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by P. Goldenberg zl
Translated by Esther Mann Snyder
My town Bricheva, where I was born and brought up in the home of my grandfather Shlomo, the shohet (ritual animal slaughterer) and my grandmother Haya, may their memory be a blessing. Bricheva, how much I loved you, with your simple, hardworking Jews! How beautiful your fields and gardens tended by the Jews of Bricheva themselves! And the workers of Bricheva: tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths - these were dear Jews; also your honest Jewish merchants shop owners were beloved, good-hearted people. I don't remember hardly any quarrels in Bricheva, only perhaps about who was called up to the Torah, or during the choice of a gabbai in the synagogue. Bricheva with her hospitality and especially that of my grandparents, where never a day passed without a guest or even two. I remember my grandmother called every male, son, and every female, daughter - so great was her love of each person like a mother loves her child. Her sons and daughters continued this custom; my mother, Reba, my aunt Frayda, my aunt Hanche, my aunt Miriam, my uncle Dudi and his friend Gavriel Fishman - the first educated, enlightened ones of Bricheva. My uncle Azriel was outstanding in his integrity and love of his fellow man, my uncle Shimon, who was known in our area as very intelligent, a good book-keeper and honest merchant; my aunts were modest Jewish mothers. Now, when I praise my relatives, it is not my intent to boast, but rather I include all the mothers and fathers in Bricheva since all of them were good people, so it seems to me now, always ready to help another. Bricheva with its golden youth that aspired to read books and created a wonderful library, had literary groups and a drama group that had no reason to be ashamed even in the presence of actors from the large cities,
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and a musical band. In addition, and most importantly - the youth were always happy, full of life, singing songs in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian. Oh, how beautiful were the sounds of their voices emanating from the homes, gardens and fields. I myself loved to sing the Russian song, Vatcharni Zon (The Evening Bell). Although there were no churches in Bricheva, it was a purely Jewish town, the sounds of Jewish songs were more lovely than the ringing of any bell. Bricheva, how much I loved you! Allow me to record some episodes of the public culture in our town.
In our small town there were political parties of all types: Zionists, socialists and communists. Also in the area of culture were various types: Hebraists, Yiddishists, and also some who were assimilating and tried to speak only Russian. In short, our town was similar in this to all the Jewish towns. From my youth, I was active in the public sphere and held politically leftist views. I believed with all my heart that socialism should prevail in the whole world and that we, the Jews, needed our own socialist state in Eretz Yisrael. I also thought that we Jews are bi-lingual people (Hebrew and Yiddish). All my life and even today, I am an enthusiast of the Yiddish language. Therefore, obviously I was one of the founders of the Culture-League in Bricheva. The group of Hebrew enthusiasts viewed us, the members of the Culture-League, as haters of Hebrew (and some of us were) and they opposed us. More than once we had fierce debates almost turning into fist fights. Since the Hebraists were always the majority, we the Yiddishists were in a difficult position. Therefore, we met in the home of our chairman, Dr. Zucker, to plan a strategy and try to fight back against the Hebraists.
We decided to invite the famous allegorist Eliezer Shteinbarg, who was known for his love of Yiddish and was one of the founders of the Culture-League in Tchernovitz. We were certain that he would put down the Hebraists and we would win. We corresponded with Eliezer Shteinbarg and wrote to him of our problems with the Hebraists and asked him to come to save us. We were so happy when we received his reply that he would come and we believed that everything would work out as we hoped.
We set the date of his lecture Yiddish or Hebrew; we had the use of the hall where the drama group met. We put up posters in the streets of Bricheva
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announcing the coming of the great writer Eliezer Shteinbarg who was going to lecture on the subject, Yiddish or Hebrew.
The day that Shteinbarg arrived was a great day for us; the feeling was that we were going to be victorious over the Hebraists. We, the activists of the Culture-League, assembled in the home of Dr. Zucker and discussed matters with Shteinbarg. We told him of our troubles with the Hebraists and asked for his help in this matter. He looked at us for a little too long, and with a meaningful smile said we shouldn't worry, everything will turn out well.
Although the lecture was set to begin at 8 p.m., the hall was already so full by 7 p.m. that not even a pin would fit in. Young and old had come to fight for their ideology. We, dressed in our holiday best, sat in the front rows feeling satisfied with our imminent victory.
