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The rise of the Będzin Jewish gymnazie [high school] “Yavne” {cont.}


[Page 76]


But with luck for the school, at that time arose a new hope that was fulfilled by the liberal donor, Sz. Fürstenberg, who in the last years interested himself in and materially supported the gymnazie and promised to build a special building for it. Based on Fürstenberg's declaration, the then Doctor Herszberg – who, by the way, made great gains on behalf of the of the development of the gymnazie – with Majer Potasz, visited the inspector, Morawski, about giving the school public rights. The inspector agreed to it, but on the condition that Fürstenberg would send to the trustees a written statement that he would build a special building for the gymnazie. Fürstenberg immediately sent a letter of assurance about the matter and as a result the school was saved from failure. The gymnazie received public rights and, as a result, in that school year had a great number of students who took final exams in their own school premises.

At the beginning of the school year of 1929-30 the gymnazie was transferred to Fürstenberg's beautiful building and the name of the school, “Yavne,” was changed to the Coeducational gymnazie of Szymon Fürstenberg and his wife.

From then on a new epoch began for the gymnazie whose history at first continued in the pursuit of development and whose potential secured a great and magnificent future.



The Coeducational Public School, Gymnazie and Lycée named for Szymon Fürstenberg and his wife

When the results of the World War began to break the shackles with which the czardom [area ruled by a czar] had put former Congress Poland in chains, the previously suppressed striving towards light and knowledge by Jewish society as “People of the Book” with an elemental power began to cover the land with a network of their own school system, and in the area of Zagłębie in 1917, arose in Będzin a Jewish teaching and educational institution under the name “Yavne.”

However, founding a school does not mean securing its existence and development possibilities and so it began for the school – after a short period of enthusiasm – a time of extraordinary difficulties, struggles with the hard realities.

The greatest trouble was the lack of a proper building for the school. Being a tenant in a private building with neighbors next to it as well as in crowded premises, it was impossible for the school leaders to secure appropriate hygienic conditions and this also disturbed the setting up of modern laboratories, reading rooms, recreation rooms, and so on. This lack of a gymnastics room and an appropriate sports area again hindered the work of physical development of the young so that the education of the students, both in the intellectual and in the physical realm remained very backward. In such conditions one could not even dream about income for the school appropriate for the state gymnazies.

But in a moment of depression and despair when the further management of the school became very problematic, Sz. Fürstenberg, the president, appeared as the savior and declared that he would build a special building for the gymnazie at his own expense.


Bed-076b.jpg [14 KB] - Szymon Fürstenberg
Bed-076a.jpg [15 KB] - Helene Fürstenberg
Szymon Fürstenberg Helene Fürstenberg


And thus his promise was converted into a reality during the school year of 1928-29, but with this difference. In place of the modest building, which the local community imagined, a splendid, modern school building with all of the requirements that were necessary for school life was built.

The school building stood among green fields and gardens through which meandered the Black Przemsza River and even though the school stood in the city one had the impression that it stood far from the city's tumult.


[Page 77]


Bed-077b.jpg [14 KB] - A fragment of the main steps
A fragment of the main steps


The inside with the truly splendid equipment charmed the eye of a visitor and with the first look it was immediately noticed that this is not a common residence that was by chance changed into a school, but this is a specially built institution of knowledge and education from which springs a true joy of living. It is not easy to describe the beauty of the classrooms, laboratories, studies, library, gymnazie, sports areas, school garden, swimming pool and other glorious accommodations. This all had to be seen by oneself in order to be able to admire it. The school, which in thanks to its builder received the name, Coeducational gymnazie named for Szymon Fürstenberg and his wife, was, in one word, one of the most beautiful Jewish institutions of learning in Poland and it was a true Garden of Eden for the young who were educated there.

It is no wonder that with such extraordinarily favorable conditions the early numbers almost tripled and reached a number of over 500 students who came not only from Będzin, but from all of Zagłębie, Upper Silesia and farther localities. The reason for this was that the discussed school was most of all thought of as the central Jewish teaching and educational institution for Zagłębie and Upper Silesia.

It can be asserted with certainty that the hygienic conditions were just as in a sanatorium.

The equipment in the classrooms with most modern tools allowed a turn to the newest scientific study methods based on the active partnership of the young and their teachers in all areas of pedagogic-educational activity. This method created an intimate relationship between the educators and their students who thought of the school as their second home.


