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The Influence of the Workers in our City (cont.)

For a period of four months, the advisor visited most of the cooperatives and learned about their conditions. At the tenth convention of the Farband, that took place in January 1931, an accounting was presented on the state of labor, and the means that should be taken to improve the status of those who work. The following were the resolutions: a) Provide cheap materials to the laborers. This could be accomplished by joint purchases for a group with a specific interest, or by establishing a supply warehouse next to the local cooperative. b) Ensure that the benefit that accrues from the centralized purchases is not offset by a loss that might accrue through normal competition in the circles of laborers. Therefore, marketing partnerships must be organized. c) Broaden the limit of credit for acquiring raw materials, under the condition that it be returned at the set time. To this end, multi-purpose warehouses should be established where the workers would exchange their wares for raw materials. Through this manner, they would be able to increase their inventory for the next time, without requiring loans at exorbitant rates of interest. d) Broadly disseminate information to the workers about the value and methods of the cooperatives. Wide ranging cultural activity is extremely valuable in the towns where few people have faith in cooperatives. These suggestions inspired many delegates to express their opinions on the matters under deliberation. The resolutions were accepted. A committee was struck from among the representatives of the workers who would be responsible for the plan of actualization, until the 11th convention that would take place the following year.

This achievement found an echo in the “Das Cooperative Vort” newspaper, number 3, (1931), which published the statements of various delegates of the convention (Moshe Ravich and Karpel Shpiller) under the title “Members of the Laborers, Unite”… They discussed the difficult economic situation that pervaded in the land, and progressive impoverishment that was plaguing the workers in particular. They preached the path of cooperative partnership as the only means of salvation from the economic recession and social degeneration. The achievements of the groups of workers in Ryshkany, Orheyev, Teleneshti, Ataki, and Lipkany. “In Ryshkany, the carpenters organized themselves, and their situation improved greatly within the span of a few months. Aside from the material benefit, friendliness pervaded among the carpenters who had been used to competition among themselves which often led to open disputes,” wrote Shpiller. Ravich writes in a similar matter in his article. He points out the outstanding accomplishment that was achieved by the workers at the annual convention of the Farband. “The fact that the chosen advisor is a person who is close to you proves the interest displayed by the directors of the Farband. One the one hand, his words found a positive echo among the representatives of the convention, mostly merchants, whose interests are opposite those of the cooperative from an economic standpoint. On the other hand, this matter testifies about the importance of the enterprise. You must demonstrate your positive attitude to the cooperative idea. Therefore, I too join the call of the member Shpiller: Members of the Laborers, Unite!!”

Council of the Labor Bank

Council of the Labor Bank

 

Encouraged by this broad communal support, the advisor worked for nearly a year and a half. The idea of opening areas of the cooperatives deepened and struck roots. That year (1931) the general worldwide depression broke out, that wreaked havoc on millions of unemployed people, and also sent its signs upon our area. Our enterprise was liquidated. In summary, it should be pointed out that, despite the brief life span of this wonderful enterprise, the community of workers and activists in Orheyev were the force that urged the Farband to establish the leadership office for workers in Bessarabia. Through their knowledge of the conditions of life of the workers of Bessarabia, these activists worked to the best of their ability to impart knowledge and faith in the cooperatives, with the aim of improving both the economic and social status of the workers. Furthermore, through the general social development in the first quarter of the 20th century, a progressive and active social force was crystallized, which assisted the advancement of the status of the workers of our city.

The Craftsman Bank

The Craftsman Bank - The last council before the Holocaust

Seated from right to left: 1. Z. Chinkis 2. Y. Malkovitz 3. D. Shaposhnik 4. M. Perlov 5. [alef]. Stravitz
Standing right to left: 1. Y. Filmus 2. N. Belfer 3. A. Gondelman 4. V. Bilmosh 5. M. Grinberg
6. M. Hoichman 7. B. Portnoy


Workers in Public Life

Yonah Shamban

In the first years of the 20th century, an assistance fund, called Krozok, existed among the circles of workers. Every needy worker was able to obtain assistance from it in their time of need.

This fund was organized and sustained by the workers themselves, who contributed 5-10 Kopecks to it per week. After a set period of contributions, every contributor was eligible to obtain a loan of the sum of 5-10 Rubles.

Thus were matters conducted through the first years of the 20th century, until a mutual benefit movement for workers arose in our city, as in other cities, whose purpose was to improve their economic and cultural status.

At the beginning of 1906, the group of progressive members, headed by Yisrael Milshteyn, Natan Zubritsky and Yitzchak Fridman, with the active assistance of M. Ravich, took it upon themselves to found the first “Loan and Savings Fund” in our city.

After much intercession at the windows of high people in Kishinev, the members succeeded in obtaining the required permit.

One winter night, several dozen people gathered for the festive opening of the fund. That evening, a board of directors was chosen, headed by the member Yisrael Milshteyn. Each one of the registrants paid membership dues, and received a savings ledger in which his deposits were recorded.

I remember the degree of seriousness with which people brought their deposits to the fund on a monthly basis.

That time, the fund began to distribute loans to the needy. At first, loans were given to the sum of 10-20 Rubles, with the signature of the borrower and one of his family members who acted as a guarantor. Larger loans were also granted with indentured merchandise as a guarantee. At the beginning of the war, the state of the fund reached a crisis due to the draft of many of the members. With the outbreak of the Soviet Revolution in Russia and the ending of the war, many members returned home. Other young people had come of age and entered the circle. The activities and the fund sprung back to life.

