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Parties and Social Institutions

 

Siedlce – The Zionist City

by F. Drumy (Popowsky)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

In Poland, Siedlce had a reputation as a Zionist city. In the book “The Struggles of a Generation”, Avraham Levinsohn wrote: “When the central committee of the organization “Ha–t'khiyah” was founded in Warsaw, the two branches–Siedlce and Bedzin–were the strongest and most active in Poland.” Siedlce served the Zionist name very well, because that is truly what it was. All of Jewish communal life in Siedlce was imbued with Zionist activities. Through their representatives, the Zionist organizations played a leading role in communal economic and political areas, such as the city council, the Jewish communal organization, missions to the local government, interventions with the central government, both in czarist times in Petersburg or later with the Polish central government in Warsaw. Zionist cultural activities in Siedlce were rich and many–colored: schools, evening courses, libraries, lectures, readings, friendly conversations, discussion evenings, social gatherings, and sport clubs. The Zionists in Siedlce also made an impression on economic and social–philanthropic affairs and they were active in the associations and unions: the merchants' union, the small businessmen, the craftsmen's union, the credit associations, the merchants' bank, the lending bank,, the charity fund, the orphans' aid, the old people's home, the hospital, “TAZ,” the soup kitchen, and so on.

Aside from all of these city and general foundations, the Zionist organizations had their own party groups, which took no second place to the

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similar community organizations. Everywhere the Zionists were the innovators and tone setters. They always offered encouragement and ideas, doing the work for its own sake, not for their personal benefit. Always the interests of the whole and of the individual as part of the whole took first place with them. Consequently their words and demands were always effective and persuasive. Even the strongest opponents of Zionism, when somehow they were in the majority, supported the Zionist proposals. The effect of the Zionist representatives was felt. not only in Jewish circles but also in the non–Jewish world, as in the magistrate's office and the city council.

It is appropriate to recall that when there was a small majority of the Agudah in the community council, they supported Zionist proposals and underwrote with larger sums the Hebrew Tarbus School, the evening courses, subsidized the Keren Kayemes for Eretz Yisroel, and gave travel money for each pioneer who made aliyah to Eretz Yisroel. In the Beis Medreshes, synagogues, and in many of the Chasidic prayer houses donations were given to the Keren Kayemes. In the Great Shul and Beis Medresh, speaking of Zionist matters was regarded as virtuous. On every Tamuz 20 in the city synagogue, a memorial for Dr. Herzl was organized and speakers were invited for the occasion.

The Zionist gathering always filled the halls. It was a special holiday in the city when someone from the central Zionist organization or a representative from Eretz Yisroel visited. For this reason the Zionist leaders were always prepared to come to Siedlice. One of the most frequent visitors was the chair of the Zionist Central Committee in Poland, a deputy in the Polish Sejm, the first interior minister in Israel–Yitzchak Greenbaum. When he left the train station, Jews would come out of the stores and dwellings, and each one told the other that Deputy Greenbaum has come to give a lecture. Always the hall was too small to hold all who would attend. The greatest events in the Zionist world, and in the general world, like the issuing of the Balfour Declaration in San Remo, the opening of the university in Eretz Yisroel, were holidays for the whole

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Zionist family and for each individual. Not everyone could participate in the celebrations that had been organized because no hall was big enough. Hundreds of people had to be turned away without even being able to stay in the hallways. Every level of the population took part in the holiday, because such were the adherents of the Zionist organization: men and women, learned Jews, Chasidim, opponents of Chasidism, the intelligentsia, merchants, craftsmen, workers, the rich and the young.

[picture caption: The Zionist conference in 1933 in Siedlce with the participation of Deputy Yitzchak Greenbaum]

The Zionist organization in Siedlce demonstrated amazing initiative and energy in creating agencies. It was indeed a pleasure to see ow the older, established Jews in the city always worked with the younger despite regular differences of opinion. But they always shared the same purpose, which united them all.

Thanks to this, there were no schism among the Zionist groups. The older members understood the desires of the young and were always full of enthusiasm for the devotion of the young to their work. The young members also knew to value the work of the older and always

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paid attention their words and their advice. In order to participate with the young people in their work, the older would join the young in their meetings for the Keren Kayemes, in the sale of Zionist membership cards, in working for the Tarbus, and so on. Gatherings for Keren Ha–Y'sod were strictly reserved for the elders.

We will present in chronological order the activities of the Zionist movement in Siedlce, beginning with the period of Hibbas–Tzion [an early Zionist movement, from the 1880's].

