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[Page 107]

Zionism, Pioneering, Immigration

 

The Evolution of the “Organization”

Yisrael Biberman (Jerusalem)

English Translation by Steven Wien and Sari Havis

The “Organization” was very well known in our city. There was no need to translate and say the Zionist Club or the Zionist Organization branch. It was very common to say briefly the “Organization,” and everyone understood what was implied.

True, the Organization experienced many ups and downs. At times, it expanded; at times, it shrank. It knew times of ebb and flow. But it always served as the center for Zionist life in the city and even the surrounding area. It served as a center for Zionist thought and activity in every manifestation. The elderly, the young, men, women, and speakers of Yiddish, Russian, or Polish all received their Zionist education and their general preparation for public life within the Organization's walls. Here, it had a lasting effect on community affairs, the municipality, and political life. There, it had a formative influence on immigration to Israel, various movements, and cultural activities.

I was fortunate enough to accompany the Organization in its various activities for over two decades. I said I would about write down some of its events and its evolution as I experienced them.

The Organization began as a small, illegal library in a book cabinet that traveled from one house to another to avoid searches. In my collection, I have a picture of the “Library of the Zionist Organization of Kremenets”; the dates on it are 1902–1928. [See the photograph on p. 111.] Although the library was formed in 1911, I have strong recollections of the library only beginning in 1911. I recall that for some time the library found a home in the of Gutye Aksel's apartment close to the Vishnevets suburb. Afterward, it wandered to Biberman's apartment on Kaznacheyskia Street. The cabinet traveled from house to house. The contact with the police in regard to the library was Benderski. The officer of the gendarmerie would notify Benderski in advance about any search that was to take place. The same day or night, the books would be shifted to another house, so that by the time the search took place, the library could not be found. Often the books were divided among several members' houses. After the danger passed, they would be collected in one house again, and the library would continue to exist. Naturally, the collection of money for the library and other practical activities (for the Jewish National Fund and at synagogues on Yom Kippur eve, the distribution of shekalim, etc.) was taken care of by young people. They were a very tightly knit group. They called themselves Young Zionists, not in the sense of the known party, which had its own program and agenda, but because they were young and very Zionist.

[Translation Editor's Note: In Hebrew, Jewish National Fund is Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.]

This group had no permanent headquarters, and so they met from time to time in a private apartment.

[Page 108]

Whether in this or that apartment, the meetings provided an opportunity for conversation, lectures, and meetings. On the Sabbath there would often be a lecture in one of the mountains. Usually it was Mount Vidomka, in a hiding place between the rocks. The gathering, the trip, the enjoyment of open country, the drinking of fresh milk – were all interwoven, one with the other. The young people would lie down by a spruce tree and travel in their imaginations, dreaming about village life and open country in the Land of Israel.

This is how things went until the Revolution. Then, in 1917, the library was transferred to a rented room in Getsi Klorfayn's house. In early 1918, they rented a four-room apartment for the Zionist Club on Aba Tsukerman's property; this included a library and a reading room. They ordered some furniture and added many more books in three languages: Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian. The Organization stayed there for about two years, until the Poles entered the city and forbade the existence of the Zionist Organization. The club was closed, and the library was transferred to the children's home of the Joint, which was at Komervits's house next to the fire department.

kre021.jpg
Figure 21. Zionist Documents

[Translation Editor's Note: Figure 21 is a collage with a caption in Yiddish and Hebrew. The background document is a ballot with names for the Zionist elections of 1917 (from top to bottom): (1) Avraham Verthaym, (2) Binyamin Landesberg, (3) Dr. Meir Litvak, (4) Azriel Gorengut, (5) Meir Goldring, (6) Aharon Shimon Shpal, (7) Aharon Fridman, (8) Yakov Shafir, (9) Yitschak Charash, (10) Avraham Biberman, (11) Arye Rachenberg, (12) Moshe Eydelman, (13) Sore Rokhel, (14) Duvid Tsivin, (15) Yosef Kornman, (16) Getsi Klorfayn, (17) Yameon Chayim Karash. The top image is “Zionist” money. The middle document is an authorization to attend the national convention of the Zionist Organization in Poland in 1927. The bottom-right document is a 1935 Youth Guard membership booklet.]

