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The Zionist Centre in Kishinev

Translated by Sheli Fain

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Blank

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The Zionist Centre House

At the beginning of the 1920 with the growth of the Zionist organizations and their activities it became necessary to concentrate all organizations which were dispersed in Kishinev – especially the ones on 69 Sinadino Street and the ones on 100 Schmidt Street into one building. This happened in the spring of 5683 (1923) when a building was bought on Michaelovsky Street at the corner with Kievskiy Street. The building became known as 52 Kievskiy – the Zionist Centre.

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The Zionist Centre House, 52 Kievskiy Street

 

The people who initiated and implemented this project were: Tzvi Bonfeld, Secretary of the Zionist Federation and engineer Joseph Beigelman, Mordechai (Mark) A. Gottlieb and Tzvi Turkanovsly, members of the Central Committee.

The name “Centre” became a national symbol. The name was familiar

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to all Jewish people in Bessarabia and to the rest of the non– Jewish population; each driver and coachman knew where the “Centre” was located.

The “Centre” played an important role in bringing together the various factions right and left and united them for the common national goal. The “Centre” provided assistance to the daily “Undzer Tzeit” (a newspaper for all the factions) and to the weekly “Erd und Arbeit” (the Tzeirei Zion publication) and it helped shape the public opinion of the Jewish community. The Zionist movement was the backbone of the diverse Jewish community in Kishinev.

 

The Protests

Occasionally the Centre organized large protests against the criminal policies of the British Mandatory rule – i.e. the freezing of the immigration and the hunt for the tourists who stayed in Eretz, against the ban of the Jews from the Western Wall, against the encouragement given to the criminal mobs, the publication of the White Paper that banned the purchase of lands, etc.

The items raised at these protests received wide coverage in the press and the decisions were sent with the representative in Bucharest to the British government and to the League of Nations.

On behalf of Agudat Israel, Rabbi Tzirelson sent a separate complaint to the British delegation at the League of Nations in Geneve about the riots at the Western Wall on Yom Kippur 5689 (1929).

This is the answer received at the Rabbi's office[1]
The League of Nations
Geneve, March 27, 1929
Mr. Chairman,

This in regards to your appeal of October 19, 1928 sent to the Standing Mandate Committee. I have the honour of informing you that the concern about the riots that took place on September 24, 1928 at the Western Wall

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in Jerusalem was the topic of the request of the Zionist Federation which was sent by the Mandatory Government and with explanation to the Standing Mandate Committee, and the committee studied it at the last meeting in November 1928. The decisions taken at this meeting were approved by the League of Nations on March 4, 1929.

According to the decisions taken at that meeting, I have to inform you about the content of the decisions attached below.

Please receive my sincere regards,

Director of the Mandatory Department

To: Chief Rabbi Tzirelson
Chairman of the Central Committee of Agudat Israel
31 Haruzina Street, Kishinev, Bessarabia

Attachement: Summary of the report of the Standing Mandate Committee (document 1928VI, M179, C568)

The response to the request:
The appeals with regards to the riots at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on September 24, 1928 were sent by the Zionist Federation and by the Chief Rabbi Kook and Rabbi Meir.

Conclusions:
The Standing Mandate Committee which is sorry about the riots informs that the Palestine Government met with the two sides in order to facilitate an agreement. The committee hopes that it will restore the calm and that both side will refrain from rioting against the public order.

The biggest protest was held at the mourning assembly for the victims of the Hebron Pogrom of Av 5689 and the riots at the Western Wall. The assembly took place in the “Express Hall” where the dignitaries' table was covered in black, the national flag was draped in black and the ushers wore black bands on their sleeves.

The assembly was opened by Joseph Beigelman, in the presence of Rabbi Tzirelson, the deputy mayor, engineer Alexander Zilberman, Ben–Oni, M. Yakinson and I. Skwirsky.

A terrified silence overcame the crowd when the chairman informed the audience

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about the innocent Jewish blood being spilled in Eretz Israel's holiest places. Rabbi Tzirelson quoted from prophet Jeremiah and accused that the British administration for not preventing the Arabs from rioting and from destroying the site that even the cruel Romans did not touch. He called on the audience to fast and collect money in order to help the victims. He concluded that “the sons will returns to their source.”

After the speeches, a decision was taken to send a letter of protest against the British administration in Eretz Israel to the British ambassador in Bucharest.

As a result the British administration fired the negligent policemen and reinforced the police force by including forces from the Jewish Yishuv.

M. Yakinson announced that the Zionist Revisionists also sent a telegram to Colonel Wedgwood asking him to speed up the formation of the Jewish Legion.

The Supreme Arab Council general strike against the British Mandate was accompanied by terror and crimes against the Jewish population. In fact, this became a war which intensified over the next three years.

These events continued all through the summer. At the same time the British Government decided to stop the immigration. The Jewish communities around the world were shocked and held many protests against the criminal policies of the British Govenment and the Arab terror. The Jews of Bessarabia, shaken by the events, organized a big protest of September 6, 1936 at the Choral Synagogue which turned into a large memorial service for the victims.

Rabbi Tzirelson opened the memorial service by stressing the importance of the prayer “El Malei Rachamim” for the Jewish martyrs and Cantor Tzifris and the choir sang the mourning prayers. Rabbi Tzirelson underlined the fact that the Jews have the historical and the religious right to Eretz Israel and that the Bible Declaration preceded the Balfour Declaration. He lamented the factthat the world ignores this important historical document and denies the rights for the Jews to have their home in their ancestral land. Rabbi Tzirelson expressed his anger against the savage Arab terror and protested against the British authorities' decision to bring an end to immigration.

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Advocate Shmuel Rosenhauft from the Zionist Federation called on the assembly to expand their support for the “national home.”

Isar Rabinovich declared that the “El Malei Rachamin” prayer became the accompaniment on the Jewish road to redemption. He added that the Jews in Eretz Israel are rebuilding the country and that it also benefits the Arabs. Unfortunatelly they are pray to wild incitement and due to the lack of control from the British authorities only increase the terror. The Immigration is a life matter for the Jewish people and no one will forsake it. The courageous attitude of the Yishuv people will continue to encourage the Diaspora to do their outmost for supporting Eretz Israel.

