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[Page 100]

Chapter 2

The Jewish Community


[Page 116]

Personalities in the Jewish Community Life in Bălți

by Yerachmiel Yaffe

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Dr. Westerman

Dr. Westerman arrived in Bălți as a young doctor, before the first Russian revolution in 1905. His aim was to fight diseases and epidemics that erupted from time to time in this town. He was a typical member of the Jewish–Russian intelligentsia – progressive, half–assimilated, but informal and unpretentious, close to the “simple people.” His influence on the town affairs was remarkable, due to his good nature, his complete honesty and his devotion to his work. Soon after his arrival he was appointed chief doctor of the Jewish hospital in place of Dr. Halberstat and besides his work at the hospital he became involved in the public life – Jewish and non–Jewish – and general affairs of the town. He established contact with Jewish and Russian public figures and had a close relationship with the leaders of important Jewish institutions like ORT and others. He was a member of the Russian K.D. party (the “Kadets”) and collaborated with them in general political matters as, for example, in the elections to the Russian parliament, the Duma, and participated in the periodical consultations concerning local, regional and national Jewish affairs. In all these matters he had no rival in town – the revolutionary parties did not dare yet, at that time, to act openly. The Jewish population respected him since, contrary to the other members of the intelligentsia, he did not ignore them but took part in all public Jewish matters and devoted time and energy to help the local Jewish institutions. He was tolerant and kind, and although he did not participate officially in Zionist activities, he was not among the opponents or interferers. Dr. Westerman was liked and respected by the non–Jewish population and officials as well, since he spoke excellent Russian, was a very good speaker and was kind and sociable. The idea of establishing co–operative institutions appealed to him; he regarded it as the “beginning of liberation” of the simple folk, craftsmen and lower classes. It was no wonder, then, that he was given the position of head of the small Jewish bank that had been established. The “little man” has found in him reliable support against the assimilated intelligentsia and the rich people who forced him out of the positions that they managed to occupy.

Dr. Westerman not only had an effect on the Jewish life in Bălți, but was influenced by it as well, and at the end of his life he became friendlier with the Zionist groups, although he did not join officially.


El'azar Itzkowitz

He was a true craftsman, a plumber, a man who had no formal education but a sharp mind. He had a great influence on the working class and for a long time he headed the “Society for the Aid of the Craftsmen”

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and the “Little Bank,” as well as some other institutions, and he would help needy people to obtain much needed loans. Although he was no great speaker, he knew how to explain matters and convince his listeners, at the meetings and assemblies, of the urgency and legitimacy of his arguments and demands. Very often he succeeded and obtained what he was asking for, to the benefit of the craftsmen's class. Itzkowitz lived by the labor of his hands, and although his own earnings were not great he devoted much of his time to the working people. Contrary to his friend Hick, who was somewhat hot–tempered and liked hot arguments, Itzkowitz was much calmer and did not raise his voice when a disagreement arose at a meeting or assembly. However, he was not a “man of compromise;” he knew how to defend his views when he was convinced that he was right. On the other hand, having a logical mind and good common sense, he was strong enough to concede when he understood that his opponent was right.

The Jewish Community in Bălți

by R. Ioffe, President of the Community

Translated by Yocheved Klausner




The Jewish Community in Bălți was established legally in 1935. The Community Council was elected by the entire Jewish population in town, abiding by the elections statutes and regulations approved by the Ministry. Nine lists competed, four of them won and became members of the council: the Young Zionists with 10 mandates, the Craftsmen 12, the Workers 11 and the United Zionists 8 mandates. Thus the Council numbered 41 members, who represented all the important sections of the Jewish population.

The council was divided into six departments, namely: administrative, cultural, socio–economic, religious, finance and control. The executive committee consisted of Eng. R. Ioffe president, P. Lertov and H. R. vice–presidents, M. Neiman treasurer and K. Grinberg secretary general; together with the presidents of the departments Messrs. Gd. Lipson, A. Dobrushin, L. Itzkowitz, M. Gulco, Sh. Burd and Lapsher, the council represented the Community and constituted its supreme executive organ.

