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Communal Institutions (cont.)

The Birthpangs of the Kindergarten

In order to change the educational situation in our city, in 1924, a group of parents made efforts to establish a kindergarten for their children that would serve as the basis for the establishment of a Tarbut School. To this end, the promoters turned to the heads of the Zionist movement in the city and requested organizational help and communal protection. However, their thoughts were that there was no hope in obtaining financial support from the community, and the chances of maintaining the kindergarten on the accounts of the parents alone were very slim. Therefore, they were not prepared to help, and this “enterprise” was doomed from the outset.

Child Care Founders 1924

Child Care Founders 1924

Seated from right to left: 1. L. Rozenfeld 2. B. Duchovny 3. Y. Naychin 4. Volovsky
Standing: 1. M. Rotkov 2. R. Davidovitz 3. Y. Galperin 4. G. Shneurson (kindergarten teacher) 5. Y. Roitman

 

Disappointed from the negative response of the community to our issue, we turned to the Cultural Center in Kishinev to assist us with guidance and in establishing the kindergarten. The center sent Mr. Shvartz of blessed memory to us, a gifted teacher and activist in the Center (he was a former resident of our city), in order to take care of the matter. Mrs. Shvartz strengthened our hand, and we immediately decided to open up the registration of children. A committee was selected (in 1914) consisting of M. Rotkov, Leibel Volovsky, Batya Duchovny, Yaakov Galperin, Gerisha Rozenfeld, Roza Shapira, and Yaakov Roitman. The members of the committee visited the homes of the parents and registered 25 children. It seemed that the dream had turned into reality. Behold, the kindergarten arose to existence! Only now did the difficulties become apparent: the problem of appropriate premises, equipment, a piano, and unforeseen expenditures. These problems were sufficient to affect the activists and bring them to despair. Furthermore, there was the problem of the lack of experienced kindergarten teachers. This problem stood with all its strength, since we were in need of a person of exceptional organizational ability who would be able to withstand the difficulties that already stood before our eyes and ones that were liable to become exposed as time went on. After lengthy negotiations, the Center provided us, with the recommendation of Mr. Y. Alterman the principal of the seminary for kindergarten teachers in Kishinev, Bluma Shneurson of Bendery, Bessarabia. She was a talented young woman, full of energy, and a graduate of the seminary. She was a kindergarten teacher who was appropriate for the local conditions. (Today she is a kindergarten teacher in Petach Tikva.)

Already at the time of the first discussion with Mrs. Shneurson about the equipment of the kindergarten, it became clear that the tuition fees of the parents must be increased in order to assure the existence of the institution throughout the year. We also overcame that, and on Cheshvan 8, 1924, the first Hebrew speaking kindergarten was opened in Orheyev.

Throughout the first 3-4 months of its existence, the kindergarten won the appreciation of our community. Echoes of the Hebrew language spoken by the children to their families attracted the hearts of the community. Many locals as well as people from outside the city, who were affected by the achievements of the kindergarten teacher in her work, visited the kindergarten. It is appropriate to note the tremendous performance of the students of the kindergarten at the public Purim festivities. The larger community saw the proficiency of the children in the Hebrew language, which became a spoken language to them, and appreciated the value of the achievements of the kindergarten. Indeed, we successfully concluded the first year and prepared to maintain the kindergarten for the second school year.

We again faced budgetary difficulties at the beginning of the second year, which endangered the existence of the kindergarten. A significant number of parents, to whom the tuition fees were a heavy burden, were forced to forego their good desire to give their children a Hebrew education, and removed their children from the kindergarten. The budget was affected greatly by this. The activists of the institution had no choice other than to restrict the expenditures to a minimum. On the other hand, a large portion of the committee opposed the maintaining of the kindergarten on a tight budget, for fear that this would have a bad influence upon the studies and bring uncertainty to the future of Hebrew education in the city at a time when there was no communal support. The few that were “crazy about the issue” claimed that since this was a first degree matter of national life tied functionally to the Zionist movement, the heads of the community who also included communal activists would be forced to take into consideration the existence of the kindergarten, and they would finally help out the enterprise. After difficulties and deliberations, it was decided to maintain the kindergarten for the second year on a restricted budget.

