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[Page 91]

A Town and its charm [1]
(Impressions by a visitor)

by Prof. Dov Sadan

Translated by Susan Rosin

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

A.

It seems like there is no evidence to the charm of a town like that of a “memory error”– you know you visited in the fall, but the memories brought back are of a visit during a glorious summer day and you keep imagining instead of remembering. Indeed, the more I think about those few days I spent in Stryj during my first visit, I imagine the town during the heat of Tamuz (the 10th Hebrew month), the market tiles shining in the sunlight, the streets and alleys bright and the whole town relaxed and calm. These differences between the memories and the actual way things were are curious and can probably be only explained by the mood of the visitor and the charm of the town. I cannot deny that my mood probably contributed to these impressions during this first visit – I was young and was asked to go to a distant town to speak publicly before I made a name for myself. At the time my claim to fame were a few unpublished poems and a few translations of Hebrew authors (G. Shoffmann, D. Shimonowitz and M. Ben Eliezer) into Polish that were published in Lviv and two poems in Yiddish that were published in Warsaw. My younger brother Nissan, who graduated from the Merchant Academy and was employed by the renowned firm of Zelig Borak in Stryj introduced me to Joshua Oberlander, one of the Hebrew activists in town. He invited me to come and speak in front of a group. The invitation was issued on the 4th day of Elul 1922 (August 28th, 1922) by the local Zionist council in Stryj signed by the president and the secretary scheduling the lecture date for Sunday, September 3rd, 1922. The topic of the lecture was praise for the writer David Frishman on the 30th day after his passing (the Shloshim). On the road to Stryj I read about the passing of ShaiIsh Hurwitz (Sha'ul Israel Hurwitz), so I decided to include an obituary for him in my lecture as well. Before my lecture, I had the opportunity to get to know some of the young Zionists in town. On Saturday, there was a lecture by a left leaning Poalei Zion visitor, B. Winogura (Yedidia) who attacked the Zionist movement, its organization and especially

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its leadership. A debate following the lecture included Israel Igra and two pioneers from Russia, Rabinowitz and Joseph Salvan (now Se–Lavan) and I joined in as well. I can no longer remember the arguments of the lecturer except their forcefulness. All I can remember is that the lecturer argued that Dr. Chaim Weizman is only a pawn in the imperialistic plans of England in the middle–east and called him a “politician behind the stove”. I acted surprised and argued as to how it was possible that the shrewd and sly Britain with such grandiose plans would only find a “politician behind the stove.” That same evening I went to the Halutzim organization – the meeting took place in a hall that was neither a living room or a meeting room. In the center was a long table stained with ink and it had many nicks created by pocket knives. The atmosphere here was so different from the one in the hall of the previous meeting. In spite of the uproar caused by the lecturer, it was still calm and composed, whereas here, in spite of the intimacy there was an air of fury, and a bohemian atmosphere. This was not the style of the town's halutzim but of those that came from across the border and settled here temporarily. They were the “effervescent” material, and I especially remember Sula, which was either his name or his nickname and who was the embodiment of naughtiness.

The local halutzim were different from those who came from Russia. The locals had their center in Lviv whereas the Russians had their center in Rovna and then in Lviv. The main person there was Yehuda Raznicenko (Erez) who was visiting and lecturing regularly. The Russians were mostly Socialist Zionists whereas the locals belonged mostly to the Hashomer Hatzair or radical democrats. The locals lived with their parents whereas the Russian lived in communes. But these differences actually brought the two groups closer together, with the locals trying to imitate the Russians. Their adventures in Russia in addition to them staying illegally in Poland gave them a bohemian and secular aura (some of them returned to Russia to help smuggle their friends), which became an object of imitation.

I was asked to deliver a lecture whose topic I can no longer recall. What made it difficult was that I felt this group can educate me more than I can educate them. Some of the halutzim were about to emigrate for Israel. I was introduced by Zippora Byk (later Kahana), the young Wald and Rappaport (called the red carpenter).

Only the darkening room allowed me not to meet the eyes of the audience (among them the very beautiful Lea Pickholtz) and not be embarrassed.

 

B.

