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Youth Movements and Zionist Activities {Cont.}


Hashomer-Haleumi Hanoar-Hatzioni

A schism took place in the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement in Poland at the end of the 1920s. On account of the leftward turn of this movement, some of its leaders who remained faithful to the pure Zionist idea

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left and founded a new nationalist Zionist youth movement called Hashomer Haleumi. With the passage of time, it changed its name to Hanoar Hatzioni.

This movement was established under the auspices of the central committee of the Zionist organization in Poland, and was received with great support by the masses of general Zionists in each and every place. A chapter of this movement was established in Wysokie Mazowieckie that was close to Czyzewo. The founders and counselors of this chapter decided to also found such a chapter in its neighboring town Czyzewo.

One summer evening in 1929, a group of us youths gathered together in the cheder room of the teacher Reb Ahron Wajntraub. We listened to the publicity speeches of two of the heads of the chapter of Wysokie regarding the founding of a chapter, or as it is called a “nest” [2] of Hashomer Haleumi in Czyzewo. Prominent among the members were Arjeh Gorzalczany, Yankel Gromadzyn and the writer of these lines.

The words of the speakers, spoken with extra enthusiasm, inspired us. The words fell upon fruitful soil and took root well in our minds. The internal push and deep desire for some sort of public activity went into action. The Zionist spirit that imbued us all also did its work. We found a fitting field of endeavor for the drive and youthful spirit that was living and fermenting in us. Therefore, that very evening, we decided to establish a branch of Hashomer Haleumi in Czyzewo. This youth group was indeed established within a few days, and maintained its activities in our town for all the time until the destruction.

The three aforementioned members were chosen as heads of the 'nest', and they approached their duties with the full sense of the responsibility that was placed upon them. These duties began with the technical arrangements for a meeting place, and continued with the spreading of Zionist doctrine and instilling elementary knowledge in matters of culture and societal life.

When they heard this great news of the founding of a youth organization and the opening of a meeting place, many youths from all strata of life began to stream to us. A significant portion of the boys and girls were from poor families, and many were forsaken youth who had no Torah or manners. A new world suddenly opened up

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for these young people; a world filled with content, a world that was full of joy and happiness, a world that educated and prepared the youth for a life of freedom, building and creativity on the land of the homeland, that had been yearned for from generation to generation.

The first meeting place that was opened was in the home of Jakob Goldberg, who was known as “Yankel Goldberg”. The members of the leadership committee prepared all of the necessary improvements and renovations with their own hands. They decorated the hall with pictures of the leaders of the Zionist movement and scouting symbols. They immediately began to plan educational programs, in accordance with the directions from the national leadership in Warszawa.

A significant portion of the program of the youth movement was involved with scouting. This was actualized with drills, hikes, summer camps, the study of signal code, etc. The member J. Gromadzyn at first worked in this area. Since at the time he was a student at the seminary for Hebrew teachers in Vilna, he had gained a great deal of knowledge in that area, and he dedicated himself enthusiastically to imparting that knowledge to the campers. Groups of Shomrim and Shomrot [3] went out each evening to the fields around the town in order to play various sports and conduct drill exercises.

The members Yitzchak Szlaski and Arjeh Gorzalczany conducted the cultural activities. Each evening, they would conduct friendly discussions in groups on various topics, such as “Judaism and Zionism”, “Jewish and General History”, and “The History of the New Settlement in the Land of Israel”. Presentations and events on various current topics would take place. These topics included: “The Nation of Israel in the Present”, “The Political Situation in the World”, “British Politics in the Land of Israel”, etc. Classes were organized for the study of Hebrew, and participation in these classes was mandatory for all Shomrim and Shomrot.

They thirstily absorbed our words. They listened to our discussions and presentations with honorable awe. The paid attention, and fulfilled our orders and directions completely. Thus, they slowly became accustomed to the new life. The knowledge that they gained enabled them to participate in a lively fashion in the interfactional discussions and debates. On account of this, they became more interested in what was transpiring in the world.

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czy330a.jpg [22 KB] - Two commanders of the Shomer Haleumi
Two commanders of the Shomer Haleumi
Seated Yitzchak Szlaski and standing Arjeh Gorzalczany.
(Translator's note: the banner at the top reads:
“Long Live Hashomer Haleumi”.
The banner at the bottom reads:
“Strong” – i.e.: “Let it be strong”).

The songs and dances are a chapter unto themselves. They played an important role in the educational curriculum and the activities of the “nest”. Each evening, at the time that the Shomrim and Shomrot gathered, the voices of song and dance would literally pierce the heavens. Their echo would be heard from afar outside the city. This became the daily bread of the youth. It supported them and awakened in them an intensive feeling of a full life, filled with interest and content. New songs were added daily, some of which came to us in writing from the material that was prepared by the central leadership in Warszawa, and others were learned from the Shomrim and Shomrot who came to us from other cities, as they were travelling to Hachsharah[4] centers. These songs in no small manner helped in the learning of the Hebrew language, and in making it relevant to daily life.

The movement breathed a new spirit into the life of the youth. Even the external appearance changed.

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The gray and khaki uniform, decorated with scouting symbols, imparted splendor and glory to the boys and girls. The increased their pride and stood up straight. The sadness and oppression that were so typical in the appearance of the youth in the small towns of Poland disappeared form their faces. They wore the look of self-assurance influenced with Jewish national pride.

The good, simple mothers and fathers were filled with contentment at the appearance of their clean and polished sons and daughters, who filled the homes with light and joy. They also became attached the great Zionist vision that filled the hearts of their children. In the privacy of their hearts, it seemed perhaps as if they themselves also hoped that they would attain the merit of perhaps following in their children's footsteps, making aliya to the Land and inheriting itů

A chapter of the General Zionist faction existed in Czyzewo. This primarily attracted young adults who had studied, and who had succeeded in their private lives in becoming established in business or small-scale manufacturing. The vast majority of them were the most honorable of the younger generation. By their nature, they were people of status who were more satisfied with factional activity than practical activity, with the exception of course of work on behalf of the funds, primarily the “Keren HaYesod”. Most of the canvassers for this fund in town came from that group.

