The Jewish Political Parties
Eliezer Birnbaum writes on the establishment of Tseirei Zion in the year 1917. Jewish life was just beginning to revive in the city. A number of young members of what can be described as the middle class were seeking social progress though not necessarily along the lines of the workers who already had their Poalei Zion, Bund, etc. The new Society had its centre in Warsaw. In Kalish, they had about 50 members to begin with and started with courses in Modern Hebrew. They also organized a choir of their own and actively engaged in all Zionist activities. Within a year, they had about 100 members and fully supported the United Zionist list in the first Seim elections of the new Poland. In those days, inter-party relations were friendly and differences were largely restricted to official debates.
When the split came about in the Poalei Zion movement, the Tseirei Zion joined Hapoel Hatzair of Eretz Israel and established the Hitahdut.
H. Shurek describes the early years of the Left Poalei Zion, from 1915-1919 when a number of young Zionist workers moved away from the general Zionists and established their Poalei Zion cell. As they had no club of their own, they joined the Tea Hall. In due course they elected an executive which sympathized with them so that it gradually became their centre. After the Germans left Kalish in 1918, the Committee changed the name of the club to Arbeiter Heim, which engaged in extensive cultural and other activities and also had a dramatic group and a choir.
L. Makowsky gives an account of the Yugend Youth section of the Left Poalei Zion and its activities in Kalish between the two World Wars. It was a large organization and took an active part in labour, communal, cultural and sports life. Most of the members were themselves factory workers. One of their chief activities was evening classes at which they provided youngsters with an elementary education, teaching them writing, arithmetic, history and geography. Yugend was never recognized by the authorities and, therefore, conducted its activities under the guise of a Sports Organization. Now and again, one of the members was arrested for a few days and after a thrashing, was released. The Association used to hold a summer camp of its own every summer.
Hayyim Brand describes his activities on behalf of Poalei Zion. He came to Kalish as a Polish soldier in 1920 and was impressed by the first meeting of the Poalei Zion which he attended. At the time, the Branch was setting up party groups in the Jewish Trade Unions and taking the first steps towards the establishment of a kindergarten which, later, developed into the Borochow School. When he left the army the Kalish
Branch appointed him as secretary. Poalei Zion had already been in existence since 1916 and during World War I it established a Consumers Cooperative and a Bakery. Various other institutions providing the necessary minimum of staple foods were also to be found in town. Lectures from then Warsaw Headquarters included, among others, Zalman Rubashow, now Zalman Shaz ar, third President of Israel. There was a Popular University giving two lectures a week. Political economy was studied every Saturday morning while current affairs were discussed on Friday nights. The Sections in the various Trade Unions used to meet once a fortnight. The Textile Workers Union had to hold double meetings to enable all members to attend. Poalei Zion increased its strength at every election campaign.
In elections to the Sick Fund Council the main opponent was the Bund. Poalei Zion obtained 5 seats and the Bund only 2.
The chief fields for public activity were: Municipal affairs; work for the unemployed; anti-Jewish persecution; the Ghetto Benches at the Universities for Jewish students; the various British White Papers on Palestine, etc.
The Borochow Youth played the leading part in demonstrations. Between 1918 and 1922 there were no international 1st of May demonstrations following the attack on the demonstration in 1919 described elsewhere. In 1922 all groups agreed to share in a common procession. The Bund first demanded that Eretz Israel slogans should be prohibited but had to give way because the Polish communists supported the stand of the Poalei Zion. Defence groups were organized in advance along the line of the procession which was attacked by Polish students with clubs. The defence groups dispersed them and indeed, several were taken to hospital. However, two members of Poalei Zion were stabbed. There were, of course, no police in sight.
Poalei Zion conducted successful activities in the following unions: Porters, Food Workers, Clerks, Leather Workers, Needle Workers and Textile Workers. The most active group in the party were the Borochow Youth who also maintained the Stern Sports Club.
S. Ziezwinski briefly describes the successful Hitahdut party with its reading room and library, lectures, meetings and discussions which were devoted entirely to Zionist problems and the realities of Eretz Israel. The party actively supported the Cooperative Bank and worked to help the artisans and small merchants. Many members came to Eretz Israel between 1933 and 1939. Younger supporters were organized in the Gordonia Movement.
Saul Zalud gives a detailed and affectionate account of Hashomer Hatsair which originated as a Jewish National Scout Movement in Galicia and had reached Warsaw and the larger towns of Poland by the end of World War I. In Kalish, the senior gymnasium students were the first to join but were rapidly followed by others including the
lawless gangs of youngsters who were part of the debris of the war. Some of the wealthy Jews of the city placed their summer estates at the disposal of the youngsters to serve as camps. Afterward, they went on longer hikes and rambles. Kalish was particularly fortunate in its membership. The leaders organized courses in various subjects including philosophy, the theory of relativity and radio-techniques. The local branch produced the first working crystal-set radio in the town. Hashomer Hatzair became a movement which seemed to provide everything that the youngsters found lacking in home, school and surroundings.
Actual immigration to Eretz Israel, which the Movement called Hagshama (fulfilment), began in the early 20's. Sets and libraries of books were sent to the early settlers, workshops of various kinds were gradually established and when Hachshara (training for Eretz Israel) became official Zionist policy in Poland, Hashomer Hatsair took an active part. In Eretz Israel and Poland, the Movement became more political and there were splits but the nucleus in Kalish profited by becoming more mature. Looking back after almost half a century, the writer concludes that the efforts spent in and on this Movement have more than justified themselves by the results in the new Israel.
Z.K. describes the General Zionists who made up the greater part of the Movement which arose at Herzl's call in 1897 and succeeded the Hovevei Zion that had functioned in Kalish from 1882 until about 1897-5, as described in an essay by Shmuel Zvi Weltsman. (It should be remembered that Rabbi H.E. Wachs, the rabbi of Kalish, had been one of the guiding and initiating spirits of this Movements).
Though the Jewish National spirit was widespread, it remained virtually unorganized before World War I and only became efficiently unified as an outcome of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Activities included supporting the Zionist Funds, disseminating the Shekel, supporting the Youth Movements and combatting assimilation. In 1927, when the Al Hamishmar wing of the General Zionists gained control in Kalish, there were about 600 members. Hebrew study groups were widespread. The Youth Movements began to become popular with the worsening economic situation and emergence of active anti-Semitism in 1928 and a branch of WIZO (Women's International Zionist Organization) was established. As elsewhere, the final years were marked by intra-communal struggles, chiefly with the Agudat Israel.
