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[Page 241]

Big Hearted David Wertheim

by Yosef Shapira

Translated by Ala Gamulka

David Wertheim was big hearted. This quality emanated from the love that permeated his being and everything he did.

His work was a labor of love. He loved Jews, people, his friends and his movement. He adored the Hebrew language and on top of everything he loved Eretz Israel. He loved these things with all his being.

David Wertheim was a man of the movement – not a man of the party hampered by its framework. The movement was his life. In his first years in the United States Zeirei Zion (Young of Zion) was a small movement, especially for a man who believed in a universal belief system. He worked hard to push the movement forward. His orations were inspiring and passionate. He felt this was a movement that embraced everyone and was prepared to show them his love.

His natural inclination of generosity was met with obstacles out of necessity and the reality that the few also have to struggle against the many. He earned his living by working as a teacher in a Hebrew school and was imbued with this spirit.

David Wertheim was a man of the Torah and Hassidism world, of Jewish learning and Hebrew culture in which he had deep roots. It was difficult for him to remain in the narrow confines of the Talmud Torah Jewish studies. This conflicted with his generosity of spirit.

David Wertheim's big heartedness was one of the reasons he had for unifying the Zionist Labor movement in the United States. He believed in a warm welcome, a tool more useful than just talking. Any disputes about ideas that were impractical would be helped by the unification and would strengthen the labor movement in Eretz Israel. This belief helped him to overcome the difficulties on the road to unification and the merging of separate groups. His new movement sought to include everyone. In his heart he knew that the framework was narrow, but his love of Eretz Israel overcame small problems.

David Wertheim spent a short time in Eretz Israel, but he felt it was his country, his home. He saw the difficulties involved in absorbing so many newcomers from various Diasporas, but he lived here among his own.

His generosity knew no limits, but he was not strong enough to overcome the problems of lack of opportunity.

Many aspects accompany man when he struggles to continue in his path. The struggle between the life in Eretz Israel and the pull of life outside was great, but the second won out.

His return to America made his struggle difficult. He died during his travels on behalf of Eretz Israel.


[Page 242]

Rabbi Eli the Ritual Slaughterer, Z”L
– A Scholar and a Genius

by Mordehai Sever (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

A.

In the summertime, ships on the Dniester brought tourists to busy Bendery of the past. The ships went back packed with fruit and vegetables. The streets were full of peddlers selling apricots, grapes, plums and watermelons out of carts. However, in wintertime, poverty reigned and the lack of food and the cold affected many levels of Jewish society.

In the 1920s there lived in Bendery a modest Jew called Rabbi Eli the ritual slaughterer. His family name was Chaplik.

In addition to his daily work as a ritual slaughterer and caring for his seven orphans, Rabbi Eli also found time to devote himself to the study of philosophy, astronomy and politics as well as performing good deeds, teaching Gemara and acting as a judge for the Sadigura congregation. At night he wrote his book “A Short Version of History and the Order of Generations”. He began with Adam and Eve and their descendants as described in the Torah (written and oral) and ended with the beginning of the twentieth century. There were many descriptions, notes and explanations about important figures in Judaism. It was published in 1912 in Odessa.

From that time on there were many pogroms and attacks in Bendery, and the Jewish population suffered as it did in many other towns in Europe. Bendery was almost completely destroyed during WWII. Most of its Jews tried to escape the Holocaust and many of them were slaughtered by the Fascist Nazis–Germans and Romanians. This happened in the city itself and on their wanderings to Transnistria, eastern Asia and Siberia. The remainder of the refugees, about 500 families, returned after the Holocaust and they only found ruins. When the city was rebuilt, the Jews continued their miserable existence without any hope of renewing Jewish culture as in bygone days. The figure of Rabbi Eli, the ritual slaughterer, rises in my mind out of this sad past.

He was a tall Jew with fine features, sporting a long and beautiful beard. His blue eyes twinkled with wisdom and goodness. To this day, I remember clearly his voice, slightly hoarse, but pleasant and full of warmth.

 

B.

I recall one evening in my parents' home. It was after WWI and Uncle Eli (this is what we called him since he was an uncle of my late father) was sitting at the table with my parents drinking a hot drink. He began to speak to my father, Israel, z”l, about our dream of making Aliyah. Suddenly, Uncle Eli turned to me and asked me:

–“Tell me, Motele, do you know where Eretz Israel is located?”