The community was the formal supervisor and inspector of all civic Jewish institutions: the hospital, the home for the aged, the elementary and vocational schools, the high–schools, the people's soup kitchen, the medic–sanitary institution, “Oze”, the orphanage, the public bath and others. Another number of institutions were under the direct administration of the community: the dispensary, the library, the kindergarten, charity lodging (hospice) etc.

The community was very active in all areas of social assistance – distributing medicines to the sick and firewood in the winter; financial help before Passover and other holidays; free meals for the unemployed. The schoolchildren enjoyed special care – they received money to buy books and pay school tax, were given clothing and shoes, as well as food through the school cafeteria.

The community was in charge of the cultural condition of the residents of the Jewish faith, administration of the synagogues and prayer houses, religious services etc.

The activity of the community depended, obviously, on the material resources at its disposal, which came mostly from indirect taxes paid by various state institutions, as the ministry of religion, the municipality, the chamber of commerce and others. These contributions, however, did not match the needs of the Jewish institutions or the proportion of the Jewish contribution to these state and municipal institutions. While the budget of the community and its institutions amounted to six and a half millions, the total contributions reached merely about 10% of that sum.

With the increase of these contributions and the contributions of the members of the community, the social and cultural activity of the community will hopefully develop, as is appropriate for the Jewish center Bălți, for the benefit of all residents of our town.

[Page 118]

Our Stubborn Struggle against the “Korovka”

by Z. Heinichs

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The struggle against a Jew by the name of Tzimbalist, the renter of the ”Korovka,” was a long and stormy affair.

The ”Korovka” or “Taxa” as the Jews called it, was a very old institution, from the time of the Russian rule. Its purpose was to collect money – a sort of tax – from the Jewish population, for the license to perform kosher slaughter. The money was used to support charity and religious institutions, education and religious officials (rabbis, judges, slaughterers etc.).

In order to facilitate the collection of taxes, the Russian (and the Romanian) administration rented the “korovka” to a Jew for a period of several years. Usually it was a wealthy Jew, who would collect the money for the kosher slaughtering by distributing “kvitlech” (“notes,” slips of paper), which the Jews would buy for a fixed sum and present them to the slaughterer as payment for his services. Mr. Tzimbalist was a clever businessman and regarded the “korovka” as a business that can help him get rich. He befriended the municipal and state administrations and the two important korovkas, that of Kishinev and that of Bălți were rented to him.

Tzimbalist's interests did never match those of the Bălți Jewish community, obviously. Tzimbalist always tried, on one hand, to obtain more and more payments from the Jewish population and on the other hand to minimize his expenses, by making smaller and smaller payments to the religious officials and to the Jewish institutions.

On this background, the arguments and friction between Tzimbalist and the various institutions were endless. The annual budget of the “korovka” was established by Tzimbalist after consultation with several of the leaders of the community, in particular those who were approved or appointed by the local municipal authorities – with whom Tzimbalist had always full understanding… Misunderstanding was indeed between him and the Jewish institutions that were in need of his support, but he pursued his goal: to collect more, to pay less, and to become rich.

Our war with Tzimbalist continued for years – and we did not let him rest. From him we asked for greater support to the Jewish institutions. From the authorities we asked to dissolve the “korovka” altogether and establish an elected Jewish community that would take care, among others, of the financial matters. The Jewish and Russian newspapers, which realized that the “korovka” was exploiting the Jewish population, joined our struggle. In 1933, with the approval of the by–laws concerning the Jewish communities in Romania, the “korovka” institution was cancelled and in Bălți, as in other towns, an elected Jewish community was established, to handle all matters concerning Jews and Jewish institutions.

[Page 119]

Medical Aid in Bălți until 1940

by M. Gafter

Translated by Yocheved Klausner


Dr. Mania Gafter


The public health of the Bălți population was handled by the central state hospital, the Jewish private hospital, two private sanatoriums (Chatchkayantz and Gurfel), one state dispensary and two municipal dispensaries for social insurance, as well as many other organizations of social aid: the Red Cross, OZE, orphanage, home for the aged, home for children, home for the handicapped, old–people's home etc.

The Mirovski Zemske state hospital was situated on the road to Făleşti – in the suburbs of the town, 2–3 kilometers from the center. Perhaps this was the reason that the Jews used very little this hospital. Here worked the doctors: Mirovski, Vasiliu, Nicolov, Lubinetzki and others.

