Dr. Haim Lifshitz: Memories of high school days

The happiest years of my youth were spent in Siedlce, where I came from Warsaw in 1909 to study in high school. The memories of the pogrom carried by the Czar’s armies at the end of the first revolution were still fresh. The grocery shopkeeper, who personally experienced the pogrom, would tell me about the disorders as if it has just occurred. But the city has been bubbling with Jewish youth, which was touched by the wings of the Revival movement. And when we, students already aiming for Zion, met every day the “lawyer’s assistance” of A.Hartglas walking on Siedlce’s sidewalks on his way home from court, we accompanied him with reverent honor: he was one of the heroes of Helsingfors (a Zionist action plan, adopted at the 3rd conference of Russian Zionists in Helsinki in 1906, and especially dealing with immigration and settlement in the Land of Israel, coupled with Zionist activities in the communities and the fight for civil rights of Jews in the Diaspora).

In the boarding school at Shenkevich St. the youth of Siedlce and neighboring towns, seeking secular knowledge, have found instructors and teachers. The “Nightingale” was still the only legally operated center, around which public life of the Yiddish-speaking has gathered, and the girls of Sloshni family has pleasantly and kindly sung.

Not many survived from that pre-Zionist period. Levi Gotgald and his contemporaries have not yet reached adulthood then, and I remember the Zionist cell is the home of Landau – An employee of the Bank of the Mintz brothers. Immigration, particularly to Belgium, took almost all the vibrant youth out of the city.

Only few of the natives attended high school. Only one of the six Jewish classmates was born in Siedlce. I remember Elhanan Lewin from those days, known in the city as a prodigy and a few years later one of the leaders of the Revisionist movement in Warsaw. And maybe someone remembers the student who won a large sum of money playing the the lottery and the father of Levi Gotgeld gave him a bag full of gold coins in front of a large audience. I left Siedlce in 1913. After the First World War and after an exile to Russia I returned “Home” to Warsaw. Here, among my friends in the central committee of the Zionist Organization in Poland is also Levi Gotgeld, with whom I’ve struck close relations immediately. I remembered Siedlce the grace of my youth! Indeed, when I visited the city I found only a few people from bygone era – the war scattered them all over the world. But the life and concerns of the Zionist movement in Siedlce – as before – were very close to my heart.