by Hadassa Rachel Birman
Translated by Sara Mages
|Hadassa Rachel Birman, daughter of Asher Yitzchak Wolfowitz, was born on 3 Kislev 5636 (1876) in the village of Belerfeld not far from Ekaterinoslav. She studied Hebrew since childhood, and after she moved with her family to live in Ekaterinoslav she got closer to the Zionist circles that were led at that time by Menachem Ussishkin.
She continued her Zionist activities after she got married and established a traditional home. She didn't stray from this way even during the Soviet regime, and her home served as a center for the Zionist circles who continued to exist in secret. Moral and material help came from Mrs. Birman home during those difficult years.
In 1932 she immigrated to Israel with her family and settled in Rahovot. Also here, despite her advanced age, her home serves as a center for our townspeople who respect, admire and love her. She hasa large part in the Yekaterinoslav-Dnepropetrovsk book.
I was born and raised in a traditional home. My father, R' Asher Yitzchak Wolfowitz, was educated in the Yeshivot of Lita. There, he befriended R' Binyamin Zakheim who was later a rabbi in Yekaterinoslav. My father zl immigrated to this area in Southern Russia and settled in a farm near the Egran Station. At that time, my father joined Agudat Achim, which bought land east of the Jordan River. He sent his brother-in-law to prepare all that was needed for the family's immigration, but as we know, this settlement didn't materialize.
In 1886, his father-in-law, R' Chaim-Yehusua Shapira, came to our village. He only talked about Eretz-Yisrael, working the land, life of austerity and the Hebrew language. He began to speak Hebrew with his family and even with the animals. He was ridiculed in the area: Shapira is talking to the cow in the Holy Language. He influenced my father to let me study Hebrew with my brother. To my happiness, a good teacher was found for that, but there were no reading books. When I found that there is a Hebrew library in Ekaterinoslav, I traveled to the city and signed up for it, and by doing so I met interesting people. A short time later I learned that the library was about to close for lack of funds. I decided to go to Ussishkin who received me very well. I explained to him that if the library will be closed the city and its surroundings would remain without a Hebrew book. He promised me to look into the matter, and thanks to him the library wasn't closed.
Chaim-Yehusua Shapira greatly influenced me all those years. He made sure to provide me with books in Hebrew and also invited me to Zionist meetings when he was in the city. Once, he informed me about a meeting at the home of Dr. Angel, and when I entered I found a large number of guests there. Among them was Mr. Michel Meidanski zl, the representative of the Yekaterinoslav region. When I entered, he received me with the greeting here's our veteran Israeli. Mrs. Paulina Yafa also participated in the meeting. She proposed to open a high-school for girls a matter that was implemented later.
In 1900 I married my husband, Yosef Birman, and we moved to live in Yekaterinoslav. It was an industrial city with many large factories. Since it sat by the Dnieper River the timber trade, which was sent north by rafts, was widespread in the city. There was also a grain trade that was sent abroad. Yekaterinoslav was in the Pale of Settlement and many flocked to the city from the small towns to find a source of income. There were many institutions in the city: three Talmud Torah schools, a Yeshiva which had a two-story building, and a dormitory. The Yeshiva had many supporters and donors like: Karpas, Yudelson, Emanuel, Meidansky, Karezov and others. The head of the Yeshiva was R' Dov from Bobruysk and the overseer was Rabbi Halperin. Rabbi Gelman has done a lot for the development and expansion of the Yeshiva.
From the other institutions I will mention the Jewish Hospital which moved from its previous location in Bulniznaya Street to Sufskaya Street. There, a block of stone buildings, which was surrounded by a red brick wall, was built for all the departments of the hospital and also apartments for the employees. A cheap kitchen, which was built from the donation of Mr. Karpas, was located on Banya Street. The community management offices were also located there. There were two orphanages for 80 children which were maintained by the community management. A women's committee took care of these institutions. Mr. Karpas established and maintained an orphanage for 40 children. It was a beautiful building that was surrounded with a red brick wall. In general, the social work was highly developed and a number of women's organizations devoted themselves to it.
At that time there were several schools for Jewish children in Yekaterinosla. From them: Cohen's vocational school for girls who studied sewing and other handcraft,
the two schools of the Shechter brothers, Matiletzky's school, and others. Evening classes were also held in these schools. Later, Wexler's high-school for boys was established in Kazanskaya Street, and at the beginning of this century the high-school of P. Yafa and Yudkevitz. Classes weren't held in these schools on the Sabbat and during the Jewish holidays.
|H. R. Birman|
There were several libraries in Yekaterinoslav. One was opened in 1895 in accordance with a license obtained by Ussishkin. The librarian was Yosef Markovsky who later immigrated to Israel with his family. This library also served as a place for meetings. There was also a small library next to the Choral Synagogue where it was possible to find a selection of new literature, and the librarian was H. Axelrod (immigrated to Israel). H. Litvak served in this position before him (his daughter Chinga is in Israel). A large library, which was worthy of its name, belonged to the Federation of Jewish trade assistants. At first, it contained books in Russian and Yiddish and later also in Hebrew. The librarian was Mr. Yitzchakin. Sometimes, this federation organized balls with varied programs (music, readings) for members and guests, and it was possible to find the community leaders there.
Among the first booksellers were Avraham Rogov and his son, and Y. Henkin. Their small shops were always full of shoppers because there was a great demand for reading books. The Pakent-Regers, as they were called then, bought all types of
reading books in Hebrew and Yiddish, prayer books and more, and brought them as peddlers to the Jewish homes in the towns and villages.
