« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Columns 229-230]

Youth Movements


“HeKhalutz” [“The Pioneer”]
– A Turning Point for the Ternopil's Youth

by A. Mesh

Translated by Moshe Kutten

With the issuing of the Balfour Declaration and the conquering of Eretz Israel by the British, the Zionist activities in the cities of Poland and Galitsia deviated from its limited and amateurish framework in favor of specific Aliya-related activities, carrying its ideology into practice.

Ternopil was known to experience organized Zionist activities many years before that. However, like in other country districts' cities, the Aliya issue was not placed at the center of private or public life.

However, following Balfour Declaration, deep national excitement surrounded the Jewish youth, who strove for action. Although Eretz Israel was still subjected to military rule and its gates locked to large Jewish Aliya, pioneers began penetrating through the first opened cracks. These pioneers flocked to Eretz Israel, overcoming many obstacles and hindrances on their way, like trailblazers starting a new life for their homeland.

* * *

The enthusiastic stories about the few brave pioneers who stole borders and arrived in Eretz Israel were heard with intense jealously among the national youth. Even before the establishment of “HeKhalutz” and before an organized Aliya became possible, a group of academic students and high school graduates was crystalized in the city. They raised the flag of Aliya among the local youth and saw the first seeds for a large Zionist movement.

That year, tens of youths who earnestly planned to learn Hebrew underwent agricultural Hakhshara [training for Aliya]. They planned to eventually make Aliya and began to crystalize around the first Zionist cell - the “HaShomer” [“The Guard”]. Over the years, that movement changed its character and organizational framework, and through various transformations, it became a cell of the “HaShomer HaTzair” movement, originally an educational youth movement with no specific political affiliation.

A framework was required for the daring ones among the local youth who prepared themselves for a major change in their life. They needed a place where they could concentrate their will and initiative. “HaShomer” organization, which raised the motto of self-fulfillment, found its way to the hearts of these youths.

There was an “out of place' aura around the appearance of the Ternopil's youth pioneers who spoke about Aliya and manual work. They looked for places to be trained in the neighboring agricultural farms. The general atmosphere in the Jewish street


The first “HeKhalutz” Group in Israel

From right to left – sitting: Avraham Neuman, Jacob Teikhman, Aba Schweig
In the center: Yetka Yampoler-Neuman., Meir Kestenbaum, Debora Boberstein-Levion
Standing: Yehoshua Grosskopf, Eliyahu Kaspi, Mordekhai Brum, Mager, Moshe Kaspi, Jacob Doner, Zvi Hershkowitz, Shmuel Kahane, Itzkhak Tenenbaum, Ze'ev Silber

[Columns 231-232]

was not ready for “dreamers” and “non-conformists” who advocated a change of values and wished to set an example by their own doing.

Most parents whose children “fell into bed ways” and were “caught by the fulfilling pioneering” were astonished. The call for manual work and Aliya sounded to them as the call of immature and inexperienced boys and girls whose fever of their faith drove them to lose their minds.

* * *

With the news that the group arrived in Eretz Israel a second group was organized in the beginning of 1921. That group was organized on its own without any guiding hand. Most of the members of that group were about seventeen years old, students before their graduation. Among them were A. Berger, brothers Shitzer, Sh. Knopholtz, Y. Schweig and others.

The first group of pioneers that made Aliya in 1920 after only limited preparations included more than one hundred young men and women. Their Aliya was a leap of the spirited and generated awe and admiration in the city. The group contained the following people: A. Neuman, Y. Groskopf (changed his name to Rimoni), Yetka Yampoler, Tova Schweig, Dvora Biberstein, and others.

Hakhshara on their own initiative. They went around the villages and Jewish estates in the district, looking for opportunities for agricultural work for meager food to ensure a minimum survival.

It was not easy for these youth, who had never experienced manual work before, to work among the sturdy Ukrainians, natives of the villages. Many did not find work on agricultural farms. They had to find other sources for survival until the date of their Aliya. They worked in wood cutting and tree chopping for the city Jews. That was how they trained themselves in manual work on the cusp of a substantial change in their life.

The Aliya of that group was legal. They received entrance visas to Eretz Israel from the British consul in Warsaw, with the help of the Eretz Israeli office there. However, they were responsible for the transportation on land and sea. They had to do that without help from their parents, who considered Aliya of their children, an adventure of irresponsible youths.

The Aliya of the Ternopil's third group materialized under arduous conditions for various unrelated reasons. The group contained brothers Zilberman, Sh. Goldstein Z”L, A. Tenenbaum, A. Mager and others. Although they did receive certificates [entrance visas], they could not get transfer visas [through other countries]. Most of them had to steal borders and travel tens of kilometers before reaching the port. Most did not have the opportunity to train themselves in agriculture, construction, or stone cutting, so they worked during their wanderings in simple incidental manual jobs to accustom themselves to manual work and save some money.

I was a “bench hugger” [student] in “Beit HaMidrash” [a school for religious studies]. The yearning for our ancestral land among the students of “Beit HaMidrash” was deeply rooted. It was fed from the holiness of Eretz Israel that we received at home and from religious studies. However, that yearning was limited to the imagination and was far from any concept of realization.

The fact that some youths in the city dared to organize as pioneers and make Aliya against the will of their parents shocked the yeshiva students. It caused a revolution in their young souls. It raised their hope that they would be able to join the pioneers soon.

The effect of the action by that small group of youngsters who made Aliya was much more pronounced than the speeches by Zionist preachers in the Zionist gatherings and meetings.

A similar process took place among the student population. Before that process, they considered their high school and university studies as their life mission. In that, they were supported by the parents who made substantial efforts to help their children graduate.

The Polish high schools in the city, where hundreds of Jewish children studied, served as the citadels of the assimilators' circles. These people alienated themselves from the national aspirations of their nation. They fought against the Zionists and their strengthening public standing. However, the redemption idea, which conquered the youth in a storm, also penetrated these Polish schools. The events presented the Jews among them, with the question: “Where [are you heading]?”

