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Jewish Sporting Activity in Mezritsh {cont.}

[Page 563]

When he came home for Passover in 1924, Widra directed the play “He Who Gets Slapped” by Leonid Andreyev. Gavriel Szapira, Berl Manperl, Widra, Sonia Feldman, Solsky[4] and many others took part. The leading role was played by Gavriel Szapira. The entire set, including the makeup, was brought from the Vilna Troupe.

The sports activities of the club were directed by Mordechai Berman on the premises of a former factory in Radziner Way, as well as in a yard.

Youth came every evening, practiced gymnastics with various pieces of equipment, and also played sporting games. The chief instructor was Moshe Zauberman. He came from Warsaw[5], where he was involved with the local Maccabi[6].

Participation was low. The football games were not as popular after the playing field on the Warsaw Highway was liquidated. The cultural center housed at Moshe Reichman's flat was also closed due to factional friction. The football group played wherever they were allowed – in the sand on Radziner Way, and in Stolpno, where local hooligans always threw stones at the players.

In 1928, there was a turning point and a revival of the Jewish Sports Club. Many active youths left Hashomer Hatzair and joined the Communists. These people saw the chance to use the sports club to conduct cultural and political publicity work alongside the sporting activities.

This was an explicit plan of the left leaning youth – registration, en masse, in the sports club. By the time the club's management realized what was going on, the Communists had seized control.

The era from 1928 – 1933 was the most dynamic. New members became actively involved, including Feivel Najsztejn, Nachum Zyto, Velvel Hecht, Isser Ejdelman, Szimon Fiterman, Yosele Migdal, Pinia Tugender, Pesach Boksenbojm, the writer of these lines, and many others.

There were approximately 300 members in the club. All were active participants in the various sports activities. Gymnastics was obligatory. Football, basketball and volleyball players were divided into groups. Many members participated in lighter athletic activities such as running, jumping, and throwing. Among them, Yitzhak Laufer, Avraham Szedlarsz, Szlomo Zelonka and others excelled.

Bicycle and swimming races often took place. During that time, the gymnastics teacher from the Polish gimnazjum often helped to further the sports activities [of the Jewish Sports Club].

[Page 564]

He was a passionate, avid sportsman, who did not discriminate based on national or political affiliation. He introduced various competitions between the Polish gimnazjum and the Jewish Sports Club. One of these took place in the summer of 1930 in the field of the Polish gimnazjum. Izakl Pogoszeliec took first place in the 100-meter sprint. The writer of these lines took part in pole vaulting.

mie564.jpg [33 KB] - A group of tournament players
A group of tournament players from the Jewish Sports Club
with their instructor A. Blutstajn

With very limited means and in a very brief time, the sports club developed and nurtured a nucleus of instructors who directed the sports groups. These included Yossel Lewin who reached a very high level, Pinia Tugender, Berl Erdfarb, Fiterman[7], and others.

In the summer months, people were involved mainly with sporting events, light athletics, and hiking through the nearby forests. In the winter months people competed in the headquarters. Then the well-known Turnfest[8] were started, which became very popular in Mezritsh.

The Turnfest took place during the days of Passover in the Olympia firemen's hall, where there were men and women's groups with implements and ladders. During the first Turnfest, there was a ping-pong match between the two best players, Szlomo Zelonka and Yosele Migdal (Fiterman).

[Page 565]

The final Turnfest made a special impression. The Roza women's group excelled in a rhythmic dance accompanied by the orchestra conducted by Yentshe Wajnapel.

Almost every Sabbath, a dance evening or a reading session with discussions took place in the club.

mie565.jpg [33 KB] - The Morgensztern women's group
The Morgensztern women's group in the sports club
with their instructor A. Fiterman

(Szmuel the Vissn's son[9])

An especially important chapter in the sports life of Mezritsh was the establishment of the football field on May 3rd Street in 1931/1932.

The sports activists in town had approached the mayor several times, requesting that the city make available to the club a field for football games. The mayor rejected the request as unnecessary. He stated that he was already over 70 years old and had never taken part in sports.

When the city council finally rejected the request, the activists within the Jewish Sports Club decided to rely on their own prowess to build a football field. A committee formulated a plan. The primary obstacle was raising money.

With great success, subscription tickets were distributed for all of the sports events. This brought in a significant sum of money.

[Page 566]

Special dance evenings and various lotteries were also organized.

The committee conducted a lengthy search for an appropriate site close to the city. There was no talk of purchasing the site. With its meager financial means, the Sports Club was able to rent a field from a farmer for five years, with the option of extending.

During Shavuot, the members, with their own hands, erected a fence, flattened the ground, set up a few rows of benches around the place, set up stalls with boxes[10], and arranged the uniforms.

The football team and the orchestra of the 34th Pulk Piechoty[11] were brought from Biala Podlaska for the solemn opening ceremonies. The entire city participated in the festivities.

I want to make it clear to the readers that all the sporting activities of the J.S.C. were conducted under the direction of its own instructors and trainers. The club did not belong to any central organization.

The club was under the scrutiny of the political police. As the activities of the club grew, and esteem for the club within the community swelled, the scrutiny increased as well.

All of the football groups from other clubs had to rent the field from the J.S.C. and made use of the free day when the J.S.C. did not play. The Staszeliec Polish football club was quite perturbed at having to request the use of the field from a Jewish organization, especially a left-leaning one. In addition, anti-Semitism was increasing during that era. Rumors spread that the club received money from Moscow.

