Transcript Index
Search This Transcript
Go X

MARTEN: This is Bill Marten of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin staff and I am in the home of Mr. Morris Weingrod in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in order to make a tape recording on the Tuesday, the 20-20th of February, 1962.

WEINGROD: I'm Morris Weingrod, age 67. I was born in 1894 in the city of Warsaw, Poland. I [pause] come from an extreme orthodox Jewish family. I have received [pause] a religious orthodox education, and at a early age, perhaps fourteen or 1:00fifteen, I have joined young groups like myself in-in discussion groups or circles. At the very early age, me and people like myself were very much interested in Palestine, but we lived in Poland under a regime of anti-Semitism, of oppression, and the younger generation like myself, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, looked for a way out. And we turned our hearts and our 2:00eyes to what was known then as Palestine. I am referring of course to the time way back before the first World War.

I came to Milwaukee in 1921 and I found a-a very fine group of people centered around an organization called Po'alei Zion. They were idealistic, young, and willing to do, to help, and extremely devoted to what was then known as Palestine. They had a very fine leadership--very educated, very devoted to this 3:00movement. Also I would say, numerically, they were not large, but they were very very influential in the community.

When I sit here and I look back to those years some forty-one years ago, I think I should mention that when I came here I found [pause] I found quite a bit of disappointment and frustration among these young people and devoted Zionists. There-there were [pause] several reasons for it. It was the end of the first 4:00World War and the dreams of the-of the war or rather the dreams that the world is going to change and is going to turn over a new leaf for all the people, including the Jewish people, had not exactly materialized. The days of the Balfour Declaration from 1900, that was given to the Jewish people in 1917, were-in looked in 1921 did not look as bright and as promising as they were just a few short years ago. I remember I came here in April and a little while later, in 1900 to be exact on May 1, 1921, there was a pogrom in-in Tel Aviv and in 5:00many other communities in Palestine. There was a pogrom in Jews just like who have saved themselves, rescued from many parts of eastern Europe, in those days came to Israel, or to Palestine it was in those days, and they were pogromized by the Arabs. There were fights and strife and there was a lot of frustration and a lot of disappointment.

There was also, as I mentioned before, there was a lot of disappointment in the-that the League of Nations has not lived up, has not developed into what it was...into these things, into these realities what were expected from the League 6:00of Nations. And also I remember the time when I came that one of the top leaders of this movement, a woman who was just...who now is known throughout the world, but at that time she was a Milwaukee girl. At that time, she was known as Goldie Mabovitch, later as Goldie Myerson--her husband's name was Myerson--and now she is of course known throughout the world as Golda Meir. She left at that time for-for Palestine and the people, her friends, her comrades, felt that they had-they had missed her a lot and felt that as one of the top leadership there wasn't really anybody in those days--I don't think there ever were--to take her 7:00place. [Pause]

And they turned in spite of this frustration, as I said before, these people who had one or two--who were organized in one or two branches of the Po'alei Zion or what's known now as the Labor-Zionist movement--turned to practical work. Practical work, I remember when I came here in spring of 1921, just a few days after my arrival here there-there was a campaign for tools for the workers in Palestine, for Jewish workers or for workers in general in Palestine. It was a 8:00very successful campaign was carried on there, probably one of the first ones for very practical purposes. People were disappointed in the British and they felt that we are not going to have this land despite the Balfour Declaration. People will have to work very hard and people, to say it plainly, they'll put the shoulder to the wheel and we are going to help those people. I should mention here a fellow who has-who has been dead for some years, a fellow by the name of Nathan Sand who was the chairman of that campaign in 1921, the time when I was what you call green and a newcomer.


In those days, and I think I ought to say a few words about that--in those days, when Yiddish, in the Yiddish section of the community, which was mostly concentrated around Walnut Street from oh, perhaps from Sixth to Seventh Street out to Seventeenth Street--thousands perhaps, quite a few thousands families lived there. These people, [pause] there were two opposing factions, one of this movement that I have mentioned before and the other one was a movement-movement that was called the Arbiter Ring in Yiddish, or in English the Workingmen's 10:00Circle. These people, just as immigrants like the-in the other-like the Po'alei Zion, these people were almost violently opposed to the idea of a Jewish state or the idea of ever Palestine ever becoming the Jewish state. In fact, they carried on a very-very at some point a real propaganda continues, propaganda in the Jewish section against the Po'alei Zion and against the--because they looked upon them as dreamers, as working for something that would never, never be realized. I think that they got this ideology from the old country, from Poland 11:00from Russia, because I am familiar with a very strong and powerful movement that existed in Russia that was called the Bund. Apparently, a lot of people were either Bundists, Jewish Bundists, not to be identified with the German Bund that was...that was...that we had here during the times of early in the second World War, before the second World War. But these Bundists, in-in Poland and their friends were very much opposed, were very much against a Jewish state. So these two groups or the leadership of both groups, were really out to win what we call now--to win the minds, to win the minds of the non-affiliated Jewish men and 12:00Jewish women. And it looked in those days, that they had-that they had the upper hand, that the dreams of the 19-of the Balfour Declaration and of 1917 and 1918--it looked that the British--and I think I mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating to get the background--it looked that the-that the British are not sincere about that-about this thing that's called [pause] Palestine. And will that ever become a Jewish homeland? And they have played the Arabs against the Jews and the Jews against the Arabs. And at that time, these people who were opposed-who were opposed to us got the upper hand. We used to [inaudible]...We 13:00used to engage them and they would engage us in public discussions, because they would have-they would arrange public meetings and so did we. This went on for a few years until I would say [pause] as I remember this, I would say 'til 1924.

