« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 48]

Memories of the Maccabi Years

by Reuven Khorish

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

The Zionist Union provided us with a room for meetings within the new Talmud–Torah school. We completed the building and its refurbishing and thus we had a wonderful hall that served for meetings of the members, old and new. Here we would spend our evenings together in conversation, various games, ping–pong competitions, etc.

One episode that I recollect very well is worthy of telling here. One day a policeman came to me and asked me to go to the city mayor. When I arrived, the officer told me that he wanted the Maccabi organization to actively participate in the celebrations in honor of May 10, which was the Romanian day of independence. I expressed my consent but on the condition that we would be allowed to march in the streets wearing blue and white and that our blue and white flag would fly at the head of the procession. It's impossible to describe the wave of joy and the amount of excitement of the Jewish population when we marched with our heads held high and singing Hebrew songs. Thus we came to the site of the celebration where all the crowd greeted us with cheers. This was a great honor for the Jews of Brichany.

The tragic events that happened several years later brought about the end Maccabi, in 1940. When the Soviets conquered Bessarabia I personally destroyed the archives of the organization. I burned the pictures and the flag as I cried and cried.


Days of Changes and Turmoil

by Aharon Cohen

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

The beginning of the year 1917 brought echoes of the Russian revolution (the February revolution) even to our small, distant town and with them a small pogrom. The fall of the Czar Nikolai was celebrated with a massive demonstration in which the Cherkesians and the Turkish soldiers, who were stationed in town as a cavalry brigade, participated. In addition, all the public organizations took part: the Farein of the artisans, all the Zionist societies (Pirhei Zion, Speakers of Hebrew) who carried a blue and white flag, and the store keepers (Pirkazchilim), and the members of the social–democratic Bund. At the head walked the veteran Jewish revolutionist Katia Abramovna Gintzburg who was a midwife by profession (she also helped me come into the world) who previously in the revolution of 1905 was tried in court and imprisoned. Others included Wolf Kizhner, the head of the town library, the Tovaritz (comrade – a name for one of local leftists) Beker and others. When they reached the post office the demonstrators took out the large, colored picture of the Czar and to the sounds of singing the Marseilles and cries of “Daloi Nikolai” (go away Nikolai) smashed the glass on the frame and ripped the picture into shreds. Children of 7 – 8 celebrated the revolution party. My friend Moshe Broitman, the son of our neighbor the widow,

[Page 49]

removed from their home a portrait of Nikolai that had been hanging in a place of honor on a wall in their dining room. He stood on the porch near the yard while we, his friends, stood below and to the sounds of our shouting “Daloi Nikolai,” he smashed the previously important picture. His grandmother who heard the sounds of breaking glass, rushed to the porch and punished the young revolutionary with pinches and hard smacks, while we who were still standing there quickly ran off.

Later the fatal days came upon us. Soldiers who were staying in my parents' home began to complain about the cereal they received at the brigade's kitchen that was served with portions of butter – in our home we used butter on our hair and to polish our shoes, and there it was served as food! I remember the embarrassment in our home seeing the soldiers who grabbed the sergeant major when he was wearing a new coat and used it to clean the floor that was filled with water; this was their response to the comment by the sergeant that the floor wasn't clean enough. Outside was heard the singing of the soldiers accompanied by the by the sounds of the harmonica.

However, very quickly the spirit of hidden joy turned into a worrisome anxiety. The soldiers who returned from the disintegrating front relieved their anger by stealing Jewish goods and even violent acts. I remember that one day a group of relatives and neighbors in town gathered in the large living room in our home which began to fill up with pillows, duvets and rugs, bags of clothes, etc. that they brought with them, and we, the youngsters, climbed all over the piles and slid down them full of glee. While others closed and locked their homes and hid inside, my father chose a different tactic – he left the door open and stood on the threshold as if he wasn't at all concerned. He prepared a large pot of hot water and put out drinking glasses. He said that if the soldiers wanted to break into the house, they would do so. However, if he showed a generous attitude to the bitter soldiers and showed courtesy, that might deter them. And indeed, the soldiers passed our house and threw a hand grenade a few houses down the street from us.

