The First Zionist Congress that took place in Kishinev in May 1920 elected a Central Committee led by the veteran activist engineer A. Gottlieb. The following people were members of the management: Shlomo Keinresky (General Zionists), Sheremban (Mizrachi), Leib Trachtenberg (Tzeirei Zion). The secretary was Yitschak Shreibman and when he resigned to return to school, the post was filled by the secretary of the Zionist Federation, Mordechai Shichman.
Because the work load was very demanding for one person, there were no developments for more than a year and a half until the beginning of 5682 (1922). Then it was decided to separate the Keren Kayemet from the Zionist Federation. They hired Simcha Rosenberg to be the new special secretary.
The special envoys, Michael Yachinson and Meir Zak (Haezrakhi), who also worked for Keren Hayesod, visited each and every city, towns and villages to promote the funds. As a result, local committees of Keren Kayemet were established in many places which increased the fund's activities. The report presented at the First Congress of Keren Kayemet (end of May 1924) reflects the development of the fund in the last 4 years.
The Fund grew from 42 centres in 5681 (1921) to 84 centres in 5684 (1924). It's important to mention the great work of volunteers such as Joseph Barafael and Leib Glantz.
From its inception, the Chief Rabbi of Bessarabia, Yehudah Leib Tzirelson was a great supporter of the Keren Kayemet. In July 1920 (5680) he published in the dayly Der Yidd (The Jew) an appeal entitled Genug Shlofen (Enough Seeping) explaining the scope of the fund and encouraging the community to support the fund:
Appeal to the community from the Chief Rabbi of Bessarabia Yehudah Leib Tzirelson
…In the future, the synagogues and the houses of study in Babylonia (Diaspora) will be transported and reestablished in Eretz Israel (Talmud, Meggilah, 29a). The sages were so aglow with visions of redemption that they were kissing the stones of the land, took pleasure in rolling in her dust and with their bare hands laid the stones on her sidewalks, (Talmud, Katuboth, 112,ab). They showed us how we can redeem our land.
The united synagogues can achieve in a few months what a single individual could achieve in tens of years. The actions of these united synagogues, if they are done for the benefit of Eretz Israel and her people's history, can result in a miracle of rapidly making the land blossom again.
Therefore the Talmud says that the time will come when the synagogues and the houses of study in the redemption process will achieve such glory that they will be forever inscribed in the history. This is the real process that will bring us to achieve permanence in Eretz Israel.
Now is the time! Now, that the decision about Eretz Israel was taken at San Remo; now that our eyes see the poor, old, lifeless Zion, the widow opening her arms to hug her opressed, broken and anguished sons who are now entering the era of the liberation movement now that each small piece of land we work and each tree and plant that we plant, each small building we erect in Palestine are the signs that we establish new life for the people and the nation.
It is now imperative to strive and follow the Talmud instructions, and it is upon the union of synagogues to act with all our strength for the redemption of our land. We can't miss the opportunity of revitalizing the land and we have to start right away, hand in hand with the immigration.
What else should the organizations do to fulfill the Talmud decree?
The almighty GD was busy planting since the Creation: And GD planted the Garden of Eden and when you will go to Eretz Israel, you will be busy planting (Midrash Raba, Va'Yikra, chapter 25:3). It is known that Eretz Israel is in need of forests, which are the source of life for the land; because without forests, life is unbearable.
Although in the past the land was covered with forests, right now we feel their scarcity.
As early as 1904, the Zionist movement decided to plant a forest with individual donations of trees in memory of Herzl, the Herzl Forest, under the management of Keren Kayemet. The Herzl Forest has right now almost 400 thousand trees, yet, Eretz Israel needs a few million trees. Therefore the individual donations are not sufficient and we need the cooperation of the public organizations, like the synagogues, which can easily raise money for hundred trees at the time to be planted in the name of the synagogue.
The Yavneh Synagogue headed the initiative of the chairman, engineer M. Gottlieb and at the first anniversary of Herzl's death decided to plant a grove in its name, however, you know that one swallow does not a summer make!
The Yavneh Synagogue should serve as an example to all the other synagogues in Kishinev and the entire new and old Romania. The Jews of old Romania suffered less spiritually and financially than the Jews from neighbouring countries, and I hope that they will be first to answer to this appeal.
Dear Brothers! Representatives of the synagogues!
Please undertake to implement this campaign which will bring you nearer to wonderful endeavours for the good of our nation. Mitzvah brings a Mitzvah or as the French say Premier pas engage le second (a first step brings the next one).
For a moment forget your affiliations, status and parties! We have to be united and abandon our separate views. Remember that for the last 1853 years of our Diaspora, we, for the first time, will witness an international declaration that will return us to our homeland. Remember that our united actions and GD's help will redeem our wonderful and blessed Eretz Israel, the magical land that will receive us and be our future, heal the wounds and deliver our brothers from the poverty of the Ukraine, Galicia, Hungary, etc.
We slept enough! We let ourselves be led by so called experts (mevinim) and rely on other people's work; enough asking questions and criticising others, especially when they act for the benefit of the public let's now start
acting for ourselves and achieve concrete results. Let's rely on ourselves and on each other. Each one should participate and provide the materials to build the homeland of our holy forefathers and our great prophets!
Let's remember that the real wealth a person will leave to the next generation is the contribution to save the nation and recover her from the destruction of history.
The bottom line is Enough sleeping!
Signed: Yehudah Leib Tzirelson,
President (ABD av beit din)) Keren Kayemet of Kishinev and Galil
Rabbi Tzirelson, who was much respected, signed together with Dr. BernsteinCohen and the chairman, engineer Mordechai Gottlieb the circular sent to synagogue treasurers asking them to use the money collected on the eve of Yom Kippur (the platter) for the Keren Kayemet fund. Also, on Kislev 5682 (1922), he sent a special appeal for Hanukah.
