Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Chaim Potok Goes to Camp...Betar

Chaim Potok writes about going to summer camp.


It arrives, finally-summertime! Gone forever-so it seems as we joyously enter summer's wonderland-are the cruel winds of winter. An enchanted realm stretches before us: a landscape washed in golden sunlight; a languor of long lazy afternoons; flocks of birds and clouds of butterflies; nights cool and fragrant; mornings miraculous with dew. And a sudden dazzling explosion of color: from the dull browns and grays of winter to the exhilarating kaleidoscopes of flowering fields and dense woods and grassy meadows and piney hills and a vast visible cerulean sky.

Summertime. And summer camp

During the first two decades of my life, the thirties and forties, poliomyelitis was a frightful scourge made all the more horrifying in that most of the afflicted were children. Summertime the disease would run rampant through urban populations, striking randomly, at times paralyzing the legs and the respiratory system of its victims. Parents sought desperately to send their sons and daughters out of cities--to summer camp.

I grew up in New York, where the fear of that illness was so overwhelming that my father, a deeply religious man brought to ruin by the Great Depression, would send me to non-kosher Jewish overnight camps sponsored by local community centers, the only free camps available to us. Breathe the fresh air, he would say. Have a good time. He did not say what I read on his face and in his eyes: I am sending you Out of the city so you will be far away from this sickness that is crippling children....And so, as I grew up, chief among the uses of summer camp was the saving of young lives.

...We fled the city to save our lives and breathe fresh air and have fun; we did not know we were being educated. Summer then had its own special uses, and it played them upon us like a wind through the strings of a harp.





* * *

Let it be noted that mine was a religious Zionist family deep in the ranks of the rightwing Revisionist party, zealous followers of Zetev Jabotinsky. The youth movement of the Revisionist party was, and still is, known as Betar, named after the last Jewish stronghold to fall to the Romans in the 67-70 C.E. revolt. Because the Second World War depleted the pool of people available for camping staffs, my new summer home, as a novice fifteen-year old junior counselor, became Camp Betar

There I quickly discovered some rather unusual uses of summer.

Sports, swimming, boating, campfires, cookouts-all the normal uses of summer were to be found in that camp. But for staff and older campers there were other activities as well: military drill, rifle practice, ideological discussions. How those Revisionist ideologues loathed the centrist and left-wing Socialist Zionists! The place was an odd mix of fun and ferocity, relaxation and tension, democracy and fanaticism.

I learned too that summer about the ravages of forest fires when I joined a crow to engage a mountain fire rampaging too near the camp and was suddenly beneath a ceiling of flames leaping across the crowns of trees and rushing downward to form a surrounding wall of burning wood and air which abruptly parted and let us plunge through to safety. I became from then on rather respectful of fire: another use of summer.

Nights free after the campers were put to bed; hanging out with truck drivers and townspeople in the diner on the highway outside the camp; girl friends; hitch hiking on days off. There seemed more civility then; hitch-hiking was an acceptable way of getting around. I discovered the lure of the road that wartime summer, an indispensable beguilement to a future writer.

Three summers later, a senior counselor now in Camp Betar, I hitch-hiked to Hyde Park and stood reverently before the grave of Franklin D. Roosevelt, in silent homage to the man who had been a sort of deity to those of us who grew up in the terrible years of the Great Depression and the Second World War. What we know now about Roosevelt we didn't know then. Perhaps it was better that we didn't know it: we needed faith in powerful gods to steer us through those awful times.

Weary of overheated and melodramatic right-wing ideology, I moved on to a privately owned camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, where the ideology was: Fun, Frolic, and Frivolity...

...Gone is the terrible need to flee from the horrors of polio epidemics-that first use of summer in my life. Drs. Sabin and Salk saw to that. Now we have fears of a different sort. Ponder the serious summer talk presently taking place in Jewish camps: intermarriage; assimilation; the general shallowness of Jewish knowledge among Jews; the probability of the vanishing of American Jewry as a uniquely creative culture participating openly in contemporary American life-and what we must do to counteract that troubling vision of the future.

The season of long days of sunlight and warmth offers us so much. Rest of all it offers us a worthy use of summer.

