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[Page 244]

My uncle Yehoshua Harari (Berger) z”l

by Yossi Shiloh, Ma'ale Shomron

Translated by Sara Mages

 

 

Yehoshua was a beloved and revered uncle, but I saw in him a second father, a symbol of an idea, of an era. He was carved from a unique material, a kind of compound of absolute honesty, undisputed belief in the path of Pioneering Zionism, love of others, devotion to family, diligence and manual work. Indeed, a very expensive and rare material.

I always liked to talk to him in private, and even to argue with him, and Yehoshua loved and knew how to converse. When he started talking about the past, and the different periods in his life, it seemed to me that they were living right before my eyes. I've often asked myself: how is it possible that despite the large age gap between us (fifty years) and despite the gap in our views on various issues, such closeness and understanding has developed between us? The answer is without a doubt - Yehoshua's values and virtues caused this. Even when we were divided on a certain subject, Yehoshua knew how to listen to his opponent, treat his views with respect and try to understand him.

Since he moved to Givat Haim I've often talked to him on the phone, and we usually sailed in our conversations to very important matters and did not limit them to matters relating to family and the environment, and the very fact that I've lived in Shomron for the past two years has added a local touch to our conversations.

In settling in the Shomron - the mountain overlooking Ein Iron - Yehoshua saw real pioneering, and even made me understand that he sees that my wife and I are continuing on his path, but he was not happy with the fact that I chose this place for permanent residence. He really wanted to visit our home in the Shomron, but was unable to do so. He shared with me the pain, sorrow and rage, on the evacuation of Hevel Yamit and Ofira, the displacement of settlements and settlers from the land of Eretz Yisrael, and prayed for a miracle that would eliminate the evil decree. His attitude of what was happening in the Israeli society, and in the country, in the last year of his life ranged from the pole of disappointment to the pole of faith, and so he used to say: “when I came to Israel sixty years ago, I found nothing there. Since then a real revolution has taken place. We have to believe, we must believe, and only if we believe - we will succeed.”

I remember the last conversation with him when he said to me, and the tone of sorrow was well felt in his words, “I feel as if I've gone back sixty years”…

I understood his heart well and his words were like a sword's stab in my heart.

I will miss you very much, uncle Yehoshua.


[Page 245]

Dov Harari z”l

Translated by Sara Mages

 

 

As a native of the steppes of Bessarabia he absorbed within him their landscape: endless green fields, blue skies covered in autumn with heavy clouds, black clouds, which infuse gloom in a person's soul and arouse in him a strong desire to struggle, vegetable and fruit gardens on the quiet shores of the Dniester.

Was a student of the Hebrew gymnasium “Tarbut” in Akkerman and absorbed the old and renewed Jewish tradition. Upon his immigration to Israel he immediately entered a youth movement and public activity. Had a raging and creative soul, a student of Berl [Katzenelson] and a man of public and national morality. He believed in the dignity of man, always sought the good and the superior in him, and was always ready to encourage others. From this, one can understand why Dov has always been among people, always striving to help them. He reached the point of personal identification, with nationalism and socialism in the sublime sense of these concepts. In the educational movement he guided, instructed and educated, by the personal example he set for his students. He clung to the spiritual world of Berl Katznelson. In his home, on the wall in his room, in quiet times and in the underground in the Diaspora, wherever he worked, he was accompanied by a picture of Berl, his spirit and his way. In adolescence he left his educational movement, and his home, and moved to Kibbutz Beit Oren in the Carmel Forest. He worked, and worked well, in full recognition of the destiny in the act. He thought about work and its purpose for the people who return to build their homeland while connecting with nature and work. And from the summit of Mount Carmel, when he looked out over the spectacular view, he became closer, in his body and soul, to the things he had strived for all his life: nature, perfection, and all that is good and just.

It did not last long, the World War broke out and the beautiful scenery “became ugly.” From time to time, enemy bombers appear in the skies of Mount Carmel and Haifa, sowing death and destruction. From the summit of Mount Carmel Dov Harari sees smoke rising from burning factories. The whole enterprise of his life is in danger, society is in danger, the country is in danger and life is in danger. And for the sake of life, he decides to enlist in the army and fight the enemy, to encourage his people who are being destroyed by the Nazis and defend the homeland. He enlists in the artillery. He wants to harn the enemy that carries death and save lives. He is an artilleryman in Israel and abroad, he is also a driver and in constant motion. The constant struggles in Israel against the Mandatory authorities, against the White Paper, against the locking of the country's gates to immigration - accompany him in all his ways. He stirs up emotions and inspires struggle.

