30 Years Chenstochover Aid Society (1914-1945)
A Chapter of Jewish Communal Activities in Toronto
by N.S. & L. J. Z.
Thirty years is a short period in our history. The stretch of thirty years is hardly worth while to mention. In the life of an organization, however, and particularly in a City where the entire Jewish settlement is comparatively young, it is important to relate with some detail both the developments within the organization as well as its contributions towards the History of Toronto Jewry.
In reviewing the Chapter “Chenstochover Aid Society” one cannot help but becoming acquainted with the Social, Benevolent, Welfare and Philanthropic Activities in the City of Toronto for the last thirty years.
On the 18th day of December, 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the first world war, several Chenstochover had assembled in the house of the deceased H. W. Switzer, at 51 Baldwin St., and founded the Chenstochover Hilfs Farein. Joseph Bochnek was elected President and the late H. W. Switzer, Secretary.
The landsleit had gathered together for the sole purpose of discussing how to help those in their home-town Chenstochov. After some exchange of opinions it was resolved to organize a Relief Society to bring aid to the war victims of their native-town. The founders had one thought in their minds, namely, to make an attempt to organize all landsleit in Toronto to assist the war sufferers in the Old Country.
The organizing of the landsleit was quite a difficult task. Thanks, however, to a few individuals who possessed a great deal of courage, foresight and concern for their home-towners welfare, the Relief Society soon had 60 members. The Society had experienced considerable difficulty, mainly because no monies could be sent out of Canada and very few people showed any interest to collect funds for the future.
Several of the founders soon realized that in order to assure the future existence of the Organization they would have to change the Relief Society into a Sick Benefit Organization which shall unite and house together not only landsleit but also others who are seeking social security and friendly atmosphere.
A few individuals began to lay the cornerstone of the Sick Benefit Society and had assembled in the house of the late Rev. Isaac Halpern where they conducted small and large meetings to bring in new members.
In order to legally constitute themselves they had to have seventy-five members to obtain a charter. Thanks to the unceasing efforts of a few founders a charter was obtained and the Relief Society was transformed into a permanent Organization being officially known as Chenstochover Aid Society.
The first president was Joseph Bochnek who was a great adherent of a Relief organization but not too enthusiastic for a Sick Benefit Society. Many meetings were conducted by A. Winter who was quite an admirer of the Society. He still speaks with fervor and devotion about the time when the Society was founded and its first members including some additional active members of that time. Amongst those we find: M. Caplan, M. Tarnowsky, B. Woznica, K. Shiff, C. D. Danzinger, Brothers S. and A. Krakover, B. Kolchary, J. Rotkopf, S. H. Shrott, P. Stone, J. Lubek, M. Bernholtz, C. Bernholtz, J. Goldstein, S. Goldstein, M. Leizerowitz, M. Litner and others who had also participated in general, civic and social activities.
We find amongst those who built the Chenstochover Society the following who are now deceased: H. W. Switzer, Rev. Halpern, Singer, S. Lapidus, A. Rosen and S. Bleiweis.
At a meeting held on the 23rd day of May, 1915, at 206 Beverly St., it was reported that there was already $175.00 in the treasury.
The majority of the meetings were then conducted by A. Winter. He together with Tarnowsky, Caplan and Woznica have succeeded in getting a hall for meetings, in working out a constitution and generally in making the meetings more interesting and helping the Society to function more regularly.
1916 – A Step Forward
On the 12th day of December, 1915, the following officers were elected for the year 1916: A. Winter, president; M. Caplan, vice-president; K. Shiff, treasurer; Wallhendler and Lapidus, secretaries; M. Tarnowsky, B. Woznica, S. Jolofsky, both the deceased, H. Switzer and Bleiweis and others, members of the Executive.
In that year, a Cemetery was bought and a Board of Directors had been organized. The Constitution was printed, and provided for full benefits for the members including medical aid. Elections took place half-yearly. Both the presidents Winter and Bochnek had exchanged offices. In 1917 the late H. W. Switzer was elected Secretary.
1918 – The End of the First World War
M. Tarnowksy, the energetic worker who still occupies a very prominent role in the Society, was elected president, the Secretaries were J. Potash and B. Cohen (for some time H. Blackman was Recording Secretary). There was in the treasury $516.95. The Society had participated in, and contributed to, all the institutions of the City. The meetings took place in the Hall of the People’s Institute at 5 Grange Road.
