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The Zionist Histadrut in Dąbrowa

by Efraim Lenczner

Translated by Avi (Abraham) Stavsky


The purpose of the Zionist parties in Dąbrowa, regardless of their direction and premise, was the revival of the Jewish nation in its land. The differences of opinion existing between them focused only around questions of the form that the Jewish yeshuv in Eretz Israel would be: i.e., its socialist and cultural character.

The strongest among the Zionist groups in Poland was the General Zionist Party, which promulgated a pure Zionist idealism without regard to any socialist or religious nature. In our approach to explore the story of the Zionist Organization in Dąbrowa, we need to remember that we don't have in our possession any documents or certificates [that survived the war], and that all our information is oral, having been passed from group to group and person to person. Thus it is entirely possible that certain discrepancies may occur and even affect the chronological sequence of events.

The first group, which operated in the Reden area, was composed of the following members: Szlomo Halperin, Barcze Janowski, Lea Rozen (Klugman), Josef Śliwka and Mosze Lenczner. In Dąbrowa itself an additional group was active: Israel Zilberszac, the Rajchman brothers, Kopel, Sender and Mosze Dawid, Dawid Grynbaum, Szlomo Winer, Josef Neta Szwimer and Chaim Kornfeld.

The first activities were those involving a clubhouse in one of the streets of Reden. At this club, people gathered, learned Hebrew, discussed Zionist affairs and ideas and the newspaper, “Hatsfira” [The Siren].

The young people, who were thought of as “groundbreaking pioneers”, suffered from the Chassidim, who did not take kindly to their activities. It is told that Chassidic parents came in groups to the meetings and attempted to drag their children away, creating scandals. According to the words of one source, the young people successfully battled [their parents]. They once dressed up as ghosts and spirits, donning white sheets and thereby intimidating the Chassidim, who ran in fear from the place in the apparent belief that only demons and spirits inhabited the heretical Zionist premises.

But despite [all] the attempts to frustrate their activities, the young Zionists blossomed and expanded. The young people of the Bet Hamidrash were [sometimes] perceived as heretics, as between the leaves of the Gemara and Mishnah “subversive” materials might be found.

If we dig deeper into our research, we can find that the problem began elsewhere, namely in the “Haskalah” and revival movements in Europe. Ideas of education and enlightenment took root among our brothers, the People of Israel, soon causing discord and a “culture war” among contemporary Jews, who were fixed in their frozen mindset. The words of RaMCHaL (Moshe Chaim Luzzato), Moses Mendelssohn, and Naphtali Herz Weisel [Hartwig Wessely] fell on attentive ears, and they even reached Dąbrowa. Jews of dignity, learned of Torah, were among the permanent subscribers to the newspaper, “The Siren”, some of whom read the paper openly, while others surreptitiously. The winds of enlightenment spread rapidly and began to give external appearances. Jews began to change their outlook to a more “modern” approach. The Jewish street began to call them “the enlightened ones.”



The Beginnings

Among those who were the beginners of Zionism in Dąbrowa must be considered Mosze Lanczner. He was born in 1891 in the village of Sławoszów, near the town of Działoszyce. He arrived in Dąbrowa as a child with his parents. The village atmosphere influenced him apparently, and he was forever entranced by green and distant fields.

One day he picked himself up and went to Wilno [Vilnius], where he studied at a rabbinical seminary. He returned to Dąbrowa absorbed with the knowledge of the Haskalah and Zionist literature and began to expound what he knew with great enthusiasm. Around the year 1910, he emigrated to Eretz Israel. In the meantime, he received a call up for military service, and his father wrote to him that he got a notice from the Tsarist government that he [i.e. the father] would have to pay a fine of 300 rubles if his son did not present himself for induction. The father pleaded with his son to return and spare him from having to pay the [heavy] fine.

Mosze returned and presented himself for conscription. He was sent to Siberia, and there got involved in a dispute with an anti-Semitic officer who insulted a Jewish conscript. Mosze could not contain his anger, slapped the said officer.

Because of this, a military court-marshal was anticipated, one which would have little doubt as to its outcome. Mosze effected an early cure to this problem, being close to the Chinese border. One night he crossed the Amur River which at the time was partly frozen over. He arrived at the Chinese side [practically] naked and without anything. He transited various towns and countries and ending up finally in Java, which was then part of Dutch Indonesia. In Java he met a Jewish watchmaker who also manufactured eyeglasses. Mosze, who had a developed business sense, convinced the man to enlarge his optical division, which the man did.


