by Moshe Kalchheim
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The Society of Hebrew Youth Akiva or, as everyone called the Movement Akiva was founded in the year 1932 after the division that occurred in the Society of Jewish Youth in Galicia.
The split took place in the summer-camp Baranowicze (Baranovich), near Przemyl. When we returned from the camp the Jaroslaw branch and most of the senior leadership and pupils, left the Youth and founded Akiva with their clubhouse located on the grounds of the Aschenfeld sisters on Grodska Street.
Among those who left and founded Akiva were Yosef Zielenkowski, Fluser, Benek Krieger, Barak Winter, Mundek Kramer, Hosch Yackter, Itzik Lieberman, Akiva Katz, Shenker Rik, Rosa Lipper, Shulamit Kalimer and many more.
With the separation, the national leadership of the Akiva Movement transferred from its base from Kraków to Jaroslaw because the branch in that town was bigger and more important than the one in Kraków. Debates and discussions began on the ideological roadmap of the movement, which slowly acquired for itself a respectable place among the youth in western Galicia and from there it spread to eastern Galicia and Congress Poland.
The presence among us of the Movement's leaders (Dr. Idak (Yehuda) Orenstein, Marcel Zinger and others), added a personal dimension of importance to the branch and enriched our lives significantly during that period.
In a short period of time, the Jaroslaw branch of Akiva became the largest youth movement in town. Most of the members were students, mainly of the Blue Gymnasium (named for the color of the caps that the pupils wore), but also of the Red Gymnasium (for a similar reason) and the girls' gymnasium, but there were among them also clerks, sales people from shops and laborers, thus, in practice all layers of the Jewish population of Jaroslaw were represented in our movement and the relationship between them all was significant for its mutual affection and brotherly unity.
Our Movement encouraged combining both scouting and Jewish values. We were known in town for our celebration of Erev Shabbat and Oneg Shabbat organized by our branch for its members. On the eve of Tish'a B'Av we all
gathered together. We would sit on the floor to mark the mourning of the Destruction and after a conversation on the events of the day, we had a sing-along of Zionist songs continuing long into the night.
Standing from R to L: B Winter, M. Kremer, M. Halberthal, J. Zielenkowski, S. Schleider, Manes, and Gertner
Sitting from R to L: A Katz, D. Rubin, A. Fluser, X, X
From Grodzka Street we moved to Zamkowa Street, almost out of town, an area where most of the residents were non-Jewish but after a short time, we returned to the center of town again, first of all to Opolski Street and from there to 2, Waska Street, where my family lived.
In 1934 I was head of the branch and the region and the membership of the Jaroslaw branch numbered several hundred youngsters both boys and girls.
Most of our counselors made Aliyah: Zielinowski, Fluser, Krieger, Katz, Rik and Lieberman. Every case of immigration to Palestine was a central event
in the life of the branch and the farewell celebration that we organized for each immigrant left a lasting impression on the life of the Movement.
While I was head of the bureau, K. Katz, Shenke Rik, Regina Shpindel, Karol Gelernter, W. Kluberg, L. Kudler, Benjamin Stccher and Mala Miller all immigrated to Palestine.
Chiefs of the Bureau who preceded me were: B. Krieger, Itzik Lieberman, Mundek Kramer, K. Katz and B. Winter. Together with me until the outbreak of the war, the leaders of the branch were S. Shpindel, R. Beck, Yosef Baliver, Yoel Glatt and Avrumk'e Zimmerman.
In 1934, the Akiva Movement organized a large anti-Nazi exhibition in its clubroom. Our accomplished artist member, Sh. Kalman, did excellent work. He was a graduate of the School of Engineering and a highly competent artist. He decorated the hall with excellent drawings, many of them black and white copies of the artistic works of Lilien (Ephraim Moses Lilien) that awoke admiration and surprise in all the visitors. I also recall the work of Benek Krieger, a portrait of Ahad Ha'am (Asher Ginzburg) created from microscopically small letters, taken from his critique That is Not the Way.
Standing from R to L: Janet Gerblich, Bunio Ringel, Heniek Mambach, Moshe Kalchheim (leader) and Heniek Frucht
Sitting: Heniek Eizenmayer, Heniek Ringel
The focal point of the exhibition was large stained-glass presentations illustrating our struggle against Hitlerism in the history of the Jewish people.
The exhibition drew thousands of visitors and its echoes reached as far as the Zionist press in Poland. After two weeks, the exhibition was moved to some other towns like Przemyl and Rzeszów (Raysha).
