Gmiles Khsodim Funds

(Charitable Loan Funds)

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

There are three things people need
Torah, Avoyde (work) and gmiles khsodim.

In the shtetl the third pillar, as you know, that supports the world was missing. That is: a true gmiles-khesed-fund.

Torah, there was in large measure, in various places one heard Torah teaching. At all hours of the morning and in the afternoons and at all times of the year, a page of gemara (commentaries on the Mishnah in aramaic) was heard from the bes medresh between minha-maariv (afternnon and evening prayers) using a well known gemara melody from the lowest to the highest octaves. Or the different quiet, calm teaching in the small bes medresh of the “Khevre Mishnayes” (Mishnah Society) in the small hours of the morning, or the sweet, ringing, childish voices from the dear heder boys.

Avoyde, Czyzewo was a worker's shtetl. Almost the entire shtetl was involved in manual labor. Everyone worked very hard - not only the artisans, but the storekeepers and peddlers also. The women and children were also harnessed to work. Also the second meaning of avoyde – serving the Lord – in this Czyzewo was not lacking.

Gmiles Khsodim, This Jews dealt with amongst themselves. But an organized institution was missing that would give interest free loans, not only to rich merchants, but essentially to those who were financially weak, the needy.

A group of young Zionists activists got together and decide to create a gmiles-khesed fund. Among the founders were Jehusza Lepak, Dan Knorpel, Nach Edelsztajn, Pinie Sysman, Jechiel Aszer Prawda, Abraham'l Grynberg, Jechiel Aron Serko, Jakow Jablonka, Josel Litmans hy”d, Motl Szczupakiewicz, Mosze Blajwajs, Israel Wengorz, the writer of this article Dow Gorzalczany and Aron Eibyszyc.

Everybody at the meeting contributed 100 Zlotys and that was the founders' capital. Well-to-do friends loaned large sums on a short-term basis and so it began. Hundreds of loans were given without interest to those in the shtetl the most in need. The maximum loan was 100 zlotys but from time to time exceptions were made and larger loans were given.

The “Joint”(Joint Distribution Committee) in Warszawa gave a subsidy to the fund – 1 – 1. The administrative work, such as giving out the money, collecting money, accountancy, etc. was done on a voluntary basis by the committee members: Lepak, Jablonka, Grinberg, Edilsztejn hy”d, Blajwajs, Szczupakiewicz, Wengroz and Gorszalczany. Also there were no expenses for rent.

At first the fund was run from Mosze'ke Gorzalczany's store. Later, in the small bes midresh of the so-called Sholembergs and at the end, after it was built, they had they own space in the Bet-Am (People's House).

The fund was busy giving loans, receiving payments. Every Sunday the committee members were on duty by turns. After several months the Zionist Gmiles Khesed fund reigned supreme in the shtetl as the only one in this field. The “Agudat Israel” (Orthodox anti-Zionist party) dominated the Czyzewo businesses and did not think that the Zionist G.Kh. Fund would be a success by giving out loans. The only criteria were the borrower's need and a lot of Gerer Hasidim were among the borrowers at the fund. Perhaps therefore, what this was, was a popular necessary public town institution – the Gerer opened a second Gmiles-Khesed- Fund that also rendered a lively activity. They also worked on Sunday evening and their office was at Szlama Zywieca's.

The generous volunteers in the Agudas fund were Szlama Zywieca, Akiwa Stuczynski, Jakow Pinchus Fydeto, etc.

Looking at it objectively, both funds sincerely helped the shtetl. But the “Joint” suspended its support. The “Joint” was not able to understand why such a small shtetl had to have two gmiles-khosodim funds.

There were several attempts to unite both funds. Delegates from Central “Joint” negotiated an entire evening and were unable to reach an agreement. At that time, in the large cities, the differences between both camps were enormous and it was the same in the Polish provincial towns.

Neither was able to give up any prestige, each camp wanted to clearly emphasize the positive usefulness of their activities but, in fact, it did not matter, as this did not bother the loan-starved people. In fact, instead of one Gmiles Khesed Fund there were two and they could now get loans from both.

I want to take this opportunity to mention the gratitude that everybody felt for the murdered volunteers of both funds for their tireless volunteer work that was truthfully a blessing for the shtetl.

The survivors should, for a long time to come, be worthy of and devoted to charitable work.