I.Kletchevsky, in recording the activities of the Bund, tells of the guild structure that had emerged of itself among the Kalish embroiderers, and the entirely exposed position of their helpers and threaders. As a result, it was far easier to organize the latter than the skilled workers and master craftsmen. The first steps in this direction were taken by Jewish members of the P.P.S. (Polish Socialist Party). The Bund as such began to be known at about the turn of the century and had established itself by 1902. By 1904,
there were 4 meeting centres in operation. The manufacturers took active steps against known Bund members which led to grave disputes and the injury of two manufacturers. By spring 1905, the Bund had enlisted the support of most Jewish workers in the city who engaged in active demonstrations before the 1905 Revolution. The Kalish prison was assaulted and taken, the authorities disarmed and the political prisoners released.
Russian reinforcements killed several demonstrators and wounded many more. Hundreds of Bund members were arrested and exiled to Siberia. Though the workers' conditions improved, however, Bund leaders and members were persecuted and the Bund had to go underground again. It was revived only during the German occupation in 1916 with a membership of about 60. A Clubroom was opened in 1917 and the Bund emerged as a political party of the Jewish workers. It began organizing unions, set up a consumer cooperative, a club and a kindergarten.
After the war, its influence began to increase. It had two representatives in the Kalish Town Council, one of who was chosen as town clerk. A report in the Labour Almanac of 1920 gives the following information: There were 125 political members; 2 town councillors (536 votes); it largely dominated the Needle Workers and the Leather Workers' Trade Union; the Zukunft Cultural Society (315 members); the Children's' Home (62 children); the Einigkeit Workers' Cooperative (160 members) a Youth Organization (50 members) and a Youth Club (100 members). In the second Municipal Elections the Bund obtained more than 1000 votes and the same two representatives returned. The Town Council supported the Jewish schools. However, these friendly relations did not last long.
A Peoples' University established in 1917 continued to function until 1927, from October to May, and lectures were attended by 500 persons regularly. Towards the end of the 20's, the Bund also began to participate in the affairs of the Kehilla and its representatives were elected to that body.
P.A. records the Poalei Agudat Israel who first organized in 1910 as the Poalei Shlomei Emunei Israel and finally adopted the new name in the 20's when a Hebrew anthem was composed for them to which the famous cantor, Yossele Rosenblatt, composed a tune. Kalish, indeed, was one of the first three cities in which the Organization was established. One of its main purposes was to ensure employment for Jewish workers who were not prepared to work on the Sabbath day and to help train fully observant youngsters for the industrial life of the city. By the early 30's, however, it was taking an active part in hachshara activities for Eretz Israel and members were immigrating to Eretz Israel by the mid-30's. A Bnot Agudat Israel for young women was established in 1928 and had about 400 members.
Issachar Kott gives a brief account of the Poalei Zion (Z.S.) known as the Right Poalei Zion whose members engaged in Hehalutz and Hebrew
activities besides conducting activities in Yiddish and supporting the social struggles of the Jewish workers. Lecturers from Eretz Israel, speakers from other towns and local members all lectured at the Popular University. The Party operated within the Kehilla and influenced the Artisan's Organization and all the Zionist Labour Parties collaborated in the League for Labour Eretz Israel. It collaborated with the Polish workers and took part in May Day demonstrations. Many of the members came to Eretz Israel.
Jacob Bienstock gives an account of the way the left-wing parties operated underground in Tsarist Russia when he was a member of the Poalei Zion. He himself had a Hassidic upbringing in the home of his father, an Alexander Hassid, and in his childhood he constantly envisaged the coming of Messiah and the return of his family to Eretz Israel where they would all till the soil.
In 1905-6 the left-wing parties were illegal but had their regular meeting places as described in the section on the Bund. Each party sent its best spokesmen to the meeting places of the others in the hope of winning adherents. The Poalei Zion were divided into 'circles' each of ten members. It was his own task to provide literature for 2 such circles. On one occasion when he was at the Bund section with his pockets full of illegal pamphlets, he began trying to explain the principles of Marx and Borochow to a Bundist. Suddenly he looked around and saw that the other had vanished and the whole stretch of pavement was empty. Looking to the left he saw the Chief of Police and 3 mounted policemen riding very slowly by with whips in their hands. He went walking on for several dozen paces then stopped and stared at the Chief of Police who stopped and stared back. As he was wearing typical Jewish garb, the other suspected nothing wrong and in a few moments spurred his horse and galloped off with his men.
After the parties were legalized, following the Russo-Japanese War, he used to prepare the flags, banners and slogans of all the left-wing parties to their satisfaction. Before the 1st of May, 1906, he worked very late preparing the Poalei Zion flag which he thrust under his vest. On the way hope he was stopped by police who wanted to know what he had in his pocket. A red flag, he answered. Show us! they ordered. He produced a red velvet bag and showed it to them. What do you keep in it? Bombs. Open it and show us the bombs. He opened it and displayed his tefilin and prayer book. Thereupon they let him go.
Gershon Wroclawski describes the Club of the Zionist Youth and the General Zionist Hehalutz which united during the final years and had several hundred members. Their whole ideology was summed up in one word: Eretz Israel. Thanks to this organization, there are several dozen more Kalish folk in Israel than would otherwise have been the case. There were both summer and winter camps. Instructors were trained at the latter. The older members used to proceed on hachshara before going
to Eretz Israel. At first their parents were opposed but gradually opposition faded away. Israel Bienstock and the writer headed activities including fund-raising until the last. The writer managed to bury the Hehaluz flag in the Club courtyard during November 1939.
H.B. describes Betar which was commenced in February 1929 by a group of 8 youngsters who were soon joined by others including a group of twelve and thirteen-year olds. When they numbered 60 or so, they hired premises. When Jabotinsky visited them the following year they were headed by Binam Grausalz. By this time there were some 600 members who were given a sports and para-military training. In 1930, Kalish sent a delegation numbering 30 to the 1st Betar Assembly in Warsaw; and the first members then left on hachshara. Boxing was introduced in 1933 and members engaged in Aliya Bet (immigration to Eretz Israel without the certificates demanded by the Mandatory Government). Brit Hahayal, consisting of ex-soldiers, was founded in 1932 as was Brit Hatzohar, the Zionist Revisionist Party. The Movement participated in the boycott of German goods in 1936. The Rowing Crew won 1st prize in 1937. The Betar groups met 3 times a week for courses in Jewish history, Zionist history, drill, singing and dancing and talks on discipline, etc. As the members grew older they graduated into the Revisionist Movement.
