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[Columns 303-304]

“Tzeirei Tzion” [“Zion Youths”] in Zloczow

by Khaim Reiser

Tranaslated by Moshe Kutten

Zloczow, like the rest of the cities and towns, was a city of contrasts. There were exceedingly wealthy and wrenched poor and luxury homes and slums. There was a wide variety of people: 'Amkhu" [the masses], the intelligentsia class, National-Zionists circles, and a cult of assimilators and their followers. An assimilating Jew, Dr. Guld, who was Zloczow's representative to the Austrian parliament, became the mayor later on. Obviously, he was an instrument by the city's Polish minority. He was not interested in Jewish affairs at all. However, the intelligentsia did not sit idle, so the popularity of assimilation gradually declined, and slowly, the influence of the liberal and Zionist public figures grew more and more.

The route of the Jewish students was not wrapped in roses. The high schools that attracted many Jewish youths were at the hands of Polish teachers, and they created an antisemitic atmosphere. In all sorts of ways, legal and illegal, they placed obstacles in front of the Jewish students. A heavy partition was erected between us and the Christian students. There was almost no direct contact between us and them. We were not allowed access to their clubs or sports teams. However, one must say that the loss of the relation was our gain. The main objective of the Christians was to see us abandon our own interests, self-deny our identity, and join their camps. However, the segregation, oppression, and antisemitic approach resulted in a completely opposite result. Their maltreatment hurt us deeply. Therefore, we got outraged with them. The assimilation surge was halted. It was replaced by the sense of national identity, which strengthened from one day to another and conquered our hearts. Under the distress brought about by the venom-soaked atmosphere, the need for greater unity developed. Except for an exceptional few, we considered ourselves as one big family with a common interest. As a result of the natural national instinct, we began to feel that the Polish language, taught in school and used in our daily life, was not our language. We began to feel and understand that their poets were not our poets, and their aspirations for independence were not our aspirations. The Jewish students' body, began to look for a new direction and means for escaping the chocking daily reality. The answer for our quest was found quickly – we had to go back to our sources, to our people. We had to revive our own language, culture, and literature. We had to familiarize ourselves with our own history and with the creations of our geniuses and poets.

I was stopped one day, in school, by the senior students, Schweig and Leider. They whispered in my ear that they wanted to meet with me at the old “vall” [wall ?] to assign a crucial mission to me. I was curious about that small conversation in the school's corridor, so I waited anxiously for our meeting. The two presented themselves as the leaders of a secret student association called “Tzeirei Tzion” [“Zion Youths”]. They stated that the organization held member meetings at the Broida Hebrew School.

 

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The Committee for the Child Welfare in the Winter

[Columns 305-306]

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A Senior Group of Zloczow's Pioneers

 

The association was organized by age groups. During meetings on Sunday, we studied the Jewish history and geography of Eretz Israel. Lectures about the pamphlet “Auto-Emancipation” by the

Pinsker, and the book “Rome and Jerusalem” by Moshe Hess were held in the meetings. There were also lectures about Zionism, in general, and about Herzl, Nordau, and others. At times, we read articles from the magazine “Moria”, the journal of “Tzeirei Tzion” association in Lviv.

I took on myself enthusiastically the mission to organized the students of my age group. I succeeded in organizing three groups in a relatively short time.

A new world was opened for us. We waited impatiently the whole week for meetings on Sunday. The fact that our meetings were illegal, and held in secret, for the fear that we would be expelled from school, added to our enthusiasm. We felt like “heroes” - uplifted and courageous.

We often organized, obviously confidentially, trips to the countryside for scouts training. Dr. Shuster, who excelled in organizing youth groups, and Dr. Toperman, one of the high school teachers, an enthusiastic Zionist, and devotee of the youth, assisted us and served as counselors in these trips.

Our association with the Zionist movement and the interest of Eretz Israel received a real boost towards the end of 1913 when Dr. Avraham Schwadron began to be interested in the life of the youths in our town. Schwadron (who was called Avraham Sharon in Eretz Israel), was an enthusiastic Zionist, like his father, R' Yitzkhak Binover. He visited Eretz Israel and was full of enthusiasm and admiration for the way of life of the first groups from the “Ha'Shomer” [“The Guard”] and other movements. Schwadron, who grew up under the German education system, did not know Polish. He describes his impressions from Eretz Israel in vivacious Yiddish. In his weekly discussions, Schwadron spoke a great deal about the exalted ideas of the settlers and the enthusiasm of the workers. He expanded about “Kvutzat” Degania. His talks were very pleasing and heartwarming. Indeed, while sitting on our benches listening to the talks, most of us dreamt about Aliya and imagining ourselves becoming workers in Eretz Israel.

