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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.

 

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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. 783]

The Pioneers [Chalutzim] of the Sventzian Region in “Ha–Kovesh”

Yosef Bankover

Translated by Meir Razy

 

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The time was 1924–28.

The bad economic crisis in Eretz–Israel caused some of the immigrants to leave the country. Jobs were not available in the cities and the situation in the agricultural towns (“Moshava”) was even worse as the local land–owners/farmers preferred the much cheaper Arab labor. It became clear to the Jewish leadership that they had to organize the immigration towards “pioneers” – motivated people who recognized their historical mission.

The “He–Chalutz” (=The Pioneer) movement in Poland found itself in a difficult position. The rapid, unnatural growth (from 2,000 to 10,000 members in Poland) of the “He–Chalutz” could have endangered the movement by diverting it to new and totally undesirable directions had we not been able to control the situation and turn the “He–Chalutz” into a large movement without giving its ideological principles up. It needed to develop and spread its ideology along with the expansion of its membership. Systematic and orderly training and recognition of the difficulties of daily conditions in Eretz–Israel demanded increased efforts by the pioneers in order to fulfill the task incumbent upon them: to stand in the spiritual breach, to organize and strengthen the organization in Poland and to improve the situation in Eretz–Israel by sending growing numbers of pioneers who understood its ideology and had the will and commitment to carry the ideology out. According to the information received from the National institutions in Eretz–Israel, most of the pioneers could not withstand the hard conditions of the agricultural life and moved to the city.

The extensive efforts to educate the members failed. Our immigration increased in numbers but did not improve the state of affairs. While searching for ways to correct the situation, we came to the conclusion that the disintegration of the ideology of the immigrants could be combated by organizing the immigrants into groups of people who would support each other. Members of the movement felt the need for a well–organized and concentrated immigration that could unite the immigrants and alleviate the difficulty of the harsh conditions.

The Regional Council in Vilna decided to fulfill one of the most urgent needs of the “He–Chalutz” movement in the Diaspora and decided to organize a group of pioneers from the region of Vilna and to name it Ha–Kovesh (=The Conqueror), that would send a message throughout the Diaspora and would be at the disposal of the Histadrut Labor Federation in Eretz–Israel. The Council approved about 200 members for the next wave of immigration. The Council addressed all the members in a special circular and suggested that it organize as a group. Among other things, the circular states:

[Col. 784]

“The latest immigration wave has not fulfilled its role towards the working class in Eretz–Israel, nor towards the “He–Chalutz” organization in the Diaspora, nor towards itself and nor towards the other immigrant–pioneers. For years, the “He–Chalutz” returned and pledged under the flag of the workers' society in Eretz–Israel to uphold the pioneering discipline, to being prepared for every enterprise and for the repatriation of the land in order to pave the way for additional new immigration. However, not all of the immigrants found their way into the organized workers' community, to the labor groups in the cities or to the Jewish work–groups in agriculture. Some of them scattered in every direction, as far away as they could from the life on a kibbutz. Some of them preferred low wages, working for exploitative masters, and some of them – to a profitable life without any social duty. Meanwhile the working public, which invested its energies in increasing immigration and in expanding the possibilities of work – waited for the pioneers who would come and fill the ranks and strengthen the constructive forces of the land.

We are all to blame because we did not fulfill our pioneering duty to the end. We stopped our work midway. The moment the pioneer set foot on the ship's deck, he severed his ties with the “He–Chalutz” Organization and removed all the commitments and burdens of the Histadrut's duty and responsibility. The immigration to Eretz–Israel was not a continuation of the pioneering action within the Histadrut Labor Federation or with its agreement.

This situation must come to an end! We want to begin organizing the pioneering immigration, the organized group immigration, ordered and methodical immigration, with connection between and bonding among the members, with the Histadrut's discipline, continuing its pioneering mission within the Workers' Histadrut and under its authority.

“We started organizing a kibbutz. Here we encountered many difficulties, starting with the objective conditions of the country. We knew that it took a lot of time and energy to organize a kibbutz in Eretz–Israel, and that we had to be especially careful about grouping people who did not work together outside of our movement. The bad situation in Eretz–Israel urged us to speed things up and we could not wait until we had the opportunity to send only those people who had undergone training in the Diaspora (Polish training kibbutzim were very few then). We tried to organize the kibbutz. This was the first attempt at the “He–Chalutz” movement in Poland, and in addition to the objective difficulties, we had no confidence that the experiment would succeed.

