Unlike other Jewish communities, there was no Chief City Rabbi in Zablotow, but rather two Rabanim, Yakov and his brother Mendel Hager, sons of R' David Hager (son of R' Mendel from Kosov). Each one saw himself as the heir of his father's position and each established his place in this small town causing a split, by establishing his own synagogue and having his own followers (one in center of town, the other in the suburb of Demycze). The Chasidim who belonged to the Kosov Dynasty followed mainly the first, while the Viznica Chasidim followed his brother. Only R' Mendel From Demycze was still alive when I was young and his position was inherited by his grandson Avraham, from his daughter Gitele, while R' Menachem Mendel, the only son of Yakov was already in the Rabbi's chair in Zablotow. The same hatred, which existed between the brothers, stemming from competition in making a living, from the will to control the community, and the wish to have the power to appoint the slaughterers, also prevailed with their descendents. Appointing the slaughterers was a source of major problems, but they circumvented the other disagreements by having separate committees for each part of the community. I remember a major uproar when a third Rabbi was appointed from among the Kosov community, which caused the community to split in the middle, and it deteriorated to a point where people caused physical harm to one another, committing sins and desecrating the Name of God. I was to blame too, as I was not only a passive witness but participated in the preparation, printing and distribution of nasty announcements against the Rabbi, calling for his boycott and excommunication. This dispute lasted for a long time and died out slowly after a special Rabbinical court was appointed (made up of R' Feivel Shrier from Borodshin and R' Yacov from Kolomyja).
A Jewish community can not survive solely with slaughterers and Rabbis who only prayed and had their father's credit, it needs a righteous teacher and a capable judge. Thus each Rabbi had a Jewish Dayan in his synagogue for the purpose of providing their constituents answers to what is right or wrong and judging in monetary disputes. They, like their leaders, hated each other and did not venture out of their respective areas. Each part of the community was careful to ask for a decision solely from its respective leader. (I remember being sent a few times by my grandfather from our house in the suburb to the Rabbi in town and how careful I was not to ask a question from the other Rabbi even though he lived very close to us).
There wasn't a single educational or cultural institute, or an elementary school, or a technical school for Jewish children in our community. In later years when Baron Hirsh sponsored an Elementary Jewish School in town, the citizens did not approve of it, and mainly poor families sent their children there, for the free food and clothing which were handed out there. Not a single social institution or a single charity organization existed in town. The few Zionists who lived in town and followed the "Love of Zion" organization of Tarnow (established by Dr. Zaltz), were not actually accepted into the organization, but only participated in collecting donations for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael during prayers of The Day of Atonement. I recall how fascinated I was by that miserable lonely collection plate with a "For Eretz-Yisrael Settlement" note in it, placed together with a few other plates on a table at the entrance to the synagogue, being ignored by everyone, and no pennies being placed in it. Once, when I noticed the attendants nudging this plate and moving it away from all the others, I had the courage to put it back with all the others, thus becoming its self-proclaimed 'guardian'. With penetrating eyes I looked into the hands of the people, and in my heart I prayed that they would donate a few pennies and would not insult it. In later years when the Zionist movement seeped into all corners of the world, our town too, had a Zionist Group approximately at the same time when a philanthropic group was also formed (called 'Friends for Refuge"), but both did not last long. Apparently, our town was not yet worthy.
This environment did not have a positive effect on the young generation of our town, on its education and on its cultural development. Most of the youth growing up in town were uneducated, uncivilized and later even without Torah. Despite the strict adherence to the Jewish traditional way of life, modern spirits influenced the youth, opened their eyes and diminished their will to continue studying arcane useless subjects. Students in Beit Hamidrash disappeared one by one and moved on to study general studies eventually becoming 'educated' and did not further pursue Torah studies. Nevertheless, their self-acquired education was mostly superficial since it was informal and was not acquired in a methodical organized fashion, and not by a proper teaching staff. Usually, their education consisted of Hebrew books, then progressed to classic German. The Polish language was not required since the surrounding population was Ruthenian - they absorbed very little of what they read, thus not acquiring a valued education, but rather paved the way to cheap literature and the occasional German newspapers.