* * *

The “HeKhalutz” branch in Ternopil was organized in 1923. The branch maintained an organizational connection with the center in Lviv and spread its propaganda among various youth circles already involved in the process of the national awakening. The “HeKhalutz” format attracted youths from different social classes under the same roof, where the idea of living in communes unified them all and made them into a fulfilling congregation.

Any person who witnessed the partitions that separated the workers and the poor from the “wealthy high school students” and the children of the “homeowners”. couldn't help but appreciate the enormous social contribution of the “HeKhalutz” movement. Upon joining the movement, the members had to peel off the customs and routine manners of their previous lives. All the members wore uniform khaki clothing and did their best to blur the symbols separating the classes. The discussions about Zionism and agricultural work in communes in Eretz Israel, the trips outside of the city, and the district's gatherings that brought together hundreds of pioneers, all in their most exciting age, all helped in crystalizing the image of the new youths. They saw themselves as the central force in the building of the homeland.

[Columns 233-234]

The Branch of “HeKhalutz” in Ternopil, 1924


Pini Zilberman (aka Pinkhas Kaspi Z”L, who died a few years before this book's publishing in Kiryat Khaim, Israel) was among the outstanding characters who joined “HeKhalutz” when the organization widened its range of activities. His revolutionary step generated great awe among all the public classes in Ternopil. Pini Zilberman was a tall and good-looking young man. He wore a black suit and an overcoat like the refined and mature young men the matchmakers were running after with their proposed matches. He was known to everybody as a dealer in the stock market on Ruska Street and was socializing with respectable religious circles. Unexpectedly, he experienced a great spiritual transformation following the Aliya of his two brothers. He abandoned his businesses and substituted his fashionable with simple working outfits. Passersby saw him going to his chiseling job at the cemetery, carrying his tools bag on his shoulders, like an apprentice learning a profession with the gravestone craftsman.

That step by Pini Zilberman was so revolutionary and daring that many of the people who rejected the “HeKhalutz” movement and Zionism claimed that he was possessed by a “Dibuk” [an evil spirit]. Therefore, they claimed that the change in him would not last long. But he nevertheless continued tirelessly in his new way.

While the personal example is often used as an educational and influential factor, it can also serve as a symbol for many in its spiritual sincerity. Pini felt the joy of life awakening in him when he joined “HeKhalutz”.

* * *

With the widening of the range of the activity and the increase in the number of new members, the small temporary room provided to the organization as a favor by other institutions and associations was not big enough. The organization was forced to find an apartment that fitted its needs. The apartment rent was financed by the organization's membership fees since it did not have any other sources of revenue. Although “HeKhalutz” influence in the city grew, there was still a lack of appreciation of its importance and even the Zionists did not find it their duty to support it financially. The branch moved around through many apartments until it was handed to the “Hit'akhdut's” club in the Austronskego alley, near the large wood storage warehouse of the Oks family. The club hardly contained all the clubs and groups but it enabled regular energy-filled and wide-ranged activity.

The “HeKhalutz” headquarter looked at the development of the Ternopil's branch favorably and with satisfaction. From time to time, the headquarter sent representatives to visit and discuss. The process of organizing groups for agricultural “Hakhshara” in Jewish farms in Eastern Galitsia began.

A lengthy debate was taking place throughout the “HeKhalutz” organization during those days: Agricultural Hakhshara or vocational Hakhshara - what would better fit the needs of Ertz Israel? It was agreed by all, that an Aliya should not be allowed without prior physical training. The living conditions in Eretz Israel were harsh. Pioneers who were not mentally and physically prepared for the absorption pangs, and hardships of striking roots would not be effective in a country that was only beginning to build itself. Preference was given to agricultural training of large groups without rejecting individual vocational training.

[Columns 235-236]

A substantial portion of the agricultural farms in Eastern Galitsia was owned by Jewish estate owners, who employed thousands of villagers. After negotiations, they agreed to absorb groups of pioneers during the working seasons and allow them to work in their fields for food and some coverage of expenses. They fitted houses and warehouses to lodge the pioneers, which included kitchens. The outing to the farms from the “HeKhalutz” took place on a large scale.

The organized outings of tens of Ternopil pioneers to “Hakhshara” farms before their Aliya served as an expression and demonstration of the power of the movement, which continued to grow and establish branches. It penetrated various youth circles and thereby fulfilled an exceptional Zionist mission. Ternopil's Jews, who could never imagine Jewish girls and boys, Torah learners, and loafers dependent on their parents, would be farmers in Eretz Israel, in the future. They witnessed in awe the enormous change created by “HeKhalutz” in its call for self-fulfillment.

While a few of Ternopil's pioneers learned construction professions in the city and most received agricultural training in the villages, the pioneers of the provincial towns put an emphasis on manual labor. Ternopil city served as a place for “physical training” for pioneers from other Galitsian towns, who were lodged in the city as communal groups in rented apartments. They worked chopping firewood on the city's streets, like the Ukrainian hewers, who made a living in that profession for generations.

Tens of youths from wealthy homes, fine men, yeshiva students, and students from Brody, Zolochiv, Ozerna [Jezierna], Strusiv [Strosov], Khorostkiv [Khoroskov], Mikulice [Mikulnitza], Terbovlia [Trembobla], and Pidvolochysk [Podvolichysk], stayed in Ternopil for many months. The Jews in the city looked at them astonishingly as they chopped wood near their homes in the days of ice and snow and wondered about the “abnormal phenomena”, which they could not explain.

We should also credit the Ternopil “HeKhalutz” branch for the achievement in dissimilating the Hebrew language among the national youth as a living language of the individual and the public. Although a branch of the “Tarbut” [“Culture”] organization, which later contributed greatly to this area, opened in the city in 1924, its activity was limited initially and did not include many members. “Tarbut's” activity was limited to Shabbat and aimed only at people who already knew the language. “HeKhalutz” enacted the Hebrew language as the official language of the branch and forced the joining members to fully use the language for group discussions and trips, individually and in public gatherings. The Hebrew tone became an organic part of the pioneering folklore in the city.

