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Gordonia – Rovno's Branch and its Direction

by David Rosenthal

Translation by Naomi Gal

As if through fog I can still see that small, square room, the office of the JNF on Klashtorna Street in Rovno, where on a winter night at the end of 1928 a few dozen young men and women convened for the lecture of Menahem Gilerter, Tarbut teacher and one of the activists of the Zionist Labor Party Hitahdut. The subject was “A.D. Gordon and his Legacy”. It was not a coincidental lecture about a Zionist subject by an outstanding Labor Party personality, but an intentional act of Rovno's Hitahdut, which back then was headed by Yohanan Levin, Leiv Spielberg, Menahem Gilerter, Eliyahu Lerner and other activists. They took it upon themselves to renew Rovno's Gordonia – a youth movement named after A.D. Gordon, whose ideas inspired many youngsters in Poland and Galicia. The organization elements that directed the party to this educational goal were many and ran deep. Hitahdut aspired to educate the adolescents in its ideals, and so had to find the way to the youth's heart, free them from other parties' influence, and share with them the Zionist yoke.

Rovno had the right conditions for this mission and founded a Gordonia branch. Hundreds of young men and women were looking for a purpose. Many dangers lurked for them in the streets of rootless politicization, foreign and extremist, which some of the youth embraced already, and while searching, were in a maze of dangerously futile ideas. Facing this situation, it is no wonder that on that same evening, after the lecture on A. D. Gordon, it was proposed to solicit members into Gordonia and most of the youngsters enlisted and a council was elected, whose members were: Moshe Bat, Dov Rosenthal, Itzhak Bley, Haim Gemer and Meir Bezroushka. Not long after, Gordonia's Lodge was established, roles were delegated and more youth enlisted.

A new direction was instilled in the lives of the members who joined the lodge. The leadership began to recruit among the local youth, new members joined, and after two months the branch had more than hundred members from different levels and ages.

At the time there were two youth–unions in Rovno: Hashomer–Hatzair and Freiheit. Hashomer–Hatzair had most of Tarbut Gymnasium's students and students from other schools, while “Freiheit”, which was being organized, had the sons of the working–class in the city. Indeed, most of the youth were free from any dogma and had no ideological influence from any political movement. This youth spent its time doing nothing, roaming the streets or in Gorkis Garden and in the evenings sitting at coffeehouses. A few of them used to come to “Biet–Haam” in Braker House, where the Chalutz Merkazi was active, meeting partisans and messengers from the centers and Eretz–Israel. On Sabbat's evenings conversations and free discussions were held there about Zionist's way in the diaspora, about achieving Zionism in Israel and the reality of life there. Those discussions, in which participated representatives from all the unions, were often quite animated. After the discussions they had a recess and different games, and so the varied content of these evenings in “Biet–Haam” attracted the youth to Zionist and its cultural atmosphere.

When JNF Hall was too small to contain Gordonia's members, they rented a bigger hall in the city's center. The leadership of the branch faced serious questions: what kind of education would be given to the dozens and hundreds of young men and women who were knocking on the branch's doors? What

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Gordonia's Branches Conference in Rovno – 1930

 

kind of organization would be the most efficient for the youth and what should be its ideological content? What is the special way in which the members' information should be delivered? These questions surfaced in the first days and an unclear situation was created, which lasted for months, until a member from Lodz Center arrived.

As a result of this visit the members of the branch were split to three levels: “Magshimin” (“Fulfillers”), Mitorerim” (“Wakenings”), “Zofim” (“Scouts”). The levels were according to age and that is how the content and the format of the educational–learning activities were given for each one of them.

And what was the content and the spirit of the educational activity?

Gordonia had from the beginning, an independent, spiritual profile; its ideology was simple and clear and was directed to education and the implementing of working Zionism. This idea served as a role and a concrete foundation and on that basis was erected the structure of the movement's ideas and essence.

At first, we dedicated ourselves to analyzing A.D. Gordon's writings, from which we drew principles of our world–view; these served as the spiritual base on which our movement grew. All the values of the writings were – to direct thoughts to humanitarian and social problems in the Jewish reality, and from there to the ways of accomplishing Zionism in Eretz–Israel, the final goal being: pioneering and the group. In our group we saw not only a solution to the production question and an answer to the actual problems of pioneer–Zionist attainment, but even more: the way to solve the basic questions of human life, nation and society. The group seemed like a means and an end at the same time and the only way to fulfill the ideals of our movement.

All our time was consecrated to learning, clarifying questions and conversations. We studied the history of socialism from socialist thinkers and then we explored the ideas of the National and Zionist fathers and their interpreters: Hess, Herzl, Ahad–Ha'am. Obviously, the union was not exempt from the yoke of real Zionist requirements,

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and almost all the members, young and old, participated in the national funds activities – JNF and Keren–Hayesod – that took place in the city.

After a productive and blessed year of work at the branch, the leaders begun preparing to leave for training. Leaving for training was taken for granted; it was only natural that they not only preached but were also the first to implement what they told others to do.