However, the fear was of worse things than petty robbery but rather of physical injuries that were experienced by the shards of that grenade. Three of the organizers of the small pogrom, among them one known hooligan named Bakal, son of the owner of an estate in the area, were caught later and executed in the center of town by local Jewish soldiers who had joined the Bolsheviks. Due to understandable trepidation, rumors were spread intentionally that the army had killed those bandits.

Soon after these events a self defense unit was formed in Brichany. A group of volunteers armed with bats and metal rods would walk the streets at night. The head of the “militia,” a lower class person who had been a Russian soldier and an ex–policeman named Nisan and called “swiftash” (whistle), became the one who gave orders to the higher classes and was tough with those who preferred to pay someone to take their place in the unit for the night shift. The Militia Committee of our street often met in the home of my parents, and I would try to listen to the discussions and the negotiations with those who came to clarify various matters.

[Page 50]

I recollect how one day one of our neighbors came with tears in her eyes as she pleaded with the Committee to order her son to remove a gun from her home, a gun he had found somewhere (a rusty, rotted gun without bullets) which worried her so much that she could not sleep…


The Philip Vasilevitch School

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

The development of my national awareness was certainly influenced also by the government school called the Philip Vasilevitch school where I studied since I was 11 years old. Two thirds of the pupils were Jewish, but there was not even one Jewish teacher, and the governmental program of studies had nothing to offer the thinking Jewish youth who received their Hebrew education privately and began to see the world through Jewish eyes.

The first class in the morning started with singing the prayer, “Our father who art in heaven.” We sang while standing and faced the Christian church across the street from the school – the wall on that side had pictures of the king and queen and also icons. After the singing, the Christian pupils crossed themselves. I remember how much it bothered me that in the geography book there was a chapter on Asia, where it was written that “Palestine, also called the land of the Jews,” but a few lines later came a barbed comment that “In Bucharest and Iasi there are more Jews than in all of the land of the Jews.”

During the religious classes that were given twice a week by a priest named Father Ipipanaef, the Jewish pupils had to leave the class so that the priest would be free to explain to the children “how they tortured the son of god” and such things. After the religion class there was always a certain tension between the Christian and Jewish pupils, however during those classes when we were outside in the large park of the school, we really enjoyed ourselves.

A rule was passed in the Romanian senate, with the help of the Rabbi Y.L. Tzirelson who was our representative, that the Jewish children in government schools would be exempt from writing on the Sabbath. We immediately organized a full compliance with this right. The teachers, the majority of whom were not lovers of Jews, would not abstain from sometimes making cautious anti–Semitic comments.

The fact that the Jewish students were more outstanding in their studies also influenced the relations in the class. The slower Christian pupils would take out their feeling of inferiority with anti–Semitic comments, and at times harassed the physically weaker Jewish students. On the other hand, there were feelings of solidarity between the pupils of both religions who were equals in their studies: students who excelled, slow learners and average ones. And there were cases of excellent friendly relations between pupils of the two religions.

[Page 51]

The assimilation policy that was adopted by the government school had the opposite affect on us. Actually it caused a sharpening of our senses and a crystallization of our national awareness. This found expression in a moving event that occurred in the beginning of 1925.

A new teacher who was sent to teach one of our classes was not forewarned and she called one of the Jewish students the derogatory term “zidan”. We immediately called out our protest in angry voices, which annoyed the teacher and soon after it became a great scandal. In the recess, the Jewish students gathered together and decided that as long as that teacher remained in the school we wouldn't let her teach in our class. This decision was put into action already in the next class. When the principal intervened, warning us and demanded discipline, our class decided to declare a strike with the clear demand to dismiss this teacher from teaching our class. The strike lasted more than two weeks and was discussed in the whole town. The principal summoned the supervisor from the district city, convened the parents of the students and a warning was given that those who refused to return to class would not be allowed to study in any state school in the country. However, we maintained our rebellion.

At first, the classes continued with only the non–Jewish students, who numbered only one third of the class. They were joined by some of the weaker Jewish students who by denying solidarity with their Jewish classmates hoped to receive good grades, which they did receive from the ostracized teacher. Despite our appeals to their conscience they didn't agree to join the strike; one day we waited for them in an appropriate place and “taught them a lesson.” After this, they stopped breaking the strike. In addition, the non–Jewish students began missing classes; some out of friendly solidarity and some because the classes weren't being taught well.

