Translated by Ala Gamulka
David Abramovich Natanzon was born in Tiraspol [Podolia] in 1877. At age 9, he moved with his family to Bendery. He attended high school there and prepared himself for matriculation three years later. He had to interrupt his studies due to the death of his father and took upon himself to provide for his family, He established a printing house in the Russian language and next to it a stationery store. The store was managed by his wife, Atalia [from the Bendersky family in Dubossary, Podolia].
His lack of formal education did not stop him from many varied activities in town. He founded the Russian language newspaper Yuzhni Krai and served as its editorinchief. He was also a columnist in the famous democratic newspaper in southern Russia Odessky Novostie. He was wellknown to his readers and all intellectuals of the era read his works with interest.
He was also an honorary member of the municipal Russian library Pushkinskaya as well as one of the founders of the RussianYiddish library. He was a member of the Red Cross, Help for the Poor, Clothes for the Needy, Help for the Sick, etc. He was involved with the cooperative Savings Bank [The Jewish Little Bank]. This bank looked after small merchants who could not carry loans at high interest. He was also active among the railroad workers and many other community groups.
He was at the forefront of intellectual activity in town and he stood out, in particular. He dedicated himself to all public programs and always fulfilled his tasks. He was well regarded by both Jews and Russians and served as an example of honesty and dedication to public works. Anyone who came to him found him to be a good listener with an open heart and a ready hand to offer help.
He died on 26.09.1916 in Odessa, after surgery.
His death caused great pain and sorrow and all the town residents mourned him deeply. He died young, in the midst of his charitable good deeds.
The press in southern Russia and the Jewish newspapers were filled with obituaries describing his important activities.
His wife, Atalia, an excellent person in her own right, always stood next to her husband and encouraged all his activities. She was well regarded by the town intelligentsia. Their daughter, Susie, was very young when he died and did not really know her father. She made Aliyah and works in the Communications Department.
May his memory be blessed.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
He was born on 30.04.1886 in Bendery. His father died when he was very young. His widowed mother had five children, but she made certain each one of them obtained a higher education. After the pogrom in Kishinev, in 1903, she decided to make Aliyah. She died there at the age of 90.
His brothers also made Aliyah and became farmers, among the founders of Yavneel. Dr. Baruch Nissenboim first visited his brothers in 1911. He finished his medical studies in Strasbourg [then in Germany] and took his government exams in Russia in 1914. He was sent to the front as a doctor during WWI and spent 3 years as an assistant doctor in the Finnish regiment. He earned 4 medals. After the war he served as a doctor in a workers area in Odessa as well as in private practice. He made Aliyah on the ship Ruslan [the last to leave the Soviet Union] and worked at Hadassah. He was active in the Bukhara House and Mea She'arim in Jerusalem. A year later he was appointed director of the Internal Medicine department in the hospital.
He was one of the pioneers of medicine in the country and worked diligently in promoting good health. He became the medical director of the Haganah and founded Magen David Adom [he was its vicepresident].
A year later he was transferred to Hadassah in Haifa when the new hospital was opened. He ran several departments there. He was also the director of the hospital and had a private practice in Haifa for many years.
During the events of August 1929 the residents of the old Jewish neighborhood, Arad AlYahud, escaped to Hadar Hacarmel. Dr. Nissenboim undertook the task of finding accommodations for them in the Reali School and the Technion. He also supplied them with foods and other needs. Naturally, he also took care of the health of the women and children.
During that time he heard about the pogrom in Safed. He immediately sent an ambulance with a doctor from Haifa. He then made certain all 60 injured were transferred to Haifa. He managed, within 24 hours, to turn an entire floor of the Technion into a hospital ward. He received beds and blankets from the representative of the Jewish Agency, Eliezer Dory [Dostrovsky]. For taking care of the injured from Safed he received high praise from the British High Commissioner. He was also sent a letter of commendation from the Minister for the Colonies, Lord Pasfield.
Founding of the Magen David Station
In 1931 the Haganah asked Dr. Nissenboim to open a Magen David Station in town. He was actually the chief physician of the Haganah in Haifa and area. He did this until the establishment of the State.
During WWII he was appointed as the medical emergency doctor. When battles broke out in December 1947 Dr. Nissenboim, with the help of Kupat Holim, refitted the Borochov Rehabilitation center into a military hospital. Over 1000 injured residents of Haifa were cared for in this hospital. The injured fighters of the Haganah were brought there from other areas.
Dr. Nissenboim went into private practice for various reasons still in 1932, except for one year as a district doctor of the Ministry of Health, after the establishment of the state. He was mainly in private practice, but he always volunteered for Magen David Adom.
After the establishment of the state Dr. Nissenboim continued to serve as a district doctor in Haifa and area. He was, in fact, an officer. At the age of 75 he retired from this position.
He was fortunate to be recognized for his extensive medical activities and was chosen as an Honorary Citizen of Haifa.
He died in Haifa on 8 Kislev 1971 at the age of 84.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
[a rabbi in Bendery]
Rabbi Efraim [son of Shneyer Zalman] Drebrimdiker is a descendant of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev [his family name was also Drebrimdiker]. He was born in the village of Ladizin, Russia in 1886 and died on 12.3.1958.
He was orphaned at a young age and after his Bar Mitzvah he lived with his grandfather [a grandson of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev]. He studied hard and received smicha (ordination). He decided to take secular studies to obtain a high school diploma, but his family objected and withdrew their support. He had to leave home and subsisted on private tutoring.
After obtaining his diploma at the age of 20 he studied for three years in the Commerce Faculty in Kiev. He lived in dire straits and again gave private lessons. In 1912 he was chosen by Bendery as their rabbi. He held this position until 1940.
Rabbi Efraim was a kind hearted Jew and he excelled in public activities within the community in Bendery in general and in Zionist circles in particular. He listened to every request that came his way and always tried to help everyone. In the 1920s he was also a Bible teacher in Russian in the Public Girls High School. He helped establish the Schwartzman Hebrew High School in Bendery.
In 1925 the Hebrew High school building, privately owned, was to be sold. Rabbi Efraim volunteered to travel to London with Dr. Schwartzman and there they obtained funds to buy the building. In this way this important educational institution continued its work. It provided Jewish and general studies for a generation of young people who continued in the Zionist and pioneering spirits until it was closed by the authorities in 1936.
