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[Page 60]

Memories Chapter

by Batya Boneh-Prizand

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

Written below are memories from more than 40 years ago and are taken from memory, therefore, they may contain inaccuracies or errors due to forgetfulness. Nonetheless, it is fitting that these memories be included in this book to shed light on a small corner of the life of the youth in our city during 1920-1930.

I absorbed the youth movement atmosphere, with all the good and the beautiful in it, from my early childhood. The branch of the “HaShomer” was once housed, for a while, in a rented room in my house, which stood at the edge of the city. I watched, listened, and even participated in the extensive activities of the branch members. Those were vibrant lives, full of content and appeal: singing and dances (Hebrew songs and folk dances, mainly the Hora), lively discussions and debates, parties, preparations for trips, and above all -- preparations for making Aliyah and farewell parties for people who were making Aliyah. That atmosphere enchanted and attracted me with an incomprehensible force. Perhaps I have already made the decision then to be like them and make Aliyah when I grow up.

Indeed, over time making Aliyah became my life's aspiration, a divine dream that must be fulfilled. My work and all the activities of my youth served as means to achieve that goal. Naturally, when I was 12 years old and was offered membership in the girls' group of “HaShomer HaTzair,” I immediately agreed.

The group was named “Shoshana” [Rose], and its first counselor was Pnina Bomze (Nir), who educated us with her passion and unmatched dedication until she made Aliyah. She is now a member of Kibbutz Merkhavia. Following her was counselor Selka Gross z”l. The members of the group were: Malka Bomze (Shutenberg), Pnina Bomze (Nir), Nuska Shtark, Ester Halperin, Rozia Barash, Rakhel Shapira, Henka Dorfman (Aharonson), Batya Prizand (Shtark), Nusia Hollander, Rokhatzia Habler, Gizia Gross, and Libka Shapira. Khanna Yeager joined a while later.

Joining the [youth movement's] branch and the period of my participation (1923 – 1932) was accompanied by great enthusiasm and a feeling of happiness and satisfaction from the way of life and aspiration. The movement shaped our characters and instilled universal human and national values that serve us throughout our lives.

There were three age groups in the movement. Each possessed its own goals and ways of doing work. The youngest was given goals of scouting education through hikes, sports, exercising, games, learning the Morse code and knots, and camping. The middle group's goals were national education and a systematic study of Jewish history (including tests), the history of Zionism, and the history of the Jewish settlement and geography of Eretz Israel. The oldest group's goals were socialistic education via lectures, guided reading, and preparation of papers on the entire socialistic literature (including Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Kautsky, and more), the history of the Hebraic labor movement, and additional topics in Psychology.

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The group was the smallest social cell, and several groups of boys and girls constituted a battalion. Folk evenings, holiday parties, trips, and summer camps were usually held under the format of a battalion and sometimes the entire branch. All the members studied Hebrew via lessons conducted by the older members or at a “Tarbut” [Culture] school in the city.

My first Hebrew teacher was a member of the oldest layer, Arye Peled, who taught the girls in my group the basics of the language through Hebrew songs (“BeMakhrashti” [In My Plow], “Yadainu LeTzad Mizrakh” [Our hands toward the East], and others). We sang, fluently, many Hebrew songs. One of the ways we spent our time at the branch was singing evenings. These evenings were incredible, and we sang Hebrew songs poured from our young mouths and hearts for hours. The singing transferred us on the wings of the imagination, to all the beauty and sublime – to the East – to Eretz Israel.

Conferences of the movement were held several times in Ternopil, the district city, and Lviv, the big city. The purpose was to conduct comprehensive discussions about the movement and Aliyah’s problems. At times, emissaries from Eretz Israel who came to these conferences visited our branch. They always brought new songs and a fresh and exalted spirit from Eretz Israel. They even served as professional consultants for the needs of Eretz Israel.

The Zionist fulfillment, Aliyah to Eretz Israel to build it and be built in it via the commune life, and equality at a kibbutz were the top priorities among the members. The “Hakhshara” served as the training camp for commune life and physical labor. We heard and learned a lot about the need for a metamorphosis of the Jewish nation: from a people of merchants and scholars possessing diaspora characteristics to a people of workers who make a living from manual work and are free of slavery complexes. For several years the big sawmill in Nadvorna at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains served as the place for the “Hakhshara.”

The branch members collaborated with other Zionist movements in the city: “HaNoar HaTzioni” [The Zionist Youth], “Gordonia,” and “HeKhalutz,” mainly in collecting donations to “KKL-JNF” and “Ezra.” I will never forget the three wealthy families (Lebel-Kurtzrok, Wanderer, and Goldshlag), who contributed generously, and mainly during the holiday of Purim when we came dressed in white Keffiyehs adorned by black Agals [a black cord, worn doubled, used to keep a keffiyeh in place] on the heads and white sheets arranged as clothing, like groups of Arabs. We were awarded generous donations for KKL-JNF. We note here that we liked the image of an Arab. It is possible that we learned to like those who would become our neighbors.

In 1928, the year the “Kibbutz HaArtzi” was founded, the youth movement underwent a drastic change. Many of the branch's members left and turned to study at the universities. Other members joined other youth movements, mainly left-oriented youth movements. Almost all of them perished in the Holocaust. Only those who made Aliyah before [the Second World] War survived. We find them today in kibbutzim in Izrael Valley and the HaSharon area (Merkhavia, Sarid, Ein HaMifrtaz, HaMa'apil, and others) and Israel's cities and settlements.

May these lines serve as a memorial to dear friends and family members who did not reach Israel and perished in the Holocaust.

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“HaShomer HaTzair” (1926 – 1932)

by Dov Glazer, Kibbutz Gat

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

My childhood scene, and the first steps of my youth, were in a remote Ukrainian village, located about 30 kilometers away from Brzezany. I arrived in the town at the age of 12 with my brother, who is 2 years younger than me, to continue my elementary school studies, which were not available in the village, and mainly to fulfill my father's wish not to stay with the “peasants” and absorb some “Yiddishkeit”. I totally fulfilled that wish. I studied with melameds [religion teachers], the Bible, and the Talmud until I was 18 when I became a Marxist and Epikoros [a heretic].

At my uncle's house, Ya'akov Bauer, where I lived for 8 years, I found an educated and advanced family with a Zionist tradition deep-rooted in Judaism and the Jewish nation. All the children of that family (5 sons and one daughter) acquired an education. The four elder sons have completed their studies and resided outside the house. My uncle was a scholar of Zionism and tradition. He was strict about his sons' education.

At that house, the educational spirit, which I admire until today, I saw for the first time - Herzl's famous picture and the blue cashbox of the KKL-JNF hung on the wall. There I learned what Judaism and the love of Eretz Israel are all about. The house was on Zbozuva Street near the “Nowy Rynek” [New Market Square]. The entire street was Jewish and was lined with small shops, tiny workshops of tailors, carpenters, shoemakers, and so forth. The stores of the rich were located at the city center around the “Rynek” [Market Square]. That market also served as the parking and shelter for wagons [who came to town] loaded with agricultural products of the villagers, who gathered here for the weekly fair.

All the Jewish cultural institutions were concentrated in that street: several houses of prayers (Kloizes), “Talmud Torah” [religious school], the Kheder, and “Yad Kharutzim” (the professional guild of the craftsmen). That was also where the Jewish “Community House”, which contained a large library and a drama club, was located. My uncle's apartment was on the second floor. Below it was the branch of “HaShomer HaTzair”, where the best of the Jewish working and studying youth were concentrated. Obviously, we did not remain indifferent to what was happening around us. The unique “HaShomer” folklore, boisterous “Hora” dancing on Shabbat, and romantic singing together attracted us. It did not take a long time, and despite the explicit objection at home, we joined the movement. We received a subtle hint from the “woman of the house”, Pepka Shaklai (who was a member of HaShomer in the past and understood our feelings), that we could get the few pennies needed to register with “HaShomer”.

