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[Page 80]

In the Youth Movement Hashomer Hatzair

by Bina Jakubowycz–Tabak, Ramat Gan

Translated by Pamela Russ

Until today, the song rings in my ears – the song that was carried across Kosciuszko Street, and the dances in our nest [center or clubhouse] in Wyszkow. Many years have already gone by. The youth is gone, but I feel that I am still the young Wyszkower girl from Hashomer Hatzair who dreams of Aliyah to Israel. And it's no wonder: My best and most beautiful years belong to that period when I was in that movement.

 

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Council from the nest [“kein” in Hebrew, meaning “clubhouse”] of Hashomer Hatzair

 

I came to Wyszkow with my parents in the year 1922. My father was a Wyszkower.

After the few large cities in which we had lived in Russia, this little town seemed strange to me, revolting. But after a short time, when I began to attend the gymnasium, and I befriended the boys and girls in school, I became a whole–hearted Wyszkower. Later, when they would ask where I came from, I answered proudly: from Wyszkow!

On the main street (Kosciuszko Street), in an orchard, there was a tall, white building, surrounded by a wall. This was the gymnasium. The majority of the students were Jewish girls.

Wyszkow was a chassidic town, and you had to attend classes on Shabbath. That's why very few Jewish parents (a total of 3) sent their children there.

But the Wyszkower youth looked for ways to live with their culture – politically and socially. Therefore, various youth organizations were established.

A group of female students from the sixth grade in the gymnasium: Chana Jakubowycz (today in Tel Mond), Faige and Esther Rosner (today in Haifa), Refoel Gurni and Chaim Barab (both in Tel Mond), Esther Bzhoza and Chana Deutcher (both murdered by the Germans), Berl Bzhoza (today in America), as well as the author of these lines – assembled the first group of Hashomer Hatzair under the name “Avodah” [“Work”] which the nest organizes. As the head of the nest, Refoel Gurni was elected. Over time, other members of “Avodah” were also elected as heads of the nest. I managed the nest “Flowers” to which the following belonged: Chana Jakubowycz, Chana Shpira, Bina Holczman, Chaya Neumark, and Chana Kawe. These were all gymnasium students, but one class lower than me.

We were in tight contact with the main leadership in Warsaw and received instructions for our ongoing work from there. Chaveirim from the Central would visit us as well. The Wyszkower nest was exceptional with its beautiful cultural

 

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The group “Giborim” [mighty men, heroes]

 

[Page 81]

work, the Hebrew courses, and with living together with one another. The gymnasium students began befriending the “Shomrim” [those from “Hashomer Hatzair”], simple working boys. There was also a group of boys only, called “Hagiborim” [the mighty men, heroes], (the head of the group was Refoel Gurni). I still remember a few of the groups, how “Shibolim” [“sheaves”], (head of the group was Faige Rosner); “Chilot” [“bravery”] (head of the group – Berl Bzhoza).

What were our activities?

At their meetings, the group “Avodah” would work out a work plan appropriate for each group. Meetings of each group were held once a week. They would study Jewish history, sociology, have literary discussions about all kinds of books, particularly about Peretz's and Frishman's novels [both famous Yiddish authors]. I would prepare myself for one of these meetings just like a teacher of a class, and work through a thesis. The girls would also prepare themselves – and we would hotly and enthusiastically discuss the theme at hand.

We also set up laws for a larger forum of several groups together. I remember one such open law about school “thieves” that we passed together with the older group. Thanks to the cultural activities, we implanted a knowledge into the youth that the gymnasium did not give them.

Very often, we organized trips in the nearby forest that was on the other side of the river. The road to get there required crossing a long, wooden bridge. When we arrived in the forest, while singing, we set up tents, lit bonfires, and danced the hora [Israeli folkdance].

The first Lag be'Omer [holiday on the 33rd day between Passover and Shavuot] remains fixed in my mind, as we organized our nest. We marched through the Wyszkower streets. At the front, was the head of the group, with a blue and white flag, and then the other groups, dressed as scouts with the multicolored ties that indicated the groups, with their heads at the front. Then the flutists and drummers. We marched to the tempo and our singing echoed through the streets. The whole town admired our parade, and even the parents who, because of religion prevented their children from visiting the nest, had tears in their eyes from joy and pride at how Jewish youth were marching so beautifully and with such discipline.