The first in–line for training were: Moshe Bat and Dov Rosenthal. They left for Czluchow for their training, back then it was a famous training–facility in Volhynia, this is where they prepared and strengthened their skills anticipating a life of work in Israel. Many members assembled there from pioneers' youth unions from all Volhynia regions. The farewell was very moving; the letters they wrote from their training–facility were read at the branch's meetings and resonated warmly in the hearts of the young and adult members.

Other members began preparing their parents for their next step – leaving for training, once they committed and knew their turn was approaching.

At that time the older members were initiated to the Chalutz Union framework with a few hundred members; graduates of Hashomer–Hatzair and Chalutz–Zair organized in Rovno – they, too, joined Chalutz.

An intensive educational effort was taking place in the Chalutz. The reason: differences of views and disparities of ideas about training, society's structure, the way of the group and the Kibbutz and diverse political concepts, which were expressed in Chalutz's meetings by the members who came from varied movements. Most of the time the friendship was strong and in the actual work of Chalutz no controversies or arguments arose.

Since Chalutz was the last stage for members before leaving for training, many of the evenings in Chalutz were dedicated to farewell parties for the members on the eve of their departures.

In February 1930 the first Gordonia members from Rovno made Aliya – the same members who were the first to pass the training, and in Israel they joined the group in Rehovot, that was then the second of Gordonia in Poland. After them, dozens and dozens of members, men and women, made Aliya and were absorbed in groups in Israel – in Hedera and later in Huldah – and continued to fulfill in their daily life the ideals on which they were educated.

Gordonia's Union in Rovno existed until the last days before the Holocaust, until the moment a malicious and vicious hand was raised to uproot the big and branched tree of tens of thousands of Rovno's Jews, with their thriving and animated lives. From Rovno, a prominent City of Israel, only a silent, cold stone remains: “The Tomb of Rovno's Brothers” and for this, the heart cries and there is no consolation.


Hashomer–Haleumi and Hanoar Hazioni

by Yaakov Zeidel and Zvi Yashiv

Translation by Naomi Gal

The Zionist youth movement, known in its first years of its existence as “Hashomer–Haleumi” (the pure), founded its first branch (“Lodge” as they call it in scout movements) in Rovno in 1929.

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The founders of Hashomer–Haleumi originated from the local Hashomer–Hatzair, which was founded in Rovno at the end of World War I and was in the beginning just a scout union. From 1927 to 1928 it began to lean toward the general policy of the main leadership, meaning, it became left–oriented, and so all those who were loyal to the original direction of the pioneering–scouts started to leave.

In 1929 a group of friends came together, some of them were members of the local leadership of Hashomer–Hatzair Lodge, including some of their followers; they decided to found a lodge that would be loyal to the original pioneering–scouts' concept.

 


Hashomer–Hatzair Regiment

 

One of the reasons for the growing agitation was the Hashomer–Hatzair summer–colony in a village close to Rovno, where the leadership messengers of Hashomer–Hatzair tried to instill the new spirit that prevailed from the center leadership.

At the same time branches of Hashomer–Haleumi were organized in other places of Poland, too, and they got their guidance from the main leadership of Hashomer–Hatzair (the pure) headed by Reuven Fladshow (Ben–Shem), Yaakov Rechtman and others.

The founding meeting of Hashomer–Haleumi Lodge in Rovno was held in Tu Bishvat 1929 in Beit–Ha'am (Braker Hall).

The head of the lodge was Noah Hirik. Members of the lodge leadership were Menahem Langer, Hya Mussman, Yaakov Yanovitz, Sander Mamot, Mordechai Kotel, Zvi Fishbien (Yashiv) and others. The activities in the lodge were similar to those of Hashomer–Hatzair, which they had left.

From the first day the emphasis was on scout action as an element that prepares the youngster

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Hanoar Hazioni (the Zionist Youth) Regiment

 

for the future and develops the necessary characteristics. The first to join the lodge were the students of the Polish, the government, and the private schools. Especially prominent was the participation of the students of the Polish Governmental Gymnasium, who left their imprint on the lodge for a long time and provided most of the guides.

The fact that “Hashomer–Haleumi” was in its beginning a Scout–Zionist organization without political affiliation was a positive influence on the parents' attitude to this lodge.

At that time there were already first signs of the Polish authorities' efforts to assimilate the young generation. In addition to the local Hebrew Gymnasium and the primary schools founded by Tarbut there were primary and high schools where teaching was in Polish. Their Jewish students, under their parents' influence, or per their own choice, were reluctant toward Zionism and were in favor of assimilation.

The founding of Hashomer–Haleumi Lodge was a blow to this tendency, since many of these schools joined the new lodge. It should be remembered that hundreds of Tarbut students were in the majority already “affiliated”, meaning, they belonged to Hashomer–Hatzair.

