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[Page 84]

Gymnastics and Sports Association “Hakoach”

by Sz. Rozenblum

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

On the 22nd of March, 1913, a group of students from the then existing trade school with Jakob Erlich at the head came together in Brukner's residence on “Kordan” for a secret conference about creating a Jewish sport group in Będzin.

That historic meeting planned not only the name “Hakoach” [the Strength], but perhaps also its entire future existence.

We have to acknowledge that the first founders at that time took upon themselves a great responsibility because of the brutal czarist “whip” that then reigned and did not permit any communal activities.

The group mentioned did not stop for any danger and laid the foundation for the first Jewish gymnastics and sports association in Zagłębie (the third in the former Congress Poland).

Activities of the group were: for the reason mentioned – extremely difficult. The lectures took place at night, very primitively and with self-created equipment, and only during the summer.

Although the work was carried out in strict secrecy, nevertheless, the group quickly expanded and the number of members grew from 13 to 72.

The first gymnastics group consisted of: Jakob Erlich, Abram Goldminc, Hercberg, Lajbisz Pasternak, F. Lederman, Josef Klajnman, Artur Winer, Brukner, Abram Kokotek-Szlezynger, A. M. Rotenberg, Abram Blechman, Jakob Zauberman and Szabsia Anzelewicz.

On the 1st of February, 1914, the Łódź “Maccabi” arranged a gymnastics event to which a Będzin group was delegated with Jakob Erlich, Artur Winer, Brukner, Klajnman and Pasternak. The group excelled greatly at the gymnastics event and came back with a fresh desire for more widespread, energetic work. The members rose to the task to propagandize and organize all of the Jewish youth for physical education. As a result of the work there was an expansion in physical culture among the Jewish youth from day to day and the work could no longer be done in secret. Because of this, the leaders were forced to examine the possibility of becoming legal.

The statutes of the association were created for this purpose, and were signed by Salomon Gutman, Dr. Wasercwajg, Isidor Sercarz and Eliezar Rubinlicht. However, the statues were rejected by the Piotrków governor. But with the help of an “important person” in Piotrków and a small bribe, “Hakoach” was legalized by the Russian regime on the 7th of May, 1914.

The official founding meeting took place on the 12th of July, 1914, in the “Harmony” hall under the chairmanship of Dr. Wasercwajg, with great participation of the Będzin Jewish young.

Bed-084.jpg [21 KB] - The first technical committee of the “Koach” association
The first technical committee of the “Koach” association in 1916

Standing from right to left: Cukerman, Plesner, Rotenberg, Cymerman, Erlich
Seated: Borzykowski, Anszlewicz, J. Erlich, Szlezynger, Sztajnberg

[Page 85]

But longevity was not destined for the first managing committee because the First World War broke out a month later and the depression that reigned over the entire organized Jewish society did not bypass “Hakoach”.

Later, when life began to “become normal,” “Hakoach” revived its activity and, in 1915, it was located in its own premises in D. Zmigrod's house. But this did not last long because, after a short time, the German gendarmes attacked the premises during a lecture for a group of girls that was being given by Jakob Erlich who was arrested and the premises were simultaneously sealed. The activity was, therefore, again suspended and a new “series” of legalization began.

As we page through the archive of “Hakoach” of that era, we must simply admire the energy of Jakob Erlich, who gave so much effort and time to the institution. He did not stop for any difficulties, worked day and night dedicating his entire energy to “Hakoach”.

The German occupation regime did not want to legalize “Hakoach” in any way. Jakob Erlich actually covered the German “County Command” with letters and, also, the Zionist Association in Berlin that it should intervene with the German government on behalf of “Hakoach”. As a consequence, his work was crowned with success and after several investigations of Erlich by the German “County Command,” on the 23rd of December, 1916, it was again permitted.

However, “Hakoach” had not stopped its work then for a minute because right at that time the Hebrew Culture Society, “Ivriah”, that overlooked physical education of the Jewish young in its charter, was active and “Hakoach” carried out its work as a section of the “Ivriah” Society.

The conflicts between the managing committee of “Ivriah” and “Hakoach”, which were economic as well as cultural as for example: the terms that all members of “Hakoach” must learn the Hebrew language and so on, forced the “Hakoach”er to again become independent.

