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[Col. 776]

The Political – Social Life

Shimon Kantz

Translated by Janie Respitz

–––Not only with high ideas can one intoxicate the soul of the masses. Under the influence of teachers and doctrines that emerged from Vilna and Warsaw, all the branches of National freedom and Socialist movements began to grow in New – Sventzian. At first they were like modest little flowers of the folk, a natural product of the folk soul that was being persecuted. These were bitter times of great suffering. The young generation in town began to revolt. They wanted to begin anew. Through their own actions, they wanted to bring freedom and redemption for the Jewish people. In other towns the Hasidim saw this as a threat to learning and religion and promised to fight, until the end, against Zionism and Socialism. In New– Sventzian this occurred as a process of direct growth into the surrounding society. The Agudat Yisrael organization played a crucial role among the orthodox – Hasidim in Poland, had absolutely no influence in New – Sventzian. The religious Jews, even the Rabbis, did not see Zionism as a threat. Rather they treated it with respect and often helped in activities for Eretz Yisrael. They looked with slight smiles at the activity of the youth. The youth were quite unique. They were self – confident and obstinate, firm and solid, simple, warm, not pretentious with souls of children and visionaries. The vision of national redemption went together with dream of social freedom. Everyone belonging to He Chalutz, Ha Shomer, and other Zionist organizations, the Yiddishists, and the Tarbutniks Hebraists, were filled with great vision and hope for the future.


[Col. 777]

Political Movements in New– Sventzian

Yisroel Gurvich Z”L

Translated by Janie Respitz

New– Sventzian did not have a big Jewish Bourgeoisie nor an organized Jewish working class. The majority of the Jewish community was comprised of shopkeepers and craftsmen. The political differences were not strong or extreme, neither toward the left or the right. Even during the stormy revolutionary year of 1905,

[Col. 778]

there was no organized Jewish revolutionary movement in town. There was one demonstration by the youth in the prayer house when they had to bless the Tsar.

In 1905 there was an attempt to found a Bundist party. But after the revolution failed, no one from the Bund returned to our town.

 

Sve0778.jpg

The First Zionist from New– Sventzian 1925

Seated: Rashe Yunglson, Heshl Gurvich, Khaye Pupisky
Standing: Shakhne Tseplovitch, Yitzkhak Ligumsky, Zalman Bernstein

[Col. 779]

Some young people from New–Sventzian living in Vilna, became involved in the Bund there until the First World War.

Before the First World War, there were not even Zionists in New– Sventzian. Here and there one would see a charity box for Rabbi Meir Baal Ness beside the other charity boxes. From time to time, people would toss in a few coins. Once a year, a representative would come from Eretz Yisroel to empty the charity boxes and distribute the money to those in need. There were a few sympathetic to the early Zionist movement, including the brothers Yisroel Elye and Yosef Berman, Shimon Ruven Kovarsky, Yerakhmiel Gordon and others.

In 1915 when the Germans occupied the region, all the political parties that were illegal under the Tsar, began to function legally. Later, some young people from Vilna came to new– Sventzian and began to organize political social movements. Motl Bak begins to express Zionist ideas. Sholem Berman and others begin to get involved due to the arrival from Vilna of Nekhama Kavorsky in 1916 and Leyaer Hellershteyn, a teacher in the Yiddish school. These two, previously active in Vilna, helped to organize the youth in founding political organizations.

After the proclamation of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist idea sprang to life in our town. An organization we formed with 30 –40 members. They rented space I the home of Basia Tabachnik om Kaltinya Street. Leyb Gorfeyn was elected president and the secretary was Yakov Shvartz. The real founder of the organization was Nekhama Kovarsky. Her closest assistant was the still very young Leyb Gurvich. Also involved were the brothers Hirsh and Shmuel Berman, Moshe Gurvich, Sholem Zavl Svirsky, Esther Elperin, Mayta Pupisky, Sheyna Kovarsky, Mashe Shapiro, Moshe Ligumsky,

[Col. 780]

Dobe Shutan, Rayzl Landsman, Khaya Rokhl Shutan, Rayzl Zak, Asna Tzikinsky, Velvl Sakhar, Yisroel Gurvich, Moshe Elperin, Leyzer Gordon, Mineh and Frayde Kulbak. These young Zionists ran political and cultural activities.

