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[Page 91]

The Hashomer Hatzair Movement
in Turka During its First Years

by Yitzchak Rand of Merchavia

{Photo page 91: Uncaptioned: Yitzchak Rand}

At the end of the First World War, our family found itself in Czechia, where we were refugees for four years. We returned home with the other refugees at the time of the declaration of independence of the Czechoslovak Republic. We made our journey on a transport train, and reached our destination of Turka after eight days. When the train reached the village of Jawora, the locomotive rebelled against its conductors and refused to continue… The reason for the rebellion – the fuel ran out. When the passengers found out, they spread through the adjacent forest to collect wood to fuel the locomotive. They returned with bundles of wood on their backs. The locomotive had sufficient fuel, and continued to bring us home.

I was a 12 year old boy when I returned to Turka. Fragments of pictures are preserved in my memory, some clear and some blurry, from the realities of the town at that time. Around the time we returned, we found ourselves caught up in the war between the Poles and the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians were fighting for their independence in Eastern Galicia, whose population was, as is known, primarily Ukrainian. I understood the justice of the Ukrainian cause only in my adulthood, when I found it hard to understand how the Polish nation, which had just been freed from its own oppression, learned so quickly how to suppress another nation. However, when I had already returned to Turka, I felt the injustice of the oppression of another people in a very tangible sense: for the Ukrainians, themselves oppressed, oppressed and afflicted another nation that dwelt in their midst -- the Jews. This was not only political oppression, but rather straightforward maltreatment. I recall how Ukrainian soldiers snatched Jews on the street for various types of work, and how they stole their property.

It was not only the war between the nationalities that imposed fear upon the Jewish residents of Turka. During the war as well as after it, Europe suffered from an illness that

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afflicted the population without discrimination based on race and religion – “Hispanka”[1] – which did not pass over Turka. Dozens of people became ill daily (in our seven person family, only one person evaded it), and the number who died was significant enough.

 

Vibrant Life Amongst the Ruins

The town was destroyed. Many houses were not yet renovated after the destruction that had been perpetrated by the soldiers of the Czar. Amidst all this, we can be surprised as to how a vibrant national and cultural life flourished through these disasters. Various parties and circles were formed, which appeared on the election lists. A local drama troupe was founded (I will never forget the strong experience that I had when, as a 12-year-old child, I attended the performance of The Jewish King Lear). Enthusiasm for Zionism was felt due to the influence of the Balfour Declaration. The enthusiasm also affected circles which were far from Zionism, and even opposed it. The study of the Hebrew Language served as an expression of the nationalist-Zionist spirit. One could hear people delving into the depths of Hebrew grammar, and debating whether the word “shulchan” (table) is feminine or masculine – for the word “shulchan” in the singular seems to be masculine, whereas the plural “shulchanot” has the markings of a feminine word. The debate between the supporters of the masculine version and the feminine version continued until they asked a man of authority, the Hebrew teacher Schreiber, who gave his verdict.

Not only did they study Hebrew. The desire to know, to understand and to study was felt. Since the gymnasium had not yet been founded, they all studied “general subjects”, which included German language and literature. The names of the German poets and philosophers were known by everybody and served as a topic for debates on the street and in meetings that were convened. It was a common sight: people wandering through the streets of the city with heavy books under their shoulders – a sign of erudition and intelligence.

 

The Hashomer Hatzair Chapter

The Hashomer Hatzair movement had a special place in communal life. When I returned with my family to Turka at the end of 1918, a Hashomer Hatzair chapter already existed, one of the first chapters of this movement in Galicia. It had two sections: for boys – headed by Philip Weissman, the son of a half-assimilated family; and for girls – headed by Abba Chushai – already at that time an active youth, encouraging others to activism as well. When these two sections united after some time, Abba Chushai became the head of the entire chapter.

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During those days, the young man Anshel Treiber often visited our house with a bundle of books under his arm. He had been our neighbor before the war, and today is a member of Beit Alfa. He is the one who told us about the Shomer organization (“farein”), in which he was a member. Due to the influence of his stories, my sister decided to “register” me in the organization. Thus, at age 12, did I enter the Hashomer Hatzair movement, which was simply called “farein,” to differentiate it from the other organizations, which were called “Tzionister farein,” “Mizrachi farein” etc. The “farein”, with the definitive article, as the “Hashomer farein”, without any additional adjectives.

It was known that all of the Shomrim were “treifniks”, “apikorsim” [heretics], and Sabbath violators. Because of this, many parents objected to their children joining the movement. The children gave in to the parents or continued to attend Hashomer Farein secretly, without their knowledge. The situation was not thus with my parents: not only were they followers of tradition, but I myself was a very Orthodox youth, with peyos, studying in cheder, worshipping every day and even reciting all the additions to the prayers. Their Orthodoxy and my Orthodoxy did not prevent me from belonging to the Farein. It should be known: I was the only Orthodox child in the chapter. My Orthodoxy also did not keep me from basing myself within the spirit of national and social revolution that was pervading the city at that time. I felt the refreshing atmosphere that was penetrating Turka from the outside world, as a result of the “storm and the breach” that had passed over Europe at the end of the First World War. Our first group head was Aharon Rozler, who took it upon himself to educate us to be “proud Jews and good people”. How does one become a proud Jew? -- by studying Hebrew and fostering the aspiration to make aliya to the Land. How does one become a good person? – through fostering humanitarian values. We had to learn the ten commandments of Hashomer by heart. Group activities took place every day of the week, and on the Sabbath, we would go on a hike in the Shomer Forest, accompanied by dozens of youths who were not members of the Farein.

 

Manual Labor

As has been stated, there was no gymnasium in the city, and aside from a few exceptions, the members of the chapter were lacking in higher education. The chapter wished to impart general knowledge along with the Hebrew and general educational theory. It became known that the group heads, despite coming from well-to-do families, were lacking higher education. This had its effect on the education within the groups. I recall how one of the heads of the groups read to us 12-13 year old boys some inferior novel of Lateiner (this was during the time of the Ukrainian retreat and the conquest of the city by the Poles). Most of the education was indeed related to the Land of Israel, to the “building of the Land and the nation.” A great deal was said about the normal composition of the Jewish nation

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with most of its members working as middlemen, and about the need to exchange the ethereal livelihoods for building and creativity, mainly through the work of the land. As a first step toward realizing this sublime goal, the chapter leased a plot of land on the other side of the city, and developed a splendid vegetable enterprise. It was not only to agriculture that one had to return, but to labor in general. Every work, even the most black and “degrading” was holy. The vegetables had to be shipped to the city. What did the older members of the chapter, headed by Abba Chushai, do? They took a wagon, loaded the vegetables on it, and, instead of horses, harnessed themselves to the wagon and dragged it through the streets of the city, as an example to the masses that they do not reject any labor. Some residents of the city disparaged these “horses,” whereas others were enthused with this idealism and personal example.

We were not educated only for fitness for work. No less value was placed on education to the love of the Land of Israel and the people of Israel. We studied “Palestina-Graphia” and the history of the nation, and we enthusiastically sang the songs of the Land. However, we gained the bulk of our Zionist faith and enthusiasm from the “Hashomer” book, which includes chapters of life and might from the era of Hashomer (from whose name was the movement called Hashomer – later Hashomer Hatzair). I recall my great emotion upon reading the braved deeds of the Shomrim, including Marika Chazanovich who fell on the fields of Merchavia. I did not know that the fate of my life would be tied with that place…

 

The First Group Makes Aliya to the Land!

