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Youth Movements and Zionist Activities {Cont.}



D. [6]


We cannot conclude the story of Hanoar Hatzioni without describing in a general fashion a few characters and events that took place during the period of existence and activity of this youth group.

There were four girlfriends.

They were young girls when they joined Hashomer Haleumi at its founding. These were Ester Eljus, Lea Szinman, Malka Muncarsz, all of blessed memory, and, may she live long, Sara Dina Boljender. The common characteristics of all of them were their noble intentions, simplicity, modesty, and strong desire to learn, to know about the life of the nation in general and the Land of Israel in particular.

They joined Hashomer Haleumi along with the rest of the youth that streamed to this movement at its inception. However, they stood out immediately on account of their dedication to the ideas and ideals that they gleaned from the friendly discussions and classes, as well as on account of their boundless faithfulness to the both the counselors and the campers.

The first of them who went to Hachsharah, and merited to be the first one to make aliya from the “nest” in Czyzewo was the member Sara Boljender (today Mrs. Gafni in Israel).

Malka Muncarsz was a sickly girl. She was always serious and imaginative. She had a deep understanding, and she wrote songs and stories. She died in her prime. (We will devote a number of lines later to her funeral, a true Zionist funeral.)

Ester Eljus also made aliya to the Land of Israel. She went through some difficult years during her period of absorption. Later, she married and established a family. However, a bitter fate cruelly overtook her. She contracted a serious illness and returned her pure soul to the Heavens at a young age. She left behind two young children, a son and a daughter.

The last of them was Lea Szinman.

This pure and refined soul was stubbornly and enthusiastically dedicated to the ideas and ideals, and this was very typical of children of the Szinman family. She was the only one of the group of friends to remain in Czyzewo. She later became the head of the “nest”, and served in this position until the outbreak of the Second World War. To our great sorrow and anguish, she did not merit realizing the desire of her life – to make aliya. She perished in the Holocaust along with the rest of the House of Israel, may G-d avenge her death.

Her image stands before my eyes at the time of writing these lines. Lea Szinman, the tall, thin girl with red cheeks and a stubborn penetrating glance that elicits pity, the daughter of good people whose short life passed in pain, agony, and anguish, displayed faithful and friendly dedication to me as a camper and a student.

As I remember you, Lea, my eyes fill with tears. May these isolated tears take the place of flowers atop the giant communal grave where you also have found your eternal rest.



E.


A unique personality who is worthy of being remembered is Szalom Grynberg. He was an older man, a merchant and a professional, as well as an activist and a man of deeds who loved to express his personality and actions. He occupied himself with communal matters, whether as the gabbai (trustee) of the Beis Midrash, the fire chief, conducting Zionist activity, work for the charitable fund, or other matters. This man found some reason to dedicate a significant portion of his Zionist activity for the benefit of Hanoar Hatzioni. Many of the older Zionists supported and assisted this youth group, however the dedication and assistance of Szalom Grynberg was boundless. He participated in almost all of the meetings as if he was one of the youth. He listened and paid attention to every detail, large or small, including matters of education and Zionist problems. He primarily dedicated his time to technical matters concerned with administration, running the business of the hall, etc.

He concerned himself with the campers of the “nest” like a dedicated father. He concerned himself with their dress and cleanliness. Organizing any activity in the hall was not difficult for him; whether it was in the day, which involved pushing aside his personal business, or even late at night, so long as it was for the benefit of the youth. I often thought: “What moves such a man to dedicate so much time, effort, energy and money to the education of the youth to the Zionist idea?” I knew the secret places and struggles of his soul. At times, it seemed as if the paths of his life were doubled over, and his deeds were not always consistent. However, regarding his activities for the youth, I can testify regarding him to the Heaven and earth that he was pure and clean, without any trace of fraud or wrongdoing. He was completely dedicated to the youth with the Zionist idea, he was all for the Land of Israel.

