Wyszkow, Poland Yizkor Book

SEFER WYSZKOW, ed. D Shtokfish, 1964, Tel Aviv. pp. 26-29. Translated by Sheldon Clare.

Zionist Beginnings

The Library

Parties, Societies and Institutions

Zionist Beginnings

The origin of concrete Zionist work in Vishkov occurred in the year 1916. Thanks to the campaign for the “Keren Kayemet” (Jewish National Fund) alms boxes that were found in every Jewish home.  The local Zionist organization was also established in the same year. In the presidium, the following were elected: Avraham-Moshe Levin, Moshe Ayon, and Henekh Kaluski. In the managing committee: Itcheh Shkarlat, Rafael Shkarlat, Moshe-Leib Kahn, Itcheh Barev, and Yosef Landau.

The Zionist organization was the most dominant in Vishkov. Masses of youth flowed into it. Even then, we owned our own small Zionist synagogue, that our friend, the Zionist Elyahu-Meier Goldman, bequeathed it in the names of Henkh Kaluski, Khaim-Noson Vengrov, Shmaiya Rapoport, Itcheh Barev.  Here, I will recall others of our contemporary (actionists).  Very possibly, I have certainly omitted names-this is a story of more than 40 years ago-they should therefore not feel missed.  It happened simply unintentionally.  These are the kind and loyal Zionist leaders:  Leibish Pshetitsky, Meier Ihrlikht, Moshe Novominski, Shlomo Rozenberg,  Avraham Brodatch, Yekhezkal Yagoda, Yitzkhok Neiman, Yakov Neiman, Pinkhas Feintzeig, Dovid Chervonagura, Moshe Sokol, Meier Shchigel, and others.

We were represented in the community with a united (DOZORES) and had a large representation on the city council.  As the largest party, we obtained the only Jewish (LAVNIK) in City Hall. Noson Vengrov, was an important defender for the interests of the Vishkover Jewish population.

In 1926, through the Zionists, there was created the first educational institution, where from childhood on, it attempted to educate about Zionism and “Eretz Yisroel”- this was the “Gan-Y’ladim” (Children’s Garden), also were organized Hebrew lectures for the Zionist youth.  The learned scholars were Yitzkhok Shkarlat, Shapira, Pitchnik, and Bookshtayn.  The sale of Zionist membership certificates was very intensive.  Incidentally, every year, the eastern leader came to us, the saintly Rabbi Yitzkhok Nissenboim, of blessed memory.  Every year, he used to appear at a lecture in the big synagogue. Large and small, all of Vishkov used to come to hear this witty speaker.  His call to support...

Page 27 - 30 Years of Communal (Social) Living [Photo - The Nagduzheh Street]

....the Land of Israel. He did not look upon this as if we had a lot of Jews.  Also, from “Agudah”, there was opposition to the Zionist principles. Every year, we raised for the (KEREN HAYESOD) some $1000. The devotion was (without bounds?).  I remind myself: That in 1929, I happened to be with Shmaia Rapoport to accompany Rabbi Nissenboim during his (KERN HAYESOD) campaign in Vishkov.  We first went to the devoted Zionist Leibish Pshetitzki, stirred to tears, he spoke (HAZORAIM BADME’A BRANA YIKTZORO - Hebrew) and he drew upon more than he knew.  Every year, he used to raise his fee (donation).  He was the example and the other contributors emulated him. I will mention here the Zionist committee of the last 10 years.  They were:  Henekh Kaluski, Rafael Shkarlat, Shmaia Rapoport, Itcheh B’herev, Avraham Bradatch, Khaim-Noson Vengrov.

The Library

Also in 1909, a group of enlightened youth began to think of putting up a library.  Seeing in this institution an important cultural center for the city.  One began to raise money and at the same time, some books were brought from Warsaw.  But immediately, a difficult question was put forth: Where do we find a location for the library? Just now came a good opportunity: Bercheh Segal traveled to America. He lived on “Pshedmieshceh” near the Christian Filipovski. Bercheh’s wife Khaveh, who loved Yiddish books, had with the agreement of the Christian, a liberal person, agreed to give their apartment for the library. Not looking on the fact that the library was found “Behind” (I THINK IT MEANS JUST OUT OF THE CITY) the city, the youth streamed en masse, and “sneezed” at this institution.  The books were exchanged (borrowed) twice a week. Quickly it was shown that the library could not accommodate the inquiries of the readers.  The amount of books was small.  They were soon all read and the public requested more books.  But where does one get money?  Someone came up with the idea to create a drama section and the income of this concept would go to buying books.  Because of this, the library indeed became richer with the works of great writers.

