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[Page 145]

Organizations and Federations

 

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Early Days of National Activity
Amongst Sanok Youth

by Dr. Yisrael Sobel of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

On the following pages, I wish to recall some memories from my childhood, my youth and my young adulthood spent in Sanok. Sanok is where I was born, educated and where I participated in its communal life until the outbreak of World War II in September 1939.

The traditionalist-nationalist atmosphere which pervaded in my parental home influenced without doubt the direction on my studies, my national consciousness and my weltanschauung (perception of the world).

My first memories relate to my attendance at the public Hebrew school, the only one of its type in Sanok. This school was a “Safa Berura” school under the leadership of Mr. Adelbert (Avraham) Szenbach of blessed memory and my father Herman (Tzvi) Sobel of blessed memory. The teachers Marmorstein and Abt of blessed memory taught there. The former stopped teaching after some time and the latter continued until the day of his death. Images of the funeral of the teacher Abt of blessed memory remain etched in my mind. Almost all the Jews of Sanok attended the funeral: Zionists and non-Zionists, hundreds of his students from all eras and all of his friends and acquaintances. This funeral turned into a form of nationalist procession. Nationalist life in the city and the awakening and revival of the Hebrew language are attributable to him. Thanks to him, Hebrew became a spoken language in various circles in the city, particularly among the youth.

The school also served as a springboard for youth movements whose meetings took place in the classrooms. I participated in the Hashomer Hatzair movement, and at age 11 I was among the first of its members in the city. It was led by the members Eliahu Bin and David Lazar, today a well-known writer and editor, who visited us from Krakow from time to time. From early on we began to prepare for aliya to the Land. We worked in various Jewish workshops as well as in Amster's field. This work was not steady or orderly, for the government forbade activities of this nature in the Jewish youth movements, and especially in the Polish gymnasium. It should be noted that at this time, almost all of the members of Hashomer Hatzair were students of the gymnasium in Sanok. Our meetings and everything which involved preparation for the aliya had to be done in secret. In order to prevent being expelled from the gymnasium, we could not make our participation in Hashomer Hazair public knowledge as the movement's main objective was to maintain a national Hebrew culture and to prepare for a new and productive life in the Land.

We continued with the activities of the movement despite the various obstacles and difficulties. Initially I served as head of the group and later as head of the division. Together with other members, we directed the troupe and the chapter of Hashomer Hatzair in the city. The other members were Moshe Reis and Yaacov Appel, both of whom perished in the Holocaust. I left the movement as a student in the 6th or the 7th grade, and I believe the others that I mentioned also moved to other youth movements. At that time, the chapter began to include youth from other strata in the city, not only from the gymnasium students.

My period of academic life began with entrance to the university in Lwow. Since I was studying political jurisprudence, I was able to remain in Sanok for the bulk of my studies. I then founded

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a chapter of the Hashachar academic organization in Sanok, in which other academics such as me who spent most of their time in Sanok participated. This academic organization was most active during the vacation months when students returned from the universities. Of course this organization had a nationalist Zionist character. Its purpose was to disseminate Zionist culture and consciousness among its members, who at that time were active in the university cities.

At that time a spirit of assimilation spread among the majority of Jewish university students and the Jewish intelligentsia. During the census, they would identify themselves as Poles of the Mosaic persuasion. Therefore, the academic organizations had an important role and significant, if not decisive, influence on the intelligentsia who stood at the helm of social, communal and general life in the cities.

When I was the president of the Jewish academic organization in Sanok, among other things, I organized popular courses in the evenings for Jewish adults who did not have general knowledge, and who spoke the vernacular language with difficulty. The aim of these courses was to impart elementary knowledge in various areas of study. Among everything else, the curriculum included the study of the Hebrew language, taught by Mr. Eliahu Berger. The courses were conducted in the rooms of the Hebrew school during the evening hours. The teachers who volunteered for this purpose included Appel, Lazar and others, who each participated for two hours each week. One of the courses that was taught was human anatomy. For this purpose, I brought in a human skeleton, which was placed in one of the rooms.

When I completed my studies at university, I went to work in the legal and judicial profession as an apprentice with a lawyer, as well as in the courts. Later, I worked as an independent lawyer. I turned my communal activities to other horizons. I founded and organized a club for the Jewish intelligentsia of Sanok in a six-room rented premises in the home of Mr. Ripp. I directed this club along with a committee which included, among others, Shimon Reich, Eisenbach the pharmacist, the lawyer Dr. Nehmer, and others. This club had an exclusive character. It numbered 150 members. Cultural and social life was conducted there. Its tendency was nationalist-Zionist, even though it did not occupy itself with politics. The aforementioned meeting place existed until the outbreak of the war in 1939.

As I discuss communal life in Sanok, I must mention Dr. Nehmer as the chairman of the general Zionists. He was a dear and upright man, dedicated with all his heart to the Zionist movement, which was his daily bread until his final moment. There were few like him. His home and office were always opened to any local or general Zionist activity. His faithful wife Mrs. Fani Nehmer, the chairwoman of WIZO in the city, joined him in his activities. They perished during the Nazi occupation. Their memories will always be guarded in my heart. The Zionist committee was active in municipal life in the city, and its representatives always participated in the governing of the city, albeit they did not take the first place. Similarly, the Zionist faction participated in the communal council which was headed by Dr. Nehmer[1] of blessed memory, and included among others Herman Sobel of blessed memory.

Dr. Nehmer and my father acted as assessors in the city council for an extended period. Their influence on the conduct of affairs in the city was quite important and significant for the local Jews, most of whom were small-scale shopkeepers and tradesmen. The threat of denial of permits and issues of taxation were always significant for members of those trades. My father of blessed memory worked a great deal on behalf of these poor Jews. On Sabbaths after the synagogue services he always visited the local authorities in order to remove the threat of tax impropriety, etc. He never did so with the intent of receiving payment. In most cases, he succeeded in gaining some benefit for the tradesmen.


