The Emigrants Look Back

From the 1930 zaml bukh of the Keidaner Assn. of New York.

A Thirty-Year Anniversary

Thirty years in a person’s life flies by unnoticed. Old age sneaks up on us stealthily. We run about, we work, we strive and fail to notice how our life runs out, day by day. Suddenly there are a few grey hairs, our sight begins to grow dimmer, our movements heavier; but who has time to think about such trivialities, except when one’s friends and relative gather occasionally to celebrate his wedding anniversary or birthday? Then the celebrant suddenly becomes aware of the fact that he has already lived out most of his life and that his hopes and ambitions are becoming memories – some sweet, some sad – and with these memories comes the realization that it’s almost all over.

But the 30-year anniversary of an organization such as ours is different. The life of such a group is limitless, and with the proper efforts it can be rejuvenated. By injecting young blood into its veins from time to time, our group can live for hundreds of years. So these first 30 years are still the years of youth.

Our Keidaner Association has succeeded in transplanting our old home of Keidan onto American soil. Over these 30 years, ancient Keidan has become young again here in New York. Our anniversary celebration allows us to relive our experiences in our old home and fills us with strength and hope for our future in our new environment. And when our elders will fulfill their lives, then their children will continue on with the work of their beloved, old but forever youthful verein. Long life to the Keidaner Association!

Recollections of our Late Brother, Wolf Kaplan

by Meyer Yitzhak Edelman

We remind ourselves with great sorrow of our friend Wolf Kaplan, who was torn away from us by cruel death. We should perpetuate his memory for many reasons. It would be no exaggeration to say that he devoted nine tenths of his time to the Keidaner organization, to his organization that he helped build from the time he attended its second meeting until his last illness, from which he never recovered.

He constantly recruited new members, by approaching his countrymen directly and not waiting for them to come to us.

That is how it happened with me about six months after I came to New York.

His words at that time are now etched in my memory: “Join up. You won’t be so lonely. You’ll get together with friends and acquaintances. If you don’t have the fees to join, I’ll lend you the money and you’ll repay me when you can.” These were unexpectedly friendly and heartwarming words.

I was sworn in as a member of the Keidaner Association in the summer of 1906. Wolf Kaplan was then treasurer, and he immensely enjoyed depositing each several hundred dollars in the organization’s bank account, which he would report at a meeting with great pride and joy, waving the bankbook, looking like a general reporting a victory in battle.

It is a fact that Brother Kaplan attended 90 percent of all committee meetings, no matter how far off they might have been, many of them tens of miles away, out of New York, and he always fulfilled his committee duties in a loyal and honest manner.

In 1914 our then-president, Jacob Weiner, was appointed director of the Loan Relief Fund, of which Wolf Kaplan was chairman. Here also one saw Wolf’s devotion to duty and his maintenance of proper procedures to the highest degree.

At that time, our organization passed a motion that all incoming cash should be deposited in a business bank, and that all disbursements be made by check, using a Keidaner Association account. Most members who were businessmen were in favor of the idea, but Kaplan, like many conservatives who are afraid of new arrangements, opposed the change, fearing it could be the undoing of the organization. He felt it was much safer for the treasurer to carry the organization funds in his breast pocket, rather than entrust them to a bank. Was it conceivable that a bank would keep track of money and safeguard it as carefully as he did during his tenure as treasurer? He had always carried the funds with him in his pocket, except for Saturdays and holidays, when he hid them under a plank in the floor…

On a trial basis for carrying out the new system, I was elected Treasurer, and Brother Kaplan became the First Trustee. We both signed all the checks until about three or four days before his death. At that time I came to visit him in the hospital, with the last checks for his scrutiny and approval. He signed them on his deathbed, while I propped him up.

He died November 10, 1916, the 13th day of Cheshvan, 5677.

We honor his memory.

A Greeting

by Moshe Shmere Lichtman

As the first president of the Keidan Association, I heartily greet our brothers who joined me when our organization was born. I extend to them a warm and friendly handshake, feelings which the passage of time has not diminished. Fraternalism still glows in our hearts, just as in those first moments of our inception. If ever a tiny spark of ill feeling arose, the soothing balm of love and brotherhood quickly extinguished it.

Now we’ve arrived at our dance of happiness! We see in our 30-year celebration how our organization has grown big and strong. The love and selflessness of our efforts are wonderful.

To those of our brothers who have joined our association more recently, I offer a hearty greeting. For you our organization is much younger than 30 years old. Place your young energies under the flag of brotherhood and peace and may you live to see another 30 years, full of the same measure of happiness that we enjoyed.

And when you celebrate your 30 years with shining pomp, remember us, the founders.

Translated by Meyer Dwass. 

Memories of Keidan

by Sam Mendelson

From “The Keidaner” monthly bulletin of the Keidaner Assn of NY, April 1, 1938

Who was the first Keidaner who had the courage to dare try and come to America? These days, when coming from Keidan to America takes only a couple of weeks, it doesn’t require as much courage as it required some fifty years ago. Back then, one needed a lot of courage and daring to undertake such a journey.

Mr. Meyer Frank, the father of Nathan Frank, was the bold Keidan family head who dared to do it!

I don’t remember exactly the year, but it was in the 1880s. I do remember, however, what a commotion it caused in Keidan when it became known that Reb Meyer Frank planned to travel to America after Passover. My mother, who was a sister of his wife, didn’t stop crying all through Passover. In synagogue during the holiday, when he was called up to the Torah, all the women cried just like it was Yom Kippur. My mother and my aunt hoped to the last minute that he would change his mind, but their hopes were in vain. Right after Passover he began preparing, and two weeks later he left. A huge crowd came to accompany his wagon as it left town.

The other Keidaners I recall, who went soon afterward, were Mr. Joel Greenblatt (Joel the glazer), and Mr. Aba Weitzer. We were then living in Kovno, and they came to our home to say goodbye. Meyer Frank had made it a custom to give each Keidaner who came after him credit enough for a basket with cloth, so they could go out peddling, and earn enough to begin making a living. Meyer Frank came back two times to Keidan. After his third trip he remained in America and brought over his family.

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