Also, with great strength, a lively cultural-activity was carried out and one used to bring lecturers from Warsaw such as the writer, Kh. D. Naumberg, the historian, Dr. I .Shiffer, the leader and Zionist Yitzkhok Grinboim and other personalities. In 1916, Yitzkhok Epshtayn and his family traveled from Vishkov to Russia. Only his son Moshe and his sister Henyeh remained - members of the Zionist organization.  They gave up their house on Stodolneh Street for the movement.  First, the library began to develop. It was comfortable for bookcases and for a special reading hall where the youth had an opportunity to engross themselves in a newspaper and in a book.  In that era had indeed blossomed cultural-activities.  A special speakers-circle was carried out with (KESTL OVNTN) and prepared lectures of literary and Zionist themes: Yitzkhok Shkarlat, Ehrlikh (a student), Yungshtayn, Shafar, Shapira. The management committee consisted of: Rafael Shkarlat, Moshe-Leib Kahn, Yitzkhok Shkarlat, Ehrlikh, Yosef Landau, and others.

Parties, Societies, Institutions

I want to further tell about a series of other organizations and institutes, which were active in Vishkov.

Page 28

As early as 1916, there was in Vishkov a Jewish workers-movement under the direction of the “Bund” (Socialist Labor Party).  During the first city council election, they obtained 356 votes and 3 councilmen.  Most important in the movement stood a cultural-developing youth.  I will here recall the names that I remember: Dubanik, Yisroel Goldvasser, Yekhiel Bzhozeh, Simkhe-Yakov Vengrov (a brother of our Zionist Leader), Motl Rinek, and Avrohom Yedvob.  They led a cultural-activity among the workers, gave lectures, brought outside lecturers, and organized a professional union.  They also had a cooperative.

In the later years, the management of the “Bund” were the councilmen Simkha-Yakov Vengrov, Avrohom Yedvob, and Avrohom Yagoda. We had a society “AKHIEZAR” that used to occupy its time giving help to poor ill people - with a doctor and also with prescriptions.  The administers of ”AKHIEZAR” were: Moshe-Dovid Yoskovitch, Moshe B’herev, Ziske-Moshe Shteinberg, and Moshe Pshshchelenitz. The majority of them are now martyrs.  In the same year, a (Loan-office?) was established familiar to us with the name “Tavazhistva” directed by the said institution.  Those who gave out loans for the “lower middle class”: Khaim-Dovid Goldvasser, Kerner, Avrohom-Moshe Levin, Mendl Shkarlat, and Dovid Gurney. At the head was Moshe Ayon. From the aforesaid small “Tavazhistva”, later grew out the large “Peoples Bank” which received help from “Joint”, (which led the Peoples Bank?), with its loans supported hundreds of merchants and artisans.  There stood the devoted leaders: The artisans Moshe-Dovid Yoskovitch, Yitzkhok Khzhan, Fishl Bronshtein, and Yakov Holtzman. The bookkeeper was Moshe Ayon and his helper, Yakov Pzhemirover.

In 1919, I became married to the daughter of the wood merchant and sawmill-owner Yehoshua Sokol (may he rest in peace).  I then opened a small business in Rinek.  In time, I became one of the wholesale merchants and was one of the few who had the franchise to sell tobacco and cigarettes.  (The last time the Polish government restricted the number of franchises given to Jews to sell tobacco and cigarettes.  Only three Jews in each town had the right for the franchises.  I was one of the three.)  In those days, the tax was rather high.  The finance office (Oozhand Skarbovi) was in Poltusk, where the appraisal committee sat and set the businessman’s taxes as they understood.  On the part of the Jewish businessmen from Vishkov (who were by the way in the majority), none of them sat on the committee.  Of course, the contemporary attitude of the Jews in Poland, the appraisal committee put enormous taxes on the Jewish businessmen.  Every attempt was made to run to Poltusk to repeal this personal injustice.

Then, together with Yitzkhok Mondrey, Yosef Vengazh, Shmuel Elboim, Yekhiel-Meier Rubin, and Eliahu-Meier Goldman, I spoke with the secretary of our community, Moshe-Yosef Avramchik, and it was called a general assembly of all Jewish businessmen in Vishkov.  At the assembly was indeed created the first businessmen’s-union, where also there was an election of the management of additional businessmen: Itschi B’herev-chairman, Yosef Vengozh-vice chairman, Yitzkhok Mondrey-treasurer; in the management: Pinkhas Piyenik, Sholem Zissman, Yitzkhok-Ber Rozenberg, Yekhiek-Meier Rubin, Yakov-Arieh Rabinovich. The secretary was the community secretary Moshe-Yosef Abramovich. We quickly presented ourselves in the tax-office in Poltusk.

As for the legal case (affair) of the taxes for the Vishkover Jewish businessmen, they should call upon the businessmen’s-union.  We rented a hall on Strazhatzkeh Street. The merchants and artisans then had an address to call upon against injustice, against incorrect tax-measures, against those that the (SAKVESTATORN) used to for taxes, transferred (bequeathed) ownership of housewares or workers’ tools. The businessmen’s-union immediately delegated the secretary Avramchik to Poltusk to take care of tax-matters for many Jews.  After it was established if it was to determine, the amount of tax, every line of business and vocation used to send a representative to the appraisal-committee.  Avramchik always accompanied them.  Also the secretary of the “Khila” (community) was seen there.  He knew all the Jews and was also of the opinion that one could indeed count on him.  With this aspect, much was accomplished. “Not one Jew was saved from [simple or plain ruin]”- (This sentence doesn’t make sense. Perhaps, he meant that no Jew was totally ruined.)