After WWII and the evacuation he lived in Czernowitz and served there as a rabbi until he died.
His warm personality was beloved by everyone and added to the wonderful history of Bendery.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
Avraham Alexandrov was an energetic and educated Jew and was appointed by Yitzhak Nissenboim to run all his businesses, especially his estate in Bendery. When anyone approached the old man he would direct them to Alexandrov:Go to him and tell him to help you. You will receive what I promised.
Alexandrov was a native of Novgorod.
After he left his job with Nissenboim he was the manager of the Loan Bank Creditny Bank. He then bought and ran the best printing press in Bendery.
Alexandrov entertained all the important people in town in his house. He was fortunate to have hosted Haim Nahman Bialik at one time. His close friends included Dr. Zvi Schwartzman whom he had helped to complete his academic studies.
He was respected by the Jewish community because he was dedicated to them and to Zionist causes.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
He was born in 1850 and died on 24.6.1925.
Baruch Holodenko had a special place among the important personalities in Bendery. He worked diligently in all public institutions and had special qualities.
He was the first journalist among the Jews of Bendery who wrote, in Hebrew, at the end of the 19th century about the Jewish community of Bendery. He was published in Hamagid, Hamelitz, etc.
Special attention must be paid to his article in Hamelitz published in this book about the dedication of the Jewish hospital in Bendery. It was an unforgettable national holiday within the Jewish community. The mayor drank a toast in honor of the Jewish community and the Jewish people.
Since he was a distinguished representative of the community he was chosen as a delegate to the seventh Zionist Congress and to many Zionist committees in Russia. He met many important people and corresponded with the greats of Russian Jewry.
He educated several generations of students who carried the national flag with enthusiasm. Many of them even made Aliyah encouraged by his loving image.
His descendants were part of the Second and Third Aliyah and settled in many places, even in a distant border kibbutz in the Negev.
It is so sad that in spite of his wish to make Aliyah and his dedication to the cause he was unable to fulfill the dream and to see Eretz Israel.
The memory of Baruch Holodenko will remain among the great dreamers and fighter for the rejuvenation of our people and our land.
Inscription on his grave:
This was an honest and outstanding man
Who worked hard all his life
His name will be a blessing
In the words of his admirers and those who honor him
He was industrious and knowledgeable
He was full of literary information
R. Baruch Holodenko
Died at the age of 75
B. Tammuz, 1925
May his memory be a blessing!
The elderly teacher, Baruch Holodenko, stands out within the scenery of Bendery. He wears a black hat and wrinkled clothes. His feet are moving they drag mud from morning to night.
What does R. Baruch do all day? First, he visits three to four houses to prepare teams for soliciting funds for Jewish National Fund at that evening's wedding in the large hall. He then tutors Hebrew for a couple of hours. He then goes to the medical store of Hersh Kogan where he participates in a discussion about inviting a Zionist speaker from Odessa to a debate about the Bund. He follows this with two more tutorials and so on until sundown.
R. Baruch has a special interest in this debate since his daughter Rivka* made Aliyah in 1911 at the age of 17. She went to work the land, but WWI had put a stop to all correspondence between them.
It is clearly understood that in addition to his technical and practical assistance all year he is also invited to lecture. At Hanukah he spoke about the Hasmoneans. His topic was Victory of spirit over army and might. In the month of Adar he will speak again as well as before Succot.
His home was poor and needy, but his wife did not complain about her lot because she admired his work and his activities.
His wish is to make Aliyah, but he does not dare dream. His dark eyes shine with tears when he hears news from Eretz Israel and he is thrilled to listen to a new Hebrew song. Ishi Adler, a teacher at Herzliah High School in Tel Aviv, visited Bendery. For Holodenko his visit was like a Sabbath because he enjoyed it so much.
This is how Baruch Holodenko lived in an atmosphere of Eretz Israel in Bendery. He trudged on his weak legs through the mud in the winter and was barely to breathe in the summer. He never stopped his holy work.
He continued to educate a generation of students to love Hebrew, Zion and pioneering until he was confined to his deathbed in the Community Hospital.
[From Chapters about the Jews of Bessarabia, Nissan 1958]
* Rivka Machneimy, zl, lived her whole life in Kibbutz Ein Harod. Her diary is published in this book.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
The dentist, Dr. Alexander Mikhailovich Khain, stands out among the many wonderful, progressive and pioneering personalities of Bendery. He was wellknown as a public figure, journalist and editor in the Russian language about Jewish topics. As a regular journalist he signed his articles with the pseudonym Odos.
He had an aristocratic look and he dedicated his life to others. He especially was active in helping the poor and in social agencies in Bendery such as Help for the Sick, Clothing for the Poor, etc.
He was also involved in developing cultural activities in the population and he looked after the amateur drama group which performed from time to time. He even managed to encourage people to attend.
The story of his life is told by his daughters and his son:
Alexander Mikhailovich Khain was born in the Mozilov District and was among the most developed and cultured people in those times. He graduated from high school in Moscow, having been invited by his brother who was an important merchant with privileges in the capital. In Moscow he learned Russian well. His children were educated in Central Russia in a Russian high school. However, at home, Dr. Khain taught his children to love Judaism, the Jewish people and its traditions and the Promised Land. He was an ardent Zionist and he applied it in all aspects of public life. All his life his deeds were directed towards the public good and to collecting funds to finance them. His spouse helped him constantly in his charitable work and encouraged his actions in spite of the fact that he traveled a great deal.
He was an unbelievably honest and hardworking person. He taught us to follow in his footsteps. He influenced his children and just a look from him would ensure that we followed the proper route.
He was a tireless worker and he worked in the hospital's dental clinic until his last days. He would not give up going to work in winter and in summer and in old age.
He lived in Bendery during two periods of time: the first as a young boy and the second when he returned in 191213 and stayed there for many years. His public work in Bendery was varied and wide. He was one of the organizers of Clothing for the Poor and he was a supporter of the Schwartzman Hebrew High School. [Once he gave the school two rooms in our home for two classes which could not be accommodated in the school building].
He wrote many articles in local newspapers as well as in the Odessa press. [Unfortunately, all the articles we had saved have been lost].