[Col. 785]

We also lacked the necessary help and moral support from leadership of the “He–Chalutz”, who took a neutral position on the whole idea. Even after the announcement of the “Ha–Kovesh” organization's decision, there was never a discussion about the kibbutz, a discussion we had been anticipating for some time. One published article was even openly opposed to the concept of the kibbutz, yet we were not discouraged. The criticism was met with the good will of the kibbutz organizers and created a kind of collective patriotism that stood up to all the obstacles. This lack of understanding on the part of the leadership of the “He–Chalutz” also appeared among our local members. A series of meetings and conversations began in the Vilna region about the “Ha–Kovesh” and its role in light of the situation in Eretz–Israel and our “from far away” perspective. One hundred and forty members participated in the founding conference of the “Ha–Kovesh”, and only two of them abstained, and soon the “Ha–Kovesh” was embraced by the entire “He–Chalutz” organization in the region of Vilna. After months of oral and written communications, we started organizing people in groups. However, our choice was not free, because the conditions and the immigration laws that existed in Poland at the time limited us from always selecting the most suitable members. We had to pay particular attention to the first groups, because the success of the kibbutz in general and the organization of its members in particular, depended on the success of the first groups. Consequently, we took great care in choosing the first immigrants.

Reality did not disappoint our hopes and even surpassed it! The first group not only settled in Eretz–Israel and quickly adapted to all its conditions, but in addition, it did not lose sight of the larger goal of the kibbutz concept. Nor did it loosen the links to its source of manpower abroad, even under the most difficult situations.

 

Sve0785.jpg

A convention of representatives of the He–Halutz Branch in New–Sventzian

Sitting: Yitzhak Kovalski, Shlome Alperin, Bavarski Alarhiu, ––, Yosef Bankover, Moishe Volin, Abraham Yitzhak Miler
Standing: ––, Yosef Zilber, Hanundkand, Kurlandshik, Berl Zak, Yitzhak Feigelman, Moishe Matzkin, Abraham Levine, Rappoport, Yitzhak Shibovski, Yitzhak Shutan

[Col. 786]

With the settling of the first two groups and their connection to Eretz–Israel, we began to feel that there was already a foundation, although frail, in need of help, but with a chance. The only constant requirement in all letters received from Eretz–Israel was that we should be very careful in choosing the immigrants and organizing them in groups. We met the second requirement – we sent organized groups all the time. It is still difficult to know if we met the first condition, but I must note that we sent the best among us. And who is to blame for the fact that the best among us were not suited for the tasks involved in building the new country?

It was not enough, after the creation of a kibbutz, to bring more people to the kibbutz. It was necessary to add deliberate education and to disseminate information. We could not rely solely on a “wait and see” attitude and everything will eventually find its proper place in the reality of the Land of Israel. The fact that we were a kibbutz at the disposal of the Histadrut for the purpose of “Conquering the Work”[1] was clear to all, but we emphasized that in the future we would also start settling the land. It was therefore necessary to uproot the opinion that some of us had, that we would be satisfied by transferring our members to the Histadrut and it would send us to existing kibbutz bodies! It was obvious to us that it was impossible. The collective patriotism of the “He–Chalutz” was still creative and constructive. Some people asked us what this patriotism was and why we differed from the rest of the kibbutz movement. Our answer was that we did not want to create anything special or specific. This is not our way. Our clear position stemmed from the decision of the Conference of the “He–Chalutz” in Vilna, just three months earlier.

[Col. 787]

The decisions stated:

In Section B –

The conference believes that our kibbutz, after its initial formation, must determine its way within the kibbutz movement, as an open kibbutz, that absorbs the immigrating pioneers, and is ready to fulfill the tasks of work and settlement as will be directed by the Histadrut.

