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[Page 292]

About Beitar In Tarutino

by Eliezer Shulman

Translated by Ala Gamulka

Tarutino stood out from other villages in southern Bessarabia by the fact that there were cordial relations between the Jewish and German residents. In my time there were only 320 Jewish families from among a population of 5 000 people. It must be said that on all levels the relations were friendly and mutually respectful between the Germans and the Jews. My best friends were German boys. I remember well that until 1939 even my father's good friends were German. There was much business between Germans and Jews based on a handshake without any written contracts. I was never afraid of the Germans and I wandered on my own in the fields without any fear. I was scared of “Grisha Rasputin” the Russian and perhaps a few other Russians in the village. It never occurred to me to fear the Germans.

It seems to me that we, the Jews, learned much from them–especially order and discipline. The Germans learned about human relations from the Jews. They themselves would say that their society did not achieve what the Jewish community was able to do. In my time the Jewish community was well organized and it was based on mutual assistance. An example: my father was a wealthy man and paid 10 000 lei annually for my tuition in High School while other students did not pay anything. They even received the official school uniform for free. This is only one example.

Another fact that differentiated Tarutino from other villages: there was not much poverty or unemployment. Everyone worked. All the crafts were handled by Jews: tailors, glass makers, tinsmiths, painters, electricians, hat makers, barbers, saddlers, etc. There were also Jewish taxi drivers and a shoe shiner.

In Kishinev I had the occasion to see Jewish poverty. I saw many Jews selling rags. We did not see this in Tarutino.

In my time there were no Heders in Tarutino–something typical of any Jewish shtetl. We had an elementary school (4 years) and a high school (continuation). However, the High School did not have government backing and anyone who wanted to matriculate had to be tested by a special committee. This committee consisted of teachers from Akkerman, Odessa or Kishinev. It was not an easy examination since those being tested were required to know more than the students in the government schools. There were some Jewish students in the German High School and, as far as I know, they did not suffer anti–Semitism. It was only in 1933 after Hitler was in power that Nazi theory arrived in Tarutino. Still, there were no physical attacks on Jews.

I became a member of Beitar in an “illegal” manner at the age of nine and a half. This is how it happened: My parents had a calendar on the wall published by “Our Time”. Every page in the calendar was dedicated to a specific event in Jewish History or to a particular personality with biographical data and a picture added. I remember that when I was only five or six my father lifted me and showed me the picture of Yosef Trumpeldor in a Russian army uniform. He read to me the inscription: “Yosef Trumpeldor, born in Piatogorsk in 1880”. These words are etched in my memory.

In the winter of 1933 I noticed that in Grisha Weismann's yard many young people would gather in the evenings in a rickety shack. My child's inquisitiveness was awakened and I came closer to the shack. I peeked through a hole and saw a picture on the wall which was well–known to me. It was the picture of Yosef Trumpeldor. I dared enter. When Grisha Weismann, one of the leaders of Beitar, asked me why I had entered I replied that I, too, wished to join these young people. Grisha asked how old I was and I replied: nine and a half. Grisha said– come in a half a year when you turn ten because that is the minimum age for membership. I was quite disappointed and I held on my life saver–Trumpeldor. I told Grisha: I know who the man in the picture is and I began to recite: “Yosef Trumpeldor, born in Piatogorsk in 1880”…

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Grisha was surprised with my knowledge and allowed me to join Beitar as an unofficial member. When I brought 10 lei to pay for my monthly membership they would not accept the money because I was not yet an official member in the movement.

Almost all the young people of Tarutino belonged to Beitar. Before that only Maccabi Union had existed. The latter dealt mainly in sports and even had a band which was the pride of Jewish Tarutino. Eventually the two groups merged and became one–Beitar. There had also been a Hashomer Hatzair branch, but when its members made Aliyah the group disintegrated.

The Beitar branch was well supported and by the Jewish residents. We can even say that it was not only the Jewish residents. I remember that on Lag Baomer 1933 there was a parade of all high school students to the hill out of town that we called “Mount Sinai”. A Romanian officer with a troop of soldiers paraded through the gate of honor, decorated with a Hebrew banner. This was done to honor the organized Jewish youth. In Tarutino this was a real holiday and all Jewish stores were closed.

