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[Page 340]

In the Shade of the Kalina Trees
as a Souvenir of My Beautiful Hometown

by Dr. M. Temkin

Translated by Mira Eckhaus David

 

“A man is nothing but a pattern of the landscape of his homeland”
S. Tchernichovsky

 

The praise of Polish Judaism is not similar to that of Lithuanian Judaism in terms of the Torah greatest and the God-fearing. Nor as that of German Judaism in the abundance of culture and talent for action, or that of Galician Judaism in terms of the state men and the wise scholars, but in the spirit of great innocence, in the holy spirit, which bordered on nobility, as much as exile and the diaspora can be identified with nobility.

Diaspora Judaism had different faces, just as the lands of its dispersal were different: the landscape, the climate, the forests and rivers, the vegetation, the appearance of the sky and the earth, and especially the forms of life and economy, are what left their mark on the glorious tribes of Judaism, because the beauty of a place is for its inhabitants. The human genius sucks from the “locus” genius, in the words of the poet: a man is nothing but a pattern of the landscape of his homeland”.

The evidence to that is the difference between the Polish Judaism and the Galician Judaism, despite the family bonds between them. The main characteristic difference between them relates to in the connection of Poland to the extensive Russia, which gave it a material welfare and abundant livelihood. The prosperity of the Polish Judaism a generation ago came out of the abundance and welfare that enabled the Jews of the towns to stagnate, to engage in Torah, in Hassidism, in the correction of the soul and the treats and also to alienate to the rationalism, the education and the wisdom of the gentiles that chewed the original vast Judaism tree and to adhere to the tradition and morality of the fathers, that bound them together in courageous ties, religious ties and the racial destiny. While Galician Judaism lived in poverty and hardship. In Shibush (Buchach), says Agnon, the hardship did not stop from Isru chag Passover until Mar Chesvan”, a sister to the poverty of the Lithuanian Judaism, that the “Krupnik” did not stop “from Passover to Passover” (Shetzky).

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The landscape in Poland was also more abundant with trees, forests and rivers, and the contact with the local people was more reciprocal and more humane, and no doubt all of these things had an impact on the lifestyle and the worldview of the Polish Jews. We can find a proof to this in the Hassidism of Poland which was, under the influence of the factors listed above, more noble, gentle and more spiritual, less centralized than that of the Galician Hassidism (Chortkov). The Polish Hassidism referred to the general Israeli population, it was Internal, mental and universal with a vision (Kotzak).

In the Polish town we may have not found the Baserbian people nor the sharp Lithuanian rationalism nor the Galician cunning. There was, however, a precious warmth, the warmth of simple craftsmen with houses, but of an elite race, Torah scholars and innocent men of action. In Galicia, which was granted early political liberation and was subordinate to the progressive kingdom of Austria, no favorable conditions were created for the development of cultural and educational organizations. Poland was the cradle of the modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature; Warsaw was the center of the spiritual activity of Polish Jews. Writers and activists of general value, who spread their ideas across the border, also grew up in Poland and therefore, the distribution of education among the Jews of Poland was different from that in all the Diaspora. In Poland they did not use the education and the secular studies to make a living. In Poland they studied secular studies for their own sake, as they studied Torah for its own sake and not for their benefit, in order to obtain a diploma and welfare, since Polish Jews were generally alienated to education and to the rationalization of life. Therefore, in the Polish Judaism there was no war of fathers and sons, as was in other countries. The transition from holy to secular studies was a natural process that time caused, without severe crises, without hatred and mental difficulties. A guy who became a heretic, cut his payot and capote, walked with girls in the moonlight, had hallucinations about love and did not leave the “stibl” nor the customs of the Hassidim. He did it out of kindness and love of life, he did it for heaven's sake, without hatred and teasing, the old and the new co-existed with enough room to both.

All these actions derived from innocence and loyalty. The cunning and deceit, the history of the life in exile, as if they had been missed, there was no discrimination in their lives. The Hassidic temperament of innocent and truth was introduced into the education, the new tools were filled with old Jewish content.

One fact out of many that I remember is that when I was ten, my mother took me to a wedding at her brother-in-law the Admor in Lublin (Akiva Eiger's grandson). I was already infected by the influence of outside books. Nevertheless, the wedding, which was held in splendor and greatness, made a great impression on me. A spectacle that is all majestic, warmness and devotion. I saw there followers, extremely rich, who danced enthusiastically with the poor and needy, who worn torn and worn out cloths.

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My mother told me about Rabbi Eiger: Once his only daughter was very ill, so his wife came in on Yom Kippur's eve, to arouse him to ask for mercy on her. He answered her angrily: “On Judgment Day, when all the people of Israel have a home of mercy, will I stand and ask for mercy only for my daughter?!”

Such was the generation in Poland. And such were the ancestors of Judaism there. And from this tree grew a new root, a first generation of resurrection and freedom, sons who are loyal to their race, innocent young men who carried in their hearts a kind of passion of holiness and anxiety for precious things, with no purposefulness, who were the foundation and the root of the life in the Diaspora.

This first generation did not disappoint, they were innocent people then. From the moment they became knowledgeable and recognized that the place of a national and Zionist Jew is in Israel and not in the diaspora, they arose and made an Aliya 45 years ago.