Schwadron has an enormous influence over the youths. We admired him, the way people admire an exceedingly noble figure, although his approach to Zionism was aggressive and “cruel” - he demanded from us an actual fulfillment, in heart and soul and in deeds.

The clouds darkened in the European sky. the horizon for European Jews seemed even darker. As was always the case, Jews served as a seismograph for the future of the rest of the world. Being close to the Russian borders, World War I, which broke in the summer of 1914, brought fear to Zloczow's Jews. We knew everything about Ukrainian Jewry. The pogroms of 1905 – 1906, the Beilis trial in 1913, the antisemitic wave with its origin at the center of the Tzar regime, and the bloody hands of Khmelnytskyi's descendants all cast horrific fear in our hearts. There was, therefore, no wonder that after the shock of the declaration of war, many Jews began to escape [west] from the city and find a residence in other cities far from the border. Some ran away as far as the capital – Vienna. However, after several days of wandering around, the escapes found themselves displaced and without a roof above their heads. They began to think about going back to Zloczow and placing their trust in the Guardian of Israel not to abandon them at their time of distress.

The best of the youths in the city of Zloczow enlisted to the King's army.

[Columns 307-308]

Even young fathers enlisted under the Austrian flag. The peace and quiet ended for our people.

Trouble descended in a flash. The Russian invasion became a bitter reality. Not that many days elapsed before our people savored life under the Russian whip.

In 1916, when the Russians were defeated in Eastern Galitsia, they relied instead on the devil's ploy, namely, the expulsion of the residents from towns located near the border. Zloczow was the only exception. The city “won” the right to host the people who were expelled, under the guard of Kozaks, from its neighboring towns. I would never forget the horrific picture that was uncovered as a result of that expulsion. The refugee camp looked like the famous Hirshberg's painting – “Exile”.

Zloczow Jews showed their poor brothers an unprecedented attitude of pity and affinity. There wasn't a single resident, even the poorest of the poor, who did not host a refugee family, or two, in their house. Indeed, Jewish solidarity was revealed in all of its power and glory.

Except for fear of pogroms and forced labor kidnapping, Zloczow's Jews suffered neither economically nor physically during the entire invasion. However, we mentally felt the suffering daily and hourly. All of the Jewish schools were closed and the public and cultural life came to a halt. The Jewish youth was left on its own without educators and consolers.

When the Russian left the city, life began to return to normal. Many of the refugees started to come back from Vienna and other places. The Jewish schools were reopened. An urgent need to re-energize and reorganize the youth, and enrich its life with content, was developed. Volunteers from among the youths, who previously acquired experience in the youth movement, came forward and volunteered to replace the older counselors who were fighting on the front. The volunteers organized to revive the student youth movement – “Tzeirei Tzion”. Among the activists were Manis Epstein, Kalman Schweig, Betzweig, Yaaov Zaltz, L. Yager, Lunis, and Yekhezkel Aidelberg. A small change was established in the action plan – girls were accepted to the association. Hebrew evening lessons were organized. Parties and festivals were held for various occasions, and traditional and national holidays were celebrated.

Gradually and slowly, the Polish language was shoved aside and the Yiddish language took its place. Another historical correction was made – in the spirit of democracy, youths who were not studying were also accepted to our ranks.

The members who came back from Vienna were not happy with the expansion scheme. They demanded a revision according to the new trends prevalent in Western Europe. The executive committee of “Tzeirei Tzion”, which was transferred at the beginning of World War I from Lviv to Vienna, decided upon a new program for the movement. They combined some of the principles of the International Scout Movement and other youth movements with the ideals of the “HaShomer” movement [literally – The Watchman, Jewish defense organization] in Eretz Israel. With time, a new concept was developed [unification of 'HaShomer” and “Tzeirei Tzion” principles]. That concept was realized with the establishment of “Ha'Shomer HaTzair” [The Young Guard”]. They mainly attracted the young section of the youth, which belonged to the studying youth of “Tzeirei Tzion”. With the return of Dov Ofer, a student with consciousness and vigor, who was one of the activists of “HaShomer HaTzair” in Vienna, the adaptation to the new program was accelerated. Dov Ofer, a member of a wealthy assimilated family, did not initially possess any interest or affinity toward Jewish interests. In Vienna, he went through a transformation when he has exposed the ideals of the “HaShomer”. Soon, he became one of the most active operatives of the national movement. When he returned to Zloczow, Ofer devoted himself enthusiastically to the “HaShomer HaTzair” activity. The leadership of “Tzeirei Tzion” finally agreed to the idea of the merger [with HaShomer] after a campaign of explanations and lengthy debates. A delegation went to Lviv to get informed about the new program. Later on, Yssaskhar Reiz, the leader of the “HaShomer HaTzair” in Lviv, was invited to come to Zloczow to assist in the transformation. The unification plan and the new program were approved by the crowded assembly gathered for that purpose.