In the best times Beitar had 130 young people organized in different levels. There was a change in the attitude of the Jews towards Beitar after the murder of Arlozorov. I remember the day when my father was reading in “Our Time” an article about the murder. He immediately became angry and shouted at me: “You are not to step into their branch from now on. I forbid it!” Even mother said to Grisha Weismann at the time that her sons were no longer to attend Beitar. I was in shock, but my parents and others in Tarutino believed that if they read in “Our Time” that Revisionist hooligans killed Arlozorov, it must be so. This was the only Jewish newspaper in Bessarabia and everyone believed everything in it was true.

The movement suffered a temporary setback after this episode. In the elections to the Zionist Congress that year 158 from Tarutino voted for list No. 5– the Revisionist list. Only 56 people voted for the General Zionists. It seems the Jews soon saw that there was no truth to the accusation of murder.

I remember another episode from those days: I did some chores for my father and he paid me. I bought two shekels with that money and I gave them to my grandfather and grandmother to use to vote in the elections for Jewish Congress. My grandmother took the shekel and went to the election booth saying she wished to vote for list no.5. When she was asked “Number 5?” she replied “My grandson, Leyzer–Ber told me to do it”. On the other hand, grandfather did not go to vote and when I asked him why, he replied: “Why? Did the Messiah arrive? One does not dance before the wedding”. He meant that one should wait patiently for the Messiah as is written in our holy books.

The young people in Beitar were given a thorough upbringing. One could recognize a member of Beitar by his clothing and his gait. I was very careful with that. This Beitar education helped me in my years of exile in Kazakhstan and allowed me to overcome many difficulties. There were some Beitar members who forgot their upbringing when the Soviets entered. There were some cases of tattling. This breakdown happened to adults as well. “If the flame has fallen among the cedars–what will the wall moss say?”

I believe the Holocaust began not with the entrance of the Germans to Tarutino, but with the coming of the Bolsheviks. They immediately tried to destroy any signs of Judaism and Zionism. The Jews were afraid and we were cautioned not to have any Zionist activity as this could cause a pogrom. When the Soviet tanks entered, our leaders saw them as our saviors. Everyone ran to the Soviet soldiers, including the girls, and they threw flowers on them. There was a wealthy Jewish merchant who opened his store and invited the Soviet soldiers to take whatever they wanted without payment. My branch leader invited me to go greet the Soviet army. I could not accept the atmosphere in the village. I left and went to Bendery, about 80 kilometers from Tarutino. I then went to Kishinev, but I returned six weeks later.

I will never forget one episode. After my return a youngster from the village came to me and said:”Do you know? Our library is now in Weismann's barn”. I went there and I broke out in tears when I saw it. It was probably the first time I cried because in Beitar I was taught to never cry. I remember the three books I saw among the others in the pile.

[Page 294]

These were: “The Heart” by De Amicis, Poems by Haim Nahman Bialik and “The Hunger” by Knute Hansen. I could not hold back my tears. This was a symbol and a warning for what awaited us in the future from the Soviet “Messiahs”.

The saddest part of my life was the period of the Communist regime. I had no illusions about them. I wanted to run away with the Romanian army, but the chairman of the community, Dr. Pollack and the high school principal, Mr. Rosenthal, came to my house and convinced me to stay with my parents. We were to wait for an international committee which would make a list of all the residents who designated where they wished to go. Instead, a committee came to extract the Germans from Tarutino. The Jews had no saviors. In 1941 I was arrested and exiled. I did not even know what my punishment was exactly, but I knew what my “crime” had been. I was listed as a Fascist and there was no relief from that sin. Many others who had been arrested with me were freed, but I remained Kazakhstan for many years.

 

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Eliezer Shulman offers his book “Stories in the Bible” to President Yitzhak Navon in 1941


[Page 295]

Personalities And Charcters In Tarutino

by Shmuel Brilliant

Translated by Ala Gamulka

 

Dr. Yosef Laron (Lerner) z”l

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He was born in Tarutino in 1899. His father was Meir and his mother was Sarah, daughter of Avraham Acher. He studied in the local German high school and after graduation he continued his Hebrew and Judaic studies. His higher education was obtained in Odessa, Iasi and Bucharest. He completed his law degree in Bucharest and in 1924 he began an extensive public career as well as in journalism.

He was active in the Zionist movement from childhood and founded “Flowers of Zion” in Tarutino. In 1918 he was an active member of Zeirei Zion in Kishinev. He returned to Tarutino in 1920 and for a while taught in the Hebrew High School. He was one of the founders of the newspaper “Our Time” and had a regular column in it. For a certain period he was the secretary of the editorial board of the newspaper. He was an outstanding speaker and traveled on behalf of Keren Hayesod throughout Romania. In Iasi he established the Union of Zionist Students and was chosen as chairman of the first Students Conference in Bucharest in 1922. In 1923 he married Dr. Rosa Meirson from Beltz. That year he was also appointed secretary of the Jewish National Fund. He served in that capacity for seven years.

