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[Pages 441-437]

Chapter 15:

New Ways

World War I shook up Poland. The Russian Czar was overthrown, and then the German Kaiser. Student youth disarmed the arrogant German Junkers. People such as Abram Cwok, Yossek Rodak, and Zalman Lidzbarski, sensed that great changes were taking place. The Czar's rubles and the German marks lost all their value, became just pieces of paper.

The young people felt the change at once. In town, youth movements were organized: “Hovevei Sefat Ever” (Lovers of the Hebrew Language), “Maccabbee” for gymnastics and sports, and the scout organization “Bar Kochba.” Later, “ Hehalutz” was established, for emigration of the youth to the Land of Israel. It should be pointed out that this was the first organization of its kind in all Poland. “Hashomer Hatzair” was later established from the scout organization.

It all started with gymnastics and hikes, handsome uniforms with colored laces, and badges of honor. “The children are playing at war,” people said. Impressive roll calls were held with large banners and small ones. The bearer of the large flag was Nahman Eks. The officers were: Moshe Laski, Mendel Pizic, Nissek Lipschitz, Meyer Kanarek. The women officers were: Nancza Rybak, Mala Wishinska, Doba Alter, Hayah Nitzkin. The boys of Mlawa competed with one another for good deeds. An old Jew carrying a box of goods, a Jewish woman carrying a bundle of laundry, had only to appear on the scene and at once young scouts popped up and carried their packages.

Each Saturday they marched to the synagogue, faithful to the scout's pledge to “God and country.” The marching and the playing of the drums were a complete novelty As long as they remained just ceremonies, the parents watched in silence and even enjoyed them. The first encounter with opposition from the parents came when the youth began going on excursions to the forests and the peasant villages, the parents were worried about possible mishaps. This led, therefore, to the youth running away from home.

The great joy upon Poland's liberation quickly faded. Jewish blood was shed throughout the country: in Lemberg1 Minsk, Plock. In trains and on the road, Jews were slaughtered. Near Mlawa the goyim murdered little Moshele the Butcher who used to wander from village to village. Menahem Kozibrodski a member of “Hashomer Hatzair” who had been a soldier in the Polish army, was killed with an ax by the peasants. The Jewish scout movement quickly assessed the situation and felt itself alienated and despised by the Gentile youth. The laces disappeared and Hebrew replaced Polish in their circles. The heroic epos of “Hashomer” in the Land of Israel captured their imagination. The scouts became members of “Hashomer Hatzair”, an additional reason for severe conflicts with the parents, who usually wanted their children to have a practical goal in life. In previous years, Mlawians such as Baruch Itsel Perlmutter and Yakir Warszawski had visited Palestine. Now the rush to the Land of Israel became a mass phenomenon. Children from wealthy backgrounds left school and began to learn a trade.

“Children's communities,” summer camps were organized. Children carried out various tasks in town. Their earnings were deposited in a common fund in order to subsidize members unable to pay the dues necessary to cover the costs of the organization. Each year, large Purim Balls were held. Members of “Hashomer Hatzair” dressed up in Purim costumes, their masks representing figures from the Bible, folk characters, and others.

The income from these parties which, accompanied by music, were held in the Jewish gymnasium building, was used for the summer camps. Jewish holidays were celebrated with great festivity, especially Hanukah and Lag Ba'Omer (mid-spring harvest holiday). In closed formations boys and girls marched to the forest. The Lag Ba'Omer excursions drew old and young alike, to the forest.

At that time, the old leaders were replaced by young ones: Zvi and David Perla, Motek Bornstein, Haikel Wishinski, Ze'ev Yonish all now in Israel.

The first to emigrate to the Land of Israel were: Duvcze Mondrzak, Yossel Garfinkel, Yehiel Katz, Nathan Nathan and the carpenter, Shmelkeh Cytryniarz. After them followed: Usher Yonish, Esther Fraenkel, Shiyeh Naparstek and Abram Perlmutter. And then, entire families: Berish Perlmutter, Moshe Bialik, Avrum Rosenberg, Avrum Yonish, Moshe Kerschenbaum, Haim-Eliyah Perla, Avrum-Benyumin Magnoszewski, Eisenberg, Wishinski, Blumenkrancz, Meizlic, Windicki, Taubenfeld, Katz, Pinkus, Koppeh, Shtrumpfman, Shaft, the Grabien family. The Ciechanowers, the Czosneks, Joseph Makower, Kaplan, Beile the Baker - Jews from all levels of society. The zealous, orthodox leader, Pinhas Mondri, who was opposed to Zionism, emigrated to the Land of Israel with his entire family.