The renewed organization began with its activities based on experience gathered in the past. The members formed into small groups for study and discussions. The evening lessons were held in good spirit and intensely. Instead of learning grammar, the members began to converse in Hebrew. Instead of studying poetry, the members started to sing songs from Eretz Israel. Nature trips were held from time to time.

Over time, new terrains for activities were opened for the youths, mainly for the benefit of “Keren Kayemet LeIsrael” [JNF – “Jewish National Fund”]. Some of the leaders of the Zionist movement came to Zloczow at the beginning of 1917. Dr. Maiblum, who served as the JNF representative in Zloczow and its environs before the war, returned to Zloczow. Under him, all activities for the benefit of the JNF were reorganized.

When World War I ended, transportation to and from Vienna was disrupted. As a result, our operations were also affected.

Our situation also worsened due to the eruption of the civil war between the Poles and the Ukrainians. Both sides

[Columns 309-310]

considered the Jews as scapegoats. Oppressions, robberies, and pogroms became daily occurrences. Our main concern was to preserve the JNF funds, as every penny was sacred and dedicated to the redemption of the homeland. As a person in charge of the funds of JNF in Zloczow, I was burdened by the heavy responsibility. I could not relax until I gathered all of the money, hid it in a clay jar, and buried it in the cellar until the rage would pass. When the storm subsided, dangers diminished, and the road condition returned to normal, I hurried up and transferred the money to the headquarter. Dr. Hausner, the JNF president in Vienna, became emotional and was astonished to find out from G. Orgal, a member of the JNF in our city, about how I managed to save the money.

I would not tell a lie or falsely boast by claiming that there were not that many locations, which were as dedicated to the JNF as the JNF committee in Zloczow. The reputation of the dedication and loyalty of our JNF committee reached America. The following fact would serve as proof for that: When our landsleit in America began to send money to their needy relatives during the years 1920 – 1921, they could not find a more honest and loyal address than the JNF agent in our town. As a result of the trust that Zloczow's Jews and the landsleit abroad placed in the office of the JNF in town, revenues grew from one day to another.

Our national holidays played an essential role in the activities of the youth movement. Hannukah balls acquired a name for themselves in the city and its surrounding. It warms my heart when I think of the first Hannukah ball in 1917. That was the first time that a public ball was opened with a speech in Hebrew. We had a distinguished guest, Dr. Hirschhorn, who spoke in Polish, as it was customary during those days. He spoke about the Balfour Declaration, which was announced when General Allenby stood with his army at the gates of Jerusalem. “And here, the promise is going to be fulfilled”, said Dr. Hirschhorn, “and your children shall return to their own border” [Jeramiah 31:16]. At the end of the enthusiastic speech, some of our members stood up and swore, right there and there, to follow the commandment “to make Aliya to Eretz Israel and to build it” [Isaiah 14:1].

The Big War was still raging and nobody knew how and when it would end. The warring sides, the Russians and Austrians, were, once again, situated not that far away from us. However, we got used to that, and life continued, more or less, along a normal route (if one could call life at a time of war – “normal”).

In the meantime, the February Revolution broke. Kranski, who became the prime minister of the new interim government, promised equal rights to the Jews. The news about the revolution and the hopes for the Jews arrived in Zloczow too. A large public gathering was held in the city in honor of the return of the Zionist activist Dr. Katz. The distinguished guest described, optimistically, the freedom that was awarded to Russian Jewry. He particularly emphasized the bright future envisioned for Eretz Israel, brought by the immigration of the Russian Jews awaken from their desperation. However, that joy did not last long. With the October Revolution and the take-over by the Bolsheviks, the bitter reality set in and disappointed us. The numerous Russian Jewish population contingency was in shackles again, rotted in its hopelessness.

I must emphasize that the new winds of change that began blowing with the changes and transformations of the Russian regimes did not affect the Jewish youth in Zloczow. Our city's youth were not swept away with any new doctrine and remained loyal to the Zionist ideal. They were ready, at any time, to give a hand in building a new homeland in our renewing land.

In 1918, the popularity and the strength of the Austrian government diminished. The Germans and the Austrians came out of the war, beaten and torn. As a result, bad times were approaching for Zloczow Jews and the rest of our brothers throughout Galitsia.

Due to the Austrian defeat, a civil war between the Poles and the Ukrainians erupted. We, the Jews, found ourselves caught between two warring sides. The irony of fate was that the Jews, one of the three minorities in the country, found themselves in that dangerous situation between the two rival minorities.

