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Preface

The Editorial Board

The Remembrance Yizkor Book of the Jaroslav Jewish community is one of the numerous volumes dedicated to the many communities in Poland destroyed in the Holocaust. It is part of the general project of remembrance books intended to memorialise the extinct Jewry of Poland.

The Jaroslav Remembrance Book is the collective effort of scores of contributors, townspeople who drew on their memory and information about the splendid Jewish community and the city of Jaroslav itself. The pages of this book contain the annals of one of Jewry's oldest settlement points in Poland and much work has gone into penetrating the records of the history of the community as well as of its personalities and leaders of all types and colorations.

The book represents an attempt to summarise the 500 years of the community's existence in Jaroslav. While presenting this community as an ancient and influential community in the overall context of Polish Jewry, we have also depicted the uniqueness and individual image.

The book has been written chapter upon chapter in Hebrew and Yiddish, so as to make its contents known to the older generations as well as to Israel's native born. Inasmuch as we have found it impossible to publish most of the material also in English, we have decided to present a general abbreviated survey of the history of the community, its achievements and public affairs between the two World Wars.


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Introduction

The Committee of the Jaroslav
Townspeople in Israel

This volume, the Book of Remembrance of the Jaroslav Jewish community, is making its appearance much belatedly. By this time, hundreds of such communities in Poland and the lives of their Jews have been memorialised through monuments and books of remembrance. We were greatly disturbed by the thought that unless an adequate effort was made now, at the very last moment, to publish such a volume in memory of our Jaroslav, no trace would remain of one of Poland's outstanding Jewish communities. As is known, our town contained a Jewish population for five hundred years. It was the seat of the “Synod of the Four Lands”, and it was known far and wide for its sages and leaders; more than once its Jews were chosen to represent Polish Jewry.

The work involved in the publication of this volume was not easy. The material in its pages was compiled thanks to the perseverance and diligence of several of our townspeople. At first, we turned to all of them with a request for articles, memoirs and diaries. The response, we must admit, was weak. People claimed that their memory had failed them; some promised to furnish material but did not keep their word, for several reasons. Only a few score from among the hundreds responded and sent some material, which we studied carefully, selecting whatever was appropriate for the purpose. We received material in Polish, Yiddish and English, all of which had to be faithfully translated into Hebrew.

It should be said that the memoirs, few as they were, reflected a great love and affection for our town. Many of its Jews, we found, still carried about with them the memo –

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ries of their childhood days and they wrote with great pride about the excellent and splendour of Jaroslav.

The Jaroslav Book of Remembrance deals mainly with the history of Jewish life in our town during the last 50–60 years of its existence. It does not engage in Jewish life prior to World War I, and concerns itself only slightly with Jewish life under the Nazi in the period during World War II.

The Jews of Jaroslav were expelled from the town by the Germans in the first weeks of the occupation, to the other side of the San River – to the boundary line separating the Polish territories occupied by the Germans and by the Russians. Thenceforth, the fate of Jaroslav's Jews was not that of an entity but as of individuals, who shared it with Jews from other towns and cities under Soviet rule. In those cities our townspeople found temporary respite as refugees until the outbreak of the Russo–German fighting in 1941. In Jaroslav itself, only a handful of Jews was left. It is for this reason that the volume does not contain memoirs from the Nazi occupation period other than a brief story of the Jews in the town during the short period until the expulsion, as well as accounts of several individuals who found their way to Soviet Russia and the anti–Nazi partisans.

This volume comes to fulfil a sacred duty, to serve as a witness to what was once the Jewry of Jaroslav. It comes to serve as a monument to the town's splendid Jewish community so that future generations may get an inkling of its Jewish life – gracious, warm and fruitful.

It is our pleasure to acknowledge, at this point, the help and assistance tendered by the members of the Editorial Board:

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Moshe ‘Mundek’ Hebenstreit, Chairman of the Jaroslav Townspeople Association in Israel. Stirred by the proposed publication of this volume, he contributed much to its realisation, sparing neither time nor effort in compiling and sifting the material. He also wrote much of the material and was always available for meetings and consultations.