In Bendery he was active in Hazamir where there was a choir and a drama club. There were plays presented and I took part in one of them as Injured Palestine. There was with me a young man by the name of Kaushansky who made Aliyah and changed his name to Agadati. I believe he opened the first folk dance school in Eretz Israel. There was also Zina Pistrova who became an opera singer in Bucharest.
Anyone who needed help knew that Dr. Khain would not refuse him. He did it for its own sake and not to be recognized.
It is sad that this man, who worked so hard for his people and his country, did not reach Eretz Israel. We, his children, live and work in the land he loved so much.
Father and mother were killed on the way to camps, not far from Rodalnia, and were probably buried there in a mass grave.
We trust that his friends and acquaintances will always speak well of him.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
He arrived in Bendery from White Russia in 1908 since he had been exiled from there by the Tsarist government for hisrevolutionary sins. It was wellknown that about 100 years ago Bessarabia served as an exile destination for elements unwanted by Tsar Nikolai I. Even Pushkin was sent there. Obviously, the Russian secret service considered Bessarabia a distant unwelcome place in those days and sent their political prisoners there instead of Siberia. For David Prozhansky, Bendery did not seem like a place of exile since he felt very welcome there.
When he arrived in Bendery he served as a private Hebrew tutor and he soon became known as a talented teacher. He was friendly and was wellliked by everyone. He became close to the liberal Russian youth and especially the Jewish ones in Bendery. He was well educated and knew general and Jewish literature well. His lectures were filled with nationalistic ideas in a Zionistsocialist vein. He especially believed in the Autoemancipation of I.L. Pinsker.
After he managed to attract a circle of young people, he organized Poalei Zion [I was one of the participants]. In spite of the fact that it was not permissible to have gatherings, we used to meet every Shabbat afternoon in different homes for political discussions, hearing literary lectures and chess matches.
David Prozhansky was our leader and usually the lecturer. There were some visitors from the outside such as the theatre group of EstherRachel Kaminska. There was much enthusiasm with her appearance and Prozhansky presented her with an album, signed by all young people in town. She thanked us profusely.
When he observed that the local library lacked the Jewish and general classics, he did not rest until he established a fund to purchase Yiddish copies of them. All the books were ordered from Warsaw. He was a warm man and an intellectual and he understood all the social problems. He was loved by the youth.
When Bessarabia was conquered by the Romanians it was discovered that he secretly was an agent of the Soviet regime. After WWI I visited Bendery and I found him as the leader of a group of Poalei Zion that was true to the October revolution… After WWII it became obvious in his letters that he was quite disappointed in Soviet Communism. He was still friendly to them, but he was a Zionist and he cared deeply about his people.
I was an emissary from the United States on this visit and I cooperated with him in the organization of a branch of the Culture League in Bendery. I saw how he was beloved by the youth and how hard he worked.
He died in 1970.
L.G. Brooklyn, N.Y
Professor Yitzhak Fein [Baltimore, United States] visited the Soviet Union and met with David Prozhansky. These are his remarks:
…Parents are still allowed to teach their children the Hebrew alphabet, but how many of them do so? Officially, there is no prohibition against performing a Bris, celebrating a Bar Mitzvah, visiting a synagogue, but… it is preferable not to do so if one values his life.
What happens when an older Jew wants to learn? It is done in secret since it is illegal to learn dangerous subjects. I met one of them, a Jew of 80 years old David Prozhansky. I remembered him from fifty years earlier, before the flood. We were so happy to meet.
He spoke to me about what happened to him. What is he doing now? He is a pensioner and in his old age he became an artist. I told him that it is quite common in America many people do it. It seems that I did not quite understand what he meant. Even now, in his old age, he teaches Torah, in spite of the fact that it is quite dangerous to do so. He has two young Jews who come and if they can take a chance, so can he. He does not have any textbooks so he draws letters for them and this is how they study. What devotion!
[Yiddisher Kemfer, New York]
In 1966 I visited Bendery for 7 hours and I met my friend David Prozhansky. He was quite old, skinny, but his Jewish sad eyes shone in his face. He tried to speak only Hebrew and complained that he could not obtain books in Hebrew. I was so sorry that I had not brought one for him.
I found out later that he had been a Hebrew teacher all his life until the end.
I brought him new clothes as a gift and he was thrilled with the attention I paid him. When we said goodbye he kissed me warmly. I asked him to describe Bendery in the past thirty years the Holocaust and the return of the Jews. He was unable to talk about it.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
The pharmaceutical warehouse of Hersh Kogan served as the Zionist Center for many years. It was used as a meeting place by Zionist leaders in Bendery.
Hersh Kogan was tall and slim. His brown beard had a sharp end, his eyes shone with intellect and his tongue was used to argue with opponents. He always had useful sayings. His talents were evident.
His well scrubbed store was used daily, between the hours of 12 and two in the afternoon, for Zionist affairs. Active members, friends and veterans of the Zionist scene met there daily. There was a Mr. Alexandrov, a wealthy Jew who had great influence in the community; next to him sat Mr. Kh, Fustan, the owner of a printing press. Another was Solomon Pavlovich Rivlin who spoke Russian and cited verses about Altalena to Jabotinsky. Of course, a special place within this group was kept for the old teacher B. Holodenko who came to bring money and receipts.
Leader of the General Zionists in Bendery
Later on R. Shabtai Berman, nicknamed R. Shepsil, also visited the store. He was ultraOrthodox, but loved Israel in his own way.
When R. Shabtai Berman arrived, a sharp argument developed between him and the Zionists. They made stinging remarks that turned into bickering and angry words, but ended in peaceful statements so that there would be time on the next day to continue the discussion.
[In any case, the store owner would on occasion leave the dispute in order to serve a customera bar of soap, perfume, or a magic potion for regenerating hair.]
The pharmaceutical warehouse served as a Zionist center for many years. A stranger who would come in during those hours would have reached the conclusion that these Jews and the Zionist issue were more important than earning a living.
Bendery was not unusual. There were many towns and villages in Bessarabia where the Jews had similar setups which were the center for Zionism and lovers of Israel adults and many young people. Many such groups were involved in the dream of redemption and the existence of the Jewish people.
Let these paragraphs serve as a small remembrance to those few saints who helped us to establish our State of Israel.