Dear, beautiful, unforgettable years! I see you again, my beloved and dearest chaveirim, and I dance the hora with you again, and sing romantic songs with you.

That is how the town of Wyszkow and its youth lived and breathed – filled with ideals and yearnings, for a trusted and better tomorrow, for a freer Aliyah, spirited and bred by “Hashomer Hatzair.”


At the Religious “Ha'Shomer Ha'Dati”
Youth Movement

by Menakhem Nagel, Bnei Brak

Translated by Chava Eisenstein

As a member of one of the Religious Zionist Organizations in the pre–war era, I feel an obligation to mention the movement and its members, with whom I walked together hand in hand, during my childhood, living in Wyszkow.

The Jewish youth scout association “HaShomer Ha'Dati” was about the great idea of the Jewish Nation returning to its homeland. Its flag carried the slogan “The Jewish Nation in The Spirit of the Torah and the Land of Israel.” This movement didn't make do with empty slogans, but implied a personal obligation on each of its members. Just as was demanded from all traditional Jewish youth.

The “Shomer Ha'Dati” was started by a few teenagers of our town. Amongst its main initiators, whom I would especially like to mention, are: Simon Pazor (secretary at the branch of the Mizrakhi Youth and the Mizrakhi Khalutz). Samuel Chaim Wonswer, Moshe Shedletzki, Shalom and Joseph Koplowitz (all perished). Shmull Zotorski, Menakhem Bronstein and myself, may we live long.

As a main task, while having to struggle for our ideals, we approached various youth circles in the city, we didn't skip any members of different movements, like: Beitar, Ha'Shomer Hatzair, Bnos Agudat Yisrael and the Aguda Youth YisraeI. In a short time, our influence developed progressively. From a handful of members at the beginning, we grew in only a few months to 40 brothers and sisters, which declared allegiance to the Religious Zionist Movement. In conjunction with our numeral growth, we expanded the fields of activity, we were active in the various committees in town: the Keren Kayemet – The Jewish National Fund, and Keren Ha'Yesod – the United Israel Appeal, and all other Zionist foundations. We ran extensive cultural activity, which steered leftist and rightist youth to join our lines. Our membership doubled in a very short time, and we were admired by all types and walks in life. Many youths left their squad at Beitar or HaShomer Hatzair, even girls from Bnos Aguda and Agudat Yisrael left their clubs to join us. The secret of our success was the religious Zionist atmosphere united with exuberant spirits about applying the ideal of Jews returning home in our time.

In addition to our cultural doings, we also lead fitness activity, combining soul with body.

The club was too crowded to house all the members of “Torah and Avoda” (Torah with Work), so we split the cell into groups, each group managed its own educative activity on a limited scale. Besides, there were general meetings and free discussions for all, led by counselor Samuel Khaim Wonswer and Simon Pazor. At onset, our meager means didn't allow us have our own hall, we wandered from place to place. At the beginning, we met at the Mizrakhi hall and Wistnizkis z”l home on Kosciuszko street. From there, together with the elder movement we transferred to the shul place of Elli–Meir Goldman z”l. Frequently, we ran our meetings in the yard that belonged to Zalman Felner. Finally, thanks for our own effort, and donations of members, we ended up buying our own hall.

The next thing was to dress all members of the cell in uniform, with the scout's shades and blue and white stripes on the hat. This was accomplished in a short time and we appeared dressed in them at Lag Ba'Omer, and on the 20'th of Tamuz, (memorial day of Theodor Herzl) when we appeared at the colleges.

