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[Page 110]

Gordonia Movement

by Yonah Balaban (Kvutzat Hulda)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

The Gordonia branch in our town stemmed from the Young Hechalutz founded by M. Malamud.

In the spring of 1927 I was invited, by chance, to the “Hall” (this is how it was called by everyone in town). I was allowed to participate, on the sidelines, in a discussion being held among the senior members. It was led by M. Malamud and the topic was “Sects and Groups in Judaism”. The main emphasis that evening was on the Karaites. I listened with a gaping mouth to the discussion and I was totally charmed by the fact that people my age were arguing about a serious matter instead of having a good time. I immediately asked to be allowed to join the group.

In autumn 1928 there was a unification of four groups of Young Hechalutz with Gordonia.

The main patron of this unification was the well–known and enthusiastic Zionist, Shimshon Schechter, z”l .from Hechalutz central. After unification we saw ourselves as part of a large pioneering movement that had centers in many parts of the Diaspora. It had goals proposed by a global leadership.

***

The main purpose of Gordonia was the education of youth towards the establishment of a working people in Eretz Israel– our ancient and new homeland. It fostered equality, social justice, Hebrew culture and communal life. We planned all our activities along these lines.

 

ben110.jpg
Gordonia Group Prior to Preparatory Kibbutz
(in the center Eretz Israel emissary Meshi, November, 1929)

 

The young people were divided into sections according to ages[1]: 12 years olds were scouts; 14 year olds were Reawakeners; 16–17 year olds were seniors and the 18 year old were the Implementers. The latter were to go to a preparatory kibbutz. Every section was divided into groups.

The actual activities were as follows: the younger groups studied Hebrew, songs of the homeland, Yiddish and Hebrew literature, Zionism, geography of Eretz Israel, Jewish history, etc. The older groups learned about workers movements–Jewish and general–, socialist theory and the Kibbutz movement.

Sabbath nights were dedicated to singing and at the end of the next day there were activities such as discussions, dances and simply fun.

In order to pay the expenses of the hall and other costs there were membership fees. We made certain that our budget was supplemented by income from theatrical presentations and parties open to the general public.

[Page 111]

We fondly remember Umansky from Zeirei Zion who was our theatrical director.

The members of the branch also participated in general Zionist activities such as Jewish National Fund and elections to the Zionist Congress, pro–Zionist meetings, etc.

We took part in sports activities as well. Lag Baomer was one of the most exciting times for our young members. That day we would leave at sunrise and we paraded on the streets carrying our blue and white flag[2]. We sang lustily and continued on to the forests near our suburbs (Borisovka, Giska, etc.) When we reached our destination we found tents housing the pioneers who had come the previous night. During the day we had communal meals, games, dancing, athletic competitions and a festive parade at the end.

Many Jews came to watch us and the celebration was thus enhanced.

***

It was clear to us that although we were learning Hebrew and the history of Zionism we also needed to learn to work and to get used to communal life. For that purpose Hechalutz established several preparatory kibbutzim which the 18 years olds attended prior to making Aliyah.

Near Balti there was a farm called Masada which had 120 hectares of choice soil, a small barn and a chicken coop – all for self provision. This is where members of Gordonia prepared themselves.

Hechalutz (with the help of Zionist friends) maintained this farm and those who worked there strove to be self –sufficient.

There were other preparatory kibbutzim, such as Ripichani (sugar factory) and Aresht (large vineyard) which also were inhabited by hundreds of young people who wished to make Aliyah.

After completion of the preparation– 6–8 months–candidates for Aliyah were approved.

 

ben111.jpg
Members of Gordonia in Bendery in 1932

***

The crisis began. The Mandate government assigned very few Aliyah certificates and there were many candidates for each one. Aliyah became as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea.

Many young people waited for many years to make Aliyah. Some gave up and immigrated to other countries hoping to find another way to fulfill their dreams.

However, for various reasons and mainly because of these difficulties, Gordonia of Bendery did not have hordes of pioneers making Aliyah. Even those who were not successful in making Aliyah were fortunate to have a strong Jewish, Zionist and socialist education.

[Page 112]

I am certain that these people followed the precepts they learned all their lives.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. When I served as secretary of the branch there were many 9–10 year olds who wished to join Gordonia. Unfortunately I had to refuse them since we only accepted those 12 and older. A few days later these children returned and teased us by saying “We do not need you anymore. Mizrahi has also opened a Gordonia! They accepted us gladly.” (At that time a branch of Bnei Akiva was founded under the religious Zionist party, Mizrahi). Return
  2. When we passed through the streets on Lag Baomer– or at any other parade– the women who peeked from the windows would say:” Here comes the Hall”. The children always said I am going to the Hall, meaning the branch and this is how the parents referred to us. Return


The Beitar Youth Movement

By Moshe Horovitz And Mordechai Frank (Netanya)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

The blood baths of 1929 in Eretz Israel left an imprint on the Jews of the Diaspora and resulted in a reawakening among the youth of our town.

In September 1929 Avraham Zingerman, z”l, and some students from the Hebrew High School organized a youth group which became the Trumpeldor Covenant in Bendery –Beitar.

At certain times the Beitar group was considered the largest youth movement in town as well as the one with the most outstanding Zionist activities.

 :

Founders of the branch

Among the founders of the branch were Neta Blank, Moshe Yatom (Rabbi's son), Zvi Sverdlik, Shmuel Spooner, Micah Polsky, Avraham Kapusta, and others. Within three months the number of members reached 70–80 young people, most of them high school students. The first activities were held in the Maccabi house. As the branch grew we moved to the Hebrew High School building.

