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[Col. 77]

7. Hibat Tsiyon
(Love of Zion)

The Jews of Suwalk were the very first members of the Hibat Tsiyon movement.[1] They were probably the very first in the actual settlement of the Land of Israel.

Correspondents tend to exaggerate when praising their home towns but there is not one particle of exaggeration in the words of “one of the Lovers of Zion” from Suwalk. “the people of our town Suwalk were the very first to actualize the idea of settling the Land of Israel”.[2]

Avraham Eliyahu Sandlar, a fairly well-known writer in “Hamelits”writes that: «many regarded it (the Suwalk society to buy land in the Land of Israel) as a strong foundation upon which one could build our people's edifice”.[3]

David Gordon, the famous editor of “Hamagid” writes in one of his letter to Altshuler and Briman of Suwalk that, “you are the first of the Diaspora Jews”, who do not come to beg donations for the Land of Israel but, who yourselves, go to carry out the idea.[4]

A. Druyanow, one of the chief architects of Hibat Tsiyon, writes about the Suwalk society:”Yesod Hamaaleh” that it is one of the first which has been created for the settlement of the Land.

In his great work on Zionism in Vilne, Yitshak Broydes writes that Suwalk was among the first seven cities of Hibat Tsiyon.[5]

In the countries to which they had immigrated, Jews from Suwalk were also in the forefront of Hibat Tsiyon. At the beginning of the nineties: “the first among the young (newly arrived) who thought about making London into a (Jewish) national city, was the beloved maskil, Ish-Kishor of Suwalk”. He and three comrades: “had the strength to stand on the bimah and preach about rebuilding the Land before thousands of people”. On 18th January, 1893 at a gathering of twenty people, most of them members of the Suwalk synagogue in London, it was decided to found a society named: “Ahavat Tsiyon” (Love of Zion). The members had to pay weekly dues which would (in 6-7 years) have accumulated sufficiently to buy a small piece of land for each member in Erets Yisrael.[5a]

[Col. 78]

But tens of years before the Hibat Tsiyon movement, Jews from Suwalk were immigrating to Palestine. There was more than a handful there as early as the 1850's or even the 1840's. Thus, by 1856 there was a Kolel Suwalk (ve-Lomza) in Jerusalem and it participated that same year in the founding of a burial society there. In 1866, the kolel Suwalk (ve-Lomza) entered into the “Vaad Hakelali shel Ha-Halukah”.[5b][1*]

According to the tombstone epitaphs in the Old City, collected by Asher Leyb Brisk, it can be seen that there were quite a few Jews from Suwalk in the holy city in the sixties and seventies. Here are some examples from these epitaphs:

Yonah Kohen from Suwalk 619{1859}.
The righteous and charitable woman, Hanah daughter of Yehudah from Suwalk, 625{1865} (wife of R'Zorah of Suwalk, called R'Zorah the Messiah).
Rishel wife of R'Hayim Gudlever of Suwalk, 632{1872}.
Tsevi son of R'Zeev Ha-Kohen of Suwalk, 634.[6]{1874}.
Rahel, daughter of the rabbi and preacher Yaakov, wife of Yosef of Suwalk, 634{1874}.
Tombstone of R'Yehezkel of the Suwalk kolel, father of Meir Avraham Sandlar, 635{1875}.
Tombstone of “The aged God-fearing M'Yaakov son of R'David Nusboym of Ratzk, died 636{1876}[6a]

When A.M. Altshuler came to Erets Yisrael on his first visit in 1882, he found in Jerusalem, R'Yisrael-Leyb Slavititski of Suwalk who, from his position in society, had lived there for some decades.[7]

[Col. 79]

Jews of Suwalk often left for Erets Yisrael as a result of propaganda which influenced them. Thus, for example, we find that R'Tevi Hirsch Kalischer, one of the pioneer rabbis in the idea of the Return to Zion, praised the propagandizing in 1873 carried out by “the great rabbi Zevulun, head of the congregation of Filipowe”, for the settlement of the Land of Israel.[8]

The propaganda and the family ties with compatriots who had already settled in the Land of Israel years before, were factors which led to Suwalk being among the first to hear the call of Hibat Tsiyon. Another factor was the pioneering spirit of Suwalk Jews to go forth into unchartered territories.

In 1881, the society “Yesod Hamaleh” was founded in Suwalk. Its chief founder, leader and ideologue was R'Eliezer Mordekhay Altshuler, and his chief assistants were; Zeev Ha-Kohen Danayger, R'Yitshak Dov Briman and Yehoshua Zeev Briman.

The goal of the members of this society was to immigrate to the Land of Israel. It quickly took on concrete forms. Altshuler and his assistants organized a group of 30 householders who were obliged to pay 2000 rubbles each. When the desired plot of ground in Erets Yisrael would be available for purchase, they each would put a down-payment of 50 rubbles. The number of members of the society quickly grew.

In a letter dated 5th December 1881, written by Altshuler in Suwalk to Z.D. Levontin in Krementchug,[9] he writes about his plan and how to realize it. First of all, a couple of emissaries would be sent out in order to survey the situation on the spot, and if their report was favourable, “then the members, old and new, would pay in the sum of money required to buy the land and to build homes. Five or more members would leave for Erets Yisrael to buy the land and to work the soil, and when the time would come for sowing the land, the remaining members would join them. When the time for reaping would arrive, the wives and children would come too so as to “reap the harvest with song”.

In the same letter, Altshuler writes that the goals of the society are: “to throw off from oneself the yoke of luxury” and, “we shall work the soil with our strength and our hands”.

