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[Page 212]

The Fourth Congress
and the following Councils

The Fourth Congress took place in Bilicheni on 4–8 Tishrei 5686 (22–26 September 1925) with the participation of 36 delegates representing the 745 members and 25 branches, 45 halutzim guests and 4 representatives from Eretz Israel. The guests from Eretz Israel were: the representative of Keren Kayemet – Sh. Givoni from Kfar Giladi, B. Lenkovsly from Kibbutz Shomer Ha–Tzair of Beit Alpha and the representatives of the Federation, I. Fromkin from Degania Bet, and Shmuel Shapira. Also attended: all members of the main defence force of the Shomer Ha–Tzair lead by Yitzchak Nusboim (Ben Aharon) from Chernovitz, the leaders of Romania A.T.S. – Shihur and Rosenberg, leaders of the Maccabi in Kishinev Iehiel Weissman (Levanon), leader of the Ha–Techiyah Union in Bessarabia – Chaim Lerner (Lior), the leader of the regional He–Halutz branch in Chernovitz– Nachman Weisberg (Levanon) and the leader of the regional Tzeirei Zion in Chernovitz, M. Talpilar.

In the report on the previous year activities, the secretary Aizik Cohen (Israel Shechter) said that the movement grew and made progress in the agricultural training field, established the Bilicheni farm and initiated organized groups in Eretz Israel.

He mentioned the achievements of group 23 lead by Dov (Buia) Tabachnik who immigrated in the winter of 5686 (1926) and had encouraging results despite the many obstacles and difficulties.

Sh. Shapira and I. Frumkin, the delegates from Eretz Israel, lectured about the Labour Movement and secretary Dov (Buria) Perlmuter reported on the 25 training groups which have more than 700 members in Romania[1] and Transylvania. He highlighted that the He–Halutz movement has grown to 5 branches and that the visits to the Bilicheni farm on 20 Tamuz and the Hebrew Book and Newspaper exhibit attracted many youth and had a great success.

[Page 213]

The internal publication “Alim” (Leaves) got a lot of attention from the membership. During this time 5 groups (196 people) immigrated to the villages. The immigration of the halutzim from the Ukraine and the cessation of the foreign aid worsened the financial situation of the farm, but almost without any help from outside, 600 members immigrated and the numbers of interested to come grew.

Because of the financial situation the carpentry shop in Soroca had to close. Due to poor demand, the sewing and the carpentry shops in Edinetz stopped working. The lack of rain that year which yielded poor crops created additional hardship.

From the 3 million Lei budget, 2 million were allocated exclusively to Bilicheni. The international organization contributed 300 Sterling Pounds (about 300,000 Lei) for the purchase of the farm and 300 dollars for training. The only local source of income was generated by the “He–Halutz Week” events organized in Bessarabia and Bucovina where they collected 500,000 Lei in 5685 (1925).

Joseph Barpal pointed out that the pioneer training has a long and difficult way to go and he emphasised the importance of training in the development of the halutz (pioneer) spirit. He blamed the Immigration Centre for the failure to settle Group 23 from Romania and for not taking advantage of the knowledge they acquired during training.

In his lecture “Our Cultural Work” Leib Glantz said that He–Halutz should accept only members who have some elementary knowledge of Hebrew language and stressed the importance of education and personal development. He suggested shortening the work day in order to allow more cultural activities. He also suggested that the next He–Halutz Congress should take place in Eretz Israel. This idea was supported by Shimshon Shechter who agreed that an educated youth is of outmost importance to building the nation.

[Page 214]

The Congress approved the following important decisions:

  1. The He–Halutz organization will remain independent from political parties
  2. The He–Halutz Central Committee should concentrate on the training of the Diaspora halutzim and facilitate their integration in Eretz Israel
  3. The headquarters of He–Halurtz organization and future meetings should be in Eretz Israel
  4. The training of the hatutzim should be mostly in the agricultural field, but attention should also be given to other professions and trades
  5. 5% from the Keren Ha–Yesod donations should be allocated to the training fund
The following members were elected to the Central Committee: Joseph Barpal, Leib Glantz, Nachman Weisberg (Levanon), Israel Zetzer (Zohar), Aizik Cohen (Shechtman), Yitzchak Nusbaum (Ben Aharon), I. Frumkin, Dov (Buria) Perlmuter, Shimshon Shechter, I. Shneider and Shmuel Shapira.

