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[Page 118]

Political Parties, Movements and Organizations (Cont'd)

Such a spirit was the kind that E.I. Rozenblum had. His father, a simple householder, cared for his son like the apple of his eye. In his childhood, he handed him over to outstanding “melameds”, and in his youth he sat him in the study hall. There he studied the Gemara, the commentaries and the arbiters in the company of the other students. His father did not take his eyes off of him, watched over him that he not stray from the path that tradition laid out for him, that new ideas, that had begun to circulate among the youth, not penetrate his mind. When he was eighteen years of age, his father attached a millstone around his neck in the form of a wife, and he began to work on the commandments of daily life and the business of a livelihood. He wrote in a language his father did not teach him. “Keep your sons from logic” – this saying remained in front of his father's eyes as he directed the education of his son. After the marriage, his father-in-law and his father handed him over the Gur Chassidim, and were certain that they had given him into trusted hands. The Gur Chassidim would knead the dough they had been given and give it a nice shape according to their spirits and the spirits of his ancestors. In general, his parents had done all that they could that the twig be bent as it was meant to grow.

However, as I have said, the soul of Elijahu Iser was made of such delicate stuff, that it could not be struck and not be impressed by the movement of the rebirth that was making waves on the Jewish street. With unending enthusiasm he joined this movement. He left Chassidism, neglected his business and devoted himself heart and soul to the new currents. From the Chassidim he inherited enthusiasm, devotion and zealousness. He was a zealous Zionist, after also a zealous and even extreme “Mizrachi” member. The idea and the action that he found appropriate and correct conquered his essence and he fought for them stubbornly, with exaggerated extremism, that sometimes made him shocking to his listeners.

In his youth he did not study writing and grammar. Some of his knowledge about the world came to him from reading the Yiddish newspapers. In spite of these disadvantages in his education he did not avoid appearing as a speaker at every meeting and every convention. The idea that crept into his mind dominated him and pushed him to get up and express it with his primitive dialect. However, since his entire soul was concentrated in his words, all the elements of his being participated in it, and the words were expressed in an ecstasy, from a divine enthusiasm – this had an influence and impressed his listeners.

Although in the eyes of some of his listeners, he was out of the ordinary, they saw in his enthusiasm a sign of an empty spirit. A superficial idea, words of minor value would enthuse him to such a great extent, as if they were really things of great import.

Sometimes, when he came to express an insignificant idea he would insert dross elements that would counterfeit it, and on such things he would expend lots of energy and tension of forces more than was necessary.

Thus were the most active members in the “Mizrachi” movement in the city, with all of their virtues and faults, attributes and talents. They gave the “Mizrachi” a special color, a local and original color.

In 1924 a scholar called Fiszel Guthart arrived in the city of Kielce, and he also did much in the “Mizrachi” arena, and especially in the “Torah vaAvoda” movement [Torah and Labor].

This scholar grew up among Chassidim, and absorbed their enthusiasm and devotion; his entire being expressed Chassidic characteristics. He was in constant motion, he soul knew no rest; he was entirely like quicksilver, sensitive to everything that fell into our camp. He was only at home during the late hours of the night, meant for sleeping. All the other hours of the day we would find him in meetings, gatherings, among the youth, among the city activists. In society, in public, that was his place, there he lived like a fish in water. He too, like his friend Rozenblum, didn't distinguish between important work and unimportant work, in things great and small he invested his maximum strength.

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His jobs were varied and many. He taught at the “Yavne” school of the “Mizrachi”, gave private lessons at the homes of the wealthy, in order to cover the deficit in his budget, the youth organization, evening classes and lectures. He hadn't a single free hour to go home to eat lunch with his family, and would grab a hasty meal wherever he was and continue with his work. He was entirely given over to working for the general good, working for the people. Educating the youth was his chief occupation. He also had some of the attributes of the persevering scholars of the study hall, where they would continue to live like monks, separated and removed from the tumult of the world, from the delicacies of life, finding pleasure and reward in a page of Gemara spiced with the innovations of the “Maharsh”a” – thus Fiszel Guthart found the satisfaction of his spirit and the life of his soul in his public and national work, and his care for the youth and its organizations. Dancing in a circle together with the young boys, members of the “Torah vaAvoda” organization, would fill him with such enthusiasm that he forgot the world and its flaws. His soul floated in the upper spheres, like the soul of one of the early Chassidim, divine holiness. There were times when there was not bread in his home; but the spiritual joy did not leave him even then, and with constant stubbornness he continued to follow his path, a path of working for the nation. The qualities of his spirit and his talents made him a favorite of the youth. The were all close to him and willing at any minute to do his bidding.