In the meantime I met some of the younger and older generations. I met Rabbi Eliezer Ladier after Shabbat services and his appearance was a surprise to me. A rabbi of an orthodox Galician congregation wearing a modern top hat, who spoke fluent German and published his poems in both German and Hebrew. On Sunday, while having breakfast with my brother at a garden restaurant, I saw a person whose face I recalled from postcards and pamphlets. Before I had a chance to introduce myself, he approached me and said: “You are mistaken. I am his brother.” Turns out, this was Aaron Bernfeld, whose brother Shimon's face I knew. Our conversation turned to a discussion of the publication “Hamazkir” (the reminder) which he edited some years earlier. I asked if it was not enough that the assimilationist publications “Shomer Israel” and “Agudat Ahim” published articles in foreign language, so that the “Hamazkir” had to be added to the list and in Hebrew. His answer was short: Sir, if you read the “Hamazkir

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you would know that all this assimilation was in just one short article that I named October (in Polish). I was concerned that both the rabbi and the author will come to my lecture at the “Ivriya Society”. Fortunately I was not aware that Mandachowitz, the author of “Sparkling Mirror” and the grandson of the famous rabbi Ensel Zusmer was in town.

My anxiety grew as I was concerned that perhaps Dr. Zvi Diesendruck was in town for the high holidays and he might want to come to the lecture as well. In addition there were the Ivriya society members Jacob Zeman and Isaac Silber whose erudition amazed me, and I requested to deliver my lecture in Yiddish. But, immediately I retracted my request not to mock the goals of the Ivriya. God was on my side. My lecture went very smoothly and now looking at it after all these years I wonder if I could have done it again. I guess youth, its certainties and the lack of doubts must have helped and I received many congratulations of a “job well done”.

I must have done well, because I received another letter on January 27th, 1923 signed by Jacob Zeman and Jonah Friedler inviting me to the Bialik assembly (must have been his 50th birthday) and requesting me to talk about “current events that will be the most important portion of the festivities”. I would have probably accepted if not for my lengthy bout with polio. In spite of my illness I knew what was happening in the circles of the halutzim and the “Hebrews” through correspondence not only with my brother but also with others in town. From these I knew about the going–away parties for halutzim leaving for Palestine (among the names mentioned were Chaim Yash, Sula, Weinberg, Rabinowitz, Chayka, Dolek, Faiga, Malia), events in town (such as the “Emuna” Hanukkah party and costume parties), a Maccabi evening with the singer Lehrman, amateur theatre performances such as “God, Man and Devil” where my brother played Leiser the jester, as well as “The inheritance” and “Uriel Acosta”. Also I knew about the establishment of a “spiritual/intellectual center” by the General Zionists where at the opening among the distinguished guests were three delegates from the Sejm: Einsler, Sommerstein and Eisenstein. But mainly I remember a nice and lovely town whose charm I can still see (years later in Tel Aviv when I reminded one of the town's people the sign: “He who drinks soda water at Wolf's will live a long life” he responded seriously: “Believe me, I am still alive because of this soda water”).

As an added benefit I made many friends among the nice young men and women of the town. The more I read about the town and its people the more I recalled the memories of my visits and these lovely memories just grew within me throughout the years.

 

C.

My father was very friendly in his youth with Abraham Robinson who was an activist of the Zionist movement and later became the secretary of David Wolfsohn and Efraim Frisch from Stryj who came to study in the high school in our town. The high school in my town of Brody was a magnet for students from near and far. It was closed on Saturdays and the instruction language was German. Among its students were Judah Leib Landau from Lviv who later became the chief rabbi of South Africa, Benjamin Wolf Siegel from Zbaraz who later became the editor of “Ost und West” (East and West), Michal Berkowitz from Stryj who became later Herzl's secretary and translated his writings, and last but not least Efraim Frisch from Stryj who became a renown German author (and friend of Micha Josef Berdiczewski and Jakob Klatzkin) and an editor in the famous Fischer publishing house. This group established sort of an “Ivriya” group and with a couple of young ladies produced a Hebrew play “There is Hope”. The extent to which Frisch loved Brody can be gleaned from his first novel “Das Verlöbnis” (The betrothal) published in 1902. The descriptions of his home town are intertwined with those of the town of his studies. On the one hand, there is valley scenery of the Bug River and on the other hand a mountain and a slope better describing