The time came, the curtain was raised and on the stage sat Dr. Zucker and Eliezer Shteinbarg. The audience cheered when they saw Shteinbarg, especially those of us from the Culture-League. Dr. Zucker welcomed the guest and invited him to give his speech. The hall fell so silent one could hear the buzzing of a fly. Eliezer Shteinbarg spoke of the beauty of the Yiddish language, about the greatness of Yiddish literature and we sat and took great pleasure in his words. However, without our noticing, the lecturer began speaking about the Hebrew language. He said, We, the Jewish people, are enriched with two languages; our first language is Hebrew, the language of our fathers and earliest forefathers. How beautiful is the language of the Bible, how many are the treasures of that language. And Eliezer Shteinbarg continued to speak with love about Hebrew, charming the audience, and ending with these words, Speak Yiddish but learn, learn Hebrew!
The Hebraists cheered wildly. Everyone looked at our small group that included Dr. Zucker, Mordechai Butshatsher, Bonoport, Yasha Dalogatsh, Bronstein and others whose names I don't remember, unfortunately. We all sat with our heads lowered. Our victory became a great defeat.
After that evening, we continued our struggle in support of Yiddish, but without the same blind, great enthusiasm. We held varied activities such as literary evenings and lectures on various subjects; the hall was always full, the majority of the audience being the Hebraists. Since after all, the youth of Bricheva was a dear idealist youth!
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The drama club in Bricheva had a high literary level. When the group was formed, its administrative head was Mendik Friedman. Many plays were performed under my direction and almost of all of them were purely literary. Among them were: The G-d of vengeance by Shalom Ash, The village boy by Leon Kobrin, Yankel the blacksmith by David Pinsky, G-d, man and satan by Yakov Gordin, The Dybbuk by Ansky, Its hard to be a Jew by Shalom Aleichem, The Nevila by Peretz Hershbein, sketches by Avraham Raizin, Y.L. Peretz, A. Chekhov and other great writers. Among those who participated in the performances were Ida Loewenthal (Gulirgant), Leib Gulirgant, Yasha Dalogatsh, Liza Friedman, Moisiin Weinstein, Berta Licht (Bertini), Ida Weinstein, Anna Weinstein, Frida Glickman, Rosa Shpier, Frida Zinman, Dr. Zucker, Pinni Gulirgant, Avraham Zak, Haim Zisman and also I myself took part. How heart breaking that many of those mentioned were tragically killed for the sake of Kiddush Hashem.
By the way, the cultural activities we arranged included also non-Yiddishists. The Hebraists also took part in the drama club and such was the case in the Shalom Aleichem Literary-Musical group, among the founders was also the Hebrew teacher, David Berman.
The Drama club had its own musical band that was managed by Dudl Koifman from Yidinitz. Unfortunately, I don't remember the names of the members of the band, however, I do remember one of them to this day and not because of his playing but because something that happened on stage. When we were performing The village boy, I acted the role of the boy and according to the script I was supposed to be big and strong and know how to fight - but I lacked these attributes. In the third act a dance was performed. The village boy was in love with one of the village girls but he had a rival, his friend Zalman who was played by Moisii Weinstein. He was blessed with a strong, attractive figure and really knew how to fight when necessary. I couldn't match him but in the theatre there is always a ruse.
The whole cast rehearsed the ruse so that it would seem natural. However, in the third act during the fight over the girl between the village boy and his friend, that is between me and Moisii Weinstein, I hit Zalman who fell to the ground from my beating. Shlomo Gellman, who was sitting with the band on the stage, couldn't understand what was happening. He knew Pinni Goldenberg didn't have the strength to do that; he would show Pinni his own strength. He quietly put down his violin and attacked me from behind, hitting me and throwing me to the ground. For a moment, all the actors stood still. The first one who realized what was happening was Moisii; he quickly bent over
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Pinni Goldenberg, Shalom Sheinbaum, M. Sadikov,
Mordechai Butshatsher, David Berman, Alter Lerman
Shlomo Gellman, who was holding me back, and whispered in his ear, What are doing, Shlomo? Don't you know that according to the script Pinni must hit me and beat me? Get off of him and let him do what he wants. Shlomo understood, let me go and stood in front of me. But, I was so angry over the unjust attack, that I began really beating him and knocking him down. He, the poor thing, stood quiet as a sheep. I won the fight and the audience cheered wildly. I don't know if the audience realized what actually happened, but the performance was a great success.
