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[Page 175]

A History of “Hechalutz”
and “Hashomer Hatsa'ir” in our Town

Kalman Osherowitz - Raanana

The period of the Zionist pioneer youth started towards the end of WW1; in other words, about 50 years ago. This youth produced devoted and faithful pioneers. If we look at them today, we are concerned with various settlements in Israel where people from our town put down their roots, places where they played an important role in building our land. After all the hardship suffered by our youth, we are very proud of their achievements especially after they went through a long route full of alternating sacrifices, hopes and disappointments. These youths went through a glorious period, were educated on the lessons of Tel Chai, went through “Hechalutz” and Hashomer Hatsa'ir”, the conquest of work and defense. They played a large part in the establishment of the State of Israel. Our town of Korelitz symbolizes the way of this youth.

When the battles of WW1 were waning, the town was destroyed and deserted because, during the war, when the Germans occupied the region, the war front was formed on the eastern side of our town and all the town's inhabitants were expelled, and they scattered in all directions. The Jews bought a landholding in the Grodno area and many of them settled temporarily in Novogrodok and its environs. At the end of the war, the Jews returned to the destroyed town and began rebuilding it. Many houses had disappeared from view because the Germans had used their materials to build bunkers on the front. Like good Jews, the inhabitants gave first priority to public institutions. The Synagogue, which had been partially destroyed, was rebuilt, and they started looking for a place for a school. Most of the inhabitants worked in agriculture in those days. Despite the fact that they did not have their own land, the inhabitants covered the empty plots and cultivated them, since these plots had no owners. The artisans returned to their occupations and the shopkeepers started reorganizing their business premises.

In the meanwhile, before they managed to recover from the troubles of the war, the town became involved in the war of the Bolsheviks against the Poles. The Russians entered the town and set up the new regime which was unpopular with the local population. After a while, this war was also forgotten, the town stayed under Polish rule, and life started to return to its normal routine. The Jews once more continued where they had previously stopped: a house was built for the Rabbi, and a school and synagogues were established. Shalom Cohen, the rabbi's son was appointed as principal of the school. The school was under the supervision of the “Tarbut” schools network. Some of the future “Hechalutz” members studied at this school.

 

Between “Bund” and Zionism

WW1 caused agitation not only among the nations of Europe, but also among the Jews. In this period, an organization by the name of the “Bund” became active among the Jews. This was an organization of Jewish workers, which was active in raising the standards of Jewish workers and the improvement of their situation. Mainly, it strove for the equality of rights for Jewish workers among the Poles. Our town, which had a Jewish identity, found itself on one side of the barricades - that of Zionism. In this period, just after the Balfour Declaration and the Zionist Wave, the “Hechalutz” movement arose, first in Russia, and later in the cities and towns of Poland.

The first “Swallow” of Hechalutz in Korelitz was Mordechai Karolevsky (is known in Israel as Mordechai Malkieli). The Karolevsky family returned at that time from Novogrodok to Korelitz, and the son, Mordechai, was the man who started to organize the “Hechalutz Hatsa'ir” movement. I remember that once, when I wandered near the market, Yosef Portnoy came up to me and told me that we had a guest lecture, Comrade Bilopolsky from Warsaw. We gathered at the Synagogue and the lecturer read us a brochure about the happenings at Tel-Chai. He ended with the words of Trumpeldor; “It is good to die for our country”.

Mordechai Karolevsky organized the “Young Hechalutz”, assisted by Chasia Oberzhansky and others. An older group of members became organized in the “Hechalutz”. The heads of this group were Moshe-Eli Shuster, Nissan Zalmanovsky and Yosef Portnoy (May he have a long life!).

