« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Columns 181-182]

The Zionist Movement During the Years 1919-1939

by Dr. Tzvi Parnas

Translated by Moshe Kutten



Substantial changes took place in the life of Ternopil following the First World War. A fierce battle for the control over the fertile Podolia province between the Ukrainians and the Poles erupted during 1919 – 1921. During that period, the western countries had already enjoyed peace. Even Russia, which still struggled with the labor pangs of the new revolution, did not give up on the region.

The Jewish population experienced a state of fear and depression. The horrible news about the pogroms in the nearby cities of Proskurov and Lviv, and the days of fear the population experienced in February 1919, made their mark on the people's mood. Making a living was very difficult, the trust in the government and the currency deteriorated, and the future remained uncertain. Although the Ukrainian government awarded the Jews cultural autonomy rights and made an effort to accomplish these rights, the hearts of the people were not into that because of the insecurity that prevailed then.

Only in one location in Ternopil - Mickiewicz Street, where the organizations - the “old” “Bar-Kokhbah” and the “young” “Gideon” were located, life was vibrant. The two groups reunited. The contrasts and disagreements that separated the brothers in 1912 – 1914 became irrelevant, and new missions of the time unified them again.

The first mission was to tighten the ties, severed by the war, with the world's Jewry in general and the Zionist Movement in particular. We have not received any newspapers from abroad for almost the entire time. The news from Eretz Israel, including news about the new management team, were irregular. The center of gravity moved to the United States and England. The political centers, which shaped the Movement's image, and delineated its international political policies, were located in those centers.

New life was breathed into the ranks of the Zionist Movement and the Jewish masses when the contact with the West was renewed. An “Aliya bureau” was established in Ternopil under the initiative of Dr. Parnas. The bureau set a target for itself to train and prepare youths and adults for Aliya. A few gardens were purchased in the city (getting out of the city was dangerous), agronomists were hired, and garden tools were purchased. The response was immense. Groups of youths and adults marched daily to work, carrying hoes on their shoulders and singing. A substantial number of “Bar Kokhba's” members participated.

That activity buoyed the depressed spirits, but not for long since the [Polish-Ukrainian] war front approached Ternopil. Twice during two weeks, the city changed hands from the Ukrainians to the Poles. In the end, Ternopil and its district were transferred to Poland, and the Ukrainian dream of establishing an independent state vaporized.


Dr. Aharon Abeles, the Community Preacher,
Eulogizes the martyrs over the common tomb


The transition to the new reality paralyzed “Bar Kokhba's” initiative for months. Some of “Bar Kokhba's” members remained in the Ukrainian battalion. The national committee disintegrated[1]. However, the situation began to clear, and during August-September, a tight connection with the revived Jewish center in Lviv and the capital Warsaw was established. Newspapers began to arrive, particularly [the Jewish newspaper in Polish] “Khavila” from Lviv. The connection with the Zionist Union and its leader, Dr. Gershon Zipper, was also renewed. Again, it was “Bar Kokhba” who took over, according to their tradition,

[Columns 183-184]

the leadership helm of the Zionist Movement in the city and its environs.

The transfer of the regime into the hands of the Poles reinvigorated the assimilators, who were the dominant force before the war, and their allies, the orthodox people. The government-appointed Komisars [commissioners] were again appointed to head the Jewish community and municipality. The Zionists did not get any footing in the councils, which consisted of appointees. Since the resignation of the last elected chairman of the community, “President” Schitz in 1910, only appointed commissioners, headed the community. An attempt was made to hold elections a few years before the First World War. However, because two Zionist representatives (Landau and Margalit) were elected, the elections were invalidated.

The community leadership was at the hands of Dr. Yosef Parnas, on behalf of the assimilators, and the head of the municipality was Dr. Yosef Weissnikht. They were joined by the school teachers and clerks, such as Dr. Halperin, Mosler, and a short while later, Gottfried. The unaffiliated intelligentsia was represented by Dr. Mentel, Dr, Peiles, and Dr. Fisher. Some lesser representatives from among the merchants and the orthodox people, headed by David Lvov and Moshe Rozner were also elected. Because of their official standing as leaders of the community, the assimilators received the monies slated for welfare and rehabilitation from the [Jewish organizations] the “Joint” and “ICA”. That strengthened their standing and influence in the city.

Under these new conditions, “Bar Kokhba's” activities concentrated mainly on organizing. An activity for the benefit of “Keren Kayemet” [KKL-JNF], which became, in a short time, a popular institution, a favorite by the masses. The “blue Box” was installed in every Jewish home and business was organized first. Later on, the turn of the “Keren HaYesod” fund [literally The Foundation Fund”, the name in English- “United Jewish Appeal”]. The first activity for the benefit of “Keren HaYesod”, was a large demonstration of love for Eretz Israel, and affinity for the modern Zionist idea. In particular, that was expressed by the collection of gold jewelry headed by Ya'akov Bertfeld. His generosity served as an example. There was hardly any Jewish home, that did not contribute to the fund.

Gatherings that assembled on events related to Zionist purposes, attracted crowds. The large demonstration following the Son Remo Resolution left an unforgettable impression. It became clear that the Zionist idea won the hearts of the masses, and the influence of the assimilators and the orthodox people lost their hegemony, despite being supported by the authorities.

The headquarter of the [Zionist] Movement was located in the [command post] of “Bar Kokhba” on 5 Sobieski Street. The unwritten constitution of the Zionist life in Ternopil, and a later, also the general Jewish life in the city, stated that all principal problems of the Zionist Movement, and later (after “Bar Kokhba's” AHF took the leadership in the Jewish community), the rest of the public life issues, including political and local problems, were first discussed


Demonstration during Polish-Russian War (1920)


at the meetings of the committee of “Alter Herren Farband” [“Old Men's Committee” or AHP] of “Bar Kokhba”. Only after the problems have been discussed at the AHF, they were transferred to the local committee of the Zionist Union. Most of the Zionist Intelligentsia's activists, who were already the majority of the local [Jewish] Intelligentsia. were members of the AHF. The local [Zionist Union] committee deviated from the AHF resolutions only on rare occasions. Obviously, in its deliberations, the AHF considered the thinking of the Jewish population. That was why its authority was established. The AHF decisions required approval by the assembly. That meant that several tens of disciplined youths stood ready to execute them.

The head of [both] the AHF and the [Zionist] Union was, at that time, Dr. Tzvi Parnas. That was before profound differences of opinions which stood to divide the [Zionist] Movement into separate factions. That division was to come later. “The Union” and the “HaMizrakhi” movements operated harmoniously with “Bar Kokhba”. The tendencies for divisions coming from Eretz Israel have not reached us yet, and the diaspora problems did not cause divisions.

Only one [youth] movement, “HaShomer HaTza'ir”, caused some worries in its extreme views, which it acquired under the influence of the Russian Revolution. In the “Bar Kokhba's” circles, the idea of establishing a new youth movement was ripened. However, before that idea could be realized, the “Bar Kokhba” organization set up a preparation program aiming at educating the youth in the spirit of the “old” organization.