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The Jewish National Fund
(Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) in Sanok

by Dr. Yisrael Sobel of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

 

The History of the activities of the Jewish National Fund in our City

We do not have full details and exact official dates about the history of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in Sanok and its first activities in our city. However, it is clear to us, and we heard this as well from the elders of our city, that there was such activity in our city even before the First World War. A committee conducted collections and organized publicity within the city and outside the bounds of our city. It seems that at that time, the activities on behalf of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael stood at the head of the Zionist activity, and took a prime place in the nationalist activities of the Zionist youth in the city.

The Keren Kayemet LeYisrael was more loved by all strata of the Jewish community than all the other national funds and Zionist campaigns. The sublime goal of redeeming land spoke to the Jewish heart of all strata and factions in the city. It is known that even the most zealous of the Orthodox Jews, who were strong opponents of Jewish nationalism in general and Zionism in particular, did not express any strong opposition to the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael. It was a custom to collect money for charitable organizations on the Eve of Yom Kippur. All Jewish organizations as well as charities and benevolent institutions placed their collection plates on the tables of the synagogues, Beis ha Midrash and Kloizes prior to the Kol Nidre service. It was the plate of Keren Kayemet Le Yisrael that stood out from all the other collection plates through its decorative placards and publicity statements. Not only did the Jews of Sanok “tolerate” this, but they generously placed their coins in it as they did into the other plates. To further explain this phenomenon, we must recall that it was well known, and the members of Mizrachi helped disseminate, the fact that the money donated to the Jewish National Fund was not used to violate a commandment of the Torah, as was done with the monies of some of the other funds. As an example of this, the zealots opposed to Zionism knew that the money of the Keren HaYesod was used for non-religious or even anti-religious education in the Land, as well as to support the sins of desecrating the Sabbath and festivals.

It is no wonder then that the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael took root in the Jewish community of the city and penetrated all corners of communal and social life. At every festivity, celebration, party or joyous religious occasion, the blue box was displayed prominently, without being pushed to the side by anyone. There were houses in Jewish Sanok in which the box of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael was placed alongside the box of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness[2], without any separation or differentiation between the two. The Jewish community in Sanok, and the Jewish youth in particular, were imbued with enthusiastic appreciation and devotion to the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael – as is said today, they possessed a complete “consciousness” for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.

As we stated at the outset, we do not possess details and facts about the first activities of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in our city. However, there is no doubt at all about the essence of the activities of two generations in our city. We also have facts and testimony, both oral and written, from those people who acted and lived their Zionist-communal life, and also bequeathed this life to us.

We find documentary literature on this subject in the newspaper of the local committee of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in Sanok as a publicity organ for the activities of the organization. In Yom-Tov-Blatt issue 1, whose date is given on the front page as the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5680 – that is 1920 – each page includes publicity articles, declarations, announcements, and calls of support for the benefit of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael. The general impression that is gleaned from the spirit and tone of the words

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indicates that the activities that are being discussed are known and accepted, that the movement itself is known, accepted, and well spread out in the community, with a tradition to its activities and seniority for its faithful and activists. For example, the announcement by the local committee of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in Sanok about emptying the boxes was stated in common terms and everyday language, as if this was the daily bread of the readers in general, and the activists of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in particular. These clear signs that point to the constant, longstanding and well-rooted existence of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael movement in Sanok stand out even more clearly in the rest of the material of the newspaper, both textual and general documentary, such as the advertising of the places where one can purchase Keren Kayemet stamps, copies of Keren Kayemet telegrams, as well as personal announcements of mourning, comforting of mourners and participation in joyous occasions which were accompanied by the note: “trees were planted in the Herzl Forest”.

If, in addition to all that was said above, we look at the situation in a straightforward fashion and do not ignore the fact that all of the Zionist activities throughout the year in that era could not be conducted without raising money for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in various fashions; it is clear that the beginnings of the activity for the Keren Kayemet in Sanok is closely tied with the founding of the Zionist organization in Sanok. From this we can surmise that the beginning of the existence of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in Sanok was in 1894, the year of the founding of the first Zionist organization in Sanok. (See the article by Ozer Pipe on page 28 of this book.)

E. Sharbit

san150.jpg [41 KB] - The Committee of the Zion Organization in Sanok in 5685 / 1925
The Committee of the Zion Organization in Sanok in 5685 / 1925


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Activity for the Keren Kayemet and its Activists in our City

by Gershon Givoni-Pipe

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 151: The Committee of the Keren Kayemet in the year 5695 – 1935.
Sitting from right to left: Chana Weiss, Arye Loeffelstil, Yacov Alster, Arye Leib Werner, Dora Herzberg. The child – Avraham the son of Leib Werner, the survivor of the family who is now a lecturer of physics in Bar Ilan University.
Standing from right to left: Taubenfeld, David Werner, Fischel Rauch, Eliezer Bahl, Eliahu Pinsel, Yissachar Englard, Gershon Pipe.}

 

A. Tasks and Activists

I study the photograph and attempt to remember. First, the date: November 5, 1933. Second, the members of the committee, and all of the associated connections.

1933 was the year that Hitler ascended to leadership. I passed through the street and stopped next to the store of Shalom Katz of blessed memory. I was already a student of the “eighth,” the eve of the matriculation examinations, and I understood very well the political meaning of the event that was announced in the daily newspapers in large letters. I felt deeply that something had happened in Germany, and that the fate of the Jews in the countries of Europe, especially the countries of Eastern Europe, was progressively weakening. I decided in my heart to do everything to strengthen aliya to the Land of Israel in order to save the Jewish youth to the extent possible from the abyss of anti-Semitism that was growing with the ascent of Nazi fascism to power.

I look at the recognizable faces of the members of the committee. First and foremost, the family of Mr.