With the help of philanthropic contributions, the Jews erected a Jewish hospital. A committee of volunteers was in contact with the korovka (from the Jewish community) that supported the hospital, and support was given also by the charity organizations Ezrat Holim [help for the sick] and Bikur Holim [visiting the sick]. Whenever and wherever they could, members of the community collected money for the hospital. They would organize “Cultural Evenings” on the Purim and Chanukah holidays, on New–Year and other important dates, with the slogans:

“For a medicine to really heal, we must help with charity, without getting tired.”

“For a medicine to work, we must pay all year long.”

The Ezrat Holim organization would address its supporters with the following call:

“Support our needy sick brothers and sisters, buy Purim–notes with Purim–money. The notes are sold by the Angel Rafael, we appeal to your generosity.”

By all this, as well as by other means and on many occasions the members of the community supported the hospital, to help the sick and to protect the health of the Jews in Bălți.

The Jewish hospital was located almost at the end of the town area, on the Nicolayevski Road.

The hospital comprised several sections: internal medicine, surgery, gynecology, children's medicine, epidemics. There were separate rooms for men and for women.

The chief physician of the hospital was Dr. Westerman. He performed administrative functions, managed

[Page 120]

fund raising and supervised the normal functions of the hospital in all respects.

Physicians at the hospital: Doctors Polski, Gurfel, Ribakov, Datz (1928). For difficult cases, consultation was arranged with doctors from the central hospital: Drs. Frenkel, Benderski, Paverman, Vasiliu, Imas and others, or specialists were invited: Drs. Kotlyar, Krasiuk, Chatchkayantz and others. In the course of 20 years, about 20 physicians have worked at the hospital.

Recommended dentists were: Drs. Broitman, Turkenisch, Lenkovskaia and others. The hospital was well staffed with nurses in every department.

The Jewish students from Bălți would work in the hospital during the summer, or spend their internship there. Among them we remember: Mekler, Palarye, Podgoyetzki, Gafter and others.

There was also an ambulatory division in the hospital, where patients from the poorer parts of the population were received for consultation and hospitalized, when necessary.

A medical laboratory performed the necessary medical tests. Some of the special tests were sent to the laboratories of the municipal hospital.

The pharmacy of the hospital was managed by pharmacist Sazhman. Jews who were not able to pay would receive medications, even in the private pharmacies, through some of the charity institutions in town.

The wealthy part of the population would seek medical aid at the private doctors and specialists in town.

There were also two “barber–surgeons,” who had medical experience and gave medical aid: Yehoshua Roffe [“doctor”] and Yosl Feldscher [“barber–surgeon”], who performed medical procedures prescribed by the doctors. Both were known as good–hearted men, who knew all families and were aware of their diseases and the help they needed. They never refused to help a sick person.

The medical personnel in town also represented the intelligentsia of Bălți, which influenced the social life and the development of the population.

Since we are not able to place flowers on the graves of the former medical personnel, who cared for the health of the Bălți population, treated them with great devotion, cured their diseases, eased their physical pain and in many cases saved their lives – we would like to express in these lines our memory of the “medical angels” and say “May their Memory be for a Blessing.”

[Page 124]

Pharmacists in Bălți until 1940

by Blume (Malamud) Gafter

Translated by Yocheved Klausner


Blume (Malamud) Gafter


In 1923 I worked in the Faraianu pharmacy.

At that time, in Bălți pharmacies was located in the Zemsk Hospital and in the Jewish Hospital, and there were also six private pharmacies in town: Begon, Zalevski, Faraianu, Doianu, Corneal, Milbroit. Apart from these, there were several drugstores: Roizman, Singerman Deposit and some others. These drugstores provided the population with various medical remedies as well as patented medicines. For this reason, the drugstores were demanded to employ a pharmacist – Mandelblum, Roizman and others – as aide to the manager. The system of keeping drugstores beside the pharmacies helped to ensure the health of the population, especially the poorer layers. This was very important from the social point of view and also for prophylactic reasons – facts that had great value in the Jewish life.