Benjamin Zvieli gives a brief account of Hahalutz Hamizrahi and Hashomer Hadati. The former consisted largely of observant young workers more-or-less parallel to the older Mizrahi, while the latter was a Youth Movement. Both alike, they engaged in hachshara with a view to proceeding to Eretz Israel, a step which was taken in due course by groups and individuals. Hashomer Hadati was set up in 1932 and not long after, the Torah Vaavoda (Torah and Work) training kibbutz was established in Kalish and participated in by observant young people from all over Poland, almost all of whom proceeded to Eretz Israel later on.
by Hayyim Stein
Those bright years of the youth movements in general, those years when aspirations awakened and there were so many longings for a lofty purpose, were the most joyful period of our lives.
Kalish, like the other towns of Poland, had almost all the parties and youth movements to be found among the Jewish population. We remember the nights full of significance and the thirst for study when we used to attend lectures and engage in debates without ever growing tired. In those days, we
we were wide-awake to all that was going on in the world at large and within Jewry in particular. Like a baby sucking insatiably, we longed and yearned to know everything that was going on and developing in the world. And of course, we were primarily concerned with our own part of it.
That part was broken up into many sections. On the one side were the Bund and the Fraction as the communists were called, who opposed Zionism; on the other were the two Poalei Zion movements and in between were the Zionist youth movements which regarded Aliya to Eretz Israel as their ultimate purpose. Those Olympian heights attracted us in particular. There was something of the daring of youth in going against all the accepted social and family practices and proceeding to fulfil great ideals. Not that it was easy for it involved tremendous effort and a capacity to stand against all those who deplored the hot-headed craziness of the youth.
I could tell a great deal about those days when it was hard for me to get away from parents who crowded around me and entreated me to deliver their children from the danger called Aliya. I had to calm them down and reassure them. But they did not always come with requests. Sometimes I had to wander through the streets of the town for hours in order to escape the platoons of parents who were waiting for me at the entrance to my home. The days of Hachshara and finally also the days of Aliya, which were so unforgettable for the Movement, were a source of tears and anger for parents and kinsfolk. We required strength and a firm will in order to break away from loving arms when we saw angry tears instead of a farewell smile.
This life with all its glory, grace, pain and heroism shaped the Youth Movements. The world around us was all but forgotten and the only thing we were concerned with was shaping the rosy dreams of tomorrow. We had no small help from educators and men of goodwill among the adults, although their help did not always benefit us. For they themselves lived a hopeless grey and monotonous life where nothing but local communal affairs put any spirit into them. Zionist and Mizrahi circles had the function of collecting money. There were many among the Zionist and Mizrahi who wished to go there themselves but they did not have the financial resources and had to provide for their impoverished families as well.
Here I wished to mention a person who was popular among the youngsters. This was Yurek Klinger, an enlightened but very unfortunate man. All of us can remember the negligent way he went about, the shaggy hat on his head and his ridiculous physique. He came to every Youth Club whether invited or not. He lectured and debated he learnt and taught. He was aware of everything that was going on within the Jewish street.
Here I have been told a great deal about him. Under the German occupation, he appeared as a Volksdeutsche and in that way he helped the Jews risking his life for others. The Nazi caught him in the middle of his activities and killed him. May his memory be blessed.
Then there was another person who served us as a model. This was the elderly Shabtai Seidorf, representative of the Jewish National Fund who got on well with everybody. He regarded the Fund as something really holy.
He reckoned he was the oldest Zionist in Kalish and enjoyed telling stories of bygone days.
There were many exceptional characters in our city and indeed, there is not enough space to list them all. Intensive Zionist activity of every kind was engaged. The movement was represented on the Kehilla Executive and the Town Council.
When Bialik visited us, it was a great festival. All the Youth Movements and Zionists were there to welcome him. The pupils of the Hebrew Gymnasium lifted his carriage up on their shoulders and brought him into town that way. The leading Jewish lecturers and speakers visited us and always had an attentive and intelligent audience. The Hehalutz Hamerkazi (Central Hehalutz) Movement consisted of youngsters who did not find their place in the other movements for reasons which do not need to be described here. But one thing was clear. Most of those who sought a way to be Halutzim pure and simple found their place in its ranks.
Kalish was a Jewish city which had known many Halutzim during quite a long period and was less surprised by us when we met than we were surprised by the city. It was an outstanding centre of light industry, particularly lace and embroidery. There was a Jewish working class with a full labour consciousness which, at the same time, longed for Aliya to Eretz Israel. It expressed these yearnings among the older generation by belonging to Zionist Organizations and among the younger groups through membership in youth movements. For a long and continuous period, the city had been living a lively Zionist youth life and a widely-known Shomer Hatzair group had existed there only a year or two before our arrival.
The first Lamifal section which arrived in June 1933 met the last members of the previous Hachshara Kibbutz in a little apartment of two rooms at 95, Gornoszlonska Street. But before long, we remained alone facing the difficulties of adaptation; and this at a time when, in general, local Zionist activities, youth movements and our own movement were all at a very low level. But, within a month, there were about sixty of us.
Some of us made our way into industry and the Jewish needle trade occupations. The Jewish manufacturers looked at the Halutzim with eyes of pity, you might say, as though they felt it was only for the sake of Zion that they were prepared to keep us in their factories. Still, they were not afraid to exploit our lads thoroughly in bringing materials to the machines, packing and other work. The girls took piece-work home from the lace industry. They spent hours on hours removing the black threads that joined the lacework. We called this job: drawing the consequences.
Another part proceeded to agriculture, working for a Zionist with a large
kitchen garden growing tomatoes for industrial purposes. Some of the girls also engaged in this work while others tied up sacks and transported them to the flour mill.
Here we first began to take part in the life of the workers, their organization and the struggle for working conditions. At the kitchen garden near the city we met with the tyrannies and oppressive regime of the Polish peasant at the hands of a certain Leibush, the foreman of the owner. It is unnecessary to add that the peasants regarded us as queer fish. They could not understand this lunacy of abandoning good homes in order to hunger together with them.