One day we came to the schoolyard after the end of classes and when we saw the teacher we began singing the Hebrew song, “Hushu, ahim, hushu” – one of the few Hebrew song we knew since we were members in the youth group, “Yung–manshaft” of Maccabi. The teacher reported to the principal that Jewish students demonstrated in the schoolyard and sang Communist songs – in Romania in those days! This provocation irritated even the parents of the students who then became angry at the acts of their children and pressured them to stop the strike, although they joined the demand that the teacher be removed from the school. Finally, the principal was persuaded to withdraw his refusal. We were promised that if our studies were renewed, that teacher would be removed within several days. A few parents who were in touch with the school, hinted to us that we must demonstrate a tactical flexibility and to help end the crisis. Based on this promise we decided to return to school.

There was much tension in the first class with that same teacher.

[Page 52]

When one of the striking students was asked a question by the teacher the answer was silence or “I don't know.” If she hadn't been irritated and if she had more sense, she could have asked the non–Jewish children the questions; however, she apparently wanted to receive answers especially from those who had rebelled against her authority. Thus she was a total failure. The attempt to preach morals to us in this situation demonstrated only her lack of psychological understanding. After a few days the teacher disappeared from the school because of the effect our class had on the other classes.

When things returned to normal, I was called to the office of Philip Vasilevitch. He said to me that he knew I was the head of the “gang,” and if I hadn't been such a talented student he would have thrown me out of the school and take steps that no other school in the country would accept me. But he said, “take care, be cautious” – and hinted to me with anger that I should go back to my class. I bowed as was routine and left his office.

In the report card that I received at the end of the year there was a section for behavior in which I received the grade of 4 – a grade that theoretically would end my studies in that school. During the next two years after the strike in that school we were very careful; but so were the anti–Semitic teachers.


The “Shoef” Society

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

A few months after that school strike, as I was getting close to the age of fifteen, I thought of organizing a youth society like many others in the larger towns of Bessarabia whose activities I read about in the newspapers, “Unzer Tzeit” and in “Erd un arbeit”, the weekly paper of Tzeirei Zion that began publication in Kishinev. I gathered a few boys my age to the Zionist idea– not friends from school. When the snow melted and the meadow at the edge of town started showing green grass, we went out on one Shabbat to the New Plan neighborhood where in one of the buildings being constructed we had a lengthy discussion about the idea of the society and its possible activities. I recorded in a notebook the things said by each participant – the first written proceedings that I had ever prepared. After the idea of a society was accepted, I prepared a list of rules and regulations, and it was agreed that until the next meeting we would think about what to name the society. I spent many evenings preparing the list of rules and drew on all I had ever read or heard about the activities and rules of other societies. At the second meeting my suggestion to name the society “Hashoef” was accepted – it was the name of a society in Beltzi. After a long debate that almost turned into an explosive argument, the code of rules that I had labored over long and hard was accepted and we declared the foundation of “Hashoef” in Brichany and on the need to acquire members. An executive committee was formed and I was elected secretary.

[Page 53]

This society was a new stage in my life. It was the first time that I had engaged in complex organizational problems, lists of members, preparation of programs and presenting reports on what had been accomplished and not accomplished, collecting dues and managing the “finances” and such. The society organized trips, drills, sports activities, lectures and literary debates, which in addition to widening our knowledge of ideas and learning new subjects also improved our public speaking. The society also had female members, which encouraged the boys to excel on many levels including speaking, sports, physical gymnastics, cultural activity, leadership or work for the Keren Kayemet. The society numbered 80 members, both boys and girls.


Competition: “Hahaver” Society

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

A second Zionist youth group was formed very quickly and was named “Hahaver” like the society that existed at this time in Tzernovitz. Naturally there was competition between the two societies in acquiring members, quality of activities and public status; a clash began on attaining important positions, such as in the local committee of the Keren Kayemet, the committee of the Zionist library, and in the Zionist population in town. The Hatehiya society founded by Tzeirei Zion, was founded previously however it had older members in their twenties and older. Despite the competition the two societies cooperated in joint meetings in one of the nearby forests, joint literary debates, a lecture by a Zionist delegate who happened to visit the town, or by a local speaker, work for Keren Kayemet, in the library, conducting youth parties, etc.

