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D.
In Agriculture

[Pages 112 - 114]

The Agricultural Farm
(the Ferme)

M. Rotkov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Attempt to Establish an Institution for Agricultural Education

The Jews of Bessarabia in general, and the residents of our city in particular, always desired to free themselves from the unstable livelihood of business and sales. Their desire was to work the land and to labor.

Numerous attempts were made by the directors and supervisors of the Talmud Torah to teach the children a trade in addition to the regular course of study. The parents and the activists especially desired agriculture, which they regarded as a firm economic base. Therefore, the joy in our city was great when the agronomist Zusman, the supervisor of the “Yugavim” (Farming) school in Odessa, accompanied by the vice-director of “Mitaam” of Kishinev, Mr. Feinbaron, came up with the idea of setting up an agricultural farm near the city. Thus wrote D. K. in Hamelitz, number 96, in 1895: “…The honorable guests visited the local Talmud Torah, and advised the supervisor and directors of the Talmud Torah to establish an agricultural school, to teach farming to the children of the poor people. The directors of the Talmud Torah, Mr. Vaynberg and Mr. Tomaspolski, headed by Mr. David Trachtenberg, accepted the advice willingly, and took it upon themselves to bring the matter to fruition. The next day, they left the city along with Mr. Zusman and chose a large plot whose price was not too high. Thus, they lay the foundations for this great enterprise. Many of the residents of the city expressed their desire to assist in this lofty enterprise, and to provide the needed funds, such as: paying a Jewish farmer who would teach the youths and train them in this work, purchasing implements, and providing food, clothing and shoes for the fifteen youths who would be chosen to go out to this field to work. The local director of Mitaam, Dr. Rabinovitz and his honorable wife took it upon themselves to provide food for the children as they went out to their daily work. The young people who were employees of the 'Chesed Neurim' organization, which had the goal of clothing and providing shoes for the children of the poor, promised to give preference to the children who were studying farming over those who went around idle, without work. The head of Chovevei Zion, Aharon Fikhman and Mr. Brosutsky promised to give ten Rubles every month if this enterprise were to succeed. The Maskil Mr. Temkin, the Hebrew teacher of the Talmud Torah, to whom work of this nature was very close to his heart, was chosen to oversee the work. The local representative Mr. A. Brosutsky was the first to donate ten silver Rubles in memory of his grandmother, Miryam Averbukh, who died on the day of the founding of the enterprise (12th of Iyar). With this money, they purchased all of the needed implements.”

After a brief time, we read the following in Hamelitz number 126 of that year: “I am pleased to announce that the visit of the agronomist Zusman bore fruit. We see the students of the Talmud Torah go out of the city on a daily basis, with their spades over their shoulders, to work and cultivate the plot of land that the directors leased for them. How sublime and lofty is the sight of seeing Jewish children standing and plowing the fields, as children of the land!” (Signed by B. Sh. Naychin.)

The Founding of the Agricultural Farm

In the “Vaschad” newspaper of July 6, 1898, a copy of an article that appeared in the newspaper “Bessarabetz” was published. It was published by M. Ravich, as follows: “In a joint effort with the head of Mitaam, Dr. Y. Rabinovitz, the enterprise for agricultural labor was founded in our city. We rented a small house at the edge of the city. Immediately (in the month of March) we were informed of the list of children. Despite the doubt regarding whether we would find parents who would agree to send their children to work the land, 30 children were registered, of which 13 were accepted. These were the first students of the Ferme.”

There is a contradiction between the report (of D. K., above), and this copy. D. K. writes that, “Fifteen students of the Talmud Torah go out of the city on a daily basis with their spades on their shoulders.” whereas here it relates about uncertainty. We can surmise that the first attempt did not succeed, and only three years later did activists again make efforts to establish an agricultural farm.

In the same article, M. R. continues to relate:

“… It touched the heart to see the children with their mothers, widows from among the poor of the people, urging us to accept their hungry children, who would otherwise be relegated to idleness and mischief.”

