A. Youth Movements
by D. Koren
Translated by Sara Mages
It was a year of historic importance for the Russian Jewry, and not only for the Russian Jewry. The revolution of February 1917 aroused hopes in the heart for tremendous changes in the public and private life in a renewed world at the end of the First World War. The air was filled with slogans about freedom and equality for all, for all - including the Jews. The parties, which emerged from the underground to the light of the world, began to influence the person on the street in order to draw him to them, and each assured him that, when it will rise to power, he would be able to see his world in his life. However, before the revolutionary regime was able to establish itself democratically, the second revolution took place, the Bolshevik revolution, which completely changed the order of things. A working dictatorship was established, and all hopes vanished overnight. Nevertheless, many young Jews were drawn to this magic, left their parents and flocked to the great centers of Russia to build and be built there.
In all the vicissitudes of fate of that year, 1917, and the years that followed in Russia and Poland, including the border areas between these two countries, the Jewish youth, as a whole, did not lose its national face and was not caught in the spirit of cosmopolitanism which was blowing around. This youth, who had been educated on the knees of Jewish tradition, the yearning for Zion and Jewish upbringing, began to dream of immigrating to Israel and was ready to leave, in all routs, for it. In those days, organizational frameworks, in which it was possible to work towards the goal, were not yet established. However, the rumors that young Jews, from various parts of Ukraine, were concentrating in Vienna in order to immigrate to Israel, served as an incentive for the local youth to join the immigrants. In the meantime, shocking reports reached us about the pioneers who had been slaughtered on the way by rioters, and the departure of those who were ready for all hardships, provided they would be able to emigrate, was delayed.
And now, the message of redemption came to us - the Balfour Declaration illuminated the dark days. Great awakening followed the declaration and the organization of the parties began. Eizenshtat, a graduate of the Russian Gymnasium, and David Feldman (Kozi), a high school student in France and a native of Dubno, formed a group of Jewish students from Dubno who returned, in difficult routs, from Kiev to their city: Eliyahu Makhrok, Yisrael Fefer, D. Korin, Binyamin Oz and M. Zekzer, Since there was no possibility of an immediate immigration to Israel, they had the idea of bringing pioneers together and teaching them manual labor until the anticipated hour of immigration would arrive. That's how the best young men in the city gathered around this group and the work began.
Standing (right to left): Eliyahu Makhrok zl, Yair Zekzer
Sitting (right to left): Binyamin Oz, Dusia Korin
The large smithy on Breiter Gas was rented and the study of metalworking, wagon driving with all its accessories, and others, began.
|A regional conference of Hashomer Hazair in Kovel with the participation of M. Yaari|
It was a big and sensational event in the life of the city. Dubno's homeowners were astonished at the sight of young men from good families who were training for physical work for an ideal that seemed so far away from them. Thirty-six people gathered in this workshop and studied the above professions.
The succession of governments, and regimes, that followed one after the other: Ukrainians, Poles, Bolsheviks, Germans with their puppet Scorupadsky, and, again, the Bolsheviks and Petliura with his gangs - all gave no rest to the residents in general, and tranquility to the Jews in particular and it was difficult to persevere, uninterrupted, in any kind of activity in an atmosphere saturated in pogroms, slaughters and blood. Nevertheless, and despite everything, they continued their work in the hope of better days, when rays of light from the far-near homeland will hint to them like a lighthouse revealed to a ship devoured by stormy sea waves.
At the beginning of 1921, the members, Eliyahu Makhrok and Binyamin Oz, traveled to Lutsk to meet with Y. Glikman, one of the first members of Hashomer Hatzair, in order to clarify the trend and methods of this movement. It became clear to them that this was a scouting movement in its foundation, and they decided to propose to the members to set up a branch of Hashomer Hatzair in Dubno. Their proposal was accepted and soon many of the youth began to come to the ken [branch of a youth movement] and to organize around it. Stratums, groups, troop and battalions were established. They were named after well-known personalities in the Zionist movement and the labor movement in Israel, such as Trumpeldor, Chizik, Drachler and others. The command in all the activities of the ken was purely in Hebrew which, in itself, was enough to arouse great enthusiasm and yearning for a full and refined life.
In order to complete the picture of the movement's development in Dubno, it should be noted that the city, which lies geographically between Galicia and Congregational Poland, was influenced by two trends: that of the Warsaw version which was based on scouting, and that of the Lvov version which excelled in its ideological influence on the circles close to it. In the course of time, Galicia's influence on our branch in Dubno grew stronger than that of Warsaw, and the members strove to deepen the idea that they professed. In the process, there was more interest in the study of the Hebrew language, manual labor, acquisition of Jewish values, socialism and general culture, apart from scouts games and military training.
The large smithy on Breiter Gas was rented and the study of metalworking, wagon driving with all its accessories, and others, began.
|Hashomer Hatzair - the first buds|
These were glamorous days for Hashomer Hatzair movement which included the best boys and girls in the city. Suddenly, in one of the summer evenings of 1922, when the groups and regiments were on their way back from Pantalia, happy and cheerful, and after a conversation on the subject Mania Shohat and her proud war against the Turkish tyrant (according to Dreamers and warriors by Yaari Polskin), the Polish police, together with activists of the Polish Scout movement, appeared before the turn to Pannesky Street. The police surrounded the ranks, arrested the instructors and officially announced the dispersion of the ken of Hashomer Hatzair in Dubno.