The Zionist activity in Yekaterinoslav greatly expanded after M. Ussishkin married the daughter of S. Paleim, one of the important Jewish residents in the city, and settled there in 1890. Indeed, several members of Hovevei Zion were very active before his arrival, and among them: M. Meidansky, Avraham Harkabi who wrote for Ha-Melitz [the first Hebrew newspaper in Russia] and others. However, the activity increased only after Ussishki's arrival. Meetings were held and the famous preachers, Yevzrov and Maslians?i who later settled in Yekaterinoslav, visited the city often. The synagogues, in which they've preached, were filled and many young people flocked to hear them.
Cheder Metukan [reformed Cheder], which was under the management of H.K. Zuta, was opened about 1898 and among the teachers was also H.Y. Shapira. A lot was done for the strengthening and existence of this Cheder (Mr. Zuta wrote about it in his book Baresit HaDerech). The association Safa Chaya [Living Language] was established in 1901 and its energetic and devoted members were: Z. Rabinowitch, Peitelzon, Zuta, T. Shlonsky, Y. Veksler and many others. They gathered and spoke Hebrew at the homes of M. Ussishkin, the dentist Angle and others.
We were very pleased when Dr. Shmaryaho Levin came to serve as the community rabbi after a long struggle with his predecessor Shachor. Dr. Levin captured the heart of everyone with his charming personality and fiery speeches. It's hard for me to remember and express in writhing all the respect and affection that he acquired. In Hanukkah of that year, a party, in which pictures of Israel and its landscape were presented, was organized at the municipal theater. It was filled to capacity with teachers and their students. It was rare that so many Jewish children, who felt warmth, freedom and happiness, gathered together.
Two newspapers were published in Yekaterinoslav: one was close to the right, and the second was edited by the lawyer Zeitlin and the local Russian intelligentsia participated in it. Important cultural work was conducted by the Association for science which was located in a four-story building in Tzetzkebeka. There, it was possible to hear lectures on various topics from scientists and professors from the Harari Institute in Yekaterinoslav. In addition, various concerts and other activities were also held there, and we attended them frequently.
In 1905, on 21, 22, 23 October, pogroms, which were under the auspice of the army and the Cossacks, broke out in Yekaterinoslav. The rioters robbed, looted and killed many. The lawyer Zeitlin walked and recorded the details in all corners of the city. His newspaper published a sharp article in which the Russian intelligentsia declared that they're ashamed to be called Russian if such acts are done in the country. The yard, in which we lived, belonged to a Russian and he saved seventy people. Also his daughter, who lived in another street, stood by the gate and didn't let the rioters to enter. Our self-defense was very active and peace returned on the evening of the third day of the riots. We returned to our home, heated water and washed the babies. We were only able to talk after we drank tea because the speech was taken from us before that. On the same day my teacher, R' H. Y. Shapira, came to say goodbye because he decided to immigrate to Israel with his family.
In 1909, Dr. B. Z. Mossinson came to our city and greatly impressed us with his appearance and his speeches that he gave in Russian and Hebrew in a Sephardic accent. He tried to convince us to register our children to Gymnasia Herzliya. In those years Bialik, Ansky, Pasmanik and Jabotinsky visited Yekaterinoslav. There were also several concert of Jewish music.
We spent anxious days during the Belies' trial. We lived in constant fear because we knew that the mayor and his staff, who were anti-Semite, were getting ready to destroy us with all the tools of destruction. Their men of destruction stood ready and waited for the signal. A miracle happened to us because God saved us from their hands. The names of Rabbi Maze, [Moscow's Chief Rabbi], Gruzenberg and others were always on our lips.
There were two rabbis in our city: Rabbi Binyaminka Zkhaim for the opponents, and Rabbi Bere-Wolf Kozhevinkov for the Hassidim. I've never heard a misunderstanding or unpleasantness between them or their followers. There were additional rabbis in the suburbs of the big city and also a rabbi (a good Jew).
After the death of the two chief rabbis the opponents appointed the genius, Rabbi Pinchas Gelman ztl, who was friendly, pleasant, popular and active. A Talmud Torah with decent dedicated teachers, who were under his supervision, was located in the yard where I lived.
The Yeshiva, that a seminar for teachers was added to it later, was also under his supervision. Rabbi Gelman hoped to immigrate to Israel and establish a faculty of law there, but he was unable to do so because to our great sorrow the rabbi passed away when he was only forty years old.
