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[Page 69]

Parties and Movements

 

The beginning of “Tzeirei Zion” in Akkerman

by Tzvi Menuali

Translated by Sara Mages

The Great Russian Revolution also caused a great public unrest in the Russian Jewry and a tidal wave in the Zionist movement that also didn't skip our city, Akkerman. At the same time the democratic Jewish community, the Zionist library, the Hebrew kindergarten under the management of Shoshana Zilbrleib (Puzis), were established. There was a different spirit in the Jewish street in Akkerman and Zionist activity began in all areas. Most of the activists were young, mostly students and a few high school students. Among them stood out: Fava Barkov who was a scholar and a brilliant speaker, Komy Tabachnik, David Kushnir, Yisrael Rabinowitch, Yuly Danovich, Bazia Hacham, Yosef Rivkin, Yosef Serper, Yakov Berger, Gelfand, the brothers Ajzik, Moshe and Yisrael Schildkraut, Kalman Kogen, Aharon Brand, Kulya Kogen and others. I was young then, almost a boy, but I followed every Zionist event and activity. It's possible to say - I was captivated to Zionism.

However, the situation has undergone a total change in a period of only one year. In March 1918, the Romanians took control of Bessarabia, instituted a reign of terror and repression, mostly in the border areas that Akkerman was also among them. This situation caused total paralysis in public and conceptual activity. Other than that, most of the young people left the city, a small group of Halutzim [pioneers] immigrated to Israel together the first immigrants of the Third Aliyah, while others - had scattered to all directions. With the group of Halutzim were: Fava Barkov , Yisrael Rabinowitch, Avraham Serfer Avraham Durfman, Shaike Berger, Yeshayahu Botoshansky, Zeidel Burotzin, Aharon Brend, Noah Zukerman, Aharon Kaminker, Freldansky, Margalit. Among the young women, who immigrated then, were: Yona Manos and Zukerman.

The news that arrived from Israel in the early years of the British rule was quite grim: unemployment, economic hardship, etc. A number of our first Halutzim left the country - a matter which, of course, caused a bitter disappointment.

In 1923, the year in which my story begins, there wasn't yet a slight sign of Zionist life in our city. The young generation tended to assimilation and was also charmed by the legends that circulated about the socialist paradise that was supposedly created across the Leman… In the summer of that year the Romanian authorities organized a mass transportation in a freight train to the seashore of Bugas. In one of my trips in this freight train

 

The members of the circle (Kružok) “HaTehiya

Seating right to left: Yehusua Harari (Berger), Klara Shutina, Yisrael Schildkraut, Moti Kushnir
Standing right to left: Misha Fraldnski, Avraham Rabinowitch

 

[Page 70]

Tzeirei Zion” committee in 1932

Seating right to left: Lyoba Rozenbaum, Dora Goldman, Tzvi Menuali,
Standing: Yisrael Schildkraut, Aba Helman, Gertz Abramovich, Alexander Shapira

 

I sat next the high-school student, Zeida Shapira, son of Heinich Shapira from the regular worshipers of Bait Hamidrash, and through a conversation during our journey I discovered that, like me, he's also a Zionist who dreams of Zion. After a few more conversations, following this conversation, we came to the conclusion that the time of action has arrived and decided to organize a Zionist circle. I drafted my best friends to this circle: Lyoba Schectman, Srulik Yelin and Shalom Vishnovitzki. Shapira drafted Misha Kroshkin, Aba Helman and Misha Frank. Therefore, apart from me, our circle (“Kružok”) was made up of high-school students. For a certain period the circle operated in a limited fashion, meaning, strictly between ourselves, and we mostly dealt in the study of the theory of Zionism. All of our activity written and oral was conducted entirely in the Russian language.

Sometime later we decided to expend the circle and penetrate the wide circles of the government schools students because the Hebrew Gymnasium was still in its infancy. Due to the state of emergency in Bessarabia our activity was conducted clandestinely. Despite that it had a long echo and very soon the student circle “HaNoar” [“The Youth”] was organized and its driving force was my brother, Shimon Menuali z”l, and also Yehudah Brodsky.

The first public activity of our circle was… Aliyah La'Torah of students in Simchat Torah 1923 for the benefit of Kern Hakayemet. We enlisted the support of the students for this matter and the operation was crowned with great success. Many students streamed to the “women section” in the upper floor of Beit Hamidrash. Among them were those who were granted to do so for the first time in their life.

Another public activity of our circle was the Hanukah ball which was held at “Tarbut.” Many students participated with great enthusiasm in all the preparations for the ball. It was a typical ball for those days and served as kind of a demonstration “that our nation is still alive,” the heart of the youth was with us and there was still a chance for the Zionist cause among the youth.

Our “Kružok started to seek its way in Zionism. We contacted “HaTehiya” in Kishinev and asked for guidance. We sent Zeida Shapira to the youth committee in Kishinev in the hope that he would bring us a “program.”