They organized various presentations and lectures that were not only attended by the members, but by a great majority of the town's youth. Eventually this group would merge with the Poalei Zion, with a branch in New– Sventzian. Nekhama Kovarsky was the only delegate to go to Vilna for the first conference after the war. Besides doing work for the Zionist movement, this organization also helped the local Jewish school. While helping the school they managed to include nationalism and Hebrew into the curriculum. This helped the pupils become more involved with the movement. Students and graduates form e He Chalutz. Among the founding members were: Zalman Berenshteyn, Mineh Kulbak, Berl Zak, Fayge Bernstein, Hirsh Levinshteyn, Taybe Ruthsteyn, Motl Tzinman, Shayne Katz, Chaya Gordon, the brothers Berl and Mene Wolfson. Later, Avrom Katz, Khana Portnoy and others. They gave all they had to the Poalei Zion party. The activists were: Ber and Meneh Wolfson, Chaya Gordon. The pillar of the Poalei Zion in our town was Berl Zak.

Besides Poalei Zion and He Chalutz, there was also Ha Shomer Ha Tzair, which attracted

[Col. 781]

the largest portion of youth in town. Active in this group at various times were: Yosef Kovarsky, Gershon Gurvich, Zadok, Leyb and later rivka Pupisky, Henia Aronovitch, Dovid and Rivka Katz, Feyge Soltaysky. Gershon Gurvich was one of the most active Zionists.

When Worker's Leagues were set up in Poland, one was founded in our town as well. Joining the League were the organized members of the Zionist organizations and sympathizers from the older generation. In 1926 elections were held for city council, the local Poalei Zion members ran a candidate, a teacher from the Jewish school Avrom Veinik.

The brothers Leyb and Yisroel Gurvich were very active in the founding and growth of the Poalei Zion, having been students at the University in Vilna. After completing their studies they remained involved, coming home often and giving talks.

When Ha Oved was founded for the Jewish workers in Poland, a branch was established in New– Sventzian. Active in Ha Oved were the families of Dovid Levin, Avrom Umbres and Reyzl Landsman.

There was never a General Zionist organization in town. There were always very devoted workers like Avrom Rabinovitch, Velvl Puoisky, Avrom Kovarsky, Eliyahu Feygel, Motls Bak and the then still very young Yakov Tabakhovitch.

There were no official Mizrachi members except Rabbi Kimkhi, and few beadles like Shimshon Berman, Yisroel Portnoy.

[Col. 782]

It is important to recall the passionate religious Zionist Reb Dovid Ring. After the Balfour declaration, he dreamed of buying a horse and wagon, and travelling to Eretz Yisrael: his dream was to be a shepherd over a large flock of sheep.

There were also no official Revisionists in town. The few who were sympathetic to the ideology were: Sasha Kisberg, Sholem Berman and others. All the Zionist organizations existed thanks to individuals who worked for the Zionist ideal.

At a certain period, a scout organization existed in our town call “Bee”. Its founder was Dr. Weinreich from YIVO. The branch in our town was run by Heshl Sheyn, the so–called “proletarian” youth. “Bee” did not last long. The suffering increased and many of the youth joined the ranks of He Chalutz, where they had hopes of emigration. Many of these future pioneers are now in Israel. In the last years in New– Sventzian, many of the youth were leaning toward the left.

Miriam Segalovitch, Mulia Shapiro, Shmerl Maimon and others, fought hard for Bolshevism. In the period after the October Revolution, working for the Communist cause were: the tailor Sholem Karpas, the shoemaker Heshl Sheyn, and the stitcher, Ruven Levin who died in Israel in 1961. Also the shopkeepers: Kasriel Itzikson and Hirsh Bikson.

It is important to remember those who did good for everyone. The representatives of the mutual aid society: Zavl Bernstein, Leyb Kovarsky, Borukh Turgel, Avrom Rabinovitch, Khaim Leyb Segalovitch, Heshl Gurvich, Yitzkhak Gordus, Velvl Pupisky, Yisroel Portnoy, Motl Bak, Yakov Shvartz, Nekhama Kovarsky and others.

During the stormy years between the World Wars, a small group was saved by leaving New– Sventzian. The vast majority were murdered by Hitler's gangs.


[Col. 795]

The “He Chalutz” Organization in Our Town

Avrom Katz

Translated by Janie Respitz

He Chalutz was first founded in our town after the First World War. The Jewish population was feeling broken, ruined and dejected. The youth did not see a future.

