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Poalei-Tsion in Sandz (1905-1918)

by Dr. Abraham Comet

Translated by Hinda Jacobs

Edited by Renee Miller

By the end of the 18th century, Zionism had infiltrated into the Galician cities and shtetlekh calling the Jewish masses to national independence. This enlightenment work was concentrated in the Jewish national or Zionist associations that sprung up independently, under different names. Jewish working people, who at that time worked exclusively in small workshops or stores, generally belonged to Jewish national and Zionist associations. The Jewish working people lived in terrible need and poverty. Their working hours were not limited and the pay for their work depended on the good will of the employer.

In the first thirty years of the 19th century, in the backward and dark Jewish streets of Galicia, rays of the pursuit of social freedom started to break through. But only in the beginning of the 20th century, with the upswing of Zionist and national-political activities did Jewish workers and commercial employees crystallize a consciousness of the need to combine their separate economic class interests with the national freedom movement of the Jewish people

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In the first ten years of the 20th century, different cities in Galicia, unions of workers and commercial employees rose. Their main purpose was simple: fight for humane working and living conditions combined with the national idea – the idea of Zionism.

Very early on, the first of those unions that originated under different names – Poalei-Tsion [left wing Zionist organization] was one – were supportive of the Zionist ideology as the fundamental justification for their distinctive interests, - economic and national-cultural. In 1903 a convention of these unions was called in Lemberg [Lvov] and a Galician Jewish commercial employees union was founded. It made contact with a group of Zionists in Vienna who published an organ in German: “The Jewish Worker”. According to the editors' of this newspaper initiative, the viewpoint that the Zionist worker is completely independent from the Zionist organization was held even then. In May 1904, in Krakow, a convention of the Zionist workers and commercial employees, took place. “The Jewish Worker” was immediately transferred to Krakow where it was being published weekly in yidish, first under S. Kaplansky, editor, followed by L. Shushaym.

In 1905 at the second convention in Krakow of the Austrian Poalei-Tsion, a party program was accepted. The program embraced all the problems of the Jewish Workers' reality.

2

In the crystallization process of the Poalei-Tsion movement as well as in the Poalei-Tsion intense activities – the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz that originated about 1905 was a significant participant.

In the first years of the 20th century it was not easy to break the wall of backwardness and detachment in the Jewish working element in Neisandz. In this city that had a strong Hasidic center, the large majority of the Jewish youth was Hasidic. Most were young men attending small synagogues, men in Hasidic attire and mentality, commercial employees, trainees and those working in various artisan workshops. The small number of youths studying at that time, linguistically assimilated, was still far removed from any Jewish-national movement.

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We see in correspondence from Neisandz that was published in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” in Krakow on August 10, 1906, how much strength and effort had to be exerted by the first pioneers of the Poalei-Tsion movement in Neisandz. We read that “Thanks to the energetic work of a few associates, a worker and commercial employee organization 'Hativka' [hope] was established. It had 80 members in a short time. We had already arranged a few meetings and lectures by our panel from Tarnow, friends Sternhaym from Czaczów and a few from our organization. We also arranged a meeting about the Bialystok pogrom with friend Sternhaym as speaker”. As we learn from the correspondence, the following friends belonged to the leaders' group: L. Zilberman, Abman – Sh. Tsigler town representatives, Ch. D. Langfus, secretary - M. Wolf, treasurer, - and an additional five members of the leader's group and controllers

In the first years of its existence, the main activities of the union “Hatikva” were cultural and enlightenment work, such as courses, lectures and open meetings.

The leaders of the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz understood very early that they had to take every opportunity to emphasize the social-political considerations that were needed to justify the distinctiveness of a Zionist labor organization, built on the basis of class consciousness. Therefore, early on, the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz embarked on the path of differentiation, which other cities in Galicia started much later, often linked with organizational crises. The reason was a very simple one: in some cities in Galicia the leaders of the first Poalei-Tsion organizations were Jewish popular academically educated intelligentsia. In Neisandz, however, plain, simple, intelligent workers and commercial employees were the leaders. From the first moment they stood for the pragmatic point of view of class interests. In this proletarian spirit, in their first activities in Neisandz, they made their aspirations immediately clear in the first era of their existence: to improve the working conditions of commercial employees through economic actions and, in particular, through awakening class-consciousness among the weak groups of Jewish workers of that time, pointing out to them their hardships and needs.

Therefore, the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz avoided the crises that the organization underwent in other cities. As early as 1906, at the Third Poalei-Tsion Party Day, the program of the “Jewish Socialist Workers' Party” Poalei-Tsion in Austria” was worked out; the order was given to break all connections with the Zionist-Land organizations (taking part only in the Zionist Congress).

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The members of the Poalei-Tsion were forbidden to belong to other political organizations. As a result of this decision, in a string of cities in Galicia, many radical national academics and doctors who had been active in Poalei-Tsion organization left the party.

In Neisandz, however, this entire issue did not exist. There, Hatikva excited and roared in Poalei-Tsion and not one member left.

By 1906 this organization had already created a dramatic amateur club that performed “The Family Tvi” by David Pinsky with much success. [One of the outstanding Yiddish writers of that time –ed.]

The Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz had to deal with a very sharp struggle against the so-called Separatists, who had left the P.P.S.D. (Polish Social Democratic Party) in 1904. They had established the Zh. P.S. (following the example of the “Bund” in Russia and Poland). As we read in correspondence from Neisandz that was published in ““Yidisher Arbeiter”” [Jewish worker] on September 11, 1906 [clearly an error with this date and/or October 22, 1906-ed.], at a meeting called by the Separatists on October 22, 1906 – the Poalei-Zionist Tish was elected chairman. After a Separatist lecture was held on the theme: “To Which Organization Should a Worker and a Commercial Employee Belong?” - Then the Poalei-Zionistn, Langfus Freidman and Margolies spoke up with their arguments that the lecturer did not even answer the question about the performance of the opponents. The fight against the Jewish leaders in the P.P.S..- against the Red assimilation and later against the Zh.P.S.- was a very stubborn one. It found a clear expression in political actions and appearances in 1905-1906 when a powerful peoples' movement for general election rights to the Vienna Parliament came into existence. The Young Poalei-Tsion activists in Neisandz participated in that political fight with much ecstasy, awakening the Jewish masses in Neisandz to political activism, stressing the Jewish demands in all areas of political and national equality.

3

Poalei-Tsion leaders in Neisandz placed much weight on enlightenment activities they ran for the young Jewish workers and commercial employees. Just as in other cities where the Poalei-Tsion organization existed, a Poalei-Tsion organization existed, in Neisandz before the first “Youth Convention”. This convention took place in October 1907 in Lemberg [Lvov] and established the “Jewish Youth Workers and Commercial Employees Education Union”.

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The program embraced multi-sided cultural, professional and party organizational activities by promoting elementary education, establishing and leading reading and writing courses for Yiddish, Polish, history and mathematics, etc. Additional tasks of the “Yugent” [Youth] were the special care of the craft workers interests of the young worker and commercial employee. This was done by establishing a protection committee for apprentices and commercial employees. They also developed sports activities and these workers took part in all actions that the party proclaimed, also in collecting for the National Fund and for the Palestine Workers' Fund. With all this, the enlightenment and electioneering activities for Poalei-Tsion was not neglected.

At the beginning of 1908 the association, Yugent in Neisandz, was already established as an important power in the Jewish social life of the city as the only local organization of Jewish labor youth. This is confirmed for us in correspondence from Neisandz that was published in the ““Yidisher Arbeiter”” of February 28, 1908. We learn that on February16, 1908 the association had arranged a tea party that was a big moral and financial success. Ch. Hochman opened the evening, Friend Teitelboym made a festive speech. The program included lectures, a concert and the singing of Zionist and Socialist songs.

4

In 1909 the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz had a host of ideologically and politically ripe activists. They had already gone through all difficulties of the crystallization process that took place in the Poalei-Tsion movement in Galicia. After the Fourth Poalei-Tsion Convention in Lemberg in the month of June 1908, the resolution of the prior convention that party members are not allowed to belong to other political parties was repeated. The only connection to the Zionist Organization that remained was participation in the Zionist Congress and collaboration in the collection for the Zionist Funds.

