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{Page 186}

The Hebrew School

by Professor Yitzhak Weiss - Jerusalem

Translated and donated by Aliya Middleton

From its early days, the Zionist movement was interested in the problems of educating the Jewish youth, realizing that only Hebrew-Nationalist education will prepare young people for the Zionist movement. The main demand of the educationalists in the Zionist movement was to include Hebrew-Jewish education within the general educational program, rather than be satisfied with a few hours of Jewish religious instruction. However, they did not achieve this aim, and only in some communities some hours were added for studying the Hebrew language. This was despite strong opposition from assimilationist circles among the Jews.

With the increasing influence of the Zionist-Nationalist movement, it became recognized that it was necessary to have Jewish educational institutions in which all the subjects would be taught in the Hebrew language, modelled on the schools of the “Tarbut” network. And if there are difficulties about teaching all the subjects in Hebrew, then bilingual schools should be established, in which Jewish Youth would study the Hebrew subjects in Hebrew (not less than two hours a day), like Torah, History and Geography of the Land of Israel, and the Oral law. Other subjects would be taught in the language of the country, that is in Polish.

In Galicia, bilingual schools were mainly established. A splendid bilingual school was founded in Rzeszow, located at the “Beit Ha-am” (People's House) named after Tenenbaum. “Beit Ha-am” was the cultural center of the town. In addition to classrooms for both the elementary school and the high school, it contained well-equipped laboratories and an extensive library with books in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish. In a special wing there was a reading room with Polish newspapers and a large variety of newspapers from abroad, particularly from the Land of Israel. In the same wing there was a lecture hall in which various lectures took place. On Saturdays the hall was host to the “Ivria” group - whose meetings consisted of lectures in Hebrew. The yard of “Beit Ha-am” was used for the School's sporting activities.

A large committee from within the community supported the school. The committee included Zionist personalities, well known people and champions of Hebrew culture like Dr. Henryk Kanarek, Jacob Alter, Dr. Felix Hopfen, Shlomo Munzberg, Mrs. Anna Kahane and many others.

In its first years the school had few pupils. Thanks to the dedicated teachers and the efforts of the committee, the number of pupils increased and the school opened several parallel classes at the elementary level and extended the high school. Both schools were regularly inspected by the Polish Ministry of Culture and had full rights.

The penetration of the Zionist movement into the ranks of the young students at the bilingual school in Rzeszow brought major changes. From their midst emerged the first group leaders who started disseminating the Hebrew language among Jewish students in Polish schools, bringing them closer to Zionism. Extra-curricular activities were pursued, which extended knowledge in different areas related to Judaism. The teachers at the school dedicated most of their time to Zionist education of their pupils. And indeed many new members joined the Zionist Youth movements.

All the Jewish political parties established youth clubs, which were hubs of extensive Zionist activity. In the evenings, Hebrew songs were heard, sung by the boys and girls. Folk dances, plays about returning to the land of Israel and heated discussions about the future of the Jewish People filled the life of the young people. The youth started believing in “Shivat Zion” -a return to Zion - and renewed independence for the people.

The groups of “Hachshara” turned the dream into reality. Young Jewish people started training themselves in practical terms for life as settlers in the Land of Israel. A few lived to fulfil this dream. They are today all over Israel. But the rest - and they were the majority - sadly, did not live to fulfil this goal. They stayed in Rzeszow until the axe fell upon the House of Israel and cut them all down.

Let this note serve as a memorial to the dear teachers and faithful students with whom we dreamt and longed for the rebuilding of our country and the revival of our nation.

{Photo page 186: Pupils and teachers of the Hebrew Gymnasia in Rzeszow.}


{Page 187}

Once Upon a Time There Was a School

by Sabina Schneeweiss - Ramat-Gan

Translated and donated by Aliya Middleton

Once upon a time there was a school on the street corner
It was there, but is no longer….
In my sleepless nights I am haunted
By echoes of gaiety, shouts of joy, flowers in the windows.

How will I be able to erase from my memory
The yard bathed in the bright light of youth?
How will I silence the sound of din and laughter?
Can you hear it in this poem?

And if I ever return to those walls,
Which still stand as if nothing happened,
I shall stretch my arms and grasp them
Shake them, knock them down and they will turn into dust…

{Photo page 187 top: A class with Teachers at the Hebrew School.}

{Photo page 187 middle: Pupils and teachers of the Hebrew Gymnasia.}

{Photo page 187 bottom: Girl pupils of the Hebrew School march to the unveiling of a monument.}


{Page 188}

The Nucleus of the Hebrew School

by Dr. Mauricy Ungar

Translated and donated by Aliya Middleton

In the autumn of 1923 a students society was established, whose function was to educate the young, giving them a minimal level of general education and teaching them the Hebrew language. Members of “Hashomer Hatzair” and also “cosmopolitans” belonged to this society. In the first meetings they discussed teaching Jewish illiterates reading and writing. At first they decided to organise three groups according to age. The Zionist Organisation (Histadrut) helped opening schools and had a budget for this purpose. One of those involved was the teacher (Melamed) Sziman, who had a “Cheder” on Kazimierz street. In the same house there was also “Talmud Torah”, where one could rent rooms in the afternoons for a very small charge. Eight teachers volunteered for this work - the studies were carried out according to age. Classes A (first grade) studied from 1 to 2 in the afternoon. Classes B from 6 to 7 and classes C from 7 to 8. The pupils paid a nominal fee of 1/2 zloty for the lessons. 60% were exempt even from this nominal payment. About 70 pupils enrolled in the first year. Some were graduates of Polish schools and a small proportion were students from the “Talmud Torah”. However, it was the management of the “Talmud Torah” which caused problems, since they did not want Jewish children to study secular subjects and neglect their religious Jewish studies.

