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[Page 123]

Literary-Artistic Activity

Motl Mordecai Lenchintzky – Buenos Aires
Shmuel Eliyahu Zygelman – Milwaukee

After the Revolution of 1905, when the “Reaction” was rampant in Poland and politically related work was forbidden, there arose throughout the country a network of literary-musical societies. Also in Piotrkow, in 1908, the “Hazamir” Society was founded. Serving on its executive board were the Poznansky brothers, Marcus Litmanovitch, M. Lenchintzky, M. Berliner, Shmuel Eliyahu Zygelman and Mrs. Ginsburg. The Zionist, Meyrand, was the president. Among the organizers were also Engineer Yoel Izak, Dr. Zygmunt Feiner, Adolph Pansky, Lawyer Zilbershtein and the well-known community and Zionist leader, Michl Hertz. For a period of time, the great philanthropist, “Maskil,” and founder of the Zionist “Aguda,” Moysh'l Sheresehvsky of Wola-Krishtoporska, was president.

The society organized a chorus under the direction of the bandleader of the Russian Military Regiment, David Karagadski, and later under the direction of the conductor and composer M. Bensman; following him was the composer Leo Kopf, conducting the large symphonic chorus of the “Ikuf.”

The organization was located in Shmaragd's house on Rynek-Trybunalski near the rotating pump. Choral concerts, in the form of family entertainment, took place. They sang Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish songs. Every concert started with “Hatikva.” There was also a violin quartet, with G. Shvartsnsteyn as soloist. The chorus was composed of workers. At every concert, soloists performed; among them were Motl Lenchitzky, Ms. Ginsburg, Ms. Sarne, Mendl Rosenzweig, with piano solos by Mr. L. Cohen, G. Pansky and G. Zusman. The dramatic circle was directed by Ch. Granat. The concerts were performed in Meyer Hertz's Hall on Garntsarska Street.

In May, 1910, a grand concert took place in Sphane's Theater (at that time, the largest theater hall in the city, located on Bykovska Street in the same building as his beer brewery; the latter passed into the hands of his son-in-law, Braulinski). Among the participants was the reciter from Warsaw, Mrs. Z. Hantshak. It was a very rich program.

An upheaval in the management committee was related to this concert: the management elected to have, as part of the program, the song “Mishmar Hayarden,” thereby avoiding the singing of the national-Zionist “Hatikva” at the opening. But the chorus began, as usual, with the “Hatikva,” and this shook up all the assimilationists who were on the management committee, causing them to resign from the committee.

In June of the same year, the “Hazamir” conducted a festive celebration in honor of the Shpilfogel-Shereshevski family in Wola-Krishtoporska. The chorus and members, as well as the invited guests, spent an entire day enjoying various entertainments, such as singing and dancing, with the participation of an orchestra. A buffet was provided entirely complimentarily.

The dramatic section featured such talented members as Chaim Eleazar Dubeck, Motl Lenchitzki, Mendl Rosenzweig and others. The question of language caused great conflicts: some wanted to “Polonize” the “Hazamir.” The Yiddishists wanted to be far from the Hebrew culture because it smacked of Zionism. The friction became stronger and stronger. The supporters of “Polonizing” the “Hazamir,” the assimilationists, were the affluent members of the committee; they were the first to leave and also refused to give further financial help to the institution.

A new committee was created, one whose disposition was national. Two members of the chorus were also included in the committee: Sh. A. Zigelman and the singer Zigmuntovitch. Mr. Levin, from Vilna, was invited to direct the dramatic section.

Unable to continue financially without its rich members, the “Hazamir” began to go downhill until it ultimately dissolved. The entire inventory was transferred to the domain of the Jewish Kehila. As a result of this, the “Hazamir's” first chapter ended in 1912. The cultural activity, however, was not severed. It was conducted sporadically by arranging performances, concerts, and entertainment evenings from time to time, with a rich program of recitations and songs for the benefit of charitable organizations such as “Linat Hatsedek,” “Bikur Cholim” and others, which sought sources of income for their activities.

