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[Page 263]

The First Zionist Youth Group

By Yisrael Baruch Eisenstein (Miami Beach)

After Dr. Ze'ev Herzl published his book, The Jewish State, in 1896, a movement to establish Zionist associations began in all cities and towns, including Drohitchin. At that time Drohitchin had a larger group of followers of the Enlightenment: educated teenage boys and young men, dreamers and fighters, who dreamt about Jewish redemption and world liberation. These young dreamers (over the age of 17) were the first to start spreading the idea of Zion in Drohitchin.

Among the earliest founders of the Zionist Association were Yaakov Siderov, Zavel Averbuch, Moshe Zelig Goldman, David Goldman, Aryeh Shochet, Yisrael Baruch Warshavsky, the writer of these lines, and others as well.

The work of the Young Zionists Association was mostly focused on cultural issues. Several times a week, especially on Friday night and the Sabbath, they would gather together in synagogues or in a private home, and listen to reports about Zionism, learned Hebrew, Jewish history, Bible, etc.

For a while, the meetings of the Young Zionists were held at our house. My mother helped us a great deal and encouraged us in our work. Our group was also involved in selling shekels and shares in the Colonial Bank. Frequently visitors would come to our home and speak about Zionism and the Jewish Redemption. The Toshia Library in Warsaw sent us Hebrew books, which the young people read enthusiastically.

Our meetings were held at a high level, and attracted a large number of local young people and the elderly, all of whom experienced spiritual satisfaction. I am talking about life in those years, in those fine moments of 55 years ago, and am thinking about what subsequently happened to my hometown and the people who lived there, and whom I loved so dearly – people whose lives were snuffed out. Even my blind eye sheds a tear for the world that is gone, never to return.

See pictures on pp. 81 and 191 that are related to the article.

The First Zionist Organization

The Zionist Association of Drohitchin, Kobrin District

25 Sivan the first year of our Redemption*

Our Dear Brothers and Sisters from Drohitchin in the United States!

        The bitter Exile that the Jewish People has been living in for two thousand years puts its seal on us, the Jews of Russia, Poland and Lithuania. During those generations, we have been situated here among fires, snakes, scorpions and hungry wolves. Our blood flowed like water, our lives and property were given over to strangers, and there is no one to even utter a protest against the great injustice that has been done to us in plain view of the whole world.

        You in the Unites States are also Drohitchin residents, born into the Russian and Polish hell, and certainly feel the effects of the bitter Exile there in a free country. However, you cannot begin to imagine the kind of suffering and hardship we experience here. We suffered hunger and robbery during the war, but that is nothing compared with the emotional suffering we experienced every step of the way.

        Yet from the darkness of the exhausted night, there was always a small scintilla of the sunshine of hope. As long as were looked to our holy east, the land of our forefathers and prophets, we were always strong in our hope and full faith that ultimately the day of redemption would arrive for our persecuted and suffering People, and the sun of charity would heal us under its wings by showing us the way in the dark until we got to our respite and inheritance.

        Now, Hurrah! Our hope has been realized. Our great and wondrous dream that was dreamt of by forefathers over thousands of years, and for which they walked through fire and water is now being realized in our own day. The Land of Israel has been returned to us – to the Jewish People, and the sound of the Shofar sounds throughout the Diaspora to have our People return to its borders. Come build the ruins, bring back the souls! We in Drohitchin are also listening to the great announcement, young and old alike, women and children are paying close attention. We also want to come in large numbers to embrace the earth of our land and soul, to water it with the sweat of our brow and the blood of our hearts.

        Our Zionist committee, together will all the public officials here, has decided to organize a constant and organized emigration of the Jews of Drohitchin to Palestine, to help them as much as possible. For this purpose we have established a Pioneer Association that numbers more than forty men and women from among the best of our

[Page 264]

people, and who have dedicated themselves to this purpose of being among the first to move to our holy land, and to devote the best years of their lives for the Land of Israel and the Jewish People.

        Unfortunately, however, we have very limited means, and we are unable to help our brethren who are putting themselves out for our ideals during these serious times, and cannot assist them adequately in their sacred task. The awful war has robbed us of all our property, and all we have are the clothes on our backs. We are unable to give them the money needed for them to be able to carry out their wonderful and great mission. Nevertheless, we are willing to give them our last few pennies solely in order to increase the number of settlers in the land of our hopes and future.

        Therefore, we turn to you, our brothers and sisters of Drohitchin in the United States with a heartfelt call and urgent request: please act to assist your brothers and sisters of Zion who are venturing to raise the flag on the lovely Judean hills! May it be possible for the sons of Drohitchin to liberate themselves from Exile! Support our pioneers with funds so that we can offer sure and rapid assistance for the emigrants who wish to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of their People and the development of their Land.

        It is a sacred duty for you, brothers and sisters, to take part in the building of our soul's Land! Don't withhold your money from those who give their all, their blood and souls for the resurrection of the eternal people in our eternal land! Each one of you must provide as generous a contribution as possible, and thus you too, across the sea, shall be among those providing assistance to the growth of our holy land.

        Therefore, we are appointing our honored friend, Zvi Aryeh Eisenstein as secretary of our committee. He has always been devoted to our great ideas here in Drohitchin with all his heart. He is now on his way to the United States to collect the funds for the pioneers who are traveling regularly to Palestine. We request that you welcome him and assist him as much as possible, and to request him to give you an official receipt with the stamp of the Drohitchin Zionist Committee. You can also send the money c/o our committee (address: Drohitchin, etc.).

        We strongly hope that as soon as you receive this letter you will come to our aid and extend your hand, brothers and sisters.

        We end with a blessing that has been on our lips for thousands of years – Next Year in Jerusalem!

        We sign with feelings of respect and with the blessings for a rebuilt Zion and a complete redemption.

        The Zionist Association of Drohitchin B,

        Chairman – Shmuel Fishman; Secretary – Zvi Shkolnick; Treasurer – Zelig Shochat.
        Members of the Committee: Yehuda Zilberstein, Gedaliah Kaplan, Miriam Weissman, Zvia Waldman and Y. Roshinsky.

        The Pioneer Association of Drohitchin

        M. Dov, Chairman; A. Valevelsky, Secretary; Y. Y. Khnovitch, Treasurer; M. Chazan, M. Zaretsky, members.

[photo:] Standing from right: Rivka Burstein, S. Pisetsky, B. Torbovitch, F. Epstein, Goldman. Seated from right: H. Waldman, Goldman, Heska Feldman, Zvia and Chashka Waldman. Bottom, from right: Chaytsha Epstein, Leitsha Mendelson, Esther Mishovsky, Sheinka Feldman and Sarah Kreines – 1922.

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