[From Chapters about the Jews of Bessarabia, Nisan, 1958]
Hersh Kogan's granddaughter, who grew up in his home, says the following:
He was an intelligent and welcoming man and many people came to him for advice and help. Even priests arrived to discuss Biblical subjects as well as religious faith.
All through the Soviet regime he was afraid that he would be exiled to Siberia for his Zionist sins. Many of his Christian friends stood by his side in bad times and saved him from persecution. Still, he suffered greatly because one of his granddaughters converted and married a Christian. He died at the age of 72 on 31.5.1941, about three weeks before the Romanians entered Bessarabia with the help of the Germans.
His granddaughter remembers well two episodes:
At the meeting when the certificates were discussed, Hersh Kogan, who was the chairman, announced: This evening I am not chairing the meeting since you are discussing the awarding of certificates to my granddaughter and her husband. He promptly walked out.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
The thousands of students of Dr. Zvi Schwartzman remember with deep admiration, to this day, the time they spent learning in his High School. He laid the cornerstone of the Hebrew High School in Bendery in 1912. It became a famous institution far and wide and many students from nearby villages came to acquire an education an advanced Hebrewnational education.
It is no wonder that to this day Dr. Schwartzman is considered a pioneer in Hebrew education in southern Russia. He did before he heard before WWI. The leaders of Bendery, V. Weisser and his friends, representing a group of parents, turned to him and asked him to undertake the job. He gave up his own career in medicine and accepted their request. He was studying in Berlin after completion of a degree in Physics and Mathematics in the University of Odessa. He came to help his people by establishing a Hebrew High School in Bendery. He worked hard without any government financing. He first established the middle school [4 grades] and then he continued with the senior grades. It was a difficult task to formulate curriculum from nothing. The school was successful and produced thousands of graduates who were all well versed in Hebrew studies and were Lovers of Zion. Many of these students became famous in cultural, artistic and public fields. We mention some of them: Ha'ohel Theater actor Sh. Tsakhoval, zl and Avraham Ben Yosef of the Kameri, the poet Zrubavel Gilead, the Zionist leader David Wertheim, zl [he was a student and later a teacher in the school] and Prof. Yitzhak Fein, now in the United States. Among his students are members of the Knesset, famous doctors and other professionals.
Dr. Schwartzman knew how to attract outstanding teachers who even produced textbooks in Hebrew. They became well known even outside of Russia. Dr. Schwartzman's illustrated Hebrew geography book appeared in the 1920s, Yitzhak Reznikov's mathematics book in Hebrew and Shmuel Gorin's history text are examples. These books were used in our country for many years.
Dr. Schwartzman suffered greatly throughout the different regimes the Tsar, the Bolsheviks and the Romanian conquest. He held on with all his might to preserve the school in spite of all difficulties. That is why he was so beloved by his students and admirers. When he made Aliyah in the mid 1930s a big party was planned in his honor and many of his former students attended.
Here in Eretz Israel he dreamed of creating his own school, but for many reasons it was not to happen, He worked as an organizer of the teachers section of the workers union. Even in this task his aristocratic personality came through. This is evidenced by the words of the educator Menahem Rodnitsky [Adir] [Hed Hakhinukh, Elul 1952] to the bright personality of Dr. Zvi Schwartzman right after he died at the age of 82.
In spite of all his troubles, physical and mental, in the various cruel regimes, Dr. Schwartzman always knew how to foster personal relations with his students and to counsel them in their development and learning. Even today 25 years after his death, the memory of Dr. Schwartzman still shines brightly. He was a dear man and has stayed in the hearts and minds of his students and his friends. This is the way it will always be for us.
[Hed Hakhinukh, vol. 42, Page 10, 20 Cheshvan, 1968]
Special Reception in our Land for a Distinguished Educator
When Dr. Schwartzman made Aliyah, for the second time, in 1937, he immediately encountered the tough reality and the unpleasant treatment of the Education department dealing with immigrant teachers. They would have preferred a young recent graduate to a seasoned teacher of his age. The doors of the schools were closed to immigrant teachers and they could not find other employment to earn their keep. In Tel Aviv itself there were more than 50 unemployed teachers who were abandoned and who did not have enough food. They walked around like shadows showing depressed faces. The Teachers Federation did not rush to assist them, but other teachers felt their despair and pressured the Federation to help their unemployed brethren who would have died of hunger. The Federation, at the insistence of these teachers, decided to collect two days salary from employed teachers in order to help the newcomers. The branch in Tel Aviv chose a special committee to look after the unemployed and it opened an employment office.
Dr. Schwartzman was unemployed and he was asked to run this office. He was the right person in the proper place. He was a true friend and felt the despair of his colleagues. He looked after them and never stopped caring. He collected the twoday salary contributions and walked from school to school to do it.
Many times he heard unpleasant remarks from those teachers who tried not to pay in and he was insulted by the unemployed who almost lost their minds due to the despair they felt. However, Dr. Schwartzman kept his cool and did not care about his personal honor. He undertook a heavy burden for a small salary which was less than that of a new teacher. In the last year his health weakened, but he continued his work diligently.
He hid his pain until he collapsed on the job, during a meeting with members of the committee of the unemployed. Even in his last moments he did not want to bother anyone and he apologized for disturbing them.
It is only due to the dedication of Dr. Schwartzman that the employment office gained the respect and trust of others and succeeded in finding work for the unemployed teachers.
His students, friends and admirers keep his memory in their crying hearts. He died too early.
(Hed Hakhinukh, vol.42, Page 10, 20 Cheshvan, 1968)
Translated by Ala Gamulka
I first met him when I was 8 as I was preparing for entrance exams to the Schwartzman Hebrew High School in Bendery. My tutor was a student in the high school Donya Rivlin. During one of the lessons, Zelig, a friend of Donya, appeared and offered, of his own good will, to help me in Russian pronunciation according to grammatical rules. I felt his warmth and willingness to help from that first moment. He wanted to help me, a Jewish child who had difficulties with this foreign language the language of the country at that time. When I discovered that he was good in art, his worth grew since I loved art.
