By David Forer


We do not have information about the Jewish immigration from our area to Argentina at the beginning of Jewish settlement. However, undoubtedly the settlement work of Baron Hirsch aroused an echo in our area, similar to that in the general Jewish Pale. Evidence of this can be found in the letters of appeal to the Central Committee of the Settlement Company in Petersburg and to Noah Katzovich, that were sent by the ICA company in Argentina to Russia in order to recruit Jewish families to settle in ICA farms in Argentina.


Pinhas Leib ELKON wrote a letter in Hebrew from Seltz in this vein: "I am a Hebrew teacher, married with five children the oldest a boy of 17 and the youngest a boy of 5, all of them healthy. My wife looks after the garden and is helped by the children." He asked the central committee in Petersburg to settle him on the land at the same time allow him to go on teaching...


Nisan KRONSHTAT of Pruzana wrote a letter in Hebrew mingled with Yiddish during the week of the "Vayeshev" portion, 1902. He said that as he had become poorer in recent years the only solution for him was to immigrate. He was ready to travel to Argentina, not America, because America was "an unclean land" and he was not prepared to stray from the right path... In that same year, Yosef STAROVOLSKY of Pruzana asked about the possibilities of emigrating to Argentina.


In contrast to the requests of Jews from Seltz and Pruzana, a whole group of Jews from Shershev asked to emigrate and from their letter, it emerges that some residents of that district of Grodno had already emigrated. The post office frank was dated January 25, 1901. The letter was written in Russian:


"To the Central Committee of the Jewish Settlement Society in Petersburg.

Re: Request of the Undersigned, Third-Class Citizens of Shershev in the Grodno District.


We, the undersigned, together with our families, wish to emigrate for ever to Argentina to work in agriculture and buy farms, as other settlers in our district have done. In this connection, we wish to ask the committee the following questions:

1. What are the conditions of emigration at present?                                          

2. Do the emigrants have to deposit a "guarantee" with the Committee and if so, will it be returned in Argentina?

3. Who finances the expenses of the journey? And how much money does each settler have to take with him?

4. What farm in immovable property and what movable property does the settler get?

5. Which place in Argentina is designed for us?

6. Will you enable our representative to go to Argentina to investigate the conditions of the place and thus save us bother and expense?

7. Which route can be taken from Shershev to Argentina so that the Russian authorities will not make difficulties for us?


We ask for a detailed reply to obviate the need for further questions. We ask for a reply to the address of one of us, who are third-class citizens in Shershev, Pruzana District, Grodno region.


Signed by

Zussel Abramov FEIRBERG


We enclose two 80 kopek income stamps.


January 17, 1901”


There were three other signatories in the name of 20 more inhabitants.


It is not known, if all or some of the signatories emigrated to Argentina, but the letter undoubtedly indicates that wide circles showed interest in emigrating to Argentina. In any event, not many Jews left for Argentina, as compared with the large waves of emigration to the United States. However, several individuals and groups reached Argentina, settling in Buenos Aires, the provincial towns and the colonies. The descendants of about 15 families are still alive. Some of them played a role in social life. However, it is not known if contact was maintained between them, whether because of their small number or due to the geographical separation. Until 1921, there was no sign of any organization.

Larger Emigration: Organization and Aid


After the First World War, emigration to the United States was resumed. It was only in 1921 when the American authorities began making difficulties for the immigrants that they turned to Cuba, Canada, Argentina and Palestine.


Some of emigrants intended to reach the United States sooner or later, in accordance with the American law that every European emigrant is eligible to enter the United States after a one year's stay in one of the American continent states. Only a small minority of the emigrants to Argentina left for the United States.


Most of them remained. In 1923, there were already a lot of people from our area who had settled in Argentina, mostly young bachelors. They would meet in Kan's restaurant and when they heard new immigrants had arrived, they would welcome them and host them in their dingy rooms. The old-timers cared for the newcomers, looking for jobs for them and other livelihoods.  Until they settled down, they would share their meager food with them.


In 1924, a need was seen to organize to help their brethren and create a homely atmosphere for them. In March 1924, a meeting with 40 to 50 participants was held. On the initiative of the teacher L. YELSKY (who returned to Pruzana in 1925 and together with his family met his death at Auschwitz) and an organizing committee was set up. The committee did not last long. The reasons are not known. It may be assumed that one was that Jewish workers and socialist and progressive Jews, could not sit down together with bourgeois, even if the "bourgeois" in question were without livelihood and penniless like the workers.


Nevertheless, the idea of organization did not disappear. In the next two years, collective Passover “Sederim” that were not traditional were held. The Landsleit would help each other in giving advice and in special cases, especially illness, would support the needy with grants. This was as far as the inhabitants of Buenos Aires were concerned. Those who lived in the colonies or provincial towns were of course remote and cut off from any social activity.


One immigrant who became ill with tuberculosis was forced to return to Poland. His friend helped him and raised the fare.


There was also interest in Pruzana institutions. A committee was set up to help the Jewish library and money was raised for this purpose. On June 18, 1926, a health fund for Pruzana Jews, which operated according to regulations, was set up. The intention was to supply means and medical help in cases of sickness from membership fees and special enterprises. The fee was 50 cents a month. Five elected members formed the fund's management. There were 58 members. One year later, the regulations were changed.