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Leib Werner, whose son escaped from the Nazi hell in a miraculous manner, and who arrived to Israel in full body and spirit. He lives here among us today. This is in contrast to the rest of the family members who perished in the terrible Holocaust. Leib Werner was known among us as a dedicated Zionist and a person blessed with organizational talents. Everyone placed their faith in him and related to him as a neutral personality whose main interest was the benefit of the fund for the redemption of the land for the nation, without any narrow political agenda. Here is Yacov Alster, may he live long, who was also a central figure in the Zion organization.

For a long time, this Zion organization defined the personality of Mr. Alster in my mind. Perhaps this was due to the fact that he displayed initiative and activism in various areas, and perhaps because I would always see him at the meeting place when I came for a meeting, or when I came to exchange a book at the Ivriya Library.

I am unable to give details about Aryeh Lefelstil, for he was many years older than I, and I did not have close contact with him. I do know that he came from a Zionist family with a tradition of wide-branched activity, and it was not surprising that his place was never absent in the work for the Keren Kayemet.

{Photo page 152: The Keren Kayemet committee in 5685 – 1925.}

David Werner and Eliezer Bahl were close neighbors. Werner, Bahl and Taubenfeld (all three of them perished in the Holocaust, may G-d avenge their blood) were more familiar to me, for I had more opportunity to meet them, in our home or in Bahl's home, when they came to visit my older brother, may G-d avenge his soul, who was their friend of the same age. Already then, I was able to assess their qualities from all perspectives, and understand their dedication to communal work in general, and the work of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in particular. This was the same with Chana Weiss (also a Holocaust victim, may G-d avenge her blood) whom I knew well from my membership with her in a certain party. Aside from the aforementioned members Alster and Loeffelstil;

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to our great joy, we have Yissachar Englard, Eliahu Pinsel and Fischel Rauch from among these members with us here in the Land.

For a period of time, I had the privilege of serving as secretary of the committee. From my service in that role, I can say that despite the fact that the members of the committee had different outlooks with respect to Zionism that were to some extent distant one from the other, for they came to the committee from different parties; nevertheless, they were completely united in the work for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael itself. On the other hand, I can state that the committee was sufficiently representative, and was accepted by all the various Zionist streams in our city.

I do not have statistical facts in my hand, but it is known that Sanok was considered to be one of the important cities in Western Galicia in the arena of activity on behalf of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, and in general was known as a city in which the various Zionist streams had great influence.

 

B. Methods of Action of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in Sanok

The most honorable part of the activity for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, with respect to financial income, but even more with respect to the educational value for the broad spectrum of people, especially the Jewish youth, was the monthly emptying of the blue box.

The city was divided into different areas, and pairs of youths from the various chapters of the Jewish youth organizations, including the religious youth, the General Zionists, and Hashomer Hatzair, conducted this work with great enthusiasm and with patriotic feelings toward their movements. These sums were added to those of other chapters of the national movement, and were publicized in newspapers. Indeed, at times, a spirit of competition between the youth movement activists was felt in this matter; but this never adversely affected the activity. On the contrary, this was a type of positive jealousy that only led to a benefit for the activity and an increase in income.

On occasion, a “Flower Day” was declared in the city. The representatives of the movements once again set out in pairs, distributed emblems, and tied them to the lapel of the clothing in exchange for a small donation for the blue box.

We also purchased stamps of the Jewish National Fund as a form of internal tax that letter writers voluntarily took upon themselves. The stamp was usually affixed to the inside of the letter in order to prevent disputes with the government representatives of the post and the telegraph.

It was also usual and customary that every youth movement would set aside a specific portion of the income from the proceeds of ticket sales to its parties for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.

At times, a party with an artistic program (song, dance or a small play) was arranged, with the entire income being dedicated to the redeeming of land in the Land of Israel, and to the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.

The Keren Kayemet LeYisrael was a unifying factor among all of the Zionist youth movements who in general, for various reasons, had conflicts with each other over the soul of the Jewish youth and for various positions in the city. These activities formed a type of bridge between the older generation with a longstanding Zionist past, and the Jewish youth who were taking their first steps in this very important arena.

Finally: the activities for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael brought the Jewish community, with its various components, close to the reality of the Land of Israel and its problems. All this placed its imprint upon the city as a strong Zionist city. It was not among the smaller ones in Galicia in terms of the number of its residents who actualized themselves and made aliya.


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The Mizrachi and the Torah VaAvoda Movement in Sanok

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Unfortunately, we do not have the date and year of the founding of the Mizrachi in Sanok. With the tragedy of the Holocaust and the destruction, all the sources of information, whether public or private, were destroyed and ruined. All possibilities of research and investigation of the cradle of our life in our city and community were removed, even those of the most recent past.

However, we do know in general that immediately after the founding of the world Mizrachi movement (Adar 5662, 1902), organizations and meeting places of Mizrachi were founded in many cities of Galicia, both large and small. Due to the conditions of the cultural, intellectual and national spirit of the Jewish population of Sanok during that era, we have no reason to assume that the Jews of the city of Sanok deviated from the way and thinking of the rest of the Jews in the cities and towns of Galicia. With this assumption, along with the estimation of our townsfolk from their memories, it is clear to us that the Mizrachi organization already existed in our city during the first years of the 20th century.

Indeed, we do have an authentic historical certification of the existence of Mizrachi in Sanok in the year 5664 (1904). Tzvi Abt of blessed memory, the veteran Hebrew educator who educated three generations in Sanok to the knowledge and love of Hebrew, and who served as the principal of the Hebrew school of Sanok during the final period, writes in the name of The Mizrachi Organization of Sanok in the Hamitzpeh weekly, published by Sh. M. Lazar in Krakow, in the issue of 12th Av, 5664 (July 21, 1904) about a mourning gathering for Dr. Herzl that was organized by that organization in the Yad Charutzim hall “to eulogize our great leader who was taken from us.”

