The appearance of Rome and Jerusalem by Hess, Pinsker's Auto Emancipation, the Chowewe Zion movement, the speeches of Dr. Nathan Birnbaum and especially the appearance of Herzl's Judenstaat [Jewish State]and Herzl's call for the first Zionist Congress aroused the Jewish students and awoke in them the knowledge of their own nationality. As a consequence of this, Jewish national student corporations began to be formed. In Czernowitz in 1897, the year of the first Zionist Congress, Zephirah was born. The founders of Zephirah were the brothers: Moses Bardich, Max Diamant, N. Fuhrmann, Berl Kinsbrunner, Karl Metsch, Leib Presser, Samuel Roth, Bernhard Stecher and Josef Tennenhäuser. The founding praeses was Leib Presser.
While many believed that the wearing of couler [colors] and saber dueling was an imitation of the German student customs, from a historic standpoint, it cannot be disputed that in this movement one can seen the stressing of proud Jewish self knowledge and the beginning of the organized fight for Jewish rights and honor. It was color wearing Jewish students who gathered around Herzl and in spite of the indifference and enmity of many Jewish groups, strengthened him in the realization of his lofty ideas.
So, also Zephirah introduced the wearing of blue-white couleur (without caps, however) and training in sable dueling and had many opportunities to demonstrate their skill in dueling.
Zephirah, however placed the most importance on:
In Suceava, Salomon Wagner (later Hatikva) founded an organization of Sephardic minded middle school students named Theodor Herzl. There was hardly a place in Bukovina, whether city or village where Zephirah hadn't spread Zionist and national educational propaganda. Members of Zephirah together with members of other fraternities, in 1910 forced the change of the Zionist leadership and the election of university professor Dr. Leon Kellner to president of the State Zionist Committee which led to an upswing of the Zionist organization. Due to the initiative of brother Krämer, it was decided to found a Bukovina Colony in Palestine and as a result of functions and collections, an appreciable sum was collected which was given to the KKL. The drive was interrupted by the World War. Brother Markus Krämer already as a student took part in 1911 in the tenth Zionist Congress in Basel.
Zephirah founded the so-called Worker Education Courses, evening courses for Jewish apprentices and hand workers in which members of Zephirah taught basic education subjects for free.
Yearly, Zephirah conducted very popular lecture cycles at which appeared leading Jewish and non-Jewish personalities like Martin Buber, Kurt Blumenfeld, Prof. Leon Kellner, Schmarjahu Levin, Chief Rabbi Dr. Rosenfeld, Prof. Zolschan, Lazar Felix Pinkus, Prof. Arthur Mahler, Adolf Stand, Prof. Werner Sombart, Prof. Franz Oppenheimer, etc.
When in 1905, in Romania there was an uprising of the farmers, whose consequences hit the Jews, Bukovina was overrun by a flood of Jewish refugees. This flood became still stronger when as a result of of the pogrom in Kischinew, thousands of Russian Jews fled into Bukovina. Zephirah placed itself completely in the service of the Jewish organizations of Bukovina which concerned themselves with caring for the refugees. Brother Dr. Chaim Kinsbrunner was selected as liaison officer between the Jewish organizations and the state government. While the other groups in Bukovina (Romanians, Ruthenians, Germans and Poles) were recognized as special nationalities (none of these groups constituted a majority), the central and state governments in order to maintain the German character of the land, counted the Jews as being of the German nationality.
The fight for the recognition of the Jewish nationality began at the university where the Jews comprised 40% of the students and where numerous Jews and baptized professors worked. Zephirah took a leading part in this long running battle for recognition of the Jewish nationality. The brothers Kalman Schapira, Markus Krämer, Seinvel Brettschneider, Rudolf Katz, Nachman Morgenstern, Selig Hochstädt, Mordko Rotfeld, etc. had a special part in this fight. The last named, was after a stormy meeting in the Universities auditorium, suspended from the school.
The period in which Kalman Schapira was elected several times as praeses was a sparkling time of activities centered around this respected and beloved figure.
The fight for recognition of the Jewish nationality spread from the university to the Jews in the street and took on in connection with the census of 1910, the character of a peoples movement. The Zephiraner Dr. Diamant, Dr. Mendel and Chaim Kinsbrunner, Brettschneider, M. Krämer, R. Katz, Mordko Rotfeld, Marem Somer and Dr. Sperber took a leading part in the battle over the census. The fight was without success since the officials were determined to officially maintain the German character of Bukovina.
In 1909, brother Dr. Diamant filed a complaint with the Austrian Supreme Court concerning the violation of the national rights of the Jews. In particular, a petition to the Interior Ministry had been rejected by the Ministry. The Supreme Court under the chairmanship of its President Dr. Joseph Unger (a baptized Jew) also rejected Dr. Diamant's claim on the grounds the Jews did not have the character of a recognized nationality in Austria.
Remaining true to their premise, the central authorities in Vienna, in 1909, also rejected the election statute unanimously approved by the Bukovina Parliament, according to which, each of the 5 nationalities in Bukovina, including the Jews were to cast ballots in their own ballot box for parliamentary elections. Zephiraner were very effective in working for the passage of the election stature in the Parliament and in organizing Jewish mass demonstrations throughout the entire land to promote the concept.
When in, 1906, the member of parliament, Dr. Benno Straucher founded the Jewish National Party, Dr. Diamant was made vice president and Dr. M. Kinsbrunner was made chairman. For years the Zephiraner fought at the side of Dr. Straucher, who for the first time in the Austrian let the word Zionism be heard and who courageously got involved in the Hilsner trial (about alleged ritual murder) and who stepped forward for persecuted Romanian and Russian Jews. Zephirah in following its program was actively involved in the Imperial Assembly election campaign. In 1907, Zephirah worked for the election of Dr. Nathan Birnbaum in the election district of Sereth-Radautz, Suceava and Zalesczyki. In Zalesczyki, Dr. M. Kinsbrunner was arrested on election day to hinder Birnbaum's election effort.