This situation did not usually cause a change in their way of life. Being 'educated' they still preferred the lazy way of life being supported by their parents until they established their own family, continuing their laziness while now being supported by their in-laws. Only very few dared to leave town and wander into the world, doing it more out of necessity due to personal or family conditions, and not by choice. Most of them prospered in time in their new locations, whether it was Germany or across the ocean, and then forgot their origin. Very few succeeded in becoming community leaders in their own right. My good friend Mr. Yissachar Toy, whose economical success in New York and his vast business activities did not distract him as he kept his Jewish spark and his Zionist past. He became a distinguished figure in the management of "The Galician Pravand" and in the Zionist Organization of New York. He also supported many Hebrew writers and kept in-touch with Eretz-Yisrael where he visited a few times. He did not forget his hometown either, and donated from his fortune to its institutions, especially to the Jewish School. In contrast to Mr. Toy, we note Mr. Yehuda Tilinger also from Zablotow, who caused a great shame to his people and origin. Being a descendant of a well-respected family of Religious Chasidim and a talented scholar, he nevertheless deserted his wife and daughter in Bukovina and immigrated to Germany where he attended university and a rabbinical seminar. He received a Doctorate in Philosophy and served for a short time as a Rabbi and a religious teacher in the community of Nordan in Berlin. Suddenly, an evil spirit took hold of him, he turned away from Judaism and even publicly scorned the Jewish faith and its Torah. I remember the storm created when the news about his behavior reached our town. I read the letter he sent from Germany to his family in Zablotow, in which he pretended to be persecuted by his personal rivals (in particular he mentioned Dr. Maibaum from Berlin). After this incident he disappeared and was forgotten, until he resurfaced later as a Rabbi of a small congregation in a small town in the United States. The American Jewish press uncovered his past, publicly shamed him, and the Rabbinical Council publicly tried him.
The social fabric of the Jewish population in Zablotow did not differ from most other towns of Galicia, especially in Pokutia District. The majority of the population were pragmatic merchants and dealers, store owners or had stands in the City Market, wheelers & dealers of whatever they could get their hands on, roaming the streets aimlessly, looking for an occasional windfall. There were only a few mechanics and artisans who worked all day and into the night in order to support their families. There were a handful of wealthy property owners and rich individuals who dealt in currencies, and interest-baring loans. Then there were the vast number of activists related to religion: Rabanim, Dayan, Kashrut Inspectors, Cantors, Teachers, Gabaim, Scribes, and simple Jews, bums and the poor, all of them were a constant burden on the community.
The community could not support itself, but luckily the town was situated in the midst of many Ukrainian villages. God granted the Jews with the wisdom to declare every Tuesday a Market Day, when all the villagers flocked into town to buy or exchange merchandise. The days prior to Market Day were days of anxiety and preparations. Storeowners were busy restocking and filling their warehouses with items of the season. Some were smart enough to prepare stands and tables for their merchandise in the middle of the City Square. Grain dealers, chicken or cattle merchants ran around looking for "charity" for Market Day. All others who were "potential" dealers fought amongst themselves while eagerly waiting for the market, praying that God Almighty would not forget them and will provide them at least with a chicken for Shabbos, and maybe even with some profit.
The town transformed into a bustling city during Market Days, even if not always attracting the expected results, it still brought many villagers into town. They sold their produce and their cattle, and in exchange bought all they needed for their homes and fields, thus becoming the main source of income for this Jewish town.
Another source of income was the Tobacco factory, one of few which were built in Galicia by the owner of the Tobacco monopoly. The Jewish population did not directly enjoy any profit from the factory since no Jew was found among its many workers or managers. The Jewish population did not choose to refrain from working there, because despite their psychological religious inhibitions it is quite certain that at least few Jews would have been ready to work there, if not for the Polish Authority's strict refusal which stemmed from Anti-Semitism. But indirectly the Jews profited greatly from the factory especially during the first few years of operation, when the workers, mostly Ukrainian peasant, spent their earnings in town. The Jewish owners of restaurants and taverns enjoyed great incomes when the workers spent their earning on lunches. Storekeeper sold their merchandise to the workers who purchased clothing and other necessities, and craftsmen too, earned good incomes. This was especially true during the winter months when the tobacco growers flocked into town with their crops. It usually took a couple of days for them to complete their transactions and in the meantime they lodged in hotels or private homes, drank and dined, spent large sums of money purchasing goods and presents for their families, thus profiting the Jewish population.
