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[Page 125]

From the World of Yesterday
in the Jewish Renaissance Movement

(In memory of Dr. Mayer Ebner)

Dr. Josef Ebner (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Jerome Silverbush

The history of Bukovina Judaism in the XIX century shows the continuous objective of their differentiation from the whole of the Jewish people under the influences of emancipation and assimilation. At the threshold of the XX century, a historic change began. In place of differentiation, now the continuous aim of aligning Bukovina Judaism with the growing unification of world Judaism under the influence of the Zionist ideas preached by Dr. Mayer Ebner. Dr. Mayer Ebner, one of the greatest representatives of the Jewish renaissance movement, “the old master of Jewish politics in Romania,” counted among the noted central leading personalities of the Jewish Diaspora1 in Europe and his name belongs in the general Jewish history. When we in the history of Bukovina Judaism acknowledge with justification our Dr. Mayer Ebner as a Bukoviner, we do it with pride and note with satisfaction that he wrote the introduction to our work. We turn to Herrn Dr. Joseph Ebner to explain the Jewish renaissance from a historical viewpoint and to portray, the leading personality, Dr. Mayer Ebner in the framework of this movement in a general outline.


Popper Lynkeus posed the question whether the leading personalities or the common people or both are the decisive factors in historical evolution and in agreement with other historians; he advocated the concept that both factors are decisive for the course of events. Neither factor can be left out of historical description if one wants to describe the passage of history in the most simple and understandable way.”

In dealing with the honorable task given to us, in the sense of the spirited words about the nature of the historian's task, “how it was and how it became.” how it was, is attested to by the remote epochs in which the pre-conditions for the creation of the Jewish renaissance movement existed and how it has become, we want to explain in general outlines, the Renaissance movement in whose frame work Dr. Mayer Ebner functioned for the Bukoviner Jews.

The preconditions for the Renaissance Movement lie far back in the XVIII century of the Enlightenment. The philosophizing XVIII century gave birth to the revolutionizing XIX century, which seen historically had its start with the French Revolution in 1789. The French Revolution expressed the views of the French rationalists of the XVIII century in the “Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen.” In regard to the “Jewish question” the rationalists were not concerned about the Jews per se, but about the principal of the emancipation of the disadvantaged. The Jews were the disadvantaged; therefore, they deserved to be emancipated. Clermont Tonnerre, a friend of the Jews who had become famous in the French Revolution said at that time that Jews as a nation should be given nothing, but Jews as humans should be given everything. The result of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was the legal emancipation of the Jews. In the spirit of Clermont Tonnerre, the law makers not only in France, but also in other states of Europe embraced and decreed the idea of emancipation.

The Jews on their side strived everywhere to leave their spiritual or physical ghetto and to find a place in their non-Jewish environment. The pioneers of “Entjudung” (disengaging from Judaism, a phrase coined by Zalman Rubaschow of Schazar) influenced by European values had introduced a stream flowing away from Judaism to a Judaism free life. Judaism had become a burden for its adherents. The goal was disassociation, flight from Judaism. Mass baptisms were the order of the day. The Berlin salons of the Jewesses Henriette Herz and Rahel Levin were the meeting places of the intellectual elite of Europe. The Humboldts and the Schlegels, Schleiermacher, the diplomats Gentz and Brinckman, Prinz Louis Ferdinand, Chamisso, Arndt and the Arnims and others were the desired guests of the Jewish “haute vole.” The full blossoming of assimilation had been achieved, but in these salons, our Jewesses felt the aversion against their race. Rahel Levin, the greatest woman of the German Romantic, experienced painfully her noble Jewish ancestry and her relation to the Jewish “founding mother” after who she was named. Her husband, Karl von Varnhagen said about her: The greatest ignominy, the most bitter pain and unhappiness for her was being born a Jew. So thought also Henriette Herz, so felt also Dorothea, Mendelssohn's daughter.

The high intellect of the Jewish people made it receptive to every new political and intellectual stream and enabled it in its totality to be a decisive factor in the evolution of its own history. From the “zeitgeist” (spirit of the times) of emancipation and the assimilation following it, came Börne and Heine, Jewish literary figures who sought the “Entreebillet” to European culture. They became the apostles of “Young Germany” and the liberal ideas of 1848 which shaped the cultural landscape of Germany for decades to come. Jews gathered around the flags of foreign nationalism ideals in Austria, in Bohemia, in Moravia, in Hungary, in Galicia, in Congress Poland. In Bukovina, German assimilation reached its highpoint in 1875. When the Franz Josef University was inaugurated in Czernowitz in 1875, the Jews like Prof. Dr. Hermann Sternberg saw in the school an intellectual center of a Western directed cosmopolitan oriented “Germanness,” which they wanted to be a part of. Everywhere without national traditions and without fatherland. Searching, wandering and lost.

The shedding of everything Jewish and the dependence on a non-Jewish environment – assimilation – as long as the answer of the non-Jewish environment in all forms of rejection – anti-Semitism – had produced that moral Jewish need which Nordau analyzed in his famous speech at the First Zionist Conference. One reads in the three addresses on the situation of the Jews in Austria by Dr. Mintz, Dr. A. Salz and Dr. Mayer Ebner, in which each describes the situation in his region, that is in West Austria, Galicia and in Bukovina. The same picture emerges from all three: Assimilation and the answer: Anti-Semitism.

Zionist thoughts in the course of the almost 2000 year Galut (exile), alive and woven into all intellectual streams of the Jewish Middle Ages were replaced by the idea of emancipation, which was expressed by the goal of full separation from ones own people and absorption in a strange atmosphere. In the epoch of emancipation, the Jews as takers and givers asked for their part in European cultural values. Inside, the Jews were not free when they came in contact with the Christian environment. The necessary stage of auto-emancipation could not be achieved. The Jews were a foreign element in a land of “wirtsvolk” (inn or bar owners). They proved themselves to be incapable of assimilation.