In honor of dressing all club members in unison, we made a party that carried on until dawn, we danced and sang Israeli songs. For this occasion delegates of the Shomer Ha'Dati headquarters paid a visit to Poland. We were flabbergasted upon hearing all the praise and compliments, the other branches looked up to us with envy for our success in mastering discipline and order. For only two years after opening, towards the end of 1934–1935, we arranged an assembly for all the religious Ha'Shomer clubs in the vicinity. It was made in our own hall, we decorated the place with blue and white flags, and pictures of the worldwide Zionists and Mizrakhi leadership. On the facing wall were the pictures of the founders of the World Mizrakhi – Rabbi Reiness zt”l and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher, Elliahu Gutmacher. At the right were the pictures of Herzl, Bialik, Sokolov and Osichkin, and diagrams of the new Jewish settlements in the Land of Israel.

A short while thereafter, we traveled to a regional conference at Makow – Mazowiecki. We sent our delegates, for which we voted at a general get–together. How happy was I, when I found out, that I and Menakhem Rosenberg were elected as representatives of the club for summer camp, which will be in one of the forests of the area. We felt so respected upon receiving the admission permits from the main leadership at Warsaw.

After returning from the conferences and summer camps. We went back to activity at the movement with renewed energy, since we acquired essential guidance of how to lead the activities.

The headship at our cell organized educational get–togethers on various topics:

World history, Jewish history, the story of Zionism. Talks on nature topics, Exploration and the Bible. We put out an oral weekly newsletter – entrance was free. We set up a “Noah's Ark” and made trips to places surrounding the Bug River. Sometimes, we would personally have emissaries come from the Land, they would describe life at the religious Kibbutz as perfect. Each of us strived with all our might to materialize this ideal, of Torah and toil. But, that's when it began to storm… a disastrous storm which bombarded tragedy on us Jews. Unfortunately, most of us didn't merit to materialize the idea.

I remember one famous event, at the funeral of the Marshal Pilsudski, which was to pass Warsaw on its way to Wilno. Even then, the Polish scouts were envious of us. They couldn't believe their eyes; Jewish youths marching in uniformed dress and disciplined mode, just like genuine scouts. Obviously, that upset them, those Polish scouts, but we were proud of our conduct and appearance.

My heart aches for the many that marched together with us, and didn't live to march at our own land, on Independence Day of the State Of Israel. That horrendous war brought a bitter close to almost all Jewry in Europe, with our town's brethren amongst them. It is not known to me, how, and where, were killed our dear brothers and sisters. Only few were left, scattered all over the globe…

I do know that Menakhem Bronstein, the secretary at the Shomer Ha'Dati in Wyszkow, is living in the USA. And the others are in Israel: Menakhem Rosenberg, Samuel Zotorski, Feivel Ostry, Sima Markhavka, Sara Holland, Brakhc'a Ostrowik, Phaya Brama, Mottel Farbstein.

At completion, I will allow myself to commemorate my annihilated friends: Simon Pazor – secretary at the Mizrakhi, Samuel Khaim Wonswer – office member at the Mizrakhi Youth and the Mizrakhi Khalutz, and instructor at the cell. Moshe Shedlecki, Shalom Koplowitz, Joseph Koplowitz, Khaim Jagoda, Moshe Meir Novgrocki.

May their memory be blessed!

 

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The leadership of Hashomer Ha'Dati
L to R: Moshe Shedlezki, Mendel Nagel, Simon Pazor, Samuel Zotorski, Shalom Koplowitz, Chaim Jagoda

 


[Page 82]

On the Eve of the Jewish Community
Elections in the Year 1931

Translated by Pamela Russ

There is a buzz in the town with the supervision elections. Our city totals up to 800 families. There were six lists:

  1. A handworker list (number 1), with Mr. Moshe Dovid Jaskowycz at the head.
  2. Radzimin chassidim – with Chaim–Yehoshua Frishman (teacher) at the head.
  3. A handworker list (number 2) – with Yehoshua Pastalski at the head.
  4. Zionists – with Messrs. Chaim Noson Wajngrow, Janis, Shmaye Rappaport.
  5. Poalei Tzion – with Mr. Yisroel Moshe Czembal at the head.
  6. Agudah – with Mr. Chaim Meyer Lys.
All these six lists were compiled in the election meetings just as in any other large city. Thank God, speakers are not scarce for us even today. The crowd learned how to speak, and that Sunday during the day, the Gerer chassidim organized an “evening” in their own shtiebel [small, informal synagogue] and some parties went there to vote, until they jabbed a knife into one of the young boy's hands.

