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[Page 38]

In the Beginning {cont.}

The First Zionist Congress in Bessarabia, 1920

Two years after the Annexation, when the public got used to the conditions under the new regime, the Zionists of Kishinev organized the First Congress on 16–20 of Iyar (4–8 May 1920).[1]

The Congress opened in a festive atmosphere in the “Blagorodniya Sobranye,” an elegant hall and was attended by 110 delegates: 53 Zionist, 46 Tzeirei Zion, 3 Mizrachi, 8 various Zionists and many guest among them the Chief Rabbi of Bessarabia, the Great Rabbi Yehudah–Leib Tzirelson (Agudat Israel), Rabbi Moshe Hinshfarb (Zionist Federation of Romania), Advocate Moshe Shechter, representing the Moldova Zionism, the erudite activist Mr. Moshe I. Dof from Jassy and many representatives of the local government.

 

The Tzeirei Zion groups

bes038.jpg
Illustration No. 3: The Program of the First Zionist Congress in Bessarabia, Kishinev, May 5680 (1920)

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and the Maccabi group under the leadership of Itzchak Rifsman left a great impression on the audience when they stepped on the podium and placed the National flag.

Tuesday– Evening session

  1. Opening remarks
  2. Report regarding the Zionist Federation of London – Dr. Bernstein–Cohen
Wednesday, morning session
  1. Discussions
  2. Lecture about the Zionist Federation in Bessarabia by Dr. Bernstein–Cohen
Evening session
  1. Discussions
  2. Lecture about immigration by Dr. Bernstein–Cohen
  3. Lecture about the cultural activities by I.G. Karmen
  4. Thursday, morning session
Thursday, morning session
  1. Discussions
Thursday, afternoon session
  1. Lecture about He–Halutz by M. Idelman
Friday, morning session
  1. List of decisions
  2. Voting on decisions
  3. Questions
Saturday, evening session
  1. Lecture on the Congress decisions
  2. Resolution on the annual budget of the Zionist Federation of Bessarabia
  3. Questions

 

bes039.jpg
Illustration No. 4: Invitation to the Choral Synagogue of Kishinev for the festive session with the participation of Rabbi Tzirelson and Dr. Bernstein–Cohen

Saturday (Shabat, Parashat “ Emor”), May 8 at 4:00 P.M. sharp.
We will meet at the Chor Shul to hear the good news about Palestine. The Chief Cantor, Rabbi Tzifris and the choir will conduct Minhah (evening service). Rabbi Y.L. Tzirelson and Dr. Bernstein–Cohen will address the audience.

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The following people were elected to the leadership of the Congress: Advocate M. Shechter (Mishar), Honorary Chairman, Dr. Yakov Bernstein–Cohen, Chairman, Engineer Mordechai (Mark) A. Gottlieb and Moshe Postan – vice chairmen, David Wertheim, Israel Blank, Eliyahu Meitus and Itzchak Shwartz, secretaries.

The agenda is proof to the fundamental issues discussed at the Congress. From the start there were stormy ideological discussions between the representatives of the General Zionists and Tzeirei Tzion regarding the construction and the development of Eretz Israel (public vs. private initiatives), the form of the settlements, the Keren Kayemet policies and the organization of the Zionist Federation in Bessarabia.

Asher Zelig Shochetman (El–Igon) from the Tzeirei Zion declared in his opening remarks that Israel will not be built only by declaration and political acts, but by Jewish organized labour. Moshe Idelman and Benyamin Gichenko declared that it's necessary to organize public capital and encourage the youth to join the Halutzim (Pioneers) and not to depend only on the private capital and initiatives. David Wertheim, Yuli (Yehudah) Rabinovich and Abraham Chacham were concerned that the workers will be exploited by the employers and suggested that the private enterprise should contribute a percentage for the benefit of the workers.

Engineer Mordechai A. Gottleib in his lecture on the Agricultural politics in Eretz Israel and the Keren Kayemet rebuffed that and declared that they will “fight with all their might against the workers takeover of Eretz Israel”

Ben–Zion Beltzen suggested setting up a separate settlement for the Bessarabia immigrants in order to encourage the Jews of Bessarabia to increase their contributions to the Keren Kayemet.

Moshe Postman opposed the idea of Dr. Bernstein–Cohen that the Zionist Federation in Bessarabia has to be organized on the basis of all the existing factions. He claimed that no other country in the world has only one party that can represent the interests of everyone. His slogan was “First we should separate in order to unite.” He suggested to create a federation to cooperate on the issues regarding the building of Eretz Israel, because the Zionist Federation does not and cannot deal with all the social and political issues in the country.

