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[Page 112]

The Hebrew School in Podhajce

by Etty Gross

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Is it possible to tell of the Zionist activities in Podhajce and not mention the Hebrew school? And if the Hebrew school was already mentioned, is it possible to fail to mention the names of the two teachers, Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Rozen.

First, I want to establish without any doubt, that the school stood at the head of all Zionist activities, even though it was a cultural rather than a political institution. I was numbered among the veteran students of the school. I began to study in the school at the age of 9, and I studied there for many years.

Did the school suffice itself with only teaching the Hebrew languages? Certainly not. The study of the Hebrew language was only a means of implanting in the students the love of the Land of Israel, the love of the Jewish nation, and faith in its eternity. Indeed, these topics were not included in the curriculum of the school, but the point was made at every day, at every hour, and at every opportunity. Every holiday was celebrated at school as well, and at every holiday, the religious and national aspects were stressed together. For each holiday, we prepared a play, a party, or an excursion. There was no holiday that was devoid of content for us, and each holiday had a different theme.

For Passover, we learned the four questions and sung Chad Gadya; on Lag Baomer and Tu Bishvat, we would go out on excursions; for Shavuot, we would decorate the school with a great deal of greenery. The school imparted to us the love of the Land, which was far away from us only from a geographical perspective. The Kinneret, the mountains of the Galilee, and the Jezreel Valley were not merely geographical locations for us, but names tied to the pioneering struggle to renew the life of the nation upon its land.

Various clubs were active in the school. We published a wall newspaper, and there was Hebrew speaking club whose members took it upon themselves to converse only in Hebrew.

However, the material state of the school did not improve, apparently, for it always moved to a different location. We studied in a variety of locations. The rooms were not always comfortable, and in the winter, there was not always heat. I recall that many times, we would sit in coats during the winter, and write with gloves on our hands.

However, what did the cold matter in comparison to the warmth and enthusiasm that was found in the school. The two teachers were loved by us, even though each one had a different temperament. Mr. Kurtz was enthusiastic, emotional, and calmer; whereas Mr. Rozen was more exacting and demanding. They complemented each other, and each had his own personal charm. Their work was very difficult. They were very dedicated, despite the fact that the material conditions were not easy.

The work of the school was great and blessed. The values implanted in our hearts, and the knowledge imparted to us, helped many of us in our absorption in the Land.

pod112.jpg
An evening class for the study of Hebrew
with the teachers Kurtz and Rozen


[Page 113]

The first Kindergarten in our City

by Yehudit Hadar

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In our city, there were several families who attempted to found a kindergarten, rather than to send their young children to the cheder and the Rebbe. The activists worked hard in order to actualize their thoughts and to find the first kindergarten teacher. A few of the residents of the city, Zionist activists, traveled to Lvov (that is Lemberg), from where they brought a Hebrew teacher, for there, there was a seminary for teachers and also kindergarten teachers. After some effort, they found a kindergarten teacher. The activists rented three rooms from the Walgrif family. The rooms had several good traits: they were large, spacious, and well ventilated. There was a lovely garden surrounding the house. After the rooms were rented, the efforts to furnish the kindergarten began: small tables, small chairs, a closet, etc. were needed. After furnishing the kindergarten, they once again traveled to Lvov to bring various games for the kindergarten. In the meantime, the mothers prepared the toddlers for the important event, that they would be soon attending a Hebrew kindergarten where they would learn to speak Hebrew, to sing in Hebrew, and even to play in Hebrew. The children, who spoke Yiddish or Polish in their parents' homes from the time they were born, waited impatiently with great childhood curiosity for the day when the studies in the kindergarten would commence. Indeed, the awaited day arrived.

In the morning of that day, at 8:00 a.m., the mothers dressed up their young children in a dandy fashion, and they came with their sons and daughters to the kindergarten building. A swarthy young woman, tall, and graceful, stood on the steps of the kindergarten, and she introduced herself to the parents and children with an enthusiastic smile. When all of the children who had registered in the kindergarten had arrived, the kindergarten teacher invited the children inside with a pleasant wave of her hand.