The untenability of the situation was evident. Jewish thinkers, a rainbow of various Jewish thinkers, a rainbow of various iridescent colors of Chaibat Zion (Lovers of Zion) in the firmament of the Jewish intellectual world, Hess, Gordon, Ben-Jehuda, Smolenski, Lilienblum, Pinsker, Achad-Haam, Birnbaum and then the titan, Theodor Herzl and finally, Max Nordau preached a new spirit. Pre-Zionists, Pro-Zionists and Zionists.

On this recognition of the untenability of the situation is based the striving to renew Judaism by the revolt against the dependency on other people through assimilation and against the rejection of other peoples expressed as anti-Semitism, and through the modern Jewish renaissance-movement, in Jewish nationalism which naturally led to Zionism.

In the view of many Zionist theoreticians modern Zionist thinking is the product of emancipation and the assimilation which followed it as well as the recognition of the indefensibility of continuing to exist as Jews in a life alienated from Judaism. In addition, we have the opinion that the Renaissance Movement which certainly was essential for the Jewish people wouldn't have been possible if the romantic hadn't ruled its activists.

Around the turn of the XIX century, the new national2 intellectual direction found its lasting expression in the appearance of Nathan Birnbaum who taught the national Jewish ideology in the book he published, “Auto - Emancipation.” A staff of young intellectuals was built up with whose help Herzl was able to call the Congress and with the relatively small group give ideas and leadership to the awakening Diaspora. In this “pre-Herzl” epoch, and from these circles Dr. Mayer Ebner became known to the public.

In 1890, Mayer Ebner published a call to the Jews of Bukovina against assimilation. On the holiday celebrating the storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1891, like minded intellectuals Josef Bierer, Blum, Bursztyn, Benjamin Ebner, Beinisch Ebner, Mayer Gerbet, Leon Igel, Moses Igel, Jacob Kommer, Menczel, S. Neuberger, P. Rieber, Schecht, Isac Schmierer, Adolf Sternberg, Julian Sternberg among others joined together in the Hasmonäa3Circle patterned on the Vienna Kadima. Birnbaum's national Jewish ideology awakened Zionists. Mayer Ebner, in the name of Hasmonäa, had the first bloody sable duel against a Jewish renegade. “It is almost never easy to go a new way. Dr. Ebner didn't follow well worn paths” said veteran Prof. Dr. Hermann Sternberg about the beginnings of Zionism in Bukovina. An enlarged Zionist organization encompassing various non-academic strata of Czernowitz residents and including Zionist groups in Radauti, Suceava, Siret, and Frumosa was called into life. The Zionist communities sent Dr. Meyer Ebner as their delegate to the First Zionist Congress and along with his friend Dr. Isaak Schmierer and law student Leo Picker he followed the call of Herzl to Basel. According to Ebner, Schmierer and Picker were unconditionally committed to the ideal. Schmierer had the character of a knight, one of the courtliest of men, Picker – the embodiment of righteousness. Dr. Ebner went to the Congress, as he wrote, “with all the belief and hope that a Jewish soul is capable of.” All who took part in the Congress had the same feelings. They experienced the historic significance of the Congress, which for them and for us today marked the division between the dying Jewish Middle Ages and the breaking dawn of the new era. The romantics cried the “most beautiful tears of their lives.”

Elected to the great Action Committee at the Congress, Dr. Ebner returned home as messenger of the Herzlian ideas. Certainly, “Bukovina was in contrast to Galicia and Russia” as our Theodor Weisselberger said, “not especially receptive to Zionist ideas, and the Zionist fighters of the time didn't have it easy, but with their young leader, they slowly and gradually achieved their goals.” Dr. Mayer Ebner paved the way for Zionism in Bukovina.

In Dr. Mayer Ebner's view, the Zionist ideology encompassed both workers and the middle class on a “non-class conflict” basis. In this sense, we find in the annals of the II Congress, an unfinished resolution sponsored by 22 delegates, among them, Saul Raphael Landau (Vienna), Sirkin (Bern), Bernard Lazare (Paris), Dr. Salz (Tarnow), Dr. Malz (Lemberg), Dr. Mayer Ebner (Czernowitz), Max Hickl (Brün), Dr. Philipp Menczel (Czernowitz), which calls for representation for the workers on the Action Committee. This resolution is in our view, the first document from the origins of the world Zionist movement that mentions the workers as a factor. Dr. Mayer Ebner goes further in his viewpoint of the Zionist ideology stating that “Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) and the Diaspora created the universality of Judaism.” For the Zionist, Judaism rests on two columns: on the national center in Eretz Israel and on the national-Jewish Diaspora. The Zionists should be active for the future work in Eretz Israel and for the present work, that is for a national Jewish life in the Diaspora, in the lands with mass Jewish settlements. In this sense, Dr. Ebner wrote a series of articles in “die Welt” (the World) published by Herzl over the problem of the work of the present and established the principals for the national Jewish “Realpolitik4.” The majority of the Zionists accepted his views. We should mention that later conferences in Krakau and Helsinki dealt with the present work in their program.

Around that time, in 1904, Prof. Dr. Leon Kellner was appointed to the faculty for English literature at the Czernowitz University. Naturally, he stayed in close connection with the Jewish intellectuals of the city. Dr. Ebner won this public office for him. For both concepts of the Zionist ideology, the future work and the present work, after of years of preparatory work, the necessary state wide structures had been created. The ideology requires the organization in order that this instrument becomes the deed.

For the future work, in 1910, the first consolidated Zionist state organization with Prof. Kellner as president was founded. Dr. Mayer Ebner as first vice president took over the managing and his friend Löbl Taubes was nominated as second vice president. A telegram to Dr. Ebner, in which a Galician Zionist group asks for two Doctors or Löbl Taubes to do propaganda5 work, says much about Löbl Taubes's character.

In spreading the Zionist idea and organizing the Jewish masses, in whose hearts the Zionist longing had awoken, the Zionist student organizations Hasmonäa, Zephirah, Hebronia, Emunah and later Heatid in Czernowitz were especially valuable. The AH organizations and the leaders of local groups in city and rural areas composed the spearhead of the movement.