The poet Shamai Pinsky described the heroic deeds and the sacrifices of the Halutzim (pioneers) in Israel who are paving the road to national self determination. He welcomed the idea of establishing a Legislative Committee for Eretz Israel and stressed the importance of supporting the fight against the Arab terror and the British policies.

The audience was moved by the speeches and supported the idea of sending a letter of protest which was immediately published in the local newspapers.

The publication of the White Paper in the summer of 1939 (May 17, 1939) negating the Balfour Declaration on the issue of immigration and purchase of lands caused deeper grief in the hearts of the Jews of Bessarabia. Many protests were held in the entire region and many editorials were published in the press expressing the anger against the British Government. Here is one editorial from the Yiddish press in Kishinev:[2]

We live in decisive days of the national emancipation of our homeland and we would like to clarify the issue of the restrictions imposed on the rights of the Jewish population in Eretz Israel.:

  1. The eternal historical and national bond of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel from the Bible times to the present time when the pioneers and the entire Jewish world are making superhuman sacrifices will not be broken by laws and limitations and no one can break our hope that our future is attached to Eretz Israel.
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  1. Eretz Israel is the only country where the Jewish people can fled from the problems in Europe because all other countries have closed the doors to the Jews.
  2. The Jewish people will not agree to any arrangements that will limit their rights in Eretz Israel which were recognized by the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations with the approval of 52 countries.
  3. The Jews of Bessarabia can not accept that Great Britain, which undertook the historical responsibility towards the Jewish people to work toward the establishment of a Jewish homeland, would abandon these obligations and disappoint the Jewish people who endured so many injustices through the ages.
  4. The Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel together with the rest of the Jewry are ready to cooperate with the Arabs from all the neighbouring countries. Despite the Arab terrorism towards the Jewish population it is still possible to find a solution that will bring prosperity and a peaceful life to all.
  5. The Jews of Bessarabia declare their solidarity with the Yishuv which is fighting for the last two years for the security and the peace necessary to build the country for all the Jews.
  6. Signed by: The General Zionists of Bessarabia, The Centre for Rebuilding the Nation, the Mizrachi, The Centre “Jewish State”, Wizo, Agudat Israel, The Rabbis Union, Union of Jewish Workers, The Small Merchants Association of Bessarabia
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Photograph no. 41: Keren Hayesod Executive Committee of Edinitz
and the visiting delegation from Kishinev 1923/24

From bottom to top; right to left:
On the floor: Unknown, Sh. Bronshtein, I. Borotchin (Bar–Ratzon), N. Leiderman. First row sitting: Primislov, I. Roitman, Av. Milgrom, Z. Fradkin, Dr. I. Sapir, I. Wasserman, (3 delegates) M. Sheindelman, H. Rabin, M. Shteinwartz. Row 2: Standing: I. Shpeier, H. Hokovsky, Freilich, I. Shteif, B”Z. Timan, A. Bronshtein, IH. Landoi, Risman, unknown, A. Goldenberg, Unknown.

 

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Photograph no. 42: Keren Hayesod Executive Committee of Ungheni
and the visiting delegation from Kishinev 5685 (1925)

Row 1 from right to left, sitting: D. Berman, G. Fishman, M. Rabinovich, E. Dubinsky, Dr. I. Sapir, M. Segal, I. Weinshtein, Unknown, A. Friedman, Row 2: Unknown, Z. Boika, Unknown, H.B. rubin, I. Gertzman, M. Teitelman, M. Kaminsker, Unknown

 

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Photograph no. 43: Keren Hayeson Executive Committee from
Leova and the visiting delegation from Kishinev, 1923

From right to left, sitting: D. Rablesky, M. Sapir, Dr. I. Sapir, Rabbi Shmuel Beltzen, Akerman, Z. Fradkin. Standing: Unknown, I. Mishal, Unknown, Zelikovich, Dr. Sh. Ferfer, 2 Unknowns

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Photograph no. 44: The Executive Committee
of the Union of Zionist Revisionists Kishinev, 1930

From right to left sitting: M. Postman, V. Zubitzki, M. Bronfman, Standing: I. Rifesman, M. Yakinson, R. Zilberman–Shechter, A. Baron.

 

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Photograph no. 45: Party given by the Union of Zionist Revisionists
with the occasion of A. Baron's immigration to Eretz Israel, 1930

 

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Photograph no. 46: Zeev Jabotinsky with the members of the
Executive Committee of the Union of Zionist Revisionists, Kishinev, 1935

From right to Left sitting: I. Shneider, M. Yakinson, Zeev Jabotinsky, V. Zubinsky, I. Zabludovsky, Standing: Kaplan, (?) Fishman, M. Bronfman, Sh. Polinkovsky, M. Gorenshtein (Goren), I. Rifsman

 

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Photograph no. 47: The Hapoel motorcyclists
on their way to Europe, Kishinev, May 1935

Right to left: Shlomo Berner, Abraham Rosenblum, Yacov Tiroshi, Yehezkel Nisanov, Eliyahu Friedman


Footnotes:

  1. For the original version of the protest and the answer see Appendix, p.328–329 Return
  2. See the original version in the Appendix, p. 330. Return


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The Hapoel Motorcyclists visit in Kishinev

On May 15, 1935, a group of the Hapoel club motorcyclists from Eretz Israel, lead by Yacob Tiroshi, arrived in Kishinev to the delight of the Jewish and non Jewish population.

They started their journey from Erets Israel to Europe by crossing Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. They were immediately met by the members of the sport club Mihai Viteazu who came to wish them a successful trip. The Kishinev Jews welcomed them and the youth filled the streets and the Zionist Centre on 52 Kievskiy Street and partied until late at night.

The next day the group visited the Jewish organizations in Kishinev, the Undzer Tzeit newspaper and other newspapers offices such as: Bessarabskoe Slovo (The Bessarabian Word), Nasha Retch (Our Speeches), Potchta (The Post), Nasha Vremya (Our time), Radio Express. They were also welcomed at the city hall where they were received by Mayor Costin, by Philip Ginzburg and Apostolescu.

The group was warmly received everywehere and were happy to answer questions about the situation in Eretz Israel in general and about the development of sports in particular. Representatives of Jewish organizations signed their “Visit book” and wished them success in their trip. After the afternoon reception, they visited the sports club Mihai Viteazu and the

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Illustration no.9: The names of the motorcyclists: Abraham Rosenblum, Eliyahu Friedman, Shlomo Brener, Yehezkel Nisanov and Yacov Tiroshi. Wishes for a successful trip from: the Jewish Agency, the Tel Aviv City Hall.

