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[Page 131]

Education and Culture

 

Masters and Rabbis

Tovye Troshinski (Tel Aviv)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

A memorial candle to my sisters Chaye and Chane, their husbands Shlome Tsipes and Yakov Barshap, and their children Hershele, Gutele, and Niunile, who perished in Kremenets, killed by the Nazis.

Kremenets was not the town of my birth.

The storm of blood and death that passed through Ukrainian towns during 1919 and 1920 uprooted our family from a small, remote town in the outer reaches of Vohlin. There were hard times when vigilante troops of Ottomans, “Batkas,” and plain marauding brigands would descend upon us. After our house was burned and our meager property destroyed, my father found a job in Kremenets and moved our family there. I was ten years old at that time.

I did not live in Kremenets for very many years. In 1928 I left, and since then I have visited only once, in the final days of winter in 1940, for a short, hasty two-day visit … eager to continue my wanderings through the towns and villages of Russia, the steppes of Uzbekistan, and the Caucasus. When the flood of bloodshed ceased, after many hard journeys through the foul murderers' lands, I reached my longed-for shore.

I lived in Kremenets only seven years. I met her in my childhood and left her in my youth. It was the first station on the road of my life, seven years blessed with childhood memories and experiences of my youth. They were good years that never lost their value and charm! I do not see myself as a transient guest there, but as bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of the holy community of Kremenets. Seven souls, so dear to me, perished in Kremenets at the hand of the foul murderer. As one of your sons, I carry your sacred memory in my heart. Here I will unearth some of my buried memories of the city of my youth.

 

A. Establishment of the First Hebrew School

I will relate here the struggles of devotees of Hebrew education to establish a Hebrew school in Kremenets. The fact is, for almost ten years, the Hebrew school fought hard to exist, having no proper housing or necessary tools for learning. It had to move from one place to another almost every year. For a few years, it resided in the Zionist Organization's clubhouse, near the post office building on Sheroka Street. This house had four average-sized rooms and was a sort of a “spiritual center” for the Jews of Kremenets. The library and reading room and the kindergarten were here, and this was where meetings and gatherings of youth groups and Zionist organizations took place.

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In time of need, that is where the Hebrew school found shelter. As the number of rooms could not accommodate all the classes, the school had to operate in two sessions.

Only in 1928 was the school moved to a permanent home – one built specifically for it on the Dilovoy-Dvor lot in Kremenets. The official school principal who was responsible to the authorities was Mr. Barats, who served as government-appointed rabbi in Kremenets. In actuality, Mr. Yakov Shafir, who lives here with us, took care of and responsibility for the continued functioning of the school. I see it as my duty to mention with blessing the Hebrew and Jewish studies teacher, Yakov Vayner, a learned, genial and humble man. He immigrated to Israel and he passed away there.

About 200 pupils were educated in that Hebrew school.

 

B. Talmud Torah and Small Yeshiva

This institution that so shaped our spiritual-moral character throughout the lands of our Diaspora that one can hardly describe the Jewish communities in Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine without it obviously existed in Kremenets, too. I cannot estimate the number of children who studied there during the 1920s, the time I write about here. I do know for certain, though, that the number of students was higher than the number attending the Hebrew school. Not only did Orthodox parents, followers of the Torah laws and traditions, send their children to the Talmud Torah, but all the children of poor families who went to the free Polish public schools also attended because of the compulsory education law. Also, many Hebrew school students whose parents did not deem the religious studies in the public school sufficient went there in the afternoon to study and increase their knowledge. In the Talmud Torah, students were divided into classes according to their knowledge, each class having its own regular teacher, starting with the teacher of the youngest to the one who taught Gemara and commentaries. When you walked in the street close to the Talmud Torah, you would hear the loud voices of the younger children from afar as they read in unison from the prayer book, diligently pronouncing each syllable, and the teacher even louder, leading them; or the pleasant melodies of the 11- and 12-year-old Gemara boys as they repeated the lessons they learned from their teacher. Sometimes your ear would catch a single voice singing a commentary or reading verses from the Book of Proverbs once from the book and then translating it into Yiddish. I do not know what happened to the Talmud Torah after I left Kremenets. I was told that this institution became a highly important pedagogical instrument when Arye Feldman, of blessed memory, the dearest of men, began teaching there and greatly elevated the level of study and the school's prestige.

