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{Page 94}

Youth Movements

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Page 95}


by Rivka Faust

{Hebrew text – pp 95-96}

{photo page 95 bottom – The Library Committee in Dembitz, 5697 (1937)}

After a difficult battle with the orthodox community, and almost simultaneously with the organization of the men into the “Hashachar” organization, the “Debora” Zionist women's organization was founded in Dembitz in 1907. The best of the young Jewesses of the city joined. The orthodox atmosphere of the city in those days was not yet open to the possibility for a joint organization of boys and girls.

Aside from Zionist publicity activities, Debora conducted general cultural programs about Jewish history, Zionism, etc. From its inception, the Debora library had several hundred books. At first, the members of Debora solicited the advice of the Zionist university students regarding the purchase of books. The language of the books was for the most part Polish and German, a language that was still studied extensively by the youth. The best of the books were of academic style. The library was conducted efficiently and it developed well. It also acquired a few books in Yiddish. It attracted two different types of youth – those who wished to read books, and those who simply wanted to enter into a modern social group. The librarians would offer advice as to which books to read. Debora also attracted younger girls. With time it encompassed many girls from all strata of society.

After some time, several girls, headed by Ruchama Grünspan, left Debora and organized a second group called “Chavatzelet”. This group did not last for very many years. Debora continued until 1927, that is until it joined the “Hanoar Haivri” movement. Several of its members became involved in Hachshara Kibbutzim and made Aliya to the Land.

For a specific period of time after the First World War, as Zionism was becoming stronger in Galicia, Debora flourished greatly since it had already been around for some time. At that time, it was regarded as “the” Zionist organization of Dembitz. The members of Debora, led at that time by Rivka Diament (Eisen), were active in all areas of Zionist and cultural activities in the city. They were at the helm of the Keren Kayemet committee, which was under the auspices of the local Zionist organization. They worked on behalf of the Hebrew school and kindergarten, the Keren Hayesod organization, the committee for the “shekel” [89]. They worked on behalf of Zionist lectures by ensuring audiences. This effort entailed monetary outlay as well as difficulties in obtaining a lecture hall. The members of Debora founded the club for Hebrew speakers, which flourished with the development of the Hebrew school. They brought Hebrew books into the library, which at that time had a collection of about 2,000 books. As a mark of recognition for all of these activities, the name of the Debora organization as inscribed in the Golden Book of the Keren Kayemet Leyisrael (Jewish National Fund) by the local Zionist committee. This was a significant milestone in the life of the organization.

After the original founders of Debora left the city, due to emigration or moving to different cities on account of marriage, a new generation of girls arose who continued the activities and attempted to broaden the scope of the organization. These included Henia Gruen, Rosa and Simma Schuldenfrei, Eidel Taub, Rosa Sommer, Sara Wurtzel, Breindel Strassberg, Hadassa Taub, and others.

On occasion, parties were organized, particularly on Chanuka, Purim, and the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot. Naturally, the proceeds went to the Keren Kayemet, however the participatory activity brought with it a spirit of life and friendship. If an appropriate hall could not be obtained, such parties would take place in the private homes of supporters. The decorating of the rooms and the preparation of baked goods was done on a voluntary basis. In a town such as Dembitz, where the young girls were not as accustomed to the pleasantries of life as are today's youth, such events had a great influence.

Debora was connected with the women's Zionist organization, which would send speakers to it once in a while. Among others, Ada Fishman-Maimon of Israel lectured to the members of Debora. She spoke about the active workers movements in the Land. Ada requested that the girls join the active organizations. The political outlook of Debora was free and without party loyalties, and also without a pioneering tendency. However, the girls, after being influenced by the words of Ada, and after a meeting that took place in the home of Breindel Strassberg, asked: “If our objective is to make Aliya to the Land of Israel, why should we not go to the Kibbutzim together with the young men?” At that time, there were already significant changes in Polish Jewry, and even in Dembitz various youth organizations arose such as Akiva and Hanoar Haivri. It became obvious that it was no longer possible to maintain a separate girl's Zionist movement. A group of the younger members of Debora, known as “Hashevia” (called after the number seven – sheva – on account of its seven most prominent members: Bronka Taub, Salka Barr, Rivka Faust, Mania Taub, Rivka Taub, Serel Taub and Chaya Wiezer) decided after great deliberation to leave Debora and join the Hanoar Haivri movement. They dragged along the rest of the girls, and Debora ceased to exist as an independent organization.

The library committee directed the library from that time. It became affiliated with the local Zionist committee, as did all of the Zionist organizations in the city.

During its twenty years of existence, Debora accomplished great deeds, and an honorable page is reserved for it in the history of active Zionism in our city.

{Page 96}

Hanoar Hatzioni (Zionist Youth)

by Aka Zilberstein and Pinchas Sommer

{photo page 96 bottom right – “Agudat Hanoar Haivri” “The Union of Hebrew Youth”}

The Hanoar Hatzioni movement was not founded in one day, and it is impossible to specify an exact date of its founding. This was an endeavor filled with difficulties, paved with crises, conflicts, and factionalism.

The first stages were already described in this book. Here, we will describe the awakening that took place in the Zionist youth movements in Dembitz starting from 1925, after a serious crisis that took place in all of the youth movements in the years 1922 and 1923.

With the renewal of Jewish life in Dembitz after the conclusion of the years of exile during the First World War, the youth movement also revived in the city. However this movement, which drew its inspiration from the Balfour Declaration, weakened very quickly and after a few years of cultural activity, reached a crisis situation. The youth movements that had existed weakened and almost disbanded. Cultural activity ceased and the Jewish youth began to become apathetic. In those years, 1922-1923, the same situation prevailed in Congress Poland as well as the two regions of Galicia. Obviously, what was transpiring in the country in general also transpired in Dembitz.

During that low period, only the Hebrew School operated in the city. It succeeded in maintaining itself despite the difficulties, and served as almost the only meeting place for the youth. The youth would gather in the Hebrew School, generally twice a week, in order to hear a lecture in Hebrew or a debate about a literary topic. However it cannot be said that the youth were particularly active and effervescent.

