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[Page 197]

Personalities and Happenings


[Page 198]

Figures, Personalities and Events

by A.H.

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

In Telenesht, as in other towns in Bessarabia, the people were naturally of different opinions, depending on their status in society, economic situation or religious point of view and according to the way they perceived the world around them. Every person or group of persons left their mark on the life of the community as well as on the lives of the individuals, in the areas of education, culture, economy and customs.

Most of the Jewish residents of the town were faithful to tradition: the way of life and the customs passed from generation to generation during calm as well as turbulent times. The greatest part of the Jewish population was “modern” with traditional roots, but a considerable part was religious, and quite prominent in the local Jewish community.

Here I must confess: I cannot deny my own special personal relation with this religious section, although I was far from their world–view. There was a friendly and warm relationship between myself and some of the religious communal workers. The fact that I was young of age and that I was a Zionist and the son of a “Litvak,” growing up in a home of immigrants from the far land of Lithuania, did not impair our relationship and our mutual respect.

This short review is devoted to the description of life – personal and public – in our small community. We shall mention some of the personalities who were involved in the community life: warm and good–hearted communal leaders, Zionists and Torah learners, scholars and maskilim, intelligentsia and simple folk with healthy common–sense and wisdom.

[Page 199]


Dr. D. Dorfman

B. Alger


He was born in Odessa and grew up in an aristocratic, educated and noble family. As a young student of medicine he joined the Hovevei Zion movement in Odessa. In 1882 he participated in Odessa in a meeting with Zionist activists and his friend in the movement, Dr. Bernstein–Cohen.

I have no details on the way he arrived to Telenesht and how he obtained the position of physician there; we only know that he was doctor in Kishinev for a short time and after that he settled in Telenesht.

The “Doctor” was impressive, tall and wide–shouldered, a man with a great sense of humor, sociable and polite. He was involved in the life of the town, loved the people, especially the sick. He reflected a sense of mission, and was appreciated by all parts of the population. He did not miss any opportunity to make known his ideas, whether at assemblies, conferences or meetings with delegates from the “centers”. He always gave the opening speech and was the main speaker. There was one drawback: he did not know Yiddish well, so he mostly spoke in Russian. But who cared? His listeners were captivated by his sense of humor and wisdom.

Dr. Dorfman was member of the “General Zionists” party. He gathered around him the best of the Zionists in town, mainly the educated young and men and women, and taught them Zionism and love for Eretz Israel. His home was always open for meetings, talks and Zionist guests. Often he served as mediator to settle disagreements between the communal workers, or ordinary arguments between young people. He would explain calmly and lovingly, and most of the young people listened to him.

[Page 200]

The young doctor believed that the Zionist movement was a means to achieve national awakening, and on every opportunity he would promote the idea of love for Zion. He had many followers, who saw in him a symbol of the time – a time of building the nation and the homeland.

In addition to his medical work and his Zionist enterprises, he was active in the everyday life of our small community. His home was open to all and he treated everyone as equals and friends.

In 1920, Dr. Dorfman participated in the first Zionist convention in Bessarabia, which took place in Kishinev.

In his clinic – a large and pleasantly furnished room – one wall was dedicated to a very impressive model of the Western Wall, and on the opposite wall hung a large photograph of Dr. Herzl overlooking the river from the bridge – a very famous photograph.

Dr. Dorfman also had the honorary title – from the time of the Czar – of “Kazione–Rabiner,” whose function was to keep the Jewish birth and death registers of the town and surroundings. The beloved and admired doctor died in 1935.

Photograph: Telenesht notables at Dr. Dorfman's tombstone, at the memorial of his death.

[Page 201]

R'Leib Petrushka

Photograph: Leib Petrushka, his wife Mariasi and their daughter Gitele.

Leib Petrushka was the gvir [rich man] of the town. Despite his status as a “rich man” he was modest and friendly, a true “man of the people.” He was polite, intelligent, easy to talk with, had good manners. He was active in various Zionist institutions in the framework of the Mizrahi party. He was generous and respected by the Telenesht public, and in the synagogue he occupied the mizrah seat [the seats at the east wall of the synagogue were reserved for the respected and notables of the town].

The doors of his home were open for the needy, as well as for important guests. He was always ready to listen to his fellow, but people listened to him as well, always respectfully. His calm appearance and manners served as an example for others.

