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[Page 96]

C. Organizations
and Youth Movements

 

From my Memories
of the Youth Movements in Miechów

By Yitzhak Polska

Translated by Selwyn Rose

When one comes to survey the youth movements in our town one hesitates and asks oneself: How did it all begin? A small town huddling round its town square, in whose center flutters the Polish emblem – the eagle with spread wings – symbolizing every “turbulent” breathing soul in town.

Were there youth movements in town? Apparently, yes. The fact was mostly felt before conventions or elections to the Sejm.

Today, when you speak about a movement, you know its political platform or the names of the leaders. In our town even these things were hard to define clearly. Figures like Greenboim, Jabotinsky or some unknown person – were mixed up in the consciousness of the town's young people. The “Mitnagdim” could not always define whom they were opposing: were they against a political ideology or against a particular personage? But one institution was very certain – The Jewish National Fund.

Its paths were very clear and simple to us: pennies were collected in the little “Blue Boxes” at events and those pennies were the building–blocks of the Homeland.

I remember Yehezkiel sent me a picture of Palestine: he was on a wall laying bricks. The “message” was as clear as the K.K.L., itself – as clear as the eagle with spread wings in the town square.

And who would be the members of the Movements?

The girls were still learning spelling and writing Hebrew with “The ‘Frau’”; the boys, wearing “kippot” or peaked caps: Elimelech Friedrich, of the Yiddish–Polish intelligentsia from the “Zamir”, Yosef, his little brother, a fluent avid reader of “Heint”; Ya'acov, Bruckner's brother, and others, staging plays of Peretz, at the same time as “Hagonsher” and his company of artisans were staging a production of Goldfaden's “ Bar– Kokhba”.

Peretz Lejzorek, he of the flattened nose, worked in a butcher's shop; Phini Gerszonowicz the son of Yidel the mighty blacksmith, dreaming of his status as a Ladies' Man, like his big brother. The Reinsteins were bakers. Hanna P. Was a simple girl, not much is known about her. The sister of Gershon Katolyk dreamed the dreams of all girls' ideal man. Netta Kornfeld looked for a suitable “uniform” to suit the pained creature within him. Buckner the intelligent and Maizel Mitzkowitz(?) – Who knows anything about them? Yehezkiel Ze'ev, P. Meir, P. Scherl, Yona Blatt and Zalmanowitz, will go to the “Takhmoni” School in Warsaw. The sons of the ritual slaughterer will accompany their father, the acclaimed cantor, in the synagogue New Year and the Day of Atonement.

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Elimelech P., Bornstein, Koppelowitz, Gerstenfeld and Meir G., played their roles of being detectives and their dreams, still in the bounds of reason: “If all the goyim die – whose shop will I take?” Yitzhak Sheinfrucht, the thick–headed one; he who wears the hat of the Seminary students, one far too small for his head but whose little blond sister was so nice. The small boys used to trail after the big girls as they walked along.

Krymolowski, adorned with his peyot was a brilliant Yeshiva student, dressed in his Sabbath finery with his Jewish determination, dances with his friends at the wedding of the Rabbi's daughter with wild enthusiasm. All of these later constituted members of the Movements – mostly “Mizrachi” except the last one – “Agudat Yisroel”.

Elimelech Kornfeld will go to Łódź and one fine day will return to wear the uniform of the “National Guard”. Will he be the first? In which Movements were Yehezkiel and his brother Ze'ev Elimelech then? And was Meir Fogel “defined”, was Itze Polski and his brother already members of the Miechów Sports Movement “Kadima” with Simcha Koziol at its head?