As the number of pioneers from the Ternopil branch who made Aliya grew, so did the number of new members, and the range of influences widened. After the Aliya of the large fourth group, headed by Pini Zilberman, the branch membership doubled and tripled. The youth movement, “HeKhalutz HaTza'ir” [“The Young Pioneer”] was established. That organization encompassed more than one hundred boys and girls. Their 'Hakhshara” was scheduled to last three calendar years. At that time, the management team was enlarged. It was headed by Nakhum Greenspan (Aka Nakhum Tzfoni Z”L, a member of Kfar Gil'adi kibbutz who died in 1950), who possessed amazing organizational skills. He was one of the best and most loyal city pioneers, respected and appreciated by all in the city and the headquarter.

Nakhum Greenspan was a yeshiva student. He studied in Jezierna Kloiz on Bogata Street. He was sharp and knowledgeable in religious studies. His father anticipated that he would someday serve as a rabbi in one of the towns. However, like many of his friends, he was “caught” by the Zionist and pioneering ideology. He joined the branch and became a central figure there. He directed all of his internal fervor to organizational and propaganda-related activities. He succeeded in enlarging the groups, conducting regular cultural activities, and creating the basis for the adult “Hakhshara” outings.

The “HeKhalutz” branch reached a peak in its development at that time. It became an important factor in the national public activity in the city. Instead of disregard and disrespect, people began to respect and appreciate the organization. Sending off a pioneering group for Aliya was an event that gathered hundreds of Jews, singing “HaTkivah” enthusiastically. It also attracted the attention of the Christian population to the idea of the Jewish national revival, which caused a stir in the Jewish street.

Among the groups that went out to agricultural “Hakhshara”, at the beginning of 1925,


The Agricultural “Hekhalutz” “circle”, Autumn, 1925

From right to left – Standing: Yehoshua Groskopf (Rimoni), Eliyahu Kaspi, Brum, Abraham Mager, Moshe Kaspi, Diner, Lande (Hirshkowitz), Shmuel Kahane, Jacob Tenenbaum, Silber
Sitting in the center: Yetka Yampoler-Neuman, Meir Kestenbaum, Debora Biberstein-Levion
Sitting below: Abraham Neuman, Jacob Teikhman, Aba Schweig

[Columns 237-238]

the “club”, for which work was arranged for it in the village of Mlynivtsi [Mlinovtza] near Zboriv [Zborov], left a big impression. The stay was scheduled for the summer only, but it continued until after the [fall Jewish] holidays. The “club” contained 20 youths from wealthy homes whose parents were forced to surrender when they faced the “rebelliousness” children. I recall the ploys employed by the club members to take their belongings to the farm while facing objections from their parents. One girl, a daughter of a Hassid known for his objection to “HeKhalutz”, planned her “escape” to take place when both parents were out of the house. With the help of her friends. She went out through a window, carrying the bundle she prepared ahead in secrecy.

With the Aliya of the best leaders of the Ternopil branch who served for several years, the pace of activity slowed because of the depletion of organization and guidance personnel. However, the “HeKhalutz” was like a young tree. It grew new branches and was not affected by the fall of its leaves. The members of the “Young Layer”, who were guided and trained by their predecessors, harnessed themselves to the yoke. With the help of the headquarter, they ensured the continuation of the activities at the branch.

The “HaKhalutz” pioneers and activists in Eretz Israel continued to diligently correspond with the branch and helped ensure its activities. They also assisted in forming new groups for Aliya. Many people in Eretz Israel followed the development of the branch with interest and vigilance. They have invested the fervor of their youth and the innocence of their faith to form that branch and grow it.

During my visit to Ternopil in 1931 (6 years after I made Aliya), I found out that the branch has weakened greatly. The reason for that was the Aliya of its founders and the depletion of the organizers and counselors. However, from the point of view of the number of members, its value was still substantial. It served as the single address for youths who looked for a way to save themselves and their nation. The importance of the Ternopil “HeKhalutz” enterprise in the implementation of Zionism in the city, disseminating the Hebrew language, and raising the self-fulfillment motto as a personal obligation for any Zionist individual was immeasurable.

One could find the hundreds of Ternopil pioneers who made Aliya in all types of settlements, all professions, and even in prominent public positions.

In the face of the Holocaust and the annihilation of Ternopil, the “HeKhalutz” organization will remain in our memory as the entity that induced a revolution among the youth. It was also an organization that warned against the approaching catastrophe. As part of its international structure, the organization called its nation to abandon life in the diaspora and to involve itself in building a new homeland. Among all of the Zionist organizations that acted to advance the idea of national revival in our city, “HeKhalutz” captured an honorable position. It saved hundreds of youths from the teeth of assimilation and degradation. It planted the national and social national idea in their heart and ordered them to personally fulfill that idea as pioneers who go in front of their camp.

HaShomer HaTzair” [“The Young Guard”]

by Avraham Amernet

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Once again, my glance goes back to the place of my childhood and youth. Once again, a host of sights float before my eyes, sights that any Ternopil native carries in his or her heart forever. From the fogs of my memory, the streets and the alleys of the Jewish suburbs rise up. Lives flew, and folklore and fables were woven there. These fables were about Ternopil, a “mother Jewish city”. That synagogue, a giant box, and an old fort were given to the city's Jews by King Sobieski as an appreciation for the heroism in defending Ternopil against the attacking Turkish corps. Gray and ancient was the synagogue, but shining between its bricks was the glory of heroism, exuding pride in the hearts of the Jewish youths in Ternopil and straightening backs.

The sleepy Seret River flows slowly, not far from the synagogue, and whirling its water southward to the Dniester. On summer nights, boats slide on it. Hebrew tunes are sounded and carried over to its bank from the boats, passing through reeds island, bridges, and the white hills of Petrikov. The space is filled with strange echoes: “The yearning of the Shomer'ic [Guard] youth for a distanced homeland, on the banks of the Jordan River, and for a new Hebraic life.