Nevertheless, the youth played certain roles in the Zionist activity of the city, in the leadership of the local Zionist committee and its two arms – the Keren Kayemet committee and the Keren Hayesod committee. The Debora girls' organization also continued its activities to some degree. This crisis did not last for very long. The opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1925 gave a strong push to the general awakening. In honor of the event, a festive academic gathering was organized in Dembitz in the movie hall. Greeting telegrams were sent to Jerusalem. Dembitz brimmed with joy and enthusiasm along with the nation in the rest of the Diaspora. The time had arrived for fruitful organizational activity.

The awakening was felt in the entire breadth of Poland. In every city, groups of Hanoar Hatzioni were re-established and renewed. The groups were organized locally without a connection between them. The direction and political leaning of such groups were entirely in the hands of the local organizers and advisors. The new group that arose in Dembitz took on the name “Akiva”. Apparently, similar organizations existed in other cities, primarily in Krakow; however at first there was no real connection between them. The effort to set up an umbrella organization for all the groups came out of Krakow . In the newspapers and pamphlets which were sent to the local Zionist committee, we were requested to give our address to the Akiva organization of Krakow. In that manner, the first connection between the Zionist youth groups was set up. Afterward, several meetings and conventions took place that were attended by delegates of the Zionist youth groups of the various cities and towns in western Galicia. Finally, the “Hanoar Hatzioni Organization” was established, and spread out throughout western Galicia. The Dembitz branch immediately began to play a prominent and honorable role, due both to the number of members and their abilities, as well as their successful participation in the organizing committee, where they played an active role in the deliberations that defined the objectives of the “Agudat Hanoar Haivri”. Activists of the Dembitz branch would go out to nearby towns in order to organize their youth into a movement. They had successful and unsuccessful experiences in Pilzno, Kolbaszow, and Mielic; but in any case, they displayed the organizational abilities of the Dembitz branch. Vibrant Zionist and cultural activity took place within the branch itself. The main activities included study of Zionist history, writings about the Land (Palestinography!), Bible, general Hebrew literature, cultural history, and similar subjects. The leadership of the branch attempted to broaden the cultural perspectives of the members. Since the activities took place in various groups divided according to age, the head of each group quickly attained his role as a leader and role model.

{photo page 97 top – "Agudat Hanoar Haivri"}

{photo page 97 bottom – "Agudat Hanoar Haivri" Band Alef, 24 Tishrei 5680 (Autumn 1919)}

{photo page 98 top – "Hanoar Hatzioni" "Zionist Youth" Tammuz 5784 (Summer 1924)}

At that time, the Debora Zionist girl's movement still existed in the city. It had joined the “Agudat Hanoar Hatzioni”; however it still continued it independent existence. The oldest chapter of Debora, headed by Chana Gruen, Ita Schuldenfrei, Rosa Sommer, Hadassa Taub, Eidel Taub and others who wanted to maintain a separate girl's organization, opposed the merger with Akiva, which was a mixed group. The younger chapter of Debora, consisting of seven girls in total who did not have a great deal of experience, did not feel it appropriate that there be two separate movements in the city with the same purpose, both being affiliated with “Agudat Hanoar Hatzioni”. The younger chapter began an agitation that grew, and eventually led to the breakup of Debora as a separate organization. It merged with Akiva. The final push toward this end was given by the participation of the Debora members in the summer camp of Roska Wizna in 1927. After the Debora members returned from the camp to Dembitz, they dropped their opposition, and the merger took place. Debora ceased to exist as an independent organization after many years of dedicated and vibrant activity. With the merger, the organization grew greatly, and numbered 150 members, both male and female.

In those days, the headquarters of “Agudat Hanoar Haivri” in Krakow merged with the similar headquarters in Lvov, and the new group that arose from this merger took on the name “Hanoar Haivri”. The Dembitz chapter was one of its first branches, and became the regional headquarters. The activists of that time included M. Hakeh, Bronka Taub, Rivka Faust, Shmuel Sommer, Miriam, Rivka and Serel Taub, Shaul Taffet, Aharon Sapir, Moshe Grünspan, and others. The regional activists would often visit neighboring towns for lectures, organizational activities, etc.

{photo page 99 top – "Hanoar Hatzioni" in Dembitz, Band Alef, 16 Tevet 5683 (January 4, 1923)}

{photo page 99 bottom – "Hanoar Hatzioni"}

{photo page 100 top left – "Bene Zion" Association "Sons of Zion" Tammuz 5684 (Summer 1924)}

{photo page 100 bottom – A Chalutz organization of Dembitz}

A new reformation took place in the movement when the Galicia headquarters merged with that of Congress Poland. The movements combined and took on a new name – “Hanoar Hatzioni”. The movement continued with that name until the outbreak of the Second World War. Hachshara Kibbutzim were established in the Diaspora and in the Land of Israel with that name. Under that name, members of the movement fought in the underground against the Nazi enemy.

The movement had a scouting orientation, and according to all opinions, that was a very pleasant orientation. It set the tone of the educational Zionist activity of the organization, and also was very attractive to the group. The movement was divided into branches, and each branch into individual groups. A leader and a council headed the movement. All of the people responsible for the various tasks of the branches were members of the council. The members wore robes, at first gray and later khaki. They also wore shawls and ties, with each branch having a different color. Roll calls were conducted weekly. Hikes and summer camping expeditions, both central and local, were important activities. It is particularly important to mention the local camps that took place for two or three days at a time in one of the neighboring towns (Stobierna and Gumniska). This was a great insult to the feelings of the majority of the people of Dembitz, who had not yet become accustomed to the new winds, and did not always look positively upon girls and boys going out together outside the city for entire days.

On Sabbaths and festivals, the fields and forests surrounding the city called out, so to speak, to the members of the groups. In the forests of Kawenczyn, Lisa Gora and Wolica, and in the fields near the small brook of Krynica, it was possible to see many groups of youth surrounding their leader, who would be reading to them from the works of Ahad Haam, the poems of Bialik, a story of Fierburg or a section of the book of Adolph about the history of Zionism. People would sing, and every expedition ended with a rousing dance of the Hora.

The movement had its meeting place in the building of the Hebrew school. This quickly became the second home, and some would even say the primary home, of dozens of young people. “Lukal” [90] had an uncanny attraction. There were occasions where the groups used the rooms in the attic, and other times where they used rooms on the lower floor. An elderly Christian woman, who became an inseparable part of the landscape of the group, occupied one of these rooms for many years. She was the elderly Kanina who waited on the youth with faithfulness and dedication. Every one of us most definitely participated in the tricks that we played on her.