The writer of these lines did not easily accept the unpleasant task of informing Mrs. Shneurson that she must forgo a significant amount of her salary, which was otherwise liable to impinge upon the restricted budget. Nevertheless, Mrs. Shneurson responded in the affirmative with the recognition that without a sacrifice on her part, the committee would not be able to sustain the kindergarten in which she invested her best efforts. The kindergarten opened, and we also overcame all difficulties and ended with a limited loss. Thus, we attained the objective. The children of the kindergarten served as the basis for a Hebrew school patterned after the schools conducted by Tarbut.

When the children of the kindergarten transferred to the school, the question again arose if we would be able to sustain the kindergarten, since we now had to concern ourselves with the existence of the school. On the other hand, some of the members of the committee saw the need to maintain the kindergarten into the future in order to prepare a reserve of students for grade 1 every year. However, this time, we did not have the means to enroll more than a few children whose parents were able to bear the expenses of the kindergarten. Once again, there was the need for additional cutbacks. Under such conditions, there was no possibility of maintaining a kindergarten teacher from outside the city, whose living expenses were large. Mrs. Yehudit Naychin of blessed memory, who worked as an assistant to Mrs. Shneurson, came to our aid. Yehudit the daughter of the teacher Mendel Naychin had pedagogical expertise and refined personal character traits. She was of a noble spirit, a dedicated Zionist activist, and she agreed to work in the kindergarten despite the financial difficulties that affected us. It is fitting to point out that her agreement was decisive in the maintenance of the kindergarten, which opened and operated for a third year despite the fact that the number of children was small and the budget was extremely restricted. The Hebrew kindergarten in Orheyev was closed at the end of the third year.

The Tarbut School

It is natural that the group of parents who bore the yoke of the existence of the kindergarten, worked a second time and with greater energy to set up the Hebrew elementary school. Indeed, before the second year of the kindergarten ended, we already entered into negotiations with the Tarbut Center in Kishinev in order to obtain a permit from the Romanian government to open a first grade.

After the center obtained a permit for us, we approached the task with double energy. First, we requested once again that the communal council include us in the network of educational institutions, for guidance, supervision and communal budgets. This time as well, as was with the case of the founding of the kindergarten, the writer of these lines had to struggle greatly with the Yiddishist Mr. Yitzchak Sherman of the communal council on the one side, and on the other side the following representatives of the religious stream: Messrs. Moshe Yonovitz, David Muchnik, Zelik Kleiner and Yosef Duchovny. However, through the strength of our attainments with the kindergarten, we earned the support of the heads of the community. At a meeting of the communal council that was dedicated to our matter, it was decided to affiliate us with the community. This decision encouraged us further. From now on, we would be under the assured and official communal protection.

Nevertheless, we knew that we would not be helped greatly from a budgetary perspective, for the needs of the community always exceeded its financial capabilities. However, we felt a certain security in our activities.

It was a great achievement for us that the community set aside a room in the Talmud Torah building, and we were freed from a concern over premises. Then, we had two problems to solve: the problems of a certified teacher and the problem of the budget. One was tied with the other.

The Teacher David Mozhelyan

David Mozhelyan

 

