All the members of the Society should agree with each other and be ready to fulfill their duties at all times. If any conflicts might happen between the members they should immediately reconcile their differences.
In case of a death, the representative of the Burial Society should go to the cemetery to show the assigned plot and he has to give instructions for the preparation of the grave. His compensation will come from the almighty merciful God.
The leader of the society is the essential person in the society. He is the first to give instructions and his orders should be followed without any objections; whoever objects the leader or to any other member instructions could be dismissed from the society. He could be fined and he should apologize to the leader or to the other member of the society.
A person who wants to join the society has to wait until after one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals. If the head of the society and the majority of the members will find him competent, he will have to deposit a sum of money to the treasurer of the society. The sum of money will be decided by the leader and the members.
Two candidates cannot be accepted on the same day to the society.
Only members are allowed to the Society meeting. No one else is allowed to take part in the sacred work of the society. The disobeying person will be punished.
If someone important in the city is sick, the leader of the society should send 2 people to pray at his bed, the reason being that if one member falls asleep from tiredness, the other one will immediately take his place.
A member who disagrees with the leader's decision regarding burials will be punished.
The tools for the burials should be kept in a place of prayer under supervision and not in a home. If someone uses these tools for other purposes, he will be punished. If the tools brake, the leader should repair them and pay from the society funds. He can lend the tools and receive the necessary rent money.
Dress code is required for meetings, whoever comes without a coat will be fined and next time banned from the meetings.
A guarantee is required to cover the expenses of the burial and should be received before the grave is dug and should be redeemed before the 30 days of morning finish and not a day longer. The leader will decide the fee for the burial expenses. At the one year anniversary of the guarantee, the guarantor should be notified that if the guarantee is not good, or if it was sold, no one will be held responsible.
The responsibility of the leader is to provide candles for the holiday of Simhat Torah in order to fulfill the commandment: The Jews shall have the Light and to help celebrate this holiday with joy and song.
Paragraph 17 [sic]
All income and expenses should be entered in the society ledger, in clear writing and without mistakes. The leader will hand over his duties during the Passover intermediate days (Chol HaMoed) to his successor and hand over the Bylaw and ledger in a friendly manner. This practice should be strictly followed and preserved.
The donations received before the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and all the expenses and surpluses from the burials should be kept by the leader. He has the authority to disburse this money to the poor, old, or to other charities including buying the prayer paraphernalia.
Every year a new leader should be elected. If a new leader is not elected until Passover the present leader will continue for one more term.
Paragraph 23 [sic]
The Bylaws cannot be altered. If an amendment is necessary, then it has to be decided by the entire membership.
Paragraph 25 [sic]
If a person candidates for membership, his relatives cannot vote in the election.
In all elections members will personally vote and cannot transfer their ballots.
The new member has to provide wine for toasting at his initiation ceremony. The new member has to donate 15 cattle (the barter currency) to the society. He should be welcomed with shouts of: Now you are our brother in the sacred work.
It is forbidden to eat or drink at the cemetery during a funeral. The person who eulogizes the departed should step backwards 4 steps from the grave.
No one can mark the grave of the departed without the permission of the leader and the majority of the members. The offender will be fined by the society.
The new member does not have the right to vote in the first 3 years. During this time of training he has to be respectful towards the leader and the membership.
Hats have to be worn all the time during meetings. The leader may allow someone to take off his hat in case of sickness. Offenders will be fined.
It is forbidden to put the hands on the table during meals. Respect and decorum should be observed during meals.
Paragraph 36 [sic]
When there is a death in the city, the members cannot open their businesses until after the funeral. This does not apply if the dead is under 10 years old. Offenders will be fined.
Tailors and other craftsmen members of the society cannot work until after the funeral. Offenders will be fined.
If a member wants to speak during a meeting he should clear it on the agenda with the leader and the rest of the members. When addressing the meeting he should stand. Only the old or the sick may be sited.
Paragraph 43 [sic]
If a member of the society or its worker dies, the rest of the members should beg forgiveness and declare that they are now saying farewell. A pen should be put in the hand of the deceased in order to draw a circle around his name in the society book.
I received your letter and many similar ones after that. You and the others letter writes are asking me to express my opinion on the Kishinev events. I have the feeling that the letter writers do not understand the situation and they write to me as if I have any saying in the matter and ask me to express opinions on such a complicated event as the massacre in Kishinev. This misunderstanding is caused by their expectation for a publicity reaction, when in fact, I deal with only one problem that is hardly related to the current eventsand this is religion and its value in life.