Abraham Wertheim, Tzadok Weinshtein and Isar Rabinovich were elected to the Audit Committee.

The Executive Committee elected the following members: Dov Aizirer, Joseph Barpal, Buria Perlmuter and Shimshon Shechter.

 

The Third Council

The Third Council took place in Jassy on the 16 Shvat 5686 (31 January 1926). Frumkin advised to continue with the agricultural training in the coming spring. The Zionist Leadership praised Group 23 from Romania led by Dov Tabachnik which integrated in construction work in Petah Tikvah without any additional training. It was decided to accept new members for training only once a year and move them to Eretz Israel also once a year.

[Page 215]

He–Halutz delegates from Transylvania were invited to the next Council in July and help was promised for their branch.

The following table published as a supplement for Erd und Arbeit, Passover 5686 (1926) for the He–Halutz Week shows the Romanian immigration (Aliyah) numbers.

 

Year
Group
Men
Women
Total
With
a trade
Without
a trade
  1 12 2 13 5 8
  2 36 6 42 11 31
  3 48 17 65 24 41
  4 104 31 135 61 74
  5 94 26 120 60 60
  6 78 17 95 46 49
  7 113 24 137 62 75
  8 105 25 130 69 61
  9 138 42 180 86 94
  10 56 9 65 41 24
  11 34 3 37 27 10
  12 49 19 68 55 13
  13 23 10 33 28 5
  14 42 21 63 49 14
5683(1923) 15 28 4 32 24 8
  16 31 9 40 32 8
  17 29 5 34 30 4
  18 25 10 35 32 3
  19 29 4 33 31 2
5684(1924) 20 14 3 17 15 2
  21 42 20 62 59 3
  22 22 12 34 32 2
5685 (1925) 23 27 11 38 37 1
  24 15 5 20 18 2
  25 39 10 49 49 0
5686(1926) 26 31 8 39 39 0
  27 22 8 30 30 0
  28 54 16 70 70 0
Total 28 1,340 376 1,716 1,122 594

[Page 216]

During the 6 years of its existence, 1,700 members immigrated to Eretz Israel, most of them having done the training in agricultural groups and on farms: Kishinev, Leova, Capreshti, Rogojeni and Bilicheni. Carpenters worked in Edinitz, construction workers in Chernovitz, furniture makes in Soroca and seamstresses in Edinitz.

 

The Fourth Council

The Fourth Council took place in Bilicheni on 12 – 13 July 1926 and dealt with the financial crisis of the Romania He–Halutz organization which was caused by the drought from the previous year, the poor crops in Bilicheni and the general dire economic situation of the Jewish population. He–Halutz week collected only 270,000 Lei, about half of what it was in the previous year, in 5685 (1925). From the beginning of the year until the spring, the Headquarters investment in training reached 20 thousand dollars (4 million Lei) with the Zionist Federation contribution being only 25%. The burden to raising more money was transferred to the local branches.

It was decided to continue the group immigration model in order to protect the spirit of community and the Kibbutz model and once the groups settled in Eretz Israel this model should help the immigrants better adjust to the new conditions[2]. To ensure continuity to the agricultural training in Eretz Israel, the groups who trained exclusively in agriculture will not immigrate until placement in agriculture could be secured.

The Council decided to immediately found the new Joseph Bussel Kibbutz and publicize it among the members.

[Page 217]

180 people registered to immigrate and arrangements were made to immediately settle this group. Group 28 from Romania that settled in Petah Tikvah offered to help absorb this new group of 180 people.

