Zareby Koscliene


By Khayim Z. Silverman

It is ten years since we organized to help the Landsleit from our shtetl, Zaromb. Before, for at least 20 more years, there were many charitable contributions by Zaromber from the synagogue or by individual landsleit -- bride money, money for Pesach, etc., but, until the formation of the "United Zaromber Relief Committee" in 1937, there was no continuous planned relief work for the people of shtetl.

After a few landsleit visited Zaromb from America that year and saw the terrible economic conditions there due to the boycott and other acts of anti-Semitism, even periodic pogroms which had the sanction of the Polish government, we decided to call a conference to form a committee for an organized relief effort.

Several hundred landsleit attended that conference and realized the importance of assuming the responsibility of helping the people of our shtetl. A committee was formed comprised of organizations and individuals of all political and social positions.

This united committee included the synagogue, "Degel Itzkhak Anshe Zaromb", the Zaromber Young Friends Benevolent Association, the Zaromber branch 56 of the Jewish Fraternal Order and the Young Ladies Friends. Then individuals of the Jewish National Farband also joined the committee.

At the beginning, we had some serious problems and difficulties. First, we had to win each other's trust. Secondly, we had to reach an understanding about the ways in which a broad-based organization could do constructive relief work for all our landsleit.

At first, charity was the major theme since that was the tradition the members of most of the organizations brought with them. But those on the committee who were more community oriented insisted on a more constructive approach to our relief efforts.

After our first efforts of aid reached Zaromb and we received reports back, everyone was convinced that our future help for our shtetl must be more constructive than mere charity.

In the years until the war started, we sent about $6,000 to Zaromb. We enlarged the "borrowing chest" in partnership with the Joint through a special fund to cover any deficit if it should occur. In this way, even those who could not pay back their previous loans were able to borrow money.

According to the report issued by the Joint, which controlled and supported the "borrowing chests" in Poland, the Zaromber chest was an example which could be held up to others.

At our request, a sickness fund was set up and medical instruments were sent which were to be made available to all Zarombers so that even the poor received free medical care and free medication.

We financed a kitchen where two meals a day were served to those in need and a full day school for poor children where they were fed. We even arranged for these children to go on vacations. We supported the library and a series of cultural and religious institutions. We saw to it that everyone in Zaromb had shoes. We were on the verge of opening a vocational training school for the young adults in Zaromb when Hitler's murderers invaded Poland.

When war broke out, our relief committee did not stop its work, as many larger relief committees did. On the contrary, we realized that now the need would be greater than ever. We felt the responsibility to help win the war against the enemy of humanity -- fascism.

During the past ten years, the Zaromber Relief Committee contributed about $5,000 to the following governmental and relief organizations - the U.S.C., the American Red Cross, the Jewish Council, Russian War Relief, the United Jewish Appeal, the Federation of Polish Jews, Histadrut, ORT, HAYAS and Ambidjan.

As Germany was defeated, we learned of our enormous national destruction, of the deaths of 6 million Jews killed by the Hitler murderers. We found out that our shtetl suf- fered the same fate and the majority of the Zaromber Jews were horribly murdered and buried in a mass grave near Zaromb.

We learned this from the first Zaromber who survived the hell of the Hitler years by hiding in the underground pits or in the forest as partisans. We also found out that the few Zaromber survivors who returned t the shtetl after liberation had to run away quickly after one of them was shot and killed by a Polish anti-semite.

Through our connections with the Joint, Hayas and the Red Cross, we quickly made contact with our surviving .brothers and sisters in Poland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
We also got some letters from Zaromber who had survived in the Soviet Union. As soon as we received the first letters from the survivors, the committee began the work of sending packages of food and clothing, as well as money and letters. These were sent through every possible route.

The committee, in conjunction with the Joint, set up an emigration apparatus so that all the landsleit who were in Germany, Austria and Italy could register with the Joint for cooperative affidavits, if they wanted to come to America. At the same time, the Joint would help those who wanted to go to Eretz-lsrael or the other American countries.

It did not take long before we got all the survivors in touch with their families in Europe and in the Americas.
We contacted landsleit in Cuba, Argentina, France and Eretz- Israel and in those countries, relief committees' which were then in existence, got reorganized and in others such committees were formed to help locate Zaromber who survived and got them in contact with their families as well as sending them parcels of food, etc., and to correspond with them by letter.

We were able to do all this thanks to the feeling of respect we had for the representatives of the organizations who made up the Committee for Relief.