 

C. Teachers

I learned Torah from three teachers in the Talmud Torah in Kremenets: Rabbi Shmuel “the Small,” Rabbi Shmuel “the Big,” and Rabbi Yosl Berger.

Rabbi Shmuel “the Small” taught Pentateuch and Rashi. He was short and black-bearded, and his face reflected goodness. He described the sad stories in the Torah to us so well, in a musical voice, half words, half sighs and groans: the death of Rachel, Joseph confessing his identity to his brothers, the death of Moses. His voice was heartwarming when he described Rachel's crying and weeping for her children in the Diaspora. His eyebrows twisted in a frown when describing Judah speaking harshly to Joseph for framing and falsely charging Benjamin, as Rashi explained it. Together with his pupils, he rejoiced when the tragic episode ended happily; a heavy weight was lifted from our hearts; we were relieved, and so was he …

[Translator's Note: Rashi is an abbreviation for Rabbi Shlome Yitschak, a leading Bible and Talmud commentator of the 11th century.]

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Rabbi Shmuel, the Gemara teacher, was called “the Big” not just because he was tall, but because he was an expert in Talmud and a posek. This was told to us by Rabbi Damta Senderovits, of blessed memory, who came twice a month on Thursdays to test us in Gemara studies. He was the complete opposite of the Pentateuch and Rashi teacher: slim, tall, and white-bearded, with bright, sharp eyes. In a dry voice, he would explain a complicated problem in the Gemara, and like a hard taskmaster, would not leave you but would demand exacting answers to the statements of the dissenting teachers and sages. He called the best students “goyim” – “Goyim”! What will become of you? Just “goyim” and not more …

[Translation Editor's Note: Posek means “arbiter” or “decider,” especially a rabbinical scholar who pronounces in disputes and questions of Jewish law.]

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the Bible, penmanship (in Yiddish, obviously), and arithmetic teacher, was a handsome man with a round, short beard, elegant dress, and meticulous conduct. We liked his Bible lessons very much. His voice was pleasant, and he had a separate melody to fit each of the holy books; a melody for the Book of Proverbs was not right for the Book of Ecclesiastes, and the trilling of Psalm verses did not fit the polemic chapters in the Book of Job. What is more, he had a different melody for each prophet in the Books of the Prophets. The verses he read were clear and well pronounced; it was a pleasure to sit and listen to God's living words rising in chants and melodies.

Old Rabbi Senderovits, who came to test our Torah knowledge, was not healthy in his older years and would have coughing attacks. I remember once on a Thursday that, being in a good mood after testing a few pupils, he asked me what was being taught in Hebrew school. One subject I mentioned was Jewish history (Short Chronicles of Israel, by Dubnov). ”Well, tell me something from this history – let's hear it,” said the rabbi. I stood in front of him and recited, verbatim, a chapter from the history of the Jewish people. When I came to a section that quoted a few sentences from the Bible, which started, as usual, with the words “The Torah tells us …” the rabbi stopped me with a forceful hand movement, spitefully repeated “the Torah tells … the Torah tells …,” and began to cough harshly. I did not know what I had said to cause this anger in the old rabbi and stood there as if I had been rebuked. After the rabbi left, uttering, “the Torah tells … the Torah tells …,” the good “small” Rabbi Shmuel came to me, held my chin, and said, “Our Torah does not tell, my son! Torah you study. Remember my son, Torah – it is a torah, and she needs to be studied.

[Translator's Note: The Hebrew word torah means “doctrine,” “laws,” or “dogma.”]

The old rabbi died in the 1920s. May this righteous man's memory be blessed.

The institutions of the Talmud Torah and small yeshiva existed until the Holocaust arrived. What happened to our teachers? Who passed from this earth in peace, and who died a martyr at the hand of the German beasts of prey? I do not know.

May the memory of our Jewish shepherds and teachers be sanctified and blessed!