A great number of Zephiraner labored under the leadership of M. Somer and M. Krämer to help Adolf Stand's campaign in Tarnopol. In 1911, Zephirah took over the election campaign of the Honorary brother Prof. Arthur Mahler from Prague for the Imperial Assembly mandate for Sereth-Radautz-Suczawa. In every one of these cities, the brother Somer, Krämer, and Rothfeld ran the election campaigns. The central leadership in Czernowitz was in the hands of brother Brettschneider.
There was an understanding between the Jews and the government, according to which the Jews in Czernowitz West would vote for Hofrat Prof Skedl and in exchange for that, the government would be responsible for seeing that the Germans in the district of the above named 3 cities would vote for Mahler. On election day, the Zephiraner reported to Braettschneider that the Germans weren't keeping their part of the bargain and so, the order was given, to wait with voting until definite news was received. Around 5 in the afternoon, it was obvious that Mahler was going to be defeated. The State President Graf Etzdorg who feared that Skedl would be defeated, called the young Zephirah praeses and conveyed to him the official news that that the election of Mahler was assured. Brettschneider replied: Excuse me Excellence, I place more faith in the reports of my fraternity brothers and today, we will see that Herr Hofrat is defeated. Simultaneously, the members of Zephirah passed the word from man to man to vote against Skedl. And so it was, that Skedl was defeated in the Czernowitz election.
In 1910, Zephirah turned away from Dr. Straucher because of his position against the Zionist organizations and his dictatorial behavior in public life and joined forces with the Volksratsbewegung [Peoples' Council Movement] which was inaugurated by Prof. Kellner and which Prof. Kellner and Dr. Fokschaner were using to help candidates fight the Straucher list in the State Parliament elections. Zephanier, especially Dr. Markus Shapira, Kräemer, Kinsbrunner, Brettscheider, Somer, Rothfeld, Katz, Sperber, Quecksilber, Mosner among others traveled the entire state and spread a democratic state politic. This memorable People's Movement which also strived for the democratization of the Kultusgemeinde [Jewish community's governing body], sent both of its candidates to the State Parliament and increased its influence, but was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I.
Zephirah was not only active in the intellectual and political life of the Bukovina Jews but also had a leading part in the Jewish Sports Movement and in various other organizations.
In 1938, the Zephanier Marem Somer founded the Blue White Movement of Bukovina to which the Zephiraner Krämer, the Miseles Brothers, Willi Kligler, Diamant, Glaubach and Scherzer belonged, partly as founders and partly as active members. In 1910, Somer and Krämer founded the sports club Maccabi with the State Parliament member Prof. Dr. Neuman Wender as president, Somer as vice president and Krämer as secretary. Zephiraner were also involved in the founding of the sports club Hakoah.
Marem Somer as well as the Zephiraner Dr. Nachman Morgenstern, Dr. Isidor Kottlar, Dr. Rotfeld and Prof. Schleier took a leading part in the founding of the Jewish glee club Hasamir which made Jewish folk songs at home in all strata of Jewish society.
The highpoint of the pre-war activity of Hasamir was achieved in the concert trip arranged by Dr. Somer to the 13th Zionist Congress in Vienna.
In 1913, Dr. Somer organized the Jewish Ball in Czernowitz to which all the leading personalities of the Jewish and non-Jewish population attended.
The outbreak of the World War interrupted the activity of Zephirah, but the Zephiraner took part in various activities in support of the Jewish population and in the leadership of the Home Guard. In the two House Regiments many Zephiraner were excellent officers. The brothers Dr. Marcus Schapira, Prof. Hilferding, Dr. N. Morgenstern, Quecksilber, Ungar, Löbl, Bardach and Markus fell in action and others like Rothfeld and Widner were taken prisoner. Several brothers remained in Austria after the war and held respected positions there like Dr. Eckstein, Dr. Chaskalovicz, Dr. W. Herzberg, Dr. Somer, the brothers Dr. Stecher, Dr. Rothfeld, the brothers Dr. Krässel, Hofrat Dr. U. Haber among others. Rudolf Katz was a representative in Transylvania for the Hungarian Credit Bank and later in Bucharest the general director for the cartel of Romanian sugar factories. When at the end of 1918, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy collapsed and the Jews in Bukovina together with the Jews in other nations created the Jewish National Council, Dr M. Krämer and Prof. Schleyer from the Bukovina State Zionist Organization were the first to be named delegates to this organization. In Fall of 1918, a conference of the Austrian Zionist Organization took place in Lemberg at which a resolution proposed by a delegate from Bukovina, M. Krämer demanding that Austria be turned into a country of nationalities and that the right of autonomy be granted to the Jews, was unanimously accepted. The resolution was the basis for the later program of the Jewish National Council. This resolution is cited on page 1 of this book (History of the Jews in Bukovina) and in N.M. Gelber's Jewish Autonomy in East Galicia. The program of the Bukovina National Council was worked out by a commission, to which the Bund members, Dr. Jakob Pistiner and Dr. M. Kraemer and the Poale Zion member Dr. Mayer Rosner belonged. It is noteworthy, that in this program was found the Palestine Plan, the only one ever agreed to by the Bund.
