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[Page 81]

Gordonia” in Akkerman

by Sheftel Zukerman

Translated by Sara Mages

From the distance of the years that have passed since then – more than forty years! – it is not easy to return to that period in our lives, when we were still young and beautiful and our perception of life, with its great and small events, was romantic and ideal. And yet, we were all imbued with a great ideal: emigration to Israel and self–fulfillment. It was preceded by hakhshara [pioneer training] in the “Halutz” and the expectation of the realization of the dream.

The youth movements arrived to Akkerman somewhat late. Akkerman's location at the south end of Bessarabia, kind of the “end of the world,” caused that our movement started to spread first in the north. From Poland it moved to Bukovina, from there to northern and central Bessarabia, and only a few years later also arrived to us.

In the first twenty years of our century there were movements and Zionist groups of older people in Akkerman: “Tzeirei Zion,” “General Zionists,” “Mizrahi” and the Revisionist. There was, indeed, the Maccabi association, which was established before the Zionist youth movements and gathered many young people and children, but it was only active in the field of sports. Already in those years many young people immigrated from Akkerman to Israel. In 1920–21, an organized group of young people, age 20–21, immigrated to Israel with the Third Aliya. The immigration to Israel also flowed after them but it was mainly the immigration of individuals and not of an organized group like that of 1921.

With the establishment of the Hebrew gymnasium in Akkerman the best Jewish youth concentrated around it, even though not all of them were imbued with the same national and Zionist spirit which characterized the gymnasium students later. At the end of the 1920s, the gymnasium's youth was no longer satisfied with their studies alone and began to organize themselves in small cells, according to grade, at the Hebrew and Yiddish library (in the building of the Jewish Bank). They read books in Hebrew and Yiddish, read Zionist newspapers from abroad (Ha'olam from London, He'atid from Warsaw) and other local magazines and newspapers from Kishinev.

In those days a circle of students, limited at first, stood out and set the goal to speak in Hebrew, not only within the gymnasium's walls but also everywhere. “Dabro Iverit” [Speak Hebrew], was the name of this circle and it contained teenagers, age 14– 15, that the national idea captured their hearts. From this circle came the first members of “Gordonia.” In the year, 5689–1929, after the riots of the month of Av in Israel, and after the visit of the emissaries from Israel in Akkerman: Zev Meshi and Dov Shafrir–Giser – the branch grew and expanded and contained scores of members.

As stated, the branch started from the students of the Hebrew gymnasium “Tarbut.” The driving force, in the organization of the “Gordonia” branch, was Shura Volovitz (Yehusua Drori z”l). He had an organizational skill and was stubborn by nature. He loved to read and loved to delve into the problems of the Jewish nation and the society. Yehusua did not neglect his studies and was also an outstanding student in his class. Active members, from his class and other classes, gathered around him. At first there were few but, later, whole classes from “Tarbut” school in the city joined “Gordonia.” No more than two or three, outside the gymnasium students, joined “Gordonia.” Over time, young people and children, from other circles, joined the branch of “Gordonia.”

Already from its inception, the “Gordonia” branch in Akkerman captured a special place among the other branches of the movement in Bessarabia. It had its own uniqueness, a great cultural weight, knowledge of the Hebrew language, knowledge of history and the Bible, strong national recognition – all these contributed to the formulation of a special version of our movement in Bessarabia – Akkerman style.

Akkerman itself was a unique city in the landscape of the cities of Bessarabia: a district town, although not large in its population and without many Jews. It had a lively Jewish life and there was no shortage of Jewish institutions which were in every large or medium Jewish city. It was a pleasant, clean, orderly, and civilized city. It lay on the quiet Liman coast (the Dniester's lake that reached the Black Sea). It was greatly influenced by the nearby big city of Odessa, in its politeness and manners, as well as the Russian culture, the culture of the 20th century at its best.

[Page 82]

 

“Certificate of approval for immigration” that each member of “Gordonia” received from the branch before his/her immigration to Israel

[Page 83]

Akkerman was also influenced by the Jewish cultural life in the important Jewish center – Odessa. Only after the Romanian occupation, Akkerman, and with it all of Bessarabia was cut off from the Russian Jewry. However, the flow of Jewish refugees in the early years enriched Jewish Akkerman.

