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On the Way to Zion


A History of Chibbat Tzion
and Zionism in Augustow

by M. Tzinovitz

The beginning of the “Chibbat Tzion” movement in Augustow was in the early years of the 80s of the previous century,[1] after the pogroms in the Ukraine and southern Russia. From a movement of individuals there developed a cohesive branch, which held a respected place, over the years, in the framework of the Odessan Council for the support of the Jews of Syria and the land of Israel.

At the head of Chovevei Tzion in Augustow in the 1880s and 1890s stood the teacher Reb Dovid Mordechai Markus, the brothers Shabtai and Tzvi Rosental, Gershon Mintz, Reuven Rotenberg, Moshe Arbstein, Eizik Elblinger, Efraim Friedberg, the Hebrew writer Yisrael Ze'ev Sperling, Leib Glikstein (who went up afterwards to the land of Israel), Shlomo, the son of the local Gaon Av Beit Din, Reb Moshe Yitzchak Halevi Segal. The names of those mentioned above always appear in lists of the donors and fundraisers for the needs of the new settlement in the land of Israel, for both monthly memberships and special collections for various actions. This branch of Chovevei Tzion constituted the basis of the Zionist organization in this city, with the appearance of National Zionism.

The first public action of “Chovevei Tzion” in Augustow was their celebration, in the year 5645 [1884], marking the birth of Sir Moses Montefiore, which was celebrated with great magnificence. Even the local Av Beit Din the Gaon Rabbi Katriel Aharon Natan welcomed it graciously. We find the following details about this celebration in the Hebrew weekly “HaMaggid” (from the year 1884, No. 48):

“Augustow. Russian Poland, Cheshvan 5645. Among the congregations of our kindred children of Israel, who took part in a celebration of the double jubilee[2] of our Lord the magnificent one of our nation, the righteous Sir Reb Moses Montefiore on the day of the completion of 100 years of his life[3] - may our community also be considered honored. In the assembly of people from our community from young to old, at the time of the afternoon worship of the Great Synagogue, to pour out speech to the One who dwells in the high places, for the length of life of this righteous Lord, may he live. After the shaliach tzibur had prayed the prayer of the Rabbi the Gaon, Our Teacher the Rabbi N. Adler, may God sustain him in life and protect him,*[4] the people responded verse after verse, the Rabbi the Gaon, the Rabbi Av Beit Din of our community, ascended the podium, and began his homily with the words “Moshe will rejoice in the gift of his portion, for I have called him a faithful servant,”[5] since this man Moshe is a faithful servant of God and of Torah, and very much desires God's commandments. “You placed a crown of splendor on his head.” For among princes his honor was singular, and he stood before kings and princes and brought out like a shining light the righteousness of our kindred, the oppressed and shattered children of his people, who had done no injustice.[6]

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The Rabbi also mentioned his many travels, how he endangered himself[7] to pass over the seas,[8] and desolate wilderness places, in order to save our kindred the children of Israel who were put in trouble and distress here and there, and for all of them kept the name of Jerusalem the holy city always before him. His spiritual life was entirely in it, and he travelled seven times to Jerusalem.


The correspondent “Etzbah”[9] (Yisrael Ze'ev Sperling) adds that

“The Rabbi's words found favor in the eyes of all who were gathered for this celebration, and they entered into their hearts, and went home happy and joyful, for all the good that God did for us, to bring to life for us Sir Moshe, may he live as this day for fame and praise.[10]

On the day after the celebration, on the actual birthday of the Prince mentioned above, the great completion ceremony was held for the Shas society in honor of the Lord. After the ceremony, notables of the city founded the “Chovevei Tzion Association.” And many set their hands to sign up, and also pledged to give from time to time continuing, respectable, donations. They fulfilled their promise immediately: they raised donations for the Keren Kayemet, and monthly fees for the support of the workers of the holy land, and each and every day the members increased, and lent their hands to the work of tzedakah with monetary donations.”

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. The early 1880s. Return
  2. The Jubilee is marked at 50 years, so 100 years would be a double Jubilee. Leviticus 25:10 “and you shall hallow the fiftieth year. You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you…” Return
  3. He actually lived from 24 October 1784 – 28 July 1885. Return
  4. Original footnote 1: Rabbi Dr. Natan Adler – the Chief Rabbi of the Jews of England. Return
  5. These are the opening words of a prayer from the Shabbat morning liturgy, part of the Amidah, the Standing Prayer. Return
  6. 1 Chronicles 12:18 “If you come on a peaceful errand, to support me, then I will make common cause with you, but if to betray me to my foes, for no injustice on my part…” Return
  7. Literally, placed his life in his hand. Return
  8. Psalms 8:9 “…the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever travels the paths of the seas…” Return
  9. Finger. Return
  10. Jeremiah 13:11 “I brought close to Me the whole House of Israel and the whole House of Judah–declares the LORD–that they might be My people, for fame, and praise, and splendor.” Return

My Ascent to the Land

by Akiva Glikstein

In the years 1900 – 1901 I served in the Russian army as a “volunteer.” I volunteered at the age of 18 in agreement with my father's desire, who I admire to this day. My father was of the opinion that if we, the Jews, want rights, we must accept on ourselves all the obligations. “I want to show the gentiles” – he would say “that a Jew also can be a good soldier, brave.” The “volunteer” had rights that a regular soldier did not have.

When I was in the army, there was under my command a soldier, “Tzarmis,” from the minorities of the Kazan region. He converted to Christianity under the influence of Russian missionaries; before that he was a Buddhist. He was primitive, he spoke terrible Russian, and he was dirty. He had never seen a towel or a napkin. I had to teach him to wash dishes. When he brought me a meal from the kitchen for the first time, the soup and the porridge were in a dish, but he took the meat out of a pocket of his dirty coat. I reprimanded him, and I granted him the meat as a gift.

Over the course of time he learned the rules of cleanliness. He was very devoted, because to serve with a Jewish volunteer was such a privilege: he did nothing and nothing,* he did not exercise, did not accept insults. The economics were good, and he also received a ruble in salary.

When I would send him to my parents' house, he would return drunk, and would relate in his language, which I finally learned to understand: “your mother is a good mujik (farmer, masculine). He [sic] gave me a big cup of vodka, food that was ai ai good, he said, she would watch out for my meltzik (boy), that he should not get cold, and she also gave me 20 kopecks, on my life.”

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He was exempt from serving duty in the kitchen; it was impossible to impose on him the cleaning of the yard or chopping wood. A volunteer, even a Jew, was permitted to join officers' school; in the barracks he lived in a room with another friend; under his command was a regular soldier; the volunteer would wear, in his free hours, a fancy uniform, which his father would pay for, resembling those of the officers. None of these rights were based in law, but on custom. The “volunteer” was obligated to have a high school education, healthy in body and with a pleasant appearance. The central purpose in this was that the volunteer was permitted to choose his place of service; the draftee was not so permitted. We were happy, my parents and I, that I was accepted to the infantry regiment that camped in Augustow. The officer appointed over me was German-Russian, a university graduate; an educated man. He almost never visited the clubhouse, in which the officers used to get so drunk that they lost their senses. He was a bachelor and liked to read science books in German and French. Sloppy in his dress, he looked like a yeshiva boy. He liked me. He used to invite me to his house for a cup of tea, and talk with me about all kinds of topics, even about Zionism, which was hated by the government. On Pesach Father would send him bottles of “Carmel” wine from Rishon L'Tzion,[1] and matzahs. The “Feldwebel” (Sergeant-Major) was a bachelor of about 45, a Lithuanian, who served for about 25 years in the army. The Sergeant-Major had more influence than the company Commander; he knew every soldier, and it was impossible to hide anything from him. He had an elementary education, at a time when the vast majority of the Russian people did not know how to read or write. The relationship to me was, therefore, excellent. My father was proud of me, but not so my mother. She would sigh and worry that it might be harmful to me. My father promised me a trip to the land of Israel if I would complete my service in the army without getting entangled in troubles. I was very happy, even though I was not then a Zionist.