The lodge began its activities by establishing a guides' seminar to prepare those fit for guiding. In this seminar they made sure the students were provided with basic Zionist information, knowledge of Eretz–Israel, Hebrew, to train them in scouting and give them first lessons in educating youngsters; at the same time, they began to impart the sharing of lodge members (who were called back then “brothers”) in everyday work for JNF. Back then they saw work for the JNF not only as a mean to collect money but also as an important Zionist–Educational element, since while collecting

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money and working for JNF publicity (conferences, exhibitions etc.) the youngsters became closer to Zionism and Israel's problems.

As part of the educational work, summer–colonies were held around the city every year. This was made possible due to tight collaboration with the parents of the lodge members who gladly helped the lodge set up the colonies. In those summer–colonies the members of the lodge of all ages enjoyed their time in a country–scouts' atmosphere and work; participated in running the colony and took care of its functions, which was a prominent educational element.

These summer–colonies, held in different places around Rovno, were in contrast to what back then they called Summer–Day–Camp (“Datshess”), to which the parents came with their children for vacation. The colonies of all the youth movements, including Hashomer–Haleumi Lodge, were a center for Social–Zionist activities, and on July 3 and 4 the summer colonies urged the nearby Jewish Settlements to hold parties and assemblies for Herzl and Bialik's memorials.

The union of Hashomer–Haleumi in Rovno started during its second year as a leader in the Zionist work in the city. Its representatives participated in the direction of JNF and Keren–Hayesod affairs as well as in special efforts, like organizing protest meetings against the Mandatory Rule in Eretz–Israel during the riots of 1929 and 1936, collecting clothes and financially assisting the first refugees who arrived from Nazi Germany, etc.

Beside the Zionist and educational activities in Rovno's lodge, the leadership took upon itself the establishment of branches in Volhynia's towns. A regional leadership was established and its messengers went to the villages to keep organizational contact with the local branches. And after more groups begun leaving Hashomer–Hatzair all over Poland, the Shomer–Leumi united with “Hanoar Haivry” (“The Hebrew Youth”) in Galicia and their name became “Hanoar–Hazioni” (“The Zionist Youth”), a name that stayed till its last day.

 


The Guides of “Maccabee” Regiment of “Hashomer–Haleumi” and “Hanoar–Hazioni”

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A Seminary of “Ze'evim” (“Wolves”) Battalion of “Hashomer–Haleumi”

 

The regional leadership of Hanoar–Hazioni facilitated its work by bypassing the main leadership, which was located in Warsaw, via instructing the new branches in its particular views. The number of Hanoar–Hazioni branches in Volhynia was approximately fifteen and the influence of Rovno's Lodge, which was outstanding in its presentations and activities, on the lodges in the provincial towns was strong.

In 1932, with the lodge guides' initiative, was established a branch for Zionists Academic Union (General–Zionists) that was known as H.A.Z and connected to its center in Lvov. This union served as a framework for other youth, high–school graduates and university students. The nature of its activities was different from the Noar–Zioni Lodge. That organization maintained Zionist Cultural work and contributed to instilling the Zionist idea among academic circles.


Vitkinia

by Itzhak Hendelman and Yosef Levi

Translation by Naomi Gal

This was the youth movement of Hitahdut, the Zionist Labor Party in Poland. One of its first creators was Yosef Levi from Hitahdut's center. In some of Hitahdut branches youth groups were organized who imbibed the party's ideology, in which

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youth who were not absorbed into other youth unions found themselves while searching a base for Zionist activity. The party encouraged these groups because of the need for its own youth movement.

After Poale–Zion–Hitahdut conference in Danzig in 1931, when the two parties were united, Gordonia declared itself as an independent movement but still joined the union. Hitahdut in Poland, which did not accept the union, remained with no youth to continue its line; (if Gordonia would have joined Hitahdut with its 3000 members older then 18, it would have had the majority in Hitahdut and this could have affected the party's position about the union).

From isolated groups and youth circles in Galicia and other regions in Poland the Vitkinia movement was founded in memory of Yosef Vitkin and its principles were: educating for popular–socialism, building the group in the spirit of the Working Eretz–Israel, a campaign for the Hebrew language and Culture and the rest of the ideals of Hitahdut's party. Some of the party activists were especially dedicated to developing Vitkinia and soon it had branches alongside most of Hitahdut's branches. The writer of these words was sent specifically by Hitahdut's Center in Lodz to operate in Lvov – Galicia's center – and had to work in the Chalutz and for Vitkinia. And indeed, Vitkinia quickly grew deep roots.

On July 29 to 30, 1933 the first national conference of Hitahdut's youth took place in Sulow, this was the founding–conference of Vitkinia where the goals of this movement were stated. The conference, which was practical as well as theoretical, declared the movement's direction according to Zeirai–Zion and Hapoel–Hatzair and in the spirit of A. D. Gordon, Y. Vitkin and others and stated that it was part of Hitahdut Party. After the conference, more branches were added to the movement, Rovno's branch being one of them, where later was established a center for Volhynia–Polesie region.

