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[Page 190]

First Congresses and Councils

Translated by Sheli Fain

The First Congress

The First Congress of the Halutzim from across Romania took place in Kishinev on 26–28 Sivan, 5681 (July 2–4, 1921). The goal was to establish the framework for future activities and elect a central executive committee. However, two events preceding the Congress opening gave it new significance: 1) the Jaffa riots of May and 2) the assassination of I. H. Brener and his friends. “This congress is of enormous importance and it will only intensify, especially now that Eretz Israel is experiencing very tragic events and the people are left in great confusion and fear. Here at the congress we have to report on the events in Eretz and only we can dispel the dangerous confusion. Our road is more difficult, but we will overcome all obstacles. On the meeting of 6 Sivan we decided to convene the congress on 26–28 Sivan (July 2–3) in Kishinev. Each branch with up to 20 members will send one delegate and the branches with more than 20 will send 2. We mainly want a smaller congress in order to faster achieve our objectives. We invite the delegates to come and to bring with them the highest pioneer spirit!”[1]

Twenty–five branches sent delegates to the Congress. All sessions of the Congress were conducted in Modern Hebrew. Leib Glantz.[2] Opened the Congress; Chaim Shorer read the greetings from Hapoel Ha–Tzair; Itzchak Kaspi presented a report on the activities of the provisional centre; Shorer spoke about the situation in Eretz Israel; and Yehudah Danovich and Dov Tabachnik presented the report on training.

[Page 191]

The delegates held many discussions about the criteria for becoming a member and decided that membership in the He–Halutz will be given to those who were actively participating in the Party and dedicated to the ideology of the He–Halutz, and who disseminated Party ideas in the community.

The known writer Mordechai Spector, who was in Bucharest on his way to America, was a special guest at the Congress[3], which issued an important statement about the main purpose of He–Halutz: “The Congress of He–Halutz in Romania considers the He–Halutz a guiding light and a path paver for the people. Its goal is to renew the economic and spiritual life of the Jewish people based on work and creativity and find solutions to improve the life of individuals and the life of the nation.”

The delegates elected the following people to the Central Committee: Leib Glantz, Akiva Globman (Govrin), I.D. Zilber, Nachum Tulchinsky (Tal), Itzchak Kaspi, (Zilberman), Michael Landau, Joseph Lerner (Liron), Itzchak Rosenberg, and Chaim Shorer. Board members were Itzchak Chitron, Dov Tabachnick, Cohen, Natanzon, Friedman, and Kishinovsky, and assisted by Eliyahu Ortenberg, Joseph Barafael, and Nathan Cohen (Tardion).

The Kishinev Central Committee became responsible for all of Romania, overseeing the office in Chernovits and developing relations with the Eretz Israel offices in Galatz and Bucharest, which together decided to integrate the immigration activities and co–manage the resources and training activities.

[Page 192]

Dov Tabachnik assumed responsibility for training; Itzchak Rosenthal and Akiva Globman (Govrin) was charged with organizing the legal and financial aspects of immigration; and Joseph Barafael became leader of the “Friends of He–Halutz.”

Rosenthal and Globman immigrated in 1923 and the entire operation fell on the shoulders of Barafael, who worked diligently and enthusiastically until he also immigrated in 1925.

The first decisions that He–Halutz took in Bessarabia were the establishment of a training farm and a carpentry shop in Capreshti, under the management of Dov Tabachnik and the organization of hachshara groups in Soroca, Orgheiev, Bricheni, and Calarashi.

Dov Tabachnik, the “tzigel macher” (brick maker) from Capreshti, who was known as the “Pioneer of Hachshara” and the “Storm,” demanded from all the pioneers discipline and hard work and requested the best tools, the finest horses and farm animals, and quality seeds for the farm[4].