My two sisters lived in the land of Israel: Rivka, the wife of Dr. Yaffa, and Esther, the wife of Chaim Margalit-Kalvariski. My father was one of the “Chovevei Tzion” and the President of the association in the city. Every Shabbat a few Chovevei Tzion would gather in our house. They would read articles from “HaMelitz” and from “HaTzefirah” and more. My father would volunteer in the synagogue and Shabbat and festivals, for the “Chovevei Tzion” council in Odessa. More than once I saw religious elders stick a finger in their forehead as a sign that my father was not sane, since he believed in the return to Zion prior to the coming of the Messiah.[2] Finally I completed my service in the army, and the preparations began for my journey to the land. My father drafted craftsmen to build for me two wooden suitcases. My father went about happy and cheerful, and would hum the tune “In the Place of Cedars.”[3] My mother would cry and say: “Is it not enough that I have my two daughters in this desolate land of Israel, he wants to send there also the son of our old age? What do they have there, in the land of Israel? Goose fat, there is none; jam – there is none; malaria – there is plenty; they eat grass like animals; the heart of a father!” My father would laugh to himself and reply: “Fool, the land of Israel – a land flowing with milk and honey,[4] but what? Arabs ruined it. The land awaits us, as we wait for it. And if with God's help I will rid myself of the business matters that are hateful to me, of the Cossacks that live in our houses, and from all the haters of Israel, who extort bribes from the Jews, the two of us will go up to the land and there we will conclude our lives. And I have one more wish, that this son of ours will marry his wife in Jerusalem.” And indeed, his wish was fulfilled; after a few years, in the year 1907, my chuppah[5] stood in the Kaminetz hotel in Jerusalem, and the two elders are sleeping their eternal sleep in the cemetery in Zikhron Yaakov. The wooden suitcases, meanwhile, were prepared, and in addition to them, a crate that was one meter square. Mother put into this crate tens of packages of jam, marmalade, and goose fat. This crate supplied me

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with mostly bitterness. We had only reached Costa,[6] Smyrna, Salonika, and when the sun began to warm, all the packages began to stream liquids in various colors.

When I reached Odessa, I lodged in the house of the writer Ben-Ami, who was the brother-in-law of my brother-in-law Dr. Yaffa. This Ben-Ami was a revolutionary, and hated the Tsar's regime with all his heart and soul. He had a favorite nickname for this regime: “Otto Svolotz.” I asked him what did I have to do for “Otto Svolotz” to permit me to leave Russia? He answered me that maybe it would be possible to obtain a Turkish visa, and if not – I had to buy a round trip ticket. And “don't forget” he added “that Dr. Yaffa was in Yafo,[7] who had great influence thanks to the “baksheesh[8] that he distributed. And regarding the return ticket, there would certainly be found a Jew in the land whose wife was embittering his life for him because there was no jam, goose fat, theatre, etc. there; he will buy the ticket from you.” I did as he said, and I went up onto the ship. I found a place in third class, for there wasn't a fourth.

All the bundles around me, and in the center, the known crate, on which I sat “like the king of the regiment.” Suddenly, woe is me, there suddenly appeared, as if from under the ground, a Russian gendarme. His feet – like the feet of a hippopotamus, wearing shining boots; on the boots were ringing nickel wheels. His uniform was blue, on his head there was a blue “yarmulke[9] with a white “fuftzik.”[10] He searched in the passport, and when he didn't find a Turkish visa, he respectfully[11] invited me to go with him. In the office of the gendarmerie, the officer ruled that I was right! “If the Turks will not allow him to get off the ship – he said – he will return on the same ship, doesn't he have a return ticket?” The gendarme immediately changed his spots, became as soft as butter and as sweet as honey, accompanied me back respectfully to the ship, brought me to the captain, saluted him, presented me as his sister's son, and humbly asked him to give me a place in a cabin, if possible. The captain promised to fulfill his request after the ship left the port. I invited my “uncle” to the buffet, and after drinking a cup of beer he parted from me with hugs and kisses. The ship began to whistle, to belch and yawn,[12] as is the way of every ship, and sailed to the sea. I washed myself, I combed my hair, and I returned to the captain, who welcomed me nicely. He called the head sailor, who was about 60, a “sea Volf” type, and instructed him to settle me in a cabin. The “boatsman” called for half a dozen sailors, who took my bundles, and installed me with all the luggage into a cabin, where I spent 14 days. We would travel only a few hours at night. In the days, the ship would enter ports along the way, and they would load or unload merchandise from it. With my arrival in Yafo I visited in Costa, Smyrna, Salonika, Libyan Tripoli, and Beirut. I spent time with the Arabs on the ship in the company of the Russian pilgrims who travelled to visit the Christian holy places. I was very impressed by their great love for the Holy Land. I used to meet with the “boatsman,” who used to tell about the days before there were steamboats. He was 15 when he started to work, as a student on a sailing ship. “What do today's captains know?” he would say, “putting at their disposal a ship equipped with a steam engine and the rest of the devices, and they are so good as to travel when it is good for them to travel. The captain of a sailing ship was a hero, a valiant man. One must love the sailing ship, must know on what angle to set it, otherwise he will drown with all the crew.” He was a beloved man, he would drink 12 bottles of beer at once, like all of them. When we reached Beirut, a youth came up onto the ship dressed like a European, but wearing a red “fez.” This was a Jewish medical student from the University of Beirut, whose name was Rozenfeld. He gave me a letter from my brother-in-law Dr. Yaffa from Yafo, in which he wrote that Mr. Rozenfeld would show me all the best of

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Beirut, Lebanon. Towards evening I returned to the ship. During the night, my sleep wandered, for on the next day, early in the morning, we would reach Yafo. Indeed, finally, I daydreamed, I would see the land that was known to me from the Bible, I would see the Baron's[13] settlements, and those of Chovevei Tzion. I would see Jerusalem, the Holy City; the Western Wall; the Hand of Absalom,[14] the Mount of Olives, the Foundation Stone[15] that I learned about in cheder. I would see Arabs, members of our race, whose language resembles our language.[16] I would see the wineries at Zikhron Yaakov and Rishon L'Tzion, whose wine I had drunk on Shabbatot and festivals. I would see vineyards that were spoken of in the Song of Songs. I would also see my two sisters, and their husbands and children. The husband of one was a well-known physician in Yafo, Dr. Hillel Yaffa. He was the representative of the Odessan Council of Chovevei Tzion, a man whose deeds it was possible to read much about in letters from the land that were published in “HaMelitz” and “HaTzefirah.” My second brother-in-law, Chaim Margalit-Kalvariski, who dwelt in Sejera,[17] between Nazareth and Tiberias, was a builder of settlements in the lower Galilee on behalf of the well-known philanthropist. When he was my sister's betrothed, in our city of Augustow, and I was then Bar Mitzvah age, he heard that I loved horses, and that I knew how to ride like a Cossack. He then promised me that if I would go up to the land, he would make available to me a noble Arabian horse, and a Bedouin as a guide, with whose help I would pass through the land from Dan to Beersheva.[18]

The hour was 3:00 in the morning. I was the only Jew on the ship. My heart was overflowing, and there was no one with whom to share the joy. The pilgrims woke from their sleep, and began to pack their belongings. Their priest, an uneducated Russian boor, hung his big crucifix on his chest, and said to me: “in another few hours we will step on the holy soil. Nazirites and priests will welcome us and send us to Jerusalem, the Holy City, where God is buried, where the cursed “zhidim[19] took him out to be killed.” I answered him: “Batyushka (my father), you seem to have forgotten that I am also a zhid.” He blushed and said: “You are not a zhid, you are a Hebrew. I even like the “Hebrews.”