We joined the “Eagle” group. In parallel to us was another group named “Tiger”, and along with the girls' group, we formed the “Trumpeldor” battalion. Khaim Riner Z” L was the leader of our group. He was an exemplary counselor owning a solid image, athletic body, and a calm demeanor, rare among the Jews. He was always an optimist, with a slight smile and an image radiating onto his surroundings. We consider him a prodigy, whom we loved and admired and were ready to follow him into fire. Thirsty and amazed, we listened to the group discussions about the “ten commandments” of the “Shomrim”, which adorned one of the branch's walls with large letters. The reading chapters of our counselor of the “Yizkor” recitation for Trumpeldor and the HaShomer heroes, as well as the folklore chapters of the settlers' pioneers in Eretz Israel. We, the youngsters, ran exceptionally enthusiastically to the branch as we considered it our true home.

Under the joyful Shomrim atmosphere, we learn the whole doctrine – how to become a perfect human being, a proud Jew, and everything associated with the national life in Eretz Israel.

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“HaShomer HaTzair” – “Nesher” [Eagle] Group


When we joined the movement, the branch was at its peak popularity. It had strong leadership - the head, Arye Flick, with his impressive appearance, assisted by the leadership team, Reiner, Shekhter, and Selka Gross. The branch also had a battalion of graduates about to leave for the Hakhshara and Aliyah. We were in the middle layer (or B layer), which was later named “Tzofim” [Scouts]. The branch did not accept younger youths at the time since the young layer (layer A), which was called “Kfirim” [ Young Lions], was formed a few years after members of our layer became counselors. If I am not mistaken, the branch consisted of 150 girls and boys from the best of the vigorous and alert youth in our city.

What attracted the Jewish youth from the Kheder, school, or football pitch to the branch? First and foremost was the Shomer'ic atmosphere. They were attracted by the romantic singing evenings, which spilled across the gray and desolate street, balls, scouting, Shabbat hiking to the great outdoors, and impressing ceremonial assemblies; the youths were also attracted by the skilled counselors who knew how to provide good education, comradeship, mutual aid, and national pride, which was degraded in the gentile schools; the traditional blessing “Khazak Ve'Ematz” [Be strong and of good courage], the scouting uniform with the picture of a lily on the tie, and the “ten commandments” [of the HaShomer Movement], constituted symbols for the youngsters that elevated their self-confidence and self-worth in a hostile environment. During those days, there was also substantial public support.

We called those years of the branch the “romantic period”. The truth can be said that the generation of the counselors did not stand the test of time. Most of them left the branch after the matriculation exams. Some turned to higher education studies, and others to their own private careers. That resulted in a severe crisis that led to the disintegration of whole groups; the number of members was reduced to 80 members, perhaps even less. The new leadership: Ozio Katz, Yitzkhak Feigenbaum (today, members of kibbutz Ein HaMifratz), Tulek and Hesio Noishiler, Esterkeh Halperin, and Bashka Prizand took on themselves to reorganize of the branch and prepare it for the future. The first elders, who belonged to the “Ein HaMifratz” and “Hamagshim” [in Hebrew – the Realizers], as well as a few pioneers from the HeKhalutz movement, went out for Hakhshara. We unified into larger groups, such as “Kokhav” [Star], and became the elder battalion. We began organizing new groups of younger youths from the classes of elementary school and also from lower high school classes. We called the new layer, consisting of 11-12 years olds - the “Kfirim” [Young Lions] layer.

Four members who completed the fifth high school class were sent to a counselor camp to train counselors for the new groups. The camp was organized by the movement's leadership and was held in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains in the mountain village “Zekla[?]”. The following people participated in the camp: Meshulam Meser, Pekhter, Izio Zauberberg, and the writer of these lines. Zekla camp was one of the largest and most influential in the history of our movement. It was influenced by the appearance of the emissaries from Israel, like Rishard Weintraub and Eliezer HaCohen, as well as the stars of the movement leadership, like Shlomo Landkutch, Shmuel Shvartz, and others. They taught us, from mornings to nights, subjects that stood at the top of the agenda of the world in general and the Jewish world in particular: Eretz Israel, Zionism, Socialism, the history of the worker movement, youth movements, education, and psychology. These were subjects that established our ideological views (today, this program would be called “Brainwashing”) and provided us with the power and courage to lead the second “golden period” of the branch during 1930 – 1932.