 


A conference of members of Vitkinia and Hitahdut – 1930

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Vitkinia's members, Level C – 1934

 

Rovno had a pre–existing base for Vitkinia's movement. The Rovno branch had between sixty to seventy members from different circles, most of them previously Gordonia members (among them were Levi Sarid, Shmuel Rose, Yaakov Sikoler, Zlata Plosker, Fox, Gilerter, Bagel and others). In the beginning the Rovno branch was busy mainly with culture, but soon an important part of its members left for training with Chalutz and dispersed in the movement's training–centers. The wish to make Aliya and establish there the group grew continually among Rovno's Vitkinia's members.

After a year, on August 11–12, 1934, the second conference of Vitkinia was held in Piotrakov, at the training house of the movement. Rovno's delegates participated in this conference. The main debates were about education, training and Aliya. Among the resolutions were organizational, work for the funds (Keren–Hayesod, JNF and Eretz–Israel Fund), the ideological stand, connections with Chalutz and more. During that time, more training–locations were added to those in Sulow, Piotrakov, Lodz, Kroleswka–Huta, Pevianitz, Tomaszow, Chojny (near Lodz), where the movement's members were training for their Aliya.

Youth from schools and others, who were captivated by the idea of Aliya, begun joining Vitkinia, and by way of Vitkinia they entered “Hitahdut” while absorbing Zionist enthusiasm and deepening national and social consciousness. The number of members grew steadily and in 1936, the year of the riots in Eretz–Israel, their number in the training–locations increased to thousands. Vitkinia's growth and its victories pushed Gordonia to seek uniting with it and for many months it took measures to bridge the gap and find a way to an organic contact with Vitkinia. Pinhas Lubianker (Lavon) was prominent in this action. Meanwhile Vitkinia was preparing to establish the first group in Israel and its members made Aliya

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to fulfill this wish. In the 1935 Unification–Conference a way was found to merge Gordonia with Vitkinia.

Remembered is Vitkinia's assembly that took place in the winter of 1934 in Kramnitz and drew many members from nearby Rovno. The long visit of Gedalia Geler from Eretz–Israel in Rovno and its surroundings strengthened the branches, the members were becoming adults, but there was no lack of stumbling–stones on Vitkinia's road: the enlistments to the Polish Army uprooted active members for a long time, scarcity of Aliya permits and other obstacles disrupted Aliya back then; hence, when World War II broke, many were stuck in Rovno or in Vitkinia's training–centers. However, most of the members did manage to reach Israel, some in a regular way, others in an illegal via–dolorosa during the war and afterwards, and in Israel they were in the beginning in their group in Givat–Ada, and later joined different Gordonia's groups.

For a long while Zippora Goykrach (one of Gordonia's guides) was Vitkinia's guide in the Rovno Branch and its surroundings and was the driving–force till she made Aliya. Many of Vitkinia's successes in Volhynia should be credited to her.


Dror – Freiheit

by Yosef Corech

Translation by Naomi Gal

Alongside the unification of Poale–Zion with Zeirai–Zion, that took place on December 15, 1922, another organization: Socialist–Workers' Youth was founded (Yiddish Socialist Working Youth) in Poland. The right wing of Zeirai–Zion continued to take care of its youth movement, which issued its newsletter “The Young Worker”. Later, when the unified party Poale–Zion – Zeirai–Zion was established in mid–1925, it was only natural that its youth movements would unify too. And indeed, steps were taken and after a year, in June 1926 – the unification of Yiddish Socialist Working Youth with Zeirai–Zion took place and hence, the unified organization was called “Freiheit” (“Freedom”)

The first “Freiheit” conference in Poland was held in Warsaw by the end of 1926 with the participation of delegates from Rovno, most of its youth was organized in youth movements, some in Poale–Zion and others in Zeirai–Zion. When the second conference of Freiheit was held in April 1931, Rovno's branch was an important component. Alongside, a children organization was founded, where the children were educated like scouts in collectivity and pioneering spirit, and when they turned 15–years–old – they were transferred to the youth level of Freiheit and after three years were accepted to the working level of the movement. This is how it was done in Freiheit, not only in Rovno, but all over Poland.

Freiheit participated in the Chalutz, sent its members to training and educated them to life in Eretz–Israel. During the second conference it was decided to enlist the adult members to training before they made Aliya. Also, it helped as much as possible in organizing Young–Chalutz' branches

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and conducted Pioneer–Zionist publicity among the youth. In its propaganda it proved the need to join professional organizations – an idea that was accepted, especially among Rovno's youth.

In 1930, when they were about to hold the International Conference for Working Eretz–Israel in Berlin, Rovno's Freiheit played an important role in the preparations for this conference. It enlisted its members from all levels to distribute the shekel among the city's Jews, it enhanced its activity for JNF and fought in all fronts for the success of Working Eretz–Israel in the elections to the Zionist Congress – and hence, its impact was recognized in Rovno's Zionist circles. In general, Freiheit's part was prominent in Rovno's Zionist activities, and it might be that one of the reasons is the Hebrew–Zionist education its members received in Tarbut's schools. From this stem the special satisfaction derived by the movement from the important decision that was passed in the International Youth Conference, in September 1933 in Prague (at the time of the Eighteen Zionist Congress) to change its name from Freiheit to the Hebrew “Dror” (“freedom”). The name appealed to Rovno's sons' heart.

