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Chapter 2

Zionism and Youth Movements

 

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The Zionist Organization

by Y. Amitzur

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

When was the Zionist organization established in our town? The people of that generation and the one following are no longer alive, and no lists nor transcripts of meetings remain. However it seems that Zionist activity existed in our town already in the early days of Hibat Zion (Lovers of Zion – an early group of those wishing to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael). According to hearsay, we know that the first members of the enlightenment in Brichany supported this movement. Even when Dr. Herzl took an active part in Zionism there was already an active Zionist association in town that grew and spread after the first Zionist Congress. The activities included selling “Shkalim” the proceeds being sent to Eretz Yisrael, many shares in the “Colonial–Bank” were sold, Zionist information and publicity assemblies were held. The leaders of Zionism included: Avraham Kleinman, Moshe Rozenblat, Moshe Lerner, Shlomo Veinstein, Hershl Shteinberg, Moshe Kizhner (Raitzes), the official rabbi Yehuda Bershetzbeski and others. At that time the Zionist synagogue Sha'arei Zion was founded and became the meeting place of the Zionists on Sabbaths and holidays, during the prayers and after. Next to the synagogue, a reading room was opened that received all the newspapers that were published in Hebrew or Yiddish: Hashiloah, Hapardes, Hamelitz, Hatzfira, Der Friend, Der Yud and others. The beginning of a Zionist library was started but it lasted only a few years. In the assemblies, most of which were held in the synagogue, serious questions in the sphere of Zionism were discussed often involving stormy debates. Of course, there were those who followed Herzl and others who leaned towards Ahad Ha'am.

The Uganda controversy and the death of Dr. Herzl caused a complete cease in the Zionist activity in town. A large majority of the Zionists in Brichany accepted the view of Dr. Herzl in the question of Uganda, and the Zionai Zion – as the opponents of Uganda were called – were in general not among them. After the seventh Zionist Congress these opponents discontinued their Zionist activity.

The death of Herzl was a very great loss and the mourning encompassed the whole town. On the day of his funeral almost all the stores were closed and the people thronged to the great synagogue for an assembly of mourning. The heder did not have studies that day and the children and their teachers also came to the synagogue. To the best of my recollection, the official rabbi Yehuda Bershtzveski and Avraham Kleinman eulogized him. During the eulogy many sounds of crying were heard and there was a deep feeling of a generation that was orphaned.

This assembly was, as it turned out, to be the last Zionist activity for many years.

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The Zionist organization in Brichany ceased to exist. The strength and activity of the few remaining Zionist faithful weakened markedly. Enthusiasm dissipated and there was no one who could instill life into those dry bones. Although the crisis influenced the entire Zionist movement, the consequences in other places were not as destructive as in our town. The enlightened youth in town shunned Zionism. A wave of studies and enlightenment swept the youth and they thronged to the big cities, especially to Odessa, whether for studies in the gymnasia or external courses. Everyone studied or was in a feverish state of examinations or preparations for them. A matriculation certificate, a diploma – that was now the ambition of every boy and girl and their middle class parents. There were those who succeeded in receiving the desired certificate and even a few who continued to the university.

Along with this change came a process of remoteness from the cultural sources of Judaism. The youth preferred the Russian language and literature that displaced Yiddish and became the language spoken by the intelligent and semi–educated youth. The mere fact that people spoke Russian became a clear sign that they were “intelligent”.

A part of the Jewish youth who continued their education, and actually it was the good element, was drawn to the revolutionary movement gathering momentum then in Russia, and they completely denied the values of their own people and its needs. It should be noted that all the Jewish socialists in our town belonged to the Russian political party “Iskara”, and no Jewish socialist party managed to draw members and sympathizers – not Poalai Zion nor Saimistim nor the Bund. Thus, the hearts of our socialist youth were closer to the Russian people, the Russian worker, Russian music – and they distanced themselves intentionally or not, from anything Jewish.