The First Who Offered help

It is worthwhile to point out the positive attitude of liberal Christians. The first sum, relatively quite large, was donated by H. Yanoshovich, the owner of the lands. He gave over for the purpose of the establishment of the institution the sum of 500 Rubles that he had received as arbitration fees from two merchants of our city. Other donations were also collected, amounting to 200 Rubles. These sums served as the foundation to begin the work, albeit in too modest a fashion.

A second Christian, Mr. Zhivkovich (a flight adjutant) donated 4 desaytins (44 dunams) (ed. note: 1 desaytin = 2.7 acres and 1 dunam = 1000 square meters or .247 acres) of his land north of the city for this purpose.

At first the children walked the 3-kilometer distance to work by foot early in the morning, and they returned to their homes at night. A child was chosen on a rotational basis to bring food to them. Later, two tents were set up in the field, which remained all summer.

The students worked diligently and with dedication. They performed all of the tasks, except for plowing, which was done by hired labor. The dedication of the students to work encouraged the founders to improve the living conditions. They obtained building materials and set out to build a house.

To this end, the powers of the I.C.A. (Jewish Colonization Association) were invited. The status of the institution was described to them. They allocated 50 Rubles for the building of the building and 500 rubles for annual support of the institution.

The founders turned to Baron Ginzberg, the owner of large plots of land in the region of Orheyev, requesting him to give over 30 desaytins (about 330 dunams) of land from his estate. He answered positively.

In the summer of 1898, the agronomist Zusman from Odessa visited. He took interest in the details of the work and in the state of the students. He offered suggestions that led to significant improvements in the manner of functioning of the institution.

The Cornerstone Laying Celebration

The cornerstone laying celebration of the “Ferme” agricultural school, built with money from the I. C. A., took place on May 13, 1898.

The celebration opened with the singing of “El Melech Netzor” and the prayer for “Rain” by the student choir. The rabbinical judge Rabbi Mordechai Gelfer was the first to lay the cornerstone. The founders of the institution and invited guests followed him. Moshe Ravich, one of the founders, read an accounting of the activities and achievements of the school during its first year of existence. The number of students reached 21. The area in our hands was now 34 desaytins (340 dunams). We planted 400 fruit trees that blossomed well. (The heirs of Motel Fikhman donated 200 Rubles to the benefit of the garden). All of the work in the garden, preparing the land and planting the trees was done by the students themselves.

An appropriate curriculum of study was designed with the assistance of the “Organization for the Dissemination of Knowledge.” The principal was Mr. Turk. Similarly, the “Committee of Farming Communities and Labor” in Petersburg helped us to establish a workshop for agricultural carpentry and wagons.

The guests, the leaders of various organizations, such as I.C.A. and others, toured the institutions of the farm, the warehouse, the pen, the chicken coop, the corn warehouse, and the cellar for preserving vegetables – all made by the students.

At the end of the celebration, the guests lauded the dedication of the founders of the enterprise M. Ravich and the head of Mitaam Dr. Yitzchak Rabinovitz, who were astute enough to be able to establish such an important institution with such modest means. Thanks were expressed to the land donors Mr. Zhivkovich and Baron Ginzberg, to the I.C.A. organization, and to the first donor Yanoshovich (“Vaschad” Number 25, 1899).

Thus, the good will of individuals, visionary activists, to change the gloomy reality on the Jewish street, to educate a generation of workers in labor and agriculture, bore fruit. The cornerstone of the vocational educational institution, in which the activists and students placed great hopes, was laid. However, after two or three years, a difficult recession fell upon agriculture. The parents who were disappointed with the lack of opportunities for their children to earn their livelihoods from agriculture, began to take their children out of the school. At the beginning of the 1900s, the directors discussed the issue of enlisting students from outside the city. Indeed, students were brought from the orphanage in Kishinev. In the meantime, the loss increased, and the school was on the threshold of closing in 1905. The activists, headed by Ravich, requested help from the I.C.A. in Petersburg. The issue was also deliberated upon at the general regional agricultural convention.

“Vashchad” number 41, 1905. Signed by P.

