Translated by Dalya Yohai Even today, 27 years after my move to Israel, my heart is full of memories of my hometown, Horodenka. She is alive in my heart even more now that she has been destroyed. I'll tell now about the Gordonia organization, in which I spent all my free time after school, and about the Yiddish school in our town. They may seem very different from each other, but actually they complemented each other.
I remember the small room, nicely decorated by Shmuel Lester Zal, where we met. He worked hard to give the room a nice feeling and covered the walls with slogans and educational proverbs. The room was too small to accommodate everybody as our passion and enthusiasm were very high. Our songs and dances disturbed the neighbors and one day they even complained.
During the meetings we spoke with the youth about Israel (we called it Palestinografia) its topography and geography; HaShomer, and the second wave of immigration; and about the three bases of our movement based on the doctrine of A.D. Gordon: pioneers, work and democracy. After every workshop we sang and danced until late at night.
Once a week, on Shabbat mornings, we had sports and field games. We went out of town to a field called Di Toliki and played and exercised until the afternoon.
The Gordonia movement did a lot for the children ages 10 to 12. Many of them went to Israel and today they are good citizens.
From time to time we published a newsletter about happenings in our organization. Meir Bumberg edited and Shmuel Lester designed it. (The two of them died in the war.) Meir Bumberg also designed a poster. He worked many nights to write it by hand and in large print.
In 1932 I went with a small group of boys and girls, aged 10 12, to Mikhal'che, a village on the Dniester River, to spend our summer vacation. We called it the summer colony. I had to teach these youth about personal hygiene, from brushing teeth to taking showers every day. Some of them had never used a toothbrush before. We taught them how to live in a group, and about discipline and responsibility. When we came back, their parents were very happy to see their kids healthy and strong. Some of them had even put on some weight. This was a good advertisement for us and many parents started sending their children to our meetings, even those who objected at the beginning. We served the whole area and even the small villages around.
In Horodenka we had a Yiddishe school called Yiddish Avraham Reizen Shule where we could learn to read and write. The school was supported by the American Joint Committee and was created by the Bund. They taught mainly the poor kids, some of whom lived in shacks called Barakan Lager. The school gave them school supplies free of charge. There were also prizes for the good students. It was a good place for these kids and had a nice atmosphere. However, the Poles often teased these kids as in the morning they went to a regular Polish school. Even their teachers didn't respect them because of their religion. The studies in the Yiddish School were in the afternoon. First the school was in a rented building, but later a beautiful building, as nice as the Polish school, was built for the school.
In one case I remember, Etel Katvan was sent to a teacher's seminary in Vilna. She was an excellent student and became a teacher herself.
Translated by Dalya Yohai In the 1920s, the finance minister Gravsky made the Jews' life really hard. Many lost a lot of money and felt that this was the beginning of a real earthquake. These feelings of insecurity brought many middle class Jews to Israel between 1924 and 1926. Only the depression of 1926 in Israel stopped this wave.
The students were especially worried since the institution of Numerus Clauzus (closed number) turned later on to Numerus Nulus (no number), which meant a restricted number of Jewish student could go to universities: Eventually the schools were closed to Jews altogether. Even the ones who got accepted suffered abuse from the Polish students and sometimes even physical torture. In this situation, many youth started considering moving to Israel. I was a student in Lvov in 1928 to 1930, and belonged to the academic Gordonia. When I came back to Horodenka in 1930 I started a branch of Gordonia, called Ehodyah, in our town.
The Ehodyah branch in town was comprised mainly of the sons and daughters of merchants and craftspeople in the community and some working youth.
The youth who went to high school were in a different social class and couldn't join that branch. That was why we created a different organization for the academic youth and started teaching them about the pioneer Zionist ideal. I had many conversations about this with Sala Yungerman and finally we did it.
Only 20 youth joined us and we called ourselves Ehodyah. I have to mention that the group functioned very well and was well integrated socially and ideologically. Later on some more high school students joined. After I moved to Israel in 1933 the activities expanded and some more members moved to Israel. It is important to remember that the move to Israel of most of the members saved their lives.