Some years later, Zelig appeared on amateur Russian theater stages in our town. He appeared together with Senya [Simcha] Tsakhoval who usually had more serious parts. Zelig was very comfortable on the Russian stage and even introduced some Yiddishism in his performance. For this introduction of Yiddish terms he was nicknamed Zatz and this name stuck to him for the rest of his life.
In the mid 1920s I met Zelig when he was the first administrator of Kumkum [kettle] and later Matate [broom] the early satiric theatres in our country. He was involved in running the theatre. He was tall and skinny and sometimes hunger showed in his eyes. He used to speak to me warmly about the poet Avigdor Hameiri, founder of the Kumkum, about his new creation, the song about Jerusalem seen from Mount Scopus. He would say:If someone could make sure Avigdor Hameiri would be fed daily, it would be very important. He did not say one word about his own needs.
Dr. Schwartzman, the principal of the high school in Bendery, arrived in 1936. I was among his first students, perhaps the first, to visit him in his school in Givat Hamoreh near Afula. A group of us decided to prepare an evening for him and we sent a note to all former students in our country. On 1 Adar 1936 we held a banquet which remains unforgettable in our memories. Zelig was the Master of Ceremonies of the party. Several former students gave speeches and there were skits and songs by S. Tsakhoval and David Weisser, zl; these were reminiscent of evenings held in the high school in Bendery in the past.
In those years, 19361937, there were bloody attacks in the country. Gangs of unruly Arabs escalated the terror against the Jews by burning crops in the fields, destroying property, attacking settlements and murdering Jews of all ages only because they were Jews. The Mandate government decided to erect a fence in the NorthTaggart Wall, along tens of kilometres.
The security situation worsened daily, especially near the open and wild borders of Syria and Lebanon. Gangs of terrorists and arms smugglers came through these parts. This was a wire fence 2 meters tall and measuring 6m in width over 4 iron columns.
There was serious unemployment in the country and thus there were many who were available for this work. It was decided, in spite of directives of the Mandate, to establish a row of Jewish settlements along the borders and in strategic points in the country.
On the night of 21.3.38 a large group of fence makers went to the north of the country. It was a time when the Arab gangs were attacking Jewish settlements and guards. The press reported daily about fires and shooting near Tiberias, in the fields, shots against the border police, murders on the roads, etc.
The camp in Hanita consisted of tents in the heart of a menacing Arab population, in areas far from other Jewish settlements. It was open to the bullets of the murderers. Many times the members of the camp had to go to the aid of the settlements being attacked. There were also victims among the members of the camp.
I was a reporter for Davar in the Upper Galilee and I came to the camp in Hanita. Among the hundreds of people I knew, Zelig Sofer suddenly appeared almost naked, quite tanned and wearing shorts on his long legs. Zelig was involved in carrying stones, gravel, building material, etc. He was one of the first to volunteer for this work.
Shalom, Zelig!, Shalom, Shalom, how are you? It was a hurried conversation because time was short and the work was heavy. It was only during mealtime that we were to speak. Zelig, in his lovable simplicity, his eyes dark and burning, said: There is a need and I volunteered!
Many years have passed since then, I am in the north of the country and in Jerusalem and he is in the south. It was only sometimes that we meet hurriedly. Everyone is in a rush, but we speak of meeting more often. When I moved to Tel Aviv I discovered that Zelig was working at the airport in Lydda and later in the Zionist Organization of America building. Zelig still dreamed of the theatre because it was in his blood. Zelig then disappeared.
One morning the newspaper announced his death.
Zelig was good and did good deeds for others. He was a pioneer, a dreamer, a man of the theatre and our eternal fighter…
Memories of Zelig Sofer
I met Zelig in 1926/7. I do not remember exactly how we met, but after a few minutes I felt as if I had known him a long time. He, like me, was crazy about the theatre and we became close immediately.
In 1927 the Kumkum theatre was founded by Avigdor Hameiri and Eliezer Donat and I was fortunate to be among the first actors. The troupe had 5 actors [among them Rafael Klatchkin], the painter IrShay and a stage hand. Our purpose was to present a literary cabaret with political satire on a small stage. We worked without an administrator at first, but soon Zelig undertook this role. We worked as a team and we barely earned our keep, but we were young and enthusiastic and nothing stood in our way. Zelig was always full of energy, but he was unable to use it because our horizons were quite narrow. We traveled the entire country in two months and soon we needed a new presentation.
A year later there was a dispute within Kumkum between its director, the poet A. Hameiri, and its members [Zelig among them]. They left Hameiri and in 1928 founded the satirical theatre the Matate. The new artistic director was I.M. Daniel. Naturally, Zelig was the administrator of the Matate.
In addition to his energy, Zelig also was a graphic artist. He designed the first posters for the theatre. There were some really beautiful ones at the beginning.
When Zelig left Matate he opened an office for the selling of tickets to Habima when the troupe came to our land at the end of the 1920s.
I did not see him for a long time after he began to work in the airport in Lydda, but then the artistic sense touched him again. I met him at the Zionist Organization of Americas house at different functions which he had planned. We met again just before he died.
He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a good friend always ready to help those in need. It is too bad he died at a time which was so difficult, but was full of friendship and simplicity. Unfortunately, this is not true of present times…
Yaakov Timan, Actor
Translated by Ala Gamulka
In those days, early in the 20th century, Yaakov immersed himself, together with some friends, in the establishment of a network of branches of Hashomer Hatzair in Bessarabia and Romania. He dedicated himself to preparing the youth for a life in Eretz Israel. We were fortunate to have him and we saw in him a wonderful counselor and educator. He knew how to prepare himself and to imbue the youth with his knowledge and strength. His friends and acquaintances loved him, especially the young children who were constantly involved with him.
The Jewish youth of that time were right in the middle of the ideological trends that existed in the general public as well as in the Jewish community. They would strive constantly without being directed from above [there was no such above yet] to acquire political knowledge, movement education and awareness of nation and socialism in addition to the needs of their Jewish background. Yaakov was well informed in these fields and had great instinct and he found himself attracting the youth to the Hashomer Hatzair movement.
Yaakov was one of the first in this arena and eventually he was among the leaders of the movement. In spite of his being younger than other leaders he showed great depth of knowledge in ancient and new Jewish culture. He also had a good background in general culture. This, in addition to his personal abilities, placed in the forefront of the movement.
