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[Pages 198-200]

The History of “Ha'Mizrachi” in Częstochowa

Jakob Leslau

The Origins of “HaMizrachi”

HaMizrachi” was founded as an organisation of Zionist–religious Jews, aspiring to the revival of the Hebrew people in the land of their forefathers. On its banner was written “Creating a safe refuge for the People of Israel in the Land of Israel in accordance with Torah and tradition”.

The “HaMizrachi” movement actually existed before the First World War, but its organisational strength was weak. In the days of the Russian government, which also ruled in Congress Poland in those days, it was forbidden to assemble in numbers or to hold gatherings, even in prayer–houses and synagogues in general and to preach the Zionist idea in particular. For every such operation, it was necessary to seek a blind to hide the true yearned–for cause from “evil eye”. Nonetheless, there were then also “preachers” who endangered themselves and, in their sermons in the study–halls, they would also introduce the Torah topic of the precept to settle the Land of Israel. [They] animated the audience with their words. Stories of true miracles and wonders were told of these individuals who did their deeds in secret. They had a difficult struggle, not only with the government, but also with the opponents of Hibbat Zion[1], who were mainly the zealous Chassidic circles, who saw in Zionism a sort of “forcing the End [of Days]” and a denial of the belief in the Messiah. But, nevertheless, these persecutions did not prevent the foundation of “Ha'Mizrachi” unions in Warsaw and in other cities in Poland and the affiliation of the Rabbis – the prodigies Reb Shmuel Mohilever, Reb Yitzchok Yaakov Reines, etc..


Ha'Mizrachi” Following the Occupation of Poland

In the days of German occupation of Poland, during the First World War, it also became possible to carry out Zionistic work in public, to establish unions and to hold conferences and assemblies.

In the winter of 5676 [1915–16], the “Mizrachi” organisation in Warsaw was re–established. Its instructors began visiting cities in Poland. They helped to establish branches in different cities and towns.


The Origins of “Ha'Mizrachi” in Częstochowa

A “Ha'Mizrachi” organisation was also established in Częstochowa. Among its first founders were great figures – Reb Józef Szymon Koblenz, who was called “The Maggid” [itinerant preacher], Reb Szmul Goldsztajn, Reb Józef Blechsztajn, Reb Abram Henoch Finkelsztajn, Reb Chaim Weksler and a few others whose names I've forgotten.

These public figures immediately began far–reaching activities to attract religious Jews to the movement. However, this was no easy feat because, as is known, many of the Chassidim–zealots waged a fierce war against “Ha'Mizrachi” and its objectives. The struggle was hard, but still they succeeded in bringing the best of the city's bourgeoisie close to Mizrachi.

After many important persons joined, among them the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Nachum Asz, the first assembly was held in the month of Iyyar 5677 [April–May 1917], with participation of Mr. J. L. Szczarański, the National Secretary of “Ha'Mizrachi” in Warsaw. The first council was also then elected, comprising J. Sz. Koblenz, Sz. Goldsztajn, A. H. Finkelsztajn, I. Plocker, I. M. Grinfeld, N. Turner and Ch. Weksler.


Ha'Mizrachi's” Activities in Częstochowa

The “Mizrachi” organisation rented a large complex at ul. Ogrodowa 14, which also served as prayerhouse for “Mizrachi” members. It was a venue for Talmud and Hebrew lessons and lectures delivered by the great Rabbis of “Ha'Mizrachi”. Reb Józef Sz. Koblenz also preached almost every week and inspired the audience, as was his divine wont and Reb Mojsze Halter would give a Chumash [Pentateuch; weekly parsha] lesson every Friday night. The audience truly “licked their fingers” with his rational and rich interpretations. Reb Mojsze Halter, who had visited the Land of Israel, upon returning to Poland, conducted propaganda in which he stressed that every Jew who is not able to settle in the Land of Israel must visit there at least once in his lifetime and see the land being built with his own eyes.

At the general assembly, which was held in 5678 [1917–18], new members were elected and added to the new council. They were A. Warszawski, I. M. Zilberberg, Ch. C. Kon, Sz. Prawer, M. Sudowicz, Tz. Berliner and J. Cygler.

In 5679 [1918–19], the “Nachliel” [God's Bequest] union was founded through “HaMizrachi”, the goal of which was to establish an estate in the Land of Israel.


The Visit of “Ha'Mizrachi” President Mr. Sz. Ch. Farbsztejn and Rabbi Isaac Nissenbaum

The visit of “Ha'Mizrachi” {resident Mr. Sz. Ch. Farbsztejn and Rabbi Isaac Nissenbaum from Warsaw, in Tamuz 5680 [Jun.–Jul. 1920], was a great event in our city. They were welcomed at the train station by the pioneers working on the farm, with bunches of flowers in their hands, and by representatives of “Ha'Mizrachi” and the General Zionists. The guests in our city spent the entire day of their visit in meetings, assemblies and lectures.

In the evening, a large public assembly was held at the New Synagogue, with the participation of the city's important figures and community leaders, with the local Rabbi at the head. Afterwards, the guests also participated in a farewell soiree that “Ha'Shomer” held for thirteen of its members who were leaving, that same night, to the Land of Israel, as well as in a party which “Ha'Mizrachi” held for them. Between conferences, the guests, accompanied by Professor Majer Bałaban, also visited the agricultural farm.

The guests' visit to our city strengthened all the city's Zionist groups and endeared the idea of “Ha'Mizrachi” to the local residents.


