Memoirs of our Society

In celebrating this our 40th Anniversary of the founding of the First Suchostower Benevolent Association, in which all of us whose roots are grounded in the soil of Suchostow, can well be proud of, I see the fulfillment of a dream come true.

Reflecting on the events leading up to this evening's festivities, what comes to mind more naturally than the thoughts of our Society's beginnings ,and the hardships encountered over the years; the sorrows and joys attending its birth, infancy, adolescence and adulthood,

It was the late Brother Hyman Press who first conceived the idea of a Suchostower Society. Half in jest and half in earnest, he convinced my brother Joseph and myself on the soundness of the idea and before long it became an obsession with us. We began stopping our "Landsleit" on the streets and pounding on their doors, pleading, coaxing and propagandizing for a spark of interest to set the idea in motion and give it body. At that time the purpose of its being was immaterial. What we wanted then was to find solace in a group with a likeness of background. However, as is true with most pioneers, we found ourselves jeered and laughed at for our zeal and enthusiasm. We were told "that in the 'old country' all such groups were constantly quibbling and bickering; how could we expect harmony and fellowship in a Suchstower Society founded here? It would surely be a waste of time and energy." After much cajoling and labor, we finally succeeded in getting a handful of men together for a first meeting, over which my sainted father, Mordche, presided. Now arose the question of aims and purposes.

The older men wanted a little Suchostow in America; a shul, a shames and maybe a rabbi. The younger ones wanted a social side, a progressive program with less of religiousness. As we were warned before, this meeting broke up with nothing accomplished.

However, the germ of the idea had taken root and we followed through. A meeting was again arranged and with much labor and compromises the nucleus of 20 odd men present laid the foundations and the society was given life. Lacking numbers we few were fired with enthusiasm and fervor. All kinds of problems and crises arose and many days and nights were given freely for their solutionsin overcoming them. Our "baby" grew and became strong. Most of the "Landsleit" who laughed at us or were indifferent to our cause in the beginning, gradually joined our ranks and were taken in and welcomed.

Can anyone of those members forget that first memorable banquet? I remember it very well. It was shopped, catered and served by our good wives and ourselves. It was not as elaborate as this evening's affair but it carried a glow and warmth that only a labor of love and a heartfelt sincerity could produce. It was a fitting reward for the labor involved.

We were the considered embodiment and representatives of Suchostow in America. It was to us that the old home town of Suchostow looked for aid and succor during and after World Wars I and 2. "Brotherhood and Progress" was our cornerstone motto, not only in moving our meeting-hall up-town but also within the society itself - establishing sick funds, endowment funds and also a loan fund (a very important thing in the old days from which members could make loans without embarrassment).

Looking back on the accomplishments of these 40 years with their accompanying mistakes and errors (and there were many them) but on the whole very satisfactory, we glow with pride and hope, please God, for a future as fruitful.

May the next forty years do justice to the past forty.

by Harry Friedman from the "Fortieth Anniversary Banquet" Journal of The First Suchostower Benevolent Association, Hotel Capital, 51st Street and 8th Avenue, New York, New York. May 14, 1949.