[Page 109]

For about two years, the Organization existed illegally, although its activity did not diminish. In 1920, it held a very large Purim carnival with dancing, food, and music. At about one o'clock in the morning, knocks were heard at the door, and a window opened. Two Polish detectives entered through it with revolvers in their hands. Because I was the one responsible for this carnival, I was arrested on the charge of organizing an illegal gathering. But I was released after one day.

In 1922, the Polish authorities legalized the Zionist Federation, and therefore the Zionist Club remained in the same house, which served as a kindergarten in the morning and as the Zionist Club and library in the evening. In 1923, the morning kindergarten was closed, and the whole house was devoted to the Organization, and Tarbut activities were also developed there.

While the Organization resided in Tsukerman's house, Mikhael Barshap, who lived in the kitchen with his wife, was accepted as custodian of the house. He would bake cookies to sell to visitors to the club. Barshap belonged to one of the leftist parties and was always engaged in political discussions. He was a nonbeliever, yet he grew a long beard …The Organization's kitchen, which was his home, served as a place of assembly for leftist young people, including various Bundists, and there were always stormy arguments there.

Most of the readers were young people. More books were acquired and requested in Yiddish than in other languages. In the final years, the library also acquired books in Polish. In its peak years, the library consisted of about 3000 volumes.

Due to financial trouble, the Organization had to abandon its spacious apartment in 1925, and it moved to a one-room apartment. After a while, it recovered a bit financially and again rented a four-room apartment. Naturally, the financial trouble reflected a decline in Zionist activity. Then another group of proponents got organized, and the Zionist Club was revived. Around the time of my immigration to Israel (1934), the Club was established in Dr. Sheynberg's house. He was a dentist and a well-known Zionist activist.

In the first phase, there was only one Zionist Organization in the city, which included Zionist adults and youth in all their diversity who had not yet formed a unified movement. Of course, there were debates between the young people and the adults, and between the pioneering members and the general membership, but everyone was incorporated under a single Zionist Organization. Around 1922, there was a division into organized factions and defined parties. These included Pioneer itself, the Union Party, the Youth Guard movement, and others. After this division, the Organization served as more of a center for general Zionists. But at various times, other Zionist parties also joined and used the club. The largest movement based on numbers was Youth Guard, which at times included up to 200 young people.

Here are the names of people who chaired the Zionist Organization in our city at different times: Binyamin Landsberg, Moshe Eydelman, Dr. Litvak, Avigdor Perlmuter, and Meir Goldring. Members of the various Zionist committees were Aharon Fridman, Getsi Klorfin, Dr. Zalman Sheynberg, Arke Rozenberg, and Chane Broyner. And still alive are Frume Vaynshtok (now in Jerusalem), Henye Loktsher (now in Binyamina), Avraham Fisherman (now in Nachalat Yitschak), and others.

[Page 110]

kre022.jpg
Figure 22. Zionist Activists, 1929

Sitting from right to left: (1) Chayim Grinberg, (2) Meir Goldring, (3) Dr. Meir Litvak, (4) Moshe Eydelman, (5) Dr. Arye Landsberg, (6) Avigdor (Zeydi) Perlmuter, (7) Duvid Leviton.
Standing from right to left: (1) Getsi Klorfayn, (2) Vayner, (3) Dov Kremenchutski, (4) Muni Dobromiler, (5) Kutsher, (6) Yitschak Katz, (7) Shmerel Rishnivker, (8) Eliyahu Reznik.

[Translator's Note: This photograph may depict a show of which the proceeds went to the Jewish National Fund. In the center is Yisrael Biberman, the author of this section.]

kre023.jpg
Figure 23. Movie Day for the Jewish National Fund, 1929
[Page 111]

kre024.jpg
Figure 24. Petition of the League for a
Working Israel against Closing Immigration

 

kre025.jpg
Figure 25. Zionist Library

[Translator's Note: The text in the photo reads, “Library of the Zionist Organization of Kremenets, 1902–1928.”]


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