Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Buying Land in Eretz Israel – Wood Business
It was several days after the holidays that I expected to receive news from my son Aaron, concerning the sale of the wood I had left and the collecting of the debts which were owed me that now came to $1500. I received a disastrous letter from Aaron. The wood and planks which were worth about $1,000 were sold to Hirsch Shatner. He went bankrupt and didn‘t pay anything. Two freight cars of wood were sold in Danzig at a big loss. The wood in Kotchdewar rotted. The accumulated taxes had to be paid in cash and this took all the money I had given him. There wasn’t a penny left.
Sheiber (who made an agreement with me) did not send the money for the trees we bought, nor did he send the wood. This bad news depressed me and I was left with very little money.
The bad news did not end. There had been a tragedy even before I left Stanislau. All the hopes that I had about my son Joseph, who lived in Nathan’s house in New York, were destroyed. All the letters with questions that I sent to Nathan and my brother David concerning Joseph, were not answered. The last time I wrote, I asked that they tell me the truth, no matter how bad. On my birthday, יז לעומר, I received a letter from my brother David. טרף טורף יוסף What vulture devoured Joseph (Jacob asking the brothers, “what happened to Joseph”-from the Tanach) My son Joseph drowned in the ocean while swimming. (Note* in my visit to Grandfather in 1952, he asked me if I knew what happened to Joseph. My mother had told me that he must have committed suicide because of the bad economic situation and he was also very upset that a woman, my mother, had to work. I think they found his clothes on the beach. I told my Grandfather I knew nothing. DK)
The horrible news broke my heart. This tragedy of my unhappy son Joseph caused an unending flow of tears. I took upon myself the obligation to mourn him every 12th of the month. I did this by praying Kaddish and studying a portion of the Mishnah. I made his memorial date יט אייר 19th of Iyar.
My son Joseph was born יב טבת תרסב on December 22, 1902 in Tsirish, Bukovina. His mother Edel זל treated him with great love and affection. The death of his mother affected this young delicate child. At the age of seven, this orphan was left with an empty heart and a lack of the love, kisses and hugs of a mother. Up until the war, Joseph was educated in the cheder, as if he was in the elementary school of Baron Hirsch, in Atania and Stanislau. His teachers were satisfied with his studies and he was an attentive student. When WWI began in July 1914, his beloved sister Taube and his two beloved brothers, Nathan and Aaron, left the city as refugees to the West. He remained with his foster mother and his small brother David and felt even lonelier than before. As a youngster, the cruelty that he saw by the invading enemy soldiers also had its effect. I want to recall an incident that showed his sensitivity. Once on the way from my house to my store, I was stopped by an armed Russian soldier. He gave me a hoe and a broom to clean the street. I was force to work, sweating and bleeding. The news reached my house and my young son Joseph ran to me crying and kissing my hand and started to work in my place. My protest that I do the work did not help. He didn’t stop till the work was finished at sunset.
My daughter Taube left Vienna in the middle of 1915 after Austria reoccupied East Galicia. She came home, helped my wife in the store and took care of her two brothers, Joseph and David. When in the middle of 1916, the Russians came close to reconquering Stanislau, Taube again left and took both of her two younger brothers. The Austrian government had set up a special place for the Galician refugees in Parlitz, Moldavia. Barracks and a hospital were set up for the thousands of refugees. The professor Chiute from Tsaravitz was in charge of the hospital. My daughter was a nurse in the hospital when the typhus epidemic broke out. Many refugees were among the victims.
My son Joseph got typhus, was admitted into the hospital, and with the help of God, Dr Chiyut and the nurses, he survived. However, the lengthy sickness affected him. When the camp at Parlitz closed, they went to Vienna where not enough food. Taube found work and the two boys were put in orphanage and again suffered from hunger.