Indeed, panic did not arise and we didn't know fear, but the mood was depressed for a while. A few days later we began to meet again in small groups in private homes, encouraged, full of faith and hope in the glorious future in the homeland. We got stronger in the hardships, learned to face the wave - and to go on.
by A. Cohen
Translated by Sara Mages
With the annexation of Dubno to Poland after the First World War, the city was cut off from the economic hinterland of Ukraine. The Polish government did not care at all for the development and industrialization of the region known as Second Poland. Therefore, the city remained stagnant for years until the Polish government on the one hand, and national Ukrainian circles on the other, began to consider the development of productive and consumer cooperatives. This development harmed, deliberately or unintentionally, the traditional sources of income of the city's Jews. This, of course, hurt all the Jewish youth, who felt that the ground was gradually falling underfoot and the prospects for economic stability in the place were slowly diminishing. The new branches of labor remained largely closed to the Jews and in the municipal and governmental staff there was only one Jewish worker. The only chance for the Jewish youth was to persevere in the professions of the parents. However, this prospect did not encourage and attract the young people whose characteristics and views changed so much.
Our city was not distinguished by great leaders, not by excellent guides, but the intelligentsia, which had grown almost entirely on its own, especially the gymnasium graduates, helped to shape the character of the local youth. The dissatisfaction among the youth was expressed in an extensive organization of the Zionist movement, which numbered about 700 boys and girls in the 1930s, most of them schoolchildren. However, they only constituted part of the local youth while the rest sought to find other ways: some completely distanced themselves from nationalism and Zionism and moved to the communist camp, and some began to live perplexed life, empty of any content. The number of the latter was never large - a few dozen in all. Most were among the graduates of the Polish government gymnasium who sought to adapt to the Polish and Ukrainian-Russian environment but, of course, it ignored them and was not willing to accept them. Thus, this golden youth, who spent its days dancing and partying without thinking about the future, remained detached from all sides.
Another part of the youth, mainly from among the workers or job seekers, was attracted, as stated, by the slogan to repair the world in the Kingdom of the Almighty in accordance with the promises of the Communist Party. They innocently believed that the Jewish problem would be resolved within the framework of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic that would be established, so, down with Jewish nationalism, the entire Jewish culture and its past! Now, here comes the time of spring for all humanity, what do we have for a Jew, what do we have for a Chinese or Turkish? And the truth must be told: a great deal of work, worthy of appreciation, was done by the communists in the field of information and education - especially political propaganda, of course - among the youth. They succeeded in educating young people who were willing to sacrifice themselves on their way to realizing the goal before them. Members of this movement knew to endure years in prisons, to which they were thrown by the regime's detectives, and not to disarm their spiritual weapons until the day of their redemption. We have lost this youth, indeed it was totally lost, because when the day of their redemption arrived they soon realized that this redemption was not for them, it was only an illusion...
However, the vast majority of the Jewish youth in the city, who decided to deny the present, saw only one way of correcting the situation of the individual and the general public: pioneering and immigration to the Land of Israel. Since they decided to follow this path, they directed all their activities to self-training and preparedness for the fulfillment of their aspirations. Thus, the youth devoted a great deal of energy to two of their main institutions: the Jewish Sports Association Hakoah and Tarbut school.
Hakoah was affiliated with Maccabi in Poland and therefore officially belonged to the Zionist movement, but, in fact, it concentrated around it the youth interested in sports because there was no other sport organization. The sports association, or the club as it was called in the city, developed a great deal of sports activity especially football games, boxing, athletics, swimming etc. Hakoah club house, which was located at the Greenberg's house in the city center, was always full of youth and adults who were loyal to Jewish sports. Hakoah performances on the sports field gathered hundreds of members. Hakoah organized its own band which accompanied with its music every national performance, and the blue and white ribbon on the hats of the members of the association publicly mentioned their affiliation to the Zionist movement. Hakoah was, in fact, the only organized Jewish body to participate in its blue and white flag in all the festivities and official performances in the city.
|Hashomer Hatzair procession|
[Caption inside the photo - Summer colony in Brzeszcze]
Hashomer Hatzair, which gathered in its ranks the best of the city's youth, stood out among the pioneering youth movements. The ken [branch of a youth movement] was founded in the early 1920s and for almost twenty years conducted an ambitious educational program among the youth of whom hundreds fulfilled their aspirations and immigrated to Israel.
The activity of the ken was branched. As soon as it was established the foundation for a library in our two languages, Hebrew and Yiddish, was laid. Over time, the library numbered 2,500 books, half of which were in Hebrew. It was the only Hebrew library in the city. The library at Tarbut school, which was established later, only served the school's students. Therefore, anyone who wanted a Hebrew book had to turn to the ken's library. The library began its work in a rented room at the home of Dr. Fuks, which was located near the town hall, and wandered with the ken through many apartments in the city. With the official liquidation of the ken, at the beginning of October 1939, it was transferred to the attic of Yakov Groifen's house on Shiroka Street.
Hashomer Hatzair organized summer colonies for the members of the movement. These summer colonies, which were organized together with other branches of the movement in the area, were usually housed between Dubno and Kremenets. The last two summer colonies, in 1938-1939, were established in the village of Mykhailivka, about twelve kilometers from the city, near Dlugopola a vacation spot for the Jews of Dubno. The last summer colony was established without a permit from the authorities and 40 members of the younger stratum were forced to move twice from place to place in order to avoid clashes with the authorities.
Great was the part of the Shomerim from Dubno in the organization of the summer colonies near Novostav in the Wolyn region. In the last years before the Holocaust many participated in summer camps in the Carpathian Mountains. The last camp in the mountains of the members of Hashomer Hatzair from Dubno was suspended at the beginning of the mobilization for the war and the declaration of state of preparedness in Poland in late August 1939.
It is worth mentioning the activities of the ken, together with other Zionist movements, during Lag Ba'Omer. They left in a procession to one of the forests around the city to celebrate and relax there, and returned singing through the city's streets. This traditional procession drew the attention of the Jewish population and became an impressive experience. In 1939, the holiday was not conducted properly since the authorities refused to grant a permit for the procession. Nevertheless, without prior notice hundreds of Jews gathered in the Palestinian Forest and celebrated the day with the movement.
The educational activity of Hashomer Hatzair movement was concentrated among the youth from the age of eleven until their departure for Hakhshara [training]. In fact, the ken controlled all the youth who attended Tarbut school and was mostly organized in battalions and groups. The activity of the ken in this area was conducted in cooperation with the school's administration. Indeed, the Jewish students in the municipal elementary school (szko³a podstawowa) were also connected to the ken, and when the members of the ken were ordered to leave school and join the celebration of Lag BaOmer (it was in 1934 or 1935) against the principal's instructions, the Jewish students declared a strike and broke into singing and the dancing of the Hora in the classrooms. The school administration saw no other way but to make do with a mere warning and invited one of the ken's leaders to discuss this matter. Thus, the Jewish students' right to belong to the movement was effectively recognized despite the formal prohibition that remained in effect.
|A group of elders of Hashomer Hatzair|
In its educational activity the ken also used public trials to investigate several questions that arose, as well as on various books such as I'm Hungry, Motke Ganev [Motke the Thief], The Merchant of Venice and more. Significant, and important, was its artistic work under the guidance of the teacher Balban: a choir was organized, plays were performed etc.
The highlight of Hashomer Hatzair activity was hagshama [fulfillment]. Hundreds of young people, members of the ken, passed through the movement's various Hakhshara points in Poland and immigrated to Israel. Many of them are found in kibbutzim belonging to Hakibbutz Haartzi of Hashomer Hatzair movement, from Ayalon in the north to Yad Mordechai and Negba in the south.
The ken excelled in its work for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael [JNF], and for years stood in first place in this activity among the local youth.
At various times the leadership of the movement in the area was in the hands of the Dubno branch and the members worked for the movement throughout region.
The Zionist activity in Dubno was suspended in September 1939 when the city was transferred to the Soviet authorities. The branch of Hashomer Hatzair continued its illegal activity for several months. This activity was mainly directed at organizing the resistance of the youth to the elimination of the Hebrew language and all the national principles on which we were raised and educated. In 1940, the movement's leaflet, which contained recorded information about the events in Israel, began to appear in Lvov. This leaflet was also distributed in Dubno. This was the only source of news from Israel since no one in the city dared to listen to Kol Yerushalayim [Jerusalem Calling]. In December 1939 - January 1940, activities were also organized for a departure from the city and emigration to Israel. Two groups, which together numbered eight people, tried to break through the blockade and reach Vilna - a station on their way to Israel. The preparations for their departure were kept secret and even the closest family members knew nothing of what was going on around them. Three out of the eight managed to reach Israel.
Rumors, that I wasn't able to examine, indicate that during the Nazi occupation underground groups of Hashomer Hatzair were established and a number of actions were taken, including an unsuccessful attempt to resist the Nazis. It is not inconceivable that one day we will discover details that are now unknown to us and would clarify, a little, the darkest and the most terrible period of our city, Dubno.
by Nisan Doron (Mahrok)
Translated by Sara Mages
the dispersion of the ken had a grim continuation when the leader of the ken, the distinguished member, Dusia Korin, was imprisoned in the large prison in Dubno and brought for criminal proceedings before the District Court. In the search, which took place at the counselors' homes, they were mainly suspicious of the material found in Dusia's home. The dangerous material was not, heaven forbid, proclamations calling for a revolt against the Polish government, and not documents for the explosion of the citadel - the fortress in Warsaw, but photographs of the organized Jewish youth in Dubno.
Dusia Korin suffered in prison for three months. The dangerous revolutionary was not allowed to meet with anyone from the outside except for his mother. However, while Dusia suffered alone in the prison yard, and within the silent walls of his prison cell, on the other side of the tall fence all the youth of Hashomer Hatzair, and many of the city's residents, waited in great agony for the trial. The boys expressed their participation in the prisoner's suffering in whole night hikes near the prison fences, while the adults took care of preparing the defense. The trial was the talk of the days next to the vendors' stalls, in the workshops and the kloyzn. It was felt that the entire Jewish public, who wanted an independent Jewish life, was on trial.
The day of judgment arrived. The session of the District Court took place in the Ratosh hall - the municipality. Since morning, a large number of the city's active anti-Semites crowded into the courtroom expecting to see the Jews humiliated and proud Dusia receiving his punishment. However, most of the spectators were from among the dignitaries of the Jewish public, who wanted, with all their hearts, to honor the scout movement and its leader, Dusia.
