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Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life (cont.)

Immediately, actors and actresses turned up and founded a section of amateur theatrical enthusiasts. They prepared to present new plays, the fruit of the new authors, and also plays from the life of the nation in olden times. Of course, this was all done without a teacher or coach. Because of the lack of trained forces in dramatic acting, it was all done from their own intuition or by imitating what they had once seen in Jewish or Polish theatre, which visited Kielce occasionally. In spite of the flaws that could be discerned in their acting, the audience, whose demands were also not excessive, greeted them with great applause. They also knew that they were watching novices taking their first dramatic steps. Every Friday night there were lectures, readings and recitations accompanied by poetry and song. The audience's favorite narrator was Josele Badchan (Josef Rajzler). When he would read to the audience from the works of Shalom Aleichem, the hall echoed with thunderous laughter. It was not just the humorous elements of this excellent author, but also the tones of voice, the look in his eyes, the facial expression and bodily movements of the narrator. He knew to suit himself to the material, to merge his own soul with the soul of the hero of the work and to create a harmony between the work and its expression out loud. The audience left the hall happy, satisfied and entertained.

kie067.jpg [38 KB] - The Sport Association 'Maccabi'
The Sport Association “Maccabi”

“HaZamir” introduced interest and life to the youth of Kielce. Far from the traditional study hall, without the opportunity of continuing their studies, the youth found in “HaZamir” a place to make their own. “HaZamir” chased away the boredom from a gray life.

In the period between the two World Wars, new movements began which encompassed nearly all of the youth of Kielce. First the Scouting movement started up, which had an educational and cultural character, after that the sports movement grew wider. The organizers of this movement had two goals: the development of the muscles of the body, to straighten the backs bent under the yoke of exile and also to give the youth an interest that would challenge them – contests in physical exercises, in football, sharpened the physical prowess of the youth, their limbs became strong and flexible.

The sports societies of “Maccabi” and “Bar-Kochba”, who played tennis, were formed then. Every society had patrons, coaches, chairmen, secretaries and treasurers, as was customary. The organizers were mainly from the intelligentsia of Kielce, which attracted the youth. Thus, for example, Fajga Arten, Hela Rotenberg, the teacher Tula Kopel and others were members in the women's committee of the “Maccabi” tennis section.

kie068.jpg [38 KB] - The tennis club committee in Kielce
The tennis club committee in Kielce

A branch of the Geographical Society also organized in Kielce: RZ.T.K., whose chairman was H. Elazar Arten, and among whose committee members were: Stefanja Wolman, I. Edelsztajn and others. This society organized trips and hikes all over the country, to historical places located between the two seas, from the Black Sea to the Baltic, to the coal and salt mines and in general to all the places that are worth knowing and seeing. These trips broadened the horizons of those who participated in them.

In all areas movement and ferment could be felt, and those who continued still in their former ways also organized into a society. The society “Tiferet Bachurim” [Glory of the Young Men], whose members were drawn mainly from those who worked as artisans or in trade. They had a special minyan [quorum] for prayer on Sabbaths and holidays, and besides community worship, devoted hours to studying Bible, Sayings of the Fathers and Midrash.

During this period a secular club was born, in which its members spent the evening hours reading newspapers, talking to friends and various activities, and lectures were also held there on various topics. At the head of the club stood Mosze Kaufman, Dr. Feuer, Rzymnowoda and others.

The Popular Jewish Library

The Jews carry the additional name “People of the Book.” There is not nation in the world that loved the book as well as the Nation of Israel. In all of his wanderings, the Jew carried the book with him. It was a source of consolation and soothing in the days of his humiliation and poverty. When he had no material goods, he found sufficient satisfaction in his spiritual assets. There was not a town in Poland, even the poorest, that did not treasure in its study halls rabbinical and Chassidic literature, Mussar books; also sometimes books on inquiry and science sometimes found their way into the study hall library.

However, each generation has its own books. The content of the books changes; but the affection for the book remains. The Jew, a man of thought, would reread the book and endeavor to acquire a many books as possible. The favorite presents that were given to bridegrooms were the books of the Talmud and later rabbinical arbiters. In every study hall a “Book Buying” society was organized whose purpose was to acquire books.

Also when the socialist, nationalist and social movements removed the Jewish youth from the study hall and showed them other directions in life, they did not stop liking books. Even in he remote corners where the echoes of these movements had not penetrated, pioneers arose who were active in founding libraries for the youth who were thirsty for books.

At that period, “The Popular Jewish Library” was founded in the city, which existed for some twenty-five years. This library was considered a valuable cultural asset; education and knowledge went out from it to broad avenues of the people. The moving spirit behind the library was Mosze Lewensztajn, the pharmacist, who was devoted to it with his entire heart and soul. The library was housed in a two-room apartment, a book room and a reading room. The library was created almost from nothing. From several dozen volumes that were collected from the members, it grew and expanded and became a large library with three thousand volumes. The group of young men and women did not spare themselves labor and effort and concentrated themselves on the sole purpose of enriching the library with new books that were hot off the presses. An amazing order ruled there. All of the books were listed in two catalogs, one alphabetical by title and the other alphabetical by author. The books were arranged on the shelves in order of their contents. Belles-lettres in one section and science books in another. The newspapers and periodicals were organized on tables, ready for reading. The books were nicely bound. The affection and devotion of these young people was everywhere evident, who all worked as volunteers and devoted many hours to this cultural institution.

kie070.jpg [38 KB] - Mosze Lewensztajn
Mosze Lewensztajn

This library, which was like an independent organism, without allotments from other sources, and which contained the best of Jewish creativity and thought in various languages, was a blessing for the Jews of Kielce, especially the working youth.

The community of Kielce grew and expanded. During the First World War many Jews from nearby villages flocked to the city and settled there. During the democratic regime that arose in the country after Poland regained its independence, political, social and economic parties were established among the Jews, sporting associations were organized, educational and charitable institutions were founded. In the community council and the municipal council there were occasionally meetings of their members where speeches and arguments were heard. All of these changes and alterations which occurred in the lives of the Jews who lived in Kielce required that they create a newsletter, a periodical, which would express all the things that were happening in their sphere and give explanations and clarifications regarding all the decisions that were being taken in the municipal offices and in the various institutions and in general, serve as a mirror of the lives of the Jews.

Several young people with energy who felt they had journalistic talent got up and founded the weekly “Kielcer Zeitung” [Kielce Newspaper], which would appear on Fridays and was eagerly accepted by the Jews of Kielce. The editors of the newspaper changed for various reasons. The first editor was Cwi Nibilski, after him came Chaim Rzylony, Szymon Strawczinski and finally – Lajbl Rudel. Each one of them was blessed with different personality and attitude; but the side they all shared was that they were all outstanding Zionists, devoted to the idea of the renewal of the people in their homeland, involved in the life of the nation and drawing their inspiration from its eternal sources.

This local weekly appeared for twenty years, and its publication ceased together with the loss of the community that it served so faithfully.

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