« Previous Page Table of Contents

[Page 243]

Documents

The Bylaws of the Jewish Burial Society of Kishinev[1] 5533 (1773)

Paragraph 1
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.

Paragraph 2
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.

Paragraph 3
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.

Paragraph 5[sic]
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.

Paragraph 6
Two candidates cannot be accepted on the same day to the society.

Paragraph 7
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.

[Page 244]

Paragraph 8
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.

Paragraph 10[sic]
A member who disagrees with the leader's decision regarding burials will be punished.

Paragraph 11
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.

Paragraph 12
Dress code is required for meetings, whoever comes without a coat will be fined and next time banned from the meetings.

Paragraph 13
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.

Paragraph 14
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.

Paragraph 18
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.

Paragraph 19
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.

[Page 245]

In all elections members will personally vote and cannot transfer their ballots.

Paragraph 26
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.”

Paragraph 27
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.

Paragraph 30[sic]
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.

Paragraph 32[sic]
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.

Paragraph 33
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.

Paragraph 34
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.

Paragraph 39[sic]
Tailors and other craftsmen members of the society cannot work until after the funeral. Offenders will be fined.

Paragraph 40
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.

 


Footnote

  1. The Bylaws were written in Hebrew and translated to Russian. We do not have the original Hebrew text, but we decided to translate the Russian text back into Hebrew. Of course it is not the language and style of 180 years ago, but I hope that the reader will gain knowledge about the beginnings of the Jewish community life in Kishinev. The Bylaws were approved by the Rabbi of Jassy (Romania). Return

[Page 246]

The Proposed Action Plan of the Zei'rei Zion (The Young Men of Zion) organization
“The Kishinev Committee of the Zei'rei Zion. Chronica Evreiskyi Zizni, (The Jewish Life Chronicle), no. 13, 1906.

General statements

  1. The natural outcome of the world order is the division of the human race into nations based on the geographical conditions of the land.
  2. The national identity is the result of the relationship between the geography of the land and the economic development.
  3. The national identity of a nation is a factor in the human development towards progress.
  4. The development and the spirit of the national identity are achieved through political independence – this independence is based on the sovereignty of a specific people on a particular territory.
  5. The Jewish nation is the majority ruling on a particular territory–Eretz Israel.
  6. As a result of being free in Eretz Israel, influenced by the physical conditions, the climate and the investments in the land, a national Jewish individual awareness was created that is expressed in the national Jewish culture.
  7. When the nation lost its political control on Eretz Israel, it also lost political and economical control and as a result it lost the future free development of economic production and its national original creativity.
  8. When the Jews entered other lands as an individual and very particular type of people, they developed on the ground very specific social relationships with the alien society of the surrounding people. They could not assimilate into the local living conditions and could not penetrate the social groups of the local population. They only could aim at positions of middlemen in the economy that do not lead to national identity.
  9. As a result of the natural national identity appeal, a large concentration of Jewish people was created and continued to grow among other nations. This large Jewish presence formed the Ghettos which lead to the manifestation of the negative rapport with the local populations.
  10. The Ghetto preserved the identity, the creativity and the hope of the Jewish people (the spirit, the literature, the attraction to the historical origins and the aspiration to return to Zion, the organic part of the people). On the other hand, the Ghetto was a passive observer of the world development which was expressed as internal currents among the Jews.
  11. The exceptional situation of the Jews as an independent minority, alien in their national characteristics to the local population, created a situation of bitter antagonism that was expressed in religious and racial hatred and further alienated them from public functions and from the economic life.
  12. The resentment of other nations was especially visible and became very threatening during periods of change in the history of the nations, i.e. political and religious movements, political and government changes.
  13. This antagonism represents the essence of what we call: the “Jewish Problem”
  14. The influence of the world developments on the Jewish people and the antagonism of
[Page 247]
    the majority of nations surrounding them unite and concentrate in the historical need that pushes the majority of the Jews to liberate themselves and to achieve a free life in Eretz Israel – to which they are organically connected (in the national psychological sense).
  1. The first examples of this principle are expressed in the migration of masses of Jews toward Eretz Israel, in a new exile and the creation of new independent organizations in the Diaspora.