After the National Council declined to accept the annexation of Austria to Romania as demanded by the Romanian occupation army, Dr. Krämer and Dr. Diamant were sent as delegates to Paris to present the Jewish demands to the Peace Conference. There they reworked the Zionist memorandum presented to the conference by Weizmann and Sokolo and in the Comite des Delegations juives under Sokolow and Motzkin worked on the finishing of the Minority Agreement. Under Sokolow's leadership the two Bukovina delegates to the Commission for new Countries, (moderator, Mr. Lipert) handed over a memorandum dealing with the special requirements of the Bukovina Jews and presented a thorough argument for their adoption. Dr. Kraemer was the only delegate from Bukovina at the 1920 Annual Zionist Conference in London where he helped to elect Adolf Bernhard and Dr. Mayer Ebner as the first members of the Action Committee from the Regat and Bukovina. Dr. Kraemer had, as a member of the Central Council of the Jewish World Help Conference visited the Ukraine several times to organize the transfer of pogrom orphans to the West and Palestine. As a member of the Zionist Central Committee for Austria, which was located in Vienna, he had together with Dr. Ebner who had just returned from Siberia, composed a memorandum supporting the demands of the Romanian Jews to the Bucharest Peace Conference of 1917. which through the intercession of Nathan Eidinger was given to the Austrian foreign minister, Graf Ottokar Czernin. This memorandum is cited in N.M. Gelber's book, The Romanian Jewish Question at the Bucharest Peace Conference. The brother Fähnrich Sellig Hochstädt was especially effective in arming the Jewish militia which protected the Jewish population when the Romanian army entered Austria. Among the leadership of the General Militia, which was composed a great number of Jewish and several German and Polish mustered out officers and soldiers, the Jewish National Council was represented by Dr. Jakob Pistiner and Dr. Markus Krämer.
Here, however began with renewed vehemence, the intellectual grappling about the hegemony of Zionism as the solution for the Jewish question. The group inclined toward Zionism, demanded national education while the old Culture advocates dedicated little attention to the Zionistic side of Culture. The contrasts became ever sharper until it came to a crisis. The Zionist side demanded a clear decision. At the heavily attended extraordinary general meeting held in the Jewish House, brother Zwi Brender was the main speaker for the Zionist group. He was therefore entrusted with presenting the groups ideological point-of-view and with announcing the group's decision to leave Culture. When brother Brender had finished his talk, the leading member of Culture asserted that they had been misunderstood, promised to clarify the situation and asked that they not take an irreversible step. The Zionist group, however remained firm and left Culture in a body.
Now before them stood the great question, what next? Someone mentioned the name Zephirah. The suggestion was weighed and accepted. Meanwhile, the group decided on a provisional program for the next time which included the following points: radical Zionist and radical democratic. They talked to the old timers from Zephirah, Prof. Hoffman, Dr. M. Kinnsbrunner, Prof. Herbst, Dr. J. Ebner, Prof. Schleyer and others. They agreed with the entrance of the group into Zephirah and so the reactivated organization set up its hangout in the Jewish House in January 1919. Then began a period of feverish activity in all areas of Zionist and Jewish political work.
Let us go back for a while to that stormy period after the war with its political and social upheavals. The Jewish youth sought a way out of the uncertainty of the period. On one hand they were impressed by the revolutionary slogans of the Communists but on the other hand they asked themselves: What will become of the Zionist ideal, the iron rule of Zionism that the existence of the Jewish people and the normalization of the Jewish masses can only take place on our own territory?
On one side the bright light from outside lured and on the other side the loyalty and devotion to the Jewish people and Zion called. And the doubt gnawed at the heart. Until another stronger light flamed up, the light of a functioning Eretz Yisrael [land of Israel], Zionism and Socialism, viewed no more as opposing opposites, but as a natural synthesis. The new Zephirah wrestled its way to a socialistic Zionism or a Zionistic Socialism which saw the national and social freeing of the Jewish people in Palestine as its task and which in contrast to bloody minded Bolshevism and the orthodox rigid Marxism of the Social Democrats developed the new concept of constructive Socialism.
It should be pointed out that with almost no help from outside, using its own resources, of which Zephirah had few at that time, (letters of A.D. Gordon, the works of M. Buber, M. Brod, Charles Arlosoroff) Zephirah succeeded with this wonderful synthesis, led by the unforgettable Schamschon Schächter, a man of unusually high intellectual qualities, who was to later take on still greater Zionistic missions in Romania and in the bloom of his youth and creative powers was to leave for Eretz Yisrael at 25 years of age. brother Dr. David Spiegel-Marani worked extraordinarily closely with him. This Zionist social program which later became the program for Hapoel-Hazair in Eretz Yisrael and Zeire Zion (Hitachduth) in the Gola [exile or diaspora] became the official program of Zephirah. Also, Zephirah was the only Bukovina fraternity to take in female students as regular members.
Then the fraternity expanded its activities so they far exceeded the framework of a student organization and encompassed the whole area of the Zionist Movement and Jewish politics in Bukovina and were often able to influence them.
The external work that Zephirah accomplished can be illustrated by the case which was unique in the history of the Zionistic student movement, that a fraternity created a political party. Namely, Zephirah brought to life the party Zeire Zion-Hitachduth in Bukovina which was to become an important factor in all areas of Zionist work, especially the Aliyah [immigration to Israel], the Hechaluz [movement that encouraged and trained youth for emigration to Palestine to work the land], founding of the youth movement, Gordonia, organizing the hand worker union Haowed and the democratization of Zionism and Jewish life in the land.
Zephirah was a leader in the campaign for the reestablishing of Saja Iwria. In the leadership of Saja Iwria sat the brother Dr. D. Spiegel, Prof. Schleier, Dr. B. Kaswan, Schamschon Schächter, (first general secretary of the organization) Dr. Z. Brender among others.