Dror Movement, which was tied to the international United Poale–Zion and Hitahdut – became an international movement and gained over the years the majority of the adolescents, except for the children's union alongside the movement. Dror's club was on Kovelska Street, next to Austia Creek, and attracted not only the movement's members, but also other youth. They conveyed there every day for activities, discussions and lectures, similar to lodges of Hashomer–Hazair, Gordonia, Zionist Youth and other youth organizations. The club frequenters were educated to pioneering and class' consciousness. From here they left for training, some to Człuchów or to Wroclaw, Krementz, Yanov, Dombrowa and others. The adults' movement's members spent several years in trainings until they passed the “melting pot” and were now in queue for Aliya, as was done back then. It should be mentioned that most of Dror's members in Rovno were sons of working–classes or shopkeepers.

The Polish authorities did not see the movement as “Kosher” and it functioned in Rovno as a branch of the Polish Society for Education and Culture, without political inclinations. But the Secret Police treated it with some distrust and suspected it had connections with revolutionary organizations (communists). And one evening, after the club members ended a talk with a group of friends who were about to leave for training in Człuchów, a police unit arrived all of a sudden, blocked the exit and arrested the seventeen who were there at the time. The arrested were led to the police station and held there all night as prisoners, the next day at noon their interrogation began one by one. The questions were asked in a sarcastic way laced with threats, the investigators tried to extract information on their connections, and Freiheit's connections with communist organizations. Most of those arrested were freed, but the police continued to follow them, and some of them stayed in prison. The writer of these words, who was among the investigated, was pressed to reveal information about his brother, who was known to the secret police as a collaborator with a communist organization but they were unable to find him. Freiheit knew about this special attitude of the authorities toward it before this happened. But they did not think it would get that bad. They began consulting about how to avoid members' imprisonments and contacted the Warsaw Center about it. Back then all youth organizations were suspected of communism in the eyes of the Polish Authorities because of the tendency of all youth circles in Rovno and elsewhere, toward this revolutionary movement.

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Practically and theoretically Dror – Freiheit had no connections whatsoever with communists and as they found out the suspicion was caused by some individuals who became communists and left Freiheit (unfortunately, they were some of the active members, with pioneer consciousness who left the flag and switched camps).

When Berdyczewski and Tiger, the leaders of the party, visited Rovno's Poale–Zion, they came to lecture also in Freiheit's club and strengthened the ranks, but most of the time the association's members came to listen to lectures in Poale–Zion's Club and that was their meeting–place until they established their own club.

Rovno's Freiheit had good and loyal friends to the movement's ideas; among them are remembered: Haim Koperstein, Yosef Oyerbouch, Yosef Corech, Zukerman, Shtarkman, Aaronson and others, who for many years dedicated their thoughts and energies to the movement with pioneers' dedication. Zukerman served some years as Freiheit's representative in Poale–Zion Council in Rovno and there are many services to the movement that should be credited to him.

A younger level of children, members of Freiheit was established alongside the movement called “Red Scouts”. They were age 12 to 14, occupied mainly with sports, excursions and listening to the movement's adults. When they grew up they moved to the association and became members with pioneers' discipline.

Many of Dror and Freiheit members made Aliya and were absorbed in Naan, Yagur, Shaar–Hagolan and other places.


Akiva Movement

by Yaakov Zeidel and Shimon Ossem

Translation by Naomi Gal

During 1933–1934 Akiva Movement was active in Rovno; there were about hundred members and it was one of the pioneer–youth associations with a special affinity for Zionist education, as a branch of the all–Polish Movement, which won its place among Rovno's youth. The beginning of the movement dates from 1928–1929, after a part of Hashomer–Hatzair felt uncomfortable in a movement that became more and more leftist, and for other organized frameworks. As a result, Akiva Movement was created, its basis non–political, for the fulfillment of the National–Pioneer goal in the spirit of Jewish Tradition. The movement was able to bring together youth from all walks of life, especially from assimilated circles, and connect them to the idea of renewal and pioneer fulfillment. As is well known, the movements' actions and its education were prominent – testimonies can be found in its training–centers abroad and the Kibbutzim it founded in Israel.

The way the movement operated was by troops: a troop of children 9–11 years–old, “Fulfilling” troop for those 12 years and older and a troop of adolescents, who passed the training and were about to make Aliya and become implementers and builders.

The movement's cradle was in West–Galicia and Silesia, from there it spread all over Poland and in border–regions and reached Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, and also spread its roots in Zionist Rovno.

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At its peak (the thirties) the movement had about thirty thousand members and it was growing. There were six training–farms in Poland: Bonarka, Bydgoszcz, Sulecow, Ciechanowiec, Lvov and Bielsko (the last one was attacked in 1934 by Polish rioters and was under siege for three days; the heroism of the pioneers against the rioters is well known).