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Jewish Primary School

Motye Kornits (Jerusalem)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

At the end of the 1890s, there still was no school of commerce or high school in Kremenets. The town had two schools established by the government: one was a Russian primary school, meant mainly for Christian children and a limited number of Jewish children. The other one was meant for Jewish boys only, according to a yearly quota set by the Vohlin provincial ministry in Zhitomir.

The classes in this school were not called classes, for reasons unknown to me, but groups and grades. In all there were two groups and three grades in the Jewish school, which meant five years of schooling. As many as 150 pupils attended. The teaching staff consisted of three men, and the school principal was Moisey Borisovits Goldfarb, who served for many years and was highly respected by the students. The school was free, but this does not mean that the czar's government was benevolent to its Jewish citizens; the school was supported by taxes on kosher meat, which were levied only on the Jews. Thanks to the teachers, the standard of learning in the school was very high. During my time, the first and second groups were taught by the goodhearted and calm Mr. Boym.

M. B. Goldfarb served as the Russian language teacher for all three grades. He was an excellent man and a good pedagogue. The students feared but also respected him. He was known for his love of the Russian tongue and its literature.

Teaching mathematics, geography, history, and calligraphy was Mr. Shklovin. He was an excellent pedagogue and mathematician. His pupils were filled with awe for him. Mr. Shklovin was a music teacher, too, and instilled the love of music in the pupils.

kre037.jpg
Figure 37. Government Primary School for Jews

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I remember when he auditioned two groups and three departments to form a 20-member choir. I was one of the blissful ones chosen for the choir, which began performing just a few weeks later. Shklovin taught us to sing only popular Russian songs. Some of the choir members, such as Polye Shkurnik and Asher Manusovits, had very good voices.

Near the school was a library with about 1,000 books – quite large for those days – mostly books by Russian authors, but also some classical literature translated from other languages. The pupils showed interest in the books and read with ardor.

Each year, a new class graduated. Of them, I will mention Meir Goldring, Bozye Landsberg, my dear brother Ayzik, Zanvil Batler, Leyb Rozental, Volodye Shvartsman (who committed suicide in 1901), Shlome Fishman, Grishe Milshteyn, Yitschak Barbak, and many more; they were great young people, the pride of the school and the teachers.

 

School of Commerce

Moshe Shnayder (Rechovot)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

The memory of Kremenets' School of Commerce is strongly tied to the names of two civic activists: Mikhael son of Duvid Shumski, a member of the City Council, and Yisrael Margalit, who were its founders in 1906.

Until that time, the Jewish primary school was the only institution disseminating a general education to Jewish young people in the town. Each year, most of the students in the graduating class wanted to continue their education, but at that time, who would dare leave town, even for the nearest city, to continue his studies? For one thing, it was financially prohibitive; also, the “numbers quota” did not permit it. Getting a degree as an assistant pharmacist was a bold dream. Only a few students, the most talented and industrious, dared to do it. And occasionally they earned a diploma externally.

To begin with, the founders set themselves two objectives: (1) to create a financial reserve and (2) to purchase a suitable building. Their energy and devotion helped them achieve their goal; by charging an “entrance donation” for students of well-to-do families in our town and others, they accumulated a large reserve fund. This enabled them to accept a number of poor Jewish and Russian students and to purchase a nice building with an original turret projecting between the mountains and surrounded by a lovely grove. Before two years had gone by, this modest building was transformed into a large one with two stories housing corresponding classes, physics and chemistry laboratories, a library, a concert hall, and all the equipment necessary for a well-appointed, modern high school.

Special attention was paid to assembling a teaching staff with high pedagogic standards, particularly among liberals and progressives. Yakov Vasilyevits Yarotski, a talented and experienced pedagogue was appointed to head the teaching staff as school principal. His assistant was the art teacher, the artist Timofey Alekseyevits Safonov, who devoted his time and being to the schoolchildren; he was like a father to them, unifying them into one family without differences in nationality or race, Jewish, Russian, or Polish. I do not remember even one complaint about being called “Zhid,” while in the public school, for example, the term was in widespread use.