The period also helped. This was the period of the awakening of the masses in the vast territory of the Kingdom of Russia, then the first shocks of the disintegration of the tyrannical regime were heard, and the movement of the masses that awoke from centuries of stagnation. The “Bond” appeared on the Jewish Street, which served as the mouth of the poor and the common people and pretended to ease their suffering and find a solution to “the trouble of the Jews” in the ways that led to their assimilation. It did not recognize “the trouble of Judaism” and ignored it. It was a movement of assimilation coming from below, similar to many assimilation movements coming from above. But it was wrapped in hollow rhetoric of materialist dialectics, a kind of a movement at that time, without continuing to weave aspirations. Dreams and longings of the people, without a universal general foundation of all the Jews wherever they are, and therefore did not escape the decree of total destruction and passed from the world, like other assimilation movements. With no name and remnant.

I mention the appearance of the “Bond” in Poland not because the “Bond” was a landmark for the social movement, but because its appearance was a big business, with lots of noise and commotion, which characterizes mass movements. However, the “Bond” was preceded by the Enlightenment and the Zionist movement, especially among the youth.

The desire for education and knowledge among the youth was great. They learned languages, read books alone and in groups and especially in the beautiful city garden early in the morning. A library was founded with the assistance of Mr. Landau, which provided books for those who were thirsty for God's word. In fact, it was a Zionist activity, perhaps unknowingly, because every spiritual and social awakening in those days was fluent in the national channel, and its expression tools were necessarily the circumstances, Hebrew and a Zionist action.

In this innocent period of precious reality, which was the spring term for social ideas and the spring of adolescence, hearts were trained for deeds and actions.

And one day new faces appeared in our city, two Lithuanians, who

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were marvelous in our eyes. One was named Gurevitz and the other Kaplansky and they spoke Hebrew in a Spanish accent. These were the first swallows, the first Hebrew teachers, who opened a “revised room” in our city and they breathed life into our simplistic dreams, and hence the practical Zionist affair in our city began. Because almost all the Jews of the Polish towns were Zionists, especially the masses, by nature, but it was an abstract Zionism, devoted to the heart and now became a reality. It was so great that even a young man like Yoel Mastboim, who was checking other beliefs at the time, would sometimes come to us and tried speaking “Hebrew”.

These two people were the living spirit in all the Zionist enterprises, they held history courses and held Hebrew talks, trips, and the connection between the Zionist youth from different places of the city became stronger, which was previously avoided due to distancing and lack of common interest. The highlight was the public gatherings in the synagogue, which were held in great numbers of participants and splendor. It seems that the authority has looked favorably on this new movement of Jews and convened public assemblies, which it has prevented from other movements, and maybe it has seen it as a kind of thunder of the revolution that hovered in the air. The influence of that Hanukkah ball was great, a Zionist ball that opened with the sounds of “Hatikvah” played by wind instruments, with the authority of the government, despite the community leaders, who were mostly haters of Zion, except for Mr. Weintraub, who was prone to Zionism in public.

“Hatchiya” Association was founded, which changed its name with the development of the movement to “Zion's Youth”. A meeting center was opened, a kind of a club, first at the Kahwa cafe and then at Peretz Komar, who was also one of the first Zionists in the city who made an Aliya to Israel, although his consciousness was probably not yet matured and he deviated from the Zionist path, he settled in Egypt and the connection with him ceased. Then began the period of speeches, the traveling Zionist emissaries, who visited the cities of Israelis in the diaspora. The best of them were Yosef Shprintsak – of “Zion's Youth”, who came from Warsaw to make young people Zionists, and in parallel with the “Bond” there was a split in the Zionism of the youth and our city began to fill with emissaries of “Poalei Zion”, the buds of Zionist socialism, that Gabriel Shlechter, who was a honest and simplistic guy, was their leader. At that time, we often saw in our city, strange hairy young fellows, a clear sign of revolution in those days, that spoke about complicated matters. I wonder if one of the listeners or even the speaker himself understood something in this complex issue. It was a kind of dialectic for the sake of dialectics, a kind of a quibble without any real scientific basis. Among these speakers, I remember Ben Zion

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Yedidiya, a black-haired, lean-fleshed man with a crown of curls, who was a great speaker.

Following this Zionist activity, other social enterprises were also founded, the Habima Amateur Band, which staged the play” scattered and dispersed” {Mefuzar v'mefurad”) by Shalom Aleichem. Literary parties were also held: Y.L. Peretz, Menachem and Bal Makhsoves honored us with a visit in our city and read their works to a large audience, full of admiration.

In this period of the beginning of the awakening of the movements, of liberation of general forces from their indifference, the areas were still blurred. The foundations of the organization were still loose and non-binding. Even the day-to-day Zionist work, which was mainly focused on fundraising, did not satisfy the hunger for action. There was another group with Rosenwasser, the elder of the Zionist community at its head (see the attached photo here), which was engaged in advanced training, reading literature, members' conversations, trips and in social work. It founded “Orphanage”, which operated for several years and served as a center for public affairs, and was a place for the investment of social vigor.

This period was also saturated with a lot of explosives. The Polish Socialist Party (PPS), which included many Jewish members, chose, as part of partisan tactics, the field cities as a cushion for terrorist action against the Russian government, and our quiet city, which stagnated, became an inferno of assassinations and bombings of those in power. The Russian bureaucracy in the remote provinces of Poland was known for its hatred of the Jewish population. In general, it was more convenient for it to be redeemed by the Jews and to impose the responsibilities for the terror on them. For three days and three nights, the Jewish community was in danger of extermination. The army, and especially the Wahlini battalion, who camped in the city, took over the city, massacre, robbed and abused and also set buildings on fire. And even cannons were used as an excuse for Jewish revolt. Forty-one Jews were killed and hundreds were injured in this pogrom, the first in Poland, which was the protectorate country.

The good ones in the youth have come to the conclusion, that there is no existence for the people in the diaspora. The first ones to make an Aliya to Israel adjacent to the pogrom, were Simcha Rubinstein, Zvi Glibter from Zamosc (who studied at the gymnasium and did not finish his studies) and myself. Rubinstein and I turned to farming, because as mentioned, we were innocent and even before the 'Hapoel Hatzair” party were founded, it was clear to us that here in Israel, we had to change our lives and make a living from the land

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and not from other occupations. Therefore, we went directly from the ship to the Galilee, to Sejera, which had then a reputation because of a group of agricultural men, who worked there and were headed by Eliezer Ben Shochat. And he was the one who led us in the middle of a Saturday night, so we will not miss even one day of work, to the Moshava Melachamiya and arranged us for agricultural work for the peasants. Rubinstein could not do this job and moved to Jerusalem and entered the “Ezra” seminary and I continued working until the summer. When I had several times a fever, I was advised to go to Judea.

 

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The first Zionist group:
Row above from the left: Moses Greenfarb, Simcha Rubinstein, Niadoshviadosh, Kahana, Tuvklapper
Second row from the left: Niadoshviadosh, Genya, Moshe Temkin, Himelfarb, Rossenwasser, the photographer Rozovski, Mrs. Ladau, Mrs. Weidenzweig, Berl Mintz

 

[Page 346]

Pioneering Youth–Movement in Siedlce

by David ben Yosef (Pasowski)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Almost all of the Zionist youth groups in Poland had chapters in Siedlce. I will here focus on a few of these youth groups that played a definite educational role in Siedlce Jewish life.

The “He–Chalutz” began its activities even during the First World War, in 1916, and even then busied itself with pioneers of the aliyah to Eretz Yisroel. They set up preparatory opportunities in farming, where the young people were occupied with productive physical labor. Then they established the first pioneering kibbutz in the village of Patrkaz and at the farm of the Vayman brothers, in Roszkosz.

One of the chief functions of “He–Chalutz” was to remove Jewish youth from worthless endeavors and introduce them to healthy, constructive work. Even during war time, the first pioneers from Siedlce went to Eretz Yisroel.

“He–Chalutz” in Siedlce, as in all the Jewish settlements in Poland, grounded Zionist thought in concrete deeds. Scores of Jewish young men and women went up to Eretz Yisroel thanks to the multifaceted educational work of “He–Chalutz.” Hundreds of Siedlcers who find themselves today throughout Israel in different important positions in cities and towns owe thanks to “He–Chalutz,” to which they belonged, for through “He–Chalutz” they prepared themselves to come to the land.

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Let me also take the opportunity to mention our Siedlcers, pioneering activists, who could not manage to come to their longed–for land and who were bestially killed by the Nazis. I recall one of the most active participants, one of the founders of the He–Chalutz movement in Poland, my friend and companion–Moshe Yom Tov; my friend Benjamin Charney, one of the last pioneer leaders before the outbreak of the war; he died from hunger in Russia; David Furayter, one of the most active leaders in the pioneering socialist youth movement “Freiheit–Dror.”

 

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Committee of “He–Chalutz” in Siedlce in 1930–33

In the middle is chairman and secretary of the Podlasie district committee, David Posowski (now Yosef ben Yisroel)

[trans. note: he is the author of this chapter.]

 

Those of us who are still alive remember the invigorating activism of the pioneering youths, the imposing intensity of the “Tel Chai” academics, with the participation of the choral and dramatic organizations, with their staged recreations of life in Eretz Yisroel; the regional pioneer conventions, the convention of 1930, with the participation of a delegation from the Histadrut in Eretz Yisroel (Siedlce was the center of the Podlasie circle and there was located the Podlozher regional committee of all the Zionist organizations); the pioneering expedition to the village of Krynytsi, to the court of the Jewish landlord Tsinaman. I recall the overflowing,

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enthusiastic voices at this gathering, the hora dancing around the bonfire in the woods until late at night and the loud singing of Hebrew songs, whose echo carried as far as the houses in the surrounding villages.

In “He–Chalutz” were organized all of the Zionist youth groups working for Eretz Yisroel. On the committee were representatives from “Ha–Shomer Ha–Tza'ir,” “Freiheit–Dror,” and “He–Chalutz Ha'Tza'ir.” Each group had its own meeting place and conducted multifaceted cultural and educational efforts.

I must also recall the important activities related to mutual aid that enabled comrades to journey to Eretz Yisroel. The “Keren He–Chalutz” created significant funds and underwrote needy olim to Eretz Yisroel. For the olim, these funds were a salvation, because the journeys to Eretz Yisroel were quite difficult, and there were no agencies or “Joint” to help with the expenses.

* * *

Among the youth groups working for Eretz Yisroel, the chief one was “Ha–Shomer Ha–Tza'ir”.

 

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“He–Chalutz” with the author Nathan Bistritcki on his visit to Siedlce

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“Ha–Shomer Ha–Tza'ir” was a purely scout movement that had a magical attraction in its appearance, with its special uniform, accoutrements, and symbols of “chazak v'amatz” [Hebrew for “be strong and of good faith”]. This movement truly enrolled in its ranks the best of the Jewish youth.

“Ha–Shomer Ha–Tza'ir” in Siedlce was already organized after the First World War–in 1921. The chief founder and leader was Herschel Slushni, and the other leaders were Malkeh Levin, Yehudah Liverant, David Yom Tov, Bunim Czarnebradeh, and others. “Ha–Shomer Ha–Tza'ir” focused on the school youth from the middle school and some from the Folks School. Their nicely decorated meeting places–referred to as nests–were transformed into welcoming homes for brothers and sisters who were prepared to help each other and live and work together. I remember the silent, secret collections of money to help comrades who were not able to pay their school tuitions or to buy books, as well as other forms of aid, which was one of the foundations of this movement.

 

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“Ha–Shomer Ha–Tza'ir” with its leader and founder Mr. Herschel Slushni

 

Impressive were the Lag B'Omer celebrations; the proud marching of the Shomer young people in columns through the streets of the city called forth great respect, even from the non–Jewish population, and enthusiasm from Siedlce's Jewish inhabitants. It was really something to be proud of and to stand by.

Before my eyes stands the little street by Yehoshua Levin's mill where on Lag B'Omer thousands of Jewish young people gathered with

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joyful pennants and from there march to the Raskosher Woods, where special pavilions had been set up, along with a kitchen. People sang and danced. It was as busy as a beehive. Parents stood around and watched, getting great pleasure and pride from them, and at twilight–the march back to the city in a procession with the singing of pioneer songs from Eretz Yisroel.

Every summer, summer–colonies would be organized in the Polish villages around Siedlce. These had a purely scout character and impressed one with their aesthetic appearance and their fine, precise discipline, order, and distinctive teachings, which promoted a longing for Eretz Yisroel.

One of the last summer colonies of Ha–Shomer, which I visited as a guest, was in a Polish village between Siedlce and Zhelekow. The leader of this colony was Yosef Kabtzan, who lives today in Israel

 

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The pioneer emigrants to Eretz Yisroel in 1933

 

* * *

“He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir” was a recruiting organization for young people before “Ha–Shomer.” [trans. note: The text says “before ‘He–Chalutz,’” but I think he means before “Ha–Shomer.”]. This movement, which was under the direction of “He–Chalutz,” did real education work for Eretz Yisroel. “He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir” organized a number of

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social events, meetings, discussions, and entertainments for young people.

 

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Members of “Ha–Po'el” on bicycles bound for Eretz Yisroel

 

In “He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir” were found young people, mostly from the Workers Circles and from the “Amcha” families, middle–class homes. In that organization, people were not fussy about who their friends were, and it did not matter which schools they attended. Family pedigree played no special role…One could meet in the ranks of “He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir” students from Talmud Torahs, Folks Schools, and young journeymen, apprentices in various trades. “He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir” organized conferences and summer colonies and over all conducted multifaceted activities in all domains.

* * *

The Zionist–socialist–pioneer youth organization “Freiheit–Dror,” which activities similar to the other pioneer organizations, had its own sports club, “Ha–Poel,” which was famous in Poland. In its trip to Eretz Yisroel on bicycles, organized by “Ha–Poel” in Poland in 1932, several Siedlcer sportsmen from “Ha–Poel,” members of “Freiheit–Dror,” went along. Later on both organizations united with “He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir” into a single entity.

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All of these Zionist youth groups together in the time of their glory–from 1930 to 1932–numbered about 2,500 members; about 75 percent of them wanted to go to Eretz Yisroel–a significant factor in the life of the Jewish youth of Siedlce.

The Zionist youth groups would participate in different fundraisers, for Keren Kayames, Karen Ha–Yesod, KPA”Y [Kupat Po'alei Eretz Yisrael], and others. There would be competition among the groups to see who could collect the most and who could take first place.

The strength of the Zionist–pioneer youth could be determined by the solemn parades in closed ranks through the streets of the city at the times of special Zionist demonstrations that happened from time to time at various opportunities.

I remember the colossal and impressive protest demonstration and people's parade in 1929 as a protest against the August unrest in Eretz Yisroel. The line of demonstrators extended for a kilometers, over several streets, and it demonstrated that Zionism was a force in Siedlce. Understandably, the chief participants were the Zionist youth groups.

Pioneers from Siedlce participated in pioneer training throughout Poland. And there was such a training center there as well.

Unfortunately, more than once people had to manage or accommodate parents who were obstinate and would not permit their children to go to the preparatory camps and even more opposed travel to Eretz Yisroel. Tragic situations played out among those whose parents would not agree. I have comrades and friends here in Israel whose parents would not write to them and remained angry with them because they left home and went to Eretz Yisroel.

The idealistic pioneer youth, however, were not deterred by hardships. They left their homes and families and came to the old–new Jewish homeland. Thanks to them, the ground was prepared for an independent Jewish state, which is the gathering spot for the remnant who survived Hitler's extermination.