Thanks to a group of devoted Poalei-Tsion leaders in Neisandz such as Yehuda Knebel, Waynstayn, Folkman, Yitzhok Kornfeld, Schnitzer and Tzigler the cultural and enlightenment activities in Poalei-Tsion union, “Hatikva” [hope] beat strongly. Courses, lectures, a drama group lifted the level of the Poalei-Tsion movement in Neisandz.

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The visit of two prominent personalities in 1909 greatly contributed to the strength of the Poalei-Tsion movement in Neisandz and, incidentally in all of Galicia where they traveled on their electioneering tour. It had a strong influence in Neisandz on the ideological development of the Poalei-Tsion organization and also on the manner of its activities in all fields of Zionist and Socialist activities.

Mrs. Pevsner, the well-known personality in the Eretz Isroyl workers' movement, held a few meetings and lectured on timely Zionist questions in which she mainly stressed the work for Eretz Isroyl. With the help of Zionist social workers like Dr. Zilberman and Dr. Hersh Sirop, she collected a large sum for “Bezalel” [Bezalel Art Academy founded in 1906 in Israel] and the Jewish National Fund and also for the press fund for “Yidisher Arbeiter”. Mrs. Pevsner's presence contributed greatly to the success of the activities for the benefit of the Eretz Isroyl funds. We find the results of her activities in correspondence from Neisandz in “Yidisher Arbeiter” of October 29, 1909. According to this the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz sold over 50 sheklim [coin], collected 30 kronen on the eves of Rosheshone and Yonkiper [New Year's Day and the Day of Atonement] for the Palestine Workers' Fund and also a complete set of 900 marks for this fund.

The visit of the eminent leader of Poalei-Tsion world movement, Zerubavel, made a great impression. He gave two lectures: on the first day, “Zionism and Poalei-Tsionism” and on the second day: “Zionism and the Future of Jewish Culture”. Zerubavel's visit contributed a lot to the growth of the Poalei-Tsion organization in the Jewish quarter in Neisandz.

5

After a year of intense activity the annual Poalei-Tsion meeting was held on January 1, 1910 in which the current local committee gave an accounting of its performance. They reported that the number of known organized party members amounted to 56 that year. These known Poalei-Tsion activists had, to a large extent, influenced the cultural and political life of Neisandz. The Sandz Poalei-Tsion activists were eager participants in the party discussions on timely problems of the Poalei-Tsion ideology and tactics. They also talked about the P.Z. World Conference that had taken place in 1909 in Vienna and to which The Sandzer Poalei-Tsion organization had sent a delegate. According to correspondence from Neisandz dated April 2, 1910, it was reported at the party conference that in that year the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz had collected 400 kronen [a German gold coin of that period worth 100 heller in Austro-Hungary] for “Bezalel” and 30 kronen for the Palestine Workers Fund and sold tickets for 18 kronen, sold 15 shekels, collected 50 kronen for the Press Fund and distributed 35 issues of the “Yidisher Arbeiter” every week.

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Therefore, in this correspondence it was noted that the Poalei-Tsion organization had been up-to-date in the giving to the National Fund and other Zionist institutions. At that meeting, the following were elected to the new local committee: Zvi Schwartz as Chairman; Yehuda Knebel as Treasurer; Hochman – Secretary and friends: Shtrik,Fenig, Klausner, Brater, Kahane and Henig.

The new local committee was now facing an important assignment in the internal party as well as in the general political field.

The cultural work started with a Peretz evening [Isaac Leib Peretz (born May 18, 1852, or May 20, 1851, Zamosc, Poland, Russian Empire-died April 3, 1915, Warsaw; one of the three most important Yiddish writers of that period. –Answer.com] held on January 15, 1910 and with the staging on March 12, 1910 of Gordin's “God, Man and Devil” by the Drama Club [Jacob Gordin (1853-1909), the first important "serious" Yiddish playwright]. The steady stream of union courses, lectures, weekly Shabes lectures for the young were not neglected. The second visit of Zerubavel that year contributed to the serious level of the Poalei-Tsion enlightenment activities. We read about this visit in correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of June 3, 1910: “Friday the 27th and Saturday the 28th of May 1910 we had two large meetings in which Friend Zerubavel spoke about the questions for Jewish workers in Galus [diapora, exile] and in Palestine” Both meetings turned out very well. We collected 69 kronen for “Akhdes” [“Unity”- a youth organization]. Later, toward the end of the year 1910 the local committee rented large premises of three rooms. In one room they arranged a public reading room that had a non-political character. This cultural institution that even attracted young Hasidic circles created a hostile opposition among certain Orthodox fanatics, who, as we see from correspondence of December 23, 1910 in the “Yidisher Arbeiter”, attacked the reading room on December 10, 1909 [note: probably a typographical error: should read December 10, 1910-ed.] and thanks only to the immediate intervention of a group of older Poalei-Tsionistn, the attack did not cause greater damage.

6

The local committee of the Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz, lead by fresh, young strength, understood that except for the strictly party work, it was necessary to penetrate all corners of the Jewish social life of the city and by this method, to aid in the development of the Poalei-Tsion ideals in the Jewish quarter. Therefore, the Poalei-Tsion leaders in Neisandz really demonstrated a multi-faceted interest in all levels of the Jewish population who made a living from their work.

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Characteristic of the very varied activities of the Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz, was the enlightenment campaign among the Jewish artisans of the city that led to the establishment of a Poalei-Tsion artisan organization.

By the end of the 19th century, Jewish artisan unions were nearly in almost every big city in Galicia. These went under the name “Yad Kharutsim” [“a diligent hand” – for the whole person “who works with his hands”- www.bible.org/netbible/pro10_notes.htm - ed.] and its main purpose was to help its members financially. But in time, the number of Jewish artisans who were more politically conscious grew. They understood that the union had to let go of the patriarchal attitude toward the everyday needs of the members. The understanding grew among the ranks of the Jewish artisans of the need to collect their strength to the fight for the right to work and survive.

In a lot of towns, however, a new tendency was picked up by the leaders of the Zh.P.S. or even the P.P.S. Even the “Yad Kharutsim” unions in some localities led by various ambitious politicians used their influence among the Jewish artisans to obtain a mandate in the kehile or City Hall.

Praise for the leaders of Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz must be underscored when in other cities in Galicia the deciding voice was held by the workers of the old ways who mostly identified politically with the backward approach to social work – the local committee of the Poalei-Tsion organizations in Neisandz had early on, in the first months of 1910 decided to establish a Poalei-Tsion artisans union. In the beginning they made efforts through ideological-enlightenment work to introduce a new spirit in the old “Yad Kharutsim” union in Neisandz. Thus, for instance, we learn from correspondence from Neisandz in “Yidisher Arbeiter” of March 12, 1910 that on February 5, 1910 the Poalei-Tsion local committee called an artisans' meeting in which over 70 Jewish artisans participated. The following members reported on the situation of the Jewish workers: Shpray, Mandel and Knebel. After a lengthy discussion they decided to re-organize the old union “Yad Kharutsim”, thereby underscoring the fact that if the efforts to order did not succeed, the local committee would undertake an action to establish a new artisans' union. Right after this, the general meeting of “Yad Kharutsim” to which they had invited the Poalei-Tsion leaders, was supposed to take place. These leaders wanted to speak and put their resolution to a vote. Those who called the meeting allowed the P.Z. to speak but would not allow their resolution to come up to a vote. The excitement among those assembled was so great that they dissolved the meeting.

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The local Poalei-Tsion committee decided to call a partisan assembly on their premises which were right there. They decided to establish a new artisans' union. Many artisans joined on the spot. (“Yidisher Arbeiter” of March 11, 1910).

7

The relationship between P.P.S. and the movement in Galicia was always strained especially against the leaders of P.P.S. The Poalei-Tsion party led a bitter fight. The Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz was an exception in this regard. Very early on, their leaders were closer programmatically to the class view. When, in 1908 the organizational threads to the Zionist districts and land organizations in Galicia were broken, Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz took a clear proletarian view that made the party and their slogans popular and intelligible to the Jewish workers, and at the same time, brought them closer to Polish labor.

A touchstone for the relationships between the separate Socialist parties in the land was always the May 1st holiday. In the first several years if the 20th century there could not be any talk of admitting the Poalei-Tsion organization to participate in a joint demonstration.

