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[Page 502]

My memoirs from Siedlce
(A speech that was not given)

by Yosef Okon

Translated by Mira Eckhaus David

I will not mourn or arouse ghosts: Is it possible that this handsome couple, Levi and Yosef, are gone? And Joshua, the king of peace and hope, would not shake off the dust all at once and will be resurrected? And the wise old men, Weintraub and Orwitz - did they don't have the witty ingenuity to ward off the demons? And this excellent person from the followers of Gur, that was great in the Torah, Rabbi Israel Gutgeld, who walked slowly like the water of the Shiloach flew, can it be that he is no longer among us? No, it can't be! Siedlce will not be wiped out! It is still in front of us, with its ancient and glorious being, and pours out a vision on its sons-builders that are scattered from Eilat to Hanita.

Morning in Elul, 5687. Early autumn mists covered with a veil the treetops of the Linden and the oak. The golden domes towers of the houses of awe dip dimly in the damp air. From the old Beit midrash, in contrast, emerges the Shofar sound calling for repentance. Children with schoolbags walk fast to the various schools. Today is the first day of school. About 20 toddlers gathered in the center in Kilinski street for the announcement regarding the opening of the “Tarbut” school in Siedlce.

After a short festive conversation, they started singing and dancing and into the stormy circle of dancers, parents and youth were swept, and Levi was in the middle. The number of students grew day by day. They prepared a special place and equipped it with school furniture. Joshua was in charge of the work; Levy – was in charge of the finance and propaganda; Fischel, may he live long life, was in charge of collecting donations from the public. And as to the tuition fee – There is a tough competition with the government schools and with “Talmud-Torah”, in which the study is for free, and no one in Siedlce had to recognize the term “tuition fee”. The only source for building and maintaining the “Tarbut” school was through donations and contributions.

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18 Elul. The school has been approved by the Polish education authorities. The assimilated, the followers of the “Povshikhna”, were defeated. Chol HaMoed Sukkot, the school holds (a small one but all about pure Hebrew). In the city there are talking: the sound of Hebrew is charming, the Sukkah is a great thinking, alluring. Bereshit Saturday evening. Dr. Shleicher, who is now famous among the physicians of Greater Haifa, then served as chairman of the Zionist Organization and as the official principal of honor of the “Tarbut” School. He opened the 100-anniversary party - a hundred students in “Tarbut” - with the verse “Who are those who come as fast as the clouds and like the doves that fly to their nests”? Our nests? Sharp Nishri-Orzel is saying: is your daughter also in “those” Dr.? - Of course, Dr. Shleicher answered in Polish, when she will grow up!

The year of 5689. The school has 240 students in two rented buildings. It has already gained a reputation and income beyond the ordinary. It is still not enough to cover a meager salary for teachers. The branch became entangled in dead-end debts. An emergency meeting of the Zionist Organization, the Hachalutz branch and the “Tarbut” branch was held. All the options are gone, the credit in the local banks has been fully utilized. The annual fundraising fee has run out and it is not known where the funds will come from for the current budget. Teachers are entitled to a six-month salary, where will the help come from? - Suddenly Yossele stood up and his small eyes were on fire: The school will not be closed! We should turn to…turn to…to whom shall we turn to? A painful question for everyone. To Greenbaum and he will get us a loan at the public banks in Greater Warsaw.

This is indeed an idea! We are all responsible! And immediately 4,000 gold bills were signed and a delegation of three was chosen: Levy, Fishel and myself.

The sun of Tammuz fired fire spears at the capital. Everyone left to the forests of Otwock. The streets are deserted and sweaty. We are standing in front of the door of Itzhak Greenbaum's house. We divided the issues between us: a request, an explanation of the situation and the nature of the responsibility and the bills we have. Levi rang the bell and we entered. Greenbaum appeared in a pioneering shirt: What happened! The first one starts talking. Greenbaum stops him: I understand, a difficult situation, what can I do?

Levy: A bank loan. And Fishel, meanwhile, is spreading the notes on the desk.

Greenbaum: Such a large sum, how? - Levy: It's impossible with less than that. And he starts to talk about our budget affair.

Greenbaum: I see, but … and what do you think, Popovsky? I will not suffer from it?

Popovsky: No!