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the Carpathian mountains. There are descriptions where these two sceneries are completely combined. It is possible this was an early experiment in describing an eastern–Galician shtetl done by a Jewish author in a foreign language, something that was later common to authors from that area writing in our two languages. Anyone studying either the romantics or the short stories written by authors from eastern Galicia has to start with the works of this author. He was a bridge to what we read later in the books of Shai Agnon, A.M. Fuchs, Asher Barash, Rachel Korn and Itzik Metzker. A wave of controversy erupted immediately after the publication of his work by A. Stand (was later translated into Hebrew by Dov Sadan), as well as criticism about him in an article by Tamar Bockshtav–Evyona, a Stryj native, in the ”Voskhod” publication. Stryj natives may have a special interest in this novel – since the characters, the scenes, descriptions and the scenery all resemble Stryj.

 

D.

My father reminded me that the little romance between myself, a Brody native and the town of Stryj was preceded by a much bigger romance between Efraim Frisch, a Stryj native and Brody before he left for Germany and did all his writing in German. Similarly, Rabbi Eliezer Ladier, a chief rabbi in Stryj wrote poems in German. Whoever would like to find more about Rabbi Ladier should review the excellent article by Rabbi Eliezer Meir Lifshitz. Two small books are in front of me. The first of them is titled: “A sermon for Saturday by rabbi Ladier from the Stryj district” (1933).

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The other was a book of poems: El. Ladier / Gedichte / Verlag Dr. Heinrich Glanz, Wien (1933) and the opening poem has to do with the life of the poet: “I sing as the jailed bird that cannot hear the voices of the forest and cannot see the light, a bird that will not sit on a branch and will not rule the tree top; I sing a song as a jailed bird.”

I am glancing from book to book and am having a hard time believing that it was the same hand that wrote both. On the one hand a serious discussion of religious matters and on the other the lyric poetry. How could these two worlds not collide within him? Perhaps he himself gave an explanation to this conflict in his poem “Memories of My Childhood,” which is based on a mystical legend that he heard from his mother, which weaved in his mind dreams of gold during Saturday at dusk and he could hear his grandfather singing during the meal and his mother's voice that was as pure as silver. It seemed as if the Rabbi/Poet exposed his secret and showed us his torn soul between his mother's legend that brought–up his poetic side and the scolding of his grandfather that brought–up his religious law side. And the two cannot merge.

 

E.

I visited Stryj one more time with the outstanding person, the father of the halutzim Dr. Henrik Sterner, to deal with two important matters and did not get to look around town. The first matter was to complete the negotiation with Mr. Klein regarding the workshops and the second was the Aliya of some brave women pioneers – Rachel Meller, Ratza Rosenberg, Rivka Reinherz and Rivka Feldhorn. These women struggled to get immigration permits not by fictitious marriages, but on their own accord. At the end they were successful and their struggle opened the way for the 4th Aliya.

From Mr. Klein I learnt that Stryj had a long history of practical Zionism. In the 1890's the Admat Israel (the “land of Israel”) association sent a special emissary, Mr. Stern to Eretz Israel to check the settling possibilities. He returned bearing good news, but the plans were cancelled due to his sudden death. Years later I saw a pamphlet describing the activity of Admat Israel: Admath Israel, Selbstverlag des Vereines Admat Israel in Stryj, Druck v. A.H. Zupnik in Drohobycz [self–publication, printed in Drohobycz].

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After the main points of the dispute between them are discussed, the matter of the renewal of Eretz Israel is brought–up.

 

F.

To end this article, I would like to go back to my first visit in Stryj as I remembered a detail during the 3rd Jewish Studies convention in Jerusalem. It had to do with my discussion with the Hebrew elders in Stryj mulling over the famous saying by Ahad Ha'am: What would have happened if the translation of the bible into Greek would coincide in time with the translation of Plato into Hebrew. Rabbi Isaac Aaron Bernfeld said he would be satisfied with the translation of Philo of Alexandria. Rabbi Eliezer Ladier remarked that under these balanced exchanges, the place of the Jewish people may have been eliminated God forbid. And me, jokingly, I remarked that if I lived during those times I would prefer the translation of Aristophanes. If I was pressured, I am doubtful if I would know a comedy written in Hebrew, although my father had among his books a translation into Hebrew of Lessing's comedy “Der Freigeist” by Dan Kohn. Dan Kohn's daughter married Reuven–Asher Broides. But, I could not have imagined that two Stryj natives will translate into Hebrew two Greek works: Plato – translated by Zvi Diesendruk and Aristophanes – translated by Isaac Silberschlag.

