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[Page 247]

Beginning and development of the
“Gmilat Chesed” [Loan society] in Sosnowiec {Cont.}

The Jewish community considered the Mutual Assistance Fund an important organization, and decided to assume the necessary financial obligation. The community assured the Fund that it would cover the shortage of funds that were supposed to be deposited in the amount of 30,000 guilden. Indeed, the community paid out to the Fund the sum of 13,600 guilden over a period of five years. Thus, the Fund was clear of all debts by 1932. At first the Jewish borrowers hesitated to take loans from the Fund. Slowly, the word spread that the Fund provided non-interest loans without connections and guarantors. The Jewish artisans and small merchants began to flock to the Fund where they were treated as independent individuals and received non-interest loans without fuss. In this fashion did the Fund grow and develop to become an important economic institution in Sosnowiec.

The punctuality and the excellent bookkeeping gave the Fund an excellent financial reputation. During 11 years of activities, the Fund dealt with 24,000 people (8,000 borrowers and 16,000 endorsers) and had a turnover of 250,000 guilden. During the period in question, the Fund lost only 4,000 guilden, approximately 4 tenths of a percent. We must stress that the amounts lost were due to frozen accounts, borrowers or cases where endorsers died and the courts froze the assets. Could any financial organization match such record? Given the difficult economic situation, the Fund really performed wonderful deeds.

Sos247a.jpg [17 KB] - Gerszon Stawski
Gerszon Stawski
Chairman of the building fund committee at “Cekabe” in Sosnowiec,
and vice-chairman of the Zionist organization. Fellow organizer of the
Zionist organization in Sosnowiec, member of the Odesser committee
1896-1914, delegate to the 6th Zionist Congress in Basel 1903,
chairman of “Hazamir” during its existence1908-1912, member of the
“Ika committee” 1908-1914.Published a series of literary and topical
articles in Yiddish and Hebrew publications.

We have to remember that the administration of the Fund and the maintenance of the office were paid by the Jewish community in Sosnowiec. The same procedure was followed in other Polish cities. The Sosnowiec Jewish kehila paid the office rent, the electricity, the heating, the office supplies, and a large part of the salaries of the staff and so on. These subsidies reduced the budget of the Fund by 2,000 guilden by 1932. In addition the Fund was provided with 13,600 guilden by the community. Up to this point, we can describe the situation as the good period. Then started the difficult situation; the community stopped subsidizing the Fund, except for a contribution of 200 guilden in 1936 under Tenczer's administration.

Sos247b.jpg [21 KB] - Izrael Michael Berkowicz
Izrael Michael Berkowicz
Co-founder of the Mutual Assistance Fund
and its honorary treasurer for many years.

The Fund no longer received community subsidies and had to curtail its activities. The loss of subsidies and the fall of repayments from 700 guilden to 200 guilden per month greatly reduced the available cash flow of the Fund. It tried to maintain the budget, but it had difficulties, for it could not increase its capital fund due to the difficult economic situation in the country. We now reach the last and most painful chapter of the Fund, notably the present operations.

[Page 248]

The Jewish population had doubled since the Fund was created but the income of the community of Sosnowiec declined. The Fund was unable to meet all the requests for loans and the “Joint” informed the local office that it could not increase the funding. The Jewish community of Sosnowiec needed to increase the funds available to the Fund in order to meet the increasing demands for loans. But the well-to-do sections of the Jewish community kept a distance from the needs of the Mutual Assistance Fund; the need of help did not affect them. They had no sympathy for the poor and struggling artisans and small merchants. This attitude forced the Sosnowiec fund to reduce the number of loans. Still the option remained to undertake a large-scale publicity campaign to awaken the Jewish citizenry to the desperate need for funds in order to help the impoverished artisans and small merchants.

Today the Fund has 600 borrowers and 500 late payers who are behind in their repayment schedule.

Now some chronological items:

On May 20th 1928, the first general assembly of the Mutual Assistance Fund met at the hotel “Polski”. Lajbisz Zendel presented a report about the activities of the Fund. A management committee was elected that consisted of Lajbisz Zendel (chairman), J. Ejbuszyc (vice-chairman), J. M. Berkowicz (treasurer), Becalel Ferens (secretary), J. M. Kornfeld, R. Czapnik, Dawid Dudkiewicz, P. Kaminski, A. Abramowicz, S. Zyskind, N. Bachmajer, M. E. Magerkiewicz, S. Chmielnicki, J. Zaks, and B. Secemski.

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