Moshe Kalcheim. Blessed with a phenomenal memory, he has retained every detail of public events in Jaroslav and of its daily life. He wrote a good deal of the material, spent much time preparing it for the press and left the imprint of his own comments on every page. Without his active assistance, we could not have achieved the exactness of the facts and events related in this volume.

Special appreciation is due to Dov (Berek) Fruchtman, for his diligent work in translating some of the material and helping the undertaking to come to fruition. He also did some of the writing.

The Jaroslav townspeople in Israel wish to thank one of their distinguished members, Rabbi Moshe Steinberg of Kiryat Yam for his gracious consent to the inclusion, in this volume, of a large portion of his comprehensive essay on the history of Jaroslav Jewry. Thanks are also due to Yosef Palant and Avraham Königsberg for their diligent work in Haifa on behalf of the volume.

Our gratitude also goes to Raiska Kostman and Asher–Simcha Graf for their work in carrying the volume through its final processes. We wish to pay tribute

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to the memory of the late Yosef Narziesenfeld, one of the first initiators of the Jaroslav Book of Remembrance. Finally, we wish to express our thanks and gratitude to Mr. Yitzhak Alperowitz, the editor of the volume who spared neither time nor talent in seeing it through the production stages, to its attractive and admirable publication.

We extend our thanks to all who toiled in the task of creating this Book of Remembrance, those in Israel and those abroad.

May this volume be an everlasting memorial.


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From the Editorial Board

It is with great reverence and respect that we present this Book of Remembrance of the Jaroslav Jewish community to its survivors in Israel and abroad.

This volume commemorates one of the oldest and most resplendent Jewish communities in Poland whose existence was terminated by the Nazi foe. Many generations, long gone and recent, meet our eyes from its pages; generations of Jews of all kinds and types: rabbis, scholars, intellectuals, Zionist leaders and community workers – they, who for centuries, illumined Jaroslav and its surroundings.

Jaroslav was a bustling, effervescent town. It raised devoted Jews, were they sages and dignitaries or plain folk, full of love for Israel and deep attachment to Zion.

Jewish Jaroslav! You were our abode and our mother for you gave birth to a unique way of life and conduct, in your desire to become an exemplary cultural centre for all and everyone around you. Your people created your coloration, bringing into it the new culture of the west, of those days. You were a town of commerce and craftsmanship, of Torah and intellect. You raised generations of proud Jews, self–respecting and reliant, permeated with Jewish and human values.

This magnificent edifice has been demolished and destroyed.

Images long forgotten emerge in the pages of this volumes; yesterday has come to life. Particles of the community's way of life rise to the surface. In this volume, we have attempted to tell about the values with which we were

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reared, the synagogues, educational institutions, youth movements and the political factions. We have tried to restore chapters from the life of the town, material and spiritual, creative and constructive.

This volume does not presume to reflect all the variegated forms of life, as lived by the Jews of our town – merely a tiny portion of its experiences, nor do we presume to have succeeded in depicting the entire gamut of life, events and accomplishments. The sources have not sufficed nor do the limitations of this volume allow it. Withal, we have striven to have the volume encompass and mirror Jaroslav Jewry in all its ramifications, currents and movements from the inception of the community to its final destruction. We have also see to it that every bit of writing should be as authentic and authoritative as possible.

It should be said, however, that despite all our efforts, we have not been able to obtain appropriate material about several personalities, institutions, organizations and societies which occupied positions of importance in the life of the Jaroslav Jewish community. May the virtues of commission redeem the faults of omission.

Special attention is given in this volume to comprehensive articles about outstanding and unforgettable periods in the history of the Jaroslav community. Also included are brief articles by the survivors of the community who thus expressed their feeling of longing for the homes where they were born and the community in which they were raised, now in ruins.

May this volume be an Eternal Light to the memory of the saintly martyrs.

Tel–Aviv, 1978 (5738)

The Editors


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Jaroslav: Its History and Jewish Community

Yitzhak Alperowitz

Jaroslav is one of Poland's oldest cities with a history which goes back 800 years and a Jewish community which existed there for five centuries exerting a marked influence on Poland's entire Jewry during those generations.

The exact date of Jaroslav's founding is not known but it is surmised that its name is derived from the Russian Prince Jaroslav who annexed the lands of Przemysl to his principality and gave his name to the place. However, there is no historical vindication of this assumption.