After the riots of May 1921, the He–Halutz centre had one more mission: to supply weapons to the Jewish settlement (Yishuv) in Eretz Israel, which was carried out by Zeev Levinson from the Ha–Shomer (the Guard).[5] Joseph Barafael, Akiva Globman, and Itzchak Rosenberg went to Bucharest, Galatz, and Jassy to raise money to purchase weapons. They received a lot of help from Adolph Bernhard, the secretary of the Zionist Federation in Bucharest, who himself generously donated to the cause. Most of the money was transferred to Constantinople, where it was easy to purchase weapons from General Denikin's soldiers who fled from Russia. The halutzim and Akiva Govrin himself then smuggled the weapons to Eretz Israel.

Delegates from Chernovits and Galatz and guest members from the Tzeirei Zion and General Zionist participated at the plenary session of He–Halutz on 26–28 Shvat 5682 (February 24–26, 1922. The question of immigration, which I. Rosenberg presented, was the most important item on the agenda.

[Page 192a]

Bes192a.jpg
Photograph no. 58: A group of trainees at the carpentry shop in Kishinev, 5682 (1922)

 

Bes192b.jpg
Photograph no. 59: The first He–Halutz farm, Kishinev, 1922

1.I. Alberton, 2. Kremer, 3. Sh. Sthternshtein, 4. A. Sorokopor (Matros), 5. Tz. Takai, 6. A. Tesler, 7. Kligpost, 8. N. Rosenmeir, 9. B. Reznik, 10, Kribitzki, 11. Yaffa Alberton (Tkach), 12. Michalevich (Michali) 13. Agronomist Fikhandler, 14. I. Cohen, 15. Unknown, 16. S. Barafael, 17. N. Cohen, 18. L. Glantz, 19. I. Rosenberg, 20. Akiva Globman (Govrin), 21. I. Barafael, 22, M. Globman, 23. Unknown, 24. Roitman, 25. Z. Muchnik (Driz), 26. Shochet.

 

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Photograph no. 60: Trainees group at the basket weaving shop, Soroca, 1923
First from the left: Gershon Vinitzky, the manager

[Page 192b]

Members of the Central Committee of He–Halutz at the beginning of the 1920s

 

Bes192d.jpg
Photograph no. 61:

From right to left sitting: Akiva Globman, I.D. Zilber, I. Kaspi (Zilberman), N. Tulchinsky (Tal)
Standing: I. Rosenberg, L. Glantz, H. Borodiansky (Bar–Dayan)

 

Bes192e.jpg
Photograph no. 62:

Bottom first row from right to left: I. Rosenberg, A. Koralnik, H. Bar–Dayan
Second row: Al. Ortenberg, Chaim Shorer
Third row: I. Shwartz, A. Govrin, Z. Saminovskaya, I. Cohen)

 

Bes192f.jpg
Photograph no. 63:

From right to left, sitting: N. Tal, L. Glanz, N. Cohen (Tardion), Akiva Govrin, Z. Bidner (El Ben Horin)
Standing: Dov (Buiu) Tabachnik, Aharon Tal, I. Barafael, S. Barafael

 

Bes192g.jpg
Photograph no. 64: With the occasion of I. Barafael immigration, end of 1925

1.Dov Perlmuter, 2. I. Shechter, 3. Sh. Shechter, 4. I. Barafael, 5. Aizik Cohen (Is. Shechtman), 6. H. Giladi, 7. D. Shechter, 8. Sh. Shapira

 

Bes192h.jpg
Photograph no. 65: Activists at the He–Halutz Centre in Bucovina, Chernovits, 1925–1927

From right to left: N. Weisberg (Levanon), Itzchak Nusenboim (I. Ben–Aharon), Is. Geler

 

Bes192i.jpg
Photograph no. 66: He–Halutz Executive Committee, Kishinev, March 1927

From right to left, sitting: M. Tartakov and his daughter, Tz. Tartakov, Sh. Shechter and his daughter, I. Frumkin, Sh. Shapira, Itzchak Ben–Aharon (Nusenboim)
Standing: Av. Hochman (Chik), I. Zetzer (Zohar), D. Shechter, Av. Bronshtein, Is. Geler, G. Fromkin, I. Shechter

[Page 193]

Topics of the discussion session included items such as hachshara (training), which D. Tabachnick and I. D. Zilber presented, and organization, presented by Akiva Globman–Govrin.