[Col. 80]

Altshuler also touched upon the question of language. He writes: “One of our by-laws will be that in the Land of our Fathers we shall speak the language of our Fathers”. He also quotes the opinions of the leaders of the society on religious tolerance, study of foreign languages, etc.[10]


R'Mordekhay Eliezer Altshuler

Other people joined “Yesod Hamaaleh” – “who loved their people and their land with their whole hearts and who sought the general good” and who undertook to rid themselves of “all of the ugly behaviours which have brought shame upon the name of Jews in the lands where we live”.[11]

Elsewhere, Altshuler wrote about the reasons which inspired the idea of settling the Land of Israel in Suwalk. He mentioned that Jews of Russia-Poland suffered greatly during the pogroms of the eighties. They endured robberies, burning of Jewish towns, as well as pogroms. In Suwalk too, Jews feared that the Jewish quarter would be set on fire. Jews would stay awake all night, dreading the possibility of fire. They even hired guards to keep watch over the town at night. At that time, the idea began to spread among the Jews of small towns that they should create a society with the goal of settling in the Land of Israel. Altshuler wrote letters with similar contents to Yaakov Goldman, and Zeev Danayger wrote to Y.M. Pines.[12]

[Col. 81]

Before the Suwalk Yesod Hamaleh society decided to send delegates to the Land of Israel “to survey the land”, they tried to get information via correspondence with various leading personalities, especially Y.M. Pines in Jerusalem. They sought answers to the following questions: Would the Turkish government prevent them from arming themselves as self-defence in case of attack? Need they fear wild Arab neighbours? Would the government interfere in the “religious behaviour and the education of our children? Is it preferable to accept the protection of the Turkish government or of a European power? Etc.

One of these correspondences between Pines and the Suwalk representatives is particularly interesting. The members of “Yesod Hamaleh” who were preparing to go to Erets Yisrael were themselves householders {i.e. bourgeois} but they knew that artisans were vitally needed, so they wrote to Pines that they would bring along twenty Jewish artisans and pay for their expenses. Pines responded that there were plenty of artisans but if they could, they should bring along twenty Christian farmers[13] (my emphasis, B.K.).

By the way, it is worth mentioning that the Suwalk “Yesod Hamaleh” included members from Mariampol, Lazdey, Kalvarie and even from Mezeritsh, Brisk and Kovne.

At a meeting held on 7th Tishre, 642{1882} the members of “Yesod Hamaleh” decided to send two emissaries to Erets Yisrael – A.M. Altshuler and R'Yosef Rozntal. Since the latter regretted his decision, a second meeting replaced him with R'Yitszhak Dov Briman. The members of the society paid the travel expenses of the emissaries.[14]

The task of the emissaries was to bring back “accurate information about the climate, farming, life in the towns and in rural areas, growing grain and fruit, sheep and cattle raising, accurate information about the amount of money needed for a family to settle, and about security of life and property vis-à-vis the government and the inhabitants”.[15]

[Col. 82]

(The “Yesod Hamaaleh” Society had a whole programme of aims and methods which was published under the title: “Programme Le-ahusat Yesod Hamaaleh be-Erets Hatsevi”[2*] [16]

Altshuler wrote very sentimental letters about his arrival on the shores of the Holy Land. He wrote about his journey to Jerusalem: “I would often get out of the wagon and fall upon the ground and embrace it and kiss its stones with burning lips”.[17]

There were unexpected problems in Jerusalem. They came to their friend Y.M. Pines. Pines was a pious Jew but he did not get along with the fanatics in Jerusalem who had excommunicated him. These fanatics, along with the previously mentioned R'Aryeh Slabutitski of Suwalk, warned the emissaries that if they did not leave Pines' home, they would also be excommunicated. The rabbis of Jerusalem, with the famous Rabbi Moses Joshua Judah Leib Diskin at their head, held a special meeting on whether to excommunicate “the guests from Suwalk”, but they decided not to. The fanatics in Jerusalem wrote to Suwalk that the emissaries should not be believed because, so they wrote: “we have corrupted our ways and have joined wicket and deceitful people”[3*]

Altshuler and Briman spent about four months in Erets Yisrael. In order not to leave empty handed, they bought the “Arbel property near Tiberius”, but the purchase was later rejected and the deposit forefeited.[18]

The report of the emissaries was not encouraging. They pointed out many difficulties both to the members of “Yesod Hamaaleh” and to Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer.[19] Someone ferreted out the unfavourable report and leaked it to “Voskhod”. In “Hamelits” (1885 n°24) Altshulder denied the published report.

[Col. 83]

Altshuler's information about conditions in Erets Yisrael, made public but not by him, made an enormous impression. The famous Jewish-Russian writer, L. Levanda wrote to Ephraim Deinard thus: “The letter sent by Altshuler was like a bolt out of the blue. Here he describes the situation in great detail on what he saw in the Holy Land in the course of a five-month – in black hues without a drop of light”.[20]

The emissaries told their comrades about all the obstacles in the way of settling in Erets Yisrael, but their conclusion was: “We must go there”. Altshuler's report was in truth a progress report whose gist was: “we must be pioneers and others will follow”.[21]

In spite of the unfavourable report, the society “Yesod Hamaaleh” grew to a membership of 156 (a second sources says 137). The veteran members accepted the conclusions of Altshuler and Briman and, at a meeting, they decided to send a second delegation to Erets Yisrael made up of three people: R'Mendl Burak, an authority on soil, R. Barukh Rosnberg, who knew French which was necessary for dealings with the government institutions of Palestine and the third member came from Brisk {Brest-Litovsk}.

This delegation was authorized to buy an area of 10,000 dunams {around 2500 acres}. They were given 5000 rubbles to take along for deposit. The money came from 100 members each one of whom donated 55 rubbles.[22] (The remaining 500 rubbles probably went toward travel expenses, preparations, etc).

