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[Page 539]

“Hachaver” – The Beginning of the “Gordonia”

by Dov Dori-Dondushansky

Translated from the Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov

During the first years of the 1920s, Zionist youth organizations with various names were established in our city, however, most of them did not last very long and they fell apart. Only one youth organization, “Hatechiya”, which was established on the ruins of the previous organizations in 1923, began to concentrate around it many of the best youth living in our town.

Those of my age were not accepted as members of “Hatechiya” because we were too young. We gathered a few children of bar-mitzvah age and we decided to establish an organization of our own, called “Hachaver”. We held our meetings in our parents' houses and we held parties according to the program on the purity of Hebrew. We sang Hebrew songs and we danced dances we learned from the active pioneers in our town at that time who were occupied with cutting wood as a preparation for making Aliyah (Hachshara) to the Land of Israel.

There were only a few founding members of “Hachaver”, but over time they multiplied because we were active enough in different areas, such as organizing a soccer team that participated in intercity competitions on the field past the “Boulevard”. I remember the match with a soccer team from Britchan (Briceni), which became famous as the best in all the Hotin province. We established a drama club instructed by Bracha Weiner. She even wrote especially for our club a play named “Dort in a Vite Land” (There in a Distant Land).

[Page 540]

The stage director was Levi Elisman, one of the veteran theater lovers in Yedinitz. The language of the play was Yiddish. We tried to present it also in Hebrew, but its success in our city was mainly when we presented it in Yiddish, the language of the crowd. The audience, I still remember, received us with stormy applause, and even the financial success was honorable. Under the influence of the parents, we donated part of the income to the poor of the town to buy wood for heating (at that time it was a harsh winter). At a later time, when we had already joined “Gordonia”, we played a few more times and the income was dedicated to the summer camps. At one of the shows, I remember the hall was filled to its maximum capacity, suddenly, the police appeared, and they did not allow us to present the play despite the permit we had received from the authorities of the province. We could not convince them. There was no choice but to return the money to the audience, who scattered, disgruntled, and left disappointed. That was our last show.

In 1925, we found out that in Czernowitz there was a movement called “Hachaver”. The writer of these lines was sent there as a representative of the chapter in Yedinitz, to form a connection with them. The organization in Czernowitz willingly accepted our request, and besides that, even sent us an instructor for scouting and sports. We continued to cultivate connections with the organization in Czernowitz.

That year there were negotiations between “Hachaver” in Czernowitz and the youth movement “Gordonia”, which operated in Poland and Galicia. The negotiations ended with the unification of the two organizations and the name of the united movement was called “Gordonia”. The “Hachaver” chapter in Yedinitz joined the unified movement. We changed from a small, isolated movement to be part of a large, worldwide movement, the “Gordonia” movement, which had begun to operate in various parts of Romania.

[Page 541]

Yed0541.jpg
1925 – The Yedinitz Hachaver Committee

In the photo: Moshe Shinderman; Chaim Idelman; Zvi Koifman; Dov Dondushansky-Dori; Michael Grozman

 

An attempt was made to also include in the unification the “Hatechiya” youth movement organization in Bessarabia (others tell of this story in detail). Following the attempt at the unification with the “Hatechiya” youth movement, most of the “Hatechiya” members in Yedinitz transferred to “Poalei Zion” and a few joined the “Gordonia”, which was ideologically connected with the “Tzeirei Zion” movement. Many of the youth in town who joined “Gordonia” included students, but most of them were the working youth. This chapter rented a large hall, opened broad activities, and in a short time was the largest youth movement in the town. The “Hashomer Hatzair” movement was not established in Yedinitz, despite recurring attempts.

The work in the “Gordonia” chapter was organized according to instructions from the head leadership at three “levels” of age: scouts (who were busy mainly with scouting and hikes), animators, and implementers. The chapter bustled with life and activity. Every evening they sang, they danced, and they led conversations and arguments until midnight. That is how various groups existed: the history of the Zionist movement, the type of settlement in the Land, the doctrine of A.D. Gordon, and more. The chapter in Yedinitz even helped to organize chapters in the vicinity and in regional meetings that were held in Securan, Lipkan, and Briceva. But most of the regional meetings took place in Yedinitz. The regional leadership also was in Yedinitz.

