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[Page 20]

The Jubilee of the Katowice Conference

by Joseph Chrust

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

Due to the initiative of a Katowice native, Mr. Aaron Eishel, the editorial committee of this book was able to obtain a rare booklet which is in the possession of Dr. Moshe Landau. It is called “In Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Katowice Conference” and is written in Polish. The pamphlet, which was published by the local chapter of the Zionist Organization in Katowice, includes essays by Dr. Joshua Tahon, Dr. O. Rappaport, Dr. Chaim Hilfestein, Rabbi K. Chameides, Dr. Jehuda Orenstein, Josef Frotz, Moshe Zinger, S. L. Zitron, Dr. J. Klausner, Albert Wiener, and M. M. Ussishkin.

kat020.jpg Announcement for the 50th anniversary of the Katowice Conference [35 KB]
Announcement for the 50th anniversary
of the Katowice Conference

In his article, “Observations on the History of Chibat Zion in Galicia”, Dr. O. Rappaport, Chairman of the Katowice chapter of the Zionist Organization, explored the background of the Katowice conference and especially the role of one of the few Rabbis in that period who promoted Chibat Zion, Rabbi Yeshayahu Meir Shapira from Czortkow. The article also includes two letters written by Rabbi Zwi Hirsh Kalisher and Rabbi Yeshayahu Meir Shapira which first appeared in the newspaper “Hamagid.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Katowice Conference, Rabbi Kalman Chameides dedicated his article in the pamphlet to the “Akiva” youth organization and especially to its positive religious attitude. The author pointed out that the movement's serious attitude towards religion had the additional benefit of drawing its members closer to the treasures of the Hebrew language and literature. He wrote:

“A knowledge of Hebrew vocabulary directly from the original ancient literary sources is necessary for another reason. Much as our relationship to another person is sometimes influenced by the circumstances of our first meeting, thus every Hebrew word maintains the color and character of the literary creation from which it stems. For a Jew, who encounters the word “heaven” for the first time in a dictionary rather than in the first sentence of the Bible where it is placed in the context of the creation of the world, the word will never have a deeper meaning than the word “niebo” or Himmel”. In contrast, a Jew who receives a traditional education will subconsciously have a different reaction to this word. Emotional and conceptual associations surround the word “hashamaim” in the poetic words of the author of the book of Psalms, “the heavens relate the glory of G-D” or in the majesty of the sentence “in the beginning G-D created the heavens and the earth”. A prosaic word like “ladder” conceals within it some of the enchantment of the dream of Jacob if it is engraved into our memory for the first time as a component of the beautiful picture of this dream in the Bible (“and he dreamed, and behold a ladder is standing on the ground and its top reaches heaven and behold angels of the Lord are ascending and descending, etc”). It is clear from this, that studious reading of the Bible and our ancient religious texts in general, leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Hebrew language, not only in terms of its linguistic and etymological richness but above all the artistic and emotional side of each word.”

kat021.gif No caption  [49 KB]
No caption.
[The heading in the paper reads: 50th anniversary of the Katowice Conference]

In an article entitled “Fifty Years after the Katowice Conference” Josef Frotz, secretary of the local chapter of the Zionist Organization, discusses the history of the conference with particular emphasis to its “Katowice” flavor.

The writer notes that according to the official report of the conference, 36 Chovvei Zion delegates from various countries entered the Lozy Concordia IV #340 hall of the Katowice Bnei Brith on Cheshvan 18, 5645 (November 6, 1884) at 6:00 PM and signed their names into a guest book of the hall. Despite a diligent search, this book could not be located, and so the writer gives us the names of the participants based on various historical sources. Naturally, the author especially notes the names of the Katowice natives who participated in the conference - Moritz Mozes, Freuthal, Friedländer, and Löbinger. He especially emphasizes Mozes whose name can also be found among the delegates to the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897 as well as at a smaller meeting with Herzl, Ehrenpreiss, Saltz, Birnbaum, and Dr. Osias Thon.

The article by Albert Wiener, Chairman of the local Zionist Organization in Bytom, past Chairman of the Katowice chapter, and Regional Chairman of the Zionist Organization of Upper Silesia is especially noteworthy.

Wiener describes the 25th anniversary celebration of the Katowice Conference that took place on November 9, 1909 (25 Cheshvan, 5670) which he had organized. Among the people who assisted him in organizing the event, he mentions Zygmunt Rappaport, and Josef Lachman from Katowice, Dr. Dobrzynski from Bytom, the court advisor Poznanski, and the engineer Hacker. He notes that Hacker immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1913 and made a significant contribution to building the country.

The writer describes the preparations for the festivities that started on Rosh Hashana 5670 (1909). Advertisments were placed in the newspapers “Welt” and “Yiddishe Rundshau”. Among the many letters that were received, he singles out one from Dr. Karpel Lipa, then a gentleman of 86 years, from Yasi. Other participants in the Conference of 25 years ago who responded were Fischel Pins from Lithuania, and Dawidson from Warsaw. Interesting material was also received from Klibenski from Kovno and from the well known translator of Graetz, S. P. Rabinowitz. All the material was collected by Hacker and sent to Prof. Dr. Heinrich Levi, previously a resident of Berlin and then the manager of the Municipal Library of Tel Aviv, who was willing to edit the memorial pamphlet.

Many others wanted to take part in the anniversary celebrations. Among them was Dr. Joseph Klausner who stayed in Katowitz for a whole week; Nahum Sokolow, General Secretary of the Acting Zionist Committee, who attended in place of David Wolffson, President of the Zionist Organization who could not come because of illness; and representatives from all sections of Poland, Galicia, and Berlin. From among thousands of participants, and many hundreds from abroad who took part in the 1884 Conference, only Fishel Pins and Davidson attended the commemoration.

The article gives a very emotional description of the anniversary party that took place in the “Kaiserhof” Hall and was attended by only 250 guests. The musical part was executed by the Katowice cantor of that time, Simon Zinger and the major address was given by Dr. Aaron Pandler from Wroclaw. This speech was reprinted in the newspaper “Welt” (December 15, 1909) as was the address given by Dr. Thon (December 12, 1909).

The anniversary banquet was attended by 280 guests. Major speeches were given by Nahum Sokolov and Dr. Josef Klausner. In an assembly that took place that evening at the “Deutsche Haus”, the Zionist leader, Adolf Stand, aroused a great deal of excitement. The celebration reached its climax when the original delegates, Pins and Dawidson came to the stage.

The writer concludes: “The 25 years that followed, have not dimmed the glow of this Katowice Conference”.

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