Because of the difficult economic situation and the immigration ban, the Executive Committee decided to send a telegram to the Zionist Executive and point out their role in delaying the immigration when it was still in their control. The committee also decided to work towards reopening without delay the immigration gates to halutzim and workers (see page 187), and despite the dire situation, to increase the agricultural training by opening an independent training farm.

Although the large training farm in Calarashi could not be opened because of financial difficulties, smaller farms were established in Leova, Kishinev, and Brugujeni and designated Akiva Globman to open training farms in Timisoara and Calineshti in Transilvania.

The professional and vocational training program in cooperation with ORT was given the task to purchase equipment for agriculture and tools for the training shops (carpentry, tailoring, fashion, welding) in Kishinev, Calarashi, Capreshti, Edinitz, Chernovits, Bucharest, and Galatz.

 

The First Congress “He–Halutz Week” and “Friends of He–Halutz”

The lack of steady financing for the He–Halutz activities was visible already from its inception. Many planned activities could not be realized because of lack of funds, and as result all He–Halutz branches decided to organize a “He–Halutz Week” fundraising campaign during the Pessach holiday. All activists of the movement from across the country participated in organizing balls and other events, appeared at synagogues, and decided to hold a “He–Halutz Week” every year. The “Week” became an important part of the He–Halutz budget. In the first events generated 120 thousand Lei.

[Page 194]

Data are missing for the years 5682 and 5683 (1922, 1923), but in 5684 (1924),[6] the year Bilicheni was purchased; the proceeds were 500 thousand Lei (a small percentage was collected in Bucovina). Because no fundraiser for He–Halutz was held in the Regat (Romania proper), the Zionist Federation donated 199,882 Lei[7] for the Halutzim from the Ukraine and Bessarabia in 1922 and 1923. Because of Akiva Globman's (Govrin) and Itzchak Rosenberg's work in Bucharest, Jassy, Galatz, and Chernovits, about half a million Lei were collected in 1923.

In 1924, Joseph Barafael obtained an annual pledge of 200 million Lei from Abraham L. Zisu, who published the weekly Jewish publication, Mintuirea (Redemption) and fell in love with the idea of He–Halutz.[8] His important donation was of great material and also spiritual help to the movement and served as example to many.

In 1925, with the establishment of the He–Halutz farm in the Pacurari neighbourhood of Jassy, many organizations, including the Friends of He–Halutz, the Zionist Federation in Bucharest, and the Society of Zionist Women, came together to purchase equipment and to cover the farm's expenses.

 

The Second Congress

The Second Congress was convened in Kishinev on 1–6 Kislev 5683 (December 21–26, 1922) with the participation of 20 delegates and many guests from the Hachshara groups from Kishinev, Galatz, Chernovits, Capreshti, Edinitz, Leova, Marculeshti, etc.

[Page 195]

Zeev Feinshtein (Nesher), one of the pioneers of the Second Aliyah, came as a representative of the Labour Union of Eretz Israel. In the opening remarks, L. Glantz praised the youth who, despite all the obstacles created by the Mandatory Government, succeeded to enter Eretz Israel. The pioneers demonstrated to the Zionist leadership that the only way to generate employment in Eretz Israel was by encouraging immigration. The training and immigration achieved satisfactory levels despite the difficulties created by the Mandatory Government.

In his welcoming speech, Dr. Bernstein–Cohen expressed his satisfaction about the growth of the He–Halutz movement, “which is ready to take over the building of the country and to develop its economy and culture.”

Other people who spoke at the congress were Z. Nesher on behalf of the Labour Union, Asher Koralnik from the Tzeirei Zion Centre in Romania, and the writer and educator Abraham Epshtein from Tarbut. They all emphasized the importance of the He–Halutz movement in the rebuilding of the country and praised the courage and determination of the pioneers.