{photo page 101 upper right – Consecration of a Flag}

{photo page 101 bottom right – no caption}

{photo page 101 center right – Shemaya Widerspan at Consecration of a Flag}

In those rooms, dozens of young people milled about. Each group occupied its own corner, engaged in lively discussion, listened to the works of the counselor, and attempted not to disturb the other groups.

Sabbaths were very interesting, particular the silent time, the time of the departure of the Sabbath Queen, prior to the putting on of the lights in the rooms. In the darkness of evening we would sit, crowded together on the floor, and we would sing songs filled with longing for the homeland. I still remember the following songs: “The Evenings are Lovely in Canaan”, “The Jordan”, “Bring me in”, and others. Everything was very fine and pure. Many years have passed since then. Our hair has become white; however to this day, we still remember the dreamy faces of the young boys and girls, and until this day we can still feel the special and pleasant atmosphere of sitting together in friendship.

The relationship of the parents of the members to the movement was not that negative. It is even possible to say that they admired it. At that time, there were no incidents of zealous opposition to the movement among the adults of Dembitz. There was also no vehement opposition by the confidantes of the rabbi, and by other rabbis. The main complaint was that we came home too late.

The Zionist youth was a part of the landscape of the city, and nobody fought against us in an organized fashion. However we should point out that, due to our concern for maintaining proper relations with our parents, we avoided any activities that would violate the Sabbath or offend the feelings of our parents. There were also occasions where we arranged special tea parties for the parents of our members.

In terms of numbers, and in terms of organizational prowess, we took first place from among all the youth groups in the city. There was no communal, Zionist, or cultural activity in which the members of our group were not prominent. We should particularly point our participation in the founding of the Hebrew school. We stressed its importance at every opportunity.

The activists of the movement participated in the governing of the general Zionist library (there were two libraries in Dembitz: that of Poale Zion, and ours). In the library committee, which was composed of delegates of the various movements, our members were prominent. They accepted responsible positions, which demanded dedication and time commitment. Most of the books in the library were in the Polish language; however there were also a significant number in Hebrew. The movement encouraged its members to read those books.

The organizational abilities of the Hanoar Hatzioni group found expression in a festivity that took place to the great enjoyment of all the people of the city, both young and old. This was the festivity surrounding the consecration of the flag of the movement. The day of the consecration of the flag turned into a day of general festivity. The leaders of the group made sure that the appearance of the members would be particularly festive. Cloth was purchased, and special robes were made for all the members of the group. The Zamir band was invited from Kolbaszow.

{photo page 102 upper right – A group of "Hanoar Hatzioni"}

{photo page 102 lower right – no caption}

{photo page 102 upper left – "Kadima" 5682 (1921/1922)}

{photo page 102 lower left – no caption}

The important people of the city as well as activists of the Zionist movement, organizations, institutions, and even representatives of the local and regional government were invited to the festivities. Every invitation was accompanied by a silver nail. The invitees were to be honored by nailing these nails into the flag at the dedication ceremony.

On the day of the festivities, a youth parade took place through the streets of the city. The band was at the head, and following after were long rows of youth dressed in their robes, shawls and ties colored according to their specific group.

The ceremony itself took place in the tennis courts of the Bar Kochba sport organization. Tzipora Taub, the head of the organization at that time, led the parade. The head of each group stood before each group. Bronka Taub and Rivka Faust were among these group heads.

The splendid blue and white silken flag was placed on top of a beautiful pole that was capped with a gilded fluttering Magen David. After that, the speeches took place. Then the flag was given by the head of the local Zionist committee Shemaya Widerspan, and the representative of the central organization Yaakov Bienenstock to the head of the movement. The invitees were then called upon to hammer their silver nails into the pole. The participation of notables of the local and regional government made an impression, for such participation was considered significant in those days.

This was a great day for the movement and a great day for the Jews of the city; for on that day, something of the spirit of freedom was felt, and signs of independence were displayed among the youth movements. It is possible to say that on that day, the bent backs of the people were straightened to some extent.

The Noar Hatzioni movement in Dembitz sent its members to Hachshara Kibbutzim. Some of its members succeeded in making Aliya. The first group of Noar Hatzioni from Dembitz made Aliya in 1929. After that, various individuals made Aliya every year. The numbers of those who actually made Aliya where nowhere close to the numbers of those who wished to make Aliya. The number of Aliya permits issued by the British Mandatory government in the Land of Israel was few, and in Poland, many thousands waited their turn. In Dembitz as well, the numbers of those who returned from Hachshara Kibbutzim each year grew. As the months and years passed, and the chance to make Aliya did not yet come, despair began to enter the people's hearts, and people began to search for a “purpose” in life. Such people no longer found their place in the movement, and the situation had a negative influence upon its activists. Many left the movement, and several finally made Aliya on the Illegal Immigration (Haapalah) ships.

{photo page 103 top – A Hachshara gathering of "Hanoar Hatzioni"}

{photo page 103 lower left – Bronka Taub-Chaka of blessed memory}

In order to find a place for those who left the movement, the Bnei Zion movement was established. It opened up reading rooms and organized lectures on occasion. However its organizational scope was not nearly as broad as that of Hanoar Hatzioni. In the movement itself, there were ups and downs corresponding with the situation in the Land. If there were possibilities of Aliya, the situation of the movement improved. If possibilities for Aliya closed down, there was a decline in the movement.

With the passage of time, the leaders of the movement, Bronka and M. Hakeh, and Rivka Faust, made Aliya. Their roles fell to the younger people, including Tzipora Taub, M. Grünspan, N. Lustgarten, P. Sommer, P. Salomon, and others. The movement continued its activities, free of difficulties in searching for its path and purpose, and free of stormy ideological debates. The countrywide movement was set up with regional headquarters, Hachshara Kibbutzim, as well as Kibbutzim in the Land of Israel. Some of our own members joined those Kibbutzim. The Dembitz branch was not affected by the disputes that were common in those days. There was a serious dispute in western Galicia when Yehuda Orenstein and Yaakov Frand left the movement and renewed the Akiva movement. There was also a dispute in Congress Poland when Moshe Kolodny set up an independent youth movement. The Dembitz branch maintained its affiliation with the headquarters in Lvov, which was headed by Yitzchak Steiger.