Zeida returned from Kishinev, but without the program…

I remember that we invited Yitzchak Schbartz z”l to give a lecture in one of the circle's meetings. He was a Hebrew teacher at “Tarbut” Gymnasia. His lecture left a great impression and we continued to hold meetings with him. Schbartz himself was a man of the Second Aliyah, but he returned to his hometown, Bielce, at the outbreak of the First World War. In his lectures he convinced us that the road to real Zionism is through the working Eretz-Yisrael. At the same time Jabotinsky became popular, the newspaper “Rasviet” appeared and the message of Revisionism also arrived to us. On Tu B'eshvat 1924, a well attended party was held at the apartment of Sioma Shimonovitz. Schbartz and also David Tcherniavsky, who was a math teacher at the Hebrew High-School, also attended. The establishment of “Tzeirei Zion” in Akkerman was officially announced in this party. Moshe Serfer was nominated as chairman, I as secretary and Zeida Shapira as treasurer…

With the first members of “Tzeirei Zion” were: Schectman,

[Page 71]

Yelin, Vishnevsky, Mati Preldenski, Aba Helman, Avraham Trahtman, Beti Levin, Aharon Dorfman, Shmuel Zukerman, Fenny Tulchinsky, Bruch Berger, Aliyahu Zilberlib, Estera Rabinowitch, Fenny Rabinowitch, Rosa Komorovsky, Mali Gordon, Manya Hohberg, Hirschfeld, Aharon Schinkovsk, Vaska Moskowitz. A year or two later, Yisrael Schildkraut, Ajzek Shapira and Dora Goldman joined the chapter and were among the most prominent activists. In a later period also joined: Gertz Abramovich, Aharon Roizman, Pinchas Pegorski, Lyoba Zunis, Malbina Feldman, Yitzchak Greenshpon, Fira Rivelnik, Dola Rosenbaum, Svaya Ribak, Natal Multiner, Vladia Scheinfeld, Malia Kaninker, Nioma Dudelzak, Tzvi Gerzenshtein, Sioma Segel, Melchin, Lyoba Rosenbaum, Ester Brodesky, Leyosia Zilberman, Filot and others that their names have been forgotten. With the transformation of the “Kružok” to a real party, Zionist Left, our public Zionist activity received a considerable momentum and our image rose in the public eyes and in our eyes. In Passover of 1924, “Tzeirei Zion” organized the fundraising campaign, “Pioneer Week,” and we managed to collect the amount of 17.000 Leu which was, in the concept of those days, a huge sum. The centre of “HeHalutz” in Kishinev “burst with joy” when they heard the results of the fundraising in Akkerman. David Berfel, who was at that time the chairman of “HeHalutz” center, sent me a telegram of greeting and thanks.

The chapter of “Tzeirei Zion” in Akkerman existed and was active from 1924 to 1940. Of course, there were periods of high and low in the activities, but there was no break in the activities, I was active in all these years without a break. It should be emphasized that the appearance of “Tzeirei Zion” in our city was, in a way, a shot in the arm for the Zionist movement in Akkerman which was in a state of lethargy until we stood and in youthful vigor sprawled on the Jewish street and vigorously infiltrated the Zionist idea among the general public. Among those young people there were no geniuses who spoke flowery Russian like that of Pava Berkov who left Israel, but honest people who engaged in public needs with trust, spoke to the public in juicy Yiddish and not in Russian, which was spoken at that time in Akkerman, and carried with honor and pride the name “Tzeirei Zion.”

 

Members of “Tzeirei Zion” in Akkerman

First row (sitting right to left) - Roizman, Elick Zilberberg, Moskowitz, unidentified, Rabinowitch
Second row (right to left) - Vilderman, Moshe Serfer, Ajzik Shapira, the teacher David Tcherniavsky, Tzvi Menuali, Porlodonski, Aba Helman
Third row (standing right to left) - Beti Levin, Manya Gohberg, Yisrael Vishnivetzki, Baruch Berger, Baruch Serfer, Rosa Komorovsky
Fourth row (standing) - Y. Schildkraut, Dr. Shimonovich, Avraham Trahtman, Fini Tulchinsky, Avraham Dudlzek, Shmuel Zukerman

 


[Page 72]

The association “Speak Hebrew!”
- of the first youth organizations

by Nisan Amitai (Stembul)

Translated by Sara Mages

The political upheavals, and the many revolutions that followed, left their mark on the life and the existence of the Jewish youth in our city in the twenties of this century. Then, we didn't understand the political significance of all the great events (the World War, the Bolshevik Revolutions, the disengagement of Bessarabia from Russia and the beginning of the Romanian rule). However, we saw, with our own eyes, the convoys of refugees who crossed the frozen Dniester in the winter season in order to flee for their lives from the soviet regime and the famine that prevailed in Russia. We absorbed the atmosphere at home and the sensation of fear for the anticipated future. We saw the refugees who worked at paving the roads in the city and many Jews were among them, and had the feeling that the days are fatal days, but, as stated, it was just a feeling, the feeling of children, and nothing more.

