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[Page 483]

On the Movement “Gordonia

by Icchak Bitner

Translated by Miriam Kreiter

Edited by Renee Miller

In 1924 the party “Association” organized youth groups from different layers of the population – from the circles of the Orthodox to the assimilated and also from other social classes – students and workers.

Later, in 1925 a youth movement of scouts was established in Poland in the name of A. D. Gordon that became a world movement. “The Youth of the Association” of Sandz joined the movement. The organizing and cultural activities were conducted by members of the “Association” who devoted their hearts and souls to it. Boys and girls of religious parents came to the meetings and lectures in secret, fearing their parents and relatives, in order to hear about Eretz Israel, to study Hebrew and to spend an evening together with other young people, in a pioneering atmosphere.

The initial meetings took place on Dlugosza Street in the halls of the Hebrew school Bes Sfer Evri Sfa Berura” [“Clear Language Hebrew School”] where Hebrew lessons were held. Every evening many young people gathered to learn the Hebrew language, the history of Zionism as well as general subjects. The general conversations on the Sabbath and during holidays were held in the of the “Ezra” association's [after Ezra and Nehemiah who led the Jewish people] hall on Jagiellonska Street.

As the activities continued, visiting members from the “Gordonia” center in Lwow provided help in the form of guidance. Very often, Yeshayahu Shapiro, a member of the executive committee would visit (later, he became one of the founders of Kibbutz Halala, and now is Deputy Director of the radio in Israel)

In August of 1926, the first summer camp of the entire district took place in the village of Chronów in the neighborhood of Sandz. The camp was a significant event in the history of the movement. On the Sabbath, many of the members of the “Association” and “Gordonia” led trips to the summer camp in order to spend a few hours in the scouting atmosphere and to make contact with the youth and the counselors from other branches.

When in the fall of that year (1926), the branch was moved to another place, the group continued with
the “Association” on Szybzcke [spelling?] Street. There, they had opportunities to concentrate activities in one place, and to extend the organizational and educational activities in all areas. The branch was situated in the vicinity of the Jewish neighborhood and the front of it faced the river Dunajec.

The youth of “Gordonia” went through various periods of great activity, leaving for training, organizing new branches in the neighborhood, and creating a training center in the city. There were also important points in the activity of the movement: when the first group left for training in the spring of 1929 to Milnica (?) on the border of Romania, or when the first members made aliyah [emigration to Eretz Israel]. However, there were also periods of deterioration of activity, tension, mainly after the publication of the “White Paper” in 1929 and when aliyah to Eretz Israel was interrupted*. But the decline in activity did not last too long. The youth that had seen its future in aliyah and in the realization of Zionist ideals, knew how to overcome the crisis in the pioneering movement and return to devoting oneself to the work. Whoever came to the branch felt immediately that there was an organized group of youth, and older members with a profound pioneering consciousness, carrying out functions of guiding and teaching. Conversations were going on in every room; there were lectures in the auditorium, study groups and individuals studying in every corner of the room. If the space was too narrow, groups with their teachers would go down to the garden or to lake “Venezia”.

* The Passfield White Paper, issued by the colonel secretary Lord Passfield (Sidney Webb), was a formal statement of British policy in Palestine made in the aftermath of the 1929 riots. The Hope-Simpson Report had recommended that such a statement be made, in the hopes of clarifying unresolved questions concerning the British Mandate for Palestine and the Balfour Declaration. The paper was issued in October, 1930, and like the Hope-Simpson Report, was considered very favorable for the Arabs. -Jewish Virtual Library


[Page 484]

The members of “Gordonia” participated in every Zionist activity in the city: collections, contributions to funds, cultural activities and aid funds. The members were tied to the Jewish people by strong links. They perceived themselves as pioneers and messengers of the people.