Other leaders, such as Tzvi Turkanovsky from the General Zionist Centre, Ezra Dubinsky from Maccabi, and Rosenshtok from the newspaper Arbeter Zeitung (The Worker's Newspaper) and the Poalei Zion in Chernovits encouraged cooperation among all the parties and the He–Halutz.

The following leaders were elected at the Congress: Executives: Nachum Tulchinsky (Tal), Z. Bidner (Ben–Horin), and Itzchak Rosenberg; Secretaries: Akiva Globman (Goverin) and Michael Grobman (Magen).

There is very little material available about the proceedings of the Congress.[9] The two newspapers reported that Zeev Feinshtein–Nesher spoke about the situation in Eretz Israel and Akiva Globman gave a report on the activities since the last Congress, underlining that the main concern of the He–Halutz was immigration. [Page 196]

He further explained the problems faced by the training activities: the lack of professional trainers in agriculture and the trades and most important, the lack of raw materials. Even with the very little help from the Zionist organizations, the He–Halutz initiated many programs and as a result established many agricultural, carpentry, building, shoemaking, and tailoring cooperatives that supplied the necessary training in these areas.

Leib Glantz spoke about the future of the organization. Itzchak Rosenberg suggested establishing a Bank for Immigration to help the Aliyah. N. Tulchinsky spoke about the ideological and cultural needs and stressed the necessity of studying the Hebrew language. Dov Tabachnik lectured about the physical training and suggested to train the women (35% of all halutzim) on various professions outside the farm. Finally, Eliyahu Ortenberg gave the report on the financial situation since the First Congress.

 

Bes196.jpg
Illustration no. 13: Minutes of the Second Congress in Kishinev, outlining decisions. Mordechai Rashfi from Beit Oren gave the minutes to the author.

[Page 197]

The decisions made at the Congress can be summarized in a few words: “Work is our life; Hebrew is our language, and Eretz Israel is our motherland!”

 

IV He–Halutz Ideology:

The He–Halutz strives to train free Jewish workers to work and build the economic and cultural base of Eretz Israel to achieve freedom of the individual and salvation of the entire people:

  1. Physical, professional, and productive work
  2. Learning the Hebrew language and culture
  3. Having a common social life
  4. Recognizing the importance of self defence
V Physical training
  1. The Second Congress recognizes the importance of vocational training and will match the training to the needs of building Eretz Israel and will therefore decide to employ the halutzim in various professions for one year.
  2. The Congress will intensify the training in agriculture because it is a most important factor.
  3. Each member of He–Halutz in Romania has to promise to train for two years and specialize in his or her profession. (Note: Exceptional people will be allowed to immigrate before the two years are completed.)
  4. The Congress will provide work in agriculture and also make available work spaces for specializing in other fields.

[Page 198]

VII Immigration
  1. The Congress in Romania is expressing its indignation for the continuous obstacles and the closure of immigration. The immigration ban hinders the rebirth of the nation and negates the elementary right to the homeland.
  2. The Congress declares that the funds for the transit points are rapidly diminishing and must quickly transfer the halutzim to transit points closer to Eretz Israel to facilitate their entry to Eretz Israel.
  3. Removal of a member from the organization will be done by a decision of the group members at a general meeting.
  4. A new branch will be created only if there are 10 members.
  5. Each Halutz has to live in the He–Halutz House.
  6. The Executive Committee can delay the immigration of a member if they are needed for work elsewhere in the organization.
  7. The Congress recognizes the importance of He–Halutz Week and will organize another week next year during the Pessach holiday.
  8. The Congress will run a lottery for He–Halutz.
  9. The Congress announces the establishment of the organization, “Friends of He–Halutz” and urges the Executive to help it open branches in Romania.
 