As in every place and time, including in our city of Sanok, when the Mizrachi organization was first founded and consolidated, it directed its first and primary concern to the cultural and educational realm. This was indeed set out in the founding of the organization, for Mizrachi is an acronym for “Merkaz Ruchani” (Spiritual Center). Of course, first and foremost was collaborative action with all the activities of the Zionist movement in our city, such as Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund), Keren HaYesod, participation in the communal council, and other such activities. Cultural-educational activities were one of the separate activities of Mizrachi, unique to it. We find that the Mizrachi organization founded a school in 1918, under the rubric of a modern cheder (Cheder Metukan), and later, an actual Hebrew school that ended up being affiliated with the Yavneh organization of Warsaw under the general rubric of the Yavneh school network of Poland. The fine development of this school, which reached broad and fine proportions, was due to the successful, large-scale accomplishments of Mizrachi in our city.

The second important achievement of the Mizrachi organization and the Torah VaAvoda movement in our city, providing the landscape for continued future development, was the establishment of the synagogue as part of the meeting place. It later moved to the spacious hall of the organization in the Weiner building. Readers will find more complete details of each of these realms of activity and successes of the Mizrachi organization in appropriate sections of this book (see pages 52 and 68), and especially – in the memoirs of the two veterans of the Mizrachi organization, Eliahu Berger and Uri Katz, who stood at its cradle, and actively participated in its development and foundation, each in his own area of activity. They will write for us sections of what they remember.

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{Photo page 155 top: At the farewell party of Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar, the head of the movement in Sanok and its spiritual leader, on the occasion of his aliya to the Land. Sitting in his row (fourth from the bottom) from right to left: Pinchas Sturmlaufer, Jakubowicz, Grossman, Dr. Mattisyahu Weinryb, Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar, Shmuel Bodner, Eliahu Berger, Feigel Mann, Muni Sprecher.}

{Photo page 155 bottom: Uncaptioned. The banner says: 11 Tevet, 1931, December 20. Hechalutz Mizrachi.}


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The Mizrachi in Sanok, its Founding and Development

by Eliahu Berger

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Throughout the years of the Second World War, the communal life of the Jews in our town, as it was in other cities, was quiet. In 1918, the Mizrachi organization was resurrected by several astute people in our city, headed by Reb Shlomo Kramer, may G-d avenge his blood. The writer of these lines was among the early founders and an active member in the committee. He later continued in various capacities, especially in the area of Mizrachi education as the principal of the Mizrachi School, which will be described separately in this book (see page 68). The first incarnation of this organization was located in two small rooms in the home of Reb Ezra Dorlich in the Rynek in the center of the city. I was given the task of directing the cultural activities.

{Photo page 156: The visit of Rabbi Menachem Hager of blessed memory, one of the important leaders of World Mizrachi, to Sanok for the celebration of the opening of the Mizrachi Synagogue. Sitting (in the second row from the bottom) in the center, to his right: Dr. Weinryb, Shlomo Kramer, Tzvi Jonas. To his left: Reb Shlomo Amster, Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar, Reb Yosef Springer.}

In the year 1920, the Mizrachi organization declared the foundation of Young Mizrachi affiliated with the Mizrachi organization, or, as it was later called, the Torah VaAvoda movement. To that end, a special convention of the national Mizrachi organization was convened in Lwow, in which I participated as a delegate of the Sanok chapter along with Shlomo Kramer. With the growth of the organization, we rented a hall from Mr. Puretz (the photographer) on the Third of May Street. Aside from the successful activities in the field of Zionism, we succeeded in founding a synagogue, in which a large, variegated group came to worship. Successful activities also took place in the field of culture. Various evening courses were arranged for adults and youth. The success of our chapter and its blessed activities gave off waves throughout the country. Fine echoes of this also reached the centers of Warsaw and even the Land of Israel. As a result of this, our chapter was able to host visits from great rabbis as well as leaders of the movement, such as Rabbi Y. L. Kobelski,

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{Photo page 157 top: Farewell to Meshulam Gutman (sixth from the right in the middle row).}

{Photo page 157 bottom: The visit of Dr. Avraham Gottsdeiner (Obidiah) in Sanok.}

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Rabbi Yehuda Leib Fishman (Maimon), and Rabbi Menachem Hager of Sosnowiec. For the most part, they remained in the city for several consecutive days, including, of course, the Sabbath, in which they presented enthusiastic sermons. Their visits left deep emotions and impressions, and served as strong publicity for our ideals.

The Mizrachi organization in our city grew and developed, and from all perspectives significantly exceeded the general Zionist organization in Sanok. The situation reached the point where the general organization rented us their large hall in the center of the city in the home of Reb Yitzchok Weiner of blessed memory. The synagogue also moved to that location, and many young men and youths came to us from all strata of the city. It was a great honor to be accepted as a regular worshipper in our synagogue. For the most part, a young man after his marriage knew that his place was only in the Mizrachi synagogue, without paying any attention to his political affiliations. The number of regular worshippers on the Sabbath reached 159 people. The synagogue also had a women's gallery in the balcony with approximately 100 seats. We still remember the festival days and the enthusiastic, sublime atmosphere that pervaded in that synagogue. The spirit of enthusiasm and joy during the hakafot on the festival of Simchat Torah, along with the enthusiastic dancing that took place, is still not forgotten. For the most part, the festivities would continue until after midnight. After the conclusion of the hakafot in the synagogues and Beis Midrashes of the city, many people streamed toward the Mizrachi Synagogue in order to join in the hakafot and festivities of our youth. On Hoshana Rabba, women would get up early in order to ensure that they had a place in the women's gallery of the Mizrachi Synagogue to participate in the festive services of that day.

{Photo page 158: Members of Bruria, before the aliya of Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar, the head of Mizrachi in the city, and Shmuel Bodner.}


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The Mizrachi Organization of Sanok and its Activities

by Uri Katz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Mizrachi organization of Sanok was reconstituted already before the end of the First World War. Its founding members were for the most part middle aged people. Few of them were youths. The leadership was solely in the hands of elderly people, such as Reb Shalom Sobel, Reb Berisch Rosenfeld, Reb Shlomo Kramer, Reb Orish Englard, Reb Shlomo Amster, and, may he live, Reb Eliahu Berger, who lives with us here.