The Hassidism's rabbi was Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson ztl. His Hassidim never denigrated the honor of Rabbi Gelman. I heard it myself. Of course, R' Schneerson worked quite a bit in his company. I knew his wife, the Rebbetzin, who knew Hebrew and spoke it to me when I met her. However, one day she told me that she doesn't speak Hebrew Their youngest son was Leibale, and according to his mother he studied the Talmud at the age of five. We were very happy when our children were able to enter him to the Zionist movement. HaRav E. Broshtein (the previous community rabbi) educated his talented son, who studied the Talmud, in the Zionist movement, but in the end he was caught by Communism It was told, that when the two of them met, R' E. Broshtein complained before R' Schneerson about his sorrow and disappointment that his favorite son became a communist. R' Schneerson answered him: like me, when I learned that my son Leibale became a Zionist
And now, the First World War broke out with all its horrors and hardships. The deportees from the border settlements and the refugees arrived to our city. Many settled in our city because it was located in the Pale of Settlement. The rabbis, who were imprisoned as hostages, were also brought to our city. The townspeople welcomed them with warmth and took care of all their needs. Actually, despite all the sorrow, it was a blessing for our city because it was infused with a new Jewish blood. During those years, (1915-1916), Yekaterinoslav has been enriched by genuine Jewish power of the Jews of Lita and Poland. The Yeshivot of Lida and Slabodka moved here (later it moved to Yelisbetgrad). The voices of Torah scholars rang from all the synagogues. Also the gymnasium of P. Cohen came from Vilna with is blessed cargo the lofty teachers: Dr. Y.L. Baruch, N. Pins, P. Shiffman (Ben-Sira), Kostrinsky, Kantorowicz, Dr. Lichtenstein, and others. Gymnasia Tarbut was opened and the Teachers Union was strengthened. The teachers who took part in it were: Wilenzik, Polonsky, Litvak, Shragorodsky and others. From the Yidisha'im: Kazakevich, Dworkin, Robinson, Bugoslawsky, and others. Two seminars, one on of behalf of Tarbut and the second under the supervision of R' Gelman, were founded. Two kindergartens were also opened, one in Hebrew under the management of Mrs., Chaya Lichtenstein-Weizmann and the second in Yiddish. The Zionist propaganda was intense and comprehensive, and the study of the Hebrew language was expanded. The Yidisha'im also didn't sit idle and opened a disrespectful propaganda. In addition, lectures were held for all the teachers. I visited several of them, and Mr. N. Pins was the living spirit in them.
The public work was extensive. We took care of the soldiers' wives, the refugees and their children. In addition to the kindergartens we also organized a kirkara (playground) for the children under the guidance of the kindergarten teachers Chinga Litvak and the daughter of the teacher Kantorowitch. I collected the children from my neighborhood and later returned them to their homes.
By chance, I befriended a family from Pinks who came from there together with the bank. Through this family I met Yosef Bergman, the brothers Eisenberg and others from Pinks who were active and dedicated Zionists. A welding workshop, in which the student received a small salary and lunch, was opened under Ehrlich's management. At that time, the brothers Moshe and Yehezkel Zaks, who were student in Gymnasia Herzliya and returned to study in Yekaterinoslav, lived at my home. Their Hebrew speech left an impression on me and they taught my children to speak Hebrew.
And here is the Balfour Declaration! It's difficult to describe the joy, excitement and hope in our city! The public work hasn't weakened and Mr. Kochanovsky's Hebrew Gymnasium was opened on Opornaya Street. Among its teachers were: the Levin brothers (today, Yehudi Leib is the Chief Rabbi of Moscow), Aresh father of the Habima actor Avital, Kochanovsky's three daughters and his son-in-law. There was no lack of students and the parents committee, to which I also belonged, has done a lot to improve the Hebrew lessons and the school. Despite the danger of the civil war we organized a party for the children on Lag BaOmer. We walked in a procession through the city's streets to a forest where we organized games, sing-along and more. The Zionist activity gradually expanded and with it also the study of the Hebrew language. In Cohen's Gymnasium all the subjects were taught in Hebrew, a matter that wasn't easy to carry out.
The allocation of 1000 Ruble from the philanthropist S. Barslavsky gave Tarbut the possibility to expand the scope of its work. Lecturers and readers gathered every week in Tzeirei Zion club on Opornaya Street, and the young forces Y. Idelshon, Y. Ritov and M. Lev took an active part in it. The brothers Gorowitz from the Pinsk group and Zalman Lubovsky were very active. Libai, who was an excellent speaker, joined later. Avraham Gutman moved to Yekaterinoslav and took an active part in the Zionist activities.
Gloomy days arrived, and every day brought a curse worse than the last. A civil war, a robber leaves a killer takes his place. Again and again. The roads are dangerous also in the city. Everyone is only talking about food and clothes. The trade ceased, the shops were closed and all the employees were laid off. I think that there wasn't a normal academic year, because everything was destroyed and nothing was rebuilt. Denikin's soldiers, who came after the German troops took what they wanted, robbed and killed. Everyone traveled to the villages to exchange items for a small quantity of grits and flour. Our work didn't stop under these conditions and from time to time we gathered at the home of Dr. Y. Dolsinsky. When it wasn't allowed to study Hebrew we organized a school at the home of H. Shochat. Mordechai Gover and his wife Rivka taught there and one of the students stood on guard. Another group studied Hebrew in my apartment with Gover. Over time, Yona Kesse, his brother Mendel, Yeshayah Shar, N. Lev, Zalman Rabinowitch, S. Frumkin, Sprinzak and others joined the teaching staff. Despite the danger we organized parties in Hanukkah, Tu Bishvat, and other holidays. Once, we arranged a big Simchat Torah party at the home of Dr. Ginzburg and Natan Ternavsky, who was later exiled and was last seen in prison in Arkhangelsk, gave a lecture. A special committee took care of the finance and its members were: Moshe Risin. Ziama Yafit (Yufit} and others.
In 1921 the refugees started to return to their places. In 1921-1922 came the great drought and the famine related to it. In 1923-1924 came the arrests of the Zionists in our city. The first victim was the young man Moisyev, an only son to his parents who fell ill and died in exile. Among those arrested were: H. Reichman, Daniel Beresovsky, Tzvi Bokrinsky, Leah Lev, Rivka Volodarsky, Lioba Ginodman, Aharon Puzin and others. Some of them were released and some sentenced to expulsion. Later, their verdict was replaced by a departure to Israel. The arrests continued in the following years, and in 1927 Eliezer Tripolsky, my son Yehudah and others were arrested. The Zionist activity among the youth continued all these years, and those who conducted it with great energy were: Sara Milerowitz, the Orlov sisters, my daughter Miriam and others. The children were very dedicated and despite the danger they recruited new members for the movement. Our apartment was one of the places in which meetings and lectures took place.
