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[Page 425]

Youth and Sport

[Page 530]

Pioneering and Sports Movements in Zawiercie

Yosef Leib Fiszer

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

In 1910, almost all of the young in Zawiercie were weakly developed, both culturally and physically. The boys studied in khederim [religious primary schools] and they did not take care of physical development there or even noticed it.

This I remember through an association with my last kheder which was located at Plawner's at Marszalkowska, near Pietrowa Square, which all Zawierciers remember well. It was not much better in the [secular] “schools,” for example, in Zlotnik's folks-shule [public school], which was in Grinwald's house on Marszalkowska.

Yes, not one of the educational “institutions” in Zawiercie took care of the physical development of the students, but there awoke our desire for physical activity for our bodies. We would let loose a little during our free time; we would jump over fences along the railroad. We would play various games on Pietrowa Square and so on. Thus, we would harden our muscles.

In 1914, I finished Zlotnik's Russian School and left for an apprenticeship with Yosf Meszngiser a few months before the outbreak of the First World War.

During the war, many young people left for Germany. A number worked there; others opened businesses. The ranks of the previously created sports clubs that developed well during the First World War and showed great achievements, little-by-little had fewer members. The sports organizations that were founded during the First World War were incapacitated.

In 1919-1929, in independent Poland, we again began our activity. A group of [potential] Jewish emigrants to Eretz Yisroel was created that had as its purpose to organize emigration to Eretz Yisroel . Young people from various strata took part in the group. The leaders of the group were: Leibl Dimant, Meir Iserowski, Volf Sztajnkeler and others. We wanted to work to

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The council of the Halutz organization in Zawiercie


earn money for the cost of the trip to Eretz Yisroel . Alas, the entrepreneurs in Zawiercie did not support us with work and our plan to save travel money came to nothing.

Alas, Shimshon [Samson – a Jewish sports club] also split into two separate sports unions: into Makabi and Hakoakh [the Strength]. One, the Makabi Club was mostly working young people. There were mostly students and pupils in Hakoakh. The two clubs competed against each other and this led to a great deal of harm.

Various Halutz [pioneer] groups were created. We also organized small football [soccer] groups, but they did not exist for long.

In 1927, a large sports club, Shimshon , was created (under the management of Dr. Lewensztajn), with the participation of young and older people for whom a Jewish sports movement was a necessity.

We received premises at Goldminc's and threw ourselves into the work with complete fervor. We created various groups according to age and even groups for folk's shul [public school] children.

On the managing committee of Hakoakh were Tosziek Borensztajn, Volf Sztajnkeler, Perlin, Zajfman, Fiszer, Hela Krajcer, Masha Lemberg,

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the Grinsztajn brothers [and] Stubnicki. We also created a technical management group that consisted of Grinblat, Stubnicki, Zelkowicz, Pardes, Dora Breszinska, Zilberman, Rozenberg, Perlmuter, Granek, Sabelman and Fiszer. We could not work for long because there was a lack of the necessary material support, although Yitzhak Windman, Hershl Grinwald and others gave money to support the club. Because of the financial conditions, we found it necessary to merge both clubs. After the merger, a managing committee was elected consisting of the following members: Rotensztajn, Grinsztajn, Yachetzon, Karol Potok, Zelik Sobelman, Zelkowicz, Fiszer, Grinblat. The management group of the touring section found it necessary to arrange a large, public gymnastic spectacle in which 14 groups took part. The management was in my hands as well as in the hands of Grinblat, Fajgnblat, Drezner, and all of the girls in the technical management group. In the midst [of all of this], a dramatic group was created under the management of Yachetzon. They arranged very interesting performances with great success. The unity of the merged sports club lasted until the creation of Betar [Revisionist Zionist youth group created by Ze'ev Jabotinsky]. Betar arranged for its own sports organization. This weakened the strength of Hakoakh-Makabi , because the new organization developed well. From time to time, we took excursions with the sports clubs and with other youth organizations from the nearby cities – usually, Bedzin and Sosnowiec.

Later, we decided that we should create a children's section at the sports club and that I should do gymnastics with the folks' shul children outside of the framework of the club.

Our activity, directly or indirectly, influenced the children from the pious circles whose fathers, because of their piety, were against the sports clubs. I remember such a case with a boy, the grandson of Moshe the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer]. Doctors advised him to do gymnastics. His mother turned to me to do gymnastics with him in their residence because his father would not permit him to go to the Hakoakh club for gymnastics. I agreed to the request of the woman and gymnastics helped the boy a great deal.