Thanks to Chuck Waxman and Ellen Llinas.

P.S.  If he spent three summers at Camp Betar, then two years at a private camp and he came to Camp Ramah Poconos in its second year, and it opened in 1950, he was at Camp Betar 1945-1947.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Regards from Moshe Brodetsky

Moshe Brodetsky, our veteran American Betari, sends regards (last one in 2017).

He's with his grandson, Yitzhak, and Miriam Krakow and her son, Betari Dan Krakow on the right:




By the way, a bit of oral history.

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

First Betar USA Oleh (?)

Trumpeldorite Going ‘Home’
August 23, 1934

Louis Wetausky, a member of Brith Trumpeldor, is leaving aboard the S. S. Roma tomorrow morning for Palestine, where he will settle.

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Kenes Artzi 1947

Brith Trumpeldor in U.S. Condemns UNSCOP Partition Plan for Palestine


September 4, 1947


The Brith Trumpeldor of America today announced its opposition to the majority report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine calling for partition of Palestine. The organization adopted a resolution condemning the partition plan at its convention during the week-end in Grahamsville, N.Y.

Other resolutions adopted included a “declaration of support for the efforts of the Irgun Zvai Leumi,” and a condemnation of Britain’s suppression of the Brith Trumpeldor in Palestine. The convention also expressed its opposition to the “ideology of the Hebrew Committee of National Liberation which tends to divide the Jewish people into Hebrew and Jew.” Moshe Arens of Boston was elected president of the organization, succeeding Aron Propes, who retained the post for seven years.

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Propes to America

From the JTA report on July 8, 1934:

Polish Leader Sails for U.S.The Polish Brith Trumpeldor leader, M. Aaron Propes, has left Warsaw for the United States today. His purpose is to organize Brith Trumpeldor groups in America. The Brith Trumpeldor is the militant youth organization of the Zionist Revisionists.

Propes (l.) at the grave of Rosh Betar in 1941



Follow-up story from July 20, 1934:


Potentialities exist in the United States for the creation of a powerful Revisionist Zionist movement and above all for the formation of a strong Brith Trumpeldor youth group, Aaron Propes, head of the Polish Brith Trumpeldor, declared yesterday on his arrival in New York.

Mr. Propes, who has been head of the Polish Brith Trumpeldor since 1929, said he came here for a short visit to acquaint himself with the Jewish situation. He will return to Europe shortly for the world Brith Trumpeldor conference in Czechoslovakia, and after a short stay in Warsaw and Bucharest will come back to the United States for a period of not less than a year and one half to organize an American Brith Trumpeldor, he declared.

“I recognize the difficulties confronting a Brith Trumpeldor organization in the United States,” Mr. Propes asserted. “I realize that your youth are in a totally different position than the Polish Jewish youth. I know that your young men spend their leisure differently and that they are not accustomed to organizational work, but I am convinced that it will be possible to interest Jewish youth here in our movement and I am certain that the near future will show a strong Brith Trumpeldor in this country. In Poland the Brith Trumpeldor had 2,300 members in 1929. Today there are 60,000 young Polish Jews enrolled in our ranks.”

GIVES REASONS FOR UNIFORM

The Polish Revisionist leader denied vehemently many of the charges brought against the Revisionist movement and the Brith Trumpeldor. He also told of the reason for the adoption of the brown uniform by the Brith Trumpeldor, which has aroused unfavorable comment because of the similarity to the Hitler uniform. “The Brith Trumpeldor was founded in Riga in 1923. Of course we wanted a uniform which is always of interest to young people. We could not use the blue because that was the uniform of the Hashomer Hazoir. Red was out because it was Communist. We finally chose brown because it was the color of Palestinian earth and because it was serviceable. For us that was an important consideration. Our members are mainly very poor young Jews and the buying of a uniform meant financial sacrifices. We had to choose some color that would last. We chose brown at a time when the Hitler movement had not been heard of. But that did not prevent our opponents from likening us to the Hitlerites.”

