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[Page 3]

INTRODUCTION

The sons, those that remained, from the Horchiv community in Poland, erect in the present book a monument dedicated to their community that perished in flames during the holocaust.

Our community was not large in number. Nevertheless, it was a city deeply rooted in the history of the Diaspora in Poland. The tides of time left their marks on its life. The community went through alternate periods of relative quiet and turmoil, for the public as well as for the individual, causing disquiet and restlessness; bringing about emigration both abroad and to Palestine. Until…until the hammer fell on the whole congregation, until the nazi murderers butchered all from child to the very old.

Since first hearing the dreadful tales of the holocaust, we have had the desire to write our memoirs of the history of our community. We felt this an obligation to ourselves, a contribution to the scroll of grief of our people, and a memorial to pass on to our children that will follow, as a reminder of their origins.

This task was not easy. The Horchiv Jewish community, though very old, had a few documents relating to its distant past. We have searched for and gathered all that was possible. Even about the immediate past, it was difficult to form a complete picture, as the elders who still had memories of the events that took place were no longer among the living. Only this last generation was privileged to describe here in a book its fate and emotions.

The period of immigration to Palestine, with all its struggles and hardships, played a key part in the lives of many of this generation, and is extensively described in the book by many documents and photographs.

The holocaust, the tragic fate of the martyrs of our community, and all they endured until annihilation – are all recorded by the few who survived, miraculously saved to stay alive. These shocking evidences, the human-historical testimony of the life of the community until its very last day, occupy a central part in the book.

The book is the work of many. It was assembled bit by bit, section by section, chapter by chapter, from the memories of the former community members, wherever they may be to-day. Each one of the tens of contributors to this book has brought a stone to erect this memorial monument.

Our sincere gratitude to them all.

The members of the editorial board who toiled for years in preparing this book are: Zvi Berger, Sarah Berger, Manya Berger, Malka Vered, Noam Zakai, Sheindel Zakai, Sarah Chumesh, David Tehori, Rachel Mitavsky, Baruch Zimmerman, Shlomo Zimmerman, Ephraim Schwartzman. The chairman of this board was Haim Dan, and it was he who bore the load of preparing the book from beginning to publication.

The following made all efforts to activate those members of Horchiv scattered throughout Israel: Shlomo Einbinder, Chaja Ben-Hillel (Meizlish) and Herzl Zucker.

We wish to thank the following members of our community living abroad – in the United States of America, in Canada and in the Argentine, who followed our work and assisted us in every way. We wish to express our special thanks to: Pinchas Wallach, Rachel Eisen, Mottel Blechman, Haim Jonah Soberman, Esther Shlengel-Soberman, Abba Meizlish, the late Sam Moore, Irving Friedman, Eidel Rappaport.

With awe and reverence we present and offer to the reader our book, a memorial to the Sacred of Horchiv. To the ocean of tears we shall shed our pot of tears on our full-of-living community that does not exist anymore…

August 1966 THE HORCHIV COMMITTEE IN ISRAEL


[Page 5]

HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF HORCHIV

In the Tsarist period, the town of Horchiv was situated in the Wladimir-Wolynsk (Ludmir) District of the Province of Wolyn. Between the two World Wars, when Poland was an independent state, Horchiv became the central town of its own District.

The town has a history dating back several centuries and is first mentioned in the ancient chronicles in 1450, in which the Polish King Kazimierz Jagielonczyk granted the fief of Horchiv to Count Olizarov-Szylowicz as a reward for his services to the crown. Later the town passed from one noble family to another. The Olizarovs gave way to the Dukes of Sanguszko and in 1750 Michael Wilhorski, the celebrated Polish statesman, become master of the District. In 1791 Count Stanislav Poniatowski acquired Horchiv from Wilhorski and he did much to develop the town. By introducing weekly market days he encouraged the growth of trade.

At the end of the 18th Century, the Counts of the related houses of Strojanowski and Tarnowski gained possession of the town and built a splendid palace which also housed a museum. The museum contained the works of noted Italian, Dutch, German and French artists, numerous valuable antiques, sculpture and a library which became famous throughout the length and breadth of Poland. Close to the palace was an extensive garden, laid out in the English style. A textile factory was also built in the vicinity and the trade of the town prospered. However, with the passage of time, conditions in Horchiv deteriorated. The members of the Tarnowski family moved elsewhere and they took some of the works of art in the palace to St. Petersburg, transfering the remainder to their estates in Galicia. The palace was completely deserted and eventually fell into ruins. Culturally and economically the town declined and was only saved by the trade which it owed to its proximity to the Austrian border.