It can be said, without exaggeration, that the “Gordonia” chapter in Yedinitz was one of the most active chapters in the movement in Bessarabia.

[Page 542]

That was helped a lot by the teacher Dubrow, who was a permanent guest. He prepared talks on various subjects and was an active participant in the daily life of the chapter.

The member Shimshon Bronstein also, even though he was one of the heads of “Poalei Zion”, stood in strong connections with us and was always a desired and honored guest in the chapter. We participated in all the international conferences of the movement. We took an active part in the summer sessions, and for this purpose, we created a “session fund”. We went out to chop wood to get funds and, thanks to that, we made it possible for members who were unable to pay to participate in the sessions.

In 1929, a movement seminar that continued for an entire month was held in Beltz with the active participation of Pinchas Lubianker (Lavon). A sufficiently large delegation participated on behalf of the chapter. In 1930, the first chapter members went out to the hachshara (in Masada, near Beltz): Sender Hoichenberg (Harari), Rachel Helfgot and Yisaschar Rosenthal. Sender and Rachel made Aliyah, and they joined the “Gordonia” group in Hadera. Yisaschar was drafted to operate in the “Hachalutz” center in Romania. At that time, Eliyahu Bitchutzky (Naor) was active in the “Hachalutz” chapter in Britchan; from there, he was drafted to be the head leadership of the movement in Romania.

In 1931, the writer of these lines went out to the hachshara to the Masada farm near Beltz. The leadership of the chapter passed then into the hands of Yosef Zonenshein, Reuven Gertzman, and others, the young trainees of the chapter.

With our Aliyah to the Land of Israel in 1932, I joined the “Gordonia” group in Hadera. Eliyahu Bitchutsky and Yisaschar Rosenthal went to the Jordan Valley, where they were among the founders of Kibbutz Masada.

[Page 543]

After a year, the two groups united and became one group: Kibbutz Masada. In 1937, we went to settle in the Jordan Valley, and to this day, the members of the “Gordonia” chapter in Yedinitz live and operate in the Kibbutz Masada, and it can be said, that they are counted among the outstanding and active members of the Kibbutz.

* * *

The article was sent to the editors a few weeks before Dov Dori (Dondushansky) and Eliyahu Naor (Bitchutsky), together with their friend Avraham Stoller (from Beltz), all members of Kibbutz Masada in the Jordan Valley, lost their lives when they went over a land mine that was set by Arab terrorists on the dirt road in the kibbutz vineyard, on the 29th of Adar 5728 (March 20, 1968).- The Editors

[Page 544]

Yed0544.jpg
The first leadership of the Gordonia chapter – at the end of the 1920s

Top Row – Rachel-Leah Azarya (Helfgott); Eliyahu Bichutzki-Naor, z”l; Dov Dondoshanski, z”l
Bottom Row – Sender Hoichenberg (Hararri) and Yisaschar Rosenthal

 

[Page 543]

“Gordonia” – Activities, Activists, Trifles

by Reuven Gertzman

Translated from the Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov

I joined the “Gordonia” chapter when I was a student in sixth grade. Together with me, about half of the class joined the chapter. It is hard to say that I joined this movement because of idealistic motives. It was more the excitement of children looking for a way to spend their free time in which they could express the joys of the youth, their energy, and their enthusiasm.

And why did we go precisely to this movement? I remember well what I heard from friends who preceded us in joining “Gordonia”, about the wide activities that were developing in the chapter, the conversations, the hikes in the field and in the area behind the seminary, the social experience, and above all, the discipline and the obedience placed upon a member of the movement after he swore to fulfill the “ten commandments” drafted in the principles of the movement.