D. Mozhelyan was educated by and a frequenter of the household of the distinguished teacher Reb Mendel Naychin, one of the activists of Tzeirei Zion, who was faithful and dedicated to national renaissance. We placed all of our hopes in him that he would succeed in establishing the new enterprise on a firm base and raising it to the level of an institution worthy of its name. Indeed, we were not disappointed. We overcame the difficulties of the first year, and from then on, we added a new class and new teachers year by year. In the second year, Mr. Shneur Geynichovitz became a teacher. He was one of the forces and activists in the “Bnei Yisrael” organization, a wonderful teacher and counselor (today the principal of a school in Israel for more than 20 years). In the third year, Avraham Rechulsky joined the teaching staff. He was a young man with a progressive religious outlook, and was enthusiastically dedicated to national education (presently, he has worked in Kupat Cholim for many years). That year, a music class was instituted. Sarah Fleshler, a teacher in the government Gymnasium for girls, was invited for that task. She was a talented young woman from an impoverished family who succeeded in completing the course of studies in the Gymansium in Orheyev, and who got a job as the secretary of the Gymnasium. With the anti-Semitic atmosphere that pervaded in the Romanian community, it was a significant achievement for a Jewish educator to be appointed to such a responsible position. Rechulsky left the school in the fourth year, and Binyamin Yonovitz (the son of Moshe) and Chaya Naychin joined as teachers. She was the daughter of Baruch Shalom Naychin who was also an activist in Bnai Yisrael. She was the only girl of our town who left university studies and joined a Hachsharah Kibbutz. She did not shy away from any difficult work, and she cut down trees along with the boys during the cold winter months.

At the beginning of the fifth year of studies, Mozhelyan left the city, and the parent committee invited Moshe Fisher and his wife Rachel, who returned to our city from the university, as principal and teacher. They continued along with Geynichovitz, B. Yonovitz and the student Zadonaisky (the son-in-law of Yosef the son of Yoel Pagis) to continue the level that was forged by those who came before.

Two Years of the Hebrew Gymnasium

As is known, the course of studies in public school was four years. Those children who completed the four grades faced the question: what next? Some of the parents who did not have the means transferred their children to the Romanian Gymnasium. However, most of the parents decided to open a class with the curriculum of a government Gymnasium. This was a bold step on the part of those parents, for the conditions of maintaining a public school were very different than those needed to maintain a high school. However, the anti-Semitic conditions that pervaded in the government schools on the one side, and the educational achievements of the students and pleasant atmosphere in the Hebrew school on the other side, justified the bold step of the parents. At that time (1930) Yechiel the son of David Duchovny, who had completed his studies in the University of Vienna, returned to the city. He was a second generation Zionist. He took upon himself the directorship of the first grade of the Gymnasium, with the goal of establishing the rest of the grades. The second teacher was the young woman Klara the daughter of Ben-Zion Chaimovitz, who was also a native our city.

The Girl's Gymnasium

The Girl's Gymnasium

 

Thirty students, who graduated from the school, studied in the first class, and continued on to the second year.

It is appropriate to note that the achievements of the students in their studies influenced the community positively, and especially influenced the parents. Mothers who were far-removed from communal activism dedicated themselves with heart and soul, and took the financial responsibility toward the teachers and strengthening of the class upon themselves. The following stand out from among the parents that worked on behalf of the gymnasium: Mrs. Vaynshteyn the wife of the textile merchant Avraham Vaynshteyn, Zalmina Bogoslavsky (today a resident of Kiryat Motzkin), Batya Duchovny, Moshe Chalyk as communal representative, and others.

Much goodwill and energy was dedicated by the principals, the teachers and the parents, during the two years of the existence of the two gymnasium classes. The children were examined by teachers of the government gymnasium, and not one child failed. The level of studies did not fall beneath that of a government institution. Even the relationship with the communal council was positive. Nevertheless, the parents had to forego their will to provide a Hebrew education to their children on account of the economic situation that was worsening with each passing day. It was clear that there was no future to the young institution, and with great anguish to those who cared for it, the gymnasium closed in 1932.

The Girl's Gymnasium

School of Culture, 4th Grade
Seated from right to left: 1. B. Yonovitz 2. S. Geynichovitz 3. M. Fisher 4. R. Markovetsky 5. L. Nairner

 

The Longevity of the Tarbut School

The fate of the public Tarbut School was not the same as that of the gymnasium. Both on account of its popularity and its vitality, the school took root over its first five years, and became an organic part of the educational network of the community. Those communal representatives, Messrs Yonovitz, Muchnik and Kleiner, who were negative at first, now agreed to support its existence by provided support from the communal budget. Rooms in the courtyard of the Talmud Torah were donated and set up for the needs of the school. The physical conditions improved. The positive relationship with the community and particularly the appropriate educational level strengthened the hand of the activists. Some of the founders of the school stood with us even when their children finished the course of studies, and gave of their energy until the destruction of the city and all that was precious in it.