Jews first settled in Horchiv in the 16th Century. In 1601 Zygmunt III, the King of Poland, put the Jewish inhabitants under the jurisdiction of Sanguszko-Kosirski who was charged with protecting them from the depredations of their Gentile neighbors. By the same decree, the Duke of Sanguszko was commanded to set aside a special street for the dwellings of the Jews, which was to stretch “from the market to the synagogue”. He was also ordered to leave room for Jewish slaughter houses and butchers' shops “next to the synagogue”. In the same year, Sanguszko farmed out the revenues of Horchiv and the surrounding towns and countryside to two Jews from the near-by town of Torczyn, in return for the sum of 40,000 zlotys. The two tax farmers had the right of jurisdiction, including the power of life and death over all the inhabitants, regardless of religion.

The importance of Horchiv as a center in Jewish public life in Poland grew as the Jewish population of the town became more deeply rooted. In 1700, the Province Committee of Wolyn, to which all the Jewish communities of the region were affiliated, met in Horchiv, to determine the amount of money which each community had to pay as its contribution to the tax which the government had imposed on the province as a whole.

The information which we possess about the number of Jewish inhabitants shows that there were fluctuations in the population from one period to another. In 1765 there were 1,023 Jews in the District, of whome 752 lived in the town of Horchiv; in 1778 the number of Jews had fallen to 599 in the District as a whole of whom 442 lived in the town. This drop can be explained by the pogroms carried out by the Ukrainian Haidamaks (rebels) in 1768 which led to the uprooting of many Jewish communities. By 1797 an increase in the Jewish population may be observed: 968 in the District as a whole, of whom 597 lived in the town. In 1874 the Jewish community numbered 1,964 souls, and fifty years later, in 1897, the general population was 4,699 of whom 2,571 were Jews.

In the period from the end of the First World War to the Nazi Holocaust, there were approximately 5,000 Jews out of a general population of 8,000*.

Aynath Chaim Dan

* According to a census held in the 1930's on the occasion of municipal elections. return


[Page 6]

STAGES IN THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

Horchiv is known to have had an old-established Jewish community; the meeting of the Wolyn Province Committee of the Council of the Four Lands in the town in the year 1700 bears witness to this fact. The town is situated at the confluence of the River Czerinchov and one of its small tributaries. The Jews, who first began to settle here in the 16th century, were engaged mainly in trade and handicrafts. In those far-off times great Rabbis lived in Horchiv, amongst them was the famous Rabbi Abba'le who dwelt in the town some two hundred years ago. At a later date the town's Rabbi was Rabbi Raphael Meizlisch (a relative of the “Ba”ch” and the “Ra”ma, *), the author of a “Tosefet Shabbat”. Rabbi Yitzhakl Drohobitzer, known as “Mochiach” lived in Horchiv for many years and is buried there. In more recent times the Rabbi of Horchiv was Ephraim Averbuch who was succeeded by his son-in-law, Rabbi Shmuel Reicher.

The town began to grow and develop after the First World War. The Polish authorities made Horchiv a district town and set up government institutions there. Trade flourished and there was a healthy economic situation.

During the civil war in the Ukraine at the end of the First World War the Jews were threatened by the danger of pogroms and they established a strong self-defence committee, in which all the young people participated, under the leadership of Yossi Eisen. The formation of this body prevented any damage to Jewish lives and property at the hands of anti-Semites and bandits.

At this period several young Jewish nationalists began to instruct boys and girls in the Hebrew language. The most active in the field were Simcha Perlmutter, and Zussia Zack (today known as Noam Zakai). They blazed the trail for the founding of the Hebrew School which was run by the local “Tarbut” Organization. The school had eight classes and most of the town's children learned there and were imbued with a strong feeling for Hebrew and Jewish nationalism. The first principal of the Hebrew School was Shmuel Bronstein who was succeeded by Aminadav Yosselevitz who served in this capacity until he emigrated to Eretz Yisrael. Next door to the school was an important social institution: the Hebrew and Yiddish library.

In the early 1920's, various Zionist societies were started in Horchiv. “Al Ha-Mishmar”, “Eit-Livnot” (General Zionist), “Hitachdut”, “He-Halutz” and “He-Halutz Ha-Tsair”. Beitar was started at a later date. There were also Jewish Communists who, together with their fellow-travellers, sometimes served as a source of worry to the Zionists. The Zionists organizations had a great influence on every aspect of life in the town and embraced people from every class. The Zionist Organization in Horchiv was headed by Jaakov Chumasch, who was also deputy mayor, and who was prominent in “Tarbut” and other organisations. The Zionists also controlled the Jewish Popular Bank which was a general community institution. When the Jews in Poland united with the other national minorities for the purpose of elections in Poland, the initiative in Horchiv was once again left to the Zionists. In fact Horchiv was quite rightly known as a “Zionist town” and , more than that, most people, even though they were “middle class”, tended to be influenced by the outlook of the younger generation which favored the concept of the Working Israel.

A training collective was established in Horchiv in 1935 and provided room for some sixty to seventy people, many of whom made their way to Eretz Yisrael. Beitar also established a training collective in the same year.