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Pioneers from Siedlce at a preparatory camp in 1925
Top row in the middle is Moshe Yom–Tov, leader of the Siedlce pioneers
 
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Committee of Poalei–Tzion and “Dror Freiheit.”
In the middle is the emissary from Eretz Yisroel, Eliezer Grawinsky

 

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He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir with Yehuda Liverant
 
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Pioneers on an outing

 

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The committee of Freiheit
 
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Committee of the Workers Branch

 

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Memories and Reflections

by Eliezer Bar-Haim (Bernholtz), Haifa

Translated by Mira Eckhaus David

(In memory of the pioneering youth movements in our city)

With singing and drums, filled with all - good, a shoe is headed to the wall,
We will bring a handful of golden hearts and dreams
With singing we will carry them in jugs of bloody youth
And the first clusters of lives in baskets of love,
Everything is a gift for the battle and to sanctify Masada!
Open, wall, the gates of your empty archives
And we will preserve in them the grain of our lives to change the battle
For Masada's fields are desolated and are swords-stricken,
And who knows how long the battle will last and how long the days of siege will be
And until the coming of the seven years, until the time of the rains
And dew will fall night after night on an unsecured land
Until the victory scythe will reap the field blessing safely -
Accept the first fruits of our lives – provisions for your hungry warriors
And the springs of our youth - to your thirst!
I. Lamdan – “Masada”

How can the memory of the boys and girls of our unforgettable city, of the young generation, of the fresh and pure pioneer tribe, who without account and “purpose” prepared for the long journey, for the long-awaited leap to tomorrow, to the longed-for land, in which it sought to fulfill its dreams?

The pioneering youth movements were the ones that marked Siedlce, the vibrant city, on its organizations and its parties, with a characteristic mark and a special charm. It was the pioneering youth movements that formed its image. The city of Siedlce did not particularly bring out great leaders. But collectively it had the human material and was great in its quality, and especially the youth, in both early childhood and old age.

In reality at that time, every guy and every girl, every pioneer was like Don-

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Quixote, seeking adventure and hardship, wandering and dreaming, seeking the truth, having morals and was a fighter for honesty.

Many may wonder about the attempt I am making, to put on paper and direct my words to distant close friends and remind them of forgetfulness, even though the past is not so far away, it was only yesterday ...

I know the obstacles that stand in this way, I know, that over the years that passed, strangeness and opacity accumulated; After all, we have all managed to grow up and maybe even grow old and not just biologically ...

I know how difficult it is to say, express and in particular write about these topics. And on the other hand, how difficult it is to listen, hear and even read it. But there is no choice, we have to cry and remember those who are missing, the boys who died prematurely, who were an important part of our lives ...

Well, we will put their memory on paper, and I do believe, that there are those who still hear the things that come from the heart, and that there is still attentive ear and it is possible to carve a window to the hearts.

* * *

Because of my age, I was not one of the founders of the youth movement in our city. I joined when everything was almost done, I was only privileged to be among those who continued its operation and to some extent I was able to be among those who still “didn't make up their mind”. Well, how was the beginning?

It has been said by the fire: “A number of boys and girls who were still studying, began to ask for the paths of their lives. The atmosphere at school was suffocating. The environment, the house, the street, the company of the adults – emptiness ruled everything. The routine was everywhere. Boredom was all around”.

At first, we didn't have a clear and final goal, we grew up as a plant in the field. In our hearts there were expectation and searching for the truth, we were completely independent, we strived for the sun and the beauty, the scouting accompanied us, but did not satisfy us.

As a mighty stream of water, the rebellion erupted, the vibrant youth overflowed and thus we adopted the famous rebellion song of D. Shimonovich:

“Do not listen, my son, to the morality of a father
And to the doctrine of a mother do not hear,
As father's morality is: “line to line” ...
And mother's doctrine is: slowly, slowly” …
And so, in a storm of experiences, indecisions and constant searching, we found the path in life, the pioneering immigration, the self-fulfillment, which was the perfect blend of human redemption from the chains of the current regime, along with the creative and constructive Zionism

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that promised to build and to be built within it. “... we found the Zionism for ourselves.

Not a Zionism that told others to make an Aliya and build! We rebelled against the “official Zionism” (and this was the secret of the success of the pioneering youth movements). In this it was the revolutionary and the innovator. Such was its freshness and the magic of its soaring dream, and the strength of its war in reality, in which it made its way to tens of thousands of youths, because it was full of longing and aspirations. It dared to qualify and reach its full goal through enormous obstacles, rebelled against the dear parents, the school, the Jewish Street, the official Zionism. It created the training in inhuman and cruel conditions, and sometimes even in loneliness. It climbed and broke the siege ...

* * *

And who does not remember the great moment of the youth movement, Lag BaOmer day. The poet that can describe the experience of the boys and the girls on this day has not been born yet! Fear and trepidation held us several weeks before the holiday. After all, the preparations for the day were sufficient, but the heart was full of fear. And the nature was watching too ... As freemen we walked down the street. We did not march, we hovered in the air and all the Jews of the city celebrated the new-old holiday. The sky looked different. The sun seemed to come out of its pouch. The birds sang a new song, the trees looked as if they were praying for our safety. The atmosphere in the city was of a holiday. The eyes were glowing and the faces of the people rejoiced. We simply brought the Land of Israel into the midst of the diaspora and turned it into...

I remember when we would get to the nature and the forest. And at once a great camp arose and was created. A camp of small and large tents and within it waving the blue-and-white flag. We left the walls and the dust of the city. And the march? After all, we walked with one breath, with one heartbeat, at a uniform pace that is unparalleled! That day we decided on our future, we swore to overcome the obstacles, to come out of the darkness into a great light.