Our eyes looked forward to aliya to the Land as the realization of a distant vision. This vision began to unfold before our eyes with the preparation for aliya of the first group of Shomrim in 1920. The Shomrim from Turka were among the first ones of the Third Aliya. Not all of those who made aliya were members of the movement. From among those who joined the group a few months before their aliya, one lives to this day in the Kibbutz of Ramat Yochanan – Elazar Weiss. The preparations for the aliya of the first group inspired great emotion among the Jews of the city – some were enthusiastic, others cursed, and even chased their children out of the house. The chapter turned into a sewing workshop in which the women of the city sewed clothes for the first pioneers on a voluntary basis from textiles that were donated in part by the residents of the city.

The great, awaited day arrived, the day of actualization of the sublime vision, the day of aliya to the Land. The previous night was a night of watching. We, all the members of the chapter, waited in the hall of the chapter, nervously awaiting the great moment when the entire group would bid farewell to our beloved head of our chapter – Abba Chushai.

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At 3:00 a.m., there was a roll call of the chapter, and the farewell words of Abba streamed forth and penetrated the recesses of the hearts… At the end of the farewell speech, the entire chapter organized itself by groups. With coordinated steps and measured paces, to the light of the clear moon, they accompanied the first group of pioneers passing through the roads of the city on the way to the train. The entire way, the marchers marched to the sounds of the city band, which brought many people out of their houses.

{Photo page 95: Hashomer Hatzair in Turka.}

The chapter went through a great deal of development from its founding during the war years until the aliya of the first group. The kids turned into goats -- to group heads and new counselors. The work in the chapter took on a more serious character and even we 15 year olds began to prepare for aliya.

Once again: the gymnasium had not yet been renovated, and anyone who wished to finish high school – and there were such people amongst us – did this as an externist (the exam was in Sambor). Then a call came from Abba Chushai from the Land: “All of you should study trades. In contrast to the 'life of the air' of the Jews, the Land requires trades.” Indeed, all of the members of the older group began to study trades such as locksmithing, woodcutting, etc. I chose carpentry. The matter was not easy for me. My parents, my mother in particular, objected to this. I still studied in cheder, and my mother, in accordance with the advice of my rebbe, desired that I continue in Yeshiva. I presented

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my parents with a fait accompli. I began to work with Mendel Feiler the carpenter without asking permission of my parents. Having no choice, they accepted the situation.

Our entire interest was then directed toward aliya and actualization in the kibbutz. This actualization became an obligatory principle in the movement. We founded a fund for the group that would assist the members of restricted means when the awaited time for aliya arrived.

What were the sources of income of the fund? First of all – chopping trees. We had strong competitors for this work – the gentile woodcutters, who were experienced veterans in this trade, and earned their livelihood from it. And we were only 14 or 15 year old children… If you reduce the fees for this work (I am recalling our faults here), and factor in the sympathy of several Jews for this, we succeeded in taking on this “coarse” work – the work of the lower class gentiles. How great was our pride in that we succeeded at this holy work! We did this work primarily in the late afternoon hours during the winter. One day, as I was among the wood choppers and evening had already fallen, we still had a few trees to chop. It was not worthwhile to put off the completion of the tree chopping for another day, and therefore, we decided to finish it that night to the light of a kerosene lantern. This decision caused me a great deal of perplexity and a difficult internal battle. I was still an Orthodox youth who worshipped three times a day. The time for mincha had arrived, and here I was – chopping trees! A difficult battle raged inside of me, what was I to do? How could I go to the synagogue while the group of workers was toiling so diligently for this holy objective?! However, if I keep my faith with my friends and the work – I would be sinning before G-d? I struggled hard with myself. Finally, I found a solution that satisfied my conscious, and certainly also G-d. I worshipped as I was chopping trees. Only two people heard my prayers: G-d and me.

Another source of income for the fund was the distribution of wedding invitations, porting, and other such jobs. We would also dress up on the evening of Purim, visit the homes of the wealthy people, and sing the songs of the Land. The head of the house would donate his part through signing his name on a sheet of paper. We did not reject any work, even the most coarse and difficult. On the contrary, the more coarse or difficult the work was, the great our pride in it.

 

The Aliya of the Second Group

A short time after the aliya of the first group of Shomrim in 1920, the second group made aliya. This group consisted of “Stam Chalutzim” [General Pioneers] (a movement which was under the influence of Hashomer Hatzair). After them the rest of the veterans of the chapter went. In the interim (it was the year 1922-23),

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signs of disappointment set in to the movement due to the realities of the Land of Israel that afflicted the members of the Third Aliya. News came from the Land about the disbanding of Zionist projects. Many left the kibbutzim and the Land, some to seek their personal fortune, and others to build Socialism in Russia. (The latter, as is known, built Socialism in Stalin's prison and never returned from there.)

The influence of the situation in the Land on the movement in the Diaspora was destructive, and the Turka chapter, one of the finest and strongest in Galicia, was also affected. One example: at this point, the chapter was housed in a four-by-four room which barely had room for a table with two benches – and even that tiny room was large enough to accommodate the members of the chapter in the city, who numbered at most 6 or 7 boys and girls of ages 16-17. These youths made aliya in 1926, and were among the founders of Kibbutz Aliya Aleph of Hashomer Hatzair of Galicia, which was the kibbutz that later settled in Merchavia.

How serious was the situation of the chapter during that time: the disappointment and despair regarding the situation in the land affected everything. The Zionist movement was at a nadir. All aliya to the Land ceased. We, the 6 or 7 youths of the movement, guarded the flame so that it would not go out. Despite the uncertainty about what awaits us in the future, we did not give up on our faith in our Zionist mission. We knew that the Zionist eternity and the upbuilding of the Land would not prove false. Indeed, there was reward for our activities.

When the end of the crisis came with the beginning of the Fourth Aliya in 1924, we succeeded in rebuilding atop the ruins of the chapter. We rented a large dwelling. We broadened our literary framework, we added new groups, we reestablished Hechalutz, and our members engaged in intensive activities. One of the great successes of the chapter during that timeframe was the fact that a large number of Beis Midrash students joined Hashomer Hatzair – the Bilu Group. It was one of the signs of the times that a portion of them rejected Zionism after their aliya. They left the Land or were expelled from it, and like the previous deserters, experienced Stalin's prison. Through intensive activity in the Hashomer chapter, we, the older group, made preparations for achieving our goal of making aliya to the Land. We were prepared for such already in 1924, at the beginning of the Fourth Aliya, but the issuance of passports was delayed by the Polish authorities, and our aliya only took place two years later, in 1926. We set out on our way with the knowledge and faith that we left behind a strong, vibrant chapter that would continue to prepare its members for actualization. Indeed, we were not disappointed. Even though a chapter of Gordonia was set up in Turka as well as a Communist movement also began to organize the youth of the city; Hashomer Hatzair saw success in its actions, and the Shomrim and Shomrim Chalutzim made aliya to the various kibbutzim. Members of Hashomer Hatzair and Hechalutz from Turka are found in many Kibbutzim – Beit Alfa, Mishmar

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Haemek, Merchavia, Mizra, Sarid, Tel Amal, Gat, Hamaapil, Kfar Masaryk, and Ramat Yochanan.