“We will fight against Hitler as if there was no Mandate, and we will fight against the Mandatory Empire as if there was no Hitler!” - Ben-Gurion's slogan accompanies and guides him day and night, and to its light he operates wherever he is. He carries out missions, performs assignments, fight for the opening the country's gates, the salvation of the people and the independence of Israel.

The situation in the Diaspora is getting worse. Information about the extermination arrives in Israel. The Yishuv [Jewish population] is agitated. The soldiers of the Brigade rebel: they want to reach the front, to Europe, to the Jews. And when the news of the possibility of parachuting into enemy lands arrived - he is among the first volunteers. In heated debates over the form of parachuting, he is among those demanding a blind jump, a direct jump, a shortcut. Among the trainees he is the first. A talented radio operator, a driver, speaks English, a man of good manners and the link between us and the British. I remember that at the end of June 1944, the plane in which we flew to Romania broke down and we were forced to return to the base. Our flight was postponed to the end of July. The two of us left on a trip to the area of liberated Italy. We traveled to Naples. How excited he was from the spectacular view of Naples. When we climbed Mount Vesuvius he was truly enchanted, and out of enthusiasm he muttered endlessly: “just like in our country,

[Page 246]

on the Carmel!” When we descended to Pompeii, he seemed to go down to the depth of the period in which the people of Pompeii lived, and it always seemed to me that this was his special feature: to concentrate on the matter and feel as if he was living the period unfolding before him. In the Colosseum in Rome, in the catacombs where first Christians concentrated, and in the Vatican where the most recent Christians concentrate, I saw him excited to the depths of his heart and happy from this human right, to see and feel human history.

We parachuted together. Together . I remember how he lay on the airplane iron door and pondered. What was he thinking then? We could not talk, the airplane's noisy buzz interfered, and in the dim light I only saw his watchful good eyes wondering in wide open space.

Later, in Bucharest, in military uniform, he continued his activity. He worked in the British legation in the uniform of a British sergeant, and at the end of his work - he printed books and booklets at the “Halutz” printing house, at the meetings of the Ha'apala delegation and the Bricha, in the Zionist organization, in “HeHalutz,” in the youth movements and the Jewish quarter, in one word - everywhere. He explained, urged and organized, and he was always with people. He stayed three years in Romania and was among the last paratroopers to leave the Diaspora and the Jews. When he returned to Israel he was among founders of Tsva ha-Hagana le-Yisra'el [Israel Defense Forces], in the cultural service headquarters. He explained, coordinated the information, reached the rank of Sgan Aluf [Lieutenant Colonel] and managed the officers' school. In Jerusalem, which he loved so much, on the border, across from his school and his home, stood the former governor's house, which is now used as the home of the chairman of the UN delegation in Israel.

On the tenth anniversary of our parachuting we decided to meet in Kibbutz Ma'agan. We met. All those who parachuted in Romania came. We all sat together, also Arye Fichman z”l and Liuba Gukowski z”l, and may they live long - Mendel Moskowitz, Lupo, Mialo and Markesko. We all sat, but not all of us got up. We lost the best in us in the disaster in Kibbutz Ma'agan, the beloved and talented, the pioneers, the loyal to man and the homeland. Among them, the radiated, the noble and lovable figure of Dov Harari, the beloved and revered.

 