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Within but a few years, the Goldberg Company, the head of whose optical department was the “renowned optician Mosze Lenczner”. The company opened branches in all areas of Java and in all the newspapers one found advertisements for “the world famous optician Mosze Lenczner.”

It was with regret that it was learned that after surgery performed by a local physician, he worsened and passed away in 1926, being only 34. On his tombstone was engraved a Star of David and the word “Zion”, which had been his life's goal but remained unachieved, and he died in lonely exile.

May his name be for a blessing.


*



In most of the Jewish homes in the city, there began a conflict between the parents, who wanted to keep the status quo, and their children, who desired a change in their Jewish life. In the house of Mordechai Lejb Janowski, a minor revolution began when his father became concerned at his son Bercze's apparent drifting away [from traditional Judaism] in the course of heated arguments about questions of Zionism.

Bercze Janowski, whose father could apparently not even afford his son basic education, later became a professor at the Hebrew high school is Częstochowa, and also attended Zionist congresses as a young man.

He died in the Shoah (may his memory be for a blessing).


*



Reb Szlomo Halperin of blessed memory was a distinctly public individual and a natural follower of Zionist ideology in Dąbrowa. He knew how to mix the old with the new, so that even his greatest critics respected him. A paradigm of virtue, one of his abilities was to integrate new forces into the Zionist movement in Dąbrowa. He was the sole person in the organization who devoted himself entirely to the social and Zionistic life of Dąbrowa until the final, bitter days of the community.

He was killed together with his wife, Riwka Bajla, his father-in-law Reb Jakob Szalom Fiszel and the latter's wife, Tajbel Laja, of blessed memory.


*



Among the foremost Jewish leaders in Dąbrowa of the time was Josef Śliwka (Shalevi), one of the first people who would turn thought into deeds. He went on Aliyah in 1908, and was one of the founders of Nahalal (1921).

His decision to become a worker who would till the land and live in the Jezreel Valley, an area of swamps and malaria, left an enormous impression on the citizens of the city.

Josef Shalevi died on the 29th of Sivan in the year 5710, (November 1949).

He left a widow, Salka; a son, Szymon; and a daughter, Carmela. May his name be for a blessing.


*



An interesting example of the “first” people was Lea Rozen (later Klugman). If the battle between fathers and sons was intensive, that between fathers and their daughters was much worse. Our fathers lived by the precepts of the words of the Sages: “all those who teach Torah to their daughters teach them but insipidity.” Thus only a few individual daughters of Israel would reach [in those days] high school level education. One of these was Lea Rozen.

Her external appearance suggested dignity. Many girls in the city wanted to emulate her [in] modern dress, but she remained a popular figure who followed the Zionist ideology. During the First World War, she served on many committees and worked toward social and Zionist objectives.

Lea was greatly affected by the general movement in the world towards women's rights, which began having influence in Britain in the new century. Zionism, as a liberating force gave her the possibility and a working field to develop her ideology. Her father, J. Rozen, (a disciple of Alexander), later patiently became her ally, and would not pay any attention to criticism laid against her.

Opposing her was the educational influence of other daughters of Israel in the city, who had never dreamed of taking such steps. After her came a [new] generation of daughters of Israel who felt themselves much freer to work in Zionist activities.

At the beginning of the First World War, as the poor [people] multiplied as did homeless children, they were gathered by Lea'leh and Perla, the wife of Herszl Frochtcwajg, who washed them and took them to the grassy lawns and let them play freely by the river under nature and the sky.


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She also administered the charity food organization by Lajbel Brzegowski. She also surreptitiously helped poor mothers. And during her lifetime, she spoke Hebrew to her children.

Her husband Szabsia, (he for long life), was the past general secretary of the Keren Kayemet in Warsaw and a known journalist of “Hadavar.”



The Hibat Zion Movement and its effect on Dąbrowa's orthodox Jewry

The Hibat Zion Movement was founded by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795-1874), and it called on the Jews of the world to settle in Eretz Israel and work the land, and thereby bring about the “redemption from the diaspora”. [His belief was] after the physical realization would follow the spiritual realization [of the Jewish people]. The movement received a significant push following a wave of pogroms during 1881-1882. In many cities chapters of the “Hovvei Zion” were founded and organized youth for the return to Eretz Israel.