I will write about the results of the election separately.

(According to a public correspondence in the weekly “Dos Neue Blatt” – a newspaper for Praga and the vicinity; number 4, Sivan 5, 5691; May 21, 1931 – confirmed by a Wyszkower.)


[Page 83]

Non–Profit Fund with the Socialist Handworkers Union
The Wyszkower Loan Fund in the Year 1935

by Paul A. Kramer

Translated by Pamela Russ

(From the article “The United Jewish Relief,” printed in “Der Landsman,” and published in honor of the 40th jubilee in Wyszkow Support Union …, 1896–1936, New York, 1936.)

Before me lies a complete report from the Wyszkower Loan Fund of the year 1935–1936. According to this report, the Loan Fund gave out loans in the year 1935, to the following skilled workers:

41 tailors, 50 shoemakers, 12 carpenters, 6 butchers, 102 from other vocations.

9 from manufacturing and from haberdashery, 24 – leather works, 16 – food stores, 79 – market sellers and street merchants, 6 – village goers [merchants on the road, traveling to villages], and to all kinds of other small businesses – 170 loans.

In total, 523 people used the loans from the Wyszkower Loan Fund in the year 1935.

That same year, the following loans were given out from the Wyszkower Loan Fund:

40 loans of 25 zlotys
20 loans of 30 zlotys
9 loans of 40 zlotys
172 loans of 50 zlotys
8 loans of 60 zlotys
70 loans of 75 zlotys
316 loans of 100 zlotys
2 loans of 200 zlotys
13 loans of 150 zlotys
14 loans of 20 zlotys

In total, throughout that year, 50,529 zlotys were given out as loans to individuals.

Taking into consideration the small Jewish population in Wyszkow, these numbers give a good idea of the difficult Jewish situation. The main thing – was how important this Loan Fund was for the poor Jewish population in Wyszkow.

 

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Administration of the Free Loan Fund, 1935

Standing from right: Borukh Khutnicki, Berish Haldak, Yakov Gamre, Zalman Felner, Bromo
Seated: Yehuda Yosel Malczik, Moshe Zelig Ostry, Shaike Postolski, Yakov Dovid Pseticki, Borukh Ciwiak, Yitzkhok Babek

 


[Page 84]

Interest–Free Loan Fund
for the Socialist Handworkers' Union

by Y.M. Czembal, Buenos Aires

Translated by Pamela Russ

 

wys084.jpg
Celebration of the five–year jubilee of the Interest–Free Loan Fund, 1935

Seated from right: Yosel Polocker, Yankel Jakubowycz, Dr.Gutstat, Dr. Leicher, Director Giterman (from the Joint Central), Yisroel Moshe Czembal, M.Z. Ostri, Shajke Postolski, Yekel Dovid Przeticki, Zundel Elboim, Chaim Jonasowycz

 

In the first years of Poland's independence, when poverty among the Jewish masses was huge, and in the public soup kitchens that gave out free soup there were long rows of people who needed help – Joint, American Jewry's most important aide–institution for European Jews, decided to provide assistance in more constructive means as a support for the Jewish population in Poland. Instead of helping once or twice in the form of a soup kitchen, product distribution, clothing packages, etc. – they decided to open interest free loan funds, [that is] people's banks or interest free loan funds, to distribute loans under favorable conditions for those who needed the aid, in order to put them on their feet. The intention was that the non–productive elements that showed that they needed support, should be able to infuse their lives with productivity – in business, handwork, and small trade [small retail business]. This was one of the nicest and most wonderful activities in the history of Joint: They forced social cases to turn into productive people.