As one of us, he was always concerned about finding ways to strengthen and enlarge the ranks of this youth. He would speak to the hearts of the youth, convincing them to remain true to the movement. He would influence the parents to direct their children to this movement. He would participate in the hikes to the villages on vacation days, and even in trips farther afield. He would appear at the regional conventions, and once even at the national convention of the movement in Warszawa.

They would frequently mock the “Shomernik” Szalom Grynberg in the adult Zionist circles. He was a person unto himself. Until the day that I left Czyzewo, and even afterward, he was the living spirit of the movement. With his dedication to the youth, he earned our faith and friendship. The youth saw him as one of themselves in every matter. They consulted him for advice. Many educational and pioneering activities took place with his active assistance. He was imprisoned by the local Communists along with other Zionist activists when the Russians conquered Czyzewo after the outbreak of the war. At first, he was sent to Siberia alone, and after a short time, his wife and children were sent to follow him. His wife and children succeeded in escaping the Nazi Holocaust, and they merited making aliya to Israel. However, he disappeared without a trace. According to what we heard, he was murdered along the route to Siberia in accordance with a special order of the Czyzewo Soviet [7]. May G-d avenge his blood.



F.


The Zionist Funeral

It is unnecessary to point out that this concept was strange to the atmosphere of our town, even in the time period that we are now dealing with. This realm of activity was, as is known, entirely holy, and was given over to the sole good graces of the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) and its trustees. In truth, nobody from among us would try to contradict this. Our plans regarding this funeral did not touch upon Jewish law at all, nor did they affect at all the authority of the Chevra Kadisha. All that we wanted was to give the funeral a Zionist character that would be expressed in a mourning procession, carrying the blue and white flags at half mast as a token of mourning, and with eulogies at the time of the closing of the grave. However, they did not wish to agree even to this, and they enlisted the rabbi of the town, Rabbi Shmuel David Zwlodower of holy blessed memory, and the chief trustee Reb Yisrael Yonah Roczkowski of blessed memory to stand up against he breech of the Zionists and their follies.

The events as they were are described as follows:

Malka Munkarsz, the daughter of the furniture maker Reb Yosel Munkarsz, had a chronic heart ailment. Despite her illness, she was among the first to join the “Shomer Leumi”. Due to her natural talents, and her deep understanding and widespread knowledge, she excelled in her dedication to the ideas that she learned during the time that she was part of the movement. However, fate was cruel to her. Her illness became more serious day by day, and on the eve of Yom Kippur, 5694 (1934) [8], she gave up her pure soul.

The news reached us during the Kol Nidre service in the synagogue of the Zionist minyan that convened in the building of the Hebrew School (next to the house of Yehoshua Lepak of blessed memory). After the conclusion of the service, most of the worshippers went to the house of the deceased to recite Psalms in unison. Afterwards, a rotation was set up, day and night, until the time of the funeral. The next day, Yom Kippur, during the time of the recess in the services [9], the scene was repeated. All of the worshippers of the “minyan” went to the house of the deceased to recite Psalms for the uplifting of her soul. At the conclusion of Yom Kippur, we gathered in the meeting place for a mourning gathering, to which were invited representatives of all the Zionist groups in the town.

This gathering was honored by the presence of the elder of the Zionist movement in our town, the educator of a generation of Zionists, the man of deeds, the enthusiastic and dedicated activist Reb Yechiel Asher Prawda of blessed memory. He was a wonderful well-rounded personality, and it is fitting at this time to perpetuate him in a special manner in this Yizkor Book.

He was an Orthodox man from the Hassidim of Aleksander. He suffered all his days from persecutions by the extremist Hassidim due to his Zionism. They, despite all their efforts, did not succeed in changing his mind regarding Zionism. Furthermore, as much the persecutions intensified, so did his efforts on behalf of Zionism. He did not hide his opinions, and he spread them publicly. He attempted to influence and attract the masses more and more toward Zionism. He was especially active among the Orthodox youth.

As a Mizrachi member, he headed that faction. He founded and organized the religious youth in the ideals of the Mizrachi pioneers, and he assisted in the founding of the “Shomer Hadati” youth movement. He was among the prime founders and pillars of support of the “Yavneh” Hebrew School, which was directed by the writer of these lines.