Will Peretz Lejzorek ever be ready to hit his brother, because they oppose each other's political views? One thing is quite clear: there was a surprising integrity among everyone. Not one expressed extreme “self righteousness”, never raised his hands and never disrupted a meeting. And that integrity lasted right up until the end. “The wolf shall lie down with the lamb” and no one knew which was the “wolf” and which the “lamb”. The lack of bitterness between, and in the awareness of, the parties in our town and the innocence, was conspicuous in the tolerant behaviour of divisions within the families: Peretz Lejzorek was a confirmed and fiery “National Guard” and his brother Netta similarly “sold” on “Beitar”; Elimelech K., in one party and Netta his brother the other and it was the same in many families. The first to display openness in political opposition was, it seems to me, Mr. Lipa Y. It was in a meeting in the synagogue before the elections to the Sejm. In his address he brought a parable from the “Book of the Khazars” where he presents the Zionists and the Zionist left opposing “Mizrahi” as a parallel to the famous debate between the Rabbi, the Priest and the Pagan with the King choosing the Pagan by default – meaning the “Mizrachi”. Opposition occurred. As I remember, Yehezkiel foamed with anger in public and we rushed to hold him back. But I'll admit that the adage pleased me and I sensed in that, that there were many like me. Then, one day it became clear to me, there are indeed youth movements in town: there are youth camps, excursions of all the youth movements to the forests on Lag B'Omer, parades in the streets, special uniforms.

Peretz Lejzorek dreamed the dream of the Land of Israel in the uniform of the “National Guard”. He didn't know that he would not live to see it: Elimelech Friedrich and his younger brother influenced the Goldbergs, the Feigenblatts, the Firisens(?), the Feigenboims, the Zyndermans, the Tchaikovskys and many others. They took on another character and identity through their activism in the K.K.L.: affiliation to the “National Guard”.

Elimelech F. convinced a young girl, his future wife, to join the “National Guard”, both of them destined for extermination. Haim Isskowitz would also return to town only to perish there.

And still the confused mixture of political awareness of ours held sway. I remember I was in the “National Guard” when Jabotinsky came to Poland – a dream–figure – and spoke on the radio. A legend said he learned Polish in two weeks. I would listen to his speeches, they full of intensity and indeed from a mastermind; Moshe Stavski was also spoken of in the Movements but was somewhat remote and misty. What characterised the Movements were their meeting place and their learning classes: the Tanach, Homeland, Principles and love for the Land of Israel.

The rush to the Movements was age–related and not connected to the seniorities of the boys in the “National Guard” and older boys in “Beitar” and the even still older ones in “Mizrachi”. Only here in Israel did I come to know that Gershon Katolyk was in the left wing Poalei–Zion.

[Page 98]

Activities for the Keren Kayemet

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Keren Kayemet le–Yisroel convention with the participation of Alter Droyanov
Standing L–R: Yehuda Burstein, Golda Blatt, David Burstein, Sarah Sukenik, Leibusch Hirshenhorn, Hillel Sercaz, Leah Poslushny, Elimelech Friedrich, Hava Isskowitz, Hirsch Leib Gerstenfeld, Shmuel Sukenik
Sitting: Yitzhak Sheinfrucht, Bluma Kashubo(?), Droyanov, Wolf Ber Kaiser, Ya'acov Poslushny, Joskowicz.

 

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The Flower Festival in Miechów (1927/8)
Standing R–L: Wolf Lejzorek, Pella Rosenboim, Mindel Feureisen, Paula Feureisen, Ha'anich Schweitzer, Haya Isskowitz, Wolf Ber Kaiser, Hendel Lubczi, Freidel Poloczyk, David Pinchowsky, Rachel Yama
Sitting R–L: Yitzhak Sheinfrucht, Tuvczi Rosenboim, Haim Isskowitz, Sarah Sukenik, Arieh Bruckner
Kneeling: Elimelech Friedrich, Leibel Kleiner

[Page 99]

There was one big party, a roof–party! The “Kaisers” and their like ruled there and at the events of the K.K.L., you could find them all.

The thread that tied all the Youth Movements together, a simple thread and characteristic attribute of our town: the love of the Land of Israel.

Before my eyes I see a picture from my days in town in the last years before I immigrated to Palestine. Purim in town: Youngsters from all the different Movements – youngsters of my own age, carrying giant K.K.L. boxes moving from house to house and singing a Yiddish song:

“The money goes for the Land of Israel,

Make a “Mitzvah” and throw it in the box!”