The visit of Menachem Ussishkin, director of the Keren Kayement in Jerusalem turned the First Congress into a great fete. He was the first leader who visited Kishinev after the WWI and was received with great honour. Many people accompanied him from the train station on Alexandrovky Street to his hotel on Pushkin Street. The honour guard was provided by Maccabi youth, who also served as his personal security during the visit.
The Congress opened on 25 Iyar 5684 (May 5, 1924) at the Express Arena and was attended by 3,000 people, among them 116 representatives from 44 localities in Bessarabia, 50 guests from the border towns and many dignitaries from the municipal institutions in the city. The welcoming remarks were presented by Dr. Moshe Slutzky from the Community Council and Yefim (Chaim) Grubdrok from the city council.
In his remarks, Ussishkin pointed to three basic issues important for the Zionist action: a. Solidarity of the entire Jewish people with Eretz Israel; b. becoming an industrious people; c. reversing the migration from the country to the city, which happened to us in the Diaspora.
The next day, the Congress elected its officers: M. Ussishkin honorary chairman, Dr. Bernstein Cohen, president, Mordechai A. Gottleib and Israel Skwirsky vicepresidents, Yakov Wasserman, Simcha Rosenberg and Reuven Shreibman (Shari), secretaries.
Ussishkin gave a report on the situation in Eretz Israel, on the economic development and the establishment of the Jewish villages. When he was asked if Keren Kayement succeeded to redeem three times more land in the last three years he answered: We are situated between two stormy seas, the Mediterranean Sea and the Arab Sea and our future depends on holding on to our land!
Ussishkin's visit at the massive general assembly on Shabbat afternoon and on Sunday morning left a great impression on the enthusiastic audience. He lectured on Sunday in Hebrew on the Jewish culture, on the Jewish education and on the significance of the Hebrew University for the national revival.
The participants at the Congress received with great enthusiasm Ussishkin's call to raise 12 thousand Sterling Liras (12 million Lei) until the end of 5686 (1926).
The report presented to the Second Congress at the beginning of 5687 (1927) shows that the Keren Kayemet was active in 165 locations compared with 84 in 1924 and raised 4,692,188 Lei in 1925 and 3,521,439 Lei in 1926 (compared with 1,921,808 Lei in 1924). Between 1924 and 1927 the Keren Kayemet raised 10,135,435 Lei close to the goal set by the Bessarabia Jewish community. This was a great achievement considering that Bessarabia suffered a serious drought in the summer of 5685 (1925). The Hunger Call was heard in the press all through 1926 and many localities had to set up committees to help the hungry.
At the beginning it was feared that this economic crisis which also increased the emigration from Bessarabia to distant places will affect the national funds, yet the revenue for 1926 was only 25% less than in 1925.
In the winter of 5685 (1925), Keren Kayemet sent to Kishinev Asher Zelig Sochetman (AlIagur) and Yoseph Fisher (Ariel) for three months. They succeeded to visit 15 localities but had to leave after 2 month because the political, legal situation created by the revolt in Tatar Bunar in the South of Bessarabia. They limited their work to organizational work
with the women and youth organizations and did very little fundraising.
In September 1925, Sh. Givoni from Gilaadi village came to Kishinev to work with youth groups as the representative of Keren Kayemet. His task was to unite the Zionist Youth from all factions and to set up a committee to work for the Keren Kayemet, especially for the Blue Box campaign.
He helped organize a library with a reading room for the youth and founded the journal HaNoar (The Youth) which had only 4 issues. He left Bessarabia in December because of serious problems at home and because he was limited to work only with youth. In a letter he sent on December 12 to Jerusalem he wrote: We returned to the days of Trumpedor in these difficult times, there is no sense I stay away, I, a son of Gilaadi village, will have to immediately return and help my friends!
Another important event in the life of the Jewish community was the visit of the famous American writer Reuven Breinin at the beginning of Nisan 5687 (1927) on his return from Eretz Israel. Breinin participated at a meeting of all Zionist organizations central committees and discussed issues concerning their activities. He lectured about his trip to Eretz Israel to a large audience of friends of Shabbat Eves at the Zionist Centre hall. He also visited Jewish schools, the Youth union, various charitable institutions and at the end of his visit he met with a large group of Jewish intellectuals.
His stories about the visit to Eretz Israel inspired many, even the ones who were not interested in the national revival endeavour.
His visit prompted among the intellectual circles interest in the idea of national redemption. A committee was set up to declare the following Lag b'Omer as a national day of writers and artists for national redemption and a brochure was published in four languages Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian and Romanian to publicise this event.
Before leaving Kishinev, Breinin sent a letter to the press thanking all for the warm reception and suggesting that the intellectuals take a more active role in the process of building Eretz Israel.
Here is the translation of Breinin's letter that was published in Erd und Arbeit, issue 26 (103) of March 26, 1926:
Please allow me to express in your esteemed journal my deepest thanks to all the activists from the Zionist Centre, to the management and staff of Keren Kayemet and to my brothers and sisters in Kishinev for the warm reception and the honours I received.
Before I leave from here to continue my work towards the solidarity of all our intellectuals with our sacred goal of the Keren Kayemet, I would like to express my hope that the committee of 22 intellectuals who came together inspired by my lecture will be successful in their Lag b'Omer demonstrations across Bessarabia. I hope that they will demonstrate to the Jewish and nonJewish public that the Jewish intellectuals are leaders in the action of National Redemption and are ready to help the Keren Hayesod realize its fundraising campaign goals to Kishinev.
I call on all Bessarabia Jews to join the Lag b'Omer demonstration where all writers, poets and artists will get together for the redemption of our land in Eretz Israel.