From the letters of Dov Berger z”l

To Chana -

…it was my destiny to work for “HeHalutz” and the youth. Well, a job that is - more or less - really suitable for me. But, the tradition of the movements here is terrible: terrible separation. The movements are unable to work together and used to looking at each other as enemies. There is a happy phenomenon here in the country of a common front between the Social Democrats and the Communists. The professional associations are shared. While, in our country I need tremendous efforts to pass some joint action, stop the mutual slander and mutual accusations and harness all the people to some action instead of quarreling and chatting. But, I hope that we will succeed. There are already some fruits, but, in what difficulties they have been achieved! I also work in the movement “Dror-Habonim” - the practical union between “Dror” and “Habonim.” This is also something I have invested a lot of energy in, and I don't know how it is viewed in Israel. I'm imbued with the hope that separation is a crime, and the best of my efforts are invested in certain areas in accordance with this recognition of mine.
Bucharest 11.10.1944
… today, Victory Day, but there is no joy in my heart for many reasons: because I still don't know what this victory means for the remnants of our people, and because I see before my eyes Chana and Aba and Tzvi and Peretz and those who paid so dearly - so dearly - for this victory, and because I don't know for how long we will have “peace.” Oh, little girl! Sometimes it bothers you so much, and just last night - on Victory Day - something heavy was bothering me...
Bucharest 5.5.1945
…I'm depressed to the ground. The day before yesterday news reached me that the bodies of Tzvi, Rafi and Haviva were found in one mass grave. If so, the balance of our victims so far is: Chana, Aba, Rafi, Haviva (the paratroopers). There is no knowledge about Chaim and Pertz. I'm afraid they are lost too. We are after the war - it has been over a month and a half - and if they were captives, they would have reported to an Allied army camp.

This is the balance. The hand cannot write what is happening in the heart. You will understand that. I daydream. I see horror scenes. I think that all these hallucinations are symptoms of madness. If I wouldn't go mad, it is a sign that I'm stronger than steel. Am I really like that?

… but I will not kill myself. It would be foolish to share their fate. This - no! But it is clear to me that all the days of my life I will seek for myself a way as their way, for the sake of dying in the way they died. Not only will I be prepared, over and over again, for such acts, but it seems to me that I will deliberately seek my death in this way in order to pay for the fact that I stayed alive.

... therefore, please think well of your way. Our relationship has not yet reached a point where it is impossible to sever them. Think of Haim's girlfriend with her three children, think of Tzvi's girlfriend - with a girl. Think about Rafi's girlfriend with a girl. I simply don't want your fate to be like their fate, and I know that if you cling to me, your fate would be like theirs.

Bucharest 25.6.1945
…in fact, I want to answer about one thing: what has changed in me over the past year and a quarter.
  1. I've always been ... I don't know what to call it, let say: sensitive. When I was a child I burst into tears when I read a story about a dog that was killed or hurt. Even now, a good book, or a good movie, brings me to tears.
[Page 247]
Once, I ran over a dog with a car and killed it - and this sight has not been erased from my eyes. I don't know what to call this feature. I don't know if the word “sensitive” is correct.

And here are things that happened this year and penetrated deep into me, when nothing deepened into me before:

  1. The ship Mefküre sank with 300 immigrants from Romania.
  2. Berl died.
  3. The death of Chana, Sereni, Aba, Peretz, Haviva, Rafi and Tzvi.
  4. Eliyahu's death.
To all this must be added what my eyes see: refugees, refugees, orphans, diseases, poverty.

I've always felt the pain of others. I told you, I think, once: ” I'm prepared for the entire constitution of future human society to be included in one sentence: “respect your fellow-man, don't do to him - what is not desirable to you.” This is the whole theory in a nutshell, and this - in the national and social field, in relationship between him and her, in everything, in everything. And here, the pain of others has always touched my heart. And how much of it did I see here?

And so I would say: I was deepened. I live things more deeply, my feelings are warmer. And I must say: what I'm - became deeper. I'm closer to you, and you - closer to me. In this, I feel and I'm sure. The relationship between us can only benefit from this change that has taken place in me. Actually, I don't know if this is a change. It is more correct to say, that it is an overemphasis and deepening of one feature, which has existed in me for a long time.

  1. There is also a change in me in the field of consciousness. I've lived a year or so with the Russians. I see their way of life, and I see the face of the Communist Party when it is next to the helm of power. And it is good for a person to keep his eyes open. I did not become anti-Soviet, but I will say: d e m o c r a c y. With that all is said.

    And here, as you can see, also in this area I got closer to you. Therefore, the relationship between us can only benefit from this change that has taken place in me.

  2. I also learned something in the movement's field. I'm in favor of the unification of all our movements and in favor of the unification of the Kibbutz Movement. I oppose, with all my might, the current situation in this area in Israel.

    If so, I also got closer to you in this area.

As you can see - you have nothing to be afraid off. Only good has come out for us from the last year, and when we meet again - we will understand each other even better than before.

And there are other changes in me, which, of course, resulted from the changes listed above, and it is impossible to write about everything that is in my heart. We will meet and talk. Let's hope that it wouldn't be in the most distant future.

