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[Page 305]

Parties and Institutions

 

The “Freiheit” Movement

Translated by Selwyn Rose

I am not going to write a history but I will bring up experiences from the depths of my being. A toiling youth appears, mistaken, seeking his way in Jewish life, sowing in foreign fields, groping and looking for his people. Founding and forging a “Working Youth” movement, daring deeds, meeting in the evening after a day's toil.

Freiheit” is a youth movement of the “Poalei-Zion” party. The Socialist-Zionist movement was directed towards rousing the Jewish working intelligentsia to knowledge of the aims and targets of the Socialist-Zionists; “The natural Jewish Nationalist obligation lies in creating the nation.” The recognition that there can be no future for us except as a sovereign Nation with a country of its own, territory of its own, the Jewish worker as a factor in the class-war against anti-Zionists. That knowledge or awareness saved a generation of Jewish labourers and intelligentsia from the jaws of assimilation and the ranks of “The Bund”.

In Sokółka the Freiheit movement became organized towards the end of the 'twenties. A number of graduates of the “Tarbut” school together with a few working youth, with the help of operatives of the central membership began the methodical basic organization. They hired a hall and every evening tens of members gathered for various activities. Among the members who came to visit the branch of “Freiheit” in Sokółka were L. Spiezman, Z. Sharp, Morgenstern, Melamed and others.

Running the local movement was a committee that had been elected at a stormy general meeting in which every candidate made a fiery speech raising as best he could the problems of the movement and its reservations. The participants – excited and notable ones - received most of the votes. Among those I remember were Yona Mintz, Haim Stein, David RodzChinski (Z”L), and others. These members with the burning enthusiasm of youth, their devotion, boundless determination raised the movement to great social and educational heights.

Every evening the group met, girls and boys from workshops and factories – all of them after a day's hard work. They ran to the local “Freiheit” to feel the freedom, to dance together and dream. The sound of singing split the air, carrying outside and far afield.

Young men, simple labourers, hand workers – none of whom had ever finished their studies in an organized way, knew how to organize movements like “Freiheit”, to engage in a social struggle, to breathe spirit into the ideology, to solidify their ideas and give content to their lives. On more than one occasion I met Haim (the son of Malka and Benjamin) Stein, Yona Mintz and others, chairing meetings for questions about the movement and society, literature and history, Zionism and socialism. There were also activities in drama and arts, singing and dancing, sport which were independently and self-organized. There were evenings dedicated to jurisprudence or other social topics ad hoc. Slowly the movement became solidly entrenched, woven with ideology, training and the realization of pioneering activity. A large part went for training, to be forged ready for immigration and having been tempered in the furnace immigrated to Palestine, some with certificates and others by some form of illegal immigration.

Avraham Fuchs-Shuali


[Page 306]

The Fire Brigade

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The fire brigade society in our town was manned by all sections of the population – Jews and Christians together. Among the founders that I remember: Altear Epstein, Haim Hershke Parker, Leibengrov. From time to time training sessions were held and programmed especially for all the children in the town who would come and take part, following the band and enjoying dressing-up in make-believe firemen's uniforms. The next generation of firemen was Zeidl Werner, Leibl Freidels, Fischel Stein and others.

Yitzhak Even

sok306.jpg
Haim Packer
Founder member of the town
Fire-Brigade

 

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Three unidentified photographs from Sokółka (in the 1930's?)

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[Page 309]

Leinat Tsedek
(Sick-bed assistance)

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The tendency to offer mutual assistance in all areas of life was well developed in our community in Sokółka. Indeed, even before there was an organized community to offer that sort of help, groups whose aim was to offer each other support existed in town for generations and they were: 1) “Help for the poor”; 2) “Anonymous charity”; 3) “Ha-Kodesh, - hostel for the poor and sick”; 4) “Welcome for Passers-by”.

I would like to comment on one of the noblest of the institutions – that which extended help and nursing to the sick; specifically: “Leinat Tsedek”.

The help extended by “Leinat Tsedek” to its members and to the Jewish community found expression in several forms: accompanying a sick patient by sleeping in an adjacent bed, the loaning of utensils that the patient was unable to acquire because of economic distress, obtaining the services of a doctor and medicines for similar reasons, actual financial assistance to the sick who needed to travel outside Sokółka, to Grodno to the Jewish hospital or to Białystok or even to Warsaw.

 

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The “Leinat Tsedek” committee, Sokółka

The Society's doctor was Doctor Blumenfeld.

I recall from among its committee members in the beginning Moshe Haim Shapira (the brother of Zippora Kowalski).

Baruch Hayot (Lavendik)

 

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