We are living in difficult times, therefore Eretz Israel has to be recovered and it is everybody's duty to give a helping hand towards this noble goal.
Reuven Breinin, Kishinev, Thursday, 10 Nissan 5676 (1926)
|Illustration no. 5: Special advertisement of the Bessarabia intellectuals calling for participation to the Lag b'Omer 1926 benefit event for Keren Kayemet. In three languages: Hebrew, Yiddish and Romanian: For Our Homeland|
|Illustration no. 6: Special appeal of the Jewish journalists in Bessarabia for the Keren Kayemet: For Our Homeland (in Russian). In the middle of the page, the photograph of Reuven Breinin|
Chernovitz, 37 August 1921
1. Unknown, 2. A. Lerner (BarShira), 3. P. Lerner, 46. Unknown, 7. Sh. Shechter, 811. Unknown, 12. I. Geler, 13. A. Koralnik, 14. S. Goldfeld, 15. Ek. Greenberg, 16. Magnezin, 17. I. Rosenberg, 18. L. Glantz, 19. Dr. Ch. Borodiansly (BarDayan), 20. Dr. B. Fucks, 21. Eliezer Kaplan, 22. Advocate M. Landau, 23. I. Kaspi, 24. Dr. M. Helfman, 25. Ch. Shorer, 26. I. Schwartz, 27. D. Zaltzman (Malachi), 2829. Unknown, 30. N. Tulchinsky (Tal), 31. Atara Belzen, 32. I. Barafael, 33. Ab. Weissman, 34. I. Zemura, 35. I. Freink, 36. I. Shteinhouse (Amitzur), 37. I. Gorpel, 38. Karakoshansly, 39. D. Wertchaim, 40. Dr. AL. Rabinovich, 4142. Unknown, 43. Sh. Geinichovich, 44. Unknown, 45. M. Shtern, 4647. Unknown, 48. D. Shechter, 49. I. Lerner (Laron), 50. I. Danovich, 5152. Unknown, 53. Karni, 54. Sh. Belzen, 55. AL Ortenberg, 5657. Unknown, 58. I. Wertchaim, 59. AG. Abeles (Kochavi), 60. N. Sofer, 61. Dr. V. Abeles, 6265. Unknown, 66. Mrs. Shpiegel (Marani), 67. Dr. Shpiegel (Marani), 68. Unknown, 69. D. Nusbaum, 7072. Unknown, 73. M. Abeles (Landau), 74. Unknown, 75. M. Goldman, 76. Bograd, 77. P. Karlan, 8788. Unknown
Standing from right to left: M. Yachinson, I. Weinshtein (Idel Melamed), M. Bubis, V. Abeles
Seating: M. Landau, M. Weisman (Bar Levi), I. Lerner, Z. Rosenthal, Shlomo Hilleles
and workers of the Keren Kayemet office, Kishinev, Iyar 5684 (May 1924)
From right to left sitting: Rabbi A. Polinkovsky, Sh. Rosenberg, M. Ussishkin, M. Gotlieb (Chief Executive Officer), Sh. Keinarsky.
Standing: Rabbi Z. Rosenfeld, L. Charsonsky, M. M. Orchovsky, M. Goldman, I. Barafael, L. Trachtenberg.
From Right to left sitting: M. Davidson, I. Skwirsky, A. LichtingerNahir (envoy from Eretz Israel), Sh. Rosenberg, A. Rabinovich
Standing: L. Charsonsky
From right to left sitting: I.R. Yaffe, Dobroskin, P. Levtov, M. Masis, I. Shuster
Standing: Albintzer, D. Beit Din, I. Schwartz, I. Dubinovsky. D. Mildrom, D. Guverman.
(representative of the Jewish Agency)
(see his Appeal in pages 7476)
( Charmain of the last Executive Committee)
(Vice Chairman of the Keren Kayemet)
The Second Congress of the Keren Kayemet took place on 2426 Cheshvan 5687 (13 November 1926) with the participation of 59 delegates and 72 guests from the provincial localities.
Among the participants were: Dr. G. Wolshtein from the Head office in Jerusalem, guest of honour Chief Rabbi and Senator Yehudah Leib Tzirelson and Dr. Meir Ebner the chairman of the Jewish Agency of Bucovina and member of the Romanian Parliament.
The Congress opened with a festive ceremony at the Colizei Theatre led by engineer Joseph Beigelman, a member of the executive committee, replacing the chairman M.A. Gottlieb who was away sick.
Beigelman dedicated his speech to the 25 Anniversary of the Keren Kayemet. Dr. Wolshtein, Dr. Ebner, Rabbi Tzirelson and Advocate Shmuel Rosenhoupt from the municipal council and representative of the youth movement addressed the Congress with welcoming remarks. The main speech was given by Israel Skwirsky.
In the Report presented to the Congress (discussed before) it's mentioned that because of the pressure from the Keren Hayesod, the self imposed tax was cancelled and it was decided to run only four traditional fundraising campaigns annually. A great effort was made to attract the intellectuals to the Keren Kayemet and to the idea of Homeland redemption.
Among the participants at the grand ball were Leib Glantz, Efraim Davidson, Tzvi Torkanovsky, Zalman Rosenthal, Cantor Rivilis, Prof. Shildkrat (Celan) and many more. Reuven Breinin, who visited Kishinev a short while before could not attend because he went to Romania.
This congress collected about 100 signatures for the 25th anniversary Yearbook which was supposed to bring in about 2 million Lei.
The new Executive elected had the following membership: Mordechai Gottleib, chairman, Simcha Rosenberg, secretary, and Tzvi Bunfeld, Leib Trachtenberg, Israel Skwirsky, Rabbi Zeev Rosenfeld and Shimshon Shechter executive officers.