[Page 544]

The activities were many and varied, and only a few, which are especially engraved in my memory, deserve mention: the preparation of the “Bazar” (the annual market) on behalf of Keren Kayemet which was really organized by the women's organization but we were their very active partners, the “Stamp Week” on behalf of Keren Kayemet, a week in which all the youth movements in Bessarabia participated and the competition was about who would win a first prize for his ability to sell the maximum number of Keren Kayemet stamps, the “carnivals” on the holiday of Purim which were famous in town and in the organization of which the member David Koifman, z”l, who had a superior talent for organization particularly excelled. This carnival also served as a source of significant income for the chapter and its activities and, among other things, also for the payment of the “non-destruction fee” to the authorities so that they would not bother us in our work.

It is worth mentioning the first members of the movement and those who continued it, who gave a great deal of their time, their energy, their talents, and efforts toward the success of the work in the chapter, and which over time became one of the most splendid of the chapters of the movement in greater Romania. These are the members Eliyahu Bitchutsky, z”l, Yisaschar Rosenthal, Dov Dondushansky, z”l, and Rachel-Leah Helfgott, who were among the founders of the movement. After them: Mordechai Reicher, z”l, beloved by everyone, a man of culture and great power of persuasion, Yosef Zonenshein, z”l, a sacrifice of the Holocaust. Yosef concentrated on the chapter after Mordechai Reicher made Aliyah to the Land of Israel. He had superior talents.

[Pages 545-546]

Yed0545.jpg
Gordonia Chapter in Yedinitz at the Beginning of the 1930s

From Right to Left:
Bottom Row: --------; Popleger; -------; -------; Yechiel ….; Pinny Schwartz; Moshe Yashchikman
Second Row (kneeling): Menachem Helfgott-Azarya; Sarka Tepper; Malia Grobert
Third Row (sitting): Dov Dori-Dondoshanski of blessed memory; Rachel-Leah Helfgott-Azarya; Velvel Schneider; Miriam Schwartz-Nokovsky; Malka Dondoshansky; Eliyahu Naor-Bitshotzky; Devora Schwartz; Hentza Finkelstein; Rachel Meddleman-Burstein; Sender Hoichenberg-Harari; Yitzchak Schwartz
Fourth Row: Rachel Skolnik; Fruma Akerman; -------; Leah Schwartz; Manya Friedman; Meyer Friedman; Leah Mann-Parness; Bilha Tzaravnik; Chaika Shoshanevsky; -------; Berman; -------; Esther Weinstein; Batya Gruzman; Fania Zaidman; Tsipora Azarya-Helfgott; Yisrael Lerner; Shmuel Weinshenker
Top Row: Shmuel Greenspun; Moshe Tsaravnik; Yosef Zonstein; Pinchas Reichman; Reuven Shacham-Schwartz; Netanel Shachar; Chaikel Weiner; -------

[Page 545]

It is difficult to forget Yossele, with his smile that never left his face, his successful instruction, and his conducting the chapter choir, which numbered 150 members and was a precious cultural property of the chapter and in the city. Also remembered for their activities are the counselors Netanel Shachaar, Pinchas Meidelman (Mann), and the youngest among them, David Koifman, z”l.

[Page 546]

A glorious chapter in the life of the movement was the struggle for the soul of the youth, to save them from the hands of the Communist movement, which had a strong influence in those days.

The youth in Bessarabia was inclined by nature for activity and organization, and its attraction to pull them into a framework already at the beginning of their steps was an important and fixed matter.

[Page 547]

Yed0546.jpg
A Group of Gordonia Members with Eliyahu Bichutsky-Naor, of blessed memory, and his girlfriend Batsheva before their Aliyah, in 1932

From Right to Left:
Bottom Row: Pinny Schwartz; -------; Tsipora Helfgott; Mizia Weinshenker; Menachem Helfgott-Azarya
Second Row: Buma Middleman; Rachela Skolnik; Sara Weiner; Hentsi Koifman; Wally Steif; --------; --------; Leah Zeidman; -------
Third Row: Shmuel Greenspan; Manya Friedman; N. Shachar; Eliyahu Bichotsky; Yossele Zonenshein; Yisrael Lerner (Karobil); -------
Standing, Upper Row: Velvele Schneider; Meyer Friedman; -------; -------; Popleger; Manya Schwartz; -------; -------; Rachel Mann; -------; -------; the Weinshenker sisters; Bat-sheva; -------; -------; -------; Chaikel Weiner

 

The Communist movement was active in the underground and had many and talented activists, succeeding in penetrating the lines of the learning youth and establishing itself among them.

