by Khanokh Werdi (Ramat Gan)
Translated by Pamela Russ
The Aliyah from our town to Israel until the end of the 1920s was very slow.
At the beginning of the century only a few elderly made Aliyah to Israel, those whose highest ambition was to live out their years in the Holy Land, then to be buried on the Mount of Olives, and then merit the final resurrection of the dead (Tekhiyas Hameisim) without any underground travels.
In the revolution year 1905, a few revolutionaries ran off to Israel those whom the Czarist agents were hunting but there is no trace of them.
After World War I, and in the period of the fourth Aliyah in the 1920s, several families moved to Israel and went to live in the city and agricultural settlements.
A. At the end of the 1920s, until the outbreak of World War II, 1939
Thanks to the organizations of the Zionist movement and the youth Khalutz organizations, and the strategically increasing economic and political discrimination of the Polish organizations towards the Jews, there was a motivation for a larger Aliyah, particularly among the youth.
At the end of the 1920s until the outbreak in Israel of the events of 1936, scores of boys and girls and several families made Aliyah to Israel with the Khalutz and middle-class Aliyah.
Some of these new immigrants went to Kibbutzim, and the rest went to Tel Aviv, Haifa, and the surrounding areas.
From the events in the year 1936 and the Aliyah prohibitions by the British mandate powers until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, some daring youth came to Israel after long travels and great dangers.
During that period we had no official Irgun (organization). The townspeople would meet at various opportunities at the homes of Kalman Wajnkrancz (Tel Aviv), Borukh Gurman (Haifa), and Aharon Czesner (Haifa).
B. From the outbreak of World War II until 1950
With the outbreak of World War II, all ties with our close ones in our Polish town were cut off and we found ourselves in constant fear for their fate.
The first terrible news of the destruction of our community was brought by the brothers HaRav Yosef and Borukh Katzenelbogen and their sister Zipora, who were miraculously saved from Nazi hands and fortunately arrived here in Israel in the beginning of the 1940s after long travels and many dangers.
At the same time, a certain number of young men arrived who had run from the Polish army and General Anders.
During this time, some of our townspeople voluntarily enlisted in various defense units, as well as in the Jewish Brigade that fought against the German enemy on the Italian front.
The writer of these lines, who was in Poland in the year 1946, was fortunate to meet many of our survivors after the devastation and give them appropriate information and advice for their Aliyah to Israel.
The Aliyah for the rest of the survivors began in the year 1946. Our survivors shared the fate of the large crowds in the refugee ships, with which the British floats struggled mightily. Some of them were interned on the Island of Cyprus, and some of them were returned to Germany by the British.
The major Aliyah of our survivors began at the end of the War of Independence in the year 1949
Scores of families landed in our liberated ports and were quartered in emptied and abandoned houses.
The experience was huge and profound. Every day there were new arrivals Oh! One searches for the other.
During this period, each long-time settler tried to help the newly-arrived in any way possible, without any type of general (formal) organization.
We have to mention separately that during that period our old friend, Shlomo Merle, of blessed memory, who died several years ago, displayed his bigheartedness and helped all those who needed, with his extended hand and warm heart.
C. 1950 - The Activities of the Irgun
Scores of people we were taken to a camp of a few hundred, may God help that they increase. The majority of new immigrants needed advice, encouragement, financial help, and a social connection.
The needs showed that times were very ready for an organization for the camp some sort of address where one could go for any issue.
The first meeting of new immigrants and veterans came about in the carpentry workshop of Rephoel Friedman (Tel Aviv) and subsequent meetings were at the place of Kalman Wajnkrancz (Tel Aviv). They called him the Serocker Consul in Israel and they decided:
The majority of the new immigrants were concentrated in the southern part of the country, so that Tel Aviv became the center of all our activities.
On 17 Kislev, 5710 1950, there was the first countrywide gathering of our townspeople in the large hall of the Herzliah gymnasium in Tel Aviv, Akhad Ha'am Street.
Here, friends and relatives met for the first time. These were people whom the war and destruction had separated. The general conversation flowed without stop: screams of joy and sadness, laughter and tears, youth's memories and destruction the first meeting of the leftover remnants.
That same evening was the first memorial gathering for our deceased ones.
At the time of this first gathering, it was decided to establish an Irgun (organization) for the Serockers in Israel, and there was an election held to set up a committee.
At the first meeting of the committee the meeting was held in the house of Borukh Katzenelbogen (Tel Aviv) it was decided to establish a fund for mutual aid that would be distribute loans without interest, to those needy friends (khaveirim or comrades).
The foundation capital was at first based on private contributions. The first contributions were made by the friends Shloime Merle, of blessed memory, and Refoel Friedman, may he have long life. The friends Markewicz Yisroel, Mendzelewski Yakov, and Pniewski Yosef visited and received contributions from many friends in their private homes in all corners of the country. Thanks to them and their loyalty, the fund was able to function very soon after its establishment.
During its existence, the fund distributed monies to many friends.
The unions of our townspeople in Argentina and North America soon responded warmly and sent significant sums to maintain the fund.
The rise of our Irgun strengthened mutual rapprochement and mutual aid, and also created important social connections.
D. The activities of the Irgun
Funding, management, distributing loans, taking care of the details of paying back, and managing the stability of the basic capital.
