Avraham Ravutski zl
Translated by Sara Mages
Avraham Ravutski, who was the Minister of Jewish Affairs in the Ukrainian Government, co-founder of the Jewish National Autonomy and, at a later stage, one of the leaders of Poalei Zion movement, was not born in Akkerman but came to this city with his parents when he was ten years old, but, it is appropriate to mention this distinguished man in this book because his qualifications were discovered in Akkerman already in his youth.
* * *
He was born in Smila (a city in the Cherkasy Oblast near Kiev) on 8 February 1889 to his father Shmuel Ravutski. His parents immigrated to Israel in 1891 together with their two daughters and their youngest son - Avraham. They settled in the village of Rehovot but, before they were able to take root in their new place of residence, a great deal of trouble came upon them. All members of the family were stricken by a severe trachoma disease and were in danger of blindness. At the doctors' request they had to travel to Vienna for treatment. The doctors in Vienna warned them that if they returned to Israel they would again be infected with trachoma. The Ravutski family received the sentence with heartbreak. They returned to Russia and settled in Akkerman. The father, Samuel, purchased a vineyard that served him as a source of employment and livelihood.
Avraham was about ten years old when he left Eretz Yisrael to be absorbed in a new and foreign environment, but he already made a name for himself as an outstanding student when he attended the gymnasium in Akkerman, and a few years later he also became famous in the Zionist circles in Akkerman. It was in 1906 when Ber Borochov's lecture, which drew a huge audience, was held in Akkerman. On this occasion the young yeshiva student, Avraham Ravutski, was presented before the lecturer. Borochov quickly introduced him to the complicated problems in the theory of Poalei Zion and captured his heart. Ravutski joined Borochov's movement and, from then on, his path in life was set. A few years later he stood out among the key personalities of Poalei Zion movement.
Minister of Jewish Affairs
Even before the October Revolution, and the establishment of the Soviet Government in Central Russia, a government was formed in Ukraine which, according to its personal composition, was considered a left-wing national government. This government was subordinate to the Ukrainian National Council (Rada), in which the national Jewish parties (Zionists, Socialists and Poalei Zion) were represented. The Ukrainian Government strove for a full national independence with a federative relationship with Greater Russia. In the course of time, the Ukrainian parties left the federative idea and declared an independent Ukraine with complete separation from Russia. When a left-wing Ukrainian Government was re-established, only socialist parties were represented in it. This government, which in principle recognized the national autonomy of minorities, suggested that they add their representatives to it. At that time, the minister's office for Jewish affairs was offered to Poalei Zion and not to the General Zionists which was considered a bourgeois party, and not even to the Bund because of this party's fundamental opposition to Ukraine's separation from Russia. After a lot of deliberations, Poalei Zion central committee decided to accept the proposal of the Ukrainian Government with a vigorous demand for an immediate cessation of the war with Russia. The choice fell on Abraham Ravutski who received the tenure of Minister of Jewish Affairs. It soon became clear that the Ukrainian Government, which pretended to be a socialist government, was in fact based on a thin layer of nationalist intelligentsia circles in the cities and wealthy peasant circles in the villages. The main supporters of the government were the military men that in their ranks gathered adventurers, inciting nationalists and rioters.
When it became clear that the Ukrainian Government did not show any desire, and initiative, to fight the anti-Semitism that spread in the military ranks, and also treated the pogroms against the Jews with apathy - Ravutski left the government and all the Jewish parties also severed their ties with it.
His activities in the party
In March 1919, Ravutski fled from the Ukrainian hell on his way to Europe, and in August of that year he participated in the World Alliance Council of Poalei Zion in Stockholm. The party's emissaries from Eretz Yisrael, as well as the main leaders of the movements in the Diaspora, participated in this council. Avraham Ravutski played a very important role in this council. The main topic of debate was, the ways of building the country and the role of the party in the processes of its construction. The delegation from Eretz Israel unveiled a comprehensive economic plan which was guided by the main idea of the realization of a socialist society by expanding the kibbutz settlement in the village, and developing a broad cooperative movement in the industry, building and trade. The keynote speaker, and the supporter of this plan, was Nachman Syrkin who based the assumption that if they built the country in such a way they would not end up in a class war. The leaders of Ahdut HaAvoda supported this idea but, in contrast to this perception, the Zionist-Marxist concept which requires the hegemony of the Zionist-Socialist labor movement as a major trend in the construction of the economy of Eretz Yisrael was raised at the council in Stockholm. The main supporters of this trend were Avraham Ravutski and Nahum Nir. The heated debates around the two plans proved the magnitude of the ideological gap that separated the two different parts of the movement and, which one year later, led to its split.
Ravutski in Eretz Yisrael
With the split, Ravutski joined Poalei Zion Left and also announced his settlement in Eretz Yisrael. The World Alliance Office appointed him to rescue the Israeli party from the plague of the Zionist liquidation because, following the October Revolution and the significant changes in the international labor movement, a fierce struggle developed between the loyalists of Borochov's Labor-Zionists and the communist wing in the movement which, in effect, demanded that the movement's leadership integrate into the Comintern [Communists International], even at the cost of denial to the main principles of Poalei Zion. Several branches of the party in Europe centered around the communist faction, as well as the Socialist Workers Party in Eretz Yisrael, which was founded by the consolidation of members of Poalei Zion who did not join Ahdut HaAvoda when it was founded, with anti-Zionist communists who immigrated to Israel with the first immigrates of the Third Aliyah. Ravutski appeared on the list of the Socialist Workers Party for the Histadrut's founding conference, and even participated in the general debate at the conference.
The riots, which broke out in Jerusalem in 1920 and the blood riots in Jaffa (1921), aroused a deep shock in the Jewish Yishuv [population]. Many of the leaders of the Zionist movement, and leaders of the Yishuv, continued to believe that the British Mandatory Government had no part in organizing the bloody riots. At that time, Avraham Ravutski published a booklet named From Balfour to Samuel in which he argued that the riots were nothing but a calculated political step by the ruling circles in England who opposed the Balfour Declaration and Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael. He also did not remove the responsibility of the Jewish factor and imposed a heavy blamed on the Zionist Commission which, at that time, was the executive branch of the Zionist Organization in Eretz Yisrael. And those are his words: every Jew in the country will testify that if you want to bury an essential idea or an important initiative - bring them before the Zionist Commission The inability of the Zionist Organization to act, and the hostility of the British administration - these two created the psychological atmosphere for the wild riots against the Jewish Yishuv.
