The History of the Organization

Until the beginning of the 1930’s (the period of the Fifth Aliyah of the Zionist movement), no attempts were made to organize the community of Siedlce Jews in Eretz Israel.

With the worsening economic situation of Jews in Eastern Europe, due to a severe economic crisis all over the world at that time, efforts were made to help the Jews of Siedlce who had immigrated to Israel. For this purpose, the registration of the survivors living in Israel was done, and on March 2, 1933, the “Siedlce Jews Organization in Eretz Israel” was established.

The first tasks of the organization were to maintain contact with Zionist institutions in our city, to open a members’ club for meeting new immigrants with veteran Israelis, to contact all the Siedlce’s Jewish Diaspora, and to register the quantity and location of veteran immigrants from Siedlce in Israel. As for the Soviet Union, the organization’s committee managed to organize a shipment of packages to exiled deportees scattered throughout the country, and after the outbreak of World War II, letters were received from our brethren asking for urgent help to save them from death.

In April 1944, it was decided to reestablish an organization called “the Association of Siedlce Jews”. It was headed by a veteran Zionist activist, Fishel Dromi (Popovsky). On the 1st of Elul TS”D (5704), a first memorial ceremony was held in the “Ohel Shem” hall in Tel-Aviv, attended by many hundreds of our city’s residents. A charity fund was founded maintained by donations of Jews from Siedlce in Eretz Israel, the United States, France and Argentina. This fund provided loans to needy people from our city for the purpose of housing, livelihood and health.

First steps were taken to establish the organization on an international basis, and it played an important role in establishing an office for searching for relatives. Relations were established with She’erit Hapletah in Siedlce, where Matzah and wine were sent for Passover, money was sent to repair the wall of the Jewish cemetery which was destroyed during the Holocaust.

In the 1950s, the organization concentrated on publishing a “Yizkor” book in memory of the exterminated community of Siedlce. With the help of Argentina’s Jews, where an international publishing center was located, the book was published in 1956 and soon appeared on the shelves of public and academic libraries and on many shelves in Jewish homes all over the world.

With the help of special donations from abroad, and with the help of the Histadrut, a large cultural center was built on the outskirts of the city of Akko and a Beit Midrash was established commemorating Siedlce’s saints in Bnei Brak.

In cooperation with the Jewish National Fund, a plan was made to erect a monument to the Siedlce martyrs in the KKL-JNF forests in the hills of Jerusalem.

In 1970, the first chairman of our organization, Fishel Dromi (Popovski), passed away, after many years of public activity. He was replaced by his deputy, David Ben-Yosef (Pesovsky), a public figure and a journalist.

The committee decided to establish a central memorial in the regional cemetery in Holon, and donations began to flow from all over the world.

To the assistance of Chairman Ben-Yosef, a member of the committee, Shmuel Levin, coordinated the list of donors and worked on the preparation of graphic sketches, which were an architectural proposal for the perpetrators of the plan – “Kastel” monument building company. Many people visited the site over the years, and efforts are being made to maintain its propriety and integrity.

The Gemilut Hasadim fund expanded and allocated significant sums to a special scholarship fund of the Association of Polish Immigrants in Israel. Each year, scholarships were awarded to students and students, not only from Siedlce, wrote academic papers in Holocaust research, and especially the Holocaust of Siedlce Jewry. The organization’s board also made contact with the management of the Nordau Elementary School in Tel Aviv and sponsored the school’s activities in all aspects of commemoration activities.

For many years, David Ben-Yosef devoted himself to the organization. In 1988, his long illness overcame him and he passed away.

At the beginning of 1985, Eliezer Bar-Shalom (Bernholz), a well-known public figure, was elected to serve as chairman of the committee. Under his guidance social activities were added and meetings of Siedlce’s Olim occurred more frequently. Besided yearly memorial service, Hanukkah and Independence day parties were celebrated. A fancy edition of the yearly bulletin was published every year. The board has created a close social bond with two Jewish writers from our town – Kroitz and Ben-Uzi (Liwerant), and helped them publish two books with valuable historical-biographical details. Unfortunately, Eliezer Bar-Haim’s activities were cut short while he was still busy and he has left us without a leader.

At the end of 1989, the role was assigned to Shmuel Levine, representative of the second generation. Being experienced in the activities of the committee, he went to work without difficulty and continued the long tradition. He initiated the publication of a photo album entitled “Siedlce – before, during and after”, with the aim of giving future generations, not fluent in Yiddish, access to Siedlce through pictures. At the same time, contact was made with Polish-intellectual circles in Siedlce, and several joint activities were evaluated, including trips, mutual visits and writing articles, but all plans were shelved.

With the retirement of Shmuel Levine due to his poor health, Herzl Kave was elected chairman.

Shmuel Levine died during the production of the book “Fathers tell of Siedlce”.

Mr. Kave and worked hard to integrate the second generation in the organization. Over the years, the interaction with “Giborei Israel” public school has been strengthened. As a result of this relationship, memorial ceremonies were held in the school in recent years. In addition, a memorial site for the city’s Jews was erected there.

In the year 2000, a tour of the city’s residents took place in Poland, during which the connection with the city’s administration and mayor was renewed. Tours were held at the Ghetto Fighters’ House and Yad Vashem.

In 2006 joint journey of Zamosc and Siedlce veterans took place in Poland, followed by several participants initiating the reestablishment of the “Association of Siedlce”, chaired by Mrs. Bella Prodzenski. The renewed Committee, composed of Prof. Yosef Aflboim (Siedlce born, serving as the treasurer), Adv. Noya Decker (nee Tocmintz, her father Siedlce born, also serving as treasurer), Mrs. Tami Mair (nee Tabakman her father Siedlce born), Mrs. Batya Gonen (second generation to Siedlce born), Yehuda Ben-Nahum (from the Fiinholtz family), Yoav Sacham (nee Steinberg, a second generation of Siedlce born) Orly Stetiner-Karmasz (to Karmarz, third generation Siedlce born, editor and director of the organization’s website).

During the years since the reestablishment of the organization, many hundreds of members of the second and third generation (and even the fourth generation) have joined it. There are meetings at least once a year (annual memorial and other events). Groups organize roots trips to Poland with an emphasis on Siedlce and its environment.

Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano.