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[Page 327]

Dr. Solomon Shalem

by Binyamin Gieker

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

He was a well–known doctor on Tatarbunar, but first of all he was a human being, in the full sense of the word. His pleasant ways and his fatherly attitude toward any patient instantly removed a large part of the aches and pains. He responded to any call, day or night, even when he was certain that he might not receive any recompense for his work. More than that: more than once has he paid for the medicines, when he realized that the patient was in need. Healing the sick he considered a holy humane mission. Everybody knew him, and as he walked in town with his wide hat in the summer and his fur cap in the winter, leaning on his heavy walking stick, every person saluted him with respect.

He was always working, since he was the doctor of the Jewish and Christian population; in particular on Sundays and Christian Holidays, when people celebrated and drank, and from the quarrels many came out hurt and wounded… Often he served as arbiter in disputes between Jews or between Jews and non–Jews, since all respected his reasoning, and his decisions were never contested. For these arbitrations he was also never paid.

His library was full of medicine books and art books, and he was busy reading every free hour. Many used his library, and in his will he bequeathed it to the local doctors and to the general library of the Community.

We should also mention his wife, a very intelligent lady who devoted much of her time to public and Zionist activity in the framework of various organizations. Their two sons, Leonia and Mark, both university graduates, served as teachers. His only daughter, who had been my friend and my school–mate in high–school, is still living now in the Soviet Union, alone and without a family.

 

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The Ladies' Committee in Tatarbunar

The picture was taken on the occasion of the return of the Rabbanit [the Rabbi's wife] Posk from a visit in Eretz Israel

 

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A group of Gordonia members

 

[Page 328]

My home in Tatarbunar

by Riva Zukerman – Silberman

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The Jewish community in Tatarbunar was a lively community, blessed with activity – and most of its members were Zionists. My father z”l, Zvi Silberman, was born in Akkerman and for some time he was teacher in Tarotino. From his early youth he was active in the Zionist movement and he represented the town at Zionist meetings in Kishinev. In 1902 he took part in the Congress of Russian Zionist in Minsk, with the participation of Dr. Herzl. At this important and historic congress he was one of the two delegates from Southern Bessarabia. After he married Feiga Glickman from Tatarbunar he moved to his wife's town and became active in all areas, until his Aliya in 1934.

My father was blessed with writing talent and published articles in the newspapers of those days. He witnessed the pogrom in the town Biremtcha at the beginning of this century and expressed in writing the horrible sights that he has seen. He published in the Russian newspaper that appeared in Bucharest, in Unzer Zeit in Kishinev and he also sent articles to a Jewish newspaper in distant Harbin, where a great number of Jews who fled from the 1917 revolution, had found shelter. His articles and stories were filled with love of Zion and of the Jewish people.

Our home was wide open to all and served as a meeting place for Zionist assemblies. Father would host delegates from the Kishinev Center, and since he was one of the founders of the local Hebrew School and kindergarten, meetings and discussions about Jewish education in town were often held in our home, with the participation of teachers and other people involved in education. Father wrote reviews and plays, for performances held in school for the students and in town for the general public. They were usually accompanied by songs and melodies written by Ladyzhenski. The teacher Titinschneider was the director of these performances, which educated many and prepared them for Aliya.

In 1922, as the San–Remo declaration – which affirms the British Mandate in Eretz Israel – was made public, father received a telegram from the Jewish Center in Kishinev (I still have the telegram) and he organized a festive parade in town in honor of this event. All Tatarbunar Jews marched, dressed festively and carrying blue–white flags, danced in the street and handed out flowers. Father gave a speech, and he didn't need a loud speaker to be heard. The German authorities were liberal at that time and permitted unlimited Zionist activity.

In 1932, the youth movement Gordonia was founded in Tatarbunar, and all young people in our family joined. Father helped as well, and he would speak about the history of Zionism. My brother, Yosef Silberman, followed in the steps of father, was very active in Gordonia and founded a new branch in Kiliya. An article by father about the Gordonia meeting in the summer of 1933 in the Akkerman District was published in the newspaper “Bessarabskaia Slovo” that appeared in Kishinev, and is included in this book.

Four years our father lived and was active in Eretz Israel, he helped the writer and poet Yakov Fichman and supported Moznaiym, the magazine of the Writers' Association, edited by Fichman.

 

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A group of Gordonia members in Tatarbunar

Sitting from right to left: Moshe Kogan, Zev Binenbaum (from Akkerman), Specterman Yosef
Standing from right to left: Schusterman, Peretz, Riva Silberman, Arie Shochat, Shoshana Silberman, Elik Liebman, Rozha

 

[Page 329]

The Gordonia Congress
(From an article by Zvi Silberman in the Russiann newspaper “Bessarabskaia Slovo,” 1937)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

This week, the Gordonia Congress of Southern Bessarabia took place in the Bet–Ha'am [People's House] in Tatarbunar. 90 delegates participated, from the branches: Akkerman, Birmatcha Serta, Tatarbunar, Kilia, Ismail Bulagdard, Tchedar–Longa, Komart, Romanovka and Liova, as well as 140 halutzim [pioneers], former members of Gordonia. One of the delegates, Chaim Yankelewitz from Kilia, missed the truck that went to the Congress on foot – walked 50 km. to Tatarbunar, and reached it exactly at the time of opening.

