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Mein Kind (cont.)

School and Hachshara

I have good memories of Yosef Slep (now Yavnai), who taught me Hebrew. At the beginning we spoke with the Ashkenazi pronunciation, and later we changed to the Sephardic pronunciation, “because that is how they speak in Eretz Yisrael”. I recall that when I arrived for the Hanukah vacation from Utian [Utena], I encountered the teacher Hillel Schwarz who asked me questions in Hebrew in the Ashkenazi pronunciation, in a way that amuses me to this day: “Slava, ze noihen?” [is it true?] as opposed to “ze nahon” in the Sephardic pronunciation…

I went to study in Utian the age of fourteen. Because of the distance [about 30 km] we went home infrequently. For the Sabbath I used to go to my childless uncle in Vizhun [Vyžuonos].

And when the progymnasia[2] opened in Rokishki [Rokiškis], I transferred to there.

In Rokishki I lived with my aunt, my father's sister. She had two children and I felt very good there. Nevertheless, the following year I asked to live with my girlfriends, Rivka Milun, Lanka Viskolsky and Reinka Levin. We all lived in one room.

 

Letter to the Dusiat Community Council

 

Rokishki Hebrew Progymnasion

To the Dusiat Community Council

Letter Written in Hebrew[3]

With the enclosed program of the first three forms of the Hebrew Progymnasion in Rokishki, we hereby wish to inform you that the first three forms of the progymnasion have presently been opened. The fourth form will be opened immediately after Sukkoth. The progymnasion is under the direction of an experienced principal and qualified teachers with general and Hebrew education.

Studies in all the forms will begin immediately after Sukkoth, in accordance with a plan in which a new form should be opened each year, until within a short time the progymnasion will become a gymnasion and to an important institution of intermediate learning.

The progymnasion has already been accepted by the network of secondary schools in Lithuania, so that anyone completing one form in the Hebrew Progymnasion in Rokishki can be accepted, without being required to take a test, to the next form in all the Hebrew gymnasia in Lithuania: Panevezys, Kaunas, Virbalis, and so forth.

The necessary steps have already been taken to receive the rights of the national progymnasia.

It is certain that these rights will be received at the start of the Christian year.

Taking into account the aspiration for education in general and for humanistic Hebrew education in particular among the ranks of our people, we permit ourselves to inform you of the necessity of such an institution in our region. Many of those who complete elementary school in the shtetls are unable to fulfill these aspirations, and not all of them have the opportunity to wander and knock at the doors of the Torah in Kaunas and Panevesys. It is clear that the opening of the gymnasion in our city - which serves as a well-known financial center for many shtetls in the area that are in constant contact and negotiation with Rokishki - is an important step for a major public act to make it easier for those from your shtetl who have finished elementary school and wish to be accepted to our progymnasion, and in a way that we hope will also turn Rokishki into a miniature spiritual center for the area.

In addition, we hereby inform you that people from other shtetls will receive a major discount in tuition in comparison to other schools.

Students will also be accepted immediately after Sukkoth.

With utmost respect and the blessings of the Hebrew language and education,

The Planning Committee of the Progymansion

Rokishki, September 17, 1922

Cultural Committee

 

Fifth Form of the Hebrew Tarbut Progymnasia in Rokishki, May 19, 1928
Students from Dusiat: Slovka Segal (standing fourth from the left)
and Itale Orlin (seated second from the left)

 

From right to left, standing: Slovka Segal, Rivka Milun and Lanka Visakolsky
Seated: Itale Orlin and Reinka Levin

 

In my time the Gentiles had already instigated not to buy in Jewish shops, and there were slogans on the shops, in Lithuanian: “Savas pas savo” [each to his own], and on the banner of the Varslininkai [Lithuanian nationalist movement] it said, in Lithuanian: “Non-Lithuanian shopkeepers and tradesmen are cheating you!

The daughters of the Lithuanian pharmacist were anti-Semitic, and when walking in the street in the shtetl they used to turn their head in order not to look at the Jews! Such incidents only increased our desire to leave the Diaspora and make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

 

The Lithuanian merchants and tradesmen were unionized in the Varslas organization, which later on became a distinctively anti-Semitic organization. The wild behavior of the Varslas members increased at the end of the 1930s under the influence of the Nazi successes and conquests in Europe.[4]

In 1932 there were 14,000 Jewish-owned shops in Lithuania, as opposed to 2,100 shops owned by non-Jews. In 1936 there were only 12,000 Jewish shops and 10,200 non-Jewish shops. This trend of a decline in Jewish trade worsened during the late 1930s.[5]

 

My parents didn't agree to let me make aliya to Eretz Yisrael. “You are a pretty girl.” They thought that only the unattractive young women made aliya

I went to hachshara in Mazayek [Mazaikiai] near Shavli [Siauliai], without permission from my parents. When I sent them a letter, they were filled with worry and flooded me with letters.

On hachshara I taught and helped students, and from that period I have good memories of Superintendent Levitan, who also helped us when we came to Eretz Yisrael.

I left for hachshara before Rosh Hashana [New Year], and returned home before Pesach [Passover].

I met my Toli [Naftali Sarver] while in Rokishki. He used to distribute a Hashomer Hatzair weekly paper and other academic material, and one day he also came to my aunt's house. In her absence I didn't have the money to pay him, and I apologized. Our relationship developed from that day.

The hachshara period ended and I returned home. And four days before Passover Toli also arrived in the shtetl. I remember that I was standing in the doorway of our little shop, when I suddenly saw him. He came up to my parents and kissed them. He did it in such a natural and obvious way, and I was so excited. That was his first visit!

Toli studied photography with the photographer Chanan Sneiderman in Rokishki – where Micha Slep also studied photography. Toli's beautiful photographs – in color as well – perpetuated the beautiful spots of my shtetl Dusiat before I left it.

 

The originals of the two photos below were produced in color by Naftali.

 

Naftali Sarver and Slovka Segal
“In the village Baleysh [Bileisiai], in the field of Rosegass, how happy I was”
June 18, 1933

 

Footnotes

  1. The equivalence of the beginning classes of the full gymnasium (high school), with the rights to continue education in a gymnasium. “Pro” means “instead of”. Return
  2. From the Dusiat Archive at YIVO, documents 8457 / 8488 Return

  3. [13] Neshamit-Shner, Sara. Hayu Chalutzim B'Lita, Beit Lohamei Haghetaot and Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1983. [There were Pioneers in Lithuania. Story of the Movement 1916-1941.] p. 16. Return

  4. [14] Ibid, p. 310 note 14. Return

 

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