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Illustration no.10: Well wishes from the Kishinev Jewish community: the Zionist Union of Bessarabia, Keren Hayeson of Bessarabia, Tzeirei Zion of Romania, Undzer Tzeit newspaper, the Mayor of Kishinev, the Mihai Viteazu Sports Club, The Maccabi of Bessarabia, Nasha Retch Newspaper, Gordonia Club.

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Zionist Centre for another exciting reception in the evening. After the celebrations the motorcyclists continued to Jassy and Chernovits.

The Zionist Cenre was the meeting point to all the visitors from around the “province.” Here the visitors were free to discuss the significance of Eretz Israel and about the work of the young builders. The Centre was open at all hours until late at night. In all its corners and in every room there was an atmosphere of national pride and of intensive activity. The Tarbut, the He–Halutz, the offices of the various parties and everywhere there was a continuos activity towards fulfilling the national dream.

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Beside the daily activities the Centre was hosting events during the weekdays, on Shabbat and holidays. The Centre had a small hall that could accommodate 300 people and a balcony which was used during the summer days. The Centre was hosting lectures, bazaars, shows and recitals such as the shows in Shabbat afternoon of the Vilna ensemble – Alexander Shtein, Joseph Bulof, Liova Kadison, Kamin, Baraz and others. At the Centre there were many unforgettable receptions such as the ones for Weitzmann and Sokolow!

The Friday evenings (Piatnitza) people came for the shows which helped them relax after a long work week but also hear the reports of the national movement leaders such as Tzvi Bonfield, the Secretary of the Jewish Agency.

They came to see actors and famous musicians – Alkhazanova, Leib Glantz, Tzvi Turkanovsky, the violinist Prof. Pester, the cellist Prof. Shildkrat, the singer Batya Rosenthal, the cantor Rivlis, etc.

Some of the evenings were dedicated to “live–newspaper,” satirical and humorous renditions by Itzchak Alterman, Abraham Epshtein, Leib Glantz, Efraim Davidson, Israel Skwirsky, Shlomo Hilleles, Israel Weinshtein, Yeshayahu Vinitzky, Matetyahu Segal, Zalman Rosenthal and many others.

Other popular activities at the Centre were:

  1. The People's University where important public figures lectured on culture and national maters, Bible, history, History of the Zionist movement, Eretz Israel, the economic situation and the Jewish people, Hebrew and Yiddish literature, classical literature, classical music and folklore.
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Illustration no.11: Invitation to the banquet in honour of Shlomo Hilleles and his wife – Program of the banquet held with the occasion of their immigration to Eretz Israel – Kishinev, May 2, 1925

Part 1 – Dinner Menu
Sardines, Pickeled fish, Liver, Roasted tongue, Sausages
Part 2 – Traditional Shabbat songs, Speeches, Toasts
Deserts, coffee and drinks, Fruits
Wines, soda, various liquors
Songs and Dancing until the down!

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The lectures took place in the evenings 2–3 times a week. The following people lectured there: Itzchak Altman, Abraham Epshtein, Joseph Barafael, Mark Gottlieb, Leib Glantz, Shlomo Hilleles, Jacob Wasserman, Nachum Tulchinsky (Tal), Miriam Landau, Michael Landau, Dr. Joseph Sapir, Israel Skwirsky, Jacob Fichman, Zalman Fradkin, Nachum Roitman, Isar Rabinovich, Zalman Rosenthal, Prof. Shaimovich, Itzchak Shwartz. Many important visitors to Kishinev gave lectures which were always well attended.

  1. The Asher Koralnik Newspaper Reading Room. Asher Koralnik was a member of the Executive Committee of the Tzeirei Zion and the founder of the newspaper Erd und Arbait. He was one of the founders of ORT in Bessarabia and one of its first directors. He came to Erets Israel and worked on construction in Nahalal and at the construction of the Hebrew University. He passed away very young in 1924.
In November 1928 with the occasion of the second anniversary of, Engineer Mordechai (Mark) A. Gottlieb death, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, it was decided to name the ”Centre” building the Mordechai (Mark) Gottlieb Building. A special appeal was launched to collect money to settle the debts that were accumulated on the building since its purchase.

When the Soviets entered Kishinev on June 28, 1940, Shlomo Berliand gave the key to the building to the new government. And that's the end!


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Dr. Jacob Bernstein–Cohen

1925 was a year of changes in the leadership of the Jewish Agency in Bessarabia caused by Dr. Bernstein–Cohen decision to move to Eretz Israel on March 1, 1925. This represented the fulfillment of his dream to live and build in the ancestral land. The entire Jewish Community of Bessarabia was saddened by the departure of one of is most courageous and noble leaders. He led and represented the community for more than 50 year and left his mark on all its activities. Even if Bessarabia did not have a united Jewish Agency, all factions considered Dr. Bernstein –Cohen their leader.

He was a radical Zionist and sometimes he was considered a revolutionary among the Zionists. He led the information and propaganda work after the First Zionist Congress and founded the “Post Bureau” to disseminate information and to attrack the Jews towards the Zionist movement. The Jewish youth followed him and even when the Tzirei Zion was founded, Bernstein–Cohen was not considered old, he was considered a mature youth. He understood the youth and listened to their ideas and encouraged the pioneer movement (Halutzim)

He settled once in Eretz Israel in 1907, but he was forced to return to Bessarabia due to many failures.

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This time, Bernstein–Cohen who was used to have many functions and many activities could not accept to stay on the sides of the public life. Abraham Kamini, chairman of the Keren Kayemet in Eretz Israel writes: “His thirst for public life work and his devotion to movement was so great that he immersed himself into the Keren Kayemet fundraising and even participated in the door to door campaing of the “blue boxes.” He was extremely happy to present his achievements after each campaign.”[1]

It was extremely difficult for Bernstein–Cohen to accept the new situation and he left Eretz Israel. He did not come back to Bessarabia, but accepted a post with the “Joint” (September 7, 1926) as representative to the Soviet Russia,[2] at the time that all national movements including Zionism became illegal.

