What Once Was
By I. Dunayevsky, z'l
Translated by Sophia (Ostrowsky-Warshavsky) Adler
In glowing memory of my in-laws,
More than sixty years have passed by since the day I last saw Dubossar. And yet the characteristics of that Shtetl are as sharply etched in my memory as if it were only yesterday that I left it.
Shmuel and Nekhama Kharton, z'l
A little old town was Dubossar, on the shore of the Dniester River that winds past as it rushes on its course. True, the town itself was not so pretty. Yet, perhaps for that very reason, God blessed her with truly enchanting surroundings. Dubossar lies in the embrace of a wonderfully lovely landscape, among rolling forests and plains interwoven in a heavenly unity.
Excepting for the beautiful countryside surrounding the town, the exterior of Dubossar was no different from most other Jewish towns in Southern Russia. From the outside the houses were small and low; from the inside modest and chaste. Mostly the roofs were covered with aged wooden shingles, over which hung the sense of generations long past. Outside of the main road in the town, the streets were not paved, and few had sidewalks. In summer, when a wagon passed by, clouds of dust were raised, and in autumn one must wade through marshy mud.
Thus would Dubossar have appeared at first glance in the eyes of strangers. But quite differently she appeared in the eyes of natives and those who knew her intimately. Much charm and inner beauty lay hidden in Jewish Dubossar. Of her one might with justice turn to the old Talmudic sayingJudge not the vessel by its outer appearance, but rather note the quality of its contents. And in the vessel Dubossar there was much worthy of note.
The small town had Mazl ( good luck):
Encircled by the Creator with blessed surroundings from which fertile farms and gardens yielded God's abundance, Dubossar Jewry evolved a broad-branched commerce which extended over wide distances of greater Russia.
True, there was no great wealth in Dubossar. But most of her inhabitants were folk of good substance and had abundant Parnossah ( means of income). And where there is Parnossah, one does not begrudge the other and jealousy gains no power. So it is no wonder that in Dubossar life flowed on tranquilly and peacefully and one person did not creep under the skil of another. Each person was absorbed in his own work or business and there was no need to pursue sharp competition, because there were abundant sources of opportunity.
I will here outline the main sources of livelihood. The major enterprise was the trade in grains from which most Dubossar Jews drew their livelihood. Ships and barges loaded with grain would depart from Dubossar on the Dniester River toward the Black Sea to reach the great Russian port of Odessa. Among the big grain merchants from our town, the largest were considered to have been Joseph Zeev Katz, Shmuel Yitzhak Nissenboim and Yitzhak Lufalaver.
The branch of parnossah second in importance, was the wine trade. There were many vinyards in our area, and when the time came for harvesting the grapes and treading out the juice, then the courtyards and even the streets of the town, were flooded with thousands of casks of wine, that had been brought to Dubossar in fermented state. It would become very lively in our town with the arrival of those casks of wine. People would be going in and out of the wine cellars, some to buy, others to sell, and some as connoisseurs in order to taste and render judgement on the wines. Many Dubossar Jews drew their livelihood from the wine trade because wines from our region were sold both for wholesale and also for taverns and restaurants.
A respectable place in the Dubossar economy was occupied by the tobacco industry which gave employment to a large part of the population. As it is well-known, the tobacco industry demands much physical labor and specialized abilities, from the growing to the selling. Tobacco goes through many processes until it is ready to go up in smoke. And every stage from the growing, drying, sorting and packing, demand special skills. Only after the tobacco has been sorted and packed according to its special qualities, is it ready to be sold. Dubossar was a center for the tobacco industry and from afar there used to come the buyers' representatives for the cigarette makers to buy our tobacco. The largest tobacco warehouse was owned by Lofers whose manager was Chayim Finkelstein of Peterburg.
Another important branch of enterprise was in sheep-pelts. The pelts, bought when they were still moist, had first to be dried. Artisans might then work them to flexibility. In either form the pelts were shipped off to the great Annual Fair at Balta.
Beside the above-mentioned four main branches of livelihood, in Dubossar as in all other Jewish towns and shtetlakh there were many shops that provided a good livelihood for Jewish families. There were spice shops, haberdashery establishments, shops of crockery, work tools,etc. Most of the shops were concentrated at the Market Place, where the deep mud was up to ones knees on rainy days, but did not deter Jews and others from energetically doing business. In our town there were also many Jewish craftsmen and artisans: metal workers, coopers, smiths and hot-tar workers, tailors and shoemakers, hatmakers and capmakers that served the entire area, the farm-folk as well as the townsfolk, who earned their living one from the other.
Concern over livelihood did not prevent Dubossar Jews from devoting themselves to community matters, which included many domains. Most of our folk were traditionalists, faithful to Yiddishkayt. Many did not see any contradiction between cherishing Judaism and giving their children a worldly education. Among the families where Torah and general education lived in peace, I would particularly like to honor the memory of : Isaac Roshkovsky, Shmuel Kharton Katz and especially Rabbi Joseph Filler, who between his sons and granchildren, were among those who called themselves Maskilim ( the enlightened), people of modern impulse.