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The program of study had high standards. Could a student who attended that school ever forget Yakov Yarotski's wonderful lessons in history and political economics? And Nikolay Nivirovits's chemistry lessons and lessons about the Mendeleyev system, and the work in the chemistry lab under his guidance? These people transformed their admiring students' spirits, encouraged their desire to learn, enlivened the subjects of study, and widened their listeners' horizons. The founders and supervisors (from the parents' council), Mr. Shumski and Mr. Margalit, who ensured cooperation with the school's pedagogic board and did all they could to balance the budget, will also remain in our memories. Many young people from poor homes acquired an education at this institution.

The first and second graduating classes brought much praise: a generation of young members of the intelligentsia who continued their studies and earned degrees as engineers, physicians, economists, mathematicians, and the like.

 

How a Hebrew Shelter for the
Needy Was Established Overnight

Pesach Litvak (Tel Aviv)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

In 1919 or early 1920, after Kremenets had been cut off from the world and undergone a change of government, two American Jews, emissaries from the Joint organization, came to Kremenets wearing uniforms and carrying a pouch filled with money to help needy Jews in our town. Mr. Moshe Eydis, a well-known pharmacist and community activist, was put in charge of the money, a community committee was established, and widespread Joint activities immediately began.

At that time, there was a shelter for children in town that had been established by the Bund organization, and obviously it was on the list of institutions to benefit from the Joint's support in money, clothes, and food. At that time, there was also a Hebrew kindergarten in town run by the teacher Mrs. Verthaym, which was morally supported by a group of young people from the Young Zionists, who were dedicated to Hebrew education. We, too, approached the Joint's board, requesting a budget for the Hebrew kindergarten so that we could enlarge it and attract the children of the poor, who could not afford to pay the high tuition fee. Our request was denied, saying that the children in our school came from wealthy families that did not need financial support and that the Joint did not open new institutions. We immediately announced that a Hebrew shelter for poor children existed beside the kindergarten and that we had come to request financial support for it. The board accepted this, and a date was set for them to visit the shelter; then they would decide in the form and the amount of the support.

We left the meeting encouraged, but where was this shelter? We had no choice do but to set it up within two to three days, no matter what! We divided the tasks among us. That day, we managed to acquire some money and rented an apartment. We moved in some furniture that we took from the kindergarten – here was a shelter.

The next day we began to register children. I was charged with finding teachers. I went to the district's Tarbut center in the city of Rovne and demanded two kindergarten teachers for Kremenets immediately. Eventually, I received an address for one teacher, named, Rachel Kit from Lutsk, who “surely will not go, as she was promised to another place; besides, she does not want a job, etc., etc. …” After much effort, I located her and began coaxing her, demanding that she come immediately to save Zionism, the new generation, and the Hebrew language. After a long discussion and many arguments, she accepted and packed her belongings, and we left directly from her room to take the train to Kremenets. We arrived at night, and having no choice, I brought her to the home of Mrs. Verthaym, our kindergarten teacher, and introduced the new teacher who was moving to our town.

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The next morning, our board met, and the new teacher came with us. We were all very young then (including Avraham Biberman, Chanokh Rokhel, and others), and I announced the success of my mission to them. In the meantime, the apartment for shelter was secured, a second teacher was “borrowed” temporarily from the “wealthy” kindergarten, and … the shelter was established! The Joint acknowledged the shelter and found it deserving of its support. Our happiness was boundless.

A short time later, I left Kremenets, went to Warsaw, and from there immigrated to Israel. But the institution that we established with such enthusiasm lasted for a long time, and generations of poor youngsters from our people were educated there in Zionism and Hebrew.

This was the spirit that permeated and moved the Zionist youth society, which was zealous about and devoted to the Hebrew culture. Today most of the members are with us in Israel.

 

Tarbut School

Yehuda Kenif (Tel Aviv)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

Modern Hebrew education in Kremenets did not start with the establishment of the Tarbut Primary School in 1928 or the Tarbut High School in 1922. Private and semipublic Hebrew educational institutions existed in town many years before then. Two teachers, Mr. Burshteyn and Mr. Sirayski, established a Hebrew school that existed continuously until World War I. Even before this, there was a progressive cheder, possibly the first educational institution in town where the study of the Hebrew language had an important place in the curriculum at a time when study of holy books took precedence over all others. For few years, the author Asher Beylin taught at the progressive cheder in Kremenets. He was the first to introduce the “Hebrew-in-Hebrew” teaching method and truly to teach the grammar and syntax of the language. At that time, some other teachers of Hebrew taught individuals and small groups, mainly in the well-to-do households. Among them was Aharon Shimon Shpal, whose home was the first Hebrew-speaking home.