He did not live long in Russia and passed away on 2 Iyar 5689 (May 12, 1929).[3]

Is there a personal failure in the last stage of Bernstein–Cohen's life? Most likely it is the fault of the leadership which did not care about providing the proper condition for absorbtion of one of its founders. To better illustrate this matter we bring two fragments from the correspondence of the Zionist leadership with the Zionist Centre in Kishinev:

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1.

The Zionist Executive in Eretz Israel. Jerusalem 14/4673. 13 Iyar 5686 (April 27, 1926)

To: Central Committee of the Zionist Federation in Bessarabia, Kishinev.

Dear Sirs,

The management of Keren Hayeson in London forwarded a copy of a letter regarding Dr. Bernstein–Cohen and the serious financial difficulties in Eretz Israel. We are informing you that Dr. Weitzmann together with Colonel Kish spoke to the management of Hadasah Medical Organization regarding an appropriate employment for Dr. Bernstein–Cohen. They promised them that Dr. Bernstein–Cohen is at the top of the list when a suitable position will be available. Please understand that we can not use “favoritism” if a better candidate if available.

Signed the General Secretary
The Zionist Executive in Eretz Israel

2.

The Central Committee of the Zionist Federation in Bessarabia, no. 34
Kishinev, 52 Kievskaya Street
20 Sivan, 5686 (May 2, 1926)

To: Chaim Weitzmann, the President of the Zionist Federation, London

Your honour:

On the month of Adar we wrote to you regarding Dr. Bernstein–Cohen's serious situation in Eretz Israel and we asked you to pay attention to this important leader. We received a letter stating that you and Colonel Kish discussed his situation with the Hadasah organization, but we are very concerned about the fact that Dr. Bernstein–Cohen is included with the rest of the applicants and that they can't make any exceptions in his case.

We do not want to repeat all the qualities and rights of Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, because your honour knows him well, but we have to stress his Zionist activities and his devotion to the Funds in Bessarabia. Dr Bernstein–Cohen is a very important personality and his life is very difficult in Eretz Israel.

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This attitude towards him causes a lot of heartache in Bessarabia, because he is is well known here for his devoted work and life sacrifices for the Jewish community.

We do not want to point what post should be given to Dr. Bernstein Cohen, but we are convinced that he can be an asset in the field of health due to his great expertise and experience.

Again, we are appealing to you and ask you to pay attention to this matter and settle Dr. Bernstein– Cohen's situation. This will help quiet all the rumours in Bessarabia and make it possible for us to continue our work here. Waiting for your reply,

Sincerely,

Engineer M. Gottlieb, Sh. Berliand,
The Central Committee of the Zionist Federation
Sh. Shechter, I. Skwirsky,
The Central Committee of Tzeirei Zion in Romania
Rabbi A. Polinkovsky. Shmuel Beltzen,
Mizrachi Bessarabia
Jacob Wasserman,
Director of the Keren Hayeson in Bessarabia

Moshe Kleiman concludes his biography of Dr. Bernstein Cohen: “Now, due to his grand qualities, his memory is standing untainted and powerfull. His place is guaranteed in our National Pantheon” (The Book of Bernstein–Cohen, p. 29)


Footnotes:

  1. Abraham Kamini, With the Heart and the Soul, Jerusalem, 5725 (1965), p.138 Return
  2. Sefer Bernstein–Cohen, (The Book of Bernstein–Cohen) by Miriam Bernstein–Cohen and Itzchak Koren, Tel Aviv, Bessarabia Emigres Circle, 5706 (1946). Return
  3. At the one year anniversary of his death a memorial was held in Kishinev at the Yavneh Synagogue. Itzchak Berman, who spoke at the memorial, said: “In his life and work, he was the exemplary Zionist. He led the Zionism to great heights in Russia and with this he achieved his personal heights. When in the last years the Zionism declined in Russia so did Bernstein–Cohen. His journey can be compared with Abrabanel and his sons in the Diaspora. The troubles of the Jewish people in Russia are deeply rooted in the heart of Bernstein–Cohen and he went to suffer with them…” (Ha–Olam (the World), 21, Iyar 22, 5690 (May 20, 1930) Return


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Engineer Mordechai (Mark) Yilich Gottlieb

Engineer Gottlieb one of the veteran Zionists and delegate to a few Zionist Congresses was elected to take replace Dr. Bernstein–Cohen at the Congress in Helsingport (Helsinki) in 5665 (1905).

At the beginning of 1900, when he finished his professional training as an engineer, he was invited to be the Rabbi of the town of Hancheshti (Hȋncṣti) near Kishinev. During the Pogroms of 1903 he returned to Kishinev and worked for the benefit of the victims. Since then he became very active in the public life of the community. For more than 25 years he was an influencial force in among the intellectuals of the city.

After the 1917 Revolution, he was elected to the City Council and represented the Zionist party together with Dr. Bernstein–Cohen. In February 1926 he was elected again as the candidate of the United Democrats a list of Jews and non–Jews. This list received 36 mandates and had the majority in council.

From 1919, Gottlieb was the director of Keren Kayemet and devoted all his time to the idea of “land recovery” in Eretz Israel. He was dedicated to the Hebrew school system and served as treasurer of the Tarbut organization.

He died on 4 Kislev 5687 (January 10, 1926) at the age of 64 and left the Jewish Agency without a chairman and wondering who will follow in his footsteps.


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Shlomo Meir Berliand

Shlomo Berliand was one of the first members of the Zionist movement, one of the founders of the “Odessa Committee.” In 1890 he founded The Tzeirei Zion's “Relief Organization” in Kishinev. He was one of the most enthousiastic assistants of Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, supporter of “Ehad HaAm” and member of “Bnei Moshe.”

He made a living being an agent for the Wisotzky Company. Even if he did not held leadership positions, he was well respected for his dedication to the movement, his love of Hebrew and his relentless work for the community organizations. He was Chairman of Keren Hayesod, of Tarbut and of the Jewish Board of Education and Culture. He was a Kishinev city council member and one of the most generous donors to the Jewish causes.

Although his sons were abroad, he did not want to leave Kishinev even when WWII started. In the days of the Soviet annexation he proudly represented the community and gaind respect from the Soviets. He escaped the Soviet jail, but he was asked to leave the city. A week before the Nazis invasion, he was arrested together with the rest of the Zionist activists in Chernovits at his daughter's house and exiled to the forced labour camp Ust–Vymsky in the autonomous region of Komi – A.S.S.R.

His wife, his daughter and son in law were deported to North of Tomsk in Sibiria.