For the sin of publishing this booklet, Ravutski's name was blacklisted by the Mandatory Government and, some time later, when Ravutski left the country for the party's Sixth World Conference in Danzig - he was banned from entering the country by the Mandatory Government.
At the World Conference of Poalei Zion in Danzig, which took place in 1922, and the split between the communist wing and Borochov's wing became an existing fact. At that time, Borochov's loyalists, led by Z. Abramowich, A. Ravutski and others, organized themselves as an independent global movement whose center was in Berlin. Ravutski was given the task of editing the new movement's theoretical magazine, Der Kampf. In 1924, unity returned to the world movement, Ravutski left Berlin and moved to the United States.
The turning point in the United States
Ravutski arrived in the United States satiated with bitter disappointment and was no longer active in his movement. There were various reasons to this, but the most notable thing was the turning point in his views on principles that until now have been sacred to him. He developed an extensive literary-journalistic activity and many of his research essays were highly appreciated. In the early 1930s, he officially joined Poalei Zion Right and published many articles in the journal Yiddisher kemfer [Jewish Fighter]. He was also liked by a large number the readers of scientific magazines in the United States and Canada, and the editorial staff of the daily newspaper Der Morgen Zshurnal [The Jewish Morning Journal] gave him the responsibility of editing the political section of the newspaper.
His regular participation in the daily newspapers did not prevent him from devoting himself to writing research articles on various subjects in the fields of economics, sociology and history, and in all these he stood out as a man of in-depth analysis and broad coverage.
In the United States, Ravutski lived his spiritual and public life with special intensity. Among others he devoted himself to exploring the prospects of the economic development of Eretz Yisrael, its absorptive ability and its implications for future of economic development. Many of the economic guidelines he has put forth in his articles on these issues have long been proven to be well-founded and correct. He published a book on Eretz Yisrael and the Near East, which aroused many echoes in the public and received an enthusiastic review in the American press. This book, which was published in three editions and translated into several languages (including Hebrew and Yiddish), was used for a long time as a guide for researchers in the history of Eretz Yisrael and the Near East. It was also recommended for teaching in high schools in Israel and the Theological Seminary in New York. He was also the partner of Walter Clay Lowdermilk in the writing of his book Palestine, Land of Promise. In 1933 he visited Eretz Yisrael and this visit served him as an additional push to support the idea of HaMilve HaLeumi [National Loan] which, for him, was initially sort of a project and after visiting Israel turned into a passionate desire and a thought that strives for purpose.
In 1946, Ravutski fell ill and was confined for a long time to a deathbed. But, even when he was confined to his bed, he continued to write his articles and sent them to the editorial boards of many newspapers. When his physical strength ran out and he could no longer hold a pen in his hand, he dictated his articles to his wife Chana. He passed away on 6 February 1946 in Yonkers, New-York.
(A summary from a large biographical study written by L. Tronopoler and published in
Al HaMishmar on 30 September 1970)
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
(Introduction in Hebrew)
Our town Akkerman had the privilege to possess two ministers of its own, both of them Jews. One was A. Ravotzki, who was minister in the Kranski government and the other, S. M. Gutnik, was minister of commerce in the government of the Hetman [military commander] Skoropedski. We saw fit to bring in this book some biographical details of both, as well as a chapter of Ravotzki's book (in Yiddish) During Ukraine's Difficult Days (Memories of a Jewish minister), which reveals the relationship between our two ministers, as well as an interesting and almost unknown affair from the days prior to the Bolshevik revolution. The chapter is given below in the original Yiddish.
On the same First of January, after the talk with Tchechovski, I went to my Bessarabia Landsman the esteemed M., where I was invited to New-Year's lunch. In town they already knew about my scheduled arrival. During lunch, M. introduced me to a blonde middle-aged lady and said:
- This is Sergei Michaelowitz's wife.[Page 232]
- Which Sergei Michaelowitz? I asked quickly.
- Naturally, Gutnik, smiled M. to me. S.M. Gutnik the Jewish financier, the minister of commerce in the Hetman's government, was almost a landsman of mine; he came from Akkerman, Bessarabia Gubernia, where his father had a small bank. I didn't know him well personally. During the war I saw him a few times in the offices of the Odessa newspaper, where I worked at that time. After the fall of the Hetman, Gutnik, who had been one of his most reactionary ministers, disappeared, and the new regime looked for him everywhere.
So, as the French say, I put on a pleasant face for a nasty game, and I used one of the sentences that people use when they have company and have nothing to say, or when there is something that they do not want to talk about:
In the middle of the short discussion, I asked quickly:
- So, your man is, it seems, already on the other side of the border?My conscience calmed down.
Several months later, after I left my position, while walking on the street in Odessa, where the Freiwillige ruled at the time, I met the same good M. He was happy to see me and invited me to his home. Suddenly he said:
- Do you remember how in Kiev I introduced you to Mrs. Gutnik?I was really surprised and remained silent.
- Yes, I remember.
- And do you know that Gutnik was at the same time right in the next room?
- Yes, Gutnik was hiding in my place, and for three weeks he did not leave the locked room. Later we razed his beard and entirely changed his appearance, so that even his own mother would not have recognized him, and I took him from Kiev to Odessa. We used to joke about the fact that a Hetman minister would hide in the same apartment where a minister of the government used to be a regular guest, who was looking for him as a great criminalThe same day that I related to one of my Odessa friends this piquant episode, he asked me:
- Tell me, if you had known that Gutnik was in the next room, would you have informed the authorities?Would I have done that in the case of a threat of the death punishment?
