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{Page 141}

Organizations and Factions

“Hashachar” in Rzeszow [*]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

by Dr. N. M. Gelber

In 1907, apparently due to the great unrest that came upon the Jewish masses of Galicia due to the election battle, the best of the youth of the Beis Midrashes, headed by Moshe Weisenfeld [*1], felt that it was time to leave their solitude and abandonment. A small number of them decided to found a nationalist Zionist organization of Talmudic youth. Without fanfare, a number of youths gathered on the intermediate days of Passover 5667 (1907) in Dembitz and founded the “Hashachar” organization of Talmudic youth. This organization was dedicated only to Zionist work among the Orthodox and Hassidic youth, and only made use of its own power. During the founding convention, 30 representatives participated from the following cities: Krakow, Przemysl, Zolokow, Belz [*2], Rzeszow, Jaslow, Pilzno, Dembitz, Tarnobrzeg, Tarnow, Lancut, and Czanow.

Moshe Weisenfeld of Rzeszow opened up the convention with a Hebrew speech in which he stressed the importance of bringing the orthodox youth into Zionism, and instilling in them a nationalist-Hebrew spirit. After the elections for president [*3] and the reading of letters of support, including a heartwarming letter from David Wolfson, Weisenfeld gave an overview of the preparatory work that had taken place. Prior to the convention, Hashachar groups had been formed in Galicia. Hashachar had set up contact with the orthodox youth of Hungary and Bukovina, as well as the Hashachar groups that existed in Warsaw, Lodz, Novogrod, and Walinski. Immediately after setting themselves up, they began to publish a monthly called Hashachar for the youth who were studying in Yeshivas, edited by Moshe Weisenfeld. Berish Meller [*4], the delegate from Jaslow, gave an overview of the contents of the Hashachar monthly. Upon his advice, it was decided to transfer the management of the monthly periodical to Krakow and to set up a committee for the publication of Hashachar.

Based on the lecture of Bornstein of Dembitz, the regulations of Hashachar were decided upon. It was to be based on the Basle program, and one could only be a member if he had paid his Zionist shekel. It standards were formalized in a similar manner to the other Zionist organizations. According to its constitution, the Hashachar organization was set up not only for Galicia, but also for all the provinces of Austria.

A central committee consisting of five members was set up to head the organization, and the organization headquarters was to be in Rzeszow.

The second convention took place on the Intermediate days of Passover 5668 (1908) [*5]. It dealt with the question of whether to disband the organization or maintain it. Moshe Weisenfeld, in his lecture about the program of the Hashachar organization, pointed out that despite the inactivity of the central committee and the cessation of the monthly periodical, the organization had developed and new members had joined over and above the founding members. As well, new chapters were founded in other cities. This fact points out clearly that there is a definite need for the existence of the organization. According to his opinion, the main purpose of Hashachar was to present a special goal to the youths, who were banded together into a unified group by virtue of the education of the Kloiz and the Beis Midrash, which imprinted its unique imprint upon them. This goal was to raise the level of Jewry and Jewish culture. Therefore it was necessary to strengthen these youths, and to instill European culture, appropriate for the Jewish spirit, into them. Education in the Jewish spirit, with a European flavor, deepening the spirit of the Jewish people and fundamental Judaism – this was the task at hand. All of this justified the right of existence of Hashachar. For “only these youths were the best Jews, the most fitting nationalists, and only they were the most fitting of all the segments of the Israelite nation to bear the flag of renewal and of the Zionist movement. Only they were the healthiest and most refreshing element of the Jewish people.” The movement needed only to be fixed up, and its problems solved. According to him, these problems were the lack of a consolidated central committee and the lack of regional committees, which would oversee the work in their regions.