The year 1911 – 1912, saw the beginning of a turning point in Zionist activity. In that year a new Zionist organization called Ivria was established. The initiators and leaders were Yehoshua Kahat and Aharon Steinhaus who were joined by the teachers David Milisman and Avraham Frankl. Every Shabbat and sometimes on a weekday, the members of the organization met for discussions about Zionist issues, listened to lectures and learned some Jewish history. That winter – for the first time – a festive Hanuka party was held, which left a great impression on the youth. Also, a Zionist advocate, Moshe Shohet, sponsored by the Hovevai Zion in Odessa, came to our town. He stayed in town for almost two weeks and every evening he gave a speech in a different synagogue. Thus it was discovered that many were attracted to Zionist speeches – hundreds of people came every evening to hear the words of Moshe Shohet. The spirit of the few Zionists in town was lifted, and they began renewed activity. As a result, more than two hundred persons registered as members in the organization, Hovevai Zion. Aharon Steinhaus was appointed the power of attorney of the administering committee. Zionist activity was reactivated as in the past – assemblies, collection of money at weddings and every family gathering, and collection plates on Yom Kippur, etc.

After a short time, Yaakov Steinhaus (Amizur) initiated the establishment of

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Activists of Keren Hayesod in Brichany with a delegation of Keren Hayesod, 1924

 

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a second Zionist organization called Hatehiya (revival). The largest group in this organization consisted of those who were dissatisfied with the activities of the Ivria. Hatehiya differed from the Ivria in that it had fewer members, however they were all unified, fervent Zionists, active and more persevering in their work for Zionism. It also lasted longer and didn't cease its operations even during the hardest times of the First World War. It became a place where devoted Zionist activists were formed, and in due time it constituted the first nucleus of Young Zionists in town.

The eruption of the First World War prevented any organized Zionist activity. But the nucleus of Hatehiya continued to be united as before and continued its work under stringent underground conditions. Of course, not many know today that in those years, years of darkness and fear, a reading room existed in the home of Shmuel Feldsher, with Zionist literature in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian and also Russian–Yiddish newspapers that were published at that time such as, Ruzviet, Yevraiskaya Misil, Novy Veshod. Newspapers in Hebrew and Yiddish weren't published owing to a government prohibition. Meetings of Hatehiya continued in secret and even literary parties were held although unknown to the authorities.

In February 1917 the great Russian revolution broke out. The Czar was removed from power and people were drunk with happiness and liberty. Immediately we started a great momentum to organize Zionist work. Then the party Tzeirei Zion was founded by a small group of Hatehiya. These were veteran members and also Hershel Kramer, who although he was not from our town, lived there during the war to avoid the military draft. Kramer had friends in the intelligentsia in Brichany. He had a talent for public speaking that was helpful to him when he was chosen to head the Tzeirei Zion during those stormy months. Later he left the movement joining Poalei Zion and then quickly left it, and during the October revolution he became an enthusiastic Communist. Tzeirei Zion began widespread activities including assemblies for the members and the public, lectures and parties, selling the Shekel and doing work for the Keren Kayemet. In addition, they sent representatives to all the institutions in town and for the first time also to the Soviet (the Council for workers, soldiers and the intelligentsia) that was established by socialist groups and with time spread to all spheres of life in Brichany.

The General Zionists were also involved in various public areas and daily Zionist activity. There was close cooperation between the two groups and Zionist activities were determined by a committee chosen by both groups. The most active of the General Zionists were Moshe Gevalder, Moshe Wieseltier, Aharon Steinhaus, Shalom Kilimnik, Yehiel Cherkes, Avraham Ber”g, Zusia Zilber, Avraham Frankl and others.

Among the Tzeirei Zion, the most active were Yosef Feldsher, Ben–Zion Melechzon, Mordehai Shneider, Arye Bary, Hershel Kramer, Yakov Steinhaus (Amitzur) and others.

There was much bustle preparing for the Pan–Russian Jewish Conference that met in Petrograd on May 24, 1917. The goal of this conference was to unite the Zionist camp

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and express the ambitions and desires of Russian Jewry. At first, the Tzeirai Zion wanted that the representative from Brichany to the conference should be chosen from among their members, however they had just begun their development and hadn't as yet found a firm public position; therefore they withdrew this claim. Avraham Frankl was selected and sent to the conference. When he returned an assembly was called to hear his report. Many attended the assembly, which was accompanied by high spirits.

