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The History of Svintsyan (cont.)

        The orchestras also performed public concerts. They always used to take part in the ceremonies accompanying the openings of academies, at celebratory evenings and plays arranged by the organization, as well as on trains and at demonstrations for young people and students of the Culture School.
        The Svintsyan orchestra used to also march every year at the head of the May First Demonstration in Vilna organized by the League for the Working Man in Israel. (The “League” in Vilna, [even] with all of its parties and its attendant organizations, did not at that time have an orchestra and Svintsyan used to help them out.)
        The orchestra also took part in the celebrations of the surrounding towns in our province. It was ready to help whenever they called.
        Pinkhas Rashish (today the mayor of Petakh-Tikva), while visiting the city on behalf of The Pioneer Center, suggested to our branch that we send our instruments to Israel and form an orchestra in the settlements in conjunction with our friends who had already graduated and moved to Israel as well as with those who were getting ready to emigrate. In those days, the settlements did not yet have an orchestra of this scope. Unfortunately, this didn't happen, because the orchestra was the soul of our young people. It accompanied them during good times and bad during all of the usual events of the branch: the Lag b'Omer celebrations, Chanukah, Purim, rallies, public meetings with other branches, trips into the woods and to the surrounding lakes and Lake – this in addition to the above-mentioned academies, concerts and festive evenings.
        The instruments of the orchestra as well as the instruments of the educational committee in the city were, in 1939, confiscated by the komsomol (Communist Youth Organization – Soviet Union).

The Orchestra of “The Pioneers” in Svintsyan
Bottom: Laleh Yavitch, Ruven Levin. Seated: Yekhiel Okun, Mikhal Gurvitz,
Gershon Kuritski, Velvl Zaydel, Pinkhas Shulgeyfer, Berel Sragovitch,
Yoykhanan Mikhlson. Standing: Leyb Gurvitz, Yitzhak Gilinski, Sholom
Kuritski, Leyb Desyatnik, Moshe Shayevitch, Khanokh Ginzburg


        With the onset of the economic crisis among the artisans, people approached the idea of opening a branch of “The Worker” organization, whose goal it was to prepare tradesman up to the ages of 35-40 for the move to Israel, according to the same principles of “The Pioneer” and “The Young Pioneers”: spiritual education, political preparedness, evening Hebrew course, news of Israel, physical education in case of changing one's trade – fitting oneself to the difficult conditions and dirty work which awaited the new immigrant upon arrival in the country.
        Activities to [raise] funds and other Zionist events took place. These were the qualifying conditions in order to be approved to receive a certificate and to immigrate to Israel.
        The rush to immigrate was great. The branch grew; the list of candidates to immigrate was full, but the small quota of certificates delivered by the mandate government did not permit all of those remaining to achieve their goal.


        All of the above-mentioned organizations (other than general Zionists) created the “League,” which stood at their head and coordinated their working together, leading all of the activities of the Zionist-Socialist work in the city, staying in constant touch with the standard of the central office in the country. During the last era, the “Worker's League in Israel” was under the leadership of a presidium: chairman, Leyb Gurvitz, esq., Mordechai Gaviser and the writer of these lines–Shimon Bushkanyetz.
        These were also the heads of the funds, foundations, and party work.


        A non-political organization–its founder and continuous leader was Baruch Rozental, who was also the director of these various theater productions: “Shulamit,” “The Lottery,” “Motke Thief,” “Tevye the Dairyman,” “The Bloody Joke,” “Two Kuni-Lemls,” and others.
        Goldfaden[31] and all of the other classic authors, in Yiddish and of world literature, comprised the repertoire of the amateur actors of the “Art Society.”
        Fathers and children performed their capers on the Svintsyan stage. After them came the grandchildren. Rozental was the “grandfather” of the beautiful Art Society and its events. He was crowned with this name (died 1940).
        Whatever they earned served as a foundation for the Jewish library for the Society, which carried the name “Jewish Municipal Library.” The library had 5,000 books in Yiddish on Jewish and world literature: 1,500 Hebrew and 1,200 Russian books.
        From its profits, the Art Society, together with the Education Society and all the other organizations of the town, built a huge theater hall for the events that they had organized. This also served the interests of the whole Jewish community in town for conferences, academic [gatherings], etc.
        The “House of the People” was built for the sake of culture (it had been an afternoon school). The state library was also located in the “cultural” buildings.