Dr. B. Chanis was very active during the famine years. He received money from abroad to help the needy and especially for the rehabilitation of the Jewish Hospital and the clinic on Charkovskaya Street. He also helped those who turned to him, but in the end he was exiled. There was also a group of adults who gathered from time to time. Among them: Rozinov, Avraham Gutman, Kissin, Mostovlenski and others. The previous community rabbi, E. Burstein, who was sick and lame, occasionally visited our synagogue on Novosleniai Street. He encouraged us and strengthened our hands and our spirit. Several children studied the Torah in this synagogue and Mr. Zuker took care of their needs. We printed the movement's flyers in my apartment and in the apartments of Shlonsky, Rosovsky and Kostrinsky.
On the occasion of my illness I received a treatment at the clinic on Charkovskaya Street where Dr. Cohen-Berenstein worked. Later he moved to the hospital. My daughter, who came to visit me from Poland, brought him greetings from his daughter, the actress Miriam Cohen-Berenstein. When we came to visit him I saw the place where he lived a large room that was divided in two by a curtain, and a kitchen which was located in a dark corner near the entrance. He was already sick and his wife left a good impressed on me. She was always busy taking care of her home. We had several talks about Israel etc., and he was very restrained. Sometime later I learned from Mr. Toporowsky that Cohen-Berenstein passed away. There weren't any notices in the city and only a few people knew about it.
Emissaries came from the center in spite all the dangers. One day I was informed that a meeting would take place in my apartment with the representative of the center. My apartment became the meeting place for the local Zionists after my husband moved to Moscow. We prepared places to sit from wood planks, brought potatoes,
watermelons, pickles and tomatoes from the cellar. We peeled and cooked, and had a pleasant and cheerful meeting. The emissary was Sioma Lioberski. Once, at the request of my son Yehudah, I gave Stagier permission to hide in my apartment for a month.
In 1932 I left Ekaterinoslav with my husband and immigrated to Israel. We parted from Batya Berkowski, a devoted and faithful soul who risked her life for the movement. She sewed undergarments for the market to support her elderly parents. Everyone who came from the movement, found assistance and a place to sleep in the room that she lived with her parents. She corresponded with some of the deportees and sent them everything that they asked for. Before my journey she told me: I'm keeping a minyan here, meaning, that she had 10 friends who were loyal to the movement. She used to send two or three young men or women to Moscow, and others came to her from there to strengthen the movement. At the end, she was arrested and sent to Northern Siberia (today she's in Israel after years of imprisonment and hardships).
We always lived in fear and tension. We were ready, loyal and dedicated to each other. Despite all this, it was a very interesting period and I mention it with longings.
by V. Dalman
Translated by Sara Mages
The pogrom began in Ekaterinoslav a day or two after it started in other cities. We had no idea what was happening in other cities because of the postal strike. We still didn't have a normal service and letters and newspapers didn't arrive.
On Thursday, October 19, in the evening, the first sign was given that a pogrom is approaching. On the same evening, about 9 o'clock, we learned that a group of rioters concentrated at the entrance to the community center. The rioters, who participated earlier in a march down Prospect Street, fired several shots at those who walked out of the hall, and dispersed. Most of the assembled also left the place.
After I learned that, I joined the member Pinye and we arrived to the community center together. The discussions already ended there, and a registration of members from various organizations was carried out in several rooms on the ground floor. We were getting ready for self-defense.
Both of us received a specific role from our members, and we made our way to the defense's main assembly point on behalf of our organization.
About 150 members, who answered the call of the organization's committee, already gathered in an empty yard of one of the synagogues. The member Michael conducted a members' roll-call in a loud voice, distributed weapons and sent the groups to their locations.
I, together with Pinye, were given the duty to join our members in the organization's main residence, which was located on Kazaziya Street, and we went there immediately.
The running around to find apartments for our groups, telephones, ammunition, weapons and others lasted until the late hours of the evening. The members were divided into groups, weapons were distributed, and bombs have been prepared. We finally fell asleep and woke up on Friday morning with the feeling that there is no need to worry about a pogrom. Life went on as usual in the city but it only seemed so
At 11 o'clock, when I thought that it wasn't necessary to do anything more for the defense, I went to the apartment of the member Pilka. Our members already gathered there and we talked about the pogrom. Around 1 o'clock, several members came and delivered the worrisome news: processions of rioters, under the direction of plain clothes policemen, are gathering in Chechlevka and Prospect streets near the municipality building and panic is apparent everywhere. I returned to the main residence where there was a lot of activity. Information came from the observation points, instructions and orders were given, and scouts came and left. In the meantime, one of our members came running with the news that a few minutes ago one of our scouts killed a rioter on Bazarnaya Street. We were horrified, it started each one of us though and something cold and terrible entered the heart.
Matters have evolved in a menacing way. A patriotic procession took place at the edge of the city, and it was clear, the pogrom will come. We tried to locate the place and concentrate our self- defense groups there. At 1 o'clock in the afternoon, one of our groups went up Sadovaya Street under the command of the member Motele.
