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[Page 311]

Artsyz my Town

by Arie Kleitman

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Our town was a small town. According to the census conducted by the Russian authorities in 1897, its population numbered 1728 residents, 337 of them Jews – 18.4%. In 1930, the Romanians, then the rulers of the region, held a general census and this time the number of residents was 2951, 842 of them Jews, which was 28.5% of the population. The Christian population was not homogeneous: the majority – 60 percent – were Germans, and the rest Bulgarians, Romanians etc.

Most of the Germans, who were brought by the Russians at the beginning of the 19th century, were farmers, and the Jews, as was the situation in other Bessarabia towns, were engaged mostly in commerce and craftsmanship. The local soil was rich, but its cultivation was quite primitive. Yet, in a good year the soil yielded some 200 pood [unit of weight] grains to the hectare. Vegetables and fruits were abundant. Once a week, on Tuesday, was “market day” and the peasants from the region came to Artsyz, sold their crops and bought all their necessities, from needle–and–thread to cattle. The Jews were a very important factor on these market days, as well as among the grain traders, who were called “Cerealists.”

The town had two elementary schools, of 7 grades each. One was Romanian and was free of tuition; the other was a Hebrew school of the Tarbut chain, where tuition was paid. It can be said, that this school was the glory and pride of Artsyz. The mere fact that such a small Jewish community could maintain a Hebrew school was undoubtedly a great achievement, enabled by the devotion of the parents and the Zionists in town and thanks to the principal of the school, Mrs. Misia Chananovna Bilostotzkaia. D. Vinitzki, in his book “Jewish Bessarabia” provides numbers about the school in the 1930–1931 school year: the kindergarten employed one kindergarten teacher for 11 children and its yearly budget was 29.000 Lei, and the school employed 4 teachers in 6 grades, with 95 pupils. The yearly budget of the school was 328.000 Lei. In D. Vinitzki's words: “Two small towns served as an example for others, in their organization and readiness to carry the school budget and pay the teachers a good salary, in spite of the small number of students: Artsyz in the Akkerman district and Rany in the Ismail district. Artsyz, of 170 Jewish families, kept for many years a kindergarten and a seven–grade elementary school, only thanks to the few well–to–do parents (the Yankelewitz, Freink and other families), who were ready to pay

 

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Lag Ba'omer festivities of the Hebrew School in Artsyz, grades 1 to 7, with the teachers and the principal Mrs. Belstotzki (in the center). The year 1935.

 

[Page 312] a double and triple sum as tuition, compared to the other towns.”

The community imposed an obligatory tax for the support of the school; the tax applied, as well, to the parents who sent their children to the Romanian school. On the other hand, the principal of the school filled not only her own job: she was at the same time secretary, accountant, etc. of the school; all this, in addition to teaching (mathematics and geography) and doing the regular principal's work. In her devotion to the school and her diligence she was an example for all.

When the children finished the local school they usually continued their study at the Magen David School in Kishinev, or in other places. Some of them became famous; among them it is worth mentioning Professor Yehuda Pausner, a famous heart surgeon in the Beilinson and Tel Hashomer hospitals, who had been a pupil of the school in our little town. Also the composer and conductor Shika Aharonowitz, who is now in the USSR, was one of the pupils of the school. I would like to mention one of the excellent teachers at the school, Weissman, who lives now in Israel. He came to us from Kishinev and soon gained fame as an outstanding teacher and educator; he won the hearts of his students and paid great attention to each and every one of them. His lessons were fascinating, no wonder that none of his students failed at exams. He knew how to arouse interest in any subject that he taught.

 

The Jewish Community

The Jewish community in Artsyz was considered one of the best organized communities in Bessarabia – and rightly so. It left its impression in all areas of Jewish life. The only synagogue in town, which was supported by the community, was comfortable and large enough to accommodate all, except during the High Holidays, when it was necessary to organize prayers in some of the private houses. The prayers were led by the Rabbi R'Yeshayahu–Mendel Geiser or by the shochet [slaughterer] R'Leizer Kolomyeski, both well–versed in all matters of religious ceremony. For the Holidays the community hired the cantor Avigdor Polonski, who was blessed with a pleasant tenor voice, and he would lead the prayers. In the thirties, his young son joied him, and the congregation enjoyed them both. To this day, my ears resound with the beautiful prayers of the cantor and his son, every person in the room following every sound. Although the fee requested by this cantor was higher than usual, the Artsyz congregation preferred his services.