And the echo is pulsating and coming from the groves of Yanovka, Kodkovtza, Gaia, and Charni Las, and from the Shakespear Valley, near the sources of the failing stream, Rodka. Groups of Shomrim [male guards] and Shomrot [female guards] are immersed in a heated discussion about the yearned tomorrow in the homeland: Tent camp…, desolate landscape…, howling of the jackals…, homeland.

On the opposite side – is the boardwalk of Mitzkevitz Street. That is the street of the masters, seeded with many lights in the evenings and rich in playhouses. That's where Ternopil's golden youth is wasting its life in bad taste. Nearby the line “A-B” passes. That's the dark track that runs parallel to the boardwalk and continues along the sidewalk on the side of the barracks, home of the district manager, and courthouse. That's where the Shomrim and the pioneer would meet in the evening to continue their discussions. These youths are in a hurry.

[Columns 239-240]

They count the days remaining until the date of their Aliya. How long would they remain here?

* * *

1913. The first Jewish scouts appear in the city streets. Their uniform attracts attention. Gray shirt with rolled up sleeves, above the left breast pocket, a white badge with Hebrew inscription in azure letters – “HaShomer”. Colorful strips drop down from the shoulder, a colorful tie, a rope, a whistle, a leather belt, a green scout hat tight with a strap under the chin, blue shorts, an iron-clad stick, and a backpack on the back. The Jewish high school students showing off in this outfit. With this naive coquettish appearance, they announce that the Jewish youth, like his gentile counterpart, is entitled to have a youth movement of his own. This movement advocates a sound mind in a sound body and stands for returning a healthy fresh-looking face and upright and proud standing to the Jewish youth sitting with a bent back engrossed by a book. The commandment of guarding human and national pride must be etched in the youngster's heart.

Here march the Shomrim towards the Gaia Vilieka Forest. They are singing a Hebrew march (in most cases, the singers would not understand the lyrics). The Jews caress the youths with affectionate glances: How comely our scouts look! How nice the appearance of these youths was in the 20 Tammuz convocation memorial to the “Founder of Zionist Union”! With such youth, the Zionist vision would not remain a fairy tale.

The idyll lasted only a short period until the break of the First World War.

The Jewish refugee families who escaped Ternopil from the Russian invasion wandered to Vienna. The war accentuates the pointlessness of the Jewish reality in the diaspora. The Jews are fighting on the fronts of other other nations and for interests of other people. A man shoots bullets at his brother. The Jewish youth in Vienna is defending itself against the degradation which now engulfs the crumbling Austrian empire. The youth is rising to defend itself and dreams about another future - his redemption in a different reality. The echoes of the “HaShomer” heroism and the Jewish working fighters in Eretz Israel accompany the birth of the first new Jewish youth movement. Its name would be “HaShomer HaTza'ir”. Many Ternopil native youngsters who stayed in Vienna during the war joined the new movement.

1917. The war is ending. The flow of the returnees from Vienna brings the news about the new movement to Galitsia's dispersions. The first cell of the “HaShomer” branch was established in Ternopil in the fall of that year. The images of its founders are already hiding in the shadows of forgottenness. Here is the first head of the branch: Kenyuk, the leadership members Hammer, Berger, and Karu, and the leaders of the battalions: Keppel, Moshel, Fisher, Khana Biberstein, and more and more.

The new center of the Jewish youth in Ternopil is feverish and noisy. It had been just founded, and it became like a kingdom encircling the entire life of the youngster. The branch is swarming like a beehive, full of vitality. Here is where trips would start. Here is where impressive musters would take place. Here is where they would sit down, congested, every group in its own corner, and study the history of the Jewish nation and geography of Eretz Israel. Here, they would also talk about moral values, responsible behavior, and Shomer's ten commandments. They would learn that a Shomer is a loyal son or daughter of their nation and that their language is Hebrew. They would be taught that a Shomer helps the weak, is a nature lover, and keeps his thoughts and behavior pure. This is where Hebrew singing is being heard. Exultant laughter and joyfulness enliven the youngsters to play. Parties entice the camp. Here is where they print the branch's newspapers. In short – a whole world.

Over there, in the house wing in the yard, Hebrew lessons are conducted. A duty and condition for membership in the branch - diligence in studying the language is required. All commands and instructions are given in Hebrew. One day a week is dedicated entirely to Hebrew. Woe to the youth who would not study the language. His or her membership is at risk.

In the house cellar – the workshops. Armature woodworkers work with wood, shoemakers fix the shoes of the branch's members, bookbinders bind the books of the Shomrim, and Shomrot is sewing and embroidering. Working becomes the symbol of rich folklore and enriches the life of the Jewish youngster. The house on Valova Street is like a magnetic rock for Ternopil's youths. The branch is too small for hosting everybody. Additional apartments are to be rented. New areas of activities are to be initiated. The Dream of a youth who shapes his own life rose and became a reality in Ternopil.

The period is stormy. Some states are drowning, others are floating. Turbulent waves of events flood the city. A smell of pogrom is in the air. A self-defense force is being established. The graduates of the Shomer branch are the life and soul of the self-defense force. War fronts are created again, this time between the Poles and the Ukrainians. The armies conquer and then retreat. Hopes shutter and evaporate. Bitter disappointments strike Ternopil's Jews. The city that used to rule over the trade roads leading east was disconnected entirely from its sources of livelihood and now became a distant town.

The Ukrainian establish their own republic. Holobovitz's temporary government resides in Ternopil.

[Columns 241-242]

The Jewish youth enthusiastic about Balfour Declaration sympathized with the Ukrainians and their struggle for their political revival. Like them, we strive for independence. Now, the Ukrainians are battling the Poles. They promised national and cultural autonomy to the Jews. The Ukrainian republic would stretch out to include Odesa. Many of the “HaShomer HaTza'ir's” members enlist in the Ukrainian army and reach the shores of the Black Sea. In Odesa, they come closer to the shores of Eretz Israel.