Taking care of needs in emergency situations with special subsidies.
The annual meeting and memorial
Once a year, on the 17th of Kislev (December), we organize an annual country-wide gathering and memorial for our holy ones (victims). Many of our townspeople are involved in organizing this event. After the memorial service at this event, an accounting is given of the funding, general questions are addressed, and at the end a new committee is elected.
The committee inspires more social gatherings and personal connections.
We also meet at family events such as at a bris, wedding, bar mitzvah, birthday, and so on. Even in moments of tragedy.
The memorial calendar
We set up a tombstone in memory of the destroyed Serock community in the wall of the Chamber of the Holocaust (Martef Hashoah) on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
The unveiling of the tombstone in Jerusalem took place in May 1963 with almost all the adult townspeople from Serock in the country attending.
A representative of the Serock townspeople in London participated in this event HaRav Henokh Zymerman, of blessed memory, and later, for the Yizkor book, he sent over the writings of his memories of religious life in Serock at the beginning of the century. He fulfilled his promise of doing so.
In order to eternalize the memory of our holy townspeople of the destroyed community, it was decided years ago to publish a memorial book titled: Sefer Serock. All the townspeople were urged to participate by recording their memories of the distant and recent past and of the period of the destruction, and also to include all kinds of pictures of the town.
The writer of these lines spent years collecting all kinds of material about the town, and in 1958, during the annual gathering and memorial, distributed to all those present a questionnaire that was also given to our brotherhood organizations in Argentina and North America.
The preparations for this took very long and we had to overcome many unforeseen difficulties. The committee hired an editing team with full legal power, consisting of our friends Borukh Katzenelbogen, Shloime Sterdiner, and the author of these lines.
Connecting to the Serocker townspeople in North America and Argentina
The committee is in regular contact with the brotherhood organizations in Argentina and North America.
In the last few years, our friends Shloime Ashenmil, Kalman Kuligowski, and Mendel Kuligowski visited us as representatives from the Argentina union, and friends Yakov Brukhanski, Yeshaye Maj and recently, the family Koperman and Shmuel Dunar visited as representatives from the North American society.
From the abovementioned unions we received contributions for our fund for mutual aid.
The Argentinian representative proposed that we build a Serock House but because of the immediate shortage of monies, the project was not realized at that time.
The last Olim (those who made Aliyah) to Israel
The large Aliyah of our survivors ended in the year 1952, and after that, within a few years, only few survivors came from Poland.
By the end of 1956 (at the time of the Sinai War), several families came from Poland.
Recently, a few Serockers came from Poland that after the Six Day War in 1967 changed into an openly anti-Semitic country.
The following friends held office in the committee of our Irgun, from its establishment until today, and exchanged with each other:
Gurman Borukh (Haifa); Grosbard Yehoshua (Haifa); Werdiman-Warshawski Yekhiel Meyer (Kfar Witkin); Werdi-Warshawski Khanokh (Ramat Gan); Jaskowicz Malja (Tel Aviv); Mendzelewski Yehuda (Bat Yam); Mendzelewski Yakov and Rivka'le (Kholon); Markowicz Yisroel (Tel Aviv); Marle Shloime, of blessed memory; Fogelman Bunim and Khava (Kholon); Friedman Refoel and Zipora (Kholon); Pniewski Yosef (Tel Aviv); Pshikorski Avrohom, of blessed memory; Rozenberg-Bernshtayn Malke'le (Tel Aviv).
The committee is also the same people for managing the fund for mutual aid.
The committee, that was elected at the last annual meeting that took place on Sunday, 20th of Kislev December 30, 1969, in the hall at Bais Wyskow, on 45 Bugersow, Tel Aviv, comprised of the following friends:
Borukh Katzenelbogen (Tel Aviv) chairman and secretary; Shloime Sterdiner (Ramat Gan) treasurer; Khanokh Werdi (Ramat Gan); Yehuda Mendzelewski (Bat Yam); Rivka and Yakov Mendzelewski (Kholon); Markowicz Yisroel (Tel Aviv); Khava and Bunim Fogelman (Kholon); Yosef Pniewski (Tel Aviv); Malja Jaskowicz-Rozenberg (Tel Aviv); and Yekhiel Werdiman-Warshawski (Kfar Witkin).
The activities of the committee for years took place in the home of our dear Shloime Merle, of blessed memory, in Tel Aviv, and after his death, all the work concentrates in the house of our friend, may he live long years, Shloime Sterdiner (Ramat Gan, 31 Khivat Tzion Street).
With a tremor of love and pain, we remember our townspeople who died in recent years in Israel:
Members of the committee: Shloime Merle and Avrohom Pshikorski, Tema Kalina, Zisel Iczkowicz, Golde Lajnwand-Belison, Priwa Lewinson-Perl, Khaya'le Zakharek, and Zilbershtayn-Rotman Zirel.
May their memories be remembered forever.
We bow our heads in memory of our sons who died on the altar in their most blossoming years as they were defending their country:
Tzvika Rozenberg, may his memory be blessed
Elkhonon and Raja Rozenberg (Kfar Witkin)
Who fell on the eve of Yom Ha'atzmaut 5729 (April 1969)
While defending the positions in Emek Hayarden
May their memories be respected!
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