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[Page 203]

Reorganizing the System

Translated by Sheli Fain

The Biliceni Farm

The four years of various experiments with establishing agricultural and vocational training groups gave the organizers the knowledge that this country is best suited to agricultural training. As a result, the organizers decided to create a large farm owned entirely by the He–Halutz Centre and develop yearlong training activities there. At the beginning, this plan looked very unrealistic because of the lack of capital, but the courageous efforts of the leaders of He–Halutz, Joseph Barafael[1] and Dov Tabachnick (and after them Shimshon Shechter), and with the help of two “friends,” this project took off. With the help of Tzvi Turkanovsky, a member of the Zionist Centre and director of the Orient Bank, the organizers secured a bank loan from the Jewish Colonial Trust in London and in the autumn of 1924 purchased a farm in the village of Biliceni near Beltz. The abandoned property measured 116 hectares, including a nine–hectare orchard and vineyard and a three–hectare lake. Half of the money (about 750.000 Lei) was paid in cash and the rest was taken as a short–term mortgage. The plans also included construction of a dairy farm and developing the farm to accommodate 120–150 trainees per year.

When the deal was sealed, a big celebration took place in Beltz with the participation of the members of the Zionist Executive in Kishinev: Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, Dr. Joseph Sapir, Tzvi Bonfeld, Shlomo Hilleles, Jacob Waserman, Tzvi Turkanovsky, Michael Landau, and members of the He–Halutz, Joseph Barafael, Leib Glantz, Hilel Giladi (Degania Bet), and Dov Tabachnik. Also present were the editor of Undzer Tzeit, Zalman Rosenfeld, and representatives of the Zionist Federation of Romania (Regat) and Bucovina, Moti Rabinovich from Bucharest, advocate Moshe Shechter (Mishor) from Galatz, and Dr. Fuchs from Chernovits.

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The He–Halutz festivities turned into a national holiday when the best leaders spoke about the significance of He–Halutz for building Eretz Israel.

A veteran Zionist from Beltz, Mendel Masis, opened the assembly. The chairman of the assembly, Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, concluded, “We are old, but we are very proud of our young people who work in Eretz Israel. They will now be responsible for the future of the nation.”

The assembly finished in very high spirits, and according to Leib Glantz, “it was a great day–a holiday.” After the celebrations, people headed to Biliceni, some walking, some in cars–a procession of thousands from Beltz and neighbouring localities.

Undze Tzeit described the festivities: “The joy is great in the city…men, women, and children accompanied the Halutzim. The guests are visiting everywhere, receive information, and are full of enthusiasm and admiration. Bernstein–Cohen is telling about a past experience when a piece of land was purchased by the British Jews, but no one came–so it became dilapidated. Our young people here will transform a neglected farm into a flourishing one. We did not have the money of the British Jews, but the Romania Jewish Community came to our help!”

After Bernstein–Cohen's speech the crowd heard from Advocate Moshe Shechter, the principal of the Hebrew Gymnasium and director of Maccabi in Beltz; advocate B. Dubinsky, who conducted the orchestra; and Leib Glantz, who led the singing. The Halutzim prepared a nice reception, where they served slices of mamaliga (polenta) with butter and feta cheese and wine, according to the local custom. The ceremonies ended in great joy with entertainment by Glantz, Shlomo Hilleles, Waserman, Moti Rabinovich, and singing new songs from Eretz Israel.[2]

 

Brit Ha–Noar–The Youth Alliance

In the past, Jewish youth were not united or organized, but the ideas of vocational and self–esteem training on the foundation of communal living provided the motivation to get involved and organize.

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The ideas of He–Halutz won over the youth and became a way of life. In the first three years of its existence the He–Halutz membership was mostly from Russia, but this changed by the end of 1924. At the close[3] of 1923 only 5.5% of members were from Bessarabia compared with 94.5% from Russia; and at the end of 1924, however, the Bessarabia membership reached 64.5%, Bucovina 27.5%, and Romania (Regat) 8.0%.