Jerusalem, Hanukah 1962

 

Editor's Footnote
  1. For editorial reasons, direct quotations from the books mentioned in the article have been omitted. Return


The Students' Organizations in Stryj

by Naphtali Teller, atty.

Translated by Susan Rosin

Since the beginning of the 20th century the Jews in Stryj started sending their children to high–schools and universities, just like Jews in other big cities in Galicia. The large number of boys and girls who were studying in the high schools and universities were instrumental and a major factor in establishing the public and national life of Stryj's Jewry.

Important and renowned figures in the Zionist movement such as Dr. Gershon Zipper, Senator Michael Ringel, Dr. Abraham Insler and Dr. Emil Schmorak were previously students in the high schools of Stryj. While in (the Polish) high schools they were also active in the Zionist circles, activity that was banned by the Polish authorities. They later became leaders of the revival movement.

After World War I and following the Balfour declaration, the Zionist ideas started spreading among the youth studying in high schools and universities in Galicia. Most of the high school students joined “Hashomer Hatzair” (the young guard/watchman) and the universities students joined “Emuna” (faith).

Many of these youths discontinued their studies during the years of the third Aliya (1928 – 1925), emigrated as halutzim (pioneers) to Eretz Israel, and many of them became members of kibbutzim.

In addition to “Emuna” other academic societies were established after the First World War: Hebronia, Kadima, Maccabia and Z.A.S.S (Zionist Socialist Student Association). Most of the Jewish young people who had higher education belonged to one of these organizations.

 

str097a.jpg
A group of Betar and Revisionist pioneers (1931):
Standing right to left: I. Pickholz, Geller, Manfeld, H. Zoldan, M. Kaz
Seated: Sishel, Millard, I. Waldman, D. Zeidman, S. Gartenberg, I. Gartenberg

 

str097b.jpg
“Ivriya Society” Committee:
Seated from right to left: Hendel, Aron Weiss (Tzahor), Jonah Friedler , Dr. Joseph Schuster (Shilo), Jonah Gelernter, Joshua Tileman, Joseph Richter;
Standing from right to left: Jacob Stark, Naphtali Gelernter, Isaac Schorr, Ben–David Schwartz, Dr. Nathan Kudisch, Joshua Oberländer, Aryeh Sachar

 

str098a.jpg
Leadership of the Zionist Labor Party “Hitahdut” 1925:
Seated from right to left: Eisenstein, David Weiss, Leib Schwamer, David Zeidman, Elimelech Frisch, I. Gertner, and L. Garfunkel
Standing: Avigdor Rotfeld, M. Patrach, Robinson, David Tadanir, Mordechai Klar, I. Fruchter, Ben–Zion Garfunkel

 

str098b.jpg
WIZO (Women's International Zionist Organization) Circle:
Seated right to left: Mishal, Eisenberg, Kaufman, Rachel Katz, Seinfeld
Second Row: Lerer, Sapir, Zoldan, Knoler, Krebs, Lautman, Wolfinger
Third Row: Gelert, Apfelgreen, Arnold, Osteryung, Erhrlich, Apfelgreen, Hendel

 

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Due to the close proximity of the universities of Lvov and the economic situation, most of the students lived at home with their parents in Stryj and commuted to school. That was the reason so many students attending higher education institutions were always in town which allowed the activities in the academic societies. Except for “Emuna” the other societies were more like the Viennese “Kadima” whose member was Dr. Herzl.

The Jewish students' societies in Stryj admitted also female students and thus were different from the ones in Western Europe who admitted only men.

It is worth noting that each society had a “junior society” for high–school students from age 12 and on. These youngsters received Zionist instructions by the older university students which included Hebrew language, Jewish and Zionist history and geography. The older students organized parties with lectures and discussions.