In Section C –

  1. The “Ha–Kovesh” Conference states that Kibbutz “Ha–Kovesh” in Eretz– Israel is an inseparable part of the Kibbutz Movement and must strive to unify the kibbutz movement by working together and cooperating with all the new and old kibbutzim.
  2. The establishment of the “Ha–Kovesh” raised a loud echo throughout the region – among the hundreds of pioneers scattered throughout all the smallest and most remote towns.
  3. The willingness to carry the load and to join the more inclusive organization, and to jointly pave the way to build the country through Jewish labor thus replacing Arab labor, and settling Eretz–Israel. This glimmer of hope passed through the “He–Chalutz”.
In particular, the pioneers of the Sventzian district – Sventzian, Novo–Sventzian, Ignalina, Podbrodz, Lingmian, Kaltinian and Haydutishok were outstanding.

 

Sve0787.jpg

One of the first groups of 1925

Lying down: Shaul and Mordechai Vilkomirski
Sitting: Bertha Matzkin, Wife of Shlomo, child Pergamont, Yosef Lulinski, Slova Bushkaneytz
Standing: Shachna Tzepelovitch, Heshl Gurevitch, Abraham Yitzhak Miler, Abraham Abutzhinki, Yosef Brumberg, Chaia Pupiski

[Col. 788]

the “He–Chalutz” branches were established in all these places, the first of which was the “He–Chalutz Hatzair” (=The Young Pioneer) organization, followed by a number of training groups. It was a great pleasure for the movement and for me personally to visit these “He–Chalutz” branches, meeting with the lively youth, seeing the Hebrew and Yiddish school systems (before the Yiddish Gymnasium in Sventzian) and the dramatic clubs of the pioneering youth. We met the budding Zionist Socialist parties everywhere in the Sventzian district and realized that these young people were indeed available to us and prepared for mobilization. And indeed they did not fail. They were among the first to join the “Ha–Kovesh” at its first conference in Vilna, and were among the first of the “Ha–Kovesh” immigration groups that immigrated to Eretz–Israel, and in large numbers. They joined the effort and assumed great responsibilities upon their immigration to Eretz Israel.

The activists among them continue their lives in Kibbutz Ramat HaKovesh to this very day.

[Col. 789]

And if we have reached this point and are approaching the celebration of 40 years of the “Ha–Kovesh” in Israel, we are entitled to take pride in the Pioneers of the Sventzian district. Our members are allowed to review, to their satisfaction, the way they have gone through the joint struggle for immigration, for the conquest of labor, and for settling the land and defending their homes.

Together we have written beautiful and educational pages, in the creation of Kibbutz Ramat HaKovesh.

[Col. 790]

The members of the Sventzian District who settled in Kibbutz Ramat HaKovesh are:

Yitzhak Feigelman, Chaya Soroka (Sussman), Isser Ben–Yizhak (Itzik), Henya Aharonowitz (Machruk), Sara Rozowsky (Magon), Shneidrowicz, Kowalski Yitzhak, Zilia Feigelman, Chadash Rashka, Tovia Rapoport, Hasia Rapoport, Avraham Krill, Lea Clavier (Leish), Shiniuk Yochanan, Yosef Kuritzky, Kurlianchik Zalman, Yitzhak Ligumski, Chernotzky(Tzernatzki), Chana Zeidel, Dvora Siegel, Apatov Kalman, Yona Levinson, Kravchinsky, BatSheva Gloch (Nachumi), Shalom Shapira, Bubersarki, Baruch Axelrod, Swirski, Abba Gandel, Tova Gandel, Benjamin Gandel, Nathan Gandel, Yosef Goldshtein, Aharon Pergamont, Yehuda Perevoznik, Alter Griton, Gershon Kuritzky.


Translator's Footnote:

  1. a term used to describe efforts of early Jewish immigration to do work not generally done in the Diaspora, or done by non–Jews in Palestine Return


[Col. 789]

The Beginnings of the “He–Chalutz” Movement

Avraham Katz

Translated by Meir Razy

 

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(This article is dedicated to our parents, brothers and sisters, who were killed by the enemies of Israel during World War II, and left our generation behind themselves, the generation of those who created and built the State of Israel.)

The “He–Chalutz” movement in Novo–Sventzian began in 1924, when the youth of our town were called to a meeting on one of the Sabbaths. This was the first meeting in which the foundation of the “He–Chalutz” branch was laid.

