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[Page 471]

Section Four:

Ideological Currents

  • Zionism, Political Parties, and Youth

  • The Left and the Communists

  • In the Eyes of Visitors

 

Zionism

[Page 471]

Illustrative Numbers

By David Vinitsky

Translated from the Hebrew by Naomi Gal

The National funds

Yedinitz was one of the most important cities in Bessarabia and sizzled with nationalism and community life. Yedinitz contributed generously to nationalist funds to develop Palestine, and the financial contributions were always greater than the relative number of residents, who were only 2.6% of the total Jewish population of Bessarabia. Because of the lack of complete and consistent archival material, we would like to prepare a detailed table for the entire twenty-year period that the nationalist funds existed in Yedinitz. We must settle with a composite statistical list that is as much as we could put together. It provides us, however, with a partial idea about the involvement of Yedinitz in developing Palestine.[1]

Year Sum collected (in Lei) Percentage collected in Bessarabia
A.   Keren Haysod
1926 239,200 3.8
 
B.   JNF
1927 118,277 3
1928 106,050 3
1938 166,473 3.3
 
C.   Ha’Haluz Week
1928 15,229 9
1929 12,090 3.7
1930 6,505 2.9
1931 5,793 3.7
1932 4,000 4.3
1933 3,896 3
1934 6,852 7
 
D.   For Working Israel
1928 50,000 Close to 10.0
 
E.   For those hurt by hunger in south Bessarabia
1928 50,000 6

[Page 472]

Yed0472.jpg

 

Election to the 19th Zionist Congress (1935)

The daily newspaper “Unser Zeit” (Kishinev) from July 31, 1935, published a report about the results of the elections to the 19th Zionist Congress in different places, including Yedinitz. From this report, you can learn that the number of voters in Yedinitz was by far greater than in other villages.

The lists are, number 1 – The State Party (Grossman), Number 2 – The Working Israel Party, Number 3 – General Zionists[2], Number 4 – Mizrahi.

 

The Elections to the three last Zionist Congresses in Yedinitz

Zionist Congress Year Voters Working Israel Mizrahi General Zionists State Party Invalid
19 1935 657 420 147 85 5
20 1937 675 364 215 85 2 9
21 1939 684 433 148 94 1 8

Givatayim

 

Translator's footnotes:
  1. The community in the small village of Donduºeni, who was next to Yedinitz and, to some extent under its influence, had only 277 Jews, 5.2% in relation to the Jewish population in Yedinitz, even surpassed with their contributions for the national funds. In 1928 they collected for Keren HaYesod 24,100 lei, which is about 10.0% compared to what was collected in Yedinitz. In 1938, 44,535 lei were collected for the “Hagalilah” factory, which is about 27.0% regarding what was collected in Yedinitz. Return
  2. The General Zionists (in Hebrew: הַצִיּוֹנִים הַכְּלָלִיים, translit. HaTzionim HaKlaliym) was a party that existed for many years. They were a centrist Zionist movement and a political party in Israel supported by Chaim Weizmann. Their views were supported by the central European culture. Their political arm is one of the ancestors of the modern-day Likud. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Zionists) Return

[Pages 473-474]

Zionism in Yedinitz

Yed0473.jpg
Zionist Youth in Yedinitz in 1904

 

This is the oldest photograph we have from Yedinitz. This is the oldest “Zionist” photo, and it is possible that it is the first photo of activists and community leaders in Yedinitz. At the bottom of the photo you can read the address in Russian as follows:

[Russian:] The Committee of the Zionist Youth Group in the City of Yedinitz, 8/30/1904.

Behind the photo in Russian are the words: “In eternal memory of the unforgettable founder of the movement in Yedinitz, the extraordinary aristocrat, Dr. Wisotzky, from the members of the Committee of the Zionist Youth Group: Yosef Steinick, Shlomo Rosenberg, Leibush Ludmir and Leibish Gelman.”

We obtained the photo from Aryeh Tsentsifer-Rafaeli, Director of the Russian Zionist Archive in Tel Aviv. After some research we were able to identify the people in the photo:

  1. Leibush Ludmir, son of Shmuel, left Yedinitz after marrying a woman from Hutin. He served for some time as the mayor of Hutin, and perished in 1941 in Transdenistra.
  2. Leibush Gelman, married Gusta Feingold of Yedinitz in 1919. She was a pharmacist. They left Yedinitz and lived for a period in Hutin and later in Chernovitz. During the war they lived in Soviet central Asia. They returned to Chernovitz in 1946 and then emigrated to Brazil. In 1953 they emigrated to Israel, where Leibush died in 1957 at the age of 72. His wife Gusta died in February 1972 in Tel Aviv.
  3. Meir Blank(?).
  4. Dr. Wisotzky, a doctor in town.
  5. Chalaf, who later was an accountant at the Ezra Bank, and the husband of the famous Midwife. He died in the 1920s.
  6. Chalaf's son. 7. Probably Shlomo Rosenberg.
  7. Yosef Steinick, who was later the pharmacist in Lipkan; he was later seen in Chernovitz.