{Photocopy of title page on page 141 – a title page of Hashachar monthly from 1908.}

Notes at bottom of page 141:

* From the book: The History of the Zionist Movement in Galicia 1875-1918, volume 1, pages 394, 396. Back

*1 Born in Rzeszow in 1883, one of the founders of Hashachar. He participated in the setting up the Hebrew weekly Hametzapeh in Krakow, the Lvov Tagblat, and the published the weekly Zionist publication Neie Folkszeitung. After the First World War, he headed the branch of the Keren Kayemet Leyisrael (Jewish National Fund) in Western Galicia. He was murdered by the Nazis in 1940. Back

*2 Yosef Falk came from Belz. He published poems and essays. He lives in Tel Aviv now. Back

*3 Moshe Weisenfeld was the chairman, Avraham Landau of Krakow and A. Kahane of Tarnow were the vice chairmen, Rakower of Krakow, and Moshe Alfant of Zolokow were secretaries. Back

*4 He is the well-known writer in Israel, Dov Kimchi. Back

*5 The convention took place in Drohobych in 5668. The following people were elected: M. Weisenfeld; Yosef Goldstein of Jaslow, Yechezkel Brandshteter of Tarnow as vice-chairmen; Naftali Zigel (Berezhany) as treasurer. Back

{Page 142}


by Dvora Abramowitz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo, page 142 – Teacher Fink of “Shulamit”. First row from right: Freda Mangel, Rozka Silber, Hela Tantz, and Chaya Trom. Second row from right: Balka Laufbahn, Ada Korkes. Third row from right: Both, Sara Kurtzman, Chava Karp, Teacher Fink, Giza Schipper, Alster, and Esther Amkraut.}

As one of the oldest members of the former Shulamit organization who still remains alive, I wish to write down my memories of those days. The date of the founding of the organization and the number of members have escaped my memory. I only remember that already prior to the First World War, Mrs. Henrika Braun (nee Gleicher) founded a group for advancement and recruited several members to the group. These included the Tenenbaum and Abramowitz sisters, and others. The group held lectures three times a week dealing with Socialism and acculturation.

At the time of the founding of the progressive group and the beginnings of its activities, there already was a Shulamit organization in town. Its members included the Alter sisters, Fink, the Wang sisters, Feivel, Zimmerman, and others. The members of Shulamit, which had nationalistic-Zionist leanings, could not make peace with the existence of an assimilationist group, and several of its members, such as R. Tenenbaum and Fink who was a teacher of religion in the school, advised us to join Shulamit. The reason given was that we, the daughters of orthodox homes, had a duty to join the movement and to work on behalf of the land of Israel. The best of the members of that group willingly joined the Shulamit organization.

During the First World War (1914-1918), all activities of the movement ceased. In 1918, R. Tenenbaum, D. Abramowitz, Rochka Hochman, and Sianka Chaim renewed the activity. A library was established and about fifty books were obtained. The members of the group raised money and organized celebrations. The income was given over to a fund for the training of pioneers.

With the passage of time, younger people joined Shulamit. These included Miriam Eisenberg, R. Halberstam, Lea Teitelbaum, Rachel Silber, Miller, F. Driller, Tzila Kanarek, and others. This group was represented on the local Zionist committee by Dvora Abramowitz, Sianka Chaim, Alter, Dova Storch, Hoffstetter, and others. Due to the illness of my mother who passed away in 1928, I was forced to stop my activities on the local committee of Shulamit. I began to think about making aliya to the Land of Israel. Mrs. Anna Kahane, who was very active, took my place on the committee.

{Page 143}

A. General Zionists in Rzeszow

by Dr. Moshe Yaari-Wald

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{photo page 143 – From right, Yaakov Alter, Dr. Tzvi Kanarek, Dr. Tzvi Koretz, Sitting from right: Pesia Ingber, Rachel Alter, Marila Eisenberg.}

A group of Chovevei Zion was set up in Rzeszow in 1891. This group included people from all strata and classes of the city, including maskilim and orthodox people, merchants and officials, young and old, secular intelligentsia and Beis Midrash alumnae.

I remember from my youth the heads of the organization: Moshe David Geshwind, Zigmund Kamerling, and others. As a child, I went with my father to the meetings, and also on occasion to “Lezehalle” (the reading room). There were about one hundred members of Chovevei Zion and other supporters gathered together each evening for reading, discussion, and lectures.