Zephirah took part in 1921 in the first Jewish Student Congress in Romania which took place in Bucharest and the fraternitie's delegation led by Sch. Schächter contributed much to defeating the anti-Zionist faction. The Zephirah delegation to the Congress consisted of brothers Z. Brender, A. Hechtlinger, A. and B. Kasvan, Sch. Rosenrauch, Schamschon Schächter, D. Scherzer and J. Thau. After returning to Czernowitz, a meeting of Jewish students was called at the University at the initiative of Zephirah to give a report on the Congress. Brothers opened the meeting and greeted the audience and the Academic Senate which had attended the meeting. Brother Scherzer was elected chairman and brother Scherzer was chosen to read the report. At that moment a hoard of Romanian students armed with clubs stormed the hall and made unacceptable demands on those present. The chairman rejected these demands in no uncertain terms and when a delegation consisting of brothers. M. Schapira and D. Scherzer went to the rector and asked him to guarantee that they could hold the meeting undisturbed; he refused to take any action. Taking encouragement from this, the Romanian students with their superior numbers brutally dispersed the meeting. To rub salt in the wounds, the members of the delegation were disciplined by the university officials. That was the beginning of the Romanian student unrest in Czernowitz, which, to be sure, didn't take the form of those in Bucharest and Iasi, since the nationally knowledgeable student body in Czernowitz knew how to defend itself and struck back forcefully.
Right after the war's end, Zephirah became involved in the reactivation of the Jewish sports organization, Maccabi. Brother Dr. Marem Somer was elected as the first president of Maccabi. As a testimony to the general respect that Zephirah enjoyed, when M.M. Ussischkins visited Czernowitz in 1924, actually, the first visit of a Zionist leader to the land, the praeses of Zephirah at that time, Salo Woreczek was chosen to greet the Jewish leader. The honor was all the greater since only a single speaker was chosen to represent the academic youth. That our praeses performed this honorable task worthily and enhanced the good reputation of the academic fraternities in general and Zephirah in particular should be mentioned here.
Zephirah was successful in demanding that at the student celebration to honor King Ferdinand the Second's visit to Czernowitz in 1924, not only songs in Romanian and the other student languages, but also Hebrew songs should be sung and so King Ferdinand and his court, probable for the first time in their lives, heard the Hebrew language.
The fraternity took a leading part in the creation of the Business Association of Jewish high school students in Czernowitz which built a canteen and later a dormitory. To the founders of this group belonged among others the brothers: Dr. Josef Thau, Dr. E. Wagner and Lawyer Meier Schapira. Dr. Thau was for many years the chairman of the organization. Zephirah members have, either as members of Zeire-Zion or other Zionist parties taken a meaningful part in the community life of Czernowitz. Among the members of the parties founded by Zephirah should be mentioned:
Dr. Zwi Brender[A] functioned in the years 1930 - 1935 until his aliyah to Eretz Yisrael as chairman of the party Zeire-Zion-Hitachduth in Bukovina.
Dr. Benedikt Kaswan[B] was chairman for several years of Zeire-Zion of Bukovina and after the union, chairman of the combined party Ichud Poale Zion - Zeire-Zion.
Schamschon Schächter[C] was one of the founders of the Zeire-Zion Party of Bukovina.
Dr. David Spiegel-Marai[D] was one of the founders, theoretician, and ideologue of the Zeire-Zion Paarty of Bukovina.
Dr. Josef Thau was editor of the paper published by Dr. Mayer Ebner, Oestjüdischen Zeitung [East Jewish Newspaper]. Active in the Zionist Movement in general and in the Zeire-Zion particularly, he was sent by the Russians to Siberia where he died miserably.
Simon Preminger was for many yars a member of the presidium of Keren Hajessod and K.K.L. in Bukovina. Because of his Zionist activity, he was sent to Siberia and there with his family died a terrible death.
Dr. Emanuel Wagner was chairman of the local organization of Zeire-Zion in Czernowitz[E].
Lawyer Aron Hechtlinger was for many years general secretary of Zeire Zion and then of the combined party of Bukovina. He sat in the leadership of the K.K.L. and functioned as general secretary of the Landes schekelkommission [State Schekel Commission].
Salo Woreczek founded the Zionist organization in his home town of Mielnica in 1918 and he was its first praeses. At his initiative, the palace of the Grand Rabbi Friedmann was acquired for a Jewish National House in which the Zionist organization and later, the Hebrew school founded by him were housed. In Czernowitz, he was twice president of Zephirah. He has been in Israel since 1944
Attorney J. Isaksohn was for years chairman of the local commission of Zeire-Zion in Czernowitz and was active in the Hebrew Movement in the land.
Dr. David Kimmelfeld was for a time chairman of Zeire-Zion in Bukovina and worked for the Ost-Jüdische Zeitung and the Neuen Jüdischen Wirtschaft [New Jewish Business].
The brothers Dr. I. Osterer, Dr. H. Lecker and J. Bickel who were among the most active members of the fraternity at the time of its reactivation moved to Vienna in 1920 and were active Zionists in their new home. Dr. I. Osterer was president of the Business Organization of Jewish High School Students in Vienna and I. Bickel was until his Aliyah, a member of the leadership of Keren Hajessod in Vienna.
I. Rennert emigrated to Germany where he was active in Zionism and during the Hitler era, until his aliyah was leader of the Palestine office in Manheim.
Land owner Dr. Bernhard Kahane, one of the most well educated Zephiraner was murdered during his flight from Nazi Romania to Kischinew.
The BB Langer and Dr. F. and Marie Nospreis were among the first academicians from Bukovina who went as Chaluzim [Pioneers] to Palestine.
The old gentlemen of the pre-war Zephirah who remained in Bukovina belonged to the State Zionist Organization of Bukovina. Dr. Ch. Kinsbrunner was vice president of Keren Hajessod, Dr Krämer was, for a time, honorary director of this fund, Dr. Juda Ebner, B. Scherzer, Bank Director Leo Wiener and Jakob Geller were members of the Zionist Executive and Dr Krämer vice president of the same as well as president of State Organization that he had founded and which especially in the later difficult time developed into the center of Jewish social life. Dr. Josef Sperber and Dr. Diver were as members of the Zionist Party Council extremely active representatives of the Zionist organization and the Federal Party in their home town, Kotzman and Zastawna. Dr. Diver died in a camp in Transnistrien. Dr. Moses Glaubach was chairman of the Parent's Group of Haschomer Hazair. Also, Zephanier were also among the founders of Haoved Haklalzioni and Hanoar Hazioni.