From day to day the number of new members in Tzeirai Zion increased. Their clubhouse, which was located on one of the main streets, was full of people at all hours of the day and night. Among them were visitors, Jewish soldiers from the nearby army camps, and also Jews from among the captive Austrians. The campaign of distributing the Shekel (a contribution to the Zionist cause) was very successful. Many hundreds of Shekels were sold without hardly any effort. Every activity, whether in the area of information or publicity, or among the youth or fundraising, was met with success.

Here, we should discuss the relations between the Soviet and us. Around the time of the beginning of the revolution, Soviets were established in the large cities of Russia, and also in Brichany a local Soviet was founded by the socialists. Its function was to protect and preserve the achievements of the revolution. However, in our town the word intelligentsia was added to the name and was called, the Council of Representatives of the Workers, Farmers, the Army and the Intelligentsia. And why was this done? Due to the fact that in reality, the principle bases for the Council was lacking in Brichany – there was almost no revolutionary proletariat in town, the farmers weren't interested in a Soviet, and at that time there were no army camps nearby (only 2 – 3 months later a temporary camp was set up not far from town). Thus this Soviet had to base itself on the intelligentsia.

The leaders of the Soviet were Katia Gintzburg, Yasha Zilber, Moshe Zilberman, Wolf Kizhner, Dr. Rahel Goldshtein, Motl Breitman and others.

The Soviet invited representatives of Tzeirai Zion, as the Labor Party that espoused socialism, to cooperate with them. Three representatives were chosen, Hershel Kramer, Yosef Feldsher and Yaakov Steinhaus (Amitzur). Right from the start the heads of the Soviet were not supporters of our representatives. They were not included in any committee, their demands were ignored, their suggestions were almost never brought to discussion because they were removed from the agenda just by a show of hands. When the differences of opinion and arguments increased, Yaakov Steinhaus (Amitzur) read a pre–prepared declaration after which our members left the Soviet.

The hostile attitude towards any Zionist activity appeared in the daily newspaper, Izvestia, that was published by the local Soviet. Open criticism of Zionism and its activities was not printed, instead informative reports about them were written with disparagement and distortion of the facts. The editor

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of the newspaper was Motl Breitman, who was at that time a member of Tzeirai Zion. He was called to an inquiry and was finally removed from the membership.

Although at the beginning the purpose of the Soviet was quite modest – to protect the revolution against any harm or detriment, due to the events happening in Russia and the progress of the revolution, the Soviet slowly took over the government in most areas of local life.

They didn't, however, interfere with Jewish public life, whether due to indifference and their detachment from anything Jewish, or because they wanted to prevent at this point any conflict with the Zionists. However, it was clear that this attitude would not continue. And meanwhile, the relations between the Zionists and the Soviet worsened.

The Soviet decided to hold a large demonstration to celebrate the 6 month anniversary of the revolution, in which would participate the nearby army camps and two military bands. This was a timely event. The glorious days of the revolution passed. The war had not yet ended,

 

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The Zionists of the town near Sha'arai Zion synagogue.

 

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and the soldiers longing to be released from the army showed signs of impatience even acting wildly and rioting. In some places there were riots against the Jews. The “temporary government” of Kranski was undecided as how to act in the many difficulties facing them. The propaganda from the right and the left swelled and spread insecurity and doubt among many. The attempt by the Czarist General Kornilov to put down the anti–revolutionary uprising succeeded, but it was a sign of coming troubles. It was clear that the revolution was declining, and no one knew what the future held.

The demonstration was intended to encourage and unite the people around the revolution, the sign of liberty. It was not surprising that the decision was warmly received by all the groups. There were many preparations – committees spent days and nights planning every detail of the demonstration; flags were sewn, ushers were trained and platforms erected, etc. As the appointed day came closer there was much anticipation since the leaders of the Soviet desired to give the event a grandiose character, such as had never been seen before in Brichany.