The high level of activity and capabilities of the organization were expressed in the founding of a Hachshara Kibbutz in the area. This was not the only Hachshara Kibbutz in the area. Other movements, due to the spirit of competition (at times healthy, and at other times, not healthy), brought Hachshara groups to the city. Hachshara groups were founded for Hashomer Hadati and Gordonia. Our group was at first located in the village of Zminne between Dembitz and Mielec, and occupied itself with the production of peat. The work conditions were quite difficult at that time, for the members of the movement were not provided with appropriate clothing for work in the bogs. The bunks were terrible, and the salary for the work was poor. The members were not able to continue under such conditions, and they returned to Dembitz, where there was no possibility of actual work. The members of the movement occupied themselves for the most part with the cutting of trees. A few worked in the flourmills. Others found some employment in agriculture. Despite all this, even with the poor work prospects, three Hachshara groups were set up in this manner in the city. Finally, when the gates of Aliya were shut, there was no further purpose to their existence, and their members went their own ways after they had worked for a few years under particularly difficult conditions. Only a few merited to make Aliya to the Land and to witness its comfort.

Thus did hundreds of youths work in our city, thus did they dedicate their time and energies in order to merit a better life in our land. A few merited, and most did not merit. Fate caught up to them during the holocaust. Let us remember forever the young men and women, pure and unblemished, who dreamed of Zion and now are no longer. They do not have a grave or a grave marker. They only have the memory of a sublime desire and a collective dream.

{photo page 104 – A group of "Hanoar Hazioni" members from Dembitz on their way to make Aliya to Israel, in Trieste}

{Page 105}

Mizrachi Youth

by Asher Salomon

{Hebrew text – pp 105-107}

{photo page 105 bottom – "Young Mizrachi" Torah Vaavoda}

The dream of the return to Zion, which attracted the Jewish youth of Dembitz, to a large degree also spread among the youth of the Beis Midrash, and created an excitement within their ranks. Most of them joined up with the non-religious youth movements since they did not see the atmosphere of the vision of Torah and Work [91] in the Land of Israel. As they entered Zionist activity, they became cut off from the Beis Midrash and religious tradition. Only later, a group of young people from the Hassidic Beis Midrash founded a youth group that combined the Zionist idea with life in the Beis Midrash. This innovation was viewed by the young men of the Beis Midrash with a bitter spirit and fierce opposition.

The members of this group were: Meir David Weizer, Yeshaya Taffet, Yitzchak Metzger, Yechiel Faust may his blood be avenged, Yitzchak Frieman, Yehoshua Zilberman, Avraham Freidman, Tzvi Diller and others. This was the first organized cell of the Young Mizrachi movement of Dembitz. In the year 5683 (1923) they established a reading hall in the house of Mendel Poloncki. At the opening of the hall, a young man from Tarnow, by the name of Salomon, gave a lecture about the basis of the ideas of the Young Mizrachi movement. At that meeting, organized activity began.

With the passage of time, many younger boys joined the group, including: Asher Salomon, Tzvi Siedlisker, Avraham Siedlisker, Yisrael Bek, Chaim Shneps, Chanoch Kukuk, Tzvi Faust, Avraham Schwartz, Moshe Taub, Moshe Siedlisker, Yeshayahu Geminder, Shalom Wiener, Moshe Shneps, David Koss, Shmuel Ferber, Tzvi Frieman, the brothers Avraham and Yaakov Kriger, the brothers Chaim and Shraga Tenenbaum, Moshe Zilberman, and others. Shlomo Strassberg was elected as the head of the group.

The activities of the group were centered around organized study, the spreading of the religious Zionist idea to the youth, and the consolidation of the Zionist and religious personalities of the members. They established classes for sacred studies, Zionist history, and knowledge of the Land. They also conducted free discussions about various news items. The classes of sacred study were conducted at an early hour in the morning. The evenings were dedicated to general study and conversation between friends. The activities on Sabbaths and festivals were particularly interesting, in that all of the members of the movement participated, and on occasion speakers from other cities, and representatives of the headquarters in Krakow would visit to give lectures. Later on, emissaries of the Hapoel Hamizrachi from the Land of Israel would also come.

The renown of the movement's activities spread quickly, and even people who had no direct connection to the movement would come to attend the classes and listen to the lectures. The class on the weekly Torah portion, given on Sabbath eves by Mr. Yitzchak Messer, was particularly well attended.

Aside from the study groups enumerated above, there were also special groups such as the group for the study of the Eight Chapters of Maimonides [92], the book “Duties of the Heart”[93], Bible and Hebrew literature. Many of the participants gathered together for Oneg Shabbat festivities with song and Torah discussions. The nearby mountain area of Lisa Gora had an honorable place in the activities of the group. People would go out there for a hike during holidays, and there they would hold discussions on various topics. There, the youth were taught the songs of Zion. The parties in the natural setting lifted the spirit and created a festive experience.

Almost all of the members of the movement participated in the cultural activities. The members attained lofty heights in the knowledge of the Hebrew language, in their depth of general knowledge, and in particular in the broadening of their cultural and Zionistic perspectives.

Members of the Dembitz branch of the movement were active in the activities of the headquarters in Krakow. Yitzchak Frieman and Meir Wiezer were elected as members of the national council.

Young Mizrachi participated in all of the Zionist activities of the city, in particular in activities for the national funds, the shekel, etc. On occasion, they served leading roles in those organizations, such as conducting the collection of the shekel; special roles for the various funds; and for a specific time, the leadership of the library, which was located in the building of the Hebrew School.

Their activity was not limited to the sphere of Mizrachi alone. Members of the group were active in other organizations, such as Debora, the women's Zionist organization, and others.

In all realms of activity of the Zionist movement in Dembitz, the members of this group were prominent. Members of Mizrachi displayed a special interest in various municipal institutions, such as: the local Hebrew congregation, and the city council. At time of elections for these institutions, and in particular for the Polish Sejm, all of the members of the organization were enlisted and worked hard to ensure votes for the Zionist lists.