The movement in Poland had two centers: in Warsaw and Krakow, who gave instructions to the town and villages, and to the associations' branches. It was a famous all over the state and was prominent among the youth organizations. It also provided important and excelling forces.

Rovno's branch was not very big, since it did not have yet time to enlist the youth who found their place in other movements, but it had a bright future, and it widened and deepened its activities in the city; the change of authority and the war stopped its growth. Among the branch's visitors were the heads of the movement and its spokesmen, amid them Yoel Driblat, and Yehuda Orenstein. The visits of the messengers strengthened the branch and it begun to form its place in the movement, it also sent members to training and enabled some of them to make Aliya. The movement found some supporters among the Hebrew teachers, who helped develop the branch.

The riots in Eretz–Israel, that began in 1936, served as an alarm and a call to youth's Aliya, including Akiva's members, and indeed some made Aliya and immediately participated in carrying the yoke, and continuing their efforts of building and defending. The Kibbutzim that were founded by the movements' members who arrived in Israel joined the union and enjoyed its support. Indeed, the movement's basic line continues in the Israeli reality and it draws the attention of the heads of the Labor party and Israel's activists. Berl Katzanelson loved visiting Akiva's Kibbutzim, where he spent Holydays.


WIZO

by Haya Ladan (Dramenska)

Translation by Naomi Gal

When the Zionist activities spread in Poland, Wizo a Zionist women Union conquered its place in the Zionist Movement and in 1927 Wizo delegates left Warsaw for provincial towns and founded there branches. One of these branches was established in Rovno in 1928 and it grew, prospered and Zionism bloomed there. That was after a decrease of Zionism and national funds in Poland due to the defamation of those who left Israel, and after the economic crisis diminished, hurting Jews most of all. Zion loyalists and the activists raised their heads and went on to strengthen the Zionist activity in all areas, despite the revisionists' boycott of the national funds, the isolation of the Mizrahi and the rift in the Zionist left. Wizo took upon itself certain roles in the Zionist Union, carried Zion's flag high and up and instilled a new spirit into some of the Zionist actions.

In Warsaw Wizo's center was next to the Zionist Center. Since the visit of the center's woman member and Alexander Goldstein in Rovno, Wizo work grew in the city and became well imbedded.

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The Council and Wizo's Activists

Sitting (from right): Lasstik, Wilner, Berliner, Lipsitz, Tabchnik, Berliner
Standing (from right): (?) Borstein, Waschina, Weinberg, Rise, Maza, Zigel, Fissyook

 

From tens of members it increased to over two hundred; in addition, in 1933 a group of young women were organized in “Wizo Hazeira” (“Young Wizo”), which had more than a hundred members, and all together were active and developed rich and blessed Zionist functions.

Wizo's activities in Rovno were not spread out till Wizo's conference in Warsaw, in 1928, with the participation of Mrs. Ziv from England. In this conference was laid the working plan for Poland and the delegates went back home recognizing the need to act and activate for the movement. Rovno's delegate in the conference was Mrs. Rosa Berliner (the activist of the funds and orphanages in town) and she was elected to the national council of Wizo in Poland. After the conference Mrs. Barzach from Wizo's branch in Lutsk arrived in Rovno and had some meetings with Rovno's committee and since then Wizo became prominent in its organization and activities in the city.

Wizo's activists in nearby Krementz and Lutsk were unhappy with the National Council in Warsaw so they convened in Lutsk a regional conference of all Wizo's branches in Volhynia. Delegates arrived from Lutsk, Kovel, Rovno, Sdolbuniv, Dubna, Austraah and Krementz. Representing the center in Warsaw was Mrs. Levita, and after deliberations and clarifications, peace was restored and Lutsk and Krementz representatives yielded to the center.

The main activities of Wizo were: distribution of the Zionist Shekel, Zionist propaganda, organizing the Hebrew Women in the Zionist Movement, participation in Zionist, social–national endeavors, assisting pioneers and their trainings, educating the Hebrew girls to Zionism and life in Israel, and most of all – a considerable effort for Jewish National Fund and Keren–Hayesod, the two pillars for building the land and reviving its deserts. Wizo's service to the national fund was great

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and it was well–felt in Rovno. No wonder, then, that youth from all affiliations (except the Revisionists and the “Aguda” who were apart) was in Wizo's service and completed its every demand, performing endeavors, be it propaganda or monetary. Rovno had an important part in the million gold coins that were collected in Poland cities after the riots of 1928 for the special help fund for those hurt and rebuilding the ruins, a sum that passed through Keren–Hayesod alongside the usual fund–raising; this was indeed due to Wizo's dedicated activities in the city.