Greenbaum: And you Gutgeld, do you also suggest I will sign?

Levy: Sign, there is no other choice!

Greenbaum rolls up his sleeve, takes a large pen from the table and signs one after the other. And I, the little one, was left with no need to say my speech.


[Page 504]

“Group of Lovers of the Language of the Past”
The Hebrew Evening–Courses of R. Akiva Goldfarb

by David ben Yosef (Pasovsky)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

The name “Group of Lovers of the Language of the Past” was chosen by a group of young men and women who were 16 and 17 years old who themselves organized Hebrew evening courses in the private school of R. Akiva Goldfarb at 22 Warsaw Street.

It was in 1924, after a break of several years in the Hebrew evening courses of the Zionist organization, which stopped at the time of the First World War. They felt the need to study and hear “a Hebrew word.” These Jewish national young people themselves, not driven by any organization or institution, felt it as a definite fact–so they got together with Mr. Akiva Goldfarb, the well–known and beloved Hebrew teacher, and opened in his school evening courses and enrolled in them.

The instigators were the following: Sarah Kleinlehrer, Tovah Barbanel, Mordechai Gottesdiener, Yisrael Yom Tov, my brother Levi Pasovsky, and myself. We had one goal: to spread knowledge of the Hebrew language among the Jewish young people in Siedlcer.

At our first session with Mr. Goldfarb, a financial question arose: how to manage the budget of the evening courses. This was a big expense. But Mr. Akiva Goldfarb, who believed that teaching Hebrew was a sacred responsibility, agreed to teach without renumeration so that the courses could go on and Jewish young people could learn Hebrew.

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In a short time the evening courses developed and enrolled scores of students, young men and women from all levels of the populace. The Hebrew evening courses became a community focus for the Jewish youth in the city. From time to time there were interesting puzzle evenings and literary conversations in Hebrew on various themes. The well–known Zionist activist and educator Mr. Levi Gutgelt gave talks about the Tanach and drew great delight from his audience.

At a general meeting of the students, it was decided that they would speak Hebrew among themselves at every opportunity. I can picture it now: groups of young people gathering in the evening at the pharmacy on Warsaw Street and speaking Hebrew aloud among themselves, openly and without shame. Although the Hebrew spoken by the group was Ashkenazic…the group of Hebrew speakers attracted the attention of the passers–by.

The Hebrew evening courses of the “Group of Lovers of the Language of the Past” took a great deal of time and were a source of educational skills for the Zionist youth pioneer organizations such as “Ha–Shomer Ha–Tza'ir,” “He–Chalutz,” “He–Chalutz Ha–Tza'ir,” “Ha–Oved Ha–Tzioni” and others.

 

sie505.jpg
A group of students from the Hebrew courses led by the teacher Goldfarb.
Among the students is the Poalei–Tzion leader Mordechai Kaznitzky

 

[Page 506]

The Library and the Society “Jewish Art”

Moshe Mandelman

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

When, at the time of the First World War, the German occupied Siedlce (August 12, 1915), there were only two Jewish cultural institutions in the city—the “Jewish Library” and the “Jewish Art” society. The library dated itself back to 1901, when the Siedlce maskil Y. Goldvasser had maintained a shelf of books in his home. He did not even know who the readers were, especially people who would distribute the books and meet in secret. Several years later the library became legal. It existed as a private concern in the name of the well-known Zionist Mordechai Meir Landau (may his memory be a blessing), a son-in-law of the conspicuous activist Yitzchak Nachum Weintraub, the long-time head of the community under tzars rule and later in the days of Poland. The library operated under Zionist influence. The person who was responsible for handing out the books was Asher Liverant, who simultaneously took care of the National Fund and other Zionist matters.

At that time the library was not properly organized. There were no real rules and the catalogue was disorganized. It was difficult to find the book one sought.

The “Jewish Art” society—its full name was “Literary-Musical Society Jewish Art”—was established in 1910, at a time when in many cities and

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towns in Russia, various sorts of literary societies were founded under the names “Ha-Zamir” [literally “The Nightingale], “Lyre”, “Harp”, “Dramatic Art,” and so on. Especially popular at the time were the Warsaw and Lodz “Nightingales.” In Warsaw, Peretz then led the famous educational “game evenings, while in Lodz there were huge musical-literary activities. In Siedlce, therefore, people also called “Jewish Art” by the name of “Nightingale” [Ha-Zamir]. Most people, for convenience, got rid of the “Ha” from the beginning and the “r” from the end and called it “Zame.” “Don't go to the Zame!” was the name of one-man comedy written by the Siedlce author Yakov Tenenbaum that was often performed under his direction.