In 1918, after the end of the terrible war, I brought my sons to Stanislau and my daughter continued her studies as did the boys, Joseph and David. In addition to studying in the Cheder and school, Joseph helped my wife in the store. In July 1921, I lived in the house of M.I. Waller on Batarga Street. In the yard there was a well for our house and the neighbors. One of the days, when the water in the well was low, the amount that each family could take was limited. A strange gentile came to take some water but was stopped. My son Joseph opposed the owner who prevented the gentile from taking water. He insulted the owner. When I heard what happened, I severely punished my son with reprimands and blows. He ran away from home and I imagined the anger would pass and he would come home and all would return to normal. This time I made a mistake. My daughter Taube felt sorry for her brother. Instead of having her brother apologize for the insult against me and the owner, she did an unforgivable act against me. She went to a neighbor, S. Greenfeld, and borrowed enough money, 10,000 units, (Note* not clear what currency) to buy a ticket to send her brother to New York to their brother Nathan. Entrance to the United States was limited. Taube asked Nathan to bring Joseph from Cuba to New York, since entrance from there was unlimited. On November 31, 1921 I received a letter from Joseph from Cuba. He begged forgiveness for his actions against me and for running away. With words of love from a father to a beloved son, I answered him with a long letter strongly requesting that he come home. It was to no avail. Who knows if his fate was already sealed? While he was still living in my house, his heart pulled him to travel to America. He and his sister tried to prevail upon Nathan to bring him there to fulfill his dreams.
After spending two months in Cuba, Joseph got to New York and was received by Nathan and his wife. My son Nathan tried to do what he could for him. He enrolled him in a school to learn Torah, language and a vocation so he could have a profession. My son Nathan complained in his letters that Joseph was depressed, bitter and unhappy. Who knows what caused him to be so sad? No matter what was good around him, he was disappointed and depressed even in his brother’s house. He stayed in his brother’s house for only a year. Even before the harvest, the sickle cut down the tender and good wheat.
A wave of water swallowed this pure soul and he was not buried in a Jewish cemetery.
Over this my tears have no end. If the hand of chance brought about this catastrophe, a fly will bore into my brain if I can not find out the reason. He did not die in 1924 as I thought but in May 1923 יט אייר תרפג. May his bed be atonement for his sins. הנצבה' אמן
R’Shimshon Bernstein from Petshenishin demanded that I fulfill the promise to the Lvov Mizrachi Committee to acquire land for the members. R’Moshe Katz also demanded this from me.
A few days after Pessach תרפד 1924, Moshe Katz, his wife and I traveled together in a car that was rented and paid for by R’Bernstein and I paid for the food and lodging, all of which was on the account of the buyers. We started to tour in Judea, Samaria, the lower Galilee, Jezreel Valley, parts of the upper Galilee, Safad and Ein Zaytim. In every place, we looked for appropriate land to fit our needs but we did not find it. After two months traveling and looking, we chose a piece of land. It was suitable for settlement and close to Tel Aviv, in the area of Nachalot Itzchak. In order to buy this land, we contacted Geula Company (This bank was founded in 1904 by Meir Dizingoff) managed by R’Bezalel Yaffe. The contract to buy the land was between this company and R’Bernstein who had the power of attorney for the group of buyers from Petshenishin. The company obligated themselves to acquire 500 dunam from Arabs, within about a year, at the price of 7.250 לאי Lirot Eretz Israel per dunam. (Note* A Palestine Pound or Lira was equal to a British Pound) The company was to get a 10% commission. Bernstein gave 100 Lirot to seal the contract and promised to send the remainder within three months. He and wife went home.
In July, I received a shipment of sixty cubic meters of Polish pine wood which my son Aaron bought for a $1,000 that he received from the wife of Dov Schwartz from Petsheneshin. From Moshe Katz I received a shipment of 200 cubic meters of pine wood to sell in the Tel Aviv market on commission. I needed 200 Lirot, for expenses to deal with this I barely got a guarantee from Zev Garden in order to get a loan from Bank Ofek (Anglo Palestine Corp which became Bank Leumi) Part of the shipment I sold in the Jaffa port. The rest I brought to the warehouse of Yeshua Gordon to sell to wholesalers. In this way, I began to do some real work to earn a living. The special wood that my son Aaron sent, was bought by the partners Dov Schwartz and so the income began. The wood from Moshe Katz was of poor quality. I managed to sell some and got rid of the remainder at a very low price.
I requested permission of the government to remain in the country. My friend Yeshua Gordon helped me get the papers for which I paid a Head Tax of 330 Lirot. On the basis of this permission I requested the right to bring my wife and young son. After a few days I received permission to do so by the government.