And in the evening the fire was ignited, a red flame rose and everyone added a branch and listened to the “conversation” of the burning fire, and then with complete spontaneity the singing erupted. A great singing, about the land, about the constructive brothers and the illegal immigrants to Israel, about the torments of redemption, about conquests and struggles.

And without noticing, the hands joined and a circle was formed. The hearts thrilled and we were all suddenly dancing. What a wonder! What a dance! What a rhythm! What a Hassidic enthusiasm! All the hearts merge into one soul. All the dancers - one body, a cohesive camp.

And when we returned home, lots of Jews - children and bent old men – looked at us with excitement, they felt with all their senses, that we are the future, we are the wall, they felt these are the steps of the redeemer Messiah, we herald the gospel of resurrection and victory, we are the symbol of the fulfillment of the longings of all the generations for two thousand years ...

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Then the knees will tremble ... for we know that the moment is sacred: in our soft and young hands the waving flag has been entrusted, we walk with rhythm, with a light heart and with serious consideration...

The Jewish and graceful Siedlce is gone! The popular, serious and naughty city has disappeared ... the city no longer foresaw all these, everything was burned at the stake, everything was burned for the sanctification of God.

* * *

I remember one Saturday evening, while the streets of the city were full of settlers that were walking in the streets and on the sidewalks, there was a general assembly of the “Chalutz” members on all their diversity. The graduates of the youth movements gathered: “Hashomer Hatzair”, “Hachalutz Hatzair” “Freiheit” and some that were not related to any party.

The conversation and the debate were about the “mixed training”. A serious and poignant debate: in fact, it was a conversation about unification and separation within the pioneering camp, which although we were all sympathetic to the idea and goal, we educated ourselves to uncompromising self-fulfillment and instructed ourselves and others to draw final and decisive conclusions. We were probably already at that time divided about frameworks and tactics, which were not yet so clear. The truth question was: based on which values shall we educate, based on what unify or separate us, shall we educate into life values or frameworks of life forms?

And most surprisingly: although we were still babies in all matters related to politics, we did not yet know how to distinguish between the national kibbutz and the united kibbutz and the members of the groups. We did not know exactly how great was the danger of separation, and yet we knew, remarkably, to explain with vigorous precision the necessity of separation. And we did it with a deep, blind and unshakable faith…

Where did we get the faith and the strength to explain, educate and debate about a world we just dreamed of? Who put us judges on such crucial and material questions such as: the unity of the pioneering youth movements, the unity of the kibbutz movement, the value of the kibbutz and the moshav? Who also gave such proficiency and experience in life, or authority to rule laws and score, for example, who is the “maximalist”? Also, such proficiency and experience in life, or authority to rule laws and set grades, for example, who is the “maximalist”?

Apparently, the faith was so deep and mystical and that the dream was mixed with impeccable self-confidence, and that our confidence was so solid that we will climb to the top of the mountain ... and so, the song was born and we sang it:

We climb and sing on swords and corpses
We walk and pass ... and in light and in the darkness
And we're walking when we know or don't know the way
We sing and climb! We climb and sing!
[Page 358]

And who knows where we got our fiery faith in the General Workers' Federation and in the overall framework of the labor movement in Israel. It was an unshakable jealous belief, that we are the potters, that this is the way and there is no other. We are the faithful and promising reserves, we are the form wall, we are the future of the nation and the status, for them both – we are the young generation ...

We have bound ourselves in an inseparable connection to the historical destiny, we believed that we would overcome the separate shells and discover the redeeming, common and unifying content, and that one fate awaits us all.

* * *

Indeed, the tragedy is immeasurably great and profound: Polish Judaism, the crown of the Israeli nation that is dispersed throughout the diaspora, has been destroyed. The pioneering movement with tens of thousands of blessed youths within it, with all its reserves that were saved from fire, saved the honor of the nation. It aroused, prepared and positioned itself as the head of the Ghetto Rebels. Only a few, those who were saved from the fire, managed to reach us at a safe shore, in order to tell us the full extent of the disaster and the destruction. Few news came from the youth from our holy and tortured city. But there is no doubt that until the last minute they stood in the front rows within the people and died when their lips were dubbed together with all the victims of Israel:

As long inside our hearts Our hope has not been lost yet,
A Jewish soul still yearns Hope is two thousand years old
And onward toward the East To be a free people in our country
The eye looks at Zion- The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

In our continuous historical destiny, we often face difficult combinations of conditions and circumstances. But it seems to me, that such a tragedy also the Satan has not yet created. Those young men and women who trained themselves and devoted their lives to a pioneering fulfillment at every hour, day and night, in dream and reality and were already planted in the virgin soil of the homeland - were run over, slaughtered, burned in the diaspora ...

The truth is just that, they were there only by a chance. They simply did not make it on time, whether because of age or because of missions imposed on them or they took on themselves. Each of us, who was privileged to make an Aliya and to see the fulfillment of the great vision, and to have a family in Israel – or otherwise we would also be among the slaughtered, the raped and the burned.

The tragedy is so horrible and heartbreaking, and we are engrossed in forgetfulness ... Even objectively the tragedy and the collapse are doubled and multiplied; After all, we have always said and memorized to ourselves that it was the trouble of the Jews that gave birth to Zionism, which began to lay the foundations for the “national home”. But when the trouble of the Jews reached its peak of horrors and it was time for our national home to fill its

[Page 359]

great role, it was at this time that the resistance and the plot of destruction also reached their peak. We probably did not have time to prepare the right tools, we were late and lagged behind in our work. The State of Israel was late on the road and for a brief moment there was a danger that we will be left only with false messiahs. The history laughed at us, apparently, and yet there are no fixed laws in human history ...