In 1936, a Training Platoon was established in Jaroslaw combining Akiva and Heḥalutz, located outside town in my grandmother's house. It was a house constructed of wood standing in a garden in which our members prepared themselves for work in the Land of Israel but in order to sustain themselves the trainees worked in different places in town like carpentries, factories and so on.
The Akiva Movement created for themselves patrons (a sort of parents' association), comprised of socially active Zionists in town whose function was to assist the Movement financially and to form a bridge between the youngsters and their elders. The head of the patrons at different times were: Dr. Rabinowitz, Dr. Rosenblatt, Dr. Reger and others and lastly, until the outbreak of war, Mr. Glazberg, the flour-mill owner and chairman of a charity fund located near the Pioneers Memorial, living today in Israel.
The Akiva Movement in Jaroslaw also created a patronage that included within its ranks the parents of pupils of the Movement and its management was comprised of active Zionist
The Akiva branch 1935
residents of the town. The aim of the organization was to create a connection between the younger generation and the parents' generation. The patrons - accompanying the Movement in all its activities, taking part in their central events and being concerned also for the financial aspects connected with the maintenance of the branch.
The head of the patrons at different times were: Dr. Rabinowitz, Dr. Rosenblatt, Dr. Reger and others and lastly, until the outbreak of the Second World War Y. Glazberg,
The Akiva Movement made a significant impression on its young pupils; it consisted of a combination between searching for a way of coming closer to Jewish sources by organizing bible study courses arranged by the head-office secretariat on a National level and to graduate, a boy or girl of the course was required to sit for an examination that was quite difficult and demanded serious and intensive study.
The bible study was not routine nor was it treated lightly: deep involvement was generated for everything we learned and with the years, the influence of the leaders of the Movement grew more and more so that an almost religious element seemed to be imparted on the Movement. With that as background, a crisis arose in 1936 when a group undergoing training in the town of Leopoldinov, close to Rava Russkaya (Rave), rebelled against the religious enforcement in the Movement and separated from it. Another splinter-group called the 'Seven Group, that immigrated to Palestine refused to join the Beit Yehoshua Kibbutz of the Akiva Movement, but settled in Neve-Eitan but in time left the Movement entirely and joined the Mapai.
The division was felt even in the Jaroslaw branch of Akiva. A few members of the management left the branch and joined the Seven Group among them Mala Miller, Berko Winter and Regina Shpindel but mostly Akiva remained intact. In the meantime, some of the members made Aliyah and in Palestine joined the splinter group and went together with them to Neve Eitan, among them Shlomo Marzel, Akiva Katz and Shenke Rik. All of these, together with Mala Miller until today, are living in Neve Eitan in the Beit She'an Valley.
In 1939, when the Nazis entered Jaroslaw on Thursday 10th September there were about two hundred members. The club-house at the time was situated in court-yard of the Golowski cinema. On one of the days preceding the entry into town of the Germans, when it was clear to all of us that the end of Jewish and Zionist life in town had arrived, we all gathered in the big hall for a final meeting. Most of the members had already left town and only a small group appeared in the club in a depressed mood, broken in spirit, body and soul.
We took down all the photographs the handiwork of the artist our friend Sh. Kolman, we packed them carefully and hid them in a hiding-place we had prepared in the building and covered them well ensuring that no strangers would ever find them. All the women who were present at the unusual event burst into bitter tears as our own eyes filled with tears and a fervent prayer fell from our lips that G-d in heaven would grant us that we would live to return to this place dear to us all and to the life we loved here.
That was the last meeting of the Akiva-ites of Jaroslaw.
A group of youngsters from Akiva
*[Translator's comment: I was unable to find any confirmatory reference to this work or the title's meaning. An entry in Even-Shoshan suggests a similarity to Opus, an excellent literary work or masterpiece].
by Ben-Zion Krieger
Translated by Selwyn Rose
To write about Jaroslaw that means returning some 50 years ago and scrutinizing a generation of life in the Zionist movement with all its events, hesitations and doubts, while at the center of the Movement, in which I took my first steps as a young student of 11 in the Akiva Youth Movement.
More than once, I held my pen trying to penetrate the mists and re-enter the beautiful days of the flourishing of the Zionist idea. During the time I was a high school student, little did I understand the purpose of the movement, and that the desire to return to Zion was but a dream.