Youths arrive daily at the “HaShomer” club from the neighboring towns. They go out east, on a way filled with obstacles. They first aim at Odesa, where the “HeKhalutz” has begun to operate. From there, in a tumultuous effort – to Eretz Israel. The first leader of the “HaShomer” branch in Ternopil is among the wanderers. The hardships of the road, the Typhus epidemic, and cruel battles wreak havoc on the brave group. Kenyuk dies somewhere in the Ukraine prairies. The members of the “HaShomer” branch bow their heads in memory of their leader.

Petliura's Kozaks appear and with them the news about the Proskurov Pogrom. Pogrom refugees arrive in the city. The “HaShomer” youth stand ready to help the needy. The Poles return to conquer the city – and take revenge on the Jews. They close and seal the club of the “HaShomer” on Valova Street. They confiscate the equipment and property. At night, however, the branch members break into the club through the windows. They transfer the library and the workshop equipment to hideouts in the attics of Jewish homes. “HaShomer HaTza'ir” branch goes underground. The activity is more romantic now. Small groups gather here and there in the women's section of the synagogue, river bank, attics, and remote communities near the city's “New Park”. The youth is fascinated by the danger and adventure. The movement ember is preserved that way. The Shomer'ic loyalty is forged and hardened. The young ones become counselors, and the graduates prepare for Aliya.

1920 – 1921. Among the first going are Khana Biberstein, Yetka Yampoler, Schweig, Zilber, Berger, Pechnik and more. They are considered heroes by all. The echoes of the battle in Tel Khai arrive in the city. Eretz Israel becomes close to our hearts - perceptible. It excites the soul of the youth, magical and alluring. So much so that many among the members do not appreciate the cruel truth: they must harness enormous power to transfer from the reality of the Ternopil diaspora to the pioneering way of life in Eretz Israel. Desertion tendencies are rising among the first group of pioneers. Some boys return to Ternopil, hopeless and bitter. They bury their looks in the ground when they encounter other members. The lesson is fetid and shameful. Indeed, the big prosaic reality cannot be conquered by casual romantic adventure. The pioneer must be trained to withstand the test.

The” HaShomer” branch continues its activity. It comes out from the underground again and is housed now in the street named after Baron Hirsch. This is also a house with a big yard adjacent to a huge wood warehouse, a sustenance area for the joyful “HaShomer” community. The branch isolates itself, more and more, from the outside world and its influences. It is like a zealots' sect, that opposes the street with its manners and charms. That street leads to a career, emptiness, assimilation, and defilement of the Zionist idea.

In the branch, the Hebrew language and poetry are being revived. That is a result of the self-education of the youth. The goal is to forge a character and knowledge of the nation and its homeland. The Shomrim collects fables and folklore stories and participates in the Simkhat Torah's dances at the kloiz of the Husiyatin Hassidim. In the old cemetery, you can find them sitting around the graves of the city's Jewish greats, Rabbi Nakhman Kromkhel and Yosef Perl, and listening to chapters of the national history. That is how the Jewish youth absorbs the roots of Jewish Ternopil to take it with them for the rest of their lives.

Over there, in the street named after Baron Hirsch, the flame is kept alive. These are the last days of the Third Aliya. Some high school students abandon their studies and acquire a profession on the road that leads them to Eretz Israel. This is the place to mention some of these young people: Tzvi Shitzer, Biller, Morgenstern, Feingold, and Shomeret Lunka Blaustein, who surprised the branch members with her decision to learn carpentry. With that, she proves that the emancipation between the sexes is expressed by material things. Lunka Blaustein learned the entire profession and became an artisan in carpentry. However, she fell sick with a disease that ended her life.

The pace is fast: Study groups, lectures, flourishing scout folklore, rhythmic commands pacing a column of youths on trips. Time to play scouting games. In the summer and winter, at the entrance to Pshevolikha, bonfires are lighted. It is Hannukah. The youngsters light a strange menorah. It is extremely cold and the Shomrim are jumping from one leg to the other, singing “Maoz Tzur Yeshuati…”

That is how life is flowing - the workers work diligently in the club's rooms, and there are parties, choruses, and a drama club. Large and beautiful is the Shomer'ic world in the street named after Baron Hirsch.

The crises arrived fast…

1922. The branch remained without leadership. The leaders are leaving the city. A few make Aliya, and some leave to study in universities. The rest are just abandoning the Shomer'ic game upon the arrival of their adulthood.

* * *

[Columns 243-244]

Is it possible to extinguish the incredible flame in the heart of the youth? In 1923, a small group of 16-17 old youth rise and take it upon themselves to revive the Shomer branch.

And the branch is revived. A unique camp gathers around the branch's flag. The fifteen-year-old youths counsel the twelve- and thirteen-years old youngsters. The self-education enthusiasm of the youths who carry a vision in their heart produces miracles. However, the branch experiences a turning point. The counselors who reach the critical age (18-19) concluded that there is no sense in education, particularly Zionist education, without the principle of self-fulfillment. There is also no completeness in a Shomer'ic education of a person without leading the youngster to a life conducted according to a moral value of equality, cooperation, and mutual aid. The Shomer'ic group, where every member is a brother to others, serves as the first step toward an Aliya to Eretz Israel, and life in a kibbutz. The education slogan is: “from a Shome'ic group in the diaspora to a guard of the homeland in a kibbutz” That change, which now generates a revolution in the Ternopil's branch, resulted from the influence of the pioneers of the Shomer'ic Aliya, who founded kibbutzim, and brought their life examples back to the diaspora, as an instruction for the future generations of “HaShomer HaTza'ir”. The affiliation with the national union, managed by the leadership in Lviv, also strengthen the branch in Ternopil.