From among the workers of the school, it is appropriate to point out the cleaning lady, the widow Sara Perlov (the mother of Matityahu, her husband fell in the First World War). This woman, whose entire salary from this institution barely supplied enough money to feed her only child, cared for the children of the school with motherly dedication, ensured that the children would not be cold during the winter, and made sure that they would finish their meals.


Bitter and difficult was the struggle of the group of parents to whom the matter of nationalistic Hebrew education was dear. This was unusual work. Money and blood were invested until finally an institution was established in which hundreds of boys and girls from among the working class were educated in the purity of the Hebrew language and with love of the nation. Even those who continued their education in government educational institutions were fortified with the national spirit that the Tarbut School imparted to them. In that era (the 1920s), Romanization was on the ascendancy, and assimilation consumed the best part of the Jewish community. These hundreds of youth were a shield in the face of the stream of assimilation, and they also played an honorable role at the appropriate time in the various streams of the Zionist movement.

Many of the students of the school made aliya to the land and participated in the building of the Land. (One of them, Menachem Rotkov of blessed memory, fell in the War of Independence).

An expression of the deep national consciousness and appreciation for its supporters by the active parents is evident from the following letter.

“From the Parent Committee of the Tarbut School in Orheyev
A letter Presented to the teacher Shneur Geynichovitz
Nissan, 5692 (April 2, 1932), on the occasion of his aliya to the Land

Dear Friend!

You took a very responsible task upon yourself to be a teacher in the Hebrew school. You took upon yourself the duty of educating the children to be among the builders of the future of our nation and our Land. The way is not paved with roses. It is full of obstacles and stumbling blocks from outside and within. Education in our city was damaged and in decline, and you were called to fix it. You approached your work with great faith, and your spirit was exposed with your first steps. You won the hearts of the students, and awakened in them a love for you and your teachings. You planted a love of their studies and of Hebrew education into their hearts, and prepared them to be among the builders of the national future of our nation.

Great were the obstacles that stood in the path. You overcame them. With the faith and trust that beat in your soul, you brought the goal closer.

Now, after five years of hard work, you are leaving our school as a victor. Your goal was attained. The school is imbued with your spirit, and it will continue along its path with this spirit. Even though your departure from us is difficult for us and our children, we are comforted by the fact that when you come to arrive at the desired land, you will find a field of activity for your tireless energy; for even there, in the land of national redemption, you will have many fans.

Our dear friend, please accept our recognition and appreciation. We take leave of you at this time with great anguish. We promise you that you and your blessed work in our institution will remain etched deeply in our hearts for a long time.

Signed by the members of the parents' committee: Moshe Chalyk, Shimon Sirkovitz, Mordechai Rotkov, Sh. Malis, Fishel Aberman, Ina Volovsky, Avraham Libertov, Yehudah Leib Rapoport, Shmerel Beker, David Belfer, Baruch Kerdik, A. Belocherkovsky, David Muchnik, Mania Sharf”

Written and presented by the master of ceremonies M. Rotkov.


[Pages 34-35]

The Struggle for Jewish Party

(For the 1929 parliamentary elections)

by Avraham Malovatsky

Translated by Jerrold Landau

With the founding of the “Jewish Party” (Partidul Evreiesc) in Romania, a branch was also founded in our city. Avraham Lipshin was chosen as chairman. He was a man of great energy and initiative, a dedicated nationalist who knew how to foster respectful relationships with the local authorities. Aside from this, he was not afraid of strongly criticizing the persecution and terror of the heads of the government. He related with scorn and hatred to those Jews who ingratiated themselves to the landowners. His appearances at public gatherings were always greeted with enthusiasm, for he was a popular and gifted speaker in juicy Yiddish. He, along with Dr. Nachum Berkovitz, Yosef the son of Yoel Pagis, Efrayim the son of Yisrael Pagis and Eidel Yagolnitzer conducted a wide range of activity in the entire Orheyev region for the benefit of the slate of the Jewish Party. The Romanian authorities persecuted and oppressed the opposition parties, whether on the right or the left, and it is no wonder that they fought against the young Jewish Party to the point of destruction.