To my sorrow, I was lacking the ability to recall the thoughts and memories looking back over 50 years until I attended a concert of the Israeli Symphony Orchestra, in the Haifa auditorium. Isaac Stern, the world famous violinist performed a concert of works by Mozart. The sounds of the music of Mozart took me all the way back the hall of Akiva which was at the time still in diapers where tens of members were sitting and listening, as one of the Movement's founders of the Jaroslaw branch, Ḥaim Shpringer was playing that same piece of music.
From that moment on, I loved music although I failed to understand the content of the concert. One thing was clear to me: I felt close to all those that absorbed the sounds and understood that I was a member of a large family destined to build a new life, an eternal life based on Jewish values.
And here begins my personal history, which is linked to the history of the Zionist movement in our city, including the Zionist youth movement Akiva, which was founded in those days and included youth who either studied or were workers from all walks of life.
Its founders were academics from Kraków among them were Dr. Y. Freund (ZL), Yehuda Orenstein, (may he be preserved for a long life), Yoel Dreiblatt and Moshe Zinger. The Movement quickly spread throughout western Galicia and its ideologies reached our town. I recall names like Yitzhak Horowitz, Z. Ludman, Y. Margolis, Ḥaim Shpringer, David Rubin and others. They, students at the high school, headed the Movement and it was clear to them that Zionism must rise and develop into a movement that will provide the masses of Israel in the Diaspora, with armor against the anti-Semitism, aimed at the extermination of the Jewish people.
And indeed that is what happened; the match was struck and ignited the hearts and the ranks of the Zionist Movement
First row: Elke Kalchheim
Second row: Attorney Horowitz, Y. Zielinkowski, Simha Graff, Devora Hilfstein
Third row: H. Shtricks, B. Shlisselburg, S. Lieberman
grew, with youth movements that raised the flag of Love of the People the flag of General Zionism.
I do not cry over Jaroslaw, a town in the Diaspora, over the daily realities of our lives, over the anti-Semitic Christians. My heart grieves and bleeds for the beautiful Jewish people who were and who no longer are, for the town that I loved, for in it I was educated and grew up and dreamed, in which I found my spiritual world. We loved our town, Jaroslaw, its centuries-long history of tradition of Jewish life.
From the age of eleven, my life and the lives of others became connected to Akiva. With the passage of time, members gradually left. Some of them went on to serve the progressive ideologies of the socialistic-Marxist movements, others left because they could neither understand nor encompass the Zionist ideas to their satisfaction but many joined with me and we continued on to the end, until the fulfillment
of the ideology that led us to the Land of Israel, some to the kibbutzim of Hashomer Hatza'ir some to the Betar Movement and some to the General Zionists.
The Jewish youth movement Akiva arose during what were in any case, hard days for the Zionist movements. In those days, ways were being sought of realizing the Zionist ideology. There were those Zionists who thought to base the movement on cosmopolitan or socialist thinking and others who saw in the Zionist movement a continuation of the eternal cultural and spiritual life of the Jewish people, that without the love of Jewish values would bring about the collapse of the entire structure and gave up. A body without a soul. That group of youth educated by the ideology of Ahad Ha'am and the love of Israel. With these ideas, we went out into the Jewish street in order to conquer the youngsters.
We went through a period of hard divisions but I admit that there were no differences of opinion amongst us because the general Zionist youth ideology was clear and unequivocal and therefore there is sorrow for the time and effort wasted.
The Akiva Movement was involved in all the efforts and activities of the
Standing: Jozek Zielenkowski
Sitting from right to left: Mundek Kremer, Akiba Katz, Shlomo Mercel, Benek Krieger, A. Zimmerman, Moniak Halberthal
Zionist movement in order to introduce the wider public of our town to the Zionist ideas which were well-received and the number of friends of the Movement grew from day to day.
The Jewish public was deeply concerned with the difficult fight for survival and was not open to the Zionist ideas. Students of the Yeshivot rejected the Zionist idea of the Return to Zion. Nevertheless, the youngsters and the town's activists who already had a taste of the poisonous anti-Semitism, began slowly to draw closer to the ranks of the Zionist movement and on more than one occasion, their halls were filled with both young and old who came to hear lectures from leaders of the Zionist movement and warning speeches that captured the attention but also provoked bitter arguments.
We cooperated with all the Zionist streams. We had meetings with other youth movements like Hashomer Hatza'ir, Gordonia, and Heḥalutz, the revisionist movement and the ideological arguments were rich in content and everyone was convinced of the rightness of their several views.