Several members of the defense joined it on the way. On the way up the group crossed the square diagonally. Suddenly, several rows of soldiers appeared near them and opened fire without a warning, at first in the air and then directly at them. The group withdrew running back, but the gates to the houses were closed under the order of the police. In these moments the members were in mortal danger and the only victim was the member Hershel Svirsky.
Motele's group dispersed, and after it called open the gates! it gathered in a quiet street. There, a Jew opened his gate and happily let the group enter. After a rest the group left for the street and chased gangs of rioters who filled it from all sides.
The pogrom strengthened. I was next to the telephone, together with the member Pinye, and each report that we got was more difficult than the last. It was necessary to act, give instructions, direct people and divide the weapons. There was great confusion in the street and we had no time to look at what was happening there. An unclear noise came from a distance, and the houses on both sides of the road were robbed and destroyed. However, we weren't able to pay attention to it because we held in our hands all the strings that linked our 18 defense groups, and under the bed was the most terrible weapon of the revolutionary (bombs)
Suddenly, we heard shots right next to us, voices and noise from people about a hundred under our windows. A group of rioter came running from behind the corner of the house opposite us. On their way, they roared like lions, stumbled, fell, and dropped the items that they robbed. Shots were heard behind it, about eight members of our defense stood at the street corner and fired incessantly. A few minutes later the crowd dispersed and the fighting group concentrated in the middle of the street.
I would never forget this picture! Several dozen strong young men stood around the commander of the fighting group, who explained the next action plan, and disappeared a few minutes later. Now we heard the trampling of measured steps soldiers walked in straight lines on the sidewalks on both sides of the road and aimed their guns at the windows of the houses facing them. They were afraid of the bombs that might be thrown from the windows, and were ready to shoot at anyone who appeared in the window.
I'll not continue to give a detailed description of all the events of the pogrom, all the performances of madness and horror, but I will write about all the acts of heroism and nobility
In the mist of the night
I'll tell about one of the most notable incidents of our war that all our members mention with pride. It happened on Sabbath eve. At 10 o'clock we were informed from all the locations that the pogrom is easing. On this day the first day of the pogrom the defense performed well and we managed to stop the riots in many locations in the city. We were satisfied despite the large number of victims. The groups were getting ready to rest and only the guards, who walked the streets and stopped passers-by, were on duty. We thought, together with Pinye, to rest. Suddenly, terrible news came to us from one of the points in the city's port. At 7 o'clock in the evening, a ship arrived to the port with many Jews who escaped from different locations up the Dnieper River for fear of the pogrom. A great number of rioters were waiting at the port to rob them.
|Victims of the 1905 Pogrom|
The passengers pleaded with the sailors to turn the ship back, but their request was denied. The rioters broke into the ship when it reached the dock and began acts of terror. Dozens were wounded and thrown into the water. Later, about ten bodies were pulled out of the river. The next ship was supposed to arrive at 7.30 in the morning, and we had to take all the necessary measures to prevent another disaster. We immediately informed the fighting group and suggested that it should use extreme measures at a certain hour of the morning. In addition, we began negotiations with the director of the shipping company and asked him to send a boat towards the ship in the morning to warn about the danger. And here, at that moment, we heard the loud ringing of the telephone. It was from Ulyanovskaya Street at the edge of the city, from the home of a Jewish merchant. We were informed that loud voices were being heard next to the house, at the corner of Hersonskaya and Skakovaya streets. Jews are probably being attacked there and they need our help. We called the commander of the fighting group, which included 32 members, and after a discussion he returned to his group. An hour later he came to us and his eyes were burning, he fulfilled the task, the rioters paid with their blood However, the Jewish merchant continued to call, and according to his words the riots didn't stop after the attack of our group. Indeed, it was quiet for a while, but the noise increased and the rioters were getting closer to Ulyanovskaya Street. It was necessary to take more vigorous measures.
We decided to concentrate four groups in two locations and to encircle Ulyanovskaya Street on both sides. Participated in the concentration: the fighting group under the command of Arkadi and Pitynzki, two regular groups from our organization which were under the command of Peretz and Pilka, and a mixed group that included our members and the people of the Bund. These groups had to concentrate at the corner of Voskresenskaya and Bazarnaya streets, and leave, in two detachments, for their mission on Ulyanovskaya Street.
Only three groups arrived to the meeting place. The fourth, Pilka's group, didn't arrive. At the same time the soldiers, who were standing in Bazarnaya Street, opened fire at our members who didn't see them through the fog. Our members left after several attempts to evade the shots and concentrated in two private apartments. Out of a misunderstanding, Pilka's group came to the corner of Praozanovskaya and Bazarnaya streets not to the corner of Voskresenskaya and Bazarnaya streets, and didn't notice the situation because of the fog. The group marched to Ulyanovskaya Street through the corresponding Starogorodnaya Street.
|Victims of the 1905 Pogrom in Ekaterinoslav|
On the way this group met the neighborhood watch which was composed of local people. After it added these guardsmen, who were armed with handguns, to its ranks, it went directly to Ulyanovskaya Street, from which came the sound of breaking furniture and smashing windows. The group went up the street and from there opened fire at the rioters. The rioters, who fled immediately, left about ten dead in the street. The group came running to the house of the Jewish merchant, and from there we've received the encouraging news from Pilka that the help arrived on time A day later, on Saturday night, the rioters took revenge and burned the house of this Jewish merchant. They found the appropriate time to remunerate the victims who fell from their side...