The “Mizrachi” and “Young Mizrachi” in Miechów

by Arieh Brukner

Translated by Selwyn Rose

From within the mists of time I am reminded of the earliest steps in the organization of the “Mizrachi” Movement in Miechów. After the First World War, we had a visit from Rabbi Yehiel Yitzhak Rappoport of Mniszew(?) in the Beit Ha–Midrash. The hall was filled from wall–to–wall; he spoke about the sanctity of the Land of Israel and of resettlement there.

At that time, when the Haredi Jewish community was opposed to Zionist activity which it rejected a priori, and that we must wait for the coming of the Messiah, it required enormous courage on the part of a Rabbi in Israel to preach active resettlement of Palestine in the spirit of the Torah and the tradition, and to create a synthesis between the study of the Torah and the keeping of the Commandments and the physical toil of redeeming the Land of Israel. Rabbi Rappoport (May his Righteousness be Remembered for a Blessing), excited his listeners and his words encouraged the establishment of the first group organizing the “Mizrahi” in our town. Even my own father and teacher (Z”L), who was a disciple of the Gur Yeshiva, was caught up in the idea of “religious–Zionism”. He was among the first to register as a member of “Mizrahi” and took part in the courses organized by the founders. His affiliation was expressed in deeds: he decided to arrange his passport for Palestine. And in order to perform the Mitzvah: “Torah together with ‘The Way of the Land’” he taught his sons the weaving profession in order to prepare them for immigration.

Enthusiasm caught the students in the Seminaries as well. Whereas until now they were steeped only in the teachings of the Torah they, too, were now harnessed to work for Zionism.

The Zionist idea that found root in the vacuum of our world bonded together the religious youth organizations in the framework of Mizrachi youth, whose slogan was “Torah and work”. We will mention here the names of the first founders of that federation: Yitzhak Sheinfrucht, who was the living spirit and spur of its operations throughout the movement's existence until the Holocaust; Yesheyahu Burstein; Moshe Lewit; Ze'ev Horowitz; the Lishmann brothers; Mordecai Sultanik; my brother Naphtali Hertz Bruckner, who later became the head of “Hamizrahi” in Działoszyce and other places.

The federation of “Young Mizrahi” placed before itself two roles: a) To inject the idea of working the land by studying the Mishnaic order of “seeds” and b) To impart the youth with a profession and to instil within them a love of the work.

[Page 100]

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Histadrut “Young Mizrachi” in Miechów
Standing R–L: Arieh Bruckner, Reuven Shinitzky, Sandor Stein, Aharon Bruckner, Yosef Gross, Moshe Pinchowsky, Moshe Spiegel, Yehuda Burstein, Haim Isenberg
Sitting: Yesheyahu Burstein, Yitzhak Sheinfrucht, Lipa Yazkirowitz, Tsvi Hirsch Wiener

 

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“Young Mizrachi” Congress (1928)
Standing R–L: H. Poslushny, A. Bruckner, Yosef Gross, Leibel Bladdeh(?), Y. Burstein
Second row: Sandor Stein, Moshe Pinczowski, David Sukenik, Reuven Shinitzky
Third row: Ya'acov Kornfeld, Moshe Spiegel

[Page 101]

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Training Carpentry–shop (1921)

 

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“Bruriah” section of “Young Mizrachi” (1933)
Standing R–L: Rivka Fisch, Ruhama Katolyk, Miriam Gross, Shoshanna Brandstetter, Hindel Salzburg, Rachel Fisch, Frieda Rosen Sitting second row: Paula Feureisen, Yitzhak Sheinfrucht, Chairman of all the “Mizrachi” Movements, Hermann Machrachow(?), Hindel Walberg, Chairlady “Bruriah”, Ethel Malinarski
Sitting first row: Rachel Lechai, Hanna Feigenboim

[Page 102]