The main material, for the charge of revolt against the kingdom, was: photographs of youth from Hashomer Hatzair in different groups and ages and, as usual, on the other side of the photographs were lines of dedication in the spirit of yearning for Zion. Some were dedicated to the leader of the ken Dusia Korin, to the kvutza leader D. Korin, or an eternal memento from Histadrut Hashomer Hatzair. The judges sought to unravel the secret of the concepts: ken, kvutza and histadrut. For this purpose the most loyal man to the authorities was called to testify on behalf of the prosecution - HaRav Mita'am, R' Hesheli.
To the judges' question R' Hesheli answered that the translation, and meaning, of the word ken is organization, the translation of the word kvutza is organization, and the meaning of the word histadrut is also organization.
This translation was exaggerated: is it not clear that before the judges enemy number one is hiding under different names?
|Group of members of Hashomer Hatzair, 5682 (1922)|
To the sound of this proficiency in the language of the past, the Jewish audience almost lost its temper. The lawyer for the defense claimed that he did not trust the translation of the rabbi who proved complete ignorance in Hebrew. R' Hesheli, HaRav Mita'am, also did not trust his knowledge of Hebrew and agreed that another translator would be called in his place.
Within an hour, Mr. Fried, a teacher in the Jewish-Polish Gymnasium, member of Hashomer Hatzair in Vienna, an educated man in various fields of culture who knew Hebrew and Polish. He explained to the judges that the concept of ken isn't organization but a free meeting of friends, like the meeting of birds in a nest that is also free. Kvutza is not a concept of an organization but a voluntary definition of people getting together, just as members of a family can be photographed in a group, etc. For an entire hour they investigated these terms linguistically and the verdict was given: innocent.
Great was the joy and wide was the echo in the city and throughout Wolyn.
by Zelig Freiman
Translated by Sara Mages
In the late 1920s, HeHalutz operated in a cramped little club, in a two-room apartment in the Eisenstein house on Parana Street. It was difficult to operate under these housing conditions, but regular educational activities and meetings took place there. From this club the first group of immigrants from Dubno, a few dozen young men and women, members of HeHalutz and Hashomer Hatzair, set out on their way to Israel.
That Saturday night would not be forgotten. At sunset, carriages and wagons full of pioneering youth, and hundreds of pedestrians, streamed to the train station to escort the group of immigrants. The train station was teeming with people and, in the great crowding, circles of hora' dancers joined together. And so, to the sound of singing and dancing, the emigrants left the darkening Dubno.
That day marked a turning point in HeHalutz movement in Dubno. The influx of youth to HeHalutz grew from day to day, and further increased the overcrowding in
the club so it was necessary to leave it and move to a new specious club on the second floor of the Gasir house in the city center. Now it was possible to develop a broad activity: a ping pong table and various other games were brought to the club, talks were held and cultural activities began. Many members of HeHalutz movement in Dubno set out for hakhshara [training] kibbutzim in various locations in Poland.
After a while Hashomer Hatzair and HeHalutz merged and, again, the club wandered, and this time to the Sirkis house. The committee was composed of representatives of the two movements and each week a meeting was held to receive new members.
One day, in May 1930, the member Daniel Levi came from Klesów. At the committee meeting, which was held on the occasion of his arrival, he announced that there were places available for hakhshara at the basalt quarry, as well as in the sawmill, in Klesów. On the spot, about twenty members, including myself, were approved for hakhshara in Klesów. We were very happy to join the kibbutz there.
The kibbutz consisted of three hundred and twenty members who worked in the quarry and in the sawmill. Most of the men worked in the quarry while the women were engaged in sawing wood. The economic conditions were very poor: the food was meager and the clothes - tattered. We were almost barefoot. Our feet were wrapped in sacks and rubber soles, cut off from bus tires, were tied to them. Because of the overcrowding the sanitary conditions were also poor. We slept two in one bed, and the beds stood one above the other. Most of us suffered from skin diseases. In addition to all these, we also suffered from severe shortage of kitchenware. We had only five spoons, five forks and five cups, and we had to wait in line to get a spoon or a cup.
The gentiles in the village were anti-Semites and their attitude towards us was bad. Every Sunday they got drunk and rioted. They came to us and attacked us with stones, knives and various tools. Then, the girls' screams rose to the heavens, but the police stood by and did not interfere. They called us Palastinzi, and Amerikantzi to Kibbutz Betar which was also there.
Although our lives in Klesów were quite difficult, we slowly adapted to the hard work and also to the difficult conditions. We went out to work with a song on our lips, and returned singing. In the evenings we held meetings, danced and raised the spirit in the
|HeHalutz activists in Dubno (1929)|
camp, and since we knew how to ward off sadness and depression, the minister in charge of love relations came to visit us from time to time, and then, there was great joy in our home.
One day we received the news of the publication of the White Paper (Passfield White Paper) by the mandatory government. According to the paper there was no place in the country for additional Jews and, therefore, the immigration to it would cease. The black-and-white paper fell upon us like a blow and every face was gloomy. What will happen, what will we do? we asked each other. Is there any point in continuing to sit here, live in these unsuitable conditions and wait for immigration? When it may resume? Will it resume?
The member Daniel Levi, who was the coordinator of the kibbutz, called for meeting in which he explained the grave state of affairs and the war waged by the movement's supreme institutions on the White Paper, and called for persistent in training until the day we would be called to immigrate. This day, he said, would come and we must be ready for it. The assembly dispersed, but the depression that descended upon us did not leave. Everyone began to do his account, account of days without a ray of light, without the hope of getting out of this circle of life-no-life and reaching the desired land in which we hoped to awaken to a new life.