In the beginning, when the Western Ukrainian Republic was formed in eastern Galitsia, the Ukrainians thought, probably justifiably, that they would need to support by the Jews, both inwardly and outwardly. As a result, they promised national and cultural autonomy for the Jews. Dr. Hirschhorn, the admired and courageous fighter for Jewish rights, did not ascribe great importance to that promise, which seemed to be just a temporary wish that they may not be able to fulfill. It was clear that when riots broke by the Ukrainian population, we would not be able the rely upon the Ukrainian soldiers to save us. Therefore, Dr. Hirschhorn turned to the interim government with a request to allow us the to organize and establish

[Column 311]

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R' Mordekhai Broda – The Hebrew Teacher

 

self-defense. We should give credit to the interim government who understood our issue and allowed for the formation of the self-defense force.

Obviously, we relied on the youth that began to return from the military service. These Jewish soldiers and officers, who experienced the war on the battlefields and military hospitals, were fortunate to come back healthy and well, but have not totally healed mentally. The city's Jews hanged their hopes in them as saviors and defenders at a time of trouble.

The famous Zionist Dr. Shwager, an officer in the Austrian army, was nominated as the head of the self-defense force. The organizers were those intelligent and well-trained soldiers and officers who excelled in their service for the Austrian military: They did not serve empty-handed. The self-defense soldiers were equipped, on behalf of the interim government, with proper and efficient weapons. The Jews in Zloczow acquired a real sense of security then. How full of wonder and enthusiastic was their response upon seeing the self-defense companies marching freely in the city's streets.

That state of peace and relative calm existed during the winter months until the change came abruptly. The Ukrainians were losing their civil wars and then recovered. When they joined forces with the oppressing soldiers of the murderer Petliura, their attitude towards the Jewish population changed, and they eliminated the self-defense force. Zloczow Jews became unprotected against any attack.

The economic situation of the Jews worsened from one day to another. The young generation was facing a dark future. Everybody searched for a new way, as in Pslams 121:1-2: “From where will my help come”. One thing was very clear and obvious – The assimilation became totally bankrupt. The solution to the Jewish problem sprouted out on its own – revival in Eretz Israel,

[Column 312]

built by Jewish hands. That was the only way left, without any alternative. Time has come to immediately begin with preparation activities – preparation for the body and soul.

There no shortage in Zloczow of assertive people with initiative and leadership skills. When the last of the assimilators realized that their game was over, and since their circles had never connected with the masses, they showed the integrity of intelligent people and vacated their distinguished positions, willingly or unwillingly. And so, national Zionist leaders had been appointed the lead the Jewish public.

Soon, a youth center was established. The center became a home for the youths who were eager to learn, study and understand. Evening lessons were re-opened, a series of lectures and celebrations, devoted to public information sessions and debates, were held. Everything was organized with tremendous enthusiasm and energy.

The driving force in the “Center” was Morkekhai Imber. Together with him, the following people were active enthusiastically and dedicatedly: Ozer Shmirer, Yeshaia Reis, A. Holtz, Khaim Betman, Moshe Kleinman, Mordekhai Bukhbinder, Avraham Mass (today, Dr. Mass, an instructor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem), and Kalman Schweig (later on, Dr. Schweig, assistant to Dr. Rupin). The following women were active: Sara Nagler, P. Tauber, Rivka Vianchlayer, and Mrs. Yosefsberg and Mrs. Liderkhever. The latter was an assimilator for whom Jewish affairs were far from her mind. With the big disappointment that her ideology suffered, she joined the group of the youth leaders expressing her wish to contribute from her energy, skills, and education for the benefit of the new movement.

At that time, the “Center” was not affiliated with any party. The principles established by Ekhad Ha'Am, the leaders of [the organization he had established] “Bnei Moshe”, and other spiritual leaders served as the basis for the “Center's” program. Several youth clubs and movements blended together. A single basic and general objective unified them all: national revival and the building of Eretz Israel.

In actuality, the “Center” became like a “university for the masses”. Lectures, lessons, and discussions based on a predetermined program were held there daily. A whole year of multi-facets activities, extensive “Hakhshara” [preparations for Aliya to Eretz Israel], and promotion of national affairs had passed. The “Center's” management decided that the time had come to deviate from the general and neutral frameworks and become a political party with a national political character, similar to the national organization [“Bond”?] in Russia. That lead to the establishment of a strong youth union [a faction within “Tzeirei Tzion”] called “The Popular Faction of Tzeirei Tzion”.

