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[Pages 51-52]

My Uncle, Rabbi Y. I. Avida

(“El. Zet.” – Yehuda Lajb Zlotnik)

by Ruhama Shnir (Zlotnik)

The article was published in "Davar" 12.11.1962

The writer, a niece of Rabbi Avida, who was brought up in her late father's house, regards him as a great personality. His life was dedicated to Jewish education and Zionism. He was a well known public speaker whose speeches always made a lasting impression on his audiences. After the First World War he settled in Canada, and later on went to South Africa, where he founded Hebrew schools and a Hebrew Teachers Seminary.

Mrs. Snir met her uncle again after 23 years, when he visited Eretz Israel in the forties. It was then that he decided to come to Israel, but his plans were realized only after the establishment of the State, when he moved to Jerusalem. He was happy to spend the last years of his life in the eternal city.

Rabbi Avida translated "Ecclesiastes" into Yiddish. He was an outstanding intellectual, whose achievements in the sphere of Zionism and Jewish education in many countries were of great importance.

[Page 52]

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Avida (Zlotnik)

by Dr. Nechemia Aloni

Article published in "Haaretz" 23.10.1962

Rabbi Y. L. Avida's life-work spread over many countries: Poland, Canada, South Africa and Israel; and many spheres: Zionist education, the Keren Kayemet, Jewish folklore research and journalism. He wrote three books on legal Talmudic subjects and many articles on Jewish folklore. While in Canada and South Africa he acquired an excellent knowledge of English and French and published several poems in English. He was devoted to Yiddish and a Soviet scholar called him "a rabbi, who is also a Yiddish language scholar".

Rabbi Avida spent his last years in Jerusalem. He was beloved by all who knew him in the Diaspora and in Israel.

[Page 52]

Alfred Blei, the Last Chairman

by Meir (Michael) Koenigsberg

A tribute to the personality of Alfred Blei, who in the pre-war years was for a long time active in the Jewish Community. Being one of the few survivors of the holocaust, he returned home after the liberation and in spite of his age (he was 70 at the time) dedicated himself to reconstruction work. He headed a small group of survivors who cooperated with him until his death in 1958.

In the pre-war years he used to divide his time between his business activities and social obligations to which he devoted most of his energy. At the age of 60, Alfred Blei divided his property between his employees, retaining for himself only a modest income. Integrity, modesty, devotion to public causes, constant readiness to help the needy and to intervene whenever and wherever it was needed, tolerance and nobility, these were the outstanding characteristics of the unforgettable Alfred Blei, who was, unfortunately, destined to serve as the last Chairman of the Jewish Committee in Plotzk.

In the post-war years he made great efforts to locate Plotzk-born survivors and served, as the author puts it, as the "Post Office Box" of Plotzk-born Jews.

The Polish Government nominated him as a member of a Special Court for the Warsaw region which tried cases of Nazi murderers.

This article contains many biographical data on Alfred Blei, his communal activities, business relations and personality.

[Page 53]

Zysze Landau

by Melech Rawicz

Zysze Landau was born in 1889 and emigrated to the U. S. A. in 1906 where he made a name for himself as a Yiddish poet, and where he published an anthology on "Yiddish Poetry in America till 1919". First he earned his living as a home painter, but when he became sick and unfit for physical work he switched to an advertising job.

Landau opposed the trend of Yiddish poetry at that time, which was influenced by political motivations, advocating instead pure-art poetry. He was very devoted to his fellow-poets and assisted them as much as he could in publishing their works.

He died of a heart-attack at the early age of 48.

[Pages 53-54]

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Drawing by Yaacov Guterman

Memories of My Father’s Home

by Eliyahu Eisenberg

The author, who is the son of David Eisenberg, the popular Hebrew teacher and scholar of Plotzk, describes in his memoirs the Jewish life of Plotzk during a period of 20 years (1920-1940), as seen through the eyes of a young boy and member of a Zionist youth-movement.

The late Prof. Eisenberg devoted his energies to the spreading of Hebrew and Jewish knowledge among the Jewish youth of the town and their education in the spirit of Zionism. As a Hebrew teacher in the Jewish Secondary School of Plotzk he fought the prevailing tendencies to minimize the teaching of these subjects, but did not always succeed. After a valiant struggle for his ideas which were opposed by factors which did not appreciate sufficiently the importance of the teaching of Jewish subjects, he had to resign his post and moved to another locality, where he continued his pedagogical activities.