The hour was 5:00 in the morning. A dinghy arrived, driven by Arabs. A sailor from the ship lowered a thick rope and a squat Arab climbed on it like a cat. When he came onto the ship the Arab yelled in a loud voice: “Choga Linstein, Choga Linstein!” I understood that he was looking for me. I approached him and he took a letter from my brother-in-law, Dr. Yaffa, out of his tarbush.[20] My brother-in-law wrote that the bearer of the letter, Eli Chamis, was his friend and a lover of Jews, and also the uncrowned ruler of the port of Yafo. I was to unhesitatingly hand over my belongings to him. Eli and his men took my possessions, and within a short hour my brother-in-law appeared. We kissed each other. I asked about my sister's welfare, their children, etc. During the conversation the Arab took hold of me, threw me into the arms of the second, and that one into the arms of the third, and before I had a chance to cry “save me” I was already below in the dinghy. My brother-in-law descended on the steps of the ladder and seated himself next to me. The dinghy's sailors worked the oars energetically, and I pathetically began, pardon me, to vomit. I lay on the floor of the dinghy and felt that I would not reach the dock alive. Two wretched Arab officials stood on the dock. I noticed that one of them wore one regular shoe, and on the other foot, a rubber shoe. The second official was barefoot. One of the officials requested my passport. My brother-in-law had warned me beforehand not to give him the passport, suspecting that he would take it and sell it to the highest bidder. To be on the safe side, he put my passport in his pocket. Eli Chamis, upon hearing the word “pass” (passport) coming out of the mouth of the official roared: “Have you gone mad? You require a pass? Do you not know who it is that is arriving? Indeed this is the brother-in-law of the wise[21] Dr. Yaffa, who is an important Kaimakam,[22] Mashallah,[23] (without the evil eye). The official understood that I

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was responsible for the baksheesh, and let me go. We entered a hall that was half dark, with no floor. In the middle of the room was a pit full of rainwater, which entered by way of the leaking roof. Next to a long table stood two barnashim,[24] resembling the previous ones – the customs officers. One of them instructed us to open the bundles, but Eli screamed that there was no sense in their heads, they were seeking to check Dr. Yaffa's possessions, while at the same time yelling at the porters: “outside, dogs, with the baggage!” The porters carried the baggage, and we walked a respectable short distance behind them, by way of a dirty Arab market, until we reached the road. There a wagon hitched to two wretched horses waited for us, one of which was infected with eczema on its back. The spring of the wagon was broken and tied with a rope. The coachman wore torn clothing. Slowly he brought us to the apartment of my brother-in-law in Neve Shalom. In the lane stood two houses that looked alike. They belonged to an Arab of Ethiopian origin, Abu Chadra was his name, a successful merchant. Dr. Yaffa lived with his family in one house, and in the second house lived his mother and his sister Roza, who was the Director of the “Alliance” school in Yafo. She was the first, who after a difficult struggle with the first management in Paris and with the help of the teacher Yehuda Garzovsky, may his memory be for a blessing, instituted Hebrew as the language of instruction in the “Alliance” school in place of French. The house in which my sister lived was built in good Arab taste. In the entrance were two round marble pillars, which were brought from Italy, all the floors were covered with white Italian marble with black marble stripes. An enormous salon was divided by a wall decorated with white marble pillars. The height of the rooms was about 5 meters. The kitchen was in the yard, in a special building. Water was drawn from a well in the yard, upon which was hung a wheel with a rope and a bucket. Clearly, there was no trace of electric light. In all the land there was not even one ice factory. Water was kept in large and small jerry cans (clay jugs). They would wrap them in fabric that they would wet from time to time, and in that way they kept the water inside cold.

I had seen this sister of mine about a year before, when she came with her eldest son, one year old, for a visit in Augustow. I was happy to again see my beloved sister and her two children. We sat down to each lunch. They served dishes at the table, most of which I tasted for the first time in my life: eggplants, olives, zucchini, and tomatoes. My sister explained to me that the climate in the land was different than the climate in Russia. In the land it was warm, and therefore one ate many fruits and vegetables, and fewer meat dishes. I really ate everything, but without desire. At that time they were picking oranges.[25] Yafo was entirely covered with orchards. At that time they watered the trees in a primitive fashion: a camel or a horse would turn a wheel, which brought crates full of water up from the well. The water was spilled from the crates into irrigation channels. But there were also orchards where the water was brought up by motors and pumps. Dr. Yaffa had a friend, Saleem Salchi, a son of a wealthy Muslim family of distinguished lineage (in Yafo there is a Salchi market). This young man, blind in one eye, knew a little Yiddish, and very much liked to visit in the houses of the well-known Jews, and he would boast about it in front of his friends. I used to walk in the orchards with him a lot, and swallow tens of juicy oranges. I was only in Yafo for a month. This Yafo was then, in effect, a big village, in whose center stood a mosque with a slightly crooked tower. Three times a day the “muezzin[26] (the chazzan), would go up on the tower, and with his monotonous voice he would call the believers to prayer. At that time I never imagined that I would get to live in a Jewish state. I left Yafo and I traveled to visit my sister who was older than me, the wife of Chaim Margalit-Kalvariski, on the Sejera farm, between Nazareth and Tiberius. I hired a dilizhnez[27] for sixty

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franks, an enormous amount in those days. We left Yafo early in the morning. We had only just left when a strong rain began to fall. It was impossible to see the road or the way. By the way, then, in the days of the Turks,[28] the roads were so bad that people preferred to travel on the ground alongside the roads. The contractor was obligated to distribute a bribe to the various government officials; he left, of course, a proper profit for himself. There did not remain, therefore, money for the paving of the road. It was a daring thing to go out of Yafo in those days when there was no road, and the way turned into a swamp. We set the course by the stars and the sun. From time to time the wagon would sink into the mud and then, as if the coachmen were playing around, there was no strength required for the coachman, only the sense to crawl under the wagon, to load it on his back in order to help the tired horses extract it from the mud. We travelled three days from Yafo to Qaqun.[29] There the wagon got stuck in a pit. We had a bachan (a kind of hotel in which people, mules, horses, camels and fleas slept together.) The next day we succeeded, with the help of farmers from the community of Qaqun, in exchange for much baksheesh, to extract the wagon from the pit. Towards evening we reached Hadera, and on the next day towards evening we reach Haifa. Tired and broken we sat, I and Avraham'ka the coachman, by a table in the hotel, and I said to him, after we drank a large bottle of cognac, “Avrahamaleh! Don't be sad, put your tired head on my shoulder, this is how we build a homeland for our people, who are scattered and dispersed among the nations. A day will come and they will remember us, the first pioneers, who laid the foundation for the state of the Jews, of which the fine Jew with dreaming eyes, the wonderful old semite, “Dr. Herzl,”[30] dreams. On the next day I found a German stagecoach that was travelling to Nazareth. A small town, in which, 2000 years before, lived Joseph the carpenter with his wife Miriam and their son Yeshu. On the next day I hired a horse from a Christian Arab, Nasrallah was his name. I rode on the horse, and before me walked a barefoot Arab youth, to show me the way. In Sejera I found a large house, on the lower floor there was a stable for horses, and a place for cows. On the upper floor were many rooms for the workers' dwelling. Nearby there lived families of foreigners, who my brother-in-law Kalvariski brought to teach our unmannered farmers the work of the land. My brother-in-law was not at home. He had travelled to Beirut on a horse, accompanied by his faithful head guard, the Bedouin Chamdi from the tribe of Isbach, to bring a large sum of money in gold coins. The known donor was sending his assets to Beirut, for in all the land there was no bank. The leather sack full of gold coins was hanging from the neck of the head guard, knowing that according to Bedouin custom he would not touch money that gave his bread, and would do battle with anyone that dared to touch it. At home were my sister and her two small daughters: one three years old, and the second, one year old. Helping her were a Christian cook from Nazareth, a servant expert in arranging the table and supervising the food, and additional Arab servants for work in the kitchen and the yard. The languages that were spoken in the house were Arabic and French. In that same house was the agronomist Krause,[31] who had established the farm. That same year he moved to direct the agricultural school “Mikve Yisrael.” He was overwhelmed with compassion for my beautiful sister who had completed her learning in France, loved music, art, and literature – for that fact that she had agreed to settle in this wilderness only for her husband who she loved, who was a Zionist and a lover of Zion even before Herzl. For dinner, my sister dressed as if she was in a fancy salon in Paris. When I asked her why she was dressed that way when there were no guests in the house, she explained to me that if she did not pay attention to her dress in this atmosphere, she would become sloppy and grow old before her time. After a few days, my brother-in-law returned from Beirut. We were happy to greet each other. This was the same Chaim the dreamer who believed in the rejuvenation of the nation in its land. The few who believed in that seemed then like they were delusional.