 

Early Secret Zionist Meetings in Czarist Times

Zionist work in Siedlce began at the time of the Khibas–Tzion movement. At that time, when the “Bilui” [a movement for agricultural settlement in Palestine] heeded the call “House of Jacob, come, let us go” and went to Eretz Yisroel, in 1884, soon after the Khibas–Tzion Conference in Katowice, in Siedlce, in the dwelling of R. Yitzchak–Nachum Weintraub, z”l, there was a secret gathering to establish a chapter of Chovevei Tzion. A secret meeting in czarist times risked being sent to Siberia. In addition, at that time it was also an enormously bold and revolutionary act to come together and speak about Eretz Yisroel, especially when these were not only young people but family men, Chasidic youth who sat and studied in the prayer houses and bees medreshes, the Intelligentsia, merchants, and craftsmen.

Among those participating in this secret gathering were: the instigator of the meeting–R. Yitzchak–Nachum Weintraub, Moshe Goldberg, R. David Eiziks, Yitzchak–Meir Rapaport, Yehoshua Goldfarb, Moyshe–Abba Eisenstadt, Shimon–Ber Minntz, Berl Kahana, Fishl Frenkel, Shmuel Zucker, and others. Every Friday evening, people would come to R. Yitzchak–Nachum's home to discuss current topics, to read a circular (if one had arrived) and to collect money for settling in Eretz Yisroel. Yitzchak–Nachum Weintraub was, in fact, the father of Zionism in Siedlce. From the first day when he had been married and come to Siedlce, in 1878, until 1942, when his spirit departed, he took every opportunity to demand and awaken the world to Zionism. At his every appearance, he would recall

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a Midrash from the Sages, a verse from Tanakh, and use the words of his rabbi, R. Shmuel Mahilewer, z”l. Also, when he studied in the Ger prayer house with R. Moyshe Goldberg and then R. Yisroel Yechiel's beis–hamedresh and even later in the great city beis–hamaedresh, he always referred to Eretz Yisroel and thus always incorporated Zionist thinking in the broader Jewish world.

When R. Yitzchak–Nachum Weintraub became a great merchant, he never gave up learning every day a page of Gemara and also found time to read books. He read both older and newer literature. He had understanding both for the Jew who studied religious texts and was observant and for the Jew who was totally secular. He often made the time to intervene and calm down the disputes between the observant and non–observant. He invested a great deal of labor and energy in getting the Siedlce administrator to give permission for opening a library in Siedlce, and the observant Jewish merchant, R. Yitzchak–Nachum Weintraub, supported the library with all his might.

He also loved exercise, which he worked at. Early every day, both in winter and summer, he went out happily and chopped wood as exercise.

He never turned down anyone who came asking him for a favor, like, for example, a good deed, offering security at a bank, which he often ended up paying, many thousands. This Zionist activist was attuned to human sorrows. He always listened when someone spoke to him from the heart, when people came to him to have an edict revoked, whether for everyone or for someone in particular. He devoted all his energy to it. We saw him at the time of the pogrom in Siedlce, together with R. Shimon–Ber Analik, z”l, Moshe Temkin, and secretary of the Jewish community council Czaczkes, when he went to intervene with the local government to stop the shooting as bullets were flying around his head.

After the First World War, when the Polish military justice system judged Jews who had been denounced by Poles

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for supposedly helping the Bolsheviks, R. Yitzchak–Nachum Weintraub hasted with R. Yisroel Gutgold, z”l, on Yom Kippur to the local authorities to counter the accusations.

There was no organization that Yitzchak–Nachum did not help to get in order. For such things he always found time and was precise. Every event that took place in Jewish life, whether large or small, was known to him. Even in the Second World War, although he was quite old, beaten down and depressed by many misfortunes that befell him, he still wrote and collected material about Jewish life and death in that horrible time. Sadly, however, in the last moments before his departure for Treblinka, he destroyed those materials.

The Second World War, with its horrors, laid a heavy burden on this idealistic Zionist. He survived the first awful tragedy on September 2, 1939 when his daughter, Freyda Landau, together with the Jablon and Saltzman families were injured by the German bombardiers. It was so sad to see how the older Weintraub stood there by himself, digging to extricate them from under the ruins. The second horrible misfortune was the death of his grandson, the lawyer Yosef Landau with his wife and children. He himself later stayed with Shmuel Greenspan until the last action in November of 1942 in Gensz–Barki. Sadly he did merit fulfilling his lifelong wish of going to Eretz Yisroel and of carrying out the vow he made at the funeral of his son–in–law Mordechai–Meir Landau, z”l, that he would take his remains to Israel.

 

The First Zionist Activists in Siedlce

We have already mentioned the names of the participants in the first Zionist gathering in Siedlce. We should now also acknowledge their activities and personal lives: Moyshe Goldberg, came from Zamosc and became a Siedlcer through his marriage with the daughter of R. Shmuel Brukarsz, an outstanding householder in Siedlce. He studied with Y.N. Weintraub.