The Petsheneshin group did not fulfill its obligation to send money to the Geula Company to buy land for them. I approached the Mizrachi group through a friend, Mr. Moshe Hochman, who was the president. I told them about the land and the reasonable price. I suggested that they buy all the 500 dunam and return the deposit money that was given by Mr. Bernstein to the Geula Company and pay out according to the contract. It was just for their good that I told them and I would have to pay for my share like any other member. Our friends thought and acted differently. My thoughts were not their thoughts. The writer, Reuben Pahan, encouraged the people in Stanislau, Kolomyea and the district to send him to Eretz Israel to buy a large piece of land for them. There were many meetings where they managed to raise a certain amount of money to send Pahn and Zinreich, a friend from Kolomyea to go to Eretz Israel.
Reuben Pahan and Zinreich from Kolomyea came to the country about two months after I came. Despite the fact that Pahan knew about my letter to Mizrachi, knew about my interest in acquiring land through Bernstein, about expenses in searching for the proper piece of land, he did not seek my advice or contact me. Since all this was important to me, I went to him and proposed that he take over the contract with Geula Company of the 500 dunam from the Petshenishin group. An alternative would be to buy from Chevrat HaYeshuv whose manager, A. Yeshua Chenkin, agreed, due to my efforts, to sell them several thousand dunam appropriate for agriculture in Kfar Saba. The price would be 3.800 Lirot Eretz Israel (lei) per dunam with easy payments. The down payment of the contract was 1,000 lei and the balance would be paid out over five years. It is understood that there was a minimum commission for my efforts which were strictly for the good of the people I knew.
The two representatives did not listen to me. They were suspicious of my contacts with Chevrat HaYeshuv and they would not pay any commission. They said there were better opportunities elsewhere. Pahan and his friend traveled the length and width of the country looking for a suitable purchase at the expense of those who sent them. They found nothing. They then made a contract with Palestine Bessarabia Company which was new. Dr. Cohen Bernstein from Bessarabia, a well known Zionist, was the manager of the company. His friend, Pinchus Margoiot and Tzvi Schecterman, were both from Kishinev, Romania, all living in Tel Aviv. The main office was in Tel Aviv with another central office in Kishinev. In this contract, the company bought for them 3,000 dunam that the two representatives picked in Tirra, between Haifa and Atlit. The price was 6.750 lei per dunam. The company bought land through their contact with Edmund Levy, a Sephardic Jew born in the country, who had contacts with Arabs throughout the country and had already bought several thousand dunam. Levy contacted the new company to buy the land.
Pahan and Zinreich were pleased with their achievement. The land was good with plots for building, a fair price and about thirteen kilometers from Haifa. They got in touch with the people who sent them and urged them to quickly accept all parts of the contract.
I received a letter from my son Aaron that some people I knew, including A.Freifelder from Scala, asking me to buy 500 dunam for them near the place that Pahan had bought They didn’t send me any money and without money there can be no contract to buy land. In order to fill their request and allow Aaron to get the commission and get the same terms that Pahan got, I made a contract with the company for 500 dunam at the price that Pahan paid. I borrowed 150 lei for a deposit. In the event that the buyers did not accept the arrangement, the deposit would be returned to me.
I bought for my son Aaron and my daughter Taube, fifty dunam land and two plots in Tirra from the new Eretz Israel Company manager, Tzvi Schecterman. I gave a deposit of 55 lei that I borrowed on the basis of wood sales.
Before the beginning of the year תרפה 1925, my friend Moshe Hochman from Stanislau came to settle in the country. We formed a partnership to sell building materials and rented a store on Hamashbir Street for five lei a month. We also rented an apartment for two lei a month, from an acquaintance, Zechariah Berger from Stanislau.
I put the pine wood into the store from the partnership with Schwartz. The inferior wood from Katz, I sold to retailers and made very little money. On the white wood, that we bought together, we made no money and had large expenses. After a month, we moved into the store so as to save money but to no avail. After a few months, we had to close the business since there was no chance to succeed.