[Col. 84]

The second delegation was completely different in composition to the first. R. Mendl Burak, a very wealthy Jew did not have Altshuler burning faith in Love of Zion. While on his journey he regretted having taken on the obligation and he wanted to return to Suwalk on a number of occasions. This kind of attitude must have affected the other two emissaries.

While on their way, the emissaries telegraphed home that they had heard a rumour that the Turkish government forbade non-citizens to settle in Erets Yisrael. However, they were permitted to settle in nearby Syria. They asked, therefore if they should continue on their way. On the basis of this telegram, a meeting was called on the members of “Yesod Hamaaleh” where it was decided to telegraph the emissaries: “Go and see”. As for the matter of Syria, a questionnaire was sent around to all members in Suwalk and almost all responded: “No”.[23]

The emissaries from Suwalk were really in a very difficult situation. Coming to a country under Turkish rule where they did not know their way around, where the government forbade the sale of land to non-citizens and which could be circumvented only by Levantine machinations of which they knew nothing {was a great problem}. It was forbidden too to build houses or plant vineyards without special permission which was very difficult to obtain, especially for foreigners and there were other prohibitions and difficulties.

These combinations of problems led the emissaries to return home empty handed after a few weeks in Erets Yisrael.[24]

Y.M. Pines criticized Mendl Burak that he was not whole-heartedly involved in the project and that had let it to its failure. In his memoirs, Altshuler expressed a similar opinion. But, this seems to us to be an exaggeration. After all, neither Burak nor the other members of the delegation made the decision not to buy any land. This was decided by the management of “Yesod Hamaaleh” in Suwalk, headed by Altshuler, as he himself writes in a letter to Pines dated 9th Av.{5}682{1882}.[25] According to this letter, there was another factor which led to the failure of the project; the opposition of some members of “Yesod Hamaaleh”. Altshuler writes that the main motive for people wishing to move to Erets Yisrael was fear for their lives. However, now Altshuler writes: “this motive has grown much weaker because the new Minister of Interior, Count Tolstoy, promised to protect all members of the {Russian} population equally.

[Col. 85]

The members of “Yesod Hamaaleh”, writes Altshuler, also feared the new directive of the Minister of Interior in that those who agitated for people to leave Russia would be severely punished. The whole tone of the letter is very sad and a broken Altshuler writes to Pines: “I am left alone, all alone”.

Altshuler went to visit Erets Yisrael a second time in 1904 in order to create a base for his society, but again without results.

A participant in one of the Suwalk delegations (probably the second one) was the Suwalk preacher, R'Yehoshua Zeev Avner.[26] Altshuler does not mention his name but Avner tells about this in his book: “Tsir Ne'eman”. He write {in Hebrew} “The idea of settling the Holy Land found favour in the hearts of the honourable men of my home town Suwalk, and I became a member of the society to fulfil the positive commandment of settling the Land of Israel, that is, to buy land in Erets Yisrael and to settle there”. Avner writes in a confused way that he bought the “Arbel land” “in which purchase, Jews of various cities participated” but that this purchase was cancelled by the second Suwalk delegation. He writes that he put down 2000 rubbles as a deposit but that the purchase came to naught because of slanders.

Ephraim Deinard, writing about the history of the Hibat Tsiyon movement in Russia, describes this episode quite clearly: “One of the men in the Suwalk delegation, Mr. Avner, a man who knew Torah and who was a ritual slaughterer by profession, lost a great deal of the society's money because of his ignorance”.[27]

The Suwalk society “Yesod Hamaaleh” as the first, or one of the first societies established with the goal of settling in Erets Yisrael, soon became well-known in the entire Jewish National world. The news that important and wealthy Jewish householders of a large Jewish community wished to give up all of their businesses and emigrate to Erets Yisrael to farm the soil made a tremendous impression. The Russian-Jewish periodicals published a great deal about the society and set it up as a model for all Jews. We have already mentioned the words of A.A. Sandlar that the “Yesod Hamaaleh” was considered “a strong base on which to build the entire national edifice”.[28]

[Col. 86]

Out of fear of an “evil eye”, articles about the Suwalk society and its delegations to Erets Yisrael were often written anonymously, or the name of the town was changed. Thus, for example, in “Hamagid” 1881 n°42, there is a long article on “Settling Erets Yisrael” where the town of K is mentioned and no author is given. In his letters, Altshuler later revealed that he was the author of the article and that K was Suwalk.

In “Hatsefirah” 1881 n°39, Yaakov Goldman published an article: “Al Sheelot shel esrim mishmahot meir Kalbus”[4*] and Kalbus {in Hebrew} is Suwalk.

In “Hamagid” 1882 n°14ff, there was a series of articles under the title: “Vanashi le-shoalenu davar”[5*] (about “Yesod Hamaaleh”). The articles are signed A and B – the first letters of the names of Altshuler and Briman.[29]

R'Eliezer Mordekhay Altshuler, the leading spirit of “Yesod Hamaaleh” in Suwalk was born in Mariampol, Suwalk province on 2nd February 1844. His father's name was Tsevi-Hirsh and his mother was Rahel. At fifteen, he was married to a cousin whose mother lived in Suwalk. At 18 he moved to Suwalk where he became a merchant and remained there all his life.[30]

Altshuler was a great scholar and maskil. He wrote a commentary on Psalms and a commentary “Parshat Mordekhay”[31] on “En Yaakov”. In the introduction, he gives his genealogy. He tells that he has five sons and one daughter and that his wife's name is Sheyne, daughter of R'Meir-Yehoshua Dikhayzer. Two of his sons, Shelomoh and Zalman lived in Suwalk, the others in Lazday. One of his sons, Zalman now lives in the State of Israel. Altshuler died on 15th January 1921 in Suwalk.