Jaroslav was known as a major commercial centre. This reputation was established already in the 16th century thanks to the big fairs which it held during the summer months. These lasted three to four weeks and attracted merchants not only from Poland itself but also from Turkey, Persia, Spain and the Arab lands. On this occasion, Jaroslav housed 30,000 merchants, among them many Jews from Poland and elsewhere. The outstanding fair was held in the month of Elul when the “Synod of the Four Lands” held its sessions.

In the Jewish world, Jaroslav was known for many centuries as a centre of rabbinic scholarship. Its rabbis and sages served as the spiritual leaders of the Jaroslav Jewish community, but their work and influence extended throughout Poland. We know of their activities from the books and manuscripts which have come down to us, as well as from the community records of their participation in the sessions of the “Synod of the Four Lands” held in Jaroslav.

The image of the community is reflected in internal and external information gleaned from many sources, and its

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own history of progress and change is a faithful replica of the changes which took place in Polish Jewry. At the same time, its own vicissitudes were outstanding both in their communal/economic development as well as its social/cultural growth. The Jaroslav community took active interest in the affairs of its sister communities in Poland and Russia. Its character showed the impress of both Hasidism and Enlightenment. Most of all, Jaroslav was one of the cities in which Zionism was more than a popular movement; for many individuals, this movement was a personal experience.

*

The beginnings of the Jaroslav Jewish community are shrouded in the mist of the Middle Ages. Up to the middle of the 15th century, there is no mention of any Jewish habitation in its confines. The first authoritative information about the settling of Jews in Jaroslav dates back to 1464. Growth, however, was very slow: in 1561 there were only two Jews in the town. For many years the town fathers denied Jews the right of domicile using as a barrier the privilege of “de non tolerandis Judaeis” which the other residents received in 1571 from the town's governor. This measure stipulated that no more than one Jewish house, two at the most, would be allowed in the town. The Jews were forced to submit to this edict and to settle in the suburbs, particularly the Russian suburb of Flakinia.

As of the beginning of the 17th century, however, there was a continuing stream of Jews into the town. It may be assumed that in the 1630's there already existed in Jaroslav a Jewish community worthy of the name. As the number of Jews increased, King Wladislaw IV issued a privilege in 1638 which made the Jaroslav Jewish community an independent branch of the Przemysl central community.

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The Chmielnicki riots in 1648–49 caused an upheaval in Polish Jewry. Jaroslav's Jews were among the victims of the Cossack savagery. No less harsh were the incursions of the Swedish forces in 1656 and the Rakoczy gangs, which pillaged and destroyed the property of the town's residents. Beginning with 1772 and for 150 years thereafter, the city was ruled by the Austrians. This transfer of authority was accompanied by many essential changes: the city was detached from Poland, with which it had strong economic ties, and this led to a decline in trade and commerce.

In the second half of the 18th century, the Jewish community of Jaroslav blossomed forth, numbering 1,884 souls, according to statistics dating to 1765. Originally forbidden to live in the centre of the city (on such streets as Spitka, Opolska, Lubelska, Sobieski and especially Rynek), the Jews slowly began to penetrate into the area. The Jewish population increased during the next 100 years; 1872 figures showed more than 4,500 Jews in the city. The Jewish community became organized and elections were held, for the first time (October 5, 1876) to a Community Council of 16. Dr. Frenkel was elected Chairman of the Council and Dr. Emil Gottlieb was the vice–chairman. Also around this time, Jaroslav was given the standing of a free city, and it also became the county seat. It received further impetus in 1860 when the Krakow–Przemysl railway line was extended to include it in the railway network. But while the Jewish population also benefited from this development, its growth caused tension between the Christians and the Jews. As a result, the Jewish community lived in the shadow of constant fear and instability. But even as they had to maintain vigilance in this never–ending struggle, the Jews were able to do well materially and gain control of the commerce branch.

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Part of the market square

 

The 15 years (1889–1905) that Heinrich Strizower was Chairman of the Council were a period of creative construction. During his tenure of office, a new Bet–Hamidrash replaced the old one. A two–grade school financed by Baron de Hirsch was built on the grounds of the Talmud Torah; an old folks home was erected; the road to the cemetery was paved; the Main Synagogue was refurbished and a resolution was adopted to build a poultry abattoir, put up a new public bathhouse and the like.

