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Organizations and Parties

 

General Zionism in Stryj

Translated by Susan Rosin

The national awakening in our town started about 20 years before the official Zionism and the establishment of the Zionist organization by Dr. Herzl.

There were various manifestations of this awakening – the aspirations for education and the blending of the Jewish culture with the general culture, the aspirations to relax the religion from constrains of the ultra–orthodox traditions and the yearning for healthy and normal social life. Shortly afterwards, like a lighthouse seen from the stormy seas of aspirations and ideologies, a clear target was seen – Zion. The echoes of the Hibbat Zion (Lovers of Zion) movement, the establishment of the first settlements in Eretz Israel had a major impact on the Galician, pre–Herzl Zionism and affected the first Zionists in Stryj.

This Zionism was general in nature although it had various forms depending on the circles and circumstances – religious, intellectual – cultural, national or social.

In 1887 a group of Maskilim (belonging to the Haskala movement – the Jewish enlightenment) headed by A. Sheinfeld and Abraham Goldberg established the “Shoharei Tushia” (seekers of resourcefulness) Society. A group from the society later established another society called “Yahadut” (“Judaism”). These names are evidence of the purpose of these societies – spreading the national idea, supporting the new settlements in Eretz Israel and fostering the Hebrew language and literature.

The practical work of Hovevei Zion in Eretz Israel and in the diaspora inspired the establishment of another society in Stryj in 1890 – “Admat Israel” (the land of Israel) whose purpose was to aid the pioneers working the land in Eretz Israel.

In a convention of Zionist societies in Galicia in 1893 all three of these societies were represented. In 1894, “Shoharei Tushia” was represented by a delegate to the national convention in Krakow.

With the establishment of the Zionist organization by Dr. Herzl and in spite of the ban by the Polish authorities, the high–school youth joined secret Zionist societies.

One hundred and nine Zionist societies from Galicia were represented in the second Zionist congress in 1898 among them “Ahdut” from Stryj. The outstanding Zionist activists in Stryj during that period were Dr. Gershon Zipper, Dr. Julius Wurzel and Dr. Michael Ringel (who was elected in Stryj as a delegate for the second Zionist congress).

In Stryj, like in other towns, the Toynbee Hall was established to disseminate the Zionist ideology, where classes in Jewish culture and history were held as well as lectures on Jewish subjects. The first Zionist library was established as well. The first academic society “Veritas” (“Emuna” – Faith) was established in 1903. Its ideology promoted respect for the national pride and help for Zion. In 1912, at the Zionist academic societies' convention in Drohobycz, “Veritas” was represented by Abraham Insler and in 1913 it was represented by Markus (Mordechai) Kaufmann and Abraham Insler. The Polish authorities in Galicia fixed the voting districts to prevent Jewish majority, and therefore in 1907 in the first ever general elections for the Austrian Reichsrat (Imperial Council) the Zionist candidates were not elected. The Zionist candidate was Dr. Abraham Salz, the Polish appointed candidate was the assimilator Dr. Goldhammer, and the Polish workers party candidate was the engineer Moraczewski. In order to win the Polish and Ukrainian votes, the slogan was “Cross or Mogen David”.

Stryj Jews were able to take part in the political activities and they showed their support for the Zionist candidate and ideology. 90% of the Jews voted for Dr. Salz. The first elections were not decisive. The socialist Moraczewski was elected as the candidate of “the cross” although he got 2300 votes and Dr. Salz got 2500 votes (Goldhammer got 900 votes). Moraczewski's victory was due to a fraud committed by Diamant who was also a socialist candidate

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who was elected by Jews in Lvov. The assimilators candidate was Klarsfeld (who converted and changed his name to Szaczarski) and Isaac Housemann. The Zionist campainers in the 1907 elections were: Dr. Adolf Stand, Dr. Gershon Zipper, Dr. Leon Reich, Dr. Shmuel Rappaport, Dr. Fishel Korngreen, Dr. Ephraim Washitz, Dr. Spindel–Manor, Leibel Taubes, Dr. Malz, Dr. Gedaliahu Shmelkes. Four Jewish representatives – Dr. Benno Straucher, Dr. Adolf Stand, Professor Arthur Mahler and Dr. Heinrich Gabel were elected to the Austrian Reichsrat in 1907 as the first ever national Jewish party in the world.

The Jewish population in the area grew tremendously (45%) between 1907 and 1911 and with that grew the number of nationally aware eligible voters. The Zionist candidate in the 1911 elections was Dr. Leon Reich. Even those who objected to the Zionist candidate in the previous elections (1907) due to their economic interests did not intervene this time. The head of the community was at the time Dr. Enzel Goldstein (from the Halpern family) and in spite of the fact that the kehila committee was headed by the assimilators, they did not dare to object to the Zionist candidate. The enthusiasm was great and more than 1000 Jews participated in the rallies.

Some of the young activists from Stryj were campaigning in town and in the smaller towns and villages in the area. One of the most outstanding campaigners was Mrs. Heizelkorn (Schiff). The assimilators lost much of their appeal and even the Polish circles were forced to admit that their ideology of Jewish assimilation in the Polish culture lost its luster.

Moraczewski was the Polish socialist party candidate again in 1911. The historian Professor Ashkenazi who was the National Polish party candidate and supported by the authorities received only 22% of the votes. The elections were inconclusive again with Dr. Reich and Moraczewski receiving the same number of votes. In the run–off election, Moraczewski was elected due to higher voting by Ukrainians. The Ukrainian and Polish socialists did not hesitate to use Anti–Semitic slogans to defame even the Polish candidate Dr. Ashkenazi.

