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[Page 152]

The Zionist–labor Party Hitahdut

by Itzhak Goldenstren and Moshe Taza

Translation by Naomi Gal

In the first year of the foundation of the Zionist–Labor Party “Hitahdut” – Hapoel–Hatzair and Zeirai–Zion, it had a foundation in Rovno, too. That was in 1921, when a handful of members, ten to fifteen members, amid them Arye Avatihi, from the Israeli Hapoel–Hatzair, who back then arrived from the twelfth Zionist Congress, took it upon themselves to organize in their city a party's branch and went out to the streets with its slogans. The local Zeirai–Zion did not help the Hitahdut Party, since they absorbed Zeirai–Zion's theory. But some pioneers responded to the call of the founders of Hitahdut's branch, they were school graduates, some members of Zeirai–Zion and others, refugees who stayed in Rovno. The initiators worked tirelessly, and soon obtained important status in the public eye, as being an influential element among the Zionist movements in the city. From organizing the branch they went on to education and propaganda in the movement's spirit, dedicated themselves to cultural and Chalutz activities, assisted with national funds, were part of the city's institutions, and more.

Hitahdut based itself in Rovno step by step, and after a few months the branch had about one hundred and twenty members, amid them most of the teachers, the fund's partisans, some of Zeirai–Zion – who joined Hitahdut and some youth from different classes (shop workers, laborers and others). The fast growth of Hitahdut in Rovno was not surprising: on one hand the tendency to Zeirai–Zion as a left–wing movement, and on the other side, the General Zionists defining themselves as right–wing on some questions that were crucial for Zionism back then. Also, the tasks of building Israel required many pioneers' forces – and they are what placed “Hitahdut” in the center of Zionist circles, especially of the young generation, which was attracted to their ideas. Indeed, “Hitahdut” movement attracted many who did not find their place in Zeirai–Zion.

 


The council and the activists of “Hitahdut” with Avraham Levinson – 1934

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The first Hitahdut Council in Rovno had the following members: Aaron Shechtman (Shamir), Shmuel Gorin, Arye Avatichi. Eliezer Shienbloom (Avidov), Itzhak Goldenstern and Nehemiah Lotsky, and its office was in Perchook House (in the Popular Bank Hall), on Wielka–Minska Street. Its ties with the center in Warsaw were strong, and even before getting instructions from the center it began organizing Hitahdut branches in the region's villages. The center, of course, welcomed these activities of the Rovno branch and saw it as a successful tool for the movement. Hitahdut was very active in distributing the shares of Bank Hapoalim when it was first founded, in culture and for Chalutz and the national funds, and its representatives were in all the Zionist institutions in the city.

The branch had a special initiative to found a youth association named after A. D. Gordon – “Gordonia”, that was one of the first in Poland (after a few years the “Gordonia” Associations became a movement), as well as the branch's support in the local public institutions, as the bearer of the working Eretz–Israel flag.

In light of the success Hitahdut had in the first years of the branches' existence in Rovno and its surrounding, a regional conference of all Volhynia was held in Rovno on March 8, 1925. Messengers visited the branches,

 


Hitahdut's activists with Avraham Levinson

 

newsletters were sent to activists and there were many preparations for the conference. At that time a delegation from the Working Eretz–Israel arrived in Poland with Yahushua Manoah from Degania who represented NJF which was invited to the conference. Representatives of the center were: Avraham Levinson, Moshe Gordon, Yosef Levi and Moshe Taza. Forty–four delegates from thirty–six branches, big and small, participated in the conference. The lectures, the news from Eretz–Israel and the discussions were top notch. The words of Eretz–Israel delegation gave new hope to the listeners and reminded them of their commitment to Aliya, fund raising and strengthening the party. The questions that were discussed in the conference were: organization, culture, Aliya, Chalutz, youth, funds and the public work in various locations. A special importance was given to clarifying the roles of the Zionist Union and the Jewish Agency.

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The conference was very successful and left an impression for many days; it also strengthened Hitahdut ranks in Volhynia's region. At the concluding session, active members were reenlisted and the branches were encouraged to increase their fundraising efforts. Good results were achieved also regarding Aliya and culture according to the conferences' resolutions and directions.