The “Gordonia” branch in Akkerman did not excel in the number of its members. We were not hundreds, as in some other branches, but those dozens of Jewish youth, students of the Hebrew gymnasium who gathered in the branch, designated it for the best. Good Jewish youth also gathered in the rest of the youth movements: “Hashomer Hatzair,” “Betar” and “Maccabi.” Over the years, they also immigrated to Israel, founded kibbutzim or were among their founders. There was a tradition of central activity in the national movement. Yehusua Volovitz (Drori) was called immediately after graduating from high school to the movement's center in Kishinev. Later, he moved to Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, to be in the main leadership of “Gordonia.” He was active in the movement's center for a few years, until his immigration to Israel. Other followed his footsteps.

After the riots of 5689, when the gates to Israel were closed, many did not “jump” on the opportunity to immigrate because of the situation that prevailed in the country at the time. At the beginning of 1930, Baruch Zukerman (today Nemani, member of Kevutzt Masada in the Jordan Valley), was the first member of “Gordonia” in Akkerman to immigrate to Israel. I remember well the dozens of members who accompanied Baruch to the train station in Akkerman. There was great excitement and we, the young ones, envied him. Since then, each immigration of a member to Israel and each departure of a son of Akkerman to hakhshara, brought moments of excitement and enthusiasm to those, who gathered at the train station plaza, and sang from the songs of Israel and the movement.

There was no shortage of problems throughout the existence of the branch in Akkerman. There were financial difficulties in maintaining the club, and there were problems with the Romanian secret police in the city which, occasionally, harassed the members of the branch. We were assisted by a large number of friends of “Gordonia” in the local branch of “Tzeirei Zion.” If they were not for us, we might not have survived.

Members of the Akkerman branch were active in all the movement's conferences, both regional and national. The center of the fifth region (Southern Bessarabia) was in Akkerman and Binyamin Gershfeld, and others in its wake, worked hard to establish new branches and operate them in the towns of our district and nearby districts. There were many conferences and regional meetings, in Akkerman and also in other towns (Tatarbunar, Romanovka), and all these brought us closer to wider circles of youth. Famous were the “Zopiadot,” summer camps for the scouts, which were held on the shores of the Black Sea and nearby lakes. The members of Akkerman were aided by the members of Bucharest (the member, Rozman, will be remember for the best), who were knowledgeable in scouting and, together with the members of Akkerman, guided the regional summer colonies and contributed to their great success. In addition, the participation of the members of Akkerman in the executive colonies, although not in a large number (due to the distance of the place and the expenses involved in traveling to the remote Carpathian region), contributed greatly to the advancement of the active members of the branch. A great deal of effort was required to participate in the executive colony in the country far north.

The members of “Gordonia” in Akkerman didn't leave for hakhshara in droves – again, due to the distance of the locations of the hakhshara in Northern Bessarabia or in Moldova. On the other hand, their weight in immigration to Israel was not negligible. Surely, not all the graduates immigrated to Israel. There were those who continued their studies and immigrated to Israel later. There were those who weren't able to immigrate because of personal and family reasons and got stuck in their city. However, dozens of pioneers immigrated and to this day they live in kibbutzim, cooperative settlements and others.

It is only natural that there was a change in the management of the Akkerman's branch after the great immigration which began to flow into Israel in the mid 1930s. When the active members immigrated others joined the management of the branch. The branch did not always maintain its level and extensive activity as in the early years. There were ups and downs in the activity of the branch but, the “Akkerman uniqueness,” was always kept.

With the graduates' emigration the connection between them and the remaining members of the branch was not severed. There was a connection of letters and every letter that came from the Israel, from one of the former active members, bridged those who were in Israel and the young members who had not yet gone to hakhshara or immigrated to Israel, built it and continued to live in kibbutzim.

Today, after 40–45 years, after the tremendous changes in the Jewish world, and after more than 30 years of the existence of the State of Israel, rise, from the depths of the past, the memory of the movement and the longings for that wonderful world of youth saturated with yearnings for redemption and hope for a new life. Life of Jewish youth, Zionist and pioneering, rooted in the history and culture of the Jewish people and builds its future in its old–new homeland. This memory, and the images and photos that have remained since, make us feel that we have not acted in vain, that we have not worked in vain. Over the years we harvested what we sowed then. “Malu Asameinu Bar.”[1]

Kibbutz Hulda

 

Translator's footnote:
  1. Malu Asameinu Bar” – “Fill our barns with grain”
    Lyrics – Pinchas Lender
    Music – David Zehavi
    http://hebrewsongs.com/?song=maluasameinubar Return


 

[Page 84]

The uniqueness of “Gordonia” in our city

by N. Amitai

Translated by Sara Mages

Destiny's had was in the establishment of the branch of “Gordonia” in Akkerman because the members of “Dabro Ivrit,” from which this movement was conceived and born in our city, were unaware of the existence of this movement, maybe because it was new in Bessarabia.

