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L. Naskelsker

Political and Cultural Activities

After the Russian Czarist forces left Ciechanow, we became a little more free and a renewed Jewish social life started to pulsate. A flood of increasing movements of all streams began to multiply: social, cultural and political. Such was the case in all Jewish yishuvim (settlements) in Poland and so it was in Ciechanow, that had, at that time, twenty thousand inhabitants. At the end of the war in 1918 Ciechanow had the following institutions and organizations: the Jewish Kehillah, a Merchants' society, a Bank Institution. There was a Jewish mayor, Jewish members in the city council, and Jewish policemen as well.

From those days there remains in my memory the beautiful Workers' Club, provided with everything that such an institution needed. Primarily a well-functioning library, overlooked by Shifra. She was a good librarian. She knew every reader and knew what to give each one to read and for study…

[Page 176]

I remember the first book she gave me to read. It was Robinson Crusoe. “This will be good for you. Read it. You'll enjoy it, and later I'll prepare other good books for you.” These were Shifra's words to me at that time, spoken with a smile.

I was still a young boy at that time and read voraciously, and soon started to learn about socialism with the help of those dear friends, idealists, of which my shtetl had many.
A meeting of Bundist groups from Ciechanow and Mlawa
A meeting of Bundist groups from Ciechanow and Mlawa
First row top: R: unknown, V. Kostsheva, Nashkelsker, T. Remboim, Kostsheva, Kleinbard;
seated: Kzesla, Flata, Gzebyenaz

Picture Index

[Page 177]

The second brother, Yidl, an energetic and determined one, “the politician” we called him, and his Party the Bund did indeed, because of this, put him forth as a candidate for city councilor in the elections.

The female member, M. Pafa, was a very dear young woman. From her wealthy home she came directly to the club, contributed her share of the work of evening classes that the club organized for working members, without charge. Her purpose in coming to the club wasn't merely to serve as a teacher. She was also convinced that only with social justice can there be a good world and a free world, and this is what drew her to the club that conducted its activities consistent with her ideas.

The chaver Voveh Burshtein was brought up in a wealthy and strictly religious home. The family hoped that their son would grow up to be a Rov. There came a time, though, when the Talmid Khokhem (religious learner) became a Talmid Socialism. Vaveh came to the club to give his lessons for the “lecture group” where a group of young people that the club organized were preparing themselves to be lecturers and leaders of the widely-spread social work. This widely-spread activity was carried on by the Bund.

I scan my brain for memories of days and years. I want to be able to recall and tell about bygone days. I want to bring out the beauty and variety of my youth club with its sports section, choral group, and so on… Where are they all: those dear idealists of my youth? Here before my eyes is a picture of a group of those young idealists and dreamers. I look at them and I feel like an orphan with a desire to say Kadish at the site of their graves, but where does one find the graves of these holy souls?

Once more I scan my brain. A particular page of the Poele Tzion movement of Ciechanow also with its own club, Di Arbeiter Haim (The Workers' Home). Unfortunately, I barely recall the names of those who conducted the Workers Home: Baruch Maline, and the other one -- Yosef Zilberblat of the young Poele Tzion, Yosef Zilberblat, a gentle blond boy, knowledgeable in Marxism Borokhovison and able to convey it, was a political opponent of mine; still, it was a pleasure to enter into a discussion with him.

There were also curious things and mischievous goings-on in the life of those days, but without doubt all these acts were closely related to certain aims that strengthened and cemented the whole active Jewish social movement uphill.

[Page 178]

Group of Left Poele Tzion
Group of Left Poele Tzion

Picture Index

Suddenly I recall the following episode:

I jump over the fence and from there is just a hop and a skip to the friend Shifra's house. My jump over the fence has nothing to do with mischief, but rather with practicality, to save time. That's how my youthfulness expressed itself: Why go all the way around when with one jump I'm at my destination? The only barrier that separated me from the narrow alley where Shifra lived was the fence, so why should I go all the way around? --- There was no time for such a luxury.

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