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Youth organizations

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 Public Administration.
(G.Z./CM)

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