We cannot forget the help of the friends of the movement who formed the Supervisory Committee (Opajka). First and foremost, we recall the activities of Naftali Kraus, who never withheld his assistance from the chapter. Naftali Kraus was able to appreciate the great power realized by his movement, a movement that not only preaches appropriately, but also actualizes what they preach. We found him to be a help and support for us in any way needed during times of decline as well as times of pride.

 

The Influence of the Chapter on General Social Life

The influence of the Hashomer Hatzair chapter in Turka on the Jewish community and the youth in the city far exceeded its numbers. Their role in the Zionist activity in the city was great, and they did a great deal toward the revolution of Hebrew as a spoken language. It was true that many people outside of Hashomer Hatzair learned Hebrew, but the acquisition of the language by the Shomrim was identified with personal realization as well as aliya to the Land. At all celebrations and other cultural events organized by the chapter, Abba Chushai began his speeches in Yiddish and then switched to Hebrew. Our movement was the only one that put on performances in Hebrew. Hebrew was the language of the educational activities in the groups of members as well as the spoken language of the graduates of the chapter. The study of the Hebrew Language and its use as a day-to-day language set the Turka chapter apart from the other chapters in Galicia, which conducted themselves in the Polish Language.

The chapter of Turka differed from the other chapters of the movement in other areas as well! When she participated in a debate at a certain national convention of the movement, one of the graduates of the chapter, Tzipora Chushai, characterized the Turka chapter as “simplicity within greatness.” We absorbed our simplicity from the populist atmosphere of the town and its realistic approach to life. Unlike other chapters, which were raised on the lap of Polish Literature, we were diligent in the appreciation of the value of Hebrew and Yiddish Literature. We suffered along with Morris Rosenfeld, the poet of the Jewish “shop” in America – who portrayed in his Yiddish poems the suffering and tribulations of the Jewish proletariat. Along with Bialik, we expressed pride through “Al Hatzipor” about the warm, beautiful Land. From Mendele Mocher Seforim, we learned about the forlorn Jewish towns in the Russian Pale of Settlement. Deep in our souls, we lived the experiences of Amnon and Tamar in Mapu's Ahavat Tzion, and we joined Feuerberg in his tragic question “Where?” We laughed heartily along with Shalom Aleichem, whose books we dramatized and performed (we used horsehairs for makeup, and stuck them to faces with hot carpenters' glue!...)

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{Photo page 99: Hashomer Hatzair in Turka.}

We were anchored in Yiddish and Hebrew literature, but this did not restrict our horizon. The German Language opened a window to the wide world for us, for it had large inroads in Galicia, which had formerly been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Through that language, we became familiar with the creations of the great German poets and writers, as well as the creations of Ivson the Norwegian and especially the Russian classicists.

Due to the lack of a gymnasium, anyone who wished to learn studied with a private teacher. A gymnasium student would have free time for additional study. On the other hand, we were studying trades, which meant that we had a difficult ten hour workday over and above the hours we spent at the activities of the chapter. We were not left with much time for studies. Nevertheless, we studied and read a great deal, making use of every free moment. Our work prevented us from taking hikes in the nature as well as engaging in scouting activities, which were cultivated in other chapters. The scenery of Turka was known for its beauty and charm, exciting the eyes of all beholders, and strangers came from afar to enjoy the shade of the forests and clear air. The movement in Galicia desired the pleasant environment of the Carpathians, which surrounded our city, for its summer encampments and annual conventions.

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Starting from 1918 until 1926, the year of our aliya, Hashomer summer encampments took place in Tarnowa Wizna (twice), Strzy³ki, Ilnik, and Jablonka. We would go out on a hike one day a year – on Tisha Beav. We did not work that day, so we enjoyed a full day in the bosom of nature.

Another point of praise for the Turka chapter was the material assistance given to the needy Shomrim. One of the rooms of the chapter headquarters had potatoes, and anyone in need could take some home. I recall one Purim when one of the older members (Hela Reifler) took measurements of our heads for hats. This was strange to me for I did not need such. A few days later I saw a poor lad wearing a new hat – given to him as a Purim gift. I then understood the reason for the collective measurement.

*

The Hashomer Hatzair chapter in Turka was a branch of a thik tree that sent forth deep roots in the reality of the Jewish nation. The tree was the Hashomer Hatzair movement, whose goals were the freedom of man, the nation, and the working class. The members of the chapter who today are found in kibbutzim, are fulfilling the “historical prescription of the movement and its line of upward development! When fathers, sons and grandchildren march together under the same flag…” they “draw from deep sources the suffering of the Jewish nation and the vision of its redemption; from deep sources of the suffering of man and of the dream of liberation.”

I am convinced that many natives of the city who were educated in Hashomer Hatzair during their youth, whether they are found today in kibbutzim or outside of them, whether they continued on in this movement or found their paths in other movements, will remember forever the days of their youth as Shomrim.


Translator's Footnote:
  1. The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Return


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Ideas and Memories from the
“Hashomer Hatzair” Group of Turka

by Yafa Gorlitzki of Tel Aviv

{Photo page 101: Uncaptioned. Yafa Gorlitzki.}

Normally, it is difficult for a person to write down the experiences and impressions that are hidden away deep in her life. It is similarly very difficult to forge a bridge between the present and the past, and to bring forth memories of the family, sociological and geographical environment that etched deep impressions in the personality of a person.

And behold, it was a wonder. At the moment that I sat down to bring forth memories of my distant past from decades ago, the wellsprings of impressions of my town magically opened up, and I find myself in a sense of alertness and strong emotion, as if this happened just yesterday…

I see my beautiful town surrounding by high mountains, valleys, expansive forests and green meadows that spread out to the endless distance – everything hints to song… You would feel that every place is a part of your personality and soul. That beauty and natural splendor that you absorbed within yourself will never be erased. Similarly, the experiences of life in the Hashomer Hatzair movement are so strong and unforgettable.

As is known, this was a historic era; the birth of new events and processes of development that imparted a sense of yearning for a new world and way of life in opposition to the existing order. The First World War, bringing destruction and ruin in its wake, educated the person to understand the sociological factors that are connected to war. After the war, the downtrodden person found a way of life in scientific literature.

Notions of national liberation, social justice, and proper, guaranteed human rights -- Hashomer Hatzair began its existence within this historical climate. I entered the movement after the aliya of the first group to the Land of Israel. Our chapter was not large; however it encompassed the best of the academic, enlightened youth who streamed to it from all segments of the population. Certain members from the extreme religious stratum also joined the chapter. The chapter included several groups, headed by a group of counselors whose job it was to impart

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concepts of Zionism and Socialism to their charges and to prepare them for a life of actualization. A very serious spirit pervaded the chapter. The members thirsted for knowledge and the counselors had to take upon themselves the difficult task of educating the younger generation that was filled with progressive aspirations. This was a stormy period, fraught with ideological dilemmas. Would the mountains, gardens, and meadows in which stormy discussions and debates took place had the ability to whisper – they would reveal a great deal of the epos of the lives of our young people in the chapter. The process of personal and intellectual maturation took place early. With the urgent pressure of the objective conditions, our youth in the chapter broke forth from the realm of normal youthful life that finds its expression in personal objectives and narrowly focused matters. The vital energy of our youth turned toward the constructive vista of pioneering actualization.

