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[Page 141]

Activist Youth and Social Awareness


[Page 143]


by Yitzchak Burstein

Translated by Jerrold Landau

For many years its meeting place was located in the home of Nota Goldman. Maccabee had more than 200 active members. It was founded in 1920. Its founders included Aryeh Zisla, Dvora Shoham, Shlomo Ber Meirovich, and Zeev Kirzner. Later, I was appointed as the chairman of the committee, and I dedicated most of my time to physical and spiritual educational activities among the youth. I was assisted in my work by the committee members Avraham Jochovsky, Mordechai Wolfovich, Shlomo Ber, Kirzner, and David Friedman. Moshe Ivensky worked in the spiritual realm. The following groups took place within the meeting place: light athletics, ping pong, basketball, chess, cycling, a choir, a percussion band, and an active dramatic club.

Do you recall the conductor Shlomo Ber? He had a red face, was calm, and had nerves of steel. He is active in the field of music in Vilna to this day.

Recall our basketball players: Meika who was partially mute, Yitzchak Rikless, Levika and Elka Kaper, Berl Segalovsky, Feivel Shapira, Efraim Frakt, Leizka the Gingi [redhead], Meirka Mechnik, Moshe Untershatz, Hershel Levin, the defenseman Motele Yaffa, and Yankel Klibansky.

Hershel Levin, Leibel Stern, and Zelig Epstein formed the members' justice system.

The athletic parties in the halls of the movie theater and the firefighters attracted a large group of youths. Do you recall the party in the firefighters' hall with the participation of Stumpel's jazz band? When Stumpel and Nota were in good spirits from glasses of liquor in the tavern of Nota and his wife, they began to kiss, and Nota bit Stumpel's nose until it bled. Nota's nickname was “Chalulim”[1].

{Photo page 143: the first group of athletes in Maccabee bidding farewell to Meira Zisla: Tzvi Opnitzky, Avraka Untershatz, Feivka Shapira, Shlomo Drogetzky, Aryeh Zisla, Ezriel Opnitzky, Mendel Dobiansky, X, Shlomo Friedman, X.}

During the time of the Balfour Declaration and on Lag Baomer, Maccabee

[Page 144]

organized demonstrations on the streets of the town with the national flags, and riders on horses and decorated bicycles. They would walk with a show of strength, in the costume of the Maccabee organization, accompanied by Hebrew songs. Similarly, we organized gatherings and lectures on various topics through our own people as well as with the participation of people brought in from Kovno.
The pride of the Maccabee was the dramatic circle under the stage direction of Chone Katzenberg: He was thin, clean shaven, enjoyed to tipple, always with a leather jacket. He was talented as a stage producer. He was assisted by Itzik Dembo in forging the characters of the actors. Our “prima donnas” were Miriam Nochimovich and Hinda Levitz. To this day, the image of “Mirale Efrat”, as played by Miriam, is etched in the minds of many. Hershel Wolfovich, Abba Opnitzky, Yosef Chein “the wagon driver”, Peiska Shachor, Velke Opanik, Reping, Tzipa-Leah Weiner, Shifra Lomiansky, Batya Zandman and others stood out in main roles and in other roles.
Our performances, such as Mirale Efrat, Green Fields, Yoshke Charlatan, the Miser and others were also performed on the stage of Vilkomir [Ukmerge]. Chone Katzenberg ensured that the actors would drink a glass of liquor prior to every performance, which would contribute its share to the success of the performance; and that there would be a party after the performance. Our trainers, such as Chone Katzenberg, Itzik Dembo and Hershel Levin composed verses for our songs, which were heard from the mouths of the youths until the next party.

{The top of page 144 has an article entitled “About Hapoel and the Youth”, starting in the top half of 144, above the line. After page 144, there is a hiatus in the text, with 16 unnumbered pages of photos. The article and pagination resumes at the end of the photos. I included that article at the end of the unnumbered pages, so as to ensure continuity and not break it by the unnumbered pages.}

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Holes or cavities. Return

[Page 144]

About Hapoel and the Youth

by Eliahu Kagan, Tel Aviv

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 144: Uncaptioned. Eliahu Kagan.}

[First unnumbered photo page – NYPL 219][1]

A meeting with the Zionist orator, writer and activist Shmuel Chernovitz (“Safog”)

1. Chaim Moshe Slomin 2. Chana Pesia Glazer 3. Rivka Dembo 4. Yosef Intriligitor 4a. Eidel Burstein 5. Avrum 5a. Sheina Abramson-Antes 6. Alta Rubin 7. Ethel Katz 8. Zlata Rosenberg-Janusovich 9. Alter Monitz 10. Tzila Untershatz 11. Henia Farber 12. Teibl Stein 13. Miriam Merbianski 14. Tzipora Shoham 15. Miriam Burstein 16. Henia Blumberg 17. Chaim Levin 18. Yatkonski from Kovno 19. Nadia Granovich 20. Nota Valchokovsky 21. Hershel Levin 22. Mordechai Itchikovich 23. the teacher Rosenberg 24. Kolbianski 25. Chernovitz 26. Yosef Abramson 27. Leib Wolfovich 28. Leiba Pogirski 29. Shimon Rubin 30. Pesach Shachor 31. Noach Stern 32. Shmuel Goldshmidt 33. Tzvi Yaffa 34. Moshe Fried 35. Moshe Ivensky 36. Shaul Keidanski 37. Dr. G. Ran 38. Lula Vilkomirsky 39. Chana Davidovich 40. Nechama Levin 41. Yitzchak Perevoznik 42. Moshe Sack 43. Shmerl Stern 44. Liber Farber 45. Yonah Katz 46. Menachem Mendel Gorfein 47. Meir Goldshmidt 48. Chaim Goldshmidt 49. Vilkomirsky

[Second unnumbered photo page – NYPL 220]

{Top photocopy}

The card for the delegate to the Convention of Zionists in Russia
No. 212
Mr. Yosef Katz
Elected in Aptorka

{Lower photocopy}

The Zionist Organization of Lithuania
The city committee in Jonava
Members Card
No. 2
Zionism. Aspiring to ensure a safe refuge through open justice for the Hebrew nation in the Land of Israel (The Basel Program).

Name: Mr. Yonah Katz
City: Jonava
22 of Tammuz 5686 (July 4, 1926)
Chairman {signature cannot be made out}
Secretary {signature cannot be made out}
The Organization of General Zionists in Jonava

[Third unnumbered page – NYPL 221]

Maccabee Jonava 1925 {a group photo}

[Fourth unnumbered page – NYPL 222]

{Top photo}

Yitzchak B, Miriam Berzin, Golda Friedman, Malka Untershatz, Grishovich, Shlomo Ber Meirovich, Sanel, Rabiner, Chana Goldshmidt, Perla Lopiansky, Miriam Burstein, Reibstein, Lantzman, X, Charna Goldshmidt, Yonina Gurvich, Anna Gurvich, Bogia Wolfovich, Miriam Levin

{Bottom photo}

With the Maccabee athletes:

Yosef Rikliansky, Yitzchak Dragachki, Dina Perlstein, Yonina Gurvich, Moshe Baron, Lipsha Boz, Chana Shachor, Shoshana Friedman, Rabiner, Lantzman, Chaya Katz, Miriam Berzin, Shlomo Friedman

[Fifth unnumbered page – NYPL 223]

{Top photo}

The Maccabee Football Team of Jonava

Shlomo Friedman, Moshe Untershatz, Yaakov Klibansky, Tzvi Levin, Aryeh Stern, Aryeh Zisla, Micha Mechnik, Meir Zopovich, Yitzhak Nuchimovich, Feivel Shapira, Aber Untershatz, Efraim Prakt

{Bottom Photo}

Shmerl Shapira, D. Friedman, Berl Segalovsky, Y. Klibansky, P. Shapira, Levi Kaper, M. Mechnik, G. Goldshmidt, Efraim Baten, Shoham, Shlomo Silberman, P. Shachor, Y. Nuchimovich, Z. Epstein, B. Shabtai's

[Sixth unnumbered page – NYPL 224]

{Top photo}

Hershel Bankkutsher, Y. Klibansky, L. Kaper, M. Mechnik, B. Segalovsky, Berl Fein, Shaul Milner, P. Shapira, Elka Kaper, Shlomo Friedman.
Zelmanovich, Yaakov Novikhovich, Berka Aiker, Abba Fein

{Bottom photo}

The Maccabee basketball team

[Seventh unnumbered page – NYPL 225]

{Top photo}

Maccabee parade
The railway bridge to Chigonka
In the background, the Kemach factory and the Girialka factory

{Bottom photo}

The parade on Breizer Street

[Eighth unnumbered page – NYPL 226]

{Top photo}

The group of actors in the play “Green Fields” (“Di Grine Felder” by Peretz Hirshbein (in Yiddish)

{Bottom photo}

The actors and members of the Maccabee with the set in the background.:
Y. Nuchimovich, B. Shabtai's, P. Shachor, Vidtzky, Sh. Goldshmidt, Avram, D. Friedman, Efraim Prakt, A. Stern, A. Goldshmidt, B. Segalovsky, Moshe Sulsky.
Yitzchak B., Tz. L. Weiner, Abba Opanitzky, Ivensky, Chone Katzenberg – producer, A. Kagan – the artist, G. Stern, Z. Opnik, X, N. Goldshmidt;
Shifra Lomiansky, Miriam Nuchimovich}

[Ninth unnumbered page – NYPL 227]

{Top photo}

Yitzchak Gurvich, Shlomo Silberman, Moshe Untershatz, Pesach Shachor, Reping, Tzipa Leah Weiner, Miriam Nuchimovich, Elchanan Katzenberg, Hinda Levitz, Shifra Lomiansky.

