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[Page 240-241]

Sport

by Levy Laufert

Translated by Bill Leibner

The youth in our town concentrated around three ideological bases - namely Zionist movements, religious centers, and socialist youth groups.

The Jewish Sport Association in Zloczew.
The soccer team, from left to right:
W. Salomanowicz, Sh. Sroka, A. Jacubowicz, H. Jacubowicz,
A. Gadel, Troskolowski, B. Poznanski, A. Kochman, G. Mayerowicz, Jule Bresler and Aaron Olezala.

There were poetry readings, lectures, evening courses to study Hebrew, and other courses dealing with general knowledge. All of these activities were aimed at raising the intellectual level of the youth. These activities also involved the youth and provided them with a certain goal within the organized framework of existing organizations. The political parties wanted to keep the young people attached to their cause so they had to offer them incentives for staying. One of these incentives was the creation of sport activities, namely two sport clubs. One club was sponsored and supported by the left-wing Poalei Tzion and the professional association supported the other club.

The initiators and developers of these clubs did not realize the difficulties between theory and practice. It was one thing to discuss sport activities and another thing to implement these ideas. Reality interfered quite effectively with the realization of these plans. It was quite a job to bring the youth to a certain level of sporting activity.

The human material came primarily from poor homes. The latter were frequently influenced by backward concepts of life. Supernatural beliefs limited the growth of cultural achievements. These homes had very little tradition of bodybuilding or the development of physical strength. The mere fact of appearing in shorts and a tee shirt to practice games was a shocking experience to the environment. It was considered belonging to the outside world, in a sense a revolutionary trend for young Jews.

These practices particularly affected young girls that had to show up at practice games with large flowing short dresses and comfortable blouses. The concept of following orders and punctuality that are the basics of sport were difficult to implant in their young minds and required a great deal of effort and patience to achieve results, but progress was accomplished.

The highly motivated youth helped greatly to achieve results in this area and I would like to mention two outstanding types that were very active in the clubs and helped indirectly to influence the youth to join these clubs and to even participate actively in the sport activities. The two were: Simcha Kshepitzki and Tziwia Tschukowski.

Simcha Kshepitzki was the recognized leader of the youth. He was well built, highly motivated, and very active in sport activities. He encouraged the youth to join these activities and shortly thereafter demonstrated great skills and precision in gymnastics. He became the leader of the performing male group of athletes.

Tziwia, on the other hand, was heavy-set and gave a non-sporty appearance. But she had a strong will and took her sport activities seriously and that resulted in great achievements. It later appeared that she was very elastic and became the leading rhythmic dancer amongst the girls of the club. I still remember that many girls decided to join the rhythmic dance group after they saw how Tziwia and her group danced.

I must add that the slogan “a healthy body leads to a healthy soul” was not the type of saying that kept the youth involved in sports. In order to keep the sport interest amongst the youth, something stronger was needed. Indeed, the element was found: public athletic festivities as well as public dance competitions between various dance groups. The first contest was held in Tcherkaski's Hall and the place was packed. Various dances were performed, namely, flag and ribbon rhythmic dances. Gymnasts that also performed a variety of gymnastic exercises built various pyramids and finally the rhythmic dance group performed a variety of numbers to the tunes of Mozart's waltz music. The violinist was Matlowski. He and Yossel Rabinowicz were partners and were the official “klezmer” musicians at Jewish weddings in the city. The performance was very successful and the public was impressed.

The second great sport event took place in the great yard next to the hall of Sraltche Mayerowicz (previously the place belonged to Lipinski). This time, the presentation was more formal; the delegations entered the sport arena and began to execute a very rich program of activities. Gymnasts performed various exercises, then various pyramids were built and finally the girls dancing team performed rhythmic dances. Various sport clubs from nearby clubs sent delegations to attend the event. The place was too small to contain the large crowd that came to the event and many people sat on nearby fences or roofs of neighboring houses. The spectators were impressed by the performances as well as by the exemplary behavior of the athletes. It was later reported that the teacher Zibert, known as a local sport and music fan, observed the event and was impressed. He even expressed recognition to the organizers of the event that staged such a performance, requiring a great deal of discipline, punctuality and interaction. As a former sport instructor at these clubs, it is difficult for me presently to conceive how we managed to achieve all the above-mentioned results. It appears to me that the youth of our town incorporated in themselves certain virtues that have to be admired.


[Page 242]

The Chess Clubs

by A. P.

Translated by Bill Leibner

What Jew cannot play chess? He does not have to compete with Dr. Aliechin or Botwinik (world chess masters) but he is familiar with the game. And if he does not play a game, he can always give advice from the sidelines to other players. The advice is very important and may help the good player lose the game, but it can never help the weak player win a game. Usually, the sideline kibitzers or advisers stay next to the strong player - that way they can share in the victory.

Thus, we had several circles of chess players and kibitzers in Zloczew. Yeshiva students frequently played this intellectual game. At the house of Yankel Zaltzberg, one could always meet religious players bent over the chessboard on the long table and deeply engrossed in the game. Yankel himself was more of a kibitzer than a player, since he had to deal with his customers, which prevented him from playing the game without interruptions.

A regular club also existed at the house of Nathan Garbinski with steady participants namely, Mordechai Baumgarten, Itche and Motel Markowicz, Hersh Itzik Katz, as well as the permanent kibitzer Itchel Dawidowicz with his stream of comments. Some of the players advanced and joined the stronger chess club. Amongst them were: Godel Gad, Idel Dankels, Abraham Gad and so on…

The strong club was located at the home of Abraham Hersh. His son, Wowe, and the neighbor Michael Bielawski were the best players in the city. Furthermore, the place was open to everybody. Besides chess and the voices of the kibitzers, one also heard music at the home - Wowe also played the violin. There was also a mandolin and a cello at the home. Frequently, Aaron Iglitzki, Abraham-Dawid Gutfreund and Gabriel Dzubash came to the club and played the instruments. None of them were great virtuosos or students of musical academies, but they played nicely familiar folk or dance songs. This type of music was not heard in other places of the township. Everybody was serious during these concerts and those that had a musical voice joined in. The place became a center for people that sought a friendly atmosphere.

During the long winter nights, the chess games especially widened in popularity. When the players and the kibitzers arrived, there was no room left for the family. The inhabitants of the place had to eat their supper standing because the long table was covered with chessboards. The noise was loud - the kibitzers on both sides of the fence kept uttering biting words or tunes with the aim of distracting the opposing player.
There was no lack of comic situations at these games. I recall an incident when two average players sat down to play a game - Idel Yankel and Abraham Gad. Both had on fur hats and the room was warm. They were not very religious, but still refused to take off their hats. A solution was found – namely, they placed the hats upside down on their heads, exposing the linings to all the viewers. Thus sat two bearded Jews, played chess and mumbled Chassidic tunes. They gave the appearance of Turks…

Amongst the better chess players were: Wowe, Michael, Godel, Dawid Pullwer-Macher, Wawtche Markowicz, and Itzhak Dawidowicz. The last three players worked in Lodz and frequently visited the local chess clubs in that city where they picked up new chess moves. At home, they tried the new moves but soon the other players learned these and the advantages were wiped out.

For a year after the death of Wowe, the congregants of the club continued to visit the family and play chess in order to sympathize with their loss. Later on, the non-official chess club ceased to exist after it operated for twelve years.

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