Because of that, the orthodox students from the Beit Hamidrash started giving special, early–morning courses every day, in the cellar of the synagogue. All the members of the association would take part and even young men from outside if the topic was close to their heart. Some of the members started to learn different professions, such as knitting (with the Spiegel family), carpentry and so on. This activity drew many youngsters from among the town into our organization. Our members demonstrated great activity and diversity in all the Zionist institutions, like “Keren Hayesod” and “ Keren Kayemet”. In the beginning Moshe Koppelowitz (Z”L) was the first administrator of the K.K.L and Eliezer Burstein was secretary. Then came others: the very active Mr. Wolf Ber Kaiser (Z”L), who dedicated virtually his whole life to the Zionist idea in general and to the K.K.L. in particular and attracted all the youngsters in our town by his dedication and faith. After him came David Burstein (Z”L). During their time I was functioning as secretary and after me came Yehuda Burstein.

Thus the work continued, until we reached a pinnacle of real significance and that was delegating a team of ten members from the organization to the agricultural training farm at Marianów near Wolbrom, under the patronage of the Pacanowski family. Ten members from Wolbrom itself also joined us – members of the “General Zionists” – for agricultural training.

Both groups worked in complete harmony, in spite of differences of viewpoint.

The day's full agenda included instructional lessons on working the land – both theoretical and practical, by the farm manager. Also Tanach studies, Hebrew, the history of Zionism and knowledge of The Land of Israel. Members of the Zionist organizations of both Wolbrom and Miechów came to listen to the lectures.

In that training group, which was the first one of its kind in our town, the following took part: Elimelech Spiegel, Sandor Stein, Reuven Shinitzky, Aharon Bruckner (who died in the prime of life in Miechów at 18), Yosef Gross, Dov Scheinwald, Haim Isenberg and spared for a long life were Yehuda Burstein and the writer of these few lines, who are alive today in Israel.

Yehuda Burstein is the one who continued to be active after I left my family in 1928. He activated the next generation in all fields of Zionist activity.


The Youth Movements in Miechów

by Ze'ev Dror (Friedrich)

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The Youth Movements in Miechów were populated by young people who learned in two schools: “Mizrachi” and “Torah Foundation” – a foundation of “Agudat Yisroel”. These two schools were different in their approach and mentality of learning, but in both of them was a fundamental Jewish education which took root and blossomed in the youth movements

The training in carpentry under the tutelage of Ya'acov Spiegel was the first sign of the organization of youngsters in town. That seed was enthusiastic in its devotion to the idea of productivity and even sent a few members for agricultural training but didn't continue for long; that generation has still not been trained. Yitzhak Sheinfrucht (Z”L), and spared for a long life Yehuda Burstein, who were the living souls of that organization, and were afterwards activists in the youth movements, lecturing on the problems of Zionism and Judaism and their influence on all the youth streams was significant.

[Page 103]

The “National Guard” was founded in 1928 by graduates of “Mizrachi” who had gone to Warsaw to study at the “Takhmoni” school. In that Movement there were already all the attributes that typified the youth movements in those days: uniforms, flags, scouting activities, ceremonies on festivals and Zionist events, the obligation of fulfilment, and so on. We recall with honor from among its founders: the brilliant Yona Blatt, Yehuda Zalmanowitz, who loved the quiet of academia rather than the stereotyped manners of scout ceremonial, Getzil Lewit, with a popular and practical approach always hewing to the point, and spared for a long life the impulsive Meyer Fogel, full of life and inventiveness, Ze'ev Dror, the “ideologue”, and also Yehezkiel Dror the most active of them all, who was dedicated to the Movement, bearing the yoke of responsibility for the cell and even the first to go for training and immigrate to Palestine. For years Yehezkiel was the group secretary and activist, delegating staff–positions and directing the activity of everyone.

With the “changing of the guard” came Elimelech Friedrich, (Z”L), Haim Isskowitz, (Z”L), Moshe Pinchowsky (Z”L) and Esther Sheinfrucht, (Z”L), all of whom perished. Even though they were all very different types from beginning to end, what united them all was the enthusiasm for the interests of the Movement and their total dedication to the work. Each and every one of them was graced with some special quality: Elimelech with his intellect, Haim with his leaning to scouting, “order” and “militarism” (an ex–army officer), Moshe with his practicality and dedication to his aims and Esther with her essential vitality and sensitivity to the life of the cell: everyone loved her warm smile and her relationship with people. The cell represented content and the center of life for the young people. It directed their energy towards Zionism and their entire life became a foretaste of the future reality in the Land of Israel. Much of the happiness of life and their freshness would have been stifled had it not been for the attraction of that distant world on the youngsters, beyond the palpable reality of the Diaspora.