I remember the big party we had celebrating the tenth anniversary of the founding of Akiva. We went out to show the population of the town our strength in numbers and quality. Its organization of the excellent exhibition by its students, its conference of local members with the participation of the leaders of the General Zionist Movement led at the time by our friends, Mrs. F Mohrenberg, Dr. Rozenblitt and many other invitees. That same evening, we held a gala rally in the Harutzim meeting-hall, with folk-dancing and a display of art-work and lectures.
The ten years of our existence were proof that our direction was right. At this time, our first group of members from the Movement fulfilled their dream and made Aliyah to the Land of Israel.
But the heavens darkened and the Hitlerite beast threatened the very physical existence of our Jewish people.
Out of responsibility for the people, the entire movement and among them the local branch of Jaroslaw, harnessed itself to warn everyone of the danger looming over us. Delegates from the Movement went out among the people and urged them to join the ranks of Zionism, to leave the Diaspora and save our existence and our souls. The Jaroslaw branch was significantly active in that field.
We were not a large group of zealots, who, with their exuberant enthusiasm were prepared to sacrifice all they had, everything dear to them. The fanatic belief and boundless dedication of the leadership of our branch, like Dov Winter, Shlomo Marcel, Akiva Katz (the last two are now in Neve Eitan), Y. Lieberman and their lead Yosef Zielenkowski placed the Movement at the head of the warriors in our town and the region.
Who among us doesn't remember Saturday nights and our Oneg Shabbat when we sat together in our branch
on Waska Street, close to each other in heart and soul, with songs of our faith and Jewish melodies echoed off the building's walls and our spiritual enthusiasm caused everyone to dance!? Yes we were fanatics in our romantic mission and it was that which granted us strength for the beautiful future. It was our strength and spiritual fortitude.
At the age of 16 we were still very young and naïve, but old enough to manage not only a branch of several hundred members, but also to take upon ourselves the entire region, from
Sitting from R. to L.: Moshe Fierer, Benek Krieger, Izak Lieberman, Wilek Kluberg
Standing: Lonek Pokard, Chaskiel Fogel, Buch, Bunio Zimmerman, Josef Balibach, X, X, Benjamin Stecher
Jaroslaw to Rzeszów (Raysha), a county with wonderful, motivated youngsters, pioneers, students and workers, traders and academics.
Our attitude towards religion attracted traditional and also religious youth, who found in the Akiva branch their new home and in their counselors dedicated souls, because for us, Zionism was a kind of continuation of the life of the people of Israel, with its aspirations for the recreation of new Jewish values that correspond to our times. In that area
Ahad Ha'am was a great help because his writings were for us a template and guide-book and represented a deep source from which we drew great inspiration.
Our life-style and Zionist activities awoke great interest among older Zionists and we found among them many intent listeners. Thus, it is fitting to mention the activities of the Movement's Dr. Schwartz, Dr. Rozenblitt, Mrs. F. Mohrenberg and many others who often visited us, danced with us and spent many hours in mutual conversation and ideological arguments.
The years flew by and we matured and finished school. Some of our friends went on to university to continue studying; some immigrated to Palestine to fulfill the Zionist ideal.
With the exodus of the elders, they were replaced with the younger members among us and so, after Y. Zielenkowski left for the Land of Israel, it fell upon the present writer of these few lines, to lead the Movement. In 1935, I too made Aliyah and the management of the Region was placed in the faithful hands of Moshe Kalchheim, at present the spokesman for the Jewish Agency in Israel.
We educated a wonderful generation of youth, a generation of youth with Jewish hearts, dedicated and faithful to its people. We will not get into the actual debate if our path, in light of the reality in the country, was right. One thing is certain and sure all those who realized the right to live and to breathe the air of the Land of Israel, of the State of Israel, recall with great fondness those beautiful days in which they spent their time in the family circle of Akiva, its meetings, its summer camps and conventions, nature outings, fruitful lectures and arguments on religion, orthodoxy, the existence of the People of Israel, with their eyes towards Zion and Jerusalem.
The youth movements that came into existence in our town Jaroslaw ignited a ray of light in the darkness that lay around. It is only sad that those same members who were unable to realize their dream and were unable to make their Aliyah because of the destructive policies of the Mandatory Government, that prevented thousands of Zionists to achieve that dream. To my great sorrow, they also were among the millions exterminated and destroyed by Israel's evil tyrant, Hitler - may his name be erased and perish from memory.