Generally, Hashoef members were in the majority and more active and its members, most of whom were students, had greater ability in a number of subjects. However, after a while “Hahaver” started a project that was both new and appealing. They initiated publication of a newspaper called “Hahaver, using the “spirograph” stencil machine that they acquired in Tzernovitz. It was edited by one of the members who had some journalistic experience from the time he was involved in working on a humorous newspaper that we secretly produced in our public school. It might be surprising that Hashoef didn't produce its own paper. They didn't do so for several reasons. It's possible that they didn't do it because the Hahaver newspaper was available to all and our articles were also published and even given preference (a clever tactic). An article that I wrote in the autumn of 1925 was published; it was my first article and entitled, “What we should remember”. It dealt with the problem that the Jews in the diaspora had no objective or aspirations, the old generation wasn't doing anything useful and it fell to the youth to bring about the changes necessary in the life of the nation. This article became the subject of much interest among many in town and one night after its publication my father asked me during dinner, “Tell me, who gave you these ideas that you wrote about in that article?”.

[Page 54]

It turned out that my father had read my revolutionary article in the home of Motel Breitman –the “Spiritual Center” in town, where my father often visited. They received many newspapers and magazines, including “Literature Review” from Warsaw. M. Breitman himself was a writer and even tried to write a novel called 'When the Poppy Bloomed,” published by the author himself; he was in touch with the literarati in Tchernovitz, Bucharest and Warsaw. Eliezer Shteinbrg, Shlomo Bickel, Nahman Meizel and others were his personal friends and when they happened to visit Brichany they were my father's guests. Whoever wanted could find in that home partners for card games. And Mrs. Sima Breitman, excelled in baking cakes and making delicious sweet delicacies. Father's question also had a bit of hidden pride, and also dissatisfaction stemming from concern for the future. I recollect that when I heard his question I blushed but I gathered my strength and as Jews often do, I answered the question with my own question, “Who should give me such ideas?”


Hashomer Hatzair

by Aharon Cohen

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

In the summer of 1926 “Hashoef” became a branch of Hashomer Hatzair, and Hahaver became a branch of Gordonia.

Before the summer camps that year Yasha Shavitkei came to Brichany. He was a member of the executive council of Hashomer Hatzair and the head of Galil (the movement) in Bessarabia. He met with the older members of Hashoef and told them about the movement that had already formed branches in the past year or two in Lipkani, Skoriani, Hutin, and Novo–Selitza (whose branch was established in 1923 due to the influence of nearby Tchernovitz). In 1924, for the first time, a joint summer camp was held with members of the movement in Bukovina and Bessarabia. Hashomer branches were formed in the autumn of 1920 and the spring of 1921 in Kishinev, Beltzi, and Bandari. Shavitkei (a student of the seventh form in Bandari–Tigina) spoke about many things, especially the Shomer uniform, its ways and customs, its romantic poetry, the Shomer literature. In addition, with his outgoing, friendly personality he managed to make friends quickly – all these brought a fresh spirit to the youth, awakened new yearnings and opened horizons that until then were not known to the youth of Brichany.

After the summer camps Avraham Bograd came to visit our town; he was one of the founders of the branch in Novo–Selitza and one of its leaders. After a few meetings with the members of Hashoef, a group was formed (that later was called Solel–Boneh) that had eight boys and three girls. This group was intended to be the founding branch and a framework to prepare future counselors. A number of older girls were quickly organized

[Page 55]


Members of the Hashomer Hatzair movement


and their group was called Devorah, while a group of older boys belonged to a group called Yehonatan. These two groups constituted the older–brigade called Ahad Ha'am. The group Yehonatan was the basis for the Tzofim brigade whose formation was being planned. The Hashomer group got started and was similar to groups previously established in nearby towns. On the holiday of Succot that year our group appeared, well disciplined, most of the members in Hashomer shirts and led with enthusiasm by A. Bograd, and danced an energetic, joyous Hora in the yard of the Shaarei Zion. Immediately after the holiday two male counselors and one female were sent from Lipkani to lead the group. They gave classes and invested much time and effort in organizing the branch and guiding it. In a joint of Hanuka party in 1926 of Zionist youth the branch was completely organized and the new values they brought to the youth were honored and appreciated.