The ties of the family of Yosef Lerner to Tarutino begin in 1890. That year his two grandfathers arrived in Tarutino from Balta and Mariograd and settled there. They were both observant (his father's grandfather was a rabbi in Raigrod) and were well educated. Lerner's father was in textiles as well as the oil and wheat businesses. He was among the first Jews in Tarutino to develop industry in 1910. In 1941 he escaped to Russia with his wife. He was murdered together with her in Turkestan. His sister Hava, a teacher in Rostov, was also slaughtered together with her daughter.

Yosef Lerner was a leader in Zeirei Zion and united it with Poalei Zion. In the united movement he was on the executive committee. He was a candidate for Parliament in 1930 and 1934. He was also a candidate of the Zionist bloc to become vice president of the Jewish Community of Bucharest, vice–chairman of the central Eretz Israel office, a member of the Vaad Hapoel Hazioni (Zionist Workers Committee) and a delegate to many Zionist congresses.

He made Aliyah in 1938 and became a director of a group of insurance companies. When the State of Israel was declared he was appointed to be in charge of the Latin America department in the Economics section of the Jewish Agency. In 1951 he was on staff at the Israeli Consulate in Warsaw. In 1947–1950 he was a Zionist emissary in South America. Among his public assignments, those in the field of art must be especially noted: chairman of Friends of Betzalel and member of the Steering Committee of the Israel Museum. Y.L. published articles in various newspapers in Israel and outside it. He was also the correspondent of ITA in 1924–1931. He used to sign his articles with different names: Y. Lerner, Y. Lamdan, Y. Lamed, Y. Razin, Y. Schwartzman, and Y. Laron. He also wrote articles about insurance in American and British newspapers.

His main hobby was to collect paintings by Jewish artists. His collection was well known. There was an article by Yehuda Ha'ezrachi about it in the monthly Gazit. In his collection, among others, are paintings by Isserles (father and son, Chagall, Hirshenberg, Isidor, Kaufman, Kissling and others.

He died in Jerusalem in 1974 after a difficult illness.

[Page 296]

Mordehai Haklai (Kuris) z”l

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He was born on Tu B'Shvat, 1900 in Tarutino and studied in Heder, high school and advanced courses in Economics in Odessa. He was the secretary of the Tarbut School and the Jewish Public Library. He was also active in Poalei Zion, chairman of Zeirei Zion in Tarutino, delegate to various Zionist councils in the area and also part of Keren Hayesod.

He left Tarutino in 1921 to make Aliyah, but he was detained for some time in Turkey. There he was the secretary of Former Residents of Russia in Turkey. He settled in Eretz Israel in 1921 and in 1923 he married Sarah Feldman. From the day he arrived in the country he saw himself–and was seen by others– as the patron of Former Tarutino residents in Eretz Israel. He helped many with his contacts when they searched for employment. He was one of the first residents of the Borochov community (now Givatayim) and was on the area council for 10 years. In 1928 he opened the first cooperative grocery store and took part in the founding committee of Hamashbir Latzarchan. For some time he served as the chairman of a section of bank employees in the Histadrut. M.H. filled many roles in the field of credit cooperatives and he also served as chairman of the National Institute of Accountants. His public positions were: member of the administrative committee of Kfar Haishuv in the Dan area, member of the committee collecting funds for volunteers, chairman of the national committee of Friends of the university in Givatayim, and chairman of the national council of the Fund for Soldiers. In the fifties he also was chairman of Former Resident of Bessarabia and was instrumental in establishing Kiryat Israel, the area for Bessarabian newcomers.

He died on 15 Tammuz 1958


Public Servants and other
Active Members of the Jewish Community

Translated by Ala Gamulka

The public servants and other active members of the Jewish community in Tarutino are worthy of an extensive discussion on their devoted work. They can serve as examples to public servants of our day. It is also essential that their descendants should know about them and their devotion. Unfortunately there is no one who followed their activities and could write about them. Following are just a few details about some of them who worked loyally for the common good and did their best for the Jewish community in Tarutino.

