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[Page 123]

The Youth and Hashomer Hatzair in Podhajce (cont.)

pod123.jpg
A Hachshara group of counselors of Hashomer Hatzair in the year 1924

 

recognized the lack of economic, political and national status of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, and laid plans for the actualization of the liberation from all this and the creation of a new life. Here, the recognition that the Jews must live by overcoming their fears, and not recoil from conflict with gentiles, penetrated into the hearts of the members of the chapter. This indeed happened that on one of the days of the festival of Shavuot, at a time when a group of 14-year-old boys and girls were engaged in a scouting activity on the hills outside the city, they were attacked by stones thrown by shepherds. The youths entered into a battle with stones, and did not flee from them, as had been the custom until that time.

There was no Zionist activity in the city in which the chapter did not stand in the forefront: parades on the anniversary of Dr. Herzl's death on the 20th of Tammuz, on the day of the laying of the cornerstone of the Hebrew University – all of these included appearances of the members of the chapter in their fine costumes. In activities regarding the Jewish National Fund, the Tarbut School, the public library, and the Hatikva hall, elections – in every place the Hashomer chapter served as the nerve center. The Tarbut School included hundreds of children and maintained itself solely by its tuition fees. Collection of money from the parents took place throughout the years by members of the chapter on a voluntary basis. They participated in hachsharah (Zionist preparation), counseling, organizing, in activities of the League for the Working Land of Israel, and in the leadership of Hechalutz. This was a constant support in Zionist activities, against the various streams that swept through the Jewish street.

Eras of upturns and downturns affected the Jewish street, and these negatively influenced our lives in the Hashomer chapter. The economic recessions of 1924 and 1929, felt through the country and the cities of Poland, caused disappointment among the youth and sowed seeds of despair and apathy among their ranks. An interruption in aliya, unemployment, growing anti-Semitism, and the rise of fascism – all of these caused defections from all of the youth movements in the city, leading to their disbanding. The Communists took advantage of the disarray among the youth and increased their strength. The Hashomer chapter maintained its stand even during this era, despite the losses that it suffered, and continued with its activities with conviction and faith that there was no other way. Through the struggle for the soul of the youth, the chapter overcame setbacks and established young reserves for the leadership of the chapter, so that it could continue its activities after its graduates leave for the Land or go on hachsharah. As usual, they found support and assistance through the “patronat” (The group for the supervision of the scouting youth and Hashomer Hatzair) who remained faithful to the Hashomer spirit and its values, and came to their assistance in front of official organizations who related inimically to the chapter. In the years 1934-1939, the members of the leadership committee of the chapter were Dr. Baruch Milch, Dr. Morgan (the young), Professor Grussgott, Dr. Rozia Kestenblatt, Dr. Yaakov Horowitz of blessed memory, and others. In the years 1938-1939, the eve of the outbreak of the war, a time of rising tensions, the connection between the committee and the chapter strengthened further. They all felt that disaster was impending, and they must strengthen themselves internally and find a way to continue on through any reality that might ensure.

The war broke out with all its fury. A flood of tribulations came upon Podhajce like a thief, drowning everything in fire and blood. The end came even to the Hashomer chapter.


[Page 124]

The Kadima Student Corporation

Crescat Vivat Floreat Kadima

by Yehuda Grussgott

Translated by Jerrold Landau

pod124.jpg
A group of academics – sworn friends

From right to left: Dr. Ber – who remains in Poland,
the teacher Kestenblatt who perished,
the veterinarian Matis Kohn who perished

 

From among the many youth organizations that were officially or unofficially affiliated with political parties, the Kadima student corporation that arose in Podhajce in the year 1931 should be noted. This was not exactly a pure academic corporation, since gymnasium students also belonged to it. At the founding meeting of the organization, mutual material assistance among the students was set as the prime goal of the corporation, through forming social connections that will be expressed in joint activities.