It is not rational to expect from me opinions about current events. I cannot behave as a journalist even if I think that this will be beneficial and will be of great importance. If I would do this I would just react without much consideration and I would just repeat what others have said already and not adding new meaning.
I had the impression that everyone knew my view about the Jews and about this awful event in Kishinev. It had to be clear to everyone who knows how I think and my world views. I consider the Jews our brothers whom I love, not because they are Jews, but because they are just like us, human beings and children of the same god. This love does not require any effort. I met and I know a lot of Jews and they are excellent people.
My position on the bloodbath in Kishinev is defined by my religious and world views. When I read the news about the massacre in Kishinev and even before I knew all the brutal details, that reached me after that, I understood the catastrophe that happened and my heart filled with deep sympathy for the innocent victims, massacred by the mob.
I am full with disgust for the actions of those who consider themselves Christians and I feel full of revulsion about the so called intellectuals who encouraged the mob and condoned this type of actions. But mostly, I am revolted and horrified by the criminals who committed the atrocities, I am horrified by our government that keeps the masses in a state of ignorance and fanaticism and I am horrified by the horde of corrupt public servants.
The Pogrom in Kishinev is the direct result of the deceptive propaganda and the use of power that our government is so vigorously using. The position of the government regarding the Pogrom is an additional confirmation of the cruel selfishness of the methods used by the government to oppress anything deemed dangerous and further shows its indifference which resembles the brutality of the Turkish government towards the Armenians.
That's all I could say about the Pogrom in Kishinev, but other have said it already…
It happened on spring days of 1903 (5663). Stricken by the thunder that hit Kishinev we stayed in our homes in Odessa with broken and angered hearts, full of helpless rage. When the news reached our city, my pen dropped and I could not return to work for many days. We were not used to this type of riots; the last riots which happened about 20 years ago caused a lot of terror, but not this number of deaths. After the days of mourning passed, I and my writer friends who lived in the neighbourhood next to the sea shore met in one of the pubs, Ahad Haam, Bialik, Ravnitzky and BenAmi looking for an idea of how to take action.
In my head I had one ideato set up a secret society, which will collect all the news from the City of Killing and send to our brothers in other countries to publish them in all newspapers and to rally the people in Europe and America to protest against the brutality of the Russian regime. We added one more idea, the idea of organizing armed self defence in all Jewish communities in danger of Pogroms. (The self defence was organized in those days by the Workers Party in Odessa). But how do we implement these ideas, when the Plehve's angels of terror were checking every hole and every crack in order to uncover and obliterate the Jewish revolution? We worked on preparing a declaration in Russian, but at the end we decided to write it in Hebrew (to be protected from our enemies). Ahad Haam was assigned the writing and he completed the tasks like a great writer and in a clear style he summarized his basic views: the riots were a direct result of the government policies and there is no free person who can get rid of the dangerous currents released in the air by the government decrees, even if he wanted.
Therefore, we have to depend on ourselves and organize selfdefence and our enemies will see that we are not cattle for sacrifice and the ones who come to hurt us should also be terrified and further, it will tell the government to recognize our rights to defend our lives.
For this purpose, we should call a general meeting of all the communities main representatives that will organize the self defence and that will deal with other important issues such as the immigration to Eretz Israel in an orderly fashion and without causing panic among the people.
We wanted to sign the declaration and to send it to all community leaders and to the rabbis who are dedicated to the national cause. In the mean time we found out that the Plehve government intended to impose a strict ban on all attempts of organizing self defence among the Jews (and the famous order came out immediately), therefore we were afraid that if our declaration will fall in the hands of the police we will endanger the lives of the signatories. We decided to sign the declaration with Hebrew Writers Union and to reveal the names of the members only to community leaders.
The declaration was signed off on the 20th of April 1903 (5663), two weeks after the slaughter in Kishinev and 100 copies were sent to their destinations. The declaration touched the hearts of the readers. The idea of selfdefence that was floating in the air in those days started to be implemented in the summer months in many cities, despite the threats from the government.
The idea of involving the outside world, already happening in Petersburg, was also on the agenda. In those days a meeting which took place in Odessa was attended by writers and community leaders and guests from Kishinev (I remember Dr. BernsteinCohen, who came to Odessa on his way back from Petersburg and
lectured about the discussions he had with government officials about the Kishinev riots).
We decided to send to Kishinev our friend, the poet H. N. Bialik to investigate the events and to record everything he hears and sees for a detailed lecture for our brothers in the West. Bialik stayed in Kishinev a few weeks and recorded everything he heard and saw with his talent of a national poet. By the time he prepared all his notes for publication, the details of the Pogrom, from other sources, were already published in the press all over the world. One special thing was left to us from Bialik's trip and this is his wonderful poem In the City of the Killing (in the first edition by Nemirov Press). This poem, which left thousands in tears, impressed more than any newspaper article.