In the years 1933-4, the Polish government stepped up its efforts to force the Jews from the position they held in the economic life of the country. A large Polish department store was opened in Horchiv and this struck a severe blow to the livelihood of many of the Jews.

There was a large old synagogue in the town (built in the 80's of the last century). It was a high wooden building, covered with tin, and crowned by a dome, which was erected by Reb Mordechai Zimmermann according to the plans of an engineer from Kiev. In 1920 a ledger belonging to the burial society was discovered, and was found to contain entries dating back a hundred and twenty years. On the first page of the ledger there was an inscription written by the Rabbi of Trisk, in which he stated that this was a new ledger and it replaced the previous one which had been stolen. The Rabbi warned that he was placing a “Cherem” in advance on anybody who dared to steal the new ledger.

The Holocaust put an end to the Jewish life in Horchiv. At first the Germans employed skilled Jews in the tanneries which had been opened by the Russians. The Jews were divided between two ghettoes and then finally, about Rosh HaShana 5703*, they were liquidated. The Nazis would never have been able to accomplish this task without the help of the Ukrainians. Very few Jews managed to save their lives by running away to the forests or by seeking refuge in the villages. Nearly all those who were spared are now in Israel.

Tel Aviv  Baruch Zimmerman

* Ba”ch – Bayit Chadash – Rabbi Yoel Surkis (1561-1640), Ram”a – Moshe Isserlis (1525-1572). return

** The 14th of September 1942 return


[Page 11]

HOUSES OF WORSHIP, CANTORS, CHASSIDIM AND MEN OF GREAT VIRTUE

Nearly all the houses of worship in our town were concentrated in one street, the "Shulgass" (Street of the Synagogue). In the centre of the street stood the Great Synagogue and the "Beth Ha-Midrash", and in the immediate vicinity were the smaller houses of prayer – the "Sadigerer Shtibl", the "Trisker Shtibl", the "Oliker Shtibl" and the "Karliner Shtibl". The "Kiniever Shtibl" was situated in another street.

Our town had "belonged" for many years to the Rebbe Chernobil and Trisk "dynasty", and the Rabbi of the town was always one of his disciples. It is therefore fitting to describe the "Shtibl" of the Trisk Chassidim first.

The "Trisker Shtibl"

The visit of the Rabbi of Trisk to our town were regarded as great events by all the Jewish inhabitants. The Rabbi would lead the Friday night prayers in the Shtibl of his disciples, and people from all the other houses of prayer would flock to hear him, to greet him, and to touch his hand.

In the period between the two World Wars, the heir to the Chernobil and Trisk dynasty, to whom the Trisker Chassidim in our town paid most respect, was Rabbi Velvele, who lived in Kovel and who used to set out from there to visit his followers in the communities of Wolyn. Whenever Rabbi Velvele arrived in Horchiv he was greeted by his followers at the railway station, and during the week he stayed in the town, crowds of men and children would gather around the door of the house where he was staying. On Friday night the Trisker Shtibl was decorated as for a festival in honour of the Rabbi, whose visit served to inspire his followers for long after he had left the town.

Reb Yossel Hoshchiver, who was the most important man in Horchiv in Czarist times, used to pray in the Trisker Shtibl and his spirit still lingered after his death, warmly remembered by all. It was said that he left no heir to fill his place – his son-in-law who followed in his footsteps, died in the typhus epidemic at the end of the First World War.

The cantor in this Shtibl was Reb Yekutiel Stricker. His successor was Reb Eliezer Krupnik (Lazer Rechles) who came to Horchiv from Druszkopol, and conoisseurs said that Reb Lazer was the equal of his predecessor. His recitation of the "Kol Nidre" prayer made the rafters ring. People still remember his version of the Prayer "Unetane Tokef" and his moving "Hineni Ha'-ani Mema'as". The congregation was moved to tears by his heart-rending "Ve'al Yiheye Shum Mikhshol Be'Tfilati".

The Sadigerer Shtibl.

The disciples of the Rabbi of Tchortkov used to meet in the Sadigerer Shtibl. From time to time they would set out on the long journey to the home of their Rabbi, and whenever they returned they always brought back a new melody which their Rabbi had taught them. The elders of this Shtibl were Reb Mentzi Hurwitz and Reb Shmuel Flomin, both of whom died after reaching Israel where their sons had settled.

Many of the worshippers in the Sadigerer Shtibl were of the younger generation, and most of them belonged to families with Zionist leanings. In fact the Zionist meetings were held in the Shtibl and people came there to listen to speakers soliciting support for the "Keren Ha-yesod", or to hear the reports of delegates who had attended National Conferences and meetings of the Zionist movement.

The cantors in the Shtibl were Reb Aharon Chazan and, later, Reb Zelig Hirsch Chasis. Both of them were famous for their performances on Saturday evenings and even the young men who were not religiously minded would sneak in to hear them.

The Oliker Shtibl.

