Ayzik Hofman (Tel Aviv)
English Translation by Steven Wien and Sari Havis
In 1921, Kremenets was emptied of mature Zionist youth. In two pioneer groups, one after the other, Zionist activists left for the Land of Israel, and the younger generation remained without leadership. At the same time, rumors reached us that various Jewish youth organizations with more of a scouting nature had been established in other cities in Vohlin. And thus, on the initiative of the brothers Goldenberg, Avraham Rozenfeld, and others, an organization named the Youth Guard was established in Kremenets, in which the idea of scouting and sports took a central role.
The first groups included mostly middle-class students, with a minority from the poor and blue-collar classes. The groups included young people from the ages of 8 to 1516, and only the guides were older; among them were Avrashe Trakhtenberg, Shifris, and others. Another founder of the core of this movement was a youth from Rovne named Bushl, who was an outstanding athlete. The nucleus of this movement participated in activities for the national funds as well as various cultural performances. During that time, an instructor named Chane Horovits, who had come to our city from Russia, joined the Youth Guard. After that, the movement became more ideological, and the local headquarters contacted the national Youth Guard center in Warsaw. Various classes were offered in Hebrew history, Zionism, Hebrew and Yiddish literature, the geography of the Land, and the lie. On every Hebrew holiday, parties and dances took place. Gradually, the Youth Guard in our city was transformed from a scouting movement to one with more ideological, national, and humanist content. The energy attracted young people in Kremenets, and they began joining the ranks of the Youth Guard. Within the first few years of the movement's existence, the local leaders in Kremenets had already initiated several regional conventions.
Unlike other youth movements, the Youth Guard included young people from a very young age; even eight-year-olds were drawn to intensive activities, and thus they were somewhat distanced from the influence of the family and non-Jewish school. This movement departed from its counterparts culturally in that it was more religious about the acquisition of Hebrew. The activities were conducted in Yiddish or Russian, and later in Polish, but nonetheless, the guides paid attention to the teaching of Hebrew. They purchased and read Hebrew newspapers from the Land, and some members of the movement were active in our city's Hebrew Corner.
At the legislative conference in Warsaw in 1926, the Youth Guard was officially transformed from a scouting movement like Baden-Powell's to a program of immigration, personal fulfillment, and the establishment of communes in the Land. The Kremenets representatives were quite involved in that convention. At the same time, the following members participated in leading the home chapter: Meir Pinchuk (who later became active in the Communist movement and was killed in the Caucasus), Moshe Krementsutski (who now lives in Ramat Gan), Yonye Bernshteyn (who also joined the Communists and was killed as a partisan near Kremenets), Duvid Vinokur (who was killed in Kremenets in the Holocaust), and the writer of these lines. The movement's national leadership regarded the Kremenets chapter with great respect and gave it a great deal of attention. Messengers from the national center, as well as from the Land, used to visit it quite often. Among them were Y. Chazan, Y. Guthelf, Ts. Luria, M. Shenhavi, and others. Y. Riftin stayed in Kremenets for almost a month and conducted extensive cultural activities.
In 1926, the first group left the Youth Guard chapter for training in Dombrova, near Semiatits. The group included five people: Krementsutski, Hofman, Yonye Bernshteyn, Avraham Margalit, and Sunye Keselman. (The last two immigrated to the Land, then fought in the international brigade in Spain and were killed there.)
This marked a very important turning point toward personal fulfillment. The members were in training for almost a year. After that, almost yearly, groups would leave for training, mostly in lumber mills near Stolin, Rokitno, and other locations using a specific framework established by the Youth Guard movement.
The movement's members were also active in the city's public life. The group kept a certain distance from other working Land of Israel youth groups in the city (such as Pioneer, Young Pioneer, the Union Party, and Liberty). But there was no sense of animosity among them. Whenever members of any youth group immigrated to Israel, members of all the groups accompanied them to the train station, and this was a festive event for all Zionist youth regardless of their movement. Cultural activity centered mostly on the Zionist library; Youth Guard members formed part of its main clientele. At its peak, the movement consisted of 200 boys and girls.
Most parents objected to their children joining the Youth Guard because it interfered with their studies. But mostly the parents became upset when a young person graduated from Youth Guard and the movement asked him to interrupt his high school studies for training.