[Col. 87]

After the two unsuccessful trips of its delegations, “Yesod Hamaaleh” was greatly weakened. Six years after its founding, the first “official” group of Lovers of Zion was founded in Suwalk in November 1887. At this time, there was markedly greater activity in collecting money for Erets Yisrael, especially through dishes that were placed in synagogues on Yom Kippur eve. These collections were carried out by M. Tshostkov, Moshe Bialistotski, Yisrael Yehudah Serayski, Rabbi Hayim Mendl Fridman, Moshe Manzon, Haykl Kusnerzitski and others.[32]

[6*] [33]

The Suwalk Hoveve Tsiyon, some of whom had belonged to “Yesod Hamaaleh” was undoubtedly influenced by the latter's methods expressed in the motto: “Go to the Land of Israel, you yourself”. It is no wonder, therefore, that in 1889 the “Hove Tsiyon mi-Suvalk” sent a delegate to Erets Yisrael to buy land for it – their member Yehudah David Butkovski.

The Hoveve Tsiyon raised money for Erets Yisrael at weddings, at circumcisions, through aliyot[7*] by selling pictures of Sir Moses Montefiore, greetings on festive occasions ;for example at Zeev Visotski's {Kalonymus Zeev Wissotsky} seventieth birthday, etc. One can see lists of names of collectors of donations and of contributors from Suwalk, Saini, Baklerowe, Krasnopole, Ratzk and other cities, on pages of the Hebrew press, especially “Hamelits”.[34]

The Hoveve Tsiyon societies in Baklerowe, Psherosle and Filipowe were founded later than in Suwalk. The initiative in founding these societies came from the local rabbis – characteristic of the types of rabbis in the Suwalk area.[35]

The correspondence in the Hebrew press shows a weakening of Lovers of Zion activities in Suwalk in the 1890's. One of the reasons for this was the departure of actively involved leaders of the movement, for example, Zeev Ha-Kohen Danayger.

Suwalk, home of “Yesod Hamaaleh” is not even mentioned in an 1895 list of 30 cities which contributed 100 rubbles a year “thus showing their love of Zion from beginning to end”.[36]

Suwalk did indeed become much weaker in sending money for the Land of Israel but, it became much stronger in an area which was immeasurably more important than donations. It began, (or rather continued) to send pioneers there. Suwalk was among the first – the very first to send pioneers to Erets Yisrael.[37]

Y.S. Vays well acquainted with Suwalk matters writes: “around 30 young people left for the Land of Yisrael from Suwalk and vicinity when I lived at that time (in 1890's). Most of them died of malaria during the first years after their arrival”.[38]

In 1891, a ship came to the port of Jaffa. For various reasons, the passengers were not allowed to disembark and they had to be provided with return tickets. Among these pioneers were some people from Ratzk.[39]

A correspondent from Suwalk writes in 1893 that in the past ten weeks, five young men (one a gymnasium student) had left for Erets Yisrael, with the goal of working the soil. Others were also preparing themselves to emigrate.[40]

That same year, a long letter from Reuven Goldnberg to his father in Suwalk was published in “Hamelits” n°57. He writes from Hadera (which had Jews from Suwalk among its main builders) about quarrels with Y. Hankin about the validity of the agreement to buy the Haderah property (around 30,000 dunams). He denies the rumours of malaria in the colony and at the end, gives a lively picture of the daily work schedule from morning until night and expresses his great satisfaction with his new life and new land.

[Col. 89]

In order to get an impression of the pioneering contribution of Suwalk and vicinity in the building of the Land of Israel, we shall write about some of the people from Suwalk and from the nine small towns around it, who settled in the Land of Israel in the early years of pioneering, and who helped lay the foundation for the State of Israel.[41]


Moshe Aryeh Kahana

M.A. Kahana was born in 1814 in Kalvarie. He was a scholar, very wealthy and very involved in working for the Jewish community. He was very friendly with the Governor of Suwalk who allowed him to sit in his office with his hat on. When Nicholas I visited Suwalk, the Governor introduced Kahana to him. In 1881 he immigrated to the Land of Israel where he was the warden of “Kolel Suvalk”.[42]


Moshe Rubovits

Moshe Rubotis was born in Suwalk in 1835. His father, R'Yehudah-Leyb was a scribe. His mother was Khiene. While still quite young, he went to Marseilles, France where he studied art. In 1851, he was in Jerusalem where he became a pharmacist. He therefore was usually called R'Moshe Apteyker {apothecary}. When R'Moses Montefiore visited Erets Yisrael, Rubovits drew his portrait. He died in Jerusalem in 1900.[43]


Yehoshua Zeev Avner

One of the first active Lovers of Zion in Suwalk was Yehoshua Zeev Avner-Zisenvayn. He was an emissary from Suwalk to buy land in Erets Yisrael (around the 90's)[44] Avner was also sent to America to collect funds for Erets Yisrael. Avner published a book: “Tsir Neeman” (Jerusalem {5}658{1897-1898} in which the introduction tells about himself. On the title page he describes himself as “the humblest {or youngest or least} of the holy society of Jerusalem, Yehoshua Zeev, son of R'Yisrael Yitshak of blessed memory, called Zissenvayn, known as Avner for family of my mother, may she rest in peace”.

Avner was born in Suwalk where he was a preacher and a ritual slaughterer. He also worked as a ritual slaughterer in Saini and in Laypun. He was a student of R'Yisrael Salanter and, in Erets Yisrael, of the great rabbi R'Yehoshua Leyb Diskin.