R'Leib Petrushka was a pillar of strength among the local people, was loved by his fellow men and helped the needy and the suffering. After the Sabbath evening prayer, he never forgot to invite a guest to the Sabbath meal in his home.

R'Leib Petrushka was an energetic man; his occupation was commerce, on a very large scale. He owned several businesses: he was a partner in the local large and modern mill and owned a vineyard, famous in the entire region. The Petrushkins' (he and his brother Levy Petrushka) wines were superb. The location of the vineyard was special – on a hill with a wonderful view of a peaceful valley. Every year, R'Leib put his vineyard at the disposal of the young pioneers [halutzim] for their yearly training [hachshara] to prepare for Aliya to Eretz Israel. During the summer and autumn – harvesting time – the famous vineyard was the main training site, valued and appreciated by the central offices of Hechalutz.

[Page 202]

I remember less “happy occasions” as well: the budget of the halutzim was not always balanced, and as a result the bakery did not send bread, the butcher – meat and the grocery store – the vital products. R'Leib, with a fatherly sigh, would send a “note” to the suppliers and all was arranged… This is the way he was – a warmhearted Jew and a devoted Zionist. His personality and his community and Zionist activity are well remembered.

When the war broke out and tragedy came upon the Jews of Bessarabia, his family was deported to the far territories of Russia, together with tens of residents of Telenesht.

In 1944 he returned to the shtetl and there he died.

A few words about the activity of his wife Mariasi: an exemplary woman, refined and serious. She was always ready to help, and she supplied needy families with food and clothing. Her eldest daughter, an active Zionist, lives in Tel Aviv, and another daughter remained in the shtetl.

[Page 203]

Levy Petrushka

He was born in Telenesht, was a true farmer, expert in cultivating vineyards. We should mention his warm attitude toward Zionism and Zionists. When the delegate of Hechalutz (D. Haimowitz) asked him to allow a number of young halutzim to do their agricultural training in his vineyard, he consented enthusiastically and persuaded other farmers in the neighborhood to do the same. Thanks to his guidance, hundreds of halutzim acquired knowledge in this field of agriculture. His house was always open for any halutz or Zionist envoy, as for any traveler who passed through the town. Telenesht became an important center of Zionist training; many halutzim who live now in Israel remember him and his home.

He loved his fellow men and women, in particular those who prepared for Aliya. His great dream was to make Aliya, and after his daughter Etya went to Eretz Israel he looked forward to the day that he and his wife would follow.

But war came, and his family was uprooted from their home and sent to far Uzbekistan in Russia. When he returned after the war to Czernowitz, he found no rest, until finally he made Aliya to Israel in 1955. He was enthusiastic about the sights and prosperity of the land and dreamed to return to farming, the love of his life. But suddenly the thread of his life was cut off; by a painless death he was taken from his family and friends before his time…

(From the book “Orheyev in Life and Ruin”)

Photograph: Levy Petrushka's family on a sleigh, riding in the deep snow.

[Page 204]

David Wechselman

David Wechselman was a man of noble lineage; he was the son of a family that possessed an ancestral family tree. He was in the trade of wines and nuts on a large scale, and was considered rich. By nature he was a quiet man, not talkative, and very polite. In the Sadegorer Kloiz [synagogue], the time between the Mincha and Ma'ariv prayers was devoted to discussion; during discussions about Zionism R'Baruch Diement used to call him “the balebatish[1] young man.”

R'Baruch Diement, a religious Jew and an opponent of Zionism, would express his radical views at any time and on any occasion, and the young and enthusiastic Zionist David Wechselman would listen and calmly and politely refute his ideas; indeed, the discussion did not always end calmly and peacefully…

David Wechselman was of a sharp mind and an exciting conversation man. Like his father he prayed in the Sadegorer Kloiz, and for many years served as a devoted treasurer of the synagogue. He was also the manager of the “Loan and Savings Fund” and helped the Rabbi B. Zukerman in his charity projects – the Free–of–Interest loan fund [Gemilut Hasadim] and the fund for support of the poor [ma'ot hitin]. He was a helper, in thought and in deed.