During World War I, when the city was occupied by Austria, the general situation was better than in Lodz under the German occupation. At that time, a group of cultural activists devised a plan to restore the extinct cultural organization, the “Hazamir.” A meeting took place in the home of Nachman Rosenshtein (an important and very active Bundist leader, who was also called “Frayland” and Nachman Yidl Avram Beiles), where a way to establish a community library was discussed. A committee of three was chosen: Tovya Rosenblum, Sh. A Zigelman and Yidl Belzitski. They appealed to the artist Julius Adler, who was then on tour in Piotrkow, to give a benefit performance for this purpose; it actually brought in a nice profit. It was thought that with this money they could begin to organize the library, but it did not work. Then the idea of renewing the former “Hazamir” arose again.

One of the authors of this article had the charter of the old “Hazamir”; on the basis of the charter and according to the laws of the occupation, it could exist. Immediately, they went to work. They rented a room in Levkovitch's house (Henryk Festenshtat's grandfather) in the Narrow Street across from Fishl Tushener's “Bet Hamidrash.” They fixed up a fine meeting room and opened a buffet, where for a “graytzer” one could have a bite of food. The idea spread like wildfire.

The new committee consisted of representatives of the following parties: the “Bund” (Berish Rosenberg or Berish Blacharz, Avraham Reuven Pinkusevitch or Pinkus, Avraham Weisshoff; Zionists and “Tsirey Tsion” (Joseph Zayontshkowski, Yakov Maltz, Yakov Kurtz); the S.S.-ovtses (Yakov Baron, Motle Lenchitski, Shmuel Elye Zigelman). Those not officially affiliated with any party were the journalist Henryk Festenshtadt and Yidl Belzitski.

A dramatic-musical society was organized. Its quarters were open from 6 PM every evening. There one could play chess, checkers, and dominoes. Discussions were arranged on cultural and scientific topics, there were readings, literary evenings, judgements on various heroes of Yiddish literature. The critique of “Bontshe Shveig” by I.L. Peretz created a tremendous stir amongst our younger people. The society avoided touching on subjects of a political character in order not to disturb the harmony of their joint efforts.

M. Leizerowicz in Motke Ganef by Sholem Ash
M. Leizerowicz in Motke Ganef by Sholem Ash

A group of girls of the Jewish Lieterary Society in 1925 with their mentors: S. Folman and I. Kenigstein
A group of girls of the Jewish Lieterary Society in 1925 with their mentors:
S. Folman and I. Kenigstein

This idyllic situation did not last long and the “Bund” was responsible by introducing, at a general meeting, an anti-Hebrew recommendation that was also simultaneously anti-Zionistic. A sharp conflict ensued between the representatives of the Zionists and “Tsirey Tsion,” who opposed the Bundist motion; after the motion was passed, they left the meeting along with all the followers of Zionism.

A rich chapter in the history of cultural activity in our city was written by the “Dramatic Circle” and Chorus, conducted by Motl Lenchitski. They performed a number of dramas and presentations. On December 13,1916, the “Hazamir” had its first dramatic evening. The program consisted of “Mitn Shtrom” (With the Stream) by Sholem Ash, and “Nor a Doktor” (Only a Doctor) by Sholom Aleichem. Participating in these two plays were the women Beyle Pinkusevitch, Stella Bielska and Wolberg, and the men Chaim Eleazar (Leon) Dubeck, Avraham Reuven Pinkusevitch, Motl Lenchitski, a child by the name of Yakubovitch and others.

At the 25th half-jubilee celebration for Avrom Reisen, on January 13, 1917, a rich artistic evening was arranged in which the chorus and dramatic circle appeared on the program. It contained songs, recitations and the one-act play “Gute Brider” (Good Brothers). Participating were N. Bernholtz, M. Lenchitzki, Sh. S. Zigelman, Gitl Birnbaum, N. Grushofski, V. Tornberg, M. Meyerovitch and the chorus of 25 singers directed by M. Lenchitzki. The evening was a great success. It took place in Hertz's Hall “Kupiecki” on Garntsarska #7.

On Shabbat Nachmu, August 4, 1917, a grand performance of Jacob Gordin's “Got, Mentsh un Tayvl” (God, Man and the Devil) was presented by the artist J. Rakov and home performers.

During the years of the Austrian occupation there was a blossoming of the literary-artistic cultural life in Piotrkow. The occupation forces permitted theatrical performances to be presented for the military, in spite of the fact that it was actually forbidden to arrange public social events. Thus it became a way for the dramatic circle and the “Hazamir” to present a broadly challenging event which Austrian military persons of almost every rank streamed to see.