In spite of the defeat of the Zionist candidates Dr. Salz (in 1907) and Dr. Reich (in 1911) and although the kehila was headed by assimilators, the Zionist movement in Stryj strengthened and encompassed wider circles. The practical manifestations were the establishment of the Hebrew school “Safa Brura”, donations to the Jewish National Fund, learning of the Hebrew language and national–cultural activities in the “Zion” society. In the meanwhile a new generation, those educated on the Herzl doctrine came of age. Among them were high school students that were organized under the “Youth of Zion” and university students that were organized in “Emuna”. These became the future leaders of the Zionist movement in our town. Among them were: Dr. Zeev Presser, Abraham Insler and Mordechai Kaufman. The general Zionism was the main body to put into effect the decisions of the Zionist congresses, such as the decision to gain control of the communities (kehila). The election of Dr. Byk as the vice chairman of the kehila in Stryj was considered a major Zionist achievement. Although two new Zionist factions appeared during the initial years of the twentieth century (“Hamizrahi” and “Poalei Zion”), the general Zionism still remained the main national public outlet.

The First World War paralyzed the activities of the Zionist movement as many were drafted into the Austrian army and the general state of emergency affected the public Jewish life in town.

The Balfour declaration of 1917 and the nomination of Dr. Weizmann as the president of the World Zionist organization created a wave of excitement and renewed activism in town.

In 1918, the leadership of the kehila was taken over by the Zionists and was considered a big victory and celebrated in town. The San–Remo resolution of April 30th, 1920 was considered an important historical event and was celebrated in large public gatherings, prayers in the synagogues and a special celebratory session of the Zionist committee.

In the 1920s two additional Zionist parties were strengthened – the “Hitahdut׏ and “Hamizrahi” competing with the

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General Zionist. However, it has to be noted that all three Zionist parties in Stryj were able to unite and find common ground under one common organization – the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft” (working group) where issues of general national interests were discussed and decided.

At that time the, General Zionist camp had experienced and intellectual public figures among its leadership such as Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Dr. Zeev Presser, Dr. Mordechai Kaufman and Dr. Abraham Insler – people who were leading the kehila, representing the Jewish population in the municipality and who were active in the Jewish National Fund and the Founding Fund.

The activities of the Stryj Zionists were guided by the Eastern Galicia executive committee in Lvov.

Among the Zionist activists in our town: Dr. Benjamin Mihlbauer, Benjamin Klein, Dr. Norbert Schiff, Meir Frankel, Dov (Berl) Stern, Moshe Aaron Wohlmut, Moshe Leib Wohlmut, Eli Hauptmann, Jacob Hauptmann, Mordechai Wagner, Dr. Eisenshar, Rachel Katz, Moshe Meller, H. Wieseltier , Leo Teller, Leon Reich, Moshe Spiegel, Milhard, and Shalom Reich.


“Arbeitsgemeinschaft”
(Working Group – Cooperation Committee)

Translated by Susan Rosin

An umbrella organization combining all Zionist parties (General Zionists, “Mizrahi” and “Hitahdut”) in town was established in Stryj in 1923 under the name “Cooperation Committee of all the Zionist parties”.

The goal of the organization was to coordinate all the social and political events in town as well as organizing and supervising the Zionist organizations in town such as the Jewish National Fund, Funding Fund, assistance in immigration to Eretz Israel, the Hebrew school “Safa Brura”, HeHalutz, Toynbee Hall and others. The Stryj Zionists were probably the only ones that carried out the Zionist congress resolution to establish local cooperation organizations, and that was in spite of the opposition of the various parties.

The meeting place of all the parties was the “Jewish Casino” which was housed in the spacious apartment of the Toynbee Hall on 3rd of May street. All activities were based on the approved regulations of the Toynbee Hall. The casino had one large hall and several small rooms and was furnished tastefully by a special committee. The casino was opened to all the Zionists as well as apolitical persons and it had a meeting hall, a reading room with all the newspapers that were published in Poland and an office for all the Zionist funds.

Based on the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft” regulations, any decisions in city or Zionist matters (such as funds, Zionist organizations) had to be made by a majority at the plenum. In political matters, the various parties normally reached an agreement.

The plenum consisted of eight to ten members from each party, one representative from each fund and one from each Zionist institution (such as “Safa Brura”, HeHalutz, etc.). The plenum selected twelve members for the executive committee and from those the chairperson, two deputies and a secretary. The leadership consisted of one member from each of the parties – general Zionists, “Hitahdut” and “Mizrahi”. The secretary was always from the “Hitahdut” party.

The organization had major impact on national matters in town and in the municipality mostly because all parties thrived to achieve agreements, and because of the stature of the people that headed it over the years. The chairmen of the organization were: Dr. Zeev Presser, Dr. Mordechai Kaufmann, Dr. Benjamin Mihlbauer, Leib Schwamer, David Zeidman, Abraham Apfelgreen, Dr. Sebastian Wandell and Dr. Azriel Eisenstein.

The general Zionist members were: Moshe Leib Wohlmut and Moshe Aaron Wohlmut; “Hamizrahi”; Leibush Pickholz; “Hitahdut”: Aron Meller, Haim Neuman, Ben–Zion Garfunkel, Avigdor Rotfeld and Jonah Friedler.


