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[Page 111]

Education and Art

 

The Hebrew Schools in Korets

Meir Panas

Translated by Sara Mages

 

A. The school founded by the student Greenfeld

The teacher Greenfeld

 

I came to you, Korets, a ten year old boy, to study the Torah at the Hebrew School which was founded by the student Greenfeld. It was in 1911. The student Greenfeld was a character from the world of legends. As a Yeshiva student he came from Vinnytsya, and started to learn the tailoring profession from one of the city's tailors. He won the heart of his boss's daughter, and she married him.

After his marriage, he separated from his young wife for a number of years, wandered afar to a place of Torah, returned to Korets with his education, and in 1911 opened the first Hebrew School in our city.

It was a modest school, which was composed of a preparatory and three classes. Besides Greenfeld there were three other teachers with superior teaching ability.

This school was designated for the sons of the city's notables and the sons of the wealthy proprietors, who were imbued with the vision of Hebrew and national revival. The children of the poor studied in 'Talmud Torah” and expert teachers also taught there.

During the Gentiles' holidays, when the school was closed, the teacher gathered his students, taught Hebrew songs about the love of nature and work, and also songs with social content. I'll not be far from the truth if I say, that the first seeds of the Hebrew pioneer labor movement in Korets were sown in this school. It was a modest nursery, from which the national youth movements of our city grew and branched out. In addition, Greenfeld read us chapters from “Tel-Aviv” by Herzl, and also from his letters.

The school's economic situation was always tight. The principle lived in poverty and often suffered from hunger. Because of this, conflicts broke out between him and the teachers, because he couldn't pay their salaries. Indeed, the school ceased to exist three to four years later. But Greenfeld, whose love for the Hebrew language knew no bounds, maintained one class

[Page 112]

in horrible conditions, so the children of Korets won't forget the Hebrew language. I stood by his side and helped him to teach the Bible and the summary of the Hebrew literature to his few students.

This school had a great part in the founding of the labor movement in Korets, because most of his students were, in a much later period, among the founders of “Tzeirei Zion” party in our city. All the students, who remained alive, remember the principle Greenfeld, who sanctified his best years on the altar of the Hebrew language, with love and respect.

 

B. “Tarbut” School

At the end of World War I, when Korets was still under the rule of the Bolsheviks, the party “Tzeirei Zion” founded “Tarbut” School.

Our city was fortunate that one of the graduates of “Gymnasia Herzliya” [Hebrew High School in Tel-Aviv], who served as an officer in the Turkish army and wandered to Russia, came to Korets. It was the teacher Yakov Levi, who later became famous as Dr. Yakov Levi, one of the most important teachers in Israel, and one of the editors of “Hed HaChinuch” [Educational Echoes, an educational journal].

Yakov Levi was like a “chill of snow on harvest day.” He brought with him a fresh breeze from the fields of the valley and the Galilee. He planted at school the living Hebrew, which was spoken in Israel, and brought with him the Hebrew terminology for natural subjects and general studies.

In order to assess accurately the work of Yakov Levi, we must remember, that at that time there were almost no Hebrew text books for these subjects in Russia.

The principle's room was kind of a club for the youth who intended to immigrate to Israel. We gathered there to practice the spoken living Hebrew. It was like a corridor leading to the Land of Israel. Yakov Levi, who was a talented scholar, illustrated before our eyes the way of life in the new Land of Israel. He took us to the core of the modern Hebrew literature.

The school was located at the home of my father, Emanuel Zitrin, (who died in Israel). The house was surrounded by a large handsome garden, and the students spent their time in the beautiful countryside.

We can't forget the important contribution that Yakov Levi's helpers contributed to the school's success. I must mention, with great respect, the Hebrew teachers Zetser and Rimerman, who gave their lives and their spirits to their students. Thanks to them, many immigrated to Israel, and were saved from the field of slaughter.

[Page 113]

Dr. Yakov-Meir Levi

 

Yakov Levi, who was imbued with the ideals of Kinneret and Degania, was excited from the Bolshevik Revolution, because he truly believed that this revolution was the realization of the ideals of Degania, in global and human scale.

Therefore, when the Communist Party established its power in Korets, Yakov Levi was appointed as the deputy of the revolutionary regime in the city. The Bolsheviks valued Levi as a talented scholar, and handed the power to his hands.

Despite his rise to power, Yakov Levi continued to serve as the principle of “Tarbut” School. The Bolsheviks didn't close the school because of the great honor that they gave to its principal. It was a lonely Hebrew island, in a Bolshevik environment, which alienated the Jewish spirit and its culture.

Thanks to Yakov Levi, the Zionist clubs acted openly, and even the activities of the “Halutz” were done, more of less, normally.

However, this period didn't know stability and the regimes changed frequently. Few were the days of the Bolshevik rule in our city, and they were replaced by the Whites. Their first action was to execute the revolutionary regime. Yakov Levi was in great danger.

We hid him in Finkelstein's home, behind a pile of wood, and every day brought food and water to his hiding place. In 1918-19, he left Korets, at great risk, and the school children were left like sheep without a shepherd. This situation continued until the Poles' entrance to the city. Then, the Hebrew cultural institutions were resurrected, and with them, “Tarbut” School. However, at that time I was already in Israel, and surely, others will tell about it.

 

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