On the 30th of December 1916, the general meeting of the renewed “Hakoach” again took place and a managing committee was elected with D. M. Rotner as chairman, Jakob Erlich, Motl Gold, Isralik Blumenfrucht, Abram Kokotek-Szlezynger, Romek Rechtman and others. The managing committee worked until 1920 with small changes. It had the appropriate stature and recorded large earnings because the years 1915-1918 belong without doubt to the radiant epoch of “Hakoach” activity among the Będzin Jewish youth.

At that time “Hakoach” succeeded in popularizing the idea of physical education among the Jewish youth in great numbers. Large multitudes of young men and girls with crooked backs and pale faces flowed into the “Hakoach” premises in order to recover their color and to strengthen their muscles. And the work had its fruit; on the 12th of August 1917, “Hakoach” took part in Częstochowa in a contest where Artur Winer, Abram Kokotek-Szlezynger, Jecheskel Borzykowski and others particularly excelled.

Bed-085.jpg [19 KB] - “Koach's” first Athletic group
"Hakoach's" first Athletic group

Standing from right to left: Borzykowski, Sztajnberg, Meloch 1,
Gutman [both in Israel], Meloch 2, Oltusz, Winer (USA),
Sztajnberger, Plesner Kneeling: T. Kokotek,
Cukerman and Poltorak

[Page 86]

During the same year, came the unveiling of the association flag during the magnificent review of the “Hakoach” cadres in Wojkowice.

A chapter of its own were the magnificent gymnastic festivals that were arranged and had to be repeated several times and each time there were not enough tickets. In the years 1916-17 courses on hygiene and anatomy were also held by the doctors: Wajnciher, Wasercwajg and Rechtszaft.

The “Hakoach” also obtained from the then German school inspector [the right] to bring compulsory outings into the schools and chadarim [religious schools] where the “Hakoach” provided its instructors.

At that time Jakob Erlich turned to the German General, Krewel, who was the commander of the military forces in the Zagłębier region, about an instructor for “Hakoach”. The military leadership delegated the sergeant, Deker, who had specially learned the Hebrew command language.

However, “Hakoach” did not avoid the quarrels that arose around the language question; the membership in the world union, “Maccabi” and the blue-white flag.

The discussion at the general gathering in the “Harmony” hall was hindered during the years 1916-1917.

The opposition was led by: Students Ch. Perel, Jakob Szwajcer, Jechiel Kornfeld, Becalel Berkowicz, Salek Traub and others.

In 1917 a compromise proposal was accepted according to which “the blue-white flag was not considered as the national flag, nor as the flag of the union.”

At a later general meeting, the opposition also asked that the Magen David [Star of David] be removed from the flag, which the general meeting rejected.

In regard to the “language question,” an “iron law” was accepted that permitted the languages: “Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish.”

In addition to gymnastics there were also an active bicycle section and a music section. Participating in the orchestra of that time were: Jakob Winer, Szabsia Anzlowicz, Mendl Kaner, Natan Gutman, Dawid Erlich, Herman Przerowski, Pinkus Goldminc, Motl Rotenberg, Jicchak Meloch, Salek Traub, Romek Rechtman and others.

For a long time, the orchestra was led by Salek Taub; later by the directors, Kagan and Ackerman (a German orchestra leader). The orchestra took part in several excursions, gymnastic festivals and also in a series of public concerts.

They also had an active sick-fund of their own which was created thanks to the initiative of A. Kokotek-Szlezynger.

A football section was created in October 1918 which was also led by Kokotek-Szlezynger. The pioneers of Jewish football in Będzin were: A. Kokotek-Szlezynger, Maks Zmigrod, Jeszaja Fürstenberg, Wenia Bojarski, Ch. Ch. Siwek, Icek Birncwajg, M. Kornfeld and others.

In 1921, the football section began to appear publicly. “Hakoach” opened the first football field on Szczebrzeszyn's fields during the same year. The football section of “Hakoach” already had a good reputation at that time and many kibitzers [banterers]. “Hakoach”'s first football team consisted of the following members: Josef Brama, Jidl Rechnic, Moniek Birncwajg, Bendet Kornfeld, Wolf Frochtcwajg, Goldman, Moniek Zmigrod, Maks Zmigrod, Ch. Ch. Siwek, Jidl Siwek, Meloch and Juro.

In 1924, in connection with the 10th anniversary of “Hakoach”, the opening of a new sports area (Gutman's place) was celebrated, which was more comfortable and also better equipped. A large number of “Hakoach” members were recruited for the work of building the sports area.