It was a difficult question
Theoretically, I would have certainly done it, although I would have seen it as my duty to make every effort to avoid a death sentence. Practically, however, it would have been much more difficult. I am still too much of a Freedom-Socialist and the idea of informing even for the benefit of a progressive power, even for the defense against reactionary persons would have scared me very much. And besides that, by doing so I would have put my host M., who hid Gutnik, in a difficult situation. However, if I decided not to divulge the fact of my meeting, I would, in any case, present my resignation; or rather: I would simply give up my candidacy. It is, naturally, impossible that a minister, member of the cabinet, provide cover, even by keeping silent, to one of the most important criminals.
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
He was born in 1831 in Ovrotch (Wolhyn District) and in his early youth he came to live in Akkerman. He was a scholar, was ordained as Rav, and a known writer at the time, known by his pseudonym Ish Tam. He was familiar with the Russian literature and a devoted communal worker. He published many books in Hebrew: Agada Achat [One Legend] (Odessa 1870), Or Tora [The light of the Torah] (Warsaw 1881), Sha'arei Gan Eden [The Gates of Paradise] (Jerusalem 1909), Sukat David Hanofelet [David's fallen Sukka] (published in the journal Talpiyot Berdichev 1895) as well as books for young people as: Haduda'im, Baruch Mibanim and others. He published tens of articles and hundreds of reports in the Hebrew newspapers Hamelitz, Hatzefira, Hachavatzelet and other Hebrew periodicals. Apart from that, he published articles in the Russian press, and it became a sort of tradition that before every Jewish Holiday the local Russian newspaper published an article by Y. S. Trachtman, in which he explained the history and the importance of the Holiday. These Holiday articles were very popular and were read by the Christian readers of the newspaper as well.
He was a smart Jew, with a sharp eye and a sense of humor and a large education; no wonder that he was appreciated by the Jewish as well as by the Christian population. He served the public not only by his pen, but also by his speeches at every important public event. His 50th birthday was celebrated in Akkerman with much splendor. In the 147 issue of Hatzefira from 1913, M. Startz relates about the Jubilee party that was held in his honor: These days our community celebrated the jubilee of the veteran Hebrew writer, the last of the pioneers and fighters of the Enlightenment, the wise Rav R'Shmuel Halevi Trachtman, on the day he was 82 years of age and 60 years of his public and literary work. The leaders of the town, the intelligentsia and many of the local residents gathered in the Culture House. As R'Trachtman walked through the entrance he was presented with a bouquet of flowers and Mrs. Shoshana Litvin gave him a picture album and greeted him in Hebrew. The cantor Mr. Rabinowitz sang Welcome [Baruch Haba] and other songs. The teacher M. Startz congratulated him in the name of the Hebrew readers and described shortly his activities and his devotion to the education of the young generation. He spoke about R'Trachtman's literary work and mentioned his articles published in Hatzefira and his books. A young man, B. Keplauch, presented him with greetings written in Hebrew in the name of the young people of Akkerman who read Hebrew.
Y. S. Trachtman lived a long and peaceful life, and experienced happiness with his children. One of them, Immanuel, occupied the important position of general manager of JCA in Bessarabia.
He died at the age of 99. Many of the Jewish and Christian Akkerman residents accompanied him at his funeral as he was taken to his eternal rest.
Havatzelet, Jerusalem 1909, published Trachtman's piece The Jewish handkerchief. We bring here a few passages:
The Jewish handkerchief, the handkerchief of the people of Israel is a sort of hold-all or all-in-one, a tool for holy as well as for secular use. Besides its main function keeping one's nose clean it serves many other functions, in public and in private:
And our Rabbi, Gadi, did more than all that: he turned his handkerchief into an apron on his knees an invention that we hadn't known up to this day.
Sergei Michailowitz (Israel) Gutnik
He was born in Akkerman to his father Michael Gutnik. He was a typically assimilated Jew and he kept away from Judaism and Jews. His father, Michael, was a manager of a commercial bank in Odessa and would come to spend the weekend in Akkerman with his family after a week of work in Odessa.
Israel studied Law in Odessa and opened an attorney's office there.
Since he was fully assimilated, he was of the opinion that being a Jew obstructs his progress in the Russian society. And one day in 1912 he informed his father that he intends to adopt the Christian religion. His father tried to prevent that, and a compromise was reached: his father will give him money to enter in business, and he will change his name from Israel to Sergei
With the collapse of the Russian front in the Ukraine in 1917 The Germans and Austrians occupied the region, and they appointed a puppet-government headed by the Hetman Skoropedski of the White Russians. Sergei Gutnik served as minister of commerce in Skoropedski's temporary government.
When the Revolution broke out, the German and Austrian armies retreated from Ukraine and the puppet-government dispersed. Gutnik escaped and fled to Bucharest.
In 1926, he ran for Parliament in the party of General Averescu and was elected. According to the testimony of Zvi Manueli (Miniali), Gutnik spoke at an election meeting in Akkerman and, among others, addressed the assembly with the following moving words: I am Srul Gutnik, resident of your town, I know all of you in this town and all of you know me. Those of you who are older than I know how old I am, and those who are younger than I I know how old they are
His political career was not long and he quickly disappeared from the political map and it is not known where his fate has taken him.
Written by N. Amitay, from information supplied by Z. Manueli and Alexander Shapira
Written by N. Amitai from the words of Tzvi Manueli and Alexander Shapira
Translated by Sara Mages
Was born in Akkerman to his father, Michael Gutnik. He was a typical assimilator and distanced himself from Judaism and Jews. His father, Michael, was the manager of a commercial bank in Odessa and came to spend the Sabbath in Akkerman with his family after a week of work in Odessa.
Yisrael studied law in Odessa and opened a law office there.
Since, as stated, he was distinctly assimilated, he tended to think that his Judaism interferes with his progress in Russian society, and one day, in 1912, he informed his father of his intention to convert to Christianity. His father tried to dissuade him from this move and the compromise reached between them was, that his father would give him money to enter the industrial business, while he will change his name and instead of Yisrael he will be called Sergei…
With the collapse of the Russian front in Ukraine in 1917, the Germans and Austrians took control of this part of the country and appointed a puppet government headed by the Hetman Pavio Skoropadskyi of the White Russians, who accepted their authority and did as they wished. Sergei Gutnik served as a minister with an economic portfolio in the Provisional Government established by Skoropadskyi.