Slowly, the Shomer'ic cell in Ternopil has established an exemplary branch. Its beginning was in a small room in Memritz alleys and then continued through the hall in the market square and the spacious ground floor in Isenberg's house on Lvovska Street, near the old synagogue. The branch became a center radiating influence over the Jewish youths in the provincial towns. The members of the local leadership go out and establish Shomer'ic branches in Terebovlia [Trembovla], Mikulintsy, Pidvolochysk [Podvolochiska], and Zboriv. District leadership is formed in the city. The youths publish newspapers and go to meetings, mutual visits, and mutual trips. In the summertime, The Ternopil branch, in collaboration with the district's cells, organizes a Shomer'ic summer colony in the heart of the forests. Life is lively and full of interest. The Shomrim excelled in activities benefiting the Zionist funds. The annual branch balls are held in the theater hall of “Bertztvo Mishtzenskia”. They become worthy events because of the Hebraic - Zionist character (We should mention the play “Masada”) and due to their artistic and scouting nature. The branch's graduates, who join the ranks of “HeKhalutz”, participate in managing the branch. They enrich the folklore of the pioneering youth there.

Every year, tens of Shomrim go out to Hakhshara. They learn agricultural tasks during the summer in the estates, working as seasonal groups. Some travel to the Carpathian Mountains. There, in the sawmills of Nadvorna, Tatariv [Tatrov], and Broszniów, they get used to hard physical labor and commune life, as an actual preparation for the kibbutz life in Eretz Israel…

* * *

1930. From now on the branch experiences a period of ebb and flow. The Aliya waves empty the branch of its counselors until new counselors rise from among the apprentices rise and take over.

That is how the history of the Shomer branch flows until the tragic end when the entire Jewish population tumbles down into the annihilation abyss of the Holocaust.

* * *

The history of the young generation is woven into the history of the Shomer'ic branch. From its early days at the end of the First World War, the branch served as a trusted sanctuary for youths who sought to escape the disgrace of degeneration and the shame of disintegration. The branch was a youthful inn with a healthy character, imbued with hope, opened for the redemption beats. The Shomer'ic branch was a school of life for hundreds of youths who sought to pave the road for their future.

“HaNoar HaTzioni” [“The Zionist Youth”]

by A. Dolin

Translated by Moshe Kutten

In 1929, the studying youth union “HaShakhar” [“The Dawn”], experienced ideological turbulence and was facing a turning point. The opinion that the movement should move from only educational work to activities of fulfillment won. As a result, it was decided to contact similar Zionist organizations of the General Zionists in Galitsia and establish a unified Zionist movement.

Representatives of all the General Zionists who advocated the Zionist ideology gathered in the same year in Lviv. Representatives from Lviv, Przemysl [Pshemishel], Rohatyn, Sambir [Sambor], and Ternopil participated. The leader of the Hebrew Youth Union represented Krakow. Munio Migden, a talented speaker, who described the “HaShakhar” sanctified activity,

[Columns 245-246]

The Conference of the “Zionist Youth” in Ternopil, 1932


and the last chairman of “HaShakhar”, Aharon Doliner (Dolin), represented Ternopil at that conference. The scouting-pioneering youth movement “HaNoar HaTzioni” was established at that conference. The leader of the new organization, Yitzkhak Steiger, visited Ternopil to clarify the ideology platform of the movement and the plans of action. He also selected a leadership team that consisted of the following members: Shlomo Gotlieb – head, Aharon Doliner – vice, and Max Mondschein – secretary.

Thanks to the vigorous action of the leadership team, who operated enthusiastically and dedicatedly, the member ranks increased. As early as the first summer vacation, ten members were sent to a counselors' colony in Bustryk, in the Tatra Mountains, and thirty young members to the summer colony in the Carpathian Mountains. Gotlieb and Doliner became members of the pioneering group who took part in founding Kibbutz A' of the “Zionist Youth”. The members of that kibbutz now reside in the Kibbutzim Usha and Tel-Yitzkhak (named after Yitzkhak Steiger Z”L).

General Zionist pioneers were a new phenomenon in the Jewish street and generated favorable curiosity among the movement's supporters. However, its rivals projected a failure for it. These rivals were mistaken. Although, in general, pioneering was weak at that time, the pioneering club of the “Zionist Youth” expanded. A pioneering Hakhshara [Training for Aliya] was founded in Dolzhinka near Ternopil with an Eretz Israeli atmosphere that impressed all visitors. The Ternopil branch, located on the ground floor in Sobieski Square, was also a lively place. Eretz Israeli songs could be heard there until the late hours of the night.

In the meantime, the “Zionist Youth” movement expanded and grew, and its local organizations were founded in many countries throughout the diaspora. The central leadership, whose activities greatly expanded, required people. They found them from among the movement activists in Ternopil. Shlomo Gotlieb, who headed the “HeKhalutz” made Aliya. He returned a year later as an emissary and was elected as a representative for two of the Zionist conferences. Leizer Khoben organized the movement's summer camps. Avraham Overman, who possessed outstanding leadership skills, became one of the movement leaders. Max Mondschein, a skillful organizer and speaker, dedicated all his energy and enthusiasm to the movement until his bitter end. Moshe Tarif was appointed the editor of the international movement newspaper, “HaNoar HaTzioni”, which appeared in Warsaw.

The Ternopil branch continued its activities, and many members, who dedicatedly managed the day-to-day work, stood out. Among them: were Moshe Fuchs Helrikh, the head of the branch and his vices, Petrushka, Moshe Kenner, Yosef Biller, Dvora Spindel, and many who did not make Aliya: Gusta Tarif, Selka Wahler, Ya'akov Nives, Moshe Ingler, Max Mondschein, Tonka Parnas, and Israel Altshiller. The latter was the educator of all “Zionist Youth” layers. He was dedicated to the movement in his heart and soul and worked for it for many years. Another member, the vigorous Tonka Parnas, died in the forests as a partisan. Many other dear members dedicated their energy to the Ternopil branch. Most of the branch members made Aliya, and some were from among the founders and builders of Kibbutzim Usha and Tel-Yitzkhak.

