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[Page 217]

Memories {cont.}

dab217a.jpg [21KB] - Herszl Sztorchajn
Herszl Sztorchajn
a leader in the “Hashomer Hatzair” center

I remember one of the Sabbaths when on a trip I met with my good friend Herszl Sztorchajn in Zielona. We trusted one another; we were not only the same age, but cousins as well. We spent a long time studying together in one room. We lived together at 11 Sobieskiego Street. That is not all that brought us together and determined our future destiny – we became friends simply because we had the same aspiration, one goal, a common youthful dream – to free ourselves from the suffocating atmosphere of school and our parents' homes and to set forth on a meaningful new life. That is what brought us closer and strengthened the friendship between us for many years. In order to realize our aspiration, we required the means, the first of which was to learn a profession and, together with the other young people in the movement, to move to the Land of Israel. Our conversation on that Sabbath clarified our thoughts. After two hours of traveling through the woods, as we followed after a cheerful group of young men and women of Hashomer Hatzair, we reached the conclusion that we had to change something, though we didn't yet know how or where to start. We quickly rushed home in order to arrive before our parents awoke from their Sabbath naps, so they wouldn't know – God forbid – where we had been.

Thus passed many months until, without our parents' knowledge, we found our way to the chapter of the Hashomer Hatzair movement. Among the members there we made many friends who, like us, were searching for a solution to their futures. We were influenced more than a little by the activities of our sisters, who long before had joined the movement. My sister Gita had begun learning a profession – photography. She traveled to Warsaw and from there to Leipzig and from there to the Land of Israel. My sister's leaving home served as a push for me to leave also. The life in the chapter filled all of my being; I met people and was exposed to new world views, a whole new world opened up before me. I started to read fine literature, and felt I need to continue my studies. The conditions at home were not suited for this, partly due to the economic situation, and partly to the religious atmosphere which responded negatively to secular learning.

dab217b.jpg [21KB] - A group of older "Hashomer Hatzair" members
A group of older “Hashomer Hatzair” members
in the early years in our city, 1918

[Page 218]

dab218.jpg [41KB] - A "Hashomer Hatzair" center parade
A “Hashomer Hatzair” center parade in Bugajer's courtyard, 1918

After I completed my studies in cheder (religious elementary school), I attended a more modern school in Będzin – and there ended the education my parents were willing to give me. I had no wish to learn in the House of Study, for I could see no future for myself there, nor did I want to sit around the house with no purpose. I began by speaking to my mother, informing her of my wish to study; I waited until my father was not present in the house. After a short, persuasive conversation, my mother agreed and promised to pay for a private teacher, a friend of my sister Gita's (who is now in the Land of Israel). I would learn from her professions according to the curriculum of a certified school. This was my first victory on the route to my future goals.

In Hashomer Hatzair I had the opportunity to read books about the natural sciences and the social sciences, which had interested me for some time, and I had many conversations with my friends in the group about those subjects. My father of blessed memory once discovered two of my books on the subject of the creation of the universe and the history of religion and expressly forbid me to read heretical books such as those, and so I read only during the late hours of the night and my eyes were opened.

The work system of the chapters in Zagłębie was an example for us in our own work. When it was first established, the chapter emphasized the national role (as opposed to the branch in Będzin which was, at first, an imitation of the Polish scouts' movement, and only after that took on a national character). Our first steps were influenced by the Jewish scouts union in Sosnowiec (the scouts union in Sosnowiec was founded in 1913, but did not become a union of Jewish scouts until 1915, during the war, when nationalist feeling became more prominent). The company of Jewish scouts in Sosnowiec radiated out to all of Zagłębie and the surrounding area, and in 1916 – 1917 several unions were established in Będzin, Zawiercie, Częstochowa, and also in Dąbrowa. The youth formed into companies of Jewish scouts as a means of blocking the influence of assimilation from the street and school. In 1917 the members from Zagłębie took part in a convention of chapters from the Kielce and Radom provinces which was held in Kielce, where the first ideological foundations of Hashomer Hatzair were developed, and which would have an impact on our chapter. The years 1918 – 1920 were a period of the deepening of the ideology of Hashomer Hatzair. Some of the movement's founders began to leave our town: some went to training sessions, some went to work abroad, and some began to prepare for moving to the Land of Israel.

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