In our town there had come forward a number of earnest folk who enthusiastically devoted themselves to culture, the social order, and Zionist concepts, which by the beghinning of the century had captured a significant portion of the Jewish folk, especially the youth.
As though alive before my eyes, I remember the Sabbath gatherings in the home of my now deceased frend, Mordechai Rosenberg, where we used to perform Readings and also conduct Discussions on literature and timely events. Perhaps compared with later experience, our flaming discussions might today appear naive or childish, but one must not forget that in the conditions in which Russian Jews lived during the first decade of the century, Utopian themes were of tremendous importance.
I wish to mention the names of a few individuals whose activities were especially notable among the Jewish Dubossar community, and who left a lasting influence. They are: Mordechai Rosenberg, Pinhas Bassin, Lipeh Sirotzki, Yitzhak Bider and Joseph Peretz Visoki.
The wheel of life turns....Memories of the entire community from out of the deep past appear before me in every detail, pressing forward one after the other. Dear and beloved they are to me. They are part of my life. suddenly the scroll of memory is violently ripped away. A black raging storm carrying murder and butchery laid waste the House of Israel. The Hand of Satah descended upon the Jewish communities in Europe, tearing them out by their roots. Great was the fracture, and the wounds incurable. Torn apart were the links in the chain.
Memories of the past
Translated by Sarah Faerman
My Zaide's house
It is already fifty years that day in, day out, I am flooded with the light of Eretz Yisrael - out eternal homeland; a light that I dreamed of and that my soul yearned for since my early childhood days. Yet, it is enough that I just close my eyes for a while and my imagination soars on wings to carry me to my town Dubossar of fifty, sixty years ago. Then, other lights from my childhood satisfy my soul as with the blessings of raindrops. It is a great wonder - every year that I get older, the lights shine stronger and brighter and their effect on me becomes sharper and more penetrating. My fantasies and memories are pervaded with great longing and bring me back to my early childhood, to the enchanted Dubossar with her dazzling nature that encompassed all the vivid colours of the rainbow ; where I absorbed the very atmosphere and where my very first impressions were formed.
On the shores of the Dniester, on its very border, a little town totalling only 10,000 souls, sprung up - a colouful, small world which, like a single drop of water from the sea, mirrored the surrounding areas. Dubossar spread out like a circle within a circle. In the centre, in the heart of the town, there lived a lively , colourful Jewish world whose customs and practices had evolved over a period of hundreds of years of an inner autonomy. All around, like an encircling shawl wrapped around her, was a different world, a strange Christian one which was at times, hostile and at times indifferent. And when, in the course of their daily activities, the two worlds did interact while dealing with business and parnosse ( making a living), the contact was a superficial one, not from the heart and each of the two worlds lived their lives separately and within their own circle. The Jewish community was like a solitary island in the geat sea, living as behind a walled fortress. Her physical horizons were narrow and limited. Her soul, however, soared above and within her, enriching with grace, charm and spiritual beauty, the environment.
To my great joy, I was privileged, in my childhood years, to be part of that rich and bountiful tradition that one generation passed on to the next. My mother's parents - Yossl and Chaya Filler, may they rest in peace, guarded these traditions zealously and with love and passed them on to my parents' house and to my generation.
Yossl Filler, one of the finest men in Dubossar, was a fervent Chasid and it didn't prevent him from also being a learned and modern, liberal person -unlike my Zaide ( grandfather) on my father's side who was a zealot and a misnogid ( opposed to Chasidism) . Aside from the fact that Yossl Filler was a very busy man, thanks to his many businesses, he always made time for learning. He was fluent in Russian ( as a child he finished at a state school) and every day he read the Russian newspaper so that he would know what was happening in the wide world. He loved order. He organized his day in a strict routine and every task was done at its appointed time. He would get up quite early in the morning and because of his many pursuits, he would say his Shacharit prayers alone at home. On the Sabath and on holidays he would pray with others in his own shul , the synagogue that he inherited from his father Reb Dovid Yenkl, may he rest in peace. Because of his many businesses ( I alone remember nine of them aside from one that Bobbe (grandmother) handled) he was away most of the week. However on Shabat and on holidays he always made certain to be home. For many years he was a member of the town council, although the only Jew. Many years later, close to the time of the revolution, my mother, may she rest in peace, was elected to this same position and on her initiative and with the help of the councilman Lipe Siradsky, a Jewish Gymnasia ( high school) was founded. Under the Soviet regime the authorities became the heads of the Gymansia and insisted on their ideology.