A few months later Yosef Visliv, z”l, joined it. He was one of the first Maccabi counselors. Under his leadership the group grew to 250 members of all ages.

 :

Activities

The main activities of the branch were educational and Zionist such as the study of the Hebrew language, athletic, military and agricultural training.

The educational activities were supervised by students of the Hebrew High School and leaders of the Revisionist party in town. These were attorney Kh. Rovshavsky, Misha Fustan, Shalom Hayat, Israel Pasternak, David Dorfman, and others.

The members of the branch participated in all activities of the Zionist movement, Jewish National Fund, Tel Hai Fund, Hechalutz of Beitar. They also distributed Zionist and Revisionist literature among the residents.

Until 1932 only boys belonged to the branch. After that, girls were permitted to join.

Two days a week were dedicated to the study of the Hebrew language. Everyone was obligated to speak Hebrew within the branch. They all wore a patch with the first Hebrew letter designating the Hebrew language. These activities were supervised by the high school students.

The branch published a weekly bulletin in Yiddish and Hebrew. Its editor was Dr. I. Lederman–Yardor who also organized a drama club. Plays by Peretz, Ansky, Shalom Aleichem as well as some written by the director were performed.

Mr. Kogan, the main cantor of the synagogue, established a choir of 40 members. They performed together with the drama club.

There was also an orchestra of strings and wind instruments. It was directed by Shmuel Kogan (son of the cantor). It accompanied the drama club and it also performed at various celebrations in town. These performances by the orchestra produced a good income for the branch.

 :

Ceremonial and athletic activities

The first military–athletic activities were run by Haim Shaposnick, Avraham Sautzky and other Maccabi counselors who joined them.

In 1932, a course for counselors in defense activities was held under the direction of Yosef Dukler, the Beitar emissary of Etzel from Eretz Israel.

The course went on for six weeks and produced a team of counselors who later were active not only in town, but in other parts of Romania as well. Among them were: Yaakov Oshan, Fima Brodsky, Miriam Borsotzky, Shuka Grebet, Buma Grebet, Moshe Horvitz, Malka Vodoboz, Haim Tomshopolsky, Malka Sverdlik, Mordehai Frank, David Flavish, Fima Friedman, Haim Kishinovsky, Haim Reznik and others.

[Page 113]

Within the athletic activities, a football team was formed. It played against non–Jewish teams and did well against them. This was a source of pride to everyone in town.

One of the central events in the life of Jewish community was the parade of all youth movements on Lag Baomer. Beitar stood out with its neat appearance, nice uniform and good marching.

 :

Seniors group and agricultural work

Connected to the branch was a group of army veterans, called “Covenant of the Soldiers”. It was under the direction of A. Sautzky and Yoske Kamelis. There were about 100 members and they all belonged to the Revisionist Party in town.

Some of the members went to do agricultural work, under the auspices of the pioneering Beitar. About 70 of them were in Balti, Zestevna and other places. They were preparing themselves for actual work in Eretz Israel.

In the summer of 1934 the branch, under the direction of Moshe Horvitz, established a local preparatory kibbutz in the vineyard of Eli Abramovich.

The members of the branch served as counselors and leaders in other preparatory kibbutzim in Romania.

 

ben113.jpg
Beitar Branch in Borisovska Forest, Summer 1932

 

Illegal Aliyah

The number of available certificates diminished and the members began to prepare themselves to perform illegal Aliyah.

The first attempt at illegal Aliyah was done in 1934 by Moshe Horvitz on a cattle boat. He failed because he was discovered by the Mandate authorities in Haifa and was sent back.

The ship called “In spite” had the following members of Beitar: Mordehai Bronfman, Mendel Goldmacher, the sisters Esther and Shoshanna Grebet, Yosef Gutskozek, Pessach Hochman, Haim Tomshopolsky, Yitzhak Mitelman, Moshe Friedgidler, Arieh Gödel, Arieh Slatnovitz, Moshe Klein, Moshe Kaushansky, Haim Reznik, Riva Reznik, Natan Schultz and others from town who were not members of Beitar.

 :

Changing of the Guard

After Yosef Visliv, z”l, made Aliyah, the leadership was taken over by Dr. I. Lederman–Yardor. The branch flourished under his direction and the range of activities was broadened.

The highlight of the activities of Dr. Lederman–Yardor was the organization of the illegal Aliyah in the entire country, In order to fulfill this mission he moved to Bucharest where he did serious work for the Jews of Romania together with Yosef Klarman and Yosef Katzenleson.

 :

Closure of the branch

When the Russians entered town the branch was closed. Its last commander, Buma Grebet and his assistant, Buma Eidelman were arrested and sent to Siberia. When World War II broke out all the members were dispersed throughout Russia together with the rest of the Jews. Many of them perished during the war.

After many years of exile in Siberia, Buma Eidelman and his family were able to make Aliyah before the Six Day War. Other members who reached Eretz Israel were Avraham Persis, Malka and Ziska Kamelis.

During the 11 years of the existence of the branch in town its leaders were Avraham Zigberman, z”l, Danny Reifman, Yosef Visliv, z”l, Dr. Lederman–Yardor, Micah Polsky, z”l, Buma Grebet, z”l.

***

This is a shortened version of the story. It serves only to touch on the Zionist activities of the branch and the Jewish community. It is not a full history. If any names have been omitted due to time passed and forgetfulness, we ask for forgiveness.

 

ben114.jpg
Beitar Leaders, Bendery 1932

 

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