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[Pages 18-34]

Communal Institutions

by M. Rotkov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In this article, it is not my intention to present a full survey of the struggles, victories and setbacks that the communal workers and institutions experienced during the time of the existence of the community.

The sources that I came across are very poor. I had to select them from the archives, leaf through the pages of the Hamelitz, Hatzefira and other newspapers, and speak with elders who still are with us – efforts that required a great deal of time and an indescribable amount of effort.

Despite my efforts, I did not succeed in recording all of the details that were fit to be recorded. Some are not described completely, and there were important activists whose names and activities have been removed. I consciously skipped over disagreements in communal life, whether the cause was political or personal, despite the fact that it is possible to assume that each person was in his own camp and believed in the purity of his motives and the righteousness of his struggle, which was only for the benefit of the public.

My prayer is that the reader will find the material presented interesting, and will gain an idea of the prominence of the community and its institutions – whose ways were not fenced with roses – and that my words will explain what is obscure, and that there will be a salvation of some memory of our destroyed community. This will be my reward.

A. Medical and Social Assistance

Medical assistance for the sick was the chief concern of the community. The following articles that we have found in the newspapers from those days testify to this.

In “Hamelitz”, 5726 (1866), Issue 33, we read about the native of our town Yosef Rabinovitz:

“The terrible illness cholera, that brings pestilence and death in its wake, came also to our town. It affected a neighborhood of the houses of the poor. They were the first to be affected.

“Goodhearted people from our community arose and decided to put a stop to it. These include Reb Shlomo Volovsky, Reb Baruch Nisenboim, Reb Menashe Feinsilver, Reb Leib Rozenfeld, and finally Reb Avraham Davidovitz. They did not rest day and night. They gathered money from all generous people, and helped the doctors distribute medicine to those who were sick at home and in the hospital.

“It is worthwhile to praise the wonderful doctor, Dr. Waltuch, a dear man, who took it upon himself to visit the ill in the hospital and at home without any payment – until he himself became ill.”

From here it is clear that already at that time, almost a century ago, there was a hospital.

To our dismay, we did not find any other information about communal matters in our city in general and about the hospital in particular, until about 20 years later, in an article that was published in “Hamelitz” on June 8, 1887. The writer “Segev” tells us the following: “The house that was built in the yard of the hospital on the accounts of the generous philanthropist Mr. Zelig Klister, for which he paid about 3,000 rubles, has four large rooms, and is separated into two sections, one for men and one for women. Great benefit will come from it. Instead of 12 beds, there will now be 24. Now the doctor can examine the sick people in the old house, and not in the room of the beds. The office and pharmacy will be there as well. Dr Shachnovitz, who is well loved by the community, has been invited to be the director. (He came to our city from Lithuania in 1865.)”

Fifty Years of the Hospital

For fifty years (from 1866 until 1914), that passed in a characteristic manner, a group of people were active, some of whom were mentioned above. With honor and awe, we bring to our memory the doctors Dr. Waltuch, the first in the hospital, followed by Dr. Shachnovitz and Dr. Yitzchak Rabinovitz, who served for a period as directors of the hospital. (The latter moved to Kishinev in 1898). This era ends with the passing of the elder Dr. Shachnovitz in 1903, and the entry of new powers, doctors and activists. Dr. Kohan is remembered. He served a number of years until he moved to Odessa. At that time (1904) Dr. Nirenberg came to us from Kishinev. (He had returned from the Russo-Japanese war). He earned the appreciation of the community. Zaikovitz and his two children Eliusha and Yesha served as medics (feldschers), who assisted the doctors in the hospital.

The merciful nurses were faithful assistants to the doctors. These included the young woman Raisel the daughter of Reb Moshe Lezer Sharf, Reveka Grigoriovana Rabinovitz, Ina Kornblit-Yagolnitzer, and Chaika the daughter of Chayim Davidovitz. All of these served with purity and awe for their task.

At the end of the first decade of the 20th century, a new hospital building was erected in the north of the city, at the edge of Bessarabkaya Street. It was headed by Dr. Warshavsky, who was assisted by nurses.

The period of time between the outbreak of the First World War (1914) until the end of the 1920s was a time of difficult national and social revolutions, which strongly influenced life. Despite the many efforts expended by the communal workers, they did not succeed in providing sufficient medical assistance to the poor residents of the city.

