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The Zionist Movement


Ch. N. Bialik 1

Generations will come that will speak of you, and you will be silent. They will sing songs and write dramas of you, without having known you. If there is someone regarding whom it was not known that he spoke in prose all of his life, you will not need to know that you made poems all of your life. But if you think that you have reason to despair, for after decades you accomplished very little – you are making a complete mistake. Your efforts mark the beginning of the healing of our body. The lifeblood stopped flowing through the arteries, which hardened and became blocked. The heart has begun to beat again.


Rozniatow During the Days of the Zionist Vision

by Dr. Chaim Berger

These were the days of the Zionist vision, which filled my entire being so that I saw no other world aside from it. I found my way among the secret activities of the student organization in Stryj. During this fundamental period of my life, I spent my vacations in Rozniatow. There I found young people organized in the Zionist movement. They were of sharp mind, sensitive hearts, alert and active.

The main activities were the setting up of courses in Hebrew, and the nurturing of a strong love of the Land of Israel. In the “Chevrat Zion” hall next to the home of Dr. Wasserman, opposite the “Zrakwa”, I organized lectures and discussions on Zionistic topics along with other Rozniatow activists.

The images of the young people of Rozniatow are etched in my mind, as are their desire for action and intense stamina. Far from any abstraction, they saw the realities as they were. Their internal feelings gave them the strength in their actions, and fired their deeds.

I remained in constant contact with the activists of Rozniatow. In 1908, they invited me to lecture on the memorial day of Binyamin Z. Herzl 2 . The hall was full to the brim. The Jews of Rozniatow were anxious to here my lecture in Modern Hebrew, with the Sephardic pronunciation 3 . They enthusiastically accepted the fundamental outlook of Herzl, that the Zionist goal was the normalization of the life of the Jewish people in their national homeland.

My wife Bronya, of the Lifschitz family of Brody, was frequently invited to lecture on the ideal manner of actualizing the goal and attaining personal fulfillment. This was a form of pioneering that not too many people became attached to, for only the choicest of people became chalutzim (Zionist pioneers). These people were special in their strength and bravery, special in their jumping upon the path and continuing along it, special in their ability to overcome and to learn. Such were the youth of Rozniatow.

People such as these are the Rozniatow natives in the land. They are dreamers and people of vision, practical chalutzim and people of deeds, who stood their own during all of the tribulations of the wars, and all the obstacles along the path, covered with blood, sweat and tears. My wife was also active in the organization of Rozniatow natives. She offered assistance to the Holocaust survivors who made aliya, in helping them overcome the difficulties in absorption, and become acclimatized to the Land.

We also implanted in the heart of our son a love for the Rozniatow natives. He succeeded in serving as a professor in the Weitzmann institution. He was awarded the Rothschild prize at a festive gathering of the Knesset for his work in the chemical field. Despite the fact that he is submerged in his professional work, he takes an interest in the activities of the organization of Rozniatow natives, and in the memorial book of that community which was destroyed, and where most of our relatives perished.

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Chaim Nachman Bialik was a well-known Hebrew author of the 1800s. The paragraph below is a quote from his works. Back
  2. Theodore Herzl's Hebrew name was Binyamin Zeev. Back
  3. There are two main methods of Hebrew pronunciation, the Ashkenazic method prevalent among European Jewry, and the Sephardic method prevalent among North African and Middle Eastern Jewry. Modern Hebrew was revived with the Sephardic pronunciation. Back