At the hospital after the pogrom
On Saturday night the authorities disconnected the telephone. We were told by the switchboard that the telephone was out-of-order It was clear, that the out-of-order telephones were those that we used to contact the defense's main residence. Later, we learned that it was done under the order of Neidhart, the district governor, to interfere with our activities. The order was given on Sunday, the day he intended to end the pogrom.
Thus, the defense, as a body that all of its parts were in constant contact, wasn't able to continue with its activities. The city turned into a military camp, soldiers and Cossacks swarmed in all directions and didn't let our groups to contact each other. Houses and apartments, which belonged to Jews, stood out in the general background. It was enough to look at the doors and windows: if white crosses weren't painted on the doors, icons with perpetual light weren't seen in the windows and the curtains were drawn it was a sign that human beings, who held their breath and were abandoned to the mob, were hiding behind them
Now, the defense operated in a disorganized way and temporarily. The main residence, where I was, was closed because it was no longer needed. We were followed and our members, the scouts, told us that we had to leave the apartment and change the telephone number. Therefore, we left the apartment broken and exhausted, and moved to another building across the street, to the apartment of a simple Jewish family.
Our members came to visit us in the morning. They told us that the pogrom ended and notices, in which the district governor announced the end of the riots and asked the defense to hand over its weapons, were pasted in all locations.
I decided to go to the hospital because I heard that they needed help.
At about 2 o'clock in the afternoon I was called to go out to the corridor. Two well dressed men, whose faces were red with excitement, stood there.
Are you Mr. D.?Shortly thereafter, the steps of about ten people sounded from the stairs below. About 15 middle-aged Jews, laborers and small merchants, were brought wounded in makeshift stretchers.
Yes, that's me.
Can you speak on behalf of the defense organization?
No, I can't.
In God's name! This isn't the appropriate time for conspiracy!
I'm associated with our organization's defense committee but it isn't active right now.
The district governor demands that the defense will give its weapons and stop shooting in the streets. Only under this condition the procession, which is marching from the Sobor, wouldn't end in a new
I doubt that there would be a new pogrom. It's entirely up to the district governor, not us. So, what do you want from me?
We're going to the district governor and you have to promise us that the defense will hand over its weapons.
I can't give you such a promise. But, in order that the public wouldn't blame us later, I can assure you on behalf of our organization, and it's the most powerful organization of the defense, that we'll only
take action when a new pogrom will break out.
How can we ensure the district governor that your promise will be fulfilled?
In my name, tell the governor that I'm so-and-so, I'm located in an unknown place, and if my promise wouldn't be fulfilled he can arrest me.
Doctors and nurses rushed from all directions.
The pogrom started! It started again! Sounded from all directions.
It was the attack on the Schneider's house, the well-known attack in Ekaterinoslav's pogrom. Eighteen bodies were found there, the doors and the pavement were covered with blood. The inexplicable cruelty was explained in this manner the police thought that the Schneider's house was the Revolutionaries' nest.
According to the official information, 126 Jews were killed in Ekaterinoslav's pogrom by the rioters and the soldiers' shooting, and 47 rioters were killed. According to our information 63 rioters were killed.
By Dr. Yakov Kostrinski
Translated by Sara Mages
A Russian Jew, who before and after the changes of the revolution was out of the Jewish public life there, was struck by the sight of the drastic changes in the structure of the Jewish society when he returned to the Ukraine during the Ataman period.
After my release from the Russian Army in which I served as a Firstclass volunteer in the Czar's Army, an officer during the Kerensky period, and later, after the October Revolution, as a secretary in the Department of Organization of the Red Army in the city of Mtsensk in Oryol Oblast, I arrived, by roundabout roads (there wasn't a real border between Russia and Ukraine), to my family in Ekaterinoslav. How immense was the difference between the Jewish public life in both places!
In the Soviet regime in Russia, outside the framework of the ruling Communist Party, there was no social and political organization of any kind, and in the Jewish street the traitorous Yevsektsii set the Jewish character across Russia. In contrast, I found in Ekaterinoslav a lively and vibrant Jewish community in the form of parties, newspapers, meetings, lectures and various conferences. The Jewish community served as the center of the vibrant communal life, sort of a Jewish parliament on a small scale.
All the political parties of that time participated in the community first and foremost HaTzionim HaKlaliym [General Zionists], after them Tzeirei Zion, Folkists (the people of the Folkspartei along the lines of the Voskhod in Petrograd), the Bundistn and more. They were represented by the balance of power of the Jewish community in Ekaterinoslav. The community building was in Zelaznaya Street, in a low building, not big and very modest. However, it was always full to capacity during the hours of the day and in especially in the evenings. During office hours people who needed help from the various departments of the community. In the evenings representatives of the parties and just Jews, who came to the community building to discuss various matters and the debates, because of the difference of opinions between them, were quite turbulent. .
The community management was composed of the Community Council which was elected in a proportional election on February 1918. As stated, it was represented by delegates of the main Jewish political parties, mainly the Zionist parties, and by an Executive Committee which represented the management. The president of the community was the engineer Moshe Brok, brotherinlaw of Moshe Oshiskin. The chairman of the Executive Committee was the principal of the Jewish Gymnasium. His name was Pavel Isaakovich Kagan (Cohen) and he was privileged during the Czarist period in Vilna. Kagan's Gymnasium moved to Ekaterinoslav from Vilna when the institutions from the western provinces of Russia Latvia, Lita, Polesia and others were evacuated during the First World War (among his students in Ekaterinoslav were Dan Pines from HeHalutz in Russia ,the members of the Shlonsky family and others).
