by Batia Steiner-Faigenbaum, (Efaal – Kiryat Segal)
Translated by Ala Gamulka
In memory of Dr. Zvi Schwartzman, Principal
When I completed the courses offered by Yehiel Halperin, zl, in Odessa, I returned to Bendery in order to be a Hebrew Kindergarten teacher of Jewish children. It was my dream and I was looking forward to fulfilling it. At first, I was upset. Days, weeks and months passed and no one offered me a job. I did not know to whom I should turn. My despair increased from day to day. It seemed as if a Kindergarten teacher was not needed in our town. I was waiting for a miracle.
One day, the principal of the Hebrew High school, Dr. Schwartzman, asked to me to come to see him. He greeted me with warmly and he explained his daring plan for the Hebrewcizing of the school. Until then studies were mainly done in Russian with only a little Hebrew used. He wanted me to be the teacher in the Kindergarten to be opened by the High school.
|Kindergarten class of the Schwartzman High School 1928|
To this day, I remember what he said to me on that occasion: The children will absorb the language quickly. You will make sure of it. They will continue studying in Hebrew in the ensuing grades. Eventually, they will graduate in Hebrew. Even their diplomas will be written in Hebrew. This is how we will Hebrewcize the school completely. He was very excited. It was obvious this was his dream for the future. Of course, I eagerly accepted his offer.
It must be noted that his career as a principal of the Hebrew high school did not always run smoothly. When the Kindergarten was opened, the parents of the intelligentsia class were afraid that the children will lose their Russian. The more religious parents thought their offspring will become heretics. There were only some who were excited about the plan. Those were the ones who could not afford the tuition. We started without a budget, any equipment or assurance the plan will actually work out.
I was a new Kindergarten teacher and I had no experience. The thick notebooks filled with methodology of pedagogy writing – which I brought from my courses – were not helpful when it came to practice. I had to create something from nothing. Dr. Schwartzman had full confidence in my ability. We advanced step by step. I reached the point where my students spoke Hebrew. They even had little spats in Hebrew! I will never forget the Hanukah party in the school. The Kindergarten children went up on the stage, paraded holding blue and white flags and lit the candles. They sang the Song of the Maccabees and their eyes were shining.
|The Schwartzman Hebrew High School|
It is a winter day. The skies are gray and the cold from outside can be felt in the Kindergarten. It was Tu B'Shvat. I told the children about the holiday of the trees as it is celebrated in our homeland and how their little brothers and sisters plant trees. They listened intently and their eyes shone. They said the blessing over the fruit – figs, carobs and raisins. They sang In Eretz Israel the sun shines and the fig trees bloom The Kindergarten room was filled with light and warmth.
The seeds sown produced beautiful fruit. I was fortunate to see that many of these children graduated from the Hebrew High school. They made Aliyah and established their homes there. Today, they invest their talents, energies and love.
All of this happened because of the dream of a special person – Dr. Zvi Schwartzman
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