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Goldberg was a learned man and a Maskil, at the same time that he was a good merchant. Together with Yehoshua Goldfarb, a bank owner (who later founded the Kupat–Am Bank in Tel Aviv) Goldberg was named as a delegate to the Minsk Zionist Conference in 1903.

Moyshe–Abba Eisenstadt,an outstanding householder in the city, an excellent merchant, devoted Zionist and a son of the Berezan rabbi, Eisenstadt's two children, a son and a daughter who now live in Israel. The son Paltiel, until he left Siedlce for Warsaw, was active in all the Zionist goings–on in the city, and he was also one of the founders of the Hebrew evening courses.

Shmuel Zucker, a brick maker, a Rodziner Chasid and proud nationalistic Jew. For a time he was a member of the city council and sharply reacted to the demonstrations of Poles against Jews. He spent his last years in Paris with his children, and he died after being struck by a car. Also the other participants in the secret meeting were good Jews, charitable men and outstanding community workers.

At the time of the Hibbas–Tzion movement–a young Maskil, Yedidiah Reinman, collected money for the settlement in Eretz Yisroel. He had read a great deal about it, so he sat and taught about it in his Kalabiel Chasidic prayer house. After his marriage to the daughter of R. Michel Rosenberg of Brisk (in Lithuania), he spent some time in the wholesale grocery business in Siedlce. Later, he liquidated the business in in 1924 he made aliyah to Eretz Yisroel. A few years later he was struck by a passing motorcycle, hit his head, and died. Also his wife Sarah and their two sons, Yakov and Noach, came to tragic ends. His wife had devoted herself to disseminating Zionist ideas in a variety of areas.

After the First Zionist Congress in 1897, Zionism began to spread in the different strata of Siedlce and finally became a mass movement.

In 1900, Mordechai–Meir Landau arrived in Siedlce. There he married Frida Weintraub, the daughter of R. Yitzchk–Nachum and he settled in Siedlce. With his Jewish intelligence, worldly knowledge, and organizational abilities, he gave life to the Zionist efforts in Siedlce. His first job was:

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to arrange for a Zionist beis–hamedresh, where the worshippers were educated men and craftsmen. In this beis–hamedresh were: Avraham Wade, Shmuel Wurman, Yoself Zilberfaden, Meir Perla, and Paltiel Sluszne. These people were truly devoted Zionists. One time, when a representative of the central office came to hold a lecture in the city beis–hamedresh, the rabbi, R. Dov–Ber Analik, z”l, being a strong opponent of Zionism, organized a group of fishermen and butchers to come with him. One of them ripped down a chandelier and used it to strike the head of Y. Zilberfaden, who ended up spending a long time confined to his bed. This event had a powerful effect on the members of the Zionist minyan, who consequently worked even harder for the Zionist ideals and increased the ranks of the movement.

In the same year, an underground library was created. The organizers of the library were: the Zionist Yosef Rosenwasser, known as Yossl the Cantor's son or Yossl the Cigarette Man, Zev Tuchklapper, Asher Liverant, Yehoshua Goldberg, Moses Greenfarb, and others. Thanks to the efforts of R. Yitzchak–Nachum Weintraub with the local governor, in 1904 the library was made legal under the name of Weintraub's son–in–law, Mordechai–Meir and the community “Jewish Art, Ha–Zamir.” In 1903, at the Pan–Russian Zionist Conference in Minsk (White Russia), Siedlce was represented by two delegates, Moshe Goldberg and Yehoshua Goldfarb.

 

“Ha–T'khiyah.” Hebrew School and the Second Aliyah

In that same year, when the Ha–T'khiyah” was created in Warsaw, led by Yitzchak Greenbaum, Yon Kirshrat, Yosef Shprinsk, Zelig Weizman, M. Hurwitz, Yakov Alszwanger, Noach Priluczki, and others–a branch of the organization opened in Siedlce. It, along with the branch in Bedzin, was considered the strongest in Poland. The leaders of the Siedlce “Ha–T'khiyah” were: M.–Meir Landau, Moshe Zucker, Moses Greenfarb

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Peretz Kamar, the Niedszwidsz brothers, Dr. Moyshe Temkin, Yishayahu Zeydenzweig, and others. Temkin and Zeydenzweig now live in Israel.