 

The Zionist movement
  1. The real meaning of Zionism. Zionism is the aspiration of the Jewish people to the full and comprehensive revival as a nation in Eretz Israel.
  2. Implementation of the vision. The increased dissatisfaction of groups of people and the recognition of the unhappiness with the present situation are the factors that transformed this vision into a popular movement and created the vital conditions for its existence.
  3. The essence of the movement. The many burdens of the economic situation in the Diaspora and the abnormal spiritual or material situation caused the remnants of the Ghettos who liberated themselves from the handcuffs of the Jewish tradition to be at the front of the struggle for a new life, freedom and normalcy. This movement will be implemented by the power of the people.
  4. The significant elements of the movement.
    1. Economic factors. The present capitalist model of production and business eliminated the Jews from the middlemen jobs and the big and small bourgeoisie that appeared on the lands totally removed the Jews from the economy. Because they could not transition to modern production methods in the economic life, the Jews were forced to create independent ways to survive in the market.
    2. Culture. The economic changes had a great influence on the cultural life. The Jews were forced to adopt the new culture from the surrounding nations. They are in danger of completely losing their national characteristics. It is imperative to develop independent national forces to preserve the Jewish culture.
    3. National–political. The social evolution of the surrounding Diaspora nations excluded the Jews and they were not able to develop normal conditions for national political independence. The conditions to create independence can only be achieved when the majority of the people are in a designated territory.
  5. Pioneers of the movement.
    1. The various occupations that the Jewish workers held are being wiped out by the developing capitalism and as a result the Jewish workers are pushed to the bottom of the social ladder.
    2. The Jewish workers face two major problems: the position of being a minority in the Diaspora and the exploitation they suffer in the economic life. As a result the Jewish workers are not able to participate in the political struggle for national independence in the same way as the indigenous people who strive to achieve economic equality and to participate in the political life.
    3. The Jewish worker, exploited and marginalized, is pushed to struggle to achieve a better life, but
[Page 248]
    without finding a way to express his political status is forced to react more than others to the present abnormal situation–as a Jew and as a worker and to join the struggle for national independence as a pioneer in the Zionist movement.
  1. Achieving the Zionist vision
    1. Organizing the nation. In order to implement the Zionist vision the movement will adopt:
      1. Economic measures to improve and to raise the status of the Jewish labourers.
      2. Social measures to eliminate the culture of the Ghetto and new methods to achieve a free Jewish culture.
      3. National–political measures to organize the struggle for national rights in the Diaspora.
      4. Educational activities to teach the people to liberate themselves from the influence of the Jewish philanthropies and assistance and to take control of the Jewish public institutions.
    2. Attaining Eretz Israel.
      1. Creation of popular wealth (Banks, Funds, etc).
      2. Utilization of the lands purchased by the national assets in Erets Israel by the local and neighboring Jewish population.
      3. To increase the cultural economic activities of the Jews of Eretz Israel.
      4. To organize the settlers groups as cooperatives and allocate to them the lands which were acquired with finances from the national funds.
      5. To direct the migration eastward to the countries close to Eretz Israel.
    3. Achieving autonomy in Eretz Israel
      1. Continue the struggle for the national political rights.
      2. Intensify the propaganda in the world to help recognize the rights and the aspiration of the Jewish people.
    4. Zei'rei Zion–the organization
      Zei'rei Zion is the organization that unites the Jewish workers–the Jewish pioneers– into a “Federation of Jewish Workers.”
      The functions of Zei'rei Zion. The Zei'rei Zion is the defender of the interest of the Jewish workers and strives to obtain the best economic situation and to improve the lives of the Jewish workers in the Diaspora.
      The tactics of Zei'rei Zion. Zei'rei Zion defends the democratic claims through the implementation and organization of Zionism and its organization.
    5. The relationship of Zei'rei Zion with other organizations.
      1. To the General Zionist movement. As part of the general Zionist movement, that comprises the entire Jewish people, Zei'rei Zion recognizes the authority of the Congress and accepts all decisions of its organizations. Zei'rei Zion is marching hand in hand with all the Zionists towards achieving the Zionist vision and equally participates in all organizations established by the Congress as representatives of the Jewish workers.
[Page 249]
      1. To the Jewish Social Democratic Parties. Zei'rei Zion recognized that the theories and the practices of the Social Democrats do not serve the interests of the Jewish workers and go against the interests of the Jewish people. Because the Social Democratic Party opposes the Zionism and leans towards assimilation, Zei'rei Zion is set to fight against these tactics.
      2. Territorialism. Zei'rei Zion recognizes that the full, material and spiritual revival of the Jewish people together with the national political independence can only be achieved in Eretz Israel to which they are organically connected. The Zei'rei Zion will openly fight for territorialism, because it does not oppose the interests of the Jewish people and therefore it is the solution to the “Jewish problem.”
    1. The national political activities in Russia. Zei'rei Zion recognizes that the struggle for the freedom and development of the Jewish masses will only happen with the national political independence in Eretz Israel. This does not prevent the fight for full rights for the Jews in the Diaspora in order to guarantee the basic rights for a free existence.
      Achieving equal rights in Russia.
      1. Unification of the Jewish people to defend the national interests.
      2. Full participation in the liberation movement, coordination with other groups from the liberation movement.
        Unification method. Call for a congress by free, direct and secret general elections. This congress will organize and direct all activities of the Jews of Russia.
    2. The demands of Zei'rei Zion.
      1. Call for a Congress.
      2. Freedom of speech, press, assembly. Freedom for the individual; general amnesty to political and religious prisoners, abolition of the death penalty and cessation of the various states of emergency.
      3. Full autonomy for all minority people in Russia.
      4. Equal rights for the Jewish people.
      5. Freedom of self determination for the Jewish people.

