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{324}

Groups and Organizations

Parties and Organizations

by Y. Rechtschaffen

After the first Zionist congresses, when more Zionist parties began to rise, Rozniatow still only had one party, the Chovevei Zion organization. Right after the First World War, various parties began to arise, including the general Zionists under the name Achva, Hitachdut Poale Zion, Mizrachi and Bnai Akiva, Gordonia, Hashomer Hatzair, Beitar, General Chalutz the left arm of Poale Zion, and A.Y.A.P.(The General Jewish Workers' Party) which was completely to the left. Since Communism was illegal, they disguised themselves under various names. When the A.Y.A.P was closed, it appeared under a second name.

The only ones missing from this mix were the Aguda on the right and the Bund on the left, but those two organizations did not yet exist in town. There was also always a Jewish merchants' union, a tradesmen's union, a union of voluntary amateur artisans, and also a non-partisan organization called “Casino” where one could play chess, dominos, cards, and read newspapers and books. Even more important, the Casino hosted various performances in conjunction with the artisan's union, and all of the income went to purchase books.

Indeed, through the years, thousands of books in Yiddish, Polish, German were collected, originals and copies from famous writers. The Jewish library immediately obtained any Yiddish book that appeared on the book market. For a small fee, one could take out books two times a week. For a larger amount one could take out four books a week. Others would take out three or two books a week.

The libraries were always run by volunteers. I, the writer of these lines, was also the issuer of books1 for a period of time. The only privilege of the book issuer was that he could be the first to read a new book that came to the library.

All of the listed organizations were active, and played an important role in the life of the residents of our town. Each organization could write its page of history in life, creating and forming the characters of its members. Each organization had its specific roles.

Achva

The general Zionist called Achva played a very important role among the Zionist parties. Their chairman for many years before the war was Shimshon Rechtschaffen. He was also the chairman of the Keren Kayemet Society for the entire time.

The Keren Kayemet Society was composed of members sent from all of the various parties. Dr. David Weisman, Moshe Rosenberg and others played very important roles in the early years of the general Zionists. They played the role of non-partisan Zionists when the party spirit had not yet warmed up.

Achva Group

1) Soshia Stern, 2) Tusia Fendel, 3) Esther Trau, 4) Tinchia Koral,
5) Yehuda Teffer (Lerer), 6) his wife Yutka Teffer, 7) Yaakov Taneh, 8) Malka Trau.
Second row: Itka Lerer and her brother Yisrael Lerer, Miriam Zauerberg,
Salka Lerer, Soshia Gelobter, Sholo Taneh, Mania Fendel, unknown,
Chana and Shimshon Rechtschaffen, Ester Adlerstein, Rozia Weinfeld,
Vove Strassman

 

This helped them to stay on guard for the collected banners of Israel and also in all matters relating to Zionist society. However, in the last years before the outbreak of the war, the general Zionists became involved in the party camps exactly as the other parties.

In Achva, one could hear boys and girls speaking to each other also in Polish. For the most part, the youth of Achva were children of merchants, or as they were called, children of householders. However, the Yiddish language was dominant in Achva, and a large portion of the members also studied Hebrew.

Hitachdut Poale Zion

Hitachdut Poale Zion had a very early beginning, and developed into one of the largest or the largest parties. The following people played important roles in that organization and served as its leaders: Leib Meizels who was killed in sanctification of the Divine Name, Moshe Lusthaus who is today in Israel, and others. For the most part, the members came from the handworkers. This organization conducted widespread cultural work, and gave no small number of representatives to the Zionist Movement.

Mizrachi

Mizrachi had a good beginning. As it grew, a Young Mizrachi sprung up from the older Mizrachists, consisting of several dozen youths. Bnei Akiva2 started a bit later. All of them together played an important role in the story of general Zionist life.

Reb Avraham Zauerberg was the first president of Mizrachi. He took interest in all of its numerous activities until the later years, and he remained as the honorary president of Mizrachi and Young Mizrachi until his murder in sanctification of the Divine Name.

The male youth of Mizrachi were composed for the most part of children who had studied in cheder and later studied Gemara and other holy subjects in the Kloiz; who then became more modern and their ways led to Mizrachi. The girls had very Orthodox parents, and their ways also led to Mizrachi.

Gordonia

Gordonia existed as a small organization, whose members were committed to the idea of Socialist Zionism. They took part in various Zionist undertakings including collection campaigns, conducted cultural activity, but in the last years did not have their own permanent headquarters.

Hashomer Hatzair

Hashomer Hatzair was indeed a lively organization, despite the fact that it did not have a large membership. However, those who belonged to the organization were dedicated to it. They often held performances, and ideological, organized Shomer evenings, that made a strong impression. They would go out to the forest, which would have a great reverberation among the youth.