The worshippers of the Oliker Shtibl were drawn from the ranks of the town's craftsmen ; the tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths etc. The elders of the congregation were : Reb Itzig Mor-dechai Toiber and Reb Aron (Aharon) Kobile, who was also the cantor.

After the demise of the old Rabbi Ephraim Averbuch, his children quarrelled and one of his sons-in-law was appointed Rabbi of the Oliker Congregation. When the Oliker Rabbi visited Horchiv, Reb Aron, the cantor, excelled himself and, at the head of a large crowd of singing disciples, accompanied the Rabbi from the house of prayer to his lodgings.

The Karliner Shtibl.

The Karliner Shtibl was smaller than the others described above. The leading figure was Reb Azriel Yentis. The congregation always waited for him to arrive before starting the service, and the cantor would never repeat the "Shmone Esrei" prayers aloud until he was certain that Reb Azriel had finished saying them silently. The infrequent visits of the Rabbi of Karlyn or Stolyn were occasions for great rejoicing for Reb Azriel and his congregation.

The Kiniever Shtibl.

The outstanding personality in the Kiniever Shtibl was Reb Yehiel Hersch Chazan, a watchmaker by trade, who was universally respected for his honesty and exemplary way of life.

"Beth Ha-Midrash".

The congregation in the Beth Midrash was larger than in the "Shtiblach" and did not owe allegiance to any Chassidic dynasty of Rabbis.

The most noteworthy member of the congregation was Reb Moshe Rappoport, one of the most respected inhabitants of the town, a businessman with a large family, who nevertheless devoted much time and energy to the running of his beloved Beth Midrash.

On Saturday afternoons people used to gather in the Beth Midrash to hear discourses on religious matters in former days, and Zionist speakers in more modern times.

The Great Synagogue

The Great Synagogue (Shul) was a high, spacious building, which attracted worshippers from all walks of life. The congregation remained loyal to their "Shul" even in winter, when the weather was very cold, and in spite of the fact that there was no heating in the building. One of the permanent wardens in the Great Synagogue was Reb Shimshon Liebers who was later replaced by Shlomo Mirkover.

On Sabbaths and Holy Days, Reb Yankel Isser Aharontsis was the cantor and was assisted by his two husky sons. On the eve of the Day of Atonement wax candles were lit in the Great Synagogue, and their light, which filled the whole interior, shone through the high windows and all who beheld it from near or afar marvelled at the wondrous sight.

MEN OF GREAT VIRTUE

Our town was blessed with a succession of outstanding personalities in the world of Chassidism, each of whom left a lasting impression on its religious life.

"The Mochiach".

First and foremost there was the saintly "Mochiach"*) who lived in Horchiv more than two hundred years ago. He died in the town and is buried there. His person is shrouded in legend. In the eyes of both Jew and Gentile alike he was accepted as a father-figure and patron of the town and its inhabitants. One of the legends about him, told by the elders of the town, related how in the days of "Gonta"**), the "Mochiach" drew a circle round the town with his stick and said : "You will come so far and no further", and so it was, Gonta did not enter the town and the inhabitants were saved. From then on the people of the town would recall the memory of the "Mochiach" whenever they were threatened by war or other perils. They would visit his grave and say prayers because they felt that his spirit still protected the town and would avert any evil.

Rabbi Yitzchak Moshe.

Rabbi Yitzchak Moshe lived in our town at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present century. He used to visit the courts of various sages and Rabbis but his great virtue earned him a name as a sage in his own right.

Rabbi Yitzchak Moshe was not concerned with matters of this world and preferred to devote all his time and energy to the study of the Law. He is supposed to have refrained from speaking any language other than the holy tongue. One day he chanced to meet a Russian official who asked him a question. Rabbi Yitzchak Moshe answered ; "Da" (know) and added, under his breath "et Ha-Shem Eloheicha" (the Lord Thy God). The word "Da" means "Yes" in Russian and in this way Rabbi Yitzchak Moshe succeeded both in answering the question and in continuing to speak only Hebrew, even though he was confronted by a Gentile in authority.

Rabbi Bentsi

Rabbi Bentsion Hoffman came to our town after the First World War and quickly earned himself an honoured position among the local Chassidim. He originally came from Zwihil (Novograd-Wolynsk) and from there moved to Kamenitz and only arrived in Horchiv afterwards, when he was already middle-aged. He was tall, with a black beard, God-fearing and experienced in the ways of the world. He greeted everyone he met and his radiant presence was quickly felt. Rabbi Bentsion, or Rabbi Bentsi as he was called by all and sundry, was like a bubbling spring. He was a gifted story-teller and knew the smallest details about the lives of various Rabbis. He used to spice his conversation with stories of some Rabbi or other and in this way he entranced his audience. Various Chassidim sat at his table and he attracted simple folk who drew upon him as a source of inspiration and encouragement. On the annivarsary of each famous Rabbi's death, Rabbi Bentsi would sit at the head of his table and dispense wisdom.