He was one of the founders of the colony “Yesod Ha-Maaleh” of the Anshe Mezeritsh. Avner died in Jerusalem in 1899 at the age of 55.[45]

[Col. 90]

Yehudah-David Butkovski

Y.D. Butkovski was born in Suwalk in 1853. His father's name was Tsevi Nehemiah and his mothers, Gitl (Shapira). He married Hayah-Rahel, daughter of Nahum Rivkind.

Yehudah-David was a member of Ahad Ha'am's “Benei Moshe” and a great Lover of Zion. In 1886, he participated in the founding in Suwalk of a society for the purchase of land in Erets Yisrael. He was sent in 1889 to Erets by the “Hoveve Tsiyon mi-Suwalk” to buy land for them. He bought the land in 1891 where Haderah, one of the oldest colonies was later built. He sent his son Nahman-Shelomoh in 1891 at 17 years of age to Erets Yisrael. The boy could not bear the climate and died of malaria. He sent his second son Tsevi Nehemiah there in 1894.

Yehudah-David Butkovski visited Erets Yisrael four times. When he had finally decided to settle there, the First World War broke out and upset his plans. He died in Suwalk on 6th Iyar{5}676{1916}[46]


The Kohen-Kaplan family

Hilel Kohen (Kaplan) was born in Suwalk in 1855 to Shemuel and Hanah Kaplan. He was a merchant in Suwalk and then in Lyck, (Prussia). Under the influence of R'David Gordon, the editor of “Hamagid”, which was published in Lyck, he left for the Land of Israel in 1882. He worked there mainly in agriculture. He lived in Petah Tikvah where he was active in many areas. He died on 18th Shevat{5}670{1910}[47]

His whole family settled in Petah Tikvah in 1887. His son Yisrael, born in Suwalk in 1881, became a worker in the colony. His second son Yehezkel, born in Lyck in 1882, became the English teacher in the PICA school in Petah Tikva. Yehezkel was an active participant in the general life of the “Mother of the Colonies”.[48]

[Col. 91]

The Goldnberg family

Among the founders and developers of the colony of Haderah, there were a number of Jews from Suwalk. Among them was Eliezer Goldnberg born in Suwalk in 1849 and his sons. His father Yehezkel bought 250 dunams in Haderah via the “Agudat Koveneh”.[49] Eliezer settled in Erets Yisrael in 1896. He worked his farm by himself. He was also active in the communal life of the colony. He died in Yavniel in 1919.[50]

Elierzer's oldest son Reuven (born in Suwalk in 1872) was sent by his father to prepare the ground in 1893, after the property had been purchased. In Haderah, he met his old friend Nahman Shelomoh Butkovski (born in Bialystok in 1885). The two friends died at the same time (1898) from malaria. The epitaph upon their joint gravestone in Haderah read “They were not parted in their lives and in their death”.[51]

Hayim Goldnberg, Eliezer's second son was born in Suwalk in 1883. In 1901, he joined his family which had emigrated earlier together with his mother, Havah-Sarah (Nishkovski) and his brothers Moshe and Yehezkel. He is one of the founders of the school and library in Haderah. He was also the Mukhtar {Mayor} of the colony for a long time. During World War I, he was accused by the Turks of supplying grain to the English enemy ships. In 1920, he was sent to Paris to ICA[8*] to negotiate matters relating to land and forests. There he caught a cold and died on 14th Tevet {5}681{1921}[52]

Moshe Goldnberg, born in Suwalk in 1886, was a farmer. He was a member of the “Histadrut HaHaklayim”[9*] and participated in the guarding and defence of Haderah.[53]

The youngest of the Goldnbergs – Yehezkel, born in Suwalk in 1891, studied under David Yellin and Y.M. Pines in the Jerusalem Teachers Seminary. In 1919 he studied medicine in Zurich and later in Bonn, where he received his doctor's degree. Yehezkel was the principal of the “Bet Hasefer le-Banot”[10*]. He was active in educational and communal affairs.[54]

[Col. 92]

Menahem-Mendl Nahumovski

M.M. Nahumovski was also one of the founders of Haderah where he served as Mukhtar for a long time. He was born in Suwalk in 1862. He studied in the Yeshiva of Volozhin where he founded a secret Zionist society, “Nes Tsiyonah”. He later organized a similar society in Kovne where he married Hayah-Rahel Kutler. He came to Erets Yisrael in 1890 and settled in Haderah where he contributed greatly to the colony. Nahumovski died in 1902. All of his children except one died of malaria.[55]


Hayim Rozntal

H.Rozntal came from Augustow where he was born in 1865. He graduated from the gymnasium in Suwalk and studied at the University of Warsaw. He came to Erets Yisrael around 1895. He was active in many cultural institutions.[56]


Yosef Azariahu (Uzarkovski)

Yosef Uzarkovski, who Hebraised his name to Azariahu, was a very important personality in Erets Yisrael. Azariahu was born in Suwalk in 1872. He was a fierce Lover of Zion even before settling in Erets Yisrael in 1893. He returned to Suwalk in 1900. He was the delegate of the Hoveve Tsiyon of Dvinsk to the Fifth Zionist Congress where he was a member of the “Democratic Bloc”.

Azariahu returned to Erets Yisrael in 1895. His house was one of the first of ten in Tel-Aviv.

After the British occupation, he became the head of the community in Haifa. In 1919 he became Inspector of all of the elementary schools in the country which were under the supervision of the Zionist movement. He later became the substitute for Dr. Yosef Lurie, Director of the Education Department in Erets Yisrael. Azariahu published important text books. One of his books on methods of teaching Bible was published posthumously. He died 6th Nisan{5}605{1945}.[57]

[Col. 93]

Hayim Margolit-Kalvariski

The Suwalk area produced one of the most colourful personalities of the last fifty years in the history of Zionism – a man who made tremendous strides in redeeming the soil of Erets Yisrael – Hayim Margolit-Kalvariski.