For a period of 14 years, I was the chairman of the businessmen’s-union.  In time, we approached the dear Jew (subsequently, a martyr) Dr. B. Leykher, who was the legal consul of the union and displayed a lot of initiative by defending the interests of Jewish artisans and merchants in general and for every particular individual. One case I will mention.  In many Polish towns, a campaign began on the part of the (SHONAI-YISRAEL) to make the towns nicer and cleaner “Covered under the cloak” (I think this means not telling the Jews.) The so-called “urbanization”. This campaign actually happened to the Jews. (GRAD) did not care for the Jewish neighborhoods, the Jewish streets, the Jewish homes, which they decided to tear down.  One of the campaigns was to transfer the commercial markets far out of town.  This was for the Jews a true evil decree. Constantly, the markets used to be in the built up market areas where Jews used to live and had their businesses.  Moving the markets and fairs out of town had significance as the Jews would have remained literally without bread. In the new areas one would want to erect the “fresh-baked” businesses subsidized because of the anti-Semitic organizations.  Also, Vishkov had...

Page 29  (Photo - The Turbot School), (Photo - A Group of Hakhalutz Friends)

...been surrounded by this evil decree.  The (STARASTEH) soon gave out a deadline to move the markets far from the town.  The (WORDS ARE MISSING) intervened with the mayor Volski.  A liberal (WORDS ARE MISSING) convinced him that he should with a delegation of the businessmen’s-union travel to Voiyevadeh in Warsaw, so that the evil decree will be cancelled.  Also the city was against the decree of (STARASTEH).  Leading this delegation indeed stood Dr. Leykher.  It was because of him that the decree was called off.  We appointed Dr. Leykher as a life-long honorary member of the businessmen’s-union in Vishkov.

Here, I wish to mention a second event from this dark time.  When in Poland, the anti-Semitic agitation spread out not to buy from Jews, the (SEYIM-TRIBUNEH, same person?) the interior minister Skladovski declared, that it is permitted to have an economic anti-Jewish boycott.  His familiar saying to permit this anti-Jewish agitation was: “Avshem- by all means”. With the assistance of the official Polish authorities, more businesses were established-Polish, which had never been involved in commercial trade.  Their only purpose was to crush Jewish existence.  To help these so-called “businessmen” came the “picketers” group.  Led by student hooligans (ruffians), who demonstrated in the streets with anti-Jewish slogans, “Svoy do Svegah” (this means: Go to your own kind, not to strangers).  The police did not disturb these demonstrations.  These were called peaceful demonstrations that were carrying out the minister’s slogan “AVSHEM”.  The police only looked out for demonstrations bringing about scandal.

At one of these anti-Semitic demonstrations, when the excited masses went through the town with their slogans, they prevented a meeting in the market, near the iron-works of Pinkhas Feintzeig. There, one of the masses provoked a shot from a revolver.  They soon found witnesses, saying that they saw shooting from Pinkhas Feintzeig’s balcony.  This began to show the first signs of a pogrom. They began to loot the goods from the market-stalls. But the merchant’s-union with the Zionist (LAVNIK) Khaim-Noson Vengrov stood guard. Quickly, in the street, the mayor together with the police and the out-of-town police from Poltusk had intervened. We then were able to save Vishkov from a certain pogrom.

The merchants-union had created a popular merchants-bank, under the name “Bank Kupyetski”.  The bank took care of all possible “law?” and merchant-organizations, and gave loans, borrowed on goods-cargo, and helped with taxes. The presidium (board) of “Bank Kupyetski” consisted of Dr. Leykher, Mordkhe-Mendl Lemberg, Itzshe B’herev, and the management: Yitzkhok-Ber Rozenberg, Yitzkhok Epshteyn, Shmuel Elboim, Yosef Vengozh: Treasurer: Yitzkhok Mondrey, Bookkeeper-Moshe-Yosef Avramchik, Assistant-Zundl Elboim. The bank ran its constructive activity until the outbreak of the Second World War.

In Vishkov, there was also a “non-interest loan office”, leading the office was: Yisroel-Moshe Tzembal, Moshe Shtern, Yakov-Dovid Pzhetitski, Secretary-Sheikeh Postolski, and Bookkeeper-Yakov Yacobovitch. This organization rescued a lot of Jews. A lot of artisans or small merchants had the opportunity to obtain a 300 zlotys loan with the privilege to repay the loan at 15 zlotys per week. There was also an “Agudas Haortodoksim” (Orthodox Association). This means an organization of “Agudas Yisrael” (Israel Association).  This brought together the whole pious-religious-traditional Jewry.  They had their representative in the community and also in the city hall.  They created a “Beis-Yacov” school for girls.  They had teachers from the center. From local women’s association leaders they helped Tzirl and Hadassah Rozenberg (today in Israel).  The leaders of the “Aguda”...

Michael Tobin
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