{Bottom photo: Four men around a table. The caption is superimposed on the photo and is unclear. It seems to refer to a gathering of the Jonaver chapter of an organization after the slaughter in Wilkomir [Ukmerge].}

[Tenth unnumbered page – NYPL 228]

{Top photo}

The Maccabee committee: David Friedman, Nisan Goldshmidt, Baron, Berl Segalovsky, P. Shachor, Shmuel Goldshmidt, Shlomo Friedman, M. Ivensky, Efraim Prakt, Moshe Baron

{Bottom photo}

Yerachmiel Dobiansky, Bernstein, Z. Epstein, Yosef Grossman, Pinchas Burstein, Yosef Rikliansky, Yerachmiel Blumberg, Ezriel Opnitzky, Yaffa, Morr, Sarka Goldshmidt, Levi Kaper, Reping, Sh. Friedman, Avraham Jochovsky, Y. Klibansky, Moshe Lantzman, Moshe Untershatz, Etka Landman, Tzvi Wolfovich, Tzvi Levin, Hinda Levitz, Shlomo Silberman, Chona Kagan, Yosef Klibansky, Efraim Baten, Michel Mechnik, Avraka Untershatz, Feivel Shapira.

[Eleventh unnumbered page – NYPL 229]

{Top photo}

The flags of Hapoel in Jonava at a sporting gathering, 1935.

{Middle Photo}

The leadership of Hapoel at a farewell gathering for A. Sirkin, Passover 1936: Avraham Klotz, Aryeh Perchik, Tz. Perevoznik, Dov Rikless, Elimelech Perchik, Zelig Yudelevich, Tz . Josefs, Aryeh Sirkin, Eliahu Kagan, D. Friedman, Yitzchak Goldman

{Bottom photo}

A regional gathering of Hapoel, Jonava, 1938.

[Twelfth unnumbered page – NYPL 230]

The Tzeirei Zion – Hitachdut organization in Jonava at the fifth anniversary of its existence, Passover, 5686 (1926)

Greenblatt, Tz. Opnitzky, Malka Solsky, Leah Kronick, Chaim Blumberg, Trivish, Golda Sirek, Zev Kirzner, Feiga Klibansky, Baten, Leibel Burstein, Tzipora Klotz, Moshe Ivensky, Vinitzky, Freda Gold-Mines, Tzila Untershatz, Rivka Atkatz, Leizer Levin, Prakt, Yehudit Weiner, Yitzchak B., Riska Grossman, Chana Davidovich, Rivka Sesitzky, Tzvi Resnick, Freda Libertal, Yonah Shaltuper

{Bottom photo}

Hitachdut chapter in Jonava, 20 Iyar 5787 (1927)

Greenblatt, P. Libertal, Mila Shpilansky, Y. Weiner, Nechama Levin, G. Sirek, Shliomovich, Tz. Klotz, Reizel Janusovich, X, L. Kronik, Shaltuper, Davidovich, Gold, Untershatz, Atkatz, Sesitsky, X, Ivensky

[Thirteenth unnumbered page –NYPL 231]

{Top photo}

On the day we took leave of Ch. Zlonker before he made aliya to the Land, 23 Av {year is unclear}

(Four top people are not identified)
Epstein, Tzipora Klibansky, Tzipora Grossman, Yosef Klibansky, X, X, Baten, Tzipora Shoham, Michael Zlonker, Yaakov Dembo, Alter Monitz

{Bottom photo}

Hitachdut Tzierei Zion in Jonava, 8 Elul 5685 (1925)

Sheina Tzipa Katz, Menashe Lantzman, Shlomo Meirovich, Strum, X, Moshe Klachman, X, Henia Blumberg, Chana Pesia Glazer, Zalman Kurskisik, Elchanal Glaz, Shmuel Kaplan, Alter Sandler, Yitzchak Zlonker, Menashe Weiner, Perchik, Yosef Shoham, Aryeh Stern, Golda Friedman, Yerachmiel Teitelbaum, Levin, Dvora Zlonker, Zelig Stein, Alter Monitz, Mendel Dobiansky, Tzipora Grossman, Hinda Perlstein, Yitzchak Resnick.

[Fourteenth unnumbered page – NYPL 232]

{Top photo}

The Sirkin Group bids farewell to Tzvi Ulpasky, 1930.
X, Landsman, Reibstein, Strum, X, A. Monitz, X, Heiman, P. Shachor, Naftali Gurvich, Golda Glaz, Yehudit Rikless, Daniel Rikless, Y. Teitelbaum, Strum, Tz. Grossman, X, Tzvi Perevoznik, Miriam Berzin, Dov Rikless, Chaim Teitelbaum, Mordechai Yaffa, X, Zelig Yudelevich, Reizka Friedman, Tzvi, Chaya Portnoy, Mordechai Katz, Rachel Shabtai's, Elimelech Perchik, A. Khasid, V. Abramovich, Rivka Itzkovich, Yaakov Katzav, Yechezkel Kotler, Tzvi Josefs, Avraham Portnoy, Baruch Shabtai's, Yitzchak Nuchimovich

{Bottom photo}

Members of the choir of Chevra Sirkin, including female members of Hashomer Hatzair. The conductor – Shlomo Ber Meirovich. Perevoznik, Perlstein, Gans, Yoska (the Schwalb)[2], Monitz, Rikless, Portnoy, N. Gurvich, Opnik, Abramovich, Tzvi Atkatz, Giga Plasker, Lantzman, Tzvia Berzin, Sara Opnik, Miriam Berzin, Malka Klotz, P. Shachor, Kazansky, Chaya Baten, Tz. Glinsky, Shlomo Ber [Meirovich], Sara Baten, Sh. Shachor, Golda Glaz, P. Kazansky, Chaya Portnoy, Dvora Berzin, Tzipora Zandman, Sh. Klibansky, L. Yudelevich

[Fifteenth unnumbered page – NYPL 233]

The Hechalutz chapter bids farewell to Shimon Sack and Daniel Rikless before they make aliya.

Z. Yudelevich, D. Josefs, Berl Rikless, X, Breznikov, Strum, Heiman, Moshe Wolk, Shanel, Perchik, Reuven Jurman, Ch. P. Glazer, Gurvich, Lantzman, Teitelbaum, Batya Zandman, Zev Kirzner, Moshe Dembo, Sara Friedman, X,
Zuska Atkatz, Z. Abramovich, Y. Dembo, Ch. R. Davidovich, Shimon Sack, Dina Perlstein, D. Rikless, A. Monitz, Avraham Pimstein, Golda Glaz, P. Kazansky, David Friedman, Leibka Perchik, Yehudit Rikless, Yitzchak Goldman

{Bottom photo}

Young Zion – Hitachdut chapter in Jonava on the occasion if the aliya of our members Perlstein and Sack. September 1, 1934.

[Sixteenth unnumbered page – NYPL 234]

{Top photo}

Members of Young Zion and members of Hashomer Hatzair
Berka Rikless, David Friedman, Strum, Yechezkel Kotler, Sara and Chaya Baten, Zev Abramovich, Sara Opnik, Ulpasky, X, Daniel Rikless, Yitzchak Zlonker, Elimelech Perchik.
The “consul”, Shlomo Ber, Rivka Itzkovich, X, X, Tzvi Perevoznik, Zalman Sesitzky, Moshe Friedman, Strum, Yerachmiel Teitelbaum, Tzipora Grossman, X, Shoshana Friedman, Glaz, Linda, X, X, Miriam Berzin, Leah Lantzman, Rabiner, Izik Reibstein, Alter Khasid, X, Shlomo Gerber, Pinchas Shapira.
Baruch Shabtai's, Baruch Jalinovich, Leah Yudelevich, Sheina Klibansky, Mordechai Yaffa, Yaakov Katzav, X

{Bottom photo}

The mandolin band of Chevrak Sirkin, 1933

Alter Monitz, Rachel Kushilevich, Daniel Rikless, Chana Jalinovich, X, X, Yasha Vilkomirsky, Avraham Portnoy, Mechnik, Yudka Katzenberg, X,
David and Hadassa Friedman, Rivka Kushilevich, Eliahu Baron, Meirovich – the conductor, Chaya Portnoy, Aryeh Perchik, Nobichovich, Leah Klibansky, Lantzman, X

[Page 144 resumed]

In 1931, the Hakoach sports club of the Socialist-Zionist Youth (Hanoar Hatzioni-Socialisti) of Lithuania joined the Hapoalim sports movement and changed its name to Hapoel. From that time, Hapoel of Lithuania became an inseparable part of Hapoel in the Land of Israel. Its goal was to enable the community of workers to engage in sports, under the rubric of Eretz Yisrael Haoevedet (Working Land of Israel).