The brutal road and the inhumane conditions in the camp put an end to his life after a few weeks there. He died in the arms of a young Zionist in Kishinev at the age of 73.

His last words were; “This war will bring us our Jewish State”


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Nachum M. Roitman

Roitman was of of the pioneers of the Zionist movement and a loyal follower and First Secretary of Dr. Bernstein–Cohen after the First Zionist Congress. For more than four years they run together the underground “Post Bureau.” The “Post Bureau” evolved form a centre for information to become a centre for propaganda and training. The Information Bulletins served a tool for the national laic education.

When the Post Bureau was closed, Roitman turned his attention to the economy. Because his parents were peasants he grew up with the village people and understood their work and life struggle. His constructive ideas led to the founding of the Jewish Savings and Loans Bank to assist the Jewish people, first in Kishinev and later in other cities.

At the beginning of 1920, when the number of Jewish businesses grew in Bessarabia and became an important factor in its economic life he initiated and managed the Jewish Co–operative Agency until he resigned in 5697 (1937).

The Co–operatives which started in Besssarabia spred to the entire Romania due to Roitman's relentless work. He provided help to to the important social and economic agency and organization such as: the Joint, the Ukraine Relief organization, to the victims of the drought and he was one of the Chairmen of the agency that sold Bank Hapoalim shares.

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He gained the respect and admiration of all the political factions for his vast culture and his honesty, his objectivity and pragmatism.

When Gottlieb passed away in 5787 (1927), Roitman was asked to take over the leadership of the Keren Kayemet. He was hesitant because of his physical limitation (being paralized for many years on half the body), but with the encouragement of the community and of M. Ussishkin he accepted the post.

He fulfilled his duties at the Keren Kayement and worked hard to achieve the goals set up at the beginning of each year.

Because of his poor health he did not immigrate to Eretz Israel like his friend Meir Disengoff, but he was proud that his only son who lived in Eretz Israel was one of the engineers building the city of Tel Aviv.

Because of his modesty he gained an important place in the history of the Jewish Bessarabia. Although he asked in his will “please do not parade my body to all the organizations in town” a large crowd attended his funeral on 5 Shvat 5697, 1937. The Chief Rabbi Tzirelson, Itzchak Ussishkin from The Co–operative Union and Shlomo Berliand from the Zionist Federation eulogized this most modest and hard working man.


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The Chief Rabbi Yehudah Leib Tzirelson and Zionism

Rabbi Tzirelson occupies an important place in the history of Zionism in Bessarabia and even though he was officially one of the leaders of Agudat Israel his heart and soul was with the Zionist movement, with the rebuilding and the development of Eretz Israel. He was a staunch advocate for Jewish education and culture. He was one of the delegates to the Three Agudat Israel Congresses in 5683, 5689, 5697 (1923, 1929 and 1937) and a great supported of Keren Kayemet, Tarbut, Keren Hayesod, The National Library in Jerusalem, sometimes in disagreement with his own party leadership.

He participated to the First Zionist Congress in May 1920, where he gave a welcoming speech together with Rabbi Moshele Hinshfarg from the Agudat Israel. At the end of the Congress festivities that took place at the Choral Synagogue on Shabbat afaternoon, he appeared together with Dr. Berenstein–Cohen to celebrate the ”good news from Eretz Israel.”

In his famous article “Genug Shlofen” (Enough Sleeping) published in July 1927 in “Der Yidd” he made an inspiring appeal for the benefit of Keren Kayemet.

He was one of the supporters of Hebrew language instruction in schools and fought with the authorities to keep open the Gymnasium no. 4 and strongly opposed the minister of culture, Mr. Angelescu's law to cancel the Hebrew language instruction in schools.[1]

Tarbut published Rabbi Tzirelson's brochure in Romanian “Un strigat de alarma” (A scream of alarm) which was intended for the members of Parliament, but because of the siege of Kishinev and the severe censorship, it was necessary to print

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Photograph no. 48: Rabbi Y. L. Tzirelson the Chairman of the Education Committee
of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, St. Petersburg 1910
(The collection of the Rambam Library in Tel Aviv)

From righ to left, sitting: Itzchak Shneierson, Zeev Tiomkin, Rabbi Jacob Mezae'h, Baron David Gintzburg, Rabbi Tzirelson, Rabbi Itzchak Pik, Leon Sapir, Kalman Frenkel, Rabbi Shmariah Leib Medalia, Rabbi Chaim Yacov Landa,
Standing: Advocate. H. B. Sliuzber, Stenographer, Eliezer Bronshtein (Borenshtein?) Rabbi Chaim Chaim Leib Yitkin, Rabbi. Sh. Polinkovsky, Advocate M. Mazor. Rabbi Joseph Israel Halperin, Shemes, Rabbi Baruch Menachem Markus, Stenographer, Rabbi Moshe Nachum Yerushlimsky (Kieltce), Rabbi Moshe Madiuvsky, Rabbi Eliezer Kharif.

[Page 160b]

bes160b.jpg
Photograph no. 49: Rabbi I. L. Maimon (Fishman), member of the Zionist leadership on his visits to Kishinev, 5695, 5696, 5698 (1935, 1936, 1938)

 

bes160c.jpg
Photograph no. 50: Yoseph Sprinzak, member of the Zionist leadership with the Central Committee of the United Party and the leaders of Gordonia, Kishinev, July 1935

Right to left, sitting: D. Vinitzky, Dr. M. Kotik, Z. Rosenthal, Y. Sprinzak, A. Rabinovich, H. Weisadler, M. Kotler, Tz. Weisenberg (Atzmon).
Standing: Y. Koren, I. Gluzman, I. Retach, M. Rolel, L. Beltzen, Dov Perlmuter, Sh. Yasky, Sh. Tzukerman, ?, A. R. Meir, I. Horman, tz. Finkenzon, (Gershoni), Unknown.

 

bes160d.jpg
Photograph no. 51: Yoseph Sprinzak with members
of the United Party in Bender, July 1935

From bottom to top
First row (right to left) Zonis, Unknown, B. Shwartzman, Unknown, Sh. Katz, Unknown,
Row 2. Sh. Bat–Shalom, N. Zukerman, A. Rabinovich, Unknown, Y. Sprinzak, S. Ud. Pistrov, Mrs. Drubetzky
Row 3, standing:
H. Shwartzman, I. Sultanovich, Mrs. Mariasis, Mariasis, H. Averbuch, Unknown, Landman, Drubetzky.

