Zisonism in Transylvania between the World Wars: from Ideology to Practice
This paper gives an overview of the components and directions of the Zionist movement in Transylvania during the inter-war period. Without going into extensive detail, it follows the development of the phenomenon from ideological debates through aliyah (emigration to Palestine). Under the assumption that the Zionist movement was not autonomous but a product of Jewish life in Transylvania, the paper tries to determine the role of the movement and its side streams  in the Jewish community.
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The Zionist movement in Transylvania flared into life at the end of the First World War.  Its forefathers, including János Rónai, Cluj's Chief Rabbi Samuel Moshe Glasner, Sándor Jordan, Hersch Leb Gottlieb, the poet AndorFeuerstein (who changed his name to the Hebrew Avigdor Hameiri),  had struck the first sparks at the turn of the century - some through writing, others through speaking.
A radical change in the lives of Transylvanian Jews took place in 1918, at the fall of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy, and the transition to Romanian sovereignty, which created an identity crisis for them  . They had known the "good times" during Franz Josef's reign,  receiving emancipation in 1867 with all Hungarian Jews. They underwent the Magyarization process, and the majority was assimilated into Hungarian society. Throughout their history, they had been different in certain aspects from both Hungarian and Old Kingdom Romanian Jewry; now they began searching for their place in the new political framework. Some Transylvanian Jews realized that Magyar assimilation into the new Romanian state was impractical; thus, a Zionist consciousness began to develop.
During the war, Jewish soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian army fighting on the eastern front came into contact with strongly Zionist Jews.  One of these soldiers was Dr. Haim Weissburg (1892-1959), who later became the main founder and central figure in organized Transylvanian Zionism. Born to a Transylvanian land-owning family, he studied law in Budapest, and became active in the Hungarian Zionist student organization. When the First World War broke out, he volunteered for the Austro-Hungarian army. He was taken prisoner by the Russians, and taken to Siberia, where he learned Hebrew and founded a Zionist group among the prisoners.  .
In 1918 he returned home and established the Transylvanian National Jewish Union. The organizing assembly was held in Cluj  on November 20, with representatives from the entire Transylvanian territory. The assembly demanded recognition for the Jewish community as a nation with equal rights among the other nationalities in the area. The message had two targets: the new Romanian authorities, and the other were the Jews themselves, most of whom were already assimilated.  Weissburg's program called for reaffirming Jewish identity learning Hebrew, and preparing for aliyah psychologically and practically.
The Union's first congress of 150 representatives met in December 1920 in Cluj. At the center were Weissburg's demands for personal autonomy,  as provided for in the peace treaty; Jewish schools; recognition of the Jewish communities; and governmental financing similar to what other religious groups received. Rabbi Niemerower of Bucharest, on the other hand, considered these demands to be maximalistic  and was in favor of simple citizenship rights for Jews. The Jews in Bessarabia and Bukovina agreed with Weissburg,  but the Jews of the Old Kingdom, under Niemerower's leader-ship, disagreed, and sent only one observer to the congress. 
The congress decided to transform the Union into a political organization representing Transylvanian Jewry. Its aims were to win over the communities to the Zionist idea, to establish independent educational and cultural organs, and to found sports clubs with Hebrew names.  The sports aspect was connected to the Zionist concept of changing the old image of Jews being devoid of physical strength. Jewish banks were to be the creditors for poor communities.
The new Union established branches in most of the Transylvanian cities. Its leaders saw a dual function: to defend the interests of the Jews in Transylvania, and to promote Zionist activity. The symbiosis between the classical Jewish organization and the Zionist movement reflects the progressive thinking of the Zionist leadership. The Union had a centrist liberal ideology, known in Zionist historiography as Zioniim Claliim.  This orientation continued as other Zionist movements with rightist, leftist and religious inclinations developed under the auspices of the Union.
During the 1920's, the Union's seat was in Cluj. Its leaders, in addition to Haim Weissburg, included Joseph Fischer and Theodor Fischer (no relation) - both of whom were lawyers who had both Jewish and general educations - Orthodox Rabbi. Moses Glasner and Neolog Rabbi Matias Eisler. Weissburg was the driving force – incessantly involved in organizing people and activities, solving problems, facilitating emigration to Palestine, and promoting the Hebrew language. 
