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[Page 118]

Culture and School Activities

 

Cultural Institutions and the “Pabianice Newspaper”

 

The Jewish secondary school

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Written by Engineer Yitzhak Gilun–Zelinsky (Tel Aviv)

[translation of the Hebrew text begins on page 272]

* * *

Cultural institutions

Written by Dovid D.

The amazing ten or fifteen years that I spent in Hashomer Hatzair are eternally engraved on my memory. The important Jewish national education, the summer camps, excursions, meetings, and conferences served to build the characters of Jewish youth and they developed into healthy Jews as a result. Allow me to mention here the names of my comrades:

The Mozynski brothers,

Frankenberg, Sarah

and Esther Birnbojm,

Jelenowicz, Glas, Alter,

Fela Abramson, and

Others.

[Page 119]

The Moric Faust Library was a bright spot under the grey sky of Pabianice. Who didn't read books in this library, which earned its reputation for having a large selection of reading materials, from the classic Yiddish writers to Modern Hebrew writers? The library included Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German books and periodicals about literature, art, science, philology. This is where Jewish working teenagers and Chassidic boys who had to sneak in really experienced life. This is where the wells of Jewish and general literature opened for them – Graetz [German–Jewish historian], Dubnow [Russian– Jewish historian and theoretician of National Cultural Autonomy], Mendele, Sholem Aleichem, Peretz [Yiddish classical writers] and Asch, Nomberg and Vaysenberg [Yiddish writers of the second generation].

Together with the library we should now mention the first cultural activists who dedicated themselves to it 30 or 40 years ago: Morici Faust, the son of Herszl Faust and one of the teachers, and Miss Frankenberg. For years they knew every reader and his or her spiritual level, and knew how to instil his or her thirst for knowledge and understanding of quality literature.

The “Hazomir” had a choir that was led by Leo Lyow and Dorgozanski from Lodz. The choir didn't only sing songs by Peretz and Reisen [a well–known Yiddish writer of the second generation], but also Handel oratorios and an aria from the opera “Samson and Delilah”. Welwl Szer, the talented conductor, prepared the choir of our cantor, Jermija Wendrownik, for the Jewish holidays and – as I've already written – chose Beethoven's choral song from the Ninth Symphony, matched with the words of our great sage Hillel. After Welwl Szer, who later conducted in the Johannesburg shul, the leadership of “Hazomir” passed to Nehemja Finkelsztejn. He was a musician and his brother was a portraitist. They were both self–taught but each was blessed with a heavenly talent. Speaking about “Hazomir”, one must mention the musical organizer and activist Nehemja Grynszpan, who was extremely knowledgable about music, Jechil Zylber (the organizer and leader of “Hazomir”) and the dozens of young girls and boys who came to enjoy themselves for hours in the “Hazomir” Club after a full day's work.

The Drama Group was one of the oldest Jewish institutions in Pabianice. They performed Goldfaden [the father of modern Yiddish theatre] and later the works of Gordin, Hirszbejn [well–known Yiddish playwrights of the era] and even the works of [August] Strindberg. The artists were middle–class youth, including:

Fiszl Rosensztejn,

and later, Wolf Bresler,

The secondary school teacher Worcman and his wife,

Goldberg and

The literary coach and prompter Monjek Dawidowicz.

[Page 120]

The “Hazomir” in Pabianice

Written by Wolf Bresler (Buenos Aires)

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Jewish Pabianice followed the lead of neighbouring Lodz and organized a musical union called “Hazomir”.

It wasn't easy to find an appropriate conductor to lead the choir, which consisted mostly of girls and boys, teenagers actually. All sorts of efforts were made to ensure that the “Hazomir” was able to continue its normal activities.

During 1922 and 1923, when there were already some middle–aged singers in the choir, we brought in from Lodz three times a week the famous conductor of the Reform Synagogue, Dorgozanski (the Germans later tortured him to death). They sang Yiddish and Hebrew songs and chazanut written by Lewandowski and others.

During the concerts that took place under Dorgozanski's baton, the choir successfully performed Bialik's “The Little Green Trees”, “Treachery” with Bensman's music, as well as “Khatskele” and other folk pieces that were sung in all cities and towns of the Polish Republic.

* * *

The Drama Group

For a while there was also a drama group. From time to time we brought the famous actor and director Herszl Jedwab down from Lodz. He himself was also born in Pabianice. He rehearsed plays with us like Sholem Asch's “God of Vengeance” and Sholem Aleichem's “All Spread Out”. Later we staged a series of plays by Peretz Hirshbein and Leon Kobrin [Yiddish authors who were both working in America during the inter–war period] and directed them ourselves. We almost reached the status of being a stable Yiddish theatre company. Only the economic crisis of the 1930s was to put an end to our plans.