kie119.jpg [15 KB] - Icak Kirszenbaum
Icak Kirszenbaum

One of the notable activists of the “Mizrachi” was Icak Kirszenbaum. He was the “gabbai” of the main synagogue for many years, one of the earliest proponents of Hebrew, the “Mizrachi” representative on the community committee, a member of the National Jewish Council, and others.

Born in Radom, one of the descendants of the Kabbalist, Rabbi Szymszon, the rabbi of Ostropoli; a great grandson and grandson of Rabbi Jechezkel Landau (The “Noda Beyehuda”); a yeshiva graduate; one of the outstanding Chassidim of Grodzisko and Kozienice; he moved to Kielce after his marriage. Here he married Cipa'le, the daughter of Rabbi Dawid Lewartowski; one of the first merchants of Kielce.

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Rabbi Icak earned himself a reputation as an honest tradesman (first in wholesale trade in kerosene; pickles and salt and later in groceries), and his wife contributed to this to a large extent. Generally, though they were occupied with matters of earning a living, they also knew how to lay the foundations for an outstanding Zionist and Hebrew home. When Menachem Prybulski Z”L arrived in Kielce, they entrusted him with the Hebrew education of their children. They had a sign in their house “Jew, Speak Hebrew!”, and indeed, this was the first Hebrew-speaking home in the city. Not only did the local people find a Zionist-Hebrew atmosphere in their home, but so did the emissaries of the pioneer movement from the land of Israel. Their daughter, Sima, Z”L, who later perished in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, was the first Hebrew speaker in the city.

It was interesting to see how the first journalist from the land of Israel who visited Kielce viewed the life of the family.

“Thirty years ago I had a mission to the holy congregations of Poland, and among other places I arrived in Kielce. I met there the sons and daughters of one family, enthusiastic and devoted members of the “Poalei Zion”, who knew Hebrew, were preparing to move to the land of Israel (one member of the family was already living there at the time). I was invited to their home on Sabbath evening. I found a glorious patriarchal Jewish family. The father, respected, the mother, beautiful, the sons and daughters, warm and charming (the entire family moved some time later to the land of Israel, and only the daughter remained in Warsaw – her fate was that of all of our brethren there). The father was a religious man, blessed the wine, sang Sabbath songs, the sons, zealous members of “Poalei Zion” – sat with their heads covered and contributed to the atmosphere of the Sabbath Queen.” (Excerpt from the sketch of the editor of “Davar”, Mr. Chaim Szorer, “Davar”, 26.3.56).

In 1933 Rabbi Icak and his family moved to the land of Israel. The same year he appeared in public as the representative of the Kielce community at the celebrations of the jubilee of Tel-Aviv. During the period he lived in Tel-Aviv, Rabbi Icak devoted his time to learning the Torah. A modest and humble man of a good temper, widely read and an excellent prayer leader, he lived to a ripe old age and died on the eve of the first of the month of Nisan, 5713, [May 15, 1953]. His widow, who did much for the Home for the Aged and the Orphanage in Tel-Aviv, died on the 4th of Av, 5714 [September 2, 1954]. They left four sons after them (E.J. El-roi, lawyer, Awraham, Arje and Mosze Kirszenbaum) and two daughters (Ada Zakaj and Cila Zylbersztajn), all of them in Tel-Aviv.

All of these that I mentioned here, by name, and all of those who were not mentioned and their names were not published, also in other places -- all of them were diligent workers in their narrow circle. And who knows, if we had weighed, on a scale, the activities of these modest workers with those of other activists whose names ring out in the world -- whose side would be heavier?

These humble people of the world, who are modest in their actions, who work diligently and devote their souls without tiring and with great stubbornness, each in his own small area, they are the ones who have brought us to this point, to realize the dream of the return to Zion and the establishment of the State of Israel, in the land of Israel.

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“Hashomer Hatza'ir” in Kielce

“Hashomer Hatza'ir” is undoubtedly numbered among the first Zionist youth movements which were established and organized in Kielce.