No further information is available. Mrs. Chanatse Ludmir-Fishman, sister of Leibush Ludmir, says that a large copy of the photo hung in her parents' home in Yedinitz.

[Page 476]

Zionist Groups in Yedinitz at the End of the 19th Century

Yed0477.jpg
Zionists activists bid farewell to the teacher Dubrow before his emigration to Palestine

1. Leib Lerner 2.--- 3. Levi Tsiman 4. Henya Steinwortz 5. Rosa Goichberg-Gurvitz (Brazil) 6. Leib Goichberg (“Odesser”) 7. --- 8. Yosef Shapiro 9. Pinny Grobman 10. Chaim Eppelman 11. Yitzchak Borotstein-Bar-Zion (Tel Aviv) 12. --- 13. Zvi Eidelman 14. --- 15. --- 16. Sarah Fried 17. Masya Shitz 18. --- 19. Matya Zeidman 20. Shmuel Lerner-Warnetchka 21. Yosef Riesman 22. Shimshon Bronstein 23. Moshe Steinwortz 24. Bruria Kutcher (Tel Aviv) 25. Hillel Dubrow 26. Mina Dubrow (Tel Aviv) 27. Yeshayahu Tolfolar 28. --- 29. Moshe Shitz 30. Yitzchak Fuks (Venezuela) 31. Avraham Greenstein 32. Matis Kaufman (Haifa) 33. Mordechai Reicher 34. Esther Rosenberg 35. Zalman Zisselman (Belz) 36. Ita Blank 37. N. Shachar (Netanya) 38. Pua Weissman (Israel).

 

[Page 475]

Zionist Associations in Yedinitz
at the end of the 19th Century

Translated from Hebrew and Yiddish by Naomi Gal

In Zionists' archives, there are reports relating to the foundation of a Zionist Association in Yedinitz as early as 1898. A report by Dr. Cohen-Bernstein (the head of the communication department in Kishinev, and for all the Zionist movements in Russia) sent to the Zionist office in Vienna, headed by Dr. T. Herzl on December 18, 1898, shows Yedinitz on the list of places where there were organized Zionist Associations (report attached). Yedinitz is also mentioned in other archived reports and newspapers from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

[Page 476]

Yed0476.jpg
Kishineff, December 29, 1898

[Page 477]

The Zionist Movement in Yedinitz
Organizations, Events, and Activists

by Mordechai Reicher

Translated from the Hebrew by Yariv Timna

It appears that Zionism and Yedinitz were made for each other. From the dawn of the Zionist movement, there were Zionists in Yedinitz. The Jews in town were mostly followers of nationalism and Zionism. There were a few who opposed Zionism at the beginning of the period for religious reasons and at a later period, who did so for supposed revolutionary reasons. These people were overwhelmed, however, by the large majority of the city Jewry who belonged to one or another Zionist party or organization. Even the apolitical simple folk were sympathetic to anything involving the Land of Israel.

They adored every piece of paper or item that had anything to do with Zionism or the Land of Israel (i.e. the Zionist Congress shekel, receipts for contributions to the Jewish National Fund and Keren Hayesod, etc.)

Thus, it is not a surprise that a Jew like Mordechai Sheindelman, one of the first Zionists in town from the days of “Hovevei Zion,” a prominent activist for decades, pointed proudly at his Swiss “Zionist” watch. There was a Magen David on it with the inscription (in Hebrew): “Go to Zion, dare, don't stand still.” On the other side of this watch, you could read (in Hebrew): “If I forget Jerusalem, I'll forget my right hand.” On the lower part of the watch read: “First Zionist Congress, Basel 1897.” I have had this watch for over 40 years. It never stopped!”

There were in Yedinitz people among the first and second Aliyah to Palestine.

[Page 479]

In 1888, Azriel Eidelman, age 26, born in Yedinitz, an interesting person and a character, single, vegetarian, and a writer, moved to Palestine. In 1878 he wrote an article in the “Hatzfira” newspaper (Warsaw) about laying the cornerstone for the great synagogue (Die Groise shil) in Yedinitz (you can see the article in the chapter about the Great Synagogue). He joined other Bessarabia settlers, who founded the Kastina colony (in the outskirts of the town Kiryat Malachi), supported by Baron Rothschild.