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My brother-in-law was born in the town of Pashroshli, which is adjacent to Augustow. He studied in the gymnasia in Suwalk. After he completed his army service he continued his studies in Monfalia, which is in southern France, in agriculture.

He came once on the big vacation to visit in Suwalk; this was in about 1893. I studied in the modern cheder, with Rabbi Donieger. On one Friday we played in the yard of the “cheder,” and a youth of about 25 approached me, dressed nicely, adorned with a small beard, blessed me with peace, and asked in Russian where was the cheder of Misyah Donieger. I brought him into the rabbi's room, and I stood with my friends next to the door and listened to their conversation. We heard that the young man was telling the rabbi about the land of Israel, about a council of Chovevei Tzion in Odessa, about Baron Rothschild, about the settlements of Petach Tikvah, Rishon L'Tzion, etc. The rabbi enjoyed it, smiling, smoothing his grey beard. Occasionally the rabbi asked the young man a question and he responded that the Jews in the land of Israel were plowing the land really like the gentiles did here, to distinguish,[32] and the rabbi said that the redeemer is the Baron from Paris,[33] the well-known philanthropist. When the young man left, we meanwhile had fled to the yard, he came near us, politely raised his hat, and said in Russian: “Shalom to you, children, we will see each other in the land of Israel.” This was my first encounter with the man who in the future would become my brother-in-law.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. In the land of Israel. Return
  2. Prior to the modern Zionist movement, it was believed that only the Messiah could bring about the return to Zion and the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. Even today there are some on the far right who believe that the establishment of the State of Israel by human hands actually delays the coming of the Messiah. Return
  3. A poem written in Yiddish by Dr. Yitzchak Peled, Lvov 1862-1922. Set to music, the song served as a kind of anthem for the Zionist student unions and the Zionist youth unions. The song was sung on the stage of the first Zionist Congress. Lyrics in Yiddish, Hebrew and English are readily found online. Return
  4. Exodus 3:8 “I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” Return
  5. Wedding canopy. Return
  6. Short for Constantinople. Return
  7. Jaffa. Return
  8. Bribes. Return
  9. Yiddish for “skullcap.” Return
  10. Yiddish for “50.” Return
  11. This is sarcastic. Return
  12. Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 24b “Furthermore, one who belches and yawns while praying is surely among the uncouth…” Return
  13. Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, 1868 – 1937, member of the British Parliament, recipient of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 from Arthur James Balfour, stating Britain's interest in establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Return
  14. The Hand, or Tomb, of Absalom, one of the sons of King David, is in the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem. The monument is traditionally ascribed to Absalom, who would have lived in the 10th century BCE, but scholars date the structure to circa 1st century CE. The word “hand” is often used to refer to a memorial. Return
  15. The Foundation Stone is the rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that is at the center of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. There are Jewish beliefs that this rock was the site of the Holy of Holies of the ancient Temple, as well as the site of Mt. Moriah, where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. Return
  16. Jews and Arabs are both Semitic peoples; Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic are all Semitic languages. Return
  17. Sejera, named for the adjacent Arab village al-Shajara, was the first Jewish settlement in the Lower Galilee and played an important role in the Jewish settlement of the Galilee from its early years until the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Return
  18. A biblical reference to the entire land, represented by Dan, the northernmost point, and Beersheva, the southernmost point. This phrase appears 9 times in the Hebrew Bible, in the books of Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Return
  19. Russian slur for “Jews.” Return
  20. Or fez; a hat. Return
  21. In Arabic. Return
  22. The Turkish word Kaimakam is the title that was used for the governor of a provincial district in the Ottoman Empire. Return
  23. Arabic, “what God has willed.” It expresses gratitude, joy, or praise. Return
  24. Bar nash is Aramaic for “son of a person,” like the Hebrew “ben adam,” meaning person. This is the plural form. Return
  25. Literally, golden apples. Return
  26. Arabic. The man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque. Return
  27. Stagecoach. Return
  28. The Ottoman Empire ruled Palestine until the end of World War One. Return
  29. Qaqun was an Arab village located 6 kilometers northwest of the city of Tulkarm at the only entrance to Mount Nablus from the coastal Sharon plain. Return
  30. Theodor. Return
  31. Eliyahu Krause, 1878-1962. Return
  32. This is an expression used when one does not want to compare one thing to the other, such as Jews to Gentiles, making them seem equivalent. Return
  33. Rothschild. Return

The First Group of Those Who Went Up

by Binyamin Efrati


Zalman Bezant,
may his memory be for a blessing


In this memorial book we immortalize the community of Augustow, which was destroyed by the Nazi murderers in the years 5701-5702 (1941-1942). If we can write this book, indeed it is thanks to the Zionist movement, thanks to which we went up to the land and reached here, to live in the sovereign State of Israel.

In the year 1915, in the First World War, I was expelled by the Russian army to the Voronezh district, with other thousands of Jews. They suspected that the Jews were supporters of the Germans. In the year 1919 I returned. The city of my birth, Lipsk (28 viorsts from Augustow), was burnt and destroyed in the war. I moved, therefore, to live in the district city of Augustow. I found there good Jews, people who engaged faithfully in the needs of the public, in the community council, and in other institutions. I remember D. Slutzky, Dovid-Arieh Aleksandrovitz, the Elenbogen brothers, M. Vilmer, and more. Their primary actions were the offering of help and aid to the needy: monetary and medical help, wood for heating in the winter, the distribution of food to schoolchildren (they received the food from the “Joint”),[1] and the like. However, I did not find people

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who engaged in Zionist activity, even though most of the Jews of Augustow were faithful lovers of Zion. In that same year we founded, with the help of the teachers Reuven Levin and D. Boyarski, a Zionist association. Activists of the community council also joined our initiative. A club was opened in the house of Feinstein, and extensive activity in the fields of propaganda, culture, and the collection of funds for the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael. Part of the youth also undertook the action. On Lag Ba'omer 5680, 1920, we held a rally with the synagogue to benefit “The Redemption Fund.”[2] The preacher Natan Mileikovsky[3] may his memory be for a blessing, spoke, and excited the community. Many donated. Women took off their jewelry and turned it over to benefit the fund.

With the receipt of the information on the death of Trumpeldor[4] and his friends at Tel-Hai, the first group was organized to go up to the land. In Sivan 5680, 1920, we left Augustow, and in Tamuz we reached the land of Israel. In the first group the following went up: Reb Zalman Bezant, may his memory be for a blessing, and, may he be set apart for long life, his son Yitzchak, Yehuda Levita, may his memory be for a blessing, Tuvia Rabinovitz, may his memory be for a blessing, and Noach Borovitz, may he be set apart for a long life, Noach Varhaftig, Mendel Libernat (went back to the diaspora), Arieh Rotstein, and Binyamin Efrati. After a short time Reuven Levi, may his memory be for a blessing, went up. Other pioneers came up after us. With the passage of years, parents, brothers, and sisters joined, until we reached a camp of about 200 families that emigrated from Augustow.

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If we add to them the second and third generations, who were born in the land, our number will be about 1000 souls. So may they multiply.


The First Group of Those Who Went Up – The Year 5680 – 1920

Seated from right to left: Yehuda Levita, may his memory be for a blessing, Binyamin Efrati, Reuven Levi, Noach Varhaftig
Standing: Mendel Libernat (returned to Augustow), Arieh Rotstein, Noach Borovitz
Laying down: Yitzchak Bezant
Caption in the Photo: The Augustow Group, in Rechovot, the Land of Israel, Shavuot 5681 [1921]


We merited that our aspirations to go up to the land were realized, to build her and to make her wasteland bloom. We mourn for those whose aspirations were not realized. This book will serve as an eternal monument to them. It will also remind our children, our grandchildren, and the generations to come, of the faithful activists who nurtured the Zionist movement in all its hues; thanks to them, their ancestors were saved from destruction and were able to help in the establishment of the State of Israel.