This was a mixed blessing for Jews. During that period a new Ruthenian National Movement was established in Galicia which intended to rid itself or the Polish burden. The Poles were the rulers on behalf of the Austrian Government, they oppressed and humiliated the Ruthenians, who in-turn used the helpless Jews as scapegoats. The long existing hatred of the Jews by the Ukrainians blurred the clear vision of the leaders of the new movement and they considered the Jews to be the main cause of the poor economic and political state of the Ruthenian Nation. Their inciting propaganda was directed against the Jews but it did not last, since the Ruthenians were uneducated and scattered all around in isolated farms and villages. Modern means of communication did not yet exist, making it impossible to mobilize them against the Jews. The Tobacco factory was a perfect greenhouse for the new movement and its Anti-Semitic ideas. Like all other industry workers, they were easily convinced to accept the poisonous hatred against the Jews and spread it into their farms and villages. It is therefore not surprising to find that Zablotow was one of the first towns in Galicia where Ukrainian stores where set up to provide business competition with the Jews. It was in Zablotow where the Anti-Semitism theory was developed and flourished, and where Pogroms were carried out against the Jewish population in 1903, exactly when the large pogroms happened in Czarist Russia.
I am not sure whether it was a spur of the moment decision or was it my increasing political and practical sense influenced by recent events, but I remember being the first to understand the urgency of the situation. I convinced a few others and we organized a delegation to Zablotow to investigate in detail what had happened there and record the events while the memory was still fresh. Two other Zionists from Kolomyja joined me, one being a lawyer, and the three of us arrived on the scene as a formal delegation.
The news about the arrival of the delegation spread fast, and within an hour many of the witnesses gathered around, including some of the wounded, and we visited the homes of those who were more seriously wounded. It became immediately apparent, as we had originally suspected, that it was not a spur of the moment outburst of violence against the Jews, but rather it was a well planned and orchestrated instigation which started in the villages by political agents, stemming from the political and economic conditions. The anger of the mass of Ruthenian farmers who were organized into local radical nationalistic groups was directed mainly at the ruling Shlicht (Nobility) who oppressed and humiliated the Ruthenians.
The various local governing bodies who were themselves subordinates of the Shlicht, assisted the Shlicht in the oppression, using the Jews to carry it out. It served them twofold; Firstly, that the Poles were assured a greater majority over the Ruthenians, and secondly, the oppressed and deprived farmers directed all their anger and vengeance towards the Jews and not at the Poles or the ruling Shlicht. It was prepared under the slogan "Hit on the Liachs (Slur for Poles) and the Jews". It was not a surprise that the violence, which was at first directed against the Poles and the Jews, turned solely against the Jews, and was not squashed by the authorities that stood watching from the side. The organizers neglected the political and economical causes of the outbreak, but used the well known "Blood Accusation" yelling "The Jews had slaughtered a woman peasant and hid her". The farmers who came to the market hit and beat the Jews by the orders of the local government officer Skalski, and the storeowner Karschivaski, both native Poles. The Gendarmes, who were called in, took their time, and the Post Officer clerk did not rush to send telegrams calling for help.
Another unexpected thing became apparent to us. Some of the witnesses and the wounded themselves refused to reveal all they knew and refrained from lodging official complaints, whether from fear of retaliation or from the apprehension of monetary losses. It is hard to describe how depressing it was for us to see how, only one day after the Pogrom, the victims themselves wished to conceal and hide the facts. To our dismay we found ourselves, a delegation of outsiders, in the peculiar and very uncomfortable position of trying to assist those who did not wish to be helped at all, and instead of accepting the comfort offered them they were saying: Take your goodwill and spread it elsewhere. We were happy to find a few whom still had the personal courage to come forward, thus we were still able to gather enough written affidavits. It is important to mention that typically those were mainly the mechanics and artisans and the simple Jewish farmers, while the merchants, storekeepers and bartenders usually tended to hide and conceal the facts.