On Thursday when mail was delivered, even the Gentile postman knew that the whole town was impatiently waiting for letters from “over there” (Palestine). The good news in these letters was carried from one person to another.

Major changes took place in the workers' movements in Mlawa too. Before World War I, meeting were held in secret. During the War years, the “Bund” and “Poalei Zion” were established as legal parties. After the War, there was a big shake-up in the “Bund” because of the heated disputes in the comintern over the 21 sections. Isaac Greenberg played an important role in this controversy which determined the party's future course in Mlawa. The “Bund” split up into two groups. The brothers Kristal (sons of the Alexandrower Hassid Moshe-Ber), Eidlic and Isaac Greenberg went over to the “Combund” which later became part of the Communist party. Wielgolaski, Levinthal, Psziszwa, Binem Warszawski, Zilberstein (the son of Itcheleh Czyzewer), who later was a correspondent for the “Folks Zeitung” in Palestine, and Haimush Pizic remained in the “Bund.”

Haimush Pitzic, who came from a wealthy family, organized a professional union of cooks. This made a big impression in town. The cooks no longer called their mistresses “Madame.”

Moshe Herman, Shayah Krzesla, Shmulik Perlberg and the party sympathizers Moshe-David Czosnek, Haim Yonish and Avrumcio Warszawski, were members of “Young Bund.”

Influenced by Jewish settlement in Russia, many Bundists came to the decision that they should emigrate to the Land of Israel. They joined “Poale Zion.” The active members were then: Nahman Aks, Berlinka, Bezalel Shapik and Abram Shaft.

People left, abandoned town. Even the leaders of the “Bund” left for far-away countries such as South America, Australia and Palestine.

*

At the time that the best of the young people left Mlawa in an endless stream to the Land of Israel, Meyer Kanarek, Zalman Leder's grandson, appeared on the scene as a prominent community leader. He hailed from Plock and was brought up and educated in Mlawa. He helped to establish a Jewish scout organization and became one of its leaders. When this organization set off on a new course, he left and became an actor together with Arek Greenberg. He worked as a bookkeeper at the Sabo's mill. Then he married, had a son and lived no differently than people of his kind.

He and his friends used to meet at Kuba Kieniec's house, at Sabina Lipschitz's and at Nancza Rybak's, and chat, play cards, drink tea and stroll about the Mlawa park. But time did not stand still. His interest in the public's needs stirred Meyer and he joined the Editorial Board of “The Mlawa Times” and became absorbed in municipal affairs. When elections were held for the City Council, he was elected as a representative of “Po'ale Zion” and the progressive sector of the population. Later, he became a member of the city's Executive Board.

In surroundings filled with hate, Meyer Kanarek took his first steps in the City Council. He first appeared at a public meeting of the Council and appealed to the goyim in Yiddish. The Gentiles were astounded. the Jews panicked. “He'll bring about a disaster,” they claimed. Indeed, the goyim caused much trouble. They changed the market days from Tuesdays and Fridays to Wednesdays and Saturdays in order to undermine Jewish trade. The Jews didn't take this to heart; not a single merchant opened his store on Saturday nor did any craftsman come to the market with his wares. Market days were meagre and miserable affairs. The peasants stopped coming to town. The ploy of the Gentile representatives in the City Council failed and market days were shifted back to the original.

The City Council had intended to make life difficult for the Jews. To its great regret, it had to surrender to the Jews' demands. For the first time in the history of the Jews of Mlawa, the City Council established Jewish “old-age homes,” and a kindergarten for Jewish children. Funds were allotted various Jewish institutions, the gymnasium and children's camps, and there was better food in the elementary school. The goyim despised Kanarek but, at the same time, held him in respect. In view of his integrity and education, they invited him to participate in the most important municipal committees.

In time, Jewish representation was increased by the Bundists who also had members on the City Council. The participation of “Poale Zion” was enlarged by the election of Bezalel Szapik and Simha Galant.

In Meyer's time, the bonds between the Jewish workers parties, “Poale Zion” (Z.S.) and the “Bund” and the Polish Workers party (P.P.S.) became closer. May first celebrations were held in the market place for both Jewish and Polish workers. Jewish and Polish leaders gave speeches for the workers of both people.

All the achievements and all the important work on behalf of the Jews did not affect Meyer's iron will to immigrate to Palestine for the sake of his son. But he did not have time enough to realize his dream and was killed together with all the other Jews.

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