There were many such indications of the indirect effect. However, there also were such cases of a direct effect. Many children

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with pious parents were active members of the sports club, although the pious parents had forbidden this. We had to hide the attraction of our popular and energetic society for these young people.

Our sports club and other clubs would also arrange several times a year for the Dobroczynność [Charity], at which the assimilated “Germans” such as Wajc, Mamelok, Brandes, Wajntraub and the pseudo “Germans” like Margulis, Frenk, Adelis and many others, were active. The Dobroczynność took care of many poor Jews in Zawiercie.

It is particularly worth recording that an imposing Purim ball was organized with our help. The preparation began two months before the ball (gathering food for the buffet, presents for the lottery, cash, and so on). The income from the ball was dedicated to help for Passover for the poor Jewish population.

In these actions, we saw how devoted these Jews (who in general only were in contact with Christians) were to their poor brothers. Thanks to Mamelok and Wajcen, we received the largest hall in the city, Dom Ludowy [Ice House], which not just anyone could receive, for our use.

Large masses came to the ball, not only from Zawiercie but also from the surrounding area. It was satisfying to see that all this was worth doing to help the large number of needy people in the city.




[Page 537]

The Youth Movements in Zawiercie

by Sala Jakubowicz-Zilbersztajn

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Since my youngest years in Zawiercie, I was active in Halutz [Pioneer], in P. A. F. [Polish Worker's Fund] of Histadrut [General Organization of Workers], as well as in the Zawiercie branch of the Friends of the Jerusalem University (as secretary of the branch from 1924 to 1926).

I was also active during the founding of Tzerei Zion [Youth of Zion] (founders Dovid Landau, Shabtai Klugman, the Turner brothers, Yeshaya Baumac, Yehiel Simchowicz and others).

Shabtai Klugman gave an ideological tone to Tzerei Zion. He gave lectures about current matters. Yeshaya Baumac (today Dr. Yeshaya Baumac, a well-known psychiatrist in [Israel], manager of the government's Station for Spiritual Hygiene in Jerusalem and Be'er Sheva) gave his interesting lectures on cultural themes. Dovid Landau, Dr. Potok, and Meir Iserowski (now in Magdiel) would also give lectures.

In addition, courses about Zionism, Jewish history, and the Jewish National Movement were also organized. Special attention was given to the study of Modern Hebrew in various courses. The very skilled teacher of Modern Hebrew,

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A Group of Activists in Tzerei Zion


Kopl Minc, excelled with the Modern Hebrew courses [and] was then very popular in the city. In the end, Dovid Werdiger, Reb Shabtai, the cantor's son-in-law, who remains in our memory as the nicest figure from Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] taught us Modern Hebrew. All the Zawierciers in Israel can confirm this.

Of the various youth groups in Zawiercie I remember: Hashomer HaTsair [Youth Guard], Hahalutz Haklali [The General Pioneers], Betar [Revisionist Youth Organization], Hashomer Hadati [The Religious Guard], Tserei Mizrakhi [Mizrakhi Youth Movement] Masada [Young Men's Zionist Organization], Herzliya, HaShakhar [The Dawn] and many others.

The nicest figure in our Zionist life was Meir Frenk, who was torn away from us very suddenly during the First World War. Meir Frenk had a great influence on the development of the Zionist movement in Zawiercie thanks to his tact, political sense, unlimited self-sacrifice to the ideal of Dr. [Theodor] Herzl, whom he had the merit to hear at the Fifth Zionist Congress, to which he was delegated for the first time by the Zawiercie group.

Later, working so devotedly for Zionism, was his brother, Yisroel Frenk, who was president of Tserei Zion and Tarbut [Zionist network of educational institutions]. He won the great trust of all Zawiercie communal circles and, particularly, of the Zionist circles, for his honest and

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devoted concern for all problems connected with the Zionist ideal. The entire Frenk family was loyal to the Zionist ideal. Reb Leibush Frenk was one of the first [members of] Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] in the city.

* * *

Essentially, my “intuition” was influenced by the reality then: we had seen the Jews who had looked for support in our region in Poland; in Upper Silesia, the Nazis had already begun to persecute the Jews and in Poland itself [Józef] Beck had begun to flirt with the Nazis. I felt that we had no other choice than to emigrate to Eretz Yisroel. Alas, not all Zionists understood this in time.