A literary personality who influenced young people, was János Giskalay  one of the founders (in 1918) of the newspaper Új Kelet in Cluj. The paper was the primary communication medium for the Transylvanian Zionist movement; prominent intellectuals used its pages to create an image of Transylvanian Jewish communities and to outline the Zionist movement's goals in Palestine.
At this time, the movement had a predominantly intellectual character. It was concerned more with theoretical debates and less with emigration to Palestine; Zionist activities were individual and idealistic. Dr. Weissburg emigrated to Palestine in 1925, depriving the movement of one of its most prestigeous leaders - but not before he created a number of Hebrew schools named Tar-but (including a secondary school in Cluj, elementary schools, in Sighetul Marmaţiei and in Satu Mare and seventeen kindergardens). 
When it came to attracting the Jewish masses in Transylvania, however, the Zionist movement did not succeed, neither through ideological persuasion nor through concrete achievements; it remained an elitist phenomenon. At the Second Congress in 1921, it was announced that there were 14,000 "shekel payers" (as dues-paying members were called, using the name of the ancient Israelite coin).  From the number of "payers" we learn about the amount of the Movement's sympathizers. By 1934, the number had fallen to 8,564.  The total number of Jewish residents in Transylvania, according to the 1930 census, was 192,833. 
The movement in Transylvania was greatly limited by anti-Zionist and non-Zionist currents. Orthodox groups were very influential - especially the one in Saw Mare, led by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, and groups in Oradea, Sighetul Marmaţiei and Bistriţa. Since they believed that no Jewish state could exist before the coming of the Messiah, they declared war on the Zionist movement and blocked its access to their synagogues. On the other hand some Orthodox were Zionist - such as Rabbi Glasner, who declared: – We are a people with aspirations for a country and a language of our own.  He set an example by emigrating to Palestine in 1923.
Neolog Jews were divided into two groups. One was in
Another minority group with some influence was that of Jews who were assimilated to Hungarian culture, who declared total loyalty to the Hungarian people and demanded that the schools teach only in Hungarian. Nevertheless, most Transylvanian Jews studied in Romanian state schools, during the inter-war period.
The Communists, too, opposed Zionism; they viewed it as nationalism, and opted for internationalistic ideals. The rise of the extreme right in Romanian politics created a situation that fostered the rise of Communism among Transylvanian Jews. One of their members was Dr. Hillel Kohn, a Zionist leader at the beginning of the 1920s, who later joined the Communist Party. 
A significant amount of Zionist activity in Transylvania was organized by youth movements. In 1922, a scout group
named Hashomer was
founded; it was apolitical, like the National Union. Branches were soon opened
all over Transylvania, based on the Anglo-German model
of scout groups. In addition to organizing summer camps, trips, and discipline
exercises, the groups taught national Jewish values.  They discussed
the history of Palestine, and collected donations for
Kereti Kayemet, the
Jewish National Fund, which was buyingland
Meetings were conducted in Hungarian, even though most of the members studied at Romanian or Jewish schools. This language situation characterized the Transylvanian Zionist movement at that time, as documented in memoirs  and correspondence between various organizations.
The goals of' the summer camps were social integration and formation of a national Jewish identity.
A negative aspect which lead to the disintegration of the youth groups was that they limited their activities to the theoretical level, while neglecting preparation for aliyah.  At the end of the 1920s, there was no systematic learning of Hebrew or training in productive work such as agriculture, works-hops or factories.
In 1929, as the scout group reached 4,000 members, after seven years of activity, a split occurred in Hashomer. Hashomer Hatzair became the left, with socialist tendencies; Hanoar Hatzioni remained at the center, with liberal tendencies, pushing for "pure" Zionism without additional current ideologies.  However, both groups, like all other Zionist factions, remained under the auspices of the Union.
The year 1929 was crucial for the Zionist youth movement, due to the arrival
in Cluj of a Hashomer Hatzair representative from
A Hashomer Hatzair group from the Regat, while undergoing hachsharah (aliyah preparation), at a Jewish-owned farm, in Satu Mare, came into contact with the local Hashomer group, and invited the members to visit the Regat. After the visit, Daniel Stark, who later became a Transylvanian Hashomer Hatzair leader, related his impressions of the aliyah preparation spirit in the Regat.  He stressedthat the Zionist movement in the Regat was much more active and more firmly rooted in Jewish life, than was the one in Transylvania, which was mainly intellectual.