Joy at the [British] Mandate's Approval for the Land of Israel

News of the Mandate's approval, by the League of Nations in 5682 [June 1922], was received in our city with joy and, with great enthusiasm, various celebratory assemblies were held. In some of the synagogues, the “Hallel[2]” was said on [the following] Shabbes. Also, various celebratory gatherings were held and speakers emphasised the importance of this historic event.

On ShabbesChazon” [Saturday prior to the 9th of Av], a joint assembly of “Ha'Mizrachi” and the Zionists was held at the synagogue. M. Halter, N. Gerichter and D. Goldberg (Achiyahu) explained to the audience the great importance of the Mandate's approval and called for major colossal activity for building the Land of Israel. A wonderful celebration was also held also “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” in which representatives of all the Zionist groups in our city participated. The orchestra played hymns of praise, accompanied by a choir of singers. All sang and danced until midnight. The celebration made an intense impression on all those present.


Ha'Mizrachi's” Influence on Public Life

Ha'Mizrachi”, in Częstochowa, raised the Zionist–religious flag high. [It] concentrated the crème de la crème of the city's religious Jewry. Great Torah scholars and men of exalted virtues brought their fierce love for Zion to orthodox circles in all their strata – merchants, artisans, industrialists and independent professionals. “Ha'Mizrachi's” representatives were active in all the city's institutions – in the community, the City Council, charitable organisations and in all areas of Zionist and social activity.

(The oppressive enemy also put an end to the magnificent life of “Ha'Mizrachi”!)


Opening ceremony at the agricultural farm of Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi in Iyyar 5684 [May 1924]
First row (sitting from right to left): Wajcman, J. Kac, Jakob Berman, Yehuda Barkai, Mojsze Tiberg, N. Klajner
Second row (sitting from Z. right to left): Sz. Shragai, Leib Jakob Haberfeld, Ickowicz, Mordka Józef J. Blechsztajn, Bencelowicz, Rabbi Dov Goldberg Brot of Lipno (Achiyahu (Sejm )mbr.), Jakob Leslau,
Among the standing: the teacher Hirsz, A. Proch, J. Goldrajch, Ch. Z. Rozen, A. Hofman, J. Barkai, Ch. Fajnsztadt (the last five with the pioneers' cadets' uniforms), J. Lewenhof, M. Borzykowski and the boy M. Szpilberg


Translator's footnotes:

  1. Hibbat Zion” [Love of Zion] refers to a variety of organisations in Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century which are now considered the forerunners and foundation–builders of modern Zionism. Return
  2. The “Hallel” (Praise) is a thanksgiving prayer recited on holidays. Return

[Pages 201-206]

The “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” Organisation in Częstochowa

Jakob Leslau

The “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” association was founded on Chanukah 5677 [1916], during the visit to our city of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Zlotnik of Gąbin and Rabbi Isaac Nissenbaum from Warsaw.

Its founders included Mordka Gold (Zahavi), brothers Jakob and Szmul Koblenz, Zvi Granek, Abram Bajgelman, Ze'ev Wiewiorka, A. Oberman, A. N. Sztencel, A. Enzel, D. Goldberg and Jakub Chuna Filik (Plai). A temporary council was elected which immediately began to propagate the idea among the orthodox youth, in general, and especially those sitting in the study–halls. The council strived to strengthen in the hearts of the religious youth their nationalistic sentiments, to awaken their inner consciousness and to keep them away from the influence of those circles hostile to the idea of national revival. For this, a broad educational activity was necessary. Happily, the call to rally around “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” bore fruit and many members were added, among them study–hall students.

Although it had grown to encompass the best of the city's youth, the “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” movement in our city experienced a temporary, long hiatus due to the First World War, which brought about the liberation of Poland and its declaration as a free and independent state. A large section of the youth was called to the army which fought against the “Bolsheviks”. Only after the War and the return, to our city, of the released soldiers was work renewed with increased stamina by some members of the former council and by new members who entered the operation.

In Tamuz 5680 [June–July 1920], a general assembly was held, during which a new council was elected which included J. Leslau, A. Bajgelman, J. Ch. Filik (Plai), J. Lewenhof, M. Rozencwajg, M. Goldberg, J. Monowicz, R. Brandes, D. Goldberg (Achiyahu), A. Danziger and A. Holand.

Sometime later, Sz. Włodowski, Ch. Fajnsztadt, M. Ch. Tiberg, Ch. Z. Rozen, J. J. Kon, Sz. D. Kaminski, J. Kac, J. Barkai and I. M. Holand were added to the council.

A broad, cultural operation was implemented. Daily lessons were organised in the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew, Jewish history, Talmudical literature and the Talmud. A library was also established which housed books on all subjects and a reading–hall was opened too. Members also actively participated in raising funds for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, the “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” fund and the distribution of [Zionist] shekels.

Members of “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” in our city were also active in neighbouring cities, organising groups in all of the cities in the vicinity. That same year, a district council was also established, made up of J. Leslau, D. Goldberg (Achiyahu) and J. Sz. Koblenz (all three from Częstochowa), Ch. Welner (from Będzin) and Lewkowicz (from Radomsko).

A curriculum was prepared for advanced studies in all the types of subjects – the Hebrew Bible, Jewish history, Judaic Studies[1], religious philosophy (“Kuzari”, “Ikkarim“ [books]), the history of Zionism and “Ha'Mizrachi” and in new Hebrew literature.

At that same period, Szlojme Zalman Shragai (nowadays Director of the Immigration Department of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem) came to live among us and he, too, commenced active work.