Young Wizo was very active in assisting the pioneer training–Kibbutzim from all the organized bodies (including the Revisionists). The pioneers in Rovno, Człuchów and other places benefited from this help with clothes, food, tools, heat and more. The members of Young Wizo were in the same training and their help as sisters–members was important and beneficiary. The loyalty of Wizo's members to their movement's principals was manifested as well by educating the young generation in Zionist spirit and their dedication to the Zionist actualization and it was especially apparent while raising money for JNF in “Flower” Days, bazaars etc. The bazaars became a tradition in Hanukah and Purim, lasted several days and included all the citizens as donors or supporters and givers to JNF.

Wizo's activities went on, ebbing and flowing, till Zionism in Rovno was silenced when the Russians occupied the city at the end of 1939.

Chosen for Rovno branch Wizo Council were these women: Rosa Berliner, Fissyook, Lipsitz, Weinberg, Zoya Servetnik, Maza, Haya Dramenska, Ester Wilner.

 


[Page 182]

Different Zionists Organizations

by A. A.

Translation by Naomi Gal

Zionist Rovno, who contributed much of its strength and resources to the Zionist idea and its fulfillment, knew all the different movements of Zionism. All the diverse organizations and factions that Russian Zionism and lately the Polish, had – found a place in Rovno. It can be said with no doubt, that every appearance in the Zionist sky, found its spot among Rovno's Zionists, in ideology, fulfillment, culture, sport etc. We will not mention “Bnei–Moshe”, which Rovno did not have, otherwise if one browses this memorial book, he will find echoes to most of the movements and organizations that sprouted and existed in the city during the last half–century.

To this can be added the organizations or the associations that do not have special chapters, like “Trumpeldor”, a non–partisan Youth Zionist movement from the twenties; “Haoved” (“The Worker”) a Zionist organization whose center was in Warsaw, and its branch in Rovno; “Brit Hhayal”, a Zionist Body that was officially recognized by the Polish Authorities; “Chalutz Dati”, that although was not a big organization by the number of its members, aimed toward Aliya, and other Zionist bodies, that appeared and functioned during the twenty years of the last Polish Regime in Rovno (1920–1939)

Every Zionist Body had rights of its own – and there were quite a few. They played an important role in educating the generations to Zionism and its fulfillment, and all of them together formed prosperous Rovno, both Jewish and Zionist.

 

The Fortress of Zionism and Pioneering

by Israel Ritov

Translation by Naomi Gal

I knew Rovno as an important city of Israel, a center and the heart of Volhynia's Judaism, always bustling and vivacious, full of life, abundant with active forces, workers, merchants, industrialists, learners, intellectuals; center of public–establishments, parties, youth–movements, and above all – a fortress of Zionism and the pioneers movement.

I knew her up close at the beginning of the twenties, when hundreds of refugees from Soviet Russia huddled in the city and its surroundings, among them many who were on their way to Israel. The refugees arrived at Poland from many sides, the main passage being around Zdolbuniv, and the main concentration place was Rovno. The Central Eretz–Israel Office in Warsaw established in Rovno a regional office, as the center's branch, and here an enormous effort was made to welcome the refugees, host them, lodge them, provide them with documents, employ them and finally – transfer them to Warsaw for visas and Aliya.

In taking care of the refugees, especially the immigrants and the pioneers, Rovno's Jews invested all the precious characteristic Volhynia Jews had: simplicity, warm–heartedness, innocence, tenderness and love for Israel.

As a delegate of the Central Eretz–Israel Office, as well as for my party's affairs – Poale–Zion Party – I used to visit Rovno every now and then during the twenties, and I was always intoxicated by its special atmosphere, Zionist and Hebrew, which prevailed in this city, in Volhynia's Judaism that gave us Hayim Nahman Bialik and many others.

[Page 183]

Years had passed. I again visited Rovno in 1939. This time as a messenger from Israel to Poland, the eve of the 21st Zionist Congress. Our country was back then agitated and stormy because of the “White Book”, and it is this agitation that I brought as a “gift” to Poland's Jews. But when I arrived I was engulfed by the pre–war storm. Black clouds, harbingers of war, were hanging over the whole world's sky, and it was clear that Poland was the weak point, and that disaster would come from here – when it begins. And so, two heartbreaks were made together: the sorrow about the world and the fate of the Jews; the sorrow of our country and Zionism's destiny. In this atmosphere, full of dread and short of breath, I was a messenger in Poland.

I arrived at Rovno in July, about six weeks before the war began. I spent there one Sabbath, and it was the most difficult day in all my nine–day mission. Allegedly, the same old Rovno, the same streets and alleys, the same Jews, the same Zionists, – but not really. If in Warsaw, Lodz, CzÄ™stochowa, Brisk, (Brest later), Pinsk etc. etc. I felt a heavy unease, in Rovno it was as if I felt the impending disaster. In Vilna, too, the atmosphere in the Jewish Street was more electrified than in other places, but not as much as in Rovno. Why Rovno? – I do not know. Maybe because of its closeness to the Russian Border; maybe because of fear of civil war between the Poles and the Ukrainians – with the Jews in the middle – before the Polish–German war broke, or while it breaks; maybe because the regime was being harsh especially in this border–region of Volhynia, and perhaps, simply, because they had a presentiment of historical events about to happen – I do not know. But I remember with amazing clarity the farewell from my dear friends, like brothers to me, at Rovno's train–station, that was so full of longing, sadness, despair, and imbibed with feeling and recognition that this was our last meeting. Indeed, it was the last one…

I was on a mission to Poland in 1947, as well, after the disaster. But this time I did not make it to Rovno. She was desolate of her Jewish sons and from its Zionist Organizations, and was now on the other side of the border, on the other side of my life.