A Bright Period for the Hospital

In the years 1928/1929, a new communal council was chosen. The concern for the hospital was given over to Yaakov Volovsky chairman, Liuba Gluzgold, David Marinyansky treasurer, Meir Goldberg, Yisrael Hirsh Soroker, and Shabtai Shapira. These were men of great energy and vision who were inspired to help their fellowman. An unexpected source of income came their way. At that time, the surgeon Dr. Lashko (a Christian) served in the regional hospital. He excelled as a surgical expert. On account of a debate that broke out between him and the director of the region hospital Dr. Montianu, Dr. Lashko decided to leave his post, and turned to the supervisors of the Jewish hospital with the recommendation that he be allowed to tend to the ill in one of the rooms of the hospital. In return for this use, he would give over 20% of his salary for each operation, over and above the hospital fees that the sick person paid to the management. The offer was accepted, and beneficial results were seen already at the beginning of the time Dr. Lashko worked there. Large sums from sick people of means streamed into the empty coffers of the institution. It was necessary to erect another, larger building that would befit the new work conditions.

A New Building for the Surgical Division

The idea was fine, but how would it be realized?

To the credit of the aforementioned hospital committee, we should point out that their efforts and abilities to bring in large groups of the residents of the city and region to work to this endeavor, and their personal dedication to every member of the committee, stood well for them, and they succeeded in raising more money than was expected. The members Meir Goldberg of blessed memory and Yaakov Volovsky did important work. They left their affairs and went out to the villages of Kipercheny, Biyeshty, Tsareni, Kapreshty, and others. They raised large sums. A general campaign was conducted among the residents of the city, who responded generously. Several rooms were sold to the pharmacist and communal worker Mr. Rubinstein, Yaakov Volovsky and others who expressed their desire to perpetuate the names of their beloved.

This era (1931-1939) can be considered as the brightest of the 75 years of existence (1866-1939) of the medical assistance institution in our city.

The set of obstacles and disruptions in the existence of the hospital is very long. A large number of the communal workers continued the constant struggle with great dedication and without getting tired. Of the previous era (until 1929), we recall the pharmacist Avraham Rubinstein, Aharon Gluzgold and his son Liuba, Leib Ziserman, David Marinyansky, David Brandeis, Shual Dyukman (the watchmaker), Motel Chulsky, Shabtai Shapira and others.

However the great merit fell to the hands of Volovsky and his friends. They brought the hospital to great medical heights, and it became a splendid hospital. The name of the hospital became famous in the region and outside of its borders. Many, both Jews and Christians, were assisted, and benefit from the faithful service of the staff of doctors as well as the administrative staff. It is worthwhile to mention here the name of the director of the institution Mendel Beyder, a man upright in his ways, faithful to his task, and appreciated by all with whom he came in contact. He perished in the Holocaust along with his entire family.

The activists worked for many years, and gave of the best of their time and energy for the benefit of this dear enterprise. However, to our despair, the destructive sword of Hitler and his comrades, may their names be blotted out, fell upon the enterprise and its patients together. The only survivor of the group of activists mentioned above whom escaped and arrived in the Land was Meir Goldberg and his family. However, to our dismay, this dear man perished from our midst. He died in the winter of 1954 from a malignant disease. Our hearts mourn for those who are no longer. May they always be remembered for good.

The Old Age Home in Orheyev

The second most important philanthropic organization, aside from the hospital, and whose initial development was tied to the hospital, was the old age home.

Old Age Home (Woen)

Old Age Home (Women)

Seated from right to left: 1. M. Reznik 2. [feh]. Vurgaft 3. [alef]. Moshkovitz 4. [ayin]. Zislis 5. L. Lidid 6. [alef]. Rapoport 7. L. Kruglyak 8. [feh]. Mazlover
Standing: 1. S. Adesser 2. R. Pasechnik 3. [feh]. Katz 4. S. Frimis 5. S. Goldenberg 6. B. Goldenshteyn 7. S. Moshkovitz 8. N. Timentzer 9. S. Shames


Old Age Home (Men)

Old Age Home (Men)

Seated from right to left: 1. Bursuker 2. Gorodishtyan 3. [alef]. Slepoy 4. [feh]. Chaimovitz 5. C. M. Stiklyar 6. M. Gutman 7. Kislyuk 8. D. D. Taran 9. [alef]. Gelman
Standing: 1. Y. Yavsker 2. M. Moshkovitz 3. Kaner 4. M. Beker 5. [alef]. Kogan 6. L. M. Shoyvelenke 7. Y. D. Goldenberg


In “Hamelitz” number 83 from July 30, 1886, David Leib Fikhman writes:

“Mr. Zelik Klister, who wished to do a good thing in memory of his three daughters who perished one after another in their youth, donated 2,000 rubles to the building of an institution for the poor elderly.