Beitar

Beitar was a dynamic organization, full of life. The spirit of revisionism, to struggle against the conventional forms of Zionist organizations, led that movement to attract a following of youth who were dissatisfied with the milder leadership of political Zionism. These people found their way to the revisionist Beitar.

Stam (General) Chalutz

Stam Chalutz was a young organization, founded only a few years before the Second World War. Its members were not sufficiently satisfied with Hitachdut Poale Zion. It was primarily a pioneering organization. More members went on various Hachsharah events of Stam Chalutz than on other organizations.

All of the listed Zionist organizations were active. They all, some more and some less, conducted a broad set of cultural and Zionist activities. Lectures, speeches, and gala evenings were always the order of the day. As was the case with youth, they never missed an opportunity to dance horas. From time to time, they arranged dance evenings and various performances.

Communists

The Jewish Communists conducted cultural activities. There was a time when they conducted religious debates. Later, they stopped this. They distributed Communist propaganda, primarily for Russia. At that time, working youth who were official members were quite sympathetic to the studying youth. Polish anti-Semitism, the unstable situation, and mainly the economic difficulties without prospects for a better future drove a large number to radical activities and to the belief that justice and equity comes from Russia. The active work of the youth included the printing and posting of placards at various points in town with Communist mottoes around the time of May 1, as well as hanging a red banner on a telephone pole or other such place. Generally, the police kept a sharp eye out and tracked them. Not infrequently, there were arrests on May 1. There were those who spent months or on occasion years in jail.

From among the girls of the townsfolk, Sara Geller was at the summit of the Communist leadership. She was imprisoned more than once. She was dainty, pretty, and slim, with a fine head of hair. She conducted herself proudly.

After the war, I saw her in Lower Silesia. We were happy to see one another alive. Her father was a learned man, a first class Torah reader, and an Orthodox Jew. She also had a sister and two brothers. One of her brothers requested from me a permit to Australia via Sweden. I sent it to him, but it seems that he remained living in Sweden.

The handworkers' union had its own Minyan. There were Jewish furriers, tailors, shoemakers, and other tradesmen, generally married men. Shimon Diamand was their secretary. In the last years before the war, the movement only existed on paper. On the other hand, the merchants' union always existed. This was an organization where one could play chess, read a newspaper, spent time, talk, and sometimes conduct business.

When one reads through such a long list of modern organizations, one can come to the conclusion that Jews, Heaven forbid, left their Judaism. One must quickly admit the Jewish adage, “What is to G-d is to G-d, and what is to man is to man.” The great majority of the town, more than 90%, conducted Jewish lives, and worshipped at least once a week, on the Sabbath. Jewish businesses were all closed on the Sabbath. The sound of Torah never ceased to reverberate from the various cheders and Beis Midrashes. The daily page of Gemara was studied every day in the former Old Kloiz. Not one Jewish youth did not go to cheder for several years. The respect for Torah was strong. Children from the cheders went each Sabbath to be examined by specific notables. Jewish wives and girls conducted themselves with modesty, and all together conducted a genuine traditional Jewish life.

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Activists

In the various organizations, there were always some people who carried the burden of their specific organization more than others. For example, the youth Eliezer Nussbaum (Wolf Horowitz' grandson) was such in Bnei Akiva. His father, a teacher, was killed when serving as a soldier in the First World War. He left behind a widow Esther with two children, Eliezer Yitzchak and his brother Leib. They were all murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name.

E. Y. Nussbaum was a fine, well-read youth. He was scholarly, with a strong Zionist enthusiasm, along with being observant. He was given over to the idea of Torah and work3. He was among the founders of the Bnei Akiva organization. That organization later grew, and there were always several of its members on Hachsharah in the various locations in eastern Galicia.

Izak Barnik, the son of Yehuda Barnik, a member of Stam Chalutz, played an important role in the aforementioned organization. Izak was on various Hachsharah locations for many years. The war overtook him, and he was murdered in Sanctification of the Divine Name.

Chaim Ekstein was for many years the leading power of Hashomer Hatzair. He himself spent several years in various Kibbutzim.

Hashomer and Stam Chalutz always had members on Hachsharah locations in Easter Galicia. However, these organizations did not have great luck in obtaining certificates. Unfortunately, those who prepared to go to the Land of Israel were murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name along with their families.

Godel Schwalb played an important role in the leadership of Beitar.

On an excursion in 1934


Translator's Footnotes

  1. I assume that this means that he served as the librarian. Back
  2. The youth movement of Mizrachi, still in existence today. Back
  3. “Torah and Work” (Torah Vaavoda) is the motto of religious Zionism. Back

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