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Baruch Ostrovsky

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Baruch Ostrovsky

Baruch Ostrovsky
Mayor of Raanana
In office
1931–1959
Personal details
Born (1890-10-10)October 10, 1890
Ukraine, Russia
Died July 17, 1960(1960-07-17) (aged 69)
Israel
Spouse(s) Feiga Ostrovsky
Children Shoshana, Ben-Zion, Ayala

Baruch Ostrovsky (1890–1960; Hebrew: ברוך אוסטרובסקי‎), the first mayor of Raanana, served as mayor for 28 years. He championed democracy, equality, education and organized Jewish labor.

Biography

Baruch Ostrovsky was born in Ukraine, in the town of Rogachov, in 1890. In early childhood, receiving a traditional education, he already demonstrated a craving for higher education and Zionism. In 1912 he immigrated to Palestine alone, laboring with the pioneers of the Second Aliyah and joining the HaShomer organization. A year later, he departed for the U.S. with the intention of marrying his fiancée, who had by then arrived there from Ukraine. The political situation—the outbreak of World War I—obstructed his plans to return at once with his family.

In the USA

In 1913 he took part in the founding of Ahuza Alef in New York, an organization dedicated to the purchase of lands and the establishment of a Hebrew settlement, to be inhabited by Jews tilling their own soil.


While in the US, Ostrovsky earned his living teaching a wide variety of subjects, including Hebrew, history, Bible, as well as Yiddish. He became a renowned and respected educational figure, as director and inspector of schools as well as principal of the teacher's seminary of the Workmen's Circle Jewish educational system. Contemporaneously with his educational work, Ostrovsky was active in the Zionist Movement's labor organization, Poale Zion, with the leaders David Ben-Gurion, Ber Borochov and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. He directed and published the Youth Organizations' journal.

In Eretz Israel

In 1930 Ostrovsky finally succeeded in fulfilling his Zionist ambition by giving up his comfortable existence in the USA and settling in Raanana, a small town in the Sharon plain, with his wife and two children.

"As a Zionist, I abandoned my source of income, the respected position I acquired in America as the principal of a high school in NY, as the head of the Jewish Teachers' Union, as editor of a Jewish Journal and as author of Yiddish school books and immigrated to Eretz Yisrael. A Zionist is not only said ..." (Excerpt from Ostrovsky's Diary)

Ostrovsky regarded Raanana as his life project and as mayor, he dedicated himself fully and wholeheartedly to Raanana's construction and development. His public service was a non-paid voluntary post as he refused payment in excess of the salary of an agricultural day laborer, which he was earning. The equivalent of his municipal salary formed a lending fund at the disposal of the needy. Many of the early settlers of Raanana benefited from his support. He displayed sincere concern for the welfare and rights of the laborers. He joined forces to form a variety of beneficial enterprises: a unified labor office, a unified front protecting organized Jewish labor, a joint health fund (kupat holim) for all inhabitants of the town, and the establishment of a lending and savings bank; also, the organization of a permanent water supply system for the town.

Ostrovsky's activities as a supporter of organized Jewish labor are augmented by his campaign for laborers' voting rights—deprived from the new-comers by the older Jewish settlements taking advantage of the mandate's discriminatory set of laws. His modest mode of life, scorning all forms of luxury and excess, placed him on equal ground with the hard working and low earning inhabitants of his town. He nurtured good relations with the neighboring Arab villagers, particularly with those of Hirbet Azun. He set high standards for the city as a 'green' settlement, promoted equality and the welfare of citizens, and laid the foundation stones of many public and educational institutions.

In the mid 1930s, Ostrovsky had already laid the foundations and infrastructure for factories to be built in the settlement of Raanana. In December 1949, he initiated the establishment of the industrial zone and directed his efforts to the building of the first industrial plants. This was part of an endeavor to create job opportunities for new immigrants and existing residents alike. "We deal with industry exactly as we deal with agriculture" (quoted from the minutes of a local council meeting on 2.1.1951).

Baruch Ostrovsky was a lover of books and his 4000 volume library, encompassing a wide variety of subjects – on the history of the Zionist organization, on Eretz Yisrael, history, philosophy, education, literature and encyclopedias – were at the disposal of those eager to broaden their knowledge in the developing town.

Ostrovsky envisioned the plans for Raanana's first high school though he did not live to see it. Late in his life he wrote:

"We emigrated from America, not to be capitalists or land-owners, but rather to be Jews and live amongst Jews in an independent Jewish State, a democratic existence of equality, wherein everyone will be capable of earning his living – even if we are the sole followers of this socialistic system."

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