I want to write especially about our actress, Liza Friedman. She was amazingly talented. When she wept during a performance, the audience wept with her. Playing the role of an orphan, she stood alone on the stage and the rest of the actors were behind the scenes. The orphan, Liza-Hasia, sobs while she describes her bitter fate and miserable life; all the audience sobs with her and even those of us behind the scenes cry. When the scene ends and the curtain comes down, the audience is so gripped by the sadness portrayed that it remains seated for two minutes. Then great cheers and applause erupt and everyone shouts, Liza, Liza Friedman, we want to see you. But Liza herself stands behind the curtain and can't stop crying because she so deeply feels the role of the orphan. Liza performed almost all of her roles in this way, so much so that the great artist Paul Bartov invited her to all his wonderful performances. She certainly could have become an acclaimed actress but, unfortunately, for various reasons she didn't choose this path. She, also, was tragically killed in the Holocaust as were many residents of Bricheva.
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by L. Gulirgant, Tel-Aviv
Translated by Esther Mann Snyder
Yosl the writer (Master) used to teach the children of Bricheva and also the adults, to read and write Yiddish, to write a letter to a parent, or a bride or groom, or just a business letter. The classes were held in his home, which wasn't always convenient. There were youth who felt the lack of knowledge in writing but Yosl had too much work and couldn't accept them to his classes. Therefore, a Yiddish teacher named Leib Vatilman was brought from Kamenitz-Podolsk. He rented a house with a few rooms on the upper street neighboring with Shmuel Zeldis and Avraham Shpielberg. He prepared a schoolroom with real school furniture and a blackboard with chalk and thus a school was opened for the study of Yiddish.
That teacher, Vatilman, made efforts to establish a children's theater where his students performed. He had them rehearse Megillat Esther (The Scroll of Esther) and at Purim that year the play was performed in the wood storeroom that belonged to Shlomo Kestelman not far from the Shtipanshti synagogue. There were two performances. The young actors was very successful and were happy to continue with more shows but then a disaster happened; the teacher was falsely accused of libel and one morning he had to run away and no one knew where. And that was the end of the first theater in Bricheva.
Azriel the tailor who lived near Pesah Veinstein was at that time the only tailor in town and in the surrounding villages. Due to this, some young men worked for him
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as apprentices. Thus, Azriel had many orders and much work but he was still poor. When asked how he was doing he would answer that he has a lot of work, so much in fact, that on Thursday he didn't have enough time to look for some charity.
Azriel would bring tailor's helpers from Odessa, Belz and Kishinev. They lived in his house and ate there. In 1907, he brought two helpers from Odessa; they were trained workers and also were musical; the two liked to act in the theater. They met the youth and decided together to establish a club for theater enthusiasts. Those who joined were Avraham Gellman (David-Leml's), Leib Tendler, Velvel Gellman and Laizer Gellman (the sons of Feivel Leml's), Malka David-Leml's, Pessie Roizenblit (the daughter of Shalom Haim-Yoels) and others whose names I don't remember. They started rehearsing two plays the Makhshefa (The Witch) and Shnei Kuni-Lemel (Two Kuni-Lemel) written by Goldfadden.
They rented a storeroom to use as a hall from Elia Mosheles that was not far from the bathhouse. They brought in benches from the synagogues, built a stage and thus they performed each play twice. The hall was filled because the comedian was a wonderful actor, and everything went off very well. However, unfortunately one of the two main actors suddenly fell ill with a serious disease and had to be brought urgently to the hospital in Belz. And so the dramatic club disbanded.
The youth often traveled to Rikshan because plays were performed there by troupes that came from Odessa and Belz or local groups. A theater hall was also established there. In 1913/14, I was working in bookkeeping in a large mill in Bricheva. Levi Vitis also worked there in the flourmill. Also David Schwartz who came from Kishinev and sang beautifully worked in the grinding mill. Schwartz spoke with us and tried to convince us to establish a dramatic society where he could also participate. He talked and talked until we finally decided to do it.
Most of the work was imposed on me. But I was young and inexperienced in directing and administration. I wasn't at all versed in the legal side of the matter so we didn't apply to the authorities in the district capital of Soroka to receive a license. However, we quickly assembled a troupe which included Pini Goldenberg, Schwartz, myself and we hired Laibele Goldshlak from Rikshan who was a talented comedian, and Hershele Gutman who was a talented actor in tragedy plays. Additional members were Ida Levintal, Rahel Tendler, Malka David-Lemels, Hancha Zisman and another three whose names I don't remember. We hired Avigdor Edesman to manage the orchestra and the clezmer players Yekel and his son Haim-Leib. We rented the home of Yisrael Ehrlich to use as a hall;
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we built benches and a stage with a screen, hung oil-lamps and made a cubicle for the prompter. Then we began rehearsing two plays, The Jewish Aspect and Seder Night.
We printed tickets, posters and bought make-up all these with my own money which my mother held for me in safe-keeping. When I would come to ask her for my money she would say, Will you ever get any of it back?