The great departure began. About forty percent left the place, among them many from Dubno. The rest decided to stay, to go on, and to wait ... until the day when the closed gates of immigration would open wide before them.
A short time later two emissaries from Israel came to us: the members Tabnkin and Levita from Kibbutz Ein-Harod. After seeing the conditions in which we lived they obtained for us all the utensils and kitchenware from HeHalutz center, so, from now on, everyone had his own utensils. This change alone was to enough elevate the mood in the camp. After that came the talks, lectures and stories about life in Israel, in kvutzot and kibbutzim, about the war being waged on the White Paper and about the hopes of renewed immigration. The members Tabnkin and Levita were also invited to Kibbutz Betar for conversations and lectures. Another spirit moved through Klesów - we were somewhat relieved although there was no change in our economic situation, which was very bad, because at that time we literally starved.
|At the train station in Dubno, a group of pioneers immigrating to Eretz-Yisrael (1931)|
Suddenly, there was a turning point in the politics of the mandatory government. In April 1932, we received the news that 1,200 immigration certificates had been received and, from them, a few dozen were allocated to our members in Klesów. It is difficult to describe the great joy of the members who won these certificates.
All these changes in the state of the movement did not pass without a significant impression on the life of HeHalutz in Dubno. With the cessation of immigration many left the movement, and with the resumption of immigration a new stream of blood began to flow into it and into all other branches of the Zionist movement in the city. At the same time, a united operation, of all the branches of the Zionist movement, was organized for Keren HaKayemeth LeIsrael. It was headed by the fund's authorized representative in Dubno, Mr. Dov Blatt zl.
Many, from among those from Dubno who immigrated to Israel, continue on in the kibbutz, in the moshav and in the city. They are happy that they have been rewarded and redeemed in time, but their happiness is incomplete, and would never be whole again, because they always see before their eyes their family members, acquaintances, and friends who weren't able to immigrate - and perished there in the Valley of Death.
by Zipora Ampel
Translated by Sara Mages
Histadrut Hanoar Hahalutzi [Federation of Pioneering Youth] Gordonia was established in Dubno sometime after the establishment of the branches of this movement in the Wolyn district, and was under the activity and inspiration of the regional leadership in Rovno. It was initially organized as a youth movement ideologically close to the Hitahdut movement in Poland, who advocated the values of Hapoel Hatzair in Eretz Israel. The movement took the name of Aharon David Gordon, who spread the idea of work ethics among the members of Hapoel Hatzair. It was not long before the movement formed itself as an independent pioneering youth organization that aimed at training and self-realization. Immigration to Eretz Israel was compulsory for all its members.
At the time of the founding of the movement in Poland, there were already youth movements of a pioneering-educational nature such as Hashomer Hatzair, HeHalutz Hatzair, Dvir, and Hapoel HaMizrahi. Nevertheless, great danger lay in wait for the youth from extreme left-wing parties such as the Bund and the communists, who aspired to capture the heart of the young people and put them into a political struggle, foreign to the values of Zionism and pioneering, and without Jewish-national roots. Therefore, the founders of Gordonia saw before them a great task: to capture the hearts of the youth, working and studying alike, and organize them in the local branch. The members of the ken [branch of a youth movement] were divided into three stratum according to age: Mitorerim, Zufim, and Magshimim. Each stratum had its educational framework with one goal before everyone - the education of people for a working Zionist fulfillment. In order to achieve this goal, each of the members had to leave for hakhshara [training to prepare himself for a working life in a in the homeland.
In the course of their training and preparation towards the future, the members of Gordonia devoted themselves to the activities for the national funds - Keren Kayemet and Kern Hayesod. They also participated in the Lag BaOmer procession,
|Yosef Baratz in his visit to Dubno (1930)|
|Members of Gordonia in hakhshara in Dubno, cutting wood|
conducted pioneering cultural evenings with singing and passionate hora dancing. They held in-depth debates on other youth movements, views and ideological differences, social structure, way of life in the kibbutz and the kvotza, and political outlook. It was a period of awakening among the youth and a great blessing was folded in it.
The training group for the members of Gordonia in Poland, which was founded in Dubno, brought in a spirit of life and aroused admiration from all. Young men and women not only that they didn't scorn the work given to them, whether cutting trees or drawing water, they saw in it the vision of all: the transformation of a non-working nation, a nation that for hundreds of years was accustomed, even against its will, to despise manual labor, to a working nation that loves manual labor, especially working the land. It was a complete revolution in the life of the Jew in the Diaspora, in his conception and his preparation for a different life, new life in the homeland. Under the influence of the training group many of the ken's members left for hakhshara and, from them, quite a few managed to immigrate and integrate into the life of work and creativity in Israel.
In this way, the work, and the educational activity, continued until the day of the great and terrible Holocaust, when the evil hand was raised on the Polish Jewry and also brought destruction of the Jews of our city. In the general slaughter the lives of the youth were also uprooted and there was mourning and lamentation all around...
by Shimon Oz (Guz)
Translated by Sara Mages
Dubno has always been blessed with vigilant youth, active and vibrant. This youth constituted an abundant source for different youth movements, educational and political, and various sports organizations.