[Page 161]

the brochure in Bucharest. Because they could not find anyone to trust, Rabbi Tzirelson had to hand out the brochures by himself to the members of Parliament at the end of a meeting.

Rabbi Tzirelson did not miss any meetings of Tarbut where they discusses the legal situation of the Hebrew School and also did not miss any school end ceremonies or the graduation ceremonies of the kindergarten teachers from the Tarbut Institute under the management of Itzchak Alterman.

He was proud and enjoyed these ceremonies in the companies of Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, the writers Jacob Fichman, Abraham Epshtein, Shlomo Hilleles, Nachum Tulchinsky (Tal), and Leib Glantz. He enjoyed very much the new songs of Eretz Israel sang by Glantz and the graduates of the Institute.

Rabbi Tzirelson received the approval of the Ministry of Education that the teachers for Hebrew, Bible and Jewish History have to be graduates of the Institute and have his permit to teach. He was signing all diplomas and sometimes he wrote the diplomas instead of typing them. A recommedation from Rabbi Tzirelson was also a great help for the applicants for teaching positions.

He was always present at the Keren Kaymet opening festivities and at receptions for the Zionist leaders. He went to the train station to meet Colonel Josiah Wedgwood in December 1928 and came to the reception in his honour and welcomed him in French.

Itzchak Berman, manager of Keren Hayesod of Bessarabia recounts that the Rabbi asked people to refrain from discussing Zionism therefore they spoke about the situation of the Diaspora Jewry. At the end of the evening Wedgwood asked Rabbi Tzirelson: “My dear Rabbi what is your point” and the Rabbi answered: “The establishment of our national home”[2]

[Page 162]

Rabbi Tzirelson approached the leadership of the Agudat with a proposal to integrate the Agudat Israel with the Jewish Agency, but he was refused.

A tragic death put an end to his magnificent life. On 11 Tamuz 5701 (July 6, 1941), when he left his room to go to a bomb shelter, he was killed by the bombardment of the Romanian Fascist Army. His body was shattered and the head could not be found. His body was buried without the head in the Kishinev cemetery in the plot next to where the victims of the 1903 and 1905 pogroms were buried. The inscriptions in Hebrew and in Russian[3] on his monument were verses written by the Rabbi himself. During the war the inscription got erased and his monument became a Monument to the Unkown Victim.

He was 81 when he died[4].

Illustration no. 12: Invitation to Rabbi Tzirelson, Chairman of the Board of Rabbis of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, St. Petersburg to attend The Board's Meeting in 1910


Footnotes:

  1. See, Appendix, Vol 2 – two speeches regarding the Hebrew language instruction Return
  2. Davar, January 2, 1942, Pages from My Journal by Itzchak Barman Return
  3. D. Vinitzki, “The Jews of Bessarabia”, World Association of Bessarabia Jews and the Encyclopedia of the Diaspora Jerusalem, Tel Aviv 5631 (1971), pages: 287–290. Return
  4. The name of Rabbi Tzirelson has been inscribed on the restored Monument (Translator's note). Return


[Page 163]

A United Countrywide Zionist Organization
The Supreme Council in Bucharest

The creation of a united countrywide organization including all parties preoccupied the Zionist leadership for the longest time, but the many attempts by visiting leaders to Bessarabia turned unsuccessfully.

The goal to unite the Zionist activities in all the territories annexed by Romania after WWI did not fare any better.

The Zionist in the Regat (Romania proper) and even in Transilvania considered the leaders of the Zionist movement in Bessarabia, among them many refugees from Russia, as a branch of the Russian Zionism. The Romanian Zionists tried to recruit them, to ask for their advice and hoped for their cooperation. In fact there was cooperation at the various Congresses and a tendency to run united programs.

One such example was the appeal of Moti Rabinovich, the representative of the Zionist Federation in Bucharest at the Bessarabia Tarbut Congress, who asked for cooperation in the education field. Bessarabia, which had to deal with lack of Hebrew teachers itself, stretched a helping hand!

The first such help came when the first teachers, mostly from Bessarabia, graduated from the Teachers Seminary in Jassy. The Seminary was founded in 5681 (1921) by the Zionist Federation in Bucharest and was managed by Dr. Efraim Porat and by the poet Eliyahu Meitus and functioned more than two years.

Many graduates of the Bessarabia Tarbut high schools became interested in teaching and attended the Seminary. Lastly, from 5683 to 5685 (1923–1925) the Tarbut Institute for Teachers and Kindergarten teachers managed by Itzchak Alterman graduated more than 72 teachers and kindergarten teachers. The Tarbut programs had a great role in improving the Hebrew schools level in Romania.

The Zionism in Romania and the one in Bassarabia had strong ties starting with the First Congress in October 1920.

[Page 164]

At the Congress, members of the Executive Committee Dr Meir Avner from Bucovina, Dr. Jacob Bernstein–Cohen from Bessarabia and Dr. Yarden from Transilvania discussed the cooperation among all Romanian Provinces. In 1921, at the Bucharest Congress, a similar discussion took place with the participation of Dr. Bernstein–Cohen and Joseph Landau (Liron) from tzeirei Zion but again it did not have any positive results.

At the end of April 5697 (1927) a decision was taken to establish a Supreme Council in Bucharest for all four Provinces under the leadership of Adoph Bernhardt and Dr. Abraham Mi'bashan as secretary and they recommended Dr. Yulian Zilberbrush, from Chernovits as chairman. A few meetings were held and plans were drawn but the idea was not put into action. The Council continued to work in the legal field, to work with the national funds and assist with the halutzim (pioneers) training.

The situation in Bessarabia was not better. When Dr. Bernstein–Cohen left in March 1, 1925, the uniting force disappeared and the factions grew even more apart. Engineer Mordechai Gottlieb who followed Bernstein–Cohen could not replace his leadership force and until his death in 1926 struggled to unite the movement.

Shlomo Berliand who took over the leadership had much opposition and with all his talent and dedication could not unite the fractioned Zionist movement[1].

When Chaim Weitzmann visited Bessarabia in December 1927, again there were discussions to unite the ever growing fragmented movement and to organize a common Zionist Congress, unfortunately the negociations among the parties failed.