 

Yehuda Leib Baratz

It is supposed that his family arrived in Tarutino from Lithuania. He stood out in his public service as a central figure in the Jewish community and as a Zionist leader. For a while he ran a Heder and was himself a teacher and educator. He later had a notions store. He was one of the first members of Hovevei Zion in Tarutino. A postcard he sent to Hovevei Zion in Warsaw in the name of the local branch is copied in this book. In it he writes about the development of the organization in Tarutino. He was an educated man and an enthusiastic speaker with great influence on local youth. In a Tarbut conference in Kishinev in September 1922 he brought greetings from the local branch in Tarutino. He was also chosen as a member of the Executive. It can be said that his influence was evident in all aspects of public life in the village.

 

M. Sperling

He was the Principal of the Hebrew High School as of 1926, but after a few years he practiced law in Tarutino. He was well regarded by the community and among his colleagues, Jews and Germans alike. When he appeared in court his words were clear and well thought out and very few people would disagree with him. It is important to add that he never accepted a case that had any shady real estate dealings. He was honest and was appreciated by everyone.

 

Golda and Aaron Schwartzman

Aaron came from a traditional family and continued in the ways of his ancestors. He was a merchant and also served as the Gabbai of the Great Synagogue. He was killed on Yom Kippur by bombs from German aircraft. He was escaping from the Nazi murderers. His wife, Golda, was involved in public life. She was president of a Women's organization called “Women's Auxiliary”. She was also active in Help for the Sick and Help for Poor Brides. Secretly, she helped those who were needy and families that had lost their possessions. She was a beautiful person who collected and wrote down lyrics to Jewish folk songs. She often hummed Goldfaden songs that were performed on stage. She died young.

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Yekutiel Rosenberg

He was an educated Jew, tall and bearded. He was an active Zionist, a community leader and a talented speaker. He served as a Gabbai of the Polish Shul and made sure the cantor would pronounce Hebrew words properly. He was a talented organizer and always invited speakers and lecturers to his synagogue. In 1922 he visited Eretz Israel with a group of Zionist delegates from Tarutino. He met the pioneers from his hometown. In the Beth David Museum in Tel Aviv there is an exhibit of an exchange of letters between him and the famous Zionist leader of the Jews of Bessarabia, Y. Bernstein–Cohen as well as Sh. Bendersky.

 

Rabbi Bronstein

He served as the rabbi of Tarutino in the years 1910–1940. In addition to his deep knowledge of rabbinic lore he also knew Russian and was an educated man. He was an enthusiastic Zionist and he organized observant Jews inside the Zionist movement. He was the first and main speaker at every gathering in the village. His daughter Yocheved was a science teacher in the high school. He influenced Tarutino Jews to not be swept into ultra–Orthodoxy, to wear European clothes and not the long coats.

 

Avraham Rotberg

He was an educated man and was one of the founders of the Hebrew High School. He was active in the Savings and Loan Fund and national funds. He was a member of the municipal committee and wrote all his letters in Hebrew. His brother, Yosef, was one of the founders of the Borochov District and one of the first pioneers from Tarutino to have made Aliyah in 1920. His two sons and their families live in the State. His youngest daughter died here.

The two sons of Yosef Rotberg were: Aaron Sela, z”l who was the General Commander of the Police and Colonel Haim Sela, z”l who died in the Peace to the Galil War together with Major Yekutiel Adam.

 

Levi Fanish

He arrived in Tarutino in 1919. He had graduated from Herzliah High School in Tel Aviv, Third graduating class. For various reasons he ended up in Tarutino where he married Paula, daughter of M. Goldenberg. He was the principal of the Hebrew High School. He was totally devoted to national Hebrew education and many Tarutino natives who are now in Israel still praise him.

The beginning of our national education came from him. He was a fanatic about the Hebrew language and only spoke Hebrew with his students. If a student forgot his knowledge of Hebrew, Fanish would refuse to speak any other language. We remember in particular our outings with him on Lag Baomer to “Mount Sinai” outside of the village as well as the discipline he instilled in the school. In the mornings, before classes began, all the students would gather at the entrance to pray “Modeh Ani”. They then marched to class to the tune of “You are our homeland”.

 

Nahum Sirota

He was active in all Zionist, community and cultural institutions in Tarutino. He was among the founders of the Hebrew High School and also its treasurer throughout its existence. He was born in Tarutino in 1886. His house was open to all Zionist emissaries who would stay with him. It must be noted that he organized an amateur band in Tarutino. They played, voluntarily, for charity events as well as at weddings of poor people. He was active in the Revisionist party. He made Aliyah in 1972 and he died

 

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