The youth of Bessarabia and even from Bucovina belonged to many local organizations, but only Maccabi, Ha–Techiya (Rebirth), and Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair succeeded in establishing branches in many cities and towns. These organizations were not able to present a radical solution to the daily problems faced by the youth and could not help them with the future. Here and there the youth circles were faced with Marxist doctrine and the hope that it will bring equal rights to all, including the Jews. It became necessary to bring together the Jewish youth organizations and connect them with the idea of self–realization in the rebuilt homeland.

Initiated by Tzeirei Zion and He–Halutz, a national Congress of all youth organizations opened on January 8, 1925. Delegates from Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair, Maccabi, Ha–, and Ha–Haver Ha–Tzair (The Young Friend) came to the Congress. Dr. Bernstein–Cohen opened the Congress by urging all Jewish youth organizations to work toward one common goal: rebuilding Eretz Israel.

The following people were elected to the Executive: Dr. Bernstein–Cohen, Honorary Chairman, and Meir Albert, Tzvi Bonfeld, A. Trachtenbroit, Chaim Lerner–Lior, Pinchas Mesharet (Mishori), I. Skwirsky, H. Feinboim, Z. Fratkin, and David (Borya) Perlmuter. The Standing Committee members were Itzchak Nusboim (Ben_Aharon), I. Pek, Polsky, Itzchak Ripesman, Shmuel Shapira, A.Z. Shochetman (Al_Iagur), L. Glantz, I. Skwirsky, I. Fisher (Ariel) from the Keren Kayemet, H. Feiboim, and Sh. Shapira.[4]

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The main concern of the Congress was the question of youth education and the two conflicting philosophies: 1) from the Shomer Ha–Tzair, which maintained that the youth should be immersed in Eretz Israel culture and the Hebrew language and break from the Diaspora, and 2) from the rest of the organizations, which suggested advancing both cultures together.

At the close of the Congress, the Shomer Ha–Tzair conceded to some of the demands and the Congress decided the following.

  1. Form an alliance of all youth organizations to serve as an umbrella bureau to all organizations.
  2. Start a campaign for promoting the national cultural characteristics.
  3. Make the study of the Hebrew language compulsory for all members.
  4. Work towards the practical work for the benefit of Eretz Israel.
  5. Have all graduates continue to the hachshara (training).
The visit of Sh. Givoni (Kfar Giladi), the Keren Kayement youth representative, at the end of 1925 contributed greatly to strengthening the alliance. He founded and edited the journal Ha–Noar (The Youth) in Hebrew and Yiddish (four issues were published that year), which published many articles of common interest to the youth movement and served as a common platform to all organizations. In Kishinev, the alliance opened a common club, a place for meetings and discussions. The alliance also worked to build a connection between the youth of Bessarabia, Bucovina, and Romania (Regat).

At the Seventh Congress of the Zionist Youth in Bucharest 1925, the future and the contributions of He–Halutz to the youth movement got a lot of attention[5] and received clarifications from the secretary, Dov Perlmuter, from Kishinev, about the position of the organization in integrating the youth of the pioneer movement.

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The next Youth Council meeting took place on March 6–7, 1926 in Bucharest with participants Itzchak Nusboim and Musberg from Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair, Dikman and Cohen from the Zionist Youth, and Chaim Lerner–Lior and B. Yedidya from the Ha–Techiya of Bessarabia. The Council approved the following motions.

  1. To organize and educate the united youth to dedicate their forces for Eretz Israel.
  2. He–Halutz will be responsible for individual and collective training.
  3. Each organization should establish and organize new branches.
  4. A Congress of all organizations should be held in the summer of 1927.
  5. To organize a common headquarters for the summer.
  6. To elect three representatives, one from each region who will connect with the organizations in Transylvania[6].
Immediately after this Council met in the spring of 1925, the He–Halutz[7] membership grew and the training intensified. At the end of the season there were 24 groups with a total of 678 members (25% women), 90% training in agriculture.[8]

Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair seized an important role in the “Union of the Pioneer Youth,” but at the same time, many obstacles appeared when members from other organizations were not accepted. Also at that time, Gordonia, founded by Aharon David Gordon, attracted several youth organizations with the aim to form a strong and united organization. Gordonia became the symbol of working life, of belief in national ideals, and friendly cooperation.