The Zionist activities of the Mizrachi youth movement generated fierce opposition from the orthodox and zealot groups who were centered in the Hassidic Beis Midrash. Due to a desire not to cut themselves off from the Beis Midrash where they had spent their best days, and despite the unceasing persecution in various forms, the members stubbornly, and even with suffering, continued to visit the Beis Midrash and set aside times to study Torah. However, when the persecution increased and reached the point of the dirtying of the benches upon which the members sat and the disappearance of the Gemara books from which they studied, they had no choice but to exchange the Beis Midrash for another meeting place where they would be able to continue their studies and communal work. The Moadon (meeting place) filled this role. All of the Torah and organizational activities began to center there, and with time, it became the replacement for the Beis Midrash.

The activities of the movement moved at first to the halls of the Hebrew School, where all of the Zionist youth groups were housed with the exception of Poale Zion. However after a certain time, they had to leave there for a separate place, since it was difficult for the young people who were educated in the Beis Midrash to accustom themselves to the spirit that pervaded the school.

When they moved to their own meeting place, the organizational activities of the movement expanded greatly. They gained new members, and their influence was felt in all spheres of Zionist activity in the city.

Later, the movement organized a group of supporters from among the adults of the city. Members of this group included: Reb Avraham Goldman, Reb Mendel Taub, Reb Efraim Taffet, and others. This group often supported the movement with financial and other assistance.

{photo page 106 upper right – A group of members of "Mizrachi Youth"}

{photo page 106 lower right – Meir Weizer}

{photo page 107 center right – Visit of Mr. S. Z. Shragai from the land of Israel}

{photo page 107 upper left – A group of "Daughters of Bruria" with "Mizrachi Youth"}

{photo page 107 bottom – A group of "Mizrachi Youth" with the teacher Pinchas Lander}

In the elections for the Zionist Congress, Mizrachi in Dembitz obtained the second largest number of votes.

In 1929, there was a pioneering awakening in Dembitz. Even though there was Aliya of individuals from Dembitz in all of the previous waves of Aliya, there was not yet an organized pioneering movement. The Zionist education that took place in the prior years gave a push to this movement. The first attempt at pioneering Hachshara took place a few years previously. A few young people went out to study the building trade with the Widerspan brothers building contractors. The first of these pioneers were from Young Mizrachi. They included Yitzchak Frieman, Tzvi Diller, and Yehoshua Zilberman of blessed memory. Due to a lack of organizational prowess, this first attempt failed. Members of Young Mizrachi were among the first who went out to the Hachshara Kibbutz in eastern Galicia. These included Tzvi Siedlisker, Asher Salomon, and Avraham Schwartz of blessed memory.

Thanks to the activity of the Dembitz group, a Young Mizrachi Hachshara Kibbutz was also established in Bielsko (western Galicia). This Hachshara Kibbutz was organized and led by members from Dembitz. The going out to Hachshara engendered fierce opposition from the parents of the members, who attempted via all manners to prevent their children from going.

The Aliya of the first members of the Hachshara Kibbutz of Bielsko made a deep impression on all of the members of the branch. The awakening that came in its wake caused an expansion of the pioneering activity and the setting up of a Hachshara Kibbutz for the movement in Dembitz. This Kibbutz was located in the home of Reb Moshe Kanner, and numbered fifteen members.

With the widening of the activity and the growth of the membership, the branch moved to a more spacious headquarters. A group for orthodox girls was also founded. It was called Bruria, and had fifteen members at the outset. At that time, a branch of Hashomer Hadati was established for younger boys. This became one of the largest and most prominent branches of all of western Galicia. It was not for naught that the branch of Young Mizrachi of Dembitz was numbered among the largest and best organized of the entire region. Our friend Yitzchak Frieman represented it at the Mizrachi headquarters in Krakow.

The members of the group developed branch activities in the neighboring towns, and organized branches in Ropszyce, Sedszizow, Wielople, and Pilzno.

{Page 108}

The Hashomer Hadati movement of Dembitz

by Moshe Sarid-Siedlisker

{photo page 108 top – "Young Mizrachi" and "Hashomer Hadati" taking leave of those that are making Aliya}

{Hebrew text – page 108}

With the expansion of the pioneering movement in the ranks of Young Mizrachi of Poland, and the growth of the areas of pioneering Hachshara, the need arose to organize the youth of age twelve and thirteen, and to educate them in the spirit of Torah Vaavoda so that they could serve as the future for the older movement.

In 1928, the Hashomer Hadati movement arose in Poland, and branches were set up in all the cities of the country.

The headquarters in Krakow made a request to the branch of Young Mizrachi in Dembitz to organize a Hashomer Hadati branch in the city. This task fell to Moshe Tovia Taub may G-d avenge his blood and to Moshe Siedlisker Sarid. Their organizational activity bore fruit very quickly. Dozens of youth joined the ranks of Hashomer Hadati, and began their educational and organizational activities. They excelled in creating this organization.

The Dembitz branch became the regional center, which worked to spread the movement in the region. Branches were set up in Ropszyce, Mielec, Sedziszow, Wielpole, and other towns. Regional conventions of Hashomer Hadati took place in Dembitz. The representatives of the Dembitz branch were also members of the national committee, and often visited branches in the neighboring region in order to assist with organizational work and conducting of activities.

The influence of the movement upon the youth of the city was quite recognizable. The following people led the branch with great energy: the brothers Yaakov and Avraham Kriger, Moshe Tovia Taub, may G-d avenge his blood, Yehoshua Shneps, Moshe Zilberman may G-d avenge his blood, Chaim Tenenbaum may G-d avenge his blood, Miriam Kriger, Chana Geminder, Moshe Siedlisker-Sarid, Shmuel Ferber, and other from among us.

The branch was bubbling with life. Daily, various groups participated in activities such as the study of Hebrew, the study of holy subjects, and discussions about educational and pioneering issues. An independent library was established, and a newsletter was published weekly. There was also significant activity in scouting: hikes and sporting events played a significant role in the activities of the group.

Yearly, dozens of youth of Hashomer Hadati went during their summer vacation to camps in the Carpathian, Tatra, and Beskid Mountains. They returned full of enthusiasm and energy for the activities of the movement. Thus did the movement grow and develop from year to year.

It also excelled in the realm of general activity, such as work for the Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod, joint activities with the other Zionist youth in the city, and celebrations and parties. They would organize and arrange such activities.