You should be aware that both the library and the “Jewish Art” operated under the watch of the tsarist police. For example, one had to present to the police a copy of every newly purchased book, even if it had been published legally, so it could be censored and approved for lending to general readers. Similarly, one had to present to the governmental counsel a full program, with translation, for every innocent literary-musical evening.

The police were often “guests” both at the institutions and at the activities of individual members. A whole array of activists knew when they had to take actions to avoid arrest. This was usually just before the first of May or other unlucky days.

In addition, in the Jewish context, people opposed each young man or woman who dared to enter the library or who took part in discussions at the “Zame,” where people smoked cigarettes on Shabbos and men and women danced together, “God help us…”. No broad enlightenment work was then possible in the depths of the Jewish masses. Consequently, the number of active doers was also small and these institutions led a dismal existence. The library seldom bought a new book and could not repair the old ones.

Also, “Jewish Art” around 1912 found itself in a kind of paralyzed situation, on the verge of liquidation. In this

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hard time, a group of young people arrived, straight from their Gemaras, and with youthful enthusiasm and Chasidic fervor took a bold step—to unite both organizations. After much effort, it was possible to incorporate the library in “Jewish Art.” The group—still in their Chasidic long coats—took eagerly to this job. They created a library group consisting of: Avraham Huberman, Velvet Friedman, Asher Liverant, Dovid Eisenberg, Mshe Mandelman, and later Berl Czarnogrode.

They took charge of the books, instituted a regular time for borrowing and returning them, conducted a census of readers, and so on. They also created a Polish section (where earlier there had only been Hebrew-Yiddish and Russian). A group of young women who became part of the library group took special interest in the Polish section. They were: Rokhel Edelstein-Barg (in later years a recognized teacher in the vocational school and in the Polish years was for a time a Bundist member of the Siedlce city council), Golde Halberstam (who died at a very young age), Tirzeh Zucker (tortured by the Nazis in Paris), Bracha Shapiro, and Bronya Goldberg-Glazowska.

We, the co-workers in the library, were, you must understand, also the readers. We fell thirstily on the treasures of the books; with trembling and fear that we would be seen, we would steal into the library, and behind locked doors devour the books. We completely forgot our surroundings and lived in other, fantastic literary worlds.

We all worked with great devotion, and every newly purchased book marked for us a holiday. During the few years before the German occupation, the library grew rapidly. Hundreds of books in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and Polish arrived. It still remained for us to collect hundreds of rubles in cash that we later used to build up the status of “Jewish Art.”

* * *

At the time of the First World War (1914-1918), the Jews in Poland regarded the Germans as liberators. The edicts and accusations from the czarist military gang,

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the pulling up by the roots of old, established Jewish communities and settlements, the expulsions of tens of thousands of Jews, young and old, men and women, from their homes to who knows where, the kidnapping of prominent Jewish community activists, the ongoing nightmare of pogroms, of physical and spiritual oppression, the theft of Jewish property and goods—all in case the Germans should be welcomed. But people breathed more freely. The young people felt as if chains had fallen off their hands—we truly felt free! There was also an immense change in the religious Jewish way of life. With the discarding of the long caftan, we cast off the ancient image of Yiddishkeit, and, in our naïveté, we spread our hands as thought the world was ours.

In the days right after the Germans marched in, we rented a large space at 66 Warsaw Street for “Jewish Art” and the library. It had been an officers' club. We immediately began to organize the large area. Our goal was to create a major Jewish clubhouse that would consist of the following divisions: literary, dramatic, musical and vocal, library, and reading room. During the course of several months, the association had about 450 members. The aforementioned divisions undertook intensive work, and from day to day their activities increased, so that in several months we could rent the whole three-story building. We then had seven large rooms, including two huge halls that could contain several hundred people.