The present work was expressed in the People's Council Movement with its mouthpiece, “Der Juedische Volksrat” (the Jewish Peoples Council). The People's Council Movement with its ideological national, cultural and social autonomy programs was the opposition party against the at that time powerful and in his way very meritorious Dr. Benno Straucher. Kellner was its president and Dr. Mayer Ebner was its spokesman. The fight between Straucher and Kellner and Straucher and Ebner dated back to 1904 when Dr. Ebner had urged the revision of Judenpolitik6. The fight became a “30 Years War,” but like everything else, this fight ended, albeit late, in the Romanian era. It is interesting that although Kellner and Ebner as “dyed-in-the –wool” Zionists were the leaders of the movement, also non-Zionists followed the trend of the times and joined the movement.

The outbreak of the World War in 1914 brought an end to all political activity. The Russian occupation administration in Bukovina under the leadership of Governor Gierowsky decreed that Dr. Mayer Ebner be deported to Siberia as a hostage. Only after a 3 year exile was Dr. Ebner able to return to Austria as part of a prisoner exchange. The break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire changed the political landscape and caused a change in the Diaspora region. The great center of the Galut in Europe, besides Russia became the recreated Poland and the newly created “Greater-Romania7.”

Having returned home to Czernowitz, Dr. Mayer Ebner was entrusted with the double responsibility of being president of the reconstituted State Zionist Organization and the National Council which represented all the Jewish political parties in Bukovina. In the State Zionist Organization, his younger friend, Dr. Theodor Weisselberger who did valuable work in organizing the movement in Bukovina acted as managing vice president. In the National Council, his college as president was Dr. Jakob Pistner, whose idealogical orientation in the Bund-Socialistic camp, had its recognized merits.

The National Council put itself forward as the legitimate representative of all the Bukovina Jews. It asserted that just like the other peoples of Bukovina, the Jews comprised a special nation. In the National Council's manifesto of October 14, 1918 formulated by Dr. Ebner, the foundation principals and postulates for Jewish politics, stating that in addition to the Galut work, the work of building Palestine were the main tasks of the Jews. At this point we want to mention the “Comitee des Delegations Juives” in Paris to which representatives from all the Jewish groups in Europe belonged and whose task at that time was to intervene for the rights of Jews. Dr. Max Diamant and Dr. Markus Krämer functioned as representative of the Bukovina Jewish National Council in the Comitee des Delegations Juives. At the very start of its activity, the National Council had to deal with a difficult decision with far reaching consequences, the question of annexing Bukovina to Romania. The government in Bucharest was interested in getting the agreement of the Jewish National Council at the Paris peace conference to the annexing of Bukovina. The Bucharest government showed its great interest in this declaration of agreement not only by the intervention of Dr. Iancu Flondor, the president of Bukovina, but also through the special delegation of General Petala to Dr. Mayer Ebner to obtain from him the declaration of agreement. The rivalry between the Romanians and Ruthenians and the unsettled postulates guaranteeing the rights of the Jewish citizens of Bukovina and the recognition of the rights of the Jews of the Romanian “Old Kingdom8” demanded a consistent neutral position which Dr. Ebner carried through, also in the National Council. It was difficult to be a Jew and still more difficult to be a Jewish leader who had responsibility and national dignity written on his shield.

After the dissolution of the National Council, Dr. Ebner as an exponent of the Zionist Party continued to lead the fight. “Return to Judaism before the return to the Jewish land.”

This slogan of Herzl's was his guide as he, a master of rhetoric and style fought by speaking and writing, in a way described by the aesthete Dr. Herman Sternberg as the high ethos of the Bible and the holy pathos of the prophet to deepen and spread Herzl's mythos among the Jewish people in Romania. This slogan should elevate the Jewish people “to moral refinement before the rebirth as once the sanctification before the revelation” wrote Dr. Mayer Ebner in his vision in prophetic foresight approaching fulfillment. With the words, “we want to make Judaism precious and dear to us before the return to the Jewish land,” introduced his Ostjüdische Zeitung (East Jewish Newspaper).

Starting with these original Zionist ideas, Dr. Ebner led a war on multiple fronts. Internally, against the UER (Union of Romanian Jews) which in the Old Kingdom was a well run organization directed by the proven leader, Dr. Adolphe Stern and more recently by Dr. Wilhelm Filderman and Horia Carp. The UER tried to maintain an uneasy balance in the Galut as “half a people,” a faint copy of Judaism called “Judaeo-Romanism” (Evrei-Romani). According to the words of Horia Carp they were adversaries and friends (adversary si prienteni) of Dr. Mayer Ebner. Anyone who remembers the meetings of Carp or Filderman with Dr. Mayer Ebner in Israel knows that in spite of their different viewpoints, in the evening of their lives, they heartily greeted each other as friends. Also, the personal friendly relationship between Dr. Adolphe Stern and Dr. Mayer Ebner , despite their non-congruent ideas should be receive special mentioned here. Dr. Ebner fought against the practice of listing a Jews religion in the member's list of non-Jewish parties. Dr. Ebner fought against the anti-Zionist Bund members under the leadership of the already mentioned prominent Dr. Jakob Pistiner and Mathias Roll, Dr. Kisman, Dr. Friedmann among others who were dedicated to the ideals of the Bund. We want to understand Dr. Kissman when he declares that the Bund directed its strongest attacks against Dr. Ebner because Dr. Ebner was the president of the strongest political organizations, The State Zionist Organization and the Jewish Unity Party.

To the outside, Dr. Mayer Ebner fought for the complete threefold legal and actual emancipation of Jews as humans, as citizens and as a people and against anti-Semitism in all its nuances and excesses and against the tactics of a Cuza, Codreanu and the Romanian government who sought to hide the failings of the state by a diversion of the masses against the Jews. It was no wonder that the Bucharest press and its branches in the adjacent provinces directed numberless attacks against Dr. Mayer Ebner, the exponent of a proud and self-defending Judaism.