Factional liveliness appeared mainly at the time of elections for the Congress or some other special vote of the Zionist movement. This dynamism that was missing among the adults was made up by the youth through the intensive activities that were brought into the meeting hall of the adult Zionists. Thus, bonds of support were formed that resulted in mutually supportive activities between the adults and the youth. Hashomer Haleumi found enthusiastic supporters among these Zionists, who were faithful and dedicates patrons of their organization. On the other hand, the adult Zionists found in the youth strength and support, and a sure guarantee that the existence of the chapter will continue into the future. Indeed, this mutual support and close, beneficial interrelationship continued among them for all the years.

Specific interest in the problems of the youth, that was were expressed in various forms both material and moral, was shown by the members: Shalom Grynberg, Yehoshua Lepak, Chajim

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Sztatchopakowicz, the Grynberg brothers, and Noach Edelsztajn of blessed memory; as well as by the following people who are still alive, may they live long: Motel Sztachopakowicz (today in America), Dov Gorzalczany (today in Israel), Moshel Blejwas (today in Canada), and others. The important women activists were: Fejgel Wasercug, Golda Baljender, Dwora Edelsztajn of blessed memory; and the following woman who is alive, may she live long: Freidel Zabludower the daughter of the rabbi (today in America). I still remember the meetings and assemblies that took place on Sabbath and festival evenings. We would go together for a friendly discussion or a guest presentation. The atmosphere was pleasant. It was imbued with the spirit of the Land of Israel. The youth excited the adults with their song and dance, and they too entered into the circle. We sang and danced until our energy was spent. On the national holidays such as Lag Baomer [5] or the 20th of Tammuz, as well as on the occasion of special activities on behalf of Zionism, celebrations, presentations, and parades through the streets of the town were arranged. These were all arranged with the active assistance of the adult Zionists, whose protection enabled us to overcome all obstacles that the various opponents laid in our path.

czy330b.jpg [25 KB] - Beitar

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This idealism in the Zionist movement did not last for a long time, only for a year and a half. The family feud that broke out in that era within the Zionist movement, between the followers of Jabotinsky and the general Zionists, spread out and permeated the entire Jewish population of Poland. Our Czyzewo was affected by this in no small fashion.

Yankel Gromadzyn was the first to disturb this idealism and foment the first schism within Hashomer Haleumi. He, along with a large group of people who had been educated by the movement, left Hashomer Haleumi and established a Beitar chapter (the revisionist youth, based upon the Jabotinsky movement). The influence of the first schism was recognizable, for it laid the foundation for additional schisms that came in its wake. The establishment of a chapter of Beitar, that stood at the extreme right of the Zionist movement, provided the impetus and forced the side that opposed the right leaning Poale Zion movement and the “League for the Working Land of Israel” to organize their own youth, as a counterbalance to Beitar. The formed the “Jugentskaut” youth movement. A little while later, the religious circles within Zionism,

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“Mizrachi”, did the same thing. They organized the religious youth and formed a “nest” of Hashomer Hadati.

The increase in the number of youth groups in the town weakened Hashomer Haleumi. We must take into account that the number of boys and girls in the town was small, and most of them were already previously organized into that movement.

As a result of this, factional competition broke out between the various youth groups. They began to pursue each and every boy and girl. Each group tried to attract them. This competition took place along the entire front of Zionist activity and expression, and included stormy debates between the factions that did not reach conclusion.

As is known, at that time all of Polish Jewry was caught up in this turmoil of interfactional dispute, and our small Czyzewo was no exception. This factional vortex did not add health and honor to the Zionist movement, despite the fact that practical activity increased on the heels of the competition for hegemony in the various fields of action.

The succeeding years in the annals of Hanoar Hatzioni in Czyzewo form one long chain of intensive Zionist activity. After various schisms and the splintering off of parts of it into other Zionist youth groups that arose and organized themselves on the basis of extremist Zionist doctrine to the right and the left, and operated in accordance with noisy and explosive mottoes – the Hanoar Hatzioni movement, which remained faithful to original Zionism, continued to operate discreetly and on a small scale, yet with dedication and commitment to the ideals of general Zionism. It educated people towards Zionism, aliya, and actualization. All of the other Zionist factions and youth groups that were found in the city also increased their Zionist activity, in accordance with their specific ideological and factional bent.

As the year went on, Arjeh Gorzalczany also left Hanoar Hatzioni and transferred to Hashomer Hadati, which conducted widespread activities amongst the “nationalist religious” youth of Czyzewo.

Only one person remained from among the original founders of Hanoar Hatzioni, the last of the group, Yitzchak

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Szlaski. He continued to direct Hanoar Hatzioni until he made aliya to the Land in October 1935.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. The Hebrew word 'ken', meaning nest (for those who know Hebrew, it is spelled with a 'kuf' rather than a 'kaf' – for when spelled with a 'kaf' it means 'yes') is often used as a term for a chapter of a Zionist youth group. return
  2. From the name of the group 'Hashomer”. Shomer literally means guard. The form Shomrim is the masculine plural, and Shomrot is feminine plural. return
  3. Hachsharah (literally: preparation) is a program for preparing people for eventual aliya. Hachsharah activities would often take place in a rural setting, as people learned the agricultural skills that would be helpful in the building up of the Land after they make aliya. return
  4. A minor holiday that usually falls in May, one month after Passover. Bonfires are often made on that day. return


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