On 4 Kislev 5687 (December 10, 1926), Gottlieb, (who even substituted for one year for Dr. BernsteinCohen as head of the Jewish Agency in Bessarabia) passed away suddenly, leaving the Jewish community in a great shock. Gottleib was a personality in the city and was also appreciated and honoured outside the Jewish community circles.
A meeting was called on 2425 December and Nachum M. Roitman was elected chairman. Roitman was a veteran Zionist known in the community from the days of the Post Bureau at the beginning of this century. Roitman, who also served as Chairman of the Jewish Cooperative Union
of Bessarabia, refused to accept the post and it took a lot of convincing by the entire community to have him to accept the Keren Kayemet post.
The Third Congress of Keren Kayemet took place on 1314 Kislev 5690 (1516 December 1929) at the same time as the Keren Hayesod Congress. Nachum Sokolow, chairman of the Zionist leadership participated at the opening and closing ceremonies of both organizations. (See his speech outline on page 113). 50 delegates and many guests from the province participated. Other speeches were given by Arieh Lichtinger (Nahir), envoy from Eretz Israel, I. Skwirsky and Sh. Shechter.
The report for the last three years 1927, 1928 and 1929 (5687, 5688 and 5689) was presented by the secretary Sh. Rosenberg and it highlighted the revenue for these years: 5687 3,974.524 Lei; 5688 3,478.041 Lei and 5689 2,441,589 Lei to a total of 9,894, 154 Lei.
The total revenue was lower than in the previous three years due to many conditions including the drought in Bessarabia for the last twothree years. In the summer of 5688 the agricultural production of Bessarabia was almost zero and the population of cities and villages was suffering from starvation.
The survey carried out in the famine areas by Zalman Rosenthal, the editor of Undzer Tzeit, and by Yacov Leshchinsky, envoy of foreign Relief Committees, for the Committee for Relief of Hunger in Kishinev show a very bleak situation. It concludes that it is necessary to bring help to the hungry in Bessarabia and in parts of Romania. The funds' activists understood that it is crucial to divert funds for helping the hungry and this reduced the Keren Kayemet revenue by 30% in 5689 (1929) compared with the previous year.
The two month and a half visit of David BarRavHai, a special envoy from Eretz Israel and a big promoter of funds was not able to improve the situation. Therefore the golden pledges from the previous Congress decreased from 100% to 56% and the revenue reached only 5,466.623 Lei,
to about 55% (5687 51%, 5688 59% and 56.6% in 5689). Despite that the people still contributed and showed support to the activities of the funds.
On Lag b'Omer 5687 (1927) Keren Kayemet organized a trip to Beltz and surrounding areas and to the HeHalutz farm in Biliceni where more than 5,000 people participated. The trip brought in more than 50,000 Lei compared to only 8,000 the previous year and helped strengthen the support for the HeHalutz movement and the idea of land redemption in Eretz Israel.
|Edinitz||106,050||Valea lui Vlad||38,860||Tirnova||10,403|
|Varzareshti||4,122||Pripiceni Tarif||2,865||39 places that|
|Poiana Cunitza||4,113||Cepleutz||2,793||donated each|
|Onitzcani||4,059||Hashdau||2,653||less than 2,000||39,381|
|The Blue Boxes||2,062,976||59.3%|
|The Golden Book||198,809||5.7%|
|The Herzl Forest||167,827||4.8%|
The new executive committee elected at this congress included: Nakhum M. Roitman, Chairman, engineer Joseph Beigelman, Miriam Berger, I. Halperin, Michael Yachinson, advocate Michael Landau, Chaim Feigin, Dr. L. Frenkel, Rabbi Zeev Rosenfeld, Shimshon Shechter and David Shafrir (envoy from Eretz Israel to heHalutz) and Simcha Rosenberg, secretary.
The revenue of Keren Kayemet increased in 5690 (1930). In the first three month the representatives were Aryeh LichtingerNahir from Eretz Israel and Israel Skwirsky, Mendel Davidson and Abraham Nisenboim. Yehezkel Landoy, the secretary of the organization, Simcha Rosenberg and Isar Rabinovich continued the work for the remainder of the year.
In the report presented at the general meeting of 1112 Tevet 5691 (December 31, 1930 January 1, 1931) it's noted that despite the deterioration of the economic situation of the Jewish Yishuv (community) in Eretz Israel due to the Shaw Simpson Commission, the White Paper and the land tenure restrictions, the revenue of Keren Kayemet was higher. The revenue of 5790 (1930) was 3,189,171 Lei compared to 2,441,559 Lei in 5689 (1929), an increase of 29.4 % with a slight decline in expenses. The report praised the volunteer work of the representatives from Eretz Israel Zeev and Moshe Shafrir, Itzchak Berger (manager of Keren Hayesod) and Yacov Motniak (Ismail).
The Tarbut organization insisted in integrating the teaching about Eretz Israel in their manuals. The circular published for the 25 Anniversary of Keren Kayemet in 5687, signed by the board members Shlomo Berliand, Israel Berman, I. Wasserman and secretary D. Vinitzky, calls for all teachers to act towards instilling in the hearts of the students the desire to redeem the land and to train to be pioneers in the homeland.
Tarbut strived to include in their manuals lessons about the life in Eretz Israel and when LichtingerNahir visited Bessarabia this action widened. Wherever he visited, he met with teachers and gave a special lecture at the Third Congress of Tarbut on Tevet 5690 (1930) about the topic. The teachers elected a standing committee for the Keren Kayemet (Aba Blank, Hillel Dobrov, Yeshayahu Vinitzky, Itzchak Piter, Yacov Kutsher and Itzchak Shwartz) to act and make contact with all the institutions. Dr. Eliyahu Rosenbaum (Maroz), zl and Leah Vidrovich, representatives of the Keren Kayemet head office in Israel visited Bessarabia in 5691 (1931) and helped Tarbut implement its plans.