 

The Fifth Council

Instead of the annual congress, a Fifth Council met in Jassy on 14–15 Heshvan 5687 (22–23 October 1926) with the participation of 30 representatives from the branches, 60 guests and members of the Joseph Bussel Kibbutz. It was chaired by I. Nusbaum (Ben Aharon), Sofer, A. Zemura, Krauz and Sutlov. D. Perlmuter, I. Cohen (Shechtman), M. M. Tartakov and Sh. Shechter presented reports on these topics:

  1. Strengthening the cooperation between the youth organizations – Ha–Shomer Hatzair Ha–Techiyah, A.T.S. (The Association of Zionist Youth of Romania) and the “provisory council” from Transylvania (which had 2 training groups)
  2. To dismantle the urban groups and to transfer the members to agricultural training
  3. To preserve the 16 training groups (400 people, 85% from the total members) that completed the training
  4. To recognize the importance of He–Halutz work as presented at the conference of ORT in Berlin (Sh. Shechter participated) and to support their significant work
  5. To recognize the difficult financial situation of He–Halutz in Bessarabia and Bucovina. Only 270,000 Lei were raised by the He–Halutz Week. The contribution of 600,000 Lei made by Friends of He–Halutz in Bucharest went to finance the farm in Jassy. The small contributions from Keren (Fund) He–Halutz in America and from the Zionist Federation fell short of the 3 million Lei needed for the operations and He–Halutz was forced to take loans at a high interest rate
The Council decided to continue with the group immigration and once in Eretz Israel to make sure they will receive carpentry tools, sewing machines, household items and shelters.

The Council thanked the Friends of He–Halutz for their support

[Page 218]

and for the 300,000 lei allocation for He–Halutz activities.

The following people were elected to the leadership: M. Abramson, Israel Geler, Abraham Hochman (Tchik), A. Zemura, Tzipora and M. Tartakov.

 

Kibbutz Joseph Bussel

The first meeting of the 143 members (101 men and 42 women) who wanted to join the Bussel Kibbutz took place after the Council meeting (24–25 October 1926) with the participation of 60 people, among them 10 from the Jassy farm. After long discussions it was agreed that this new kibbutz is an important element of the kibbutz movement in Eretz Israel.[3]

The following members were elected to the Kibbutz leadership: Shoshana Idelman, Shamai Idelman, Dov Eizirer, Abraham Hochman, Ariyeh Munder, Dov Perlmuter and Mordechai Kisar.

(It's interesting to note that the founding of the kibbutz was initiated during a year when there was practically no immigration[4]).

The newspaper Ha–Atid (The Future) no. 48 of 19 Adar A, 5687 writes the following:

[Page 219]

“We are 43 members and we settled in a camp with 8 tents and 2 small campers near the village. 65% of the members work outside the kibbutz. The season for picking fruit will hopefully increase the need for workers here. Our kibbutz has to find solutions to provide work for the newcomers throughout the entire year and to achieve a reserve for times when there is no work. We already have a 70 acre orchard where we will work with the Shomron group. We will buy a pair of oxen and a carriage in order to work in the village…

In a few days we will get from the Keren Kayemet another 5 acre parcel of land where we will build the first building and move there. Every day here is another challenge, but we move forward. This is how our country is teaching us progress and maturity. Our goal is to create a working society in our country in the spirit of kibbutz idealism. We thought that after we came here, another group will be able to come. Unfortunately we got the news that the immigration has been stopped. The members are very upset about this blow to our kibbutz movement.

The Bussel Kibbutz planned to become a big kibbutz that will be divided into smaller units in the future, but due to the present difficult economic situation and the immigration blockade this plan was not implemented. At the end, the members dispersed – a few went to Degania, some went to work in the Port of Haifa and the rest joined the Massada group in Hedera.

The group still waiting in Romania joined Gordonia.”

 

The Sixth Council[5]

The Sixth Council took place on 4–5 Adar B, 5687 (8–9 March 1927)

[Page 220]

in Kishinev during the immigration blockade. From the 200 members (138 men and 62 women) who had permits, only 50 members succeeded to immigrate. The 130 people from the Bussel Kibbutz and 20 from Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair were rescheduled. Although the spring training was postponed, the majority did continue with the training (250 people for more than one year and 150 people for two years). Unfortunately, some members reached the army age and were recruited by the Romanian army. In the spring, only 60 people came for training (30 came from the He–Halutz Ha–Tzair (Young Pioneer) the youngest youth organization in Bessarabia.

