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[Page 199]

Our Zionist Activism

by Yitshak Griner

Translated by Miriam Leberstein


Yitshak Griner, of blessed memory

The announcement of the Balfour Declaration strengthened the Zionist organization in Nowy Dwor. The leadership at that time consisted of Reb [respectful term of address] Shimen Note Srebrenik, president; Binyomin Fridman, secretary; F. Fridman; Nosn Zaltsman; Yitshak Griner; Leye Segal; Rukhtshe Yerozalimski; Gitl Ptashek; and Yosef Baranek.

The leadership conducted an active program, with the first goal to increase collections for the Jewish National Fund by installing a JNF pushke [charity collection box] in every Jewish home. This was not an easy task. We encountered opposition from the Bund, which opposed the Zionist utopian ideal because it diverted the masses from the struggle in the lands where they currently made their homes. From the other side, we faced opposition from the very religious and fanatical, who thought that the Zionists were hurrying the coming of Messiah. So for us every additional pushke that we placed represented a victory.

We confronted the same problems when we wanted to sell shekels [tokens given in return for contributions for the Zionist cause], but our leaders exerted enormous efforts to break through all obstacles, to the point that Nowy Dwor was considered one of the leading Polish Jewish towns in the Zionist field.

We also established a Zionist women's union, “Daughters of Zion,” which brought in the pedagogue Yosef Roznzaft to hold classes in modern Hebrew, Bible, and Jewish history at their quarters in Kibler's house. We also founded the youth organizations Pirhei Zion [Flowers of Zion] and Hashomer Haleumi [National Guard] which conducted educational work among the young, as well as an organization for handworkers, under the leadership of members Avraham Segal and Moyshe Blakharek.

The Zionists organized a self–education group at the Sholem Aleichem Library in Junker's building, which held readings every Friday night and “question and answer” evenings which drew large and eager audiences that filled the hall.

In the elections to the city council, a national bloc was established thanks to the Zionists, and it elected the following council members: Moyshe Berman, Yekhetskl Berman, Yankev Hildenbrand, Leye Segal, Dov Vengozh, Y.M. Mundlak, N. Knaster and Sh. Y. Shikora.

From the time of the German occupation during World War I we had brought in Hebrew teachers, good pedagogues (like Rozenbaum and Khayne),

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from whom many Jewish children learned Hebrew, Yiddish and general subjects.

After the pogrom in Lemberg [in 1918], we organized a mourning and protest demonstration. All the stores were closed and the whole town participated in the protest meeting in the town synagogue. We also established a fund to aid victims of the pogrom.

The influence of the Zionist organization grew steadily and it broadened its scope of activity. We celebrated all national holidays and victories, and held memorial programs to commemorate Zionist leaders and well known personages, such as the yortstayts /yahrzeit [anniversary of a death] for [Theodore] Hertzl and [Chaim] Bialek. On the 20th of Tammuz [Hertzl's yorstayt] there was a commemoration in the besmedresh [house of study, also used for worship] with the participation of Rabbi Neufeld and visiting Zionist leaders like Y. Gotlib and Rabbi Zlotnik.

Our crowning achievement was the Tarbut school, where over 150 students enrolled, with excellent teachers who had graduated from the teacher's seminary, like Kagan, Dine Grundvag, Kartsovitsh, Pleser and Markman. It was a real pleasure to enter the school and listen to the classes, to hear from the mouths of the children the living language of modern Hebrew, their knowledge of the Bible and other subjects. Our parent conferences were so festive, with the participation of Mafke Aynshteyn, who influenced every one with his joy in the school. The leadership of the Tarbut school consisted of N. Koyfman, Y. Izraelovitsh, M.Bender, T Frid, M. Kartsovitsh, and secretary Yitshak Griner.

Nowy Dwor also held splendid bazaars to raise money for the Jewish National Fund. They would last for days during the week of Chanukah. Prominent personalities like Bialopolski, Dr. Klaynboym,

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Blokh and the mayor of Nowy Dwor, Pshedvietski, would participated in the opening ceremony.

The fundraising for Keren Hayesod [Foundation Fund] was also successful and many Jews would make substantial yearly contributions. Central headquarters would send an able and experienced person to lead the campaign, which lasted a week, with the help of Rabbi Neufeld, Reb Shimen Note Srebrenik, I.M. Mundlak, M. Bender, Yitshak Griner, Z. Turkeltaub, and Y. Izraelovitsh.

A great celebration occurred in 1930, when we brought in the leader of the Zionist organization, Yitshak Grinboym. The enthusiasm of the Jewish community was so great that the Christian populace was astonished, asking, “Is this the king of the Jews, who has come to his people in Nowy Dwor?”

It must be said that our entire Zionist life was influenced by our dear Reb Shimen Note Srebrenik, whose 70th birthday we had the honor of celebrating with great acclaim and honor, with lovely gifts and with the planting of trees in honor of the celebrant in the city of Hertzl. All the Zionist activities, all the campaigns we conducted emerged from decisions made in the home of Reb Shimen Note Srebrenik. Everything we did required his stamp of approval.


The boys of Agudath Yeshurun: before World War I with their leader,
Reb Yitshak Isaac Ben Tuvim from Jerusalem


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