Each year on the 24th of Shevat, together with members of the “Association” (Hitachdut), they conducted a memorial for Aharon David Gordon [Russian-born Zionist (1856-1922) spiritual leader of the Palestinian Jewish labor movement. - answers.com]. These memorial meetings were full of content: pictures of life in the land of Israel, readings and evaluations of A. D. Gordon by members of the executive of the “Association”or from a member of the Board of “Gordonia”. On A. D. Gordon's 75th birthday, a theatrical production entitled “Two Melodies” was performed. Usually, for lack of space in any of the Jewish halls, these performances would take place in the auditorium of the Evangelical Congregation. This time the hall was too small to contain the large public audience. The Hebrew speakers, especially, demanded a repeat performance of the play. The great success of the performance, stimulated the members to establish a Hebrew drama group. This group was led by engineer Salpeter who had directed the performance of “Two Melodies.”

The memorial for Herzl on the 2nd of Tamuz was organized together with other youth movements and also with the participation of the townspeople.

One of the marvelous activities in which the members of “Gordonia” participated, was in the framework of the League for a Working Land of Israel. The League was active in the collection of funds and also in the public sector, through the spread of information at public gatherings. In connection with the League's activities, representatives of Labor Associated worked in the city. It was a blessing for our activities.

It is worth mentioning two events that occurred at that time, and were a terrible shock for the young people. One was in 1929 when the first news about the riots in Hebron and Safed became known. The news arrived, as usual, in the newspapers, in the morning hours. Without calling members to a meeting, all of them came together in the branch offices during the day, in order to give expression to their sadness and share in the fate of the Jewish settlements in the Land of Israel. The wall decorations were removed.

The second event was local, and symbolized the youth's link to the country. In 1934, our town was the site of terrible floods. Many Jewish families from the poor section who lived near the rivers Dunajec and Kamienica were made homeless and lost everything. The youth, as it were, harnessed themselves to the task of giving aid to the victims, and no other work was done in the branch for many, many weeks. Everyone was occupied with collecting clothing, shoes and food items, and then with their distribution among the needy. There were young people who gave away their new clothes to the needy and they themselves wore used clothing. The branch became a center where the activities of the youth on behalf of the needy were concentrated.

After having worked for months on the making of a flag and the preparations for a party, the members of “Gordonia” dedicated the flag of the branch during Sukkot, 1934. The party took place in one of the large squares in the city, with the participation of the branches and all segments of the city's Jewish population.

The members guarded the flag. They saw in it, a symbol of belonging to a great movement. On holidays and during parties they carried the flag high above. If a messenger from Israel visited the branch, he was given the honor of sticking an honor nail in the flag. This was connected with the ritual and with a festive parade.

However, only a few were privileged to realize their dream to make aliyah to the Land of Israel.

[Page 485]

Two Images:

The “Gordonia” Movement in Sandz

Opportunities for aliyah were very limited. In the middle of energetic activity and the struggle for each certificate, the Shoah [the Destruction] came in 1939. Only a few succeeded in escaping from the hell.

Trembling, we mention the members who were active in “Gordonia” in Nowy Sacz from the beginning, at its inception until the Destruction. They themselves were not privileged to survive: Yehezkiel Gutreich, Shlomo Tiefer, Ita Fuhrer, Ida Weinberg, Dovid Rappaport, Esther Blaugrund, Sima Landau, Naftali Flink, Fruma Wagschal, Yehezkiel Rabinowicz and many other members.

We will carry their precious memory in our hearts with feelings of love and of honor.


[Page 486]

The Zionist Youth Movement

by Icchak Bitner

Translated by Miriam Kreiter

Edited by Renee Miller

In 1930, a group of working and studying young people organized within the framework of the Hebrew youth movement. The movement was founded in Galicia and its center was in Lwow. This movement that later joined with organizations in other parts of Poland, changed its name to “Zionist Youth”. It was founded on three principles:
  1. General Zionism which is classless

  2. Scout training

  3. Pioneering
The local board of the General Zionists placed the club “Ezra” in the Englander home, to be used by the branch (in the concept of the movement – the nest) in Nowy Sacz.