Dr. Rosenbaum visited 40 educational institutions in 11 important cities and worked with teachers and students towards dissemination of Eretz Israel knowledge and national awareness, the inclusion and
strengthening of Eretz Israel awareness in the school curriculum. He met with teachers, activists and parents and fought to raise the level of Jewish education and of the teachers. Although he did not participate in any fundraising activities, his visit had a great impact everywhere he went.
The women's societies played an important role in the activities of the Keren Kayemet. In 5691 (1931) the first woman representative, Leah Vidrovich, came to Bessarabia for a three month visit. In this short time Leah succeeded to mobilize the women and instill in them the idea of the homeland redemption. In the places she visited, Kishinev, Khotin and Calarashi, she organized the women to work for the Acres Project. She instructed the women's societies to hold a series of bazaars for the benefit of the Keren Kayemet. Bessarabia community wanted her to stay longer, but their request was denied because she was needed for work in other countries.
Another important visitor was Natan Bistritzky, a writer and erudite lecturer and the head of the publicity and propaganda of the Head Office in Jerusalem. He came to Bessarabia in 5692 (1932) with Leah Vidrovich and brought a lot of the Eretz Israel ambience, songs and stories.
He participated to the four local congresses that took place in Kishinev, Beltz, Lipcani and Romanovka and also visited Bender and Akkerman and the participants had a chance to meet and get direct inspiration from this important guest. In Kishinev, he participated at a Tarbut teachers' conference that took place on the Intermediary Days of Sukkot. The poet Yacov Kutshar wrote a song in Bistritzky's honour which was set on a popular tune and distributed in thousand of exemplars in Romania and other countries. He also participated at a Gordonia and at a Shomer haTzair convention which helped strengthen the pioneer movement.
Together with Leah Vidrovich he participated at the First Congress of the Zionist Women's Society of Bessarabia that took place in Kishinev on 1819 of October and helped them define their action plans and activities.
Unfortunately, starting at the beginning of 1932, all these activities did not bring an increase in revenue for Keren Kayemet. The drought of the summer of 1932 in Bessarabia hit hard on the Jewish community whose primary income came from agriculture and from dealing with the rural population.
These figures from the 1930 Census will better illustrate the situation:
|Urban population:||370,971 people||13%|
|Rural population:||2,493,431 people||87%|
|Jewish population:||206,958 people||7.20%|
|Urban population:||99,392 people||48.03%|
|Rural population:||107,566 people||51.97%|
This dire situation worried all visitors to Bessarabia. In a letter from July 12, 1932, Natan Bistritzky writes:
My opinion is that the decrease in revenues in this country is the result of the difficult economic situation that had never been seen before in Bessarabia. This situation is continuing and who knows if we will have any revenues at all. Despite that, we continue to work to strengthen the Women's and the Youth organizations until the situation will improve.
In this period between the Third and Fourth Congress, Simcha Rosenberg, the general secretary of the Keren Kayemet passed away after a short illness on 21 Adar 5673 (1933) . He was only 30 years old. In his short life he devoted more than ten years to the Keren Kayemet and was immensely loved
in the Zionist circles because of his dedication and loyalty. His death also contributed to the decrease in revenues. He was succeeded by Isar Rabinovich, the second secretary.
Another factor that caused a decline in the fund's revenue was the move of the HeHalutz Centre to Bucharest followed by Gordonia and HaShomer HaTzair. A slight improvement happened in 5694 (1934) when these organizations opened in Kishinev a regional office, managed by Elkanah Margalit to work together with the Keren Kayemet.
The Fourth Congress took place on 2728 Tishrei 5694 (October 1017, 1933) with the participation of N. Bistritzky. Because of the dire economic situation and as a result of the decline in revenues (2,013,046 Lei in 1931 compared with 3,159,171 Lei in 1930), Bessarabia was only supposed to raise 2.5 million Lei for 1932 and 1933.
Only two fundraisers were planned for this period: the Arlozorov (Arlosoroff) Fund in memory of Arlozorov who was assassinated in Tel Aviv and the Ussishkin Fund in honour of his 70th birthday.
The Arlozorov Fund which closed on the 8th of December raised 164,078 Lei from 18 locations. The Ussishkin fund raised close to 300,000 Lei from 28 location, short of the expected 444,000 Lei, but it was continued in 1935 and raised almost half a million Lei.
The total revenue of 1934 was 2,015,082 Lei with the Women's Society placing first, the General Zionist, second and Tzeirei Zion third. Poalei Zion and Mizrachi came last. Gordonia raised 272,313 Lei, HaShomer HaTzair 83,879 Lei, Maccabi 66,813 Lei and after them Beitar and others.
The revenues for 1935 reached 1,851,471 Lei and were achieved by the following methods: the boxes 697,444Lei (37.67%) and the Stamp Campaign 174,756 Lei. In the first week of the Stamp Campaign donations reached 125,000 Lei mainly from the Youth organizations Gordonia, HaShomer HaTzeir, Dror, Maccabi and Veseliya. Gordonia collected 62 thousand Lei and won a trip to Eretz Israel (6,000 Lei) and the books of H. Arlozorov.
List of donations by party in Romanian Lei:
The report for 1934 and 1935 praised the work of the following envoys: Dina Carol and I. Melamed (Eretz Israel), Yechezkel Landoy, Shimshon Bronshtein and Rabbi Zeev Rosenfeld, and the work of the volunteers Miriam Berger, advocate Yehudah Geler, engineer Joseph Beigelman, Dr. Meir Kotik, advocate Itzchak Koren and others.
The Chief Rabbi Yehudah Leib Tzirelson dedicated a lot of time to the Keren Kayemet and he also participated at the 70th anniversary of M. Ussishkin.