Two not particularly large rooms and a small kitchen served us for everything: bedroom, dining room; meeting hall and reading room. We exploited the height of the rooms and constructed bunks in tiers.
We paid no particular attention to food. We reckoned that that was something incidental while the idea always came first. Our partial unemployment and the low wages of those who were working caused difficult conditions. The light did not always burn for the bill was not always paid in time. But, cultural activities were well developed. Many groups were operative, particularly in learning Hebrew. They worked under very difficult conditions, reading a great deal in our rooms and talking a great deal.
When new members began knocking at our doors, we hired a large apartment in Piskozewie Street N°15. This was a spacious hall in an unused factory. Modest provisions were made to divide it into sleeping rooms, dining room, a workshop containing a carpenter's bench, shoemaking utensils and a sewing machine together with a kitchen and conveniences of a sort. These conveniences consisted of a half-closed room containing two basins. In those days we were always saying: I'm next about the turn for washing. What was lacking we made up for by taking a bath once a week in the Community's kosher Mikveh (ritual immersion pool) which was specially warmed up for us. We did away with the bunks but slept two in a bed. The dining room had an iron stove that was heated with coal. To be sure, it was a poor object but it served as the focus of social life. A radio set was obtained. Hunger and poverty continued to reign supreme, but we silenced them with tempestuous dances and overcame the cut-off electricity with romantic songs.
This was the third year of our training yet there were scarcely any immigration certificates to Eretz Israel Most of the boys were called to the army. We hired a private dwelling containing small rooms which we painted very carefully. There was also a carpet of a kind on the floor. Here we had a reading room and even a shower bath with sprinklers and hot water.
In the courtyard was a vegetable garden and one milk cow on which the love of the whole group was concentrated. We were helped to set up this 'small-holding' with the aid of a group of Zionist supporters who also helped us with our Immigration Fund.
And Aliya came at last!
by Meir Packentraeger
Kalish, with a Jewish population of close to 30,000 never had the slightest reason to be ashamed of its cultural achievements in the fields of journalism, theatre, art, etc.
In 1919 the first Jewish Weekly, Die Kalisher Woch was founded in Kalish on the initiative of local writers and journalists. This was the organ of the General Zionists and was edited by M. Abramowitch and Shlomo Brish. The weekly quickly became popular and several thousand copies were sold. Its writers included not only the editors but also Zalman Kaplan, Hershel Solnik, Mordechai Shmuelevitch, M. Wieroszewski and others. From time-to-time, a poem by Rosa Jacobovitch was published. Shlomo Brish published sharp and effective light articles in which he dealt humorously with local communal workers and institutions.
In the same year, a second weekly appeared. This was Dos Kalisher Leben edited by I. Mamlock, a gifted journalist and editor educated in the Yeshiva. He raised the level of his weekly and his own weekly article was wisely written and was full of choice and apt quotations from Jewish sources. He was also the correspondent for the Warsaw Moment. Other contributors were Jacob Alberstein, Shlomo Rubin, Moshe Flinker and Meir Packentraeger.
An orthodox Jewish paper also appeared for some time. In 1930, Jacob Alberstein began publishing a daily Der Kalisher Express which had to suspend publication before long. In 1926 the Kletzkin Publishing House in Warsaw issued a volume of stories by Hershel Solnik entitled: Fun alten Kloister (From the Old Close).
In connection with a jubilee issue of Maccabi in 1939, Zalman Kaplan wrote in Der Kalisher Woch about the beginnings of the Sports Movement in the city:
It will not be in any way paradoxical if I say that the beginning of these festivities is connected with a Singing Society called Hazamir with which the Sports Movement began. It happened in 1912 when the youth were very busy in the successful lace industry and wished to provide themselves with a place for social meetings. In those days there were no secular societies at all. But the Kalish industrialist, Handwurzel, displayed a highly developed social sense when he headed the Hazamir Society.
The conductor Krotianski had a choir and a symphony orchestra under him. The rules and regulations of the Society were submitted to the authorities for approval. Everything would have been in order was it not for the Tsarist regime which did not show even the slightest interest in permitting any communal activity whatsoever. Within a few weeks a Government Order to close down the Society was received. This compelled the young people to move in a different direction and the idea developed of founding a Sports Society.
Mr. Handwurzel was very dejected after the failure of Hazamir and did not wish to help in setting up the new Society. But it was necessary for
us to gain the approval of the authorities and the only way to do this was bribery. We adopted this course and were assisted by the influence of the banker Hermann Landau and our friend Handwurtzel who finally allowed himself to be persuaded to take the necessary steps. And so the Sports Society was established and included all the members of Hazamir.
The same Hazamir group also carried on the cultural work of the Society. In the course of time, these members engaged in interesting literary and musical evenings and staged operettas of a good artistic level by Goldfaden and others.
Although the Society engaged mainly in sport, it also did a great deal in other cultural fields. To our regret, the Archives of the Society have not been preserved, otherwise we could have had a very interesting picture of pioneer activities during the twenty-five years
There were only a few writers and journalists in the city. They concentrated on the two local Yiddish weeklies and each of them contributed whatever he could to Jewish cultural life.
Undoubtedly, the leading figure in the group was the poetess Rosa Jacobowitch who published a volume of poems. She began writing almost together with J.L. Peretz and at the time described how she already had forty years of literary activity behind her. All the writers of the city used to be in and out of her home, reading their work to her, listening to her opinions and accepting her advice. Hershel Solnik was a regular visitor. Mention should also be made of the poet Mordechai Shmuelewitch and of Israel Rubin who wrote a great deal for the theatre and the variety stage. His one-act plays and sketches were presented successfully by the Comet Light Theatre of Kalish. All the townsfolk of those days remember his verses: What do I get out of it? the melody of which was composed by the conductor Krotianski.