Pilsudski's adventure in Kyiv in 1920 disrupted life again, just as the life began to crystalize, and new troubles befell the movement and the population. The first priority was to save the youth that prepared to make Aliya. Thanks to a popular fundraising project, which brought in substantial sums, it became possible to proceed with the Aliya endeavor. The large shipments of clothing were distributed to the needy, particularly among the pioneers. That was how the first group of Ternopil's youth, “Bar Kokhba's” members among them, set sail on their way to Eretz Israel.

“Bar Kokhba” played a major role in the first country-wide conference,

[Columns 185-186]

held in Lviv at the end of the war between Poland and Russia. The [Zionist] Movement's plans of activities in Galitsia were delineated there, and the opportunity to have direct contact with the people who formed it was available. The conference became a turning point in the history of the Movement, which became the legitimate leading body of the Jews in the Ternopil District.

A large delegation, consisting mostly of “Bar Kokhba's” members, participated in the conference from Ternopil. Dr. Tzvi Parnas was elected to the state committee of the [Zionist] party. Since then, the Zionist Movement in Ternopil maintained a tight tie with the party's management. A new period had begun. The delegation returned to Ternopil with a strong feeling that indeed life was returning to normal. Finally, everyone could devote time to their own affairs and, at the same time, help establish a sound foundation for the Movement.

The Zionist Movement set a goal for itself to remove the assimilators from positions they acquired unjustifiably. After all, the opinion of the masses was against them. The Movement wished to take over the influence over the nation and educate it in the spirit of the national idea. Since the political positions were dependent on the will of the Polish authorities who supported the assimilators, nothing else could have been done except making efforts to take over institutions that were dependent on public opinion.

A credit cooperative by the name “Credit and Economic Self Help”, was established and developed overtime,

to the point that the assimilators were forced to abandon the credit fund supported by “JCA”, headed for many years by the pharmacist Julius Frantsuz.

The second position transferred to the hands of the Zionists was the social institutions, which were initially supported handsomely by the “Joint” organization. The newly organized “District Jewish Committee for Orphans”, became an important welfare program around which hundreds of dedicated people banded together. Dr. Liebergal, one of “Bar Kokhba's” activists, served as the general secretary of the institution for many years.

To manage the struggle against the assimilators, the need for a journal that would reflect the views of the Zionist Movement, not only toward the Jewish public but principally toward the Polish public, has surfaced. For the Polish public, which received its information from the assimilators and the Jewish youths educated at assimilators and orthodox homes, the concepts of the Jewish revival movement were foggy and distorted. It was decided, therefore, to publish the journal in Polish, under the name known before the First World War - “The Jewish Word” (“Slovo Zhidovska”).

That was not an easy feat. Among the veteran authors, only Dr. Shwartzman remained in the city. However, his health was so frail that they could not rely on him to exert the required substantial effort. There were only a few among the Zionists who wielded the scribal rod. Among the veteran participants in the journal was Isenberg, who left behind his Zionist-labor past. A skillful person came to us from an unexpected source – from among the Yeshiva students: Mr. Hillel Zeidman. The entire load was placed on the shoulders of Dr. Tzvi Parnas who often had to fill all of the journal's pages besides his political and ideology papers in his own section.

The efforts invested in publishing the weekly journal were not in vain. Firstly, the Movement's rivals had to be careful about what they spoke about, if not, they would have been denounced by the weekly journal. Secondly, the weekly journal succeeded in clarifying some of the problems that weighed on the relations between the Jews and the Poles.

Over time, the burden of publishing the weekly journal was relieved off the shoulders of the Movement by publishing Lviv's journal “Khavila”. The journal added a special supplement with its Ternopil's edition called “Khavila Ternopolska”, which was dedicated to the city affairs and its problems.



The first time the Zionist Movement faced a difficult test was during the election to the Polish Sejm in 1922, based on the new constitution and the democratic election law. The Ternopil election district encircled the southwestern part of Podolia province and accrued ten seats in the Sejm. That provided an opportunity to capture one seat for a Jewish candidate. Therefore, Ternopil bore the responsibility not only for the city itself but also for all the neighboring towns.

The situation in the district was particularly complicated because the Ukrainians decided to boycott the election in Eastern Galitsia. They had still not recovered from their defeat and had not come to terms with their vanishing dream after two years of independence. The Zionist Movement faced a difficult and delicate problem - how to proceed among the public and the Zionists. Many thought that the Jews should not intervene in the standing issues between the rival nations and their conflicts since the Jews may suffer from the two sides.

Vigorous debates were held in the district about that subject. However, in Ternopil, the opinion that the Jews should participate in the election came on top for the following reasons:

  1. Participation in the election ensures a unified position of the Jewish population. Boycotting the election by the Zionists would allow the assimilators the possibility of announcing a unified front with the Poles and pushing the Movement to the margins.
  2. Boycotting the election would be perceived by the Poles as a collaboration with the Ukrainians.
  3. and most importantly:
  4. The right of the Jewish nation to take an active part in shaping life in the country should not have been given up, even if it may be dangerous.
Ternopil made it easy for the party

[Columns 187-188]

by not offering its own candidate.

However, the disappointment was great when the candidate list on behalf of Ternopil contained people that nobody recognized. In the city with prominent candidates in the past (during the Austrian rule, Adolf Shtandt appeared twice on behalf of Ternopil), that decision invoked resentment, which almost reached a level of rebellion. Only with the effort of the Union, did the storm die down. In the end, members and residents were convinced that it was too late to right the wrong and that disobedience to the party's instructions may endanger the chance for the Jews in the election. In the end, discipline overcame local patriotism.

Another complication in Ternopil was Director Lenkiewitz, who headed the municipality for many years. He joined the [Polish] democratic party and appeared on its behalf as a candidate for the Sejm. To attract Jewish votes and strengthen his chances of being elected, he added a Jewish candidate, the assimilator Dr. Rudolf Mentel, to the second position on his list. By doing that, he hoped to win the votes of the assimilators and the orthodox people.

The members of the Zionist Movement set aside their bitterness and entered the campaign vigorously and with exemplary dedication. Hundreds of youths, among them members of “Bar Kokhba”, became active in the propaganda campaign, first in the election to the Sejm and later to the Senate. Thousands participated in the campaign gatherings. The speakers were on a high level. The peak in the propaganda campaign reached the rally with the participation of Dr. Leon Reikh who charmed the crowd with his distinguished personality, no less than his brilliant speech.

Even before the official election results were published, it was apparent that Ternopil's Jews did not disappoint the hopes pinned on them. In that election, the Jews stood like a fortress wall behind the Movement. More than twenty-six thousand votes were cast for the national list no. 17 in the city and the district. That was enough for a hair below three representatives. The elected representatives who approved officially for the Ternopil District were Berl Hoizner and Tzvi Heller.

However, with that, the election chapter did not end. The party assembly was tasked to resolve complicated and difficult problems created by local ploys resulting in the election of some unqualified people. Ternopil, which did not offer its own candidate, could objectively serve as an arbitrator in the quarrels between the various factions with parochial ambitions. According to a proposal by the council, which was accepted, the candidates were obligated to return their mandates, and the council was allowed to determine who was the qualified person to represent the Jewish population of the Ternopil District, in the Sejm.

