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[Page 40]

Between the Two World Wars: 1914-1939


Translations by Don Shifris and Scott Shifres

[Page 44]

In the first few months the military authorities would capture people and put them to work, cutting wood, peeling potatoes, etc. The police/gendarmerie also arrested people suspected as communists. They arrested Shimshon Albensky, Issac's brother, and accused him of belonging to the communist party, and also R' Zisel Futter the owner of the writing supplies store, accusing him of communist propaganda, after they found in his store copies of Russian newspapers he used as wrapping paper. R' Zisel Futter rotted in jail for a long time together with many other Belorusian peasants who were accused with communism or with membership in the Belorusian Nationalist Movement.

In the meantime life started to go back to normal. Commerce resumed, the economic situation improved, even though large sectors still needed help. Ties with the United States were renewed and many of the city’s inhabitants started to receive aid from their relatives in the USA. International aid organizations started to operate in town and established a kitchen for needy children. Every day they received a cup of cocoa made from preserved milk and cooked beans, to improve the diet that was very poor in the wartime. Public life in the city started to develop slowly. The Zionist party representatives reappeared in town: Yoel Rozovsky, Baruch Shmoshkovitz, Dov (Boris) Meizel, who were active in charitable organizations together with activists Aharon Goldin, Pinchas Bumshtein, and Benyamin Isenbud. Some old activists were also back at work headed by R' Damta, R' Yerachmiel Borgman, and others from the B'aley Melacha company, Moshe Lachovitzky, Mordechai David Alperovitch, Shmuel Kravitz and others.

The leftist parties, Bund (Association), and the Poalie Zion (Workers of Zion) stopped their activities because many of their members and activists turned to Russia. The remaining ones limited their activities to helping the existence and development of the Yiddish elementary school. Among these activists were Leyble Isenbud, Moshe Arka Shkolnik, Avraham Eliahoo Liberman and Golda Helperin.

The Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion) Association continued to operate and maintained the public library and the Chelnov Hebrew school. Among its activists were Benyamin Isenbud, Zalman Shifres, Moshe Melnik, Moshe Rabinovitz, Benyamin Yablevsky (Yoeli), Avraham Tzudik, Elisheva Kaplan-Eshkol, Moshe Shteinhoise Ben Artzi, Lipa Brouda (Levi Ben Amitai), Shmuel Isenshtat, Yakov Androsiear,Aharon Heler, and others.

In the same period was also established the Va'ad: the Hebrew Community Committee association - the central body for the management of public, cultural and social affairs, who greatly influenced the Jews of the village. It also represented them in dealing with the authorities. The Va'ad was established with the influence of the Zionist activists who exerted great influence in the city. They wanted to establish a body based on democratic principles, that would be elected and organize all areas of public life under public supervision.

At the end of 1919 they established an election committee composed of representatives of public and political organizations, and in the beginning of 1920 the elections took place. The elections were purely democratic. It was a general, direct, equal, relative, and confidential election. Everyone from 20 years and over had the right to vote regardless of gender. The main organizers of the elections were the activists Yoel Rozovsky, Benyamin Isenbud, Aharon Goldin, and Boris Miezel.

The Polish military authorities gave the license for the election and did not interfere in its implementation. Many parties appeared on the ballots: General Zionists, Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion), Poalie Zedek (Workers of Justice), Glorious fellows, Mizrachi (Religious Zionist Movement), and groups from various synagogues. Only the “leftists” who concentrated around the Yiddish school did not participated in the elections. The propaganda and participation were very brisk. In the election to the Va'ad (community council) 23 members were elected. From the General Zionists: Yoel Rozovsky, Meisel and others. From Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion): Benyamin Isenbud, Rabinovitch, Shifres, Yavlevsky (Yoeli). From Poalie Zedek (Workers of Justice): Alperovitch. From the old synagogue: Rabbi R' Yerachmiel Borgman, from the “Mizrachi” Rabbi Itzhak Davidovsky. From De'kozimir synagogue: Rabbi Burgansky. From the De'chasidim school: Rabbi Yochanan Melovitzky, who later became the ADMOR (venerative abbreviation for Rebbe) from Belchovitz. From the merchants: Aharon Goldin, Mendelavitz. From Tiferet Bachurim (Glorious Fellows): Yehoshuah Bashinkevitz and others.