An important part of the academic societies' activities was dedicated to developing discipline, the feeling of national pride, brotherhood, mutual assistance, respect for elders, taking care of the younger members, sports, fencing, etc. All these activities were to strengthen the youngsters physically and mentally. When the Anti–Semitic riots broke–out at the universities, these students were ready with a counter attack and protected their brothers' and sisters' honor.

Stryj did not have anti–Zionist academic societies, a fact that can be attributed to the efforts for national education.

The academic societies in Stryj were in close contact with societies in Lvov, Krakow, Warsaw and the El–Al society at the university in Jerusalem. The first world convention of the academic societies took place in Vienna and the Stryj societies were represented.

The members of the societies were active in all the public and Zionist organizations in town such as the Jewish National Fund (KK”L), Foundation Fund (Keren Hayesod), and “Hehalutz” organization. After 1933, the members were at the ready to protect the Jewish population against the provocations by the Polish Anti–Semitic groups and were active in organizing the ban on German products.

The societies were mostly apolitical, although the members themselves belonged to various political parties. The distribution of immigration certificates by political parties made it necessary to be organized more along party lines. And thus Z.A.S.S (Zionist Socialist Student Association) and H.A.Z (Academic Zionist Organization) were established.


The Academic Society “Emuna”

by Arie Hobel

Translated by Susan Rosin

The “Veritas” society was established in 1903 with the awakening of the national awareness at the end of the 19th,/sup> century. The founders were Dr. Michael Ringel, Dr. Abraham Insler, Dr. Rosenzweig, the writer Mark Scherlag, and Dr. Norbert Schiff.

A few years later, the name of the society was changed to “Emuna” based on the prayer verse: “I faithfully believe …” (“emuna” is faith in Hebrew). The members fully believed in the immortal values of the Jewish Nationalism, the revival of the Jewish nation and the glory of Israel.

“Emuna” was the first society to attract the academic youth and the high school students and the members were from all political streams “Hashomer Hatzair”, “Poalei Zion”, “General Zionists”,

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“Hitahdut”, “Revisionists” and others. The society had wide spread effect on the life of Stryj's Jewish community both the orthodox and the secular due to the various areas of activity such as education, cultural and national. The activities lasted all day and continued well into the night. The members participated in all public and political activities in town (Town hall elections and Kehila activities) and the country (election for the Polish Sejm) in addition to all the Zionist organizations and institutions. The society became an academic corporation in 1926 – 1927. The society's emblem was a shield with (three) stripes in blue, white and yellow on which the Star of David, surrounded by seven stars was embedded. As was the custom, the members referred to each other as brothers and sisters. The corporation was headed by a Senior, three co–Seniors, librarian, treasurer and various committees. High school graduates were accepted to the society in festive ceremonies. Members meetings and conventions were held in the various circles, but for important matters the entire membership of the corporations gathered. The presidents of the society were: Senator Michael Ringel, Dr. Abraham Insler who was a representative to the Polish Sejm, Dr. Mishel, Dr. Norbert Schiff, Dr. Morclechai Kaufman, Dr. I. Reich, Magister K. Einhorn, Mgr. Selinger, Mgr. Ingber and others. For many years seniors and co–seniors were: Mark Hurwitz, Leon Sternberg, Isaac Feller, Israel Weidenfeld, Joseph Ehrman, Shmuel Spiegel, Moshe Nagler, Judah Wiesenfeld, Leon Hubel, Henryk Wolfinger, Lila Grossmann, Minna Marbach, Frieda Reich, Lucia Bermann, Leib Pilz, Adolf Zehngebot, Asher Zehngebot, Otto Friedlander, Jacob Friedlander, Rena Lindner, Aaron Hoffmann, Reuben Hoffmann, David Hubel, Abraham and Shmuel Marbach, lsaac Nussenblatt, Meir Borer, Joseph Friedlander. Honorary members of the society were: Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Dr. K. Sommerstein, Dr. Rosmarin, Dr. Leon Reich, Senator Dr. Michael Ringel, Dr. Norbert Schiff, and Dr. Tzelermayer (from the Lvov “Emuna”).


“Kadima”

by Mark Wieseltier

Translated by Susan Rosin

The number of Jewish students in the universities increased between the two world wars. Many Jewish academic societies were established and although in general they were in the format of the European corporations their members were brought up and educated on Zionist and national revival values and were very idealistic. This was the golden age for the Jewish youth of higher education in Poland.

