by Dr. Nathan Kudish
Translated by Susan Rosin
At the house of the grocer Benjamin Stern locatd in the Rynek (the square plaza surrounded by houses) a sign on one of the doors read: The Ivriya Society.
On both sides of the room were two long tables and a shorter table at one end of the room designated for the society's chair and the lecturers. The walls were covered with photos of Herzl, Ahad Ha'am (the pen name of Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg - literally one of the people), and other leaders of the national revival. There was a book case with the sign The library. The first impression might have been of a prayer room or a minyan, but the books were in the Holy Language and this was the first Hebrew library in Stryj.
Young people who came to borrow books or for a Hebrew conversation were the most frequent visitors. The idea of the revival of the Hebrew language was spreading and brought many to the modest room of the Ivriya society.
They came from many different backgrounds and levels of society: The young Hashomer Hatzair girl who came to borrow a book or the girl from an orthodox family would borrow a book and read it secretly away from the watchful eye of her fanatic father or a young man, a member of the Hehalutz movement seeking tutoring in the Hebrew language. From time to time, some of the Beit Hamidrash students would stop by with great hesitation, borrow a book, listen to a lecture and leave without drawing attention. They were still attending Beit Hamidrash, studying the Gmara, but secretly reading Abraham Mapu, Peretz Smolenskin, Ahad Ha'am, Haim Nachman Bialik, and others. High school and college students attending state schools, but longing for the beauty of the bible and the new Hebrew literature, trying to combine Judaism and humanism.
Some young scholars were among those frequenting the society. During the day they attended to their businesses without much enthusiasm as they were yearning for the world of the new literature and the beautiful sounds of Hebrew that was hears on the streets of Stryj. The intellectuals as well as the young scholars became the driving forces of the society.
All of them helped establish
the revival of the Hebrew language in the twenties. Those were the years after the end of the World War I after the foundation was laid for the building of Israel and the start of the third Aliyah. The national awakening was wide spread in Poland and many young people left for Israel. The spiritual expression of this movement was the renewed Hebrew language.
Although there were many disagreements between the various political parties, the efforts to revive the Hebrew language united them all.
The original founders of the Ivriya society were Jewish intellectuals, many among them were graduates of the Batei HaMidrash. The winds of the enlightenment made them look outside of the Beit Hamidrash and into the Hebrew culture. Some even went as far as leaving Judaism altogether, but most remained true to their heritage and established this non-political, quiet and modest society which contributed so much to the revival of the Hebrew language. Their efforts must be remembered in this Stryj Yizkor book.
The Ivriya society in Stryj was established in 1910 by Dr. Zvi Diesendruk and Haim David Korn. At that time, only few were familiar with the spoken Hebrew. World War I destroyed those humble beginnings. The Balfour declaration in 1917 awakened many hopes in the Jewish communities everywhere and the national revival activists started organizing.
On a cold January 5th, 1918 Saturday night, 35 young men and women gathered at the HaShomrim room with the goal to establish a society to spread the Hebrew language. The meeting was the idea of a young intellectual, Naphtali Ziegel who was joined by other enthusiasts: Levi Teitler, Isaac Sturmlauf and others. The name of the new society was Agudat Haivriya (The Hebrew Society). The first committee was: Naphtali Ziegel chair, Levi Teitler vice chair, Isaac Sturmlauf secretary, Rachel Altbauer treasurer, Yocheved Goldberg librarian, Sarah Neubauer, Ben-David Schwartz, Aryeh Derfler, and Shalom Reich. This first meeting ended in high spirits and the singing of HaTikvah. The members were very active and the society made its mark in Stryj.
Lectures on biblical subjects and the Modern Hebrew literature were given in Hebrew. The Stryj born author Dr. Zvi Diesendruk was an activist for a short while. The society's activists taught Hebrew to members of youth movements. The library was established and parties were organized. The society supported the Hebrew school Safa Brura. The Ivriya society became a magnet to the national-cultural redemption seeking youth.
Throughout the years, idealistic youths, intellectuals and Batei Hamidrash graduates joined the society.
A new committee was elected in 1920 with the teacher Zvi Gelernter as chair. The other members were: Ben-David Schwartz, Dr. Joseph Schuster (Shilo), Yehoshua Oberlander, Dr. Nathan Kudish, , Jonah Friedler, Haim David Korn, Isaac Schorr, Abraham Shwartzberg, Meir Wieseltier, Ben-Zion Garfunkel, Elimelech Frisch, Aryeh Sachar, Joseph Richter, Aharon Weiss, and Esther Zeif.
The new committee expanded the activities of the society to spread the Hebrew language and culture. Among the other notables of the society: Yehoshua Tileman (an author and teacher), Jacob Stark, Naphtali Gelernter, Moshe Meller, Aharon Meller, Moshe Eisenstein, Isaac Zilberschlag (an author and poet), Jacob Zeman, Moshe Steiner, Isaac Nussenblatt, and Pesach Stark. Guest lecturers included: Abba
Hushi, Meir Ya'ari, Dov Sadan (Stock), Dr. Joseph Schuster (Shilo). The last Ivriya committee was: Jonah Friedler chair, Meisels, and Avigdor Rotfeld.
The dedicated Ivriya activists did their work without much fanfare, but the seeds they planted bore splendid fruits. Those who studied Hebrew at the society brought it back to their youth movements. Many of the activists were able to fulfill their dreams and become poets, authors, well known scientists, cultural activists and educators in the diaspora and in Israel.
Not everyone was fortunate enough to see the Hebrew language flourish and the redemption of the Hebrew culture in the state of Israel. They perished in the hands of the Nazi murderers and their helpers.
May their memory be inscribed in the hearts of those from Stryj and kept forever with the lovers of the Hebrew language and culture and all the dreamers of the Hebrew revival.
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