As chairman of the Executive Committee, P.A. Kagan, was the real director of the work of the community and its institutions. He was its driving force and left his mark on almost all of its operations. He was active, energetic and stubborn, and imposed an exemplary order and discipline. Because of his intelligence and discretion he knew how to manage all the affairs of the community with leniency. Even though he was the representative of a small minority (he belonged to the Folkists) he was elected chairman of the Executive Committee because of these qualities.
The secretary of the Community Council was Yisrael Lifshitz. He was modest, serious, energetic, restrained, quiet, remarkably punctual and disciplined. To his credit, so it seems to me, it's necessary to mention the exemplary way in which he managed all the community's affairs. After his immigration to Israel he served as the secretary of the committee of Hadar Hacarmel in Haifa.
Several departments managed the work of the community and its many institutions (hospital, orphanage, nursing homes, schools, welfare and others), and I'll mention those that I remember the most: The Department of Health and Social Services whose director was Dr. Boris Chanis from HaTzionim HaKlaliym and its secretary, if I'm not mistaken, was Mr. Y. Ritov one of the leaders of Tzeirei Zion in Ekaterinoslav.
The Legal Department was headed by the lawyer Avraham Brozovsky from HaTzionim HaKlaliym, and its secretary was Yisrael Idelshon of the leaders of Tzeirei Zion in Russia and one of the brilliant speakers of that period (he's Yisrael BarYehudah zl who was the Minister of Transportation in Israel). Out of the rest of the workers I remember Y. Rabinovitz who, I think, worked at the Department of Welfare. He later immigrated to Israel (he's known here by the name Dr. Y. Rabinovitz because of his fierce war against his federation during the elections to the municipality of TelAviv at the end of the 1920s.
It should be noted, that the Jewish population of Ekaterinoslav grew, many times over, during the First World War by the absorption of thousands of refugees from the western regions of Russia. There was a great need to take care of them and the matters related to the aforementioned departments. In fact, the Executive Committee constituted the municipality of Jewish Ekaterinoslav.
The other departments of the community also opened a valuable and varied work under the difficult conditions of the exchange of regimes in those years (Petliura, Whites, Makhno), and lack of funds for the proper management of the community's work.
The writer of these lines had the privilege of working in the community of Ekaterinoslav as the deputy of the general secretary after his return from the interior of Russia at the end of 1918 and until its final liquidation by the Soviet regime when it conquered the Ukraine.
Translated by Sara Mages
At the beginning of 1917, Jewish Ekaterinoslav has been enriched by an institution of higher education, and it is: The Jewish Polytechnic, or by its official name: The Private Polytechnic Institute частный Политехнический Инcтитут.
What were the reasons for the establishment of this Jewish academic institution the first in the Diaspora?
As is well known Czarist Russia imposed severe restrictions on the admission of Jewish students to highschools and universities. They were admitted by a certain percentage of those accepted, and it was different. So, for example: in the Pale of Settlement a quota of 15% of Jewish students were admitted to highschools and 10% to schools of higher education. Outside the Pale 10% to highschools and 5% to schools of higher education and in Moscow and St. Petersburg the capital city 3%5%. Most of the schools of higher education were in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Every year the number of Jews who graduated highschools rose, and only a limited number was able to enter schools of higher education in the country. Those left stood before the question where can we continue our academic education? Some had a way out to travel abroad, but it required sufficient means and not everyone was able to afford it. In addition, several schools of higher education limited the number of students who were accepted from outside the borders of their country. Also, the possibilities of earning a living in their place of study gradually diminished. The restrictions on admitting Jewish students to highschools and universities worsened at end of the first decade and the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century. To their shame, there were also those among the Jewish graduates who have chosen the easy way to convert to Christianity and enter a school of higher education legally.
This problem, to enable the Jewish graduate to continue his academic studies in a suitable school of higher education without the use of the easiest way, stood for several years before the Jewish public in Russia, and was often discussed in the Jewish press. With no hope to wait for changes or reliefs in this matter in Russia, they started to think of establishing a school of higher education for young Jews outside its border or in Russia itself.
This idea found many supporters among the various circles except for the Zionists, who opposed the establishment of a school of higher education for young Jews from Russia. Negotiations were conducted with several public bodies in Russia and abroad for the fulfillment of this idea.
And here, a solution was found to the question in Russia itself. According to a law from 1914, it was possible to establish schools and courses for other nationalities in this country. Therefore, it was also possible to establish a school of higher education for Jews. Indeed, it will not have the rights of a school of higher education,
|Study register from the Jewish Polytechnic|
and the graduates will have to take government exams to get their college degree. But, they will study according to the program of accredited school, and when they graduate they will be able to pass the government exams.
Therefore, it was decided to use this law. The engineers A Peres and L. Rabinovitz, who represented the activists of the capital city, submitted the appropriate application to the authorities. They asked to allow them to establish a technical college with a number of professional faculties and also a faculty for economic in Ekaterinoslav. The reason for the establishment of a technical collage lay in the fact that there was a great demand for engineers in Russia and many studied the profession outside its borders. Ekaterinoslav was chosen as the location for this school because of its large and rich Jewish community. There were large factories there and, the most important thing the Mining Institute one of the most important schools of this kind in the country was also there. It was possible to invite its teachers to lecture in the new technical college and also use its advanced laboratories. It was obvious, that it was necessary to establish this school in the Pale of Settlement where the students will be able to live without any limitations and prohibitions.