At that time, in the entire Poland, and within Wyszkow too, various institutions, organizations, and societies were set up to service not only party politics, but also the social and material [needs]– of the various classes within the Jewish population. Unfortunately, I don't have the necessary material for all of this, because the main facts in the publishing of this Yizkor book, already speaks enough about the fate of Wyszkow. Therefore, according to my memory, I will describe the establishment and actions of the Interest–Free Loan of the Socialist Handworkers' Union in our town. Aside from that, I left Wyszkow in the year 1936, and the only memento that I have with me to this day is a small calendar from the Fund – one that was given out in the year 1933 …

At the end of the 1920s, a Handworkers Union was established in Wyszkow as a local unit of the citizens Handworkers' Central in Warsaw. At the head of the newly established organization were: Eliyahu Meyer Goldberg, a baker–entrepreneur, who did not stand at the oven but hired other workers to do so: Moshe Dovid Joskowycz, the technician; a certain Khzhan, Fishel Bronstajn, and others. They rented a room in Goldman's courtyard, created a stamp

[Page 85]

and when they received several hundred dollars from Joint, they opened a fund.

Sadly, it must be said that this new institution did not show outstandingly great activity and wide–spread work. After distributing some smaller loans to an insignificant number of handworkers, the activity of the fund almost came to a complete halt. This caused Joint to also terminate its support. There was now a pressing danger that Wyszkow would remain without a source of effective and constructive aid for handworkers, small merchants, and general needy people.

Under these conditions, it is no wonder that the requests to our compatriots in New York were more frequent and more urgent. Of the 2,000 souls in the town, half came for assistance for Passover to their compatriots on the other side of the ocean. Our brothers in New York were not sparing with their help. Each Passover, they would send $1,000 to be distributed. The Wyszkower aid society in the suburbs, however, also knew that Joint supported interest–free loans in Poland, and so posed the question as to why such a fund did not exist in Wyszkow. An answer came from Joint that they actually did send money and that such a fund was opened, but it was not active. Joint's policy was that the city itself had also to raise money for a loan fund. So, just as the necessary funds were put together, Joint added the same amount – and the fund was opened. But Wyszkow did not do so. So the compatriots in New York ran a campaign for constructive help and that's how they reassured that Joint would contribute even a larger amount.

When a group of handworkers in Wyszkow from various areas found out about this, they decided at a meeting to send out a delegation to Joint in Warsaw. But here they explained to the delegation that if the existing fund would not be reorganized, then they themselves would do nothing.

When [the delegation] came back to Wyszkow, the messengers, as well as the other handworkers, asked the administration of the fund to renew their activity, call a general assembly, and elect a different administration – but this went without heed. They explained to these activists that to activate the fund also meant acquiring increased support from the compatriots in America and from Joint.

Unfortunately, they could not come to an understanding. Now everyone felt that there was no other way than to establish another handworkers' union. An appeal to the Warsaw Central of Socialist Handworkers' Union quickly gave these results: A unit of this union was established in Wyszkow.

In the first administration, these were voted in: Postolski, Czembal, Wengrov, Ostri, Malczyk, Brome, and others.

The fund was opened in the year 1930. Until the final minutes, efforts were made to activate the old union – but without success.

In Wyszkow proper, we set up a small chapter and began giving out the first loans. The later administration was set up as: Yitzkhok Rajcyk – chairman, a simple Jew, a smith by profession; vice–chairman – Yisroel Moshe Czembal; secretary – Shajke Postolski; treasurer – Moshe Zelig Ostri; elected members – Chaim Yonasowycz, Yehuda Yosel Malczyk. Shmuel Brome, and others whose names I cannot remember now. Every member of the fund had to pay a minimum fee of ten groshen [coins, pennies] a week.

Some time later, we received money from our compatriots in America and also from Joint in Warsaw. The number of people who received loans increased each day. These were not only handworkers, but also small merchants. There was never enough money to satisfy everyone, and they had to wait in line to receive the loans. The most difficult time for the fund was before the Jewish holidays. The tailors, shoemakers, spat makers, and small merchants who ran their business in booths, would always go to Warsaw before Passover to buy their raw materials and accessories to work on their items and sell them on market days – Tuesdays and Fridays.