Translated by Dalya Yohai The General Zionist Organization had a branch in Horodenka called Hatikva. It had the power to and reputation for influencing the Hebrew school and the different funds.
The youth in Horodenka were responsive to the Socialist-Zionist movement. Over the years, however, we saw some more Orthodox organizations like Beital and the Orthodox Zionist movement arise as well. The older generation wanted the youth to be Zionists and aspire to make Aliyah. In 1933 there was an idea to create a new Zionist youth movement but only the very young became part of it, because others in the community were already affiliated elsewhere. The organizers were: Bruno Reif, who died in 1935, Chaim (Munio ) Yiskar, Tuvya Korn, Adema Emzig and myself.
After Chaim's and my aliyah, Breis Reyckman and Shalom Dermer (his cousin) joined the branch. Through the years the leaders were: Reuven Prifer, Zvi Reys, and Nouska Vakher. They all made it to Israel after the end of the war. The ones who didn't make it were Hailke Zilber, Chmerel Herman, Nina Auerbach and Zichornam Livrachah. These leaders were quite young, 12-14 years old. Their impact was not in ideology, but in infusing in youth the love of the land of Zion and Israel. There was a special atmosphere in the group one of dedication and friendship. It was always full of song and discussions. We all spoke in Hebrew and our slogan was Hazak VeEmatz.
After Chaim and I went to Israel, there was an active correspondence between Tel-Aviv and Horodenka. They were very jealous of our move to Israel.
Time passed and the war stopped all plans for the future.
During the Russian occupation the branch went underground. They continued keeping in touch with each other and even spoke in Hebrew. This went on for two years that were uneventful compared to the years of Nazi occupation. It is important to tell the story of the branch working with the refugees that came from Romania and Hungary. Tuvya Korn, Reuven Prifer, Zvi Reys, Clara Hartenshtein, Mania Kugler, Sara Frankel, Nina Auerbach and others created a soup kitchen.
Mr. Israel Kugler, a Yudenat member, volunteered to help them despite great danger to himself. He went to the villages to collect food donations from the local Jews, thus helping the youth's endeavor tremendously, both as a model for good work and for its practical value as well. When the Germans ordered them to close the orphanage, the youth took the orphans to the soup kitchen, cleared a room for them, and took care of them. This was not easy since some of them were still babies.
Tuvya Korn was the head of this project and the leader of the branch. He was the older son of Binyamin Korn, the teacher and the director of the Hebrew School in Horodenka and a pioneer of Hebrew in town. They spoke only Hebrew at home. Tuvia was delicate looking, mild mannered, a good and dedicated friend but also firm in his beliefs and very influential in the community.
Before the first action, where there was a feeling of the Nazis would kill the orphans, he refused to leave them and stayed with them until the bitter end. He said, Their destiny is mine.
Translated by Dalya Yohai
In the thirties, the youth of Horodenka were organized to prepare for Aliyah. The Halouz organization was very active and even among the adults there was a sense of activism; people belonged to national and Zionist parties. In this atmosphere, the women too started thinking about organizing themselves. In 1934, we decided to establish a non-partisan group. We wanted all the women to join. Frida Frishling (deceased), Donya Rosenbaum (deceased), Bella Bergman (now in Australia), Mrs. Alpert (now in USA) and others started the WIZO [Women's International Zionist Organization] and started supporting Karen-Kayemet and Karen Hayesod. We created a kindergarten for poor kids and helped them with homework. We also fed the youngsters. The children in elementary school benefited much from our work. We could see that they were becoming better students. We organized parties and events to raise money for the national funds. On Shabbat, we had lectures and entertainment. We also organized parties for children and created a children's theater in Hebrew.
I remember very well the first Mother's Day celebration in 1934. Mrs. Alpert, Mrs. Rosenbaum, and Mrs. Frishling helped put it together. The members of WIZO all helped the teacher, Mr. Berger, prepare a special program with the Hebrew school students. The party opened with a speech by Mrs. Rosenbaum who explained the work and goals of Hakerem Hakayemet Leisrael. At the end she called upon the audience to contribute to the fund by giving presents for Mother's Day. Later the children presented a play with dancing. Afterwards there was some food and dance music for all. We raised a lot of money much more than we had expected.
