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[Columns 327-328]

“HaMizrakhi Union”

by Barukh Imber

Translated by Moshe Kutten

It is undeniable that the Zionism idea penetrated the “Batei Midrash” [religious schools] and synagogues thanks to the “HaMizrakhi” movement. It was only natural that Jews who prayed, mornings and evenings, for “Shivat Tzion” [“Returning to Zion”] would bring with them the Zionism ideal, and spread the idea of the actual redemption. The leaders of “HaMiztrakhi” undertook it on themselves, during the movement initial steps, to participate in carrying the burden of the Zionist activities. Following them, the members engaged by fulfilling the actual Zionist commandments. They participated in the activities of the Zionists funds and the Jewish Colonial Trust, as well as making Aliya themselves. Their effort in spreading the Zionist idea was not an easy one. Cooperating with the Zionist movements, most of which were secular, made it more difficult

 

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“HaMizrkahi” Youths in Zloczow

 

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A Gathering of “HaMizrkahi” Youths in Zloczow

[Columns 329-330]

for them to fight against the zealous Hasidism, which resisted Zionism and fought against it with all of their available means. It was up to the “HaMizrkahi” movement to prove to the masses that Zionism was not standing against the Messiah, a belief which the people felt strongly about. They brought it up in every publicity speech, every sermon at the synagogue, and every public appearance in front of the masses. They had to base their assertion on phrases from the Torah or the writings of the sages. Without these references, there was no chance for their claims to be accepted by the listeners. That publicity campaign was conducted steadily, stubbornly, and tirelessly, out of devotion and endless love for the Zionist idea, through self–sacrifice and not to receive a bounty. The movement activists became convinced that they should aim at bringing redemption as close as possible. They were determined not to let the masses “fall into a deep sleep”. “Wake up Israel. The time has come for your enslavement! to end”. That call emanated from the hearts of the visionaries who saw the future. That call, during those days, brought us to the “atkhalta d'geula” – the beginning of the redemption in our time. We have to keep in our hearts the memory of these activists, who lay the foundations for Israel's revival, and who did not live to see Israel being built. May G–d avenge their blood.


[Columns 331-332]

The Trail Blazes of the Haredi Movement
(Memory Chapters about Zloczow)

by Member of the Knesset Y. Katz

Translated by Moshe Kutten

The idea of an organization under a single union was supported by prominent Jews headed by the Admor [prominent Hasidic rabbi] Magor z'tz”l and Rabbi Khaim Ozer z'tz”l. An awakening among the Haredi [Ultra -Orthodox] Jews resulted in the establishment of the organization “Agudat Shlomei Emunei Yisrael” [“Union of Faithful Jewry”]. The movement spread and grew throughout Poland and the Lithuanian areas annexed by Poland.

No such organization took place in Galitsia. There, people were conservative. They did not appreciate the advantage associated with the unification of the Haredi ranks – “every person to his own olive-grove and vineyard”. However, some prominent people tried to follow the Polish organization of [Haredi] Aguda [union], which was announced in the Katowice Conference in 5672 (1912).

A conference was also held in Lviv. Some prominent leaders and visionaries stood out among the conference's spirited activists, organizers, and speakers. Among them were people like Rabbi Yitzkhak Teomim z”l, and Rabbi Meir Shapira z”l, the 22-year-old rabbi of Galina. They and other inspiring rabbis rose up to unite the ultra-orthodox Judaism and Hasidism. In the meantime, the [First World] war broke, and the activities ceased for various reasons. The Admors from the house of Rizhin, headed by R' Ysrael'nyu from Chertkiv [Chortkov] z'tz”l. R' Yisrael'nyu was among the people who conceived the idea of unification. Unfortunately, he resided in Vienna, which was separated, after the war, from Galitsia (which was previously part of the Austrian Empire).

Cities and towns that suffered horribly during the war as the front lines passed in their surroundings encountered many hardships in trying to maintain their educational institutions. [unification would have helped in that].