“Today, many honorable people of the city - including the physician of the region, and one of the justices of the peace in our city who are kindly disposed to the Jewish people, Dr. Rabinovitz the doctor of the hospital, and many of the residents - have gathered together to lay the cornerstone and to bless Mr. Klister for his act of great generosity to the elderly and poor in our city, who until this point wandered through the streets as shadows, without finding a place to rest.

“Dr. Rabinovitz and others explained to the community the good that would come from such a place.”

Mirel the Shindern (From the story of Batya Duchovny)

Mirel the Shindern maintained a unique enterprise, which excelled and served as a faithful source of income for the institution.

This woman of our town had a sensitive heart. She knew how to dance a “Poilish”. The community loved this dance. Mirel danced enthusiastically and warmly. She volunteered to dance this dance at weddings. She enthusiastically included the in-laws, who, with good spirits, emptied their pockets to the benefit of the coffers of the institution.

A different group of women whose hearts were concerned about the situation of the abandoned elderly, also dedicated themselves to assisting the old age home.

Mrs. Shachnovitz the wife of the doctor, Mrs. Alte Rozenfeld (the wife of Reb Hirsh the grain merchant) and Mrs. Brandeis the wife of David took upon themselves the responsibility of strengthening and broadening the capabilities of the institution. Through their efforts rooms and beds were added, a well was dug in the courtyard of the hospital, and the scope of activities was broadened. The circle of families who donated meals and food provisions was expanded. Thus, they succeeded in strengthening the institution until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. At that time, a decline began. The difficult economic situation had a bad effect on the institution, and the efforts to preserve what was were for naught.

New Faces to Assist the Institution

This situation continued until 1920. That year, a meeting of residents was convened for the purpose of improving the situation of the institution. The meeting selected several additional members for the committee, headed by Batya the wife of David Duchovny. She was a middle-aged woman full of energy and initiative. She introduced radical changes in the leadership of the institution. Her motto was: to solicit donors and volunteers to the extent possible, to improve the building, to obtain provisions, and to oversee the maintenance of the building, and the sanitary and health conditions of the institution. A special prayer room was set up, donated by the chairwoman, Mrs. Batya Duchovny (6,400 Lei). The “Liadabnik” (ice well) in the yard was repaired, which raised funds from the sale of ice. Mrs. Duchovny also set up income funds that turned into a constant source of income, such as the “Golden Book” (1928), support from the city council and community, and new regular donors. She reinstituted the old custom of collecting “meals” and donations for food provisions. Finally, she set up contact with the Landsmanschafts in the United States and South America, many of whose members collected donations from Orheyev natives in America for the support of the institution. Avraham Hecht left in his will a third of the income of his house for the benefit of the institution. Yosef Duchovny and his wife Sara (a member of the committee) took it upon themselves to prepare a Torah Scroll for the institution at its fiftieth anniversary. It is worthwhile to praise Mrs. Shprintza Fleshler, the director of the kitchen, who gave her best to increase the pleasure of the residents of the institution.

Old Age Home

Old Age Home


The Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society)

We do not know when the Chevra Kadisha began to operate in Orheyev, and what were the principles of its founding. In the old cemetery, on the slope to the valley, to the left, old graves are scattered and monuments stick up from the ground. Only with difficulty is it possible to make out the letters on the monuments. There is the “ohel” (burial canopy) of the rabbi of Orheyev, which testifies to its ancientness. In this era (1910-1918) the cemetery was neglected. There was a small and narrow immersion room, and the fence was broken, without anyone concerning themselves about its repair. With the selection of the well-known communal worker Moshe Kalmanovitz as the head of the Chevra Kadisha, a fundamental change in the proceedings of the organization took place. From them, burial fees were collected from the family of the deceased, corresponding to their economic status. Grants were obtained from the city council and the authorities, and the income grew.

With time, significant sums were collected. These served to strengthen the hospital, as well as for other communal matters. A house was put up with a large 'tahara' room (ed. note: for the ritual washing of the dead body before placing it in the coffin) and a mikva of water, as well as a waiting room for the community and sextons. The area was enlarged and a stone fence was put up around the cemetery. We remember the dedication of those who occupied themselves with matters of burial. Reb Itzikel (the matchmaker), his son Akiva Simes, and finally Reb Shmuel Roitman. We recall as well the activists who were chosen by the community, Moshe Kalmanovitz, David Mimis, Mordechai Man, Yisrael Hirsh Soroker, Motel Chulsky and others, who did a great deal to strengthen the cemetery in a fitting manner.