That period was stormy and full of upheavals. Despite the limitations on Aliyah, “White Paper”, and the Riots of 1929, our movement in Galitzia grew to unimaginable dimensions. The reasons for that growth were clear: The world economic crises, the political situation and antisemitism in Poland, and unrest among the worker movements. These were problems that preoccupied us and provoked heated ideological debates. At the same time, we succeeded in absorbing the masses of youths.

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They huddled in the shade of the Shomer'ic branch, looking for encouragement to cope with their problems in the present and solutions for the future. Other youth unions popped out like mushrooms, and we had to compete for the soul of the child who could distinguish between left and right. During those years, we had the upper hand. HaShomer Hatzair's branch grew to 120 members, and its activity was also felt in the neighboring towns such as Nariov and Kozova. We were also the initiators of the conferences and the organizers of the unforgettable summer camps. For that, we need to thank the wonderful area of forests and other natural jewels that adorned our city and the neighboring villages.

Within that flourishing of the branch, distress and the feeling of a crisis approaching the Jewish world were felt. The youths were alert and sensitive to what was happening, which manifested itself in heated debates among the elders' ranks. “Leftism” began to show its first signs. We called it “Ideological fidgety”, which heightened with the arrival of the “deserters”, who slandered Eretz Israel. The fight for the soul of the branch was harsh and cruel. It is bordered with underground activities prevalent in revolutionary movements. Eliezer Peri Z” L was invited from Lviv in an effort to avoid a split and destruction of the branch. He expelled most of the leadership team and many members of the elder layer.

Those who were loyal to the movement recovered quickly. The leadership of the branch was transferred to younger hands. Today, these are the members of the kibbutzim Yad Mordekhai and HaMa'apil. We do not need to mention any names. They led the branch until the beginning of the annihilation period. When I came in April 1934, before making Aliyah, to say goodbye to the branch, I found it alert and vigor, with extensive education activity, in all the layers. However, the atmosphere was already repressive and oppressive. On my walk from the train station, I already felt his steps and the investigative eyes of the man with no uniform. We knew that a disaster was approaching, but we could not have anticipated, even in our worst dreams, that it would become that horrific Holocaust.


“HaShomer HaTzair” “Kokhav” [Star] group, 1930

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“HaShomer HaTzair” [The Young Guard] – The Departure

by Z. Osrover

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

One day, toward the end of October 1939, about a month after the entry of the Red Army into our city, I was called to the Komsomol's institution, where I received a “Rezulatzia” [Resolution], in which it was said that “the “HaShomer HaTzair,” known as a movement that served the British imperialism, must be dissolved. It also said that I must transfer, within a week, all the property of the movement to their hands.

I did not have any illusion. I knew the day would come because the new regime could not tolerate Zionist activity. However, it was hard to come to terms with that decree. The hardest thing was to tell the branch members about it. Several days passed without any action on my part. I tried to delay the inevitable as long as possible. Since I did not have any other choice, I called the members of the branch, sometime in November, for a parting order. About three dozen members of all ages gathered in the movement's club on “Novi Rynok” Street at the house of Haselkorn. That club served us for about seven years (1932 – 1939), more than any other club in the branch's history.

We sat down for a long time in silence. Nobody said anything. Each member looked at a different corner of the room, which was very dear to us and would suddenly be taken away from us. It was so difficult to say goodbye to that corner, which unified us. We sat there deep in our thoughts about the not-so-long past, about the blessed activity of the branch over the past 20 years. In our minds, we saw the branch activities, that accompanied us over the years, were reality just yesterday, moving like a conveyer belt. No wonder we were so tied to that place.

And today, everything is in the past.

