Landsmanshaftn What is a Landsmanshaft? A landsmanshaft (also landsmanschaft; plural: landsmanshaftn or landsmanshaften) was a Jewish benefit society, or hometown society composed of immigrants from the same town or region (landsleit in Yiddish). Landsmanshaftn could also be based on a common political affiliation, such as the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeiter Ring (socialists), the International Workers Order (communists), or the Farband (labor Zionists). These organizations were established during the great migration of eastern European Jews to the United States, from the 1880s to the 1920s. Unable to speak English, they often had great difficulty adjusting to their new lives in their newly adopted countries. The landsmanshaft functioned as a social support group, providing sick benefits, burial plots, free loans and sometimes employment in an era before there was any kind of societal safety net. Landsmanshaftn encompassed the Jewish burial societies, known as chevra kadisha, and in some instances split off from them to form independent societies. These aid organizations were established to deal with social, economic, and cultural uncertainties, and provided a social framework for mutual aid and assistance. In the early 1900s there were thousands of landsmanshaftn in the New York City area alone and perhaps twenty thousand in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States. They operated burial plots in scores of cemeteries, but few if any are active today. Over time, the landsmanshaft lost its members through attrition and death. The children of the immigrant generation, successful and fully integrated into the host culture, no longer needed the support of the landsmanshaft. One by one they withered and died, until today the landsmanshaft is just a faded memory.   References  Glenda Rubin, Landsmanschaft Immigrant Benevolent Organizations Ada Green, New York Landsmanshaftn and Other Jewish Organizations Weisser, Michael R., A Brotherhood of Memory: Jewish Landsmanshaftn in the New World, Cornell University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-8014- 9676-4  Aniksht Landsmanshaftn New York City – Anikster Benevolent Pischei Tshuvo Association, Inc. Established in 1939 upon the consolidation of Congregation Bnai Pischei Tshuvo Anshei Aniksty and the Anikster Benevolent Association. The congregation was established in 1887 for the purposes of study, to provide cemetery plots, free loans for members, and to aid rabbis and talmud torah in Anyksciai. It maintained a synagogue at 135 Henry Street, New York City. The Anikster Benevolent Association  was organized  in 1898. Following consolidation, the Anikster Benevolent Pischei Tshuvo Association managed the synagogue. The building was sold in 1965 and the Association dissolved in 1976. [Source: From Alexandrovsk to Zyrardow, A Guide to YIVO’s Landsmanshaftn Archive, by Rosaline Schwartz and Susan Milamed, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York, 1986, p. 2.] Chelsea, Massachusetts - The United Brothers of Onikchty Society founded August 14, 1905  *  chartered May 1, 1916  *  disbanded December 2, 1984 (From an article appearing in Shtetl Anthology, Our Family History Newsletter, Summer 2000, p. 14, privately published.) Harry Pinkovitz, the last president of the Chelsea, Massachusetts Onikchty Society,was born in Pohost, Luninetz, Russia, circa 1903. He came to America in the 1920s and settled in Chelsea. During his long tenure as president, his tireless efforts to ensure the upkeep and dignity of the Onikchty Society Cemetery in Melrose, Massachusetts led to the establishment of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts, his lasting legacy. In December 1986, Harry wrote to Lewis Chilton in response to an inquiry about the Onikchty Society.  Written entirely in Yiddish, his letter is translated below.  Harry died at the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home in 1989 and is at rest with his wife Eva in the Onikchty Society Cemetery.  In 1900, the harsh conditions that were imposed upon the Jews of Onikchty and elsewhere in Lithuania by Russian Czar Nicholai forced many to flee their homes.  Unable to speak the language of the new land, these newest residents of Chelsea, Massachusetts clung to each other for mutual comfort and support, and to kibitz in Yiddish, their native tongue. In 1905, the Anikshters, as they called themselves, established their own landsmanshaft, the Onikchty Society.  The first meetings were held in the home of Philip Widetsky (pronounced Vitzetsky), the Society’s first president.  Members of that first committee were Widetsky, Morris Bork, David Geltzner, Velvel Gordon, Louie Gorin, Zelig Glick, Jake Hillel, Morris Zimbat, Nathan Taylor, Louis Levine, Phillip Mattis, Harry Mirovitz, Barnett Portnoy, Sam Hall, David Plotnick, Julius Kopans, Sam Ringer, Abraham Rosen, Hillel Solomon (or Solomon Schneider), Barnett Shapiro, Shimon Smot and [two others whose names were untranslatable]. The Onikchty Society was created to help its members during times of sickness and death.  Husbands were entitled to eight weeks of sick benefits at five dollars per week and a death benefit to the family of two hundred dollars.  Membership was open to those between eighteen and forty-two years of age.  Dues were thirty-five cents per month for men and five cents per month for women.  Women did not receive sick benefits.  