Dr. Bernstein–Cohen tried to persuade the members of Tzeirei Zion not to separate, because the General Zionists are not able to exist without the youth force that

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is the most active in the Zionist movement in the cities.

At the end of the Congress all the parties decided to work together for Eretz Israel and to retain their individual freedom regarding all other political and social issues. The General Zionists and the Tzeirei Zion pledged not to established coalitions with other parties, especially with the ones that were against the Zionist ideas.

It was decided to organize the local councils on an equality basis. Engineer Mordechai (Mark) Ilitch Gottlieb was elected chairman of Keren Kayemet l'Israel.

During the Congress the delegates heard that Zeev Jabotinsky was sentenced by a military tribunal to a prison term of 15 years and other 19 people were sentenced to 3 years each because they participated in the Jerusalem Jewish Self Defence group during the riots of Nabi–Mussa holiday. The Congress decided to protest this decision at the Government in London.

It was also decided to: 1) Open secret registration for a Bessarabia brigade of the Jewish Legion, and 2) Ask the board in London to facilitate the establishment of the Jewish Legion in order to defend the Yishuv (the Jewish population).

These decisions were sent to a special council for further discussions that will lead to their implementations.


Footnote:

  1. The details of the Congress were reported in the daily “Der Yidd” (The Jew). Kishinev, issue 101–3, by Itzchak Hitron, the representative from Soroca. Return


Step by step – forward

The First Congress of the Bessarabia Zionists had a great resonance among the Jewish public and to the national defence of the Kishinev Jews. It established the foundation for the creation of the Zionist Federation and all its factions and encouraged all organizations to implement the national–cultural aspiration and to work towards the construction of Eretz Israel. The Zionist movement took an important step away from groups with divergent social and political ideas and marched forward to its progress.

The important events at the beginning of the Romanian regime facilitated the unification of the Jewish community and its consolidation as a national minority and the

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foundation of the national movement with its spiritual cultural aspect.