I will never forget the Tuesday evenings after market day, or after a fair day (every Tuesday following the first of the month there would be a fair day) when our Jewish handworkers and small merchants would count and calculate the profit of the day and then plead with the fund to give them a needed loan so that the next day, Wednesday, they could go to Warsaw and once again get the required materials for themselves so that they could continue their business and work. But more than once, someone left the site of the non–profit organization upset or embittered because the available capital was not sufficient for everyone's needs. More than once, there were tears in the eyes of one Jew because his entire existence depended on one small loan…

The administration struggled with this problem – how to increase the capital funds? It was decided to turn to the wealthier Jews in Wyszkow and ask that they lend a certain amount of money to the fund, interest free, in order to relieve the needs of those who required a loan. In part, this plan worked. We say in part, because the majority of the wealthy Jews did not want to reveal the amounts of monies that they had to the fund.

Some time later, I was elected chairman of the administration. The goal was that our fund should provide for all ranks of the

[Page 86]

population, particularly the Jewish population in the town, for whom a small loan, under favorable conditions, would be able to put them on their feet. To that end, an extended council was formed with representatives from all ranks. The Rav and other delegates from the religious sectors participated, although the majority of the members of the administration of the Non–profit Loan Organization of the Handworkers' Union were worldly Jews. At the meeting, we informed them of the activities of the institution, and with numbers and facts showed who received services from the fund, and discussed the challenges and means used of connecting with the wealthy Jews.

The report, as well as the fact that the administration comprised people from other ranks and groups, provoked the council to apply more earnestness to our institution. At that point, a “Social Friend of the Non–Profit Fund” was established. Dr. Leicher, the city's doctor, was elected chairman of this society. He was also chairman of the Merchants' Union fund; Dr. Gutstat – dentist; Yakov Jakubowycz, Yosel Ploczker, Yitzchok Epstajn – chairmen of the community; and others. (Dr. Leicher was later the commandant of the uprising in the death camp Treblinka. As Yankel Wiernik writes in his book about the uprising of Treblinka, he erroneously states that Dr. Leicher came from Wengrow. He actually did come to Treblinka from Wengrow, because Wyszkow was destroyed very early on in the first few days of the war – but Dr. Leicher is originally from Wyszkow.)

Establishing such a committee gave our institution much importance. Even the wealthy Jews began to show more interest in supporting the fund. More actions were taken to increase the monies in the fund. And therefore, the Joint also increased their subventions.

In the year 1935, in conjunction with the fifth year of existence of the fund, we held a great celebration, which was attended even by the general director of Joint in Poland, Dr. Giterman. This also proved to be a “good name” [“Giter man” means “good man”] for us in the Joint and in the relationship of the institution and the fund. (At this point, I would like to mention this fact: I went to Warsaw to bring Dr. Giterman to our celebration. On the way back to Wyszkow, in the same train, he had a first class seat while I had a seat in the third class. But as soon as the train began to move, he came to me in the third class, and we talked about our issues for the entire rest of the trip.)

The celebration took place in the large hall of the fire department. After a report of the author of these lines and greetings from Dr. Leicher, a friend of the Society of the Non–Profit Loan Fund, Director Giterman reported on the aide funds in Poland. After the celebration, we prepared a beautiful dinner for both administrations and for the delegates from Jadow, Serock, Dlugosiodlo, Goworowo, and so on. After the meal, everyone escorted Dr. Giterman to the train.

Joint in Warsaw gave authority to our administration to set up non–profit funds in the surrounding towns. The friends Postolski, Elboim, and Czembal, visited the neighboring settlements, held open meetings, and helped them with practical means to set up their work.

My report will not go completely until the tragic year of 1939, because I left Wyszkow on January 26, 1936, immigrating to Argentina. At the farewell banquet in honor of my leaving, the chairman Dr. Leicher, as if sensing what was coming, declared the following, among other things, in his greetings:

“I am envious of you that you are leaving Poland. If I could, I would do the same thing…”

After presenting me with a gift and praising my dedication, I was asked to stay on with this work, and told that the fund was prepared to pay me a salary (until now, all the work was done without remuneration). Understandably, I did not accept the offer.

