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[Pages 175/176]

About the Hebrew Education in Wladimir (Ludmir)

S. Rosenhek

Translated by Sara Mages

Edited by Jack Bader

In the period between the two world wars Ludmir was blessed with diligent students. However, the Hassidut light also hinted to guests, because the local people didn't tell much about the greatness of the author of “Tosafot Yom-Tov[1] or the author of “Turei Zahav[2] who were there, as they mentioned, from time to time, Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin, the founder of the Karliner dynasty, and pointed to the “Shtiebel[3] of the “Maiden of Ludmir”[4] as witnesses. This Hassidut was first seen in the nearby forests of Wolyn, like Trisk [Turiysk], Ołyka, Brezhna [Berëzno], where the Admorim[5] of other dynasties resided.

It had a blending of Polish Jewry spirit, Russian Jewry spirit, and the Jewry of nearby Galicia.

The elections to the Sejm[6] or to the city – and also to the Zionist Congress – were done publicly and big and small mobilized to advertise their side, and when it was time to establish a Hebrew School, its public activists invested their souls with great devotion and sincerity.

By the number of her Jews, Ludmir was the sixth among the cities of Polish Wolyn – after Równe, Lutsk, Kovel, Kremenets and Dubno, and also in public opinion. In trading, Ludmir was tied to nearby Lvov, more than to Warsaw. The affluent class showed a tendency for general education, while the other classes - the continuation of traditional education.

The Polish language was spoken by many merchants and store keepers, even before theannexation of Ludmir to renewed Poland (after the First World War). Out of this, quite a few difficulties piled up on the road to the establishment of a “Tarbut” Hebrew School[7]. The Polish authorities saw Ludmir as a semi-Polish city, and made it difficult for a non-Polish speaking school to exist. Indeed, the Polish authorities favored the national education of minorities in the eastern border district (at the beginning, immediately after the annexation of these districts to Poland). By doing so, it decreased the influence of the Russian language which was used there as the language of education first, and the spoken language later. At the same time, more than eighty percent of the Jewish children in the district of Wolyn and east of it, received their education from Jewish public institutions. But, as the Polish regime grew stronger, it added decree atop a decree, in order to constrain the minorities' national education. Under the pressure of the authorities, the Ukrainian schools became bilingual despite the legal foundation of the national education that was placed in the peace conference in Versailles.

According to the minority contract between Poland and the League of Nations (June 1919), the state had to establish and maintain, at its expense, schools for territorial minorities (meaning, the Ukrainians, the Belarusian and the like) in their own language.

In addition, it also had to allow the establishment and the maintenance of special schools for ethnic minorities, religious and linguistic –the Jews included – at its expense. And more, also to guarantee that these minority schools would receive “a suitable portion of enjoyment and use” from sums of money that the state will allocate and the cities would designate to educational institutions.

And indeed, before the occupation and immediately after, Hebrew elementary and high schools were established, mostly in the border sub-districts. Despite all the political and financial difficulties the Zionist community was able to win the public trust, and paved the road for new education. The Hebrew School (founded by “Tarbut”) aspired to prepare the young generation towards his pioneer duty in the full Hebrew revival spirit. The National Council, led by the forceful leadership of Yitzhak Greenbaum, struggled for the rights of Hebrew School, and managed to establish a unified Jewish block of all the Zionist parties with “Agudat Israel[8].

As stated, the attitude of the Polish government towards the national schools in the border districts, was more lenient than to the same schools in the districts of central Poland, and a uniform curriculum was also approved. But, the ministry of education only cared for the studies that were taught in Polish, and almost didn't care for those taught in Hebrew. The financial situation of the Hebrew education system weakened day by day,

[Pages 177/178]

especially after the American Jewish Joint ended its support. A large Hebrew movement was established in the cities: Równe, Lutsk, Kovel, Kremenets and its surroundings, under the influence of “Tarbut” activists, authors and important teachers, who fled from federalist Russia and used Równe as a passage to Warsaw and later to Israel and other countries. They brought with them from the energy of “Tarbut” federation in Ukraine and White Russia, and aided the first schools and kindergartens in Poland.