OUT TO BREAK HISTADRUTH

Attacking the Histadruth, the central labor federation of Palestine, for accusing the Revisionists of strikebreaking, Mr. Propes declared that the accusation was wholly political. “We are out to break the Histadruth,” he said, “but we are not strikebreakers and never have been. What we would like to see in Palestine are neutral labor exchanges, which would guarantee work to all Jews on a non-political basis. The world is tired of political experimentation in Palestine. You may or may not like Revisionist methods in fighting the Mandatory power, but it is the only practical way for the Jews to fight for a Jewish National Home. What is being erected there now is an Arab national home.”

SCORES POLISH POLICY

Zionist and general Jewish organizations were not affected by the recent strengthening of the Pilsudski dictatorship in Poland, Mr. Propes declared. He said, however, that the Jewish economic position is bad and that the Jews suffer from the economic policies of the regime.

“In one six-week period, Jewish papers in Warsaw were confiscated thirty times. Even when editions were not confiscated outright they were heavily censored, particularly during the Goebbels visit to Warsaw. It was curious to see the Jewish dailies appearing with blank spaces on every page.”

Mr. Propes characterized the Pilsudski regime as the only one possible at the moment and the only one that would be friendly to the Jews.



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Jabotinsky's 1935 Visit:


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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Jabotinsky's Reinternment 1964

Screen saves from the film:







Location is the location is in front of the Young Israel of the West Side, 91stStreet between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue


Identifications:

David Sprung
Chuck Waxman
Eli Solomon
Barak Koffler
Harry Wolle
Aaron Kinsberg
Ben Rappaport
Marcie Rosen
Tzvi Neuwirh
Dovid Blobstein
Gerry Kandel
Gabi Frankel
Baruch Kraus
Chaim Frydman

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Camp Betar - The Start

Through the kindness of Harry Kline, Brith Trumpeldor of America will have the use of an extensive farm near Albany. All the Hachsharah activities of the Betar will be centered there. The farm will comprise 120 acres of fine land, a portion of which is covered by a lovely orchard.


JTA

Thanks to Meredith Weiss

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Gala World Betar Reunion, Updated

When notices of a "World Betar Reunion" in Jerusalem were seen a lot of us signed up. Such events are especially popular  for us now that we have more time to enjoy ourselves, post set work life aka retired. It was in the Jerusalem Theater, and at least speaking for myself I had no idea what type of event it would be. A few months ago, we had gone to something in Netanya, and I expected a similar get-together around tables.

Well, I was wrong. This "World Betar Reunion" was humongous! Even though there had been registration, nobody bothered having us sign in when we got there, or we'd still be on line two days later.

This wasn't a chatty get-together at all. The entire large, at least by Israeli standards, Jerusalem Theater auditorium was full, including the aisles. There were Betarim of all ages and countries. The ceremony performance was well-planned and executed, not taking all that long. We sang the old songs, saw photos of Betar history and activities from all over the world and listened to just a couple of speeches.

The grand finale was young active Betarim marching onto the large stage. They were from lots of countries. The only disappointment was that there didn't seem to be any young Americans, even though in the powerpoint of active sniffim, we did notice one labeled "Brooklyn."

There were quite a few bogrim from the 1960, and possibly earlier, from North America in the audience, although the organizers didn't interview any for the movie, which was part of the event. Also, we caught sight of only one photo of our activities. 

Here's a list of "our crowd" who attended. If I left anyone out, please add in the comments, and I'll correct the list. Steve Adler, Izzy and Sandy Herman, Yonah Ferman, Reuven Genn, Rena Epstein-Genn, Nissan Teman, David Sprung, Reuven and Yehudit Miller, Robert Glick, Batya and Yisrael Medad. Ahron Bashani Braunstein and Zeev Ben-Yoseph. Baruch Krauss, Chaim Fischgrund and Emily Udler.

The ceremony didn't last all that long. Obviously, the auditorium was to be used for something else a bit later in the evening.

Here are some photos I took at the Gala World Betar Reunion:

























JPost report.
L-R: Nissan Teman, Yona Ferman, Reuven Miller, Yehudit Miller, Yisrael Medad, Batya Medad, Aharon Bashani, Reuven Genn, Rena Genn, Idit Shiponi, Itta Horol, Chaim Fischgrund, David Sprung, Idit's husband, Baruch Kraus, Robert Glick.