This is the declaration penned by Ahad HaAm.
The massacre and the plundering in Kishinev, which we had not seen the likes since the days of Khmelnitsky and the Junta force us to open our eyes and to accurately assess our position in this country in order for us to know and to choose our ways and not delude ourselves with empty consolations and false hopes.
We, the writers of Israel, touched by the condition of our people, ask for your permission to suggest our views about this situation.
The event in Kishinev was not an isolated incident and no single individual can be blamed for that. Many were guilty of inciting and leading the masses to commit the crimes, but they are not the source of evil; our general situation is!
If we had the basic human rights, if our people would understand the daily humiliation from the government and the hate and the scorn we suffer everyday the few inciters wouldn't have had so much power to organize such a mob to commit murder and to plunder. But because we are humiliated and exploited with no limits by the laws of this country, because we can be trampled and our enemies desecrate us and what is sacred to us and no one protests, we find ourselves in this dismal situation and the violent mob sees our humiliation and hears our weakness every day. This natural and fundamental reality is caused by the incessant brainwashing that generates in the heart of the people a strong belief that the Jews are not human beings and that it's not necessary to treat them with respect and justice like the other human beings: that not only their properties and respect, but also their lives and their blood are worthless.
Let's assume that the government doesn't like crime and destruction and wants to defend us from similar situations which disrupt the peace of the country. The government can't stop its practices as long as the conditions exist and stand on the ground. You can't break the barrel and keep the wine!
The daily events weight more that a single decree sent from above! The local government servants in all the cities, who are used to receive orders and decrees against the Jews and implement them immediately without compassion or forgiveness, could not change suddenly from foes to friends,
stand with the Jews in the moment of danger and disregard their loyalty to their people. And by doing their duties, even if they did not like them, they will, like in Kishinev, give a helping hand to the criminals.
We cannot rely on the investigations, the trials and the punishments because they will bring more terror and the mob will not hesitate to attack us. And we can't deny the fact that harsh punishments do not uproot the criminals from the land as long as there are conditions that generates these criminals.
We know very well from our twenty year experience what were the results of the investigations and trials of the Pogroms, who were the culprits and what punishment they got. The lawyers and the judges are human beings who could not overcome their feelings of shame and hate for the Jews. They were angry that they were forced to testify and judge their landsmen and punish them because they harmed Jews!
All this shows that they did not have any interest in justice, that they concealed the truth during investigation and that they reduced the sentences.
My brothers, whom can we trust if such an atrocity happens again in the entire country like it happened twenty years ago and now even stronger in Kishinev?
And as long as our situation stays the same who will come to help us? Our experience shows that we scream for help and we humiliate ourselves and no help came from outside. Our only resources were tears and prayers and they did not help or rescue us during the catastrophe that befell us. The devastation in Kishinev is the direct result of all the tears and supplications.
Do we want to rely on tears and pleas in the future? Shame on the millions of people who put their heads under the ax, scream and cry, and do not lift a finger to defend their lives, honour and properties! Maybe we should blame ourselves for the reality that the people of the land are treating us like dirt? No other nation in this multinational land will tolerate that his pride and honour will be destroyed without resisting and fighting back. Only by defending ourselves we will be respected.
The citizens of this land have to understand that there is a limit to our patience, that we, even if we can't compete with them in brutality and destruction, can defend, in case of need, our lives and our believes to the last drop of blood.
They did not see it in action yetotherwise, hundred drunkards armed with stick and axes wouldn't have attacked so easily such a great Jewish community of about 40,000 people and kill with such zeal.
The blood of our Kishinev brothers is calling us! Dust yourselves and become men! Stop crying and praying, stop begging your enemies for salvation, the salvation is in your hands!
We need a permanent organization in each local community that will stand up to the crisis, and that will be ready to mobilize immediately every person who can fight the danger. We think that the central government should grant us justice when we ask and let us defend ourselves. If the denial of human rights brought us to this situation, that even spilling our blood is permitted, then wouldn't the right of self defence be denied?
It is clear that this matter needs to be implemented, but this meeting was not called to deal with the details. Our scope is to awaken in your hearts the basic principles to start off our future activities, which will influence the rest of our lives.