Indeed, only a few people were given some sort of one time financial assistance (it is not known from which fund), however, they all enjoyed the “colors” (embroidered ribbons – see the picture), both the “poskim” and the “borshim”. Each corporant had to find a girl who would be willing to embroider the “colors”. Since the girls did not hasten to volunteer for such, several members such as Suzia (Sara) Orenstein of blessed memory (the sister of Mordechai Oren, a captive in Prague) Salka Haselkorn of blessed memory (the wife of Adek Gang of blessed memory) Lorka Weinglas (the wife of Leon Milch) took it upon themselves to sew the first colors for the first festive meeting “Boda”. All of the work took place in the home of the Orensteins. The emblem of the corporation was a heart shaped shield, with the initials of the Latin words “Crescat, Vivat, Floreat Kadima” (Grow, Live, Flourish Kadima) embroidered upon it.

The corporation was only active during the summer vacation and the festival times, when the youth who studied in universities and high schools returned to their homes. They, the sprouts of the youth and splendor of Podhajce Jewry, were many, many…

Then the joyous “Bodot” and “Bidot” would take place, at first at the home of the legal magister Ira Margolis of blessed memory, who was the father and founder of the corporation and its first leader. In time, he became an experienced corporant in the Kadima of Lvov, and still later its president. I recall the “Bodot” in the home of the engineer Lila of blessed memory. His son Misio of blessed memory was later the president of the corporation. In the latter period, the gatherings took place in the Tikva home. The “Bodot” were filled with various games and entertainment. Anyone who entered in the middle of the evening would immediately find a pretext to mock the bubbly youthfulness of those gathered. In the “Bibot”, we would turn to each other not with our first names, but rather with the nickname that was given to each corporant, a nickname that would bring a smile with its ring and meaning, such as: Egvenia, Amba, etc.

We would sing various songs and verses there. I remember a number of stanzas, which I bring with a freeform translation:

Arise to battle!
My nation the sword!
Cast forth your oppressive fear,
Grab a sword of fire in your hands!
The seat of Zion,
We will capture with might,
Affix a yoke to the sickle
At the time you go to the oppressive dust.
There was no shortage of songs of despair and disappointment, that were characteristic of the corporation. For example, the following:
I sit in a dark cellar,
With my cup filled with liquor.
Oh, how good is it for me – I will think –
Nobody will speak to me…
My red nose, my bulging belly –
I do not care, to hell;
I will take a cup in my hand,
And sip, and sip, and sip…
[Page 125]

We were young, and the pessimistic atmosphere of these songs passed quickly. It was happy and pleasant, and we did not feel any worries for several hours. Veteran corporants, old masters, “Alte Herren” served as “patrons” of the corporation. I remember the final “Bida” in which the engineer David Lila and the lawyers Notek and Rotenberg participated. There are also less pleasant and heartwarming memories: including the social excommunication that was imposed upon all members who refused to join the corporation and related to it with reservation due to differences in world outlook or other reasons. A member was liable to “rugchia” (revocation of membership) for not obeying the excommunication. This was considered to be a great shame and disgrace. However, not all of us agreed to such a hasty penalty.

With the passage of time, it became more and more clear that the corporation was becoming a tool of specific parties in the election campaigns for local Zionist organizations, for delegates to the Zionist congresses, and to the Polish Sejm. At that time, internal schisms became exposed, which caused the departure of many “brothers”. Finally, without knowing by whom and when, the corporation ceased to exist. However it is possible to sum up that during its three years of existence, the corporation filled a vital role in the social landscape: it forged a living connection and interconnections between the generations among the intelligentsia of the city – between those with academic professions (doctors, lawyers and teachers) from one side, and the studying youth (students of institutions and high school graduates) on the other side. To this day, it unites us with the strong ties that began then, during our bright youth.

pod125a.jpg
Academic youth on an excursion (1933)

 

pod125b.jpg
A group of academic youth in the house of the Weinless family (1938)

 

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