[The following section was moved from the end of the article for consistency]. After laying down the foundations of the Ternopil branch, the organization of another twenty other branches in the provincial towns had begun. The following members headed the activities in the Ternopil district in separate periods: D. Khoben, A. Doliner, M. Mondschein, Y. Altshiller, Y. Nives, Tonka Parnas, Klara London, and Ya'akov Winterfeld.

The educational work in the “Zionist Youth's” branches was conducted in three layers. The scouting layer received special attention. It was headed by prominent members such as Pesakh Weizer, Ze'ev Shikler, Y. Nives, and Y. Merbakh. Public shows than included artistic appearances were held under the name “Eretz Israeli Evenings”.

These appearances were prepared by Khaim Biller, Munek Spitzer (aka officer Golan), A Soldner, Tarif, Veska Ballet, and others. These evenings attained an outstanding artistic level and attracted crowds. The accomplishments of the crafts club were also exhibited in various exhibitions and amazed the visitors.

The branch disbanded under the decree by the authorities upon the entrance of the Russians to Ternopil in 1939. The last leader of the branch, Kuba Nives, was jailed but was released later on. The youths gathered and decided to find their way to Eretz Israel, in all ways possible. Their fate was bitter. They were caught at the Romanian border, and the heads of the group, Klara Spitzer and Munio Hirschhorn, were arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison. Upon the eruption of the war between Russia and Germany, they were released. Hirschhorn died as a martyr in the battle of Warsaw. Klara Shpitzer made Aliya to Eretz Israel.

Ze'ev Shikler and Henka Fuchs, in collaboration with branch members Moshe Kurtz and Brunek Libergal, established a living memorial to the movement. Leaning on their vast experience in the Ternopil's branch, they established the farm, “HaNoar HaTzioni”, in the Jerusalem mountains.

[Columns 247-248]


by Arye Avnon-Bronstein

Translated by Moshe Kutten

“Gordonia” [youth movement], was formed just a short time after the “Hit'akhdut”. In the beginning, it was a youth union considered ancillary to the party. However, over time, it became independent but always remembered its source.

The appearance of “Gordonia” in the Zionist arena was timely. The single youth movement in the 1920s, “HaShomer HaTza'ir” was almost completely closed to youths who did not study. Without another choice, the youths turned to Communism or were apathetic toward Zionism.” Gordonia” turned to the working youth, the children of the workers, and the poor. It organized and educated a generation of people who made Aliya to Eretz Israel. The unreserved and undisputed principle of self-fulfillment in a commune in Eretz Israel yielded a clear and consistent educational program that fitted the requirements of Zionism and the state of the youth in the diaspora.

“The thirteen attributes” of Gordonia were decided upon at the international conference of “Gordonia” in Gdansk [Danzig]. They became the basis for the entire educational program of the movement.

The activity of “Gordonia” in Ternopil was crowned with success. A large number of youths found a social, ideological, and educational atmosphere that matched their needs and views. In addition to the ongoing educational activity throughout the year, we organized district-wide summer camps, and the graduates participated in the state-wide camps. The camps' activities were practical and introduced a new breath of fresh air into the branch's ranks. “Gordonia's” members were active in all areas of the Zionist activities appropriate for their age, such as “KKL_JNF”, “Ezra” [“Assistance”] (a fund that supports the activities of “HeKhalutz”), and more. Since our members came from poor homes, we had difficulties


The Committee of “Ezra” in Ternopil, 1929

[Columns 249-250]

The Leadership of “Gordonia” in Ternopil, 1934


maintaining the club (on 3 Doli Street). The self-sacrifice and volunteering spirit among the youths became apparent. Every member brought firewood or pennies, from his or her meager salary, for rent or maintenance of the club. Modesty, simplicity, and pioneering appearance were the attributes of “Gordonia” members. It was a pioneering movement of the common people, by its way of life, educational methods, and views. It absorbed all of that from its source – the workers' movement in Eretz Israel and its philosopher A. D. Gordon. The aspiration to form a new life regime based on a commune in Eretz Israel, and the educational commandment of self-fulfillment were the principles of the movement education.

A small group of members formed the branch in our city. Among them, we should note the first and the last branch activists and counselors: The teacher Gusta Steinberg, Sara Tzoref, Leah Druk, Nushka Berger, Ze'ev Sternberg, Miriam Slepter, Dov Gruberg, Azriel Goliger, Avraham Finkelstein, Arye Bronstein, and other activists dedicated to the movement and its way, with all of their hearts.

Many of the “Gordonia” members were made Aliya to Eretz Israel. They were scattered among various settlements such as Khulda, Degania, Kiryat Anavim, Kvutzat Shiller [Gan Shlomo], Ayanot, Afikim, and more.

Dear members of Gordonia of Ternopil died or fell during the independence War and even before that: Arye Druk died in the Arab attack on Kfar HaKhoresh, Sara Tzoref died from malignant disease in Kfar Vitkin, Yehudit Marder died from a severe malignant disease in Khulda, Shalom Diner-Putashnik died in Jerusalem battles during the operation to save the children of Kiryat Anavim.

They were all loyal members whose thread of life was cut before its time and did not live to witness the establishment of the State of Israel, their life goal. May their memory be blessed. May their soul be bound up in the bond of the life of the nation.

“Histradrut HaNoar HaLomed” [“The Union of Young Students”] –
“HaShakhar” [“The Dawn”]

by A. Dolin

Translated by Moshe Kutten

In 1922, an operational hiatus of the scouting union “HaShomer” occurred. Replacing it, the studying youth, headed by Mordekhai Hammer, and Pushko Kopler, organized studying in clubs of self-education. When the members matured, they unified with the studying youth union “HaShakhar”. Based on the bylaws of the porters' organization “HaShakhar” (located now in the archive of the Zionist Union).

During the first period, the members of “HaShakhar” hold gatherings in the large hall of “Bar Kokhba”. Later on, they moved to their own apartment in the market.