Only during the first election to the Polish Sejm in 5682 (1922), the idea of a single union was revived. At that election, the union movement was incorporated as part of a larger party. As a result, a substantial number of the Agugah's representatives (among them, the great rabbis - Rabbi Aharon Levin, may G-d avenge his blood, and Rabbi Meir Shapira) were elected. Only then the Ultra-Orthodox in Galitsia were awakened into action. The Agudah movement established its center in Lviv, and branches began to spread throughout the country, with sections for adults and youths. They also incorporated the “Poalei [workers of] Agudat Israel”, jointly or through separate organizations.

The movement encountered some obstacles since influential and prominent Admors, did not subscribe to the idea of unification and stood aside or even resisted…

Nevertheless, the movement progressed and took roots, and became a factor in the elections to the communities and municipalities. Weekly journals appeared in Lviv and Przemysl. First-rate literary and activism talents were discovered. The Galitsian Haredi youth was gifted with unique virtues, scholarship and Hasidism, and knowledge about the matters related to Jewish life. The youth became the Haredi intelligentsia and acquired a name for itself and its influence spread throughout Congressional Poland. Over time, a common ground for cooperation was found. Despite having two separate centers in Lviv and Przemysl, they coordinated and managed to attract crowds to the ranks of the Agudah.

Many prominent people took part in the effort: Rabbi R' Yaakov Vitels and Rabbi Moshe Hirschfrung, may G-d avenge his blood. Leaders like the spiritual, thinking, and speech gaon, Rabbi R' Tzvi Hirschhorn, may G-d avenge his life, Dr. Mordekhai Rozner, Dr. Ben-Tzion Pesler, Yosef Shaul Tzuker. Other leaders included Yaakov Halperin, Rabbi R' Shlomo Shikler, Sh. B. Modlinger, David Rosenfeld, Rabbi Reuven Winkler, Rabbi Sh. B. Meizlish, Shalom Hash, Y. M. Moskovitz, may G-d avenge his blood, and R' Elimelekh Shteyer. Other prominent people were the great scholar brothers, Rabbi Moshe Khaim and Rabi Lau, may G-d avenge his life, and Dr. Hillel Zeidman, may he live long. The authors and poets – R' Alter Schnorr, and R' Elimelekh Shtaye; Many other prominent figures and activists, scholars, loyalists, men of letters, logicians, and philosophers. All of these prominent figures contributed to the Galitsian Agudah movement with all of its sections and filled up it with content and grace, thereby led to its entrenched and growth. The idea of an organization under a single union was supported by prominent Jews headed by the Admor Magor z'tz”l and Rabbi Khaim Ozer z'tz”l. An awakening among the Haredi [Ultra -Orthodox] Jews resulted in the establishment of the organization “Agudat Shlomei Emunei Yisrael” [“Union of Faithful Jewry”]. The movement spread and grew throughout Poland and the Lithuanian areas annexed by Poland.

* * *

In our city, Zloczow, situated on the main road between Lviv and Ternopil, near Brody, the Haredim awakened only in 1923. The need and the urgency were only recognized following their failure in the election for the community council. Due to the electoral system, which was not proportional, the Haredi party did not receive any electoral mandate and remained with no representation in the council. It was left without any ability to influence an institution, which controlled all religious and community affairs in the city. People learned a lesson and realized that the way to gain ground and save

[Columns 333-334]

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A group of Poalei [workers of] Agudat Israel Youths

 

the youth from grazing in foreign pastures was to organize and unify. They began that activity enthusiastically. And a short while later, hundreds of Hasidim joined the organization along with merchants, workers, and youths in the Batei Ha'Midrash. Not long after that, the Agudah movement in Zloczow, which included youths, homeowners, and workers, became an influential factor that aggressively stood guard and fought for future successes. In the next election for the community council, forty-five percent of the party candidates were elected. Representatives for the city council were also elected. Charity and educational institutions were established. The school “Beit Yaakov” was founded following the successful visit by Sara Shnirer and her students. Public gatherings were held, eyes opened, and the ranks strengthened. The number of youths grew and became part of the organized religious camp. They took part in all of the center's organized activities. Funds have been transferred to the “Keren HaYeshuv” [Religious appeal for the redemption of Eretz Israel] and other appeals. Zloczow acquired a name for itself as a citadel of the Agudah. Desolation was replaced by redemption. Earlier, Zloczow was known as a modern and enlightened city, and people did not see any chances for such a successful awakening and organization.

