Social Networks and the Jewish Migration between Poland and Palestine, 1924–1928

by Magdalena M. Wrobel Bloom (Author)
©2016 Monographs 274 Pages


This book analyses the role of social networks in the process of migration. Based on stories of Polish Jews who migrated between Poland and Palestine in the 1920s, the author presents all stages of the journey and shows how networks of friends and families spread in different countries contributed to the migration experience. Presenting these stories through correspondence, she shows how migrants were not only motivated by traditional push and pull factors, or ideology, but also by dependence on other members of their social network. This book shows the process of migration from the perspective of their international social ties.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abbreviations Used in the Notes
  • A Note on Transliteration
  • Introduction
  • Review of the Literature
  • Methodology
  • Problems with Chronology and the Term “Aliyah”
  • Use of Term Social Networks
  • Problems Related to Archival Sources
  • Structure of the Book
  • Chapter 1: Jews in Poland in the 1920s: Historical Background
  • Economic Crisis
  • The Status of Jews in Poland in the 1920s and Polish-Jewish Relationships
  • The Long Tradition of Migration in Eastern Europe
  • Closing the Gates of the “goldene medine”
  • The Influence of the Zionist Movement on Polish Jewry after World War I
  • The Situation in Palestine
  • Chapter 2: “Who May Go to Palestine?”: Information Campaign about Palestine in Poland in the mid-1920s
  • Non-critical Sources
  • Content of Non-critical Sources
  • Criticism of the Sources
  • Critical Sources
  • Conclusions: How Reliable and Influential Was the Information Campaign?
  • Chapter 3: Between Here and There
  • Theoretical Stage: Decision Making
  • Practical Stage: Preparation
  • Final Stage: On the Way to Palestine
  • Conclusions
  • Chapter 4: Palestine as a New “Homeland” or Staying between Different Spaces?
  • First Encounters with Palestine
  • Involvement in the Life of the Yishuv
  • Social Networks in Action: “Homesickness” and Functioning in Multiple Worlds
  • Encounters with the Arabs
  • Conclusions
  • Chapter 5: The Next Stage in the Journey: Returning to Poland versus Looking for a New Destination
  • The Start of Economic Stagnation in Palestine and the End of Mass Immigration
  • Jews Returning from Palestine – Terminology and Interpretation
  • Why Some Polish Immigrants Left Palestine – Case Studies
  • “Yerida” Versus “Return” in the Eyes of Polish Jews in Palestine and Poland
  • Conclusions
  • Conclusions: Social Networks and the Migration Process
  • List of Archival Sources
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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I would like to express my deep appreciation to all the people who have contributed to the publication process. This book is the outcome of my dissertation written at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and I am especially indebted to Professor Michael Brenner, my first Ph.D. supervisor, for his knowledge and guidance over the years. I was privileged to have learned not only an enormous amount of information from him but also insight into useful methodological approaches to difficult topics. I also owe a very special debt to my second Ph.D. supervisor, Professor Natalia Aleksiun from Touro College in New York. Her knowledge and passion for the history of Polish Jewry helped me to gain a deeper understanding of this complex history and to avoid many mistakes. The personal warmth, energy, and wisdom of my both supervisors kept me positive through the entire writing process.

Throughout the years of working on my dissertation and then the manuscript of the book, I was honoured to meet many wonderful individuals in several fascinating countries. From them I have received advice, suggestions, and comments which helped me to define the scope and content of this book. All those encounters and discussions have influenced me in both the scholarly and personal realms. I would like to thank in particular: Gur Alroey, Katharina Friedla, Małgorzata Maksymiak, Joachim Schlör, Marcos Silber, Nancy Sinkoff, Ania Switzer, and Joanna Sliwa. Nevertheless, many other friends in Europe, Israel, and the United States helped me through the uneasy process of first writing the dissertation and then preparing the text for publication. All of these individuals have helped to improve this book in some significant way: any faults, however, are entirely mine.

