Charitable Jewish Institutions in Ostrowiec
Below is an excerpt of the Ostrowiec Yizkor Book 1971- Pg 227...descrbing the various Charitable Jewish Institutions
by Paltiel Brikman (Translated by Tina Lunson)
Ostrovtse, just like all other provincial towns in Poland, did not especially excel in the social conditions of its Jewish population. Poverty, want and lack of sanitary services were almost a normal condition. Residences where people lived together with a large number of children in one room, with at most one little side room, and the barrel for water, the slops pail and the oven for baking and cooking as well as heating, were a very common situation in the streets of the poor.
Because of those unbearable conditions, the Jewish council was forced to develop multi–branched charity activities in various areas. We will try to record a few charity institutions and their activities here.
Linat ha'tsedek [homeless shelter]
This institution was located on Shener Street. The manager of the pharmacy for the shelter was a thin little Jew with a sparse yellow beard, Yekhiel Yanovski. He was almost a complete pharmacist, knowing what to give an old Jew for a cold, a poor mother for her children who had measles, had the pox or just a fever. Jews also went to him for a wad of cotton, a vial of iodine.
Biker kholim [visiting the sick]
The tasks of the bikur kholim were many, from going to sit with the very ill overnight to borrowing various medical equipment that would be useful to the patient. It was a very difficult and sacred work and Yankele Hertsog was the faithful director of that institution.
He also led a second institution which was called “Gut shabes, yidelekh” [good sabbath, Jews]. This was an institution that undertook to provide poor families with khale for shabes. Each shabes morning two Jews would carry a big basket by its two handles and with the call “Gut shabes, yidelekh!” they knocked at Jewish houses and [p. 228]
people happily gave them khale that they had baked extra on Friday just for this mission. Shmuel Povroznik and another Jew had claim to go around with the basket and call out, “Gut shabes, yidelekh!”
Gemiles khesed kase [small loan fund]
Almost everyone had to come to the gemiles khesed fund, whether to make a loan himself or to provide an endorsement for a friend or a neighbor. One could borrow from 100 to 500 zlotych from the fund and repay it at weekly rates from 1 to 5 zlotych. Akive Roset had given a room for public prayer, and it was that minyon that put together the committee for the fund every Monday and Thursday, and Jews came there to pay their installments. The only one who was paid for his work in the fund, a few zlotych a month, was Yosl, Motl Shamli's oldest son. The last president was Mendl Brikman and his assistants were Pinye Vatsharsh Sherman, Yankele Tarshish, Khane Rivke's son–in–law and others.
Hakneses orkhim [taking in guests]
This noble task of helping homeless and displaced happened especially when the Jews of Konine were driven out to Ostrovtse. The entire Jewish population of the town took in the refugees as their own relatives. One case will serve as an illustration: A woman, Montshke was her name, was standing in the middle of the market square with one of her sister's daughters and from their condition it was clear that they felt themselves refugees, as uprooted from their home and thrown into a town where they had no friend and no rescuer. One of the town proprietors, Yekhezkel Vaynberg, approached them and took them into his home, where they lived with his family until they all were taken away to Treblinka.
The Judenrat [Nazi–imposed “council of Jewish elders”] organized a public kitchen in the venue of the “Mizrakhi” group, which provided around one thousand lunches a day. The leaders of this effort were Moyshe Likht, Khayim Fishl Silman, Itshe Vishlitski, Mendl Brikman and Yehude Ratshimora.
There were two yeshives in town. One was called “the Rebi's yeshive” and it was supported by the Hasidim of our town and of other towns. The second was called the “Novorodke yeshive” and the entire burden of maintaining that yeshive fell on the Ostrovtse Jews. The boys of the yeshive had “eating days” among the population of the town. Besides that there was a yearly bread–action in the study–houses and each householder was obligated to give a kilo or two kilos of bread each week for the yeshive boys. The yeshive boys lived around the old and the new study–houses and the shul. Passers–by on Old Kuniavska Street could overhear the well–known Musar melodies as they studied. The attire of those boys was conspicuous too: A big tall hat, a long frock–coat with an open blouse, disheveled.
There were also small aid institutions in Ostrovtse, and on Purim for the feast, besides the usual help for the poor, couples collected money for the Poor Brides' Fund and other charitable institutions that functioned in the town.
May these lines of mine be a living memorial for the holy work that the Jews in Ostrovtse did in order to come to the aid of their impoverished brothers.