The chairman of the Congress was Binyamin Gershfeld from Akkerman. The representatives of the public institutions and of the Zionist organization in Tatarbunar extended greetings: Dr. Wollman, Dr. Fishman, Weissman, Gardenychik, Rabbi Posk, Dr. Komarovski, Schwerin and Zvi Silberman…

Mr. Elkana Margalit, member of the General Management of Gordonia in Romania, lectured on the topic: “Between Coercion and Freedom.” He exhibited much wisdom and talent as speaker.

The festive opening of the congress – which was open to the general public – ended with Zionist songs and folk–dancing. After that the discussions and lectures began, continuing three days, and decisions were taken; the main topic of the discussions was the organizational problems of the movement. The concluding lecture was given by A. Margalit, on the subject: “Birobidjean or Eretz Israel.” The lecture left a strong impression on all listeners.

The participants in the Congress left full of enthusiasm and satisfaction, their hearts filled with feelings of hope and encouragement concerning the future of the Zionist and pioneer movement.

 

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Students of the High–School in Tatarbunar

[Page 330]

On the eve of the Second Zionist Congress that took place in 1898 in Basel, 20 Zionists from Tatarbunar sent the following letter of greetings (in the form of a poem) to Dr. Herzl:

The Zionist in the town Tatarbunar, Bessarabia district, hereby present greetings and blessings to the elected members of the Congress in Basel and to our most respected Chairman Dr. Theodore Herzl:

May our blessings cover his head
May God be with him,
He Who sits in Heaven
Shall give him His blessings
For the well–organized Congress.
From this Congress
Learning will emerge
For all those who are expecting its light.
We shall keep away from any jealousy,
From any competition or hate,
That are coming from Satan,
And we shall witness miracles
As in the time of the Exodus from Egypt.

May God give you a long life on this Earth.

 

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The letter of greetings in the form of a poem, from the Nes–Ziona Association in Bandar to Herzl

 

[Page 331]

The Keepers of the Flame
(In memory of those who keep the candle of the Tatarbunar community still burning)

by Berurya Har–Zion

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

In 1966, I went with my husband on a visit to Russia. When we arrived in Kishinev, uncle Avraham and aunt Batia came from Tatarbunar to meet us. My uncle was very ill, suffered from very high blood–pressure. The family begged him not to make the 12–hour trip from Tatarbunar to Kishinev, but he insisted and argued that one dies only once. Maybe it was this time for him, he said, but maybe he will have the good luck to see the children who had come from Israel – the trouble and the risk were worthwhile.

He was privileged and he met us. Since he had to be in bed, I would sit with him every day and answer his questions about relatives and acquaintances from Tatarbunar who had made Aliya to Eretz Israel. He was very happy to meet with us, thanked us for the presents we brought, and asked secretly, when we were alone: I hope you also brought what I asked you specially to bring. I felt a tremor over my entire body. Before we left, we received a letter from our uncle, asking us to bring him a prayer book [siddur]. I explained that many have warned us and advised not to take anything that would compromise us or our family. My uncle did not accept the explanation and said:

It is a pity, Manitchka, a pity. You know that I never was very religious. Only on the Days of Awe [Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur] I went to the synagogue. But now times have changed. We have lived through the terrible Holocaust and we have grown old. We collected some money in town to build a synagogue. Twenty people gave each a promissory note. The authorities gave us a small room, which was to serve as a synagogue and also as a meeting place for the few Jews in town, to listen on the radio to news about Israel, to keep up the “Jewish spark,” to tell each other our troubles and worries, to be together. There are still two Jews among us, who remember the silver–covered prayer book and the etrog [citrus fruit] that you sent me before the war. When I told them that I am traveling to Kishinev to meet relatives from Eretz Israel, they said to me: Avrum, we hope that your niece will bring us a prayer book. It is true that there is still one of us who knows all the prayers by heart and he also has an old and torn prayer book, but what will happen if that Jew, nicknamed Zalman the Red, will one day return his soul to his Maker? Then we will lose the last drop of Jewishness. Everything will end. Now you understand why I – and not only I – waited so impatiently for you and for the prayer book that you will bring me? And now you came and did not bring a siddur – – – – –

 

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The Women's Committee in Tatarbunar

[Page 332]

Thus spoke my uncle, and his words were like stabs of swords in my heart. I saw in my uncle the last “keeper of the flame” – I was ashamed that I did not fulfill his request. I decided: be as it may – I have to fulfill his wish, which may be the last wish of the few remaining Jews in Tatarbunar.

