Zareby Koscliene

by M. Ribak (Buenos Aires)


This happened shortly after the First World War.  The tailor journeymen and apprentices met near the hill one Saturday afternoon and decided to declare a strike against the decree which forbade them to work without hats and also for a shorter work day.  News of the strike spread to Warsaw and articles about it were published in the workers' newspapers.

The Rabbi of Zaromb called for a "Khayrem" (excommunication) and the orthodox Jews began to persecute the young men, many for purely religious reasons but others for protecting their own economic interests.  But the entire youth of Zaromb was united behind the strike.  There already was a professional organization backing the strikers in which
Vorshiter, Grainan, Lava, and others were involved.  Finally, the strikers were victorious.

In 1922, for the first time in the history of  Zaromb, it was decided to celebrate May Day.  Before May 1stthere was a secret meeting of the workers who worked for tailors, shoemakers and other craftsmen and of the workers of the Parover mill.

A representative from Lomze brought proclamations to paste up which stated that there would be a work stoppage that day.  The Zaromber would put up these posters in strategic spots because the next day, which was May 1st, was a "Yarid" (market-fair) day when all the peasants came with their wares.

On May 1st eve, Zaromb slept, but 3 policemen of the shtetl were awake and kept watch.  They went into Shmulke's tavern, as they usually did, to get a snack and a drink and a little nap.  During the time they were inside, we began
pasting up the posters.  The first one went up on police headquarters.  The others went on telegraph poles, at street intersections, on church walls, etc.

Exactly at midnight, the Parove mill stopped working (it usually worked around the clock).  The mill was just
beyond the 'old cemetery and its constant tick-tock could be heard all over the shtetl, especially at night.  Now,
suddenly, -- no more ticking... silence!

We who glued up the posters went home to sleep.  We had made sure not to leave any traces of our activities because if we were caught, it would mean long jail terms.  The next morning, there was quite a hubbub in the sthtetl.  The 12 policemen with their rifles slung over their shoulders patrolled the market place and the streets.  The young people, who had decided that they would not work on this day, strolled in the streets, dressed in the holiday best.  When a policeman stopped any of them to ask why they were not working, their answer was,  "It is the first of May, a decision of the workers' control.

Peasant cart were searched and telegrams were sent to higher authorities.  The whole town read the proclamations which had been put up with shoemaker's glue so it was very difficult to pull them down.  Orthodox Jews had serious discussions over who could have done this terrible thing.  They were terribly afraid that all the Jews would be accused.  Rumors were being circulated that outsiders came to Zaromb and did this thing.  The placards called for a struggle against reaction and for freedom of speech, for peace among all nations and against the rule by the "pritzim"  (landed aristocracy of Poland and Russia).

If everyone in the world would have listened to such calls, perhaps the terrible disaster perpetrated later by beasts in human form could have been avoided.