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[Page 99]

Chapter IV



[Page 101]

Yehuda-Leib Bershevski, z”l

by Yaakov A.

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

When I remember Y.L. Bershevski, I see an imposing figure who radiates reverence. His walk is imposing, his way of speaking is that of an important personage, his clever speech is full of wisdom, and those shining eyes that express such Jewish cleverness and sharpness – all of these characteristics aroused respect in strangers who didn't even know him. And, of course, those who did know him liked, admired and respected him.

Bershevski, who was appointed by the authorities, served for about 25 years as the Rabbi in our town. Although the position itself was not liked by the people because it was forced upon on them and not chosen by them, Bershevski was able to win the hearts of all the groups and classes of the community.

He was an enlightened person [maskil] but also had absorbed much of the light of Judaism; he was filled with a national spirit and supported Zionism. It's not surprising that both the Maskilim and the Zionists counted him as one of them. They even considered him a model of the perfect Maskil, and listened intently to his words.

The ultra-Orthodox [Haredi] circles respected him for his broad knowledge of Torah and for his warm attitude to Jewish values and tradition. The masses admired him for his pleasant manner with the public and with each one of them, for his attentiveness to each person's troubles, for his talent to solve problems and also to mediate both private and public disputes. He took great interest in public affairs and his influence was felt to a great extent; many matters were decided according to his opinion. This wasn't due only to his official position but rather because of his personality and authoritativeness.

He carried out his position with honor also in relations with the local and central government officials and represented his community proudly and with wisdom. In addition, these officials admired his character and often waived their will in his favor.

When he had served for 20 years, his admirers planned a jubilee party in his honor. Initially, they thought to hold a modest affair among a small group of his admirers, however many others appealed for a large celebration. Therefore, a committee was quickly formed representing all the various groups and the jubilee became a public gala attended by all the residents who expressed in this way their honest and devoted feelings of respect and appreciation of their Rabbi.

A few years later he passed away while still in his prime and glory.

Yaakov A.

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Jubilee Celebration for Rabbi Bershevski


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Rabbi Moshe Gevelder, z”l

by Yaakov A.

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Rabbi Moshe Gevelder, z”l

Moshe Gevelder was without doubt one of the main and prominent people in our town and one of the major speakers for the General Zionists. He served for many years as the official rabbi of our community however he was well-known also outside our town.

He was a learned person with broad knowledge in Jewish and secular studies, well-learned in rabbinic literature and the new literature, and was known as a talented speaker of the people who knew how to present enthusiastic speeches that won over many to the idea of Zionism. He was a friendly and talkative person who was able to create affable relationships with those of all levels. His home was open to all and many used to visit him there. Some came about public affairs and others to gain his counsel on private matters; some came to discuss issues of Torah and others came just to sit in his company and enjoy his intelligent conversation.

His public and Zionist activities were apparent in all spheres, especially in the field of education. He was one of the initiators of the Tarbut School that was founded in 1917 but lasted only a short time due to the vicissitudes of the time. Later, he supported the opening of the New Talmud Torah and influenced its curriculum.

A major part of his activities was his untiring work for the Ukrainian refugees. When masses of Jews thronged to our town from over the Dniester, the Jewish community faced very difficult problems, and one of them was how to obtain resident permits for these refugees. In view of his position, this problem fell to Moshe Gevelder

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and he represented the Committee for the refugees vis-a-vis the government. He worked day and night to arrange citizenship papers for the refugees or, at least, temporary residence permits. He waged a difficult struggle with the authorities who often issued new decrees and many times he was able to have a deportation decree cancelled.

In 1933 he came to Eretz Yisrael. He suffered absorption difficulties and before he managed to settle down he became ill and passed away after a short time. May his memory be blessed.


Rabbi Shimshon Efrati, z”l

by Shlomo Weissberg

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Rabbi Shimshon Efrati, z”l

His appointment to serve as rabbi of our town was controversial. The Zionists and many of the well-off supported the candidacy of Rabbi Shternberg from Dombrovni, a rabbi and well-known Zionist activist in Bessarabia, who had agreed to take the position after Rabbi Yitzhak Bich left for the United States. The butchers and other workers staunchly supported the candidacy of the young Rabbi Shimshon Efrati, who was the son-in-law of Rabbi Gutman from Yassi, and grandson of the well-known rabbi R' Yozipel from Berdichev; the writer Shalom Aleichem dedicated a special story in his honor. The latter group prevailed.

When Rabbi Efrati took on the position and we became acquainted with him there occurred a surprising change in attitude and after a short time all the people of the town supported him.

