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Communal Institutions (cont.)

A New Building for the Talmud Torah

We read the following in Hamelitz number 135 from 1887:

“… the command already came to the civic council to remove 6,000 silver rubles from the Korovka (meat tax) to build an eight room building. The laying of the cornerstone will take place in a few days.”

“After the government officials ensure with seven eyes (ed. note: check closely to ensure that the edict was being followed) that there would be no melamed without a teaching permit, and the few who had permits could not have more than ten students in one class, the tuition fees rose to a point that most of the community could not afford them. Therefore, many more parents wished to enroll their children in the Talmud Torah. They were not successful, for the building was too small to contain the 120 students who had studied there the previous year. Approximately 50 students were not accepted, and everyone's eyes were waiting for the day when the new building would be built, and there would be room for more than 200 students.

“The group of activists, headed by Reb Alter Feinsilver, the faithful and dedicated activist in matters of education, invested much effort in convincing the residents of our city of the urgent necessity of erecting a large building that would be able to accommodate all of the children of the city who are knocking at its doors. Despite the obstacles that the obscurantists put in his way, and despite the fact that they succeeded in pushing him aside from the leadership of the Talmud Torah, Reb Alter did not rest until he succeeded at what he set out to do. The city merited to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone for a building that it can take pride in.”

The first principal Mr. Weiland had to be fired after years of dedication to this holy task of education on account of the opposition of the Orthodox. After him came the principal Stachik, who also had to leave his post. Then, the well-known Maskil Yosef Rabinovitz was invited to direct the institution. He also did not last long, and Weiland was returned once again. However, he was once again forced to leave his post after his opponents did not keep their promise of giving him a free hand in the style of teaching.

At the end of the 19th century, the veteran teacher Mr. Krips became the principal of the school and served for close to a decade. A few of his students who are with us still recall the “strong hand” with which he used to conduct himself toward the students.

At the end of the first decades of the 1900s, Krips left the school on account of old age. His place was taken by the young teacher who had recently arrived in our city, Yitzchak Sherman. A new era in the life of the institution began with him. He was blessed with ability, and he was very cultured. He invited the finest young pedagogues in our city, and he raised the institution to a level fitting of its name. The curriculum was set by the entire teaching staff, and was befitting of a four-year government public school curriculum. In addition to the general studies, there was a Hebrew lesson for three hours a week, as well as lessons in Yiddish, and Jewish history in the Yiddish language. Despite the fact that the curriculum was very heavy, the teachers were loved by the students, and the students felt connected to the school.

Yitzchak Sherman

Yitzchak Sherman

 

In the era between the end of the 19th century and the days of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the following Zionist teachers taught: Reb Mendel Naychin, Michael Groyser, Yosef the son of Yoel Pagis, and Ze'ev (Velvel) Shaposhnik-Shafin; and the following members of the Yiddish Socialist Bund Party: Amalya Branover, Fania Isakovna Rabinovitz, her husband, Piatr Abramovitz, Eida Gelbrukh, and others. This teaching staff, under the direction of the intelligent and communally conscious Yitzchak Sherman, succeeded in finding common ground in their work despite their difference of opinion with respect to the language battle that was taking place in the Jewish street. The principal similarly succeeded in improving the budgetary situation, and one can consider the achievements of this era to be among the most important in the existence of the institution.

The Curse of Romanization

In the first years of the Romanian rule of Bessarabia, the minorities, including the Jewish population, benefited from the political achievements of the Russian Revolution. The Jews achieved the possibility of autonomous governance of the Jewish schools of Bessarabia. A supervisory office was established in 1917, and Messrs. Shlomo Halels and Yitzchak Sherman were appointed as the supervisors in Bessarabia. Within a few years, the conquering authorities realized that autonomous education could serve as a means against the Russification that pervaded on the Jewish street. Very quickly, however, the reactionary government police began to stray from its liberal attitude toward the minorities, and evil decrees impinged upon and restricted the national rights. The governing office was closed after a brief period, and at the end of the 1930s, the Talmud Torah was ordered to appoint a Romanian principal and to shorten the hours of Hebrew studies.