{Photo page 102: Hashomer Hatzair in Turka.}

Our chapter forged a serious type of youth, hungry for knowledge, with a healthy psychology and optimism. Our lives as youths could provide a great deal of didactic material for professional education in the aim of raising the energy level of young people toward a sublime level of constructive cultural life. Indeed, our lives were full of content, and variegated. Our chapter was among the finest of the chapters of Hashomer Hatzair.

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There are those who tend to refer to a period of life such as ours in the chapter as a romantic era -- one that passes in a usual manner with age and with time, never to return. However, that was not the way it was. Different logic indeed applied at different times; but, on the other hand, an eternal truth existed, and no small portion of the seeds of this eternal truth was hidden within our weltanschauung during the era under discussion. One should not think that the pioneering spirit became outmoded with the passage of time. This was a pioneering ideology that imparted a healthy approach to life, on account of the pioneering education. Many of the members of the chapter remained in kibbutzim, and some are even involved in the development of communal life in the Land. This is true even though there is no shortage of people who remained outside the realm to some degree, for the spark of new life in our Land did not enchant them fully.

During that era, the nature of strong youths was forged in such a manner that the era of technology and automation did not have the power to cut off the truth of their lives, lead them off of their way of life, and remove them from their world of sublime values.

Turka was a superbly ordered town. Would it be that I had the ability to describe the picture in its entirety, as the parents returned from the synagogue on the Sabbath imbued with a spirit of holiness, while the youths swarmed on the streets discussion fine literature and sciences. Apparently, most of the parents were graced with a healthy educational instinct, and their relatively calm reaction flowed from their understanding of the danger of fighting against the nature, aspirations and interests of the younger generations. Therefore, most of the members did not stumble upon serious opposition from their parents.

Endless enthusiasm pervaded on the Sabbath. The youth would stroll through the streets of the city on their way to excursions, singing songs of enthusiasm and pride. The youth in the chapter would hike in the nearby area as well as farther off places, travel to summer camps, to work places, and to pioneering hachshara – all without serious conflict. This was a sort of agreement between two worlds that lived under one roof, as they toiled incessantly to preserve peace and to ensure that one side does not vex the other. The parents saw that their children were abandoning their way of life in accordance with the spirit of the times.

As is known, our city was blessed with a spirit of splendor and glory. The geographical environment imbued with the muse of the arts. The railroad entrance to the city went through a tunnel. It is told that people worked for years until they bore a hole through the tall mountain, and the tunnel was one of the largest in Poland. When the train exited the tunnel, it would “fly” through the air on the bridge that spanned the river. Indeed the hand of the Creator granted our city an abundance of mountains, valleys, plains and rivers. The power of expression is insufficient to describe the experiences that made their imprint on the character of the person. It is said that the members of our chapter were sentimental. Indeed, the

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splendid nature wove very thin strands in the spiritual realities, and a person could sense the secret of the world and the language of the inanimate…

*

During that era, we loved the books of Meterling and Tagore. We did not only read the books, but we lived them. The concepts described therein were not merely abstractions. We were sated with happiness and joy in the bosom of nature: whether on group hikes or alone, far away from the bustle of the city, seeking, “a quiet corner to dream…” Indeed, our lives in the Hashomer Hatzair movement were filled with meaning. This was a romanticism that was not ephemeral. Rather, it forged the person to understand and love his fellow.

These are only a minute portion of impressions from our beautiful city that was destroyed by the Nazi soldiers. Everything that took place there is hidden in all of our hearts until our final day.

{Photo page 104: Turka at the foot of the Kychera.}


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From Within the Walls of the
Beis Midrash to the Hashomer Hatzair Chapter

by David Y.

The Hashomer chapter in the town of Turka on the Stryj River in the Carpathian Mountains was one of the earliest of our movement. The influence of the chapter was great in the Jewish street, especially among the youth of the academic, bourgeoisie and poorer classes.

It was first founded within the general background of the times, the economic anomaly, the cultural detachment, the severed community, the destruction of the Jewish town in the wake of the First World War, the lack of public schools and modern cheders – all of this strengthened the blessed work of the Hashomer chapter among the youth of the town.

The cheders of the city waged a holy war against it. They regarded the movement as the troubler of Israel and apostates among the nation. Despite all this, the chapter and its organizers found the proper path with which to arouse the hearts of the youths. It is clear that the revolutionary changes of the era that shook the general world as well as the Jewish world (the Balfour Declaration) laid the groundwork for fruitful Zionist activity and instilled faith in a national revival.

The influence of the conventions and summer camps that took place in our region, the region of the enchanting Carpathians, upon the activities of the chapter was great. The scouts who spread through the streets of the city instilled Jewish pride and reverence for the Shomer, for our special uniform, and for our independence. Indeed, the life of the chapter attracted many people from all strata of the youth.

The Jewish youth in the town felt himself boxed in by his way of life, his family, his school, and the cheder. He was living in the area of mountains, forests, an enchanting landscape, and a wide open world – and he was not able to enjoy the beauty of nature at all! With the influence of the movement, they were attracted toward the vibrant life of the Shomrim in the chapter and in the cap. The singing and bonfires at the peaks of the mountains hinted to and lit up the dark corners of the lives of the youths, and summoned them to come up!...

I will not write about the entire story of my life – but I will relate a bit about it: We were a group of friends who studied together in the cheder and in the public school, and remained together for some period within the walls of the Beis Midrash. Over and above the page of Gemara, we would read and philosophize about the values of Judaism and the influence of the revolutions and changes in the world in general, and the Jewish world in particular. We secretly delved into new doctrines that awakened the thoughts. We read the “invalid books.” We read and were affected. From this stemmed our own great “revolution.”

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A few of us (some of them are presently in various kibbutzim) “rebelled” and entered the chapter immediately. This deed caused a very serious debate and self-reflection. We felt that that the ice within us had melted. Something trembled in the strands of our hearts. We became “others”[1]. The leadership of the chapter took advantage of the situation, and we forged a connection with them. They provided us with literature on the values of the movement and the worker's movement, all mixed together: the books of A. D. Gordon, Lenin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, etc…

Of course, an internal debate took place within each of us. Everybody struggled fiercely… This was an issue of abandoning the tradition of the generations… The toil was difficult, and what wonder is in that? It was not easy to cut oneself off from the past, from the petite bourgeoisie social class, from the family, etc. However, the opposition grew day by day. The internal revolt against the way of life of the home and the street increased. Some among us fell off, for their ideas were immature. The remainder forged their way along path that led to a lovely, bustling life – to the chapter and the Shomer movement.

We came to the chapter when we were old enough (the average age was 15-16). We appointed a group head for us. We took upon ourselves the principles of the movement, its realities and its banner. In its arena, we saw the path toward a new life and self actualization: to a life of work, and an aspiration for aliya to the Land.