It was not so in Ludmir which was located on a roadside close to the heart of Poland. The delegates of the temporary central council of “Tarbut” in Równe found there a “revised Heder”. A number of Zionists, like David Bokser, Lev, Birman, Sheinbaum and Yelin, decided to work for a full Hebrew education. The first school principals and teachers were: Korenfeld (who is now in the U.S.), Koplek (immigrated to the U. S. and changed his name to Kaplan. He died a few years ago), and also the secretary Gruska, approached it with great energy and managed to turn it into a modern institution. It is fitting to mention the difficult road of “Tarbut” in objective and subjective perspective.

The live Hebrew language didn't have a real foothold in a home where it was only a product of an abstract idea, but within the Zionist atmosphere and in the street. Opponents pointed to the school as an artificial creature, which surrounded the Jewish community in Ludmir and all of Wolyn between the two world wars. This school was quite natural. The sons and daughters of the middle class, who were banished from their economic and political positions, accounted for the vast majority of the students in “Tarbut” school, because they saw Israel as the only refuge for the young generation. With the arrival of the graduates of “Tarbut” seminar in Vilna to Ludmir, and the arrival of other experienced teachers, like Zeitzik and Podlis, especially during the management of Yosef Okon (who is now in Israel and works as a superintended for the Ministry of Education), the school got closer to educational ideology in all aspects, and was widely used as an example for the rest of the schools in Poland. The trend increased in all “Tarbut” schools, following the Zionist aspirations to also educate their students for productive work, but few succeeded as well as the institute in Ludmir.

At first, most of the activists wanted to follow the footsteps of Równe and Kovel, and continue with a Hebrew High School. However, it was not approved by the excellent educational staff, who were devoted to the idea of labor and the foundation of work in the new education. In fact, the governmental vocational and communal schools were almost forbidden to Jewish children, and only a few Jewish students were included in them. In all of Poland (outside Galicia), there wasn't a single Jewish student in the agricultural schools.

In 1935, due to the strengthening of the pioneering movement that educated the youth toward work and trade, and because of the aspiration of “Tarbut” teachers and officials, “Tarbut” central in Warsaw opened a Hebrew agricultural school in Ludmir. In the years 1938/1939, around forty students were educated there.

The engineer, Snitzki, was the school's principal during its last years. He shaped the school's character with the help of his institutes and local officials, and with the assistance of the central office. This educational-vocational school that gathered students from all corners of Poland, was supposed to be the turning point in Hebrew education in the whole country. But the war put an end to the Jews of Poland along with their aspirations.

May our memories be a memorial to their actions.

 

Tarbut School in 1932
vol178.jpg
Sitting: Members of the school administration and the teachers.
From the right, Chaim Kaufman, Pinchas Sheinkastel, Shalit, the principal Zeitzik, Rozenhak the superintendent of Tarbut Schools in Poland, Yakov Yelin, Chaim Kleinmintz, Zitrinel.
Standing from the right: Avraham Ingber - - - B. Goldberg, Ms. Podlis-Shalit, Leibel Gruska, Mordechai Apter, Moshe Boikt, Tzas, Moshe Sheinbaum

 

Footnotes
  1. “Tosafot Yom-Tov” - commentaries on the Mishnah by Rabbi Yom Tov Lippmann Heller Return
  2. “Turei Zahav” - “Rows of Gold”- commentary on the Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi David Halevi Segal (the TaZ) Return
  3. Shtiebel – “little house” or “little room”- a place used for communal Jewish prayer in contrast to a formal synagogue Return
  4. The “Maiden of Ludmir” - Hannah Rachel Verbermacher also known as the “Ludmirer Moyd”, the only female rabbi in the history of the Hasidic Movement Return
  5. Admor – “Our Master, Our Teacher, and Our Rabbi”- title of a Hassidic Rabbi Return
  6. Sejm – the lower house of the Polish Parliament Return
  7. “Tarbut”- culture- was a Zionist network of Hebrew-language educational institutions Return
  8. Agudat Israel” - “Union of Israel” - organization for observant Jews who opposed the Zionist Movement Return


[Pages 179/180]

Jewish Wladimir (Ludmir)

Yosef Okon

Translated by Sara Mages

Edited by Jack Bader

 

A.

The beginning of the Jewish community in Ludmir lies deep in the dark Middle Ages. Battalions of rioters and hostile countries roamed over it and plowed it to heaps. Ludmir was uprooted and rebuilt a number of times.

