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[Page 121]

The History of the J.N.A.V.1
in Czernowitz

by Dr. Josef Mosberg (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Jerome Silverbush

In the mosaic like composition of the Jewish student associations of the city, every stone had its own color, but each was an important part of the whole. The Jewish students composed for more than four decades, the spiritual backbone of the Jews in Bukovina who were awakened to national consciousness. The many aspects of Jewish life, showed also in Zionism various forms although every group had its own value. Looking back, one cannot forget Hebronia as well as every other Jewish organization of the city.

Around the turn of the century, the National Jewish Academic Corporation was created. Hebronia distinguished itself from other fraternities in that as paradoxical as it may seem, its story started four years before its activation in Czernowitz.

It was 1900. In Czernowitz Zionism captured every wider circles of youth. The fight against assimilation and for national interests began in a promising way, but not all students could follow it to its end at home. Part of the student body, especially those who wanted to devote themselves to a technical education, had, because of the lack of a technical gymnasium in Czernowitz, to move west, mostly to Vienna. There, they ran into a previously unknown hostile attitude, especially from the German students, who mostly had no ideas of their own and thought they were acting in the spirit of the time when they attacked defenseless Jewish students and beat them bloody. The Jewish students had to defend themselves against these German barbarians who apparently got their aggressive nationalism from the ancient German god, Wotan and from Christian Socialism which was not Christian and definitely not social. Close cooperation and good organization were necessary. The students from Bukovina worked enthusiastically for the goal. Four of them were members of the JNV “Unitas” in Vienna, but they felt the need for a Bukovina student organization. So, the former Chief Building Councilor, Henschel Fuhrmann founded on March 21, 1900 the Jewish National Academic Technical Association, Hebronia. Their program was contained in the name. According to Herzl's concept, Zionism meant the return to Judaism before the return to the Jewish land. Therefore following the words of Herzl, the young students coupled the name of their organization with the names of the places where the bones of their ancestors rested. While the fight for self determination was continued in the framework of Unitas, they wanted, during the summer vacation to hold the national idea high in Czernowitz. Other founding members were: Engineer Laufer, later director of the Telegraph Department (died in 1941 in Jampol in Transnistrien), Building Councilor Maurueber, Engineer Hartning, factory director in Düsseldorf ( murdered by the Nazis), Engineer Tirst (died in New York), Chief Building Councilor Kram, Engineer Blum, Engineer Sonnenschein and Engineer Riemer (both feared as expert swordsmen in Vienna), Miliu Geiger (formerly, bank director in Berlin), Engineer Miseles (a clever and educated fellow) and Engineer Singer. The founding board of directors consisted of the members: Henschel Furhmann, Maurueber and Miesels, the II board of directors consisted of Miseles, Hartning and Kram. Among the first “foxes” were Janku Baderu, Prof. Hessing, Prof. Schwarz, Kula, Stiglitz and Dulberg-Friedmann.

In Vienna, the student life had its light and shadow sides. The members of Hebronia acted in accordance with their motto, “With word and action for the honor of Judaism.” They visited bars in which spirited speakers in an educational and inspiring way, preached national rebirth, they found and nurtured their self confidence, they became young upright Jews capable of enthusiasm, but at the same time, like their ancestors building the temple, they had to hold the trowel in one hand and the sword in the other, in addition to the care of the Jewish intellectual inheritance, they had to defend themselves against the continuous attacks of the German corporation. The non-stop brawls made a sad chapter. The attacks on the Jewish students took place during their usual strolls in the assembly hall of the university on Saturday morning. Because of the infamous Waidhofener2 Principal the German students refused to duel with the Jewish students after they repeatedly suffered bloody outcomes. The Jewish resistance increased in tenacity. Every Saturday the Jewish students, the brothers of Hebronia among them marched in closed ranks and at the same time, the Vienna police deployed in front of the university, which they were not allowed to enter. Nearby waited the ambulance of the rescue squad, in order to give first aid to the “battle casualties.” Most of the victims were naturally on the Jewish side since the Germans were numerically superior by far. The sad spectacle was repeated Saturday after Saturday: wounded Jewish students flew down the university stairs where with bloody heads and several broken ribs, they were received by the police and the rescue squad.

The courageous attitude of the Jewish students and their bloody sacrifices did not always find approval in wider Jewish circles. Some believed in recommending restraint in order to avoid provoking the bestial attacks. But with many others of the same attitude, the members of Hebronia believed that toughness, courage and proud self confidence were postulates of national dignity and the only way to convince their enemies of the lack of success of persecution methods of the Middle Ages.