The pioneering awakening left its practical mark. Many of the graduates of the movements went to the Hachshara Kibbutzim of the movement; however only a portion of them merited to arrive in the Land of Israel to realize the vision. A significant number of those who went to the Hachshara Kibbutzim were prevented from making Aliya to the Land due to the shutting of the gates of Aliya by the police of the British Mandate. Thus did the end come to most of the members of the wonderful movement – which left a brilliant page in the religious Zionist life of Dembitz. Only a few survivors of the terrible holocaust succeeded in evading the apparatus of death and joining the builders of our land.

{photo page 109 top – Taking leave of friends who are making aliya}

{photo page 109 bottom – Asher Salomon and Tzvi Siedlisker on hachshara on the collective farm of "Hechalutz Hamizrachi" In Nadworna}

{Page 110}


by Yehuda Grünspan

{Hebrew text – 110-112}

The Gordonia movement in Dembitz was preceded in the city by movements from almost the entire spectrum of Zionism, from Mizrachi to the General Zionists, concluding with Poale Zion. Furthermore, the founders of Gordonia were themselves alumnae of these movements. The unique situation that prevailed in the state of the Jewish youth of Poland during the mid 1920s led them to abandon their former movements and to build a new movement. Masses of Jewish youth in Poland and Galicia at that time were prepared to tie their futures to the future of Zionism and the establishment of the homeland. Many of the young people of Dembitz felt that there was no other way. The founders of Gordonia felt that with the new conditions, it was not sufficient merely to spread the Zionist idea and create the “romantic” atmosphere of various Zionist “clubs”, but rather that it was necessary to educate all of the youth to fulfil the Zionist idea in its practical expression – that is to make Aliya and realize the vision. G-d forbid do we mean to imply in this that the other Zionist movements in the city did not educate toward Aliya and practical Zionism. The opposite is true. It is a fact that the first person who made Aliya from Dembitz at that time was a member of Poale Zion – Emanuel Grünspan Yarkoni, a member of Givat Hashlosha-Einat for the past 33 years. As well the first pioneers who displayed their strength of spirit and went out to Hachshara to work in backbreaking labor in the city itself were members of Young Mizrachi – Yehoshua Zilberman of blessed memory, Yitzchak Frieman and Hershel Diller. Similarly, the following members of Hanoar Hatzioni preceded the Gordonists in Aliya: Bronka Taub Hakeh of blessed memory, Mordechai Hakeh, Shmuel and Rivka Taffet, Henia Gruen, Rivka Faust, and others. Nevertheless, despite the reality of those people who made Aliya and actualized the goals of the Zionist movement in the city, there was still abstract, verbal Zionism which enabled people – without expending any effort – to remain in the Diaspora and still call themselves Zionists.

{photo page 110 bottom – “Gordonia”}

{photo page 111 top – “Gordonia” 1933 in Dembitz}

The founders of Gordonia were against this type of Zionism, this light Zionism that permitted its members to remain in the Diaspora. The most sublime idea, they claimed, was that the movement itself had no intrinsic value, but rather its entire value rested in its power to create a new reality. The Zionist idea only had value if it would lead to a renewal of the nation by renewing the lives of its members; if it would lead to a personal revolution in the lives of all its adherents. This “personal revolution” was described first and foremost as: uprooting oneself from the exile and from the Diaspora lifestyle – where one would be supported by parents and in-laws and help them in their business – and renewing the connection between the people of Israel and its homeland by returning to a life of work and creativity in the Land of the Patriarchs, and returning to the original environment of the nation. In short, it must lead to a definitive change of conditions. This general “change of conditions” was not foremost in the minds of the members of the other youth movements during the middle of the 1920s, and therefore Gordonia was founded.

The youth from all streams, in particular from the middle of the road streams, who found the Zionist organizations that existed in the city to be not appropriate for them – whether because they were too “aristocratic”, too religious, or too “left wing” – joined Gordonia. It presented itself as a popular pioneering movement, tolerant of religion, and fighting for an authority free of slavery and oppression, yet without the internationalist idea.

To a large degree, the founding of Gordonia was due to the ideological and primarily organizational preparatory work that was performed by the founders of Hitachdut in Dembitz, Akiva Elster, Koppel Kreiswirth and others (for a period of time, the veteran Zionist Bendet Fett participated with them). These faithful and dedicated members spared no effort to bring people toward the new movement, to spread its newspaper (“People and Land”), and to represent it to the institutional committees, the library and other nationalistic and cultural organizations in town. They also displayed vigilance and great effort in the election campaigns for the Zionist congresses and the Polish Sejm, in that they worked hard for the nationalistic Hitachdut party. In civic elections, members of Hitachdut generally elected members of Poale Zion, who joined forces with them in “Faction of Working Israel”, and the “Palestine Worker's Fund”. Nevertheless, the crowning glory of their communal-nationalistic activity was without doubt their practical and dedicated assistance in the founding of Gordonia, which, with the passage of time, inherited the place of Hitachdut. Its members, along with the members of Boslia, which was founded in the interim, fulfilled all the roles of the Hitachdut party locally. Its members included: Avraham Elster, Tzila Brenner, Seril, Rachel and Shalom Lishe, Rivka, Yocheved and David Diller, Tonka and Beilka Bodner, Fetzi Weizer, Bielke Freidman, Henka Blaustein, T. Bornstein, Yaakov Forstiher, Shmuel Jakub, Shmuel Mahler, Hadassa Jabner, and others.

The beginnings of Gordonia were very restricted. In the year of its founding (1926-1927) it did not even have twenty members. Its first members included: this writer, Yechiel Faust, Chana Grinberg, Moshe Perel, and others. Its new ideas that it attempted to instill in its members – working and pioneering Zionism, constructive Socialism, and faith in the correctness of the new movement – were somewhat strange to the ears of the conservative youth of the city. Many of them were actually looking for the youth movement to provide palliative help for their physical needs. At an older age they primarily looked for an opportunity for amusement and friendship. The heads of Gordonia saw these needs as secondary to the main task of instilling the new life as Jews and human beings into their members. This work was not easy at all in the old atmosphere of provincialism.