Then we received a response from the District Head in Soroka: the plays we had chosen were prohibited. It was permissible to perform only classical plays in Russian. Unfortunately, none of our actors knew Russian very well. Therefore, we decided to put on the plays anyway. What did we do? We reached an agreement with the governor in Tiranova (Horiadnik) to allow us to perform a few performances, at least. Thus we performed each play twice. We couldn't perform any more because the governor in Soroka had been informed about our activities. On one clear day a senior clerk from Soroka called me and asked, Is it possible? What are your doing there? You are performing revolutionary plays against the regime of the Czar since you ask in the play, 'Until when?'
He planned to make trouble against me. Only after much effort was I extricated from this trouble. The actors from Rikshan went home and had to be paid their salary and also the others. All the assets were wasted. And for me, all the jokers called after me, Here walks the manager of the theater that was burned down!
The revolution of February 1917 freed us from the Czar's regime, meaning that every Russian citizen had liberty. In Bricheva there was much joy. The residents of the villages Gizdita, Baraboi and others came as guests to Bricheva. They were treated to a lovely hospitality, danced with together in the streets, there was an atmosphere of camaraderie and brotherhood and there would be no more hate between them.
I worked at that time as a bookkeeper in the flourmill of Bricheva. Together with all the workers we went to meet the guests from the neighboring villages. I carried the red flag. And when I went past the home of my grandfather Shlomo Hashohet, zl he called me and said, Remember this well. You may have a lot to pay for your rejoicing.
After a few months, riots erupted across the whole country. In a few towns in Bessarabia there many cases of robbery that were done by the soldiers who returned from the front and went wild after their release
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from conscription. The non-Jewish farmers from the nearby village acted similarly. There were even rumors that the farmers together with the released soldiers were planning to come with wagons to fill them with loot from the homes in Bricheva merchandise and assets.
My uncle Hirsh Shikhman zl, who served then as the Council Head of Bricheva was on his way back from Soroka when two soldiers appeared, stopped his carriage and demanded his money, which he had withdrawn from the bank that morning. Before he managed to say anything, they shot and killed him. The murder caused great mourning in the town and also great fear. Then it was decided to found a self-defense team.
The town notables, Yakl Shikhman, Haim Bukarshtar, Yosl Grinberg, Yakl Blank and others whose names I don't remember, turned to us, i.e. Mosei Veinstein, Yosl son of Yakl Blank, Yosl Shpaier, Velvel Feivel-Lamles (Gellman), Shlomo Zalman-Basis (Tendler), to me and to others of my age. They asked us to try to get weapons and ammunition guns and bullets and also to buy horses to be used for a night guard in our town and the surroundings.
Money was needed for this and committees for administration and finance were appointed that worked in this way. In those days merchandise such as flour, oil and grain was bought in Bricheva and delivered to distant places Britshan, Lipkan, Yidintzm, Hutin. They placed barriers on the road going out of town and taxed every wagon leaving with merchandise. In addition other residents paid money according to what was imposed on them, all so as to establish and maintain the defense guard.
In a short time we were able to buy 250 rifles, about 50,000 bullets, tens of grenades and ten horses. We rented an apartment that functioned as a sort of headquarters and set up guard shifts for day and night. These guards continuously traversed the streets of the town and its borders on the roads that led to Tirnova, Gizdita, Baravoi, Sakaian, etc.
In order that the security would be complete, we traveled to Soroka where there was a brigade of soldiers who had not yet been released. We hired 15 soldiers whom we paid a monthly salary in addition to room and board, to help us in the guarding, especially during the market days in Bricheva, on Sundays and Wednesdays, when the non-Jews from the surrounding areas came in throngs.
A few attempts were made to attack the town and make pogroms but the defense knew how to fight back as real heroes and no such trouble happened in Bricheva. This situation continued until the Romanian army invaded Bessarabia and also reached Bricheva. Then arose a problem, what to do with the weapons? Would there be full security, would the public order improve, the government be stable, and the plunderers wouldn't return?
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The residents of the town and our parents advised us to bury the weapons in the ground and to distribute the horses among the defenders and fighters. We gathered in the home of Yekl Blank and in a large storeroom we dug a large ditch two meters deep. After we oiled the weapons and ammunitions, we placed them in the ditch and covered it with dirt. On top of it we put two barrels of wine, and one of the buriers said Kadish (mourner's prayer).
A few days later we were called to a meeting where the town notables told us that if the Romanians found out that we were concealing weapons they would carry out a massacre in the town. Therefore we had no choice but to dig up the weapons from the ditch and throw them into the river near the flourmill. With great difficulty and sorrow we did this and threw everything into the water. Two days later the Romanians came to our town and although they stayed in Bricheva from 1918 until 1940 no one in town was questioned about weapons because there was no informer who would tell them about it.