It should be stressed, that the community never forgot the needy in its midst, and the council organized “progressive taxes” – the rich being asked to pay a higher tax. Among those who helped the poor in many ways, especially by “giving secretly” [matan baseter] we shall mention in particular R'Avraham Gurfil z”l.

Whenever he heard about a family in need he hurried and sent his people to help them, on the explicit condition that they do not divulge the source of help. I can testify on that – since I served as R'Avraham Gurfil's “good messenger” [Sheliach mitzvah] to a family whose daughter was about to get married and they did not have the means to organize the wedding. I brought to this family 5,000 Lei, which was considered a large sum at the time, without revealing to the family who their saving angel was. R'Avraham did not make any distinction between Jew and Christian, and in many cases he helped Christians as well. During the Soviet occupation, when the NKVD arrested him and his family as “capitalists” many Christians went to the commander asking to release them. “He gave his money to the aid of the poor” – the Christians pleaded – but it did not help. He and his family were sent to Siberia, and his wife died in the Siberia steppes.

The Artsyz community participated in the general activity of the Bessarabian Jewish communities. In A. Feldman's book, mentioned above, we read that delegates from the Artsyz Jewish community participated in the Conference of Jewish Communities in Romania, held in Bucharest in 1930, in a regional conference of Southern Bessarabia communities held in Romanovka in 1935 (whose main topic on the agenda was finding the means to overcome the heavy hunger in the region following years of drought) and other conventions. In the first Bessarabia Economical Conference, held in Kishinev on 3 December 1935, the Artsyz delegates were I. Schusterman and I. Hellman. In the second convention of the communities, which took place in 1936, one of the Artsyz delegates, I. Schusterman, was elected to the Council.

 

The Zionist Activity

The first immigrants to Eretz Israel from Artsyz made Aliya in the early twenties, after the First World War. However, part of them returned since the difficult economic conditions in the Land have not enabled them to become part of the Eretz Israel settlement. Among the first to make Aliya were: Shlomo Abramowitz, Yosef Brener, Berl Portnoy and others. In the early thirties a new Zionist wave began, with the organization of the youth movements: Hashomer Hatza'ir, Gordonia and Brit Trumpeldor. Many of the youth movements' members went to a “training camp” on a farm in Ambrovka, 35 Km. from Artsyz, and when their training was completed they received “certificates” and made Aliya. Obviously, the youth movements have not grown on barren soil; they were the result of the Zionist atmosphere in town and the Zionist activity of the adults. In the Encyclopedia of the Bessarabia Jews we read that already in 1899 a delegate (or delegates) of the Artsyz Zionists participated in the Regional Zionist Convention in Kishinev, as well as in the regional Zionist Conventions in Bender and Akkerman. From the twenties of the 20th century we have more detailed knowledge about Zionist activity: we know, for example, about the sale of shares of Bank Hapo'alim by a messenger of the Tze'irei Zion Center, in 1922. David Ravelski,

[Page 313]

while fulfilling this mission, visited Artsyz as well. In general, Artsyz was active in the contribution to the various Zionist funds. For example, in 1928, a year of drought in Bessarabia, Artsyz donated to JNF 40,316 Lei and to Keren Hayesod 88,750 Lei. In 1939, when anti–Semitic activity in Romania increased, the Artsyz Jews contributed to the National Funds 178,028 Lei – a notable increase compared to other years.

