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Zionism and Emigration

At the time of WWI Jews and Catholic Poles in Bodzentyn suffered alike from the hardship of those years. In one letter from Toronto in 1916 Yitzchak Leib Rosenberg, who had emigrated from Poland, expresses great concern for his relatives:

"Already, it has been a year that I have not received a letter. Therefore, I am asking you, sirs, to make an effort, if possible, to find out what has happened to my family. I am writing to you where my family is and what their names are: Raizel Rosenberg, Chaim Korenblum, Pesach Korenblum – Bayzetshin, Kelts province, Russia-Poland."
© Bodzentyn.net | www.hias.org. Photo adapted from the original.

In the time between the wars Polish residents engaged in patriotic endeavours establishing the state of Poland. Jews were thought of as sympathizing with the Russian Bolsheviks, accused of being communists, and became targets for antisemitic riots. Also some of the priest serving in the local Catholic Church encouraged the growing hostility towards Jews.

Members of the national Polish party agitated against the Jewish ritual slaughter and were responsible for smashing in windows on Jewish property. The local court punished such behaviour with imprisonment.

In the 1930s antisemitism was escalating and had even become part of official government policy. It was that ongoing antisemitism that served as a major factor in precipitating Jewish emigration from Poland. More than a few of the Jews from Bodzentyn chose to leave for England, France, USA, Canada and Brazil. Some even braved the hostile British attitude in their mandated ancient Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Several of the Jews from Bodzentyn chose to immigrate to Toronto in Canada during the first decades of the 1900s. When one member of the family had moved several relatives soon followed. Sharing a common heritage of traditions, language and Orthodox way of life many of them gathered in Toronto. In fact Baizecheeners/Baizetshinners, as they were called, were awarded a special piece of land at The Dawes Road Cemeteries. There were also sizeable communities of Baizetshinners in Baltimore and in Brooklyn in the United States.

Zionism, the Jewish movement to establish a national homeland, was active in Bodzentyn and vicinity as it had been in virtually all Jewish communities in the Pale of Settlements especially in the inter-war 1920s and 1930s. Most young Jewish men and women were involved in the groups of Poalei-Tziyon and Beitar. More than organizing lectures, setting up a library, and performing plays in the house of the local fire station at the upper market, they emulated the collective living of the kibbutz in preparation for emigration.

The Beitar Movement attracted young people in Bodzentyn. The men and women in this photo from 1935 are some of them. Far on the right side is Menachem Weinstok (or Wajnstok), who is said to have been the assistant of the first Likud Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin.
© Bodzentyn.net, courtesy of Yad Vashem.
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