In order to organize all the details we have to call a general meeting of the representatives of all communities in this country. This meeting is of most importance and it can't be postponed. Together with the problems we mentioned, there are other basic questions that appeared with the changes in our situation. For example, the question of the immigrationwhich until now was not well organizedand will become more complicated and it will increase because the fear is growing everywhere, especially in the Southern communities. The meeting will try to find solutions and deal with all the problems we are facing.
Wake up brothers, the time has come, our hope is strong! Among the community leaders and other activists there will be people who understand the value of this hour and will devote their power to implement this declaration.
We the Signatories
The Hebrew Writers Union
(Ahad HaAm, Sh. Dubnow, BenAmi, I. H. Ravnitzky, H. N. Bialik)
20 April 1903
P. S. We would like to ask that this letter be distributed to all community representatives and we would kindly like to ask for feedback.
In August 1919, when the news of the terrible Pogroms in the Ukraine which destroyed entire communities reached Kishinev, Rabbi I. L. Zirelson called a meeting of all community activists in order to help the victims. At the meeting it was decided to establish a committee to assist the victims of the Pogroms. The Minister for Bessarabia, P. Kalifa issued the authorization no. 4359 of September 24, 1919 for establishing the Ukraine Relief Committee to assist and help the victims.
There were 3 periods in the activities of the Committee:
At the meeting of October 11, 1919 they elect the Board of this organization with Dr. Jacob BernsteinCohen as chairman, Dr. Slutzky and engineer Gotlieb as vice chairmen and L. Trakhtenberg, treasurer. The Board had 12 members and they were: G. Margulis, Helena Babitch, Sh. Berliand, Tz. Barbash, D. Swibelman, I. Orenshter, BenZion Beltzen, Tz. Shechter, Moshe Shohet, M. Kornberg, and Z. Poznansky. They also elected an audit committee comprised by N.M. Roitman, S. Lihktman, M. Kaushansky and Finkel.
The Committee started immediately to raise money. They distributed flyers asking for help for the victims. Two instructors, one in Bessarabia and one in Romania toured all the communities.
In the first six months the committee had great results and raised a million and a half rubles and numerous assorted goods.
Two representatives of the committee, H. Shohktman and BenZion Beltzen were sent to the Ukraine to assess the situation and decide how to distribute the money and the objects. Only Shohkman made it to the Ukraine and visited a number of places that had Pogroms and brought many details about the communities east of the Dniester that suffered from the Pogroms and the need to send help.
With this money the Kamenetz community started a large relief campaign in the area of Western Podolsk. The Pogroms continued and tens of cities and communities were destroyed and thousands became victims in the hands of the murderers.
The Kishinev committee understood that it is time to alert the world Jewish communities and inform them of the atrocities. At the end of 1919 and beginning of 1920 they sent a representative of the Kishinev committee to Paris and London in order to better inform the world about the situation in the Ukraine. After three months of discussions, Dr. BernsteinCohen went to Paris on March 1920.
The refugees from the Ukraine started coming in groups during MarchApril and were sent to Balti by the military tribunal. Balti became the first refugee centre. After that many refugees started coming to Bessarabia, first one by one and after in mass.
The activities of the Ukraine Committee had to change to accommodate the refugees who needed immediate help, shelter, money, medical services, etc. Money and supplies were sent to various points in Bessarabia: to Balti 235,000 Lei, Soroca185.000 Lei, Orhei (Orgheiev)20,000 Lei, Briceni17,500 Lei, Dumbroveni15,000 Lei, Hotin (Khotyn)– 10,000 Lei. In addition, money was spent for the administration and for the instructors.
In July 1920 Dr. Slutzky went to Karlsbad to the World Congress for Refugees Relief and he succeeded to make contact with many aid organizations around the world.
It was necessary to find a way to obtain legal status for the refugees and to receive even temporary rights to remain in Bessarabia. In July 1920 a delegation lead by Dr. BernsteinCohen and Senator Alexandri was sent to the Prime Minister in Bucharest, the General Avirescu, to ask for better conditions for the refugees. As a result of this meeting, the army opened a few border crossings on the Dniester border to facilitate entry to the refugees who had connections to Bessarabia and numerous Bessarabian and also Ukrainian Jews were admitted.
With the number of refugees reaching several thousands, the Committee was faced with the tasks to provide shelter, clothing, medical and legal assistance. To meet all these demands the committee needed a much bigger staff, but the financial difficulties prevented this expansion. For a while Mr. S. Berliand served as secretary and he was assisted by
In July 1920, at the initiative of Mr. Landescu, the manager of the Joint of Romania, the Joint of Kishinev and the Ukraine Committee established a United Committee to distribute the Joint money to the Ukrainian refugees. The united committee had the following members: G. Margulis, Sh. Halperin, Tz. Shohet and functioned from August to November 1920. Their activities stopped after the Joint fund of 100,000 Lei was distributed to the refugees.
