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[Pages 84-86]

“Hashomer Hatzair” Movement in Gombin

(written in May 1997)

by Meir Holtzman

Very soon, there will be nearly no people who were born in Gombin, lived there their years of youth, loved the Shtetl and remained Gombiners for life, for good and bad.

Gombin had been both similar and particular at the same time, to the other surrounding small towns and villages, with its typical and traditional Jewish earnings and tradition. Most of its Jewish population lived in the center of the town and around them Poles and Germans, not all of them with a positive attitude towards the Jews.

There were beautiful youth in Gombin. The Polish Secondary School had been closed due lack of resources, and so did the “Tarbut” school, in which Hebrew was taught and the values of Zion were imbibed into children since kindergarten.

As a matter of fact, the first group of the masters in Hashomer Hatza'yir was formed by the pupils of the “Tarbut” school. The Ken of Hashomer Hatzair in Gombin was founded in 1925 and existed until the break of the 2nd World War in 1939.

We started as a Youth Movement, its main activity being scouting. Taking out the youth to the woods and into nature, and free them from the heavy burden of Jewish seclusion in the Diaspora.

We were also joined by youngsters from the “Kheder” who memorized and repeated the Torah from dawn to dusk, purposeless, without being trained to the modern life, which was bursting out in the whole of Europe, its echoes reaching also the Jews, who were exposed to Emancipation and Education.

We were influenced by the English Boy Scouts Movement of Pawel Baden, which was aimed to qualify strong English youth, for the British Imperial purposes.

Another main influence was of the German Youth Movement “Wonder Vogel”, which despised the boring life of the German Family and searched for emotional agitation in the communal life of the youth in the bosom of Mother Nature.

I came to the “Ken” (clubhouse) of Hashomer Hatza'yir” which looked for a way and educational methods to educate the adolescent youth, who were being denied and blocked out of promotion and education. Very few had the chance to go to the big cities and acquire education, at the end of the elementary school. For many of us, the “Ken” (“nest” in Hebrew) became a second home.

In addition to the scouting activities and the “soul to soul” conversations, we were busy in the evenings, learning, and acquiring self-education. It was a common scene to see at dawn, in the public park, the members of the Shomer Hatza'yir, still absorbed in a book, involved in discussions and acquirement of knowledge.

We studied general Sciences, as: Anthropology, Biology, Zoology, the Human Body, and in later stage: Political Economy, History and Historical Materialism. All was learnt by self-studies and educational group summaries.

Most of us were subscribers of the public library, which was founded by the Bund. Over there we got access to classic literature and the abundant treasures of the Jewish classicists. We read in Yiddish and Polish and our lives were enriched by intellectual experience, remembered all through the years.

The activities in the “Ken” took place a few times a week, and on Lag Ba'Omer holiday, the entire “Ken” went out to the country and built a big camp in one of the villages.

I remember one demonstration of Lag Ba'Omer. We came back, “Shomrim” and “Shomrot “ (the Hebrew name of the boy scouts and girl scouts of the Shomer Hatza'yir), singing loudly between flapping flags. In the streets of Gombin doors were opened and bright strong light came out of the houses, expressing joy, pride and also identification by the parents and fans.

We acted a lot in the public domain. We collected money for the “Blue Box” of Jewish National Fund (“Keren Kayemet”). The elders worked at making people contribute to the Keren Hayesod. (United Jewish Appeal - UJA). We were active in the “Poalei Eretz Israel” (“Workers for the Land of Israel”) to acquire land for the working settlements of Eretz Israel.

We organized “Questions Events” (in Yiddish: “Kestel Evand”) for the public, in which we stood ground in the hot discussions with the Communists from the left side and with “Beitar” from the political right wing, on the other side.

 We founded the branch of “Ha'Khaluts” (The Pioneer movement) in Gombin, in which elder Jews participated, who had not been in the Youth Movements, and “Ha'Oved” (The Worker) - for elders who worked for their living, most of them artisans, who were interested in Aliya - emigration to Palestine.

We were also active in the surrounding small towns and villages. In Saniki, Ilowo, and we searched for candidates for the “Khaluts” and for Aliya to Erets Israel.

In the winter (it is extremely cold in Poland) we were forced to rent a club near the woods to run the groups activities. We gathered small coins from our families to make the “Ken” running.

I remember a big ball we organized in the Cinema Hall of the Grynboim family. Eliahu Goldenberg (father of Dudu Topaz, famous Israeli entertainer nowadays) who made a very successful artistic show in Yiddish and Polish. From the income we got from this show, we purchased our club in that same year.

To conclude the affair of the “Ken” I wish to remind the “Patronat” - Patronage, which supported us and gave us the legitimacy in front of the Polish Authorities, who suspected us of Communist aberration, but comforted themselves that it would be “communism to export to Palestine”…

In the Patronage were active:

The dentist Samulewicz, Dr. Dzewospolski, Abraham Zamosc (the manager of the Bank and one of the heads of the Zionists of Izhak Grynboim, one of the Polish Jewry leaders), and Marek Wolfowicz, an enlightened man with vast European culture, lover of people, who contributed to us a lot, from his radiant personality, culture and humanity.

We could not have stayed forever active in scouting and education. “Mered Haben”, the revolt of the young generation, burst out forcefully. Stormy discussions roused in the Jewish street on the way to redeem the human being and the Jewish People.

The cry “LEAN” - “WHERE TO” was sent out into the space…

We had determined the way to Zionism, Aliya, the Zionist solution to the Jewish question.

In Israel (“Palestine” at the times) a deserted land awaited us, undeveloped, and we chose to complete the Jewish revolution in the Kibbutz way, equality among the people, mutual aid - we became Kibbutzniks for life.

Tens of years we live in the Kibbutzim. We raised families and our children and grandchildren live with us too…

We, the young group of “Ken” Gombin, immigrated in Aliya Bet, as “Maapilim” - illegal immigrants to Palestine, and more should be written about this chapter.

In the past years died in the Kibbutzim:

Simcha Golan (Glickzeliger) from Kibbutz Yif'at, Eliezer Golan (Glickzeliger), his brother, from Kibbutz Ein Ha'Mifrats, Avraham Etinger from Kibbutz Kfar Menakhem, Rachel Shechter (Gostinska) from Kibbutz Ein Ha'Khoresh and Gita Chomsky (Brzezinska) from Kibbutz Mesilot. All left after them sons and daughters, grandchildren, descendants who should be interested in their parents' roots and Gombin tradition.

And still continue to live, in golden age, in the various Kibbutzim:

Malka Mann (Glickzeliger) in Kibbutz Ein Ha'Khoresh, Channa Bruk (Holcman) from Kibbutz Negba and her brother Meir Holcman in Kibbutz Ramat Ha'Shofet.

And in Kibbutz Evron live: Zalman Ben Izhak (Borensztain), Shmulik Golan (Glickzeliger), Zelig Ettinger and his wife Rachel (ne'e Kerber) and Shlomo Laski (Frenkel).

And all the rest remains to be told…

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