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The History of the Zambrow Society in the United States



From Our Yizkor Book 


Entry written by landsman Yitzhak (Itcheh) Rosen



Chairman Yitzhak Rosen Has the Floor

A Zambrow society has existed in New York for over seventy years, and is tied up and bound to the general professional movement of the Jewish street, in the capitol city of the United States. This was at the end of the prior [sic: nineteenth] century. Jewish workers were generally minimally represented among the ranks of those engaged in metal production or other technical and mechanical fields of endeavor. All were drawn to the needle trades. The Jewish workers in tailoring, as well as all workers in other branches of the needle trades, were by and large concentrated on the East Side of New York. Working conditions in those days were rather hard, perhaps the hardest that we now are capable of imagining. A ‘trade union’ for the needle trade workers, as yet did not exist. One worked for starvation wages from early in the morning until late into the night, in a manner as depicted in Morris Rosenfeld’s ‘shop songs:’ ‘I have a little son... but seldom, seldom do I see him.’  The worker-immigrant could not get himself educated after work – he was exhausted, and out of his meager wages he had a need to save some to send back home to support his wife, his aged parents, sisters and brothers, until he would finally be able to bring them over to himself. The worker had no awareness of social or community interests. The environment about him was alien, the whole American way of life, the language.

The typical Zambrow worker would meet with his fellow countrymen in the ‘market’ (e.g. the place of work) or at a celebration held at the home of a senior landsman who had become something of a citizen already, and one engaged in a discourse [as follows]: It is necessary to create a society comprised of people from Zambrow, so that it would be possible to get together, to enjoy company among one’s own kind, both on the Sabbath and Sunday, provide help to newly arrived brothers, enabling them to stand on their own two feet on this foreign soil. The foundation for such a society could only be religious, because those from Zambrow like the majority of other Jewish immigrants of that time, were ‘Synagogue Jews,’ as they are called here, having come to New York with their tallis and tefillin. So at first, a Zambrow synagogue was established. It was to this place that one came for prayers, and it was here that one could listen to a service being led by someone using the familiar prayer chants of the alte haym, as well as being able to receive regards from back there. It was here that the ‘green’ immigrants from Zambrow would first come, who needed help and support – [both] spiritual and material. Should it have happened that bad news would come from Zambrow about a kinsman who was impoverished or sick for example, a collection was taken up right on the spot, and several dollars were immediately sent off to Zambrow. If a misfortune befell someone in New York, the news immediately reached the synagogue or to the President, and action was immediately taken whatever it was that was necessary to do: visiting the sick, providing for a bed at a hospital, arranging for a call by a physician, coming to the assistance of a family in need, and, God forbid, arranging for a traditional funeral if required, etc.

After the First World War when the level of immigration increased, the landsmanshaftn became more and more sophisticated and undertook more of a communal character. Life in America changed for the better: the working man fought for and achieved a shorter work day and higher wages. Evening classes were opened for the study of English and for general education. The heavens grew lighter for the Jewish working man. The new wave of immigration from Poland and Lithuania brought with it a better trained element. From Zambrow as well, more educated workers came, members of the ‘Bund,’ ‘Poalei Tzion,’ ‘Tze‘irei Tzion,’ and they injected a new spirit of progress and community concern into the Zambrow union, or ‘society.’ Also, the assistance rendered to our brethren and sisters in the alte haym was put on a more solid institutional foundation: constructive help was offered through organized bodies, instead of help by individuals, systematically organized help, neither accidental nor incidental. This continued until the outbreak of the Second World War, which wiped our alte haym off the map.

Even then, both alarmed and shocked, we the landsleit of Zambrow proclaimed and implemented the speedy assistance rendered to those surviving brethren in the camps and did not permit them to be neglected or suffer from want. As far as possible, we sent packages, money and connected them with friends, sent them ship’s tickets, papers, brought them to America, helping those who had elected to go to the Land of Israel. The Zambrow Society excelled in its help rendered to its own (see above in this book).

With the establishment of the State of Israel, the Society awakened to a new endeavor, work on behalf of the new Jewish State of Israel. Extending its generosity, the Zambrow Society bought ‘Israel Bonds,’ and this work continues [to this day]. The Zambrow landsleit in America are an important force in the communal life of American Jewry.

On the Saturday night of Chanukah, December 15, 1953, a very hearty and historic celebration took place, in honor of the sixtieth anniversary of the 'United Zembrover Society.’ Chronologically, the celebration was a little bit late. The banquet, under the direction of the writer of these lines, was carried out with great solemnity and spiritual uplifting. We shared memories, and wished each other the privilege of attending many more such anniversaries. The years flew by quickly, and we carried out with even greater emotional uplift, the seventieth anniversary of the active functioning of our society.

After the Sabbath, December 17, 1960, on the night of the fifth candle of Chanukah, at the ‘Clinton Plaza’ hall (Clinton Street, New York), we celebrated the seventieth anniversary of the Zambrow Society. Our great joy, however, was tempered with the admixture of joy and sorrow: the ‘Mother, Zambrow’ no longer existed!...

Occasional ships would still bring us news from the living from that place – and then, none. We find yet one solace in our heart: spiritual Zambrow continues to live among us. We carry it around, with pride in our Zambrow pedigree, having something to remember, and something of which we can be proud.

And another thing: To memorialize the mass immigration of the end of the nineteenth century, and the first two decades of the twentieth century, part of Zambrow [Jewry] was saved in America. To memorialize the wide-ranging Zionist work of both young and old, and especially the significant number of youth groups, hundreds of young people managed to save themselves by going to the Land of Israel. We take great pride in them, and we consider ourselves fortunate that our landsleit, the children of Zambrow, helped with the rebuilding of the Land of Israel with their sweat and blood. Also, our society had taken a significant role in this endeavor: we have, to date, bought ‘bonds’ that are worth thirteen thousand dollars. At various opportunities, we have also donated up to twenty-five thousand dollars. Together with Lomza landsleit, we have donate five thousand dollars to underwrite the construction of a folkshul in the Negev. We have donated up to ten thousand dollars to the United Jewish Appeal, having also donated many times to the Histadrut, the Hagana, [for] the building of houses, and more and more. Our hearts and our hands always remain open for the building of our homeland.



Adapted from the Zambrow Yizkor Book, with the cooperation of the United Zembrover Society.

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