{Photo page 106: A group of members on a hike near the Turka tunnel.}


[Page 107]

Sections on the Akiva Youth Movement in Turka

by Shimon Keller of Tel Aviv

{Photo page 107: Uncaptioned. Shimon Keller.}

It is difficult to write solely from memory; therefore it is possible that this article will be lacking some substance. Indeed, it is only possible to draw from the past those episodes which remain etched in the memory.

An exemplary youth movement in our town from the perspective of its organization and cultural and educational activities existed in our town at that time. From it came the first graduates who made aliya all together along with Abba Chushai – today the mayor of Haifa. Its educational influence spread far beyond the bounds of the chapter in the city. It was known by all of the thinking and studying youth who were not numbered among its members – and who from among the youth of Turka did not study? Its Zionism, its education toward scouting, its songs, and the like were recognized by all the residents of the city. Nevertheless, many of the youths remained outside the walls of the movement.

Hela Shreiber, a charming girl with great energy and ideological inclinations, appeared on the scene during the 1930s. She was a native of the town and was educated in the city of Krakow, where she lived for the duration of her studies. Several youths, male and female, whose hearts were touched by the serious issues of Jewish youth, began to congregate around her. Nevertheless, they did not find their way into the existing movement. Those few began to gather the youths into groups, and a new movement arose…

The new movement was quite similar to the existing movement in its external form, for it was also oriented toward scouting. However, its educational content was completely different than the existing form. The Socialist doctrine continued to develop. The educational foundations were based upon traditional Jewish values in the progressive spirit. Ahad Haam[2] was the personality according to whose doctrine they wished to educate the younger generation. That group that regarded the problems of the Jewish world from a different vantage point than the doctrine of Hashomer Hatzair understood that it must concern itself with the cadre of the youth who would actualize the aspirations of the movement. It began to enlist 15-16 year old youths

[Page 108]

as educators of the new doctrine whose task would be to concern themselves with the youths who were younger than themselves.

 

Day to Day Activity

{Photo page 108: A group of members of Akiva on the occasion of the aliya of their member Aharon Shefer.}

In accordance with the protocols of the Akiva Zionist scouting youth movement of Krakow, they gathered youths from among the public school students, and organized them into groups and brigades. Most activities took place on the Sabbath. In the summer they would go to the natural meadows and groves that surrounded the town. The march toward those places, to commands issues in the Hebrew Language, was an experience in its own right, which educated a new generation of proud, disciplined Zionist Jews. The games that took place in the groves also served a similar role, as did, of course, the discussions and songs that filled the time in the grove or the meadow.

All members of the movement took part in such activities, even though they were primarily directed toward the younger members. Throughout the entire week, evening meetings of the older members took place. The locale of such meetings became a financial problem, for one had to pay

[Page 109]

to rent a premises. To solve the problem, the group of those responsible had to impose fees, set up organizational institutions, and do other such things. Thereby, they attained an exemplary organizational situation. They obtained premises for meetings in accordance with their means and the size of the movement (based on the number of members), starting with a small, rickety room in the depths of the city, lacking electricity and minimal sanitary conditions; and ending with a premises of several rooms. The older group, full of energy and dynamic spirit, conducted their meetings in the first, small room. They would remain until midnight, and at times even later, reading articles about the leaders of the generation and conducting lively discussions and debates on any topic related to Jewish life in the Land and the Diaspora. I recall an evening of stormy debate when we read the article of Z. Jabotinsky, “Ya Brechen.” The meeting almost broke up in anger on account of the differences of opinion, and people stopped speaking to each other… However, after a few days, they again sat together for the purpose of actualizing their common sublime goal of disseminating the general Zionist idea among the youth, and calling them toward hachshara and aliya to the Land. That same group of youths struggled to maintain the existence of this youth chapter. They wandered from place to place, from one end of the city to the other, in accordance with their financial means and the number of members, until they reached tens, and more than 100.

*

Between each wandering, meetings took place in temporary locations. There was a time where there was no place for the 11-13 year old members to meet, so they held their meetings outside. They would march together to one of the groves or meadows outside the city, and conduct their discussions and games under the open sky. I wish to note here one interesting episode about the temporary meeting places that will shed light on the period.

This was one room out of two, that was placed at our disposal for out meetings two to three times per week by the older Zionists (I think it was Achva). During that period, the state government decided to work against the Communists, whose movement had flourished greatly despite it being illegal. Several secret policemen were brought to this activity. I was a high school student at the time.

One day in the middle of class, I was summoned to the principal's office for questioning. They examined my handwriting, and asked me all types of strange questions. They finally informed me that they suspect me of belonging to the Communist movement, since the secret police saw me at times at the place known as the “Old Courthouse” – where the Communist meetings would take place. To my good fortune, I lived in that house, and it was therefore easy to explain why I am often found there… One of the secret policemen who was present became distraught.

[Page 110]

In addition, I admitted that we indeed conduct meetings there, but we are Zionists and not Communists. After a long explanation of our goals to all present, including the security men, the police, and the high school principal, the situation was understood. The period of suspicion against us as Communists and the investigations against other members of our group ceased. Furthermore, even though membership in any movement was forbidden by the charter of the school, we received at that time a form of unofficial permit for our meetings, for the principal knew about them and did not object… I recall that a brief time after this incident, the principal spoke before all the students of the high school around the time of the Christmas vacation, and expressed the following, “I am jealous of the movement that is able to attract you to this degree, and I wish that the school, with its various clubs, would have the same power of attraction toward all the students as your movement has toward yourselves.” Indeed, with the passage of time, it was obvious that all of the good students belonged to our movement…

*

With the wanderings of our movement in terms of a premises, I recall two places in particular in which our chapter managed to remain for a longer period. One of them was at Felder's at the foot of the mountain, from where the path led to the village of Jawora. The second was on the mountain, leading to the monastery. During that period, the chapter reached its pinnacle of development, with respect to number of members as well as organizational activities. It was at that time that a dispute broke out among the leadership, which brought the organization to the threshold of a chasm. It turned to the highest institutions in Krakow for mediation. After an investigation by a representative of the high leadership in Krakow, the dispute was settled and matters continued on as previously.

*

One event, apparently not unique, is etched in my memory. I will describe it here. It took place on the night of Purim during a celebration in the chapter.

To this time, all of the institutions of Jewish societal life existed in the fashion that has crystallized during the final generations of the Diaspora in Poland. One of them was the night of Purim, centered on the Purim feast. All honorable families would partake of a feast at a table decked with delicacies and special foods. The feast would continue until a late hour at the night, for on that evening, children in costume would visit the houses in order to receive Purim donations. Groups of people in costume also came around and performed snippets from Biblical stories or complete skits; as did groups of people who were not in costume, whose task was to collect donations for various charitable purposes. These people stayed for a little while for a snack, general conversation, or to listen to words of Torah and issues of the holiday.

[Page 111]

This was the first time that the feast in our home did not run to a late hour, as was customary. I believe that this was in 1933. The number of people in costume and the number of groups declined, and there seemed no point to sit around the table and wait… I recall the mood of my father of blessed memory – and he gave us permission to leave the house and go to the chapter.