Neisandz was also an exception in this regard. Here we read in correspondence from the Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of May 6, 1910: “On May first, in the morning a few hundred Jewish workers assembled in the union hall and after a short talk they went in a parade, that is, in a line, to the P.P.S. meeting where Polish workers greeted them with music and cheers. A few thousand Polish workers were at the meeting. After the speeches Friend Shwartz spoke, both in the Polish and Yiddish languages about our demands for May 1st and ended with these words: “Long live the independent people's Poland! Long live the Jewish Socialist state in Isroyl!” Later Friend Kornfeld spoke in the name of the young. The concluding remarks of both were often interrupted with great clapping and shouting “bravo!” After the meeting there was a demonstration parade through the main streets. Besides our red flag, we carried placards with the inscriptions: “Proletariats of all lands unite!” -- “Jewish proletariats of all lands unite under the flag of Poalei-Tsion!”

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An additional group in the demonstration was our “Yugent” [young] friends. “We put the 'Jewish workers' to work pasting up several hundred May First posters”.

The influence and strength of the Poalei-Tsion movement in Neisandz was probably why the P.P.S. agreed to organize the May celebration jointly with them.

8

A separate chapter of class consciousness of the Neisandz Poalei-Tsion was their great fight, on the so-called”8 o'clock closing” of the shops. In Neisandz, this took quite a sharp turn and there even was one victim.

At that time, the working day in all the stores was very long and the wages very low. Because of this situation, the trade unions of commercial employees who were organized by the Poalei-Tsion began a struggle against this situation. In 1912, negotiations with the existing all-Austrian association of commercial employees in Vienna over recognition of the needs of the Jewish members were unsuccessful. Because of the negative and assimilationist attitude of the Viennese headquarters toward the Jewish demands – a separate association was organized in Galicia: “Union of Jewish Commercial Employees” and private clerks

The fight in Galicia for acceptance as a law that stores had to close at 8 o'clock went on for many long years. Meanwhile, as long as the law had not been approved by the appropriate legislative authorities, the commercial employees, through their unions, tried to press the merchants to agree that the work day in the shops should be regulated so that the shops would close at 8 o'clock.

In Neisandz the fight over the 8 o'clock closing was a stubborn and bitter one. Supported by the Poalei-Tsion party they carried out permanent action. During one such demonstration arranged on behalf of the commercial employees, someone from the crowd, against the wishes of the leaders, threw a rock into a store. Suspicion fell on an innocent Poalei-Tsion activist, Shnitzer. A criminal trial was held and he was sentenced to three months hard labor, with fasting one day a week. Unceasingly tireless efforts on his behalf in his defense by Dr. Bernard Zilberman did not help. Poalei-Tsion organization openly acknowledged its thanks for his pro bono conscientious defense. The appeal against the verdict was unsuccessful and Schnitzer had to serve his sentence.

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The courageous behavior of the Poalei-Tsion leader in the action for an 8 o'clock closing strengthened the ranks of the organization in Neisandz and greatly contributed to its growth and influence in Jewish circles. Groups from Makhzikei Limud [{Supporters of Study}]”, the Khevra Shomrim used all sorts of methods to keep the youth true to Toyre and faith, using modern methods” all means to keep in their ranks young Jewish men artisans and apprentices who were getting an education in “Yugent” [youth organization of the Poalei-Tsion] and finding there the opportunity to live in a real workers' environment.

The orthodox attorney, Dr. Feifer was brought in from Krakow to help the organizers of the Makhzikei Limud. At one of the meetings where he was appearing, someone broke the windowpanes in the hall. Again, suspicion fell on a victim from the demonstration for the 8 o'clock closing. Although five sworn witnesses testified that Schnitzer was not in the hall during Dr. Feifer's lecture, he was punished again with three difficult months in prison.

But all attempts by the reactionary bosses to break the Poalei-Tsion organization away from its commercial employees union remained unsuccessful. On the contrary, the action for an 8 o'clock closing significantly strengthened the popularity of the organization in Neisandz.

9

An important factor in the formation of the national revival process of the Jewish masses in Galicia was the peoples' census movement of 1910. It contributed a great deal to the increase in understanding that there was a need to fight for Jewish national rights. For the first time, the Jewish folk masses in Galicia openly, bravely and alone, manifested their willingness to shape their national existence. This consisted of listing the Yiddish language as the colloquial language of the Jews in the questionnaires of the people's census. The Austrian administration in Galicia, considering the will of the Polish pro-Austrian magnateria [the powerful aristocrats] who ruled over Galicia at that time, strongly forbad this and threatened a monetary fine (40 kronen) or several days in jail for acting against that ban. The Galician authorities applied various means to force the Jews to list Polish or German as their colloquial language. As a result, assimilationists in partnership with certain Orthodox circles did not remain still. They helped the Galician administration in their actions against Yiddish.

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All three Jewish political parties - Zionists, Poalei-Tsion and the Zh.P.S. now created a joint front, calling the Jewish masses to meetings, through enlightenment-lectures, through information and writing offices and countless house-agitators in all cities and shtetlekh – to the fight against national slavery.

It did not help them that the terror on the part of the regime was supported by the assimilationist-Orthodox reaction In spite of the threat of arrest, a great number of Jews handed in the questionnaires with Yiddish as their colloquial language.

The Poalei-Tsion organization carried the greatest burden of this mesires-nefesh [self-sacrificing] fight. Also, the local committee of Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz did not remain inactive and through both peoples' meetings and with verbal and written propaganda, agitated intensively for entering Yiddish in the questionnaire.

As we discover in a correspondence from Neisandz that was published in “Yidishn Arbeiter” on January 13, 1911 a joint committee was elected from representatives of all three parties, whose task it was to lead an electioneering effort for the peoples' census. As it was mentioned in that correspondence, there had been an open meeting in the Poalei-Tsion hall with a lecture by Zvi Shwartz on the meaning of the census. On Sunday, December 25 a meeting was held again in the porters' union hall where the speakers were Poalei-Tsionistn Yitzhok Kornfeld and Mandel on the same subject. We also read in that same correspondence about a meeting that was held in the Zh.P.S. local to which they invited representatives from Poalei-Tsion and, in addition to the speaker- the Zh.P.S. leader from Tarnow, I. Landau,. Yitzhok Kornfeld said a few words about the need for a common fight for Yiddish. At the same meeting Mr. (Shaye) Shus, a representative of the group of Jewish members of P.P.S. made a declaration that he had entered Yiddish as his colloquial language.

Thanks to that political action under the active participation on the part of the Poalei-Tsion organization, on the day of the registration a large part of the Jewish population in Neisandz spoke up for Yiddish as their language; but the city administrative organs had already taken care of it so that official result should not reveal the real will of the Jewish masses.

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10

Since the rise of the organization in Neisandz, the matter of the struggle of the craft workers was uppermost in the activities of the Poalei-Tsion local committee in the city. In this regard, the Poalei-Tsion activists did not hang back and served as an example in the Poalei-Tsion movement, especially in West Galicia. The Fifth Convention of the Austrian Poalei-Tsion Party, held in October, 1910 in Lemberg was entirely dedicated to the question about craft workers work. On the appeal from the convention for concrete craft workers work among Jewish workers and commercial employees, the local committee of the Sandz Poalei-Tsion organization began to agitate energetically among Sandz Jewish labor for their own organization. This activity was not an easy one. In their pursuit to win influence in the already existing trade organization as well as striving to organize the craft workers worker who did not belong to any organization, the Poalei-Tsion met serious opposition from the Z.P.S. Mainly, the Zh.P.S. lobbied the Austrian Central not to open any division or pay station for those trades that the Poalei-Tsion had begun to organize.

However, with time the leaders of the craft workers movement in Vienna recognized the honorable intentions of the Sandz Poalei-Tsion and began to relate positively to those worker organizations. For example, the Sandzer Poalei-Tsion opened a division for painters and lacquer workers with the approval of the Vienna workers' federation of that trade. As delivered in a correspondence from Neisandz “Yidisher Arbeiter” of February, 14, 1911 - the group of room painters and sign painters held a general meeting at which they elected friends M. Gluger as chairman, M. Zoyer as vice-chairman, A. Wajnhorn, M. Ubraykh as secretaries, A. Hartman as treasurer and A. Rotenberg and H. Lieber as comptroller. The managing committee of this organization developed broad diversified enlightenment and recruitment activities among the trade workers. As we read in the correspondence from Sandz in “Yidisher Arbeiter” dated a few months later (September 8, 1911), the leaders of the room painters group in this organization had actually managed to enlist almost all of the Jewish painters and sign-makers in the trade organization; efforts were even made to find Christian room painters. Emphasized in this correspondence was the fact that although there were barely seven Christian painter journeymen, “they don't do well”.

