Histadrut Hechalutz in Buczacz

Moshe Held, Translated by Jessica Cohen

In 1923, the foundation of the Hechalutz [5] movement in Buczacz was reestablished, after an intermission of over two years since the Third Aliyah [6] group made aliyah in 1920. The main impetus came from a few young people, centered around Yisrael Cohen, who were very active in operating the Hechalutz movement in our town.

But before I describe Hechalutz's methods of action and status in our town, I must preface by mentioning two organizations, one political and one cultural, which existed during this period in Buczacz. For these organizations constituted an embryo from which Hechalutz emerged, and also because most of the Hechalutz founders were active in these organizations. I am referring to the Hitachdut[7] party and to the Ivriya[8] association. I shall not go into details about the Hitachdut, but I shall devote my words to the Ivriya.

The establishment of Ivriya stemmed from an essential need to concentrate the supporters of the Hebrew language and culture, who were scattered with no contact amongst them. The founder and active force in this association was the Hebrew teacher, Yisrael Farnhof. Among the organization activists were Dr. Silberstein, Yisrael Cohen, Ms. Khaye Roll, of blessed memory, Gitta Glantzer, Ms. Enmelding, L. Hartzman, Chaim Weisenthal, Arieh Frankel, Moshe Held, and others.

The organization was active in a variety of areas. They laid the foundations for a Hebrew library, which helped to form Hebrew reading groups. Lectures were delivered in Hebrew on Jewish and general topics. There were training courses in various subjects. The association's impression and influence were discernable beyond the boundaries of the organization.

There were also serious efforts to establish a theatre group, with the assistance of Kalman Friedman. One play, by the name of “Shaul and David,” was extremely successful.

I recall a series of lectures given by Ms. Roll about S.Y. Agnon. There were a number of people in Buczacz for whom the Hebrew language and culture was an essential need, such as Dr. Khalfan, of blessed memory, who was permeated with Hebrew culture and who would express his affinity with the language at every opportunity.

I recall a typical episode, during the opening session of the newly elected community assembly (if I am not mistaken, this was in 1924). Dr. Khalfan delivered a welcoming speech in Hebrew, which was of course received enthusiastically on the part of the language loyalists, and unwillingly on the part of the assimilated. At that point, he was nicknamed by Mr. Yakov Stern, “der Dr. mit di brayteh paschin”

Histadrut Hechalutz, which was established, as was previously mentioned, in 1923, was affiliated with the Hechalutz center in Lvov. The movement aimed to propagate the idea of labor and agricultural training, imparting the language and values of the Hebrew culture, and primarily: making aliyah to Israel and personal fulfillment of the ideology. The path of the Buczacz Hechalutz movement was not easy at first. The decline in the public affairs of the Jewish community, which prevailed after the period of flourishing following the war, as well as the signs of assimilation which were revealed during that period, constituted a severe obstacle for its activity. There were also harsh objections on the part of parents, who did not want to get used to the idea that their children would be separated from them and become farmers or just plain laborers.

Despite all these difficulties, the movement managed to expand its activities, accepted new members and developed far-reaching cultural activity. Most of the members already spoke Hebrew, and those who were not yet fluent were given the opportunity to become so.

A profound influence on the ideas and directions of the movement occurred when its members departed to a hachshara[9], in which the group garin[10] was molded. After extensive consideration, the group was organized during Pesach of 1924, and was called “hameshulash” [the triangle] (its slogans were: language, labor, country). Its members were: Yisrael Cohen, Asher Cohen, Fischel Neiberger, Herzl Margalit, Shmuel Karbas, Zipporah Judenfreund, Shoshana Narpan, Tzvi Pikholtz, S. Wisinger, Moni Landman, Arieh Kopler and Moshe Held.

This step had a profound impact on the life of the town, particularly amongst the youth. As a result, a large hachsharah movement arose in the town, and the Shomer Hatzair movement was also revived. Some of the members made aliyah to Israel, while a few others ceased believing in the Zionist idea after a short while and turned their backs on the country.

Other hachsharah groups were established on the model of the “meshulash” group at that time.

The group's first steps were in Lvov. There, the members found work in construction, and here they were first faced with all the problems which were typical of any group at the beginning of its way, such as: difficulties in adapting to physical labor and to communal life, which demands giving up various habits. They managed to overcome all these problems by means of goodwill and mutual understanding, which later accompanied the group during the entire period of its existence in Israel and abroad.

After a few months of work in Lvov, they decided to go to an agricultural hachsharah, in order to crystallize the group in preparation for aliyah. And indeed, after a period of hachsharah and after various trials and tribulations of aliyah, the group immigrated to Palestine and settled in Petach Tikva, in Emek Hasheva.

Moshe Held


5. Lit. "the pioneer" (Hebrew) Back

6. Aliyah: immigration to Israel; lit. "ascension". There were several waves of Aliyah. The Third Aliyah was between 1919 and 1923, and consisted mostly of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, primarily from Russia. Back

7. Lit. "union" or "federation" (Hebrew). Back

8. Lit. the feminine form of the adjective "Hebrew" (Hebrew) Back

9. Lit. "training" (Hebrew). These were training camps set up in various places in Europe, intended to prepare young Jewish men and women for their impending life in Israel as agricultural workers. Back

10. Lit. "seed," "core" or "nucleus." This refers to groups of young people who went through various social and training activities together, and then either settled in an established kibbutz or moshav, or founded their own new settlement. Back