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The “Mizrahi” Organization

Translated by Susan Rosin

The “Mizrahi” organization was established in Stryj in 1902 after the awakening of Zionism and as a need by Jewish orthodox nationalists. The organization was established in Stryj before the First World War, but as a separate stream within the Zionist Movement, the Mizrahi made its appearance in Stryj only after the War.

The Stryj branch of the Mizrahi was relative small, but there were a number of active members whose dedicated work created a great impact by the religious–Zionist movement. Their representatives participated in all the kehila and municipal institutions, submitted their candidates' lists and cooperated with the other Zionist parties in the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft”. Their members were active in the various funds and in the national and public institutions.

Among the most active members were Abraham Apfelgreen that served as a chair–person of the Stryj branch between 1919 and 1925. Abraham Auerbach was elected as chair–person in 1925. Stryj representatives to the executive committee in Lvov were A. Apfelgreen, Leibisb Pickholz and Yecheskel Lehrer. Other notable members included: Shmuel Shenbach, Shmuel Ginsburg, Zelig Zwilling, Zeev Spiegel, Isaac A. Hubel, Moshe Kudish, Lippa Honig, Shmuel Paris, Shmuel Wiesengreen, Zeide Rotbaum, Haim David Korn and others.


Agudat Israel

Translated by Susan Rosin

After the establishment of Agudat Israel organization in Poland in 1913 a number of the extremely orthodox Jews established a branch in Stryj. In accordance with their organization, the Stryj branch held an anti–Zionist and anti–nationalist views. Active members were: Shammai Gertner, Mendel Horowitz, Israel and Shimon Weiss, H. M. Neubauer, Moshe Zechariah Goldberg, Isaac Hubel and Israel Zeidman. A “Young Agudat Israel” existed for a short period of time.

Agudat Israel was the stronghold of the orthodox Jews in town and had a role in keeping the spiritual and practical religious traditions. It has to be noted that many of the younger Agudat Israel members joined the Zionist organizations such as the Mizrahi and general Zionists and some even joined the HaShomer Hatzair.


Poalei Zion
(The Jewish workers movement)

by Shimon Rosenberg

Translated by Susan Rosin

After the destruction of Polish Jewry by the Nazis and the murder of three and a half million Jews, the Stryj community disappeared like many others. Before the war, fourteen thousand Jews lived in Stryj and they were 40% of the general population. Only few hundreds survived the war in bunkers and hiding places, unable to salvage the materials describing the colorful life of the Jewish community.

Therefore, we are forced to use our memories, fading with the passing years, to describe the life and the facts that were.

Stryj was not different from many of the other towns and villages in Eastern Europe. Thousands of Jews lived there for many years, weaving the web of their lives, adding another link to the many vibrant communities. Like millions of their brethren, the Jews in Stryj during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries were split among the various movements of Hasidim and Mitnagdim (opponents), Maskilim (belonging to the Haskala movement – the Jewish enlightenment) and assimilators, Orthodox and heretics; All of them later integrated into the various social–political and the national –revival movements. During the struggles between the various parties and movements, they created their ideologies, dreamed and hoped.

Each person could find and foster his and hers own special place in this vibrant environment. The Jewish workers movement had a major part in this community.

The history of the Jewish community in Stryj and the sixty years of the workers movement is not based on actual evidence as the actual materials were burnt and the witnesses were poisoned in the gas chambers and murdered. The materials covering the years 1914 – 1928 are based on the memories of the writer of these lines who was an active participant, and the rest is based on various sources. Some of the facts were confirmed by the survivors.

May the following notes serve as a memorial to those martyrs who perished in the Shoah.


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Before the Frist World War

Translated by Susan Rosin

The first signs of the “Poalei Zion” movement could be seen during 1900 – 1903, during the years of the first Zionist congresses. The original Zionist-Socialists who were influenced by the Russian Zionist-Socialists and who remained active for many years in the “Poalei Zion” organization were: Berl Friedman and his wife Bertha, Shmuel Horszowski and Levi Opper.

In September 1903, the “Poalei Zion” organization was registered and its constitution approved by the Austrian county commissioner. Based on its constitution, the organization was allowed to develop Zionist and cultural activities. Even between the two World Wars, the constitution was the basis for all the legal activities of “Poalei Zion”.

The members of “Poalei Zion” were workers in the trade, watchmaking etc. fields as well as popular intellectuals. This was in contrast to the members of the Z.P.S. (Żydowska Partia Socjalistyczna – Jewish Socialist Party) who were mostly intellectual assimilationists and laborers in areas such as shoemaking, carpentry, tailoring, etc.

In the first years of its existence, the “Poalei Zion” organization acted in accordance with other Zionist organizations, but later became an independent organization which concentrated on Yiddish cultural activities. Establishing the first Yiddish library, lectures and classes to disseminate Yiddish literature and extending political propaganda were among the activities of the organization. The lecturers were given by the Stryj activists as well as by invited speakers from the party central committee. Among the most notable leaders of the party that visited and lectured in Stryj were: Zrubavel, Chazanowitcz, Kaplanski, Loker and others. The outstanding authors who visited Stry were: Abraham Reisen, Morris Rosenfeld, Dr. Nathan Birnebaum and others.

In addition to the above mentioned members the other activists during the first years were: Hannah Leibowitz, Shmuel Shenbach, one of the Katz brothers, M. Polak, M. Petrach, Marshal (from Kałusz), Isaac Oper, Birnebaum and others.