There, we gathered together in large numbers to celebrate Purim together, without any preparations. We began to sing spontaneously a tune related to the words, “Sacrifice, sacrifice in righteousness, sacrifice for G-d.” The song was brought from Krakow. It was a “circular” Hassidic melody that had no end… We all then joined together in a dance, in Hassidic fashion, with both hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us, and we all, without exception, danced. Hand on shoulder, we circled the rooms, mounted the tables, went out to the yard, and then returned to the rooms… This continued for a long time, and the enthusiasm brimmed over. As the singing continued, the dancing turned into a drawn out singing parade that filled the space. There was a mystical devotion that was not connected to the words that were sung. All the participants felt a full sense of happiness, joy and mirth.

To me, this evening symbolized the past era stamped with the Diaspora Jewish lifestyle merging with a group with a different lifestyle. The singing, dancing procession was the beginning of the march toward these new paradigms…

{Photo page 111: The Akiva group in Turka at a Purim celebration. 5695 (1935).}


[Page 112]

The “Akiva” Hebrew Youth Group in Turka

by Hela Kaspi-Schreiber of Jerusalem

{Photo page 112: Uncaptioned. Hela Kaspi-Schreiber.}

The city, located between mountains and valleys, with a splendid natural environment, was destroyed and burnt completely during the First World War. Its Jews scattered as refugees in the neighboring countries in order to save themselves. When they returned to Turka at the conclusion of the war, they found their houses burnt and the city desolate. Failed farmers of that area would not be able to restore themselves. They were illiterate and completely destitute. The Polish government did not pay much attention to that district. The Ukrainians did not excel in their appreciation of the national aspirations of the Polish government. Their leaning was toward a free Ukraine. Therefore, the city may not have been resurrected at all were it not for its diligent Jews, full of initiative and Jewish culture. Indeed, the Jews of Turka were not only erudite scholars and enthusiastic Hassidim, but also carpenters, tailors, builders, shoemakers, and experts in all other trades needed to reconstruct life in the city. Of course, there was also no shortage of businessmen with initiative – and the city had been rebuilt with their own hands and money within a few years after the war. It bustled with life.

Despite the hatred of the Jews and the “numrus clausus” (quotas) in the universities of Poland, the Jews of Turka, as in other cities, aspired to raise their children on the social ladder. There were many Jewish children in the city high school.

 

Angst in the Midst of the Youth

Prior to the Second World War, the youth of the city tended toward various directions. There were some who turned their ears toward the disseminators of Communism and Socialism. As in the entire world in that era, the Jewish youth in particular felt the pain of the oppressed, the failed, and the unemployed whose numbers were very high in Poland at that time. The youth asked themselves whether the solution to the human problems would also bring redemption for themselves as Jews. For the most part, these were Jews who were immersed in Jewish culture.

[Page 113]

A small portion of the youth even aspired to shake themselves free of Jewish culture, “to hide their Jewish essence,” and to assimilate and lay down roots within Polish culture.

 

A New Movement Arose…

{Photo page 113: A group of members of the Akiva group of Turka.}

It was 1931. A group of high school students of the city began to articulate new ideas and founded a chapter of the Akiva Hebrew youth movement, which was headquartered in Krakow. To their dismay and the dismay of their parents, they interrupted their studies, and did not agree to become the succeeding generation of the Diaspora. In this manner, they smashed their parents' dreams and aroused their anger. The group indentified with the ideals that were promoted by the Akiva movement, and with great enthusiasm “stalked and ambushed” every male and female young person who was not yet a member of an organization. They were particularly enthused with the Zionist idea of personal actualization as well as with the kibbutz idea. To them, this was not an objective in of itself, as with the leftist movements, but rather a means for building up the Land and setting “the state on its path.” The uniqueness of that movement in those days was that the Akiva Movement already awakened the aspiration to restore Jewish consciousness. At that time, its leaders already sensed the empty vacuum in which the Jewish youth was immersed. They were enthusiastic for a “change of values” with respect to the ancient storehouse – without knowing with what to replace it. Therefore, the members of Akiva began to delve into

[Page 114]

the articles of Ahad Haam. They studied Hebrew not only to master the language, but also to be able to understand chapters of the Bible. They also delved deeply into Jewish history. They set up special courses for counselors dedicated to mastery of the aforementioned subjects. Large gatherings were organized, dedicated to words of warning about the enemy that was lurking at the gates of Poland. All the members of the chapter were honorable, and enthusiastic toward actualization of their dreams. Many were also alert to the problems of justice and equity in the world, and also wished to actualize the ideas of Socialism in the work life in the land and in the kibbutzim. Even though they did not affiliate with the leftist faction, they stood for the ideas of A. D. Gordon and studied his writings.

All the members of the Turka chapter knocked on the doors of the leaders of the movement, and pleaded to be sent to hachshara and to be granted permits for aliya. However, only a small number received what they wanted. The remainder waited impatiently and often bitterly. Great disappointment and despair was their lot, for who knew better than them what was impending?... We will appreciate their honorableness and faithfulness toward the national idea if we recall that the parents were very much shaken by the aspirations of their children, and they opposed and fought against them. A Zionist son or daughter in the family was considered to be a greater tragedy than a child who became attached to Communism. Indeed, the Jewish father knew that the youths would be “cured” of Communism when they got older, but Zionism was a “snare” for their children. It robbed them from their house and bore them to a far-off place from where there is no return. Even at that time, on the eve of the Holocaust, the Jews deluded themselves with false ideas, for they were afraid of the reality, and immersed in concerns regarding livelihood, some in comfort and some in poverty.

 

The Delusions of the Generation

The delusion regarding the following generation, of their financial and cultural heirs, to them was like craziness in the face of despair. In 1937, I received a gift from home – a travel ticket to Poland. This was after two years of living in the Land as a member of the Beer Yaakov group. These were years of struggle for Hebrew work in the orchards, years of want, austerity and other difficulties. The group stood up to the challenge and believed that it would attain its goal. When I arrived home to Turka, the entire family gathered together for a festive meal in honor of the guest. I felt that the hope fluttered in their hearts that I may have “smartened up” and may even wish to remain with them. Apparently, the fear that was embedded in the hearts of everyone constantly aroused debates between those present at the feast. With the enthusiasm of the conversation and faith in the correctness of my words, I forgot that I was standing before my own family members, and I portrayed the cruel enemy that would come to Poland, steal their property and even attempt to take their lives, as he had promised in his book[3]. My words were not novel, but everyone was afraid and shaken. They lectured me – how can a daughter state such curses before her parents. With contrite and apologetic language, I attempted to sweeten my words, for in those days, I myself was afraid of them…


[Page 115]

The “Akiva” Movement – the Dream and Realization

by Moshe Zauerbron of Beit Yehoshua

{Photo page 115: Uncaptioned. Moshe Zauerbron.}

I merited being among the first in March 1939, when I received a permit for aliya to the Land after several years of hachshara. This was approximately a year prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. During that timeframe, the expectations for Aliya Bet[4] began to awaken in our town as a result of the severe restrictions on legal aliya by the Mandate government. Already then, people began to feel some sort of internal insecurity and insecurity; and fear of what was to come increased, especially in Eastern Europe.

I well recall the days before I left Polish soil (Turka) . My feelings of joy were tempered by sadness. I parted from my family with a heavy heart, as they grasped my hands and expressed their feelings of jealousy. They did not understand exactly the meeting of the thing, but everyone sensed instinctively that something was about to happen (even though nobody would have imagined such a terrible Holocaust!) The atmosphere where we were was already oppressive and poisoned from the perspective of the Polish population on one side and the Ukrainian population on the other side.