Employees alone could be elected to the management. The interest of the members in fund diminished and the executive which was changed often tried many means to bring the members closer together, one of which was abolition of the regulation under which employees alone could be elected to the management.


The executive participated in the protest against the pogroms in Rumania and joined the committee fighting against trading in women. In the years 1929-1931, the executive raised money for the "Pruzana Pinkas" which appeared in Pruzana in 1931. In 1936, an appeal fund was held for the orphanage and the Yiddish school in Pruzana.


Officially, the health fund was wound up in 1937. Thus, the only organization of Pruzana Jews and the surrounding area ended its existence. However, in urgent cases the fund's functionaries would recruit help for their members or for public institutions in Pruzana. In 1939, an appeal was organized for the schools in the home towns, but the war broke out and the money was used for local purposes. There was no organizational activity until the end of the Second World War.

Aid Committee for Holocaust Survivors in Buenos Aires


In September 1945, Moshe NITZBERG received a newspaper cutting from his brother Asher in New York that included a list of 331 survivors from the home towns. These included 270 from Pruzana, 10 from Bereze, 28 from Malch and 23 from Shershew. Most were in Germany, but some were in Poland, Russia, Pruzana, Italy, France, Austria, Sweden and Belgium. Already, there were survivors who had reached Palestine and America. On reception of the report, an Aid Committee for the Survivors of Pruzana, Bereza and the surrounding area was set up in Buenos Aires. The committee convened a meeting of all Jews from the area and 12,480 pesos were collected on the spot. The Committee contacted the organizations in New York, Canada and Tel Aviv and transferred money and food parcels for the survivors in Pruzana.


Committee members held further fund appeals in Buenos Aires and La Plata and issued a memorial pamphlet, whose content was copied from a similar pamphlet in Tel Aviv. At the first meeting of the editorial committee, D. Forer proposed issuing a Pinkas in memory of the destroyed communities.

The Organization of Pruzana, Bereze, Malch and surrounding area Jews


At the initiative of the Aid Committee for Holocaust Survivors in Buenos Aires, the Organization of Pruzana, Bereza, Malch and Surrounding Area Jews was set up in June 1946. In April 1947, the first survivor of the Pruzana ghetto - M. EISENSTEIN -  arrived and a reception was held for him, which brought in considerable sums of money for the appeal fund. Links were established with the Jews from the above towns in Rosario, La Plata, Zarate and Montevideo. The organization sent money, food parcels and clothes and also demands for immigration and ship tickets. Many packages were sent to Italy, Germany, France and Palestine, Poland and Pruzana. 3,200 pesos were sent to 24 survivors in Palestine. 100 dollars were sent to the Feldafing camp and another 1,000 dollars to the aid committee in New York for transfer to Germany. Loans were given to the needy in Argentina, but most of the money was devoted to immigration requests and ship tickets.


The organization contributed money to the Central Jewish Appeal, the Jewish Hospital, Magen David Adom, the delegation for the tombstone in memory of the Warsaw Ghetto, the consignment of Jewish books to Poland, to printing workers and the Haganah in Palestine.


With the establishment of the Israel State, it was decided to send financial aid to Israel, instead of the camps in Europe. Contacts were continued with people in the camps. In 1949, the organization merged with the separate organization of Shershev Jews. As a result, the name of the organization was changed to the "Organization of Pruzana, Bereze, Malch, Shershev and Surrounding Area Jews". The united body was known by many through its work and many Jewish institutions offered its members cooperation. When differences of opinion broke out between the United Jewish Appeal for Israel and the Federation of the Landsleits, the organization adopted an unequivocal position in favor the United Appeal and opposed the stand of the Federation which wanted a special appeal of the Landsleit organisations.


In 1949, the institutions of the organization discussed a proposal to issue a Pinkas in memory of the destroyed towns and a leaflet was published signed by Meir WOLANSKY of the Pinkas Committee and D. FORER of the executive. It called on members to supply material for the Pinkas.


In March 1950, the organization decided to break off ties with the Landsleit organisations. The organization expanded its work, including help for the Writers Association members to publish their books. The first person to receive support was M. WOLANSKY, who translated "Famfilow people" to Yiddish. The organization held receptions for Masha SHTUKER-PAYUK and Zelig MAZOR when their books appeared. In 1950, the Organization set up a cooperative for loans called Friendship.


The preparation work for the Pinkas continued and after M. WOLANSKY and M. PAYUK resigned and David FORER alone remained, it was decided to give editorship of the pinkas to M. BERNSTEIN.


An appeal was held for the establishment of a wood of 1,000 trees in the Martyrs forest near Jerusalem, in memory of the communities who were liquidated, for the, benefit of the JNF. At the end of 1952, the printing of the Pinkas began.


A youth organization called "Atsha" was set up (Addociation Culturelle Hebraia Argentina), which dealt in cultural and information activities. Over the years, the organization moved to bigger and more pleasant offices, which facilitated its work. In its 12 years existence, about 300 members participated in its activities or 90 percent of Jews from the towns. There is also a group of women working alongside the organization who are active in many committees.


The Friendship cooperative established in 1950 has 44 members, who bought shares worth 55,700 pesos. At the end of 1957, the number of shareholders grew to 738 and the cooperative expanded, gave many loans and greatly increased its capital resources, reserves and general turnover