In 1926, Dr. Ebner was chairman of the Jewish community in Czernowitz in association with the worthy Bernard Fleminger who with his group separted from Straucher and went over to the Zionists. The “Jüdische Einheitspartei” (Jewish Unity Party) was born which developed into the “Jewish Nationalverband” (National Union) in Bukovina and finally became the forerunner of the “Jewish Reichspartei” (Federal Party). In a voting cartel with General Averescu's People's Party Dr. Mayer Ebner was elected to the Chamber and his friend Carl Klüger was elected to the Senate. The LANC (Liga Apararii Nationale Crestine or League of National Christian Defense) led by Cuza and Codreanu with 10 representatives moved into the Chamber first and prepared itself for an attack against the Romanian Jews.

Anti-Semitic groups have in various lands and at various times sought excuses to arouse the masses against the Jews. When we examine the history of great events concerning the Jews in the last decades of the previous century and the first decades of this century, we see that the anti-Semites consistently have sought excuses for wiping out the Jews in the most brutal way. We mention certain Talmud passages, the problem of the Schechita (rules of ritual slaughter) and the ritual murder affairs. We remember among others the ritual murder affairs in Germany (Skurz affair in 1884, Xanthen affair in 1891, Konitz affair in 1900), in Greece (Corfu affair in 1891), in Bulgaria (Wratza affair in 1891), in Russia (Dubosary affair in 1903 which led to the Kischinever pogrom and the Beilis affair in 1911 ), in Austria (Polna affair in 1899), in Hungary (Tisza-Eszlar affair in 1882). In France, the anti-Semites wanted to brand the Jews as spies (Dreyfus affair) and in Poland they wanted to expose the Jews as assassins (Steiger affair in 1923). In Romania they tried to stamp the Jews as insulting the church and the nation.

For the L.A.N.C. (League of National Christian Defence), a meaningless incident in which Jewish Baccalaureate candidates beat up an anti-Semitic professor provided a suitable pretext. Fate would have it that at the same time a Christian journalist called Carapati, in a Jewish owned morning paper, unknown to the editors, described the founder of Christianity in an unbecoming way in a book review. The L.A.N.C. used this incident to fabricate the libel about the Jews insulting the church and the nation.

As a consequence of the anti-Semitic agitation which was enflamed by the support of the large Bucharest press, naturally with heavy personal attacks against the exponent of Judaism, Dr. Myer Ebner, the suspected students, after a short preliminary examination, were put on trial. The defense was in the hands of a group of lawyers led by university professor, Dr. C. Radulescu, who deserves great praise. On the second day of the trial, the student Totu, wounded the chief defendant David Fallik with two revolver shots delivered at point-blank range. The assassin had been very careful not to hit the Judge Wachtel who had been standing next to the victim. The injured David Fallik still had the strength to plead with the judge for help. “Your honor, don't let me die” he said “help me, I want to live.” Fallik died from his wounds after two days. He fell victim to the agitation as a martyr for the Jewish people and therefore was honored by the Jewish community with the word “Kadosch” (holy) in the inscription on his gravestone. His death gave a forewarning of the terrible storm to come. The name of the fallen martyr came to be used to designate the whole series of events, “the Fallik affair.”

At that time, the Romanian government still took pains to preserve the good name of the state abroad. For Dr. Mayer Ebner, therefore, it was clear that only through a concerted action against the anti-Semitic frenzy in the press and parliament and in the at that time democratic world public would it be possible to force the government to ward off the dangers threatening the Jews. Karl Klüger interpellated against the anti-Semitic agitation in the Senate. Dr. Mayer Ebner interpellated in tremendous scenes of pandemonium caused by the L.A.N.C. and the other anti-Semitic MPs (Members of Parliament) of the majority in the Chamber. The Interior Minister, Octavian Goga didn't want to leave it with these interpellations and called for a special parliamentary debate in the Chamber. Goga apparently believed he could brand the Jews as guilty in the public's eyes through further parliamentary debate. The frenzy in the Bucharest newspapers took an unexpected form as the day of the special session of the Chamber approached. Interior Minister Goga let MP Dr. Mayer Ebner know that he had received reliable information from the police chief of Bucharest about planed anti-Semitic student demonstrations outside and inside Parliament. The students would make use of weapons and an assassination attempt on Dr. Mayer Ebner was possible. He therefore warned Dr. Ebner and demanded that he not appear at the session of Parliament. Dr. Ebner replied, that as a representative of the Jewish people he would do his duty and appear at the session and that the interior minister was personally responsible for the maintenance of order and for his life. Dr. Mayer Ebner appeared at the session where the Chamber was completely filled and there were student demonstrations outside and in the galleries of Parliament. A strong police and military presence surrounded the Chamber and anyone who was not a member of Parliament was searched for weapons. In the Parliament hall, there was palpable hostility among the MPs. The government led by the minister of the interior sat on the minister bench. In light of the significance of the agenda, the Chamber President Negulescu personally chaired the session. Dr. Mayer Ebner appeared alone as champion for his people in this hate-filled atmosphere. There was a great duel of words. MP A.C. Cuza: The insult to the Romanian people. MP Codreanu: The insult to the Christian church. MP Dr. Mayer Ebner: Forceful attack with an apologetic tone. Minister of the Interior Octavian Goga: Sharp reply with somewhat moderate conclusion.

Prime Minister General Averescu immediately after the debate reproved Minister of the Interior Goga for his attitude which was unseemly for a representative of the government and which could have an undesirable echo abroad in view of the position which Dr. Ebner established for the Jews through his Parliamentary appearance. The Government realized that it had to prevent a Romanian Matteoti9 affaire and used all means necessary, including the military to maintain order. The government was aware of its responsibility. There still wasn't a totalitarian Nazi state in the world to teach world opinion otherwise.