First it was necessary to teach reading and writing in the Polish language and then to teach about animals and plants. A significant part of the lessons were devoted to arithmetic and accountancy. In the first year the following taught: Benjamin Freud, Szmuel Salpeter, Jeszaja Both, Josef Trink, Schefer, Szalom Hofsteter, Mauricy Ungar. At the end of the academic year certificates were given with the heading “Jewish School”. Every year the number of teachers and pupils increased, until there were 8 classes and 22 teachers.

At the beginning of 1926, a communist underground movement was uncovered in Rzeszow and there were concerns about its influence among young people. Most of the teachers were dismissed, leaving only 5 teachers to carry the burden of the school. Among them were P. Sternschuss and Mauricy Ungar. After 5 years of hard work in difficult circumstances the society stopped its activities, with the establishment of the Hebrew School in Beit Haam.

It was an important chapter of life and a wonderful page in the history of the Hebrew Youth - taking upon themselves the education and teaching of the young generation, while risking expulsion from their own schools. These young people were motivated by a sense of responsibility and care for others.

In 1927 a proper Hebrew school was established from which one class graduated. [1]

{Photograph page 188:The Sturmlaufer sisters who were teachers, and the pupils at the Hebrew School in 1922.}


{Page 189}

Sport In Rzeszow

by Lawyer Alexander Joshua Rosner-Keller - Tel Aviv

Translated and donated by Aliya Middleton

The Jewish community did not fall behind the Polish community, and following the revival of national life, it started organising sporting activities. An organization named after “Bar Kochba” [2] was established - headed by Dr. Mauricy Shapira (now in the USA) Mendel Fett, Herman Kleiman, the brothers Max, Leon Platzer and others. The first signs of sport in Rzeszow were performances of Gymnastics at Hannuka balls and competitions on the sports ground, where later “Beit Haam” named after Adolf Tenenbaum was established. Football matches took place on a field near the Wislok River. At the same time the sport group Shimshon [3] was established in workers circles. This group merged with “Bar Kochba” a little later. At that time the football team led by Juzek Heiblum reached great heights. In his team played Szimek Graber, Romek Schuller, Dawid Wachspress, Wowek Sandhaus, Motek Schwartz, Aharon Keller, Mendek Laub, Sziek Keller (now lawyer Alexander Rosner), Lipek Keller, the brothers Wowek and Pinek Hirsch, Sales, Michael Green, Janek Schwartz, Vergeslich and Freuhlich. The players of Bar Kochba used to reinforce the “Koach” team in Bielsko and the Gdynia team in Gdansk.

Due to the lack of a football field, the footballers used to train on the bank of the Wislok River and later - for a fee - on the Resovia ground. Thanks to the effort of Dr. Shapira, Zygmunt Grauer and Herschtal, a playing field was acquired on Baldachowka Street, and this led to the flourishing of football in Rzeszow. The team progressed very quickly from the Third Division to the Second Division. And a few times won matches against First Division players. “Bar Kochba” players Mendek Laub, Yehoshua Keller, Chaim Schuller, and Green were also members of the team representing the town of Rzeszow. In 1929 the “Bar Kochba” team took part in a national convention of Jewish football teams in Krakow - and achieved the first place in the Second Division of the Jewish teams in Poland.

Many of the “Bar Kochba” players obtained awards for decent behaviour from the Polish Football association. These were: Graber, Sales, Wachspress, Schuller and Keller. When the team was left without a training ground, there was a great crisis in this sport.

At that time Dr Arthur Wang and particularly Henryk Weinbach (now Wirski in Krakow) joined the activities to promote Jewish sport in our town. In 1933 a committee was elected headed by Henryk Weinbach and with the efficient help of Magister

{Photo page 189: Bar Kochba in 1932. Standing from right: M. Fett, M. Shtechler, Einhorn, M. Bodner, Yehoshua Alexander Keller Rosner, Z. Sandhaus, Chairman Dr. Shapira, Hirsch, M. Freulich, Schwartz, A. Ungar, Sh. Hirsch, Freidrich, Vergeslich,. Kneeling: Sh. Graber, Ch. Schuller.}

{Page 190}

Geno Dornfest (now in Warsaw), the treasurer Abraham Ungar (now in Givat Brener), who were active in developing additional sporting activities within “Bar Kochba”. And so sporting activities were developed like: tennis, gymnastics, athletics, table tennis and wrestling. Following a special publicity campaign within the community, we managed to rent a plot of land from the Ohlbaum family in Grodzisko Street. The best tennis courts in Rzeszow were built there, as well as a beautiful summer house and “Kargilenia”. These playing fields were not only the center for sport but also for cultural activities. The young sportsmen used to gather after training sessions, for talks about different subjects. During the winter we used to hire halls for training, to maintain the contacts between the groups and to invigorate sporting activities at the start of the season. On Sabbath eves we organised balls and cultural activities. The extensive library was available for the young people. During the winter, the sports ground was used as a skating rink, which was available also to the non-Jewish population. Among the boxing group, special mention is due to the brothers Wilek and Max Grauer, the Merel brothers, the Kirsch-Schwebel brothers (Joshua and Naftali Schwebel, now in Israel), Leizek Kalb (now in Israel), Moskowicz, Akerman and others. Our group occupied second place in the general league. Wilek Grauer boxed with the Champion of Poland and also won a fight with the flyweight Hungarian Champion. In several sporting activities “Bar Kochba” won competitions with non-Jewish teams. These facts dispelled the widely held view among the Polish population that the Jew is a hunchback with withered muscles. The perception of lack of physical fitness among the Jews was proven wrong: it turned out that the Jew is not the clumsy inadequate figure that made him a target of mockery for the Polish population. The Poles understood that the Jew could wrestle fearlessly with those stronger than himself and be among the winners.

