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Communal Institutions (cont.)

The Ukrainian Committee

With the increase of the stream of refugees in 1920 in Kishinev as well, a Ukrainian committee was organized that was supported by the Joint (Distribution Committee). There were many problems: a) immediate accommodation for families, that is a place to sleep and minimal financial support; b) obtaining transit passage from the leaders of the Romanian army; c) making contact with the families of the refugees in America; d) obtaining a permit from the government for those who wish to remain in Bessarabia. At one time, there was the need for judicial and economic care, social assistance, and dealing with all types of problems that arose from this care. A branch of the Ukrainian committee was organized in Orheyev as well, which indeed was the same communal council with its members, and other volunteers who worked on behalf of the refugees in all necessary areas. The unforgettable effort and dedication of Moshe Kalmanovitz and his wife Leah should be noted.

Torgovia Street (the market district)

Torgovia Street (the market district)


Young and old were assisted by them. Among the others, it is appropriate to note Leibel Kleiner, an active member of Tzeirei Zion and Leib Stolyar, who would trick the guards of the bridge with the pretext that he was accompanying the refugee, who was a worker who was assisting him, and that they were going to work in Sloboda. Thus, he succeeded in bringing dozens of refugees to the route to Kishinev, and saving them from the talons of the Sigurnata (Security Police).

Indeed, the spontaneous response of the Jewish population in Bessarabia in general, and of the residents of our city in particular, to assist their unfortunate brethren who fled from the evil in Ukraine was epic and glorious. On the other hand, the communal activists were detained for 3-4 years from doing anything for the local needy. The economic situation was generally bad, and the communal council had to concern themselves with social issues. Aliza Shpilberg-Chokla tells about this era:

“In May 1925, my father Gedalya, who served as the accounting director of the communal council for many years, died. The communal council hired me as a cashier. I began working in January 1926. Nissel the son of Yoel Pagis and Miryam Beznos (today Rabinovitz who lives in Herzliya) worked in the office.

“Since the communal council renewed its activities in 1924, it succeeded in uniting all of the civic institutions that were dependent on the Jewish community, and it obtained a provisional permit from the Romanian government to authorize the communal charter. The united institutions worked under this charter for several years without disturbance.

“This organizational situation brought a serious change in income, because of the levying of taxes, the increased distribution from the city council, and the meat tax. Several amendments to the communal charter were added, such as the maintaining of organized accounting, communal audits, etc.”

Aliza adds: “With appreciation, I recall the significant help that we communal workers provided to the communal leaders in their difficult task of supporting those who suffered from ill fortune. We attempted to provide them with the necessary information as quickly as possible. To those who lost their livelihoods, we would discretely deliver assistance to their homes, and thereby prevent any dishonor to them…”

The New Council in its Political Struggle

With the change of the central authorities, national political problems came to the fore that required astuteness and judicial knowledge in order to protect the national matters of communal life. To this end, the council invited three lawyers to the secretariat of the council: Yosef Shaiovitz, Siuma Pisarevsky and Tuviya Kohan. They designed a charter for the community and obtained appropriate permits as judicial experts. The government directed the community to transfer the educational and cultural institutions, the Talmud Torah, the Yeshiva and the library to the government educational network – which implied the closing of these institutions in the event of failure to fulfill this command. Indeed, these institutions were closed for a certain period. The leadership of the Talmud Torah was forced to join the network due to economic considerations, appoint a principal, and a Christian teacher to teach the Romanian language. The directors of the Yeshiva, thanks to the strong intervention of the communal secretary Y. Shaiovitz, received permission to maintain the Yeshiva under the condition that it would also be included in the public network, and teach religious studies in the afternoons. The students had the right to continue in Gymnasium without examinations. All of the teachers and directors were allowed to be Jews.

The Outbreak of the Storm (1938-1939)

We can get some idea of the economic and political situation of the Jewish community of Orheyev at the outbreak of the storm, from the letters that were received in the summer of 1938 from Itzel Fasir and Yechiel Leyderberg (to the writer of these lines).

Fasir writes: “Our economic situation is very depressed. However, the decree to prove our rights of citizenship is even harsher. From the time of the conquest of Bessarabia, many of the residents of Orheyev who were registered as being born in Transnistria and were not able to locate their birth certificates, which had never been requested of them, as well as the refugees from Ukraine who remained in Bessarabia, are indeed able to obtain certificates for the payment of a significant sum of money. However, most of those who are lacking the certificates are from among the poor.”

In order to ease the obtaining of citizenship, the communal council set up a judicial office that helps those who turn to it with advice and guidance. This is the committee that has been described in the Yiddish newspaper Unzer Tzeit that is published in Kishinev (8 Adar I, 5698, February 7, 1939).

The Orheyev Jewish Community

(this announcement was found in the archives by Mrs. Fania Rosenthal, the sister of the poet Zalman.]


Permit us to announce to the entire Jewish population of the city of Orheyev and the villages of the region that the Orheyev Jewish Community has founded a judicial office that will give specific information regarding any questions about rights of citizenship.

All Jews are requested to come to the office, where they will receive the necessary information.

The office hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Jewish Community of Orheyev

“… The political situation is also depressed. Permission is not given for a gathering unless it is to be conducted in the Romanian language. This decree prevents the majority of the community that does not understand Romanian from being able to participate in meetings. Therefore, the communal institutions have been hard hit. The Tarbut School, which does not have the legally required labor department, stands to be closed by the government unless a way is found to unite the school with the ORT trade school. Even under this circumstance, we will have to overcome many serious obstacles.