With the outbreak of the revolution in Germany and Austria, their armies withdrew from Ukraine and the puppet government fell and dispersed. Gutnik fled and reached Bucharest.
On the eve of the election to the Romanian Parliament in 1926, he appeared as a candidate on the list of General Averescu's party. Averescu won the election and Gutnik was elected as a Member of Parliament. According to the testimony of Tzvi Manueli (Miniely), Gutnik appeared at the Akkerman election rally on behalf of his party, and among others he addressed those gathered in these excited words: I, Srul Gutnik, your townsman, know everyone in this city and everyone knows me. Whoever is older than me knows how old I am, and whoever is younger than me I know how old he is…
His political career did not last long, he quickly disappeared from the political map and it is not known where he directed his steps.
Translated by Sara Mages
From the day I matured I have always been accompanied by the image of my brother Yakov, who in my eyes has always been portrayed as the character HaMatmid [The Talmud Student] of Bialik. Now, various memories of him come to mind and I will bring up some of them in this article.
First memory: my brother studies the Gemara with Rabbi Yossi, and one evening he puts me on his shoulders and brings me to a graduation party held to mark the end of the study of one tractate. Second memory: my brother walks outside on bright summer nights and memorizing his lesson in the moonlight. Throughout the year he studied in the Great Yeshiva in Odessa and in the summer he prepared for the external exams for the gymnasium. Due to the restrictive norm, according to which Jews were not allowed to constitute more than ten percent of all high school students and graduates, he could not take the external exams because he had to present nine nonJewish external students and apparently no such students were found at the time. The book never came out of his hands, even when he helped our father in his store. In one hand he held a book and in the other the mabok spoon…
Third memory: Yakov is preparing for his studies at the University of Bern in Switzerland. I see him practicing his English in front of the mirror and trying to adapt to the correct, and appropriate, accent of this language, which he did not have the time to study in the Russian Gymnasium.
He studied at the Great Yeshiva in Odessa for four years under the guidance of great teachers such as Rav Z'air (Tchernowitz), Professor Klausner, his favorite poet Hayim Nahman Bialik (in time, my brother called his son, Hayim Nahman, after the poet and others). These teachers, as well as the doctrine of Ahad Ha'am [Asher Tzvi Hirsch Ginsberg], determined his path in Zionism. He also tried to fulfill Ahad Ha'am's motto who called on the Zionists to conquer the communities.
He combined sacred studies with secular studies, and later to the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Bern for the study of Semitic languages. Our father had a hard time understanding this goal that my brother has chosen for himself, since most of his peers in those days chose to study medicine or engineering that supported their owners, but, was it possible to make a living from philosophy?… Father poured his heart our before me on this matter and suggested that I would write my brother and ask him to study a useful profession in addition to philosophy. I've done as he suggested, and I remember that I added a poetic phrase in my letter (I corresponded with him in Hebrew): because two are better than one. He replied that he was very pleased that I was using proper phrases, but added that there is also another phrase in this regard: and a threestranded cord will not quickly be broken.
My brother spent a year at the University of Bern, and I remember that when he came home for a vacation he brought with him Hassidic and Israeli melodies. He then moved to the University of Berlin which stood at a much higher level in the study of Semitic languages. From the beginning, my brother aspired to be admitted to this university, but could not get there due to the lack of a matriculation certificate. There were wellknown scholars in Berlin at the time (among them Zalman Ruvashov in time the President of Israel) who worked on the preparation of Encyclopaedia Judaica. It was a great program and my brother also wanted to be among the scholars helping to make this program a reality. And indeed, he prepared some entries for this encyclopedia and the salary he received allowed him to continue his studies.
At the outbreak of the war, Yakov left Berlin on the last train and during the years of the war managed to be accepted to the Higher Institute for Language Studies in Petrograd, but, after the outbreak of the 1917 revolution, studies at this institute ceased. Yakov managed to participate in the AllRussian Conference of Tzeirei Zion in Petrograd and returned to his birth place Akkerman and in his hand, so to speak,
an unwritten certificate of eternal student, like the one that was in the hands of many young Jews who did not have the time to finish their studies. Upon his return to Akkerman, our home became the center of the Zionist activity and was noisy just like a swarm of bees. The flowers of Akkerman's students (P. Berkov, the brothers Krasenyanski, David Kushnir, Danovich, Yisrael Rabinowitch) and young activists came, sometimes even several times a day, and planned all the many activities because the years of darkness and depression ended and a wide field of action was opened, new horizons were opened for all dreamers of good dreams immediately after the revolution. At that time all the parties wanted to attract followers with meetings, lectures and artistic performances. As long as Odessa was open, and transportation was regular, we brought lecturers from there. I personally remember two lecturers that impressed me in my youth, and they are: Granovskiy, who later became head of the Jewish National Fund, and Yosef Shechtman.
I especially remember the great assembly held in the glorious Craftsmen Synagogue on the occasion of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. All in the representatives of the parties and national minorities were invited to this solemn assembly. My brother, Yakov, was the chairman and appeared in a tophat and tailcoat as was the custom of diplomats, and he was then only 25 years old.
In fact, it is worth noting, that my brother did not excel as an excited and enthusiastic speaker, but in his painstaking work, in gaining fans for the Zionist idea and recruiting every good guy who was willing to devote his time, or even as they said then to join the effort. His first activity was the opening of a club and a library, which was managed by the dedicated guidance of Moshe Schildkrauth zl, who came to our house every Saturday to consult with my brother regarding the club. Apart from Yosef Sarper also came, and later, Yakov Trachtenbroit, who joined the public activity and also served as deputy chairman of the Zionist Organization. It is especially worth noting that Leib Stambul joined the Zionist Organization as the craftsmen's representative. With this accession the antiZionist claim that the Zionist Organization is bourgeois and has no place for those who work a hard physical labor, was taken of the agenda. With the help of Leib Stambul the Craftsmen Synagogue became a meeting place for Zionist gatherings.