World War I years (1914–1918) caused a havoc in the city which was on the front line of the Austro–Russian fighting, near the San River. The urban population suffered from a shortage of food and vital items. The Community Council decided to establish a special fund to help low–income

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families (regardless of religion) whose fathers and sons were serving in the army.

In October 1918 when the war ended, Jaroslav again became an integral part of Poland. During the first years after the war, the city enjoyed a swift population growth. From the 1920's to the mid 1930's, despite the atheistic trend of the Polish Government and the anti–Semitic forms which it took, by way of the infamous “Ozon” provisions, the Jews managed to have a deciding vote in the city's economic affairs and left their mark on commerce, industry and other economic pursuits. Most of the industrial enterprises (about 80%), were owned by Jews. Trade, banking and light industry grew swiftly. The city was joined to the electrical grid and a commercial centre, Halla Targowa, was erected. Among the major factories owned by Jews were the Salik–Reif ribbons plant, Gurgul's biscuit factory, the Glassberg and Korn flour mills, a meat processing plant, a brick yard and others.

The end of the fighting also caused an upswing in Jaroslav's national and religious life; Aliya to Eretz–Israel was inaugurated and it was not to halt until the Holocaust. Once life settled down to normalcy and the economic situation became stabilized, elections were held for Chief Rabbi. A joint session of all the community members elected Rabbi Yitzhak Halevy Steinberg to this important post. The election was held on May 25, 1921 and Rabbi Steinberg served as Chief Rabbi of Jaroslav until the outbreak of World War II and the destruction of the community.

As provided by the by–laws of the community, elections to the Community Executive and the Council were held in 1934. Advocate Dr. Shmuel Schor became Chairman; Eliezer Berish Goldman (the representative of “Agudas Yisroel”) was elected Vice–Chairman. The Zionists elected Max Salik to head their Council and Shimon Spiegel (representative of

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Central square and the City Hall (Ratusz)

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the Mizrachi) as Vice Chairman; when the latter went to Eretz–Israel, he was replaced by Adolf Ragger, representing the “Yad Harutzim” faction.

The complete roster of the Executive and Council, until the outbreak of World War II, consisted of: Dr. Shmuel Schor, Chairman of the Executive; Eliezer Berish Goldman, Vice–Chairman. Members: Moshe Hass, Leib Metzger, Max Folkman, Elimelech Reich, Dr. Wilhelm Schwarzer, Mendl Schloefrig and Rabbi Yitzhak Steinberg (Virilist). The Council: Max Salik, Chairman; Adolf Ragger, Vice–Chairman: Members: Yona Evert, Mordechai Orenbach; Abraham Glatt, Shimon Licht, Yeshaya Lang, Dr. Moritz Meister, Eliyohu Sandig, Hayim–Aharon Zilbiger, Adolf Pechter and Aaron Rosenfeld. This was Jaroslav's last community body before the war.

In the 1930's, the Polish Government placed a heavy burden on the mercantile class, the shopkeepers and the artisans – the principal areas of Jewish economic endeavour. The general policy of the Polish Government was to push the Jews out of the economic spheres and to support fully their competitors – the Polish bourgeois class, which was rapidly growing. On the death of Marshal Josef Pilsudski, Poland moved closer to Nazi Germany and became further infected with the Nazi policy regarding the Jewish people. The Jews of Jaroslav felt the anti–Semitic atmosphere closing in on them.

When war broke out between Germany and Poland in September 1939, the German forces advanced quickly. On September 10, after a brief battle with the remnants of the Polish army, the Nazi captured the city. On Sukkot, 1939, the Jews were driven out to the Russian territory beyond the San River and they scattered throughout the Jewish communities of eastern Galicia. When the Jewish deportations were

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initiated by the NKVD, some of Jaroslav's Jews were exiled to northern Russia and spent the war–years there in privation and misery. At the end of the war, most of the few surviving Jews of Jaroslav returned to their city; the others met their death in 1941–42.