The town was unsettled after only two years, because of non-agreements with the baron clerks. By the way, in this town, so they say, was composed the tune for the “Hatikva” by the layman Shmuel Cohen, another Bessarabia man, from Kishinev.

Fascinating facts about Azriel Eidelman are written in Asher Goldenberg's article.

The echoes of the Zionist movement, the first Zionist congress, Herzl's name, all these have found their way to the small town of Yedinitz. A Zionist, Russian-written newspaper, started appearing occasionally in town. Very few could read it, but those who did spread the content. These echoes even came to the “Cheder” of Rabbi Avraham Zlochzover, and the pupils formed a Zionist group called “Agudat Chaverim.”

The general atmosphere and about the association was written by Yossef Diamand, one of Rabbi Avraham's pupils:

“At the beginning of this century[1], I was about to finish my “Cheder” schooling, at age 14. New coming times were felt in the air. The public, especially the youth, were suffering from the old fashion, conservative, and backward ways of Judaism and were ready to the awakening Zionism.”

In 1900, a few of Rabbi Avraham's pupils gathered in Hana Salter's house, Yossef Diamand, Yossef Steiff, Levi Wolvitz, and others, and formed “Agudat Caverim” (mentioned above), with a strong Zionist feeling. Among other things, it was mandatory for all members to put a fixed amount of money for the new settlements in Eretz Israel.

“Agudat Chaverim” was probably the first youth movement in town. But the main Zionist awakening came when the Zionist center in Kishinev was opened, and mostly after the pogrom of 1903. Those were the second Aliyah days, and more than a few immigrated to Eretz Israel.

[Page 480]

One of them came from a religious family, from the Boyan Chasidic group, and devoted to the Gemara studies. He used to gather young boys and teach them Gemara without charge. He made a living by his threshing machine. When he neared the age of 60, he decided to fulfill his heart's longing. In the summer of 1909, he sold his house and threshing machine and took his wife, son, and daughter to Eretz Israel. He settled in the little town Motza (near Jerusalem) “because its name is in the Gemara'” He put his son and daughter in the Beit Midrash for teachers in Jerusalem, while he, with his partner, opened a dairy business. He enjoyed the scenery and beauty of the land and Jerusalem. The cows produced their milk, which he sold to the Jews of Jerusalem, and made a decent living. But his luck turned on him, he got a deadly disease, and died in 1911, only two years after arriving. He was buried in Olive Mount.

His family got cheated by his partner and returned to Yedinitz. His son, who finished his schooling, brought his lively Hebrew to Yedinitz, and gave private lessons to the children of Yedinitz, teaching Hebrew by Hebrew.

 

Sha'arei Zion and Youth of Zion [Tze'irei Zion]

Moshe Forman recounts:

It was during the 1990s of the previous century. I used to visit the old synagogue in town (Die alte shul), which they said was the first in town. One Saturday there was a big commotion there. A few of the regulars, prominent house owners, were missing. My father told me they got into the Zionist idea, left the synagogue, and formed a “Minyan” in the great synagogue (Die shul). Later they purchased the big building in the center of the Patchova Street, and called their synagogue “Sha'arei Zion,” as in other towns. Among the founders, as I recall, were Shmuel Weinshenker, Meir Gelman, Benzion Timan and others.

“An ancestral act is a sign to the sons,” says a folk proverb. A short time after this departure, a group of young Zionists broke off from the older Zionists. Among them were me, Avraham Zaltzman, Mendel Dorf, Pinchas Halperin, and others, and we called ourselves “Tze'irei Zion”. We distributed Keren Kayemet stamps, celebrated Herzl's birthday, and so on. They gathered in their homes, read stories about Eretz Israel, spoke Hebrew, and sang Zionist's songs.

[Pages 481-482]

Yed0481.jpg
Zionists in Britchan bid farewell to the Lankovsky and Goldgale families (grandparents of Shalom Caspi) on their way to the settlement called Mesila Chadasha [New Path] near Constantinople as a layover on their way to Palestine in 1910

 

He also brought with him a few issues of “the Hapoel Hatzair” newspaper and other papers which told about the land, its people, its virtues, and holiness. He tried to make the young people want to go to Eretz Israel. And he did.

One of the interesting occurrences was the Aliyah group with a stop in Kushta (Turkey).