As a Zionist, he was close to the “General Zionists” and was active in Keren Hayesod. His activity for Hanoar HaZioni deserves a special mention: he gave one of his apartments, near his own home, to the local youth to serve as a meeting place for the local divisions of Tzeirei Zion, Poalei Zion, Gordonia, Techiya and Dror. David Wechselman was a man of virtue, honest, had a warm heart and was an example to all.

When the terrible war broke out, he fled the town with all the others, and after years of wandering and suffering he died in Czernowitz.

[Page 205]

Dr. Avraham Kleiderman

Dr. Kleiderman, a dentist, was a somewhat strange figure: stubborn and hot–tempered on one hand, but on the other hand warm and sentimental, and attentive to special problems: for example, he treated his needy patients without asking a fee.

He was the son of a rich and respected family. His father, Meir Kleiderman, was the owner of vineyards and a partner in the local flour–mill. He served as director of the local branch of the “Bessarabia” Bank; it was unusual for a Jew to occupy the position of director in such a respected institution. He was the owner of vineyards, as his father, and his wines were famous in the entire region. He was also a very good dentist.

Dr. Kleiderman's vineyard was an important point of training for groups of Halutzim [pioneers], year after year. Telenesht, with the Kleiderman and Petrushka vineyards, was well known in the central offices of Hechalutz. We must mention an important fact about the cold and seemingly unfriendly man, Dr. Kleiderman: in addition of putting his vineyard at the disposal of the Halutzim, he built a spacious cabin for the Halutzim to sleep in, neatly divided into two parts, one for “young men” and one for “young women” – as he put it; he added a small kitchen and arranged the place beautifully: tiles on the floor, wide and comfortable beds, tables and chairs and a closet, also toilets, not far from the cabin. He called the Halutzim “his children” and helped them as much as he could. Every day several of them were allowed to leave work one hour earlier, to clean the cabin and prepare the evening meal. When asked if he was satisfied with the “Jewish” work, he would say simply: they learn diligently, and they will be good farmers in “Palestina.” The gentiles, who at first looked with doubt and with a smile at the working capacity of the Jews, learned to accept them and at the end they all worked together as equals and respected each other. Dr. Kleiderman deserves praise for his warm attitude toward his Halutzim!

[Page 206]

David Karimski

David Karimski was educated, kind and intelligent, modest and friendly, and respected by all. He was born in Beltz and went to school with the poet Yakov Fichman. The poet remained a friend and during his frequent visits in town he was always his guest. David Karimski was considered rich, and as many rich Jews his business was wine and grains, and he was partner in the large flour–mill. However he was a “socialist” by his views, and wore the traditional Russian embroidered “rubashka” shirt every morning on his long walk from his beautiful house to the mill. He was not a Zionist, but also not a noisy opponent, and donated generously to Zionist causes. Perhaps he did this thanks to his wife Ethel, who was a devoted servant of the community. She would organize parties, bazaars and “cultural evenings” for the aid of Jewish and Zionist institutions, among them the JNF [Jewish National Fund = Keren Kayemet LeIsrael] and the Hechalutz movement. Their house was open to meetings, and they were ardent supporters of the “Biblioteka” – the library of about three thousand books. In this endeavor Ethel was helped by the well–known Zionist Israel Berman, who owned the “Moriya” bookstore in Kishinev: every new book in Yiddish was sent to the library immediately after publication.

Although they were of different opinions in public and national matters, David Karimski and his wife were devoted to their mission with body and soul and arrived at great achievements.

I remember the thirties in Bessarabia: the Romanian government pursued all social and political activists, from Zionists to leftists. All were under the watching eye of the Security Police. David Karimski's house was “safe” more or less, and the Zionists and other groups continued to meet there and carry on their cultural activity.

In the tragedy of the Holocaust, the Karimski family was not spared. They perished in the distant Russian steppes. May their souls be blessed forever!

[Page 207]

R'Avraham Napadanski


R' Avraham Napadanski was the Poritz's[2] man and also the first Jewish Starosta [manager, officer], from the times of the Czar. He was a kind man, well–to–do and loved by the people, Jews and Gentiles alike. Avraham Napadanski's word was a word of honor – everyone knew that, in the shtetl as well as in the Orheyev region.