I will briefly mention some of them: the glorious Hashomer Hatzair movement, the strong Histadrut HeHalutz, HeHalutz Hatzir, Hanoar Hatzioni, Betar, the sports association Hakoah, and the Union of Communist Youth. These organizations gathered within their ranks hundreds of members, youth, working and studying, full of joy of life and vigor.
Each of these organizations developed extensive activity in its special field, educated and trained thousands of members for immigration to Israel, members that we meet at the annual gathering of former residents of Dubno. The sports organizations reached important achievements in the physical and mental education of the youth, an education that left its mark on their proud Jewish appearance despite the anti-Semitism that raged at that time in Poland. This proud appearance created a special attitude toward the Jews by the Christian population, which was incomprehensible to those who came from central and western Poland, places where the Jews had not dared to stand tall for a long time. This is the place to mention the praised brass band of Hakoah which earned a reputation among the local population in its performances and won nationwide publicity.
With all our opposition to the communists' political line and their negative attitude toward Zionism, it is also impossible not to appreciate the courage of their youth, who operated under terrible underground conditions and suffered from the oppressive measures of the regime that prevailed at that time in Poland.
I briefly mentioned the large camp of youth, which operated in Dubno within the framework of various movements and associations, as in other cities in Wolyn. However, I will especially mention a modest organization that was established in Dubno in the last years before the outbreak of the Second World War, an organization I was closest to as one of its founders. This organization did not demand from its members, like other youth movements, training and immediate immigration to Israel and, therefore, most of them remained in the place and the hand of the Nazi oppressor got them and almost all of them were cut off from the land of the living. It was, Gedud Keren HaKayemet LeYsrael [The Jewish National Fund Battalion], an organization established in Dubno. Later, similar battalions were established in several nearby towns.
|Gedud Keren HaKayemet LeYsrael|
Sitting (right to left): D. Perl. A. Bronshtein, S. Roitman, M. Zimerman, A. Meizler
Standing (right to left): Kornfeld, H. Kagan, Z, Blat, Kolton
|Keren HaKayemet LeYsrael, the committee in Dubno|
Initially, Gedud Keren HaKayemet LeYsrael, was a group of volunteers, who dealt with the emptying of the JNF boxes and other activities connected with donations and fundraising for the redemption of Israel. These members, who met frequently, decided to establish a framework with bylaws and regular action plans. Because of special circumstances the battalion was composed mainly of girls. These members gave up their free hours, and various cultural activities, and devoted their energy and strength to the activity that sometimes was difficult and exhausting. They walked from house to house, at times over great distances and through snowstorms and rainstorms, to empty the white-blue boxes, to collected the pennies which had accumulated from month to month to considerable sums, for the redemption of lands in the homeland
These members, who knew that their chances of immigrating to Israel were not many, have done their best to help realize the vision closest to their hearts. They gathered for a conversation, to study Hebrew together, to improve their methods of action and, indeed, they got what they wanted. The battalion was always first in the activities for the Jewish National Fund.
Gedud Keren HaKayemet LeYsrael took a special place among the Jewish youth movements in Lag Ba'Omer, when the Jewish youth in Dubno demonstrated its power and unity in a glorious procession. It was a holiday that the whole city took part in. In cohesive lines, uniformly dressed in bright white shirts, with flags fluttering overhead and bands of trumpets and drums accompanying it, the procession left for the forest outside the city and every youth movement set up its own camp. The youth spent a whole day outdoors, and returned to the city at dusk as the streets were filled with a huge crowd that welcomed them with pride and applause.
I remember a Lag BaOmer procession (in late 1930s). Anti-Semitism reached its peak, and that year the organizers hesitated to hold the procession even though a restricted permit was granted by the authorities under the personal pressure of David Pearl, chairman of the Zionist organization in Dubno. This procession was so important and precious to the city's Jews that everyone enlisted to protect it, even the bullies, the city's well-known fist men, came out to guard it. And, indeed, the procession passed peacefully and in perfect order, without interference and harassment of anti-Semitic elements and students, members of the Endecja political movement, who gathered in the city from other locations.
These precious and glorious youth, which included Gedud Keren HaKayemet LeYsrael, is gone. It was destroyed by the Nazi murderers during the Holocaust.
Of the many I will mention two that fate was especially cruel to them. Liber Lerner and Lisa Leviatin zl, were members of a small group that joined Hashomer Hatzair movement, underwent training and managed to immigrate to Israel. Only the two of them remained - Liber, the quiet and modest, because of his dedication to his sick mother and young sister, and Lisa the brave and proud. When she was executed, she found the courage in her soul to call out to those who gathered: Do not rest, fight for freedom until the elimination of the Nazi murderers!
Their memory is kept in the hearts of their friends forever.
by Moshe Kachka
Translated by Sara Mages
In every Jewish city there was usually one large synagogue, or two, new and old. The synagogue wasn't heated, not even in the coldest days. The rest of the places of worship were called, Beit Midrash, shtiebel or kloyz, and were heated from the first days of rain. In Dubno, there were sixteen houses of worship, aside from the Great Synagogue. Two houses of worship were located in the suburb of Surmicze, as well as Beit HaMidrash of Avraham-Mordechai, Beit Midrash Braslar, and one in the Old Street. The house of worship of the Karlin Hasidim was located in an alley near Stary Street. The furriers' Beit Midrash had a branch on Stary Street, and the carpenters' Beit Midrash was also there. The big kloyz was across from the bathhouse and the synagogue. Beit HaMidrash of R' Aharon stood on Ribna Street, as well as Batei HaMidrash of the Oliker Hasidim and Trisk Hasidim. In the city, there was also big Beit Midrash for public officials. Beit Midrash BRZ (Ben R' Zadok Marshalkoviz) was located behind the military headquarters and Beit Midrash Beit-Sukkat-Shalom on Mayor Meczynski Street, across from the Roitman's house. R' Valvali the teacher, brother of the rabbi, Av Beit Din R' Mendele, prayed in the shtiebel of Beit Midrash BRZ. On Tzarnizini Street was the shoemakers' Beit Midrash, and the rabbi's Beit Midrash was on Stary Street.