In 1910, a few families from Britchan formed an Aliyah group, among them the families of Lankovsky and Goldgale, and Koifman. From Yedinitz, they were joined by the families of Berl Raboi, a well-known Jewish figure, and Dudel Serbernik. For some unknown reason, the heads of the families decided they have to train themselves with hard work in Kushta, before reaching the holy land.

They bought a piece of land near Kushta, which they called “Mesila Chadasha” (A new path). Through the years until the start of WW1, they moved their family members to Kushta. The Yedinitz families, for some reason, did not do it. Later on, David Serbernik sent his 13 years old son Yosef and 15-year-old daughter Henia, while he personally, did not join the group. The farm was doing well, and many immigrants during the war years and later passed through it.

With the end of the war and the Balfour Declaration, the farm was disbanded and its members went to Eretz Israel, among them the Serbernik family. Though disbanded, rumors of it were still floating in the 1920s. Another thing the group was busy with was collecting money for the Keren Kayemet. The names of the donors were advertised with the sums they gave.

In 1913, Rabbi Baruch Blank, who came to Yedinitz a few years back, was the head of “Hamizrachi” in Yedinitz. He was also appointed as the representative of Keren Kayemet,

[Page 483]

collected and transferred the money to it. The money was officially collected for “The Committee for Aid to Farmers in Syria and Palestine.” This report was found in 1913 at the Blank home. We learn from this report that there were 360 donors in Yedinitz and the total sum was 131 Rubles, while in Kishinev, the capital of Bessarabia, with way more Jewish people, the sum collected was 140 Rubles. Rabbi Baruch's wife collected 1/5 Rubles in “Ezrat Nashim.”.These collections continued all through the war despite the unfitting times. Mordechai Sheindelman was later, probably, in charge of donations.

In a letter from April 25, 1917, sent from “the head office of Keren Kayemet” we read that the sum of 80 Rubles was delivered. The letter also asks Sheindelman whether a Keren Kayemet committee was formed in Yedinitz, and if not, should be formed.

It's important to mention that in the 11th Congress, in Wien, one of the delegates from the Zionist students of Kharkov, was a young Yedinitz woman, a medicine student named Kuka Pizelman. She gave a speech in Hebrew which gave a strong impression to the Congress and especially in town. The news came via the “Hatzfira” newspaper.

 

After World War I

World War I ended. The Romanians conquered Bessarabia. Pogroms broke out in Ukraine. Much has been written in this book about the suffering, decrees, and persecution that faced every community and its Jews during the early period of the Romanian conquest until the government stabilized. These years, 1918-1920, were decisive in changing political and public life.

The Balfour Declaration, the Zionist convention in London, the Zionist center in Kishinev, the new wave of young people refuge from the pogroms among them educated students, teachers, and so on, many speaking Hebrew; these people coming to town changed the general atmosphere among its Jewish citizens.

[Page 484]

Yed0484.jpg
A letter from 1917

From the head office of Keren Kayemet to Israel in Moscow to Mordechai Sheindelman in Yedinitz. Date: 25 April 1917 - A few weeks after the February Revolution, in the honeymoon of “Svoboda” (“the freedom”...)

 

We'll mention the names of Dov Perlmuter and Avraham Grinstein, teachers from Dubrow's school. The first was also among the founders of the “Hachalutz” movement in Bessarabia, and later a member of the “Hachalutz” chapter in Kishinev. And lastly, the coming to Yedinitz of the teacher Hillel Dubrow and Shimshon Bronstein, who developed extensive Zionist actions in all forms, side by side with the Zionist… elders, Avramel Milgrom, Jacob Rabin, Mordechai Sheindelman, and others.

[Pages 485-486]

Yed0485.jpg
The first regional Zionist council in Britchany on the third day of Sukkot, 1920.
A respected delegation from Yedinitz participated in this council.

 

In this photo, you can see the delegates from Yedinitz. In the first row, standing, fourth from the right, is Avraham Weismann, z”l (when he still had a beard). In the seated row, in the middle, second from right is Levi Tsinman, Hy”d. Fifth from the right is Noach Leiderman, Hy”d. Second from the left is Avramel Milgrom, z”l. In the bottom row (seated on the ground), fourth from the left is the writer Yisrael Zemura (Tel Aviv).

The Zionist convention in London, at the beginning of 1920, decided the establishment of Keren Hayesod. The early messengers came to Yedinitz as well. People were asked to donate.

 

Zionist parties' branches

Together with the general Zionist Party, the town's chapters of the Zionist parties, with solid ideology, started organizing.