I remember that among the first to join Tarbut activities were HershTzvi Brudski, Meir Stretch, Aharon Cohen, Yehudit and Yitzchak Arbeit. These formed the nucleus that initiated the opening of the kindergarten and, later, the gymnasium. Fortunately, Menora MilmanSharira, who completed a course for kindergarten teachers in Odessa, lived in our city at the time. She was added to the Tarbut committee and was the first kindergarten teacher in Akkerman. A year later, the kindergarten expanded and the kindergarten teacher, Shoshana Puzis, known by the name Aunt Shoshana, who is with us in Israel, entered to work.
He devoted quite a bit of hard work and efforts to get the building, which previously served as a Yiddish school, for the gymnasium. He headed the delegation that conducted the negotiations in this matter with Milstein, the wellknown philanthropist in Akkerman, who agreed to make his building available to the gymnasium.
The building had to be renovated, but since the days were days of emergency it was impossible to obtain glass for the windowpanes. A strange idea came to Yakov's mind: he bought old negatives from the photographers and all members of the household, and everyone who happened to be in our home, sat down and cleaned the negatives that were used as a replacement for the glass. It was a long and tedious job, but Yakov conducted the work, encouraged many to do so, and in this manner solved the problem of the glass…
The main problem was how to ensure the continuation, and my brother solved this problem. When he was at a Zionist conference in Kishinev, my brother met the teacher, Fishel Stern (father of Mr. David Stern who, for many years, was the director of the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel). He was a teacher in Eretz Yisrael and remained stuck in Bessarabia during the First World War. He invited him to teach the gymnasium's first grade. Later, it turned out that this was a real find, because the teacher Stern succeeded in instilling the Israeli spirit in the gymnasium.
It is hard to describe the many difficulties and problems that stood in the way of operating the Tarbut institutions. The most essential equipment for maintaining a kindergarten and school was missing, and apart from that the harsh conditions caused by the Bolshevik Revolution and afterwards the Romanians' entry into Bessarabia. My brother went to all the stationery stores in town, collected everything he could lay his hands on, pictures, maps and any object that appeared useful for the school. He worked days and nights and translated into Hebrew all the names, foreign terms and concepts. He decorated the walls of the kindergarten and the school to instill a pleasant atmosphere for the students and teachers alike. To my knowledge, he has done everything without getting paid. Only after the institutions expanded, and the teacher Stern returned to Eretz Yisrael, he succumbed the parents' pressure and in the years, 19191920, he began teaching at the gymnasium and serving as the pedagogical and administrative director of the institutions which had grown considerably.
I left Akkerman in 1920 and immigrated to Eretz Yisrael. For that reason I could not follow closely my brother's blessed activity. On the other hand, my sister, Sara Zarfin, continued to live in Akkerman until 1924. Therefore, I would give her the right to speak, and from here on, what I have heard and recorded from her.
How did Yakov turn the kindergarten into a gymnasium? only with dedication and tireless work. All of a sudden the parents, who were invited to various celebrations and ceremonies, noticed that their children were singing Hebrew songs and dancing Israeli dances. They simply did not believe what they've heard and were full of joy when they realized that the Hebrew language was alive again in their children's mouths. Yakov had a big part in this miracle.
Yakov was a soft and humble man, but he also knew how to stand as a fortified wall in time of need. When the Romanian authorities began to harass the gymnasium, and raised the problem of a diploma from a Romanian university that Yakov lacked as a gymnasium principal, Yakov enrolled in the university's law school, worked hard to study the Romanian language and state laws all in addition to his role in the gymnasium and the Rabbinate. Sometimes I saw him fall asleep with the books in his hand and his glasses on his nose.
He had many opponents and it was not easy for him to stand in battle. He struggled with his rivals in the various meetings and before and after the elections. Sometimes he came home with his straw hat completely crushed and his glasses broken. It was the work of the opponents, especially the socialists who did not avoid physical injuries, but after a while they sent their children to the Hebrew Gymnasium.
He had more friends than enemies. I remember the delegations that came to our house to implore Yakov to place himself as candidate for the office of Rav Mitaam (Rabiner) [rabbi appointed by the government] in place of the old rabbi whose time had come to retire. His many pursuits prevented him from accepting the offer, but it was his loyalty to the slogan conquest of the communities that motivated him not to consider the difficulties piled up on his way. He also knew that the duty of Rabiner will allow him to develop the institution he nurtured the Hebrew Gymnasium. By the way, as Rav Mitaam he had to struggle hard with the Romanian authorities regarding the absorption of refugees from Ukraine and Russia who came to our city over the years 19221923. I remember that Yakov took many of these refugees under his wing. They arrived at night, on the icy road of the frozen Liman, and when they were captured the government officials returned them the same way. Yakov managed to save them from the hands of the authorities and brought them to Akkerman.
As an employee in his office, I witnessed cases of intervention on my brother's part for the benefit of prostitutes who were about to be imprisoned in a Romanian prison. Yakov did not hesitate and exerted his influence even in such cases.
Yakov was able to fulfill many of his aspirations, but not his strongest aspiration to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael and cultivate its land. He perished along with his wife and only son in a concentration camp. There is some comfort in the fact that many of his students were able to do so.
|Postcard of the principal Y. Berger to his sister, 1940|
Member of Kibbutz Kabri
Translated by Sara Mages
Was born on September 1897 in Akkerman. His father was wealthy, the owner of a saw mill. In his youth he was orphaned from his mother who was a descendant of a family of rabbis. He did not receive a traditional education at his parents' home and became an assimilated youth. He graduated from high school in Odessa and then from Rostov University with a law degree.
During the First World War he encountered the phenomenon of antiSemitism, which did not harm him personally but served as a reminder of his Jewish origin. His friends were mostly leftwing Russian students, but he was not affected by their enthusiasm and thought of his way, and in a decisive decision became an ardent Zionist.
In 1920, when he was 23, he immigrated to Israel with the Crimean group, which was formed in Russia, and when they arrived at the Port of Jaffa they joined the founders of Gdud Ha'avoda [The Work Battalion]. Shrira first joined the company that paved the TiberiasTzemach Road and later the Migdal company. There, he first met Berger who influenced his way and his life.
During his stay near the Sea of Galilee he met his future wife, Chaya Yanovski, and when they were in the Gdud's company in Jerusalem their daughter, Raisa, was born.