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The P.Z. local committee in Sandz faced considerable difficulties in its attempts to organize the Jewish women workers. Only after a few special meetings for this purpose, the basis was laid for a special organization in Sandz for women workers. Through courses and enlightenment meetings, the organization “Yehudis” immediately engendered a great deal of popularity among the young generation of Jewish working women. Regardless of the obstacles created by the Orthodox circles, the organization showed steady growth and development. The members of “Yehudis” actively participated in all the undertakings of the Poalei-Tsion drama club.

11

In 1911, during the campaign for monies for the krankn-kase [fund for the sick] the Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz manifested a pronounced, unambiguous class line.

In that battle the Poalei-Tsion party in Neisandz found themselves together at the same front with the Polish workers who were organized by P.P.S. (Polish Socialist Party).This collaboration was only possible thanks to the significant strength that Poalei-Tsion movement had shown in Neisandz since 1910. This strength in Jewish quarters included the Jewish element that was already permeated with class consciousness. Also, it has to be noted that in all other towns in Galicia the P.P.S. lead a sharp fight against the Poalei-Tsion party, supported in their race for Jewish votes only by the Z.P.S.

In Neisandz large government train workshops were active. These employed a large number of Polish workers, members of the P.P.S. The P.P.S. fought bitterly for the acquisition of the Sandz krankn-kase that had been dominated by representatives of the Polish reactionary spheres for many long years. Only in May of 1909, after the election of new management of the Neisandz krankn-kase was the P.P.S. able, with the help of the Poalei-Tsion organization, to implement a Socialist delegate list, on which there were a few Poalei-Tsion representatives. However, when the new P.P.S. delegates elected new management for the krankn-kase – the P.P.S, as we read in correspondence from Neisandz in “Yidishe Arbeiter” of April 7, 1911 “completely forgot about the joint fight we had waged before the elections, and in the selected leaders, the only ones let in were their Polish members, even though there were always 2 Jews in leader's group”- “we have” - we read further, in that correspondence – “called the Jewish workers to a protest meeting and sent to the P.P.S. and to the newly-elected leaders the resolution of the meeting, to which the Poalei-Tsion did not even receive a reply”.

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However, in spite of the behavior of the P.P.S., the local committee of the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz did not stop their consistent class position that directed them to pay attention to the solidarity of the class fight for the interests of the worker.

Since 1909, the membership of the Poalei-Tsion increased, and their influence grew among the Jewish
Workers. When, in 1911 there was supposed to be a new election to the krankn-kase, the Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz faced a difficult problem. On one side, not to allow the injustice of two years ago to repeat itself - while on the second side mobilizing all their strength together with the class-conscious Polish workers to repeal the actions on the part of Polish reactionaries and win back the management of the krankn-kase.

As we find out in the aforementioned correspondence, on March 25, 1911 the Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz called for a meeting with the agenda: “the upcoming election to the Sandzer krankn-kase” at which representatives of the P.P.S. participated. It was decided to create a joint solidarity front with other Socialist organizations and put up a demand that in the leader's group, and also in the control commission and the shid [??] court of the krankn-kase, Jewish workers and trade workers should be representatives. That demand was accepted by the representatives of the P.P.S. and the community election to the Sandzer krankn-kase ended with a great victory for the Socialist front. The district chief magistrate in Neisandz immediately annulled the results of the election and put in a government commissar. This was not the end of the fight to acquire the Sandz krankn-kase.

12

The importance and prestige of the P.Z. movement in the Jewish working community of New Sandz continued to grow. The systematic cultural and enlightenment work of the union “Hatikva”, the serious interest in the diversified activities of the “Yugnt” movement as well as in the women's union “Yehudis”, the serious interest among the Jewish workers in the trade union movement through the organization and strengthening of the different craft workers trade groups. This was paart of their intention of including the Jewish trade union workers in the fight for social and national ascendancy by establishing the Poalei-Tsion trade union, the high level of the cultural activities, the courageous appearance and the clear proletarian attitude of the leaders of the Sandz Poalei-Tsion in all issues of the Jewish reality –created for that movement much sympathy and acknowledgement not only among the Jewish workers in Neisandz.

[Page 389]

Under these circumstances, therefore, it was no surprise that in 1911, just as in 1910 the Sandz P.P.S. May First celebration was conducted together with the local Poalei-Tsion. Concerning the course of that impressive May First manifestation of proletariat solidarity in Neisandz, we read in correspondence in the Lemberg [Lvov] “Yidishe Arbeiter” of May 12, 1911: “on Monday, May 1, 1911, in the colony of the Sandz railroad workers, a joint demonstration in which the Poalei-Tsion groups joined with over 100 Jewish workers who carried posters with Jewish and Polish inscriptions of timely slogans such as, among others: 'Long live equal general voting rights to the city council and Jewish community' – 'Long live Jewish national equal rights', 'Down with the traitorous assimilation!'”.

In the joint demonstration, the Poalei-Tsion group marched through the main streets of Neisandz singing Jewish Socialist and Poalei-Tsion songs. Eight o'clock in the evening (the demonstration had begun at seven because the railroad workers had to work that day) – the demonstrators came back to a meeting in workers' home of the railroad workers. The first speaker was Dr. Gumplowicz from Krakow calling the assembled to the fight for a Socialist representative from Neisandz to the Vienna Parliament. The second was Mrs. Shufler speaking about equal rights for women. Afterwards – we read in the above mentioned correspondence, “then the representative of the Poalei-Tsion party, Herman Shwartz welcomed the assembly in Yiddish and Polish and discussing the status of the Poalei-Tsion in the coming Parliamentary elections, he declared that although not one Socialist deputy in the Vienna Parliament was sympathetic to the Jewish national demands, the Sandzer Poalei-Tsion party will support the Socialist candidate in order to strengthen the Socialist front, but, at the same time, will not forget to spread the Poalei-Tsion ideal among the Jewish masses. Finally, Friend Shwartz – “spoke at length about the demand for recognition of a Jewish section in the Socialist International;

[Page 390]

and today, on the day when workers announce their demands, such as fighting against inequality, against oppression – you are unjustly against the Jewish workers in that you do not want to recognize the demands of the Jewish proletariat and you deny our existence”. – the Poalei-Tsionist speaker boldly called out:”Long live the Jewish sections in the Socialist International” He finished his speech which was (according to the correspondence) met with great applause and acceptance by the audience of workers.

13

The growth of the Poalei-Tsion movement in Neisandz was influenced largely by the widely disseminated cultural work among the Jewish workers and merchant employees, old as well as young. These cultural activities – begun with taking the illiterate through to higher educational courses, - intensified through a Jewish library, a drama group, reading and party group meetings, through cultivating the Jewish and especially the party press, - converted the unions: “Hatikva” , “Yehudis”, the “Yugnt” and the merchant employees unions in important centers, where the Yiddish language and Jewish literature were used. Prominent Jewish writers were celebrated. From this, the call was spread to fight for the social and national rise of the Jewish masses.

The Poalei-Tsion amateur club showed great merit in the field of cultural activities. From time to time, they put on thoroughly expert performances of Jewish plays. The Jewish public in Neisandz showed great interest in each performance. The posters announcing the program and the time of the performance made an especially great impression. The posters with the large Jewish letters stuck in the face of the anti-Semitic circles in the city. The amateur club announced the performance of Jacob Gordin's drama, “Mturf” [Wild man], for April 16, 1911 in this manner. The Christian community leader, Dr. Fashani raised a proposition at the meeting of the city council to forbid the posting of Jewish posters in public places. This created a great debate at which the Jewish councilman, Dr. B. Zilberman declared that even if the proposition would be accepted, he himself, on his own responsibility would tell the Jewish community to put up posters in public places. After this announcement, the proposition fell through.

14

A large page in the history of the Poalei-Tsion movement in Neisandz was the election campaign to the Austrian Parliament in 1911. This was a serious, intense campaign on an intellectual and political level.