The key argument was the expansion of the central organizations.

[Page 165]

The proposal to “Unite” to receive the decision according to the election results of the last Congress (General Zionist– 6, Tzeirei Zion –7, Zionist Revisionists –3 and Mizrachi –2) was not accepted by the other parties.

Tzeirei Zion did not accept the precondition of not allowing the officer in charge of the movement to be elected to one united Council therefore the Unity did not happen. Tzeirei Zion did not participate to the General Congress and continued to act independently with Weitzmann's cooperation.[2]

The General Zionists, formarely legally registered as the Zionist Federation were holding onto the rights of the Federation and did not want to relinquish them. The Revisionists who were at the beginning of their organization hoped to conquer the Zionist camp did not want to limit themselves and the Mizrachi which considered itself weak in this constellation decided to wait for “better times”.

The 17th Zionist Congress in 5691 (1931) found the labour movement growing and chances for negociations diminishing. Even the influence of the movement leaders, Rabbi I. L. Fishman (mainon) and Yoseph Sprinzak who came to Bessarabia in the summer of 1935 did not succeed to get concessions from the labour movement.

When Sprinzak visited Bucharest in 1935 he wanted to reconcile the two parties, but only the Mapai Party got the honour of achieving that at the 19th Zionist Congress.[3]

[Page 166]

Other attempts to establish a United Zionist party were dome by Rabbi I.L. Fishman (Maimon) on his visit to Kishinev on March 1936 and again on 15 Elul (September) 5696 (1936). Due to his efforts, all factions decided to establish a temporary Union on equal basis – 2 from each faction: general Zionists, Homeland Building (the United Labour Party), Mizrachi, the Jewish Homeland, HaShomer haTzair, and WIZO. After the Congress, the Mizrachi changed their mind and the Union was not established.

Despite al these problems, the Zionist propaganda work, the funds and the building of Eretz Israel continued separately by each faction. Only when dealing with important general issues they were holding jointly meetings and decisions were approved not by voting, but by agreement.

In the spring of 1940 a “Coordinating Counicl” was established in Bessarabia, but it was too late, as Bessarabia was cut from Romania and annexed by the Soviet Union and the entire movement was shut down.


Footnotes:

  1. Information bulletin from the “Union” November 28, 1927 reflects the situation Return
  2. The General Zionists, the Mizrachi did not hold a special Congress. They took advantage of the Congress or Meetings of the Keren Kayemet and the Keren Hayesod to hold meetings.
    As early as 1920, Tzeirei Zion was a Romanian party (and also like the Poalei Zion) and its semi–annual meeting were held first in Jassy, then in Chernovits, Kishinev and Bucharest. From the middle of 1920 until the beginning of 1936, when Tzeirei Zion united with Poalei Zion, they held seven special Congresses on top of the regular ones, especially during international leaders' visits. The new party Poalei Zion held four special Congresses until May 1929. The Zionist Revisionist held five special countrywide congresses, three of them in 1925, 1930 and 1938 where Zeev Jabotinsky participated. Return
  3. B.I. Duchovny (Michali), Ha–Olam (the World), 31, October 1, 1935 Return


[Page 167]

Participation at the Zionist Congresses

In 5681 (1921) the Zionist movement that was inactive due to the historical events of WWI renewed its activities. The period between 1913 and 1921 was marked by historical events not only in the life of the Zionist movement but in the life of the general population: the Balfour Declaration which was voted by the League of Nations, the Mandate and the opening of the immigration and immediately after that the restriction of immigration, the establishment of Keren Hayesod and the foundation of the Jewish Agency.

During these historical events the Zionist Federation held its 12th Congress of 30 Kislev to 13 Hashvan 5682 (Novbember 1–14 1921), its main duty being the selling of Eretz Israel Shekel Bonds. (16 thousand bonds were sold.)

The following delegates were elected at the Congress: Dr. Bernstein–Cohen (member of the Zionist Executive Committee), Shlomo Berliand, Engineer Mordechai A. Gottlieb, Leib Glantz, Chaim Greenberg, Zeev Tiomkin, Advocate Trivush, Advocate Michael Landau, Pinchas Margalit, Rabbi Abraham Polinkovsky and Dr. Michael Shwartzman.

Due to the economic situation in Bessarabia, for the next 20 years the distribution of the shekel bonds weakened because of the high value against the Pound sterling. The main problem was the apathy of the people and the pressure to donate to the funds.

Due to the high value of the shekel against the Romanian currency, the number of representative dropped from the 12 Congress 1921 to the 16th Congress in 1929. After the 17th Congress in 5691 (1931), there was again an increased activity i this area. In 1932 and 1933 Bassarabia poured the highest number of shekels (Bessarabia 710, Regat 507, Transilvania 412 and Bucovina 361).

The following table illustrates the participation of Bessarabia until the 21 Congress 5699 (1939), when all activities stopped.

[Page 169]

Bessarabia Delegates at the Zionist Congresses

Yes votes      
Elected delegates Total votes Elected delegate Jewish Homeland Elected delegates Eretz Israel Block Binian Ha–Aretz Elected delegate Poalei Zion Elected delegate Revisionists Elected delegate Mizrachi Elected delegates United Elected Delegates General Zionists Shekels sold Year Congress No.
10                 1 7 7 16000 1921 12
4                 1 2 2 7172 1923 13
2                 1 1 1 6633 1925 14
2 3366               576 360 1 1326 1 1104 5149 1927 15
3 4943         260 1 1030 440 1 1579 1 1634 8137 1929 16
4 5645     2 2834     1 1833 312 1   1 1566 11310 1931 17
4 11497 234 2 5105     1 2878 575 1   1 2705 13259 1933 18
6 14110 589 5 9294         1442 1   1 2785 16713 1935 19
6 11710 672 4 6933         1 1797 1   1 2308 18171 1937 20
7 8809 294 5 5499         1 1385 1   1 1631 20192 1939 21

[Page 170]

Bessarabia Delegates by party affiliation to the ten Zionist Congresses (12–21)
Between the Two World Wars (1921 – 1939)