He managed to win the affection of all layers of the Jewish society in many ways. These included his erudition and broad knowledge, his Torah interpretations about which he lectured often, his modern views and speeches about current events such as varied Jewish and Zionist matters. In addition his public activity, involvement with the people and his intelligent and interesting conversation made him well-loved. This affection was appropriately expressed by the purchase of an apartment for him in the center of the town.

Nevertheless, his economic situation was hard-pressed and he often complained to me about his low salary that allowed him only bread and water, a condition similar to all the rabbis in the small towns at that time.

The entrance of the Russians into our town in 1940 depressed him. Look,

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he said to me, the big lie has also reached our town; today is the beginning of the end for us – his heart foresaw this. After his great suffering, both material and spiritual, during the Russian reign, came the Holocaust and the deportation. We went together to Kozlov, which is over the Dniester, and there we were separated because they led him in a different direction. Witnesses recounted that the Romanians abused him, more than any of the others, with terrible torture and cruel beatings until his pure soul passed away. His wife and sons also were killed.

May his memory be blessed and may G-d take revenge.

Shlomo Weissberg

Avraham Goldgal, z”l

by Baruch Katmafaz

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Avraham Goldgal, z”l

Avraham Goldgal was born to a Hasidic family and brought up according to its traditions but as a young man he looked to Zionism and became one of the heads of “Hovevei Zion” in our town.

He spent most of his activity among the youth who were studying and also lads from the Heder; he introduced them to the ideas of Zionism with his enthusiastic speeches and conversation.

His father, R' Shmuel , was unhappy that his son had strayed from the traditional path and had become a Zionist; he often reproved him with sharp words and commanded him to “repent.” But, Avraham, although he didn't dare argue with his father, did not heed his father's reproof and threats and continued with his Zionist activities. Now, he wanted to increase

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the number of Zionists and draw supporters from among the ultra-Orthodox community. He was helped by his friends, Rabbi Yehuda Bershevski. Avraham Kleinman, David Kuperman, Shlomo Lankovski and others. In this effort he didn't have much success.

All his life he yearned to go to Eretz Yisrael and settle there, but due to his poor material situation he wasn't able to fulfill this desire until his final years.

He was part of the group that with the help of “YK'A” founded the farming community called “Mesila Hadasha” (A new way) near Kushta. Its very name indicates that its founders viewed it as paving a road to Eretz Yisrael. He wasn't successful there and had to emigrate to the United States, where his family and oldest daughter lived. Only at the end of his life was his desire fulfilled and he came to Israel, however he lived there for only a few years. Here, in Israel, he suffered years of illness and hardship, and after a surgical operation he passed away on the last day of Pesach (Passover) in 1953.

Klara (Sarah) Lankovski, z”l

by Y. K.

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Klara (Sarah) Lankovski, z”l

She was born in 1873 in Briceni, in Bessarabia, and studied in a school for professional medical assistants. After her studies she began working in “Zamstavo.” She took an active part in the war against the cholera epidemic that broke out in the 19th century. She also studied midwifery and worked in our town until 1914 when she decided to go to Eretz Yisrael. On her way she was delayed in Mesila Hadasha (New Path) near Kushta where she was the only medical person in the area and gave aid also to the Turkish villagers.

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She arrived in Eretz Yisrael in 1919 and began working in Hadera with Dr. Trablus. The malaria epidemic was rampant and she dealt with treating the patients and in preventing the disease.

In 1920 she worked in Ben Shemen and in the years 1923–1933 she worked in Rehovot. Her husband died there and she moved to Mishmar HaEmek – where her sons lived – and worked as a medic in the Jezreel Valley.

After many years of diligent, exhausting work treating the sick and the suffering, especially among the workers in the settlements and the pioneers of the Third Aliya, she was about to retire and rest from her labors. But destiny intervened. Suddenly she fell ill with a fatal disease that led to her death in 1937.

From Eitanim

Y. K.

[Page 107]

Yehoshua-Isaac Ber”g, z”l

by Y. A. B.

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Yehoshua-Isaac Ber”g, z”l

Yehoshua Isaac, z”l was born in 1891 in the city of Hutin in Bessarabia. His parents, R' Aharon and Mrs. Sonia, z”l, were well-to-do merchants and were respected in their city. They observed the Jewish traditions and in their home was a good Jewish atmosphere together nationalism and even Zionism. Their son, who received a Jewish education and absorbed the atmosphere in the home, was an enthusiastic Zionist from his youth and devoted much time and energy to the ideal of the rebirth of his people in their land.

