HERTS GILISHENSKI (1885-1941)
He was born in Orgeyev (Orhei), Bessarabia, into a well-to-do family. He studied in religious elementary school, later taking up pedagogy in Odessa where he received a diploma as a public school teacher. Around 1908 he returned to Bessarabia and became one of the pioneer builders of public schools with Yiddish as language of instruction. At the end of WWI, when the Romanian authorities occupied Bessarabia, he was appointed an inspector of the local Jewish schools. When the government shortly after the Versailles Peace Treaty began to suppress the Jewish school system in Bessarabia, he moved to Czernowitz which was at that time the Jewish cultural center in Greater Romania. There, in the Yiddish-language organ of the Bund, Dos naye lebn (The new life), which often had to change its name because of repression, he gave expression to energetic publicity on behalf of building Jewish schools and developing Jewish cultural activities. Following his initiative, Morgnroyt (Aurora), the cultural organization of the Bund in Czernowitz, founded a trade school for Jewish apprentices, male and female. In the winter 1921-1922, at his initiative, a Jewish cultural congress took place in Czernowitz, at which was represented nearly all of the Jewish communities in Bukovina, Bessarabia, and Old Romania. The congress established a Jewish Cultural Federation of local cultural leagues, and Gilishenski was for a time the general secretary of the Federation in Czernowitz. As director of the Morgnroyt trade school, he took part in 1923 in a fund-raising delegation to the United States, with the aim of establishing the financial means to build their own school building and cultural home in Czernowitz. In the years between the two world wars, he contributed to works for YIVO and the “Dubnov Fund for the General Jewish Encyclopedia.” In June 1941, when he was, paying no attention to the war, preparing for a new tour for the YIVO central office in Vilna, he was arrested by the retreating Soviet forces and evacuated to Russia. Nothing further was heard from him. According to certain information, he died en route to Siberia. “Herts Gilishenski had immense success,” wrote Shloyme Bikl, “in his cultural assignments for the Jewish communities of Europe, and both American continents were indebted to his distinctive personality…. Gilishenski’s beliefs were the avant-garde of his assignments, and the avant-garde carried the day.”
Sources: Bukareshter zamlbukh (Bucharest anthology) (1949); Unzer tsayt (New York) (January-February 1947); Sh. Bikl, Eseyen fun yidishn troyer (Essays on Jewish grief) (New York, 1948), pp. 210-18; Z. and L. Kisman, Doyres bundistn (Generations of Bundists), vol. 2 (New York, 1956), pp. 227-30.