 

Jewish Social Life between the World Wars

Poland's post–war years, constituting a period of political–social upswing in Polish Jewry, left their impress on Jaroslav, as well. An intense and dynamic Jewish life pulsated throughout the community as its members vigorously took part in all facets of its activity.

Jewish social activity centred around three main areas:

  1. The religious institutions of the community;
  2. The political parties and youth organizations, of all colourations;
  3. Jewish/national education.
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The Community and its Economic Pursuits

The formal community was the axis on which all Jewish life in the city moved and functioned. It had the say on all economic and social matters and consequently, there was always intense interest in its activities expressed also in the constant contention among the various segments of the Jewish population, each of which wanted to exert its specific influence on the communal agencies. The struggle was not merely one of economic policies; rather, the Community Council dealt with all–encompassing matters of Jaroslav Jewry: – the rabbinate, ritual slaughtering, vital statistics registry, charity and welfare, the public bathhouse, the cemetery and the like.

But economics did play a major role in the community structure in that Jaroslav Jewry maintained the old traditional practice of the Jews to take care of their own. At the core of such communal activity were “Yad Harutzim”, the Free Loan Fund, the People's Bank and such charitable organizations as “Matan Beseter” (“Anonymous Contributions), “Tomkhei Aniyim” (“Supporters of the Poor”), “Kimha d'Fischa” (“Passover Aid”), and the like.

The Jews of Jaroslav obtained their livelihood from several sources, the foremost of which were commerce, crafts and shop keeping, which served the city's population as well as the peasants in the vicinity.

The business district centred around the so–called “Hala Targowa”. Here was the core of the Jewish economic endeavour. Here also was the centre of the Jewish cultural institutions and agencies, and the effervescence of its Jewish–national affinities permeated the entire area.

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Education

The community maintained a variegated schooling network of general and religious education: “Yavneh”, “Tarbut”, “Beth Jacob”, an assortment of Heders as well as technical and business schools. Some young people also attended the Polish high schools – the comprehensive high school, the classical “Red and Blue”), a high–grade technical high school, one for girls, as well as yeshivot and a Talmud Torah.

Among the most popular heders was Rabbi Hersh Mer's, from Alef–bet to Chumosh and Rashi. More advanced studies were offered by the Talmud Torah, which had an enrolment of some 200 pupils.

 

The “Yavneh” School, Lag Baomer, 1933

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In the early 1930's, a yeshiva was added to the Talmud Torah.

In addition to the larger heders, smaller private ones were scattered throughout the city, each with 10–12 pupils. Such, for example, was the heder of Yosef Yitzhak Shlattiner at 2, Wonska Street; another on Sobieski Street in the “Hakhnosas Orchim” synagogue. Der hoicher Shmuel maintained a heder in his shtibl. Another heder was conducted by Rabbi Yosele Weisstuch (der lomer Yosele).

Many Jewish children attended the Polish governmental schools and a few had the advantage of private tutoring.

 

Religious Life

The Great Synagogue

The Jewish worshippers in Jaroslav had available to them various synagogues and places of worship all over the city, but their pride was the Great Synagogue, a majestic and inspiring edifice of beautiful exterior and interior. The Great Synagogue was the centre of the community's religious life. Here prayed the Chief Rabbi of Jaroslav, Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Steinberg. The services were conducted by Cantor Meshulam Lam, assisted by a children's choir. All special events and ceremonies, state observances as well as Jewish, were held here.

When the Germans captured the city, they converted the Great Synagogue into a grain storehouse.

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The Bet–Hamidrash

To the right of the Great Synagogue, and practically annexed to it, stood the Bet–Hamidrash, the entrance to which was through a beautifully wrought iron gate. This gate, it was said, was set into the wall surrounding the Jewish ghetto, in the Middle Ages.

Prayers in the Bet–Hamidrash were according to the Sephardic rite and most of the worshippers came from the “courts” of several Hassidic rebbes. The atmosphere was Zionist, and during the reading of the Torah, some of the worshippers gathered in anteroom for a stormy session of debates on Zionist issues.

 

The Khos Kloiz

One of Jaroslav's most famous synagogues was the Khos Kloiz, located at the “small Rynek” (market place) not far from the Municipal Building.