Of the journalists I shall mention Moshe Flinker, M. Abramowitch, I. Mamlock and Shlomo Brish. None of them have survived and no one knows where they are buried. Professional troupes from Warsaw often visited Kalish and appeared at the Theatre which was managed by Levin. The Comet Theatre was established in 1932 on the initiative of the poet Moshe Broderson.
by S. Baum
When Poland was liberated in 1918 and the Polish-Russian War broke out, there was no organized communal life in Kalish whatever because all the parties had been abolished. It was then that the Sports Society: Yiddisher Turn un Sport Verein was founded and the social forces of all the parties gathered around it; for it provided the only opportunity of establishing and maintaining Jewish cultural activity. A library was founded which gave young Jews their first impulse towards knowledge and culture. Courses were
arranged for the study of Polish, Hebrew and other languages. Lectures were given three times a week on science, politics and health which interested all sections of the Jewish public. Sports attracted their own people. When you entered the Sports Club you were welcomed by noisy and pulsating activities. The liveliness when the Committee was elected goes without saying. Each party did its best to increase its membership and the propaganda and contests were very obstinate.
Little by little the branches of activity developed. In 1921 Mr. Witkowski proposed that a Brass Band be founded. Members were promptly recruited and they began to study the instruments they were to play. The Band appeared for the first time three months later and promptly achieved popularity. It held concerts, took part in gymnastics and sports displays, in rambles and hikes and also responded to invitations from Sports Club in smaller towns such as Zdunska-Wola, Blaszki, Sieradz, Wielun and Kutno. When we came to one of these places we brought a holiday with us. All the Jewish residents came out to welcome us, old and young, religious and non-religious. We were appreciated by everybody except the anti-Semites. Whenever we went out on a hike and on any other opportunity, they attacked us and threw stones at us.
I shall describe on such incident. After a sports display, our football team played a Polish team and God gave us the victory. We saw at once that there was going to be trouble. We arranged all our members in ranks headed by the Band and marched away to our Club in the Pulaski Street. When we reached the District Court building we were attacked by the hooligans but we repulsed them and went on marching. When we reached our own street, a large crowd came up against us and began to fight. We swiftly hurried the children, women and the Band into the house where our members grabbed the Indian Clubs used for exercise and dashed out to do battle. And it was a real battle. The injured were taken into the Club and additional volunteers promptly took their place. The hooligans received a thrashing which they remembered for a long time to come.
In 1929 Mr. Witkowski left Kalish and I took over the Band. After that, a Symphony Orchestra was also established as well as a choir which was conducted by Mr. Krotianski. A motorcycle section was added to the Club and had a large membership. At every display, public appearance or hike, they rode their cycles and made an impressive appearance. Later, a Dramatic Circle was established and successfully produced both plays and operettas.
In the years 1933-34 a large group of members broke away from the Sports Society and found the Maccabi Sports Society which restricted its activities to sports alone. This was immediately followed by the Hapoel Sports Club whose committee consisted of Simeon Baum, Gad Goldman, Mordechai Blaszkowski, Laszczewski and Piotrkowski. The Club developed and about three months later, it held a successful first display. A dramatic circle of the Hapoel was also established and successfully presented important dramas.
In Kalish, there was also the Haoved Society for Workers and Craftsmen which engaged in cultural activities and organized courses in Hebrew.
by Isaac Klecz
The 'Yiddishe Turn un Sport Klub' served as the cradle of the cultural, sports and political life which was engaged in so intensively in Kalish until the Holocaust.
The Yiddishe Turn un Sport Verein was founded in Kalish in 1911 and derived from internal Jewish needs. Industry was in a state of rapid growth and the city expanded at a gigantic rate together with it. The mechanical lace-making industry was growing fast and attracted a new population. A large part of the young men who had been studying in the Yeshivot were looking for some way of changing their lives. The growth of industry was accompanied by a shortage of workers and poverty was gradually diminishing. The day's work, to be sure, lasted ten hours but the wages were satisfactory.
The members of the younger generation used to gather in separate circles and groups either in the lovely park or on the banks of the Prosna or in the dance halls. Naturally, this state of affairs did not have a good effect. The youngsters as well as responsible community figures could feel the absence of some public institution which would serve as a gathering place for the youth and improve their style of life.
At the time, Poland was responding to the slogan of a healthy mind in a healthy body and this finally crystalized in the idea of establishing societies for the physical development of the younger generation.
The industrialist, Meizner, place a hall in his factory at the disposal of the prospective Society while steps were taken to obtain a permit for it. For until it was legally approved, nothing serous could be undertaken. And, after several weeks of effort in various directions, the rules and regulations of the new Society were approved by the authorities and it began to forge ahead. Youngsters began to flow to it. Fresh gymnasts joined every day. In the daytime, children also came to the Club premises to engage in drill, gymnastics and various kinds of sports. All steps were on a voluntary basis and the need for guidance by professional sports instructors was soon felt. A German was invited to serve as teacher and conducted the exercises in German. Hundreds of young people belonging to all sections of the Jewish population attended the inaugural meeting.
As the Society began to develop the question arose as to whether it should restrict its activities to Sports only. For the desire to engage in cultural activities seemed to grow of itself. As a result of the discussion, a choir was founded with Krotianski as choir-master. Sports competitions were held every year as well as regular rambles, swimming lessons and hikes in the countryside around Kalish. Each of these activities attracted hundreds of young people so that the Society came to include almost the entire younger generation.
The Society added a fresh, enjoyable and interesting dimension to the life of the Jews in the city. But precisely when it was reaching the peak of
its activities, World War I broke out. The Germans invaded the city and bombarded it; the population fled in all directions and everything was ruined. In 1915-16, the Jews began to return and life gradually grew normal under the German occupation. The younger generation promptly renewed the activities of the Society and concentrated on them. This state of affairs continued until Poland became independent in 1918.
Within a few years the Society had become a non-party organization for training youth. A brass band was founded and conducted by Witkowski. The younger generation began to display considerable achievements in sports and the members of the Society were constantly among the first in all sports competitions in the city. In spite of the gradual appearance of political societies and organizations of all kinds among Jewish youth, this Society maintained its position as a non-party Sports Organization and its activities continued to provide a model and an example for all the townsfolk. It maintained this position until 1939 when the Germans again invaded Kalish. This time, it was not the buildings of the city but the entire Jewish population which they destroyed with the wonderful youth of Kalish among them.
Rowing Club K.W.30 was founded in Kalish in order to enable the Jewish youth to take an active part in water sports while permitting older members and their children to enjoy the jetty and the excellent fleet of boats which the Club possessed. In due course, this Rowing Club became the social centre of local Jewish intellectuals with activities that spread far beyond those originally envisaged.