The most important factor in the speedy development of our organization in Sanok was the establishment of a synagogue in our meeting place. The founding of the synagogue made a strong impression throughout the entire city. After great efforts, we succeeded in bringing Rabbi Hager of blessed memory of Sosnowiec to the opening ceremonies. He came to Sanok over the Sabbath, and delivered an enthusiastic sermon to a congregation of hundreds of people from all strata, who listened to his words and were astonished at their content and form. Those most active in obtaining the hall and establishing the synagogue included Chaim Aryeh Goetzler, Shimon Kauflich, Peritz Pinsel, David Kramer, and, may they live, Eliahu Berger and the writer of these lines. I still recall the classes in the weekly Torah portion with the commentary of the Holy Or Chaim given by Reb Shlomo Amster of blessed memory, as well as the Bible classes given by our member Shalom Guttman, one of our educational veterans, who lives today in Canada.

From among the elderly members who were the founders of Mizrachi, the following continued with their activities: Reb Shlomo Kramer of blessed memory who never withheld effort, time, money and energy and responded to any call and any time of need; and Reb Berisch Rosenfeld. Both had formerly been worshippers of the Tzanz Kloiz, where they disseminated the idea of Mizrachi and conducted publicity on its behalf among those zealots. It is easy to imagine how many difficulties they endured in this.

After a short period, we received reinforcement for our activities and our struggle. Dr. Mattisyahu Weinryb arrived in town after he married the daughter of Reb Obediah Zilber, and opened up a law office. He was a party man of a high level. He joined our ranks and began his work with all the required enthusiasm. It was not long before he was selected as the chairman of our movement in Sanok. Later, he was also elected to the city council. I still recall his lecture in the hall of the large city Beis Midrash. This was an election speech prior to the city council elections, and he made a deep impression upon the hundreds of people gathered. The speech was spiced with many interesting statements from our sages. This was the first time that such a large audience saw before them this lawyer, whose external appearance was no different than any other lawyer, but who showed himself internally to be a G-d fearing Jew, and a scholar familiar with the wisdom of Israel. Primarily, he was a warm Jew who had a high level of religious national consciousness. Dr. Weinryb was the only lawyer in our city who had a mezuzah affixed to the door of his office, and whose office was closed completely on Sabbaths and festivals. I recall a large trial against a group of young Communists that took place in the district court of Sanok. Dr. Weinryb was engaged by the court as the defendant. One of the hearings took place on Yom Kippur. The court directors knew that Dr. Weinryb was an observant Jew and would not write on Yom Kippur, so they assigned a special assistant to him to write and record for him everything that was required. This brought honor to the Name of G-d, and left a very deep impression upon all those present in the court, even the gentiles.

From among those who served as pillars of the Mizrachi organization of Sanok during that era and who strengthened it spiritually, I believe we must point out Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar and Elazar Schwerd (today Sharbit). Both of them gave a great deal of their energy, and especially of their spirit, for matters of

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our organization in our town. They were active in our movement until their aliya, and their influence among our members was recognizable and very strong. Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar preceded Mr. Schwerd-Sharbit in aliya to the Land, and remained in contact with us even from here. I recall the deep impression made upon all of us by his words of blessing to us on the occasion of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the existence our organization and movement in Sanok. This was published in “HaTor” in Jerusalem by the central office of Mizrachi, edited by Rabbi Elimelech Neufeld of blessed memory (see the appendix).

Our youth excelled in its vibrant activities in all campaigns and fundraising events related to the movement itself and to the Zionist movement in general. The youth did everything voluntarily, of course, and with great enthusiasm – all in an atmosphere that was not all that calm in Poland at that time, from a political and especially from a financial perspective, due to the severe depression in general, and to the very bad physical situation of the Polish Jews in particular.

Our movement demonstrated great dedication in the city with regard to the aliya of young members from our ranks. We provided them with necessary assistance with respect to everything needed for preparations for aliya, from going out to hachshara (aliya preparation) activities, to the obtaining of certificates for them, all the way to providing them with necessary monetary assistance to finance their travel and provide them with provisions and clothing from the time they would arrive in the Land until they would become acclimatized. Sometimes, the money was given to them as a grant, and at other times, their family who remained behind later repaid the money.

{Photo page 160: The “Hapina Haivrit” (Hebrew Corner) club affiliated with the Mizrachi chapter of Sanok at a farewell party for Eliahu Pinsel upon his aliya.}

Here we should note the efforts that we made during a specific time with regard to the hachshara depot that was opened in Sanok, through our initiative, for the groups of Torah VaAvoda members from various cities in Galicia. During their stay in our city, we made sure to include them in the activities of the movement in our city, as well as to make their lives, work and free time more pleasant in various manners. Several members of this hachshara group

[Page 161]

later made aliya to the Land, and are here today. All of them settled very well, and established homes and families. Some of them have already seen the second and third generation continue along their path through our movement.


{Photo page 161: Uncaptioned. Banner states: A gathering of Hashomer Hadati in Sanok, Dvora group.}

As an organized movement in our city, we were active in local political activities during the elections to the city council and communal council, as well as during elections for the Polish Sejm. The writer of these lines was one of the most active in these areas of work, which at that time required a great deal of effort, time and physical strength for the publicity efforts, debates, and night meetings that at times continued until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., despite the need to go to one's daily work in the morning.

In order to conduct activities such as this, for the elections and other such things, we would invite through the agency of the central offices of the movement various famous personalities from among the leaders of our movement, thinking about the great value that such visits to our city would have. In this manner, we merited having visits from Rabbi Fishman-Maimon of blessed memory, Rabbi Yeshiyahu Schapira of blessed memory, and – may they live – Sh. Z. Schrage, Yeshayahu Rubenstein, Natan Grodi, and others. We made sure that their public addresses would take place in the large halls of the city, especially the hall of the large Beis Midrash, which would always be filled with an audience of several hundred people of all ages, strata, and classes. The audience would listen very attentively to the words about the Land and its upbuilding, and the speakers would leave a deep impression. Along with this, I know that our movement in our city, including its older and younger members, left a strong impression upon these leadership personalities, who left our city after their visits filled with astonishment and laden with deep experiences.