The practical connection with the youth in Lithuania was established after a representative of the Hapoel activists of that time from the Land of Israel came to Lithuania. This was Yosef Carmi (today a senior official in the office of labor in the employment department).

When Y. Carmi came for the duration of one year, the center of Hapoel was set up in Lithuania, and the main branch was strengthened in Kovno. At a later stage, chapters in the outlying cities were established.

The sporting activities were expressed primarily through common sports, football[3], basketball games, volleyball, gymnastics, weightlifting, boxing, swimming, ping-pong, and of course social-cultural activities based on Socialist Zionism. In order to facilitate the broadening of activities, a national course for sports leaders was organized. The writer of these lines, Eliahu Kagan, a native of the town of Jonava, was one of the participants in this course.

After the conclusion of the course, I became one of the activists and organizers of Hapoel in Lithuania, and a member of its center. Through my general activity on behalf of Hapoel in Lithuania, I dedicated some of my time to establish a chapter in Jonava, particularly during the summer, during the university vacation, when I resided in my home in Jonava. My parents lived in that home until their last day, at the beginning of the Second World War and the expulsion of the Jews.

[Page 145]

The Uniqueness of the Youth

The Jewish youth of Jonava were slightly different from the youth in other towns. Jonava was a town of about 4,000 people. The majority were Jews and the rest were Christian Lithuanians, Pravoslavs and Poles, who lived for the most part at the edges of town. The Jewish residents lived in the center.

Jonava, a town close geographically to the capital Kovno, is situated on the banks of the Vylia River. It is a wide river with a swift flowing current, with green meadows and forests on both banks. The beautiful surroundings, the river with strong, tall bridges, the railway line that passes close to the town – all bestow the character of natural beauty onto the region.

In Jonava itself there were many carpentry workshops, owned for the most part by Jews. There were also smithies, flourmills, and a significant number of stores and other businesses. The gentiles were primarily occupied with agriculture, cattle farming and fishing. In general, they were calm citizens. The town lived its life serenely and quietly, in full harmony with the beautiful surroundings. The forests of the regions, the green meadows, and the picturesque valley imbued the residents with calmness of the soul, mutual understanding, and orderly communal life.

Jonava was much better known in Lithuania, primarily due to the manufacture of furniture and its being a center of the furniture trade. This was also due to the unique trades related to floating barges along the Vylia and Neiman rivers. This was a unique trade, with family expertise passed from father to son. Its practitioners were known in Yiddish as “di vasser menchen”, that is to say, “the water people”. To this day, the echoes of those Jews who floated barges from the thick forests along the Vylia echo in my ears – commands issued from one side of the barge to the other side. This work demanded of its practitioners agility, knowledge, and great physical strength. These were simple, strong and brave Jews whose name went before them.

The Jewish youth were raised in this background, and became healthy, vibrant, and developed from both the physical and spiritual perspectives.

Thanks to the wide river, most of the Jewish youth knew how to swim, dive, and row in boats. This differentiated them from the youth in “dry” towns.

There were a number of Zionist youth organizations in Jonava as well as a longstanding sporting club called Maccabee, around which gathered primarily the general Zionist and revisionist youth. Most of them were from well-to-do families. Jonava was lacking a sport club that was appropriate for the working circles.

Upon looking back, it seems ridiculous when we mention today the political debates based on differences in outlook that pervaded the rival camps in the Jewish community. There was no shortage of political youth organizations in the Jewish towns of Lithuania, and the political wrangling was intense. Whoever lived during that time in the unique atmosphere of Lithuanian Jewry, Zionist in heart and soul, understands naturally the debates among the Zionist groups of the different factions in the background of the renewal that arrived from the Land of Israel at that time. This was the prime expression of cultural life in the town.

During that era, the Zionist activities of the various factions were overly provincial, but they imbued valuable content into the communal life of the local Jewish youth.

Two sports clubs, Maccabee and Hapoel, operated in this environment.

[Page 146]

The Organization in the Rubric of Hapoel

No small amount of struggle, deliberation and debate passed over the youth activists of Jonava during the time of the deliberating over the question of the establishment of Hapoel. There were those who were opposed to the establishment of an additional sporting organization over and above the longstanding Maccabee. On the other hand, others claimed that there was a need for a special sporting framework for the workers, so they went ahead with the establishment of Hapoel.

I recall the patrons of Hapoel in Jonava: Leibel Stern, Y. Monitz, Daniel Rikless (today in Tel Aviv), Tzipora Grossman (today in Haifa), Yerachmiel Teitelbaum, and me, who had an official position as the representative and member of the Hapoel headquarters.

Finally, a decision was made to establish Hapoel in Jonava. This was done with the support and assistance of the members of the Hapoel headquarters, especially Ben-Zion Moirer (who was among the first to be murdered by the Germans at the time of the liquidation of the Jewish leadership of Kovno at the Ninth Fort), and Aryeh Sirkin (today Aryeh Sarig, a deputy director-general in the department of security [in Israel]). An active committee was established, which later became the leadership committee of the chapter. Members of the Tzeirei Zion youth organization participated, including: Davidka Friedman, the Perchik brothers, Berl Rikless, Hershel Perevoznik, Elka Abramovich, and Hershka Josefs.

The modest sporting activities began slowly. At first, a football team and gymnastics team were set up. At a later time, when we rented a field (a large field on the outside of the town), the members began to participate in light athletics, volleyball and basketball.

The youth became involved in these activities very willingly. Despite the meager means at the disposal of the organizers, there was vibrancy and a great deal of activity. The activities took place for the most part during the summer months, when the pleasant weather facilitated the playing of sports in the open air.

At times, the members of Hapoel of Jonava took part in national and regional events that were organized through the efforts of the Hapoel headquarters. The members particularly enjoyed the trips to neighboring towns (Wilkomir, Keidani and others) for football tournaments, joint regional gatherings, or friendly meetings. These events introduced a competitive spirit and were challenging. They prepared for such gatherings with great energy.

I recall the regional gathering of Hapoel in Jonava (1938) that took place in the form of a camp outside the town, the regional gathering in Karmelava (1933), and the national convention of all Hapoel chapters of Lithuania that took place in Kovno, in which Hapoel of Jonava took part with a large representation of athletes and competitors in light athletics and football.

The Importance of the Activity from a Social and Sporting Perspective

Indeed, we were not blessed with sporting achievements, but the meetings with the Jewish youth from other towns provided a great deal of meaning for the youth. This enabled Zionist crystallization, activity on behalf of Israel, training in pioneering, and sublime aspirations for the building of the old-new homeland. Now we can note that many of the youth of Jonava were saved by this blessed activity, for they succeeded in making aliya to the Land of Israel under the rubric of Hechalutz, while there was still time, prior to the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry, as well as at a later time as refugees from the concentration camps or the remnants of the partisans.

This group of people arrived in Israel after various tribulations, after the ghettos, exile in Siberia, or after participating in the war against the Germans in partisan units.

At this time we can state with certainty that thanks to that Zionist activity under the auspices of Hapoel, Maccabee, and other Zionist organizations, we instilled a desire for the Land of Israel into the hearts of the youth. Instead of scattering throughout the far reaches of the earth, they always desired to reach the Land of Israel. We had to fight strongly against the Communist propaganda that attempted to attract the Jewish youth to its ranks. All of those who joined the Communist youth were eventually lost. Most were murdered, and a very small number remain in Russia. In any case, they did not come to Israel.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The NYPL numbers on the unnumbered pages refer to the scan numbers from the digitized version of the original Yizkor book available at the New York Public Library website (http://yizkor.nypl.org/index.php?id=2236) Return
  2. The nickname “the Schwalb” means “the sparrow”. Return
  3. Probably in the European sense – i.e. soccer. Return

[Page 147]

The First National Youth Organization

by Y[itzchak] Ben-David (B[urstein])

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The chapter of Tzeirei-Zion—Hitachdut was the first nationalist youth organization that was founded in Jonava after the First World War. Its founders included Dov Zisla, Nathan Janusevich, the teacher Joselovich, Namiot and Dov Blumberg. The finest of the working youth, officials and youth of the middle class gathered into this organization.

The prime objectives which it stood for were: preparation of the youth for aliya, cultural activities, collection of money for the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund) and knowledge of the Land.

The Hebrew library was founded in 1919 as a center for Hebrew culture. Alongside it was the meeting place in the Weiner home on Vilna Street. Meetings, lectures and social activities were organized in this place.

The chapter, which began in 1922, established itself and flourished through the efforts of Moshe Ivensky, and became a political factor in the life of the town.

Those days were the days of Jewish autonomy in Lithuania with the Jewish Ministry headed by Dr. Soloveitchik. Communities were established, headed by the national council. National banks and other organizations were founded. Tzeirei Zion had delegates to all of these.

The Tzeirei Zion party took first place in Jonava next to the General Zionists. It was the second largest in the community of Jonava and in the town council. Its delegates to the community council were Moshe Ivensky, Menachem Mines and Eliezer Levin.