The governor of the district and the police chief, regular guests in R'Avraham's home, would gladly taste the gefilte fish on the eve of Sabbath and holidays, or sip the strong brandy or the sweet–sour wine at his table…

R'Avraham's chief aide was the “Sutaski.” Who in the shtetl did not know Berl Sutaski? Berl was the melamed [teacher] at the Talmud Torah and, when needed, he also distributed among the Jewish population various government orders and decrees, drafting orders, or documents of arrests and trials. This was his occupation in the evenings, and during the day he was teaching in the Talmud Torah, as mentioned before. R'Avraham the Starosta was, clearly, the manager of the town. He would “arrange” things with the authorities, bribes going a long way.

R'Avraham had a daughter and three sons, all well–educated. In the thirties, with the great waves of emigration, they left their home and immigrated to Argentina.

(Elsewhere in this book one can find an article about one of the sons, Moshe Napadanski, a well–known philanthropist and leader of the community in Venezuela).

[Page 208]

Top: Moshe Berlin
Bottom, Left: Batia;
Right: Leibish

R'Moshe Berlin was born in Telenesht, Bessarabia, grew up in a Zionist home and learned Hebrew since his childhood. He was a member of the Gordonia Zionist movement and excelled in special talents. He prepared himself for Aliya to Eretz Israel. Unfortunately, because of the limitations in issuing Aliya certificates he could not go to Eretz Israel, and he left Romania (in order to escape being drafted to the army), and wandered to Trinidad and from there to Venezuela. He settled in Caracas, near his elder brother, and there he built his future. He was active in the Zionist associations and national funds and was one of the great donors for Eretz Israel. He felt guilty for not having made Aliya and still hoped to leave Venezuela and settle in Eretz Israel.

He sent his daughter to study in Israel at Bar Ilan University and she graduated there. He made several visits to the country and the last time, on his way to Eretz Israel he had a heart attack and died in Basel, in the month of Nisan 1970.

He left in Venezuela his wife, his daughters and two brothers, and in Israel three sisters: Fruma Berlin (Hertzovski) in Tel Aviv, Sara in Petach Tikva and Rivka in Haifa.

Moshe Leib Berlin was of the famous Berlin family and his aunt Rivka Berlin (his father's sister) was the first wife of the writer and educator S. Ben–Zion (Alter Gutman).

Moshe was kind and loved. May his memory be blessed.

[Page 209]

R'Israel Hochman

Photograph: R'Israel, his wife Ethel, Yankel Gleizer and the children

R'Israel Hochman, or, as he was called in town R'Israel Mordechai–Simche's, a Gemara (Talmud) teacher as his father, was a Chabad Hasid.

He was head of the Hasidim in the little Chabad synagogue and everybody knew him. His home was always open for the distinguished guests that often visited our town, usually rabbis and their families. In honor of the guests he would “open a table”, loaded with food and drink. When the rebbe came, R'Israel would honor him with a nice amount of money as pidyon [present, donation]. Sometimes the Hasidim would dance around the table.

R'Israel Mordechai–Simche's was enthusiastically active in community affairs, a great initiator as well as achiever. A warm–hearted Jew, he was ready to help whenever he was asked, whether in communal or personal matters. He knew how to use his wide contacts with the authorities, served in various tax committees and in the regional judicial committee. His influence was great; he participated in issuing important verdicts and was always defending the Jewish causes opposite the local authorities.

R'Israel Hochman was a great businessman. He was wealthy, exported wine and nuts, and owned a large bakery. Although he was not officially a Zionist, he was an important donor to Zionist enterprises and was noted for his warm attitude toward the halutzim, who were training in Petrushka's and Kleiderman's vineyards. He would send them wagons loaded with loafs of bread, although he was well aware that payment would not always arrive on time… One of his sons, Chaim, made Aliya as a halutz and is living in Pardes–Chana.

The Holocaust hit the Telenesht Jews, just as it hit all of Europe. Among the hundreds of victims of the shtetl was R'Israel Mordechai–Simche's. He perished tragically and cruelly in Orlaski.

May his memory be blessed!

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The well–to#150;do and respected leaders of the community were called Balebatim [lit. “house owners”]. Return
  2. The Poritz or Paritz was the master of a large estate, in general a nobleman, who owned the villages in the neighborhood and, naturally, the Jews who lived there. The villagers worked the Paritz's lands as lessees and usually a Jew was appointed as collector of the payments. He was called “the Paritz's Jew.” Return


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