In Bălți there were about 30 pharmacists. As the town developed, more were needed. Among the more famous of them were: Begon, Eugenstein, Krostchiak, Golovorskaya, Pishof, Kalichman, Feuerstein Shanya, Kuppersmidt, Bozhar, Sashman, Bolvotchian Jack, Weinberg, Warser, Gershenson Zinya, Malamud Bluma, etc.

In 1928 I worked in Begon's pharmacy, which was considered first-class and was quite famous. The group of pharmacists grew yearly, representing in Bălți, together with the engineers, the doctors, the attorneys, the teachers, the students etc., what was called the intelligentsia of the town. Many of the sick, however, would still go to the “barber-surgeon” and a smaller number would seek real medicinal help in the drugstore.

Folklore is, in essence, a consequence of the simple, primitive lives of the people who were distanced from progress and civilization. Bălți, in this sense, was not unlike Yehupetz, Kasrilevke etc. [places in Shalom Aleichem's works]. This reminds one of an event concerning a narcotic medicine.

The pharmacists, naturally, worked carefully, with precision and a strict end even pedantic accuracy. It happened once in the Begon pharmacy, that an old woman was waiting for an

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emergency medicine, like morphine. She was watching the pharmacist work, preparing the drug. She observed that his hands were unsteady while weighing the stuff. She then addressed the pharmacist saying: “You must be a very stingy person. Your hands are shaking when you are weighing the centigrams. Are you afraid to put one gram more?

[Page 132]

The Fathers of the Town Bălți

by I. Mazor

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

R'Chanina Halperin or R'Chananya son of R'Israel Galperin. Chananya Halperin was one of the descendants of the founders of the Bălți Community. We do not have biographical details about him, but it seems that he was one of the big land owners in town; rumors said that half of the town belonged to him.

He assigned land for a cemetery, which was named after him. This was the new cemetery – the old one was situated within the borders of the old settlement in Bălți. When a Jew died in Bălți, people would say “He went to Chananya.”

R'Chananya Halperin died on 28 December 1887 at an old age. This means that he was born at the beginning of the 19th century or even at the end of the 18th century. Since it is known that Bălți was founded by Jews in the eighties of the 18h century, it is clear that R'Chananya was born in town, perhaps the first generation.

He became famous for his charity – he was one of those people who dedicated their lives to giving and helping the poor. He had no children; therefore he left a will in which he bequeathed all his wealth to charity, except for some large sums for the members of his family. His wealth was estimated at hundreds of thousands of Rubles.

According to the Hamelitz newspaper from 27 January 1888 he left to his family and acquaintances about 200,000 Rubles. He left 1,000 Rubles for the Jewish Hospital and the same sum for the Christian Hospital, 1,000 Rubles for the reparation of the old Bet Hamidrash and 1,000 Rubles for the Talmud Torah. R'Chananya considered the education of Jewish children a lofty aim, and in his will he stated clearly: “This money is intended to appoint new, well-educated teachers for the children, to teach Torah and the language of the country.” To the new bathhouse he left 599 Rubles.

R'Chananya was the owner of a large estate. In his will he stated that the yearly income from the estate, estimated at 7,000 Rubles, should be divided as follows:

2,333 yearly for food supplies to the Jewish Hospital and the same amount for the Christian Hospital. The rest of the money was to be kept for the support of his relatives, in case they “stumble and become desolate.”

But the main part of his wealth he entrusted during his lifetime in the hands of a trustee, a Christian friend who was “a loyal spirit” as he was called by the Bălți reporter of the Hamelitz newspaper Mr. Aharon Yavelberg, who wrote that “everybody was convinced that he would loyally execute the will of the deceased.”

In 1936, some 50 years after Halperin's death, we find in the newspaper Unzer Zeit a report, containing details about the balance of the Halperin Fund on that year.

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The fund, called “The Fund of the Deceased Chananya son of R'Israel Galperin” was established in 1922, some 40 years after his death; the income from the interest alone (interest of 5%) served to support the public institutions in Bălți. The income of the Fund was nearly one million Lei that year, a respectable sum in those days. In the financial reports of the Fund we find details about the institutions that received help that year: The Big Talmud Torah, Social Aid, “Help for the Poor” etc.

Among the trustees of the Fund are mentioned: Messrs. B. Fischman, Rav Golka, Wallach, Dabroskin, Kalichman and Bronstein.


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