“Ha–T'khiyah” undertook “selling shekels” [a fund raising project for Zionist causes that involved the sale of coupons], leading meetings for the Keren Kayemes, and other Zionist efforts. In the organization's charter there was also a point about combatting pogroms. To this end, weapons were purchased in Warsaw. At the same time, a group of young people was organized: “Collective of Distributors of Shekels.” The leaders were: Fishl Popowski, Elimelech Heinsdorf, Yakov Ridle, all of whom now live in Israel. The “shekels” were distributed among the young people and were to be paid off over the course of a year–a kopek each week. Also the Keren Kayemes collections were made by selling stamps (or collecting kopeks), which were distributed at weddings and other happy occasions.

In 1904, the directors of the beis–hamedresh decided to open a Hebrew school, which we have written about elsewhere. Gurewitsch and Kaplanski, the two teachers who were active in the school, were also active in Zionist affairs. Zionist ideology permeated all levels of the Jewish populace in Siedlce. Gurewitsch stood out. He was a sympathetic, idealistic young man who knew both older and more modern literatures and worked energetically among the masses. He clarified the most complicated matters so that the simplest person could understand. He spoke like a professor, quietly and distinctly, so that he exerted amazing influence on people. After a time, he left Siedlce and became the director of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Vilna.

That period marked a revival of all the Jewish parties. Aside from “Ha–T'khiyah” and “B'nei–Tzion,” the “Poalei–Tzion” was also active, under the leadership of Moyshe Pachter, Sarah Kaplan,from Semyoticz, Gavriel Schlechter, M. Steinklapper, who was known as Mottl Chasid, David Urszech, and Lyuba Eisenstadt. The “Bund,” too, was quite active. In 1906, at the time of the pogrom in Siedlce, the delegation to the governor was led by R. Yitzchak–Nachum Weintraub, z”l.

In 1907, at the time of the Second Aliyah, the following went to Eretz–Yisroel: Menachem ben Hillel (Menachem Becker), the brothers

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Dr. Moyshe Temkin and the poet Mordechai Temkin, who still live in Israel), Peretz Kamar, Gavriel Schlechter, Menashe Goldzack, Sev Tuchklapper, Yakov Temkin and the Mechanic family, some of whom later returned to Siedlce. In the same year, the lawyer Hartglass settled in Siedllce, thanks to whom the strength of Zionism increased. He enlarged the ranks of the Zionists. Although lawyer Hartglass spoke little besides Polish, since he was raised in a Polish–speaking environment, and the older Jewish people understood little Polish, his lectures were well–received because of his simple and comprehensible way of speaking. He had a special effect on “Amcha,” and he had particular success among the Chasidim. His later appearances in the city council, in Independent Poland, on behalf of the Jewish faction, always made an impression not only con the Jewish ranks but also among the Poles. Everyone saw in him a powerful, upstanding fighter who would never keep silent about an injustice, even if it affected a non–Jew.

It is interesting to convey the following about Hartglass' activities: During the First World War, a German policeman shot a dog on the street and ordered a Polish student to carry it away. Hartglass, to defend the student's honor, protested that the policeman had dishonored the student with such an order. Hartglass then taken before the war court, where Polish lawyers defended him and later thanked him. When Hartglass was elected to a position in the Polish Sejm and left Siedlce, the local zionists lost a great power. Now Hartglass in in Israel and is active in the Ministry of the Interior, where he heads the legal division.

In 1907,Mordechai–Meir Landau and others created in Siedlce a lending bank, which later took the name “Udzialowi Bank,' led by the Zionist Nehemiah Malin. He was also for many years the leader of the craftsmen. In the craftsmen's union these Zionists were active: Shmjuel Wurman, Aharon Mardski, Yehuda Wade, Moshe Laterman, Meir Perla, Paltiel Szlushna, and Berl Srebnik, who

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who were so influential in the craftsmen's union that it nearly became a Zionist craftsmen's union.

On August 13, 1915, during the First World War, the Germans took Siedlce. The Germans of that time should not be compared to the Germans of the Second World War. The entrance of the Germans troops brought improvements compared to the czarist regime. At that point, an age of creating and organizing a variety of community, cultural, and economic institutions began. Among others, at the end of 1915 the Hebrew evening classes were renewed. These courses attracted hundreds of young people from all levels of the Jewish population. Thanks to them, people began to hear Hebrew spoken on the streets of Siedlce. From time to time there were even social events and lectures in that language. There were also literary–musical evenings that attracted many attendees.

 

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The first board of the Hebrew evening courses

P. Eisenstadt, A.Sh. Englander, Levi Gutgelt, Moshe Ackerman, the brothers Baruch and Mordechai, Yaffe, Asher Liverant, Kalman and Dinah Lewartowski, Esther Gutglick, Alter Geldman, Henech Salzman, the teachers Akiva Goldfarb and Zev Tuchklapper

 

The founders of the Hebrew courses were: Paltiel

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Eisenstadt, Avraham–Shlomo Englander, Moyshe Ackerman, Esther Gutglick, Levi Gutgelt, Alter Geldman, Henech Salzman, Yehudah Tenenbaum, the Yaffe brothers, Asher Liverant, Dinah and Kalman Levartowski. Let me introduce the lives and activities of these generous Zionist who accomplished so much.