Hayim Kalvariski was born on 25th March 1867 on the estate Dubratsurtkov near Psherosle. His father Asher was the author of the book “Nahlat Asher”. Their family tree goes back to the Tosefot Yom Tov[11*].

Hayim studied in a heder and in the Suwalk Russian gymnasium. He received a degree in agronomy in Montpellier, France. Together with the famous Zionist workers Dr. Yehoshuo Bukhmil, Dr. Yosef Mohilever and Dr. Yosef Sapir, he founded a Jewish student organization in Montpellier – “Atidot Yisrael”. It was the first Jewish student organization to join the Zionist organization.

In 1895 Hayim Margalit-Kalvariski immigrated to Erets Yisrael. He was secretary of “Benei Moshe” in Jaffa. He created the famous Sejera farm. He redeemed the land where he helped to found the colonies of Yavneel, Kefar Tabor, Bayit ve-Gan and Menahamiya. In the last colony, he placed Georgians as settlers (from Russia) who were good farmers. He also helped bring into Jewish hands the lands of Kineeret, the two Deganyas, Ayelet Hashahar, Tel Hay, Kefar Giladi and other places.

Kalvariski went to Europe often in order to report to Dr. Herzl on the importance of practical work in Erets Yisrael.

He did a great deal for the employment of Jews as watchmen and labourers on Jewish farms. Kalvariski believed that Zionist policy must base itself on Jewish-Arab friendship. He worked toward this goal and was criticized too. He knew Arabic very well and had many connections with the people. It was thanks to him that Baron Rothschild set up a school for Arab children near Rosh Pinah. He introduced Nahum Sokolow to Arab leaders. After World War I, he was invited by King Feisal and the Presidium of the all-Syrian Congress to work out a plan to solve Palestine problems. But his plan was rejected by Zionist leaders.

[Col. 94]

From 1923 to 1927 Kalvariski served as the director of the Arab section in the Zionist Executive. His activity, especially during this period, to achieve a real Jewish-Arab peace, did not bring results.

Because of his position on Jewish-Arab problems, he joined the “Brit Shalom” of Dr. J.L. Magnes and became a leading member of it.

Hayim Kalvariski-Margalit[12*] did not live to see the redemption of the land for which he dedicated his life. He died in Jerusalem on 19th January 1947.[58]


Yehezkel Rabinsan

Yehezkel, son of David Robinzon, was born in Suwalk in 1881 and was in Erets Yisrael with his parents in 1883. He was one of the founders of “Histadrut Poale Petah Tikva”[13*]. He died in 1926.[59]


Yosef Ziman

Yosef Ziman was born in Filipowe in 1882 to his father Zeev and mother Libe-Freyde(Frank). His grandfather Hayim had sent his two sons Aharon and Note to Erets Yisrael in 1885 to buy land. But they returned because they could not find a suitable piece of land for themselves.

Yosef Ziman founded the “Geulah” society in Kovne whose goal it was to buy land in Erets Yisrael from the Arabs. He left for Erets Yisrael in 1925. He was one of the founders of “Nahalat Yitshak”. He also helped found the “Igud Yotse Lite”.[60]


Tsevi-Nehemiah Butkovski

Tsevi-Nehemiah Butkovski played a role in the period before the creation of the State of Israel. He was a member of the Vaad Haleumi in Erets Yisrael. He was often delegate to the Zionist Congresses. The “Hitahdut HaIkarim”[14*] chose him once as president. He served as Mukhtar of Haderah for fifteen years. He published many articles in the Palestinian press.

[Col. 95]

Tsevi-Nehemiah was born in Suwalk in 1886. He came to Erets-Yisrael in 1895 with part of his family. Because of falling serious ill with malaria, he soon left. He returned only in 1907. At this time, he was married to Rahel Volf from Suwalk. Ts.N. Butkovski died in 1943. “Bet Butkovski” in Pardes Hanah was built in his memory.[61][62]


Avraham Moshe Koler

A.M. Koler, born in Helinowe in 1889, is one of the most active members of the Jewish labour movement in Erets Yisrael. A.M. Koler was the son of Rabbi Ben-Tsiyon Shimon Eliszon, rabbi of Yelinowe. When he was twelve years old, his parents sent him to study in the Talmud Torah and Yeshivah in Suwalk.

A.M. Koler gave private lesson in Hebrew and Bible in Suwalk. He taught these subjects in Yelinowe for two years and then he was a teacher in Kelm, Lite.

In 1909 he came to Erets Yisrael. He was active in “Hashomer” and in the cause of Jewish self-labour. He worked in “Histadrut Poale Shomron” together with David Remez (1916), and he was a member of the “Merkaz Histadrut Ha-Poalim Ha-Haklaim”. He was also one of the founders of “Ahdut HaAvodah” which later joined with “Hapoel Hatsair” to become the present-day labour party of Israel Mapai.

A.M. Koler was one of the directors of the “Merkaz Hakla'I” for seven years. He organized “Herut Amerikah”[15*]. In 1920 he went to live in kibbutz Geva where he remained until recently.

Koler edited “Niv Hakevutsah”, “Ba-Emek”, “Hag u-Mo'ed” and “Ha-Omanut Be-hayenu”.[63]


Yekutiel-Eliyahu Harlap

Y.A. Harlap was born in Baklerowe in 1897. His father Yaskov was a descendent of the Gaon of Vilna and his mother, Feyge Hanah(Blaus) – of R'Yisrael Salanter.

Harlap studied in the hadorim and the Yeshivah of Suwalk. At the time of World War I, he and his family turned up in Georgia {Russia} where he became a member of the local Zionist council. He became head of the Tseire Tsiyon party in Georgia. He participated in the All-Russia Zionist Conference and the Tseire Tsiyon Conference in Petersburg in 1917.