[Columns 313-314]

Some of the leaders of the new faction were under the influence of “HaPoel HaTzair” [“The Young Worker”, a non-Marxist labor-affiliated Zionist party] in Eretz Israel. It was only natural that they led the new youth union according to the program and the needs of the party of “HaPoel HaTzair” in Eretz Israel. From that point and on, all of the discussions and debates revolved around the essence of the party, which was based on the direction and methods of A. D. Gordon.

During the Civil War, in 1918 – 1919, Zloczow was disconnected from the outside world. For the Jews in the city, it was like living on a remote island. To strengthen the residents' spirit and generate hope for better days, the General Zionists [Zionists not affiliated with the labor movement or religious Zionism], also energized and acted to revive their Zionist union. The leaders of the General Zionists were Dr. Hirschhorn, Dr. Groskopf, Dr. Feldman, Dr. G. Katz, Dr, Meiblum, Dr.s M. and P. Gruber, Dr. Shwager, Moshe Schorr, and later on also Dr. Werpel and Dr. Shwager. The academic Jews also organized a separate club. “Poalei Tzion” which was extremely active during the years before World War I, was not very active during the Civil War and was reorganized only in 1920 under the leadership of Dr. Reuven Schwager and Yosef Shweig. The religious Zionists – “HaMizrakhi” and Tzeirei Ha'Mizraki” remained active and continued to manage their clubs and organizations according to their ideology, and reaped the fruits of their efforts.

During the Civil War, the General Zionists in Zloczow published a Jewish weekly magazine. The editors of the magazine were Moshe Schorr, Simkha Bunim Feldman, and Yitzkhak Negelberg. The intelligentsia among the Zionists was involved in the publication of the magazine. The magazine included news from throughout the country and abroad. It also contained notes and articles about Eretz Israel and other Jewish issues. It contained local news and the public happenings in the city. During the dark days of the Civil War, that magazine managed to bring light and a sense of civility into the life of Zloczow Jews homes,

One of the brightest moments during those difficult days was the establishment of the Jewish elementary school. It was obviously established under the agreement by the interim Ukrainian government. Obviously, the Zionist leaders were the founders and the driving force behind this institution. Some of these leaders served as teachers there, like Dr. M. Gruber, Moshe Schorr, Yitzkhak Negelberg, Zlatkis, Delkha Friedman, and the author of this article. The purpose of that school was to provide Zloczow's Jewish students general education. A pure national Jewish spirit prevailed within the walls of that school. Yiddish and Hebrew were taught extensively in the school. The enthusiasm of the students and the joy of their parents was considerable.

However, that joy did not last long. Unfortunately, when the Poles won over the Ukrainians, the school was brutally closed, and the teachers and the students were expelled. I would never forget the cries of the children when they witnessed a Polish policeman hanging a sealed lock on their class door and threatening them that anybody who dares to touch the lock or break the seal would be arrested. My heart was torn when I had to say an emotional goodbye to my young students.

We were consoled by the fact that the school closure decree did not expand to the rest of our public cultural institutions. During those difficult days, when bread and food were in short supply, there was no shortage of spiritual nourishment. While it was not possible for us, for technical or other reasons, to be active during the week, we conducted lessons and lectures in the gathering hall every Saturday evening.

There was no shortage of activities and artistic shows. We were able to bring the film “The life of Dr. Herzl” with the help of the JNF. We rented the “Sokol” hall for seven days and screened the movie every evening in front of a capacity-filled hall. Crowds that came in droves to watch it. Encouraged by the success of the movie, we brought, a short while later, the famed Opera singer, Avraham Zneoda (who acted and sang in the opera house in Petrograd). The “Sokol” hall was filled up again with a crowd that enjoyed listening to famous arias and folk songs. All of the revenues from the movie and the singing balls were dedicated to the JNF.

Our city played a significant role in literature. Besides the poet and writer, N. H. Imber, author of “HaTikva”, several other Yiddish poets came out of Zloczow during the 1920s. Among them Elazar Bernshtien and Moshe Pichinik. These two poets, who made a name for themselves outside of the city, established a literary “Shtiebel” [A little house of praying and learning]. Groups of youth would gather there sometime for lectures about Yiddish literature. They would also play and recite Yiddish poems. Moshe Pichinik would lend books from his extensive library to whoever asked.

[Columns 315-316]

The other “local” poet, Elazar Bernstein, had the talents of acting and reciting. From time to time, he would recite monologues from Peretz, Shalom Aleichem, and others.

Indeed, there were quite a few people with an artistic talent among Zloczow's people. Even during the darkest time, some of our academics established a drama club and played from works by Pinski, Hirshbin, and others. Shmuel Shwartz and Keilah Bloishtein excelled. We would not exaggerate by claiming that these two could handily serve as role models for professional actors.