We were introduced to the renewal of the Zionist movement, which emerged with the Balfour Declaration. Zionist groups were cropping up everywhere, attracting large segments of Jewish youth.

[Col. 796]

The first organization in our town was called “Trumpeldor”, attracting 17–18 year olds. Among them were: Hirshl Levinshteyn, Feyge Bernstein, Zalman Bernstein, Yitzkhak Shutan, Berl Zak, Ahuva Katz, Yitzkhak Ligumsky and others.

A younger group was formed, called “Flowers of Zion” which attracted many students from the Jewish School, like Khane Portnoy, Khanokh Laoidot, Miriam Shutan, Yente Kovarsky, the author of these lines and others.

The “Trumpeldor” organization laid the foundations.

 

Sve0796.jpg

Pioneers from New –Sventzian in Petakh Tikva

Standing: Yosef Gurvitch, Avrom Katz, Yitzkhak Ligumsky
Seated: Hirsh Portnoy, Binyomin Ligumsky, Meir Ligumsky, Yehuda Ligumsky, Sholem Katz, Yerakhmiel Elperin, Mikhal Shutan

[Col. 797]

The members were kids from well off families, who had never held and ax or saw in their hands.

Our original training was around town. We went to saw and chop wood, clean houses, and some groups actually worked in the fields and the forest. A few individuals left for training in special camps.

It was important for our organization when such a camp (Kibbutz) named for Y.L Peretz opened about 10 kilometres away in Rimki in 1924.

The members had to prepare themselves for the new Jewish cultural and physical life in Eretz Yisrael. They longed to go a build a better future for themselves and the entire Jewish people.

[Col. 798]

The most difficult was the physical work in the forest, which belonged to the merchant Gershon Rudnitsky from Kaltinyan.

Members arrived there from New –Sventzian, Sventzian, Podboradz, Kaltinyan, Vidz, Braslav, Postov and other places.

Here they learnt a lot about forestry, and many of them were as good as the peasants who had been doing it for years.

In 1925 the He Chalutz expanded. This was thanks to Yosef Bankover, a member of the central He Chalutz who would often travel the provinces visiting the smaller groups. Due to his influence, chapters were founded in almost every town in our region.

The agricultural Kibbutz played a large role in the movement.

 

Sve0798.jpg

Sign says “Work is Our Lives” He Chalutz April 16, 1923

I Kneeling: Beynish Svirsky, Mineh Kulbak, Yitzkhak Shutan
II Standing: Motl Tzinman, Yitzkhak Ligumsky, Tzadok Pupisky
III Sitting: Zalman Mikhmna, Bayle Gurvitch, Hirsh Levinshteyn, Berl Wolfson, Khane Portnoy, Motl Kovolsky, Shloime Elperin
IV Standing on the left side: Moshe Elperin, Avrom Katz
V Standing: Moshe Gurvitch, Eliyahu Shaftman, Leha Vidutsinsky, Bentze Pupisky, Shayne Katz, Khaya Gordon, Avrom Ligumsky
VI Standing: Avrom Umbrus, Rayze Saltaysky, Taybe Ring, Aharon Ring, Nekhama Rudnitsky, Taybe Rutshteyn, Osnat Tsikinsky

[Col. 799]

A Kibbutz was founded in Tserklishok, near Sventzian. Many members from New– Sventzian went there.

There was also a carpentry Kibbutz in New – Sventzian which played a different role. It was located in the home of Sholem Berman, a passionate Zionist who gave much time and effort to the movement.

The instructors were: Yosef Kovalsky and his sons who taught the pioneers carpentry.

This period of excitement and enthusiasm lasted a few years and the drive to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael existed in many factions of the Jewish community.

Unfortunately the rode to emigration was not open to every member. Many did not have the means to make the trip.

[Col. 800]

For this reason, an emigration fund was established to enable the less fortunate to make the trip. Thanks to this, tens were able to go, and are now in Israel. Some live on Kibbutzim, some on a Moshav and others are working and living in various cities.

What causes us great pain is that the majority of the Jewish youth remained and were murdered together with all the others by Hitler and the Lithuanian bandits.

They were not fated to live to see their dreams fulfilled: the establishment of the State of Israel.

Their memory will always remain holy and dear to us.

 

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