Yossl Filler's house was a gathering place for the prominent Jews of Dubossar. My Zaide's friends and comrades would often gather in the afternoons for a friendly visit and a glass of wine. In mentioning some of my Zaide's friends, I will start with Yossl Duboner who lived across the street from . On the high holy days and on Passover, Shavuot and Succot, he would pray at the Pravizorisher synagogue that was in his courtyard. He was Reb Chaim Finkelstein's father, a sage, a Zionist, a respected homeowner in Dubossar and the representative of the big Tobacco factory Lofers. Among others, there were Shmuel Novaset and Shmuel Charitan - Reb Yeshaya Dinayevsky's son-in-law - who just recently passed away at a ripe old age in Haifa, z'l. When this group of friends would get together, my Zaide would call his clerk, Reb Shmuel Charabastian and say : Shmiyel - Tzap! Shmuel, who was the overseer of my grandfather's wine cellar , without saying a word, would go down to the cellar and bring up a couple of bottles of good Bessarabian wine. The friends would sit for a few hours in pleasant conversation with wine and nuts - another of my Zaide's businesses.
My Zaide, Reb Yossl Filler was also imbued with a deep pedagogic sense. My mother would relate that when she was a child, he would go in the morning to the school and would gather the children together ( he had four sons and six daughters). He would then tell them wonderful tales about the Rambam ( philosopher and scholar, Maimonides) who had also been famous as a great physician and about whom many legends were told by the Jewish folk. My Zaide spun stories of other great ones of Israel in order to plant in the children's hearts, a love and interest in these Jewish personalities. Also from my childhood, engraved in my memory are the Jewish holidays that were celebrated in my Zaide's house with great tradition and splendor.
Looking back , from a distance of fifty years, I see that my Zaide's house was a synthesis of two worlds - the old and the new. My Zaide and Bobbe were religious people. They strictly upheld the rules and commandments but at the same time, their ears were open to catch the sound of modern times. It is a wonder that in their house, both worlds lived in peace whereas in many other homes, they clashed. Their home was open for young and old, including the friends of the grandchildren who were raised by my Zaide after their parents were murdered. Not only Jewish folk but Christians also would come to his house and my Zaide treated them with great friendliness.
In reminiscing about my Zaide's house, I feel impelled to mention mention two weddings that were held in his house and that illustrate the extensive ties Reb Yossl Filler had with various circles of both the Jewish and Christian communities. One wedding was of his daughter, Aunty Feinbrun ( the mother of Prof. Naomi Feinbrun) who died two years ago in Tel Aviv and the second was the wedding of his grandaughter, the oldest orphan that was raised in his house. Both weddings were celebrated lavishly and among the guests were the cream of both the Jewish and the Christian societies. His strict adherence to the Jewish customs in no way diminished the Christians' esteem for him.
As already mentioned, my Zaide saw no conflict in following both the pious Jewish path and having a worldly education. Two of his children, a son and a daughter ( the youngest) were given a higher education. His son studied to be an engineer in Munich and in Petersburg and worked in his profession. His daughter studied to be a dentist. He also enabled two of his grandchildren to obtain a higher education.
With the above description, I aimed to paint a picture of my Zaide's home and to emphasize that Reb Yossl Filler's house was not extraordinary in our town. The spirit that was there was the general spirit that reigned in Jewish Dubossar. In that very garden, my parents' generation , as well as my own, grew up. In that very atmosphere that was suffused with Jewish and general humanist values, we breathed and drank into our blood, standards, aspirations and hopes. We can attribute much to that environment - our faithfulness to Judaism and our modern outlook. Thanks to it we found the synthesis between traditional yiddishkeit and general humanistic values.
Bringing up these memories of my Zaide's house I would also like to dedicate a few lines to my father's parents,of whom, to my great sorrow, I do not have many memories as they lived in Balta where my father, may he rest in peace, was born and raised. From my childhood, I remember two times when my Zaide, Reb Moishe Bassin visited my parents' home in Dubossar.
My Zaide, Reb Moishe was a very devout Jew and in the middle of the night he would get up for midnight prayers. I remember the first time that I woke up in the middle of the night and saw my old Zaide sitting on a footstool by a small candle, chanting in a mournful melody lamentations on the destruction of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. That picture made an exceptionally strong impression on me. Once, I recall, he brought me a present - a winter outer garment of brown material and a velvet hat. He always hoped that I would be a Rabbi when I grew up. That was his greatest desire. I don't know if I should regret that I did not become a Rabbi. It seems that I was not suited for that. My Zaide's wish was not realized but memories of both my Bobbe and Zaide are dear and warm.
Dubossar my childhood years
In spite of the fact that I spent most of my Gymnasia ( high school) years ( from 11 years old to eighteen) in Kishinev where I studied at the Reali middle-school, I have very vivid recollections of events that occurred in Dubossar during that period. I believe that the reason for this is that although Dubossar was a small town, it lived through the many upheavals of that time: the Russian- Japanese war, the 1905 revolution, the pogroms, the waves of liberalism that flooded the vast land after the years of 'Reactzia' (reactionary forces) and finally the national and social awakening that gripped the largest Jewish population in the world - six million - with no less intensity than in the large centres with greater populations.