In spite of the hostility that Mayer Ebner encountered at that great historic session of Parliament in which the incident called the Fallik affaire was discussed, it was generally agreed in Parliament and in the greater public and echoed in the press that Dr. Ebner had all alone, with remarkable courage, and with steadfast determination dueled with a mob of enemies. Dr. Mayer Ebner was the recognized legitimate representative of the Romanian Jews even in this early period of legislation, in all cases, both within and outside of Parliament. Jorga, the teacher of the king and later, prime minister expressed baldly, his hostile, uncompromising position against Dr. Mayer Ebner's political stand, “but,” he said, “when I read or hear Mayer Ebner, I must give him a deep bow.” However, the hostility was reduced because of the respectful attitude toward Dr. Ebner. That's how it goes in life, the hateful feelings of the enemy are lessened when he has respect for his opponent. This in only true when the cause of the enmity does not have its roots in jealousy.

In 1928, Dr. Mayer Ebner was elected to the Senate and his good friends, Dr. Theodor Fischer, Dr. Josef Fischer and Dr. Michael Landau were elected to the Chamber. The Jewish Parliament Faction was founded in the home of the president of the State Zionist Organization of the Regat10, A.C. Bernhardt. Dr. Mayer Ebner was chosen as chairman and maintained this position as long as he belonged in Parliament. The faction nominated Lawyer Misu Benvenisti as its general secretary.

The Parliament faction founded in 1930, the great all national, encompassing all provinces Jewish Federal Party with Dr. Theodor Fischer as its president. Dr. Fischer and the other members of the faction in the various legislative sessions were men of stature, dignified in their manner and disposition, everyone a leader. As a regional organization, the Federal Party associated itself with: the Bukovina Jewish National Organization, the Jewish National Organization of Transylvania, the Zionist Organization of Transylvania, the Zionist Organization of Bessarabia as well as the partidul national evreesc din vechiul Regat (Jewish National Party of the Old Regat) which originated in the Regat. The Regat Regional was comprised of members of the great Renasterea Movement, members of the Bucharest Hasmonäa as well as the circle around the “Mantuirea”, once published by A.L.Zissu, which together placed a group of highly intelligent, idealistic, active fellow workers at the disposal of the Federal party and was very successful in convincing a large part of the Jewish population of the Regat to come over to the National camp in spite of the resistance of the assimilated in all its nuances and in spite of the interference of the Romanian parties.

The influence of Mayer Ebner on the intellectual Zionist elite of the Regat was decisive for its growing strength and for the thrust into the Jewish community. “This influence” wrote Dr. Mayer Ebner's friend the former president of the Zionist Federation of Romania Leon Misrachi, “can be attributed in a high degree to the political direction taken by the national Jews of the united Romania in the period after the First World War. Dr. Ebner's presence in our ranks was of decided significance for the furtherance and triumph of the national idea.” The fight will be remembered as a brilliant moment in the history of Romanian Zionism. After his third election to Parliament, Dr. Ebner resigned from the current legislative period in order to allow the unrepresented Regat region to have a representative in the person of the proven Dr. Sami Singer and in so doing to give the Regional with its strengthened self confidence a special resonance in the cities of the Regat. It is not surprising that as a natural consequence of this action, a bond of friendship developed between the Regional and Dr. Mayer Ebner.

In the following elections, the Jewish Federal Party always elected, under the election rules applicable at that time, with an overwhelming majority of the Jewish voters, 4 to 5 seats in the Chamber. Maniu admitted in an interview with a foreign press agency, that the Jews represented a significant political party.

The Jewish Parliament Faction, in the various legislative sessions, held the same position as the faction of the Hungarian party chaired by the Graf Bethlen and the German party chaired by Hans Otto Roth and the other factions of the Romanian parties. It was a recognized Parliamentary party. It is expected of the historian to recognize the value of Parliament Faction in its fight for the rights of Jews in Greater Romania. Dubnow says in his work, “The new center in Romania is prepared to follow the example of the Polish Jews in the fight for justice.” In recognition of Dr. Mayer Ebner's 60th birthday Dubnow declared in 1932, Several years ago I wrote these words about the “new Romania” in the epilog, to my World History of the Jewish People: Instead of the earlier lobbying by advocates for the Jews to anti-Semitic ministers, now freely chosen Jewish members of Parliament who compose a special parliamentary faction stand in the foreground of public life. I see in my mind figures of such men like our present celebrant, Dr. Mayer Ebner. In his person I greet the untiring fighter in the public and in Parliament for our emancipation.”

Here we want to extend this dedication to Dr. Mayer Ebner by the greatest historian of the Jewish people to the other Parliamentarians of the Federal Party who we here name in honor: Dr. Max Diamant, Dr. Josef Fischer, Dr. Theodor Fischer, Carl Klüger, Dr. Michael Landau, Dr. Ernö Marton, Dr. Manfred Reifer, Dr. Samuel Singer, Misu Weissman (Michael Amir), Rabbi Jehuda Zirlsohn. However, we don't want to release our essay to the public without mentioning in addition to the above named people, the names of the two Senate virilisten11, the state Rabbis of Romania, the older Dr. Niemirower and the younger Dr. Schafran.

Dr. Mayer Ebner and his parliamentary friends eloquently expressed the Jewish viewpoint in Parliament and outside of Parliament in various articles, in conferences with representatives of both the domestic and foreign press, and in audiences with Romanian statesmen of the highest rank. Dr. Mayer Ebner and his friend Theodor Fischer were received in audience by King Carol II to whom the Jewish leaders presented the situation of the Jews. They also had audiences with the Minister-President Maniu, Averescu, Vaida-Voievod, Mironescu and others. Again and again, the Jewish parliamentarians presented their demands for the political and civil rights for the Romanian Jews to the statesmen. Repeatedly, they waged the old fight against the systematic attempts by the government to give free license to anti-Semitic students to prevent the Jews from studying at the university. Repeatedly they intervened to prevent or protest state sponsored anti-Semitic excesses. Repeatedly, they intervened in prosecutions of Zionists. The attitude that statesmen displayed at that time is interesting. They either wanted to stress their friendly attitude toward Jews or at least prove that in no case were they anti-Semites. The attitude of the Romanians, in any case, gave witness to the significance of the Jewish parliamentary faction in political life of Romania. Also significant is the discussion that Dr. Mayer Ebner had with Ionel Brateanu in which Dr. Ebner demonstrated the compatibility of Zionist ideology with loyalty to the Romanian state. In this connection, among others, the discussions of Dr. Sami Singer with Antonescu and Dr. Michael Landau with Mironescu over Zionism should be stressed. The appearance of Zionist parliamentarians was a novelty in the history of Romania. Jews demanded through their legitimate representatives as a nation as well as an ethnic minority, in the sense of minority protection agreements, to be recognized like other ethnic minorities. The Jews were an ethnic minority in the empire striving to return to their home land in Palestine. Zionism had become an object of parliamentary wrangling for the most varied reasons and in the “for and against,” the Zionist faction had found respect, understanding, accommodation and also opposition.