The Jewish of Dąbrowa too, were not immune to this idea. The movement, which long preceded the call of Herzlian Zionism, found a smaller Jewish community in Dąbrowa, yet was not lacking for supporters willing to join up. A major historic conference which took place in Katowice in 1884 had influence, inasmuch as it was quite near to Dąbrowa.

Two well-known Jews who were central among Jewry to the Hibat Zion movement were Reb Josef Neta Szwimer and Reb Chaim Kornfeld, both of blessed memory. On the tombstone of the last is engraved, “One of the first of the Hovvei Zion.”

After the beginning of Herzl's political Zionism, the Hibat Zion ceased as a group and became the Religious Zionist branch of the General Zionist Histadrut. However, propaganda on the Jewish street came to almost the same conclusion, preached by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. This branch of the General Zionists became known as “Mizrachi.”

Dąbrowa provided a gallery of people who fought for the ideas of religious Zionism: Reb Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg, Jakob Szalom Fiszel, Szlomo Rabinowicz, Ice Unger, Fridman, Welner, Pomocnik, Szlomo Winer, Gurfinkel, Awremele Szorchajn and as indicated, Chaim Kornfeld and Josef Neta Szwimer.



Jewish Schools in Poland

Before the First World War, the only instrument of Jewish education was the traditional “Cheder.” There also however “advanced” Cheders in the larger cities as well Jewish high schools [which taught] in Russian.

The war, the demise of the Russian administration, the Austro-German occupation and the rise of an independent Poland – all these upheavals affected Jewish life and positively impacted the course of Jewish education.

Jews invested heavily in this new education and overwhelmingly in their national aspirations. The education came from [within] their spiritual realms, and there became toughened the fate of the people, so that the younger generation had to continue with the historic sequence.

The coalescence of Jewish education in Poland was in five forms of schools:

  1. The Cheder, which slowly progressed and became “Foundations of Torah” schools for boys and “Bet Yaakov” schools for girls.
  2. Boys' Mizrachi schools were called “Yavneh”, where apart from Jewish and secular subjects, Hebrew language and Biblical studies were taught.
  3. “Tarbut” schools, where the language of instruction was Hebrew.
  4. “Tzentraler Yidisher Shul Organizatzye” schools [Central Jewish School Organization], which taught in Yiddish.
  5. “Dual language” schools, which were generally in Polish and Hebrew.
It should be pointed out that [for] the lion's share of Jewish children who studied at state schools, education was free. Compulsory education on the part of the [Polish] state greatly impacted the scope and work of the Jewish schools. If before the war, the “Cheder” was the dominant form of Jewish education, its place was taken by the government's general school system, which took root deeper and deeper and swayed ever-greater control over Jewish children. The education of Jewish girls, [in particular] in overwhelming numbers, fell outside the domain of Jewish educational forces.



“The Cheder”

In the smaller villages, the Cheder held an honored position, and in most instances, were the domain of the “Melamdim” (Jewish teachers). They were not subject to central or organizational control.

The “Cheder” was a religious institution. They varied little from one to another in either their teachings, instructional methods or course of studies.



The Situation of the Zionist Schools in Dąbrowa

In Dąbrowa, the task of changing the old “Cheder” system to one of advanced Jewish education fell successfully into the hands of the Mizrachi movements.


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The Mizrachi suffered from the “Agudat Yisrael”, which saw them as bitter rivals for their “Foundations of Torah” schools, as well as the impact in thinking of the children's parents. However the Mizrachi movement in Dąbrowa won out, and the “Mizrachi” Hebrew school system gained the most influence on the image of Jewish youth in the city as well as the shape of Jewish thinking generally. We must point out that in the field of education, the impact of the General Zionist histradrut was quite weak. Zionist Dąbrowa was unsuccessful in establishing “Tarbut” schools, as it did in other towns in Poland, which were bases of Zionist activity. On the other hand, they were fruitful in presenting evening Hebrew [language] courses. These courses were for adults only, but about them, more later.

The Zionist histadrut in Dąbrowa was engaged in several diverse social aspects. Although not always explicitly named, they always inspired or featured members or functionaries. Take for example, the savings and loan association from about 1911 to 1914, which was on Sobieska Street. It had been founded and run by Szlomo Halperin, Zylberszac, Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg, Sternik, and others.