From Migdal, through intermediate stops, the Shrira family arrived to the quarries near Jerusalem. In 1925, the family moved from the Jerusalem area to the vicinity of Kibbutz Kfar Giladi Metula where the Gdud founded Givat HaHotzvim with the aim of establishing a marble industry in the area. In this place a son was born to the family. At that time, quarrels began in the Gdud between the right and the left, and most of the left wing left Israel and returned to Russia. Shrira was among the stubborn opponents of the left wing. He always believed in the correctness of the Gdud's path and its varied activities agriculture, quarrying, the work in the British army camps and more, and loathed the blind fidelity, the worship of Russian communism. On the other hand he argued, for many years, with those who opposed the existence of the Gdud due to the deviations of some of its members.
He had a serious accident when a block of stone crushed one of his legs. After the recovery his leg shortened and caused him great physical suffering. However, he insisted and continued to work in quarrying in Jerusalem, this time in the area where the land was prepared and the construction of Beit HaKerem neighborhood has begun. After that, he worked on the construction of the power plant in Naharayim while the family lived in Kfar Yehezkel. From there he moved to the building of the Port of Haifa. Yitzchak Landoberg (in time, Sadeh) and Shrira built a shed for their families next to the Atlit quarries, from which large blocks of stone were transferred for the construction of the breakwater. Yitzhak Sadeh and Shrira took on themselves the management of the quarrying work. In original and innovative methods, they managed to produce very large amounts of stone with a small amount of explosive. The construction of the breakwater was completed in 1933, and the Shrira family moved again. Before him were a number of alternatives: building a house in Kiryat Haim or transition to agriculture in Gush TelMond. However, he was not ready to abandon the quarrying work and decided to settle in Beit HaKerem and continue to work in his favorite profession.
Then, again, in early 1936, he entered largescale quarry work in the Tzova quarry to provide stone slabs for Hadassah, the university on Mount Scopus and other buildings. Tzova quarry has become the largest and most sophisticated in the country. Every day, 20ton blocks were hewn there. They were hoisted by crane to the cutting machines that were used to make the stone slabs for construction. Shrira invested the best of his initiative and ability in this work. He improved the separation of stone blocks and their sawing, and increased the quarry's production.
The 1936 riots began. Workers' cars were attacked on the way to and from the quarry. A suggestion was made to stop quarrying until the rage passed. Shrira was unwilling to hear about it and the work continued with the typical picture Shrira in the car on his way to the quarry, or in the quarry's area, with his pistol in his hand, to make sure that there wouldn't be an interruption during the work. He helped the families of the victims, took care of their needs and even donated much of his little money to them. All his life he gave charity in secret. Friends or neighbors in distress, including Arab coworkers, were helped by him with money and care, when everything was done modestly.
Shrira created a warm social atmosphere for everyone who came to his home, among them simple workers, Jews and Arabs. He dreamed that most of the construction, at least for residential and public buildings, would be stone construction that would dominate the solid landscape of the country, and that quarrying will become a major economic industry that will support thousands of families with dignity and even become an export industry.
With great sorrow Shrira left his quarry in 1940 (among others also for health reasons that have bothered him since his leg was crushed in Givat HaHotzvim) and moved to coordinate the Department of Industry in the Histadrut Executive Committee. He has always seen the combination of various productive works, agriculture and industry, as a necessary combination in the conditions of the country. He began his activity with momentum, not only provided funds for working capital but also provided professional advice, advanced training, sought financial sources for basic research on water desalination and development issues related to infrastructure industries, and for existing enterprises in accordance with their development dynamics. He encouraged the expansion of factories and helped with the establishment of new factories,
During the War of Independence Shrira joined the Corps of Engineers as a fortification officer. He was mainly involved in the fortification of the Jerusalem corridor outposts and in the breakthrough of Burma Road. His extensive experience in quarrying greatly contributed to meeting the schedule. After the war Shrira returned to work in the Department of Industry.
In his twenty years of work in industry he often returned to the subject of quarrying. He was consulted when new quarries were opened, when there were difficulties in digging tunnels for the National Water Carrier and in Timna Copper Mines, and when the granite quarry opened in Eilat. Shrira always responded to inquiries, encouraged the expansion of existing quarries and expressed his joy at any progress in the quarrying industry.
In 1961, Chaya and Dov Shrira moved to Kibbutz Kabri. His health, vision and hearing deteriorated and his strong heart weakened. They had to move to a nursing home in Ra'anana where Shrira passed away at the age of eighty and eight days.
Dov Shrira was a great role model to his sons, grandchildren, and many who lived in his company.
Translated by Sara Mages
Was born in Novocherkassk in 1894 to his father, Meir Starec, Was a dedicated Zionist and a Bible and Hebrew teacher at the Tarbut gymnasium in Akkerman. As a child he moved with his parents to Akkerman and attended school in Akkerman and Odessa. He acquired higher education in Leningrad (B.A. in mathematics) and at the age of 32 received a doctorate in mathematics, physics and astronomy. In 1922, he was the principal of a semigovernmental gymnasium in Tatarbunar.
During the First World War he was drafted as an officer in the Russian army. His stories from the days of the war, imagination and reality, were used interchangeably as the stories of Baron Munchausen. Like his father, he clung to Zionism and became one of Ze'ev Jabotinsky's ardent admirers. Against this background, a conflict broke out between him and his father, who was a General Zionist, and for a while the ties between them were severed.
In 1928, he was invited to lecture at the Technion in Haifa and instructed members of the Haganah in weapons training. The Mandatory government put him on the blacklist because of his excessive interest in buying weapons for the Haganah, and when he left the country to attend a conference of scientists he was not allowed to return to Israel.
He attended many international scientific congresses and, in 1931, was appointed to the Academy of Sciences in Cadiz. During the Spanish Civil War he fought alongside the republicans and at the end of the Civil War fled Spain. In 1937, he immigrated to Israel with his wife Anna of the CarlosSchorer family. He was a mathematics teacher in several high schools, in the last years of his life lectured at BarIlan University and conducted many studies in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, and biomechanics. He lost his only son to a serious illness that infected him. He showed a special interest in the field of music and in the 1930s, with the encouragement of Dr. Biram the principal of the Reali School in Haifa, he initiated and founded an amateur symphony orchestra in Haifa and also conducted it.