The Khos Kloiz enjoyed this reputation because of its chief cantor, Rabbi David, who literally charmed his listeners with his beautiful voice. He kept to the traditional liturgy of the prayers and the congregation was well familiar with his melodies.

The Kloiz was not distinguished in its exterior but inside it was simple and intimate. On the High Holidays, the Kloiz was packed with worshippers who came from all over the city to listen to Rabbi David. On Simchas–Torah the synagogue rocked with the fervent prayer and dancing of the worshippers, in sheer ecstasy.

 

The Talmud Torah Synagogue

A synagogue for the daily prayer existed in the Talmud Torah building. It was well–filled on the Sabbath and the

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High Holidays also thanks to its excellent cantors, the melamed Reb Hershele who was highly respected and appreciated and Reb Moshe Hass. The worshippers were truly inspired by them.

 

The Tchortkover Kloiz

The Tchortkover Kloiz on Lubelska Street not far from Grunwaldzka, was frequented by the Hassidim of the Tchortkover Rebbe. Many among the 70 or 80 worshippers belonged to the “Mizrachi”.

In the early 1930's, work was completed on the new and modern Main Synagogue, Hessed Ve'Emet, on Wengerska Street.

 

Minyanim

In addition to the synagogues, there were several minyanim scattered all over the city. The best–known among them were the minyan of Reb Shiele, the youngest son of the Belzer Rebbe, Steinbok's minyan in his home, and those in the homes of Moritz Halberthal and Reb Pinhas Hemerling (the religious magistrate) at 2, Wonska Street. All of the minyanim accounted for many worshippers, particularly on the Sabbaths and holidays.

 

Reb Lozer Diller's Synagogue

The minyan was located in the Christian neighbourhood, on the main street opposite the offices of the County Commissioner and the post office. On the Sabbaths and holidays, this synagogue was thronged with Jews of all categories: Hassidim in shtreimlach and kapotes, misnagdim, and the more affluent merchants, property owners, members of the free professions and students.

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Zionist Activity

Jaroslav was a decidedly Zionist city. Thanks to their various parties and youth organizations, the Zionists set the tone for the community's social life. The Zionist clubs were filled with young and old, and the programme extended beyond pure Zionist activity to all facets of cultural endeavour – talks, lectures, and discussion evenings on a variety of subjects. Naturally, the main efforts were to further the up–building of Eretz–Israel.

Among the Zionist youth organizations which exerted the greatest influence on Jewish academic and vocational youth groups were: “Akiva”, Bnei Akiva”, “Hashomer Hatzair”, “Hanoar Hatziyoni”, “Hechalutz”, “Hechalutz Hatzair”, “Freiheit”, “Hechalutz Haklai Hatziyoni”. The Zionist parties were the General Zionists, “Poale Zion”, “Mizrachi”, the “Revisionists” and the “Grossmanists”. The socialist Zionist parties established a roof–organization – the “League for Labor Eretz–Israel”. The most vigorous Zionist activity was carried on by the Jewish National Fund in its continuous collection of funds for up–building the land. “Yad Harutzim” annually sponsored JNF bazaars, always a highlight on the Jewish community calendar.

Among the other political parties which conducted lively campaigns in the community were: “Agudas Yisroel”, “Poalei Agudas Yisroel”, “Tze'irei Agudas Yisroel”, the “Bund”, assimilatory circles and various illegal leftist groups.

The “Bnei Zion” (General Zionists) Club was an important social centre for hundreds of the city's Jewish young people.

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Sports

Jaroslav's Jewish young people were highly charged with a love of sports. They belonged to many sports clubs, the most popular being “Dror”, “Maccabi” and “Hapoel”. All the clubs had several sections: soccer, basketball, ping–pong, cycling, athletics, tennis and the like.

In the 1920's the drills and competitions were held at the Wandoles and on the vacant parcel of land behind the Great Synagogue, or on the Targowica near the city park. In the 1930's these events were held in the municipal stadium near the railway station.

Jewish young people not attached to any of these clubs used to enjoy sports under the aegis of the Zionist movement – “Akiva”, “Betar”, “Hashomer Hatzair” and others. “Dror”, the largest of the clubs in all sections, extended membership to all Jewish sportsmen regardless of their political orientation or party affiliation.

 

“Dror” Team

 

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