A committee consisting of three people confirmed Dr. Zomerstein, Dr. Einsler, and Roza Pomerantz-Meltzer as Sejm representatives. The latter was from among the founders of the Zionist Union in Ternopil who managed the social services in Lviv and the entire country.

The election cleared the political and public atmosphere in the city. It became obvious to everybody, even the Poles, that the assimilators lost their hegemony in the Jewish street, and the influence of the orthodox people lessened and became limited to religious affairs. The masses came out of the election encouraged and confident in their power.

The election results were felt in the city only a year later. The Jewish representatives used all of their influence to urge the government to end the rule of the Komisars and other appointees in the municipal councils and communities, who blocked the way for new people who had risen within the Jewish public.

It was not easy to break down the wall that the old rulers erected around the community, fearing the fall of the fort they ruled for decades. The prevailing relations in the committee were reflected in communities' law from 21 March 1890. The community authority was limited. It possessed a distinctly religious character. The authorities were given permission to intervene in all of the community's affairs. The elections were based on curia's and only taxpayers, whose number did not exceed 15% of the adult population (about 1 thousand people), were allowed to vote. Women and youths did not enjoy voting right. The election was not proportional but personal.

The community apparatus was in the hands of a few, and everything was done in secrecy. The powerful and “beautiful people” ruled tyrannically and trusted the authorities. They knew that “unconnected” people do not have access to the voters' list, and public supervision of the election process was not enabled. The old community leaders used all sorts of ploys to ensure their victory, with no consideration to public opinion since they knew the wealthy were on their side.

The Zionist propaganda undermined their complacency. The old leaders were shocked by the crowded gatherings. In those gatherings, harsh criticism was directed at their denial of the community's national goal, wasteful management of the community's finances, use of public money for private purposes, and the deprivation of the poor.

The public awareness campaign opened the public eyes to see how much the community leadership institution, which played principal roles in the past and was destined to accomplish great things in the future, had deteriorated. The demand for a democratic election, and public supervision of the community's finances, was acceptable to the people. The proof of that was the election results, which astonished the authorities and the community's old leaders alike. Among the 24 representatives, 21 were elected from the national list, and only three from among its rivals. One of the three was David Lvov, a respectable man, philanthrope and liked by the people.

[Columns 189-190]

He was caught in the assimilators' net because of his naivety. They used his name to capture votes. Their second elected person was Moshe Rozner, a representative from the young generation who later realized that the views of the national movement were closer to his heart. He later claimed that his inclusion in the assimilators' list was a result of a misunderstanding. The third elected representative was Khaim Oks, an independent in his views who did not always act along his party's lines.

The election proved that the assimilators' time had passed and that they did not represent public opinion. However, the assimilators did not want to yield their rule and prepared themselves for a possible defeat. In advance. During the campaign, they introduced forgeries that may lead to the disqualification of the election and the continuation of their appointed leadership. However, all of those ploys did not help them for long.



In the meantime, tendencies for division deepened within the Zionist Movement, which did not have any objective basis in reality and only introduced divisions in the ranks. These divisions weakened the movement substantially.

The people of “Hamizrakhi” [orthodox religious Zionist Party], separated first. A short while later, the people of the “Hit'akhdut” [Socialist Zionists] separated. Instead of a single local committee, three committees were established. Every one of them settled in a separate office, organization, and center of the ideology of its own. With that, the unavoidable personal ambitions and exaggerated partisanship.

For “Bar Khokhba” [see Dr. Korngruen's article column 109], the separate factions presented an extremely severe problem since the organization was based on a unified ideology and discipline. “Bar Kokhba” achieved numerous successes thanks to those principles and it did not see the need to deviate from its way and become a lukewarm party. “Bar Kokhba” could not agree that its members would receive instructions from others (only a tiny number of members joined the “Hit'akhdut”). “Bar Kokhba” objected to the class views of the “Hit'akhdut”, as it considered it an alien concept without a real footing in the social structure of the Jewish population. At the country conference in Lviv, “Bar Kokhba's” representatives sided with those who strove for ideology clarification, organizational unification, and removal of those Union members who caused the unhealthy situation in the organization. Despite the close personal relations among “Bar Kokhba's” members, the organization did not hesitate to expel the dissidents while maintaining good personal relations. That prevented destructive competition in activities related to the national funds. Similar relations were maintained between “Bar Kokhba” and the “HaMizrakhi” party, headed for many years by David Parnas and later, Yehoshua Parnas.

The national representatives to the Sejm exerted pressure on Ternopil's governor and convinced him to add the Zionists to the Jewish community management team. The Zionists agreed to join provided that a reorganization would be based on the actual power balance in the city. They also insisted that a new election would be called as soon as possible. Another condition was that the Komisars, appointed by the authorities, would manage the community affairs based on the council's resolutions.

Dr. Peiles was nominated by the authorities as the community's Komisar-commissioner, and Dr. Tzvi Parnas as his vice, both with the approval of the Zionists. The following people were elected to the council on behalf of the Zionists and “HaMizrakhi”: Dr. Abend, Avraham Oks, Weisman, Nagler, Sh. Margalit, Meirberg, and Y. Parnas.

The Zionists decided to unite themselves into one faction, whose members were obligated to vote according to the majority view, to present a unified Zionist view. That strategy prevented splits that could have weakened the battle for the leadership of the community.

The improvements introduced in the community by the national [Zionist] faction did not distract the movement from the need to hold a new election according to the law. That need was not only aimed at demonstrating adherence to the principles of democracy but to refute any suspicion that lust for power pushed the Zionists to fight against the old leadership. On a side note, the relations with Dr. Peiles were good, and all the council resolutions obtained by the national majority have been executed faithfully and consistently.

The issue on the top of the Jewish public agenda in Poland was the attitude toward the government. Should the Jewish public enter into a negotiation with the government and arrive at an agreement (“Ugoda”) or continue to oppose it? That was the period of the notorious Grabski. He was known for his discrimination against the Jewish population, in general, and particularly concerning taxes. The harsh quarrel about the agreement also affected the unity of the Jewish parliamentary coccus – the “Kolo”. Some of the representatives of the “17” list, including their leaders, Leon Reikh and Dr. Yehoshua Thon, the representatives of the merchants, and the “Aguda” party, supported the agreement with the government. Most of the representatives of Congressional Poland were on behalf of the latter, however, only a minority from Galitsia,

Yitzkhak Gruenbaum, who conducted a fierce battle against the agreement, headed the opponents. The debate besieged the Jewish public and did not skip any city or town. The storm also besieged Ternopil. The vast majority of “Bar Kokhba's” members, particularly the young ones, were among the opponent of the agreement. To better understand the problems associated with that battle, the “Bar Kokhba” organization decided to invite Yitzkhak Gruenbaum to Ternopil and hear from him first-hand about his objections against to agreement. By that invitation, the “Bar Khokhba” organization allowed Gruenbaum inroads into Galitsia, which were not otherwise available before that.