During his free time, one could see him in the marketplace with a child in his arms, discussing and debating. About what? – Obviously about Zionism. His expertise in all the events that were taking place in the renovated Land of Israel was wondrous. He was wont to express with a sweet flavor and special joy the names of all new settlements that were founded by the builder pioneers on the lands of the Jewish National Fund. As a practical Zionist, he had a special feeling towards this fund. He made his nights like days in collecting money for the national funds. Just like a merchant, he would count and enumerate each dunam of land that was redeemed and reclaimed in the Land of Israel on behalf of the nation.

As I recall this enthusiastic and faithful activist, my entire being is filled with honor and reverence for him. How wonderful are the ways of G-d and the fate of the person that places himself in His hand! Reb Yechiel Asher Prawda, the man of much action who preached Zionism all of his days, did not merit in making aliya to the Land and living there. He was killed by the Nazi beasts and their accursed Polish accomplices during the time of the Holocaust, may G-d avenge his blood. His name shall be remembered by the natives of our town forever and ever.

By virtue of his participation in the mourning meeting, Reb Yechiel Asher wished to prove his dedication and love for all streams of the Zionist youth. Therefore, he also joined the funeral committee that was chosen that night. The committee declared three days of mourning in all of the Zionist organizations, and decided to pay their last respects to the deceased by arranging a Zionist funeral. The program would be: a mourning procession by the youth carrying the national flags covered with symbols of mourning, as is customary in the world of progressive culture. Preparations for actualizing this decision in full began immediately.

This news traveled very quickly through the city, and reached the circles of the extremist Hassidim who immediately girded themselves for battle against this Zionist “iniquity”. To this end, they enlisted the trustees of the Chevra Kadisha, and requested that they not permit this disgrace of the deceased by the Zionists. They claimed as follows:

Such a ceremony was never conducted during a funeral in this town, and there is no reason to permit such on this day. It must be opposed with all energies.

czy331a.jpg [30 KB]
Standing from the right: Berl Czurkowicz, Yitzchak Blumsztejn,
Gedalya Sorowicz, Yitzchak Szlaski.
Seated: Chuka Akselrod, Sheina Gromadzyn, Shalom Grynberg,
Szviva Lubelczyk, Peshke Fenster.
Kneeling: Avraham Cukerowicz, Moshe Nitabach.



On the day of the funeral:

In the morning, one only had to go out on the street to realize that the entire town was astir. Rumor after rumor was spread in public, each one more terrible than the previous. – The Zionists are prepared, as it were, to perpetrate deeds that should not be done. Such as: they were not willing to permit the members of the Chevra Kadisha to conduct the tahara [10], but they rather wished to do it themselves. – They were going to dress her in blue and white shrouds. – They were going to fill the grave with flags and emblems of the movement, – they were going to sing songs during the funeral, and pass her coffin by all of the headquarters of the Zionist factions for eulogies at each one, etc., etc.

Rumor chased rumor. As the rumors were transmitted from mouth to mouth, they became frighteningly confused. There is no need to add that there was not one scintilla of truth in all of these rumors. They were all spread deliberately at first by those who took offence to the actions, in order to fill the pure youth with fear and terror, and to deter them. They wished to demonstrate general opposition by the masses of the Jews in the town towards the Zionists, on account of this abominable deed.

A few hours prior to the time of the funeral, there was a gathering of the masses on the streets of the city. Groups of people were accusing, opposing, discussing and debating among themselves.

The debates were very stormy and emotional, and there was a fear of serious disruptions from the extremist opponents. The funeral committee, wishing to prevent scandals and clashes among the gathered crowed, decide to send a delegation to the rabbi of the town and to clarify to him full details of the program of the funeral, in order to contradict all of the false rumors that had been spread in public in order to discredit us [11].

To the credit of the rabbi of holy blessed memory, I will recall here that he, as a pure righteous man, upright without any factional tendencies, understood our spirit and believed our words. However, due to the pressure of the zealots that surrounded him, he requested that we prevent this.