Talmud Torah (1917) - Study Room

Talmud Torah (1917) – Study Room

Seated from right to left: 1. … 2. … 3. Michael Groyser 4. Yitzchak Sherman (headmaster) 5. Mendel Naychin
Standing: 1. … 2. … 3. Velvel Shaposhnik 4. Leah Fisher 5. Fania Rabinovitz 6. Simone Rabinovitz

 

Throughout 75 years, this important popular institution overcame all of the tribulations of the times, struggled valiantly for its existence, and imparted elementary education to thousands of students from among the poor. Within the walls of the Talmud Torah the children breathed comfortably, and benefited from full light and clear air, that was not found in the homes of their parents.

Everything was destroyed and passed from the world during the Holocaust.

The concern of the activists in our town for the education of the children of the workers and the poor was accompanied by the concern of finding them a trade. Already during the 1880s, an institution for the study of trades was set up alongside the Talmud Torah. Thus writes the teacher Baruch Shalom Naychin (in Hamelitz number 166 from 1885): “In recognition of the wedding of our king, may his honor be exalted, the directors of the Talmud Torah have decided to build a large building in the courtyard of the Talmud Torah to teach crafts and trades to the students. The building was already built and plans were already laid to obtain a permit from the council, and on the first day of the year 1886 it started to function”. The community also had the desire to teach trades to the children since the small-scale business, peddling and other “airy forms of livelihood” did not sustain those that practiced them. After two years of the existence of the trade classes along side the Talmud Torah, the teacher Mendel Naychin writes the following in Hamelitz number 200, year 1887: “We can realize how precious are crafts and trades now in the eyes of our Jewish brethren from the fact that half of the youth who studied trades in school are children of the householders and well-off.” To our dismay, the above lines do not state the number of youths who studied trades, whether they obtained work after they completed school, and whether the trade school lasted for a long time. In our era, from the beginning of the 20th century until the 1920s, we did not hear anything about the existence of a trade school until the establishment of the ORT School.

The ORT Trade School

After the First World War, the organization that spread trades among the Jewish Population, ORT, increased its efforts in Bessarabia. In 1923, two divisions for the study of trades were established in the Talmud Torah building. On account of the lack of fitting conditions, we cannot point to important achievements during the first period. The development grew stronger with the transfer of the trades division to a building that was obtained from the Workers' Loan Society in order to establish a trade school with the participation of ORT.

This is how it happened:

Our community of workers knew better than any other community about the vital need for an institution in which its children would obtain general education and simultaneously be educated in a trade – so that the youths would not go through the seven levels of hell of studying a trade as an apprentice to a craftsman. The matter of setting up a fitting institution occupied the Workers' Loan Society for years already, and they even set up a fund for this purpose. However, larger sums were needed in order to bring this to fruition.

ORT Technical High School

ORT Technical High School

 

ORT Graduating Class of 1924

ORT Graduating Class of 1924

Seated from right to left: 1. … 2. Freiberg 3. Noyman 4. Averbukh
Standing: 1. … 2. … 3. Chuvis 4. Laufer 5. … 6. Strol 7. headmaster L. Rozenfeld 8. … 9. … 10. Clara Osipovna 11. M. Lemberg 12. Bozinyan 13. Rechevsky 14. ...

 

The Donation from Y. A. Milshteyn
The Representative of the Joint (Distribution Committee)

At their annual meeting in 1924, the advisory committee of the fund proposed the establishment of a trade school. At that same meeting, our friend Yitzchak Milshteyn, who also represented the Joint to the ORT organization, participated from the Joint. His opinion was that the community of workers itself would not be able to bear the yoke of the budget needed for the school, and he proposed that the local ORT committee be taken as a partner. With combined forces, they should search for a fitting location, and thereby improve the work conditions of the institution.

That year, an agreement was reached between the loan society and the ORT committee to join forces. Y. Milshteyn secured a donation from the Joint of the sum of 150,000 Lei in order to purchase a building, as well as 70,000 Lei to improve the building and make it fitting for the needs of a proper school.

The Struggle for its Existence

Despite the fact that the housing conditions and furnishings were arranged appropriately, the other problems were not solved so simply. There was a great difference between the restricted curriculum that existed in the Talmud Torah, and that which the directors of the ORT School proposed. At a time when the Talmud Torah was forced to dedicate most of the school hours to theoretical studies, and the study of trades was a subordinate matter, the desire of all of the activists and teachers of the ORT School was to instill in all of the students general knowledge that would serve them well in obtaining and earning their livelihood through a trade. The school committee attempted to secure a fitting principal and teachers, people with higher education, who would agree to work in depressed conditions with a limited budget. We should positively mention the dedication of the workers of the school, who carried out their work faithfully despite the low salary, and educated dozens of young men and women in Torah and trades.