The activities were many. What was it that we did not do? Teaching knowledge in areas not covered in the school: studying the Hebrew language, the geography of Eretz Israel, the history of the Jewish nation, and the history of Zionism and Socialism. We also widened the horizons of culture and art. Who did not remember the literary trials and the public debates on global topics? We established a library, the second largest in the city, which served the branch members and tens of readers from the outside.

We formed a chorus, which was known for its quality. We also knew to combine national cultural education with education for working. Tens of youngsters dedicated their Sundays to working in bookbinding or tiny carpentry workshops. We never neglected sports and scouting activities. We were educated to love nature. We organized summer camp every year, spending a whole month outdoors.

I would not forget those activities that benefited “Keren Kayemet” [JNF], or “Ezra” [Aid]. [I also remember] those meetings of the entire movement and those with other movements. There was almost no area in the city's Jewish public life where we were not involved. It is no wonder that when the time came to part from all of that, a feeling of loneliness enveloped me - a feeling of a horrible emptiness as if I was facing an abyss.

It was hard to look at the faces of the youngsters who sat down around me and waited for a word of encouragement. I felt their pain, but I could not find words of consolation. I could not and did not want to raise any false hopes. I knew that we would not be able to return to the past (at least not in the short term). I presented the reality as it was. I announced the parting from the movement's activities, but not the end of the road. We sang “Tekhezakna”[1] for the last time. That time the singing was more like a prayer than the singing of an anthem.

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We parted ways with the old slogan “Khazak Ve'Ematz” [Be strong and of good courage]. Indeed, we needed to be strong and courageous to withstand the horrific period ahead of us.

A week later, a small group of branch elders stole across the Lithuanian border, trying to find a way to Eretz Israel. We were able to fulfill that dream only after five years of wandering in Siberia, the prairies of Uzbekistan, and through destroyed Europe.

The youngsters who remained in the city never severed their connection with the movement, In the Spring of 1941, an emissary of those youngsters reached us in Vilnius [Vilna]. They asked for instructions concerning the continuation of their activity and passed the flag of the branch to us so that we could smuggle it to Eretz Israel. Most of those youngsters did not live to fulfill their dreams. They were murdered, along with the thousands of the city's Jews who were annihilated by the Nazis.

May their memory be blessed.

Translator's Note:

  1. The popular name and the abbreviated and composed arrangement of “Birkat Am” [Nation's Blessing], a poem by Khaim Nakhman Bialik, was adopted as the anthem of the Israeli labor movement (from Wikipedia). Return

The History “HaMizrakhi” Movement in Brzezany
Tzeirei HaMizrakhi [Youth of HaMizrakhi] - HeKhalutz Mizrakhi [Mizrakhi Pioneer] - Bnie Akiva

Dov (Dow) Knohl

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Jane S. Gabin

The part of my review concerning the period between the two World Wars is familiar to me through my contacts with the activists and the events. However, unfortunately, there are no people left whom I could have gotten first-hand testimonies about the activity of religious Zionism in our city for the period before the First World War. I had, therefore, to rely on stories I heard in my childhood and on the news, which I managed to collect from books dealing with Zionism history.

When dealing with the religious Zionism during the period before First World War, we need to take into account two facts related to the character of Galitsia's Jewry:

  1. Galitsia's Jews excelled in their religious tolerance (except for some extreme minorities). They also advocated cooperation between the various circles in the Jewish communities and public affairs.
  2. Some of the rabbis, who had a substantial influence on Galitsia Jewry, supported the activities benefiting the settlement in Eretz Israel and encouraged them. They also responded positively to the political actions activity that benefitted the Jewish Eretz Israel. They also supported the Zionist political policy in Galitsia, which was aimed to take the hegemony over the life of the Jews from the hands of the assimilated, who disregarded the needs of the Jewish masses and tried to present themselves as Austrian or Polish patriots.
It is therefore understandable why a substantial portion of the supporters of the Zionist activities were religious Jews. Most of the intelligentsia, which distanced itself from religion, tended to join the assimilated circles. Youth movements, which captured a central role in the Zionist movement's activity, just began to appear on the public stage after the First World War.