Ivensky served as the chairman of the organization throughout many years. His second in command was Menachem Mines, one of the vibrant activists of the city. The writer of these lines served as the secretary.

During the years of 1922-1930, the chapter had more than 100 active members and more than 300 supporters who lent their support to Tzeirei Zion in elections to the community council and the Zionist congresses.

The Hechalutz organization was under the influence of the party, as was of course the Gordonia youth organization that was founded in 1927 and existed under the shadow of Tzeirei Zion. It was headed by Alter Klotz, Pesach Shachor, Shmuel Goldshmidt, Dina Perlstein and Leah Burstein. The members of Tzeirei-Zion also dedicated their time to tending to Maccabee.

During the 1930s, Tzeirei-Zion blended with the members of the Tz. S. (Young Socialists), and incorporated most of the national Socialist youth into their ranks.

Now, when we are far from that romantic era of the enthusiastic activities of the Jewish youth at gatherings, competitions and camps, we can properly value the great importance of that activity in forging the Jewish youth and creating meaning in their daily lives. This activity also gave them vigor, joy of life, and most importantly – the instilling of Jewish pride into their hearts.

Some of these Jewish youths of Jonava who succeeded in making aliya to the Land established large families, and took root in cities, towns and kibbutzim. Would it be that there were more of them, and that we did not have to weep over the many who perished at the hands of the German and Lithuanian murderers.

Thus concludes a pleasant chapter in the fruitful life of the youth in the exile of Lithuania, in a splendid town that was called Jonava – as if this was all a dream and not reality.

The beloved town remains far, far away – the town in which we spent our pleasant childhood. Nobody even visits the place, for no memory of the Jews remains there, and there is nobody to even say Shalom. This is the bitter reality.

[Page 148]

{Top photo}

Members of Poale-Zion – Hitachdut

{Bottom photo}

A group of members of Poale-Zion in the Girialka factory

[First unnumbered page after 148. – NYPL 239.]

{Top photo}

The chapter of Hashomer Hatzair close to the time of its founding (1928). A meeting with the Keidani delegation.
Pesach Shachor, Zelig Yudelevich, X (from Keidani), Gila Plakser, Leah Grodsky, X, Alter Khasid, Shimon Gorfein, X, Leah Yudelevich, Moshe Fried, Shifra Stoller, Zeev Opnik, Yehuda Zopovich, Baruch Jalinovich, Pesia Konsky, Rachel Lifschitz, Sarah Shachor, Tvia Galinsky.

{Bottom photo}

A group with Baruch Opnitzky from Keidani:
L. Grodsky, R. Lifschitz, Chaya Rivka Aronson, Rachel Shapira, Beila Grodsky, Z. Opnik, Baruch, Batya Gorfein, Sheinka Friedland, Pinchas Shapira, Chana Josefs, Sheinka Klibansky, Rivka Simkovich, Dova Dobiansky, Osnat Katzenberg.

[Second unnumbered page after 148. – NYPL 240.]

{Top photo}

A group of older youths “Achduta” (with some youths):
Yitzchak Kremenitzin, Z. Opnik, Shlomo Perlstein, B. Jalinovich, Netanel Shapira, Izak Reibstein, Shimon Gorfein, P. Shapira, Chaya Dobiansky, Elka Untershatz, Sh. Shachor, Beilka Friedman, Batya Perchik, L. Grodsky, Mina Levitz, Hadassah Friedman, David Veps, Teibla Krabitzky, Freda Vilkomirsky, Tzvia Galinsky, M. Kremenitzin.

{Center photo}

A group of Achva girls with Tzvi Ulpasky:
Chana Josefs, B. Gorfein, Tzvi, Ch. R. Aronson, D. Dobiansky, R. Simkovich, Chaya Portnoy, Yenta Nochimovich, Sheina Friedland, Leah Klibansky, Dvora Berzin, R. Shapira, T, Galinsky, Feiga Zandman, A. Katzenberg.

{Bottom Photo}

Shevet Binyamin (Group Alef) with its counselors, photographs in the snow with the shul in the background. Passover 5681 (1921).

[Third unnumbered page after 148. – NYPL 241.]

{Top photo}

A group of Achduta prior to the aliya of Shimon Gorfein (Noy), at the beginning of 1933.
A. Reibstein, Sh. Shachor, Sarah Goldberg, H. Friedman, Shimon, Alter Khasid, B. Jalinovich, R. Lifschitz, L. Grodsky, L. Yudelevich, P. Shapira, Sh. Stoller, Tz. Galinsky, S. Perlstein, Sh. Klibansky, N. Shapira, Z. Opnik.

{Center photo}

A group of older girls with Tzvi Ulpasky

{Bottom photo}

A group of scouts bidding farewell to Shimon [Gorfein (Noy)]
D. Veps, A. Untershatz, B. Jalinovich, B Friedman, Ch. Dobiansky, B. Perchik, P. Vilkomirsky, Sh. Shachor, M. Kremenitzin, Sarka Segalovsky, Shimon, P. Shapira, X, A. Reibstein, Mina Levich.

[Fourth unnumbered page after 148. – NYPL 242.]

{This page contains photocopies of pages of an organization membership card, and one letter.}

{Top right card photocopy}

The organization for the aid of Hebrew scouts in Lithuania
The Organization of Hebrew Scouts
Hashomer Hatzair
Central leadership
1) This card certifies that its owner is a member of the organization of Hebrew scouts, Hashomer Hatzair of Lithuania
2) This card gives the scout the right to wear the scouting uniform, to bear the insignia of the scouts, and to publicly fill its scouting tasks.
3) This card must be constantly found in the possession of the scout, and must be presented by the scout at a time of need.
4) Each scout may only possess one card.
5) If this card is lost, the scout cannot receive another card without special permission

{Bottom right card photocopy}

Palestinos Zydu darb bel ju
Istigoms remti draugija
The organization
For the Working Land of Israel in Lithuania
{Repeated in Yiddish}
Member card
No 19913
Printed by Sh. Joselovich, Kovno

{Top left letter}

The organization of Hebrew Scouts
Hashomer Hatzair
Kovno Chapter
March 1, 1928

Yente Nochimovich

We acknowledge the receipt of your request of February 14, 1928.
At a meeting of the council that took place on February 28, we dealt with your request, and the members of the council decided to accept you as a member of our organization.

For the first three months, you will be {cannot be made out}

The kibbutzim will be begin immediately after {cannot be made out}, and we will inform you of this.

With scouting greetings

{Signatures cannot be made out}

{Middle card photocopy}

Card number 703
First name and Surname: Yente Nochimovich
Chapter: Jonava Class: D
Age: 17 Level: III
Surety: --
Role: --
How long in the organization: From 1929
Her task: --
This card is valid until: Dec 31, 1939 {last digit is overwritten and unclear}
Chairman of the support committee: {signature illegible}
Secretary: {Signature illegible}
Head of the chapter: {No signature}
Kovno, February, 5, 1932

{Lower center card photocopy}

Each and every activity of the Hebrew Hapoel in the Land, every new achievement attained by it – strengthens the ability of the Land to absorb, and opens it gates to the camps of pioneering immigrants.

City: Jonava
Name: Rachel
Family Name: Nochimovich
Joined the organization on: June 21, 1929

{Top statement repeated in Yiddish}

{Lower left card photocopy}

Member, you should be concerned about tomorrow for yourself and thousands of your brethren. Arise as a faithful soldier among the ranks of the workers in the organization! Pay your dues promptly and collect dues from others! Every penny is added to the account.

The card is given on:
June 4, 1929
{Signatures of the central committee, the local committee, and the card holder are illegible.}

[Page 149]

With soldiers: Efraim Baten, X, Yitzchak Gurvich, X, Levi Kaper, Chana Zopovich, X, Daniel Rikless, Aber Untershatz, X, Shlomo Friedman, Feivel Shapira

Members of Brit Hechail: X, Aberka, A. Kaper, Reping, Berl Segalovsky, Grossman, Reznik, Gurvich, Y. Klibansky, Baten, X, Vinitzky, N. Goldshmidt, L. Kaper, Friedman, A. Dochovsky, Mechnik

[Page 150]

Hashomer Hatzair Chapter

by Shimon [Gorfein] Noy

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Our town was graced with strong[1], vibrant youth – possibly in no small measure due to the influence of nearby Kovno. The youth were able to fill the ranks of all of the youth organizations that existed in the Jewish community. Some of the youth who did not find their place in other organizations joined together in part and founded the chapter of Hashomer Hatzair.

This took place on January 1, 1928. There were a few members of the movement among the students of the Hebrew seminary for teachers in Kovno, who had arrived on their winter expedition from Kovno. The guests were received by the graduating class of the Tarbut school. The members of the movement took the initiative, gathered the students and explained to them – that is to us – about Hashomer Hatzair.

No small number responded to these words of explanation, and organized themselves with the feeling that they would find an answer to their youthful desires within this movement.

