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August 05, 1988 - Image 73

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-08-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

4

AROUND TOWN

Landsmen
of
Mezeritch

Bob McKeown

A charity group has evolved into a
social club, but recalls its roots on
its 50th anniversary

Irving Herman, Bea Fealk, Jack Klain and Herman Kaufman look through Bea's club scrapbook.

munity. A town shut was built. A
yeshivah was headquartered there.
Special to The Jewish News
And great scholars migrated from
s Bea Fealk flips Mezeritch to the Holy Land.
By the end of the 18th Century,
through the pages of the
the
town boasted 9,000 Jews in a
history of the Mezerit-
population
of 13,000. Mrs. Fealk's
cher landsmanshaften
father
was
beter
known as "Pesach
she also flips through
Groisar" than his given name, David
the pages of her life.
The Mezeritcher group, one of the Feldman, because he was the tallest
few landsmanshaften remaining in man in town. He also owned the com-
the Detroit area, is celebrating its munity's brush factory.
Feldman was a man ahead of his
golden anniversary. Despite its con-
time.
Concerned about the rising tide
tinuity, it bears little resemblance to
of
anti-Semitism,
he decided in 1898
the club of 50 years ago, formed by im-
migrants from Mezeritch to help to send his sons and his daughter to
family and friends in Detroit and New York City. There his sons joined
the New York Mezeritch Young Men's
back home.
"Originally it was a charity Society. The former Mezeritchers
group," member Herman Kaufman established their own synagogue on
explains. "Today it's just a social the city's east side. Besides four
group," with few members descended chapters in New York City, other
Mezeritcher groups formed in
from Mezeritch.
It is a group that has more than Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto and Mon-
its fair moments of fun. But it is a treal, as well as Palestine and
social group none-the-less, quite Argentina.
In 1918, the Mezeritch Beneficial
unlike what it was before World War
Aid
Society was formed in Detroit to
II.
Although the club dates back to serve 30 transplanted "Mizritchies."
1938, the story really begins in the Joining the Detroit group some five
16th Century, with the first known years later were the Feldmans.
The aid society quickly grew in
settlement of Jews in the Polish
village of Mezeritch. According to strength. In 1923, a cemetery was
Mrs. Fealk, the landsmanshaften's established along Gratiot Avenue in
historian and an original member, Roseville. A meeting hall was opened
about 80 percent of the village's above a Chinese laundry at Linwood
population was Jewish. And, and Elmhurst. And a farm school was
historically, the Jews controlled all of purchased at Georgetown, Ontario.
In 1938, David Feldman, who by
the business in town.
It was a cohesive Jewish corn- then was president of the "senior"

GARY BAUMGARTEN

A

chers. "That's hard to judge, They
didn't keep any records.
"I do know that many of them
went on to be successful people. The
son of one of the orphans, for exam-
ple, is the vice president of a bank.
And they maintained their Jewish-
ness; they definitely did. Many of
those that now live in Toronto are
very religious."
Economics, and the growth of the
boys to adulthood, forced the closing
of the school. Some of the younger
boys were transferred to a farmhouse
near Windsor. Meanwhile, the land-
smanshaft continued to raise money
and send it to Mezeritch until the in-
The aid society was
vading Nazis wiped out the Jewish
formed to serve 30
community. After that, the Mezerit-
transplanted
chers' fund-raising efforts were
directed toward Israel.
"Mizritchies."
Mrs. Fealk says the landsman-
group was busy raising money, the shaften became the link to a past
senior groups were getting as many that, suddenly, with one fell Nezi
Jewish boys as they could out of sweep, no longer exited. "There was
Mezeritch and to the farm school this town of 9,000 Jews who, except
for those who came here prior to the
before Hitler got to them.
"I went up there to Georgetown Holocaust, were wiped out."
A few years ago, Mrs. Fealk's
many times with my brother to bring
them gifts," Mrs. Fealk says. "And brother, Dr. Paul Fenton, visited
they were there only because there Mezeritch in a futile search for his
were people who were foresighted past. "My brother was so very disap-
enough to do something. People say pointed. He found what he thought
six million died and what did we do. was our father's factory. But when he
Well, our forefathers rescued so many tried to question the one Jewish man
from Hitler by settling this farm in who survived, the man wouldn't corn-
municate because he was afraid. We
Ontario."
Mrs. Fealk says she has no idea have a picture of my grandfather's
how many lives were actually saved gravestone before everything happen-
by the actions of the older Mezerit- ed over there and he looked for the

group, asked his daughter, Bea, to
form a junior group.
"In those days children listened to
their parents," Mrs. Fealk said.
"Despite the fact that we were busy
with babies in diapers, 10 couples
complied with my father's request."
That was the beginning of today's
Mezeritcher landsmanshaften.
"We worked very hard," Mrs.
Fealk says. "We presented fundrais-
ing variety shows and we raised
money by running a resale shop." The
money supported the farm school in
Ontario. Because, while the junior

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS 73

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