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[Page 612]

From “Bar–Giyora” to “Gordoniya”

by Dr. Yeshayahu Shapira

Translated by Noah Burstein

At the corner of Goldhammer Street, opposite the Brodzinski Shul on one side and the Shops on the other side there stood a large three–story building. Every afternoon, around three o'clock one could see children entering into through the wide entrance of the building and hear their footsteps climbing up the steps to the third story. The place they were hurrying to was the Jewish “Ochranka” [kindergarten]. In 3 spacious rooms dozens of children were seated on benches around tables. Next to the children, were their group leaders, boys and girls from the Gymnasium [high school]. They helped the younger pupils who attended the Polish school with their lessons, and together taught the children reading, writing and arithmetic. Having finished the tutoring, they brought all the children to one area and started teaching a new set of topics –Hebrew language, Jewish history, Palestinography, [geography of Palestine] Zionist songs. The atmosphere in the club turned festive.

Afterwards a middle aged woman smiling and impressive looking came in walking sprightly and looking sharply all around the large rooms. She was the chairwoman of the Ochranka, Mrs. Friedlander. She called all the counselors together to a meeting and they started talking about various problems of the Ochranka: Winter is coming with its deep cold and snow and it is high time to start getting shoes for the children, as well as warm underwear and clothing. The children were poorly fed, so they had to start getting them nutritional supplements, medical help and so forth. They had to call a committee together to take up a collection among organizations and go to friends and collect money.

That was the work and those were the concerns of the Ochranka around which there gathered a group of wonderful social activists like Mrs. Friedlander, Rivkah Feig, Sarah Binenstock, Sara Berkelhamer, Leibel, Ormian and many others. Group leaders in the Ochranka were students of the gymnasium (high school) as well as former yeshiva boys and they were headed by Leon Shpiegel and Sanke Green. By then Shpiegel had already completed his legal studies while, Sanke was still a student. He was tall, slender

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quiet, but full of energy. She was a beauty with blonde hair and big blue eyes, a wonderful example of an educated idealistic young woman. Both were Zionists and they decided to be active among Jewish youth and lead informational and educational work. Leon Shpiegel brought almost his entire family day to this work and especially his sisters Natka and Franka.

Ochrankas were found in almost every Galician city, but it seems to me that the Tarnow Ochranka had its own special character, even though it did not dispose of any great monetary resources and its branch was very modest. But for that reason it distinguished itself by its spiritual [humanistic] atmosphere and cultural environment, which was very far from false philanthropy and snobbism. This particular cultural character of the institution was not an accident, because the people who created the Ochranka and worked in it brought with them a constructive progressive outlook concerning social activism. In the foreground there stood out members of the well–known Tarnow women's association named “Miriam” which was a rare example of a women's organization which combined rather varied and presumably contradictory characteristics: serious idealistic social commitment with a necessary appreciation for exterior beauty and form. The model of a “Miriam” girl involved a synthesis of a serious thinker with a desire for a beautiful even elegant outer appearance. The members of “Miriam” attracted the young intelligentsia of various social classes.

The spirit of the Ochranka was Zionistic with progressive social tendencies. The young group leaders founded a youth organization, named “Bar Giora” The leader of the organization was Leon Shpiegel and his Representative was Sanka Grin. The writer of these lines was the secretary, and afterwards when the Shpiegels left I took over the leadership of the organization. Its first goal was self–education. I brought my friends from the Gymnasium (high school) into the organization. Some of them came from Hashomer Hatzair and a large part from the folks–yugend [ blue collar youth], shop workers, helper (laborers) and Hasidic boys who strove to get secular education. One of the most characteristic qualities of Bar Giora was its populist character, a result of the “human material” of the Ochranka. In fact, Bar Giora later became one of First Branches of “Gordoniya” in Poland. Hashomer Hatzair at that time was a more exclusive organization and consisted mostly of university students, while Bar Giora was more populistic. It did not emphasize its scouting character as Hashomer Hatzair did.

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After Hashomer Hatzair, Bar Giora was the first youth organization in Tarnow which sent the first group of olim (immigrants) to Eretz–Israel. Some of them could not acclimate to the new country and came back to Tarnow, while most of them remained in Eretz Israel.

The third aliya and the strongly developed activity of Zionism and Chalutzism (pioneering spirit) turned Bar Giora into Gordoniya. The self–education organization with chalutzistic (pioneering) tendencies reformed itself into an expressly chalutzistic (pioneering) organization. The ideals of Aaron David Gordon were very close to the spiritual and idealistic world of Bar Giora. The activity of Gordoniya was based upon the three following foundations: Chalutzism – populism – political work

I have previously mentioned the pioneering activity of Bar Giora and its populist character. But Bar Giora also had an understanding of practical political work.