This was a world–shaking period: just a few years after the First World War; the Jewish communities in the Diaspora were desolate and shattered, with no chance of a bright future; young people were completely cut off from a normal society and cultural life, and without any hope of improving their future situation. This was one of the factors that pushed the Jewish community to get organized and look for ways to live a new, productive life.

The beginning was with the creation of the Trumpeldor[1] Youth Movement, where young men and women, from the age of seventeen and above, were organized. Thanks to the dedication of the members who were then the leaders of the Trumpeldor Movement, they managed to organize a younger group called “The Flowers of Zion.”

The members included: Portnoy Chana, Lapidot Hanoch, Shutan Miriam, Kovarsky Yenta, Rabinowitz Raya, Kovarsky Esther and the writer of these lines. The branch's instructors conducted regular activities in all the cultural and social areas, established a library for the youth and initiated activities for the high–school students and led classes to discuss the problems of Zionism.

All the positions were filled with high–school–age youth. In 1924, the “He–Chalutz” branch was established – together with the foundation of the “Young Zion” party. The creation of the “He–Chalutz” branch in Novo–Sventzian reverberated throughout the city. We did not yet know what was ahead of us, but one thing was clear: We must change our way of life and move towards mastering the productive occupations necessary for the building of the Land of Israel.

[Col. 790]

This task was neither easy nor simple! Boys and girls from traditional families, with no hands–on experience of physical labor, soon started to work as woodcutters, forest workers and farm laborers. It was no wonder that this phenomenon was widely regarded by many as madness. Boys and girls from families with well–to–do religious occupations would move from courtyard to courtyard with saws and axes in their hands asking for “non–Jewish” work. Wasn't this madness? The youth, on the other hand, saw this as the way that would prepare them for the life of pioneers in the Land of Israel, so that they could be among the realizers of the idea of working Zionism.

[Col. 791]

But it was not only the “dirty” work that we put the emphasis on, but also the organizational and cultural activities. All these together were the initial preparations for the desired Zionist fulfillment.

Days and nights, both in the club and out of it, we were engaged in studies in order to formulate the social Kibbutz idea, which was still a theoretical concept for us. In time however, it became a reality and a solid, existing fact. The majority of us adapted to the harsh living conditions and we devoted ourselves to the matter, with heart and soul, looking forward to immigrating to Eretz–Israel as soon as possible.

Only a few members were lucky to have the opportunity of fulfilling their dreams. Many obstacles had to be overcome in order to embark on training for the Kibbutz in the training camps. The number of openings was limited and only a few individuals were selected for each training camp.

The first one to go to the agriculture Kibbutz training camp was Berl Zack (Binyamina), who went to Soldynia near Vilna, the first agricultural kibbutz in our vicinity. He went to the training after a long period of activity and devotion to the “He–Chalutz” branch in the area, leaving behind his friends, who continued the chain of training and fulfillment.

One of the brilliant activities of the branch was undoubtedly the establishment of training groups in Novo–Sventzian. A kibbutz named after Y.L.Peretz[2] was founded in the village of Rimaki (only ten kilometers from Novo–Sventzian), shortly after. This kibbutz was really “ours”, firstly because it was close to home, and secondly – it operated under the direct care of our branch.

 

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Sept. 7, 1929 to commemorate the departure of Berl Zak to Eretz Israel

Laying down:
Sitting: Hirsh Rutshtein, Tzipe Yavitch, Chana Rutshtein, Hennia Rudnitzki, Berl Zak, Chaia Gordon, Berl Volfson, Teiba Rutshtein, Hirsh Levitshtein
Standing: Dobe Postovski, Beila Gurevitch, Dovid Fingerhoyt, Rasha Svirski, Rivka Levinstein, Nisen Las, Sara Tanus, Yeruslimski, Nechama Rudnitzki

[Col. 792]

Hirsh Levinstein, Portnoy Hanna, Wolfson Berl and Pupishki Zadok helped to establish the camp. Their help had many facets, from visits during the activities to arranging credit in the bakery, the butcher shop, and the various other shops.