The group rented a clubhouse as part of the Maccabi movement, since Maccabi belonged to the national alliance of the sport organizations in Romania it had a license to open a branch in Brichany but it not yet have a branch. The rent for a small hall was 300 lira per month and another 200 lira monthly had to be paid to the local secret police agent, Balansko, who knew that Maccabi's license was being used by a different society yet kept that information to himself. Another 200 lira had to be paid to the central headquarters in Tchernovitz. Therefore in order to cover these and other expenses, in addition to the membership dues, an “Enjoyment Tax” was imposed,

[Page 56]

meaning a contribution that every member was supposed to give whenever he received new clothes, went to the cinema, bought sweets and other entertainments. Wood to heat the oven in the clubhouse was brought by each member from his parents' home. The clubhouse was decorated attractively, courses in Hebrew were given, a bindery was set up that worked at first for the members and after a while it began to receive external work. The girls began to do basket weaving, embroidery and such. On Purim 1927, a public exhibition of various types of our handiwork was held; it remained open for a number of weeks and made an excellent impression on the many visitors who came to view it. The income from the entrance fees was sent to the Keren Kayemet, and the products exhibited were sold by auction or won by a lottery, among them was a reproduction of Herzl's grave that I myself made out of plaster, glass, and paint. The proceeds from these handiworks were given to the branch.

On Pesach 1927, the leadership of the branch was gradually transferred to the local members. That summer the older members went for the first time to a summer settlement, in Koshchoia in the Bukovina hills, leaving the monotonous part of Bessarabia and seeing the beautiful hilly forests of Bukovina. Camp trips in the impressive Carpathian mountains, the barges on the Bistritza and the Prot, the nights sitting around the campfire and the special experience including lectures created a special atmosphere and friendship among members from different branches and left unforgettable memories and aroused in us secret yearnings for beauty, liberty and comradeship. After these gatherings in the marvelous wide–open spaces of nature, when we returned home the streets of the town seemed very narrow and the houses more crowded, crooked and stifling.


The branch of Hashomer Hatzair in Brichany, 1928, the older group


[Page 57]

The Hashomer branch became the center of our new life whose style and content we experienced for the first time. Everything that had come before seemed to us as a sort of simple introduction to our new look on life. Within the group it seemed that all the days of the year had the feeling of freedom as in the Shomer camp. Here a Jewish youth found an outlet and expression for his desires and wishes, which were suppressed in his parents' home and in the general environment of the town. Here he found expression of his thoughts and ideas within the intimate life together of the group. There were outdoor and indoor games, lovely dancing, Hasidic tunes full of devotion and pleasant Ukrainian melodies and Jewish folk songs and modern songs from the pioneering Eretz Yisrael – all these brought closer together the youth from varying statuses and different ages. Against the background of the lively and inspirational life of the youth group such as sports, scouting, hiking and trips, conversations and organizational activities, added to these were new and interesting educational activities such as we had never before experienced.

After the first summer camp the activity of the branch increased and it became well thought of among the population of the town. In order to earn money for the needs of the branch and its activities (for the Camp Fund, etc) we began cutting down trees in the yards for the homeowners – something that made a great impression in town. Later we also worked at cleaning the mud off the sidewalks – labor that Jews generally would not “lower” themselves to do. We came home from work full of mud from head to foot, but proud of our new attitude to labor and full of the new ideas and values, and also by the new mutual relations that left their stamp on our experiences.


Hatehiya in The Years 1924 – 1928

by M. Amitz

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

In different periods there were various Zionist youth groups in our town who were called Hatehiya. In this article I will describe one of these.

Actually, their members previously belonged to the Maccabi society, but it ceased to operate and all its members – including those who were only supporters – joined Hatehiya. Others from diverse backgrounds including the Noar Halomed, educated and learned youth, and those from the lower classes were attracted to the group.

Most of the members were inclined to socialist Zionism but were not totally convinced of that idea, therefore Hatehiya was sort of a middle ground. Membership in the society was based on the principle of loyalty to the Zionist movement, help to its institutions and activities, and especially regular participation in the activities for the Keren Kayemet.