Activities on behalf of the social needy [i.e. poor] among the Jews of Reden were conducted by the “Ezrat Moshe” organization, named for Mosze Hirschfeld of blessed memory. He fell from the bullet of a German soldier as he walked with his friend, Menachem Wajnszel of blessed memory, near the railroad tracks. The organization was founded and run by students from the Beth Midrash, who were friends of Mosze. They too became victims, among them: Menachem Wajnszel, Abram Grosfeld, Mosze Trajman, Juda Liberman Barzilai, Cwi Juda Lenczner of blessed memory and others. Later on, they all became activity leaders of the Zionist Histadrut in Dąbrowa.

The outbreak of World War I caused a weakening of formal Zionist activities because of miliutary campaigns, political reasons and various other reasons. This was partly caused by the hope and belief in the Zionist organizations in England, which of course was seen by the Austria-Germany occupation as the enemy.

However, during the course of the war, we can discern an easing of the situation on the part of the occupying powers. Dąbrowa, after having been captured by the Austrian government, suddenly became an important Zionist base, and a central distribution point for the Hebrew newspaper, “Hatsfira”, as well as other Zionist literature throughout the entire area and the realm of Austrian rule. All material was generated in the city of Będzin, which was under German administration, and from there was smuggled illicitly into Dąbrowa, from which it was disseminated via various addresses all through the Austrian zone of occupation.

Even the city of Krakow was serviced by the Zionist material distribution emanating from Dąbrowa. A typical individual involved [in these activities] was the respected Dr. Jehoszua Tahon, chief rabbi of Krakow, a central Zionist personality, who was for a time the leader of Jewish studies in Poland.

About the years 1915-1916, there was founded the first Zionist library in the home of Reb Abram Mosze Roszinek in Reden. The first volumes were endowed by a member who subscribed to the newspapers, “Hajnt” or “Moment”, which collected “coupons” and received for them all the works of Mendele Mocher Sforim. These books were the foundation of the famous Zionist library, which collected all the [then current] data on Zionism down through time, and being the various historical manifestations of the different Zionist organizations.

In those days, the library was the single place where a boy or girl could obtain a Hebrew book to read. The library was not received with open arms [by the community] and indeed was suspected of being a place where reading “empty” books would distract the readers from the important [material]. Thus Reb Abram-Mosze Roszinek sought to prevent such books being taken home, as if this were the case, the “meat” might become “treif.”

Zionist activity during the war stepped back slightly, and in certain instances, was carried out clandestinely. One cause for this was the [ostensible] neutrality of the Zionist leadership during the struggle in Europe.

Following the establishment of a free Poland, the Zionist organization became legitimate, and their activities increased widely in all fields. Committees were formed to deal with various problems, for the Keren Hayesod and the Keren Kayemet, to which Dąbrowa sent delegations. With the beginning of free Poland, after 150 years of Czarist rule, a whiff of spring came to the Jewish street as well. Those who did not classify themselves as being foes of Zionism, as with the “Bund” and others, lived and enjoyed a sense of freedom.

The Jews of Dąbrowa gave expression to these emotions in various ways: by reading Zionist newspapers; or by giving charity to the Keren Kayemet [boxes] every Friday night before they would light Shabbat candles. The blue and white box in the Jewish home became a symbol of the desire to return to Zion. In almost every household could be found hanging a blue and white banner as well as pictures of Zionist leaders, the Western Wall or Rachel's Tomb. In the wealthier homes [often] hung carpets with the image of Dr. [Theodor] Herzl.


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We, the children of those days, would awaken each morning to such images, which became deeply engraved on our hearts and served for us as a Zionist education.



The Second Generation of Those Engaged in Zionism

As we speak about the second generation of those involved with Zionism in Dąbrowa, it cannot be said that the first generation [simply] vanished and was taken over by a second generation.

What actually happened was a blending of the elder generation with the younger, because Reb Szlomo Halperin, Eliezer Tenenbaum, Lipa Futerko, Zylberszac and others almost never ceased their activities, each according to his way, so that they all celebrated their [Zionist] jubilee years.

As we finish the first chapter, we must also mention and emphasize another group of Zionists in our city, one which brought the idea of a return to Zion to fruition, placing it into action with the aliyah of 1919-1924. Juda Barzilai, his sister Judit Barzilai, Cwi-Juda Lenczner, Abram Grosfeld, Jakob Szlipka, Icchak Narkis-Janowski, Szraga Szpilberg, Naftali Rechnic, Szmul Wajczalc, and Jakob Federman.