The first Austrian “Poalei Zion” convention took place in 1904 in Krakow, and a delegation from Stryj participated and officially joined the party.

In 1905, meetings were called in town demanding voting rights to the Austrian parliament. During 1906-1907, “Poalei Zion” campaigned for the trade workers demanding that stores would close at 8 PM (at that time stores remained opened until 11 PM or midnight). This activity took place in the entire country and caused demonstrations in Stryj. Finally the stores owners were forced to close at 8 PM and a law was passed to that effect.

In the 1907 elections for the Austrian parliament “Poalei Zion” campaigned for the Zionist candidate Dr. Salz and against the P.S.S candidate Moraczewski and the assimilator candidate Dr. Ashkenazi. In 1908 a campaign was established in preparation for the Yiddish language convention in Czernowitz. For the 1910 Austrian census, the authorities demanded that Jews record German as their first language. “Poalei Zion” opposed this demand and campaigned to record Yiddish as the first language. These efforts spread to all the various parties and were successful. In the last few years before the First World War, Poalei Zion carried out an extensive Zionist propaganda among the poor and the working class. Most of the cultural and educational programs such as lectures on literature, art and social, political and Zionist subjects, took place mainly on Friday nights and during the holidays.


Poalei Zion Youth

Translated by Susan Rosin

The Poalei Zion youth organization was part of “Union of young laborers and trade workers – Poalei Zion” whose center was in Krakow. The function of the center was to organize and educate

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the working youth with the ideology of “Poalei Zion”. There were two additional societies in Stryj: “Herut” (freedom) academic society an affiliate of the union of academic societies in Vienna and a women's organization “Yehudit” affiliated with the central committee of” Poalei Zion”. The First World War brought to a halt the activities of all the parties. Many of the activists were drafted into the army and followed by the Russian invasion. Even after the Austrian army regained control of Stryj, the activities of the parties did not start again until the summer of 1917.


The Awakening Behind the Front

Translated by Susan Rosin

The public activism renewed in the summer of 1917 although the war was still being fought and the front was close to Stryj – along the Russian – Galician border. The first groups of “Hashomer Hatzair” became active in Stryj and some saw the need to renew the activities of the “Poalei Zion” in town.

The originators of the renewed activities were Bertha Friedman, David Seltzer, Shlomo Rosenberg, Feivel Miller, Sara Hauptmann, Shlomo Rossler and the writer of these notes. The first meeting took place in the society's room on Botorego street. The “Poalei Zion” books were moved to a bookcase and pictures of notable Jewish authors and socialist thinkers and philosophers were hung on the walls.

The renewed activities drew much interest in Stryj mostly because all cultural life was stopped during the war.

The new committee included the above mentioned members who were joined by Abraham Hauptmann, Hannah Rappaport, Hella Borer, Aron Meller and Wagner. Because of the war, the activities were limited to the cultural-artistic arena. Since “Poalei Zion” was the only cultural game in town, it attracted most of the Jewish population, both friend and foe. There were plays and lectures given by invited speakers and guests and sometimes even military people. Often times the speakers were unknown to the public, but still the lectures were interesting and important cultural activity was taking place. In time an orchestra was established with Joseph (Josel) Altbauer as the conductor as well as classes for the Hebrew language under the student Zalel Lest, and a class for Jewish literature under Shlomo Rossler. A dramatic group was set up, and amateur actors presented many Yiddish plays at the “ Dom Narodny” Hall. Among the playwrights presented were: Jacob Gordin (“Di shkhite” - The Slaughter — the title refers to ritual slaughter, “Khasye di yesoyme” - Khasia the orphan, “Der yidisher kenig lir” - The Jewish King Lear, “Der meturef” - The Worthless ), Leon Kobrin (“Der Dorfs-Yung “ - The Village Youth), Peretz Hirschbein (“Di neveyle” – Carcass), Fishel Bimko (“ Ganevim “ - Thieves) Mark Arnshteyn (“Der Vilner baal ha-bays'l” - The Little Vilna Householder) and others. The plays had to be performed several times due to their great popularity. The troupe sometimes performed in the smaller surrounding towns and villages. Among the amateur actors were: Mania Hauptmann, Sheindel Lebowitz, Mania Igra, Abraham Monderer, Bumik Seidenfrau, Dolek Apflegreen, and Max Horowitz. One of the most active producers was Shlomo Rossler who also doubled-up as the prompter.

When the original leaders of the movement, Berl Friedman and Levi Opper returned at the end of the war, the activities intensified and they were joined by new leaders Lea Bert, Dr. Akser and others. In 1919 there were 300 members in Stryj.

*

Eastern Galicia saw the establishment of the Western Ukraine Republic. New Jewish national rights were proclaimed as well as the right to self-determination, but because of the war these were never instituted. During that time, Poalei Zion helped win the Kehila from the assimilationists

 

str144a.jpg
A group of pioneers in training, Slabodke 1930

 

str144b.jpg
A group of pioneers in training from Lanns (Stryj) with the leadership of “Hitahdut”

 

str144c.jpg
A group of “Buselia” members

 

str144d.jpg
“Hahalutz Hatzair” group

 

str144e.jpg
Seated right to left: ?, N. Pumertz, A. Rotfeld

 

str144f.jpg
Standing right to left: Waldman, Rosmarin, Fruchter, Meltz, and S. Weis

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headed by Dr. Weisenberg, who refused to give-up the leadership and had to be forced-out.