During World War I, many refugees from surrounding towns poured into Kremenets. For them and for the local poor, in 1916 the Joint established two primary schools, where the students also were served hot meals. One school had the teacher Mr. Shpal as principal, and the other had government-appointed rabbi Sh. Barats as principal. Russian and Yiddish were the languages used in both schools, but Hebrew was taught, too. At that time, no community body existed to demand or to take on the burden of maintaining it.

After Mr. Shpal immigrated to the USA, Mr. Gibelbank was appointed principal. He was an active member of the Bund organization and a staunch Yiddishist. Under his influence, Hebrew language studies were completely eliminated, and all lessons were in Yiddish only. From then on, the school began to lose its worth and value to the Jewish community, the number of students increasingly diminished, and in 1922 it was closed. The second school, under Sh. Barats, was basically Zionist and was already called Tarbut by the community, even though it was not a branch of the Tarbut School network. The teachers in this school were Y. Shafir, Dr. B. Landsberg, Chanokh Rokhel (until he immigrated to Israel), Azriel Gorengut, Y. Vayner, Finkelshteyn, and others. All were active members of the Zionist Organization in town. This school was the nucleus for the Tarbut Hebrew High School that was established in 1922.

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kre038.jpg
Figure 38. Tarbut Board Members and Faculty (1930)
Bottom right – school building; bottom center – students.
Top row – committee members: (1) Y. Vayner, (2) Y. Kenif, (3) Dr. Z. Sheynberg, (4) Ts. Gilrant, (5) Dr. Landsberg, (6) Z. Barshap, (7) M. Karsh.
Middle row – faculty: (1) Sh. Germarnik, (2) Z. Baytler, (3) F. Baytler, (4) A. Katsner, (5) M. Zelinger, (6) R. Fishman, (7) Ch. Shpigl, (8) Y. Otiker (school secretary)

The Kremenets Hebrew kindergarten, which existed for years, should be mentioned here, too. It was established during World War I on the initiative of few Zionist women and a group of Zionist youth, and was run and taught by the teacher Yente Verthaym.

All these are mentioned as background to the establishment of the Tarbut School. I am unable to give a full report on the history of Hebrew education in Kremenets, as I lived there for only 12 years, from 1922 until I immigrated to Israel in 1934. For that reason, I will tell only about the Tarbut Primary School and the Hebrew movement in general at that time.

When I came to Kremenets in 1922, the Tarbut Hebrew High School had four preparatory grades and two classes. The principal was Dr. Ben-Tsion Katz (son of R' Meshulam Katz, one of the original members of Lovers of Zion).

Throughout its existence, the high school suffered from a tight budget; from a lack of teachers, textbooks, and other tools of learning; and mostly from persecution by the Polish government, which schemed and devised obstacles to its growth and existence in general. Tarbut activists in the city, knowing that before long they would not be able to withstand the heavy pressure and keep the high school open under those conditions, tried to get a permit for a primary school that would impart a Hebrew education while drawing from a larger portion of the population. Their efforts were crowned with success, and in 1928 the high school was closed, and in its place the Tarbut Hebrew Primary School opened.

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kre039.jpg
Figure 39. Tarbut School Students
[The inscription on the photo reads: “Tarbut School of Kremenets.”]

The branch of the city's Tarbut organization officially owned of the school. It had dozens of members – sometimes a hundred and more – paying monthly dues. It held general meetings, elections to the board, and so on. Truthfully, it was a very loose-knit organization, and in practice the weight of the Hebrew educational project was shouldered by a group of dedicated workers and parents, who elected representatives to the Tarbut administration. Since the Tarbut branch did not run other activities except to support the school, there was actually unity between the school administration and the Tarbut branch.