In the year 1919, when one of the founders of the fund the member Yisrael Milshteyn, prepared to immigrate to America, a general meeting of the membership was called. A new board of directors was elected, with the participation of members of the younger generation. It was headed by Chayim Wachsman, Yitzchak-David Cheriyan, Yonah Shamban, Mordechai Rotkov, Yitzchak Fasir, and others.

With the entry of the younger people, the activity of founding manufacturing cooperatives broadened. With the effective assistance of the representative of the Joint, members Yitzchak Milshteyn of blessed memory, the movement took on an organized format. (See the article of M. Rotkov.)

Manufacturing cooperatives were formed for hat makers, coopers, carpenters, cobblers, and others, which were exemplary. The movement flourished in the cities and towns of Bessarabia. At the general convention of the funds of Bessarabia that took place in Kishinev in 1929, it was decided to engage a special advisor to oversee this cooperation. This was M. Rotkov of our city.

The activity of our members also influenced the cultural side of our lives. At the general meeting in 1923, a resolution was accepted to start a trade school, and to duplicate the private house in which the fund was headquartered. When trade schools affiliated with ORT were established in 1923-24, our fund was invited to take part in the activity.

Through a special agreement with the ORT organization, our members entered into a partnership for directing it. With the physical assistance of the Joint through the representation of the member Yitzchak Milshteyn of blessed memory, a building was purchased. More than 100,000 Lei was paid for this. From then, the school bore the name: The Trade School of the “Loan and Savings” Fund of the Workers of Orheyev and the ORT Organization.

There were two divisions of this school, one for girls who studied sewing and the other for boys who studied carpentry. Studies in this school went on for three hours. The rest of the time was dedicated to work. Many of the youth of our city graduated from this school and thereby obtained a trade. One can meet many of them in the Land. These are people who earn their livelihood in an honorable fashion in the trade that they learned at that time. The serious and dedicated efforts of our young members from among the workers had a great influence even on the communal and political life of our city. Our honor rose in the eyes of all strata of the population.

City Council

City Council

 

In 1929, with the ascension of the Nationalists to government, we were invited for the first time to send a delegate to the new directorship of the city council.

This representative was this author, who after some time, at the time of the elections to the city council, was chosen to serve as vice mayor of the city, and took over the directing of the technology and social assistance departments of the city council.

I made aliyah in 1933, and later I brought over my family members.


[Page 111]

The Situation of The Loan and Savings

B. Z. Furer

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The windfall of 200,000 Rubles for lending and saving

A deep economic recession afflicted Bessarabia prior to the First World War. Obviously, Orheyev was also hit hard. The Jews in particular suffered, for their livelihood was derived mainly from small business and labor. An important factor in the struggle for livelihood of the Jewish community was the small, cheap credit granted by the “Loan and Savings Fund” to its members. The difficult economic situation caused serious delays in repayments to the fund. Therefore, sources of credit dried up. Most of the members could no longer be helped by the fund. The only ones who could be helped were those who were able to guarantee the loan by a pledge of their property. The number of such people was very limited. The situation of those without property was very desperate. Then a miracle occurred. The fund won a 200,000 Ruble government lottery! It is impossible to describe the enthusiasm and joy that overtook the members of the fund and their families when they learned of this windfall. 200,000 silver Rubles amounts to close to 200 silver Rubles for each member (the number of members was close to 1,000). There were very few who had investments in their business close to such a large sum. It is no wonder that the matter of the “windfall” raised the spirit, and the whole town was astir.

The members of the fund stood on the streets of the city day and night to discuss, debate, and make plans. Many who did not have shares in the fund joined them. Both groups started to hatch plans regarding how to arrange the affairs of the fund so as to ensure a division of the windfall in accordance with each person's share. After several days, the directors of the fund met to arrange a plan to ensure that this “miracle” would be for the benefit of the members, and would simultaneously strengthen the basis of the fund. Two opinions came to the fore: One, in accordance with the view of Yaakov Levinson, the director of the fund, was that the money of the windfall would belong completely to the fund, and the members would benefit through the broadening of credit. This would be a case where “this one gains, and the other one does not lose.” The second opinion, in accordance with the view of Ben-Zion Furer and others, was that a half of the sum would be divided among the members, and the other half would remain with the fund. The intention was that it was appropriate for the members of the fund to benefit in a personal manner from the once in a lifetime “miracle”, while on the other hand, the fund would have a large enough capital basis to conduct its business. Both opinions were based on communal responsibility. There was another extreme view, to divide the entire sum of 200,000 silver Rubles among the members equally. Those holding to that view claimed that the matter fell into the hands of each member, and each member has the right to share in the windfall.

Each opinion was based on its own logic. Groups were organized, with each one attempting to sway matters toward their opinion. The deliberations resulted in disputes in the homes and the street, and even outside the bounds of the city. The “Bessarabskia Novosti” newspaper sent a special reporter to us to obtain locally based information. The meetings of the members that were convened to decide this question became so stormy that a decision could not be reached. Finally, it was decided to select a committee of 36 people who would have the responsibility to make the decision and ensure order. This committee decided that the fund should be the sole beneficiary of the windfall. It would utilize the windfall for the benefit of all of its members. The city calmed down.

Unfortunately, that year, the lack of inventory in the market resulted in a reduction of the standard of living. The value of money declined at a time when the lack of necessities of life grew. In order to provide provisions of food to the members of the fund, the directors decide to establish a cooperative shop. However, after some time, it became clear that the cooperative shop was not supporting itself, so it was liquidated with significant loss. The decline in the value of money and the losses incurred by the cooperative shop once again disrupted the members of the fund. The fund was liquidated without any recourse…

The dream about the miracle… it was hidden away, it evaporated.

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