A dramatic society emerged alongside “Bar Kochba”. Among the founders of the dramatic society were Jizyk Elian and his wife Serena, Max Platzer (now in Israel), Scherman, and then Juziu Heiblum continued this tradition. Max Mendel (now in Israel) conducted the Orchestra. Among the plays the following were note worthy: Three Presents by Y. L. Peretz, “Bar Kochba” by Goldfaden and other plays.
The “Bar Kochba” group became an important factor and the number of its members increased so much that the political parties made efforts to gain their support and votes during elections. The Nazi foe put an end also to the sporting activities of the Jewish community in our town.

{Photo page 190: Bar Kochba Football Team. First row, standing from right: P. Sales, Wachtel, M. Green, Hirsch, P. Wintergreen, Yehoshua Rosner Keller, V. Sandhaus, M. Loeb, N. Sak, Rinda, Sh. Hirsch, Eisenfeld. Second Row: N. Platzer (a lawyer in Israel), Lichtblau, M. Schwartz, Vergeslich, Nagar. Sitting: Ch. Kramer, Sh. Graber, Ch. Shculler.}


{Page 191}

The “Bar Kochba” Sport Association

by Avraham Ungar of Givat Brenner

{This article appears in Yiddish on page 475 of the Yiddish section.}

{Photo page 191: “Bar Kochba” Football Team.}

In 1933, a group of sports aficionados in Rzeszow began to form the directorship of the “Jewish Union For Gymnastics and Sport” (Z. T. G. S.) by the name of “Bar Kochba”.

Due to the lack of a playing field for football [4], the Bar Kochba organization in its latter years did not involve itself in broad based sporting activities, but rather only in the nurturing of a football team. With difficulty, the Bar Kochba football team was able to hold a place in the B league of the Lvov region.

Until 1934, the head of the new committee for Bar Kochba was Dr. Arthur Wang (who died in Israel). He was joined by Dr. Henryk Weinbach. From 1935-1939, Dr. H. Weinbach served as president of the organization.

The participation of new members in the directorship and the founding of new sports groups advanced the activities of the organization in a significant manner. In those years, there was no change in the composition of the directorship. The president was Dr. H. Weinbach, the secretary was Magister A. Dornfest, and the treasurer was Avraham Ungar.

The main objective of the new directorship was the acquisition of a sports field, whether by purchase or by rental, that would serve as a center for the development of sporting life, cultural activities, and progressive education, all together.

They obtained a plot of land near the old football field and converted it into a new sports field. After they leveled it and erected a fence around it, they set up two tennis courts, and put up a wooden hut for the summer, bowling equipment, a cafeteria, and an open deck. In the winter, they would on occasion rent rooms in another place that were suitable for the activities of the organization.

The organization was headquartered for two years in Metal's home on Targowica Street; for one year in the Jewish hospital building prior to the building being completed; and for two years in the merchants' club on the Third of May Street. A skating rink was set up in the winter on the sports field. It attracted many people, youths and children. On summer evenings, the rooms of the organization were full of both recent and long-time members, who were spending their time engaged in pleasant pursuits.

The number of members grew continually. A new set of regulations for Bar Kochba (Z. T. G. S.) was established.

On Sabbaths and festivals, parties were arranged, the income of which was dedicated to the purchase of a sports field. In addition, a room was set aside for reading. That room had many newspapers, a radio, and a place for games.

The members of the committee stood at the head of various sporting organizations. Lubasz, Fett, and Heiblum headed the football team. The Bar Kochba team, whose ranks grew due to the joining of former players from the Shimshon group (a sporting union of the Jewish workers), played in the B league. Due to the lack of a football field, the team could not display its full prowess.

{Page 192}

{Photo page 192: “Bar-Kochba” Boxers in 1935. Standing from left: Weinbach (chairman), Karp (coach), Kneeling from left: the son of Weinbach. W. Grauer, --, Eckstein, D. Stechler, Kalb, M. Grauer, D. Brust, Lifschutz.}

The boxing team was one of the most important sporting groups of the organization. The expert boxers were: the Grauer brothers, Marlum, Kalb, Moszkowicz, Akerman, and others. In the championship competition, the boxing team achieved two honorable positions in the league. On various occasions, competitions were arranged between Wilek Grauer and Rotholtz, the Polish flyweight champion. In a competition with the Hungarian boxing team that took place in Rzeszow, Grauer beat the Hungarian boxing champion.

In addition to these teams, there were teams for ping-pong, light athletics and gymnastics. Similarly, the dramatic group was quite active, in cooperation with the members of “Scena” and the “Zamir” music group.

The dramatic group performed a number of plays, including the opera “Bar Kochba”, and “Three Presents”. Mandel oversaw the music group.

Immediately after the entry of the Nazis in 1939, I was an eyewitness to the destruction of the organization's property by the Polish riffraff, who broke down both the fence and the bowling equipment for use as firewood. The equipment and furniture from the rooms of the organization similarly disappeared.