The Fifth Congress took place on 30 Tishrei 1st Cheshvan (October 2728, 1935 with the participation of Meir Haezrachi, the special envoy from the Jerusalem Head Office and 57 delegates. The Congress faced difficult problems because of the resignation of the chairman Nachum M. Roitman.
Roitman became chairman in November 1926 when Gottleib passed away. He was the head of the Union of Jewish Cooperatives (The Loan and Savings Trust) and the Hunger Relief Organization and understood well the serious economic situation of the Jewish community was suffering due to the drought in Bessarabia. Another problem was created by the devaluation of the Romanian currency, the Lei, and the exchange rate against the Eretz Israel Lira.
The Zionist movement faced internal strife and lack of leadership when Dr. BernsteinCohen immigrated to Eretz Israel.
Roitman wrote to Ussishkin in November 29, 1927 a letter where he expressed his concerns:
I cannot fulfill all my duties. They demand energy and physical power. I cannot travel and dedicate the attention my work requires. I do not have all the qualities needed. Only
the death of Gottlieb and the difficulties to find a qualified replacement forced me to accept the post. The first year has passed and it only caused me a lot of angst. All the promises of the Zionist Federation did not materialize. I was correct on my negative opinion of the Zionist Federation there is a lot of infighting. We have to invite someone who can influence all these fighting factions without causing harm to the parties. I think that I am not suitable for this task.
Roitman, the loyal assistant of Dr. Bernstein Cohen at the Post Bureau, could not abandon the daily activities such as the Blue Box that were the basis of the Keren Kayemet achievements. He stayed away from the narrow party politics even though he was close to the Labour movement and was active in Bank Hapoalim, HeHalutz, etc.
He continued his work with his two assistants: Yechezkel Manzur (General Zionists) and Shimon Ortenberg (Labour Movement), but he succumbed to his illness that paralyzed him and finally he died on January 17, 1937. Still, before his death when he could not attend the meeting of 3 Cheshvan 5697 (October 19, 1936) and Zalman Rosenthal chaired the meeting, he accepted to work for three more month. His last wish was do not parade my body around the institutions in the city and his wish was granted. He was a very humble man and a great model to the community.
After his death, the leadership of the Keren Kayemet was given to a three men committee: Leib Alexandrovsky (Mizrachi), Shmuel Rosenhouft (General Zionists) and Zalman Rosenthal (Labour Movement), which functioned until the Sixth Congress in December 1938.
The Sixth Congress of 11 Kislev 5699 (December 4, 1938) elected a new executive comprised by Leib Alexandrovsky, Chaim Cohen and Zalman Rosenthal and directed by Joseph Pagis, the new director of the Union of Jewish Cooperatives a very well liked personality in the community. He directed the Keren Kayemet until the end of June 1940, when Bessarabia was reoccupied by the Soviet Russia. The Central committee had the following members: Shimon Ortenberg, Shlomo Greenberg, advocate Yehudah Geler, BenZion Weinshtein, Shabtai Polinkovsky, advocate Itzchak Koren, Shlomo Keinresky, Shuliya Rentovich (Shalom Ronen) and advocate Itzchak Retach.
At the beginning of 1936 the special envoy Aharon Shapira (Kobne) came to Bessarabia to work on a special fundraising campaign for workers camps. After a few weeks he was moved to work in Bucovina therefore the special fundraiser did not succeed as hoped. He came back to Bessarabia in 1937 and in 1938 for the HaGelilah fundraising campaign, which had great success, but because he was moved again, many projects did not materialize.
In 1936, Abraham Polikman and Esther Kaplan, both from Eretz Israel, worked successfully in Bessarabia. Esther was especially successful and visited Kishinev and other 15 locations, despite the bad weather and the difficult traveling conditions. She worked for WIZO and founded Young WIZO. In 19361937, the 38 bazaars raised 470 thousand Lei, but because of the difficult economic situation bazaars were not held any more in 1938.
In 1936 the revenues reached 2,144,885 Lei, an increase of 300 thousand Lei from the year before.
At the beginning of 1937 with the raise to power of the antiSemitic parties the situation became very difficult especially after the police order of December 1936 that prohibited collecting money for the Funds.
The police raided the house of envoy Karger, who worked with the collection boxes and confiscated his passport, donors' lists and collection boxes that were in his possession. He was under police surveillance and was freed only with a monetary guarantee. He was spared the jail sentence after 40 people testified that he only distributed the boxes.
Isar Rabinovich the secretary wrote in a letter sent to Jerusalem on December 17, 1936:
Our situation is very critical we had to stop our activities in 20 locations (Ismail, Akkerman, Tighina (Bender), Orgheiev, etc the biggest and most important cities; the organizations and the activists are panicking. In addition to the difficulty of collecting money, we have trials in Kishinev: fist and for most the trial of Karger and of HaShomer HaTzair and HaOved, because of their links with the Keren Kayemet. The biggest offence now is money collection for the Keren Kayemet. You have to increase the pressure from Eretz Israel. I wrote about that in many letters. Please answer privately.
In a letter of December 28, 1936 he wrote:
The police already interfered in most of the localities. We can't implement Bistritzky's visit. Miss Kaplan was sent back to the Romanian border by the Jassy police and cannot return to Bucharest. Karger's passport was seized and it has not been returned yet.
In a letter received in Jerusalem on January 12, 1937 he wrote:
The situation is getting worst. Karger is still under surveillance. Shapira also received notice to leave the country after his permit expires. I will meet with Bistritzky. The bazaars were cancelled. In Bucovina we have a similar situation and no help from Bucharest.
The order was lifted in January 1937, but because so much time was wasted, the revenues were very low only 1,383,539 Lei were collected in 1937 and 1,640,778 Lei in 1938.