 

The Relations between the Jews and the Germans

Until the thirties, the relations between the two groups in Artsyz were friendly and the cooperation between them correct. However, as the Nazis came to power in Germany, pamphlets in German inciting against Jews began to arrive to Artsyz, and the local commercial relations and cooperation between Jews and Germans stopped gradually. The Germans opened more and more shops and the Jewish merchants and store owners were restricted. In the encyclopedia mentioned above, Theodore Lavie describes the relationship in the following words: “In Artsyz, a German woman visited the Jewish doctor Korol. Since she belonged to a pre–military unit, she was brought to a court of the Nazi party and was reprimanded and lowered in rank. In order to be restituted to her former rank she was forced to issue a complaint against the Jewish doctor, the pharmacist Caushanski and other Jews in Artsyz. In the complaint she stated that the Jews have given her money to conduct propaganda against the country. The Jews were arrested and kept several days in jail.” The attorney B. Klepner, who was sent by the Jewish National Party to examine the situation of the Jews in Southern Bessarabia, found in Artsyz 225 Jews, who lived “in conditions of poverty and hunger.” The signs of destruction had already begun to show, and no doubt caused many young people to seek Aliya to the Zionist and pioneering country.

 

akk313a.jpg
A memorial stone for part of the Artsyz Jews, murdered in 1942

The names of the people engraved on the stone: Debelman Hersch–Ber, Debelman Esther, Zavgorski Malka, Zavgorsli Luca, Glickman Sosa, Goldner Shmuel,
Goldner Sara, Goldner Moshe, Reznik Chaika, Schwarzman Velvel, Karol Nachman, Benderski Yankel, Gon Esther, Riess Aharon

 

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The teachers of the Hebrew School in Artsyz and the kindergarten–teacher (second from left)

 

[Page 314]

 

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A group of Artsyz Jews. The photograph is from 1938

 

akk314b.jpg
A cheap kitchen in Artsyz in 1936 (the kitchen was near the school)
Standing are the members of the committee, from right to left: Avraham Pausner, Melech Margolies, the teacher Ritech, Helman
The women in the committee (on the left side of the photo) from right to left: Perlmutter, Litman Rachel, Abramowitz, G. Shivitz, Kos, Katz

 

akk314c.jpg
An assembly of public activists in a forest in Artsyz
Sitting from right to left: Unidentified, Klozeski, Kiprosser, Kapelman, unidentified, Pausner
The rest are unidentified. The second from left is Chaia Ita Pausner

 

[Page 315]

 

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The Tarbut School in Artsyz
Sitting are the teachers, from right to left: Chaia Ita Pausner, the principal Blostotzkaia, Marlin, Grishnog, Tzeitin–Zhemni

 

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The Hashomer Hatza'ir branch in Artsyz

 

[Page 316]

 

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The Hebrew School in 1922

 

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The kindergarten with the kindergarten–teacher in Artsyz

 

[Page 317]

Prof. Yehuda Pausner z”l

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He was born in Russia in 1910 and after the 1917 Revolution his parents Aba–Moshe and Chana z”l relocated to Bessarabia and settled in Artsyz. He finished his secondary studies “cum laude” and in 1929 went to Belgium, studied medicine and was certified as a doctor there.

He made Aliya to Eretz Israel in 1938 and began his medical career as a doctor in the Choma Umigdal settlements in the Bet She'an Valley. Later he worked in the Beilinson Hospital in Petach–Tikva and was among the first founders and doctors in the Tel Hashomer Hospital, with his friend Prof. Chaim Shiva z”l. In Tel Hashomer he was the head of the department of chest and heart surgery until his retirement.

Prof. Pausner was also among the founders of the School of Medicine of Tel Aviv University and the head of its Department of Surgery. Many well–known doctors were his students. His many scientific publications added to his fame in the country and abroad, and he was often invited to important scientific conferences.

Until the sixties he served as a military doctor as well and was appointed as chairman of the Superior Medical Committee of the Ministry of Defense.

Returning in his car from a meeting of the medical staff in Tel Hashomer, Prof. Pausner suffered a heart attack and died on 17 November 1968, at the age of 68. He left his wife, Jenia, a son David and a daughter Chana, both doctors.

May his memory be blessed.

 

[Page 318]

 

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