The author describes the foundation and closing of the "Gymnasium" (the local Jewish secondary school) and pays tribute to this institution which had an outstanding influence on the spiritual life of the town's younger pro-Zionist generation.

The first group of scouts, "Hashomer Hatzair", originated in that school. Mr. Eisenberg devotes part of his article to the developments which took place in the above youth-movement until it became a left-wing radical movement. After leaving the movement, under the influence of his father, he found his way to a then newly established Zionist youth organization, "Akiba", which adhered to the traditional way of life and endeavored to disseminate Hebrew language and culture.

The memories describe the author's early boyhood-years in his grandfather's house near Plotzk. His grandfather was a "Feldscher" (medical practitioner without diploma). The way he entered his profession throws light on the pattern of life in Jewish towns in Poland in the second half of the 19th century.

The way of life of the author's family at the outskirts of Plotzk where "Jewish islands" existed in a purely Christian neighborhood - is lovingly described.

Although Jewish children suffered sometimes from the Christian boys of their age, the general relations between Jews and Gentiles were quite satisfactory. The landscape and childhood experiences in the gardens and on the lawns of those non-Jewish suburbs of the town, including the Convent of the Mariavits, also find mention.

The author remembers several friends of his father who were active in the sphere of Hebrew teaching, and describes their influence.

The last part of this article deals with the panic and helplessness of all Polish citizens and especially of the Jews during the first stages of the war (September 1939). The author and his parents fled from town in order to escape the invading Nazi armies, but had to return later on to Nazi-occupied Plotzk.

[Page 55]

Political Parties, Youth Movements, Zionist Funds

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Drawing by Yaacov Guterman

Four Friends and their Spiritual World

by Moshe Rubin

The author of this article, chairman of the "Plotzker Association of Israel" pays tribute to four young people, aged 17, (Itzhak Rubin, A. L. Perlmuter, Z. Baran, Z. H. Krook) who published, in the years of the First World War, a Yiddish periodical "Di Shvere Zeit" (Hard Times), which included articles, poetry, drawings, etc.

Mr. Rubin tells us details of the biographies of those four friends who were, about 50 years ago, "carriers of the banner of culture and art" in Plotzk. He quotes a fragment of a Yiddish poem, published in that periodical, dealing with the tragedy of Jews who fight and die for the countries of their residence, yet their sacrifice is not appreciated.

[Page 55]

“Agudat Zion”

Zionism in Plotzk was always influenced by the great Zionist leader Yitzhak Grinbaum, one of the founders of the local "Hazamir" library, where cultural and Zionist work was carried out in the years preceding the First World War. The Zionists in Plotzk named their organization "Agudat-Zion" (Zion Association). It raised money for the Zionist funds, arranged national celebrations, propaganda tours and election campaigns to the Jewish communal organs.

Other activities included yearly "bazaars", whose proceeds were handed over to the Keren Kayemet.

In 1934, when the General Zionist Organization was split into two groups (General Zionists "A" and "B") the Plotzk branch remained faithful to its beloved and popular leader, Yitzhak Grinbaum. As a result of that split, the "Hanoar Hazioni A" and "Akiba" youth-organizations were set up.

"Agudat Zion was often visited by representatives of the National Executive of the Zionist Organization in Warsaw. It took part in all national gatherings, conferences and campaigns of the Z. O.

[Pages 55-56]

“Keren Kayemet” Activities

The Plotzk "Keren Kayemet" Committee was composed of representatives of all Zionist factions, under the presidency of Dr. Itzhak Feinberg and Azriel Kowalski as representatives of the Central Committee. The year 1931 was proclaimed as an anniversary year (50 years since the "Hibbat Zion" movement and 30 years since the Keren Kayemet were founded). The town was divided into zones and the local youth in the form of a "Gdud Keren Kayemet" went from door to door to collect money for the National Fund.

Its most popular source of income was the "Blue Box". Youth movement members installed these boxes in almost every Jewish house where it symbolized the link between the Jewish family and the upbuilding of the National Home in Eretz Israel.

The 1931 anniversary year was outstanding as regards the sums collected and the positive response of Plotzk Jewry.

Keren Kayemet continued its fundraising until the outbreak of World War II. Its last successful drive took place in May 1939, when Wizo ran a K. K. L. bazaar. Nobody knew then that this would be the last K. K. L. function in Plotzk.