When I returned to Kolomyja with all the material I had collected, I had virtually no one to hand it over to and I realized that I had not concluded my mission but that it had just begun. According to my suggestion, a committee was established to handle the subject, comprising of Dr. Rosenhak as chairman and myself as Secretary. My first action was to publicize it in the local newspapers, and also in the country news, in-order to create public pressure on the authorities not to ignore it, as they had done in similar incidents, but to bring to justice those responsible. The essence of the events was provided to the press and I myself published the main facts in two articles in "Hatsfira" (issues 204 & 218 in 1903).
Another important task of the committee was to appoint a representative in the claims by the Jews who were affected. Union Company of Vienna summoned its Secretary, Mr. Zigmond Fleisher, to Zablotow immediately, and on his way back he passed through Kolomyja and, on his own, appointed the Lawyer Dr. Shor to be their representative in Kolomyja. The appointment did not sit well with Kolomyja's Jewish population, especially since he was the head of the local PPS (Polish Social Democratic Party), and distanced himself from Jews and Judaism. Furthermore, just prior to his appointment, Dr. Shor blamed publicly the Zablotow's Jews themselves for causing the Pogroms by their attitude towards the local farmers. With the intervention of our committee his appointment was canceled by Union Company and handed over to Lawyer Dr. Tchipser, as suggested by our committee.
After five months of great effort by the committee, the instigators of and participants in the Pogroms were brought to court in Kolomyja (in 25.02.1904). The prosecution representing the Jews was properly prepared, and the Press both within Poland and outside, showed interest and covered the progress of the case. The other side did not sit idle either; a group of lawyers headed by the head of the Ruthenian "Sitch" movement, Dr. Trilovski of Kolomyja, handled the defense. Experts to lie and deceit methodically trained the defendants and their witnesses. The Jews were greatly disappointed by the outcome of the trial, which handed the rioters and criminals' only light sentences, while the real instigators were completely acquitted. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that the efforts exerted by the Jews in connection with the trial and the publicity it had received, were not all in vain. No further Pogroms were carried out in Galicia - even those already planned - in this wild and cruel fashion, probably because they realized that somebody is watching them and the Jews knew how to defend themselves, too.
At the conclusion of my involvement with the Pogrom of Zablotow, I published in
"Welt" (issues 10 & 12 in 1905) a summary of the trial and its consequences.
Zablotow between the Two Wars
Few Zionist were there in Zablotow to start with. I remember the night of our great fire of 1911, when most of the houses downtown were gutted - from Zalman Donest's house to the house of Hirsch Leib Nates Zeinreich (our house too, as well as the Rabbi's house, were completely burnt then). That night, 20 of Tamuz, I walked home late at night from the memorial to Hertzl. I still remember the speech: During the month of Tamuz Dr. Hertzl died, and Tamuz means "End of Strength" in Hebrew. But the Zionism as a thriving movement, active in public life started to be active only after the First WW. The first action was the "Nationalrat" at the time of the Ukraine's, when we 'conquered' the community and removed the Gabaim from office. I also remember the first meeting at the City's Beth Midrash (Studet Beth Midrash), with Chaim Toy (Yukiles) getting out shamefully, when he realized whom he had to hand over the rains of the Community to. Rabbi Itsche Tilinger told me right then: Avreme'le, you know that a fresh garlic has strong taste, but it's better to use old one for cooking meat". By that he wished to eliminate the young generation, that was not ready to manage public matters. But the honeymoon of the Zionist rule did not last long. The internal quarrels between the pro Shtudeter Rabbi and the Demycze (Tumizher) rabbi pushed us, the Zionists, outwards and maybe it was for the better, since this way we were free to devote all our energy to pure Zionist matters.
