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[Page 95]

The High School day by day
and in moments of spiritual uplift

by Leah Steiner (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

In blessed memory of Dr. Zvi Schwartzman

 

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Students of the High School 1912

 

I was accepted at the Schwartzman High School after it became coeducational. The curriculum was the same for boys and girls. This was the biggest day of my life until then. Why? There had not been a Jewish school in our town before that. My father, a great Hassid, refused to send me to a public school. He did not want his daughter to desecrate the Sabbath. I stayed home and I envied every other child passing by with a school bag. My parents could not afford to hire private tutors. Occasionally, I had tutors who charged very little or nothing. I was not satisfied with what I had learned and I did not feel the bliss of attending school regularly. This is why the school is so dear to my heart. I know that the school's existence was a true miracle. The unfriendly authorities were always after the school's administration. Also, there were never sufficient funds to run it properly. The worry that this wonderful school would no longer exist occupied my mind. There was good reason to worry.

One winter morning I was on my way to school. The streets were blanketed with fresh snow. Everything around me looked festive. Alas! When I came into the classroom I found it nearly empty. There were whispers that there would not be any classes that day because the teachers were on strike. The classroom felt very cold because the furnaces had not been lit.

Several times time I had heard conversations from the principal's office – Gregori Yankelevich was speaking. He told parents that he could not go on any longer. The debts were too high and there was no money. The store owners complained that the winter was too hard and the peasants did not want to come to town to buy. “Wait till the holidays“ However, the clergy could not even promise that much. They just said “We will pay, with God's help“. The craftsmen were home, cold, sick and hungry. Who can pay tuition? I felt miserable. Outside a flock of blackbirds landed on the snow covered acacia trees. They announced: “It's bad, it's bad...“.

A miracle happened. Our principal- the captain once again –managed to free his ship –our school-from obstacles. We not only continue, but we are preparing for a Hanukah party. We have all become artists. We build sets, paint backgrounds and prepare programs. The choir and the orchestra practice. The night of the party the hall is decorated with carpets and greenery. There are two pictures in gilded frames hanging on the main wall. One is of Tsar Nicolai Alexandrovich and the other is of Queen Maria Feodorovna.

In the meantime we continue with the program, the candle lighting, a play about Hannah and her seven sons, one-act plays by Chekhov, Y.L. Peretz, Shalom Aleichem, etc. Then come the comedians – our students Simcha Tzehovel, Selig Sofer, Weiser. (The first two continued performing in Eretz Israel while the third worked in security). They were also in charge of the dancing. Our students were the dancers: boys who look like leading men and lovely, slim girls. It is their first dance with boys and they blush. Confetti rains down and everyone is happy.

 

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Teachers and students of the High School 1915-16

 

In the wee hours of the morning the students congregate around our principal. He sings Hassidic melodies with his eyes closed. I especially recall the song: “Why is the soul descending?“ He seems to be in another world, far away from everything around him and his job. Some students take advantage of these moments and lift him on their shoulders, shouting “Bravo“ “Hurray“.

The regimes changed and the decrees came and went. Our principal, Dr. Schwartzman confidently steered his ship- the Hebrew High School in Bendery.

 

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High school orchestra 1917

 

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Grade seven in the High school with teacher S. Y. Gorin
Row 1: (seated) Tinkelman, Gendelman, Yehuda Lonievsky, teacher Gorin, Shalom Hayat, Pessach Gurfel.
Row 2: (Standing) Zissia Shaposnick, David Pisterov, Shalom Barshadski, Zechariah Kleiman, Y. Rotman, Rosen Zweit (Vardi)

 

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First graduating class of the Schwartzman High School

 


[Page 98]

The Tarbut School, which did not survive long

by Nahman Lavonsky

Translated by Ala Gamulka

After World War I, when Bendery was conquered by the Romanians, the authorities opened more public schools. The Jews were obliged to send their children to these schools. This forced the closure of the private heders. The Jews of Bendery did not want to send their children to the public schools because they were open on Saturdays. On the other hand, Dr.Schwartzman's Hebrew High School could not absorb all the Jewish children. The high school had high academic standards, but it did not receive any government funds. In spite of the high standing, the authorities did not recognize the Schwartzman diplomas as university pre-requisites. The graduates had to travel to France, Belgium and other countries where the diplomas were accepted, to continue their studies.

In the early nineteen twenties, a Tarbut school was founded on the Poteshtovnaya Street. This school could not exist without government funds. The low tuition paid by the parents and the small subsidies given by the Jewish institutions were not enough. In spite of these pitfalls, the founders were able to bring the school to good standards with the help of excellent teachers. They were Bentzion Postelnik, David Projensky, Haim Glass and Israel Wertheim. Romanian was taught by Greenberg, Shuster and others.

The authorities did not think highly of this school. After a few years without funds Tarbut School closed. Its students were dispersed to other schools. Some went to the Schwartzman Hebrew High school and others attended the municipal high school.

 

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Teacher Haim Glass with his class in the Schwartzman Hebrew High school (in the 1920s)

 

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