We, the children, were alone and there was no one to help us with our wonder about the meaning of the events, anyone who would solve the problems that began to awaken in us. We knew that they were rightists and leftists, but we couldn't understand what is between those and those? and, what is cooking in the big world? Also the Zionist parties, which began to organize and form in the Jewish street, paid very little attention to the pondering youth. In this respect there was almost no difference between the parties. The General Zionist who dominated the public institutions in the city, “Mizrahi,” the Revisionist and even “Tzeirei Zion” who, as their name, were young in years and experience - all of them were subjected to their own matters and problems. They were powerless to save and assist us, the youngest, the students of the lower classes of “Tarbut” Gymnasia.

We were 13-14 then. At the Hebrew gymnasium we studied Hebrew history and Hebrew literature, but we felt that we were required more than that, that we were able to do more than that since the days were “historical” days and required a lot. During breaks, and after school, we spoke among ourselves about the need to organize, to do something, to change something, etc. It is possible to say that all of us had the same feeling: it's time to do! I don't remember how the matter had started and what were the first steps toward organization, but, according to the best of my knowledge, Shura Volovitz (Yehusua Drori), Tzvi Shechter and Nisan Stembul were those who came to a decision to start to organize the youth, not on ideological basis, but on common linguistic structure - Hebrew. The natural tendency for youthful rebellion found an outlet for the energy that was stored within us and the feeling for the need for action. Since the spoken language at home, and also among the children, was Russian or Yiddish, the youthful rebellion, and maybe even the arising national consciousness, required that our main goal would be to speak in Hebrew, meaning, anyone joining our association will have to speak in Hebrew, and only in Hebrew, at home, in the street, at school, every day.

It is possible that another factor motivated us to establish an association based on speaking in Hebrew. The “Kultur Lige” [Culture League], which saw its goal to develop the Yiddish language and the Yiddish culture, was active in Akkerman (by the way, several members of “Kultur Lige” actually sent their children to the Hebrew gymnasium) and we rose as “antithesis” to the “Lige”…

Our first step was - to convene a meeting of the students of our class, to explain the objectives of our association that we initiate and “call them to the flag,” meaning, the Hebrew flag. Just to spite, we decided to name our association “The Association Speak Hebrew!”

And so it was. At the beginning of the school year of 1927, the association was established with good luck and Mazel Tov. Many didn't join at first but over time, after we proved that our intentions were good, members from the gymnasium forth class and students of the second class also joined. We acted according to all the rules of democracy and elected a committee that, according to my best memory, included: Shura Volovitz z”l who served as chairman, I as secretary and Binyamin Gresfeld - treasurer, and also Tzvi Tzvi Shechter and Utza Kogen (Rachel Roll z”l). Sometime later, Sheptel Zukerman and other members joined the committee.

[Page 73]

 

The newspaper of “The Association Speak Hebrew!” in Akkerman

 

[Page 74]

We weren't satisfied with just talking in Hebrew and expanded the scope of our activities. The leaders of the parties, General Zionist and “Tzeirei Zion,” were invited to lecture before us on various topics, we held literary evenings, public and literature trials, and also started to empty the boxes of Keren Hakayemet and came as a group to lectures held by the Zionist parties in the city.

The crown glory of our activity - the internal newsletter designed for the members of the association. This campaign was a unique experience, and when I remember now with what awesome respect we handled this matter in those days - a smile passes on my lips… With the little money that we collected from the membership we bought a spirograph - kind of an oilcloth that you can duplicate a limited number of copies on it. We obtained the paper in an “original” way: since the grandfather of Yehusua Drori was a paper merchant and supplied sheets of paper to the stores, this grandfather hired us as “employees” and our only duty was - to count the sheets of paper that were sent to each store. In exchange for our work we received paper for the printing of our newsletter. We were novices at this task, we stained ourselves with the blue ink and stained every place that we worked in. Therefore, we arranged kind of a “rotation,” every newspaper was printed in a different location and the housewives waited impatiently to get rid of us… We worked quite a lot for our newspaper. At times we had to copy the handwriting a number of times for duplication, but after such of an operation we had the feeling of satisfaction and personal fulfillment because, in this way, we gained support for our “idea” and strengthen “The Association Speak Hebrew!” For the sake of history it will be recorded that the first editor of our newsletter was Tzvi Shechter.

Later, with our maturity, we started to feel that our “platform” was too narrow. “The Association Speak Hebrew!” was no longer under our measure… we started to wonder about matters of supreme importance, searched for solutions for national issues, social issues etc. At the same time a group of students from the upper classes of the gymnasia organized and called themselves “Zionist Students.” There was no difference between them and us and we agreed that the two associations should be united.

The riots of 5689 [1929] in Israel brought many additional problems, mostly the problem of the Arabs. The “Speak Hebrew” framework became more and more narrow and we came to the conclusion that speaking in Hebrew was very important but it doesn't solve the fundamental problem. Two years later the association disbanded, but it also served as a foundation for a youth Zionist movement as it would be told in one of the chapters.

 

 
Winter in the city park in Akkerman   At the train station in Akkerman

 

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