There was Polish Jewry and among them the Jews of Jaroslaw that are no more.
by Ephraim (Philip) Baumgarten
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The Jaroslaw branch of the Young Zionists was created from a small kernel of Young Zionists and the organization Mutual Aid, whose members were students of high schools in town.
The idea to establish this movement came from David Rubin (ZL). Y. Zielenkowski, Chico Schleider and T. Plesser worked together with him on the project. He was the head of a small group of members of Young Zionists and worked to expand the framework of the Movement by adding students who were members of the Mutual Aid group who had no consolidated leaders.
Their first clubhouse was located on Pruchnicka Street, close to the railroad station. In the beginning, the clubhouse was shared by both movements of the Zionist youngsters, that of the Young Zionists and that of the Samopoc (mutual aid) and therefore each group gathered on different weekdays for their individual activities. That was in the early 1930's.
After some clarifications and conversations with the youngsters, David Rubin wished for them to join the Zionist youth movement and merge together with them. The operation was successful. The Zionist Youth Movement came into being and in time competed with the larger Zionist Youth movements like Akiva
The activities of the Zionist Youth continued to grow and expand. Its club first transferred to Rynek Street (the home of Dr. Kremer) and later to Trybulanska Street and finally, until the outbreak of war to Grodzka Street.
I recall important events in the life of the Movement.
I remember the visit of Dr. Mosensohn, the principal of the Tel-Aviv Hertzliya gymnasium to the youth club in 1933 was a highly treasured event.
The lecturer, who bore a resemblance to Herzl, stood alongside a photograph of the founder of the Zionist Federation and spoke about Zionism. I remember it was a Shabbat morning. His speech was in Hebrew and it was translated into Polish by one of our leading members. I can't remember who translated the speeches either Ephraim Steinbock or Moshe Halberthal. Both of them excelled in their knowledge of the language and were capable of offering faithful translations.
Another important event was a branch assembly in Yad Harutzim in which Yitzhak Steiger, at the time head of the world Zionist movement, took part.
The preparations for this event took at least six months and caused a lot of tension among the members of the branch. Immigration to Palestine of members, after they had completed their training was a highlight in the life of the branch. I remember among them were our members Ḥaim Kremer and Shimon Pastor. Ḥaim Kremer is particularly worthy of mention because of his legacy and faithfulness to the movement and friends.
Immediately upon his arrival in Israel, he joined the Kibbutz and was sent to work together with Yitzhak Steiger. While he was in Haifa, he suffered a lot because of his association with the Federation of General Zionists and for a long time was without employment. Neither of these two is still alive. The Young Zionists Movement organized summer camps and members of our town's branch also took part. I recall my participation in a summer camp near the town of Krosno
Second row from the top, standing from left to right: L Steinbock, M. Halberthal and the last on the left, A. Baumgarten
Among those in the center: Avraham Zimmerman
Sitting in the bottom row center: Peled
led by Yitzhak Golan, today a member of the Knesset, and a camp for Movement leaders in the Carpathians. Although the most beautiful period of all was the work camp at a farm near the town of Gorlice (Gorlitza) under the leadership of Agronomist Bauer. At the time there was a group working there in agricultural training for immigration to kibbutz life in Palestine. The time I spent there was one of the most impressive and beautiful periods of my life.
Our branch of the Movement in Jaroslaw organized a camp in a village for a few days. A great effort
was put into the organization of the camp and its content. We rented two houses in the village intended as living-quarters for the group during the camp. When we arrived at the village and settled into the place, we were hindered by a gang of Polish hooligans who showered us with stones and forced us to shorten our stay there. We sadly had to cancel that program as it had been planned and were forced to return home the following morning.
During the years I was head of the branch, we were visited by Dr. Israel Som of Lvov. It was a period of crisis for the branch after the founders of the branch in the city were forced to leave. Some immigrated to Israel and others went to training camps. The new branch leadership was staffed by young people who had no time to learn from the experience of the previous leadership.
It is fitting to compliment the earlier leaders: David Rubin, Moshe Halberthal, Avraham Zimmerman and Ephraim Steinbock.
Among the central operatives of the Movement's branch were: Yosef Ahrenthal, Ḥaim Kremer, Leon Sonnenblik and Shmuel Guttman. In addition to those mentioned there were other active members like Arieh Magram, Bluma Waltzer, Regina Friedberg, Oleg Hess, D. Lipper and H. Wolf.
The branch published a news-letter containing articles written by members of the Movement.