From day to day the club members felt the ground was burning under their feet. It was a shame that such a fine, important youth organization was to be destroyed. The leadership of the J.S.C consulted with sympathetic people in the community who were not under police surveillance, such as Leah Diment, Mejer Podoljak, and Lyowa Frydman. They were able to petition the powiat [county] for a permit for a non-partisan club named Jewish Sports and Scouting Organization. When the authorities prohibited the activities of the J.S.C., all of the members automatically registered for the new club, which was set up in Zauberman's orchard[12].

Sporting and cultural activity expanded in the new location. New people, such as the teacher Fejgel Pawajn, Mischa and Lyowa Frydman, and Leah Diment were attracted to the sports and cultural activities offered by the Jewish Sports and Scouting Organization.

[Page 567]

Furthermore, the sporting facilities were better, with more appropriate settings for basketball and volleyball.

One of the finest accomplishments was the improvement made to a pond in [Moshe Zauberman's] orchard to accommodate skating with lizszes[13] in the winter months. The pond was lit up with electric lights, and there was musical accompaniment. The working youth were able to skate in the evenings.

In 1935, the police liquidated the Zh.K.S.S. [the Jewish Sports and Scouting Organization] as well. Some of the members joined Morgensztern.

When the non-partisan Jewish sport club fell apart due to the political strictures and conflicts, each political faction took care of their own sports needs. Morgensztern was set up by the Bund, Hapoel by the Poale Zion, and Beitar by the Revisionists[14].

The Zukunft [future (Ger.)] youth organization of the Bund at first took part in gymnastics in the headquarters of the bristle-cooperative in Wajzglus'[15] yard. The activists and instructors were: Szmilka Wisznia, Yankele Muszynski, Chaim Bojgman, Yisraelke Kawa, Yehoshua Zdanowicz, Golda Cukierman, Yitzchak Kogut, and others. The Oksenhorn brothers, Arke Epsztejn, the Lederman brothers, Grynberg[16], and others played in the football group.

A revival began when they [Zukunft] affiliated with the Morgensztern headquarters in Warsaw, which extended activities into additional areas, such as basketball and volleyball. From time to time, the central headquarters offered courses for instructors, in which the instructors Avraham Fiterman and Arke Epsztejn participated. During these courses, a great deal was accomplished in the area of combined gymnastics exercises with various instruments and apparatuses, which were used successfully during the annual Turnfest in Mezritsh.

As has been mentioned, other political parties also conducted sports activities for their youth. Hapoel, under the auspices of the Poale Zion party, had a football group, a gymnastics group, and others. Their activities were conducted in the Poale Zion headquarters. The founders and supporters were Eliezer Perkelwald, Turkeltaub[17], Velvel Edelsztejn, Alter Rozenbojm, Velvel Zegelbojm, Itzke Wisznia, Rafael Goldsztajn, Szlomo Wernik, Velvel Wajnberg, and Markel Tabakman. The last two also participated in an instructor's course at the Warsaw Hapoel.

Beitar conducted its activity in the Revisionist Party headquarters at Rogoszyk's[18]. There were several exceptional players in their football group.

In general, Jewish sporting activity in Mezritsh declined when the Jewish Sports Club was abolished and the football field was closed down.

[Page 568]

This situation persisted until the outbreak of the war, during which many young, healthy sportsmen were killed, including Velvel Hecht, Szimon Fiterman, Avraham Fiterman, Yehoshua Lederman, Chaim Grynbaum, Moshe Rojzman (Epele), Yossel Lewin, Pinia Tugender, Moshe Skura and many, many others.

mie568.jpg [33 KB] - The First committee of Hapoel in Mezritsh
The First committee of Hapoel in Mezritsh
In the photo: Judel Zilberman, Markel Tabakman, Lejzer Perkelwald, Chaim Turkeltaub, and others
[September 23rd, 1933]

Translator's and editor's footnotes
  1. No given name for Solsky is provided. return
  2. Moshe Zauberman was born in Mezritsh to a longtime Mezritsher family that owned a farm in Stolpno, a non-Jewish area of town on the south side of the Krzna River, which bisects the town. return
  3. Maccabi – A Jewish sports league. return
  4. No given name for Fiterman is provided, and could refer to either Avraham Fiterman or Szimon Fiterman, both of whom are mentioned elsewhere in this chapter. return
  5. Turnfest (German) – a gymnastic competition. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, all kinds of physical exercise, including football, running and long and high jump were included as "gymnastics". return
  6. Szmuel the Vissn's Son – This nickname may mean the son of 'the knowledgeable person'. return
  7. “Stalls with boxes” – refers to a type of dugout or team changing room. return
  8. 34th Pulk Piechoty – refers to the 34th Infantry Regiment of the Polish Army, which was stationed in Biala Podlaska from 1919-1939. return
  9. “Zauberman's orchard” – refers to the farm and orchard owned and operated by Moshe Zauberman in Stolpno. return
  10. Lizszes - is from the Russian word for skis. This may refer to some form of cross-country skiing. return
  11. Reference is made to several Jewish political organizations: Bund – the Jewish Socialist Party; Poalei Zion – the Marxist Zionist Labor Party; Revisionists – probably refers to the New Zionist Organization founded by Ze'ev Jabotinsky which was focused free immigration to and the establishment of a Jewish State. return
  12. No given name for Wajzglus is provided. return
  13. No given name for Grynberg is provided. return
  14. 17. No given name for Turkeltaub is provided. return
  15. No given name for Rogoszyk is provided. return

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