Capricious fate played a role in those tragic times that the Russian Jews had to live through at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Kishinev pogrom in 1903 had its roots in my Zaide Yossl Filler's garden by the banks of the Dniester where the body of a murdered Christian boy, Ribalenko, was found. This discovery, as quick as lightening, became the pretext for a blood libel against the Dubossar Jewish community.It sounds like a paradox: the libel that the Dubossar Jews killed a Christian boy for ritual purposes was the direct cause of the Kishinev pogrom. Yet these same Dubossar Jews, the supposed perpetrators of the crime, were able to avoid the slaughter that was prepared for them by the frenzied pogromists thanks to their lightening swift organization of Self-Defense groups. The Jewish youth of Dubossar proved worthy inheritors of those Jews from the previous century who for 80 years also fought off with great courage the pogroms that swept over Southern Russia.
This blood libel immediately thrust Dubossar into the spotlight of both Jewish and Russian
societies, including the highest government echelons. Famous activists, renowned jurists as well as known anti-semites - foremost among the M. Sabarine, the editor of the reactionary newspaper Novaya Vremya ( New Times) - descended upon Dubossar to investigate the blood libel. Understandably, great Jewish personalities and activists did not remain silent and did their utmost to find out the truth to exonerate the Dubossar Jews of this shameful libel. Also our own Dubossar activists were involved with Yakov Feldman and Dovid'l Chochomovitch at the head, devoting days and night to uncovering the truth. They hunted and investigated; took testimonies of dozens of people, gathered volumes of material relating to murder and libels; ceaselessly labouring to uncover the truth. I see before my eyes a picture as real as if in the present - that of Chaim Nachman Bialik and the teacher Averbach (they came specifically because of the blood libel) sitting in my parents' home. Dovid'l Chochomovitch personally handed over to Bialik a written report of the investigation that our local people had carried out here.
For a whole year we lived in a pogrom-like atmosphere and like Damocle's Sword, the blood libel hung over our heads until the Czarist regime, that was very skilled at instigating pogroms and hate campaigns against Jews as well as stopping them when they had served its political purposes, finally decided to clear up the foul stench and sent to Dubossar an investigator who knew Yiddish. In no time he named the murderer of the boy. It turned out that the boy had inherited considerable wealth from his deceased parents and his uncle, hoping to lay his hands on these assets, had murdered the boy. In order to remove himself from suspicion, the uncle had thrown the dead body into my Zaide's garden. The murderer was promply arrested and sentenced thus exonerating the Jews of Dubossar of all blame.
1905, the year of the first Russian revolution. We, the young Jewish students who were enthusiastically caught up in the tempest of the revolution, lived through bitter disappointments and many high hopes were dashed in the waves of pogroms that swept through the vast land after the collapse of the revolution. My summer vacations were spent at my parents' house and until today, I clearly remember the strained and anxious atmosphere that the Dubossar Jews lived through at that time.
The gentiles from the suburbs and surrounding villages, ground their teeth but didn't dare to show their faces in our town out of fear of our Jewish Self-Defense groups. At that time the Self-Defense was very well organized. There was a Jewish militia equiped with live ammunition, revolvers and rifles. The Self-Defense also had a mounted division. The militia received a salary and food from the Citizens' committee which was under the control of the defense command.
The main task of the militia was to hold vigil at night. I remember an episode from that time that left a deep impression. My father, may he rest in peace, was an active member of the Self-Defense and every night he would come home after midnight. One night he was out later than usual. The clock on the wall struck two and he had not yet returned; it struck three and he still was not home. My mother, may she rest in peace, and we children were awake the whole night and we didn't know what to think. Finally, with the first rays of sunshine we heard the horse's hoofbeats and father stumbled into the house, dead tired.
What was the reason that he came home so late? The espionage section of the Self-Defense found out that a big pogrom was being planned against the Jews of Dubossar for that night. They were planning to come from the other side of the Dniester river. The armed Self-Defense units and the mounted militia stationed themselves by the banks of the Dniester all night. It turned out that the information was correct and at one hour past midnight, barges could be seen drifting closer to our shore. The commander of the mounted police yelled over to them and warned them to go back to where they came from. The leader of their band, seeing that the Jewish Self-Defense was ready and waiting for them ordered his men to leave this place and go further.