[Page 58]


Hatehiya in 1926


The society developed for its members an active and very diverse cultural program. From time to time lectures were given on various topics in Zionism, socialism, and Hebrew and Yiddish literature. A range of study groups was formed, first and foremost the study of Hebrew for beginners and the more advanced. In order to be more efficient and in view of the differing types of backgrounds of the members, the society was divided into three study groups, and each one had its topics determined beforehand and a set time for each. The society also had its own choir that specialized in Hebrew songs and those of Eretz Yisrael. An excellent Zionist library was accessible, located in Shaarei Zion. In order to prevent negative reactions of jealousy, inferiority and controversy as to which group the members were assigned, the groups were not distinguished by any name or number that indicated the differences in level. Rather, each group was called by the name of the member whom we appointed to administer it.

The division into groups required perseverance and consistency and thus there was a need for a clubhouse for the use of the society. We rented the back wing of Alter Dimant's house, which faced Hutin Street. The wing had two rooms, a large hallway and a porch. We used them all, even the kitchen. The local Zionist society helped us pay

[Page 59]

the rent, and the rest was covered by the members' dues and other sources. The clubhouse received newspapers in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian, as well as Zionist literature that was sent to us from Eretz Yisrael and Kishinev. During the winter, when the club was not heated, the groups would meet in the homes of the members. In the hot summer nights we met in the nearby meadows.

We were helped quite a lot by the members of the local Tzeirei Zion : Bary, Feldsher, Melechzon, Steinhaus. Sometimes we enjoyed the lectures of guests who visited our town, sent by the Zionist movement; however, most of the activities were carried out by our own members. Some of those who completed their studies in the gymnasia who joined our society were Shabtai Bukshpon z”l and M. Trachtenberg, who were very active and taught Jewish history, Zionism and political economics.

These studies were not conducted as lectures but were formal classes, studying in an organized manner, with questions and answers and simple tests. This arrangement was very attractive to the members and they took a great interest in it. The members would come regularly 2 – 3 times a week, and often members of other groups came and listened.


Study group of Hatehiya headed by Drechsler, 1927

First row (right to left): Lerner H., Wechsler S., Krasilchik M., Glinoer P., Shvartzman M.
Second row: Lerner Am., Cherkis M., Kahat, Kertzer R., Yaffe B.
Third row: Altman P., Guzner A., Klein A.
In the background: the houses of the “New Plan.”


[Page 60]

Slowly but surely, the programs attracted great interest and the activities were successful. The members became attached to the society and also to each other with all their heart and soul. They became even more devoted to the Zionist cause and its activities such as collecting donations and various projects including elections, ceremonies, national holidays, etc. The influence of the Zionist movement in our town expanded.

However, this period lasted for only a few years. Four or five years can be very influential in the life of youth of this age. Many members got married and built families and left the society, others left the country to further their studies, and yet others were drawn to other places and interests. In one way or another, the society fell apart. The clubhouse closed and the bond between those who remained was weakened until all activity ceased completely. The members scattered, some to Hashomer Hatzair, which developed widespread activity among the youth, and some to Tzeirei Zion.

However, the work was not in vain. It left its mark on everyone who had belonged to the society. Many of its members – the great majority – remained faithful to the path of the Hatehiya society during the productive years of Zionist life.


Memories of the Youth Movements

by Zvi Shchori–Shvartzman (Shaar HaAmakim)

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

It is difficult to write when you don't have before you dates and events, and you have to rely only on your memory.

I feel especially close to memories of the youth, their young effervescence. In those day before the arrival of the agents of the well–known youth movements, we formed independent groups and we named them with names that we chose: Hashoef, Hahaver.

What unified such a group? First and foremost were written rules that were mandatory to follow. In addition to this was a newspaper duplicated by “spirograf,” soccer and a shared library. These were the things needed for a youth society. Of course we must mention the important role of the Hebrew songs, which we learned from the older members of the other groups like Maccabi, Hatehiya, and the Hebrew school and its teacher.

After having searched for our ideals two strong youth groups were formed, Hashomer Hatzair and Gordonia.

Hashomer Hatzair had an advantage due to the experienced counselors from Lipkani, who came to study in the local gymnasia of Roza Solomonovna, and they devoted most of their free time to leading educational groups and bringing in the spirit and atmosphere according to the example set by the veteran youth movements like Hashomer Hatzair.