In the 18th century, the righteous “Maiden of Ludmir” [Hannah Rachel Verbermacher], became famous. She left the secular life and totally devoted herself to piety. She awakened a strong religious movement in Wolyn whose slogan was: “To return to the ancestral homeland.” She immigrated to Israel, all traces of her were lost and her burial place is unknown.

A living testimony from the same period, the end of the 18th century, was the house of Rabbi R' Avraham'ale, a Karlin descendant. It leaned on flimsy dark posts, and by miracle, the descendants of the righteous lived there generation after generation, to the last Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.

A rich web of wonderful legends surrounded this modest holy temple. One of them was common to the local elders. When the Haidamakas [Cossacks] troops invaded the city, Rabbi Avraham'ale stood by the window wrapped in his Tallit and Tefillin and his arms were outstretched towards the sky. The murderers fixed their evil eyes on him and pulled him by his payot [sidelocks] to the field of slaughter. One of his legs bumped into a corner of a church that stood on the side of the road, and immediately, it collapsed from shame and was swallowed by the earth. Only a central pillar and its cross survived as a protest for the next generations. Maybe this sign of Cain is still standing there today.

Ludmir's cemetery, which extends to an area of square kilometers in the center of town, is seeded with the Ohels[1] of the righteous and tombstones of wood and stone, worn and torn from two distant periods of seven hundred years or more. On top of them are the broken crowns of the priesthood and kingship, which testify that the ancestors of prominent families from the periods of Israel's kings fled here. This cemetery attracted the eyes of historians like Ansky and Schiffer, May the Lord avenge his blood.

In the 16th century, the Jewish community of Ludmir was considered to be one of the most magnificent communities to be included in “Va'ad Arba' Aratzot” [Council of the Four Lands]. Ludmir's last Rabbi, the Holy Rabbi Morgenstern, May the Lord avenge his blood, kept a copy of the Jewish communities set of rules that Ludmir's community leaders proposed to “Va'ad Arba' Aratzot” .

In its culture, Ludmir showed the influences of the area between Eastern and Western Europe, and as such, the city served as a meeting point for different languages and cultures: Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and Austrian-German. Indeed, Ludmir was hundreds of years behind the centers of Torah and traditional Hebrew education that the Polish Jewry excelled in.

 

B.

Ludmir reached a healthy cultural bloom during the last decades of Polish rule.

After the First World War, Ludmir accounted for more than half of the general population.

 

vol180.jpg
The Hebrew school in Ludmir in the year 1916/1917

[Pages 181/182]

The Zionist Federation, with its various factions and classes, gathered within it most of the population and carried on its shoulders, with pride and pure dedication, the burden of the local public life. Naturally, it dedicated most of its energy to Hebrew education and the fulfillment of pioneering. So, “Tarbut[2] with its educational institutes, was the arm and backbone of the Zionist Federation. More than 400 boys and girls, from the age of 4 to 14, received their full education in the “Tarbut” kindergarten and elementary school.

A respected place in the program was allocated to work and farming. A children's farm was located next to the school: vegetable garden, fruit trees, greenhouse for growing silkworms, rabbitry for angora rabbits (for the wool and, God-forbid, not for the non-kosher meat). The children also learned to comb and weave the wool. All this was managed by a well organized children society that shared the profits equally with “Keren HaKayemet Le Israel[3]. The society's funds were mostly used for field trips and summer camps.

The school produced nine graduating classes, approximately 360 graduates. Most of them were integrated in the “Hakhshara[4]. Indeed, only a few managed to squeeze through the narrow cracks of the [British] mandate immigration gate and fulfilled their dream. Where are our loyal plants?

Indeed, it was not impossible. The crown of the Zionist Federation and “Tarbut” in Ludmir was the agricultural school. It was founded with great efforts in 1935 in a leased farm close to the city. This school existed until the Soviet occupation when the community took its last national breath

The agricultural education in Poland stood on a very high level. The formal requirements for an agricultural government school were many, and we weren't able to meet them. Indeed, there were a few exceptional individuals in the advanced Polish public, who understood the anguish of the Jewish youth, and willingly helped us to obtain a license for a small scale agricultural school: the first and only for Poland's Jewry. Immediately, students began to flock from all over Poland. The institute exceeded its local limit and was transferred to the ownership of “Tarbut” center with the cooperation of the orphan council organization in Warsaw. The institute expended, improved and flourished from year to year. Its state of security and its Hebrew-pioneering direction were strong until the Soviet occupation in October 1939. Since then, the connection between us and the institute was severed.