The older Zionists, the educated, the Torah students and book readers, and the more affluent people formed the General Zionist Party. They were very active in collecting money. They were also very active in the “Jewish Party” (Yidishe Partei), which fought for the Jewish minority rights in the Romanian parliament. The head of the General Zionists was Avramel Milgrom. Others among them were Jacob Rabin, Benzion Timan, Nachum and Avraham Weisman, and Aharon Bronstein.

Another Zionist party with lots of activity was “Tze'irei Zion”. They spread the idea of “Working Eretz Israel” and were close in spirit to “Ha'poel Hatzair” in Eretz Israel. Besides collecting money and the Zionist propaganda, they developed a cultural and educational program in Hebrew, took care of the youth in “Hachalutz,” formed a library called “Tarbut,” and maintained it.

Among the earliest activists of “Tze'irei Zion” where the writer Israel Zmora, who was its head for a short time, was the writer and Hebrew teacher Eliezer Steinberg (Vice President).

[Page 487]

(Later, in Chernowitz, he was a Yidishist a leftist). Later joined the teacher Hillel Dubrow, Moshe Steinbortz, Tzvi Eidelman, Zeev Ludmir, Yesha'yahu Tolpolar, Yitzhak Borochin (Bar Ratzon) (see his article about it), Israel Rosenthal, and others.

In town, some people belonged in different places in Russia to the “Poalei ZionParty,” with its long history as a Zionist, working, socialist party. They were united as a group when Shimshon Bronstein came to town. He became their leader and was very active. Older members than him were: Moshe (Moshke) Shitz, Leib Goichberg (Dar Adassar, from Odessa), Gurfinkel (the Hall owner), Gokovski the dentist, Anschel Sheindelman, Yoseff Reisman, zhe teacher Kozminer (brother-in-law of Shimshon Bronstein), and others. In 1928 they were joined by the members of the “Hatechiya” party, locally and all through the Hotin region. All the rest of the Bessarabia's “Hatechiya” members joined the “Gordonia” party. Among the younger members of “Poalei Zion“ were: Yosef Shitz (Magen), Shalom Serebrenik (Kaspi who returned to Eretz Israel in those years and was a member of “Achdut Ha'avoda”), Arye Bard (died in Kibbutz Yagur), Israel Kalker (later became a Communist), and youngsters such as Liuba Gokovski. “Poalei Zion“ were very active among the working class people (see Yoseff Magen's articles).

 

Yed0487.jpg
Leaders of Keren Hayesod with a delegation from their head office in Kishinev.
The photo was taken on the eve of Yom Kippur in 1924.

1. Moshe-Yossel Berishes Kaufman; 2. Dovidel Volendener-Cooperman; 3. Yosef Speyer; 4. Chaim Gukovsky; 5. Avraham Freilich; 6. Yosef Steiff; 7. Benzion Timan; 8. Attorney Aharon Bronstein; 9. Yechezkel Landau; 10. Motya Zeidman; 11. Berka Rosenfeld; 12. Asher Goldenberg; 13. Aharon Premislow; 14. Yaakov Roitman; 15. Avraham Milgrom; 16. The emissary Zalman Fradkin; 17. Emissary Dr. Yosef Sapir; 18. Emissary Yaakov Wasserman; 19. Mordechai Sheindelman; 20. Hillel Dubrow; 21. Yaakov Rabin; 22. Moshe Steinwortz; 23. ---; 24. Shimshon Bronstein; 25. Yitzchak Baratchin-Bar-Ratson; 26. Noach Leiderman.

[Page 488]

The religious Zionists formed “Hamizrachi,” which was led by Rabbi Baruch Blank, who came to town in 1912. He became a prominent leader in Jewish public life.

 

From a Kakal (Keren Kayemet to Israel) fundraiser stories

Reuven Gertzman

One day, in Tu Bishvat, we came to a very rich man's house. When we told him we are raising funds for Kakal, he gave a much smaller amount than he could afford. We told him we are not taking such a small amount. He came and hugged me, whispering, “I will not be angry if you don't take it, go in peace, and good luck!”

Another Jew told us on his front door: “You know, I will donate to any cause, except this one!”

That was his answer to all who came to him for money.

We came to a poor man's house, a water deliverer with many kids. We did it, so he would not get hurt we passed his home. He asked us to sit, took his wallet, and gave us all the money he had. We were astonished and wanted to return the money to him, at least most of it. We knew his family would starve that day otherwise. But he refused: “No! You will not go from here with a small amount. It's an honor that you didn't pass my house!” he declared and forced us to take all the money.

 

Translator's footnote:
  1. It refers to the beginning of the 1900s Return

 

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