We have already mentioned Paltiel Eisenstadt when we spoke about his father Moyshe–Abba.

Avraham–Shlomo Englander, the son of a prosperous Zionistically–inclined man was of delicate health. Even so, when he was not confined to bed, he devoted his time to Zionist causes; he was a member of the Zionist committee, for a time was involved with the Keren Kayemes, and also worked in the Warsaw central office. In Siedlce, Englander worked with the soup kitchen, was secretary of the community “TAZ,” and finally worked as a bookkeeper in the Jewish hospital. For his whole life he hoped to go to Eretz Yisroel, but this was not allowed to him; he died from illness in the ghetto.

Moyshe Ackerman was born to Chasidic parents. His grandfather, a fervent Kotzker Chasid who was known as R. Matisyahu Cossack. Ackerman worked for a time for “He–Chalutz” in Warsaw, and he lived in Israel after 1924.

Esther Gutglick came from Brisk and arrived in Siedlce at the time of the First World War, when the czarist brigades drove the Jews out of Brisk.

Levi Gutgelt, born to very wealthy Chasidic parents, was the son of Yisroel and Sarah. When he was three, his father wrapped him in a tallis and carried him to cheer. When he began to study Chumash and later at his bar mitzvah, his family made big celebrations, meals for children, to whom gifts were given–bags filled with goodies, meals for Chasidim, who danced and rejoiced until late at night. His father hired a tutor for him at home, not wanting his son to study with other children. In addition to the religious tutor, Gutgelt hired for his son two secular teachers: Akiva Goldfarb for Hebrew and Moses Greenfarb for Russian and Polish. Under the direction of Moses Greenfarb, Levvi began to read secular books, understandably without the knowledge of his father. After reading through Mapu, Smolenski, Feierberg,

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Bialik, and others, he became interested in Zionism. he entered the circle of Zionists and became friendly with Mordechai–Meir Landau. Zionist ideology captivated him and later he became the very heart of Zionism in Siedlce. There was no gathering, no meeting, no conference in which he did not represent or argue for Zionism. He was always a member of the board and carried out many labors–and the credit for his work he always attributed to someone else.

Levi Gutgelt was also a man of books. He was the first reader of every newly published bookHe loved to stand in the library and advise everyone about the books they should read. He took time to distribute Hebrew books, and he rejoiced not over his own work but because a book would go home with someone. When the library wanted to purchase books, Levi was the buyer, because people knew that he would bring in the best.

Even in his later years, Levi remained young and always worked with young people, especially with schoolchildren, to whom he gave talks. For a time he taught in the Hebrew classes, and he was the leading speaker, or the only speaker, at every gathering. For a time he was an instructor at the Warsaw Central Committee of the Zionist organization. He was always the escort when a friend would make aliyah to Eretz Yisroel; he would travel with that friend to Warsaw in order to help. He would accompany him to the train station and rejoice that he wold have a friend in Eretz Yisroel. He was always true and generous to every friend.

Levi Gutgelt was also the actual editor of the “Siedlcer Vochenblat” from the founding of the paper. Although the official editor was Yechiel Graman, he soon left for Canada. Gutgelt often filled out the whole paper himself. It was rich in content and reacted to all the events in both Jewish and city life. He also wrote for the Warsaw daily “Heint;” he was one of the founders of the Tarbus

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School, and with extraordinary generosity he led the work in the educational institution.

In his last years he was the leader of the “Training Department for Pioneer Aliyah” at the Palestine office in Warsaw. His wife was Tzalbah, the daughter of Yisroel Salzstein. They also had a successful daughter. When the Second World War broke out, Gutgelt prepared to go to Eretz Yisroel. He had already prepared all the necessary documents, but unfortunately he was not successful. Italy had entered the war, and exit from Poland was no longer possible. At the time of the German occupation, he was in Warsaw, as Hillel Zeidman explains in his book “The Days of the Warsaw Ghetto.” The Germans expelled him from his home at 40 Elektoralna Street on Yom Kippur of 1942 and sent him to Treblinka. Thus was our dear and beloved friend tormented. He was the heart of Siedlce's Zionism.

Alter Geldman, the son of a scholar, a devoted Rodzinger Chasid, during the First World War, when the Russians left Siedlce, went with them. We know nothing of what happened to him.