[Col. 96]

In 1921, Harlap came to Erets Yisrael. He is very active in the labour movement. He has often been a delegate to the conferences of the “Histadrut”. He has published a series of articles in “Davar” and in “Hapoel Hatsair” on current topics.[64]


Avraham Stern (Yair)

Avraham Stern was the leader of the “Lohame Herut Yisrael” (Stern Group) which, together with the “Irgun Tsevai Leumi”, fought a bitter campaign suing terror tactics against the British mandatory power. A.Stern was born in Suwalk in 1907. His father Mordekhay was a dentist and his mother was the daughter of the famous maskil from Vilkomir, Refael Grushkin.

At the time World War I, his father was imprisoned by the Germans and fell ill. The mother and children turned up in deepest Russia. After the war, she returned to Suwalk where Stern remained for a few years. The difficult years he spent along without his parents put their stamp upon him. Avraham returned to Suwalk in 1921 where he studied in the local Hebrew gymnasium. He was one of the leaders of the Jewish Scout Organization in Suwalk and its founder.

In 1925, Stern's parents sent him to Jerusalem to study in the gymnasium. After he completed his studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he went to complete his education in Florence, Italy. In 1933, he interrupted his studies and became involved in the underground struggle against the British in Erets Yisrael. From that time on, he was known as Ya'ir.

A.Stern-Ya'ir was an extremist. He rejected the Paris agreement between Jabotinsky and the representatives of the “Irgun”. Even during World War II against Hitler, when leaders of the “Irgun” declared a cease-fire in the struggle against England, Ya'ir was in opposition – left the “Irgun” and founded the “Stern Group”.

The British Palestine Government put a price of `£1000 on his head. On 25th Shevat {5}742, they tracked him down, surrounded the house where he was hiding and killed him by gunfire.[65]

[Col. 97]

In 1951 a book of Stern's poetry was published: “Sefer Ha-Shirim”, in Tel-Aviv.


These are some of the people who originate from Suwalk that are mentioned here and there because of their role in the building of the Land of Israel. Suwalk also has a great “unknown soldier” who managed to infiltrate the ranks of the builders of the Land of Israel as far back as 1850's, and who spread out over all corners of the land unnoticed{?}.

[Col. 98]

The “Shemuel Shapira mi-Suvalk” whom we found in a list of 106 sick people in the Jerusalem hospital “Misgav Ladakh” – is not mentioned anywhere else.[66] However, such “Shapiras” from Suwalk may be found in quantity in Erets Yisrael.

Neither of these unknown pioneers nor Suwalk in general have received appropriate recognition in the history of the Lovers of Zion movement and its predecessors.[16*]