Leading “Hakoach” at that time were: Presidents Sz. Fürstenberg, Dr. Rechtszaft, Jakob Lichtensztajn, Wicek Szwajcer, Dr. Rechtman, Pinchas Szternfeld, Podlinski, Ch. Borzykowski, P. Berenblat and others.

The years 1926-1928 do not belong to the lustrous epoch of “Hakoach”. Besides the football team achieving the championship at that time in Częstochowa County and a little gymnastics in its own premises, nothing else is recorded.

The bad situation began to end in 1929 when an entire new managing committee went to work, at whose head is found Dr. Rechtman (chairman), Abram Kromolowski (vice chairman), Szlomo Rozenblum (secretary), Mosze Helberg (treasurer), the Borzykowski brothers, Cyna Winer, Pesach Berenblat, Jakob Montag, Mosze Plesner, the brothers, J. and M. Lichtensztajn, Abram Gold, Mosze Lasker and Aron Ziskind. Over a short time, the managing committee demonstrated the redevelopment of the finances and an increase in the number of members from 180 to 700.

The series of tournaments increasingly multiplied under the energetic direction of the Borzykowski brothers. Because of the immense, frequent enlargements, “Hakoach”'s rooms began to be too crowded for the larger tournaments.

The following sections, which functioned admirably, existed at that time at “Hakoach”:

The bicycle-section that is under the direction of Cyna Winer.

The football-section carries out its activities under the supervision of P. Berenblat and the Lichtensztajn brothers.

Engineer Tadek Inwald, Mosze Plesner and Mosze Lasker lead the basket and handball, light athletics sections.

Abram Kromolowski stands at the head of the tennis section.

Mosze Helberg leads the Ping-Pong section.

The boxing section is directed by Artur Winer and Abram Wrocłowski.

[Page 87]

[19 KB] The 'Stern' sport's association
The “Stern” sport's association

Jakob Lichtensztajn and Jakob Montag lead the ice skating section.

The “Hakoach” orchestra was created thanks to the energy of the then existing managing committee, which did not neglect any area of sport and endeavored still more to broaden its activities. The managing committee assigned 2,000 guilder for this purpose. At the beginning the orchestra was under the direction of Abram Kromolowski and it was later led by Szlomo Rozenblum.

The orchestra demonstrated the making of giant progress during a short time and in 1933 was chosen by the “Maccabi” World Union to take part in the winter “Maccabiade” [international event for Jewish athletes similar to the Olympics] in Zakopane, which, incidentally, was very successful.

The orchestra was then under the direction of orchestra director Jicchak Berenblat.

In 1930 “Hakoach” celebrated its 15th anniversary, which was a revelation for all taking part. The celebrations lasted three days and were provided with a diverse program.

A special supplement to the “Zagłębier Zeitung” [Zagłębier Newspaper] was published for the purpose, which was dedicated to “Hakoach”'s 15 years of activity and where President Fürstenberg, Dr. Rechtman, Dr. Erwin Mechner (Bielice), Editor Szymon Rotenberg, Jakob Erlich, Editor Sz. Lewkowicz, Szlomo Rozenblum and others took part.

In addition to the unions from Zagłębie, the “Maccabi” Associations from the following cities took part: Lemberg [Lviv], Krakow, Czaszyn, Bielice, Dzieduszyce, Chrzanów, Czchów, Częstochowa, Olkusz, Wieruszów, and also others cities.

Besides this, there were delegates from the “Maccabi” Associations; Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow and Bielice.

The “Hakoach” was represented at both “Maccabiades” [Olympic-like event for Jewish athletes] in Eretz Yisrael by the goalkeeper, Natan Nunberg.

The managing committee persisted until 1933 with small changes.

In 1933, there began to be perceived a slow decline in the activity of “Hakoach”. The situation got worse until in August 1936, “Hakoach” was forced to leave its premises. “Hakoach” reached the critical culminating point in winter, 1937; the association was threatened with complete collapse.

It should simultaneously be mentioned that regardless of the various difficulties, during the years 1933-1937, the managing committee did everything so that the activities of “Hakoach” would not be completely paralyzed. Thanks to this, a certain number of sections further carried on their work and took part in various championships, where they achieved good results and even came in first.

However the rising disastrous situation did not let the “confirmed” “Hakoach”-worker, who in no way wanted to make peace with the idea that such an important institution should be liquidated, rest and, therefore, after deliberation it was decided to call a general meeting for the 22nd of December, 1937. A few hundred people took part in the meeting, who decided that “Hakoach” must definitely be revived.