In general, relations between the leaders of the Self-Defense and the local police was a civil one. The police noted the courage and dedication of the Jewish men and did not interfere with the militia and its goal to protect the Jewish community from the rampaging hooligans. Once, though, something happened that for a time spoiled these good relations. Actually, the ones to blame were a couple of men from our militia who were generally comprised of common youth - butchers, coachmen and so on. They were fellows who all year were accustomed to arguing and fighting and not infrequently, their altercations ended up with terrible blows. Many of these men were eagerly waiting for the opportunity to meet up with the hooligans, to give them a lesson that Jewish young men are able to protect their Jewish honour, lives and property. One night, a couple of them could no longer restrain themselves and in the midst of rough-housing, shot their rifles several times into the air. A panic broke out in the town and the regular police sprang into action. The militia men argued that they had been shooting only to frighten away a band of hooligans that were trying to smuggle themselves into town. The Defense committee had to work very hard to molify the local police and the incident ended with a sharp reproof from the chief of police.
In conjunction with the tradition of bravery of the Dubossar Jews, I heard the following story from Dubossar landsmen ( fellow countrymen) from America who came to Israel for the planting of the forest in memory of the martyrs of our town who were murdered by the nazis. They related that they heard a rumour from the other side of the Iron Curtain
(Soviet Union). Apparantly when Hitler's hordes invaded Russia and the advance guard of nazis entered Dubossar, the local Jews surrounded them and killed sixty German soldiers. Later when the Germans conquered the city and its environs, all the local Jews and from surrounding areas were herded to a location outside of town where they were shot. This story , which apparantly contains a kernel of truth, is a continuation of the Jewish Dubossar tradition of standing up to the enemy even though the possibility of success was nil.
In reminiscing about my childhood years in Dubossar, I find it necessary to mention the wonderful period of the Zionist renaissance in our town and the people who stood at the head of the movement exerting such a great influence on the younger generation. I mentioned before, the visit to our town of Chaim Nachman Bialik and Pesach Averbach. There were other people - community activists and writers who came to our town and gave us great pleasure with their instructive words. Of note, was the teacher Yagolnitzer (Golani) who was in Dubossar for two years as director of our Hebrew school. He was among the main founders of the Self-Defense organization in Dubossar and on his initiative, a Tzeirei Tzion ( Young Zion) movement was organized and was very active. It was in our town that Chaim Greenberg together with Yagolnitzer created the Tzeirei Tzion program that became a prototype for all the other Tzeirei Tzion groups in other locations. It was henceforth known as the Dubossar Program. In the year 1907 Yagolnitzer settled in Eretz Yisroel and was a role model for all the Dubossar youth that later followed him.
Blood libel in Dubossar
by Yosef Visoki (Ram) z'l
Translated by Sam Blatt
In spring 1902, the socialist-revolutionaries assasinated the Minister of the Interior, Sufiagin, and in his place Czar Nicholas ll nominated Count Fleveh who excelled in his tyrannical and cruel campaign against the Freedom Movement in Czarist Russia.
At about the same time, in the month of January 1903, the body of a Russian boy,Ribolenko, was found stabbed to death and lying in the garden of a Jewish resident of Dubossar. The newspaper Bessarabitz, organ of the Black One Hundred of Bessarabia that was published in Kishinev and supported by the government, latched on to the story. On a daily basis the paper was filled with inflammatory articles claiming that the Jews murdered the boy for ritual purposes, namely to obtain Christian blood in order to bake matzos for the coming holiday of Passover. The paper went even further, inciting pogroms against the Jews as revenge for the Spilling of Christian blood.
The Christian population of Dubossar and environs, especially the rural population on the other side of the Dniester, was influenced by the daily inciting propoganda for a pogrom. The chutzpa of both the inciters and incited was without limits and open. With no fear, they threated the Jewish population with revenge for the spilled Christian blood. They were certain that the government would support them and that no one would prevent them from carrying out their diabolic plan.
A sense of dread took hold of the Jewish population that each day expected the outbreak of the storm. That does not mean, however, that the Jews of Dubossar were sitting with arms folded, waiting passively for the pogromists. Under the initiative of the Zionist youth and under its leadership, a self-defense group was organized with lightening speed to thwart any attack in the event of an assault on the Jewish population. At the request of the self-defense command, Jewish men of various ages volunteered and all were prepared for the excesses which might break out any day.
One particular day, a few weeks before Passover, in the early morning hours, unusual movements were noted of Christians heading toward the direction of the river.There they were to meet the farmers from the other side of the Dniester to take part in the pogrom that was to take place in our town that day.
The self defense group, armed with all manner of weapons, spread out in groups occupying postions at the entrance to the city in the direction of the Dniester. When the pogromists neared the city in order to slip into the Jewish neighbourhoods, one heard a single shot pierce the air. That was the signal of the self-defense group to attack the enemy from all sides. When the pogromists realized that the city was defended and that the Jews were prepared for a heavy battle, they reconsidered and retreated in great haste to the Dniester.