“The government decision to revoke the independence of the Jewish credit cooperatives and to include them in the Romanian cooperative network is also frightening. The roots of the cooperative movement in the economic and social realms of Jewish communal life for its 40 years of existence are known. The directors of the “Farband” and its head Yosef the son of Yisrael Pagis (the lawyer) are fighting with all of their talents to prevent this decree, however, without positive results. Imagine for yourself how great the destructive influence will be on the loan funds in their place, and also for us. How knows what is to come?”

From the letter of Leyderberg (July 1939) ( Avraham Malovatsky supplied the letter to the editors.)

“… The political tension continues to increase. An army draft was proclaimed up to the age of 50. Daily, masses are sent to the regiments. The population is perplexed and confused, and nobody knows what tomorrow will bring… The selling of matzos was limited because so many Jews had been drafted to the army. This negatively affected the allocations of the communal council. On the other hand, the stress upon many families whose husbands had been drafted, and to whom the community was not able to offer assistance, increased. Even with this difficult situation, the “oppositionists” did not desist from spying on the communal council. Luck was in their favor. The central Liberal government fell, and the Taranists (ed. note: Peasants' Party) came to power. One of their comrades was appointed as head of the branch, and thereby their status in the community took hold. The previous council, headed by Yaakov Volovsky, was fired. In the meantime, the suffering of those who required help grew, without anyone coming to the rescue.”

Indeed, the clouds that darkened your skies, oh community of Orheyev, grew even before the hand of the enemy overtook you. Your activists struggled greatly for your existence for many dozens of years. However, the storm destroyed and uprooted. The holy community fell, Orheyev and its natives perished and were destroyed by strangers…

May their memory be kept with us forever.

Board of the Labor Bank (1920)

Board of the Labor Bank (1920)

Seated from right to left: 1. D. Belfer 2. A. Shander 3. Y. Milshteyn 4. C. Veksler 5. [alef]. Rybukovsky
Standing: 1. Yaakov … (tinsmith) 2. C. Vaksman 3. S. Huberman 4. B. T. Keyser 5. N. Sapozhnik 6. M. Farber 7. H. Shinman


Board of the Labor Bank (1920)

City Council (1924-1929)

Seated from right to left: 1. Lawyer Moshe Ravich 2. Rivka Levinson 3. … 4. … 10. …
Standing: 1. … 2. … 3. M. Roitkov 4. … 5. Y. Faser 6. … 7. M. Goichman 8. M. Frant 9. D. Trostnitsky 10. Yehudah Yagolnitzer 11. Avraham Lipshin


B. Educational and Cultural Institutions

75 Years of the Existence of the Talmud Torah (1866-1940)

It is a known principle, from that time and always, that the first concern of our Jewish brethren is the education of their children. The lone settler in a remote village would invite a “melamed” to teach his children “Yiddishkeit” (Judaism). Similarly, in every town, groups of parents who had the economic means would hire a melamed for their children. However, nobody concerned themselves with the children of the poor, and on occasion, they were left out of the study of Torah, or they would have to satisfy themselves with merely learning how to read and write.

Such were the educational conditions in our city as well 75 years ago.

At that time, a group of activists arose to rectify the educational situation, concerning themselves primarily with the children of the poor.

Yosef Rabinovitz writes the following in “Hamelitz” of March, 1866: “In our town, a source of salvation was opened for the children of the poor. That is the Talmud Torah, the likes of which there never was before in Orheyev or in any other of the cities of Bessarabia. However, luck was not satisfied with the “Good” that fell to the lot of our children in the Talmud Torah. A curse was awaiting them that turned into a blessing. Within a few months of the opening of the Talmud Torah, the building went up in flames, and the children that remained were not able to study Torah. However the hands of the activists did not weaken. Within a brief period of time, they fixed up a house of seven large rooms, filled with lights. 112 children studied Torah there from seven teachers who carried out the holy task. Many families who have the means also send their children to this school…”

The Study of the Russian Language

“Mr. Savitch was the representative of the government. He was a Christian with a liberal outlook, the regional supervisor, the overseer of the regional schools, and a wise and beloved man. He took it upon himself to supervise the studies and to concern himself with all matter relating to the Talmud Torah and it success. He believed in the vital importance of ensuring that the students would become proficient in reading and writing of the language of the land, accompanying by a deep understanding of the spirit of the Jewish community that is concerned about the preservation of its religion and customs. In order to remove any suspicion from himself lest his intention was to bring the Jewish students under the wings of Christianity, he advised the supervisors to agree to send the children aged 10 and above for two hours of “Prichodskvaya” (elementary school) and to the regional school every day in order to study Russian language. One of their teachers would accompany them, sit in the class, and ensure that the Jews sat with their heads covered, and not intermingle, Heaven forbid, with the children of the other religion.” The writer adds, “... when the supervisors and the parents of the students saw that Mr. Savitch had only good intentions, they agreed to his recommendations. Thirty students of the Talmud Torah would attend the Prichodskvaya, accompanied by their teachers.

In those days, it was a daring act for the parents and the supervisors to send Jewish children to a Christian school. Therefore, according to the words of the writer: “There were many fanatics in our city that complained and groaned bitterly about the fate of these children. They became angry at the supervisors, and were prepared to destroy the Talmud Torah to its foundations.” On the other hand, we find an important assessment in Hamelitz about the aforementioned step of the parents and the teachers by the editor “Erez”, as follows: “… Hear this our brethren in the cities of Poland and Bessarabia, and take a lesson, this matter will only succeed with a willing soul and good intellect!” It seems that there were very few Jewish communities where public education for the children of the poor stood at the forefront of the thoughts of the communal activists in the way that it did in Orheyev.

To our distress, we were not able to find any other information about communal life in Orheyev in the newspapers, and the era of 1866-1887 is closed to us. Apparently, after Y. Rabinovitz left the city, another writer did not arise for about 20 years. This was the writer Shegav.

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