Then one day it became known that all the organizations and societies had been invited except for the Zionists. Could they have been forgotten? Perhaps the invitation was delayed? No, it was explicitly decided in the Soviet not to invite the Zionist societies, since these were considered counter–revolutionary parties. Of course, each one of the Zionists could join some other organization or participate in the parade as a single person, since all the people of the town were invited. It was reported that the decision was taken in the plenary of the Soviet, in which the representatives of the Russian soldiers had participated. Actually these representatives agreed to the participation of the Zionists, but it was the Jewish socialists who were against it, since they thought that these reactionaries should not participate in the revolutionary celebration – and they determined the results.

This news came as a blow to us. None of us believed that our socialists would dare give official support to things – we innocently thought then – that were not spoken of except perhaps for propaganda purposes, and those who spoke in such a way didn't themselves believe them. And now, they announced that Zionism was reactionary and counter–revolutionary and therefore they wanted to prevent the Zionists from participating in the demonstration.

We had to choose one among several alternative responses:

  1. to censure the decision and to submit an appeal against it,
  2. to negotiate with the heads of the Soviet about the change in their position,
  3. to appeal to the general public not to participate in the demonstration.
After a lengthy discussion and consideration of the alternatives, the Zionists decided – the Tzeirei Zion and the General Zionists – not to react in any fashion, no appeal and no negotiations. In addition, we notified all the Zionists not to take part in the parade, not on their own and not as part of any organization. Sections of the general public also expressed dissatisfaction with the decision of the Soviet and we had reason to believe that the masses would side with us and act accordingly. The members of the Soviet also felt, apparently, that they had gone too far, so that embarrassment and confusion prevailed among its ranks.

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It was no secret that despite the explicit decision there were stormy debates among them on this issue. From time to time, someone would come to us and suggest, as if they were acting on their own, to mediate between the Soviet and us. We rejected any such attempt although we understood that there was willingness on their part to retreat. However, three days before the day of the demonstration, Moshe Zilberman suggested to Tzeirai Zion that they agree to accept an invitation from the Soviet but excluding the General Zionists. Our answer was absolutely negative, “It is not appropriate for us to participate in the parade while excluding the General Zionists. If you view Zionism as reactionary, then don't invite us either.”

It should be said here that among the General Zionists there were those who advised us to accept the invitation of the Soviet so that a large part of the Jewish population could demonstrate their sympathy for Zionism. Finally the Soviet gave in and sent an official invitation to both the Zionist parties.

We knew about this decision already on Shabbat eve. Immediately we quickly began the necessary preparations: flags were sewn, posters prepared. And on Sunday which was Hoshana Rabba, we were ready to participate in the parade.

The parade was spectacular and joyous. The intense work that the Soviet had invested in the parade was fruitful and we also were successful, and great was the joy of the Jews of Brichany. Zionists and non–Zionists, the well to do and the laborers, the religious and the non–religious, they all (other than the anti–Zionists) gathered around the Zionist flag and joined the parade. For the Jewish population this was a great Zionist demonstration accompanied by extraordinary enthusiasm.

Right after this, a conflict arose with the Soviet about holding a census. This time the confrontation was open and much worse, and this is what happened.

The Soviet decided to hold a general census of the people in Brichany and a special committee was formed to prepare the groundwork. The committee worked in secret, prepared a comprehensive questionnaire, printed it and even set the date for the census. All this was done without consulting the public. Among other things, two questions appeared in the form that were unacceptable to us, although seemingly innocent, but had a dangerous and meaningful intention. The person was asked to answer the question, “What is the language you speak at home and outside?” Of course, only two answers were acceptable – Yiddish or Russian.

We learned of this by chance when a copy of the questionnaire was obtained only a few days before the date of the census. We immediately realized the danger. When the time would come for the authorities – in this case the local Soviet – to open schools for the Jewish children, they would be able to rely on the census to determine which language would be used in the schools. By the way, some claimed that Hershel Kramer and Motel Breitman – former members of Tzeirei Zion –were involved in this ploy. Since our socialists were deeply involved in assimilation,

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The first district Zionist Conference in Brichany. Third day of Hol Hamoed Succot, 1921

 

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they had become alienated from Yiddish.