  1. On the 14th of August 1918 the King recognized the rights of national minorities in Romania to public education in their mother tongue and the establishment of the public schools in Yiddish (which had disappeared immediately after the Revolution). Three high schools were dedicated to teach in Yiddish: The Practical High School for Boys and the Gymnasium for Girls in Bender and Gymnasium no. 4 in Kishinev. The two schools in Bender struggled in the first two years (1918/19 and 1920/21), but the school in Kishinev succeeded teaching the general subjects in Yiddish and at the request of the parents, Hebrew was used in the next two years (1920/21 and 1921/22).[1]
  2. Broaden the activities of the Jewish School Board (Yiddishe Schul Comissie) which was elected at the First Teachers Conference in Kishinev in August 1917, to supervise the Jewish schools and to establish government courses for the teachers.
  3. The Romanian government as stipulated in the Paris Peace Treaty of 9 December 1919 promised to respect the rights of minorities in its land and to introduce the right for national education in the government school legislation.
  4. “Tarbut” organization branches were established in 30 locations in the province and given legal status by the Kishinev Tribunal. Eliyahu Ortenberg, Ben–Zion Beltzen, Shlomo Berliand, Israel Berman, Aharon Feinberg, Asher–Zelig Shochetman (El–Igon), Itzchak Schwartz and Itzchak Shreiber (Sari) were elected to the Tarbut Board.
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  1. Creation of a network of educational institutions, the majority from the Talmud–Torah schools that joined Tarbut, kindergartens, public schools and high schools and evening classes for adults using Hebrew as the instruction language. Until the end of 1922 there were 75 institutions – 20 kindergartens, 40 public schools and 15 high schools. The kindergartens and the public schools had more than 10,000 students and 450 teachers.
  2. Set up publishing houses for manuals in Kishinev (The Shechter Brothers, Moriya – I. Berman) and in Beltz (P. Leventon) and print general subjects manuals and Hebrew and Bible stories.
  3. The daily Der Yidd (The Jew) was founded at the end of April 1920 – first of the Jewish newspapers in Bessarabia that lasted more than 2 years[2].
  4. The First Jewish Congress took place in Kishinev during May 4 to May 8, 1920.
  5. In May 1920 the National Independent List lead by Rabbi Yehudah Leib Tzirelson (Zirelson), Dr. Bernstein–Cohen and Moshe Shechter–Mishor (Jassy) participates for the first time in the parliament elections in Kishinev and Beltz. This is the second time the List participated in 1922 and Rabbi Tzirelson elected to the Parliament.
  6. In the summer of 1920, with the approval of the authorities, Tarbut opens continuing education courses for teachers.
  7. The World Zionist Congress takes place in London (Tamuz 5680 –summer 1920). Dr. Bernstein Cohen and Moshe Postman represent Bessarabia. Its aim is to establish a method of Zionist work in Eretz Israel. Creation of the Keren Hayesod.
  8. Tzeirei Zion of Romania held their first conference in Jassy (Alul 10–14, 5680 –1920) and the second in Chernovits on Tamuz 28 to Av 3 5681 – 1921). Eliezer Kaplan, Itzchak Kaspi and Chaim Shorer represented Eretz Israel.
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  1. The He–Halutz organization is founded in Kishinev (Tishrei 5681 –1921) and holds its first elections to the central committee. The First all Romanian He–Haltuz Congress takes place in Kishinev on 26–28 Sivan 5681 – 1921. See the chapter He–Halutz, p 190–191.
  2. The journal “Erd and Arbeit” (Land and Work) is published in Kishinev, first issue on 24 Kislev, 5681 – December 12, 1920. It was a biweekly first, after that it became the weekly publication of the Tzeirei Zion Association in Romania.[3]
  3. The daily Undzer Tzeit (Our time) is taken over from the daily Der Yidd (which folded) starting in August 16, 1922. It appeared until February 18, 1938 when the authorities ordered all political parties and minority press to close. It had 4585 issues.[4]
  4. First fundraising campaign of Keren Hayesod and the Keren Hatakhshitim (Jewellery Fund) in 5681 (1921). Keren Kayemet intensifies its activities.
  5. A committee is established in order to sell The Workers Bank (Bank Hapoalim) bonds.
  6. First Congress of Tarbut (12 –16 Elul, 5682 – 5–9 May 1922) with the participation of teachers who arrived recently from the Ukraine: Itzchak Alterman, Abraham Epshtein, Shlomo Hilleles, Leah Vidrovich, Zadok Weinshtein, Yakov Wasserman, Nachum Tulchinsky (Tal), David Reblevsky and others.
  7. The Creation of the Institute for teachers and kindergarten teachers in the name of Mrs. Miriam Landau[5] directed by the famous educator Itzchak Alterman. The Institute existed for three years (5683–5685 – 1922–1925). It graduated 72 teachers and kindergarten teachers. Due to the Institute's work it was possible to establish a network of schools and kindergarten in all Romania. A large number of the graduates who came to Eretz Israel got important teaching positions.


Footnotes

  1. More information in Volume 2, “National education” chapter Return
  2. See details in the chapter: The National Press, p. 56–57. Return
  3. Idem, p: 58–59 Return
  4. Idem, p. 60–61 Return
  5. Under the cover of “Evening courses” they were teaching the refugees: Romanian and other topics such as: cutting and sawing, bookbinding, paper cutting, painting and drawing and gardening. Return


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Aid and support – The Central American Distribution Committee, “the Joint”

Barely has the Jewish community of Bessarabia recovered from the annexation to Romania in 1918 that many problems requiring immediate solution appeared on its agenda. The Jewish population came out of the lengthy war and the transition period to the Romanian rule impoverished and broken. The expulsion of the Jews of Bucovina from the Austrian front area at the beginning of the war, the loss of lives during the war, the savagery of the retreating Russian armies when the Romanian front collapsed after the October Revolution, the annexation to Romania and the suffering imposed by its regime, the loss of money due to the collapse of the Russian currency – all these caused deep wounds in the Jewish population souls.[1] The economic crisis destroyed human lives and the many aid and support institutions had to limit their activities and even fold. The separation from Russia also meant that organizations such as OPE (Society of the Dissemination of Culture) and EKO (Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers) ceased to exist.

The American Jewish organization “The Joint” that was established during the war to help the Jews of Eastern Europe was forced to came to assist the Jews in this area. The leaders of Poalei Zion in America sent Baruch Zukerman, the first “Joint” envoy, to Bessarabia in May 1919. Due to his influence as representative of this big American organization, he succeeded to get a permit to mobilize the former members, elected in 1918, in order to repair the public organizations and restart their activities.