At that time, private homes were often cold and dark, but “Jewish Art” was half lit by gas and at least was warm and friendly—it bustled with life and activity. On Friday evenings, Shabbos, and Shabbos nights there was a variety of literary, musical, or dramatic evenings with hundreds of attendees, members and non-members. The current German authorities—both civil and military—respected our work. High-ranking Germans were frequent visitors at our

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evenings. They conducted themselves properly and with great respect. There were occasions when the governor or another high official would send warm greetings for our undertakings. A ticket for an event at “Jewish Art” served as a pass so that one could go out on the streets after the curfew. Such were the Germans at the time of the First World War, before they were influenced by the Hitler SS.

The good reputation and influence of “Jewish Art” also affected Polish society, and through certain historical-political acts, “Jewish Art” assumed an important position. Let me present two more facts.

In 1916, after almost 150 years of servitude the Poles were allowed to celebrate their national holiday—the Third of May the holiday commemorating the constitution of May 3, 1771. To this end the city formed a community-wide committee of Poles and Jews to organize the celebration for the participation of the whole population. “Jewish Art” was among the most active participants. On the program was a celebration and a street demonstration of the whole population of the city and the surrounding areas and also delegations from the religious, cultural, and community organizations. Representing “Jewish Art” was a delegation of six people: Yosef Rosenzumen Avraham Zigelwacs, Avraham Greenspan (who was shot on false charges during the Bolshevik invasion in 1920, sentenced by a Polish military tribunal), Shoal Zubrawicz—who is now an engineer in the Moscow State Electrical Station—Yechiel Yablon, and Moshe Mandelman. We wore blue and white armbands on which was emblazoned a Magen David and, in Yiddish and Latin letters, the name “Jewish Art.”

The magnificent demonstration, which consisted of tens of thousands of people, with holy pictures and banners moved from the New Church on Dluge Street, led by the highest church leaders and the Polish aristocracy. It had been planned that the procession would pass the Jewish cultural center “Jewish Art.” The procession halted there. On the balcony stood the great chorus and

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on the other balcony was the orchestra. They played and sang the Polish hymn Boze, cos Polske“ [God Save Poland] and the so-called “Ha-zamir” March, “Zamru, zamru.” Truly on that day, as the words rang out—Jews and Poles felt like brothers. In the speeches, special emphasis was placed on the commonality of fate that united Jews and Poles on Polish soil over hundreds of years.

In the fall of 1916 for the first time there were elections for the city council in Siedlce. The elections ran on a system of various levels. The last level, the sixth, was for the common people.

There were no sharp political differences then. We all had the same goal—to elect as many Jewish representatives as possible—so we formed a community-wide election committee that included Zionists, Bundists, Folkists, and Orthodox members of all stripes. The committee consisted, I think, of twenty people. It met at “Jewish Art”; often enough Ger and Kotzk Chasidim met there with the Zionist Harrtglass and Bundists like Neumark and Fishman and Folkists like Altschuler and Mandelman.

The members of “Jewish Art” worked on the elections enthusiastically. We divided the city into five areas and we mobilized hundreds of people. Our victory was sensational: out of 24 council members, we elected 14 Jews. In the midst of the election, Hartglass came out of the election bureau and told us (in Polish): “Gentlemen, you can stop. We already have enough!” But we wanted to show the Poles, and our politicking did not stop until the last minute, when we had an absolute Jewish majority—14 of 24 council members.

You must understand hat such acts helped to establish our importance among Jews and non-Jews. It was not then possible to think of such an outcome whether from a Jewish or a community-wide perspective without our participation and encouragement. It was no wonder, then, that the reputation of “Jewish Art” in Siedlce spread through cities and towns throughout the country.

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There was not a single noted writer, artist, or singer, who did not want to be at “Jewish Art,” and we received all of them with great honor.

On the dais of “Jewish Art,” the famous columnist Sh. Y. Stupnicki (murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto), gave a series of lectures in which for the first time he laid out the theoretical foundations of the Jewish Folk Party. Later these lectures were published in a book called “The Way to the People.” Hillel Zeitlin (killed in the Warsaw Ghetto), over the course of several Shabbatos, gave lectures of a religious and philosophical character. Know, too, that H.D. Naumberg, Noach Prylucki, Dr. Yehoshua Gottlieb (the last two killed in the Soviet Union), Yosef Heftman (now in Israel), Shlomo Mendelssohn (died in America), and a host of others were often our guests. M. Kipnis and Zimra Seligfeld (both killed in the Warsaw Ghetto) popularized Jewish folk songs (at that time a novelty) in a series of concerts. The famous Jewish composer Bensman for several years led the musical-vocal division. He fit right in.

