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Translation of Tighina chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Romania
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1980
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities,
Romania, Volume II,
pages 359-360, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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Translated by Ala Gamulka
Romanian Tighina. Russian Bender
Tighina is a town in the Province of Bessarabia on the Dniester River. It is now part of the Soviet Union in the southeast of the Republic of Moldova. It lies 70 km south east of Kishinev and serves as a river port and a highway interchange. Tighina is connected by rail to Odessa, Beltz, Kishinev and Iasi. It is in the middle of a fertile agricultural area and serves as a market for the export of produce.
The Jewish Community Until the End of World War I
Bender already existed in the 13th century. It was then called Tugun and it later became a citadel and a river port for the princes of Moldova. Merchants from Genoa would arrive in Tugun in their boats. They even founded their own settlement there. In the 15th century Jewish merchants passed through Bender on the trade route between Galicia and North Moldova and the Crimea and Black Sea ports.
At the beginning of the 16th century Tugun – already called Tighina- was conquered by the Turks. They named her Bender (port in Turkish). At the beginning of the 18th century the Turks fortified Bender. It, together with the citadels in Akkerman, Soroka, and Hotin became a line of defence against Russia and Poland. Tighina was conquered several times by Russian armies in 1770; in 1789 it was conquered and returned to the Turks. From 1806 to 1918 Tighina belonged to Russia along with the rest of Bessarabia. Between the two World Wars it was part of Romania. Since it was a border town its importance as an economic and transportation center decreased. After the war between the Soviet Union and Germany broke out, Tighina was returned to Romania in 1944.
The Jewish Community
The first data about Jews in Tighina is from 1769. It is thought that Tighina, as in the majority of the urban communities in Bessarabia, was settled by Jews in the second half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century. We have no real information on the civil status of the Jews who lived in towns directly under the Turkish regime. It seems that they were subject to the local Turkish government, as were other residents. Jews from Ukraine fled to Tighina in 1768 when pursued by the Haidamaks. Some were killed by the Turks, some were robbed by the Tatars and others starved to death or drowned in the Dniester. It seems the Jews of Tighina, as all Jews under the Turks, were free to worship and to pursue their professions and run their businesses.
The first synagogue in Tighina was built in 1770 inside the citadel. It was abandoned after the town was first conquered by the Russians. The Russians transferred it to a new location about 1 km from the citadel. This synagogue was only used on Yom Kippur. In the 1840s the synagogue was destroyed and its stones were used to build other communal institutions.
There are no headstones left from the first cemetery. The oldest headstone in the new cemetery is from 1781.
In the 1820s the first Hassidic court in Bessarabia was founded in Tighina. The founder of the Bessarabian Hassidic dynasty was R. Arieh Leib Wertheim. At the beginning of the 19th century Rabbi Yitzhak Rabinovitch served as the congregational rabbi. He was well-known for being a scholar and an expert in Halacha. The Hevra Kaddisha (Burial society) was founded by the saintly Rabbi Wertheim. A special tent was built on his grave. Many Jews came there to pray. The Pinkas of the Hevra Kaddisha was preserved and is kept in the National library in Jerusalem.
Most Jews in Tighina were tradesmen or merchants. They exported agricultural produce from the area and provided the farmers with all their needs. In the years prior to WWI most Jews in Tighina were grocers, merchants and middlemen. Of the 1061 Jewish tradesmen in 1912 there were 397 stonemasons, 515 craftsmen and laborers and 149 apprentices. Ten Jewish families owned vineyards.
The Jewish hospital was founded in 1884 by the community leader Yitzhak Nissenboim. He donated his own home for use by the hospital. In 1889 a new building was erected. It had 40 beds and there were non-Jewish patients as well. The doctors were not paid. Next to the hospital there were a clinic, a pharmacy and an old people's home for 30.
In 1904 the Ezra Leaniyim (Aid to the Poor) was established. In 1917 a convalescent facility for tuberculosis patients was opened in the village of Borisovka (near Tighina). There was also an organization (Agudat Nehim) that looked after poor new mothers.