The children had barely entered the kindergarten, when they scattered in every direction, and touched all of the objects, toys and games with their hands. On the first day of kindergarten, the children already learned how to say “Shalom, Todah, and Bevakasha” (Hello, please, thank you). The kindergarten teacher, Rivka Folkenflik, was very patient. She explained to the children and taught them the names of each toy or game that the children took into their hands. After time, the children learned to play together, not to hit, and not to grab a toy from the hands of another child. They learned how to eat nicely, to wash their hands before eating and after eating. The children learned good behavior, and the parents were very satisfied.

It was no wonder that when one of the mothers removed her child from the cheder or the rebbe, who taught the young child with the dry letters of the alphabet, and transferred him from the cheder to the kindergarten, the child would feel himself freer. At first, he would conduct himself with some restraint or laziness, however with time, he would participate in the games and performances of the children, such as “The Children of Mattathias”, “The Hashmonaim”, and by Chanukah, the child already knew how to sing the song “A little jug, a little jug, it gave its oil for eight days”. The child would play among the other children with pride and seriousness in the role of Judah the Maccabee. The young children would conduct a conversation among themselves with importance and clear intent: “I am great, I am the brave Judah. I am the Maccabee Poyadim to Palestine”[1]. He wanted to say: “I will grow up and be brave as Judah Maccabee, and I will travel to Israel.”

The kindergarten teacher taught the children to give in, to assist each other, and to be independent. The studies bore fruit. In the winter, for example, the children helped each other tie the strings of their hats or button the buttons of their coats. The kindergarten teacher Folkenflik, graced with extreme patience and an appropriately objective attitude to each student, without concern for the parent's status, served as a fine example to many of the parents as well, who at first objected to their children playing with certain other children. The kindergarten teacher succeeded in imparting to each boy or girl the love of the Homeland through various means: through words, brief stories, or little songs of the Homeland. She even imparted to the children a feeling of honor to adults, and a willingness to help their fellow. Thus, this kindergarten teacher, the first in our city, succeeded in winning over the hearts of the children and their parents, and in implanting in them a love and dedication to their nation and Homeland. She was an example for the young children, who to this point went about aimlessly. She was the one who imparted the spiritual basis in the hearts of the children.

The kindergarten teacher Folkenflik should be praised and thanked for her dedicated work for the children of our city, who were a source of pride to their parents.

pod113.jpg
The Hebrew school


Translator's Footnotes

  1. I am not sure of the translation of the term Poyadim. I expect it is a vernacular term. Return


[Page 114]

The General Zionist Youth Movement in our City

by Baruch Schatten

Translated by Jerrold Landau

At the outset of my words I wish to admit that it was not with ease that I came to write the following lines about the General Zionist Youth Movement in Podhajce. However, after I realized that if I would not perform this brief task, the situation would result in a diminution of the image of the Zionist youth movement of our fine town that once was and is no longer. I wished to prevent that the section on the youth of Podhajce should be described from one side only; how is it possible to skip over this group of youth who were the splendor of the young generation, the generation of continuity of pioneering, whose activity was not restricted to the city itself, and whose influence was felt on a national level as well.

We are speaking here about the following organizations: Achva, Young Achva (the children's organization), and the Hebrew youth movement that later changes its name to the Zionist Youth.

During the years 1926-1927, the residents of the city raised the flag of general Zionism as expressed in the national movement of that time, with an aim of educating and preparing the young generation to fulfil the roles that the nation has imposed upon them, with the perspective that one should not look upon the building of the Land as a monopoly of one class only (the workers), but should rather be an enterprise that belongs to all classes of the nation. It is fitting to mention the fact that the Zionist youth movement arose in an era where there was a crisis among the youth, when their ideological foundations were crumbling and they were standing at the crossroads.

The new motto was: realizing the fundamental Zionist idea without excuses. Indeed, the realities proved that it is possible to exist and to live, to build and be built up without depending on the ideological code of the camp of the “world of tomorrow”. The General Zionist youth movement struck roots in the World Zionist Organization and in the Jewish street. Throughout the Diaspora and the settlement in Israel, hundreds of branches arose, as well as units for pioneering hachshara. The lively center existed, as is known, primarily in Eastern Galicia, that is Lvov. It is no wonder that the General Zionist movement flourished in this region, and its activities stood out in the development of the Hebrew settlement of the Land of Israel until the outbreak of the Second World War.

pod114.jpg
Members of the Zionist Youth Organization (1930)

 

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