I am reminded of an interesting episode that I should relate: one Friday evening, when Y. Stupnicki spoke with youthful enthusiasm before a packed hall in “Jewish Art” about “Parties and Inclinations in the Jewish Street,” the well-known Polish writer Leo Belmont (a convert), entered. He was then in Siedlce, where that evening he was supposed to speak about the Russian Revolution. In the street he noticed the announcement of Stupnicki's lecture. He said to himself: Let's see how one deals, among Jews, in jargon [as people referred to Yiddish], with such matters. For a long time he listened attentively to the talk and to the discussants, including Dovid Neumark (from the “Bund”), Dovid Greenfarb (“Poaelei Tzion”), Mordechai Yaffe (Zionist), and Yakov Tenenbaum (unaffiliated). After the lecture, Belmont came backstage introduced himself to Stupnicki, warmly clasped his hand, and said that he understood everything, that he was astounded at the high level and the deep grasp of the problems. He would never have believed that among everyday people there could be such a cultural debate

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about community political problems, especially in “jargon.” He invited Stupicki and some others to attend his lecture “Czardom and Revolution” (this was during the Russian Revolution in 1917). We accepted his invitation, but his lecture did not succeed with us.

In 1917, “Jewish Art” also took upon itself the burden of building and maintaining a secular Jewish school. We described our goal—“Jewish Art” was in fact the Jewish cultural center, where all cultural forms were concentrated under one roof and one leadership.

The Siedlce educational system consisted of four categories of schools: the Talmud Torah, which had about 300 students; a Yiddish-based school; and a “Tarbus” school. And finally more than a thousand students studied in a government school, in Polish. This was called a “Shabbos-away,” because the students who studied there did not attend on Shabbos. A limited number of Jewish students also studied in the government middle school.

M. Kaspi has written about the Talmud Torah elsewhere.

The literary division consisted of Yakov Tenenbaum, Pani Radak, Dovid Neumark, Yakov Fishman, Yehiel Groman, and Moshe Mandelman. It conducted a systematic, fine operation over many years. The musical-vocal divisions grew even more. The chorus contained about 50 people. Yosef Zogshein was the director. Musical activities also increased. We formed a string orchestra and two orchestras of wind and mandolins, altogether about 120 people. These orchestras would provide free concerts during the summer in the city garden. The conductors were Eliyahu Shpielman and, after his death, Aaron Shpielfidel and a little later, as I already mentioned, the famous composer Bensman.

The drama division, under the direction of Yakov Tenenbaum, developed wonderfully. At first they presented short one-act plays, but a bit later they put on a number of large three-act dramas and comedies. This division had about 30 people. Over time they assembled a large number of costumes and fine theater sets.

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Even in the Warsaw newspapers there appeared several favorable reviews of of plays by the Siedlce dramatic division of “Jewish Art.”

Thus, from year to year the activities of “Jewish Art” became broader and deeper. The prestige and activities of “Jewish Art” spread across the country.

 

sie514.jpg
The musical-vocal and dramatic divisions of “Jewish Art” of the Ha-zamir Society
At the top: Yakov Tenenbaum, Avraham Zigelvacks, Aaron Shpielfidel, Yosef Zonshein, and director-members Popowski and Zucker

 

These many-branched cultural activities lasted until the outbreak of the Polish-Bolshevik War in the summer of 1920. In another section of this anthology will appear chapters on the destruction that the Polish reaction and hooliganism wrought on “Jewish Art” and other Jewish cultural organizations in Siedlce.

In 1921, “Jewish Art,” together with the library, moved to a smaller location—the corner of Dluge and Sondowa Streets. The smallness of this place did not permit us to carry on broad cultural activities. Still, the library grew a bit. In 1926, people made a big celebration in order of the 25th anniversary of the library's founding. We organized, in

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a separate location, lectures by the most noted writers in Poland, as well as mystical concerts of the highest quality with the best musicians and singers.