You write, at the end of your letter, that when many people return to Israel they will isolated themselves in their own corner. I'm not afraid of it. The greatest happiness of man is that he thinks that he is living a life of happiness and living according to his conscience. He is not arguing an empty quarrel, not insulting a friend, not harming a fellow-man, he seats and study until he is called again to duty, according to his spirit and integrity. I'm not afraid of it and I'm ready for it. Obviously, I will not join the party's turmoil in the country. And it will be good for us to sit in Beit Oren and live our lives. Why in the kibbutz? Because it is good for a person to know that he lives life that is the closest realization of his desire.

Bucharest 11.10.1945

 

Dov Harari (Berger)
(Biographical details)

Dov was born in 1917 in Byeramtcha, studied at the local school where he already stood out with his talents and quick perception. At the age of 10 he was sent to Akkerman to study at “Tarbut” gymnasium and with the establishment of “Gordonia” he joined the movement. In 1932, he immigrated to Eretz Yisrael with his mother and sister, started working in “Egged's” garage and also continued his studies. He was a member of “HaNoar HaOved” [Working Youth], in 1933 joined “HaBacharut HaSocialistit[1] and was also active in the “Haganah.”

Dov was gifted with excellent writing and speaking ability and a unique personal charm that he radiated to all his friends. In the years 1939-40, he served as secretary of “HaBacharut” and rode his motorcycle to all the branches. He activated and encouraged, and his vigor and dynamism knew no bounds. He established the movement's labor camp and was among the founders of Kibbutz Beit Oren. In 1941, he enlisted in the British Army and then, as recounted below, parachuted into Romania and did everything he could to help the Romanian Jews who were then under Nazi rule. During this period he has done a lot for the renewal of the Zionist movement, “Dror,” “Habonim,” “HeHalutz,” etc. He translated into Romanian books and booklets, which were used by the instructors in the various movements, about Zionism, the Labor Movement and the political struggle in Israel. In 1946, Dov returned to his kibbutz and at the outbreak of the War of Independence enlisted in Israel Defense Forces. He headed the education department of the army's cultural service, was the commander of the Israeli Infantry Corps, and his last duty was - head of the Army Intelligence School.

Dov was killed in the disaster in Kibbutz Ma'agan in July 1954.

Translator's footnote

  1. HaBacharut HaSocialistit” was the young chapter of “Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisrael” (“Workers' Party of the Land of Israel”). It was founded in 1926 in order to secure a political reserve amongst young people of 17 to 23 years of age. Return


[Page 248]

Yehoshua Drory (Shura Volovich) z”l

N. Amitai

Translated by Sara Mages

 

 

Was born in Akkerman in 1913, grew up in a traditional home where the influence of his grandfather, who was careful with a light commandment as with a grave one, was evident, but Yehoshua's parents were not as religious as their father. At the age of five he went to the first Hebrew kindergarten in Akkerman, continued in the elementary school and “Tarbut” gymnasium where he completed his studies. He was influenced by his eldest sister who attended a Russian high school and in his youth often read the books of Russian classics.

He was among the best students in the gymnasium and stood out mainly in his sense and talent for leadership. Was among the founders of the association “Speak Hebrew” and “Gordonia,” and in 1931, upon his graduation from the gymnasium, was elected to the main leadership of “Gordonia.” He immigrated to Israel in 1933 and settled with his family in Hadera.

In Israel he continued in public activity, was active in “Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisrael” [”Workers' Party of the Land of Israel”], and for a long time served as secretary of the Hadera branch. He enlisted as a noter (guard) and was a member of the “Haganah.” After the Second World War, at the beginning of the great immigration of the survivors of the camps, he worked in the Immigration and Absorption Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and did his best for the absorption of immigrants, and their guidance in the first years of their settlement in the country. He acquired many friends from among these immigrants, who were also invited to his home, because they came to know that he was not doing his job out of a normal routine but, saw it as a mission and has a great interest that they will adapt to life and work in Israel. When the immigration of Jews from North Africa began he was very devoted to this matter and his knowledge of the French language greatly facilitated his work. He went from ma'abarah [immigrant absorption camp] to ma'abarah, instructed and explained, to alleviate the suffering of these immigrants.

Upon completing his position in absorption he moved to work for the Histadrut's tax bureau in Hadera. He was given the role of liaison with the public because everyone knew how to appreciate his skills for contact with the public.