After I left Horodenka, the group continued its activity. Many of them are now in Israel. Those who couldn't go were very sympathetic to the Zionist ideas. The Germans killed many of the WIZO women in our town. But we will always remember them.
The Hibbat Zion movement was mainly a Jewish-Russian organization. The harsh treatment of Jews under the Tsar led to an understanding among Jews that they had to move to Israel. However, the Austrian Jews were in a different situation, as that government was relatively good to the Jews. In Galicia there were economic problems, but there was also a sense of freedom that Jews could go everywhere and do anything. The Austrians also didn't get involved in the inner workings of the Jewish communities.
But when political Zionism began to rise, things changed. The Austrian Jews felt very proud that Herzl came from Vienna, worked there, and wrote in German, which was understood by the intelligent Austrian Jew. Thus a lot of enthusiasm developed among the Austrian Jews for Zionism. The reaction of the Russian Jews was a little more repressed and skeptical. Their Zionist movement had similar goals; so they treated the new movement with reservation.
In Horodenka, the Zionist movement had a big following and grew even larger as the younger generation matured. This generation was ready to invest in this organization after their parents abandoned the chains of old traditions.
A branch of the Zionist movement in town started immediately after the first Zionist Congress. In documents cited by Dr. Gelber in his article about our town, there was mention of a Zionist movement as far back as 1897. In the first years after Herzl died there was an annual memorial service in the great synagogue with a lecturer from one of the big cities. Many Jews attended and there was an impression of a dark veil over the city on this day. The Zion-Farayein-Bnei Zion was a combination of a club and minyan that prayed together on Shabbat and holidays. For many years this took place in the apartment of the Kugelmas Family. The head of the family, Avraham Kugelmas, was an old widow who was supported by his sons, Ahron and Eizi Kugelmas. They were butchers and had some wealth. They were also part of the group. Their apartment was in the center of town next to the Ukrainian church. One room was used for the minyan on holidays and Shabbat. It was a ritual that united them.
On other days the apartment was a club for the members and filled with Zionist newspapers in Yiddish, Hebrew, and German; there were also some regular local papers in German. There was the Latiberger Tagablat in Yiddish, Di Walt, the official newspaper of the Zionist movement in Germany, Ha'loam, a Hebrew weekly, Al Hamizpeh, published in Krakov by Sh. D. Lazar and two German-Viennese newspapers: Di Noye Krei Presse and Viener Journal.
The leaders were two elders Alter Vizelberg and Shmuel-Yitzhak Lindenberg, and two youngsters Hershel Sucher and Hershel Preminger. At that time they had several activities like fundraising for Karen Kayemet, such as buying the Zionist Shekel and buying stock for the treasuries settlements. They had some interest in Zionist activity in other places and a little bit of interest in Israel. Only two or three families dreamt of actually going to Israel. This dream could only be realized when everything worked well.
A couple of years before WWI in 1910 or 1911, Zeirei Zion opened in Horodenka and all the youth aged 18-22 joined. They had had a hard time with the old club of Bnei Zion. They rented a special place and decided to create their own club. Before they could establish themselves, the war started and the youth were the first to be drafted. In August 1914, when the war started, all Zionist activity stopped. Some weeks later the town was captured by Russia and was totally cut off from other Jewish centers in the west. In the spring of 1915, the city was released from Russian captivity, but some months later was again recaptured by the Russians who then started a fire in the center of town and hung nine Jews. The occupation lasted until the end of the war in 1918. Most of the Jewish residents left town and went west as war refugees. They got some aid from the Austro- Hungarian government.
During that horrible time nobody was even thinking about Zionist activity. But it is important to note that the encounter with the Western Jews had a big influence on the youth of both places. For the Zionists in the West, it was their first encounter with deeply religious Jews and they were influenced by their Jewish values. As a result, they often became committed to learning Hebrew. The Eastern Jews learned how to organize a youth movement and were introduced to the values of the western society.