At the regional agricultural convention that took place on October 1 of that year, the delegate Groso (the vice-director of the communal bank in Kishinev) raised the question of the tragic situation of the “Ferme”. It was appropriate to consider this institution, which had the potential of becoming a very important educational institution with time: “With our difficult financial situation, it is not possible for us to offer monetary assistance. However, it is impossible to be oblivious to the dire situation of this dear institution.” He advised the gathering to present the question to the powers directly involved, asking them to utilize all effective means to consolidate and continue the existence of the school.

After hearing the words of the participants it was decided: to express the sorrow of the convention regarding the dire situation of the “Ferme”, an agricultural school for Jewish children, and to urge the directors of the “Ferme” to utilize all means to reorganize in a satisfactory manner, with the purpose of protecting this institution that is precious in the region.

As agreed, Mr. Yanovich, the head of the owners of the estates presented the above decision, with his own words of agreement and appreciation for the institution, to the central committee of I.C.A. in Paris. Minister Heflech also included his opinion on this matter. Nevertheless, after all of the efforts, the institution closed.

The 'Ferme'

The “Ferme”
The apprentices working down in the
“Avraham Spivak” center, owner of this photo

 


[Pages 115-116]

The Tobacco Plantations in the Region of Orheyev

By Agronom H. Feigin, Hebrew by M.R.

Translated by Tamar Rachevsky Milner

Tobacco was the most important agricultural sector in Bessarabia. The Jewish tobacco growers lived mostly in two regions: Soroki and Orgieev.

Before WW1 there were a few thousand Jewish families in Bessarabia involved in tobacco farming. In Weshood, 1911, the Agronom A. Etinger wrote that in the village of Chinsheutsy, Orgieev District, there were 60-70 tobacco plots owned by Jews. Before the Romanian occupation (ed. note: 1918) each tobacco plantation owner could sell his crops in a free market, to any tobacco trader or factory that gave him the best price. Romanian occupation changed this situation: the Romanian government monopolized the tobacco market – the tobacco plant owner had to sell his tobacco only to the monopoly's warehouse. The prices were determined by a manager in that monopoly and were not negotiable, so sometimes one had to sell at a loss. This, and other conditions, led tobacco growing to reach a crisis stage in the beginning of the 1930's.

Every plantation owner (and his family) were busy all year round growing the tobacco, thus leaving little time for other agricultural pursuits. But the farmer could not know, until the last moment, if he would profit, lose or at least break even for his and his family's work. The final outcome depended both on having a successful crop and on the arbitrary prices determined by the manager (of the monopoly).

One hectare of high quality tobacco demanded a lot of expensive work, costing up to 33-35 thousand Lei. If the farmer (and the members of his household) did the work themselves it could save up to 10 thousand Lei.

The following table shows how much the crops and prices differed from one place to another.
One might get a crop of 1000 kg per hectare and a high price for his crop, while another had a small and low quality crop, so his income did not even cover his and his family's yearly labor.

Tobacco crops in several villages in Orgeyev district, 1929/1930:

Village Name#FamiliesHectares of
tobacco
Crop/Hectare
(kg)
Value/Hectare
(Lei)
Koyzovka1445800-112011200-21400
Raspopeny1114620-12406400-14400
Ignatsey46560- 96017120-20800
Kobylka813400- 8806400-17600
Izbeshty85450- 8006400-12800
Putsintey67480- 8005600- 9600
Skortseny98400- 8002400-11200
Total6098

Another difficulty was caused by the lack of financial resources. The cost per one hectare was between 20-23 thousand Lei if the plantation owner did the work himself. This was quite a lot of money for a small farmer. Before the “monopoly“ was established, the farmer could receive loans from private sources at reasonable interest rates, since he was able to estimate in advance the minimal market prices for his tobacco. But when the tobacco trade was monopolized, the prices depended upon the decision of a government clerk, who usually acted in an arbitrary manner. Thus, it is important to mention the help that was given by the cooperatives association (with JCA, ed. note: Jewish Colonization Association), by lending funds to tobacco plantation owners, and other farmers. In 1930 only 2,300,000 Lei were placed as low interest loans to tobacco plantation owners, giving great relief through the year, until the government purchased the tobacco.