The visit of Yosef Sprinzak from Eretz–Israel in Rovno, as part of his journey to Volhynia as a member of the Jewish Agency and the delegate of the League for the Working Eretz–Israel, further enhanced the prestige of Hitahdut and increased its influence in the city. When elections were held for local and state institutions, many, from different classes, gave their vote to Hitahdut. In the election to the Zionist Congress, too, Hitahdut gained votes and thus, Hitahdut became the biggest party in the city and was quite influential.

The surroundings, too, listened to Rovno's voice in Hitahdut movement. Thus, in the union conference in Danzig in 1931, when a war was waged with principals about uniting with Poale–Zion, Rovno's delegates supported Lodz Center, that was against the unification. Some of the funds' delegates, who often visited Rovno and were Hitahdut members, assisted the work of Rovno's branch. The Regional Council in Rovno was very active and remembered are the visits of the movement's partisans: Yeshayaho Fishman, Moshe Taza, Feigenbaum and others who during the thirties visited cities and villages, strengthening the contacts with the center.

Rovno's branch organized a youth circle that joined “Vitkinia”, and was one of its strongest branches.


Hashomer–Hatzair

by Avraham Rise

Translation by Naomi Gal

Hashomer–Hatzair was organized while training groups of Young Jewish Scouts on principles of scout education and merging the groups in order to raise its Zionist consciousness and elevate the morals of the Jewish youth. Educating for sport, Zionism, life in common and for changing the diaspora way of living were the basics of the movement from its beginning in Europe's Diaspora and it grew and sent deep roots in Poland, Lithuania, and other European countries, until it became a prominent youth movement that educated generations to fulfillment, gave important backing to the national movement in different areas and played an important role in the World Zionist Movement.

In Rovno, the Volhynia city that was annexed to Poland after World War I, Hashomer–Hatzair appeared immediately after the Polish occupation in 1920. In the beginning, it was a youth association of school–children, that was dedicated to scouts and sport and was immersed in Zionist spirit. Fathers favored their sons' way, regarding them as continuing their Zionist way.

From few to many. From a few dozen youngsters, the association in Rovno prospered, there were new members every day, since there were no rivals at first, until it was seen

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Hashomer–Hatzair – the elderly battalion – 1912

 

as the National Youth Organization in the city. Tarbut youngsters, mainly, filled the ranks of Hashomer–Hatzair. Rovno's atmosphere was immersed in Zionism, the teachers had their blessed influence on the students, and on this fertile ground flourished the movement that attracted the youth who found content and interest in the activities of Hashomer's Lodge. Hence, hundreds of “Shomrim” from different classes connected to Zionism.

The first visit of Meisels, the messenger–guide from Hashomer–Hatzair Center in Warsaw, was a big event in the life of the lodge in Rovno. He gave the local branch directions and plans, and an ongoing contact with the central leadership. Following him were some guides who arrived every now and then: Fival Hamburg, Yosef Alster, Gershon Rosenberg, Yehuda Gothelf and others, who conveyed the movements' news and ideas, explained pioneers' tendencies,

 


The members of Hashomer–Hatzair Council – 1931

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goals, training and activities. The words of the messengers penetrated our hearts, and we absorbed the theory and dreamt about Eretz–Israel.

One day the representatives of Eretz–Israel Office arrived in Rovno; among them was Dov Malkin, who came to certify pioneers for Aliya. Among the happy ones were several members of our lodge, and we considered this an important step for our local branch, it strengthened our hope that we would all make Aliya one day. Meanwhile the number of our members increased every year and we reached a thousand. The lodge split into several places, and we took upon ourselves active work in all the Zionist and local endeavors: the JNF, Keren–Hayesod, Poale Eretz–Israel Fund, Tarbut, ORT, Tez and more. In some of these institutions Hashomer–Hazair was actually in the first place. Eventually Rovno's Zionists recognized our branch's impact and made us the Zionists' youngsters.

Since the unification, the life of our lodge was more animated. New groups were organized and regiments of Hashomer–Hazair were established according to the structure and plan of the national movement. It seemed as if Rovno's lodge matured and we were further appreciated. In the parties held at the lodge, especially Shabbat parties, the members received scout education with Eretz–Israel songs and conversations about the life and work in Israel. If there were some who encountered at home objection to their participation and activity in the movement, that sapped all their time and thoughts – now the objection weakened or stopped completely. The atmosphere around us was beneficial, they said: at long last the children are preparing to make Aliya, and who in Rovno did not agree with this idea back then? The connection with Eretz–Israel became stronger, the economy in the city was deteriorating, Zionism conquered the hearts and our movement was becoming stronger every day.