“Poalei Zion members were among the organizers of the “Workers' council”, which did not last long. The council was joined by the Z.P.S (Żydowska Partia Socjalistyczna - the Jewish Socialist Party later “the Bund”), the P.P.S.D. (Polish Social Democratic Party of Galicia and Silesia) who refused to cooperate because they could not come to terms with the new Ukrainian government and the U.S. D (the Ukrainian Social Democrats) who were busy with the matters of the new state.

Shortly after its establishment, the Western Ukraine Republic was engaged in a war with Poland, causing even greater political and economic chaos. Among other national services, the education system collapsed, and only a few Ukrainian schools remained in operation, leaving the Polish and Jewish teachers unemployed. “Poalei Zion” seized this opportunity to establish a system of primary schools with Yiddish as the instruction language. Apartments and the party rooms were quickly converted to class rooms. Enthusiastic parents enrolled their children in the new schools and in a few days the eight classes filled completely, leaving many children on the outside. The school encountered many difficulties – lack of teachers, text books and budget. Sara and Abraham Hauptmann worked tirelessly to find teachers and books. The text books situation was very difficult as the teachers had to translate daily their lesson materials from German and Polish text books. The hope of getting financial support from municipal and state sources was not materialized. As the parents were not used to pay tuition and due to the difficult economic situation after the war, collecting money from the families was out of the question. The school closed after three months. The authorities, who were concerned by the success of the Jewish school, quickly re-opened the state primary school and closed the Jewish school.

During the Ukrainian short rule, Stryj's Jews showed political maturity and established the National Council (Jüdischer Nationalrat), replacing the old Kehila. All men and women aged 21 and over had voting rights. The elections were held at the end of 1919. “Poalei Zion” got 500 votes, thus giving them five representatives: Levi Opper, Berl Friedman, Shlomo Rossler, Professor Lasker, and Abraham Hauptmann. The members worked on the constitution of the council which never materialized due to the crumbling of the Ukrainian republic. A strong youth organization existed during the Ukrainian period which also had some students among its members. The organization established a cooperative store and tried unsuccessfully to establish a manufacturing cooperative.


The Polish Period

Translated by Susan Rosin

The new Polish authorities were not sympathetic to the Jews and promoted organized assaults, oppression of the workers, arbitrary administrative decrees, searches and detentions. The public activism that was flourishing during the Ukrainian rule ceased. “Poalei Zion” opened a soup kitchen on Botorego street to ease the suffering of the laborers and also to disguise the party activities thru this legal institution.


The Split

Translated by Susan Rosin

The split that occured in the “Poalei Zion” organization in 1920 did not originally affect the Stryj branch. But the debates and ideological disagreements paralyzed practically all the activities. During the fifth world convention in Vienna in August 1920, the organization split an event that was followed by conventions in all the countries to determine the future direction of the local branches. The Ukrainian-Polish conflict that was brought before the

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League of Nations was not yet resolved, “Poalei Zion” in eastern Galicia decided not to join the Polish party. The eastern Galicia convention took place in Lvov in 1921 and the Stryj chapter was represented by Abraham Hauptmann – the right wing, Levi Opper – the center wing and Shimon Rosenberg – the left wing. In the convention, it was decided on neutrality, but after three months, the Stryj branch split as well. Due to legal issues, the party constitution and all the property (the store, the library, the soup kitchen and the apartment) remained in the hands of the right wing. The veteran public figures had all the licenses and permits and those who left the party (the left wing) were most of the activists and the youth. Soon the right wing started to show decline, leading to the closure of the store and the soup kitchen (at the end of 1921) and stopping of the public activities. On the other hand, the left wing of the party was able to heal the wounds of the split and to organize as a strong workers' organization in town.

The Left-wing Poalei Zion was declared illegal and had to disguise itself at the Beit Ber-Borochov Children's Home. The first pre-school opened in a house on 31 Rynek street. Originally, the activities of the party took place in the pre-school to disguise themselves from the authorities. In 1923 the first trade union was allowed to organize and the party moved its operations to an apartment on 18 Lvovska street. That same year an evening school for workers was opened, and the first class in the “ Cisza” school network was established. The “Cisza” school closed after one and a half years (1923 – 1924). However, the night school existed until 1929 and the pre-school until 1930 which provided hot meals to the children with the support of the YMHA in the US. The teachers were: Hava Gartenberg (from Stryj), Esther Sheike (from Warsaw, passed away in Canada), Sonia Talpin (from Austria, perished in the Shoah), Judith Sapcze (from Kholo, killed during the war), Lea and Ruchtche Gartenberg (later in Brazil) and Henia Fruchter. New members made their mark, including Joseph Hess, Michael Opper (perished in the Shoah), Itta Becher (passed away in 1935), B. Streifer (left for the communist camp and later became a provocateur), Joseph Maurer (later an active Poalei Zion worker in Rio de Janeiro), Leib Nussenblatt (passed away in Vienna), Haim Shamir (in Israel) Shmuel Schwarzberg (later in Paris), David Seltzer (killed in the Lvov ghetto), and others.

“Poalei Zion” organization was persecuted by the Polish authorities. In order to minimize the income channels, no licenses were given for performances and other activities. The branch was visited frequently by the police who carried out searches and arrests, especially before the May 1st annual celebrations. However, the activities of “Poalei Zion” did not weaken, and in 1923-24 the party drew all the unions away from the influence of the Bund.