Following is an article from the monthly journal Das Cooperative Wart (ed. note: The Cooperative Word) titled “The Cry of the Tobacco Workers,” written by Shmuel Leib Gordon from Dumbroveni, about the hardships that the tobacco growers had to go through in order to make a living for their families.

“The work in the field keeps the tobacco worker busy around the year – first seeding, then planting, watering, hoeing several times in the course of growing, flowering, picking, threading and drying the leaves. All those works are usually done while the worker's back is bent, and are very exhausting. Then, there is the packing of the dry leaves, which is also very hard work. Only if one looked at the workers, working at least 16 to 18 hours a day, inhaling the smell of the tobacco all day, their feet swollen, their faces pale and tired, could one understand how hard this work was. Still, the tobacco workers worked with vigor and devotion, since this work was their only way to make a living.”

Selling the tobacco to the government servants was also very sad. The farmer and his family waited for the day that was determined by the examination committee of the government. The examiner acted arbitrarily, sometimes giving a high price, sometimes completely disqualifying the tobacco. That day was a day of enormous anxiety, because it was a day when the fate of the year's work was decided by the government clerks in an unfair and arbitrary manner.

If part of the tobacco, or sometimes the whole crop, was disqualified, it was burnt before the farmer's eyes. The sight was extremely painful. In some cases the farmer did not have enough money to pay for the costs of delivering the tobacco to the government warehouse, where it was later burnt. Even the “fortunate“ farmer, whose crop was successful, and was examined fairly, got lower prices than in previous years.


[Page 116]

Second Generation of Farmers

Translated by Tamar Rachevsky Milner

Zvi Rabinovitz

Zvi Rabinovitz

 

Reb Hershel Rabinovitz, or as he was named in Yiddish “Hershel Von Der Sloboda,” was a simple Jew, a husband and a father of four. He was the third generation in Orheyev and the second generation of farmers. His father, Reb Moshe, was born in Orheyev, and owned a land of about 7 desaytins (ed. note: about 19 acres), mostly planted with grapes, nuts, plums and other fruits.

As long as Reb Moshe's children were single, they all worked and helped in his vineyard. (It is recalled that his youngest sons, Elik and Shmuel, as well as his daughter used to cross the town by foot, on their way to the vineyard at the north-east side of the Ibanus mountain, a distance of about 5 km, with their working tools on their backs). When his children got married, Reb Moshe divided the vineyard equally between them. Reb Hershel got a part in the vineyard too. He and his wife, Melia, were both diligent and vigorous, and devoted to the vineyard. In the autumn, they picked the grapes and prepared wine in a winery that they built. Occasionally, they would buy additional grapes for producing wine in order to sell it in their winery.

With the expansion of their family, the vineyard and the winery were not enough to make a living, and so they opened a small grocery store in their narrow apartment, located on the road in the midst of the city's outskirts, and hoped the store would provide the supplement income that they needed. An uneasy life was always the family's fate: the clients they served, the “gentiles“, used to get drunk in their wine house, sometimes becoming wild and aggressive, and causing much disheartening. The peak of the family's suffering was when the Russian “liberated “ soldiers (1917) came to town, stayed for a couple of days, and aroused the fear that they would break into the wineries, and then become drunk and wild. Due to that fear, the city commander ordered that all the wine barrels in the wineries be broken, and of course, this order did not skip the Rabinovitz winery. The barrels were broken, and the wine poured like water, thus completing the economical ruin of the family…

With the annexation of Bessarabia to Romania (ed. note: 1918) the hardships of living in our town grew: the tyranny of the Romanian governance, more restrictions on wine selling, more taxes, fewer ways to earn a living, and especially the vague future with no glimpse of hope. All of these caused many of our town's people to wish to escape from this bitter reality to just anywhere else in the world…

At the same time (1918) the news about the Balfour declaration came, and with it many hopes for our people…(ed. note – Balfour declaration: “His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.")