When we realized it was a plot we immediately turned to the Soviet and notified them that we would absolutely not accept that question as it was formulated. We demanded it be removed and if they refused they must add another question, “What is your national language?” One way or another the census must be postponed. The Soviet refused to comply with our demand and didn't bother to explain their decision. Then we gathered all our members and sympathizers to thwart the plot. We called for meetings of our members and a great public assembly where we explained to the people the meaning of our conflict and we called for everyone to preserve Hebrew and the Hebrew school. When we saw that the public agreed with us, we notified the Soviet that if our demands were not met, we would be forced to boycott the census.

The exchange of letters was accompanied, of course, by conversations, debates, shouts, and anger, not only in the meetings but also on almost every corner. The town of Brichany was raging and agitated. Finally, the Soviet was forced to postpone the date of the census due to “technical reasons” – and the census was never held.

This period was stormy and full of political change – elections to the founding assembly, the October revolution, the conquest of Bessarabia by the Romanians, the Balfour Declaration, and other matters. Without doubt, Zionism in Brichany experienced various waves of events and happenings, but I won't write about these things because I left town for a while.

I stayed in Ukraine for three and a half years, totally isolated from the town. When I returned in the spring of 1920, I found the town under the oppressive government of the Romanians; the changes in authority had a negative effect on the economic and public life of all the Jews, and the Zionist activities had ceased almost completely. A Zionist center was lacking that could have directed the Zionist activities, connected between the local groups, and would have the authority to deal with these matters.

The General Zionists in town somehow continued their dismal existence, thanks to Shaarei Zion, where they met every Shabbat for prayers (in the home of Dr. Fleiger) and there, sometimes – even during the prayers – they also discussed Zionist concerns.

Only a few of the founding members remained of Tzeirei Zion and even they were influenced by the Leftists (although they did not admit to this), and their Zionist position was somewhat compromised. I found them in conflict with the General Zionists in the matter of purchasing the post office buildings. And this is what happened:

Three large buildings that were used by the post office were actually owned by one member of the Barshtein family, who lived, I believe, in Odessa. When he died he bequeathed the buildings to the town for public use, without defining what

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exactly were the public needs and which institutions would receive the buildings. This matter was left to the discretion of the heirs and thus the execution of the will was delayed for years.

Since the General Zionists had a considerable sum of money for the Shaarei Zion synagogue, they negotiated an agreement with the heirs that they would receive the buildings on the condition that in one of them would be a synagogue, and in the other two a Hebrew public school would be established.

As soon as this became known, propaganda began against the Zionists. It was clear that this matter was led by the leftists. They were joined by the administration of the Society for the Support of the Poor, and surprisingly, also the Tzeirei Zion. And therefore, they were victorious – the agreement was annulled and the buildings that were intended for public use remained in the hands of the heirs.

Immediately after Passover that year the Tzeirei Zion renewed their activity. They held meetings from time to time where organizational issues and Zionist and political problems were discussed. They started to organize activities of the Keren HaKayemet L'Yisrael, which theoretically were managed together with the General Zionists but actually were handled by the Tzeirei Zion. The first head of this project was Mordechai Shneider, followed by Arie Bary, who continued his work for years until he made aliya. We were in contact with the Zionist societies in other towns, but the main interest of the Zionists in Brichany – the Tzeirei Zion – was the Committee for Ukrainian Refugees.

One morning tens of Jews, refugees from Ukraine, arrived in our town and remained standing in the street not knowing what to do, where to go and to whom to turn. Among the first ones to notice them was our friend Mordechai Shneider, who immediately arranged places for them to stay for fear of arousing the wrath of the authorities. The next day, when even more refugees arrived, it became necessary to open a kitchen for them in the home of Yaakov Shneider, and right away the Zionists organized the Committee for Ukranian Refugees. The committee was composed of Shlomo Shenkar, Shlomo Weissberg, Aharon Steinhaus, Moshe Gevalder, Mordechai Shneider, Yosef Feldsher, B.Z. Malakhson, Y. Steinhaus, A. Bary and others.