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A central committee lead by Dr. Bernstein–Cohen was established[2] with half of the membership from the Zionists and half from other non political groups. The committee approved at the all Bessarabia meeting on December 12, 1919 the election of a representative and a stand by representative from each district.[3]

The Joint representatives and the local committees had passionate discussions about the distribution of the funds for education and at the end Zukerman decided to allocate 2/3 of the budget for education.[4] The managers who came after him refused to implement this decision and opted to give individual help to the needy. In fact, this decision only deepened the dependence of the individuals on handouts. Only after many interventions, Zukerman's decision got implemented and from the 300 thousand Lei budget for Kishinev – 100 thousands were allocated for institutions and 100 thousands for food, clothing and shoes for the students.

The author does not want to go unto more details about the Joint activities. This is all detailed in special publications. The author wants to underline the great work of the Zionist representatives and especially the contribution of the Chairman, Dr. Bernstein–Cohen in Kishinev and the province. They were the first to volunteer and they were the backbone of the humanitarian work. The Committee functioned for two years (September 1919 to August 1921), after that the “Joint” employed special representatives without any connection to the local public committee. After that the local committee participated

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in the relief work for the Ukrainian refugees.

During the two years of the Central American Distribution Committee, the Joint gave 7,742,140 Lei and 252,882 Lei were raised locally, a total of 7,995,052 Lei that was allocated[5] as follows: Kishinev district –2,985,865 Lei, Soroca district – 922,270 Lei, Khotin district – 822,486 Lei, Orgheiev district – 725,290 Lei, Beltz district – 719,438 Lei, Bender district – 420,367 Lei, Ismail district – 203,830 Lei, Kahul district – 176,591 Lei to a total of 7,540,669 Lei (1,100,000 Lei where allocated to help the Ukrainian refugees). Allocation for the operational expenses was set at 454,383 Lei. Total 7,995,052 Lei.


Footnotes

  1. See details above in p: 33–34. Return
  2. Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, chairman; Engineer M.A. Gottlieb, vice–chairman; P. Margalit, Sh. Kovarsky, N.M. Roitman, members of the executive; Shmuel Yasky, secretary; Ben–Zion Beltzen, Rabbi Moshe Ghinshparg, H. Ghilishinsky, Shlomo Greenberg, L. Deilis, L. Trachtenberg, Dr. M. Karik, Dr. M. Slutzky, Sh. Knigshatz, Rabbi Zeev Rosenberg – committee members. Return
  3. The local committees that were established to take care of the relief work had the extra task to set up community cells, which became the first national autonomous organizations in the area. Return
  4. The Book of Bernstein–Cohen, Tel Aviv, 5706 (1946), p. 187: B. Zukerman is quoted: “America remembers and respects the cultural values that the Jewish immigrants brought to America and the public development of the Jewish community in America and will gladly give now money to support the Jewish education in Bessarabia” Return
  5. Tzentraler Americaner Komitet (The Central American Committee). Kishinev, Report, May 1919 – August 1921. Table 1. Return


The Relief Committee for the Ukrainian refugees

The civil war that followed the October Revolution became a war between bands of criminals and robbers, who turned their rage and brutality against the Jewish population of Ukraine. The riots spread destruction and ruin and thousands of Jews were massacred. The brutality shook the world public opinion and it became known as the “greatest massacre in Ukraine.” Thousands refugees started to flock to the Dniester frontier with the hope that they will be saved by crossing the river, into Bessarabia, which was recently annexed by Romania.

When epidemics broke up because of the famine and the crowded conditions, the suffering grew even more and the cries for help became louder.

The Jewish community of Bessarabia was shocked by the dire situation of their brothers across the river and immediately offered to help. In October 1919 an official Committee for Refugee Relief was set up in Kishinev (The Minister for Bessarabia Affairs, Pan Halifa gave the permission to Rabbi Tzirelson). The Committe members were Rabbi Tzirelson, Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, Chairman and Advocate Kenigshatz.[1]

The Committee was set up to raise funds for the victims of the riots in Ukraine.

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All across Romania emergency fundraising were organized and more than a million and a half Lei were collected, together with lots of clothing. Unfortunately they were not allowed to transfer the goods across the border. The committee sent a personal request to the King of Romania when he visited Kishinev on May 20, 1920, but the request was not granted. Romania, not very secure about its future in Bessarabia, was worried about any conflicts with the new regime and about infiltrations by the Bolsheviks from across the river. In January 1920, the manager of the Joint in Bessarabia, put his life in danger and assisted by Officer James Baker, who received permission to travel to the Ukraine, transferred half a million Lei to the Kamenets–Podolsk community. This money was received from Scotland for the victims of the war in Bessarabia, but the community decided to give it to their brothers in Ukraine. In the second half of 1920, the activists from Kishinev Ben Zion Belzen and Asher Zelig Shochetman (Eligur) transferred a large sum of money to the Moghilev–Podolsk community, but the majority of the funds were saved in Bessarabia until the refugees made their way across the border in the summer of 1920. Then, the fundraising increased in Bessarabia and around the world. In August–October 1920, the Joint allocated 1,100,000 Lei from the money dedicated to the war victims in Bessarabia to help the refugees. Around the 5681 (1921) Pessah holiday a special tax was imposed on the sale of Matzot and the money was used to distribute free Matzot and other food items to more than 15,000 refugees. In Kishinev this tax raised about 359 thousand Lei.[2]