The many contributions of our Movement did much to define the profile of our town's youth. It saved our youth from assimilation and emptiness, brought us into closer contact with the love of our people and the Land of Israel and provided content in life.
When the war broke out, all the organizations and movements collapsed but the members of our Movement demonstrated a faith that in time the idealism of Zionism and the State of Israel will arise and exist. The members of the Movement, even in the most difficult of times of life, days of hunger and suffering, never forgot the Zionist education they had received in the Movement and drew from it strength and encouragement for the future...
by Dov Narzisenfeld, USA
Translated by Selwyn Rose
When one sees in today's Israel the Israel Defense Forces and Gadna, it is difficult to believe that in the not long distant past, about 35 years ago, in exile in Poland, there were young Jewish dreamers who envisioned that in the not too distant future there would arise a Jewish State in which there would be a proud Jewish army.
During the period that Betar in Poland was experiencing many ups and downs, the movement existed in Jaroslaw with a strong influence on Jewish National life in the town. The Movement educated and introduced military training with actual military equipment: rifles and live ammunition, grenades and stones. Jaroslaw was the first town to achieve this under the leadership of the Jaroslaw Branch.
Sitting from the right: Engleberg, T, Ingbar, Dym
Standing in uniform: Enk Glat
We must eternalize here, in the Memorial Book of Jaroslaw, one of the dreamers mentioned above, the leader and commander of Betar Jaroslaw at the time, Dr. Nahum Tanzer (or, as he was called - Nushek Tanzer), for it was he, with his boundless enthusiasm brought about that at the expense of the Polish government and military sources, and Polish officers
as inspectors, trained Jewish boys and girls in the use of weapons and military discipline. It is with thanks to him and other young Jewish leaders, that several young Jewish organized groups, among them Betar, marched through the streets of Jaroslaw in military uniforms, with rifles on their shoulders and alongside the Polish eagle on their berets the Betar insignia. Thus, they marched three times a year, on the 3rd of May, the 11th of November and on Youth Sports Day. I am certain that even though the official Zionist bodies, the playing games with guns was a bit of a joke, many Jews secretly shed a tear, and quietly mumbled the prayer: My only wish is that Jewish State with a real Jewish army would soon be established! Many at the time sensed the coming of the Messiah. It was satisfying to see, a platoon of 50-70 proud young Jews dreamt, with Dr. Tanzer at their head, marching through the streets of Jaroslaw to the sound of a militsry band of the Third Polish Legion, with the knowledge they are fulfilling a mission, knowing that in the not too distant future those same youngsters (just slightly older), or their children following in their footsteps, will be marching through the streets of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem in a Free Jewish State. And thus, it came to pass only sadly many of those dreamers never came to realize their dream. Let us remember the six-million Holy Martyrs, among them one of the first victims: Dr. Naḥum Tanzer.
The Betar Movement during the 1930's
I must mention another personality from among the Jaroslaw young people of the 1930's, and that is the teacher and ideologue of the Jaroslaw Betar, Yosef Ingvar. He held Hebrew courses for beginners and advanced students and also courses in original interpretations of the Bible and his young pupils drank thirstily his words. The lessons were given to interested members in the Betar club-house or in his parents' home a private personal group (the Hertzliya group that was well-known in Jaroslaw). I want to mention here the people of that group that survived: David Aizman, Ya'acov Prinz, Dov Nartzenfeld and Mendel Schleider. S. Weintraub and Yisrael Mueller are no longer alive and not long ago Michael Fleischer passed away. And who doesn't remember Yitzhak Ingvar (or as he was called Isaac), the musician who, with a mandolin in his hand he sang songs he had composed accompanying himself on the mandolin. He composed songs in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish both the lyrics and the music. These melodies later became the general heritage of all without them knowing who the composer was.
That same Isaac Ingvar was also the founder (together with the musician P. Kartz) and organizer of the mandolin orchestra Zamir and later HaNigun, numbering about 150 members. The orchestra was the pride of Jaroslaw for its unforgettable presentations in the Yad Harutzim hall. And we will also remember Yitzhak Ingvar as the teacher of many young people who perished along with millions of Jews in the Holocaust.
May his soul be remembered for a blessing.
by Maximilian Meister
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The Jewish population of Jaroslaw, a suburban town in the Lvov region, numbered about 10,000 souls from a total population of 30,000 residents. The main occupations of the Jews were various branches of business and commerce and artisans. It is appropriate to mention that Jewish professionals in Jaroslaw were known for their high standard of professionalism and their work won for them the right to market their goods beyond the town's borders.
