15 December 1933
Letter from Adam Simonson to Aron Zisling
Was it a mere coincidence that the Jewish Youth Aid (Jüdische Jugendhilfe)—which rescued thousands of children and young people—was founded in Berlin on 30 January 1933, the day Hitler was appointed chancellor? For many it was a life-saving twist of fate. For the founder Recha Freier, though, it was a logical consequence of her long, Zionist-inspired commitment to promoting immigration to Palestine.
Until then, returning to the Promised Land—known as “going on aliyah”—had involved first receiving training and then immigrating. Applicants often had to wait a long time before being issued labor certificates by the British Mandate administration, which strictly regulated immigration. The Jewish Youth Aid came up with the idea of training young immigrants not in Germany but in the settlements in Palestine. The fact that entry certificates were easier to obtain for school students aged fourteen to seventeen worked to the advantage of this “Youth Aliyah” approach.
In May 1933 the organization signed detailed housing and training contracts for the first group of young people with the Ein Harod kibbutz, located south of Nazareth. However, the departure of the group was delayed. In order to overcome the obstacles involved, the organization’s first secretary, Dr. Adam Simonson, engaged in a lively correspondence with Aron Zisling, head of the Ein Harod kibbutz. In the letter Simonson wrote on 15 December he reports on the latest developments. The organizers were running out of time because several members of the group were about to turn eighteen and the student certificates they had been issued would soon be expiring. They thus faced the risk of being left behind. Simonson also wrote that he had encountered difficulties finding appropriate group leaders to accompany the boys and girls to Palestine. This was a central goal of the organization in addition to preparing the young people for immigration.
The young people left Europe in February 1934. By that time the originally planned number of sixty emigrants had dwindled to forty-three. In the end the successful undertaking silenced the organization’s critics and marked the start of the rescue of more than twenty-one thousand young German Jews by the organization.
Jewish Youth Aid
The purpose of the organization is to promote both vocational training and the placement of unemployed young German Jews in Palestine.
Office: Adam Simonson, Berlin-Charl. 2
Telephone: C 1 Steinplatz 6946
Postal check: Recha Freier Berlin 56790
Berlin, 15 December 1933.
The various telegrams and letters that have arrived from Palestine and elsewhere over the last ten days can be summarized as follows: barring unexpected passport problems or similar difficulties, the group will depart from Trieste on 10 January. The next possible vessel does not depart until 24 January, as the ship leaving on 17 January is not suited to our needs; however, 24 January is much too late. We cannot wait until that date because of the parents and the general impatience and especially because two of the girls whom we want to come and regard as especially well suited will be turning eighteen in the next few weeks. From what we understand, it seems possible that you will have completed all your preparations by 17 January, the day of arrival, because in your letter to Liebenstein you held out the prospect of mid-January as a possible date of arrival.
On this occasion I would also like to point out that you unfortunately completely misunderstood the long letter I wrote a few weeks ago describing the untenable nature of our entire situation. You saw accusations in it where there were in fact none. I thought I had made it perfectly clear that the group cannot remain here any longer and for that reason we would be driven to desperate measures if our immediate departure could not be arranged in some other way. Now that all the difficulties have been resolved and we will be able to keep the children’s parents calm until 10 January (although 31 December comes first, the day on which the parents scheduled for half-year payments must make their second installment, and although we will probably face a difficult situation because none will do so), we can now move beyond these earlier problems.
We took great pleasure in the news that Boris Eisenstadt will be the group’s teacher and youth worker. We think very highly of him and many months ago wanted to ask him if he would like to take on the job, but then refrained because we were told that he had just arrived in Naaneh and would not leave under any circumstances. Our group leader and youth worker here is Chanoch Reinhold. He spent the period of preparation with the group, which lasted for more than three months due to various difficulties, and it seems to us that he has turned sixty young people who had previously had nothing in common into a group that meets a number of the requirements for integrating into life over there. We (in addition to myself, Chawa Schiffmann and the others who have been involved in preparing the group) believe that he has a very close relationship with many of the chawerim and chaweroth [male and female comrades] in the group, which will make integration easier in the initial months. He also served as the Hebrew teacher here for several months.
To our great regret and despite our ongoing search since May, we have been unable to find a female leader to take charge of the group together with Chanoch. Given the group’s makeup—around thirty-five boys and twenty-seven girls—we considered it absolutely necessary to have an older girl as a leader. Chanoch has repeatedly emphasized (and it was clear to us the whole time) that a single person cannot lead a group of more than sixty young people. We originally considered having three leaders but could not realize these plans because among all the young Jews in Germany there is apparently not a single capable girl who has knowledge of Judaism and above all Hebrew, teaching skills and the requisite level of maturity. We have long abandoned our original plan of engaging teachers who, in addition to all the other these other traits, have experience with physical labor. Perhaps you will manage to find a young woman who is capable of dealing with the emotional needs of young Jews from Germany and is suited to serve as a leader, teacher and youth worker for both the girls and, of course, the boys.
I have two minor organizational questions:
1. Some time ago I wrote to you about a boy who because of his poor eyesight needed to learn a skilled trade—carpentry, if possible—and would not be able come if we did not receive the assurance from you that this is possible. Apart from his eyesight, the boy is in perfect health, very strong and a very fine person and it would mean a great deal to the group to have him come along.
I must repeat my question and would ask you to answer it as soon as possible, since the issuance of the certificate is dependent on it.
2. Since the authorization you issued to Liebenstein mentions sixty to sixty-five individuals, we now have the possibility of adding a boy as the sixty-fourth member who very much wanted to join the group and would pay the full fee. This boy may already be in Palestine (Ernst Sander). At the urgent request of his father, I gave him a piece of paper that identifies him as a member of the group in the event that you can take more than sixty-three. I must explicitly ask you to inform me whether you agree to having a sixty-fourth come. It is unlikely that this will cause us any trouble because the boy can probably travel to Palestine without a youth certificate or is already there.
A sincere shalom