[Page 56]

“Zeirei Zion”

This faction, affiliated to the Zionist Workers movement, was established in Plotzk just after the First World War. Its members were active for Zionism by raising money for the Keren Kayemet (in which it distinguished itself), organizing festivals and helping those immigrating to Eretz Israel.

Fishl Fliderblum, one of the leaders of this movement, served as the last Jewish Community chairman and was elected a delegate to the last pre-war Zionist congress, which took place in Switzerland.

Zeirei Zion eventually united with "Right Poalei Zion" and other smaller groups and together formed the "United Party", (equivalent to Mapai of Israel).

[Pages 56-57]

The Agricultural Farm of Moshe Krakowski

by E. E.

An agricultural farm owned by Moshe Krakowski existed in Plotzk for 20 years prior to World War II. – Krakowski was born in a village near Izbica and at the age of 36, in 1918, acquired a farm in Milodroz, about 12 kms from Plotzk. He, his wife and children devoted all their energy to restoring the farm and within a few years, the Krakowski farm became an example. The Polish peasants had always regarded Jews as traders in flour or agricultural produce, but had never known Jewish farmers, who own and cultivate their land. Hence Krakowski was at first looked upon as someone unusual, but later the gentiles got used to the fact and held the new cultivation methods of this Jewish farming family in high esteem.

Krakowski's place was used as a "Hachshara" (Training Farm) for Jewish youth preparing for Aliya to Eretz Israel. Many pioneers of various youth-organizations worked on that farm. The Jews of Plotzk were proud of its existence, which was proof that Jews were able to do agricultural work, and do it well.

The Krakowski family's desire was to establish a new agricultural settlement in Israel, which would absorb immigrants from Plotzk. Only one of the families - Tuvia - managed to go to Israel and he is now a member of Kibbutz Merhavya in the Yizrael Valley.

[Page 57]

“Hachshara” Kibbutz
by the Name of “Borochow”

by Fishl Fliderblum

A translation of an article, published in January 1936, in a Yiddish periodical called "Dos Plotzker Wort". The author gives a short history of the kibbutz which served as a training center for Jewish boys and girls prior to their Alyia (immigration to Eretz Israel) to Eretz Israel. At "Hachshara" they were trained to accustom themselves to physical work and to Kibbutz life.

They were trained in various branches of manual labor (at a saw-mill, oil factory, tannery, etc.) and in spite of the fact that most of them came from well-to-do families, they were always happy and satisfied with their way of life. They were idealistic and saw themselves as pioneers of great Jewish masses who would follow them to Israel where they would turn into workers and farmers.

The author describes the daily way of life of these youngsters. Their hard work and the nature of their leisure hours: reading and exchanging views on their future life as pioneers in Israel.

He concludes by demanding that the Jewish public of Plotzk help the "Hachshara" center, since it contributed so much both to Zionism and to the preparation of pioneering immigrants to the Land of Israel.

[Page 57]

Hehalutz, Hehalutz Hatzair and Hapoel

by Y. Rosenblum

The first group of "Hehalutz" began its activities in our town in 1923. The organizers made it clear that the real aim of this new organization was the "Alyia" (immigration to Eretz Israel) of its members and manual labor in Eretz Israel. In spite of the fact that the orthodox circles in town opposed this newly-established group, the number of the "Halutzim" (pioneers) grew from year to year and the local branch of "Hehalutz" became a center of various Zionist activities.

While the "Hehalutz" organization consisted of young people over the age of 18, who were preparing to go to Eretz Israel, its sister-organization "Hehalutz Hatzair" (The Young Pioneer) had as members younger boys and girls. This last-mentioned organization prepared the youth for their future life as pioneers and concentrated on cultural activities (teaching of Hebrew, history of Zionism and the Jewish Workers' movement, etc.).

In 1931 a "kibbutz" was established in Plotzk by two young boys (Benzion Altman and Aron Bricker) who were delegated for that purpose by the Central Committee of the organization. A year earlier two young men from Eretz Israel came to town and exerted a great influence on the younger generation there.

In the thirties many young boys and girls left town for Eretz Israel where most of them lived as pioneers, either in kibbutzim or in other forms of settlement. The number of "Alyia" candidates constantly increased until the outbreak of the Second World War.