As he grew older Rabbi Bentsi's saintly reputation grew, and he was treated with more and more veneration. When the Second World War broke out he was afflicted with paralysis and he was taken to Kamenitz by his family. There he perished together with all the Jewish community, in the days of the German occupation.

Aynath  Chaim Dan

* Rabbi Yitzchak Drohobitzer. return

** Ivan Gonta, leader of the Gangs of Haidamaks (rebels), who wrought havoc among the Jewish population in 1768. return


[Page 14]

THE HEBREW SCHOOL

There are two distinct periods in the history of the Hebrew School: The Early Period, and, after an interval, the Period of Revival and Continuation.

       The Hebrew School was founded during the First World War, when the town was occupied by the Germans.

       The confusion of the early years of the First World War, when the town changed hands several times, also created a crisis in a sphere of activity to which the Jewish public was particularly sensitive : the education of the younger generation. The unheavals which played havoc with everyday life caused Jewish educational activity to come to a halt and this situation was painful both for the children and their parents.

       In the meantime, great changes were taking place in the general atmosphere of the Jewish community and they included a new approach to the system of education. The traditional "Cheder" lost ground. The younger generation was permeated with a spirit of englihtenment and Zionism, and it was this generation which provided the first Hebrew teachers who founded the school and kept it going.

       The active Zionists in the town were very concerned about the lack of educational facilities and the general state of neglect, and they decided to ask the German occupation authorities for permission to open a Hebrew School for Jewish children. They negotiated with a Feldwebel Konn (the negotiations seemed to have included certain "presents" and they received a licence to open a school, which came into operation in 1916.

       The first teachers were : Simcha Perlmutter, Moshe Sobermann, David Millstein, Noam Zakai and Eidel Rappaport and they were later joined by Yisrael Alperson and Moshe Lazar The programme of studies was broadened year by year. At first all the emphasis was laid on the study of the Hebrew language, the Bible, literature and history. Latter on, general subjects such as geography, mathematics and chemistry were added to the syllabus, as was Polish, the language of the new state. The staff was augmented by Orenstein, who was later principal of the school for some time, and the women teachers : Bernstein, Weinberg and Rosa Perlmutter. The boys also went in the afternoon to study religious subjects under Rabbi Binyamin Schwarzmann. The General Secretary of the school was Yaakov Shapira and the Committee of Parents and Inspectors consisted of : Avraham Weitz, Yaakov Chumash, Noam Zakai, David Weitz, Avraham-Eli Patziornik and Dov Berger.

       The Hebrew School catered for hundreds of pupils from all sections of the community – many of whom paid only a minimum fee, or nothing at all. The teachers were extremely devoted to their work. More and more people began to speak Hebrew and the town became a Hebrew and Zionist centre due to the influence of the School.

       The School was run in a Zionist spirit. The whole community used to attend the performances put on by the children. The festivals such as Chanukah, Purim, and Lag b'Omer were presented as historical and national events. There was special affection for the Jewish National Fund and the Blue Box. The children eagerly discussed any item of news which reached the town. When the news of the death of Trumpeldor and his comrades at Tel Hai was reported in the newspaper, "Hatsfira", normal lessons were interrupted and the teachers read out all the details of the event to the pupils.

       The Hebrew teachers were also among the first to take part in the "Third Aliyah" to Palestine and thus set an example for their pupils to follow, and indeed hundreds of them later reached the Promised Land. All of them regard the Hebrew School as having been a beacon of light in their younger days in the town.

       The Hebrew School, founded in 1916, continued to exist until 1924, when the Polish Government School (the Powszechna) was opened. The latter provided Hebrew religious studies and proved to be a serious rival to the Hebrew School. The Polish Government put increasing pressure on the independent schools and some parents gave in, thinking that the Government School, with its limited programme of religious studies, would be sufficient. However this period of weakness only lasted two years. In 1926 there was a renewal of interest and a special effort was made by the local Zionists to reestablish the Hebrew School.

       The new school carried on all the traditions of its predecessor and it prospered due to the great devotion of teachers and parents – there were even plans to open a Hebrew High School in our town.

       When the Second World War broke out, the Hebrew School which had been such a credit to our community ceased to exist.

Aynath  Chaim Dan


[Page 15]

YIDDISH PUBLIC SCHOOL AND LIBRARY

By Rachel Eisen

Joseph Eisen was born in 1891 in the village of Ozeretz, Volinia, some seven miles from Horchiv. His parents Saul and Malka were pious, honest and for many years poor people, but had always given their hospitality to the itinerant stranger and the poor. Joseph was the youngest of six children. Like his two brothers, he left home at a rather early age in order to study at the Rovna Yeshiva. It was there that he learned the Russian language and became acquainted with Jewish and world literature.