In the meanwhile, the new generation grew up, educated on the knees of the Bet Hamedrash. Also with an intent to penetrate with the new spirit, newspapers in Hebrew and Yiddish were read. As the thirst for knowledge grew, so did the reading of literature and the need for discussion. Traditional dress gave way to more modern apparel, and dreams of fertile green fields in Eretz Israel.

The restrictions which the Czarist regime instituted to the Jews, with the its pogroms, boycotts and blood accusations (resulting at the end in the Mendel Beilis trial) incurred the wrath of the boys who studied at the beth midrash. They searched for solutions and found some in the work of Dr. Leon Pinsker, “Auto emancipation” or in “Altneuland” by Dr. Theodor Herzl. Thus developed the kernel of the second generation.

The Zionist Histadrut, of which the “rishonim” laid the foundation stone, received a transfusion of new blood of young people, male and female, widely active in Zionist affairs in all aspects of life in Dąbrowa. This can be termed perhaps the most vibrant time on [both] the upper and lower [strata of people]. A time of stress which was largely present among the Jewish population until the final end at the hands of the German exterminators.

I want to mark a portion of the listing which remains in my memory with the names of the second generation of Zionist activists who were functional in all aspects to a high degree Dawid Kożuch, Wolf Liberman, Israel Klajnman, Mendel Nusbaum, Motel ben Josef Rozenblum, Rajzl Zygrajch, Sara Zygrajch, and others of blessed memory. Wojwele Efraim Lenczner, Gutcza Grosfeld, Chaim Grajcer, Lajbcze Parasol, Mordechai ben Juda Rozenblum, Cwitel Bajtner, Ruwen Londner, Rachel Ejbuszyc, Jeszaja Zylbercan (son-in-law of Szlomo Josef) and others.

The Zionist Histadrut in Dąbrowa worked in all facets. Meetings and gatherings were held in conjunction with other members throughout Zagłębie: Abram Liwer, Wygodzki, Dr. Melodista and others. [Some of those] visiting Dąbrowa were: Josef Heftmann, Dr. Jehoszua Gotlib, Lajb Jafa, Uri Zaslewski from Nahalal, (this last spoke at the Bet Hamedrash in Reden). The scout group “Hashomer” was founded, run by Josef Kanarek, Emil Grinbaum, Jakob Frochtcwajg, Zygmund Szpigler of blessed memory, Wojwele Szraga Szpilberg and Pinchus Szwarcbaum.

The “Shomer” did not then have a political platform. This was a histadrut of young scouts alongside the General Zionist Histadrut. With pride and satisfaction we remember the demonstrations of the 20th of Tammuz, the impressive [cadres of] the “Shomer”, who marched through the streets of Dąbrowa with blue and white flags, from the meeting house on Krótka Street to the synagogue on Mińska Street. There a festive gathering and at which spoke Dr. Perlman, Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg of blessed memory, Menachem Wajnszel, of blessed memory and Ljzer Tenenbaum, of blessed memory.



The Balfour Declaration and the Opening of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mt. Scopus

During the European struggle which took place between the years 1914-1917, [the] Zionist activity was somewhat quieted. The reverberations coming from Eretz Israel, then under the Turkish control, lessened the call for action. The expulsion of Jews from Tel Aviv by Kamal Pasha, the famine, and the lack of legitimate rights to send aid – all these created an atmosphere of depression.

The Balfour Declaration, and the approval of the San Remo Commission to establish a British Mandate in order to provide the foundation for a national homeland in Eretz Israel, opened new horizons for political Zionism. It also encouraged among the three million Jews of Poland in 1920, and drew tremendous enthusiasm. Celebrations occurred and Polish governmental personalities blessed the appointees of the Zionist Histadrut with the words: “for the freedom of Poland and the freedom of the Jews.” There was not a town or village in Poland that did not celebrate the event. Almost all Jews were caught up in the holiday spirit. In the “Korsau” theatre in Będzin, a great gathering was held in honor of the Balfour Declaration, with the participation of the British Consul. In the building flew the British, Polish and Zionist flags.