–“Yes”, I replied with great confidence, –I was still a small child in Heder–“It is there, far away, on the other side of the Dniester…”

–“Listen and hear!” continued Uncle Eli to speak to me and he drew a map on a white sheet of paper. “Pay attention. Here is the Dniester River flowing into the Black Sea, Further you see many countries and seas…After that you reach the Mediterranean and there, on its shores, is Eretz Israel. Jerusalem, our holy city, is not far from the Dead Sea. Here is Hebron – city of our Patriarchs where they are buried. Up above, on the Mediterranean is the city of Haifa and down here is Jaffa. Closer to Haifa is Zichron Yaakov where your grandfather, a Rabbi, resides.”

That evening I received from Uncle Eli my first lesson in history when he brought his book as a gift. As stated above, he had written it himself. The book begins: “Adam was born on the sixth day of creation. He lived for 850 years.” This is followed by a list of those who followed:

[Page 243]

 

ben243.jpg
Front cover of the book

 

A SHORT VERSION OF HISTORY AND THE ORDER OF GENERATIONS

Also a response by our geniuses, Rabbi Sharira and his son Rabbi Hai the Genius, z”l

Arranged alphabetically in rhymes

I also added some legends from the great scholars of our people

Collected and arranged by

Eliahu, son of our Teacher and Rabbi, Ritual Slaughterer, CHAPLIK

Bendery, Bessarabia

Completed in 1910

Odessa, 1912

Printed by Dukhno and Zhukovski

1912

(Russian on bottom of page repeats some of the above. )

[Page 244]

…Seth, Enos, Keinan, Mahalel, Yered, Hanoch, Methuselah, etc. – according to the sources. The chain continues – Patriarchs, Prophets, Kings, Judges, members of the Great Knesset, Hasmoneans, Tanaites, commentators, Rabbis, leaders and so on until the beginning of this century.

Every time I came to Uncle Eli's house I would find geographic maps that he himself had drawn. On the table there were Gemara and other holy books where he made notations on the margins in his beautiful handwriting.

I received my third lesson from Uncle Eli in a round–about way. It resulted from a saying displayed near the Holy Ark at the praying stand. It was drawn in beautiful print, in the Fierman Synagogue where my uncle used to pray. This saying produced the first inspiration in me about life and ethics.

This writing, from the works of our sages, is etched in my memory to this day:

“Man worries about shedding blood
But does not worry about losing his life:
Blood does not help
And life does not return.*

It seems that this saying directed Uncle Eli's life daily, as well. If I am not mistaken, the drawing was done by Uncle Eli himself. I remember that to his last day we, the family in Eretz Israel, would receive from him postcards and letters decorated with drawings done by him. They had a typical traditional Jewish theme.

 

C.

During the times of pogroms and attacks on Jews, Uncle Eli took an active part in civic affairs. He participated in organizing self defence in our residential section in town. I remember a time when he and his son Yitzhak, in addition to other defence members, repelled an attack on their house. A soldier on horseback appeared with his sword drawn and screamed: “Go away, Jewish (derogatory term) Commissars”. He was ready to burst into the courtyard. Uncle Eli, the head of his family, came out and shot his rifle at the attacker. The bullet hit the horse and the soldier ran away…

 

D.

In the picture below Eli the ritual slaughterer appears with his one–year–old grandson. The dedication on the back of the picture states: “To my son Yitzhak and his household, a memento –a picture of your father, Eli, Ritual slaughterer Chaplik and my grandson Aaron Averbuch.

 

ben244.jpg
The ritual slaughterer Eli Chaplik and his grandson Aaron Averbuch.

 

Uncle Eli died at a ripe old age on 11.10.1938. He had much naches and respect all his life–before the Holocaust that destroyed Europe.

The grandson Aaron Averbuch and his family were all slaughtered by the Nazi murderers, may their names be obliterated.

After several decades of living in Israel, I remembered the history book of Uncle Eli, z”l. That is A Short Version of History and the Order of Generations.

*Compare to the similar proverb (Mar'e Hamusar, 8:1

[Page 245]

One copy of the book was in my parents' home in the Diaspora in the 1920s. However, I had not seen it in all the years I have been in the country.

I approached his son Yitzhak who lived in Israel and he told me that in 1938, when he visited his father in Bendery, he took an additional copy of the book. It was a collection of single pages.

After much searching, the pages were found by Eli's granddaughter here in Israel. They were inside a school notebook cover. On it, written in Romanian was the following: “a notebook for the French language, belonging to student Aaron Averbuch…”

This is the only memorial left from the student Aaron Averbuch. May God avenge his death.