On November 1, 1925, I received a telegram from my son Aaron from Stanislau with the good news of his wedding to Naomi (Zissel), the daughter and orphan of Abraham Fogel זל Fogel came from Slatvina and lived in Stanislau. Before I left Stanislau, I agreed to the Shiduch (marriage arrangement) of the young couple. I knew the deceased who was an honorable man from a respectable family and an important merchant. We sat together several times on opposing sides of important arbitrations and we left all these meetings without any ill feelings. His daughter, my daughter-in-law, was young and pretty. She was seventeen years old, educated, played the piano and took care of the house. Her dowry was about $1,500.
Her brother, Chaim Fogel, had a big business in Stanislau and was considered one of the important people in town. He was the guardian of his sister. After the death of their parents, she was raised and educated in her brother’s house. He wanted very much to arrange a good marriage for Naomi Zissel. It was a lavish wedding with plentiful food even for the poor and hungry. Among the guests were my Uncle David Meltzer from Barshizov, I.Arie Freifelder from Scala, Nathan Keusch from Zablotov, and many others from the surrounding area. (Note* This Nathan Keusch was not my father but probably the son of Naftali, the older brother of Grandfather Abraham. RDK) The happy news raised my spirits but not completely. To my sorrow, the present situation looked gloomy and there was no possibility to attend this simchah. What is there to joy except to see the continuation of sons and family for God and Torah?
In the days of the fourth Aliyah, 1924/25, there was a fierce desire of our brothers in the Diaspora to acquire land in Eretz Israel. Organizations formed, collected large sums of money and sent representatives to the country with large quantities of cash. In Stanislau and the surroundings, this enthusiasm grew. Dov Weiss, a capable man in public affairs, joined his friend, Reuben Pahan and founded a group to collect money to buy land. Weiss and nine other people from Stanislau came to the country in 1925 to celebrate the joyful opening of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When Weiss came to Tel Aviv, he contacted Mr. Hochman’s company to ask advice, and get instructions on the best way to buy land.
Hochman traveled back and forth to the country but was disappointed in the various problems of buying land. He came to the conclusion that the best way to get land was to form a company of only Galicianer. His explanation was that the people in the existing company were beginners and green. They came to the country with empty hands, set up a company to buy land, bought a few dunam, sold them and succeeded. What prevents us, Galicianer, from forming the same type of company? The idea was favorably accepted by D. Weiss who was ready to immediately buy 500 to 1.000 dunam of land and to strengthen Hochman’s idea of three Eretz Israel Companies. Tzvi Schechterman was the life spirit of the company “Hamashbir”, the buyers and sellers. He left the established company and joined Hochman.
His strength was finding buyers and giving fair prices and easy terms that gave them a chance to realize profits and become rich. This would help liberate the country. D. Weiss suggested that we buy good quality land and set up a Galicianer village. This would also give the six founders a future in the country. Hochman, Schechterman and Weiss approached me to join this company. The sum to join the founders was not high, only 45 lei per member. I trusted their honesty. R. Kahan also joined as a member. Kahan and Weiss took the task to sell land in the Diaspora. We came together to form this company. After opening a store in Jerusalem, Weiss would go abroad and begin the business. I agreed to become a member. This was one of the three companies. Five friends joined Hochman to establish this new organization. They were T.Schechterman, A. Keusch, Dov Weiss, Reuben Kahan and Tzvi Packman (brother-in-law of Schechterman) Schechterman and Hochman began to acquire suitable land. After the opening of Hebrew University, Weiss would go abroad and begin the operation.
I celebrated Pessah of 1925 in Tel Aviv with my friend Moshe Hochman in a Bessarabian restaurant, which was near our store. This was where I found an apartment.
My friend, David Neiderhofer from Galitz, went into partnership and he bought wood in Galitz to ship to the Tel Aviv market. He suggested that I return abroad and get in touch with them. B.S.Sheiber from Prasin Bukovina approached me to find land for him and his brother. Zeide Engler and Jacob Yurgroy, the leaders of Mzrachi in Chernovitz approached me to acquire land for them and the Mzrachi people from Bukovina. As a result of these happenings and the possibilities to take care of all the private and general interests, and to advance the prospects of the new company we established, it was decided that I would make a journey back. This was very satisfactory to me as I missed my family and friends.
Content last updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 09:10 PM Mountain Daylight Time