The young pioneers of Plotzk who did not succeed in reaching Israel (then under British Mandatory Government) were murdered, like so many others, by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Among other sports organizations there existed in the thirties a local branch of "Hapoel", affiliated to the central organization of this name. All sorts of sport activities were carried out by "Hapoel" football, ping-pong (table-tennis), athletics, physical exercises, gymnastics and bicycle-riding.

This organization was established in 1931. Its members distinguished themselves especially in football and some of them were members of the regional team.

Thanks to the devotion of some of the founders and sponsors of this and other sports organizations (like "Maccabi", "Stern" and "Morgenstern"), various spheres of sport became popular among Jewish boys and girls in town. Their activities made the Jewish public proud of their younger generation.

Like others, most of these Jewish young sportsmen and sportswomen perished in the years 1939-1945.

[Page 58]

“Mizrahi” Movement

A branch of the Zionist-religious movement "Mizrahi, was founded in Plotzk after the first world war. It distinguished itself primarily in its devoted work for the National Fund and in popularizing Zionist ideas among the religious segment of the community, in synagogues, etc. The first Hebrew kindergarten in Plotzk was founded through the initiative and with the help of that movement.

"Mizrahi" members cooperated with other Zionist groups and had considerable influence in town. In 1937 two of their representatives were elected to the Kehila Council.

The author regrets that lack of material on this subject does not enable him to publish a more detailed report on that movement. Very few "Mizrahi" members succeeded to come to Israel in time and even fewer survived the Holocaust.

Among its founders: Jakob Aszkenazi, Szlomo Wilenski, Abraham Flaks. Jeszayahu Muszkat, Reuwen Kanarek, Herszel Majranc, Efraim Dawid Elberg, Jechiel Wosulk, Szlomo Rozen.

[Page 59]

“Herzlia” Association

by Moshe Rubin

The author was one of the founders of the youth organization "Herzlia". In 1918 several members of "Hashomer Hatzair" left that movement, because it had turned, in their opinion, into a political party, and consequently founded "Herzlia".

"Herzlia" developed educational activities in Plotzk, organized Hebrew courses and trained its members to become devoted Zionists and go on Alyia.

The development period of the organization continued till 1922, when most of its leaders left Plotzk. Despite its relatively short existence, "Herzlia" played an important role in the Zionist education of the young Jewish generation in that period.

[Page 59]

“Poalei Zion” (Left)

by Bezalel Okolica

A branch of the "Poalei Zion" movement was founded in Plotzk in 1904. After the Russian revolution of 1905 its activities were outlawed by the Czarist police, and "Poalei Zion" members went underground. Only after the First World War and the establishment of the Polish State, did the movement succeed in founding branches in almost every town and township, as also in Plotzk.

"Poalei Zion" took an active part in the elections of the Jewish community, the municipality and the Parliament. They also established evening courses for workers and organized them in trade unions, which were responsible for strikes in several workshops, as a result of which the employers had to pay higher wages.

A dramatic circle and a sports club named "Stern" (Star) were established in 1925.

"Poalei Zion" members distinguished themselves in their bitter fight against anti-Semitism in the pre-war years and as anti-Nazi fighters during the war. Some of them survived and live today in Israel, but the majority perished with the whole community during the holocaust.

Members mentioned: Chaim Makowski, Olesznik, Lamaniec, Zilberstein, Czok, Ostrower, Kowal, Cukier, Josef Malanek, Sendzen Wint, Magner, Okalica.

[Pages 59-60]

The “Freiheit” Movement

by Dov Shahari

Two small groups of young Zionists-Socialists, one from Wloclawek and the second from Plotzk met in May 1926 and founded jointly the youth movement called - "Freiheit" (Freedom), which comprised mainly Yiddish speaking Jewish youth of the working classes.

The author describes how study-groups and summer-camps were organized, the first of which took place in a village near Plotzk in 1929. That camp was attended by Zeev Sherf as a representative of the Central Committee in Warsaw.
Several young boys distinguished themselves in leading the movement, especially Fishl Fliderblum, who helped those youth groups in many ways. He was elected member of the Plotzk Municipal Committee and served as the last Chairman of the Jewish Kehila before the holocaust.

Some members of the "Freiheit, organization immigrated to Israel both legally with immigration certificates and illegally on "Maapilim" ships. The last of its members arrived in Haifa in September 1939.

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