He together with his friend Yosef Apelbaum z”l (also a prisoner of Zion) were authorized by the Committee to Help the Jews of Eretz Yisrael and Syria. Russia prohibited Zionist activities and thus the Committee worked in secret. Yehoshu-Isaac z”l was the Secretary of the Vaadat Hakehila (Community Committee) in Hutin for a few years working day and night to advance its plans and to inculcate a spirit of national Zionism as opposed

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to the assimilationists and members of the “Bund” who were then dominant in the community; he also worked hard to support the Tarbut School in his city.

When he married and had a family, he moved with his family to Briceni and immediately stood out as a devoted public figure. In addition to his Zionist activities, he worked tirelessly and devotedly in most of the public institutions in the city and after a short time he was appointed head of the institutions and responsible for them. All this was done voluntarily and after a hard day's work.

Since he had a good heart, was generous and sociable, he became very popular with the people of the town and the surrounding area and earned their trust. All those who worked with him and were able to come to Eretz Yisrael mentioned him with respect and admiration – they praised his faithfulness and devotion to the needs of the community.

However, all this wasn't to his credit in the eyes of the Soviet government. Due to a fear for his safety, R' Yehoshua Isaac had to leave Briceni and move to the city of Tchernovitz and even there he couldn't live just for his family and himself. Among all his activities for the community he spent much of his free time working especially to support the “ free kitchen” for the hungry.

However, his important activities didn't last long and he was incarcerated in a Soviet prison due to those activities. Death found him there in May 1946 in the most cruel and tragic circumstances.

May his soul be bound up together with Jewish people forever.

Y. A. B.

[Page 108]

Moshe Vizaltir, z”l

by Y. E.

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Moshe Vizaltir, z”l

Moshe Vizaltir was among the best community workers in town and faithful to the General Zionist party; he was honest and pure-hearted, modest and having a pleasant manner, respected others and was respected by them. He was one of the founders of the Zionist synagogue She'arei Zion and served as gabbai all his life; he was entrusted with the position of treasurer of the New Talmud Torah and another school belonging to the General Zionists.

He fulfilled his public service with devotion and faithfulness and never declined to perform any activity asked of him whether small or large.

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His home was used as the Zionist center in town – for meetings, various parties and receptions. Everyone who came to their home was pleasantly welcomed by Moshe and his wife, Perl.

Both perished in Transnistria.

May their memory be a blessing.

Y. E.

[Page 109]

Yosef-Leib Schiller, z”l

by Mordechai Axelrod

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Yosef-Leib Schiller, z”l

Yosef-Leib Schiller was one of the leading lights of the previous generation in Briceni and it is appropriate that we remember him with respect. He was in business all his life and was respected by everyone with whom he had dealings. He was known for his modesty and his easy-going manner, candid and honest without any bias. He was a religious man without any hypocrisy. He was upright and honest in all his ways and deeds, both in his private affairs and in public matters. All his acquaintances and friends respected and admired him and his opinion was readily accepted in the community. Y.L. Schiller was one of the founders of the Mizrahi movement in town and one of its activists. He was a member of the Community Council for as long as it existed and was active in other public institutions. His facial appearance also aroused respect and fitted his character.

He perished in Transnistria at age 73. According to his physical strength he could have lived longer but his depression quickened his demise.

His wife, Beila who also is remembered with praise, always stood by her husband and identified with his ways.

What a pity is their loss!

Mordechai Axelrod

[Page 110]

Natan Lerner, z”l

by Yosef

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Natan Lerner, z”l

Natan Lerner passed away on 11 Tevet 5716 (1956) in Jerusalem after a long, serious illness. In Briceni, which is in Bessarabia, he was known as an active member of the S.R. political party in the days when Bessarabia was part of the Russian Empire. As representative of this party he was elected many times to the local government, Zamstava, where he fought for the rights of the working classes.

When Bessarabia was annexed to Romania in 1919, he was elected to the Romanian Parliament for the first time, as a delegate of the farmers' party and was repeatedly re-elected for ten years. Most of his voters were Romanian farmers among whom he was very popular. While fighting for their rights he did not forget his Jewish origins as he was connected to the Jewish culture and tradition and he worked with great devotion and some risk for the rights of the Jews. He concentrated on the citizenship rights of the Romanian Jews, especially those from Bessarabia, when the Citizenship Law of 1924 attempted to interfere with the rights of the Jews and to revoke the citizenship of most of them. His appearances in Parliament on this matter (1924-1925) are well remembered.

During the riots against the Jews in the city of Pokshani in 1924, he gave a critical speech

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in Parliament against the authorities and accused them of not taking steps to prevent the riots. This speech, which was reported in other countries, aroused the anger of the Parliament and the “Iron Guard” threatened to assassinate him. Although his life was in danger he wasn't deterred.