In the last years of his life, he adopted a hobby in the field of carpentry and farming and conducted various agricultural experiments on his plot of land in Petah Tikva. He passed away in 1982, lonely and childless, and he was 88 years old.
Told by Y. Schildkrauth and Nissan Amitai
Translated by Sara Mages
Moshe Hellman, chairman of the Jewish community of Akkerman, was one of the most prominent figures in our city. He was born to his father, Azriel, together with two more sons and a daughter (Sonia wife of the lawyer Yosef Serper). Moshe married the daughter of the great oil agent and merchant, Warschawski. His fatherinlaw entrusted him with the management of the oil business in Odessa and he was very successful in his business. His daughter Miriam, and son Aba, were later among the activists of Tzeirei Zion in Akkerman. When the 1917 revolution broke out, Moshe fled penniless from Odessa to Akkerman. His fatherinlaw rehabilitated him and gave him the management of one of his oil businesses in Akkerman, and once again the business began to flourish. His interest in public affairs came by chance and unintentionally. At the cornerstonelaying ceremony for the hospital building, when everyone's contribution to the institution building was announced, a voice suddenly announced a donation that surpassed the contributions of the city's wealthy. The eyes of all those gathered turned towards the announcing voice it was the voice of Moshe Hellman who, out of a sudden awakening or out of some other impulse, made a great contribution. Since then, he began to show excessive interest in public affairs and was soon elected chairman of the community.
He was an educated man, a Zionist (general), honest and dedicated to public affairs. Thanks to his sincere and humane approach to every person he was very popular with Jews and Christians alike. He had a great initiative and the fruits of this initiative were felt on various levels in the city and the district. He maintained honesty and sincerity in all matters of trade and merchandise and many had trade relations with him. It is said, that when he married his daughter the burden of the young couple's arrangement fell on him. He encountered difficulties and reached bankruptcy. He sat and wrote letters to all his creditors and informed them that he could not repay his debts and bills. It soon became clear that none of the creditors submitted his bills for repayment, everyone agreed to give him an unlimited extension which allowed him to recover financially and repay his debts.
He attended almost all the regional and national conventions in matters of the Jewish communities. He pursued peace by nature and in the days of the rabbis' conflict in Akkerman he has done a lot to make peace between the rival factions. He was active for all Zionist fundraisers and attended Zionist conventions held in Bessarabia.
When the Russians entered Akkerman in 1940, he was arrested because of his Zionism and exiled to Siberia together with his wife who passed away during the deportation period. After the war, he returned to Akkerman, the city for which he worked so hard for, broken and shattered in body and soul. He lived in Akkerman for two years in great distress, financially and mentally. He saw the destruction of his community until he passed away in the city he so loved.
May his memory be blessed.
by Yehoshua Harari zl
Translated by Sara Mages
Pava was the son of an assimilated dentist. I remember his father who came to Beit HaMidrash on the High Holidays with a Russian-Hebrew Mahzor in his hand. His place in Beit HaMidrash was next to my father's place and I followed closely how he prayed in Russian. If Pava came to a national Zionist recognition, despite the assimilated atmosphere in his home, it was mainly thanks to the influence of Borya (Dov) Shrira who was his friend and also lived in his neighborhood. When he was expelled from the Russian gymnasium, Pava began learning Hebrew with the help of Y. Grozovsky's dictionary and reached full control of speaking Hebrew in a Spanish accent. He also translated poems from Hebrew to Russian and, to the best of my knowledge, also printed a booklet of Tchernichovsky's poems in Russian translation. He showed it to the poet himself in Odessa and Tchernichovsky approved the translation.
A group of Russian gymnasium students, who were also from assimilated homes, gathered around Pava and, thanks to Pava's influence, these young people later became an influential factor in the cultural life of the city. After the 1917 revolution, he successfully passed the final exams at the gymnasium and received a matriculation certificate. I remember that at a celebration held in our city on the occasion of the Balfour Declaration, Pava delivered an impressive speech while wearing a student uniform. After the cornerstone was laid for the university on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, Pava decided that he should study at this university and immigrated to Eretz Yisrael together with Aharon Kaminker and Noah Zukerman. The university had not yet been built. Therefore, he went to Borya Shrira, who immigrated with the Krymchaks group, and worked with him on the Tiberias-Tzemach Road which, in those days, served a first place of work for many Halutzim (new immigrants). Borya quickly adapted to the work, the harsh conditions and the main food portion - bread with mustard. Not so Pava. Also the conditions in the Gdud and life of sharing and permissiveness were not to his liking. He returned to Haifa and when I arrived there after my immigration I found him in a very serious condition - hungry for bread. After a while he got a job at the train station at a low wage that every Arab worker got, and even that thanks to his knowledge of the English language. He did not last long. His fiancée, who remained in Akkerman, sent him money and he left the country and went to study at the University of Vienna. From there, he moved to Moscow and married his fiancée. He finished his studies and even reached the rank of professor at one of the Russian universities.
by Shmuel, Leib & Noah Zukerman
Translated by Sara Mages
I always had kind of a feeling of respect for our eldest brother, Moshe, and this was not only because he was the eldest, but because he was always at the center of events in our home. He was a member of a Zionist association and received to his home the [Hebrew newspaper] Ha-Tsfira edited by Nahum Sokolow. He was alert and interested in everything that was happening in the Zionist movement. He defected from the Russian army and managed to reach Austria safely. There, he was caught by the First World War, and as a foreign national of an enemy state was placed in detention in a prisoner of war camp. He went through five years of hardship and suffering, hunger, danger of blindness, etc., but his spirit was not broken. Someone sent my father the tragic news that he had been shot to death while trying to escape from the prisoner of war camp and grief prevailed in our home. But my father did not stop believing that Moshe was still alive, and indeed he was.
I would never forget his great devotion to our father while he was sick. He completely neglected his job and his family and took care of father. Moshe immigrated to Eretz Yisrael about a year after my father passed away and here, too, he went through many hardships, especially the great tragedy of the death of his beloved son, Nahum (later he called himself Avi-Nahum). All his days Moshe bore in his heart the bitter pain and the bereavement. Nahum's fall in the battle over Malkia in the War of Independence filled the cup of grief from which he drank a lot, far too much.