The stream of escapees from Ukraine grew day by day and soon the city became flooded with hundreds and thousands of refugees. Some of them hoped to find shelter in Bessarabia and some hoped to immigrate to America with the help of relatives who lived there. Almost all of them were penniless and were in need of support and assistance.

The first matter of importance was the need to acquire residence permits and freedom of movement in Bessarabia for the refugees. The question was not only local and the solution was found in Bucharest, the capital. Natan Lerner from our town was instrumental in achieving this as he was a representative in the Romanian parliament. However, the actual execution of the documents was the responsibility of the local authorities and they knew how to take advantage of the situation and to make a good profit from their work. From time to time, difficult decrees were published, such as, checking the certificates of the refugees, partial exile and so forth,

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The Zionists in town bid farewell to the Lankovsky and Goldgal families who were leaving to go to the agricultural colony “Mesila Hadash” near Kushta, prior to their making aliya to Eretz Yisrael (1910)

 

and the reason for this was so that the bureaucrats could receive more bribes. Moshe Gevalder, who was the Rabbi appointed by the authorities, was very active in the matter of the legalization of the refugees and he worked with exceptional commitment. Thanks to his efforts all the refugees received temporary certificates or citizenship certificates. All this required much money and the financial burden that fell on the Committee for the Refugees was very great. The Jews of Brichany were requested to donate money and they did so with a warm heart and generosity. Despite this, there were not sufficient funds and it became necessary to ask for support from the neighboring towns, which hadn't received refuges due to their distance from the Dniester. For this purpose Yaakov Steinhaus (Amitzur) traveled to Lipkani and Novoslitza and Shlomo Weissberg went to Hutin and in those places they found Jews willing to help. Only the Committee for Support of the Poor were opposed, due to its chairman, and didn't give any funds at all despite the demands they receieved.

A number of youth among the refugees chose to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael. Tzeirei Zion appointed a committee that helped the youths, and thus a few groups were organized and sent to Eretz Yisrael.

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The aliya to Eretz Yisrael of the Kuperman family, July 1920

 


 

The Maccabi Organization

by Michael Tcherkis–Amitz

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

Before Maccabi was established in our town, the game of soccer became very popular among the youth thanks to two students, Veiner and Shulman, who lived in our town and connected with our youth. The Maccabi branch was founded in Brichany at the initiative of the Shapira brothers who came to our town from Uman with the Ukrainian refugees in 1920.

At the founding assembly, which was held in the women's section of the Sadigori synagogue, a committee was chosen and its head was S. Weissberg the son–in–law of Y.L.Shiller, who had recently settled in our town. In a very short time equipment was purchased including office supplies, sports equipment, and a playing field was prepared in the meadow of the fire department. The members began to practice the games and drills led by the Shapira brothers. It should be noted that already at that time the commands for the drills were given in Hebrew.

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The activities of the organization slowly became more organized, and after a while a few members were outstanding at playing soccer. As a result, groups were formed according to the playing level and ability of each one. The games played between the groups helped improve their skill and experience. Later, in about 1922, a dental technician named Mr. Samok who was an excellent soccer player settled in Brichany; he was appointed the head of group A and also the coach. He managed to gather a team of players who reached a very high level. Among the coaches was Zemel Hirsh who was also a dental technician.

The organization grew and developed from year to year because many members were attracted by the game and therefore joined our ranks. There were members, including girls, who didn't participate in the sport but registered as members of Maccabi out of enthusiasm.

