by M. Amitz-Tcherkes
Translated by Pamela Russ
In Israel, there are a great many former Briceni residents. Some of them came here long before the establishment of the State of Israel. These were mainly young immigrants, influenced by Zionist thought and by the Pioneer (Chalutz) movement. They came with fixed and determined views. Even while living outside of Israel, they already belonged to specific Jewish movements in which they pictured themselves coming to Israel. Because of that, there was no need then to establish another organized corporate body for them, other than a landsmanschaft (brotherhood organization for residents of the same town).
Those who came after the establishment of the State of Israel appeared totally different, with a large flow coming with the first Aliyah. Yet, even though their numbers were large, they felt foreign in the beginning, facing the difficult challenges of new immigrants. With their own strength, they had to pave a way to fit into their new realities.
Standing: Horvicz Yosef, Ibn Ezra Menachem, Choresh Shmuel, Amitzur Yakov, Gansin Yehoshua.
Seated (right to left): Weisberg Shlomo, Mrs. Hochman Dvora, Mrs. Richter Esther, Amitz Michel (deceased)
Each one of them experienced days of hope and disappointments, and worked very hard so it seemed in hopeful searches.
For them it was important to establish the Organization of Former Residents of Briceni that would help the new immigrant as much as possible both with their morale and with material needs.
The push to establish this organization came through the visit of Yosef Kesler (Kestelman), the son of Chava and Itzy Shuchat.
Yosef Kesler has great experience behind him. Aside from the fact that he was a very successful community worker in several Zionist and Jewish Labor institutions in America, taking nothing for his personal use, for many years he was at the head of the Briceni Relief organization in New York. He also instituted prolific and multi-branched activities for the benefit of the community institutions in Briceni before the war and for the refugees after the war (details described in the article about the Relief and his activities).
At the welcoming evening in Tel Aviv in honor of Mr. Yosef Kesler, May 5, 1951, there were tens of Briceni, and there the plans were laid to establish the Organization (Irgun) with the objectives of finding ways and means to ease the acculturation of the newly-arrived immigrants. At that very evening, a temporary committee was set up headed by Mr. Noson Lerner, of blessed memory, a former Deputy in the Romanian parliament. The other members: Sonya Gelgar, Yosef Hurvicz, Tuvia Wartikowski, of blessed memory, Shloime Weisberg, Shmuel Choresh, Yakov Amitzur (Shtaynhoiz), and Ester Rechter (Koifman), voluntarily offered to participate in this task. Later, the following were elected for committee work: Michel Amitz, Dvoire Hochman (Donja Safir), Eliezer and Yehoshua Redenski this last person was the representative of Briceni in Haifa and surrounding areas.
The Organization was registered officially and by-laws were set by the government.
Also, the Ministry for Social Affairs recognized this organization as a corporate body that would benefit from the Ministry's support and social ventures.
Gemillas Chesed (Community Charity) Funds
There are two community charity funds in the Organization:
The first fund was established by the Relief in America right after Mr. Yosef Kesler's visit to Israel. For this fund, the landsleit (members of the landsmanschaft) in America sent approximately $2,000 (3,600 lires). Much of this was from the contributions of Mr. Hershel Wartikowski (Harry Warten), of blessed memory, and Pinchas Spivak, of blessed memory. The latter born in Ukraine, but his wife was from Briceni did much for the Relief fund voluntarily and was the secretary. When he came for a visit to Israel, he actually brought this sum of money with him.
Until the year 1961, this fund (the Gemillas Chesed fund) dispensed 160 loans for a total of 17,350 lires, almost all of which were given for constructive projects such as acquiring a home, setting up and improving a house, emigration for relatives, work and earning a livelihood, as well as for medical help, and many other things.
One hundred and sixty Briceni immigrants received help and support from the community charity (Gemillas Chesed) fund in this manner.
Social help that the Committee provides goes in two directions:
First, the Committee has assumed the responsibility of getting help for the needy of Briceni who are in Israel and who approach the Committee with all kinds of situations. Help is given in many forms: financial help, medical help, and so on. For the Passover holidays, the Committee distributes the goods and monies that the New York Relief sends over. The Committee was also instrumental in setting up (with the active help of Mrs. Mina Amitz) an elderly and lonely Briceni woman in a senior's residence, a task for which it was very difficult and very challenging to acquire the large amounts of monies required.
Second, the Committee does a lot for the Briceni landsleit who are in the Soviet Union and in Romania. For them, as much as possible, packages are sent through the Magen David Adom. Hundreds of packages have been sent to specific addresses, bringing greetings from their own people and townspeople, but also bringing a substantial ease to the material difficulty.
Aside from this book, which was published after much challenging and exhaustive work, the Organization also has an annual gathering of the Briceni now living in Israel, where a memorial service is held for the victims of the Nazi animals and their helpers for those who died during the expulsion, in the camps, and in pain-filled ways. During the gathering, memories of events, chance occurrences, and various people are remembered as well.
Our Organization was of the first and therefore a model for others to build a green memorial for these victims, by planting hundreds of trees in holy forests with the names of the fallen Briceni.
The Organization is always in close contact with Briceni in Israel and outside of Israel.
A Channuka evening was celebrated with great success, enjoying a program of literature and music.
In cooperation with the Organizations of the surrounding cities, there were several Purim parties. The main goal was not only the actual event, but it was also to provide personal, warm, and friendly meetings of close friends and acquaintances.
Meetings and welcomings were held for those Briceni who came to visit Israel from all different places.
The Organization maintains a regular correspondence with the Relief foundation in America and with individual Briceni all over the world: in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, and other places that are involved with the Organization and that help with the activities.
The Organization participated in the publishing of the book On the Ground of Bessarabia (Al Admas Besarabia), and the work of the former president of the Knesset in Israel, and well-known director of the labor movement, Mr. Yosef Sprinzog, of blessed memory, who, as is known, was part Bessarabian, and began his Zionist and social activities there.
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