The required license was given in mid 1916, and the necessary preparations for the opening of this school began. They started to collect the necessary funds despite the war conditions in the country at that time, and in a short time about half a million Rubles were collected. In addition, they started to negotiate with various lecturers.
At the meeting of the polytechnic's Executive Committee from 13 January 1917, which took place in Petrograd under the leadership of the lawyer M. Vinaver, it was decided to open the school year on 31 January 1917 (by the Julian calendar). The grand opening was postponed to the holiday of Purim. At the same meeting, Professor Zborowski (from the Mining Institute) was approved as the principal (director) of the polytechnic. The rest of the lecturers were invited from the Mining Institute and from among the Jewish scientists. Of them, M. Bernstein, a senior lecturer at the University of Kharkov, the engineers A. Peres (one of the founders), Y. Ratonovsky in the engineering professions, Y. Grossman (in time, a professor at the technical college in Haifa), Y. Ogievetsky (from Odessa), Y. Blumstein in mathematics, and in addition, also several Jewish and nonJewish counselors in various professions.
The opening of the school year was held, according to plan, in the lecture hall of the Scientific Institute building in Chechlavka Street. Because of the transportation difficulties of those days, only several members of the Executive Committee, some of the professors, lecturers and students were able to come. 122 students, including several women, were accepted to the Faculty of ElectroMechanics, and 78 to the Faculty of Structure Engineering. It was decided to open the Faculty of Economics at the end of the year. The tuition was set at 100 Rubles for half a year.
Some of the lectures were held at the building of the Scientific Institute in Chechlavka Street and some in the Mining Institute (when the lecturer was from there). For physics, they used the laboratory of the Trade School whose director was also the lecturer in this subject.
Before long, the revolution of March 1917 broke out and the restrictions for the admission of Jewish students to highschools and universities were removed.
And then stood the question is there any point and need to continue the existence of a Jewish school of higher education? However, in a meeting, which took place on April 11, it was decided to continue to support it, taking into consideration the needs of the Jewish culture. It's interesting, that a significant number of students supported it. Later, in an additional meeting, it was decided that, for now, the polytechnic will remain in Ekaterinoslav and in 1918 to transfer it to Petrograd.
Meanwhile, the life of the students continued to materialize in this school as in other schools of higher education in Russia. A consumer association of students, for the supply of books, learning instruments, stationery, etc., was established. An association for mutual aid was also established. Representatives of the students began to appear before the Executive Board with several suggestions in regards to the curriculum, lecturers and more. Of course, a few also took part in the political life. The Zionists were organized in HaChaver and Tzeirei Zion, and there was no shortage of members in the various social movements, including the Bolsheviks, and in this manner they added a special color to the Jewish communal life in Ekaterinoslav.
The first semester ended and the registration for the second year was opened. 195 new students and 13 free listeners were accepted. The number of students, which included 39 women and 12 nonJews, has reached 400. Lessons in the Hebrew language were added to the general studies and the teacher was the author Y. Lerner. The lecturer for history and Hebrew literature was Dr. Y. L. Baruch who also held a seminar in these subjects. It should be noted that only a small number of students, who treated the lecturers and the lectures with indifference, attended these lectures.
The polytechnic's curriculum was like the curriculum in schools of this type in the country, and so was the order of the exams, the work in the laboratories, etc. There was only one change studies weren't held on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Among the lecturers were good and average. A number of lecturers, who had to come from out of town, weren't able to arrive to Ekaterinoslav because of the disruption in the train service. Others filled their place, but they weren't always suited for the duty. There were also some difficulties in the use of the laboratories of the Mining Institute. All this weighed heavily on the course of study, and representatives of the students came to the management with demands to correct, add, and change. However, the management wasn't always able to do something in this respect. Despite all these, many students continued their studies, took exams and worked in the laboratories.
The school's name was changed at the end of 1917 and since then it was called: The Jewish Scientific Institute Еврéйские Наýчный Институт. All the studies were transferred to the Mining Institute, and additional lecturers came from there. The studies continued, almost as usual, despite the many changes of regimes that passed over Ekaterinoslav in the fall and winter of 19181919. The lecturers and the students came to the lectures, took exams and worked in the laboratories. There were certain difficulties in obtaining the required budget for the existence of the institution, and it took great efforts to raise it. The handful of those responsible stood this test. The contact with Petrograd and Moscow, from which the funds came previously, was severed and it was necessary to rely more on local sources. Thanks to the runaway inflation it was possible to obtain the necessary means. To this, it's necessary to add that a number of students were cut off from their homes because of the civil war that broke out in the country, and many were left without means of support. A few, who left for a vacation in their homes, weren't able to return. At that period the lecturer, Y. Ogievetskyi, took upon himself the great concern of the upkeep of the institution.
Despite these difficulties the third school year, 19191920, was opened and the registration of students was announced. The tuition increased and was set at 500 Rubles a year. The days were the days of Denikin's regime of in Ekaterinoslav, and Makhno's gangs prevented regular studies. To ensure the necessary budget, Mr. Y. Ogievetskyi left for several cities in the Ukraine. He raised known amounts and returned to Ekaterinoslav shortly before it fell to the hands of the Soviets.
With the consolidation of the Soviet regime, the local authorities decided to annex the Jewish Polytechnic to the Mining Institute, and together they constituted the Polytechnic Institute in Ekaterinoslav. Thus, came to an end the first Jewish school of higher education in the Diaspora.
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