Year-by-year, on the anniversary of the opening of the Club and at every rowing competition, the members gathered en masse with their families and guests. The Club arranged parties at the end of the year and at Purim, as well as dances at its Club premises from time-to-time. On occasion, these were held in the larger chambers of the Town Hall or the Musical Society. In addition, there were satirical evenings and lectures on sports and general themes.
It should be added that this Club K.W.30 was an independent body and the only one of its kind in Polish Jewry.
The Municipality granted the Club a stretch of its own on the banks of the Prosna which was buttressed with planks and poles. Handsome wooden buildings were constructed and painted in gay colours. They contained cloakrooms as well as a large covered area for the boats. Each member had a locker for his belongings. Year-after-year, there were improvements at the jetty and the training installations. Architect L. Comber, a member of the Club, planned new buildings for training halls and cloakrooms. The finances were very satisfactory and nothing held up building except the approval of the plans.
There were 7 boats of excellent quality, both racing and semi-racing, which were purchased in Poland and abroad. They were among the best of their kind in the country. In addition, there were several dozen good rowing boats. Of the 250 members, about 100 were active sportsmen; several scores of whom made up racing teams, both male and female. Jewish students spending the summer holidays in the town were allowed to use the Club and its equipment for a nominal fee or even gratis. Apart from the jetty and buildings, the Club had its winter premises in the Josephine Allée. This contained 6 rooms, a library, a reading room which received many newspapers and a billiard and table tennis room. The rooms were always full to overflowing with members even in the summer.
The boat-racing which was chiefly engaged in Poland required teams of four in racing boats. These needed close and well-time cooperation of our rowers and coxswain for at least two years. In Kalish it was very difficult to ensure this. It was hard to build up several teams of this kind or to assure the proper combination of members in each team. In addition to this, unsatisfactory team construction was another difficulty. Under the conditions in which the Jews lived, the crews were bound to break up from time-to-time when one or other of the members left Poland or moved to another city.
Two years before the outbreak of World War II, the Kalish Club began to discuss a plan for sending a crew of four together with their boat to the Boating Competition in Tel-Aviv. It was decided to carry out this plan in 1940.The committee felt sure that the trip would serve to advance the sportsmen of K.W.30; would have a good effect on the boats men of Tel-Aviv; would encourage everybody to make greater efforts and would increase the number of sportsmen, both in Kalish and elsewhere. However, those circumstances which were to make an end of Kalish Jewry prevented this project from being realized.
by M. M.
A meeting of the Kehilla Council took place at 18h30 on Sunday, 16th February in order to consider the budget. Proceedings were opened by the chairman, Mr. Isaac Oder and Mr. Margulies, the secretary, read the minutes of the previous meeting in Polish. Mr. Eisenberg then read them in Yiddish. Mr. Eisenberg stressed that there were certain discrepancies between the minutes in both languages and that a Jewish Community ought to be simply ashamed at keeping such minutes in its archives.
Mr. Traube demanded that the agenda should be amended to include a motion on easing the distress of the poverty-stricken masses and another on the competence of the Executive in signing promissory notes whenever it sees fit to do so.
Mr. Eisenberg: It is not parliamentary procedure to add any more items to an agenda that has been prepared. In view of the urgency of the matter, he nevertheless demanded that first there should be a discussion of ways of easing
the distress of the impoverished Jewish masses and only afterwards should the budget be discussed.
After an exchange between Messrs. Eisenberg, Traube and Oder, Mr. Stein was given permission to speak out and support the proposal to deal with the distress of the masses on account of urgency. Mr. Stein stated inter alia that the previous year several hundred Jewish unemployed had enjoyed Government support while this year, only thirty-odd were receiving it. He therefore thought that it was the duty of the Kehilla to save the Jewish unemployed from ruin and starvation.
Mr. Sheps: we cannot permit a motion which allows the executive to sign additional promissory notes even before they have given us a detailed report for 1929.When the matter was put to the vote it was resolved to re-examine the question of the slaughterers. During the renewed discussion on this matter, it was resolved inter alia that the chicken slaughterers should be paid 4,680 zloty per year while the other slaughterers were to received 7,800 zloty.
Mr. Kohn remarked that as far as the left are concerned, there were only unemployed while for the others there were also persons who were not making a living. In his opinion it was first necessary to discuss the budget and only then to deal with other questions.
Mr. Eisenberg insisted that first there must be a discussion of the unemployed and those without any livelihood since these were vital and urgent matters and the budget should only be discussed afterwards.
The question which item should first be discussed was put to the vote and the majority called for a prior consideration of the budget.
Mr. Kohn demanded a reconsideration of the resolution regarding the slaughterers which had been adopted at the previous meeting.
(commotion in the Gallery: Voices: the slaughterers still have plenty to eat we demand a discussion of the unemployed question).
Mr. Gutfreund categorically opposed any reopening of the issue of the slaughterers.
Mr. Eisenberg: If we reconsider the decision taken at the last meeting, there will never be an end. The same scene will recur at every meeting.
Mr. Stein though that in order to reconsider a resolution, it was necessary first of all to obtain signatures. Only then could the question be discussed at the next meeting.
Mr. Gutfreund: I protest vigorously at the cancellation of the resolution passed at the last session.The discussion of the budget then began. The secretary, Mr. Margulies, read out the following list of allocations for the year 1930:
|House of Study
|Old Age Home
|Eliza Arzeszkowa Orphanage
|Coal for the poor
|Completing New House of Study
|Hebrew Teacher in Government School
|Magen Abraham Yeshiva
|Etz Hayim Yeshiva
|Poor women in childbed
|Evening classes at the Artisans' Society
Mr. Eisenberg: The item of the Mikveh is fictitious because nobody knows what is going on there. Of all the allocations, 90% are given to religious functionaries and only 10% for all other purposes. If you were employing Jewish workers there would not be any Jewish unemployed at all (applause from the gallery). For the Old Age Home, there is actually 450 zloty instead of 1,000 and that includes the Matzot. The Eliza Orzeszkowa actually receives 1500 zloty instead of 5,000 and that also includes the Matzot. The same applies to the other institutions.[Page 143]
Mr. Eisenberg paused in particular to consider that Linat Hatsedek which is one of the most useful and important institutions but was drowning in debts. Since 1927, it had hardly received anything from the Kehilla. The Medem School should get 3,000 zloty, the Peretz, Shurek and Borochow Schools and the popular university should receive 10,000 zloty together.