Elections

Translated by Susan Rosin

In 1922 the Poalei Zion presented their own list headed Nathan Buxbaum for the Polish Sejm elections and gained 699 votes. In the 1927 elections for the “sick-fund” for the first time there was an independent Jewish workers' list. In addition to the P.P.S., there was a list of “Poalei Zion” and two delegates were elected: Itta Becher and B. Streifer. Municipal elections were held that year following the Austrian Curia system. “Poalei Zion” participated in the fourth curia and their candidate Shimon Rosenberg got 900 votes. In 1928 “Poalei Zion” presented its own list in the Kehila elections and Michael Opper was elected as a representative of the Zionist bloc. “Poalei Zion” got hundreds of votes in the 1928 elections for the Polish Sejm.

*

During the thirties the police increased the pressure on the party which paralyzed all the public activities. In 1932, the police closed the party's offices and prohibited any public activity, charging them maliciously with communist activities.

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This illegal activity lasted until the beginning of the war. The big Jewish Polish library in memory of Ber Borochov, whose establishment and expansion lasted 30 years, was saved for the time being from a confiscation by the Polish authorities by a legal maneuver. By issuing a promissory note to Machik Horowitz, he became the owner of the library. When the Soviets invaded in 1939, the books were moved to the municipal public library which was destroyed later by the Nazis.


The Jewish Professional Movement

by S. Stryjer

Translated by Susan Rosin

The Jewish professional unions were established at the same time as the Jewish labor parties. The first ones to organize were the professional unions of the Z.P.S. (Żydowska Socjaldemokratyczna Partia Robotnicza). Although the purpose of these unions was to achieve better employment and social conditions, most of them were based on party lines similar to the “Bund” in Russia.

The carpenters organized first in the years 1903 – 1906 when the Z.P.S. strikes started and were able to achieve wages gains. The tailors organized soon after followed by the organizations of painters, shoemakers, and barbers. In all the unions, most of the members were Jewish and the Christians were a minority.

The conflicts between the employers and the laborers erupted normally just before a peak season. When the laborers were in demand, they were able to get better wages, mostly just for the season. Following the peak season, the wages went down again. This was mostly followed by the disintegration of the union.

Throughout the years, there were some achievements – such as – shorter work hours, better wages, insurance in case of illness, etc.

The activists of these unions emerged mostly from among the party activists, and most of them were under the influence of the Z.P.S. The commerce workers were under the influence of “Poalei Zion” and also followed party lines. Commerce workers who were members of the Z.P.S. had to accept the decisions made by “Poalei Zion”.

“Poalei Zion” tried unsuccessfully to exert their influence on the other unions. This situation continued until after the 1st World War. The laborers were strongly influenced by the anti–Zionist ideology of the Z.P.S.

In the 1920's the situation changed. “Poalei Zion” concentrated their efforts on the younger generation, planning to expand their influence through them to the unions.

In 1922 – 1923, many young (eighteen year olds) “Poalei Zion” members entered the work force. At first, the Z.P.S did not consider this threat from “Poalei Zion”. In the summer of 1923, during the general meeting of the carpenters union, candidates affiliated with “Poalei Zion” won a majority in the committee. Fist fights broke between members of “Poalei Zion” and members of the “Bund” because of the decision to move activities from the “Bund” apartment to the “Poalei Zion” apartment. The banner of the carpenters union went up on the balcony of the “Poalei Zion” house, marking the first victory of the professional movement.

Shortly afterwards, “Poalei Zion” won additional unions – the barbers, the tailors, metals and print workers and workers in chemical plants.

After several years, the unions became apolitical and the “Bund” members and communists joined–in. Most of the members were influenced by “Poalei Zion” and the anti–Zionist character disappeared completely. Some of the unions produced groups of pioneers (“halutzim”) who gained the full support of the various committees.

Later, the movement became socialistic in character. Two strikes, that lasted three weeks ended with the workers' victory. The tailors' strike ended in defeat.

In the 1930, the unions ceased to exist mainly due to the communists' activities and harassments by the police.


[Page 148]

The “Hitahdut”

by A. Rotfeld and Dr. N. Kudish

Translated by Susan Rosin

The Hebrew worker in Eretz Israel became an important national and social factor following the second Aliyah. The ideal of manual labor and the success to “conquest the Jewish labor” by the Halutzim (pioneers) had a major educational impact on the Jewish youth in the diaspora. An organized core of Jewish laborers was established in Eretz Israel based on the teachings and ideologies brought forward by A.D. Gordon and Martin Buber.

The “Hapoel Hatzair” and “Tze'irei Zion” of Eastern Europe united into a single party at a conference held in Prague in 1920. This in turn laid the foundations of the “Hitahdut” Zionist Labor Party, whose main center was in Galicia.

Following the establishment of the new movement, a group of young men, mostly Hebrew–speaking members of the “Ivriya” society left the Zionist organization in Stryj in 1921 to establish a branch of “Hitahdut” that in the years to come became one of the largest, strongest and most active of the Zionist labor movement in Galicia. They were: Jonah Friedler, Joshua Oberländer, Nathan Kudish, Aaron Meller, David Zeidman and Elimelech Frisch, who were joined later by David Fruchter, Avigdor Rotfeld and Ben–Zion and Aryeh (Leibish) Garfunkel. In 1922, following the third world convention of the movement in Berlin, new members joined the party: Aryeh (Leib) Schwamer, Haim Neuman, David Weiss, Meir Byk, Dr. Azriel Eisenstein, Shlomo Rosenberg and Abraham Hauptmann.