Tammuz 5723 [1963]

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. The Joint Distribution Committee. Founded during World War I, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was the first Jewish organization in the United States to dispense large-scale funding for international relief. The JDC played a major role in sustaining Jews in Palestine and rebuilding the devastated communities of Eastern Europe after World War I. Return
  2. This was the fund of the World Zionist Organization before the establishment of Keren HaYesod, the Foundation Fund. Return
  3. Rabbi Natan Mileikovsky, 1879 – 1935. He was Benjamin Netanyahu's grandfather. Return
  4. Joseph Vladimirovich Trumpeldor (1880 – 1920) was an early Zionist activist who helped to organize the Zion Mule Corps and bring Jewish immigrants to Palestine. Trumpeldor died defending the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920 and subsequently became a Zionist national hero. Return

A History of “HeChalutz” in Augustow

by Dr. Nechemiah Aloni

The most active movement in Augustow after the First World War was the “HeChalutz” organization. This was the practical Zionist movement with the clear result: to go up to the land and participate in the building of the homeland in the way of self-realization. It was founded in the year 5684 [1924] and remained in existence until the year 5699 [1939], the year of the outbreak of the Second World War, the invasion of Poland by Hitler's troopers, and the destruction of the Jews of Poland by the Nazi murderers. This article was written in the year 5725 [1965] in Jerusalem, after the “HeChalutz” archive was destroyed together with the members of the city. There remain therefore only the memories that serve as the source for the words to come.

Augustow, whose population numbers reached the tens of thousands, was a Jewish city – typical Lithuanian. This was a district city that controlled the towns and villages that were around it. Politically it belonged to Poland, but socially and culturally it belonged to Lithuanian Jewry. This was rabbinic Judaism, which did not know the Chassidic movement. Lithuanian Yiddish was the language of speech, and its leaders were the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Belz and in Telz, in Kovno and in Vilna. The big cities that were adjacent to it were Suwalk and Grodno. It was joined to the two of them by a train that travelled in both directions once a day. The train station was a few kilometers outside of the city, and carriages hitched to horses would conduct the travelers from the train to the city in the morning, and in the evening from the city to the train on the Grodno-Bialystok-Warsaw (the capital of Poland) line. This was the main movement of travelers, while the movement in the morning to Suwalk and the movement in the evening from Suwalk, was the secondary movement of passengers.

The residents of the city were by a decisive majority Jewish, and they set the Jewish style of the city. On Sabbaths and festivals the entire city stopped, while on the ordinary days the entire city worked. And

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the Jewish settlement in Augustow had experience and a manner. The community and the heads of the community and its leaders and officers were veterans and experienced. There were a rabbi and a judge and tzedakah institutions, a large central synagogue and a central Beit Midrash, and in addition to them there were small synagogues and “kloizim” of various kinds. The institutions of learning were the “cheder,” and the study of Talmud in the Beit Midrash. It seemed that the small echelon of wealthy merchants had been wealthy for generations, and the small class of poor people were poor people of the “erev rav,”[1] who accompanied the Children of Israel when they left Egypt. The tailors, the hatters, the shoemakers, the smiths, the carpenters, the porters and the wagon masters – their professions were inherited, passing from generation to generation. Most of the Jews of the city belonged to the middle class.

The foundations of the society and the leaders were violently shaken by the First World War. The establishment of the State of Poland after its liberation constituted the cause of the awakening of the youth movement in Augustow. The liberation and the establishment of the state aroused the national feelings also in the heart of the Jewish youth. The Zionist movement developed and a communist movement arose, the “Bund” was organized and also “Tzeirei Tzion,” “HaShomer HaTzair,” “HaShomer

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Trumpeldor,” and the “ Yidisher Yugend Bund.” On the foundations of all these the “HeChalutz” organization was founded in Augustow. The level of modern culture was not high. With the liberation of the State of Poland a national Polish school was founded. Those seeking to continue to learn migrated to the high schools in Suwalk, Lodz, and Bialystok in Poland, and to Dresden and Konigsberg in Germany. The little additional completion of education the youth acquired, after the age of the national school, was in the youth movements. The thirst for enlightenment constituted one of the causes of the development of the various youth movements in the city.


Members of “Hechalutz”

First row from right to left: … Z. Leizerovski, G. Freund, D. Freitzeit, N. Lozovski, Y. Feivovorski, A. Shumski
Second row: D. Stoliar, M. Shreibman, Y. Strozinski, Yechezkel Sherman, N. Aloni, Ratner, M. Vilmer
Third row: Bezant, Herzl… B. Avariah, L. Staviskovski, M. Chalupitzki, A. Mintz, H. Stein
Fourth row: Yitzchak Sherman… M. Mariampolski, T. Bidek, Ch. Friedman


A Group of Members of “HeChalutz” (1924)

First row top, from right to left: Y. Roznov, Freizeit, D. Stolar, L. Staviskovski, Feivovorski… A. Borovski
Second row: Z. Leizerovski, Alter Aleksandrovitz, Yechezkel Sherman, Nechemiah Linda, Yisrael Strozinski, Ch. Freidman
Laying down: Yosef Linda, A. Zilberstein


The most important cause in the growth of the “HeChalutz” organization was the economic situation of the Jews of Poland in the years 1923-1925. The heavy taxes that the Polish government placed on the middle class, and especially on the small merchants, destroyed their business and their position. Members of the middle class were unable to continue their education due to a material lack, and the doors of the institutions of higher learning were closed to them by the anti-semitic authorities. The Jewish youth in Poland lacked interest, purpose, and employment. Most of them led aimless, boring lives, and sought a way out and release, a purpose and a vision. There were those who found a solution in assimilation, absorption, and self-deprecation, in tikkun olam[2] and malchut Shaddai,[3] in communism and self-sacrifice for the sake of strangers. In contrast to them,

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others turned to national and Zionist organizations, and by means of them they went up to the land of Israel to build it and be built by it.[4]

In the spring of 5684 [1924], between Purim and Pesach, a group of young people age 17-18 assembled in one of the houses of the city for the purpose of founding the organization “HeChalutz.” There were among them: Nechemiah Aloni (Linda), Tovah Bidek (today Ben-Dov), Adah Mintz, Breintza Yevreiska (Ivriyah),[5] Yisrael Strozinski, Hinde Stein, and Yechezkel Sherman.


Standing from right to left: Y. Aloni, Y. Sherman, N. Aloni…
Seated: M. Stolar … Z. Leizerovski … … Tz. Glikstein …D. Stein …Z. Kalstein …
Caption in Photo: Kibbutz Trumpeldor in Augustow


In the first meeting the “HeChalutz” council was elected, composed of the members: Nechemiah Aloni (Chairperson), Yechezkel Sherman (Deputy Chairperson), Yisrael Starazinski (Secretary), Hinde Stein (Treasurer), and another male or female member that I don't remember. The purpose was clear to all the participants: Ascent to the land of Israel, and participation in the building of the land as workers. For this purpose preparation and training were required, which included socialist-Zionism, Hebrew culture, and acquisition of a profession. The Council was connected with the “HeChalutz” center in Warsaw, and received permission for the establishment of the branch. The council organized evening Hebrew lessons and conducted conversations and groups for the teaching of Zionism. The cultural activity was primarily expressed by the reading of Mendele,[6] Shalom Aleichem,[7] Bialik[8] and Ahad Ha'am,[9] the writings of Herzl and Borochov,[10] the history of Zionism and the working settlement.[11]

Within a short time, many of the youth in the city joined “HeChalutz,” and among them members of the working class: M. Mariampolski, the son of a smith, and Gedaliah Freund, the son of a carpenter, who were considered in our eyes to have pedigrees, since they had professions and were accustomed to physical labor. The youth, 19-22 years old,

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The Balforia Group in Augustow

Caption in the photo: The Artitz Group “Balforia” in Augustow


The “HeChalutz” Council (1925)

From right to left: Y. Lonshel, M. Ostrov, Y. Sherman, Y. Strozinski, L. Staviskovski
Caption in the photo: HeChalutz” in Augustow

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Caption in the photo: The Brenner Pioneer House in Augustow


The “HeChalutz” Carpentry Shop
M. Stolar… Yehoshua Dagani, Feinstein

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Pioneers – Wood Cutters


A Group of Pioneers in Kelson's Factory

From right to left: Y. Barzilai (Gazis)… Dilon, Chositzer, A. Kelson, Mariampolski
Second row: S. Lifshitz, Y. Blacharski, Gad Zaklikovski, Shoshana Strozinski, M. Gutman, A. Cohen
Third Row: R. Tsherman, Y. Kestin, A. Morzinksi, Y. Gazis, Fania Bergstein, Z. Dilon, A. Kahn

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at first stood on the side, but after a few months these two joined the “HeChalutz” organization, and we became the most important youth association in the city, numbering 50-60 people.