A special chapter was set up by the summer–colonies of the lodge. The first summer–colony, in Novostav Forest (near Kliban) was opened by the lodge in the summer of 1926 for level A and B. The parents of the “Shomrim” that were about to leave for the colony trusted the

 


Hashomer–Hatzair, level C – 1922

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The firsts Hashomer–Hatzair lodges with a training Kibbutz, in Babin 1923
From right up (standing):
Dora Gilfix, Itzhak Gilberg, David Isenberg, Lisa Faigel, Boozia Flosker, (unknown), Reuven Greenbald, David Tchinik, Newssia Zilberfarb, Hannah Litvak, Rachel Bliach, Shalom Kolker, Lesstick, Israel Lerner, Ze'ev Brezinsky, Shlomo Yankoviak and Gladstien
Second row: Lea Selzer, Aba Fishbein, Itzhak Perl, Moshe Tandlir, Monia Aptik, Meir Wiener, David Gemar, Netta Seachook, Meir Zilberberg, (unknown), Avraham Beker, (unknown)
Third row: Haya Erlich, Rachel Zonder, Avraham Rise, Moshe Bialer, Zevi Firestein, Israel Halperin, Haya Yesod, Aaron Boshel, Ester Isenberg, Yosef Shohat and Lea Wallis
Fourth row: Siyome Tandros, Shachtova Lea, Yehezkel Karol and Yaakov Boshel

 

the colony's managers. The beginning was successful and so another colony was scheduled for 1927 at the same location, at Rovno's Zussia Braker's Forest for all the Hashomer–Hatzair lodges in Volhynia. When Nathan Bistritzky visited Rovno as JNF messenger, he addressed the colony where the lodge presented a performance for Eretz–Israel programs and all the revenues went to JNF.

But light brought some shade, too…When the lodge became bigger and stronger, it began encountering contempt and disturbance from the local Yiddish–Bunds, and what's worse, the envy of the authorities, who did not recognize Hashomer–Hatzair as a legal association and did not grant permits for its activities. That is why the lodge moved from one place to another. Finally, it ran its activities on a site it bought on Helara Street. In this site the lodge welcomed the poet Shaul Tchernichovsky when he visited Rovno. The younger participants, who were not really supervised, were able to function somehow, but the older ones in the lodge were not able to continue their activities since the authorities did not grant the lodge a permit. Dr. Issachar Rise, the principal of the Hebrew Gymnasium and the activists Leib Spielberg and Zossia Breken tried to rectify Hashomer–Hatzair's regulations, by requesting that the district director allow a local association only, but the request was refused. The pretext was that they refused a permit to a similar sportive association belonging to an Ukrainian movement. The activities in the lodge continued, but cautiously. They had to organize the colonies under the banner of “Tez” “Tarbut” or the “Association for Child Protection”. In the summer of 1928 Poland's President passed through Rovno and the lodge alumni submitted to him a request to enable them to develop their activities. After

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Hashomer–Hatzair the elder generation – 1924
First row, standing (from right) Siyoma Todros, Zirel Waldman, Moshe Bialer, Yosef Jorevsky, Mania Aptic, Itzhak Gilbord
Second row, sitting (from right): Avraham Rise, Lea Selzer, Lea Shachtova, Yehezkel Carol, Lev, Shisgal, Shlomo Yankoviak, David Dagani, Arye Harshak, Buzia Flosker, Lea Figel
Third row, sitting (from right): Shalom Kolker, Zvi Feuerstein, Ester Isenberg, Haya Yesod, Dora Gilfix, David Isenberg, David Gemar

 


The leadership of Hashomer–Hatzair with Faibel Austinsky from Bialystok – 1927
Standing (from right): Binyamin Zazbouch, Avraham Rise, Arye Corech, Simcha Oierbouch
Sitting (from right): Yosef Shohat, Yaakov Boshel, Faibel Austrinsky

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a month Zalman Greenfeld, the local rabbi, received a response to the request: although without a special permit for the lodge, leaders may continue developing its special activities. After a while another request was submitted to the district director requesting approval for a sports' club named “Shomria”. It was done according to the Warsaw's Center advice, and by intention the leaders of the club were people who had the authorities' trust (chairman – Dr. Chemerinsky, Council member – Fishgoyt, Secretary – Haya Dramneska, coach – Boshel, treasurer – Yonah Weiner). The regulations were according to Hasmonean and after lobbying, the lodge was granted the certification of “Shomria” regulations; since then it continued under this banner its usual activities. (Amid “Shomria” activists were: Moshe Gesser, Yosef Feinstein, Meir Gilerman and the writer of these words, who was the chairman's deputy). That was in 1930, after the police began persecuting the youth movements in the city, and restricted their activities. The permit granted to “Hashomer–Hatzair” saved the day and opened new horizons for actions in all areas. Since then the members were able to fulfill every Zionist role and mission in the city: distribute shekels, raise funds, collect donations and help the Zionist party in the elections to the state and city's institutions, despite the authorities' objections to this national party.