Our town was at the bottom of the pole. The economic situation during these first years after the war was bad, and it dragged the cultural state with it. We hardly managed to open a Jewish school and it took inhuman efforts to balance its budget. Once we were helped by MTT Association of Lewow, and another time a by an American passerby who originated from Zablotow, and donated a certain amount to the school. On the other hand, the Youth movement thrived and we were encouraged by it for our public and cultural activities. It is worth mentioning here the Chanukah and Purim festivals, the garden festivities at Yacov Weich's estate in Tulukov, where the Hachshara Group had stayed and in our Community Hall. The garden festival covered most of the cost of running our group. It also worth mentioning the great library with few languages: German, Hebrew, Polish and Yiddish that helped significantly raising the cultural level of the youth and the public.
Those days - being days of distress and of shortage - when we suddenly stood at a point where we had to close the Jewish school, which had already establish itself, appeared the lovely personality of Reb Yisachar Toy from USA. He arrived then from Israel and came to visit Zablotow full of desire to help needy brethren. At the Zionist Committee we explained to him the situation the school and the city were in. We wished to have the poor kids enrolled in the school, and not only the rich ones, since the poor were the ones who participated in the Zionist youth movement and they were those who immigrated to Israel.
Mr. Yisachar Toy, the good hearted, generous and Zionist activist, promised us not only a hefty monitory assistance, but also took it upon himself, once he returns home, to get the rest of the Jews who originated from Zablotow, to help our school. And so it was. A short time afterwards we received a message that a Committee for the Jewish School in Zablotow was established in the USA. They have collected monies and wanted to purchase a house for our school, which enabled the purchase of the "National House". At the same time that house caused us troubles, since it brought with it quarrels and fights which took of our time and caused a waste of effort and neglect of the main Zionist activity. This is also one of the reasons that during those years the immigration to Israel had dwindled, in contrast to other nearby cities. Nevertheless, we can not diminish the dedicated work that was done over the years by the Zionists in Zablotow. The writer of these lines, one of only few survivors, will not forget the dedication with which the dear friends performed the Zionist tasks in Zablotow.
It is worth mentioning in this opportunity our friend, the dear Zionist, living with us here in Israel, being R' Avraham Gross, who immigrated with his family. Not only one house he sold to get to Israel (before the first WW) and finally made it to Israel in 1922 almost empty-handed (he hardly gathered enough to sell for the expense of the trip). Who will forget his loud thunderous Zionist speeches at the Great Synagogue during the confirmation of the British Mandate - a short time before he immigrated to Israel - "This is the day God has created, we shall rejoice it and be happy". He was the one who established before the war the Yeshiva of Zablotow at the house of R' Elyahu Bergman in Demycze. With his hot temper and warm enthusiasm for every thing cultural and of National essence, he pulled into it the Rabbi of Demycze. Even though modern spirits came out of the Yeshiva, the best people of the town gave it a helping hand. I will mention two interesting incidents from the Yeshiva:
When the Rabbi of Kopitschinsz came to visit Zablotow, we were invited to the Yeshiva. I was in First Grade. The Rabbi entered the classroom and placed me on his lap, I uttered a page of Gemara (Baba Metziah) by heart while R' Avraham Gross stood at the side greening joyously.
Our R' Avraham Gross acting as a manager and a guide, or better as the owner of the Yeshiva, had a special room, where each day he locked himself there and no one knew what he was doing. We were very curious to find out the secret. We did not spear any mischief to find it out, but to no avail. Suddenly, one Thursday night, with Shabbos spirit already upon us, when the studies are a bit lax and we study Torah reading or "Or Chaim", there he was. R' Avraham Gross ceased the lectures and asked all to enter his "secret" room. We stood elated and surprised at the entrance to see the Desert Tabernacle complete from the Tenons (foundations), Curtains, Boards, till the Cover, Table etc. etc. He went over it with us, explaining each and every detail, and it is very hard to explain how hard he worked at it. It goes without saying that all the Jews of our town flocked over to the Yeshiva to witness the wonder.
The Yeshiva did not last long and closed after two years, since his obstacle was his Zionism, which he mentioned on all occasions and opportunity. Even his dances at the Rabbi's house did not stand for him with the people of our city.