In 1964, he was elected secretary of the Workers Council in Hadera. When the layoff of many workers began in 1966, with the onset of the “recession,” he was in great mental distress. It was difficult for him to withstand the pressure of unemployed workers who literally arrived to a slice of bread. Since he could not see them in their suffering, he proposed a plan to alleviate their distress and submitted it to the authorized institutions. But, when he realized that even the institutions were powerless, and he himself could not help, he decided to resign from his job. Many of the workers in Hadera regretted this move because they knew that he always supported and cared for them. He returned to work at the tax bureau, continued his activities in the city's institutions, the Histadrut and party institutions, until he contracted a fatal illness and died in 1975.

May his memory be blessed.


[Page 249]

Zev (Wobcha) Kamin z”l

Tzvi Menuali
(from words at the memorial in 15.3.68)

Translated by Sara Mages

 

 

We gathered this evening to commemorate the memory of Zev that we all knew and respected. We have not yet come to terms with the thought that Wobchik, who was always cheerful and lively, full of vigor and joy of life, suddenly fell silent, fell silent forever.

I knew Zev since his childhood, and although he was not my age friendly relations developed between us, especially in the Zionist activity in the city in which Wobchik actively participated. As a child he was a naughty prankster and a great joker, and it seems to me that he also remained like that. However, in his pranks and clowning there was a core of seriousness and idealism that characterized our youth in Akkerman. He grew and developed in his movement. He excelled in his organizational skills, speech and leadership talent, so much so, that over time he reached key positions and proved his great ability. When young Wobchik began to stand out in Gordonia's ranks I noticed his special demeanor, and I remember that once, when I met his father, R' Mattel Kaminker, I told him: “a typical Kaminker from Beit HaMidrash.” Maybe I owe a certain explanation for this definition, well, Beit HaMidrash in Akkerman was not only a synagogue where people came to pray, but a kind of a center, or a social club of a certain public whose influence was well felt in the Jewish street. People used to say: “Beit HaMidrash decided,” or “Beit HaMidrash will not,” or “Beit HaMidrash is against.” And there was a kind of verdict in that statement, if “Beit HaMidrash” opposes – what good is it talking in favor of? Before prayer, after prayer and in between prayers, the fates of institutions and individuals were decided in Beit HaMidrash. And I dare say that many came to Beit HaMidrash mainly for this purpose and not necessarily for the purpose of prayer. Among them were the Kaminkers – an entire tribe, sort of a dynasty: Haim Kaminker, Haim Chava–Lubes, Shike Kaminker, Mattel Kaminker, Aizik Kaminker, Arish Kaminker etc. All the Kaminkers were rebellious, spoke passionately and were lively and zealous, eternal oppositionists who waged wars and struggles, but, God forbid, not for self–interest, but disputes for Heaven's sake. Therefore, when I say here that Zev was a type from Beit HaMidrash – I meant the uniqueness of the Kaminkerim tribe. Admittedly, the struggles he waged were on different terms from those of his ancestors and forefathers, but this fervor of the Kaminker dynasty remained in him and he invested it in his struggles for the benefit of the movement, the country and all that was dear to him. He died while he was in the middle of the road, and surely he would have gone fare if he had not died at a young age.


[Page 250]

The lawyer Yosef Serper z”l

Translated by Sara Mages

 

 

He was one of the respected public figures in our city. A native of Akkerman, involved in all its affairs, knowledgeable in legal matters, and therefore also served as the community's legal counsel during the tenure of Moshe Helmam as the community's chairman. For a time he was vice chairman of the community. He was also active in the cooperative institutions and served as deputy chairman of the board of “Kupat Milve Vehisachon” (“The Jewish Bank”). His Zionist activity (he belonged to General Zionists) was evident in many areas: Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, Keren, Hayesod, “Tarbut” gymnasium and others. He was a good and kind man and tried his best to help those who needed him. As a lawyer he did not take any payment for legal advice unless it was related to a trial. Instead of a fee, he asked those who needed his advice to put a donation in Keren HaKayemet box. For this reason the blue box in his office was often full and it was necessary to empty it once a week and not once a month as was customary. He kindly contributed to every fundraising campaign and to every public institution. He perished in the Holocaust in Odessa in 1942.


Doctor Shapira z”l

Alexander Shapira

Translated by Sara Mages

“Issac Osipovich” – this is how his colleagues in the profession used to address him. He was involved in extensive public activity and many of “his” patients were non–Jews.