A redevelopment committee was elected with Dr. A. Rechtszaft as chairman (who had 10 years of “Hakoach” activity behind him), Engineer T. Inwald (vice chairman). M. Sercarz (treasurer), L. Borzykowski ([female] secretary), H. Hirsz, P. Berenblat, M. Plesner, Dr. S. Landfisz and R. Lachman.

The task of the newly elected committee is: to improve the financial health in relation to all sections of the movement and to create an appropriate location for the society.

As we end these lines, the committee works very intensively and it is possible that when these words reach the reader, “Hakoach” will be located in its own premises and [have its own] sport stadium.

[Page 88]

The Yiddish Dramatic Society Muze

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund


Theater Section

The Yiddish Dramatic Society, Muze [muse], is actually a continuation – in other words, a successor of the earlier “stage amateur circle” or “dramatic section” whose idea in time was further molded and crystallized with a wider scope and united its best dramatic strengths under one flag, creating this society under the name Muze.

Its beginnings reach back to the year 1905. An amateur circle was created then through the initiative and under the leadership of Herszl Sztatler and from time to time they did theatrical performances in Josef Kaluszynski's [house]. Among others performed were: “Dawid's Fidele” [David's Little Fiddle], Cierkow's “Yidn” [Jews], [Dawid] Pinski's “Familie Tzwi” [The Family Tzwi] and [Jakob] Gordin's “Der Wilde Mentsch” [The Wild Man].

The dramatic section at the existing Hazamir was organized in 1909 and performed among others: “Mazel Tov” [Congratulations], “Nor a Doktor” [Only a Doctor], “Tsezeit and Tseshprei”t [Widely Scattered] by Sholem Aleichem, as well as Gordin's “Der Yiddishe Kenig Lir” [The Jewish King Lear], “Di Emese Kraft” [The True Power] and Sholem Asch's “Mitn Shtorm” [With the Storm].

In the later years, under the direction of H. Sztatler, as well as of Wolf Rechnic, “Der Korbn” [The Sacrifice], “Talmud Chochem” [The Scholar], “Motye Meylech der Stolier” [Kind Motye the Cabinetmaker], “Gebrider Luria” [Luria Brothers], “Kraytser Sonata” [Kreutzer Sonata], “Neveyle” [Carrion], “Tkies-Kaf” [literally: Handshake Agreement]. “Der Fater” [The Father], “Di Yorshim” [The Heirs], “Dos Vilner Bal haBesl” [The Betrothed Gentlemen of Vilna] were performed.

During the occupation, the idea emerged of creating a permanent dramatic union that would unite the strength of various sections and circles. A charter was then produced for this union that was brought to the occupation regime with an application for its legalization. But this submission was rejected by the occupation regime on the pretext that a union with the name Hazamir already existed in Będzin. However, the initiators did not give up the concept and did everything possible to implement the dreamed of idea – despite all obstacles and disturbances that they had to fight.

Several years later (1920), a conference of an amateur group took place, consisting of: Herszl Sztatler, Majer Wajnsztok, Owadia Blumenfrucht, Wolf Rechnic, Mendl Kaner, Chaim Dawid Brauner, Herszl Wekselman, Herszl Leber and others, who again brought the charter to the then Będzin governor, as a mean of expressing [the desire for] legalizing a union in our city under the name, “Lovers of the Yiddish Theatrical Arts, Muze, in Będzin” (with the right to create divisions in all of Zagłębie).

Bed-088.jpg [25 KB] - The Dramatic Circle with Dawid Herman
The Dramatic Circle with Dawid Herman, the well known director (X)

Standing from to right: M. W. Kaminski, J. Lasker, H. Wekselman, Berkowicz, E. Miedzinski, Blumenfrucht, Kaner, Rotenberg, Wajnsztok.
Sitting: Hampel, Ch. Szintal, Melnik, Herman Dawid, Potoszinski, Sztatler, three women, two Melnik sisters and Potok

[Page 89]

On the 7th of May, 1921, the official founding meeting of Muze took place in Będzin in the meeting hall of the union, Hakoach. At this meeting a new managing committee among others was elected which consisted of the following people: H. Sztalter – as chairman, A. Wajnsztok, H. Wekselman, W. Rechnic, E. Blumenfrucht, H. Leber, H. W. Kaminski,[*] Israel Lasker, M. Kaner and M. B. Rotenberg. The new managing committee widened its activity in inviting an entirely new series of directors, such as Dawid Herman, Marek Arnsztajn and others.