Undoubtedly, the general tendency among the intellectuals and common people in town was clearly Zionist. Nevertheless, most parents preferred to send their children to Polish schools, reasoning that, for one, a Polish education would ensure a good future. For another, the Polish public schools were tuition free. The Tarbut proponents had to go against the tide and recruit students for a Hebrew education. For that purpose, they started a broad publicity campaign, but eventually the school itself was its own source of publicity. The Hanukah and Purim parties held in the school, which were considered a festive cultural happening in town, attracted big crowds and brought additional groups into the circle of Hebrew education.

The school opened in a four-room house built specifically for that purpose by Moshe Shnayder (one of the Tarbut activists). Two years later, a second building was added at the same location to house the whole school.

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Three classes were offered first, with 12–15 pupils per class. Later, as the number of students increased, more classes were added, until there were seven. In peak years more than 200 students were enrolled.

Throughout its existence, the school was blessed with good, dedicated teachers. Its first principal was Dr. Mordekhay Zelinger (at the time of writing, he is principal of a school in the town of Givatayim, Israel). After him, Mr. Goldberg served as principal (he now teaches in Kibbutz Yagur, Israel). Mr. Zaytsik was the last principal (he perished in Kremenets). Of the teachers, I will mention Mr. Katsner, Yakov Shafir (he is now principal of a school in Tel Aviv), Mr. Zanvil Betler and Fanye Betler, Mrs. Holander, Mrs. Farber, and others. Most of the teachers instilled a spirit of devotion to Zion and Hebrew in their students. In addition to their regular work at school, the teachers volunteered their free time to organize traditional Hanukah and Purim parties, which were mostly held in the Lyceum's auditorium. Most devoted to the task was the teacher Fanye Betler, who was gifted with a strong sense of organization and public spirit. It was she who established the Women's Tarbut Society and was active in other areas of Zionist community life in town (such as the annual bazaar for the National Fund and the like). She was a prominent figure in the school – a born pedagogue who was beloved by her young students. In 1935 she visited Israel. While there, she tried to raise money for the Tarbut School among Kremenetsers there but was not successful.

Generally, the teaching faculty worked with the administration/governing body of the school, the Tarbut organization in harmony and with mutual respect, but sometimes there was friction. One day in 1932, a teachers' strike began, but with the intervention of the supervisor from the Tarbut center, it was settled, and peace returned. Both sides resumed functioning in cooperation and dedication. It should be said that in spite of the constant financial hardship, the school administration understood the need to pay the teachers a decent salary.

Throughout its existence, the school struggled with budget problems. Tuition could not cover expenses unless it was raised to a very high rate of 5 guldens per month, a sum that was beyond the ability of many parents to pay. It should be noted, though, that some parents who were devotees of Tarbut committed to paying five times the amount of tuition. Other sources of income were the monthly dues of Tarbut branch members and the budget allotted by the City Council, which was received after solicitation by the Jewish City Council members. Plays and celebrations brought in some money, as did a $50-a-month donation by Mr. William Zaltsman and Mr. Yitschak Gilman from Tarbut supporters in the USA. Mr. W. Zaltsman visited Kremenets in 1927 on family business, and when he was told about the school's budget troubles, he took it upon himself to ensure a monthly endowment, which he continued for 12 years until the outbreak of World War II. Both are deserving of blessings.

From time to time, the local newspaper announced a call for volunteers to help the school.

Who were the civic activists who took on the Tarbut education project? Until 1927, it was Mr. Gilirant, chairman of the Tarbut branch. After him, this role was given to me, and after I immigrated to Israel, Mr. Aba Taytelman took over. Some of the devoted proponents were Dr. Zalman Sheynberg, Dr. Binyamin Landsberg, Zeydi Perlmuter, Meir Goldring, Yakov Vayner, Aleksander Frishberg, and Moshe Shnayder. Later they were joined by Mr. Tsvi Barshap, and from the young, Yisrael Otiker (today he is a member of Kibbutz Na'an, Israel), who later worked as the school secretary. I would like to point out the blessed work of Tsvi Barshap from the Dubna suburb, a man of the people with a gentle soul and a serious, sympathetic attitude toward Hebrew education.