Now was the time to leave the damned country and emigrate to the land of Israel, which was reviving. With the initiative of the enthusiastic Zionist, our aquaintance the late Ben-Zion Furer, a group of well off people from our town was organized, with the purpose of emigrating to the land of Israel and establishing an agricultural settlement. Reb Zvi was part of this group. Unfortunately, the British government withdrew from its promise to relieve it's restrictions set on the emigration, and thus the group fell apart. Only 6 or 7 families did not change their decision to emigrate to the land of Israel, and in 1920 emigrated in an unorganized way, on their own responsibility. These families were: Ben Zion Furer's family, Michael Nadel, Yisaschar Rapoport, Binyamin Duchovny, Berel Lupatner and more. Several months later the family of Hershel Rabinovitz emigrated to the land of Israel, and he lived to grow and educate his sons and daughters to be labor people in the free homeland.

M. R.


[Pages 116-117]

The Hardship Coming to the Land of Israel

Translated by Tamar Rachevsky Milner

We left for Palestine with no certificates and without any preorganization. When we arrived at Kushta, we approached the “Israeli council “ and asked for certificates. We were refused since we left without the permission from their representative in Kishinev.

One can easily assume how desperate we were, on foreign land, with no acquaintance, no money and especially no chance to get to the land of Israel. My father sought a solution for 3 weeks and then, to our great relief, he unexpectedly met with Mrs. Fania Borsutsky, a well known public activist, formerly a resident of Odessa, who had much influence on the “Israeli counci “ in Kushta, and who herself emigrated (with her daughters) to the land of Israel.

Mrs. Borsutsky persuaded the committee to allow us to continue to the land of Israel. We arrived just a few days before Passover, in 1921. Our arrival in Jaffa started a new episode of mishaps… We were not received at the Emigrants Home in Jaffa, since we told them at the emigration office that we have a relative in the land of Israel, Mr. Ben Zion Furer.

We ran out of money. Finally, after intensive searching, we found an apartment in an Arab house. Then, there was an episode of searching for ways to make a living. At that time, Mr. Ben Zion Furer and Mr. Nissan Duchovny, who were acquaintances from Orheyev, owned a bakery, and they gave my father some bread to sell. The profit was little, and did not suffice to pay the rent. We were forced to leave the apartment and thus built a tent on Carmel St., on the border of Jaffa.

My father approached the Jewish Agency, asking for help to settle in an agricultural settlement, since he was a farmer abroad, but he was refused because of his old age. Father had no choice but to lean upon urban ways of earning a living, which he disliked in Orheyev, and from which he was trying to escape. My parents tried many different labors in the first 20 years in the land of Israel, and supported their family with great difficulties. They experienced suffering and distress most of their lives in Bessarbia as well as in the land of Israel, but did not show it. They went through the incidents of 1921, 1929 and 1936-39** in a tent and in a shack. Only when their sons and daughters grew up and began to work was their suffering relieved. Then they enjoyed the comforts of a one and a half room apartment, built of bricks, on Kalisher St. My father did not live to see the liberation from the British mandate and the establishment of the State of Israel, which he prayed for all his life. He died on the 1 Sivan 5705 (ed. note: 13 May 1945).

Shabtai, Genosar (ed. note: Shabtai is Zvi Rabinovitz's son and Genosar is a kibbutz on the coast of the sea of Galilee)


**(ed. note: 1921 – after Mr. Churchill's visit to Israel, the Arabs demanded the abolishment of Zionism. They were answered by his call to lead peaceful life with the Jews. Their reaction was to attack the Jews of Jaffa followed by attacks on other towns. 11 Jews were killed.
1929 – a chain of attacks by Arabs that started in Jerusalem, then spread to Hebron ( killing 66 Jews ) and Safed. What “initiated” the attacks was the Jewish plans to place benches and lanterns at the western wall, for the comfort of the Jews praying there.
1936-1939 – the first wave was a general strike by the Arab population, whose purpose was to press the British authorities to stop Jewish immigration to the land of Israel. When the Arabs realized the British authorities would not change their policies, they started a series of attacks on Jews and on the British army. 80 Jews were killed. The second wave started in 1937, after the conclusions of the Peel committee, to divide the land of Israel between the Arabs and the Jews. The Arabs did not accept that conclusion, and another wave of terror by Arab gangs began.)