[Page 391]

The consistently Marxist line was already entrenched in the Poalei-Tsion movement in 1911. The local P.Z. activists always boldly underlined their devotion to the Jewish national demands of the Jewish masses. Therefore, with satisfaction, the local committee of the Sandz Poalei-Tsion followed the tactical directives that were worked out at a special party convention in May 1911 for that election. At this time, it was decided to support the Socialist-Democratic candidates everywhere who related positively to the national postulates of the Galician Jews. At the same time, to sharply contest the assimilationist tendencies of the P.P.S. An exception was made only for the third election circular in Lemberg where it was permitted to support the Zionist Adolf Shtand against Dr. Diamond, the extreme assimilationist of the P.P.S.

The election campaign in Neisandz began with a joint conference to which the P.P.S. invited the representatives of the P.Z. party. As it is noted in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” in correspondence from Neisandz from May 12, 1911, - Schwartz, Knevbel, Drayband, Hochman from the Poalei-Tsion organization were chosen as delegates to that conference. Kh. Schwarz declared that according to the resolution of the last Poalei-Tsion Party Day, the Poalei-Tsion must, above all, create separate election committees whose task it would be to conduct the election according to the P.Z. program.

After a long discussion, it was decided that the Poalei-Tsion election committee would be recognized as the only Jewish election committee in the city and that it would have the right to carry out independent electioneering in the Jewish areas. If the P.P.S. would want to call a Jewish election meeting, they must first communicate with the Poalei-Tsion election committee. On the other hand, when the P.Z. election committee would wish to take an important election action, particularly when it is about a compromise with another Jewish party, they would be obligated to communicate with the election committee of the P.P.S.

The Poalei-Tsion activists threw themselves into the election fight with great zeal and devotion and played a leading and important role. Three blocks competed among themselves: the Socialist Front, which encompassed the P.P. S., Poalei-Tsion and the Zh.P.S. The second block was built by the bourgeois Civil Government Party with the previous representative to the Austrian Parliament, Dr. German, and the third group – the Jewish national circles with the Zionist Organization in the lead.

[Page 392]

Dr. Marek, the P.P.S. leader from Krakow was the candidate of the Socialists and the Jewish list was lead by Dr. Tohn, also from Krakow.

The Poalei-Tsion election activity had a particular character and clearly stressed the need to fight the candidate of the Polish anti-Semitic reaction. Concerning the Jewish national situation, the Poalei-Tsionistn reflected on one side, their hopelessness about getting a Jewish mandate among the Sandz circles. On the second side was the danger that by draining the Jewish votes they would increase the reactionary's chances - Dr. German.

These major attitudes of the Poalei-Tsion were clearly expressed in the correspondence from Neisandz published in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” on June 1, 1011: “Our attitude is clear. We are fighting the Social-Democratic club since it deals against us unjustly; we fight against the Diamonds; but we support the Socialists against the reactionary candidate, Dr. German”.

In the same correspondence the course of one of the big voter meetings called by the P.Z. election Committee was also relayed. “An expression of our stand' – we read there – “was the Jewish voter meeting called by our voting committee for Saturday, the 27th of May to be held in our large union local. All the rooms were overflowing with voters, so much so that a large crowd had to remain in the courtyard. Kh. Hokhman opened the meeting and the following were elected to the presidium: friends Hokhman, Doyer and Shus. Kh. Shwarts began by characterizing the election situation in our city, then the candidate Dr. Zigmunt Marek from Krakow seized the floor and stressed in his speech that the election in our town was not a personal struggle, but a struggle with the system. Then they gave the floor to Dr. Brom from Krakow (Kh.P.S. editor) and then Shwartz brought up the politics of the local Zionists. Then with much applause a resolution was passed in which the assembled were called upon to vote for the Socialist candidate, Dr. Marek”[*].

The voter-electioneering was carried out with spirit and real enthusiasm by such P.Z. leaders as Herman Shwartz, Yehuda Khebel, Hokhman and other devoted P.Z. leaders was transformed into a great showcase for the P.Z. ideals. For the masses who attended voter meetings, the known party leaders of all three Socialist parties appeared before them with practical speeches.

* Our orthography (Editor [R. Mahler]) Return

[Page 393]

The P.Z. leader Yitzhok Kandl from Przemyœl had great success with his electioneering appearances. The Poalei-Tsion leader Yakow Kener from Krakow, already well-known at that time, was theere all that time until the elections. Dr. Fentzerblau from Tarnow appeared at the meeting for the Zh.P.S. A letter that Dr. Marek had sent to the Voting Committee in Neisandz in which, as found in the correspondence in “Yidisher Arbeiter” of June 5, 1911 – he writes, among other things, that by in 1907, when he was a candidate in Krakow, he recognized the need for national independence of the Jews as well as their demands about national equal rights along with all people. Because of this, he would try to get the law about Sunday, the day of rest, changed so that Jews would have only Saturday as the day of rest. The Peddler Law should be changed in favor of the Jews”.

To a large extent, the election campaign helped to strengthen the stronghold of the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz and invigorated their position internally as well as outwardly. During the campaign, the activities of the Poalei-Tsion in Sandz expanded and right after the election they began their actual party work concentrating primarily on the area of craft workers activities. Correspondence from Neisandz reported in “Yidisher Arbeiter” on August 18 and September 8, 1911, gives us an exact report on the accomplishment of the local committee of the Poalei-Tsion in the field of trade unions. First of all, in the first piece of correspondence it was reported that the painters' organization had, thanks to their participation in the Vienna Central won a shortening of the work day by two hours. Then, details of the renewal of the fight for an eight o'clock closing were given. The presence of Berl Loker in Sandz was used for propaganda and enlightenment activities among the Jewish workers and commercial employees.

The fight in Neisandz for the observance of the eight o'clock closing law that had been in effect since May 4, 1910 - met with great difficulties. The craft workers union of the Jewish commercial employees in Neisandz that was part of the “Independent Association of Jewish Commercial Employees” lead by the Poalei-Tsion Party now put their entire attention into full enforcement of the closing law, calling the Jewish commercial employees to the fight for their rights.

[Page 394]

In the aforementioned second correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of 1911, we learn that an open commercial employee assembly was indeed arranged. The activities of the P.Z. activists Kornfeld, Knebel and Koyfman to keep the eight o'clock closing was reported there along with the accepted resolutions that expressed the demands of the commercial employees about this closing time. They called on the Jewish commercial employees to join with the union of Jewish commercial employees in Lemberg. In Neisandz the fight for the eight o'clock closing was sharp and full of self-sacrifice and determination. Step by step the commercial employees were nearing victory for their demands through their constant meetings and interventions in government organizations and in the merchants' associations. The Poalei-Tsion in Sandz also developed highly professional methods in relation to the Jewish tailor workers, although they were under the influence of the Zh.P.S. – the efforts of the Sandz Poalei-Tsion were directed to the end that the craft workers union of the tailoring workers should be impartially lead and should be a union of a clean organized union character, and should be accepted into the General Austrian Tailors Association in Vienna. As noted in a correspondence from Neisandz dated September 8, 1911, there were several meetings of Jewish tailoring workers and followers of an impartial trade union organization at which they declared their wish to belong directly to the central tailors' union in Vienna. Also, they no longer wanted to pay dues to the Zh.P.S. party.

[Page 395]

It was only then that the leaders of the Sandz trade union gave in and agreed that members of the craft workers trade union with identification cards from the Poalei-Tsion party would not have to pay the Zh.P.S. party dues. From then on, everyone who belonged to the tailors' association had to pay only trade union dues. He would remain a member of his political party or he could be entirely impartial. That is how all the attempts by Zh.P.S. to break the influence of the Poalei-Tsion on the Jewish tailoring workers in Neisandz were unsuccessful. They were the second strongest workers' group on the Jewish street [among the Jews, in the Jewish areas] after the commercial employees.

16

Parallel to their political; and professional activities in Neisandz, they continued their intensive cultural activities in all areas of concern to the movement. The amateur club had great success in this area when they undertook a struggle against playing shund teater [low-brow theatrical works] and presented a series of classic Jewish dramas that they had learned thoroughly. With this, they deepened the understanding of Jewish theater and acquainted the Jewish audience with the treasures of Jewish literature. Thanks to the elevated level of Poalei-Tsion's activities in Neisandz, in 1911, they even penetrated into the sphere of the studying youth. At the fourth conference of the Jewish Poalei-Tsion Youth in Galicia that took place in Lemberg in November 1911, delegates of the Poalei-Tsion student circle in Neisandz were already participating.