Zionist activity in town such as collection of donations, Flower Days, festival events and Purim with its parties, Zionist meetings, organization of bazaars, receiving lecturers and delegates, the sale of agricultural products, etc., all were found in the young people of the movements as faithful and moral activists. Their spiritedness sometimes infected the entire young, Jewish population of the town. The Lag B'Omer excursion – a parade, in effect – with scout uniforms and flags at their head, turned the event into an experience for the whole town. The town, which was Zionist obtained satisfaction from the scouts and looked upon them with paternal affection.

The entire cell breathed life. The youngsters found within it a place for social activity, everyone according to his personal taste. Peretz Lejzorek (Z”L), obtained his basic primary education in the cell. He was a sort of miniature Rabbi Akiva, he read voraciously, zealously and with great understanding. For him, the cell constituted his natural environment. For youngsters like Elimelech Kornfeld, Yosef Friedrich and others, the cell was the complement to the social development and education they received in school. The Polish middle school operated on Saturdays as well and was therefore inaccessible to the young Jews. Spared for a long life are those who immigrated to Palestine and established stable families; they owe a lot to the Movement that gave them considerable spiritual satisfaction; a sense of freedom and belonging, content and purpose in life, moments of joy and ennoblement of the soul. We will mention a few of them: Haaneh Feigenboim, the “Rebbetzen” of the girls, loved and supported by everyone; Tova Zinder, who in spite of the difficulties at home always maintained a good mood and inspired with her nobility of spirit everyone around her (everyone participated in her dramatic “doubts” concerning her love for Ashl Tchaikovsky; Hela Rosenblum, through whose influence the Movement took on a life of fulfilment and immigration; Meyer Goldberg, who infected so many with his clowning; Dov “the Pest” who had a finger in everything; Moshe Gerstenfeld, who brought to the atmosphere of the cell the deep–rooted popular spirit of his father, Antasha – a sort of Hershel of Ostropol from Miechów whose jokes, opinions and sayings were much sought after in town. Tsvi Greenboim and Munik Koppelowitz both of pleasant appearance, both always feeling at home; Kalman Sultanik, today a Zionist agent in America, already then he was active in forming his own faction in the cell.

[Page 104]

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The “Hashomer Ha–Dati” group

 

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The “National Guard” group

 

[Page 105]

The cell in Miechów radiated its influence and spread its activities all over the area, was in contact with Działoszyce and promoted the creation of cells in Zaverezshye, Żarnowiec and Kshoynzh.

The Miechów cell was counted among the five central counties of the “National Guard” in Poland and was even represented in the central leadership by Ze'ev Dror.

It is impossible to write about the Miechów cell without mentioning also the Charsznica cell which, officially, was the core of the Miechów cell, began and operated a many–branched operations in the movement of its own thanks to the activity of the Pulaski brothers (today Pulas(?)).

The cells of Miechów and Charsznica arranged mutual visits and on Shabbatot would generally arrange an excursion as a hike, which they saw as a sports activity, to the cell at Charsznica. The Charsznica cell was known for the effervescent life of its branch, the few families in the town were all Zionists – among them the Rabbinical delegate Yeruzalimsky – Yerushalmi; every visit of the Miechów group to the Charsznica group became an event.

The second movement in size and organization was the “Beitar”. It was founded in 1929 by David Burstein, (Z”L), Nathan Kornfeld (Z”L), and Haim Isenberg (Z”L).

The group numbered about 150 members. The founders were enthusiastic followers of Jabotinsky; they spared no time or money to establish the cell and to broaden its influence on the Miechów youth. That same year Yona Blatt (Z”L), who represented a significant and serious strengthening personality, joined them in the active leadership of the group and even broadened his activities in the area as representative at the central command of “Beitar” Poland.