Rabbi R' Tzvi Hirschhorn became famous in Zloczow. There, he gave his first enthralling speech and was discovered as a person with enormous rhetorical talent. He was a regular guest in Zloczow, excited and captivated his listeners, fans, and opponent alike. Zloczow became an Agudah's citadel until its destruction during the Holocaust. Loyal and dedicated activists, from among the prominent city leaders and philanthropes were active in the union. Hasidism, followers of various courts, and Torah scholars found an organization where they could all cooperate. Even Belz Hasidim joined the Agudah movement in Zloczow. Some of them were elected to the community and municipal councils as part of our list. During the election to the Polish Sejm, the Agudah list received numerous votes. The district center of the party was located in Zloczow, and the election publicity, in the district's tens of towns, and cities, was managed from there.

At the head of the movement in our city served many dignities and activists: R' Shaul Ruller and his in-law - Shlomo Ritter, R' Neteh Willig, R' Moshe Zilbershitz, R' M. Tziper, my deceased father - R' Khaim Katz z”l, the author and educator – R' Benyamin Zusman, R' Sender Shpigel, R' Aharon Ort, R' Henikh Tzimend, R' Michael Glaser, R' Meir Imber and his brother – R' Shalom, R' Elyakim Yeshayahu Katz, R' Uri Shapira, Lipah Shwager, R' Shlomo Floher, Meir and Tzvi Roller [or Roller], Khaim and Lable Gottlieb, Nakhum Ort. Y. Titel, Yitzkhak Karrotchtik (enthusiastic Agudah member), and many other talented youths. All were Torah scholars, knowledgeable and assertive. Most of them perished in the Holocaust. They were among the first victims of the Nazis who annihilated most of the city's Jewish population.

* * *

It is appropriate to devote additional words about the head of the above-mentioned honorable group. He was a leader who devoted himself to the strengthening of the movement and its institutions. His name was R' Shalul Roller [or Ruller?]. He was a fascinating and unforgettable figure. He was calm and restrained, but also a passionate and exciting man when it came to observance of the Torah and religion. He was the owner of several businesses on central streets. He worshiped G-d diligently. He woke up early in the morning, while it was still dark to study his regular Torah lesson, and was also deeply involved in his studies in the afternoons and evenings after his workday. He prayed in the large and crowded synagogue of Stratyn Hasidim.

[Columns 335-336]

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A regional gathering of the Poalie [workers] of Agudat Israel in Zloczow

 