Gruenbaum's, lecture expressed the view of those

[Columns 191-192]

The “Bar Kokhba” party in honor of Y. Gruenbaum


whose national honor resided in their heart, supported by an iron-clad logic. He made a huge impression on his listeners. His lecture greatly influenced the formulation of “Bar Kokhba's” resolution against the agreement. It was the first time that opposition was at the AHF. It was an opposition of the old members with Dr. Abend and Dr, Nussbaum at its helm. That was too serious of an issue, to allow indecision. Final voting produced a majority for the people who objected to the agreement. But the vote also hastened the departure of many members, who could not, for some time then, come to terms with the organization's framework and found an excuse for the leave. Dr. Horowitz, Dr. Seret, and Dr. Dines, among others, left. Some members did not follow them but distanced themselves from the organization for some time. The deserters established their own voting block “Maccabiah” in the conference in Lviv. At that conference, which stood to decide the political battle, most of the Ternopil delegations voted against the agreement, causing a defeat to the official resolution. As a result, Dr. Reikh resigned although, efforts were made to word the resolution to avoid injury to Dr. Reikh, whom the movement considered its greatest leader. However, he did not want to impose his view on the majority or conduct a fight against it.

Obviously, those frictions undermined the standing of “Bar Kokhba” in the city. Many among the old members ceased their activity or distanced themselves from it. Even its status within the local committee was more difficult than before, but here personal relations helped overcome the crisis.



During the time of the weakening of the Zionist Movement in the city, the election to the community [council], was again on the agenda. Unfortunately, a fight between two rabbis about the rabbinical position took place. Rabbi Shalita relied on his family lineage: He was the son-in-law of the former rabbi, Rabbi Heshil BABa"D. The other rabbi was also a decedent of BABa"D, but not directly. Shalita was the rabbi of the simple people, clever, not zealot, and he enjoyed the support of his many relatives. Rabbi BABa"D was a famed learner and had a polite character. The Hasidim and the student scholars concentrated around him. In 1923 the election of the rabbi issue was pushed aside since other important issues attracted all the attention. In the election of 1926, a change in the mood took place. The masses who were disappointed with the issues related to “high politics”, came back to worry about local problems closed to their heart. The assimilators and the orthodox people hoped that the quarrel between the rabbis would present an obstacle for the Zionists, since one could find supporters of either rabbi either within “HaMizrakhi” or other Zionist factions. Those supporters did not always consider what was best for the movement over their zealotry.

Other groups, such as the small businesses and “Yad Kharutzim”, the organization of the craftsmen, began to show interest in the community council

[Columns 193-194]

and made efforts to be represented in it. Under these circumstances, there was a danger that the Zionists would fail. To prevent it a Zionist front was formed after a long and grueling negotiation. It consisted of the General, “HaMizrakhi”, and “Hit'akhdut” Zionists. A special committee ran the election campaign. Concerning the economic organizations, it was decided to support their own Zionist candidates or members who were fans of the national Zionism.

During the year before the election the Zionists managed the community affairs and finances. The time was too short to introduce far-reaching changes. The Zionists were also careful not to change the distribution of taxes for the fear that any changes would hurt them in the election. In their campaign, emphasis was placed on the national requirements and cultural and social activities. Gatherings organized by the Zionists were attended by large crowds however, they lacked the enthusiasm and interest they generated in 1923. Luckily a reprieve and relief came from an unexpected source – the orthodox people.

In a large gathering held by the orthodox campaign at the municipal hall, with the participation of the Sejm representative, Rabbi Levin from Sambir [Sambor], most of the attendees were Zionists. All the proposals were approved. The orthodox people who pinned their hopes on that gathering, and mobilized all of their resources to ensure its success, were disappointed. Rabbi Levin convinced them to enter into a negotiation with the Zionists. In the end, an agreement between the Zionists and the orthodox party was reached. The rabbis had requested, and the Zionists conceded about preserving the rabbinical status quo. In terms of the city's prestige, BABa"D had a slight advantage. The Zionists agreed to let their members have a free hand in the election by voting their conscience because, as aforementioned, many of the Zionists and “HaMizrakhi” people supported Rabbi BABa"D. Against that, the orthodox people agreed to vote for a Zionist candidate for the community chairmanship. They also agreed to support the budget proposal to be submitted by the Zionists. As a side note, we should mention that two third of the national list was manned by the Zionist Union's people.

Naturally, the agreement, like any other agreement, was based on mutual concessions. For example, the Zionists agreed to add Dr. Peiles to the list. The latter treated the Zionists fairly during his service as a “Komisar”. The Zionists agreed to include a paragraph in the community's by-laws, which determined that an election can only be held with a minimum forum of two third of the members. That paragraph caused the election to become dependent on non-Zionist members. That dependence made its mark, not once, in the days to come.

With the signing of the agreement, the tension in the city subsided. Rabbi Shalita's followers used that peace to add three of their candidates to the community [council]. Typical of the change in public opinion was that no group agreed to add the assimilators to its list. Their ruling period and influence in Ternopil, which served as their citadel for a long time, came to an end.

The authorities approved the election since there was no fault in them. However, difficulties were discovered when it came to electing the ruling committee and chairman. Dr. Peiles believed, in his nativity, that he would be elected the chairman. When he found out that the Zionist do not intend to present his candidacy for that position, he ceased coming to the [council's] meetings. The orthodox faction, probably under the pressure of the “Starosta” [District administrator], who could not come to terms with the fact that the community would be headed by the Zionists, came out with new demands. They demanded having an orthodox vice chairman and a guarantee that its candidate would be elected the rabbi. The difficulty in forming the management team could have placed the community's survival at risk since the authorities looked for any excuse to dismantle it. In the end, the difficulties were removed and in May 1926, when a quarrel took place between [Marshall] Pilsudski and the Witos's government, Tzvi Parnas was elected as the community's leader.

Ternopil enjoyed an elected community [council] only on rare occasions. Most of the time it was headed by the government–appointed Komisars. After a hiatus of twenty years, the community leadership was elected and headed, for the first time in the city's history, by a Zionist chairman.



With the attainment of the majority in the community, the Zionists were poised to man essential roles. First, they strove to achieve their principal objective: the fulfillment of Herzl's motto of “Taking over the communities”. The rule by the assimilators that lasted several decades and the developments that occurred in the 19th century undermined the community. The statute of the community, which served as Jewish autonomy's citadel for many generations, diminished and its influence impeded. The Zionists wished to restore its glory as much as it was possible under the new communities' law. Although the law emphasized the religious role of the community, it did leave some possibility to introduce some living content that would reflect the aspirations of the Jewish nation.

The character of every institution is reflected in its budget. The community's budget was based until then, mostly on indirect taxes and principally on the revenues from slaughtering. That was a distinct consumption tax, which put the loaded on the shoulder of the masses. The Zionists aim to widen the activities to include cultural and social areas. That necessitated substantial sums. The easiest way to get them was to increase the slaughtering taxes. However, that would mainly hurt the masses. The Zionists chose a different way – an increase in the direct taxes and the elimination of all the special “rights” enjoyed by the “connected”. Also, the payments the rich paid for the gravestone increased (the cemetery was one of the community's main revenue sources).