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Gordonia merged with He–Haver[9] from Bucovina, Ha–Techiya[10] and the He–Halutz Ha–Tzair (The Young Pioneer)[11] from Bessarabia. In the middle of 1929, Gordonia had 2,000 members, 75% from Bessarabia, 15% from Bucovina, and 10% from Romania (Regat). The head office was in Kishinev and the first executive included Abraham Bronshtein, Dov Mushinsky (Mishali), and Menachem Rolel. In February 1927 Gordonia and Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair joined the Zionist Youth Organization (AsociaĊ£ia Tineretului Sionist A.T.S) from Romania (Regat) and became the pillars of He–Halutz in Romania.

In the middle of the 1930s, Poalei Zion and its youth branch, Dror (Freedom); Tzeirei Zion and its youth branch, Bosliya; Maccabi; Brisiya in Transilvania; and Bnei–Avoda also joined the He–Halutz.

In the summer of 1926, Maccabi joined in pioneer training. Its first training branch opened at the Buyokan vineyard near Kishinev. This group of 24 people from Kishinev continued its training in the village Pereval. The training of Maccabi members became regular after the events of Av 5689 (1929). At the initiative of the Palestinian Division[12] and the

[Page 208a]

Bes208a.jpg
Photograph no. 67: The Visit of Joseph Baratz at the training farm in Buyokan, near Kishinev 5683 (1923)

1.Joseph Baratz, 2. Nachum Tulchinsky (Tal), 3. Nachum Cohen (Tardion) 4. Agronomist Fikhandler

 

Bes208b.jpg
Photograph no. 68: Immigrant group no. 14, Kishinev, 1923

[Page 208b]

Bes208c.jpg
Photograph no. 68: Brit Ha–Noar (Youth Alliance) Executive, Kishinev, 5686 (1925)

From right to left: sitting: A. Drachlis, T. Postilnik (Midbari), Sh. Givoni (Keren Kayemet representative), B. Tulchinsky, Chaim Lerner (Lior), Borya Perlmuter
Standing: A. Danishevsky, A. Rabinovich, Alper, Alexandrovsky, Shteinberg, Hirshhorn

 

Bes208d.jpg
Photograph no. 70: Palestinian Division of Maccabi, Kishinev, 5686 (1926)

From bottom to top, from right to left: on the floor: H. Alon (Kotzer), V. Erlich (Levanon)
Sitting on the right side: S. Chervinskaya (Brachiahu), on the left: Sh. Drabindiner (Rachmani)
Row 2 sitting: B. Fridman, Sh. Marlin, G. Podvisotzky (Brachiahu), Tzvi Bonfeld, I. Weisman (Levanon), Z. Nudelman (Alon), Sh. Rosenfeld
Row 3, standing: P. Frostzenskaya, I. Nudelman (Alon), H. Weinberg, D. Weinshtein (Guberman), A. Shor, R. Strotzovskaya, Unkown, I. Perlman (Libne)
Row 4, standing: Akiva Barun, I. Lampert, I. Marshensky, Al. Zeltzer, I. Gershanuk, M. Shor, A. Gershanuk

 

Bes208e.jpg
Photograph no. 71: Palestinian Division executive with a group of trainers, Kishinev, beginning of 1930s

From Right to left, sitting: David Weisman, Dr. Yefim Goldshtein, Ishayachu Vinitzky, Rosenfeld, Simcha Rosenfeld, V. Alterman
Standing: Sasha Kalichshtein, Unknown, Genya Madritz, Jenya Averbuch, Ichiel Boiukner, Haya Weishman (Djenish), Frida Kushnitzkaya, David Roshko

 

Bes208f.jpg
Photograph no. 72: The first Bnei–Israel in Eretz Israel, June 1926

From right to left: H. Diukman (Sinai), Sh. Sharf, D. Sinai, I. Shamban, M. Frank (from the book Orgheiev, its sons and daughters, Tel Aviv, 5719 (1959)

[Page 209]

efforts of Ichiel Weisman (Levanon) it was decided to gear the education towards the pioneers training.