In general, in 1911, the Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz was internally strengthened and organizationally consolidated. At the end of the year the Neisandz Poalei-Tsion was able to record several significant achievements such as bringing the wine-cellar workers into the commercial employees association and a large group of tailors into “Hatikvah”. Later accomplishments were the fruitful cultural activities in the “Yugent” organization They arranged a very rich cultural evening in honor of the 60th jubilee of Y.L.Peretz, and also the union “Yehudis” was developing nicely. Also noteworthy in that year was the successful Macabi evening at which their own workers' chorus performed under the leadership of the devoted Poalei-Tsionist, Yakov Wanderer.

In 1911, Neisandz again called upon the then prominent Poalei-Tsion leader Berl Loker. With the enlightening speeches he gave at meetings with the local committee, the management and the activists from all P.Z. groups – he greatly deepening the knowledge of Poalei-Tsionististn members.

[Page 396]

The growth of the P.Z. camp in Neisandz brought with it changes in the composition of the P.Z. local committee. This was described in correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of January 5, 1912 where it was announced that each Poalei-Tsion union would have three delegates.

17

The year 1912 saw the Poalei-Tsion continuing its advanced activities. It began with the discharge from jail of the devoted Poalei-Tsion activist Shnitzer after he served two sentences for allegedly throwing a stone…It was reported in correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of March 29, 1912 that the arts group of the Jewish commercial employees association had arranged a festive evening on February 21 in honor of Shnitzer's freedom.

Photograph in Sandz, in 1911 (at Friend Shniter's Release)

From right to left – first row on the top – the 5th – Manek Ferber;
the 6th-Melekh Iberaykh
Second row, the first on the right and in the 3rd row the second on the right- the brothers Kloysner.
Third row: the 3rd from the left –Khanina Broyn
Fourth row: 3rd from the right – Yidel Knebel. The 6th right - Dr. Shwartz.
Fifth row: the first on the right – Hersh Rotenberg

[Page 397]

Many of his friends and comrades participated. Yakow Wanderer excelled with his singing of Yiddish songs.

For that year, Poalei-Tsion noted great accomplishments. First of all, in the field of its cultural activities: the drama club gave performances of the best Yiddish plays (like Peretz Hirshbein's drama “Yoel” performed on the 4th of April 1912). As amateur talents, friends Flaster, Dreiband, Meierfeld, Rotberg and their fellow actors Zoyer, Knebel, Kolber and Waks all excelled.

Lectures on socialism and Zionist theory were held every Saturday by the local union (for example, among others, was the lecture by Hersh Shwartz on the significance of Dr. Herzl for the Jewish people). In the winter months, a whole cycle of literary evenings dedicated to Jewish writers were conducted. As we note in correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of November 15, 1912, the first such night was on khalemoyed sukes [during the Passover and Succoth holidays, the intermediary weekdays between the first two and the last two days of the holiday-Uriel Weinreich] and was dedicated to Sholem Aleichem. In addition to monologues, a recitation and two one-acts from Sholem Aleichem, a lecture on the writer by Dr. Schipper [Ignacy Schipper (1884-1943), historian, Zionist and member of the Polish Parliament; very influential in pre-war Poland {internet] from Tarnow were held

The literary evening aroused great interest and drew a large number of visitors. Correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of January 24, 1813 [NOTE: obvious typo: should be 1913-editor] brings us news that in the month of November 1912 there was a Reisen-evening [Avrom Reisen (1876-1953) Yiddish poet, moved to New and lived in the Bronx York City] and a Macabi celebration. Also, that Saturday, December 28, 1912, an evening was devoted to I.L.Peretz and Dr. Schipper again lectured about Peretz' productions; Dr. Frenkel gave a recitation from “Dos Shrayml” [fur-edged hat worn by Rabbis and Hasidic Jews on the Sabbath and holidays-U. Weinreich]; Rotenberg gave a monologue and Hersh Kloyzner sang songs. At the end, there was a performance from the one-act “Es Brent”.

The elevated level of cultural activities of Poalei-Tsion in Sandz in 1912 was noted in correspondence from Neisandz in “Yidisher Arbeiter” where we read: “Despite of the difficult political and economic crises – we are doing great organizational and cultural work in all our unions and groups. Regular courses in political economy (Friend Goldberg), Polish (Friend Landau) and Yiddish history (Friend Draybond) are being given. Twice a week a discussion evening on the events of the week and a literary chat are held. In addition, the union “Yungt” conducts literacy courses; every Saturday, there are open lectures conducted by members of the culture committee. In addition, we are creating a Toynbehalle [Toynbee Hall is the original university settlement house of the settlement movement. Founded in 1884 in Commercial Street, Whitechapel in the East End of London, it is still active today. A centre for social reform, Toynbee Hall was founded by Samuel and Henrietta Barnett with support from Balliol and Wadham colleges at Oxford University, and named after their friend and fellow reformer, Oxford historian Arnold Toynbee. – Wikipedia] for the local Jewish masses].

[Page 398]

We centralized all union libraries into one large library which includes over 300 Jewish books besides those in Polish and German”.

The local committee of Poalei-Tsion made an effort to bring in prominent Jewish social leaders and that is how, with Dr. Schipper, Zerubavel [Yiddish writer], Berl Loker and Mrs. Pevzner we maintained the active leadership of the Poalei-Tsion party in Austria. I. Wakhman, who at a meeting of commercial employees lectured on “Protection Laws for Workers”, and at a vocal-musical evening arranged by “Yehudis”, he lectured on the theme: “The Status of Women in Society”

A very successful course for the public that was held on Saturday, August 3, 1912 under the open sky and as reported in correspondence from Neisandz in “Yidisher Arbeiter”of August 16, 1912, the Bitner's large garden was packed with such a large assembly of people that Neisandz had not had since the election meeting. “The assembly” – we read further – “at which over 600 workers and members participated, was opened by Friend Shwartz. At the presidium, Kornfeld and Koyfman and citizen Shtayner were elected”.

At that time, management of the local in Sandz were: tireless and devoted leaders, such as Yehuda Knebel (now in Israel) and Yitzhok Kornfeld (now in America and Hersh Sjwartz z”l [of blessed memory] (tortured by the German murderers) and tens of other activists who loyally and bravely fought for the victory of the Poalei-Tsion ideal”.

These rich activities of the local committee of the Sandz Poalei-Tsion were reported at the bi-annual party meeting that assembled on Saturday, October 26, 1912. After a discussion in which D. Weintraub, A. Braun and Kh. Broyn – showed the local-committee a certificate of completion a new local committee was elected and again included three members of the P.Z. unions and groups[*]

* The “Yidisher Arbeiter” correspondence from Neisandz, March 7, 1913. Return

18

In years 1913 and 1914 until the outbreak of the First World War, the P.Z. movement in Neisandz was not only the decisive factor in the lives of the Jewish working class, but also gained prestige with the citizenry.

[Page 399]

It should also be noted there was an upswing in all organizations that were connected to P.Z. activities in that epoch.

On January 2, 1913[*] the unionized painters' group held a general assembly at which a new management with H. Hartman as chairman, Einhorn and Iberaykh as secretaries, Yosef Meyerfeld as treasurer and Brandshteter and Rotenberg as members of the supervising commission. The new management not only had to guard the vitally important trade interests of the painter-workers against the room-painter masters who had created their own masters organization in Sandz, but they also had to fight against the attempts of the Zh.P.S. to undermine the existence of the painter-workers union. In order to protect against these attempts on the part of the Zh.P.S., the workers' group called a general workers' assembly on January 11, 1913[**]. The position of the Zh.P.S. toward the union of the painter-workers was also an attempt to prevent the P.Z. party from being successfully active in the craft workers field. The fraud of the painters' group was reported by Hartman, and the Poalei-Tsion leaders Yehuda Knebel and Yitzhok Kornfeld.