The first members of the movement in the city were the following: Hanoch Sprei of blessed memory, Feiga Eisen (Hadar), Leon Lustig, Naftali Folkman, Moshe Weinberger (NIV) [?], Yechezkiel Kornreich (Dagan), Bronka Kornreich of blessed memory, Sara Kornreich, Menashe Mendel (Shaked), Ben Zion [Metzler, Matzler ??], of blessed memory, the brothers Margulies, Sonia Bar (Bergman), Tonka Binder and others.

Members of the local leadership, who had been trained in the summer camps of the movement, were dedicated to it with all their enthusiasm, giving the best of their energy and ability every evening for many hours.

Loyal to the idea of self-realization, the first members of the nest made aliyah. Those who made aliyah in 1932 were: Hanoch Sprei of blessed memory, (he was killed in 1937 while testing out weapons for Haganah), Feiga Eisen who joined the movement's kibbutz in Petach Tikveh.

The nest developed with a great upswing and reached 400 members in 1933. The members came from all layers of the Jewish population in the city. The activities had expanded and the club room became too small and insufficient for them. The members rented a building for the club that would permit the expansion of their activities.

[Pages 487 & 488]

The wrapper and title page of the first number of the monthly
publication “Hanoar Hatsyoni” in Sandz, “Itoneynu” [“Our Newspaper”], 1933
[In Polish-ed.]

[Page 489]

The nest was organized in groups according to age, and received Zionist pioneering education .

Every Saturday there was an inspection and an oneg shabat [pleasure of the Sabbath] in the evening in the club. Sometimes there were regional conferences and outings. Every year summer camp was organized. Basic to the educational activities, were the Hebrew classes conducted throughout the year. There was also a drama circle that succeeded in presenting various plays.

The members took part in all areas of Zionist activity in the city, such as: keren kayemet leYisrael [Jewish National Fund], and the local activists took upon themselves to organize branches in neighboring places such as: Krynica, Moœciny, Stary Sacz.

A monthly in Polish entitled “Our Newspaper” was published. It was edited and written by members of the nest and financed by the sale of ads in the city without any outside financial aid.

In 1934, with great fanfare, the nest celebrated the consecration of the flag. Great effort had been invested in the preparation of the splendid flag. Many of the personalities invited to the event were honored by having them place a nail in the flag. Among the participants were the Zionist leaders in Poland, the mayor and government representatives. There was a festive roll call, and an impressive parade took place in the city streets. Considerable aid for all the activities of the nest was given to the movement by the heads of the Zionist movement in the city: Mr. Syrop, Dr. Tisch, and Mr. Binder of blessed memory and others.

In 1934, Ben Zion [Metzler, Matzler ??], of blessed memory, made aliyah (he was killed in the War of Independence in Jerusalem). In 1935, Naftali Folkman, Isachar Teitelbaum (Tamri), Moshe Weinberger and Jacob Lustig of blessed memory, made aliyah.

In 1936 Menashe Mendel (Shaked), Tonka Binder, Gita Binder and others made aliyah.

Image (of a large group):

Hanoar Hatsyoni” - 1935

[Page 490]

After aliyah of the members of the nest, the activities continued under the leadership of a new group of executives from among the young members of the movement: Moshe Green, Sara Englander, Yulik Perlich, of blessed memory, Tenka Folkman and others. The nest continued its activities until the shoah [the destruction].

When the flag was consecrated in 1934, the monthly “Itoneynu” wrote: “The flag will serve as a symbol, a guide; it will unite us toward the goal – establishment of a Jewish State and the redemption of our people. We believe that we will have the flag in our homeland.”

Not all the members lived to see it. Many were murdered by the Nazis. Let their spilled blood be avenged and their memory be for a blessing”.