For a short time Natan Goldberg from Zdunska Wola directed some plays. We prepared another Hirshbein play and “The Thieves” by Bimko [an American Yiddish writer] with him. The following were active in the drama group:

Dawidowicz,

Teacher Worcman

and his talented wife,

The Birnbojm sisters,

The Frankenbergs,

The author of these lines,

Others.

[Page 121]

I directed “God, Man and Devil” by Jacob Gordin [classic Russian and later American Yiddish playwright] with the lead roles played by Binjomin Goldwasser (Hershele), Mojsze Bones (Leyzer Drakhma) and Wolf Bresler (Uriel Mazik). Theatregoers were amazed that we staged Gordin's play in such a masterful manner.

The drama group also organized literary discussions based on various books and topics. These conversation and discussion evenings attracted a teenage audience.

G.R.

“Hazomir” played an important role in Jewish society in Pabianice. The youth of all parties joined together under the leadership of the famous scholar Jechil Zylber. Most important was the choir, which was under the direction of Nehemja Finkelsztejn. A few times a year they performed concerts featuring a rich diversity of musical material. The programs would mix secular and liturgical music. In time we managed to organize our own meeting place and even a piano – which we had been missing for a long time.

In addition we enjoyed multi–faceted cultural activities.

Jakob Grynsztejn (Tel Aviv)

* * *

The small Jewish community of Pabianice also had its own weekly newspaper – the “Pabianice Newspaper”. It was first published during the years 1930–1931. After a long break it was published again during the years 1938–1939. Most of all, the weekly fought against the influence of the Ger Chassidic court [a Chassidic organization whose rebbe was heavily involved in Polish politics at the national level], which had a follower in Pabianice in the person of the famous Pabianice rabbi, Reb Mendl Alter, a leader of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis in Poland.

[Page 122]

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“The Pabianice Newspaper”, a weekly for politics, literature and social issues. The main headline reads: “The Jewish community and its responsibilities”

[Page 123]

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“Hazomir” From 1933–1939

Written by Jakob Grynsztejn (Tel Aviv)


The vast majority of Pabianice Jews raised their children in a religious spirit. They were taught in cheder and in the purpose–built building of the “Aguda” [ultra–Orthodox organization under the leadership of the Rebbe of Ger], where there were five hundred students. The head of the “Aguda” cheder was the Pabianice rabbi, the pious Reb Mendele Alter. Between 1933 and 1939, Pabianice was one of the few Jewish towns in Poland that had no modern educational institutions and no Yiddish or Hebrew secondary school.

[Page 124]

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Hazomir field trip to local salt mine 28 June 1922
Row One (from right to left, standing amongst strangers): A. Halberg, K. Wejcman
Row Two: J. Alter, J.Lefkowicz, A Lidzbarski, Grandfather (Kielce), M. Lipski, Sz. Proport, J. Tajch, B Pukacz
Row Three: J. Szynicka, P. Ajlenberg, F. Abramson, Ch. Adler, D. Dzjaluszynska, M. Tajch, E. Rajchman, M. Rotberg
Row Four: Walard, A. Korn, A. Birnbaum, G. Rajchman, D. Jakubowicz
Row Five: Secretary H. Alter, Teacher Haber, Director Engineer A. Rusak and wife, Teacher Fogel, child of Director Rusak, Teacher S. Rosenfeld, Teacher Sz. Worcman

 

The working youth thirsted for knowledge, but they had to be satisfied with the self–education circles (organized by the left–wing political parties) and the few libraries (which nourished the youth spiritually). A group of politically aware teenagers worked with the “Hazomir”.

“Hazomir” was located at 13 Garncarska Street. “Hazomir” was a song union, which attracted the so– called “better youth”, the products of wealthy and middle–class homes who dabbled in song and dance to pass the time. At this time “Hazomir” was virtually unavailable to working–class teenagers.

[Page 125]

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Hazomir committee

 

In 1933, at the annual general meeting of the cultural institution a group of young Marxists were elected to a majority on the new board. For a short time the new board changed the song union into a workers' club, which was very important to the cultural development of working class youth in Pabianice.