I should also mention the house of R' David Hersch Shochet (Gross) including his sons and daughters. That House, with capital letters, had seen everything; the finest Zablotow's Zionism in its inception, the various Youth movements, Zionist singing crowds on Saturday nights, who can not remember these? The first Jewish school, the library, Zionist Yeshivas, Youth meetings and numerous preparations for parties and Zionist events. It all took place in this worm and important house. Mr. Zelig Gross personality shined through, he was the main organizer of the Zablotow's Zionism. We were all his Zionist followers. He was the man behind the establishment of the library in 1918, the backbone of the "Nationalrat" at the time of the Ukraine's. I still remember his first boisterous speech at the founding of the "Nationalrat" with his powerful talk persuading the crowd to join. Throughout his years, till the Nazis murdered him, he sacrificed his complete being and time for Zionism and for the Zablotow community. He was studying in Vienna before the first WW when the Zionist movement engulfed him, he interrupted his studies, and joined the movement with his worm passion. His influence on his surrounding, the youth, the whole town was indescribable, despite his usual poor health state.
I will add few of my best friends, who participated in the Zionist Movement in our town:
Mr. Netanel Goldner (nick named Sani). It was at a very early age when we sat together in Bais Hamidrash of the Stodeter Rabbi learning Gemara, that we became very close friends, loving each other like David and Yonathan. When he returned home as an amputee from the First WW his house was transformed to be the permanent Yeshiva. Not a single day passed in which we did not seat until the late hours of the night, despite me being occupied with my business and many jobs I had. We became known, as Siamese twins, whom one can not survive without the other, like a body with out the soul, or vice versa. It was worth getting dirty in this dear man's dust. He possessed a tremendously vast knowledge both in our ancient literature and in the common literature. He also possessed a surprising and phenomenal memory. He was honest but did not restrain himself from voicing his opinion about anyone and directly to him. He was admired by all; the conscience of our movement. If it became known that Sani promoted or approved an idea, it was instantly agreed by all. This good friend possessed abundance of energy and courage. He was the promoter and the life behind each and every Zionist activity in our town, its institutions, including the Youth movements, library, Jewish school, and also political activities, elections for the Saim, for the community etc. it was he who paved the way. It was all done in Sani's room and I am proud to have been there with him. He was taken to Kolomyja's Ghetto at the conclusion of the cruel destruction of the Zablotow's Jewry, but even there found a way to be active. He carefully wrote down and noted the entire cruelty-taking place in Zablotow, but to our dismay, he too was killed with all the rest. May he rest in peace.
Mr. Yosef Koren. "Silk Yeshiva Student" was his nickname, at the time he was "bought" by one of the riche men, Mr. Zalman Freminger, and wed his eldest daughter, since he was loaded with Torah and general knowledge. Arriving in Zablotow he dedicated his time to Zionism and did not listen to curses and abuses from his close family. He neglected his own business, and supported our cause from his own resources, especially the school and the "National House". Large sums were required to purchase the house, and he loaned money to others so they can pay their dues; these funds were never returned to him. As the eternal "president" of the Zionism in our town he suffered greatly from the quarrels and internal fights. With his soft personality, good heart and irony he managed to find the right words to bring people back together. He always knew to find the center road and show us the avenue to success. It was him who persuaded Zablotow's immigrants in USA to carry the burden of purchasing the house and the institute, so great was his influence and persuasive power on them, especially on R' Yisachr Toy A"H. May he rest in peace.
Days Gone By
By Esther Karsel
The first event I remember was when the first three street lampposts were installed in the main street of Zablotow. We, a group of happy joyous kids, stood there watching those poles as if they were a miracle. Our parents had to drag us away. Another "miracle" was electricity, which was installed for the first time in town in the new fabric factory. Group after group - grownups included - walked to see the sight of electric lights.
Figure 5. The First Pioneer Group from Zablotow in Eretz-Yisrael.
Sitting, right to left: Yehudit Kalman, Ester Karsel.
Standing, right to left: Bony (Avraham) Toy, Shchora Rosenboim, Elchanan Bloishtein.
