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[Page 37]

Part II

The Youth and
National Resurrection

[Pages 39-40]

The Beginning of Chibat Tzion

by M. R.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The First Delegates from the Region of Orheyev

Orheyev had the merit of having three residents of its region among the first and most prominent of the group of activists that founded and established the Chibat Zion movement in Bessarabia and across its borders. One of them, Yosef Rabinovitz, a native of Orheyev, was selected by the Chovevei Zion chapter in Kishinev, which was headed by Dr. Labontin, Dr. Slutsky and others, as a delegate to the Land of Israel in order to see the conditions in the Land from close up.

The second one, whose honor preceded him in his Zionist activities, was Meir Dizengof, who was the mayor of Tel Aviv. He was a native of the village of Akimovichy in the region of Orheyev. Dizengof was the first representative to the Chovevei Tzion convention in Drozagnik (June 16, 1887). He was chosen by the heads of the movement in Kishinev. He excelled in his presentation and personality.

The third, Nachum Roitman, was born in a village near Teleneshty in the Orheyev region. He was also a distinguished personality, and a very active Zionist. He played an important role in the Chovevei Zion movement in Bessarabia during the 1890s.

At the time that Dr. Cohen Bornstein organized the “postal department” in Kishinev, N. Roitman was one of the two secretaries, and the prime composer of the circulars and letters, which served as the theoretical basis for the doctrine of Zionism.

After the death of Engineer Gotlieb the delegate of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund), N. Roitman was invited to stand at the head of the Keren Kayemet. From them, the masses of the people drew near to this activity and made their donations in a generous fashion.

These were the prominent sons, men of vision and deed who, with their personal talents, stood above the others of their generation in the region of Orheyev and all of Bessarabia, and earned an honorable place in the Zionist movement for them, even though their place was missing in Orheyev itself. Nevertheless, with their great influence in the movement, it is without doubt appropriate to specially note them in the history of the city and its activists.

The Chovevei Zion Movement in Orheyev

In their “Hamelitz” writings, Baruch Shalom Naychin and Avraham Borsutsky testify that on Sunday, the first day of Chanuka of the year 1896, the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Chovevei Zion movement in our city will be celebrated.

From here, it is clear that the Chovevei Zion organization was founded in 1886; however we are lacking any information on the activities of the organization until 1890. In its ledgers of 1902, the Odessa committee includes a list of donors to the committee of “Supporters of the Jewish Settlers in the Land of Israel” from the three years of 1890-1892. It includes 24 donors who donated 3 rubles or more in 1890, and 28 donors in 1891, over and above the approximately 70 donors who donated up to one ruble annually during those two years.

The activities of the organization paused in 1892. In Hamelitz number 229 of the year 1896, the following is written about the reason for the pause: “In our city, the Chovevei Zion organization stands out. A fine future has been foretold for it as well. Unfortunately, however, the plate turned over, and the number of members is dwindling from day to day. The reason is that several people resolved in their hearts to leave their country and to make aliya to the Holy Land with the hope that they will fill all of their wants there, and that they will find all good there. They did heed the warnings that are printed in the newspapers on a daily basis that those who do not have sufficient money to purchase land and to support themselves in the first years after their arrival should not plan to make aliya, for the Zionist action committee in Jaffa is not able to help them, etc. After these impetuous people came to the Land and saw that their hope had been shattered, they complained to the members of the active committee that they were men of iniquity, etc… Many of these disappointed people returned to their homes, which had a bad influence upon the people of our city. They became impediments and slandered the Land, brazenly stating: 'If a Zionist preacher appears in our city again, we will rise up against him and pass judgement upon him…' For this reason, the members of this organization in our city became weakened, and the strength of the movement dwindled drastically.”

The situation of the movement improved greatly after about two years. The number of members doubled, and the donations for the benefit of the settlements increased. However, disturbances never ceased from the Orthodox sector.

In Hamelitz number 223 from 1894, we read among other things: “In this year, the idea of the settlement of the Land of Israel spread out significantly… The people brought many donations for the benefit of the settlement, and the number of members doubled. More than 50 rubles were collected from the collection plates of the Eve of Yom Kippur. The profit from the etrogim that were brought by the members from Jaffa also went to the benefit of the settlement. However, this angered the opponents of the organization, and they searched for pretexts to disturb the work of the activists. They poured disgrace and wrath upon the members in our town, and vented their wrath upon the etrogim, stating that the etrogim from Corfu (Italy) were kosher without doubt, and the etrogim from the Land of Israel were grafted, so it was forbidden to recite a blessing upon them. These instigators gathered the townsfolk each evening and disseminated their slander about the movement. One of their members even permitted himself to defame the prominent rabbis who forbade the etrogim of Corfu, claiming that they were clean-shaven and complete apikorsim (heretics).”

With all this, after a year, the fortunes of the organization in the city once again were on the rise. B. Sh. Naychin writes about this briefly in Hamelitz number 80 from the year 1895, as follows:

“Thanks to the official from our town, Mr. Borsutsky, and to all of those who helped him at all times, our city collected more than 700 silver rubles for the support of the settlement in the Land of Israel, despite the anger of the zealots who opposed this mighty effort and placed obstacles along the path to impede the actualization of this idea in the community.”

The Ten Year Celebration of the Chovevei Zion Organization in Orheyev

Many were the obstacles and detractors that impeded the activities of the movement in those days… However, the movement gave rise to people of spirit who made the national cause into the highest goal of their lives. A group of dedicated activists arose in our city who dedicated themselves to the success of the Zionist ideal with all their hearts. These were Avraham Borsutsky the head of the organization; Moshe Ravich (lawyer); Aharon Fikhman (wealthy merchant); Shmuel Lipshin (merchant); Sender Pagis (merchant); Reb Alter Menashe's (merchant); and Fania, the wife of A. Borsutsky. (Aside from Alter Menashe's, all of them participated in the Zionist conventions in Odessa.) The group of activists struggled strongly against all of the obstacles and brought the Chovevei Zion organization in our city to the conclusion of a period of ten years of activity.