In all of these matters, the dedicated activities of the members who stood at the helm of the movement, whose names have already been mentioned above, stood out. I should add the names of Chaim-Aryeh Goetzler, Shimon Kauflich, and Peretz Pinsel, who did not merit seeing the realization of our aspirations, and perished in the Holocaust.

[Page 162]

{Photo page 162 top: Uncaptioned. The Bruria Organization in Sanok, April 16, 1933.}

{Photo page 162 bottom: Chaim Aryeh Goetzler.}

The activities of our movement grew and broadened greatly during the latter years, when we moved to the building of Mr. Yitzchok Weiner of blessed memory. This building which stood in the center of town had large and spacious halls. We opened a synagogue in one of its large halls, with the balcony serving as the women's gallery. All of these were direct factors in our growth and in the expansion of our sphere of activities. During this period, an additional organization for Mizrachi women named Bruria was founded alongside our movement through a decision of the central organization. This extended the ranks of the women in our organization. In this regard, I should note especially the dedicated activities of Chaim Aryeh Goetzler, may G-d avenge his blood. Thanks to his energy and leadership activities in this regard, the Bruria organization flourished as one of the largest women's organization in our city.

Finally: I did not extensively discuss the activities and dedication of many of our members, young and old, who bore the yoke of work as their daily bread in all spheres of activity of our organization, or who bore the idea of the movement as a holy fire, and worked with all their energy at any time that they were called. Some of them succeeded in making aliya, and are with us today and continue in their and our path. These include Shmuel Bodner, Moshe Puretz, Eliahu Pinsel, Pinchas Sturmlaufer, Tzvi Shamri (Schmarlobiski), and others. I must here ask forgiveness of all those whose names I forgot to mention in writing. They are remembered and engraved upon the heart from those stormy days, the days of aspirations and ideals, the days of toil and dedicated, faithful activity for the Mizrachi idea, in whose light we have walked and reached this place!

__________

Translator's Footnotes
  1. In the text, these two occurrences are spelled as 'Rammer'. However from the context I expect his is a typo, and Nehmer is intended. Return
  2. A charity, still in existence, to support religious institutions in Israel. Return


[Page 163]

Hitachdut and its Organizations

by Arye Wilk (of blessed memory)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The first days of Zionism in Sanok preceding Hashomer, Hitachdut and the Gordonia pioneering youth organization, Buslia, Olim-Poalim

 

The General Background

Sanok was a city with an old Zionist history. Even before the outbreak of the First World War, an exemplary Zionist movement arose. The best of the youth and the intelligentsia tended toward the Zionist idea and dedicated themselves with heart and soul to the Zionism of that time. The activities included the collection of donations for the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund) at any appropriate time, distributing the Zionist shekel[1] annually, founding a Hebrew school, running Hebrew courses for adults, establishing a large, fine library, arranging lectures on Jewish and Zionist topics, deepening Jewish knowledge and the knowledge of the Land of Israel, and other such things. Sanok served as an example of Zionism for other cities and towns of Western Galicia.

I will further note: Sanok was a city of scholars, Torah giants, G-d fearing people and observers of the commandments, the majority of whom were Hassidim of the various courts of the Admorim. In contrast to other places, polite, tolerant relations existed between the Orthodox and the general population, even with respect to the Zionism that was flourishing and obtaining its stand in the communal life of the city and the community.

The creator of the Zionist movement in our town and the architect of its large-scale work was Mr. Albert Scheinbach, a man of action, graced with talents that he utilized. His influence on the town and the region was great.

The following people worked with him with great dedication: Sara Silber-Weinryb, Tzipora Silber-Trachman, Dr. Yitzhok Nehmer and his wife Fania (who later served as the chairwoman of WIZO), Shlomo Schiff of blessed memory, Dr. Shmuel Ohrenstein, Azriel Regenbogen, Feibush, Herman Sobel, and others.

Mr. Scheinbach published the Folksfreund Yiddish weekly in Sanok from 1908 to 1914, which was distributed throughout all the towns of Galicia, even among the non-Zionist circles. The readers would especially read the excellent articles written by Mr. Scheinbach, which would leave an impression on them. In a later era, many years after it ceased publication, it was possible to find people, both young and old, leafing through editions of Folksfreund, which could be found bound in several volumes in the Zionist library of Sanok. It serves as chapters of history of the distant and near past, and of Jewish life in the city.

Mr. Scheinbach was a fine popular speaker. Many people would come to hear his speeches and be influenced by him. He forged and set the image of the upcoming generation. He continued his fruitful activities until the 1920s, and we all revered him and loved him as a teacher and guide.

During those years of romantic Zionism, the Hebrew teacher and talented pedagogue Mr. Tzvi (Hershel) Abt took an honorable place. He served as principal of the Safa Berura Hebrew School until the end of 1935. He educated two generations of students, and he left his mark on their consciousness and spiritual development for Zionism.

A powerful event in the annual life of our city was the memorial for Dr. Herzl on the 20th of Tammuz. The memorial

[Page 164]

{Photo page 164 top: Hashomer, 1921}

{Photo page 164 bottom: A group of members of Hitachdut, 1925.}

[Page 165]

{Photo page 165 top: Hechalutz Organization 1930.}

{Photo page 165 bottom: … All of them in their various parties, Hashomer, Hechalutz, etc., some belonging here and others belonging there, with their well-known depictions, with their enthusiastic smiles that are remembered, and their appearances that hint and are remembered… even though, to our sorrow, we no longer remember the names of all of them!}

[Page 166]

was conducted in the Great Synagogue. It was always packed, even in the women's gallery, and hundreds of people also gathered outside the building.