Only once, a ray of light flickered, penetrated the darkness for a moment, and faded.

The writer of these lines innocently tried, during the days of the Soviets, to influence those in charge of Ludmir's public education to slow the transition from Hebrew to another language in the“Tarbut” educational institutes. At the beginning, the education commissar, a famous educator from Kiev, was surprised to hear that the Hebrew language demands its own rights in the Jewish street. In the universities in Russia, he said, the Hebrew language is remembered as the language of ancient prayers of Kohanim and important rabbis.

I succeeded to draw him for a visit to the agricultural school. At that time the fields were plowed and seeded, and our young men also turned to the working animals in Hebrew. The commissar agreed to establish a temporary compromised plan also in the elementary school, and the Hebrew language will be used until the matter will clear up in high places.

 

Footnotes
  1. Ohel” – tent - a structure built over the resting place of a righteous person Return
  2. The “Tarbut” movement was a network of secular Hebrew-language schools Return
  3. Keren HaKayemet Le Israel” - The Jewish National Fund Return
  4. Hakhshara” - preparation - agricultural institutes similar to kibbutzim where Zionist youth learnt technical skills necessary for their emigration to Israel Return


The Establishment of the “Tarbut” School

Yakov Yelin

Translated by Sara Mages

Edited by Jack Bader

 

In 1925, when the Hebrew University was opened in Jerusalem, the Zionist Federation council in Ludmir decided to open cultural institutions in our city. A “Tarbut” committee was elected: the chairman – Michael Brekner, vice chairman - Yakov Yelin, the committee members – M. Schnebaum, Chaim Kaufman, Chaim Klinmintz, Avraham Ingber, Pinchas Scheinkestel, Yehusua Kleiner, Chaim Peril, Zev Apeldman.

The “Tarbut” School was opened with 33 children. There were 3 classes, and also two nursery schools were opened. The principal and two teachers were invited from the center in Warsaw.

The school's situation was very difficult. It had a constant deficit of 400 Zehuvim [golden coins] a month.

For the school's existence the committee organized various activities; fundraisers, balls, and they also collected donations to cover part of the deficit.

The school developed well and earned a reputation for the quality of its education.

During its last years, the school also received financial help from the city. In 1934, the school reached 500 students, and it was also decided to establish an agricultural school.

How good are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel


[Pages 183/184]

The Agricultural “Tarbut” School

Y. Sinizki, Haifa

Translated by Sara Mages

Edited by Jack Bader

 

1. Introduction

Between the two world wars, the Zionist Movement in Poland made many attempts to attract the Jewish youth to productive work, primarily to agriculture, to prepare them for absorption and to all forms of agricultural work when they immigrated to Israel.

There were many agricultural training programs that were organized by the HeHalutz [pioneer] Youth Movement in private agricultural farms (mostly Jewish), and in the farms of JCA [Jewish Colonization Association]. Important farms like Grochów near Warsaw, (Częstochowa) Chenstoniv (a JCA farm), and others were well developed.

There were also attempts to link the agricultural training with agricultural theoretical studies in places like Jerozolimka near Vilna in 1932/1933 and in Halnowok near £ódŸ in 1933/1934. These attempts did not last long because the established public educational body wasn't supporting them.

 

2. The Goal

The school set itself a goal - to train the Jewish youth for farming life, and to create a new type of a young Jew – an educated farmer with Zionist recognition that will work in his/hers profession with practical and theoretical knowledge. The intention, of course, was to train the youth for agricultural life in Israel, and give them all the necessary data to put down roots in their future farming work, and to improve the agriculture standards of the country.

 

3. The parties who founded the school

In 1936, after the “Tarbut” center, which was led at that time by Mr. Rozenhak, took the initiative in its hands and founded the first agricultural school in Ludmir Poland. It was called: “The bi-annual agricultural “Tarbut” School in Ludmir”.

An active part in establishing the school and its development can be attributed to Ludmir's people – enthusiastic dedicated Zionists who gave their time, energy and fortune for this pioneering project.

The names of the principal activists, who formed the school's committee, should be mentioned here. They were: Yosef Okon – the principal of the “Tarbut” Elementary School in Ludmir (now in Israel), Bubes, D. Boxer, Dr. Birman, Dr. Bebczuk, A Geller, Libres, Kuproser, and Scheinkestel.