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kre040.jpg
Figure 40. Tarbut School Board and Faculty Members
with Benjamin Weinberg, Representative of Relief from America

He functioned in a very difficult area: among the suburb's people, most of whom had little interest in Hebrew culture. Nevertheless, he succeeded in instilling a positive attitude toward Hebrew education in the neighborhood and brought dozens – maybe hundreds – of students under the wings of the national education program. Out of his own pocket, he paid tuition for many students whose parents could not afford it. May his memory be blessed. Favorably remembered, too, is Mr. Yakov Vayner, one of the top people among the Tarbut proponents. He immigrated to Israel and passed away after some time there.

From time to time, representatives chosen by the parents joined this group of activists, which bore responsibility for the school. The members of this group worked hard, but they saw fine results: a multitude of young people received spiritual and practical training in Zionism and the Land of Israel, and later they formed the core of the town's youth groups and the Pioneer organization.

We had strong organizational and educational ties with the Tarbut center in Warsaw. From time to time, the center sent representatives and supervisors to visit us: Tsvi Zohar, Moshe Gordon, Rozenhek (the three of them are now in Israel), and others. They gave lectures, which were open to the public, on Tarbut and instructed members and teachers in their work. We received a great deal of help particularly from Rozenhek, the educational supervisor, who knew how to arbitrate between the administration and the teachers. He helped raise public awareness, encouraging and advancing the project.

****

Despite all these efforts, only some of the town's Jewish children attended the Tarbut School. Where were all the rest of them – the majority – educated? Two hundred children studied at the Talmud Torah, which was strictly for boys and offered a religious education. It was supported by the Jewish Community Council and assorted donations and was supervised and influenced by the town's rabbis, who taught there. It had good teachers and high standards. The ORT vocational school had many young students – boys and girls – who received vocational training in assorted fields.

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This school was considered a stronghold of the town's Yiddishists. There were a few cheders, too, but their imprint was not seen in the young generation's education.

Actually, most Jewish children in town went to the Polish primary schools, where tuition was free. For Jewish pupils, a few hours a week were allotted to religious studies. In those lessons, they learned something about Judaism and a bit of Hebrew. Children from religious homes attended Talmud Torah in the afternoon, and some received private lessons in Hebrew. But the majority grew up without a real knowledge of Judaism or Hebrew. There were three high schools in town, all using the Polish language: the Lyceum, which accepted a small number of Jewish students; a Polish high school, in which there were considerable numbers of Jews; and a Jewish-Polish high school. This institution was supported by a particular group of Jewish activists and came to replace the High School of Commerce that had existed during the Russian regime, even being housed in the same building.

This is the general background on the education received by the town's Jewish children. From this one can understand why the Zionist organizations were so anxious to create and develop the Tarbut School.

Hebrew kindergartens did not exist continuously in those days. Every now and then, a private kindergarten would open, but it would close after a while, until the next effort. Mrs. Chane Horovits-Goldenberg ran one of those kindergartens for a short time. In 1930, the local Tarbut branch opened a Hebrew kindergarten and brought an experienced teacher from the city of Rovne, but this effort did not succeed either, mainly for lack of money.

In 1938, the Tarbut proponents decided to work for a higher level of Hebrew education and to reopen a Tarbut high school as well as a primary school, and announced plans for a new building for that purpose. Those plans never materialized – in the meantime, World War II began.

The Tarbut proponents immersed themselves in maintaining the school and did not take time for other Hebrew language and cultural activities, such as encouraging people to speak Hebrew, providing adult education and enrichment, disseminating Hebrew books and newspapers, and so on. All those activities were taken on by the Union Party, Youth Guard, and Pioneer. Those groups as well as the general Zionist Organization held Hebrew and advanced studies courses. They instilled knowledge of and the speaking of the Hebrew language among their members. Lectures in Hebrew were common in youth organizations. I have to say again that many of them were graduates of Tarbut, and they were the ones to keep the flame of the Hebrew language alive. The Tarbut branch helped young people by letting them use the school's rooms for cultural functions and parties.

The Tarbut people in town did fine, dedicated educational work. According to all signs, it would have broadened and reached a higher level, but fate decreed differently.


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