This training became firmly rooted in the Maccabi organization and despite events such as the 1927–1928 economic crisis, the emigration from Eretz Israel and the slowdown in the Zionist movement, thousands of talented people were not deterred from making Aliyah to Eretz Israel.

 

Bnei Israel Organization

Bnei Israel organization, a local national youth organization, was founded at the beginning of 1920s in the Orgheiev region (Jewish population of 7,000 in 1930) with most of its members coming from the graduate high school students. Its cultural activities, mostly in line with the Keren Kayemet, clashed with the Kultur Lige (Culture League). The organization supported a big library; its building also serving as a youth club. It organized a drama group, a choir, and a sport group (under the Maccabi leadership). They put together concerts and shows with national topics.

[Page 210]

The main scope of the organization was to instill in the hearts of the youth the ideals of building the Jewish nation. The Bnei Israel members started their lives in the training (hachshara) program at the outskirts of the city and then in a nearby vineyard. The members who could not fully participate formed a group named “Friends of He–Halutz” who helped the Bnei Israel and assisted them to immigrate to Eretz Israel. In 1925, Mordechai Frank was the first member who immigrated, followed by four more people in the summer of 1926. As a result of the crisis, the immigration stopped. Only two years after, when the situation improved in Eretz Israel, 7 more people immigrated. In Eretz Israel they worked together with the Gordonia members, but did not join in. D. Sinai[13] explains in his book “we did not join Gordonia because we wanted to be independent. Even though we had the same beliefs, we wanted to keep our group intact, but at the end the group split up and 2–3 people left.”

The Bnei Israel was known as the group from Orgheiev. Organizationally, it did not constitute a separate group and at the end they joined the group from Gan Shmuel.

Bnei Israel had a big influence on the Jewish street and deterred many young people from joining the communist organizations.

 

The Development of the Bilicheni Farm

When the Rogojeni farm was in the process of closing, the equipment and products were transferred to the Bilicheni farm. In order to develop the Bilicheni farm, 19 horses, 8 cows and 100 poultry and additional agricultural equipment were purchased. They received help from Hilel Giladi (Degania Bet), the Federation representative from Eretz Israel.

The 40 existing members and the 100 who joined later started working full speed. Rapidly, the farm became a symbol of Eretz Israel life and a model

[Page 211]

for the patriotic youth who desired to build the new nation[14]. Since that time, a tradition was born to visit Bilicheni on Lag B'Omer and later to visit Massada on the 20–21 of Tamuz.

Keren Kayemet of Beltz also participated in the Bilicheni trips and even organized an exhibit of Hebrew books and newspapers published by the Labour Movement.

 

The Jassy Farm

The second training farm was organized on the outskirts of Jassy, on Pacurari Street. It consisted of a dairy farm, a vegetable garden and a poultry farm. Its produce was sold on the Jassy market. The farm had about 70 hectares – 22 hectares of agricultural land, 20 hectares which were not suitable for agriculture and served to graze animals and the rest – a terrain full of sand pits which provided important income for the farm. The farm was leased by the Jewish Community of Jassy.

The participation of the Zionist Youth (A.T.S. Associatia Tineretului Sionist) at the He–Halutz camp encouraged the Yedidei He–Halutz (Friends of He–Halutz) of Romania (Regat) to support the establishment of the farm. The final decision was taken at the meeting of 25 October 1925 in Bucharest under the leadership of Dr. I. Bauberg and with the participation of Joseph Barpal, a member of the Executive.

The Zionist Federation tasked the Friends He–Halutz in Jassy[15] to make the farm operational.