My parting from my eldest brother Naftali was a particularly moving scene. His strong desires and aspirations for aliya formed a part of his life after many years of Zionist activity in the Hechalutz organization. However, due to family responsibilities, he filled a holy duty: After the death of our dear parents, he was the sole livelihood earner who cared for his two younger brothers.

*

We lived for many years in a single story house with Alter and Etti Montag. (He died in the Land and she died in Turka several years before the war). We lived downstairs and they lived upstairs. Their private residence served as a house of worship on Sabbaths and festivals until the completion of the building of the “Shul” (there were many kloizes). Alter himself and his close

[Page 116]

friend Ben-Zion Ferbel exerted themselves greatly in gathering donations and collecting names for contracts for completing the building. They did not stop until they completed their work.

When the month of Elul and the days of Selichot [5] approached, Chezkele Chomitz would pass through at 2:00 a.m. with a kerosene lantern, knock a the windows and chant the customary melody for awakening people for Selichot. If someone did not arise upon hearing his strong voice, he would be forced to wake up. Avrahamche Bruner served as the usual prayer leader during the High Holidays. He conducted the services with emotion and good taste. He was already about 70 years old, and I am still amazed to this day as to how a man of that age would be able to stand at the prayer podium constantly from Kol Nidre until Neila, including Shacharit and Musaf! Apparently, physical power was not the sole explanation. One requires strong faith and a warm heart.

 

Activities in the Chapter

Despite the fact that I belonged to a different movement than my brother Naftali, and despite the internal debates and differences of opinion between us, our family relations were not impacted by the disputes that we had witnessed in other homes. I belonged to the Akiva chapter (of the General Zionist stream) that was founded in Turka in 1930 by Chaya (Hela) Schreiber (who lives in the Land today), and was centered in Krakow. She studied in this city for many years, imbued the city with the ideology of the movement and later imprinted her stamp upon the local chapter. At first it seemed that this meeting place was designated solely for students and well-placed people. However, the error was quickly clarified: within a brief period, this became a populist framework that encompassed the best of the local youth from all strata of society. During those years, specific parents, especially the Orthodox, objected to their sons and daughters belonging to such movement (as they called in “Farein”) out of fear of demoralization and leading them off of the straight path. However, they expressed their agreement once Akiva entered the scene. They felt that this was not like the other organizations where people cut themselves off and freed themselves from the past immediately upon joining. Here, the situation was exactly the opposite: Tradition and the Jewish reality were nurtured; the connection between Judaism and nationalism was strengthened; the Sabbath was observed or at least not violated publicly; there was respect and proper regard for other sacred values, etc.

The celebration of the Sabbath during the twilight hours was a natural way of doing things within the Akiva movement. We would gather and sing together. A pleasant social atmosphere of love for one's fellow was forged. We would organize clubs for Bible study. A group of people would get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning during the summer holidays to go to the mountain atop the tunnel. They would study and

[Page 117]

delve into the explanations of Gordon[6] until the train rushed through the tunnel at 7:15 and passed through the entire city over the viaducts, with a plume of smoke ascending, as if hinting to us, “Sirs, the time has come to eat breakfast!” We would close our Bibles and prepare to descend from the mountain.

A member joined us whose calm, quiet demeanor stands before my eyes to this day, and whom I will never forget: Aryeh (Leib) Kraus, a refined soul, intelligent, and a symbol of conscience. We always compared his facial appearance to the Idek (Yehuda Ornstein, one of the leaders of the movement) of the Turka chapter. Here, I have fulfilled one of the three adages of Yehoshua ben Perachia[7]: “acquire for yourself a friend.” Indeed, he was my close friend. I placed great faith in him, and he never disappointed me. We always had a topic for conversation that was never completed… When we returned home from the chapter late at night, I would always accompany him for half the way – he lived in “Oiben Dorf”. We conducted discussions in Hebrew, despite the mistakes that we made. There was always a struggle for a morsel of bread in Turka, as with all Jews. Livelihood was not plentiful in his family as well. He earned his tuition fees by giving lessons to students, on the advice of his teachers who held him in great esteem.

 

The Ideological Connection with the Movement in the Land

At that time, life in the chapter was vibrant. This was the bright era. There was wonderful internal sense of fulfillment and full understanding and cooperation between the group heads and their charges. The youth heeded everything stated by the group head. At one of the meetings, the chapter leadership had a serious discussion about the need to prepare the youth while they were young for aliya to the Land of Israel, by having them learn a trade. We preached morning and night that the Land and the kibbutz had a need for tradesmen. Within a brief period, we were witnesses to positive results in this activity. We began to study carpentry, locksmithing, blacksmithing, etc. We must feel great sorrow for the wonderful youths who did not complete the task and actualize their dreams and aspirations.

In 1933, the fist members of the local chapter made aliya to Kibbutz Akiva in Petach Tikva. We were always eager to find out what was taken place, and the happiness was very great when we received letters from the Land in general, and from the Kibbutz in particular. To our sorrow, the news about what was transpiring at the Kibbutz was not always encouraging. Frequent crises affected life therein, as well as internal debates and disputes regarding the way of life and characters. The human content was also variegated. There were differences of outlook and opinion regarding Jewish life and the relation to Jewish tradition. All of these of course affected the communal life.

[Page 118]

After difficult and unsuccessful attempts, a new idea was floated – to create hachshara units while still in the Diaspora, so that the members will affiliate with a specific group from the outset. The older members from Turka belonged to a group that was called “Retzon Haam” (The Will of the People), and their hachshara location was in Krakow. Its goal was to establish an independent settlement somewhere in the land. In the interim, the Petach Tikva Kibbutz split up. One group established a new settlement called Neve Eitan in the Beit Shean Valley. Several Turka natives live there to this day. Another group, including the leadership of the movement, established the Beit Yehoshua settlement in the Sharon, named after the prominent Zionist leader who has served as the head of the Jewish faction in the Sejm (Polish parliament) and strongly protected Jewish rights – Rabbi Dr. Yehoshua Tahon of blessed memory.

 

Changes and Actualization

After a decade of existence, the Beit Yehoshua Kibbutz was forced to disband and turn into a settlement of workers. Among other reasons, there was the issue of the loss of the human resources of the movement in the Diaspora due to the complete Nazi annihilation. Even according to our kibbutz-oriented understanding based on the ideological foundations of the movement, this was a case of ideological actualization – for the Kibbutz was only supposed to serve as a means toward the ultimate aim of establishing a Jewish State, and not a way of life in of itself. It is worthwhile to note here that the Kibbutz turned into a workers' settlement immediately at the conclusion of the War of Independence, as if this was a prophetic actualization… Today, the village has more than 70 families and is located in the heart of the country. Four Turka families who have been there since 1940 have bound their fate to that place eternally. The traditional character that existed at that time was carefully preserved to this day thanks to our spiritual leader and friend Yoel Driblatt of blessed memory, who was sensitive and concerned about that spirit, and instilled the love of Jewish tradition within us. The fact that the next generation was educated in this spirit brings us joy.