Finally, in 1904, Hebronia a Vienna organization was activated in Czernowitz. It was high time. Because of the close association of the capital of Bukovina and the capital of the Austrian empire, there were soon street fights, even though smaller ones in Czernowitz. There also, the Waidhofener Principal repeatedly offered hostile students the excuse to protect themselves from Jewish blades. The courageous Hebronia brothers soon had the opportunity to defeat their German fellow students. In this connection, the brothers3 Kugler and Schnapp deserve special praise.

But the meaning of Hebronia for Jewish life in Czernowitz would be misunderstood if one only saw them as courageous defenders of Jewish honor. They not only understood how to use the blade skillfully, they also took a lively and active part in all national, political and cultural activities of the Bukovina Jews.

When the fight for the recognition of the Jewish nationality opened,4 Hebronia stood side by side with the other fraternities and helped to achieve the final victory. Hebronia brothers found themselves in the first row when national demands were made to city and university officials. The membership count of Hebronia rose from year to year. Through their social connections and their large numbers Hebronia soon won a strong influence on the politics of the Jewish community of the city and the state. One could no longer overlook the green caps when they went strolling on Pardini heights in Czernowitz. Therefore, they were welcome fellow workers when Prof. Dr. Leon Kellner, the well known friend of Herzl's, took upon himself the admirable task of creating a democratic, well thought out organization, the People's Council, to fight corruption and demagoguery. To the honor of Hebronia, it should be mentioned that nearly all the brothers stood behind Dr. Kellner and effectively supported his noble work.

Prof. Dr. Kellner through inclination and profession had a thorough knowledge of English popular culture and understood very well the noble intentions of the philanthropist Toynbee who didn't want to deprive his fellow men of their part in the intellectual possessions of the nation. In the spirit of the Englishman, during his time in Vienna, he founded a Toynbee5 hall there. In Czernowitz, he was successful in doing the same. Influenced by his personality, the married couple Kisslinger donated the funds to build a splendid Toynbee hall. The board of directors entrusted Hebronia with arranging for the weekly Saturday lectures. While enjoying tea and cake, every Jew could receive instruction and encouragement from professional sources. Over a period of 20 years, Hebronia untiringly carried out the difficult task. They had to find the speakers, provide the refreshments and keep order during the presentation. Despite petty jealousies among the Jewish students it was always acknowledged that Hebronia provided a valuable service.

As a consequence, Hebronia's Toynbee Hall afternoons became one of the most popular institutions and contributed greatly to the Zionist and national education of the Jewish population. Magic lantern shows were often held with the technical leadership in the hands of Finance Minister Dr. Lazar Weinreb, a man who as an amateur photographer had splendid accomplishments in technical knowledge and artistic intuition and who devoted himself wholeheartedly to supporting Toynbee hall. For two decades, Dr. Schnapp the AH6 of Hebronia represented the interests of his fraternity on the board of directors of Toynbee hall.

During World War I, all national activity ceased since Bukovina was a battleground and the Jewish population, for the most part had to flee. The brothers who had learned self-discipline and a sense of duty in their organization were able to prove themselves in every life situation. They were among the best soldiers and officers in the Austrian army. Unfortunately, there were many causalities. In this connection should be mentioned the promising young Lieutenant Friedmann who fell on the Isonzo front. Many members of Hebronia received high decorations. Among them was brother Arnold Zwecker, who was adjutant in the 41st Czernowitz House Regiment. Also, Benno Sternberg, Karl Kugler and Philipp Fuhrmann should be mentioned.

In 1918, many Hebronia brothers returned home. The association was reorganized under the new conditions and since the new Romanian government acted reasonably during the first few years of its rule, a large student conference could be held in 1920 which was considered a political event of an unusual nature. In the large auditorium of Toynbee hall, 600 guests assembled, among them the Romanians: Archbishop von Repta, the Minister for Bukovina, Dr. Dori Popovici and the Rector of the University Dr. Hacman. Among the Jewish participants the worthy Chief Rabbi Dr. Josef Rosenfeld stood out. The keynote speech was made by the brother Benno Sternberg using the Hebrew language. This was the first significant attempt to bring the rebirth of the Hebrew language to the attention of a non-Jewish audience and gain its respect.

Hebronia took an active part in the life of the Jewish community. Among others, the brothers: Dr. Leo Greif, Dr. H. Krauthammer, Dr. Perl, Dr. Schnapp, B. Sternberg, A. Zwecker and Dr. Lazarowicz should be mentioned, the last of whom functioned as a leader of the Jewish community for more than a year.

