The first Jewish youth organizations were
founded in the Polish lands in the early twentieth century. They evolved
from clubs and youth sections associated with the various parties.
Those associated with the Zionist movement were the first to become
independent. In Russia, He-chaluts was established in 1905; in 1913,
Ha-shomer Ha-tsairu was founded in Galicia.
After Poland regained its independence, most of the legal parties
created youth sections to promote their program in hopes they could
shape their future members.
The Zionists were still the most active in terms of organizing the
youth (Ha-noar Ha-ivri "Akiba", Betar, Dror, Gordonia, Tseirey
Mizrachi). These stressed above all the need to prepare young people for
life in Palestine. Hebrew was taught in kibbutzim and at summer
training camps (hachshara), and participants were prepared to do manual
kinds of work, especially in agriculture. Sports clubs were founded with
the aim of improving Jewish young people's physical fitness. The
leftist organizations were also of fundamental importance.
Some of them combined Marxism and Zionism
(Frayhayt [Yiddish, Freedom] Ha-shomer Ha-tsair, Yugnt [Yiddish,
Youth]). Tsukunft (Yiddish, Future) was ideologically linked with the
Bund, and prepared young people for life in Poland. The groups
associated with the Yidishe Folks Partay in Poylen were not very
influential, nor were the assimilationists (Zjednoczenie [Polish,
Unification]). Some of the parties also formed children's organizations,
such as Skif (Polish, Skiff), which was connected with the Bund, and
student organizations, such as Akademicka Organizacja Syjonistyczna
"Jardenia" [Polish, "The Student Zionist Organization 'Jardenia'"],
Akademickie Kolo Socjalistyczne "Pochodnia" (Polish, "The Student
Socialist Circle 'Torch'"), Akademickie Kolo im. B. Grossera "Ogniwo"
(Polish, The B. Grosser Student Circle 'The Cell'").
Youth organizations played a significant part in the underground
during the Second World War. (resistance movement in ghettos and camps)
It was at their initiative that the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish
Combat Organization) was founded in the Warsaw ghetto, as well as some
partisan detachments and family camps. During the armed actions in the
ghettos, members of youth organizations comprised both the leadership
and fighting force of certain detachments. These leaders included A.
Kowner, M. Anielewicz, I. Cukierman and M. Tenenbaum.
After the war, He-chalutz renewed its
activities on November 5, 1945, which involved three Zionist youth
organizations that were to retain their autonomy: Dror, Gordonia and
Mlodziez Borochowa. They were all linked by a national program marked by
its socialist slogans. Their main aim was to care for young Holocaust
survivors, most of whom had lost their families. The organizations often
served as a substitute home for them. They prepared them for jobs in
Poland and for life in Palestine. The Bundist Tsukunft was revived (as
the Union of Socialist Youth). At the initiative of Jewish communists,
the All-Jewish Scouting Organization was founded, as an autonomous
section within the Polish Scouting Union. These were all disbanded in
November and December 1949 on the basis of a decree from the Ministry of