In contrast to all other young Jewish people of those times, he decided to go into the Russian Army, He reported for service at the age of 19, two years earlier than required, in order to get it over as soon as possible. He was rather good at military drill and even reveived a stripe, a rare distinction for a Jew in the Russian Army.

When Joseph returned from the Army he lived partly in the village and partly in town. Together with his older brother he went into the grain business. In those years he became interested in the fate of the ordinary Jew, his problems, work, poverty, education and the plight of the Jewish artisan. Unfortunately, he contracted T. B. and had to leave for Zakopane, a health resort, in what was then Austria. It was during his stay in Zakopane that the war broke out. He spent the summer at the resort and the winter at Lvov, trying to earn his upkeep. At Lvov he made acquaintance of the leftist Poalei-Zion circles and befriended one of its leaders, Nathan Buksbaum.

After the war, when our part of the Ukraine was annexed to Poland, Joseph immediately returned to Horchiv. He would stay in town for several months at a time, alternating between Lvov and his home town. At that time he also played an important part in organizing Jewish self-defence against the attacks by the peasants. His experience in the Tsarist Army came in handy.

I will recount an episode from those times. In a frost-cold winter evening, my girl friend, Sarah Gleiser, and I were poring over our books in the dim light of a little kerosene lamp, to do the homework that our teacher, David Shapira, had asked us to do. Suddenly, there was a knock on the frozen pane. It was "Uncle Yossi", as we called him, the rifle over his shoulders and in the company of another armed young man. "I came to tell you that you need not be afraid of anything. Go on with your studies. There is someone watching over you".

For a number of years, Joseph Eisen devoted himself to creating clubs for young Jewish workers, as well as small reading rooms and libraries for adults. He went out of his way to create a Jewish School, with Yiddish as language of instruction. The Hebrew language and the national Jewish ideology were to play an important role.

In the years 1927–1928, Joseph lived in America, mostly in New York. He had to struggle hard to make a living. These were difficult times in America. Yet in his letters to me there is evidence that he used every free moment and every ounce of strength to convice his "landsleit" to organize a committee for a Jewish school in Horchiv. I shall quote a note which was printed in the Brooklyn Jewish Gazette, Summer 1927 :

COMMITTEE FOR THE SUPPORT OF THE
JEWISH SCHOOL AT HORCHIV, WOLYN

"At a meeting held last Saturday by a group of Horchiv landsleit in New York, a Committee for the support of the Jewish School in Horchiv was formed and the sum of $ 500 was contributed on the spot towards the erection of the School. The decision was taken following a detailed report by Joseph Eisen (Eisenberg) about the plight of the Jewish children in the city of Horchiv.

"Friend Eeisen described the diffcult situation of Jewish children in that city, who had no way of getting an education, Jewish or general. He impressed his landsleit to such an extent, that they responded with large contributions for the construction of the school".

It was perhaps a matter of fate that Joseph Eisen returned to Europe. I shall quote from a letter which I received from Mully Bregman containing an almost official report.

Horchiv, June 4, 1929.

"As you know, a branch of the Jewish School System was established in Horchiv. This was made possible owing to the effort of Yossi Eisen, who created a Committee in America for the construction of a Jewish School in our town. To explain to each individual separately about the significance of a School with Yiddish as the language of instruction was an extremely difficult task. We worked so hard that eventually the young Jewish workers and the artisans were won over to our side. In addition to the school, a library was founded, so vital for our cultural work. During the short period of its existence, the library has already proved its usefulness and already has a membership of 180. The majority of our working youth is using the library, which already has 500 volumes. Similarly, a guitar band and a sports group were founded.

"Unfortunately, our economic situation is very bad, because of the general economic crisis in Poland. The majority of our members are working people, and yet they can hardly afford to pay their dues. The library is struggling for its existence.

"Lately, a group of 'Reds' has infiltrated into the library, causing much trouble. They also caused a great disturbance at the school and interfered with its functions.

"Generally speaking the library is very well organized : the books are divided into sections and the system is very effective. I took into consideration the qualities of our readers and introduced lectures and talks on literature. In short, the library has become a popular feature, but I myself am not too happy about it. There are difficulties, which I am not able to cope with. Its whole existence is based on little pennies and there is no money for its development. We can only make both ends meet with great effort. This situation reflects upon our general cultural work.

"The library is open twice a week, in the evenings, when the young people finish their work. We are also planning to open sections in the Polish language. For all this we need funds, but I do not see where we can get them from. Those who can give have already given both for the School and for the library".

In 1950, I met the poet Israel Ashendorf in Paris. During a friendly chat he told me that in 1939 he spent a week in Horchiv, gave several lectures and was the guest of my uncle Joseph Eisen and his wife Lola.

It is my hope that the letters and memoirs quoted above will bear testimony to the deep concern, dedication and responsibility of Joseph Eisen to community affairs. He perished together with his wife Lola (Bart), and his son Saul. It is believed that they were murdered by Ukrainian peasants in his native village of Oziretz, where he escaped with his family from the Horchiv ghetto.