Bed-077a.jpg [30 KB] - A fragment of the physics laboratory
A fragment of the physics laboratory


Therefore, they were found there, not only in the morning for the actual instruction but also in the afternoon when they spent time in the reading room, offices, sports area, at the short-wave station, at the orchestra practice or at the work of the school self management committee and so on.

In regard to the pedagogical-scientific level of the teaching institution, the facts give witness that the state school regime in May of the school year 1934-35 by way of acknowledgement of the school gave it the full rights of a state gymnazie, which were known by the name: category A. The above mentioned school was the only one in the Kielce province that attained these highest rights.

In connection with the reorientation of the school system in Poland, which introduced a four-year gymnazie with subsequent two year lycée [upper secondary school] with various divisions, the local institution faced problems in creating a lycée. And it appeared that the school regime recognized the right of the local teaching institution to create three types of lycées: a humanist, a natural science and physical-mathematical. In as much as in this moment the Jewish school system in Zagłębie needed only two types of lycées, two divisions in the school year 1937-38: a humanistic and a natural science, and a physical-mathematical division would be opened if it also were needed in the future. It must be mentioned that the newly opened lycées possessed the full right of state lycées (category A).

There was also a six grade public school at the gymnazie with all of the government rights where there was a corresponding group for whom Judaic studies was appropriate and foreign languages (French and English) were taught.


[Page 78]


Parallel with the general instruction, there developed the Judaic scholars, which took in the following disciplines: religion, the Hebrew language, Tanach [Bible], Talmud, Jewish history and the geography of Palestine. The number of hours that were dedicated to Judaic studies amounted to – corresponding to the regulations of the school regime – 36 hours a week. [And] a complement to a Jewish national education, building the Judaic informal clubs, such as the scout organization under the name, “Hatsofah.”

With the help of the parents committee, with Helene Fürstenberg at the head as the honorary chairwoman, which found itself in close contact with the school management, generous campaigns were carried out geared to nourishment and clothing on behalf of the young for whom summer and winter colonies [camps] were arranged and care was given to their sanitary and hygienic conditions.

Special words of comment [should be said] about the enduring teaching institution and its communal-philanthropic character that found its expression in giving discounted and even free spots for poor, capable children in Zagłębie and Upper Silesia.

There was surely not another school in the entire Jewish school system in Poland that could fulfill its communal-philanthropic task so deeply and widely in regard to the poor youth as did the local gymnazie. This activity was only possible thanks to the untiring self-sacrifice on the part of the president, Sz. Fürstenberg and his wife, who took the school under their steady support and who also decided in 1938 to erect the school building, to arrange tennis courts and its own rowing dock in the area of the educational institution.


Bed-078.jpg [20 KB] - The gymnastics hall
The gymnastics hall


It needs to be underlined that both during the laying of the foundation stone and during the opening of the new building, Chairman Fürstenberg did not permit any celebration, but without noise, the children went from the old premises into the new school building. At the time the deficit of the “Yavne” School had reached around 18,000 guilder which was covered by chairman Fürstenberg.

Finally, it must be mentioned that at the time of the opening of the new school building, the direction of the gymnazie was taken over by the well known pedagogue and scientist, author of an entire series of scientific works, Dr. Dovid Ejnhorn, thanks to whose energy and administrative insight the school reached such high achievement.



The “Mizrachi School” “Yavne”

The school was founded in 1920 at the initiative of a group of “Mizrachi” community workers headed by L. Buchwajc and at the start it carried the name, “Beit-Sefer Mizrachi.” Gradually the school developed so far in the course of a year that the number of students reached more than 200. First class pedagogic strength was employed in the area of Judaic and general secular matters. The school quickly received a good reputation among the most widespread spheres of religious-national Jewry in our city and in the surrounding areas. It should be mentioned that a large number of Zionist youth from all groupings and directions received their upbringing and education in the “Yavne” School.

The school really blossomed when during the school year, 1930-31 the management was taken over by the leader of the “Torah Va'Avodah” [Torah and Work] movement in Poland, Dr. A. Gotesdiner (now in Eretz Yisrael). In that period, the school committee consisted of the well known “Mizrachi” community workers in Będzin, L. Buchwajc, J. M. Kurland, Jakob Najmark, Szlomo Lewin, Dawid Erlich and Chaim Gotfryd.

In 1931, when Ch. N. Bialik spent time in Będzin, he visited the “Yavne” School and expressed his appreciation to the educators and the committee members for their fruitful work that consisted of looking after and spreading the traditional ideas in the field of revitalized Jewry.