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Considering that two of the most eminent rabbis of the Brzezany community in that period had a sympathetic attitude toward the aspirations of the Zionist movement, we understand that this was the appropriate background for the religious Zionism activities in the city.

The rabbis in question were Rabbi Shalom-Mordekhai Shvadron and Rabbi Yitzkhak Schmelkes. The latter was a Torah great, a public figure, and the author of the book “Beit Yitzkhak”. He served as a rabbi in Brzezany beginning 5625 (1865). Later on, he served as a rabbi in Przemysl [Pshemishel] and Lviv. He was a “lover of Zion”. During his service in Przemysl, he joined a religious-Zionist association, published a public statement supporting the settlement in Eretz Israel, and supported settlement enterprises with his money. His brother, R' Mordekhai Schmelkes, was the chairman of the Zionist Association in Przemysl, and his son, also called R' Mordekhai, was the future Rabbi of Przemysl and the known leader in the “HaMizrakhi” movement.

Rabbi Gaon Sahlom-Mordekhai Shvadron, known by his nickname the MaHarShaM, was known in the Jewish world as a “Posek” [decider]. He was also a fan of the Zionist aspirations.

As a man with a great understanding of the public and world problems, with original views of Jewish thinking, he was a fan of the Jewish national revival. We know that among the teachers of “Tushiya” [Resourcefulness] Yeshiva, which he headed, there were enthusiastic “lovers of Zion” who respected the political activity of Dr. Herzl.


The branch of the “Bnie Akiva” in Brzezany – 1935

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Rabbi Shvadron also supported the program by Dr. Zelinger z”l, an activist of “HaMizrakhi” in Galitsia. The program visioned the creation of a new type of national religious institution that would combine the studies of religious subjects with vocational training in its curriculum. A new association of “Tushiya” was established under the patronage of Rabbi Shvadron, which was tasked with advancing that idea.

My uncle, R' Moshe Toiber, a student at the MaHarShaM's Yeshiva, preserved the archive of that association.

The brother of the MaHarShaM, R' Yitzkhak Shvadron, a known industrialist in Zolochiv, who was a Zionist activist, and among the founders of the “Degel Yeshurun” [The Flag of the People of Israel] association that concentrated in it the best of the religious Jewry in the city.

It is also known that in the negotiation held by the religious Zionist activist, Dr. Aharon Markus z”l from Krakow, with the Admo”r of Chortkiv, Rabbi David-Moshe Friedman z”l, about bringing the religious Jews closer to Dr. Herzl's Political activities and support to the “Otzar HaHityashvut in Eretz Israel” [Eretz Israel Settlement Fund], the financial arm of the Zionist Union, it was suggested the Rabbi from Brzezany would participate in a committee consisting of prominent rabbis, tasked to prepare a platform for collaborative action.

Several prominent people who later went on to capture influential roles in the Zionist movement grew up, studied, or were active during their youth in Brzezany:

Rabbi Shmuel Tzvi Margaliot ztz”l and Rabbi Yehuda Bergman, whose details about their life will be brought up in another section of the book.

- Rabbi Yehoshua Feddenhekht [Peddenhecht?], a member of one of the prominent families in the city who exerted a lot of influence on the Jewish community life. He grew up and was active in Brzezany. He moved to Kolomiya later on. He joined the “Khovevei Tzion” [Lovers of Zion] movement in his youth and with the establishment of the Zionist movement, he became enthusiastic about Dr. Herzl's ideas and dedicated his entire life to Zionist activity.


“HaMizrakhi”, Brzezany, 5693- 1933

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A group of “Bnie Akiva”, 1935


With the founding of the international “HaMizrakhi” movement, Feddenhekht was elected its formal representative in Galitsia. He visited many cities, managed the movement's propaganda, and organized many branches.

In light of that information, it is clear that there was a spiritual and organizational background in Brzezany for activity by religious Zionism.

In his book “The Zionist Movement in Galitsia”, Dr. Gelber wrote that Brezezany's representative, Naftali Zigel, a known author and educator, participated in the 1908 Lviv conference of the youth movement “HaShakhar” [The Dawn], where the tendency to make Aliyah loomed.

