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[Pages 214 - 221]

Hehalutz, General Zionist

By Mordechai Majerowicz

Translated by Daphna Brafman

Tell me where my friends are at this time
Are they still alive, do they wander?
Perhaps they fell
Sing to me on my cradle
About the lamb and the sheep
Sing to me about Jewish hurt.
(L. Yaffe)

The date in which Zloczew's Zionist organization was founded has always been the subject of argument. Some pointed to a date a year or two before the outbreak of World War One, others said that it was during the war itself when people with a strong urge and resourcefulness initiated the founding of an organization of a unified group whose purpose was to fulfill the idea that was in their hearts and that was the foundation for what later was known as the 'Histadrut Tzionit Klalit' (General Zionist Union). On the other hand, some claimed that the organization was founded in 1917, following the Balfour Declaration.

But, regarding the youth movement “The All-Zionist Halutz” or “The Central Halutz”- there is no argument about its founding date. There are clear-cut testimonies concerning that.

According to delegation card number 30 of the third convention of the Central Halutz that was in Lodz on October 18, 1930, we were represented by four - Chaim Markovitch, Tzvi Majerowicz, Arie Kashpitzki and Mordechai Majerowicz.

Since I was one of the first ten members of the local Central Halutz, we can conclude that Zloczew's branch was founded two years before the convention, during the summer months of 1928.

The direct push and perhaps the determining factor for organizing the local youth were no doubt the 1920's events in the Land of Israel.

First Buds

Although our town already had a branch of 'Hashomer Hatsair' (another youth movement) whose founder, Yaakov Freund, had reached the stage of readiness and made an aliyah in 1925, most of our youth roamed around town with no direction and purpose. But this youth suddenly rose up, full of enthusiasm, and became involved in public activity.

As a first step, they became active for the Keren Kayemet (KKL) (National Jewish Fund). Boys and girls, equipped with documents issued by the central office of the Keren Kayemet L'Israel (KKL), walked the streets of our town and knocked on the doors of our dear residents and collected donations for the national fund. They placed the blue box at the home of every 'decent' family and collected it after a reasonable time by which it was expected to be full. Then they went in pairs from door to door and emptied the boxes that were full.

Other methods of fund raising were later developed. On days of Sabbath and festivals, a lad full of the spirit of divine mission would stand next to the Gabbai in the synagogue, all ready for the important task.

The Gabbai would call the Jews to come for the Torah reading, as is traditionally done, and greet them as they came close to the pulpit. It is now the turn of the man who was honored with the 'Aliyah' to show his gratitude with a contribution for the needs of the synagogue and, at that moment, the young boy adds his humble request- to contribute to the KKL as well.

As youngsters, full of youthful enthusiasm and excitement, they were not fully aware of the greatness of their 'prosaic' actions, but in reality, these were the first buds before the blooming of the national renaissance movement.

A Cradle For A Great Cause

It's a summer day in 1928. One of these pleasant beautiful days that even today, more than forty years later is pleasant to remember. Somewhere on the road between Zloczew and Lutotow, a shady pine tree grove lies, and a group of boys and girls are heading in that direction, to the meeting place with the Lutotow's branch of 'Hashomer Haleumi' (The National Guardian).

It's the middle of springtime and all is blooming. So far, 26 days had been counted since the start of the Omer count, but the golden sunrays have reached their climax and they produce pleasant warmth. The trees have already been covered with their attire, and wild flowers have painted the fields with beautiful colors, creating a mosaic that makes the eyes and the hearts rejoice. Indeed, it may have been our first time to inhale the air of the Almighty- our lungs filled with the intoxicating scent of the glamorous view and the refreshing beauty of nature.

We sat under the trees, ready to listen, and Chaim Markovitch began telling us the reason for gathering here. He explained the need to organize a branch of the Halutz Hamerkazi in our town. An active and interesting discussion developed among the group and at its conclusion we decided to invite an authority from the Lodz Halutz Hamerkazi to come and present before us the goals and method of operation of the organization.

The general atmosphere at that meeting was motivating and all participants strongly felt as though they were building the foundations to a new building that will serve a great purpose.

The Halutz Hamerkazi on a winter journey to the Sieradz forest

 

A Desirable Place

The branch existed in the shadow and under the auspices of the Zionist Union that viewed us as its ward and assisted us in every possible way, whenever we needed it. The representative we decided to invite to the meeting at the grove never came, but we were able to host H. Stein Maklosh who replaced him, and with much talent, explained to us the goals and missions of the Halutz Hamerkazi.

His words left a very strong impression on us, and filled us with motivation. We said “We Are Ready!” and the Halutz Hamerkazi of Zloczew became a solid fact. We repaired and painted the place and made it into a beautiful center for a public activity and the movement's educational function began. Within a short time, the place became a desirable place. We decorated it with pictures of the movement's leaders and of sites of the Land of Israel that the headquarters of the KKL had provided us with. In short - we made it into a lovely place close to the heart of every member.

We felt that the place belonged to us and we belonged to the place. We spent every free hour there and took advantage of every opportunity to pop in. The place was busy as a beehive and full of activity and noise. It gave us the feeling that we deserved the joy of living, happiness and liberty. No wonder more and more members joined with every passing day and more and more tasks and activities were added. Anyone passing by it could hear the singing coming out of it, the stamping of feet while dancing the 'Hora' and other folk dances, and the loud debates and discussions. Our life there was full of vitality; we sang, we debated, we made plans and dreamed about a better future, about Aliyah to the Land of Israel when we realized that there was no future for Jewish youth in Poland.

A meeting of the Halutz Hamerkazi of the Lodz region
on 16th of Av Tav Reish Tsadik

 

But our parents refused to believe that in the loud noise that came out of the place it is possible to converse or carry out an educational or learning activity. Not once, between Minha and Maariv, while standing in front of our club, I listened to a debate between the late Yaakov Bilewski, chairman of the Zionist Union- who demonstrated a strong feeling of pleasure when seeing the activities inside, and the late Chaim-Meir Alter (one of the Alter brothers of the Sierdzer Tarak) who was on his way to the Beit Hamidrash. Alter asked Bilewski: “You are talking about discussions, when do they have these discussions? Whenever I pass by this place, I hear shouting, singing and dancing; so how come you're talking about discussions?” and Bilewski replied: “What's the problem? When there's a discussion its quiet here and you pass by as if the place does not exist for you. You feel they exist only when they sing, dance, and make a big noise…”

Chaim-Meir did not surrender easily and continued: “you said they are learning from the discussions, but what can a youth learn?” Yaakov Bilewski answered with these words: “The youngster comes for a discussion twice a week, and suppose he learns one word in a meeting, in a year he can learn a hundred words and progress in that manner, acquire new words, enrich his knowledge, widen his horizon, develop opinions- and this way he achieves more than those who do not come to us. And the main thing, we hope that as a result of belonging to the Halutz Hamerkazi, he will join a training camp and go to the Land of Israel.

Two of the Halutz Hamerkazi instructors:
M. Tzvi Meirovitch and Yehuda Kashpitzki

 

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