Mr. Sheps sharply criticized the budget remarking: A total of 2,000 zloty were allocated for heating but luckily we have had an easy winter. What would we have done if the temperature had gone down to minus 40 degrees? What would the poor have done? The Kehilla has also allocated 200 zloty in good cash money for poor women in childbirth. Isn't this a sheet scandal? A city where 19,000 Jews live is not in position to allocate anything more than 200 zloty for those poor and exhausted women The entire budget is artificial!
Mr Stein (ironically): 5 budgets have already been discussed by the Kehila in this automatic fashion You could print another five copies and then you would have a budget for another five years. You pass resolutions and don't carry them out so what is the point of passing them? You are not fit to represent us decently you had better resign!
He then went into details regarding the Linat Hatsedek saying: If the Kehilla allocates 3,000 zloty on paper, it actually receives no more than 25% of the amount. Since the Linat Hatsedek is about to set up its own pharmacy which will cost several thousand zloty, we propose that the Kehilla should participate in order to speed up the establishment. With regard to the allocation to the unemployed, he demanded that payment should be made in money and not in goods.
Mr. Stein then dealt with the emigration budget of 1500 zloty and demanded that the Kehilla should distribute 5,000 zloty for this purpose. Since we could expect a constant worsening in the economic situation, it was clear that the stream of emigration would increase and he, therefore, proposed that the Kehilla should allocate 10,000 zloty for this purpose. He also demanded that the Kehilla pay the Gemilout Hassadim Fund the allocation for the years 1927, 1928 and 1929.Proceeding to the problem of the unemployed, Mr. Stein stated that those primarily to blame for unemployment were the Jewish industrialists who were boycotting Jewish workers. He demanded that the Kehilla should require the Jewish industrialists to abolish the special boycott of Jewish workers.
Mr. Ader noted: No additional burden can be placed on the budget which is inflated in any case. If we overload it we shall be unable to do anything.A resolution was submitted to pass the budget in toto. The resolution was adopted. The allocations were also approved 'en bloc'. A vote was held on Mr. Eisenberg's proposal for the allocation of 10,000 zloty to various schools. The proposal was rejected. Mr. Stein's proposal for the allocation of 10,000 zloty for emigration requirements was then put to the vote and rejected.
Mr. Goldstein: When the Kehilla received a letter from the Starosta (District Commissioner) nobody thought it necessary to call a meeting of the Executive. That means that some things are kept secret from the members of the Executive. As for the grants given by the Kehilla, they are not shared out on any correct scale.
Mr. Eisenberg: In the future when we have a clear majority in the Kehilla, we shall pay you back as you deserve since you are causing us trouble for you have all united against us. We express our lively protest and resolve to leave the meeting.The secretary, Mr. Margulies read the supplements to the budget but there was so much noise that it was impossible to hear anything.
The noise grew louder from moment-to-moment. Someone turned out the gas. Benches were overthrown. There were shouts, yells, confusion, curses, and threats against the Kehilla. It was impossible to calm the public.
The chairman closed the meeting at 21h30.
by A. K.
The elections to the Kehilla Council held on Sunday, 6th September this year ended with the following results:
List 1. Agudat Israel, 488 votes, 3 seats: Joseph Moshe Heber, Hannanel Rosenblum, Wolf Tosk. Deputies: Moshe Karman, Isaac Redlich, Simha Wiederschall.What have the Kehilla elections taught us?
List 2. The Rebbe of Wole, 200 votes, 1 seat: Noah Hiller, deputy: Jacob Waldfreid.
List 4. Bund, 333 votes, 1 seat: Michael Eisenberg. Deputy: Leib Hirshbein.
List 5. Zionist Labour Block, 242 votes, 1 seat: Zelig Kempinski, deputy: Ber Gross.
List 7. Poalei Zion, 366 votes, 2 seats: Sam Wolkowitch, Jacob Kenia. Deputies: Aaron Joseph Wolkowitch and Isaac Traube.
List 8. Revisionists, 166 votes: no seat.
List 11. Small Merchants, 240 votes, 1 seat: Hayyim Perle. Deputy: Joseph Schachtel.
List 12. Popular, 45 votes, no seat.
List 13. Religious Worthies, 5 votes, no seat.
List 14. Religious Block, 432 votes, 2 seats: Lipman Mansfeld, Nissan Goldhammer. Deputies: Jacob Shapira and Isaac Kohn.
List 15. Alexander Hassidim, 344 votes, 1 seat: Isaac Oder. Deputy: Isaac Solomon Rosenwald.
List 16. Poalei Agudat Israel, 205 votes, 1 seat: Abraham Hersh Goldberg. Deputy: Mordechai Isaiah Perle.
List 17. National Religious Block, 666 votes: 3 seats: Professor Asher Bakalar, Berish Shaviska and Henekh Sitner. Deputies: Jacob Lustig, Raphael Gruenbaum and Gustav Markowski.
The Kehilla elections were participated in by almost 4,000 of the 5,000 persons with voting rights, that is, 80% of the Kalish Jews entitled to vote. The results are instructive. To begin with, we have seen the victories and defeats of several organizations, bodies and groups which claimed to be the representatives of Jewish Kalish and their leaders and spokesmen. Yet, in the light of the recent results in which public opinion expressed itself, we see clearly who is fit to represent the Jewish public here and to speak in its name and who has no right to do so.
The election results proved the political maturity and healthy instincts of the Jewish public which is unaffected by cheap phraseology in spite of the so-called 'press' of a certain kind whose whole purpose was to degrade honest and worthy leaders. For months on end they did their best to blacken the reputations of communal representatives of long standing and of the Orthodox majority
in the Kehilla headed by the chairman, Mr. J.M. Heber. Yet, the Jewish public distinguished between destructive activities and beneficial and honest measures for the good of the public and gave its main support for List One.
If we remember that List One went alone to the elections and received 488 votes while List 17, the Block that included the Zionists, Misrahi, Hehalutz, Great Synagogue, Artisans, National Artisans, Small Merchants, Travellers to Fairs, Jewish State Party and others as included in their own lists, obtained only 666 votes, we must reach the conclusion that List One gained a tremendous victory, both numerical and moral.
