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[pp. 124-130]

Schooling and Education

by A. Boki

Translated by Martin Jacobs

The only secular institute of learning in the town was the general state elementary school (szkoła powszechna), where Jewish and Christian children studied together. There was no secondary school (gymnasium), vocational or commercial school, or even evening courses for advanced studies in Goworowo. Anyone who wished to continue his studies after completing elementary school had to go to a larger town, or take private lessons from the same local teachers. Not everyone could afford this.

The powszechna was supposedly compulsory for every boy and girl from 7 to 14 years of age, but this was not actually the case. In the time of Russian rule, and even afterwards at the beginning of Polish independence, many parents got out of sending their children there. In the case of the Christians it was because of their own weak desire for learning and knowledge; they themselves were uneducated (many of them were illiterate), nor did they care if their children learned anything either. The motivation of the Jews, however, was piety; they didn't want their children to become “Gentiles”. Boys and girls should not sit together, and boys should not be without hats. (The Jewish pupils were excused from going to school on Saturday.)

The Jews looked for various ways to get around the compulsory education law. The very orthodox parents not only did not send their sons to the school, but not even their daughters. The more “enlightened” sent their daughters only. At one time under Russian rule Jewish children were permitted to attend the state school for only an hour or two a day. For this purpose they were excused from kheyder and their only subject was Russian language. For other subjects they had to turn to private teachers. In the time of Polish independence Jewish parents who wished could, with the “assistance” of the director of the state school, completely avoid sending their children there.

In the last dozen or so years before the outbreak of the war, it became more and more difficult to get around the law. Parents had no choice but to send their children to the school. The more religious parents only sent their daughters there (even those who were attending the Beys-Yakov school) and continued to use various ruses to keep their sons out. Many sent their children to yeshivas and in this way “solved” the problem. The “free thinking” parents also sent their sons, especially in the last years, when there was a push for secular education and knowledge.

Instruction in these state schools was at a high level. Most of the students were Christian, from the town or the surrounding area. The teaching staff was also Christian (in the last years even a bit anti-Semitic), with the exception of two Jewish women, Taub, from Przemyśl, and Genia Shchavinovitch, from Kolno, both of whom taught for many years in the Goworowo powszechna school. After the First World War the state school was temporarily located in a large building on Probostwo. It was only at the beginning of the twenties that a splendid building on Ostrolenka Street, near the town council house, was built for it. It had a specially built athletic field, and at the top was the residence of the director, Stankius. The school comprised seven classes, some of them double classes, as well as a pre-school, with the necessary facilities.

*

In addition to the state school mentioned above there was a private school in the town, run by Alter Hochstein, a teacher. Hochstein came to Goworowo in 1916 or 1917, from Russia, with the Girka family. He himself was originally from Palesia. He settled in the town and opened a school. It was at first located in Shmuelka Dzhiza's (Khizak's) house; later he moved, with his school, to Probostwo. For about a year he ran the school in partnership with Motl Romaner. The latter taught Polish and German, and Hochstein taught Russian, Hebrew, Bible, Yiddish, arithmetic, and other subjects. Later Romaner left and gave lessons privately. Romaner died before Passover of 1918.

Hochstein was then the only teacher left. He had so much work he had to get in an assistant. Henekh Friedman became his assistant teacher and they worked together for a long time. Friedman especially took care of the younger children. After some time Hochstein moved his school to a separate cottage in Shabtse Werman's courtyard. He taught there for many years.

Hochstein ran his school in an ethnic spirit. Children who, for whatever reason, had avoided going to the general state school, as well as those who had attended it, studied with him; they acquired Jewish knowledge and learning from him. He taught the younger children in the morning and he organized afternoon classes for adults. In the evening he gave private lessons for students in their own homes. Hochstein also used to write personal letters, in several languages, for uneducated Jews, for which he received a fee, but he could not manage on that alone. For several years he was also religious instructor in the powszechna.