Thus was the end of the Z. T. G. S. Bar Kochba organization…


The Society for the Preservation of Health

by Dr. Mauricy Ungar

I was active in this organization from the year 1931, as a volunteer, as were the rest of the members during all the years that Dr. Feldmaus of blessed memory served as chairman. Anyone in need received first aid from this organization.

The room next to the old cemetery was always bustling with people. The poor people even received their medication for free.

I was also the secretary of T. O. Z. [5]. The directors of the committee were Mrs. Anna Kahane, Esther Weisenfeld, Shlomo Munzberg, Schmelkes, and others. T. O. Z. would organize summer camps for children – this was an important means of assistance for the children of the poorer Jews who would not have been able to have any other sort of vacation during the hot summer days.


{Page 193}

Workers' Children's House in Rzeszow

by Louis Estherman of U. S. A.

{Photo page 193: Esther Weisenfeld}

The Jewish Children's House in Rzeszow, which was one of the most important institutions in the city, was founded in 1918 by members of the “Yehudit” Poale Zion women's organization, which had itself only been founded a short time previously. (Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld was the founder of that Poale Zion women's organization.) This organization was composed of the young wives of workers and business foremen, as well as a large group of working young women. Esther Weisenfeld was the president of the children's institution. The purpose of the children's house was to assist poor parents, working parents, etc., by educating their children during the hours that they were working or occupied in peddling and did not find it possible to dedicate the appropriate attention to the education of children.

The second reason was that, due to the pogroms in Ukraine, many Jewish refugees with large families arrived in Rzeszow from their hometowns. These unfortunate refugees, wandering around without a home, had abandoned all of their property and arrived destitute. They looked for some means of support for themselves. They spread out in the city and neighboring towns, trading in whatever was available in order to earn their morsel of bread and sustain their souls. These refugees would leave their children at home alone, literally unsupervised. These children would wander about the streets, or more literally, the gutters, abandoned and alone. Nobody paid attention to them, as they did to the poor children of Rzeszow itself.

At that time, Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld, at a general meeting of Poale Zion of which she was a member of the advisory committee, proposed a plan to establish a children's home. Bernard Fish, who was the chairman of the organization, agreed to her words, and the proposal was accepted. The task of establishing the new institution was given over to the Yehudit women's organization.

A few days later, the women's organization rented a large hall and two other rooms adjacent to it. One of these rooms served as a kitchen, and the children's home was started. The purpose of the children's home was to gather the children who were growing up without the supervision of their parents, to look after them during the day, to educate them, and to feed them until their parents would return from their work and various pursuits they were undertaking to sustain their souls.

A committee of women and men was appointed. All were members of Poale Zion. Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld was the chairwoman, Ada Sarta (later the wife of Mendel Fett) was the vice chairwoman, Dr. Shnur was the secretary, and Bernard Fish was the treasurer.

Obviously, the beginning was very difficult. First of all, there was no money. The young men and women of Poale Zion assisted to the best of their abilities. However, when parents of the needy children found out about the existence of the institution, a massive stream of children starting arriving. The situation of most of the children was frightful – they were abandoned, their clothes torn and worn, and – worst of all – they were hungry. Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld, Bernard Fish and the rest of the members of the committee were forced to restrict the entry of children to the institution, and only children between the ages of 2 and 7 were accepted. Children older than 7 were not accepted to the institution, due to lack of alternative. Nevertheless, even the acceptance of children from the specified ages was beyond the capabilities of the children's home. The activists of the children's home turned to the homeowners of Rzeszow and asked for their assistance. Slowly, a number of Jews became involved, and displayed true charity. Jews who conducted business in foodstuffs, even those who were not wealthy, supported the institution with provisions. Owners of property in the neighboring villages sent potatoes, rye, corn, and fruit. They ground the rye and wheat themselves, and the women baked bread and various pastries. Both Jewish and gentile bakery owners provided baked goods. Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld organized flower days, which brought in significant sums and helped strengthen the institution.

Even all of this was not sufficient. People providing various services worked for a fee. A teacher was hired for the institution to teach the children, and this required money. The name of the first teacher at the children's home was

{Page 194}

Meshulam Davidson, a member of the Poale Zion organization, who had come from Russia. His children were also supported in the institution, since his salary was very meager. Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld succeeded in enlisting several of the wives of wealthy residents of Rzeszow to join the activists of the children's home. These included the wife of the physician Dr. Elsner, Mrs. Dr. Wachtel, Mrs. Dr. Reich, the wife of Yaakov Birman, Mrs. Julius Freulich, and others. Together with Bernard Fish, Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld attracted the interest of the students. A large number of male and female students joined the activities of the children's home, and this contributed to the ongoing existence and development of the institution.

The children received a proper education, good food and clothes. The older ones who were capable studied in the public school, however in the afternoons they came to the children's home to receive food. The women fattened them up with “butter and honey”, so that they would look like the rest of the children of Rzeszow at school.

When a dramatic school was established in Rzeszow, the children learned quickly how to act on stage. The teachers and students chose children for the dramatic group, taught them their roles well, and later performed a play in the Polish Casino hall. Many people came to the performance and were astounded by the acting of the children. After this performance, other similar performances were put on. This brought in significant sums to the treasury of the children's home. A large number of students of Rzeszow were active in the plays. They helped the children in their acting, and took part in the activities of the institution.

The value of the children's home grew in the eyes of all segments of the Jewish population of Rzeszow. Dr. Herman Fett, the brother of Mendel Fett, Mrs. Dym the daughter of Rabbi Nathan Lewin, the Steinberg sisters who were the daughters of Rabbi Berish Steinberg, and many others whose names are impossible to note here, joined the activities of the institution.