Starting in 1904, there was a division in the general Zionist movement, and individual factions arose. The officials and workers in Rzeszow organized into a Poalei Zion group, and the orthodox organized into Mizrachi. Until this time, the Jewish workers had belonged to the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S.). Most left that party at this time and joined Poalei Zion. The students organized into a group called Jordania (Young Zion). The academics formed the Chashmonia group, and later the Maccabia group. The women formed the Shulamit group and later Miriam. The orthodox youth founded Hashachar and later Young Mizrachi. The various scouting and educational youth movements that were formed included Hashomer Hatzair, Akiva, Bnei Zion, various sport organizations, Hechalutz, and later on the Tzohar and Beitar groups.

Reb Abba Apfelbaum and my father Reb Chaim Wald, and others did not join Mizrachi. Their reason was that as long as the Jewish people are still in exile, there should be no divisions based on ideology as there are with normal nations who live on their own land.

Aside from those mentioned, the other general Zionist leaders who I remember include Dr. Felix Hopfen, Levi Chaim, Naftali Glucksman, Eliahu Wang, and after the First World War – Dr. Aharon Wang, Dr. Henrik Kanarek, Dr. Henrik Hochman, Dr. Adolf Schnee, and Yaakov Alter.

During the pre-congress era of Chibat Zion, collections were made for the settling of the Land, and the Zionists of Rzeszow donated significant sums to purchase land in the upper Galilee in order to found the Machanaim moshava, along with Dr. Avraham Zaltz who was the head of the Zionists of Tarnow. A difficult struggle took place between the Zionists and the assimilationists who held common cause with the Hassidim of the Belz and Dzikow dynasties [3] until finally, in 1918, the united Zionists succeeded in breaking the barrier of the communal council, and elected one of their own, Dr. Adolf, Schnee, as head of the communal council.

The Zionist students and academics distributed shares for the Bank of the Settlement (“Colonial Bank”), as well as shares of the “The Group for Improvement of the Settlement”. A good Zionist was one who bought one or two shares, and subscribed to the weekly Haolam, which was the publication of the World Zionist Organization. A few also subscribed to Hatzfira, Hashiloach, and other periodicals. The number of subscribers to Hamitzpeh, which was published in Krakow by Menachem Lazer, was quite significant. The most popular publication among the Jews of Rzeszow was the Lemberger Tagblat, published by Moshe Kleinman and later by Moshe Frustig. People who knew Polish also read the Przyszlosk (future) weekly and the Moria monthly that was published by Dr. Wilhelm Berkelhammer. After the First World War, the newspaper Nowy Dziennik took an important place among the people who knew Polish. Dr. Wilhelm Berkelhammer and Dr. Yitzchak Swartzbard published it.

It is important to point out three annual communal events in which all of the Zionist factions participated. These were: a) The Chanuka party with the participation of well-known speakers such as Dr. Adolf Shtand, Dr. Yehoshua Tahon, Dr. Leon Reich, Dr. Gershon Zifer, and Dr. Shimon Feldblum, who honored the crowd with a festive lecture. The lectures were presented mainly in German or Polish, in particular when the Zionists succeeded in obtaining the Sokol hall of the Patriotic Polish Organizaiton in the Christian neighborhood, which was the largest hall in the city. b) The Summer Festivity in the Civic Gardens – the large garden was decorated with lanterns and colored streamers. The army band enhanced the festivity and the Zionist women sold ribbons. c) The Memorial of the 20th of Tammuz that took place in the synagogues and halls. There, lectures and seminars were presented about the personality of Dr. Herzl, and his historical significance was stressed.

Translator's Footnote

3. Obviously, they held common cause (literally, joined forces), only in their opposition to Zionism. Back

{Page 144}

by Shlomo Alweis

Note page 144 – an article from Hamitzpe, volume 4, Krakow, 7 Cheshvan 5680 (October 31, 1919).