In its very first meeting the assembly elected Yoel Rozovsky as chairman. Also were elected chairmen for the charity, finance and control committees. The Jewish public showed interest in the meetings of the committee and many were present in them. The protocol of the meetings as well as the accountings were all conducted in Hebrew.

The community council took under its wings all existing social and educational institutions, which were “Talmud Torah” (Torah school), public bath, guest hostel, charity organizations, and public restrooms. A nominal tax was collected from the citizens, who paid it willingly. The council contacted the organization of past citizens of the city and asked for assistance for those organizations and members of the community who were in need. Indeed, the organization of past citizens of Nesvizh in New York replied immediately by sending a delegation of two, Dr. Mogilansky and Landa with a substantial amount of money to help the needy organizations as well as Passover help for the poor.

The incidents with the Arabs in Eretz Israel in Tel-Chai and the pogroms in Jerusalem during Passover of 1920 gave an incentive for Aliyah to Eretz Israel. The Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion) organization established a group of pioneers, and an immigration committee was elected to organize and keep communication with the district Aliyah office in Minsk. Members of the committee were: Hirsh Nata Isenbud, a veteran Zionist who visited Eretz Israel before the war, Yoel Rosovsky, Benyamin Isenbud, Zalman Shifres, Benyamin Yabelsky (Yoeli) and Moshe Shteinhoise - Ben Artzi. The pioneers decided to make Aliyah before the city fell into the hands of the Soviets.

In the meantime, some changes occurred in the front, and the Polish army, which was pushing east and reached Bobroisk, was defeated by the Soviet army and started to retreat west.

The next day, on the 20th of Tammuz (July 6, 1920), in the yard of Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion) club many attended a farewell ceremony to the pioneers. Family members, members of the movement and members of the immigration committee including the delegation from America, Dr. Mogilansky and Landa. After the speeches and blessings the group departed to Warsaw by wagon (because of the retreat of the Polish army, there were no trains).

This is the list of pioneers who departed on that date: 1. Sarah Lea Angelovitch 2. Shraga (Faivell) Levin 3. Moshe Menker 4. Shaul Mekler 5. Yosef Sirota 6. Mordechai Karpech 7. Yosef Kirzner 8. Meir Shabat 9. Moshe Ben Artzi Shteinhoise 10. Zalman Shifres 11. Elisheva Kaplan Eshkol 12. Lipa Bravda (Levi Ben Amitai) 13. Yakov Rabinovitz . The last three went to live in neighboring villages before their departure for Israel and joined the group in Bernovitch.

Immediately after the pioneers departed, the Polish army started its weeklong retreat through the city. In these few days the Jewish population experienced horrors and untold nightmare. The retreating Polish solders would go into the homes pillaging and looting everything of value. They took jewelry off of women, looking through closets for more valuables. Stores were closed because of fear of looting, but the solders were breaking in and devastating them.

There was a Jewish victim to all of this, the hat-maker Eliyahu Kirzner who was shot and killed in his home while resisting a robbery. Great courage and self-sacrifice during those horrible days showed also Yoel Rosovsky, the chairman of the community council who ran to the police every time there was a danger or looting and prompted them to come at once to the place of the crime. He mostly succeeded because of the heavy bribes he paid. He had to use the money sent from America and intended for helping the poor.

[Page 48]

Teacher's committee of the Hebrew school named after Chelnov-in the first year of its existence
Seated from right to left: Meir Barsock, Malchovsky Yehuda, Obsey Bashenkevitz, Sonia Vaselovsky, Baruch Shmoshkovitz, Moshe Melnik (principal), Kindergarten teacher, Moshe Rabinovitch, Zalman Shifres, Moshe Tzudik
Standing on right: Benyamin Yablavsky Yoeli
On the left: Eliezer Shabat


A group of pioneers before its departure to Israel in 1920 with the “Aliyah Committee”
Inscribed on the flag: “To the youth of Eretz-Israel congratulations from the youth of the Diaspora”
In the first row (from left to right): Yosef Sirota, Sarah Lea Angelovich, Elisheva Kaplan Eshkol, Meir Shabat
In the second row: Mordechai Kerpach, Beniamin Yavlevsky Yoeli, Benyamin Isenbud, Hirsh Neta Isenbud, Yoel Rosovsky, Zalman Shifres, Moshe Shteinhoise Ben Artzi
Third row: Itzchak Klatzki, Avigad Lipovsky, Meir Chachanovitz, Yosef Kirzner, Yakov Androside, Shraga Levin, Moshe Menker, Shaul Mekler, Nechemya Isenbud

