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[Page 283]

The “Gordonian Pioneer” Youth Organization

by Mordechai Hampel

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

In 1924, at the initiative of the Hitachdut Zionist Labor party, a branch of the Gordonia pioneering youth organization was founded in our town, which had already existed in Galicia and had begun organizing itself in Congress Poland and the Wołyń [Volhynia] towns. The Hitachdut hung their hope on Gordonia that it would train replacements for the party and it would be its youth movement, whose graduates would join its ranks. However, over the years Gordonia became independent and did not rely on the Hitachdut, that later organized for itself the Vitkinia youth movement that was under its auspices.

When it was founded Gordonia's basic ideals were not yet consolidated, however it was clear, that it was a pioneering movement espousing Young Labor values in the Land of Israel; at the founding conference of Gordonia in our town, a leadership committee was elected together with members of Hitachdut – Dawid Liwer and the late Israel Gertner for education and supervision. The local leadership was connected to the center in Lwów, which was headed by Pinchas Lubianiker (Lavon), and operated according to its directives. During its activity it appeared, the human basis of the first group of people wasn't absorbed well within the framework of the pioneering ideals of the movement. In 1926 (this year was regarding as the birth year of Gordonia in Będzin) a reorganization was carried out, the graduates went to the party and a call up of new members was announced, and this time – from amongst the youth from the general public and from the working classes.

Thanks to Attorney Dr. Ruwen Rechtman (Israel), who served at the time as a teacher in our town, and under his influence, many of his students joined Gordonia, who studied in public government schools (those of his students located in Israel remember him affectionately from their youth). The gymnasia [high school] students didn't join us at that time, since they were organized in the Herzlia academic youth organization. Only when Gordonia developed did the gymnasia students join it.

In our town there were all the youth organizations, and one way or the other there was a competitive pursuit after each boy and girl, that they join here or there. All the organizations tried by their own methods to earn themselves members and influence them in the direction of their ideals.

The writer of these lines, who for some time was leader of the Hashachar organization, also joined Gordonia, and led it till he made aliyah to Israel, together with his dedicated friend Arie Liwer.

In the meantime the movement became consolidated and defined itself as an independent movement, pioneering and realizing [going to live in Israel]. Those who do not realize and do not go to live in Israel – their place is outside of the movement. The organization became independent, and more than once there were arguments between the leadership of Gordonia and Hitachdut committee, since both of the organizations were situated in the one clubhouse (the house of Nachum Zukerman, Kołłątaja Street) that was indeed large and spacious, however not wide enough for them both. Their relationship improved only after the Hitachdut moved to a new apartment in 1933.

When I joined Gordonia we were faced with continuous expansion, and we weren't able to absorb the many who were knocking on our doors, because of a lack of counselors and instructors. Due to this we were obliged to make do in the first two years of our existence with two groups – Hamitorerim [The awakeners] and Hamagshimim [The realizers]. When our beginners grew up and gained experience for themselves and were themselves instructors and group leaders, we expanded the organization framework and absorbed young children – Tzofim [Scouts] and Nitzanim [Buds].

Our center was one of the most active in Poland. Our relationship with the main leadership was close and continuous, and we participated in all the movement conferences and committees. Due to our variegated activities we earned a good name in the whole movement, and even competing local organizations acknowledged this. Sometimes we arranged successful public performances, shows, lectures and various festivals.

Bed-283.jpg [46 KB] - A group of realizers in "Gordonia"
A group of realizers in “Gordonia”
Standing from right first row: Dawid Safirsztajn, Juda Anzelewicz, Dorka Cymerman,
Mordechai Hampel, Cwi Kutner (killed in the Independence war),
Szoszana Cymberknopf, Stawski, Riwa Tornhajm-Safirsztajn, Szoszana Wajnreb.
Seated, second row: Icchak Londner, Riwa Kurc, Arie Liwer, Szoszana Klajnman, Chana Wolhendler.
Third row: Sara Ecksztajn, Batia Fersztenfeld, Chanoch Werdyger, Chawa Gurst.