His place at the synagogue was in the corner. He did not get involved in any unrelated conversation, covered his Talith and Tefilin, turned to the wall, and prayed enthusiastically and with purpose. He had a name as a phalarope and as an exceptional host. He supported the Torah and its learners, was a “Mokir Rabanan” [“cherished rabbis”], and visited Admors frequently. His house was open to the needy and oppressed. During holidays, people gathered by his home, and he and his wife their guests warmly. A visitor that happened to stop by the city would always be hosted by R' Shaul Roller. Before making a fundraising trip to the US for the Yeshiva of Lublin scholars, the Rabbi of Lublin z'tz”l came to Zloczow. He stayed at the spacious apartment of R' Shaul Roller for two weeks, while R' Shaul's wife was serving delicacies to the many guests. Even though nice housewares broke and damages to furniture and chandeliers were caused because of the congestion at the house, the hosts always had a smile on their faces. My mentor and teacher, the Gaon- Tzadik Rabbi Israel Landau z'tz”l, great-grandson and a grandson of the [author of the book] “Nodah Be'Yehudah” [Rabbi Yekhezkel ben Yehuda HaLevi Landau] settled in Zloczow after World War I. Who did make a spacious apartment of four rooms on the main street available rent-free for him? None other than R' Shaul. He also provided for the Rabbi's upkeep and made an apartment available free for the school “Beit Yaakov”, as well as a nice rent-free place for a club and a large hall, big enough to contain a thousand people for gatherings, public bowls, shows by the “Beit Yaakov” school and other Haredi public events. All of that was contributed by R' Shaul Roller willingly and with an open heart. He also contributed large sums for religious-related affairs and the local and national needs of the Agudah. R' Shaul made the first contribution to Rabbi Meir Shapira z'tz”l for the “Yeshiva of Lublin Scholars. Other city philanthropes followed and contributed money to the Yeshiva. The financial success of the fundraising was a surprise and provided enormous momentum for the construction of the Yeshiva building. A sign with the name of the generous contributor, R' Shaul Roller, hanged in the large entrance hall of the building. He appeared at the celebratory opening. He also participated in the selection of the city Rabbi. The Haredi strove to choose a prominent rabbi who excelled in all virtues and skills, and somebody whose reverence eclipsed his wisdom. R' Shaul invested unprecedented efforts, along with others who worry about the city image and its rabbinical dynasty, to prevent an election of a rabbi whose reputation did not fit a Jewish city with a big Haredi and Hasidic population.

R' Shaul participated in the Agudah conferences in Warsaw and Lviv, leaving his extensive businesses behind. He traveled to these gatherings to be close to the affairs, which were decided upon there by the religious leaders and the great Tzadikim of Poland and Galitsia. That allowed him to work for the strengthening of the religion and its Torah followers in his city. He did not pay much attention to his rivals from other camps and continued his work towards his own goals while encouraging his followers. Thanks to his efforts, Haredi tradition flourished in Zloczow, despite the spiritual changes that occurred there during that time. The number of youths who studied in the local Yeshiva “Orakh Le'Khaim” continued to grow. Many others traveled to other cities to study there. The Haredi public was unified and its influence on public and private life was substantial. The lion's share for that success should be attributed to R' Shaul Roller. He was the planner, dynamiter, and financier.

[Columns 337-338]

Even during a slump in his business, he did not abandon the campaign and did not cease helping the needy. He kept watching for everything that needed charity and continued to be loyal to the public needs and the Agudah movement with all of its branches and extensions. Due to his wisdom and knowledge of the written and oral Polish language, he was the one who represented the Jews with the authorities. He defended the interests of the Jewish population, particularly those of the Haredi Jews.

Due to his talents and powers, he became gradually more successful. During the various wars, he suffered greatly from the conquests of the Russians and the Bolsheviks and was forced to leave the city and settle in a safer location. When he returned after the liberations, he became soundly established again. He continued his custom of supporting and contributing generously and getting involved in public affairs loyally a dedicatedly.

Only one of his daughters and her husband survived. They live in Haifa along with his grandchildren.

When we raise memories from those days of storm and turmoil but also days of vision and action within the Haredi Judaism in Poland and Galitsia, the leaders and activists, whom I only mentioned a small part of, R' Shaul deserves of being highlighted commemorated.

Their images are glowing and shining. When the history of the organized Haredi revival will be written, these images should be etched with golden letters as the trailblazers for the Torah followers and its carriers. The image and acts of R' Shaul Roller would be memorialized with feelings of respect and admiration.


[Columns 339-340]

The Activities Among the Zloczow's Youths

by Leah Raviv

Translated by Moshe Kutten

The year was 1918 – the end of World War I.

During the war years, we lived in Vienna as refugees. We worked in various industries and were not given the opportunities to study or meet other youths. We were totally disconnected from what was happening in the Jewish world.

There was exhaustion from the physical effort. While we experienced limited absorption of the Viennese culture of those days, we did not participate in any Jewish folklore activities.

When the war ended, we returned to Zloczow. I was surprised to find the city full of vigilant youths mulling over the Zionist problems and aspire for salvation. Everybody talked about the expression: “Change of Values”. The need to change the Jewish people and to give them hope for the future was apparent.