[Columns 195-196]

Substantial improvements were also introduced in the management of the community offices and its officials worked more efficiently.

The slaughtering was leased, which brought in an additional sum of 25 thousand guldens annually without raising the taxes. The ritual bath was also leased, which resulted in annual savings of several thousand guldens. An additional source of revenue was the gravestone industry of the community, where efficient methods were introduced. In parallel to increasing the taxes on the rich, the community [council] tried to reduce the taxes on the middle class and the poor. The Voivode [governor] Kwashnivski supported the new budget policy and rejected all the appeals submitted by various claimants.

Thanks to those changes, the first budget was raised by 50%. That enabled the widening of the community activities into new areas. To express the community's inclination towards the national revival idea, a sum of 2400 guldens grants for Keren Kayemet [JNF] and Keren HaYesod [ United Israel Appeal], was allocated in the budget. The Hebrew school received a grant of 5000 guldens. The social institutions also enjoyed the support of the community. The requests for financial support submitted by the yeshiva, synagogue [and other religious institutions] were also accommodated. The chairman had, at his disposal, a discretionary fund of twenty thousand guldens for urgent needs, and the needy when they needed support. The assistance for Passover – “Maot Khitin” [“matzo fund”] increased as compared to previous years.

New life enveloped the community and its institutions, which were reorganized in line with the new conditions. A renovation effort at the community house on Mickiewicz Street made it efficient and ostentatious. The house contained a 100-people meeting house, spacious offices, and waiting areas, fitting an institution representing the Jewish population.

Even the relations between the various factions were satisfactorily marshaled, and peace was established between the rabbis. On all religion-related issues the religious factions consulted with each other resulting in joint actions. For the first time in the history of the Ternopil community, the affairs of the “Batei HaMidrash” were put in order. The community [council] issued a special by-law that regulated the process of electing the gabbaim and the requirements for maintaining buildings and other properties. However, the Zionists were mainly interested in social and cultural activities and made sure to allocate the budget for them.

One of the most important institutions in Ternopil was the school named after Perl. The establishment of that school was like a revolution not only for Ternopil's Jews but for those in the entire area. However, as early as the end of the 19th century, and during the period before the First World War, the school lost much of its glory. That happened because state schools, universities, and technical colleges opened their gates to Jews. During the days of independent Poland, the school became a regular school, where the teaching language was Polish. The only difference between that school and the state schools was that it was closed on Shabbats and Jewish holidays. However, maintaining the school heavily burdened the community, which had to allocate about twenty thousand guldens annually. In fact, these sums had to come from the state treasury or local authorities.

That was the situation when the newly elected community management began its activities in 1926. The Zionists considered themselves the heirs of Perl's ideas concerning healing the social structure of the Jewish population. Therefore, they saw it as their duty to return the glory to the school and make it into an institution that would teach the Jewish youth, productive professions. They also wanted to introduce Hakhshara [training] towards Aliya - their guiding principle.

One of the first steps taken by the community [council] was to investigate the legal and pedagogical state of the school so that they would be able to make substantial changes in collaboration with the teaching staff, and the agreement of the education ministry. Initially, it seemed that it would be possible to arrive at reasonable solutions to the problems by ways of peace, however, when the community[council] began to inquire about the curriculums and teaching methods, investigated the status of the library, and requested reports from the school's management, it met with a flat refusal.

The school's principal claimed that, indeed, the community maintained the school financially, however, administratively, it was under the authority of the [district] schools' supervisor, who was the only person who was authorized to approve the requests. At the time, to free himself from the dependency on the community, [the school's principal], Mr. Gottfried, secured a financial allocation from the municipality, thanks to the support of the orthodox people and the assimilators. At that time, the Zionists supported the move, although they considered it a political maneuver.

Despite the obstacles, the community did not give up on its plan. It sent several teachers to the vocational schools of Dr. Tzetzilia Klaften, a native of Ternopil, who received her initial education at the school named after Perl. The teachers were trained in hand-crafts, a profession that the community wanted to introduce into the curriculum.

The fight by the elected council in this area, and others, continued tirelessly, however, the development of the political affairs in Poland reduced to naught all of the efforts to make the community [council], the representative of the Jewish population.

With the tide in the national movement, it was impossible to ignore it and prevent it from participating in the second autonomous in the city, meaning in the municipality. The actions by Dr. Lenkiewitz, who headed the municipality, were displeasing to the district “Voivode Zetvo” [district governor] and the Polish population. Dr. Lenkiewitz was not leaning on any specific party: his only supporters were the assimilators, and he reached his position

[Columns 197-198]

only because he was the most prominent Polish figure in the city.

With the subsidence of the influence of the assimilators and orthodox people, it was time to change the composition of the municipal council. The Polish authorities have also used their usual means at that council – nominating commissioners (with a high turnover, which harmed city affairs).

The municipality [council] was responsible for essential and important areas of operation. It is therefore clear why the Zionists could not have given up on their participation. The following people joined the council on behalf of the Zionists: Dr. Abend. Dr. Parnas, Dr. Horwitz, A. Ox, and more. The authorities did not desert their assimilating allies and nominated some of their representatives. Naturally, frictions formed between the representatives of the Zionists and the orthodox people and assimilators. All the efforts to find common ground with them, particularly concerning matters related to the Jewish population, were in vain.

To begin with, the Zionists flatly refused to accept any role the authorities wished to force on them. They refused to serve as the instrument of oppression at the hands of the Poles. The latter requested that the Zionists vote against the justified demands of the Ukrainians. They also fought against the autocratic methods at the magistrate and demanded to institute democratic ones. The Zionists fought a hard battle against the subservient and lobbying ways typical of the orthodox people and the assimilators and demanded vehemently equal civil rights for the Jews. They did not accept the discrimination of the Jewish population and requested the establishment of new institutions and an increase in the existing budgets. However, their actions in the municipality were not limited to criticism. They also made an effort to contribute positively to the handling of the city's affairs. Thanks to Dr. Parnas, a member of the oversight committee, a waste of municipal funds was discovered, which yielded the resignation of the regime-appointed commissioner, officer Novakovski. Dr. Parnas was tremendously active in using his experience acquired while serving as a member of the district's orphanage committee.

The Zionists demanded, at every opportunity, to hold a new election based on a democratic law. The first election, which was held based on the old law (based on the principle of the curia's), resulted in a substantial victory for the Zionists. However, the authorities did not approve of the election results because they have not yielded an absolute majority to the Poles. During the next election, the Poles were satisfied with the results, and the municipal [council] began its work. Dr. Abend and Avraham Ox joined the council, on behalf of the Zionists then. A short while later, the Zionists won representation in the magistrate, where Dr. Abend served as their representative. The economic organization justifiably requested representation in the municipal election. The Zionists ensured that representatives of these organizations would join the municipal council. However, suitable people for these roles were not always found. Therefore, the Zionists had to grudgingly agree to some of the candidates, they did not like. The assimilators and their supporters took advantage of that situation and succeeded in penetrating through those people and capturing important positions.



