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[Page 309]

Bed-309.jpg [64 KB] - Visit of the Rabbi from Gur in Będzin
Visit of the Rabbi from Gur in Będzin

Josef Heftman

Over 40 years ago, when he was just taking his first steps, he already fascinated us and we craved to read and hear him. We eagerly waited for the appearance of the weeklies “Hatzfira” and “Das Yiddishe Folk” where he regularly wrote about different issues. His articles in the Warsaw “Moment” and his feuilletons in every Saturday evening supplement attracted numerous readers.

In the twenties, he tried twice to renew the appearance of the Hebrew newspapers of “Hayom” [“Today”] and “Hatzfira” in Warsaw, but failed. I had the honor to serve as reporter for the Zagłębie district for these newspapers and kept in touch with him.

He visited our town in 1924, when the Zionist movement flourished and in the midst of the large immigration of Polish Jews to Israel. Various groups in Będzin (“Hashahar”, “Hakeren Hakayemet Le' Israel”, the Zionist Histadrut) had implored him to come and visit us but he had always been busy and over-occupied. He accepted our invitation only 20 years after Herzl's death. Our jubilee celebrations committee, which was supervised by “Tarbut”, held a mourning ceremony in memory of the man who predicted the establishment of the State of Israel.

The memorial, which was held in the “Nowości” theater, was carefully prepared and included speeches, readings, playing of musical pieces, singing and “live pictures”. The main representative of the academy was Heftman, who delivered an exciting and vehement Zionist speech. There was a solemn atmosphere amongst the huge audience who followed very attentively what was happening on stage and eagerly listened to every word of the speaker.

When the ceremony was over, twenty of us, “Tarbut” activists, convened in the house of the late Benjamin Graubart, who had been one of Heftman's friends, for a cup of tea. The gracious housewife, Mrs. Chaja Lea Graubart (of the Kowalewski family, now in Israel) served us and the guest entertained us with jokes from the Jewish folklore. We enjoyed the warm and cozy atmosphere of a home and Heftman was hearty and friendly as ever.

On the seventh day after his death (January, 1955) I published in “Haboker” [”The Morning”], the editor of which was the late Heftman, a photograph of his only visit in Będzin.

Hirsz Dawid Nomberg, a writer

He visited Będzin in 1924 and stayed with Benjamin Graubart, a devotee of the “Folkspartie”, who was one of its founders and its spiritual father in our town.

A large audience of all social classes came to hear the writer. He spoke about his tour in Eretz Yisrael objectively with a touch of affection towards the Yishuv [Jewish population of Israel prior to establishment of the State].

He admitted that Hebrew had become a spoken language and that the Yishuv had created positive values, but to his last day, in 1927, he never changed his negative attitude to Zionism. Funnily enough, however, the lecture, which was given by an opponent of the Zionist movement, served us well in our work of propaganda in various circles.

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Itzhak Katzenelson and Mosze Bruderzon

In 1924 these two dignitaries visited our town at the invitation of the “Mooza” literary club. They lectured on literary and artistic issues because both of them were active also in the field of theater. They held their lectures in the “Corso” and the large audience that attended listened to them with great interest.

During his stay in Będzin, Katzenelson, being a headmaster of a Hebrew school in Łódź, visited schools which allocated many hours to the teaching of the Hebrew language (“Yavne” and “Hamizrachi”). The poet was heartily welcomed by the pupils, who were familiar with his children's poems. They used to read out his poems and perform his biblical plays in school festivities.

A few young and already successful writers from Będzin and its surrounding took advantage of this visit and came to show the fruits of their creativity to the important guests. Dawid Zytman (died at 25), Mosze Monszajn, Dawid Micmacher, Lejzer Szykman (died in the Holocaust) and Efraim Klajman read out to the guests, who paid them a lot of attention and encouraged them.

This group of young and promising writers published their compositions in the journals “Jung Zagłębie” [Young Zagłębie], “Unzre Tribune” [Our Tribune], “Gezongen” [Sung]. Tragically, of all these talented young men only Efraim Klajman survived. The rest were exterminated in the Auschwitz death camp together with Itzhak Katzenelson, the poet of the “murdered Jewish people”.

Jakob Uri and Shmuel Dayan

They were among the first settlers of the second immigration, and among the founders of Nahalal [a cooperative settlement in northern Israel].

They visited Będzin in the twenties in connection with the “Keren Kayemet” [National fund] project: “A hundred thousand dunam within one year”. This project was started in 1924 by Ussishkin, who went for this purpose to Poland and to other places in Europe. He called a meeting of the workers of the “Keren Kayemet” in Poland for a special conference in Warsaw, in which I (Mordechai Hampel) participated as a delegate of the “Hashachar” federation.

Uri and Dayan participated in assemblies and mass public meetings. They stayed with us for several days, met youth organizations, lectured on problems regarding Eretz Yisrael and propagated buying lands, immigrating and settling in Israel.

The activity of the laborers and farmers raised the value of the “Keren Kayemet” among all the social groups of the people and also its income.

Jakob Uri visited our town a few times regarding matters of the “Keren Kayemet” and “Keren Kayemet” [Foundation fund]. His last visit was in 1939 to a commemorative ceremony in memory of A. D. Gordon.

Dr. Chaim Ścisłowski

The “YIVO” society [Institute for Jewish Research] invited Dr. Ścisłowski, one of the best writers and activists of Yiddish culture, to our town. In January 1925 he held two highly instructive lectures in the “Corso” cinema hall in Będzin. The hall was fully occupied each time. The topic was “The Essence of Man's Life” and the lecturer fascinated us with his flow of ideas. Icchak Pejsachson, the kehila [Jewish community] secretary, presented the guest. He praised the guest extensively and completed his greeting saying: “If I were a religious Jew, I would extend my palms on the head of our dear guest and bless him with Shehecheyanu Ve'higianu Lazman Ha'ze”.

In addition to these lectures the guest was invited to social parties and there too he inspired the participants with his great spirit.

Bed-310.jpg [42 KB] - A group of "Hitachdut" members with Josef Heftman
A group of “Hitachdut” members with Josef Heftman
in the year 5684 (1923-1924)
Standing from right to left:   Dow Liwer, Mordechai Hampel, Abram Sztrochlic, J. Dunkelman, Israel Gertner
Seated: Israel A. Liwer, Josef Heftman, Dawid Liwer, Mosze Openhajm

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