It should be emphasized, that an important factor to the school's establishment and success was the teaching staff who invested a lot of energy, initiative, and pioneering work in managing and promoting the school.

 

4. The Curriculum

According to the school's goals and the age of the students admitted (at least elementary school graduates), a practical curriculum was formed according to the following principles:

  1. The working day included theoretical studies and practical work in the school's farm. The practical work was conducted before noon and the theoretical studies in the afternoon.
  2. As a principle, there was a match between the theoretical studies and practical work. All the work conducted in the farm was accompanied by an explanation in the vocational class.
  3. The students were organized in their work into four groups according to the various farm branches: farming, gardening, raising livestock and stewardship (jobs in the yard and in the dormitory). At the head of each group stood a person in charge that was called “group leader”, and at the head of all the group leaders stood the person who was in charge of the whole farm.
  4. The groups mentioned above were replaced every week or two, depending on the seasonal work. At the end of the seasonal work, each group gave the work to the next group in a general meeting. At the same time, a discussion took place and the work of the departing group was reviewed.
  5. The curriculum consisted of vocational, general and Jewish studies.

The vocational studies included: General agriculture (cultivation), gardening, planting, raising livestock and beekeeping.

The general studies in the high-school included: arithmetic, chemistry, physics, history, geography, Polish etc.

The Jewish studies included: Hebrew, the Bible, and knowledge about Israel.

The program was approved by the Polish board of governors, and the students enjoyed the same rights that the students of the government schools received.

 

5. The Farm

The farm covered an area of around 50 Acers, which is around 250 Dunam. It was located in Anusin, a village about 4km NNW the city of Ludmir. The land belonged to a Police officer by the name of Koskowski who leased it to the school. The school's soil excelled in its fertility thanks to its good quality (most of it was black soil).

[Pages 185/186]

The farm included: cultivated fields around 190 Dunam, orchards and a vegetable garden around 50 Dunam, a 10 Dunam yard that included the dormitories, classrooms, kitchen, dining hall, housing for teachers, and farm buildings - cowshed, stable, chicken-coop, rabbit pen, straw barn, a cellar for preservatives, other similar buildings and a sheep pen.

The fields were cultivated by a seed cycle as follows:

  1. Potatoes and turnips on organic manure.
  2. Summer barley and wheat.
  3. Clover and vetch.
  4. Rye.

 

5. Oats

The vegetable garden also included ornamental plants and greenhouses. The students were allocated individual plots that they used as experimental fields.

The agricultural farm was an important factor in balancing the school budget, because the crops were tall and excelled in their quality. Thanks to this the fact, the school acquired a reputation and appreciation from the neighboring Christian farms in the area.

 

6. The Dormitory

All the school children lived in the dormitory, only the students from Ludmir returned home every day.

The tuition fees also included the dormitory and students without means were given a discount or released from payments. The tuition was the main source of the school's budget.

A self service regime prevailed in the dormitory to accustom the students to order and cleanliness

 

7. The Teachers

The faculty was made up of professionals (engineers and general teachers).

The school principal, from the day the school was founded, was the farmer Nachum Sinizki, who taught farming, planting, and raising livestock.

The teachers: The engineer Segen Yosef - gardening and ornamental plants
  The engineer Rachel Liberman - gardening and ornamental plants
  The engineer Kopitz - farming instructor
  The engineer Kagan - farming instructor
  Janka Snitzki - beekeeping instructor
  Huberman - general studies and Judaism
  Lendsberg - general studies

 

8. The Students

The students arrived from different cities and towns, and from different social classes (children of rich and poor parents). Most of them were the sons and daughters of merchants and independent professionals. These students didn't have any connection to farming, and it is necessary to emphasize, that the school's influence gave astonishing results. In a very short period of time almost all the students were accepted to jobs and schools. They tied close ties to agricultural work and established a pioneering youth society.

The school was closed at the outbreak of the war, and only the first graduating class was able to finish its studies. The number of students in each graduating class was around 35. The total number of students who attended the school reached to over 100.

Unfortunately, only a small number of students and graduates of this school remained alive and rewarded to immigrate to Israel.

Only a few were saved from the hands of the killers and they are now in Israel.

 

vol186.jpg
Tarbut” regional agricultural school in Ludmir

 

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