Later, we added to this: the celebration of the Balfour Declaration on November 2, and the day of the laying of the cornerstone of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on 7 Nisan 5685 (April 1, 1925). Hundreds of students of the Hebrew School marched along with their teachers, singing through the streets of the city to the synagogue. The speakers enthused and exalted the spirit of the gathering. Most of the time, the postal official Mr. Kaminer, a very dear man, spoke. The celebration ended with the singing of the cantor of the synagogue Reb Davidl Zukerman of blessed memory and his pleasant, talented choir.

 

Hashomer and Hitachdut

In 1917, the Hashomer scouting youth movement was founded in Sanok by the comrades Eliahu Bein and his sister the Hebrew teacher Sonia, Chaim Ohrenstein, Yosef Dym, and Yacov Lam.

Hashomer was not a political body, but rather solely a scouting organization, in the paradigm of Techelet-Lavan (Blue and White) of Austria. Its influence in Zionist education and the love of the Land was deep, and activists of the future pioneering youth, in its various political manifestations, arose from its ranks.

Under the leadership of Tovia Firer and Yosef Poritz, Hashomer encompassed almost virtually all of the students of the gymnasium, including Munik Reis, Kuba Apel and Izi Sobel. Hashomer also had a non-academic group known as Cywil under the leadership of the talented young man Zeinvel Messer.

Hashomer used to organize excursions outside of the city and in the forests of the region, as was the custom with Hatzofim. As a basis for exemplary practical education and spiritual education for physical work in the land, they would lease a plot of land in the Wytostowa neighborhood behind the house of the teacher Abt, where they would plant potatoes. When they ripened, the youths would take turns at guard duty at night, and even staged sudden attacks with the aim of testing the resolve of the guards.

When Hashomer ceased existence around 1921, most of its members became involved with great resolve in regular Zionist activities in the splendid Zionist hall of Wynrowka, which was then a general Zionist institution and open to all strata and outlooks.

The enlightened youth did not suffice themselves with official Zionist patterns. With their aspirations for broad ideals and new, sublime concepts, Hitachdut was set up in 1923 as a branch of Hapoel Hatzair.

It is interesting: The representative of the Fund for the Workers of the Land of Israel, comrade Levitov of Hapoel Hatzair, who was in Sanok, helped us with this organization. Male and female youths who desired more revolutionary Zionist content in order to actualize their Zionism gathered around him and absorbed his doctrine. They conducted organizational activities in a free manner, without disturbance in the same Wynrowka hall of the Zionist movement.

At first, Hitachdut set its aim as educating the youth for pioneering and aliya to the Land. The following comrades dedicated themselves to establishing the first group: Izik Wenig, Yosef Dym, Shmuel Ripp, and David Werner - May G-d avenge their blood! - as well as Moshe Messer who died at a young age, and, to differentiate between the living and the deceased - the writer of these lines, who served as the secretary of the group.

In the summer of 1924, the members of the group girded themselves for practical work in the field of Mr. Feld in Posda. They worked in his field in growing potatoes, in harvesting hay and fodder, and in various other tasks connected to agriculture.

During the years 1925-1926, the following members of the group made aliya: Izik Wenig, Yehuda Gartenberg, Arye Rauch, Tzvi Lachman, Moshe Feld, Yosef Holloschuetz, Shimon Gershon, and others.

[Page 167]

In the year 1926-1927, Hitachdut activities developed with greater strength. The number of members of Hitachdut grew and strengthened the range of its activities. It became one of the stronger, important political organizations of our city. Hitachdut established pioneering youth organizations: Gordonia, Boslia, and Olim Poalim.

Hitachdut was headed by the following comrades: Yacov Kuzenik (Shoresh), Yehoshea Salik, the lawyer Magistrate Branek Lewi who served as its chairman for many years, and Arye Wilk.

 

Gordonia

In 1927, a populist pioneering youth group called Gordonia was set up. Male and female youths from all strata of the people came to Gordonia. Incidentally, a strong group of youth who belonged to Hashomer Hatzair already existed in Sanok. Later, students and studying youth, who helped raise the cultural ranks of Gordonia, joined its ranks. Members of the Sanok organization often participated in regional and national conventions of Gordonia, which greatly helped deepen the pioneering preparedness. After intensive education, the groups were sent to hachshara farms, and later made aliya to the Land.

We established a regional committee and helped found Gordonia organizations in the nearby towns of Zagórz, and Brzozów - which became a strong chapter, many of whose members live today in Israel.

 

Buslia

In 1930, Buslia was founded in accordance with the directives of Hitachdut in Poland. Buslia was a pioneering group parallel to Gordonia. Youths 18 years old and older, who were prepared to go immediately to hachshara, were accepted into Buslia. A large group of Buslia went out to the hachshara kibbutz in Bielsko. Most of its members made aliya, and are living in various places scattered around Israel. The members Notka Simon and Tzipporah Schwartz live today in Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim.

 

Olim - Poalim

This organization was founded in accordance with the directives of the Young Zion Hitachdut. Only trained tradesmen were accepted into this group. Sh. Z. Pipe, Y. Kuzenik, and M. Steinbrecher ran this organization. Only M. Steinbrecher made aliya through the legal immigration of the Mandate government. The rest, who did not have families, made aliya in various ways, and live in Israel.

 

First of May 1931-1932

The first open demonstration of May 1 took place in Sanok in 1931, through the streets of the city and in front of everyone, with the participation of P. P. S.[2]. A similar demonstration took place the following year.

This was after the unification of Hapoel Hatzair and Achdut Haavoda in the Land. The right leaning Poale Zion participated in this historical demonstration in our city. We marched alongside the Polish members of the P. P. S., carrying the flags of our party and large placards showing Zionist mottoes in three languages: Hebrew

[Page 168]

{Photo page 168, top and bottom: Groups of pioneers under the direction and leadership of Menachem Wenig. (note, the top photo has the date of June 20, 1925.)}

[Page 169]

Yiddish, and Polish. Our participation in this well-organized demonstration left a strong impression and evoked great amazement in our quiet town.