On that day there was no pogrom in Dubossar. Not on that day and not any other day. The reputation of the Dubossar Jewish self-defense force spread all over Russia and whenever a band of bandits happened to be in the area of Dubossar, they always tried to avoid the city in order not to meet up with the heroic young men of Dubossar.
Additional facts about the Blood Libel in Dubossar
by L. Rubin (B.Iris)
Translated by Sarah Faerman
In early spring, 1903, by the river Dniester, in the garden of a Jewish homeowner, the body of a murdered Christian boy was discovered. The boy's wounds appeared to show signs associated with ritual murder. That was enough for rumours to spread like wildfire that the Jews had killed the boy for ritual purposes. The owner of the garden was arrested along with another couple of Jews who, due to buisness, were often seen by the shores of the river. Following strenuous interventions on their behalf each of the arrested was provisionally released.
The next day, the hooligan, Krushevan, in his Pogromist newspaper, Besarabetz which was published in Kishenev, demanded that all Christians take revenge on the Jews for the spilled Christian blood. A few Jews, local people from Dubossar, on their own initiative launched an investigation uncovering clues that led to the identity of the actual murderer. They immediately alerted Kherson, the capital city of the province, and the governor himself arrived in Dubossar with a Commission to investigate the matter on the spot. A Jewish delegation headed by the judges Reb Yerucham and Reb Shmuel,z'l ( the father of the author of these words) holding Torahs in their arms, met the Governor and his retinue.
The next day the judges were summoned to the governor to give evidence.
The judges explained Jewish law to the Commission. They quoted from the book of Deuteronomy that prohibited the ingesting of blood. ...No blood is to be eaten....as the blood is the soul.... According to Jewish law, every piece of meat must be salted and soaked before it could be used in order that there would not remain even one drop of blood. This alone, they argued, should indicate how Jews take special pains not to use any blood. The judges also described various other aspects associated with the laws of slaughter and making food Kosher.
The hearing was a friendly one and the details of the private Jewish investigation were conveyed to the Commission. The Commission sent an undercover agent, disguised as common labourer, to the village where the suspect was living. He worked there for a few days and did find out the identity of the actual murderer. It turned out that it was the boy's own uncle whose motive had been the boy's inheritance.
And that is how the case was solved-exonerating the Jews. However, this did not slake the appetite for Pogrom that had been aroused in the local population and it caused days of worry and panic for the Jews in the area.
The Jewish youth organized a self-defense cadre that day and night manned strategic sites
and vigilantly remained on the look-out for troublemakers. Jewish horsemen were prepared to torch the villages of the Pogromists if they tried to attack. Those heroes, seeing that the Jews would defend themselves and fight back, decided to drop their devilish plans altogether.
Krushevan, with his filthy newspaper in Kishenev and the Duma deputy Purishekevitch , another foe of the Jewish people , poured out their venom on the Kishinev Jews ( Spring 1903). The Jewish workers, tradesmen and butchers tried to form a resistance but they were disarmed by the police and the army who assisted the pogromists in fulfilling their bloody work.
My Dubossar Years
By A.Y.Golani, z'l
Translated by Sam Blatt
In the year 1905, the struggle between the Zion Zionists (those wanting to settle in Eretz Yisrael) and the Uganda-ists (those willing to settle in Uganda) became stronger. Dr. Ben-Zion Mosenson and Dr. Chaim Bograshov visited southern Russia in the name of the Zion Zionists , and Dr. Mosenson's visit to Bessarabia turned into a triumphant move. In Argeyev he silenced our strongest opponents. The triumph of the Zion Zionists was a complete one. In Kishinev, in the Tzeirei Tzion ( organization called Zionist Youth) circles, a new star shone Chaim Greenberg. The Zionist Youth movement blossomed, taking on the character of a working national movement, close in ideology to the Russian-Socialist-Revolutionaries. At that time we, a group of the Tzeirei Tzion from Argeyev, after great deliberations adopted a decision to begin spreading the ideas of the movement with our own efforts. We visited many shtetlekh and Jewish colonies (in Khersaner Gubernieh), bringing the word of the movement to the youth.
On one of these trips I arrived at the shtetl Dubossar, near the Dniester, and settled there for two years. I put in a lot of energy and effort into this town, reaching the peak of my galut Zionist activity. The Jewish population of Dubossar was composed of not wealthy, but well established merchants, tobacco planters, tobacco workers, various trades-people and workers on the ships which traveled on the Dniester. The Jews of Dubossar also had a reputation of being fearless fighters and this cast a fear on the non-Jewish population of the entire region. They were plain people, naïve in their beliefs, proud Jews, and not overly religious.