The housing conditions of the group also became very difficult. The group moved from place to place. At first all the groups were squeezed in together – Hanoar Hatzioni, Young Mizrachi, and Gordonia – in the building of the Hebrew School. Gordonia was allotted two tiny rooms, cubicles literally, in the attic above the living quarters of the Tevel family. These rooms had to serve as rooms for the youth movement… There were even days where even these rooms were not allotted to the group, and the group only had permission to use the large hall of the school for certain times during the week… From there, Gordonia moved to a rented room in Feigele Hakeh's house, and from there to a small wooden room in the Reb Wolfe Ader's lumberyard. At that point, the movement had already reached significance in numbers, but had no comfort in terms of location… In the interim, the ranks increased. The number of members increased by multiples, and, of course, the noise and tumult also increased proportionally. The Horah, “Mi Yivneh Hagalil”, “Mi Anachnu? Yisrael”, and other similar songs of that era bellowed forth from that room until late hours of the evening. Echoes could be heard throughout the Wanka area. Sleep was deprived from the eyes of the neighbors, and the owner of the property threatened us regularly with forceful expulsion… Nevertheless, Reb Wolf Ader is remembered for the good, as he sufficed himself with mere threats for all those years.

The Hora was danced outside, and in the room itself we conducted numerous education and cultural activities every evening under the direction of the leaders of the groups. (Aside from the original people, with the passage of time new people, even younger people, began to take part in the educational and organizational work. These included Shlomo Yoska Taub, Mendel and Henia Wilner, Blima Lishe, Beltze Kriger, David Faust, Tzvi Grinberg, Yechiel Goldberg, Naftali Tenenbaum, Chaim Lederberger, Naftali Mantel, Moshele Sommer, Itzo Bodner, Anku Wind, Yechiel Derfler, Sara and Avtza Kanner, Avraham, Akiva and Hinda Feder, Henech and Rivtza Wilner, Henech Kukuk, Meir Licht, Yocheved Mantel, and others.) Most of the activities of the group leaders centered on the education of the members. However the types of people that joined Gordonia frequently forced the leaders to concern themselves also with the civilizing of the members. Yechiel Faust, Moshe Perel and others made a very productive effort in this area. They also tried to teach all the members a minimal knowledge of spoken Hebrew. Those students who did not visit the Hebrew school were placed into a “Hebrew Circle” club. Members of Poale Zion also benefited from that club. The participants also studied Bible, Hebrew literature, and knowledge about the Land of Israel. The group discussions focused on topics about the Jewish people, Zionism, Socialism, economics, the literature of the workers' movement, and other similar topics. During the numerous hikes, the leaders tried to bring the members closer to nature, to teach them to appreciate it, love it, and become connected to it. During the summer camps and leadership seminars, members came into contact with representatives of Hapoel Hatzair and Chaver Hakvutzot from the Land of Israel, who taught them about practical Zionism, and instilled in them a feeling of responsibility for the future of the nation and the lot of the homeland. Finally, there were Hachshara Kibbutzim in Chodorow, Rohatyn, where the members became accustomed to leaving their birthplace and their parents house, and got used to communal working life in preparation for making Aliya to the Land. There, the members Blima Lishe, David Faust, Sarah Kanner, Avraham Feder, and others, prepared to make Aliya.

Thanks to all of this activity, a group of dedicated young men and women arose in the city who were given over with their hearts and souls to the movement and its ideas. They later established a Hachshara group in Dembitz, which served the needs of the national movement, and concerned itself with finding work for the dozens of pioneers. This also brought the message of the movement to neighboring towns. With the help of the members from Dembitz, branches of Gordonia were established in Pilzno, Mielec, and other towns in the area.

However, the faithful members regarded all of this blessed activity as merely “study”. The most important matter was the “actualization”… and they were prepared for this actualization and thirsted for Aliya. If it were not for the locked doors of Aliya at the beginning, and the destruction which took place at the end, most if not all of them would be alive with us here today, with each one finding his or her place – each according to his or her ability – in the rebuilding of our nation, and in carrying out the dream of our people … To their sorrow, and to our sorrow, they did not merit, and we did not merit. May their souls be bound in the bonds of the life of our nation and our homeland forever.

{photo page 112 top left – The “Atid” group of “Gordonia” 5680 (1919/1920)}

{Page 112}

“Young Borochov”

by Manya Grünspan

In the years 1917-1918, while the First World War was still in progress, my brother Yehuda (Idek) dedicated himself to the founding of a youth group called “Borochov Youth” (Borochov Yugent). Some of my oldest friends, including Perelmutter, Sheinfeld, Lempel, Ita Twi and others whom I met during a Hebrew course joined this group. Since I knew a little Hebrew, and I was a girl of 9 or 10, I did not study with children of my own age, but rather in a higher class, with girls of age 13 or 14.

From among the prisoners of war who were employed by the state in setting up our factory, Yehuda found a stubborn prisoner who was an excellent artist. After the death of Borochov, a photo of the late leader was given to him, and he was requested to enlarge it to life size. The picture was drawn in our workshop, which was located beneath our living quarters. My father of blessed memory, who had a fine sense of art and was drawn to unusual matters, permitted this stubborn captive to draw the picture with expenses being paid from the accounts of the “black market” work. The picture was later given as a gift to the “Yugent” group, and hung in its headquarters for many years. I was a witness to the entire goings on regarding this picture, and I was jealous of my brother's activities. On occasion, I accompanied him when he went to the group's headquarters, and I took note of its activities. I had the idea of organizing my friends, girls of my age, into a similar group. We gathered together, Rivcha Perel, Esther Kanner, Sara Grünspan of blessed memory, Rivcha Zeiger, Gita Widerspan, Polonitzka may she live long, and others, and we decided to found “Young Borochov”. Our plan was to meet together once a week to sing, to hear a lecture, and also to present lectures and to gather money for a library that would be fitting for children of our age. The support of my brother Idek was guaranteed. Our teacher Weinberg, whom we cheated slightly by telling him that we were founding a center to speak Hebrew, permitted us to use a classroom in the Hebrew School, which at that time was located in our house. We elected a committee. Rivcha Perel of blessed memory was elected president. We gathered on Sabbaths at 1:00 PM in the Hebrew classroom, and there we held our lectures. The first lecture was about the book “Ben Hur” which I read at that time. Eventually we decided to arrange an evening activity in order to collect funds for our library. The program of the activity was as follows: an opening speech by my brother Idek discussing the aims of our group, which was the youngest in the movement, a general lecture by the president Rivcha Perel, poetry readings, a choral presentation, and most importantly, refreshments. Two boys who were members of our Hebrew class, Zeinvel Shlep who was called that because of his injured eye [94], and the brother of Cantor Wechsler, who both sang well, trained us in song. Each night for the duration of several weeks, we would gather in the workshop for our rehearsal and singing practice. It seems to me that our small choir, numbering about twelve girls, was quite good. Esther Perel and Esther Grünspan baked the cookies and other pastries. The members donated the ingredients. Finally, after much effort, the council of Poale Zion, whose members included at that time Pinchas Laufbahn, Shneur, and others, agreed to let us use the Poale Zion hall, which at that time was located in the house of Ascheim, in order to arrange our evening. We were very successful, and the funds raised by the event were substantial. The income was several hundred crowns. Instead of founding our own library, we decided to donate the money to enlarge the Poale Zion library. A delegation of members, headed by Rivcha Perel, gave the money over to Pinchas Laufbahn. Our organization continued to exist for a while longer; however in the interim, other movements arose, such as Hashomer. These were headed by older counselors, and attracted our members. The group disbanded. This was an episode in the life of children of a small town.