Judge Dr. Isidor Kottlar was founder and chairman of the organization Jedidei Hechaluz in Bukovina.
Dr. Max Diamant[F] was a noted personality in the public life of Bukovina.
D. Scherzer was an officer of the Organization for Support of Sick and Needy Students and was one of the leaders of the sports organization Maccabi.
Dr. Jakob Geller was general secretary of the State Zionist Organization of Bukovina and director of Keren Hajessod. When the Roman troops marched in, he and his wife and child were stoned to death by farmers in the village Millie where they had fled.
Dr. Abraham Schärf-Gilboa was for many years secretary of the local Zionist organization and the Zionist Fund in Gurahumora. He was a member of the Party Council of the State Zionist Organization and the Jewish Federal Party. In 1933, he went to Eretz Israel.
Prof. Dr. Leo Hoffmann was president of the Bnai Brith lodge of which Dr. Brettschneider was also a member.
Dr. Markus Krämer[G] was founder and chairman of the Radical Zionist Party in Bukovina and delegate to most of the Zionist congresses where he was elected to the Political and Permanent Committees. He was a member of the administrative committee for the Jewish Agency (Sochnuth) and later, the Zionist Action Committee and in Israel, a member of the smaller Action Committee.
The brothers Drimmer, Hofmann, Kern, Hilferding, Brenner, Hornstein and B. Ebner during their student years were very active in Zionist propaganda and enjoyed great respect as high school professors. Prof. Dr. Ephriam Brenner was named as the first Jewish State School Inspector at the end of 1918. After him, this office was never again awarded to a Jew.
Since the fraternity had stopped growing, in 1930, several brothers, Jakob Kirmeier, Noe Lehrer, Nims, among others with the agreement of several of the old gentlemen, Dr. Juda Ebner, A. Kligler, and Reinstein among others agreed to try and recruit more students as members. This attempt was successful and new members joined Zephirah. This change in form however didn't lead to any changes in Zephirah's program. In the course of this period during which brother Jakob Kirmeier, H. Kreisel, N. Lehrer, B. Schuler, H. Spasser, D. Zloczower among others functioned as senior members, as earlier, new member tests were given, lectures were arranged and propaganda for the Zionist concept and the National Fund was carried on. In 1933, Zephirah was one of the leading groups which stormed the University when the Romanian students had prevented the Jewish students from entering.
Zephirah had also founded two pre-fraternities, Herzliah and Bar Kochba (founding Praeses of Herzlia was M. Reinstein). In Suceava, Salomon Wagner founded the middle school fraternity Theodor Herzl (later Tikwah) based on the model of Zephirah.
In 1932 Zephirah, under the Senior Council of Hermann Spasser took part in the reception for King Caroll II as well as the reception for President Weizmann and W. Jabotinsky. This epoch, however ended in 1934 and since then there was no more growth, but the internal life of Zephirah did continue until the outbreak of the war.
Zephirah took a leading roll in the fight of the Jews for Romanian citizenship. One of the most zealous fighters for this cause was Dr. M. Diamant. With the support of Dr. Krämer, a member of the Committee of the Jewish Delegation, N. Sokolow had intervened several times in this question and much damage was avoided. It was however to become still worse. At the end of 1937 Zephirah under the chairmanship of brother Dr. E. Wagner celebrated its 80th semester. This was to be the last publicly held Jewish function. On the day of the celebration came the tragic news that the notorious anti-Semitic leaders Cuza and Goga had been entrusted with creating the government. With that, a wave of oppressive measures crashed on the Jewish population, among them the law for confirmation of citizenship. The Zephiraner Dr. J. Thau, Dr. E. Wagner, Attorney Hechtlinger and Dr. Diamant immediately founded a rights protection office in order to aid the Jewish population in the protection of their rights with advice and action. Zephirah also had an active part in the help action for the Polish Jews who fled into the country in September, 1939.
Under the Romanian-German occupation since 1941, the Zephiraner continued, in spite of the danger, to work with other Zionists in the secret Zionist organization and only much later were able to get to Palestine, Brother Dr. Kinsbrenner only after long imprisonment in Cypress and others after imprisonment in Atlith. The Zephiraner who lived in Austria were able to rescue themselves from the Nazi terror by fleeing to Israel and then later overseas (Dr. Eckstein, Dr. Somer, the brothers Dr. Stecher, Dr. Nospreis, Dr. Herzberg, the brothers Dr. Krässel, Dr. Lessing, Dr. Osterer, Dr. Lecker, Bickel, Dr. Herman Ebner, Dr. Juda Ebner, Dr. Karl Morgenstern, Hofrat Dr. Ulbrich Haber, Insurance Director Dr. S. Harnik and Dr. E. Bibring had already died in Vienna. Dr. W. Herzberg who had returned to Vienna after the war was for several years was president of the Vienna Jewish Community and the Zionist Organization.
Zephirah has for a long time been a member of the Ring of A.H. Organizations of Zionistic Academic Fraternities which was formed in Vienna as an umbrella organization and also joined the umbrella organization which was re-activated under the name Igul. Dr. Krämer has been president of Igul since 1958, Dr. Spasser is the secretary and A. Hechtlinger is the representative in the Senior Convention. Igul set several goals for itself: 1) Creation of a professorship for the study of the history of Zionism in the high schools. 2) Publication of the history of Igul. 3) Acquisition of a home for Igul with the goal of attracting scholars with a Zionistic viewpoint as members. The year long efforts for the professorship have been crowned with success. The professorship was instituted at the Jerusalem University and at the celebration of Herzl's 100th birthday organized by Igul on May 24, 1960 in the great concert hall the chairman of Igul was able to thank the audience of 3000 made up of participants from all strata of the population, representatives of the government, the Sochnut, and others for their help in making the professorship possible. Zephirah is proud of being part of the creative powers helping to build up Israel.