Drs. Elsner and Teller took upon themselves the medical care of the children without payment. Sick children were sent to the villages in the summer to breathe fresh air.

Despite all this, there were a few people in the city, including those who thought of themselves as “the most important representatives”, who were not satisfied with the activities for the benefit of the children of the poor.

The official name of the children's home was “The Home for the Children of the Workers” under the direction of the Yehudit women's organization of the Poale Zion movement. This did not sit well with certain people, even though men and women who were not members of the Poale Zion movement also worked on behalf of the institution.

Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld left Rzeszow in 1926 to join her husband in the United States. Bernard Fish was then chosen as the president of the institution, and the work on behalf of the children continued in a beneficial manner. Even in the United States, Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld worked to raise money from among her acquaintances and sent it to the children's home. This assistance was sufficient to purchase a house and to help in the general running of the institution.

Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld was then granted the title of lifelong honorary president of the institution. The directorship expressed to her their deep thanks and appreciation.

Finally, Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld wished to mention a person by the name of Klara Brosman, who helped the institution significantly. She was a refugee from Ukraine who was accepted by the institution as a teacher after Davidson left his post. This young woman excelled in the profession of teaching, and instilled a new life among the students. She, along with her husband and several others of the refugees from Ukraine, later made aliya to the Land of Israel, where she continued teaching.

Today, Jewish Rzeszow is no more. There are no young people or adults. There is only a great pain that will never be forgotten.

{Photo page 194: Orphanage children on holiday. In the upper right are Esther Weisenfeld, and the wife of Dr. Elsner.}


{Page 195}

Beit Haam [6] and the Hospital in Rzeszow

by Michael Walzer-Fass of Hod Hasharon

{Photo page 195: Beit Haam.}

From the midst of the fog of the splendid past, from the fragile dream of Jewish and Zionist Rzeszow, from the past that no longer exists – it is as if two important Jewish institutions rise to life before our eyes, for indeed, years of labor and hope were put into them. These are the Beit Haam and the Jewish Hospital.

Ten years elapsed between the founding of these two institutions. Beit Haam was founded at the end of the 1920s, at the time of the flourishing of Zionism amongst the youth, who were beginning to plan for aliya to the Land of Israel. The hospital opened at the time of the setting of these dreams. The hospital, which was opened one year before the outbreak of the Second World War, was born at a time when the sighs of the Jews broke forth from the cities and towns of Poland, when the Jews did not know what type of disaster was hovering over their heads. Their lot was bad, and from then on sadness enveloped the face of Polish Jewry during that era.

As a native of Lancut, it was natural that I was also connected to nearby Rzeszow, especially as an activist in the Hashomer Hatzair movement. I have significant memories regarding Beit Haam of Rzeszow: I participated in the opening festivities as one of the musicians of the Hazamir band of Lancut. Etched in my memory is the play that was put on in Beit Haam by the Vilna Troupe, “At Night in the Old Market” by Y. L. Peretz. A year after I saw this performance, I had another chance to participate in an event at Beit Haam. This was for a farewell party for my friends from Hashomer Hatzair who were making aliya to the Land.

The activities leading toward the establishment of Beit Haam went on for more than twenty years until the plans were realized and the building was erected.

The activities started in 1907, about seven years prior to the outbreak of the First World War, during the period when Dr. Felix Hopfen


{Page 196}

served as chairman of the local Zionist committee. At that time, the proposal of the member of the committee Kalman Kurtzman to establish Beit Haam in Rzeszow was accepted. In the sources from that era we find that two organizations banded together – Hatzarchania and Bnai Yehuda – in order to realize the plan, that is to say to concern themselves about the financial means by raising money for the undertaking. During the years between 1907 and 1912, 14,500 Austrian Crowns were collected. In 1909, the committee succeeded in purchasing a 2,000 square meter lot in the center of the city for the price of 17,000 Crowns. In an article in the Hamitzpeh newspaper from 1913 (number 21), we read about the flower day that the women of Rzeszow organized at the beginning of the month of May for the purpose of “Establishing a National House! [7], that was to be built by the Beit Yehuda organization”.

The activities ceased during the years of the First World War. Then, the benefactor Adolf Tenenbaum appeared on the scene. He was a native of Rzeszow who did much for the Jews of Rzeszow during the difficult years of the war. A. Tenenbaum, a wealthy merchant who lived in London and a childhood friend of Dr. Wachtel, accepted the proposal of Dr. Wachtel to assist in the establishment of Beit Haam. He donated 12,000 Pounds Sterling for that purpose.

On September 19, 1926, at a general meeting of Beit Yehuda, it was decided to give over the lot for its intended purpose and with that, Beit Yehuda concluded its role. From that time on, the enterprise was called after the name of the benefactor A. Tenenbaum. That month, the cornerstone of the building was laid. The three-story building of Beit Haam was completed in 1928. The festive opening ceremonies took place on March 5th, the birthday of the benefactor by whose name the building was called.

{Photo page 196: Halutzim dig the Beit Haam foundations.}

The building and furnishing of Beit Haam cost 60,000 dollars. The building was 920 square meters. The roof was covered partly with tin sheets and partly with eternit [8]. On top of the building the name Beit Haam was displayed in gold letters, along with the name of the benefactor A. Tenenbaum and the Polish words “Dom Ludowy”. The year of the completion of the building was engraved upon the second entrance.