The towns at the Dniester border also took care of the refugees and provided legal help. In order for the refugees to reside in the town or villages of Bessarabia and not be arrested by the police, it was necessary to arrange for them identity cards. This campaign was called “Bletleh” – “leaves” – because of the special shape of the documents). Community activists visited many towns, especially Bricheva and Edinetz where it was possible to buy these “special goods.”

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bes048a.jpg
Photograph no. 4: Women's Central Committee for Ukrainian Refugees Relief. Kishinev 5681 (1921)

Second Row Middle from right to left: 1–2. Unknown, 3. D. Shwartzman, Vice Chairperson, 4. Helena Babitch, Chairperson, 5. F. Lipson, treasurer.
Upper row, standing: 1.Unkown, 2. M. Roitman, 3. H. Goldshtok, 4–5. Unknown.

 

bes048b.jpg
Photograph no. 5:The Kishinev Ukraine Committee: Matzot distribution to the refugee near the Dniester River, Bender, Spring 5681 (1921)

 

bes048c.jpg
Photograph no. 6: The Kishinev Ukraine Committee near the Dniester River, Bender, during the Matzot distribution

From left to right: 1–2. Unknown, 3. Shlomo Hilleles, 4. Unknown, 5. Solomon Fisher, 6. Dr. J. Bernstein–Cohen, 7. Helena Babitch, 8. Tzvi Shechetman, 9–12 Unknown, 13. A border guard

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bes048d.jpg
Photograph no. 7: The Executive of the Joint and the Central Ukraine Committee, 1921–1923

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After a few days the community activists returned carrying these “Bletleh,” the identity cards, with the name and the photo of each person. This way the refugees were sent away and the place was prepared for the next group.

The Jews of Bessarabia and especially the ones from the Northern region (Khotin, Beltz, Soroca) and from the centre (Orgheiev, Bender, Kishinev) dedicate a lot of work helping the refugees from the Ukraine. There were still occasions when refugees were killed, drowned or robbed by the locals and the soldiers. The people who helped the refugees cross into Bessarabia worked in very difficult conditions because they had to deal with the non–Jewish locals in the villages and on the other hand they had to deal with the Romanian border guards. One officer named Morarescu, who, even though he gained millions from the refugee business at the border area near Vertugeni and Ataki, did not hesitate to order the massacre of a big group of refugees[3].

A City Committee was elected in Kishinev in December 1920, lead by Senator I. Sanilevich, to take care of the increasing refugee problem. They also set up a Women Central Committee lead by Helena Ab. Babitch, Deborah Schwartzman, vice chairperson and Mrs. Lipson, Treasurer. The following Zionists were among the most active in the refugee relief operation: Leib Alexandrovsky, Ben–Zion Beltzen, Shlomo Berliand, Advocate Michael Landau, Rabbi Zeev Rozenfeld, Tzvi Shechter, Ben–Zion Flanderer and others.

When the situation of the refugees concentrated at the Dniester border worsened at the beginning of January 1920, Dr. Bernstein–Cohen went[4] to Paris and London to raise public awareness of the world Jewry and to call for practical action to reduce the plight of the Ukraine Jews. Even the British and the Polish consuls in Bucharest

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were asked to intervene in favour of finding a solution to the refugees.