In the year 1919 M. Caplan became president. The Society had a special campaign for funds for the benefit of the war victims. In the same year S. H. Shrott became president. He had endeavoured to enlarge the membership of the Society. He immediately thereafter left Toronto to tour Poland and Galicia. M. Caplan was re-elected president. The latter was loved and respected by all as he accomplished a great deal for the good and welfare of the Society. Badges were issued to the members for the first time.
In the year 1920 Joseph Rubin became president. B. Jacobs succeeded him in the office. In October, 1921, K. Shiff was elected president and P. Stone Secretary.
In the year 1923 M. Caplan was again elected president. He had organized the Ladies Auxiliary in the year 1922. The Ladies rendered assistance to the up-building of the Society. They took upon themselves certain responsibilities and helped in making the Society what it now is. They assisted in making the annual celebrations quite successful and generally enriched the spirit of the Society.
Between the years 1925 and 1930 the Society experienced a certain quietness. The membership had risen but slowly. H. Honigman was the president in 1924; M. Tarnowsky in 1925-26; M. Caplan in 1927-28; A. Richtiger in 1929; and M. Tarnowsky in 1930.
In the year 1927 the Society had a fine concert and banquet in the house of A. Miller, 411 Spadina Ave., and raised a considerable amount for war orphans who were to come to Canada.
Chenstochover Society in the Years of Crisis
In the years 1930-31 M. Tarnowsky was president and the meetings took place at the Labour Lyceum which premises the Society helped to build.
In the year 1932 R. Rodness became president; D. Finer, vice-president; J. Potash, financial secretary; P. Stone, recording secretary and D. Danziger, treasurer.
There was a depression in the country. The Society helped the members in distress as well as a number of philanthropic institutions in the City.
In the year 1933 when the first pogroms were made upon Jewry in Germany, and the Jews in Toronto called meetings of protest to draw the attention of the Christian world to the atrocities perpetrated upon the Jews in Germany. D. Finer became president and Jacob Lubek, secretary. The officers increased the sick benefits for the members and contributed largely to all civic and welfare institutions. In the year 1932 the Society paid to its members $1000.00 in relief. In the year 1933 the amount was larger.
In the years 1934-35 M. Tarnowsky was again president, Harry Garalick, vice-president and D. Danziger, treasurer. Frank Goldfarb, one of the new and younger members, became active. Campaigns for members both by the Society and the Ladies Auxiliary were conducted and the Society enlarged its membership by 60. At that time there was in the treasury the sum of $9,063.55.
The first day of December, 1935, saw D. Finer re-elected as president and A. Applebaum as vice-president, and a number of new officers and the same secretaries. The president attempted to make certain improvements and partially succeeded. These improvements were realized the following year under the chairmanship of H. Kaman.
In the year 1937 new blood came into the Society, namely: Harry Kaman was elected president; Izzie Shulman, vice-president; David Bernholtz, treasurer; and Jacob Lubek and S. H. Shrott, secretaries.
The Society began to take a greater interest in cultural activities and invited outstanding people to lecture to the members on various topics.
The Society resolved to give presents to members who had not taken sick benefit for a period of 20 years.
1939 – Year of War
In the year 1939, the most critical year in the annals of the History of the Jews, the Chenstochover Aid Society, under the leadership of its capable presidents, had helped the war victims and also assisted and supported the Jewish up-building of Eretz-Israel.
During the war-years the Society decided not to have any entertainment. Instead, the officers busied themselves with the purchasing of Victory Bonds for thousands of dollars, worked intensively for war efforts and sent parcels to members’ sons and others serving in His Majesty’s Army, Navy and Air Forces. Younger members became active and S. H. Shrott and H. Pearl were the Secretaries.
In the year 1939 the following officers were elected: I. Shulman, president; A. Weinstock, vice-president; D. Bernholtz, treasurer; S. H. Shrott, financial secretary and J. Lubek, recording secretary.
The Society began to make arrangements to celebrate the 25th jubilee and H. Kaman was elected chairman of the Jubilee. Due to the war and sufferings of the Jews the world over the celebration was postponed. The Society had then in its treasury $8,600.00 and the entire capital amounted to $11,386.00.
The officers for the year 1940 were elected by acclamation: Harry Kaman, president; A. Weinstock, vice-president and others.