Due to the awe and reverence we had for our esteemed rabbi of holy blessed memory, and also due to logistical reasons (it was a market day and it would be difficult to arrange a procession through the streets of the town) we decided to forego the procession through the streets of the town, and the entire ceremony was to be moved outside of town.

The youth gathered with their uniforms and flags in the Hebrew school building that stood on the edge of town, on the way to the cemetery. They wore emblems of mourning and waited for the arrival of the coffin, in order to give honor to their deceased comrade.

In the cemetery after the closing of the grave, we remained near the fresh grave in order to unite ourselves with the memory of the young woman who earned a name for herself as a faithful daughter of Jewish values and Zionism during her short, tragic life. Fate was bitter for her, and she did not merit realizing her life's dream – to make aliya to the land of Israel. With the singing of Hatikva [12] and a moment of silence as a token of mourning, we parted from her forever. May her memory be blessed.


The Bazaar for the Jewish National Fund

“There is a precious stone in the treasuries of the Holy One Blessed Be He, and Sabbath was its name.”

This paraphrasing will faithfully survey and accurately define the great and important task that the Jewish National Fund filled in the annals of national life in general and in the Zionist movement in its factions in particular. The early years of the 1930s are considered to be, as is known, the pinnacle of the pride in the Zionist movement. At that time, the Zionist idea celebrated its great victories in all areas of life. The Jews of Poland in their masses joined the various factions of the Zionist movement that were increasing and strengthening. These factions made their inroads in every home and every Jewish settlement in the nation of Poland.

Slowly but surely, as the stature of Zionism and its factions rose, so did the factional antagonism. The ideological divisions widened, and, with the passage of time, turned into literal internecine hatred, causing endless controversy and disputes.

We would often read on the pages of the newspapers news about Zionist meetings that ended with the outbreak of internecine, interfactional controversy that was filled with physical violence, on occasion even coming to the point of bloodshed.

Similar fistfights, albeit in a more limited and modest fashion, were a common occurrence in our town. The factional divisiveness held sway over us as well, and ideological clashes during stormy debates at public gatherings and other events were considered at the time as intensive Zionist activity, and the more that one engaged in such, the more praiseworthy it is [13].

In light of this reality, it is easy to understand the great and very important role that the Jewish National Fund played in promoting peace in the midst of the large Zionist camp among the Jews. The Jewish National Fund bestowed its own splendor and the sprit of the Land of Israel upon the entire Zionist movement. It shone its great light upon our activities even in the group itself. The splendor of its deeds influenced us all in a calming fashion, which quieted the spirit. Despite the differences in ideology, it succeeded in uniting everyone to this holy task of redeeming the land of the homeland.

A committee that was composed of representatives of all the Zionist factions stood at the helm of the Jewish National Fund in our town. Only with regard to the election of a chairman (known as Morasha) did an interfactional competition take place, through accepted democratic means.

All public gatherings of the Jewish National Fund, which for the most part included the participation of representatives of the central organization and guests from the Land of Israel, turned into large-scale gatherings that drew people close and enhanced mutual understanding. Many activities took place with close cooperation between all factions, and were conducted with great success.

The bazaar on behalf of the Jewish National fund, that will now be described, took place on Purim of the year 1934, during the period of the tenure of this writer as Morasha of the Jewish National Fund in the town. This was the first event of its kind in Czyzewo.

czy331b.jpg [25 KB]
Standing, Dovka Yellin, Bat-Sheva Lubelczyk (Gozolczany)
Seated: Feigel Wasercug, Rachel Litmanes, Frumcha Gromdzyn, Yitzchak Szelski,
Golda Bolender, Yocheved Kackowicz, Feigel Plocker, Miriam Frydman.


During one of the regular meetings of the committee at the time of the special deliberations regarding increasing the income of the Jewish National Fund, the idea arose to organize a bazaar, that is: an exhibit of various items that would be gathered by the activists through public donation. These items would be sold, and the income would be dedicated to the Jewish National Fund.