(From the notebook of the veterans of the movement)


[Page 490]

Beni Zion (The Sons of Zion)

by Blima Kampler

Translated by Miriam Kreiter

Edited by Renee Miller

In 1933 a Zionist organization of adult youth was founded named “Bnei Zion”. The organization had as its goal to draw the uncommitted youth from assimilated circles to Zionism. The head of the organization at its inception was Levy Kolber, who was murdered by the Nazis, and later on, until the outbreak of the Second World War - Herman Kempler who made aliyah.

The number of members of the organization reached one hundred. The Department of Public Information and Scholarship included lectures and and talks on the history of the Jewish people, history of Zionism, Hebrew literature and geography. There were courses given on the Hebrew language and a seminar on the bible under the guidance of the late Dr. Tisch. The organization also dealt with pioneer training and some of the members made aliyah.

Members of the organization actively participated in the institutions of the Zionist movement in the city, such as the Committee for the Foundation Fund, the committee “Aid to Pioneers”, the library, Zionist committees for city and country elections, etc. For a time, the organization published “Leor” [“In the Light”] edited by its member-students.

To our great misfortune, most of the members of “Bnei Zion” died in the destruction along with other brothers and sisters of the Sandzer community.


[Page 491]

Youth and Hope - The “Dror” (Freedom) Movement in Sandz

by Benny Luks

Translated by Miriam Kreiter

Edited by Renee Miller

“In the Jordan and Samaria
The Arabs reside,
This land will be ours!
You, too, will be among the builders”

(Tchernichovsky)

Two rivers surrounded and crossed the city in various places, and iron bridges were hanging above them. These rivers received their waters from the high mountains that were eternally covered with snow.

The Carpathian Mountains that extended the length of the city and faced the border of Czechoslovakia. They were the ones that nourished the rivers and even caused floods once the show had melted. The floods caused nightmares since the city was not ready for them in spite of the fact that they occurred frequently.

Around the city there were extensive fields where farmers were sowing and harvesting. We were very far from doing any field work. Farm work, growing of vegetables and potatoes and supplying food to the city was considered the duty of neighboring farm workers.

This was the background for the activities of the representatives of the movement in the centers or in the Land of Israel.

That is how ideological harmony was developed among the youth who were involved with the idea of aliyah to the land of Israel and agricultural labor in the fields.

From the ideological point of view, these ideas were thoroughly assimilated into the brains of the young people. But so far, these ideas had no base for concrete action.

The youth movements were struggling with these ideas, but as yet, they had not found a solution.

The leftist party of the Zionist Workers, had a substantial youth movement, evening schools, a large rich library, a sports establishment, and a serious group of guidance counselors. Yet they were against Hebrew language instruction. They did no participate in fund-raising for the National Funds because they felt that it was inappropriate for a labor movement – it was an activity for bourgeois workers.

The young people accepted this explanation in total innocence, Moreover, this attitude frequently resulted in unwanted actions.

In contrast, the other Zionist youth organizations began extensive activity among the local youth, disseminating the ideal of Zionist pioneering and the settlement in the communes in the Land of Israel.

The pioneering movements Hechalutz, Dror, Gordonia, and Hashomer Hatzair established youth circles, each according to their individual styles, that developed and grew.

A very strong link developed between these branches and the Land of Israel. Letters from the few members who managed to make aliyah were read in the assemblies and in conversations among the educational groups, read with a great thirst.

[Page 492]

The extensive educational activity in the area of studying the Hebrew language and Hebrew poetry, the fund-raising activity, self-training for physical labor within the training settlements were like living in desolation with no way out.

The social life within the youth movements was very attractive to the young who were full of enthusiasm. Here they found an ambiance in learning, conversation, playing and in trips in the hill country of beautiful landscape. The trips had an especially great effect on the participants.

The extensive trips in the Tatras Mountains were full of adventure and increased the spark of comradeship among the members. There they trained in orientation the thick of the forests, in their ability to stand up, in self-determination and self-help. The successful ending of a trip brought with it the anticipation of future outings.