At the beginning of the 20th century a Savings and Loan Fund assisted tradesmen, merchants and small shop owners by charging low interest on loans and allowing easy payments.
The standards of Jewish education in Tighina in 1870 were low, especially in comparison with other Jewish centers in Bessarabia. A Jewish writer visited there in those years and said the education was not solid – even worse than in other towns. The situation improved quickly and a few years later the number of Jewish girls in the middle schools represented one quarter of the total number of students. In 1884 there was a new type of Talmud Torah. There students were taught Hebrew, Russian, Yiddish, etc. There were two Talmud Torahs. One was private and had 150 students in four classrooms. The other was public and had shop studies for 100 students. In addition there were 20 private Heders and two private schools – one for boys and one for girls. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, a Hebrew High School was founded by Zvi Schwartzman. It had a Zionist environment and many of its students made Aliyah.
Between the Two Wars
During the Romanian administration Tighina lost its greatness since it became a border town and because it was isolated from towns and villages on the other side of the Dniester. The conditions worsened for the Jews. The Romanian government made life difficult for the Jews by raising the taxes and passing oppressive legislation. Many of the Jews of Tighina moved to other cities or emigrated. At the beginning of the Romanian regime the Jews were immediately discriminated against. The Jewish youths were accused of being Communists. In 1921 several young men and women were imprisoned for long terms by a military court in Kishinev on suspicion that they were Communists. From 1923 on anti-Semitism, promoted by the Koza party, took over. Tighina was one of its important centers. The members of the party threatened the Jews and their belongings. The police intervened only occasionally. In 1930 the anti-Semitic movement grew stronger. In 1932 a group of Jews was attacked by the Iron Guard. Five Jews were injured when they tried to defend themselves. On the evening of September 10, 1939, 30 hoodlums, carrying iron crosses, attacked young Jews and beat them up. Windows were broken in houses and in Jewish shops near the railway station. The Jewish senator from Tighina, Moshe Zipstein, a member of the National Farmers party, was also attacked and hurt. He had always championed Jewish causes in front of the local administration and in the senate. In 1937 there was serious incitement against Jewish lawyers. Many lost their licences.
The conditions for the Jews of Tighina worsened after Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union. All properties of the wealthy and those who were considered wealthy were confiscated. Many community and Zionist leaders were exiled to Siberia and the community institutions were expropriated. All Zionist activities were forbidden. As war broke out between the Soviet Union and Germany, additional Jews and non-Jews were arrested. After the war began the local administration provided trains to those in the population who wanted to go to Russia. Since the town was close to the old border with the Soviet Union, most of the local Jews and many Christians managed to leave Tighina on time. Even hospital patients were placed on the train on stretchers. There were still 700 Jews who remained in town.
During the war Tighina was bombed and most of the homes were burnt down. The synagogues were targeted for bombing and most of them were in ruins. Many young Jews were drafted by the Red Army.
On July 4 the Romanian army came to town. The lives of the remaining Jews worsened and their properties were expropriated. The military gathered all the Jews and brought them to the ancient citadel 6 km away. The elderly Jews were shot and buried in a communal grave. The rest were subsequently shot and buried. 700 people were murdered.
The Jews who were evacuated by the Soviets were taken to Stalingrad and Petrovskaya in two groups. At the end of October 1941 those Tighina Jews who were in Petrovskaya had to flee. They were transferred to the port of Makhachkala on the Caspian Sea. The sanitary conditions were terrible and many died of Typhus.
In September 1944 the survivors began to return to Tighina. Soon there were about 300 families (800 people) in town. The community began to rebuild and renovated the remaining synagogue (Sadigura). During the Romanian times it had been used as a barn for horses. The Soviets did not allow the Jews to put headstones on the communal grave. This became the Babi Yar of Tighina. The old cemetery on the banks of the Dniester was expropriated by the local administration and was used to breed pigs. The headstones were removed by the Christians and were used to build houses. The authorities used the headstones to build a fence around the municipal stadium.
All the community institutions, the synagogues, hospital, old people`s home, Talmud Torahs and Hebrew High School were expropriated and were used as cultural or industrial centers.
Bendery Yizkor Book, Tel Aviv, 1975
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