Hashomer Hatzair's split from the main group was also due to demands for a greater orientation toward aliyah. Its program featured more independence from parents, more political and social involvement, and equality between the sexes. These increased activities of Hashomer Hatzairr also served as a catalyst for the centrist group, Hanoar Hatzioni.
At the beginning of the 1929s, parallel with the creation of Hashomer a Union-linked Zionist student organization named Barissia was formed at Weissburg's initiative.  The purpose of the movement, modeled on the German Burschenschaft,  was to study and spread Jewish culture and the Hebrew language, and to develop a new generation of leaders for Transyl vanian Jewry. Since it was a student organization, it later formed the intellectuel class of the Transylvanian Zionist movement; most of the writers, journalists and other trend-setting people in the 1930s came from circles connected with this movement.  Barissia also had a scout organization; youth and older groups had similar structures and identical Zionist symbols, and a relationship based on equality that attempted to eliminate the generation gap. 
All of the movements mentioned so far were secular, even if some of the members adhered to some degree of religious tradition. On the other hand, a religious Zionist movement named Mizrachi  containing an Orthodox majority, was formed in 1920 in Oradea; branches appeared in Cluj and Maramureş. Mizrachi immediately came into conflict with Orthodox anti-Zionists. It founded a youth movement with hachsarah farms, such as at Sighetul Marmaţiei in 1931; vegetables were cultivated and sold at the market.  There were differences of opinions between the Oradea and Sighetul Marmaţiei groups, between the right and left divisions, and between the youth and adult wings - but they were united in bringing the religious element into the Union. For this reason, the religious Zionist movement could be found inside and outside the Union at various times.. In the early years of the Union, idealistic leaders spread the Zionist idea; the second half of the 1920s, however, was as a time of stagnation - although the roots were being formed for the youth movements, which gave the Union new stimulation. Then, from 1930 on, the Transylvanian Zionist movement underwent organizational and conceptual changes. That year, the Union's seat moved from Cluj to Timişoara, where it had to deal only with Zionist subjects; the Jewish Party in Cluj took care of Jewish interests.
The new leaders in Timişoara: Ernest Vermes and then Carol Reiter, presented a new type of leadership - less idealistic and more financially oriented than that of their predecessors in the 1920s.  They raised substantial sums to the Union and to Keren Kayemet.
The 1930s were characterized by a new spirit in the youth movements, each with its own hachsharah activities. The members enrolled in special training farms and workshops, thus switching from an ideological to a practical phase. Ideological disputes did not cease - but in spite of differences, they all met at the annual Union Congress.
had problems in several areas. There was tension between the
generations. Parents felt disappointment seeing their children abandon their
options for academic studies to train for an unknown future. The youths were
expected to undergo radical lifestyle changes, and do hard physical labor.
The harshness was necessary to create conditions similar to those in
The Barissia group also had hachsharah activities. The movement changed from centrist to social-democratic during its first decade; this was a compromise between the socialist-oriented youth, who demanded socialist hachsharah-type farms, and the conservative adults section, who wanted to keep centrist values and concentrate on intellectual aspects. Dr. Weissburg, who was already in Palestine, demanded that the youth movement not stray from "pure" centrist Zionist ideology. He claimed that hachsharah was not necessary, and that learning Hebrew was enough for aliyah. 
lasted up to two years; and only after this preparatory work
could one become a candidate for aliyah. Although the necessary immigration
certificates from the British mandatory government were scarce, the aliyah
spirit in Transylvania was fueled by the rise of antisemitism and rightist
Palestine Office of the Zionist Movement in Bucharest,
which was responsible for distributing the certificates, asked the World Zionist
Movement to raise the quota. In 1938, only 250 certificates were available
for each six-month period for the Regat, Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina
together.  The Transylvanian Zionist Movement
also had its own autonomous Palestinian Office, which negotiated with the
World Zionist Movement for financial help to prepare farms 
and for their own certificate quota. This led to disputes between
The last phase of ideological and practical training was emigration and settlement in Palestine.
There were two stages of Transylvanian Jewish settlement in Palestine during the inter-war period. In the 1920s, the settlement was motivated by the idealism of the Zionist leaders, without much prior organization or knowledge of the realities in Palestine.