Last year, we built a splendid synagogue in the name of Yoel of blessed memory, which beautifies the landscape of the entire village, and not solely from an external vantage point… It infused an internal light: Every Sabbath, one can find youth and children in therein, forming close to three minyanim [30 people]. The synagogue is a vibrant center of cultural and social life. No form of cultural activity or entertainment can replace the traditional Jewish reality.

The terrible Holocaust that affected this generation has provided us, as reparations, with a sovereign state to ingather the survivors. Despite the fact that it is surrounded by enemies, we believe that they will not have the upper hand, and the longed-for peace will come. Indeed, through the establishment of Israel we will be comforted from the loss of the dear life in the Holocaust.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. There may be a play on words here with the word “acher” (other). This is term used in the Talmud for the sage Elisha ben Avuya, who abandoned his belief in Torah. Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahad_Ha%27am Return
  3. Presumably Mein Kampf. Return
  4. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliyah_Bet Return
  5. Penitential prayers recited early in the morning during the period prior to Rosh Hashanah, and between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Return
  6. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._D._Gordon. Return
  7. A Mishnaic sage. The quotation is from Pirke Avot.. Return

[Page 118]

The Gordonia Movement in Turka

by Pnina Vamushi-Sternbuch

 

Youth Without Prospects

The strongest and largest youth movement in Turka was Hashomer Hatzair, to which the majority of the youth belonged. However, not everyone joined Hashomer Hatzir, and for various reasons, a large portion fo the youth remained outside of any organizational framework, and had not yet found its way. It was clear to everyone that great danger awaited the Jewish youth in all the cities of Galicia, and the youth themselves knew that they had no prospects for the future in Turka. The question “to where”” gave them no rest and always boring through their brains.

It is no surprise, therefore, that this youth always welcomed with blessing and enthusiasm every new idea in which they hoped to find a solution for their lives. The Youth of Turka was alert to everything that took place in the Jewish world. One day, a law student appeared in Turka. He was a tall, think youth full of energy. Ha gathered together a group of studying youth, and delivered an enthusiastic and convincing speech on the subject of A. D. Gordon. This student was Pinchas Lubianiker, today Pinchas Lavon[1].

Since the youth in Turka lived in the bosom of nature, in the region of fields, groves and forests, it wsa easy for them to understand the doctrine of Gordon. One of the most active people who joined the movement and was taken by the ideas and doctrine of Grodon wsa Manis Branis of blessed memory. He was the first to immediately begin to organize Gordonia, to which he dedicated most of his time and energy.

 

New Motto: “Actualize!”

The Gordonia motto, “Actualize!” was particularly enchanting. In the streets of Turka, in which to this point only the blessing of “Be strong and of good courage” had been heard, a new motto was heard – “Actualize”. This enchanting word brought a stream of members into Gordonia. Many debates began on the means of actualization, with the labor doctrine of A. D. Gordon being at the center of the aspirations. This included the love of the land of the Land of Israel and agricultural work, “To participate in life and creativity,” etc.

In excursions in the vicinity of Turka with the beautiful landscape in the background, we saw before us the fields of the Land of Israel. Instead of the coniferous trees that grew in abundance in that vicinity, we imagined the mountains of the Land of Israel forested with palms, olive trees, and citrus trees… In our imagination

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We not only strolled in the fields and groves of Turka, but also in the fields of our Land… To the joy of the first members of Gordonia in Turka, many joined the movement, and there were already approximately 200 members of the movement in the first month. The movement continued to grow from day to day. Apparently, this was also due to the fact that many conventions of the national movement took place in Turka, on account of the wonderful scenery that nature bestowed upon the area.

I recall the convention that took place on the peak of Zawizonicz. Indeed, this was an unforgettable experience!


Translator's Footnote:
  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinhas_Lavon. Return

[Page 121]

The “Poale Zion” Organization and Around it

by Chaim Pelech

{Photo page 121: Members of the Poale Zion organization in Turka taking leave of their member Dr. Manes Brenes just before he made aliya to the Land.}

At the beginning of 1919, Shlomo Pelech founded and organized the Poale Zion Zionist workers' party in Turka. Moshe Shein, the former Zh. P. S. member, joined it. Since at the time there were no other workers' organizations in Turka, Poale Zion encompassed all of the workers in the city, and even many small-scale businessmen from our city. It conducted wide branched cultural and societal work among the poor Jewish population.

 

Work Committees

The work was organized into work committees. Each committee made several improvisations. The cultural committee arranged readings on various themes. Those readings attracted workers and young people due to their interesting repertoire. Yosel Brenes undertook the dramatic work. His task was to organize a dramatic club, and he did this successfully. He assembled a dramatic group that played the best literary pieces. Melech Meiner worked in that group. There was a story that Melech Meiner had it in his head to perform “The Robber” of Schiller and Yossel Brenes was against it: “For you cannot do such a thing with amateurs!”, he said. Melech Meiner continued to persist, and said that he would take the entire task and responsibility upon himself. Thus it was. Melech Meiner toiled and led that undertaking – and Turka had what to laugh about for two years… The performance went from 8:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. You can imagine what took place after that in the town…

{Photo page 122: uncaptioned – a photo of a group gathering.}

However Melech Meiner, who was influenced by German literature, was not behind the times… He then had the idea of holding a debate about “Virtue and Addiction – a Philosophical Contract”. Yossel Brenes and Mordechai Pikholtz complained: “Melech, this is not for your sake; you cannot hold such a debate…” Melech Meiner did not obey (Shlomo Pelech supported him)… On fine Sabbath, Melech Meiner held his philosophical debate… Do not ask what went on… The audience confused him, and they laughed a great deal. Such a topsy-turvy piece of work had not been seen in Turka for a long time.

The Poale Zion party was very popular in town. They had a large premises in Yaakov Liber's house. In that premises, they performed Yiddish theater, made balls, and conduced widespread activity.

Poale Zion worked in all the institutions that existed in Turka at that time. Their representatives were included among the assistance committee of the Joint, they were volunteers of the Jewish orphanage, and they worked on the Jewish national committee. And conducted a struggle against the bourgeois Zionists.

 

Rifts

Things went on as normal until… discussions took place in the party regarding the right and the left. Melech Meiner, Chaim Chiel, Chaim Pelech, Yosef Ortel and Ziel Zawel were among the left group. The discussions were dogged. Shlomo Pelech warned that they should not break up the party, and if such is not possible, the dictatorship must be from the proletariat, so it will be good for us…

One fine Friday, a delegate came to use from Lemberg. He was a Hebrew teacher by the name of Barkowski, and completed the rift. Both sides remained in the same location, and conducted joint activities on occasion. The youth group, consisting of 48 people, went over to the Left Poale Zion. After some time, the Right Poale Zion united with the Hitachdut Party and became very active, particularly in various election campaigns, in the city council and in the cultural organization, they had their representatives in the orphanage, in the Gemilut Chasadim (Benevolent) Bank, in the certificate committee, in the Keren Kayemet committee, and in Keren HaYesod.

The party conducted cultural activities. I remember the literary judgement regarding Stringdberg's [1] wife, which went on for four Friday evenings, and arose great interest among the Turka public.

{Photo page 124: The Hechalutz organization in Turka, 1933.}

 


Translator's Footnote:
  1. August Strindberg was a Swedish dramatist, 1849-1912. Return

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