I met friends from all the surrounding branches at Kibbutz Rimaki. Some of them should be mentioned: From Sventzian: Shibovsky Arie, Feigel Deborah, Katz Michael (all in Israel). From Podbrodz: Borsky Levi, from Kaltinian: Koropatkin, and from Vidz: (Hanankind) Ben Hanan Shmuel, Gendel Abba. From Braslav: Krasin Uriel, from Postovy: Yosef Toibis. From Novo–Sventzian: Miran Zalman. Wolfson Berl and the writer of these lines.

The Y.L.Peretz Kibbutz was in a forest belonging to the famous wood merchant Gershon Rudnitzky z”l. He helped us a lot in training and learning about the profession of forestry. So members of the kibbutz were not inferior to the local Christian countrymen, the experienced veteran forest workers.

At first we did encounter some resistance from the Gentiles, but over time we gained their trust and respect. Thus, through exhausting physical labor and difficult economic conditions, we conducted broad cultural activities, with emphasis on learning about the Labor Movement and the different branches within it in Eretz–Israel.

[Col. 793]

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He–chalutz, 1929, when Berl Zak left

Kneeling: Mashe Kovalski, Chaia Rudnitzki, Rivka Rudnitzki
Sitting: Zarach Braire, Chaia Gordon, Berl Zak, Shaika Katz, Yehoushe Kmamchi
Standing: Hertze Shutan, Avraham Ligumski, Dovid Katz, Devorah Elperin, Shloime Levinstein, Sara Bitzunski, Berl Volfson

 

Among other things we studied the geography of the land, the history of the Zionist movement and the foundation of the Hebrew language. We wanted to see members of the “He–Chalutz” not only as wood–cutters but also as people with a wide knowledge of the problems of the movement and society at–large.

Other branches of the “He–Chalutz” were established at that time, 1924–1925, and our center was tasked with managing a number of other training groups. It was impossible to immigrate to Eretz–Israel without the necessary training.

The aspiration for Aliyah increased with the creation of two additional training groups in the district: one in Zyrkalishky, near Sventzian specialized in agriculture, and the second one was a carpentry shop in Novo–Sventzian.

This carpentry shop deserves a description. Simple Jews took it upon themselves to be the teachers, not in order to receive any praise, but simply to give guidance to the pioneers. These were: the late Rabbi Joseph Kowalski and his two sons, Yehoshua and Mordechai, who devoted a great deal of time and energy to training young Jews in productive professions. The late Shalom Berman gave part of his apartment for this purpose without any rent payment. Pioneers from all around worked and learned in this carpentry shop.

After that, Shalom Berman's home was transformed into a Torah and work school where newspapers and library books were available, and discussions and disputes about the problems of the Zionist movement in the entire the “He–Chalutz” movement were held. Their goal was to prepare for Aliyah.

[Col. 794]

That period of enthusiasm and aspiration for immigration continued for several years but not everyone found the road for training and immigration easy. First there was the financial problem, namely the question of the travelling expenses. To this end, an “Aliyah Fund” was established, with the goal of finding the necessary money to pay for expenses on the road. It had different sources: banquets, raffles and donations.

The residents of Novo–Sventzian, who opened their hearts and wallets and contributed to this enterprise, should be commended.

In addition to the “Aliyah Fund”, the “He–Chalutz” movement held a joint fund in which affluent members covered part of the expenses of the needy and thus maintained one of the rules of mutual aid. The Aliyah from Novo–Sventzian continued due to this devotion. The following pioneers immigrated at that time: Bernstein Zalman, Yitzhak Ligomski, Shuman Yitzhak and Yehuda Zar. These were the first to pave the way for all those remaining who also aspired to immigrate and to realize their dream of joining the builders of the homeland.

Regretfully, and to our bitter sorrow, not all of us had the privilege of immigrating to Eretz–Israel, participating in its creation and seeing the resurrection of the state. The fate of all our fellow Jews did not “pass over” the members of the “He–Chalutz” during the Holocaust.

The few who survived are the witnesses to the destruction of the many.


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Joseph Trumpeldor (1880–1920), lost an arm as a Russian Officer in the 1904 war against Japan. He was an early Zionist activist who helped organize the Jewish units in the British Army during WW–1. Trumpeldor was killed by Arabs while defending the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920. Return
  2. Ysaac Leib Peretz (1852–1915) was a Yiddish language author and play writer from Poland, considered one of the great classical Yiddish writers. Return


[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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