The first lecturers to appear on the subject of Hechalutz were Yosef Bankover (living today in Ramat Hakovaysh) and Bilopolsky. They explained the principles and ideas of the Hechalutz movement to us. I remember a lecture by Bilopolsky in the Korelitz House of Learning. The school Janitor (we called him “Peter Zecks”), who used to be the prayer crier for the synagogue (“Yidden in Shul arein!” - “Jews, come to the synagogue!”), went out and announced an important speech to be given by a visitor from Warsaw on Saturday afternoon. Indeed, the audience responded. Youngsters and older people appeared. Thus, systematically, we encircled the town with ideas of the “Hechalutz”, and we set up a framework of cultural action, classes, information, and practical activities. Brina, the Rabbi's daughter, taught Hebrew while Moshe- Eli Shuster taught knowledge of the Land of Israel. We organized literary trials and published a “live” newspaper every week, which was read collectively every Friday evening. The editor of the newspaper was Alter Rozovsky. The newspaper reflected the ideas of the Hechalutz and promoted its ways. Most of the inhabitants participated in reading the paper at parties of members.

 

Ups and Downs

When the suspense of enthusiasm arose and the organizational work flourished, something happened which stopped everything, and we had to start all over. This is what happened: The Hechalutz Headquarters rewarded our work and, in order to show its appreciation of us, it allocated us a “certificate” for Aliya to Palestine, to one member of Hechalutz. This member, who had been awarded the certificate, was heavily involved in business matters and could not “release himself” for Aliya to Palestine. This caused laxity in our work, and others even left the movement. The nucleus, however, was already too strong to break up. We started rebuilding the Hechalutz anew. We ordered reading material from Palestine and started to inculcate the study of occupations among the members in order to prepare them for Aliya.

 

Firing Ovens

We decided that we had to introduce the members to the atmosphere of working for the land of Israel, and to accustom them to sacrifice and action for the Concept. So, it was that we began to teach trades. We started teaching the boys carpentry, and the girls sewing. We went out to fire the stoves of the schools on winter nights and we cleaned out the classrooms. Wages were dedicated to the JNF and to the Palestine workers' fund. We leased the bakery from Alter the baker in order to bake Matzos for Passover. The specialist was Noah Gershunovsky and, in this case as well, revenues were donated to funds in the land of Israel. At that time, I was conscripted to the Polish Army, so I only learned what was happening in the town through letters from friends.

In 1925-6 we received a number of Aliya “certificates” The first to go on Aliya were Leime Polchak (who now lives in Ramat Hasharon), Yosef Portnoy (who is in Kfar Saba), Gittel Londin (Kfar Saba), Bracha Kaplan (Kibbutz Hakovaysh), Sheindel Perbolitsky (now Kuznitz - in Tel Aviv), Pessia Ephroimsky (Gorfinkel - in Mishmar Hashlosha), Mordechai Karolevsky (Malkiely - in Hod Hasharon). Stoliar (returned to Europe and died in the Holocaust). All those who made Aliya went to Kibbutz “Hakovaysh”, but in the course of time, they relocated to various places in Israel.

The tension rose and morale was high in Korelitz at that time. A training group arrived in our town from Vilna. This group worked at digging fishponds. This was heavy work. Many members of this training group made Aliya, and are living on Kibbutz Ramat Hakovaysh.

It happened again that there was a drop in tension. The 1927 crisis in Palestine caused a spiritual laxity. We also in Korelitz “gained” two people who returned to our town from Palestine, and membership dropped once more.

We, the veteran group, decided to continue running Hechalutz in Korelitz. Comrade Leah Kaplan (now living on Kibbutz Giv'at Chaim), who kept faith with the movement, “maintained standards”, at least with respect to headquarters. In her reports to Headquarters, there appeared more members than there really were. We even paid membership dues for these “members” from our own pockets, in order to “maintain the firm” in the eyes of the outside world.

At that time, there appeared an intelligent and lively fellow, by the name of Chaim Bussel. He was a graduate of “Hashomer Hatsa'ir” and suggested organizing a cell of the movement. The remnants of “Hechalutz” were opposed, but the crises and disappointments had their effect. The “Hashomer Hatsa'ir” cell arose from the remnants of Hechalutz, and covered most of the youth in the town There were also graduates who joined. Chaim Bussel proved himself an excellent organizer and he knew how to bridge between various ideas. He tried to draw in those who felt uneasy within the new framework. He divided the cell on the basis of age, and organized groups named after the tribes. Thus it was that I took over the direction of a group called “Yehuda”. The older people tried to inculcate pioneer education into the youth so that, when the time came, they would be ready and able to make Aliya,

We carried out cultural, sport and entertainment activities. On Lag Ba'Omer, we organized a big camp in one of the forests in the area. I remember how we sang with awe “We are Rising”, and “Techezakna” [translator's note: a famous poem/song written/composed by Chaim Nachman Bialik).