The Council achieved two tasks: one, to alert the Zionist Leadership about the problems facing the He–Halutz movement due to the immigration blockade and second to find new sources of funding in order to continue to run the Bilicheni and Jassy farms and provide training to the 11 groups.[6]

The Council appealed to the public at large by publishing information brochures and all factions responded positively and generously.

After the Council, I. Frumkin (Degania Bet), Buria Permuter and A. Zemura returned to Eretz Israel.

 

Visits by Eliezer Kaplan and Dr. Chaim Weitzmann at the Jassy Farm

The 1926–28 economic crisis in Eretz Israel caused severe unemployment and a big drop in immigration. To help encourage the movement in Romania, Eliezer Kaplan and N. Twersky went to Romania in May 1927. With this occasion, the leadership of He–Halutz in Romania organized a special meeting on May 30 at the Jassy Farm. 80 people participated among them 8 delegates from Bilicheni.

Kaplan explained the situation in Eretz Israel

[Page 221]

and assured that the labour movement works in the best interest of the halutzim everywhere.

The president of the Zionist Federation, Dr. Chaim Weitzmann, visited the Jassy farm on November 7, 1927. He was received by the director of the farm M. Tartakov (Kibbutz Geva) and the chairman of Yedidei Zion, Greenberg–Moldovan, who explained the present economic situation. The president was very impressed by the activities of the Romanian Jewish community and especially by the farm. The halutzim complained that after 2 years of training they have to return to their parents' homes and regrettably, Weitzmann could not offer any help at that moment. The meeting became more cordial during the refreshments and the halutzim presented Weitzmann with the fine crafts they created and danced and sang around him.[7]

[Page 222]

The Fifth Congress

The Fifth Congress took place in Jassy on 7 Shvat 5688 (28 January – 1 February, 1928) and was attended by a large crowd: 38 delegates, 120 halutzim and 50 delegates from various youth organizations and other organizations and factions in Jassy. Zeev Feinshtein (Shefer) from the Labour Union and Chaim Shorer from Ha–Poel Ha–Tzair represented Eretz Israel.

The Central Committee secretary, Mr. Aizik Cohen (Shechtman) remarked that the difficult situation presents a new opportunity to strengthen the movement and to transform it into a Zionist revolutionary force which will find a way for immigration and settlement. Z. Feinshein from the Federation and Chaim Shorer from the Labour Union encouraged and praised the participants and brought greeting from Eretz Israel.

Shimshon Shechter explained that since the Fourth Congress (Tishrei 5686 (1926),

[Page 223]

immigration practically stopped and the emigration from Eretz Israel grew. He emphasised the role of the He–Halutz and the importance of training in preserving the successes from the past. The organized training and the organized immigration are the healthy foundation of settlement of the newcomers in Eretz Israel. The establishment of the Kibbutz Joseph Bussel was a great step towards absorption, but unfortunately it was not successful because of the lack of work and the immigration blockade. The Bilicheni farm had its own problems due to the cholera outbreak and negotiations took place to move the training to another farm. The Jassy farm was more successful and with the help of Friends of He–Halutz from Bucharest and Jassy, established a modern dairy farm and developed a 4 hectare vegetable garden.

Shechter pointed out the lack of training in Bucovina and especially in Transylvania. In these two provinces, He–Halutz had to face two problems: on one hand, a very religious population and on another hand, a great assimilation. He also explained that unlike Bessarabia, the Romania Jewry is very diverse. He pointed out that Jewish life In Bessarabia is very different from

[Page 224]

Poland. Bessarabia has very few writers, poets and theatres and a difficult economic, political situation that even the Zionist Federation cannot surmount.