The women's organization “Yehudis” developed very nicely, thanks to intensive cultural activities that significantly increased the number of union members. It was already strong enough to participate in open women's actions, and so the union celebrated Women's Day on March 8, 1913[***]. For the first time, an open meeting of Jewish working women was held in Neisandz at which the fight for equal political rights of women was discussed by Yitzhok Kornfeld. He made the demand that women be given active rights and possibly the right to vote in all legislative bodies. At the open demonstration assembly of the women's organization of the P.P.S. that took place in Neisandz on March 9, 1913,[****] the Jewish women workers from “Yehudis” participated. Mrs. Shufler reported in their name. Yitzhok Kornfeld spoke in the name of the Poalei-Tsion local committee.

* Correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of January 24, 1913 Return

** According to the same correspondence Return

*** “Yidisher Arbeiter” – correspondence from Neisandz of April 11, 1913 Return

**** According to the same correspondence Return


[Page 400]

In the new year, after a period of intensive activity, the 8th annual general assembly of the workers' union “Hatikvah” was held. At that time new management with A. Broyn as chairman, Dovid Shteynberg as secretary and treasurer was elected. Chairman Broyn, Yosef Goldshteyn, Shloyme Klafter, Yitzhok Koyfer and Leyb Sukman were members of management.[*]

To this rich outcome of the Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz, until July 1914 – we also have to add the last May First celebration, in 1914. We read about that celebration in correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of May 15, 1914: “The May First celebration this year turned out very nicely. On Thursday, April 30, we had a solemn evening in honor of the 25th jubilee of the Workers' Day holiday. At 8 o'clock in the evening a large number of friends assembled in the nicely decorated union meeting hall. Friend Yehuda Knebel opened the evening and discussed the meaning of May First for the proletariat. Friend Blumner sang the song, “Dos Borfise Meydl” [“The Barefoot Girl”] by Morris Rosenfeld [{1862–1923}; immigrated to the United States in 1886; wrote of the hell of the sweatshop in such poems as “Mein Ingele” and “Cradle Song.” – Columbia University Press] and Dr. Fensterblau (Zh.P.S. from Tarnow) gave a nice lecture, discussing the history of the Socialist movement. After monologues by Friends Blumner and Rotenberg, the evening ended with the singing of freedom songs by our chorus”. “Friday – the First of May” – we read further in the same correspondence – “our comrades stopped working. At one o'clock we gathered in the local union hall for an open assembly. Friend Baruch Rosenfeld opened the assembly. Friends Hartman and Baruch were elected to the presidium. In a lengthy speech friend Knebel spoke about our demands and the political situation. A few hours of the afternoon were spent in singing different songs and with recitations by Friend Neyman”.

* Correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of March 7, 1913. Return

19

On July 28, 1914 the First World War broke out. In those difficult days living under war conditions, the political and social life of the country stopped. Most of the members of the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz were mobilized and fought on the front and spilled their blood on all the battlefields. The work of the party was cut off in the city. On July 31, 1914 the last pre-war number of the “Yidisher Arbeiter” was published. Every contact with the central party authorities that had themselves gone silent was interrupted. The Poalei-Tsionistn who were relieved from military service had to leave the city at once when sections of the Russian army occupied Niesandz.

[Page 401]

During the Russian invasion, generally all the activities of exempt Jewish, even philanthropic groups, were stopped.

Only after the Russians had left Neisandz and the Sandzer Jews started to return from the refugee camps, did Jewish social life in Sandz gradually awaken and the first rays of the revival of the Poalei-Tsionistish movement began in Neisandz.

The first bricks of the revival of the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz were placed there by young workers and students of the gimnazium [secondary school]. Even a union, “Rokhl” of young idealistic women workers was established in Neisandz. But during the war years, the activities of these young idealists were restricted, mostly considered illegal, and this created much hardship.

However, at that time, the Poalei-Tsion World Association was very active. There was lots of activity in the Scandinavian countries. In 1915, the office of the Poalei-Tsion Association sent a memorandum to the International Socialist office; the so-called “Red-Book” [A general name for a collection of information; it is used in numismatics, game rules, etc. – ed.] together with documents on the situation of the Jews in the war countries and the demands of the Jewish proletariat in regard to the coming peace agreement

Later, on July 26, 1917, a delegation from the All-World Jewish Socialist Worker Association Poalei-Tsion was received by representatives from the Holland-Scandinavian Committee in Stockholm which earlier, had been put together by the Socialist parties of a few neutral countries. At that time, they took upon themselves the initiative to bring together all Socialist groups to an International Socialist Peace Conference, especially those from the areas where there had been fighting,. The Poalei-Tsion Association was also invited to that conference. There, they clearly formulated and substantiated the Jewish demands from the viewpoint of the Poalei-Tsion ideology on all questions before the International Socialist circles.

These activities by the highest Poalei-Tsion party authorities encouraged the small number of P.Z. activists who remained in the cities of Galicia to intensify their activity in order to build up the Poalei-Tsion organization. In 1917, the fact that the “Yidisher Arbeiter” began to publish again in Vienna was instrumental in the revival of the Poalei-Tsion movement in Galicia. Neisandz did not remain behind in activating the P.Z.

In correspondence from Neisandz that appeared in the revitalized “Yidisher Arbeiter” of September-October 1917, we read about the revival of the P.Z. organization in Sandz:

[Page 402]

“The tremendous world events, the winds of freedom from the east, the success of our party and our World Association woke us to action. We understood that at the time of such important events, our leadership needed the help of all its friends who might possibly be able to do something. We gathered all our strength and revived our union. In the month of May, we got our own meeting hall. During those few months we systematically held courses. We held a large number of speeches and we opened a library” – we read at the end of this correspondence: – “We are in written contact with almost all our friends and we meet them with the great pleasure and warm enthusiasm that was shown in the field, in captivity, in hospital and everywhere they were”.

The small group of activists who did the difficult rebuilding work in the Sandzer P.Z. made a great effort to broaden the party activities especially in the field of social relief.

That group of the P.Z. activists participated quite intensively in work for the Jewish People's Kitchen that had already been established in Neisandz in 1915. At first, it was only to supply the Jewish soldiers with kosher food, and later with the increase in the needs of Jews, it was converted into a general inexpensive Jewish People's Kitchen. In 1916, 4000 Sandzer Jews belonged to that union whose task it was, with the help of monthly payments and other subsidies, to maintain the Kitchen.

At the general assembly of that union that took place on December 17, 1917[*] a new management committee was elected that included some Poalei-Tsion members. These people excelled with their devoted work, and in addition, they opened a second kitchen for poor children. According to the cited correspondence, over 200 children were fed three times daily at inexpensive prices in this kitchen.

* Correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of December 12, 1917 Return

20

The wartime conditions were very harsh. In the Jewish neighborhoods, an indescribable need for a normal cultural life existed. In Neisandz a group of cultural leaders established a new union: “Yidishe Folks-Bibliotek” [Jewish Peoples' Library], where, in addition to a library and a reading room, open lectures were also systematically organized. Memorial evenings in honor of famous Jewish writers and personalities were held. P.Z. leaders were in the majority among the management of the Yidishe Folks-Bibliotek, and actually carried out all the union activities.

[Page 403]

In 1918, in the field of cultural work, the Poalei-Tsion organization was enriched by a young Poalei-Tsionist, Emanuel Ringelblum, later, the social worker and famous historian of Polish Jewry.

In “Kver-Shnit” [Cross-Section], the Yizkor [memorial] Book of the meritorious Poalei-Tsion leader, Jacob Kener, one of the founders of the Poalei-Tsion movement in Galicia – that appeared in New York in 1947, we find interesting details of the life and work of the martyr and fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto, Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum z”l [(Zichrono Livrocho {of blessed memory – said of deceased prominent people}].

These particulars have a connection to the previously mentioned cultural activities of the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz in 1918, as Kener wrote (page 230): “In 1918, Neisandz became the permanent residence of the Ringelblum family, and when a self-education circle was created by gimnasium students in the name of the Poalei-Tsion leader, Ber Borochov [(1881-1917) Russian Jewish Socialist Zionist thinker and leader] who had died in 1917 in Kiev, the young Ringelblum became one of the most active members of that circle. The circle was devoted to the further education of its members in the fields of Jewish history and Jewish economics. He contended that 'the chosen' youth who were studying, had to organize educational courses for the working and Hasidic youth. On his own initiative, he developed the Borochov-Student-Circle in Neisandz which became a widespread cultural and educational activity among the town's youth”.