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Dąbrowa did not lag behind. On that day, festive prayers took place at batei midrashim and Jews said the “hallel” [prayer]. On the street could be seen banners with Zionist motifs. A Jew was not seen who didn't sport a blue and white flower on the flap of his jacket. Dąbrowa was bathed in blue and white. A parade of Jewish “Shomer” scouts tugged at the hearts of all the inhabitants, even Christian. Rabbi Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg, Eliezer Tenenbaum, and Dr. Melodista spoke eloquently about the future of Eretz Israel and the Balfour Declaration.

The Balfour Declaration gave a new flight of imagination to Zionist activity and a backdrop of legitimacy. Dąbrowa's Zionists gained new members and fans and they went on to a new meeting hall on Ulman Street, at the home of Dawid-Josef Grinbaum.

The opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Mt. Scopus in 1925 brought special meaning to Dąbrowa's Jews. This was the pinnacle of the struggle for Haskalah brought in the previous century, shaped in the visions Reb Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Moses Mendelssohn, Naphtali Herz Weisel, and a whole gallery of Jewish philosophers, poets and scholars that grew out from the Haskalah period and that brought a widening of horizons and thought among the Jew[s].

The rabbinical seminary of Rabbi Reines of Berlin [of blessed memory] was the first academy to foster modern spiritual shepherds among the Jewish kehilot of Europe. Additionally, the seminary of Professor Cwi Perec in Vienna, was instrumental in shaping the character of the new Jewish intelligentsia of [the] Jewish street.

The opening of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was celebrated with great fanfare at the municipal synagogue on Mińska Street. At exactly this same time the old “Kulturkampf” between the orthodox and the Zionists began again. Due to the influence of the Hebrew University, a Hebrew “gymnasium” [high school] called “Yavneh” opened in Będzin. Jewish parents in Dąbrowa, and precisely [some] from orthodox circles, began sending their kids to the gymnasium. The orthodox ranted that Jewish youth was being brought to shmad, i.e. destruction, and in response, opened Jewish high schools called “Talmud Torah” in place of the primitive “Chederim” which flourished previously. This action was taken especially against those parents who sent their children to the “Yavneh” gymnasium.

Two or three years following the opening of the Hebrew University and the “Yavneh” gymnasium in Będzin, a new sort of Jewish youth could be found in Dąbrowa, intelligent and permeated with a strong Zionist background and devoted to Zionist thought.



Zionism in Dąbrowa and General Polish Policy

The structure of the elections as set up by the Polish parties on the right, was geared to give them favorable results. The Jewish representation, as legally constituted, under the Zionist leadership of Icchak Grjnbaum, [who was] appointed by the National Jewish Vaad, declared that a national minorities bloc should be established if the elections committee did not accede to the legitimate requests of Jews. Of course the elections committee didn't accept these demands and a national minorities bloc indeed found representation in the Polish Sejm [parliament].

The idea for such a minorities bloc was received with great enthusiasm by the various ethnic minorities then living in Poland. The bloc was concentrated around the major Polish groups. Within the Jewish areas, the bloc was only opposed by some folk and socialist groups, though unsuccessfully. The “Aguda” also joined up, although this innovation caused dissatisfaction within Polish political circles.

The Jews of Dąbrowa too, demonstrated their solidarity, and agitated successfully during the elections, under the leadership of Jakob Śliwka and Eliezer Tenenbaum, of blessed memory, as well as the participation of others from the National Jewish Bloc. Generating exceptional consequence was a speech by Szlomo Halperin on a Friday night at the Beth Hamidrash of Reden, between the mincha and Shabbat prayers, as the whole congregation listened with baited breath to the historic call, “For the Jews of Poland!”

In Dąbrowa too, the socialist parties attempted to disrupt the Bloc, the “Bund” especially putting on a strong showing during the elections, but to no avail.

According to accurate lists, on election day youths, emissaries of the United Bloc, were active in all Jewish households, calling on them to fulfill their national Jewish obligation duty [i.e. voting], to ensure victory for the United Bloc.

The Jews were successful (though only in Congressional Poland) in seating 17 delegates to the Sejm and eight to the Senate. The delegate from Zagłębie was Dr. Szlomo Wajncier.

The “May Revolution” of Piłsudski brought a mishmash of the Jewish parties elected to the Sejm. A pro-government party emerged with the participation of “Aguda”, the folkists and a number of merchants and small-shop owners.


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The Zionists went with the National Bloc and a Jewish civil war erupted in Poland. In Dąbrowa too, were noisy political demonstrations which were disturbing and disruptive.