L-R: Nissan Teman, Reuven Miller, Yona Ferman, Yehudit Miller, Yisrael Medad, Batya Medad, Reuven Genn, Rena Genn, Itta Horol, Emily Udler, David Sprung, Baruch Kraus
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Sunday, February 3, 2019

David Krakow z"l


Betari Dan Krakow sent us this:

David Krakow was born in NY in 1926.  He served on Netsivut Betar with Moshe Arens and others in the ‘40’s.  He was a member of the Irgun and active in arm shipments, demonstrations, lobbying and more.  He edited the English Etzel news bulletins and assisted in the publication of Triumph on the Gallows.  He spent time at the nascent settlement Mavo Betar.

David was among a small group that began the struggle for Soviet Jewry before it was embraced by the wider community.

A life-long Zionist he leaves behind Miriam, his wife of 67 years, four children in addition to son Jonathan who died at age 25, eight grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. One son and four grandchildren have served or are currently serving in the IDF.

יהיה זכרו ברוך




One of Dave's last projects was contained in a note he sent to the list of American Betarim which I copy below:

Pleased to inform you that our meeting last week with the Herut leaders, Karma Feinstein and Moshe Phillips, went very well. We share the same concerns and can work together.One of the projects proposed was a nationwide essay contest to be conducted among students in Jewish secondary schools focused upon the legacy of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, with monetary awards for the best of them. Originally conceived by Herb Zweibon, and implemented in the secondary schools in Israel, this proved to be a great success. Since some years ago, we put the Lone Wolf into every library in every JCC and Jewish secondary school in the U.S. Perhaps this will assure us of readers.More to follow, Dave Krakow

L-R: Herb Zweibon, Dave Krakow and Misha Arens, Sept. 2008 

Dave z"l was very concerned for the history of North American Betar to be preserved and met with some of us here  and handing over archival documentation and photographs.  In addition, he was on the board of the Nordau Circle and indeed, is buried now there, close to where Jabotinsky was interred between 1940-1964. He was Misha's brother-in-law.

Pictures Dan Krakow sent:



UPDATE

David Krakow, z”l, was born in 1926 to Rose Feurstein and Benny Krakow. He grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan, speaking only Yiddish until he started school. From his teen years until the time of his death at the age of 92 on January 23, David was devoted to the Jewish people and to our homeland, Israel.

As a teen, David became painfully aware of the tragedy unfolding in Europe. He joined Betar, an organization founded by Vladimir Jabotinsky, who sounded the alarm on the threat to Europe’s Jews long before others were aware or concerned. David became a member of the national leadership of Betar and editor of Hadar, the organization’s publication. He devoted himself to educating people about the desperate situation for Jews in Europe and the urgent need to get them out. David joined the Irgun and, as a member, he actively assisted in efforts to rescue Jews and establish the State of Israel. He was editor of the English Etzel news bulletin. In later years, David was one of the founders of the Center for Russian Jewry and its offshoot, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. In 1980, Menachem Begin presented David with the Jabotinsky Centennial Citation for his efforts on behalf of the Jewish people and Israel.
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Friday, February 1, 2019

Reunion


Shalom Chaverim and Betarim,

Were you a Betari/Betariah in the 1960’s, or did you attend Camp Betar in good olde Neversink NY during that same period. Well if you did, then it’s time that we got together. It would be nice to see some old faces once again, and to renew old friendships, friendships that never really faded away.
So, what am I talking about? – a Reunion of course – date to be determined. Nothing fancy, nothing big – just some old friends (are we really that old?) talking about great times.
So, if you are interested in getting together once again, drop me an e-mail at telhai@juno.com so we (not telling you who else is in on this) know of your interest and we will get back to you. Please include a contact phone number and the date (s) that you were in Camp or the T’nua.
Tell your friends, spread the word.

Don’t wait too long or you might miss it.  J
Hope the included pictures will jog some great memories.