{Photo page 144 – The local committee of the “Histadrut Hatzionit” in 1932. First row sitting from right: Zigelbaum, P. Hirshhorn, A. Blasbalg. Second row sitting from right: Dr. A. Wang, K. Koretz, Dr. P. Hoffman, A. Kahane, Dr. Shildkraut. Third row standing from right: A. Rinda, Moshe Reiber, Licht, Simcha Seiden, Dr. H. Kanarek, Yaakov Alter, A. Rosner-Keller, A. Ducker, --, Wachspress. Fourth row standing from right: Dornfest, Bucholtz, M. Wilkenfeld, Professor Weiss, Moshe Reich, Herschtal.}

After five years of inactivity and stagnation among the Zionists of our city, signs of life began to appear. The Hashachar group, founded by the youths of the Beis Midrash, came to life after a long slumber. A Hebrew school with 400 students was founded. The heart was filled with spiritual pleasure when one heard how these children, after a short period of a few months, were able to speak in our language as a living language. A reading room and well-stocked library were also founded. It was open to everyone every day. Ivriya was founded as well, whose purpose was to place the Hebrew language in the mouths of all members of the nation. The number of members of Ivriya was about 150. Every day, they studied various courses in history, legends, and literature. Every Sabbath there were speakers on important topics; however, there is more work that needs to be done. Let us hope that even the elders will not stand afar.

{Page 145}

B. The First of Poalei Zion

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo bottom of 145 – The executive committee of Poalei Zion in Rzeszow (1922). Sitting: third from right Chairman Bernard Fish, fourth, Esther Weisenfeld, vice Chairman.}

One of the first members of Poalei Zion in our city was Mordechai Buchbinder, an assistant in a clothing store. He was an enthusiastic speaker, who was very active among the officials, primarily the bookkeepers and agents, in order to get them to join the movement whose purpose was to establish in the national home of the Land of Israel a popular infrastructure based upon social justice, nationalization of the land, productivity, and equal rights. With the arrival of Meshulam Davidson to our city from Berdichev in the Ukraine, from where he fled during the pogrom of 1905, the Poalei Zion movement of Rzeszow received a great boost. Many young maskilim who were not from the orthodox camp joined the movement. The most prominent of them were Naftali Glucksman, Ben-Zion Fett, Levi Chaim, and Bernard Fish. However, this movement did not succeed in attracting the factory workers, of whom a large number were members of the Polish Socialist Party (P. P. S.), which was headed by a Jew Dr. Marek Pelzling, the son of Sandler. The Bund organization did not have a foothold in our city.

Prior to the First World War, Poalei Zion was not an actual proletariat party, and did not have an important place in the public life of the Jews of Rzeszow. A few of the maskilim of Rzeszow (such as Naftali Glucksman, Levi Chaim, and others) left the party and joined the General Zionists. Meshulam Davidson made aliya to the Land of Israel during the Second Aliya. There were a few people from among the high school students and the youth of the intelligentsia followed the ideology of the Poalei Zion. From among the intelligentsia, Hersch Fett, the brother of Ben Zion Fett worked for the movement and remained faithful to it until the end. The main pillar of Poalei Zion in Rzeszow was one of its founders, Bernard Fish, who stood at the helm of the movement for tens of years until the storm of the holocaust. With the assistance of Mrs. Esther Weisenfeld and Mrs. Anna Kahane, the movement developed quickly in the area of social assistance, by giving education to the children of the poor, etc. They succeeded in establishing orphanages, and public soup kitchens for the hungry. They were active in the establishment of the Jewish hospital. There was almost no area of social assistance in which Bernard Fish, Anna Kahane, and Esther Weisenfeld did not give the best of their energies.

The members of Poalei Zion raised up high the banner of Yiddish culture, and introduced Yiddish among the Polish speaking Jewish youth. However the youth distanced themselves from the Yiddish language (mameloshen), and in the streets of Rzeszow, one could hear conversations in Polish, particularly from the girls. Thanks to the activities of Poalei Zion, an amateur theater group was established which performed plays in Yiddish. Evenings of readings of the works of Mendele, Shalom Aleichem and Peretz were also conducted. In Rzeszow, there were tailors and ordinary workers who read the works of Maurice Rosenfeld, Lisin, and Winchevsky, as well as the Socialist monthly Zukumft, and the Arbeiter Zeitung daily, which was edited by Berel Lucker.

In September 1939, when the Germans conquered the city, this organization, as well as all other Jewish organizations and movements, ceased to exist. The worry about a morsel of bread and finding refuge from the murderers filled up the hearts of the Rzeszow natives – there was no place for ideology, streams, and movements during the storm of the Holocaust.

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