That movement did an excellent job of uniting internally its membership around the revisionist ideology; the cell held many meetings with its members debating the problems of the Movement on Zionism and the reality of the Jews in Poland. For the ordinary folk classes were arranged to provide basic education, arithmetic, and literature. On Friday evenings “Beitar” held meetings to which were invited members of all the Movements for an exchange of views and opinions. As speakers and lecturers, activists from other parties in town were also invited.

Conspicuous among the members of “Beitar” were Hirsch Leib Gerstenfeld, (Z”L), Tsvi Steinitz, (Z”L), Mendel Lewit, (Z”L), David Millstein, (Z”L), Golda Blatt, (Z”L), Bella Gerstenfeld, (Z”L), Haya Gittel Lewit, (Z”L) while saved for a long life were: Yitzhak Polski, alert and active; Yochaved Blatt, who “mothered” the members of the cell; Moshe Burstein who was active in leadership and social activities of the cell.

The third of the Movements was the “Religious Guard”. That movement resembled very much the “National Guard” except that its members in the main came from orthodox families and their activities contained a strong essence of traditional religious orthodoxy. Active in the cell were: Yitzhak Sheinfrucht, (Z”L), and spared for a long life Yehuda Burstein who was also attached to activities in other Movements and a student in the “Religious Guard”, and both were close to the members of other cells, from the “National Guard” and “Beitar”.

The fourth Movement was “Poalei Zion” (both left and right).

Also active was the “Agudat Yisroel” Movement. Its members formed a separate quorum within the Seminary of the Gurer Rabbi's Yeshiva and devoted themselves to daily to studying a page on Charity. Among these young students was Yosef Avigdor Polski, who had been nominated as rabbi in Vodislov and still today is known by that name in one of the English cities; Leibel Bladdeh and others.

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It should be mentioned that in spite of the different opinions between the Parties, tolerance reigned among the opposition. Unlike in many other places in Poland, the struggle between the Movements in Miechów was on an ideological basis alone and there is no recollection of any incident moving beyond the bounds of civilized debate and moving into personalities and personal accusations.

While speaking of “Movements” one must mention also the sports section “Kadima”. Although most of its members were counted among the youth movements in town it also took part in other activities besides its sporting ones. It existed essentially as a Jewish football team and challenged Polish teams and discharged themselves honorably even, on occasion, winning. It was a sort of demonstration of self–respect and cultivated a feeling of pride putting themselves as Jews on an equal footing with the Goyim. The man who made every effort for the success of “Kadima” was Simcha Hirshenhorn (Z”L). Himself no sportsman in practice, even wearing his Kippa and caftan, he found himself caught up in the idea of a Jewish football team and no effort was too great for him if it was connected to the team; he worried about training, care of the football pitch, its fences (”Kadima” was the only team in the town with its own playing–field) and on more than one occasion laundered its own team shirts.

Conspicuous among the players were: Herschel Steinitz (Z”L) and Hershel Solewicz (Z”L). Spared for a long life were: the Tchaikovsky brothers, Shamke Schweitzer, Yitzhak Pulaski and Benjamin Feigenboim.

A very special and unique group assembled in the hut of Sister Zinger. It was a group of sort of “salon” youths who were not disgusted – heaven forbid – by “Salon–dancing”. (Whoever was caught in the “sinful” act was immediately expelled from the party without mercy). Among those who came to the hut were two Polish girls and it was a new phenomenon in town to see these two walking together with Jews on Saturdays in the Market Square.


The Kadima Sports Club

Mendl Alszewski

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The idea of creating a Jewish sports club was born among several young people when the shtetl [town] was transferred to the Austrians by the Russians in 1916.

The founders of Kadima were: Berish Salewicz, Yehezkiel Salewicz, Mendl Kajzer, Mendl and Mordekhai Leib Olszewski, Fintsha Czajkowski, Leibl Mlinarski and so on.