The Zionist Organizations

by Yaakov Rechtschaffen

After the Zionist Congress in Basle, the news of the national revival and the return of children to their borders1 came also to our town. The first Zionists in our town decided amongst themselves to organize into a Chovevei Zion group, to found a special prayer hall for those of like belief, and to write a Torah scroll in honor of the festive event. As can be understood, opponents to the idea of the return to Zion and also to the writing of the Torah scroll immediately arose in town. They immediately enlisted verses from the Torah to prove their point: “If G-d does not build a house, the builders toil in vain”2, etc. And whom do you think you are that you should write a Torah scroll? As if the writing of a Torah scroll and bringing it in to a sanctuary of G-d is something only for them, for what connection is there between Zionists and a Torah scroll? This was despite the fact that all of the members of Chovevei Zion were pious and observant Jews, scholars, who behave in all manners like the rest of the residents of the town, except that the concept of the Land of Israel and the return to Zion touched their heart, and, in fulfillment of the verse “on behalf of Zion I shall not be silent”3, they began to work towards that end with all their enthusiasm.

When they finished writing the Torah scroll, they arranged a Torah dedication celebration with great joy and splendor. They sang and danced in the outskirts of town, and the joy was great.

At first, they all were united in the Chovevei Zion movement. There were no differences of opinion and outlook among them. They all acted according to the same custom. They all were observant of Torah and the commandments, and all of them desired the same, solitary, aim: “Let our eyes behold Your return to Zion with mercy”4.

After about 20-30 years, the first divisions began to appear. The first ones who began to organize themselves into a separate faction within the Zionist organization were the people of Poale Zion. They separated from the general umbrella as workers, and after the First World War, some of them also began to free themselves from the yoke of Torah and observance, and draw near to the workers' movement. It was natural that they would organize themselves into a workers faction within Chovevei Zion. After them came the people of the “General Zionists”, and the “Achva” youth group. Later came the Mizrachi – Bnei Akiva organization, Gordonia, Hashomer Hatzair, and others.

Each of these organizations had hundreds of members and activists, who would come to their headquarters each night to spend their free time in various discussions on Zionist topics. They studied Bible and the Hebrew language, sang Hebrew songs, organized question and answer evenings, debates and lectures, and the youth began to learn the well-known Hora dances.

All of the Zionist organizations worked together to collect money to purchase land in Israel via the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund). Each organization appointed two representatives to the Keren Kayemet. These representatives formed the local Keren Kayemet branch. There was always competition among the various youth groups as to who would collect the most money for the Keren Kayemet, and be registered in the Keren Kayemet annals as “having attained first place”.

Only honorable people from among the youth groups were appointed to the directorship of the Keren Kayemet. My brother Shimshon Rechtschaffen was the chairman of the Keren Kayemet for many years. Despite the fact that I am biased, I will permit myself to state that my brother was the epitome of refinement of soul and levelheadedness. He was dedicated to communal work for all of his days. He was also the chairman of the General Zionists for many years. On account of his activism, he neglected his family and also his livelihood. Like all of us, he desired to make aliya to the Land of Israel, but he did not succeed in obtaining the certificate (aliya permit) from the Mandatory government of the time, until the bitter violent day of the total liquidation of the community of Rozniatow came. He perished along with his family.


General Zionists

The General Zionists referred to themselves as ordinary Zionists (Stam Tzionim). Members of the establishment and the intelligentsia were generally attracted to them.

The General Zionist organization was the first of all of the political groups to become active in our town.

The chairman was Moshe Rosenberg.

The activists
From right: Shimshon Rechtschaffen, Yeshayahu Lutwak,
Shuli Tanne, and Shabtai Falik


The schism that affected the General Zionist movement in Poland during the 1920s did not affect the local Zionists.


On the right: Yehuda Tzvi Stern.
On the left: Mordechai Hoffman


The Poale Zion organization had an important past, since it was one of the first to organize in our town. The members related with seriousness and faithfulness to their Zionist activity. Among the most active were Magister Leib Meisels and Moshe Monio Lusthaus, who died in Israel. They conducted intensive activity in a large variety of areas. Its members were for the most part from the working class, workers, foremen and tradesmen. They developed greatly in the cultural realm. They ran a large and orderly library under the direction of Ben Zion Horowitz, and they also established a drama group from amongst their members. This group performed various plays with great success.