The board of the new “Hazomir” consisted of the following comrades:

Engineer Majer Jelenowicz, Nojach Buchner,

Szmuel Dawid Grynsztejn,

Fajwel Gutsztat,

Ester Harcsztark (all killed by the Nazis),

Sala Joskowicz,

Efrojim Kupper,

Binjomin Breslowski,

Abram Jakubowicz,

Mendel Joskowicz

(now living in Poland),

Jakob Grynsztejn,

Fiszel Krakowski,

Dawid Hojsman,

[Page 126]

Mendel Laznowski (now living in Israel),

Mojsza Goldsztejn,

Jisroel Goldsztejn (now living in the Soviet Union),

Dawid Gerszt,

Dawid Szlama Handelsman,

Lejbusz Rajchbart,

Josef Kuperberg (now living in various countries).

“Hazomir” was the only workers' cultural organization that engaged in political enlightenment as well as cultural activity.

At this time the infamous anti–Semitic “owszem” (of course) policy of Minister Skadkowski was extant in Poland and brought with it anti–Jewish pogroms. In small towns Jews lost their pitiful means of earning a living. Hundreds of families began to stream into Pabianice, hoping to save themselves financially by working in the weaving industry. The teenage children of these families became active in “Hazomir”.

One of the most active comrades who did much cultural work was Henjek Jusefowicz from Wjelun. Teacher Mojsze Korn was the organizer of the leaders' circle at “Hazomir”. He also gave public readings on cultural and political topics. Both were tortured by the Germans for their membership in “Hazomir”.

In Pabianice “Hazomir” was the only outlet for Yiddish writers, poets, actors and political speakers. The writer and martyr Alter Kacyzne put much effort into “Hazomir” and was its honorary chairman. He visited often and spoke on literary topics. The public meetings at which he appeared took place in the movie theatre Zachenta and in Hegenbart's hall. The poets Bunem Heller, Mojsze Szulsztejn, Chaim Grade, the actors Rochl Holcer [settled in Melbourne, Australia, in 1939], Josef Kamin and others performed readings and songs almost every week.

Szmuel Dawid Grynsztejn and his private collection of books formed the basis of the “Hazomir” library, where he served as librarian and leader. He worked with great dedication and was in constant contact with the readers, for whom he was a literary pathfinder. Szmuel Dawid was the soul of “Hazomir” and was also the head of the Communist oriented youth group.

As a workers' organization “Hazomir” also participated in political life and in a drama group that was founded under the direction of the actor Dawid Lejzerowicz from Kalisz. It had twenty–five members and performed almost every week to full halls, with satire, humour, one–acters and recitations from classic Yiddish literature. The songs that were presented by the “Hazomir” drama group in its performances were sung later in many Jewish homes. The choir, under the baton of N. Finkelsztejn, held a special place amongst cultural activities.

[Page 127]

“Hazomir” also strove to develop its own speakers for public readings and created a special group led by:

Sala Joskowicz,

Engineer Majer Jelenowicz,

Efrojim Kupper

The teacher Mojsza Korn.

The group had over twenty members. Twice a week there were lectures on sociology, political economy, historical and dialectical materialism and other topics. We also had political reviews, discussion evenings, “living newspapers” and evenings of fine literature.

“Hazomir” became a second home to the working youth where they spent all of their free time. There were special entertainment evenings every Saturday night in order to attract the working youth away from the immoral dance halls. It is worth underlining that many teenagers, especially girls, had to endure many arguments with their religious parents because of their activities for the workers such as strikes, demonstrations, anti–fascist activities and municipal elections. “Hazomir” was the initiator of the great protest strike in March 1936 after the Przytyk pogrom and the boycott of the last Sejm elections. Thanks to the activism of “Hazomir” and other workers' parties, Pabianice registered the smallest number of votes in the entire Lodz region during the election boycott. On “Hazomir”'s initiative the candidate of the United Labour list, the attorney Izak Alter, was elected to the municipal council.

On Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months, excursions were organized to distant places and forests, as well as factory visits. Most of all, every proletarian holiday was celebrated with specially organized programs, in association with the Polish Socialist Party's youth organization and the “Freethinkers' Union”.

“Hazomir” also collected money for political arrestees, sent packages to the prisons where Pabianice workers were locked up, provided attorneys for political trials, organized broad collections for striking workers and their families, and for others.

The attack of the Hitler beasts in 1939 interrupted the intensive cultural and political activities of “Hazomir”. A group of “Hazomir” comrades led by Comrade Szmuel Dawid Grynsztejn with great effort secretly buried the entire “Hazomir” library in crates at 20 Konstantyn Street (Grynszteyn's own address) after the Nazis began to attack.

 

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