In this town, there was a Zionist organization which decided to found a Zionist school, acknowledged by the government and with the name Talmud Torah. The city leaders searched for a director for the school, which was just about to open and they also required that the director be a Zionist. At exactly that time I was sent to Dubossar to conduct Zionist propaganda, and to repel the attacks of a few young men close to the Russian S.D. party and the Bund. In the course of 2 3 evenings of stormy debate I was successful in winning over the opponents of Zionism and on this opportunity I formed a branch of the Tzeirei Tzion organization to which most of the youth of the town signed up, and even some of the previous opponents of Zionism. When the Zionist leadership of Dubossar became aware that I was a graduate teacher, they invited me to accept the post of director for the new school which they were in the process of founding.
At that time I was already seriously considering the idea of aliya to Israel, and I was interested in saving a bit of money for expenses for the trip. I accepted the invitation, and later, when the confirmation arrived from the government, I opened the school. Aside from Russian, we taught Hebrew, Tanakh, and other Jewish subjects. The subjects were taught according to the Ivrit B'Ivrit (speaking only Hebrew) method, and after a short time, Hebrew became a living, spoken language for the students.
After opening the school, I threw myself energetically into Zionist activity. I organized the Zionist youth into groups, in order to teach them the foundations of Zionism. The lectures were held a few times during the week, and on Saturdays we had larger meetings, where we explained general Zionist and Jewish issues. During the winter months we held the meetings in the Zionist school, and during the summer we gathered outside the city, in the shade of nut-tree forests. There we would read the newspapers about Jewish life, events of the day and primarily about Zionism.
After a few months of intensive explanatory work, we decided, after weighty deliberations, to officially join up with the Tzeirei Tzion movement. To accomplish this goal, we turned to the Tzeirei Tzion movement in Kishinev, who sent us the young, barely 19 year-old Chaim Greenberg. In the course of a week's time, Greenberg conducted numerous educational sessions for the Jewish masses. He made presentations in the large schools and the large halls. During his stay in Dubossar he wrote up, with my participation, the program and goals of the Tzeirei Tzion , composed of 16 paragraphs. This, I believe is the only published document of this type of that time. The program was accepted at a general meeting, and published on January 1906 in Russian in the weekly Chronicle of Jewish Life. Then, when the program was ratified, I explained its various parts to the members, when we held meetings.
I also visited the shtetl Yagorlik to explain and clarify the program. The Zionist Agudah (federation) that was founded there had in the meantime joined up with the Tzeirei Tzion organization. In the summer of 1906 and 1907, during my summer vacation, I visited all the Bessarabian shtetlakh along the length of the Dniester, and the Zionist associations that existed there joined up with the Tzeirei Tzion movement in agreement with the program drawn up in Dubossar. Aside from the cultural and explanatory work, we developed multi-faceted practical Zionist activities, such as working for Keren Kayemeth (Jewish National Fund), selling shekels, and more. All these works took first priority at that time in my Zionist and cultural efforts.
Self Defense and Zionist Conferences
Fall of 1905. With the outbreak of pogroms in the Jewish towns in southern Russia, our organization took a decisive role in organizing self-defense. I was elected to the leadership of the self-defense and together with Pinchas Bassman and Shaul Sukai led the self-defense with a strong hand. We had enough weapons, and organized patrols which were posted in all corners of the town. The nerve centre of the self-defense was in the shul. In the Aron Kodesh ( Holy Ark), near the Torah scrolls, we kept the weapons, and from there we sent the patrols out over the city. We had riders on horses, who acted as the communicators between the various defense and lookout posts. And in reality, thanks to the heroic and well organized self defense, Dubossar was shielded from a pogrom. The farmers from the surrounding villages simply feared coming into the city.
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the S.R. movement in Kishinev, which sent us several members to scout out the surrounding villages. Through them we were aware of what the farmers were preparing to do.
In order to gather as much weaponry as possible, I and a friend visited Kishinev, Tirospol, and Benderi, and we were successful in assembling a cache of guns, revolvers, and bullets. More than once, we two Jews travelling alone on the trains, were faced with serious danger amongst a riled up mob.
Summer 1906. On the recommendation of Z.K. of Tzeirei Tzion in Kishinev, I was invited to participate in an important Zionist conference in Odessa, called together by M. Ussishkin. In Chanuka 1906 the Tzeirei Tzion movemet sent me as a delegate to the well known Zionist conference in Helsinki , Finland. At both conferences the Tzeirei Tzion delegates appeared as an organized caucus. Our cacus was composed of the following members: Yosef Shprintzak, Chaim Greenberg, Yaacov Efter, Yisroel Drachler, Chaim Vaisudler, Aryeh Feldman, and this writer.
After successful Zionist activity over a period of two years I decided to leave my excellent position, my friends to whom I was closely tied, and make Aliya to Israel. Other friends from Dubossar also decided to make Aliya, and today many of them are farmers in the villages and workers in the cities.
In the summer of 1907 I was elected through the Dubossar Tzeirei Tzion movement and the Argeyev Zionists, as a delegate to the 8th Zionist Congress held in The Hague. At the congress, the Zionist Youth caucus made contact with Hapoel Hatzair organization from Israel, and the Hatkhiya movement. Also there was born the idea to call a conference of all the Zionist youth groups.