The leadership of Hashomer–Hatzair of Volhynia Region was in Rovno and most of its members were alumni of Rovno's Lodge. They were the ones responsible for educating kindergarten teachers, for sport activities in all of the regional Lodges, for the participation of the “Shomrim” in all the Zionists endeavors. This regional leadership established training–sites for Hashomer–Hatzair in Stolin, Thorin, Drombova, Malinsk, Kostopol, Rafalovska and Rovno itself, where many Shomrim received their training while waiting for Aliya. When Itzhak Greenboym and Dr. Rothfeld visited some of these training–spots they were impressed and extolled Hashomer–Hatzair endeavors in Volhynia. All the Zionist movements supported these training–centers and assisted with organizing, supplying work, loans and more.

Volhynia's region had then had sixty–eight lodges that were directed by the regional leadership under the guidance of the main leadership in Warsaw. During the thirties, the leadership organized managers'–colonies in Broniki, Caliban and Novostav for all the lodges' representatives. With their own resources and with the help of the Center's leadership, experienced educators and instructors were sent to the colonies to educate generations of implementers; most of these made Aliya and are now part of settlements, Kibbutzim and occupy important positions. The revolutionary tendencies that were seen in Hashomer–Hatzair Movement were not prominent in Rovno's Lodge and not in the region. In this region Hashomer–Hatzair continued to be an independent Zionist entity alongside the other Zionists bodies, although there were some Shomrim who left because they became closer to revolutionary movements. Another group of Shomrim stood apart when it joined Hashomer Haleumi (The National Shomer), but all these resignations of individuals and groups hardly affected the Lodge, which went on functioning according to its beliefs, always loyal to its Zionist goal and educating a big camp of youth to fulfill their dreams and make Aliya under its flag, serving as a commendable example to other youth–movements.


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Training with Hashomer–Hatzair in Rovno

by Moshe Noyman

Translation by Naomi Gal

In January 1933 I was sent from Zabierzow by the central leadership of Hashomer–Hatzair to train in “Volhynia B” in Rovno. The day I arrived the training–company moved with all its belongings from Kosharna Street to 77 Halira Street, and so I found myself from the very beginning in the new apartment, which was an old house with three rooms and a kitchen with no electricity, as if made especially for housing pioneers who are not too choosy… The company had 90 members, who worked in all the different jobs they could find, mainly chopping wood for heating. We used to go out to work at dawn, some to a place prepared in advance, others to search for work. We did not scorn any hard or “un–clean” labor. Sometimes our friends stood at street corners, armed with work tools, waiting to be called to wood chopping or any other job. There were plenty of Ukrainians and Polish “Goyim”, who were laborers, as well, and they saw us as rivals, but lately, they came to terms and stopped bad–mouthing us. They found out that we are on the way to Eretz–Israel and soon we will be gone… Their derogatory exclamations: “Jews to Palestine” became redundant, since this is what we wanted. Sometimes we got work downloading train–cars, night guards, hard–labor at the gristmills and other services. The women–members worked in housecleaning and the like, all this so that we could earn a living and advance our training for Aliya. I happened to be employed since the second month after my arrival organizing the work for the construction of Tarbut Gymnasium, that was being built.

In the evening the hardships of waiting for Aliya evaporated. We sat together in our humble abode and passed the time by talking, singing and dancing, while dreaming about Aliya, the future life in Israel, the Kibbutz, establishing a working society etc. The freezing cold outside was forgotten and our bones warmed with the fire of the Zionist vision. We felt as if we were already fulfilling the dream and the yearnings became stronger. The outside youth (not the training members) were drawn to us, many used to enter our home and join the circle and the singing. Some of them got so intoxicated with our Hashomer home, that with time they became like members or joined the Chalutz and were sent to training. Thus, our training in Rovno turned into a propaganda tool for the whole movement and attracted the youth to the camp of Working Eretz–Israel.