It is worthwhile to point out the budgetary problems that made the work of the activists difficult to the point of being almost unbearable. However, the strong will of the activists to fulfill their tasks appropriately, and not to become like the musicians at a wedding5, caused great power. They knew very well what deeds needed to be done in order to overcome the difficulties. This gave them the confidence to appear before the public and request with a full heart the help needed for their cultural work. The hearts of the youth and the adults were open to greet them.

As has been previously noted, the members of Poale Zion were the first to organize themselves into a separate group within the general umbrella of Chovevei Zion. There were many causes for this. In order to search for sources of income for their organization, they decided to set up a drama group to perform various plays, and the income would be dedicated to the organization.

The troupe developed very well, and they performed many productions of Shalom Aleichem, Peretz, Asch, and Goldfaden in Rozniatow. Students and young men and women participated in the troupe, and their success was exceptional. Of course, they realized a great deal of income from their performances, and all of the income was dedicated to developing a large library, for they strove to widen the perspective and deepen the world of the youth. The success of the library can also be seen from the large number of readers that turned to it to borrow books in a variety of languages. Gentiles, particularly members of the intelligentsia, teachers, and officials, came as well.

The times had their effect. It was after the First World War. Poverty and pressure for a livelihood brought the masses into the ranks of Poale Zion. The vast majority of the youth of the town belonged to that organization. The chairman and life force of the organization was Leib Meisels. Muni Lusthaus, who was the secretary, was very active in the organization. After some years, he also became the chairman of the organization. When I moved over from Hapoel Hamizrachi and turned towards the left, I joined Poale Zion, and took upon myself the role of secretary for a certain period. A few years prior tot he outbreak of the war, I was also appointed as the chairman of that organization.

Hamizrachi and Tzeirei (Young) Mizrachi

When I desire to write here about the Mizrachi and Young Mizrachi organizations, I must relate it to the splendid personality, the founder and patron of the group, Reb Avraham Zauerberg of blessed memory.

I was still young when Reb Avraham Zauerberg founded the Mizrachi movement in our town. Therefore, I am not able to describe its beginnings and its activities at the time, except by describing the aforementioned Reb Avrahamtze.

I knew the man and his family, for they lived not too far from our house. He had four children, two girls and two boys. The eldest daughter, Miriam, is today in Israel with her family. We were both of the same age, and I always enjoyed talking to her. She was very bright and intelligent, similar in character to her father.

As a youth, I was always used to viewing the elder Jews as strict, prone to anger, scholarly, noisy, always arguing, and always warning us children not to disturb them. However, this was in complete opposition to the character of Reb Avrahamtze Zauerberg, whose personality exuded goodness of heart and love. He always had a light smile on his face. He had a black, well-kept beard. His large forehead, and particularly his eyes, were bright with love and friendship.

He was a scholar, and very particular with his religious observance. Along with this, he was knowledgeable in worldly affairs. He was familiar with modern Hebrew literature, and fluent in the German language. He would read German newspapers. He was pleasant in his dealings with his fellowman. He was beloved by the younger generation, and he made sure to draw them close.

His home was open wide. On Saturday nights after the Sabbath, young adults and even youths would gather in his home to play chess. His wife Tila would offer refreshments, hot tea and delicacies. He was the chairman and life force of the local Mizrachi branch.

After some years, when the branch of this organization developed well, and was recognized in the eyes of the community and its institutions, Reb Avraham founded the Young Mizrachi and Bnei Akiva6 organizations. Reb Avraham Zauerberg was the honorary chairman of Mizrachi and Young Mizrachi until the outbreak of the final war. He was the patron of the Bnei Akiva religious youth organization. His strong love of Zion influenced all segments of the Orthodox youth.

