Thursday, January 31, 2008

More From Benny

1967, Eve of the Six Days War

I don't quite recall who and how many of us attended the meeting at Reuven Genn's apartment. (As the years pass, the memory dims. So, somebody will have to help me with the names). The disussion, tho' , centered around what we felt was a coming war and what role we - in Betar - should play.

The decision to send volunteers was unanimous. An initial group was to be sent almost immediately and was to be led by Reuven Genn. ( Again, I don't remember all the names and numbers in that first group), and a later group to be sent as soon as funding could be found.
We, of course, had to make provisions for the staffing of the upcoming Camp Betar season and the day to day operations of the Betar office, as well as the continuing activities of the various Betar maozim.

The group led by Reuven left for Israel shortly afterwards, but I will leave it to the members of that group to recount their own experiences. However, the group had the distinction, among other things, to be the very first group of volunteers to arrive in Israel from anywhere! (It was sometime in early May, I believe...)

As for the rest of us, we immediately set forth to make arrangements for a second group of volunteers - mainly, the raising of funds.

One amusing incident that I do recall happened with Aviva Stone and Leah Cohen. Levy Silverman (our Guizbar at the time), took the Israeli flag in our office, gave it to the two Betariot and told them to go to the street, in front of the office, and raise some funds. An impromptu sign was quickly painted ~

And the two girls were sent on their way. They stood on the corner, holding the flag by its four corners, and to our amazement, passersby began to throw money into the flag. Within the space of a couple of hours they collected close to $200. Not much by today's standards, perhaps, but at that time anything over &20 was considered a respectable amount in Betar.
(To be continued...)


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Steve Adler's Photos

A great big thank you goes to Steve Adler who sent us these photos taken at the grave of Rosh Betar Ze'ev Jabotinsky in 1960. The two Betarim are Steve Adler and Benny Rosen. You"ll have to figure out who is who.

Steve also sent the Betar patch which I took the liberty of using as part of our banner. Steve has it labelled as the 'old' semel. I guess I wasn't paying attention when they changed it. It is the semel I wore (although I had one that had the colors reversed - white menora and dark blue map - don't ask) and will remain in my mind the symbol of Betar.

Since Pesach is coming up, how about sorting through those old photos and sharing them with the rest of us? And while you're at it - write a few lines about your experiences in Betar!

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Benny's Story

Risa's posting "How I almost didn't join Betar" brings back fond memories. David Sprung's talk at that meeting, inspired several kids to approach the Betar chevreh to ask questions about joining; Risa among them.
Since this is the appropriate forum for reminiscences of those years in Betar, I would like to invite anyone interested enough to contribute their own memories, anecdotes, stories, etc. of the events during the 6-Day War: The meetings, the fund-raising, the groups of Betar volunteers, the Betar office at 154 Nassau St., Camp Betar during those fateful weeks, in short, anything and everything that you remember. The who, what, when, where, etc. It belongs on this list.
I'll start it off by recalling the first meeting that we had at Reuven Genn's apartment. It was sometime in late April or May '67 (don't remember exactly), to discuss what we already believed was the coming war. It was there that we decided to send the first group of volunteers. Does anyone remember who was there
and what were the points of discussion?
Hope to hear from you,

How I almost didn’t join Betar

by Risa (Rich) Tzohar

It was sometime in 1965. I guess you could say that I was a Zionist before I ever heard the word. I would have been happy to join a group that advocated settling in Israel but in I never came across any. It wasn't until high school that I actually met some kids who went to meetings of Habonim. Those meetings were on Friday nights so I never went. One day these friends gave me a mimeographed (remember those?) sheet inviting me to a meeting in a shul in Kew Garden Hills for a discussion among 4 Zionist youth groups – Habonim, Hashomer Hatzair, Bnei Akiva and Betar.

Benny and Miriam Rosen were there along with some others if I'm not mistaken David Sprung spoke. They met on Sundays (remember those?) and seemed committed to aliya. I gave them my name and address and they promised to send me more information.

They actually did put me on the mailing list and around two months later I got a flyer about a demonstration outside the German consulate protesting the German scientists working in Egypt. When my friend and I arrived the demonstration had already begun and we were given yellow stars to pin on our jackets. Betar did not stand out and I couldn't identify anyone. I went home, pleased that I had participated but disappointed not to have made contact with the Betarim.

Summer came and went. Eventually I did get a letter with details of some meetings to be held in Brooklyn. Of course the address that was on the page had a digit missing and when I got there it was not the right place. I was about to go home (a very long subway ride) when I saw someone with a blue shirt and got up the nerve to ask if he knew where Betar was. I wish I remembered who that was, but I don't. I ended up in Aaron Kinsberg's basement finally able to meet the Betarim and later joined the Maoz in Manhattan on 96th Street.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How I Heard of Betar

I was introduced to Betar by Dennis Lipkin. It's mentioned here. He brought a bunch of us "Great Neckers" to the Manhattan Moadon and then brought Betar to Great Neck.

I hadn't heard of Betar before, even though I was already involved with SSSJ and NCSY.

The 1960's was a magic time, full of idealism, The Man of La Mancha and the Six Days War. I'm not going to say, "to be young, again," since I don't "feel" old. My idealism hasn't tarnished a bit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


What years were you in Camp?

As a camper or as a Madrich?

If a Madrich, what groups did you supervise?

Any color war stories?

Any other camps raids?

Special events in or around Liberty?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Betarim and the Six Days War

For many Betarim, the Six Days War was a watershed.

Recent participants in the Machon L'Madrichei Chutz program had all been at Amatzia, right on the border, and the returning madrichim to North America passed on their experiences. Ben Rappaport, a recent oleh from Brooklyn, lived there.

As soon as the tension period broke out, Betar took the lead among all North American Jewish youth and organized a volunteer movement. One Betari, me, Yisrael Medad, even found himself in a foxhole, awaiting the Jordanian advance:

On the day the war broke out, I travelled down to Tel Aviv after spending the previous night at Mevo Betar with the 'gang' of Betarim, including Benny Ben-David of Mizrachi HaTzair, learning extreme first-aid measures, and at the Metzuda picked up two volunteers to take them back to Amatzia (I will remember their names soon).

So, one of the first projects I propose is reviewing that short period:

1. How did the volunteers get organized? Who was in charge?
2. Any great stories while in the States?
3. Who actually came over? Where'd they end up? What did they do?
4. What did the Betarim who couldn't come do in NY and other cities?
5. Pictures?
6. Newspaper clippings?
7. What happened afterwards?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

We are starting this blog to collect historical facts, anecdotes and reminiscences of the members of Betar on the North American continent over the last century.

This is your chance! All those stories about the 'hevre', the heroes, the connection between the diaspora and the State of Israel, the pre-statehood years, the underground, the Revisionists, the shlichim and of course the camp. All of it belongs here.

We welcome first person accounts, photos, links to discussions and anything you think would be relevant and worth sharing with your Betar friends far and wide.