By nature he was kind-hearted, pursued peace and loved people. He made sure that peace was maintained in our large family. I will never forget with how much love and devotion he received Bozia and me when we arrived in Israel. He jumped to us from time to time during the period when I was green in the country, to check how I was adapting and taking root, and guided me with good advice and instructed us on how to live modestly and frugally. When our brother, Zadok, arrived with his family in Israel, he again showed the same devotion and has done his best to advance Zadok in his work in Herzliya. This is how he treated all his brothers.
I remember that the Hebrew author, Hillel Zeitlin, wrote once in Hashiloach that the difference between an opponent and a Hasid is that the opponent is cold in his studies and prayer, while the Hasid is the opposite - hot in prayer and also in his studies, in the terms of all my bones shall say. Moshe was a Hasid in the full meaning of the word. Even when we studied at the yeshiva he prayed enthusiastically. I remember that when the Pashkaner Rebbe zl was about to come to us, Moshe told me in these words: take a good look at the Rebbe, Leib, when you will give him Shalom aleichem you will see that the Divine Presence rests upon his face. When we left the synagogue he asked me: well, have you seen the Divine Presence?, and when I answered, no, that I did not notice anything special in the Rebbe's face, he scolded me and said: you are not a Hasid and you do not understand anything.
At first he was very devoted to the Sadigura Rebbe, and all the descendants of the Rizhiner, and this devotion was later passed on to other family members. He really admired our grandfather, Zadok, and later, when he was caught up in Zionism, he was willing to sacrifice himself for Zionism. I remember my father telling me in 1917, that if he had known that by sacrificing his life he could save Israel - he would not hesitate for a moment and sacrifice his life. Moshe's grandson fulfilled it with his body. After all, sons of sons are like sons.
Moshe loved to read and was also interested in books of thought, philosophy and history. He planned to travel to Frankfurt after the war to attend a continuing education program, but all his plans failed. He encouraged me to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael and even helped me to pay for the journey. He himself emigrated five years after my immigration. His first work in Israel was in Zikhron Ya'akov, drying the Kabara swamps. It was a hard work and I remember his first day of work when he fainted in the middle of the work, but soon recovered and continued working. After the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association [PICA] fired the workers, he worked in Petah Tikva and Kefar Saba, and finally moved to Herzelya where he worked in a supermarket until retirement aged. He gave his full love to his only son, Nahum, was happy with him and cared for him. A day after the declaration of the State of Israel his son, his pride and joy, was killed, but Moshe did not break despite all the pain and deep sorrow. His words, in one of the memorials, resonate in my ears: with all the pain and sorrow we are proud of such sons, and blessed is the nation that such are its sons.
After the tragedy, he bequeathed his home to the Workers' Council in Herzelya, to Hapoel Association to commemorate the memory of his son. He invested all his energy and time with activities for Ha'aguda Lema'an Hachayal [Association for the Soldier], and maybe this helped him to overcome his deep grief.
My uncle, Moshe, was loved by all his brothers and sisters, their sons and daughters. All of them will always remember him.
by Bruriah Ben-Zion
Translated by Sara Mages
Who in Akkerman did not know Leib Stambul? He was a unique figure that stood out against the background of public life in Akkerman. He had a tailoring workshop in the center of Akkerman, but it was also kind of a public center and a lot of threads (not sewing threads) led there, for there was hardly an institution, or a public enterprise, in which Leib Stambul was not involved in. He was the Chairman of the Trade Union, member of the Jewish Bank Council, founder of the Charitable Welfare Fund, member of all committees of the Zionist Funds, one of the founders of Tarbut gymnasium where his children were educated, and was involved in every enterprise or activity for Eretz Yisrael. In all these he acted voluntarily, adopting for himself an ancient rule: virtue is its own reward.
He was a handsome man, and his every public appearance left its mark and charm. He made a living from manual labor and was proud of it. Therefore, it is no wonder that the craftsmen in the city, and in the synagogue in which he also invested a lot of efforts, saw him as their most prominent and important representative.
His main ambition was to immigrate to Israel, and this was fulfilled after the emigration of his son Nissan. He immigrated with his wife and daughter and, again, opened a workshop near Merkaz Ba'alei Hamelacha Street, Tel Aviv. And again, the wheel turned, the wheel of the sewing machine, and again, he was at the center of public life and his home served as an address to every Jew who came from Akkerman and needed some advice or help. By the way, he also initiated and founded the Society of Emigrants from Akkerman in Israel.
I remember well the day when the entire family gathered at the home of Atya (his daughter) and Gershon, to mark the day that Leib reached the age of eighty. It was the fifth day of Hanukkah. My uncle did not feel well at that time but overcame, wore a dark suit, a white shirt that accentuated his handsome appearance, blessed the candles and, as was his custom every year, handed out envelopes with Hanukkah-money to his great-granddaughters, grandchildren, relatives' children, and finally - to his son and daughter-in-law, his daughter, son-in-law (to the last he gave gifts). He then turned to the whole family and said: my beloved, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to rejoice together with me. Please, go to the set table and treat yourself. Everything is at your disposal. In response to this brief greeting all present started to sing - Today is grandfather's birthday. The joy did not overflow because it was mixed with sadness and tears flowed from the eyes of a few. There was a feeling that our beloved uncle's day was approaching. The next morning he was rushed to the hospital and passed away at night. It was a kind of death with a kiss that only the tzadikim receive according to Jewish tradition, and Leib Stambul was a tzadik. He always prayed that, God forbid, he wouldn't be a burden to others. His prayer was answered. Only outstanding people, like our uncle, get to say goodbye to the family in such an event, with a head held high and a clear mind.
His life dream came true. He had the time to see his children as he wanted to see them, rooted in the Jewish state, and rejoiced with the success of his many descendants. He walked proudly on the land of the country for whose redemption and freedom he worked daily and collected penny for penny.
In light of your deeds and way of life, our beloved uncle, we will continue to walk in the future, and your image will enchant us even after your death as you have enchanted us in your life.
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