In the summer of 1928, we organized a regional convention in Korelitz in the festive atmosphere of a mass movement.

Once more, however, disasters fell upon us. The town was totally burned down in a fire which broke out. The bloody events in Palestine in 1929 added to this by bringing an end to the “Hashomer Hatsa'ir” movement in Korelitz.

In 1930, I made Aliya with my wife Sarah. When in Palestine, we heard that Korelitz had been rebuilt upon its previous ruins.

Times changed. The yearning for the Land of Israel increased and strengthened in Poland. There was a shortage of Certificates and the many demands of the youth to make Aliya could not be met. The training Kibbutzim in Poland filled up, and the cream of young men and young women who wanted to make Aliya were stuck there for years. The illegal immigration to Palestine started to be organized - the young people of Israel started travelling the seas, often endangering their lives. Some of them managed to reach safe havens in Palestine, where they were considered by the British authorities to be “illegal immigrants”. Nevertheless, they organized themselves in Palestine and found their places. The majority, however, stayed there… they are no more, because they were destroyed by the Oppressors of Israel.

Our work in Israel, the sacrifice and the heroism of the Youth of Israel are a magnificent monument to the idealistic Zionist Youth that was and is no more.

[Page 177]

From right: David Portnoy, Bracha Kaplan, Pessia Ephroimsky, Moshe Shuster, Yosef Portnoy, Gittel Londine

 

[Page 178]

The Hechalutz Organization in Korelitz
Standing from Right, 1st Row: Chaim Abramowitz, Chaim Kalmanovsky, Layma Polchik, Abramowitz, Yaakov Mazurtzky, Mordechai Krolavetsky (Malchieli), Chassia Oberzhansky (Turtel), Leah Kaplan, Berl Gurevitz, Chaim Bolotnitzky, Yitzhak Lipshitz
2nd Row: Alter Rozovsky, Alter Greenfeld, Mordechovitz, Michael Beigin, Malka Mordechovitz (Avny), Kalman Mordechovitz, Sheindel Kuznitz (Prevlotzky), ----, Dvorah Yossilevitz
3rd Row: Moshe Stoller, Leybel Kopernik, Chaim Stoller, Avraham Lipchin, Yehudit Berkovitz, Noach Gershnovsky, Yitzhak Stoller, Itay Lipshitz, Yossef Portnoy
4th Row: Tzvi Shuster, Chaya-Leah Kaplan Sharshevsky, Sonia Rabinovitz (Kaplan), Chaim Kaplan

(Sign - The Hechalutz Organization in Korelitz)

 

[Page 179]

1st Row - Standing from right: Berl Abrinsky, Bayla Kuznitz, Menucha Abramowitz (Itzkowitz), Riva Yellin, Berl Kaplan
2nd Row - from right: Yosef-Chaim Osherowitz, David Meirovitz, Chaim Berkowitz, ----, Yeshayahu Bolotintzky
3rd Row - from right: Berchi Yellin, Merka Yellin, Chaya Slutzky (Meirovitz) Shraga Nissilevitz

 

[Page 180]

From right - 1st Row: Alter Greenfeld, Yona Abrazhansky, Yaakov Abrazhansky, Chaim Bussel, Michael Yellin, Malka Mordechovitz (Avny), Kalman Bezalel Osherowitz
2nd Row: Leah Kaplan, Shifra Levitt, Chaya-Leah Kaplan, ----

 

[Page 181]

The Hechalutz Organization in Korelitz - Succot 5691 (1930)

 

The Hechalutz Committee
From right: Yaakov Mazurtzky, Berl Gurevitz, Sonia Kaplan, Leah Kaplan, Leah Treievitsky, Kalman Mordechovitz, Yitzhak Stoller
Standing: Mordechai Malchieli (Krolavetsky), Tzvi Shuster

 

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