Rovno's Zionists from all movements appreciated our training, the Zionists–Kelalim and the businessmen among them took care of our friends, provided them with jobs, protected them and recommended us, perceiving us as fulfilling Zionists. Among them were the activists Rapaport, Gilerman, Ben–Zion Isenberg (the Mayor's deputy), Dr. Segal, L. Klika and others.

Due to our working conditions we sent a group of ten members to nearby Jeziorany village, to work in the gristmills; some began teaching there. The group's income was used to support the keep of Rovno's Company, but soon afterwards the Chalutz Council demanded that we pull out our members, claiming that the place was taken before us by a revisionist training company, and according to the agreement no two groups from different movements could operate in such a small settlement.

That summer we were overwhelmed by the news about Arlosoroff's assassination. We had heated arguments about this event with the revisionist youth, things got into accusations and mutual beatings…

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The Chalutz movement in Rovno in those days was quite strong and the longing for Aliya increased every day. The reasons were many: mental, political, and economical as well, but most of all – the Zionist consciousness that captivated the youth's hearts while things were developing in Israel and abroad.

Our company received visiting messengers, guides and important guests, some from Eretz–Israel. As one of those who welcomed the guests, I will never forget the impressive visit of Berl Katznelson and Bracha Habas when they passed through Rovno on their way from the Eighteenth Congress back to Israel. I did not know who were these people who asked many different questions, but I was deeply impressed by their Hebrew and the way they asked the questions. I responded, slightly shy and envied the guests who were already Israelis and whose Hebrew was alive and flowing. They were surprised that there is a separate training for revisionists in Rovno, but it might be that they only pretended when they asked the question. I explained with my poor vocabulary what I thought and told them about Hashomer–Hatzair, Chalutz, the training, the youth movements in the city that captivated the studious and the working youngsters – who were all headed to Eretz–Israel. After a friend hinted about who these guests were, I fell silent and let another friend accompany them.


Gordonia

by Itzhak Goldenstern

Translation by Naomi Gal

When the sad news about Aaron–David Gordon's death arrived, some of the branches of the Zionist Labor Party Hitahdut held mourning meetings around Poland, where they spoke about the deceased and made suggestions as to how to memorize his name and ideas – one of them was to found a youth association that would carry his name. That was near the end of 1921. The leaders of Hitahdut gave their full attention to implement this idea. After a time, some associations were established in Warsaw, Rovno, Stolin, Lvov, Lodz and others places.

Gordonia associations originated in the beginning of 1922 with Hitahdut guidance. The first members were: Itzhak Goldenstren, David Zeid, Arye Harshak, Goldfeld, Moshe Socolovsky, Itzhak Perle, Yaakov Tratakivsky and Gorin. In the associations' meetings, they studied Gordon's writings and were educated in his spirit. They were told about the social and labor life in Eretz–Israel by Arye Garbooz (Avatihi) who arrived from Israel at that time, and they listened to lectures by Hitahdut's members.

During its second year the association had about 60 members, some from Hashomer–Hatzair ranks and the rest students and other youngsters who were drawn to the association. Hitahdut members saw in Gordonia their own youth, and indeed, most of those youngsters later joined Hitahdut Party and were prominent in this movement; however, the association as a whole was not very lucky.

Some of the association's activists were enlisted and others made Aliya, and since no one could replace them – the association became smaller and smaller. They also were impacted by the growth of Hashomer–Hatzair that captivated most of the Hebrew Gymnasium students

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Some of the activists of Gordonia Association and its founders – 1921

 

and attracted the youth from a very early age, which closed the door on Gordonia's expansion in the city. The association's activities were concentrated mainly on Hebrew Culture and educating its members, and it assisted the national funds in Rovno, since it placed all its members at the disposal of the funds and its activities.

Gordonia's Association in Rovno was in the beginning, as mentioned, under Hitahdut's flag, but later, when new winds begun to blow and the independence impulse moved this youth association to other tracks, until it became a movement apart, the association moved with its sister associations in Galicia and Poland to the general Gordonia Movement. And so, the Rovno association became the seed of the global Gordonia Movement, which became a mass movement. However, even after breaking free from under Hitahdut's wings, its ideological affinity to this party in Poland and to Hapoel–Hatzair in Eretz–Israel did not weaken.