The position of Hebronia within the Zionist movement in Bukovina is noteworthy. Hebronia didn't strive to obtain key positions for its members in the movement, but nevertheless accomplished remarkable services in efforts at raising money for the national fund. They preferred practical activity to lip service and it was no coincidence that in the years 1920 – 1922, when only few pioneers emigrated from Bukovina, two Hebronia brothers, Dr. Philipp Fleischer and Mechel Buxbaum left Czernowitz in order to settle in Eretz Israel. Buxbaum worked on the land as a farmer The same happened to brother Deberer in the thirty's in Eretz Israel where he works today as an agriculture instructor.

Immediately after the emergence of the Revisionists7 , Hebronia joined this movement which it was never to leave. At the reception for President, Dr. Weizmann in Toynbee Hall in Czernowitz, brother Benno Sternberg when greeting him, said that although he as a Revisionist, distanced him self from Weizmann's direction, he didn't begrudge him the respect he was due as president of the Zionist World Organization. In his reply, Dr. Weizmann gave thanks for the greeting of the “his esteemed opposition” as he humorously expressed it.

Jabotinsky8 visited Czernowitz for the first time in 1926. Hebronia named him an honorary brother and the brothers David Wiener and Engineer Koenig handed him in the name of the association, the fraternity sash in the hotel, “Schwartzen Adler,” where he was staying. As a consequence, Hebronia retained the leadership of the Revisionists in Bukovina. Along with many other, the brothers Dr. Drimer, Dr. Mosberg, Dr. Gruenberg, and Dr. Pasternak were active with great success. Benno Sternberg was elected chairman of the All Romanian Revisionist Federal Organization and held this position until he emigrated to Eretz Israel. For many years, the brothers Dr. S. Lazarowicz and Dr. B. Sternberg as exponents of the Revisionist World Organization were members of the Zionist Action Committee. As delegates, both took part in several congresses. Dr. Lazarowicz perished when he emigrated to Eretz Israel on the doomed ship, “Struma.”

The catastrophe for Judaism that the Second World War brought also deeply wounded Hebronia. Brothers Magister Epstein, Dr. Klager, Gertler, Engineer Blum, Dr.Perl, Rino Metsch, Otto Neumann, Prof. Zimmer, Dr. Herbert Wunsch, and Lawyer Voulhaber died in the extermination camps. Emil Adlersberg died in the ranks of the Red Army in the fight for Budapest.

The majority of the surviving Hebronia members were able to reach the goal and start a new life in Israel. Dr. B. Sternberg had the good fortune on May 14 1948 as a member of the first state council to take part in the historic meeting in which the existence of the Jewish state was proclaimed and to sign the founding document.

The way that led from the brawls in front of the Vienna University over the events in Austria and then in Romanian Czernowitz and through the persecution in the Nazi camps to Israel was long and thorny. The Hebronia brothers who presently live in Israel know how to value their good fortune. In the spirit of the old tradition they keep close together and at their frequent meetings there are many, often painful reminiscences on the old days.

In 1954 to celebrate the 110th semester of Hebronia's existence, a celebration was held in Tel Aviv that was very inspiring. In addition to the Hebronia brothers, almost all the members of Jewish fraternities from Czernowitz attended and representatives of 19 Jewish national academic associations from European countries attended in cap and sash. The commemorative speech was given by Brother Dr. Benno Sternberg. During the evening, Dr. Perlman, the president of the “Ring,” the academic association in Tel Aviv, Dr. Pachtmann, Dr. Elias Weinstein, Dr. Martin Eltes, Dr. Markus Kraemer, Dr. Josef Mosberg and Dr. Mayer Ebner who devoted his life to the spread and the victory the Zionist idea all spoke. He wore the cap and sash of the association he founded, “Hasmonaea.”

In Israel today, there are 41 Hebronia members, 21 of whom live in Tel Aviv. Many live scattered throughout the world.

The Israel group of Hebronia is tightly organized. The president is Dr. Suniu Gruenberg who is supported by Erich Gottlieb as secretary.