A competing wave of Communism attacked the movement's centers beginning in 1925, reaching our city only between 1929 and 1931. The limited chances of immigration, the White Paper decree, and other factors made some members of the movement desperate. Also, ideological training began to lean more toward the Soviet Union. All these factors led several members to join the Communist Party. Many dropped the movement, but some Youth Guard members remained even after joining the Communist movement, with the clear intention of spreading propaganda for Communism (one of them was Tonye Grinshpun, who later immigrated to Israel. From there she went to the USSR and was killed in one of Stalin's purges in 1937). This defection affected mostly the older generation and instructors. Some who went to Israel joined the Communist Party there. Some left Israel. Of those who remained in Kremenets, some became leaders of the city's Communist Party, as well as active in trade unions. Several were arrested by the Polish authorities.
Bottom row from right to left: (1) Meir Pinchuk, (2) Rachel (Koka) Otiker, (3) Moshe Kremenchutski, (4) Polye Bernshteyn, (5) Efraim Teper.
Middle row: (1) Sunye Keselman, (2) Perel, (3) Munye Mandelblat, (4) Rosye Sudak, (5) Ayzik Hofman, (6) Rachel Otiker, (7) Ite ...
Top row: (1) Yonye Bernshteyn, (2) Duvid Vinokur, (3) Sonye Landsberg, (4) Avraham Landsberg.
In a long trial against the Communists in 1936, quite a few of the defendants were Youth Guard graduates. Indeed, the chapter's younger set was mainly spared this digression toward Communism. But when their instructors left for Israel, the movement's center was careful to bring in a new class of instructors who had been inducted at the center's training kibbutz in Chenstochov.
The club was used as the movement's permanent location only during the winter months; in the summer, all activities and meetings took place outdoors.
In 19361937, the movement continued to dwindle in numbers. There was a rise in anti-Semitism, desperation settled on everyone, immigration to Israel was almost completely closed off, and there was a sense of reaching a dead end. All this affected the Youth Guard, and it declined from year to year in quantity and quality. In 19381939, the movement consisted of only a few dozen members. Even then, there were ten members from the Kremenets group in the Chenstochov training group.
With the capture of the city by the Russians in 1939, the end of the Youth Guard movement arrived, and it ceased to exist.
Sh. Titelman (Jaffa)
English Translation by Steven Wien and Sari Havis
Side by side with the large, flowing rivers of the Pioneer and Young Pioneer movements in our town trickled the small stream of Academic Pioneer. It included only a few dozen young people, but, still, it fulfilled a certain role in the Zionist life of Kremenets.
[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, Academic Pioneer is Hechaluts haAkademi .]
A group of friends who, for assorted reasons, did not find a place in Pioneer established a branch of Academic Pioneer in 1932. To begin with, there were only about 15 members, but in time the membership grew to 40. Their goal in particular was to bring in the town's assimilated youth and familiarize them with Zionism and the Land of Israel. And, indeed, their efforts had quite a bit of success, as dozens returned and rejoined their people. Academic Pioneer existed in Poland as a national movement, with a center in Warsaw, a publication in Polish, and a training site in Chenstochov.
The branch dealt with intellectual preparation and the dissemination of the Hebrew language.
Considering the circle's composition, you would have expected it to prepare members for white-collar and clerical professions in Israel, but that was not the case. Just like regular Pioneer, Academic Pioneer's goal was to train members to work the land and for kibbutz life. Some members were sent to the training ranch in Chenstochov, and some of the girls, to the Girls' Agricultural Training Farm in Nahalal, Israel. More than two thirds of the branch members immigrated and settled in Israel.
The branch was active in local community life, too: in elections, work on behalf of funds, the Zionist club, and the library. It helped with the trusteeship of the orphanage and was active in all Zionist and community work. The branch had its own clubhouse, where it held cultural activities.
Of the active members, I will mention Shmuel Gendelman, Yone Frenkel (both were murdered in the Holocaust), Yehoshue Goldberg (now in Poland), Yakov Shats, Charash, and the writer of these lines (the latter three are in Israel).
Academic Pioneer existed in our town until World War II began.
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