Towards the end of World War I – when the armies of Austria and German conquered Congress Poland – the “Shomer Hatza'ir” movement, then called the Hebrew Scouts, penetrated from Galicia into the main Polish cities and into Kielce as well.

In 1916, the “Hashomer” nest (as it was then called) was founded in Kielce, which collected within it the Jewish youth who were studying at the Polish schools (during that time the Hebrew Gymnasium had not yet been founded). At the head of the organizers and counselors were the students of the upper classes at the Polish Gymnasium named for Sznidski, among them Ignasz Edelsztajn, Ludwig, Polak, Elencwajg, Birencwajg, Henik Rembiszewski, Merber; Szymon Frajman; Pola and Guta Kaufman, Lubliner, and others. Very quickly students from the few elementary schools still left in the city joined the movement. The students from the Polish school for girls and Mrs. Stefanja Wolman's also joined.

In a short while, from the ranks of the “Shomer Hatza'ir” they organized the youth that was not learning in school – “No'ar Stam” ['Merely' Youth].

The main club and the administration of the 'nest' were at 54 Staro-Warszawska Street for the boys, and the second club for the girls was on Bodzentynska Street.

kie121.jpg [30 KB] - No caption

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The 'nest' organized three “battalions” in the city and counted hundreds of young people of both sexes in its ranks. The organizers and counselors of the youth not studying in school included the Zajfman brothers, Krystal, Szaul and Awraham Kalichsztajn, Herszel Zysman, Mordechai Garfinkel, Fajvel Dajbuch, Goldblum, Ben Cion Goldfarb, Szlomo Kajzer, Szlomo Szpilman and others. That same year, there was the first regional convention in Kielce of the 'nests' of the “Shomer Hatza'ir” from Kielce and the cities of the district. At the initiative of the regional administration and the group in our city, 'nests' were established in most of the cities of the district and the surrounding area and they stayed in close contact with them in the area of the counseling, the organizing and the work.

The first public trip and sailing activity on Lag BaOmer 5677 (1917) was memorable as was the tremendous impression that this procession made upon both the Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants, as an organized and amazingly orderly appearance of the national Jewish youth in Kielce.

The 'nest' included both youth from assimilated or partially assimilated families, and youth from the most outstanding householding families. All of these found a place to meet and to cooperate in the framework of the 'nest' in the instilling the spirit of Zionism, scouting, and the youthful spirit amid the ranks of the members.

This was a period of awakening and national recognition on the Jewish street after the removal of the rule of the Czar over Congress Poland [in 1918], and of intensive activities and organization of political, Zionist, religious and workers' associations, as well as anti-Zionist ones of various kinds. But the crowning achievement was the organization of the Jewish youth in our city into the “Shomer Hatza'ir” which collected into itself the best of Jewish youth.

In 1918, on November 11, when the anti-Jewish riots broke out in Kielce – the well known pogrom in the Polaski Theatre – most of the members of the “Shomer Hatza'ir” who participated in that meeting were injured and severely beaten. This event as well as the severe limitations of the local Polish authorities especially towards the youth organizations – brought about the disbanding of the 'nest' and the ceasing of its activities.

In response to the despair and low spirits that then overtook Jewish public life, the first group of the counselors and graduates of the 'nest' who were planning on moving to the land of Israel got together at this point. The severe blows of the pogrom and the pain that surrounded everyone, and the echoes of the calls to move to the land of Israel (the Third Aliya) that arrived with the end of World War I – found willing ears and a desire for fulfillment amidst the 'elderly' members of the 'nest' in Kielce. The first group organized and moved to the land of Israel, and immediately afterwards additional groups traveled on harrowing journeys until they had also gotten there. The first people who made aliya from our city from the veteran members of the 'nest' were the Kalichsztajn brothers, Szlomo Szpilman, Szlomo Kajzer, Jechiel Zloto, Icak Goldberg; Kohen; Glikman; Baruch Grynberg and many others.

As I have said, the “Shomer Hatza'ir” movement was paralyzed and scattered after the pogrom of 1918; and only about two years later was the movement reorganized by Pinek Rozenkranc and Artek Friszman (now in Israel) who founded the 'nest' anew.

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Meanwhile, there had been changes in public Jewish life during the few years of Polish independence. The severe persecutions of the Jews in the economic as well as social-political arenas led to a firmer stance towards their oppressors and the drawing of Zionist and pioneering conclusions.