Zalman Marzend was elected to be the first chairman of the union. He was then a student in the seventh grade of high school, energetic, and a skilled speaker and lecturer. Energetic and enthusiastic members, such as Munio Migden, Ludvik Akeslbirt, Munio Gotlieb, Selka Gottfried, Moshe Fiol, Leizer Khoben, and others, gathered around him.

Over time, the activists circle expanded and included the following: Brothers Krigesfeld, Israel Altshiller, Milek Amernet, Lebek Gottlieb, Hela Zuberman, David Weinstein, Beko Biller, Rozka Loifer, Zekharia Merlin, Tzipka Yakov, Netka Krisberg, Ya'akov Winterfeld, Max Mondshein, Mania Lekher, Libek Wertzber, Kuba Fischer, Shlomo Shikler, and Aharon Doliner.

All the weighty problems on the top of the agenda of the Zionist world were debated upon at the stormy union's gatherings. Not once, these gatherings ended with the departure of single members or even whole groups who disliked the views of the majority.

The first to leave the union were former members of “HaShomer” [“The Guard”] to form the “HaShomer HaTza'ir” [“The Young Guard”] youth movement. A year later, another spilt took place. At that time, a large group departed and established the “Kadima” [“Forward”] union.

Although these divisions weakened the union,

[Columns 251-252]

A Group of “HaShakhar” Members 1926/7

From right to left – sitting: Avraham Neuman, Jacob Teikhman, Aba Schweig
In the center: From right to left – sitting: M. Balmer, M. Herzog, M. Herlikh, M. Migden, D. Weinstein, A. Doliner, L. Ekselbirt
Standing: M. Tauber, I. Gruen, Z. Merlin, Rosenman, K. Fischer, B. Lande. I Fuchs, L. Gotlieb, L. Landstein, L. Waritschewer

They also resulted in competition and envy, which caused an increase in the actual and ideological activity in all areas (e.g., collection of contributions for the various funds).

When the members of “HaShakhar” matured, they established the graduate section. Some joined “Bar Kokhba”, “Maccabiah”, or “Hertzelia” organizations without relinquishing their memberships in “HaShakhar”.

The period of existence of “HaShakhar” was not that long. It disintegrated in 1929, and most members joined the “HaNoar HaTzioni” movement (see column 243). However, during its short period of existence, it left its mark on the youth movements in the city. Also, many members of the Zionist movement, with all of its branches and affiliations, came out of its rank.

“Histadrut HaNoar HaLomed” [“The Union of Young Students”] –
“Kadima” [“Forward”]

by Khaim Harari (Goldberg)

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Those were the days of agitation and ideological struggle among the studying youth in our city. The time – the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s.

Histadradrut HaNoar HaLomed “HaShakhar” grew, branched, and encompassed hundreds of youths without a Zionist affiliation. Clubs for learning the history of our nation and Zionism were organized. For those who wanted to join our union, we arranged tests in these subjects.

In the union itself, committees for the national funds were established, and balls, parties, and lectures were held. It seemed at the time that the organization's life would proceed calmly. However, the stormy debates about the essence, and the way to construct Zionism, engulfed the public, penetrated our union and it raised the temperature. So much so that the need to open windows to the winds blowing in the Jewish street was recognized.

When the debates began within our union, a group of members showed affection for the labor movement in Eretz Israel and the “Hit'akhdut” party. Among the first member in that group, the following members should be mentioned: Shmuel Shteirman, Azriel Goliger, Dov Gruberg, Avraham Finkelstein, Ya'akov Reber, and more, whose name I do not remembers, those who were fortunate and live among us today, and those whose fate did not allow them to live in the revived homeland, such as Marzend, Izenberg and others who died, and in their death, they commanded us life.

At first, our members demanded to remain unaffiliated. Others joined the “General Zionists” party. However, with time, when we realized that we would not be able to keep

[Columns 253-254]

when we realized that we could not keep a non-affiliated status within “HaShakhar”, we decided to establish a new organization - the non-affiliated Histadrut HaNoar HaLomed – “Kadima”. I would not be mistaken to say now, many years after the split, that our intentions were pragmatic and that there were truly no hidden intentions at first about an affiliation. However, the time has done its thing. We later arrived at the conclusion that at times like those, non-affiliation was not possible and that “Kadima” too, must define itself clearly as an affiliated Union of Young Students.

Some of us who were members of the “Hit'akhdut” party joined “Gordonia” and “HeKhalutz”. We decided to abandon our studies and fulfill our aspiration in Eretz Israel, among the family of workers in the city or in an Israeli village. Those who fought to give “Kadima” a character of political affiliation had to arrive also at another conclusion – joining one of the fulfilling pioneering movements.

With pride and satisfaction, we should note that there isn't a place in Eretz Israel where pioneers from Ternopil settled, where there are no former “Kadima” members. They were and are active today in the kibbutzim and the cities during days of self-defense and struggle and days of peace and building. It is not coincident that the founders of “Kadima” and its first counselors settled in Khulda, Ramat David, and Degania. They participated in guarding and defense efforts. The same principles that guided the founders of “Kadima”, found their realization in Eretz Israel. Those who were not satisfied with that ideology left and went to where ever they went – some to other Zionist unions and others outside of the Zionist ideology.

We did not consider “Kadima” as a target on its own. We saw it as a conduit through which we could instill the working Zionism ideology to those who were not ready to realize that ideology at that time. We wanted to make these youth into an element that appreciates labor and into a pioneering factor that would serve as an example by their own doing.

We remember affectionally those discussions and debates within the walls of “Kadima” on Austrokeskigo Street about the “Religion of Labor”, of A. D. Gordon and the value of individual fulfillment. The results of those debates gave us the best counselors and activists for the sister movements of “Gordonia” and the “Hit'akhdut”, the sister party of “HaPoel HaTza'ir” [“The Young Worker”].

When we raise the memory of the Ternopil community along with all of its unions and associations, we should not forget to mention “Kadima”, which contributed so much to instilling the pioneering Zionist spirit among the studying youth in the city.


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Ternopil, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max G. Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 12 Jan 2023 by LA