Late summer of 1929, at the month of August, our member, Rachel'a Gohebrg z”l, turned to me and asked me to go to her uncle's shop on Nicolaievskya Street, across from our home, because he wanted to talk to me. When I entered the shop, I found Mendel Davidson, brother of our teacher, Efraim Davidson, who was active in Keren Hakayemet in Kishinev. He gave me a short lecture about the pioneering movement, “Gordonia,” which supported the ideas and ideals of A.D. Gordon. He suggested that I join this movement and even gave me some circulars, from the main leadership in Kishinev, so that I could use them to attract followers to the movement.

I remember that on the same evening I went with the circulars to the home of Shura Volovitz (Yehusua Drori z”l). We read them carefully and, it can be said, that they aroused our curiosity. Truth to be told, that until then A. D. Gordon's name had not reached us and we knew nothing about his teachings. Therefore, we decided to learn about the man that the new movement was named after him. The next day we went to the local library and asked the librarian for A. D. Gordon's books. However, the librarian, our teacher S. Sterenhuss, informed us that the books were not available in the library, but he promised to order them as soon as possible. And indeed, a few days later the books arrived and that evening additional information material arrived from the main leadership.

We read the books with great interest. The man and his teachings appealed to us. The obligation to immigrate to Israel, integration into nature, joining the labor movement, social justice, collective life in Israel as a solution to inequality in human society, and a way to prevent the exportation of others. All these principles, which formed the foundation of A. D. Gordon's teachings, answered our hearts' wishes.

Therefore, we decided to bring the matter to the attention of other members of “Dabro Ivrit” association to which we belonged then. The association did not delve into ideological matters and was based mainly on one principle, speaking in Hebrew. When we raised the issue of joining “Gordonia” at the meeting of the association committee, and proposed to dismantle the existing framework and support the new movement, it aroused strong opposition from some members who saw it as an attempt to split the ranks of the youth. The argument on this issue continued for a short time and eventually the association broke up and its members joined three youth movements which were established around the same time – “Gordonia,” “Hashomer Hatzair” and “Betar” (the alliance of Yosef Trumpeldor).

In 1929, about a month or two after the start of the school year, the “Gordonia” branch was organized in Akkerman. Most of the students of “Tarbut” high school, who were previously active in “Dabro Ivrit” and “Young Zionists,” joined the branch.

The following members were elected to the temporary leadership of the local branch “Gordonia”: chairman – Shura Volovitz (Yehusua Drori z”l), secretary – Niosa Stambul (Nisan Amitai), treasurer – Binyamin Gershfeld, Utca Kogan (Rachel Roll z”l) and Chava Geber z”l. That same year, students from the lower classes joined the branch and soon we had three age groups: Magshimim, Mitorarim and Tzofim. All the members were divided into groups which were named after various settlements and regions in Israel. A group of older students formed the board of directors and instructors. The board of directors met twice a week, read the books of A.D. Gordon and clarified and rectified all the problems that have arisen. In order to expand our knowledge, the board of directors approached the teacher, M. Grossman, with a request that he would give us lessons in sociology and political economy outside the curriculum. He accepted our request and, for that purpose, we met twice a week in the afternoon at school. The lectures of the teacher Grossman broadened our horizons and led us to a serious study of various subjects.

[Page 845

Membership card for “Gordonia” in Akkerman

[Page 86]

The “Gordonia” branch in Akkerman with the emissary from Eretz Yisrael Dov Shafrir (1930)

First row (seated right to left: Nisia Shteinberg, unidentified, Yehudah Schwartzman, Yanchik Zukerman, Avraham Neiman
Second row: Aharon Dvorin, Shura Volovitz, Baruch Zukerman, Chana Kotziuk, Dov Shafrir, Chana Bravmann (from the Romanovka branch), Shaike Kushnir, Nechama Kahalski
Third row: Yasha Vishenivsky, Niosa Stambul, Klara Lechte, Frima Kotziuk, Nesia Zukerman, Chava Geber, Mania Schwartzman, Eliyahu Lev, Sheptel Zukerman, Binyamin Gershfeld
Fourth row: Sonia Berg, Glazman, Zula Feldman, Moshe Glickman, Buria Kaminker, Yakov Lev, Leah Berger, Rabinowitch, Chava Dorfman, Vitia Rozenbaum, Aba Bignbaum, unidentified, Avraham Kornblit