He was born in Akkerman as the eldest son to Yosef son of Yeshayahu Shapira. Upon graduating from medical school he returned to his hometown and began to engage in private practice. Thanks to his devotion to his patients, his great patience and kindness, he soon became popular with the residents of the city and the surrounding area, Jews and non–Jews alike.

He devoted quite a bit of his time and energy to public activity, proved to be a gifted speaker, and greatly contributed to the establishment and management of institutions. Two examples prove the extent to which he was acceptable to the public.

 

 

A. In 1904, when the news arrived of the sudden death of Herzl, the Zionist circle in Akkerman decided to hold a memorial service in the synagogue and, although Doctor Shapira was not one of the members of the circle, they offered him to be the only speaker at this memorial service after the religious service.

B. When, with the help of the municipality and its sponsorship, a large public library was established in Akkerman (on Mikhailovsky Street), and he was elected chairman of the library even though most of the readers and subscribers were non–Jews.

He was the chief physician (without pay) of the Jewish Hospital in the city, and also served as chairman of the board of directors of the hospital. In this role he initiated the establishment of the new and modern hospital and persuaded the philanthropist, Max Krolik, a native of Akkerman and a resident of America, to donate the money to this cause. He was also one of the initiators of the establishment of the “Jewish Bank” and for years headed its management.

With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, the Jewish population organized and established an umbrella organization to represent it, managed its affairs and be responsible for the existence of all its institutions. In the free elections, in which all Akkerman Jews participated, the first community committee was elected and Doctor Shapira was elected chairman of the community.

I've said only a little of the praise of the man who has been at the center of Jewish public life in Akkerman for a long time. When the storm began, with the entry of the Red Army into Bessarabia, he managed to reach Odessa, but due to his advanced age was unable to continue to migrate east and try to save his life. When he correctly evaluated what awaits him – he decided to inject himself with the injection that put an end to his life.


[Page 251]

Mendel Gellman z”l (Shohat)

Dr. Rachel Gellman–Neiger

Translated by Sara Mages

My father was a slaughterer by profession and for that reason everyone called him Mendel Shohat. This profession was passed to him by inheritance from his father, but he also “inherited” a mother and five children, who were left destitute after his father's death, and he had to support them. He was one of the most excellent ritual slaughterers and circumcisers in our city. I remember that in 1926 he performed a circumcision on an 11 year old boy who, due to various circumstances was not circumcised. The circumcision was performed at the local hospital in the presence of the doctors: Shapira, Schwartzman, Feldstein and the surgeon Zubowski. At the end of the circumcision ceremony, the surgeon, who was very pleased with my father's work, smiled and said: “our luck is that you aren't a surgeon”…

My father studied Hebrew, Mishnah, Talmud and other subjects, but his main skills were discovered in the field of mathematics. During the gymnasium exams many students asked him to help them solve complicated mathematical problems.

He married at the age of 19, children were born, and at a young age he already had a heavy burden of feeding ten people. The economic situation at home was dire and our mother, the granddaughter of HaRav Zadok Zuckerman, was not accustomed to the conditions prevailing at home. But, she did everything to overcome and help maintaining the house. Despite her poor health she did not refrain from any work. She prepared kosher lunches for the teachers of the Hebrew gymnasium, provided accommodation for students who came from the outside to study in Akkerman, and similar jobs. Thanks to her help all her children were able to get a high school education and three of them (in total she had six children) also had a higher education.

My father's special talents were also discovered in a field that had nothing to do with slaughtering – he drew up plans for buildings which were approved by certified engineers without any reservations. He also participated in the building of the Jewish hospital where I worked for many years. Apart from that he was active in various institutions of the Jewish community and his opinions and advice had great weight. One episode is worth noting: at one of the meetings of the hospital building committee, a proposal was brought by the contractors and the engineers on the amount of bricks to be bought for the needs of the building. My father, who knew that the hospital was built with donations from Jews from America, was convinced that savings should be taken and submitted a counter–proposal for the use of a smaller amount of bricks. After examination it was proved that he was right. The engineer in charge of the building said angrily: I am not ready to work with the “engineer” Mendel the slaughterer… The engineer's prestige was damaged, but my father continued to supervise the construction until the construction of the hospital was completed.

He was gifted with a calligraphic handwriting, was a scribe and repaired Torah scrolls, in which various letters were damaged or distorted, with great talent. His talent stood out after the Second World War when torn Torah scrolls were found in many cities in Russia. They were brought to my father who managed to rehabilitate them flawlessly. In his spare time he read the books of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky and the rest of the Russian classics.

