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Briv funem Arkhiv: Yehoash Signs the Hotel Klibitsky’s Guestbook

Shifra Epstein

INTRODUCTION

In geveb’s briv funem arkhiv (letters from the archive) series highlights archival finds that are too good not to share. You can learn more and submit your own briv here, or see all briv posts here.

During my research in November 2018 in the Archive of the City of Rehovot, the chief archivist, Hadas Avivi, showed me a copy of the guest book of the Hotel Klibitsky. A note written in Hebrew and signed by the distinguished Yiddish poet and translator Solomon Bloomgarden (1872–1927), known by the pen name Yehoash, reads: “The Sages counted three good qualities in inns: nice meal, nice friends and nice reception, all of which one can find at the Hotel Klibitsky.”

Yehoash, his wife Flora, and his daughter Evelyn-Chava settled in Rehovot about a month after his arrival in Palestine and stayed from January 14, 1914, until April 23, 1914, just when the First World War erupted. Due to a shortage of housing in Rehovot in early 1914, Yehoash lived in the legendary Hotel Klibitsky with his wife Flora and daughter Evelyn-Chava for their almost four months in Rehovot.

According to his New York Times obituary, Yehoash “identified himself with the ‘Jewish Renaissance’ in the ancient land of the Jewish people.” He wanted to improve his Arabic as part of his plan to translate the Bible to Arabic. He preferred Rehovot, then a moshava (farming settlement), to Tel Aviv. The famous writer and Zionist leader Moshe Smilansky (1875-1953), whom Yehoash befriended, was instrumental in his choice of Rehovot. He loved Rehovot’s sun, trees, and flowers, especially the mimosa. Yehoash’s idea was to start a Yiddish colony in Rehovot for writers, artists, and musicians.

Hotel Klibitsky featured quite frequently in Yehoash’s travelogue Fun Nyu-York biz Rehovot un tzurik, in which the writer described his boat travel to Palestine and his residency there, including descriptions of the guests he met, the owner of the hotel, and the women working there.

The hotel occupies a special place in Rehovot history. It was founded in 1908 by Yaakov Ben Zion Klibitsky on Benjamin Street, the first street in Rehovot, and operated until around 1920. For many years the hotel was managed by Klibitsky and his wife, his daughter Rachel Golib, and her husband, Isaac Yizchak Bodin. The hotel was popular among locals as well as visitors from abroad. Hayyim Nachman Bialik, the national poet of Israel, and the Yiddish writer Sholem Asch both frequented the hotel when visiting Palestine. Many guests came to Rehovot, known for its wine-making, to observe the celebration in connection to the grape harvest.

Many years after Yehoash left Palestine, Rehovot recognized him by naming a downtown alley after him. Unfortunately, the alley is far away from the headquarters of Rehovot Electric Company on Benjamin Street no. 16, where the Hotel Klibitsky once stood. For the past three years, I have been trying to convince Zohar Blum, vice mayor of Rehovot, to put a plaque on the entrance to Rehovot Electric Company to honor Yehoash, so far without success.


Selections from Yehoash’s

Fun Nyu-York biz Rehovot un tzurik, vol. 2 (1917)

מיר זײַנען ניט מער קײן בני־יחידים אין אונדזער האָטעל, יעדער טאָג ברענגט אַלץ נײַע געסט, פֿאַרשײדענע מינים ייִדן פֿון פֿאַרשײדענע לענדער.

עס קומען לאָנג־בערדיקע ייִדן, װאָס אַז עס פֿאַלט אַרױס אַ האָר פֿון זײער באָרד לעגען זײ אים אַרײַן צװישן די בלעטער פֿון אַ זוהר. און עס קומען אַזעלכע װאָס האָבן ניט קײן שום סימן פֿון ייִדישקײַט ניט אױפֿן פּנים און ניט אין זײער שרפּראַך און מע מוז זײ גלױבן אױפֿן װאָרט.

אַ קבוץ גליִות...

We are no longer alone at the hotel. Each day brings new guests, different kinds of Jews from different countries.

Jews with long beards come, the kind who place a hair between the pages of their Zohar when it falls from their beards. Other Jews came with no signs of Jewishness, not on their faces nor in their language, you just had to take them at their word

A real ingathering of the exile. 1 1 Yehoash, Fun Nyu-York biz Rehovot un tzurik, vol. 2 (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1917), 64. Available online via the Yiddish Book Center.