As far as I can remember, 800 families received loans at the beginning of the year 1936. The following were members of the administration: chairman – Y.M. Czembal; secretary – Shajke Postolski; treasurer – Yakov Dovid Przeticki, Chaim Yanosowycz, Bins Burstyn, Yehuda Yosel Malczyk, Berish Aldak, Yankel Wolman, and others. The bookkeepers were Zindel Elboim and Yakov Yakubowycz – the bookkeepers were volunteers.

The following belonged to the social committee, “Friends of the Fund”: chairmen – Dr. Leicher, Dr. Gutstat, Yosef Plocker, Dovid Sredni, Moshe Stern, Yitzchok Epstajn, and others. If someone is not mentioned here, note that there is no ill will, only simply – no memory, and should not feel left out.

When I was already in Argentina, until 1939, I maintained continuous correspondence with Dr. Leicher and Postolski, who informed me of the ongoing work of the fund.

After I left, Mr. Zhepka was elected as chairman of the administration.

On the first of September, the busy social life of the Jews in Wyszkow terminated forever. Along with that, the short but fruitful activity of the Wyszkow Non–Profit Loan Fund of the Socialist Handworkers' Union also ended.


[Page 87]

Sports Clubs and Self Defense

by Baruch Yismach (Buenos Aires)

Translated by Abraham Holland

Donated by Howard. B. Orenstein

wys087.jpg - Sports Club 'Morningstar' ('Morgenstern')
Sports Club “Morningstar” (“Morgenstern”)

In the year 1925, the idea arose to create a sports club. Understandably, the need to organize such a club was another link in the chain of societal activities, such as early-morning school, evening courses and professional groups. The first was the woodworking section. Afterwards, it was broadened to include many other skills. This ambition then included forming libraries. Almost every party and organization took upon itself the initiative to create its own library. Understandably, the availability of books was not very great---but people did read. Every library put up its best person as librarian. It was also decided that a reader could not keep a book more than 15 days. When a reader returned a book, the librarian had the right to test him to see if he had actually read it. And if he did, whether he understood it.

Many times there were strong and passionate discussions about the heroes of one or another book. The most requested books were those of: Sholom Aleichem, Sholom Ash, Y. L. Peretz, Avraham Raisen, Peretz Hirschbein. We, the young readers, barely out of school, loved the Jewish writers.

The second most requested were the works of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and others. Understandably, there were not many copies available. Sometimes there were many weeks of waiting for a requested book. Because of this the librarian had to accept the complaints from all, because it was, of course, his fault.

I volunteered to be the librarian because in the bylaws of the three sports clubs that were organized at that time, the first task was to find a librarian.

The sports movement started with two clubs. “Maccabi” formed from the secular elements of the city with the active participation of the “Chalutz” and “Shomer Hatzair,” and the United Worker Sports Club, “Skala.” But the union did not last very long---only a few weeks. The main reason was ideological. From “Skala,” there left the whole organized movement of the leftist “Poalei Zion” who then immediately formed a third sports club “Gviyazda” (“Shtern”). After that the ambition to overtake each other broke out. Each club formed a football team and in the town it became lively because of the competition. At the beginning the matches were strictly of a local character. The victories were varied. It goes without saying, the atmosphere in the town was tense because a victory in a match also meant the victory of one club's ideas over another.

I have commented earlier about the political affiliation of the “Maccabi” and “Gviyazda” clubs. The “Skala” club belonged to the Communists. Known as “Yevsektziyeh,” they also enticed a certain element, politically undecided, under the slogan, “If you are a worker, then you must belong to this club.” In this way, almost every club became entrenched in a party. Although the battle between the Jewish clubs was a bitter one, yet there were certain individuals with a greater understanding. When one of the clubs had to travel to another town for a match they would borrow players. There were also moments of farat (?) when, for instance, “Gviyazda” had to play the town club of a different town, and they borrowed a player or two, the last ones played especially weak so that their “idea club” should win. However, it was different when a Polish club called for a match, then “Maccabi” and “Gviyazda” were in full understanding that they would play with full earnestness and win.