We read about the celebration of the first decade of the existence of the organization in Hamelitz number 263 from the year 1896 (B. Sh. Naychin):

“The preparations of the Chovevei Zion organization in our city went on for approximately one month. Their facial expressions expressed their feelings, for the joy in their hearts continued to grow. They were preparing for the great festivity – that of the decade since the day that the youth of our city united their hearts into one organization bearing the name of Chovevei Zion. The day designated for celebrating the decade of Chovevei Zion is the first night of Chanukah, the holiday of the Maccabees. On the first night of the Festival of Lights, all of those invited, the members of Chovevei Zion of our city, gathered together, with signs of joy and gladness radiating from their faces for they merited to reach this great festivity. How many adventures did the idea of the love of our land go through during those ten years! This holy idea suffered greatly from the hands of its detractors and obstructers who came from our midst. It persevered and was strengthened, and will send its fruits throughout the entire Jewish Diaspora.

“Chovevei Zion of our city gathered at 6 p.m., and the honorable Mr. Alter Feinsilver opened the gathering with a few words. Then, a memorial was made to the soul of our Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector of blessed memory and the soul of the lover of Zion Dr. Pinsker of blessed memory. Then the official of our town, Avraham Borsutsky, arose and described to the gathering all of the efforts for the idea of love of Zion, and the events that took place with regard to it. Later, the preacher from Zion Mr. Lantzman, who had been invited to our city for this event, delivered his address on the occasion of this celebration. Then, the tables were set, and those gathered partook of treats and drank wine from our Holy Land, the fruits of the sweat of our farmers who are developing the fields of our Land. Letters of blessing and telegrams arrived from Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever may he live long, Professor Bielkovsky of the Odessa committee, the chairman Mr. Grinberg, and others.

“My pen is too short to describe the spiritual pleasure and joy that was felt by each and every one of us. The attendees returned home glad and joyful.”


[Pages 40-41]

The Beginnings of the Tzeirei Zion
(Young Zion) Movement

by A. Y. Golani[1]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Youth of Zion

Youth of Zion

 

I moved to Orheyev in the year 5668, a city in which the people were of a high cultural level. There, there was an important Zionist movement headed by people of the intelligentsia including Avraham Borsutsky. The veteran Zionists were the Zionists of the shekel or Zionists of the shares (of the Settlement Treasury). Aside from the shekel and the shares, they had no involvement with the movement. The majority of the sons and daughters of these Zionists leaned toward the Russian Liberation movement, and only the Borsutsky family (Avraham and his wife Fania) raised high the banner of Zionism. The youth gathered around them. I also joined this group, and with time I became involved in the activity. Along with the other members, we developed wide-ranging Zionist activities. We convened gatherings in synagogues and private halls. We arranged reading evenings in the Hebrew language, and we busied ourselves with the spreading of the Hebrew language among the youth. There was a broad Socialist movement there. The Bund also struck roots among the workers in the various places of work. A war of words was waged between them and us. Since I myself was a worker, my words were heeded and accepted by the workers. Our gatherings were clandestine. Since the authorities persecuted every liberation movement in Russia, we would gather on winter nights in basements. In the summer, we would find secret places on the crests of Mount Ivanus. It once happened that the police conducted a search in my house. I was imprisoned in the home of the governor of the city for one day. From that time, my status rose in the eyes of our opponents.

A. Y. Golani

A. Y. Golani

 

In those days, news reached us about Tzeirei Zion chapters that sprouted up in various places of our region. Ferment began among our members as well. We saw the need to split off from the veterans, and we searched for a basis for Zionist activity among the masses. The Tzeirei Zion movement began to crystallize in Kishinev with the efforts of Yosef Shprintzak, who came from Warsaw to live in Kishinev.

Avraham and Fania Borsutsky indeed belonged to the General Zionists, but they searched out the possibility of practical activity in the circles of the veterans and did not find their desire. They opened up their homes to our group of youths. The path of Tzeirei Zion was not clear and set. Each city and town had its own style, different than that of its fellows. At that time, it issued a proclamation in Orheyev with the following motto: “With blood and fire Judea fell, and with blood and fire Judea shall arise”. This was to impart a revolutionary style into the young movement, patterned after the other youth movements. That year (5665), the war between Tzeirei Zion and the members of Ogdana grew stronger, according to the testimony of Freiburg. Famous propagandists such as Dr. Mosenzan appeared in southern Russia. He passed through Bessarabia in a victory journey. When he passed through Orheyev, his strongest detractors were silenced. The influence of his words upon the masses was deep. At that time, the star of Chayim Grinberg, a native of the city of Kalarash, was rising. Our movement began to spread out and broaden. It took on the distinctive appearance of a movement of workers, close in spirit and form to the Russian S. R. movement. Then, Tzeirei Zion of Orheyev took council and decided to utilize their own power for publicity in the towns and settlements of our region. Among those who took on this task were Yosef the son of Yoel Pagis, Yosef the son of Yisrael Pagis, and the writer of these lines. During these travels, I came to the town of Dubossary on the banks of the Dneister and settled there for two years…


Footnotes

  1. During the time of his wandering, A. Y. Golani of blessed memory came to Orheyev and spent approximately two years there. He was one of the important activists in the Tzeirei Zion movement, and his influence was deeply felt. He made aliya to the Land in the year 5665 and was one of the first teachers. Golani died in the year 5714 / 1954 in Ramat Gan and was buried in the settlement of Nahalal, of which he was one of the founders. Return

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