Montreal, Canada  Rachel Eisen


[Page 18]

THE LEADER OF THE COMMUNITY YAAKOV CHUMASCH

The most outstanding personality in the town was not a member of the richer class. The leader of the community, its main representative and the one who fought hardest for its rights was Reb Yaakov Chumasch of blessed memory. He was the guiding light of any public activity and first and foremost, of any Zionist activity in the town.

Reb Yaakov Chumasch founded the Jewish Cooperative Bank which was the mainstay of Jewish economic life in Horchiv. He managed the bank and made it into the most important institution. He was also one of the founders of the "Tarbut" Hebrew School (in 1926) and was responsible for its maintenance and development. As Deputy Mayor of the town he jealously guarded Jewish interests, and fought tirelessly for the principle that the Jews of the town should enjoy the benefits of the town administration in proportion to their numbers. He was proud to be the representative of the Jews in their relations with the authorities, and he never debased hemself. In fact he achieved the maximum that could be achieved, taking into account the peculiar position of the Jews in Poland in the period between the two World Wars.

Yaakov Chumasch was chairman of the local Zionist organisation, chairman of the "Tarbut" School committee, chairman of the "Keren Ha-Yesod", he led all the Zionist enterprises and influenced the Zionist spirit and Zionist education of the town.

Not only was he an accomplished lecturer and speaker, but he also practiced what he preached. He emigrated to Eretz Yisrael with all his family, prior to the Second World War. He died in Rehovot in 1954.

Tel Aviv  Baruch Zimmermann


[Page 18]

THE DEPUTY MAYOR

Reb Yaakov Chumasch, who was foremost in every sphere of public activity in the town, and was head of the local Zionist Organization, also served as Deputy Mayor (except for a short break) from the time Horchiv became Polish until he emigrated to Eretz Yisrael. He served with great honour. I shall never forget his speeches from the balcony of the Starostvo (Town Hall) on the 3rd of May and the llth of November. In may opinion he really showed his greatness after reaching Eretz Yisrael. I have no doubt that he was capable of occupying a high position in the Yishuv of that time, but he preferred to earn his living by the sweat of his brow until his last day on earth.

Tel Aviv  David Tehori (Sobermann)


[Page 19]

"HE-HALUTZ"

The Unbroken Chain.

The far reaching changes taking place in the life of the Jews also had their effect on our town, most of whose Jewish inhabitants became fervent adherents of the Zionist movement in all its various forms. When news of the San Remo decision *) reached the town, all the Jewish inhabitants turned out in procession, the houses were decorated with blue and white flags and everyone was in festive mood, sure that the day of deliverance was at hand. Crowds of people braved the bitter winter weather and came to bid farewell to the first pioneers from our town when they set out on their journey to Eretz Yisrael. Our Hebrew School was one of the only ones in the district, and carried on despite the difficult conditions created by the chaotic political situation. The school's teachers were devoted to their task of instilling their pupils with a love of the Hebrew language, the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael. People spoke Hebrew and Hebrew literature fulfilled a psychological need. The Hebrew library, which had been founded several years before, developed and became the most important library in the town, with hundreds of regular readers. Any Hebrew book that was published in Poland or Eretz Yisrael found its way to the library. Emissaries sent out by the various Zionist funds knew that a visit to the town had to include a lecture in Hebrew to the young people.

It was the young people who formed the links in the chain of Aliyah. After the first group of pioneers left for Eretz Yisrael only a few individuals followed in their footsteps. The initial enthusiasm had worn off. The crisis in the Zionist movement and in Palestine also had repercussions in our town. Many people did not answer the call of the hour to emigrate. The concept of Zionism as a means of self-realisation was foreign to the Zionist of the period. However the young people, many of them still at school and thus too young to emigrate, were not satisfied with the current mode of Zionism. They were totally won over to the idea of a life of work, self-realisation and Aliyah. They became familiar with these concepts by reading the book "Yizkor" or copies of "Ha-Poel Ha-Tsair" (the "Young Worker") which they somehow got hold of.

The Young People Enrol.

Nearly all the members of "He-Halutz" (the Pioneer) in the town were members of the middle class. There were no craftsmen to speak of in "He-Halutz". People were opposed to the idea of physical labour and for this reason there was considerable opposition to "He-Halutz" for a number of years.

The growing tide of anti-Semitism in Poland brought young people, who were seeking a solution for their economic problems, into "He-Halutz". The Polish authorities began to dislodge the Jews from the position they occupied in the economic life of the country. Poles who settled in the regions near the Ukrainian frontier started to supplant both the Ukrainians and the Jews. The Ukrainians were pushed out of the positions they held and were given the opportunity to emigrate from Poland. In an attempt to strike at the Jewish position, economic warfare was declared. Shops were opened and cooperatives were set up to provide competition for the Jews in sectors of the economy which they had previously controlled. When the Jews found that their sources of income were drying up, many young people joined "He-Halutz" in order to prepare themselves for Aliyah.

