This week, in honor of Israel's 64th's Independence Day— and in continuation of my work of documenting my ancestors' legacy, One Ancestor at a Time—I thought I would focus on my grandfather, Baruch Lavi, and his small contribution to the State of Israel, as a founding member of Kibbutz Tel-Yitzchak. Some of you, may recall, an earlier post I wrote about my beloved grandfather : Never Give Up and Good Things Will Come, where I talked of his diligent effort to record the lives of his family whom he lost in the holocaust. There, I contemplated how, like the state of Israel, he lived in the shadows of the holocaust. But today, in the first part of a several part series, I want to write about his humble heroism, which he shared with countless others of his generation, the generation that created the State of Israel.
Baruch Lavi was my grandfather's Hebrew name, but no one really called him that. Everyone fondly called him Zigo, short for Zigmond, his Polish name. I called him Saba which means grandfather, but that was only a grandchild’s privilege. Hebrewtizing his name was only one example how he embodied his beliefs into actions. The Hebraization of surnames began with the first waves of immigrants to Palestine, and continued after the establishment of the State. There was a wide spread feeling that having a Hebrew name provided a feeling of belonging to Israel. Jews who came to Israel, had a strong desire to distance themselves from the lost and dead past, as well as foreign imposed names. Ashkenazi Jews, adopted surnames names, fairly late. Until the emancipation of the Jews in the late 18th century, most Jews in Eastern Europe (with some few exceptions such as Jews of larger cities or those from Rabbinic dynasties) used the traditional system of patrimonial Hebrew surnames, David son of Moses, for example. The process of expanding the rights European Jews as equal citizens, and the formal granting of citizenship, occurred gradually and included the need to register citizens which required last names. The legal process differed in each country, but began in Austria-Hungary on the 23rd of July, 1787 with emperor Joseph the Second issuing a decree compelling the Jews to take on German surnames. What we think of as many common Jewish last names such as Klein, Schwart or Rosen are actually German names imposed on Jews according to this law. Together with other Jewish leaders, Ben Gurion—the first prime minister of Israel—set an example when he Hebrewtized his name from Grün. With the excitement of the declaration of independence, many of those who had yet not changed their names, like my grandfather, decided to erase the past and embrace the future of their new state by joining the name changing movement. My grandfather, Zigmond Jampel (pronounced Yampel) became Baruch Lavi. Baruch means prayer and Lavi means Lion. He named himself Lavi, in memory of his father, Leon Jampel, who died in the holocaust.
Zigo, was born in the city of Lvov, Poland on February 16, 1913, on the eve of World War I, to fairly well to do parents who owned a fur factory. Lvov was the third largest city in Poland after Warsaw and Lodz. How the Great War, affected the Yampel family directly, I do not know, since my grandfather shared very little of his life in Poland with me. I learned about the factory from an aging a friend of my grandfather’s Fishko Kravitz. Fishko was the younger brother of one of my grandfather’s closest friends, Sanyo Aviyona (Note: Sanyo Hebrewtized his name from Kravitz to Aviyona. Yona, meaning dove, was his father's name. Aviyona, literally means "my father Yona"). Sanyo and Fishko were also from Lvov. While Sanyo, was also one of the founding members of my grandfather's Kibbutz, his younger brother Fishko was still in Poland when the Nazi’s invaded. He miraculously survived the holocaust with false Polish identity papers as a non Jew. Fishko lost his entire family during the war. He ended up in a concentration camp, as a Pole, and was eventually liberated. Fishko told me, on my last visit to Israel in the summer of 2010, that he remembers walking by the Jampel family fur store when he was a young boy in Lvov.
Jews have been dispersed in the Diaspora since the first century CE and the destruction of the second temple. There was a small continuous presence in Israel, which Jews considered their promised homeland since biblical time. Though the idea of a return to Zion had been present throughout the ages, it began to gain popularity during the nineteenth century, following Russian pogroms and increased antisemitism. Zionism became a leading Jewish political current as Theodor Herzl preached that Jews needed to determined their own fate, by removing themselves from the hostile antisemitic Europe, and creating a Jewish homeland. The aftermath of War I was being felt by Jewish youth throughout Europe. During the early twenties, two main radical ideologies were sweeping young people: fascist nationalism or revolutionary Marxism. It was a dangerous endeavor to belong to these groups and the tension between them, was polarizing the community. In 1926, a group of enlightened young Galician Zionist leaders, realized these hazards and envisioned an ulterior outlet for Jewish youth. They formed the youth movement, Hanoar Hatzioni, a peer lead Zionist youth organization. Jewish youth movements sprung up like mushrooms in the late twenties and early thirties. They competed in ideologies spanning the political spectrum.
|Zigmond Jampel in school uniform|
As head of the Lvov summer camp, my grandfather was responsible for hundreds of enthusiastic campers, not much younger than himself. Organizing a summer camp was no small feat according to Fishko. At first, the head of the camp, had to located a Jewish farm on the outskirts of Lvov. There were not many Jewish owned farms in Poland (Land
|Hanoar Hatzioni summer camp in the outskirts of Lvuv around 1932|
Zigo (Second from the left in the middle row).
In 1933, while Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany, my grandfather, took part in the Hachshara (training) program for Kibbutz, in Stanislvuv, Poland. In December 1934 he made Aliya (immigrated to Israel) with a nuclear group from Hanoar Hatzioni. They headed to Magdiel where they prepared to eventually build their own kibbutz.
|Hachshara (training camp for Kibbutz), Stanislvuv, Poland 1933|
(Zigo is third from the right in the middle row).