The names of the Hebronia members who live in Israel today are: Dr. Mosche Altmann, Tel Aviv, Dr. Josef Chasid, Haifa, Meir Citry, Hafia, Elijahu Deberer, Benjamina, Dr. Martin Eltes, Jerusalem, Elijahu Feiles, Safed, Max Goldschmidt, Haifa, Dr. Chaim Gorowitz, Tel Aviv, Erich Gottlieb, Tel Aviv, Dr. Jisrael Gruenberg, Tel Aviv, Dr. Jakob Gruppan, Tel Aviv, Mag. Wilhelm Gutmann, Tel Aviv, Simon (Siegfried) Haber, Tel Aviv, Dr. Hugo Hassner, Gedera, Dr. Benjamin Katz, Kiriat-Jam, Dr. Lazar Krasnoselsky, Tel Aviv, Dow Kronnenfeld, Naharia, Dr. Max Lindenfeld, Tel Aviv, Dr. Artur Loebl, Ramat-Gan, Engineer Erwin Mark, Ramat-Gan, Milan Mark, Kiriat Ono, Mosche Meiselmann, Gav-Jam, Bernhard Merdinger, Ramatajim, Jizchak Merdler, Tel Aviv, Maximiliam Oberhard, Tel Aviv, Dr. Jizchak Pasternak, Tel Aviv, Otto Rauchwerger, Tel Aviv, Isidor Rosan, Tel Aviv, Karl Rosenheck, Kiriat Bialik, Dr. Leopold Rosemann, Tel Aviv, Adolf Segal, Giwatajim, Adolf Singer, Tel Aviv, Dr. Benzion Sternberg, Tel Aviv, Dr. Theodor Sternberg, Tel Aviv, Efraim Tabak, Natania-Geva, Erich Wagner, Bat-Jam, David Wiener, Tel Aviv, Dr. Mordechai Wilenko, Natania, Benjamin Winnik, Hafia and Arnold Zwecker, Tel Aviv.

You can contact members of Hebronia in care of Dr. Josef Mosberg, Tel Aviv P.O.B. 1342, Israel.

The names of Hebronia brothers living abroad as far as they are know follow:

Australia: Adam Appenzeller, Milton Blumrich, Isidor Greif, Dr. Hessing, Dr. Paul Kinston, Dr. Manfred Krauthammer, Dr. Herbert Krauthammer, Dr. Eric Neuberger.
Brazil: Dr. Maximiliam Linker
Canada: Dr. Edgar Citry, Salo Neumann, Isidor Schratter.
Columbia: Dr Ulrich Schnapp
Germany: Dr. Willy Engel
France: Dr. Isak Engel, Dr. A. Kleisbauer, Dr. Juda Kreisberger, Dr. Henry Kula, Dr. Leo Treisser.
Mexico: Dr. Siegmund Bibring, Dr. Jaques Krautahammer, Adolf Meer.
Switzerland: Joseph Mandler.
Uruguay: Dr. Siegfried Mehler.
United States: Engineer Josef Delcan, Dr. Julius Delcan, Dr. Siegmund Herdan, Dr. Alfred Kapise, Dr. Victor Landau, Dr. Konrad Mehler.
Venezuela: Doliu Eifermann, Hermann Zimand.

Written by: Dr. Josef Mosberg (Tel Aviv)

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Notes:

1) J.N.A.V.: Jewish National Association. According to the dictionary, the German word for fraternity is Bruderschaft (brotherhood) or Studentenverbindung (student organization). The author never uses either of these words, generally using the terms Vereinigung or Verbindung which are non-specific, meaning assembly or association. Sometimes he says, “student organization.” In any case, I think the closest parallel we have today to Hebronia is a college fraternity. Return

2) Waidhofener Principal: On March 11, 1896 representatives of student organizations met in Vienna. They decided to no longer have duels with Jewish students since the Jews were not “men of honor.” The Waidhofener organization had worked for years to push through this decision and therefore it was called the Waidhofener Principal. Return

3) Brothers: The author uses the acronym “BB here.” Burschenschaft is the traditional German dueling fraternity. Brother is of course Bruder. So I'm guessing BB means Burschenschaft Bruder or fraternity brother. I generally use the term “brother” when referring to a member of Hebronia. Return

4) Jewish nationality: The author uses this term constantly. There were many nationalities such as Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Romanians and German living in this area of the Austrian empire (Eastern Galicia) who probably had rights such as political representation, and voting which the Jews who were recognized as a religion but not a nationality aspired to. Return

5) Toyenbee Hall: This is a place where lectures would be held on topics such as science, history, and current events and Zionist topics in order to enrich the intellectual life of the ordinary Jewish citizens and working men. Return

6) AH: Some kind of officer in a fraternity. Return

7) Revisionists: The Zionist revisionists wanted to discard Chaim Weizmann's moderate approach to Zionism and to put relentless pressure on the British to allow Jewish statehood on both banks of the Jordan River. Return

8) Jabotinsky: Ze'ev (Vladmir) Jabotinsky was the founder and spiritual leader of Revisionist Zionism. Return


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