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Zionist Organizations

Translated by Dorothy Gross Nadosy

Berehove Judaism was a Zionist Judaism. In this chapter, we tried to get more pictures and documents made public in the city and from all the Zionist organizations but deeply regret that despite numerous requests, we did not get suitable material, or even a portion –– not at all.

We know that Zionist organizations in the thirties had among them the sharpest disputes and rivalries; brotherly wars of words broke out in every major Jewish Diaspora center and mainly in Eretz Yisroel. In our town that we did not feel this particularly, due to the two largest movements (Hashomer Kadima and Betar) working together and understanding each other. The Bnei Akiba and Hechalutz functioned more “inwardly”; few elements were presented to the public. If there was a ferment, it was more from the outside; the influential Communist Party was strong, essentially opposed to Zionism, but all of the the Zionist forces were united against them, so in Beregovo, Zionist organizations did not conflict among themselves.

We emphasize two of the largest, oldest and best–organized youth organizations in our city (Kadima Hashomer and Betar), because these two “dominated” the Jewish youth of the streets. Hashomer Kadima was founded in the early 20s and dealt more with Zionist education and Scouting, not with politics. Actually, from the ranks of a national press convention came Betar which had hundreds of members in that era. Later, the older members of Hashomer Kadima functioned as a separate organization, Hanoar Hatzioni. The Hashomer Hatzair was founded only in 1933, but we failed to get pictures from them, so we must be content with the image of 1–2 groups in which members are displayed. We cannot forget the WIZO woman's society, its activities mainly in the social and charitable field; also the Jewish Women's Society under the leadership of Mrs. Ignác Weisz and the wife of Dr. Mór Kertesz. The first President of the Girls Society was Dr. Amalia Braun, succeeded by Mrs. Aranka Mandel–Klein.

It is worth mentioning the cultural conventions of the two major organizations. It was a tradition for many years that the Hashomer Kadima organized large–scale Hanukkah amateur performances while the Betar distinguished itself with Purim evenings. These two annual events of the Jewish centers developed into the Jewish year's main experience, with high standards and hundreds of spectators who filled the largest hall in the city. In the late thirties, the two organizations co–organized an unforgettable evening in the spirit of Zionism.

We are not detailing the everyday work of youth organizations. It is natural that Zionism dealt with every aspect of life: Keren Kayemet LeYisroel, Eretz Yisroel goods distribution, education for Aliya, Hebrew classes, Hachsara, etc. It was common knowledge that the summer camps, which were the year's work highlights and which jointly organized the whole range of local groups in Beregszász, were their chief spokesmen, “delivering” most of the camp participants to leaders and trainers. Yet these organizations did not receive central subsidies or concessions. All were built on volunteering, taking care of their needs themselves.

We want to emphasize again that it was only due to the faithful Zionist education, the city's Jewish youth's extraordinary human material, and free democratic atmosphere after the Hungarians' arrival, that Zionist youth in large groups left the city in the direction of the education's purpose: towards Eretz Yisroel! Many roads led to this goal, and many people took part in Israel's war of independence and the building of a new nation. Another portion of the young men scattered around the world and shared the same fate as others in the Diaspora.

About an extraordinary Zionist family, Imre Klein writes:

“There cannot be a Zionist Life more illustrated than a genealogical table of one of the most active Zionist families in our city. Fisl Harman was among the first who understood, preached and practiced the Zionist ideals. He took part in all the rallies and was among the few ‘Hungarians’ in the Basel Congress. The Zionist dream was realized because he made aliyah with his wife Roza, and both are buried in the coveted Holy Land.

Zionism was a love of his daughter, Malvina, who lost her husband, Isidor Grosz, early. In her father's footsteps, she also made aliyah. The apple did not fall far from the tree; she became a torchbearer for the Zionist idea, and she tried to educate her children well in this spirit. Her son, Béla Grosz was in Hashomer Kadima, and was a founding member of the Hanoar Hatzioni and following the example of his grandfather, took part in one of the Basel Congresses. But he only saw the Holy Land in passsing. His life was lost during the Holocaust.

His brother Andi spent years in the country. His youngest brother, Yossi, also lived here and lost his life in tragic circumstances on home soil.

The other brother, Anci, lived for decades in the country, and then passed the torch to daughter, Nurit who lives in Israel and patriotically is raising her two children – Roy and Kim Gordon.

Few ‘Hungarian–origin’ Jews can be found in this century like the Hartmann–Grosz–Gordon families representing five continuous generations of both the Zionist idea and its implementation, the will of the emigrants from little Beregszasz to live and to find innovative ways of realizing Judaism's dream.”

With love and respect, we mention here the founders and leaders of the Zionist organizations: the Zionist Hashomer Kadima and general fighters for Zionism: Béla Grosz, Fisl Hartmann, Lipót Roóz, Bernát Halász. Betar was founded by Sanyi Winkler, followed by leaders Shmuel Teichmann and Elisha (Lishu) Katz. The Revisionist Party was headed by Ignác Feldmann, Dudi Haussmann, and Dávid Schächter. At the head of the Mizrachi were Sándor Fischer, Izidor Simon, Dávid Schächter and Yechiel Rosenbaum (founders). (Of the other organizations, we did not get names.)

We cannot forget the educated student body, some of whom following the fashion of the time, became supporters of the Communist Party; others active in Socialist salons. Though later, bitter disappointment would reach them, fatefully yet more favorable for us in the Czechoslovakian years, these young people became detached from the Jewish community. Many Jewish young people looked for people's problems' remedies in alien and hostile fields. Most of them returned to the nation's lap, after they saw with their own eyes, and their skin felt, their “world saviors'” ruthless hypocrisy.

In the days of the republic, almost exclusively the Zionist youth showed up in the city streets. Every week, the youth movement units marched, to the city's Jewish citizens pride, to the non–Jews' astonishment (or surge of envy). In the wake of historical changes to the country's map, active Zionist youth hurried to organize themselves to abandon the “new states,” but not many people took that liberty, and not many succeeded. The remaining youth were forced into labor camps and when the hard times occurred, fateful days of our people, no young people were left in the city who were willing and able to protect their families.

The Zionist work was not suspended under Hungarian rule either although most of the leadership left the city. More or less, it continued illegally because the Hungarian rule turned a blind eye to the organizing of the Jewish youth, who were working suitably in the labor camps. Various “devices” to strengthen the Zionist spirit –– educational trips, temple “prayer,” and hachsarot –– continued as long as it possible.

At this point, the “editor” asks for individual and theoretical permission to express an opinion:

I assume that in 1944 the Jewish youth in Beregszasz (or any other city the Zakarpattia Oblast) had stayed in the same number as in 1937. At least 1,000–1,500 of the military–age youth being trained were used to free thinking and living. In my heart, there is no doubt that in this case, rebellion, or at least stubborn resistance, had broken out against the persecution. If hundreds of young people who had a sense of national pride Zionist organizations and military spirit had begun to realize they were in a stronger physical position, they and hundreds of thousands of young Jews would not have been deported as a flock of sheep to the slaughter! (Unfortunately, this is a dream born 50 years later.)


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