After four years of uprooting we returned to our city, but, under the conditions of the Soviet regime he could not make a living from his profession – kosher slaughtering. Therefore, he started to grow grapes in his yard and after the grape harvest produced considerable quantities of wine. At the same time, he gathered around him the Jewish survivors who returned to Akkerman after the war, to protect the embers, the Jewish spark, so that it doesn't fade. Kalman Frechter made his house available to the public and it served as a synagogue. They bought a Torah scroll and my father was “Baal Korei” [reader]. The authorities allowed them to pray only on holidays and festivals. My father also prepared a calendar which was updated fifteen years forward and twenty years back. Of course, all the Jewish holidays were listed in this calendar, but due to his illness and old age he did not have the time to complete the calendar. The Soviet authorities did not allow him to visit Israel as a tourist. He passed away in 1973 at the age of 93. One of the city's residents expressed himself after his death: “The high priest of our city has passed away, and with his death our Judaism was lost.”


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Characters

Shmuel Geber

Translated by Sara Mages

A wide and varied mosaic of Akkerman characters accompanies me even today. Among them are characters that arouse a smile or anger, remind me of forgotten sounds, sights that have faded over time, etc. Sometimes, when these characters come to mind I try to recreate events and acts from the past, but I don't always succeed. I will try to bring up only a few lines in memory of these characters, and I'm sure that the former residents of Akkerman will remember them while reading these lines, and maybe will bring up additional lines as well.

 

Musiri the redhead

Engraved in my memory are the last words I heard from him on the day I immigrated to Israel. “You're the only one who can throw me across the sea” – so he said to me when we parted as tears glistened in his eyes. He was short and in his gaze was an expression of surrender. He was always ready for any work. He helped the person of duty to clean the clubhouse and every member who needed any help. Because of his short stature he always stood last in line and he came to terms with this fate, but, by no means, he was able to integrate in drilling exercises. It was beyond his ability.

 

Shura Volovitz

His performance in the movement was quiet and modest, but he was always among the men of action. It seems that his departure from life was also simple and modest. He was not praised and glorified even though he deserved it. I remember that day when Shura was elected to the duty of head of the branch of “Gordonia.” He secluded himself for a few days with the books of A.D. Gordon, read them as if they were about to train him for the duty, and then began to get into things and managed the branch. He always had a serious expression on his face and seldom, in time of success, a smile appeared on his face. There was a great friendship between him and my sister, Chava z”l, who was one of “Gordonia's” activities.

 

Yakov Berger

Was a figure that radiated to anyone who happens to be on his way. In his elegant attire he seemed to be different from others and formed a buffer between himself and other teachers at the gymnasium, all the more so on the students. But, anyone who exchanged a few sentences with him immediately felt that there was no “distance,” since the gymnasium principal knew how to listen well to the words of a fellow–man, whoever he was. A student who had to talk to him – if he got into a conversation with stress, he ended it completely free. It is amazing how he knew to evoke concentrated listening and complete silence in his lectures without making any effort in that direction. One of his traits was: in many cases he was chairman of various meetings and conventions, but he did not move from his seat before the oldest member left the presidency table.

 

Liss, the medical practitioner (“feldsher”)

Like in the stories of grandma–Liss, he was the miracle–doctor who arrived to every home in which was a sick child and brought the magic medicine. He examined the children, dripped into their mouths syrup from the bottle that was always in his pocket and, when necessary, also fed them from the porridge that was also known to be a virtue for health… He performed all the duties even when the child was left alone at home, and when the mother returned from her shopping – she immediately felt that the “feldsher” had visited the house in the morning and the sick child – was no longer ill and the porridge was also gone… In addition to medicines, he also kept candies in his black bag, and these were used to capture the hearts of children who had not yet become accustomed to, or did not accept his medicines. I remember that Dr. Feldstein eulogized him after his death and, among others, said: all the doctors accompany him on his last journey because they learned from him how to treat sick children.