The “Gordonia” movement filled an essential role in this area, especially among the learning youth. It drew them to the Zionist camp within an idealistic struggle in the strong underground Communist movement. Its success was greater than estimated. The “Gordonia” chapter in Yedinitz at that time had about 400 members, the best youth in the town. The various changes in the political Romanian regime, the ascendance of the Goga-Cuza government of the fascist extreme right, and a period of national instability in the years 1937-1939 moved us to do activities and work in the underground from time to time.

Precisely in these years, dozens of members went out for preparation as pioneers. Going out to preparation involved various difficulties, such as the opposition of our parents and the ceasing of our studies. And many members were supporting their families. I remember an incident of running away from home; it happened on Yom Kippur…at an hour when the parents were in the synagogue, the youth exploited the opportunity to pack their belongings and went out to prepare…

Preparation in the underground in the days of the fascist regime, the “disguising ourselves” so as not to awaken suspicion of pioneers, the searching for work, and living in a war on actual existence and preservation of “what is” – all these were like a mask of bravery and dedication. From the experiences and the indelible memories from that period, the crown was the Aliyah to the Land of Israel. Only a few made Aliyah legally and the majority did it traveling in clandestine immigrant ships. The pain is great for those who did not merit to be with us. Many pioneers were cut off from the body of the movement when they actually stood on the threshold of the Aliyah.

[Page 548]

Yed0548a.jpg
From Right to Left:
Top Row: Pinchas Mann (Meidelman); David Groisman; Yosef Zonenshein, Hy”d; Netanel Shachar; Mordechai Reicher, z”l
Bottom Row: Miriam Freidman; Leah Mann-Parness; Rachel Meddleman

 

A few pioneers even were sent back from Bucharest and the port of the Aliyah, from the very day that the World War broke out. The fate of most of them was the same as the fate of most of the Jews of Bessarabia – they perished in the death camps.

 

Yed0548b.jpg
Meeting of the Leaders of the Gordonia Chapter in Yedinitz, 1936

From Right to Left:
Top Row: Yisrael Lerner, Hy”d; the son of the rabbi from Dondushan; Tsvia Weinstein; Tsipora Skolnik
Second Row: Esther Partsinovski; Netanel Shachar; Pinchas Mann (Meidelman); Pinchas Reichman; Yossele Zonenshein, Hy”d
Third Row: Tsizi Blank; Gusta Akerman; Yasha Chakmovitz-Navon; Tsizi Weinstein; Puah Weissman
Fourth Row: Moshe Dubrow; Avraham Mann (Meidelman); David Koifman, Hy”d

[Page 549]

Ten Years of Gordonia

by Pinchas Mann

Translated from the Hebrew by Yossi Lerner

It is no coincidence that the “Gordonia” movement, which appeared in Bessarabia later than other ideological youth movements, quickly turned into the largest and most active youth movement in the towns of Bessarabia.

The “Dror” movement of “Poalei Zion” was founded and grew in the environment of the Polish Jewry, in which there was a considerable layer of a Jewish proletariat.

[Page 550]

The environment in Bessarabia was different. The “Hashomer Hazair,” the most established of the youth movements, was a logical movement which concentrated its influence among the mainly learning youth. The “Gordonia” found its way specifically to the heart of the less educated Jewish youth, members of the middle classes, part of most of the Jewish youth in the towns of Bessarabia. Thus, the ideology of the “Gordonia” movement was so popular. No wonder that in Yedinitz, a typical Bessarabian town, a “Gordonia” chapter was established, and in its good years, the chapter numbered about 400 members.