Now what happened in 1924 in Milwaukee, that I remember very vividly and I have personally participated in? I would say two things. First of all, we-our people did not have a place to meet and they were mostly concerned is that they didn't have a school, a Jewish school, for their children, that other-that other 14:00education that Jewish children get, other than the one in the public school. They were not [inaudible]. Our people were not satisfied, being more or less liberal minded, progressive, we were not satisfied with the-what is known as the Talmud Torah religious school, and there was such a thing--they were much older. They were in existence at the time and they had probably a history of twenty or thirty or forty years, perhaps as long as the Jewish immigration in Milwaukee. But our people were dissatisfied with just a religious school. We looked upon a school that would-and put the emphasis on Jewish history, Jewish literature, 15:00Jewish traditions, and we felt, at that time at least, we felt that as far as religion is concerned this belonged to the synagogue, congregation, or temple, and school. So we have gone to work here and we have formed a nucleus, a group, of people who really worked very hard, a group of people who were young and idealistic. And we worked very hard. We bought a small building and converted this into a school on Eleventh and Vine. And in fall, in October of 1924, we opened this school and we had a school, a Jewish school. It was known for many many years as the Yiddishe Folkshule. We [inaudible] there...Our children would 16:00go like most Jewish children do in this type of school--they would go after public school, from four to six or five to seven. And we had founded in Milwaukee a Yiddishe Folkshule, that is, a Jewish school. A fellow by the name, he too is dead, by the name of Mr. Zavel, who died a few years ago, was the first president, the chairman of the school and I was the first secretary of that school. That school was in existence for many many years and later we-we consolidated with another school.

The second thing that we done--and it isn't that we done--we helped to ease the 17:00Histadrut campaign. Our-just as I said before-just...just as a said before, there were two factions fighting for the mind of the neutral so to say, to use a term known today. This that happened in Milwaukee was actually happening throughout the United States. And the unions, the Jewish unions that very very powerful in those days and the Jewish labor movement was very powerful in those days was-were at best very closed to the idea of a Jewish homeland or a Jewish Palestine. Until in 1924, a group of people of the Jewish unions--I'm speaking 18:00nationally--went over to Palestine, spent I don't know how long--a month or two--and came back and reported to the Jewish labor movement and said to them, "I think we are making a mistake. There are actually Jewish workers, thousands of them. They toil in the fields, they work in the shops, they live under very miserable conditions. I think it's-it's incumbent upon us to go to work and help these people just like we help others. We should also help our own people." And this thing that's called the Histadrut, the Confederation of Labor of Palestine, was opened up an office in New York and in 1924 was the first campaign held.

We in Milwaukee, we in Milwaukee, under the leadership of the late Mr. Nathan 19:00Sand, who died some years ago, and I again was the first secretary of this committee to raise money--and we went out and raised a small sum of money, something like $500, in the national campaign of $50,000. I remember that very clearly. And we were...we became...and from then on, we were engaged for many years not so much in debates, discussions, with the other factions, as in real practical work.

I would say there was a new period that started in this movement, that started in 1924 as we were engaged in two very practical things. First, the school for our children--school, teachers, a place of our own where we held our 20:00meetings--and-and to help raise money, tools, whatever we could to raise, to help Jewish workers in Israel. We also worked in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund. That's a fund that's been in existence probably for seventy-five years and still it's very much in existence today. That's a fund that raises money throughout the world to buy land-buy land in Israel, cultivate the land, done many, many good things. We cooperated with them and still cooperate with them to this day. We were a part in the leadership of the-of this movement.


[long pause]

During these years, when we carried on this campaign, annual campaigns for the workers in Palestine, we were very fortunate that the-this organization in Palestine would send out delegations to the United States. And therefore, the delegation when they came here, they certainly came to Milwaukee to public meetings. And when I look today in the roster of the people who are in the government of Israel today, I remember that Golda Meir came in 1926 and the-the pres-President of Israel Mr. Ben-Zvi came in 1928, Mr. Ben-Gurion came, I don’t remember exactly, I think it was in 1930 or so—those people came to Milwaukee and to public meetings and naturally-naturally enhanced our standing in the community and we gained more prestige and more friends.