In November 1920, it was decided to call a meeting of all the social and cultural organizations (two representatives from each organizations) to deal with shelter, economic situation, legal aid, refugee relief, and fund raising. The meeting took place on December 15, 1920 when it was decided to elect a central committee for the entire Bessarabia (Kishinev and other cities).
The new Committee consisted of 18 members among them 2 women and 4 refugees. Dr. BernsteinCohen was elected chairman for the central committee and I. Senilevitz was elected chairman of the Kishinev Branch.
Until March 1921 the Ukraine Committee in Kishinev played the role of Central committee, because the Central committee had difficulties organizing as required. The Kishinev Committee fulfilled the following tasks:
Starting with the month of March, the Kishinev Committee acted as a local committee. In this period the number of refugees in Kishinev reached 6000. Kishinev attracted not only refugees who just crossed the Dniester, but also the refugees who stopped in other Bessarabia places because they all heard about the relief work of the Kishinev Committee [Page 258]
On the Eve of Passover 1921 the number of refugees reached 12,000 and in September 15,000. In the same time the funds and the supplies of the Ukraine Committee significantly depleted. The Committee had to adjust to the new conditions and try to rely on providing work for individual refugees. The relief activities were concentrated on providing work and formed an organization of refugees cooperatives (Heimlaze Kooperatzie Reliefen) and the other assistance such as: housing, financial support and medical assistance that could not been provided by the Ukraine Committee and because of lack of funds were transferred to the new committees managed by the Joint.
At the end of March 1921 Dr. Vladimir Tiomkin, member of the Jewish Relief Committee in Paris came to Kishinev and stayed in Bessarabia for more than three months. Due to his dedication, initiative and hard work the committee in Kishinev and in other cities in Bessarabia continued their activities and succeeded to make contacts with foreign organization. In their reports these organizations praised the work of the Kishinev Committee.
Whoever is interested in the bitter fate of the Jewish Community of Kishinev that perished in the fires and the atrocities of the Holocaust and the tragic end of one of the communities that emerged and grew in the Diaspora and developed during generations the love and the dedication to the Jewish traditions, will feel the sea of hate and accusations that this community endured in Bessarabia.
The six million Jews who were murdered at Treblinka, Auschwitz and Transnistria were not unknown soldiers, they were the sons and daughters of hundreds of communities that made up our nation in the Diaspora. These communities with their rich traditions, their accomplishments, with their vibrant and interesting existence which preserved the perpetuity of the nation in the Diaspora were uprooted from among the nations in a short time. A great curse descended upon them like the darkness of the night and their desperate cries were not heard! We became a wounded nation whose best sons were taken from us. These communities' hundreds of sons are watching and scrutinizing us from the enormous mass graves scattered all over Europe and we can hear the voices of the martyrs warning us about our existence in the Diaspora. These communities command us to recognize that their sacrifices were not in vain.
From the Jewish cemeteries of Europe, the community of Kishinev rises like a pillar of fire. In its 200 year existence, this community instilled its best emotions in the heart of the nation, because Kishinev was soaked in the love for the nation. With all its simplicity, with all its ups and downs, it remained faithful to the spiritual legacy that guided its existence. The Jewish Kishinev will forever be the symbol of national development, the symbol of the will of the simple people to sacrifice on the national altar.
Kishinev which boasted itself with intellectual circles that contributed to currents of thought and enlightenment, was never
indifferent and whatever it believed and loved, it achieved with enthusiasm and great strength. This strength beat in the hearts of its sons and daughters who carried on this tradition wherever they arrived. Their will to educate and guide their children to join the builders of our renewed nation did not disappoint. The Zionist movement and especially the Working Zionism woke up and guided the Jews of Kishinev starting with the days of Hibat Zion until its last days before the Holocaust. Despite the bitter reality and the difficulties of oppression, it produced a never ending flood of young people who offered their blood and sweat to the building of Israel.
When the atrocities wiped out the Eastern European communities, the energetic life of the Kishinev community stopped. The Holocaust erased them from this Earth and in their place, instead of Jewish dwellings and dozens of institutions, there is destruction and grief. Graves and graves with no end! The deepest roots were cut! Here and there we hear the crying and sobbing of the survivors who somehow remained alive among the ruins.
This was the Kishinev Jewish community.
The chapters of this book should serve as flower wreaths on the mass graves of the victims of Israel in Kishinev!
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