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[Page 101]

Youth Movements


The Maccabi League

by Sonia Etlis, Yitschak Sverdlik, Baruch Kaushensky

Translated by Ala Gamulka


Insignia of Maccabi Bendery (Tighina)
– handwork of Leibl Bendersky, z”l


First Steps

Maccabi's first activities in Bendery in 1916 were begun by Gutov Vasiatzky. He assembled a small group of children in a vacant lot. A Russian sports coach, a retired soldier, was brought in to give us physical education training. A special fund was used to buy equipment. During the 1917–1919 revolution, Bertensky (just returned from Belgium) and the late Avraham Zigberman decided to renew the Maccabi activities. These activities followed the Czech system. New members joined and the total reached 200 young people aged 8–18. The committee in charge included Yasha Fein, Yakir Kleitman, Benno Duborsky, Abramovitch and Etlis. We then spent two years working in the Maccabi Kishinev branch. It supplied us with materials. A special trainer, by the name of Trinchka, was brought in from Czechoslovakia. All those who were active, except for Zigberman, went to Kishinev for a special course. Upon completion they all returned as counselors.

We used to plan successful sports evenings in town and nearby. The income was used to finance other branch activities and the number of members doubled. Maccabi grew in importance and we had additional help with the formation of a new committee headed by the dentist Dr. Yaroslavsky. Two years later Dr. Gurfinkel was elected chairman.

As the branch developed, groups were organized with different counselors. Zonia Bitensky was in charge of gymnastics; light athletics was headed by Abramovitch; women's athletics and equipment were under Etlis and football was supervised by Granovsky.


Maccabi Bendery


[Page 102]

After the death of Zonia Bitensky, his assistant, Yakir Kleitman took over.

Liova Schwartzman organized a special orchestra of 20 young men. It subsequently was expanded into an orchestra of wind instruments and it played at all Maccabi functions.

Those active in the group were Yasha Lederman, Polya Berman, Nadia Ruvinsky, Marussia Duborsky, Zina Etlis, the Kogan sisters and others.

In 1925 Zeev Zhabotinsky visited Bendery and Maccabi organized a reception, In spite of the honor guard, Zhabotinsky showed his appreciation for the fact that young Jews were undertaking the security of visiting lecturers. This became a permanent event whenever the Iron Guard was in town; community leaders invited Maccabi to organize defence groups. (At one time, a group of butchers was organized to help).

Maccabi was also recognized by the authorities: when the Romanians planned military parades, they invited Maccabi to include their young members. These marchers were praised for their organized walking.


Maccabi Bendery Football Team


Years of Expansion

by Yitzhak Sverdlik, (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

I joined Maccabi of Bendery when it had 150 members. The committee at the time consisted of A. Zigberman, Fustan, Asher Kishinevsky, Mrs. Manus, and Attorney Fisher. Upon a recommendation by the committee I was sent with a group of others for training in sports. Later I became the treasurer of the Maccabi committee. In 1931–1934 I served as chairman of the counselors committee. Aaron Alter and I were appointed as supervisors of the training locations of Maccabi in Romania. I was also in charge of the drama group of Maccabi in our town.

I was very close to the instructors committee whose members included Yitzhak Abramovitch, Yakir Kleitman, Leibl and Haim Bendersky, Haim Shaposnick, Grisha Schwartz and Sioma Buckstein. They were all devoted to the organization and to the planning of special evenings and plays every month in our town.

[Page 103]

As the anti–Semitic activities of the Iron Guard in Romania increased, our Jewish young people organized themselves for self–defence. A group of Romanian students arrived by train and began to attack the Jewish senator, Moshe Zipstein, z”l. He avoided being murdered with the help of the local police. As a result, I organized a group of friends– Moshe Pravis, Lionya Bronfman, David Flavish and Yosef Spiegel –to go to the train station number 1. We began to dismantle the tracks so that the train with the anti–Semites would be derailed. Our luck did not hold out and the secret Romanian police discovered us and placed us in jail. It was only through the intervention of our parents and Senator M. Zipstein that we were released after 48 hours.


Maccabi 1934
(When Yitzhak Sverdlik made Aliyah)


In the middle are seated (from right to left) Attorney Rubashky, Yitzhak Sverdlik, Misha Fustman

A second incident: The authorities invited us, as was their annual custom, to participate in the Romanian Independence Day festivities. I was approached by the officer in charge of the festivities. He, very politely, asked me to fold our national flag. I replied, just as politely, that `we will remain here with our national flag or we will leave`. When a negative answer was given I gave the order to our group to leave and go to our building.

After we dismantled our flags and dispersed the participants, Senator M. Zipstein arrived accompanied by the mayor. They asked us return with our flags. We did not return to the festivities.


Maccabi Counselors


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