There were many debates among the members of the committee with respect to the cultural and national-political direction that would be imparted to the students. The head of the committee, M. Ravich, who was a veteran Yiddishist, and the first principal of the school Marek Solomonovitz Rapoport did not agree to include Hebrew studies. On the other hand, a portion of the members of the committee saw the need to ensure that the school graduates were comfortable in Hebrew, so as to enable their aliya to the Land. After Rapoport left, the school was directed by Avraham Daskel, and finally by Leibel Rozenfeld, a chemist and the native of our town. Then, the Zionists had the upper hand.

Indeed, many who were educated by the ORT School made aliya to the Land and fit in very well. Without doubt, knowing something about the language significantly eased their absorption.

From the words of Sima Taran-Karabelnik, a student of the school during the years 1923-1924:

“… I will never forget that fortunate day when we were informed of the opening of a sewing department for girls and a carpentry department for boys by the ORT organization.

“Most of the students of the school were from among the poor. The hours of study in the walls of the Talmud Torah were the only hours of light and joy during our childhood, in contrast to the conditions that we found at home when we returned from the Talmud Torah. A dark room, cold, hunger, and depressed conditions that faced Mother and Father were our lot during the hours that we spent at home. When the time came to finish the course of studies in the Talmud Torah, the question of what next faced the boy or girls. To our good fortune, the trade division opened up.

“I remember the degree of love and enthusiasm with which we dedicated ourselves to our studies, both theoretical and technical. The teachers as well were imbued with their dedication and their interest in new teaching methodologies. (The teaching day was divided into 2 hours for theoretical studies and 6 hours of trade studies.) They dedicated their time to the various efforts of the school. An exhibition of our work was arranged at the end of the teaching year. How much effort did they dedicate to the success of this event.

“The purpose of the exhibitions was threefold: a) to publicize the achievements of the students; b) to encourage the students to excel at their work; c) to earn some income from the sale of products, a portion of which would be used to support the students. Of course, this event was very important to the students, and this promoted the success of the exhibition in no small way. How happy was I when I received my first paycheck, 30% of the proceeds of the sale of my products.

“The activists of the ORT school served in their roles for many years, despite the fact that there were many financial difficulties as well as disruptions due to the lack of teachers. Nevertheless, the students succeeded in attaining a significant professional level in three years of studies. Some of the graduates of the sewing division transferred to the old trade school in Kishinev that was directed by Mrs. Babitz in order to complete their studies. There too, they excelled in their professional knowledge and their cultural level. The following were the members of the committee throughout the years of existence of the ORT school in partnership with the Workers' Loan Society:

“Dr. Shlissel, as chairman, who served for about 3 years until he moved to Kishinev; M. Ravich, Yitzchak Fasir (vice-chairmen), Yonah Shamban, David Belfer, and others.

“Principals: as has been stated, Rapoport, Solomon, Markovitz, Avraham Daskal, Leib Rozenfeld, N. Davidovitz.

“The teachers (male): the aforementioned plus A. Malovatsky, Ada Rechevsky and Pinchas Zadonaisky.

“The sewing teachers (female): Klara Osipovna (of Kishinev), Bilah Grigoriavna and Chana Leifer.

“The carpentry directors: Chayim Ben Baruch (Yefim Borisovitz) of Kishinev, Yonah Shamban and others.”

The Laying of a Nationalistic Educational Foundation in our City

A group of parents who were activists in Tzeirei Zion (Young Zion), who were not satisfied with the local educational situation, did what they could to lay the foundation for nationalistic education.

Various communal activists preferred the various communal aid organizations and abandoned the needs of nationalistic education. The two popular schools in the city, the Yeshiva and the Talmud Torah, were not appropriate for our spirit from a nationalist Zionist perspective. The Yeshiva was influenced by the Orthodox activists, whereas in the Talmud Torah, the ideas of the Yiddishists took the fore. Those who desired a progressive nationalistic education in the Hebrew language were forced to take up the yoke of founding their own school, fitting for the spirit of the Zionist movement. The activists of the towns of Bessarabia, headed by the “Cultural Center” in Kishinev, who founded schools in the Hebrew language, served as an example. These educational institutions proved their viability and served as a shield against the spread of Romanization in Bessarabia.

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