The election to the Polish 2nd Sejm was held in 1928. It took place in much more difficult conditions than those of 1922. This time the Ukrainians did not boycott the election, and achieving a mandate for a Jewish representative was not that easy. Tzvi Heller, the Sejm's Zionist representative, managed to win the hearts of his voters, so there was no issue with selecting the candidate. The election campaign was very tense. The political opponents did not dare to come out with independent lists, since the Zionists had a decisive hold; The Zionists' victories in all areas of life in Ternopil and their brilliant victory in the Sejm election served as undisputable proof of that. The national list secured thirty-one thousand votes in the election.

In the local affairs, too, nothing was done without the cooperation of the General Zionists. The new Zionist parties established after their separation from the Zionist Union strengthened thanks to the position their central administration acquired with the support of the Jewish Agency in Eretz Israel. That also affected the parties in Poland. In Keren HaYesod, the General Zionists were in charge. However, at the KKL-JNF, the Hebrew school, and the [Zionist] Shekels [fund] Committee, friction arose, reaching a tense level. The dual existence of the movements “Bar Kokhba” and “Maccabiah” also weakened the position of the General Zionists. Although, with the establishment of the youth movements, “HaNo'ar” [“The Youth”], and “Akhva” [“Brotherhood”], “Bar Kokhba” strengthened numerically, the internal difficulties in coordinating work increased.

The growth of the movement in all of its factions had some benefits. The competition between the groups resulted in increased activity. The relations between the youth movement “HaNo'ar” and “Bar Khokba” were harmonious and they enjoyed tight cooperation between them. “Bar Kokhba”-organization supported the youth movement, and many of the young group's members joined the adult brother organization.

Brilliant talents rose out of the youth movement such as Edelstein (who died at a young age), Ekselbirt, Gotlieb, Khaim Parnas, and the “biggest gun” in the group - Israel Kurfuerst. The purchasers of the Shekels [membership certificate in the Zionist Organization] stood by the party at the election. Eighty percent of the population were loyal to the national movements in its factions.

However, the division among the factions made its mark during the preparation for the election for the community [council]. The elections were held following the end of the first council's term, which was elected after the [First World]. “Bar Kokhba” strove to form a unified Zionist front but encountered exaggerated demands from the new parties. HaMizrkahi considered the community as its natural area of activity

[Columns 199-200]

and did not want to be discriminated via the non-Zionist orthodox people. The “Hit'akhdut” considered it their duty to represent Socialistic Zionism and put the emphasis on class-related slogans. Although the demands by “HaMizrakhi” seemed justified, it was difficult to realize them for a simple reason: They lacked the


The Wizo Committee in Ternopil


charismatic figures who would attract voters. The friction among the Zionists encouraged the rivals, who hoped to build themselves at their expense. “Agudat Israel” [non-Zionist orthodox party] and the assimilators prepared themselves for a defeat by the Zionists. Their goal was to “capture” the institution named after Perl. Among the people who were not close to the Zionist movement, a perception was formed that “the Zionists fight each other”. In the end, the division caused damage to the Zionists. The “Hit'akhdut” won only one representative (which was promised to them anyway). The lesson that could have been learned from those elections was that the “Hit'akhdut” overestimated its influence in the city. However, as seen in the election to the Sejm, it did not learn that lesson either.



The election for the community in 1930 was held based on the new Community Law, which imposed a proportional rather than personal election. That law somewhat limited the responsibilities of the community [council]. The community council had a chairman of its own, who approved the budget and supervised its implementation. The management was elected by the council and actually managed the community. It represented the council before the Jewish population, the local authorities, and the government. The Polish country's community council umbrella council was supposed to serve as the religious council. The Communities Law did not fulfill all the hopes and did not succeed to make the community the institution of Jewish autonomy as the Zionists wished, but it was a step forward. The election was democratic. Every Jews, 24 years and older, enjoyed the right to vote. The election progressed in a calm atmosphere, and the voters expressed their trust in the coalition that carried the burden of managing the community.

Dr. Parnas was elected again as the chairman of the community [council], and Shalom Podhortzer, from the religious wing and Ya'akov Meirberg of “HaMizrakhi”, were elected as his vices. All the conditions existed for the council to continue its activity in harmony until the end of its term. However, that hope did not come to fruition. That time, the spoilers came from the management of the school named after Perl.

The Voivodezetvo [district governor], the highest authority over the school, notified the community management that the school, library, and the house of prayers were to be handed over to a directorate. Dr. Peiles, Dr. Weissnikht, Pepperish, and Gottfried were selected to be permanent members. The head of the community and a representative of the local school's oversight supervisor were slated as additional compulsory members. The directorate was given the authority to collect up to 4 guldens from the slaughtering fees to support the budget. The negotiations about these changes took place behind the back of the community, which was the interested party. That arrangement violated the will of the school's founder, as declared by Mikhael Perl.

The situation resulted in the handing over of the institution to a directorate that sabotaged the principle of Jewish self-rule. Firstly, the directorate was given the authority to impose taxes on the Jewish population. Secondly, a precedent was formed whereby a non-Jew (the school supervisor), would rule in the affairs of a Jewish religious institution. That dangerous precedent undermined the basic rights of the Jews. While it was difficult to pinpoint who was to blame, it was clear that the assimilators were the initiators of the resolution to further their own ambitions.

In a special session of the council attended by all members, a harsh protest against the assault on the rights of the Jewish population was issued. The council requested that the school management take all possible steps to nullify the resolution. It also decided the turn to the ministry of education and religions. A delegation headed by Dr. Reikh turned to the Voivode in Lviv, but he evaded giving a clear answer. The well-reasoned juridical-based appeal generated a big impression. The community planned to turn to the high court that dealt with the administrative affairs if they would not receive a satisfactory response from the ministry. The people at the ministry understood that, so they dragged the matter and avoided giving a clear answer. When the pressure on the ministry did not yield any results, it was decided to use other tactics to hasten the decision. The community came out with a harsh attack in the newspapers on the Voivode and later on the minister. Boycotting the articles by the authorities could have served as an excuse to submit a claim to the high court.

[Columns 201-202]

The authorities figured out that goal and did not boycott the articles. In the end, Lviv's Voivode got fed up, and he decided to get rid of the fighting community administratively by dissolving it and nominating a government-appointed commissioner to head a council of “disciplined” people. To make it look like a legal step, he ordered an investigation of the financial books of the community, which supposedly discovered embezzlements in the ledger and financial dealings. The consoler Pohoriles was nominated as the government commissioner, and a council of “disciplined” people served under him. The first step of the nominated council was to nullify the appeal submitted to the ministry so that they can implement the Voivode's plan.

Dr. Parnas, as the head of the community council, submitted a complaint [to the court] that his honor was harmed by the claims of embezzlement. By doing that, he hoped to uncover the forgeries made by the budget investigation, used as a basis for the council's dispersion. In addition, a delegation on behalf of the orthodox people traveled to the former Ternopil's Voivode, who served as the senate chairman at that time, to convince him to discuss the affair with the government. It was well known that Dr. Kwashnivski trusted Dr. Parnas and could not stand the assimilators. Dr. Kwashnivski was very influential during the Sanation Government, and his lobby bore fruit. A decree came out of Warsaw to reestablish the community council and punish the people who were responsible for its dissolution.