On the 8th day of December, 1940, Abe Weinstock became president and Frank Goldfarb vice-president. These two active leaders of the Society are still doing their utmost and are devoting a great deal of their time to the business of the Society and together with others are responsible for the Society’s participation in many financial drives by various Jewish institutions in the city.
On the 24th day of May, 1941, the Society had shown a fine motion picture which netted a large sum of money subsequently contributed to war efforts, British War Victims, and other war funds.
Abe Weinstock had remained as president for 2 years and was succeeded by Frank Goldfarb. Along with the latter the late Max Rosen became vice-president, Abraham Kaman, treasurer and A. Miller, hospitaler.
Frank Goldfarb, an energetic and intelligent leader, succeeded in bringing about harmony amongst the members and unity amongst the officers and generally speaking he solved a number of Society problems for which he has been held in high esteem by members and officers alike.
The special office for war efforts under the chairmanship of D. Bernholtz sent food packages and comfort boxes to soldiers serving within the country as well as overseas.
On the 10th day of December, 1944, both the late Max Rosen and Abe Weinstock, were elected unanimously president and vice-president respectively. They were singularly honoured to lead the Society in the year of Victory over bloody Nazi-Germany and Military Japan.
After Victory was proclaimed the members have resolved to celebrate the 30th Jubilee of the Chenstochover Aid Society. The year 1945 should therefore be designated as the historic year of the Society.
The president was very happy and considered himself very lucky that during his tenure of office as President the Society should celebrate its 30th jubilee. Fate, however, decreed otherwise. The merciless and tragic death has taken him to the world beyond and he, one of the builders of the Society and President in the historic year passed away one week before the official banquet was to have taken place on the 11th day of December, 1945.
The celebration was postponed until 30 days after the untimely death of the President. The Society expressing thereby deep sorrow and honour for their respected and beloved President.
Every member as well as officer was greatly shocked because of the death of the President who had hoped to live and celebrate the 50th Jubilee of the Society.
With great sorrow and sympathy, we note the date of the departure of the President of the Chenstochover Aid Society, Max Rosen, aged 53 years, on Monday night, the 3rd day of December, 1945. (5th day of Chanukah, 5706).
The following were Presidents during the 30 years of the existence of the Society:
J. Bochnek – 1914-1915.
A. Winter – 1916-1917.
M. Tarnowsky – 1915; 1918; 1925-26; 1930-31; 1934-35.
M. Caplan – 1919 (6 mos.); 1920; 1923-24; 1927-28.
S. H. Shrott – 1921 (6 mos.).
J. Rubin – 1921 (6 mos.).
B. Jacobs – 1921-22.
Socoloff – 1922 (6 mos.).
H. Honigman – 1924.
Abe Richtiger – 1929.
R. Rodness – 1932.
D. Finer – 1933; 1936.
H. Kaman – 1937-38; 1940.
J. Shulman – 1939.
Abe Weinstock – 1941-42.
Frank Goldfarb – 1943-44.
Max Rosen, (Deceased) 1945.
The Board of Directors including the Chevra Kadisha consist of honourable members such as: M. Tarnowsky, chairman; H. Garalick, treasurer; D. Danziger, P. Stone, A. Winter, Mendel Leizerowitz, Kalman Goldwaser, Ojzer Starkman and others.
The present financial and recording secretaries are Harry Pearl and S. H. Shrott, respectively, who are capably and with devotion fulfilling their duties and generally speaking have greatly assisted in making the jubilee a great success.
With mutual effort and cooperation of both men and women the Chenstochover Aid Society together with the Ladies Auxiliary have actively participated in all local and national campaigns for funds and contributed generously to the Federation for Jewish Philanthropies, Old Folks’ Home, Folks Farein, Mount Sinai Hospital, United Jewish Welfare Fund of Toronto, Toronto Welfare Chest and other benevolent institutions. The Society took an active interest in the Geverkshaften, Jewish Immigrant Aid Society, Canadian Jewish Congress, Canadian Federation for Polish Jews and other prominent organizations, The Society has always supported cultural educational institutions and never became involved in any party or political affiliations.
Be it also recorded that we find amongst the leaders and active members of the Society energetic and self-sacrificing people who have given up a great deal of their personal comfort and pleasure to bring about the Chenstochover Aid Society into that which it is to-day.
The Chenstochover Aid Society with all its members and particularly with its past and present officers stand ready and eager to continue their splendid work for many years to come for the benefit of themselves as well as for the welfare and security of Jewry the world over.