The party started an extensive publicity action specifically among the students and the working youth. New members joined from the ranks of the general Zionists and even from the non–affiliated.

The “Hitahdut” grew quickly and became one of the strongest Zionist organizations in town and an autonomous body in the Zionist organization. The party was a faithful extension of the “Hapoel Hatzair” and the “Histadrut” (the workers' organization) and had a major part as an educating body in the spirit of the working Eretz Israel.

The “Hitahdut” members took active part in all Zionist, economic, professional and cultural organizations, the pioneer training/preparation programs (hachshara), Hehalutz, in the kehila and the municipality and held important positions in many of these organizations.

The party expanded its social reach to include students and working youth, workers, artisans and clerks, and took steps towards increasing the productivity of small merchants, shopkeepers, untrained people, etc.

Societies, institutions and organizations were established within its framework of activities for the achievement of Zionist goals. The party had considerable influence on the life of the Jewish community and on local Jewish issues.

The “Hitahdut” started its activities in the rooms of the “Ivriya” society whose members were the core of the new movement. From there it moved to the Toynbee Hall and later to a “Kadima” room on Czernicki street. An apartment was purchased later on Kościuszko street at the home of Sobel. Eventually, the “Hitahdut” was housed together with the “Haoved” organization.

The “Hitahdut” branch in Stryj covered the neighboring towns and villages of Drohobycz, Borysław, Dolina, Schodnica, Bolechów, Żydaczów, Rozdół, and Żurawno. The district secretary was Avigdor Rotfeld and until the union with “Poalei Zion” the active leaders also included Leib Schwamer, David Zeidman, Dr. Azriel Eisenstein, Aaron Meller, Ben–Zion Radler, Avigdor Rotfeld, Elimelech Frisch, Joshua Oberländer, Ben–Zion Garfunkel, Mundek Fritzhand, Moshe Freilich, Leibish Garfunkel, David Weiss, David Tadanir, Petrach, Robinson, Mordechai Klar, David Fruchter, Isaac

[Page 149]

Gartner, Dr. Ada Klein–Reinhartz–Barlev, Dr. Moshe Reinhartz–Barlev, Joshua Steiner, Moshe Rotfeld, Judah Lustig, Nathan Weiss, Shalom Blau, Swartz, Frieda Byk, Belka Fogel, Lippa Kronberg and others. After the merge with “Poalei Zion”, Levi Oper and Shlomo Rossler joined the leadership. The party established many institutions, organizations and youth movements each of which had a significant impact on the public and Zionist life in our town and on preparing the youth for life in Eretz Israel.

The party cooperated with the general Zionists, Hamizrahi and in the Cooperation Committee (“Arbeitsgemeinschaft”) that was headed by Leib Schwamer. In the kehila, the party was represented by Leib Schwamer, Dr. Azriel Eisenstein, Haim Neuman, and Shlomo Rosenberg. Leib Schwamer and Dr. Azriel Eisenstein were members of the municipal council in 1933.

The pride and joy of the “Hitahdut” party were the youth movements that were established based on the principals and ideology of the labor movement in Eretz Israel.

The Aaron David Gordon Zionist Youth Organization (“Gordonia”) was established in 1923. After several years as part of “Hitahdut”, “Gordonia” became an independent educational pioneer youth movement with its own organization.

The Stryj branch was established in 1927 where members were mostly students of the local vocational school. Avigdor Rotfeld mentored the local leadership, among them Eliyahu Goldberg, Mordechai Shechter, and Moshe Haliczer.

Students from the higher grades of elementary school, high schools, vocational schools, and the working youth from workshops, stores, etc. joined the movement. The members were organized into three age groups and each of these was organized into sub–groups containing 10 – 15 boys and girls.

Various activities took place within the groups. Those included: Zionism history, history of the labor movement and settlements in Eretz Israel, scouting and the Hebrew language.

The “Gordonia” members participated in all the Zionist activities in town such as Jewish National Fund, the Funding Fund, the league for working Eretz Israel, etc. Much attention was devoted to educational and cultural activities. Performances for the public in town were held to celebrate special memorial days such as Dr. Herzl and A.D. Gordon's and holidays such as Hanukkah, Tu Bishvat, etc. all these under the leadership of Ben–Zion Garfunkel and Professor Maczik Horowitz. The performances took place at the “Bursa” or the P.P.S hall.

In 1929, some of the older youths began to attend the pioneer training/preparation programs (hachshara) in order to prepare themselves for Aliyah. Indeed many of these came to live in Israel in the kibbutzim, settlements, villages and towns in Israel.

Camps out of town were organized during summer vacations. These were held in Zakopane, Wygoda, Tatarów, Rozwadów and others.

The youth movement had about 80 members. In additions to those mentioned above the other active leaders were Mundek Fritzhand, Fredericka Fogel, Aaron Rotfeld and Yehuda Frankel.

The youth movement was first located in the “Ivriya” society hall, then at Lvovska street and finally at the home of Radler on Zamkowa street.

The “Hitahdut” and then “Hitahdut–Poalei Zion” assisted and supported the “Gordonia” in all their activities.

During the Danzig convention of 1931 it was decided to unite “Hitahdut” and “Poalei Zion”, but those who opposed the union in Stryj established “Hitahdut Right” and a youth movement called “Vitkinia”. The activists of the new movement were Ben–Zion Radler, H. Preis and Goldfisher.

