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[Page 553]

“Poalei Zion” and the “Dror”
Youth Movements

by Yosef Magen-Shitz

Translated from the Hebrew by Yossi Lerner

In 1931 I left town and traveled to Czernowitz to study, and there, I became part of the main activists of the “PoaleI Zion.” Together with friends from among the socialist Zionist students' group “Avoda” (who were mostly former members of the pioneering youth movements “Gordonia” and “Hashomer Hazair” in Bukovina who did not make Aliyah, we became part of the youth groups, the pioneer groups, and the training groups. Many people streamed to these groups during that period of “high tide” (called “prosperity”) in Zionism, and everyone aspired to move to Palestine. The primary concern of the movement throughout Romania and in Yedinitz was aimed at training and emigration to Palestine.

[Page 554]

The first group of pioneers of the Yedinitz Poalei Zion group was called Yungbar in 1933

From right: Chaim Wallach, (Yagur), Rachele Weiner (Kiryat Chaim), Lyova Gukovsky, Bracha Grossman-Horowitz (Petach Tikva), Dudka Rosenthal


A group of members of Yungbar (Poalei Zion youth) with Shalom and Manya Caspi on the eve of their Aliyah

From right:
Standing: Tully Lenkovsky, -----, ------, Chaim Wallach (Yagur), -----
Seated in center, Rachele Weiner (Kiryat Chaim), Manya and Shalom Caspi (Herzlia), Chaya Gandelman (Yagur)
Bottom: Bracha Grossman-Horowitz (Petach Tikva), Riva ----, Malka Lerner

[Page 555]

Poalei Zion youth group planning to embark on pioneer training

From right:
Top row: Mintsa Mogenstein (Venezuela), Chava Shapiro (Yagur), Malka Lerner (Ramat Gan), ----- Lerner;
Center: Kreindel Lesser, Tully Lenkovsky, Bella Zissman, -----, -----, -------;
Bottom: ----, Bruria Kutcher.


The youth movement of “Poalei Zion” was established with the circles of “Haluzei Poalei Zion,” under several names: “Youngbar,” “Younge Poalei Zion” “Noar Poalei Zion,” “Freihart,” like at the movement in Poland. All these circles were united in the early 1930s under the overall name of “Dror.” It was usually difficult to differentiate or to separate the “Poalei Zion” adults and the members of the youth organizations in Yedinitz, as elsewhere. They were almost identical, unlike other Zionist youth organizations, which were more independent and distinct from the adult's party.

[Page 556]

By the way, from Czernowitz we brought to Bessarabian towns a sort of “Zionist Yiddishism,” which was consistent with the devotion to Yiddish and its literature and recognized it as the national language, contrary to the position of the educated Zionists of the past. This was new to Bessarabian Zionism because “Yiddishists” traditionally identified as anti-Zionists. I remember that the great teacher, Hillel Dobrow, z”l, was greatly bothered by the Yiddishist stance of a student, even if it was in words only.


Girls' Group “Oifgang” of Poalei Zion youth in 1930-1931
Counselors standing: Manya Weizman-Caspi, Lyova Gukovsky

[Page 557]

“Dror-Poalei Zion” youth group in the 1930s
Counselors in middle: Chaim Wallach (Yagur), Bracha Grossman (Petach Tikva), Mina Parnass (Tel Aviv)


We also talked about the establishment of Yiddish schools. However, in those days there was an obvious deterioration even of “Tarbut's” Hebrew schools and the plans remained as nothing more than posturing, echoing the ideology from Czernowitz and Poland.

On this occasion, I must note that the beginning of the independent pioneering activity of “Poalei Zion” in all of Romania was located in Yedinitz through the first labor-Zionist pioneer in Romania, by Lyuba Gukowski, z”l. Lyuba joined “Hahalutz” and went out for further training even before there was a “Poalei Zion” training camp. When the circles of the pioneers of “Poalei Zion” were established in 1933, we pulled Lyuba out from his training.

Kibbutz Rifichan was near the sugar factory, which belonged to “Gordonia,” and we made him an “instructor.” He went from one chapter to another to recruit pioneers and then wander as a guide from one training Kibbutz to another. He was active as a pioneering guide until his Aliyah in 1934.