The first group was initiated by Hermann Paneth, descendant of an illustrious rabbinical family. In 1920, he traveled to Jerusalem on a learning mission; he met with leaders of the Yishuv (Jewish settlement in Palestine), and presented his project to bring 300 religious agricultural families from Transylvania,  along with tools and animals. He asked to buy a piece of agricultural land where the families could make a living from commerce in animal products.  This project was independent of the Zionist Organization in Transylvania at the time.
the Yishuv leaders doubted the ability of these families to adapt to
the difficult conditions in
As a result of this traumatic situation Weissburg started planning, at the end of 1923, a similar project of his own which eventually received support from both the Union and the Yishuv. He founded a cooperative agricultural settlement named Kfar Gideon nearby with 40 religious agricultural settlers from the Cluj area. Some of the members of the previous village joined the new settlement. Weissburg was not religious himself, but he was ready to support any type of Jewish settlement in Palestine. regardless of ideological direction, But this venture, too, was unsuccessful, because of numerous crises bankruptcies, and abandonments. 
The tireless Dr. Weissburg then planned a Transylvanian urban settlement named Zur Shalom, near Haifa, in 1925. He attempted to buy a plot of land, but this project failed due to financial problems. This latest incident had a negative influence on morale in the Transylvanian Zionist movement for a few years.
These three failures were characteristic of Jewish Transylvanian aliyah in the 1920s. They brought the idealistic era to an end and forced the Zionist movement to change its focus by giving special attention to the training of future settlers. Systematic contact with Yishuv leaders was also seen to be necessary. Thus, hachsharah became the center of Zionist activities.
The concept during the 1930s was that hachsharah graduates
should first settle in a well-established agricultural colony in
After seven years of adaptation, the nucleus was moved to a permanent home in the north (Kibbutz Dan) in 1939 with the approval of the Yishuv. Another Hashomer Hatzair nucleus was formed in 1934, underwent the same process, and settled in the center of the country in 1939 (Kibbutz Dalia).
The first settlers from the centrist movement, came to
Besides these three examples of successful Transylvanian settlements in the 1930s, there were others as well.
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The inter-war Transylvanian Zionist movement had many intertwined aspects: theoretical debates, strong polemics, various groups including youth movements, preparation for aliyah, and the reinforcement of successful settlements founded by Transylvanian immigrants in Palestine.
 This article mentions only those Zionist trends which took part in the settlememt of Palestine during the inter-war period.
 On the place of the inter-war
Zionist movement in Transylvanian Jewish history, see: Shlomo Itzhaki, "Al
Yahadut Transilvania" (On the Jews of Transylvania) in Yahadut
 For a detailed description of the activities of Transylvanian Zionist movement forefathers, see: Moshe Carmilly-Weinberger, op. cit., pp. 147–162
On the integration of Transylvanian Jews within Romanian
Jewry, see Raphael Vágó, Sugiot
 Ernő Gál, "Kettős kisebbségben" in Korunk, 1991, no. 8, p. 959.
 Chava Eichler (ed.), Reshitah shelf Hatnuaiz Haleumit Hayeizudit be-Transilvania K'tayim mezichronotav size/ Haim Weissburg (The Beginnings of the Jewish National Movement in Transylvania - Fragments from the Memoirs of Haim Weissburg - henceforth Weissburg's Memoirs), unpublished manuscript in Hebrew translation, Strochlitz Institute Archives, Haifa University, n.d., p. 1.
 Weissburg's Memoirs, see preface by the editor, Chava Eichler.
 Ibid. The Union's organizing assembly took place at the Urania Hall, Cluj. In his speech, Rabbi Moshe Glasner declared that "the days of the Messiah" had arrived, p. 10; Weissburg noted in his diary that: "The Jewish People has been reborn", p. 11.
 ltzhaki, "Yahadut Transilvania", p. 56.
 Weissburg's Memoirs, p. 46. Weissburg borrowed the concept of personal autonomy from Ukrainian Jewry, who after the Kerenski revolution demanded the right of self-government for their internal affairs. It meant, that every Jew had rights as an individual, not as part of a group.
 Ibid., p. 47.
 Ibid., p. 48.
 Hillel Danzig, "The Zionist Movement", p. 39.
 p. 40.
 Itzhaki, "Yahadut Transilvania", p. 57.