{Photo page 150: Zeev Opnik, Sheinka Friedland, Shlomo Gerber, K., Pinchas Shapira, K., Shlomo Perlstein; K., Izik Reibstein, Elka Untershatz, Sheinka Klibansky, K., David Veps, Leah Klibansky, K., Leah Yudelevich, Chanka Jalinovich, Leah Grodsky, Shimon Gorfein, X, Netanel Shapira, K. (with people from Keidani who came for a visit – K. stands for someone from Keidani)}

After some time, two groups crystallized: Achduta – the group for older youths and Achva – the scouting group. Females comprised a significant portion of the chapter. The chapter expanded and broadened, and attracted youth and children also to class A.[2]. They rented a hall, which roved from house to house, and made efforts to establish organized activities, or as we called our meetings – Kibbutz. We would say “Kibbutz kvutza, kibbutz kan”[3]. We conducted some of the activities with our own power, and we were helped by counselors from outside: Avigdor Opnitzky from the Keidani chapter, and the student Tzvi Ulpasky, a member of the Young Socialists, who conducted activities for us on the themes of Socialism, the worker's movement, the doctrine of Borochov, and other such topics.

Of course, the activities were conducted in Hebrew, for we were all students of the Tarbut school. The chapter and the meeting place were quickly filled with content, and filled our lives with great meaning. Sabbath parties were organized on Sabbath eves. Newspapers articles written by alumni of the chapter were read. We made contact with other chapters in Keidani, Wilkomir [Ukmerge] and Kovno. Our horizons broadened. Our spiritual and social world became richer. We gained friends and knowledge. Our lives were filled with experiences. We felt as if we had grown wings, and had been liberated from our fears and the mentality of exile. We frequently hiked, went on excursions, and conducted summer activities in the bosom of nature. We often went out to summer camps. We conducted many activities in that very grove [the Gerialka Woods] where our dear ones were later taken out to be murdered.

When we took matters seriously and prepared to go to hachsharah in preparation for aliya to the Land, it was not easy for our parents to take leave of us and permit us to leave them. There were those who refused to permit their sons and daughters to make aliya. It was hard to convince them that, upon analyzing the Jewish situation in the lands of the Diaspora according to the doctrine of Borochov as we had studied in our programs, we had no future in the Diaspora, and our existence there was fraught with danger. There were those parents who claimed that they were not short of any good thing there. It is most unfortunate that only a few of the youth succeeded in escaping from the vale of murder while there was still time.

There were only a few who continued the life of the movement in the kibbutzim. However the years of the lives of many of those who were members of the movement and the chapter were not only pleasant years, but also – as all would agree – in addition to the pleasant memories that remain in their hearts, there are also certain values, the fruit of the education of the movement. Without doubt these values will accompany them throughout their lives, wherever they are.

[Page 151]

The First Hebrew Kindergarten

Translated by Jerrold Landau by Golda Sirek (Saker)

Batya Zandman and Pesia Dembo were two friends who studied together and completed the Hebrew gymnasium in Kovno. After that, they traveled to study in the seminary for kindergarten teachers in Riga. When they completed their studies, they returned home to Jonava and opened a kindergarten that was exemplary, and the first of its kind in the town. They spoke to the children only in Hebrew. Of course, they sang Hebrew songs. Many parents requested that the kindergarten teachers speak to their children in Yiddish. However, Batya and Pesia stood their ground and only spoke in the Hebrew language.

I remember those children whom we ran into on the streets of the town, strolling and singing the songs of Bialik. This scene was always moving – hearing their sweet voices breaking out in Hebrew song, and seeing their pure and clear images.

Batya Zandman dedicated a great deal of her time to the town of Jonava. At night she sat in the library and exchanged books. She collected money for Keren Kayemet. Her father of blessed memory purchased land in Israel, but they did not succeed in benefiting from this.

[Page 152]

The Tarbut Hebrew Public School

by Chana Zimrani (Granevich) of Tel Aviv
Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 152: the teachers Yoselovich and Dov Zisla, the founders of the popular Tarbut Hebrew School.}

Already during the era of Czarist rule, there were many parents in Jonava who possessed a Hebrew-Zionist culture, and who desired to establish a modern Hebrew school for their children. However Czarist Russia did not permit the teaching of general subjects in the Hebrew languages. The Germans, who conquered Lithuania in 1915, looked favorably upon the desires of the Jews to establish modern educational institutions in their language, for they regarded this as a good means against Russification. However, the depressed economic situation and poverty of the community of Jonava during that era did not make the establishment of a school feasible.

With the declaration of independence of Lithuania in 1918, a popular Hebrew school was established in Jonava in the wooden building of the Talmud Torah on Breizer Street. At first this was a school for girls, but after a short time it turned into a coeducational school for girls and boys. However, the sign “Hebrew School for Girls” continued to flutter over the building for a few years after it became a mixed school.

As is known, Lithuania issued a decree of autonomy for its Jews in August 1919. It recognized the Jewish national committee and established a special Jewish ministry that existed until 1924. This was very conducive to the development of Jewish schools in Lithuania in general, and of the popular Tarbut Hebrew school in Jonava in particular.

The number of students grew, as the refugees returned from Russia to Jonava. This created the need to open more classes, especially preparatory classes. The school building was only four rooms, and even the teachers' room was a small section of the first room on the left, in which a wooden partition was erected. Therefore, one or two classes had to study during the afternoon hours. When the children of the refugees joined in, a gap became evident between the knowledge of the veteran students and that of the newcomers, especially in the knowledge of the Hebrew language. Therefore, it is self evident that during those years of the early 1920s, classes were composed from different age groups.

{The article continues on page 153, after a series of eight unnumbered pages.}

[First unnumbered page after 152. – NYPL 247.]

{Top photo}

The Tarbut school that separated from the Talmud Torah, 1919-1920. The teachers Kolbiansky, Joselovich, Liba Chana Stern, and Alter (David) Kagan

{Bottom photo}

A visit from the Hebrew teachers' seminary in Kovno, January 1, 1928.
Among those standing: Shaul Keidansky, Alter Sadler, Rabinovich the principal of the seminary; to the left: Rosenberg. At the edge, Menachem Mendel Gorfein from the teaching staff. In the background is the cemetery.

[Second unnumbered page after 152. – NYPL 248.]
{Top photo}

A gym class and roll call with the teacher Alter Sandler

{Bottom photo}

Some of the students of the Tarbut school:
Sara Silberman, Mina Sack, Estia Granevich, Malka Untershatz; Chana Goldshmidt, Peisha Levin, Libka Rosenthal, Etka Segalovsky, Nadia Granevich; Freidka Zisla, Peisha Heiman, Shifra Lomiansky.

[Third unnumbered page after 152. – NYPL 249.]
{Top photo}

Students of the sixth grade and their teachers: Jonava, June 27, 1928.

Sarah Shachor, Hadassah Friedman, Yitzchak Sulsky, Tzvi Josefs, Baruch Jalinovich, Netanel Shapira, Mordechai Yaffa, Sheinka Klibansky, Rachel Rashkes; Lipsha Buz, Dvora Goldshmidt, Miriam Levin, Yesha Vilkomirsky, Tzvia Galinsky, Shimon Gorfein, Gita Plakser, Rachel Lifschitz, Shifra Stoller; the teachers: Tabchovich, Sara Burstein, Keidansky; Zeev Opnik, Leah Grodsky, Yehuda Zopovich.

{Bottom photo}

A photograph of the entire school. The teachers are Keidansky, Aptkina, Rosenberg, Sandler.

[Fourth unnumbered page after 152. – NYPL 250.]
The Tarbut Evening Classes in Jonava, Passover 5688 (1928)

[Fifth unnumbered page after 152. – NYPL 251.]
The Tarbut school:
Chana Margolis, Tzvia Galinsky, Chana Shachor, Chana Miriam Untershatz, Chana Sesitzky, Leah Burstein, Pesia Yaffa, Dvora Goldshmidt, Sarah Shachor; Eliahu Baron, Aryeh Perchik, Zeev Abramovich, Chaya Davidovich, Lipsha Buz, Dina Perlstein, Malka Untershatz, Tzvia Berzin, Miriam Lantzman. The service personnel: Zuska Atkatz. The teachers – Rosenberg, Keidansky, Tabachovich, Isser Gurvich, Sandler – Tzvi Yaffa, Aryeh Sulsky; Dov Segalovsky, Pesach Shachor, Reuven Keidansky, Yasha Vilkomirsky, Yosef Friedland, Nissan Goldshmidt, Moshe Fried, M. Wolk.
[Sixth unnumbered page after 152. – NYPL 252.]
The Yavneh Hebrew School
Jonava, Lag B'omer, 5690 (1930)

[Seventh unnumbered page after 152. – NYPL 253.]
{Top photo}

Rabbi Silman with the teaching staff of Yavneh:
David Kagan, Sheina Grodsky, Alter Kagan, Rabbi Silman, Moshe Feldberg

{Middle photo}

Alter Kagan and his students

{Bottom photo}

The performance of Kever David (David's Tomb) by the students of the Yavneh School in Jonava, January 14, 1934.

[Eighth unnumbered page after 152. – NYPL 253.]