Several of his friends and family members made Aliyah some to kibbutzim, some to work on the roads, railroad or be security guards. However, Yaakov remained to look after the movement in the Diaspora. When he tried to make Aliyah the doors were closed and many like him, leaders of the movement, were forced to leave the semiFascist regime and to go to Argentina, France and other countries.
In France, Yaakov completed studies in Chemical Engineering and established a family. His dream was still in his heart and when he visited Israel a few years ago he even promised to send his surviving son and daughter [his oldest daughter died in the Holocaust] to come there. After this visit his daughter remained in Gan Shmuel for 6 months and decided to remain. However, Yaakov himself did not live to see this happen as he died of a heart attack.
Three years have passed since then and we are still mourning our loss.
Friends and Members of the Family
[Al Hamishmar, 6.9.1965]
Translated by Ala Gamulka
He was the son of Rabbi ShimonShlomo, the 8th generation after the Baal Shem Tov. He, too, had a good reputation. At the beginning of his activities he helped those who were less fortunate. When the Joint came to the aid of the Jewish victims after WWI, he was one of its representatives and was situated in Brisk, Lithuania.
He had a warm approach and a natural love for other human beings and these attributes led the way for all those who were in need in those terrible times. He contributed greatly to the success of ORT in his area and later in Brisk. He eventually made his way to Warsaw after the Civil War, wandering through Ukraine. From there he made Aliyah and settled well. He established a family and continued his public activities. He first cooperated with the late Dr. BernsteinCohen in redemption of land, but he then joined the Jewish Agency at the request of Yitzhak Grinboim. In his new position Wertheim successfully struggled with the prohibitions of the Mandate.
When the state was founded he transferred to government work and became head of the labour relations department. He brought with him a background of seeking justice and wishing to establish truth in all matters. He was fortunate to serve the State of Israel and our country was lucky to have such a man to be one of its founders. His legacy continues to this day.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
He was a son of Rabbi ShimonShlomo and was born in Bendery in 1896, the offspring of a veteran rabbinic family that had served in Bendery for 7 generations. The family members were descendants of the Baal Shem Tov and many greats in the Hassidic movement. He absorbed the religiousnationalistic atmosphere in his father's house Judaism and popular Hassidism. He studied in heders and in the Hebrew Gymnasia of Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer in Berlin. He served in the Russian army in WWI.
At the age of 17 he founded a Zionist youth group in Bendery. The elite of the Jewish students joined and they established a Hebrew library in Bendery. He had an excellent background in Judaism and in general education and spent 20 years as an outstanding pedagogue in Bessarabia and later in the United States where he taught Hebrew. He had a great influence on the youth and brought them closer to popular Zionism and to the Zeirei Zion movement. He also taught them the excitement of Hassidism, love of Israel and Zion.
In 1923 he arrived in the United States and took an active part in popularizing the Zeirei Zion movement among American youth. Haim Greenberg, zl, and Dr. David Rabalsky came to the United States and together they led the movement until it amalgamated with Poalei Zion in 1930. The new union was called Zeirei ZionPoalei Zion. In 1931, one year later, he was chosen as the general secretary of the new movement and he remained in the position for the next 13 years. He contributed his energies to the Zionist Labor movement in the United States, to Keren Kayemet, United Jewish Appeal, Histadrut Campaign, Zionist congresses and the Zionist Council. He was involved in all Zionist activities in the United States. He was also active in Labor Zionist [Farband] and the World Union. An outstanding speaker, he ably brought Zionism, for many years, to the United States and many countries in Latin America to many Jews. His speeches, in Hebrew and Yiddish, were full of Biblical references, folklore, Hassidism, pioneer life in Eretz Israel. He had many followers who listened to him as they did to Zvi Maslyansky and Dr. Shmariyahu Levin and his influence was deeply felt by Jews in United States. He took part in all Zionist Congresses beginning with the 15th in 1927 and ending with the 23rd in 1951. He was a member of the Zionist Executive Committee from 1935. From 1945 and until his death [with a recess of two years] he was the director of the Histadrut Appeal in the United States and he brought the message of the Histadrut to all parts of the United States and Latin America.
When the State of Israel was founded he tried to live in Israel and served as the head of HIAS for two years. For family reasons he was forced to return to his public positions in the Diaspora.
The constant travelling and the difficult work with the Histadrut Appeal, for many years in Latin America, weakened him physically and caused heart disease. He died in Havana, Cuba on 10.4.53 while he was visiting there as part of his job.
He died while on national duty for the Zionist cause and he was only 57. He was buried in New York. He left a wife [Hebrew teacher] and a daughter.
His memory will remain as one of the greatest pioneers that emerged from Bendery in this century.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
It is impossible to write about life in our town and the people in it without mentioning the names of two patrons of its institutions AryehLeib and Nadia Blank.
AryehLeib Blank owned a large flour mill and a sawmill in the district. He was born in 1874 to his father Alter and his mother Mirel Blank. He was raised in a traditional observant Jewish home, but he later became more progressive. This was the prevailing mood in the Jewish world in Russia at the time. The Blanks conducted their home in this atmosphere.
The traditional Jewish education AryehLeib had received in his childhood left its stamp on his character. As all other heretics, R. Leib knew the needs of his people. He was close to the authorities and many Jews used his protection when they needed help. This was especially evident in 1914. Since he was close to the governor of the district he was able to free many Jews from military service. He served on the board of directors of the high school and the Girls' school. He helped many students who could not afford the tuition. Also he was active on the Executive Committee of the Jewish community together with the pharmacist Vineshneker, in spite of their having a difference of opinion.
Many times he was asked by R. Shloimke to donate to Jewish institutions in town and he never refused. Anyone in need a poor craftsman, a wagon driver, a widow, a poor bride knew that he would never refuse them. He was involved with his businesses, but when he turned 30 he hired a tutor to teach him Talmud and Mishna. He chose R. Avraham Dayan who came on a daily basis to learn Gmara with him. It eventually became too hard for him physically and he had to interrupt his studies.
He died peacefully in 1920 and was buried in Kishinev. Since he was a great philanthropist, the Hevra Kaddisha refused to take money for his interment.
His wife, Nadia, was a great help to him and was very active in various Jewish and Russian institutions in the disbursement of funds to the poor.