[Page 250]

Leo Tolstoy on the Kishinev Pogrom
Excerpt from the letter of Leo Tolstoy regarding the Kishinev Pogrom

“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 events–and 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…”

[Page 251]

The Secrecy Tractate (Megilat Setarim)
by Ahad Ha–am (Asher Ginsberg)

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 Ha–am, Bialik, Ravnitzky and Ben–Ami looking for an idea of how to take action.

In my head I had one idea–to 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 Ha–am 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 self–defence 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 self–defence 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. Bernstein–Cohen, who came to Odessa on his way back from Petersburg and

[Page 252]

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.[1]

This is the declaration penned by Ahad Ha–Am.

 

Brothers!

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[2] that the government doesn't like crime and destruction[3] and wants to defend us from similar situations which disrupt the peace of the country. The government[4] 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,

[Page 253]

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 yet–otherwise, 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.

Brothers!

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!

[Page 254]

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 immigration–which until now was not well organized–and 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 Ha–Am, Sh. Dubnow, Ben–Ami, 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.

 


Footnotes

  1. The introduction to the Declaration by Sh. Dubnov and the text of the declaration were published in the journal Ha–Tekufa (The Times), 5688 (1928), vol. 24, with the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Pogrom Return
  2. Deleted: “There is no doubt that the government” – I deleted that at the time of publication, Sh. D. Return
  3. Deleted: Without hesitation Sh. D. Return
  4. Deleted: But even the central government Return

[Page 255]

The Report of the Ukraine Committee in Kishinev–Excerpts
September 1919–September 1921

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:

  1. From the end of 1919 until June 1920–the concentration of help and the distribution to the Pogrom victims.
  2. From May 1920 until the beginning of March 1921–when the Ukraine Committee was the only committee and worked for the entire Bessarabia.
  3. From the beginning of March 1921 to September 1921–when the Committee was the largest organization functioning in Kishinev.
  1. End of 1919 to June 1920 The Authorization to found this committee indicated that the scope of the Committee is to raise money and establish a fund for the assistance of the Pogrom victims in the lands east of the Dniester River. After receiving the authorization a council of 40 people from Kishinev and 8 from each district of Bessarabia was established.

    At the meeting of October 11, 1919 they elect the Board of this organization with Dr. Jacob Bernstein–Cohen 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, Ben–Zion 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 Ben–Zion 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.

[Page 256]
    The Committee immediately asked the Romanian Government for permission to transfer money and goods to the victims in the Ukraine. With the help of Colonel Baker from the Joint in New York, 440 thousand rubles were transferred in January 1920 to the Kamenetz–Podolsk region.

    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. Bernstein–Cohen went to Paris on March 1920.

  1. June 1920 to March 1921.

    The refugees from the Ukraine started coming in groups during March–April 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, Soroca–185.000 Lei, Orhei (Orgheiev)–20,000 Lei, Briceni–17,500 Lei, Dumbroveni–15,000 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. Bernstein–Cohen 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

[Page 257]
    Mr. Gershon Margulis and other dedicated volunteers from the committee.

    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. Bernstein–Cohen 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:

  1. March –September 1921

    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]
    which was better organized than in other parts of Bessarabia. Another draw was that in Kishinev the Joint facilitated a method of correspondence with relatives outside Bessarabia and became the centre for communication with the relatives in the United States.

    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.


[Page 259]

The Lost Community

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

[Page 260]

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!

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents



This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Chişinău, Moldova     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 03 Dec 2017 by JH