On the one hand, educated boys and girls, high school graduates, and even university students joined the chapter, including a group of teenagers who dropped out of school at a relatively young age. On the other hand, it was a youth group that was also like a school for them. Incidentally, the level of education usually reflected the economic situation in everyone's home.

The movement was a meeting point between teenagers with different problems that united them for a common goal. The educational impact deviated from the boundaries of the chapter, and its influence was also noticeable in youth circlesthat did not officially belong to “Gordonia.”

Yed0549.jpg
Gordonia activists in the 1930s with Yedidyah Moshe and Henya Steinwortz, and emissary of the senior administration of the movement, Elkana Margalit

Standing in top row: From right: M. Reicher, z”l, Moshe Dubrow (Haifa), Abba Steinwortz (Haifa), Yitzchak Gukovsky (Tel Aviv), Yosef Sonnenschein (perished), Pinchas Mann (Nir Am), Yesha Navon-Chachamovitz (Hanita), Yitzchak Steinwortz (Haifa), Yisrael Steiff (killed in a car accident in Holon on 1958), Tsippora Azariah-Helfgot (Israel)
Seated, from right: Rachel Meidelman (Gan Yavneh), Pnina Zeidman (Petach Tikva), Moshe-Munya Steinwortz (perished), Elkana Margalit (professor at the University of Tel Aviv in Labor Studies), Henya Steinwortz, z”l, Manya Friedman (Mishmar Hasharon), Manya Schwartz-Gukovsky (Tel Aviv)
Seated below, from right: Chaykel Weiner (Pardes Hanna), unrecognized person, Netanel Shachar (Netanya)
Lying, from right: Yeshayahu Finkler, Avraham Mann-Medelman (Ginigar)

[Pages 551-552]

Yed0551.jpg
Leaders of Gordonia in the mid-1930s

From right to left:
Top row: Yosef Sonnenschein, Fima Tolpolor, Pinchas Mann (Medelman)
Middle row: Mordechai Reicher, Nachman Weissman, Yitzchak Steinwortz, Yitzchak Gukovsky, Netanel Shachar
Bottom: Nyuny Weissman, Monny Yisraeli-Spielberg

 

Thanks to the quality of the leadership of the “Gordonia” chapter in Yedinitz ready to deal with the views of others, Saturday nights were organized, and was open to the attendance of teens from various circles for discussions on political, cultural, and social issues. With all the sharpness in debates typical for teenagers, these evenings became an important asset, culturally and educationally, and were a mediating element among the youngsters.

The chapter managed to diversify its operations into many areas besides having talks, debates, and shared reading. The chapter taught classes about culture, society, sports, dramatic circle, choir, for studying the theory of A. D. Gordon and had a circle of Literature, which held occasionally literary debates.

“Gordonia's” tenure was relatively short-lived, for ten years, and had severe disruptions by the authorities. Still, the movement had a powerful impact on the town's life until World War II, until the Holocaust.

[Page 552]

To give “Gordonia's” a credit, it motivated numerous olims to Eretz Israel in the years before the war. The “Gordonia” members from Yedinitz took part in building new Kibbutzim settlements in Eretz Israel.

If fate had allowed the “Gordonia” chapter in Yedinitz to exist and to operate for another ten years, there is no doubt, that most of the youngsters in town would have found their way to Eretz Israel.

Kibbutz Nir Am

 

An Obligation Fulfilled

Regarding the early stages of the Zionist activity after WWI, it is interesting to tell the following case. One day, our group of fundraisers entered the shop of “Barka the lame,” hoping to get from him a donation to Keren Hayesod. He said, “I would like to talk about this special issue,” and turning to me he said, “I will come into you and we will talk.” And indeed, when market day was over, he appeared in our store and informed me he wants to make a big donation of “two thousand Lei” but on the condition, that I and one of my Zionists friends will sign a commitment to him that if the Zionist movement fails, we will give him back the full donation. We signed this agreement for him, my friend Baruch Blank, z”l, and me, and we received the donation.

Now that the state of Israel has been established, I think we are exempt from this commitment, and Barka the lame cannot sue us in a court of law in heavens when we meet him there.

Asher Goldenberg

 

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