The activists among Zloczow's Jews did not limit themselves to artistic creativity and the development of spiritual values. They found themselves obligated to develop and nourish the physical power. There was almost no access for Jews to the Polish sports club. The few Jews who managed to join did not feel at home due to the racist discrimination and an attitude of contempt towards them. The Jewish youths created their own sports club. The sports associations that had existed before the war were revived – and they did not disappoint. During the 1920s, the Jewish athletes constituted a substantial and respectable regiment, and even the elders who were just passive spectators enjoyed the success of the sports team.

From the sports associations to other associations that dealt with various aspects of daily life. The craftsmen association “Yad Kharutzim”, representing the interests of the Jewish workers. Most of the members of “Yad Kharutzim” were orthodox Jew, and the home of the association also served as a prayer and learning house. The members prayed there three times a day during holidays and Saturdays, as well as during weekdays. On Saturday nights, they gathered to listen to lectures about general and Jewish topics. The lecturers were mostly local. These lectures contributed substantially to the elevation of the cultural level of the masses.

An association, called “Agudat Israel”, was originally established to fight a “holy war” against modernization and to shield against the “destructive” influence of the enlightened on the Jewish public in general, and in particular the youth. However, even the activity of that association contributed to the improvement and nourishment of public life.

Zloczow Jews suffered as a result of regime changes, upheavals, and revolutions. They continuously feared new rulers, coming and going, and the violent soldiers of the rival armies, particularly during the days of Petliura. However, the Jews suffered the most at the hands of the Polish “Haller'chik's”. These were the hooligans of the Polish Salvation Army [“Blue Army”] who enlisted in America [and France] to help save the reviving Poland, which was fighting for its independence. The anti-Semite soldiers, recruited by General Haller. However, instead of fighting in the front against their enemies, they showed their heroism by brutalizing the Jews. They kidnapped young people, deceptively claiming that they were needed for forced labor, and as part of that kidnapping, they cut their beards with one purpose to humiliate and disgrace the human spirit of the Jew. The Poles who were just yesterday oppressed and enslaved turned a blind eye to the elementary duty of awarding the right of freedom to all citizens, including minorities. That was the state of mind throughout the revived Polish nation.

Echoes of that state of mind arrived in our city, Zloczow, in spirit and practice. The horizon for the Jews became darker from one day to another. Jews were in an awful and unbearable situation. Everybody was wondering where help would come from. The answer seemed to be – immigration. The two major logical destinations were America and Eretz Israel. The body was attracted to the “Golden Land”, the soul was longing to our ancestors'' land. However, in either place, the roads were blocked. The obstacles to reaching Eretz Israel were particularly hurtful. The British issued the Balfour Declaration. However, since receiving the mandate over Eretz Israel, they turned their back on the Jews, trying to appease the Arabs. They tried all sorts of ways to back up from their promise. The main mean by which they wanted to achieve that was by limiting immigration. They conspired to lock the gates completely. The USA, which, at other times, absorbed thousands and tens of thousands of refugees, got to the point that they thought that there were too many refugees being admitted. The USA came out with all sorts of means to reduce and limit immigration. The new immigration laws hurt the Jews the most. For the Germans, who were the former USA's enemies, America's gates were opened. However, a quota was placed over the number of the prosecuted and survivors.

With all of that, the spirit of Zloczow's Jews remained high, and they did not lose all hope. The youth activists did whatever they could to increase the number of people who made Aliya to Eretz Israel. The first group of pioneers was organized by the “HaShomer HaHatzair:” Among the lucky few was nobody else but Dov Ofer. However, he was killed a short while later by Arab rioters. The tragic death of Dov Ofer made a difficult impression on our youth in Zloczow. However, instead of sitting down quietly to grief and giving up, they rallied more eagerly and swore not to relax until everybody gets to go to our country., our homeland, to build, guard, enrich, and revive, for us and for the next generations.

[Columns 317-318]

Obviously, the members of “Tzeirei Tzion” were imbued with the spirit of “Fulfilling Zionism” [making Aliya]. The organization “HeKhalutz” [“The Pioneer”] was founded. Its main objective was “Hakhshara” [Preparations for Aliya to Eretz Israel]. A piece of land was leased to train members in working the land. Members then tried to make Aliya. A few certificates were obtained for the first group of “Tzeirei Tzion” were obtained following a prolonged effort and vigorous lobbying.

The influence of “Tzeirei Tzion” on the public and cultural life of Zloczow's Jews was significant. Some members excelled in their productive work. They acquired a name for themselves as organizers and counselors. No wonder, therefore, that they were elected as representatives to the Zionist conference in Lviv. Indeed, their appearance left a big impression at that conference. Mordekhai Imber particularly excelled, and echoes of his speech, in which he demanded special attention to the Aliya of the youths, reached the media. Zloczow also participated in the establishment of the “Union of Tzeirei Tzion”. Representatives from Zloczow participated in the first conference of that union.