I am also grateful to the institutions from which I have received grants and scholarships over the last years: the Bucerius Institute for Contemporary German History and Society in Haifa, the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London, the Center for Jewish History in New York, and the Schroubek Fonds östliches Europa at Ludwig Maximilian University.

While preparing the manuscript of the book, I have had the pleasure to work as a research associate at the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) in New York. Researching the history of German Jewish migrants gave me a new perspective on timeless aspects of human migration. I am especially thankful to William Weitzer and Frank Mecklenburg. The numerous conversations with them on different aspects of emigration, uprooting, and the contemporary character of every historical narrative have helped me to think anew about many parts of my own manuscript. ← 9 | 10 →

Finally, I owe special thanks to my family and friends. Over the years when I have been studying and conducting research in numerous more or less foreign countries, we became another social network spread between Munich, Jerusalem, London, New York, Chicago, and many places in Poland. My sister Karolina’s voice on Skype, FaceTime etc. was often my only window onto social life. Jason, Molly, and the entire Wrobel and Bloom families have embraced and sustained me with their positive attitudes to life and their sense of humour. My friends of many years, Mariola Stępniowska and Tomasz Stefanik, have been always there for me.

I dedicate this book to my parents, Barbara and Tadeusz Wróbel, who have always supported me in my plans and encouraged me to keep on going even when I stumbled over the many issues and problems typical for someone pursuing doctoral studies. They taught me to be proud of where I come from and not to be afraid to go where I desire.

Magdalena Wrobel Bloom
New York, August 16, 2016

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Abbreviations Used in the Notes

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A Note on Transliteration

Every project on migrants and their families spread among many countries embraces numerous geographical locations and a multiplicity of languages. Similarly, every scholar undertaking research on Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe faces various issues of transliteration from languages used by Eastern European Jews. In my work, I transliterated words from Yiddish and Hebrew. When converting Modern Hebrew into the Latin alphabet, I used the official standardized transliteration of the language. However, doing the same with Yiddish words and expressions posed more obstacles. While I adhered to the standardized forms used by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research when writing popular Yiddish names, in some cases I decided to make an exception. For example, I write about Icchak Grünbaum and not Izaak or Yitzhak Grinbaum. This decision was dictated by the form of writing used by the person himself. I encountered more issues with titles of Yiddish newspapers published in Poland in the 1920s. The lack of contemporary universal canons resulted in titles appearing in Latin alphabet using Polish forms (usually on the front page above the original title in Yiddish); for example Erec instead of Erets or Sztime instead of Shtime. In such cases, I decided to preserve the original transliteration as a sign of its regional character and local press practices.

No fewer problems appeared with quotations from original documents from English, German, and Polish. Authors of reports wrote Hebrew and Yiddish terms according to their own taste and writing practices. Therefore, in some reports, even Polish or Yiddish words completely differed from their standardized forms. The same problem concerns reports in English written by foreigners. Sometimes their writing style and skills were unequal to those of native speakers. In both of these cases, I decided to keep the original form of the source. I hope this will help the reader to understand the period I describe and better sense the atmosphere of the cultural and linguistic variety which was especially present in Poland after it regained independence in 1918 and in Palestine in the 1920s.

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At the beginning of January 1926, Malke Lewkowicz, the wife of Wolf Lewkowicz, a Jewish merchant from Łódź, wrote to her family in the United States asking for help in organizing her husbands’ departure from Poland:

I am really in agreement that my husband should leave as quickly as possible because I have tried a lot of things and none of them worked out. Now, Passover is approaching; I don’t know how I’ll manage. Everything in Łódź is at a standstill. Father has no work. Our brother, Hertzke, also has no work. And who has money to make payments to a customer peddler? A refined man doesn’t buy on payments, only a swindler who has nothing with which to make payments. These are the kind of dealings I have. Can I live from this and support a household and educate children [and provide] clothing?1

Despite this and other pleas to the family abroad, Malke and Wolf Lewkowicz stayed in Poland. However, many families facing similar difficulties emigrated from Poland. They were among the approximately 100,000 Polish Jews2 who left the country between 1924 and 1928. The emigrants suffered through an economic crisis while relocating from Poland. Nevertheless, like the Lewkowicz family, many of the emigrants could call on the help of other family members who had left the old country earlier.