From among the many devoted co-workers for the welfare of the Zionist movement, I will record several: Yosef Khmielnicki, who was particularly devoted to the Betar movement and its leader, Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Almost the entire Khmielnicki family served this ideal. The still dedicated Moshe (Meitek) Nauman was extremely active in the youth movement, in all of its pioneer directions. Pinkhas Zilbersztajn, previously an activist in Hahalutz Haklali, later became secretary of Betar and helped immensely in the organizational construction of the movement. My brother, Shmuel Zilbersztajn, [who] perished at the hands of the Nazi, also was active in Hahalutz. They worked at Dr. Lewensztajn's farm, both in the garden and in the field work.

It is worth recording that Dr. Lewensztajn – an assimilated Jew (his wife was a Christian by origin)


Pioneers working Zawiercie fields – the church is in the background

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A group from Zawiercie after immigrating to Israel


worked with us. They gave us mechanical instructions as to how to work in the field and the garden. We benefitted a great deal and had a great deal of spiritual pleasure from it.

We gave the greatest part of the profits from our efforts to the central halutz [pioneer] organization.

Under our influence, Dr. Lewensztajn deemed it worthy to donate his private library to Jerusalem University (which had then opened in 1925).

Tosziek Bornsztajn – the very talented and devoted Zionist of the younger generation – took over the sending of books to Jerusalem. He, as the Zawierciers who lived through the terrible time of Hitler in Zawiercie said, as manager, he led the food warehouse in the ghetto honestly and with honor. He fell from a Nazi bullet when the rampaging Nazis shot into the courtyard where the Kromolwer Rebbe lived on the day before the last deportation. Among others, the lawyer Teodor-Benyamin and (Tosziek) Bornsztajn fell there.

It is proper to remember his father first, the Zionist

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veteran, Reb Avraham Bornsztajn. He was the first and the oldest chairman of the Zionist circle (or Zionist organization) in Zawiercie. He also made himself beloved with the Christian population as a liberal and educated Jew and he was elected as vice president of Zawiercie.

I will never forget the celebration in honor of his 30 years of activity in the Zionist movement. The celebration took place in the private residence of the well-known rich man and activist, Reb Yehiel Windman. In the decorated rooms, in which there were richly decorated tables, accompanied by the sounds of music, the celebrant was carried on an armchair to the head of the main table. The celebratory part of the banquet was organized by the youth groups of every shading. The young ended the banquet with song and dance.

Reb Avraham Bornsztajn justly earned this honor. He was one of the first Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] in our city and then one of the main spokesmen of the Zawiercie Zionists until his last breath.

As is said, he died in the middle of the street of a heart attack, reading about the decree of the famous English “White Paper” that was supposed to immobilize our growth in Israel.

Reb Avraham Bornsztajn and his wife raised all of their children in the Zionist spirit. Doing this, they were a model for all of the Zawiercie young people.



[Page 544]

As the Emissary of the Hahalutz Center

by Yerachmiel Zelivansky

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

In 1938, on the eve of my emigration to Israel, I came to Zawiercie to say goodbye to Zionist friends who had shown so much self-sacrifice in support of the hakshore [preparation for emigration to Eretz Yisroel] work and, particularly, the agricultural farm. The farm was created with the help of the Honorable Gentlemen: Windman, Liberman, Szwarc, on a large area with a two-story house in Borowa-Poland. The farm had a field of cattle and poultry; here about 30 halutzim [male pioneers] and halutzus [female pioneers] were prepared for emigration to Eretz Yisroel. The fine educational farm was led by the Zionist Zawiercier Patron, at the head of which stood the leader of the WIZO [Women's International Zionist Organization], Mrs. Anna Marglis, the lawyer, Tosziek (Teodor-Benyamin Zev) Bornsztajn, etc. The place, at that time, was the main attraction for the young Jews. They, the young people, drew from it spiritual and technical information. Thanks to the influence of Halutz, many left for hakshore and, from there, to Eretz Yisroel.

I, as an emissary from the Halutz center, had many, many opportunities to become more familiar with the communal Zionist work in Zawiercie; a great deal of self-sacrifice and dedication was shown by the young there in helping to build their own country and supporting [the] Hebrew [language]. This was the fulfillment for the Zionist young people and the older ones in Zawiercie.

* * *

The last theater: in 1937, a theater performance was organized by the Herzliya kibbutz [communal settlement], which took place in the municipal movie theater [and] was turned into a grandiose demonstration for Eretz Yisroel. Because of the great scarcity [of space], the Polish police had to restrain those who stormed the national celebration en masse.


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