In 5683 [1922–23], a regional conference of our organisation was held in our city, in which youth from all neighbouring cities participated.

In this conference, Rabbi Elimelech Najfeld, the lawyer Aron Blum from Warsaw and Mr. M. Sh. Geshuri from Jerusalem took part on behalf of the Central [Office]. Following these guests' speeches and the reading of reports on “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi's” activities in their locations, decisions were reached concerning the different operational areas and an announcement was made regarding a special fundraiser for the “HaChalutz HaMizrachi” fund to collect moneys and tools with which to fortify and stabilise the position of our members in the Land of Israel.


Gathering of members for the wedding of the chairman Jakob Leslau, 15th Tamuz 15, 5683 [29th June 1923]
Sitting (mbrs. of the council): D. Szczekacz, Ch. Fajnsztadt, I. M. Holand, D. Goldberg, the chairman Jakob Leslau, Sz. Z. Shragai, A. Pik, Berkowicz, I. M. Kac and M. Ch. Tiberg, Shragai and Leslau (Częstochowa), Włodowski (Radomsko), M. Szklarczyk (Sosnowiec) and Barankewicz (Kielce) were chosen as management.


Next to “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi”, the group “Bnei Ha'Mizrachi” [Sons of Ha'Mizrachi] was also formed. It was directed by a special committee of its members and was under the auspices of a supervisory council on behalf of “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi”. Every Saturday, lectures and members' discussions were held on the questions of Judaism and its values. Every evening, lessons in Hebrew Bible, Talmud and Hebrew were given. Each and every member was required to abide by the following directives: to act in his private and social life according to the laws of Torah and tradition, to study Hebrew Bible, Talmud and Hebrew, to purchase the Zionist shekel (through “Ha'Mizrachi”) and to prepare himself for emigration to the Land of Israel.

Also “Ha'Shomer Ha'Dati” [The Religious Guardian] and “Bruria” [a women's youth movement] took substantial part in the activities of the local youth. They prepared their male and female members for emigration to [the Land of] Israel and their becoming entrenched in agricultural settlement and in creative work.

With the movement's growth and ramification, for many members, the problem also arose of physical emigration to the Land of Israel.

At that same period, “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” was founded in our city. It began organising courses for professional training in carpentry and ironworking at the craft school (“Szkoła Rzemieślnicza”). These courses were conducted at dusk, especially for our members. It is noteworthy that a significant part of yeshivah students also participated in these courses. The religious extremists, however, did not look well upon all the daring innovations and sought to hinder them. But they were unsuccessful and eventually some of their sons, too, came and attended these courses.

In 5684 [1923–24], a “training farm” at ulica Warszawska 27 was established, with the active participation of J. Leslau, Sz. Z. Shragai, L. Blechsztajn, J. Ickowicz, M. L. Haberfeld, Jarkowizna, and Wołoski. Here, members were trained in agricultural work and gardening. This farm served as a model and was praised in the entire region.

Guests at farm's opening ceremony included Mr. Cheszel Farbsztejn, Chairman of the Jewish Community Council in Warsaw and President of “Ha'Mizrachi” in Poland and Rabbi Szmul HaLevi Brot, Rabbi of Lipno and a member of the Polish Sejm.

Thanks to the training received at the professional lessons of the craft school and at the agricultural farm, many members emigrated to the Land of Israel. Today, many of them are famous leaders and doers in the State of Israel and are active in diverse public areas.

We may stress that these members of ours were the first to emigrate from amongst the organised groups of “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” in Poland.

Due to the great interest our townspeople showed in the purchase of plots in the Land of Israel, we opened a special office of the “Menucha Ve'Nachala” [Rest and Inheritance] group, at the head of which stood one of the elder leaders of “Ha'Mizrachi”, Reb Lewi Lewin–Epsztajn z”l, whose goal it was to enable the broad masses to settle, in practice and in action, in the building of the country. To this aim, the group purchased lands in Jalil [Ijlil al–Qibliyya village] in the vicinity of Kefar Sava.

The “Tzeirei Mizrachi” movement in Częstochowa integrated many youngsters and young adults; its representatives took part in all areas of Zionist and social activities in the city and its institutions; the name of the “Tzeirei Mizrachi” organisation – with all its extensions – became famous among all the youth groups in the city and [it] was one of the most active of all “Tzeirei Mizrachi” organisations in Poland.

It is also possible to learn of “Tzeirei Mizrachi's” welcome activities from the great number of its members who emigrated to the Land of Israel, who occupy important positions in the building of the country and whose activity is apparent in diverse branches of financial and construction life, Aliyah [immigration to Israel] and in the fields of education and culture. The exile Częstochowian training achieved its target and was not in vain.

Over the course of time, [some] distinguished themselves in our city as active members, who took part in diverse operations, whose names are worthy of mention. They are D. Szczekacz, A. Pik, A. Tatarka, Z. A. Ruzewicz, H. Baron, Z. Mendelowicz, J. Birman, M. Borzykowski, Sz. Zygelbaum, the Rozental brothers, the brothers A. and M. Kaminski, J. J. Grynman, A. Lipinski, Sz. Kac, J. Buksztel [?] and Z. Bratt.


“B'nei Mizrachi”: Ze'ev Rajchman, Gecel Szczupak, Szlojme Fajgenbaum, M. A. Berliner, Aryeh Holand, A. Luksemburg, Efroim Windman, Jakob and Izrail Tiberg.