The Balfour Declaration and the Sam Remo decision to create a Jewish State made the Zionist movement a movement of action and established a real goal for the Jewish youth: to train themselves to move to Israel and become pioneers. When people came back to town after the war HaShomer was established. Beinish Noyman was the founder. The educational agenda of the group was to study the history of Israel, the geography of Israel, and the Hebrew language. At this time, Ila Libster and Asher
Yungerman opened the Hebrew School again. Among the leaders of the group were Beinish Noyman, E1iezer Bilder, Mendel Diner, Menachem Strum, Tova Markseid, and Henya Birnboym. After a period of two years in HaShomer, the group moved up to the Ha'Chaloutz movement. Some of them went to Israel; those who stayed back home joined the Socialist Zionist Party Hitachdut, which was founded in 1923. This group included Yitzhak Shapira, Yehoshua Shtreyt, Moshe Fleshner, Nahuman Bergman, Eliezer Bilder, Meshulam Shnitzer, and myself
One of the main activities of the youth movements was to help raise money for Zionist funds. The helpers were the fathers, Zionists who believed in the Zionist goal, and other Jews who thought that building Israel was a matter for the whole nation and not only the Zionists. The treasury arm, Karen Hayesod, called on all Jews to help, as they needed a lot of people to do the actual work.
There were different ways of fundraising. To fill up the "blue box" of the Karen Kayemet there were appeals at weddings and other parties to raise money. Bonds were sold in the synagogues at the end of Yom Kippur, flowers were sold at memorials and on holidays like Lag BaOmer. There were visits to the homes of donors and organizing parties. All the revenues went to the Hebrew school in town or to various Zionist funds. The parties were a combination of fun and work. They also gave the youth an opportunity to socialize and dance. On Hanukah and Purim there was a collection of cakes, wines, and little trinkets; later they were sold or raffled. These, with selling tickets, were the main source of income. There were some expenses, obviously, but usually there was enough left over to support the cause. These events kept the party activists busy.
In between the two Zionist groups (HaShomer and Ha 'Chaloutz) was the Zionism Klalyim. It had the privilege of having two new members transplants who came to live in town and were extremely active. Both eventually went to Israel to live. One was Yaakov Krashez (who has died) and the other, Dr. Leon (Yehuda) Mensh.
Yaakov came as the son-in-law of Yipel Ekerling. He was tall and handsome. He knew perfect Hebrew, which was quite rare at the time. He also spoke English and was learning Arabic as preparation for his move to Israel. He was very active in town for eight or ten years and then made Aliyah around 1930. He first opened a restaurant in Tel Aviv but was not successful. Then he moved to Netanya and worked as a clerk. He died quite young.
Dr. Leon Mensh came to Horodenka as a young and talented lawyer, the son-in-law of Dr. Kanafas. He became a real leader and it was a new development to have people with academic degrees involved with the rest of us.
He was born in Lvov in 1890 and there attended law school. He studied with Professor Stanislav Gavsky, who was a fierce anti-semite. So Dr. Mench, in protest, moved to the University of Krakov. He became a doctor of Law at Prague University.
From his early childhood, he was involved with several Zionist movements: Zion Youth in Lvov with Dr. Biker, Hakoach, and the academic group, Emunah, which revolved around Jewish culture. This group also practiced fencing for self-defense. In 1913, he was among the founders and instructors of the Jewish Legion in Lvov that was supported by the Austrian Army and had around 250 Jewish youth. The purpose of this organization was to help with the war against Russia that was already on the horizon, but the latent purpose was a Jewish self-defense force.
In the nine years of his stay in our town, Dr. Mensh developed many activities. He was the chair of the Zionist Klalyim and was the chair of the Jewish group in the local government that had 18 members. He also founded the Jewish Cooperative Bank and helped establish the Jewish merchant organization. In 1935, he moved to Israel with his wife and lived in Kvizat Shiller. He still lives there today and is very active as usual. He also developed painting as a hobby. During World War II and the years after, despite his age, he volunteered successfully for the Israeli Defense Force.
