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The Movement for “A Working Eretz–Yisrael

By Malka Szejman – Tel Aviv

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

In addition to the cultural life in Czyzewo, the young people also had political instincts and in 1927 a group of students created the youth library, which later joined the city library, which was invigorated by the strength of the young people.


Poalei–Zion Committee

Standing: Rotman and Rochel Garde
Sitting: Ruchele Kalan, Dovid Moncarz, Liba Rotman, Malka Szejman, Avraham Cukrowicz, Shmulke Okon


The group around the youth library later were those who created the Poalei–Zion [Workers of Zion – Marxist Zionists] movement, the League for a Working Eretz–Yisrael, Freiheit [Freedom] and Hahalutz [Zionist pioneer movement] in Czyzewo in 1928 with the help of several older comrades ([who were] the nucleus of Poalei–Zion from the years 1917, 1922, 1925). Included in their ranks were a large number of the students, young workers, young men from the yeshivus [religious secondary schools] and Hasidic shtiblekh [small one–room synagogues].

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In a short time, the movement for A Working Eretz–Yisrael grew to be one of the largest party organizations in Czyzewo and in the entire surrounding area. The organization became stronger in quantity and quality every day despite the persecutions that we endured from the pious and Hasidic elements in Czyzewo.

I will only tell about one of the many incidents and conversations that took place between us and the pious ones.

It was right after the events in Eretz–Yisrael in 1929. When the activists from the party consisting of the Comrades Avraham Cur (Cukrowicz), Nidbach (Nitabach) and the writer of these lines (today all in Israel), Feigel Cukrowicz (today in America), Yisrael Yitzchak Bursztajn (today in Uruguay) and other comrades, who did not live to come to Israel and bring about their ideals, held a meeting and considered the question of honoring the fallen heroes who had defended the Jewish population in Eretz–Yisrael as well as the question of the Congress of A Working Eretz–Yisrael that was supposed to take place then in Berlin, several Gerer Hasidim and others unexpectedly arrived

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Standing: Mnakusa (brother and sister), Mordechai Moncarz, Rochel Hofman, Shayna Kandel, Feigel Plocker, Fayga Feldsztajn, Rochel Garde
Sitting: Sura Minc, Rivka Zysman, Rosman, Chaim Slucki, Rochela Kachan, Avraham Cukrowicz, Liba Rosman, Leibel Eides, Rochel Zysman, Shalom Kirszenbojm, Avraham Eli Bursztajn, Gitka Szejman


and began to demolish the meeting premises. They had come to rescue their children. Fights broke out. The police came, then trials. Then, as it happens, they were finally persuaded that our struggle for “Zionism” was correct. Their children, who later joined our ranks, then became the activists in the Zionist organizations in Czyzewo. After the departure for Yisrael of the activists, my brother, Nuska Szejman, a former yeshiva [religious secondary school] student, became the political and spiritual leader, teacher and activist for A Working Eretz–Yisrael in Czyzewo as well as in the surrounding area.

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I emphasize that thanks to our political instincts and initiatives during that era, thanks to our devoted adherence to the Zionist ideal and calling the young to join our ranks, a number succeeded in emigrating to Eretz–Yisrael and remained alive. These were individuals from large families in Czyzewo, which perished in 1941 at the hands of the Hitler murderers and their collaborators.

Our widespread work was in every area. We divided the young people into groups. The groups were led by the comrades Yitzchak Gora, Avraham Cur (Cukrowicz), Gedalia Surowicz, and by me. (Today

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Sirkin Group in 1932
at the departure of Comrade Leah Bursztajn


all are in Israel) and later by my brother, Nuska, may his memory be blessed.

The groups were led with various themes: “History of the worker movement in Eretz–Yisrael,” “Borochovism,” “Marx and Engles,” “Natural science,” “Historical Materialism,” “Cultural history,” as well as

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various Zionist themes such as: “Herzl,” “Nardau,” “Ahad Ha'am” [“one of the people” – the pen name of essayist, Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg] and of various leaders of social–democracy in the world.

The groups trained the younger comrades who later led the groups. One of them is Mordechai Moncarz, a well–known partisan in the Bialystok area (today in America) and [there are many] others. Evening events about various themes, excursions, fraternal conversations and so on were arranged.

Our comrades were active in all institutions in Czyzewo such as: K.K.L. [Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael– The Jewish National Fund], the library and later in the kehile [organized Jewish community], the fortress of Agudas–Yisrael [Union of Israel – Orthodox political movement]. Our words were heard everywhere. We built a majority everywhere, in the dramatic
Sirkin Group in 1932
at the departure of Comrade Leah Bursztajn

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Freiheit excursion


circle and in other institutions. We later created the [organization] Oved [Worker], which brought most of the artisans in Czyzewo into our ranks. A large number of them succeeded in emigrating to Eretz–Yisrael.