Some of them immigrated to Israel. But, to our great sorrow and despair in our hearts, the majority of them perished in the Holocaust and only a minority of a minority were saved and are still living abroad and have not yet come to the redemption and inheritance in the land of their desires in the past.


(We are very sad for our devoted members who have not yet had the privilege to fulfil their vision and our [heart] break is as vast as the sea for those whom the oppressive enemy put an end to their magnificent lives and the lives of their families. May their memory ascend together with the memory of all the martyrs of the Częstochowa community, may God avenge their blood, to whom “Sefer Częstochowa” is dedicated and may God, to whom vengeance belongs, avenge their spilt blood!)


“The flowers of Mizrachi” in 5683 [1922–23] at their meeting with J. Leslau and Sz. Z. Shragai
In the photo the leaders of the movement: Jakob Leslau and Szlojme Zalman Shragai and among the “flowers of Mizrachi” are Borzykowski, Sztajnhart, Holand, Rajchman, Wajcman, Tatarka and Tiberg


Translator's footnote:

  1. Judaic Studies or Science of Judaism is the 19th century German concept “Wissenschaft des Judentums”. Return

[Pages 207-212]

A City and Mother in Israel!
[2 Samuel 20:19
(Of Częstochowa, that is no more)

Sz. Z. Shragai

Częstochowa was regarded as “a city with everything in it” [Talmud Bavli, Chullin, 52b]. It also contained “galbanum” [a spice with a disagreeable odour, mentioned in Exodus 30:34]. Nevertheless, galbanum too was blended in with the fragrant perfumes and became absorbed into them. Against the “evil inclination”, which also fortified a position in Częstochowa, the spice of Torah stood and left its mark on the city's Jewish character and its Jewish inhabitants.

Częstochowa was a city of Torah–scholars in the full meaning of this word, starting with the Rabbi, the prodigy, Reb Nachum Asz, whom Reb Yehoshuale of Kutna referred to as “one of the Torah prodigies in our generation and a man of exemplary character traits”, through to Halachic scholars, Chassidic leaders, pious men and those of [great] deeds [see Mishna, Sukkah 5 m4], [simple] townspeople – whose occupation was commerce and the Torah their lives, day and night, when walking on the way, lying down and rising up [from the Shema Israel prayer, see Deuteronomy 6:7]. It was impossible to find any social affair, be it dealing with public needs, Zionism, education and [or] social life in which there were no men of Torah and of exemplary character traits. They were the influential ones and, sometimes, the decision –makers and directors of the matter.

Częstochowa also excelled in this – in [its] awe for a Torah scholar, in admiration for those of exemplary character traits and [as] a courtesy towards men of learning and enlightenment. Every father wished and aspired that his sons learn Torah, so that they may “be able to come among people”, come among people – the meaning was not necessarily knowledge of Polish (this sin was committed particularly by the Chassidic circles, against the girls, whom they desired to have excellent knowledge of the language of the Gentiles), but on the contrary: that he be able to mingle with people, to partake in the casual conversation of Torah scholars and not to sit dumbly among them, as an ignoramus.

Częstochowa was a city of Jewish communal activity in all areas of life – in Torah study and yeshivas, in the Chassidic study–halls and prayer–houses, ritual bath–houses, Rabbis and judges, institutions of charity and goodwill, kashrus and observance of Shabbes, culture and art and in financial institutions. There were parties whose main activity was in financial life and not necessarily the Jewish one, and there were parties mainly active in the area of Jewish life. They were the religious parties – “Ha'Mizrachi”, GeneralZionism and Socialist–Zionism. There was also Jewish journalism. There was hardly any area of Jewish life in which the great activity of theses circles went unnoticed. Jews also participated in financial life. Indeed, the congregated Jewish community in Częstochowa was a “holy congregation”, “a city with everything in it”, but the supreme connector was – our holy Torah.

As a consequence, it was not affected by alienation or a will to disconnect from the Jewish people, even amongst the extreme assimilators, even amongst the Jewish workers, who set their eyes on the redemption to come from the Socialist revolution. Even they knew that, until the revolution, their place was within the Jewish community of Częstochowa, and they desired to be among them.

Therefore, we never met animosity towards [the] Torah [or] hatred against Judaism; spiteful people made up a minority–of–a–minority.

A place at the head of all Jewish public activity was held by Zionism. It is not an exaggeration for me to state that Jewish Częstochowa was mainly Zionist, and, inside Zionism, the lead was taken by religious Zionism – Ha'Mizrachi, Ha'Mizrachi Youth, The Mizrachi Pioneer and Sons of Mizrachi.

Częstochowa was a city full of Torah scholars and many of them stood at the head of “Ha'Mizrachi”. This fact caused numerous circles in Judaism, keepers of the Torah and observant of the precepts, to support “Mizrachi”: townspeople and Chassidim, Rabbis and Halachic scholars, yeshiva students. Even the “Aguda” [ultra–orthodox political party] members in Częstochowa and their youth were not of the extreme fighters against religious Zionism, respecting the obligation to redeem the land [of Israel] and to emigrate there.

The noble figure of the “Maggid”, Reb Yosef Shimon Koblenz, who was an outstanding Torah scholar, with a virtuous and moral character, whose dealings in public matters and his private life were without a blemish, radiated onto all of “Mizrachi's” works and the entire city.

It may be said of him, that he was the Jewish–human conscience of the whole city. They knew that all his words and actions were in heaven's name – hence his great influence and everyone's love for him. They would come to hear his words, which were always repeated again and again by his audience and became the topic of the day.