{A photograph of Rabbi Silman (uncaptioned), and a photograph of Rabbi Silman's grave. The photograph is of poor quality (overexposed), but most can be made out}

The Great Gaon the Prince of Torah
Expert in
The Babylonian Talmud, The Jerusalem Talmud, The Sifra
The Sifrei, Rishonim, Acharonim[4]
Pursuing Righteousness and uprightness
A merciful father to any person who is suffering or is in tribulation
{Line cannot made made out – but includes the phrase Bikur Cholim}
Our Rabbi
Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak
The son of Moshe Silman of blessed memory
13 Sivan 5690 (1930)
May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life

[Page 153]

Immediately after they returned, the refugees were not established from an economic perspective, and many were unable to pay the tuition. Even though the school received support from the communal council, its physical situation was difficult during the beginning of the 1920s. At times, there was not enough money to purchase firewood. One winter day, the chairman of the parents committee, Mendel Gorfein (the father of Shimon Noy) appeared in the classes and turned to the students with a request to volunteer and bring wood from their homes to light the fire in the school. The next morning, girls and boys with schoolbags on their shoulders and pine and birch twigs in their hands appeared on the streets of Jonava, walking in the direction of the school.

On a volunteer basis and with great dedication, the members of the parents' committee took care of all administrative matters: the collection of tuition, the payment of the teachers' salary, the purchase of provisions, maintenance, etc. Moshe Granevich, one of the founders of the school, served as the treasurer for many years. Later Sinai Shapiro filled the role of treasurer.

During the 1920s, the physical situation of the school improved, for many students transferred over at one time from the Yavneh school, and furthermore, there were changes for the better due to the improvement of the economic situation in the town.

All subjects were taught in Hebrew in the school. The Lithuanian language was only studied as a subject. Within a brief period of time, the Yiddish Language was also taught as a subject from the reader “Der Shul-Chaver” (The School Companion) of Bastomsky. During its first years, there was a dearth of teachers of certain subjects. There was also a shortage of textbooks. For these reasons, there was a lag in the teaching of nature for about ten years. On the other hand, the teaching of the Hebrew language was on a high level. The teachers had an excellent command of the Hebrew language. There was also no shortage of readers: Sfat Ami, Tal-Yaldut, Yaldut, Bikurim, and Lashon Vasefer in five parts. The teaching of Bible was also on a high level. Special care was exhibited in the teaching of grammar in all subjects that were taught in the school. During the first years, when the general educational network of the young Lithuanian Republic was still at its inception, there was no obligatory curriculum.

At that time, the Lithuanian language was still taught at a minimal level. It is no wonder that throughout the first year, the students did not learn how to read in Lithuanian. When the Lithuanian anthem had to be learned for February 16, 1919, the first year of Lithuanian independence, the teachers wrote the words of the anthem on the board in Hebrew letters. The students copied it and learned it by heart, barely understanding even one word.

As the years passed, the demands from the ministry of education increased, and the level of general knowledge increased appropriately. At around the end of the 1920s, official matriculation examinations were arranged in the presence of a representative of the ministry of education. Demands on teachers were also imposed by the ministry of education. Teachers who could not prove their mastery of the Lithuanian language were not permitted to teach in the school.

The Lithuanian government maintained the public schools on its own account. However, it would only retain a teacher for a class that numbered at least 32 students. Most of the classes in the public Hebrew school in Jonava did not have that number of students, so the parents had to hire teachers on their own account. However, this did not deter the teachers, for the vast majority of the Jewish population of Jonava was imbued with the Hebrew-Zionist spirit. The parents also made efforts to found additional classes. Primary schools in Lithuania consisted of four grades. (A reformation took place only in the middle of the 1930s, expanding the primary schools to six grades.) After completing the fourth grade, students were accepted into the gymnasium or the progymnasium. There was only a Lithuanian progymnasium in Jonava, but the Jews tended not to send their children to the Lithuanian progymnasium, and only a few Jews studied there. Since it was difficult to send a 10-11 year old child to study in the city, the Hebrew public school opened additional unofficial classes that were called “preparatory a”, or “preparatory b”, or “the fifth grade”. During the 1927-1928 school year a sixth grade was opened, composed of approximately 20 graduates of the fifth grade. Boys and girls who finished the fifth grade one year or even two years earlier joined the class. Thus did the class reach 30 students.

The existence of the sixth grade was made possible primarily by finding an appropriate teacher. He was Tabachovich, who was brought in from the gymnasium of Wilkomir. The principal Keidansky and Mrs. Sara Burstein, who taught English according to the Berlitz book, taught along with him. After a year, most of these students continued on to the seventh grade. This year was also completed with success. Even though at first there was a month-long break in studies due to the switching of teachers, the curriculum of study in those following years, which was taught in the afternoons, became increasingly similar to the curriculum of studies in the gymnasiums. Many students succeeded in being accepted into the upper grades of the gymnasiums of Kovno or Wilkomir after additional preparation with a private teacher during the summer vacation.

The first teacher and principal of the Hebrew public school in Jonava was Yoselovich, who came from the outside and worked in the school for 2-3 years. The second principal was Shaul Keidansky, who also came from outside with his family (a wife, two sons and a daughter), and became a permanent resident of Jonava. Mr. Keidansky was also the last principal of the school. There were other teachers who came from outside and became residents of the city: the teacher David Rosenberg who married Zlata Janusevich, and the teacher Beila Apatkina who married Eliezer, the son of Meir Goldshmidt. There were also a few natives of Jonava itself who worked as teachers in the Hebrew public school: Alter Kagan (the artist) and his wife Liba Chana, nee Stern; and Alter (Yitzchak) Sandler who began to teach in this school in 1924 after he completed the Real Hebrew Gymnasium in Kovno. He worked there until he made aliya in 1925. Yitzchak Sandler died in Tel Aviv in 1954 at the age of 52. Other teachers who worked in the Hebrew public school of Jonava were Zeidel, Isser Horowitz, Mrs. Sheinyuk who is remembered by the students primarily for her playful songs such as “Do you want to know?”, “The bird and the cat”, etc.; the writer Eliezer Heiman, Mines from Wilkomir, and Achber from Pasvalys who today lives in Kovno

[Section in the box on page 154]

To this day I recall two typical Jewish anecdotes that I heard from the mouth of the teacher Isser Horowitz.

Once a childless Jew came to the rabbi to request his blessing.

The rabbi told him: return home, and next year at this time you will have a son, at a propitious time.

At the end of the year, the Jew returned again and complained to the rabbi:

“Rabbi, oh woe, what did you perpetrate on me? You promised me a son – and behold, two daughters were born to me!”

The rabbi answered him calmly:

“Indeed it is so my son, I did not err. In my head was the acrostic for “Two females”[5]

A Jew came to consult with the rabbi. He had a daughter who came of age, and she found herself a groom who was without fault. But what was the problem? His family – their pedigree is not top notch… and the talebearers tell that his brother is a stain upon the family. What should we do? Should we agree to the match or not?

The rabbi pointed him to the third volume of the Tur[6], where he would find his answer. The Jew got the hint. He took out the book of Exodus, and found the description of the breastplate of the High Priest, with the names of the rows of stones: “Leshem, Shvo Veachlama” (a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst).

He wrinkled his brow and struggled to understand the answer. He could not fathom the intention of the rabbi at all.

He returned to the rabbi, and asked: “What is the interpretation?”

The rabbi said to him: You did not read it correctly. You need to change the vowels as follows “Leshem Shebo, veach lama?” (To his own name, and why the brother?)

All of the teachers who taught in the school were imbued with a Hebrew-Zionist spirit, and had great influence on their students. How astonishing it was to the students when they heard their teachers speak Hebrew to their own children in their homes. The ring of the names of the children had a special enchantment – Yoel (Zeidel), Emanuel (Keidansky) --with the accent at the end of the word[7], as well as such a Zionist name as Tziona (Keidansky). The unique Hebrew environment that pervaded in the school and that was expressed by the traditional Lag B'omer excursions to Har Hascharchoret (Dizzy Mountain), the celebrations and festivities and later also through the activities at the meeting place greatly influenced the enriching of the souls of the students and their connection to Hebrew culture.

Already during the first days of the existence of the school, Zionist songs such as “Hatikva,” “Sham Baaretz Chemdat Avot” (There in the Land that was dear to the patriarchs), “Seu Tziona Nes Vadegel” (Raise a banner and a flag toward Zion), and the songs of Bialik, Tshernikovsky, Maneh, etc. burst forth from it. During recess, one could see in the yard girls dancing and playing with the accompaniment of Hebrew words “Open up quickly, open, open the gate”, or “you are a cat, you are black, you are evil and bad”. These game-rhymes were brought to the school by several girls who learned them from the private teacher Bara-Moshe Kolbiansky before the existence of the school. He maintained a sort of kindergarten for a very small group of girls in his dwelling (in the house of Aba Lomiansky) already during the era of German occupation.

During the second year of the school, the teacher Joselovich prepared a performance by the students: the operetta “The Lamb and the Wolf”. One of the prime roles was given to Avraham Yitzchak Opnik (the brother of Zeev Ofek), who had a good voice. The role of the lamb was given to Tzipora Levin (the daughter of Chaim Levin) because of her curly hair. This performance was canceled at the last minute due to the fire that broke out in the hall due to the lack of knowledge of how to use the carbide lamp (“luks”) which was borrowed for the play from the store of Masha Granevich. (This was the time before electric lights in Jonava.) It was fortunate that the fire broke out before a large crowd had gathered, and everyone succeeded in escaping by jumping over the long, wooden benches. Klibansky's carpentry shop was completely burnt.