As most of “Hitahdut” agreed to the union and the Danzig political platform,

[Page 150]

they remained in the “Hitahdut” framework and later established a Zionist–Socialist youth movement for those who were 18 years old and older “Busselia” in memory of Josef Bussel from Degania who drowned in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). “Busselia” had several pioneer training/preparation (hachshara) camps: Bielsko, Dolina, Bolechów, Żydaczów, Żurawno, Tarnopol and Stryj.

The “Busselia” activists and leaders in Stryj were Yehuda Lustig, Mordechai Schechter, Milek Marbach, Moshe Rotfeld (all in Israel). Others that immigrated to Israel were: Eliyahu Kuk, Shulamit Neuman, Shlomo Flick (in Kiryat Anavim), Yaffa Keller–Haliczer, Shprinza Schprung–Lustig.

“Busselia” also established a collective settlement in Ramat HaSharon. That group later split and part of its members joined Kiryat Anavim.

Another popular youth group was “Kadima” who later joined “Hitahdut”. Ben–Zion Garfunkel devoted much of his time to this group.

Due to the party's initiative, and especially David Zeidman, the workshop for Jewish boys was expanded, and new disciplines were added: engraving, blacksmithing, metal–working to become a full–fledged vocational school. In time, this institution became a vocational high–school – one of three of this type in all of Galicia. The study course was of three years, and the graduates received a high school diploma while obtaining vocational and theoretical education. The engineer Wolowski headed the school in the years leading to the war.

Dr. Schindler, a non–partisan lawyer headed the school committee for many years.

Students from all over east Galicia came to this school in order to prepare themselves for Aliyah and constructive life. A boarding house was added for those students whose parents were unable to support them financially. Among the institutions that supported the school was “Ezra” (help/assistance) whose main function was preparing the Halutzim.

Most of the vocational school students were organized in the youth movements of “Gordonia” and “Busselia” and many of them became leaders who contributed greatly to the growth of these movements in our town. Many of the graduates immigrated to Eretz Israel and proudly continued working in the trades they acquired at the school.

The active members of the school board were Haim Neuman and Abraham Levin.


The Unification of “Hitahdut” and “Poalei Zion”

by A. Rotfeld and Dr. N. Kudish

Translated by Susan Rosin

In 1921, the “Poalei Zion” party in Stryj split into right and left wings. In 1930, during the Danzig convention it was decided to unify “Poalei Zion” right wing with the “Hitahdut” party under the name “Ihud” (union). The veteran leaders of the “Poalei Zion” Levi Oper, Shlomo Rosenberg and Shlomo Rossler joined the “Ihud” and became part of the leadership of the new party. The “Ihud” was welcomed and joined by many people belonging to student and working youth circles, craftsmen, clerks, academic youth, etc. The leaders of “Ihud” were Dr. Azriel Eisenstein, Leib Schwamer, Avigdor Rotfeld, Aaron Meller, Haim Neuman, Ben–Zion Garfunkel, Levi Oper, Shlomo Rosenberg, Shlomo Rossler, Moshe Freilich, Meisels, Neta Lindner, Mordechai Reinhartz (Bar –Lev), Leibish Garfunkel, Lippa Kronberg, Robinson, Blau, Rubinstein and Yehoshua Steiner.

The candidates for the 17th congress in 1931 on behalf of the working Eretz Israel were Dr. Azriel Eisenstein, Leib Schwamer, Avigdor Rotfeld, Aaron Meller, and Ben–Zion Garfunkel and the “Ihud” received 425 votes in Stryj. In the elections for the world committee of the “Ihud”, the Stryj branch got four mandates. The “Hitahdut” established a cooperative for carpenters, to prepare them for Aliyah. This was a new model for immigration – craftsmen with their equipment not as part of the pioneers' immigration.

1933 was an important year for the “Hitahdut” in our town. A celebration to mark the unification of “Hitahdut – Poalei Zion” took place in March of that year in the “Bursa”.

[Page 151]

A regional convention of “Hitahdut – Poalei Zion” encompassing 11 towns was held in October. A regional committee was elected with Avigdor Rotfeld as secretary and Shlomo Rossler, Aaron Meller and Meisels as committee members. A farewell party for pioneers and craftsmen immigrating to Eretz Israel was also held that year.

However the main event and a historic occasion that year was the visit of David Ben–Gurion in Stryj which aroused great enthusiasm among the Jewish population of the city. A celebration in his honor was held in the “Adison” theater. A regional convention was held in the “Dom Narodny” with the participation of 18 towns and villages. The main event was a lecture by David Ben–Gurion. In the 1933 elections for the 19th Zionist congress, the “Ihud” had an absolute majority with 1260 votes.

The “Ihud” expanded its activities by creating a “Jewish Clerks' Association” as part of its trade union activity. Up until that time, most clerks worked in stores, financial and economical institutions and in manufacturing and were not organized. The chairperson was Leib Schwamer and Mordechai Keler the secretary. They were followed by Abraham Hauptman as chairman and Rubinstein as the secretary. The members of the first committee were Abraham Hauptman, Moshe Freilich and Avigdor Rotfeld. The last chairperson was Leib Garfunkel.

The party also established a school for sewing and tailoring. Girls who graduated from elementary school and even those with a high school diploma who wanted to learn a craft and were planning an Aliyah attended the school where the tuition was minimal. There were also classes for embroidery under the supervision of the teacher Wurt.

The “Ihud” had great political power among the Jewish people and played a major role in the immigration of large number of members to Eretz Israel.

 

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