[Page 88]

There was also a time when two clubs made an agreement to hold a common gymnastic exhibition. The only club that organized a full array of sports sections was “Gviyazda.” They even had uniforms for each section. It was imposing when the club would march from their location, through the town, to the places where gymnastics were held. Our elders were not happy. There were already those who were spreading all kinds of rumors. However, when the idea of an organized self-protection was brought out, and that gymnastics made the muscles strong, these people became sadly quiet.

Two moments stand out from that nice era. One: The sports club “Gviyazda,” made up of a men's section, a women's section, and a youth section, each in their representative uniforms and sports insignia, marched from the center of town to the train station “Puflaves” and after that in full dress into the town of “Ruzan.” Our arrival in Ruzan caused a whole revolution. An orthodox town, it was not accustomed to seeing such a group of young men, women, and children, dressed as soldiers---although not soldiers. The Jews ran to their Rabbi and asked what to do with us, The Rabbi ruled that since it was Sabbath eve, the town had to welcome us. We felt very good that Sabbath and Sunday. Monday evening, when we returned, there was waiting for us a large mass of people and our parade into town was a beautiful demonstration of Jewish strength and organization.

The second moment was: The 13th Peoples Army, which was famous in Pultusk with their football section made up of officers, challenged the club “Gviyazda” to a match in Pultusk. The parents of our players did not allow them to travel there. The population was known as the worst sort of anti-Semites. Knowing that our team would not allow them to win easily, it was a real fear for the lives of our players---but the challenge had to be accepted. After a bunch of discussions, in which most of the Jews in town took part, it was decided that the team would travel and allow the others to win, but with honor.

There were also moments when the Jewish club had community problems.

wys088.jpg - Outing for the Wyszkower Sports Club 'Stern' in the town of Rozan
Outing for the Wyszkówer Sports Club “Stern” in the town of Rozan

There was in Wyszków a habit (difficult to tell when it started) on Friday evenings, after the meals, of almost all the young Jews strolling back and forth in pairs and in groups. We talked, had discussions, gossiped about this one or that one. There was enough time for this. The stroll lasted from about 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. The street was full of people. The laughter and happy voices made the stroll very pleasant. As it turned out, our Polish neighbors couldn't take this, and they hired street youths, got them drunk, and sent them out to chase the Jews off the street. When such a “goy” showed himself among the strollers and started yelling: “Jews to Palestine,” there was a commotion in the street, a panic,

[Page 89]

people fell. One person stepped on another. At one edge of the town there was running away and at another edge there was yelling that Jews were being killed. After such a panic, the center became empty. There was a fear of going out of the house. These occurrences took place fairly often. The hired hooligans received much help from volunteers who took pleasure in the activity, and their nerve got greater each time. One goy was able to chase a thousand Jews. The leaders of the Jewish sports clubs got together and agreed to form a self defense. They chose the healthiest and most daring young men and formed them into pairs. The first task was to put an end to the panic---to stop the running away of many from one---to defend the Jewish honor and prevent possible serious happenings. The second---not to allow the “Shabbos” strolls to end. It was not a small task to demonstrate to the membership of the “Skala” club that the first priority is to remove from the streets the hired bullies---mostly wood workers--- that belonged to the same professional group and let them know that for a little whiskey they don't have to sell out the Jews. In that area we did not accomplish much. But the strolling Jews knew that among them there were strong hands that were prepared to beat off every attack. There were instances when we allowed our fists to be used against those hooligans that refused to move off and go home. Our tactic was this: At the start we told of our plight and begged them to stop---because today their work would not succeed. Sometimes we were able to prevent a fight, and other times we had to carry out our threat and force them to taste gutter water, where we let them lay to sober up.

The anti-Semitic group also did not rest. Even if their strength was not up to it they were able to receive help from the police. Behind them were always the policemen. In this way they were the innocent ones and we --- the guilty. In a well-organized manner, they started a war against individual people in our organization who were pointed out to them. A warning arrived: Either leave the town or receive a knife in the back. Many of the youth left, mostly to Latin American countries---the only places where one could emigrate in the years 1929-1930.

The Jewish situation became worse---the self-defense had to stop. Against hooligans we could defend ourselves but against the police we were too weak. Besides that we were informed that any self-defense could lead to a Pogrom.

 

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