Various other suggestions arose regarding the main idea of the bazaar. These included the setting up of cultural celebrations, performances, and entertainment evenings with a Zionist character during the period of the bazaar, in order to attract and interest the community that would visit the bazaar.

This idea greatly enchanted us, and was accepted with unanimous agreement. In order to actualize the idea, a special committee was set up of women active in the head committee. This was called the “Bazaar Committee”, and was responsible for the honorable and difficult task of preparing a full program for the actualization, enlisting the needed people and means to conduct the bazaar from its inception until its end.

The members on this committee were: P. Wasercug, G. Bolender, Litmanes, Wangrasz, Yocheved Held, Yellin, Frydman, Lubelczyk, G. Bolender [14], P. Plocker

It is simply impossible to describe the enthusiasm that was awakened for this event. Our town, which was experienced with various communal activities, did not know of such enthusiasm previously. The women of the community infected all of the women of the town with their dedication and blessed work. An atmosphere of preparation for the bazaar took was created. In every home, they sowed, wove, and knitted various creations. Competitions for the preparation of fine and ample exhibits for the bazaar took place.

All of the necessary preparations took place during the course of two months. Plentiful exhibits were collected. Aside from knitted and woven items that possessed artistic value, we collected many ordinary items of various types. We turned to large, well-known manufacturers in Poland with whom the merchants of Czyzewo maintained business connections, and requested donations of goods for the bazaar. They responded to our requests generously, and the items that were received were of significant monetary value.

At the designated time for the program, we rented the largest and finest hall in the town, which was the “Rolnyk” of the Polish agricultural society, along with all of its adjoining rooms. The exhibits were arranged in an appropriate fashion, in good taste.

The women did not begrudge their time and energy in order to beautify and decorate the exhibition, so long that it would be successful. For we said: if the exhibition makes a good impression on the visitors, it would attract a larger crowd, and then its success would be assured. Indeed, this aim was realized to its fullest extent. The evening of the opening of the bazaar, the first in Czyzewo, can be registered as “a unique event” in the annals of Zionist activity in our town.

This large hall was too small to accommodate all of those who came. Youth and adults together came to be present at the festive opening, which was planned with great detail, and included a rich, multi-faceted program. The speakers and blessings that were heard from the stage at this historic event served as a faithful expression to the heartfelt feelings and sublime spirit of the speakers and audience together.

After the cutting or the ribbon, accompanied by the playing of the firefighter's band, the curtain was opened. The spectacular “Impozantit Exhitibion” [15] that had become a reality was opened before the eyes of the community. Joy and gladness pervaded among all of the gathered. The eyes of the organizers beamed with happiness and joy. Indeed, they had accomplished what they desired. The hard work and many efforts paid off and were crowned with success, as we had figured would have happened from the outset.

The bazaar lasted for eight days. The hall was full on each of those days with people who came from all strata of the community in the town.


czy331c.jpg [27 KB]
Seated from right: Dovka Yellin, Yocheved, Kacowicz, Feigel Plocker,
Rachel Litmanes, Frumcha Gromdzyn, Feigel Wasercug.
In the second row: Bat Sheva Lubelczyk, Yitzchak Szelski, Golda Bolender,
Miriam Frydman.
Translator's note: the inscription on the photo itself reads:
“Second Keren Kayamet Bazaar, Czyzewo, March 20, 1935.”



Various meetings, parties, presentations on interesting topics, etc. were arranged each evening. Everything went according to the plan that was set out from the beginning. The hall of the bazaar and the additional rooms that were adjacent were turned during this time period into a lovely communal hall to which people came daily to enjoy several pleasant hours together, to chat amongst friends, and to listen to the tunes of the firefighter's band.

The items on display diminished day by day. They were sold, or more accurately, they were literally grabbed up one by one. Significant sums of money accrued to the coffers of the Jewish National Fund. This was not only from the sale of merchandise, but also from the other events that accompanied the bazaar, and took place with great success. There was joy amongst us.