There was great significance to visits of representatives from the Land of Israel and they made a great impression on us. The visit of Yehuda Kopelowitz (Almog [an Israeli settlement -ed.]) is engraved in our memory. He appeared at all branches of the Labor movement. His messianic enthusiasm, the simplicity and sincerity with which he approached everyone, and his dedication to everyone, his stories about Trumpeldor [Yosef Trumpeldor, one of the great heroes of modern Jewish history], and his fall in the defense of Tel-Chai - - all this had the power to awaken great admiration for him in the hearts of the young people. This strengthened their desire to make aliyah and to sacrifice their lives on the altar of rebuilding the country and in its defense.

At times, one would imagine that it was too late for the unique opportunity to give one's life for the Land of Israel. Many reflected in their hearts:”Too bad I was not in the Land of Israel in the time of Trumpeldor”.

The stories, the letters about the members of “Hashomer” and the reading of the book of “Remembrance” fashioned the personality of the children – young people. They were inspired by the actions of the movement and its members in the Land of Israel. They were proud of it all. They felt that there in the Land of Israel the youth walked proudly with their heads held high.

These thoughts and feelings did not become reality, but they were sufficient to link the youth with strong ties to the movement and to identification with it without reservation.

With unusual loyalty, every moment of leisure was dedicated to the movement. Personal ties were created; here the members learned about each new enterprise in the Land of Israel, about the construction of the electric station, about the struggle for Hebrew labor, property edicts issued by the British Mandate government, about the aliyah to Hamtah.

The stories, the letters about the members of “Hashomer” and the reading of the book of “Remembrance” fashioned the personality of the children – young people. They were inspired by the actions of the movement and its members in the Land of Israel. They were proud of it all. They felt that there in the Land of Israel the youth walked proudly with their heads held high.

These thoughts and feelings did not become reality, but they were sufficient to link the youth to the movement with strong ties and to identification with it without reservation.

All this strengthened the resolution of the members to stand by the movement in its efforts to build the land of Israel. Many of them trained in various locations acquiring pioneering skills. Most of them were in eastern Galicia when the movement had first made strides in that direction. After a time, in 1933, the youth movement “Dror” established the first training center in Nowy Sacz, with a group of 30 members This center drew members of other youth movements in the city. The group made serious efforts to maintain itself, to establish a social and cultural framework. They tried to find work for members while they trained for hard labor in advance of their departure for the land of Israel.

The Jewish population in the city did not show any special interest in this pioneering venture and did not extend help the community needed to survive. The one exception was the Zionist Labor Party. They considered the Kibbutz as flesh of their flesh, and they did everything in their power to strengthen the kibbutz, and they were successful. And then came1933 – the year that Hitler assumed power in Germany. As yet, no one realized what the future held for the Jews. But the Zionist youth reacted with a healthy instinct and participated in the training in the hope of making aliyah. In fact,many achieved their goal. These years were the peak of aliyah to the land of Israel. However, many who applied for training had to be turned away for lack of space. These remained outside the training framework.

The massive aliyah brought resistance from the Arabs and in 1936 disturbances broke out and lasted until 1939. As a result of Arab pressure, and mainly as an excuse, the British government issued a White Paper reducing aliyah to a minimum (15,000 per annum).Before we were able to organize efficient resistance to the White Paper -non-collaboration with the British government – the Second World War broke out, and with it the Shoah.

That was the end of the hope of thousands of pioneers to make aliyah and to devote themselves to the building of the country.

Image:

A Group of HeHalutz in 1927

From the top down, from right to left: first row: Eydl Meir Seifert, Baruch Lipscher
Second row: Yosl Rosenfeld, Mendl Klapholz, Yekl Englander
Third row: Noah Fishler, Avigdor Goldfinger, Birkenbaum
Fourth row: Unknown, Chaim Borgenicht, Abraham Peterfreund, Drexler, unknown

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