In the 1907 and 1911 elections to the Austrian parliament, Dr. Shmuel Rapoport, an educated estate owner, a member of the Central Zionist Union Committee in Galitsia, and later, a prominent figure in the “HaMizrakhi movement, appeared as the candidate of the Zionist Party. He managed the elections' propaganda by emphasizing the religious aspect of the national revival. He received 1142 votes in 1907 and 1976 votes in 1911. Compared to the relative no. of votes received in other locations, that was considered a great achievement, particularly considering the election terror and forgeries the Polish parties conducted in collaboration with the assimilated parties. From the stories I heard in my youth, I knew that the religious Jews supported the Zionist party and that the “HaMizrakhi” activists were loyally active on its behalf.

The non-affiliated organization “Yeshuv Eretz Israel” [The settlement movement of Eretz Israel], founded by the Admo”r from Drohobitz, Rabbi Meir Khaim Shapira ztz”l, had many supporters in Brzezany.

The National-Zionist awakening that materialized in the Jewish communities in Galitsia at the end of the First World War as a result of the Balfour Declaration, and the declaration by the heads of the allied winning countries in San Remo in 1920 (handing over the mandate over Eretz Israel to Britain, with the task of establishing a Jewish homeland), did not pass over Brzezany.

When the news arrived, advertisements were posted on the streets calling the Jewish residents to gather at the large synagogue to celebrate that important event.

Many youngsters, among them a large group of religious youths headed by Rabbi Tzvi Grosvaks and Naftal Halperin z”l, who were the leaders of “Tzeirei HaMizrakhi” [Hamizrakhi Youths], went around and visited the Jewish homes, calling them to participate in the festive gathering. The large hall of the synagogue and the square in front of it were filled with a large crowd of men, women, and children, most of whom religious Jews, who constituted the majority in the community.

Vigor Zionist life began to develop since then.

The branches of “HaMizrakhi” and “Tzeirei HaMizrakhi” engaged in cultural-religious activities, collected money for Zionist funds, and organized agricultural Hakhshara near the city for the pioneers in the branch. They also supported the Zionist party in the election for the Polish Sejm and the Jewish community [council].

Even during the crisis that engulfed the Zionist movement as a whole, due to the economic troubles in Eretz Israel and the stoppage of the Aliyah that followed, the activists of “HaMizrakhi” and “Tzeirei HaMizrakhi” continued with their activities, even though there was no organized branch at that time.

Among the “Tzeirei HaMizrakhi” activists, Rabbi Tzvi Grosvaks should be specially noted. He married the daughter of the Rabbi from Narajiv [Naryov], and subsequently moved there. After the death of his father-in-law, he was nominated as the rabbi there. He organized an extensive activity of the “HaMizrakhi: in Narajiv and also founded a branch of “Tzeirie HaMizrakhi” and the [religious youth movement] “Bnie Akiva”.

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He took care of religious and Hebrew education, organized and conducted a broad cultural-spiritual activity, and organized a cooperative for weaving throw-rugs for local youths, including a group of “Bnie Akiva's” pioneers who train themselves in preparation for making Aliyah to Eretz Israel. He also founded a welfare fund to assist the city's merchants and craftsmen. With the help of the “JCA” [Jewish Colonization Association], he assisted Jewish farmers in establishing themselves in the neighboring villages.

Rabbi Grosvaks was an activist in the country's HaMizrakhi organization, participated in its conferences, and was elected its representative in the Zionist Congress. He perished in the Holocaust.

The bloody riots against the Jews in Eretz Israel, in 5689 (1929), led to a reviving of the activity among the Jewish communities, aimed at strengthening and building the Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel. As a result, the Zionist and pioneering movements strengthened.

Subsequently, a large gathering was held at the community house in Brzezany, where expressions of solidarity with the Jewish settlers in Eretz Israel, who were at war with those who wanted to harm them, came to light. People were generous with monetary donations. Many donated expensive pieces of jewelry and announced they were joining the Zionist movement.