During later years, the school arranged the students' celebrations in the hall of the “Union” theater (earlier, the “Reinoa”). During one of the performances, the play “The Kidnapped” was performed. The role of the kidnapped child was performed by Noach Stern, who later became known as a poet. In that play, Reiza Leah Khasid also appeared in the song “A poor wanderer is knocking here”, dressed up as an elderly Jew with a large staff in her hand. At the end of this play, they were supposed to make a “living pyramid”, but the disappointment of those who had to build this pyramid was very great – especially the disappointment of the younger ones who waited with their blue and white flags to jump to the top of this pyramid – when they were informed that this number was being dropped due to a lack of time. Most of the time was stolen by the very long intermissions between each act that were used to set up the scenery on the stage. It is appropriate to mention the names of other students who contributed of their talents to the student celebrations: the two Koshlevich sisters with their charcoal eyes, Ahuva Stern, and Zeev Opnik (Ofek). There were certainly other students who participated in the student performances, but their names never reached me. On Chanukah and Tu B'Shevat, for the most part, school celebrations were arranged only for the students and teachers. Chanukah celebrations of course began with the lighting of candles. Zeev Opnik would recite the blessing over the candles, and then the choir conducted by Liba Chana Stern (Kagan) would sing Chanukah songs. Later in the program, one of the students would recite a poem from the curriculum of studies. During the Tu B'Shevat celebrations as well, there were choir songs, recitations, and something special for that holiday – the distribution of bags of fruit of the Land of Israel – boxer (carobs), almonds, figs and raisins. The income was dedicated to Keren Kayemet.

During the 1930s, the teacher Mines did a great deal for the success of the student performances. He would arrange student plays with the characteristics of operettas. He composed them himself, improvised the music, or wrote words for known melodies. When there were ballet performances, Bunia Wolfovich would prepare the students for these performances. The Jonaver musician Shlomo-Ber Meirovich organized the choir and conducted it.

A unique event in the annals of the Tarbut school in Jonava was the parade and celebration on the occasion of the opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the year 1925. As with all celebrations, people crowded into the school hall or the movie theater. This celebration was a form of demonstration to all the residents of the town, Jewish and gentile – a demonstration of our attraction to the renewed Hebrew culture of our Land. The students marched through the streets of the town in pairs (a few weeks before this, they received special marching lessons from Shlomo Friedman, who was one of the finest of the Maccabee athletes), with the Zionist flag raised high and fluttering before them. The students joined the celebrating crowds on Har Hascharchoret (Dizzy Mountain). The national joy and pride filled all hearts on that festive spring day.

It should be noted that specifically during the first ten or twelve years of the Hebrew public school, there was little room for alternative subjects such as art, craftsmanship and gym. Similarly, there were barely any clubs outside of the curriculum of studies. It is therefore no wonder that when Hashomer Hatzair was founded in Jonava during the 1927-1928 school year, most of the students of the Tarbut Hebrew public school joined that movement, which had in its power the ability to complete that which was lacking in a complete educational experience. An awakening and progress took place in the supplementary education of the school itself during the 1930s, thanks to the blessed activities of the teacher Mines. We have already discussed above the success of his performances. He founded the meeting place for students, whose activities took place on Sabbaths. These activities were imbued with an enthusiastic Zionist spirit.

Throughout the more than twenty years of its existence, our Tarbut school in Jonava bestowed education upon and instilled national spirit in hundreds of students. Many of its graduates made aliya, and their excellent Hebrew education helped them in their physical and spiritual absorption. It also helped them imbue Hebrew culture in their own children, and to influence their entire surroundings with that spirit.

{Caricature at bottom of page 156: Shlomo Ber Meirovitch}

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Literally rich, but not used in the monetary sense. Return
  2. The group would have been divided into various classes, with class A. being the youngest group. Return
  3. “A group (kvutza) is a kibbutz, a chapter (kan) is a kibbutz.” Return
  4. Sifra and Sifrei are Torah commentaries from the Mishnaic period. Rishonim and Acharonim are the early and latter rabbinic sages. Return
  5. Beit Nekeivot means “Two females” (using the alphabetical formulation of numbers in Hebrew). Its acrostic is “B N”, the letters for “ben” – a son. Return
  6. The Tur is a precursor to the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch). It is short for “Arba Turim” (Four Rows) – referring literally to the four sections of the Code of Jewish law – and homiletically basing its names on the “four rows” of precious stones in the breastplate of the High Priest. Return
  7. In opposition to Yiddish, which generally puts the stress on the penultimate syllable. Return

[Page 157]

The Or Noga Yeshiva

by Shmuel Ben-Menachem

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 157 top: Reb Mendel Deitz}

One day, Rabbi Silman came to the Slobodka Yeshiva to bring my father, Reb Mendel, as the Rosh Yeshiva of Jonava. The Yeshiva wandered from one synagogue to another. Youths from nearby towns also studied there. It was a small Yeshiva that served as a preparation for the larger Yeshiva. Most of the students later became householders[1] who were knowledgeable in Gemara. Reb Menachem Mendel continued to serve as the Rosh Yeshiva until the Russians came. The shochet Reb Michael Lichtenstein also studied there.

The Yeshiva disbanded when the Russians entered.

{Given over by Shmuel Ben-Menachem Deitz.}

{Photo page 157 center: Level 1 of the Hashomer Hadati at the Yavneh School in Jonava.}

[Page 157]

Institutions and Social Enterprises

by Y[itchak]. B[urstein]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The People's Bank

This institution, which contributed to the economic life in the town, was located on the second floor of the Kaper home (previously, the home of Masha Granvich). The small-scale savers would bring their savings there. Moshe Ivenksy was the first person to whom the borrowers would turn. The trust in him was very great. The bookkeeper, Yankel Opnitzky, was tall and skinny, an avowed member of the culture league, and the personification of honesty. The director, Efraim Abramson, was calm, and able to satisfy everyone. During discussions with him in his office, he would rest his spectacles on his forehead. He was a General Zionist. Avigdor Opnitzky also worked there as a bookkeeper. He was a Shomer Hatzair member from Kedainiai. He also served as the leader of the chapter. He was a modest, upright person. He married the dentist Feiga Motnik. Gittel Ritz (Lopiansky) was the secretary. The directors were elected in a democratic fashion at a meeting. The last members included David Burstein as chairman, Shmerel Stern, Yudel Rashkes, Nathan Valchokovsky, and Dr. Ran.

[Page 158]

The Hebrew Library

It was finally transferred to two rooms in the building of Baruch Izraelson (and his two daughters Chana and Esther) on Vilna Street opposite the Wiener building. This was an enterprise of Young Zion. Eighty percent of the thousand books were in Hebrew, and the remainder in Yiddish, either in the original or in translation. Its dedicated workers, who dedicated their evenings to this, were: Velva Kerzner and Chana Davidovich (later Rikliansky) who perished, Golda Sirek who lives in Tel Aviv, as well as the writer of these lines.

The Yiddish Library

It was directed by the Culture League. It was smaller than the Hebrew library, but had dedicated readers and activists who concerned themselves with left-leaning literature. Its activists included the teacher Blusher, Vicho, Kolbansky, Marka Lin, and others.

The Bikur Cholim Hospital

Its building was located on the street of the Synagogue. It was run by the community. It was later supported by the town hall. It was expanded with the assistance of the family of Leiba Winik from the United States. It had five beds. Its de facto director was Glaz, a tall man with a large beard. He was modern and tolerant even though he belonged to Agudas Yisroel. Dr. Grisha Ran was the physician.

The Bathhouse

It was situated behind the fire station. After taking a bath and a shampoo with the aid of special brushes, people would leave with reddened faces, having left behind the filth and sweat, and go home to don their Sabbath attire. At the end of the 1920s, it was decided, through the initiative of Chaim Levin, to build a modern bathhouse. A branch was added to the old bathhouses, with dressing rooms, a table, a mirror, a bathing room covered with white porcelain, and a special steam room. There was a cafeteria at the entrance, called the Console. It was run by Yudel, and sold lemonade, soda, and snacks. Its director was Nathan Valchokovsky.


When Mordechai Wolfovich concluded his university studies as a physician in the 1930s, after a brief period of apprenticeship in Switzerland, he opened an office on the second floor of the Lomiansky building. His number of patients grew from year to year. He was considered to be a more modern physician than Dr. Ran. He followed the professional literature, and never stopped improving himself. His name was known in the villages of the district, and he was held in esteem in the town. He married Julia Garb from Vilkomir [Ukmerge], and they lived opposite Eizik Segalovsky. He was deported to Siberia with his family. Today he lives in Barnaul in the Altay region of Siberia. His wife Julia, who had remained by chance in Lithuania, perished.