The young man Eliezer Yitzchak Nussbaum, who was nurtured by him, was appointed by him as secretary. The writer of these lines also served as an activist in Mizrachi and its youth wing for many years. I would travel to national conventions in Lvov, and assist in the organization of hachsharah (aliya preparation) groups for pioneers (chalutzim) in the area. My desire, and the desire of all of the youth in our town, was for aliya. This was not a simple matter in those days, for it was dependent upon the receipt of permits that the Mandatory government would ration to chalutzim. Some chalutzim would wait for their turn for 3-4 years. In the interim, they would spend their time in hachsharah groups, working at all types of difficult labor. Often, the failure to receive a certificate after 4-5 years of hachsharah would cause great frustration and agony. Engaged couples who intended to get married and make aliya together would separate, for they could not wait any longer, since they did not receive their aliya certificate. Anyone who received a certificate was considered fortunate. The entire town would arrange a farewell party, and members from all of the youth groups would come to wish the person well, and accompany him to the train that set out for Stanislawow, and from their to the shores of the Land via Romania. For about an hour prior to the arrival of the train, they would sing Hebrew songs, and dance “We are making aliya to the Land, we are making aliya to the Land”. This was the greatest desire of the youth of the town. Fortunate was the person who merited this.



The Achva organization of the General Zionists was one of the most active and well-developed organizations in the town. My brother served as chairman for many years. Dr. David Weisman, Moshe Rosenberg and others played an active role, and took responsibility in various roles.

The life spirit of the Achva youth group was David Weisman.

At first, the General Zionist organization was considered as a non-partisan group, in which both Orthodox and non-Orthodox people would be able to participate together under one roof, with the common goal of Zionism before their eyes.

After the First World War, when the Zionist movement began to develop, and each organization began to work in its own sphere of influence, the General Zionists also took on their own color. They attracted for the most part merchants, officials, and the intelligentsia from among the youth. It was possible to here Polish language spoken among them, but the main language was, of course, Yiddish. Some Hebrew could also be heard.

Bnei Akiva

The Orthodox youth in Rozniatow had already become attached to a pioneering tradition, bestowed upon them by the personality of Reb Avraham Zauerberg. His influence was recognizable in their behavior and in their studies.

Bnei Akiva conducted many cultural activities, particularly among those people that frequented the Beis Midrash. The Orthodox youth began to become attracted to new paths and principals, with a viewpoint toward the Land of Israel.



This organization was founded with the goal of gathering together the youth from all strata of the Jewish community; however, it stumbled upon great difficulties that were impossible to overcome. The youths who were interested in pioneering and work in the Land of Israel streamed towards various movements, and Gordonia remained as a weak movement. In the latter period, it did not even have its own meeting hall. Their influence was not shining among the youths. Its few members participated with great dedication in all communal Zionist activities.

Hashomer Hatzair

Youth of Rozniatow on Hachsharah, 1936


The branch of Hashomer Hatzair in Rozniatow serves as the expression of great hopes and deep waves of awakening amongst the Jewish youth. The vibrancy affected primarily the groups of students among the youth. Nevertheless, the youth from the populist strata of society were also accepted into the ranks of Hashomer Hatzair. The atmosphere in the group was full of longing for actualization and aliya. Its members were very active, and they excelled particularly in their ideological clarity. Political and Zionistic debates, and the ringing Hebrew and Israeli songs left their mark upon the youth. The branch also organized educational activities that educated the youth toward full actualization of the ideological and pioneering tendencies of the movement.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. A Biblical reference, from Jeremiah 31, to the eventual return of the Jewish people to their land. This prophetic selection is part of the Haftarah reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Back

  2. This verse is from Psalm 127. Of course, this is a manifestation of the classic debate between religious Zionism and religious anti-Zionism, a debate that is still ongoing to this day. Back

  3. Isaiah 62, verse 1. Back

  4. A quote from the daily Shmone Esrei prayer, requesting the return of the Divine presence to Zion. Back

  5. Seemingly an expression for someone who is not in full control of the situation. Back
  6. Bnei Akiva is the name, still used today, for the youth wing of Mizrachi. Back

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