נעכטן זײַנען אָנגעקומען דרײַ נײַע געסט. אַלע דרײַ בכבודע בעלי־בתישע חסידים פֿון קאַלישער געגענד. אײנער, מיט אַ געדיכטער ברױנער באָרד, איס אַן עקאָנאָם אין אַ גרױסן גוט. ער האָט דערױף אַ סימן. אױף דער רעכטער האַנד פֿעלט דער גראָבער פֿינדער. ער האָט באַװיזן די אַרבײטער װי זיך נוהג צו זײַן מיט אַ דרעש־מאַשין, האָט די דרעש־מאַשין זיך צוגעאײלט און אים אַרונטערגעכאַפּט אַ פֿינגער.

די דרײַ אידן זײַנען אַהער געקומען זעען אױב זײ װעלן ניט קריגן קױפֿן אין גלײַכן געלט אַ שטיק לאַנד אָדער אַ פּרדס. אױב זײ װעלן געפֿינען עפּעס רעכץ, װעלן זײ פֿאָרן אַהײם ליקװידירן זײערע געשעפֿטן און װעלן אַריבערברענגען זשער זײערע פֿאַמיליִעס.

Yesterday, three new guests arrived. All three are respectable bourgeois Hasidim from the Kalisz area. One of them, with a thick brown beard, is a steward of a large estate. He has proof of this: his right hand is missing a thumb. He was showing a worker how to operate a threshing machine and the machine cut off his thumb.

They came to find out if they can find a piece of land or an orchard for a reasonable sum of money. If they find something reasonable, they will travel back home, liquidate their businesses, and bring their families along. 2 2 Yehoash, Fun Nyu-York biz Rehovot un tzurik, 65. Available online via the Yiddish Book Center.

אין אונדזער האָטעל שטײט אײַן אַ דײַטשער ציאָניסט, דער אינזשיניר ט...

ער איז אַ מאַן אין די פֿערציקער, פֿעסט געבױט און פֿון מיטעלען װוּקס. אָנגעטאָן גײט ער שטענדיק אין קאַקי. אױפֿן קאָפּ טראָגט ער אַן ענגלישן לײװענטקיװער און אױף די פֿיס לאַנגע שטיװל. צום האָטעל קומט ער אַל פּי רוּװ צורײטן אױף אַ קלײנעם אײַזל.

ט. איז געבױרן געװאָרן און דערצױגן אין דײַטשלאַנד, אָבער ער איז שױן אױסגעװעזן אַ װעלט. אַ לאַנגע צײַט האָט ער פֿאַרבראַכט אין זיד אַמעריקע. דערנאָך איז ער געװען אין די פֿאַרײניקטע שטאַטן. שפּעטער האָט ער אָנגענומען אַ שטעלע פֿון אינזשיניר אונדער דער דײַטשער רעגירונג אין אײנער פֿון די דײַטשע קאָלאָניִעס אין זיד־אַפֿריקע.

A German Zionist, the engineer T., is staying in our hotel.

He is a man in his forties, solidly built and of medium height. He is always dressed in khaki. On his head he wears an English canvas helmet. He wears long boots. He usually comes to the hotel riding on a small donkey.

He was born somewhere in Germany, but he has seen the world already. He spent a lot of time in South America, and then later in the United States. Later he took a position as an engineer working for the German government in one of the German colonies in South Africa. 3 3 Yehoash, Fun Nyu-York biz Rehovot un tzurik, 71. Available online via the Yiddish Book Center.

MLA STYLE
Epstein, Shifra. “Briv funem Arkhiv: Yehoash Signs the Hotel Klibitsky’s Guestbook.” In geveb, May 2020: https://ingeveb.org/blog/briv-funem-arkhiv-yehoash-signs-the-hotel-klibitskys-guestbook.
CHICAGO STYLE
Epstein, Shifra. “Briv funem Arkhiv: Yehoash Signs the Hotel Klibitsky’s Guestbook.” In geveb (May 2020): Accessed Aug 09, 2020.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shifra Epstein

Dr. Shifra Epstein is an independent folklorist living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.