Bivrachat Shalom v Tel Hai
Chuck “Shachna” Waxman  



  


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Heather Rosing z"l

Heather Rosing, Australian Betaria who came to Canada when it was still part of Snif North American Betar, and was in Camp with the American Betarim and later here in Israel, was part of our chevreh, has died. We extend to Danny, her husband, and to the family, condolences.

From a condolence letter of Sheldon Lerman:-


We have many fond memories of Heather, from the time she first came from Australia in the early 1960s to Toronto where Tamar was born (& Betar reborn thanks to Heather & Danny), through our many visits to your home in Israel wherever it happened to be, whether in Kiryat Ono or Omer, and her visits with Danny to us in Canada, right up to our last conversation this past April when Heather and Danny visited us in Ra’anana where my family was sitting shiva for my sister.
 
 Left-Right: Heather z"l, Miki Bar-Neder, Danny Rosing,
Nira & Sheldon Lerman
Heather was a true chalutza & Betaria in the finest sense of the word – proud and generous and strong. I’ve always admired her positive attitude & looked up to her as someone to be emulated. She will be sorely missed. May her memory be a source of inspiration for you & for all who loved her so very much. 
Yehi zichra baruch,

From Frank/Ephraim Dimant

Heather will always be remembered as critical personality in the lives of Canadian Betarim. May the wam memories of such a vivacious woman always be a blessing to the family Baruch Dayan Emet



Additional remarks and pics will be posted when received.

Monday, January 14, 2019

First Revisionist Convention 1931

 From Doar HaYom, January 28, 1931:

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Brit HaBiryonim and American Betar

Published in the Chazit HaAm newspaper on May 18, 1931, Joseph Beder, contact for subscriptions:


Beder was a central figure in the Revisionist Movement in the US and served as the first Netziv.

He is mentioned here:


As previously noted

Betar's beginnings were bound up with the efforts of Joseph Beder, a Betari from Eretz-Yisrael, who relocated to New York in 1927.  In November 1927, at a meeting of friends, which included Haim Messer and Willy Katz, it was decided to reach out to the Betar centers in Riga, Paris and Tel Aviv. These attempts were unsuccessful although there were some members recruited from within the ranks of the Revisionists which led to the age range from 18-60.

The next real attempt was in February 1929 but only in October that year, after Beder's return from a trip to Eretz-Yisrael, was the first Ken established and the impetus was the August riots in Mandate Palestine. 
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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Moshe (Misha) Arens 1925-2019

Former Netziv of Betar America, Misha Arens, was buried today in Savyon Cemetery:



He was eulogized by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.






Among the American Betarim present were Izzy Herman, Steve Adler, Dov Hertz, Reuven and Rena Genn, Baruch Kraus, Chaim Fischgrund, Nissan Teman, Danny Krakow, Wilma Friedman and Yisrael Medad.



I few excerpts from Misha's autobiography published last year:






His "Flags Over the Ghetto" was a major contribution to, literally, righting the history of Betar.





We usually met at the annual memorial ceremony for Jabotinsky, which this year Misha missed, if not listening to his lectures:



From former Netziv Yitzchak Heimovitz:

Misha Arens was a man "sans peur et sans reproach"  Without fear and without reproach.  If you wanted to know what a perfect Betari was, you only had to look at Misha.
 He was Netziv in the U.S. and gave that up in order to rush to Israel to fight in the War of Independence. In the early 1950's he and Muriel returned to the US with their firstborn son, for Misha to complete his graduate studies in aeronautical engineering, 
 Then they went back to Israel where Misha became a professor at the Technion, and I think he founded the aeronautical engineering department there.  After some years Misha became head of the Engineering Department of Israel Aircraft Industries. (IAI) for many years. 
 In August 1970 Misha told me he was ready to return to activity in the movement.  I wrote Menachem Begin, who said Misha should talk with Haim Landau.  The rest, as they say, is history.
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Sheldon Lerman sends this:

Toldot Yisrael had the opportunity to interview Moshe Arens several years ago about his early remembrances of Jabotinsky and his leadership within Betar in the United States. The full one hour interview in English is viewable herehttps://youtu.be/BB5QsHRbv_M​


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