Worked on by an editorial committee consisting of the brothers Dr. Z. Brender, A. Hechtlinger, B. Scherzer, Dr. H. Spasser, Dr. E. Wagner and Schamschon Janai (Woreczek).
But with the beginning of the Zionist Movement, the effort to make the Hebrew language a central feature of the national reawakening came clearly to the forefront. This process started quite early in Bukovina. Already in 1907 in Dorna Kandreny, a village in the southern part of Bukovina a Hebrew school was founded under the leadership of Joseph Tischler. One year later in Vatra Domei at the initiative of the Zionist J. Biber a similar educational institution was formed. It was directed by the teacher Kamin. The tendency to raise the youth to love the national language spread. In Campulung Moldovenesc there was a Hebrew school under the patronage of the town rabbi Dr. Wolf Mischel. At this establishment the teacher was Luwisch. In Vashkivtsi (teacher Rachman) and in Sadgora (teachers Weisstaub and Porath) Hebrew children's schools were similarly founded.
Language courses for adults originated in Czernowitz (teacher N. J. Quittner) and in Siret. One tried, not always successfully in private courses to acquaint middle school students with the Hebrew language. The Hebrew teachers who worked in Bukovina were members of a teachers' association for Galicia and Bukovina. This organization under the leadership of the educator Rafael Sofermann (since 1911 in Eretz Israel, died 1957 in Tel-Aviv) developed a successful activity. On November 19, 1911 the conference (Jom Haivrim) was held in Lemberg attended by 517 delegates. The above mentioned J. Biber was elected as state executive of Histadruth Iwrith.
According to the report issued by this conference, in the years 1919/1910 there existed in Bukovina, Hebrew schools in Sadagura (50 students with 2 teachers), Storozynetz (72 students with 2 teachers), director Sch. Lewin, Czernowitz (58 students, 1 teacher), Kitsman (52 students, 2 teachers), director J. Schapira, Radauti (49 students, 1 teacher), Vashkivtsi (30 students, 1 teacher), Campulung Moldovenesc, teacher Luwisch.
Under the influence of the Lemberg conference M.D. Beinisch, Pinkas Melzer, Schulamith Wurmbrand, Fleischmann, Linder, Koppler, Alexander Sperber, Chajes, Schaje Goldfeld, Dr. Hermann Glaser, Hermann Gottesmann, teacher M. Rabinowicz,
Klara Klinger and Mark started the first Hebrew language association in Czernowitz, Safa Berura [clear language].
The organization was located on the passage between Hauptstrasse and Postgasse. The members gathered there daily to have conversations in Hebrew. On Shabbats they would have lectures on biblical themes, new Hebrew literature and Zionism. After a short time many people from Sadagura became members, the Retter sisters, Schnitzer, Chacham, Spun and many others. This success beyond all expectations prompted the members to found a Hebrew elementary school. More than any other Schaje Goldfeld worked untiringly for the realization of this goal. Markus Kisslinger, the builder and owner of Toynbee Hall on Fäbergasse let them use the building gratis. And so, the first Safa Iwria [Hebrew language] language school opened in Czernowitz in 1912.
Schaje Goldfeld understood how get more and more people to work for the school by expanding the school committee. No setback would discourage him. He was for a series of years president of the state school organization Safa Iwria. Under the leadership of his successor, Dr. Josef Bierer (1870-1938) the Hebrew school movement became more intensive. Dr. Bierer wanted to make Hebrew the every day language of the masses. He fought passionately for this goal. One God, one people, one language, was his motto. After he died, the leadership of Safa Iwria passed to Prof. Dr. Hermann Sternberg who won the active support of the club Massada for the Hebrew language movement. When he was transferred to another city, the position of president was taken over by a member of Massada, Dr. Lupu Rappaport.
The school developed and was able to chronicle successes. For many years it was led by Chaim Ehrenkranz. Outstanding teachers were: Dr. Ephraim Porath (died in Jerusalem April 7, 1959), Miriam Schickler, Sabina Hasenfratz, Mordechai Rabinowicz-Hacohen (died in Tel-Aviv in 1959), Chaim Jampolski, Simon Weitzman, Neomi Mann-Teller, Shulamith Wurmbrand, Abraham Rosenzweig, Debora Slobidkes-Schächter and N. Siegelbaum.
At the initiative of Schaje Goldfeld the first Hebrew kindergarten was founded in Czernowitz in 1912. It was very popular. In the same year an attempt was made to make Hebrew the language used in public gatherings. In the building of the Jewish elementary school (Heinegasse) a memorial celebration for Theodore Herzl was held at which teacher Weisstaub (Sadgora) and M. D. Beinisch made commemorative speeches in Hebrew. There followed several similar celebrations attended by the Zionist Travel Secretary Dr. Philipp Korngrün and Dr. Mayer Geyer. There were many Jewish middle school organizations that pursued the learning of Hebrew with youthful zeal. Beinisch and others led courses for the Zionist youth.
For the purpose of educating kindergarten teachers a course was established which at first was run by Prof. Dr. Sternberg and later by Dr. Ephraim Porath. In this connection the teacher seminar in Czernowitz should be mentioned which was a creation of the Chief Rabbi Dr. Abraham Mark and which was run by Dr. Bendit Gottlieb (died in Transnistrien in 1943).
With the expansion of the institution and Hebrew courses, the location on Färbergasse was no longer adequate to meet the demands placed on it. The state school organization Safa Iwria therefore decided to build its own culture house in the heart of the Jewish quarter. This building was finished in 1928 and put in service. When President Chaim Weizmann visited Czernowitz in the same year he honored Safa Iwria with a visit and was visibly impressed with all he saw and heard.