 

The librarian – the teacher Shternsaus

It seems as if he was destined by the Supreme Providence to be a librarian, and fulfilled this role with awe and reverence. He saw it as a real mission. He always knew which book to give and especially helped those who needed certain books for a certain purpose. When we were children, we, of course, asked for new books, but he knew how to get our attention to “an old container full of new wine,” meaning, to books that were like an unturned stone but in his opinion there was a lot of treasure in them. He also knew how to convince those who exchanged books in his library what to read. His recommendation for certain books always came after he himself has read them. There was no book in the public library that Shternsaus did not take home to read. We would linger in the library more than necessary, simply because it was nice to be with him and see him in his “Holy Work.”

[Page 253]

Shmelke

(I don't remember his last name) belonged to Shlomi–Emuni [Union of the Faithful] to Yiddish literature and in his private library it was also possible to find ancient books printed a hundred years ago and more. Anyone, who wanted to enjoy reading Shalom Aleichem in the original language (Yiddish), Y.L. Peretz or another author, was able to find whatever his soul desired in Shmelke's library. When the controversy between the “Bund” and “Poalei Zion” intensified, Shmelke knew how to find reference material that would provided us with argumentation in the inter–party debates. He was a short Jew, wore glasses with very strong lenses, squinted a little, his hairstyle was neatly made and the Russian Roveshka, which he wore frequently, befit him. The cigarette never came out of his mouth, even though it was not always lit, and I never saw him nervous. When something bothered him during a political debate, he used to bite his well–groomed black mustache, which was a sign of vigorous opposition to the opinions of his interlocutor. He didn't enter our clubhouse, but frequently came and left our house with an excuse in his mouth: he found new material that I've asked for. My mother always gave him a shot of vodka and herring.

 

Moshe Helman, the community leader

I remember that evening when he received a verified report that the residents of one of the Christian villages were preparing to commit robbery and riots against the Jews. Helman was revealed then with all his might and glory. He soon managed to recruit hundreds of young people ready for battle, among them many that did not belong to the Zionist youth in Akkerman, and also members of the “Bund.” He knew how to impose his authority and influence. Nowadays, we can say that he was a kind of a “bulldozer” and, indeed, this was how he looked like from externally, but he was also able to act as a “bulldozer” when needed. On the evening I've mentioned, it was not necessary to use the forces that Helman had mobilized (and this is told in another article in this book), but if it was needed– everything was in place. Those, who stood out most in the preparation of the tools for defense, were: Magzinik, Ilusha Bundy, the Rosenthal brothers and Moshe (Mishka) Kvitko, but the person who activated them all was Moshe Helman.

 

Moshe Wieder

Lived in one room in our yard, lonely and isolated. He was not sane, but he was a quiet man and never hurt anyone. I could not find out when he came to Akkerman and what the source of his illness was. When asked how he was, he answered that all the people are crazy and he is the only one who tries to live with everyone in peace… He had a great voice, loved to sing, and sometimes sang opera passages. He responded to requests and sang cantorial chapters, but was always careful with three: he sang the prayer “El Malei Rachamim” only next to an open grave, the “Kiddush” only on Friday when a glass was in front of him, and “Sheva Brachot” when the bride and groom stood before him at the wedding ceremony… Outside, he was always seen with clean clothes, blue coat and a straw hat on his head. When he was asked to sing a song – he lingered until he felt that the applicant had slipped a coin into his pocket, and only then opened with a song. Any attempt to meet him in his secluded room failed. He never agreed to that.

I last time I saw him he stood on the wall of the “fortress” on the Liman shore, his gaze frozen and staring into space of the world. From a distance he looked like the statue of the “Troubadour” from Akkerman.

 

The Kvitko family

In every city there is a home, or a family, that preserves the ancestral tradition, the assets of the past, a home in which it is possible to received certain assistance in time of distress to the body or the soul, quietly and modestly, a kind of “giving in secret.” Many former residents of Akkerman will testify that such was the home of the Kvitko family, may they be remembered for the better and for blessing. A bitter fate befell the elders of this family in the snowy fields of Soviet Russia, but they bequeathed the spark to their son, or maybe their flame. He too, like his parents, knows how to be “Ahiezer and Achisamach” [one that helps and can be trusted]. He went through wanderings and adventures until he reached his homeland, but kept the spark. Even today, in the homeland, his home is open to anyone who needs him, and since he immigrated to Israel he was able to help, to a greater or lesser extent, anyone who asked for his help. Also guests from abroad, who visit his home, thank him for his fascinating conversations and for explaining what is happening in our country. With Kvitko you can sit for many hours and not get bored. Also his conversations and memories of the distant “Akkerman days” indicate that the spark has been preserved.

 

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