 Moshe Carmilly-Weinberger, op. cit., pp. 137-138; Weissburg's Memoirs, pp. 31-32. Poet-writer János Giskalay (1887-1957) was known also under the namesDavid Vidder and Jochanan Gush-Chalay.
 A detailed description of Jewish and Hebrew schools
in Transylvania during the inter-war period
can be found in Shlomo Itzhaki's M.A. paper: Batei sefer yehudiyim be-Transilvania bein shtei milhamot haolam (The Jewish Schools in Transylvania during the Inter-War Period),
 Hillel Danzig, "The Zionist Movement", p. 40.
 Ibid., p. 47.
 Béla Vágó, "Yahadut Transilvania Hazfonit - Netunim Historiim ve Geografiim"
North Transylvanian Jewry - Historical and Geographical Facts) in Pinkas Kehilloth
 Moshe Glasner, Der Zionismus und seine Nebenerscheinungen in/ Lichte der Religion see Moshe Carmilly-Weinberger, op. cit., p. 157.
 Itzhaki, "Yahadut Transilvania", p. 61.
 Hillel Danzig, "The Zionist Movement", p. 47.
 Weissburg 's Memoirs, p. 40.
 Yehuda Talmi (of Braşov) and Dov Keren (of
 Menachem Shimon, "The Story of Hashomer Hatzair in Transylvania" in Shlomo Itzhaki and Gedaliahu Ya'akobi (eds.), Neurim shel! Ta'am - Hashomer Hatzair be-Transilvania 1929-1949, [Meaningful Years, (henceforth Neurim she/ Ta'am)], Givat Haviva, 1991, p. 16.
 28 Interview with Yehuda Talmi and Dov Keren, members of Hanoar Hazioni, a centrist-liberal movement (see n. 25).
 Menachem Shimon's memoirs in Neurim shel Ta'am, p. 16.
 Weissburg's Memoirs, pp. 40-41; see also, Hillel Danzig, "The Zionist Movement", p. 41.
 32 ltzhaki, "Yahadut Transilvania", p. 58
 Moshe Avidan, Zichronot: Me-Barissia ad Ha-Bonim (Memoirs: From Barissia to
Habonim), unpublished manuscript,
Strochlitz Institute Archives,
 Ibid., p. 3.
 Shlomo Zimroni, Toldot Ha-Zionut Hadatit be-Transilvania [(The Religious Zionism in Transylvania), unpublished
manuscript, Strochlitz Institute Archives,
 Ibid., pp. 32-33.
 37 Itzhaki, "Yahadut Transilvania", p. 59.
 Interview with Yehuda Talmi and Dov Keren on the situation in Hanoar Hazioni summer camps; Menahem Shimon in Neurim shel Ta'am, p. 22, on Hashomer Hatzair summer camps.
 Daniel Stark's memoirs in Neurim shel Ta 'am, p. 51
 Ibid., pp. 51–53.
 Mordechai Becker–s memoirs in Haim Hermesh (ed.), Shima Lamakor (Back to the Source), Kfar Glickson, 1989, pp. 9–10.
 Moshe Avidan, Zichronot: Me-Barissia ad Ha-Bonim, pp. 6–8.
 Shmaya Avni, Hanoar Hazioni be-Romania 1939-1949 (Hanoar Hatzioni in Romania 1939-1949), n.p. 1992, p. 17.
Central Zionist Archives,
 C.Z.A., S6/1894, (July 12, 1938). The leadership of the Transylvanian Zionist movement at Timişoara addressed Jerusalem directly, complaining that the Bucharest Palestine Office was against formation of an hachsharah farm in Transylvania.
 C.Z.A., S6/1894, (July 26, 1938).
 C.Z.A., KKL 3/129/5, Abstract from Herman Paneth's report of July 28, 1921.
 C.Z.A., S 15/20494, (May 26, 1922), Paneth's letter to Keren Kayemet, Jerusalem.
 C.Z.A., KKL 3/129/5, (September 28, 1922).
 C.Z.A., S 15/4575, doe. 094/45.
 Daniel Stark's memoirs in Neurim she/ Ta'am, pp. 52-62.
 Noomi and Naftali Katz's memoirs in Haim Hermesh (ed.), Shiva Laurakor (Back to the Source), Kfar Glickson, 1989, pp. 15-16.