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by Dr. Yechiel Eisenstein/ Sao Paulo
Translated by Esther Mann Snyder
Bricheva the name of a tiny Jewish town, almost unknown in the world, but very meaningful for many. A name that is dear and pleasant to many people (from Bricheva) who are dispersed and separated in the world. A name that I and others like me will never forget. A name that I say with love, admiration and longing although I lived there less than one third of my life. A small town muddy, dirty and poor, but rich and clean in its goodwill and hospitality and its culture; big in its courage and devotion. A tiny hamlet, better to say a settlement, where 522 families lived numbering 3200 souls (according to the census that I did in 1935 before I left the her, as the chairman of the Culture department of the community). This number was about 90% of all the population of the town; the other 10% was comprised of house cleaners and factory workers.
A small town that had two kindergartens (one Hebrew established by Tarbut, and the other Yiddish), three elementary schools (Tarbut, Yiddish and Romanian-governmental), a Hebrew secondary school (gymnasia) with four sections; libraries, benevolent society, a savings and loan association, the society Somech Noflim (helping the weak), and Bikur Holim (visiting the sick). A town where some of the best theatrical troupes appeared the Vilna group, Tomashevski, Sidi Tal and others; where some of the best poets visited, like Eliezer Steinberg and Itzik Manger. As I have already mentioned, this was a settlement because most of the residents were farmers and worked the land themselves. It also had industry three
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factories for making oil and three flourmills. This town supplied the non-Jews in 7 or 8 neighboring villages.
The residents of Bricheva consisted mostly of member of very large families e.g the Apelmans, the Gelmans, the Gulirgants, the Valdmans, the Rozenblits and others.
About twenty years ago I read a book here (in Sao Paulo) whose name I can't seem to remember, about the history of Bricheva. I will report, from memory, a summary of things written there:
In 1820, in the time of the kidnapping, Jewish children could be saved from being sent to distant places in Russia for 25 years on one condition if they worked the land.
In the place where our town later stood there lived an estate owner named Brichivan, a righteous gentiles. He saved many Jewish children in this way he brought them to his land, built them huts to live in, taught them how to work the land and allowed them to keep their religion and commandments. He even intervened with the authorities to allow these children to live there. This information about the Pritz (landowner) spread quickly to many areas of Russia and many Jewish parents brought their children to the landowner and left them with him. So that the children wouldn't feel alone, they sent along an older sister to watch over their eating kosher and to ease their homesickness.
The landowner, who was good-hearted, gave them food, looked after them and didn't work them more than a child could bear. When they grew up, he even built them real homes and thus as a measure of gratitude they named the place Bricheva.
I'll start with my earliest childhood years.
All the children aged 5 to 8 studied with the same teacher, R' Hirsh who was a tall and broad person, blind in one eye. He lived with his wife and children in a very small house in the yard of the widow Pessie Blank. It was his custom to gesture with his hand, sometimes push the ribs of the children, beat the palms of the soft hands in this way he taught them the Hebrew alphabet and the prayer Modeh Ani (I thank Thee). In the summer is was somehow tolerable because the studies were held outside in the dirty yard but in the winter we had to suffer from the crowding in the vile hut that was
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filled with smoke. He had an assistant who went and brought the children and later walked them home.
At ages 7 -8 the children started learning Torah with the commentary of Rashi , with teacher Yekl the Lithuanian, a precise and impassioned Jew. In his heder we studied a whole day until 7 or 8 p.m. Another teacher, named Shafran, came every day for two hours to teach Russian.
From the age of 10 on, the children studied with one of the following teachers, Gavriel Fishman, Pini Gulirgant and David Berman. I, Aharon Gulirgant, Buzi Barad and others studied Hebrew, grammar and some Talmud with Gavriel. He was a modern teacher with great knowledge and we learned much from him. At age 12 I was the first to leave this class and travel to study in the secondary school in Odessa. Incidently, this wasn't easy to achieve as there was a numerus clausus (limited number of places). Others, like Aharon, Notche Gulirgant, David Zisman, Nahum Zisman, after a few years studied in the Hebrew school in Belz. Later a few students from Bricheva went to study in the schools in Baidinitz, Soroka and even Markosht. A few of us were the first students who were able to complete their studies and they included Yosl Landau, Berta, Aharon, Mosi Blank and myself.