The Jewish youth groups of Rzeszow had their headquarters on the lower floor. On the main floor, there were two large main gates that lead to the hallway. At both sides, there were booths for the sale of tickets. From there, one would pass through a moving door to the cloakroom. Among the many ornaments, a white marble statue of the benefactor stood out. It was built by the sculptor Naftali Hirsch, a native of Rzeszow who studied at the Betzalel School [9] in Jerusalem. There were also two marble memorial tablets. From the cloakroom, a door led to the dressing room, and from there, there were two large entranceways to the large hall. The performance hall was 20 meters by 12 meters, with a height of 8.5 meters. The hall had six entrances. Near the stage, there was a special balcony for the band. The stage, 12 meters by 8 meters, was designed with all the necessities for plays. All necessary arrangements were made to allow for movie performances. On the first floor, there was a large hall that served as a reading hall, the administrative offices, and a library – in addition to the rooms of the organizations. The directorship of the building specified that the rooms were to be used for a Jewish elementary and high school, and also for afternoon and night courses. The curriculum was the government curriculum, with the addition of courses in Hebrew, Bible and Judaism. It was set out that there would be no studies on Sabbaths and Jewish holidays. In order that the building would be able to fulfill its purpose and serve as the center for communal life in Jewish Rzeszow, the building was divided up so that the entire spectrum of interests would be reflected in it. There was a lecture hall, a reading room, a large library, and a hall for theatrical performances, movies and concerts.

According to the charter, the income was to be directed toward educational purposes. Any remaining monies that were remaining were to be distributed to the poor of the city, both Jews and Poles. At the time of the opening of the building, three people were chosen as directors, one of them being the chairman. The right to be appointed to the committee was reserved for a Polish citizen of Mosaic persuasion [10], living in Rzeszow, who completed his studies in university or a polytechnic institution, who has not forfeited his national citizenship and has not been indicted for any criminal offence. The benefactor Tenenbaum appointed the first management committee. His friend and childhood buddy Dr. Wachtel was appointed chairman, and Dr. Elsner and Dr. Felix Hopfen were appointed to the committee. Drs. Silber, Schmelkes and Dintenfas were appointed as vices.

Beit Haam was supported by a native benefactor who lived in England. The hospital was supported by the Rzeszow organization in the United States. After years of work and fundraising in Rzeszow and neighboring towns for the establishment of the hospital, a delegation of two people – Simcha Seiden and Yaakov Felsenfeld – was sent with the aim of collecting 15,000 dollars for the establishment of the hospital from Jews from Rzeszow who were living in the United States.

In the Morgenjournal newspaper of that era, we find a long article about a special committee of Galicia émigrés who banded together for that purpose. At that gathering, the following speeches stood out: those of Leon Weisenfeld, the editor of Yidishe Velt” in Cleveland, and Dr. Henry Wachtel who urged the delegates on to action. The writer of that article noted in particular the words of Simcha Seiden, the leader of the delegation of Rzeszow, who stated that, despite the fact that the Jews of Rzeszow approach their brethren across the ocean for assistance, the hopes and lives of the Jews of Polish Galicia are not exhausted. He told the gathering about

{Page 197}

the nationalist inclination of the Jewish youth of his city in Poland, about the spiritual activities and the national longing.

{Photo page 197: The Jewish Hospital of Rzeszow.}

Until the establishment of the big Jewish Hospital there was in Rzeszow a small and miserable Jewish Hospital, near the old cemetery. It was a one story building with three rooms, in which only elderly patients were hospitalized. No wonder that these conditions were not conducive to the patients' well being.

The efforts to establish the hospital began in 1922. In 1923, donations began to be collected, and assistance was received from the Joint. In January 1926, the committee succeeded in completing the building of the framework and the covering of the roof. Work stopped for lack of monetary means. The work progressed stage by stage, very slowly. Dr. Teller served as the chairman of the building committee. In the interim, efforts were made to complete the first floor of the building, in particular of the large hall, with the hope that with the completion of that floor, the hall would be used temporarily for performances, which would serve as an additional source of income toward the completion of the hospital. After the committee had collected a sum of 10,000 Zloty from donations and income from the hall, it was still short 10,000 additional Zloty to complete the first wing. The committee then turned with an emotional plea to the residents of Rzeszow and the nearby towns to donate generously towards the completion of the enterprise. Special committees were organized in the nearby towns to work on behalf of the hospital of Rzeszow. A special month was proclaimed for this purpose. However, all of the money did not suffice to lift the heavy burden of the erection of a proper and complete hospital, and therefore the enterprise dragged out for many years.

The official permit for the opening of the hospital was published in the official government newspaper on April 29, 1937, bearing the signature of the regional governor. The building was dedicated on June 13, 1937. Dr. Siegfried Binder of Lvov was appointed as chief physician of the surgical division. The following rotation of physicians offered medical assistance: Dr. Kramer, Dr. Rosengarten, and Dr. Chawel. In 1928, there was a group of women in Rzeszow whose aim was the care of the ill. The honorary chairwoman was Paulina Lewin. Other members were M. Dym, L. Freulich, Rebhun, and Hertz. The chairwoman was Rebbetzin Dora Lewin.

Thus, the second important endeavor of the Jews of Rzeszow was completed, approximately ten years after the completion of Beit Haam. However, after the activists of Rzeszow invested sixteen years of toil into the realization of this wondrous endeavor, they did not have the privilege of witnessing the fruits of their labor for long. The hospital only operated for one year until the outbreak of the Second World War, which brought with it the total destruction and annihilation of the Jews of Rzeszow together with Galician Jewry, Polish Jewry and European Jewry.