A district committee to coordinate the Zionist activities in the surrounding cities and towns was established in Zloczow. The heads of the district leadership team were Dr. Werpel, Dr.Hirschhorn, and H. Reizer.

The action plan of the district committee was extensive and broad. However, when the secretary had to travel around the district, he had to do it at his own cost or travel by foot. Once, when he walked for several hours to Jezierzany to attend a JNF ball. After the ball, the members set aside some money from the ball's revenues, which were sizeable, for a trip back on a horse and cart…

The author of these lines was often going around in the corridors of the court to ambush Dr. Werpel, who was a lawyer, to discuss matters associated with the committee with him. We spent the short breaks between the trial, in one of the corners, to discussed matters related to the JNF, culture, certificates, etc. …

The life of the youth in Zloczow before the Holocaust were beautiful and full of interest and importance. We do not purport that our city was exceptional over the rest of the cities in Eastern Galitsia. Nevertheless, its role in that colossal project of winning over the hearts of the youths and masses was substantive.

Let these pages serve as a testimony and a memorial candle for all of those people who were vigilant and who were ready to serve the needs of their nation and homeland.


[Columns 319-320]

“Ha'Shomer Ha'Tzair”, 40 Years Ago

by Shlomo Bar-Am

Tranaslated by Moshe Kutten

It was during World War I, in 1917. Despite being the third year of that cruel war and even with the front located not that far away from our city, life progressed as “normal”. The schools were opened and the youth was alert and active.

The youth movement of “Tzeirei Tzion” [“Zion Youths”] was active then. It consisted of tens of youths, particularly students of the local high schools. The aim of “Tzeirie Tzion” union was to improve the moral and physical attributes of its youths. It strived to educate its members to act decisively, courageously, and honestly fitting Jewish youth. There were several ways to achieve that aspiration:

  1. Teaching of the Hebrew language
  2. Teaching of the history of Zionism
  3. Teaching Jewish history
  4. Teaching knowledge about Eretz Israel
  5. Lecturing about Yiddish literature
  6. Organizing balls on national holidays
  7. Conduction sing-along sessions
  8. Collecting contributions for the Jewish National Fund (JNF)
The movement “HaShomer” [“The Guard”], which wanted to imitate the "HaShomer" movement in Eretz Israel, was also active in Galitsia, even before the war.

Upon the take-over of Galitsia by the Russians, some of the residents escaped west. Some of the escapees reached as far west as Vienna. In Vienna, discussions about the unification of the two movements into a new organization called “HaShomer HaTzair” [“The Young Guard”] took place. (We should mention here, that the head of the “HaShomer” movement in Vienna was the Lawyer, Dr. A. Veshitz, a native of Zloczow).

The purpose of the unification was to combine the good of the two movements and educate healthy and skilled youths for life, based on human and national foundations.

[Among other influences], the “HaShomer HaTzair”] movement was influenced by the German youth movement. However, it was more practical and aspired to escape to Eretz Israel, rather than just to the surrounding forests.

When Galitsia was freed from the Russian occupation, the refugee families began to return to their homes. Among the returnees was the Ofer family, which was one of the wealthiest in our city. Dov Ofer, who was one of the family youths, was a member of the unified movement “HaShomer HaTzair”. He was already hooked on the Zionist ideal. When he returned to Zloczow at the end of 1917, he was 16 years old. He had an average height, broad shoulders, red hair, and a face full of freckles. He gathered boys and girls of his age and established the core of the new movement. Since he excelled in organization skills, he widened the movement's charter by adding training for physical work [hakhshara] as a preparation for making and Aliya to Eretz Israel and the fulfillment of the Aliya ideal.

 

Zol319.jpg
The “HaShomer HaTzair” Named after the “BIL”U” Movement

[Columns 321-322]

Zol321.jpg
A Group of “HaShomer HaTzair” Counselors

 

When I look back, after 40 years, I have to admit that Dov Ofer was the one who initiated the idea of Aliya and also influenced many who did not belong to his movement.

In the summer of 1920, the first group of youths made Aliya and Dov among them. However, he did not live long in Eretz Israel, as he was shot by an Arab murderer.

Going back to the establishment of the “HaShomer HaTzair” in Zloczow": The first group called “Nesher” [“Eagle”] included boys and girls aged 12 – 18 from different circles in town. They spent their time in discussions, learning the Hebrew language, and going on trips to areas around Zloczow.