Hence Saltzman, a student at the polytechnic, a son of a devoted old member of the Poalei–Tzion–Meir Saltzman.

Yehuda Tenenbaum. His father Yitzchak was a religion teacher in the schools. For a time he was secretary of the Jewish community organization, and his son was a member of “He–Chalutz.” He participated in the Zionist projects and meetings. Tenenbaum now lives in Israel on the Azar Moshav.

The brothers Mordechai and Baruch Yaffe, grandsons of Yerucham Shatz from Brisk, came to Siedlce at the time of the First World War as refugees from Brisk. They took an active part in the Zionist and community work in Siedlce. Baruch was a powerful speaker and conducted arguments with the leftist groups in Siedlce. He was a good friend, but always with a serious demeanor. He left Siedlce and became an instructor for the Xionist Central Committee in Warsaw. In 1920 he went to the Zionist Conference in London. He remained there for a while and learned English. From London he made aliyah to Eretz Yisroel and there became the leader of the aliyah training in Tel Aviv.

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His brother Mordechai was always happy and generous to his friends. He participated in all Zionist projects and became active in community projects as well. He eventually had a position in the “Joint” and left Siedlce. Later he made aliyah to Eretz Yisroel and he lives there now in Kibbutz Giniger in Emek, together with his wife Shoshanah and their two sons.

 

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A banquet to honor Mordechai Yaffe on his departure for Eretz Yisroel at the beginning of his work for the Joint

 

Asher Liverant, son of a Maskil and devoted Zionist–Meir Liverant. Together with Yedidiah Reitman, Asher worked for the Odessa committee, corresponding with Menachem Ussishkin and Yechiel Tchlenow. He was one of the founders of the Siedlce library and was for a long time the librarian. He knew all the readers and knew how to give all of them books according to their tastes. Asher Liverant was also the germanent secretary and recording secretary of the Siedlce Zionist organization. With the development of the Keren Kayemes, Asher Liverant actually took a leading role. He took care of pledges in the beis–medreshes, of distributing pledge cards for the benefit Keren Kayemes, and for gathering funds at weddings and other happy occasions. Asher Liverant was the publisher of the “Siedlcer Vochenblat” since its establishment in

 

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The Keren Kayemes committee led by Yehoshua Ackerman

 

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The Keren Kayemes committee with Avraham Hertzfeld from Eretz Yisroel

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and from 1929 he was also the actual editor. The whole financial burden of the newspaper was on him, although he was in terrible ill–health. In the paper's hardest times, he looked after it, paying no attention to his own material situation at home. His beautiful smile never left his face. He had a very sharp eye and always recognized what the paper should cover, and he immediately published it in the columns of the “Siedlcer Vochenblat.” He always strove to be ready to fulfill his dream of making aliyah to Eretz Yisroel, but sadly he never could. In 1943, he died in the Jewish hospital from asthma.

Dinah and Kalman Levartowski, son and daughter of Akiva and Chava–Gittl; Chava–Gittl came from a powerful family. Her father, R. Shmuel Groynem, was a wealthy merchant, for forty years a gabbai in the great beis–medresh. Akiva Levartowski was Radzinerr Chasid whose rebbe was known as an opponent of Zionism, but he was influenced by his children and joined the ranks of Zionists. After a time he even became a member of the Zionist committee in Siedlce. Kalman, in his activities, was thoughtful and insightful. He achieved the goals he had established. He was one of the founders of “Tz'irei–Tzion” in Poland and he worked for “He–Chalutz.” In 1920 he left for Israel and he worked on the roads in the Galilee. He became a teacher in the settlements and changed his name to Bar Levv. He wrote for “Kuntras” and, after 1927, for “Davar.” He was member of the settlement “K'far Azar.” He died in October of 1942, leaving behind a wife, a son, and a daughter.

Dinah was for a time a teacher of Hebrew in Siedlce and later lived in Warsaw. She lives now in Israel.

 

The Teachers of the Hebrew Classes

The teachers of the Hebrew classes at that time were: Akiva Goldfarb, Zev Tuchklalpper, and David Neimark, the son of a teacher, a Kotzker Chasid. He was very bright, not a Zionist for very long, having gone over to the “Bund.” He wrote for the “Folks Newspaper” under the pseudonym “Aryeh.” He lives now in America

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and remaining faithful to the Polish “Bund,” he works for the “Forwards” and writes articles opposing Zionism for the Bundist press.

Akiva Goldfarb was a lover and ardent follower of Hebrew. From early in the morning until late at night, whether at home, at school, in private talks, in Chasidic homes, in Maskilic homes–everywhere he went, he promoted the language. For him, learning Hebrew was an ideal, a holy labor. He had a wife and two children. Even though his wife was not well, he never demanded money for teaching, even though this was his only source of income. He was happy if people just learned Hebrew.