Even the closing evening event that was conducted in good taste was greatly successful. The discussions regarding the great success instilled satisfaction on all of the participants. They joy of the bazaar committee was especially great.

The second and final bazaar, similar in form and content to the first bazaar, took place the following year, and it was also successful.

That year, 1935, the large-scale exodus of activists of all the factions in town began. Most of them made aliya. Their aliya left a great void in all areas of cultural and Zionist activity in town. Thus, the two bazaars that took place one after the other in consecutive years remain as isolated events; however their pleasantness is etched in our memories of our town of Czyzewo until this day.


Summary

In this survey, I attempted to portray with my modest pen and to briefly describe the Zionist activity in our town, in its various factions, and the youth organizations that arose within this one short timeframe. I am not oblivious to the fact that Zionist activity of various forms existed in great measure for many years before this timeframe.

Our Czyzewo was not noted for outstanding, famous personalities, known in the realms of culture and the various sciences. However, it was always alert to what was taken place in the wide world, and in particular in our Jewish world. The alert, effervescent youth in it always took an active role in the various events of every era. We heard about this in great measure from the stories of our parents and grandparents when we were still young children in the town.

Our town knew variegated and intensive Zionist activity, appropriate to the spirit of the times, throughout all the years subsequent until the end of the First World War. Rather than I describing this, it would be more appropriate for our senior fellow natives who are living amongst us today, who themselves worked and carried the yoke of Zionist activity in our town upon their shoulders.

With the passage of years, as the strength of the Zionist idea grew in the Jewish street, the practical activity also expanded. There was already a new, younger generation, the generation of youth coming of age, alert and excited, who lived the life of the era in all of its ramifications. An important and difficult historic task was placed in the hands of this youth. This task was to win over the town for Zionism from educational, cultural and practical perspectives during this historic time. In summary, we must point out that they stood up to their task with great success.

The activities for Zionist realization reached the pinnacle of our ideals, and thanks to this, we succeeded in a significant fashion to flow with all of the historical events of this latest period in the annals of our people. We left the slavery and decline of exile for the redemption of national and cultural freedom in our renewed country. We were saved from the terrible Holocaust that brought with it the annihilation of our families in the towns of the exile of Poland, to a life of future and eternity as citizens with full rights in the land of Israel.

As one of these fortunate people, I fulfilled a modest, traditional and pleasant duty in this survey. I described some of the activities and events in the field of Zionism in this exciting time in our small town of Czyzewo, with the clear aim to erect in this Yizkor Book a memorial to the bygone era, of a Jewish town that once was and is no more, to its holy sons and daughters whose thread of life was cut off in the middle with evil cruelty by the Nazi murderers and the cursed Poles, may their names and memories be blotted out.

The memories of the martyrs will be preserved in our hearts forever and ever.




Translator's Footnotes:
  1. The C. heading is missing from the text. I suspect it was inadvertently omitted. return
  2. Here, the term 'Soviet' would mean Communist Committee. return
  3. There is an error in the year here, as Yom Kippur 5694 would correspond to the year 1933. return
  4. The Yom Kippur services occupy most of the day, but in many synagogues, there is a break of 2-3 hours in the mid-afternoon, between Musaf and Mincha. return
  5. The ritual washing and cleansing of the body prior to burial. The details of the tahara complex. return
  6. The term used here for 'discredit us', is literally to 'make us stink'. This is the term used near the beginning of Exodus (5:21) when the Jewish people are describing the situation that they found themselves in with reference to Pharaoh after Moses first tried to intercede with Pharaoh. return
  7. The Zionist national anthem, later to become the national anthem of the State of Israel. return
  8. A quote from the Passover Haggadah, indicating that the more one tells of the story of the Exodus on Passover night, the more praiseworthy it is. return
  9. Either this name was repeated a second time in error, or two people bore the same initial and same last name. return
  10. The word 'impozantit' is seemingly an 'Anglicism' (i.e. an English word Hebraised). It seems to mean 'imposing', but probably more accurately translated here as 'impressive'. return


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