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[Page 535]

Technical Training and Education

By A. Shtrickman

Translated by Dr. Samuel Chani and Jenni Buch

The professional training of Jews in the various technical trades was not very developed in Poland. The only Technical Schools that existed were in Warsaw and Lodz. The ORT organization only began it's activity after W.W.1 when Poland became independent.

The Brest inhabitants that were expelled from the city in 1915 and returned in 1918 began, piece by piece, to rebuild the ruins of the city. The assistance came from the 'Joint' that established a committee to distribute tools to the tradesmen and open workshops for Technical training. This committee turned to the central ORT organization in Warsaw, and it was decided to establish a branch of Ort in Brest in1921. All the different political factions and parties co-operated in the establishment of a Technical School for the Jewish youth. The founders were: Aaron Matevsky, David Lichtiger, Shmuel Pomerantz, Manes Goldfarb, Berl Barenboim, Gershon Feinstein, Avraham Freidman, Leib Katz, Yakov Gelerstein, Dr. Avraham Epstein and Shlomo Greenberg.

The committee set the following goals:

  1. Assistance for Jewish agricultural workers.
  2. To provide tools, equipment and loans for Jewish tradesmen.
  3. To provide professional technical training and the supervision of the existing workshops.
The Joint endorsed several subsidies for Jewish agricultural workers in the Brest district and the committee received the contract to assist them because ORT was interested in Jewish agricultural workers in Poland. The Brest branch opened workshops for technical training – these workshops were in rented halls. The carpentry school for boys was at Sadowa 37. The new school for girls was on Jagielonska St. The ORT offices were at Zygmuntowska 55 – Tiempskis building – (which also housed the Joint). The carpentry workshop was at first transferred to Jagielonska St and then to a building owned by the Joint at Kszywa 5. The carpentry workshops were recognized by the Polish government as a Technical School with Yiddish as the teaching language.

The organization registered members and on the 24th August 1924, the first A.G.M. took place. The following were members: Dr.Begun, Wapniarski, Feingold, Consevic, Glassman, Guss, Tupok, Chani, Shavtiel Rubin, Joseph Rubin, and Zablud. In addition were representatives who were co-opted from other organizations: Zara Zaretsky and Nathan Eisenberg, both from the orphanage, Kopper and Dr. Wilner from the Joint.

Another department of technical training was opened in 1924 – a mechanics and locksmiths workshop which was needed by the city. Also evening classes were established for adults and an ORT exhibition was held.

In February 1925 there was a fire in the middle of the night, the cause of which was unknown – the Technical School and all it's contents were destroyed – only a few machines were rescued from the fire. The Jewish kehilla made great efforts to rebuild the Technical School assisted by the Joint, ORT, and local volunteers who managed to rebuild the school with barracks (temporary huts) in the courtyard. The practical training sessions continued, but the theoretical lessons could only be resumed after the building was rebuilt one storey higher than before.

The new building was completed in 1929, and only then were all the branches situated in the same building at Kszywa 5.

A severe crisis for the Technical School occurred during 1930-1932. This was due to disagreements between the committee members – the national progressive members did not agree with the other members of the committee as to obeying the national guidelines. They believed that the following of national guidelines for technical training was a lowering of national standards. The Jewish community of Brest was shaken by this dispute and decided to support the nationalist officials who decided to throw away the line of the opportunists. This dispute brought the organization to a desperate financial situation. This situation somewhat improved in 1933 with the changing of the committee, and the management boards of the institutions that received financial government support and from the Jewish community council (kehilla).

The budget consisted of the following:

  1. Subsidies
    1) From the ORT Central Committee in Warsaw. 2) The government subsidy for 1933. 3) Support from the local kehilla.

  2. Other Income
    1) Income from the workshops. 2) Student fees. 3) Membership fees.
Nevertheless, the deficit was great and the organization struggled with financial difficulties for years.

The organization had the following departments:

Workshops for Boys - The practical work of the workshops.
The mechanical and locksmiths department.
The metal smiths department.
Carpentry department.
Mechanical joinery department.
Classroom lessons for all various trades.
New departments for girls.

The count of students who had graduated from the Technical School by 1937 was 173 boys, 137 girls.

Of the active committee members one must mention: Dr. Arieh Begun – a warm folksy personality, he was the long-standing chairman of the organization. Avraham Shtrickman, secretary 1926 –1934, Dr. Ganz, chairman of the committee 1924-34, Dr. Nachman Landau, chairman of the committee 1934-1938, Zablud 1924-1929, Chani 1924-1929, Reuven Pregel 1932-1938, Shlomo Greenberg, secretary of the committee 1937-1938, Zev Dov Begin, the secretary of the kehilla council.

The department directors were: Engineer Kanevitch 1924-1928, Engineer Feldstein 1925-1932, and Engineer Charetman 1933- 1937. This report only covers the period until 1937, as we have no details of the activity of the Ort organization In Brest from then on. It is said that an extra building was built at Kszywa 5, and the activity of the organization broadened and developed.

There is no doubt that the entire community recognized and valued the ORT organization and it's departments. Brest was represented and respected in all the national and international conferences of the ORT organization, as well as having a delegate from Brest in the central committee.

The ORT organization was a very positive symbol of achievement in Jewish Technical education in our city. Our ORT officials and active members were models of dedication – excelling as national and social identities in the Jewish community of Brest.

The 1926-27 Graduation Class of the ORT Dressmaking School
The central column of photos (from top to bottom): The board of the ORT school, the headmistress Sarah Shwartz, and the director Shimon Itzbitzer. The two white-framed photos are the teachers, left side Batya Shedletzka, and right side Esther-Malka Margolin. The surrounding photos are the graduating students.

Photo courtesy of Dr.S. Chani


The ORT Committee in 1934
Seated R-L: Zev Dov Begin, Dr. D. Sarnaker, Dr. Y Ganz, A. Shtrickman,
V. Sheinberg.
Standing: Engineer Rechtman, Dr. N. Landau, R. Pregel, Dr. A. Begun,
A. Deitchman, D. Adansky, Y. Itzbitzer (Secretary)


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