Education and Culture.

"He-Halutz" now began to absorb people who had no general or Hebrew education and this meant that the movement in Horchiv had to apply itself to a new task : waging a campaign against illiteracy and ignorance and trying to teach a knowledge of the Hebrew language. Evening classes for both general subjects and Hebrew were opened. The teacher, Aryeh Mogilianski, who offered his services voluntarily, and refused payment, particularly distinguished himself in this field of activity and there were others like him ; teachers from the Hebrew School and members of the local branch of "He-Halutz". In this way "He-Halutz" not only directed young people into a more productive way of life but also became a factor for the diffusion of Hebrew language and culture. When the Hebrew paper, "Ha-Tsefira" was published in Warsaw it had a considerable number of subscribers in Horchiv, as did the "He-Halutz" paper in Poland "He-Atid".

Mutual Assistance

The members of "He-Halutz" in Horchiv did not concern themselves solely with agricultural training and cultural activities. With the worsening of the economic situation of Polish Jewry, many members of the movement who had received permission to emigrate found that they did not have the necessary money. It became the custom to raise money by proclaiming that all wages earned on certain days were to be devoted to the benefit of those emigrating. Special concerts and parties were also organised and the proceeds were devoted to the same ends. There were many different ways of earning money. I was once approached by an agent of the Warsaw daily newspapers, "Heint" and "Moment", and he suggested that "He-Halutz" should make itself responsible for the distribution of these newspapers in the town. Not only did we do as he suggested, but we also made improvements in the way the papers were distributed. Up till then the readers had received the paper a day after it was printed, but once we had acquired the agency, we made sure that people received their copy in the evening of the day of issue.

Owing to the fact that Horchiv was a District town, prospective emigrants from the surrounding neighbourhood came there in order to arrange their passports and we did our best for them and also offered them financial help if they needed it.

Among those who were especially active in their work for "He-Halutz" were Chaim Yaakov Dobromil and David Kleiner. Dobromil was particularly noted for his work in the fields of publicity and leadership and was one of the mainstays of the movement in the town. David Kleiner did not confine his activities to "He-Halutz", he also played an active role in "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" which was founded in Horchiv in 1924. After devoting much of his time and energy to the latter movement, Kleiner went to a training farm in Klosova, he worked in a quarry and a saw-mill and eventually emigrated to Eretz Yisrael.

Tel Yosef  Moshe Bnayahu

* At the San Remo Conference the main Allied Powers (Britain, France, Italy, and Japan) decided to grant Britain the Palestine Mandate (on the 24th of April, 1920) and charged her with the implementation of the Balfour Declaration. return


[Page 21]

"HE-HALUTZ HA-TSAIR"

"He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" (the Young Pioneer) was founded in our town in 1924, and was the first youth movement in Horchiv. Branches of "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" sprang up in the cities and towns of Wolyn and in the districts of Vilna and Bialistock as a spontaneous expression of the desire of young people to find a meaning in life. The overwhelming ambition was to become a pioneer and go to Eretz Yisrael. The watchword of the movement was : self-realisation – to begin to lead a pioneering life immediately in preparation for a future in Eretz Yisrael. The members of "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" were marked by qualities of modesty, simplicity and loyal devotion, qualities which were manifested at the training farms and in the way of life in the movement all over Poland, We were a popular pioneering movement.

Nearly all the first members of "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" in our town were products of the Hebrew School. The "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" branch was a natural means of countinuing the Hebrew education we had received at the school. Later these same young people graduated to the "He-Halutz" branch in Horchiv and became some of its most active members.

The founder members of "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" in Horchiv were (in alphabetical order) : Moshe Binyuk, (Bnayahu), Chaim Leib Fisch (Chaim Dan), David Kleiner, Yitzhak Klieger, Gittel Ravitz, Miriam Singer, Gittel Vogel. Arieh Zakai and Baruch Zimmermann. We were like the younger brothers of the adult pioneers and we often engaged in the same activities as the members of "He-Halutz".

Representatives of our local branch participated in the first general meeting of all the branches of "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" in Wolyn, which was held in Kovel in 1925. This was the first time that we met people from other places who shared our aims and methods, and this contact with the rest of the movement encouraged us in our work.

The pioneering movement in Poland had its ups and downs. We received many applications to join during the height of the Fourth Aliyah but our membership fell off when that Aliyah was beset by a crisis. After the Arab riots in 1929 there was a rush to join "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" and from then on the movement grew from strength to strength.

Our branch of "He-Halutz Ha-Tsair" directed many people into the ranks of "He-Halutz" and they eventually reached Eretz Yisrael. A new generation filled the places of those who had moved on and the movement in our town continued to attract young people who were drawn to the ideals of Aliyah, work and life in a kibbutz.

Aynath  Chaim Dan

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