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[Page 348]

Tarnow in the Geography of Zionism[1]
In lieu of an introduction

by Dr. V. Berkelhamer (of blessed memory)

Translated by Gitl Schaechter–Viswanath

The distinguished president of the World Zionist Organization – Nahum Sokolow – has, it seems, already been working for several years on a major work which will be titled “Geography of Zionism”. This will be an encyclopedic compilation of locations all over the world where the history of the Zionist movement can mark facts and events of significant importance.

That is, it will be not only the geography, but also the history of the Zionist movement. Tarnow will certainly play an illustrious and prestigious role in this geography of Zionism.

I am not particularly a local fan of Tarnow, I know all too well that Odessa, Vilnius, Katowice, Vienna, Basel, have in the history of our movement made a greater and more lasting imprint, but in our special Polish, at times Galician, region, Tarnow not only need not be ashamed, but just the opposite – it has attained one of the foremost, most attractive and historical positions.

* * *

Just as the aristocratic “clan” doesn't consider itself to be of the first, but rather of the oldest generations, so also does the aristocratic “clan” of Zionism have its own criterion: Does its Zionism originate from before or after Herzl. A Zionist aristocrat – “sit venia verbo” (if you will permit me to say) – will, therefore, be someone who was a Zionist even before Herzl assumed prominence if, of course, that contender for the title of Zionist nobility was alive and already politically ripe before the year 1895/6. That certainly doesn't mean that someone who isn't a Zionist aristocrat wouldn't be a good Zionist, but what concerns us is not worthiness, but rather… aristocracy.

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Consequently, Tarnow was aristocratic in the best sense of the word. Tarnow was a Zionist city – very much so! – several good years before the appearance of the creator and leader of political Zionism. If in the history of Zionism there were several places, over which the cherished aureole of Zionist romanticism hovered for every Zionist, among those localities our small, unassuming Tarnow was one of the foremost ones. This is where our praiseworthy and unusually energetic Dr. Avraham Zaltz, together with his circle of acquaintances and friends from among the Tarnow Jews, lit the flame of Zionist enthusiasm in times when not a sound was heard in the world at large about political Zionism, about its lofty and victorious march ahead. Here – in our small, peaceful Tarnow – a small group of spirited idealists undertook the real Land of Israel activity, founding colonies in the Land of Israel, organizing emigration – in the days when the Land of Israel was almost unknown, when moving to the Land of Israel was a true act of heroism and only religious old men would emigrate to the faraway soil of the Land of Israel, in order to lay down their bag of bones in eternal rest. Then, here, in our own Tarnow, the great fire flamed up of Zionist thought and deed. Apathy reigned all around, mockery raised its head, ill will hissed. But the pioneers were not frightened off by the apathy, nor the mockery, nor the ill will. – Pioneers truly are those people, who hack a path to the future through the mountain range of backwardness and reluctance on the part of the greater community.

* * *

The first years of Zionist romanticism passed. Political Zionism appeared under the stars of Herzl's manifesto, which awoke great masses of the Jewish people in the East as well as in the West. The old Tarnow, which had supported the early movements for return to Palestine, did not lag now either. I don't wish to tear down any other city of the former Galicia, but it seems to me that seldom did any of them display such Zionist passion and endurance as did Tarnow. Seldom did any of them produce such consummate and devoted Zionist leaders as did our city.

In the Jewish social fabric of Tarnow there were also non–Zionists. I absolutely don't wish to appropriate them for our sake, or ignore their existence… However, if one can speak of an atmosphere, that rules in a given city, about the moods of the streets in a given city, about the spirit of the city, everyone would have to agree, that Jewish Tarnow was a city thoroughly and almost one–hundred percent Zionist.

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This is where Jewish society breathes Zionism. This is where Zionism sparkles in every Jew's eye. Just remember our Zionist gatherings, our demonstrations, all kinds of elections! This is where Zionism lives in every corner, and every corner lives with Zionism.

* * *

Those who grew out of this very environment, those who from their boyhood years soaked in, who in their early youth happily breathed in the Zionist air of this modest beloved city – give today, at this great Zionist celebration, their deep and heartfelt thanks to Zionist Tarnow.

Original Footnote

  1. This article was written by Dr. Berkelhamer (of blessed memory) for the Festschrift 50 Years of Zionism, published in 1934 by the Zionist Organization in Tarnow return

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