For many years, he stood on guard at the study–halls, at halls and at assemblies and called to unity, [to] not separate oneself from the community, to share in the misery of others through acts of charity, to study Torah and to implement it and respect its vessels, and, at the centre of it all, stood in his words the Zionist action: “A religious Land of Israel, as the Land of Israel for the People of Israel in accordance with the Torah of Israel.” He was also one of the first activists and inciters, who stood at the right of “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi”, for its training and emigration to the Land of Israel.

At his side was a body of public figures – Torah scholars, Rabbis and burghers, old and young, who did “Ha'Mizrachi's” day–to–day work, especially in communal life. Of them, we may mention but a few, for it is impossible to enumerate them all, as they are many – Szmul Goldsztajn, Chaim Weksler, Anczel Warszawski, Abram Enzel, Grinfeld, Finkelsztajn, Reb Mojsze Halter, Izrail Plocker, Józef Blechsztajn, Ickowicz, Jungster, Jakob Leslau, Sz. Z. Shragai, Chune Plai, Szmul Koblenz, Dov–Ber Goldberg, Abram Danziger, Abram Pik, Izaak Majer Kac [and] Herszel Granek.

Ha'Mizrachi” did not just preach nicely, but practiced nicely too. Many of its members emigrated at the end of the Third Aliyah [1919–1923] and at beginning of the Fourth Aliyah [1924–1928] – among them [some] with positions in the “Ha'Mizrachi” movement and [in] “HaPoel Ha'Mizrachi” and, as whose representatives, they sit in municipal and governmental institutions and at the Jewish Agency. The blueprint of Częstochowa, a city and a mother in Israel, the city of Torah scholars, is apparent in their stamina and standing.


The city's Chief Rabbi, Reb Nachum Asz, contributed a decisive part to the fortification of “Ha'Mizrachi” and the growth of its influence on Jewish life. He was loyal to “Mizrachi” with all the filaments of his vitality and soul and, although he did not take an active part in the party's practical and day–to–day work, all his spoken words were indeed filled with love for the religious Zionism, in which he saw a blessing–holding vessel, both for the Jews, while they remained in exile, and especially as a movement paving the road to redemption and to the nearing of the Messiah's coming.

A special personage was Reb Faywel Fajwlowicz, my uncle, brother of my father and son of Reb Juda Leibisch of the Kock–Izbica Chassidim, who left Kock and went with the Rebbe of Izbica, when he was still a youngster, for [maybe should say “whilst”] his eldest brother Reb Itchale Ostrovtser[1] remained in Kock and afterwards joined Ger[2].

Reb Faywel was a Torah scholar in the full meaning of the word, with a vast knowledge of the Hebrew language and grammar. He specifically wished to be “melamed” and educator. Together with the poet Ch. N. Bialik, he established a school in Sosnowiec. When this did not work out well, he opened a cheder in Częstochowa and, here, he succeeded in teaching Torah and its precepts to Jewish boys. It may be said that, if in Częstochowa there were no ignoramuses and boors, it is largely thanks to Reb Faywel. He knew how to explain, how to give a pupil possession of the matters, instilling in him love for Torah study and arousing in him contempt for ignorance.

At his cheder, they learnt Hebrew Bible, Hebrew and grammar, Mishna, Talmud and Halachic laws, as well as general studies. In it was nurtured a love for the Land of Israel and a craving for redemption.

If Rabbi Asz and the Maggid Koblenz influenced the city's burghers, then the “melamed” Reb Faywel Fajwlowicz influenced the youngsters of the generation.

Thus, the city donned a Zionist–religious character, despite all the other phenomena not in accordance to the spirit of religion, although these too did not combat religion and did not wish it to disappear, God forbid. On the contrary, they took pride in that the city was filled with Torah and religion, as well as in enlightenment and general culture and they did not fight each other.

There were also Jewish–Socialist parties in the city of course. They did not believe in the Torah and opposed Zionism and conducted social and cultural activities. But these were not those who formed the city's character. It was formed by religious Zionism, “Ha'Mizrachi” and general Zionism across its spectrum.

To strengthen the Religious–Zionist character of the city, the “Aguda” [ultra–orthodox political party] also helped involuntarily. It contained Torah scholars, righteous men and doers of [good] deeds and, despite “Aguda” being opposed to Zionism and “Ha'Mizrachi”, they increased the power of the religious movement and being as Zionism stamped its seal on our city. Incidentally, the Religious–Zionist spirit in it was invigorated.

The Chassidic Rebbes, who were in Częstochowa, also added to the religious, communal character of the city and its residents.

Ha'Mizrachi” was, therefore, the subject of our city's social, communal and public life.

Were someone to come and remove religious Judaism and Zionism from the map of Częstochowa's Jews, it is doubtful as to whether Częstochowa would have retained its Jewish character. Thus Częstochowa was a city and a mother in Israel, in the full sense of this term. Torah and mitzves [precepts], good deeds, Zionism and an effervescent communal life were, indeed, important parts in Polish Jewry.

(This Częstochowa passed from the world, together with the entire Polish Jewry, in the great destruction that Hitler brought to the world. May the image of the city of Częstochowa remain as a symbol and model for the life of historical Jewry in Poland).