Dr. Mayer Ebner spoke repeatedly when he was the lone national MP and later as faction chairman about the Zionist cause. The Romanian public was aware of Zionism.

With the following only fragmentarily repeated sentences, Dr. Ebner explained the Zionist view to Parliament in his speeches: “We are a people with a common ancestry which goes back to the ancient history of mankind. We have a Hebraic culture and the maintenance of this culture has never been interrupted. Our strength lies in rigidly holding firm to the three thousand year old tradition, in being true to our beliefs for the thousands of our ancestors who died in flames at the martyrs stake. Zionism represents the realization of a hope for a Jewish nation in a Jewish land that has been nurtured and cultivated for 2000 years. The rebuilding of Palestine and the creation of a national home in the old Jewish land is a fact, which has been sanctioned by the League of Nations. The world has never ceased to consider as a nation and when the League works toward the fulfillment of the Treaty of San Remo, to create a national home for the Jews in Palestine, it is proceeding from the basic principal that a Jewish nation lives. The adherents of Zionism are good and true Romanian citizens like the Zionists in England and America are good English and American citizens, for the rebuilding of the Jewish land is not merely an affair of Romanian Jews, but of the whole world and this idea of rebuilding which is near realization in no way conflicts with our duties as citizens of the states in which we live.”

The other MPs of the faction spoke in a similar spirit and they had ample opportunities to demonstrate the daily work of Zionism, which had become routine, to the public. Dr. Theodor Fischer also spoke about the great cultural work of the rebuilding of a national home and similarly Ebner saluted the fact that the Romanian government expressed its sympathy for the Zionist cause. Dr. Michael Landau used the visit of the patriarch Miron Christea to Palestine as an occasion to describe the efforts of the Zionist movement. Dr. Sami Singer used the occasion of the commemoration of the death of the French statesman Briand to speak of the support Briand gave the Jewish people in their Zionist movement. He used the occasion to speak in depth about Zionism. At other opportunities, Landau talked about the education methods used in Eretz Israel and said that the same system should be used in the Tarbuth schools. Misu Weissman spoke about the Torah, which also had become the basis of religion for Christianity and as Dr. Mayer Ebner in the Fallik debate protested against the de-facto practice of Numerus Clausus12 at the Universities of Bucharest and Iasi and the anti-Semites interrupted him with calls of “we demand the Numerus Clausus.” Dr. Ebner with his ingrained dignity, full of scorn for the shameful followers of Cuza replied to them from a position of moral superiority, strengthened in this historic hour by thoughts of the world mission of the Jews, saying: “at the university of Jerusalem, there is no Numerus Clausus.” Amazed, the parliamentarians listened with admiration and wonder to the Zionist romantic representative of the people.

Dr. Mayer Ebner was constantly guided in his speeches and his actions by the ideas of his master, “We are a people, one people.” This saying of Herzl expresses in its precision, the demands of the Jewish people in the fight for their rights.

Dr. Ebner spoke in this tenor as a prominent attendee of the Zionist Congress and as a member of the Action Committee. In this spirit, he was one of the founders of the Jewish World Congress, in which, according to the words of Dubnow, “the world organization for the world people” or perhaps, it could be paraphrased as “the realization of the stateless peoples community to a unified peoples whole in the Galute in addition to the Palestine work of the Zionist world organization, was conceived.” Mayer Ebner drew the parallel between the First Zionist Congress and the First World Congress with the formula: “In 1897 we were concerned with the preservation of the nation - 1936, with the preservation of the individual. The Congress in Basel dealt with the question of Judaism and the Congress in Geneva – the Jew.” The World Congress had a great significance, especially after its three pre-conferences, in the session in 1936, as Hitler cast his shadow over Europe. The World Congress appealed to the League of Nations , to the governments and to the people and called attention to the race persecution which was taking increasingly stronger forms and the poisoning of the masses with anti-Semitism. In this sense, the old master of Jewish politics in Romania helped write, in the name of the Congress, the declaration about the world situation of the Jews. We suffer today in our fight for our rights but we will triumph and achieve victory tomorrow. Certainly, Goldman was correct in his optimism, but did our people have to suffer the greatest tragedy in our history before succeeding? Does history have a meaning at all? Does the Jewish state have to come into being after the majority of the Jewish people die? Was the triumph of the powers of light predicated on the powers of darkness triumphing first? Can we find the meaning of history in that? Perhaps it is a vain effort of the historian to make sense of the senseless.

The Romanian Jews were represented by a large delegation at the World Congress: Dr. J. Beider, Horia Carp (not an official representative of the U.E.R.), Dr. M. Cotie, Dr. Danzig, Dr. M. Ebner, Lawer Eberkohn, Dr. Engelberg, members of the Romanian parliament: Dr. Josef Fischer who was a member of the board of directors, Dr. J. Hamburg, Dr. Franz Jambor, Dr. Benedikt Kaswan, Lawyer Izchak Korn, who later was elected as a representative in the Israeli Knesset, Dr. Markus Kraemer, who functioned as honorary secretary and later as member of the Administrative Committee, Michael Leiba, A. Leichtmann, Dr. J. Mann, Lawyer Leon Mizrachi who acted as chairman of the Organizations Commission for the Charter for the World Congress, Philip Rosenstein, Lawyer Mayer Segal, a past MP in the Romanian Parliament, Dr. Sami Singer and Lawyer Carol Steinberg.