{photo page 113 bottom – A group of “Dror-Borochov”}

{Page 114}

{photo page 114 top – "Young Poale Zion"}

{Hebrew text – pp 114-115}

The “Bar Kochba” Sport Organization

This writer does not have clear knowledge as to when the Jewish Bar Kochba sport organization started in Dembitz. Nevertheless, it is possible to surmise that it did not begin earlier than the first years after the First World War. In those days, the only field in Dembitz that was open for Jewish sporting activities was the large, ownerless field that was surrounded by a fence and located three kilometers away from town. It was called “Blonia”, which means meadow in Polish. It is obvious that there was no bus or taxi service available for the use of the Jewish soccer players in Dembitz. Even so, the members of Bar Kochba always arrived there at the time that was set for practice and activities. The spectators also arrived at the right time. Given the Polish climate, which had no set seasons due to the constant possibility of rain, some sort of shelter was necessary, since the nearest shelter from rain was three kilometers away. This was no laughing matter. After a while, even this possibility for activity was taken away from Bar Kochba, when the government confiscated the entire field for use as an army airfield. Another sport field was opened up in the camp of an infantry division that camped in Dembitz, however its use was only permitted for groups that were members of the P.Z.P.N., which entailed the payment of taxes for the benefit of the Polish organization. At first, Bar Kochba accepted this burden upon itself, however when debts accumulated it was forced to change its name to Hakoach in order to free itself from the debts. Debts accumulated again, and after a few years it returned to its name Bar Kochba, which stuck with it until it disbanded in 1939.

With the passage of time, a civic soccer field opened, for the use of all of the sporting organizations of Dembitz. However, the situation did not improve even with this. Even though most of the taxpayers of Dembitz were Jews, the Jewish youth were not permitted to conduct practices there, but only to appear for their competitions.

Of course, without being able to practice, it was difficult to maintain the physical abilities of the members. Those who were responsible for the field did everything in their power to make things difficult for the Jews.

The most fruitful activity in the realm of physical education for the Jewish youth of Dembitz was between the years 1930-1939. During that time, the leadership of this activity was in the hands of people who possessed exceptional dedication. They rented a field from the Kanner family, and thus opened up the possibility of setting up basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts. The table tennis games that took place in the Poale Zion hall were very popular. A group for light athletics was organized under the direction of Shaul Morgenlander. Today, he goes by the name Shaul Artzi and lives in Haifa. He used to appear on occasion in exhibition parades. Under his leadership, the organization struggled with financial difficulties, which on occasion threatened any possibility of broadening its activities.

The soccer team once was going to compete against the Hakoach team in Krakow, however the leadership refused to permit the travel due to a shortage of money. The disappointment was very great. We decided to organize the travel to Krakow ourselves, a distance of 120 Kilometers, through the use of Polish railway tickets, which would enable us to transport the team there and back at minimal cost. This adventure was quite dangerous; however we succeeded, and the competition took place at the Macabee field in Krakow.

On another occasion, the team traveled to compete against the Macabee team of Mielec, 32 kilometers away. The team traveled in a regular wagon due to the lack of money for travel by train. In most cases, the members themselves paid for their own travel and provisions.

As it was in Dembitz, the sport of soccer was the most popular. Throughout the course of the year, there would be major competitions between the Bar Kochba team and other sporting teams, such as Macabee and Hashchorim in Jaslow, Macabee and Haorvin in Mielec, and Shimshon, Hashachar, and Mattel in Tarnow, aside from games against the Polish Wisloka team of Dembitz.

Until the liquidation, the following people were very active in the maintenance and development of our organization: the dentist Yaakov Krantz, Reuven Dar, Aharon Ganz, Elimelech Shuss, Yitzchak Taub, all of blessed memory, as well as the following people, may they live long: Moshe Siedlisker (today Sarid, of Petach Tikva), and Reuven Pritzker (today in Tel Aviv), as well as many others who did not merit to witness the founding of the State of Israel, may their memories be blessed.

{photo page 115 top right – "Bar Kochba" Tennis Court}

{photo page 115 bottom – On A Sabbath Stroll}

{Page 116}

{photo page 116 – The Keren Kayemet (J.N.F.) Commission in Dembitz, 5684 (1924)}

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Translator's Footnotes
  1. The “shekel” (incidentally the modern unit of currency in Israel), in this context refers to the basic dues of membership in the Zionist organization. Return
  2. “Lukal” is seemingly a nickname for the group's meeting place. Return
  3. Torah Vaavoda, literally Torah and Work, is the vision and motto of the religious Zionist movement that encompasses both Torah and work for the Land of Israel. Return
  4. The Eight Chapters (Shmona Prakim) is Maimonides' introduction to his commentary on one of the chapters of the Mishnaic tractate of Sanhedrin (chapter Chelek). Due to the esoteric material of that Chapter and deep philosophical nature of the introduction, Maimonides' introduction is a topic of study in its own right. Return
  5. Chovot Halevavot, Duties of the Heart, by Bachya ibn Paquda, is a medieval philosophical and ethical work. Return
  6. Shlep in Yiddish means 'to drag'. Return

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