If we bear in mind the fact that the systematic incitement did not affect the results of the elections at all, we can describe the latter as a victory of truth over falsehood. We can also view them as a barometer of Jewish society which has proved its political awareness and maturity and has functioned worthily at this hour of grave political decision. That is our consolation in these bitter times and from this, we shall draw the courage to hold out until better times.
by Dr. P. Beatus
Adam Hodinski, the honoured historian of our city, states that the Jewish Hospital was founded in 1835 from the contributions of the Jewish residents. This date is not quite accurate. The Hospital was founded in 1837. The Council of the Institution set up a small provisional hospital consisting of one room in a building belonging to the Jewish Community and placed it under the charge of Dr. Michael Morgenstern. The treatment of the poor patients in the city was also entrusted to the hospital's director.
On 26th March, 1836, Dr. Morgenstern presented a report to the aforesaid council. From this and from all the reactions which this report aroused among the authorities, it is easy to understand that in 1836 there was no hospital in existence as yet and its foundation took place during the first period of office of the Committee of the Institution in Kalish and the main Committee in Warsaw.
Official recognition of the Committee of the Jewish Hospital was registered on 9th December, 1835. The hospital itself was not built from the ground up as had been done in Warsaw, Lublin, Radom and other cities, but was housed in a reconstructed building purchased in 1837 which was situated in the Piskozhewska Street.
The hospital was built from contributions made by the entire Jewish public which were paid to the Kehilla. Here, however, I must return to the 13th century when the Jews of Kalish were permitted to build a synagogue on grounds belonging to the Canonical Church (the Church of Holy Mikolai) and were charged with an annual tax, the payment of which was to be secured
from income of the Kehilla deriving from slaughter (Shehita) and from the four inns belonging to the synagogue. This tax was not paid regularly and after the Order was abolished in 1810, the debt amounted to 14,967 zloty. The Priest, Ignaci Prszebilski, head of the Church Community of Mikola the Holy, imposed an attachment on the funds of the Kehilla aiming at the Hospital Fund as well.
Ludwig Mamrot, chairman of the Hospital Committee, began to take measures for the cancellation of this step. The hospital archives record that in 1840 the case was heard at the High Court of Appeal in Warsaw and the Funds of the Jewish Hospital were released from the attachment.
In the continuation, we read that the Kalish Municipality thereupon commenced a long trial against the hospital demanding payment of taxes amounting to 232 zloty. A Government Committee, to be sure, recommended that the Institution should be exempted from taxation but the Municipal Council was not prepared to renounce its claim so easily. On April 1st, 1837, the claims of the Municipality were dismissed in virtue of an Order issued by the Governorate of Kalish.
This was not the only conflict which the hospital had with the Municipality. There was a matter of land tax. The plot on which the hospital was built had been purchased on perpetual leasehold. The vendor undertook to pay the Municipality a tax of 1 thaler and 20 groschen twice a year; and after the sale, the purchaser was to pay 5% of the estimated value. In accordance with this agreement, the Municipality demanded the sum of 1,838 zloty from the Hospital Committee. The trial regarding this payment had not yet been ended in 1848 and litigation still continued in 1868. Finally, the amount was divided and paid off in instalments.
In 1863 the Central Committee requested that in negotiations with the authorities, use should no longer be made of the expression Hospital for the Fully Faithful (Starozakonani) but The Jewish Hospital.
From what has been written above, we learn that the Municipality was never the owner of the hospital and even evinced a hostile attitude towards it.
In 1871 the Hospital Committee requested the Municipality to repair the bank of the Prosna that lay within the hospital grounds. The Municipality replied negatively explaining that the plot and the ground were the property of the Jewish Community and Jews alone were being treated as patients there. Hence, the Municipal exchequer was not required to meet this outlay of 81 roubles and 20 kopeks which was not considerable and could easily have been collected from the numerous wealthy Jews of our city. In October of the same year, the Municipality wrote to the curator, Maurici Mamrot, that since winter was approaching, they requested him to repair the banks of the Prosna within his property otherwise he would be held responsible for any damages that might result.
Can there be any further doubt that the Municipality is not the owner of the hospital? However, there are two reasons for its claim: 1st: During World War I, the German occupants entrusted the Jewish Hospital to the Municipality and did the same with the Hospital of the Holy Trinity in accordance with German practice. The 2nd reason is: Registration in
The Land Registry has only recently been completed. The contract of purchase was signed by Mamrot and Redlich who were acting on behalf of the Kehilla; but that fact is not mentioned in the contract.
And so it came about that the Municipality built an additional wing to the hospital without asking any permission from the owners of the land. The Kehilla conducted its own health service properly and we find evidence of this in the 1839 Report of Czetirkin, Inspector of Health Services, who wrote as follows: The Jewish Hospital is excellently arranged and the noble efforts they make in their care for the sick in spite of their limited resources are worthy of all praise.
It was the Kehilla which supplied all the needs of the hospital. Now all the implements and equipment have been transferred to the Hospital of the Holy Trinity while only patients suffering from internal and venereal diseases, mostly Christians, are admitted to the Jewish Hospital. Is it reasonable that a Jew should be able to find a place only with difficulty in a Jewish Hospital? The Kehilla appealed to the Court and lost. It was decided that the hospital was communal.
Since there had been no registration in the Land Register, the hospital has passed into the possession of the Inter-Community Association which regards it as municipal property.
Our hospital was founded on the initiative of the Jewish population and was absolutely religious in character. Evidence of this is the synagogue built there in the year 1885 by the heirs of Jeanette Apt. The Kehilla alone is capable of ensuring the religious character of the institution which was established on behalf of one religious grouping within the total population. In the course of the hundred years that the hospital has been in the hands of the Kehilla, the Municipality not only did not help it but actually harmed it.
Yet, there is another reason for the Municipality's haste in proclaiming the hospital to be public property. After the Germans had burnt Kalish, the Prussian General Bessler prepared a plan for improving the city. According to this plan, which is to be found in the Warsaw Archives, all the houses in Nadwodna Street on the left bank of the Prosna were to be demolished and replaced by gardens. The authorities approved the plan and the hospital would also be demolished. If it should be municipal property, the Municipality would not have had to pay any compensation to the Kehilla.
At the beginning of the 20th century, we proposed the building of a modern hospital. The Silberstein heirs contributed a plot of 2 morgen of land in the Udzialowa Street for the purpose but the Municipality impounded this property as well.
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