 

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The Maccabi Committee, 1924

Sitting (right to left): 1. Khorish Reuven, 2. Gruzman Yitzhak, 3. Weissberg Shlomo, Chairman, 4. Bukshpon Shabtai, 5. Tashak Pinhas
Standing: 1. Sohotin Leib, 2. Tcherkis Shalom, 3. Sarbarnik Shlomo, 4. Tcherkis Michael

 

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Soccer group – A

Reclining: 1. Y. Gruzman, 2. Bukshpon, 3. Grinautzki
Kneeling: 1. Sohotin, 2. Abuliak, 3. Walshtein
Standing: 1. M. Khorish, 2. Chazin, 3. Samok (Head of the group and the coach), 4. Veiner – Assistant coach, 5. Sarvernik

 

A short time after the establishment of the organization an office was rented in the hut belonging to Tuvia Chaban that was near the playing field. The room was decorated with pictures, slogans and a blue and white flag; in the afternoons the place was full of life. The games that were played on Sabbaths and holydays drew spectators from among the youth and others.

Maccabi branches were established at the same time also in other towns in our area. We had friendly relations with them and held intercity competitions. From time to time we invited teams from other towns or we traveled to them for competition games. All of this was accompanied by enjoyable experiences and entertainment and in this manner a sporty atmosphere was formed in our town that united the youth from all classes and backgrounds.

Although soccer was the center of Maccabi activity it was not the most important part of its program. The organization also provided education for the younger levels from among

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the children in middle grades in school. These children were also organized into groups led by the older members (Hazan, Sohotin, Tcherkis), who kept them occupied with various types of sports activities, such as, running competitions, gymnastics, etc. In addition simple talks were held with them about literature and culture, the children went on trips and learned to sing Hebrew songs. After a while, many of them progressed to the adult sports groups and some even excelled and reached the top level, such as Nota Gelman who became the lead player and later the coach.

Our Group A excelled at playing and had a good reputation in various towns. It sometimes happened that our players were invited by other towns to help them play against competitors. We will mention Shabtai Bukshpon z”l (died in Eretz Yisrael), an outstanding goalie, Moshe Khorish z”l from Gan Shmali, Shlomo Sarvarnik (lives in Brazil), a runner, and Nota Gelman – main runner.

During the years 1924 – 1926, a brigade of the Romanian army was stationed in our town. Our soccer team often played friendly games with some of those soldiers, and our team learned much from them – playing tactics, agility, etc. This brought us closer to the brigade officers who later helped us in our work and our Zionist activities. We also cooperated with them in sports events and celebrations that were very successful.

I still remember one of these celebrations – it was on a Shabbat afternoon. We, the members of Maccabi, dressed in blue and white, gathered in the square in front of the church. From there, we marched – led by the flag – to the tunes of the army band, along the whole length of the main street accompanied by the army sports groups who were also wearing uniforms. A large crowd gathered to watch the wonderful sport program.

During the wintertime, we held literary parties mixed with sport stories. We also held performances, literary trials, public lectures and dance balls.

We organized a string band led by Laizer–Feivel the violinist and head of the klezmers (clarinets). A band of musical players was quickly formed and played at public performances. We also performed concerts in neighboring towns. The band numbered 25 players, and was headed by Pini Chak, the son of the teacher Efraim Chak.

Of course, the Maccabi members participated in all the Zionist activities: the various fund raising projects for the national funds, activity in the elections to the Congress and Jewish institutions, and cultural projects. Therefore we won much regard and appreciation from all the Zionist institutions and many parents encouraged their children to join our ranks. The number of members grew to 200, most of them youth who studied and some youth who worked.

On the other hand, there were less successful times, mainly in the years

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The Maccabi Band, 1924

Right to left, Sitting: Gruzman Yitzhak, Lerner Berl, Hirsh, Tashak Pinhas, Servarnik Avraham
Standing: Sohotin Leib,Servarnik Shlomo, the conductor Laizer Feivel, Bukhman Shlomo, Veisman

 

1926 – 1929. The members grew up and had to leave the town due to financial concerns or to complete their studies or do military service or they married and had families. However, new young, fresh members joined and renewed the activities of the association. At the head of Maccabi stood Dr. Grofenmakher z”l, the lawyer Shalom Cherkes and others. Then new groups were formed for volleyball and ping–pong.

The Maccabi association was an impressive presence in town for a number of years, however, when it ceased to exist, there were still loyal members the majority of whom stayed on the Zionist path, although they found other frameworks for Zionist activity.

 

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