In 1933 when the Jewish school was dissolved, “Jewish Art” rented the school building at 62 Warsaw Street. There “Jewish Art” became a club for games and entertainment. But the library remained strong. It lacked not a single new book in Yiddish and Hebrew and the newest books from the Polish market could be found there.

* * *

Exactly what happened to “Jewish Art” and the library during the “Third Destruction” I do not know. Certain it is that their fate was the same as those of all other Jewish cultural treasures in Poland—they were consigned to the flames…


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The Orthodox Newspaper “Our Road”

Rabbi Mayer Schwartzman (Winnipeg, Canada)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Having arrived in Siedlce in 1922, I found this capital city of Podlachia to be a lively, singing place, full of vigor and energy. Every tendency, idea, and party affiliation had sunk deep roots in this old community.

The religious part of Siedlce was sidelined, full of Chasidism, with Chasidic prayer houses everywhere beit-midrashim, fellowships, minyan; on almost every street could be found Chassidic prayer houses and synagogues. Three Ger prayer houses on Pienke, Dluge, and Shul Streets. Aside from them, there were other prayer houses: Alexander, Strikow, Lukow, Kolobiel, Parisow, Amshtinow, and others; the synagogues: the Great Shuo, the beis-hamedresh, the Butcher's Beis Hamedresh, the “Mikra” Chevra, “Parkhei Shoshanim,” Yisroel Levin's bets hamedresh, and others. Their leaders tried to attract a host of Jews: Rabbi Avrahamele Morgenshtern—the Lomzher rabbi, a grandson of Kotzk; the Partzev rabbi—a grandson of the Holy Yud; the Koszenitz rabbi, Rabbi Yechieo; the Byale rabbi, Rabbi Yehoshuale and the Lekech-Bekerin's son-in-law. Siedlce also had fellowships: “Linas Ha-tzedek,” “Visiting the Ill,” women's and men's welfare societies. At the head of the rabbinate was the Righteous Gaon Rabbi Chaim Ginsburg. Also active were the judges Rabbi Alter Eliezer , his son Rabbi Yisroel Mardiks, and Rabbi Itschele.

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In the above-mentioned souls, beis-midrashim, and prayer houses people not only prayed, but they also studied. Chasidim studied the principles of Chasidism and advised young men that they should go to this or that rabbi,

Rabbi LKeibsh Feivel, Rabbi Mordechai Shar, Rabbi Mottele Chaim the Shochet's, kRabbi Avrahamtsche Goldberg, Rabbi Moyshe Aaron Hochman—were the pillars of the Ger Chasidim. They recruited new and developing Chasidim from the younger generations

The Talmud Torah, the yeshiva, the adherents of Mussar looked after education in a traditional Jewish way. This involved the Siedlce Jewish community in all the virtues and failings of other large communities and cities in Poland.

When Poland “arose from the dead” after the First World War, a storm of worldly winds began to stir things up even in the most remote communities and towns, so understandably, in Siedlce as well. Zionism arose from the fanciful novels and started to become real., The Folkists and the “Bund” began their work at enlightenment and cultural activities. They distributed books, brochures, and newspapers. The “Ha-zamir” library in Siedlce took on new life.

Only the Orthodox was happy to sleep its old, sweet sleep. Then the “Agudas Yisroel” awakened the Orthodox part of Judaism.

The “Agudas Yisroel” quickly sank roots in all of Poland, including Siedlce.

From the old world they called forth the most famous and enlightened Chasidim: Rabbi Yakov Shtshereinski, Rabbi Yiusroel Gutgeld, Rabbi Ben-Zion Zucker, Rabbi Sender Kantor, Rabbi Yiusroel Lema Lieberman, Rabbi Berish Jakubowicz. And from the most ardent young people: Rabbi Shalom Yellin, Rabbi Pesach Rosen (later a judge in Lukow), Rabbi Yisroel Mayerr Kleinlehrer, Aaron Nelkenbaum, the writer of these words, Rabbi Bunim Huberman, Rabbi Shmuel Ginzberg, the young man Yehudah Aryeh Zucker, and others.