The “Aguda” and its allies maintained that it was time to stop the political agitation for [human?] rights and that it was a crime against the state to ally oneself with other nationalities. However the Zionists in Galicia did not trod this path, though they also did not align [themselves] with the National Bloc but maintained their neutrality. Truth be told, this “neutrality” was on the side of the government, but nonetheless their list was not considered a government list.

The result emerging from this period was [nothing short of a] socio-political chaos with regards to our demands from the government. Three Hebrew blocs materialized:

  1. The Zionists from “Congress” Poland, and their head Icchak Grinbaum
  2. The Eastern Galicians, led by Dr. Leon Rajch
  3. The “Aguda”

The arguments in the Zionist camp around the need for [showing] external unity were endless. The Zionists of Dąbrowa too, attempted to influence the leader Icchak Grinbaum while he was lecturing in Dąbrowa. Following his lecture, a banquet was held in the apartment of Zylberszac. Chaim Grajcer, then a young man, responded to Grinbaum with heated words in the name of [the] Zionist activists, that the latter should abandon to some extent [his policy of following] “the letter of the law”, and that this would eventually lead to unification in other areas as well. In his response, which lasted until three in the morning, Icchak Grinbaum spoke indirectly about the causes that brought him to this line of intransigence, which he could no longer abandon. The speech was a glimpse of the burden carried by this leader and his responsibility to his people.



The Zionist Struggle for a Jewish Nation

In Poland and also in Dąbrowa the Zionists struggled publically and proudly for a national identity. In the first strides of Polish independence could be found signs of Jewish assimilation. [Certain] Jewish groups appeared who pronounced that they were “Poles belonging to the religion of Moses.” These did not want to come into contact with Jewish society and did not want to hear about national Zionist activities.

Leaders of the left, at their head Herman Liberman and Dr. Josef Kruk (who later became a Zionist and settled in Jerusalem), argued that the Jewish problem would be solved by the “P.P.S.” [Polska Partia Socjalistyczna / Polish Socialist Party] when it achieved government power. But the actuality was that the “P.P.S.” and its governmental majority did not succeed in solving the Jewish problem, and neither did this confusing state of affairs turn the Jews into greater patriots in the eyes of the Polish government, as was hoped.

When a population census was taken in 1921, the Jews of Dąbrowa initiated clarification activities among the Jewish inhabitants to understand its importance, and to put down on the form, “religion: Jewish” and “nationality: Jew”, which was not the government's desire. A portion of the Jewish patriots under the category “nationality” wrote “Polish.”

The general Polish census results showed the number of Jews by nationality was only 7.8%, while by religion it reached 10.5%. We believe that the vast majority of Dąbrowa Jews acted in accordance with the wishes of the Zionist shelichim, who visited every Jewish home.



Communal Activities

With the foundation of a people's Poland, the legal aspects of Polish Jewry changed. But the law did not satisfy the desires of the Zionist leadership. The community assumed more of a religious and less of a national character. Its work and aims were limited. Women were consigned to the periphery of the Jewish community. They did not achieve the right to vote, and [indeed] the voting process was undemocratic.

Despite all this, the law was respected in the eyes of the Jewish community. The struggle of the Zionists within the community was not similar to that of the “Bund,” which saw its task to build the religious nationalism. The Zionists saw their job to widen and strengthen the national foundation and to develop a national culture. Yet within the Zionists of Dąbrowa there was strong opposition by the majority, which concentrated around the “Aguda” and was not interested in seeing nationalist forces expand. Despite all, after many stormy arguments, a small allowance was made for the Keren Kayemet Leisrael. There were numerous, heated arguments with the “Aguda” as well as the “Bund”, but the results are known: they were unable to increase and expand education and culture life but rather strengthened themselves mainly through religious achievements.

The Zionist representatives in the community differed at times, but included: Dawid-Josef Grinbaum, Mosze Mitelman, Bernard Rechnic, Mordechai Gotlib, Lipka Futerko, Abram Najfeld, Eliezer Rechnic, Reb Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg of blessed memory, and others.


[Page 135]


The Activities for National Funding

In their daily life, the Jews of Dąbrowa gave expression to their participation in the Zionist camp through donations to the two national groups: the Keren Kayemet Leisrael and the Keren Hayesod.