In 1918, when anarchy reigned all over Russia and before the Romanian government was run properly, the gentiles from the neighboring villages Tirnova, Baravoi and others, to carry pogroms in Bricheva. They attempted to attck the town, came with wagons full of axes and bags, armed and ready to carry out a massacre and robberies. However, the residents had previously acquired weapons, from soldiers who had deserted from the front, and organized a self-defense force in which participated old and young. Members of the force on horses and on foot protected the town from attacks until the Romanians conquered the region including Bricheva. The residents exhibited amazing courage and bravery, and this was a hint of what would happen in the ghettoes that revolted.
In the years 1919 1920, a time of civil war and riots in Russia, the thousands of Jews began rushing into Bessarabia to find security. A large part of them also came to Bricheva. We, a group of lads, Aharon, Notshe Gulirgant, Bozi Barad, Asher Valdman, Nahman Veisberg and myself, created a sort of reception committee, to help the refugees
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find places to live, find food and receive documents that allowed them to stay in Bessarabia. We worked on committee matters all summer, day and night in the home of the Starosta (Head of the community) Pesah Veinstein. We handled about 5000 refugees including a group of halutzim that later made aliya to Eretz Yisrael.
As we mentioned the town consisted of widespread families who sometimes took different sides especially before the election of the Starosta or the Taksa or inviting a rabbi or a doctor.
I remember seven synagogues: Rashkovi, Sadigori, Shtipani, the Basement, the Tailors, and another two whose names I don't remember. I do remember, as a young boy, that a controversy erupted over a doctor and it lasted many years. The town had a medic and there was another person known as Avramele the doctor who was a gaunt person with no formal education. He used one of two medications for every illness either an enema or leeches (people said about him
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that his first question of the patient was, When you cover yourself are you hot? When you wrap up in a blanket are you cold? This is how he arrived a his diagnosis.)
But the more progressive people in Bricheva decided to invite a licensed medical doctor to work in town and thus they brought Dr. Germant who was very educated and knew Talmud. He was an unmarried man of 40 who was an expert in diagnosis. Later he married one of the women of the Bukarshter family. Those who opposed the doctor played tricks on him. It is told that when he entered the home of a patient, they sneaked inside and stole his boots or hat (because who in Bricheva locked their door?) The controversy continued for a long time, until his death. Then the opponents brought a doctor of their choice to town.
When I completed my medical studies and due to various familial reasons (against my will) I decided to settle in Bricheva although there were already five doctors in town. The physicians also treated patients from among the residents of the villages in the area. At first, I had to suffer much from the other doctors (who unfortunately did not have any concept of professional ethics) and also from the residents who supported other physicians or preferred them or due to personal conflicts with my family. After a short time, when I spent my time in public work and after I succeeded in proving myself by correct diagnoses and appropriate treatment, the attitude towards me changed even among the rivals.
Because I had been a Zionist during my youth (Tzeire Zion) I was determined to establish a kindergarten under the auspices of the Tarbut organization and also to strengthen the Tarbut school that already existed in town. Bricheva had no secondary school at that time and the pupils had to study in the government school in Baravoi, a few kilometers away. A large concentration of Kozists lived in Baravoi and that area, and the teachers in the school abused the pupils and incited the Christian children against the Jewish ones and mocked them. And more the children of the non-Jews didn't pay any tuition while the children of Bricheva were forced to pay a fairly high tuition. Even though I didn't have children of school age at that time, I was bitter over the appalling attitude towards the pupils from Bricheva. I assembled the parents and persuaded them to establish a Hebrew secondary school in our town.
It was not an easy thing to accomplish. Two things were necessary: a lot of money and a license from the Minister of Education, Dr. Angalasko (who was an anti-Semite). I took upon myself
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to acquire the license because I knew the Minister personally since he had been a professor in the Medical Faculty in Bucharest. Together with two others from town, Yosl Shpaier and Leib Tendler, zl, we traveled to Bucharest in the summer of 1933 and after a long conversation with the minister we were able to receive the license to open Gymnasia Tarbut with four departments. After this, we were still lacking the second thing: money. And another essential we needed a building. We didn't have much time because the school year would open in the autumn of 1933 and everything had to be ready by then.
However, the Jews of Bricheva were stubborn. When they decided to get something done they did everything possible to accomplish it. The only house in Bricheva that was appropriate for a school was the grand home of the late Dr. Germant. A parents committee was formed whose children studied in Baravoi, and with great difficulty (because the residents never had much money) the required amount for leasing the building was collected. The building underwent renovations and was made suitable for a school according to the requirements of the law.