Its older members belonged to the local Zionist organization where differences of opinion began to crystallize around three areas: Halutzim, socio political points of view and more Zionistic activity (the last one was primarily demanded by the youth). These various differences brought about the formation of a group of young people who joined the Hitachadut (unity) party and founded a branch of that party in Tarnow. In the foundation of the branch the following people participated: Dr. Wilhelm Berkelhamer, Dr. Yeshayu Feig, Leib Kvadratshtein, Haim Friedman and this writer. Some of these were previously at the head of Bar Giora and thereby politically activated the older stratum of the organization.

After Bar Giora turned into Gordoniya, the Tarnow branch grew very quickly and developed, playing a significant role in the then more youthful Gordoniya movement in Poland.


[Page 615]

In those days..
(On the history of the Zionist movement in Tarnow)

by Abraham Kahana

Translated by David Schonberg

On the initiative of the known Zionist activist Moshe Wiesenfeld in the years 1907-1908 the HaShahar movement was established, setting for itself the task to wake up the Orthodox youth from their lethargic sleep and to win them over to the Zionistic ideal. This movement held two group trips and brought about a veritable revolution amongst religious youth. Already then there formed certain Aliya groups amongst these youth. Tarnow had a central role in the HaShahar movement. At that time from Tarnow there left to Eretz Yisrael [author's note: came on Aliya to Land of Israel] the Brandstatter brothers, Pinchas Wolf, Nataniel Damast, Aharon Kloiboif, Leib Lichtinger and others.

This movement had noteworthy literary figures and publicists, such as Dov Kimchi, Yizhok Laufban, Moshe Wiesenfeld and many others. There also worked in this movement significant activists and as to two of these, who died early in their lives, I would like here to recall/remember.

 

Yisroel Perlstein

A Talmudist having worldly [secular] learning, and also a free-thinker. He was wholeheartedly devoted to the movement of Jewish renaissance. Immediately following the establishment of HaShahar, he placed himself in its ranks, disbursing his significant abilities to cultural and progressive-minded work amongst the orthodox youth. In those times this work had to be carried out in a conspiratorial fashion. It was terrible for a young religious person to be involved with Zionistic activities. His whole career stood in danger. It could cause him to be under threat of excommunication. But Perlstein was not to be swayed by anything. In secret there gathered together in small batei midrashim [Author's note: synagogue study-halls] religious young people and Perlstein gave them talks on different subjects- scientific, Jewish-orientated, Zionistic and other. Also when he later moved to

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a small shteitl and lived in a staunch orthodox environment, he didn't alter his mode of activity. He worked upon himself to further his studies and taught others.

In the War [World War I] he travelled to Vienna where he continued teaching and devoted himself to Zionist activity.

When I saw Perlstein in Vienna after a long period of separation [not having seen him] I was quite taken aback by the great spiritual-ethical progress that manifested itself in his soul, notwithstanding the difficult heart condition which preyed upon him and the harsh material conditions under which he suffered.

In Vienna Perlstein was in contact with the notable personalities of the Zionistic circles and he took an active part in all Zionistic activities.

He also possessed no mere average literary ability and his written work is of worth.

His house was a gathering point for literary scholars, writers and altogether for intelligent and educated people. In this house there held sway a clear spiritual-cultural atmosphere. My visits to him in his home always gave me a feeling of spiritual satisfaction. There dominated there a special kind of warmth. With pleasure I recall the minutes/times that I spent with him in his home.

With his participation, there was established in Vienna a Zionistic union/ association, 'Bund' which had as its task to set pure Zionism in the pattern/example of the “Bnei Moshe”.

To this association belonged: Rabbi Chajes, Rabbi Moshe Kramer, the leader of the Vienna Mizrahi [religious Zionists movement], Dr. Salomon Auerbach, Dr. Haim Tartakower, Dr. Nisan Shtein, Prof. Shechter. After a while I also joined the association.

Several months after my going out there I came to learn that Perlstein was ill and virtually completely paralysed. With terrible sufferings this noble man breathed out his last, in 1921.

Esteemed is his memory!

 

David Geldzeiler

One of the most notable Zionist leaders, already from before the First World war. Tall, strongly-built, he always had a ready quip that lashed against the negative elements of the Zionist organisation and some of its activists/ leaders. Though having a sharp satirical bent he was fully devoted and gave himself over, with great seriousness, to Zionist

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matters.

As a member of the Presidium of HaShahar he was joint-editor of some issues/ editions of the Hebrew-language organ, called 'HaShahar'.