The Ternopil's Voivode invited Dr. Parnas and discussed a possible solution, namely, how to bring back to the community [council] operation without damaging the authority of the authorities. The following has been decided: 1) The Voivode would announce that following an additional detailed investigation (resulting from the appeal), he had not found any fault in the community activity. 2) Dr. Parnas would withdraw the complaint he submitted to the court. The official responsible for the dissolution of the community council was transferred a few weeks later and took another position. The community was content with the solution. The assimilators fortified themselves in the school's directorate. The assimilators' only revenge was that they did not call for any official directorate meeting. That way, they would need to rely on Dr. Parnas, as he was obliged to participate in all official meetings on behalf of the council.

The situation with the school named after Perl did not change, although, the new council notified the ministry that it insisted on its view that the directorate is illegal in its authority. The community council also denied the right of the government-appointed commissioner to go against its appeal and withdraw it on his own initiative. However, none of these complaints bore any fruits.

The situation in the community became more complicated when Dr. Parnas had to be away from Ternopil for several days per week in his role in the national organization. [Joining the Zionists] neither the orthodox people nor the Voivode approve of his resignation. In the end, a compromise proposal was approved: The community council's meeting would only take place with Dr. Parnas in attendance. It was also decided that every important step would only be done after consulting with him. The council secretary's office maintained tight phone contact with Dr. Parnas. He served as the head of the community even when he moved to Warsaw. At that time, he traveled to Ternopil two days a week.

In 1932, the district authorities organized an exhibition aimed mainly to demonstrate the district's achievements in agriculture and the agriculture industry. However, the room was reserved for cultural achievements by the population.

The preparations were already in the implementation stage when the organizers realized that they could not ignore the Jews who also lived in the district, particularly since it would harm its success because the insulted Jews would boycott the exhibition.

The Voivode invited Dr. Parnas and authorized him to arrange for a Jewish section at the exhibition. The special committee, established for that purpose, consisted of the members Yosef Halicher and engineer Hirshberg from the district authorities. A group of artists prepared diagrams, and other people participated.

The committee managed to collect rich materials such as Torah's Atarot [ornaments around the Torah scroll], Parokhot [screens in front of the ark], valuable holy implements, printed works, and rare manuscripts, pictures of buildings, and artistic gravestones. Dr. Tzetzlia Klaften, artist Lilyan, and the visual artist Kahana from Lodz helped to arrange the articles and prepare the decoration in the exhibition halls. All the [Jewish] institutions in Ternopil participated in the exhibition. Only the school named after Perl was an exception and did not want to cooperate with the committee. In order not to provide a pretext to the haters of Jews, the committee agreed to allow the school to have its own booth.

The exhibition took place at the community's buildings. All of the visitors were very impressed, and the media (Jewish and non-Jewish) devoted appreciation articles to it. The exhibition provided proof of vast artistic treasures, collected over generations with love and reverence, and the richness of the Jewish artistic life. The number of visitors to the exhibition was huge. They came from far and near. The exhibition lasted eight days, and at the end, a conference of all the Ternopil district's communities was held. Artist Lilyan gave a lecture about the need to guard the artistic treasures and submitted a few particle proposals on how to preserve the antiques and art. Resolutions about preservation were obtained and the Ternopil community was tasked with their implementation. Unfortunately, the communities did not show much interest in that matter.

The term of the second elected council came to an end, but no new election was held. The authorities preferred to nominate a commissioner. The Polish regime deteriorated into a dictatorship and retreated from the democratic principles, which were the guiding light for the Zionists.

[Columns 203-204]

Among the officials, one could always find submissive people who were willing to fulfill the government's demands.

That was how the Jewish self-rule faded before the life itself was extinguished.



In the meantime, the state of the Jewish population continued to deteriorate, and all the efforts to improve it were in vain. The masses turned their back to country-wide politics, which disappointed them, and there were no signs on the horizon about improvements in the future. Everybody felt that difficult days were ahead and that the evil forces were ganged against the Jewish people. Under those circumstances, the masses turned their aspirations toward the ancestry land. The struggle over every immigration certificate and fundraising for Eretz Israel captured the top positions on the agenda.

The fact that the aspiration to make Aliya strengthened among the ranks of “Bar Kokhba”, was supported by statistics. During the period 1927 – 1938, about eight hundred people, most of them young, made Aliya. During the same period, the relations with the executive committee in Lviv, or more accurately with Dr. Reikh, improved. The “agreement” issue, which caused a storm in its time, was not an issue anymore. The only thing left for the Jewish population to do was to protect what little they had and to ward off the ploys aimed at driving them out entirely from economic and political life. Even that course of action did not stand a chance. The only conclusion was to train the youth and anybody who wanted to make Aliya and try to rehabilitate the poor classes, which were bound to stay where they were. Dr. Reikh's visit to Ternopil, by the invitation of “Bar Kokhba,” culminated with a mass gathering, where he reviewed the situation and warn against optimism. with his assessment, he opened the eyes of the last few who deluded themselves that there was an outlet from the distressful situation.

At the same time, the Zionists faced a problem that could have affected their standing in the community and the district authority. The chief rabbinate position became vacant in Lviv. Rabbi Levin from the “Agudah” [anti-Zionist Agudat Israel Haredi party] wanted it. The Zionists objected to Rabbi Levin capturing that position for political reasons but they lacked a candidate who could compete against Rabbi Levin. Dr. Tzvi Parnas brought up the candidacy of Rabbi BABa"D, who opposed the “Agudah”, and who also opposed any intervention of religious figures in political affairs. In the end, the issue of electing the chief rabbi was taken off the agenda under the pressure from the authorities.

The improvement in the relations between “Bar Kokhba” and Dr. Reikh, brought back the members who previously withdrew from the organization due to the difference of opinions concerning the “agreement” with the government. The following people returned to the organization: Dr. Shwartzman, Dr. Abend, Dr. Nussbaum, and others. It was a good sign since “Bar Kokhba's” 30th anniversary was approaching, and the opportunity to celebrate it under the spirits of solidarity and unity became available.

An important and honorable event in the city was the visit by Kh. N. Bialik. Bialik showed a particular interest in the school named after Perl. His interest in the school was so great that he found it necessary to prolong his visit so that he can become acquainted with the school and its library. Bialik found a high level of Hebrew in Ternopil. However, he resented the situation at the school named after Perl. Attending a gathering, he scolded the Zionists about the barbaric treatment of literary treasures, which resulted in the loss of important and valuable documents. Bialik expanded on Perl's influence on the Jews in Odesa and about a school founded based on Ternopil's example.