|The Great Synagogue|
The prayer in Dubno was in the Wolyn style. Strimelech, to the heads of those walking to the houses of worship in the manner of the Galicians, were not found in the entire city, and there was no trace of that passionate devotion, the joy of a mitzvah in the belief that prayer connects the worshiper with God, of the Hassidim of Central Poland
At times, a fire broke out in one of Batei HaMidrash for lack of caution, like leaving lit candles on rainy days, and the damages were enormous.
All Batei HaMidrash, places of Torah and prayer and good deeds, were destroyed during the Holocaust.
by Z. Friedman
Translated by Selwyn Rose
Among the many synagogues and StudyHouses that were in town, the one of the Oliker Hassidim was unique, as was its congregation. In spite of its name their number was very small since most of them were as it happens Mitnagdim  and at their head stood the Rabbi and head of the Rabbinical Court Pinchas Mendel Rosenfeld and his son Rabbi Heschel (may his righteousness be remembered for a blessing). When the Rabbi of Olik would visit Dubno and linger with his disciples in the StudyHouse, Rabbi Mendeli and many of his congregation excused themselves from the StudyHouse and remained studying and praying in their own homes, went to the Great Synagogue or other synagogues in order to avoid coming into contact with those bowing down to idols according to the perception of the Mitnagdim.
Among those in the congregation with particular status was Rabbi Reuven Stahl, goodlooking, wealthy Gdfearing, good hearted, respected by the community because of his honesty and straightforwardness, generous to all charities and poor individuals alike. As a Mitnaged he was not welcomed by many rabbis. On the other hand Rabbi Yankel Sheines(?) Ya'acov Rinsberg, was a Hassid a likeable Jew and loved by all creation.
An interesting person was Mr. Yehezkiel Schatz, nicknamed Yehezkiel the Glazier. He was a tall Jewish man satisfied with his lot but numbered among the Mitnagdim. He was among the first to organize selfdefense during the days of the riots in town, he was seriously wounded in his stomach but recovered from his injuries. The administrative manager of the StudyHouse for many years was Mr. Ya'acov Safian and Mr. Moshe the Deaf acted as Beadle. His nickname came by him simply because of his infirmity.
The Cantor Mr. Pinchas Schuchman or Mr. Pinchas Shochet, sang the prayers as Cantor for many years with his rich cantorial voice and they came from all over town to hear his melodies.
Everyone who came to the studyhouse, whether Mitnagdim or Hassid, all were Gdfearing, honest people who, though they may be separated by their diverse opinions during their lives, came together in death and perished together in sanctification of his Holy Name.
by Moshe Cohen
Translated by Selwyn Rose
During the first half of the 19th Century there lived in Dubno a Jewish man by the name of Avraham Mordecai Meierzon and his wife. Because they had no children, Mr. Avraham Mordecai dedicated his house for holy purposes on condition that the house will carry his name and that after his death his Yahrzeit ((GermanoYiddish: the annual memorial of his death) will be performed regularly. He reserved for himself living quarters in the house and a reserved seat in the Study House and the place became somewhat sanctified.
After a few years the Study House in the center of town became one of the most important of the eighteen Study Houses that existed in town at that time apart from the Great Synagogue with its own four Shteibels. As time passed, the Study House was burnt down twice and rebuilt. At the time of the Great Fire that befell the town in 1894 the third one was destroyed and a smaller house was built in its place with donations from the congregation (Mr. Avraham Mordecai was no longer alive); a building more suited to its needs. With the passage of years its administrating managers introduced many different improvements a women's gallery was added, a Shteibel, a new, beautiful Holy Ark, comfortable pews, the walls and ceiling were painted in the prevailing style and even carpets were spread. However the congregation was unable to care for the carpets and it was necessary to remove them. Nevertheless all these improvements significantly raised the profile of the Study House of Mr. Avraham Mordecai.
The congregation of the Study House was made up of merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, wagonmasters and porters in short the HoiPolloi. But there were also scholars and people of means who found their place along the Eastern wall, like Mr. Yishmael Birenboim, the brothers Yitzhak and Ya'acov Shteinshnid, Micha'el Goldberg, Haim Spunberg, Rabbi Eliyahu Guttman, the Meizler brothers and more and more. Apart from the regular congregation who came regularly each morning and especially at twilight, were Jews who happened to be in town and took the opportunity to catch the Kedusha and Berachu prayers that are brief but integral and important parts of the daily liturgy, to hear a sermon from one of the expositors present, to study the daily page of the Gemara or a chapter from the Mishneh (each in its own right epigraphic explanatory extensions to the Torah), and in passing to pick up news and conversations on the political issues of the day and sometimes just to keep a little warm next to the fire during the cold days of the winter…
Mr. Avraham Mordecai's Study House also fulfilled a role within general public areas. Here, at the end of the nineteenth century, the charity Leinat Chessed was established offering help and succor to the sick and those in need and especially to make allnight sick calls on the bedridden and homebound in order to ease the burden on the family members and to deal with any needs that arise.