When a stream of Jewish refugees arrived from Russia and as a Typhus epidemic came, Nadia erected special shacks for the sick. She dedicated herself to their well being, but became ill herself. When she recuperated she moved to Paris with some of her daughters. She died there.
A leader of the General Zionists in Bendery
Translated by Ala Gamulka
Noah Lifshitz was among the early educators and molders of the Zionist generation in Bendery. He was considered to be the mainstay of Zionism and the young generation leaned on him.
Noah Lifshitz was born in Kishinev at the end of the 1870s.
He spent his young years in the yeshiva of R. Shalom Perlmutter in Kishinev where he was known as a gifted Talmud and Torah student. In his youth he was also interested in general education. After much travel he arrived in Odessa where he studied pedagogy. At the same time he joined Hovevei Zion under the leadership of M. Dizengoff and he became its secretary.
In 1890 together with the Hovevei Zion group from Kishinevhe was chosen as a delegate to the first convention of Hovevei Zion in Odessa under the chairmanship of Dr. Pinsker. Together with Dr. BernsteinCohen he took an active part in the conference. Upon his return he was elected secretary of the movement in Kishinev and he undertook, with M. Dizengoff, to spread the national dream among the Jews of Bessarabia.
After many years of public and Zionist activity in his town, Noah arrived in Bendery in early 1920s. His career as a private Hebrew tutor began here. He taught children of Jewish merchants who wished to give their children a Jewish education in addition to the secular studies they followed in government schools. He made his living giving these private lessons. He served as the general secretary of the Zionist movement in town. Together with Dr. Shlomo Bendersky, he was in charge of the postal agency of the Bendery district. This had been decided after the First Congress. Noah Lifshitz did most of the work and he fulfilled his task with dedication. The elite of the Jewish and the RussoJewish intelligentsia always surrounded him. He was admired for his modesty and gentle demeanor, his extensive knowledge in Jewish culture and the classical Russian one.
Since he wanted to draw the youth, especially the students, to the Zionist movement, he opened a library where it was possible to acquire knowledge of Torah and Jewish culture. He collected about 300 books which served as a basis for the library.
The first librarian in this library was his oldest daughter, Esther. She came on the Second Aliyah with the first pioneers. The library was at first in a room of the Zionist club. However, the Tsarist police came and locked it [there was probably a denunciation]. Such institutions were illegal during Tsarist times. Lifshitz was sent to court. After much effort including those who believed in secular culture for the Jews in Russia the case was dismissed and a permit arrived from Peterburg (St. Petersburg) allowing the reopening of the library.
At first the books were brought to the home of Lifshitz as if it were his own private collection. Once the permit arrived, two rooms were rented in the courtyard of Yefifanov and this was extended with the help of certain people in town. It was then known as the RussianJewish Library and contained several thousand new books. The library also had progressive and liberal Russian newspapers. In addition there were political meetings where many arguments ensued. It was like a club for the Jewish intelligentsia in town. The second librarian was the third daughter of Lifshitz, Rachel, She, in turn, gave the position over to Yasha Bendersky [son of Dr. Bendersky].
Noah Lifshitz was highly involved in the life of the Jewish community and was very well liked. He organized the Jewish Bank which gave loans with convenient conditions to the poorer elements in town. He was chosen as the chief bookkeeper of the bank and he remained there until it was closed when Bessarabia was conquered by the Romanians.
After the bank was closed Noah Lifshitz went back to teaching and was accepted as a Jewish Studies teacher in the Russian Talmud Torah supervised by I. Tiomkin.
In 1921 he made Aliyah with the rest of his family. He earned his living by serving as the primary secretary in a school in Tel Aviv.
In Tel Aviv he found his son Yosef whom he had sent in 1910 to study at the Herzliah High School and his daughter Esther who arrived in 1911 and married a fellow townsman, a member of Poalei Zion, Kasp owner of a large printing press; his second daughter Malka who made Aliyah a year after her older sister and worked in the workers kitchen of Achdut on Nahalat Binyamin Street.
Noah Lifshitz died at an old age on 15 Elul 1935 and was buried in Nahalat Yitzhak in Tele Aviv.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
Hanina, son of Yitzhak, Krachevsky was born in 1877 in the village of Petrovka [Yehupets] in Bessarabia. During his youth his parents moved to Bendery and he studied at the Talmud Torah. Even as a young child he stood out for his singing voice and his fine musical ear. Whenever he heard a song he was able to repeat it exactly, to the great delight of his family. They were all musical. In school his clear sweet voice was heard above the voice of the other children. He got the attention of Mr.Shkhanovsky, a teacher in the Talmud Torah, who was also a cantor. He gently looked after the child and taught him musical notes and to play the piano. The child wished to sing in a choir of one of the cantors, but his parents were vehemently against it.
By chance, the famous cantor Zeidel Rovner came to Bendery and he convinced Hanina's parents to allow the boy to join his choir. Finally, the parents agreed and the young boy moved to Kishinev, Zeidel Rovner's home town. The fame of this young singer spread quickly and the synagogue always had a large crowd that came to listen to his lovely voice. The news even reached the government offices and the governor, a lover of music, came with other high officials to hear the young boy as he sang solo. His beautiful voice sounded like silver bells and the governor was enchanted and praised him profusely. Hanina only stayed a short time at Zeidel Rovner's. The boy's fame with his beautiful soprano voice spread to other cities. A man came to Kishinev from Kherson and convinced the boy to come to the Choral Synagogue in Kherson. Hanina remained there for many years and learned music from the choir leader.
When he was 22 years old, Hanina Krachevsky went to Warsaw where he passed a test and became the conductor of an orchestra and a choir. He spent some time as conductor of a military band. He felt the need for musical creation and he did not want to sing holy prayers in the Diaspora. He left his job and made Aliyah. This is where his creative work really began. Eighteen years ago every teacher was able to create something from nothing. Our Late friend was one of the first to pave the way among other educators here. He arrived full of love and the creative spirit and his mouth and heart were full of song. Soon after he arrived he began to teach singing in the Girls School and in Gymnasia Herzliah. From the first moment his colleagues felt his creative strength. Before he came on the scene singing in school was dull and forced. Noah was the first to teach children solfege and he organized choirs with two or four different voices. His choirs were well organized, harmonious and in good taste. He often chose folk songs or synagogue prayers that he loved. In addition he also taught classical European singing. He was the first to establish orchestras, wind and string, in the Gymnasia. He also taught in the Teachers College where the students learned to play the Concertina. The Hanukah parties in the Gymnasia were always a special event in Tel Aviv. The songs he taught, his own creation or that of others, were sung throughout the country and even outside it. When he did not have prepared songs he worked hard day and night to write new ones. He was an enthusiastic person and he knew how to excite others and to encourage them to work in his favorite field. When he found students, or just other youth, who were musically talented, he would teach them privately.