It is worthwhile to say something about these representatives. The Zaromber Young Men have the greatest representation and are the most esteemed. They have provided the largest financial contributions and their opinions, in my view, are always right. Also held in high esteem are the representatives of the synagogue. Despite the fact that these men are of an age when it is physically difficult to participate in all the work of the committee, they have always managed to bring in the second highest amount of contributions. Some of the representatives of the congregation have always been active and are an excellent example to the younger members of the Committee.

A good word must be said for the representatives of the Zaromber Young Ladies. They were not always able to bring in much financial aid, but, to make up for that, a few of the women were very active and were among the first to become involved in every activity of the committee throughout these 10 years.

There was also a small representation from Branch 56 of the "Ordn" but their contribution of ideas were always given the consideration due them. It is worth noting that some of the small representatives gave heart and soul to the work and, thanks to their devotion, they had an influence on the orientation of the relief work of the committee.

It must be said, however, that a number of representatives of all the organizations in the committee did not meet their responsibilities as they had promised to do.

Yet the small group of very active members succeeded in sending help to 75 addresses of surviving families and individuals between 1945 and 1947 as well as 175 persons in
the Soviet Union, Poland, Germany, Austria, France and Italy. We sent parcels of food (which we packed ourselves) by mail, special Passover food packages and packages through "Care" -- all in all, we sent about 11 thousand pounds of food. We also sent over about 3,000 pounds of new and used clothing, and about $3,000 which was distributed partly in cash and partly in sewing machines to help some of our Paris landsleit to get back on their feet.

At this time, our main objective is to finance the trip from Poland and Germany to Argentina of 10 landsleit. Their families are also helping. They received visas sent by the Zaromber Relief Committee of Buenos Aires.

The Zaromber Relief Committees in other countries are working in close cooperation with us. The Zaromber Relief Committee of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the second largest and their orientation is the same as ours. They have shown great talent and experience in relief work and, in a short space of time, have sent significant help to the survivors.

Cuba has also played an important role. The few Zaromber families who live in Havana have, through activities, sent financial help to our committee in New York. Through personal contacts, a close bond has been formed between their committee and ours.

The situation with the Zaromber Relief Committee in Paris is, however, quite different. Regretfully, our landsleit in Paris are, like all the other Jews who suffered through the fascist occupation, so weakened physically that they simply did not have the strength to do anything. This was especially the case for the few Zaromber who survived the death camps. Still, despite their own hardship, they managed, with the help of our committee, to give the first essential assistance to the landsleit in Paris and to those who had just arrived in France after their ordeal.

The relief committee in Tel Aviv occupies a special place. Despite the fact that, together with the whole Jewish population of Palestine, the Zaromber are involved in the battle against the British "Mandate Guardianship", they have managed to send aid from time to time. They have also sent us detailed plans, which they have worked out, for a children's home in Tel-Aviv which would be erected in the memory of our martyrs and would be named for our shtetl Zaromb.

We discussed this project and it was decided that we would accept this plan with gratitude. We let all the above mentioned Zaromber Relief Committees know that they should have a special fund-raising campaign in 1948 for this holy construction project.                   

Particular recognition is due our landsleit in the various American cities who were always ready to help, whether contacted in person or by mail. Their generous response
always gave encouragement to our committee. We are certain that they will continue to show their sincere concern for our newest plan -- the monument project -- as well as helping us in our steady efforts to send assistance to our brothers and sisters, who have suffered so much, until they find a new secure home.

Now, more than 2 years after the war against fascism ended, after one-third of the Jewish people were killed, there are still about 250,000 Jews in concentration camps. The armored might of British imperialism stands at the gates of Eretz-lsrael and sends the tortured, exhausted Jews back to the camps in Germany, even though the "Yishuv" (Jewish community in Eretz-lsrael) is ready to take them in as brothers.  The destruction of our people was so momentous and the need of our brothers overseas so great that assistance from brotherly hands and righteous hearts is demanded.

The members of the Committee, along with all our landsleit in America, will renew our efforts to continue our relief work for the Zaromber survivors in Europe in this, our eleventh year. We have long understood that our long-suffering relatives are not asking for a charitable hand-out, but for the assistance they are justified to receive. We are doing everything we can to fulfill our obligation to then.. It is with this approach that our committee has always carried out its relief efforts and we shall continue to carry on our work until the entire problem of our surviving brothers and sisters in need will be totally resolved.