While the majority of Polish Jewish emigrants between 1924 and 1928 went to France, Germany, Canada, Argentina and other countries, about 32,000 headed for Palestine.3 In the Zionist historiography, the wave of immigration to Eretz ← 15 | 16 → Israel4 between 1924 and 1928 is referred to as the Fourth Aliyah5 (Fourth Wave). The table below shows annual immigration to Palestine and the percentage of immigrants who held Polish passports.

Table 1: Immigrants to Palestine, 1924–19286

In 1924, the first year of the so called Fourth Aliyah, almost 5,700 Polish Jews immigrated to Palestine. The next year saw the high point of the migration wave as almost 17,000 people left Poland for Palestine. In 1926, the number of emigrants declined to about 7,400. This was also the last year of massive immigration, but most contemporary scholars regard the Fourth Aliyah as having continued at least until 1928. Indeed, between 1927 and 1928, almost 1,400 Jews arrived in Palestine from Poland.7 ← 16 | 17 →

Polish citizens were not the only Jews going to Palestine during this time period, as some 67,000 new immigrants arrived in the country between 1924 and 1928.8 The chart below helps to visualize the participation of the Polish emigrants in the immigration to Palestine in those five years.

Figure 1: Participation of Polish Jews in general immigration to Palestine, 1924–28

During these years, the number of Polish immigrants was significantly greater than the number of newcomers from any other country. After three consecutive years of high immigration rates, the number of Polish newcomers (as well as the total number of immigrants) dropped significantly in 1927 and 1928. Despite the decrease, however, the percentage of new arrivals coming from Poland remained high: 35 per cent in 1927 and 18 per cent in 1928. The average percentage of Polish Jews within the total number of immigrants to Palestine was 48.6 per cent over the entire period. At the peak of the immigration wave during 1924–26, which coincided with a period of growing economic prosperity in Palestine, over 62,000 newcomers arrived in Jaffa and Haifa – the two main sea ports in Palestine. This ← 17 | 18 → flow of people significantly increased the Jewish population in Palestine – the Yishuv9.

Table 2: Growth of the Jewish population in Palestine, 1923–2810

July 1923 89,000
July 1924 94,669
July 1925 120,559
July 1926 157,398
July 1927 147,687
July 1928 149,554

In July 1923, 89,000 Jews lived in Palestine. Over the next five years (1924–28), this figure grew by almost 60 percent. By July 1928, the Jewish population was estimated at almost 150,000.

The number of Polish Jews heading to Palestine was so significant that contemporary commentators began calling the phenomenon the ‘Polish Aliyah’ or the ‘Grabski Aliyah’, after the Polish Prime minister at that time, Władysław Grabski, who introduced a new tax system that was quickly identified as one of the main motivating factors behind the migration. While the term Polish Aliyah clearly characterizes the immigrants according to their country of origin, the term Grabski Aliyah emphasized a stereotype that the typical Polish immigrant to Palestine, especially between 1924 and 1926, differed from the typical oleh11 of earlier aliyot.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (November)
The Yishuv Jewish History Emigration/ Immigration Adjustment to the New Society Interwar Poland Zionism
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2016. 274 pp., 10 b/w ill., 14 b/w tables

Biographical notes

Magdalena M. Wrobel Bloom (Author)

Magdalena M. Wrobel Bloom has studied in Poland, Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States. She achieved her PhD at the Chair of Jewish History and Culture, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.


Title: Social Networks and the Jewish Migration between Poland and Palestine, 1924–1928
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