Thanks to the tolerant nature of the Austrian regime under whose authority Jaroslaw remained until 1918 the budding Jewish intelligentsia appeared, mainly comprised of doctors and lawyers and very few were engineers. Very few of these professionals were offered government posts. Among these few, it is worth mentioning the names of Dr, Leon Yarazowitz, who officiated as regional Judge; the engineer Gariski who was the railroad inspector, a few mail inspectors like Sphatt, Kurtzman and director of the Presidential Office of the sub-district court, Schmalzbach. It is also appropriate to mention the name of the long-serving Mayor of Jaroslaw and the Chairman of the Community Council, Julius Strisower among the wealthy of town and one of the donors and founders of the Jewish orphanage.
The establishment of the independent State of Poland in 1918 was a turning point in the public life of the Jews. It was then that the Jewish youth began streaming to the high-schools in large numbers. In Jaroslaw there were two government gymnasia for the youth a classic gymnasium in which Greek and Latin were part of the obligatory curriculum and a high-school that later became known as the Gymnasium of Natural Studies and Mathematics where the teaching language was French; the School of Engineering; the School of Commerce and Business where both boys and girls were taught and also a private gymnasium for girls. And a teachers' training college for girls.
Even Jewish parents of restricted means made strenuous efforts to provide secondary education for their children, especially to send their children to the classical Gymnasium at the end of which it was possible for them to continue on to the universities of Lvov and Krakow.
Even the Numerus Clausus in the higher educational institutions law failed to prevent
the drive for academic learning and therefore many young Jews were forced to transfer to far distant colleges for studies in medicine, like Bratislava, Prague and Italy.
In order to extend assistance to the youngsters studying in the universities a society Academic Assistance, was established with the target of collecting money to finance and provide loans to the needy students. The Society followed a similar society in Lvov that stretched out a helping hand with financial assistance to the students. Initially, the association confined itself to fundraising and proceeds from holding annual New Year's Eve parties. However, the gathering of donations involved many difficulties, since all the Jewish associations - various charities and political organizations - followed this path. As a result, the income for the academic coffers was modest in the extreme and the help given to the young pupils was similarly reduced.
The turning point in the mobilization of cash began in about 1922, when the youth graduates of the Gymnasiums began to discover artistic talents.
It is worthwhile pointing out that there was a strong urge among the youth to acquire an education. The Jewish parents wanted their children learn to play the violin, the piano, clarinet and so on. The pleasant and comforting atmosphere of the classical Gymnasium was an added aid. In that Gymnasium were two orchestras brass band and symphony. The best violinists and wind instrumentalists were Jewish and even the conductors of these orchestras were, for many years, Jews. Here is the place to mention names of a few conspicuous instrumentalists: K. Taubenfeld and his brother, Zigmund, who were conductors of the wind-instrument orchestra; H. Dorenfeld, H. Schlafrig-Shpringer, P. Mohrenberg, P. Karp were conductors of the symphony orchestra Otto Schorr, an excellent violinist and his brother Yulek (Yulian), clarinetist; Y. Huttner (piccolo) and many others whose names, unfortunately, I can no longer remember.
It is interesting that an annual tradition existed to commemorate the memory of Yehuda Halevi. In the organization of this annual event, the students of the pre-graduation class invested much effort, receiving welfare assistance from the guardian of the Gymnasium orchestra, Professor Adamski. The program of the assembly was comprised of an opening speech in Polish, a recital of one of Yehuda Halevy's poems in Hebrew, a musical offering from the symphony orchestra created especially for the event where the members were only Jews and a skit, like the first act of the play Uriel da Costa.
But let us return to our academic youth. As stated above, in 1922, the students became active in supporting the Academic Society of Self-Help. Among them were Julius Kessler, a law student and gifted poet; L. Metzger and Yuzek Teitel (Tarczewski), a law student and other gifted vocalist, who sang accompanied by a guitar; Y. Neuberg, a student at the Polytechnic and others.
It is worth noting, that while every single one of them had a specific political orientation with a particular party, within the framework of the Society they all functioned together as a team without any relevance to the political leanings that they may have held. They are the ones who ended up deciding to put an end to what was called in the simple language of the street as begging, and to achieve financing by providing artistic performances for the Jewish public.