The Orthodox work of enlightenment in Siedlce could not be satisfied with the Jewish press in Warsaw. The stormy community life of Siedlce and its surrounding towns required its own organ to defend the interests of the Orthodox awakening. The secular schools, Tarbus, the Folkist school

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and all the others, ripped away parts of the old Talmud Torah. The parties and organizations had spread a net to hook the young. We had to begin to fight with the same tools as the modernizers—through our own press organ.

On Friday, May 16, 1923, the first number of “Our Way” [“Undzer Veg”] was published in Siedlce, our Orthodox weekly. The official editor was Berish Jakobowicz, who was aided by his colleagues: Shalom Yellin, Mayer Schwartzman, Yehudah Aryeh Zucker, Aaron Nelkenbaum, Yisroel Mayer Klenlehrer, and Shmuel Ginzberg.

The first issue had a high, earnest tone. The paper defended Orthodox community politics, discussed the education for boys and girls, urged the founding of a “Beis Yakov” school, awoke and encouraged the upholding of the seal of traditional Yiddishkeit, and called for work on behalf of Eretz Yisroel. There were entries from “Agudas Yisroel” and “Tz'irei uPo'alei-Agudas-Yisroel” in Siedlce, Lukow, Sokolow, Biale-Podlosk, Mezritch, Garvolin, Volin, Radzin, Kotzk, Czemernik, Statzk, Szelekhow, Vengerow, and others. “Our Way” spread Torah knowledge, Chassidus, and above all, Yiddishkeit among the broad masses, not only in Siedlce but in the whole district.

Understandably, when it was time for elections to the Polish Sejm, to the Siedlce city council, or within the Jewish community, “Our Way” sided with “Agudas Yisroel” and found for its candidates.

“Our Way” also led the election work in Lukow, Sokolow, Biala, and elsewhere.

In quieter, more peaceful times, “Our Way” would publish stories, novels, poems, opinion pieces, and longer articles, notes from writers and well-known Jewish columnists, such as: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (z”l), Rabbi Dr. Mayer Lehman, Rabbi Dr. Y. Weinberg, Gedalyahu Bublik, Dr. Noson Birnbaum, Rabbi Asher Rubin, Eizik Baer Eckerman, Yehuda Leib Orleon, Alexander Zishe Friedman. The regular staff were: Shalom Yellin—the editor, Yehudah Aryeh Zucker, and the writer of this piece who used to write under a variety of names such as Mayer Schwartzman, Baal-Shem, Baal-Shacharis, “Emes,” “Rabbi Nechorai Sofer.” “Avrahaml” of

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Mezritch used to publish his poems in “Our Way.” And A. Zonschein would submit his poems.

“Our Way” was read by the most noted rabbis from Ger and Radzin, from Sokolow and Strikow, by hundreds of rabbis from our district in Poland, as well as Volin and Galicia.

With limited financial means, “Our Way” existed without interruption until 1930. The newspaper defended Orthodox thought admirably. It was the factual messenger of the Orthodox Jewish part of Siedlce and of the Orthodox in the greater Polish province of Podlachia.

When we look today at the complete corpus of “Our Way,” we see a part of the history of Jewish Siedlce and of Jewish life in Podlachia in the era between the two world wars.

In “Our Way” from the 19th of Av in 1926, I see a notice to all “Agudas Shelomi, Tze'irei uPo'alei Emunei Yisroel” in the Podlachia region. They are summoned to a regional conference on Sunday of parsha Shofetim, the 25th of Av, in the hall of the city club in Siedlce. “Representatives of the following cities will take part in the conference: Lukow, Sokolow, Biala, Vengerrow, Mezritch, Kaluszin, Minsk-Mazowieck, Garvolin, Levertow, Parcew, Wlodawa, Radzin, Szeliebow, Konstantin, Janow, Porisow, Kosow Telaki, Stozk, Lumaz, Laszic Sarnak, Mord, Kotzk, Monkobid, Sterdin, Vohin, Mrozi, dJadomowi, Lusebik, Rike, Buczacz, Slawatic, Wisznic, Ostrow-Siedlecki, Terespol, Sobalow.

“Our Way” concerned itself not only with political matters, but also with city interests, like the “Ezras-Y'somim,” loan offices, and different banks, welfare institutions like “Bikur Cholim,” the hospital, seders for soldiers and prisoners, “Toz,” and so on.

The newspaper mirrored Jewish life in Siedlce.

 

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