As to the art of writing he accommodated himself with frivolous ease. Occasionally he would produce very interesting sharp correspondences in the Tageblatt or in Sanok's Folksfreind [a Yiddish weekly, Sanok, 1909-1914].

He was loved everywhere, people were drawn to him, to his company. Spending time in his company brought true pleasure. His witty remarks and his sharp satirical comments so driven through with life's wisdom, made for him many followers.

At the peak of his powers and filled with energy and the joy of creation the First World War took him away from his environment. Unexpectedly, while writing a humoristic letter to his friend, an Italian bullet hit him, at the front, in 1917.

When one writes of Zionist leaders who, before the First World War, laid the foundation stone of Zionism in Tarnow, amongst them need be honourably mentioned the faithful colleague [co-worker] David Geldzeiler, who sadly, in a tragic way, was plucked out from our ranks.

Esteemed is his memory!


[Page 618]

Toward tomorrow…

In memory of the Shomrim[1] from Tarnow

by Koba Fleischer

Translated by Sara Mages

The patriarchs of “Hashomer Hatzair[2] movement were the circles of “Zeirie Zion”- the Zionist youth movement that was founded with the establishment of the Zionist movement, and [“Hashomer[3]] the Jewish scouting movement that was founded before the outbreak of the First World War. Educated young Jews, who gathered at the beginning of the war in Vienna and in the cities of Western Europe, constituted the core of this youth movement. The movement caused a stir in the cities of Galicia and Poland, and in the course of time, throughout the world. It took the name “Hashomer,” which symbolizes the heroism of the Jews in their new homeland, in addition to the values of the Scout Movement. After it was united with “Zeirie Zion", under the name of “Hashomer Hatzair,” it became the only youth movement in the Jewish street.

At the conclusion of the First World War, the young Jews returned to the cities of Galicia imbued with the spirit of freedom and the liberation of nations. They were full of lofty ideas about human liberation and the emancipation of the Jewish nation, and an arduous organizational and educational work began.

Tarnow, a city populated with Jews and glorious youth, quickly became one of the primary locations in which there was a branch of “Hashomer Hatzair.” The branch in Tarnow became the regional center, and excelled in absorbing broad sectors of youth. More than 300 young people, students and workers, age 10-20, were organized in the branch during the years of the movement's prosperity.

The Jewish street awoke. From the dark alleys of the ghetto and the suburbs of the assimilated, who drew away from the influence of Judaism, groups of boys and girls went out to the bosom of nature, to the public parks, to the mountains and the surroundings forests. They breathed fresh air and dreamed the dream of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel. The Israeli flag flew high, and the Hebrew song was sounded when the youth of “Hashomer Hatzair” marched proudly through the city's streets. The matter greatly annoyed the anti-Semites and the various enemies of Israel. The brunt of the Jewish youth was felt soon. When the pogroms broke out in the cities of Galicia, youth brigades stood on guard to protect the life of the beleaguered Jews. Its destiny and national role stood the test of those difficult days. The battered Jew was no longer ashamed that his son or daughter joined "those" who dreamed about a promising future.

A second conference of “Hashomer Hatzair,” which symbolized a turning point and a new era for the entire movement, gathered in Tarnow in August 1919. The first conference was held the previous year in Trnava in the Carpathian Mountains. The conference gathered more than 300 delegates from Galicia and representatives from Poland. In the conference, which was held on the first day for students over the age of 18, “the third class," there were opposing views about the future of the movement's graduates.

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tar1_619.jpg
Halutzim from “Hashomer Hatzair” in Tarnow

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A conference of instructors, which constituted a major turning point in the movement's direction, was held on the second day. The following was written in “Hashomer Hatzair” newspaper from that period: "If we knew, in the conference in, how to soar to the heavens, now, after the conference in Tarnow, we know how to stand firm on the ground." Among others, it was decided in the Tarnow's conference, that the movement will establish a federation of Shomrim-Halutzim [pioneers], which will require a pioneering fulfillment in Israel. The movement expressed its desire to establish a settlement in Israel, add working youth to its ranks, and a committee was elected for the establishment and the development of a Hebrew School. In the conference, the movement took the road towards a pioneering fulfillment and the negation of the Diaspora.

A period of intensive educational work began. Education in human values, values of Judaism with national recognition, war for social justice, women's liberation, the revival of the Hebrew language, and the return to physical work. Preparations toward immigration started in various Hachshara [pioneer training] farms, in the estates or with farmers and artisans. The aspiration for productivity took the youth, against the wishes of their parents who wanted to educate them for a traditional liberal profession, out of school and taught them a profession vital for Israel. Parents' committees were established to facilitate their work, alleviate their living conditions and protect them from the authorities. Among the committee's activists were: Dr. Shapen, Dr. Feig, Mrs. Friedlander, Mrs. Greenberg, H. Naiger ”, Dr. Homet, Dr. Mertz, Dr. Yakel ”, Schepndel ”, and many others.