{Page 198}

The Publishing House of M. Goldberg

by Lotka Goldberg of Tel Aviv

{Photo page 198: On the right is Slowacki Street, in the center is the silent movie theater Olympia, and on the left is a bakery.}

The first and only Jewish owned Hebrew printing house in Rzeszow was that of M. Goldberg. At the beginning of the 20th century, this printing house was called by the name of Z. Kisilewicz, for this type of enterprise required a government permit, which was almost impossible to obtain for a Jew. After the death of Moshe Goldberg, his widow Berta ran the publishing house. It served as a meeting place for the intelligentsia and Jewish activists from all streams, for all of the Yiddish and Hebrew announcements and posters for Rzeszow and the neighboring towns were printed there. There, the first chalutzim apprenticed for work, in order to prepare themselves for a life of work in the Land of Israel. At that time, the printing machines were not operated by electricity, but rather by gears that were turned by workers, an activity that required great physical effort. Thus, the student-chalutzim manually turned the gears hour after hour, in order to prepare their muscles for hard work in the Land.

At the time of elections for the institutions, the work of the publishing house grew greater, and this caused both pressure and excitement. Representatives of the various parties and streams, who ordered posters for publicity, did whatever they could to foil their opponents, and attempted to find out the content of their opponents' posters. All designs, schemes, and pleas were to no avail, for my mother Berta Goldberg kept the secrets completely. This is a professional secret – she claimed.

Only after many years, when her son Pinchas (Pinek) finished the technical school for printing in Leipzig, Germany, was he able to take over the technical operation of the publishing company. Pinek was educated by Hashomer Hatzair at the time when Moshe Wald (Dr. Moshe Yaari) founded and directed the chapter of Hashomer Hatzair. In addition to running the publishing house, he also participated in the cultural life of our city, and, during the course of one year, founded the Bama “Stage” (Scena) dramatic group, which performed plays by Jewish writers upon the stage. Jewish troupes that wandered from city to city knew very well the address of the publishing house, and often came there not only to order posters, but also to reserve the performance hall for themselves. The situation of Jewish actors was very difficult at that time, and it is no wonder that their debts for the printing work were growing greater. However, this fact did not interfere with collaborating with them.

In the printing house, the cultural and social life of the Jewish street converged as if in a lens.

Everything was destroyed, including the Goldberg printing house, and only memories remain.


{Page 199}

Demographics of Rzeszow Jewry in the Year 1939

by Manes Fromer

The flames consumed everything; the earth swallowed up everything. Today, after approximately 23 years have passed since the destruction of Rzeszow Jewry, it is difficult to portray exactly the situation that prevailed in that city in the year 1939, the eve of the terrible deluge. Nevertheless, it is fitting to make efforts and to gather morsels of information and facts from the days between the two world wars, and to answer the question: who perished in Rzeszow, one of the thousands of cities and settlements in which Polish Jewry lived.

From the statistical data given in the Jewish newspapers over many years in Poland; also from the facts that I received from those Jews that survived and recall the situation; and by comparing the situation in Rzeszow in 1939 with the situation of other Jewish communities in Poland where statistical documents miraculously survived, we can portray the following picture.

1. The demographic composition of the Jewish population of Rzeszow in the year 1939

General population – 34,600, including 15,000 Jews.
Number of Jewish households – 4,070 (An average of 3.8 people per family).

Jewish children up the age of 14 3,700
Youths up to the age of 18 1,100
Adults up to the age of 65 9,030
People over 65 1,070
Handicapped people 300
Total15,200

2. The educational composition of the Jewish population of Rzeszow in 1939

JewsPercentage
Possessing post secondary education 5.5
Possessing secondary education 12
Possessing public school education 66
Possessing traditional education (Talmud Torah and Yeshiva) 11
Illiterate 5.5
 100

3. The professional composition of the Jews of Rzeszow in 1939

There were 8,620 people of working age.

Workers and hired employees 2,400
Wholesale merchants 200
Retailers 550
Artisans 600
Members of the Academic professions 400
Housewives3,400
Manufacturers 70
Clergy 150
Students 350
Unemployed 500
Total8,620


From the above data, based on my own estimates and on the foundation of facts drawn from the sources, it seems that the demographic composition of the Jews of Rzeszow was not different from the demographic composition of the Polish population of the region, and that the educational level of the Jews was not lower than the educational level of the surrounding Polish population. Rzeszow was not an industrial city, but rather a commercial city. However, from among the economically active segment of the population, the Jewish merchants formed only a modest percentage, only approximately 15%, in comparison with the percentage of workers and hired employees, which was double at 30%. The situation was similar to the professional structure that was common in other trading cities of Silesia or the region of Posen (Poznan), which were areas without a Jewish population.

Relying upon data from the Zionist organization of Rzeszow and of the Jewish youth groups – data that is engraved very well in my memory, and also upon discussions with survivors who were members of the Hechalutz, Hashomer Hatzair, Hanoar Hatzioni, Beitar, etc. youth groups, I was able to establish that in the years 1920-1939, over 3,000 of the youth completed professional courses. These youths originated from merchant families. Of them, more than 600 made aliya to Israel, a number that would have certainly been larger if not for the restrictions imposed by the Mandate authorities in the Land of Israel. It is a known fact that “productiviziation” [11] was an ideal of the Jewish nation in the cities and towns, and was directed towards agricultural work, artisanship, and manufacturing – this was the main goal of the national liberation movement of Polish Jewry.