New conditions developed in 1938. At the elections to the Romanian Parliament of December 20, 1937 no party received the 40% votes necessary to form a government. The Iron Guard, an antiSemitic party (in the past the pro fascist student movement the Legionnaires, Legionarii, that murdered the Prime Minister Duca), led by Corneliu Codreanu, who murdered the Jassy Chief of Police and was acquitted, became a majority party and spread panic all the way to King Carol. The king selected the worst and called on the second antiSemitic party of GogaCuza, which got only 9.8% of the votes to cooperate with the other parties and run new elections. 44 days of this government caused the biggest disaster in the economy and shook the base of the Jewish community. The king ordered the formation of a national unity government led by the Patriarch Miron Cristia and the dissolution of all other parties.
A state of emergency was decreed in the entire country, Bessarabia being especially affected by the military regime. Censorship was imposed and all the minorities newspapers published in Yiddish, Hebrew, German and Russian were closed. HeHalutz organization was outlawed and all training centres closed. All propaganda and publicity stopped and the Keren Kayemet had to limit its activities and stop working altogether
in 74 centres, about half of the total locations in a regular year.
It became clear that the national Zionist organization could not function properly in those difficult times.
The Sixth Congress opened on 11 Kislev 5699 (December 4, 1939) with the participation of the special representative Meir HaEzrachi. In his opening remarks, Zalman Rosenthal gave a report on the dire situation of the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, stressing the need to increase our efforts to strengthen our position in Eretz Israel. At the conclusion, he eulogized N.M. Roitman, a loyal and dedicated person who died just before the Sixth Congress.
Isar Rabinovich, the secretary, gave an assessment of the activities for 5696, 5697 and 5698 (1936, 1937, 1938) and indicated that the HaGelilah campaign was somehow successful due to the hard work of Aharon Shapira and Esther Kaplan (from Eretz Israel), Israel Shildkrut, Yehudah Geler, Zalman Rosenthal and Rabbi Levi Shternberg.
The Congress passed an emergency resolution and the Jewish community was asked to respond accordingly. As a result, 5699 (1939) was a very successful year for the Keren Kayemet. A total of more than five million Lei were collected in 139 locations almost double from the two previous years! The HaGelilah campaign alone collected almost three million Lei.
Individual donations of 18 thousand, 24 thousand and 35 thousand Lei came from ordinary people, a phenomenon not seen until now.
The following table indicates the donations for the 1938 and 1939 by locations:
|Location||Revenues 5698 (1938)||Revenues 5699 (1939)|
|Dundasheni||3,225||44,535||Village of 250 people|
|Volontir||1,975||47,501||Village of 400 people|
|Sarata||none||89,649||Village of 300 people|
|Floreshti||5,200||36,360||Village of 300 people|
|Ceadir Lunga||14,171||75,133||Village of 500 people|
Due to the lack of coordination with Keren Hayesod and the special local conditions it was impossible to transfer the HaGelilah fund of 1939 in important cities like Bender, Khotin, Leova, Marculeshti, Novoselitza, Kahul, Capreshti, Rishcani and others. On the same year part of the donations were directed to HaGelilah. Some community councils included in their annual budget an allocation for the Keren Kayemet. The most active representatives were Aharon Shapira, Zalman Rosenthal, Israel Shildkrut, Shabtai Polinkovsky and Rabbi Moshe Teperman. They visited many locations together with the chairman, Joseph Pagis, the advocate Itzchak Koren and Rabbi Levi Shternberg. The actress Miriam BernsteinCohen visited Kishinev and helped organize the ball and a number of meetings which contributed to create an Eretz Israel atmosphere.
The bazaar organized by WIZO that year in Kishinev had a great material and publicity success. The revenues from the bazaar reached 100 thousand Lei. The bazaar and other events that took place in the same time provided great support for the Eretz Israel endeavour. The Stamp campaign contest for 5699 (1939) was won by Gordonia for the great achievements in Kishinev and in Beltz and by the Young WIZO for their success in Kahul regardless the difficult conditions created by the profascist regime.
By mid 1939 religious branch was set up to act for the Keren Kayemet under the leadership of the young rabbi Moshe Teperman. In his visits to numerous locations, he encouraged the religious people to donate for the Fund. He invited Rabbi M. Ret and Rabbi Sh. Shapira who was the director of the religious branch in Bucovina. The Chief Rabbi of Kishinev, Rabbi Moshe Hirshparg was elected chairman of the Bessarabia branch. He worked together with Rabbi Landman, the Chief Rabbi of Beltz and other rabbis from the Mizrachi party Rabbi Joseph Wertheim from Bender, Rabbi Yetom from Caushani, Rabbi Yeshayahu Reicher from Ismail and Rabbi Levi Shternberg from Dumbraveni.
All this common effort brought great revenues for 1939 and all involved hoped that there is a possibility for higher
revenues in the coming years. The hopes unfortunately, were not realized due to the start of WWII. Bessarabia suddenly became the centre of disputes between two enemies. The entire population and especially the Jewish people were in shock, the tention grew from day to day. The desperation triumphed over all aspects of the Jewish community life.
Despite this atmosphere and many legal obstacles, the Keren Kayemet campaign at the beginning of 1940 had a praiseworthy success.
The Keren Kayemet tried to negotiate with the Keren Hayesod to split the revenues 40% for the Keren Kayemet and 60% for the Keren HaYesod, but it did not materialize because Keren Hayesod collected a lot less than the Keren Kayemet.
At the General meeting of 7 Kislev 5700 (November 19, 1939) the participants, among them the chairman, Joseph Pagis, Shlomo Berliand, advocate Itzchak Koren, advocate Mintz, the writer Zalman Rosenthal and Zeev Eigeres concluded that more educational work has to be done with the youth, the future of the community.