The authorities in our city were well aware of the Jewish organizational power, and when the time of the elections approached, they employed barbaric tactics to prevent the appearance of our party's list in the region.

One event is etched in my memory that typifies the battles of the authorities during the time of the parliamentary elections in Romania, and the struggle of the local Jewish Party.

At that time, I worked as the official secretary in the notary office of Simcha Shechtman (one of the two Jewish notaries in all of Bessarabia). Among the many clients of our office were most of the political parties, whose official electoral lists were registered permanently with us.

The days of the election approached, and all of the parties in our town were able to arrange and present their lists of candidates to the chairman of the electoral committee. Our party suffered greatly from the lack of financial means, and it struggled hard to designate appropriate candidates for its list. Two days before the deadline for the submission of lists, Avraham Lipshin appeared in our office with a number of Jewish voters to sign the list in accordance with the law. After the signatures of the candidates were authorized by the notary, they were given to the Jewish lawyer A. Nayman in order to present to the electoral committee. The lawyer arrived at the regional courthouse toward evening. He entered the hallway, and at the moment that he approached the room of the chairman of the electoral committee, forces of the secret police attacked him. Despite his loud shouts, the door of the chairman of the electoral committee did not open. The list of the Jewish party was forcibly removed from the hands of the lawyer and torn to shreds.

The news of the destruction of the list spread immediately through the city. The Jewish delegates were perplexed, and their anger was kindled. The chairman of the Jewish Party, Avraham Lipshin, did not despair, and he immediately began to arrange a new list. The local authorities that had been victorious in the first round decided to win the second round as well. Detectives and policemen stood around the three notary offices and did not allow the Jews to enter the door of the offices. They almost lost any hope of delivering a new list to the electoral committee.

I was afraid the entire time about the fate of our list. Therefore, I produced two additional copies of the Jewish list, and kept them as a reserve, without telling anyone. Now the time came to bring out the copies in order to renew the list and present it to the electoral committee.

I returned to the office at night, took out the copies, arranged all of the formalities from scratch, and ran with the lists to the house of the notary so he could sign it. He very willingly signed the papers and returned them to me.

I wanted to run to Lipshin, but I was afraid that the detectives and police might be surrounding his house. Therefore, I set out for the house of Simcha Kestlicher, a candidate of the Jewish list. I gave him the list, and asked him to get in touch with Lipshin.

The next morning, Lipshin appeared in our office. There were dozens of Jews surrounding the office, and the police were obstructing their entry to the office. Lipshin turned to the police and strongly demanded them to disband and not prevent the Jews from entering and signing the list. In the meantime, the gathering of Jews increased, and the police was forced to enlist additional forces to control the crowd.

The struggle lasted until 11:00 a.m. At that time, the police chief arrived and ordered the police to break the siege on the office, for the list of the Jewish Party had already been presented in full to the electoral committee by a Christian lawyer (a member of the opposition party).

Only then did it become clear that the gathering of Jews around our office was a smart ploy by Lipshin in order to divert the attention of the authorities away from the room of the chairman of the electoral committee, by encouraging a concentration of the police forces in a different location. This would allow the lawyer to enter the room of the electoral committee. The authorization of the party in Orheyev was received with great joy not only by the Jewish community, but also by the other competing parties who were struggling with all their might against the terror of the “Liberal” government.

The election campaign passed, and the stubborn struggle produced positive results. The list obtained a significant number of votes in the Orheyev region. Four representatives of the Jewish Party were elected: the lawyer M. Landau, Mesha Vaysman, Sami Zinger, and Fisher. They knew how to defend national matters with national pride.

Bessarabskaya Street

Bessarabskaya Street

 

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