There were also many Zionist meetings concerning the Keren Hayesod (The Foundation Fund) and the Keren HaKayemet (The Jewish National Fund) that took place and every year a memorial service was held on 20th Tammuz (around June/July) commemorating the death of Herzl.
In 1939 when the Soviet authorities in town converted the synagogues to social clubs and cooperative workshops the congregation of the Avraham Mordecai Study House assembled and protested against the edict and at the same time the Beadle, Moshe Karnett and the Sexton, Joseph Zilberman met with the First Secretary of the Communist Party in town and succeeded in getting the edict, so far as the Avraham Mordecai Study House was concerned, annulled.
When I chanced to visit Dubno in 1946 I found only a very few Jewish people living there although the Study House still stood but instead of being a prayer house it had become a restaurant.
by Moshe Katchke
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The Great Synagogue of Dubno on Rivne (Fish) Street stood, to the best of my knowledge, from 1782 to 1784 until its destruction in 1939 155 years.
On the second floor, to the north and south, were two women's galleries attached to the building and on the west side below, two prayerrooms had been added and above them two upper prayerrooms. Each prayerroom had a complement of about three quorums of congregants.
The structure itself was impressive and could be seen from across town; none of the nearby towns had a comparable building in style or taste. I remember when the synagogue's sexton, Hershe'le informed the congregation that the Synagogue's archived journal identified the architect as a Russian, when the work was completed he was presented with a gift in the name of the community: a typical Russian blacklacquered peaked cap.
From 19021904 the permanent Cantor of the synagogue was the elderly Mr. Moshe Soroka. He was of medium height with a small white beard. He was noticeable for his clear enunciation and pronouncing the letter r with great emphasis. His voice was powerful with a touch of coloratura. For the High Holydays he would form a chorus: the three Baroches( brothers (two altos and a tenor) with an additional tenor Avraham Yohannis and Berl the Ropemaker who had a basso profundo. At the end of his days, when already eightyyears old, the women in the gallery began to complain that the voice of Moshe could no longer be heard by them. The management decided to place him in retirement.
Cantors from Odessa and Berdychiv (Berdichev, Barditchev), began to arrive for auditions in the synagogue. The candidate was required to officiate on one Shabbat service, on his own without a chorus. Mr. Seltzer, a pleasant cantorialvoiced individual from Odessa was chosen from among the candidates as the Cantor. His diction was not clear but together with the choir he was very good. His appointment came in 1909 shortly before the High Holydays. The Beadle at the time was Solomon Fischbein, wealthy and young who was generous when it came to financing a substantial choir. Mr. Seltzer was a somewhat apprehensive and demanded that Dubno invite the old conductor Ilya Izkovich Peisie. The Cantor and conductor began inviting vocalists and auditioned them. In a short while an excellent Odessastyle choir had been formed as follows:
Conductor Ilya Izkovich Peisie.
First tenor: Avraham Yohannis a somewhat weak voice but was able to read music.
Solo tenor: strongvoiced but unable to read music: Beryl ben Breindel.
A pleasant baritone who read music fluently.
A bass, Berl the Ropemaker, who read no music.
Alto, a soloist and reader of music Peretz Markish from Konstantin (Konstanovsk). (He is that same wellknown Yiddish writer murdered in Soviet Russia at the time of the Stalinist purge of Jewish writers).
Four sopranos from among the younger generation in Dubno.
Four altos, among them was Shikeh Spektor (who later became wellknown as a Cantor in Vilna, Brody and Dubno).
And another alto the writer of these lines.
There were, therefore, twelve vocalists in this choir. The conditions of payment were agreed with each participant separately (I, for instance, was paid 8 Rubles for the High Holydays). The rehearsals took place until late at night, continuing until reaching a professional result. The governors were satisfied with the results.
On the Festival of the Giving of the Law, the Cantor customarily paid a courtesy call with the choir to the homes of the Beadles starting with the Deputy Beadle Mr. Yehoshua Laschover (ZL). We would sit with him around a large table laden with all sorts of goodies, singing one or two chosen pieces and afterwards we went to the senior Beadle Mr. Solomon Fischbein who lived next door to the hopdrying kiln. Again we found ourselves sitting round a heavily laden table in his large lounge and Mr. Fischbein invited his wife to join us and listen to the concert. We gave forth of our best and Mrs. Fischbein found much pleasure in the performance of the melodies. The delicacies and refreshments were delicious and of generous proportions and in addition Mr. Fischbein announced that he was granting 50 rubles to the choir and a sum to the Cantor.
Mr. Seltzer continued to function as cantor in Dubno until the outbreak of the First World War. As the battlefront approached and entered the town the Great Synagogue was burnt down in 1916 and only at the beginning of the 'twenties was the building refurbished. Mr. Leibush Raife was appointed Cantor for two years and the same choir, to which had been added the Starr brothers: Avraham with a good tenor voice and Berl a bright baritone; and an alto Leibush Spektor the son of Avraham Yohannis. After Mr. Raife, Shikeh Spektor officiated as Cantor for a year and following him Mr. Sherman of Kremnitz who served until 1939.
|The Cantor Mr. Raife and the Choir of the Great Synagogue|
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