I do not know how it happened, but it seems as if by divine intervention there is one single copy of the book in the National Library of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The image of Rabbi Eli, Ritual Slaughterer, a dear man and a scholar and researcher, will continue to shine among his modest congregation in Bendery. It is one of the most wonderful personages in the holy community of this city.

 

ben245.jpg
Children of the ritual slaughterer Eliahu Chaplik

 


The Influence of the Synagogues

by Moshe Sever (Sverdlik)
Ritual Slaughterer (Zichron Yaakov), z”l

Translated by Ala Gamulka

Our sages said: “I am a wall” – i.e. the Jewish community, and “my breasts are like towers”– the synagogues and houses of learning (Pessachim, 87).

The synagogue is the highest spiritual center where all the classes and the political parties become one people and one family. On Shabbat we say, during afternoon prayer: “You are one and you have one name. Your people are one nation and you have awarded them a day of rest. Avraham will rejoice, Yitzhak will sing, Yaakov and his sons will rest on that day”. On this day everyone congregates and unites, grandfather and father, son and grandson–with holiness and purity. Everyone according to his rank sits apart and speaks to the maker.

The sages said about Balaam: “You know what was in the heart of evil person by the way he blessed. He told them not to have synagogues and houses of learning. God reversed the curse into a blessing and told them – How good are your tents o Jacob and your abodes, Israel” (Sanhedrin, 105). Balaam, the evil one, was described by the sages (Deuteronomy, 34) in this phrase: “No one has arisen in Israel like Moses”. “Who was he? Balaam, the son of Be‘or, who intended to destroy the foundation of the Jewish nation. He wanted to separate the adherents so they would not have synagogues and houses of learning, but this is what gives us strength as a nation and as a united Jewish people. Good people want to be together. If it is not permitted to congregate in synagogues and houses of learning then all public prayers, religious education would be abolished. The synagogue is the uniting force for all sectors as one nation, one that loves its people.

In olden days, all of Israel would gather when they came to Jerusalem on foot and they would exchange information on their towns and their ways. The sages thus knew what had to be corrected or changed in every town and village– for the good of the people. The houses of learning educated the next generation and directed them in the right way. The teachers were responsible for the youth as if they were young animals in a herd.

During the year, every Shabbat, the prayer leader reads the Torah portions that contain the 613 commandments. This way everyone will understand and know how to behave towards others and towards God. Our Torah is full of love and shows the proper way to act.

“Peace unto the utensil that is full of blessings”. This is why the people are mentioned in the synagogues and are told: “Wise students will bring peace to the world”.

This was the reason why the first Hassidim waited an hour before praying for an hour. They then waited another hour. (Brachot 32). In the synagogue each one saw his friends and relatives. “All of Israel are friends”. They would chat and ask about the family and other news. This is how they became closer to each other with true love and affection, peace and friendship. They sometimes would help each other either with charity and money or by good advice and recommendation.

In the synagogue, when people saw each other, they could overcome feelings of hatred since it is not permitted. It is better to show reproof instead of hatred. It is better to openly show reproof than to love in secret. (Sifrei, Dvarim 82 and Proverbs 27:5). Reproof may be shown many times and even from a student to his rabbi, but without shaming anyone. It is more easily done within the synagogue. If the one showing reproof comes to his friend's house, the wife and other household members can ask: “Who is this person who is showing you reproof?” Or he may not be at home, or he may be busy with his work.

When people come to the synagogue on a daily basis the others are interested if one is absent at one time. They want to know if he is ill and would visit him in his home to practice the commandment of visiting the sick. This is a very important commandment since they would strengthen him and bless him to have a full recovery.

 

ben246.jpg
A prize, awarded by the World Association of Former Residents of Bessarabia, distributed to Rabbi Moshe Sever The award was given for his book “A Collection of Sayings and Proverbs”.
Among those seated, from right to left: Rabbi Moshe Sever, Yitzhak Korn, D. Zakai, MK Yitzhak Raphael. Pinhas Bendersky welcomed everyone on behalf of the Association of Former Residents of Bendery

 

In the synagogue, each person, according to his ability could devote a specific time to study the Portion of the week, Bible, Daily Chapter, Mishna, Daily Page of Gemara, Psalms, etc. without any interruptions.

In the synagogue each person can find others like him and study with them. Our sages said that in Alexandria, in ancient times, one could see, in the synagogue various groups studying together. When a new person entered he was always able to find others similar to him so there was no need for mixing the groups.