(photo: Payans)

[Page 49]

A group of pioneers from Nesvizh in the first year of their arrival to Eretz Israel, in the Moshava Rehovot
First row: 2. Sarah Leah Angelovitch 3. Aharonov Horodzey 4. Tziporah Melovitzkey Bat-Ami (Lachovitch) 5. Mekler Shaul
Second row: 3. Moshe Shteinhoise Ben-Artzi 4. Elisheva Kaplan Eshkol 5.Yosef Kirzner 6. Meir Shabat 7. Yosef Sirota
Third row: 2. Zalman Shifres 3. Faibel Levin 4. Levi Ben Amitai


Because of the British ban on immigration after the pogroms in Jaffa in 1921and the establishment of very small quotas for immigration of pioneers (laborers) chances for Aliyah were very slim. Only pioneers who were approved for Aliyah by the office in Warsaw with the recommendation of the Zionist organization, or the Pioneer movement, were lucky enough to immigrate. Also those who received a request from a relative already in Eretz Israel were allowed to immigrate. The certificates for Aliyah were given very scarcely, and every year only few pioneers from the city were approved. Most of them stayed in preparatory Kibbutzim for a year or two before being approved.

Unfortunately, the middle class and professionals, who were eligible for certificates if they could prove they had a small fortune of 500 to 1000 Lira Sterling, mostly did not use their privilege. Only Nachum Chechnovitch, an owner of a grocery store in the market, liquidated his business and made Aliyah with his family during the period of the Grabsky emigration to Palestine, because he could not bare the heavy tax burden. He and his wife Rivkah lived well in Ramat-Gan and later received newcomers and pioneers from their city and gave them help and support in their first days in the land.

In 1925 the stream of Aliyah increased. The Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion) organization established the Chalutz (the Pioneer movement) chapter to train its members for Aliyah. A training kibbutz was established in a sawmill. This kibbutz included some local members of the Chalutz as well as members from other cities. It grew and developed after a while. Every member of the Chalutz was obligated to work over a year in training in order to be approved for Aliyah. But because the small number of certificates approved by the British, very few could actually go to Eretz Israel. The pioneers tried to circumvent this decree by fictitious marriages that made it possible for two to immigrate on one certificate or by using tourist's visas and then staying in the country illegally. In the Second Illegal Aliyah immigrated the family of Shimon Gavrielov. Among the first in the Second Aliyah in the ship named “Velus” was Yehoshua Pochovsky z”l (may his memory be for a blessing), who was among the five who died in Kiryat Anavim, and after them the group was named “Ma'aleh Hachamisha” (a kibbutz near Jerusalem). Some of the pioneers were able to get to shore, but because of the danger of being captured by the British navy, the ship sailed for three months in the open sea. The pioneers including Pochovsky were returned to Warsaw, and from there they attempted to immigrate with certificates.

In 1933 an organization of adult professionals up to 35 years of age was established. It was called “Ha'oved” (the worker) and was an enterprise of the workers of Zion party. It operated under the center of the Chalutz movement and dealt with immigration of older members. The chapter numbered as many as 30 members, of which only few were able to immigrate (Benyamin Yablevsky-Yoeli, Alperovitch Yehudah) during the years 1934-1935.

Over the years, various Zionist youth associations were established from all segments of the community:  Hapoel HaMizrachi (The Mizrachi Workers), Hachalutz Hadati (The Religious Pioneer), Hashomer Hatsa'ir (The Young Guard), Gordonia, Betar, Hachalutz (The Pioneer), Hachalutz Haclal-Zioni (The Pan-Zionist Pioneer), VIZO Hatze'ira (Young Women's WIZO), Freiheit (Freedom), Freier Skout (Free Scouts).  Among the adult Zionist organizations were Zeirei Zion (Zionist Youth) which later was called Poalei Zion, Z. S. (possibly Zionist Socialists), General Zionists and (one illegible) and WIZO.


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