The branch's representatives organized activities in the nearby cities, ran summer camps in the region, established branches in Pilzno, D?bica and Mielec and other locations, and also worked in the main leadership in Lvov.

After the war, a large number of Shomrim immigrated [to Israel] with the “Third Aliyah.”[4] A large number of members, men and women, from Tarnow were among the 600 immigrants. Some left school before graduation and some after, some with a profession and some without. At night they crossed the borders clandestinely, and nothing could have stopped them from realizing their dream.

Among the first who emigrated from Tarnow (I ask the forgiveness of those whose names have been omitted by mistake) were: Z. Bloch, P. Schingel, M. Weiss, Dina Beck, A. Friedlander ”, the Weider brothers, Yakov Leibel ”, Yehudah Ya'ari, Ester Hershkowitz, Sima Ormian, Sara Ledner, D. Omansky, Rodner ”, Lev-Tov, H. Herzman ”, Y. Naiger, M. Mann ”, P. Zwairstrum ”, H. Ofner z”l, Kornilo and many others.

In Israel they drained the swamps and paved the roads. Many of them were among the founders of Beit-Alfa, the first kibbutz of “Hashomer Hatzair,” where they live to this day.

In 1922, a joint conference of leaders from Galicia and Poland gathered again in Tarnow. They approved the self-realization through the kibbutzim, and the number of immigrants from the city's branch of “Hashomer Hatzair” has grown.

Meanwhile, other youth movements, who competed with “Hashomer Hatzair,” were established in the city. However, despite everything, it was one of the major movements in the city. It was the first to work for “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael" [Jewish National Fund] and other Zionist activities. Entire groups, individuals and families, immigrated. New kibbutzim were established by “Hashomer Hatzair,” and the Shomrim from our city were among those who settled there.

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Hashomer Hatzair” in Tarnow penetrated all the layers of the Jewish society in the city. It fought, together with other movements, for the acquisition of the Jewish youth and the realization of the Zionist idea. To our sorrow, the entire Jewish public still didn't understand the superior concept of national liberation. Our youth's lofty role was understood only after the loss of millions of Jews during the Nazi inferno, which also destroyed the entire Jewish community of our city. The organized youth of “Hashomer Hatzair,” together with the rest of the Zionist youth movements, led the defensive war in Tarnow Ghetto, in the resistance and with the partisans. Together they strengthened the spirit of those who stumbled and helped those who fell. The many heroic acts and rescue operations will testify to the vitality of this youth - till the last moment.

Thousands of Shomerim were educated within the framework of the branch in Tarnow's branch, but for various reasons, only a few reached the gates of Israel. Here, they continued the magnificent tradition by building the country and defending it. You can find the Tarnow's Shomrim from Kibbutz Dan to faraway Negev. From the movement's first kibbutz in Beit-Alfa, through Merchavia, Ein HaMifratz, Tel Amal, Yad Mordechai, Ein Shemer, and more.

Many fell during the riots in Israel, and many fell to diseases and the conditions of the conquest of the desert. Quite a few saturated the soil of Israel with their pure blood when they helped to bring victory in our War of Independence. Among those we'll remember: Yanek Friedlander one of the first Halutzim, Yehudah Schpanof, Itzik Korndeich, Olek Zichner and others.

Honor and glory to the heroes whose bones rest in the soil of Israel, honor and glory to those who fell on the long road, in the ghettos, extermination camps, in the underground and in public, some with a weapon in their hand, and some with a clenched fist. The cruel fate didn't let them to reach their goal.

And Tarnow, a Jewish metropolis, a magnificent community with a long Jewish tradition, a loyal city to her sons who were raised and educated in her toward a promising future, will remain forever in the memory of generations as a shining page in the new history book of the State of Israel.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Shomer pl, Shomrim - Guard/Guards. Members of “Hashomer Hatzair” movement are called Shomrim. return
  2. Hashomer”- “The Guard” - the first Jewish scouting movement. It was established in 1911 in Lvov in by Henrik [Tzvi] Sterner. The movement's name was inspired by “Hashomer” a Jewish organization in Palestine. return
  3. Hashomer Hatzair "- “The Youth Guard” - the first Zionist youth movement. It was formed in 1913 from the combining of two different youth movements - “Hashomer” and “Zeirie Zion.” return
  4. The Third Aliyah refers to the third wave of Zionist immigration to Israel between 1919 and 1923. The Third Aliya consisted mostly of Eastern European and Russian Jews. return

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