[Pages 117-118]

The Rebellious Son

By G. Shafin, from Yiddish by M.R.

Translated by Tamar Rachevsky Milner

When “the farm” was established in Orheyev, most of the pupils were from the lower class. A well-off Jew would not send his son to work the land – this work was intended for “gentiles“! It was proposed to my father (by Baruch Melamud, who was deported from Taschkelmani(?) during the 1890's) that he register my eleven year old brother, who was his only son. My father strongly objected: 1) the child is too thin and small to stand hard labor; 2) how could it be that his son, who is an excellent grammar student in the classroom, and writes sentences himself, and is his source of pride, should leave his studies to work the land, like a “common gentile”? There was no way my father could agree. My brother was attracted to the idea, although he had no clear idea what it meant, and he pleaded with my father to register him in “the farm” school, and get him a doctor's document regarding his health. My father refused to help him but my brother was not deterred. He went by himself to the doctor, got the document and registered for the school. A couple of months later, my brother came home for a visit. All of us, and especially my father, were happy because he did not look like a “common gentile“ at all. He remained gentle and handsome as he was before, yet he was more lively and independent. The heavy pair of boots he wore made a harsh impression on my father. It was the only change to his gentle look.

When my father laid his eyes on his feet, in those heavy boots, there were tears sparkling in his eyes. Could it be tears for an only son, whose old father's hopes are all with him, but who has been taken out of his father's home by an unexpected cause? He was losing his only old age support. There was a mixture of joy and sorrow in our father's heart. My brother did graduate from school, acquired knowledge in agriculture, and got a glimpse at the world outside of Orheyev. The workers movement attracted my brother. Finally he immigrated to America, devoted himself to growing flowers and gained much experience in that profession, and my father was left broken for the rest of his short life… Once, during the summer time we (the four sisters) went to visit my brother at school. It was a long unpaved way. We were attacked by dogs whose owners, the “unclean creatures,” laughed at our fright and we ran all the way to the school. When we arrived we were received by Reb Mendel, the farm manager. He gave us golden fresh carrots that were cracking under our teeth making sounds like snow and frost under feet. We were so jealous of the boys, who were working, and competing gathering wheat stems to sheaves after harvest. It made a marvelous picture, and it was a pleasure to look at. Still, sad thoughts stuck in our minds: why are the boys taken care of, and the girls are being neglected? A 4-5 year old boy is sent to a classroom, a boy is taught a profession, while the girls are neglected! The girls have a constant role: to serve the husband and the family.

We left “the farm“ with this jealousy and returned home. To our great anger, we found our neighbor, father's good friend, at home and he was discussing that same subject, child education, and stating his opinion that for a girl, some knowledge of reading and writing in Yiddish, and writing in the state's language, is enough.

The neighbor left, and I went after him to visit his daughter, who was my best friend. When we entered his home, he noticed she was reading the novel “The Little Black Young Man“, by the writer Shmuel R., who was popular in those days. He immediately became enraged, and without saying a word grabbed a weight that he found, threw it towards her, and almost injured her. “Could it be,“ he shouted, ”that you are reading novels, you insolent girl?!” I was frightened, and I ran away.

Holiday place in the Celeshty forest

Holiday place in the Celeshty forest
The quiet agricultural environment, the forests, the fruit trees
and the magnificent views brought many vacationers here from the city

 

The agrarian reform and the Jewish farmer

In our district villages, many Jews made a living from agriculture. However, most of them did not have private land, and depended on estate owners who lent them land or on partnerships with non-Jewish landowners. The reform performed by the Romanian government in 1923 made a good change.