Gordonia amid Youth Movements

by Ben–Zion Forman

Translation by Naomi Gal

“Gordonia's aim is educating the man and fulfilling the Working Zionism”

The beginning of Gordonia as a movement can be found in the framework of Hitahdut, the Zionist Labor Party in Galicia (after Gordonia associations were founded in a few places in Poland). The activists of this party formed the center of the movement in Galicia, and from there, it slowly spread through Congressional Poland and grew until it reached

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its separation from Hitahdut Party and became an independent movement with a clear pioneers' orientation.

Gordonia's branch in Rovno was organized by local Hitahdut's activists, and from their ranks came the lecturers and guides for cultural–theoretical activities in the city, as well as in the nearby villages – in Volhynia–Polesie. The activity of Hashomer–Hatzair among Rovno's youth, which until then was mainly scouting, attracted the youth and captivated most of them, which made Gordonia's work harder. The students, especially those from Tarbut Gymnasium found their place in Hashomer–Hatzair's ranks. But there were a few youngsters who joined Gordonia consciously and side–by–side with Hitahdut's partisans formed circles for cultural and educational activities in A.D. Gordon's spirit. In a Gordonia meeting held in Rovno in 1925, participated the delegates of the associations around Rovno, while there were very few Rovno representatives. In this meeting they discussed the movements' goals, framework etc. Finally it was decided to form a regional frame for the existing associations and branches in Volhynia and Polesie region. This is when the Regional Council was established in Rovno. Still, some impulses for creating a separate movement were beginning, an idea that grew in Galicia and was seen as likely in Rovno, too.

In those days the complex net of the Hebrew schools in Rovno and the area included most of the Zionist students; this youth who absorbed the Hebrew Culture Spirit and had a national consciousness, became a lively force from which derived an active nucleus for other youth movements, as well. Under the wings of those movements the youth searched and found a framework for its longings and a way to train in the time's spirit toward new and better lives.

In the economic, social and political conditions of the Jewish population in the region, especially in Rovno, the existing movements not only grew but also split into different movements and ideologies, from right to left: “Betar”, “Hapoel–HaMizrachi”, “Chalutz–Dati”, “Chalutz–Hakelali–Zionist”, “Hashomer–Haleumi”, “Hashomer–Hatzair”, “Gordonia”, “Hachalutz “Hechaluz–Tzair”, “Dror” (“Frieheit”), Poale–Zion Youth left and extreme left, like: the Bund Youth and the communists, who educated their members to hate Zionism and everything connected to it.

Hitahdut's members who worked inside Gordonia hoped to see in its members the continuation of their party. And indeed, many amid Tarbut cadets absorbed Gordon's theory, especially since in Tarbut Gymnasium the spirit was cultivated by Menahem Gilerter, whose guidance and lectures brought the students closer to this theory. The ranks of the association grew; “lodges” were established in the city, and alongside the cultural activity an organizing action was conducted, and its influence was growing stronger.

At the same time there was an inner unrest in Gordonia's ranks, especially in Galicia, whose echoes reached Rovno. Rovno delegates were sent to the national conference of Gordonia that was held in 1925 in Lvov. In the conference they searched for ways to consolidate the pioneering character of the movement. Still, it was necessary to split the center into two: for Poland (including Volhynia) and for Galicia, and then they established a second center in Lodz (Pinhas Lobianiker, one of the movements' leaders who was in Lvov, moved to Lodz center).

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Gordonia's leadership with Pinhas Lubianiker (Lavon)

 

The new ideological development in the movement strengthened the pioneer element of Gordonia, similar to other youth movements that belonged to the Working Eretz–Israel, and this brought on the separation of Gordonia from Hitahdut; Gordonia emphasized the obligatory training and the pioneer basics needed for making Aliya and for life in a group. Hence, Gordonia became a popular pioneers' youth movement in Poland, and the Rovno association had this same character. The goal of Rovno's association was to draw the hearts of youth from working–classes as it absorbed the students, and indeed it was done step–by–step.