After Dr. Gotesdiner left the management, the school suffered a crisis, but thanks to the energetic work of the “Torah Va'Avodah” committee members, Mosze Lewin, Z. Metal, Ch. M. Zylberberg, J. Goldberg, Hersz Telner, Ch. D. Grynwald and others, all of the difficulties were overcome successfully and the maintenance of the school and its further existence was assured. At that time the school became a cooperative of the teachers.

The Judaic subjects were taught under the supervision of a special pedagogic council that consisted of the following members: Ch. Welner, M. Manela, Lewin, A. Perl and Ch. M. Zylberberg.


[Page 79]


The educational program took in the entire course of a public school, as well as a wide area of Judaic information with a special concentration on the Hebrew language. The group of teachers consisted of 12 people, of them seven for secular subjects and five for Judaic subjects. Today the number of students is about 140.

Special merit for the school belongs to the “Mizrachi”communal worker, Hilel Zabner, who was one of two of its founders. At the head of secular studies is Berkowicz, the director.

In conclusion, it must be remembered that the school belongs to the network of “Yavne” schools in Poland.




The Cheder “Yesodei Hatorah”
[Foundations of the Torah elementary school]

The cheder [school for young children] was founded in (1917)* by the Agudat Ha'Orthodoksim [Orthodox Union], later Agudat Shlomei Emunei Yisrael [Union of Faithful Jewry], today Agudat Yisrael [non-Zionist orthodox movement] and at first was located at Modrzejówer Street, 64.

[Translator's note: The date “1917” appears in parenthesis as if it is a translation from the Hebrew date, which is not given. The date “1917” is probably an error because the year “1915” is mentioned in the next paragraph as the year the school moved.]
In 5675 [1915], the number of students grew so much that it was necessary to think about its own large building. Thanks to the initiative of the Gerer Rabbi (who came to Będzin especially because of this), with the cooperation of the Radomsker Rabbi and the following members of the above mentioned organizations: Mendl Szapira, Lipe Kaminer, Szlomo Jicchak Rinski, Jicchak Majer Szenberg, Berl Recht, Mosze Chaim Kaminer and Majer Beri, a large three-story building was bought on Małachowski Street, where the cheder moved and where it is located today.

Jechiel Winer and Wolf Werdyger helped with large sums of money at the purchase of the house. Nachum Cukerman gave the school a portion of the lot that is found near the building.

In the course of its existence the cheder graduated many thousands of students, among whom are found rabbis, geniuses and well known communal workers.

The cheder was visited by the greatest prominent Jews and Torah authorities of Poland, among whom were found the Rabbis from Ger, Sochaczew, Radomsk, Sokołów, as well as Rabbi Szapiro (founder of Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin [a Talmudic college]) and other rabbis who expressed their enthusiasm and satisfaction with the cheder.

Today more than 400 students with Hasidic and middle class parents study in the cheder. The students become proficient in a group of sacred subjects and go through a program of a seven-grade public school. Thus the cheder possesses the same rights as the public schools (“powszechnie” [universal]).

The program of sacred subjects consists of beginning, elementary learning for small children (1, 2) up to Gemara [Talmudic commentaries], psukim [supplementary commentary] and tosafot [post-Talmudic commentary]) and the secular subjects are the same as in all of the seven-grade schools.

There are also business courses at the cheder for those students who have already graduated from the seven grades of secular subjects.

The man in charge (manager) of the sacred subjects was the Reb Jecheskel Zajdenbajtel of Warsaw, a well known pedagogue and great scholar, whose personnel consisted of 14 qualified teachers. Rabbi Zajdenbajtel was the founder of the first Foundation of the Torah cheder in Warsaw since the first day of its establishment.

Reb Nuta Guter of Łódź, the well known pedagogue and very talented speaker was the supervisor and spiritual educator.

Men prominent in worldly subjects such as J. Rapoport (the director of the “Powszechnie” School No. 2) managed the personnel of 44 qualified teachers. The cheder altogether employed around 40 people.


Bed-079.jpg [19 KB] - The teaching personnel of the “Mizrachi” school
The teaching personnel of the “Mizrachi” school “Yavne,”
with a number of the students

Standing from the right: W. Fajner, Zabner, Ajzenberg, Wajnrajch,
the manager of the school, Berkowicz, Fajner, Ajzenberg, Zyder, Traub


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