All this time Alter Hochstein led a lonely life. It was only in his later years that he married. He and his wife, who came from Wiązów[1], perished along with all the Jews of Goworowo.

With the strengthening of the ethnic spirit in the town, pressure to learn the Hebrew language also grew. Hochstein did not have the time to handle everything himself. Goworowo needed especially good teachers of Hebrew.

In the early twenties the Hebrew teacher Zerah Brick, who was from Lomza, came to us. He organized afternoon and evening Hebrew classes, divided into groups. He also gave private lessons, both for young people and for adults. He taught in the town for several years and was also active in the Zionist Organization.

After Brick came Greenspan, a teacher from Długosiodło. He too stayed in the town for a few years, teaching several Hebrew language classes and also giving private lessons.

At the beginning of the thirties Moshe Levkovitch, from Przasnysz Makowa[2], came to Goworowo to teach Hebrew. He was strong on initiative and organizational abilities. He started an afternoon Hebrew school as well as evening classes. He also led a young people's drama circle, which gave performances in Hebrew.

When Moshe Levkovitch left Goworowo after a few years, his father Rafoyl Levkovitch from Przasnysz came to the town. A relative of Matisyahu Rosen, Reb Rafoyl had by then a stately appearance and a full beard. He was learned in the Torah, a scholar, and a maskil[3], a good pedagogue and an expert on Hebrew and its literature. He also had musical training; he had played for a while in the Warsaw Symphony Orchestra.

Reb Rafoyl, like the teachers mentioned previously, gave both private and group lessons. He also taught the violin, and he created Hebrew courses, in which adults and young people from the Zionist organizations studied.

It is interesting to add that for some time during the years when Greenspan was the teacher there was also an Esperanto teacher in the town, a native of Plock, who came from Ostrow-Mazowieck. He taught only Esperanto and had great success.

Aside from the teachers mentioned above, who were, so to speak, apolitical, at certain times the political parties on their own responsibility brought in teachers, organized classes, opened kindergartens, etc.

In 1930 the right-wing Poale-Tsion opened a Yiddish pre-school. It was organized by the shul-kult[4]  teacher, Bialostotska (she now lives in Israel), but only lasted a short time.

In 1931 and 1932 Asher Gilberg (Ben-Oni), a Hebrew teacher from Mizocz, Volhynia, was also active. He was sent by the Betar commission in Warsaw, exclusively to teach Hebrew to Betar and Revisionist Zionists in the town. The Bund, also, in the early thirties, created a kindergarten and also organized courses for young people and adults, where reading and writing Yiddish were taught. The Tsisho teacher, Sheyne Rudnitska (she now lives in South Africa), administered everything, but it too did not have a long existence.

After a lengthy interruption, a kindergarten and an afternoon Yiddish language school were organized by the Bund in 1938. The afternoon school kept going up to the outbreak of the war. The Tsisho teacher, Peshka Goldman of Kobryn, directed it. She perished during the war years.

In 1937 the Mizrahi organized a Yavne school, led by Magid, a teacher from Brest-Litovsk. It did not last more than a year.

In the years 1937 – 1939 there was also a Hebrew afternoon school in the town, located in Kruk's home in the “Long” Street, conducted by Portnoy, a teacher from Bialystok. The students wore special uniforms and blue-and-white caps. The school had been founded by Moshe Dranica, Jacob Kosher, and Yosl Silberstein.

At the beginning of the thirties an attempt was made to start a private Hebrew kindergarten, organized by Royter, the kindergarten teacher from Rutki, who was related to the Kosovsky family. The kindergarten lasted a short time.

(We have written in previous chapters about the Haredim and the Beys-Yakov school.)

Translator's notes

  1. Yiddish Vonseve. Return
  2. Yiddish Prushnits-Makave. Return
  3. Maskil: An adherent of Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment movement. Return
  4. “Shul-kult” is a reference to the School and Cultural Union, which sponsored schools emphasizing Yiddish and using the so-called “Utrechian” curriculum. Return

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