Toward the end of 1918, when the regime was passed to the Ukrainians, the activity in the movement continued regularly. During the winter of 1919, the older groups began to do physical work. They even worked in wood sawing. What a revolution in the city!

The money collected was destined for members with limited means who wished to make Aliya to Eretz Israel.

In the Spring of 1919, a piece of land outside of the city was purchased. We converted that piece of land into a vegetable garden. During the summer of the same year, the older members went to work in agricultural at one of the farms of a Jewish farm owner.

In the meantime, the movement expanded and contained about 10 [100?] boys and girls. Some of them realized their dream, made Aliya to Eretz Israel, and thus survived the Holocaust.

As for myself, I made Aliya in 1920, and my physical connection to the city severed. However, I still have a spiritual tie to the city, where I was educated on pioneering and fulfillment, and the memories.


[Columns 323-324]

“Gordonia” Youth Movement

by Y. Zendberg

Tranaslated by Moshe Kutten

Among the ebullient youth movements, which played a leading role in the way of life in Zloczow, was the “Gordonia” movement, founded and nourished by a few members in 1928.

Most of these members perished in the Holocaust, and their memory would stay with us forever. I will mention here the most active ones:

Dr. Tzvi Teichman – participated in the movement foundation conference in Prague. He was influenced by A. D. Gordon and Khaim Arlozorov. When he returned, he dedicated himself to the education of the youth and the [Hit'akhdut – Union] party in our city.

Feibush Bernholz – was a man of the people, a noble soul, innocent, with wide horizons. He dedicated his best efforts to the consolidation of the “Gordonia” movement and its organization.

Feivel Reizer - received a traditional education. He had a deep knowledge about the happenings among the people, the Zionist movement, and the socialist movement. He was entrenched in Jewish folklore.

A group of boys, formally members of the “HaShomer HaTzair” joined “Gordonia” during its initial steps. “HaShomer Hatzair” underwent a severe spiritual crisis at that time. After the first generation of its founders made Aliya to Eretz Israel (“The Third Aliya”), the movement remained defenseless against the influence of the invading Communism, which penetrated the branches of the “HaShomer Hatzair” and conquered the hearts of the youth. However, [the part of] the same youth, for whom the Zionist spirit was imbued in its heart, did not accept that influence and looked for [other] ways to fulfill its aspirations. They left “HaShomer HaTzair” and joined “Gordonia” with heart and soul and youthful warmth. They saw it as the perfect blend of socialism and popular Zionism.

That group of Zloczow's youth, who organized itself in “Gordonia” with the active assistance of the members mentioned above, set themselves a goal to recruit youths from among the masses and high school students, unify them, and cast them in the same mold.

The “Gordonia” movement educated the youth for pioneering, simplicity, and Aliya to Eretz Israel. It educated me for life in a kibbutz and the values of A. D. Gordon. In addition, the members took an active role in the work of funds and in the Jewish public life. Our group of youths had 12 members:

[At publication time] the following members live in Israel: Tzvi Ox, M. Hochman, Y. Zendberg, L. Pasternak, A. Zimand. Levintah who was one of the first to make Aliya in 1931), P. Zilbershitz and Feivel Strassler z”l also made Aliya. The following members perished in the Holocaust: Z. Katz z”l, Y. Mesher z”l, Khoben z”l, B. Tzukerdel z”l, L. Reizer z”l, and Y. Strassler z”l.

Among the prominent members who joined the movement a year later, I would like to mention Mordekhai Porat (Preis), who resides in Kibutz Mishmar HaSharon, Israel, his brother, M. Preis z”l, who perished in the Holocaust, and L. Katz. The latter was a youth with extraordinary skills and broad education, whom the movement expected great things of him.

The life that combined work and education in the movement branch was not easy.

 

Zol323.jpg
A Group of the “HeKhalutz” members

[Columns 325-326]

The movement often suffered from the lack of a club to operate in and shortage of funds. Educational programs were sometimes held outside during rainy and cold days.

An amiable comradery atmosphere was developed over time. The meetings at the place called “Kempa” in Zloczow and the frequent trips to Zezula forests added character and joy to the meetings.

I would like to mention two families in particular, who provided a place for the movement for a symbolic fee: The family of Borideh, the baker, and the Mesher family. The latter provided the branch, during a very difficult period, a spacious club. That family was immersed in Zionism values and understood the importance of the unifying of the youth in the movement and its education.

The movement grew and developed, and Zloczow became the location of the district headquarter of “Gordonia”. Members of the branch established branches in the area, such as in Sasiv, Olesko, Bilyi Kamin, Lopatyn, Ulashnitze [?], Belshkov [?], Pomoryany, and others.

 

Zol325.jpg
Mrs. Mina Member, an activist from New York, visiting the school in Lakhish province

 

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