In the debate which was held on a elevated niveau, Horia Carp, Dr. M. Cotie, Dr. Mayer Ebner, Dr. Hamburg, Dr. S. singer and Carol Steinberg had their say. In every speech, one heard the call for all the Jews in the world to work together. One will, one goal. The spirit of Herzl hovered over the assembly.

And now to the question of the Jews in the various lands with large Jewish settlements belonging to the inter-territorial movement of the national minorities. In the period after the First World War, the ideas of emancipation found expression in changes of the laws in lands which had previously withheld emancipation from the Jews. Also, the concept of the nation was recognized by the non-Jewish population in lands with large Jewish settlements, in spite of the fact that some of the Jews themselves had fought against the idea. The times had changed. The emancipation idea had expanded to include the recognition of our national minority rights. and in the various peace treaties with the central and East European states, the national minority rights were provided for. They were provided for, but not assured. It was only natural that the national minorities in Europe came together in a common organization. In 1925 in Geneva, the headquarters at that time for the League of Nations the first conference of the organized national groups took place. The new inter-state organization was led by the Czechoslovakian MP in the Italian parliament, Dr. Wilfan and Dr. Ewald Amende. Fourteen national groups representing a total of 40 million people were organized in this minority movement. The Minority Congress represented the inter-territorial solidarity of the minorities and thereby, international minority rights. The minorities and especially the Jews had to fight on to assure the creation and application of minority rights and the Jews additionally had to fight for human and civil rights. The Jews suffered as a minority and as Jews. According to the words of Dr. Ebner at the Minority Congress, our doubly persecuted Jewish minority had to operate in 5 areas: in the fight for the recognition as citizens; in the direction of actual equal rights for minorities in spite of equality in the eyes of the law; in the non-recognition of our equality; to fight a nationalistic school law favored by the majority that attempts to assimilate and “internalize” the Jewish minority, an effort that works against our striving to achieve a national cultural autonomy; in the forcing the Jews out of their businesses.

It can be taken for granted that in building the Congress, the Jewish minority had a very important part.

It is well known that Leo Motzkin was the initiator and creator or the movement of the European national minorities. Dr. Amende stressed this work in an article about the Jewish World Conference and the Peoples' Movement in which he commented on the activity of Leon Motzkin at the Minority Conference and that of Romanian parliamentary leader, Dr. Mayer Ebner – in Poland, Dr. Iachak Grünbaum and Dr. Rosmarin, in Latvia – Representative Nurock, and in Czechoslovakia – Dr. Emil Margulies. Certainly, the work of the following people, among others, in the fight for the rights of minorities should be mentioned: Dr. Robinson, I. Schwarzbart, Leon Reich, O. Thon, Angelo Goldstein, Robert Stricker and last but not least, the former dean of the Jewish faculty at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Nathan Feinberg. The numerical strength of the Jewish minority within the total movement increased its significance. Leo Motzkin was on the executive committee of this international forum, and after his death, the VII Minority Congress elected Dr. Mayer Ebner as its vice president as the representative of the Jews.

Also, this movement and the great institution created by it, the Minority Congress was gradually weakened by the growing influence of National Socialist propaganda, after the Germans living abroad came under Hitler's influence. Goldmann justifiably said that the German minorities lost the ideological basis for the fight for their rights when they were poisoned by the spirit of National Socialism. The Jewish people's groups saw the necessity to take immediate action against the danger posed by the N.S.D.A.P.13 Gradually, the promising institution of the Minority Congress, whose high goal was to ensure national parity in Europe, faded away and as Meir Fäber a journalist well know in the Jewish world said. “it was an attempt to guarantee right and justice, culture and freedom.” The earlier German Reichchancellor, Dr. Wirth acknowledged in a conversation with Dr. Nurock, that the Germans are obligated to the Jewish minority because they had the foresight to protect the rights of the minorities: the ten million German minorities in Europe were an open wound on the German body. We ask Nurock: How are we to be thanked?

Their participation in the World Congresses symbolized the integration of the Jewish people in Greater Romania with the totality of Judaism and the integration of the European Jews with all those groups recognized at that time as national minorities in their countries. When we look back today, in 1961 at that world of yesterday and at the development since then, a series of giant steps in a short time frame; the Churban14 of Judaism, founding of the Jewish state and a completely different solution of the minority problem, so we are tempted to say, in contrast to the beliefs of many other historians, Historia facit saltus.

We write with satisfaction that a man who fought for his ideas has received the appropriate honors. This was especially apparent at the great celebration held by the Jews in recognition of Dr. Mayer's 60th birthday. Notable were the salutations from Jewish officials, both foreign and domestic. The honoring of Dr. Malyer Ebner in the non-Jewish world, in the minority movement was illustrated by the fact that the general secretary of the Minority Movement, Dr. Ewald Amende came to Czernowitz for this celebration to express the gratitude of the Movement.

In Romanian circles the idealist was respected, if only for his efforts in many circles infected by anti-Semitism, euphemistically speaking, to keep an unmistakably reserved attitude, while on the other hand, the Romanian mayor of the city of Czernowitz announced the unanimous decision of the City Council, which represented all nationalities, to name a street after Dr. Mayer Ebner. The central government in Bucharest rejected this proposal without discussion. Ebner, however was a name that symbolized Zionism although the anti-Semites had the upper hand. Therefore it is understandable, if Dr. Markus Krämer in his article about the celebration reminded Romanian politicians of all parties, “We wish happiness to our Mayer Ebner on the day on which the 60 year old has reached the peak of his accomplishments, undaunted by chauvinism and misunderstanding, taking a path, which led from youthful dreams in the beginning to the People's Council and the Nation Council and the Jewish Federal Party and finally to president of the Jewish Parliament Club, the only freely elected representatives of the masses of Jewish people in Romania.”

At his 80th birthday, they would have certainly wished him happiness on the realization of his youthful dreams? The occasion was filled with praise from all sides, In spite of the various interests displayed by local groups, one could see the solidarity of the Jewish people in Greater Romania.