In Israel, Lyuba joined Kibbutz Yagur. About a year after my Aliyah in 1939, he was sent as a pioneer emissary to Romania. He returned to Israel already after the outbreak of the war through Turkey and Syria. He volunteered to a parachute unit during the war behind enemy lines. He was wounded in Romania and returned lame (I met him when I was then a soldier in the Jewish Brigade, somewhere in the Western desert of North Africa). He perished in the accident, appalling and inconceivable, in 1953 at the paratroopers' conference at Kibbutz Maagan in the Jordan Valley. A special place in this book is devoted to his wonderful personality.

[Page 558]

The movement in Yedinitz was not legal. The local authority (the gendarmerie and the sub-prefecture, those in charge of “internal security”) did not know about our actions or if so, ignored the youth gatherings and debates. Occasionally there was some gendarme who heard the noise emanating from the hall, entered, stayed, and lingered. At times, if he was drunk, he would shout and scatter the gathered people.

When Communist underground activity intensified with the distribution of proclamations and at the start of organizing its activity among the Christians in the town and the surrounding villages, the government began to be more interested in their activities and in the Zionist clubs. The government saw in every organization something which “smells” like revolutionary-Bolshevik, like anti-government subversion. On the eve of every Communist day (May 1 or the October day of the revolution, etc.), the
authorities would make preventative arrests.

And so, our friend Shimshon Bronstein was jailed and severely tortured as a “Communist” in May 1932. The investigators wanted him to confess his revolutionary actions. Finally he was released, and this matter generated a huge echo everywhere in Romania.

Occasionally, I visited Yedinitz. I came there already as a known person. In 1937, I traveled as the emissary of the “Israel Working Party” from Bessarabia to the 20th Zionist Congress in Zurich. In 1938, Cuza and Goga came to power in Romania and scattered all the Jewish and Zionist organizations.

At that time the newspaper “Oipboy,” for which I was the editor in Czernowitz, was closed. By the way, in my tiny offices there was a secret consultation of youth movement activists and for our Hachalutz, and it was then decided to establish an underground group that we named “Poalei Zion-Dror.”

[Page 559]

The Second regional Dror Seminar, Yedinitz, Passover 1937

Center: Representatives of Central Office;
From right: Aharonchik Lerner (Haifa), Zvi Weirauch (today Lieutenant General Tadmor, head attorney-advocate in Navy), emissary Elchanan Shemi of Tel Yosef, and Yosef Magen-Shitz (Tel Aviv). Among the others from Yedinitz are Chaya Ita Groberman (Kfar Ata), Manya Solter (Haifa), Yasha Baron, Devorah Libman-Magen (Haifa), Yasha Shitz-Magen, Dan Eilbirt, Chantsa Perkolov (Kiryat Motzkin)


Most of the members of the Yedinitz youth movements either made Aliyah or intended to make Aliyah. Many emigrated to South America. After the Aliyah of mysister Sarah in 1936, mine in 1938, and my brother Yasha, z”l, in 1939,
my father, Moshe, z”l, became the patron of “Noar Poalei Zion.” He was the contact person of “Poalei Zion” and he also signed the lease of “the hall” for this movement.

[Page 560]

Then came 1939, and the 1940s, and the Holocaust. The curtain went down on
Bessarabian Jewry and the bitter fate that did not pass over Yedinitz.

At the end of the war, the few hundred survivors returned to town. The survivors sought, most of them, the way to make Aliyah to Israel. If it was allowed, all the Jews of the town would have emigrated to Israel; the Zionists, and the former Communists. But this problem is not only of the Jews of our town, it is the problem of all Jews in the Soviet Union.

Tel Aviv

Group of Haluzei “Poalei Zion” from Yedinitz

1. Bruria Kutcher Nachmani (Tel Aviv) 2. Avraham Malamud (Peru) 3. Sarah Gertzman-Farkash 4. Farkash (Israel) 5. Malka Lerner (Ramat Gan) 6. Chaim Wallach (Yagur) 7. Avraham Baron 8. Daniel Fuks 9. Zahava Dimant-Fuks (Haifa) 10. Yasha Meilechson (Israel-Venezuela) 11. Chaim Shadmi (Fima Feldman, Haifa) 12. ---- 13. Chava Shapiro-Yitzchaki (Yagur) 14. Ita Weinshenker-Mishori (Tel Aviv) 15. -------


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