Safa Iwria didn't merely restrict its activities to one framework, it set itself higher goals trying to win the influence of the Jewish political forces of the land for the Hebrewisation of the masses. It tried to influence the Zionistic members of the kultusrat [body that governed Jewish community] of Czernowitz and demanded that the Jewish volksschule [elementary school] which during the Austrian times had a program of German assimilation should be changed to a Hebrew school that stressed Jewish education. Actually, with the beginning of the school year 1926/1927 as the leadership of the kultusrat lay in the hands of Dr. Mayer Ebner the first class was Hebrewized. However, one year later with a change in leadership - during the period of Romanian rule which put a cooperative Jew at the head of the kultusrat - the recently introduced Hebrewisation of the schools was suspended. In 1930, the fight began anew. The cause was the dispute over filling the director's post which had become vacant. The Bund members (leftist socialists) were strongly against the naming of a nationally leaning, Zionistic oriented candidate. However, they didn't participate in the election. Now a systematic effort started in the school to educate the children in a Zionistic manner and the teaching of Hebrew was significantly expanded.
The school work of Safa Iwria repeatedly suffered from need. It often didn't have money to pay the teachers. When in 1933, the school was to be closed because of lack of funds to keep it operating; a rescuer appeared in the person of the industrialist Markus Gold. He generously made available the necessary funds.
Also in the orphanage of the Czernowitz community on Wagnergasse which was directed by Mrs. Klara Klinger, a Zionistic oriented personality with a spotless reputation (died in 1957 in Tel-Aviv) as well as in the children's home on Siebenbürgerstrasse the greatest attention was dedicated to the teaching of the Hebrew language.
In the 30's there were in Czernowitz three Hebrew kindergartens with 5 teachers and 100 children, two Hebrew elementary schools with 240 students, a seminar for kindergarten teachers with 6 teachers and 30 students, a teacher's seminar with 7 teachers and 15 students and 4 evening courses with 4 teachers and 60 students. Many parents gave their school age sons and daughters private Hebrew lessons. In the provinces, there were 12 kindergartens (18 teachers, 400 students) and 15 language courses (15 teachers and 380 students)
Safa Iwria can be thanked for the success of this project due to its untiring efforts, especially in the years 1920 to 1940. Only the occupation of North Bukovina by the Russians in the summer of 1940 brought the sudden end.
The Jewish language [Yiddish] whose origin can be found in the ghettos of the German cities became the language of the masses in Eastern Europe. With the rise of Zionist ideas began the fight against the disappearance of Yiddish as Jews started to use the local languages. In Czernowitz, Dr. Nathan Birnbaum fought for the recognition of Yiddish as the mother tongue and initiated the Jewish Language Conference (1908) which was stimulating and fruitful.
Inspired by the Jewish academic association, Culture in Vienna, in 1910 several students in Czernowitz also tried to form an association which would serve to preserve the Jewish language in Bukovina and especially in Czernowitz. In the contemporary intellectual and comfortable middle class Jewish circles of Bukovina, the use of the Jewish street language or jargon as Yiddish was called was looked upon with contempt and one was ashamed of this language and so it took much courage to defend the language. The founders of this novel academic association displayed this courage. There were eight students: Abraham Reiner, Pinkas Schorr, Simche Klier, Abraham Arie, Schaje Blasenstein, Michel Gast, Abraham Dupler and Edmund Melzer. These students had various political orientations, but were bound together by the Yiddish language and their goal. At first, this novel academic association was looked at askance by some of the existing Jewish student organizations in Czernowitz and it was boycotted, but gradually they became used to it, and as the respect and the influence of the Association and the Yiddish language rose, slowly, slowly, Yiddish gained entrance to the previously closed social circles.
The academic association, Jewish Culture wasn't a student association in the pre-war sense. Above all, the association was the first Jewish academic association to break with the outmoded Germanic customs and usages. It had completely discarded the barbaric custom of the saber duel from the Middle Ages, the uniforms which already at that time appeared comical, the various outmoded student customs and in this manner stripped off the foreign national student character. As a sign of membership, they wore a sash with their colors, blue-white-red. The lyrics of the association's song written by members Wolf Schärf and Abraham Dupler were set to music by Jewish actors.
The first officers of the organization were: Abraham Reiner as chairman, A. Arie as deputy chairman, and Abraham Dupler as secretary and librarian. Later, as original members Moses Dickstein, Leon Czeikel, Fritz Herzan, Samuel Fuhrmann, Abraham Brender, A. Zimring, Moses Schärf, Wolf Schärf, Niliu Thaler and A. Rosenthal joined the group. During the semester, the group was enlarged by the addition of the following members: Elias Felder, Chaim Lecker, S. Mosner, Fischler, Mayer, Terner, Schnarch, Baltuch, Weidenfeld, Halpern, Altheim and Hochstädt. After the war Isiu Brettschneider, Lachser, Finder, Lutwak, Laufer, Chaim Weidenfeld, Sch. A. Soifer, and David Schlomo Bickel. There was a larger group of students under the leadership of Wolfgang Fokschaner (from the Jewish national academic association Zephirah and many others. Also, several gentlemen joined the association as A.H., among them Dr. Berl Friedmann and Dr. Jakob Pisstiner. The first honorary member of the Association was the elderly author Mendele Mocher Sforim whose note of appreciation in his graceful handwriting hung for many years in the association's meeting hall.
The goal and purpose of the association were to spread Yiddish and make it socially acceptable. So to speak, one had to give this language backbone. It must be spoken by the Jewish intellectuals and upper class in order to become the legitimate national language of the Jews of Bukovina, since the Jewish masses already spoke Yiddish. Only then when this language had found acceptance in all strata of Jewish society, could one speak of a national identity with a national language. The fight was for complete national recognition, for their own school system, and for the use of the language in public life.