[Page 284]

Bed-284.jpg [46 KB] - A group of realizers in "Gordonia"
An “El-Al” group in 1932, on the eve of Mordechai Hampel's,
head of the labor union, immigration to Israel

Standing in the first row from right: Josef Honigman, Chaja Najszteter,
Benjamin Jeskiel, Miriam Frajtman, Chana Wilder, Jakob Golani, Rywka Radzinska, Nahum Gitler.
Seated in the second row from right: Mendel Gelband, Ben Zion Himelfarb, Rachel Bokowska,
Mordechai Hampel, Cypora Glajtman, Jecheskiel Glecer, Sara Szporn, Rafael Malach.
Third row: Mordechai Krzesiwo (Keshev), Jakob Parnes, Icchak Herszkop, Sara Blum, Jakob Rajchman,
Mosze Cholewo, Abram Federman.

We won't forget the magnificent flag inauguration that took place in 1929 in the “Nowoszczi” hall, which was full and packed with a large crowd. The celebration was accompanied by a large multitude: a parade in the streets, an orchestra playing, a choir, a diverse entertainment segment. Around twenty-five representatives of movements, institutions, and people commended and praised us for our successful activity, and in appreciation they inserted gold chips in the pole of the flag made of blue and white velvet and silk, on which were embroidered the letters of our name and place of our organization in Hebrew and Polish and our movement slogan Hagshem vealeh [realize and go up]! I remember the days, when hundreds of Gordonia members proudly marched in the town's streets, on various occasions, in their scouts uniforms, accompanied by the sounds of drums, trumpets and cymbals and the roar of the crowd that enjoyed seeing the Jewish youth standing erect and our flag flying high. During the Nazi occupation our members looked after this flag and comrade Mordechai Krzesiwo (Keshev), one of the organization activists and survivor of the inferno, brought it with him to Israel and placed in the hands of Chaver Hakvutzot to be preserved. The local press publicized at the time an extensive description of the flag inauguration.

In “Folk un Land” [People and Country] (the Hitachdut magazine), May 1931, the following article was published: “On the fifteenth of Shevat a 5th anniversary celebration for Gordonia in Będzin was held. Party representatives, organizations and press came to the celebration and sat next to the president's table. Zionist activists as well as many visitors took their place on the stage. Rhythmical drumming and trumpet blasts announced the beginning of the festivities. The tune of Hatikvah [Israeli national anthem] and Techezkna [a song by Bialik] were heard. – The head of the center, Mordechai Hampel, presented an opening address (in Hebrew), to the visitors, on the roles of Jewish youth and outlining the stages in the development of the center over the past five years.”

The first of the greetings was by the eldest Zionist activist in the town, the chairman of the Jewish community council, Icchak Wygodzki (killed) in the name of the Zionist organization, in the name of the factions in the Zionist community and Hitachdut – the leaders Abram Liwer (America) and Mosze Rozenker (Israel), Keren Hayesod [Jewish Foundation Fund] – Neta Londner (killed), Hitachdut – Dawid Liwer, the WIZO women's organization – a member of the city council, Mrs. Necha Rotner (killed), the Hitachdut faction in the city council – Dr. Rechtman, the Tarbut [school] – the teacher A. Z. Bornsztajn (killed), the main office of Keren Hakeyemet LeYisrael [Jewish National Fund] in Warsaw – Mrs. Lea Wigdorowicz (died in Israel), and including the Gordonia parents – Mrs. Czernocha (killed), the pioneer – Juda Anzelewicz (killed), the League of a Working Israel – Aba Grojer (killed), the Zionist youth – Mosze Horowicz (Israel), Hashachar – Juda Klajner (was killed in Kvutzat Hulda, 1938), Gordonia in Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa – Hilel Mankarski-Kimchi and Cwi Magerkiewicz-Magen, the regional leadership – Abram Fryd (the three of them are in Israel).

The greetings that came from the Land of Israel were received with a warm round of applause, presented by Gordonia members who had recently made aliyah to Israel. Comrade Arie Liwer thanked the speakers and promised, that their compliments were not for nothing, and that Gordonia would continue its activities with greater passion and spirit.

The entertainment segment was very successful. The young violinist, a student of the conservatorium in Katowice, L. Rechnic, very successfully performed musical pieces with classical Jewish and Israeli motifs. The Gordonia members Riwa Warszawski (killed) from the Hamitorerim sang a solo song Yad Anuga [A delicate hand] by Shenor; the charming Pirchija Wajsbord (Israel), also from the Hamitorerim, tastefully recited sections of poems by Szlonski and “Ben Yehuda” Lekarni, A. Feldberg (killed) recited At Adama [You are the land] by Fichman. The choir directed by Grzimek Rus (Israel) sang a medley of pioneering songs and was received with prolonged applause, and we were obliged to go back several times with “encores” at the request of the audience, who did not relent.

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