[Page 61]

Gordonia also received inspiration from the counselors from Tchernovitz, but they didn't persevere in their activities, and the members had to manage activities independently.

The majority of the parents opposed their children joining youth societies. The argument between the youth and the parents lasted for a while until the parents reconciled with the path of their youth, mainly because they didn't have much choice.

It must be said that even during the height of activities of the youth societies mainly the youth of the middle classes joined and only very few of the pupils in the gymnasia. The reasons were the difficult environment in the gymnasia since preparing homework did not leave them much free time for these activities, also the opposition of the parents and the unreceptiveness of the “golden youth” to values that would interfere with their studies and careers.

Most of the organized youth had a difficult decision to make when the time came for the “hagshama,” which was the fulfillment and implementation of their pioneering spirit. Hashomer Hatzair and Gordonia maintained that this “hagshama” was the only path forward for a member of the movement.

During the 1920s, some of the refugees from Ukraine arrived in Brichany. Among them were youth who had been educated in Hehalutz and with the aid of the center in Kishinev they established a branch for training in Brichany.

These pioneers came penniless and made a living by felling trees and other seasonal jobs.


The Hehalutz branch in Brichany


[Page 62]

This new change of behavior and questioning the accepted wisdom in the world of the old concepts was not to the liking of the established class in town. Thus Hehalutz became a pseudonym for a dirty house where boys and girls sat together, drinking tea and singing songs in Hebrew and Ukrainian lasting until after midnight, which caused sleeplessness to the parents. The fathers tried to distance their youth from two troubles: the Bolshevik area which stopped at the Dniester and from Hehalutz which crossed the river and established itself in town. The members of Hehalutz appeared at a theatrical production wearing strange attire – boys and girls wearing pants and leather jackets. This became a hot topic of conversation among the parents for weeks and served as a discouragement – what if their children became like Hehalutz?

Nevertheless, most of the youth went out to training, to prepare themselves for aliya to Eretz Yisrael. There wasn't a branch in Romania that didn't include youth from Brichany. They were also active in the national organization and their first pioneers made aliya as a group after the disturbances of 1929.

Natives of Brichany can be found in kibbutzim from all the movements, and some of them were the founders and earliest members. Many found their place in other areas of creativity in Eretz Yisrael.



by Dvora Beinishes (Fischer)

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

In 1925 a Zionist youth group called Hashoef was established in our town with the initiative and aid of Michael Cherkis and Shaul Givalder. An empty storeroom in the yard of Zegitzman on Rimkovitz Street was used as a meeting place where discussions were held on Zionist topics and songs of Eretz Yisrael were sung. After a short time the group broke up. Some went to Hashomer Hatzair and others – headed by Nota Gelman, Moshe Bakal, Avraham–Hersh Kuper and Shmuel Nulman – reorganized under the name Hahaver Hatzair.

After a short time we were in touch with Gordonia in Tchernovitz and as a result we joined this movement that followed the philosophy of A. D. Gordon.

From then on the branch grew and included most of the working youth aged 12 – 20. Accordingly the members were divided into three groups – Tzofim, Mitorarim, and Magshimim, where the educational, cultural and the successful sport activities were conducted.

In the summers we gathered on the lawns of the firehouse and in the winters we rented a room (we called it a hall!) where we spent our free time, especially in the evenings,

[Page 63]


The Havatzelet Group (Gordonia 1935) Brichany


The youth union, Gordonia


[Page 64]

discussing various topics, singing and dancing. The dues we paid were insufficient to cover the expenses, so to pay for the deficit the boys worked at physical labor – felling trees, clearing mud and such chores – to earn money. And although others found this work degrading, we felt no shame and were happy to do it.

Of course, we were in close connection with the Zionist institutions in town and helped them as much as we were able. Mainly, we participated in activities for the Keren Kayemet. We were in turn helped quite a bit by the Zionists who aided us primarily in relations with the Romanian authorities that harassed us and our work, and sometimes even arrested a few of our members.

Members of the Gordonia center visited our branch from time to time, as did delegates from Eretz Yisrael. In addition, we were in touch and had inter–city events with towns in our area – Hutin, Yadintz, Skorani, Lipkani, Brichevo and others.

