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[Page 198]

Jewish sports

by Wolf Majer Rozencwajg

Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal

Jewish youth in Dąbrowa aspired to be the equal of any Jewish or Christian sports club in the region, even though there were towns such as Będzin or Sosnowiec that had patrons, like Fürstenberg.

In 1921, after having being enslaved for 150 years, a large sports movement arose.

dab198.jpg [31 KB] - Aron Goldblum – a well-known athlete in the town
Aron Goldblum
a well-known athlete in the town

Polish youth woke up as though from a long sleep, wanting to make up for lost time. They created various sports clubs in Polish towns and villages. The yearning for sports influenced also Jewish youths, who showed themselves to be on the same level as the Christians.

Zagłębie was no exception. Balls were kicked in every corner and in every free place.

At the same time, an initiative-group arose in Dąbrowa to create a Jewish sports club. The group consisted of Wowcze Erlich, Maks Zajonc, the Białystok brothers (Szmuel and Kopel), Maks Treper and the Rechnic brothers from Hachubke [?], who later became the leaders of the sports group. The idea was enthusiastically received. The initiators spent the first money for uniforms and other utilitarian sports-related needs in order to begin practical work.

As is known, the freethinking youths who were not otherwise tied up with youth organizations met every evening in the Tea Hall on the 3rd of May Street; this is where the idea to create a sports club was actually born. A soccer club was the first to arise, then a ping-pong club, then tennis. In the soccer group were: Jakob Rudoler, as goalkeeper; Bek, as leader; Gutman, as runner; Wolf Goldblum, Lolek Szternik, Josek Krajcer, as stormers; Wolf Majer Rozencwajg, Adam Mitelman, the Zajonc brothers, Lejb Wolf Rozencwajg, Icze Bornsztajn, Idel Erlich, Elijahu Kalb.

The founding of a soccer community with such members had an enormous resonance in the town. We played with the “Power” Będzin, with I.F.C. of Katowice, and against assorted Polish sports clubs, and attained good results. Lolek Szternik was a relentless player. He battled on the sports arena exactly as though he were defending a country. The same could be said for Jakob Rudoler, Wolf Goldblum, Wolf Majer Rozencwajg, and others.

The spectators were especially enthused when they discovered that a Jewish athlete from Silesia had deformed feet and no toes. He was one of the good players.

[Page 199]

One of his kicks made the ball rise tens of meters in the air. Under no circumstances would this athlete give in to his physical challenges. He attracted much attention.

We had many difficulties with training, and we did not have our own place. The Jewish kehila was little interested in whether or not Dąbrowa youth had a sports club. Because of this, we wandered from one place to another; one time on the lawns and another time in the marketplace. Only after many changes, the magistrate, under the leadership of Czeplak, the representative of the P.P.S., gave us permission to train in the sports arena on Kaszczuski [?].

A new epoch began after we began to train regularly. The level of sports techniques was raised for everybody. Jews in all circles stormed to the arena. I remember how Jewish boys with peyes [side-locks] stood outside, near the fence, and looked inside through the cracks, following with great suspense the course of the game. When there was a victory, they celebrated just like all the free Jews.

Sponsors of the Jewish sports club consisted of Erlich, Maks Zajonc, Maks Treper, the Białystok brothers, the Rechnic brothers (from Howke [?]), Lejb Wajszalc, Mosze Goldberg, and Abram Moneta. Moneta was a huge follower of Jewish athletics; he did not miss a single game, no matter how far away.

I want to note, with pride, that one of our players in the sports group, Aron Goldblum, was later a Jewish representative in the headquarters of general sports in Poland.

After two years of playing soccer and bringing honor for the Jewish community in Dąbrowa, the sports club weakened. Adam Mitelman made aliyah to Palestine; Heniek Zajonc traveled to Warsaw to study; Lolek also left to pursue his studies. Edik Rechnic was the last of the Mohicans of the old group supporting sports in Dąbrowa, and then he left as well.

In the place of the collapsed sports club, a new sports club arose with the name of “Maccabi.” It was not a political sports organization; it only had a political base. The youth group belonged to the Revisionists. They developed sports activities with many branches, and their club was on Sienkiewicza. They had a ping-pong club, a chess club, and they played with Christian and Jewish sports groups in the area. In addition, the Maccabi athletes also were participants in various general youth activities, with Zionist goals.

dab199.jpg [16 KB] - Heszko Kalman
Heszko Kalman
A Dąbrowa youth, a known athlete in the Warsaw sports club

In the same years, anti-Semitic hatred had already become rampant in Dąbrowa. Polish hooligans attacked Jews. The Maccabi athletes, together with other Jewish youth organizations, created protection groups.

[Page 200]

Thanks to them, innocent blood was prevented from being shed more than once. The hooligans knew that their bones would not remain whole if they would meet up with the protective groups.

In 1925, the Viennese “Hako'ach [the Power]” played in Będzin. Months before and after the event people talked about the presence of the Viennese “Power” in Zagłębie. Every Jew considered himself a specialist in sports, and gave an opinion about the Viennese appearance in Poland.

There were Jews in Dąbrowa who were so immersed in sports that they did not miss a single match. They traveled far in order to attend every game. Those were Berisz Putersznit, of blessed memory, Abram Neufeld, and others. The father of Wolf Majer Rozencwajg, of blessed memory, was a great sympathizer of Jewish sports. Wolf Majer himself later became a professional soccer player in the Będzin sports group “Hako'ach” [the power], with a contract having symbolic contents.

I would sin against Jewish sports in Dąbrowa if I would not mention and place a memorial stone over a Jewish athlete in Dąbrowa who played in various groups in the town. He later left for Warsaw, and there he became one of the most popular players in the Maccabi. That was Heszko Kalman, may his memory be blessed. The newspapers in Warsaw used to describe his sports tactics, his power for perseverance in playing. The Yiddish press used to consider him a son of Warsaw. He was an orphan from childhood, a son of the widow Nisl Kalman, a milk carrier.

(Gathered by Juda Londner)

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