The Jewish community had no material or psychological power to support any programs implementations. The report for the first half of 1940 presented at the meeting of April 15, 1940 shows a sharp decrese in revenues 1,738,191 Lei compared with 3,312,967 Lei in 1939, out of this the HaGelilah raised 1 million compared with 2 million Lei in 1939. It was impossible to hold the bazaars, the currency (Leu) devalued and it became more difficult to transfer the money to Eretz Israel.
The largest and most important Jewish national enterprise in Bessarabia came to an end. The fate of the activists is known, some were murdered by the Nazis and some were driven across borders and survived somehow…
|Year||Number of Locations||Total amounts in Lei||Boxes||Herzl Forest||Golden Book||Yom Kippur plates||Traditional campaigns||Special Campaigns and Funds||Name of the Fund||Stamps, blessings, pamphlets||Bazaars||Various donations||Fenix||Flower Day||Other amounts|
|1921||42||374,043||3,445||35,882||20,643||186,734||117,707||Redemption of Land||3,665||5,907|
|1925||36||4,692,189||1,796,034||56,760||280,979||124,206||2,430,608||783,856||The South Fund||3,602||0|
|Photograph no. 17: The writer Nathan Bistritzky (Agmon) and Leah Vidrovich, representatives of
the Central Keren Kayemet Office at the Congress of Zionist Women, Kishinev, Cheshvan 5692/ October 1932
Kishinev, Tishrei 5694 (October 1933)
From the bottom row to the top, from right to left:
Row 1 sitting: I. Nisenboim, D. Goldman, Advocate Yehudah Geler, B. Horovitz, H. Polinkovsky, R. Baron.
Row 2: 12 Unknown, 3. Sh. Tchukla, 4. Sh. Weissadler, 5. N. Bistritzky, 6. Miriam Berger, 7. Tz. Rosenshtrauch, 8. Unknown.
Row 3: 1. A. Rabinovich, 2. Melamed (envoy), 3. Sh. Keinarsky, 46. Unknown, 7. Shprintzin, 8. D. Lozovik, 9. T. Gutman.
Row 4 top, Unknown
From right to left sitting: A. Vidrovich, Engineer Dov Klimker (Eretz Israel), Dr. Joseph Sapir, Dov Rablesky, Jacob Wasserman.
Standing: Aloni, A. Drachlis, E. Dubinsky, M. Segal, Z. Franken, Tz. Veinshtein, M. Shternberg
beginning of 1925
From the bottom to top. Row 1 from right to left: 1. Mrs. Keinarsky, 2. Sh. Keinarsky, 3. I. Finkelshtein, 4. P. Marhalit, 5. Jacob Fichman, 6. I. Wasserman, 7. M. Gottleib, 8. Dr. Joseph Sapir, 9. Sh. Berliand, 10. T. Cohen, 11. Unknown, 12. Sh. Beltzen, 13. Sh. Averbuch
Engineer Mordechai (Mark) A. Gottleib (started before the WWI to Kislev 5687 1927)
Nachum Roitman (Kislev 5687 1927 to Shvat 5697 1937)
Advocate Joseph Pagis (Kislev 5699 1939 to Sivan 5700 1940)
Leib Alexandrovsky (Mizrahi), Advocate Shmuel Rosenhauft (General Zionists) and Zalman Rosenthal (Labour) fulfilled the position of charman in the period between Roitman and Pagis
Mordechai Shichman (5680 1920 to 5682 1922)
Simcha Rosenthal (5682 1922 to Adar 5693 1933)
Isar Rabinovich (Adar 5693 1933 to Sivan 5700 1940)
Most active fundraisers were: Abraham Ortenberg, Chavah and Shimon Ortenberg (Vice Charman), Miriam Berger (WIZO chairperson), engineer Joseph Beigelman, Shlomo Berliand, Rabbi Shmuel Belzen and his sons: Benzion, Leib, Yehudah and Dr. Pinchas Belzen, Israel and Shoshana Berman, Tanya Gutman, Perl Goldenberg, Advocate Yehudith Geler (WIZO chairperson), Yulie Greenberg, Shifra and Chaim Weissadler, Yehudith Levenshtein, Sarah and Abraham Koren, Shlomo Keinarsky (City Council Chairman), Sarah Keinarsky, Tziliya Rosenshtrauch, Elisheva RentovichTabarsky, etc.
The following were part time and full time trainers: Mendel Davidson, Zadok Veinshtein, Aharon Tversky, Rabbi Moshe Teperman, Michael Yachinson, Tzvi Cohen, Yechezkel Landoy, Israel Skwirsky and at the end of 1930s Shabtai Polinkovsky and Israel Shildkrut. Emissaries to the villages were Abraham Nisenboim, Polinkovsky and Mordechai Tzimring.
The following envoys from the head office in Jerusalem visited Bessarabia for short periods of time: the writer Nathan Bistritzky (twice), Advocate David BarRavchai, Moshe A. BeigelAvigal (to work with the students and teachers), Sh. Givoni (to work with the youth), Meir HaEzrachi, Leah Vidrovich (twice), Sh, Yadidiya, Arieh LichtingerNahir, I. Melamed, Joseph Fisher (Ariel), Esther Kaplan, Dina Carol, Rabbi M. Roth, Dr. Eliyahu RosenboimMaroz (to work with teachers and parents), AsherZelig Shochetman (AlYagur), Rabbi Sh. Shapira (Chernovits) and Aharon Shapira (Kobne).
The central auditing committe had the following members: Dr. Pinchas Belzen (Kishinev), Akiva Greenberg (Beltz), Jacob Horovitz (Romanovka), Chaim Cohen, Joseph Cohen and Israel Rosenberg (Kishinev).
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