At the second general meeting to elect a management committee, an inter-party list of candidates was submitted so that the list was decided en bloc; thus the committee as a whole would have the same political construction. Secretly, however, the “Bund” instructed their members to strike all non-Bundist candidates. The result was that only Bundists were elected onto the management committee, and the institution was turned into a Bundist one which conducted its political activities.

The deceived representatives of other parties organized to form their own, which shortly thereafter was legitimized under the name of “Education Union for Jewish Workers.” The Zionists and “Tsirey Tsion” increased their activity in the Hebrew Zionist Culture Institute “Tarbut.” Following the establishment of a liberated Poland in 1919, and with the legalization of political activity, the primary weight of community affairs was placed on political party efforts and legal political parties were formed. These also conducted cultural affairs.

The cultural work also brought in income for the activities of the institutions, which the party greatly needed. Performances and other cultural presentations aided the school movement, libraries and other institutions.

On October 25, 1921, an artistic evening took place with the participation of the young F. Hamburger, Pesse Kurtz, Rochl Shtinberg, Gitl Birnbaum, Feyge Baumshteyn and Beyle Pinkusevitch, directed by M. Lenchitsky, and in 1922 the presentation was “Got Fun Nekome” (God of Vengeance) by Sh. Ash. In 1923, it was “Der Foter” (The Father) by Strindberg. Participating in the performances were Ms. Rosa Weisshoff anti her husband Abraham, Elle Shtern (the wife of Itzchok Shtibl), Shmuel Zeitn, Veltman, Yakov Berliner and many of those previously mentioned. On December 22, 1923, the dramatic circle of the co-op “Eynikeyt” (earlier known as “Hazamir”) performed a play for the benefit of the children's home, with the participation of the before-mentioned and Ms. Bernshteyn, Blume Oynig, and Libe Kotkowski. In 1924, Peretz Hirshbein's drama “Navla” was performed by Ms. M. Moshkovitch, M. Trisker, and I. Trisker. For the benefit of the schools, L. Kobrin's dramatic play “Yankl Boyle” was presented by the Lodzer artists.

'The Dybbuk'
“The Dybbuk”

As previously stated, after the split in “Hazamir,” there arose dramatic circles among the Zionist parties, which also had significant successes. One of the great successes was the production of “The Dybbuk,” performed by the dramatic circle of the “Tsirey-Tsion.” Because of its great success, it had to be presented several times. In this play, the participants were Ms. Goldblum, Ms. Yitke Levkovitch, Ms. Ida Venglinska, Itzchak Shtibl, Fishl Mintz, Mendl Leiberman, J. Maltz, Natan Stashevski, Yechiel Kurnendz,
Ms. Reilberger, Ms. Rosenstein, Rosenbaum and Rubin. The director was Mordecai Meyer Leizorowicz.

M. Leizerowicz in 'Day and Night' by Shalom Ansky
M. Leizerowicz in “Day and Night” by Shalom Ansky

The youth of “Freiheit” presented, among others, Sholem Aleichem's “Mentshn” (People), directed by M. Lenchitzki, which was also a great success. It was performed in the “Kilinski” Hall and again in the “Maccabbi,” as well as in the provincial towns. The chorus and orchestra used to arrange literary and musical presentations under the direction of the brothers Yakov and Moshe Fish, Ms. Frohman, Yidl Zeitn, Stashevsky, the brothers Mendl and Shmuel Lieberman, and others. The Artisan's Union and the “Hashomer Hatsair” also had active drama groups. In 1926, these two successfully presented Peretz Hirshbein's “Grine Felder” (Green Fields).

The “Linke Poalei Zion” also excelled in its cultural work in the field of theater and song, etc. The major directors were Israel and David Trisker and their sister and Fishl Yakubovitch and his wife.

The “Poalei Agudat Israel” reactivated the old plays such as “Mechirat Yosef” and “Achashveyrush,” which were always expertly and successfully performed on many festive occasions.

Without exception, these outstanding cultural labors in all segments of the Jewish population of our city were undoubtedly a great influence on the shaping of our community and political life.

The theater group did not limit itself to playing for the local population, but toured neighboring cities as well, where Jewish youth yearned for a new Yiddish word.

Izkor Book

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