The matter of professional training was harder. We required of the members to choose for themselves a physical profession, but the most important profession in our eyes was agriculture. We were unable to engage in heavy farming. We leased, therefore, two plots of land for the purpose of raising vegetables. We even found for ourselves an adult man who knew agriculture, L. Staviskovski, who joined as a member and agreed to guide our members in working the two vegetable gardens.


The Members of the “HeChalutz” Branch

First row, top, (from right to left): Tz. Papirovitz, Ch. Goldstein, Y. Livni, N. Levinson, Y. …, S. Koritzki, D. Kaplan, L. Veisberg, B. Chositzer, Ch. Bialovzetski


The “HeChalutz” organization brought a revolution in the city and poured new ideas among the youth and even among the adults. The parents looked favorably on the deeds of their children, and did not object. They offered their houses for meetings and gatherings, and even would give their children the required pennies for the membership fee. However, they did not easily agree that their children would become workers and laborers, the growers of vegetables and agronomists. When they raised the vegetables and made the members of “HeChalutz” sell them to the householders, they were not easily sold; we were forced to sell them at a lower price than that demanded by the gentile farmers. The mothers and farmers came out of their houses and gazed with astonishment at how their children from a good family were taking the vegetables with a hand cart, to sell. The judge of the city, Azriel Noach Zelig Koshelevski, was among the first of the buyers. Even the rabbi of the city, Rabbi

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Kosovski, who had recently been appointed to this rabbinate, and was one of the men of the “Agudah,”[12] prepared breakfast from the vegetables of our garden. The Yevreiski family, who owned a hotel, helped us, and agreed to allow us to provide vegetables to its hotel. This was a family that had a Zionist tradition. Their daughter Leah prepared to go up to the land together with her heart's chosen one Yitzchak Sherman, and a second daughter, Breintza, was a member of our organization.

The life of the youth, and public life in general in the city, were made much more interesting: general assemblies, lectures, parties on the 20th of Tamuz and 11th of Adar, public celebrations on festival days, also the activity for the benefit of the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, whose activists were the Hebrew teacher Mr. Bergstein (the father of Fania Bergstein[13] the poet), a drugstore owner Mr. Orimland, and Mr. Papirovitz, acquired a special taste and a new momentum. The outings of the youth in the forests on the Shabbatot towards evening and the boating on the River Nitzko had in them a consolidating social element. From then, and always, there was no fear in our city from the “shkotzim” who threw stones; we would fight back in the war of stones. Ties were formed with the nearby small towns; Rigrod, Sztabin, Suchovola, Goniandz and Ratzk, and with the big cities – Suwalk and Grodno. The leaders of “HeChalutz” began to visit us; Eliyahu Dobkin, B. Maniv, Pinchas Rasis, and others from the “HeChalutz” center in Warsaw, P. Bendori and Pinchas Koshelevski (today the Minister Pinchas Sapir),[14] from


Standing from right to left: Pinchas Lev, A. Vezbotzki, Kentzuk, V. Sheinmar, Y. Dagani, M. Stolar, R. Feinstein
Seated: Mordechai Shreibman, Tz. Shidlovski, V. Vezbotzki, Tz. Papirovitz, D. H. Kaplan, A. Lozman, Z. Kalstein
Caption in the Photo: A Group at the Oasis of Yad Charutzim, in Augustow
1) Tz. Papirovitz, (Chairperson), 2) D.H. Kaplan (Treasurer), 3)? Vezbotzki (Secretary)


the regional bureau in Grodno. After some time the special emissary from the land Yitzchak Tabenkin[15] came, and others.

At the end of the summer of 5684 [1924], the problem of the lack of training locations for the members of “HeChalutz” sharpened.

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It was decided to establish a house for physical and professional training by the name of “Yad Charutzim.”[16] We rented a house at the edge of the city, and assembled a group of 12 people, boys and girls. I indeed wonder today how we succeeded in organizing a house like this. The rent for the house was raised by the members of “HeChalutz” going out to chop wood for the homeowners, and the wages of their labor were turned over to the organization's fund. The occupation of the members of “Beit HeChalutz[17] was loading wood onto the train cars at the Augustow station. It was no small struggle for our members, until they succeeded in conquering the work. At first they refused to give us the work for a daily wage, and we were forced to work under contract. The women members worked in sewing sacks and in the housework of “Beit HeChalutz.” In addition to these jobs, the regular work in cutting wood for heat was set in the yards of the homeowners. Due to the cold winter in this place, Poland, there was much work. Members of the branch from Suwalk, Bialystok, and other towns, were also sent to “Beit HeChalutz.” Despite everything, a deficit was created in the budget of “Beit HeChalutz,” which caused great worry for those responsible for the branch.


The Members of the Kibbutz in the Name of “Trumpeldor”

First row, top: Yosef Linda, Yisrael Starazinski
Second row: Z. Leizerovski, Zenya Yones … Dora Stein … … L. Staviskovski, Tz. Glikstein
Third Row: Nechemiah Aloni, M. Ostrov, Y. Lonshel


The winter of 5685 [1925] passed and towards the summer of that year it was decided to organize the members of “HeChalutz” for real agricultural training in the houses of farmers and on agricultural lands in the area. This very extensive plan of agricultural training in the Augustow area, with the participation of members from various branches, brought our members from Suwalk, with Pinchas Sapir at their head. Our members were scattered in villages and holdings

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and with great toil we succeeded in organizing about 150 people in work. The requirements that we introduced were very modest: only room and board. In exchanged for this our members became enslaved to a long and difficult workday, up to 14 hours a day. At first the farmers and the landowners related to the Jewish youths with a lack of faith, but after that summer they began turning to the organization, who would provide them with members of “HeChalutz” for agricultural work in the days of summer, and they even began to pay two months' pocket money to the workers. In this way the main way to training for pioneers was paved for those who were in the future to go up to the land and to join the family of workers there.

On January 1, 1925, “Davar,”[18] the daily newspaper of the General Organization of Hebrew Workers in the Land of Israel,[19] began to appear. This was a holiday for us. This newspaper, the “Kuntrus[20] of “Achdut HaAvodah,”[21] the “HaPoel HaTzair” of the “HaPoel HaTzair” party in the land, pamphlets about Yosef Bussel[22] and the group in the land, various pamphlets of the “HeChalutz” center and the weekly “HeAtid” of the HeChalutz center in Warsaw, served as cultural training material for our members. Thanks to our parents

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who educated us in a Jewish atmosphere and instilled in us a Hebrew education with the help of private teachers Y. Bergstein, D. Boyarski (his son Ezra in New York was tested by me after many years, in the year 5710 [1950], in the exam certificate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem). Reuven Levi, G. Zaklikovski, we succeeded in turning the Hebrew language into the language of speech of many in the organization “HeChalutz” in Augustow. A competition was developed in the acquisition of information about Zionism and the workers' movement in the land and the ways of its settlement; tests were set, and woe to the member who did not know how to respond to a question that was presented to him in these matters. There was even set between members a special fine for the “Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael” for every non-Hebrew word that members used in their conversation. In this way a Hebrew and Zionist cultural atmosphere was formed in the “HeChalutz” organization in Augustow, and our members acquired cultural training for aliyah to the land. As the first for aliyah, two of our members that had professions were presented, M. Mariampolski, the son of a smith, and Gedaliah Freund, the son of a carpenter, who were sent to the land eight months after the foundation of our organization, and they were absorbed into the work in the land. It happened that one of the sons of the householders who was an electrician and knew a little about “Singer” sewing machines, passed on to him by his father, obtained a permit for aliyah to the land (certificate) not from us, but straight from the land of Israel office in Warsaw. That same youth from the Chalupitzki family went up to the land, reached Haifa, served as an agent of the “Singer” company, and only a few months went by when he left the land and returned to Augustow. The aliyah of our members and their absorption, and the descent of that youth, were compelling proof of the rightness

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of our way, the way of cultural and professional training.