Luckily we were blessed with talented actors who appeared in successful theatrical performances, such as, Der Darfs–Yung by Kobrin, “Three daughters” by I. L. Peretz and various plays about the working life in Eretz Yisrael.

The purpose of the instruction was for training and aliya, and many of our members became pioneers, who underwent training and were able to go to Eretz Yisrael. And how very great is the pain for those who did not fulfill their life's dream and were lost in the holocaust.

I still remember those beautiful days – days of work in Gordonia, and they are such pleasant memories.


Our Hachshara (training) Group

by Arye Bary (Hadar Ramatayim)

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

The suggestion to organize a local training group arose naturally, almost without forethought, as such things sometimes happen, and that was done by a group from Tzeirei Tzion in town.

Due to the annexation of Serbia to Romania immediately after the First World War, we were isolated from the Jewish world that previously we had been a part of, and the news of what was transpiring in the Jewish and Zionist world were very scant. Also the name Hehalutz reached us vaguely and we did not know clearly what its ideas and goals were.

One evening a group of us were sitting and singing, and conversed and debated as usual, and again the subject turned to aliya to Eretz Yisrael and our future there. One of us – I don't remember who – said either jokingly or seriously that we should organize a training group for aliya. The discussion immediately developed into a stormy debate; not a debate of those for or against, but one of possible methods of achieving this goal. Obviously, we did not decide the issue that evening, but we returned to this issue over a few evenings and continued to clarify

[Page 65]


The Hatehiya society, 1913, 1914
From right: Horish Hersh Leib, Kurtzman Velvel, Guberman Haim Yitzhak,
Steinhaus Yakov, Shneider Mordechai, Stoliar Avraham


the details of the proposal until a clear proposition was crystallized and developed for execution.

New members joined the group: Bary Leib, Motzelmacher David, Melechzon Benzion, Feldsher Yosef and Kaufman Azriel.

Each one of us paid his portion. We rented a plot of land near the town, we bought work tools, and with the guidance of our friend Mordechai Shneider who dealt in leasing land and growing crops, we made all the necessary preparations for work. Azriel Kaufman, who also joined our group, dealt all his life selling eggs, and with his help we bought a horse and cart. We considered him, and he considered himself, an expert in horses; later it became clear that he did not have such “expertise”, and he was swindled by the seller. After we completed all the preparations we went out into the fields, full of faith and enthusiasm and started to work. We ploughed, loosened the soil and planted summer crops. In the mornings, with sunrise, we went out to the field and in the evening when the stars came out, we returned home exhausted by the day's labor. We took food with us or our girl friends brought food to the field.

I imagine that it is not necessary to list all the difficulties we encountered in our work, since we had never before worked the land. Agriculture was very foreign to us; we didn't take notice of the quality of the land, our hands were not experienced in handling work tools and we did not know how to plough nor plant properly. We didn't know the correct time to perform various jobs and we even – this shouldn't be considered

[Page 66]

disgraceful – had a difficult time harnessing the horse to the cart. In addition, we had to withstand, each of us at home, the strong opposition of our parents who could not resign themselves to the “crazy project” that their sons worked, poor souls. Also, practical and objective townspeople ridiculed this juvenile project. We argued with our parents and completely ignored the opinion of the townspeople. We continued our work without paying attention to the others and without regard to our daily failures.

When harvest time arrived we had need of outside workers, farmers' daughters, who were experienced in this work, but, of course, we worked together with them. We sang along with their cheerful singing and even taught them some of our songs. They viewed us as strange fellows and smiled at our work, as in “What is this work to you?” (From the Pesach Haggada). After all it was not common to see Jews from town, sons of the middle class, working in the field.

After the harvest it became clear that we had failed, the crop did not earn enough to cover the investments and the losses were great. Autumn was coming, the season when each one of us had to help his parents whether in the store or at work. We sold the crop, the tools and the horse and cart at a substantial loss – and the group disbanded.

This project was the subject of talk for many days. We viewed it as only a first attempt, and the losses as necessary payment for the lessons learned. We were sure that we would continue the next summer, and of course, we would not repeat our mistakes, since we were now experienced. Unfortunately it didn't happen but a few of us were privileged to go to Eretz Yisrael and became good and experienced farmers there.


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Briceni, Moldova     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 01 Apr 2015 by JH