The first time the young men learned and practiced at the targowiska [markets], at the spot that was the cattle market, they played football [soccer] in their regular clothes. Later, after Poland's liberation, when the club grew and began to arrange matches with other teams, they made blue and white uniforms and moved to the sports field of the Polish club, Unia, near the military barracks. There were times when Kadima defeated the best sports clubs from Zaglembie and Kielce.

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Left Poalei-Zion

In 1919 a military man of high rank came to Miechow, Mirkin and Sosnowiec and looked for contact with the Jewish young people from the working classes.

Later we learned that he was a literary researcher with the pseudonym “Maks Erik” and simultaneously he was active in the Left Poalei-Zion [Workers of Zion – Marxist-Zionists] party. Yekutiel Grajcer and I were the first ones to meet him. He carried on an animated conversation with us about communal work among the young in the shtetl. He urged us not to be passive, but to take an active part in fashioning the political resolve of the Jewish working young and this was only possible within the framework of the Poalei-Zion Party. We informed him that there were two dramatic circles in the city, one for the young intelligentsia, who were grouped at the Hashomer [the guard] Library, and the other from the working class.

After the meeting he began regular activities with a cycle of lectures about general socialism and Jewish socialism. He was negative about the Bund. Because of clandestine themes, the lectures took place each time in another apartment. The following comrades provided their apartments for this purpose: Yekutiel Grajcer, Noakh Gruszke, Eidl Kowal and Moshe-Chaim Olszewski. Only young men took part in the group and no young women.

In later years all of the young men left the shtetl for the great world and other active workers arose from the upcoming generation of young people.

 

Dramatic Circle

In about 1916 several young men created a dramatic circle and in a short time they attracted the following participants: the Lawcze family, the Grajcer family, both Skawran sisters, Yeshaya Tarnowski, Mate Krzesiwo, Shmuel Blum and Yerakhmiel Ickowicz.

We staged the following plays: Dovid's Fidele [David's Fiddle] by [Yosef] Lateyner, Moshe Heyt – Moshe Richter, Di Neveyle [The Carcass] – Peretz Hirshbein's, Di Ganevim [The Thieves] – from Bimka and from Ben-HaDor – a historic operetta.

The Ben-HaDor play was directed by Mendl Olszewski and the musical compositions were created by Alter Yosef Danciger. The creator of the scenery was Shmuel Blum and the costumes were put together from household clothing.

The performances were held at Yisroel Dovid Szpigl's flour warehouse. The actors themselves hammered together the scenery from boards. The seats for the public were also made of boards placed on sacks of wheat. We rehearsed at Yekutiel Grajcer's.

We traveled to the surrounding shtetlekh [towns], such as Slomniki, Kziaz [Wielki] and Wodzislaw.

[Page 108]

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Founding members of “The Young Zionists”
Standing: Meir Fogel; Ze'ev Dror; Ya'acov Poslushny; Yehezkiel Dror
Sitting: Yehuda Zelmanowicz; Yona Blatt; Getsil Levit

 

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Training groups of “The Young Zionists”

 

[Page 109]

The Rise, Development and Destruction
of the Cooperative Movement in Miechow

by M. Sbitcki

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

In 1912, before the First World War, “the Second Cooperative Credit Bank” (Drugiego Towarzystwa Wzajemnego Kredytu) was founded in Miechow by the local merchants and respected middle class of the city, Nusen Borensztajn, Moshe Sukienik, Lemel Kacengold, Mendl Kornfeld, Yitzhak Posluczni, Yosef Brukner, Ahron Sercaz, Faywl Cenzinski, Ahron Leib Adler and bookkeeper, Maurici Zilberszlag. The premises of the bank were with Nusan Borensztajn at the market on the first [meaning the second in Europe] floor in the front. The activities of the bank consisted of giving loans to small merchants and artisans, as well as taking in deposits and savings from the Jewish community, as well as dowries of poor brides, with interest. The bank developed very rapidly and benefited from the trust of the entire Jewish population. It carried on widespread activity in Miechow as well as in the entire area.