As chairman of the committee I had to find a principal and teaching staff. I publicized a notice and indeed educated teachers with some experience responded (one was L. Kupershtein who lives in Tel-Aviv today) and the gymnasia opened in time for the new school year. The principal of the school in Baravoi dared to send me an ultimatum that if we open a secondary school in Bricheva he would not be responsible for my life he didn't want his school to lose the large income from the tuition of the children from our town. However, his threats didn't scare us and due to our strong will we succeeded in achieving our goal.
with a group of halutzim, refugees from Slavuteh
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by Mendel Shikhman/ Tel-Aviv
Translated by Esther Mann Snyder
Everyone must write of his recollections of the development of our town. It seems to me that if I tell of some of the activities of my dear father, Yekl, then it will a contribution to our book of memories.
Father, zl, always tried to improve and enhance the conditions in our town, in various ways, since as every town in Bessarabia, also Bricheva had poor conditions for many years. However, in order to get something done, one had to overcome many obstacles within the town and outside of it. With his commonsense, good judgment and energy, he succeeded in surmounting difficulties and aiding in the establishment of essential projects for the town admits residents. I will mention some of them, as they are stored in my memory or as I heard about them from my father zl.
More than seventy years ago he attempted and even succeeded in opening in Bricheva a post office, telegraph and telephone ¹. [ ¹ It should be noted that many years later, during the Romanian rule, there were several attempts to remove the Post Office from Bricheva. The pretext was that the post office didn't have its own building and there was no budget for paying its rent. I remember that Aharon Tzinman zl called on the residents for help in maintaining the post office and they collected money to pay for the rent, as it was important to retain it in our town. However, in the last days before the holocaust, Briceva did not have a post office and the mail had to be brought in from Tirnova. The editor]
About sixty five years ago the first government elementary school was opened in Bricheva after much effort on his part.² [² For more about this see my memoirs.] A short time later he was in touch with the famous company Yaka, that agreed to aid many residents of the town
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in growing fruit trees and vines. Thus gardens and vineyards were planted behind the homes around the town and they flourished and were a source of pride for many years.
My father initiated bringing a licensed doctor to town and he helped Dr. Avraham Germant zl to acclimatize to Bricheva.³ [³ See more about Dr. Germant in my memoirs]. A short while later the pharmacy was opened and managed by Shapira zl, a licensed pharmacist.
After World War I my father was among those working towards establishing a bank (in addition to the saving and loan society), and it was a branch of the Spatol Negostorsk (merchant's council). He also helped establish the Tarbut Hebrew secondary school on Bricheva. By the way, my father thought that modern Hebrew education to be very important and therefore he was the first in town to send his son, my brother Mordechai zl, far away to Vilna to study in the Pines Hebrew secondary school that was, a few years before the war, the only Hebrew Gymnasia in all of Czarist Russia.
And more, many years before the Balfour Declaration my father was already an ardent Zionist, collecting money to send to the Jews in Eretz Yisrael. Sometimes he would receive a small gift in gratitude for his work, such as a Halla cover and such. My father guarded the gifts as precious, holy objects.
Now, I would like to add something related to the last days of our town. R' Shalom Shpiegel zl whose whole body was paralyzed and he was bedridden for quite a few years before he was exiled to Siberia. On that terrible night, when they came to uproot him and his family from their home, they took him in his bed and brought him in this condition to the train station in Tirnova. There they loaded him and the rest of the unfortunates into a freight car and thus they were shaken for several weeks until they reached Siberia.
In the first letter my father wrote me from Siberia to Tzernovitz, he told me that my mother passed away after a few months. Shalom Shpiegel and his wife died about a year later. Their only son was now orphaned and my father looked after him until my father himself passed away. This is what I was told when I returned from Transnistria. I don't know what happened to the son.
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Translated by Esther Mann Snyder
(Preface by the Editor): Moshe Aharonson zl was known as an excellent writer. This alone is justification enough to publish excerpts from his letters to his daughter Rivka and her husband Ephraim (Foike) Yetzis. However, I find additional reasons. These excerpts reflect the feelings of certain people in our town. Also, the mutual bond between the here and the there brought the hearts closer, so that the struggle between fathers and sons has been softened to a great degree. Add to this the vivacious Hebrew language and all together they comprise a supplement to the memory of those past days.
The father will be happy etc .and the
mother will raise the fruit of her womb
We received your letter with the pound (funt) and a half enclosed. If you knew how excited we were, Foile and I, when we took your letter out of the envelope and instead of finding pictures as we thought the money slipped out
Money?.. from whom and for what?
We didn't imagine that one could send money even from the group and certainly, we thought, that someone had sent it to a relative here.