Here too we must distinguish between the groups which did the gray daily work of informational sessions, chapter meetings and conferences, and those activities devoted solely to the workings of the Keren Kayemet. In the latter we find the full assistance of the Histadrut of the Zionist Youth, who were represented in special committees for collecting national funds. Hashomer Hatzair, Gordonia, Poalei Zion, the General Zionists, Herzliya and the Hechalutz. We find a gallery of local activists which dedicated the best of their years for the national fund, people who wrote for themselves a golden page through their works and volunteering.

We had a considerable struggle with a large number of orthodox worshippers from the synagogue and the “shtibelach”, which disrupted us and would not permit us to place [collection] bowls before Purim or Yom Kippur. We underwent a protracted scrimmage of propaganda and elucidation and managed to convince the lion's share of worshippers that the redemption of the land must be one the greatest functions of a synagogue.

We fought to introduce the idea that national funding was a means to national redemption, one that would affect all strata of Jewish life in Dąbrowa by being a means for a Zionist education. At the end, our struggle was successful, and the orthodox fortress against us collapsed. The positioning of the “bowls” during the aliyah to the Torah enabled the K.K.L. and the placing of collection boxes of the K.K.L. in the beth hamidrash in Reden became a natural occurrence.

During weddings too, young couples saw a new obligation [of their married lives] to plant trees in the forests of the K.K.L. and to decorate their houses with the certificates they received thereby from the K.K.L.

Because we unfortunately don't have information on the numbers of the General Zionist Histadrut in Dąbrowa, we [similarly] don't have an idea on the spread of members between the various organizations, and who belonged to which, who to the “Al Hamishmar” and who to the “Et Livnot”. One thing is certain: Dąbrowa in general and Reden in particular, were in their great majority, Zionists. We know this from the participation of the Dąbrowa Jewish population in the national fund. Around forty percent of Jewish homes in Dąbrowa hosted boxes of the K.K.L. (257), and they were emptied every month. At the synagogue of Mieszka Street and the beth midrash in Reden and even in several “shtibelach”, funds were collected for the K.K.L. through special boxes on Purim and erev Yom Kippur. On Simchat Torah, decent pledges were made on the K.K.L.'s behalf. Special mention must be made for the known Zionist philanthroper, Reb Nachman Gutman, of blessed memory.

We find the younger generation of the General Zionists on the committees of the Keren Kayemet: Jakob Śliwka (of blessed memory), (agent), Lipsza Hirschfeld Grosfeld (secretary); Chanoch Zygrajch (of blessed memory); Dawid Kożuch, Miriam Nusbaum, Wojwele Herszl Rozenblum, Ruwen Londner (secretary), Efriam Lenzner (agent), Gutcza Grosfeld, Mordechai Ben Juda Rozenblum (agent), and Winogron (agent), as well as others.

In contrast, we find working for the Keren Hayesod only older chaverim [members]: Eliezer Tenenbaum, Nachman-Aron Gutman, Chaim Grajcer, Motl Gotlib, Lipka Futerko Dąb, Mosze-Dawid Rajchman, Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg (Mizrachi), and the engineer Abram Jakob Klajn (of blessed memory).

We hope we will be forgiven by all those unknown workers and activists who helped the success of the national fund in Dąbrowa who are not mentioned here.



Mordechai Gotlib

We cannot finish without mentioning here the activities of the Zionist from Wolbrom, who arrived at the house of Reb Lejbus Zygrajch as his son-in-law and presented himself for the benefit of all Zionist activities in Dąbrowa. The arrival of our friend Mordechai Gotlib was like a joyful breeze in the gray daily Zionist work and in cultural and spiritual endeavors.

Dąbrowa was graced with Zionist workers of great stature, but Mordechai Gotlib was the personification of the word Zionist in the workings of the kehilla, in Zionist activities in Zagłębie in general and in Dąbrowa in particular. We wish him long life in his home in Jerusalem.

This survey of the Zionist work presented here was written almost entirely from memory i.e., without the aid of documentation. It is therefore understandable that within such a work there is no escape from inaccuracies, and thus apologies to the readers who find any errors.

Let this work be an eternal memorial to the Zionist victory in Dąbrowa, which did not live to see the fulfillment of the Zionist ideal. Those who died abroad, including those before the destruction with their eyes turned to Zion, as well as those who perished at the hands of the German killers.

This work was completed with the assistance of my friend, Juda Londner.


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