Meetings were held twice monthly. In 1923, the Onikchty Society purchased land for a cemetery in Melrose, Massachusetts and, later, a three story building at 27 Crescent Avenue in Chelsea.  In 1966, the building was sold to the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) for $20,000 where, today, seniors can come for a kosher meal [no longer true]. The membership dwindled and I as president decided that something had to be done to prevent our cemetery from becoming abandoned.  With the help of the United Synagogue Council, through Allen Teperoff, B’nai Brith, the Jewish Congress and CJP, we established the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts (JCAM) in 1984. We have come a long way.  On December 2, 1984, after paying out death benefits to our remaining members and taking care of the graves, we distributed the remaining funds of the Onikchty Society to Yiddishe organizations. Accompanying Harry’s letter was a copy of the press release announcing the dissolution of the Onikchty Society.  Onikchty Society Closes its Doors On December 2, 1984, over one hundred people attended a ceremony and brunch at the Shurtleff Street Synagogue to mark the end of an era - the end of one of Chelsea’s oldest organizations, the Onikchty Society.   President Harry Pinkovitz served as chairman, as Dr. Israel M. Kamens and his family were honored for their philanthropic work with the organization and in the Jewish community.   At its height, the Onikchty Society had over eight hundred members and purchased the Onikchty Building. The building was built in 1937 at 27 Crescent Avenue and is presently known as the Butler Building.  It was turned over to the CJP in 1966.  The Onikchty Society joined the JCAM, founded and organized by Harry Pinkovitz, and turned over its cemetery in Melrose to the newly formed organization to insure its proper care. President Bruce Schlossberg of the newly organized JCAM recognized Pinkovitz’ leadership by acknowledging that without him there would not have been adequate protection or care for the Jewish cemeteries. In his speech, Pinkovitz emphasized that cemeteries must not be allowed to become abandoned.  They are holy, the final home, and must be given constant attention and care to uphold the dignity and tradition of the Jewish faith. The affair concluded with the presentation of checks to the following organizations: Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts $30,000 State of Israel $10,500 Combined Jewish Philanthropies $  5,500 Maimonides Day School $  1,500 Lubavicher Day School $  1,500 Solomon Schechter Day School $  1,500 Jewish Nursing Home $  8,500 Hadassah $  2,500 New England Sinai Hospital $  2,000 The Hebrew Rehabilitation Center $  2,000 Hebrew College $  1,000 The Rofer $  2,200 Pioneer Women $  2,500 Synagogue Council of Massachusetts $  2,500 Jewish Community Council of Boston $  2,500 Jewish Memorial Hospital $  2,500 Shurtleff Street Synagogue $  1,000 Temple Emanuel of Chelsea $  1,000 Mr. Pinkovitz thanked Mr. Fox and Vice-President Louis Goulkin of the synagogue and the people who made the affair a success. Seated at the head table were Rabbi Hirsh Tennenbaum and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Julius Randall, Samuel Podradchick, Dr. and Mrs. Israel Kamens, Bruce Schlossberg and representatives of the State of Israel and CJP.  A delicious lunch was served by Mr. Pinkovitz. United Brothers of Onikchty Society - Cumulative List of Members During my years of genealogical research, which included written correspondence and visits to Chelsea, Massachusetts and to the United Brothers of Onikchty Society Cemetery in Melrose, Massachusetts, I accumulated a number of names of past members, which includes some of my own relatives. At its height, the Onikchty Society boasted a membership exceeding 800, so over its nearly 80 years, it’s cumulative membership must have been in the thousands. But as the social and economic need for the Society diminished, its membership dwindled until very few were left at the time of its dissolution in 1984. Not long after its formation in 1905, the Society began accepting members with no ties to Aniksht, or even Lithuania.  The realities of maintaining a viable membership and staying financially solvent required the relaxation of membership rules. Consequently, a list of members does not imply that they were all from Aniksht. Click here to view the list. If you spot an ancestor, relative or someone you know about, please contact me to provide a little background information about that person. If your ancestor or relative is not on the list but should be, please contact me and I will add his/her name. This is an ongoing project. -L. Chilton Chicago, Illinois - Anikst Aid Society Officers for 1939: Mrs. Harry White, Honorary President; D.S. Levin; President; Mrs. D. Kaplan, Vice-President; Mrs. Ralph Kolan, Treasurer; Mrs. J. Jaffe, Secretary. The contact person in 1993 was Marvin (or Zelda) Margolis, Wilmette, IL  No further information. [Source: Bridges to an American City, A Guide to Chicago’s Landsmanshaften, 1870 to 1990, by Sidney Sorkin, Peter Lang [Publisher], New York, 1993, p. 7.] Other Aniksht Landsmanshaftn? In my years of researching Aniksht, I have not come upon any other references to other Aniksht landsmanshaftn, but I am certain that there were others in the larger cities and towns of North and South America, South Africa, Australia and Israel. If you know of one and can supply any information about it, no matter how little, please contact the writer. This is an ongoing project.   L. Chilton   Landsmanshaftn