Quickly and with a great beating heart Foile grabbed the letter and all became clear. The money was sent for us, and you dear children are the ones who sent it
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Shall I describe to you the pleasant and surprising impression that your precious and very valuable gift made upon us and especially your warm and cordial letter? At any rate, I don't want to describe Foile's reaction with her tears of joy and her exuberant praise of you; I'll let her fulfill that mission. But about my own feelings I must tell you that your letter and the cash gave me reason to think and consider about you specifically and about us in general.
Then a well-known saying came to my mind, Not enough enough for him. Its not enough that we on our part didn't fulfill our duty as parents to you our dear and precious children. You my innocent daughter, we took you out of the house almost naked and with nothing without decent clothes, without enough underclothes and without the many necessities that are needed by a young couple.
It's not enough that from you, Foike my beloved, I have to admit, We really had genar with the full meaning of the word. You received no gift from us, no remembrance or the simplest sign, that would testify to the true and extreme affection we held for you and the heart of every one in our small family.
Not sufficient, that for years that you, my dear children, lived in Eretz Yisrael, we didn't send you anything, not even what is worth a pruta [lowest denomination of coin]. And after all this, you are so dear and generous, so dignified and open-hearted, that you borrowed from your small, young group, such a large loan, a pound (funt) and a half, that was earned by hard work. And this you send to us as a gift and how could this not make us happy and bring a tear to our eyes?
Every one knows that every ideal is good and fine, holy and pure only as an ideal. And when one desires to fulfill it, one must make many sacrifices, and what foolish father would direct his dear children to sacrifice so much of their lives for this difficult ideal.
Please tell me, my dear Foik, when did A.D. Gordon, zl , start to spread his thinking, the Gordonian method in his youth or in older age? Yes! Since we received your letter, sweet children, I cannot find rest. (The first night I didn't sleep at all). Two powers, two loves whisper to me; the love of the nation and the love of our children. And I find myself between the hammer and the anvil. You well know, my dear, that I am an enthusiastic devotee of the group, and that all my wish is to live in the group, but you also know, that my love is with you, my dear children, so great you cannot imagine. Therefore I counseled you to wait a while.
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The Sages taught, Be moderate in judgment, that is, in every law and case one must be moderate and calm. After a certain amount of time passes, then you can make the decision whether to stay or leave the group.
To my dear, upright and honest children, shalom and blessings!
Quotation in Yiddish from the poet Bialik
With eyes filled with tears of joy and a heart flowing with infinite happiness I write this letter. We received your last letter two days ago. And if you knew the great and pleasant feeling, and the strong and sweet impression that letter made on us. If you knew the special intonation that dear Foile read aloud your letter (Yehoshua and Hershel were not then at home). Your mother and I were so excited and emotional that we didn't see anything written in the letter. And she, Foile, took it and started to read. Her eyes were shining and face was flushed. She read and emphasized each word, and often raised her damp and sparkling eyes and looked at us like a conductor. Her voice was clear and resounded in the small room. And we, the old ones, sitting, listening and eating up every word. I feel that all my blood froze in my arteries, I am embarrassed to lift my head and I take a side look at your mother and I see that she is crying.
Yes! The day is clear after the storm, and the joy is even more after the difficult and deep tribulations. With special pleasure we heard your light and sophisticated reproof and even the pricks and stings, the sharp arrows that were aimed at me, although done in a polite and tactful way. Even they were agreeable and desirable and I received them with love The wounds of love are true, and especially so from beloved and dear people as yourselves.
Bravo. Praise to you. You understood what I was thinking. Your letter was written in a style that I had hoped for and I am so happy that my hope was fulfilled. A person is not jealous of his son and daughter, so say the Sages. And I admit that you are wiser than I am, and you understand life much better than I, the old man from an old generation. And I am proud of you, dear children.
And apparently you don't know me well anymore, my son Foike. When I wrote to you that with ten fingers I can make a living for myself and your mother, I knew what it meant. And I am responsible for these words. I am neither a young lad nor a fool, heaven forbid. I know what risk there is in remaining in Bricheva in a home with six spacious rooms,
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life in a small, quiet village and to move to Eretz Yisrael and to perhaps live in a small, narrow and dark room(?), to labor as a worker in the full meaning of the word as you write to us. I know that this step is risky, and despite this I am willing and ready to take this step for a number of reasons.
And one more thing. The political situation here is getting grimmer and grimmer. Its good to be aware, dear Foike, that we may need to escape and won't be able to. If you read the newspapers, you will know and understand to what I am referring. Also for this reason I wanted to go to Eretz Yisrael as soon as possible.
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