A dramatic studio was then created at Muze, from which after a short time came new and young strength that brought about a strong revival in the dramatic society. This was Chana Szental (Israel), Nachum Melnik and Mosze Potoszinski (both in South America) and [with] still others in the years 1922-25, Muze carried out a series of literary pieces such as Peretz's “A Night in the Old Market”, Ansky's “Dybbuk”, Nunberg's “The Family” under the direction of Dawid Herman, Dan Hirszbajn's “The Village Youth”, Sholem Aleichem's “The Great Lottery”.

All of the plays were acted before fully packed halls with great success not only in Będzin, but also in all of Zagłębie, as well as in Kielce and Częstochowa counties.

The very talented artist, Ch. Lewinsztajn, was engaged by Muze in 1925 as the permanent director of the dramatic group. Under his direction an entire series of literary pieces by Yiddish writers as well as from European literature was performed.

The dramatic circle also gave a series of very well attended word-concerts in which the artists, Grosbart and Marewski from Warsaw and Ch. Lewensztajn, Melnik, Potoszinski of Muze took part. It is particularly worth remembering the literary evenings that Muze organized with the participation of the poets, N. Broderzon, Kacnelson, Perec Markisz, Marewski and others.


The Choir Section

At the same time a choir was organized at Muze that was under the direction of W. Rechnic, which began its music concerts in the months of the year 1924 and became well known in the wide circles of the local youth. In a very short time, an extensive flow of capable singers emerged and this enriched the idea of cementing an organization under the leadership of a responsible and professional music director.

The official who was the first actual director of the Muze choir was the music professor, C. Binsztajn, and this caused an earnest approach to the work undertaken. The first appearance, which took place on the 12th of December, 1924, was a cultural holiday in the city and the large audience most warmly applauded the singers.

The creations of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and a series of Yiddish folk songs were performed during this appearance.

Bed-089.jpg [17 KB] - The Choir members
The Choir members of the Muze Choir

Standing from right to left: Fersztenfeld, Openhajm, Rotenberg, Rechnic, Zauberman, Gutman, Frydler.
Sitting: Lasker, Plesner, Goldkorn, Frydler, Dunkelman, Szapira, Melnik

[Page 90]

Pinchas Lubling, Hersz Elimelech Monszajn, Lajbisz Kaner, Jidl Rotenberg and Chana Szajntal, the members of Muze, gave a great deal of effort and organized the choir.

The unforeseen occurrence that Professor Binsztajn left Poland caused an interruption in the work and cut short a truly beautiful page in the history of Muze.

In 1932 the previously mentioned Muze members met again and with the cooperation of the violin artists, Szmul Gold, Mendl Kaner and Lajbl Kornfeld, it was decided to revive the choir institution. During several weeks, the choir was reorganized anew and Prof. K. Borowka was engaged as the director.

At that time the choir found itself on a qualitatively high level and it was decided to give the choir members a comprehensive musical education.

The concerts given by the choir were on a high level, which was even stressed by the experts. The best creations from the Polish and German musical literature were performed, as well as Yiddish folk songs. After a sufficiently long pause, a superb performance of the most beautiful singing was again heard by hundreds of music lovers.

This work which – according to the intentions of a number of the founders – was supposed to be a beginning, a foundation for a musical institution with a wide scope (in which Zagłębie was very strongly in need), suddenly was paralyzed by a group of “dissatisfied” who without any special “reason” imported a certain number of singers for the performance. However, this did not cause any great interruption in the work – although it was carried on with reduced vigor.

At the time, Mendl Kaner, who already was known by the public thanks to his successful music illustrations for a series of performances that were carried out by the theater section of Muze, was drawn in as an active coworker.

The choir had success in performing their creations in the subsequent concerts: “Shtarker fun a Cholum” [Stronger than a Dream], (text Klajner), “Hey Ir Yatn” [Hey You Lads] in 4 voices (text Flam), and solos: “Tsvey Hertser” [Two Hearts], “Nabna Boyml” [Near a Tree] (Klajner) and Dem Avantgard [The Avant-Guard] (text Broniewski, Yiddish Sznajderman).

Various external causes gave rise to another interruption. But it must be underlined that the work done awoke a good understanding of music, of folk songs for a wide audience, which had previously been an unfamiliar subject and the choir work was again resumed.

* Translator's note: In the photo caption on page 88, the name appears as M. W. Kaminski. return

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