Zev Tuchklapper was one of the first members in the Zionist group in Siedlce. He had been in Eretz Yisroel, then later came back to Siedlce. He was a member of the committee of the cooperative loan society.

Among the Hebrew teachers of the classes were also: Har–Zahav, a great teacher, author of many books on pedagogy. He lives now in Israel. For many years he was the proofreader in the publisher of “Ha–Po'el Ha'Tz'ir.” More recently he is in the “B'tei Avot” in Chulin. David Morgenshtern also had a little room where he gave private lessons in Hebrew.

Yehoshua Greenberg and Matisyahu Yaverbaum also tried to promote the Hebrew language. Yaverbaum's son Mordechai and his daughter Sarah are now in Israel. His second son Simcha was a solder in the Israeli army and was killed in a bus accident.

 

The Activities of “He–Chalutz” and “Tz'irei–Tzion”

In the same year as the creation of the Hebrew classes, “He'Chalutz” was founded in Siedlce. The founders were: Chaim Suchodolski, who was physically weak but spiritually strong, an energetic worker who was in Israel for a short time but returned to Siedlce; the student Gelbard, Adam Levita, Ada Barg ((Mrs. Barg lives now in Israel); Kimmel, who was busy with a variety of Zionist labors, giving lessons for “He–Chalutz Ha'Tza'ir,” working for a time as secretary for Keren Kayemes, always

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yearning to go to Israel but killed by the German murderers; Mottele Greenberg, now in Israel; the student Engelman who gave lessons for “He'Chalutz” about Palestine.

In 1919, the brothers Bunim and Berl Vyman, owners of a brewery in Roskosz, gave a large tract of land to “He–Chalutz,” who created there the first training farm in the Siedlce area. Special actions were undertaken to work the farm. Many Zionists did their training there and then made aliyah to Eretz Yisroel. Along with the workers from “He–Chalutz,” new strength was brought by : Alter–Boaz Huber, Melech Heinsdorf, Rochel Tenenbaum (from the home of Riback) and her husband Yehuda, all of whom now live in Israel. The members of “He–Chalutz” also worked for the Petrikoser landowner, and in later years they formed a “kibbutz” of pioneers from the whole area who took on physical labor both in and outside of the city.

In 1916, Mordechai–Meir Landau organized the first Zionist committee in Siedlce, composed of the following: M.–M. Landau, Y.N. Weintraub, Akiva Levatowski, Yedidiah Reinman (the lawyer), Harglass, and others. In 1917, the educational society “Das” was formed by M. Landau. During the occupation of the First World War it conducted Hebrew–Yiddish folk schools and courses for adolescents.

In 1920 there were two conferences in Siedlce, one of general Zionists and one from Tz'Irei–Tzion. At the general Zionist conference there were delegates from the following cities: Lukow, Mezricz,, Biale–Podlosk, Radzin, Mard, Loszics, Sarnak, Semiatids, Noval–Minsk, and Kaluszin. Participants included the lawyer Alszwanger, Yosef Grawitzki, Y. Itkin (all of whom are now in Israel). A regional committee was elected headed by Berl Weinman (also now in Israel).

At the Tz'Irei–Tzion conference were representatives from all the aforementioned cities. From the central headquarters came Barzilai, who later drowned in the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

Both conferences and the elected committees worked together to strengthen the Zionist movement and the Zionist ideology in Siedlce. It is incumbent on us

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Sie336.jpg
A Zionist conference in Siedlce in 1920 with the participation of representatives from the Zionist Central Committee in Warsaw

 

to recall one of the outstanding Zionists of that time–our comrade Ellchanan Levin. At first he had trouble speaking Yiddish, but thanks to his genial intelligence he quickly picked up the language and always had a large following at all his presentations, especially when he had discussions with leftist groups. Later, when he was already a lawyer in Warsaw, he was one of the chief leaders of the revisionists in Poland.

In 1922, the Zionist committee decided to publish a newspaper to serve as the community Zionist tribune in Siedlce. The first meeting about the newspaper involved about 20 comrades. Among them were: Yosef and Levi Gutgelt, Nehemia Malin, Yehoshua Akerman, A–Sh. Englander, Bunim Rotenberg, Yechiel Groman, Yehoshua Goldberg and–turning to those who are still alive–Fishl Popowski (now in Israel) and Shlomo Suchodolski (now in America). On the spot, the participants pledged 5 zlotys each, and the paper was given the name “Siedlcer Vochenblat.” The first editor was Yechiel Groman and the publisher was Asher Liverant. We have written elsewhere about the role played by this newspaper in the Jewish life of Siedlce.