Translator's footnotes:

  1. This was not his surname but his provenance, i.e., that he was either born or lived in Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski Return
  2. After the death of the Kotzker Rebbe in 1859, most of his followers chose Rabbi Izaak Majer Alter, the founder of the Ger dynasty, as their new Rebbe. Return

[Pages 211-218]

HaChalutz HaMizrachi” in Częstochowa

Mojsze Chaim Tiberg




The storm that passed through the Jewish faction in Poland in all its strata, after the start of the First World War in 1914–1918, did not by–pass over religious Jewry either. The essential shock of the collapse of systems, countries and peoples, that brought with it the downfall of the kings of Czarist Russia, Germany and Austria, the rise of Poland and Czechoslovakia in Eastern Europe, the Balfour declaration and more, sprouted deep roots in the hearts of Polish Jews as well, who felt the pulse of the historic period, which augured elemental changes in the values and structure of life until then accustomed and brought the organisation of associations and parties in Polish Jewry.

Our city Częstochowa also, as a progressive city and one of the most important in Congress Poland, was among the first to establish these type of parties, organisations and public institutions. Especially distinguished in our city was the religious–nationalist Jewry who were organised under the “Ha'Mizrachi” organisation. This organisation included the most important personages who stood, then, at the head of the public institutions in the city, such as the city's Chief Rabbi, Reb Nachum Asz, his brother–in–law Reb Mojsze Halter, Reb Józef Szymon Koblenz (called “the Maggid”), Reb Szmul Goldsztajn (Chairman of the Kehilla), Reb Chaim Weksler, Reb Anczel Warszawski, Reb Abram Henoch Finkelsztajn, Reb Izrail Plocker, Reb Józef Mendel Lipski and many other important figures in the city. The people, whom I have mentioned, who were men of stature in the most important institutions of the city, drew to themselves the young religious, the students of study–halls and the religious young intelligentsia in the city, who were the city's crème de la crème. They were organised by “Ha'Mizrachi” as a branch of the “Tzeirei Mizrachi” organisation – a tributary to the Central [board] (first in Łosź and later – in Warsaw).

These youths, on whose heart was engraved the love of the Land [of Israel], were not content with just “Tzeirei Mizrachi's” limited activities, which took the form, specifically, of organisational and cultural activities. They also aspired to train themselves towards the personal fulfilment of Aliyah and, at the many assemblies and meetings of “Tzeirei Mizrachi”, in their discussions regarding their future work, the idea matured in them that what was existent and accustomed in the organisation's activities should be changed and mustered into a more practical activity which is – to train members in practical work and manual labour, in order to prepare for the building of the Land [of Israel] through real physical work. Thus was founded the “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” organisation in Częstochowa, the first in Congress Poland (only afterwards, as time passed, did other branches of “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” arise). Its founders were Jakob Leslau, Sz. Z. Shragai, Izaak Kac (elected as Chairman), Chaim Fajnsztadt, Ch. Z. Rozen, Dov (Goldberg) Achiyahu, Juda Barkai and the writer of these lines. All are in Israel.

(Many members remained standing guard for the organisation abroad and were unable to perform Aliyah in time, among them being the illustrious Abram Danziger, who were annihilated at the time of the Holocaust, and may God avenge their blood).


The horticultural farm group of “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi
From right to left (standing): Gucza Woznica, Ruchel Szwarcbaum, Dwojra Szpilberg, Chune Tatarka, Hela Gliksman, Ruchel Szpilberg and Feigel Bratt
Sitting (middle): M. Ch. Tiberg, Ch. Fajnsztadt, Sz. Z. Shragai, Miriam Shragai, Chaja Leslau, J. Leslau, Juda Barkai and I. M Kac
Sitting (bottom): Ch. Z. Rozen, J. Wajcman, N. Klajner, J. Berman, A. Ofman[1] and J. Goldrajch


At the beginning, the idea was to start working the land on the city's Jewish horticultural farm – at “Ferma Ogrodnicza”. However, a group of members formed who championed the idea of establishing an independent group of farmers of “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” in Częstochowa, in order to train its members for Aliyah, with the goal of emigrating together to the Land [of Israel] and founding a cooperative kibbutz there through “HaPoel Ha'Mizrachi”. This idea was successfully implemented by Izaak Kac, Chaim Fajnsztadt, Chaim Ze'ev Rozen, Juda Barkai, Natan Klajner, and the writer of this article (all are in Israel), Jakob Berman (lives abroad), Jakob Goldrajch, may God avenge his blood, who returned abroad due to an illness and Jakob Wajcman and Hofman[2], may God avenge their blood. These members organised as a group of farmers (by initiative and with help from Leslau and Shragai), and they succeeded in being not only among the initiators of the idea, but also its executors. They rented a plot of land inside the city, on Ferens' grounds ul. Warszawska 27 and, in the spring of 5683 (1923), they began preparing the soil and working it under the guidance of an experienced Jewish instructor in our city.

Female members, who had religious views, also belonged to “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” in our city, seeing as how the “Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi” organisation was only for young men only. It was not easy for us, the students of the study–halls whose origins were in Chassidic homes, to admit women as well into our organisation. But the needs of the settlement of the Land of Israel and the relentless pressure of these girls, who pointed out their willingness to take part in the pioneering work and the goal of Aliyah, overcame the hesitations and it was decided to admit them as members of “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi”. Among them were also some who signed up for the farmers' group. Since the men did not wish to work together with the women as a team, we rented another garden for them (from Mr. Wyszynski, on the “Second Aleja”) where they worked under the guidance of a renowned agronomist – separately, and they only participated together with the male members for lectures and Hebrew lessons. A few of them are in Israel. They are Ruchel Szwarcbaum (my wife), sisters Ruchel and Dworka Szpilberg (Mr. Sz. Z. Shragai's sisters–in–law), and Hela Gliksman. Of those who were not able to emigrate in time and were lost in the Holocaust, there was Feigel Bratt, may God avenge her blood. Gucia Woznica lives abroad.