After his sad words, I said to him: Don't despair, uncle, I will do everything to obtain a siddur for you. I will ask my friends, perhaps some of them has brought one and doesn't need it, maybe Shmuel will succeed to obtain one in Moscow and we will send it to you. Don't worry, the prayer book will be here.

Shmuel promised me that he will do all he can. The ambassador Katriel Katz was his friend, and he will certainly help. Indeed, when we came to Moscow we received a prayer–shawl, two pairs of Tefillin [phylacteries], two mahzorim [prayer–books for the High Holidays] and eight mezuzot. We were very excited, but we also feared: how will be able to hide all these things in our hotel? I said to the cleaning woman that she was working too hard and asked her not to clean our room, since we were only two people and we don't make a mess. I also gave her some nylon socks as a present. She didn't know how to thank me for that. I wrote immediately to my cousins asking them to be at the train station at a certain hour since I have to return something that I had taken by mistake. When we arrived at the Kishinev train station we were amazed to see hundreds of people, who had come to say “farewell” to the Israelis who were leaving and to hear the song Hevenu Shalom Aleichem. I embraced my cousin Nelly and gave her the parcel, wrapped in the “Pravda” newspaper. I felt relieved.

I waited a long time for some sign that the parcel had reached its destination; the sign arrived, albeit a little late. My aunt Batia wrote: “Good children do not forget their mother even if they live far away, Greetings to the good sons, who promise and do not forget their promise.” We were glad that we had the good fortune to fulfill this small mission for the Tatarbunar Jews, the last to “keep the flame.”

 

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Meeting in Haifa of former residents of Akkerman

 

[Page 333]

The Double Miracle

by Berurya Har–Zion

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

During our visit in 1966 in Kishinev we heard several stories from our aunt Batia Wilk from Tatarbunar. Below is one of these stories, which, in my opinion, deserves to be published so that many people could read it

And this is what our aunt told:

It happened during the war. My husband Avraham was in the army, and I with my three children lived in the Kolkhoz Azbekikova Tzotkovski, in the Rostov District. Our life was not easy. Almost the entire population was old men and women, who were not recruited to the army. Every morning we would go out in the field, to gather grass and roots, remnants from last year's crop, and I was ready to do any hard work if it would enable me to feed my children.

One day, several German soldiers appeared, with the command: All people in the Kolkhoz should assemble at the train station, to go on a trip. We had no doubts about the nature of this “trip,” but we had no choice and we joined all the others. The girls were 16 and 18, but the boy Izia was young and sick with a high fever. We walked slowly until we reached a corn field. That year it was a good crop and the corn was taller than a man's height. As we walked, Izia fainted and collapsed, and we decided to stay with him, since we realized that we had nothing to lose. We were so tired that we all fell asleep. We were at a distance from the others. My mother came to me in my dream (I knew that she was dead a long time) and I burst in tears: Mother, save my children, we are taken to be murdered! Mother looked at me with a look that I shall never forget: “Go straight until you come near a very tall tree. From there turn and go left, never go to the right, only left” she said and disappeared, and I woke up crying so loudly that the children woke up as well.

We drank some water, ate some sweet corn and started to walk. Soon we reached a tall tree, and as my mother instructed me, we went to the left. According to the soldiers' command we should have gone to the right, but we preferred to listen to mother.

We kept on walking after darkness fell. The children said that we had lost our way, and I myself didn't know where we were and where we were going. When day came, we saw in front of us a small town. We went in the direction of that place and several hours later we reached the kolkhoz that we had left the day before. Some people seeing us crossed themselves in wonder “How have you escaped” – they asked – “all were killed.” How could I explain?

We continued living in great fear among the few gentiles. Soon I received a message that I should come immediately to the post office. Somebody was looking for us. My first thought was: we have been discovered. They probably didn't find us among those who were killed and now they have come to take us.

I decided to go to the post office without the children. As I arrived, I was told to sign, since there was a parcel waiting for me. I was embarrassed and frightened: a parcel? Who knew where I was? It could be only from Eretz Israel. I opened the little parcel and my eyes lit up: needles, sewing thread, pins of various sizes, razor blades, shoe strings etc. I had an idea: I took one of the needles and showed to a neighbor. “This is a treasure nowadays – how did you get it?” And so we made a deal: In return of a few needles and some sewing yarn I received a little milk, some potatoes, beets and a piece of pumpkin. So we managed to stay alive, thanks to these deals, thanks to the treasure that had come from Eretz Israel.

So you see – my aunt ended her story – a double miracle happened to us: thanks to my mother's instructions in my dream and thanks to the parcel you sent from Eretz Israel, we are alive today.

 

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