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[Page 267]

[photo:] The Poalei Zion [Workers of Zion] Party and the Freiheit [Freedom] Youth Group in Drohitchin in 1934. [The board in the photo indicates the date to be 9/10/34.

B.

        The next day, after the imposing and influential demonstration, the Drohitchin Zionist committees held a celebratory meeting and decided to begin recruiting pioneers among the young people, and send them to Palestine as the first Drohitchin vanguard. A couple of dozen bright young people were called to be the first on the list. Our committee went over the entire list and chose fourteen of them.

        I was appointed to the Palestine Office in Warsaw to certify the fourteen. Unfortunately I had to undertake great effort just to get seven of them accepted. Rabbi Yitzchak Nissenbaum, who was a member of the Palestine Office, demanded that at least ten be approved, but Yisrael Mereminsky of the left-wing camp proposed to approve only five. He claimed that it was impossible to send such a large number of pioneers from one town.

        However, everyone understood the real motive. Our boys all belonged to the General Zionists, who were interested in only one goal: to go to Palestine and help build the country for the entire Jewish People, without any other motives. Actually, there were no other parties besides the General Zionists in Drohitchin in those days. Therefore, the left wing didn't want to approve all the pioneers from Drohitchin.

        There was great joy when I arrived home with certificates for seven people. The town started preparing to say goodbye to the first group of pioneers. Their names were: two Schub brothers, Isser Valevelsky, Ze'ev Milner, Yossel Kobrinsky, Hershel Steinberg. I don't remember who the seventh was. I think I remember that the old Drohitchin businessman, R. Aharon Zbar (Areleh of Lidvinov), who then had a daughter and her family in Palestine. I believe that it was the famous Baruch Goralsky family who had opened the first furniture factory in Palestine.

[Page 268]

        Aharon Zbar was going there to spend the rest of his life there, but unfortunately a year later he returned to Drohitchin because he didn't fit in with his daughter and her family.

        The departing pioneers were sent off with a farewell evening party and music and singing. The next day the town accompanied them to the train station with blessings and tears. When the train pulled out of the station the entire crowd spontaneously started singing Hatikvah, which even made a strong impression on the Christian onlookers.

C.

        Strong and intensive Zionist activity then started in Drohitchin. We organized large fundraisers for the Jewish National Fund. Teenage boys and girls went around visiting Jewish homes to request people for a monthly contribution. Every opportunity was used to help the Jewish National Fund, which brought in relatively large amounts of money. From time to time our committee would receive letters of appreciation from the central office of the JNF in Warsaw that emphasized that Drohitchin and its small Jewish population did better in its fundraising than other cities throughout Polesia.

        After the London Zionist Conference, when the Keren HaYesod [Foundation Fund] was announced, Drohitchin was among the first communities to use the slogan of tithe contributions. Large sums of money were created, and the task of our committee was to keep the community excited and enthused. A group of friends including Shmuel Schub (now in the United States), Aharon Saratchik (now Aharon Yisraeli in Israel), the late Yosef Berezovsky and others would occasionally appear at meetings and synagogues to awaken the people to be prepared to act and sacrifice. Teachers and speakers from the central office in Warsaw would frequently visit us, and speak on behalf of the development of Palestine.

        I consider it my sacred task to mention as one example one of the ordinary Jews of Drohitchin, Hershel Dvinsky the Shoemaker, who with totally devoted with heart and soul to the Land of Israel. He would gather groups of Jewish artisans and merchants and preached to them about the love of Palestine and building it.

[photo:] The right-wing Betar movement in Drohitchin. Standing on the left is Dr. Goldstein (with the revolver), former director of the Moriah school and founder of the Betar group in Drohitchin. See the pictures on pp. 44, 90 and 190.

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