In the latter period (1945-1955), the elderly Reb Ben-Zion Chaimovitz did a great deal for the cemetery, including the fixing of the fence, until he made aliya to the Land in 1955.

According to him, the sign on the fence still exists, upon which the names of the activists who erected the new fence in the 1920s are engraved.

Assistance for the Poor

Another important social institution was the “Ezrat Aniyim” (Assistance to the Poor). Shabtai Rabinovitz headed this institution for a long time, despite his own meager means. He toiled to provide assistance to the needy with a righteous desire.

With the change of the protocols of the running of communal matters in the 1920s, a new committee was appointed, headed by the communal worker Itzik David Cheriyan (Chait). From then on, there was order in the distribution of support. The person in need would present a request to the committee, who would then determine for what purpose the requestor intends to use the loan. At times, they would offer advice. This policy guaranteed to some degree that the recipient of aid would use it in a constructive fashion. The Ezrat Aniyim society received support from the city council, from the meat tax, and primarily from Maos Chittin (ed. note: charity given for distribution to the poor before Passover)..

Maos Chittin

The collection of Maos Chittin took place in every Jewish community. For many years, the activists of Ezrat Aniyim in our city would visit the residents of the city between Purim and Passover to solicit donations in order to provide matzos for the poor of the city. The new committee of Ezrat Aniyim decided to levy a tax for this purpose. Rather than making the rounds to the doors of the residents and being dependent on donations of the citizens, they came to an agreement with the owners of the matzo bakeries, who were obligated not to sell matzos without an authorization from the Maos Chittin committee. However, this policy did not yield satisfactory results, for it was difficult to follow after every matzo purchaser. In order to prevent unwanted occurrences, it was decided that the baking of matzos should be in the hands of the community.

The administrators of the community invested a great deal of energy and effort in order to remove the baking of matzos from the veteran bakers. Then, Ezrat Aniyim took the baking of matzos upon itself, and thereby succeeded in collecting the tax, in accordance with the economic status of every individual. This policy led to a great increase in income, and the committee was able to broaden its support of the needy. The most active in this endeavor was the member of the evaluation committee, the communal worker Yisrael Hirsh Soroker of blessed memory. This man worked day and night in the matzo warehouse, and requested Maos Chittin from everyone who came through. Many answered his request in a generous fashion. From that time, the communal workers were able to provide the necessities of the Passover holiday to those in need.

The Community and the Ukrainian Committee

Social, health and cultural institutions existed and functioned for many years under the direction of representatives who were elected solely by the synagogue attendees, without the participation of the populist masses of the community and without communal auditing. Indeed, various activists dedicated their best efforts to serve the communities, but they were unable to get satisfactory results. An organized, concerted and directed effort was needed in order to supervise the use of communal funds.

In 1917, with the breakup of Czarism in Russia, the problems of organizing national life in an autonomous fashion arose – in a democratic fashion with due seriousness.

Through the urging of Zionist activists - Yosef the son of Yoel Pagis, the Rabbi Mitaam, Moshe Kalmanovitz, Yitzchak Shapirin, Moshe Hoichman, Simcha Kestlicher, Dr. Berkovitz, Yehudah Yagolnitzer, Avraham Lipshin, Akiva Simes, David Duchovny, Leib Ziserman, Moshe Chalyk, as well as the activists from the left leaning circles Moshe Ravich, Yitzchak Sherman and others, joined by circles of workers and small scale merchants such as David Muchnik, Moshe Shochet, Zelik Kleiner, David Belfer – a provisional committee was established that took upon itself the responsibility of preparing a charter that would set out appropriate conditions of operation for each institution, and would require them to give an accounting of their activities. Dr. Nirenberg of blessed memory, a man acceptable to the community, headed this committee. Rabbi Y. Pagis and Dr. Berkovitz were chosen as assistants. They rented a six room dwelling in the house of Hirshel Mashkautsan on Torgovia Street, and collected all of the ledgers of the institutions. They hired Gedalya Chokla as bookkeeper and Nissel Pagis as secretary. However, before the community managed to centralize all communal matters, the terrible tragedy took place to the Ukrainian Jews, and massive streams of refugees came into Bessarabia.

Our city, which was close to the Dniester, served as a refuge and point of transit for the refugees. The provisional communal council turned overnight into a committee to aid the refugees, and the vital communal matters were pushed to the side.

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