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In the same year, Dr. M. Shleicher came to Siedlce. He appeared just at the moment when some of our leading personalities had left Siedlce. He was very useful to the movement. For a long time he headed the Zionist organization, was its representative on the city council and the community council, took part in all fundraising activities for Keren Ha–Y'sod, Tarbus, and so on. He devoted great energy to health concerns among Jewish children in Siedlce's schools, was the chair of “TAZ.” From Poland he went to Israel and now lives in Haifa.

 

The Activities of the Tarbus School

In 1926, a Hebrew Tarbus School opened in Siedlce under the direction of the Zionist Committee. We will devote a special chapter to that, but I will recall here several comrades who took an active role in the work for the school:

Asher Orszel, the chair of the school trustees, came from a religious Chasidic family. He himself was a Chasid and traveled to the Parisow rabbi. He was intent on Talmud study, but he also read secular books. He managed a banking house along with his brother

[picture caption: A conference of Tz'irei–Tzion in 1920]

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Naftali Neugoldberg, and later he was a bulk iron merchant. Still later he had a factory that made iron plows. Despite his business and factories he devoted much time to community work: he was the founder and director of the “merchants' bank,” for many years the director of the community organization, a councilman in the city council and a member of the governmental tax appraisal office. In the tax office, he defended Jewish interests. Many times he would leave his own businesses and hasten to defend a Jew against harsh appraisals. It was simply a pleasure to be in the presence of and hear his words and clever speech. Of all his community labors, the school always took first place.

Yehoshua Ackerman was a devoted Zionist acolyte who came from the Kotzker Chasidim. With true Chasidic fervor he took up Zionist and community work, often to the neglect of his own private affairs.

Yosef Gurgelt, son of R. Yisroel, devoted many years to the development of the school. For a long time he was in charge of its finances, always being sure to pay the teachers on time, even if there were not sufficient funds in the bank. He was also active in the work of Keren Kayemes.

Moyshe Yom–Tov, son of a Jewish grocer, R. Berish, was a member of “He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir” and worked on their training programs. He was also active in the league of workers for Eretz Yisroel, but the largest part of his time went to the Tarbus School.

Henoch Ribak and Sholem Salzman, both merchants, prayed in the Chasidic prayer houses and had an extraordinary interest in the work of the school, which they held in high esteem.

Fishl Popowski (Drumy) (now in Israel–Ed. Note: also the author of this chapter!) was one of the founders of the Tarbus School. Popowski worked for ten years as an instructor for the central office of Keren Kayemes in Poland. In Siedlce he was a member of the community council steering committee and for many years a member of the steering committee of “Ha–Zamir.” He devoted all of his time to a variety of Zionist activities and undertakings. He took part in open presentations.

We must also recall Dr. Bergman, who was very active in different Zionist labors. At the time of Hitler's

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Invasion, he rescued himself and came with the Polish troops to Israel. His wife, son, and daughter also came to Israel. His son fell in the War of Independence, and the parents and their daughter went back either to Poland or Germany.

In 1932 in Siedlce, was founded “He–Chalutz–Ha–Clal–Tzioni.” The founders were: Yitzchak Kaspi, Baruch Alberg, A.Sh. Englander, Ridel, and others. “He–Chalutz–Ha'Clal–Tzioni,” like other Zionist youth organizations, excelled in collecting for the Keren Kayemes. He taught Hebrew, Zionist history, and matters dealing with Palestine.

When Yitzchak Kaspi left Siedlce and went to Israel in 1933, “He–Chalutz–Ha–Clal–Tzioni” was taken over by Elimelech Feinsilber and Avraham Friedman. With their cultural activities they maintained the Zionist youth, giving talks about Zionist history and Palestine. Friedman and Feinsilber had worker earlier in various Zionist activities.

And finally, we should praise those comrades who at different times took part in all Zionist actions and gatherings. They excelled particularly in organizing the bazaars for Keren Kayemes, as well the activities for Keren Ha–Y'sod, and they participated in the development of the Tarbus School.

Their names are: Miriam Szibuczi, Esther Salzman, Puah Rabinowicz, Sarah Radzinski, Chava Dame, Heniek Wyman, Tzlova Saltzstein, Chava Wakstein, Radashinski, Beilah Finkelstein, Rochel Garfinkel, and for many years Genya Vyman and Yehudis Kwiatek, now in Israel, and many others whose names I have forgotten. All of these comrades whom I have recalled, through their activities gave Siedlce the wonderful nickname of the “Zionist City.” Sadly, most of them were killed by the Germans and were unable to fulfill their dream of going to Israel.

 

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