4. The number of members in the movements and parties.

General Zionist organization 760
Poale Zion 220
Hashomer Hatzair 170
Akiva Zionist Youth 190
Revisionists and Beitar 280
Mizrachi 300
Agudas Yisrael 350
Movements supported by the Polish government (Sanaczya and the Reb Asher Silber group 750
Communists 300
Total3,320

Each of these movements attracted supporters that numbered 2-3 times the number of members. The rest of the Rzeszow residents did not affiliate with any faction. In the elections to the Polish Sejm (parliament) that took place in the 1920s and at the beginning of the 1930, a Zionist Jew was always elected in the Rzeszow area. He was Dr. Yehoshua Thon, the rabbi of Krakow [12]. This election without doubt reflected the political image of Rzeszow Jewry.

{Page 200}

From the years 1936-1939, the years just prior to the war, the Sanacja [13] government attempted to base the economy of nationalist Poland on different foundations, with a tendency to greater centralization. In Rzeszow, this tendency expressed itself by the foundation of large-scale government manufacturing enterprises (“Stalowa Wola”), whose relationship with the Jews was cool. On the heels of this development, Poles from the Poznan region began to stream into Rzeszow. The strength of nationalist tendencies began to grow among the Jews. The Agudas Yisrael camp, headed by Rabbi Aharon Lewin, and the supporters of Reb Asher Silber, the head of the Orthodox, began to display enthusiasm for matters of the Land of Israel and for the idea of building up the Land, in a manner which was in concert with the opinions of the Jewish community of those years. In 1939, representatives with nationalistic Jewish tendencies represented the Jews on the city council of Rzeszow and on the communal council. In 1948, when I was in exile in the Soviet Union, I met Reb Asher Silber in Chernovitz and conversed with him on numerous occasions. He told me that in 1939, he was interested in the matters of the Land of Israel, and was “almost a Zionist”. He expressed his desire to make aliya to Israel, but he did not fulfill the wish and died in Chernovitz. It is possible to state that the masses of Jews of Rzeszow were pretty much all affiliated with the nationalist camp, with the exception of a small minority of Hassidim of the Admor of Kolsice and similar groups on the one hand, and the Jewish communists on the other hand.

There is no doubt that the annihilation of Polish Jewry left its mark on the development of the young State of Israel. The destruction of the massive reserve of 3.5 million Jews of Poland slowed considerably the development of the young State of Israel, in terms of its economic and military independence.

Twenty-three years have passed since that unforgettable frightful era. From among the 30,000 Jews who remained in Poland, there are now about 200 Jews of Rzeszow. The last Jewish resident of Rzeszow, the engineer Janek Rogowski (Horen) who had served as the general secretary of the Communist Party in the region of Rzeszow, arrived in Israel with his family in 1958. When I was in Warsaw during the years of 1963-1964, I heard about a group of Jewish communists who were natives of Rzeszow, who served as high officials in the economic and social life of Poland. These included the Alster brothers, the Wistreich brothers, the engineer Tenenbaum, Milrad (General Gurecki), Roman Karst (Tuchman) – this is a small list of Jewish natives of Rzeszow who dedicated their lives to the nationalist State of Poland, and played decisive and visible roles in the development of young Poland. In 1963, I visited the grave of Aharon (Arthur) Wang, the vice chairman of the planning committee of Warsaw. In 1964, I succeeded in engaging in conversation with his work cronies, who did not hesitate to state that the name of Arthur Wang had been forgotten completely; and behold, Wang was one of the chief planning organizers in present day Poland…

In the years 1963-1964, I was a witness to those events that took place behind the curtain – to the underground activities of the anti-Semitic followers of Stalin in the Polish Communist Party, who demanded that the Jewish communists be removed from positions of power and influence in government circles.

This was the final echo in the tragedy of the Jews of Rzeszow.

{Photo page 200 – a postcard from Rzeszow, with 5 scenes of Rzeszow on it. On the top right: the town square (Rynek Nowy); top left: the City Hall (Rynek Wraz Z Ratuszem); center: Beit Haam (Dom Ludowy); bottom right: Sokola Street; bottom left: Krakowska Street.}


Translator's Footnotes

1. The first lot of students graduated just before World War II and subsequently there were no more graduations. Back

2. Bar Kochba led a fierce but unsuccessful revolt against the Romans in the land of Israel. He was killed at his stronghold Bethar in the year 135 and remains a heroic figure in Jewish history. Back

3. Shimshon is the Hebrew for Samson, the biblical strong man who fought the Philistines. Back

4. Football here would imply its European meaning, i.e. soccer. Back

5. Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia (the Society for the Protection of Health). Back

6. The House of the People. Back

7. The exclamation mark in parentheses that appears in the text seems to point out that the name of the institution given in the newspaper “Beit Leumi”, differs from the official name of “Beit Haam”. It is roughly equivalent with the English sic. Leumi and Haam both come from the same Hebrew root 'am', meaning the nation. Back

8. Eternit is some sort of roofing material, possibly of corrugated asbestos.Back

9. A world famous school of art in Jerusalem.Back

10. I.e. Jewish (the term Mosaic persuasion is equivalent with the formal Polish term for a member of the Jewish faith). Back

11. This word does not appear to be valid English. It is roughly transliterated from the Hebrew “productiviziatzia”. I suppose it means “the process of becoming economically productive”. Back

12. I expect that there is some error in this sentence, as I doubt if the rabbi of Krakow (if there was such a position with a definite article – Krakow would have had hundreds of rabbis) would be elected from Rzeszow. Back

13. The government of Josef Pilsudski adopted the slogan Sanacja, meaning cleansing. It referred to cleansing of political life of party factionalism and corruption, with which the previous governments and parties were charged. Back

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