Besides the locations mentioned above, we also sometimes worked at the Jewish horticultural farm in the crop fields, ploughing, harvesting etc. Working the land was very hard and it crushed the body, especially when, after a day's work in the fields, we went out at night on mishmar[3] in shifts. But the great enthusiasm with which our pioneers were blessed made [us] forget the physical hardships, and mighty singing in Hebrew, filled with longing, always accompanied the work and the resting hours following it.

The prolific and daring activity of the young men and women caused great interest in the city and brought different visitors almost every day. They came to see, with their own eyes, the great wonder, how youngsters, versed in the Talmud and its commentators, diligently worked the land and also spoke Hebrew among themselves – and not just regular Hebrew, but with the Sephardic pronunciation, Not only that but, after the backbreaking work at the farm, they sat and learned lessons Talmud, [the] Zeraim [order of the] Mishna[4] etc. and all in Hebrew! The extremist religious circles, too, did not cease to speak about this and, amongst them, there were many who interpreted it negatively and argued, “How can this be? To leave the Talmud and do farm–work?”, and they began to examine whether our deeds there were legitimate.

I recall that my father and teacher, Reb Dawid Berisz Tiberg, may his soul be in Eden, who was counted among the Chassidim of [the] Aleksander, Biała and Stryków [dynasties], once said to me, disapprovingly as it were, [but] with a hidden tone of satisfaction, “Tell me that you study Talmud there, is that correct? Well, well…wouldn't you do better to sit and learn at the study–hall?”. My mother, of blessed memory, also expressed her approval of father's words with a nod of her head and a smile on her lips (by the way, my parents had the luck to succeed in immigrating to the Land [of Israel] even before the establishment of the state, and also to bring the entire family. They died and were buried in Rehovot). However, this attitude of hesitation and dismissal passed and, after a short time, even the Chassidim in the city ceased criticising us. Our number of supporters grew and surpassed that of those who opposed us until, finally, they even took pride in us and said, “Come and see what these youths are capable of!”

Meanwhile, the fields began to yield their produce and we suddenly realised that the stalks were heavy with an overabundance of fruits and vegetables, and no wonder, for the labour we invested was done faithfully and with true commitment and the processing of the soil was intensive. But a new problem was created for us – how and where to would we market the harvest? We had not dealt with this question earlier and we did not know how to solve it.

But we found the desirable solution to this, too. One fine day, Jews and non–Jews gathered around our wagon, which stood in the municipal marketplace, to the brim with vegetables and fruit. Two of our young men sat on it and, at the top of their voices, advertised the produce they had brought. This time, they yelled not in Polish and Yiddish, but in Hebrew! And whoever did not see the happiness of the Częstochowa Jews on that occasion has never seen happiness! These first fruits, of such beauty, the product of Jewish labour – was truly the beginning of the Messianic Era. Of course, our produce was literally snatched from our hands and this was repeated almost every day until we had sold the entire, bountiful crop. Our proceeds covered the group's deficit and we had money left over to support our members at the time of their Aliyah.

Obviously, the visitors who came to us from time to time also included people from the Centre in Warsaw and many members from the neighbouring cities – Zawiercie, Sosnowiec, Będzin, Radomsko and others, from where the farm's fame had reached. One of the visits that are engraved in my memory is that of Rabbi Reb Szmul Ha'Levi Brot of Lipno. We all wore our uniform gala attire. Rabbi Brot and his escort (of the important people in the city and in the “Ha'Mizrachi” organisation), toured the plots and praised us for each and every garden bed, which were all finely processed and taken care of.

On that same day, the embroidering work was completed on the flag which displayed, in gold letters, the embroidered words “Farmers' Group of Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi in Częstochowa” and, in its centre, a Star of David with “Zion” in the middle. In honour of the guests and the flag, that day was designated as the festive opening of the farm. The group, together with their guests, were photographed with that flag flying above us. The celebration reached its peak with the speech of the honoured guest, which he delivered in the garden's pavilion, in praise of “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” and especially the “Częstochowa group” and, of course, in praise of the Land of Israel – first and foremost. This visit from Rabbi Brot and the speech he delivered before a great crowd of the townspeople made a great impression upon us and upon all those present.

We also retain indelible memories (which were also immortalised in photography) of the farewell–party which we held for our members Jakob Leslau and Szlojme Zalman Shragai on the occasion of their Aliyah.


At the conclusion of my words on “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi”, I cannot avoid mentioning another occasion on one evening, during which the same pleasant evening spent in company of a member of the Center, the martyr Reb Jakob Radzinski, may God avenge his blood, who came from Warsaw to visit us. That same evening, – after work and after the lesson, we heard his charming lecture. We then organised a campfire and spent time with him until a very late hour – almost till dawn – in friendly conversation and singing. We all spent that night in the barn, which was in our neighbourhood. We did not fall asleep and our clamour – the sound of song and dance – was heard in the entire vicinity, which attracted the attention of different night watchmen, who came to see how the “Żydzi” were “going wild”.

(Who would have thought that this would be our last meeting with such a charming and dear friend? Woe over those who are gone, in general, and over the dear spirit of Reb Jakob Radzinski. May God avenge his blood, in particular, whom the oppressor, may his name be obliterated, killed in an unnatural manner (may God preserve us), and his bitter destiny was the same as all the rest of the “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” members who remained in Częstochowa, who hallowed God's name in public when burnt at the stake for His sake. May God avenge their blood and may their memory be blessed.)