        It isn't any wonder that, hand in hand with the cultural and spiritual condition of the Jewish population, Jewish youth also put physical culture on a high rung and that this was expressed in all of its forms.
        At the founding of the “Yeshiva with modern tendencies,” the first conditions of this Svintsyaner school for the Jewish world and for its invited students” (HaMelits, HaTsifira–1882) were: “Watching one's health and taking physical exercise [as] the main things in the running of the Yeshiva.” Sports and gymnastics–the basic fundamentals for the Yeshiva students – were according to the following conditions: “The Yeshiva is in a modern, spacious building. [It has] large, light, and clean rooms, a special courtyard with good, clean air, hygiene, and diet.”
        In fact, the youth of Svintsyan, both male and female students of the normal schools, as well as the young men of the Yeshiva, who were learning “both Torah and a trade” grew up straight, strong, and well-developed physically thanks to the conditions which made this possible. Their maxim was: “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”

Members of Both Sports Organizations during the Soccer Match
between the Maccabees and “HaPoel” in Svintsyan

In the period between the two World Wars (1918-1939), sports, as played by Jewish youth, achieved a high level and encompassed all fields.
        The Jewish schools, according to the school schedules, employed special teachers, who were adept at gymnastics and sports.
        The sports clubs “Maccabee” and “HaPoel” included the majority of those in the town who were interested, members of general and partisan organizations who were active in the field. The sports clubs developed the following branches:


        The members practiced practically every day in the free fields near Beys Am and the sports areas both in the town and outside it.
        In the wide social hall of Beys Am, exercises were performed with the help of sports equipment, Swedish ladders, trampolines, etc.


        On the Shablinsky Field and in the new sports area near the Farmer's Synagogue on Vilna Street, the Maccabee and HaPoel soccer teams practiced and achieved first class results.
        Maccabee I, Maccabee II, HaPoel I, HaPoel II competed against the local Polish teams and others from the Svintsyan area. Everyone loved these matches, and they always had a large audience. They were always held to the accompaniment of the Jewish Wind Orchestras and the Polish Military and School Orchestras.
        I think that Svintsyaners will remember the musicians of the S. K. S. (Svintsyaner Sports Club), the tall and agile teacher Dudek, the Shalovsky brothers, “The Little Hands,” Shubert, Kondratovitch, and others. Sergeant Skavranek of the Third Division team, [was] a soccer artist of the highest rank, against whom the young men of Svintsyan didn't do badly either emotionally or physically and evened the score in the matches. Often, they scored higher, and this actually used to lead to conflicts, which were joined by sports fans, sometimes leading to physical assaults which were amicably resolved on the spot.
        Often matches took place against Jewish teams from the provinces and also against the acclaimed “Maccabees” of Vilna (II).
        Players in the Svintsyan Maccabees were: goalie–Meyke Shapiro, Berke Taytelboym, Zaske Ginzburg, Zelik and Meyer Kuritski, the Poshumensky brothers, Kivke Luninski, the Broyman brothers, Sholom Shapiro, Lifshits, Shibovsky, Yakov Grinfeld, and others.
        The HaPoel team was made up by: goalie–Kuritski, Gershon and Moshe, Leyb Desyatnik, Pinkhas Shulgeyfer, Lulinski.

The Bicycle Club of “HaPoel
Henekh, Yukhke Mikhlson, Leybke, Mikhke
and Alke Gurvitz, Kantorovitch and others.

All of these soccer players were afterwards replaced by others, depending on their abilities and for other reasons which occurred in the course of time.

Basketball and Handball

        Based on the same principles as soccer, Maccabee and HaPoel also formed basketball and handball teams. The regular playing fields were: the yard of the folk school and the yard of the cultural buildings, where, in their free time, the students of neighboring schools also exercised. In the afternoon, sports fans [also played]. Women's teams were also formed.


        The schools, youth organizations, and sports groups had their meetings and friendly chats by the lakes, in the shadow of the rich, surrounding pine woods, where they went on their free days, Sabbaths, and holidays.
        Berezovke, Kokhanovka, Madzun, Farshukst, Rashkutan, etc. were the lakes on which the Svinstyan youth played their water sports.
        In winter, when all the lakes were frozen, they skated. The small pond on the priest's lawn was full of young people playing winter sports on skates. They sledded down the surrounding hills.
        Selected sportsmen from the Jewish clubs always took part in the regional matches in all areas of sports, including foot races and bicycle races around the hills and outside of Svintsyan and New-Svinstyan. Their good scores earned them respectable rankings.


31. Abraham Goldfaden (1840-1908), Hebrew and Yiddish playwright generally considered the father of Yiddish Theater. Ed. Back

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