In order to achieve this holy goal the primary task for the association was to create a library which would serve to spread the Yiddish language and literature. Books and newspapers in the Yiddish language were collected. The members of the association demonstrated their sympathy by contributing books and money. The money was used to buy books that would help achieve their goal. In a short time the association had a goodly number of books at their disposal which were read in and lent out from the association's meeting hall. Courses were introduced to teach the Yiddish language and participants were brought in. Further, lectures were held in the city and state to explain the goals of the association and they were always well attended and received with enthusiasm. A Yiddish amateur theater group was formed which performed pieces by prominent Jewish dramatists in Czernowitz and the provinces. Often, with the help of well known Jewish actors evenings of great style were presented. Often at such evenings, Jewish authors read from their own works (Wewjurks, Imber, Steinberg, etc.). Similarly, entertainment was provided for young and old. Garden parties, home socials, academic evenings with a dance following served this purpose. Jewish Culture could be thanked for the fact that the Jewish singing club Hasamir preserved Jewish folksongs in Czernowitz. The association was represented in Hasamir by its members Michel Gast and Abaham Dupler.
A small success that Jewish Culture achieved together with other student groups before the outbreak of the First World War should be pointed out. In the report of the year before last of Franz Josef University in Czernowitz (1912/1913), the number of students who report themselves as Jews was noted. However, this gesture of the university had one little blemish: the mother tongue was still listed as the German language.
With the outbreak of World War I, the association had to interrupt its activities since most of the members had to devote their services to the Austrian fatherland, but it was reactivated at the end of 1918 with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Since, however, the Jews in the newly created Greater Romania were far from having equal rights, the situation of the Academic Association Jewish Culture got worse and the fight for their own national identity and language had to start again from the beginning, or in some cases, just be continued. The Romanian authorities however were a thorn in their eye and they reacted completely differently than the authorities of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. At the beginning of the twenties, the association was dissolved on so-called political grounds. The association's treasury as well as the well-stocked library were given to the Jewish School Association which was founded in 1919.
The majority of the original members are no longer among the living. The members Lt. Schaje Blasenstein, Simche Klier and Pinkas Schorr lost their lives in the war. During the Second World War many members fell victim to the Nazis, among them Lawyer Dr. Edmund Melzer, who was shot by the Nazis in Czernowitz, as well as the Lawyer Dr. Moses Schärf who the Nazis murdered in Paris.
Professor Dr. Dickstein and Prof. Czeikel died in Russia, Lawyer Dr. S. Mosner and the Jewish journalist Sch. A. Soifer died in Czernowitz while Lawyer Dr. Altheim died in Bucharest. R.A. Dr. Miliu Thaler, Issiu Brettschneider, the athletes Chaim Weidenfeld and Finder died in Israel.
Abroad, to our knowledge, still are living today the following former members: In Romania, Lawyer Dr. Fritz Herzan, the doctors Dr. Mayer and Dr. Terner and the banker Zimring; in Czernowtiz Prof. Chaim Lecker who in 1919 published a Yiddish text for the schools and Lawyer Dr. Fischler; in Argentina Prof. Dr. Samuel Fuhrmann and in New York Lawyer Dr. Schlomo Bickel. In Israel presently live the former lawyers Dr. Arie, Dr. Elias Felder and Dr. Laschser in Tel-Aviv, the former lawyer Dr. Wolf Schärf in Jerusalem and the former Regional Post Director Abraham Dupler in Rishon le Zion.
Nothing is known about the fate of the older members Michel Gast, Dr. Abraham Brender, Rosenthal, Baltuch, Laufer, Dr. Lutwak as well as the other members.
Also the Bukovina Middle School was successful in this respect. After the collapse of the monarchy, this body lost its reason for existence. The Romanian government had only one interest, and that was to quickly and ruthlessly Romanize the country whose northern half saw being incorporated with a Greater Romania as a difficult to bear disaster. The Middle School in which the Romanian element had always been in the minority fell out of the picture.
Also, the Bukovina Middle School tried in vain to survive. The problems of public instruction were not the cause of its collapse, for there wasn't the smallest hope to convince the chauvinistic element of the Romanian Education Administration concerning a reasonable school reform. What brought the middle school teachers together were the common need and the drive for self preservation in view of the undisguised destructive urges of the new holders of power. The Jewish middle school teachers sought in a strong union, a kind of self defense for themselves and the Jewish students against the arbitrary youth antagonistic edicts handed down by the Romanian educational bureaucracy. In 1919 one heard for the first time of the organization Jewish Middle School.
The leaders were the professors Dr. Julian Pilpel, Dr. Hermann Sternberg and Israel Schleyer. There were more than 100 registered members. The needs of the time had brought them all together. There were also members who at one time had sought to repudiate their connection to Judaism, even those who were baptized or half baptized. Among the members were to be found Yiddishists and Hebraists, Zionists and the assimilated, radicals and liberals. The majority had come from the Jewish national student organizations and spoke German although there were also those who were Ukrainian or Romanian oriented. The Jewish professors had little success in the fight for their rights. Numerous delegations from the Middle School waited in the anterooms of the Romanian school inspector, submitted petitions, negotiated and depending on mood, were either consoled or abruptly dismissed. Many members retired from the school system because they were convinced of the hopelessness of improving their situation, while others were transferred to remote locations and others were dismissed. The number of members never again reached the levels of 1919.
The Middle School had more success in the area of founding new private gymnasiums because sometimes the law allowing the opening of private schools was observed. In general, as the Romanians made the education of Jewish youth difficult or impossible, the opening of Jewish private schools proved to be a necessity.
The activity of the Middle School in social work remains unforgettable. From a fund provided by American Jews a food service was initiated. Approximately 50 of the poorest students whose parents had returned to their destroyed homes as war refugees and now faced starvation received adequate warm meals in 1920.
In the course of the year the activities of the organization were crippled. It suffered from a lack of members since the Romanians no longer hired Jewish professors and with the continued deprivation of Jewish rights, it lost all significance. It ceased to exist.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
History of Jews in Bukowina Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 3 Mar 2009 by LA