As I have already mentioned, most of the members of the “farmers'” group of “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” in Częstochowa made Aliyah and they are in Israel– A large number of them even succeeded in bringing their parents and families.

Also, here in Israel, a bright page was written by this group which, in 5685 [1924–25], founded the “group” in Rehovot, on cooperative lines, named “Yehuda Aryeh” – after the Rabbi Reb Juda Leib Kowalski z”l, the Rabbi of Włocławek and one of the first rabbis and leaders of “Ha'Mizrachi” in Poland.

About this group in Rehovot and its activities, there is also a special article published in this book, under the title “The Religious Labour Movement in Rehovot”. The book “70 to Rehovot”, which is dedicated to its 70th anniversary, also tells of the “Ha'Chalutz Ha'Mizrachi” Częstochowa group.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Spelled beginning with an Aleph in original Return
  2. Spelled beginning with a Hey in original Return
  3. Mishmar”, literally “guard duty” is the Jewish custom of sitting up all night in the study–hall and studying the Talmud. Return
  4. Zeraim (“Seeds”) is a section of 11 tractates in the Mishna dealing with liturgy, tithes and agricultural laws. Return

[Pages 217-218]

The “Religious Craftsmen's Centre” Branch in Częstochowa

Pinchas [Pinkus] Michałowicz

I wish to erect a memorial monument in “Sefer Częstochowa” to our dear, religious youth who were organised under the “Tzeirei Mizrachi” organisation in our city, in which I was [a member] and in which I was already active about forty years ago.

Following the establishment of Poland as an independent state, I moved from my little town to Częstochowa, which was then a city and a mother in Israel, with a population of above 30,000 Jews and, among them, a model youth which excelled in its national consciousness and many of whom – in their religious ideologies also.

Even among the students in the study–halls, there were those already then who desired to emigrate to the Land [of Israel] and who understood that they were to become accustomed to and prepare for a life of Torah and labour.

These youngsters envied their friends, who found courage in their souls to commence professional training at the local crafts school, which was called “Szkoła Rzemieślnicza”, which was as a “corridor” leading to the yearned–for “hall” – a life of creative work and participation in the building of the Land [of Israel].

In the course of time, we grew in our numbers and importance in the life of the city. We succeeded in concentrating the best of youth around us, who dedicated time daily to Torah [study] and to public prayer and lessons in Talmud, with its commentators, as well as to discussions and lectures on matters of science and religious literature.

The driving force behind this work and the professional training activities and our preparation towards Aliyah to the Land of Israel, were Jakob Leslau and Sz. Z. Shragai, who were the first to make Aliyah and who, whilst still in Częstochowa, and also after their emigration, encouraged all the members to follow in their footsteps in this quest.

(To the sorrow of our hearts, only few of us answered their call and the inner voice of their hearts. The majority were annihilated in the death camps, together with all the members of our beloved community. May God avenge their blood!)

[Pages 219-220]

On Religious Zionist Youth in Częstochowa

Izaak Kac

I send you an excerpt from the local newspaper “Unser Weg” [“Our Way”], from 17th April 1936, in which was printed an article on the activities of that branch, of which I was the Chairman, and these are its words:

On Sunday, 4th [day] of Chol Ha'Moed Peisach, 5696 [12th April 1936], at the branch's premises (at the First Avenue 10), a general assembly was held of the Religious Craftsmen's Centre branch in Częstochowa.

The assembly was opened by the branch Chairman, Pinkus Michałowicz (now in Petah Tikva), who denoted the great loss suffered by the People of Israel, in general, and religious Jewry in particular, with the death of the prodigy Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak Ha'Cohen Kook ztz”l, the Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel. The audience honoured his memory by standing.

The Chairman also mentioned the martyrs of Przytyk who, glorified heaven's name by protecting the city's Jews and the member Ester Szwarcbaum, had died in the Land of Israel.

Afterwards, member Szywek was appointed Chairman of the assembly and members Wargon and Fiszman as his deputies, with member Lancman as secretary.

Following the blessings delivered by member Blechsztajn in the name of “Ha'Mizrachi” and “Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael”, member Danziger “Torah Ve'Avoda” [Torah and Work] movement (in Hebrew), member Lenczner – in the name of “Ha'Shomer Ha'Dati” [The Religious Guardian] and member Sztencel – in the name of “Bruria”, Chairman Mr. Michałowicz delivered a report on the activities, from which it was seen that, over the course of the year, about one hundred members were added. A wide cultural program had been conducted in the form of members' discussions, lectures, Hebrew lessons and the study of the history of Zionism and the “Ha'Mizrachi” movement.

Other reports were read as well, by member Figlarz – on the activities of the “Keren Le'Aliyah” [Fund for Aliyah] and by member Kaminski – a financial report, which was also approved by the audit committee.

A new council was elected, comprising members Michałowicz, Częstochowski, Kaminski, Fridman, Szajnweksler, Gold, Rozenberg, Burszewski, Wargon and Figlarz.

A plan for the future was worked out, which included the organisation of activities in the branches near Częstochowa, in the project of planting a forest in the name of Józef Piłsudski, on the lands of “Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael” in the Land [of Israel] and in preparations towards the World Jewish Congress.

(Obviously, this branch's activities were also cut down. The majority of its members were annihilated by Hitler's troops and only a few of them had the privilege to emigrate to the Land [of Israel], where they became integrated into the life of our redeemed and constructed country.)


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