1. The first Lover of Zion in one of the largest Jewish centres, Warsaw, was the Suwalk writer Dov Aryeh Fridman. This was reported by Dr. Y. Shatzky in his “Di geshikhte fun Yidn in Varshe {The History of Jews in Warsaw}v.3 p.269, but he did not mention his origins. Return
2. “Hamelits” 1893 n°57. Return
3. Ibid 1883 n°18. Return
4. “Miyamim rishonim” {from the first days} editor A. Druyanow, Tel-Aviv 1934-35. Return
5. “Vilne ha-Tsiyonit ve-askeneha”{Zionist Vilna and its workers} Tel-Aviv 1939.[17*] Return
5a. “Zikhronot Tsiyon” {Memories of Zion} D. Panits, Baltimore 1903, pp9-20. Return
5b. ”Dor dor ve-olav”. {each generation and its immigrants to the Land of Israel}. Dr. Y.D. Vilhelm, Jerusalem 1946 p.126. –In 1902 there were 616 people in the Kolel, more than in any of the other Kolelim. The donations from Suwalk and Lomza landslayt for their Kolel in Jerusalem reached $7000 that year, more than the money donated for any other Kolel. In 1903, the rich American – R'Yisrael Zilbertal, built houses for members of the Suwalk Kolel in the Meah Shearim quarter of Jerusalem. See: “Sefer zikaron le-kehilat Lomzeh”. {Book of memory of the Lomze community} Jerusalem {5}713{1953} edited by Dr. Yom-Tov Levinski. Return
6. See at the end of “Helkat Mehokek” in Bibliography section. Return
6a. Ibid. Return
7. “Ketavim le-toldot Hibat Tsiyan ve-Hishuv Eretz Yisrael”. {writings on the history of the Love of Zion and the settlement of the Land of Israel}. Return
8. “Halevanon” 5633 {1871-73} n°3. Return
9. “Ketavim le-toldot Hibat Tsiyon…”. N°115, p.323. Return
10. see also chapter on Education and Enlightenment. Return
11. “Miyamim rishonim” {From the first days} v.1. Return
12. Ibid pp.93-94. Return
13. Ibid. Return
14. Ibid. p.120. Return
15. “Ketavim le-toldot Hibat Tziyon…” p.334 – Kriyat Sefer v.10 p.406 points out the great value of Altshuler's letters for the history of the Love of Zion Movement. Return
16. “Ketavim..” p.402. Return
17. “Miyamim rishonim” p.164. Return
18. See further on Y.Avner who describes the whole story somewhat differently. Return
19. “Miyamim rishonim” p.689. Return
20. “Divre hayamim le-Tsiyon be-Rusya” {Chronicles of Zion in Russia} part two, Ephraim Deinard, Karni{5}664 {1903-1904} p.4. It is really difficult to understand how one could write about the two loyal pioneers from Suwalk, “and the slander of the land was in their mouths”.(see: “Hadera”, Ever-Hadani, Tel-Aviv {5}711{1950-1951}. Return
21. Ibid p.221. Return
22. Ibid p.401. Return
23. Ibid p.256. Return
24. In D.Tidhar's “Entsiklopedia le-halutse ha-Yishuv u-bonav” {Encyclopaedia of the pioneers of the Yishuv and its builders} p.556, it is mentioned that “Ahuzat Yesod Hamaaleh” was transferred later to Jews from Mezritsh. This is an error: The Suwalk “Yesod Hamaaleh” was a society not an ahuzah {a holding}. The Ahuzah Yesod Hamaaleh did not belong to Jews from Suwalk. Return
25. Ibid p.260. Return
26. More about him later Return
27. “Divre hayamim le-Tsiyon be-Rusya” part one, Karni 566 p.75. Return
28. “Mikhtavim mi-maarav Lita” in “Hamelits” 1883 n°18. Return
29. The first petition to the Russian government for permission to form a society for the settlement of Erets Yisrael was delivered in May 1885. The permission was finally granted in 1890. Return
30. “Miyamim rishonim” v.1 p.91 and v.2 p.124. Return
31. Warsaw {5}656{1895-96}. Only part one was published. Return
32. “Hamelits” 1887 n°232. Return
33. Ibid n°155 - - In this jubilee volume in honour of K.Wissotsky, “Derekh Tsedakah” (Warsaw {5}655{1894-95} there is a greeting from the Lovers of Zion of Suwalk and separately, from Yehudah Leyb Kalvariski-Margalit and Hayim Tobkin (p.115,141). From “Reshimat ha-haverim le-hevrot temikhat be-Erets Yisrael” {Lists of societies for the support of the Land of Israel} (Odessa {5}663{1902-03} it can be seen that in 1902 there were the following groups in Suwalk dedicated to building the Land of Israel: “Ohave Tsiyon” {Lovers of Zion}; “Bene Tsiyon”{Sons of Zion}; “Benot Tsiyon” {Daughters of Zion}. Return
34. The sources are cited in the bibliography at the end of this work. Return
35. “Hamelits” 1898 n°79. Return
36. “Luah Ahiasaf” Warsaw {5}656{1895-96}p.249. Return
37. “Hamelits” 1893 n°57. Return
38. “Tiltule gever” p.73. Return
39. ”Haheshbon veha-mifal” {The account and the project}, din ve-hesbon kahal adat Bn”Y Yafo-Yerushalayim {5}651{1890-91}. Return
40. ”Hamelits” 1893 n°5. Return
41. Arranged according to year of birth. Return
42. “Entsilkopedia le-halutse Ha-Yishuv u-bonav “David Tidhar” p.385. Return
43. Ibid p.366. Return
44. See details on p.85. Return
45. “Helkat mehokek” v.7 p.2. Return
46. Tidhar p.896. Return
47. Ibid p.1347. Return
48. Ibid p.1207-8. Return
49. It functioned for a time in partnership with people from Suwalk. Return
50. Ibid 509. Return
51. Ibid 750,898. Return
52. Ibid 787. Return
53. Ibid 1763. Return
54. Ibid 1186. Return
55. Ibid 575. Return
56. Ibid 1210. Return
57. Ibid 1191. Return
58. Ibid 809. In “H”M Kluriski veha-Yishuv” Jerusalem, {5}704{1943-1944} one can see his important role in building new settlements.[18*]. Return
59. Tidhar 156. Return
60. “Yalkut ha-Hevra Kadish Tel-Aviv-Yafo veha-mahoz” {notebook of the Burial Society of Tel-Aviv-Yafo and the district}. Tel-Aviv{5}715{1954-1955} p.72 Tidhar 582. Return
61. Ibid 506. Return
61. Ibid 506. Return
63. Ibid 767. Return
64. Ibid 1221. Return
65. Ibid 1014. “Yair” {Illegal brochure of “Lohame Herut Be-Yisrael” {1944?}[19*] “Ha-dam asher ba-saf” {The blood upon the threshold}, Yaakov Vinshel, Tel-Aviv {5}716{1955-1956}. Return
66. “Hashkafa” 1904, n°38. Return

Translator's Footnotes

1*. The kolel was a group of Jews organized according to place of origin that studied and lived in Jerusalem. They were usually supported by contributions from their place of origin, divided according to proportion called “Halukah”. The Vaad Hakelali shel Ha-Halukah was the overall body which decided how to apportion these charity funds Return
2*. Programme for the Yesod Hamaaleh Colony in the Beautiful Country Return
3*. In Hebrew with Yiddish translation Return
4*. On the questions of twenty families in the city of Kalbus Return
5*. And we shall answer those who enquire of us Return
6*. Lovers of Zion from Suwalk Return
7*. Going up to the reading of the Torah Return
8*. Jewish Colonization Association Return
9*. The Federation of Farmers Return
10*. Girls' School in Jerusalem Return
11*. Yom Tov Lipmann ben Nathan ha-Levi 1579-1654 Return
12*. Opposite from the way his name is laid out in heading Return
13*. The Federation of workers of Petah Tikva Return
14*. Farmers' Association Return
15*. Has nothing to do with political party named Herut Return
16*. A large part of the biographies, if not in their entirety, were translated by Kagan from Tidhar's Hebrew language encyclopaedia. The style is pedestrian and Tidhar took for granted that his readers knew a lot about Zionist history. Kagan stuck to the text even when it was repetitious and made the same assumptions Return
17*. The word askan, askanim used in both Hebrew and Yiddish, it untranslatable. It is usually rendered as “communal worker” but in this context, means worker for Zionism Return
18*. I have transliterated the name as given in Hebrew but the reference is obviously to Kalvariski, however, his name is spelled in English Return
19*. the correct name of the so-called “Stern Group” was Lohame Herut Yisrael, LEHI Return


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