A Jewish school existed in Zablotow before the First World War where we studied in the afternoons, while the morning were spent in the official Polish School.
I was a toddler when a great fire roared through our town and destroyed most of the houses. I remember a strange thing. A short time before the fire broke out, I heard a strange noise emanating from my parent's room. I found the crib overturned and my younger brother lying on the floor. My father commented that it must be a sign of an approaching disaster, which soon came true.
Zablotow was situated in the battle zone with hard battles being fought around it. It changed hands a few times causing great destruction, and many residents left town. They left their belonging in the hands of the "reliable" Ukrainians and wandered through the Karpathian Mountains to flee the battlefields. Our family wandered for days on end and my mother had to carry her young children alone until we came to a charming Check village, where we spent the rest of the war.
We returned home when Zablotow was freed, only to find it completely destroyed and devastated. In every house the doors, windows, floors etc. were torn out, but the returning residents embarked on rebuilding the town, and in a very short time it was restored and life return to its previous routine.
Figure 6. Ha Shomer Ha Tzair Movement of Zablotow
The first years after the war were a new era in Zablotow. The young men in town joined the Zionist movement and transformed the city into a busy bustling place with many active Zionist Youth Movements, where we trained for life in Eretz-Yisrael. We learned Hebrew, Jewish History, the development of Zionism, fundamentals of Zionist labor, and all of us were eager to leave Zablotow and immigrate to the Land of Our Forefathers. We studied diligently the works of Gretz, Moshe Hess and Martin Buber trying to penetrate and understand problems, which were at first, far removed from us. We will always remember the trips to Humow where we tried to sort things out as much as possible, expressing naively our feelings with Israeli Songs. This is where the decision to immigrate to Eretz-Yisrael and fulfill all these new ideas took place.
When the time came to carry out that decision, one by one avoided it citing all kind of excuses - Parents refusal, incompatibility with life in Eretz-Yisrael and so on. How many tears did my mother shed trying to prevent me from going, but I persisted. The blessed day finally arrived. It was a cold winter day (December 1929), the sled whisked on the slippery ice towards the train station. I turned to look at my house and town for the last time, knowing that I will never return to see them again.
And I did not.
In the fields of the Galilee, the open-spaces of the Yisrael-Valley, the Swamps of Cabra, while paving roads in Judea and Samaryia, I remembered you my town. You had a lot of character; People and events, which forever will stir fond memories and sounds from your every corner
The youth thus dedicated his life to Zionism in town and in the vicinity. Zionism broadened his horizon and gave him a different culture. It was a resurrection of both the body and the spirit. Youth of worthy ancestry became artisans and at once cut off the long tradition stating they didn't wish to be associated with it.
The town of Zablotow was a charming town, most of its people being merchants, surviving mainly on commerce with farmers from the vicinity. Many Gentiles came daily to town to do their commerce, but especially on Tuesdays, being the regular Market days. The town was bustling, every one who could was busy selling merchandise he was not dealing with during the rest of the week. The land situated between the small river and the Pruth River - where the cattle sales were held - was very noisy by the hand clapping of the various merchants. There were plenty of those selling baked goods and questionable quality colored drinks, but the farmers attacked it as if they were the best delicacies. Merchants from the vicinity (especially from Sn'yatin) drove into town with their wagons filled with merchandise. At nightfall when they returned with their owners sitting or lying on the empty boxes, young children roamed the empty area searching the mud for colored beads, which they strung into tradable items like their forefathers.
Sitting at home once, stringing my beads into a purse, I witnessed reading the Yizkor book for those of the Second Immigration wave (to Eretz-Yisrael) who perished on guard duty or at work. The impression this book had on me is unimaginable. It was partially in Yiddish and partly in Polish, and it formulated the realization methods youth followed those days. Reading the book took place in the first pioneer "group" in town (its members were: Bonio Toy, Bozio Lagshtein, Yehudit Kalman, Chana Greif, Batya Bernshtein and Esther Karsel). It was the tenth day in the month of Tevet, I wished to distract myself from the pain of the fast. After completing a row of green beads I felt it left a deep impression - this was a typical phrase heard in our group's discussions held in our home during the long winter nights. I was unintentionally charmed by some of the revelations made in this group, testifying how much they were accepted by the youth. That is how the pioneering idea grasped the youth and directed them towards a stubborn new way.
