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[Page 120]

The Jewish-National academic
reading association, “Humanitas”

by Dr. Erich Neuborn (Tel-Aviv)

Translated by Jerome Silverbush

In November 1900 in Czernowitz, the Jewish national academic association, “Humanitas” was founded. The founding of this association can be attributed to the fact that at that time only one academic reading association, “the Academic Reading Room,” existed, whose members, although for the most part Jewish, by no means recognized their heritage, but showed marked assimilationist tendencies. They were proud to have several “token Christians” as members and made it difficult for anyone who was obviously Jewish or even those who appeared Jewish or had a Jewish name to join the association.

Jewish national students were naturally unhappy about this situation and so several of them decided to form their own Jewish national academic reading association.

Among the founders of the organization were the students Arnold Fischer, Philipp Fleischer and Erich Neuborn. Bylaws were written stating the goal of the organization as the preservation of Jewish language and culture and the fostering of comradeship. They wore a sash in the colors gold-green-gold and had their “den” at Hormuzikigasse 9 (9 Hormuziki Street) in a hall put at their disposal by brother 1 Neuborn in which, every two weeks, scientific and educational lectures were held on the land and life in Palestine as well as the lives of Jews in the lands of exile.

The number of members soon increased dramatically. The new members were mainly students who came from the provinces to study law at the Czernowitz University. In winter, they studied at the University, but during vacations they returned to their hometowns.

Soon, the Association had over 20 members. Among these members, in addition to the above named were the following brothers: Isidor Ballner (Dorna-Watra), Joseph Ellenbogen (Suceava), Moses Fischer (Czernowitz), Elias Friedwald (Jaroslau), J. Grauer (Czernowitz), S. Halpern (Czernowitz), Zissu Hutmann (Kimpolung), Markus Kurzweil (Radautz), Karl Mondenach (Gurahumora), Feiwel Sobel (Stanesti), Abraham Sommer (Gurahumora), Karl Sonnenthal (Radautz), Gerson Spirman (Czernowitz), Markus Sternberg (Stanesti), David Trichter (Czernowitz) and David Wacher (Jassy).

The first president of the Association was Arnold Fischer. He represented the Association at a banquet given in celebration of the 25 th anniversary of the founding of the Czernowitz University which took place at the palace of the state government and which was attended by Hartl, the minister of education. Also invited to this celebration were Hasmonaea (represented by Marcu Covler), Zephira (represented by M. Kinnsbrenner) and the academic fraternities “Alemannia,” “Austria,” “Arminia,” and the Academic Reading Room.”

After the formal part of the ceremony was ended, Minister Hartl sat at the table of the nine student representatives and invited them to drink, but didn't drink himself. He was encouraged by Arnold Fischer with the words, “after you Excellence. When the parents sing, the youngsters twitter.” Laughing, the Minister raised the goblet to his lips and soon a lusty chorus of student songs sounded, in which the Minister took part.

In the Association's hall, many newspapers and magazines could be found. There was also a comprehensive library for the member's use. When the first president of the Association asked Max Nordau if he could contribute copies of his books to the library, Nordau replied that he would be happy to comply, but he couldn't do it without his publisher's permission, The publisher, however, didn't want to authorize this gift.

The second president of the Association was Philipp Fleischer. He was of tender stature, but he was soon to show what kind of stuff he was made of. When the newly elected president when strolling on the Pardini Heights, he was insulted by the president of the “Academic Reading Room,” Caesar Perlstein, whereon, Fleischer without hesitation challenged him to a duel. Since he had never held a blade in his hand, his friends were very concerned about the future of their beloved president. Although Perlstein was considered “a good blade,” Fleischer was very confident. At that time, there was a student in Czernowitz named Tennenhaeuser (Kadima, Vienna) who was a well known swordsman. He trained Fleischer, who was completely inexperienced, for a few days and Fleischer proved he was an apt student. He bloodied Perlstein in the first “round,” making a reputation for himself in the student world of Czernowitz as a “feared blade.” After that, no student would dare to insult Fleischer.

The brothers mentioned above became mainly lawyers, like Joseph Ellenbogen, incidentally, the composer of the “Humanitas” colors song in Suceava, today in London, Moses Fischer in Vienna, Elias Friedwald in Jaroslau, Zissu Hutmann in Kimpolung, Markus Kurzweil and Karl Sonnenthal in Radautz, Feiwel Sobel and Markus Sternberg in Staneste, Gerson Spirman in Reichenberg (Bohemia), Arnold Fischer in Czernowitz, as well as Karl Mondenach and Philipp Fleischer, from where he emigrated to Palestine and settled down as a lawyer in Tel-Aviv and died in July 1951. Erich Neuborn became a judge and then a lawyer in Czernowitz; J. Grauer became a magistrate director and S. Halpern, became director in the Magistrates office in Czernowitz. David Trichter became a railroad engineer in Braila and David Wacher, a doctor in Iasy.

Of all the former brothers of Humanitas, only three are still alive: Dr. Joseph Ellenbogen in London, Dr. Arnold Fischer in Petach-Tikwa and Dr. Erich Neuborn in Tel-Aviv. All the others died during World War II at the hands of the Nazis.

In 1903 Humanitas was absorbed by the academic associations Hebronia and Emunah. The library was given to Hebronia.

Written by Dr. Erich Neuborn (Tel-Aviv)

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1) brother: The author uses the abbreviation BB when referring to the members of Humanitas. I can't find it in any dictionary, so I'm using “brother” which is probably close. Return

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