Many of those who had been his students established choirs and taught music in many parts of the country. His crowning glory was the large choir of close to 200 people that gave concerts in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When the Hebrew University was officially opened he was the conductor of this large choir. It left an indelible mark on many spectators.
His road was not always paved with roses. He had much sorrow in his work. He was always afraid that he could not succeed in all he had planned. All this in spite of the many compliments he received from his colleagues and students. He was always fearful that he had not done enough. He wished for perfection. Perhaps this is why he appealed to listeners with his songs. This is why so many people are mourning the first Hebrew music teacher in the schools of Eretz Israel.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
We carry silently the burden of our life
Like camels walking in the desert
With gloom we sprawl on the earth
While the storm is strengthening
When the caravan stops
The poet Zrubavel was the son of Haya Glass, zl.
She was born on 8 Elul 1887 and died on 26 Tevet 1964
Haya was born in Anayev in south Russia to a working family the Bierbrier Family. She moved to Bendery in her childhood.
Haya, the oldest daughter, graduated from a girls' professional school and began to bring earnings home in her youth. She was a master seamstress. She also joined the Zionist youth movement Halutzei Zion later Zeirei Zion and was very active in it. She met her life's partner in the movement. Together with Haim Glass she prepared herself for Aliyah. Their first child, Zrubavel was born on the eve of WWI and their move to Eretz Israel was delayed.
The war and additional years of travel and trouble delayed the Aliyah of the young family until 1923. Mother and child arrived and went to Ein Harod, but the father came only two years later. In Ein Harod their second son Yuval was born.
Haya was one of the oldest women in Ein Harod when she arrived. However, her energy, life experience and capability helped her integrate into this young and active society.
She did everything other women did cooking, taking care of the children, laundry and sewing. In season she worked in the fields and the orchards. Most of her time was spent in her profession of seamstress. Later when there was a need for orthopedic belts she learned how to sew them and helped others as well.
She was pleased with all the achievements of Ein Harod and the movement and she felt their pain when there were divisions among the members.
In her last years she suffered greatly, but she always liked to speak about Ein Harod, of the early days when she walked without shoes near Mount Gilboa until the present time when the settlement had grown.
She was the first member of Ein Harod to have a greatgrandchild. She was the first of the dynasty in the kibbutz.
The House of the Glass Family
I met Haya in 1910, if I remember correctly, at a meeting of friends held in Bendery. The purpose of the meeting was to establish Halutzei Zion and people came from all over Bessarabia. Many of them were students, children of middle class families. Haya was one of the few members from the proletariat among us. She had been a seamstress from early youth and that was definitely a working profession.
We wished to bring to the movement working youth and we were quite happy when we were able to convert the few members of the proletariat into active Zionist socialists. This is what Haya was. She learned Hebrew from the man who became her husband Hebrew teacher Haim Glass. He made Aliyah in 1909, but he became ill with a serious case of malaria and was forced to return to Russia for treatments. On his way back to Eretz Israel he stopped in Bendery. He became involved in Zionist activities and encouraged the youth to dream of Aliyah. He married Haya and their first born was called Zrubavel.
Their home became our center. All activities were held there and it became a home full of warm hospitality, always open to our group of Zionists.
The home of the Glass family forever remains in the memory of all the members and especially in those who made Aliyah.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
Our unforgettable master teacher Yitzhak, son of BaruchMoshe Reznikov, was born on 18.10.1886 in Ukraine and he died on 23.12.1843 in Jerusalem.
Issar Borisovitch, as we always called him, was a model figure as a great teacher and educator, a counselor and a good friend to his students. He was a scholar, well educated with a good sense of humor. He was loved and admired by everyone who met him. He was a close loyal friend of the principal of the Hebrew High School in Bendery Dr. Zvi Schwartzman and he helped him in many events that befell this important institution. He left his stamp on his students for the rest of their lives. He was close to them in age and was their friend in addition to being their teacher. He helped his outstanding students to perform on stage in all school parties.
In spite of all this he was quite modest and at times he was even an introvert. Everyone knew he had a wonderful personality, and that he was an outstanding teacher and a gentle soul. He was involved in his people's culture and had been a student of a famous Yeshiva in Odessa directed by Mendele Moss and a young Rabbi. They were both authors of texts in history and mathematics in the 1920s in Bessarabia. These textbooks were even used in Eretz Israel.
After 7 years of teaching in the High School in Bendery he became a principal of a Hebrew school in Kishinev. He subsequently travelled to Germany to complete university studies and to teach Hebrew. In Breslau he organized intensive courses in Hebrew. The courses were famous and among his students one could find spiritual and political leaders of German Jewry. He published the Hebrew newspaper [with vowels] Hagesher. It preceded Hegue and Omer in our country. He also edited a HebrewGerman dictionary, workbooks for learning Hebrew and a Small popular library that had easy to read literature. He also translated, in the 1930s, the book Ofir,
by Meder, into Hebrew. It was published by Amanut in Tel Aviv.
When he made Aliyah he suffered, at first, absorption problems and difficulty in integration into the work force. However, he organized a series of lectures in Beit Haam and in the Workers Seminar in Jerusalem. He was eventually offered a position as a teacher of Bible, Hebrew language and literature in the senior grades of ‘Rehavia’ in Jerusalem. He was well liked by his students and colleagues. He died while he was still trying to instill knowledge in his students. He is mourned by all his students, friends and acquaintances.
His shining memory will always accompany us.
Translated by Ala Gamulka
Dr. P. Yaroslavsky who is now a senior citizen resides with us in Eretz Israel. He lived in Bendery from 1918 to the end of 1922. He was a dentist and also was quite active in public and Zionist circles.
His main activities were:
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