There is no forgiveness and the human intelligence will not grasp the absurd processes of the deep catastrophe and the terrible blow that hit us all.

We continue to fly and ride in the train of life. We once burned the bridge that connected us to the past. We rebelled in the “exile”, we despised all, we were extreme to cruelty to others and to ourselves; apparently in those days, it was impossible otherwise.

We need today - as breathing air - a serious and sharp turning point. Then, we did not see the mental and moral power of the Jew, that was strengthened and unified by the hands of an exile of many generations. Today we actually need it very much and perhaps most of all it is needed for tens of thousands of teenagers, who were born here, in the Moledet (homeland).

We need a fertilizing integration, to the integration of all the good and treasures we have stored in all the stations of our lives in all generations, and in our generation. We will return to the source and our fertilizing and renewing values. We will cultivate the love of Israel and the love of man among us, for the existence and prosperity of the State of Israel - the desire of all generations.

Indeed, the seed sown with our own hands has not failed, although we have not yet reached all that we dreamed and nurtured ...

We who continue, will erect a monument forever to those who did not get to come, we are the defendants!

May we be deserved to it - and hope we do not disappoint!!


[Page 360]

Organization of Chasidic Youth
and “Youth of the East”

by Avraham Friedman

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

In 1915, when there was a revival among Jewish young people, Chasidic and religious young people were not left out. It became clear that one did not have to study Talmud in the cramped rooms of the prayer houses in unhygienic conditions, by the light of a kerosene lamp, or even with a light, under the supervision and control of the gabbais who took orders from their rabbis.

Scores and hundreds of young men were removed from the prayer houses, and their parents were besieged because their sons no longer wanted to wear sidekicks and soft collars, read secular books, or walked on Shabbos in the city parks, and so on.

The chief influencer of the Chasidic youth movement was Sholem Yellen, a devoted student of Torah and fearer of Heaven, the son of Moyshe Moykher-Sforim, who in his poor home did not have all the facilities for learning; Yellen, together with Aaron Nelkenbaum (now in Israel), Leib Ratbine, and Pesach Rosen, made the first attempt at organizing the religious young people. At first they used the premises of the “Mishnah Society” to study Torah for its ow sake, while in the premises of the “Talmud Torah” they conducted courses in Tanach for religious laborers. The best-known of the Ger Chasidim in Siedlce at that time, R. Leibush Feivel Goldberg, held, however, that the Tanach courses were an insult to the Talmud Torah and ordered them to move. A couple of days later, these courses were forbidden by the government.

The Mishnah Society offices were soon seen to be too

[Page 361]

small and uncomfortable for the great number of Chasidic-religious young men. Then the friends A. Friedman (now in Israel), Yishayahu Zelikowicz, and Yehonatan Eibszicz and they found a large and attractive location in the center of the city at 28 Kilinski, in the building of B. Altenberg. There the society first got its proper name—“Beis-Ha-talmud.” In “Beis-Ha-talmud,” more than sixty students comfortably learned the Talmud and its commentators, and occasionally they glanced at “The Guide for the Perplexed,” “The Duties of the Heart,” and other such books. The “Beis-Ha-talmud” also occasionally organized lectures on “Torah and Tradition,” led by well-known religious speakers, the “German rabbis” Cohen and Carlebach. One of these lectures in a large movie theater was interrupted by attacks from Zionists and had to be continued in a different location; the speakers were taken there under guard.

A bit later, the young men Sh. Yellen, A. Friedman, and, having come from Brisk, David Zussman saw that not everyone was happy with the education program, because learning Torah was not enough and it was too difficult to live within the four cubits of Torah [a traditional description]. One also had to obtain a secular education. A charter was drawn up for a religious-cultural union under the name of “T'vunah” [Reason], which was legally recognized in 1916 with the right to establish chapters throughout Congress Poland.

“T'vunah” had as its goal: knowledge and awe for God. It found broad appeal, gathering around itself almost the whole of Siedlce's religious youth. In the newly appointed premises of four room with a large hall at 4 Ogrodowa, in the house of Mrs. Slushny, there were more than 200 comrades who daily attended the various evening courses in Polish, mathematics, bookkeeping, and others, as well as lessons in Gemara. “T'vunah” also organized social events and lectures as well as putting out a bi-weekly broadsheet called “Our Cultural Corner.” Rabbi Zlotnik from Gambin attracted the young men from the prayer houses with his lectures. The religious organization “T'vunah,” which had only existed in Siedlce, quickly became well known, and from the various cities and towns

[Page 362]

near Siedlce in the province came delegates who asked for our charter and then started such organizations. Also in Warsaw a “T'shuvah” organization was begun as an outgrowth of Siedlce's. There was also a central office that had connections with over 15 branches. With the development of “T'vunah,” the “Beis-Talmud” closed in 1917.

At the same time, there existed in Siedlce a small circle of “Tz'irei-Mizrachi” [“Youth of the East”] comrades. Rabbi Kalman Frankel (now in Israel), Yoel Kamienicz and others in 1918, after pogroms in the Ukraine, began to influence them with nationalistic ideas, especially among the young people; this kind of thought also seized on the membership of “T'vunah.” On four consecutive Shabboses, therefore, there were amazing gatherings for discussions on the topic of “Nationalism and Religion.” More than thirty of the comrades spoke and broadly explored the problems involved, both pro and con, and finally, after almost two years of activities, “T'vunah” , by a majority vote, yielded to “Mizrachi.” The first task was to strengthen the “Tz'irei-Mizrachi”, whose first council consisted of D. Zussman, A. Friedman, Y. Eibershitz, M. Karfin, Y Zelikowicz, Y. Falszfan, and Y. Kamienicz.