The first appearance was The Jaroslaw Puppets, with lovely puppets designed by Y. Neuberg modeled on popular Jaroslaw personalities like, Julius Strisower the Chairman of the community and Deputy Mayor; Dr. Spatz, the doctor and Chairman of the Jaroslaw Histadrut Federation; Doctor Ludwig Blumenfeld, lawyer and active in the Poalei Zion movement and many others. Olek Kessler composed the comic script in which he exaggerated certain specific elements of these characters' profiles. L. Metzger and Y. Teitel imitated the characters' voices while operating the puppets' strings at the same time.
The play was a great success both in its production as well as financially and the Yad Harutzim hall
Top row first from the left: Arnold
Second row sitting center: Dr. David Turnheim
was full to capacity. So the performance was repeated, although a few of the local dignitaries felt themselves somewhat hurt, they pinched their cheeks to provoke a blush and look tolerant in the face of the youthful antics.
The success of the production encouraged the initiative of the group and they decided to stage a full-scale show. Once again, Olek Kessler wrote an appropriate script for different skits performed with great humor by M. Sonnenstein, a pharmacy student and Y. Teitel and L. Metzger sang the melodies composed by Kessler. The production was a huge success and the revenues were also significant and its echoes reached Przemyśl, where they requested a performance. In order to increase the earnings from the performances the scenery constructed by Shionek Neuberg was sent by wagon that was provided free by Z. Ringel a pharmacy student. On the way to Przemyśl (36 km.), a heavy rainstorm completely destroyed the scenery that was constructed of painted packing paper. It is easy to picture the despair of the cast. One of the older members of the group who lived permanently in Katowice, the engineer Bratshpis, took the trouble to go all the way to Przemyśl in order to see the performance. When he saw the tragedy of the scenery he decided to work with Shionek and remake new scenery, (all he asked was a quarter of a liter of vodka). They immediately rolled their sleeves up and within only four hours, the eye beheld new scenery.
One of the skits in the show was The Illusions of a Condemned Man. The role was played by a handsome youth named N. Tanzer who sees through an opening in the scenery a platoon of soldiers coming to take him to the place of execution. The script created by A. Kessler, if my memory is correct, was spoken by L. Metzger. The scenery was made up of two sections, one secured by the engineer Bratshpis and the second by one of the cast. Because the engineer at the time was a little tipsy having had one too many shots of vodka, he lost his grip one of the scenery sections and it fell, sending impressive shock-waves throughout the hall. Although not scripted it was considered an addition to the performance and retained in future performances with great effect.
During the period when M. Meister, the law student, was Chairman of the Academic Student Aid Society for a number of years, there were two or three artistic performances each year which significantly improved the Society's balance. Although when the members and initiators of the group completed their studies in the universities and began to involve themselves in their various professions, their enthusiasm for their artistic performances began to wane. The students who came after them
failed to exhibit the same enthusiasm in organizing and producing performances and resumed the old style of collecting funds. It was only in 1929, when the Academic Student Aid Society finally dissolved and no one tried to resuscitate it, a group of left-leaning youngsters decided to renew artistic productions.
Only because the inter-party frictions were so conspicuous compared to the earlier period, it was decided that the Society should be chaired by the non-aligned Zigmund Taubenfeld, while the members of the committee were the left-leaning M. Gersten, P. Karp and the writer of these few lines. Within one year of its existence, three full productions were mounted one of which O Mona was received with great acclaim and a repeat performance. These performances were also significantly successful financially and provided assistance to the students. The assistance took the form of loans of up to 150 Złoti for a trimester. The loans were repayable by monthly installments after the completion of studies over a period of 10 years.
It is appropriate to mention the names of two people who staged two productions without any personal recompense the Postal Inspector Sphatt and the proprietor of the photographic studio Mr. Ziegler.
As a result of World War Two the youth found themselves dispersed to the four corners of the world. Many perished on the battle-field, and many found their death in the extermination camps and others still died a natural death or in the labor camps of Siberia. Many arrived in Israel and live there, while still others made their home in the different countries of the world.
After the Six-Day War and the break in diplomatic relations between Israel and Poland, a conference was held in the classical Gymnasium of Jaroslaw of the graduating class of the 1928-1929 school year. The only Jew in attendance was the writer of these few lines. The list of graduating students was read, and as expressed in the jokes at the time, Jews and Ukrainians constituted the national majority. In addition to the writer, there were only three other surviving students: O. Zilberman, B. Metzger, today living in Haifa and M. Keilitz who is a dentist in Bari, Italy.
These few memories are nothing but a miniscule offering of the total contribution of the Jewish youth to the cultural life of Jaroslaw.
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