Shechter concluded that the He–Halutz had the duty to disseminate its philosophy and indoctrinate the youth with the national idealism even during gloom situations. Shechter concluded his report with statistical data: in Romania, the He–Halutz has 326 fully training members, 73% of the members have high school education. 213 halutzim members do not have any political affiliation, the rest belong to other organizations: 62 from the Shomer Ha–Tzair, 19 from Ha–Techiyah, 17 from Maccabi, and 15 Tzeirei Zion. 75.3% of the new members came from Bessarabia and 20.8% from Romania (Regat).

Other people spoke at the congress about Zionism in Eretz Israel (Feinshtein and Shorer), the training situation (I. Cohen–Shechtman), about Tarbut (Sh. Shechter), the immigration (Sh. Shapira) and the He–Halutz (Israel Geler).

The Congress took the following decisions:

  1. Solidarity with the organizations in Eretz Israel in their struggle with unemployment
  2. To intensify the fight against the immigration blockade
  3. To seek support from Eretz Israel and the Diaspora Jews in the fight for the Jewish labour force in the Jewish settlements
  4. To widen the training to include an all encompassing personal development
  5. To recognize that the training is the basis of work and communal life, culture and language
  6. To recognize that the Brit Ha–Noar (Youth Union) is the foundation for uniting all youth organizations
[Page 224a]

Bes224a.jpg
Photograph no. 73: Threshing at the Bilicheni Farm near Beltz 5687 (1927)

 

Bes224b.jpg
Photograph no. 74: The Techiyah Congress (last) before joining Gordonia,
Bilicheni, Lag B'Omer 5687 (20–22 May 1927):
1) L. Khersonsky, 2) Shteinberg, 3) Tz. Akerman (Ekroni), 4) Sh. Shechter, 5) A. Denishensky, 6) A. Bresler, 7) M. Tartakov (Union representative)

[Page 224b]

Bes224c.jpg
Photograph no. 75: The Massada training farm (near Beltz) members in front of the living quarters 1929

 

Bes224d.jpg
Photograph no. 76: Dr. Chaim Weitzmann's visit at the Pacurari farm (Jassy) 5688 (1928)
1) Chaim Weitzmann, 2) M. Tartakov, 3) N. I. Twersky, 4) Dr. Greenberg–Moldovan, 5) Komarovsky, 6) Alexander (Shura) Fishman (Labour Director)

[Page 225]

  1. To recognize the contribution of Gordonia and He–Halutz Ha–Tzair for encouraging their members to join the He–Halutz society
  2. To protest the Mandate Government immigration blockade and its attempt to kill the Zionist project
  3. To demand free immigration under the supervision of the Zionist Federation in order to rejuvenate the movement and to refresh the pioneer camps in Eretz Israel
  4. To thank Yedidei He–Halutz (Friends of He–Halutz) for organizing a successful He–Halutz week and for sponsoring the training on the farms.[8]

Footnotes:

  1. Renașterea Noastra (Our Rebirth), no. 75, December 9, 1925: Place of origin of the halutzim: 75% from Bessarabia, 16% from Bucovina and 9% from Romania (Regat) Return
  2. Ha–Atid (The Future) Warsaw, no. 42, 30 August 1926 Return
  3. According to the minutes of the meeting, available at the Labour Archive in Tel Aviv Return
  4. 1053 permits for immigration in 1927 were given to people who had relatives in Eretz Israel (not necessarily to halutzim). Only 91 permits were issued for Romania. By the end of the year only 126 people from Romania immigrated. In 1928, 35 people immigrated and 810 people immigrated in 1926. In 1925 the number was 1620. Return
  5. Known in the minutes as the “Plenary” Return
  6. Erd und Arbeit, no. 11(154), 18 March 1927 and Ha–Atid (The Furture), no. 50, May 1927 Return
  7. M. Klein: The Jews of Romania in their country of origin and in Eretz Israel, The Union of Romanian Immigrants, n.d. p. 51. (It indicated that 700 halutzim took the training at the Jassy Farm) Return
  8. Erd un Arbeit, no. 6, February 10, 1928 Return

 

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