When the war broke out in 1914, all of the assets of the bank were threatened. Only a few books, stamps and the iron cashbox remained of all the assets. A few years after the war, when economic conditions began to stabilize and trade relations became normal, it was necessary for the Jewish community to reestablish a cooperative bank that would be able to help and support the retailers and artisans in daily life.

In 1922, a Cooperative Bank in Miechow (Bank Spółdzielczy [Cooperative Bank]) again was created by the merchants, retailers and artisans, with the help of I.K.O. [Jewish Colonial Organization].

The founders of the bank were Nusan Borensztajn, Moshe Sukienik, Moshe Koplowicz, Enzil Koplowicz, Yehosha Koplowicz, Yitzhak Posluszni, Betsalel Wajcman, Lemel Kacengold, Chaim Walberg, Yerimyahu Blum, Ahron Berger, Hershl Edelist, Ruwin Shmuel Klajner, Yosef Lancberg and others. The bank was involved in all things that remained from the first finance society, as well as the same location and began to accept members in the bank. Each member bought a share for 25 zlotes to be able to have voting rights and to receive a loan. In a short time, the bank reached several hundred members; the majority consisted of artisans. A majority of artisan members actually were elected to the managing committee and council at the voting at the general meeting.

Nusan Borensztajn, Shlomo Fajgenbaum, Moshe Koplowicz, Ahron Berger, Betsalel Wajcman, Ruwin Shmuel Klajner, Chaim Walberg and Yosef Lancman were elected as council members; Yerimyahu Blum, Hershl Edelist and Maks Manela were elected as managing committee members. Y. Blum was the director of the bank. Its representative

[Page 110]

was H. Edelist; treasurer Moshe Sukienik; chief bookkeeper Maks Manela, chief personnel Moshe Finczewski, Moshe Szajnwald and Mendl Szenker. In time the chief bookkeeper, Maks Manela, left his post and his place was taken by Moshe Finczewski, who remained until the outbreak of the Second World War. Through the years of the bank's existence, the following people worked and functioned at the bank: Ruzia Adler, Pola Wdowinski, Zisl Gladna, Sura Mlinarski, Chaim Ejzenberg, Berish Salwicz, Yisroel Salwicz, Shlomo Kacengold, Ahron Blum, Chaim Prajs, Shmuel Berger, Meir Lisze, Lemel Ejznfeld. The number of members from every strata of the population grew and reached up to 300 people, with a share capital of several thousand zlotes.

The bank carried on all banking operations, such as giving long- and short-term loans, promissory note collections, bills of lading and savings as well as various accrediting and uncertain promissory notes of freight and train supplies in various branches.

The bank grew larger from day to day.

The bank benefited from long-term credit of as much as 30,000 zlotes from I.K.O. (Warsaw) and also a credit from the Central Cooperative Bank in Warsaw. Therefore, an auditor from the Jewish Auditors Union of the Jewish Cooperatives in Poland would come from time to time from Warsaw, Rimarska 9.

The auditors from Warsaw, Dr. Chaim Szaszkes, Michelson and others often would visit. In 1926 there was a split between the merchants and the artisans at the annual meeting of the members of the bank. The majority elected the artisans to the council and the managing committee: Comrade Ahron Berger as chairman of the council; Comrade Hershl Edelist as chairman of the managing committee and artisans as other [managing committee members]. After this, a second bank of merchants was created in Miechow, Bank Kupiecki [Merchants' Bank]. The leaders were Moshe Koplewicz, Chaim Fajerajzen, Chaim Lewit, Avraham Fridrich, Avraham Sercaz, Yosef Blat, Shmuel Ulmer and so on.

The personnel of the bank consisted of Berish Salewicz, Eliezer Lewit, Pola Fajerajzen, Meir Yehiel Milinarski and Avraham Rozenkranc. The bank operations were only among the merchants and retailers. The two banks existed until the outbreak of the Second World War on the 1st of September 1939. When the German Nazis occupied Poland, all of the resources were completely looted by the Germans, who stole all of the Jewish possessions and then created a ghetto. In 1942 they deported the entire Jewish population and no trace remained of everything that the Jews had created with sweat and blood in Poland.

 

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