VILEIKER LANDSLITE IN THE BOSTON AREA
By Benjamin Bronstein
I would like to thank Shirley Broner firstname.lastname@example.org for sending me her uncles' papers.
It seems that the first Vileiker came to Boston in the end of the 19th century. In 1890 five Vileiker came to Boston. Two of them, Harry Cheifets and his sister Sara, stayed in Boston while the other three settled in Lynn, Mass. They were Joseph G/Holub (the son of Naheimie) and two sisters Golda and Brinke Taiz or Deitz -- daughters of Joshe Leibke Taiz. In 1900 my father Sholom Meishe Bronstein came and stayed in Lynn.
During the next ten years the Lynn group was enlarged by the coming to Lynn of Hirshel son of Noahs and his bride Merke, Libe Chaike, Yoshke son of Chaim Bronstein my father's brother, and by Rochmilke Tods. During this same period the Boston group was enlarged by the brothers of Joseph and Avremil Fagebovitz or Fogel, the sons of Shleimke The Inbinder and by their three sisters, Ester, Fagel, and Sara Rive.
In 1910 our family of five children and mother Brocha and cousin Itzke Norman or Itzke Sholems swelled the number of Vileiker in Lynn. In the next four years before the outbreak of the First World War, three more Vileiker came to Lynn, and they were Chave Taiz, Basevke Callnens, and her future husband Jacob Izenstatt, who arrived at our house a few days before the first war started in Europe.
It was natural for us as newcomers to a new land and strange environment to try to keep contact with each other and keep up our friendship from the old hometown. By 1915 most of our landslite had placed themselves in jobs and began to settle down and try to make a living for themselves and their families; but at tie same time we were all concerned about our friends and relatives in our home town where the war was going on. In October of 1915 we decided to call a meeting of all Vileiker Landslite in the Boston area. The meeting was held in the home of my parents, Sholem Meishe and Brocha Bronstein, at 14 Shepard Place in Lynn. At that meeting it was decided that the name of the society should be "The Vileiker Aid Association of Massachusetts." As our first president, we elected our oldest landsman and first settler in Lynn, Joseph Holub (and not J. Izenstatt as in the Yiddish version), Benjamin Bronstein as secretary, and Abraham Fogel as treasurer.
As we began to function as an organization, we had about fifteen families and about eight single members. During 1915-16 we had two visiting members, Gershke and Nomke Bunimovitz, who stayed in Boston with an uncle of theirs who came from Smargon.
Our meetings were held as often as we could arrange them. They were held in the home of a member who would volunteer to take the next meeting. In the meantime the war was still going on, and the United States had to join in. Contact with Europe was broken off, so we could do nothing but try to raise some funds to have on hand when the call for help would come. In 1918 1 volunteered for the Jewish Legion for Palestine and the job of secretary was taken over by Izack Norman. After the war was over and I had come back in December 19199 I found that the activities of our organization had slowed up a bit; but letters from across began to come in asking for aid and financial help. I was put back on my job as secretary and began to liven up our activities.
As the years kept coming and going some of our landslite prospered a bit more than the others. In 1922 Mr. Jacob Izenstatt moved his shoe factory, which he started in Lynn, to Boston and bought a house in Roxbury. With him also moved Izack Norman and one of my sisters who married and also moved to Boston. That upset the Lynn balance and the activities had to be shifted more to the Boston Roxbury area. Our first president felt that he had had the honor too long and that we should elect one of our younger members. So an election was held, and Jacob Izenstatt was elected president that year and every year thereafter until 1957 when we had to give up our activities.
During all the years of existence we sent financial aid to our Vileiker Jewish Community in Europe and to some individual people there as well. In 1929 Mrs. Bessie Izenstatt with her two children went to Vileika to visit her family, and her son became a Bar Mitzva in the Vileiker Beth Midrash. We were all happy for her, and she brought us back a fine report. But that was in 1929. Twelve years later the Yiddish Vileika was no longer as we had known it. The whole Jewish community was annihilated by the Nazis. Since there were no Jewish people let in Vileika after the Second World War, we got in contact with the Vileiker landslite in Israel, and we sent them some aid to help some of the survivors who may have come to Israel. In 1950 we celebrated our 35th anniversary with a dinner at a hotel in the summer resort area of Sharon, Mass. Although many of our original members were no longer with us, we hoped to fill their places with their children. Hoping that they might be interested in taking part in our activities, we invited the children to our dinner, and many of them came; but they showed very little interest in becoming active members in our Society. As a few more years went by, in 1954 my brother Arky passed away, and the Lynn group lost their chauffeur who used to bring them to meetings in the Boston area. In 1955 another ardent worker for our Society, our treasurer Abraham Fogel, passed away leaving us with very few active members. So we had no choice, but to give up.
In 1957 after sending out the last donations for the Rosh Hashonoh holidays to a few individuals in Israel and one in Lynn, I took our Protocol Book and all other material and correspondence Of historical value, and I personally gave it over to the Jewish Scientific Institute (the I.V.A. in New York) while I was in New York. Maybe some day someone will want to write a book about the landslite organizations Of the Jewish Immigrants in America. They may find the name of our hometown, Vileika. And may that be a memorial to all our Vileiker Jewish People who perished under Hitler and a tribute to all our Landslite who helped to perpetuate the name of Vileyka and its Jewish Way 'of Life
Written in February 14, 1971.
By Benjamin Bronstein.
The Life-long Secretary of the Vileyka Aid Association of Massachusetts in the Boston Area