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[Page 78]

The Yidishe Gymnazie

by S. Wirstel

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund


The Yidishe [Jewish] Gymnazie [secondary school] in Czenstochow was founded in 1917. The opening of the school made a great impression in Czenstochow. At that time interest in Hebrew grew strongly in connection with the Balfour Declaration and with the opportunity for a larger emigration to Eretz-Yisroel.

Students from all strata of the Jewish population began to stream into the gymnazie: children with Hasidic parents, who had just been studying in a kheder [traditional primary school], children of half-assimilated parents who did not know how to read or write Hebrew, had only studied in Polish schools, and, naturally, children of nationalist Jews and Zionists.

The school was called the Yidishe Gymnazie, but Yiddish was not taught or spoken there. Both the teachers and the students always used the Polish language, even outside the hours of study. A student was frowned upon even if he was permitted to speak Yiddish during the recess times. Even the Hebrew lessons were limited to a few hours a week. Only the Hebrew teacher and the students who had come from the kheder knew Hebrew.

The Hebrew teachers really rejoiced with these students and they achieved the greatest distinction for Hebrew, religion, Tanakh [The Five Books of Moses, Prophets and Writings] and Jewish history.

The gymnazie was founded on Jasna Street. A year later, it moved to its own spacious building at Szkolna Street 10.

At first, there were only the first, second and third classes, preparatory classes. Then the first and second classes for boys and girls separately. Then a higher class was added every year until the full eight gymnazie classes, that qualified [students for] study in the university.

Just like the Polish gymnazie in Czenstochow, the c also had its special uniform, in the form of a hat. The hat of a student from the Yidishe Gymnazie was of dark blue cloth with a blue-white stripe.

The first director of the gymnazie was Dr Shmuel Brisz, a tall man with a short, trimmed beard and a constant smile on his lips. He was beloved by the students because he devotedly felt his duty as director. After a short time, he had to leave his position because of illness. Professor Meir Balaban, now a holy martyr of Polish Jewry, took his place.

Professor Balaban was a very energetic man. He raised the Yidishe Gymnazie to a much higher level than before. He hired competent teachers and gave more time for Hebrew instruction. He increased the number of Hebrew teachers and introduced the study of religion and Tanakh. The Hebrew teachers of our class were Janowski, Rubinsztajn and Wajnberg. Of Jewish history - Brawer and Miss Stobiecka.

Janowski, our Hebrew teacher, would often invite us to his home and lent us books of modern, Hebrew literature from his valuable library.

Gymnastics at the Yidishe Gymnazie were led by the proficient professor, A. Krist. Professor Perec Wilenberg taught drawing.

 


A group of students from the Yidishe Gymnazie with Dr. Dovid Einhorn, the director

 

In addition to the above-mentioned teachers, I remember only Makrojer and Asorodobraj,

Of the women teachers I remember: Werchowska, Gizn, Wolf, Wajs and Latringer.

My closest colleagues were: Ahron Luksenburg, Dovid Lewit, Yakov Czeriker, Geniek Zisznicki, Eizner Wolman, Leyzer Rozenberg, Hochman, Lewkowicz (the last two are now

[Page 79]

in Argentina), Rotbard, Grindman, Kongrecki and Berliner.

After, Meir Balaban, the director, was invited to Warsaw to the Tachkemoni [Rabbinical] Seminar and his place in the gymnazie system was taken by Dr. Dovid Einhorn, a learned man who in the later years occupied an important place in the Jewish literary world.

In his time the gymnazie developed with relation to general instruction. However, they adapted so much to the government program for middle schools that the Hebrew subjects were reduced to a minimum.

The Hebrew language was spread outside of the gymnazie through Zionist youth organizations, particularly, Hashomer Hatzair [The Youth Guard - secular Socialist- Zionists].


Evening Courses

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund


Evening courses for the young workers first were created in 1920 at the workers club, Fareinikte [united], later at the central council of the professional unions and in 1926 at the Y. L. Peretz School.

 


Evening courses for young people with A. Chrabolowski

 

The emergence of the courses was connected with the organization of the youth group, Shtral [beam of light]. After the nursery and Folks-shuln [people's schools], the youth courses were the best that was done in the realm of the cultural development of the working young. Previously, the young along with the old comrades would pack the clubrooms and workers' meeting places and waste their time doing nothing.

The first organizers of the evening courses were the active workers from Shtral: Avraham Brat, S. Wegner, Alek Lewinsztajn, Moshe Lewinhof, Malka Danziger, Gliksman and others.

A group of students from the Hebrew Yidishe Gymnazie [Jewish secondary school] also belonged to Shtral. Their leaders were Matek Pliwacz and Eksztajn, who later become leading community activists in the workers movement, Matek Pliwacz with the “independents” and Eksztajn with the Bund.

In 1920 the courses were organized in the premises of the nursery number two, at Strazacka 10, with 40 to 50 children taking part, then on Garncarska in the house of the cooperative bakery where there were two divisions, separate for the young and for adults. The number of applicants was large so that there were not enough places for everyone. The premises could only accommodate approximately 90 to 100 students. In the courses emphasis was first given to teaching the young to learn to write, read and speak Yiddish correctly. However, in addition to Yiddish, they also studied: Polish, arithmetic, geography and natural science. During the summer

 


A group of students from the evening courses with the teachers and managing committee

 

excursions to the surrounding area were arranged almost every Shabbos in the morning. Popular talks about literature, history, social science and other topics took place during Shabbos afternoons. The evening courses also arranged gymnastic exercises and singing.

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The teacher of Yiddish and general speaking was A. Chrabolowski. The geography and natural science teacher – M. Kanowski, teacher at the gardening farm; Moritz Kremski led the gymnastic exercises.

The greatest benefit of the courses was that the majority of students learned to write Yiddish correctly. The students particularly liked poetry. They were read to aloud and they had a great desire to recite. In general, in Yiddish literature, there was a particularly enthusiastic response to [Y. L.] Peretz's short stories.

The young from various parties took part in the courses, as well many unaffiliated young people.

A number of the students had earlier belonged to the communist movement and a large number of those who belonged to Shtral later joined the communists. The majority of them had spent long years in the jails of “independent” Poland.

 

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