[Page 247]

The schools were also like the synagogues since the teachers prayed with their students. It was said that there were 480 synagogues in Jerusalem and each one had a school, a house of learning, classes of Talmud and Mishna. (Gittin, 58)

We are committed to strive with all our might to return the crown to its glory and to bring peace, goodness and blessings to us and all of Israel. May God bless us in the light of the Torah, love of good deeds and complete redemption soon, in our time.

(“The Synagogue”, bulletins of the Tel Aviv Synagogue, booklet B)


A Proposal to Fund a Pension Fund Fifty Years Ago

by Moshe Sever (Sverdlik)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

We are in the midst of achieving the process of awarding one of the most important socialist rights in the field of pension and retirement to our members in various associations, factories and institutions. It is understood that we should now reflect upon events that occurred fifty years ago when it was but a dream. At the time only a few dreamed and fought for the realization of the optimum goal – insurance for people in their old age and in the case of disability.

It is interesting to note that not only scientists, sociologists and statisticians were involved. There were also many people, far removed from this scientific approach, but propelled by a humanitarian cause based on morality in general and on Jewish tradition in particular. Love for the individual would be shown by assisting the elderly and the weak, widows and orphans, etc.

We found a proposal in Russian of 50 years ago (1914) that advises to found a pension fund in conjunction with the Savings and Loan Bank in Bendery, on the Dniester River in Russia. We offer quotes from this proposal which was signed by M.S. Sverdlik. It is written in clear and precise language and includes statistical tables. The author shows how each person has to prepare, by himself, for old age or for disability.

The proposal is by Rabbi Moshe Sever of Zichron Yaakov. He is well–known in our country for his book “A Collection of Sayings and Proverbs”, published by the Rav Kook Institute. It contains 100 000 sayings by our sages. He has earned two prizes for the book.

 

Proposal

Purpose: To establish a pension fund for retirement and in case of disability for the members of the Savings and Loan Bank in Bendery, Russia (1914).

1. Goal of the fund

The pension fund of the Savings and Loan Bank has the goal of paying annual pensions to its members who reach retirement age (sections 9–10) or in the case of the loss of ability to work. The amount is 100 rubles at age 65. The remainder of funds to be divided among members aged 60–65.

2. Makeup of the fund and the obligation of members

  1. Members of the fund must be members of the Bendery Savings and Loan Bank.
  2. Every member must pay into the fund according to the following table:

    Age upon entering fund 25 30 35 40 45 50
    Annual fee 2 228 266 320 4 533
    No. of years to pay 40 35 30 25 20 15

  3. Definition of rights of membership and its cancelation in case of non–payment on time. The proposal has 20 sections and is detailed according to them: pension payments, rights of members, administration, etc.
The author ends his proposal with the following lines:

“It is well–known that as one ages the ability to work diminishes. If one did not prepare funds for that time at an earlier age, he would have to ask for help from family or charitable institutions. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the members to seriously consider the coming days when they cannot provide for their needs. They would then be eligible for pension legally and would not have to resort to social assistance”.

Member of the committee: M.S. Sverdlik

(Retirement–an article about pension funds, No. 11–12, July 1965)


[Page 248]

The Activities of ORT and OZE

Translated by Ala Gamulka

ORT, organized by the American Joint, was quite helpful to the Jews of Eastern Europe, especially to those who were poor and indigent. After WWI and the pogroms in Ukraine there were thousands of refugees that found a haven or a transition point in Bessarabia. This was also true in Bendery–the first place for their reception after crossing the border.

 

ben248.jpg
ORT Occupational School in Bendery (1930s)
The administration, teachers and students

 

The residents of Bendery were also in dire straits since it became a border town –isolated from Russia. ORT helped by providing training in an occupation. As well there was an association of cooperatives for the various occupations and for agriculture. It was thus possible to acquire machinery and work tools at reasonable prices. Loans were provided for the purchase of equipment and for the establishment of workshops. This activity was helpful to the refugees and the local residents.

In the newspaper “Our Time” from January 1936 there was a photo of the ORT school with many students standing near special machinery.

Many of our town's people who made Aliyah in the early 1920s still have their ORT certificates signed by Dr. Z. Schwartzman – the spiritual leader of this professional school. He was also a delegate to an ORT congress.

*

In 1923 there was also OZE which gave medical and social help. It had as its goal to fight epidemics and the death of babies. In Bendery, the following institutions were established:

  1. Babies' clinic for nursing children and the provision of milk
  2. Medical treatment by quartz lamps
  3. Medical center for schools

 

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