Many youths then joined the pioneering youth movements for making Aliyah to Eretz Israel.

That awakening pervaded the group of learners in the house of prayer of “Chortkov Hassidim”. Some of them understood that the time had come to identify with the builders and defenders of Eretz Israel. A few of the regular learners in the Chortkov's Kloiz (Shmuel Arazi, Ze'ev Kalman, Simkha Shekhter, and the writer of these lines) took it upon themselves to renew the activities of the branches of “HaMizrakhi” and “Tzeirei [youths] HaMizrakhi” in the city.

A few members of “HaMizrakhi” gathered for a discussion during the holiday of Sukkot, 5690 (October 1929), headed by R' Shimshon Fogelman and Ozer Rot (both made a with their families, participated in the building of the homeland and died here), and R' Mordekhai Knohl, and Eliyahu-David Rot, both of whom perished in the Holocaust. As a result of that discussion, the “HaMizrakhi” branch activity was revived. A club was arranged. Branches of the “Tzeirei HaMizrakhi” and “HeKhalutz [the pioneer] HaMizrakhi” were also formed. During those days, “HaMizrakhi” was the only adult organization affiliated with the Zionist Union with its own club. Social life was forged in that club, and cultural-religious activities were held. The branch played an active role in all of the financial, organizational, and political activities of the Zionist movement.

“HaMizrakhi” activists consider it an achievement when the “Dayan” [religious judge] R' Moshe Viner z”l, a known scholar and a teacher with a general education, who, later on, served as a member of the rabbinate in the city.

Special attention was paid to organizing religious youths with “Tzeirei HaMizrakhi” and “HeKhalutz HaMizrakhi”, and to the spiritual activities among them. Besides the members mentioned above, the following members were active in this area: Sh. Halperin, Peplog z”l, Tzvi Lubiner, and others. A substantial number of members went out to a Hakhshara and, after receiving certificates, made Aliyah to Eretz Israel and stroke roots in it. The members, Sh. Arazi, Z. Klein, and Yosef Klein dedicated themselves to organizing the “Bnie Akiva” youth movement. Efforts were invested in deepening the educational activity. Work plans prepared for the organization of the branch's operation, later on, accepted by the country leadership of “Bnie Akiva” as a basis for the work plan instituted country-wide. The branch's counselors were also active in the management of the summer camps of the movement and also served as counselors in them.

[Page 71]

The “Bnie Akiva” branch grew and expanded and was considered one of the city's largest and most established branches. It especially excelled in its action in the field of Hakhshara and pioneering Aliyah. Members of the branch were among the organizers of the Hakhshara groups in Kosiv [Kosov], Nariv [Nariov], and Pidhaitsi [Podhitsa]. Many of the branch's members went out for Hakhshara, and some made Aliyah. The letters joined “Kvutzat Avraham” [Grioup of Avraham], which first resided in Karkur and later on, settled in “Kfar Etzion”. Shmuel Arazi will be notably memorialized, in that respect. For many years, he contributed greatly to reinforcing the kibbutz direction in the education within “Bnie Akiva”. He was among the founders of “Kfar Etzion”, and in the end, was killed while defending the kibbutz during the 1948 Independence War.

With the Aliyah of the elder councilors, the younger layers took over the leadership of the branch until the break of the Second World War.

The influence of the branches of “HaMizrakhi”, “Tzeirei HaMizrakhi”, “HeKhalutz HaMizrakhi”, and “Bnie Akiva” penetrated the various religious circles in the city, even those who were the opponents of the Zionist movement, and became an essential element in the life of the community.

The official activity lasted until the invasion of the Soviet and Nazi armies. However, even when the formal operation ceased, the members maintained connections among themselves. The activists among them continued to be active in community life, assisting the refugees arriving from the western parts of Poland and spiritual-religious work until the destruction of the community.

We will remember them. May their memory be bound in the life of the state of Israel.


Hakhshara Kibbutz, named after Sh. Mohiliver in Brzezany


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