Bialik visited the old local cemetery and spent time in solitude at the grave of Perl, RN” K [Ranni Nakhman Kromkhel], and the rest of the Jewish great scholars. Before leaving town, he summoned the people of Pen International, Jews, and Poles and urged them to rescue Perl's library and archive. However. His warning was like a voice calling in the wilderness. The assimilators' gang managed to nullify all of his efforts, and “convince” the authorities, who were happy about every opportunity to strike against the national movement, to leave that cultural institute in its neglective state.



In 1932, “Bar Kokhba” organization reached its 30th year. The preparations lasted many months, and attempts were made to attract all the members, scattered around the world. Indeed, the members of “Bar Kokhba” did not disappoint. They returned to their native city and raised memories from past days. The entire city celebrated, and the celebration lasted three days.

Following the celebrations, the dismal days returned with their troubles and fears. These were the days of Minsk and Przytyk pogroms and the riots [against the Jews] in the universities. It was also the days of the “Piketim” (guards standing by Jewish stores to prevent Polish buyers from entering), the days of the “Obshem” (“On the contrary” in Polish of [prime minister] Skladkovsky, who gave the economic boycott against the Jews its official status), and the days of pushing out the Jewish population from their sources of livelihood. Even during that daunting period, the Jewish youth proved that they knew how to defend the nation's honor. Its firm stand, without fear, strengthened the spirit of the masses. The Zionists' representatives in the community and municipality too, did not keep quiet. At every opportunity, they protested against the discrimination by the authorities. They announced explicitly and openly with a loud voice that the Jewish population would know how to protect its rights.

The election to the Sejm in 1930 was the last election that allowed public participation. However, the conditions were totally different [when the time came for the next election].

[Columns 205-206]

Kh. N. Bialik visiting Ternopil
From right to left – Standing: Abeler, Dr. Shwartzman, Dr. Abend, Dr. Horwitz, Dr. Orens
Sitting: N. Tversky, Kurfuerst, S. Schwartz, Kh. N. Bialik, Dr. H. Parnas, Dr. A. Rapoport


Reality proved (the jailing of the opposition in Brisk, Lithuania, and other events) that Pilsudski was striving for dictatorship. His party announced that it was the choicest and best in the country (“Elita”). Unfortunately, the Jews were divided among themselves. Unlike the previous election, the [Zionist] Union appeared as a unified block. However, the efforts by Yitzkhak Gruenbaum to establish a unified Zionist front. The Zionist left preferred to form a socialistic party. The “Aguda” and merchants appeared in separate parties, and Vetzlav, Vishlitzki, and Ignatzi Yaeger appeared in a “Nonaffiliated block”, collaborating with the government (B.B.V.R.).


The Thirtieth Anniversary of the “Bar Kokhba” Organization, 1932
Seniors: Dr. H. Parnas, Pomeranz, Liebergal, and Dr. Sharfspitz

[Columns 207-208]

Galitsia Zionists also submitted their own list.

Ternopil Zionists demanded that their candidate would be a prominent figure who was trusted by the population. However, the “Hit'akhdut” found it necessary to replace Dr. Tzvi Heller, who represented the Ternopil's district until then, with Dr. Bristiger. Dr. Bristiger did not know how to attract the hearts of the masses, since he overemphasized the socialistic slogans, and thereby pushed aside the General Zionists and their voters. It became known to all that their Zionist camp is divided and weak, as happened in the election to the community [council]. The non-Zionist activists of the economic parties, headed by Hirsh Eikhenbaum seized on the opportunity. The Zionist gatherings were disrupted and dispersed by their opponents. The masses were indifferent toward the election, as they did not believe the Jewish representative's periluminal struggle can bring any results. The list received 17 thousand votes (compared to 31 thousand in 1928) and Dr, Bristiger failed.

The failure encouraged all of the General Zionists' rivals, to whom the revisionist group, which attracted several hundred votes, joined. The General Zionists participated in the reception of Ze'ev Jabotinsky during his visit to Ternopil, with clear reservations about his views. The existence of the revisionist group did not contribute to the strengthening of the Zionist Union. Just the opposite, it caused another division.

Avraham Shwartzman passed away after a long illness in 1933. He was one of the most prominent members of “Bar Kokhba” and his balanced view and cleverness helped the organization to pull out of difficult situations.

A greater loss was the death of Dr. Abend, who fulfilled responsible roles on behalf of the Zionists in the city. His funeral became a demonstration of love and appreciation for the prominent public figure.

Despite the recent failures, the public treated the Zionists with respect. Proof of that was the nomination of Avraham Ox, who managed to acquire a good name for himself, in his activities at the trade and industry bureau, to a consulter in that bureau.

With the death of Pilsudski in 1935, the Jewish situation worsened. The [government organization] “OZON” (The Camp of National Unity) came out openly with slogans, the inspiration for which came from Hitler's Germany.

The last important political appearance of the Zionists, was at the municipal election, held by mayor Vidatzky. The poles tried their best to block the way to the municipality for the Jews and the Ukrainians. Their goal was to take over the municipality and leave only a few minority representatives without any influence. The Zionists received six mandates from the ten Jewish representatives. Among the four non-Zionist representatives, there was not even a single representative of the assimilators.

During the establishment of the new magistrate, the Poles tried to pressure the Zionists to give up on their candidate and demanded that they support the candidacy


The military [self-defense] group of Beitar, 1934


of D. Shtekel, who was more acceptable to them. The Zionists rejected that demand. As a faction with six representatives, they were entitled to send a representative of their choosing to the magistrate. However, under the pressure from the Poles, who vigorously objected to the candidacy of Dr. Parnas (whom they perceived as an “extremist”), the Zionists decided to leave Dr. Nussbaum in that role. The latter previously fulfilled the role after the death of Dr. Abend.

The event that could testify about the relations with the Poles, was the arrest of a member of the committee to help Jewish refugees from Germany. It was well known that thousands of Jews with Polish citizenship were expelled from Germany and were detained in camp Zbaszyn at the border with Germany. The Polish authorities accused the committee members that they support communists. They did not shy away from using dirty provocations and proceeded to submit a political claim to the court against Dr. Tzvi Parnas. The trial took place in March 1939 and proved to all that the accusations were based on lies and were brought just to defame the Jewish activists. In the end, Dr. Parnas was acquitted of the charges.

With worry and fear, the Jewish population looked at the heavy and dark clouds appearing on the west and east horizons. During those difficult months, the Zionists mobilized all of their powers and stood ready for what was to come. Large branches and a club opened on Ternovskigo Street. All the institutions worked under great tension as if the population wanted to distract themselves from the future. That future threatened each one individually and the entire population.

That was the situation when Second World War erupted. Again, like in the years of the First World War, Ternopil Jews did not stand aside but helped their miserable brothers who found refuge from Hitler's army.

On 17 September, the first Russian tanks broke into the city. On the same day, the Zionist Movement in Ternopil ended.

At that time, nobody could anticipate that the fate of that magnificent community had been sealed. Nobody could anticipate that a few years down the road, we would write about Ternopil as a settlement that was, but it is no more.

Author's Note:

  1. See the article by Ben Tzion Fett: “From the Austrian to a Ukrainian Regime”, Column 167. Return


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Ternopil, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 12 Jan 2023 by LA