These efforts turned no practical results and the refugees ignoring all the dangers crossed the border. Again, it was necessary to find a solution for the refugees to remain in Romania together with all the native Bessarabians who were considered “return citizen.” Dr. Bernstein–Cohen went to work again. He was considered a revolutionary and an opponent to the annexation of Bessarabia to Romania, but he took advantage that Marshal Averescu came to power in the spring of 1920 and met with him as part of a delegation lead by the Vice Chairman of the Senate, Nicolae Alexandri from Kishinev and an American visitor who knew Averescu personally. As a result of this meeting, Averescu allowed the refugees to remain in Romania until the massacres and robberies will end or until they can be relocated with families abroad. Averescu knew that Bernstein–Cohen has many connections abroad and he wanted him to facilitate his attendance at the Second Zionist Congress in London, where he could gather support for his government. He even told that to Bernstein–Cohen.[5]

At the end of the summer the number of refugees increased and so were the efforts of the military regime in Bessarabia to catch the refugees when they crossed the border or the ones who made it to the border towns and bring them peacefully to stand trial. Many time the army staged raids in order to arrest the refugees and detain them in refugee camps in Romania. The raid that took place during Yom Kippur 5673 (1923) in Kishinev became well remembered. Rabbi Tzirelson had to desecrate the holyday and come to assist the refugees. He met with General Popovici, the military Governor and as a result the refugees were released.

In general the Romanian authorities were open to the requests of the Jewish community regarding the refugees. The local Bessarabia government and the central government of Prime Minister, Marshal Averescu and his Interior Minister were sympathetic to Rabbi Tzirelson's requests and legalized the Relief Committee and permitted the opening of local branches to assist the refugees.

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Legal aid was one of the most important aspects of the relief work. Leib Alexandovsky from Mizrachi, a ritual slaughterer and examiner and Advocate Michael Landau from Tzeirei Zion worked as legal advisors to the refugees.

Many more activists dedicate their time to help the refugees:

  1. Zeev Tiomkin, who came at the end of March 1921 and served as a special representative of the Executive Committee of the Relief Committee in Paris.[6]
  2. The writer Shlomo Hilleles worked with the refugees on the left bank of the Dniester, in the Ukraine. He pleaded their bitter situation at the Congress of Jewish activists in Prague that took place in September 1921. Hilleles served as the director of the Joint School in Kishinev and was most active in the education of the refugee children. He also initiated the distribution of Matzot to the Ukraine in 5682 (1922) which was approved by the governments of Romania and Russia. He served as chairperson of the immigration office of J.C.A. (Jewish Colonization Association) and worked to settle the refugees from areas outside of Romania.


Footnotes

  1. Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, Chairman; Engineer M.A. Gottleib and Dr. Moshe Slutzky Vice Chairmen; L. Trachtenberg, treasurer; Committee members: I. Orshter, Joseph Babich, Ben Zion Beltzen, Tz. Barabash, Shlomo Berliand, Pinkhas Margalit, G. Margalit, D. Soibelman, Z. Poznansky, M. Kornblat, Moshe Shochat and Tzvi Shechter. Executives: Tz. Barabash, Sh. Berliand (Secretary) and G. Margalit. Return
  2. Keshenever Ukrainer Comitet – Tzwei yor helps–arbet, 1919. (The Kishinev Ukraine Committee – Two Years of Activities), September 1921, table 23 Return
  3. Due to testimonies that reached the Romanian Parliament, Morarescu was arrested and tried, but did not get convicted. He later joined the “Iron Gurard”, the Romanian Fascist party. Return
  4. In the report of the Ukraine Committee the date Dr. Bernstein–Cohen went to Paris is recorded as March 1920, which is contradicting his memoires and the report of the “Joint” Return
  5. The Book of Bernstein–Cohen, p. 188 Return
  6. He also served as spokesman of Keren Hayesod for the first fundraising in Bessarabia. He accompanied Dr. M. Schwartzman and Chaim Greenberg during their visit to Soroca, Bender, etc. Return


The Consolidation of the Jewish Cooperatives

One of the consequences of Dr. Bernstein–Cohen's visit to Eretz Israel was to allocate funds from the Joint for practical activities. With the intervention of L. Motzkin to the general manager of the Joint in Paris and of Dr. Goldman, he secured a $200,000 loan for the development of cooperatives in Romania. Half of this money (8 million Liras) was channeled to the Cooperatives Association in Bessarabia.

The Jewish community of Bessarabia consisted of more than 200,000 people who were mostly small farmers, small shop owners, craftsmen and small merchants. They became impoverished and their sources of revenue decreased when Bessarabia separated from Russia.

The small farms did not bring enough revenue for the workers and the droughts that plagued Bessarabia every three or four years made the situation worse.

Most of the people wished to go to Eretz Israel or

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to any place where they were given entry visas. When their resources got diminished even “old” Romania became a possibility, because the economic situation there was superior to Bessarabia.

The mutual loans and savings institutions played an important role in the Jewish community, but they were inadequate because of lack of funds. The Joint distributions were therefore directed to help the cooperatives.

 

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