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[Pages 153-154]

Hashomer Hatzair in Dusiat

By Yoel Zeif

Translated by Judy Grossman

Among those who returned to Lithuania at the end of the WWI were also the first members of Hashomer Hatzair. The emotional and spiritual-cultural baggage they brought with them from Russia inspired the start of the young movement's educational and social thinking and activity.[1]

I became the head of the “ken” [cell or branch], and I was then a youth of fifteen or sixteen. This “ken” was the first in the area. Its official name was: The Union of Jewish ScoutsHashomer Hatzair in Lithuania, The Dusiat Council. We were connected to the movement's center in Kovno [Kaunas]. Our members came mainly from the school, and groups were organized according to age. Ruth (Rasya) Kagan and the sisters Miryam and Henka Slep joined the “privileged” activist group. The sisters Rivka and Rachel Shub were in a younger group, together with my sister Iska and Elka Melamed.

We were Afraid the Sky would Fall …

I remember one Sabbath Eve it turned dark and we decided to turn on the light for the first time. We were so afraid to do so, lest we desecrate the Sabbath. We were afraid the sky would fall! Several people summoned up the courage, we lit the lamp, waited, and nothing happened. When winter came, we were brave enough to heat the room on the Sabbath.

The first pioneers who left the shtetl and immigrated to Eretz Yisrael at the beginning of the 1920s aroused the Zionist pioneering spirit in Dusiat. I remember well, that immediately after Avraham Slep immigrated to Eretz Yisrael, we young people were awakened to pioneering activity. We were a small group: Noah Poritz, Rivka Melamed, Chava and Dov (Berl) Shub and myself. In 1925 or 1926 we began organizing the Hashomer Hatzair branch in our shtetl.

 

Union of Jewish Scouts Hashomer Hatzair in Lithuania, Dusiat Council, June 8, 1927.

From right to left: Rivka Melamed, Noah Poritz, Dvora Levitt (daughter of Chasya-Leah), Dov Shub, Yoel Zeif

 

“A gift to Yosef Yavnai (Slep) and Rivka from Henka Slep.

The council of the Hashomer Hatzair Troop in Dusiat, 1928”.

From right to left: Rachel Blacher, Henya Slep, Yoel Zeif, Chava Shub, Noah Poritz

Yehezkel Bentor: I remember the event of the establishment of the “ken” of Hashomer Hatzair in Dusiat. I was the head of the Second Legion of Hashomer Hatzair in Lithuania, the Panevezys Legion. At that time Rivka Levitt was in Kovno, and there she joined the “movement”. When she came to Dusiat on vacation, together with Yitzchak Poritz she tried to establish a cell there. I was invited to come to tell them about Hashomer Hatzair, and since I was a scoutmaster, I taught them scouting.

In the meantime, Yitzchak Poritz left the shtetl and Yoel Zeif became the head of theken”. I visited Dusiat several times, and also met the members at conventions of the branches.

We used to go on bicycle trips on Saturdays, and that was also desecration of the Sabbath! Such acts provided material for propaganda against Hashomer Hatzair, where they desecrated the Sabbath, and lit… and the shtetl was seething. Although we were “heretics”, it didn't take long before the movement attracted the entire shtetl. Wherever you went people spoke only about Hashomer Hatzair, and the young people who joined it were treated with respect.

At the time there were also other movements in the shtetls of Lithuania, Hechalutz Hatzair and Maccabi, which also tried to set up branches in our shtetl, but to no avail. We didn't allow another movement to set foot in Dusiat, and our young people found their way only in Hashomer Hatzair.

On Lithuania's Independence Day we were invited to take part in the festivities. We, the members of Hashomer Hatzair, would parade through the streets of the shtetl and march in formation like soldiers, and afterwards the parade would be a topic for discussion in Dusiat: “You marched well! You participated well”; and they showed us respect.

The day of the lighting of the fifth Hanukah candle was a big holiday in the movement. We put on a play, made potato latkes, our teachers and all the dignitaries in the shtetl came, and of course, the parents came to see their children's performance.

The Jewish National Fund Box – the “blue box” – had an important role in the movement. Even before then, the box was hung in every house in the shtetl, and the pupils used to go from house to house and empty the boxes. When the movement was established in the shtetl, this task was transferred to it. We found different ways to raise money: before Rosh Hashana (New Year) we would sell calendars, honey and oranges, and on Hanukah we sold Hanukah candles. We sold tickets to plays – and all the income was sacrosanct for KKL - Jewish National Fund.

Batya Aviel (Levitt): I remember that in my time, on the 11th of Adar[2] we used to divide up into groups and go out to sell pictures of the national hero Yosef Trumpeldor. We competed over who would sell more… and what we received went to KKL, of course.

 

JNF Lithuania

60th Jubilee Commemoration

In honor of the Jewish poet genius

Chaim Nachman Bialik, born 10th of Tevet, 5633

 

From right to left, standing; Noah Poritz, Yoel Zeif, Rivka Melamed, Dov (Berl) Shub
Seated: Chava Shub and Rasya Glick (holding the picture of Yosef Trumpeldor)

 


Footnotes

  1. [53] Me'reshit ad Acharit: Sefer Korot Hashomer Hatzair B'Lita, p. 18, Hakibbutz Ha'Artzi Hashomer Hatzair, 1986. [From Beginning to End: the History of the Hashomer Hatzair Movement in Lithuania.] Return

  2. Adar is the sixth month of the Jewish calendar. The 11th day is the commemoration of the fall of Yosef Trumpeldor while defending Tel Hai (1920). Return

 

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