In 1929 a conference of Gordonia's branches was held in Rovno. The delegates of the following branches participated: Rovno, Brzezno, Austraah, Drajna, Korets, Ludvipol, Brastsheko,

 


Gordonia's Branches' Conference – 1929

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and others. Representing the Center was Fishel Worber from Lvov. There were lectures about the movement's ideology and its goals, about Aliya and organization matters. The Rovno branch sent its active members: Zipporah Goycrach, Itzhak Bley, Moshe Bat, Rosenkranz and others. The conference lasted an entire day. It elected a Regional Council for Volhynia and made a series of important decisions. The results of the conference in general were quite good, and it accelerated the founding of a number of other branches in the provincial towns (in Volhynia and Polesie), which were branches of the movements and branches of the Regional Council. The awakening was felt in Rovno's association, as well, where the pioneer tension grew. With its initiative, Gordonia's children–associations were founded all around Volhynia: “Nizanim”, “Tsofim”, “Mitorerim” and “Magshimim”, the members were 7–9–years–old coming from elementary–school, ORT apprentices, Talmud–Torah students and others.

Since Gordonia defined itself as a fulfilling pioneer's movement, it created groups for pioneers' training, and in mid–1929 the Rovno's branch sent its first members for training in Czluchow. Later it established the first movement's training–location in Menivitz, where members from Volhynia and other parts of Poland were trained.

 


Gordonia's Council – 1937

 

The 1929 blood–riots in Eretz–Israel rang the alarm for Aliya, and during that time a few of Gordonia's members left Rovno and other places and made Aliya to Israel. This Aliya had a strong enthusiastic element, and members from all levels were streaming to training–locations. Some of our friends were trained in Holland and from there made Aliya to Israel.

Since then Rovno's branch led the movement in Volhynia and Polesie. In addition to the association's responsibilities, the center, according to the conference decisions, made in Rovno in 1930 with the participation of Pinhas Lubianker (Lavon), the center's member, decided to direct the movement to send its active members on visits to existing branches and to places where there was a basis for new branches, or training–locations. Hence, branches were founded in Rovno's surrounding villages and training–facilities in Mizoch, Dubno and others. In addition, Rovno branch activists initiated summer–camps for the scouts in Novostav in the summer of 1931

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and 1932. The Rovno branch also issued (January 1931) a booklet memorializing A. D. Gordon; it was distributed not only in Volhynia and Polesie regions, but also in many faraway branches where it made a strong impression.

As mentioned, Rovno's branch included active members representing the Regional Council elected during the conference. The council instructed Gordonia's branches, sent newsletters (that most of the time were printed clandestinely, since the eye of the Polish Secret Police was on all youth movements), convened meetings with branches' members, made contacts with the center and with other bodies and delivered the movements' messages to all the regions' remote corners. The council sent its able members to Chalutz Council, to the Working Eretz–Israel League, to the national funds and to every place that needed the presence of a Zionist–pioneer fulfilling youth movement.

As for the different stages of training in Rovno, it was decided that the candidates move gradually through the levels of education and preparation in each step, until they reached the adult level; then these graduates left for training until making Aliya. And so, the framework grew bigger and bigger. Graduates made Aliya and their places were taken by younger generations – new forces, who worked with even more devotion and loyalty for the movement's goals. The youth in Rovno's movement saw in Aliya the only possible way and dreamt about a new and better life in Israel, and Gordonia's youth like other youth movements had this dream and wanted to fulfill it.

Meanwhile the activities continued in the city's lodge, busy planning for training and then Aliya, and this activity continued until the Red Army entered. Gordonia's representatives took part in every public performance, together with the other youth movements and participated in Zionist endeavors. The Zionist youth's help became more important since Betar retired from the National Fund and even fought them.

The turning point came at the end of 1939 – the Red Army occupied Rovno and the Soviet Regime was declared in the city. The youth movement as well as the other Zionist circles felt the danger approaching, and the youth began emigrating secretly to inner–Russia and to the Asiatic Russian tundra on its way to Israel. The road was difficult and full of trials and tribulations; hence, only a few were able to reach their destination. The fire of war that engulfed them and the hostility on both sides destroyed the pioneers' efforts. The national youth who stayed in Rovno, together with Gordonia's members, fell like trees when the miscreant murdered the city's Jews. They had no avenue of escape and were unable to fulfill their dreams.

Among our many precious lost individuals, we should remember one of the most devoted members of Gordonia's Movement – the late Israel Froymin, who stubbornly, loyally and with self–sacrifice promoted the movement's ideology, active and awake to every endeavor, ready for any sacrifice. Froymin was one of the best members and its spokesman. He dedicated to Gordonia all his resources and thoughts in the areas of culture, leadership and fulfillment. He left for Asia's tundra, suffered on the roads, became ill and there, in a foreign land, found his death.

 

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