted to the members. The society also has developed an active campaign to enrich the life of the local population by presenting various lectures and cultural events. These include a lecture by J. Apenszlak entitled "Palestine – A Struggle Under Fire", a lecture by Dr. J. Zaderecki "If People Knew the Talmud", a poetry reading session devoted to the poems of M. Broderzon, and a series of musical concerts under the leadership of the Gimpel brothers.

The Sosnowiec Ognisko society has decided to undertake the publication of a Journal that it will publish jointly with the Bedzin branch of the society. The publication will be monthly and will be entitled "Ognisko". It will be open to all academic viewpoints and will maintain a high level of content as well as a fine esthetic presentation. The Ognisko society defends the interests of the Jewish academician and reacts to various events that influence the life of the academician. It defends these interests through meetings, resolutions, appeals, and press releases. The society participates in Jewish life and takes an active interest in the community. It is supported by all Jewish sectors of Sosnowiec, and expresses itself through the growing number of members.

The “Nadzieja” [hope] Association in Sosnowiec

Under the initiative of the director of the Jewish High School, Dr. P. Widerman, a branch office of the society was established in the city. The head office of the organization is located in Krakow. The society provides medical assistance to sick students in the high schools and the universities. The society has already a record of thirty years of work in the field of raising the health standards of the Jewish students, especially maintaining healthy eyes. For this purpose, the society established a Sanatorium with the most modern hygienic facilities. The place is located in a healthy environment, near forests and mountains, not far from the resort township of Krynica. Each year during the summer vacations, hundreds of students from Krakow, Sosnowiec, and other places spend time at the resort and improve their health.

The Sosnowiec branch is the most active provincial branch of the society. As a matter of fact, only four students went to the sanatorium when the branch office was opened. In 1938, 26 students were sent from Sosnowiec to the health resort. We have to thank Prof. P. Goldberg of the Jewish high school for his tireless efforts on behalf of the local branch of the Nadzieja society.

[Page 239]

The Trade and Industry Organization

The Jewish commercial life began to organize itself during WW1. We should not be surprised by this late development, since the city itself developed very rapidly from a small place to a large industrial center during this century.

Sos239.jpg [32 KB] - The executive council of the Trade and Industry Organization
The executive council of the merchant and industrialist association
in Sosnowiec for the year 1939/1938.

During this period the Jewish commercial high school was
planned and constructed.
First row; seated from right: Markus Birman (secretary), Pawel Skszinia (manager),
Josef Saper (chairman), Adolf Landau (vice-chairman), Ignacy Majtlis (treasurer).
Second row; standing from right: Yehiel Tobiasz, Alexander Gutman,
Mieczyslaw Jakubowicz, Fiszel Klepfisz, Szulem Lajzerowicz, Jakub Wulkan, Wolf Behm.
Third row; from right; Ignacy Rajner, Kalman Fiszel, eng. Szymon Sztarke-Nachner,
Mauricy Rajcher, Wladislaw Feldman and Henryk Zinger.

[Page 240]

The rapid growth of the city did not permit the development of cohesive forces to organize the commercial life of the city. A steady stream of new entrepreneurs arrived to Sosnowiec who were not familiar with the city or with each other. It took time until some familiarization process occurred, and then the war started. Commerce stopped with the outbreak of the war, with occasional financial transactions. Still Sosnowiec remained an important commercial center, due to the fact that it was on the border through which all neutral traffic had to pass.

The abnormal situation, the constant changes of regulations and orders, the absence of judicial courts and the transportation delays, made it almost impossible to conduct business. The need for a coordinated commercial effort became quite obvious among the merchants. The latter created in 1915 the Association of Independent Merchants. This was the first commercial organization in Sosnowiec. Later, there would be other commercial organizations, notably an industrial association, a retail organization and a small merchant association.

The Association of Independent Merchants had its office at Pilsudzki Street 12, where it remained for ten years. The first chairman of the organization was Hersz Lipszyc who represented the Jewish merchants in the Polish civil courts and in the war coordination office. Future chairmen would be M. Karasz, and Israel Mosze Wajnreb.

In the initial period, the office dealt primarily with arbitration matters, since the war caused many difficulties and problems that affected contracts. There were many violations that were caused by circumstances beyond control, and only the office could mediate between the concerned parties. The office handled these problems and gained a great deal of respect for the manner of expediting these cases to the satisfaction of most parties. The association also enforced and strengthened the commercial ethical rules and pushed the various merchants into closer commercial contact.

When the Polish government began a program of stabilization, the duties of the association expanded. New forms of economic activities appeared on the scene and new forms of taxation were introduced that required the attention of the association. Society began to understand the need for the expansion of commerce and industry. And Sosnowiec was in the midst of this drive with the establishment of a Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the city in 1926. This decision placed greater emphasis on the commercial and industrial elements in Sosnowiec to organize themselves better in order to defend the Jewish interests in the commercial sphere of Poland. Many members of the association felt that this task was too big for the organization, and some began to leave the Association of Independent Merchants. They created a new organization called the Merchant and Industrialist Association of Sosnowiec.

The statutes of the new organization that were registered in July of 1925 stated that the new organization intended to unite all the merchants and industrialists into an effective professional association that would defend their interests and needs and raise their professional and intellectual status. The campaign to popularize the goals of the new association was indeed very successful, since they tried to curb the rugged individualism of Jewish businessmen. The latter slowly began to realize that as individuals they would not succeed. Only in cooperation with other business people would they have an opportunity in Poland. The association slowly evolved its pioneering philosophy amongst the Jewish merchants and industrialists. These ideas were very important in the new climate in the country that tried to eliminate the Jewish merchant or industrialist. Only the association had the force and the resources to defend the Jewish economic positions against the onslaughts of the nationalistic elements. It also suggested ways and means of improving commercial and industrial methods of operation in order to modernize the economic Jewish sector so that it would not fall behind the times.

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