Quickly, I joined a youth movement, and my life seemed to have just begun. What was the concept of being a “pioneer” for us? First of all, it meant changing ourselves. Relieve ourselves from our wants and personal ambitions. It meant becoming available only for the movement and its needs. It meant integrity in whatever we did - in doing agricultural work, learning the language, preparing for life in a commune, and training for building our new land.

There was no room for fear of hardships in the pioneering movement.

We went for “Hakhshara” [training in agricultural work as a preparation for making Aliya] in the neighboring villages without proper food and sleeping on haystacks infested with mice. But how great was the joy in our hearts? We worked hard and felt that our work would be useful in preparing ourselves for our life in Eretz Israel.

The boys worked in chopping wood for heating. They passed through the streets proudly, carrying their axes on their shoulders. They chopped trees in the cold and snow. We became farmers and felt that our sacrifices were carried for a better future.

We planned to make Aliya to Eretz Israel, work the land, and eat bread we grew ourselves. We would not eat bread that was grown by gentiles.

In elementary school, I had a great interest in studying history. I read much about the subject and knew it well. It was my bad luck, one day, that when the school superintended came to visit our school, he liked my answers immensely. After the visit, the teacher entered the class angrily and said to the Polish girls: “Isn't it a shame that “the Jew girl” provided the best answers about our history? And where were you?”. Afterward, she turned to me and said: “Since you are so interested in Polish history, you would probably be an outstanding Pole?” I answered innocently: “How could I? I am Jewish”. The teacher burst out shouting: “You are going to a Polish School. A Polish teacher teaches you. You are eating Polish bread. How can you not be Polish?”

That exchange agitated the entire class and also my Jewish girlfriends. They claimed that I cause them tremendous damage by my behavior.

 

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A Group of Youths in Zloczow

[Columns 341-342]

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“Nesher” [“Eagle”] Group of “HaShomer Hatzair”

 

I asked myself: “do I really eat Polish bread? After all, my father works. He can always be seen bending over plans and talking to construction workers and other craftsmen. He is building houses in the city. Isn't he working to feed me?”

I was restless since then. Finding the Zionist movement was the solution to my dilemma.

When the Jewish school was later established, the studies there were ours. We studied the history of our own nation and our own language. We prepared ourselves for life in Eretz Israel, the land of the “eternal spring”. We marched towards fulfilling the dreams of numerous Jewish generations.

The enthusiasm about Zionism was conveyed to us by our teachers, for whom Zionism was their whole life. They felt that it was their holy duty to pass that enthusiasm to us. The teachers in that Jewish high school were Dr. Schwadron (Avraham Sharon), Moshe Kleinman, Mordekhai Imber, and more.

I would like to highlight the brilliant and unique figure of Dr. Schwadron.

He used to say: “Don't do anything halfway, always complete your work. Free yourself from shallowness. A pioneer should serve as a role model in everything: in his or her life, character, and behavior. The pioneer should erase the words: 'I thought' and 'I did not know' from his or her dictionary. The gentiles always mock us with the phrase: 'Jewish work'. Don't let them mock us with the words: 'pioneer's work'”.

The teacher, Moshe Kleinman, suffered

 

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A Company of “HaShomer Hatzair”

[Columns 343-344]

Dr. Schwadron's punctiliously. I can still hear Kleinman's pleasant singing. I remember his love for every Hebrew creation, his joyfulness, and his vigor.

I acquired my initial knowledge of the Hebrew language from my teacher Mr. Zigel z”l. He taught a whole generation of people to use and love the Hebrew language. He continued his crucial educational work in our homeland.

In my article, I meant to provide an overview of the richness of our life in Zloczow. I wished to highlight the abundance of ideas, the folklore, and the longing in the youth's hearts toward creative life as a free nation.

The days of the “Third Aliya” arrived. We abandoned our studies; There was no use for matriculation certificates; We were going to build our homeland.

We made Aliya in 1921.

 

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Religion Teacher – Yosef Kuta'ee – In Military Uniform

 

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