The office (reception room) of Dr. Bumash, who had moved to Jonava from Vilkomir, was also on the Street of the Road. He was a tall, thick man. His wife, from the Weitzstein family of Vilkomir, was beautiful and intelligent, but she also became fat with the passage of time. They did not get along well with people.

The Town Council

For many years, the head of the town council was Dr. Reilis, an intelligent, democratic man. His assistant was the treasurer Yehuda Movshovich, the father of Chaya Dina Epstein and Zelda Solsky. He was tall, and had a proud gait.

[Page 159]

There was a great deal of activity during the elections to the town council. There were economic interests, tax issues, and the like. The town council concerned itself with improving the appearance of the town. A large garden was planted at the side of the Street of the Road. A new street was opened from the cooperative to the Vylia, which contained a row of tender trees. This street also led to Breizer Street. Sidewalks were built. The streets were repaved. The availability of electric lighting expanded. The electricity was obtained directly from Kovno at all hours of the day. The hospital, bathhouse and slaughterhouse were supported by the town council, thereby easing the budget of the communal council.

The Oren Match Factory

There was a modern match factory on the road not far from the train station. It had already been built prior to the First World War, and was expanded in 1922. It was equipped with automated machinery and an electric station. It was a company with shares, that was founded by Leibe Optnitzky, David Burstein, Yosa Burstein (Zisla), Elia Entes, Yankel Weitzstein, and Chaim Levin. More than 100 workers from the district worked there. The technical staff, foremen and directors were Jews from Jonava. The director was Chaim Levin, the treasurer – Yankel Weitzstein, the bookkeeper – Chaya Briman, the technical directors – Shimon Rubin, Katz, Berl Entes, Kramerman, and others. The three latter ones lived within the precincts of the factory. The guard was Breznat.

The first parties of the gymnasium graduates – those of the Carlebach Hebrew gymnasium and the Timinski Russian gymnasium in Kovno – would take place here, in the large packaging hall. The “golden youth” participated in these parties, including: Dora Zians, Zelig Epstein, Alter Sandler, Abba Opnitzky, Berl Antes, Mitzel Pogirsky, Leizer Goldshmid, Rachel and Sheina Levin, Sara Burstein, Miriam Lomiansky, Bluma Pogirsky, Chana and Masha Segalovsky, Batya Opnitzky, Ela Wolk and Menashe Weiner.

Chaim Levin expressed his opinion that this was the finest garden, with boulevards and benches.

In 1930, the Lithuanian government forced the owners of the company of shareholders to sell the enterprise to the Kruger Swedish concern. However, Chaim Levin remained as the director, through the concern, until just before the Russians came.

The Medis Sawmill

With the expansion of furniture manufacturing during the 1930s, the owners of the carpentry shops decided to free themselves from the supervision of the sawmill owners, and to found a cooperative called “Medis” (“tree” in Lithuanian). Hershel Friedman, formerly an official at Kemach, directed the enterprise. The members of the cooperative included: Yankel Leib Landman, Kopel Reznik and his sons, Abba Reznik, Mones Klibansky and his sons, Moshel Kolbiansky and Chaim Slomin, Moshe and Zusia Klotz, Shmuel Chernman, Nachum Levin, Moshe Shapira and his son, Shmerel Shapira, Plakser and his son, Kozanovsky, Yankel Tauber, Adler the “bass”, Yankelevich, Landman, and Goldman.

[Page 160]

A Note on the Communal Council

by Baruch Kursik

{Text below the line}

It was during the 1920s, the years of Jewish autonomy in Lithuania. The communal councils began widespread work. In Jonava as well, the communal council conducted a great deal of work. Everybody worked on a volunteer basis except for the secretary and his assistant.

The communal council consisted of 16 members who were chosen as representatives of the parties and organizations. Agudas Yisroel was represented by Rabbi Silman and Yaakov Shimshon Glaz. The representatives of Mizrachi were Shmerl Stern and Rubin. The General Zionists were represented by D. Burstein, Rashkes and Valchokovsky. Young Zion was represented by Menachem Mines and Ivensky. The Yiddishists were represented by Yankel Opnitzky. The representatives of the craftsmen (handworkers) were Benkocher and Yechiel Davidovich.

After Glaz, the chairman was Mines. Yisrael Goldstein was the secretary.

Income was primarily from shechita (ritual slaughter) permits.

The communal council looked after the slaughterhouse, the bathhouse, and visiting the sick (Bikur Cholim) and was very active in the realm of assisting those in need for Maos Chittin for Passover, providing care, tending to wayfarers, providing firewood for the winter. Leib Opnitzky excelled particularly in this area.

Given over by Baruch Kursik
Who worked as the assistant to the secretary in 1921-1922.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The term here refers to well-educated laymen as opposed to rabbis. Return

[Page 160]

The Firefighters

by Baruch Levin

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Jonava had primarily wooden homes. There were brick houses only on the main street, in the market, and on the street next to the Christian church.

“Moyer” (brick walls) – were a symbol of strength and stability. If one wanted to say that something was strong, one would say “shtark vi moyer”, that is to say, as strong as a brick building.

As is known, Jonava was entirely burnt down twice before the First World War. The elder natives of Jonava recall the first and second fires. They also recall all sorts of events and dates based on the dates of the fires. For example, so and so was born after the second fire, etc. After the world war, the Maccabee organization established a firefighting organization in Jonava – “Faszarne Kommande” as it was called in the town. The Jewish residents of the city regarded the firefighters as their own institution. Almost all of the volunteer firefighters were Jewish, and the few gentiles found themselves under Jewish management.

The equipment was particularly paltry. There were large barrels (batchkes) that were brought in immediately after the outbreak of a fire, as a form of first aid. There were also water-drawing machines which were operated by hand. However, the firefighters did not have horses to transport the batchkes and the water-drawing machines, and during the fires, they tried to confiscate horses from the wagon drivers. Until the time a wagon driver could be convinced to give over his horse, and until they brought the batchkes and water drawing machines to a well or to the river – the fire had completely consumed the building. The firefighters arrived and sprinkled water on the neighboring houses. Later, the firefighters obtained a larger water-drawing machine, but it also required horses. Only in the 1930s did they obtain a large machine that was operated by an engine. This was the height of modernity of the firefighters.

The firefighters would conduct “reftitzius,” that is to say, drills. These were a part of the experience of the town. The guard of the firefighters would wear a blue uniform, place a trumpet in his belt, pass through the streets of the town, stop in certain corners, and trumpet with pride, announcing that a drill was about to take place.

[First unnumbered page – a drawing: A Fire in the Town]

[Second unnumbered page – a drawing: Jonaver Blacksmiths in 1911]

[Page 161]

The volunteer firefighters would wear their own uniforms, some with brass helmets from the middle ages, and others in blue helmets. They wore wide belts, to which were hitched an axe and a pick-axe, which was called a “kirke” in Yiddish. They would run to present themselves in the yard of the fire hall. There they would be enumerated. After long negotiations with the wagon drivers, they would obtain horses and go out to the center of town with the machines and barrels. They would connect the machines to a well or the river, extend the fire hoses, and begin to spray water in the market or on some random houses. The children would run between them with great curiosity and try to help. After they proved that the fire hose worked properly, and after they poured out the appropriate amount of water – for in our town things were not measured by a watch – they would begin to gather up their equipment. They would return to the yard of the fire hall filled with personal satisfaction that the maneuver had succeeded.

Then the real experience would come. There were no alarms in the town, so when a fire broke out, they would run and shout “fazer”, that is “fire”. There were those who excelled in shouting “fazer” with a unique clear voice. When Mendel the shoemaker shouted “fazer” I would awaken in the middle of the night, recognizing his voice.

When they shouted “fazer”, everyone would run outside and begin asking where it is burning. The firefighters would be running to and fro.

Indeed, there were jokes in the town about the shouting of “fazer”. The adage “Peshka, shrei fazer” (Pesia, shout fire) was known. Peshka's neighbor came to her quickly during a fire and requested, “Peshka, shout fire”, for shouting would, Heaven forbid, hurt herself…

During such fires in the town, many wooden buildings burnt down and poor people lost everything that they had. The residents were very afraid of fires. If a fire broke out at the end of a street, the people on the entire street and nearby streets would pack up their belongings. In the middle of the night, one could see people running with sacks of pillows and blankets. In particular, they would pack the bedding, so that “there would be something upon which to rest the head”.

There were buildings which were well insured, and after the fire the owner of the buildings would build a better home, for the most part made of bricks. There were also occasions where by chance, the fire did not spread to them, and they would say about them in the town that they made “borei meorei haeish”[1].

I remember Naftali the tailor, known as a big joker, wandering around on the night that a fire broke out at the home of Sara Eidl, groaning “oy oy.” They asked him, “Reb Naftali, why are you groaning? Your house is not burning.” He answered, “Oy, what a large brick house will stand there.”

These firefighters, with all of their provincialism and lack of means, formed an independent Jewish kernel within the harsh, anti-Semitic Diaspora that pervaded at that time in the midst of enlightened Lithuania.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is the benediction of “Who created the light of the fire”, which is recited over a lit flame as part of the havdallah ceremony at the end of the Sabbath. The obvious reference here is that these people ignited the fire themselves in order to collect insurance. Return

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