VIII Organization of He–Halutz
  1. To become a member, a person has to be at least 18 years old, subscribe to the ideas of the organization, and be willing to apply the ideas to their own life.
  2. If a person wants to join the organization they have to register as a candidate and will live at the He–Halutz House for three months. The candidate's development will be assessed, and during a general meeting they will be interviewed for permanent membership. The final decision to join will be made by the general meeting of the membership. Note: Special permission to join without the three–month probation will be granted to exceptional individuals.
[Page 199]
  1. The international executive will be elected by the international He–Halutz and have representatives from the national He–Halutz organizations.
  2. {sic}
  3. The Congress recognizes the need for a publication and encourages the executive to implement this project.
  4. The Congress recognizes that to raise funds, train people, and facilitate immigration, they will need to send delegations to countries that do not have branches of He–Halutz and lack information about the organization.
  5. The Congress will ask the Zionist Federation to provide funds from the Keren Hayesod to help the immigration.
In the winter of 5683 (1923), the He–Halutz Bulletin, Special Pessach Edition, printed a report on the He–Halutz training activities:

Total: 15 training groups

  1. Agricultural farms: Capreshti, 7 hectares; Rogojeni, 33 hectares; Kishinev, 8 hectares; Leova, 12 hectares
  2. Shoemaking shops: Galatz, Kishinev
  3. Tailoring shops: Edinitz, Galatz, Chernovits, Kishinev, Calarashi
  4. Carpentry shops: Capreshti, Galatz, Edinitz
  5. Building courses: Chernovits
The bad news about immigration could not stop the enthusiasm at the training centres to open and enlarge their activities[10].

[Page 200]

A decision was made to close the small training farms in Leova and Capreshti and to enlarge the farm in Rogojeni. The 8–hectare farm near Kishinev's orphans' house was growing fruits, such as grapes, and had a chicken coop. 12–15 people worked there under the supervision of agronomist Finkhandler. Other groups worked at the private farms and vineyards.[11]

In the summer of 1923 a new group was established in Soroca at the cabinet making shop of Gershon Vinitzky. The group started with 12 members, grew to 20, and lasted more than two years. It closed because the Centre did not see a need for this industry in Eretz Israel.

The carpentry shop in Edinitz was enlarged to accommodate 12 halutzim because of an investment of 100 thousand Lei.[12]

In Elul 5683 (1923) Joseph Baratz, a native of Kishinev and one of the founders of Degania Aleph, came to visit the training groups in Kishinev, Soroca, Rogojeni, Beltz, Novoselitza, and Chernovits. He inspired the pioneers with his lecture about life in Eretz Israel and the need for trained immigrants, and his words filled the hearts of the people with enthusiasm about their historical role in building the nation.

In the spring of 1924, the Rogojeni farm was enlarged to 91 hectares with the money from closing the smaller farms in Leova and Capreshti. The animal farm had 10 horses, 8 cows, several calves, and a chicken coop. The farm had 60 trainees working on 16 hectares growing wheat, 2 hectares of rye, 10 hectares of flax, 5 hectares of oats, 5 hectares of beets, 2 hectares of potatoes, and 13 hectares used as hothouses for growing other vegetables. After Pessach, the remaining plots were sown with corn, beans, and lentils.[13] The He–Halutz Centre faced demands for more equipment and farm animals and had to supply funds accordingly.

[Page 201]

The Second Council

The Second Council was held in Kishinev on 20–23 of Kislev 5684 (November 28 to December 1, 1923) to discuss the training and the absorption of the halutzim in Eretz Israel. The Second Council decided to concentrate the training in fewer centres and only where there is an opportunity to purchase more land. It agreed that training should also be done in harness making, metalworking and carpentry for construction.

The Council discussed the situation of the groups upon their arrival in Eretz Israel. Because the situation on the ground did not allow the pioneers to continue in the same training spirit they were used to in Romania, the Council decided to postpone the immigration of the agricultural trainees until a better arrangement was found. The Council decided to negotiate with the agricultural centre in Eretz to find a suitable solution for the immigrants.[14] Other discussions touched on the work relationship between the female and male pioneers following a complaint from the women who worked in the kitchen. The women complained that they were treated as inferior to the male field workers. The Council decided to reinforce respect and equality in the workplace for all pioneers.