In spite of spending twelve years in a Polish high school, the students were not absorbed in the gentile environment. The atmosphere of discrimination against the Jewish national and human rights by the various anti–Semitic Polish governments and the aspirations for redemption and freedom were the motives for establishing “Kadima” in our town.

“Kadima” was founded in 1922, and its membership increased from year to year. The “seniors”, “co–seniors” and “fuchs majors” taught and guided the younger members and prepared them for the future with such activities as lectures, songs, physical training in order to deepen the national and Zionist awareness.

“Kadima” participated in all the Zionist activities in our town and had a deep belief in the revival and our bright future in Eretz Israel.

Unfortunately many of those who dreamed and worked so hard to realize the Zionist vision did not live to see splendor of Israel's revival. For them we feel great sadness and deep pain.

Special mention should be made of the active members of the society who were martyred, and also those who were saved and have survived. Kadima's Seniors were Dunek

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Sander, Bernard Baumann, Srulik Kudisch, Wolff Koppel, Uzek Ber, Filko Redler. Co–senior M. Lerik (Lerikstein). The “Fuchs majors” were Yuzek Ekert, Mark Wieseltier, Dr. Hugo Bonum, and Henek Hammermann.

In 1937 “Kadima” merged with the general Zionist section of “Hebronia” to create a new corporation the “Maccabiah”. The seniors were: Norbert Teller, Filco Radler, Salek Hendel, Mark Wieseltier and Dunek Hazelnuss.

The destruction of Jewish Stryj put an end to the “Maccabiah” society as well.


The Academic Society “Hebronia”

by Mgr. Meir Borer

Translated by Susan Rosin

The number of Jewish students from Stryj that attended high–schools and universities grew in the 1930s and there was a need for organizational framework for their activities. Long–standing “Emuna” was a model for other organizations. The students were divided in their ideological/political affiliations and that was the background for establishing additional student organizations. All the societies followed the same organizational structure, behavior, traditions and identifying traits and were corporations. Ideologically each of the corporations followed a certain political–Zionist stream. “Hebronia” was established to organize the youth in a Zionist movement, to attract those who were on their way to assimilation to join the struggle for national recognition and rights and the right to our own country, instilling national pride and, educating the youth in history of the Jews and Zionism.

During the initial period of 1925 – 1929 many high–school students joined the society in spite of the threat of expulsion from school, as belonging to a Jewish youth organization was prohibited by the authorities. The members spread the Zionist ideology among the students and were active in Jewish institutions such as the Jewish National Fund, WIZO, etc. The active members during this period were: Joseph Friedlander, First Senior, Joshua Hazelnuss, Secretary and “Fuchs major”, Ephraim Fromm, Emmanuel Zoldan, Alexander Zoldan, Meir Borer, co–Senior, Klemens Lustig (the last two immigrated to Israel). The most active and inspirational member was Joshua Hazelnuss who worked tirelessly to realize the Zionist dream. He discontinued his medical studies at the Prague University, immigrated to Israel and died here at an early age in 1958.

Due to the large number of girls in the society another chapter was established and the active members were: Clara Bleiberg, Mina Wechsler, Henia Nagler, Malka Rudik, Rosa Neumann, Rosa Lentz, and Genia Gerstmann, (the last four immigrated to Israel).

During 1929 – 1933 the society thrived. The students graduated from high schools and enrolled in universities. The central figures during this period were: Joshua Hazelnuss, Shalom Goldberg, Michael Garfunkel, Karol Einhorn, Isaac Nussenblatt (who immigrated to Israel), Leon Arnold and Moshe Steiner. During this period of time, ties with other ideologically close societies in town were tightened. The members were active in all the Kehila institutions, elections for city council and the Polish Sejm. The members were especially active in organizing the ban on German products before the war.

Among the most important guests to visit the society were such Zionist leaders as Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Yitzhak Gruenbaum, Meir Grossman and Emil Sommerstein.

During 1933 – 1939 following the struggle in the Zionist organizations and Jabotinsky's quitting the mainstream Zionist organization, the society split into revisionist “Hebronia” and General Zionists “Hebronia”, the latter merged with the “Kadima” society to form “Maccabiah”. The two Teller brothers were the leaders of the two societies.

 

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