In a short time they assembled the necessary funds of about one million Lei to set up and develop the farm. The farm functioned well and in no time it had 30 thoroughbred cows, 7 horses and a flock of sheep.[16]

Footnotes:

  1. Immediately after his arrival to Bessarabia in 1921, Joseph Barafael was recruited by the Keren Hayesod where he successfully served for many years. In 1922 he joined the He–Halutz movement. Due to his organizational skills he developed many connections with heads of the community all over Romania. He is considered one of the leaders of the “Second Aliyah Agency” At the end of 1930s he was sent by the “Agency” to organize the immigration from Romania which became the first rescue gate for the Jews for all Eastern Europe. Return
  2. Undzer Tzeit, no. 665–666, Kishinev, 20–21 Cheshvan 5685 (1925) Return
  3. Erd und Arbeit, no. 40, Kishinev, January 5, 1925 Return
  4. Erd und Arbeit, no. 41, 2, January 16, 1925: Shmuel (Shmulik) Shapira was sent by the Labour Union in Eretz Israel to Romania, where he worked from the spring 1924 to the end of 1928. He did not have a special assignment; he dedicated his work to preparing the youth to the life in Eretz Israel. He knew how to create a special Eretz Israel atmosphere by lecturing about the history of the Yishuv and the creativity of the population. Even when he was transferred to Keren Kayemet, he continued to be active in the training of the new generation in order to prepare them for life in Eretz Israel. Return
  5. Stiri din Lumea Evreiasca (News from the Jewish World) Bucharest, no.145, September 12, 1925 Return
  6. Erd und Arbeit, no. 102 (11), Kishinev, March 19, 1926. Ha–Noar, Kishinev, March 1926 – Chaim Lerner (Lior) Return
  7. “Meassef Le'Tnuat He–Halutz” (The Rearguard of the He–Halutz Movement), p. 159 Return
  8. From the lecture of A. Dubkin at the 3d International He–Halutz Congress, Danzig, March 21, 1926 Return
  9. This national youth organization functioned in Bucovina since 1922. The decision to join Gordonia was taken at the end of August 1927 at the directors meeting. Menachem Rolel and Shatir were among the leaders. Return
  10. A national organization that started in the early 1920s. It had 29 branches mostly in North Bessarabia towns. The conferences were held in Beltz, Bilicheni, Soroca, and Kishinev. The leaders were: Tzvi Akerman (Ekroni), Asher Denishevsky, and Chaim Lerner (Lior). The decision to join Gordonia was taken at meetings in Beltz and Bilicheni in March 1928. Return
  11. This organization started in 1925 and had a few branches in the South with the head office in Bender. Its leaders were Moshe Melamed and Yehoshuah Kaplan. They joined Gordonia in May 23, 1929. (Ha–Atid – The Future, no. 74–75, Warsaw, August 1, 1929) Following the merger, Kaplan went to work for He–Halutz in Kishinev. Return
  12. The Palestinian Division started as a Maccabi Scouts group by Emanuel (Moni) Feldman in 1920. After Feldman immigrated (and joined the police force of the Mandate Government, Eretz Israel), Tzvi Bonfeld took over the leadership of the group. Under his leadership, the Palestinian Branch activities took on a national cultural characteristic. Return
  13. D. Sinai: Orgheiev be–bnina ve–hurbana, (Orgheiev, its Building and Destruction), Published by the Orgheiev Expats Organization, Tel Aviv, Sivan, 5719 (1959), p. 56 Return
  14. Lots of songs were sung at the farm about the halutzim and the farm: “From Rogojeni to Bilicheni what do I care? From Rogojeni to Bilicheni what do I need? Also Yiddish songs such as: I am a halutz from Bilicheni and I go to Eretz Israel and I know why and what to do!” Return
  15. Eliyahu Mendelson, David Komarovsky, Dr. David Greenberg–Moldovan, Dr.YItzchak Abram, Max Tav, Aharon Shtifel, Nahum–YItzchak Twersky, Advocate B. Kelpner, Abraham Koifman, Levi and others Return
  16. Eliezer Kaplan (Labour Party) and Dr. Chaim Weitzmann, President of the International Zionist Federation) visited the farm, see pages 220–221. Return

 

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