In addition, he struggled for the right to publish Jewish newspapers and obtained a license to publish Erd une Arbet and a daily paper in Yiddish.

A few months before World War II he went to Eretz Yisrael. He had difficulties in absorption there. Despite his advanced age he attended night classes to learn Hebrew and renewed the knowledge from his childhood. He managed to fit in and to be active as a minor government clerk. Corresponding to his lifelong views he grew close to the Labor movement and in his last years became a member of Poalei Eretz Yisrael.


(From Davar)

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Yehoshua Kahat, z”l

by Devora Sapir (Haramati)

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Yehoshua Kahat, z”l

I remember with trembling the tragic death of Yehoshua Kahat, z”l.

I knew Yehoshua as one of the Zionist activists in our town. We often met in his home for meetings and he would urge us to do various Zionist activities. Then, after deportation, we happened to be together with him and his family in the village of Lesniza. Soon, during the first weeks of the deportation his two sons were taken to “work” but they never returned… He and his daughter were sent, with me, to the Ukrainian village of Lesniza where he became ill. The farmer landlord laid him down on the oven and he lay there sick for a week without any medical treatment.

During one of the hard winter nights I awoke to the sound of loud knocking and frenzied call, “Get up, Donia, get up quickly!” I was terrified because I was sure the Germans had surrounded the house. When I opened the door, Esther, Yehoshua's daughter was standing there weeping and told me that her father had died. She had come to call me because he had to be buried that night.

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I wrapped myself in rags and I ran with her. Together we removed the body from the top of the oven while I held his head and she held his feet. By the light of a small flashlight that the farmer lit, he showed us the burial place at the end of his garden, gave us a shovel and quickly left. He left the work for us.

The temperature was so cold that the shovel actually stuck to my hand but I couldn't do anything about it and we dug very quickly. We had to finish before dawn lest we be seen. We dug the grave, put the corpse in with our own hands and covered it with dirt. Thus, both of us brought Yehoshua Kahat to his final resting place.

May his memory be a blessing

Devora Sapir (Haramati)

Aharon Steinhaus, z”l

by Yaakov

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder


Aharon Steinhaus, z”l

Aharon received his Jewish and Zionist education in his father's home.

His father, Rabbi Hersheli, belonged to those rabbis – just a few at that time - who followed Zionism not just in his heart and he was the one who instilled in us the love of Eretz Yisrael and taught us

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the Zionist ideals. In our home there was an atmosphere of Zionism that we naturally absorbed. In addition to father's Torah library, we had modern Hebrew books and conversations about Hebrew writers were common. We also received the Hebrew newspapers, Hamelitz, Hatzfira, Hazman and Hashiluah. Everything printed in the newspaper was interesting. We read it alone and together, both the written text and the meanings “between the lines” and it became the subject of conversations and debates in which my brother Yosef and Aharon participated and sometimes father, z”l took part in them. On Shabbat eve after the meal, we sat around the table for a long time singing songs – cantorial pieces, Hasidic melodies and even modern songs, songs of Zion and national and folk songs in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Our brother Yosef, the eldest child in the family, was already active in the Zionist association (with father's consent, of course), and participated in its assemblies, distributed Zionist shekalim, sold stamps of the Keren Kayemet, etc. He even founded the first Hebrew speaking Zionist branch in our town, which unfortunately didn't last long. He also influenced Aharon, introducing him to the ideas of Zionism and took him while still a lad to its activities. Later, after the years of decline and stagnation of Zionism that came about after the death of Dr. Herzl and the Uganda crisis, it was Aharon who worked for the renewal of Zionist activity in our town. He established, with Yehoshua Kahat, the Hebrew Zionist association, which drew the teachers David Milisman and Avraham Frankl. Then he was appointed the head of Hovevei Zion in our town and was in charge of all the Zionist activities at that time continuing until World War I. He was a member of the local committee of the General Zionists and one of its main activists all his life. He also participated in the Committee of the Keren Hayesod, the committee for the Ukrainian refugees, the committee of the new Talmud Torah, and more. When his family grew and he had worries over livelihood, his activities lessened but never stopped. He was among the best workers for the General Zionists until his passing and his opinions were heard in all public matters.

He was a pleasant person and involved with others and thus he was respected and admired by the community. Since he had a pleasant tenor voice, he would lead the prayers at the She'arei Zion synagogue on the High Holy Days and despite his difficult economic situation he donated the recompense of the prayers he had led to the new Talmud Torah.

He perished along with his wife Feige in Transnistria. Also, his son Hershel and his daughter were lost in the time of the deportation.

May their memory be a blessing.



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