 

A group of members of “Gordonia” (1931)

Seated (right to left): Velvel Bignbaum, Mania Gordon, Lyuba Shmoish, Binyamin Gershfeld
Standing: Aharon Dvorin, Chana Manos, Aba Bignbaum

[Page 87]

Emissaries from Israel

In 1930, the first emissary arrived to us from Eretz–Yisrael – the member Zez Meshi from Kvutzat HaSharon. His first visit in Akkerman was a real holiday for us. He was the first to bring us closer to the thought and teachings of the Labor Movement in Eretz–Yisrael. His conversations and lectures gathered all the graduates and also members from the younger age groups. The singing and dancing that emerged from our club brought an atmosphere of working Eretz–Yisrael. At the same time, the realization that we must fulfill our goal – immigration to Eretz–Yisrael – ripened in our ranks and our parents, who initially disapproved of their children's plans, also changed their opinion on this issue.

Our vigilant activity probably aroused the attention of the authorities because they turned to Y. Berger z”l, the principal of our school, and informed him that his students were organized in some kind of an organization that they weren't comfortable with. The principal of the gymnasium began to fear that something might happen to the educational institution because of us. One day, Shura Volovitz, and the writer of these lines were called to the principal and the conversation that took place between us was very difficult. Mr. Berger z”l demanded that we stop our activities in the youth movement because he feared that if we didn't stop, the authorities would harm the institution. We did not accept his opinion. We announced explicitly that we were operating under the license of the authorities and we will not liquidate the branch. Moreover, we expressed our opinion that the principal, who is a devoted Zionist, must help all the Zionist youth movements. He must explain to the authorities that our existence and our activities pose no danger to anyone, we do not oppose the existing regime and our only goal is immigration to Eretz–Yisrael. After the conversation we parted in a friendly manner and a handshake. It seemed to us that the principal agreed to the continuation of our activities, maybe because he had no choice.

The member, Shura (Yehusua Drori), was sent to the ideological seminar, which was held in the city of Balti with the participation of emissaries from Israel. And indeed, the seminar produced excellent results. Shura returned with many experiences and broader horizons and began to work diligently on expanding the branch and bringing in new members.

It should be noted that Shura (Yehusua Drori), was very much liked by all the members and had great influence on the students, in his class and also in other classes of the gymnasium. He absorbed the Russian culture from his eldest sister, read many works of Russian classics and studied the problems that arose in his reading, He had the ability to analyze and express himself, and in addition to all these, he was also blessed with organizational skills and his dedication to the movement knew no limit. Yehusua was always willing to listen to the words of others and accepted the opinions of others. He soon became well known in the movement, and in 1931, upon completion of his studies at the gymnasium, he was elected as member of the main leadership of “Gordonia.”

 

The focus of inspiration

The chapter of “Gordonia''s” in Akkerman had its own uniqueness. One must remember, that the “Gordonia” movement in Bessarabia was established with some delay, after other youth movements preceded it and succeeded in capturing the best of the students. However, the branch of “Gordonia” in Akkerman managed to gather in its ranks most of the students of the Hebrew gymnasium.

A year, after Shura's election to the main leadership, he was sent as a delegate of the Akkerman branch to the national conference of “Gordonia” which was held at the hakhshara farm, “Masada.” Until he was elected as a representative of “HeHalutz” center in Kishinev (“HeHalutz

 

Graduates of “Gordonia” (“Magshimim”) with Michael Oved – the emissary from Kvutzat HaSharon, Eretz Yisrael

First row, right to left: Chana Dorfman., Rachel Goldberg. Michael Oved. Leah Neiman, Chava Dorfman
Second Row: Niosa Stambul, Klara Lechte, Riva Manos, Shura Volovitz, Mania Schwartzman, Leah Berger, Binyamin Gershfeld

[Page 88]

center, together with the main leadership of “Gordonia,” moved at that time to Bucharest), I served as chairman of the local branch. Later, the member, Sheptel Zukerman from the branch's young group was elected to the main leadership. Over time, other emissaries visited us from Israel: Michael Oved z”l from Kvutzat HaSharon, Dov Shafrir, Ben–Zion Gafni z”l from Kfar Vitkin, Aharon Kaminker who was on a private visit with his family, and others. As noted, we tried to bring the youth from the working class in our town to our branch. The task was not easy because it was difficult to overcome the gap that always existed between the youth who studied and the youth who did not. Much had to be done to overcome this gap. To those who joined, the branch was the only source of inspiration. Many among this youth remained in the Diaspora and perished in the Holocaust only because they didn't have the financial means to pay for the ship's ticket to Israel.