“In that work” – Kener writes in addition, - “he took a very active part; he gave up every evening of the week, - although he was tired after a full day's work until 2 o'clock as a student in the government gimnasium. After the midday meal, he had to run around giving lessons as a tutor in order to earn enough for school books or some clothes, since the “house” had become impoverished in the war and his father could no longer support him . . .He would do his own school assignment late in the night at the expense of sleep, but he never neglected his communal obligations”.

21

In 1917, when people were still bleeding on the battlefield, steps were taken by international Socialist groups in neutral lands in order to bring the world closer to peace.

[Page 404]

The Poalei-Tsion World Association joined in that activity. A declaration before the Holland-Scandinavian Committee – on August 6, 1917- marked the attitude of the Poalei-Tsion movement toward a series of problems that the Mutual People's Relations had to regulate, stressing first of all, the need to organize the fight for peace against the dreadful genocide.

Coming from the viewpoint of the right of unlimited self-determination for all people, Poalei-Tsion Association, among others, spoke up for the establishment of an independent Poland. At the same time, they raised the demand to internationally secure the guarantee of the right of Jewish residents of Poland to citizenship and their rights as a nationality. (Jewish Workers' Pinkus [a register], first volume, page 530).

The actions of the Poalei-Tsion World Association gave a great deal of courage to the Poalei-Tsion leaders in Galicia - spread over the battlefields and in the towns and cities. The small but energetic groups of Poalei-Tsion activists in Neisandz with Yehuda Knebel in the lead, who were free of the army and since the liberation of Neisandz, from the Russian invasion, had, with double the energy, made every attempt to revive the P.Z. organization. It became strengthened by many Poalei-Tsionistn returning from the front. Once again, a group willing to work actively took upon themselves the duty of fulfilling all the old and new tasks, and the Poalei-Tsion movement was re-established in the city.

There was not one field in the national and social life in which the Poalei-Tsion organization in Neisandz did not play an important part, and often even had the main role.

The tasks were now very difficult and full of responsibility. The foundations of the Austrian Empire were already shaking. The Polish and Ukrainian masses were preparing for combat for full independence. In Jewish quarters also, national and social powers were searching for resources to rebuild the Jewish settlements in Galicia after the dreadful destruction and devastation, to rebuild the Jewish economic, political and social life.

In the spring of 1918 in Krakow, under the leadership of Dr. Ignacy Schipper [{1884-1943} Zionist and important historian of Jewish history, died in Majdanek] who was then still serving in the Austrian military, an illegal conference was held with those Poalei-Tsion activists of several major cities, including Neisandz. Among others, a resolution on an independent Poland was accepted as well as a protest against the break-up of the area of Chelm and surroundings as part of the projected new Poland of the central-states.

[Page 405]

Related to this stand on the principle question of the pursuit of Poland's independence, the local committee of the Poalei-Tsion in Neisandz participated in the big demonstration of the entire Polish population in Neisandz against the Brest Agreement [The Treaty of Breat Litovsk signed on March 3, 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was the agreement by which Russia dropped out of World War I,-Wikipedia] regarding Chelm. As we read in correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” of May 1, 1918 – “the demonstration, in which almost all the Jews participated, turned out quite well. “And” – says the correspondence, “the Jews participated as a separate group at the mass assembly of the Polish and Jewish population held at the market. Dr. Hersh Shwartz appeared in the name of the Sandzer Jews. In addition to the clear declaration for full recognition of Poland's pursuit of independence, he also issued a demand for full national rights for Jews in a free Poland.

Efforts to organize the Jewish masses in Galicia at a time of chaos in the land, was, at the same time, connected with the danger of much greater hardship and desolation in the Jewish areas. The project to call a Congress of all Austrians, or at least, all Galician Jews arose out of these concerns. At this Congress, Jews would issue the call of the Jewish people for economic relief and political rights. This project came from the Austrian Poalei-Tsion leaders. In order to popularize and clarify the idea of a Jewish Congress, the P.Z. leader came from Vienna and gave a lecture in Neisandz on the matter.

22

The Jews lived through a very hard winter in 1918. This was on the eve of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy when the Polish national powers were preparing to take over control, first in Western Galicia.

Indescribable need reigned over the Jews in Neisandz. The only two Jewish assistance organizations, the Folks' and Children's Kitchens went through a difficult crisis, since on one side, the government organs did not distribute any food or give monetary support to the Jewish Folks Kitchens, and on the other side, almost the entire burden of the upkeep of both organizations fell on the Poalei-Tsion workers in partnership with the Women's Committee. Earlier, the P.Z. organization with the help of the Women's Committee, had organized different productions from which the clear income fell to one or the other Kitchen Committee. Now, all of a sudden, it became impossible to get a hall for Poalei-Tsion productions.

[Page 406]

Even the Polish Socialists, who had previously given the hall in the Railroad “Workers' Home” to the P.Z. organization for a performance or other recreation, did not want to do it now. The excuse was that there was an anti-Semitic mood ruling among the Polish population.

Now, in general, among the P.P.S. a turn in their behavior toward the Jewish population was noticed. As reported in the “Yidisher Arbeiter” in correspondence from Neisandz dated October 11, 1918, the previous May First, the Sandzer P.P.S. had not admitted the Jewish workers to the general May First demonstration, with the justification that they could not take responsibility for what might happen on the part of the enflamed Polish masses.

The Sandzer Poalei-Tsion was even more disappointed when the main leader of the Galicianer Polish Socialist Party, the Parliament deputy, Daszinski, speaking at a people's meeting in Neisandz about the political situation in Austria, and also touching on the question of the exorbitant prices and the general hardship – declared that it was “the Jewish 'price-drivers'” were guilty in it all” (correspondence from Neisandz in the “Yid. Arb.” of October 11, 1918).

The new turn by the Sandzer P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party {Polska Partia Socjalistyczna}] regarding Jewish society was not, incidentally, a particular local phenomenon. The P.P.S. sought to win over the Polish masses and was not embarrassed in that area to compete using the reactionary Jew-devouring elements among the peasants – Endek Alliance [A brand of anti-Semitism composed of religious fanaticism and economic interests had played a role in Polish history since the seventeenth century. At the time of the first Polish Republic (between the two world wars), a cruel anti-Semitic campaign was waged under the initiative of the National-Democratic Party (the Endeks) against the Jewish population in Galicia. www.mfa.gov.il/...{Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs}]. They refused the Jews not only the right of national self-determination, but also refused any justification for their actual existence.

This sad reality moved the Poalei-Tsion World Association to underscore their position in their declaration to the Dutch-Scandinavian Committee of August 6, 1917. In the section about the Jewish question in independent Poland, which was then in the process of organizing itself, they said that “we greatly regret, in the most serious way, that the majority of the Polish Socialists are embracing the point of view of the Polish bourgeoisie and the nobility toward the Jews. We request that the International give their ruling on this life-and-death question for three million Jews”. (“Yidisher Arbeiter Pinkas” – 1 volume, edited by Zerubavel [Ya'akov Zerubavel 1886-1967 leftist Poalei-Tsionist], page 535.)

The more the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was shaking to its foundations, the livelier the Jewish social and political life pulsated in the large Jewish centers in Galicia.

In Neisandz the Poalei-Tsion local seemed to be in every activity in all areas; this returned the Party in the city to its former influence and significant position.

[Page 407]

The most outstanding expression of the renewed and intense level of activity of the Sandz Poalei-Tsion was the establishment of a society that rented an entire house for ten years in order to have the time to build a large hall for performances and other productions. With this, a foundation for a cultural home in Neisandz was laid.

When there was no longer any doubt that Austro-Hungary was about to collapse, and that the Austrian people were on the edge of enormous change, the P.Z. activists in Neisandz mobilized all the party strength and all their supporters. With the awareness that Poalei-Tsion was now in an historical period, they established new, significant tasks.

As a result, the active P.Z. in Neisandz became a factor. Now, without them, no political action in Jewish areas of Neisandz could materialize.

It is really no wonder that Poalei-Tsion party in Neisandz played a deciding role in all the following actions: the preparatory activities for the large demonstration of Galician Jewry that was proclaimed for October 14, 1918, and the fight for a democratic election system in the Jewish kehile [community]. The Poalei-Tsion Party in Neisandz, under the leadership of former leaders and the prominent young member, Saul Amsterdam, played a decisive role in the establishment of the Jewish National Board.

Details about that constructive activity belong in the following pages about the history of Jews in Independent Poland.

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