“Tz'irei-Mizrachi” had, thanks to its nationalistic-political character, a broad field of action. The first duty of the new council was to popularize the work of the Mizrachi program among the middle classes and particularly among the Chasidim. To this end, week by week, well-known speakers were brought in from the Mizrachi center in Warsaw. The first public lecture presented the well-known scholar, Torah scholar and outstanding speaker Rabbi Avigdor Emial, z”l. He was the rabbi in Grayeve, then later in Antwerp and finally was the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv. His two-hour talk about Jews and Yiddishkeit made a terrific impression. Scores of young people joined up on the spot. The same speaker a little later visited Siedlce and was our houseguest; the best thing was that the rabbi's outreach appealed to Chasidic circles. My father, R. Kalman Friedman, z”l, who was a Ger Chasid,

[Page 363]

received no comments from the Chasidim, even though “Mizrachi” was considered supremely unkosher in the prayer houses. Another frequent guest was Rabbi Bradt from Lipne, who is now a rabbi in Tel Aviv and who was even then renowned as an outstanding mass speaker, as was also Rabbi Neufeld, z”l, from Nowy Dwor, who, with his heartfelt spiritual talks commanded the greatest respect. After each lecture, there were sympathizers in the prayer houses and beis-medreshes who were later drawn into the Mizrachi.

“Tz'irei-Mizrachi” also set up an inexpensive soup kitchen to help the post-war poor Jewish population. This kitchen was located in the house of Sh. M. Meizlish, at 22 Ogrodowa. More than once the Polish inspector, Dr. Ritel, published congratulations over the orderly operation of the kitchen. Members of the Siedlce committee traveled to Mokow, Sololow, and Mezritch to organize chapters of “Tz'irei-Mizrachi.”

At the beginning of 1919 there was the first members' conference in Siedlce, which undertook major decisions about the course of future projects, establishing there the central office. “Tz'irei-Mizrachi” also understood the necessity of organizing Jewish women and proceeded to found a

 

Sie363.jpg
The committee of “B'nos Mizrachi” with Rabbi Neufeld from Eretz Yisroel

 

[Page 364]

“B'nos Mizrachi.” At the end of 1919 a small women's group was formed and it was decided lot bring in from Warsaw the young “Tz'Irei-Mizrachi” member and effective speaker Rabbi Elimelech Neufeld, the son of the already-mentioned Nowidwor rabbi, now a worldwide coordinator of “Mizrachi” in Tel Aviv. He was in Siedlce for a few days, and it was his job to nene the first committee of “B'nos Mizrachi”. A few weeks later, the same speaker delivered a talk organized by the “B'nos Mizrachi” in one of the largest halls in Siedlce. It was entitled “The Education of Women in National Life.” There was a huge audience. The “B'nos MIzrachi” numbered about 60 members, some of them quite active. They were: Freida Nusbaum Dinah Urszel, Sarah Radzinske, Sarah Slawiaticzi, and Malkeh Srebnik.

At the same time there was also established in Siedlce a kindergarten called “The Shelter House for Orphans” in the name of Reines, z”l. It was located in the home of Mrs. Barg, 24 Ogrodowa, in the courtyard.

 

Sie364.jpg
A “Mizrachi” children's home in the name of Rabbi Reines

 

A combined committee from Tz'Irei- and B'nos-Mizrachi worked together on the regular activities of the children's home. They made nicely painted little tables and benches as well as playthings necessary for the more than 40 children, who received an excellent education

[Page 365]

from the accredited kindergarten teacher Feiga Levartowski (whose husband, Marduke lives today in Israel).

“Tz'Irei-Mizrachi” also attempted to establish “Ha-poel Ha-mizrachi” [Workers Mizrachi]. It was not easy to find qualified artisans who were willing to liquidate their well-established workshops and make allyah to Eretz-Yisroel with the goal of founding a cooperative. They tried to start a group of 8 carpenters for whom all travel arrangements would be made. The writer of these lines obtained passports for them and later, after a large banquet, took them to the Siedlce train station. “Ha-poel Ha-mizrachi” lacked a large following in Siedlce because not all of the crafts were not suitable for Eretz Yisroel and the majority of workers in Siedlce were shoemakers and tailors.

The “Mizrachi” in Siedlce survived through elections so that “Tz'Irei-Mizrachi” did all of its work so that “MIzrachi” would emerge with honor from the elections. To the credit of “Mizrachi” we should note the well organized “Cheder Mizrachi,” also known as “Torah v' Deah,” at 8 Shenkewitcz, which was formed in 1920. It was led by Ephraim Tzelnik, Eisenbergf (from the hotel), Alter Eisenberg (a manufacturer), and others. All were killed by the Nazis. Those who were not killed were A.D. Gottesdiener and Monish Ridel (now in Israel).

In 1922, I went to Lodz, but my influence continued and had good results. Both of my brothers, Menachem and Zechariah were active in “Tz'Irei-Mizrachi” together with Issur Rosenberg and other who live now in Israel.

 

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