Between the two wars from 1919 to 1939, 250 people from Horodenka moved to Israel. Naturally, those were the ones who were very active in the Zionist movement. Even after they left, there was no lack of Zionist activity; other young people came to do the work. The ten years before the Holocaust were years of blossoming activity that our town had never had before. Gordonia had hundreds of boys and girls and Hitachdut was also very active (for older youth). The leaders of the Zionist Klalyim were very talented and devoted. Among them, I remember Mr. Zvi (Hershel) Yiskar, and Dr. Mensh. Attorney Dr. Zalman Lagstyn was active until his death.
Other branches were added, like "the Zionist Y outh." Its members included Kooka Yiskar, Haim (Munya) Yiskar, Reuven Prifer, Zvi Reys and most important Tuvya Korn, the son of the Hebrew teacher Binyamin Korn. Tuvya was the founder of the orphanage in town and died with the young children because he didn't leave the children when the Germans took them to the camps. Beitar (the revisionist group) also had a group in town and Miko (Shmuel) Yager was one of its leaders.
The jewel in the crown of the local Zionist activity was the establishment of Bet Haam in a large building that was purchased from Shamai Bacher. In this way we solved the problem of a suitable place for the different activities. In one building, everything was centralized. This was a major endeavor, in term of money and organization. This demonstrates the positive forces in our town and to where we would have gone if the Germans hadn't killed everyone.
The Hebrew school in town is another amazing chapter of Zionist activity. It was founded in 1907 by a group of parents who felt that there was a need for education in Hebrew and in order to revive Hebrew as a spoken language. Until World War One, the teachers in the school were the Rirachovskies and the kindergarten teacher Zivfa Shertzer. Then came Mr. Hirshfeld followed by Yehuda Goldstein. He was the first one to stay for a while and the students and board of the parents appreciated him very much.
Another teacher at that same time was Yeshuya Izik Becker who had the honor of teaching Hebrew to the Zionist leaders in Carlsbad, where he later was a war refugee.
After World War One, local people who were also good teachers revived the school: Shmuel Greyf, Ila Libster, and Ashe Yungerman. Afterwards, Libster to study chemistry and Yungerman went to Israel. Binyamin Korn then came to live in Horodenka; he was previously a teacher in one of the villages. At the same time there were also Hebrew courses for older people (especially women) taught by Zvi Pomeranz and myself.
Binyamin Korn stayed and taught until the destruction of the town. He was a mild man and couldn't lead the school, so teaching in school was given to younger teachers who came from out of town. From 1930 to 1932 there were two teachers who were later to be well known in Israel: the critic Shimon Y. Pinales (Panveli) and the poet Shimshon Meltzer. After they left to Israel, the poet-teacher Yitzhak-Aryeh Berger came and worked until his death at the hands of the Nazis. He managed to inspire his students to express themselves in beautiful Hebrew in prose arid poetry, and published the work in papers that even got Israel. They attest to the high level of Hebrew in our school. These are the only remnants from our Hebrew school in Horodenka.
Translated by Dalya Yohai
in the evening
Thanks for the end of the day, so dark and gloomy,
As it sneaks and disappears into the night,
Finished with this gray existence
And what am I, to expect anything?
The grandfather's clock is counting its minutes silently
The lamp is eating the last drop of oil
And we, what should we look for in the sun.
If we are left to the mercy of every drunk and whore.
The street is thawing, puddles everywhere
The river flows wide with lots of laughing water
Only the human mouth should be silent.
And why should I believe in false promises
When my shoes are torn and dusty
And my life is passing as fast as lightning.
in the morning
My years are passing as fast as lightning
Every town will swallow me and my shaky steps
And there is no one soul around
Who will listen to my frozen blood and being.
In playgrounds, kids are playing and saying
Thanks to father and mother, waiting for salvation
Their singing goes to the heavens
And disappears like their youth.
Every throat is in danger
And the poison is everywhere
My brothers in their exile are degenerating.
Poverty is like a tree with many branches.
There is no hope for our generations
And every prayer says: some dark bread please,
And nobody knows if the cry for help will help.
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