Members of the “HeChalutz” Branch

First row from right to left: Staviskovski, S. Morzinksi, D., Freitzeit, Tz. Glikstein, N. Lozovski, L. Veisberg, A. Borovski, Y.A. Shor
Second row: Nechemiah Aloni, Y. Feivereski, Ch. … Y. Strozinski, D. Kaplanski, Ch. Sherman, T. Bidek, T. Linda, D. Stoliar, Y. Roznov
Third row: H. … Ratner, G. Freund, Z. Yones, … Staviskovski, M. Mariampolski, Ch. Lozman
Fourth row: Y. Linda, Edah Mintz, Staviskovski, B. Ivriyah, Z. Leizerovski

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Membership Certificate of Aleksandrovitz, from Augustow
March 26, 1930. Valid until 1/31


[Hebrew] The “HeChalutz” Organization of Poland.
The Central Council
Orlah 11, Warsaw.
Branch: Augustow
Family Name: Aleksandrovitz Yaakov
Courses for Knowledge of the Land and the Study of the Hebrew Language
Certificate No. 15

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Flower Day for the Benefit of “HeChalutz HaMizrachi”

Standing from right to left: Y. Blacharski, S. Zufnitzki, S. Gardovski, Y. Bilovzetzki, Batya Gizumski, Blacharski? Y. Gizumski, Meizler, A. Borovski
Sitting: B. Bidek, Leizerovski? … Y. Shibek… Filvinsky, B. Tz. Filvinsky


The Training Kibbutz of “HeChalutz HaMizrachi

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Pioneers in the Land

First row from right to left: A. Leizerovitz, D. Kaplan, M. Amit
Second row: B. Chozitzer, S. Leizerovitz, Y. Shadmi, N. Soloveitchik
Sitting: A. Lifshitz, Y. Aleksandroni, R. Shadmi, P. Sarvianski

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Flower Day for the Benefit of the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael

Standing from right to left: B. Sokolovski, Beknovitzki, H. Kaplan, Tz. Papirovitz, Y. Bergstein, B. Koifman, A. Chalupitzki
Sitting: A. Kleinman, Ch. Lozman, Masha Rosenfeld, Beknovitzki, F. Sarvianski, Zenya Yones
Caption in the Photo: The Membership of the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael Regiment in Augustow on Flower Day, 5 Tishre, 5687 [1927]


The Kapai Council

Standing from right to left: Y. Feivoshvitz… R. Sherman, A. Chalupitzki, R. Bergstein
Sitting: R. Rozenfeld, Friedman, P. Sarvianski, Goldshmidt


At the end of the winter of 5685 [1925], eight members from among twenty from “Beit HeChalutz” were authorized for aliyah and four of them were members of the “HeChalutz” organization in Augustow. This time, two girls went up to the land; my sister Yonah (today Mrs. Finkelstein), and Tovah Ben-Dov (Bidek) (today the Director of the dormitory for outside of the country guides in Jerusalem). At the end of the summer of 5685, after the completion of the agricultural training period in the houses of farmers in the villages and agricultural holdings, an additional group was authorized for aliyah. After all the aliyot of members to the land, additional youth joined our organization, and the club “HeChalutz” on Bridge Street (Brick Gasse) was teeming with life and public activity. In that period the “HeChalutz HaTzair” movement was founded, which developed cultural activity in the young cohort of youth, ages 14-17. A few of them, and some of the members of “HeChalutz,” were sent to the “HeChalutz” seminar in Warsaw, in order to serve as youth leaders in Augustow upon their return. These were: Fania Bergstein, Bracha Ivriyah, Shlomo Plotzinski, Yaakov Aleksandroni, and Zenya Yones (today Mrs. Riftin). Zenya established a branch of “HaShomer HaTzair” in our city. This movement gathered part of the youth who had not joined the “HeChalutz” and the “HeChalutz HaTzair” organization. After some time the “Mizrachi” youth movement was also founded. The city of Augustow was filled with Zionist youth movements, and was considered one of the important places in the Zionist movement. Until the Second World War, each and every year many went up to the land, and with their influence many of the adults that dwell here with us in the land were also saved, and take an active part in the building of our land.

Among the first to go up to the land from the “HeChalutz” organization in Augustow in the years 5684-5685 [1924-1925]


The “Freiheit[23] Association

Caption in the photo: Freiheit in Augustow, 1936

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A Letter from the HeChalutz Organization

Warsaw, October 4, 1930
Orlah 11, Telephone 92-47
The Central Council In replying, please mention No. L. 3684
The “HeChalutz” Organization in Poland
The Central Council

To Ch. Chalupitzki and to Aleksandrovitz In Augustow
Dear Friends,
We have transferred to you today according to the dictation of the dear friend Fania this sixty (60). You must immediately go out to search workplaces.
Transfer to us immediately the contract from Austasia. We will not be able to prepare the people without first receiving the contract from you.
Your delay in sending the contract will delay the sending of the people at the designated time.
Please confirm the receipt of the money.
With the pioneer's blessing, In the name of the training division


Pioneers in the Land (1932)

[Page 320]

were assembled a few in the “Ma'avar[24] group in “Givat HaShlosha”[25] in Petach Tikvah. After a year these olim founded, together with olim from the same district of Poland, an independent group by the name of “Hitamtzut.”[26] At first they went into an apartment in a built house, and moved from there to a thatched hut in the yard of the workers' council, and after a time they put up a wooden shack next to the train station in Petach Tikvah. Members of the group worked in the houses of farmers in Petach Tikvah, and in the orchards; in picking, in tilling, and in watering. In the years 5685-5688 [1925-1928], which were the crisis years of the 4th aliyah,[27] they suffered a great lack of work. Persistent deficits, constant worry for a piece of bread. However, that same group served as a center for olim from “HeChalutz” in the cities of Augustow, Suwalk, Suchovola, Ratzk, and other places. This group was a school for agricultural training in the settlements, and a place for absorption of our members in their aliyah to the land. In the year 5688 [1928] it merged with “HaKibbutz HaMe'uchad[28] - Givat HaShlosha, in Petach Tikvah, which accepted upon itself the covering of the deficit, and acquired the little property in assets, and the great experience of the learning in suffering.


Pioneers in the Land

Standing from right to left: A. Morzinski, Y. Lonshel, Moshe Levinzon, Sender Lifshitz, D. Sherman, Y. Shadmi
Sitting: B. Chositzer, L. Veisberg, A. Leizerovitz, Ch. Freitzeit, Z. Leizerovski, S. Plotzinski, M. Amit


For many, Petach Tikvah served as a transit station. The members that left the “Hitamtzut” group became independent farmers and workers in the settlements of the land of Israel. Others turned to various professions. Because of the olim from the “HeChalutz” organization in Augustow, Jews also went up who were not members of “HeChalutz,” and because of them parents and elders from Poland were also saved, and even whole families settled in the land.

[Page 321]

A Party of Zionist Professionals in Honor of the Aliyah
of Yaakov Bergstein to the Land (5697) [1937]

Top from right to left: Yonah Linda, Topolski, R. Rozenfeld, Bidek, … Papirovitz, L. Staviskovski
Second row: Tz. Papirovitz, … Kestin, Yaakov Bergstein, Gad Zaklikovski, A. Chalupitzki
Third row: Freitzeit, Bialovzetski ….


Kibbutz “Tel Hai” in Augustow

[Page 322]

Today Augustow is a distant city in Poland, and there are no Jews in it at all. The magnificent Jewish community that existed in it for over 400 years, which is also mentioned among the communities in the period of the “Council of the Four Lands,”[29] is destroyed. Only those who emigrated in the great stream of migration to the United States, and in the small stream to the land of Israel, were saved. Individuals ascended to it to the land in the year 5680 [1920]: Zalman Bezant, may his memory be for a blessing, his son Yitzchak, may he be distinguished for a long life, Yehuda Levita, may his memory be for a blessing, N. Varhaftig, R. Levi, may his memory be for a blessing, T. Rabinovitz, may his memory be for a blessing, B. Efrati, A. Rotstein, and the relatively many olim, after the founding of the “HeChalutz” organization in the years 5684-5698 [1924–1938]. The olim from Augustow and their descendants dwell in the land in settlements and in cities, in kibbutzim and moshavim. They participate in all aspects of the economy, and there are some of them who fulfill important public roles.