Rovno's Pages in fulfilled Zionism

by Israel Marom – Marminsky

Translation by Naomi Gal

As fate dictated and the fighters' fever about the right of sons–of–Israel in the diaspora to exist, organize, develop their cultural life and cultivate their contacts with Eretz–Israel – pushed me from Moscow to Petrograd – Kharkiv and Kiev…These were the days of the end of World War One, the end of February Revolution and the beginning of the October Revolution.

The founding meeting of free Russia did not take place, and with this died the all–Jewish all–Russian Council – disappointments, pogroms, the devastation of the economic lives of Russian Jews…

We wandered on the wings of stormy Zionism as the organizers of “Life in Dire–Straits” in every site. The troops of Zeirai–Zion with all its movements appeared as united in the frame of General Zionism, thinking about all–of–Israel, and establishing “Autonomies” in its name, electing communities' committees , convening national–Jewish councils, preparing laws for a Jewish minority, the non–Jewish majority doing their thing, and we our thing – formulating demands to create the national center in Eretz–Israel, training pioneers, educating groups of youngsters and whole families in preparation for Aliya. Hopes and faith did not leave us even when pogroms and devastation were raining on Jewish heads.

[Page 184]

In Russia, White Russia, Ukraine and Volhynia–Podol defense was being built and sustained and preparations were made for Aliya, from Odessa and every shore…

In Kiev I met (1918) with a group of Zeirai–Zion from all parts of Ukraine. Among the first 50 communities that were established in Ukraine between 1917 and 1918 Volhynia, with R O V N O first, with its 2800 voters, its active representatives that soon participated in the elections to the elected assembly in Ukraine (Kiev – 1918). Zeirai– Zion brought with them the warmth of Poland's Jews, the common–sense of the “Litvaks” and the creative disposition of Ukraine's Jews. The connections between Kiev and all parts of Jewish Ukraine, were what gave Rovno since 1918 the obligation and the privilege to serve as a passing–center between 1919 and 1922 for thousands of Jews from USSR to the free world and a first absorbtion center (after Lvov) for the Zionist activists and the Chalutz on their way to Israel. This city had the privilege that most its Zionists were advanced when it came to thought, education, Jewish and Zionist world–view, and despite different movements, I knew no second to her in the united action of its awakened Zionists. They were all general, the Zionists, Zeirai–Zion and even “Mizrahi”, and they all had the gift for Zionist activism, a yearning to learn in the area of Hebrew education and Zionist–pioneer education. Rovno was outstanding in the Zionist Area in general.

I am not a son of Rovno, and when I recall Rovno and its people, I am not interested in their Jewish characteristics, in the days of the Jewish Autonomy, with its victories and failures, in the days of independent Ukraine and Polish Ukraine – but the essence: there was not one Zionist act Rovno did not respond to from afar. A central–station for Chalutz – its training and its Aliya; a center for national funds: for Jewish National Fund and to Keren–Yayesod, this new fund that raised in Israel the flag of contribution; a reception station for encouraging welcome to refugees and groups of immigrants, political and a–political who were lucky enough to reach in their flight a place where it was possible to get news about the dangerous roads framed by barbed–wire – on the way to Eretz–Israel.

I had the privilege, together with my friends in Eretz–Israel Office in Warsaw, to found a Eretz–Israel Office in Rovno, and in 1923 I was invited by my friends in Mizrahi faction of Zeirai–Zion to lecture in Rovno and hold a party conference. In this conference were expressed ideas and plans were made and a regional committee was established for Zeirai–Zion for Volhynia and the first paragraph in its plan was “Keren–Avoda” (“Fund for Work”) – recruiting tools, machines, materials and working equipment, for agriculture and industry in Israel. The second paragraph – organizing Aliya and “Cooperatives of settling–immigrants”. The third paragraph – fighting for Aliya budgets from Keren–Hayesod's – contrary to the opinions of the leaders of the Zionist Union back then in London and Eretz–Israel – – –

And the regional council was established and it provided an abundance of tools for the Work–Fund and encouraged “Aliya in all conditions”, and the messengers of “the immigration department of the Mandatory Government in Jerusalem” and their associates in London and Warsaw had no idea how good Rovno was in making “Aliya's matchings”, breaking fences for the Aliya of her sons, the sons of her surroundings and all of the sons of Poland that did make Aliya…

We shall remember in this book fondly and with blessings, all those who performed this sacred endeavor, those whose way was working and fighting for Israel's independence in a way of uncompromising fulfilment, and remembered are all those who were lost on the road and did not reach these shores –––

 

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