It is necessary to note the close ties between “Gordonia” and “Tzeirei Zion” in Akkerman. It was mainly a cultural cooperation and we were often assisted by them. We also rewarded them and came to the many cultural activities that were conducted by “Tzeirei Zion.” Thanks to our activities among the youth quite a few parents of the members of “Gordonia” were captivated by the Zionist idea.

The first district summer colony in the town of Tuzla was one of our most important activities in this period. The main leadership asked our branch to organize this colony. That is: a concentration of 60–70 teenagers for a period of two weeks, finding places to live, transport to Tuzla, food, cleanliness, health, and other things that we have not experienced so far. Three members took upon themselves the organization of the colony: Niosa Stambol, Binyamin Gershfeld, Buria Kaminker (Baruch Kamin). We rented a straw warehouse for a place of residence, recruited our kindergarten teacher, “aunt Mania” (Meniora Sharira), as a consultant and she traveled to the summer colony with her son.

 

A group of “Gordonia” graduates, 1931

First row, right to left: Avraham Kornblit, Itzkowitz, Avraham Neiman, unidentified, Niosa Stambul, Golda Brand, Glassman, Binyamin Gershfeld
Second Row, left to right: Yosef Shankarovsky, Aba Bignbaum, Mania Gordon, Buria Kaminker

 

Summer colony of “Gordonia” in Tuzla (“Mitorarim” group)

The supervisors and counselors that are sitting in the center: Julius Meller (main leadership), Niosa Stambol, Mania Shrira, a doctor (Christian) responsible for health, Lyuba Shmoish (responsible for the kitchen), Binyamin Gershfeld

[Page 89]

HaSharon” group (“Mitorarim”) of “Gordonia” with their director Niosa Stambul before his immigration in 1933

First row, right to left: Mina Kauchansky, Fruma Lezer
Second row: Chaim Zonis, Rosa Gordon, Musia Chlapik, Etia Stambul, Niosa Stambul, Chava Kaninker, Webcik Kaninker, Izia Shankarovsky
Third row (standing): Shaike Shrira, Neuma Lev, Katya Abramowitch, Efraim Abramowitch, Yakov Zigelvaks

 

We contacted the local doctor who agreed to serve as a health consultant. In July 1933, about sixty members of “Gordonia” from the chapters: Akkerman, Tatarbunary, Romanevka and others, gathered in the place designated for the colony. On behalf of the main membership, the member Julius Meller from Chernovtsy, and the member Ben–Zion Gafni who was an emissary from Eretz Yisrael,conducted lectures and conversations. The colony was very successful and impressed all its participants.

The branch in Akkerman was a regional center for branches in the area. At the initiative of the local members, or at the initiative of the main leadership, it also took care of branches, such as Romanovka and Bolgrad that did not belong to the Akkerman district. The active members of our branch often went to visit the small branches and held various informational activities there.

 

The first immigrants

In 1931, the first members immigrated to Israel: Baruch Zukerman (Nemani, Kevutzt Masada), Frima Kotziuk–Marcus (Petah Tikva), Mania Schwartzman (Bruriah Har–Zion from Hadera), Chava Dorfman–Barnea (Tel–Aviv), and others. Other members followed them, left for hakhshara and later immigrated to Israel. Dozens of members of “Gordonia” from Akkerman are scattered in various settlements in Israel and they remember well the youthful kindness that the branch provided them.

There is no doubt that the branch has written glowing pages in the life of Akkerman's youth, who reached Zionist recognition without pressure from pogroms and persecutions, but only under the influence of systematic and continuous educational activity. The Zionist atmosphere at the gymnasium, the education for pioneering which was implemented in the framework of the branch, yielded remarkable results. It should be noted that even the youth outside the gymnasium was influenced by this atmosphere, and it is a pity that this influence did not bring everyone to the point of –emigration.

Whenever there was a rumor that members were leaving from the train station on their way to Eretz Yisrael – friends, parents and relatives flocked to the station to part with them. The excitement was great and all the way around the cries echoed, “we'll see each other soon!” Thanks to the immigration of the young people, members of the movement, many of their parents also immigrated, and so the conscience of the great Holocaust emerged and so they extricated from the claws of the great Holocaust.

 

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