A Receipt for a Donation to the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael
signed by the agent Abba Rozenfeld.


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Exodus 12:38 “Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.” Return
  2. Repairing the world; a Jewish concept that has its origins in kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. Return
  3. God's sovereignty. Return
  4. A popular saying from early Zionism, which made its way in a popular Zionist folksong. Return
  5. Both the Hebrew and Yiddish forms of this name mean “Hebrew.” Return
  6. Sholem Yankev Avramovitz, 1835-1917, used the pen name Mendele Mocher Sforim, Mendele the bookseller. He wrote books in both Hebrew and Yiddish. Return
  7. Shalom Rabinovitz, 1859-1916, used the pen name Shalom Aleichem, a common Hebrew greeting used among Jews, “Peace to You,” and also the name of a popular prayer. He wrote in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian. Return
  8. Chaim Nachman Bialik, 1873 – 1934, was a Jewish poet who wrote primarily in Hebrew but also in Yiddish. He was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poetry, and came to be recognized as Israel's national poet. Return
  9. Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg, 1856 – 1927, used the pen name Ahad Ha'am, literally “one of the people.” He was a Hebrew essayist, and one of the foremost pre-state Zionist thinkers. He is known as the founder of cultural Zionism. Return
  10. Dov Ber Borochov, 1881 – 1917, was a Marxist Zionist and one of the founders of the Labor Zionist movement. He was also a pioneer in the study of the Yiddish language. Return
  11. “The working settlement” was an inclusive name for the agricultural settlements in Israel, which were founded by Hebrew workers tied to the labor movement and its organizational frameworks. This nickname, as well as the principles of working settlement were established at the third conference of the Agricultural Workers' Federation in 1908. Return
  12. World Agudat Israel, usually known as the Agudah, was established in the early twentieth century as the political arm of Ashkenazi Torah Judaism. Return
  13. Fania Bergstein was a Hebrew poet, born in 1908 in Ščučyn, Russian Empire. She was a member of the Zionist youth movement HeChalutz HaTzair. In 1930 she went up to the land and joined Kibbutz Gevat. She died of heart failure at the age of 42, on September 18, 1950. Return
  14. Pinchas Sapir, 1906 – 1975, was an Israeli politician during the first three decades following the country's founding. He was Minister of Finance (1963–68 and 1969–74) and Minister of Trade and Industry (1955–65 and 1970–72) and also held several other high-ranking governmental posts. Return
  15. Yitzchak Tabenkin, 1888 – 1971, was a Zionist activist and member of Knesset. He was one of the founders of the kibbutz movement. Return
  16. “Diligent Hand.” Return
  17. “Pioneer House.” Return
  18. Word.Return
  19. The Histadrut. Return
  20. Pamphlet. Return
  21. Labor Unity, (1919 - 1930), was a Zionist Socialist party formed as a union, “Workers of Zion” led by David Ben-Gurion. The party's magazine - Pamphlet was published in the 1920s. Return
  22. 1891-1919, Belarus-born Zionist activist, one of the founders of Kibbutz Degania Alef. Return
  23. Yiddish for “Freedom.” Return
  24. “Passageway.” Return
  25. A kibbutz in central Israel east of Petach Tikvah, named for the three workers from there who were accused of espionage during World War I and were sent to a prison in Damascus. They were tortured and died in 1916. Return
  26. “Endeavor.” Return
  27. During the years 1926 - 1927 an economic crisis occurred in the country, the toughest the Jewish settlement had during the period of the British Mandate of Palestine. Return
  28. The United Kibbutz” was formed in 1927 by the union of several kibbutz bodies and was associated with the Poalei Tzion and later Achdut HaAvodah parties, and was aligned with the Habonim youth movement. Return
  29. “The Council of the Four Lands” was the central Jewish institution of autonomous governance in Poland and Lithuania. It began to operate in the middle of the 16th century and its authority was cancelled by the authorities in 1764. Return

[Page 323]

Friends Tell

Yisrael Starazinski:

HeChalutz” was founded in the spring of 1924. We gathered, 12 people, and we said that we needed to do something real. We decided to lease a plot of land next to Meltzer's house and to establish a vegetable garden in it. There was an expert who took it upon himself to teach us agriculture. We sowed and also guarded the plot from animals, and from those with two legs. Our weapon was a long stick. I came once with Yechezkel Sherman in a pouring rain, to check and see if the guard was awake. To our surprise we found him standing outside, and not in the hut, despite the heavy rain. It became clear that because of the length of the stick he couldn't bring it inside, and therefore he too remained outside.

Later we put up the “HeChalutz” house. This was a small-scale[1] kibbutz. We worked mainly in cutting wood. We sought additional work and went out to the train station. Since they did not want to employ us for a daily wage, we did the work under contract. Our work satisfied the employers. From then the wood merchants would come to “Beit HeChalutz,” to invite us to work. The girls worked in repairing sacks and in rolling matzahs.

At the end of the winter of 1925 P. Koshelevski (today P. Sapir) came to us with a demand that we should look for training places on properties in the area. We turned first to the property of Binstein, who was an assimilated Jew. We met with the administrator. He claimed that he had never heard of Jews that were farmers, and rejected our request. We did not despair. We decided to meet with Binstein himself, when he would come to the city. On one of the days we saw him enter a restaurant. We approached him and explained what we were looking for. He was convinced, and put into our hands a letter to the administrator of the property that he should accept 8-10 of our workers. The workers worked, according to the practice of those days, from sunrise to sunset, about 14 hours. The payment – room and board. The young men made their best effort to fulfill the desire of the administrator. The matter became publicly known, and made it easier for us to introduce 150 more people on gentiles' properties.


Yitzchak Sherman:

A few years prior to the founding of “HeChalutz” in Augustow, a group of young men pondered the idea of “training.” Immediately after the rise of independent Poland eight friends decided to seek agricultural work in the villages in the area. We found work in Slupsk. In this village there also lived a few Jews. To our misfortune, they were also looking for army deserters at the same time, and when we went to the work we encountered Polish gendarmes. We had no documents with us. They chose from among us two who looked more mature, me and Abba Rozenfeld, and sat us in the prison.

After efforts and convincing they freed us.


Yosef Aloni:

We helped to distribute the Zionist shekel and participated in the work for the sake of the “Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael.” We collected money for the benefit of the funds in every way possible.

At first they looked at us, at the members of “HeChalutz,” as crazy people. Indeed, sane people would not leave

[Page 324]

their good warm houses and settle in the “Beit HeChalutz” at the edge of the city, and work oppressively, really like gentiles. When the parents saw the calluses on our hands, they really cried: “Is a thing like this heard of that the children of Jews should be like the children of gentiles?” However, we felt that the rug was being pulled out from under our feet. We did not see another way to solve our problem, except for the way of aliyah to the land of Israel.


Shoshana Strozinski:

The members of “HeChalutz” did not only engage in agricultural work. I was the homemaker at “Yad Charutzim.” I took care of the members, cooked and did laundry. I remember that an emissary came from the Center and demanded that I also learn carpentry, for in the land of Israel there was a lack of carpenters.


Moshe Einat:

The jobs that the members of “Beit HeChalutz” engaged in have been mentioned here. I remember that for the work of packing hides, which my parents sent outside of the country, they would invite a group of about 20 people from “Beit HeChalutz.” My parents were very happy with their work.


Rachel Goldstein:

When the kibbutz was established in Augustow, I was the cook and launderer. The kibbutz resided in the house in which my parents lived too. However, according to the opinion of the members it was forbidden for me to enter our house to see my mother, in order that I not be found in a more comfortable situation than others. When all the members of the kibbutz went up to my parents, it was specifically forbidden for me to taste the refreshments that my mother served. Only after the emissary from the center visited the kibbutz were these decrees nullified.

Translator's Footnote:

  1. Aramaic. Return


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