The situation of the Jews was deteriorating. The Romanian government prevented with force the election of Jewish MPs. The Federal Party was prevented from participating in the Parliamentary Tribune. The constitutional regime was displaced by an authoritarian regime, which led to the regime of the swastika. Freedom of the press was suppressed. The first newspaper to be forbidden was the “Ostjüdische Zeitung”. The Ostjüdische Zeitung…. in these two words lies the totality of Jewish suffering and life, of the Jewish fight, of Jewish heroism and Jewish ideals, two words which tell a story. For the historian of the Jews of Greater Romania, someday, the 20 pages of this newspaper will offer a rich source of material. “With his pen, Dr. Mayer Ebner has” – wrote Dr. Reifer in 1932 – “which most strongly influenced Jewish life in Romania, and all Jewish papers which have appeared since then work with the ideas and arguments which, until today have best been interpreted by Ebner.” Before the minds eye of the future historian, the figure of Dr. Ebner will arise, a man who in defense of his people and in attacking anti-Semitism, dipped his pen in his heart's blood.

We also want to honor his fellow editors, Dr. Josef Thau and Benidikt Flohr.

At the World Congress in 1936, a visionary Dr. Ebner predicted the mass dying of the Jews …. “one day the great dying of Jews will begin, more terrible than one can imagine”…The doubt on the further survival of the Diaspora was strengthened by the events, one following another. …”in the face of the grave and imminent dangers, Ebner forgot the old disputes and conflicts and had extended his hand to the opponents of yesterday from the ranks of the U.E.R” …wrote Leon Misrachi. The political actions should be led by a common front and the circumstances made it possible to bring the U.E.R. into the fold. A high council was put together and a governing board was selected with the members Dr. Theodor Fischer and Dr. Filderman and with the neutral Dr. Niemirower at the head. Leon Misrachi described the attitude of Dr. Ebner toward the “task of the hour.” “Dr. Ebner, the old and undisputed leader has agreed – El, vechiul si necontestatul conducator a aceptat …

After the Churban of the European Jews Dr. Mayer Ebner finally came to the tragic realization that of the two columns which supported Judaism, the Diaspora and Eretz Israel, one, the Diaspora lacked a firm foundation. “This column, the Diaspora, it existed and it still exists, but it is exposed to every tremor. It is impossible to shore it up and put it on a firm foundation and those who want to see the survival of Judaism would to well to think of liquidating the Diaspora as thoroughly as possible and devote their best efforts to the preservation and firm supporting of the other column which supports Judaism ….Zion, the other column is the last hope of the Jewish people,” wrote Dr. Ebner, in a Swiss newspaper, after the end of WWII.

In the evening of his life, he and his life's companion who had fully supported his efforts were allowed to experience the fulfillment of Zionism in the founding of the Jewish state. A veteran of the Zionist movement in Old Romania, Mosche Klein analyzed the meaning of the fulfillment of this life long dream for Dr. Ebner, of whom he said: “Una din figurile centrale care au pus bazele pentru statul evreu in devenire.” (one of the central figures who have laid the foundation flr the creation of the Jewish state).

A few days before his death as if in a mysterious way sensing the end, Mayer Ebner, again expressed his ideas in the question, “why did I go to the First Zionist Congress?” and with his last words meant for the public said, “our belief in the survival of Zionism is strong.”

Started with Zion and ended with Zion.

On December 12, 1955 Dr. Mayer Ebner died. He was buried in Nachlat-Jizchak near Tel-Aviv, at his side his true life's companion who had preceded him in death by one year, and who in suffering and joy and danger was the Eschet-Chajil15 of a leader of Judaism.

When Mayer Ebner had reached the age of the psalmists, he said: “I was born as a Jew and Judaism was my life's meaning.” It was the meaning of life for a responsible leader willing to wager all in action and an enthusiastic and inspiring romantic in conception.

His friend, Prof. Klausner, once said, “Le jour ou le Romantisme disparaitra le coeur humain cessera de battre.” (The heart has ceased to beat. The epoch of the romantic is past.)

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1) Diaspora: Diaspora refers to any place the Jews lived outside Israel since the time of destruction of the first temple (586 BC). Another name for the Diaspora is the Galut. Return

2) national: The authors in all these Gold essays use the term “national” (spelled the same in English and German) repeatedly. It is not defined anywhere, but I assume that it is synonymous with Zionism. Return

3) Hasmonäa: An academic society, similar to a fraternity. See translation of Hasmonäa article in volume I of Gold translation. Return

4) Realpolitik: Politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives. Return

5) Propaganda: This word, which is spelt the same way in German as in English is used in a different sense by the author than we would use it. Probably, “public relations” is what he means. Return

6) Judenpolitik: Today, Judenpolitik refers to Hitler's plan for dealing with Jews under the 3rd Reich. Perhaps back in 1906 it referred to oppressive policies used by governments where the Jews lived. Return

7) Greater Romania: After WWI, Romania was enlarged by the addition of Transylvania (from Hungary), Bessarabia (from Russia) and Bukovina (part of Austro-Hungarian empire). The larger country was called Greater Romania. Return

8) Old Kingdom: Romania before World War I, the former principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. Return

9) Matteoti: In Italy Socialist deputy Matteoti is murdered by Fascists because he wanted to annul elections of 1924 which he felt were influenced by terrorists. Return

10) Regat: The principalities of Walachia and Moldavia joined in 1859 to form Romania. The combined country was called the Regat. See Old Kingdom note. Return

11) Virilisten: Not found in any German dictionary, but it seems to mean an unelected member of a legislative body. Return

12) Numerus Clausus ("closed number" in Latin) is a methods used to limit the number of students who may study at a university. It can be similar to a quota both in form and motivation. Return

13) N.S.D.A.P.: National Socialist party or “Nazis”. Return

14) Churban: Churban means “destruction” in Hebrew. Used to refer to the Holocaust. Return

15) Eschet Chajil: A strong, self reliant, determined woman. Return

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