 

The Third Congress [15]

Very little material is available about the Third Congress. What is known is that it took place in Kishinev in Iyar 5684 (1924). The decisions made at the Third Congress reinforced the previous Congress and Council decisions such as:

[Page 202]

  1. Training is a long process dedicated to teach the building of Eretz Israel in general and cannot be instantly adjusted to meet the “hourly” situation in Eretz Israel.
  2. Training is not only physical and spiritual; it is training for a new way of life.
At ths point, the immigration slowed down. Between the spring of 5683 (1923) and the spring of 5684 (1924) only five groups totaling 159 people immigrated because they used the existing certificates (permits) issued previously by Governor Herbert Samuel. Between the spring of 1924 and the spring of 1925 only three groups with 134 people immigrated. After 22 groups immigrated in the spring of 1925 (the Third Aliyah), the ranks of the halutzim emptied and the training groups were left with only 236 members and 160 candidates for training. Only the determination of some leaders prevented the cessation of the training activities[16] and the Centre decided to increase the information campaigns and improve the training.

The following table illustrates the emigration from Romania in the spring of 5685 (1925).

Period No. of
Groups
Men Women Total With a
trade
Without
a trade
Until Spring 1922 10 784 198 982 465 517
Spring 1922–Spring 1923 5 176 57 233 181 52
Spring 1923–Spring 1924[17] 5 128 31 159 140 19
Spring 1924–Spring 1925[18] 3 91 43 134 128 6
Total 23 1179 329 1508 914 594

Footnotes:

  1. Erd und Arbeit, no.7–8, June 16, 1921. Kishinev. See also the Appendix for the entire document Return
  2. Erd un Arbeit,, no. 9–10, July 1921, Kishinev Return
  3. By N. Tardion, one of the secretaries of the Congress Return
  4. Bessarabia: Collections. Tel Aviv, 5711 (1951), p. 179 Return
  5. A. Rafaeli (Tzantzifer), The Struggle for Redemption, 5715 (1955), p.170 and Akiva Govrin in Davar, no. 13283, 19 Shvat, 5729 (1969) Return
  6. See a table of proceeds from the He–Halutz Week, at the end of the chapter on p.284–5 Return
  7. The Report to the 1923 Zionist Congress, p. 268 Return
  8. Abraham l. Zisu, a proud and courageous son of the Romanian Jewish community was a prolific writer and a great journalist. He fought for the creation of the national home in Eretz Israel. He was the chairman of the Zionist Federation of Romania during WWII and the representative of the Jewish Agency. After the war he was arrested and jailed because of his Zionist activities (Assir Zion). Following his release from jail he immigrated to Eretz Israel Return
  9. Undzer Tzeit, Kishinev, no. 80, 82, 89 of November 22, 1922 and December 1, 1922, Arbeter Tzeitung, Chernovits, no. 35, December 1, 1922. Return
  10. A Letter sent from the He–Halutz headquarters in Kishinev, published in the journal He–Halutz,no. 2–3, Warsaw, Sivan 5683 (1923) describes the existing situation: “The situation is absolutely depressing – our Eretz is locked up to immigration. Despite that our training efforts continue and we have the 17th group ready to immigrate. We know very well what the possibilities are for this group. At the beginning of the last winter Romania received a small number of permits and only a few were used for our members, the rest being cancelled for unknown reasons. Right now we do not have any permits, but we are still hoping…” Return
  11. He–Halutz, no. 2–3, Warsaw, Sivan 5683 (1923) Return
  12. Special edition of He–Halutz, supplement to Undzer Tzeit, Pessach 1924 Return
  13. idem Return
  14. Ha–Poel ha–Tzair, no. 34–35, July 6, 1923 Return
  15. In some documents the Congress was called a Council by mistake. The Third Council took place in Jassy on 16 Shvat 5686 (1926). Return
  16. “Meassef Le'Tnuat He–Halutz” (The Rearguard of the He–Halutz Movement), Warsaw, International Centre Publ. 1930, p. 159 Return
  17. Special edition by the He–Halutz Centre, supplement to Undzer Tzeit, Kishinev, Passover 5684 (1924) Return
  18. Supplement to Erd und Arbeit, Kishinev, Passover 5685 (1925) Return

 

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