The renewed 'nest' led by Artek Friszman included at first only a few students from the Hebrew Gymnasium, who constituted the first founding group. Female counselors and members of the earlier nest who accompanied them were Sela Fridman, Jegier, Lea Kajzer, Pnina Potasznik and others, who organized the students from the Jewish schools for girls in the city within the new 'nest'.

Starting with slow steps, and later growing in the scope of their operations, the movement organized again and once again was the glory of the Jewish youth in Kielce. It was the most popular and favorite movement among the Zionist youth in the city. The best and most energetic of the youth, the most creative teens with national consciousness gathered there. For the first time, scouting summer camps were arranged in Kielce, plays and various cultural endeavors; and above all, active and lively participation of all its members on the work of the national funds.

During 1925-6 the first graduates of the 'nest' began moving to the land of Israel – Rafael (Polo) Kuperberg (Nechusztai) and after him Cwi Potasznik, Manja Ajzenberg, Pnina Potasznik and others. This time too, they were the first in our city to “break the ice” of renewed aliya to the country, and others flowed in their footsteps and came after them.

In 1929 after the riots in the land of Israel, another wave of members of the “Shomer Hatza'ir” came, among them Dolek Skorecki, Dawid Rembiszewski, Jakusz Zajfman, Mosze Kligman, Lula Bornsztajn and others. After a few years, once again the graduates of the 'nest' flowed to the country, and they are now located on kibbutzim, moshavs, cities and various settlements and live a life of toil and creation, each in his place in the country.

Here I must mention those from Kielce who fell in battle – Izrael Korngold Z”L in the battle that conquered the lands of “Ramat HaShofet” and Szaul Korman Z”L who died defending Jerusalem.

From the mouths of surviving embers, members of the “Shomer Hatza'ir” in Kielce, who arrived in Israel after the terrible slaughter in the countries of Europe during World War II, we learned of the existence of the 'nest' of “Hashomer Hatza'ir” during the horrific days of the ghetto in Kielce, about their underground work to gather youth and children, Zionist activities and the publication of an illegal Hebrew broadsheet in conditions too difficult to bear. The members of “Hashomer Hatza'ir” acted and worked up to the last days of the ghetto's existence and were liquidated by Hitler's minions.

The “Poalei Zion” Party – Socialist Zionists in Kielce

The beginning of the “Poalei Zion” socialist Zionist party in Kielce goes back to the period before the Russian revolution of 1905.

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A young man from Wloclawek, Izrael Kino, who had married Najcze Elbaum, from one of the first families in Kielce, was the founder of the “Poalei Zion” group, and under the code name “Felix” stayed in touch with the center in Warsaw. This was at the time that Dov Borochov and his friends Itzchak Ben-Tzvi, Zerubavel, Rafelkes, Itzchak Tabenkin and even David Ben-Gurion were in a difficult battle with the Bundists, the Siemists and others, and out of the tempest of the disagreements the ideological lines of practical and principled Palestinism were drawn, and their synthesis – prognostic Palestinism, Borochovism. Incidentally, I. and N. Kino moved to the land of Israel in 1908, he died in 1954 and his widow, may she have a long life, remained in her home in Tel-Aviv.

With the granting of the Czarist manifest in October of 1905, it seemed that a time of momentum and tremendous development for all of the liberation movements in Russia and the countries that were under its rule. However, the rude awakening came immediately and the disciples of liberty, both nationalist and socialist, learned that the oppressive regime had tricked them. Then came a period of reaction that continued with interruptions until the end of World War I. Only then, when Russia was overtaken by the great storm of freedom, did the Jewish street also begin to arouse itself. A stream of people began to arrive at the gates of the homeland in unimaginable ways, the Zionist movement received a tremendous push towards activity (also thanks to the Balfour Declaration), and Jewish socialism took the worker's classes by storm. The drive to adjust to the new conditions of political life in Russia, and the hope that Bolshevism would storm to victory over the world, caused a split in the international movement of “Poalei Zion”, and thus the faction “Independent Poalei Zion” was formed (its opponents called it, to discredit it “Right Poalei Zion”).

kie124.jpg [33 KB] - The founders and leaders of 'Poalei Zion' in Kielce
The founders and leaders of “Poalei Zion” in Kielce

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