The core of the movement who managed to fulfill their ideas sent shock waves. A pioneer movement with many splinter groups sprang up in town, reaching its peak with "The Young Guard" (Hashomer Hatza'ir) movement during the years 1926 to 1931. During breaks in the Polish school we organized groups of children, visited homes in the poorer sections of town and took the kids to games which were mainly aimed at providing them with a collective experience. During Shabbos we gathered them for general discussions. The large number of kids who joined, since no other Zionist movement managed to attract them astonished us. We entered the homes of the artisans who were till then under the influence of the "Brotherstavo" ( a local organization headed by Moshe Dunest with the declared object of spreading the Socialist Culture, but actually was busy defaming Zionism) . From these neighborhood we organized a group called "Workers" (Po'alim) where we combined Social ideas with Zionism into a single entity as we understood it and we prepared our trainees/friends to the life of work and communes in Yisrael. It was not easy, we used science, Biology, sociology and psychology to widen their horizon since they did not have formal school education, and they had been working all their young lives.
Just as the youth movement flourished for a few years and was a focal point for the entire active, Zionist movement, so it deteriorated after a few years. It was caused by many reasons but mainly due to the fact that no emigration was allowed and only a few managed to get through (to Eretz Yisrael). All the others, who did not possess the burning fire of rebellion against tradition their forefather's and customs of past generations in their hearts, stayed in town. But no doubt that belonging to the movement has left plenty of values even in the hearts of those dissidents, that lasted forever, and which manifested; a watchful and observant look at what was happening, an honest criticism, desire for simplicity, love of work and cultural awareness.
The peak of pioneer achievement was the establishment of the Hachshara in Tulukov next to Zablotow, where young boys and girls from Zablotow and the vicinity spent the entire day working in the fields and managing the farm itself. Nights were dedicated to cultural activities and in wondering about the first steps that would be required in order to fulfill their dream. Distant Tulukov became very close for a group of young girls, not yet ready for Hachshara. They went daily to Tulukov, short of breath, to witness in awe how the dream was shaping into reality. To hear first hand the experiences of the creator of all that, Bonio Toy, who had his hands in every Zionist pioneering activity in town for 15 years till his bitter demise (He choked to death in a box train-car). Zablotowers considered the Tulukov Project as a wonder and a crime. Many complained about the non-kosher food and strange behavior of the girls (a terrible combination). Whenever a pioneer form Tulukov came to town, people gazed at him with scorn, contempt and ridicule. A tall mountain stood between residents of the town and people from the Hachshara with a small chance of finding fathers with an understanding heart.
There were two places where youth gathered for organized Zionist activities. One was the bridge over the Pruth River and the meadow on both sides, which was the cradle of all activities. The meadow and the river with its permanent soft sound were silent witnesses to the formation of projects welcomed by many. Shabbos walks along the river inspired some glory into the hardships of everyday life. The second was the "Nationalhouse" which was the Zionist house purchased by our emigrants from Zablotow in the United States. The Zionist Movement settled in this house thus getting a permanent residency in town. Now they could demand more fiercely and with honor that people should listen and respond to what they had to offer.
Memory of dear characters who laid the foundations for Jewish- Zionist thought in town, now resurface. They belong to the senior generation who had that special rebellious ability, they neglected their own work and dedicated themselves to hard and dark, daily Zionist work. The first and foremost was Zelig Gross, who possessed the Zionist fire, and his thunderous rebellion against the generation's complacency erupted like a volcano, and his charming touch influenced many to join Zionism. He was one of the only ones whose fiery Zionism did not extinguish in his heart and made him non-partisan. How sad it is that he did not manage to emigrate and share his abundant talent with our country.
Long is the list of the many dear people dedicated to Zionist activity in Zablotow but this platform is too short. My city is now destroyed, no monument can revive the glory hidden in its streets and allies saturated with Jewish life.
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