Congress no. Year Place General delegates 1 United
2 Block of the Eretz Israel Workers
3 Homeland Building
Mizrachi Zionist Revisionists
12 1921 Karlsbad Jacob Bernstein–Cohen
Shlomo Berliand
Mordechai A. Gottlieb
Zeev Tiomkin
Israel Trivush
Pinchas Margalit
M. Shwartzman
Chaim Greenberg
Leib Glanz[1]
Michael Landau
Rabbi Abraham Polinkovsky
13 1923 Karlsbad Jacob Bernstein–Cohen
Joseph Sapir
Israel Skwirsky[2]
David Shpigel (Marani)
Rabbi Abraham Polinkovsky
14 1925 Geneva Mordechai A. Gottlieb[3] Israel Skwirsky
Leib Glanz
Sh. Altman
15 1927 Basel Jacob Wasserman[4] Israel Skwirsky
Shimshon Shechter[5]
Michael Yachinson[6]
16 1929 Zurich Itzchak Brener Israel Skwirsky  
17 1931 Basel Itzchak Brener Israel SKwirsky
Chaim Feigin
Israel Trivush

[Page 171]

Congress no. Year Place General delegates 1 United
2 Block of the Eretz Israel Workers
3 Homeland Building
Mizrachi Zionist Revisionists
18 1933 Prague Itzchak Brener Isar Rabinovich
Chaim Feigin
Michael Yachinson
19 1935 Lucerne Itzchak Brener Tzvi Weinsberg (Atzmon)
Dov Perlmuter
Meir Kotik
Isar Rabinovich
Zalman Rosenthal[7]
20 1937 Zurich Shlomo Berliand Jacob Margalit
Itzchak Koren
Isar Rabinovich
Joseph Shitz (Magen)[8]
Elchanan Shemi
Rabbi Levi Shternberg
21 1939 Geneva Shlomo Berliand Liuba Gokobesky
Baruch Heshroni
Michael Kotliar
Dov Milgrom
Itzchak Koren
Rabbi Moshe Teperman

Footnotes:

  1. Leib Glanz was not able to attend because he was refused a passport Return
  2. I. Skwirsky was also representing Galicia; After Bessarabia and Bucovina Shekels united, the representative was Dr. David Shpigel (Marani) from Chernovits Return
  3. M. Gottlieb was elected, but because the unification of the Shekels, he was not recognized by the Congress Tribunal Return
  4. Jacob Wasserman died during the Basel Congress (see page 114) Return
  5. I. Skwirsky was elected by the Romania (regat) List and Shimshon Shechter represented Bessarabia Return
  6. M. Yachinson was elected due to the large gap in the votes Return
  7. A fifth mandate received according to the agreement with the General Zionist regarding the votes gap Return
  8. J. Shitz (Magen) participated to the first part of the Congress, the Elchanan Shemi at the second part Return


[Page 172]

Personalities and leaders visits

When Bessarabia was annexed by Romania all activities, including the Zionist ones, became dependent on Bucharest. Although the Zionist Federation had independent status in Bessarabia, it became necessary to coordinate all actions with the Regat, Bucovina and Transilvania.

This situation became apparent when personalities and leaders of the movement from Eretz Israel came to visit. Because they had a larger geographical area to cover, their visits to Bessarabia and the other Provinces became shorter but still caused a festive atmosphere.

Because the visits were already covered in detail in previous chapter, we bring here only a chronological list:

List of visits in Kishinev:

5681/1921

Zeev Tiomkin: March–April, to organize the Unkraine Refugees Relief. Worked for the first Keren Hayesod fundraiser and visited many towns in Bessarabia

Chaim Greenberg: January–August, on his way to from Russia to Berlin to promote the Keren Hayesod. Visited Orgheiev, Beltz, Bender, Soroca and others

Eliezer Kaplan: Tamuz–Av for the 2nd Congress of Tzeirei Zion in Chernovits

[Page 173]

5684/1924

Menachem M. Ussishkin: First Congress of Keren Kayemet on May 28, 1924

5685/1925

Nachum Sokolow: 18–19 January

5686/1925

Zeev Jabotinsky: The Zionist Revisionists Congress on October November 1925

5687/1926

Leib Yaffe: Promotional tour for Keren Hayesod on November 9, 1926

5687/1927

Eliezer Kaplan: 5th Congress of Tzeirei Zion (Union) in Kishinev on the month of Iyar accompanied by Nachum Tversky

5688/1927

Chaim Weitzmann: 9–10 December

5689/1928

Colonel Josiah Wedgwood: 9–10 November, to promote the Keren Hayesod

5690/1929

David Bloch–Blumenfeld: October – to promote the Keren Hayeson fundraiser

Nachum Sokolow: 13–16 December

5690/1930

Zeev Jabotinsky: January 5, to the Zionist Revisionists Congress. Guest of Tarbut

5691/1930

Shmariahu Levin: December 1930, visited Beltz

5692/1931

Natan Bistritzky: In the month of Tishrei – to the Teachers Conference and 4 regional meetings of the Keren Kayemet

5693/1932

Zelig Brodtzky: End of December – propaganda tour

5694/1933

Natan Bistritzky: 4th Keren Kayemet Congress on October 17

[Page 174]

5694/1933

Itzchak Greenberg: General Zionists Congress on October 17 and WIZO Congress

5695/1934

Arthur Hantke: Promotional tour for Keren Hayesod in October

5695/1935

Eliezer Kaplan: propaganda tour – also visited Beltz

Meir Grossman: Congress of the “Jewish Homeland Party” and to promote the 19th Zionist Congress

Rabbi Yehudah Leib Fishman (Maimon): To promote and to organize the Zionist Federation, summer 1934

Yoseph Sprintzak: June–August – To promote and organize the Zionist Federation in the Regat and Bessarabia. Visited Orgheiev, Beltz, Bender

Itzchak Greenboim: July, immigration matters

Zeev Jabotinsky: September – lecture series

5696/1936

Rabbi Yehudah Leib Fishman (Maimon): Mizrachi Congress in March and Keren Hayesod Congress in Kishinev

5697/1936

Yoseph Sprintzak: At the beginning of Kislev, accompanied by Dr. Meir Avner, to open the fundraiser for the “Security and Defence Enterprise”

5698/1938

Rabbi Yehudah Leib Fishman (Maimon): 15 Elul (September) .Representative of the National Zionist Congress to organize the Zionist Federation Congress

5699/1938

Zeev Jabotinsky: Propaganda campaign in October. Visited Akkerman, Beltz and Bender

5700/1940

Natan Michael Gelber: January, Keren Hayesod Congress

 

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