Every Jew who proved he was engaged in agriculture could appeal to the agriculture ministry and get 4 1/2 hectares, providing he would work the land himself, with the assistance of his family. We, residents of Putsintey, got our share too, and started working our land. Still, we had difficulties we could not overcome ourselves, although we had agricultural experience and knowledge. We lacked tools and the needed animals' to develop a profitable farm that would support a family. The ORT company, which was involved in developing agriculture among the Jews in Bessarabia, gave us help by placing long term loans, and by guidance, through its representative, the agronom Chayim Feigin.

I can recall Mr. Feigin's first visit (1925). He explained to us that in order to gain more efficiency, we must organize a cooperative. As an organized unit, we would get credit more easily. He also explained that we should base our farm on profitable branches like vineyards, orchards etc. Indeed, after several years of work under his devoted guidance we enjoyed the fruits of our labor. We liked the work, and so did our sons, and the productivity of our farms exceeded that of our non-Jewish neighbors. We hoped our sons would follow us. But, political turnovers in Romania had a bad influence on the economy in general, and on the Jews in particular. The ORT company reduced its activities in Romania, and Mr. Feigin immigrated to the land of Israel in 1934. With the outbreak of WWII we left everything and ran for our lives to Russia, and all our work was lost.

(These details were given by Mr. Guitnik, a farmer from Putsintey, who immigrated to Israel in 1956. His son is an agronom – Mr. Gat in Rehovot, Israel).

[Pages 118-119]

Berel the Greengrocer

By M.R.

Translated by Tamar Rachevsky Milner

Many of the Jewish inhabitants of Orheyev and its surroundings made their living from agriculture. The Jews were involved mainly in: flocks, vineyards, orchards (apples, nuts, pears, plums). Tobacco was also an important sector. Orheyev's Jews were not involved in growing vegetables. The reasons for not growing vegetables were: 1) the farmers from Orheyev's outskirts and nearby villages sold their crops of vegetables cheaply in town; 2) lack of knowledge needed to develop the vegetables sector.

Berel Kruglyak, son of Efrayim and Ester “the Polish“, was the first among the district's Jews to be attracted to the vegetables sector. His father was a vegetables merchant, and would occasionally go to a farmer's vegetable field. Berel accompanied him from time to time, saw the type of work and joined to help.

When Berel grew up, the Romanian government distributed 4 1/2 hectares of land to each farmer, non-Jewish and Jewish, who would work it himself. Berel got a plot too and worked it with his own hands, and his diligence and assiduousness brought him a good crop and the best produce.

The famous greengrocer in northern Bessarabia

During this time, Berel leased a big area near his territory, and also a lake nearby it. For several years he transferred the water from the lake to the fields in the primitive way that was used by the farmers: A big wooden wheel was stuck in the lake, and a trough near it. As a worker would turn the wheel with his hand, the water came up and poured to the trough, and from the trough it was transferred to the fields by canals. This method was not efficient and not suitable for a large field. Even 4 mules would not bring up enough water, so Berel wanted to mechanize the system and thus lower the price of his produce. He placed a motor to bring up the water, and he put a set of pipes in the field. He also developed select varieties. It did not take much time for the fruits of his work to come: His vegetables were of special quality and were in demand far beyond Berel's region.

He was especially successful in bringing the first fruits of spring: tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, green onions, onions for seeding, etc., and in the autumn cabbage and more. These products enabled him to get good prices and new markets – in Beltsy, Orheyev, and Kishinev. He was famous as the most accomplished vegetable grower in the vicinity.

His wife, Sorke – from Kalarash

Berel was helped by his wife Sorke, who was beautiful and good-hearted. She treated his 50 workers in an agreeable manner, and gave them presents for the holidays. Although anti-Semitism was very common at those times, the workers liked Berel's family and served it loyally. Many of them were connected to the family as members of the house.

Sorke was active in the farm, especially during the summer, although the family's economic situation was good. She loved animals and took care of many different kinds of fowl and also the cowshed and milking. Most of the summer months, the workers would eat and sleep in the farm and Sorke had to take care of their food. Thanks to her diligence and love of the work, it was not a burden to her, and she did it wisely in a manner that pleased everyone.

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