After the congress I traveled to Dubossar to give an accounting of the Congress and to bid farewell to my friends, prior to my leaving for Israel. At a joyous goodbye-party which my friends arranged, they inscribed me in the Golden Book of Keren Kayemeth (Jewish National Fund). That was the best reward for my Zionist activities in Dubossar. In that year I made Aliya to Israel.
A Sabbath in Yagorlik
by A.Y.Golani, z'l
Translated by Sarah Faerman
During the years of 1904-1906 Zionist activity in Russia was at a standstill . The state of extreme social fermentation that reached its peak during the revolution of 1905, caught up the best of the intellectuals amongst the Jewish youth in the ranks of the radical Socialist movements: The Socialist Revolutionaries, the Social Democrats ( this group split into the Mencheviks and the Bolsheviks), and the Bund that ruled over the Jewish street. Yet, there were also young intellectuals in those years that were not mesmerized by the above-mentioned organizations and in their quest for new paths they attempted to create a synthesis between Zionism and Socialism.
Fom these circles in Russia, there arose thePoalei Zion ( Workers of Zion) party and other radical Zionist groups, such as Hatchia ( Renewal), Hashachar (Dawn) and Tzeirei Tzion ( Zionist Youth). These particular organizations were based on a combination of Zionism and folk socialism by the Tzeirei Tzion who were ideologically close to the Social Revolutionaries and the Poalei Tzion, who, as Marxists, were close to the Social Democrats.
New branches of the Tzeirei Tzion organization would sprout up daily in the towns and villages of South Russia. Its centre was in Kishinev under the leadership of Yosef Shprintzak who had a great influence on the young Jewish students. He involved the best with their youthful vigor in the activities of the organization. Among others, there were: Chaim Greenberg, Yisrael Garfinkel ( Guri), Yakov Epter, Yosef Baratz, Nachum Tversky and Chaim Vaisodler. Later these same young men would play a distinguished role in the Zionist movement and in the building up of Eretz Yisrael.
When sending speakers to the towns and villages to spread the concept of a National Jewish Revival, a typical tactic of Tzeirei Tzion was to utilize local talents side by side with the imported lecturers. I also was given this task during the period when I was the Director of the Hebrew/Russian school in the town of Dubossar by the shores of the Dniester River. In the winter of 1906, the Dubossar Tzeirei Tzion group invited Chaim Greenbers ( he was then 19 years old) to come to Dubossar and within one week we worked out a program consisting of 16 points that reflected the ideological foundation of the movement. This very program is recognized in the history of the Zionist movement by the name ofThe Dubossar Tzeirei Tzion Program.
After the program was ratified by the Central Committee of Tzeirei Tzion, I was invited by G.L.Rachev of our neighbouring town, Yagorlik,to visit them to report on this newly created program and to influence the local youth to join the Tzeirei Tzion movement. One Friday night that winter, accompanied by another member of our Dubossar organization, I made the visit to Yagorlik.
Yagorlik was a tiny town with a small Jewish population that, like all other similar little towns, earned their living as tradesmen, craftsmen and small handlers. In one aspect, however, Yagorlik differed from the other towns. Practically all of their youth, including the girls, could speak Hebrew and were infused with Zionist convictions. They admired their leader and teacher Gad'l Layb Rachev who spared no effort in educating the youth in Yiddish, Hebrew and Zionism.
That Friday night, until after midnight as well as the next day - 18 hours in all - discussions, explanations, arguments and education took place. The Dubossar program was dissected point by point and clarifications made until, finally, the assembled in Yagorlik accepted the program and decided to officially join the Tzeirei Tzion movement.
The main principles of the Dubossar program were as follows: Nationalism; Transforming the Hebrew language into a living, spoken language; Practical work in the Diaspora; Aliya (emmigration to Eretz Yisrael); Actualizing the ideals via physical labour, particularly farming; Helping to create a just society in Eretz Yisrael with membership in the Socialist Movement. Which brand of Socialism was covered by the point:Only when we will be in Eretz Yisrael as workers or farmers will we decide which Socialist party to join - the Socialist Revolutionaries or the Socialist Democrats.
Not too many years went by - 2 or 3 at the most - and the majority of the Yagorlik Tzeirei Tzion members, with their leader Chaver ( comrade) Rachlev, emigrated to Eretz Yisrael, concentrating mainly in Moshav Ein Ganim which was the forerunner of Moshav Ovdim. Most of them planted deep roots in the land and realized with their lives and bodies the Torah of Labour Zionism. Sorrowfully, Rachev's students did not have much time with their respected and beloved teacher. he died one year after his arrival in Yisrael. However, to this day, the name of Gad'l Layb Rachev is heard on their lips with great love and esteem.
May his name be honoured.
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