The fact that Yosef Dym of Hitachdut and Dr. Avraham Fenzig of the Polish P. P. S. - both of them from families of rabbis and rabbinical judges of Sanok -- marched next to each other was a topic of conversation in town.

 

Professional Activity

In 1930, we organized the business officials and helped them to improve their work conditions. There was no great number of workers in the usual sense of the term in Sanok, aside from a few apprentices of shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, and smiths. There was one large factory in Sanok that employed more than 1,500 employees, but Jews were not accepted there, nor were they pushing to work there.

 

The League for the Working Land of Israel

Poale Zion, Zionist Socialists, Hashomer Hatzair, Gordonia, and other non-factional groups participated in the League under the auspices of the Histadrut. The Zionist activist Roza Kolber assisted in raising money for the Fund of the Working Land of Israel, which was called “Palestna Arbeiter Fund” in Yiddsh.

There was also a great deal of activity from our side to study the Hebrew Language, to disseminate it among the masses, to become proficient in the oral and written language, and to concern ourselves with the distribution of Hebrew books. Our member and fellow-native Ben Zion Katz assisted us greatly in this area. He was a member of the central committee of the Zionist Socialist Hitachdut in Krakow. Today he is Dr. Professor Ben Zion Benshalom, the rector of the university in Tel Aviv.

The Hitachdut also conducted broad-based, intensive activity in the establishment of the pioneering youth and preparing them for work, in disseminating the Hebrew language and Zionist cultural values, and in offering assistance for their aliya to the Land in both a legal and illegal fashion. This activity lifted the oppressed spirits, encouraged the weary people toward aliya, and helped them with the certificates that were denied to them on account of the treacherous politics of the British Mandate government. While the masses were still immersed in the poverty of the Polish Diaspora, and aspiring toward a life of creativity and honor in the secure homeland, the Nazi beast snuck out of its den and murdered, crushed, and destroyed. The Jewish cities and towns disappeared from all over Europe, including our city of Sanok.

{Photo page 169: Uncaptioned. Likely a group of the League for the Working Land of Israel.}

[Page 170]

{Photo page 170 top: Uncaptioned.}

{Photo page 170 bottom: 25 years of Poale Zion in Sanok, 1907-1932}.}

__________

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Token of membership in the Zionist organization. Return
  2. Polska Partia Socjalistyczna - Polish Socialist Party Return


[Page 171]

About Gordonia in Sanok

by Moshe Rabbach

Translated by Jerrold Landau

About the history of Gordonia in Sanok in the period of 1923-1939.

The history of Gordonia in Sanok begins from the year 1923. The pioneering movement was very strong in Sanok at that time. Regional conventions and meetings would take place from time to time. While I was still a student at school, my friends and I displayed active interest in the movement, and we searched for ways to penetrate into the movement without even knowing its aims. As we were young, this was before we reached the point of clear and proper understanding. However, our frequent meetings at various occasions, spending time together with the cheerful youth, the Hora dances and the like opened our eyes and educated us to understand that we were forging toward a goal - an independent state for the people of Israel.

In 1923, we were boys and girls of age 11-12, and we joined the Gordonia movement. At that time, a Hechalutz organization and a Shomer Hatzair organization already existed in Sanok. Their members were drawn primarily from the working youth. Among them were Lemel, Hirsch Goldman, Berish Meinser, Yosef Diamant, Itzik Karp - may the memories of them all be for a blessing!

At that time, Moshe Messer of blessed memory stood at the head of Gordonia. He was the young son of Reb Leibele Messer, to whom we turned with a request to take us under his wing.

By 1925-1929, we were already an independent group. Shmuel-Zeinvel Pipe of blessed memory. His influence upon us was very strong due to his proper friendly attitudes toward each one of us.

The group developed. We had a library with 100 books on topics related to pioneering and educational activities. The first meeting between Hechalutz, Hashomer Hatzair, and Gordonia took place in a room that we rented from Berel Buchbinder especially for this one-time occasion. It should be noted that the integration of activities between the three organizations was not complete, for, after all, there were differences of opinion and outlook among them. Along with this, however, all paths led to Jerusalem.

It is appropriate to note that there were also students among the organized youth in the organizations.

In 1926, a group of them who were led by Sh. Z. Pipe, broke off. In the meantime, some of the youth grew up. A Hitachdut movement already existed in Sanok, and some of them transferred over to it. Then, the Gordonia organization, named for A D. Gordon[1], was officially established. The first group consisted of Lemel Wilk, Hirsch Goldman ,Yosef Pinsel, Alec Wilner, Moshe Rabbach, Arye Wilk and Rivke Feller. A great deal of development of Gordonia took place during the era of the leadership of Arye Wilk. It participated in all of the communal activities for the Land of Israel.

Within a brief time, Gordonia became a strong organization, both in terms of the number of members and in terms of the increase in its activities. The number of members reached 100, and they had one aspiration: the Land of Israel! Additional members joined: Shimon Firer, Moshe Scheinbach, Bilha Rattner, Shank, Yisrael Lembach, Yacov Rauch, and others.

It is impossible to not mention the name of Michel Rabner of blessed memory, who served as the secretary of Working Land of Israel and Gordonia in Sanok for many years.

All of these, except for those who have been otherwise noted, perished in the Holocaust of 1939-1942[2]. May their holy memories never depart from us.

[Page 172]

{Photo page 172 top: Hechalutz Organization in Sanok, August 19, 1929.}

{Photo page 172 bottom: Shoshana group.}

[Page 173]

{Two photos page 173: From the first Hechalutz groups.}

[Page 174]

{Photo page 174 top: A group of WIZO women in Sanok.}

{Photo page 174 bottom: The Hashomer Hatzair chapter in Sanok bidding farewell to Mordechai Jonas (second row from bottom, wearing a leather jacket), on the occasion of his aliya to the Land in 1936.}

__________

Translator's Footnotes
  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._D._Gordon Return
  2. I suspect 1945 was meant here. Return

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