We always received the appropriate number of votes and often a majority in the election to the [Zionist] Congresses. We had what the masses wanted, firstly, the active work for the Zionist organizations in Czyzewo and also for the Histadrut [General Organization of Workers] with its branches in Eretz–Yisrael.

The League for Working Eretz–Yisrael, at which I held the office of chairwoman and Avraham Cur (Cukrowicz) was maskir (secretary), enrolled many sympathizers in addition to the comrades from Poalei–Zion, Socialist Zionists and Freiheit. We would send a great deal of money from the League

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to Histadrut. Our comrades who left for the hakshore kibbutizim [pioneer communal settlements] such as the detachments from “Borochov,” “Klarow Shmarja” and “Tel Hai” were the most active ones.

We would often have visits from the comrades Bialopolski, Morgnsztern, Szpizman and others from the Poalei–Zion central committee. The central committee gave great recognition to our extensive work.

We would all take excursions together with the organizations from the surrounding shtetlekh [towns] Ciechanowiec, Zaromb [Zaręby], Wisoki Mazowieckie and others. We would arrange reciprocal visits and joint gatherings.

We were connected to Zaromb as if we were one organization. Comrade Shmuel Leib Ruskalonker, of blessed memory, helped us a great deal. Comrade Betsalel (Tsalka) Rozenblum (today

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in Israel) was like a part of our young people. We would also send delegates to congresses in Warsaw, Bialystok and to seminars. Here, too, in Israel our

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comrades are esteemed. They were active in the Haganah and Palmach.[1] Today comrades are found on kibbutzim [collective communities] and in esteemed positions in Histadrut and its branches.

Translator's Footnote:
  1. The Haganah was the underground Jewish army during the British Mandate; Palmach was its elite fighting force. return

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By Leah Dimentman (Bursztajn)/ Tel Aviv

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The events in Eretz–Yisrael in 1929 shook the Jewish young people in Czyzewo. The wish to emigrate [to Eretz–Yisrael] and help to build a national home grew every day and the creation began of

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pioneer administrative bodies to find a way to Eretz–Yisrael with collective strength.

An intensive movement for organizing arose in Czyzewo. The Poalei–Zion Zionist Socialists and Freiheit [Freedom],



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A group of Poalei–Zion [Workers of Zion] comrades


Hashomer HaLeumi [the National Guard], Betar [Revisionist youth organization] and others were founded. Almost all of the young people were organized in rightist and leftist Zionist groups.

Naturally, the organizing was not easy. The older people looked at it as if they [the young organizers] were involved with heretical deeds. But the question of money was the most difficult of all. The young people did not work and they actually never had the money with which to rent even a small meeting hall. The first meetings actually took place in the open air.

Freiheit developed very quickly. New comrades joined every day; vigorous cultural activity was carried out. The young people avidly devoured the daily and weekly newspapers such as Befreiung [Liberation], Arbeter–Shtime [Worker's Voice] and Yugnt Freiheit [Young Freedom], the monthly journal, as well as HaHalutz [The Pioneer], the Hebrew newspaper.

The organization Freint far Eretz–Yisrael [Friends of Eretz–Yisrael] also was created the same year. This was support for Kapai [Kupat Poalei Eretz–Yisrael – Palestine Workers' Fund].

Freiheit was divided into three groups: twice a week, social and timely political problems [were discussed].

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A choir and a dramatic circle and a group for sports exercise were created. During the summer, exercise took place in the Czyzewo or Sutker Woods and on the ice during the winter. In addition, Freiheit created a group of scouts. Children aged 10 to 14 were accepted there.

A strong revival brought close contact by Freiheit with the Freiheit groups in the surrounding nearby and distant shtetlekh [towns], such as Zembrowa, Ciechanowiec, Zaromb [Zaręby] and even with Ostrowa.

We were most strongly connected to the Zaromber comrades who later, during the Holocaust, also shared the bitter fate of annihilation and were united in one mass grave in Szulbacz.

The second Freiheit conference took place in Warsaw in 1931. Czyzewo sent three delegates to the conference. Czyzewo comrades also took part in the summer colonies in the village of Zani (near Zembrowa) and the next year in the colony in the village of Szcakow (near Ciechanowiec). Many Czyzewer comrades also


Freiheit Committee 1932
Leah Bursztajn, Malka Szejman, Dovid Malkarcz, Shayndl Kandel and Mordechai Frydman

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took part. It cost 20 zlotes for each comrade to spend a month in the colony and they collected groshn by groshn and even food items during the year to cover the expenses.

In 1932 a place for a hakshore [agricultural training settlement] was created in Czyzewo for halutzim [pioneers] and also Oved [Worker] for family members and

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that year a group of halutzim and their families actually emigrated to Eretz–Yisrael.

The thirst for emigration with the help of certificates was very strong even among those who were waiting for the redemption and the coming of Moshiakh [the Redeemer], particularly after the anti–Semitism became wilder and more brutal in Poland.


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